"Of Life and Love": Start                                                  Next: Chapter 02

Revelations, Part One: "Of Life and Love"

Chapter One:

Ryoga watched the boulder. It didn’t move. Slowly, Ryoga reached his hand out to it, but pulled back before he actually touched it as a small explosion rocked the valley, making his boulder shift.

"Damn it, Damnit, Damnit!!!"

Ryoga sighed, and turned his head to look at where Ranma had just blasted a hole in the hillside with his ki attack. So what was wrong with that one? Ryoga shook his head and went back to what he was doing – he touched the boulder. It crumbled into sand and Ryoga grinned with satisfaction. He picked out his next one and studied it for several moments before reaching out. He’d just touched it when there was another explosion combined with Ranma’s yells. The rock spit in the middle where Ryoga’s hand touched it, a small layer turning to dust. Ryoga’s hand kept moving forward as the upper half of the rock fell down, trapping his hand between the upper and lower halves. "Ouch!!!!!" Ryoga twitched his fingers and the rock shattered into a thousand pieces, flying in an outward radius at an incredible speed. Ryoga let them bounce off himself, unconcerned.

"Ouch?" A strong alto voice asked curiously.

Ryoga turned around, shaking his hurt hand, "Ranma, you baka – I thought you were going to practice at the other end of the canyon."

Ranma shrugged, unrepentant. Then he sat down with a sigh next to Ryoga, "It’s pathetic. I hate it."

Raising his eyebrow at his friend, Ryoga leaned against the rocks and waited. After a moment, Ranma continued, "This damn cursed body of mine – It just doesn’t have the power that mine does."

Ryoga looked Ranma’s girl body over, noting that his hair was freshly wet. Ah, he went out to camp and then came back – that’s why he’s at my end of the canyon. He didn’t, however, say anything about Ranma’s comment.

A long-suffering sigh emphasized Ranma’s point when Ryoga didn’t say anything. Ranma complained again, "The ki-blasts have only a third the power in this body! How am I suppose to be a Martial Artist as a girl???"

Ryoga shook his head; he hadn’t said anything yesterday when Ranma had made the same complaint – but enough was enough. "Gee, Ranma – you really think it’s that?"

The slight figure shrugged in despair, his red braid limp down his back, "Of course. If only I could get rid of this curse…"

The stone Ryoga was holding in his hand crumbled into dust as he clenched his fist – he really hated it when Ranma was going on like this, and he told him so.

"But Ryoga – you don’t know what it’s like!"

Ryoga rolled his eyes, "Look you idiot – at least you’re not a pig!!!"

Ranma stood up, clenching his fists, "I’ve heard that from you one too many times, Ryoga! At least you never get confused! This is a girl’s body, damnit! A girl’s!!! I’m a guy!!!!!" He threw a wild punch at Ryoga that Ryoga easily dodged. Ryoga returned a side-kick, and the fight started proper. They moved out into the middle of the canyon, yelling and trading insults and throwing blows too fast for a normal eye to watch.

 

The two youths walked back to the camp some time later, watching as they went the red hues of the sunset shading the clouds.

"Ranma," Ryoga asked, "Why can’t you ever just come over and say something like ‘I’m ready to spar now’?"

Ranma laughed, "It’s more fun." He dodged the half-hearted blow Ryoga aimed at him. "‘Sides, I need to work with the ki you put out, and if you’re calm when we start, I can’t gather it in."

"I think you’re the one who puts out the hot energy most of the time!"

Ranma shrugged, "I can work with mine just as well. This new technique isn’t like the Dragon Wave, where a clash of temperature is required – for this one, I just need a bunch of loose ki."

Ryoga gave him a side-long look and then dropped the subject as they left their training area. At the mouth of the canyon, the ancient oak tree framed the sunset nicely. Both boys paused to look at the huge tree. "How old do you think it is?" "At least a hundred years – that thing is big." Ryoga picked up his backpack from where he’d left it, Ranma giving him his own side-look, but Ryoga just shrugged – he got lost so often that even with someone with him, he liked to have his pack nearby. They walked on, anxious to get back to the camp before dark. The two youths had put up their tent in the valley across from the canyon. It was a peaceful spot, and more to the point, had a hot spring right next to it. But with the amount of destruction that took place when they practiced, they’d decided not to spar right next to the camp. And Ryoga needed a place with a lot of rocks. So they walked the distance to the canyon and back each day. Ryoga was careful to let Ranma lead. But he still took his pack with him.

Once finally at the camp, they ducked into the tent to grab their bath supplies then promptly made their way to the hot spring. After working out for the whole day, getting clean was the first thing on both their minds.

 

"Shouldn’t you be getting dinner ready?" Ranma readjusted the towel over his eyes as he relaxed in the steam.

Ryoga sat up, "Excuse me?"

"It’s your turn to cook."

"Like hell it is!" Ryoga splashed a wave of water over Ranma, who came up sputtering in indignation. Ryoga folded his arms, "I made dinner last night, and breakfast this morning – how can it possibly be my turn to cook?"

Ranma got out of the water, grumbling, "It was worth a try."

Ryoga shook his head and leaned back in the water.

 

"Yuck!!!" Ryoga spit out his mouthful. "Ranma – this is horrible!"

Ranma shrugged, "I said it was your turn to cook."

Brown eyes glared at the amused glint in Ranma’s. Ryoga tried another bite. "It’s as bad as Akane’s…"

"Hey!" Ranma threw the stirring spoon at him, "Insults are one thing…"

Ryoga grinned, "Okay – it’s not that bad." Ranma settled back, mollified. Ryoga tried another bite, "It’s still horrible."

Eating his rapidly, Ranma showed no signs of noticing the burned portions or the lumps. "I learned to cook from Dad – that’s why we’d brought Akane with us on that first training session." The one where Ryoga had learned the Breaking Point. The one where they’d come the closest to actually hurting each other that they’d ever come. The one where they found out that Akane couldn’t cook.

Ryoga shook his head, "Why the hell didn’t you say so in the first place? I guess I will do the cooking from now on! You get the dishes."

"Fine by me," Ranma put his own empty dish aside while Ryoga was still only a third of the way through his. "And you wouldn’t have believed me if I’d just told you."

"You didn’t do this on purpose, did you?" Ryoga stared at his bowl as he would a scorpion. 

"‘Course not," Ranma sniffed, "That’s below my dignity."

"What dignity, Yoiko?"

Ranma flushed bright red at the mention of one of the disguises he’d used to trick Ryoga. Then he stared at Ryoga in surprise, Ryoga hates to bring those up – considering he’s the one who was tricked… He’s more upset then I thought he was. "Ryoga?"

"Umm?" Ryoga finished up the last of the burnt ramen, how a person can burn ramen?

"Uh," Ranma glanced away, "Never mind."

Ryoga handed him his dish. "I was thinking about food and Akane, and the thought segued."

Ranma stared at the bowl, "Hey – you get the dishes tonight – I cooked!"

"You call that a meal?"

"What about Akane?"

Ryoga shrugged, "She likes P-chan."

"P-chan, you moron! Not—" Ranma broke off mid-exclamation at the look on Ryoga’s face. Oh… That’s what he was thinking. He gathered up the dishes and headed off with the washtub for the springs. When Ryoga got that depressed, it was better not to be around him.

 

Ranma and Ryoga broke off their match at the same instant, looking around them at the settling dust.

"They’re getting stronger," Ryoga remarked, then threw a kick at Ranma.

Ranma put his hands on Ryoga’s leg and flipped himself up and over, "What’s getting stronger?"

"The earthquakes." Ryoga leaned back far enough for Ranma’s blow to pass him by, then cork-screwed a punch up.

"Ooof," Ranma twisted himself around mid-air and came back down feet-first. "Earthquakes?" he asked with the emphasis on the plural.

Ryoga dug his heels into the ground and raised his arms to block Ranma’s blow. Even braced, he slid back several feet. "There were several small ones yesterday – but I barely noticed them so you probably didn’t."

Ranma landed lightly and glanced up at the sun – the morning had passed rapidly by and the hot sun was beating down on them. "Break."

"Fine by me," Ryoga promptly laid down and closed his eyes.

"Hey," Ranma dug his toes in Ryoga’s side, "What about lunch?"

"What about it?" Ryoga didn’t open his eyes.

There was a long pause before Ranma threw up his hands in defeat, "Oh, all right."

"I said I’d make the dinners… Lunch is every man to himself."

Ranma kept walking down the canyon, "I got it, already…"

 

A splash of cold water woke Ryoga from his nap. He scrambled up, bweeing angrily.

"Come on, pig – break’s over."

The small black pig growled and hurled himself at Ranma. Ranma blocked the attack and threw him down. Ryoga flipped over and used the bounce off the ground to give him more power in his return attack. Ranma blocked again but not with enough power and the pig barreled through to slam into Ranma’s chest. Ranma staggered back a couple of steps while bringing his arm down in a sweep. But the pig was no longer there and Ranma turned in a quick circle, looking for the small animal. He found out where he was when his knees collapsed from under him and he fell to the ground. But his reflexes were quick enough to trap Ryoga before he could back out again, and the delay was just long enough for Ranma to get a good punch in before rolling to his feet again. Ryoga shook his head briefly, then dodged the next incoming fist. He ran back, looking for a good spot while Ranma chased him. When Ryoga found a good tree he jumped to a rock, bouncing to the ground, then to another rock, then to the tree, where the rebound sent him flying at Ranma with fifteen times the power he’d started with. And Ranma met the pig with an open-handed blow, slamming him into the ground, which crumbled at the impact. Ryoga shook himself, growling, and tried again.

Ranma circled with the pig, trading blows and hard-pressed to keep track of where Ryoga was at every moment. He didn’t think Ryoga quite realized it, but his pig form was faster and more compact – focusing all the energy that was Ryoga into one small blur of power. And Ranma couldn’t use any normal techniques like his Chestnut Fists on an opponent that small. He figured that after a week of working out with Ryoga in pig form that he’d be ready to take on the diminutive Happosai. Or at least give him more of a challenge. If it wasn’t for all those damn ki attacks that the little freak knew… Ryoga slammed into his side and Ranma felt something give. He fell back, a hand pressed to his side. Damn… a cracked rib at the least. The pig turned to attack him again, and hesitated. Ranma straightened up and moved into his ready position. Ryoga’s ears flicked uncertainly, and Ranma beckoned, "What, you think that hurt? Come on, pig."

The sun moved a few more degrees in the sky, and a few more trees in the canyon fell.

Ryoga shook his head, standing up amongst the rubble of the impact, then he launched himself at Ranma again. Ranma had been paying attention this time, and could see a certain pattern to Ryoga’s moves… He spun out and connected his kick dead center on Ryoga. The pig flew through the air and slammed into the canyon wall with enough of an impact to send a small landslide down. Ranma waited for him to come out – this was one of the trickier moments because the small pig could emerge from anywhere under the rocks with practically no warning. After several moments, Ranma straightened, frowning. "Ryoga?" He walked forward and shifted a couple of rocks. He found the pig basically where he’d landed, small body limp on the rock. "Ryoga?" Ranma picked up the pig, feeling the heartbeat in the small body. He let out a sigh of relief, then slapped the pig a couple of times in the face. Ryoga blinked – and clamped down on Ranma’s hand with his teeth.

"OUCH!!!!!!" Ranma shook his hand as the pig let go, "Ryoga! No biting, man!"

The pig bounced off the ground and slammed into Ranma’s knee, throwing him down. Ranma quickly rolled, and they sparred for a couple more minutes before Ryoga backed off and didn’t come towards him again, but instead headed out of the canyon. Ranma shook his arms out, "That was a good workout!" And he watched the small pig as he left. Ryoga’s limping… Damn – he must have been hurt worse than I thought. Ryoga’s pig body didn’t have nearly the same toughness his human body did – though it was still incredible compared to anything normal. They’d both taken blows in that fight. Ranma shrugged and pressed a hand to his ribs – it wasn’t hurting quite as bad now, but it would still take the rest of the day for it to heal up. Ranma turned to his side of the canyon and started gathering in all the loose ki that had been generated during the fight.

 

When Ryoga finally came back, he met Ranma on his way out. Both boys paused to look each other over, then Ranma gave a ‘thumbs up’ grin and kept on towards the camp. Ryoga continued into the canyon, reflecting that Ranma looked really tired. As soon as he passed the old oak tree, he knew why. Ryoga whistled as he stared at the other end of the canyon: Nearly every tree had fallen, rocks were scattered everywhere, the walls had collapsed in at least six places… I guess Ranma finally mastered that technique he’s been practicing. Half-shrugging, Ryoga moved to his own spot at the front of the canyon and separated out the boulders he wanted to work on today. But first, a round of general Breaking Points…

 

Ryoga paused in his rock shattering to watch Ranma as he walked by. Ranma was in girl form this time. Ryoga crossed his arms over his chest and watched as Ranma went to his end of the canyon. Now this should be interesting… Let’s see if he can figure it out yet.

There was a small explosion and another tree fell over. "Damnit!!!! I hate this girl’s body!"

He couldn’t help it, Ryoga started laughing. He laughed so hard he fell over and collapsed, lying on the ground while wheezing out his amusement.

"What’s so funny!?"

Ryoga rolled to avoid the fist that came smashing down at him. And rolled again, still laughing – Ranma was seriously pissed.

"You think my girl’s body is just a joke! Don’t you!?"

"Breaking Point!" Ryoga twisted around and shattered the rock under Ranma’s feet, gaining himself a moment of calm before Ranma started in again, "Hold it Ranma!"

Ranma reluctantly stopped, sulking major time.

Ryoga’s lips twitched as he stood up, "I swear, you enjoy sulking."

"Ryoga…" Ranma stepped forward, his girl’s hands balling into fists.

"Ranma, you idiot," Fun was fun, but Ryoga figured he better explain, "Did you ever think that your attacks as a girl might be weaker because you only change to a girl in the afternoon, after spending the whole morning fighting and expending all your ki energy as a guy? That maybe – just maybe… your girl’s body isn’t actually weaker – but you’re just tired?"

The look on Ranma’s face was priceless and Ryoga enjoyed the rare feeling of having caught Ranma out in a point of tactics. "You’re the same person, in girl-form or out of it – ki attacks don’t rely on physical strength but on the mental attitude of the person. Why don’t you try practicing as a girl in the morning and back to your guy’s self in the afternoon tomorrow?"

Ranma’s eyes narrowed at him, "How long have you known…?"

Ryoga laughed, "You were having such fun sulking about it… I mentioned it yesterday, but you wanted a fight instead."

"You want a fight???" Ranma’s fist slammed down where Ryoga had been a moment before.

Jumping back, Ryoga grinned as he matched Ranma’s blow with one of his own. The two youths traded attacks for a few minutes before Ranma spun back away from Ryoga and raised his hand palm up to the sky, then in towards himself closing to a fist, then palm and arm outward in an explosive blow, "Scatter Ray Gather!" The focused ki energy hit Ryoga square in the chest, knocking him backwards twenty feet to slam into the canyon wall.

Ryoga brushed the fallen rocks off himself and stood up, rubbing his chest. "That hurt," he remarked conversationally before throwing himself forward in another attack.

"Still moving?" Ranma asked in amazement, jumping upwards to avoid Ryoga’s fist.

Ryoga grinned tightly and jumped to meet Ranma mid-air. They traded several blows before landing on the ground again.

"Scatter Ray GATHER!" This bolt of energy was stronger and Ryoga crossed his arms in front of his chest for a block but knew that this one was really going to hurt. When he eventually opened his eyes again he saw Ranma standing over him, his red braid hanging over his shoulder. Ryoga closed his eyes again, "Ranma – put your shirt on."

"Huh?" Ranma realized he was in girl-form, "Oh, sorry. I forgot."

Ryoga felt the wet cloth on his forehead being taken off; Ranma’s shirt, apparently. After another couple of moments, he decided to try standing. Ouch… He hauled himself up and looked around. The hole he was sitting in had been carved out of the cliff wall and base, ten feet in diameter. Ryoga looked up at the overhang and decided that it might be a good idea to get out of that area. As they scrambled out of the hole, Ryoga remarked, "You still think your girl’s body is weaker?"

Ranma laughed, conceding the point. But internally he reflected that he may not have even attempted to gather that much energy if it hadn’t been for Ryoga’s remark.

When they’d moved out, Ryoga took up a ‘ready’ stance. Ranma looked at him in disbelief, "You want more?"

Ryoga grinned, "That’s what we’re here for, isn’t it?" He shifted stance slightly, "Come-on, pretty-boy."

"Why you…" Ranma lunged for him.

The fight went on much as it always did. Within minutes, Ryoga had regained most of his strength, but Ranma was still tired and his blows were coming slower – Ryoga could actually dodge them now. However, Ranma hadn’t used his ki attack again. Ryoga taunted him mercilessly, trying to get Ranma to use it again. What was it that Ranma had said about this one? It uses the loose ki around… I guess Ranma’s too tired to gather his own in. Fine. Ryoga listened to Ranma’s return insults and waited until he heard one that stung.

"And Akane would actually learn to cook if you stopped eating it!"

Not true! Well, partially true. But Ranma’s utter rejection wasn’t doing Akane any good either. Ryoga shook his head at the unwanted thought and concentrated on the feeling of utter despair of knowing that Ranma was… partially right and that no matter what he did or what he ate, Akane would never like him, not as much as she did Ranma, not like she liked him, not like… He felt his energy gather and swirl out in an endless cycle as he blocked Ranma only by rote, his mind in the darkest depths.

"Whoa…" With surprise, Ranma felt the dark energy swirling around. Ryoga? His insults hadn’t been more than normal… He backed off a touch and was unprepared for the furious look in Ryoga’s eyes as he jerked his head up and glared at him. The next punch shaved hairs off of Ranma’s scalp as he barely dodged. Ryoga’s putting more power in his punches than he normally does… He dodged again and again, finding himself on the pure defensive – and facing an ever-increasingly angry opponent. But…

"Damnit! Ranma!! Isn’t that enough, yet!?!!"

Ranma blinked, "Excuse me?" The next kick caught him on the jaw and he went flying back, barely twisting enough in the air to land in a crouch. His eyes wouldn’t focus immediately, and instinctively his mind felt out the ki patterns and traced the energy signatures, looking for danger even as he recovered his balance. There was a hell of a lot of energy in the air right now. In the air, in the ground, floating and swirling aimlessly around the two combatants. Dark, heavy energy… Ranma blinked, Oh… He grinned as he got up and dodged around a boulder that Ryoga promptly shattered. Ranma fought his friend with new strength as he reached out with his mind and gathered in the ki, gathered it, concentrated it, formed it… "SCATTER RAY—"

In the middle of Ranma’s maneuver, Ryoga found his own center, "BREAKING POINT," and moved his foot slightly forward on the ground to the right spot.

"—GATHER!!!!!" Ranma finished the move… and was thrown backwards as the solid ground changed to sand beneath his feet. His ki blast went up into the air… Ranma watched opened mouthed as it went up and up… And exploded in the sky fifty feet up. The resulting concussion sent him sinking into the sand, plowing into the solid earth just a few feet under. "Gumph…" Ranma sat up, shaking the sand off. He glanced over to Ryoga who was also just rising to his knees, staring up at the sky.

Ryoga caught his glance, and looked back at the sky, "Boy! I’m I glad I didn’t let that one hit me!!!"

"Well, it was all your damn depressive energy… I had no idea it was that powerful. Now that would make a nasty technique!"

"If you could live through it…" Ryoga stared up at the sky, getting the rather depressing idea that it may not be such a good idea to be so depressed…

They stood up and Ranma climbed out of the sand. Then they both fell to the ground as it shook under them. Ranma was knocked back into the pit.

"Now that was an earthquake…" Ryoga placed a hand flat on the ground, tracing the vibrations though the stone.

Ranma climbed out again, "So, that’s what’s been causing them."

"Humm?" Ryoga was following the multiple tracks under the ground, seeing the weak points that the vibrations naturally sought out and followed and… Earthquakes were apparently a natural ‘breaking point’ in areas, attracted to the weak spots and triggering the points as the ki passed it by. Lost and as scattered as the very rock, Ryoga had a hard time pulling his attention back to his body, though he could faintly hear Ranma calling his name. He looked up, "Huh?"

Ranma sat back with a sigh, "Where the hell did you just go?" He waved off Ryoga’s puzzled look, "Never mind." He looked around, "I think we better be careful about how much loose ki we’re putting into the area. It’s sinking into the ground and that’s what’s causing the earthquakes." He got up, heading to his waterflask over on the other side of the canyon."

"Ranma…" Ryoga spoke hesitantly, then with more authority, "Ranma, wait!"

Half-turning, Ranma looked annoyed, but nevertheless obeyed. Ryoga tossed a rock over the area that Ranma was about to walk over. It collapsed. Ranma stared at it for a moment – it wouldn’t have hurt him badly, but a sprained ankle would have meant a few days of non-practice. "How the hell did you know that?"

Ryoga shook his head, "It was a point of instability…" he spoke hesitantly, wondering himself. He’d been tracing the earthquake, true, but certainly not with that much detail.

"Huh." Ranma traced a new route around and grabbed his flask, taking a long gulp of water before splashing some over his face – he was already a girl, it didn’t matter, and he was now sandy as well as dirty and sweaty. He walked back to Ryoga, "So, how’d you do it?"

"I just said—"

"I meant the sand."

"Oh," Ryoga grinned, "It’s the Breaking Point."

"Bull. You break rocks with that technique – you don’t turn the ground under my feet into sand."

"What’s sand but lots and lots of small rocks?"

Ranma thought about it a moment and had to admit that one. But that really wasn’t an explanation and he told Ryoga so.

Ryoga got up after taking a drink from the flask himself. He led the way back to the front of the canyon where he’d been practicing for the last two days. Glancing at Ranma, he touched a rock in its breaking point. It shattered with explosive energy, hurling out smaller rocks a tenth the size of the original one. Ryoga ignored the blows raining against himself. Ranma used his speed to catch all the ones that flew at him. He dumped them in a heap when they’d stopped streaming out. "That’s your normal one… So?"

"Did you see the breaking point on that rock?"

"Of course not – the old ghoul didn’t teach it to me." It was still a sore point with Ranma.

Ryoga grinned at the bite in Ranma’s voice, "The Breaking Point in a rock isn’t ever exactly where I touch it. First, I have to see it, usually deep inside the rock. Then what I do is focus energy in until I hit the point exactly at the spot where it will shatter." Glancing at the ground, Ryoga frowned until he found a good track, "Remember the Oni at your house?"

"Yeah…" Ranma spoke hesitantly, then took several rapid steps backwards as Ryoga touched the ground and it splintered in a line, bursting upwards in smaller versions of the Breaking Point until the line hit the cliff. The wall quivered and a small landslide slid down. The boys on the other side of the canyon watched it. Ranma blinked, "Okay, I remember the roof tiles."

"It’s a domino effect of the Breaking Point," Ryoga explained, "Once you know that all rock is connected with other rocks, I can send the energy into the first spot and trigger the shatter so that it also sends the energy on to the next breaking point on the chain."

Ranma nodded, seeing how that followed naturally.

"And…" Ryoga touched another rock, identical in appearance to the first one. It crumpled into sand.

Ranma blinked, "So how does that follow… Oh wait, I see." He looked down at the rocks he’d dropped, "The first Breaking Point sends the energy in to break up the rock in an explosive burst. What you’re doing here is sending the energy instead into the domino effect over and over to the smallest parts of the rock… ending up with sand – but not as explosively."

Ryoga nodded, pleased at the quickness with which his friend grasped the underlying principles of any technique – even the ones that he himself didn’t learn. It’s what made Ranma such a dangerous opponent, even against fighters that had been fighting for more years than either of them had been alive.

"Damn. That’s a more powerful technique that it first seemed. You can adapt it to just about anything that you want to do with it." It wasn’t just about the endurance training. Ranma looked at his friend in admiration, "And I don’t have to ask if you figured it out on your own – that’s what you do. No wonder the old ghoul’s been leaving you alone – she knew you’d come up with more uses for it than that whole tribe of hers has for three thousand years. But if she taught you new stuff, you wouldn’t have done all this," he waved his hand at the rocks and sand around them.

Ryoga flushed with pleasure at the praise of his friend – even if it was a bit two-sided. Ranma hadn’t learned yet how to give a real compliment. But he was trying. He’d actually been able to bring Akane to a blush a couple of times before they’d left on this training trip. Ryoga shook his head at the direction of his thoughts, "So what about yours?"

"Humm?"

"Did you learn it from Cologne?"

Ranma laughed, "No – actually, I got it from Mousse."

"Mousse?!!!"

"Yeah." Ranma took another gulp of water and shivered a little as the sweat on his body was starting to chill in the evening air. Evening air? He glanced over at the sun and found it already low to the hills, though not quite sunset time. They were going to have call it a day pretty soon. Actually, Ranma figured he’d already called it a day. "He and I were sparring, and I tried using the Dragon Ascension Wave on him, but just before the center of the spiral, he… grabbed all the energy I’d been setting up and blasted me with it. When I asked him about it, he just shrugged, said he was an Amazon too, and then showed me what he’d done."

"And?"

"And what?"

"So who won?"

Ranma shook his head, "That was it – we sortof broke off the spar for the training."

Ryoga frowned, "That’s not like Mousse."

"Ah, well…" Ranma scratched behind his head, embarrassed. Ryoga raised an eyebrow and Ranma reluctantly expanded, "I think it’s internal politics with the China group. Shampoo has been pestering me rather more urgently lately, and I’ve had to get kindof rough with saying no. Last time I did, she blasted me with a, uh,… ‘bei hao’."

"A what?" Ryoga stopped his friend. Ranma repeated the Chinese words as close as he could remember them. Ryoga scratched his nose, "Hao – that’s probably ‘shout’… or it could be ‘huge’… Bei… Bei…" He smacked his fist in his hand, "Oh! ‘Star Shout!"

"Star Shout?"

"Well, probably. ‘Xing’ is a more familiar use of ‘star’, but ‘bei’ is more powerful…" Ryoga shrugged, "Nevermind. Actually, it could be any number of things. I shouldn’t speculate without knowing the background."

Ranma narrowed his eyes at his friend, "Ryoga… Do you speak Chinese?"

"Well, of course," Ryoga blinked, "I would be stupid to go into China without knowing the language."

Ranma growled, and Ryoga grinned as he remembered that Ranma had done just that. He got back to the original topic, "I didn’t know Shampoo knew any ki attacks."

Subsiding reluctantly, Ranma agreed ruefully, "I didn’t either. Before I could get up, Cologne was there between us, shouting furiously at Shampoo – in Chinese, so I have no idea what they were saying. But basically, I got the impression that Shampoo is forbidden to use any of the special techniques while she’s in Japan."

Ryoga nodded, "If she was using them all the time, not only would the property damage go up by a factor of ten, but you’d also be learning half the techniques she used. Not to mention anybody else who might happen to be watching." And the Amazon techniques were suppose to be secret… Cologne had been very careful in what she’d taught to the boys – and who was watching while she taught them.

"Yeah. And Mousse comes in and just ‘happens’ to teach me a technique that can potentially take the sails out of anything else she tries on me…"

Ryoga shook his head, "The internal politics in that group… I wonder if that was Mousse’s idea, or Cologne’s?"

Shrugging, Ranma forbore to make a guess. He glanced again at the sun, "I’m calling it a day." He looked over at Ryoga, raising an eyebrow in question.

Ryoga shook his head, "I want to try a couple more things first. I’ll join you later."

"Okay…" Ranma glanced up at the entrance to the canyon where Ryoga’s pack was, "Look, don’t get lost, will ya?"

Ryoga shrugged and a blush spread over his face, "Like I have any say in the matter."

Ranma spread his hands half in apology – "I’ll come get you after my bath then."

Even redder, Ryoga turned away muttering about nursemaids…

Ranma walked up the hill, tired but very satisfied with the day’s training.

 

Ryoga put his hand on the ground, feeling out for those vibrations that he’d sensed earlier with the earthquake. The ground’s weak spots… its breaking points… its connectiveness to the whole… Something within him resonated in time with the ground… Not the vibrations. Something else, something slower, something… Ryoga blinked, Earth. I’m feeling the Earth itself. And he could trace it through, seeing where the stone held traces of metals and ores, seeing where underground water collected, seeing where roots tore at the weak points – pulling up and out… Wait a sec… Roots pulling out??? Ryoga jerked his attention out of the rock and looked up at the old oak tree that was toppling over – falling directly where Ranma was walking. Ryoga cried out Ranma’s name even as he ran forward, desperately trying to close the distance… He wasn’t going to make it. Ranma was turning, turning to face him, unaware of the tree… Ryoga saw only one chance. He launched himself forward, diving to tackle his friend around the chest even as the tree slammed down. Ryoga glanced down at the ground rushing up to meet them even as branches grazed his back with the promise of more weight to smash down on them. Ryoga had an instant to think – damn! I’m going to trap Ranma between the ground and me/the tree – unless I can brace, that’s worse than if– he broke off his thought and searched for a solution even as they crept inch by inch towards the… ground? Ryoga reached out his hand in front of them. As they landed, his hand touched first. And then there was a brilliant white light across his vision and he couldn’t feel anything anymore.

 


 Notes to Chapter 1:

- At the beginning of the story, Ryoga might seem a bit mild compared to his normal anime. I’m not strictly straying OOC on this: basically, the guys don’t have an audience and are therefore more calm. Watching the anime over and over again, there are lots of points where the guys will be together, talking calmly about things… when they’re alone. And this is later in the timeline when they are easier about such things. But even in the beginning when Ranma first dumped the pig into the water and there was Ryoga… it was obvious that Ryoga was mad, but he didn’t attack immediately, he sat there and talked with Ranma and even when he did attack, when Ranma said to ‘wait’ then Ryoga waited… until Ranma turned on the shower. … And in the manga, Ryoga tends to be a lot calmer and less seemingly dense (until the much later manga… all the characters seem dumber in the later manga later anime too. That’s one reason I like to put my stories in the middle of the timelines.)

- ‘ki’ ‘chi’… it’s just a matter of spelling. In this story, I prefer ‘ki’. Same with Ryoga’s name I like to write it without the extra ‘u’. (Toukyou…)

"Of Life and Love": Start                                                  Next: Chapter 02