Categories > Anime/Manga > Ranma 1/2 > Hybrid Theory XP

Hybrid Theory XP

by CnAProductions 0 Reviews

I've been searching for a man All across Japan Just to find, to find my samurai

Category: Ranma 1/2 - Rating: G - Genres: Humor, Parody - Characters: Pantyhose Taro - Warnings: [V] - Published: 2006/04/01 - Updated: 2006/04/02 - 12105 words - Complete

Seven years ago, the world as we know it changed. From a place outside of time,
a place where our lives are mere stories, two beings came.

One found himself living within a young woman from our reality. Their conflicts,
their loves, their decisions would help shape the world. In the course of their
life they would confront darkness and chaos, and come to realise that they had a
fate to destroy all that is.

The other lived in a way that was not life. He found himself travelling from
tragedy to tragedy, until finally he lost all sight of the pain around him and
became caught up in his own hubris. For he was above the petty concerns of this
world, and he alone knew how to solve our problems.

The world came to a turning point. Heroes and villains who until then had never
even known of each other came into conflict. Cities burned. Nations fell. The
very face of the world was changed beyond recognition.

Then the two from beyond vanished. One left no trace, the other concealing
himself behind veils of conspiracy. For seven years the world has held its
breath, as if waiting. Now, finally, once more... it is time for them to
reemerge and for their story of their lives to be finished, one way or another.

But FIRST...




C&A Productions Presents

An Utterly Pointless Sidestory


Hybrid Theory XP


Remember the Name


Pantyhose Tarou pushed aside the underbrush as he made his way through
the forest. It was quiet in the woods today. The rain had ended a few hours ago,
and Tarou had to be careful to avoid the water that dripped from the branches
overhead. He would later blame his inattention to the signs of danger on the
concentration he had to give to this task.
The reason he wasn't letting the water touch him was very simple. He
knew that a giant monster, a huge bull-headed thing that walked on cloven hooves
with wings and an eel's tail, did not exactly blend in. Not that he was worried
too much about somebody seeing him out here. China was a big place, and its
wilderness mainly uninhabited. As far as he was from the coast, he was unlikely
to be spotted by Chronos patrols. As far as he was from the mountains, he was
unlikely to draw any attention from the Phoenix Mountain jerks.
Still, people who did spot his monster form would likely label it a
darkstalker or rogue zoanoid or something. Then he'd have to deal with another
freelance monster hunter trying to kill him.
Frankly, once was enough.
He emerged from the forest and walked out onto a rocky cliff overlooking
a small valley below. Across the valley a thin waterfall fed into a tiny brook
that babbled its way between rocky shores before winding out of sight. Tarou
paused and took a deep breath. It was always nice to be back in China.
Everything here felt alive. It felt natural. Not like the parody of nature that
was Japan. He shook his head. If he had his way, he would never return to that
godforsaken island.
But he had no choice. He had to find a man. He had to find the bane of
his life.
"HELP!"
Tarou perked up as he heard the unmistakable cries of a young woman.
She was screaming in Japanese, and sounded both very frightened and very out of
breath. He smirked. Some idiot foreigner who had wandered into the backwoods of
China and ended up being molested by the things that lived in the forest, no
doubt. He chuckled, picturing what would happen in his mind.
He would swoop from the forest like a vengeful god, his fists and feet
crashing like thunder. The monster would fall back, defeated and destroyed.
Then, as he stood victorious over its carcass, the beautiful maiden would walk
over to him tentatively.
"Oh mysterious stranger," she would begin breathlessly, a blush on her
flawless face, her eyes cast downward. "How can I possibly thank you? I owe you
everything... absolutely everything!"
Then he would sweep her into his arms and his teeth would gleam as the
setting sun caught his smile. "Fair maiden, I would ask nothing from you. The
honour of protecting such timeless beauty from the ravages of monsters is all
the reward I need," he said out loud, practicing the lines from his fantasy.
"Oh, but you are so strong and manly!" he said in a falsetto, looking
down and shuffling his feet. "I can't possibly let you leave without repaying
you for my life..."
"My lovely young maiden..." Tarou murmured softly, miming taking her
into his arms again. "Perhaps... you could help me through the cold night..."
"HELP, GODDAMNIT! SOMEBODY HELP ME!"
"Oh, right," Tarou said, his fantasy rudely interrupted. He snapped his
fingers. "Save her first, hit on her later."
He could see the girl now, running like an Olympic sprinter down the
valley. She was short, with tousled brown hair tied back with a long white
headband whose tails trailed behind her head. She wore a strange outfit for the
woods, a sailor-colored white shirt that left her midriff exposed and a blue
pleated skirt that would barely came halfway down her thighs at the best of
time, and at the moment was flapping around her so much that it didn't really do
a good job of concealing even that much. She was pumping her arms and her red
sneakers were clopping along the rocky valley, and there was a look of panic on
her face.
Then Tarou saw her pursuer. He was moving with a deceptively fast walk,
a steady ground-eating pace that looked like he was out for nothing more than a
afternoon stroll. Even so, he was keeping up with the girl. Tarou narrowed his
eyes as he evaluated the man. He was Japanese too, medium height with short
brown hair and a black headband. He wore a black martial arts gi, one that
rippled and flowed around his body like a living shadow. His skin was pale, and
his eyes glittered red in the twilight.
"Oh, a vampire..." he muttered, a bit disappointed. Beating up zoanoids
more set the proper tone. Still, beggars couldn't be choosers. He concealed his
smirk and prepared himself. Then just as the vampire came to the perfect
position, Tarou struck.
He flew down from the cliff like a bird of prey and with a single kick
struck the vampire a blow that caused the water of the brook to spray violently
upward with the shockwave. The ground beneath them cracked, the air around them
roared, and the vampire was sent flying back into the rocky cliff walls with
enough force that the entire half of the valley fell down onto it in a cloud of
dust and debris.
Tarou landed gracefully, tilting his head and brushing one of his
forelocks back behind his ears. He turned to the young woman... and she was
still running. He blinked.
"Hey! Hey!"
She looked back over her shoulder. "What?" Her voice was dopplering down
as she got further from him.
"You could at least thank me!"
"For what?" she shouted.
"Saving your life!" he snapped.
"Uh-huh. I suggest you start running."
"What?" Tarou frowned. "It was just a vampire. I hit it so hard I could
have killed a hyper-zoanoid!"
"Tell him that!" she shouted back, pointing behind him.
Tarou turned around, rolling his eyes. Really, did she expect he would
be standing there, completely unharmed, having escaped the collapsing cliff
without a sound to alert Tarou the whole time?
Tarou blinked as he met the glowing red eyes of the vampire.
Oh.
Shit.
Tarou smashed into the other side of the valley so hard the rock
cratered around him. He staggered out of the wall, coughing and clutching his
stomach. It felt like somebody had crushed his intestines with an industrial
press. Still, he focused beyond the pain and brought his arms up to guard. The
black-clad vampire was approaching him with the same deceptive walk as before.
But Tarou would not be caught off-guard twice. He was one of the best martial
artists in the world. He raised one arm and beckoned the bastard forward. "Let's
see how well you do when you're not sucker-punching!" Tarou sneered.
This time the cliff exploded when he hit it.
He pushed the rubble off him, slowly clawing his way up to the light.
The stones clattered and fell all around him as he gasped for air. It felt like
his arm had nearly been taken out of its socket. Finally he was free, and he
crawled onto the top of the rubble pile. Okay. Water. There was a brook nearby.
All he needed to do was get to the water, then he would show that asshole a
thing or two about who he was dealing with...
He paused as his eyes fell on a set of pale toes. He sighed and looked
up. following the crease of the vampire's pants until he could see the whole
monster clearly. It was gazing down at him steadily. Then it stepped back and
gestured for him to rise before settling into a ready stance.
"You fight well," it said.
"Fuck..." Tarou muttered.
"STAY DOWN!"
Tarou blinked as a figure flashed over him. She came in low, crouching
and pulling her fist down. Blue light and black shadows trailed behind her as a
spark of brilliant light like a lens flare collected on her knuckles. Then with
a scream she came in under the vampire's guard and launched herself upward into
a vicious uppercut that lifted her bodily off the ground. Tarou stared upward.
He might have said that he was staring at the fireworks display, the
brilliant flashes of light that flowed from her body as she struck. He might
have been wondering how she managed to appear to be in fifteen different places
at once, performing the same uppercut over and over, her fist hitting again and
again in a line that crawled up the vampire's chest. He might have said he was
watching in vindictive amusement as the vampire was blown backward with the
force of her technique.
But really, he was looking up as her skirt flared out around her body.
"Red..." he muttered idly.
"What was that?" the young woman said, landing next to him. The vampire
was still arcing through the air away from them. But he didn't look particularly
injured.
"Uh..." Considering that she had just hit the vampire with a technique
that did at least as much damage as he had and he was in considerably worse
shape, he decided to go with the better part of valor. "Uh... dead... dead on!"
"Oh, thanks..." she idly rubbed the back of her head. "I just couldn't
leave you to die, I guess."
"Yeah, yeah, whatever..." he lifted himself to his feet. "Listen, you
think you can hold him off for a few seconds? I need to get to the brook."
"The brook?" she asked, confused. The vampire was walking towards them
again, having executed a perfect three point landing after being knocked
skyward.
"Yeah..." He grinned viciously. "I have a surprise for him. Trust me."
"I guess I don't have much choice..." she muttered.
"Thanks!" he shouted and started sprinting for the brook. Thankfully,
when the cliff walls had collapsed they hadn't managed to bury the water under a
few tonnes of rock. That would have sucked.
"Sakura, so you have decided to stand and fight at last," the vampire
said, pausing once it reached melee range with the girl.
"Yeah..."
"Good. One last final battle then, before I make you my true student."
"I guess telling you I already found a sensei wouldn't do much good..."
"Yes, Sakura, you do not realise the true power of the Dark Hadou."
"He's really a nice guy. Friend of yours, if I understand correctly.
Blonde hair, about yay tall..."
" Once you join me in undeath, the power of darkness will fill your soul
as it has mine and you will be unstoppable!"
"You aren't even paying attention to me, are you?"
"Then, once you have reached your peak, we shall have a true and
complete battle that shall go down in history!"
"I didn't think so."
"Come Sakura, strike with all your heart!" the vampire yelled, throwing
his arms to the side.
Tarou hit him with a rock.
That did not sound impressive, but that is because at first glance few
would understand what it meant. Tarou had reached the water and his Jyusenkyou
curse had activated. His body had grown, doubling, trebling, quintupling in size
until he was as large as a small house. In this form he had more muscle mass
than a dozen men. Even without training his strength would have been enormous.
And Tarou had been training, for all his life. He had been alive for twenty-six
years, and been training for twenty-four of those. His mastery of chi was such
that in his human body he could lift stones five times his size over his head.
That proportional power carried over into his monster form as well. So it was
that the rock Tarou hit the vampire with could more reasonably be called "a
hill", or perhaps "a small mountain".
The girl blinked and looked up at him. He snorted, blowing steam from
his nostrils and looked down at her. He quirked his muzzle-like face into an
approximation of a sneer. She just stared up at him. He smirked down at her.
Then the rock shuddered. Tarou blinked.
No way.
No... fucking... way.
That was a chunk of solid stone. He had torn it free from the earth
with considerable effort. He wasn't even certain he could break it without
considerable effort. But a crack was running down its side. Sakura was backing
away from the stone, her expression not really surprised or shocked or fearful
so much as... resigned. Tarou could only stare as the rock gave one final
shudder then exploded. A wave of purple-black fire shot out in all directions
and Tarou raised his massive arm to block the worst of the shrapnel. He could
hear the vampire screaming as he unleashed his aura, scouring the earth and
stone around him.
Then the fire died down. Tarou lowered his arms. For a moment, Tarou was
moderately gratified, as blood was rolling down the vampire's cheek. Then he saw
the blood suddenly reverse direction and climb back up his face to the wound in
his forehead, which stitched closed before Tarou's eyes.
Okay, fuck this.
He turned to the girl, gave an apologetic little wave and flew away.
Most would assume the wings on his back seemed much too small to carry
him aloft, and for the most part that was correct. It had taken Tarou years and
years of trying to finally master the secret of getting such tiny wings to carry
him aloft. Once he got some inertia going, he could even cover a lot of ground
very fast. It took him less than a day to cross the sea of Japan.
"Hey, you jerk!" Sakura cried.
Tarou snorted. She was attractive in that kinda jailbait way, but he was
not about to die for her. Not against an unstoppable killing machine like that
vampire. He just pushed himself as fast as possible.
He barely had enough time to wonder why it was suddenly getting so hot
when the vampire's shouted words reached him. "SHINKUU GOU HADOKEN!" Tarou
bellowed in pain as energy and fire rolled over his body, crashing into him from
behind. It hit him precisely in the wings, knocking him from the sky. He landed
in the brook, trailing streams of fire along his body. In fact, the fire was
intense enough that the water was instantly converted to steam when he struck.
Of course, this had the side effect of reversing his transformation. turning his
inhuman bellows in a string of more intelligible curses.
Tarou climbed painfully out of the warm water, hoping the steam would
conceal him. Then the man landed in front of him, descending through the clouds
of steam like a raven. Tarou sighed. "Just not my fucking day..."
"You are a worthy challenge, boy. I will make it a point to finish you
quickly."
"Thank you so much," Tarou snapped between clenched teeth. This was what
you got for doing someone a favor.
"SHINKUU HADOKEN!"
The blast of blue light flew in from the man's right, catching him by
surprise and sending him flying away into the mist. Sakura landed beside him.
She grimaced.
"You're naked," she said.
"Well, yes, my clothes don't survive the transformation well."
"You a zoanoid?" she asked bluntly.
"No."
"Oh... well, goodbye then." She turned to leave.
"Wait! That blast didn't finish him off!"
"Well yes, but it's the strongest thing I have. It can slow him down for
a few minutes if I catch him by surprise. So I suggest you heed my earlier
advice and start running."
"I can't even walk!" Tarou roared, crawling forward.
"And..."
"You have to help me!"
"Like you helped me when you were flying away?" Sakura said levelly,
crossing her arms.
He chuckled, rubbing his shoulders. "I was... going to get another
rock?"
She stared at him for a long moment. "Stupid useless compassion..." she
muttered as she reached down to pull him up onto her back.

*

"So what the hell did you do to get that asshole after you, anyway?"
Sakura didn't respond for a moment, busy as she was peering over the
cliff. But there was no sign of Ryu that she could tell, so she turned back to
her... she guessed "companion" would work.
He was a few years older than her, a young man with short, tousled
glossy blue-black hair with a single long dangling lock behind each ear. Sakura
supposed he was good-looking, if you were into the pretty-boy type, which she
wasn't. At least he'd found some clothes along the way. He was clad pretty
much as she'd first seen him, now, with baggy white pants, kung fu slippers, and
a shirt and bracers made of some sort of purple scales. He also had a sash,
made of some flimsy gauze-like material. It looked weird, almost like pantyhose
or something, but Sakura dismissed that thought as silly.
"It's sort of a long story."
The guy snorted derisively, leaning back against the stone wall of the
niche they'd found shelter in. "Well, we have time."
Sakura scowled, then sighed resignedly. Not that she much liked this
guy - he hadn't even told her his name yet - but she guessed they were stuck
with each other until one or both of them ended up dead. "Well, I guess I'll
start by introducing myself. I'm Sakura Kusagano." She waited expectantly for
him to return the introduction, but the guy was just giving her a bored look.
After a moment, she gritted her teeth and continued. "I'm from Japan. When I
was in school, I idolised Ryu."
"Oh yeah, he's obviously a great guy."
"He wasn't a vampire then!" Sakura snapped. "He was a great martial
artist! The best I'd ever seen! I learned all sorts of things just by watching
bootleg tapes of him at underground fighting competitions... anyway... I met him
once, and he gave me his headband." She pointed at the long, dangling strip of
cloth tied around her forehead. "He said to seek him out when I had learned the
meaning of the fight. So I did. Except that was right around when everything
was going nuts in Japan, and I couldn't find Ryu anywhere. It used to be I
could keep track of all the guys on the underground fighting circuits, but
suddenly they were so much bigger and there were so many people that came out of
nowhere. Every now and then I'd hear rumours about him, how he'd show up
somewhere and defeat the local champ, but then he'd be long gone before I could
get there." She trailed off, grimacing. She sure felt stupid about all of that
now.
"So then what happened?" the guy yawned. "You find him and he tries to
eat you?"
"No, then summer vacation ended so I had to go back to school," Sakura
growled. "I figured I'd go next year, or maybe Christmas. But then came the
big war in Tokyo and all the plants died and Chronos took over, and my dad had
gotten hurt by an aragami so I had to get a job for awhile to help out. So I
got distracted. I kept training, but never really got to look too hard, and I
sort of forgot about the whole thing. Until about a month ago, when I was
watching some footage on the news of the Elite Five attacking a Millennium
installation or something. I wasn't paying too much attention, but then I
looked at the right time, and there he was!"
"Yup," the guy said with a smirk. "There he was. In the installation.
Nothing at all to worry about."
"I knew that! I'm not stupid, you know!"
"Sure you aren't." This guy, Sakura reflected, was very close to
getting a punch in the face. "So why's he chasing you?"
"Well..." Sakura hesitated. "Well, he used to be a good guy, you know?
The best! So I kind of figured he'd remember me, and I could bring out the real
him."
"So, how did that turn out for you?" he asked, his tone not exactly
sounding genuinely curious.
Sakura ignored the tone. "Not too well, as it turns out. You see,
instead of being won back over to the side of good by my innocent belief and
virtue he... uh... started talking about me becoming a true dark apprentice or
something and tried to kill me."
"So... what have we learned about tempting the forces of darkness?"

*

It was dark out now, the sun having set only a few minutes ago. Ryu
moved through the night like another shadow among thousands, almost unseen. The
observer watched him move through the darkness. Truly, he was a wretched soul.
But he was exactly what she needed. It was really too bad that he didn't have
any tracking talent. The moment Sakura Kusagano and Pantyhose Tarou had slipped
from his sight he had begun to wander randomly around the countryside looking
for them. The observer sighed to herself as she slipped through the darkness in
front of him, making certain to lay a path even he could follow. It wouldn't do
for Ryu to lose them now, not yet, not before her plan was complete.
With a flash she teleported up to the top of a nearby tree and watched
his progress. Ryu paused when he reached the evidence that she had planted. He
picked up the pink frilly thing from the ground and looked at it for a moment.
Then with a derisive snort he tossed it over his shoulder and started in a new
direction. It was a rather crude way of reminding him what Sakura's scent was,
but it worked.
The observer smiled. Now he would find them without difficulty.
Everything was going according to plan.

*

"...after a long and difficult combat, I finally managed to knock the
end of the cliff off and send him plummeting into the abyss," Sakura explained
as she stared into the tiny fire that the guy had created. He seemed to be very
good at this surviving in the wilderness thing, since he had managed to create a
fire large enough to provide them both with heat that also didn't smoke enough
to give away their position. "But... he just kept coming."
"Kept coming?" the guy asked, looking up, his eyes narrowing.
"Yeah." Sakura clenched her fist. "I've been running for months now.
Cities. Forests. Even once on an abandoned oil rig out in the middle of the
Pacific ocean. Somehow... somehow he always finds me!" She sighed. "He has some
super chi tracking technique. Or maybe he has insane advanced vampire senses. Or
maybe he has super chi tracking AND insane advanced vampire senses!" She stood
up. "I can't get rid of him! I haven't had a decent night's sleep in weeks. Not
since I woke up once in the middle of him draining me dry." She clutched her
neck. The scars had mostly healed by now, but she could still feel them.
"Wow. Sucks to be you," the guy said with an evil chuckle.
"Sucks to be you, too," Sakura pointed out, crossing her arms.
"Me?" the guy snorted. "No offense, but as soon as my wings heal, I'm
out of here."
"You can't escape. Remember what I just told you about his super
advanced insane chi tracking techniques!"
"Well, yes, but that's YOUR problem."
Sakura felt her eyes twitch. This guy was a real jerk, a grade A asshole
if she had ever met one. Coughing into her hand, she decided not to candy-coat
the bad news. "Yes, well the last person who thought that was found dead a week
later. You see, Ryu is obsessed with a good fight, a true challenge. By
surviving his attacks you've proven to him that you're worth challenging...
again, and again and again..."
The guy raised an eyebrow. "What? Are you serious?"
"Perfectly serious." She sat down again, clutching her knees to her
chest. "Why do you think I haven't gone to any of my friends for help? I don't
want to put them in any danger."
"But you had no trouble risking my life!" the guy shouted at her.
"Hey, I didn't ask you to interfere," Sakura said, shrugging.
"What was all that screaming then? Or is 'help' Japanese for 'stay away'
these days," he growled, crossing his arms.
She felt her cheeks burn, but ignored it. "You still can't blame me!"
"God, this is worse than the last time I went looking for Happousai,"
the guy growled.
"Happousai?" Sakura blinked.
"A guy I have... issues with," he explained tersely. "He's this guy I've
never met who did something really bad to me." He looked off into the starlit
sky, his eyes taking on a melancholy expression. For a moment, as the night
animals made soft sounds in the background the moonlight played off his elegant
features, his glossy black hair blowing slightly in the breeze. "And, from what
I've learned, a world class pervert who lives in Japan somewhere." He shrugged,
dispelling the image as he sneered cruelly. "So every now and then I go over
there to look for him at places I think he might show up. You know, bathhouses,
hot springs resorts, beaches..."
Sakura gave him a level look. "Right..."
"The problem is all those damn zoanoids." He growled again. He liked
doing that, apparently. "How was I supposed to know? I thought that ape-guy was
annoying all those girls! But I'll be damned if all the hot babes didn't turn
into hot babes with LASERS IN THEIR BREASTS!" He growled and patted his side.
"I'm just lucky it was at the beach or I would have been sliced to bits."
"Lasers in their breasts?" Sakura deadpanned.
"Yes, lasers in their breasts!"
"Uh-huh. Right."
"I mean it!"
"Sure, whatever." Sakura shook her head, privately convinced this guy
needed serious help if he was having dreams like that.
"Fine. Don't believe me." He grimaced. "I hope you get lasered to death
the next time you go back to Japan."
"Yeah..." Sakura sighed. She wondered if she'd ever even see Japan
again. She glanced up at her new companion and sighed. She might as well try to
get along with him, since they had to stick together if they were going to
survive this. At the very least, if his wings started working again they could
fly out of these backwoods. "So, how exactly do you do that monster
transformation, Mr...." she trailed off.
"Ever hear of a place called Jyusenkyou?" he asked. When she shook her
head he continued, "Then it goes like this. Whenever I get splashed with cold
water I turn into my monster-form, when I get hit with hot water I turn back
into a human."
"So... are you a darkstalker, Mr..." she trailed off again.
"No! I'm a human being! It's a curse from a magic training ground." He
paused. "Well, other people consider it a curse. Mine's useful, however."
"So you're human? Good, I guess. Were you born around here, Mr..."
"Not any of your business, but no. I was born down near Jyusenkyou."
Sakura felt the veins in her head throbbing, but she controlled her
outburst by counting backwards from ten in her mind. "So what should I call you
then?" she asked finally through gritted teeth.
"Whatever you want," he growled. "I don't give out my name."
"Fine," she snapped. "If you aren't going to give me an actual name I
guess I'll just call you Smalldick."
"What?" he sputtered.
"Until you give me something better to call you, I hereby dub you
Smalldick," she said, nodding.
"You can't call me that!"
"I can call you whatever I want, Smalldick, you just gave me
permission."
He glared at her, crossed his arms and looked down at his chest before
mumbling something so low and so fast Sakura had no chance to make it out. "What
was that, Smalldick?"
"I said my name is..." he trailed off into incoherent mumbling again.
"I still can't hear you, Smalldick." she said, leaning forward and
making a production of cupping her hand around her ear.
"My name is Pantyhose Tarou, okay!?"
Sakura blinked. "Seriously?"
"Yes, damnit!"
Sakura snorted. Then she guffawed. Then she fell onto her back,
clutching her stomach and laughing so loudly it hurt.
"Oh like you don't have issues too... miss twenty-three year old still
dressed in her school uniform!"
Sakura stopped and propped herself up on one arm. "Hey. What's wrong
with my outfit?"
"You mean aside from the fact that it belongs on a sixteen year old?" He
sneered. "Or the fact that it exposes most of your midriff? Or the fact that
whenever you kick or run fast it flashes your underwear for all the world to
see?" He coughed into his fist, but she distinctly heard him mutter 'skank' when
he did so.
Sakura snarled. She liked her school uniform. It was comfortable and
very loose for fighting. And she'd seen lots of far more ridiculous outfits over
the years! She reached across the fire and grabbed his vest, the scales bending
around her fist. "Listen you, at least I don't cross-dress!"
He had been smirking, but his expression darkened. "I do not cross-
dress!"
"Oh right, Mr. I-wear-pantyhose-like-a-belt..."
"You're one to talk, Miss I-wear-a-headband-given-to-me-by-the-guy-
trying-to-turn-me-into-an-undead-slave!"
"It has sentimental value!"
"Sure it does..."
At this point they both stopped yelling, their eyes darting off into the
darkness. They saw it together, the dark outline of the vampire's chi as it
coated his body. He was still a few minutes away, coming at them down the
valley.
"This is your fault," Pantyhose snarled, batting her arms aside. "If you
hadn't been yelling so loudly..."
"Me?" Sakura snapped. Then she got her temper under control again. "We
don't have time to waste arguing! He'll be here any minute!"
"That's okay." He smirked. "I have a plan." He pulled out a canteen of
water, sloshing it noisily.
"That didn't work last time and you said your wings still aren't
healed," Sakura felt the need to point out.
"Nah. I choose this campsite very purposefully." He looked around at the
woods they were camped in. "Tell me, what are the ways you can kill a vampire?"
Sakura paused, thinking. Then she began to count off on her fingers.
"Sunlight. Running water is usually a problem for them. Blessed silver. Crosses.
Wooden stakes through the heart..."
"Exactly!" he said, cutting her off at the last part. "Now, I think if I
rammed a tree through his entire body, that would count as getting a stake
through his heart."
Sakura rubbed her chin. "But he can probably just vapourise the trees
with his chi..."
"Well, we'll see what runs out first, my forest or his chi!" he yelled,
splashing himself. Sakura scrambled away as he transformed, his clothes
vanishing as he turned into a massive thing. It was the second time she'd gotten
to look at it, but it was still hard to believe he wasn't a zoanoid or something
similar. His body was the size of a bus, a double-decker bus, covered in mangy
brown fur and with arms as thick as tree trunks. It reached out with hands like
steamshovel scoops, bellowed and ripped a nearby tree from the ground, then
without another thought it flung the tree like a missile down the path.
Ryu shouted, a blast of energy flying from his hands and reducing the
tree to splinters. Pantyhose hadn't even paused, he just picked up another tree,
uprooting it with casual ease sending it down the path. At the same time, he was
already reaching for another tree with his now free hand...

*

"So I guess it was the forest?" Sakura shouted.
"Oh, shut up!" Tarou snarled, trying to run as fast as possible. That
was more difficult then it seemed, since he was still burning in a few places
and running as fast as he could was doing little to put out the small fires.
Thankfully he had managed get some clothes out of his personal chi-space (a
handy trick he had learned due to his condition) and put them on while running.
"Well, any more bright ideas?" Sakura shouted as she ran. Damn but could
she move fast. He was under the impression she would have already outpaced him
if she hadn't been deliberately holding back. He supposed being chased by an
implacable killing machine was good motivation to practice your sprinting,
however.
"I'm thinking, I'm thinking!" he answered shortly. "Well, we can't seem
to outrun or outfight him... so, tell me a little bit about this guy."
"Uh..." Sakura blushed and twiddled her thumbs as she ran, an odd image
"I actually don't know all that much about him."
"What?" Tarou growled.
"I just... sorta know he's a great martial artist and an upright kind of
guy - or he was anyway - and a very honourable fighter - which he still is, in a
certain way..." She sighed. "But I never even learned his full name..."
"Geez. You were one horny teenager if you went off chasing some guy you
didn't even know anything about," Tarou mused.
"It wasn't like that!" Sakura shouted, blushing fiercely, either from
embarrassment or fury, it was hard to tell.
"Right," Tarou sneered. It was fun getting her back for that whole name
business. "Are you certain you didn't lead him on a little with this whole
fetish costume sailor girl act? I mean, he didn't just decide to turn you into
his vampire bitch because you're a great fighter."
"I'm not talking to you anymore!" Sakura snapped.
"Huh. Too bad, because I think I came up with a way to stop him."
"You did?"
"Yes! Now, you'll have to play along and follow my lead..." Tarou
ignored her dubious expression as he explained the fundamentals of his brilliant
plan.

*

She had finally caught up with Pantyhose Tarou and Sakura Kusagano once
they reached a ravine in the foothills. The two of them moved fast when they
were motivated. They certainly had a lot of potential. It was good for her that
she could teleport, and thus keep up with them. It also thankfully kept her out
of the way of Ryu, who moved with implacable speed to follow them.
She smiled to herself. She was certain the two of them were getting
along together now. She hadn't really bothered to listen in on their
conversations, but whatever they were talking about it was certainly animated.
She giggled. Pretty soon the fruits of her plan would come to pass. She just had
to wait a little longer before things worked out, then they would truly be
prepared to fulfill their destiny.
The two of them vanished around a bend in the ravine. Then, just before
Ryu reached the corner, Sakura leapt out from behind the cliff, assuming a
martial pose with a loud cry.
"Okay! That's it, Ryu!" Sakura cried. "I'm tired of all this running!
It's time for us to have a final, epic kung fu duel to the death! Just you and
me!" The observer paused, wondering where this was going. Not that she didn't
approve. It was Sakura's honour that had led her to be chosen among all the
available candidates.
"Very well, Sakura..." Ryu said somberly, his voice resonating with the
dark chi which he had infused into his form. "Let this be your last battle as a
human being." Ryu assumed a stance in front of her. "Begin!"
There was a whistling sound as a rock flew down from overhead. Ryu
reacted before it could hit him, leaping up and striking with a vicious uppercut
that blew the rock to fragments of dust. A second later a dozen more rocks
followed. The observer followed them and saw Tarou in his human form standing
on the cliff overhead, hurling boulder after boulder.
"Such tricker-" Ryu began, only to be cut off by Sakura yelling.
"Hey, you jerk!" Sakura bellowed into the sky. "This is my epic
honourable duel to the death! What are you doing interfering?"
Ryu glanced at Sakura, who was shaking her fist impotently at the figure
high above. Tarou continued to hurl boulders, apparently unable to hear her.
Ryu, meanwhile, was parrying the artificial avalanche with his blurring
fists. Loud cracks accompanied every parry as he reduced rocks to powder.
"Excuse me, Sakura, I have to take care of this interference. I shall return to
destroy you shortly, if you don't mind."
"Oh... sure. Go ahead. But get back here soon!"
"Indeed. I suggest you take this time to prepare for our battle!" Ryu
called, then leapt up the cliff in three great bounds. Once the vampire began
moving, Tarou ceased his assault. Instead he just stood there, assuming his own
martial arts stance. The observer frowned and teleported up to the top of the
cliff behind a large rock that would hide her from the two of them.
"You, why do you interfere-"
"I've had enough of you, you undead monster! No more running," Tarou
shouted over Ryu's voice, cutting the other man off. "I challenge you to a
honourable duel to the death! No quarter asked or given!"
Ryu paused. "Very well. But you'll have to forgive me if I finish you
quickly. I have another honourable duel to the death in progress down below and
it would be rude to-"
He was cut off as a blast of blue light came in from the side and
blasted him. Ryu tottered on the edge of the cliff, pinwheeling his arms. He
recovered fast enough to parry another blast of chi that came in with one fist.
His eyes narrowed as he looked across the ravine at the female figure hurling
energy blasts at him.
"What?" Tarou growled. "Stop interfering in my honour duel!" he shouted
across the chasm.
Ryu growled. "Excuse me, I have to deal with this."
With a single leap Ryu crossed the thirty meter wide ravine, landing
beside the figure. The observer sighed and teleported across, taking position
behind a bush nearby. What was Sakura up to... then she paused.
Sakura had changed clothes. She had apparently taken a pair of Tarou's
clothes and put them on. The vest was a little large for her and the pants hung
loosely around her hips. Instead of wearing the pantyhose around her waist
however, she had pulled them on over her head, pushing her hair down and
blunting her features behind the dark fabric.
"Ryu! I am the masked fighter... uh... Karin Kanzuki! The ultimate rival
of Sakura Kusagano, and I can't let you defeat my arch-rival without defeating
me first! I challenge you to an honour duel!" Sakura called, trying to make her
voice sound even more high-pitched then normal. She swirled her arms around, and
assumed a ridiculous looking kung-fu pose. From the wince she was giving, she
was obviously expecting Ryu to see right through her disguise.
Ryu paused and looked at her for a long moment, then he nodded. "Of
course. I would not dream of preventing your rivalry with Sakura. But I have
already accepted her challenge of a duel to the death, so I am afraid that I can
not let you fight her." He assumed his own stance. "I accept your challenge,
then!"
Just as he made to rush at her, there was a crash and a log smashed down
where he had been a second ago. Ryu, having leapt to the side, looked with
obvious annoyance at the figure that had attacked him from further down the
ravine.
"Excuse me a moment," he apologized, bowing, then ran off down the
cliff. The observer followed. There she saw Tarou waiting for him, except Tarou
too had changed his appearance. Somewhere he had gotten a fake-looking beard,
one of those long pointed beards that the guys in the Chinese paintings were
always wearing. He was posing with a log as thick as his thigh propped over his
shoulder. "You there, I'm rather busy with three duels to the death-"
"QUIET!" Tarou roared. "I am... MR AWESOME TAROU!" He spun his log
around like a staff, planting it in front of him. "I am the great hero of the
Chinese wilderness! There will be no duels in my territory except against me!"
Ryu paused again, apparently digesting this. Then he sighed and assumed
a stance. "Very well, but this will have to be quick. I have three other people
to kill before sunrise, one of which I plan on turning into a vampire, and that
takes time."
Just as Ryu was flashing forward and Tarou was swinging his staff-via-
tree-trunk at him there was a series of low thunks. Ryu paused and looked at his
back. Embedded there were a dozen throwing knives. He blinked and started
pulling them out as he turned to face a new figure standing on a stone across
the ravine. Anticipating his reaction, the observer teleported across moments
before he made the leap.
When he landed, the woman there began posing. From the hair and her
voice it was possible for the observer to discern that it was, in fact, Sakura.
However she had donned an even more improbable disguise. This one consisted of
loose brown clothing that only partially covered her, and where the fabric
didn't go she wore a tight bodysuit made of fine mesh. She had also pulled some
sort of scarf up over her lower face. She was standing on one leg, holding a
brace of throwing knives like fans between her fingers.
"I am the invincible knife princess!" Sakura declared once Ryu was
nearby. "I sense great power in you, and-"
"Listen," Ryu said with a sort of annoyed twitching of his eyebrow. "I
have four other active challenges to the death at the moment. I'll kill you
later, okay?"
"Unacceptable! I can not allow an evil such as you to go unopposed!"
"I'm not going unopposed! I'm being opposed by four people already!"
"HOLD IT RIGHT THERE!"
Everyone (including the observer) turned slowly to regard the new voice.
There, down in the ravine, stood Tarou. Except he was wearing a pair of black
sunglasses, a long leather trenchcoat, a pair of leather pants and a black silk
t-shirt. His hair had also apparently grown about three feet, but upon closer
examination it turned out to merely be the false beard from his previous
disguise, turned backwards to hang from the back of his neck. Tarou sneered and
held up one hand, beckoning to Ryu with it.
"I... am Killfuck Soulshitter and I... am going to mess you up!"
"For crying out..." Ryu rubbed his head. "Okay, forget this. I'll take
you all on at once! If anyone wants to attack me, I'll be busy killing him!" he
yelled around. Sakura, however, had taken the chance to vanish into the
underbrush. Ryu growled and leapt down, falling the over thirty meters down the
cliff face into the ravine like a bird of prey. He landed right in front of
Tarou, who merely sneered.
Then the ground beneath Ryu gave way and he plummeted into a deep pit
that had apparently been dug there.
"Hah! Didn't expect that!" Tarou yelled, and as he did there was a loud
rumble. A few seconds later an avalanche of logs fell from the ravine above,
cascading into the pit after Ryu until the entire thing was filled to
overflowing. "Or that!" Tarou crowed.
"Stop bragging already!" Sakura yelled from up above.
"Heh. This tactic is one I learned from the greatest strategists of
Chinese history," Tarou said, smirking up at her and pulling a metallic object
out from his trenchcoat. "In the tradition of luminaries such as Zhuge Liang,
Zhao Yun and, that other guy, Sima something-or-other... when all else fails..."
There was a click and a small flame came out of the lighter. "Kill it with
fire!"
He flung the lighter into the pit full of logs. The entire thing went up
far faster than the observer had suspected it would. Tarou threw back his head
and laughed and laughed. Then the flaming mass shifted. Tarou's laughter died
instantly.
"I think we made him mad..." Sakura muttered.

*

"I do not get it. I just do NOT effing get it!" Tarou snarled, pacing
back and forth.
"And I'm not going to get any sleep if you don't shut up," Sakura
grumbled from behind the dividing screen. "That's the deal, right? You watch,
I sleep?"
"Feh. You said you didn't sleep anyway."
"That doesn't mean I don't want to!" Sakura snapped, but Tarou was
obviously not listening. You'd think after five days he'd be tired too, but
apparently the only thing lack of sleep did to Pantyhose was make him even
harder to get along with. Sakura shoved a pillow over her head to try and block
his voice, but it didn't work.
"This whole thing doesn't make any sense. Why would he be so obsessed
over you?"
"I told you, he wants to make me his undead apprentice," she sighed,
deciding to humour him.
"Yes, yes, I know that. My point is, why you?"
"What do you mean, why me?"
"There's nothing special about you, so why is he so obsessed with it? I
mean, I'm a lot stronger than you, and he's not trying to make ME his
apprentice."
"Maybe it's your sparkling personality," she growled. "Besides, he
couldn't do that anyway, obviously."
"Why not?"
"Don't you even know the first thing about vampires?" she snapped.
"Why the hell should I? I beat up the things if they get in my way, I
don't study them."
Sakura rolled her eyes. She couldn't decide which was the more
irritating thing about Pantyhose Tarou: his constant sarcastic insults, or his
overcompensating macho bullshit. "Well, to answer your question, he can only
make another vampire out of a virgin of the opposite sex."
Tarou stopped pacing. "Seriously?"
"Yeah. So that's why you aren't going to qualify."
"Right. Because I'm not either of those!"
"Yeah. Of course that's it."
"What a stupid fucking rule. Who makes this crap up?"
"I don't know, Mr. I-change-into-a-flying-cow-with-cold-water. Now can
I go to sleep?"
"Whatever... wait a minute. You say it has to be a virgin?"
"So they say."
Tarou whipped back the divider. Sakura reflexively shrieked and hurled
the pillow in his face, even though she was fully clothed (the better to flee at
a moment's notice, since she hadn't quite mastered dressing on the run like
Pantyhose obviously had). Tarou brushed that aside. He was smirking. "Well,
that's it then!"
"What's it?" she asked suspiciously.
"You see, if we take THAT away, he doesn't have a real reason to chase
you! Then we just have to lure him into fighting a zoalord or something and
he'll completely lose interest in us!"
"Back up a second," Sakura said, holding up a hand. "Take what away?"
"What are you, stupid? Your virginity!"
She stared at him.
He stared back at her, still smiling. His eyes were shining with the
same arrogant glee he always he had when he came up with an idea. Except there
was something a little different this time...
This time she hit him with the divider. And a convenient chair.
"Ow! What the hell was that for!?"
"You're DISGUSTING!"
"For what? Trying to figure out a way to save your-"
"There are worse things than death!" she cut him off.
"How about eternal undeath?"
She considered that for a moment. "Yes!" she said fervently.
"No wonder you're still a virgin, you crazy dyke!"
"DYKE!?" she shrieked.
"You won't have sex with me to save your life!"
"Well, I think that pretty much speaks for itself!"
There was a banging at the door, and a thickly accented voice yelled
"You two, you want lover's quarrel, go out of village! Stop breaking
furniture!"
They both stood, fists clenched, glaring at each other for a long
moment. Finally Tarou snorted. "Fine. Fuck this." He walked over and hopped
out the window.
Sakura followed him, dropping from the attic room they'd rented to the
ground easily. Tarou was standing in the square, silhouetted against the
setting sun. He was looking around, his nose wrinkling. "Now what? Going to
run away again?"
"No. I'm sick of this. I'm not going to spend the rest of my life
running around China with a crazy dyke."
"Stop calling me that!" she snapped. "So what, is this another of your
brilliant plans? Like trying to shove him in a bonfire?"
"Shut up," he growled.
"Or the time you threw sesame seeds on the ground in front of him?"
"It works with some vampires!"
"Or when you dressed up like a priest? Where do you get all those
clothes, anyway?"
"None of your damn business." Tarou was moving now, heading purposefully
towards a house on the far edge of the small village.
"Or how about the 'burn him with giant mirrors' plan? That was
FABULOUS."
He whirled, jabbing a finger at her. "That should have WORKED!
Moonlight is just reflected sunlight, right? Besides, I didn't see you coming up
with anything beyond 'run away'!"
"What, you think I didn't try anything in the weeks before I met you?"
"Obviously nothing any good, not that that's a surprise."
Sakura started to retort, but he turned his back on her and stomped
forward, booting in the door of the small peasant cottage he'd walked to. The
family inside, who had been eating dinner stared at him. Tarou sniffed the air,
and then he was smirking again. "Just as I thought. Garlic. Hey old man,
where'd you get that?"
"Um... from our garden..."
"Great. I'm gonna take it. Thanks."
"B-but we need our produce to sell and-"
"Yeah, life's a bitch, isn't it?" Tarou shut the door and began walking
around the side of the house.
Sakura dashed up beside him. "You aren't seriously going to steal their
garlic, are you?"
Tarou snorted. "Of course I am. We're defending the village against a
horrible monster, garlic is the least they can give us."
"No we're not!"
"There's a monster coming, right? And he's going to fight us, right?
So yes we are."
"He wouldn't even come if we weren't here!"
"Yeah, well, like I said, life's a bitch."
Sakura stood still for a moment, quite unable to formulate a proper
response to that which didn't involve hitting her ally right before a life-or-
death fight.
The boy passed out the length of the garden, noting the location of all
the garlic shoots. Then he turned around and smirked at her. Sakura sighed. Oh
gods, he was going to show off again. He reached down to his waist and removed
the pantyhose, snapping it through the air. Then, with a loud cry he smashed one
foot into the ground. The garden around him exploded, herbs and flowers flying
up in all directions amidst the clouds of dirt and dust. A series of snapping
sounds followed as Pantyhose spun his namesake through the air around him in
long arcs too quickly for Sakura to follow.
When the dust had settled he was standing, holding two long lengths of
garlic, connected in the middle by the length of his pantyhose. Somehow, he had
snatched all of them, removed the bulbs from the plants and strung them together
into...
"What the hell is that supposed to be?"
"Garlic chucks."
"Garlic chucks..."
"Yeah." He held out another paid of nylons stuffed with garlic bulbs.
"You want to put these around your neck or something?"
"You know, I'm not even sure if garlic bothers him."
"Yeah well, I'll take what I can get."
She sighed and held out her hand. "I hate to say it, but I guess you
have a point. But did you have to wreck the whole garden?"
"It was almost harvest time already," he said with a shrug and that damn
smirk again, tossing her the garlic. Then he glanced over at the setting sun.
"Hmm, we still probably have a few minutes before the jerk pops out of the
woods."
"Good," Sakura groused, putting the garlic-pantyhose necklace on and
feeling intensely stupid for doing so. "We can get out of the village before
the fighting starts."
"Hell no. I didn't lead us here for the room."
"Oh, geez. What now?"
He chuckled. "Remember that dam in the river?"
She stared at him. "No. No way."
"Don't start. We break the dam when he gets here, suddenly the whole
battlefield is full of running water. That's going to restrict his movement."
Sakura ground her teeth. That's what she got for going along with him
even for a moment. "In the first place, in case you forgot he found me in an OIL
RIG. In the second place, we are not destroying the dam and flooding out the
village!"
"They'll survive. Chinese peasants are hardy; I should know. Besides,
water's good for crops."
"You ASSHOLE! Don't you ever think of anybody but yourself?"
"I'm in this mess because I tried to save your damn life, and don't you
forget it!" he snapped back. "Besides, if you want to stick around after we
take this bastard down and help these families through the winter, you go right
ahead. You'll be alive to do it, and you'll have me to thank for that, and if
it bothers you to cause some water damage in order to gain a necessary edge to
win, then-"
"That will NOT be necessary!"
Both of them turned and stared. A girl was standing on the roof of the
peasant hut behind them. Sakura guessed her age at maybe nineteen or twenty.
She was obviously attempting to look dramatic, but had chosen her perch poorly,
since she was next to the chimney of the hut, which was belching black smoke at
her. However, her bright smile and shining eyes were clearly undeterred by this
inconvenience. She wore a bright red Chinese-style breastplate with golden
piping and a large purple gem set just above her breasts. Flowing to each side
of the gem was a white sailor collar, also with gold piping. A pleated red
skirt swirled around her thighs, just short enough so that her violet spandex
shorts peeked out from underneath. Her sleeves were also purple, tight at the
shoulder, but flaring out at the elbow as they bunched just above extremely
large white bracelets at each wrist. Blue fingerless gloves and ankle boots
that looked at least two sizes too large completed the... striking ensemble.
Her long purple hair flowed around her as she struck a pose, her bangs held out
of her eyes by a headband decorated with stars.
"I realise..." she struck a different pose, "...that the stresses of
your situation..." And she switched to another one, seemingly more as if she was
trying to avoid the stinging filthy smoke than anything else. "...have taken
their toll upon you! But..." she shifted position again. "...do not despair!
The long night is over!"
"Actually," Tarou deadpanned, "dusk usually marks the beginning of
night."
With an annoyed grimace, the newcomer leaped off the roof, but her
blinding smile was once again in place as she landed. "No, no, that was
metaphorical. What I meant was that your long, arduous trial by fire has ended.
At last you have proven yourselves worthy, through your heroic actions and
unceasing struggle against darkness-"
"Are you going to get to telling us who the hell you are and why you're
here?" Tarou said impatiently. "Because if not, we have a dam to break."
"We're not breaking the dam!" Sakura growled.
"Sure. Tell you what, you chat with the retard and I'll go... not break
the dam, okay?"
Sakura grabbed him in a headlock, viciously cinching it in with what was
really a very pleasurable amount of satisfaction. "No, we're going to TALK to
the nice ret- I mean, girl."
"You realise," Tarou said in a dangerous tone, "that I can break this
headlock and your neck with about the same ease."
"Sure you can," she said, giving it a twist.
Tarou's muscles bunched and he began to twist and grunt. Sakura cinched
it in some more.
"I... am... perfectly... in... control," he grunted after a moment. "I
can really..." he said with another jerk, "...get out anytime I want!" he gave
one final twist, but then snorted derisively and crossed his arms with a
grimace. "But I won't. Because I'm not going to waste my strength when we have
a vampire coming. So fine, have it your way."
"Sure," Sakura said with a grin, releasing him. Pantyhose rubbed his
neck, muttering under his breath.
The new girl started clapping, drawing both their attention to her
again. "Great!" she cheered. "You two are getting along even better than I
thought!"
"Uh... come again?" said Sakura, blinking.
"It's just like all the comic books I read when I was a kid!"
"You mean, yesterday?" Tarou growled.
"Well, yes. But I meant when I was an actual little kid!" she chirped.
"You know, how the protagonists are always thrown together against their will,
but through a series of death-defying situations come to realise they love each
other absolutely, even if they hide that love behind yelling and hitting each
other!"
Sakura stared at her. "Are you suggesting... no, actually, we're not
following that line of thought. How about you just introduce yourself and tell
us what you're doing before Ryu shows up and rips up the village."
The girl bowed deeply. "Hello. I'm Athena Asamiya, twenty years old, a
Pisces. My hobby is Astrology, my blood type is B, my favourite sport is
Lacrosse, and my least favourite thing is grasshoppers!" She made a disgusted
face as she stood up again. "Eww. Grasshoppers. Do you know some people eat
them? Ewww! Anyway, I'm also an avatar of the goddess Athena. That's Greek,
if you didn't know, though I'm Japanese. Despite this, I am an ordinary
schoolgirl, or at least I was until I graduated. I guess I'm an ordinary
college girl now. I have psychic powers!"
"Right," Tarou said, then turned to Sakura. "I'll just remind you that
YOU wanted to talk to her."
"Uh-huh," Sakura said, ignoring him as she attempted to digest that.
Finally she decided to mostly ignore it. "So, uh, Miss Asamiya..."
"Call me Athena!"
"Sure. So, Athena, why are you here again?"
"Well, you see, I've always read in the stars that I was destined to
find two brave companions in China. That's you two. Together, we shall form a
superhero team and beat up bad guys and all manner of evil! Also, I was kind of
thinking of forming a band, if that doesn't sound too silly."
"No," Tarou sneered. "Not silly at all. I mean, it fits right in!
You're an insane Greek goddess who decided to get born in Japan, she's a lesbian
who can't admit she's not sixteen anymore, and I turn into a flying minotaur
with cold water! I mean, why NOT form a band?"
"I knew you'd understand! I figure you can play bass guitar. It seems
the appropriate position for the dark, brooding pretty boy, right?"
Sakura was beginning to think that the lack of sleep was getting to her.
It was actually kind of comforting, to think the last week or so was really just
a horrible dream. Or maybe she was already dead, and this was Hell. That made
a lot of sense, but she shook it off. She obviously wasn't that lucky. "I'm
sorry, but you seem to have made a mistake. I'm not really the superhero type.
I turned down membership in S.T.A.R.S., you know."
"That's okay. Superheroes don't work with the system. We work DESPITE
it! You of course are the tragic outcast loner, betrayed by the man you
trusted, unwilling to open your heart-"
"Don't forget the dyke part," Tarou added unhelpfully.
Sakura did not hit him. But she did notice her aura was turning the
ground around her black, and Tarou, wonder of wonders, glanced at her and
actually shut his mouth.
Athena was still nattering on. "-so what I thought I'd do was let you
two get to know each other for a few days, then we'd team up to defeat the Dread
Martial Artist Vampire Ryu, and then we'd go back to Japan. I've got rooms
prepped in my studio, and don't worry, I'll give you a break on rent-"
"Wait," Sakura said suddenly. "Wait just a second. Do you mean you've
been following us for days?"
"Months, actually!" she responded cheerfully. "I had to make sure you
were the people I was looking for. And when I discovered that Pantyhose Tarou
was always saving village girls from rampaging monsters and you were willing to
risk your life to save the soul of your idol, I knew you were who I was looking
for."
Suddenly Tarou didn't look amused at all. "How the hell do you know my
name?"
"I told you, I have psychic powers!"
"Oh yeah? Read my mind."
"Well..." she hesitated. "They don't really work like-"
"So, how do you know?"
She shuffled her feet slightly. "Well, I... looked up your birth
certificate, actually."
Tarou slumped. "Oh. Well, I suppose-"
"With my psychic powers!"
"..." Tarou said. "I hate you," he added after a moment.
"So you were just hoping Tarou and I would randomly run into each other
while I was running for my life?" Sakura said incredulously.
"Of course not!" Athena said. "You can't leave things like that up to
chance."
Tarou's eyes narrowed suspiciously. "So..."
"So I made sure! And let me tell you, it wasn't easy to steer that
vampire around. I can't even count the number of times you two gave him the
slip! And making sure he showed up at the exact right places to drive Sakura
towards where you hung out, Tarou, that was really hard!"
Sakura didn't actually grab her by the collar and lift her off the
ground. But that was only because Tarou had beaten her to it. "You did WHAT!?"
they both screamed in unison.
"It was necessary!" Athena protested. "If Ryu just wandered off
randomly, he would have hurt innocent people! This way he was focused! And
besides, you two probably would never have met, and that would have been a
tragedy!"
Tarou's fist blurred in the air as it streaked towards Athena's face,
but suddenly she vanished in a cloud of purple sparks, reappearing a few feet
away. Then she vanished again as Tarou attempted to smash her face in a second
time. "Stop vanishing!" Tarou snarled as he spun to face her new position.
"Only if you promise to stop trying to hit me!"
Tarou growled for a moment, then sighed and let his hands fall to his
sides as he stepped towards her. "Fine. I promise."
"That's better," she smiled. Then his fist slammed into her gut,
causing her to double over. "You... you promised!" she gasped, staggering
backwards.
"I lied," Tarou snapped.
Sakura was possessed of a perverse urge to cheer, but considering who it
would be for, thought better of it. "Listen, Tarou," she said, putting her hand
over Tarou's fist to stop his next blow. "Not that I wouldn't enjoy seeing her
get smacked around, but Ryu's going to show up any minute, since this idiot
probably let him straight to us, right?"
"Well, yeah," Athena gasped, slowly straightening. "We need to have our
dramatic final confrontation, which in the end we learn we can only prevail
through my leadership and the power of love!"
Sakura was going to reply. She wasn't sure with what, though 'violence'
was near the top of the list, but Tarou shook her hand off and stepped towards
Athena, causing her to reflexively flinch. "Fine, you little insane fangirl.
I'll make you a deal. You defeat Ryu, single-handedly, and we'll become your
sidekicks or whatever insane crap you dream up. But until then, piss off. The
adults are preparing for a fight."
"Hey," Sakura protested, "Don't agree for me!"
"Oh, just think about it," Tarou growled. "While this idiot is off
getting herself torn to shreds - which we'll both enjoy immensely, I might add -
we'll break the dam and Ryu will get caught in the middle! Then we take him
with the garlic-chucks."
"Look," Sakura sighed. "We're not breaking the dam."
"Agreed!" said Athena. "And lookie, there he is!"
As if on cue, the last sliver of the sun slid beneath the horizon, and
the street filled with shadows. And at the far end of the village he stood,
cloaked in darkness from which only his glowing red eyes stood out. Athena
stepped into the center of the road that run through the village, and pointed at
him.
"Now wait," Sakura began. "We can't just let her get killed."
"Why not?" Tarou yawned, and turned to start walking towards the dam.
Sakura was caught with indecision over who to stop first, and she
hesitated just long enough for the decision to be taken out of her hands.
"Foul vampire!" Athena cried. "For the sake of justice, I, Athena, will
protect this village by destroying you!"
Ryu was silent for a long moment. When he spoke, his usual calm voice
seemed a little more strained than usual. "No. No more challenges." He took
one step forward, and suddenly the night became day as a purple sun appeared
within his cupped hands. "Die, little girl. SHINKUU DENJIN GOU HADOKEN!"
The miniature nova exploded from his hands, tearing down the street. The
ground disintegrated before it, a great wave of power tearing apart the earth.
Buildings meters away from the ball exploded into splinters, trees vanished into
dust, the very air shrieked in protest. Sakura screamed. She had never seen that
much power. There was no way Athena would survive. There was no way she would
survive. There was no way anything would survive.
"Psycho Reflector!" Athena shouted, waving her arms in front of her. A
purple disk appeared in the air. The chi blast hit it and... bounced away like a
ping-pong ball. It screamed straight back at Ryu, who had time to blink. Then
the blast hit him and he vanished, immolated into dust in the time it took
Sakura's heart to skip a beat.
Silence returned to the village. The dust of Ryu slowly settled.
Sakura just pointed. She made sounds, but they could not really be
called words. Tarou was caught perfectly in mid-step, his entire forward
momentum paused as if he was in freeze-frame. He was staring back over his
shoulder. His mouth was gaping. His left eyebrow was twitching.
"Wow! It's really lucky he opened up with that!" Athena said, sighing
and wiping her brow. She wasn't even sweating. "I would have been no match for
him in hand to hand."
In the distance, Ryu's reflected blast shaved the top off a mountain.
"That didn't happen," Tarou asserted.
Sakura began to cry.
"Well, now that I'm finished proving to you the power of love..."
"What did LOVE have to do with that?" Tarou shouted.
"Well, I defeated him with love..."
"HOW? That looked like a magic floating purple disk! Is it fueled by
love?"
"No... not really..."
"Then WHAT!?"
"Well..." She tapped her chin. "It was my love for my new sidekicks that
gave me the moral strength to do it?" she asked, somewhat tentatively.
"I am not your sidekick," Tarou growled.
"But you promised!"
"I lied!"
"He does that a lot," Sakura finally found the voice to say.
Tarou's face then went through several amusing expressions, almost too
fast to follow. He looked disgusted, then annoyed, then infuriated, then back to
disgusted, then amused, then afraid, then infuriated again and finally he
settled on resigned. "Fine. Yay. You killed him." He turned and started walking
away. "Later," he said, waving over his shoulder with two fingers.
"Where are you going?" Athena asked.
"Why don't you use your psychic powers to find out?" Tarou replied
snidely.
"Oh... well, if I have to."
Tarou paused.
"Wait, what?" Sakura said.
Athena turned. "If I have to use my psychic powers to find you two
again, I guess I will. It's not like we can all just go our separate ways."
"And why not?" Sakura said. Athena either missed or ignored the low hint
of danger in her tone.
"Because Major Krieg is going to use a superweapon to immolate all of
China in two weeks, unless we stop him!" she declared. Sakura blinked.
Tarou shrugged. "And this is my problem, how?"
"Because you live in China?" Sakura offered.
"Oh..." He frowned. "Right. Force of habit." Then he paused. "So... how
do you know about this..." Athena smiled. "Of course. Psychic powers." He paused
again. "So... is this thing definitely going off in two weeks? Meaning we get
fourteen days to stop it."
"Yes, but if we start now..."
"So, I think broken bones can usually heal in what... seven days,
Sakura?"
Sakura paused. "Five if you do it right."
Athena looked back and forth as the two of them walked towards her. "Uh,
guys... why are you looking at me like that? Guys? Guys...
"Eeep."


THE END


Author's Notes:

Epsilon: The next time you want to convince me to draw 100 pictures in a month,
just hit me in the head with a rock or something and save us both the trouble.

Blade: Actually that was as much your idea as mine.

Epsilon: Shush. I'm passing the blame here. Logic has no place in this process.

Blade: So uh, yeah. That other April Fools project? The one mentioned in our
last author's notes? It'll come sometime. After all, he still did like, forty
pictures, so it was too much work to waste.

Epsilon: Yeah. I just wish we'd realised this less than four days before the
deadline. Then we wouldn't have had to sit up for four nights straight writing
this.

Blade: We do it for you, our fans!

Epsilon: Next time we do nothing! Mostly because the fanfic will be done by next
April.

Blade: True. Well, I hope you liked this little pointless sidestory into one of
the random insane parts of the Hybrid Theory universe that won't be touched upon
in the main fanfic.

Epsilon: Yep. Our pathetic attempts at humour certainly made us laugh. But then
again, we haven't slept in four days.

Blade: Usually here is where we segue into the next episode preview but
uh... we already did that and there is no next side story.

Epsilon: No matter how much we want to do the entire Juraian-Galaxia war.

Blade: An epic space opera with exotic planets, lovely princesses, lightsaber
duels, exploding worlds, starfighter battles and girls in mini-skirts!

Epsilon: Never coming from C&A productions!

Blade: At next month, or anytime!

Epsilon: Same fanfic time, same fanfic webspace... not!

Blade: Fuck it. I'm going to sleep.
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