Ryouga’s head spun about as he heard the splash and he rushed into the room looking for Akane. The other three followed right on his heels. None of them saw the pool. As the water closed about their heads Ryouga, Shampoo and Mousse converted to their cursed forms. Ukyo caught on quickly and stroked downward, looking for Akane. She grabbed her by the collar and pulled her to the surface. With a little maneuvering they each got out of the pool. Akane lay gasping for air. When she got it back she was surprised to see P-chan looking at her in concern. “What are you doing here?” The others just looked at her and shrugged. She still hadn’t figured it out.
They were all startled as the door to the room slammed shut. Ukyo and Akane went to it and tried to force it open, with no luck. Then a voice drifted down from the ceiling followed by a strange odor. “Welcome to your new home, children.” They all drifted out of consciousness as the gas being pumped into the room reached them. Akane was the last to succumb.
Stepping back into the room, Suteko bit his lip. They were in real trouble. He was now the only member of the team free and loose. How could one lone teenager get the others free? His thoughts flashed from one plan to another. After a moment he smiled and slipped out of the room. There was a chance, if he could slip into the room holding the captives.
Suteko followed behind the guards, being sure to stay just far enough behind them not to be noticed. They rounded a corner and came to a guarded door. He couldn’t quite catch what the men said but the guard opened the door and gestured for them to enter. Suteko got as close to the rear of the group as he could but the man at the door swung the door shut before he could enter. Swearing under his breath he moved toward a second door.
Just as he was reaching for the knob he heard a voice and froze. “Who are these people, father?” It was Ranma! Instead of opening the door Suteko leaned an ear against it to listen.
“They are to be your companions, my son. All but one. She is an enemy of the clan and must be disposed of. But do not worry about these things my son. Go now. Eat. We will deal with them together in a little while.”
Suteko jumped back as the door swung inward. Suteko stood, still as a stone and watched his brother hug the man who had taken his memories. His thoughts swirled in chaos. Here was Ranma, right before him. Should he chance grabbing him and bringing him back to Doctor Tofu and the old Chinese woman? With his memories returned the two of them could come back and get the others free. Suteko smiled. “Yes.” Ito turned back into the room and closed the door. Ranma turned to walk over to a waiting guard.
Suteko took that moment to appear. He stepped and appeared in front of his brother. “Ranma, come with me.”
Ranma let out a yell and sprang backwards. “What the...?” He landed in a ready stance, automatically. “Who are you?” He glared at Suteko. “Why do you have my face?”
Suteko held out his hands in a calming gesture. “It’s me, Ranma. Suteko. Come on, your father is waiting for you at home.” Suteko tried to think of something that would convince Ranma to come but was interrupted by the guard behind him.
“Master Fukushuu? There’s another one!” One guard charged forward while the second opened the door and called back into the room.
Suteko spun and swore. This wasn’t working at all. He reached out and grabbed Ranma’s arm. “COME ON!” Then he tried to step sideways and pull Ranma with him. The only problem was that Suteko hadn’t yet learned how to take someone the size of Ranma with him yet. Suteko faded from sight, leaving a stunned Ranma standing, staring at where the figure had been.
Suteko ran down the hall and slipped into the same room as earlier. “Damn it! Uncle Tanto, I still can’t do it!” He pounded his leg with a fist. Tanto had told him that to take someone with yourself took more skill than a young warrior could expect. He had not mastered that himself until he was twenty five. Suteko had been sure that he could do it before then. Now the worse thing was that Ito would know that Suteko was here and running loose. The guards would be on the look out for anything vaguely strange. This was going to be much harder. Somehow he was going to have to free his new friends.
The first guard came to attention and spoke, “As the young master was coming down the hall another young boy appeared out of no where and tried to grab him. He had just laid a hand on the young master and then faded from sight.” The guard stood puzzled. “We are not sure where the other boy has gone Master.” He bowed low at the waist.
Ito smiled. “It seems that the child is more daring than I thought.” He turned to face Ranma. “How are you my son?”
Ranma was struggling with a half formed thought. The boy’s green eyes stayed in his mind. There was something about them. After a moment he shook his head to clear it. “I am fine, father. What was that?”
“It was nothing my child. Nothing to concern yourself about yet, anywise. Go have your dinner boy. I will explain to you later.” Ranma gave a slow nod and followed the guard down the hall.
Ito turned to the other guard and spoke. “I want you to keep a close eye on the children in that room.” He tilted his head toward the door. The boy you saw is here to relieve me of my prize. I will take no interruption of my plans.” The guard nodded and turned back to his post. Ito smiled and re-entered the room. It was time to prepare the children.
With the widening of her eyes Ito laughed. “Ah, I see you recognize me. Good. Then we can begin.” He walked around his side and over to a set of switches. Pressing a random one, the wall in front of her slid back.
Akane let out a small cry as she saw her friends chained to the wall, unconscious. “What have you done to them!?” She pulled at her bonds. The bands holding her arms down were too strong for her to pull her arms loose.
“Why, no more than I have done to your fiancé, Ranma.” He smiled and continued. “Just a gentle tap to their heads.”
“He isn’t my fiancé.” Akane mumbled her normal response but with little true feeling behind it. “Why aren’t I with them?” she asked with a touch of fear.
“Because, Miss Tendo, I find that you do not have anything I truly desire in a follower. You will be much more useful as a test of loyalty for my new heir.” He pushed another button and a screen lit up to show Ranma sitting at a table, eating slowly.
“Ranma,” Akane whispered. He was acting so different. He never ate like that.
“Yes, Ranma. He will be a great asset to the clan. Once I join him and his sister to the clan, we will be unstoppable. Akane felt hope. He hadn’t found Suteko yet. There was a chance. Ito turned and looked at her. “Oh, don’t feel too much hope that my great-grandchild will help you. One transformed child against me will not succeed.”
Akane shivered. He knew of Suteko’s curse! Their secret was out. She truly hoped that Suteko had received a measure of Ranma’s luck, he was going to need it. “Now, girl, you will tell me what my grand-daughter can truly do. I do not wish to harm the child more than necessary to capture her.”
Akane tightened her lips. “I don’t know what she can do. I’ve only known her a day.”
Ito’s face grew angry. “You trusted my descendant in the span of a day and you know nothing of her?” How disappointing.” He looked up as the door to the room opened. Akane saw a beautiful older woman step into the room. It was Suteko’s mother, Atsuko. “This girl knows little of your daughter. Maybe you can tell me more of her abilities?”
Atsuko stood with a hand on the open door. “What is there to tell? She was always a troublesome child. Always looking for the honorable path. I left her in Tanto’s hands too much. I hadn’t realized he was teaching the child more than weapons’ skill.” She shrugged. It was obvious that she held little love for her daughter. “She is good enough with the staff but I don’t believe he taught her any of the other arts. They spent more time playing in the country than truly working on her skills.”
Ito walked over and pulled the door from her hand and shut it. “He took long enough to train her in the family secrets. She has the ability. You did not pay enough attention.” He walked back to the control panel and closed the wall, blocking Akane’s view of her friends. “We must find the girl and add her to my collection. She will be a fine tool with the proper training.”
Atsuko smiled. “It will be as you wish, grandfather.” She bowed.
“It had better be.” Ito glared and then left the room.
Atsuko kept the smile on her face until he had left the room and then turned to the bound girl. “So, you are the fiancee of dear Nadoka’s boy?” Akane just glared. Atsuko threw back her head and laughed. “Oh, my revenge is so sweet. Soon Genma and Nekoosa’s precious son will be grandfather’s heir, following in his wise footsteps.” She walked to the monitor showing Ranma, “And my oh so honorable daughter will follow her dear half-brother’s footsteps.” She turned to face Akane. “I think after we have the boy kill you, I will ask grandfather to have them deliver your body to them and then have him slowly kill them while I watch!” The gleam of madness in the woman’s eyes made Akane’s blood run cold. She was totally crazy.
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