Dance, Dance, Rumble (R.5 / Shantae crossover) [+ Ch.11 now]

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Re: Dance, Dance, Rumble (R.5 / Shantae crossover) [+ Ch.6 n

Postby Cheb » Tue Oct 10, 2017 7:46 am

[edit: changed Nabiki from a terminator in a skirt into just a girl with unhealthy tendencies.]

Chapter 7
Wishsplosion Fallout

A pile of bodies was groaning, twitching, on the stone floor of a tiny dark room. The only light was coming from pre-dawn sky criss-crossed by the frame of a circular window. Violet sparks swarming in the air like a cloud of carrion flies weren't illuminating anything.

Nabiki was the first one to stir. She crawled on her shaky hands to the nearest wall to sit up leaning on it. Her feet were still touching the pile of bodies: this circular room was barely three meters in diameter.

“I suppose,” the middle Tendou hissed, wincing each time a violet spark dove into her head, “this answers my unhealthy curiosity which I had no chance to satisfy: Could I lose my cool because of pain?” She rubbed her temples knocking her hat onto the back of her head.

“Nmnghh,” Shantae groaned, draped awkwardly over one of two posts of a hammock-like bed. “Sleechadoo...”

The next one to come provisionally awake was Ranma, trying awkwardly to get from under entangled Ukyou, Shampoo and Akane. He wasn't having success.

“Ow, it hurts so much,” Akane breathed out trying unsuccessfully to disentangle herself from the other two fiancees. “Like nails hammered into my head.”

“Mmph-mmph,” Shantae moaned, twitching. Neither her hands nor feet were reaching the floor.

The ah..answer, it, turns out, is a resounding no,” Nabiki grit out, rising up on shaky legs even as it evidently caused a new pang of migraine. “Not even like this? I wond—” She hit a circular beam running along the ceiling and almost fell, hands grasping, blinded by pain. “Ng..Not even this...? It's always nice to know you'd stay aware through even most grievous harm. Isn't that hilarious.” There was not a gram of humor in her voice. Stumbling like drunk she walked up to the window. She had to lean down to look outside, which made her freeze for a moment, blinded by screws twisting into her brain. “I can barely see, it's too dark.” She slowly, carefully turned around to face Ranma lying on his back, his legs buried under the pile of fiancees. “My pupils are probably like tiny dots.”

“Beware of the hole,” he hissed in reply. “To the left of you.”

Nabiki turned her uncooperative eyes there to see a circular hole in the floor she just barely avoided. There was a rope hanging into it from the darkness-enshrouded ceiling.

“So that's why there is no door,” Nabiki commented as she hobbled towards the bed, stepping around the pile of girls and stepping over Ranma with difficulty. Reaching her goal she grabbed Shantae by her hand to begin tugging, wincing each time she exerted herself. Finally she managed to dislodge the half-Genie girl from the post — it was a good thing it was crowned with a big round ball. The dancer flopped onto the hammock with her belly, hanging across it precariously for a moment before toppling head-first onto the stone floor wit a dull thud. Her legs followed pushing Nabiki into the wall. The middle Tendou clonked her head against the ceiling beam again and barely managed to turn her fall into controlled sliding down the wall.

“Don't push yourself,” Ranma advised. “Wait until it passes.”

The violet sparks kept diving into the heads but there were noticeably less of them.

“I was curious,” Nabiki replied sitting there, leaning against the wall with her eyes closed. “I just jumped at the occasion.”

“What happened?” Akane asked plaintively, ceasing her struggles to avoid further pangs. “Where are we?”

“What happened...?” Nabiki replied acidly without opening her eyes. “We just gathered around an inexperienced, half-educated Genie doing her strongest mojo. What, I wounder, would have went wrong...? well, except throwing us all into a different reality or, say, into the Sengoku Jidai era...? How could it be? Everything was supposed to go without a hitch!”

“Big Sis Nabiki,” Akane moaned. “Please... I beg you, explain it in simple words for the brain-addled. It hurts.”

“Meh...” Nabiki let out an irritated breath, then explained, massaging her temples: “What is wrong with us? The learn-a-new-language-in-a-minute magic. Remember how pained Shantae was when she learned to speak Japanese? Endure it for fifteen minutes or so and the pain will pass. Where are we? Probably in deep shit. We got spirited away, Little Sis. There is sea outside, with small islands. I can't say more, my vision was blurry. Over our heads...” She lifted her head opening her eyes. “Are clotheslines with pantaloons and—” She fell silent abruptly. “Now I know we are in deep shit. Because beside pantaloons there are two pairs of suspiciously familiar red pants.”

“So what?” Akane moaned in the voice of someone suffering. “Talk simple, all right...?”

Where would you expect to find a clothesline with Shantae's spare pants?” Nabiki hinted in an exaggeratedly nice voice.

“At Shantae's... home...” Akane realized.

“Welcome,” the half-Genie mumbled trying to move. Her words carried weird doubling overtones, inducing new pangs of headache.

“Well, we're all alive,” Ranma declared with optimism. “And healthy, except the headache that should pass soon... Shantae, are you all right?”

“Weakness...” the dark-complexioned girl groaned. “Give me the purple vial. It's there, on the table...”

Wincing — was the pain receding already? — Nabiki reached for a round, low table that could've been called coffee table if it wasn't so ridiculously massive. She passed their host a round crystal vial with a thin neck, it was the only one among many vials and bottles on the table that looked remotely purple.

Shantae took it with her barely moving hands, pulled the stopper out with her teeth and uppended it into her mouth. Her eyes bulged. Then filled with tears. She was whimpering but stubbornly gulping the potion down. Finally she lowered the vial, sat straighter and replaced the stopper. And then she let out a shuddering breath of very real flame, singing the hammock net.

“Umm, are you sure you're all right?” Ranma grew worried.

“No, but now I can at least move,” Shantae replied honestly, standing up with a groan. Then, looking at Akane, she gave a warning for her personally: “Remember the healing potion...? Well, don't even think of drinking this one unless you are a powerful mage. Not only it restores health, but also mana, over the top. I just drank three times more than you need to spring up from being almost dead...”

“Why so much?” Nabiki asked suspiciously. “What is wrong with you if even a triple doze haven't healed you fully?”

“I think I over-strained my Genie half,” Shantae explained. “I'm unhurt and bursting with mana, but... Yeah, I think I won't be able to transform for a long while, and forget granting wishes. Well, at least we are at my place and not in the middle of the swamps where zombies are crawling from under every bump.”

“Zombies?” Ukyou moaned from the fiancee pile. “Ran-cha, what trouble have I got into?”

“Don't you have them in your world?” Shantae was surprized. “I thought you simply don't let them into cities.” She edged towards the window stepping over legs and bodies. “Yeah, here it is, Scuttle Town, right where it should be and looking whole. I'm definitely back home.”

“It could have been not whole?” Ranma inquired warily.

“Well, if it was on fire it would've meant I had to run repel the invasion,” Shantae explained in inappropriately airy tone. “And Mayor Scuttlebutt could've fired me again for chasing pirates away too late.” She sighed. “Why does it always become apparent only after half the town is already in flames and monsters are running rampant?”

No one of the Nerimans had a reply to that.

“Half the comic books are missing,” their host began taking stock of her inventory, glaring suspiciously at the only bookshelf, a massive, rough board. “My Silk Hair Creme is missing... Fell behind?” She peeked beyond the table. “No. And—” She bumped her head against a large dangling construct of many frames and nick-knaks hanging on threads, from sea shells to tinfoil stars. “And where is my lucky sprocket...? I remember it clearly as I hung it place of this sea shell here...! Was Rotty poking around my home again? I'll show her...”

The headache was receding, the dawn beyond the window was growing brighter. The Nerimans could now see that the ceiling in the room was cone-shaped, supported by many sloped beams resting on the thick ring beam, curving sharply into a dark depression in the center. Obviously they were in a tower with a cone-shaped roof that had a protrusion at the top.

“Do you live in a tower?” Ranma asked, curious.

“Yeah, it was a lighthouse long time ago,” Shantae replied distractedly, looking around for anything else missing. Lifting her eyes towards the ceiling she frowned even more: “Two pairs...?” She pulled her red pants from her subspace pocket, the pair she hadn't chance to wear since washing as she still wore Ranma's black silk pants. “Now I have three pairs of hakama...? I'm completely stumped!”

“I would be quite grateful if some of the present company been so kind to stop lying on me,” Shampoo injected.

“Huh?” Ukyou shook off her stupor. “Let's get free... Err, just move your arm, I need—”

“That is my leg,” Akane clarified. “Whoa... How did we end entangled into such a knot?”

Coordinating their effort, the three fiancees managed to untangle from each other.

“I'm much obliged,” Shampoo quiped. “I have no idea how would I fare without your expeditious help.”

“Easy there, sugar,” Ukyou snubbed her. “I ain't too fond of you too, you know.”

“I am merely glad I can speak like a normal, civilized human being,” the amazon bit back. “And be understood by everyone!”

“Of course!” Nabiki snapped her fingers. “You got a whole new language crammed into your head by magic! How is it called, by the way?”

“Oyghul... I think,” Shantae replied. “I never thought of it, I thought of it as simply human speech.”

“Hey, I'm still sitting on someone!” Ukyou exclaimed in alarm.

“Bu-kiii,” P-chain let out a strangled oink.

“Oh, poor Ryo—” Ranma made scary eyes at her making Ukyou remember and shut herself up. “Are you all right there, sugar?” She carefully rolled off the piglet.

“P-suke?” Ranma asked carefully, trying to tell if there was intellect behind the pig eyes.

“Bu-kiiiii!!!” the enraged piglet leaped aiming to bite him in the arm.

“Yeah, I see that you are P-suke.” Ranma said fending off his pounces.

“Ranma!” Akane berated habitually, without thinking. “Come here, P-chan...”

Oinking victoriously, the piglet jumped into her lap to lie there, being petted.

Ranma felt a dreadful suspicion but he couldn't voice it because, frustratingly, Shantae was convinced that P-chan was a separate youkai and not Ryouga's curse. He had to find a roundabout way to check. Noticing a jug on the low table he grabbed it, sniffed the contents, then asked Shantae for good measure: “It's water in here, right?”

“Yes, why?” she said, surprised.

Instead of replying, Ranma upended the jug over huis head.

The suspicion proved true.

“Shantae, where is the lamp?” girl Ranma asked severely, shaking water from her soaked red hair.

“It's in my—” The half-Genie girl gasped, paling. “It's not there... It's gone. And if the magic is back...”

“Then where is Happousai now?” Ranma finished.

“Maybe the wish haven't affected the lamp” Akane suggested with timid hope. “And it simply stayed back home?”

“But what sort of wish was it?” Nabiki raised a question as she took her fedora off spinning it on her index finger. “I, for one, clearly remember being dressed in sports shirt and shorts. While I have no memories of having an Indiana Jones costume in my wardrobe...” She grasped around her belt. “With even the whip included. Let's first figure out what went wrong.”

Everyone finally paid attention to the fact the middle Tendou was dressed is light beige shirt with ith sleeves rolled up, dark trousers of rough fabric and heavy shoes. That's not counting the fedora.

“And you, Little Sis,” Nabiki added, “were definitely not dressed in your gi.”

“I really am!” the other girl exclaimed in surprise as she realized she was dressed in her yellowish-greenish off-white gi. “But it should be in the laundry now!” There were wooden sandals on her feet.

They all started checking themselves but there were no more outfit changes. Shampoo was still in her waitress dress with apron. Ukyou was still in her working clothes of black tights and blue robe with its sleeves bunched up wit white ties. Ranma was holding her kung-fu slippers, several sizes too big for her girl form.

Other than that, they found a box a cabbage and Ukyou's battle spatula lying to the side at the wall.

“What sort of tricky sorcery it was,” the `cute` fiancee wondered aloud, puzzled, as she grabbed her weapon slash tool. “I'm glad the spatula is with me, though.” She shot a brief glance at Shampoo who arrived unarmed. The latter noticed it and snorted self-confidently.

“Let's get this in order,” Nabiki said putting the hat onto her head. “Shantae broke the curse and destroyed the pendant, right?”

Everyone nodded in agreement.

“She then tried pulling something else off, with so much oomph we all started sparkling. I clearly remember seeing Ukyou-kun through her spatula.”

“There was also a girl's outline appearing in the air,” Ranma added. “Wait, could it be that amazon whose soul—”

“But the Genies have no power over life and death, right?” Shampoo asked with trepidation.

“Over souls,” Shantae corrected. “You can't wish someone back to life because trying to return the soul with Genie magic is like scooping water with a butterfly net. But her soul was right there, at arm's reach... Well, I couldn't help myself.”

“Yeah, the mojo was so mighty it dragged us along for the ride,” Ranma agreed. “I just dont understand, why. I don't remember saying any wishes.”

“Weeell...” the Genie girl interwove her fingers sheepishly. “I think I understand now how it works. My magic, it's Light and it fulfils a true wish coming from your heart... Well, so...”

“Oooh, what a magnificient trap!” Nabiki face-palmed dramatically. “You don't have to say anything more, it is clear as day. Me, I was craving for adventures in the depth of my heart. Little Sis wanted to fight side to side with you. Ranma wished to protect her. These two... It's obvious. One after another, it wasn't just one wish, they cascaded like dominoes.”

“Looks like it,” Ranma agreed. “But how did that affect the lamp?”

“Well... I also wished for that accursed lamp to be gone,” Akane admited, shuffling from foot to foot sheepishly. “And that there wasn't all that pain it caused Shantae...”

The mentioned girl gasped. Then she dashed to the rope to slide down into the darkness of the lower floors. A few seconds later there was a snap and stone floor lit with dim reddish light became visible beyond the round hole, only about three meters below.

“I'm going,” Ranma said in a no-nonsense tone as she slid down after their host. “Hey, what's wrong? Why are you shaking...? Is that thing dangerous...?”

After that Ukyou and Shampoo scrambled to follow her, jostling each other, Ukyou's spatula clanging loudly against the edge.

“Big Sis Nabiki—” Akane began.

“Just go,” she waved her concern aside. “I had enough practice climbing ropes during P.E.”

Every girl in turn arrived in haste only to see Shantae staring at a large, ostrich-sized sky-blue egg with red polka dots. And everyone who arrived before staring at her in puzzlement. The half-Genie girl was looking at the egg with so much horror it felt like she was staring at her own death.

Nabiki was the last one to slide down carefully. She took stock of her surroundings. It was a tiny kitchen, not much larger in diameter than the room above, lit by a kerosene lantern hanging from the ceiling. The walls were lined with cupboards and dressers with a few mugs, plates and other utensils on them. There was a construct of a huge cauldron and smaller woks hanging from the ceiling, swaying after someone of the fiances bumped their head against it. There was a huge brass bell the size of human head hanging above the round-topped door. Opposite the door there was a rounded oven built of rough stones, its massive iron smoke-pipe zig-zagging into the back wall. The egg was on the oven, nested in several blankets bunched up around it.

A million dollar question: what was so scary about this egg? A monster could hatch? Unlikely, it looked more like Shantae was caring for the egg, placing it atop the oven that should have kept warmth since— Nabiki walked rapidly up to the oven and touched its side. It was barely but warm. Which meant...

“We landed in your past, haven't we?” the middle Tendou stated. “A bad moment...? What should we be ready for?”

The rest of the Nerima Wrecking Crew stared at her, realization dawning why their host was so afraid. It wasn't the egg she feared!

“It's...” Shantae shook her stupor off. “It's a disaster! Today at noon Uncle will uncover the lamp's existence by mistake!”

“But the sun isn't even up!” Ranma retorted. “We can warn him!”

“And the Pirate Master haven't awakened yet,” Shantae added, her voice trembling.

“That bad?” Ranma asked worriedly, not yet aware of the scale of the scimitar of Damocles hanging over their heads.

“Last time all it took was my magic turned dark and scattered across the world. This time around... If Happousai had been scattered... He will rise from his grave much sooner!”

“All right, let's go over this again from the begginning,” Nabiki butted in, wary of the conversation degenerating into a self-sustaining squabble. “Who is that master and why is he so fearsome?”

“It's... He's... When...” Shantae, it seems, was at loss of words to convey how deep they were.

“Start from who sent him to that grave,” Nabiki suggested.

Shantae stopped trying to describe indescribable and sighed. “When I was... very little, I guess, all Genies gathered together to seal that monster. Because no one else could beat him. They had to sacrifice their bodily shells and pass away into the Genie realm. It wouldn't work otherwise, he is that dreadfully mighty. Since then there are no more Genies in the Sequin Land. Well, except me...”

“How much is dreadfully?” Ranma asked her warily, mindful of beasts out there, like the recently encountered Orochi, you could only run away from, baiting them away from your comrades. You are lucky if there is an artifact around for dealing with that particular beast.

“Dreadfully is when your skin crawls from one look at his true form,” Shantae explained grimly. “When the top of his hat is higher than the Sultana's palace even as he leaned down to better squash you. When sky turns pitch black from horizon to horizon at his approach and the land is swarmed with strong monsters. And you are standing before him knowing that you are the only one who can harm him because he is invincible against anything but the Light magic of the Genies. And you can only do it close and personal, with your hair.”

Shampoo was going to say something but Nabiki forestalled her “Wait, you speak like you fought him before! Is that why you were so intimidated?”

“We got very, very lucky that time with Ammo Baron's Palace Disruptor Cannon,” Shantae said. “Twitch and Vinegar were hitting the enemy straight in the eye. That could not harm him, but I had time to climb up across bones and correct his face while he was blinking it out.”

“Across bones?” Ukyou asked, puzzled.

“Palace Disruptor Cannon?” Akane asked incomprehendingly.

“But what—” Ranma tried to ask.

“All right, not everyone at once!” Nabiki interrupted them, gradually growing irritated because she had to take the role or the only sane woman instead of taunting them artfully from behind Ranma's wide back.

“It was when Ammo Baron decided yet again to take over the world,” Shantae explained. “I have no idea why the thought his conquest had to start with demolishing the Sultana's palace, he just did. Got the mayor addicted to chocolate, took the town over and rebuilt Scuttle Town into Ammo Town. Made the retirement center into an artillery fort, the vile villain. Then he stuck a terrificaly long range supercannon on top of the tallest tower that could have leveled the palace in one shot. Thankfully, he didn't hit the palace, because he contracted Techno Baron to make one very important thingie for it. But Techno Baron subcontracted it to Bolo... Yeah, that's Bolo for you. He made it so upside down and inside out that instead of the palace the cannon hit Techno Baron himself who was taking a stroll near his lair on the Frostbite Island. Scarily long range!”

“How large is the palace?” Shampoo asked. “Just for the scale.”

Shantae fell silent for a minute, thinking.

“About fifteen times higher than my lighthouse. And much thicker.”

“And you brought such a monster down?” Ranma was impressed. “With your hair?”

“Well, it's like picking at a watermelon with a tea spoon,” the half-Genie found an analogy. “With enough determination and patience you'd finish eating it. The watermelon isn't trying to squash you like a bug, though...”

“If there's even a tiny chance,” Ukyou declared, “we should try offing such enemy before he crawled out!”

“Even better would be preventing him from awakening altogether,” Shampoo added. “Also, shouldn't we continue this conversation outside? It's dark and stuffy in here and we are crowding like conspirators around a lone candle.”

“Yeah, right!” Shantae made for the door but stopped so abruptly she had to wave her arms for balance. “No! I won't leave it this time!” She returned to the egg to begin fiddling with towels, making an underslung harness for carrying it.

“What are you doing?” Ranma asked.

“Well, I promised to sit it,” Shantae explained like it was obvious. She finally managed to nest the egg snugly on her belly.

“Going to play a pregnant bird?” Shampoo couldn't help herself.

“Yes...! No...! Idea...! Hold it.” She stuck the egg into Ranma's hands, jumped up and climbed the rope upstairs.

“What's with her?” Akane grew worried.

“Soon we will know.” The redhead shrugged. “Cluck-cluck.” She stuck the egg under her undershirt and crossed her arms over it with exaggerated self-importance. “Cluck.”

Involuntary smiles banished the atmosphere of a gloomy, barely illuminated crypt. This was just kitchen, if utterly primeval one in Nabiki's opinion.

Shantae clambered down with a bunch of several more towels and the ornate bed cover. Raising furious activity she wrapped her head in a weirdly elongated turban hiding her hair completely. Then she took the egg back, added more towels, wrapped the bed cover around herself and became quite unrecognizable.

“An excellent disguise of a pregnant woman in a shawl,” Nabiki approved, one brow lifted. “But why? Is there a reason for it, or just for the fun of it?”

“I was hinking,” Shantae explained as she tucked a tassel torn from the pillow roll under her turban so that it looked like a lock of chestnut hair. “What if Risky had already infiltrated the town in disguise? All her “ho-ho-ho, men, charge!” is really an act for the public. In truth she can make plans so cunning you can't help feeling awed. She could very well have already stolen the lamp yesterday, then planted it for Uncle to reveal it instead whatever he was going to, just to steal it again, making a racket in front of large crowd of witnesses...”

“Revealed?” Akane was puzzled. “How does that work?”

“Well, when there is a Relic Hunter Expo they crack some fossil open in front of public revealing the rarity inside,” Shantae explained heading for the door. “He will have cracked today something he thought was the most recent relic he obtained but turned out to be the lamp. Then Risky Boots crashed through the ceiling right on cue! And snatched the lamp!” Hefting a massive bar aside she flung the door open letting in the fresh sea air and the pink glow of dawn. “I lock the door against the mermaids. If you forget to, they can barge in at night and break all your tableware!”

The five displaced girls and one not quite piglet made their first step under the sky of this new world. The lighthouse — its roof turned to be covered in scarlet tiles — was standing atop a grassy rock together with a couple palm trees. There was about ten meters down to the water, the rolling waves were of modest size, not oceanic. The surrounding sea was picturesque with many protruding rocks and islets. Some distance ahead there was rocky shore of the mainland covered in jungle, steep grassy rolling hills towering in the distance. The town was stretching to the left, its houses and towers the color of terracotta interrupted in places with sheer cliffs overgrown with weeds. Further to the left, white sails of fishing boats could be seen. The ubiquitous palm trees, the onion-shaped tower tops and fancy window shapes were giving it somewhat Arabian air.

“I suspect the climate here is like Okinawa,” Ukyou concluded. “If not hotter.”

“Let's go!” Shantae called them as she headed to a hanging bridge connecting this rock with a neighboring one. She then strolled across rotten planks without a care in the world, hopping merrily over yawning gaps.

“Aaand, the adventure begins,” Nabiki stated with all the enthusiasm of a dead cactus.

[Dec 19: now writing Ch.8. Maybe even post this year -- I'm not sure how much time I'd have with New Year preparations, my friend's birthday (which is Dec 31, celebrated Dec 30) and so on. I surely forgot to remove the LED lights from the balcony, now they were there the whole year, rained upon from the leaky roof, and probably got corroded end resistors or something. Also, I want to order my final batch of radio parts and give my vintage oscilloscope the much needed inrush current limiter (already bought 3 95Wt incandescent bulbs to serve as mock load for testing it). And then I'd have to translate the Ch. 8 to English. And buy the "Friends to the End" DLC. And visit the mall again because I bought wrong hinges for my homemade portable PC (I need some heavy barn door ones with the hinge sunk flush with the surface - the current door ones look cool but it's my back they would be digging into in the backpack configuration!) I had luck finding some cool looking steel mesh for grids, though. And some 0.7mm steel for anti-EMP lining.]

[Dec 26: not this year, but in the first weeks of 2018. It will be ready in a day or two, but I don't have time to translate it this year. :( ]
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Re: Dance, Dance, Rumble (R.5 / Shantae crossover) [+ Ch.8 n

Postby Cheb » Sun Jan 07, 2018 7:32 am

Well, guess what, this New Year in Moscow was warm and wet with no snow at all :(
Where did all the snow and cold disappear to!!! I want my winter dammit :x
It keeps that way for more than a decade now, snowless New Years with rare exceptions.

This story is a work of fanfiction. As such, it owes a great debt to the creators of the characters used herein: Rumiko Takahashi, Matt Bozon, Erin Bell Bozon and the creative teams of Kity Films and WayForward.

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Chapter 8
Good Morning, Scuttle Town!

Author's note: the Nerimans are people of the 80s, unspoiled both by mobile phones and game consoles. The Tendou House belongs to those 70% families that do not possess a Famicom (aka NES). Of them all, only Ranma played a video game, once in his life, with that pretend-sick little boy. And it was a classical spaceship scroller.
So don't be surprised when obvious parallels would go over their heads: nor the fiancees, neither Nabiki do even know what a video game is. While Ryouga... You're kidding, right?

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The chain of suspension bridges was zig-zagging from rock to rock, its path dictated by convenience of attaching them. Some were in decent shape, only creaking lightly underfoot, others were thoroughly rotten, with barely one board of three remaining attached to sad, unraveling ropes. Akane put a brave facade, jumping over with proud look, but was squeezing P-chan tightly above deep water. Nabiki was playing it safe wherever there were piles of jagged rock below. Ukyou, Shampoo and Ranma weren't even paying attention, too taken with sightseeing, while Shantae was skipping without a care in the world, the route familiar to her like the back of her hand. She didn't even blink when another turn revealed a weird thing floating in the air, akin to a green totem pole with a frowning face on it.

“What sort of wonder is this?” Ukyou asked.

“Wonder?” Shantae stopped, looking around. “Where?”

“My unsophisticated rival was referring to that unidentified green object over there,” Shampoo clarified eagerly.

“Oh, that...” Shantae lost interest, disappointed. “It's a common flying stone. Any ruins have lots of them and dungeon bosses use them for traps and the like. This kind of magic is widely used, but it's useless for me.

The totem pole was floating slowly at steady height, repeating a route through three points as if it was drawing a five-meter triangle in the air.

“For how long would it keep floating like that?” Nabiki asked, intrigued.

“Until one of the fixing points falls off,” the half-Genie replied, already on her way. “If these points are deep in the rocks, It'll keep floating there for centuries until the sea wears the rocks down. Let's go!”

A couple of bridges later — the rough mainland shore was already close — a girlish giggling reached from beyond a bend. Shantae reacted to it with uncharacteristic irritation: “Why, you parasites!” She dashed forward, her face like she was about to teach a lesson to a naughty cat.

The Nerimans were hot on her heels.

Beyond the corner of the rock wall there was a wide flat terrace with three mermaids occupying it. Quite the eyesores, their top half was that of a green-skinned, red-haired girl while the bottom half resembled a purple fish with red flippers. All the three were giggling, making eyes at the approaching humans and blowing them kisses.

Shantae wasn't inclined to talk, throwing her right hand up palm forward. Ranma focused all her attention on her: he had no chance yet to see what her attack magic was like. He saw transformations, he saw protective bubbles, but what she attacks with beside her hair wasn't even mentioned. He wasn't going to defend anyone either: who knows what sort of bad blood they have between them. Besides, standing between an irritated girl and the target of her irritation... Such madness deserves honorary obituaries.

The lighnning bolt that flashed into existence was impressive, leaving ringing ears and spots in their eyes. Ranma managed no notice a second spark that shot from Shantae's other hand into the ground.

Of the mermaids, one managed to leap into the water beforehand and two thrashed in arcs of high voltage. One slumped, dazed, but the last one burst like a balloon, leaving a small puddle of water with a small fish flopping in it.

“Did you do her... in?” Ranma asked cautiously, looking at the flopping fish.

“Do whom to where?” Shantae lifted a brow. “Are you having trouble with the language?”

“He meant,” Nabiki tried to phrase it delicately, “that there was a mermaid and now she is gone.”

“What mermaid?” the disguised girl huffed in indignation. “It was a shikigami! Here, the leftover fish!” She walked up to the puddle, picked up the fish and made a point of swaying it around by the tail. “Do you think monsters come in crowds just like that? Four out of five send their shikigami and there is no end to them, you slay and slay them, they burst into piles of trash then come again the next day.”

“Piles of trash?” Ukyou grew curious. “You mean, you don't have to use a paper talisman to create a shikigami?”

“So that's how they make them in your world...? To be honest, I don't know how the monsters are making them. But more often than not it's out of trash. At times something useful drops that you can sell in the shop. But that is rare. The snake women always burst into piles of bones picked clean. Orcs are the most useful, these often use semi-precious gems. I can go to the forest hunting them if I run out of money. But that should be done sparingly, lest they—

“Take offense?” Shampoo suggested.

“No, worse. Become glad there is someone to fight. They then begin coming to my lighthouse, hollering under my window early in the morning - or even worse, wander into the town on their way. I don't need that.”

“Ant the rest one fifth?” Shampoo asked out of curiosity as she walked up to the mermaid to nudge the tail with her foot. The top, girl half was quite ordinary size — in a shells bra, thankfully — while the fish tail was long and powerful.

“The rest come in person,” Shantae replied. “Then crawl away beaten. Serves them right!” Walking up to the mermaid, she put her foot on the tail fin and barked “Scram! Now!”

The mermaid stopped playing possum, jerked her tail free them leaped off the rock in one powerful motion, disappearing in the water with barely a splash.

“Aren't you too harsh to them?” Akane, the kind soul, asked.

“You'd stop sympathizing with them when they blast you in the back with a bubble,” Shantae retorted sharply. “I don't know what do they need here, but no one so far was able to talk to them. They giggle and smile, but if you cone close - bam! They either blast you with a bubble or jab their trident at you. They are monsters, enough said.”

The six girls and a piglet continued walking.

The mainland was at hand's length. Everyone let their guard down, excited to see what the town was like. A board crunched, breaking. The adjacent ones proved to be even flimsier. Resulting in a natural outcome of aaaaah-splash.

“Little Sis Akane swims like a hammer,” Nabiki commented calmly as bubbles were subsiding on the sea waves.

Letting out a sigh, like this was a chore, Ranma jumped down, disappearing in the water gracefully without a splash.

Akane wasn't thrashing deep and was soon dragged back to the surface despite tomboy's valiant efforts to swim back into the depth.

“P-koff-chan!” the saved girl wheezed tragically.

Realizing the piglet wasn't anywhere around, Ranma cast a nervous glance up. Was anyone going to help? Shampoo was standing there stone-faced: her usefulness in rescuing drowning persons was zilch. Ukyou was searching where to put her big spatula. Shantae tried to start some sort of dance, but grabbed at her temples, then shook her head.

“Here,” Nabiki said unfurling her whip and leaning over the guard-rope. Akane managed to grab its tip. Ranma dove hastily leaving her hanging there, bobbing slightly on the small waves.

“Help me pull her up, I guess,” Nabiki addressed the fiancees: Shantae would have trouble due to her disguise.

[center]* * *[/center]

The redheaded pig-tailed girl was diving with powerful strokes, guided by vague feeling of Ryouga's familiar ki. She wasn't trained in this quite exotic art, what could she do? She had to work with what she had. The feeling began growing unfocused. Was she already close, or was the pork chop beginning to drown...? Half a minute of frantic searching she saw a dark shadow in the greenish darkness. Aha!

And then she was suddenly squeezed by powerful arms, making her exhale in surprise!

[center]* * *[/center]

“Is he going to be all right?” Akane grew worried, having already been dragged onto the bridge, when bubbles burst out of the water. It wasn't clear if she meant her fiance of the piglet.

“Are there dangerous things down there?” Nabiki asked the half-Genie.

“Nothing he couldn't beat easily,” the other girl replied. “Biter fishes, mermaids, exploding sponges - and that is all. I'm more worried for the piglet.”

[center]* * *[/center]

Having calmed the lost boy — because it was none other than him — with a couple hits at his solar plexus, Ranma was already dragging him towards the surface when she registered a tiny, awkward detail.

Naked Ryouga. As in, completely.

Letting out a blurb of irritation, the redhead changed direction, beating her legs and her free arm with redoubled energy, hurrying to go around the rock. She had to take a breath soon, and this... ungrateful pig was complicating matters by thrashing around.

Deciding finally that they wouldn't be seen from the bridge, she let him surface.

“Ranma!” the bandana-clad boy yelled accusingly as soon as he caught his breath. “It's all your fault!”

“I don't know how your curse got turned around,” the redhead hissed unclasping his hands from her shoulders, “but I don't think you should show in front of Akane like this.” She cast a pointed glance downwards, her voice sarcastic.

He blinked uncomprehendingly. Then he got it. He covered himself by reflex, accusing Ranma, but what came out was just bubbling as he dunked because his hands were suddenly out of keeping him afloat.

“You'd better hold your piglet!” She added loudly, then whispered: “Go, get lost somewhere. And don't come back without wearing pants. Because Shantae is growing suspicious, and we don't want to know what she'd say to her best friend... Go, scram. I'm tired of fussing over you. If you want to become P-chan again, try hot water. Who knows, maybe it'd work.”

She turned around to swim back to the bridge, hoping the lost boy would get himself lost for a week or two. One extra martial artist on the already overcrowded team wasn't worth the headache.

“Did he drown?!” Akane cried out in horror when she saw the redhead swimming alone.

“Ryouga picked him up!” Ranma shouted cheerfully, hoping that Shantae wouldn't add two and two. “He landed here with us but got a little lost on the road between worlds!”

“Yeah, he can got lost anywhere,” Nabiki noted, figuring it out instantly.

Pops, splashes and Ryouga's battle cry sounded suddenly from behind the rock.

“Oh no!” Akane worried. “Alone, in an unfamiliar world full of monsters...”

A mermaid flew, rotating, over the rock to splash down explosively. Skipping a couple times, she skid to a stop, just bobbing there listlessly, her eyes swirly.

“I would worry for the monsters instead,” Ranma reassured her in a confident voice.

But then she had to worry for her hide as Shantae was adamant in her decision to go save Ryouga.

To her luck, when they got around the rocks they only found a couple knocked out mermaids. The rising sun itself wasn't visible, obscured by one of the islets, but it set the dark sea alight with blinding red glares. Finding even a swimming elephant amidst all this sparkling was an unreal task.

“His endurance,” Ukyou consoled the half-Genie, “is only rivaled by his ability to get lost on a straight road without any forks. It can't be helped, it's like a law of nature. Either you drag him around by hand or on a leash or he disappears at the most inconvenient moment to return a month later.”

Shantae sighed grumbling something about “not needing another Bolo”. In the end she simply shrugged the issue of Ryouga off to head towards the town with renewed enthusiasm.

The more observant Nerimans concluded she must be used to friends rushing blindly ahead.

Passing a hundred meters of forest that looked more like a park, they walked out onto a round square the entire center of which was occupied by a circular pond, its edge encased in stone. The square itself was submerged in shadow of the park trees but the tips of roofs were already shining with sunrise light.

“Don't fall in the spring,” Shantae warned them with overt seriousness. “People get their water here.”

One woman was doing exactly that. Filling her jug, she lifted it onto her head to walk away elegantly straight, her hips swaying.

“It's Uncle's workshop over there,” Shantae pointed to the left. “That big one is the bathhouse, we have to get you a subscription, the single visit prices are very high to rip off visitors. The ruin to the right,” She pointed to a shoddy building with a big hole in the onion top of its tower, its door boarded up. “Is where my friend Sora is... I mean, she will be.. Would probably be keeping her eggs. Further that way is the city wall and the gate. See the bored guard?”

True to her words, a mudbrick fence was visible through a gap between the houses, with a fancy opening. A sleepy man was hanging around it, dressed in red pointy hat with hanging ears and a red half-shirt leaving one shoulder bare.

“It's their uniform,” Shantae explained the obvious. “Right... Further to the right we have the shop — I'll show you later — and the art gallery completes the circle. Hmm... Where to now?”

“Weren't we going to warn someone?” Shampoo reminded her.

“Yes, of course!” Shantae hurried towards the workshop with all the speed her disguise allowed. The door was locked. She started knocking with her fist. “Un— Greatly esteemed Mimic...! Hel-loo...! Mii-miiic...! Is anyone home!”

Attracted by noise, a tiny girl came, dressed in a dress leaving her shoulders open. Proclaiming proudly “I am four!” she walked away, her nose in the air.

Shantae kept knocking. The guard at the distant gate was growing suspicious.

“What is going on...” the half-Genie mumbled dropping her hand.

“If you are here to see the old Mimic,” a boy of about ten piped in chewing on his apple, “he's at the relic hunter expo today. He went there before dawn.”

“Thank you!” Shantae told the kid tanned almost black in blue baggy pants. “Let's go!” She wadded with renewed energy down narrow winding streets drowning in shadow while the top floors glowed with crimson sunlight.

Barely half a hundred meters later they emerged onto a wooden bridge crossing a narrow bay narrowing towards the right to a cleft in the rock face. A hundred meters to the left its mouth was crossed by yet another bridge, this one made of stone, also leading to the second block ahead. The chaotic conglomeration of houses big and small and round onion-topped towers was lit by sunrise, reflecting brightly in the dark waters of the bay.

Shantae slowed down to a comfortable crawl as she began sharing her memories: “I ran down that bridge over there to repel the Ammo Baron invasion. They were swarming something terrible! I didn't know yet that the mayor had sold us out... By the way, I'd have a talk with him...”

“Forewarned means armed,” Shampoo shared a Chinese folk wisdom.

“So true,” Shantae agreed gladly. “I'll show them now...!” She glanced around. “And here, on this spot, Sora pushed me off Wrench. I won't let you down, she said. Then, suddenly, she grabs me by the shoulder and throws me out! How could I know she meant she won't be landing to keep Wrench safe from the hordes of tinkerbats swarming down here? She could've warmed me at least. I landed hard, barely able to run.” She absent-mindedly rubbed her posterior. “Then, just as I fought off the first wave, blam! the pot crashes nearby. I mean, one of those she uses to summon her tinkerbats to the battlefield. Turned out she was shooting them from the ship that was hanging over there, just beyond that bridge.” The disguised girl pointed to the left. “And then she started shooting at me with these pots, one after another! I barely managed to run to cover behind the houses. One pot hit a tower — that one, sticking out of the water — so it fell like a cut down tree and sank.”

“Wait,” Nabiki interrupted her stream of eloquence. “What sort of pot it was that it brought that tower down? It's solid stone!”

“Well, a round iron one,” Shantae explained. “About this big across.” She gestured at the level of her height. “I don't know if they sit in there to begin with, or are summoned after it lands, but such a pot has a lid and through that lid they are jumping out, three tinkerbats at once. And they keep jumping out until you break the pot.”

“Who is that she,” Ranma asked, “who was shooting the pots?”

“But Risky Boots!” Shantae didn't understand her question. “The Queen of Seven Seas, Bodacious Bucanieer and so on. Who, do you think, commands tinkerbats? She alone. No one else has them.”

Wondering who these tinkerbats were, the Nerimans were walking along a meandering channel observing the local architecture. All buildings without exception were made of the same terrakota-colored brick, some straight, some crooked, sometimes plastered with what looked like clay. Fancy windows and cloth overhangs were everywhere. And lots of towers built, it felt like, just for the sake of art. The town was not standing on the mainland as it seemed at first but on a chaotic gathering of peninsulas and islets, long buried under it. Streets were running along channels or pits where the bottom cold not be seen. Massive round grates in the stone sides of riverwalks hinted at presence of an underground labyrinth or at least a branching sewer.

A bearded man rowed by, his boat so loaded with barrels its sides were barely above the surface.

“I see the tides here are rather provisional,” Nabiki said quietly to herself as she glanced at a wooden mooring attached to the channel side. It had wooden stairs leading into the water but ending half a meter down. “So this is an inner sea akin to Japanese or Mediterranean...?”

Shantae was merrily mincing forward, pointing: here she had been roof-hopping to lose the Ammo Baron minions with gatlings — the word was said in broken English — there she had freed a restaurant from tinkerbats swarming it while its owner was hiding on top of that roof — a wooden attic was pointed to, sticking out of a very tall tower. You don't say, I wonder myself how she got up there. And that small, unassuming hole in the wall over there — see? — leads to a closet walled off long ago. There was a chest with a heart holder inside... No, but the monkey can. And on the roof of that house—

“We are meandering like this because there is no shorter way,” Shampoo intruded politely into the stream of her enthusiasm, “Or are you so eager to show us the town?”

“Well, I do want to show you the town,” Shantae admitted. “But checking if tinkerbats are hiding somewhere is more important. I don't want this disguise to go to waste.”

“That's the right idea,” Ranma began cautiously, “but I noticed lots of sewer entrances around here. Could they be hiding there?”

Shantae froze in her tracks. She then face-palmed in shame: “I knew I was missing something!”

“The network is so wide?” Ranma asked.

“No. Most of these pipes rather lead to dead ends. But tinkerbats have these, how they call them, pots with windows and flippers for diving. While there are lots of caves or just walled off cellars under the town. You wouldn't believe how many corners down there weren't visited even by adventurers! But I prefer not to explore these tunnels. It may not stick to the mermaid, but still yeech.”

“So the enemies are, most probably, sitting underground,” Ranma concluded. “And we can't get to them without drawing attention.”

“And I cannot transform,” Shantae agreed. “So, no sneaking up on them quietly as a mermaid. Besides, where would I search for them? You need a whole day to check half of the passages down there. But sometimes they are hard to notice, or secret, or blocked deliberately with something...”

“So what is your plan now?” Shampoo asked.

“Hmm... We go to the Uncle. Warn him, then patrol the city until the expo opens—” Her stomach growled expressively. “Heh... Warn him, then have breakfast, then patrol. Maybe we'd notice something suspicious. But even if not, I know beforehand what Risky is planning. This time we will surprise her!”

Taking a decisive left turn Shantae began meandering through the city at an angle, towards a specific point on the wharf. Which they soon reached. The wharf was wide, clad in stone, with wooden piers running out into the sea. There were only a few fishing boats parked there, their sails furled. The view from here was impressive: the concave shoreline was hugging a huge southward-looking bay with arches of rocky islets. To the right, a large palace could be seen in the distance, washed out in pinkish haze, the onion top of its central tower impressively huge. It seems it was on a peninsula because only the sky was visible beyond it.

Far to the left, the lighthouse could barely be discerned, a black mushroom-like shape on top of a rock against the blazing background of sunrise.

“Here it is.” Shantae pointed at a large building that looked like a warehouse. “They rent the hall for the expo here. Let's go around it first, all right?”

Going “around” wasn't as easy as it sounded: the buildings facing the wharf were forming a solid wall with a minimum of passages. Most, it seems, were warehouses, some of them with wooden loading cranes on their upper floors. While passing one of these, Shantae glanced at the crane, then at the pier across it, and snorted at some thoughts.

Finally they came upon a side street they followed into the narrow back streets permeated by the smell of fish.

Halfway on their path back toward the wharf Shantae suddenly flared with barely restrained animosity at the sight of a stunningly magnificent platinum blonde loitering in the open doors of some house. Ranma moved unobtrusively to keep Akane between them: this woman was dressed in a thong bikini, thigh-high stockings and a half-skirt completely open in front like a mini-cape with crimson underside. Ranma gulped, suddenly very interested in the local architecture. Akane's eye twitched.

Also, this heartbreaker — whose bust threatening to burst out of her top made even Shampoo envious — wore elbow-long gloves and a red bow in her hair.

“Looks like you can't stand that tramp,” Ukyou noted quietly when the irritating woman was behind them, having only paid them an uninterested glance.

“She wastes Heart Squids for artifacts!” The half-Genie's eyes flashed with righteous indignation. “How this shameless person could! They are so cute! And she slams them with a red-hot hammer, for some lousy heart holder...”

It was clear this was a sore spot for her.

“Who are Heard Squids?” Akane asked, her voice sympathizing. “And where does that nasty woman catch them?”

“Well... On the trees, usually,” Shantae replied like it was obvious. “Never again, I did her... Ahem. They are like baby Warp Squids,” She parted her hands at the width of a soccer ball, “but they are always red and their head has a dimple. But more importantly, they have talent for finding trouble, like cats!” Ranma shivered but she haven't noticed. “And just like cats they tend to climb up. Sometimes you find them in the jungle in the crown of tallest trees.”

“Land squids are nothing unusual,” Nabiki said, clearly thinking of something. “We saw weirder. But what is a heart holder? It's the second time you mention them.”

“Well...” Shantae seemed lost for a moment, her train of thought interrupted by the sharp departure from the topic of squids. “Here.” She pulled a big flask, or vase, out of her subspace pocket. The crystal heart-shaped vessel looked like it was full of transparent ruby liquid. It had golden handles at both sides, sapphire stopper and base were adding colors, contrasting with ruby and gold. It was giving off a weird feeling of someone staring at you with mirth from inside.

“Is it some sort of potion?” Shampoo asked.

“It's not liquid,” Shantae warned. “But rather some kind of.. smoke, I guess? As soon as you remove the stopper it would come out and permeate you making you tougher. About time and a half, I think. You can use more than one, but the result is diminishing...” She stared at the vessel with a sour expression, lost in thought.

“Judging by how cheerful you are, there are other pitfalls,” Nabiki noted.

“Besides me knowing now whom they are made from?” Shantae replaced the artifact. “Healing potions begin having less and less effect. You grow used to taking risks: why be careful if most things barely scratch you. But the extra toughness vanishes in about a week. And you cannot feel that, you can only guess.

“A treacherous thing,” Ranma agreed.

“I'm keeping this one for a rainy day.” Shantae nodded. “Then it comes and I am too busy to remember about it.”

They made almost complete circle but have never spotted anyone suspicious. Well, they thought, once, that they did, but it turned out such men wrapped up so thoroughly that only their eyes are visible were quite common around here.

“Men in burquas, women in thongs,” Nabiki summed up quietly to herself. “The more I see, the more the similarity to Arab countries feels superficial.”

Truly, most women they met had bared midriff. Ranma was envying them quietly: it was a tad too hot here for her silk shirt — which had two layers, by the way!

Ranma offered to jump onto the roofs, take a look around but Shantae asked her to belay that for after the breakfast, pretending to be unassuming pedestrians for now. What was she hoping to see from the ground level? The rooftops here were a labyrinth, one could hide a whole army there.

They walked out to the wharf.

“I think we had enough wandering around on an empty stomach,” Ranma hinted as her eye caught on a fish stand, its canvas canopy visible at the base of one of the piers. “I'm even ready to roast it myself, if needed.”

“I have a whole box of cabbage left back at the lighthouse,” Ukyou added. “We should find a use for it before it spoils. But I don't have a flat grill and I don't know whom to bribe to get a permit to sell food. I don't even know if they have suitable ingredients for roast-like— I'll be!”

The alien tongue misbehaved at times, making something weird come out of your mouth. Especially when talking about exclusively Japanese things like okonomiyaki.

“I know it would be against your principles,” Nabiki adviced, “but you'd be better off selling the cabbage to some local restaurant of what they call them. We are all deep in adventure and I have a gut feeling we are going to be saving the world for a full day. Bet you won't have time to get used to local food-stuffs?”

“No thanks,” Ukyou grumbled. “I can smell a big pile of... adventure myself.”

“P-chan is probably hungry too,” Akane injected incongruously. “Wherever he is.”

Shampoo was stony-faced: warriors do not complain about hunger. But she was feeling nostalgic for the noodles from back home in the Cat Cafe — the noodles she had thought she was sick and tired of.

“I'm... ahem... would like to have a snack myself,” Shantae interrupted them, accompanied with suspicious growling. “But maybe we should warn the Uncle first?”

“Wait,” Shampoo stopped her. “He is now where the attack is planned to happen, right?”

“Well, yeah,” Shantae said, not understanding. “In that house we passed by.”

“So there are hidden enemies, most likely,” the amazon declared with confidence. “Your Uncle, would he be able to hold his composure if we manage to whisper the truth to him?”

“Oh, no.” Shantae shook her head. “Oh, no. He'd raise such a fuss...”

“We cannot warn him,” Shampoo concluded. “We tip the enemy, we lose the advantage of surprise.”

“So we have to set a trap?” Nabiki suggested. “We have overwhelming foreknowledge and an overwhelming hidden Ranma our opponents know nothing about.”

The redhead swelled with pride.

“This... this could work,” Shantae agreed reluctantly. “Catching Risky and giving her to the palace guards... We'd have a day or two to act without interference until she escapes... But the lamp!”

“We'll take it from her,” Ranma promised confidently.

“Surprise her sharply,” Shantae advised. “You are stronger and faster. Don't give her breathing room. Or she would surprise you in turn. Our... aunt...” She switched to roundabout speech because the hungry girls were already closing on an eatery, attracted inexorably by the smell of roasting fish. “ full of surprises, smart and treacherous. Even as she plays a simpleton who likes to laugh.”

The dock-side eatery was similar to summer cafes back home in that it had tables placed outside surrounded by a small fence and a large canvas overhang, currently furled up. Shantae wasn't even counting copper coins waving the expense off as negligible. The food was really cheap, simple, but they mopped it all up almost swallowing the plates: the cooks here knew how to roast fish. The fish itself was amazing, this being a seaside town. Their host had to order seconds, and then again.

“This is almost as tasty as shiner roast.. Ugh... teriyaki,” Akane declared.

“Yer bullshittin'” Ranma objected in a sated voice. “This is better! I wonder what they make the sauce from?”

“Many a clan war,” Ukyou injected in a wise voice, “was waged for such knowledge.”

The general mood was relaxed and overconfident. The sun parted with the horizon, growing brighter, its rays beginning to scorch. The day was promising to be hot.

“What should we do next?” Nabiki raised a question. “There are several hours til the expo opening.”

“We are tourists,” Ranma said with authority. “Wander around the town, sightsee. The most important thing is,” She cast a pointed look at Shantae, “we don't know any locals... By the way!” Her eyes lit with enthusiasm. “Is there a beach somewhere around?”

“There are several,” Shantae replied. “Deeper into the shore, between rocks. You can't see them from the wharf.”

“Ranma!” Akane chilled the redhead's enthusiasm. “We do not have any swimsuits!”

“I can lend you my spare ones,” Shantae offered. “They are with ties, one-size-fits-all.”

[center]* * *[/center]

They combed the town again without zeal, just killing time. More people were walking the streets, children running around. The sun kept creeping higher, heat rising.

On one of the streets they passed through, there was a two-meter red ball with purple spots standing in a corner, resting on a ring of smaller balls. The Nerimans would have passed it by, taking it for either a forgotten ball or an abstract sculpture, but Shantae exclaimed: “Hey, it's the Squid baron! Fancy meeting you here!”

The ball jumped up in surprise, turning around sharply. There was a face on its other side, a mouth and two eyes of matching size. “Who...? Where...?” He squinted at them, not recognizing anyone. “No, no, you are mistaken! I am your average, utterly unassuming Warp Squid!” He scurried away bouncing on those small balls — Ranma managed to recognoze them being curled up tentacles. In his haste he failed to round a corner properly, crushing someone's wooden bucket and slamming into a wall so ponderously the clay-colored plaster crumbled. After he disappeared beyond the corner, there were sounds of pottery breaking.

“Such a bull in a china shop,” Shantae grumbled. “You took a good look at him? He's the boss of one of the dungeons we'd have to visit.”

“We have to?” Shampoo asked. “Why?”

“Well, the la— that thing, it is sealed at this moment in time. To make it work, we have to gather the three seals. One is in the possession of this `utterly unassuming` one. Another one like him has the second one, and the last seal is nailed to the wall in Ammo Baron's Battle Tower. I'd like us to start right away, but the aunt is serious business, we have to deal with her all together.”

[center]* * *[/center]

Urged by Ranma, Shantae led them to the beach. Towards the left, eastern end of the wharf by the piers which were accumulating sailships, then the wharf flowed seamlessly into the stone bridge crossing the narrow bay - and there, behind a couple buildings and a wall of greenery, was a small sandy beach. Its other end was against the park through which they entered the town. The square with the round pond was close by.

“Well, who should be swimming?” Shantae asked. “Keep in mind I only got two sets of bikini.”

“Me! Me!” Ranma pushed forward.

“And you, Akane?” Shantae hinted her friend.

“I... You saw ho well I swim.” She looked downcast.

“Not even splashing near the shore?”

“She is talented, she can drown at knee depth,” Ranma needled. And got her deserved lump.

“Maybe Big Sis Nabiki...?” Akane suggested rubbing her bruised hand.

“I'd like to,” the elder sister declined politely, “but first I have to find a secluded spot to tesh how good I am with this thing.” She patted the rolled up whip on her belt. “I have an... inkling that I got not only the suit but also skills, similar to how we could speak the language. But this requires thorough checking.”

“You can go to the first or second rock on the way to my lighthouse,” the disguised half-Genie advised. “If you go around them, the town is not visible from there and no one would disturb you, except my friends or the mayor. There could be mermaids, though...”

“Don't worry, I'm good at running,” Nabiki reassured her.

“Maybe you, Xianpuu?” Shantae asked Shampoo.

“She got a curse too,” Ranma injected. “She turns into a clawed, meowing thing.”

“Oh... Why didn't you tell me?”

“There's only me left, Ran-chan.” Ukyou winked at the redhead.

“Swim, have fun.” Shantae handed them blue-and-white striped pieces of cloth with ties. “The cabin for dressing is over there, beyond those bushes. We, meanwhile...” She turned to face Akane and Shampoo. “Let's visit the general store, I think? I'll show you around.”

[center]* * *[/center]

While Akane ans Shampoo were gaping at the contents of the general store — which was selling everything from shovels and pottery to most esoteric spell books — and wondering why there was a partial dinosaur skeleton hanging from the ceiling — or was it a dragon? Ranma and Ukyou kept swimming vogorously, just short of growing gills. They swam along the wharf, not even themselves knowing what for, dove in front of that building where everything was going to happen, but only found the expected layers trash instead of a bottom.

The three girls returning from the shop observed suspicious explosions boiling up like white foamy welts to the left of the beach, amidst the rocky islets. Shanta concluded with displeasure that Ranma must have poked the local fauna.

The swimmers reached the beach to crawl out onto the sand. Ranma was giggling stupidly while Ukyou was berating her, picking at her ear: “Ran-cha, what did you touch that spiny blob for? My ears are still popped!”

“But... eheheee... It was funny! It was staring witch such a hilariously severe look! How could I know they explode when offended?”

“Ran-cha.” Ukyou sighed, rolling onto her back, swayed around by the small waves rolling onto the sand. “Did Shantae-han tell us about exploding sponges? She did. So, was it so hard to realize that that pink stuff was a sponge? Even if it had eyes?”

“I'm sorry,” the redhead said standing up with some effort. “I got carried away. I will be careful from now on!”

“Right.” Shantae frowned. “No more adventures and exhausting training! If you wear out I would fail without your help!”

Ranma immediately backed up and surrounded the half-Genie with suffocating care: the other girl was sweating in her pregnant disguise of Ranma's black pants, a dense bed cover with the egg and pillows on her belly and a massive turban that was probably making her head terribly hot.

And she had to endure it in this heat until the noon.

Shantae had hard time fending Ranma off as the pigtailed girl put her in a lounge chair and dragged it into shadow.

Then she haven't noticed herself falling asleep.

Akane sat down by her side, staring out into the sea.

“Hard to believe we are on another planet, eh?” Ranma sat down next to her.

“And we can only return home through magic,” Akane agreed. “It's like we were spirited away into a fairy tale.”

“Be careful, all right?” Ranma cast a worried glance at her. “Fairy tales could be—”

“Scary, with a bad end,” Akane finished for her. “I know. But here everything is in our hands. We decide how it ends... I will be careful, I promise.”

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“Do you remember where that hole is,” Shampoo asked Ukyou who was drying her hair, “where Shantae said a heart holder is hidden?”

“I think I do, but— Oh! We're in her past, it should be still here! But that hole is tiny, only a cat would— I see, you clever girl...! Wait, what do you need me for?”

“How would the cat break the chest?” Shampoo explained. “With her teeth? Her claws? I propose we get that artifact together, then give it to Shantae for safekeeping. We can decide who gets it later, by playing rock-paper-scissors, or present it as a gift for Ranma. Depending on circumstances.”

“I like your plan,” Ukyou approved pulling her black tights hastily onto her still damp legs.

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Shantae slept for three hours, only awoken once when Ukyou and Shampoo brought something wrapped up and asked her to store it in her ki-pocket. She liked this new name for it!

Then she and Akane went roaming the town - just the two of them because Shampoo, Ukyou and Ranma each decided to “scout around” on their own, agreeing to meet again at the beach. Ukyou went browsing various shops and eateries to get a hang of the local prices and cooking habits. Shampoo slipped into the bathhouse and soon a white and lavender cat slipped out. Ranma went to check if Nabiki was all right or she had soon to console the inconsolable Akane.

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Akane and Shantae were sitting at an outdoors table of a cafe, picking lazily at a melon just to have an excuse for staying there.

“Even pretending being pregnant is hard,” Shantae complained wiping sweat from her brow.

Akane was about to reply when Shantae suddenly grew alert, putting her slice down to stare at something across the street.

“What's wrong?” Akane asked cautiously, not risking turning around.

“It's Barrakuda Joe, the future fancy man of my friend Sora.”

Fancy man”?

“He was going out with her, she thought they'd marry, then he just dumped her,” Shantae explained with disapproval. “How else can I call a man like that? `There is other fish in the sea` and just left. Just after I put a lot of effort into returning him to life, picking his soul from such a hole. All for Sora. And he just says `I had time to think` and dumps her. Boy was she yelling after him...”

Akane turned around, her glare murderous.

There was a well muscled man on the other side of the street, as tall as her father, dressed in a blue military coat. He had prominent horseshoe mustache. There was a funny rectangular hat on his head, like a flat, blue truncated pyramid, with ears and a fluffy, striped tail - which was also blue. When he turned to face them, a stylized face became visible on the hat's front surface, made up of two eyes and a mouth.

Akane was going to give him a piece of her mind when Shantae stopped her: “Wait, he is also someone important in Ammo Baron's army. See him taking measures with that thing of his? I'm sure he is searching for the highest tower. They are preparing to take over the town.”

Truly to her words, the man was fiddling with some sort of geodesic tool on a tripod, writing something in a clipboard. Then he packed it up and left.

“You are not going to stop him?” Akane asked quietly.

“I am... torn, to be honest,” Shantae admitted. “On the one hand, I'm itching to throw a wrench into their plans, making sure they can't gain anything. I would have a talk with the mayor yet! On the other hand, if we change the past there would be no palace disruptor cannon. Or they stick it on some hill, making no errors because there would be no Bolo, and succeed in destroying the palace. That would be a disaster!”

“So they are our enemies but can become our unwilling allies?” Akane said. “Ugh, what a tough decision.”

“Let's see how our trap works out,” Shantae decided. “There are about ten days before the invasion, if everything goes the same.”

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Nabiki wasn't on the first rock. Nor on the second one. Ranma was beginning to expect the worst when she found the middle Tendo sitting on top of that flying totem pole, just past the place where they met mermaids and lost Ryouga.

“How did you get there?” The redhead was puzzled.

The green stone pole was floating a bit higher than the top of the rock, never coming closer than about four meters and five more further away in the two furthest points. Nabiki was sitting clenching it between her legs, swaying slightly when it was changing its direction sharply in the points of the triangle it was drawing through the air.

“These reflexes are amazing,” the girl dressed like Indiana Jones replied. “I am very good with the whip - it's like I was learning to use it since childhood. But trusting these reflexes...”

“You felt you can get there, so you just did?” Ranma guessed.

“Exactly.” Nabiki took a pointed look downwards. Some ten meters below sharp rocks were protruding promisingly from the water. “I got to this pole with amazing ease. But going back... There is nothing on that rock to latch with my whip onto.”

“Don't sweat it, I'll get you off it!” Ranma promised, taking aim. Then she suddenly changed her mind: “Ten thousand yen!”

“You will get me off here anyway,” Nabiki retorted calmly. “As soon as the others find me missing. Three.”

“Five and I won't tell anyone!”

“Deal!” Nabiki grinned.

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The next chapter: NWC, meet Risky Boots!

P.S. A few hours after I complained, a horrible chilly wind came, loaded with snow, blowing all the warmth out of my apartment, freezing all those wet sidewalks into deathtraps...
And I ASKED FOR IT! :cry:

P.P.S: Coming soon...
I deal with the holes in my vocabulary in the second pass, cross-referencing between my online dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Urban Dictionary - and, finally, do a sanity check via image search at DuckDuckGo (which is priceless because it doesn't enclose you in a search bubble)
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Posts: 1427

Re: Dance, Dance, Rumble Ch.9, Ambush

Postby Cheb » Thu Jan 18, 2018 1:20 am

A/N: Every piece of "Chinese folk wisdom" is a famous quote from modern Russian literature.

This story is a work of fanfiction. As such, it owes a great debt to the creators of the characters used herein: Rumiko Takahashi, Matt Bozon, Erin Bell Bozon and the creative teams of Kity Films and WayForward.

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Chapter 9

The time was approaching the noon. The displaced girls began gathering on the beach. Ranma and Nabiki were already there. Then a slightly roughed up Shampoo came, her scuffs and bruises contrasting against her immaculate dress: “Have you seen the hundred thousand dogs swarming this town? I was, likewise, unaware of them. But they are there!”

Then Akane and Shantae came. Ukyou was the last, lost in thought.

They went killing time again, roaming the town all together. To not miss the opening.

The closer it was, the more Shantae was growing restless. Her paranoia awakening, she had a sudden thought that Risky could have a backup plan, with a whole army hidden through the town, to jump out to pillage and burn if they succeed in capturing the queen of pirates.

They couldn't find objections, even: such a plan was realistic for a treacherous villain Shantae was painting the opponent as.

There was no way of checking that without making their abilities known. Shampoo couldn't help either: she spent most of her “scouting” fleeing from various canine cat-haters.

So they kept walking the streets while struggling to prevent Shantae from chewing all her nails off.

While walking yet another time along the wharf, pretending to be tourists waiting for the expo opening, they met a blonde girl of about twenty, a bit taller than Nabiki, dressed in a hood and a bikini with a sarong skirt flapping in the wind. Ranma, hot and stuffy again in her two-layered, long-sleeved shirt, was beginning to envy the local girls.

“Here is Sora!” Shantae exclaimed in joy, turning to face the blonde, which made the Nerimans pay close attention to the girl. She was lean and toned, her eyes brown, unruly locks sticking from under a blue head-wrap under a violet hood clasped around her neck with something akin to a standing collar over bare skin. Her simple light-blue top with a pink edge was hanging loosely at the bottom — no elastic fabrics and such. Her sarong was violet and blue, baring her left leg, she wore short pink boots with blue tops... and a massive leather glove of a falconer. Onto which glove a huge, pink and blue parrot landed suddenly with a warning squawk to glare at the approaching girls.

The girl made a step back eyeing the six of them suspiciously.

“Sora, wait!” Shantae whispered hastily. “It's me! Me! Just disguised!”

“I don't know who you are,” the blond replied in a neutral tone, “but you are clearly mistaken. My name is Sky, not Sora.”

“But, but, but...” Shantae mumbled, crestfallen. “You're... We're... I remember...”

“What happened?” Akane asked, alarmed. “She doesn't recognize you? Are you sure it's her?”

“This is, without any doubt, my friend Sora,” Shantae continued with determination, shaking her stupor off. “And her loyal war bird Wrench. We are life-long friends. But why won't she recognize me? Is there something wrong with my voice...? Or... Or did we...” Her voice wavered. “Did we land in an alien reality where everything is different and we are strangers to each other...?”

“Listen,” the parrot-toting blonde injected with exasperation. “I can hear all your whispering. Yes, this is Wrench. And no, I would remember if there was a chestnut head with a bun in the oven among my friends. Shantae is there. Rotty is. Even one Bolo. You, aren't.”

“Phew.” Shantae let out a sigh of immense relief. “But that's me,” she whisprered pulling a ring-laden long ear from under her turban while trying to cover it with her elbow so that no one else saw it.

The blonde did not react for about three seconds, staring at the disguised half-Genie's belly.

Then she cried out loudly, attracting attention: “Shantae...?! Pregnant...?!! When did you...?”

“Caw,” the bird added flatly.

“Quieeeet!” Shantae hissed in panic, glancing around frantically. “I disguised myself to ambush Risky: we will catch her as soon as she crashes the expo.”

“And she is not pregnant,” Nabiki added prudently. “It's an egg.”

“Ah...” Understanding flashed in the life-long friend's eyes. “That one? You are so caring...”

“Don't praise me.” Shantae averted her eyes, epitome of awkwardness. “I'm not worthy— I'll tell you later. I only hope that this— That it is all right.”

“Can your parr— warbird,” Shampoo corrected herself. “Can he check the rooftops without drawing attention?”

“To look if there are, howdem, tinkah..batto hiding up there,” the redhead added.

“Shantae?” The blonde cast a questioning look at the pseudo-pregnant one, who looked out of it.

“I'm sorry, Sora!” She exclaimed, becoming aware again. “I— we should keep the ruse, but...”

“Why do you keep calling me that name? I am Sky. S-k-y!”

“But I say exactly that: Sora,” Shantae replied, puzzled.

Both stared at each other in mutual bewilderment.

“It's simple, really,” Nabiki solved the mystery. “Learning Japanese in one minute wasn't without consequences. Bot these names mean “sky”, only `skai` is English while `sora` is Japanese. For example, what language are you thinking in?”

“Eeeeh...” Shantae was taken aback, stumped by the question.

“Sun order language...? In one minute...?” Sky asked, puzzled.

“Let's step aside to somewhere we won't be attracting attention,” Ranma suggested casting a look down the wharf. There were lots of people gathered around, including individuals so wrapped up their eyes were barely visible. That's not counting a huge stone gorilla loitering at the far end of the wharf holding a sign of a crossed circle in its huge paw. “Into a side street, for example.”

“Not a good idea,” Sky disagreed quietly as she took a unconspicious look around. “If Risky and her men are already in town, they could sit in any barrel, at any corner. Let us better... check the wares.” She pointed with her eyes at a the fish merchant who put his stand in the beginning of one of the piers.

They walked to the stand to pretend they were interested in the merchandise. Ukyou, for one, wasn't pretending.

“I, umm...” Shantae began in a hushed voice. “What should I begin with...”

“With us knowing Risky's plan,” Nabiki cued her quietly. “Everything else can wait.”

“Yes, you are right,” Shantae agreed as she absent-mindedly pressed her finger into one of the fish carcasses. “Risky is aiming for the today's relic hunter expo. It's... complicated but I'm sure they are already in the town. We will surprise her, sure, but what if she has a—”

“Are you going to buy or what?” the fat fisherman inquired scratching his impressive belly not covered by his abbreviated vest.

Shantae sighed pulling her pouch of copper coins out of thin air — pretending that from her pocket — to begin haggling with gusto. She got so carried away that she lost track of the conversation and then Ranma had to drag around a huge horse mackerel half as long as she was tall because they couldn't put it in the subspace pocket out of conspiration.

“So what we were talking about...?” Shantae tried to remember.

“What would we do with his jumbo,” Ranma grumbled as they were walking along the wharf again. “It'd spoil in this heat.”

“If you can spare it, we can feed it to some seagulls I know around here,” Sky suggested. “Later, not with so many people around.”

“Right!” Shantae snapped her fingers. “We are travelers from afar. We saw the town, we've been on the beach - but do you have a lighthouse around here? I'm curious.”

“I'm not a local myself,” Sky played along as she headed to the eastern end of the wharf. “But they do have a lighthouse here. It's not working, though. Come, I shall show you!”

They walked after her through half the wharf, then across the stone bridge. There were much less people around here. But what if? Shantae was growing a bit nervous: the time they had til the opening was running out while she haven't warned them about so many things yet! They passed by the beach to go deep into the park until finally stopping on a small cliff above the sea, with no any bushes close by.

“Can you talk now?” Sky inquired with sarcasm.

“You just don't know how treacherous she could be.” Shantae sighed. “I'm weary of this masquerade, you know. It's so hot and stuffy. Only the egg feels good.” She rubbed at her fake belly. “Go on, call your seagulls. Soon we won't have time for this.”

“Well, if you can spare it...” Sky pulled out a... key ring full of carved whistles. Selecting the right one she whistled a curious melody and soon huge seagulls came to circle in front of the girls.

Whole four birds.

“Throw it.” Sky commanded Ranma. “Up in the air.”

“Wouldn't this be too much for them?” the redheaded girl asked doubtfully.

“Go on, throw it! You'll see!”

Ranma shrugged and threw the large fish up. The seagulls accelerated instantly, turning into a gray-and-white wheel that hit the fish with a sound akin to a buzzsaw. What splashed down in the water was a perfectly clean fish skeleton.

“Whoa!” Akane boggled.

“Serious birdies,” agreed Shampoo.

“Cool!” Shantae exclaimed, amazed.

The seagulls slowed down, circling lazily.

“I'm more amazed,” Ranma said, “how ten kilograms of fish fit into just four birds. And not only fit, they haven't even lost their flight!”

After circling for a bit, the seagulls landed on the water and were bobbing on the waves now, cleaning their feathers smugly.

“I wonder about that myself,” Sky admitted. “But that wasn't their limit.”

“Them seagulls,” Ukyou said like it was self-explanatory.

“The lunch was free,” Sky addressed the birds. “I don't have any work for you, guys, today.” She made a gesture with crossed forearms.

The seagulls squawked something in return and swam away, burping satedly.

“All right,” Shantae began. “While we aren't distracted with anything else, here's the disproportion: I have returned from the future— Sora, don't interrupt me, I know it's impossible. During that... year..? half a year..? I learned to fulfill wishes and it turned to be terribly dangerous and laden with epic surprises. By the way, meet my new friend Akane, she is from a totally different world. Akane's fiance Ranma. He is not always a girl, long story. Akane's sister Nabiki. Ranma's other fiancees, Akane's rivals: Xianpuu and Ukyou. There was also Ryouga, but he is worse than Bolo, swam away in an unknown direction and got lost together with his magic piglet. I got back to our world while fulfilling the wish of Xianpuu's great-grandmother to release her childhood friend's soul from a cursed pendant. I even managed to return her to life but I overdid it a little so we all landed here, in my past, and overstrained myself so I won't be able to transform for a week and our world is now in danger because of that. Have I missed anything?”

“Uhhhh...” It took the blonde a minute and a half to come out of stupor.

“Sora...? Are you all right...?” Shantae asked her worriedly when she didn't get any answer.

“I... My head is swimming. Wait, are you saying the world is in danger?”

“Caw,” the parrot added with scepticism.

“It's a... long story.” Shantae sighed. “Really long. But Risky won't wait. We have to check over the rooftops across the town if she got an army sitting in reserve. We know that she is going to grab and run. But what if she has a contingency plan to smash the town if she is caught...?”

“You don't have to ask!” Sky replied. “Wrench, go, quietly.” She threw him up into the air.

“Caw,” the parrot confirmed as he began gaining attitude lazily, like he was really flying to stretch his wings.

They got smart critters around here, Ranma thought. By the way... “You haven't told us about the attack itself,” he reminded Shantae. “And what should we expect from her, in general.”

Shantae gasped and started babbling: “As soon as Uncle picks the lamp clean, Risky crashes through the ceiling riding an anchor. Keep in mind that that is an inside view. Back then I... In short, the past me grew so lazy in practicing my dances I could barely manage the monkey, not to mention the harpy. Because of that, when the tinkerbats wound the anchor chain back up with the, howzit, winch, Risky gave me the slip and let me catch up to her only at the bridge. There she showed off her surprise boat, played with me like a cat with a mouse for a while, then knocked me out before sailing away. To my rotten luck it was when the mayor found me. He blew a gasket and fired me. For `sleeping on my job`. But I wasn't sleeping, I was bruised with a cannonball.”

“Like a cat with a mouse?” Sky asked worriedly. “Is she that strong?”

“Mmm...” Shantae sounded deep in thought. “When I beat her for the first time... She either did not have all the pirate items on her, or was so distraught — I just totaled her giant robot, after all — that she simply forgot to use all her tricks. The pirate items are powerful! When I— mmm... I'll tell you later. These things may not be stronger than my transformations, but they are surely quicker. She only has to pull one out of— By the way. She does have a ki-pocket like mine. Or not exactly like mine... But you can't use the cannon without it.”

“But I hope in these... How long, by the way? You haven't changed at all. I hope fulfilling wishes was not all that you learned in that time?” Sky inquired, tentatively hopeful.

“Half a year...” Shantae frowned. “Or a full year...? My memory is somewhat spotty.”

“She couldn't remember how did she end up in our world,” Akane complained.

“Mm, true,” Shantae agreed. “I learned many things. Adding to my basic five transformations—”

“But you only have three!” Sky corrected her. “Oh! You forgot when exactly you learned them, didn't you?”

“To be honest, I learned the spider dance back in the Golem Mines,” Shantae admitted. “But... imperfectly. I just never used it since then. But later I've corrected my mistake, making my spider form much more human-like. After that... Oh, right. I should only get the mermaid in a week from now, while chasing Risky...! That's five. On top of that, I have four more transformations, not as powerful but very useful, three very powerful special dances and one very powerful spell. These are all mana hogs, though. Blink, and you are out.”

“And the martial arts training,” Akane reminded her.

“And training my melee fighting,” Shantae agreed. “With my hair, without my hair, with a whip... But even after all that, if today's Risky decides to take on me seriously it would be one risky battle...! But that if I wasn't out of shape...! I'm sorry, girls.” She turned to the Nerimans. “You have to fight her. Not only am I unable to transform, I cannot manage powerful spells either. Even the Mirror. What a pity, she doesn't know about it.”

“Ah,” Sky only managed to say.

“Let's hear about the pirate items in more detail,” Shampoo said, her voice forcefully calm. Ranma didn't pay attention — or pretended not to — while Nabiki got the impression that the amazon was... intimidated?

To think of it, what does she know about Shantae? That she stomped Shampoo with her magic, then stomped Happousai. And Happousai was a force to be reckoned with. Then add a very real resurrection. So if Shantae is nervous now... Shampoo doesn't know that the pointy-eared girl feared the old pervert greatly and beat him more on less because he startled her...

“The pistol, the hat, the scimitar, the boots, the cannon,” Shantae listed. “By the way! Don't mind the cannonball that is arching onto you from high up. Mind the one that zips at your head point-blank! Just sharing my experience.”

“A cannonball?” Ranma drawled skeptically.

“They are magic,” Shantae explained. “Not iron. If it was iron I'd lose my head right away. Both the cannon and the pistol work on magic. Not as deadly, but they could be fired endlessly... What was I going about...? Oh, right, the pistol... Well, it's a pistol. It shoots magic bullets powerful enough, I think, to bring me down in one hit. There may be some tricks to it because I don't know everything about it. I definitely remember Risky shooting—”

She was interrupted by a distant crash followed by a shout of “Ranma, it's all your fault!”

“Has it started?” the half-Genie perked up.

“Worse.” Ranma made a face. “It was Ryouga bakusaing in!” She dashed towards the square with the pond. “Hurry, while he haven't leveled half the town!”

“Don't blow it, Ranma-kun!” Nabiki shouted making the redhead reluctantly slow down.

“Akane, go!” Shantae pushed her forward waddling at her best speed. “Ranma, pull back!”

“Why!” The pig-tailed girl flared with indignation as she slowed down even more. Akane overtook her.

“He would fight you, but she would shame him!” Shantae showed sudden perceptiveness as she caught up with her. “And more, she... I feel like she is the best choice to convince the guards between all of you. Well... it's her personality.”

“But she's!” The redhead deflated. “Is she the only one of us who trusts cops for real?” she asked already knowing the answer.

Ukyou coughed sheepishly. Nabiki huffed skeptically. Shampoo put her nose in air.

“She is really only one of her kind.” Ranma sighed admitting defeat.

Dissipating clouds of dust weren't coming from the gate, but to the right of it, from the part of the town wall that bordered the park. In the past this place had been a part of the town, there was even a chunk of foundation with porch steps sticking out of the grass. But overall this place was shady, cool and green, the bushes were more or less clipped. Amidst this tranquil shade there was a big hole in the wall, blazing brightly with sun-scorched fields, surrounded with settling dust. There were rumpled town guards rising from the ground and Akane laying into Ryouga with the grip of a professional mother-in-law.

Dressed in patched, baggy trousers and a brief vest over bare torso, he was well on his way towards repentance.

Wrench flew in, landing on Sky's arm with deliberately loud flapping: “Caw, caaw-caw, caw.”

“Barrels...?” She sighed. “Should have expected this.”

“How bad is it?” Shantae asked impatiently.

“No use.” Sky shook her head. “There are lots of barrels on the roofs all over the town. Who can tell which ones should be there and which ones shouldn't? You understand we'd have to tap each one, giving our game away?”

“There are no silent ambushes,” Shampoo shared a piece of Chinese folk wisdom.

“There are,” Sky disagreed. “I don't know what sort of creatures these thinkerbats are — no one knows, I think — but sitting a whole day in a barrel without moving a muscle...? Easily. Either that is in their nature, or Risky could be so... persuasive.”

Shantae let out a long sound of frustrated displeasure.

“At least we will take the lamp for her,” Ranma reassured her. “We'd hit her in the head and knock her out, if needed, but we will not let her have the lamp. Even if we have to let her go after that.”

Akane walked up to them, towing a flustered Ryouga: “I whispered in their ear that we are Shantae-chan's guests and promised that they'll be always able to find him!” she said quietly.

“You did right,” the disguised half-Genie approved. “We'll think how to repair the wall later.”

“Giving such a promise was veeeery foolhardy of you,” Ranma berated, causing a half-hearted “shut up, Ranma” on Ryouga's part.

“It's time, it's time!” Shantae hissed jiggling her purse. “Here, take this money for tickets, move on while I... take a bath.” She hurried, waddling, towards the building she had pointed earlier at dawn as the bathhouse.

“Let's go!” Ranma began striding in the direction of the bridge, keeping the speed of a hurrying tourist.

“What is going on?” Ryouga demanded.

“Quiet,” Akane hissed at him making him fall silent.

“No time,” the redhead explained in a whisper as she fell back to walk side to side with him. “We go to the expo. We do our best pretending to be tourists, waiting until the queen of pirates barges in and grabs the lamp. Then we catch her. She is clever, has more tricks than Pops, but she doesn't expect martial artists.”

“The lamp?” Ryouga growled, his face darkening.

“That same one! All right, enough talking. You're a tourist, don't show your hand too early... Dear, look at these rugs! Don't you want to buy one for our snuggly nest...?”

Ryouga's funerally sour face worked as the best disguise ever.

Shantae overtook them, her heels flashing, back in her red outfit. Her hair was damp, swishing heavily — that's how thorough she was playing the role.

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The crowd in the hall was packed. They couldn't get tickets for everyone, not because there weren't enough but because the only ones left were being sold by a shady guy for prices so exorbitant that Ukyou suggested right away for all the fiancees to stay outside so that something remains of Shantae's money.

Because of that, only Ranma, Ryouga and Nabiki got into the hall. Sky as well, but the blond walked through the back door for employers and was now hanging together with Shantae next to the platform used now as a scene, trying to look inconspicuous.

These two friends sticking together made Ranma apprehensive at first: what had they been toiling with disguises for if their mutual acquaintance with Sky gives the Nerimans away? On the other hand, it was not the fact of there being new friends that would surprise the attackers but their martial arts skills that made everything known to this world pale in comparison. The redhead smirked and relaxed, sure in her knowledge it would be easy. She only had to turn Ryouga in the right direction to prevent him breaking any unnecessary walls.

A fat old man came out, dressed in a green coat and possessing an impressive three-pronged white beard, whom Shantae greeted with “Hello, Uncle Mimic!” Judging by his sudden frown, she managed to flash him some secret sign.

Clearing his throat and straightening his fancy glasses with tiny round yellow lenses, the uncle opened the expo with a dramatic story of him cleverly foiling a pressure plate trap. The crowd erupted in gasps and murmurs like “amazing man!”, “such bowels!”, “what a bravery!” and the like while Nabiki said with overblown tragism in her voice: “Relic hunters are stained forever for me! Now I would never clean the image of a shitting Harrison Ford from my mind!” She slid the hat down onto her face.

Ranma had to put titanic efforts into holding herself from laughing out loud. And yet she was grunting and squealing, shaking.

“And now,” the uncle continued in a smooth showman's voice, “I present to you the mysterious object of the year!” He held up something that resembled a lump of ossified dirt.

Shantae tensed like a tightly coiled spring. Ranma's mirth evaporated. Ryouga squinted, his eyes hard. Nabiki's hand drifted towards the whip on her belt. The old man was still saying something but they were not hearing him.

But nothing was happening yet.

“Should I crack it open?” the uncle asked hyping the crowd.

“Do it, do it!” the crowd shouted, clapping and jostling each other in impatience.

Mimic put the fosil onto the table and tapped it carefully with a small wooden hammer. The fossilized layer fell away to reveal a familiar lamp. The old man paled, beads of sweat glistening on his bald head: “How... How did it...”

Tension was growing, the air becoming thick with it.

“Umm... I apologise, ladies and gentlemen,” the uncle squeezed out. “Unfortunately, I brought a wrong item by mistake!”

Part of the ceiling shattered loudly. Down dropped an anchor, a woman in a huge pirate hat riding it. She immediately erupted with a painfully familiar “O-ho-ho-ho-ho!”

Ranma cringed studying the opponent during the seconds the pirate was just standing there enjoying the reactions to her dynamic entry. Her manners and her irritating laugh were strongly reminiscent of Kodachi while she was built more like Hinako-sensei: tall and shapely. The main difference was her skin being bluish-gray. Beside the eye-catching hat with its skull and crossbones, her outfit was very similar to Shantae's: pants flaring at the bottom and a narrow top. Only hers were purple. The second eye-catching detail were two bone ornaments, on her belt and her top, together making up an image of a grinning skull where her breasts encased in purple silk were peeking out from under the brow ridges.

“Risky Boots!” Shantae jumped forward to point at her accusingly, standing in a dramatic pose. “I knew it was you!”

Something flashed momentarily in the pirate's eyes, some maniacal glint, some suppressed emotion of such intensity it made Ranma's spine crawl and Shantae stumble a step back.

“I so wished to see you again!” the pirate said with a lopsided grin, not making any attempt to grab the lamp.

Ranma wasn't going to let her have a chance. Ryouga as well. Jumping over the crowd, bounding from someone's heads, the redhead was upon Risky in a flash, knocking her down to the floor and grabbing her hands. Ryouga had passed through the crowd with the grace of a hungover rhino and was now holding the lamp protectively in his left hand, his face expressing “come, get some”.

Sounds of a brief scuffle reached from above, then Ukyou and Shampoo jumped down into the hole, each holding by the neck a gaunt pitch-black midget in red baggy pants and red head-wrap.

So that's how tinkerbats look like. Their spherical heads sported huge yellow eyes and not a hint of a mouth or a nose. Also, they had impressive claws on their hands and feet.

“Should I break the winch?” Akane asked, all business, as she leaned into the hole.

“Don't! Uncle would find some use for it,” Shantae replied. She then looked at the supine Risky straddled by Ranma: “The game is over!” she said harshly.

“Hoooh,” the pirate drawled, not disconcerted in the slightest, which made Ranma nervous: wasn't it too careless, keeping the woman in such a kiddy hold? What if she had blades in her boots? “So this is your path towards power? Finding new friends...? Why doesn't this surprise me!” She folded flexibly up wrapping her legs around Ranma, her boots pushing at the redhead's abdomen. The attempt to push off the girl straddling her failed, though: Ranma proved to be much stronger. “And what friends! You keep surprising me, half-Genie brat!”

Ranma was liking the condescending tone of the seemingly defeated opponent less and less: could it be that she really held the town hostage with a whole army waiting in ambush on the rooftops or in the sewers?

“And you, little red cutie,” Risky purred, her eyes glinting dangerously, “try dodging this.”

A pirate pistol appeared in her teeth.

Ranma started: this was unbelievable level of hidden weapons mastery. Or was it magic? It didn't matter: the pistol was aimed to the side, not threatening her at all.

“Sheehesh” Risky mumbled unintelligibly through a mouthful of handle. Then she fired! Into the crowd...? Ranma cast a fleeting glance to the side. Thankfully, not, so—

Her danger sense blared making her release Risky's hands to drop flat on her back. A tiny missile grazed her hair, already curving for its second pass, so rapidly that an untrained human wouldn't be able seeing it.

Seeker!” Risky fired again as she grabbed the pistol with her hand catapulting Ranma away with a powerful thrust of her legs. Ranma barely had time to flip upright when she had to dodge two projectiles at once. She'd be in a really tight spot if not for that training with bees long ago.

Shantae rushed at her arch-nemesis with a battle cry, but the woman managed squeezing out two more shots before ascending on a stubby cannon bigger than herself. The first explosion threw Shantae away, peppering her with splinters, the following ones just finished the wooden floor exposing stone foundation underneath.

Ranma was dodging desperately, twisting and flipping impossibly, not keen to learning how hard these homing projectiles would hit

“Hey-ya!” dropping her tinkerbat, Ukyou slammed her combat spatula into one of the tiny missiles like a flyswater. There was a deafening clang, her hands growing a bit numb. One more missile slammed into the edge of the scene platform, smashing wood. One just fizzed out to nothingness. Ranma smashed the last one with her fist seeing there was nothing too dangerous in them.

“Dream on, spindly!” Shampoo added slamming her tinkerbat into the unwatched one who, it turned out, had produced a scimitar from somewhere and was sneaking on Ukyou from behind.

Both monsters slumped, cross-eyed.

“She gave us the slip!” Shantae said in shocked disbelief, looking up at the hole. “We had such an advantage but she gave us the slip!”

“Here, take it.” Ryouga held the lamp out to her, looking sheepish.

Shantae squinted examining the artifact from all sides. Then she mumbled with worry: “I don't feel any magic in it. Of course it should be sealed right now, but what if...” She gasped. Then she ran to her uncle who was standing up slowly and cautiously from behind the scene. She thrust the lamp into his hands: “Uncle Mimic! Hurry, tell me: is this the real one or a fake?”

“You... You can't imagine how dangerous—” he tried dodging the question.

“I can! Believe me, I returned from the future! Hurry, I beg you: is this a fake?”

He straightened his glasses nervously as he examined the artifact thoroughly.

Then his shoulders slumped: “It's a fake.”

“I knew it!” Shantae exclaimed in frustration. “I was suspecting from the beginning that she stole the real lamp long before this day and the today's attack was just a public stunt!”

The hall was emptying rapidly. Screams could be heard from outside, from the wharf.

“I have to protect the town!” Shantae shouted dashing towards the doors.

Ranma followed her, swearing, frustrated with her failure.

“Where should we put these?” Ukyou and Shampoo asked Mimic almost synchronously.

“We must tie them up and stick them in a barrel,” he replied, still out of it. “Go, I'll deal with these...” He bent down to drag the unconscious enemies by their feet.

“I too—” the lost boy began but was interrupted by Nabiki:

“You'd better stay, Ryouga-kun. This Risky, she had the eyes of a dangerous psycho who knows no bounds. She is unpredictable. How would you rate the chance of her suddenly taking Shantae-chan's friends or family hostage?” She pointed at Mimic with her eyes. The old man looked so lost, barely focused on his task of tying up the knocked out monsters, not watching his back at all. An easy prey for any evildoer.

“All right, I'll guard him,” Ryouga agreed. Picking with his foot in the torn up floor he found a log of about two meters length, tore it out and started walking back and forth carrying it on his shoulder.

“Hmm, this anchor is folding,” Nabiki noted with idle curiosity as she studied the big iron item lodged in the floor. “So that's how they were hiding it in a barrel!”

[center]* * *[/center]

It turned out there were tinkerbats hidden in the town. The whole half a dozen of them. Done with pillaging, they were fleeing, bent under the burden of their loot, when Ranma and the three fiancees stampeded them.

“And that's all?” Akane pouted with disappointment: she never had a chance to hit anyone.

“We tie them up and go looking for Risky,” Shantae commanded as she produced ropes with a practiced motion to wrap a tinkerbat bouquet. “These would be useful later, as a proof of work.” Finding an empty barrel, she lifted the bouquet with a grunt of exertion to stuff it there, only the heads with blinking yellow eyes sticking out.

The dancer may be weak compared to the Nerima Wrecking Crew but she still could lift about two hundred kilograms.

They ran to the wharf where panicking crowds were scuttling to and fro with gusto. The fish merchant was having a day as many resorted to shopping therapy to calm their nerves.

“And not a trace of Risky,” Shantae concluded grimly as she stared at the horizon. “She should now be moving her surprise ship here, but I'm not sure in anything any more.”

Suddenly one small ship at the end of the leftmost pier unfurled a sail sporting skull and crossbones on its only mast and pulled off, smoke puffing out of a brass stove-pipe sticking above its cabin.

“But she...” Shantae let out a growling moan of frustration hitting herself in the forehead and hurting her knuckles against the tiara. “She was right in front of us!”

“It's her?” Ranma asked assessing if she could catch it. It was no use: the pier was long while the boat was moving too swiftly to catch it by swimming. “Aw, bugger. She's gone, we can't catch her.”

“It's her Tinker Tub.” Shantae glared at the tiny ship. “See this beam along the side, howzit...”

“Gunwale,” Shampoo cued her.

“Yeah, this gunk-whale,” Shantae continued. “It's red and this... little house in the back has red edges and there is a brass ring riveted to the mast? How could I miss it!”

The boat began turning around. A familiar “Ho-ho-ho” reached across the distance, followed by a cannon blast. A pinkish-purple cannonball flew at the wharf in a high arch. Not too fast, in Ranma's opinion. Shantae unthinkingly stepped in its path to whip it back with a clang. Which, in Shampoo's opinion, required guts and perfect timing. The cannonball exploded before reaching the boat.

The crowds of citizens began panicking with redoubled gusto, vacating the wharf in the orderly fashion of frightened chicken.

“To the bridge!” Shantae shouted, already running. “We don't want her wrecking the entire port aiming at us!”

The boat followed them after turning in another half-circle. It was clear now that it was being propelled by some sort of engine, the sail being a fancy prop.

On the bridge they were joined by Mimic, Sky, an unfamiliar guy with his hair held up with a yellow ribbon and a huge spiked ball on a chain in his hands, Ryouga and Nabiki.

The boat was closing in. Risky shot a couple more times. One cannonball was beaten away by Shantae, the other one by Ukyou in a fit of bravery.

The boat was close enough that Ranma was going to board it when Risky forestalled her by making a running jump from the bowsprit and gliding the remaining distance on her jhat, holding onto it with both hands like it was some sort of glider.

She then stood, her hand on her hip, surveying the company of ten people with unhealthy fire in her eyes. Bravery or madness? Some sort of killer ace in her sleeve or simply losing it? This person was making everyone nervous, regardless of power and experience.

“Surrender!” Shantae demanded, more to silence her own doubts. “This is my last offer!”

Behind the queen of pirates the small ship was careening, creaking, groaning, puffing steam as it was climbing awkwardly onto the bridge, supported with a pair of crude mechanical legs with wide wooden feet. Its front, it turned out, had a massive metallic lower jaw with blunt teeth. Two huge eyes popped out of the oversized hawse holes, blinking with leathery eyelids and giving the boat a surrealistic and bug-eyed look.

“Meet my Oceanic Steam-powered Tinker Tub,” Risky offered. “Mark one. I admit it's a bit on the weak side compared to the Mark Two, not to mention the Tinker Slug...”

“Don't worry! I've beaten your slug, I've beaten your mark two!” Shantae was growing angry. “Me and my friends will beat this one, be sure of it!”

“Oh really?” Risky drawled, the glint in her eye turning unhealthy to the point of disturbing. “And when, may I ask?”

Shantae opened her mouth for some more rebuke but froze, paling rapidly, staring at the pirate lady as if she was seeing a ghost.

The woman laughed heartily, shaking from her laughter and distracting Ryouga and that unfamiliar guy with secondary resonance effects.

“I don't like this at all,” Shampoo said.

“You don't say,” Ukyou quipped. “It's only visible from a kilometer away that there's a big, fat catch.”

“Could it be,” Nabiki voiced everyone's dawning suspicion, “that the Queen of Seven Seas has returned from the future as well?”

“You and me don't age,” Risky continued, addressing Shantae paralyzed by shock. “I am half-Rakshasi, you are half-Genie. We cannot guess from each other's appearance from how far in the future we came. This uncertainity, this thrill of the risk... are they bubbling in your blood as well?”

“A year and a week!” Shantae shouted furiously as she shook off her stupor and took a combat stance. “I returned back from one year and one week ahead! And I learned much in that time!”

“Well...” Risky's grin widened, baring teeth. “Let me demonstrate what I learned in these twenty years”.

There was a pregnant pause, Shantae gulping audibly.

Then, a second later, events started happening at breakneck pace.


Don't forget to visit the poll on what the next chapter should be!

Also, check this: Cheb's final solution to soldering nuts to steel edges!
The e-shop I bought it from advertised it as tool for repairing tractors and such.
Because I was so tired of heating the assembly above a candle then washing off tons of soot (some is still visible)
Proud owner of 1.5 kilograms of Germanium transistors
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Moon Senshi
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Re: Dance, Dance, Rumble (R.5 / Shantae crossover) [+ Ch.9 n

Postby Cheb » Mon Feb 12, 2018 4:08 pm

I planned to only one drop of blood to be shed during the entire fic, keeping close to the game's rating.
But then Risky just went out of my creative control. I guess I brought this on myself with changes to her canon personality :(

Chapter 10

(boss name background begin, purple stars flying)
(Tentatively, Time Traveler)

(boss name background end)

“Twenty years...?” Sky muttered in shock.

“She got to be bluffing,” Ukyou replied.

The pirate lady pulled out her scimitar taking a stance similar to that of a running start. Her eyes were blazing with thirst for battrle.

Don't block!!!” Shantae shouted with such desperation and terror in her voice that most of the company reacted instantly, without thinking. Especially as the half-Genie threw herself flat to the ground, risking to slide off the bridge as the guardrails here consisted of a square wooden beam.

Ranma jumped up, letting a blurry trail of bluish afterimages pass harmlessly underneath. Ryouga dodged deftly, not forgetting to jerk Akane aside by the scruff of her gi. Nabiki made a slow but over-cautious jump off the bridge towards the shore, already spinning her whip up to catch the guardrail. Sky was pulled aside by her parrot who proved so powerful she got wrapped around the guardrail on the seaside, barely arresteding her tumble over the edge. Mimic was pushed aside by that unfamiliar guy with a spiky ball on a chain. Shampoo made a beatiful tumbling jump upwards.

And only Ukyou shielded herself by reflex with her combat spatula, crouching behind it.

The blurry streak swept her away with a clang, sparks flashing, to catapult her away without even slowing down. Crossing twenty more meters it collapsed back into Risky, turning back smugly while replacing her scimitar.

“U-chan!” Ranma shouted, in the process of landing, her eyes wide.

The spinning top of black, dark blue, metal and chestnut was heading in an arch ending at the fronts of the wall of buildings over the bay. The spinning then slowed sharply as Ukyou started screaming, trying to slow her flight with her spatula by wrapping herself into a tight ball around the end of its handle.

That ended in partial success. Partial because the spatula turned at an angle, like an one-bladed propeller, making the girl soar up like a maple key, accompanied with her pulsating “AAaaAAaaAAah”.

“Ouch!” Shampoo cringed in sympathy.

Rotational momentum ran out. Ukyou could finally get her bearings and began screaming twice louder as she found herself high in the air, higher than even the tallest towers! Luckily, the okonomiyaki cook kept her wits. Hollering something about “not ready yet” she spun her spatula around herself in eights and loops and other zig-zags which looked similar to padding or the flight of a one-winged bird.

Still, that slowed her fall from “would splatter” to “fracture would be compound”.

“U-chan!” Ranma shouted, itching to run to the rescue but seeing there was no way she'd get there in time.

“Wrench!” Sky threw her attack parrot. He zipped to intercept like a pink-and-blue lighting and—

And they were denied the opportunity to see how it ended.

“Men! Flank them!” Risky barked aiming her pirate pistol in a deliberately slow motion.

Tinkerbats leaned from the boat's prow, aiming pistols as well. Though most were just waving their scimitars for effect.

Ranma rushed the pirate lady without thinking, itching to get revenge — both for U-chan and for her earlier humiliation. Shampoo, of course, ran after her.

Sky and Nabiki exchanged glances and ducked lower, hiding behind the railing outside the bridge, across each other, where the railing consisted of low stone wall continuing the bridge pillar.

Shantae let out a battle cry as she rushed to board the boat.

Akane only hesitated for a moment. Casting a frustrated glance towards Ranma and Risky, she ran after the dancer. Ryouga, of course, headed to protect her, overtaking her as he readied his finger which wasn't boding well for the little ship.

The unfamiliar guy stayed to cover the old man, spinning his spiky ball while Mimic was reading some sort of scroll under his breath.

Shantae was in front of the boat in a second because tinkerbats were shooting rarely, their shots going wide.

Akane slowed, unsure what to do: Shantae's head barely reached the bottom. There were huge mechanical legs shifting ahead, slightly reminiscent of duck ones. Such a wooden foot could step on a horse without noticing, one had to have a siege engine, not hair, to assault them.

The boat, though, leaned down opening its flath-toothed maw wide. Shantae deftly pushed off the jaw with her foot to hang, having snatched the bowsprit with her hair, while Akane found herself in the way of a huge anchor barfed up by the boat. Shrieking in panic she jumped almost to the deck height. Which was four meters up.

Ryouga growled, becoming angry. Dodging the anchor he dashed along the chain trailing it. He jumped right into the open maw, into the wooden insides of the boat, dropping his pole which was too long for the confined space. A large barrel rolled at him, immediately receiving a “breaking point” and—

And turning out to be stuffed with explosives. The boom was deafening, blast wave nearly knocking Shantae off the bowsprit — luckily, she had grabbed it with her feet — and throwing Akane away.

Ryouga flew fast but low, almost clipping a ducking Nabiki, then splashing down in the bay.

The boat stood straighter, its maw half closed, winding the chain back with rattling and clanking. The anchor was scraping across the cobblestone pavement.

Mimic — whom the anchor had missed thanks to the spiky ball guy jerking him away by the scruff of his coat — finally finished reading his scroll. A spiky ball began orbiting him, quite similar to the one the guy wielded. The old man immediately threw something at the vessel, a small but dense cloud of white smoke obscuring its bow.

Akane, meanwhile, jumped up to the railing, then jumped higher from there to punch the boat in its right eye. It jerked, squinting. The motion threw the tinkerbats off their feet. Shantae grabbed at the opportunity to climb up onto the deck while they were disorganized and could not threaten loping her hands off.

A second later tinkerbats began flying off the smoke-shrouded deck one after another, tumbling erratically through the air. Letting out a battle cry, Shantae was using everything she learned at the Tendou dojo: sliding all over the deck sowing confusion in the enemy ranks, grabbing the poor midgets with her hair to throw them overboard or into their brethren... In short, she was mowing them down.

Image ... -212617335

[center]* * *[/center]

Ranma and Shampoo's fight went sour right off the bat. Shouting “Seeker” and launching a small swarm of homing projectiles, the woman in the fancy hat succeeded in pretending overconfident and unprepared — only to throw herself under the girls as they pounced, sliding beneath them on her back.

She did not just slide, she pulled her scimitar out to wave it around, making them twist at the limits of their flexibility to avoid the sharp blade. This let half of the remaining projectiles hit them. Ranma weathered this indifferently, she was though, but Shampoo received a couple that she felt.

When the two girls could restore their balance and smash the rest of the missiles, Risky was ready. She almost hit them as she blurred towards the wharf.

Shampoo dodged as she glimpsed the scimitar's point at the front of this bluish streak. Ranma dodged easily, attempting also to trip their adversary. She just hurt her foot and was thrown off the bridge for her effort, it felt like she tried kicking a freight train. To add insult to injury, her body was smashed through the railing beam in the process.

Turning around, Risky ran at Shampoo at lazy pace. She was holding the scimitar — the amazon could see it now — in a deceptively relaxed grip. Cussing elaborately in Chinese, Shampoo began backing away, dodging the deceptively simple sword swings and cursing the loss of her maces. If only she had something, even a stick! She had met similar swordsmen in the past so she was wary of fighting this one bare-handed: at her skill level it was fraught with quick and ignoble loss of body parts. All she dared to do was dodging and occasionally slapping the flat of the blade aside.

But then Ranma was back, soaked and thirsting for a re-match. Risky didn't even try turning to face her, just ascended atop of her cannon as suddenly as sudden was Ranma's pounce at her back. The first explosion threw the two martial artists away but they kept their footing. The following ones just pounded the bridge. Three, four, five and then Risky was hanging at unreachable height, floating down on her hat so slowly it was pretty clear there was magic at work.

Shampoo barely had time to feel relief that both of their opponent's hands were occupied when the pirate pistol appeared in Risky's hand. Somehow, she held it at the same time as the hat's edge. Or was the hat hooked around the handle? Either way, she begain raining magical bullets on the two girls. These ones flew straight but were much more powerful, like arrows of white fire striking dust from the cobbles with bright bluish flashes.

Ranma and Shampoo were twisting ant tumbling: miss one such projectile, and you're done for! Shantae was right when she had told them the pistol could bring her down in one hit. But the rate of fire! This looked more like some sort of blaster than a pirate pistol!

Shampoo was exercising the finer points of Chinese vocabulary. Ranma was simply giving promises in the vein of just you wait, you'll float down and I'll show you. Then the redhead got bored with this show so she slammed a “tiger domineering” into their barely moving opponent.

Risky got surprised. Then the charge of orange overconfidence slammed into her like a wrecking ball.

And then they saw her, barely scuffed, hanging very, very high in the sky. And laughing. This laugh was irritating like nails against chalkboard, despite the distance.

“Ranma.” Shampoo sighed. “You just outdid my most idiotic plans for catching you. Outdid them far. I am even wary now of the fact that we are destined for each other!”

“How could I know she's that tough!” the other girl whined.

And then the barrage resumed, but now dodging was harder because they could barely see their opponent's hand and the direction she was aiming at.

[center]* * *[/center]

The boarding was going well. Shantae had cleared the deck and was now whipping the bulkhead door, chips flying. The spiky ball guy joined her: his weapon proved to have hidden tricks, he could make the chain longer and use it as a grappling hook. Akane got the gist of dodging the anchor and was busying herself punching the eyes in turn, jumping onto the railing to reach them, making the boat squint and back away. Mimic and Nabiki were left without anything useful to do. Sky was gesticulating animatedly with one hand, trying to dissuade the seagulls who wanted to join the fun:

“No, no and no! Did you see how tricky her pistol is? Bullets chase the target on their own! Don't even let yourself be seen until we take it from her!”

When a soaked Ryouga climbed back onto the bridge, narrowed his eyes and cracked his neck it became clear the boat was done for.

And even Nabiki got distracted so much that the volley of explosions rolling among them caught everyone by surprise.

Deafening booms, smoke, ringing ears, disorientation — and Risky Boots who appeared, judging by her laugh, right in front of the boat!

“Stop, you parasite!” Ranma yelled, arriving just a tad slower only to catch a cannonball exploding in her face. “Stop and fight” She chased Risky again as the woman rode her cannon in the other direction trailing yet another barrage of powerful explosions.

“Ranma, you are a fool!” Shampoo's conclusion could be heard from that direction.

“Ev.. everyone all right?” Nabiki asked, coughing and waving the smoke away.

“I am,” replied a knocked down Akane in a singed gi. “Oww...”

“I fell into the water,” Sky's voice reached from below. “How should— Watch out! Tinkerbats!”

Familiar shapes of black midgets in baggy red trousers and red kerchiefs began emerging from the dissipating smoke. How did they get there? Had Risky sowed dragon teeth?

A few of them ganged on Akane making her grow nervous and back away from opponents brandishing sharpened steel.

Two were already wrapping ropes around the old man, who was out cold.

About five of them had the misfortune of rushing the singed, stumbling, head-shaking Ryouga.

Three went for Nabiki. Assessing her chances, she turned her back on them, took aim and jumped off the bridge. The tinkerbats followed her hastily.

There were three splashes.

“I have... to work on... my shape...” Nabiki huffed climbing her whip wrapped around the railing beam.

Finding her courage, Akane began fighting back against the tinkerbats swarming her and even pushing them back, dodging deftly or parrying with strikes at their wrists or the dull edges of their scimitars.

Those that attacked Ryouga... Their story was as sad as it was short, their lament for not having wings profound. Then those backing from Akane followed their fate. She pouted, offended by his lack of belief in her ability to handle this by herself.

Ryouga wasn't discouraged, though. He switched to the boat, already raising his finger. One “breaking point” later the metallic jaw was sporting a... small pockmark? Ryouga frowned, concentrating. There were lots of breaking points in the jaw. Too many, in fact. His second attempt only led to the ship losing one flat tooth. The metal at the break turned to be porous like solidified foam.

“Ack!” Sky shouted from the water. “They are swimming after me!”

The seagulls refused to be kept back this time. They began diving at some invisible but pretty obvious targets on the sea side.

Nabiki started. Leaning over the stone-wall part of the railing she saw the trio of her pursuers climbing up the bridge pillar. There were more swimming in from the water, maybe even those Shantae threw off the boat earlier.

Checking her back nervously if someone was sneaking up on her, Nabiki put her whip to work knocking the enemies back into the water. She shouted over her shoulder: “Shantae! we are being swarmed with tinkerbats!”

“I can't!” the half-Genie shouted back from the deck. “There are hordes of them inside! They crawl out faster than I— Eek! Take that! And that!”

Ryouga tried to switch to the bowsprit but just froze in puzzlement: “This tub doesn't have any breaking points at all! Is it a living thing?”

He tried smashing wood with his fists, but even that was barely working: the boat was resisting damage like it was enchanted. It was just backing away in discomfort.

“By the way...” Nabiki stopped for a moment to take a look around. “Aren't we forgetting someone? With a long beard and a green coat?”

The four tinkerbats, who were trying to sneak away carrying tied up Mimic along the top of the railing on the boat's left side, froze with a start. Their heads were slowly, fearfully turning towards Ryouga.

It would've served them better to look up: the spiky ball guy jumped onto them from the deck where he had been helping Shantae. Four smacks later, he was dragging the old man away in the same direction: there was no time to untie him. Passing the stern he hopped off the railing and disappeared from view.

Judging by the sounds of intense battle and the ever-slowing stream of tinkerbats flying off the deck, Shantae met difficulties.

Then, after yet another series of explosions from the direction where Ranma and Shampoo were fighting, closer to the town, a figure with long, sooty hair, in scraps of a waitress dress, tumbled away in an arch leading away from the bridge. Managing to tell Risky what an unnatural and anatomically impossible thing she should do with her cannon, Shampoo splashed down in the bay. One combatant lost.

Tearing out of the ruined fabric, the cat began swimming across the bay, towards the shore where the bathhouse was.

Lightning flashed a couple times from the deck, then Shantae jumped down, forced to retreat: “Is the entire inside there full of these summoning pots? Where are these hordes coming from?”

“Oh-ho-ho-ho!” Risky laughed sliding over them on her hat. “It's best for you to not know!” She landed on the deck already festooned with aggressive tinkerbats.

“Whatever you think,” Nabiki said rolling her whip up, “I'm out of here.”

Casting a glance around the bay to memorize the positions of swimming tinkerbats, she jumped off the bridge ramrod straight, holding onto her hat. Hitting the water, she disappeared from view: was probably going to swim underwater for how long her breath lasts.

And so they were four, against a slightly scuffed Risky Boots on her slightly scuffed boat full of warlike minions.

“Men!” the pirate lady commanded. “Distract those three, I wish to... converse with the half-Genie brat tet-a-tet!

Then she pulled out her pistol, making Shantae slide away from the boat under a barrage of bullets shining like bluish fire, aimed to miss — barely, only if the dancer dodges away.

“Fight me, you scum!” Ranma roared, appearing on the deck in an instant, taking a shot on her crossed arms then slamming her right leg into her opponent's left side.

To her own surprise, it worked. This was the first solid hit she landed on this clever, slippery bugger!

Risky was thrown off the deck with a muffled huff of pain... Only to rise higher with two shots of her cannon and continue by sliding over the bay waters on her hat. While keeping shooting at Shantae!

“Tiger Domineering!” Ranma launched her orange ball of overconfidence, quite wimpy one as she was mostly feeling helplessness and frustration.

Risky dodged easily, by simply switching to her cannon to jump over the ki-blast.

“Shantae is Akane's friend,” Ryouga began hyping himself up while absent-mindedly punting tinkerbats away. “Akane would be sad. No, she would be stricken with grief! She would be suffering! Liooooon... Roaaaaar...”

Either Risky was that sharp herself, or Ranma's nasty grin hinted her, but she hastily put her hat back on her head to begin plummeting.

Ryouga, though, took lead on her: “Blaaast!”

The mighty ball of swamp-green depression streaked over the waters making waves part with its mere proximity, leaving a foamy trail.

Already falling onto her back, Risky managed to mount her cannon upside down, practically slamming herself into the water. The telltale column of water was instantly swept away by the blast of depressive ki.

Alas, Shantae was the only one who was far enough to the side to see that trick. The view for the martial artists on the deck was obscured by the ki-charge itself. They were about to celebrate when they realized the direction the four-meter blast was going. Both gulped nervously.

Thankfully, “lion roar blast” did not hit the town as it slammed into a round stone tower rising out of the water. The same one Shantae told about of being demolished by Risky in the future. The tower tilted and began sinking.

“Gack!” Ryouga commented nervously. Looking around he saw the redhead and proclaimed accusingly: “Ranma, it's all your fault!”

“Mine?” she retorted, offended. “Why—”

“Help!” Akane's panicked yelp interrupted them.

Both jumped off the boat aiming at the voice. Down on the bridge, tinkerbats were practically swarming, pressing on the desperately fighting girl from all sides, bristling with a ring of blades. She was still unhurt only thanks to the thick fabric of her gi soaking up glancing blows. But it was already sporting cuts and tears.

Ranma and Ryouga mowed this mass down in an instant, not shy of striking hard. On a side note it turned out that a dead tinkerbat dissolves into black jello-smoke like those manifested curses after the battle at the Tendou dojo. The surviving ones backed away to a safe distance, torn between wariness and the need to press on.

The boat stared at the three martial artists, crossing its eyes to see them standing right in front of its bow. Shifting from foot to foot nervously, it began opening its maw.

Ryouga glared at it so hard the tub clamped its jaw shut, backpedaling.

“Shantae-chan!” Akane shouted in alarm, making to run towards the other girl.

Ranma and Ryouga turned around in puzzlement... A soaked Risky Boots, her pants sticking to her legs, rivulets running off her hat, was strolling towards the half-Genie, her gait predatory and menacing in its dance-like smoothness. The pointy-eared girl was backing away.

“Why, you!!!” Ranma roared, dashing at the enemy. This was personal. The rare tinkerbats parted before her, pressing against the railing.

“But it was full-power!” Ryouga grew angry, frustrated by his ki-blast having no visible effect. He dashed after her.

The parting tinkerbats first shuffled with cautious side-steps, then boldly rushed Akane all as one. She eeped taking a defensive stance... and only her danger sense let her avoid the anchor aimed at her back. But the dodge cost her balance and the black midgets exploited the opening. Had Ryouga return a second later she'd be a head shorter.

He mowed those down. New ones leaned from the boat to begin shooting. The boat began winding the rattling chain back, its mouth only half-opened so that no one could jump in there. It was also actively backpedaling.

Akane was trying to help however she could, but four at once were her limit while the parasitic things tended to press her with numbers all the while fleeing from Ryouga. While she was moving the black scum on the deck, the boat opened its maw wide to barf a dozen more right at Akane. He rushed back to her, scythed through those. The unfinished ones from the deck began firing again. He tried tearing the boat's jaw off. It was creaking, bending, but not breaking, clearly fortified with either ki or magic. Tinkerbats, meanwhile, were climbing onto the bridge over the railings, trying to flank Akane.

[center]* * *[/center]

Ranma was backing from Risky who proved to be an unexpectedly hard opponent. Kunou with a real sword? Dangerous, but only because he comes out of the blue. Mousse with blades in his sleeves? Oh, please. A master swordswoman of a completely unfamiliar school...? Houston, we have a small problem.

Shantae tried to help at first, but after hitting Ranma instead of Risky with her lightning two times in row — this bugger was seemingly able to read her moves from a kilometer away — she excused herself and was gone. Ranma was too focused on her opponent to pay attention.

There was a predatory grin on the face of the woman in purple, her eyes shining with such intense battle-lust it was scary. No, Ranma himself loved to fight, and he was quite indifferent to crippling blows when the opponent is guaranteed to dodge. But wrapping a decapitating strike in two layers of feints...? The redhead twisted away at the limit of her speed, bending back so sharply her vertebrae popped while her chin felt the cool breeze of a passing blade. No, this wasn't your normal desire to fight. This was some psychotic blood-lust. Thankfully, the woman wasn't trying to lick her blade. Yet.

Using the received kick at her abdomen to break the distance, Ranma began backing again, dodging deceptively simple scimitar swings. Had she been demanding to fight fair, face-to face? Oh yeah, she was screaming for it. So here it is. She asked for it. Now, how to handle this jerk!

Oh no, Risky was both weaker physically and slower. But the relatively narrow bridge and the unfamiliar school of kenjutsu were negating Ranma's advantages. Try hitting the sword arm or trip...? May work, but is fraught with loss of body parts.

Honestly, what should have she expected from a notorious pirate? That she'd be a weaksauce wimp?

Ranma kept analyzing, trying to read her style. It wasn't working. This was a mix of everything and a kitchen sink, matching Anything-Goes in its unpredictability, glued together with real combat experience. If only she had a stick, Ranma was confident in her ability to pummel her opponent with her speed and strength alone.

There was also the sure-fire dirty trick of a point-blank “tiger domineering” but Ranma was wary of using it, leaving it for the last resort: this.. psycho would undoubtedly take offense and switch to ranged fighting. Been there, seen that. Cannon, hat, pistol — and you are darting around like a cockroach under a hail of slippers and gnash your teeth because you got nothing to get her.

..a stick...?

Breaking rapidly from her opponent, Ranma began looking around searching for that wooden pole thingy Ryouga had been brandishing before the fight. Finding a piece of it, she picked this improvised club to turn back to Risky with an arrogant grin.

The woman replied with a grin of her own, baring teeth, making Ranma's bravado evaporate. The martial artist attacked swiftly but cautiously, primed to dodge if anything goes wrong. She batted the scimitar aside with the stick in her left hand... And barely twisted away, doubling over, when the blade — but it's one-sided! — went through the piece of wood on its return swing like it was empty air, trailing purplish afterglow.


How did she manage reversing her grip in mid-swing?

Risky, meanwhile, took a nauseatingly familiar stance reminiscent of a running start. Ranma tried tripping her in this brief moment of motionlessness. But from her awkward position, she was a fraction of a second late. She was thrown aside, her feet bruised, while Risky streaked away in a bluish trail of after-images.

Ranma jumped onto her feet to see: Risky, having stopped right in front of the boat. Clouds of dust over the fresh hole in the stone wall railing to the right. And legs in greenish gi flipping over the railing to the left, the bare feet flashing momentarily. Also, Shantae who finally got Risky with her lightning from her right hand, together with tinkerbats from her left.


He knew, he knew this psycho could cut the dancer to ribbons if she just fancies to. He knew how this could end — but he jumped after Akane anyway.

Cool depth, greenish murk, deeper, green-tinted darkness, why the demons it's so deep here, the bay was shallow! Desperately, to and fro. Where! Isn't here. Isn't here either. Where is she! What a bad luck, for the second time this day. Faster, she'd drown... Not here... Not here either... Here she is!

Throwing the uncute one out of the water so that she catches the edge of the bridge, the redhead flew up the bridge pillar, already turning to face the opponent. Risky's back was twenty meters ahead, she was pressing the rapidly retreating Shantae.

A girl able to hold her own against Akane. Facing an opponent as good as Pops if not the old freak, armed with a bladed weapon.

It was clear as day that the pointy-eared girl was only alive because the bluish psycho was amused playing with her. Swinging her scimitar lazily, she was ghosting through Shantae's blocks as if they weren't there, making the girl jerk and jump back - but always too late, always after the strike was deliberately stopped short.

Gritting her teeth, Ranma stayed to punt away tinkerbats who rushed the helplessly hacking Akane. She had to hurry! Who knows what thought crosses this woman's head? Crazy like ten Kodachi, dangerous like ten Kodachi. Ranma could attack her any moment. And she was almost sure the woman would be glad for the challenge. But would she switch to fighting Ranma right away, or would first lop the half-Genie's head off? And who would be there to cover Akane? What was taking the swine so long!!!

Finally Ryouga climbed back onto the bridge. Instantly leaving Akane to him, the redhead rushed to help.

Judging by Shantae's eyes, wide in terror, it was clear she was keenly aware her opponent was playing with her like a... meowing hell-spawn with a mouse. Seeing Ranma approach she tried breaking away by sliding back vigorously.

Risky wasn't going to let her. Closing the distance as sharply she at the same time struck in a wide upward arch, so fast that even for Ranma's eyes it looked like a blur.

Something arched away, trailing red. Shantae shrieked, then she continued parrying with only one hand.

Akane, who was following on her fiancee's heels, had time to feel frost along her spine, her hair moving. Then she saw Shantae's top on the bridge cobbles. The red fabric was intact, but the golden ring was cleaved cleanly in half. Obviously, Shantae deemed preserving her modesty more important than defense and was now covering herself with her left hand.

Risky tsked disapprovingly as she sped her blows up smoothly, keeping even with the dancer back-sliding in panic. The two martial artists were rapidly catching up to them, Ranma far ahead.


Off-hand, holding the pistol in her left hand pointed straight up.

And Ranma had to stop and back away to smash at the swarm of homing bullets going for Akane like rabid wasps.

Risky, meanwhile, was swinging her scimitar faster and trickier by the second. Shantae was dodging by the skin of her teeth.

“Stop covering yerself!” Ranma shouted receiving a surprised glance from Akane who caught up with her. “She wants you fighting at your fullest!”

Whatever you think, Ranma was afraid that Risky may decide Shantae wasn't regarding her seriously. And to the hell with these girly sensibilities!

Alas, Shantae interpreted the redhead's words differently. She attacked with a battle cry of terror, but still keeping her charms covered with her left hand.

With lazy grace, Risky dodged several awkward hair slashes: Shantae's school required both arms to be free, acting as counter-balances. Then she made an off-hand swing with her scimitar, trailing an arch of purplish afterglow.

Gold flashing in the sun, the tiara flew apart, cleaved. Akane gasped and pressed forward, almost overtaking Ranma.

Panicking, Shantae began continuously sliding backwards, deflecting the blows with her bracer. But again only using her right hand. The two combatants were about to move from the bridge to the wharf and Ranma hissed through her teeth noticing a small step where these two met — not big enough to be obstacle to pedestrians or carts, but big enough to knock the blindly backing Shantae off her feet.

Disregarding the risks, the redhead accelerated, dashing full-tilt. And again Risky threw her right arm with the pistol out , this time aiming backwards, her aim slightly off... At Akane again! And it was not going to be a wimpy homing bullet, but a real, powerful one! Her feet sliding on the cobbles, doing her utmost to arrest her movement, Ranma threw herself backwards, turning around in mid-flight to collide with Akane hard, knocking her down. They only felt the bullet by the gust of air ruffling Akane's hair. But both the girls, already slamming into the ground, saw what they just dodged. There was a powerful explosion nearly knocking Ryouga off his feet.

So was this woman able to shoot cannonballs from her pistol as well?

Risky didn't even look back, speeding up until her scimitar blurred. Shantae yelped like a wounded bunny. Some bits and pieces were flying in all directions — Akane desperately hoped, from the clothing. The golden bracer was sparkling, crumbling. Thin strands of hair were floating away on the wind.

And still Shanate refused to use her left hand.

“Shantae-chan!” Akane screamed in desperation when the dancer's dusky skin began marring with red streaks. Jumping to her feet she made to the rescue, not looking, not thinking.

Ranma arrested her movement jerking her back by her hand: “Jump into the water as soon as she pulls out—”

“Let me go!” Akane tore her hand free to dash forward. Ranma could only overtake her for half a step and keep there hoping to react in time. Punting the headstrong tomboy off the bridge would be easier and safer than reasoning with her.

Alas, that delay was enough for the dueling combatants to reach that step of doom. Shantae fell onto her back, her left hand still pressed against her chest. Risky pounced immediately, straddling her. She grabbed the half-Genie's right hand with her left, then put the scimitar in her right hand against her throat unopposed. And leaned close over her bloodied, terrified prey, whispering something with passion. Shantae froze.

Ranma and Akane froze as well, having been just five meters late. Both were afraid to even breathe.

“..think that preserving your modesty would be more important to you than your life,” Risky continued her monologue. “I'm very disappointed.” Her voice was filled with real, unfeigned disappointment. “I guess in all those years I haven't noticed myself as I replaced my memories of you with an idealized image.” She sighed pressing the scimitar a little harder. A drop of blood rolled down the blade. “Such a crazy adventure, and all for naught... Well, at least the world would fall into my hands like an overripe fruit. None of those sorry losers is prepared for my true pow— Gah...”

Shantae's left hand was clutching a dagger handle sticking from her opponent's side. The half-Genie was shaking from fear mixed with resolve. A few more drops of blood rolled down the scimitar edge.

“Hoooh,” Risky drawled in an approving voice. “You say I was right to believe in you...?” She pulled the blade away from her downed opponent's throat to stand up in a little awkward but still catlike-graceful motion. Glancing with satisfaction at the dagger handle still sticking out of her side, she... gushed: “Right in the liver, just like my wee daughter!”

“You... have... a daughter?” Shantae asked, breathing heavily. She tried standing up, which proved hard to do as she was now hugging herself forcefully with both arms. Her right bracer was all cut and banged up. There were red rivulets seeping down her sides.

“She's almost grown up!” Risky replied proudly as she shook her scimitar clean and sheathed it. “She had even made her first attempt at my life! I'd show the scar but I'm afraid you stuck your pocket knife right into it.” She glanced behind Ranma and Akane's backs. “Well, I shall be going. Don't forget to bring the three magical seals.”

Ranma took a look back as well. At the other side of the bridge — when have they crossed it? — the bug-eyed little ship had moved from the bridge to the shore and was now kicking away at the crowd of Nerimans, Shantae's friends and town guards surrounding it. Ryouga holding onto the tongue chain was impeding the Tinker Tub's movements greatly, but tinkerbats swarming the deck were able to repel any boadring attempts so far, swinging their scimitars and shooting her magical pistols.

She made a smooth step forward. Missing this opportunity would—

“Stop!” Shantae halted the redhead with a sharp shout when the edge of her palm was centimeters from Risky's neck. The woman didn't even flinch. Ranma shivered shuffling back to a safe distance. This Pirate Queen was making her wary, even severely wounded and with her sword sheathed.

“As you are from the future,” Shantae said, her voice strung with unyielding resolve, “you must know what is coming...” She was shaking a bit.

Akane helped her onto her feet, doting over her and gasping at the multitude of shallow, bleeding cuts.

For a moment the opponents stood staring each other down, seemingly unaware of their wounds.

“Don't worry,” Risky said patronizingly. “I will not be sucking your magic out of you. But I—”

“That won't help!” Shantae interrupted her. “I had several dark magical creatures sucked into the lamp... Then the lamp... the lamp had returned to where it was. So the magic it held is surely scattered. This time he will awaken sooner...!”

Ranma had the dubious pleasure of seeing the face of a mighty opponent, who had laughed at everything thrown at her, distort with fleeting fear.

What sort of thing was that Pirate master of theirs, that even she, as strong as she was now, was afraid of him?

“Is that so...?” Risky drawled. “So the Ammo Baron's cannon may be not there... Right! This is going to be a risky adventure! I'll head to shake Hypno Baron now while you, kiddies, gather the rest of the seals. Just don't get in my way, I'd gut you like a fish.” She offhandedly plucked the dagger out of her side.

Bot the opponents, as if on some invisible cue, brought red bottles of healing potion to their lips. All the blood disappeared from Shantae's body by magic, her ruined right bracer becoming whole again. Her tiara, though, haven't returned. As well as her choker. And her top. Shantae sighed, still covering herself with her left hand.

“Are you going to just let her go?” Akane asked, more offended for her friend than the girl herself.

“There's no helping it.” Shantae shrugged, her eyes still firmly on Risky. “We had worked together, and will do it again. The Pirate Master is the end for everyone. Truce?”

“She will backstab you before his cadaver falls to the ground,” Ranma warned eyeing the pirate lady suspiciously.

“Of course she will!” Shantae replied, unconcerned. “Been there, done that!”

Risky laughed, clearly amused: “Ho-ho-ho, so be it.” Then louder, a bellow that rolled over the port: “Truce! I won't touch your lousy Scuttle Town while Shantae doesn't meddle with my heinous schemes!” She turned towards her boat and stuck two fingers in her moth to whistle deafeningly: “Men, we are leaving! Go, go, go, move it!”

Backing away, the scuffed little ship began walking into the water, still trying to pull in its chain tongue. Ryouga was dragging after it with much resistance, playing the role of anchor which he had lost somehow.

“Drop the chain!” Risky shouted. She then jumped up onto the railing to instantly accelerate, blurring away in a streak of after-images. Cannon, cannon, cannon, hat, cannon again, hat again. She was flying over the sea with incredible speed, arching gently to the left.

The boat opened its maw wide, making a motion like it was barfing. Ryouga fell onto his back, clutching the now free chain. The boat splashed into the sea stern-first backing from the shore hastily. Risky dramatically landed right in the crow's nest to erupt with an especially loud and irritating laugh.

The town defenders were shouting at them, waving their weapons menacingly. Shampoo was sporting a pair of scimitars she got somewhere. The silent tinkerbats were replying from the deck with victorious sword- and pistol-waving, some even pulling their lids down.

But then the friends noticed Shantae hugging herself and ran towards her. Sky and that spiky ball guy were ahead. After them, slower, Mimic, an armed Shampoo in a towel top and some patched up short shorts and a gloomy Ryouga. Town guards and other people were behind them.

Ukyou walked out onto the wharf, limping and using her spatula as a crutch. Wrench was sitting proudly on her shoulder. Noticing her friends she waved at them causing a joyous shout of “U-Chan!” from Ranma and relieved smiles from Akane and Shantae.

A whip snapped catching the railing beam. Half a minute later a soaked Nabiki climbed up onto the bridge.

“Are you all right?” Sky ran up to Shantae, hugging her briefly. “You did it? We won...?” She noticed Ukyou and her passenger. “Oh, I'm so glad! Wrench, you're one of a kind...”

“So, you beat her so hard that she agreed to leave out town alone?” the spiky ball guy added with blind boyish faith.

“We have... not exactly won,” Shantae corrected them self-deprecatingly. “Risky turned to be...” She shivered hugging herself tighter. “I never though she'd be able puting as much dread into me as the Pirate master did.”

The locals gasped. The old man had to be kept in an upright state by hand.

“So, you say,” Ranma grew curious, “that her words about twenty years weren't bluffing?”

“Probably...” Shantae frowned, shrugging. “Maybe. Or, maybe, not. She is always... hard to deal with.” She jerked her arm, in an unconscious motion to scratch her head that she arrested just in time. “Does someone have anything to cover myself with? I feel so awkward standing half-naked in public.

The gathering of people exchanged glances.

“Let me lend you my shirt,” Ranma suggested grabbing the hem.

“Ranma!” Akane hissed in panic, afraid of the worst.

Simulating deafness, the redhead made a spectacle of taking her shirt off over her head... To reveal she was still wearing the white-and-blue striped bikini top. Showing her tongue to Akane she handed the shirt to Shantae.

“Umm...” the other girl drawled twitching her elbows.

“Let me.” Unrolling the shirt, Ranma pulled it over her head. Then Shantae herself, wriggling inside, pulled her hands and head through corresponding openings: “So unfamiliar!” She pulled her ponytail free, rolled the sleeves up to free the bracers and straightened the shirt.

The shirt was reaching her mid-thigh, as it did for girl-Ranma, hiding her pants where they were most form-fitting. This resulted in Shantae head to toe in loose red silk only hinting at her curves beneath.

“So, Risky could be from the future?” Sky returned to the topic of importance.

“Oh, she is without doubt from the future!” said Shantae. “She had mentioned the second Tinker Tub and the Tinker Slug, both of which shouldn't be even existing yet!”

“Or these tinker devices were already existed in her plans,” the Uncle injected, “and she concocted up a clever story after overhearing that you were from the future.”

Shantae gasped: “You may be onto something!” The pointy-eared girl frowned with a thoughtful expression, looking up at the sky. “Although... She was so... She rushed into battle against me with such thirst... It was so unlike her! It was like she... Like fighting me was her long-time dream! Like she... was missing me...?” Shantae blinked in confusion, taken aback by her own conclusion.

“Some `missing` it was!” Ranma said indignantly. “She almost cut you to ribbons!”

“Oh, look at yourself.” Ukyou retorted, having limped up to them, “Don't you and Ryouga greet each other is such a way that someone from the outside could think you have a blood feud that was stewing for three generations.”

“That's different!” the redhead disagreed. “Ryouga doesn't try taking my head off. Well, not with such persistence.”

“Maybe Risky is really from the future,” Shantae continued. “She appears too strong. She didn't show any new tricks, but everything together... And by some reason she was missing me so badly she nearly cut my throat.” She nervously rubbed at her neck.

“And this.” Nabiki said handing her something hidden in her fist. “It's a good thing these healing potions are so efficient, isn't it?” She opened her fist a bit.

Seeing what was in there, the half-Genie gasped, grabbing it nervously and hiding in her ki-pocket so fast no one was able to glimpse it. “Thank you. Otherwise some kids could have found it. They shouldn't see such things. When did she...?”

“What was it?” Ranma intruded, curious “A finger of an ear?”

Akane smacked her upside the head.

“Ow.” The redhead rubbed at the lump. “Why am I asking. Had it been an ear, you'd be missing one earring now.”

“Enough of this, all right?” Shantae hinted. “Although... What should I do with it? Pickling it for posterity would be too macabre. Maybe feed it to Rotty, let her have some fun...? Why, that's a good idea...! Wait, no, it's a horrible idea! Appetite, they say, comes during the meal.”

“Rotty?” Akane asked, puzzled.

“Rottytops,” Shantae explained. “She's my another friend you haven't met yet. She is always trying to eat my brain.”

“Eeeeh?” Akane was taken aback.

“Let's better talk Risky,” Ukyou suggested. “I, for one, only saw the end of the battle.”

“Risky was... in rare form today,” admitted Shantae.

“She also said she `replaced the memories of you`,” Nabiki added. “Correct me if my language knowledge is failing me, but it could only mean one thing: in the future from which she came, you were gone for a while.”

Shantae gasped throwing her hands to her mouth. Her eyes grew wide as saucers.

“What?” Nabiki stared back at the people staring at her. “By pure chance I found... cover right under the last bridge arch, so I heard everything.”

“The sky...” Shantae whispered, her pupils shrinking into dots. “The sky is on fire!” She hugged herself with both hands. “Spiky lianes are clutching at my body like claws. I can't get free!” She bent over, swaying from side to side and hyperventilating. “The burning sky is falling! There is no escape...!”

“Shantae-chan!” Akane shouted in alarm grabbing the other girl's shoulder. “Are you all right!” She glared at Nabiki over her shoulder. “What did you do to her, Big Sis!”

“We are with you, Shantae!” Sky squeezed her other shoulder. “We won't abandon you! We stand for each other and together we will win!”

“Yeah,” the spiky ball guy agreed. “I may not be that smart and I don't get what's going on, but I will fight side to side with you!”

Shantae nodded silently trying to get a grip on herself and take her breathing under control. “It was... Thank you, my friends! It was... A memory, I think. So crisp, like it was really happening. And so frightening...”

“It was what you see in your nightmares,” Nabiki said, her eyes narrowed. “Something you don't want to remember so badly that you have a hole in your memory several months wide. It seems I jostled the root of your amnesia.”

Shantae gasped straightening: “Why, this should be it! If Risky came from a future where I had died so horribly I can't even remember it and she then grew missing me so much that she went and returned to the past... Phew, it's so good to have things in order, at last!” She laughed with visible relief. “Only two mysteries remain: how I ended up in Nerima if I died, and how Risky managed to go back in time. And from how far away? Bet it was just one year and she was training her sword skills for that entire year like crazy?”

“And you are talking about such things that easily.” Akane was still worrying on the edge of distraught.

“Well, it's simple enough: I just have to not die, right?” Shantae replied airily, her mood brightening again. “Let alone horribly... Besides, I know everything about Risky Boots' plan to corrupt the Genie realm and she knows that I know, so this time around everything would be totally different! All my future knowledge is now only good for finding hidden treasure and predicting what Ammo Baron would do. However, after Ranma and Ryouga visit his Battle Tower... How would he change his plans?”

“So you really returned from the future,” the old man said quietly as he glanced around. “You were mentioning the...” His voice trembled. “Pirate Master?”

“Oh don't worry, Uncle Mimic!” Shantae reassured him. “It should take him a whole more month to awaken!”

The old man fainted this time so good it took two people to keep him upright.

“Pirate Master?!” Sky gulped. “The real one?”

“Don't worry!” Shantae reassured her. “Me and Risky will find a way to prevent his awakening! You saw how tricky she is, right? If he awakens, she would be caught again, relieved of all her toys and tortured by him for treason. She doesn't want that, just like I don't want to dodge cannonballs the size of a two-story house!”

The old man slumped, well and truly unconscious. His head being mostly bald, the hair of his beard was standing on its ends instead.

“That's why,” Shantae continued in a no-nonsense voice, “we have to collect the three magic seals and restore the lamp as soon as possible! Ranma, Ryouga, you are the strongest. Ask Uncle what a seal looks like and how to find the Battle Tower. Besides, you are boys, you can pretend to join the army. Me, I wouldn't have risked that, they made so many sleazy comments the last time around! Or, just break a hole in the tower, or sneak in quietly. The seal is nailed to the wall in that room where the reward for passing appears! While I... I would be going to shake Squid Baron. I need to... meet Rotty and... Oh no! She will eat him!” Gasping, the girl ran away in a hurry, crossing the bridge. “Whoever goes with me, don't fall behind!”

“Where are we going?” Nabiki inquired running after her.

“Are we going to save someone?” Akane joined as well.

“Yes, we have!” Shantae called back over her shoulder, nervous by some reason. “Wobble Bell! This time...” She fell silent missing a step. “This time I won't let him perish!”

These three were going away, rapidly squeezing through the crowd that had gathered on the bridge.

“Wait, I'm with—” Sky began. “Aw, the egg! She did leave it in the bathhouse, I think?”

“I'm with you, Shantae!” the spiky ball guy shouted — what was his name, again? — as he rushed after them.

“I am honestly undecided what group to join,” Shampoo admitted. “I'd like to go with you, oh husband of mine, but you are quite observant yourself. And if you are going to infiltrate a pure male army I would only get in your way. These four, on the other hand... They'll deal with anything in their way, I believe, but I'd be able to learn many interesting things. Many of which our generous host must have forgotten to mention.”

“Yeah, she's like that.” Ranma sighed. “Go with them, a true martial artist witnessing their side would be useful.”

“You know how to make a girl feel special.” The amazon grinned from ear to ear. She then jumped up onto the railing to run after the Shantae's group, totally unconcerned of being barely dressed in a towel and ragged short shorts. She flipped the scimitars in her hands to rest on her shoulders to avoid hitting the crowd.

“Oh Ran-cha, that tongue of yours...” Ukyou sighed in frustration. “I'm so sorry I failed you, got hurt. Now until my leg heals—”

“Could someone tell me what is going on?” a tubby, middle-aged shorty demanded as he scuttled in like a bouncy ball from the wharf. “Where are the pirates? Is the invasion over?”

Dressed in white baggy pants with a red sash, an open vest and a big turban he looked quite lively. Seeing him, the guards stood at something vaguely resembling attention.

“The big boss?” Ranma inquired in a whisper.

“Mayor Scuttlebutt,” the old man groaned trying in vain to stand by himself. “We have to... Oh, even thinking of this monster—” He fell unconscious again.

“He meant the Pirate Master,” Ranma added apologetically.

“The pirates were driven away indeed,” one of the town guards began. “And have even declared truce, thanks to the valor of our Guardian Genie.”

“But the battle was merciless,” another one added. “The devious sea robbers, paying no regard to fruits of man's labor nor property right, laid waste to a whole barrel of first grade dried fruits from—”

“Two barrels,” someone whispered from the back ranks.

“Two barrels of dried fruits from the town funds,” the reporting one corrected himself in a tragic voice.

The mayor sighed mumbling something about eating the stress over with chocolate.

[center]* * *[/center]

A.N.: This chapter would've been ready the last weekend (February 11th, 2018) if not me getting carried away with Terraria. I have flooded half the world with magma I pumped from of the deepest reaches of hell! Mwa-ha-ha-ha! Take that, Crimson!

The next chapter: save Wobble Bell!

Update: as of March 16, 2018 I am on another side trip, so Akane, Shampoo and Nabiki would have wait a bit longer before their brains would be messed with by Rotty!

As that new crossover has no Ranma in it I don't think it is appropriate for this forum.
But it is already up on the FFnet, with M/NC17 rating. Because DooM is guro by its very nature. Also, Doomguy couldn't help dropping cluster-F bombs at times.

Update 2: as of February 26, 2019 DDR is still stuck, but not for long. My "three-chapter burst, then translate them to English" plan stalled at the beginning of Chapter 12 as I spent 150% of my energy on beta-testing Sergeant Mark IV's Extermination Day megawad.

Also, I got sidetracked writing a sequel for this fic. Imagine that. There are currently 3 chapters in Russian, shelved for when I complete DDR.

So there is Chapter 11, but only in Russian yet (link : )
I am currently finishing Ch.8 of "Too nice for such brutality", after which I will return to DDR.

The most up-to-date info on my projects status is at my page on FFnet:

Update 3: as of April 20, 2019, "brutality" is paused, I'm writing Ch. 12 while listening to Sam Dillard's "Burning Labyrinths" remix of Shantae themes.

The sequel will be named "Dancing through the Route to Greatness" and will be a x-over with a different anime series, no Ranma included.
I am sorry to say this, but in my writing schedule it will replace "Annuled Destiny-II: Wild Wasteland", which could be considered dead for all intents and purposes.

Update 4: as of May 05, 2019, Ch. 12 is done and Ch. 13 is at 80%.
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Re: Dance, Dance, Rumble (R.5 / Shantae crossover) [+ Ch.10

Postby Cheb » Sun May 12, 2019 8:16 am

This story is a work of fanfiction. As such, it owes a great debt to the creators of the characters used herein: Rumiko Takahashi, Matt Bozon, Erin Bell Bozon and the creative teams of Kity Films and WayForward.

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Chapter 11
Save Wobble Bell!

Five young people ran through the plaza surrounding the pond. Shantae leading, dressed in red silk completely covering her body. Her purple bangs, lacking the familiar support of a tiara, were sticking to her forehead and getting in her eyes. Following her was Akane in a greenish gi and wooden sandals, her head tied with a terry bandanna. The still nameless friend of Shantae was next, dressed in a practical outfit of knee-long shorts, sleeveless vest, shoes and leather gloves, his head also tied with a bandanna. After him there was Nabiki, breathing stubbornly through her nose, their tempo being too high for her tastes and her outfit being too stifling: a long sleeved shirt, the dense trousers with a whip on her belt, the heavy shoes, the hat — it was all unfamiliar to her, so unlike her usual running outfit. In the rear was a barefoot amazon dressed in ragged micro-shorts and a towel, two scimitars in her hands.

Passing the town gate, Shantae turned left along the road. Well, calling it a road was a bit too generous. There was a strip of packed earth with grooves from wagon wheels and numerous horseshoe tracks.

There were grain fields at first, then corn. The tall, leafy plants obscured nearby forest on the left turning the road into a green corridor.

“Watch out for scarecrows,” the half-Genie warned conversationally without interrupting her steady jog. “They sometimes jump right out of the corn.”

“Scarecrows?” Nabiki asked, intrigued. “You mean, straw ones?”

“Naw, the only straw in them are their hats,” Shantae said. “They are... To think of it, they resemble tinkerbats quite a bit. A similar black, nasty spawn of dark magic.”

“Scarecrows working on dark magic?” Shampoo voiced her skepticism. “I assume there is someone, let's say, not very smart in the local agricultural community.”

“Don't I know it!” Shantae agreed. “It's not clear whose idea it was, to invite a dark sorcerer deal with crows. The mayor swears on his mom it wasn't him. But I was first hired for exactly this: clear the fields from the scarecrows, after they ran out of crows to scare away. Two years ago... I mean, the last year again, it was a horrible mess, the scarecrows swarming the fields, no crow or a town guard dared getting near. You won't believe it, the area grew so deserted dirt dogs made themselves at home...! I had to clean them too.”

The road was smoothly turning to the right, limiting visibility. When it looked like they'd run into the open, Shantae took a sharp turn left, onto a narrow path cutting through the corn. Akane and Nabiki tensed, apprehensive of sudden trouble.

“We are not following the road?” Shampoo probed.

“We are going into the forest!” Shantae confirmed. “The dungeon is in the forest, Wobble Bell is in the forest and the girl who will open a restaurant, I keep forgetting her name, is in the forest too.”

“Where does the road go, then?” Nabiki asked out of curiosity when they were crossing a deep ravine across a flimsy wooden bridge.

“To the Water Town, with branches to the Sultana's palace and to the north. But boy does it meander! Going around one thing or other. I can't help taking shortcuts, ever!”

Shampoo harrumphed in understanding.

After the bridge was a waste lot overgrown with lilac bushes, white Greek-style columns sticking above them here and there.

“Here, the lilac field,” Shantae commented without slowing down. “Watch out for pits, the ground here is full of holes and cracks. And the scarecrows are most often found in the ruins.”

“The ruins?” Nabiki asked.

And then they were through the next bushes, ruins opening up ahead. There were broken white walls sticking out of the ground, columns broken and whole, remains of beams connecting these columns.

There were pits under those walls as Akane found out by stepping in one, jumping away with a barely suppressed shriek.

“Hmm...” Nabiki stopped to peer into the darkness. “Are there dungeons?”

“Scoured clean a long time ago,” Shantae said dismissively, stopping as well. “And terribly inconvenient to navigate. It's either low ceilings or vertical shafts. No monsters live down there, so there is never anything useful. Even the scarecrows don't go there... Speaking of which, there they are!”

A humanoid thing was loitering on a broken beam not far away, dressed in a green jacket and a straw hat. It had a black head and claws with a slight purple shine, but unlike tinkerbats it had a jagged maw.

“I suppose they attack with their claws?” Shampoo noted.

“They do, but... Not all of them!” the half-Genie warned hastily. “Some spew dark magic, you'd see it in advance, they take a big breath. But the most dangerous are those that sit stuck on some column. These throw a pumpkin.”

“A pumpkin?” Akane asked, bewildered.

“An incendiary pumpkin,” Shantae clarified. “A big one. It doesn't fly far but flashes like it's full of flammable oils. Slaying them is mightily inconvenient. As soon as the fire disperses they are already raising their next pumpkin.

“Do they have more than one?” Akane frowned.

“It's magic! They can keep throwing these pumpkins without end.”

“Do you want to deal with that straw dummy yourself,” Shampoo inquired bumping the scimitars against her shoulders they were resting on, “or should I exercise?”

“Yes! I mean, no!” Shantae scuttled. “Wobble Bell! Let's go until it's too late! We can clean the scarecrows on our return way!” She dashed deeper into the ruins, jumping over a three-meter wall absent-mindedly. The guy in a bandanna — whose name they haven't asked yet — followed her by grabbing at the wall with his spiky ball in the grappling hook mode.

“Big Sis?” Akane called out with worry as she glanced around searching for Nabiki, who had been there just a moment ago.

“The avaricious adventurer walked behind that corner,” Shampoo dropped a hint with ill concealed smugness. “All the while muttering under her breath.”

Akane rushed there. Just in time: Nabiki was really muttering something, counting with her fingers and rubbing the bridge of her nose, unaware of her surroundings. A creepy scarecrow on a column behind her was already raising a huge pumpkin.

“Watch out!” Akane shouted desperately as she rushed her sister. Grabbing the distracted girl by her hand when the pumpkin was already flying she jerked them both away in an inelegant tumble.

As the pumpkin smashed into the ground it flashed like it was a gas tank, no less. Flame billowed, it felt like, to the very sky, almost engulfing the rolling girls.

“Big Sis—” Akane began.

“Another one!” Nabiki exclaimed jumping onto her feet with impressive dexterity to dash away.

Akane had to dodge the second pumpkin by a crooked tumble from a prone position. Because this one was thrown farther. The youngest Tendou barely arrested her tumble from continuing into a nearby pit.

“That's some pumpkin!” Akane squeezed out as she stood up hastily. Her treacherous voice trembled. She cast a suspicious glance at the scarecrow but it was just standing on its column, hugging the next pumpkin. There were green lights glowing in the slits of its eyes. “A wall of fire up to the sky!”

“Not exactly,” the middle sister corrected coolly, only the paleness of her face betraying the fright she experienced. “It was just five or six meters tall.”

“For us, that would have been enough,” Akane said, shuddering. “We almost died because of some little...” As usual for her, she was growing angry by the second. “Just you wait, I'll show you to throw pumpkins!” Snorting like an enraged bull, she began tearing a rock from the earth.

“It's not little,” Nabiki corrected. “Unlike the tinkerbats, it is— was as tall as we are.”

The head-sized boulder launched by Akane's unerring hand dispersed the scarecrow instantly. It unraveled in wisps of black smoke.

“Everyone's all right?” Shantae rushed in, worried.

“We are, thanks to Little Sis,” Nabiki replied irritably. “These new skills are just a bag of surprises, aren't they? Did you know I'm a pro archaeologist now...? Well, I didn't known either. Until my head exploded with knowledge from one look at these ruins. You're just standing there minding your own business and then bam! you suddenly realize this isn't a pile of stones but a temple complex abandoned about a thousand years ago, mixing Ionian style with elements of Minoan floor-plan, which shouldn't even be possible, disturbed by a major earthquake about twenty years ago, which led to formation of all these cave-ins...”

“Uhhh...” Shantae drawled, lost.

“It gives me headache too,” Nabiki agreed with her. “Let's go, the farther from here the better.”

Behind the lilac field, the forest began. Cool twilight reigned under the tall trees, especially nice after the sun-scorched fields. The forest resembled a park at first, scoured of everything suitable for fire-wood. Then bushes and fallen trees began appearing.

(the forest theme from the game's composer at Bandcamp: )

Shantae was running forward eagerly, going deeper into the woods. The bottom branches were growing lower, hanging just overhead, turning the forest into semblance of a green cavern.

From one such branch, a huge spider dropped on a web thread. The cat-sized thing was staring with its only cyclopean eye.

Nabiki was about to comment that normal spiders don't have eyeballs when Shantae dropped low, warning hastily: “Watch out, they—”

The spider spat a big, yellowish-transparent droplet. Nabiki only dodged by miracle, landing on her posterior ungraciously.

“..spit poison,” Shantae finished as she offed the monster in one hair strike. “Everyone's all right?”

“Are such critters common here?” Nabiki asked standing up and dusting her pants.

“They are,” the half-Genie replied absent-mindedly as she continued on. “There are places swarming with them.”

“Such a huge spider,” Akane noted.

“Huge?” Shantae was surprised. “These one-eyed spiders are one of the smallest ones.”

“I'm afraid to ask,” Nabiki huffed catching up to them, “how big are the big ones, then.”

“Well, they are about the size of a house,” Shantae replied honestly, completely missing the subtext. “But to encounter such ones, you have to muck around in the dead of the woods, far away from the roads, or on uninhabited islands... Just don't get caught in the web. Spiders don't like fighting, they only jump those smaller than them or those stuck in their web. So, a human-sized spider would run away from you if you don't go tearing its web.”

“Fairy tales could be scary, with a bad end, huh?” Akane muttered under her breath.

The deeper into the forest, the more broken the terrain was becoming. Sometimes they had to run along the edge of some deep ravine or other, a vista of crooked trees on the other side opening over the sheer drop, their trunks curving away from the slope and up.

At times, Shantae was jumping onto low-hanging branches to run along them, meandering over the yawning pits below. Akane was straiing but managing to jump alongside her. Nabiki had to use her whip, climbing it then struggling to catch up to the others. Then the half-Genie was jumping down to the ground again.

“An orc!” Shantae warned as a... beefy green oni appeared from the undergrowth. Wider than he was tall, this horned person was dressed in black leather crisscrossed with belts and a horned samurai helmet... Or, to be precise, a horned cap. It was his tusk-adorned face that resembled the scary masks of the samurai helmets.

Growling something unintelligible, the orc began stomping towards the humans intruding on his corner of the woods.

“Watch closely,” Shantae warned as she jumped to the monster, hair-whipped him once then slid back.

Grunting deeply, the orc... unfurled tiny bat-like wings and soared, flapping furiously like a caricaturic cherub.

“Aren't your wings a few sizes too small?” Nabiki quipped, breathing hard. The monster had a really comical look about him.

Fluttering about five meters up, the orc aimed at Shantae ponderously — she stepped aside lazily, without even using the sliding — and plummeted, making a dull thud.

“That's all they can do,” the dancer explained before hair-whipping rapidly three times. The orc was trying to soar again but burst into some carved sticks, rocks, pieces of paper and other trash.

“Garbage, quartz, garbage.” Shantae said shuffling the remains with her foot. “Let's go!” She continued running.

One kilometer of such ticket and three surprise spiders later — Nabiki was running with her whip in hand now, having learned the lesson — the girls were attacked by a bat snapping its impressive fangs with agression. Shantae kept missing the small, agile thing because it moved up and down. The weakness of the half-Genie's style became glaringly obvious: she compensated her inability to aim higher by jumping and whipping mid-jump, but that was giving her opponent enough of a delay to react.

The bat got cleaved by Shampoo, to Shantae's displeasure: it was apparent she preferred bloodless methods of conflict resolution.

The orc who then stumbled out of the bushes was smacked by the spiky ball guy. After the third hit, the monster tumbled back into the bushes but did not burst.

“This is a real one, not a shikigami,” Shantae commented.

Akane peered into the bushes with feet sticking out of them. The orc opened one eye a crack. Re-evaluated the scale of the beatdown party. Squeezed his eye shut, playing possum even harder.

“Excellent technique.” Nabiki tried to start a conversation. “By the way, we haven't introduced ourselves, haven't we?”

It was no use: losing a specific goal, the guy stood slobbering at the scantily clad Shampoo, unaware of anything else.

“Meet Bolo,” Shantae introduced him. “My old friend, sparring partner and an apprentice tinker. With propensity for epic mishaps. Hey, Bolo!” She grabbed the guy by his ear, twisting it. “Loses it every time he sees a beautiful woman. Wake up already! Go, go, move!”

“Uhhh,” Akane could only say as she rushed after her.

Bolo dreamily mumbled something about an “amazon in tiger furs”. Shampoo smirked.

Trees and bushes were flying by, dropping spiders were being swept aside offhandedly, Nabiki was huffing and sweating but wasn't about to give up.

“Here's the dungeon where Squid Baron is the boss,” Shantae pointed on the run. To the left of them, there was a small trapezoid tower made of huge boulders and covered in lianes. The entrance was barred by an iron grate. Above it, an eye-shaped stone ornament was making the tower look like a frowning cyclopean head. “We need to go there, but we can't get in yet.” She ran by without stopping.

They traveled for one more kilometer. The forest was growing wilder and denser, the rocky terrain becoming even more broken.

“Aha, here she is!” Shantae exclaimed turning right to go into the darkest thicket where daylight could barely reach. The cool air smelt of soggy wood and mushrooms. Amidst this ominous twilight stood an ominous carriage resemblind a small house with windows on its sides and the back door resembling a coffin cover, with a folding ladder leading up to it. Above the door, there was an ornament depicting a skull, the bony hands grabbing at the roof edge.

But that wasn't why the carriage was ominous. It was the horse skeleton harnessed to it. The skeleton of burden was standing utterly still but there were tiny red lights glowing in its eye-sockets.

“Whoa,” Akane exclaimed nervously.

“It ssems your friend likes to... overdo it with thematic,” Nabiki noted.

“Hey, Rotty!” Shantae began knocking on the door. “Open up, I'm here for you!”

“Oh! You finally had a change of mind?” a slightly hoarse woman's voice called back. The coffin lid flung open with a creak revealing a voluptuous green-skinned girl in short shorts and a brief sleeveless t-shirt baring her abdomen. Her short dark green hair was tied with a yellow ribbon, there were massive sturdy shoes on her feet, some sort of metallic accessories on her her left shoulder and right thigh.

(Rotty's theme from the game's composer at Bandcamp: )

“Finally decided to share your brain with me?” The said Rotty licked her lips as she jumped down to stalk Shantae.

“Wait!” the girl in red interrupted her, her voice suddenly tense. “First thing first, that barking, how did you call him, sample of the local cuisine, is he still whole? Not nibbled on?”

“How do you know?” Rotty frowned in puzzlement. “Yeah, here it is, our emergency ration.” Leaning into the cart over the threshold she pulled out a resisting, brown puppy with a white muzzle, dragging it by its leash.

“Oh Wobble Bell!” Shantae grabbed the puppy hugging it to her chest so tightly it squeaked in protest. “You're alive...! I'm so glad...!” Her eyes swelled with tears surprising everyone who knew her: crying was so unlike her. “I'm so sorry...! But don't worry, this time I won't let you perish!”

“Hey,” the green girl grumbled in mock offense. “That's our food you are holding there.”

Shantae wasn't responding, hugging the pup. Her eyes were shining with tears of happiness and relief.

“Well, folks,” Rotty addressed everyone present. “Does anyone have any idea what was that about?”

“I dunno.” Bolo scratched his head. “We had an epic battle protecting the town from Risky Boots. As soon as Shantae sent her packing, she just shouted we have to save Wobble Bell and started running... I went after her. But who...? Where...? No idea.”

“Then, Wobble Bell is this puppy,” Nabiki concluded. “But what is so important about it that she cares for it more than for shaking that seal out of Squid Baron?”

“So this snack has a name?” Rotty tilted her head to a side. “Hey, Shantae!”

Seeing her friend still preoccupied with happy thoughts, Akane stepped forward to explan in her stead: “Well, Shantae, she... Had returned from the future, so she knows what could happen for a year in advance.”

“From the future?” Rotty said, stunned. “You mean she is a real time traveler? I've never heard of anything like that...! If you disregard third-rate comic books, of course.”

“It's all because of over-fulfilled wishes,” Nabiki explained. “Teacher haven't mastered her Genie powers yet, so side effects could be...” She straightened her hat with one finger. “..spectacular.”

“Right!” the half-Genie exclaimed coming to her senses and putting the pup on the ground. “Whatever you say, Rotty, I know you are a true friend. Everything you've done for me... I mean, you haven't, not yet, but you would... Wow, this time travel stuff is so confusing!”

“So you will let me eat your brain, will you?” the green one flung her hands showing sincere-looking joy as she advanced on the girl in red to stand skin to skin.

“Well...” Shantae tried backing away but found her legs hog-tied with the leash. “I kind of still need my brain for myself...”

Rotty expressed dramatic disappointment.

“But you can eat this.” Shantae threw something small at her.

Rotty caught the item and began studying it. To Akane's growing worry it really was a cut off pinkie.

Both the Tendou sisters and Shampoo found themselves more and more lost without knowing the subtext!

“Risky was in rare form today,” Shantae explained.

“Hm-mm?” To Akane's horror the green girl gobbled the pinkie up like a cookie.

“Well, I though,” Shantae explained averting her eyes sheepishly, “I had a new one healed, and you were visiting anyway, so...”

“Oh, you're so sweet!” Rotty gushed hugging Shantae, which made the dancer girl squirm uncomfortably. Wobble Bell began backing away nervously, tightening the leash. “Only a true friend could be like this...!” Nuzzling Shantae's neck, the green girl nibbled lightly on her earlobe: “Can I have another bite...? Just a teeensy one?”

“Uhh, let's leave that for another time, all right?” Shantae replied nervously, wriggling involuntarily in her hands. “First, it would've been painful, second, I'm running out of healing potions fast and it would only get worse. I have a whole crowd of guests living with me!”

“Well, so be it.” Rotty relented releasing her with reluctance.

“Meet Akane,” Shantae hopped in place to turn around with her legs still hog-tied, “my friend from another world, from the Nerima Land. Her family owns a school where they teach hand-to-hand combat. She helped me improve my fighting skills greatly...! Nabiki, Akane's sister whose wish was to turn into a legendary relic hunter. Don't mind her calling me 'teacher', I was teaching her dancing... Xianpu, umm, Akane's rival for her fiance. Fought pretty good against Risky Boots... Rottytops, my old friend, from back during my first big adventure. An insufferable pest, a true friend and anyone who tries hurting her learns the true horror of the words 'big brother'. Doubly so: Abner and Poe — we'll meet them — are cool big brothers caring about their little sister.”

“They are like that,” Rotty agreed. “Akane, right?” She stepped towards the said girl.

“Rotteeee!” Santae drawled warningly trying to untie herself.

“Tendou Akane,” the dogi-clad girl confirmed. “Um, glad do meet you?”

“Likewise!” the green one grinned widely, walking up to the reluctantly backing Akane and hugging her lightly. “I'm very glad...”

Everything froze, for about three seconds.

Then Akane jumped back with ultrasonic shriek like she was stung.

“Rotty.” Shantae sighed tiredly as she urged Wobble Bell to run around her unwrapping her legs. “You can't keep doing that...”

“C-c-cold!” Akane stuttered nervously, her hair standing on ends.

“But who,” Rotty grinned, “forgot to mention one itty-bitty detail while introducing me?”

Shantae groaned facepalming. Wobble Bell yapped dashing around her like a rocket, instantly hog-tying her again.

“It's your own fault,” the green lover of surprising others finished triumphantly. “Not warning them that I'm a zombie.”

“A zombie?” Akane repeated, taken aback.

“Oh, I see,” Nabiki and Shampoo chorused.

Bolo mumbled something sheepishly under his breath.

“Yeah, Rotty is a zombie,” Shantae confirmed. “An endo...thematic one, at that. Well, with a constant body temperature not depending on the environment.”

The otherwolders noticed, at last, that the metallic ornaments on Rotty's shoulder and thigh were, in fact, braces stitching the respective extremities together over hair-thin cut lines

“So, how is it, knowing the future?” the zombie girl inquired. “Would something interesting happen during this year? You did visit me today that time too, didn't you?”

“Well, you would be telling me now about the Sequin Land barons. I can't believe how careless I was, never curious about the place I live in. Then I'd bother you with questions about Risky Boots' whereabouts. You'd summon that little spider of yours and learn from the world-wide web that the bodacious buccaneer was just spotted in Scuttle Town but it would have been old news as I was just from there... But none of that is necessary now: me and her are kind of on the same side, saving the world. We have to collect the three magic seals! Risky is bullying Hypno Baron right now — why don't I feel sorry for him, at all...? Ranma and Ryouga went after Ammo Baron and we five are going after Squid Baron. Right after we return Wobble Bell to his owner.”

“Wait, wait,” Rotty halted her. “If you are from the future shouldn't that mean you have new tricks and know the queen of seven seas like the back of your hand? How comes she sliced you so? And why the closed shirt with long sleeves? Aren't you hot in it?”

“Risky had returned from the future too,” Shantae explained. “And she was... missing me so much she threw herself into battle against me, got carried away and ended cutting little pieces off here and there... This shirt,” she tugged att he collar of her red silk shirt, “is borrowed from Ranma. You're right, it's awfully hot and stuffy. But my top got halved, my tiara shattered and we didn't have time to search for replacements.”

“Hmm, I thought she prefers clever plans, sabre-rattling isn't her style,” Rotty said. “What did happen between you two?”

“I'm not sure myself,” Shantae admitted. “But it seems that in her future I had died so she grew bored without fighting me... Also, be careful around her! She is much more dangerous now! It feels like she was really training for twenty years.”

“But you and her fought as equals, right?” Bolo asked, worried.

“No.” Shantae shook her head. “I was like a mouse dueling a sated cat. I still feel my back crawling with icy creeps! I was completely at her mercy!”

“Hmmm.” Rotty's eyes narrowed. “So you say Risky as she is today is totally unlike like she was yesterday because of twenty years having passed for her?”

“Yeah.” Shantae nodded. “Tell Abner and Poe to be very, very careful when dealing with her. We have a truce against a common enemy now, but who knows how much did she change in so many years. I can't forget her eyes smoldering with something I couldn't put a finger on. Such intensity! It felt like her gaze was burning through me!”

“Could it be?” Rotty stared at her intently.

“What...?” The half-Genie twitched nervously under her stare.

“That Risky was so fired up because she got hots for you!” the green one exclaimed dramatically, raising her clasped hands to her cheek.

“Wh— Wuh—” Shantae barely held her balance to stay upright. “Rottyeee!” She leaned down, dragged the puppy close by the scruff of its neck and began shaking the weakened leash coils from her legs. “What nonsense are you speaking! We are both girls!”

“Hmph! Do you really think that would stop her?”

“Of cou—” The half-Genie froze mid-sentence, her face alit with dawning horror. “No way! No way! This couldn't be true!” Grabbing the puppy under her arm she dashed away with such fervor that Nabiki had to go flat out not to fall behind.

“Where are we going?” Shampoo inquired. “Not just away from an... uncomfortable realization?”

“Deeper into the forest!” Shantae replied briefly as she ducked into undergrowth that opened onto a narrow log over a deep ravine. “We have to return Wobble Bell to his owner and finally get to Squid Baron. I owe him a beating for the last time...”

It was no place for talking from that point on: a real thicket began. Towering trees were rising from the mess of rocky ravines, sheer cliffs and deadfall so thick that ground wasn't visible in the dark gaps between piled trunks. It felt this treacherous trap smelling of root and fungus was five or so meters deep. One misstep and you'd disappear.

Akane was tense, nervous, doing her best not to fall behind. Nabiki was trying not to show it but she was stumbling at times, catching herself with her whip against low-hanging branches.

While Shantae with the puppy under her arm was dashing through all those obstacles weightlessly barely touching the ground.

(Rottytops by OmegaSunburst at DeviantArt: ... -386186683 )

(Hugs by OmegaSunburst at DeviantArt: ... -432549417 )

(Rotty and Wobbles by AWMikeHarvey at DeviantArt: ... -387216005 )

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“Won't do,” Ranma said flatly. He and Ryouga were standing a midst a rocky desert looking at a tall tower of sandstone blocks covered in sharp poles like a porcupine. “We won't be commandeering the town for that one-eyed clown!”

“So how are you planning to get inside!” Ryouga snapped. “They won't let us in without a passport, beating tar out of the guard didn't help, the grate is enchanted against 'breaking point'!” He grit his teeth, his fists tightening: in this wrong, wrong world whatever important stuff you put your finger on, his ultimate technique simply wasn't working. He was still feeling outraged at the unfairness of this.

“Elementarly, my dear lost friend.” Ranma smirked making the said guy boil with anger. “We are going to use another way!” He pointed at the top of the Battle Tower.

Ryouga frowned angrily... Then his face bloomed with a blood-curdling smile. The lost boy crackled his knuckles eagerly.

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“What's with... this prop,” Nabiki huffed when they were running by a huge boulder of a soft lavender color.

“This...?” Shantae glanced back, saw the other girl going on sheer stubbornness and stopped to let the middle Tendou catch her breath. “It's how hidden stashes are disguised. Now... hmm... Magic Jam should be the most common find. Don't eat it! You can exchange it for various magic items and powerful spell books that aren't sold for money alone. I'll return here after my powers recover, comb the forest again, break these things with my Elephant Stomp, then collect Heart Squids from the trees.”

“Magic jam?” Akane asked.

“Remember the rotund woman in the town?” Shantae turned towards her. “Oh, you haven't meet her yet. Well, her batch of magic jam was recently stolen by monsters.”

“Why a rock of such unlikely color?” Shampoo poked it with her scimitar. It turned to be really stone. “If not for this, it would have looked quite natural.”

“Different color perception,” Shantae explained. “Some creatures see colors differently from humans, I know that from experience. For the mermaid and the harpy, for example, a common blue sky is awash with colors that don't even have names in the human tongue. The bat and the monkey simply see colors differently even if that isn't immediately apparent. But for the elephant, green and red are the same color. Well... it keeps shifting. Let's take a campfire in a forest. You look at trees, they are green but the fire is green too. You look at the fire, it's red but then trees are red too. Something like that.”

They continued traveling at a more sedate pace. The forest was growing denser, ravines happening more often. When it was beginning to feel like they were stumbling into the 'here be dragons' dead of the forest inhabited by the house-sized spiders Shantae had mentioned, the trees parted opening up onto a clearing with a small, tidy house in the middle of it.

Barging in after Shantae, her followers saw a wistful girl with long blond hair in a pink dress with an apron and a tall chief's hat. She was even smaller than Shantae, either so young or she was just born that way. Try tell.

Shantae handed her the puppy. The girl was taken aback at first, then beamed shouting “Wobble Bell!” and twirling around hugging it. She then put it on the floor. “Thank you, kind stranger! You haven't just returned my friend, you have returned my dream! Let me thank you by cooking you a Tasty Meal!”

Then she raised frenzied culinary activity stoking the oven, heating the woks, cutting, mixing and sifting.

“All right, let's go outside, we are in the way.” Shantae shooed everyone out. The house was really tiny.

While the inspired chief girl was doing her magic, the half-Genie busied herself with the puppy. It was running around her yapping happily while Shantae was throwing it a stick or scratching behind its ears, happy but looking like she couldn't believe this was really happening.

“There's some dark story connecting Teacher with this doggy,” Nabiki said watching them.

“Her wording 'this time I won't let you perish' leaves no room for guessing,” Shampoo agreed. “But what killed the puppy in that variant of the future?”

“Maybe Rotty devoured him?” Bolo suggested reluctantly, scratching his head.

Akane shivered. She still felt her skin crawling as she remembered the touchy-feely zombie girl.

“So Shantae held herself guilty for not stopping her?” Shampoo elaborated.

“Maybe we are better off not knowing,” Nabiki replied.

“Exactly,” Akane said flatly as she glanced at the laughing Shantae. “Enough about that, this time he won't get killed!”

“Doing a good deed is nice and all,” Shampoo began. “But aren't we dawdling too much with the world saving business? For how long would she be cooking that gift of gratitude? Maybe visit her later?”

Like running through monster-infested wild woods was just a walk in the park, Akane thought, pouting inside and trying to count how many orcs and spiders they beat on their way there. She lost count.

“Remember the dungeon entrance?” the half-Genie replied turning to face the amazon but remaining crouched. “That... concerned parent would only let us in if we let him smell something delicious... To think of it, I got into so many dungeons by letting them smell the right thing... It's a trend!” She returned to playing with Wobble Bell.

“I'll go search for Bolo,” Nabiki said looking around but failing to locate the said guy. “He has something of Ryouga-kun in him, he may get lost.”

“Was it worth going so far just to have something to smell?” Shampoo harrumphed sticking her scimitars into a nearby tree and rolling her shoulders. “We could have roped the okonomiyaki girl into this, she'd do it much faster. She is the best of us at such things.”

“You admit she is better than you, just like that?” Akane couldn't help it despite a nagging feeling she'd get beaten in a battle of words. Badly.

“A warrior had to know her strong and weak points and those of her opponent,” Shampoo said condescendingly. “I can cook perfectly fine when I have our amazon eatery, supplies and the chore boy Mu Tsu at hand. But Ukyou can bake her cabbage pies in the wild, on the grill she is always draging with her using the hidden weapons technique. Just don't tell me you haven't noticed. If she has cabbage, she can cook. But her very art will be her downfall! So obsessed with it she won't even realize she should give Ranma what he wants!”

“And, you, of course, could give him that,” Akane quipped, again unable to help herself.

“Of course I could!” Shampoo snorted flicking imaginary dust off her short shorts, bending dramatically to do that. “A hot wife, a village rich in traditions and techniques, treacherous neighboring tribes with their own techniques... But what would you offer him? Daddy's dojo?”

Akane's riposte came out pathetic: “At least, unlike someone else, I am not glomping onto him like... like...”

“Oh, right, you aren't just unable to cook,” Shampoo said patronizingly as she made a point of straightening the towel on her chest. “You are too shy to even show your charms to Ranma! Although... I admit, there is not much to look at.”

Gritting her teeth, Akane withstood that without reacting to the barb.

“A helpless prude, in short,” Shampoo was taking her time finishing her off. “I bet you can't even think of seducing him in his female form, can you?”

“I'm not a pervert!” Akane exploded turning red slowly, beginning with her ears.

“Oh come on!” Shampoo smirked. “We both know him all too well. And you are well aware that Ranma-chan wouldn't be against a little... experimenting.”

Akane was huffing, her fists clenched, being torn by contradicting feelings, growing beet-red.

“You can't rival me even in that,” Shampoo struck the coup-de-grace. “I have experience under my belt: traditions of our tribe encourage relationships between unmarried warrior women. Ukyou has her curiosity and the upbringing of a born fishwife unencumbered by hypocrisy going for her. What have you got, proper city girl?”

“Turns out there is a road close by,” Nabiki interrupted the verbal beatdown, dragging Bolo behind her by the hand. He looked giddy from such contact. “As I suspected, this house isn't in the middle of the forest but on the edge of it.” Glancing at the boy she was dragging, ready to be putty in her hand, she swore under her breath: “Che! Don't tempt me, scam fodder. I'm an archaeologist now.”

After a while the diminutive host finished, handing the half-Genie a huge dish giving off steam and heavenly aroma. Both began thanking each other.

“I...” Akane swallowed looking at the dish with hopeless envy like a legless person at the peak of Chomolungma. “I never thought you can make something like this out of rice and fish...”

“An outstanding pilaf,” Shantae agreed with a smile as she replaced the dish in her ki pocket. “Let's go!”

And again they were running through the ticket of untamed woods, crossing ravines in the shade of tree crowns and towering crags obscuring the sky. There were sudden one-eyed spiders dropping on their thread to spit poison. There were almost no orcs but they met a snake woman instead. This monster displayed ability to make three-meter high jumps which haven't prevented Shantae from downing her in one powerful kick. The snake woman shattered into a pile of bones gnawed clean.

But there it finally was, the familiar stone tower of a dungeon entrance, the huge boulders of its tilted walls entwined by lianes, the stone eye above the entrance grate glaring at the uninvited visitors.

Shantae pulled the Tasty Meal out of her ki-pocket. Heavenly aromas permeated the clearing. Bolo swallowed noisily.

“It feels like a waste, giving this feast up for passage,” Shampoo voiced.

“Who said about giving it?” Shantae grinned nastly. “We'll let him smell it.”

[center]* * *[/center]

(Steam achievement “Play Dead”: kill the puppy ... y_dead.png )

A.N.: It took me a while to restart this fic, mostly due to delving into Brutal Doom and writing "Too nice for such brutality", a NC-17 Shantae / Brutal Doom crossover. And then I got involved in playtesting Brutal Doom betas...

This chapter was finished in Russian at November 17, 2018. It took me almost half a year to get to translating it.

The next chapter: into Squid Baron's dungeon

Don't except epic fights, though: nothing serious happens until Chapter 15.
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