"So what do you brats know about chakra then?" asked Anko. "Specifically the moulding of it."
The three newly minted genin traded looks of sheer bafflement before turning back to her. "How the hell do you mold a chakra?" asked Ranma. "You meaning pushing more energy into one?"
"I hear the words coming out of your mouth but when I try to force them into sense I fail. Explain."
"Well, the chakras are points in the body," said Ranma. "Our life energy, ki, flows through them. You can mess someone up pretty bad by screwing with their chakras. Make them impotent, make them weak as a kitten, make them stupid. That sort of stuff."
"So that's what the pervert did to you?" asked Ryoga.
"Think so," said Ranma. "Some weird pressure point that managed ki flows through a chakra point or something. Dunno exactly how. The old ghoul ran off with the chart in the end."
"Okay, whatever," said Anko with a dismissive wave of her hand. "Those sound like tenketsu and ki sounds like chakra. Never heard it called life energy before but it fits."
"Go on then, teach," said Ranma. "Hit us with your spectacular knowledge of all things ki."
Anko glared at him, but it didn't stop her kicking off a nice, little speech. "Chakra is a mix of the energy in your spirit, gained through experience and training," she said, "and the energy of your body. It is the source of a ninja's power, what makes us different from other warriors, and can, with sufficient training, be used to do almost anything you can conjure up in those feeble, little minds of yours if you have enough of it."
"Sounds like ki."
"Pretty much," said Anko. "Tenketsu are points in your body through which chakra flows. There are some pretty nasty techniques for attacking them. Block the tenketsu in someone's arm and they can't use it."
"Doesn't sound all that bad to me."
"Block the tenketsu in someone's heart and it stops pumping."
"Okay, maybe it does."
"Anyway," said Anko with a mock-superior sniff. "You use hand seals to mold chakra for use in ninja techniques. Looked to me like you guys didn't bother with that, though."
Ryoga blinked. "Hand seals?" he asked. "Like shrine maidens?"
"When did you visit a shrine, pig-boy?"
Ryoga scratched the back of his head. "When I was trying to get to our duel," he said, with a sheepish look on his face. "She got kinda pissed off at me. Shrine girls can do some weird stuff when they're angry."
"Can't all girls?"
"As entertaining as this crap might be, shut up," said Anko. "So no hand seals. How do you do it then? Sheer force of will?"
"That would be correct," said Mousse. "The Amazons have a vast amount of techniques for training your will to better mould ki."
"And yet you still suck like a vacuum cleaner."
Ranma casually leaned back underneath the chain that Mousse threw his way before lashing out with a side-kick that caught the Amazon boy in just the right spot to drive the air out of his lungs.
"Do you three ever stop fighting?" asked Anko. They looked at her as if she'd grown a second head. "Guess not. Anyway, techniques. I already know you can use kawarimi but what about the other basics: henge and bunshin?"
Blank stares were the only response.
"Wow, so let me great this straight: you can blow up buildings, have the hand to hand skills of a jounin, or conjure up an army's worth of weapons, but you can't use bunshin?" asked Anko, eyes blinking rapidly in surprise as she spoke. "You guys must be idiot savants or something."
Ranma wasn't quite sure if that was supposed to be an insult or a compliment. In the end, he decided to stay quiet.
Anko pulled a scroll out of . . . actually, Ranma really didn't want to think about where the hell she'd been hiding it, not in those clothes. "Here," she said before she lobbed it at Ranma's head, though he plucked it out of the air before it could strike home. "Read that, idiots. It has all the basics you'll need for the three academy techniques. I'm sure Iruka won't miss it too much. Anyway, best be quick. We have a mission this afternoon. Very important, that: our first mission. I'm sure you'll really enjoy it."
Ranma wasn't even listening. New techniques!
"We kinda brought this down on ourselves, didn't we?" asked Ranma.
"That you did," agreed Anko with glee. "And because you broke it you won't even get paid like normal brats do for this crap. In fact, when you start doing real missions, the cost of this will be taken out of your payments. Let this be a lesson to you: don't get caught."
"You know, I don't remember any of my teachers ever teaching me a lesson like that before," said Ryoga, scratching the back of his head in confusion. "It's always been about not doing this sort of stuff instead of not getting caught for it."
"Pfft," said Ranma. "No wonder you're such a moron. It was about the first thing my pop ever taught me."
"Your father isn't someone I would try to emulate," said Mousse.
"Doesn't sound so bad to me," said Anko. "But yapping about fang-boy here being an idiot won't put up fences."
"You know, this really isn't what I had in mind when I signed up to be a ninja," said Mousse. "I expected more blood and guts and less hammers and nails . . . unless said hammer was being used to apply said nails to enemies."
Anko wiped an invisible tear from her eye. "You have no idea how it warms your teacher's heart to hear you talking like that," she said. "Now get to it. Sooner you're done here, the sooner we can get to something a little less tedious. Or at least you brats can."
"What?" asked Ranma. "Aren't you going to help your students?"
Laughter was the only reply he got before she disappeared in a puff of smoke. Damned woman. And he really had to learn that technique.
The fence was as good as new when they finished. Better, even. Ranma was sure that there had never been a finer wooden fence in all the world. He was the best after all. And Ryoga and Mousse weren't too bad either so long as you made sure Ryoga didn't run off in the opposite direction and Mouse had his glasses on.
"Ah, your first mission," said the Hokage, a puff of smoke escaping his mouth as he spoke. "You should celebrate. It may not seem it but this is a watershed moment in any ninja's life."
"Yes," said Ranma. "For there is nothing that is not momentous about fixing a garden fence."
A couple of the officious looking types who were hanging around in the room shot Ranma scandalised sort of looks. He ignored them entirely. Did he care what some office drone thought of him? Yeah, in the same way as he desperately wanted to be dragged off to Joketsuzoku and become Shampoo's husband.
"Ah, such is youth," said the Hokage. "So eager to charge onwards to greater things. You'll have plenty of time for that soon enough, I assure you. Enjoy what you have now while it lasts."
"Yeah, yeah," said Ranma. "Have you got anything more worthwhile for us or are we done here?"
"Come back tomorrow. We should have something else for you then."
"Got some balls to talk to the Hokage that way in public, kid," said Anko as they reached the training ground. "Lot of ninja would have your nuts for a necklace if they'd heard that."
"Feh. Let 'em try."
Anko shook her head. "I doubt anything short of a tailed beast is going to knock it into you that you aren't the biggest fish in the pond," she said. "So whatever. Read the scroll yet, brats?"
"How the hell do you get to go through all those seals without someone ramming your teeth down your throat?" asked Ranma. "Seriously, even pig-boy isn't slow enough to let someone do that in the middle of a fight now he knows what it means."
"That would be training," said Anko with a roll of her eyes. "Get good enough and those seals can go by in no time. Get really good at a jutsu and you can even skip a lot if it and just run it off with one or two quick seals. Did you think that being able to use a technique was the end of it?"
"Hey, I was just asking."
"It was a stupid question. You're ninja, not academy brats, an enemy isn't going to stop so you can ask what's happening. Deal with it. Anyway, come on, show me what you can do. Gimme a bunshin or a henge, my supposed prodigies."
They looked at each other. Or Mousse and Ryoga looked at Ranma, who sighed. Typical. He ran through the seals, though slowly and with a considerable amount of uncertainty, before calling out the technique name to complete the invocation, "bunshin no jutsu."
"Crap," said Anko. "They're supposed to be copies of you, not what you'd look like if you were a ghost. What use is a diversion if it's so obviously fake? Again."
Ranma growled under his breath and tried again. This time he created a massive number, forcing far too much ki into the technique he supposed, but the copies were much more solid looking even if they weren't solid.
"Better," said Anko. "Almost academy brat standard if they allowed the students to take longer to pull the technique off than it takes an old codger to get dressed in the morning."
Ranma was seriously tempted to shove a vacuum blade down her throat to show her just how quickly he could pull a technique off, but he wasn't entirely sure that she would survive the experience. Not that he was sure that he cared all that much about that. Being mocked in front of the idiotic duo was really pissing him off; he could hear them sniggering in the background.
"I don't what you two think is so funny," snapped Anko. "At least your resident kunoichi had the balls to try. I just handed you the cure to your little transformation problem, idiots. Why are you fobbing this crap off on him? At least he can still fight when he turns into a midget."
"I am not a kunoichi or a midget, dammit!"
"Whatever," said Anko with a wave of her hand. "You two, henge is a transformation. Learn it. Learn how to use it like you do your fancy attacks without seals and you won't be damned useless like you are now."
"Who are you calling useless!?"
"The people who will be turned into lunch by any enemy who knows their weakness," said Anko. "What, you think ninja play fair?"
"Mousse can still use his weapons when he turns into a duck," said Ranma. "Damnedest thing you'll ever see but he can do it. Like some sort of miniature martial arts version of a bomber or something."
Ryoga and Mousse weren't listening any further. They had the magic word dancing in front of their eyes, Ranma could see: cure. He'd normally be like that, too, but he had it, he knew he had it, and there were no obstacles to it. It was . . . done. He'd always expected to have to fight some great battle to get a cure and now it was done just like that. It was . . . anti-climatic. Yeah, that was the word. Anti-climatic. Took all the excitement out of getting a cure when it was just dropped in his lap like it was nothing. No anticipation.
Ranma blanched as Ryoga transformed himself into something that only resembled him in the way that a beached whale resembled a dolphin. Holy hell, he didn't think it was possible for a human to get that fat and still move.
"Kai! Kid, that was an affront to all that's good and holy in the world, brat. You can't fight when it takes a crane to lever you out of your bed."
Ryoga growled and did it again. The result . . . well, they weren't much better.
"Some prodigies," taunted Anko. "I've seen seven year olds who can do better than that."
It was going to be a long night, Ranma could tell.