Subject: [FFML2] The Dragon and The Ghost[Part 15][R.5]
From: Ryoga P Hibiki
Date: 2/12/2001, 8:27 AM
To: ffml2@listbot.com

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    The Dragon and The Ghost

    Part 15

    Prisoner of Honor

+++++++++

    Akane Tendo pulled herself up onto the path, and away from the
edge of the waterfall. The Niku were dead, and she and Ranma had
barely escaped with their lives.

    Now, she found herself looking down the edge of the cliff and into
the water below; a place that could have easily been her grave.

    Ranma shifted her weight and grabbed the edge of the path as well.
She pulled herself up slowly and grunted in effort as she attempted to
heave herself up, only to find herself still hanging off the edge, and
looking at a pair of black leather boots directly in front of her
face.

    "Well, well. It seems that you've made a mistake thief," said
Akane with a cocky grin on her face as she placed her dagger on the
girl's throat lazily. "Should I get rid of you now?"

    Ranma glared up at her angrily. "I thought we were being nice for
the moment. You gave your word."

    "I said, until we escaped the cavern. We aren't in the cavern
anymore," said Akane with a dark smile on her lips a she pressed the
blade down a little bit against the soft flesh of the elf girl's
throat.

    "Of all the ungrateful little," muttered Ranma angrily, more to
herself than the knight.

    "Ungrateful? It's your fault I was in this mess in the first
place," snapped the knight in retort.

    "I could have just killed you in that castle you know," said the
redhead angrily.

    "You probably should have, I'm not particularly worried at the
moment," replied the girl lazily as she pulled her hand back slightly,
but not enough to allow Ranma to climb up any further.

    "What are you going to do with me? I'm at your mercy after all,"
spat the elf.

    "I was thinking about cutting your throat, but that would be too
easy. I think I'll just wait around for your arms to give out. If you
try to get away, I'll just cut you open," said the knight with a shrug
of her shoulders.

    "I can hang here all day you know," said Ranma with her frown
deepening.

    "I've got plenty of time to wait," replied the knight.

    Ranma growled; she might have been able to hang for that long, if
she was male, and hadn't just spent the last hour or so running away
from the demonic golems. As it was, her arms were beginning to burn
from fatigue. "You can't kill me though."

    "Why not? You're lucky I'm kind enough to do that," snapped Akane
as she pushed the knife against the elf's throat again.

    "Because you need me," said Ranma as she smirked back at her.

    "What on earth for?" snapped Akane.

    "The Kajakan. You can't go back without it can you?" said Ranma
calmly.

    Akane growled and narrowed her eyes at the girl. "What of it?"

    "If you kill me, you'll never see it again. Ryu is as good as I
am, you'll never find him without me," said the pigtailed girl as her
grin widened suddenly. "You're as good as dead without me."

    "I'll hunt them to the ends of the earth if I have too. I don't
need you," snapped the knight bitterly.

    "Come on. We're wanted on every country on the continent. No one
knows what we look like, except for you maybe. To top it off, we've
got hundreds of bounty hunters after us, all sorts of guards and
soldiers, even wizards with more power than you could even dream of
having. What makes you think you've got a chance in hell of finding
him?" said the redhead haughtily.

    Akane growled and glared at the girl as hard as she could. "I'll
find a way."

    "You'll die first. Killed by your own countrymen, or some bounty
hunter along the line somewhere. You don't know how to hide away.
Without me, you're dead, and you know it," insisted Ranma as calmly as
ever.

    "I don't fear death," replied Akane firmly.

    "No, but you do want revenge, don't you?" said Ranma. She was
starting to run out of ideas, and her arms were getting steadily
weaker.

    "What do you mean? Against you, or my bitch of a sister?" snorted
Akane with a slight smirk on her face.

    "Does it really matter?" said Ranma with the same grin. "If you
kill me now, your revenge will be hollow. My last job will still have
been completed. I'll die a legend, not great, but still a pretty good
deal."

    Akane's pride waged war inside of her for a moment, but finally,
she conceded. "I suppose you're right," said the knight with a sigh as
she turned and started walking down the path.

    Ranma let out a long breath of her own and pulled herself up from
the edge of the cliff. She sprawled out across the ground breathing
heavily for a moment, and then raised her head and looked down the
path at Akane. The knight was still walking away; Ranma narrowed her
eyes and snorted just before she faded into nothing.

    A moment later, Akane Tendo seemed to fall to the ground out cold,
for no apparent reason.

+++++++++++


    "How much further?" grumbled Ryoga as he looked back nervously.
The party was walking down a snow-covered road, it was well traveled,
but soldiers would use the larger ones that led directly to the city.
They seemed pretty safe for the moment.

    "Another two days," commented Ryu lazily as he walked calmly ahead
of the nervous trio.

    "It's been too quiet," commented Ukyo as she looked around.

    "Actually, this is pretty normal. I'm good at my job, we shouldn't
have any trouble getting to the border," said Ryu as he glanced back
at her for a moment.

    "Well, that's reassuring," commented Shampoo honestly.

    "I still don't like this," grumbled Ukyo dejectedly.

    "You act like you want something to happen. Some sort of grand
escape, running from our pursuers and cutting through them in battle
to get away," commented Ryu with a shrug.

    Ukyo blushed. "I'm kind of used to that sort of thing."

    "I figured as much, you knights aren't much for subtlety," said
Ryu as he continued on his way, almost oblivious to the conversation.

    "What's that ahead?" said Ryoga with a small frown. Down the road
ahead of them, a small caravan could be seen coming down the road.

    "Looks like traders," said Shampoo.

    "No, gypsies of some kind," said Ryu as he narrowed his eyes and
tried to see them a little better. "Locals I think."

Ukyo nodded at his assumption. "There are several traveling tribes
that roam through the mountains. Most of them are humans."

    "They're friendly enough, we should just pass by without any
problems," said Ryu with a shrug.

    "Their thieves, and vagabonds," snorted Ukyo in disgust.

    Ryu just grinned back at her with his hands on top of his head as
he strolled along. "Like I said, friendly people. Hide your wallets
people, and don't let anyone run into you, especially kids."


    Shampoo frowned, and held out her palm over her purse. It was a
small leather bag that hung from her side.

    "What did you do?" commented Ukyo.

    "Don't notice me," replied the girl with a small shrug. "Want me
to do yours?"

    "Sure," commented Ukyo in slight surprise. "Don't try anything
funny though."

    "I'm not so petty," replied the elven girl with a small frown.

    As soon as the spell was completed she looked to Ryoga. "How about
you?"

    "These gypsies aren't stupid enough to steal from a dwarf,"
replied the small man gruffly.

    "He's right," commented Ryu. "Elves and Dwarves would be left
alone by most small time thieves, dwarves have a tendency to hold
grudges."

    "And elves?" said Shampoo with her eyebrow raising slightly.

    "Have magic," said Ryu calmly. The lead of the caravan approached
and he raised his arm in greeting. Weaving through a small crowd of
children, who had suddenly appeared from the ranks of wagons,
apparently sent out to play.

    One of the kids stopped suddenly and looked back at him. "He's
with a guild!" The child tossed back a worthless looking necklace to
him, and Ryu caught it out of the air before winking at the child.

    Shampoo and the others blinked as the crowd of kids seemed to
disperse from around them suddenly.

    The caravan continued onward, leaving the group of travelers
behind unmolested.

    "What the hell was that? How did he know?" snapped Ukyo.

    "I can't say," replied Ryu as he put the necklace back inside his
shirt before she noticed it.

    "Honor among thieves?" said Shampoo with a slight chuckle.

    "Indeed," agreed Ryoga with a small frown as he watched the
caravan continue to move away.

    "They would recognize a guild from that far away?" said Ukyo in
shock. "You came from, Alura, if I recall."

    "Don't be so naive, Ranma and I are a member of all of them,"
snorted the boy as he continued to walk down the road.

    "All of them?" muttered Shampoo in surprise. "That's not possible!
There are hundreds; and considering the wars that happen between some
of them..."

    "What's that got to do with us?" snorted Ryu in reply.

++++++++++

    "Where are we?" grumbled Akane irritably as she walked behind
Ranma with her arms crossed over her chest.

    "Just a road. It leads out of Joketsuko," snorted Ranma casually.
"About a days walk from Morid."

    "That far?" said the girl in surprise.

    "We spent a while inside that cave," replied the thief casually.

    "Where are we going elf?" snorted the angry woman as she looked
away from her companion in disgust.

    "Away from here," was the only reply.

    Akane snorted, but remained silent. They were coming up on the
edge of the woods that they were walking through. The sun shined down
brightly on them suddenly as they found themselves in the middle of a
snow covered clearing.

    "Halt! Weep for joy at last! For I have come to save you Akane
Tendo!"

    "Oh shit," grumbled the knight as she spun on her heels and saw
Tatewaki Kuno standing on top of a boulder.

    "I know that voice," muttered Ranma under her breath as she slowly
turned towards him as well. "Hello Kuno, it's been a while."

    Akane glanced at the redhead in surprise. "You know him?"

    "I did a job for him once, he offered me a place in his harem as
opposed to paying me. Apparently he thought it was a better deal, I
disagreed," snorted the pigtailed girl irritably.

    Akane wasn't sure whether to laugh or cry. "Kuno, what the hell
are you doing here?"

    "It is the Pigtailed Forest Nymph! Have you decided to give up
your life of poverty and join me at the side of the beauteous Akane
Tendo? Oh! How I weep for joy!"

    "I'd rather stay with you than get rescued by the likes of him!"
snapped Akane bitterly as she glared at her captor for a moment.

    "Don't worry, I can handle this moron," snorted Ranma as she
slowly unsheathed the blade from her back.

"I see you have kept that as a sign of your love," said the noble
stoically.

    "You still haven't paid me for getting it for you," replied the
girl with a dark tone in her voice. "That damn dwarf hunted me down
for four years because of you!"

    "Surely he found it impossible to destroy such a flower of beauty!
Come I shall give you your payment at last!" said the noble with tears
of joy in his face.

    "I want my money you jerk!" snapped Ranma as she jumped towards
him with the blade held over her head.

    Kuno spread his arms as if to embrace her as he jumped forward as
well. "Come into my arms my love!"

    Ranma paused in mid air as two blurs passed by, crossing directly
between them in the air. Both she and Kuno landed, staggering back on
their feet as they hit the ground.

    "What the?" muttered Ranma in shock as she looked at the two
figures that flanked her.

    "I wouldn't recommend that," said the wolf man as he bared his
teeth at her.

    "We don't like it when people attack our superiors. However much
we dislike them personally," agreed the tiger man as he glanced back
at Kuno for a moment.

    Ranma smirked suddenly from between them. "Beast men huh? How
boring."

    "We've come for the Kajakan, where is it?" snapped Lime as he
backed away slightly

    "Tell us, and we might let you live," agreed Mint as he moved back
slightly as well.

    "Heh, we don't have it," replied the redhead calmly as she
sheathed her blade and stood calmly suddenly.

    "Lady Akane! Are you all right?" said Lime as he looked over his
shoulder. He paused when he saw her standing over the prone form of
Kuno, huffing angrily as she glared down at him.

    "Lady Akane I love you? I wish only to be with you my love? I knew
it! Jerk! Asshole! Pervert! Philanderer!" she punctuated each word
with another kick.

    "Please! Don't kill him! We'll get in trouble!" whined Mint as he
started to move towards her tentatively.

    Akane leveled a glare at him and he backed away with his ears
pressed against his head. Lime was doing the same thing.

    "He... was yours?" muttered Ranma in half amusement.

    "He was not! This delusional jerk was never mine!" snapped the
knight as she spun around and faced the elf.

    "We're here to take you back!" said Mint with a sudden nervous
cheer in his voice.

    "Yeah!" agreed Lime.

    "So this ass can get credit for rescuing me? I think not!" snapped
the girl bitterly as she whirled around at them again. "I'd rather die
out here!"

    "Please, be reasonable!" muttered Mint pathetically.

    "She never has been before," commented Ranma lazily as she sat
back and watched the scene in amusement.

    "Who are you anyway?" snapped both beast men as they turned
towards her. They growled and stalked towards her, she seemed rather
calm about the whole affair.

    "Just a thief," she said with a small shrug.

    "Oh, do you know where the Kajakan is?" said Lime as he sat down
in the snow and looked towards Mint calmly.

    "Yeah?" agreed Lime.

    "No," said the thief with another small shrug.

    "Oh, never mind then," said Mint as he turned towards Akane. "Can
we eat her?"

    Akane stopped beating on the prone form of Kuno and blinked. She
suddenly became angry again. "No! I need him to get the Kajakan back!"

    "Him?" muttered Mint as he turned and looked at the elf for a
moment. The redhead had a stupid looking grin on her face.

    "I don't think she's all there right now. I say we eat the elf,
and take Lady Akane back home," said Lime after a moment of thought.

    "Sounds like a plan," agreed Mint cheerfully.

    "A bad one at that," deadpanned Ranma as she glared at them.

    "Huh? What's wrong with it?" said Lime in irritation.

    "Well, besides me getting eaten, Akane will be killed if she goes
back without the Kajakan," said the elf with yet another shrug. "Not
that you could eat me anyway."

    "Hey! We can eat you! I've eaten lots of elves!" snapped Lime.

    "Have not," muttered Mint under his breath.

    "Shut up! I have too! So have you!" said the tiger man as he
glared at his friend for a moment.

    "Huh? Oh, yeah! Right, we both have!" said the wolf man with a
sudden dawning on his face.

    "Um, right," muttered Ranma as she walked between them. "I'll just
go stop Akane from killing that guy now."

    Both beast men whirled around and got shocked looks on their
faces. "No! Lady Akane! Please don't rip those off! He might need them
someday!"

++++++++++++

    Nabiki smiled as she watched Akane Tendo attempt to do grievous
bodily harm to the prone form of Tatewaki Kuno.

    "Well, I never knew she had it in her," she commented lazily as
she sipped at a goblet of wine and looked over at Herb. He was
standing near the doorway with a smug looking grin on his face. "There
may have been hope for her yet."

    "So, we have it then?" said Herb as he walked up to her calmly.

    "No, they don't appear to have the Kajakan with them," replied
Nabiki as she glared into the mirror again for a moment.

    "What?" snapped Herb angrily. The image faded away as he turned to
look at it, Ranma had looked directly at him for a moment it seemed,
before the image faded.

    "Don't worry so much darling. There were a few of them missing.
Our old friend, and my sister appeared to be alone for the moment.
That's why I told you to send those two after them. It's always easier
to watch him, if there's someone nearby I can lock onto." The witch
tossed her hair over her shoulder and took another drink from her cup.

    Herb grabbed her by her throat and lifted her off the floor,
causing her to spit the liquid into the air in surprise. "Where is
it?" he snarled angrily.

    Nabiki looked down at him and snarled. Her hands thrust forward,
and he was thrown back into the wall of the room. She raised her hand
as she landed and he slid about three feet up the wall, clutching at
his throat. "Don't forget who you're talking to darling. I have as
much to lose as you do. I will find it." She released him and he fell
to the ground, landing on his feet calmly.

    "Of course, forgive me," said the man placidly as he bowed his
head slightly. A light smile formed on his lips. She had been afraid
for a moment, they both knew he could have killed her easily if he had
wanted too. "I acted rashly."

    Nabiki smirked for a moment and looked him up and down. "Yes, it's
such a turn on Herb darling."

    "Maybe later, find me the Kajakan," said the man as he whirled
around and let his cape billow out as he left her alone in the room.

    "Of course, my love," she replied with a dark look in her eyes as
she turned towards the mirror again.

+++++++++++

    Akane rushed along the snow with Ranma at her side. While the two
beast men were distracted with saving Kuno, Ranma had belted them both
over the head and sent them to the ground. They wouldn't be out long,
and she knew it. Now, she forcefully pulled Akane along beside her.

    "Where are we going?" snapped the knight angrily.

    "There!" said Ranma as she pointed to the road below. A long
caravan passed by below them.

    "We can't hide down there! Lime and Mint will..." started the
knight.

    "They can't track us. I hid our scent from them," replied the elf
girl with a small smirk.

    "Huh? You can do that?" muttered Akane in shock.

    "Of course. Every thief worth his salt knows that spell. It's
easy," replied the elf girl with a small wink. "Come on. I know these
people, they'll hide us."

    "If you hid our scent..." started Akane with a small frown.

    "I didn't have time to hide our tracks," replied Ranma as she
pointed back at the footprints. "If we ride with them for a way,
they'll just think that they lost them on the road. They'll head in
the most obvious direction, away from Joketsuko. If we travel with
these people for about half a day, and double back..."

    "Right, they'll have given up chasing us by then," agreed Akane.

    "At the very least, we'll be able to move behind them. Which is
the best place to hide if someone is chasing you," said Ranma with a
light smirk on her face.

    Akane sighed and nodded her head. She knew there was no way she
could go back yet, she would never live down the shame of failing if
she did, if she wasn't put to death on sight that is.

+++++++++

    "So, you need to be hidden away? From these invaders of the
emperor?" said the chieftain of the gypsy tribe as he looked the two
women up and down.

    He was an older man, of about sixty years old. He didn't look much
older than forty, and a very capable forty at that. He had a long
white beard, and broad shoulders. His dress was brightly colored
pants, and a dark vest. Most of the other men were in similar clothes.


    The women wore long colorful dresses, and white shirts with
bandannas tied on their heads. Many wore ornate jewelry, and large
earrings.

    They were in the back of the lead wagon. It seemed almost like a
closet inside, or a dressing room. A few small beds rested along the
back end of the wagon, with a small table in the center. Three men
stood in front of the two women.

    "That's right, we're willing to pay," said Ranma calmly as she
showed him a medallion that she had pulled from her shirt. It was one
of many, but he didn't know that either.

    "Hmm, it looks authentic," said the man with a nod.

    "Another with one like it passed by earlier. Heading to the
south," commented one of the men nearby. "My son reported it."

    "Aye, I remember," agreed the older man.

    "My partner," confirmed Ranma with a small nod.

    "I see, you are in the middle of a job then?" said the old man
calmly.

    "That's my business," replied Ranma.

    "All right," chuckled the old man merrily. "I suppose we should.
Tell me your names."

    "I'm Ranma, and this is Akane," said the redhead with a serious
nod.

    Akane merely bowed her head. Ranma had told her not to speak, and
she had fortunately seen the wisdom of that. She doubted if she could
curb her tongue against such rubbish for very long.

    "Ah, I take it she is also a part of this guild?" said the man as
he looked her up and down. The loose black clothing was normal for a
thief.

    "She's part of this, I won't say more. I'm afraid I can't
elaborate any more than I have," said Ranma cheerfully.

    "I see, come on then. We'll get you some clothes," said the man
with another small laugh.

    "Nothing too girlish I hope," grumbled Ranma as she watched him
pick up a box full of brightly colored clothing.

    "Just hope they're kind enough to give me some privacy," snorted
Akane angrily.

    Ranma merely smiled as she watched the men leave the cabin. She
had noticed several small peepholes inside the walls, but thought it
would be best not to mention that.

    Akane looked at her and tapped her boot on the ground impatiently.
"Well?"

    "Well what?" replied Ranma in surprise.

    "Get out so I can change you pervert!" snapped the knight as she
barely held back her rage.

    "Oh," said the elf with a sour look appearing on her face. "Look,
you don't have anything I don't have better alright. If it bothers you
that much, just wait until I'm done. It'll look weird if we take
turns." The redhead pulled out a colorful dress and tossed it over her
shoulder. Throwing a bra, and pair of panties aside. She never had
worn them, and probably never would. "I don't see how you can wear
these things, they're damn uncomfortable," she commented with a small
glance back at her companion.

    "Pervert," grumbled Akane as she started to pull her boots off.

++++++++++++++

    Tatewaki Kuno frowned as he walked along the path and glared at
the two beast men in front of him. "You lost the scent? Fools!"

    "It's not our fault! That elf probably knows magic to hide it from
us! She's a thief after all!" replied Mint irritably.

    "Where are we going?" said Kuno as he noticed the pair shift back
into their human forms.

    "Back to Morid, there's no point in chasing after them. We'll
never see them again. We need to consult with Mistress Nabiki again,"
said Lime angrily. He was still rubbing the spot on the back of his
head where he had been hit.

    "Hey, what's that?" commented Mint as he looked at the orange
light ahead of them.

    "Looks like some sort of camp," said Lime as he looked back
towards Kuno for instruction.

    "We will greet them. Perhaps they have a bit of food, and a warm
place for me to rest my head," he said with remarkable calm.

    "Right!" agreed the pair cheerfully.

+++++++++++++

    Akane stood beside Ranma by one of the fires. She had been
brooding all day.

    "Hey, you don't look bad in a dress," said the redhead cheerfully
as she handed her a mug of beer. She had just returned from getting
the drinks, and two empty plates rested on the ground where they were
sitting.

    "Neither do you," replied Akane snidely.

    "Yeah, I guess I don't," snorted the elf crudely.

    Akane rolled her eyes, the elf girl had clearly been restraining
herself from attacking various men all day. The gypsy men were far
from shy, and she had too restrain herself as well, numerous times.
Even by some men who were old enough to be her father. There were a
few black eyes and bruised noses within the camp, but nothing worse.
Which was unfortunate in her mind.

    "We'll rest here tonight," said Ranma as she took a swig of her
drink and looked at a group of men who passed nearby.

    "I don't trust them," snorted Akane as she noticed the men were
also looking at them.

    "Neither do I, but we'll be safer here than on the road. Besides,
either one of us could handle any man here without much trouble. I'm
not particularly worried about that."

    Akane took a drink of her own and made an unusual face as she
looked at the mug for a moment. She swallowed and gasped for breath.
"What is this stuff?"

    "Beer, It ain't palace wine, but it'll get you drunk a lot
quicker. Try not to over do it all..." Akane looked over to the
redhead as she trailed off suddenly.

    "What is it?" said Akane with a frown.

    "Shit," muttered Ranma as she pulled her up forcefully and into
the crowd.

    "What are you doing?" said Akane angrily. She would have screamed
the words if not for the look on the elf girl's face.

    "Kuno is here," snapped the redhead as she ducked behind one of
the wagons that surrounded the camp.

    "He's found us?" said Akane in shock.

    "I don't think so," said the pigtailed girl as she eyed the
approaching noble cautiously. Kuno was speaking with one of the gypsy
men, just on the edge of the camp. "He probably gave up a little
sooner than expected, that's all."

    "How do you know?" snapped Akane.

    "He's just asking for a place to stay," said Ranma as she turned
to wink at her.

    "We should leave then," said the knight firmly.

    "No, I don't think that'd be a good idea. Your two friends are
relatively human now. Things could get messy real fast. Gypsies don't
like beast men," said Ranma coolly.

    "What are you planning?" said Akane coolly.

    "A distraction, hopefully good enough to get them off our back for
a long time," said the pigtailed elf as she smirked in the darkness.
"Come on." She pulled on Akane's arm and dragged the knight deeper
into the camp.

+++++++++

    TBC...

    Next time: Lime and Mint's dream realized at last?



C&C to Carrotglace@juno.com

Previous parts can be found at Http://www.fanfiction.net and R&C Books
International Fanfic Company at Http://www.rcbooks.org

Ja!


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