Ranma ducked under his pop's roundhouse kick and landed a series of punches to his gut before backing away again and out of his range. The old man staggered back a couple of steps before responding with a jumping kick that Ranma met in mid-air with a flurry of kicks and punches that was greeted with an answering series of blocks and strikes that kept both fighters from landing a blow before they passed each other and landed facing away from each other.
Ranma immediately spun around and used his forearm to deflect the straight punch that his pop had aimed at his head before dropping down to the ground and launching a sweep kick that Genma hopped over. Before he could jump back up onto his feet to carry the fight to Genma, the man was on him with a volley of quickly thrown punches that forced Ranma into an awkward defensive position half-crouched on the ground with no leverage to speak of.
Eventually, despite some blinding defensive work by Ranma, his defensives were breached and Genma landed a kick to the ribs that knocked him across the yard and knocked the wind out of him.
"You're getting soft, boy," said Genma. "Want me to go find that wedding dress so you can go find a husband?"
It was a stupid, ill thought out insult, but it was enough to get seriously under Ranma's skin after what happened last night. He exploded forwards in a blur of motion, launching attacks at a ferocious pace that had Genma on the back foot right from the onset. It was a testament to the man's skill in the art that his defences held as long as they did facing such an onslaught from a much, much faster opponent, but the end was inevitable. Ranma broke through Genma's defences and clocked him flush on the jaw with a powerful roundhouse kick that lifted him clear off his feet and sent him flying across the yard till he collided with the back wall with meaty thud.
"So who's going soft again, pop?" taunted Ranma but Genma was far too busy counting the miniature pandas dancing around his head to answer. "Feh. Stupid panda."
With that, Ranma span on his heel and stalked back into the house. Bringing up the wedding dress raised a whole lot of stuff that Ranma really, really didn't want to think about.
"Did you really have to hit him so hard, son?" asked Nodoka.
"Shouldn't 'a brought up the wedding dress," grumbled Ranma as he headed for the bathroom. Maybe a good soak would make him feel better. Times like this, he wished pig-boy was around. A good fight with him was always good for working some frustrations out.
When Ranma returned from the bath all dressed up in her school uniform and ready for the day, she found her mother focussing all her attention on the newspaper while pop stuffed his face. Normal day really. Ranma sat down at the table was soon embroiled in the usual morning battle with her pop over the food.
"Do you know anything about this ginzuishou, Ranma?" asked her mother, causing Ranma to drop her chopsticks in surprise.
"Wha . . . heh, heh, why'd you expect me to know something about that?" asked Ranma, scratching at the base of her pigtail.
"Oh, I don't know," said Nodoka. "You just seem to end up getting involved in that sort of strangeness sooner or later."
"Heh, yeah," said Ranma, managing to stop herself scratching at her pigtail. "Where'd you hear about it anyway?"
"It's in the newspaper," said Nodoka. "That Tuxedo Mask boy has written into the newspaper office about how it's worth some ridiculous amount of money and it's supposedly in this city somewhere."
"He's done what?" yelped Ranma before she got herself back under control. "Is there anything else in the article?"
"Some pictures of those Sailor V and Sailor Moon girls," said Nodoka. "And an article wondering if they're involved."
"Any mention of others?" asked Ranma. "Sailor Jupiter?"
God, she hoped not.
"No, why do you ask?"
"No reason," blurted out Ranma before going back to her food, not that there was much left courtesy of the fat old panda man.
"Hmm," said Nodoka. "You know, this Tuxedo Mask seems to be quite manly . . . if you were a real girl . . . "
Ranma ran into Ami on the way to school and they made their way in, making small-talk as they went. It wasn't the easiest thing in the world considering that they had almost nothing in common outside of the magical girl thing, but they managed. Mostly. Anyway, it wasn't that long before they ran into Usagi.
"Hi, Ami!" said Usagi looking far too cheerful for the time of day for Ranma's tastes. "Hi, Ranma!"
"Hi, Usagi!" said Ami, before looking at her watch. "Wow, you're on time."
"Yo," said Ranma. She couldn't muster the will for much more.
"This dream woke me up early," said Usagi.
"What dream?" asked Ami.
"It was really weird . . . " said Usagi before trailing off as a fairly tall guy with dark hair approached them.
"Hey, you," said the guy, looking at Usagi and pretty much ignoring the rest of them. "Shouldn't you be in school?"
Usagi's response was one that Ranma would have been proud of. A true masterpiece of an aggravating facial expression. She pulled her lips wide and got impressive length on her tongue as she contorted her face. "Nyah! Get off my back!"
The guy didn't react much to that beyond turning on his heel and walking off. Lame. Akane was way more fun to taunt than that.
"So who was that?" asked Ranma.
"Just some jerk I run into a lot," said Usagi, a light blush appearing on her features that was very much at odds with her words and slightly disdainful facial expression.
It was just too easy. Ranma couldn't help herself . . .
"Your face is all red, Usagi," said Ranma in a lilting tone of voice. "I think someone has a crush . . . "
"I do not!"
"Wow . . . He goes to that super-elite prep school," said Ami. "You actually know that guy?"
"Who, Mamoru?" asked Usagi. "You can have him . . . he's a total dork anyway."
"I'd rather be tied up and thrown in a pit of starving ca-ca-those things," said Ranma, her face settling into a frown.
The others gawked at her with expressions of utter disbelief on their faces. You'd think they'd never heard of something like that before or something!
The school day passed much the same way as the last in that no-one seemed to dare speak directly to Ranma outside of the teachers. It was beginning to really grate on her nerves by the end of the day. If it wasn't for Usagi and Ami at lunch she'd have had no-one to talk to at all. While that wasn't the same as having the tomboy and Ucchan around, it was better than nothing. And, for someone like Ranma, having no-one to talk to at school would have been downright painful. School was bad enough, but school without friends to alleviate the boredom? That was the stuff nightmares were made of in Ranma's opinion.
Thankfully, like all things, it eventually came to an end and Ranma was free of school for another day. She didn't even bother to try and keep up the pretence of normality and jumped out of a third floor window as soon as the bell rang to signify the end of the last lesson of the day. Hell with it. If they couldn't handle it, well, that was their problem, not hers. Wasn't like she really cared what people thought about her anyway outside of a select few.
She met up with Ami and Usagi as they exited their school and together they left the area, making small-talk as they went. It seemed that tux-boy's appearance in the newspaper was pretty much the talk of the day. Not a huge surprise all things considered with the amount of money the newspaper said the damn crystal was worth. Anyway, they met up with Rei and Luna at the arcade - the idea of a hellspawn that could think and talk like a real person still blew Ranma's mind - and then they all made their way to the shrine.
"Do you have a bathroom I can use or something?" asked Ranma as they entered the shrine. "I kinda need to change my clothes."
Rei gave her a strange look but she escorted Ranma to a small bathroom where Ranma quickly pulled some of her usual Chinese silks and a pair of boxers out of wherever stuff went when you used the hidden weapons techniques and changed into them. Damn but was it ever a relief to be out of that nightmarish stuff her mother had passed off on her as underwear. With that done, she stuffed her school uniform away into that nether-world and pulled out a thermos of warm water. Then she took a deep, steadying breath - boy, did she ever hate revealing her curse to anyone - and headed back to where the others had settled in.
"I suppose you girls are as likely as anyone to understand this," said Ranma, getting their attention. "A couple years back I visited a place in China called Jusenkyo with my pop on a training trip. We didn't know at the time, but it's a cursed place. You fall in one of the springs and you take the form of whatever drowned in it last."
"You have a curse?" asked Usagi, eyes wide.
"Yeah," said Ranma. "Cold water activates it, hot water reverts me to my real body."
And then she twisted the thermos open and poured the water over her head, triggering the transformation.
"I'm Ranma Saotome," he said, scratching at the base of his pigtail. "Sorry 'bout this."
The girls stared, their eyes taking on a somewhat glazed appearance. Ranma blinked. Well, he supposed it was a bit of a shock even for magical girls. This was a bit of an extreme reaction though.
"This isn't possible!" blurted Luna. "You can't be male!"
"I kinda disagree," said Ranma with a smirk.
"But . . . you . . . "
"I'm a guy," said Ranma. "Got a problem with that?"
"No problem," said Usagi quickly. "No problem at all. Right, girls?"
"Right," echoed the others.
"But the magic shouldn't work for a male!" said Luna, the pitch of her voice rising all the while. "It shouldn't be possible!"
Ranma shrugged his shoulders. "Lotta stuff ain't supposed to be possible but it still happens," he said. "Most people wouldn't think this magical girl crap is possible but here we are. The curses are physically complete for what that's worth."
"B . . . but . . ." sputtered Luna, managing to look utterly lost, quite an achievement with a cat's facial features.
"I'd like to know more about this curse," said Rei. Seeing Ranma's questioning look, she continued, "it's the sort of thing I might come across in my duties as a shrine maiden and it would be nice to be prepared."
"Jusenkyo curses are supposed to be real rare," said Ranma. "But I'll tell ya about them if ya want. They're not all that complicated really."
"Yes, well, you can talk about that later," said Luna. "We have to deal with the mess that Tuxedo Mask has created right now."
"The newspaper stuff, right?" asked Ranma. "What's the big deal? S'not like someone's gonna find the ginzuishou under their bed or anything."
"What's the . . . " sputtered Luna. "We've got the whole nation trying to find a priceless magical artefact that we need to defeat the enemy and you ask what the big deal is?"
"Well, yeah," said Ranma. "So say someone finds it. So what? We can just steal it off 'em. I mean, it's really ours anyway, right?"
"Well, yes," said Luna. "But I doubt it would be that easy."
"Feh," said Ranma. "Course it would. Just gotta slip in and grab it. Easy."
The glare Luna gave him probably wouldn't have been very intimidating to a normal person, but to someone with the neko-ken . . . it worked all right. Ranma shut up. The rest of her questions could wait till the thing stopped glaring at him like that. Yup, they could wait.
"Luna, this has to be the work of the enemy," said Ami. "We have to do something - the princess could be in danger."
"I know," said Luna. "I can't believe this mess. I don't want to think Tuxedo Mask's an enemy, but . . . "
"Do we even know who the enemy is?" asked Ranma.
"I'm working on it," said Luna. "I've got a hunch about the enemy . . . if the enemy is who I think it is . . . "
"Huh?" said Usagi. "Luna?"
"And if the crystal falls into those hands, there is no hope," finished Luna.
"Whose hands?" asked Ami.
"Luna! No hope?" asked Usagi. "Just how powerful is the ginzuishou?"
"Powerful enough to cure a curse?" asked Ranma hopefully.
"Powerful enough to destroy an entire planet," said Luna.
"Oh my," said Ami, sounding eerily like Kasumi. "How are we supposed to protect something so powerful?"
"That is what you were chosen for, to protect the princess and the ginzuishou," said Luna. "It is your destiny. It is what I was sent from the moon to awaken you for."
"Sent from the moon to awaken us . . . " said Usagi looking absolutely gobsmacked, an expression the rest of them shared. "You mean, Luna . . . you're from the moon?"
"It's a long story," said Luna. "I'll tell you everything when the time is right. But for now, we need to find the princess and Tuxedo Mask."
"Hey," said Ranma. "I want to hear the story now. Or at least the part that explains why I've been turned into some sort of magical girl!"
"You're not ready to hear that yet," said Luna.
"You have no idea why, do you?" asked Ranma.
". . . no . . . "
Ranma grumbled to himself as he roof-hopped his way over to Nerima. Stupid cat, stupid magical girl transformation, and stupid . . . well, stupid everything. He did not want to be a damn magical girl. Ever. Period. Not in this life. Hell, not in the next, either, if he had any say in it. He didn't care if it had felt right at the time, it was just wrong. The curse was bad enough, even if he'd long since stopped hating it, but to turn into a magical girl? Some man!
But here he was, Sailor Jupiter, and it didn't seem that there was a damn thing he could do about it. Sure, he could ignore it, and just walk away. But the magic had chosen him and would not choose another according to that talking ca-ca-that thing. And could he really walk away from the whole mess and leave a bunch of untrained teenage girls to fight a load of apparently very dangerous demons and their masters? It would go against everything he believed in to walk away like that.
And the stuff they'd given him . . . could it look more girly? Between the rod thing and the phone thing he felt even less masculine than he had during that whole cheerleading challenge thing carrying them around, but that damn talking demon lookalike had glared at him again and he'd babbled all sorts of promises. Stupid neko-ken.
It didn't take long for Ranma to make his way to the Tendo home - he knew the way there off by heart by the time he'd been moved away to Juuban - and he soon dropped in over the wall, finding a rather bored looking Mr. Tendo sat outside the house smoking a pipe and staring into space.
"Hey, Mr. Tendo," said Ranma.
"Ranma!" cried out Mr. Tendo, his eyes starting to water. "You've come back!"
"Just visiting," said Ranma, his hands up in a warding position. Last thing he wanted was for Mr. Tendo to get too happy and give him one of those moustache rubs of his; those'd been bad enough when he was stuck as a six year old kid. As it was, Mr. Tendo grabbed onto him in a glomp worthy of Shampoo a moment later.
"Oh, Ranma," cried Soun. "You've come to marry my Akane, haven't you?"
"Wasn't really in my plans for the day," managed Ranma in-between squeezes of his rib-cage.
And the grip tightened. There were times when Ranma really did wonder if Mr. Tendo had any Amazon ancestors because Shampoo was the only one who was worse than him when he got like this.
"But family honour!"
Okay, that was enough for one day. Ranma managed to tap a couple of pressure points in Mr. Tendo's wrists and then he flipped away, kicking off Mr. Tendo's chest for leverage. Guy didn't even budge; he was strong, Ranma had to give him that, even if he'd never seen Mr. Tendo train. Or fight. Or do much more than play shogi and cry. Ever.
"I'm just here to see Akane," said Ranma with a smirk as Mr. Tendo blinked and tried to figure out what had just happened. "She in?"
"She's in her room doing her homework," said Mr. Tendo. And then he shouted after Ranma as the boy turned on his heel and jogged into the house to see Akane. "I can have a priest here inside the hour if you change your mind!"
Ranma developed a convenient case of temporary deafness for that last part. One attempt at forcing him into getting married was enough for one lifetime, he reckoned.
Ranma hopped from foot to foot outside Akane's door for a just a moment before finally knocking on it. Damn but it felt weird now that he didn't actually live here anymore.
"Come in," came Akane's voice from the other side of the door a few seconds after he'd knocked.
"Hey, Akane," said Ranma as he slid her bedroom door open. Ranma noticed that Akane's room hadn't changed a bit since he'd moved back to his mom's as soon as he opened the door. His fingers still itched with the urge to clean the clutter away when he saw things like the weights she used in a heap on the floor near her wardrobe.
"Ranma!" called out Akane from where she curled up on her bed in a shirt and pair of shorts reading a book of some description. "You've come back!"
"Yeah," said Ranma, scratching at the base of his pigtail. "Thought I should, you know. Kinda boring in Juuban really; no martial artists there to speak of."
"Only you would think somewhere was boring because there weren't any martial artists there," said Akane, uncurling and rising to a sitting position with her bare lower legs dangling off the edge of the bed.
"Hey!" cried Ranma. "Pop would think it was boring too, you know!"
"Okay then," said Akane, her lips curving into a smile. "Only a Saotome would think somewhere was boring because there wasn't any martial artists there."
"Well," said Ranma, scratching at his neck in thought. "Okay. Probably true. Wouldn't you think it was boring though?"
Akane's smile instantly dissolved into a scowl that almost had Ranma taking a step backwards. "No," she said, her voice snappish. "That'd mean no Kuno or Amazons to pester me."
Ranma's brow furrowed in consternation. "Shampoo been bugging you?" he asked.
"No," said Akane her scowl growing. "No more than normal anyway. Apparently, I don't warrant their attention when you're not here."
"Hey, it could be worse," said Ranma. "At least they're not playing with your memory again or nothing. S'not like there's much anyone could do to stop Cologne if she decided to try that."
He decided it would be best to leave out the fact that Shampoo could pretty much do it to Akane at will as well. See, he wasn't entirely dim-witted, and he'd been smacked enough times for saying Akane'd get beaten easy by Shampoo to get that message.
That seemed to be the right thing to say as Akane's scowl dissipated slightly. "Yeah," she said. "That's true. She's too good for us to stop, I suppose."
Ranma shrugged. "She's good," he said simply. "So how're things here? S'Kuno still causing trouble?"
"Kuno's been unbearable," said Akane. "He's convinced himself that he defeated you and he's been strutting around ever since spouting off speeches at anyone he can get to stay still long enough."
Ranma was torn between marching off there and then to beat the living hell out of Kuno on general principles and just laughing at the sheer ridiculousness of it all. He'd beaten Kuno so many times now that it was just boring; he could barely bring himself to care that the idiot thought he'd beaten him.
"Yeah," said Akane. "I thought you'd feel like that, but you don't have to deal with him; he's more of a pain than ever."
"It's not exactly hard to tell what you're feeling," said Akane. "Remember the Gambler King?"
"Hey," said Ranma. "I beat him, didn't I?"
"And having your face covered had nothing to do with it," said Akane with a roll of her eyes. "You can't even beat Ms. Hinako at cards when she's in kid form."
"Hey, I beat her as much as she beat me," said Ranma.
"And that says it all," said Akane in a tone of voice that said that there was no arguing with her, a tone that only females could manage in Ranma's experience.
"Hey, I didn't see you doing anything useful 'bout that Gambler King," said Ranma, who of course took that tone as a challenge.
"I won my room back!"
"And I won the dojo back!"
"Only because you cheated!"
"Worked, didn't it?"
"We were doing just fine without you!"
"You say that now!"
"I said it then too!"
"Don't you two ever get tired of arguing?" drawled Nabiki from the doorway, disturbing the pair of them as she strutted into the room.
"NA-BI-KI!" growled Akane from between gritted teeth.
"Calm down, Akane," said Nabiki, as she patted her sister on the shoulder in a most patronising manner. "You'll give yourself a heart attack."
Akane looked like she was about to let loose the anger-aura-of-pure-doom and was certainly not going to be saying anything constructive anytime soon.
"What d'ya want, Nabiki?" asked Ranma. "I ain't got no money for ya."
"Would I take your money?" asked Nabiki with the most pathetic air of false- innocence Ranma had ever seen outside of his pop's 'I'm just a cute little panda' act. "I was just wondering if you knew anything about what was going on in Juuban."
"Uh," said Ranma. "Erm. Well, what d'ya mean?"
"Well, I wouldn't mind knowing who those girls were," said Nabiki. "But really, I want to know about this ginzuishou. That could be worth a lot of money; I might even be persuaded to send some your way if you helped me find it."
"What makes you think I know anything?" asked Ranma, shifting nervously from foot to foot. "Only been there a few days."
"Oh please," said Nabiki in a most dismissive tone of voice. "If there's weird crap to be found, you'll have found it. Come on, Ranma; this could make us both rich."
"I don't know nothing," said Ranma. "Why'd I be interested in some dumb crystal?"
"Saotome . . . " said Nabiki, drawing his name out and moving towards him.
"Ranma, don't you have homework to do?" asked Akane.
"You know," said Akane, looking at him intensely. "What we were talking about earlier."
Ranma couldn't remember saying anything about homework but he'd take any excuse to escape a Nabiki looking to make some money. "Oh, that," he said. "Yeah. Got that to do. See you later, Akane, Nabiki."
And making sure Nabiki couldn't see, he mouthed a thank you to Akane, before jumping out of the open window and bouncing away to safety.
Ranma ended up heading back to Juuban as soon as he left the Tendo house. He wouldn't have minded paying a visit to Ucchan, but he was still kinda angry at her for coming along with Shampoo and crashing the wedding like that. Wasn't that he wanted to marry Akane or nothin', really it wasn't, but it wasn't right to come in chucking bombs around like that, not after everything that had happened in China. It just wasn't the time for it. And blowing up the dojo like they had was over the line too. There'd been no need for them to do that.
Halfway back to Juuban, though, Ranma felt a weird drain on his ki start up. It was nothing like as bad as Ms. Hinako when she got in the mood to use that stuff the old letch had taught her, but it still wasn't all that pleasant. It wasn't all that subtle, either, so Ranma could trace the path along which his ki was being drained. Once he focussed on looking at the ki and not the normal stuff, it was pretty damn blatant, really. He could see his ki being slowly sucked out of him but it was intertwined with a lot of black stuff too, and that black stuff felt almost as repulsive to Ranma's ki senses as Chardin had looked to Ranma's eyes.
And so Ranma followed that thread of power to its source, hopping from roof to roof and bouncing off stationary trains as he went. Even focussed on his jumping as he was, he couldn't help but notice that nothing was moving as he went to the source. Cars, trains, buses - they were all just stopped, and a lot had just crashed as they kept on going in the direction they'd been moving when their drivers stopped being able to drive them. He couldn't help but start to get angry as he made his way to whatever was causing this. It was still draining people now as they laid around dying!
Soon enough Ranma reached the source: Tokyo Tower. He swore under his breath as he saw that. Trashing Tokyo Tower in a fight would not make him popular and stuff always got trashed when he got in a fight near. Well, at least Ryoga wasn't around; it'd be pointless to even try and avoid trashing it if the pig- boy was there. And as soon as that thought passed through his mind, Ranma sucked in a breath and waited on tenterhooks for just a moment expecting to hear, "WHERE THE HELL AM I NOW?" or something similar, but it never came, thankfully.
Once he was past cursing himself out for being stupid enough to even think about Ryoga at a time when he didn't want pig-boy, Ranma started making his way up to the top of the tower to deal with whatever was doing this. Thankfully, the lift was still working, because he didn't really fancy scaling a three hundred metre tower; it would really smart if he managed to mess his footing up somehow and fell.
Finding the person responsibly for the drain proved to be pretty easy too. When there's a whole load of people conked out on the floor and one strutting around cackling, well, even Kuno could get from A to B, though he'd probably take a side-trip through C,D, and E too before he stopped blaming the 'foul sorceror' and got to the right place.
"You!" shouted the woman when she noticed him. "Who the hell are you!? And what are you doing here, you stupid human?"
"I'm Ranma Saotome of the Saotome School of Anything Goes Martial Arts," said Ranma, tensing his muscles ready to move. "And I accept your challenge!"
And with that said, Ranma kicked off into the air and slammed feet-first into the woman's face with a flying kick that she offered no resistance to, no attempt to dodge or block or anything. The woman was bounced off the wall of monitors behind her by the attack and Ranma landed deftly on his feet.
"Kinda weak, ain't ya?" he said in an incredibly cocky tone of voice.
"You . . . " sputtered the woman as she rose back to her feet. "DAMN HUMAN! DIE!"
The volley of black lightning that came out of her hands as she screamed the last was truly unpleasant looking, but Ranma was already dodging away from the blast. As Ranma flipped away, the wall behind where he'd been stood simply exploded as the dark energy struck it.
"JUST DIE, DAMN YOU!"
Ranma then found himself bouncing around the transmission room like a ping- pong ball as arcs of black lightning repeatedly lashed out from the woman's hands and blasted the hell out of everything it touched. Damn but she had to be letting off some serious hot ki with the way she was letting those blasts off; they just stank of rage and hate. Ranma found himself instinctively dropping into the Soul of Ice and entering the spiral movement that would let him take advantage of that. The lightning attacks kept up but Ranma was more than up the task of dodging them as he went around.
And then as the spiral completed, he threw a jumping uppercut and yelled, "HIRYU SHOTEN HA!"
And then Ranma was blasted across the room and bounced off a wall and to the ground as he took a volley of lightning full on the chest. The impact was powerful enough that it stunned him long enough for the woman to think she'd won.
"Pathetic," she sneered. "As if a mere human would be a match for one of Beryl's chosen."
Ranma just blinked. What the hell had just happened? This woman'd been giving off enough hot ki for a Hiryu Shoten Ha for sure the way she'd been going on and his Soul of Ice had been perfect, he know that for sure. As he rolled off his back and away from the follow-up blast, he began to run through the possibilities for what had blocked the attack and he was coming up dry; even with Herb it hadn't fizzled that badly. Another blast, another dodge. Something was seriously off here. More blasts, more dodges. Ranma opened his senses and tried to get a better read on the situation.
What Ranma saw when he opened his senses caused him to stumble slightly, and he avoided being blasted again by the skin of his teeth. The woman had no ki whatsoever. She was producing nothing other than that dark energy Ranma'd felt mixed in with the ki she was draining. The only other place Ranma'd felt anything like that before was the previous night in the wedding dress shop. And if that darkness was there, then maybe he could contrast it with that magic he'd used last night.
Ranma reached deep inside himself as continued to dodge the woman's attacks and looked for that power. It was not difficult to find, and, when Ranma called to it, it jumped to his aid. Once again, he began the spiral. This time, instead of radiating cold ki, he radiated that power, that magic, as he moved through the spiral. The lightning attacks continued and Ranma dodged them cleanly, contorting his body wildly as he went but maintaining the spiral once more.
As Ranma neared the middle of the spiral, he felt a large burst of power similar to what he'd found in himself and the ambient ki levels dropped dramatically.
"Hey, looks like someone rumbled your little scheme," mocked Ranma.
The woman just screamed and redoubled her efforts, but Ranma continued to dodge her attacks handily as he ran the spiral. And when he reached the centre, he called out "HIRYU SHOTEN HA!" once more. This time the world went white around Ranma as it exploded into the single biggest tornado that he'd ever seen. He vaguely heard the woman screaming obscenities as she was blown away but it was hard to make out above the winds. Ranma really had to doubt the wisdom of this one. So much for not trashing Tokyo Tower anyway. He really doubted that it would be in one piece after this one.
Eventually, and it was a long eventually, the winds dissipated and Ranma was alone in an office that could only be called such in the very loosest sense of the word. There really wasn't enough of anything left for it to be called such really, but there was still some scraps of material that kinda suggested that it had been an office once upon a time. And then the entire structure groaned and shook underneath Ranma's feet.
"Ah hell," he said. "I'd better get out of here before anyone spots me."