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Chapter 13: Practical Demonology

Ranma rolled between the twenty-foot creature's legs and then leaped up between the spread wings. Reaching out he clamped a hand onto the wing, near the base, while pummeling the spine and back of the monster with a chi enhanced Chestnut Fist. The demon couldn't reach behind it and was reduced to flailing its wings around in the hope of dislodging Ranma.

The creature’s struggles were getting significantly weaker when it realized this tactic was useless. Reaching out an arm, a long fiery whip appeared within the huge clawed hand. It then proceeded to swing the whip over its back.

Ranma was almost impressed. He parried the whip with his bracers and continued beating the demon. Within a short time, the creature gave a low groan and collapsed to its knees. Seconds later it completed its fall to the ground with a resounding thud.

"This is pathetic. The creatures Happassai summons are tougher than this. Of course, they usually are a lot faster, but less durable. That last sure could take a pounding, almost put Ryouga to shame."

Around him slumped the twitching bodies of five other demons. Groaning they slowly dragged themselves from the arena area. Apparently, quite a few creatures of the nefarious planes owed Anhur, and were presently working off their debts by being beaten unconscious by a human. It was humiliating, but right then all they wanted to do was drag their bodies away to regenerate, away from the sight of a certain pig-tailed martial artist.

Ranma ignored them with little effort. They were demons. They were evil by definition, and unworthy of his sympathy.

"Let's see, that completes the common lesser and greater demon, deevils. Anhur doesn't have any elementals on hand. From what I've read the greater elementals are much tougher. The two I fought earlier were certainly more challenging." Ranma muttered to himself, deliberately not thinking of the inconclusive outcomes of those battles.

To be honest, all the greater demons seemed very durable. They couldn't block his attacks, or usually even hit him, but it still took a lot of time to wear them down. The book Anhur had given him proved to be invaluable. Many of the entities he fought had special attacks or abilities.

Nothing that he probably couldn't have dealt with, but they would have been very surprising to just have happen in battle. There was the one that generated an aura of fear, he'd found himself almost slipping into the neko-ken before he managed to slip on the amulet Anhur had given him. Of course, when he attempted to slam it with a Fierce Tiger Domineering attack he had found the negative aspect of wearing that item. He just couldn't muster the confidence needed for the attack, indeed all his emotions seemed muted. This was rather disturbing to Ranma since many of his chi techniques depended on carefully balanced states of awareness to successfully channel. He had defeated that demon, but not as quickly or surely as he had expected.

Other demons could cast certain spells as innate abilities. These had also proven to be a challenge. Ranma was confident that in a fight with a mage he would easily win. Mages just took too long to trigger their spells, they were unconscious before they had finished. Talismans, magic items that stored spells and could be triggered with a gesture were far more dangerous and could be used by non-mages.

Despite this, the person still had to hold the item and trigger it, which usually gave Ranma the chance to avoid the attack. Demons were usually limited in what they could do but could do it with little or no warning. Very unnerving.  His chi senses had barely saved him from a few such attacks so far. That, combined with the book describing the likely effects of these attacks.

Ranma was so engrossed in analyzing the previous battles he barely noticed as the earth seemed to move beneath him. He took little more notice when an irritated demon threw him off its back where he had been standing, and started to trudge towards the arena exit. Giving only a glance of disgust at the martial artist who had somersaulted in midair and landed lightly on his feet, still seemingly ignoring his surroundings.

A distant gong sounded, this seemed to draw Ranma out of his distracted state, "Damn, it's time for my meditation lesson with Master Arien." Ranma took off running out of the Arena and down the corridor to his appointment. He didn't really register the various demons whose heads he bounced off on the way.

Anhur withdrew his attention to his own plane. He had been perceiving a battle through the eyes of one of his Generals when a disturbance on his own plane disturbed his concentration. Spreading his senses through his domain Anhur attempted to pinpoint the source. There, fairly faintly, an unauthorized entity. Hmm, felt vaguely demonic, though something was off.

Since he knew the location he opened a portal directly to the source and stepped through. Once there he looked around expecting to see a minor demon, probably a spy from one of the many planes he was presently in conflict with. It was stupid for his opponents to think he wouldn't expect demonic intrusion, but they still tried the tactic. Not seeing anything obvious threat he was about to expand his senses when he heard a voice behind him.

"Where in the world am I now! This is all Ranma's fault!" shouted a boy wearing a bandanna around his forehead, waving an umbrella wildly in the air.

Well this was certainly different. An acquaintance of Ranma's. Altering his shape to that of a six-foot human Anhur coughed softly to capture the boy's attention.

"I believe you are looking for Ranma?" he asked.

"Er... no. Ranma's lost somewhere. Could you direct me to the Tendo Dojo?" the boy asked while turning to face the new fellow.

"Just out of curiosity, where do you think you are now," asked Anhur, speaking ancient Egyptian.

"Well, Canada of course. Though I hadn't realized Canada had deserts," Ryouga muttered to himself in Egyptian.

"What language do you believe you are speaking in now," Anhur continued, switching to Atlantean.

"Listen, I don't have time for silly questions. I need to find the Tendos. If you won't tell me where they are, I'll just find them on my own," the lost boy shouted back, also in Atlantean.

"If you answer my questions, I will see you to your destination personally," Anhur stated, reaching a hand to the boy's shoulder to delay his leaving.

Ryouga shrugged out of the hold on him, or at least he tried. Whoever this guy was he might even be stronger than Ryouga. His eyes widened as he realized this. Up to now the only ones stronger than him were Herb's minion and Tarou's minotaur's form.

Acknowledging the stranger's prowess Ryouga turned around gave him his full attention. Anhur seeing this, released his grip on the lost boy and stepped back.

"Are you a martial artist" Ryouga inquired suspiciously.

"Yes, though I practice a very different style than yours. Do you accept my bargain?"

"Alright, maybe we can spar a little as well," Ryouga said eagerly, anxious to learn a new technique in his quest to destroy Ranma.

"Hmm, maybe. I might enjoy that. However, I do know something that may be of service to you. I am willing to aid you in exchange for a favor sometime in the future."

"All I want to do is reach the Tendo Dojo, you already promised me that," Ryouga said, wary again. This stranger was acting very odd.

"You suffer severe directional problems," Anhur continued despite Ryouga's protest to the contrary, "If I could explain the cause of your problem and propose a solution, would you find this worth a favor?"

"You mean never be lost again? You can do that?" Ryouga exclaimed, a slight amount of his constant depression lightening slightly.

"I can show you what needs to be done. The rest is, of course, up to you. Do we have a bargain, boy?" the god offered.

"Assuming you don't want me to do anything dishonorable, yes," Ryouga qualified.

"I tire of you humans constantly questioning my honor! But enough. We have an agreement. Come into my study and we will answer each other's questions." Saying this he walked to a portal that opened to one side of the two of them.

"Hey is that a technique I can learn?" Ryouga asked eagerly, following the man through the gate.

"That is the question, now. Isn't it?" the man responded to a confused Ryouga.

Ranma was walking towards the study. He had finished his meditation practice and his sparing with his demonic partners and was searching for a snack. He had found that the study he had originally met with Anhur and Thoth always seemed to have fresh tea and cookies on the table.

As he neared the door he heard voices. Not wanting to make a nuisance of himself, he was about to walk away when he noticed something familiar about the voices. One was Anhur, of course. The god had a memorable voice that always made him shiver and think of lions. The other one took a moment to place. When he finally recognized the source he almost fell over in shock. What the heck was Ryouga doing here of all places. Was he following him or something? So it was that Ranma stayed silent and listened to the conversation.

"Were your parents as directionally challenged as you are," Anhur's voice carried through the door.

"Well father was, Mom just followed him around," came Ryouga's voice, much fainter, seemingly less substantial than the god's.

"How far back in your family history does this problem go?"

"Well, we don't keep really good records of that kind of thing, but I think it was at least five generations. So you know a cure?"

"I'll get to that. As some background information, let me tell you a little about supernatural entities and dimensional travel."

"Dimensional travel? What does that have to do with anything?"

"You may not have noticed but you are not on your home plane. The fact that you haven't noticed is the root of your problem. However, background first. Many entities, dragons, deevils, demons, elementals, Titans, gods and similar beings possess the ability to travel to other planes and to teleport from one place to another within a single plane." Many of them also had the ability to understand and speak any tongue as well as a slew of miscellaneous talents, but he didn't want to cloud the main issue.

"This ability relies on three elements. Perceiving the exact point in the dimensions where you are, and either remembering or perceiving the exact point where you are going. Finally, the ability to actually move to where you're going. You seem to have one out of three of these abilities. It's the deficiency of the other two which are the source of your problems."

"But... I'm no supernatural entity," Ryouga began, then stopped as another thought occurred to him. "Hey, if I'm not on earth where am I."

"You're on my home plane. Don't worry about that, it's irrelevant. Anyway, most of the creatures I mentioned are incapable of siring offspring in humans, and yes you are mostly human. Gods, however, possess the unique capacity to crossbreed with any race in existence. You've probably heard legends of such events," Anhur stated, dark humor hidden in his voice.

"You think I'm descended from a god," Ryouga asked disbelievingly.

"Well, probably more than five generations back. After all this time I'm surprised it bred true. What gives me hope that I can train you in the perception you lack, is your presence here."

"Why? What's so great about being here?"

"I know a small amount about you, due to a mutual acquaintance. It's your obsession regarding this person which is attracting you to places he either is or has been. The very fact you can unconsciously follow him, though inefficiently, raises a hope you may someday do this on your own."

"You mean I'll know where I am at all times?"

"Maybe someday. Perhaps your senses may, one day, be keen enough to actually travel the planes with some degree of accuracy."

"Great! How long will this training take?" Ryouga asked, hope tingeing his voice.

"Well, I have an idea that will keep you from straying off your home plane and accidentally teleporting. Gaining actual perceptual skill and control should take no longer than… about a century."

"A... a century? I can't wait for a century! Ranma, this is all your fault!"

"Be quiet! And sit down," the god stated tersely. "The actual perception is a simple thing. Once I open your eyes to the universe around you, you can practice on your own. As for your mundane sense of direction, use mundane means of control. Surely even your primitive world has some means of tracking things. Use them!"

"But a hundred years, I'll be an old man by then."

"I have been informed that a chi master of your magnitude could easily live past three hundred. Anyway, your friend Ranma has a method of extending this as well. Ask him the next time you speak with him."

"Getting on with things, put these on," Anhur stated while the clanking some sort of metal resounded through the room.

"Bracelets? Why do I need bracelets?" a bewildered Ryouga asked.

"Your manacles gave me the idea. An ingenious use of restraints, by the way. These are similar. Occasionally it is necessary to restrain a supernatural entity. It can be difficult when they can disappear at will, so these were constructed to prevent escapes. They should also prevent you from 'traveling' too suddenly around your world."

"Ranma gave me a set of manacles? You want me to wear another set? Ranma, I'll get you for this!"

"Stop being so temperamental and put those on. Since you already have a pair on your arms simply place these on your ankles. There we go. Stop grumbling."

"I don't like the idea of being shackled!" groused Ryouga.

"Don't worry, the shackles aren't locked. They aren't attached to the usual chains, anyway. There really is no downside to this arrangement. Your friend has even used those things to parry attacks, crack walnuts and a few other useful tricks."

"Ranma is here? Where is he? He'll pay for what he put me through!"

As if on cue the door opened and Ranma poked his head through, "How's it going, P-chan?"

Ten minutes later an increasingly angry Anhur tired of watching the destruction of his home. Returning to his normal lion-headed, eighteen-foot tall form. He bellowed at the two juveniles to stop.

Strangely enough, Ryouga stopped, mostly from the shock of seeing the man he'd been talking to a few minutes before change into a very large monster. Ranma stopped from sheer fear. Surprisingly, he did not take off running in terror as he had the last two times. Instead, he stood stock still, his eyes closed, sweating and shivering as if under a great strain. Ryouga looked from the suddenly monstrous felinoid to Ranma in confusion.

"Ranma? Snap out of it! What are you muttering about? Are you scared or something?"

"I would suggest you don't disturb him. He is presently employing some meditation techniques he recently learned to control the neko-ken. Breaking his concentration would be inconvenient."

"Oh. A martial arts technique," Ryouga nodded to himself. "That's okay then. By the way what spring did you fall into? I haven't seen that one before."

"I am a god." Anhur stated in a dignified manner, hiding his irritation after his initial blowup.

"Gee, bummer. I didn't know Jusenkyo effected gods too. Don't let the other gods bother you over it. It's not your fault," Ryouga said in his best sympathetic voice.

"I did not fall into a cursed spring, I am a god. This is how I normally manifest myself before my followers," Anhur growled loudly, quickly losing what patience he had. The noise caused Ranma to shiver and sweat even more profusely while increasing the volume of what could now be recognized as a mantra.

"Oh. If you say so. I'd be careful around cursed springs though, you never know," Ryouga said, confused, but determined to be helpful.

"Grrr. Let's start your training. I will initially show you the way, you will then work with Master Airen to learn the self-hypnotic trance and meditation to continue training on your own."

After stating this Anhur walked over to Ryouga, who looked nervously back at the huge deity. Placing a large clawed hand on Ryouga's forehead, he embraced the awareness of the universe around him, the beauty of the overlapping planes, and the sure knowledge of his place within this scheme. Then after forging a telepathic bridge to the demi-human brat before him, he crammed the complete contents inside his student's skull, smiling slightly at the cries of agony from a mostly mortal being trying to grasp more than man was meant to know.

After a few minutes of this, he released his grip. Letting the now blissfully unconscious human fall to the ground. Much more relaxed he called for the servants to tend to the boy while he enjoyed some tea. His happiness was short-lived, as the uncontrollably shaking Ranma, now shouting his mantra, snapped at the presence of the felinoid servant and ran through the walls. Again.

"Help with the Old Ones or no, this is stretching my patience near breaking. When this is over I will ban these silly martial artists from my home for a decade," Anhur said with a disgruntled growl. "They aren't worth the headache."

"Master, should I get another bucket of cold water?" the Raman servant inquired.

Staring at the hole in wall contemplatively, he sat down in the, now huge, chair and sipped his tea. "No. No hurry. I'll just sit here, and finish my tea. Warn the servants away from my champion."

"What of the demons you asked to be here for your champion's training?"

"I'm sure they'll find out on their own," with a nod, sighing at the well-made cup of tea.

 

 

Jess looked with satisfaction at the rows of her fellow monks as they practiced their katas in unison. They were approaching her own level of skill and she really had practically nothing more to teach. She sensed a presence behind her, easily deducing who it must be.

"Greetings, Master Reteife. It's a beautiful morning, isn't it."

"Yes. But sometimes it takes more than excellent weather to satisfy one's yearning," he paused before continuing. "You have been unhappy since Ranma's departure. You know my dear we are not a celibate order. If you wish to take a mate, we will only wish you well. Managing one's duties and one's family is a task most people must eventually learn."

"No! It's not like that at all!" she paused gathering her thoughts. "I feel I have reached a dead-end in the Art. I have seen someone fly, while I trudge along behind, barely hopping. I want... I want to learn to fly, and I just don't know any way to do it. Oh, if I study and practice on my own I'll certainly advance to some degree, but I'll never even approach the level I saw," she said sadly.

"Hmm. This is true. Our monastery has seen an increase in our skills that I had never dreamed of, but we could do better. Do you see a solution to your... our... dilemma," the elderly monk inquired.

"No. Ranma is gone. Maybe dead. No one knows where he went, or really what took him."

"Well actually, I had heard it was a dark god of the Pantheon of Taut," Jess gasped in dismay. "But there is little we can do for him, my dear. Think about it, Ranma did not learn his skills by himself. He's very good, but lone person is that good."

"Of course he learned his skills, but since we have no idea where he learned them from, this doesn't really help us, does it?" she asked uncertainly, the old master was leading to something.

"I spoke to your friend Grayson the other day. He, in turn, has been in contact with the Royal Summoner. It appears that we do indeed know where Ranma came from. I would not object if you undertook a training journey to this location. You would, of course, be expected to come back, sometime in the future, and pass on the skills you learned."

"The Royal Summoner is willing to send me to this place?" she asked excitedly.

"He hasn't agreed yet, but I think we can arrange something. The monastery will, of course, supply you with funds for your journey. It wouldn't do if you were too busy trying to survive to continue your training."

"This is a great honor, Master. I will strive to live up to your expectations," Jess said humbly.

"You already have. Simply act as you have already demonstrated you can. Since it seems you will be going to Ranma's home perhaps you could deliver this to him." Master Reteife pulled a wooden box out of his robes.

"A visitor came to our door and asked us to deliver this to the red-haired girl. I didn't understand what he meant until I heard from Grayson that Ranma has a red-haired sister. Although I still don't know how they found out. Anyway, when you get there, give this package to a Ranko Saotome. I don't know who it's from."

"Should I go to the Royal Summoner now?" Jess eagerly asked, accepting the package.

"I don't think that is necessary. He has an unsavory reputation. I'll have Grayson make the arrangements, and get you a talisman to help you speak the language. Perhaps you should pack and make any other personal arrangements." He really envied the girl. If he was fifty years younger he would jump at the chance to learn at the feet of the wise and serene teachers she would undoubtedly encounter.

 

 

"It is time," Ranma looked up from the kata he was performing to see the human appearing Anhur in the entrance of the arena. "You have a sufficient knowledge of the Deevils you may encounter, and can control the neko-ken... at least long enough to employ the amulet if necessary. You will leave immediately. Ammit will meet you at your destination. Either he or Rhada will be able to return you here upon completion of your errand. Any questions?"

"How's Ryouga?"

"Recovering. He has met Master Arien several times already and is almost ready to continue on his own. Chances are he'll be home before you. He'll probably get lost soon thereafter, but that's not my concern," Anhur stated dismissing the matter.

"I guess I'm ready," it would be nice to go home and see his friends again. Of course, he had to go through Hell... er... Dyval to get there.

"Very well," Anhur nodded, and without further ado, a strangely menacing portal opened not far from Ranma. With only a slight gathering of chi as a sign of the trepidation he felt, Ranma walked through.

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