Dance, Dance, Rumble (R.5 / Shantae crossover) [+ Ch.14]

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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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Moon Senshi
Posts: 1482

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.”

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(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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Re: Dance, Dance, Rumble (R.5 / Shantae crossover) [+ Ch.12

Postby Cheb » Fri Aug 23, 2019 2:06 pm ... nce-Rumble

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 12
Electric Dine-and-dasher

Shantae made a couple steps towards the entrance, then stopped.

“Did you remember some important detail?” Shampoo inquired testing the sharpness of her blades.

“No.” The purplette in red shook her head. “There are too many of us, we need a plan. Otherwise we'd spook him. Let's do it like this... You all hide behind the corners, I enter distracting him, you wait for about twenty seconds then rush in all at once to surrender him. Most importantly, don't let him get away! Otherwise we'd have to crawl the entire dungeon.”

“Uhh.” Akane fidgeted. “It's not nice, barging into his home by deceit...”

“First, we need that seal for saving the world,” Shantae reasoned. “Second, you just don't know him like I do.” Her voice gained hints of irritation. “Last time he had devoured it all but when I mentioned the seal he just dashed, not even thanking me. So, we catch him! That's the only way.”

They hid behind the corners. Shantae walked up to the grate, waited a bit. No reaction. She then began knocking, rattling the bars, even kicking the grate in irritation.

Leaves were rustling, insects were chirping, the friends sitting in ambush were slapping at mosquitoes from time to time.

After about ten minutes, there was finally a voice from the tower: “What a heavenly smell! One moment, I'll open the door!”

The grate clanked, rattled and Shantae disappeared inside. Her and the boss could be barely heard talking, but it was unintelligible except Shantae exclaiming with dry irony: “Well, a boy I am not.”

They rushed in, bumping into each other, stumbling over each other.

Inside the tower was dark, cool and damp, one's eyes taking time to adjust. In front of Shantae, there was a familiar two-meter red ball who jumped nervously on his spherical legs when he saw the entire gang.

“Get him!” the dancer shouted excitedly as she replaced the huge dish of pilaf in her ki pocket.

“Brigands! Murder!” the spherical one hollered as he turned sharply around, bouncing on his spherical legs, to begin a panicked acceleration. But Shantae and Shampoo have already flanked him, each propping him with one shoulder. Bolo was spinning his ball on a chain up intent on lassoing him while Nabiki already did, catching one of his “legs” with a precise flick of her whip.

Squid Baron was plowing ahead pushing the purplettes back, their feet skidding across the moist, slippery stone. Akane threw herself forward, landing prone but managing to grab one more round “leg”.

They had him. He had nowhere to go. But it went as well as that Ainu folk saying: “Ichiro, I've caught a bear! — So drag it here! — Can't, it won't let me!”

Shampoo and Shantae tumbled, swept aside. The little ball unraveled in Akane's hands turning to be an actual rolled up tentacle. Startled, she released it. Bolo was too slow. Nabiki got pulled off her feet and dragged forward with increasing speed.

“Stop, you pest!” Shantae shouted jumping onto her feet.

“Nabiki-neechan!” Akane exclaimed trying to catch up with her sister sliding away prone.

“Aw, bugger!” the said girl swore releasing her whip.

Squid Baron rounded a corner bouncing off a wall like a stampeding rubber ball. A grate clanged loudly as it fell.

Shantae groaned in frustration.

“To think of it,” Shampoo said as she picked the dropped scimitars up, “this `baron` has the girth of a small elephant. Weighing a couple tons for sure.”

“Yeah, we had so little time to think it through,” Nabiki quiped walking up to her whip and picking it up: thankfully it got unwrapped without tension.

“Well, on the good side, the pilaf is still with us,” Shantae summed up sheepishly. “Let's go, I'll show you how to crawl dungeons.”

Then she strode down a passage, a different one from where this dungeon's master had disappeared.

The stonework gave way to wild stone of caves, still cool and damp. Water was dripping from the ceiling giving life to leafy plants growing in corners. Here and there yawning chasms were opening, their walls overgrown with shrubbery and lianes lit faintly by daylight filtering from above.

Shantae strode into a corridor with weathered stonework walls, scarce torches burning soundlessly and smokelessly — probably, magic. Turning a couple times she walked into a big flooded hall with floor consisting of a few scaffolds on their side, on the far side and a little in the middle.

The Nerimans took a look around. A couple jade hemispheres adorned with copper spikes was floating above the dark waters. On the central scaffold a dark red crab the size of a bulldog was loitering, its face looking feral with yellow eyes big as saucers and a toothy grin.

“Um, something is wrong here,” Akane complained petulantly.

“You say that after spiders with eyeballs?” Nabiki raised a brow. “An advice for you, Little Sis: take things in stride and stop worrying.”

“It has teeth, so what.” Shampoo shrugged indifferently. “I'm more interested if these crabs have tricky moves. Like dangerous super-techniques of unavoidable pouncing.”

“They only have only super-technique,” Shantae said. “Of mucking around in the most inconvenient places imaginable where it is hardest to get them!” She hair-whipped at a hemisphere floating by. It creaked, flipping and thus turning into a flat platform. The half-Genie jumped onto it. “Well, there are pincers too. You get careless, and gotcha.” Arriving at the central scaffold, she jumped down landing dangerously close to the crab, dropped to all fours and managed to hair-whip the crustacean in the nick of time, its opened pincers already raised to snap at her.

The monster was catapulted away in a single hit, crashed against the wall and sunk.

“Something like that,” Shantae finished. “We need to go to the other side, train using these platforms. It's safe here, further down there'd be bottomless pits or spiky lianes.”

Then, without warning, she jumped into the dark water disappearing under the surface.

“Everything is relative,” Shampoo said poking the approaching hemisphere with a scimitar to make it flip: it had turned spiky side up again. Jumping onto the resulting platform, the amazon rode it.

Akane was growing worried when Shantae finally surfaced: “Ahh, so refreshing! This shirt makes you sweat terribly. Whoever invented sleeves was not a nice person... Now you have a go at it, Akane!”

“Uhh.” The said girl shivered eyeing the deathtrap yawning below. “All right!” Making a brave face, she kicked the copper rim of the hemisphere as it approached. Then she stumbled landing on it, stiff from fear.

“Teacher,” Nabiki said coolly when Shantae climbed onto the scaffold, dripping wet, and whipped at the wall to dry her hair. “Did you forget that Little Sis can't swim?”

“She can't?” The dancer was shocked. “Is that even a thing...? I thought, back on the bridge, she just hit her head and got stunned...?”

“No, Akane is a hammer girl. She sinks instantly, regardless of conditions.”

Shantae cast a worried look at her friend who have just jumped onto the second floating platform barely keeping her balance.

After the flooded hall there was the same labyrinth of overgrown caves and ruined corridors, often collapsed. Shantae was leading with surety, never losing her way. A couple times she had whipped at seemingly impassable collapsed piles making illusory stones disappear revealing narrow crawl spaces. Then, they had to climb down into the bowels of the earth via ruined stairwell, with only holes in the walls remaining of stars, jumping from crumbling landing to crumbling landing. The crabs were really hiding in most inconvenient places. One jumped at Akane from an unnoticeable hole in the wall. Only her training with Shantae, having raised her dodging ability, saved her from a pincer pinch. Then Nabiki had to catch her because she side-stepped into the abyss.

“Akane, careful!” Shantae warned her worryingly. “I still have healing potion left, of course, but breaking legs hurts! I know from experience.”

The youngest Tendou gulped nervously as she eyed the fall. It was still a long way down to the piles of broken masonry on the bottom. Misstep once, and it may not end with just broken legs.

After the stairwell they saw a locked door in the wall, Shantae commenting they had to go there but needed a key. Shampoo cast a measuring look at the solid steel grate rooted firmly in the stone but had to admit that yes, they needed one.

After the door there was a cave where they had to jump between meter-wide flowers of giant gerbera, a mess of terribly spiky lianes yawning below. There was a crab loitering on one of the flowers. How did the bugger get there? To Akane, it looked like an insurmountable obstacle — until Shantae whipped at it, reaching from the edge of the nearest flower when the monster wandered carelessly too close.

After that obstacle course, there was a hall with solid walls, both ends equipped with raised grates.

“I have a bad feeling about this room,” Nabiki noted with cold suspicion as she stopped on the threshold surveying the walls.

“You have a good eye!” Shantae praised her. “This is a trap with monsters. You enter, the grates fall, monsters appear. You can't leave until you beat them... What are you all standing for? Come on, go in.”

The crowd entered. The grates fell with a clang. In the center of the room, a glowing outline faded into existence with metallic hum. Gaining solidity it turned into a knight in solid red armor with a bell-like helmet. A round metallic shield in its left hand, a heavy sword resembling a double-edged cleaver widening towards its end in its right hand.

“These red ones are weak,” Shantae explained as she jumped close to the knight, blocking a sword swing with her left bracer while looking back at Akane. “The blue ones are much tougher. Both can make shockwaves. Look!” She slid back.

Grunting like an empty metal barrel, the knight flipped the shield onto its back to grab the sword with both hands. The Nerimans prepared to dodge, Nabiki shifting preemptively sideways from the assumed attack direction.

But the attack was nothing like Tatewaki's flying slash of wind. The knight slammed its sword into the ground with all its might creating a real shockwave rolling in all directions. The middle Tendou barely managed to jump in time.

“Also,” Shantae continued undisturbed as she leaped close to the knight again, “attacking them head-on is almost useless, they block all your strikes...” Proving her words, she whipped at the knight a few times, but it turtled behind its metallic shield, only sliding backwards a bit from her hits. “By the way, Scorpion Ladies and Wetmen are like this too.”

The knight replaced its shield raising its sword in a two-handed grip. Shantae whipped it a couple times, slid back, jumped over the shockwave, closed again, but the knight was already hiding behind his shield again.

“Hitting them is most efficient when...” The knight tried repeating his attack, was whipped, collapsed with a dull groan and burst into a handful of shiny gems. “When they wind up for their big attack. Just don't linger for too long, you have to dodge the big attack itself. The knights are nothing special but Wetmen and Lady Scorpions do such a bull rush it'd make a real bull envious. They are also huge, jumping over isn't easy... Well-well, what do we have here?” She shuffled the gems with her foot. “Quartz, quartz, quartz, amethyst, citrine... Oh! Is that sapphire...? Naw, another amethyst... All right, let's go... wait, I'll take this one.” Shantae touched the biggest crystal with her foot making it disappear. “Could be worth a couple coppers.”

The grates had risen, the team trudging towards the exit.

“Bugger,” Nabiki swore. “Turns out I can't crawl dungeons alone keeping all the loot for myself.”

“Hmm?” Shampoo heard that and turned to look at her. “I thought even you would overcome such one. They are slow and predictable.”

“What if there are two?” Nabiki retorted. “I can run away, dodge and play possum reasonably well, but gladiator pits like that one won't let you run. How did it trigger? If there was a pressure plate I'd have noticed. Meaning it's magic, everything around here is based off of it. But Indiana Jones didn't know magic. And playing possum against monsters who feed on... Hey, Shantae!” she called after the girl leading the group. “Can these crabs devour you?”

“Well, I've never saw it myself, thankfully,” the dancer replied, “but skeletons in dungeons are always picked clean.”

“An exhaustive answer... In short, I need a warrior partner.”

Shampoo narrowed her eyes. “A curious proposition.”

“What...? Oh, of course. No dungeon stands a chance against the combination of my acquired skills of a legendary archaeologist and your combat mastery. But, imagine us sharing the loot.”

Shampoo just harrumphed.

“Exactly,” Nabiki said. “No, let's save this combination for especially hard cases. I need an everyday chump.”

“Ryouga?” Shampoo suggested.

“No, he gets carried away far too often. In the literal sense as well. I need someone more controllable. Maybe...” Nabiki looked at Bolo intently.

Shantae, who was crawling through a narrow hole at the moment, looked like she felt something: she stopped, her upturned, suspicious muzzle emerging between her feet.

Nabiki made an innocent face.

“I'm imagining things,” the half-Genie mumbled and resumed her crawling.

“In short, I have to keep searching,” Nabiki continued in a hushed voice. “I have a suspicion this Bolo isn't much better than Ryouga. On the other hand, he knows the local specifics...”

After the tight crawlspace there was yet another door-frame with a raised grate.

“Keep together tightly here,” Shantae warned. “So no one gets pinched.”

They entered cautiously surveying a cubic hall with a dais in the center and two levels of galleries along its side walls.

The grate clanged shut behind them.

“Another trap?” Nabiki inquired surveying the solid walls.

“This is a hidden key place,” Shantae explained. “Well, it's like leaving a spare under your doormat, in case you lose your key. But instead of a doormat there is a whole labyrinth with tricky secrets, traps and monsters. Any dungeon has such places: no boss would want to lose their lair because of such a little thing as a lost key. Breaking these doors down is arduous, expensive and again, they'd be breaking their own stuff. I only broke into a dungeon once, but I could only do that because Abner and Poe gave me C-4, they were short on time too.”

“C... 4...?” Nabiki echoed. “Hmm, fascinating. By the way, that square over there,” she pointed at a big square of uniform square tiles on the far wall, “is it a puzzle of sorts?”

“It is!” Shantae nodded. “Probably, a pressing one but I just whip it all over until the trap triggers. All right, keep under the galleries for now, the monster should appear on them!”

She then went whipping at the four-meter square, jumping onto the bottom galleries, from there onto the top ones, to reach the top edge in a jump. The tiles on the edges were flying off, sometimes several at once. When the remaining tiles formed a stylized skull, the hall was filled with metallic hum as scarecrows appeared on the galleries. Whole rows of scarecrows! All at once, they raised their pumpkins.

Shantae shrieked in fright as she dove under the gallery joining her friends, flattening herself against the wall. A fraction of a second later, a wall of flame billowed at arm's end!

“This...” Shantae squeezed out nervously. “There should only be four of them!”

“So, four per each person inside the trap,” Nabiki noted coldly as she leaned down to take a good look at the monsters on the opposite gallery. “There are exactly ten of them on that side.”

The wall of flame billowed again proving they weren't forgotten.

“How do we get out?” Akane asked nervously. “They have unlimited pumpkins, right?”

“Well, we follow the rhythm,” Shantae suggested with no less trepidation, her words accompanied with the next flash. “Then we, uh, begin striking them out one by one in between...? I don't like so much fire, but I came through worse!” She waited for the right moment to make a backward step into the hall, whip her hair grabbing one scarecrow and making it fall down. She then barely made it back. “Here, see— Gah!”

The wall of flame faded revealing one quite lively scarecrow, its pumpkin already raised, point-blank. Shampoo threw one scimitar piercing the monster together with the pumpkin. It flashed awfully close, almost scorching them, but the scarecrow got dispersed.

“They... They need at least two hair strikes,” Shantae was apologizing, guilt in her voice. “Well, I thought—”

“Let's start beating them already,” Shampoo interrupted her. Jumping up during the next in-between, she unraveled another monster and dove back into cover.

“Right!” Bolo agreed as he went throwing his spiky ball blindly, not waiting for the fire to abate. The two quickly got rid of the scarecrows on the lower gallery. The wall of flame was flashing not as dense now, but no less dangerous. Together with Shantae the three of them jumped onto the lower gallery and dealt with the monsters on the upper one.

Walking into the hall, the team eyed the ten scarecrows standing with their pumpkins on the opposite side.

Akane leaned down, tore a loose cobblestone out of the floor, took aim...

Rocks, tiles, other junk were thinning the scarecrows out rapidly. Shampoo participated as well. Even Nabiki unraveled one with a crack of her whip.

A big, brightly painted chest appeared on the dais in the room center with metallic hum. Shantae whipped it with her hair making the lidr fly open. She then proceeded taking a big key with flair. The grate began clanking up.

They started backtracking towards the locked door. The trap with a knight triggered again. This time they let Nabiki bring the monster down, which she did in three hits.

The middle sister interrupted the youngers' gushing by noting that the knight was almost as mobile as a training dummy.

Behind the locked door there was a short corridor that lead to another, sideways one, so narrow two people would have trouble passing each other. Shantae stopped. Akane leaned out to take a look but her friend jerked her back by the scruff of her neck a second before a basketball-sized fireball zipped from the left to the right.

“Akane, be careful!” Shantae was indignant. “You should be more cautious when peering beyond an unfamiliar corner!”

“I'm sorry!” the girl in question squeaked: three more fireballs zipped by in quick succession.

“What sort of monster is there?” Shampoo inquired blood-thirstily, her scimitars at ready.

“It's a snake head,” Bolo explained. “You find them a lot.”

“A stone snake head,” Shantae elaborated. “They are only breakable via the elephant stomp, and even that doesn't always work. We now need to go... hmm... Right. Wait for the gap, run to the end, jump onto the wall - but watch out, you climb out right in front of yet another snake head. It's better to jump onto it, wait till it finishes shooting and only then run further. If you feel you can't make it, in this corridor lie down and keep lying flat. But you can't do that in the other corridor, it shoots along the floor there. Other than that, be on your guard: there's a whole labyrinth of such passages. Wait and see if one flies by before going further.”

Shampoo ran first, without waiting for the next pause. She just outran the three fiery projectiles with pure speed. Akane followed suit, nervous, as soon as the path was clear. Shantae wend during the next gap, anxious to leave those two alone. Bolo went after her.

Nabiki narrowed her eyes assessing the path ahead. She ran as soon as the next three fireballs passed. Jumped up grabbing the edge overhead, pulled herself up along a hot wall, tucked her legs in waiting until the next sculpture overhead spits three charges. The fireballs bursting under her feet were washing her with heat, there was a smell of scorched wool, but the middle Tendou waited coolly for the gap from the head above her before pulling herself up with effort. That took the better half of the time she had. She dashed along the narrow corridor. Just as she thought, she was too slow and had to jump over the fireball that caught up with her.

They passed through several more such corridors. There was one place they had to climb across snake heads adorning the opposite sides of a narrow vertical shaft. For Nabiki pulling herself up slowly with effort that was unforgettable experience. The sculptures were hot but not hot enough to burn. Later they had to jump down into a hole, unable to see beforehand where that corridor ended and which way to go.

But then, finally, the fiery labyrinth was over. Another arena room was met with relief.

“There should be four orcs... I think,” Shantae warned.

The number of materializing orcs was not four nor twenty but, by some reason, thirteen. It seems they reminded Akane of the morning pervert horde: she took to the monster ranks like a bowling ball to pins, no one had even time to say something. Unlike Shantae's hair whip, lightweight by Neriman standards, Akane's straight punches were downing these monsters in one hit. She wasn't shy of kicking, either. A few seconds later it was over, there was only Akane left standing, catching her breath and straightening her hair, surrounded by scattered jewels. Shantae picked a couple up by touching them with her foot, looking pleased.

After meandering a bit more, they emerged on the bottom of a square well. There were massive iron chains hanging from beams crossing the well from wall to wall. Repeating in a haphazard manner this went up and up, stretching out of sight.

“We're almost there!” Shantae said in joy as she began climbing up a chain, jumping onto adjacent one when she reached the beam.

Shampoo took a look at the chains, then at the scimitars in her hands. There was absolutely nowhere to store them considering her outfit consisted of ragged short shorts and a terry towel. Weighing the swords in her hands, she turned to face the crowd... She then made a motion of replacing the blades behind her back. For a moment the weapons got obscured completely by her body.

When the Chinese girl brought her hands forward, they were empty.

Smiling victoriously, Shampoo proceeded to climb after Shantae.

“This...” Akane mumbled. “I thought, only Mousse can...”

“Oh yeeeah?” Nabiki quipped. “What about all the times she got her maces from seemingly nowhere?”

“But I never saw—” Akane fell silent, frowning. “The hidden weapons technique — so its secret isn't the special robes? It only needs that no one sees...? Right?”

“Seems so,” Nabiki replied thoughtfully. “All right, we have catching up to do.”

The sisters began climbing up the chains, first the younger martial artist in her dogi, then the middle one dressed like a movie archaeologist, complete with a whip and a hat.

“I totally didn't get it.” Bolo sighed scratching his head.

It was a long climb. Nabiki's arms were past aching, threatening to fall off. From one chain to another — and further up.

Then Shantae stopped suddenly. “Awww...” she groaned in frustration. “How could I forget...!”

Above their heads, there was ceiling looming in the darkness. The well wasn't ending there but narrowing about four times, continuing as a slit about half human height in width. This shaft was running flush with one of the walls, impossible to reach from the chain. Both the walls and the ceiling here were smooth, devoid of handholds.

“How do we go further?” Akane voiced her worry.

“You have to continue as a monkey,” Shantae explained, frustrated. “Just leap up there and climb up the wall. But we all—”

“So what's the problem?” Nabiki interrupted her from down below. “We have two people with chains or whips, Bolo can use that ball of his to grab walls... You can, am I right? The well has quite convenient width up there, Even I could climb it pushing at walls.”

“My grappling ball-and-chain won't hold two,” warned the only guy of the team.

“You would not need to,” Nabiki elaborated. “You climb there yourself, anchor yourself against the walls then simply hang your chain down—”

“Instead of crawling across each other...” Shampoo interrupted her as she climbed to the very top, crawling over Shantae in the process. “Let's move on already.”

Taking aim she jumped at the wall, pushed off of it back and up, reached the shaft edge with her palm, then slapped her other palm against the wall, to hang with her hands pushing against the opposite walls.

“How did you...” Shantae was watching with fascination the amazon curling up and folding flexibly to bring her legs above her head to turn upside down.

“There's a special training regime,” the other girl replied stretching the kinks out of her arms, obviously anchored with her legs. “It's called Cat Push. Your muscles become more dense without increasing in size... Nabiki, get your whip here.”

The middle Tendou unwrapped her whip, took aim and threw it looping up where the Chinese girl grabbed it and quickly lifted her up into the shaft.

“Give it to me, I'll lift the rest,” Shampoo demanded.

“Without dropping Akane in the process,” Nabiki retorted with sarcasm. “Purely by accident.”

The amazon snorted but did not argue, she simply started climbing up. Then she paused: “Shantae, are there traps up there?”

“Hmm, no!” the half-Genie replied merrily. “Just smooth walls to the very top.”

“Big Sis, can you really hold us?” Akane was doubtful. “It's a double weight...”

“Riiight, your physics grades are sad as always,” Nabiki replied. “There is no difference between hanging on the rope and holding a rope with you on the other end. The load is the same. The double weight will act on my legs, but the width of this slit is so convenient...”

First Shantae, then Akane climbed up the whip she let hang. They kept climbing pushing at the walls, with Shantae gushing incessantly about this amazing new method. Nabiki rolled her whip up and followed suit, groaning.

“Are you really all right, Big Sis?” Akane asked her worriedly.

“My leg muscles... huff... will remember this... huff... and avenge themselves.”

The shaft opened into a corridor well-lit with magical torches. It was clean, clearly tidied up, but still moist and cool. Water was dripping from the ceiling noisily. Shantae led to the right confidently, between rows of five-meter stone statues of girls holding the ceiling. Soon the five adventurers were standing in front of a grate framed by an angular, stylized brass maw of a snake. Shantae approached, the brass lids of the ornament flung oped and the grate began rising.

“Here's the boss battle,” the half-Genie noted off-hand. “Put them away! Put them away now!” she snapped at Shampoo who had readied her scimitars. “This... concerned parent will unleash his young on us. Do you want dealing with him totally enraged?”

The amazon snorted but replaced the blades behind her back, making them disappear.

“So... This is something like a dojo challenge?” Akane asked, stretching.

“More like, smack the dolt to make him listen,” Shantae corrected. “We didn't have to fight at all, he just had to give us the seal, and that's all! He is always making things so complex.” She turned to enter.

“Wait,” Shampoo stopped her. “First, tell us about his main techniques. We botched that with Risky Boots, let's plan this battle proper at least.”

“Well...” Shantae got lost in thought for a moment. “His main technique is trampling rush. He dashes back and fourth bouncing off walls, very hard to jump over. Then... Warps himself under the ceiling, dropping from up there. But that is much easier to dodge not to say he aims totally blindly.”

“Warps?” Nabiki asked. “What sort of technique is that?”

“Well... The instant transfer somewhere, you know,” Shantae explained, puzzled. “By the way, I learned all my warp dances from the Warp Squids. And Squid Baron is a common Warp Squid... Well, he may not be common, he is always so concerned about something. But he is still a Warp squid.”

“Wait, wait,” Nabiki tried interrupting her verbal deluge. “You mean, you can teleport too when you dance?”

“Yep. But I haven't practiced those dances for too long. I could probably pull Zombie Caravan off, maybe Water Town...”

“Trampling, transferring himself under the ceiling,” Shampoo interrupted them. “Is that all?”

“He also warps his young in,” Shantae added. “They rain from the ceiling and begin running around knocking you down. Be gentle with them, all right...?” Meeting Shampoo's expectant stare, she added: “Now that is really everything.”

Beyond the doorway there was a modest-sized square hall. It had no back wall, opening into a dark, overgrown gorge. Instead of a ceiling there were densely intervined tree branches overhead.

“So you have passed my labyrinth!” Squid Baron dropped from somewhere above, landing in the center of the hall. “A futile effort! You won't get the magic seal! Young ones, to arms! Let's show these brigands that messing with us is a bad idea!”

“Listen! We don't—” Shantae tried resolving the conflict by talking, but the two-meter red ball with purple spots was already speeding up intent of ramming them.

The half-Genie slid to the side smoothly. Akane jumped up with all her might slamming her heel into the opponent as he flashed under her. Shampoo jumped aside with careless grace. Nabiki dodged via desperate tumble. Bolo attacked head-on like a true hero, slamming his multi-functional ball-and-chain between his opponent's eyes.

He was then slammed into a wall to slide down it like a limp rag.

“Bolooo!” Shantae drawled with expression of endless tiredness. “You can't do that against bosses. You just can't!”

Squid baron, meanwhile, had stopped in the center of the hall, frowning and clearly contemplating something.

His smaller look-alikes began raining from the ceiling. About the size of a bed-side table, they were colored brightly, from red to green to cyan. With mischevious expession on their faces, this colorful crowd began chaotic dashing around.

Shantae was jumping over them or whipping them away. Akane and Shampoo were kicking them away easily. Nabiki dodged once, twice, then she was knocked down and trampled.

“Big Sis!” Akane shouted, rushing towards her, leaving stunned and upturned squid cubs in her wake.

“I'm fine,” the other girl replied venomously, covering herself with her elbow from another stampeding ball on smaller ball feet. “These legs of theirs are like rubber balls, you'd better— Watch out!”

Squid Baron was speeding up, coming at them. Nabiki rolled up to a wall, pressing herself into the corner between it and the floor. Akane began a tumble, she wasn't fast enough and got knocked away but still managed landing on her feet.

Slamming the wall like a rubber battering ram, Squid Baron sped away. Shantae and Shampoo stepped away from each other sharply, letting him pass between them to hit him, one with her hair, the other with her foot.

“But if this one hits, they'd need a scoop to gather me up,” Nabiki commented in a cold and detached voice. “How many tonnes does he weigh?”

Rebounding from a wall for the second time, Squid baron was speeding through the hall again. Now it was clear to everyone he was not running but sliding, similar to Shantae's backsliding dodge technique. The little squids were fleeing merrily, jumping down the gorge and disappearing in the bushes.

“Are our strikes even affecting him?” Shampoo inquired when their opponent stopped near the wall where Nabiki took cover, having shrugged off hits from both the purple-haired girls as well as Akane's right punch. “He hits the walls harder himself.”

Squid Baron disappeared, fell down from somewhere above into the center of the hall. He then began frowning and contemplating again.

“They do, but...” Shantae fidgeted, indecisive. “All right, I feel better already. A couple simple ones won't harm me!”

Flicking her hand out, she produced two small clouds, which she then whipped with her hair sending them towards the opponent. The clouds were frowning, darkening to dangerous bluish black, then began spraying lightning bolts around haphazardly with flash and thunder.

Most of the lightning bolts discharged into the stone floor, but those few that hit Squid Baron, were enough. Jumping up, he fell to his side, stiff as wood and smoking a bit.

“Oooh, what a relief,” Shantae commented. “By some reason, I'm feeling better now, when my mana isn't full,” she explained to intrigued Akane. “Despite using up only a tiny bit of it.”

Shampoo approached the downed opponent to poke him with her foot. No reaction.

“Is he even alive?” Nabiki asked standing up and dusting herself. “What about Bolo?”

“They'd be fine,” Shantae waved her concerns aside as she walked up to one of the walls and knocking a hidden panel out with her hair. The revealed hiding place contained a hybrid of a big dish and a six-petal flower, a thing of green porcelain with a golden trim and a thick purple oval in the middle, surrounded by a glowing white aura. Shantae quickly plucked it off the wall and hid in her ki pocket.

Bolo was nursed with healing potion and berated sternly. The comatose Squid Baron was reassured he need not fear Risky, Shantae got it well in hand. It wasn't clear if he even could hear that.

Then they headed towards the exit. Turned out this hall wasn't that far from the entrance tower.

“I'll return here this week,” the half-Genie was telling her plans, hugely pleased with the outcome. “We ran by several places where magic jam is hidden, you have to be a monkey. I could also visit the dance spirit's fountain, it's deeper down in the dungeon. I know that dance already, but I can leave a coin, in gratitude for that time.”

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Author's Notes:

1. Beating Squid Baron using only lightning in Risky's Revenge earns you a Steam achievement after which this chapter was named. Oh, and he has critical vulnerability to electricity.

Published in Russian: May 05, 2019. Translated to English: August 23, 2019.
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Re: Dance, Dance, Rumble (R.5 / Shantae crossover) [+ Ch.12

Postby Cheb » Sun Jan 05, 2020 1:48 pm

Chapter 13 is translated and published: ... nce-Rumble

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 13
Washing Up

Returning to the Uncle Mimic's workshop the party was greeted by the sight of Ranma who had found an open vest he was now wearing over his bare chest and had lost Ryouga somewhere. They had two seals gathered for now, Risky haven't shown herself. Must have spared five minutes to trashing Hypno Baron, then was brewing nefarious plans for the rest of her time, Shantae suggested.

Sky and Ukyou were busy somewhere else.

Mimic handed his niece her fixed top. She changed hurriedly with relief, hiding behind some big tinker-thing in a corner. Akane had to help her pull Ranma's shirt off: the inner layer got stuck to her sweaty arms.

Mimic tried pulling details out of the grateful Shantae: the future, her fight against the Pirate Master and so on. It seems there was no way now for her to shirk a thorough retelling of her adventures. But the young crowd, hungry after their heroic deeds, remembered the quest item they had saved from the boss. Tasty Meal was devoured in an instant. Shared between the seven of them, the huge dish of pilaf suddenly turned so small. Not yet done, they went to the eatery where they ate for fourteen coppers and a half. Which was more than a jewel, which turned to be equal to non-metric twelve coppers. Nabiki frowned recalling that Shantae's monthly income was eighty of these “jewels”. The crowd of Nerimans was threatening to eat their generous host out of her house. If that happened, everyone would suffer.

The half-Genie waved all concerns aside despite her purse thinning out visibly. After the filling diner they went shopping. The sun was going to set, its reddening blaze a backdrop for the Sultana's palace outlined on its distant peninsula. It was Ranma's and Nabiki's first time in the shop, they took their time looking over rows of various merchandise stretching under the skeleton of some dinosaur hanging under the ceiling. Shantae and the big-eyebrows salesman were haggling with gusto. Which resulted in all semi-precious stones collected during this day's adventure returning eight coppers.

Then, spending again. Shantae was adamant on buying toothbrushes, towels, soap and other toiletries for six displaced people. Ranma barely convinced her not to count Ryouga because noone knew when he'd return. She bought for five — another jewel away — then began eyeing clothing “because we are going to the bathhouse!”

Seeing the price tags on clothing, even Nabiki was staggered. Akane was flat out horrified. It seems this world haven't even heard about such things as mass production. Simplest short shorts and tops cost from six jewels upwards while anything more complex would have to be ordered tailor-made.

They have also found that a pair of silk harem trousers Shantae was running around in cost more than a hundred jewels. The spirited gal wasn't broke only thanks to the fact that any forms of magical healing fixed clothing as well.

At learning this fact Ranma's eyes glinted so cleverly that Akane began eyeing him with suspicion eventually making the pig-tailed martial artist admit: he thought of lending his pants to the half-Genie from time to time for freebie repairs. He then dodged the topic by offering to sew clothing for everyone since anything ready made is so expensive.

Shantae approved the idea. Akane began frowning, gnawed upon by her feelings of inadequacy. Shampoo inquired suggestively when was he planning to take measurements. Casting wary grances at the angrily huffing Akane, Ranma suggested he'd begin with something one-size-fits-all, like Sky's outfit. Why, the climate was hot anyway.

They set to buy a roll of fabric. Squabbled a bit about the color, wilted quickly after learning that any colors beyond drab or sandy doubled the price. Exploiting the fact she was a repeat customer, Shantae haggled for a long-kept dark red one with a good chunk off its price so it cost her not that much more than the drab ones. And still, twelve jewels were gone!

They also learned Shantae had another purse, this one with silver coins valued five jewels each. Which had been lean before but was now leaning towards famished.

Nabiki mumbled she now sees how sensei could blow five thousand dollars in one month. It seems the half-Genie did not just dislike saving money but the very idea was offense to her free and reckless life-style.

Their next step was the bath house next to the shop, on the same square surrounding the round pond.

Ukyou was limping in other direction, satisfied with something. Glad to see him, she glomped onto Ranma... And stayed attached. Akane and Shampoo both had to accede she played the wounded doe part all proper like. When they reached the bath house, she was still supported by the pigtailed martial artist.

Inside, the bath house was beginning from a small room with a guard snoozing peacefully, guarding shelves for shoes and weapons. Proceeding barefoot from there, they got into the main hall with a big basin where townsfolk of both genders was soaking and socializing, wrapped in something akin to bed-sheets. Loaned by the bathhouse for the duration of your visit as Shantae explained before besetting the bathhouse lady. A spirited haggle followed.

Those unfamiliar with this place took a look around. Light was penetrating the shady hall through tiny windows under the dome. There were planters with plants in the corners. The basin was fed by a small waterfall, warm water flowing over a natural looking rock formation protruding from the back wall.

The Nerimans tried following the convoluted conversation the half-Genie had with the black-haired woman in a blue bikini with a pareo skirt. They learned that one visit cost six coppers if you came with your own towel. But such rip-off prices were aimed at travelers. For the locals there was membership costing the same six coppers for a whole month. So Shantae described the Nerimans in flowery detail as fellow troops who participated in defending the city and were such nice people in general. The bathhouse lady was inclined to agree.

Membership for the six displaced, including Ryouga, made the generous host side three more jewels poorer. Examining her membership card — a plastic card — Nabiki noted it was similar in size and shape to a credit card. Others had to trust her expertise because they newer saw such exotic luxury with their own eyes (*note 1).

The payment taken care of, they proceeded into the bath proper, boys to the left, girls to the right.

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Feeling great relief because he could wash in warm water, not hot but not cold enough to activate the curse either, Ranma was also glad to see he could also wash his clothing. He only had to use his own soap. Busy with that, he didn't immediately notice a dirty little boy who made a hole in the wall. A real titan of perversion: the wall was solid stone! And whose suspiciously blue mop of hair is over there, hanging next to him...?

Bolo, how could you, Ranma asked looming menacingly behind the other guy. How could you call yourself a friend after this...! Why? Shantae's, of course.

Balking momentarily at the reply “but that's just Shantae!” — it seems this slobberer at anything female wasn't registering her as a girl at all — Ranma reminded the guy that his fiancee was on the other side as well.

Shedding a single manly tear, Bolo conceded. Strangling his dream, he smacked the dirty boy upside the head and plugged the hole with a convenient piece of soap.

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The girls were anticipating the reveal of Shantae's secret: how does she take off the flute-like hub supporting her hair? But they got distracted finding the proper corner for clothes washing, then staring at Nabiki under whose outfit of a movie archaeologist there was positively prehistoric looking underwear... When they looked back at the half-Genie, she was sitting with her hair down, lathering it up.


“I hope this could be subjected to hand washing,” Nabiki muttered, frowning, as she grasped to find the latch of her monumental brasserie supported by a wide band at the bottom. “Were they really still wearing these in the thirties...? Hand it to me, now!”

Seeing her younger sister going to wash her own underwear, Nabiki plucked these items from the other girl's hands:

“I will be the one doing the washing. Don't argue, we'll settle it later.”

Hurt and intimidated, Akane turned around to help lathering Shantae's mane.

Shampoo and Ukyou had the manes of their own, Nabiki was fumbling with trial and error washing clothing for the first time in her life. It took them awhile. Thankfully, the water was warm.

Then they began lathering up their skin, anticipating a long soak. Shampoo finished in the blink of an eye and walked up with a sassy spring in her step, all daringly taut. But Akane would not be riled by such. Kneeling next to the unsuspecting half-Genie, the amazon suddenly wound her arms around her and lathered her up so rapidly that her arms blurred and Shantae rippled like jello, soap suds flying.

The half-Genie let out a pleased gasp of surprise.

“Hey!” Akane jumped up in alarm recalling the amazonian brainwashing technique.

“Just a friendly hand.” Shampoo was backing away gesturing disarmingly. “For the friend of the tribe and stuff. It's enough we have a postponed duel hanging over our heads, so awkward but there is no helping it: the warrior's word.”

“Don't worry, I'm eager!” Shantae replied. “As soon as we save the world, let's rumble!”

Akane was left with glaring at the smug Shampoo and wondering what was that just now.

They stayed soaking in the women's half, too lazy to get wrapped in towels. Even the temptation of a half-naked Ranma wasn't enough. Or maybe they stayed because of him. The ambiance here was amazingly serene and relaxing, they didn't even want to banter.

Finally it was time to leave. Shantae set the style by donning well wrung beach bottom and wrapping herself in a towel. Ukyou put the whole bikini on tying the towel like a skirt. Nabiki used hers as a cloak because her vintage brasserie and underpants resembling boxers weren't a suitable beach wear. Akane simply put on her unwashed dogi. Shampoo was content with the same combo of ragged short shorts and a chest wrap of a towel she wore during the day.

The sunset was fading fast, night holding dominion. The houses surrounding the round pond were lit with lamps and candles, the windows reflecting in the calm waters. A chorus of cicadas was sounding from the darkened park.

One glance at the Shantae who was walking behind them proved her hair already up in her traditional ponytail. The mystery of 'how does she put that thing on' was itching with unsatisfied curiosity. The girls came to unanimous decision to watch the half-Genie like hawks when she will be going to bed.

After waiting for Ranma — who, it turned out, had finished washing long ago and had visited Mimic's workshop — the crowd began strolling lazily towards the lighthouse. First deeper into the park, then along the beach to the left. The warm wind from the hills was carrying aromas of grass and wild flowers.

Shampoo noticed, to her surprise, that Akane kept glancing at her suspiciously. But she was feeling too lazy for needling the other girl.

“What did you do to her?” the kitchen destroyer finally asked, unable to hold it. “To Shantae?”

Shampoo was taken aback at first, but then recalled teasing the crook-handed one earlier. Was she seriously thinking...? She was.

And so Shampoo couldn't help it.

“There is a special amazon technique,” she 'explained', “a heritage of our tribe's millenia of history. Only allowed between girls!”

Amassage technique, naturally, but only omitting that insignificant detail... Three... Two... One...

Seeing Akane's face twist in disgust Shampoo flexed her willpower almost to the point of spraining it, holding herself from snickering like a horse. Why? That worked as poker face training too. Anything could be training.

The youngest Tendou was tense now, prone to holding Shantae's hand and interposing herself between her and Shampoo.

Ranma noticed the friction and made hasty effort to defuse the situation lest the crop of bumps ripens and falls out onto his head:

“Aren't those coconuts over there?” He pointed at the crown of a nearest palm tree. “How comes no one is selling them around here?”

“Who would buy these?” Shantae replied, surprised, like they were talking about annoying trash.

“They don't look like coconuts,” Akane noted doubtfully while still keeping one eye on Shampoo. “Too bright... Like huge apples.”

Telling the color in the fading twilight was hard, but it was definitely not brown.

“Because in the stores, they sell them already cleaned of flesh,” Ranma explained patronizingly. “Bare stones, simply speaking. But most people naively think these are growing on the trees that way, peeled.” He glanced around shadily. “Would someone cry out if I pluck a couple?”

“You could pluck them all,” Shantae waved his concerns aside. “Just be careful not to break the palm. In the park and on the beach they have to tear these off anyway, so that no one takes a ripe one to their noggin. They bear them all the year round!”

“So, the analogy with Mediterranean was off,” Nabiki noted. “Interesting.”

Ranma jumped up the palm tree, pushed with his legs... And landed tumbling once, hugging a cluster of greenish yellow fruits the size of half himself.

While carrying these to the lighthouse, they drank half of their haul. Ranma was showing off piercing the nuts with his pinky. Shampoo snorted and repeated after him, although she was nursing her pinky later, when no one was watching. Shantae lent Akane her dagger, then accepted the coconut milk eagerly despite her earlier verbal disdain. A couple more was given to kids who ran away merrily with these gifts.

Later they were splitting the fruits in half, eating the nut layer inside until the whole company was laying on the grass around the lighthouse like sated boas under the starry sky.

“Not a single familiar constellation,” Nabiki noted. “I wonder how is that related to archaeology? I only knew Orion before.”

There were oil lanterns burning along the wharf, the windows of the town glowing with soft light. Nothing compared to Tokyo, but still brought a sense of lived-in habitat. Barely audible scraps of music were reaching on the night breeze.

“I'm very sorry, ...” Akane stuttered awkwardly, then whispered something into Shantae's ear.

“Oh!” the other girl jumped up, hurried into the house to return with a kerosene lamp. “Here!” She whipped at the porch. Creaking, the porch swung up revealing a steep descent into musty dampness of a basement.

“So you have basement?” Ukyou was intrigued.

“Can't use it for storage.” Shantae shrugged. “Everything rots instantly, too close to the sea.”

Akane dove into the narrow passage, the lamp in hand. The kindhearted host slammed the porch shut cutting curious folks off.

“Aha,” Nabiki noted with satisfaction. “A full-fledged civilization, then. Well, let's leave doing it in the woods to the bear.”

Shantae frowned calculating something in her mind: “Hmm, we need water! For washing up, cooking, laundering and so on. I usually bring a couple jugs and that's enough but there's a lot of us now!”

Ranma volunteered to bring the water, just in case. Leave this to the fiancee brigade and they'd make it into a competition on flimsy hanging bridges drowning all the jugs and maybe Akane too. So he hastily grabbed the first suitable vessel, the huge wok from the kitchen, and sped towards the pond. He returned poising across the bridges with the wok on his head, insufferably smug because he made it back without splashing any and without transforming,

Shantae busied herself with providing bedding for everyone. Ukyou and Shampoo began casting assessing glances at Ranma making Akane tense. The pigtailed one excused himself so hastily all the worlds blurred together. Then the big wok full of water was the only sign he had been there.

“Too bad but what else could you expect.” Shampoo shrugged. “Don't fret, I can sleep here on the grass.”

“You can't, not outside,” the half-Genie warned while pulling yet another bed cover from somewhere. “Even if nothing eats you, the mermaids won't let you sleep. This place is homely and peaceful during the day, but night is the time of monsters.”

Something big splashed invisibly down in the sea shrouded in darkness.

“Allrieeght, I admit, that wasn't the best idea until I learn the local bestiary,” the amazon drawled.

“We also need to hand our washed clothing up to dry somewhere.” Nabiki lifted the wet bundle of her suit from the grass.

The five of them climbed the rope to the upper floor. Shantae, going last, has closed and barred the door. Her silk pants took place at teir usual ceiling beam. Nabiki's shirt and trousers next to them were... dripping. The dense fabric retained too much water. Which posed a serious problem: there was barely enough space for everyone in the tiny room without lying on each other. The welcoming host hat to take a clothesline and climb onto the protruding roof. She nearly fell, dangling on her hands for a moment.

“I wonder...” Nabiki ducked under the branching construct of various knick-knaks on threads to approach the lone bookshelf. “Yes, I can read this. At least, the titles.”

“You can?” Akane approached and looked over her shoulder. “No, for me these are still squiggles.”

Shampoo and Ukyou got curious, but for them the book edges were adorned with unrecognizable gibberish as well.

“My wish differed from yours,” the middle Tendou reminded them. “I'm surprised I even landed here with the rest of you instead of, say, somewhere in the Amazon jungle in the thirties.”

There was knocking from below: Shantae, obviously, had jumped down to the ground forgetting she couldn't transform yet. Akane hurried down to unlock the barred dooor.

“I stretched it from the weathercock to the palm top,” the host informed them merrily as she climbed the rope. “They won't get it there!” She began pulling thick bed covers from her ki pocket laying them on the floor.

Nabiki took a book from the shelf, flipped a few pages. “Hmm, manga... Almost entirely action, too. Understanding the crashes and smashes doesn't require much skill.” She grabbed another book, then another. “Only manga...? Why am I not surprised. Aha...!” She pulled a block of notes sewn together from between the books. Good morning, Uncle! Sky finally let me borrow one of her messenger birds. Please keep your windows open... Is this personal?” She looked at Shantae questioningly.

“Don't worry, read it anyway,” the other girl replied lightly, without turning. “These are my letters to Uncle Mimic from my first epic adventure!”

“All right. Tweet? What is this bird chirping about? Could only carry letters of 140 signs or less? One could think I am using the ink of a kraken!

Shantae shrugged: Sky's birds have their quirks.

Nabiki flipped the page: “If you look closely, my lighthouse is so rickety. But the view from my window! And I'd never trade my personal diving cliff for anything!”. Then another one. “Just back from swimming. Someone stole my clothing! The lighthouse key was in my pocket! I can't even call for help, got nothing to wear.

Nabiki stared at Shantae who was beginning to squirm uncomfortably. “Considering the local mores, this 'nothing'... Were you skinny-dipping, by chance?” She lifted her brow.

The half-Genie let out a squeak, flushing rapidly.

“Hmm...” Nabiki flipped another page. “What a rotty day! Still stuck outside with no clothing, my hair had dried already. P.S. An idea: I saw some mermaids wear star fishes... Maybe we should leave it alone?”

“No, no!” Shampoo interrupted her impatiently. “Read on!”

“A fascinating adventure!” Ukyou added with unhealthy enthusiasm.

Akane was gradually reddening as well. No doubt her overdeveloped imagination was running wild.

“Shantae?” Nabiki tried to get a response.

“No, read it,” the dancer managed. “The real adventure goes after that. How did I forget that debacle...”

“Aren't skinny dipping anymore, aren't you?” Shampoo teased her.

“No, never!” Shantae replied. “I always have a swimming suit in my inventory... I mean, my ki-pocket... I mean, I don't have one right now, I gave both to Ranma and Ukyou, but I usually do. In case I suddenly want to swim.”

“So...” Nabiki continued reading. “I had tried all kinds of sea critters. No use, I just got wounded all over...” Everyone present cringed in sympathy. “When I find who took my clothing, they won't get away alive!

Akane grunted in agreement.

Too bad you aren't home. I'm bored with sunning. Seems I got no choice but break the door with my hair. But fixing it later... Frustrating!

It was obvious that when Shantae's hair was down it couldn't serve as a weapon so everyone stared at that flute-like thing of hers wondering how does the half-Genie put it on and why wasn't it with her clothing.

The purple-haired girl blinked in confusion, then realized what got them so intrigued: “Oh! well, I only let my hair down in the bath. Well, and when I'm going to sleep.”

The guests were in anticipation of learning her secret at last.

Mystery solved:” Nabiki continued reading. “Bolo came by, saw my clothing, concluded that I had melted and buried it. Why! I got no words. He's in the surgery now.”. (*note2)

Shantae got stared at again making her scratch the back of her head sheepishly. Only Akane grunted approvingly: such stupidity could only be cured like that.

“You and Little Sis have more in common than I thought,” Nabiki stated.

Reading continued. Next was Risky Boots' attack on the town. Shantae began reminiscing, adding to the sparse lines of her diary. How she fought the hordes of tinkerbats swarming everywhere, while only knowing only one spell at the time, the Storm Puff. How tinkerbats razed Uncle's workshop and absconded with his invention, the steam engine...

“Steam...” Nabiki interrupted their host's monologue. “The ship we fought, it was self-propelling, with a steam engine, right?”

“Right!” the half-Genie nodded. “Everything began with it! Until Risky stole that thing, she was riding a common pirate ship, a sailing one, with cannons in its sides. But after, it was like she got unleashed. A giant robot tank, a steam-powered tub, then that snail of hers, howzit, P.O.O.P T.O.O.T...?”

“Poop... Toot...?” Akane echoed, taken aback.

“Well, it's how the abbreviation came out,” Shantae explained. “If I remember... Part Omni-Organic, Partially Titanic, Ocean-Optional Tinkerslug...? It feels like Risky Boots had deliberately chosen the name to get a stupid abbreviation so she could swear to her heart's content at anyone putting it together...”

After discussing the pirate lady's weird naming ideas, the reading continued. Shantae retold her getting to the ship and battling tinkerbats on its deck while dodging cannonballs. Akane felt queasy imagining a cast-iron cannonball speeding towards her belly. Her friend's levity in mentioning that part was just as disconcerting.

“Then they opened an iron door to rush me,” Shantae continued without a care in the world. “But I sent then flying. I then looked past the door and saw some sort of tinker-machinery. So, I whipped it. How could I have known it would explode...? The baboom was terrific, threw both me and Risky Boots clean off the ship. I tried getting back up, of course. Climbed atop a pole that was sticking next to the pier's end. But tinkerbats opened those hatches in the ship's side, how they call them...”

“Gun ports,” Nabiki hinted.

“Right. So they opened those ports and began aiming explosive kegs at me. I, naturally, blew these right in their hands, some with my hair, others with the Storm Puff. There were only holes left of those ports. But while they were stalling me, the entire ship swam by. Its side ended suddenly and there was only Risky Boots climbing up a chain, all like ho-ho-ho, next time I'll be steam-powered and unstoppable... Well, they swam away.”(*note3)

Following next was a disjointed retelling of Shantae traveling to the Water Town in hopes of catching up with the pirate. Nabiki came to conclusion that getting a sequential, logically sound story out of Shantae, without jumping back and forth across topics and events, was an epic task for a legendary scribe. Only the sewn together letters serving as a rough outline let everyone follow the story.

Bolo was living in the Water Town at the time. The half-Genie required his help to get into some place called “Dribble Fountain”. Well, it quickly became obvious that that was a dungeon name. Fighting mysterious “wetmen”, dodging jumping jellyfishes, Shantae was delving deeper until she met a caged girl:

“I realize it now she was a Dance Spirit — I don't know how are they related to Genies, just seem like kindred spirits. But I didn't know that back then! Imagine, a naked girl sitting in an iron cage, her hairdo is like mine. I thought up such horrors...! No, wait, let me finish. The Dance Spirits assume the form of she who comes to them. Minus such triviality as clothing. I know that now. It's like looking into a mirror. If I paid more attention back then, I'd have noticed she had pointed ears like me. So... In gratitude for freeing her, she taught me a transformation dance. And then I could turn into a monkey! Still can't forget how cool and amazing that was!”

“Wait,” Akane interrupted her. “I thought you were always able to transform?”

“No, I wasn't. I could only do that since, hmm, a couple years ago, close to three now...? I always felt something missing but couldn't figure out what. But she, the Dance Spirit, said 'I feel a restless energy deep inside you' and simply showed me the dance. My first transformation dance!”

After that Shantae began climbing as a monkey, going through narrow shafts and labyrinths. At the top of the dungeon she found the Dribble Stone and Risky Boots preparing to abscond with it. But then a tentacle monster surfaced and the pirate lady was simply washed away.

Who surfaced...?” Akane repeated, shuddering.

“Well, a tentacle monster,” Shantae explained. “Huge and slimy, ew, yuck. Don't worry! I heard those stories too, so I kept far, far away from the tentacles! These were danging unter his middle when he was rising from the water and floating in the air. I was running around like crazy doing my best to not let that thing touch me. Because ew...! Well, I was also whipping his eye on occasion. He kept rising up and diving, making such huge waves I'd surely be washed down if not for the monkey dance. And who knows how it would it have ended with me helpless in the water! But I always managed to transform and climb the walls... Well, he got bored eventually, or his eye was hurting too much. Anyway he left and never came back. I got the Dribble Stone...” She yawned widely. “Let's go to sleep, all right? I'll tell you the rest of my adventure tomorrow.”

Her yawn proved to be infectious, soon all girls were yawning, except Nabiki who kept poker face. Someone observant would have noticed her jaw spasming, though.

They began going to bed. Shantae quickly donned cotton jammies consisting of a crop top and baggy pantaloons reaching her knees. And no one, not even Nabiki, saw her pulling that hair support thing off. Just a moment ago she sported a high ponytail but her hair hung freely down to her feet now.

Disappointed, Shampoo and Ukyou laid down on the bed covers along the walls. Nabiki nested under the window, grumbling. There were one place on the floor and the hammock bed remaining. It was a no-brainer, right? But Shantae was by some reason determined to sleep on the floor giving her hammock to Akane. Who was adamantly against this: it was wrong! She hadn't been a proper host either, letting Shantae sleep on a rug in her bedroom next to her bed. Also, Shampoo's words were bothering her: she was afraid for her friend's virtue if she shares the floor with “that rotten girl”. Shampoo snorted derisively. They were arguing for so long that Ukyou and Nabiki began grumbling if they go to sleep already.

In the end the hammock stayed empty, both girls laying on the floor on the same bed cover. The youngest Tendou was shielding her friend with her body from pernicious influence.

Then both fell fast asleep.

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1. The eighties are such eighties. Everything was already there but was exceptionally rare. Later mangas by Rumiko Takahashi employ such plot devices as a credit card with a PIN code scratched on it or bystanders with smartphones.

2. True, that diary if fashioned after the Shantae_WF tweets, BUT there is a key difference: the WayForward tweets were made in such a way to introduce an unfamiliar reader into the series, with many extraneous explanations. While in my story the messages are as they should be if the heroine wrote about things well known both to her and the recipient. Also, I first retold these tweets in Russian — while strictly adhering to the 140 character limit — then translated them to English with the rest of the chapter while still keeping to the limit. That was a fun challenge.

3. Shantae is canonically atrocious with nautical terms. Referring to a ship as “swimming” instead of “sailing” is quite tame for her.

4. The second game (Risky's Revenge) is flawed, rushed and only has 3 transformations. That's because the dev team was struggling for years trying to find a publisher (Nintendo are fools: no one wold play a female protagonist, they said). The WayForward team made several half-complete versions from 2005 to 2010, AFAIR. There are low-quality videos of these versions somewhere, including such mechanics as a much taller lighthouse rock, cliff diving animation and lighthouse basement (opened up by hair-whipping the stairs). I use these to expand the world in chapters 13 and 14.

The third game, Pirate's Curse, is absolute pinnacle even as it has no transformations. These two form a single story line, have identical graphical style and can be considered chapters of a single story.

The fourth game, HgH, is sort of a reboot. It has less attractive HD graphics with 2.5d backgrounds, tons of transformations (a gold mine for a fanfiction writer like me) and had horrible balance (at least it was that way in 2016 just after the release) because the devs mostly used speedrunners for testing. Going for collecting everything gives your Shantae more HP than the battleship Yamato leading to boooring boss fights where you can simply tank everything. And the armored bikini, which halves the damage received, could be purchased early. But the worst offender is the reward for unlocking the entire gallery. It gives you mana regen so strong you can keep Invulnerability almost indefinitely. They then added hardcore mode where all enemies inflict tons of damage and adventure modes where your character has fixed 12 HP and levels up by collecting gems and levels down by taking hits.

I, personally, have completed Pirate Queen's Quest DLC with only 4 hearts (16 HP) as you level Risky up RPG style, choosing yourself where you put the dark magic points.

There is going to be a fifth game, Seven Sirens, but it haven't hit Steam yet. I've only seen partial gameplay videos on YouTube.

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Published in Russian: June 04, 2019. Translated to English: January 05, 2020.
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Re: Dance, Dance, Rumble (R.5 / Shantae crossover) [+ Ch.13

Postby Cheb » Mon Jan 27, 2020 3:44 pm

Chapter 14: ... nce-Rumble

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 14
That's what she said

“I knew it! It was you, Risky Boots!” Shantae pointed her accusing finger at her nemesis.

The pirate shrouded in shadows on her skull-encrusted throne just smirked, her legs crossed languidly. The eyes under the pirate hat were glinting, burning, grasping like those of the guys in the dance parlor. But unlike those of the fans and admirers, this gaze — an undressing one — wasn't stirring her blood but instilling dread instead.

“You w..won't get away with this!”

Her accusing finger was trembling treacherously, as well as her voice. The smirk on the shadowed face crept wider.

The half-Genie made an involuntary step back covering herself with her arms. Wait, were the shadows so deep and the throne so tall?

The queen of seven seas' gaze — predatory, ravenous — was sliding across her body, hot like rays of mid-noon sun. Making another step back Shantae had a horrified realization she was standing before her opponent completely naked!

Squeaking in horrible embarrassment, flushing so hard her ears burned, the dancer girl moved to attack — only to feel unfamiliar weight settle on her hair. Viscous amber streams were dripping slowly from above making her hair heavy, sticking to her body in tacky rivulets.


Nude and helpless, her hair glued to her back, her sight obscured by honey in her eyes, Shantae turned to flee. But the floor gave under her feet, being the same honey. She stumbled and fell onto her back, stuck fast in the thick, viscous sweetness, only able to tremble as Risky was advancing on her with predatory laziness.

Twisting in desperation, Shantae woke up. Blinking disorientation away, she saw familiar ceiling beams overhead. She was sweating bullets, her jammies soaked and yucky. Akane cuddling against her side like a warm oven and the general stuffiness of the closed room weren't helping either.

“Rotty, you pest,” the half-Genie slurred trying to slow her breathing down. Her heart was pounding. “Who asked you open your mouth? Now because of your ill fantasies I wake up all hot and sticky!”

After a few seconds her brain caught with her mouth. The dancer girl's eyes flying wide open, her ears flaming, she cast a harried look around the room dreading to see someone awake.

False alarm. All the other girls were still fast asleep.

Breathing out in relief, even more sweaty now, Shantae began cautiously untangling herself from Akane. It wasn't easy. First herself, then her hair.

Finally she could get up, tiptoe to the window and open it quietly letting pre-dawn sea air in. It wasn't cool, the weather was quite hot, but it was at least fresh.

Shivering in revulsion at her night attire stuck to her body, Shantae decided she urgently needed to freshen up. A dive from the cliff, what a great start of the day! Climbing out quietly, she jumped down. It's so nice to have a personal diving cliff!

After a quick run across hanging bridges to that specific rock, the pointy-eared one began pulling her jammies off when she realized both her bikini sets were missing from her ki-pocket. She groaned in frustration: one was still being worn by Ukyou while the other... Where did Ranma put it?

But the coveted coolness was so close!

Looking around thievishly, Shantae made sure no one was nearby. She then quickly pulled her sweaty top and pantaloons off, hid them under a rock and dove from the cliff in the buff. The cool sea embraced— Crash! Stars in her eyes! What? A shallow? How?

It wasn't a shallow, it turned out. She collided against someone, head to head.

Panicking, dazed by the blow, Shantae twisted around, kicking and windmilling, trying to get away, still unable to tell top from bottom.

The one she had collided against did likewise. Their awkward fumbling resulted in two manes of floating hair getting tangled until the half-Genie was pressed firmly against someone's body. A feminine one, thankfully, because that other person was skinny-dipping too.

Still horribly awkward!

As one the girls pushed to the surface. Shantae took a breath, going to apologize...

And stared, face, to face, into the grayish-blue eyes of a pressed against her, rapidly reddening Ranma.

But she's a boy!!!

Shrieking in embarrassment, flushing rapidly, Shantae jerked to get away... Only making the tangled hair tighten.

When the firmly tied together gals could, finally, climb onto a rock shelf below the cliff both were wishing to die. Their ears were aflame. But they had to untangle yet: Ranma's mane wasn't as long as Shantae's but it was still rich.

They were found in this position when Akane came, awakened by the fresh air and lead by her sense for vulgarities that tended to stick to Ranma like iron filings to a magnet.

“I didn't mean to!” Shantae screeched. “It just happened!”

With a heavy sigh the youngest Tendou walked up to them. Both cringed squeezing their eyes shut.


“Ranma, you fool,” Akane stated flatly rubbing her fist hurt against her fiance's bony head. “Stop squirming, let me help you.”

With outside help it went much quicker. Soon Shantae and Ranma weren't pressed against each other even as they remained connected by their manes. And then they hit a snag. Or, more precisely, a lot of snags, twists and knots. Even with four free hands they barely managed to undo a couple locks. Akane offered to fetch them a comb.

Of course, just then the three were joined by Ukyou, still wearing the striped bikini she slept in, and Shampoo whose outfit wasn't that different from one.

Ukyou immediately began “helping” idling around Ranma and thus closing the redhead all angles not showing either barely covered skin or her stormy-faced fiancee.

Shampoo began needling Akane if she was clothed too warmly for such kinds of fun.

The youngest Tendou clad in her dogi was huffing and frowning, her fists tightening. A charge that could only be released by pummeling someone was building up.

“Wait!” Shantae interrupted this clown show. “Let me try the monkey dance!”

It wasn't working at first: Ranma attached to her by the head was getting in the way of her dance. The redhead had to stop averting her eyes — her sense of embarrassment was honestly burned out at this stage — and repeat all the motions after the dancer.

Poof! Two monkeys fell from the burst of lavender sparks, one purple, another red.

“Ah, you can transform others as well?” Shampoo was curious.

Poof! Turning back into a girl, Shantae pulled her traditional outfit on with exceptional speed. Only her hair remained loose.

“Well, this only happens with the monkey dance... If I perform it wrong or the onlooker is, how to phrase it, very excited.”

“Ki?” Ranma was studying her tail with fascination twisting it this way and that.

“How do we transform this fool back?” Akane asked with worry. “He won't remain like that forever, won't he?”

“It would fade in a couple hours on its own,” Shantae replied, unconcerned.

“Ki-kikiki!” Ranma proclaimed merrily as she dashed up the rock, then across the bridge onto the adjacent islet.

“Ran-cha?” Ukyou laughed running after her. “Are you going to climb a tree?”

“Ki!” Reaching the nearest palm tree, the red monkey climbed up to hang upside down from the crown on her tail, immensely pleased with herself.

“Where is his clothing?” Akane grumbled looking around.

“I don't know,” Shantae admitted carefully averting her eyes. “I jumped from the cliff and hit him right away, he was already swimming underwater like that.”

Her ears were still red.

All together they combed the surrounding islets finally finding Ranma's trousers, vest and towel.

“Let that naked simian climb down from the tree,” Akane promised vengefully as she gathered the clothing up.

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Hastily leaving her friend to deal with her fiance, carefully not looking back, Shantae almost flew to the lighthouse where she climbed upstairs. Only there did she breathe out, relaxing.

“So you haven't yet chosen which hero to let catch up and defeat you?” Shampoo inquired in an innocuous voice.

The half-Genie started, her ears reddening again.

“Well, that's an important aspect of the marriage rituals,” the amazon explained. “How would you know without testing that the one you chose has enough stamina?”

“Eek! Enough, enough!” Shantae waved her arms. “Let's discuss that at another time!” Taking a suspicious look around to make sure there were only girls with her in the room, she undressed throwing her outfit onto the hammock. She then produced a wooden tub from her ki-pocket, followed by the dirty jammies she threw squeamishly in the tub and a big jug. “I'm not ready for such relationships yet! But what's worse, it was Akane's fiance...” Stepping into the tub she begai oiling herself dripping from the jug onto her palm.

“Don't worry about Little Sis,” Nabiki reassured her while dressing slowly in awkward, wooden motions. “Things like that happen to Ranma all the time. Just give her a little time to cool down.”

“What's the mix?” Shampoo asked curiosly as she unceremoniously rubbed her finger across Shantae's shinny shoulder. She then sniffed at that finger and even licked it. “Feels like plant oils only.”

“Because it's pure olive oil!” The dancer was glad to move away from the awkward topic. “Ideally you should oil yourself after bath but they don't allow it because it's likely to cause injury. Also, you'd have to wash your bed more often. So I do this in the mornings, after a swim.” She twisted to work on her upraised leg while effortlessly balancing on her other one.

“I'm late!” Ukyou shouted emerging from the hole suddenly like a jack-in-the-box, making Shantae shriek covering herself with her arms and upraised leg. “The edge is showing already!” Grabbing her usual garb she changed so swiftly the bikini was still falling to the floor when she disappeared downstairs with a parting clang of her spatula against the edge.

“Don't go scaring people like that!” the outraged home owner yelled after the okonomoyaki chef.

“What was that, just now?” Shampoo asked rhetorically. “The edge of what?”

“Is the oil only for skin care?” Nabiki asked. “Or does it add sun protection as well?”

“It's sun protection first and foremost!” Shantae exclaimed beginning to work on her other leg. “Doesn't keep the fair ones from tanning completely, unlike the sun screen. But that stuff is terribly expensive while the oil is abundant and so much cheaper!”

“Got it,” the middle Tendou replied pigeonholing the pieces of knowledge in her mind. She strove to learn and remember well which things were luxury items here.

Because she had a vague suspicion she could get stuck in this world forever. You could only go back via wish. What if that does not work? Be wary of your own wishes and stuff.

When the half-Genie finished, the Chinese girl shamelessly wheedled the oil out of her. She gladly obliged.

Nabiki hurried to leave the room overabundant with oiled skin. Sliding down the rope, hissing from the pain in her legs, she envied those able to wear something more airy than her climate-inappropriate attire. If only... Yeah, in her dreams. Unlike the martial artists with their tough hides, any climbing or tumbling posed the risk of cuts or abrasions to her. Abrasion and infection walking hand in hand, she was dreading to imagine how backwards was the medicine of this world and worse, how much did it cost. While wasting an insta-heal potion worth two hundred bucks on a mere scratch... Her inner Scrooge Mc Duck was having apoplectic fit from the thought alone!

The company that went to have breakfast in the cafe consisted of two merry, scantily-clad purple-haired girls and one vitriol-leaking, woodenly-walking, bundled up warmly brunette in a hat.

Shantae, instead of her missing tiara, donned a purple bandanna adorned with a white skull.

Sitting at a table with a magnificent sea view Nabiki relaxed a bit, contemplating with satisfaction that such lifestyle — and such dishes, mmm! — weren't that different from a tropical resort. Everything being simplistic and rustic wasn't detracting from the pleasure. Back in the Big Tokyo she wouldn't be able to dine in restaurants every day. There weren't enough chumps, also you have to find one, lead him patiently on, wait until he bites then keep reeling him... But here she was a guest, everything was hassle-free freebies.

The sight of Shantae's coppers slipping away rapidly spoiled her mood reminding her that every good thing comes to an end while she still had disgustingly little knowledge of the local ecosystem. Where are the places the local chumps frequent? How do you tell one? What sort of bait do they respond to? What sort of bullshit would fly and what would be considered legally binding marriage proposal?

Ranma as the backup choice was out: he had whole empty pockets of the local money. Besides, she had a hunch he would be busy all the time. Distracting him from saving the world... The past Nabiki of a week ago wouldn't have thought twice. But that was before a passing Shinigami patted her on the shoulder patronizingly.

No, her own hide held too much nostalgic value to her. Surviving amidst an end of the world requires tons of luck and even then it would not be pleasant.

Ideally, I should learn dancing then work part-time in that “dance parlour” of theirs as a half-price apprentice while my sensei ir running around the land.

Yeah, as if.

Standing up from the table, Nabiki grit her teeth holding her poker face with an effort of will. She had to wait until these ropes of coiled pain become muscles again, then train for a few weeks, as painfully.

She could only hope that either Shantae's savings hold til that time — unrealistic, but this was a magical land of full wonders — or someone finds a fat loot in the dungeons.

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After the breakfast they met Ranma on the wharf, back in his male form and holding hands with Akane.

“Akane!” Shantae exclaimed in joy heading towards them. “You two made up!”

And then she remembered the earlier... close contact. In all its unnecessary graphic detail. Feeling heat rising to her ears she forcibly averted her eyes that began wandering towards the pigtailed martial artist on their own.

So awkward!

Coughing in embarrassment, she proclaimed it was time for her to go hunting: there was jam in the dungeons awaiting to be collected, squids on the trees awaiting to be saved and lots of other urgent tasks...

With a heavy sigh Akane surreptitiously elbowed Ranma making him bow and begin a long-winded, convoluted apology. There won't be repeating of this, he wasn't himself, never again!

“Uh, let's conclude we need more swimsuits and forget about this, allright?” Shantae proposed hastily, itching to run away from the awkward problem. “All right, I gotta go!” She began some dance.

“Your wish is my command!” Ranma saluted. “Where did we put that fabric roll?”

Poof! The cloud of lavender sparks dispersed revealing a powder blue bird girl. Purplish blue skin, dense trouser-like powder-blue feathers below her waist, scaly chicken legs with two fingers. Her top had transformed into something barely there the same color as her feathers, supported with strings attached to the golden ring that migrated to her choker. Her hair became powder-blue feathers forming something akin to a hairdo slicked back and up, her ears gone. Her arms below the elbow were feathered wings of the same color.

“Wow!” Akane gushed with a hint of envy. “You can transform into a bird too!”

“A harpy,” Shantae corrected unfurling her wings. Each was as long as she was tall.

Everyone began studying her with curiosity. She twirled showing off. Her back was covered with feathers completely, there was a sizable fan of a tail growing from the small of her back.

“And you are able to speak in this form,” Nabiki noted.

“The only one, alas,” Shantae replied. “Speech should be available to all my hybrid forms but the mermaid could only speak underwater. In the air it comes out as gurgling...”

“How do you deal with the backwards knees?” Akane was curious.

“These are not knees, these are heels!” Shantae corrected her merrily. “Look!” She straightened her legs suddenly becoming two heads taller than her friend. “I kind of walk on the balls of my feet while half-crouching. Also, I have to lean forward while walking because this form is very light while the wings catch the wind, I have to push against the air when I'm running.”

She demonstrated this by running away and back in a mincing gait. From the back her human parts weren't visible, one could mistake her for a huge light-blue bird.

“You have problems with balance,” Ranma commented critically as he noticed how slowly she was stopping and gaining speed.

“There's that,” Shantae agreed stretching her wings and making a few testing flaps that buffeted everyone with wind. “Human and bird are too different to make a well-rounded hybrid. The center of mass is too high for usual acrobatics, the wingspan is too small for gliding. I can only keep in the air by flapping non-stop.

She demonstrated by jumping up and hovering. Each downward flap was bouncing her upwards, then she was dropping again. The rhythm was quite ragged. She lifted up by flapping faster, then folded her wings behind her back and descended quickly. “As you can see, I don't fly much more elegantly than a hen. But the flight is so incredibly useful for getting into various hard to get places! If I wasn't so lazy I forgot this dance after my first big adventure, I could have avoided so much difficulties!”

“I always wondered,” Shampoo injected, “How do you deal with wings?”

She meant Mousse as well but only the Nerimans understood that.

“It's easy!” the bird girl was glad to elaborate. “This form is closer to human than even the monkey. Look,” She stretched the bend of her folded wing forward. “This is my wrist, with two fingers coming out of it. My thumb,” she wiggled a talon almost unnoticeable among dense, fluffy feathers, “and my looong index finger.” She unfurled her wing, feathers rustling. “It's just one finger, as long as my forearm, with a fan of feathers on it. Moving the feather would be strange, but it feels like bending that finger. It's really not, it is stiff and solid, it just feels like bending my finger.” She demonstrated by adjusting her flight feathers. “The only unusual thing about this form is the tail. But after the monkey I am used to having a tail.”

This demonstration couldn't go on any longer: Shantae was shying Ranma's scrutiny: “All right, gotta go!” She made to lift off but then Shampoo alerted everyone to a large robed and hooded individual approaching them.

“Umm, who is that?” Akane asked, puzzled.

The dark blue, gold-trimmed robe and a matching cape with a deep hood were concealing the stranger's figure. In the unnaturally deep shadows inside the hood, two yellow eyes were glowing like lanterns.

“Meet Hypno Baron,” Shantae introduced him turning back into a girl. “My friends Akane, Ranma, Shampoo, Nabiki.”

“Greetings, Guardian Genie of Scuttle Town,” a voice from the hood rumbled. “I don't believe we've met before... But I have to ask: have, by any chance, Risky Boots attacked you as well? It seems the self-appointed queen of seven seas went all sorts of rogue.”

“Well, it's...” Shantae stuttered awkwardly. “We are... It's a long story. We both did, kind of, return from the future and agreed to a temporary truce to prevent one bad thing. But we had to collect the three magic seals, it was urgent...!”

“So that's why!” Hypno Baron exclaimed throwing his arms up, which let the Nerimans see his sleeves were empty, filled with the same unnatural darkness.

“Didn't she ask?” Shantae inquired cautiously. “She only had to ask... Squid Baron did not listen, though. We had to pummel him. But—”

“No, she didn't,” Hypno Baron replied with vitriol. “She just went through my dungeon with her horde of tinkerbats like bulls through china shop. So many things smashed...! But if I had a choice I would not relinquish the seal anyway. Do you have any idea how dangerous is the thing sealed with it?”

“Ah, don't worry, I know it all to well.” Shantae said. “That lamp is a terrific thing. But we urgently need it to collect the scattered dark magic and prevent the Pirate Master's awakening. You see, I had one willain sucked into the lamp, but when—”

“The Pirate Master?!” the hooded one interrupted her. “The seal has weakened, after all...? I knew it. Well, it was nice knowing you.” Turning around hastily, he started floating away, not touching the ground.

“Have you remembered something urgent?” Shantae asked after him, puzzled. “Are your toasts burning?”

“Let's say...” He stopped for a moment turning to face her. “Seqin Land was a wonderful place but I have a castle in Lapland that needs dusting up. I'll go... perform general cleaning, plow snow drifts.”

Saying that, he departed.

“What's with him?” Shantae wondered in puzzlement, still not getting it.

“Rats, from a sinking ship?” Nabiki hinted.

“That's legging it if I saw one,” Ranma said with confidence. “As soon as the Pirate Master was mentioned, he lost his nerve. So weak...? I don't get it. I thought being able to fly requires some badassery. Of the martial artists I know none can fly.”

“He isn't weak, he's a pretty strong dark sorcerer,” Shantae affirmed. “He can turn into anyone, fly, throw heavy things with his telekinesis and cast lightning bolts. Why is he fleeing then?”

“His use of the past tense doesn't inspire optimism,” Shampoo remarked. “We haven't lost yet, nothing is decided. We can still stop the awakening. Right?”

“Maybe he is wayry of the.. howzit.. Morpheus Law?” Shantae thought aloud.

“Or does know something we don't”, Nabiki portended ominously. “Like, the awakening cannot be stopped once it had begun.”

Shantae started like she was reminded of something frightening. “Let's not talk about bad things before they happened, all right?”

“This reaction of yours... is not encouraging,” Nabiki noted.

The half-Genie began the harpy dance again.

“Wait,” Ranma reminded her. “If Risky Boots already has the seal it means we have all three. We should only wait for her and then start right away!”


“She had it yesterday!” the bird girl retorted indignantly. “And she is still somewhere at large! Instead of waiting I'd collect goods across the dungeons instead, pre-knowledge is a one in a lifetime deal... Don't worry, I'll be back quick like. If she comes, let her signal me with a Pirate Flare.”

Jumping up, she flapped rapidly to rise above the rooftops then flew away toward the hills.

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Flappy harpy is suffering... But so nostalgic for those who loved that last tower in the “Pirate's Curse”

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Nabiki was wandering the city sweating in her buttoned up clothing, aching all over but stubbornly observing the locals. On one hand, the population here was largely unsophisticated. On the other hand, the population had roughly the same size as that of the Furinkan school. No armor of anonimity for you, unlike the Big Tokyo: everyone if not knows each other then at least seen each other in passing. All cliques and circles are accounted for. Rumors envelop the entire volume at lonce like flame a stack of hay.

So either she had to accustom, adapt and gnaw out place for herself and then only con outsiders with silent consent from the townsfolk, which would require months of toil before first profit. Or any noticeable scam should culminate in a thoroughly planned escape. Which was problematic at best while she was depending on Shantae, who was sort of a part of the local law.

It seemed like a dead end. But if she was bold enough, if she could rope Ranma in reliably and play on the knowledge of her home world... She had to refresh her memory of the life and deeds of Barnum. Whom she admired, by whom she was inspired... But, sadly, had read about him long ago when she was just a kid so she did not remember the important parts well.

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Ranma, Akane and Shampoo brought their roll of fabric into Mimic's workshop: there was a table big enough to unroll it as well as tools for working it. Ranma quickly cut himself a suitable stripe and began sewing one-size-fits-all girl underpants with side-straps for tying them on. He was doing everything on his own: cutting while using his eye sight measurement only, sewing, stitching the edges with speed and accuracy that would make an overlock sewing machine envious.

Shampoo tried intruding using an excuse of trying the finished product on, making Akane fume. But the pigtailed one weaseled out by secluding himself behind some big invention together with a glass of water. After jumping around a bit and making several flips through standing splits and handstands, the redhead confirmed that the panties were well and good. She then continued producing them pair after pair.

“Here, take this.” Mimic handed the remaining two girls a worn magazine spread of cutouts. “Sky brought it this morning.”

These were cutouts of the outfit Sky was wearing yesterday, all covered in pencil marks, with a couple lines corrected. Armed with chips of soap, both began copying the cutouts onto the fabric, one from the right and the other from the left.

When they met in the middle, Shampoo sneered: “What's this, a decorative jellyfish ornament?” She pointed derisively at the fruits of Akane's labor. “Or is it modern art? I bet you wouldn't wear this yourself!”

The youngest Tendou frowned as she kept doodling. But Mimic loomed suddenly over her shoulder. His beard was twitching in outrage: “Young lady! How could you treat the results of human labor so carelessly!”

Akane froze, confused, glancing at him uncertainly.

“Erase everything and do over!” the old man commanded. “I know, it's always hard for the first time, but that's no excuse for such neglect. Would I tinker like this I'd beggar myself a long time ago, a laughing stock for everyone!”

Akane looked at the magazine spread, then at her handiwork, then at the spread again. Shot a glance at the smug and condescending Shampoo. Froze in balance.

“Just like Shantae when she was learning to cook pilaf.” Mimic sighed straightening his glasses. “How old was she back then...? Eleven or twelve... Hmmm...” He was frowning, seemingly lost in thought.

Her ears flaming — the hint she was behaving like a brat was laid on thick — Akane let out a noisy breath, erased all her lines and began drawing the cutouts from the start, slowly, with her tongue poking out in concentration, constantly referring the magazine spread with a measuring tape in hand.

“Do you think hard work could balance crooked hands out?” the amazon quiped.

Akane was squeezing her chip of soap so hard it was crumbling in her hand but was stubbornly refusing to rise to the bait.

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The clothing had been made in double numbers and tried on. Risky wasn't coming. Shantae too. Ukyou was still out to parts unknown. The tropical sun moved past noon, the air was so warm no one wanted to move. The locals have wisely disappeared in their houses and under awnings.

Incited by Nabiki, Ranma had brazenly borrowed some olive oil in the lighthouse. Now four girls in identic dark red side tie bikinis were lazing in the shade under palm trees sipping through straws.

So what if the straws were actual straw instead of plastic? It was just closer to the nature.

The idyllic noon lazing was interrupted by the mayor who made effort to come to the beach with two town guards in their red half-shirts and funny hats. The rotund shorty was huffing, sweating, fanning himself with a large fan but kept demanding for Ryouga.

Their attempts to talk their way out of this by explaining the futility of catching water with a butterfly net did not work:

“You promised,” the mayor remarked acidly, “that he won't go anywhere! It's on your word that he helps fixing what he broke as recompense.”

“There's no helping it.” Nabiki sighed theatrically as she put her hand on the redhead's shoulder and pushed her forward. “You have to do it, Ranma-kun. We can count on you, can we?”

“As if I had a choice,” the martial artist grumbled pouting. Then, an impish spark glinted in her eyes. Raising her head towards the sky, Ranma bellowed: “Ryouga!!! It's all your fault!!!”

Akane and Shampoo trailed the pigtailed girl but they couldn't participate in time. The hole in the town wall was fixed very quickly, the longest part was waiting for a snappy old man who was making mortar, slapping at the hands of anyone trying to help him. Half the prepared stones were left unused: with Ranma's help repairing the wall resembled gluing a broken cup back together. She was moving pieces effortlessly, even those weighing hundreds of kilograms, placing them back in their place on mortar.

Everyone was left satisfied except the guy whose job was dragging the unused stones back to the warehouse.

When repairing was done and everyone was going to go back to the beach, Shantae landed neraby dropping suddenly from the sky.

“My arms are killing me!” the half-Genie complained merrily rolling her shoulders. “It feels like I flew all over the forest from here to the very Mermaid Falls.. I've never seen so much magic jam at once...! That's not counting the lot of stashes I missed that time... Ah! I see sewing was a success!

Discussing their parts light-heartedly — Akane practically bloomed, in Shampoo's company she had only been suffering barbs and stress — they went towards the beach.

When they were rounding the corner of the last house, Ranma felt a prick of something akin to killing intent but not exactly. More like inexorable female righteous fury...? Puzzled, she did not have time to figure it out. Risky Boots was waiting for them beyond the corner, so enraged her eye was twitching.

Why didn't my danger sense work? both Ranma and Shampoo thought taking combat stances.

“Here you are, you parasitic brat!” Ignoring them, the pirate lady stomped up to the half-Genie, grabbed her by the scruff of her neck and began dragging her back in the direction of the pond. “Let's go have a talk!”

Shantae was wheezing and kicking, turning gradually blue: there was nothing but her choker to grab there. The strip of black fabric was demonstrating exemplary sturdiness, not even hinting at ripping.

“Hey! Hey! You'd strangle her!” the friends of the dragged one rushed after them.

Casting a side glance Risky realized she could really strangle the purple-haired dancer. Grabbed her by the ear instead and kept dragging fiercely. Into Mimic's workshop, it tirned out.

“Ow! Ouch! Leggo!” Shantae was struggling, choking. “We have a truce!”

“Then how would you explain this!” Risky barked releasing her only to direct her towards a huge glass jar with a kick at her derriere. There was someone dark inside the vessel.

“A tinkerbat?” the half-Genie stumbled back. “But why...? Uncle shouln't have...!”

“Oh, it was me who stuffed him in there,” Risky said dismissively. “And look closer!”

“You...” Shantae began but fell silent. Because while the creature beyond the class was resembling a tinkerbat, it wasn't one. It wasn't a cacklebat either. No wings, no eyeless toothy maw, it looked like a regular tinkerbat in red baggy pants and red headscarf pulled town to its eyes. But its shape was wrong, like it shrunk and shriveled. Its face was sporting something akin to a wrinkled beak-like lip. Wait, this was reminding her of someone...

“Sweeto!!!” the creature yelled, heard even through the thick glass, and jumped at Shantae with such vigor it made the giant jar wobble.

The half-Genie gasped making an involuntary step back.

“Now be so kind to explain,” Risky growled in barely restrained rage, “what sort of vile stuff did you have in the lamp that my men began turning into this instead of cacklebats?! And why the devil did they steal all my underpants, EVEN THOSE I WAS WEARING!”

“Happoubat,” Ranma whispered while Risky was venting by laying into stunned Shantae.

“Happoubat,” Akane agreed, shivering.

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Canonic cacklebat:

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Author's reminder to those readers who look at Shantae with lowly thoughts like “I'd tap dat ass”: first, superstrength. Low tier, but it's there. Second, stamina that'd make marathon runners envious. Her fitness is on the level of a wild human, an endurance predator able to run all day non-stop. So... you are looking at death by snu-snu, gentlemen.

..but your answer is “Yes” anyway, isn't it?

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P.S. Erin Bozon, who first envisioned Shantae, had her hands in designing Futurama characters as well.

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Published in Russian: September 26, 2019. Translated to English: January 28, 2020.
Proud owner of 1.5 kilograms of Germanium transistors
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Moon Senshi
Posts: 1482

Re: Dance, Dance, Rumble (R.5 / Shantae crossover) [+ Ch.14]

Postby Cheb » Sun May 03, 2020 11:19 am

I was planning to keep this prequel shelved til I finish DDR, but then I decided to publish it before Seven Sirens are out. Not a crossover, pure Shantae, it helps to know the HGH game well. There are lots of insider jokes about various aspects of the game.

Also @ ... Genie-Hero ... ion.65974/

Risky plots and plans and tinkers waiting for The Pest to come and throw a monkey wrench into her plans (and boy would that make for a hideous chimera). But there's always room for things to go pear-shaped leaving oneself to live with bitter regrets. The Genie magic isn't dragon balls but can it give a second chance?

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This story just kept squawking to be written, like a hungry hatchling. I couldn't stand the racket so I found time to write it.

The core of this story was written back in 2017, long before Seven Sirens or even the Pirate Queen's Quest were out. Any details from these were added in later. Originally planned to be a chapter of “Dance, Dance, Rumble” right before the Risky fight, the two lines converging at that point. I had all scenes planned in great detail but I had inspiration crash after the emotional high of writing most key parts in one go so my writing stalled and I postponed this for later.

Kicked myself into gear to complete and publish this at May 03, before Seven Sirens hit Steam at May 28. Having only seen youtube videos of the first part, I'm waiting with anticipation if the plot of the rest of that game would contradict or confirm my wild guesswork on the larger Shantae-verse. Will the Clockwork Moon finally make its debut? What is Risky's angle?

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A customary WARNING:[/b] self-taught English. Not native. Prepare for grammar blunders ahead.

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The End of the half-Genie Hero

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Lazing about to the point of shirking her day patrols through the scarecrow-infested fields, failing to notice me in a paper-thin disguise across the street... I feel almost insulted this clueless brat is my closest thing to a proper nemesis.

The Pest is growing into a slob, not even practicing her dancing it seems. I am surprised she is not gaining weight yet, with that lifestyle.

That won't do, won't do at all. For my master plan I need her lean and mean, actively searching for evil and engaging targets I need incapacitated to plunder their objects of interest from their hoards.

I enter her Uncle's workshop and engage the old man in conversation. The naive fool is so glad to talk to a kindred tinker he spills his secrets. I study his plans for the so called “dynamo” committing them to my memory. Sending a tinkerbat to copy the blueprints in the middle of the night could have been enough, but I prefer to be thorough when it comes to important parts. Learning the design from the mouth of its inventor lets me avoid mistakes I can't afford here.

Leaving the workshop after an amicable conversation - you can learn new things even from such amateurs as this part-time relic hunter - I decide to just attack this sleepy fishermans town when my master plan is ready. Not a refined plan, I know, but nothing kick-starts heroic resolve like fighting through a burning town overran by invading pirates. Should bring extra barrels of pitch — not for actually burning the town down but for greater ambience. Pitch-black smoke blotting out the sky, flaming dust devils roaming the streets... That kind of classics.

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I survey my tinkerbats scurrying around swarming scaffolds, working heavy cranes that lift oversized parts into place. So far, everything goes according to plan, a few industrial accidents aside. This is my largest scaled construction so far, outdoing even the factory I had to create to build my Tinker Tank.

And unlike that factory, ninety percent of this machinery are heat engines.

Power source, the eternal woe of any tinker. There aren't many available: magic, atmospheric electricity harvested from the clouds like Ammo Baron does for his air fleet, wind, water, steam and geothermal.

Alas, my daring invention is going to be a horrible power hog. Magic is immediately out, not up to the task. A legendary sorceress I am not.

Atmospheric electricity and wind are out as well: I'd need ginormous fragile setups to gather enough. There are so many chances for something to go wrong it's not even funny. I would be safer going into a naval battle riding an oversized porcelain tea set. Just no.

Steam... Without cheats like the elemental stones, I'd need to cut down a whole forest. And then sit brooding on the resulting mountain of wood like a mother hen for months while it dries, protecting it from rain, monsters and idiots. Too boring and so not me. I hate sitting in one place. But even worse, my pile of highly flammable wood would inevitably attract The Pest who knows fire spells and isn't afraid of using them. I heard the ancients were using something called “coal” but so far I've only found places where they had mined it all out.

With water, it's the same story, only in this case I'd have to brood on a dam being built. Pass.

Hence, why I am building inside of a convenient volcano - again. These huge unwieldy things - heat engines are infamous for their atrocious power to weight ratio - will convert immense but diffused heat flow into rotational energy necessary to drive my dastardly device of devious diversion. And unlike, say, my Tinker Tank, these engines have no convenient weak points.

The Pest will come, as always, at the most inconvenient time - but she won't find any weaknesses to exploit here. I am also building it modular with high levels of redundancy. Of course the twit wouldn't know heat engine if it hit her in the head — and with so many moving pistons and counterweights the size of a small house it very well could!

Then a thought strikes me. It's ridiculous but... Yes, killing two birds with one stone. I can drill into the crater and flood this cavern with magma from the permanent lava lake there. That would make last-minute maintenance impossible, but it will increase power output and open some interesting possibilities. After all, this entire setup doesn't need to be running for more than a few minutes. So much effort for a basically one-shot device...

Also, there is an adventurous part of me that is nagging to try it and watch how ridiculously penetrating The Pest could be. Yesss. If I collapse the access tunnel only leaving the flooded caverns as means of entrance... Hmm... Been there, done that, actually. At the lair I used to unseal the lamp.

I survey the cavern with critical eye, imagining how would it work when flooded. The magma will rise to about... this level. Note to self: don't forget to re-calibrate the cargo lift, it would be a shame if such a critical piece of equipment takes a dip. How hot will it get, then, and how fast? I spend some undetermined time doing mental calculations. It's always so fun losing myself in the work... Almost as fun as plundering, ho-ho-ho.

When I am done, I feel hungry (was it hours?) and know the answer. After the initial surge, the heat engines would be steadily losing efficiency. Too quickly for my goals, in fact. What if... No. Steam flash explosions are bad for minions. And they can cause the magma exploding in turn. The stuff loves exploding in titanic proportions if you inject even a minuscule amount of gases into it. And everything ever remotely flammable or wet becomes lots of gases. It's like bringing a lit fuse to a powder keg.

No, I will remedy this problem of uneven power output by using a steam engine. I sigh. The amount of work... Now where could I plunder a differential gear sturdy enough to drive my dynamo simultaneously by the heat engine array and a steam engine...? I also have to build the latter from scratch. Because I'm not stripping my Steam-Powered Oceanic Tinker Tub Mk III. The new slug is sure fun to ride — it's so fast! You feel like flying! — but it has its share of problems. The tub is nice and quiet and unassuming right until it hops onto the shore and opens its maw.

Ah, my work is cut out for me...

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My attack on Scuttle Town went well, even bringing fair amount of loot. I have no need for riches right now, so transporting all that stuff just tied valuable manpower up... Bah, a pirate gotta pillage. It's like professional pride.

The Pest proved to be horribly out of shape, coming out of the horde of my vicious minions victorious but black and blue all over. Well, at least our final battle at the wharf had been fun. Such tenacity and ingenuity, finding a way for the townsfolk to aid her without exposing themselves. After my Tinker Slug had been driven back — genuinely, the poor thing is allergic to explosions — I had `surrendered` handing her the fake blueprints.

Now it all hangs on the old man not noticing my modifications. I hope I've been subtle enough.

If me stealing the blueprints wasn't distracting enough, I'm sure the next phases will be. I've already hinted to those redneck maidens there's a half-Genie they could ask for help. I had also planted a letter for that Lingerbean apparition. My poor, now amnesiac, tinkerbat. His sacrifice won't be forgotten. Hopefully she would come infest Scuttle Town, that giant worm of hers is a real nuisance when I cannot fight it myself. I absolutely cannot afford losing any memories to jealous celebrity ghosts that just don't know when to quit.

Still, my work is cut out for me. Lots of Genie crystals to collect, lots of specialized tinkertech to steal before my cornerstone machines are operable.

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In the end, I had to scrape a lot and build a really big flywheel right below the Tinker Brain. That thing cost me lots of trouble. The variable gearbox that connects it to the heat engines, even more so. What a pain. Had to re-design it several times, getting inventive just not to waste the work already done. Building it around existing parts instead of engineering it properly from scratch, bleh.

Balancing the flywheel was meticulous, frustrating work. Even now, running at fraction of its designed speed, powered by geothermal only, it is generating powerful vibrations. At full power, it will tear itself apart in five minutes tops.

Deciding I need a break, I go test personally how good an obstacle course my machinery provides. Not good enough, it turns out. Beside several gaps I ignore as these are scheduled to be blocked by grates, it provides too many easy paths. Even obeying the marks “below this line is lava” I make it in less than a couple minutes grabbing at ledges, riding the moving pistons to give me a lift or riding my pirate cannon.

I stand on the cargo elevator platform - the designated finishing line - frowning in displeasure. The scurrying tinkerbats shuffle trying to keep out of my sight. To think of it, even the grates could be bypassed if she comes as a monkey. No, this won't do. Won't do at all.

“Men!” I command. “Prepare for an extra shift making spikes! I want every moving part covered in spikes, hear me? Oh, and the grates too.”

Their reply is a collective groan. Good. Means I could punish slackers by posting them around here as additional obstacles.

My mood lifted, I return to my Tinker Brain, make it extend the dumping coils and continue fine-tuning their shielding. Sadly, these fragile vital parts cannot be covered with anything solid without defeating their purpose.

Knowing The Pest only exhibits three types of damage: fire, lightning and physical, I had designed the force field to protect from the fire first and foremost because that's what the coils are fatally vulnerable to. Lightning would go through, but the coils are excellent conductors of mundane electricity, grounded through resistant heatsinks. At the power levels The Pest consistently shows, her continuous effort would only make parts of my machine warm.

Physical, that's another story. You can't make a force field that protects from every application of it, that's as impossible as finding panacea, the universal cure. But my task is greatly simplified by what I know of the half-twit's ability to inflict damage: it is tied firmly to her magic. Either her hair, reinforced and made a magnitude heavier, or close-range projectiles from the spells she uses. The hair is easily taken care of by the same component that protects from fire: a double-layered counter-magic flow deflecting any incoming magic upward. The hair itself will get through the barrier fine, but won't do any damage as it will be just hair. The projectiles are always iron, I only had to give my force field magnetic properties. Anything with noticeable magnetic permeability will be reflected like it hit a rubber wall.

The elephant is a different story but the coils are small enough that the elephant rushing from the side would first hit the sturdy frame with her head and elephant smashing from above would only overpower the extending springs forcing the coil back into the base. As she could only be in one place at one time, four other coils would pick up the slack with no problem.

I watch the coils retract into the floor. At least this vital part is a hundred percent Pest-proof. There is no way she could inflict meaningful damage here.

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I catch my breath. Planting dozens of clues to hint at the apparent nature of my master plan was tedious at best. All for maybe two or three of them to be actually found. Was it worth it? The right answer: I want to leave as little to random chance as I could. Even if all that extra sneaking around made me tired and cranky.

The old man had finally completed his dynamo. Including all my sneaky tweaks, the fool.

It seems I have arrived just in time: I see the half-Genie brat coming and hurry to watch the grand debacle.

A zombie hamster...? Seriously...?

Hm, maybe not that stupid an idea. If I used common wild zombies in combination with an appropriately sized wheel...

I hold my breath... And my too-convoluted-to-work scheme goes off perfectly. The dynamo does what I designed it to do, with the help of a Genie crystal stuck into one of its key components last night. The invigorating surge of dark magic resonates with the half-Genie girl, striking her like black lightning.

You, who always rants about unforgivable evils of being evil, do you have what it takes to wrestle the darkness within into control?

With The Pest incapacitated and her so called friends distraught, it's too easy to abscond with the still running dynamo. On second thought, the zombie hamster as a power source is mightily convenient, saves me lot of trouble of re-starting and re-calibrating the already attuned device. Pity I can't stay and watch but taking care of my ill gained possession takes priority. This part is utterly vital for my plan.

Last thing I hear from the workshop is a hilariously hammy monologue about pathetic worms who should grovel or something like that. Huh, I did not get anything the like from the pure Genie half I ripped out of her that time. Must be her human half talking.

Case in point, it' always the nice ones.

I hurry transporting the still running dynamo back to my lair, prodding my tinkerbats mercilessly. There could be two outcomes: either the half-Genie brat snaps out of it and comes after me with vengeance... Or she succumbs to her dark desires. The latter case would be signaled by a giantic column of smoke where Scuttle Town once been.

But I hope against all reason she is stronger than that.

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The machinery had begun its first - and last - run. Molten rock is slowly flooding the cavern giving great boost to my heat engines, their pistons and counterweights pumping at unsustainable accelerations. Some subsystems are already breaking apart, raining bent shafts and chipped cogwheels into the growing lava lake.

Doesn't matter, I had over-engineered all the crucial parts. Safety pins the size of my torso break with sharp reports as the main flywheel keeps going faster, propelled by surviving subsystems. The overall power is still growing.

Making sure all the valves that have to be open stay open, I go over the final check-list while the Little Wrecking Mermaid is demolishing the underwater obstacle course I set up for her. Tinker Brain is long calibrated, tested in three separate dry runs and ready to go.

As soon as the dark magic flow reaches designed density, it would be reversed and fed to the array of Genie crystals focusing this flow of faked light magic into a single point and punching a wormhole into the Genie Realm, bypassing all its defenses as only light magic attuned to a real half-Genie could. I will then ride the flow employing such a vulgar method as common warp.

I will enter the Genie Realm boldly and the power will be mine!

The heat engines slow losing efficiency. The jumbo gearbox that cost me oh so much toil and frustration switches to a higher gear with a suffering grinding nose, already living its last minute, sparks and metal chips flying.

There are sounds of my expendable minions shooting - the cave is guarded by select ones who have Failed Me - then exploding, perishing for pure amusement value. Meh, I can always summon more, even if I have to train them ship-broken from scratch. This way, at least, the long surviving ones know whom to never cross. The wily little buggers.

Finally, a blur explodes from between a spike-encrusted counterweight and the searing surface of magma, resolving into a scuffed harpy trailing smoke, her wingtips warped and melted.

Daring as they get, this one.

Flapping laboriously towards the cargo elevator, she poofs into her birth form before landing on the platform, looking around watchfully.

This is my cue.

We banter a bit. She accuses me of wrongdoing, I dance around the issue reinforcing her belief that I plan corrupting the Genie Realm. Surprisingly, she never tries bringing up the fact that it's the Genies who guard our human realm from the likes of my late master - or even worse things - so messing with them is a bad idea on so many levels... Huh, I guess she's less bright than I was giving her credit for.

She brags they found a way to reverse polarity undoing my curse. Is that why she is here, not because of her willpower overcoming the corruption but because of that bumbling old man's invention doing it...? Most disappointing.

We have fun anyway. Well, I have fun, she has a pitched battle against the dastardly master villain. The short nuisance is becoming good, I have to give her that. Her dodging is almost uncanny, her dancing very quick, always capitalizing on gaps in my offense, her transformations appropriate and powerful. Especially the elephant. How could something so modest-sized have so much stomp in it? Its effective weight must be five or six tons, multiplied by that thing jumping higher than my head!

`Never fight for the sake of fighting' is a good principle to follow, but I cannot deny that fighting is fun. Also, the legend I am has to stay sharp. To think of it, any other opponents I've had for a long time were much less flexible and inventive.

What is more important to me, right now, she never displays any damage type I've never seen before. Fire, lightning, copious amounts of physical, that's all. Unless I myself give her something to reflect back with her bubble, she is limited to things my Tinker Brain was made highly resistant against. She has no chance in the blazes of harming it in the time frame she'll have. There is no way for her to disrupt my real plan. Have I just jinxed it...? Naw. The Queen of Seven Seas is afraid of no Fate. I laugh at the silly sow as I always do.

It is time. The elevator grinds to a stop, level with my best invention to date. The half-Genie runt pauses in dread to stare at it as I introduce my Tinker Brain with appropriate evil monologuing full of vague foreshadowing. Always let them draw their own conclusions! Sometimes, heroes imagine such horrors that even I, the professional villain, am left stunned.

The sophisticated machine activates, opening its eyes and staring at the Pest. I use the distraction to sneak away. It's a prop in that regard: besides its main function, all it could do is staring at the closest moving object that resembles that girl's hairdo. Not even enough resolution to recognize faces nor colors. It has no offensive means as well. I only have a couple ejectors installed in the side walls to lob scraped cogwheels. Well, there is also that photonic flyback discharger installed too close, just to mock work safety principles. If she takes its action for the brain's attack, the more hilarity.

Nested in the machine's center is the old dynamo, the hamster still running. After the initial calibration, its function is comic relief. Would be hilarious if she thought it being the main power source!

Ignoring the spirited yells of the nitwit thinking she saves the world I hurry to the warp platform installed in the machine's base. All my calculations are perfect, and yet I shiver in apprehension. Here lies the best chance to be Hoist with my own petard: warping into places nominally non-existent relative to our physical reality is always... risky.

Here goes nothing.

The transition is as sharp as a kick in my metaphorical teeth. I reel hissing in pain. The immense expanse of light magic presses against me, all cloud-like puffs and misty wisps in soft glowy colors, unwelcoming. Ugh, so much goodness! If the part of me that is feeling that really had teeth, these would be crumbling from sweetness already.

Steeling myself I whip out the lamp and begin sucking the ambient energies in. Those fools in Scuttle Town were quite helpful burying the artifact of evil in a relatively shallow sea while knowing full well my minions do have diving gear.

I hold the bucking lamp firmly. It is already becoming whiter, sparkling, making the skin of my palms crawl. But I have just begun. Have to be careful now, it won't do to attract the inhabitants. With me performing the daring equivalent of stealing grass from their backyard, it's unlikely, but still.

A simple question: where do Genies go when they are killed the in the mortal world? The right answer: they all end up here. They are spirits and this is their spirit realm, their sovereign domain. They may not have physical forms I could perceive right now, they may be busy with matters I could not comprehend with my keen but still mortal mind, but. They. Are. All. Here. Every Genie who ever lived, from wimps to unstoppable legendary warriors, they are all somewhere around. They all have a chance to notice this irregularity, this chunk of solid space-time I generate around myself by simply being here in the flesh.

The lamp is thrashing in my clenched hands shining like a small sun, burning my hands like salt in a raw wound. But still I press on.

By plundering their Genie magic I risk confrontation with someone like the brat's mother. Aided by her friends and allies. On her home turf.

Not a confrontation I could ever hope to win.

But for my dream, for that desire born one day when I was gazing at seagulls soaring in the blue expanse above...? Totally worth it.

I'm not risking my life and limb for something trivial, like unstoppable power or world falling into my hands or uncountable riches.

I'm taking this risk because nothing else is suitable for powering my dream machine, my Clockwork Moon I desire to build so much it's like an ache that never ceases completely.

Just a tiny bit more and I will have enough. I'm almost giddy with anticipation, plans and schematics fluttering and swirling in my mind like celebratory butterflies. I can practically see myself waging glorious air battles against Ammo Baron's puny airships, can almost hear myself laughing imperiously at the landlubbers from my unreachable fortress in the clouds, the crowds panicking and mighty heroes coming to chall—

A mighty crash rattles me sending me booty over teakettle, knocking the lamp out of my hands...

I jump onto my feet, slowly as this formless realm doesn't really have a firm concept of “up”, whirling this way and that with my scimitar out, acutely aware I cannot read my surroundings, cannot recognize an attack in this uniform...


My Tinker Brain is here, utterly wrecked, sparking and leaking dark magic like the world's biggest “Alarm! Invaders!” beacon. The Pest is standing on its circular base, gawking in wonder, utterly pleased with herself.


The conduits are all blown up, the retracted dumping coils in the base totally melted as if... Was this control failure, the system trying to dump excess magic without extending the coils?

But, more importantly, where's the lamp?

I search frantically. There! Spinning like a top, releasing all the magic I gathered in a stream of pretty rainbows and sparkles. I make for it, only for The Pest to reach forward... grabbing the lamp that was a good dozen fathoms behind her!


This realm, it's really on her side, isn't it? The physical wreck of my machine aside, the space is merely suggestion here, responding to her whims without her ever realizing it.

Fine, two could play this game! I make one step onto the platform next to her crossing the seemingly sizable distance separating us.

“You won't stop me!” I growl grabbing for the lamp. “The power will be mine!” For the first time in a long, long time I really want to hurt her.

Her uncanny dodge - not as cute now when I am running out of time - prevents me from reclaiming my vital tool.

She begins looking around frantically, noticing for the first time the leaking dark magic polluting this disgustingly pristine bleh-land.

“Oh no!” she shouts in dread. “The corruption! It has begun!”

Right. Squirm, make wrong conclusions, get distracted - allowing me...

“I must save the Genie Realm!” the twit shouts pulling out a badly kludged together... Polarity reverser!


My blood turns into ice even before I consciously realize what she is going to do. I lunge...

And she simply jumps over my awkward, overextended form as she activates the device.

The imbecile! The good-for-nothing brain-dead incompetent nincompoop!

The circumstantial doomsday device buzzs and sparks in her hands, burning out instantly. But the deed is done. The meager trickle of dark magic from my ruined invention turns light... And the cloying, oppressive, ever-present mass of ambient magic around us turns glorious, alluringly beautiful dark. Instead of cute candy cloud land we are now inside a terrific thundercloud.

It's like a refreshing hurricane after a humid and hot day, like an invigorating life-or-death struggle after endless boredom, like a gulp of icy poison a midst a parched, dry desert.

It's like the final nail in the coffin of my once-in-a-lifetime plan.

I don't know how far the corruption zone goes - not far, likely, considering the wimpiness of that scrap - and if it would spread to the entire realm like I let her believe my plan was. Innumerable evil Genies unbound by restrictions or morality - what would they do, who would they invade? Worst case, I could be witnessing the birth of a new Hell, with its hellmouth already in place by my hand.

What I know for certainty is that while my wrecked, leaking Tinker Brain was akin to scattering manure on someone's lawn - unpleasant but not necessarily a reason for immediate response - this escapade of hers stands out like a pile of feces the size of Mount Pointy!

My perfect plan, my only chance, my dream is done for!

And this... this... is just standing there, swaying, out of it, talking to some figment of her imagination or other, smiling.

“Is this just a game for you...! You...!” I roar as white-hot hatred erupts, resonating with the sea of dark magic around me, feeding on itself. I make one step forward, then another. I will end her. I will end her! My Rakshasi blood is boiling, canines growing in my snarling rictus, razor-sharp claws extending from my fingertips... It would be so easy while she is stumbling around in a blind daze, whipping at random puffs of dark magic, babbling incoherently and crying in such anguish like she is forced to kill kittens. My vision turns yellow, my clawed hand reaches forward singing in anticipation...

I exert Herculean effort of will as I make myself run for it. As opposed to, say, staying behind and ripping The Hateful Thing limb from limb. I'd tear that... that ARRRGH like wet tissue paper! I'd bathe in her innards! I'd...

I'd stay long enough for the Genies to arrive in force and crush me like a roach. They may even turn me into a being of light or erase me from existence off-hand while they reverse every bit of dark magic floating around.

Forcing the physical transformation down - I lived long enough without such petty boosts, I am perfectly capable in my fully human form - I dive into the twisting, destabilizing vortex of the warp channel.

The jarring arrival almost knocks me out - would be a certain doom while in the air, above the lava lake - but I manage. Using my pirate cannon I pull up and land on the edge of the escape exit.

There I linger watching the ruins of my work crumbling, some machines still spinning meaninglessly, most jammed from overheating. I grip the raging beast inside me and leash it, bringing it to heel. Oh, I will have my revenge. But now is not the place nor the time. With the dark magic, either you ride it - or it rides you, there is no middle ground. And I have no intent to let the latter happen in any shape or form. Down, you, inner-me! My revenge will be a dish served ice-cold.

The remains of my Tinker Brain arrive in an unmistakable halo of goodness, carrying The Pest with them. Hooh, that was quick. Booting foreign substances out already...? It seems I fled their realm in the nick of time!

Mauled supports creak raining debris. Time to go.

“I hope you die in fire!” I shout my parting words, still too angry for proper banter. Tsk, I have to work on my weaknesses. As an one-liner, that was petty and undignified. Pathetic.

I still see her rushing to grab the hamster as I turn to leave. After a short scimitar dash I use my cannon to gain more attitude, then proceed speeding away from the mountainside on my trusty hat.

The mountain begins rumbling and I feel my chest tighten. Don't take me wrong, I love Stuff Blowing Up. But all that work and toil... The irreplaceable materials... Wasted! Just like that! I twist around to float facing backwards, to take the last look at my pirate lair. I hope most of my veteran tinkerbats managed to escape through that underwater passage. After the wrecking ball of a mermaid went through it? I doubt there are any traps or obstructions left.

The escape exit begins spewing clouds of fiery ejecta while a tiny purple-haired figure is hopping across the gaps in the remains of my old maintenance bridge, hurrying to outrun the devastation. That over-talented blonde riding her glorified parrot dives to pick her up. The urge to strangle someone rises again!

Something in the collapsing system gives. I feel a great rumble vibrating in my bones, even through the air, even at this distance. And then... A spectacular fountain of lava erupts from the mountainside where the escape tunnel had been, fanning out beautifully, fragmenting into to chunks of red-hot grapeshot. It's like a hellish umbrella snapping open over a large portion of the landscape. So overwhelmingly massive it almost gets me even here, stone grapeshot whistling through the air around me.

It descends with deceptive slowness as its glow dims to dark red. The jungle in that direction is simply gone. White smoke billows up obscuring the devastation.

Any minute now, a powder-blue harpy would explode out of it, or a war-bird carrying two passengers. The Pest is worse than roaches in that regard.

I had made so many attempts, in all seriousness, to end her miserable existence, all failing so spectacularly that I grew used to thinking of them more as a form of art, acts of pointless artistry. Should I have tried harder? I'm not sure that'd work. That anything would work. Ever.

The smoke is billowing higher, obscuring the land below. I drift away awaiting for The Pest to emerge and begin, I don't know, sassing at me...? I'm not sure I could hold myself from trying to strangle her - and falling all the way down as a result. That would be embarrassing.

Any minute now.

But I keep drifting, coming lower bit by bit, and nothing happens.

Then, finally, I see the bird soaring out of the smoke, climbing with a mournful cry. It makes a turn and I see it carrying only one. I stare in disbelief: has the half-Genie runt really bought it? It can't be!

The blond is rubbing at her face. What... Ah, she is wiping away tears. Uh-oh. Through shocked disbelief I barely remember to pull the hat down onto my head for expeditious descent into the smoke-choked jungle. Tangling with a war bird so high in the air while riding a hat that occupies both of your hands would be a spectacularly bad idea. Wrench may not be a hawk, but with energy equaling mass by velocity squared that wouldn't mean squat. He has a lot of mass. And a lot of velocity. And his handler wants someone to pay.

I quickly drop out of sight. Somehow I still can't believe she is gone. Just like that... I thought I'd feel satisfaction, with the amount of hate I am still feeling towards the late hero, but instead... The world feels diminished, somehow. Less vibrant.

Really, me? Am I going to lament the biggest thorn in my side even while there are still lots of strong rivals to fight, lots of towns to sack, a whole world laid open around me to adventure and plunder...?

Yes, I am. Sonofa biscuit.

The jungle is thick and dark around me, the mix of sulfuric ashes and thick white smoke from wood burnt wet is suffocating. Pulling out my scimitar, I begin the long, arduous trek home, to my ship, climbing over centuries-old piles of fallen trunks, cutting through thickets of lianes.

However hard my road, though, it doesn't distract me from thinking. From brooding.

To think of it, how many other heroes perished trying to take me down...? Ones not gifted with such ridiculous luck — and even that eventually ran out — ones not as unyielding and persistent.

Because while I never aim specifically to kill, I don't believe in pulling my punches either. When I construct a deathtrap, it is a death trap, not a half-baked obstacle serving to amuse heroes and raise their confidence.

Doesn't matter, in the end. After all is said and done, it's the survivors who tell their story, who triumph and go on. Confrontations like the one I had with her are destined to end violently and decisively.

And yet, I wallow in regret, unable to brush off a sense of loss as I make my way through dark and miserable thicket.

“Bloody barnacles, I wish it haven't ended like this!”

I clamp a hand over my mouth. That outburst was uncalled for: you must not shout in a forest, much less in a dense jungle. Critters can grow large in such dark corners. You cannot see what is coming.

But it is too late. Something took notice. I feel otherworldly presence hanging heavily in the suffocating air. Yuipes. They may be gone, but how many of the now-incorporeal do-gooders have I attracted with my daring stunt? In my magical senses I can feel the walls of reality creak from a great weight pressing against them. The same walls I poked a neat hole in, less than a mile away from here. I fail to suppress a shiver. It took just half a dozen surviving Genies, the last vestiges of their race, to make the dreaded Pirate Master eep and then just be gone. He got better, but still. With the whole lot of them, even at fraction of their power seeping through a crack...?

And I'd just made a wish, a terrifying realization hits.

The presence spikes, causality shuddering and twisting like a long balloon used to make figures. I misstep into a tree that wasn't. My foot finds no purchase where a log haven't been. I complete a swing cutting through lianes only to find my scimitar hanging on my belt. Vegetation around me flickers and shifts. The smoke oscillates between white and black, transparent and impossible to see through. Even my cuffs change their shape, disappearing at times. Even my memories of the machine I finished building just hours ago! The details of transmissions and connections flow and change, as does the piston arrangement. I could swear a couple times even my hair was platinum blonde from birth!

Some indeterminable period later reality settles to its usual and boring normal, the otherworldly presence fading. I release a breath I didn't know I was holding. That was terrifying. And exhilarating! Genies may not have power over life and death, but in times of yore, when they were still around, even gods stood back and took notes when they pooled their effort like that.

Wherever you are now, Wherever my wish just sent you, I hope you find adventure on your fancy pants.

[center]* * *[/center]

(one year later)

Of scrap and metal plating, of steel cables, broken cogwheels, braces and even pewter tableware, she is standing there, pointing at me accusingly. The semblance is uncanny, I could almost hear her indignant “Risky Boots! I knew it was you!”

Who would’ve thought I have a talent for sculpture...? You live and learn.

I am level with the thirty feet tall statue's semi-abstract eyes because I stand higher up the black, ragged slope of solidified lava. My silent opponent is pointing right at my former volcano lair. She is standing with her shoes om the slope, one foot forward and higher than the other. There is no need for a pedestal: long beams of stainless steel reaching fifty feet deep see to that.

I hear, then feel, mighty flapping of wings. The bird lands nearby before popping back into its hawk-sized form. The blonde woman is just standing there, speechless.

“Why?” she finally asks me.

“Why not?” I reply casually. “I have finally trashed Ammo Baron good, got lots of scrap.”

That's not entirely true, I could have sold the stainless steel I-beams that went into the frame for a very hefty sum. Meh, I'm a pirate, it's not like I can run out of money. These beams are better off making sure the monument lasts for centuries. If the volcano doesn't say otherwise, of course.

Had there been a base to write on, I'd title it “My best enemy ever”.

“You are missing her too,” she says accusingly.

“I do,” I admit. “She should have made it. I still can't understand, why.”

“She... stumbled and fell of the bridge,” the woman says after a pause. “She seemed distracted by something.”

“We will never know,” I lie with a sigh. “Everything went so pear-shaped that day.”

It was probably because of whatever delusion made her cry, back in the Genie realm, I think morosely. The twit must have thought she was killing her own kin to grow distraught like that. How utterly stupid - you cannot kill a spirit permanently, especially on their home turf. And how utterly her.

No words are exchanged after that.

[center]* * *[/center]

(four years later)

Mystery solved! I'm both relieved because it was gnawing at me, disappointed because I'm not as special as I thought and excited because of new horizons for personal growth opening suddenly.

The inner energy that all living things possess.

It was so simple! All these special abilities of me and the late torn in my side... Our out-world pockets, my commanding presence, the supernatural oomph of her hair - I was attributing these to dark and light magic respectively. Such a natural assumption - we are both magical creatures, after all - and so very wrong. Further complicating matters is the fact that in my - and probably hers - case this inner energy is mixing with our magic making it much harder to come to realization it's a separate thing.

It took me months to learn channeling this energy alone and not mixed with dark magic. Two more months to manage channeling it through a weapon. I used a simple piece of iron rebar, for purity of experiment. I'm just beginning, but even now it does more damage than my pirate scimitar, an artifact weapon in its own right.

I set up an experiment, recreating the force field I used to protect the dumping coils of my Tinker Brain. The good news: the barrier itself withstood physical blows from my rebar strikes. The bad news: my inner energy got through unimpeded, resonating inside and destabilizing the test setup to the point of cascade failure. So, that's how.

I wish I could go back and re-do it using my new knowledge. Alas. There are no more Genie crystals. There are no more half-Genies powerful enough to calibrate the starter.

That frustration aside, the prospects of learning to wield this inner energy are dizzying. I'm researching all kinds of myth and legend concerning the so called “human magic” as well as some “special” abilities of various magical creatures. Who knows if I could replicate them using willpower alone?

Combining them with my tinkertech would be a true challenge. But also a path to crafting my own full-fledged artifacts!

[center]* * *[/center]

(ten years later)

I came here today, on this round date of remembrance. I don't feel sad about this anymore, just a faint, deeply rooted regret. I smile at the statue posturing dramatically, vines and tufts of green pockmarking the black slope under its feet. A whole decade had flew by in a blink of an eye. So much had happened — crazy adventures, daring assaults on worthy foes and secrets of the universe, me tinkering up awesome engines of terror...

Becoming a mother.

I pull my daughter out of the harness on my back to place her on the ground. Cooing happily, her cat ears and tail twitching in anticipation, she begins exploring around on her stubby legs, the statue's foot like a mountain to her. Tinkerbats designated as babysitters flock after my baby girl, casting apprehensive glances in my direction.

Magical creature genetics are thing of mystery, I reflect staring up at the statue of my former nemesis. Take me, a fully human-looking Rakshasi — there is no “half” in us, that was a common misconception I shared for awhile — add a... Let's say he was a fine specimen of human male, real pity staying attached would have clashed with my core principles — and what do you get as a result? A catgirl. Complete with ears, tail, claws and penchant of pouncing. Cuteness overwhelming, when combined with her innate toddler charm and her innate catgirl charm. I am already planning of teaching her to weaponize that, when she is a bit older.

She'd need that, and more: this cute toddler of mine would someday succeed me as the Pirate Queen.

I hear the sound of hooves clopping and voices raised. Someone is coming on horses, with kids arguing heatedly. I wonder who of the late half-Genie's friends is that.

Turns out, it's Sky. The hunched, ruffled up parrot on her shoulder isn't looking great, his pink and blue feathers faded, his eyes sleepy. But she herself! Yeech, talk about letting yourself go. Standing before me, holding the reins is a rotund middle-aged woman, only her face and blonde hair let me recognize her.

It doesn't matter, I guess, as two feisty boys, about seven years of age, disembark the second horse, falling silent when they notice me.

Sky introduces me — cue wary awe — then introduces her sons, named Veer and Swoop. Not trivial choices, looks like someone was studying the old world language in depth.

She then notices the changes to the statue.

“It... When did...?” she exclaims.

“Just as planned.” I smirk. “I built it that way.”

It took years to manifest, the metals being quite corrosion resistant, but the statue now has color. Not perfect, runny and blending in places, but it is there. Greenish tones of patina on the hair and eyes, brownish tarnish on the skin, ruddy rust on the outfit.

My deadly cute daughter then trudges from behind the statue, tinkerbats in tow, her tiny, dirty hands clutching a small broken cog — no doubt pried from the statue. Lookit, she's already developing her looting habits!

Takes an actual effort of will not to gush.

“Are you... in the habit of kidnapping, now?” Sky asks me warily, looking between me and my daughter.

They always assume, don't they?

“Why?” I ask innocently, “Can't believe I can have a kid of my own, huh?”

Three... Two... One...

Ah, there's that realization, that dawning horror, “oh gods, she spawned!” writ large on shocked faces. I feel my heart warm with pride as I put on my most ominous grin.

“Viper,” I tell my kid, “Say Hi to the boys!”

Sky looks at me in consternation. I don't bother dissuading her. Your name is something you make. Not something conveniently handed to you. I wasn't born Risky Boots either — though no one remembers that this day, for their own good. I would have been a bad mother if I gave my daughter a name she would not despise. She has to make her own, or make “Viper” into something dreaded and respected all across the seven seas.

Life goes on, only the girl who was thorn in my past self's side stays ever unchanging in her righteous posturing.

[center]* * *[/center]

(twenty years later)

I arrive on a palanquin carried by tinkerbats. Just for the sake of it. Also, to give Viper more time to ruminate on the error of her ways while she is trying to catch up, which is not easy with how bruised she is.

No daughter of mine would succeed me with assassination plot that lame! Period.

The execution was spirited, though. I rub absently at the stitches in my side. I should give her that.

I mean it's not like I'm in any hurry to meet my ancestors, but the legend must live on. True terror of the seas has to be a loner. You can form alliances that last for a while, but in the end there are only you and your tinkerbats. Everyone else is just betrayal waiting to happen. I taught her from very tender age to enjoy our time together because it has to come to a violent end. Only one shall remain. Call it madness, call it greater purpose, but I firmly believe there should always be a Pirate Queen. And the only way for the next one to be stronger, to be better is... Pirate succession.

But if she, ever again, does something that stupid, I will put my scimitar through her heart with my own hand. And start rearing a new daughter from scratch.

Even half-blood Rakshasi live very long lives, it turns out. I haven't aged at all since I last saw my arch-nemesis in the flesh.

Speaking of which. The statue is still there — I welded it to last, after all — just a bit more tarnished. The mother is not, however. It's only her two sons and their grim-looking war-hawks. What strapping lads they grew into, ho-ho-ho!

Viper begins drooling and I promptly increase the number of lumps on her head. She is too young for that!

“Wait until your body finishes forming, you twit! You are only twelve!”

The reunion goes sourly. The sons are not in the mood for banter, Viper can't help herself — she could be devastatingly cute when she puts her catgirl charms to use — and I... well, my mind keeps wandering to the sheer hilarity of the three-for-all turf war the aging Ammo Baron and his upstart offspring are currently engaged in.

Only the half-Genie girl is still full of energy, young forever, her righteous indignation frozen in slowly oxidizing scrap.

Oh-ho-ho... To think of it, my birthday isn't that far ahead. A quite round date, too. On a whim I decide to give myself a little present.

“Men!” I command my tinkerbats. “Dig!”

Guided by my will, wielding a golden magic pickaxe, they cut into mountainside like knife through butter. There is no sense cleaning the former entrance, the cave had completely filled with solidified lava. No, what I need is access to one specific spatial point.

The sons place their flowers at the statue's foot and fly away. After a while it begins to drizzle. I notice Viper grabbed the flowers to make a flower crown. I add some more lumps to her head and make her put them back. I mean, there are things you plunder and there are things you leave well alone.

The weather is dreary and dull when the tinkerbats finish. I walk to the end of the narrow tunnel. Both light and dark magic are long gone, there isn't a single echo of otherworldly energies. But I have good spatial memory.

“Hear me, ye astral good-for-nothings,” I shout imperiously into a blank wall. “I wish to follow that twit, wherever you sent her those years ago...! Make no mistake, I won't hesitate to gut her like a fish if she stands in my way! I'm not some do-gooder like ya!”

Here. This should make that old, unhealthy obsession shut up for a long while. I turn around and calmly walk out of the tinkerbat-made crevice. Viper is clearly contemplating if I went off the deep end and if that would help her any. Must give her some more lumps to ward her from stupid thoughts. Youngsters these days!

[center]* * *[/center]

Amidst a perpetual thunderstorm — enchanting the weather on that scale was a pain— in an unassailable crown-like fortress whose spiny towers protrude from the sheer cliffs of the Cove Island, in the cleverly hidden main hall, on a towering skull-encrusted throne I sit, checking the list of guests for my upcoming birthday party.

The creams of scum and villainy are listed here, mixed with many aspiring bootlickers and a couple disguised hero teams - unaware of each other - planning to organize my grand demise.

Note to self: check personally that all the ploys to make them clash work as intended. I have no desire of crushing both teams myself: too easy and unimaginative. Let everyone stay blissfully unaware of my true personal prowess.

Now, for the proper, non-heroic guests... I guess there would be a few more assassination attempts on their part. That would liven the celebration nicely. Other than that, it would go like any other pirate fest, with tons of roast, frothing mugs of root beer and shanties of questionable quality. I'm not one for sophisticated entertainment, the mood was always more important to me.

Now, if someone is dumb enough to ask for my exact age... Well they are plain too dumb to live, then. The trapdoor controls oiled and tested, check. The sharks not fed for a week, check. Also, note to myself: make sure my tinkerbats on the controls don't get carried away again.

And if anyone, by some incredible stroke of bad luck, manages to figure out what sort of jubilee I'm celebrating - my exact age, that is - their demise would come swiftly on the wings of “he knew too much”. Hmm... Oh, right. Let Viper hone her skills on them. It is time for her to learn subtlety, so severe lashing if anyone notices it was her, keeping any loot to herself if she does it cleanly. Yeah, that'd do. Parenting is responsibility even I cannot shirk completely.

The list checked, I sit back and relax. The atmosphere is perfect as always: dark stony halls lit by a large fireplace and occasional torch, narrow barred windows flashing with lightning from time to time casting brief shapes onto the walls lined with suits of armor - some are mechanical traps, some have tinkerbats sitting inside, but most are props for ambience.

Most pirates could only dream of such a lair - and yet I feel restless like a chained beast.

Cabin fever, I heard they call it.

I love my fortress and hate it. Love because it allows me keeping my projects and building magnificent machines of terror I'd be unable to if I was on the run. I hate it because it ties me down. It feels like an iron ball chained to my foot! I still adventure, going on lengthy expeditions... I mean, raids, half across the world. But I can't leave for too long and I can't abandon this place, it had became a part of the Pirate Queen legend.

I have forged my chains myself, what a sour thought.

I sit brooding, lamenting the missed chance to build the sky fortress that would have had all the upsides of this base still leaving me free to travel as I please.

Alas, there is no power source for levitation magic on that scale. The method Techno Baron uses to keep his factory afloat only works at a specific crossing of ley lines. Besides, it works by sucking up ambient heat: I heard the Frostbite Island was quite a tropical paradise before he started building his factories there. I don't want to be nicknamed Ice Queen and my movement be accompanied by a telltale roaming winter.

Only the Genie magic would do, now denied to me forever. In the first decade after, I kept trying. I had gathered all the Genie crystals in existence, both of them. I glance at these trophies gathering dust on my fireplace. Right. I had tried all sorts of hackarounds to circumvent the necessity of having minimum three for a stable focusing array. I had hunted the remaining half-Genies causing them mental breakdowns and lingering pirate phobia. Nothing worked. The focusing problem is fundamental. The half-Genies aren't... I don't know, furiously bright enough? None of them could even be pushed over onto the dark side.

If only, if only...

Is that how old age feels? Is it catching up with me despite my body not aging?

Enough brooding. I have a freakshow of a birthday to run and it will be glorious!

I jump onto my feet making nearby tinkerbats freak out. Right, I made them learn cooking the main feast. Judging by the convoluted but mostly burnt smells wafting from the factory floor turned kitchen, they are still in the trial and error phase. Well, I could have kidnapped professional cooks but abusing my minions this way feels better. I start toward the kitchen with deliberate slowness causing more panicked scurrying.

[center]* * *[/center]

(a few days later, the day)

I wake up to acute sense of wrongness. It takes long seconds of frozen tension to realize I am curled up on a tarp on my vessel's poop deck, not in the hidden room of my fortress. The weather is surely hot, and the wind is nice, but why am I still alive? Tempting my intrepid daughter like this could not end well. Or has she inherited my love for theatrics?

I cautiously crack one eye open. No one is nearby, the sea is calm, my Tinker Tub is rocking gently, anchored near some tiny island. It's dawn, the horizon is glowing with oncoming sunrise. I sit up and look around. Still no idea why I am here and where this “here” is.

A single tinkerbat scuttles by.

“Hey you,” I command him and he stops in his tracks. “Why am I here and where is Viper?”

He seems very confused, scratching his head, looking this way and that.

“Where. Is. My. Daughter.” I order flatly.

Now he is looking utterly lost, his yellow eyes expressing a silent “wut?”


Finally he reluctantly points somewhere behind the island.

I climb up the mainmast and sail to nearby shore on my hat. Then climb the sheer cliff to peek out and see... Scuttle Town. Eh...?

I make to jump off the rock, but a nagging suspicion stops me. I turn back to look at the town closely, paying attention to the details. Have they had a fit of historical reconstruction? There are too many old-style buildings and I can't see any water towers nor power lines.

But, most importantly, where in the blazes are the cannon forts that should be framing the bay?

The suspicion is gnawing at me now. I look back at my Tinker Tub dreading the answer. I really look at it.

It's all red highlights and natural wood. The Mk III was never red. Through years it had been purple. It had been black. It had been black and purple and white in a vooodo ghost style. It had been black and green in splotches of zombie-style. But I never, ever painted any of it red.

This is no Mk III. It's either Mk. I or II.

Slowly, carefully like in a bad dream, I turn around to look at where the stocky forward cannon fort should sit, built in place of that girl's...

The lighthouse is there, its red tiled roof almost glowing in the pinkish pre-dawn light. The same lighthouse they had demolished more than a decade ago.

A brief flash of violet light envelops the diminutive tower, then everything is quiet again.

I glide back to my ship. It seems I... I got my birthday present, all right. With a heap and a cherry on top.

I botch my landing and twist my ankle. I laugh like madwoman with realization that folks back home would never believe I wasn't offed by Viper. I howl in abject terror as I realize that the dreaded Pirate Master is back in his grave, planning escape. I cry in relief because I know me and The Pest will clash again. And it will be glorious!

This is the first time I admire do-gooders for their deviousness. I wished to follow her where she went. But in hindsight it's so obvious! If you can twist causality into a pretzel, why send her somewhere unfamiliar if you can simply send her back in time?

It takes me a long time to reign my emotions into a semblance of order. Grinning like a loon, I begin racking my memory for the sequence of events and my plans for the day. I may have good memory, but it's been two decades choke-full of daring adventures!

It won't do to botch my first new old impression, though. I must concentrate, I must remember and improve. This reunion deserves to be special.

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A Hero's work is never done.
- The1upBlock

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A.N. Now go and read my Shantae/Ranma one Half crossover, “Dance, Dance, Rumble”, this fic is a prequel of.
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Moon Senshi
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