Manabu and Kobashi exited the bar, feeling pretty damn good about themselves as they leaned against one another in a drunken stupor. They sang loudly and off key, causing passersby to give them a wide berth. The men's reputation as members of one of the most violent local street gangs meant no one would tell them to keep it down. The men might meet the request halfway by ripping the person's ears off so they wouldn't have to hear the racket.
Manabu stopped trying to sway to the singing and settled for the swaying part. "You know, my bestest buddy in the whole world, I had a great time tonight."
"You mean today," Kobashi pointed to the newly risen sun.
"You know you've had a good night when it only ends with the coming of the next day," Manabu philosophized. "We should do this more often."
Kobashi nodded. "There were only two things that could have made the day more special."
"What?" Manabu asked.
"More money and more women."
"Who can't use more of them?"
Kobashi considered that. "Rich gay guys."
"Point." Manabu was about to say something else when a flash of light down the mouth of the alleyway they were walking past caught his eye.
Kobashi felt the shoulders of his friend stiffen. "What?"
"I saw something over there. Let's check it out."
"Maybe it'll be some rich tourists that got lost," Kobashi said.
"We'll help them with directions." Manabu fingered the knife tucked in his belt, hidden underneath his shirt. He had used it to great effect in times past. Wielding a sharp knife tended to make people see things your way, especially when it came to economic redistribution. Kobashi was very much in favor of that, and cutting out the government as a middleman in the process.
The two headed down the dead-end alley, the alcohol in their system assuring them of their invincibility. They were on their turf, and the local authorities only put in token appearances in the more public areas. The alleys belonged to their gang. Anyone who challenged that rule ended up losing the use of a body part or two, usually permanently.
Six steps in and they saw a figure shrouded in shadow at the end of the dead end alley. Manabu held off on drawing the knife for the moment. There was no sense in tipping the opposition off to what he had. "Hey there," Manabu called out. "Need some help?"
As they drew close enough to make out the figure, both men came to an abrupt stop. It was a woman, by far the most attractive they had ever seen. Her skin was dark, as though she had a perpetual tan, and a cascade of platinum locks flowed luxuriously down her back. She had an upside down triangle tattoo in the center of her forehead and two marks on her cheekbones, though the odd marks did nothing to detract from her looks. She wore a green and black, body-hugging, off-the-shoulder outfit. The cut was low at the top, showing off a scandalous amount of bosom, and high at the hem, showing off her long, black stocking clad legs. Thigh-high green boots completed the ensemble.
The woman was such a beauty she stopped both men in their tracks. Each of them felt an animalistic urge pulse through their bodies as they stared at her. It took them several seconds to recover their wits.
"What do you know, it is a tourist," Kobashi said.
The woman stopped brushing off her outfit and turned to look at the newcomers. She stared at them as though they were gnats buzzing around her head.
Manabu took the lead. "Pardon me, my dear, I can't help but noticing you appear lost. Well, luck is with you today. My friend and I happen to be with the local tourist committee. And we'd be more than happy to show you all the local attractions."
Kobashi picked up where his friend left off. "In fact, this section of Tokyo is famous for its beds. And it just so happens there's a hotel nearby which has some of the best in the city. Why don't you follow us and we'll show you how comfy they are?" He shot her a toothy grin, one that showed refusing their 'hospitality' was not an option.
Rather than show any fear, the woman held a hand to her chin in thought. Her look of disdain became one of seduction. She passed a hand across her face, a faint azure hue left behind before disappearing in the dim lighting of the alleyway. Her beauty went from impressive to unearthly, at least in the men's eye.
The woman spoke in a throaty purr. "I see thou hast impeccable taste when it comes to beauty. However, there is but one of myself and two of thee. Perhaps it would behoove thee to discuss amongst thyselves who is the more worthy of my attentions."
A haze came over the men's eyes as she spoke. The two lifelong friends turned on one another, snarling and attacking, neither holding anything back. They were like two rabid dogs locked in a life and death struggle as they pummeled each other ruthlessly.
The sheer ferocity of their attacks ended the fight in less than a minute. Kobashi, the larger of the two, landed a hard right hook that laid Manabu out flat. He stood over the fallen man, eyes glazed as he waited for him to rise, but Manabu merely laid there, one arm bent at an odd angle.
Seeing a victor emerge, the woman walked up to him and purred, "Thou art victorious, mine champion. Now come, and allow myself to bestow upon thee the favor one such as thyself deserves."
Kobashi remained motionless as the woman placed her hands around his face and drew him down to hers. She kissed him fully on the lips and a look of ecstasy crossed his features.
With the kiss delivered, she slipped out of his grasp and admired her handiwork. "Truly thou should be grateful, for after one kiss from Urd, the Enchantress, thy mortal life would be meaningless from that point onward. Now thou can enjoy the moment for the rest of eternity."
Urd laughed to herself as she strode from the alley, leaving the statue of Wataru Kobashi behind.
Act II, Scene 2: Tales of Enchantment
A Ranma ½ / Avengers (the superhero group) fusion
by DB Sommer
Disclaimer: Ranma ½ owned by Rumiko Takahashi, Shogakukan, Kitty, and Viz Video. The Avengers are owned by Marvel Comics. Yes, the superheroes, not the British TV Series.
Any and all C+C is appreciated. You can contact me at email@example.com
As Urd walked the streets of Midgard, she took in her surroundings with a disdainful gaze. Once again the mortals had changed everything in the seeming blink of an eye. The festering boils that were supposed to be cities were larger than ever, mortals seemed to be spilling out everywhere, and all beneath her feet was some sort of coarse, gray, bland stone. Why they didn't pave their streets in gold, like the Realm Eternal, mystified her. Even the air was fouler than before. A pox upon the thing they called technology. It was beyond her why the fools didn't simply embrace magic. Well, their simple mortal minds could never hope to rival the intricacies of an Asgardian's, and they did have very little time before they turned old and died. It made her wonder why they bothered doing anything at all, since their lives practically ended before they began.
Still, mortals occasionally amused her, and were useful given the proper circumstances. She would use some now to help her achieve her mission in coming to Midgard. For instance, she needed suitable transportation for one befitting her beauty and stature. It was time to see what the mortals had to offer.
A minor scrying spell revealed the whereabouts of the type of servants she desired. The Enchantress made her way down the streets, her magic leading her unerringly to her goal. As she walked, crowds parted for her, staring as she went past. She took little notice of them. She had no more interest in common everyday mortals than she had for insects. Perhaps even less, since some insects were useful components in spells.
Within minutes Urd arrived at her destination. She took minor note of the sign of the establishment, 'Hoshikawa's Gym.'. She entered boldly, as though she owned the place. Despite its edifice, it was not large, and she found what she sought in the main room of the structure.
Urd took a moment to look at the bizarre contraptions of metal and wire that the people, men for the most part, were using. It took only a second for her to divine their purpose: equipment to improve the mortals' health. Her estimation of them went up slightly. While no mortal, no matter how much he worked out to improve his strength, could hope to match even an Asgardian grandmother, their efforts provided many of them with aesthetic physiques. She briefly considered making a half dozen of them her playthings before recalling her purpose on Midgard.
The Enchantress's arrival stopped everyone in their tracks. She noted that the men stared at her in lust while the mortal harridans shot her venomous glares: admiration and envy for one who was beauty personified. All was as it should be. In some ways, men and women, whether they be mortal or immortal, were alike.
To the men, she said, "I require you to serve me."
The men's eyes glazed over, exactly as the pair of thugs in the alleyway had. All of them rushed toward her, muscling each other out of the way in an effort to be near her. Every single one stared at her in slavish devotion.
The results made Urd smile. A minor enchantment to befuddle mortals' minds was as effective now as it had been in the past. She could not fault them, though. Asgardian men were little better. It seemed all men were driven by their loins rather than their minds. It made manipulating them easy. She was an inspired artist while they were her clay, and she wouldn't have had it any other way.
The Enchantress cast another scrying spell, once again locating what she desired. As she turned to go, she beckoned the men with a single curled finger. All of them did, surrounding her as they openly basked in her presence. The women in the gym were left to stare in disbelief at what had happened.
Chiyoko Azuma looked away from the chairs she was dusting as the bell to the front door of the store rang, and a woman dressed in a very odd outfit entered. Chiyoko didn't care about the gaijin's appearance, giving it only the briefest of consideration. Business at the furniture store was down, and she needed the commission. Circus performer or eccentric millionaire, money was money, no matter who was giving it to you.
The saleswoman was upon her prey in a second. "How can I help… you?" She drifted off as she noticed the woman had what appeared to be a team of body buildings following her. Maybe the platinum-haired gaijin was a coach.
The woman sniffed disdainfully at Chiyoko. She looked the store over, her eyes settling on the only other employee in sight: the manager. "You there. I require suitable comfortable transportation. Thy finest litter will do."
Much to Chiyoko's surprise, the manager, who generally treated everyone in high-handed fashion, groveled as he bowed apologetically to the woman. "We have none of those currently in stock, Mistress."
The woman crinkled her nose in disgust. "Very well. I shall improvise. It is to mine understanding that this area of Midgard has a reputation for magnificent bedding. I desire thy best one."
"Right away." He walked over to the most expensive bed in the store and waved over it for her inspection. She ran her hand along the mattress. Meeting with her approval, she rested on it, as though she were queen over all she surveyed. "This will do." To the other men, she commanded, "Pick this up and carry it outside. Once thou hast done this, then bear me to my destination."
"Right away, Mistress." The men were so enthusiastic about their instructions that the woman had to command them into some semblance of order. The strongest ones were set up on each side of the bed, then lifted it up, bearing it on their shoulders, while the beautiful woman lounged upon it.
"Truly this is a most comfortable way of being borne. Perhaps mortals have made some improvements over the centuries," she said.
As the men walked toward the back of the store, where they could leave with the bed via the loading dock, Chiyoko shouted, "Hey, you can't just take that out of here without paying for it!"
The woman shot her an annoyed look, then turned her attention toward the manager. "There is a shrill noise which assails mine ears. Silence it."
"At once." The manager marched directly over to Chiyoko. She couldn't believe her eyes as he raised his hand above his head, and then brought it down sharply across her face. Chiyoko fell to the ground, clutching her now burning cheek. She said nothing further, not even a whimper of pain.
The woman nodded in satisfaction and exited the store, the men hoisting the bed on their shoulders and heading out.
Chiyoko waited until they were out of sight before calling the police and informing them that a supervillain had just looted her furniture store. Immediately afterwards, she called Akemi Shutaro at Channel 6. Her fifteen minutes of fame had come, and she was going to milk it for all it was worth.
"Form up tight ranks," Kaori Mukahari ordered the men of the Riot Control Squad into position. Helmets were low and metal shields were up as the squad prepared for the potential onslaught to come. It would be soon. Kaori knew the position of the large group of men and their ringleader courtesy of the news helicopter flying overhead. She was uncertain of what abilities this supervillain had, apparently she was a newcomer to the scene, and Kaori hoped to god she wouldn't find out. All she wanted was a quick ending to this matter. The whole superpowered being crap was driving her crazy.
Kaori had almost completed her final arrangements when the Saeba twins approached.
"Why not let us handle this?" Ryo asked.
"Yeah, we know how to deal with pretty ladies. We can have her eating out of our hands in a matter of minutes," Kyo seconded.
For just a moment, Kaori seriously considered siccing the twins on the villainess. Then she came to her senses. The woman hadn't done anything to deserve both of them hitting on her at the same time. She'd have to run up Godzilla levels of destruction before meriting that form of torture.
Before Kaori could give an acerbic response, their target rounded the corner. Without pause they marched up the sidewalk toward the line of police, as though there was no barricade of metal and men. The villainess was surrounded by an entourage of two dozen powerful-looking men, bearing her on a bed.
Ryo took one look and whistled. "That woman is the most prepared for romancing that I have seen in my life."
"Amen," Kyo echoed.
Upon seeing the line of police, the Enchantress purred, "Excellent; warriors eagerly waiting to serve my cause. By all means, join me at my side."
"Yes, mistress," the Saebas said in a single voice as they walked toward the woman.
Kaori was about to order them back when she realized something was wrong with them, or at least more wrong than usual. Normally they would be salivating like Pavlovian dogs trapped in a bell tower if an attractive woman told them to approach her. Instead they simply shuffled forward with a glazed look in their eyes. That they would display such restraint was inconceivable.
They weren't the only ones behaving oddly as every man in the unit also moved forward. Kaori cursed aloud as she tried ordering the men back into position. It proved useless as not a single one of them broke stride. They were quickly at the woman's side, obeying her in ways that made Kaori envious. Even in this day and age, many men were reluctant to obey orders from a woman, even a superior. Now they were acting like this strange woman was a deity to be obeyed without thought or question.
The Riot Control Squad formed an outer circle around the woman, the Saebas taking the point. Kaori was tempted to pull her gun and shoot the villainess, but there was no telling what would happen to the men under her influence. It might free them, or it could cause some sort of psychic backlash and send them into comas, if not killing them outright. There was always the possibility they would go insane and start attacking everything that moved. Who could tell with mind control? There was no other way to physically incapacitate her, not with Kaori's own men shielding the villainess from attack. Out of options, she had no choice but to stand aside and let the group pass.
Having this high-handed bitch seize control of her men was more than Kaori
could bear. Something had to be done to stop supervillains like her, and those
holier than thou heroes for that matter. Anything. No measure would be too extreme
to control them. She vowed that as soon as the current crisis was over, she'd
be phoning her Uncle Peter in the
Ukyou Kuonji took a deep breath as she stood at the gates marking off Furinkan High School for the first time. Outwardly, the school appeared unremarkable; the person who lay inside was what made it special. At long last, the end of Ukyou's lifelong quest was at hand. She stood poised at the gates, trembling. It was almost as thrilling as the first time she donned her Hawkeye costume and realized that becoming a superhero was the right thing to do.
Ukyou walked past the gates and stepped foot on the grounds of the school. As she headed to the main building, she noticed several students interrupt their conversations to stare at her. It wasn't really surprising. Any new face was guaranteed to set tongues wagging. Her old high school had been no different. She wagered the entire student body would know she had arrived before a single teacher did.
Another tremor of nervousness shook Ukyou, and this time the source wasn't the nearness of her target. It was the outfit she wore. Since her last school was boys only, she had disguised herself as one. It was surprisingly easy, with no one ever catching on to her true gender. That experience served as the inspiration for disguising herself as a male superhero. No one would ever connect the girl, Ukyou Kuonji, with the masculine archer. It was a stroke of genius on her part. Who ever heard of a cross-dressing superhero? It simply wasn't done.
And it was for exactly that reason she was now uncomfortable. In order to preserve her secret identity Ukyou Kuonji could never cross dress again. That meant embracing her femininity and attending school wearing the standard girl's uniform. Wearing a dress, any dress, felt strange. She fingered her skirt, hating it just as much now as when she had first donned it. Her legs were chilly, and any guy could just look up her skirt and see what color her panties were. Wearing pants or tights, like on her costume, was infinitely preferable to such open air clothing. Likewise, she was forced to wear a bra instead of her standard chest wrap. She still wasn't used to looking down and seeing those bumps of flesh impeding her view. Before this problem she would wear her chest wrap until she went to bed. Admittedly, letting her breasts free of their tight confinement felt good, and bras were far more comfortable than a wrap, but it felt awkward. At least she wasn't some top heavy tart, like that Elektra bitch. Having a chest that large would have driven her crazy. As it was, she thought her breasts were shaped just fine. Not too big, and definitely manageable. They were the ideal size. It was just their notable presence that threw her off.
As Ukyou adjusted her bra for the third time today, she realized the movement had caught the eye of many of the students. The girls seemed disapproving, while the guys watched raptly. Apparently girls weren't supposed to do things like that. It was odd. Going to an all guy's school meant one could grab or scratch themselves just about anywhere. No one cared. Guys did it all the time. Why should tugging at her bra through her blouse be any different?
"This femininity stuff sucks," Ukyou mumbled as she entered the school. Once she accomplished her mission, perhaps she would transfer to another all boys-only school and not worry about dresses, pantyhose, shaving her legs, or the worst of all: make up. At least she only wore the absolute minimum she could get away with. Sometimes it felt like she was painting a house with all the crap that girls were expected to wear on their face.
Ukyou pushed thoughts of the finer points of womanhood to the back of her mind as she headed for the principal's office to drop off her final set of transfer papers and bribe the principal to ensure she was assigned Ranma's class.
"And I'm telling you he was turned to stone!"
"You'd better be right."
"Like I would lie about something like that." There were times when Manabu wondered just how stupid the other members of his gang were, but those instances were few and far between since he was just as stupid as they were. Not that he was aware of it. Ignorance was its own reward, even if he was too ignorant to realize it.
After recovering in the alley, and waking up beneath a statue that looked exactly like Kobashi, it didn't take long for Manabu to figure out something terrible had happened. When terrible things happened to Manabu, the first thing he would do was have terrible things happen right back to the cause of the problem, usually multiplied several times over. He had every intention of disposing of that attractive foreigner who had messed with his mind and turned his best friend into stone. After he was done using her to slake his lust, of course. He'd ravage her in the name of Kobashi. His friend would have done the same for him, and after all, that was what friends were for.
Not that he was foolish enough to confront the woman alone. While he felt he could take her now, since he was prepared for her tricks, it was foolish to take pointless chances. The best course of action was getting the rest of the gang together to help him out under the pretence of seeking revenge for their fallen comrade. When he tried to recruit them, a slight problem that crept up: no one believed his story. It hadn't helped that he had initially claimed that 'Some woman had gotten Kobashi stoned'. It took Manabu nearly ten minutes to explain what being 'stoned' meant. Then the gang switched over from thinking him a liar to claiming he had been drunk and imagined the whole thing. The only way they would believe him was to show them the proof that the woman had left behind. Besides, they needed to move Kobashi indoors, before the pigeons started painting him in a healthy coating of white. Dead or not, Manabu would save his friend from such an indignity.
Once the gang arrived at the alleyway, Manabu was quick to point out the statute. "Now do you believe me?"
The guys looked skeptically at one another. "How do we know you didn't just have a statue of Kobashi made as some sort of gag?" one asked.
Manabu shot him an irritated glare. "Of course, you're absolutely right. I must have contacted a local stone mason and paid him a huge sum of money to make a life-size statue of Kobashi just to pull a gag on you."
The doubter was chagrined. "Okay, you ran into some kind of mutie who took control of your mind and turned Kobashi to stone. So, how do we take care of her?"
Manabu suddenly realized he hadn't thought that far ahead. Taking on someone with mind control, who could turn you to stone, and without letting them do either one to you? That was a tough one.
Before Manabu suffered the embarrassment of admitting his lack of foresight to his comrades, there was a disturbance at the end of the alley. A vertical whirlpool of black and blue energy suddenly split the very air. The impossible vortex pulsed and hummed like a thing alive. All twenty members of the gang stood transfixed as the impossibility grew in size until it stretched wide enough to touch both walls of the narrow alleyway.
A black gauntleted hand emerged from the coruscating energies, like a man emerging from water. The fingers flexed twice, then curled into a fist. A second hand emerged a moment later, followed by the being the hands belonged to.
The figure was two and a half meters high and almost as wide. It wore thick black and gray armor that covered every inch of its flesh. Despite the armor, it was obvious the figure had an inhumanly powerful physique that no amount of lifting weights could produce. The helmet on its head was wide and tall like a paint can, unadorned save for a pair of red glows that emanated from slits where the figure's eyes should be. The helmet was so wide it sat flush with the shoulders of the armor, making it appear the figure had no neck. Two tiny horns bent upward from the brim of the helmet. Between that and the crimson glow, it gave the figure a demonic appearance.
The instant the figure stepped clear of the vortex, the aperture reversed itself, shrinking back down. Within seconds all that was left was a slender vertical slit, then nothing as it winked out of existence, leaving only the armored figure behind as proof it was ever there.
"I definitely believe you now," the doubter informed Manabu.
The armored figure spoke. "Where is the Enchantress?" Its voice was hollow, with an echoing ring to it.
"You mean that bitch that turned my friend into stone?" Manabu asked, his temper momentarily getting the better of him.
"Mortal scum! Thou wouldst dare say such things about Urd? Thou shalt pay for thy wagging tongue's trespass." The figure raised its armored gauntlet and grabbed the haft of a weapon slung across its back.
The men started to back away, then stopped as the weapon cleared its harness and came into view.
Manabu laughed. "What the hell are you supposed to do with that? Croquet us to death?" The others joined in the laughter.
The armored figure shuddered, though not in fear. "I shall show thee what the Executioner can do with such a fantastical weapon of unique design."
People within a hundred meters of the alley stopped what they were doing momentarily as the entire block shook violently once. When no aftershocks followed, most wrote the disturbance off as a minor earthquake, and continued with their lives.
Thirty seconds after the tremor ceased, the Executioner emerged from the alleyway. Alone.
The Executioner pulled a small pad from a pouch on its belt and pushed a button. Instantly a map of the area appeared on the device. Two red dots, one strong, the other faint, appeared on the map. The faint one was stationary, while the stronger light moved in a straight line toward the weaker.
"I am coming for thee, Urd," the figure whispered under its breath as it walked in the direction of the dots.
Stuck out in the corridor, Ukyou tapped her foot impatiently as she waited for the teacher's signal for her to slide open the door and enter the classroom. Ten long years of vengeance were about to come to a head. She had to resist the urge to run into the room and scream about what Ranma had done to her. She wasn't sure what she would do after that, since she had never settled on the exact form her righteous revenge would take. A hundred different scenarios fought for supremacy in her dreams, some of them quite inspired. She'd probably go with whatever seemed like a good idea at the time.
Ukyou was in the middle of the one involving rope, leather chaps, and a feather duster, when she heard the teacher call her name. She banished the fantasy, primped her hair one last time, took a deep, calming breath, and wore her most charming smile as she slid the door open and entered the room.
As she moved to the teacher's side, Ukyou shut out most of the introduction and let her eyes pore over the seated students. Now that she was about to have her vengeance, a hole appeared in her plan. She hadn't seen Ranma in ten years. How much had he changed? Was he short or tall? Had he put on weight, or was he skinny? Was he bishonen or built like a fireplug? Would she even recognize him if he didn't recoil in fear at the very sight of her? She couldn't begin her campaign with a "Are you Ranma Saotome?" What sort of person could claim they were on a righteous crusade if they didn't even recognize their intended target?
Ukyou caught on to the teacher saying something about bowing just in time. Ukyou did so, watching the students intently, praying someone would react when her name was said out loud.
"I'm Ukyou Kuonji." She rose from her bow, waiting for the expected reaction.
One of the students shot up from his seat. "I know you!"
Ukyou's eyes locked on the figure. Wow! Ranma had changed. He looked nothing like she remembered. His impish self had become very plain, so much so that he would blend in with any crowd. Had he not said something, she probably wouldn't have noticed he existed.
The boy continued. "Yeah, we met at what-his-name's party. We talked a little bit near the pool. I had to leave in a hurry, but never did get your name and number. How about giving it now?"
"Huh?" Was all Ukyou could get out.
A boy next to him said, "Sit down, Daisuke. You always try that pick up line on new girls and it never works."
"At least he didn't ask for her measurements this time," a girl toward the front grumbled.
Another boy shot up from his seat and shouted, "It is you, Hawkeye! How're you doing?"
Ukyou's eyes fixed on that speaker, then widened as she took him in. While
there was no question that face was her Ranchan's, he had grown up in every
sense of the word. While he had been tall for his age when they were children,
he had taken on truly large proportions since then. He was by far the tallest
boy in the class, and maybe in the school. His wide torso indicated he underwent
a rigorous training regimen to stay fit. Even from across the room, Ukyou could
sense the hidden strength under his school uniform. It reminded her of Captain
Ukyou shook her head clear of the fantasy, rendering it stillborn before it could divert her attention from her true goal. Here he was, the boy who had ruined her life, and he had the audacity to ask her how she was doing. Well, she'd let him know, right after she put an arrow in him. In a non-vital area, of course. She'd just give him a mark to remind him for the rest of his life of the price of ruining a young girl's life, one whose only crime was to fall for a first class jerk.
She was about to shout out all of Ranma's crimes when a girl from the front said, "Hawkeye? You mean the super hero?" The girl stared at Ukyou suspiciously.
Ukyou froze. She hadn't counted on Ranma using her childhood nickname, not after all he had done to her, but he surprised her by blurting it out loud to everyone. It wouldn't have been so bad except for the fact she *was* Hawkeye, and if it ever became publicly known, she'd be the target for every supervillain trying to make a name for himself. She'd never have a moment's peace.
The class began talking as one.
"Yeah, that's the one. I think he controls hawks."
"No, it's not hawks. He uses boomerangs with gadgets in them."
"No, it's an energy sword."
"It's trick arrows," a girl with short hair seated next to Ranma said confidently.
"No, I'm pretty sure he controls hawks," the first person said.
The first girl that spoke looked at Ukyou in awe. "So you're a super hero."
Ukyou panicked. She had to think fast before these idiots blew her identity, and for all the wrong reasons. "I can't be Hawkeye. Hawkeye's a guy, and I am obviously." She twirled her skirt. "A girl."
"Why don't you prove it by giving us your measurements?" Daisuke suggested.
A girl within arm's reach swatted him in the head.
Ranma spoke again. "Well, you used to be really good with arrows, Hawkeye."
Ukyou gulped. Ranma was acting way too casual, and getting her into trouble without even knowing it. She giggled girlishly and tried to sound flighty. "Don't be silly. You're misremembering. I was a terrible shot and haven't touched a bow since I was kid."
Ranma scratched his head. "No, I could have sworn you were really good with it, which was why I called you Hawkeye." But then he laughed it off. "You can't be the superhero Hawkeye, though, since he's a guy and you aren't."
"That's right," Ukyou breathed a sigh of relief at her salvation, then realized what she was doing. She held nothing but hatred for Ranma, and he had the audacity to make her feel gratitude toward him. She had to take care of her revenge right this instant.
Ukyou renewed her hostile glare. "And as for you, Ranchan, how dare you act so casually with me."
Ranma stared at her in confusion. "Why wouldn't I act casual with you? We were childhood friends."
"Friends?! Friends?! Friends?!" Her decibel level rose with each shriek until it threatened to break glass. Ukyou stopped ranting and stalked toward him instead, intent on giving him a piece of her mind before moving on to more physical forms of revenge.
She drew up next to him and shouted, "How dare you pretend that nothing happened! How could you be so heartless and act like I wouldn't care that the guy I was supposed to marry ran off and abandoned me?!"
The whole room gasped, except Ranma, who just stared at Ukyou in befuddlement.
While Ukyou caught her breath, she waited for Ranma to respond. She'd give him a chance to make some pathetic excuse before mopping the floor with him.
Surprisingly, it wasn't Ranma, but the girl seated next to him that responded first. She placed a hand on her desk and rose to her feet. "Excuse me, but this sounds a bit confusing. I don't think Ranma is the sort of guy to jilt someone like that. According to his father, it was arranged that he was supposed to marry someone from my, I mean, one of my two sisters, shortly after he was born. I don't see how he could have been engaged to you. And didn't he say you haven't seen each other since you were kids? Maybe there's a reasonable explanation for all of this." She placed a hand on Ukyou's shoulder.
Already enraged, and not wanting to hear this piece of human scum defended by some other girl he had duped, Ukyou snapped, "What do you know about it?" She swatted the girl's hand aside and lightly shoved her.
It was a slight push, intended only to move the girl back down in her seat. However, in a display of complete lack of coordination, the girl collapsed against the chair, hitting her back against it before landing hard on the floor.
The results were instantaneous as a second collective gasp filled the room.
"Oh my god, did you see what she did to Akane?"
"What a jerk. I can't believe some loudmouth would do that to her."
"At first, I felt a little sorry for Kuonji, but if that's the way she treats people, I'm not surprised Ranma left her."
"I don't even want her measurements anymore," Daisuke said.
Ukyou was taken aback by the universal looks of anger shot toward her. It was only a simple fall, one Ukyou hadn't even intended. While she could understand some disapproval from the class, the irate glares shot her way made it seem like she had strangled a rabbit before their eyes. She was missing some vital piece of information.
Even Ranma's look of confusion had changed to anger. He said to Ukyou, "I don't know what's happened to you over the last ten years, but the Ukyou Kuonji I know would never pick on someone with a handicap."
Handicap? Ukyou took a closer look at the girl. Right next to her was a gnarled wooden stick that was obviously some sort of cane. A couple of other students helped the fallen girl to her feet, and Ukyou could see she placed most of her weight on one leg.
It was the worst. You couldn't toss handicapped people around. There was no way to put a positive spin on what she had done, especially since it was unthinking on her part. The girl had only been trying to make peace, and Ukyou had all but attacked her. If she didn't do something fast, her reputation was going to be ruined for the rest of her high school life.
Nothing came to mind, and judging by the increasingly hostile glares, it appeared the class wanted to take turns shoving Ukyou down a flight of stairs. She was wondering if she should try to explain her actions, or accept the punishment, when she was saved by a cry of, "What the heck is that?!"
Everyone turned to look toward the speaker, who had risen from his chair to stare out the window.
Ukyou was quick to take advantage of the opening. "Oh, look, something important is happening outside. Why doesn't everyone go to the window and see what it is?" She led by example, praying it was something on the level of an alien invasion. Anything to distract the class from what had just happened.
She was close. Even Ukyou was taken aback by the sight of a mob of over fifty people filling the courtyard below. Several well-built men carried a woman reclining on a bed. She was dressed in a very curious -- and slutty -- outfit, lounging around as though she were the Empress of Japan.
The woman looked up at the window intently, as though she saw something. She waved toward the class and said, "Yoo hoo, Snookems, thy little Enchantress hath arrived. I do not know what the trouble is, since I can barely sense thy presence, but I am eager to see thee after so long. Why dost thou not come down and play?" She patted the bed.
"Come down and play," the guys in the room said, beatific expressions on all of their faces. As one they turned away from the window and headed toward the door. Within seconds the room was devoid of anything containing a Y chromosome.
"Where the heck do they think they're going?" one of the girls protested.
Another girl said, "Obviously those guys are so enslaved by their hormones that all it takes is some over-the-hill hag to wiggle her ass at them and they come running."
Ukyou shook her head. "I don't think so. They all had glazed looks in their eyes, like they were hypnotized."
"They were enchanted." That came from the girl who Ukyou had shoved. Now she was sitting on the floor, ducking low as though she was terrified of even looking at the woman on the bed. "That's one of her specialties, enslaving men with her sorcery."
"How do you know that?" Ukyou asked.
The girl jerked, as though she had been slapped. Slowly she said, "Because she said her name is the Enchantress. So I just figured she enchants things. And since she was only surrounded by guys, and none of us girls were affected, I assumed that's what she does."
"That makes sense." Ukyou's hand curled into a fist. "I'm going to have to—" She paused. She was about to say she was going down there to kick the Enchantress' aging backside. She might as well admit she was Hawkeye and demands she be made captain of the archery team while she was at it. Instead she said, "I'm going to find somewhere safe to hide, since there's no way a normal girl like me can take on some supervillain." Accepting the damage to her reputation in the name of preserving her secret identity, Ukyou ran away, hoping to find a quiet spot to change into her alter ego.
The moment Ukyou started her search, she hit the emergency beacon on her Avengers ID card. The team would be alerted to the danger and be able to home in on her position. While she hoped she could take out the bimbo without any help, she wasn't taking any chances. Better to have too much firepower on a false alarm, like their confrontation with Leap Frog (whose sole power was bouncing around on a pair of springs in his frog costume), than too little on a world-beater of the Mandarin's level.
At Kunou Industries, Kodachi Kunou cursed as the Avengers' emergency signal went off. Her armor still wasn't completed yet, the trimming down taking much longer than she originally thought. She knew she would be satisfied with the final product. With improvements to the technology, she would only be sacrificing a little strength and protection for a great deal more speed and quickness. And she was taking the opportunity to install a host of newer, more powerful weapons that would only make her more dangerous. The Hulk wouldn't be calling her a stove person anymore. Now she would actually look like a woman in armor, instead of a walking tin can.
Soon, the Iron Rose would soar again, just not today. Probably the coming Friday by the latest.
Kasumi Tendou had just entered the bathroom when the Avengers' ID card she had left in her bedroom went off. Given that even Akane and Nabiki complained about how long it took their eldest sister to bathe, she wouldn't be able to help until after the situation had been resolved.
Dr. Tofu winced when he felt the ID card vibrate in his pocket. Once again he would be dragged into risking his life in a manner that held no appeal for him. Being a superhero was one of the last things in the world he wanted. He was quite happy helping mankind in his role as a doctor. Risking life and limb to beat up people (the majority of whom needing therapy and not violence to help them) gave him migraines. He'd drop the whole ridiculous 'Giant Man' thing if it wasn't for Kasumi. If anything happened to her while he stood idly by, he'd never forgive himself. He just hoped she'd grow out of this superhero phase so they could return to their normal lives.
He decided to wait until Kasumi appeared before changing into his outfit. Who knew, maybe she was tiring of her role as the Wasp even now, and he could continue seeing patients until the proper end of business hours.
Mousse stopped 'reading' the Braille law books he was perusing for an upcoming test and temporarily turned off the audio signal on his card. He wasn't wild about this whole Avengers thing. He didn't care much for the company of other heroes and certainly didn't need them, regardless of what that old ghoul, Stick might think. But he was committed to helping others, and serving as an Avenger met that goal in ways that swinging from building to building could never do.
Rather than moving, he sat and pondered the matter.
Ranma was too busy being enchanted to answer the call, though he was on the scene. It just wasn't in the role that Hawkeye had hoped for.
The Hulk was too busy fighting Spragg, the Living Hill —a member of an alien race whose forms were identical to large mounds of dirt— preventing the large knoll from spearheading an invasion of Earth. He had no time to answer a second call to battle.
Akane turned off her ID card a second after it went off. They'd have to take care of whatever problem it was on their own. She had something more important to do.
Akane watched the strange girl go. Hawkeye she definitely wasn't. What an inappropriate nickname she had as a child. Akane would really have to grill Ranma on what the deal with that Kuonji character was. While Akane was aware the new girl hadn't meant to shove her to the floor, it didn't speak well of her that she would be so casually violent with strangers. She did seem stressed out, but that wasn't really an excuse for her unthinking behavior.
Of greater concern was this claim of being Ranma's fiancée. If there was any truth to it, that would be bad. How could Akane dispose of… that was help match up the perfect couple of Kasumi and Ranma? It was obvious they were made for each other, unlike the horrible idea of Dr. Tofu and Kasumi dating. If it turned out Ranma was engaged to another girl, things could become problematic fast.
But that was for later. Akane's full attention needed to be focused on the platinum-haired Asgardian camped out in the middle of the school yard. Akane recognized her immediately as Urd the Enchantress, a self-centered, vain goddess who had tried to catch a certain god of thunder's interest on many occasions. While she was extremely attractive, and certainly not straight-laced, fooling around with her was too much like telling a dwarf that he was a sawed-off, smelly midget who couldn't tell lead from silver. That was why Thor had never accepted any of Urd's propositions. Of course, like many vain women, that he would spurn her advances only made her want him all the more. Some of the schemes she had come up with were tempting, and he had considered bedding her on more than one occasion, but…
"I don't like girls!" Akane shouted.
"No one said you did," Yuka, who was at Akane's right, told her.
Sayuri, who was to Akane's left, said, "Yeah, though I wonder if her power extends to lesbians."
"That would be cool. It could out a lot of girls," Yuka said. "See if Miko Miahara shows up down there. I always thought she was a little too butch to be straight."
Akane shut out the girls' banter. This was an extraordinarily bad situation. Urd's arrival was no coincidence. She was here for Akane, or specifically, Thor. Despite Akane not being in her alternate form, Urd was somehow able to sense her presence. Perhaps the walking stick was radiating magic. Since getting rid of the source of Akane's power was not an option, that meant changing into Thor and confronting the goddess before she 'outed' Akane for something a whole lot worse than lesbianism. Not that she was a pervert, no matter how confused her memories seemed to get when she was Thor.
Akane started to quietly back away when Sayuri noticed her movement. She said, "Don't worry about things. Yuka and I will protect you no matter what happens."
"Yeah, we'll stick by your side no matter what until things blow over," Yuka seconded.
Akane laughed nervously. How ironic that their attempts to help would only serve to hinder. What was it about life that made her keep ending up in situations where she felt like crying?
Urd found herself surrounded by over a hundred admirers now, though none of them was the man she sought. It was vexing. While she had been able to home on Thor's unique Asgardian energies from afar, now that she was in his general area, she found it impossible to focus on his precise location. It was almost as though his godly essence was being masked.
Unable to transport directly to his side, Urd settled on creating a disturbance that was certain to draw his attention. Curiously, he still had not made an appearance. Surely he would come to her. He had to be lonely, trapped as he was in this world of lowly mortals. It wasn't like any other Asgardians would dare defy the All-Father's Imperial Edict. He had to come, for curiosity's sake if nothing else.
Now that Urd thought about it, perhaps it would be best to use the extra time to prepare a proper greeting. It would be wise to add a little something to make him receptive to the idea of being permitted to share her bed. He had been resistant in decades past, but this time would be different. Her beauty far exceeded that of the lowly mortals, and she was not just the most beautiful Asgardian ever, but the only one around.
While the enchantment she had woven around herself might draw mortals to her like moths to a flame, Thor would mostly likely be immune to such lowly magics. To help improve the outcome, Urd used a minor spell involving extra-dimensional spaces to pull a green jar from out of thin air,. It was where she kept her most useful items. She used her magic to remove the arcane seals that would disintegrate anyone who tried to open it. Removing the top, she looked down at the small amount of red cream that lined the bottom of the jar. It had taken two decades to track down the rare ingredients that composed the magical concoction. It took another year to weave the proper enchantments to make it work, but it had been worth the sacrifice. The mixture was so powerful that no man but Odin himself would be able to resist its effects. One kiss, and Thor would be hers for the next thousand years.
Urd was careful as she rubbed the substance on her lips. There was only enough for one application, so she had to be certain to use it under the right conditions. There would be no second chances.
She had just finished applying the magical make-up when she spotted a newcomer standing about fifteen meters away from her gathering. The man was an odd sort, dressed in a purple costume and a mask that hid his features. She did recognize what was obviously a bow in his hand and quiver of arrows on his back.
Urd said, "Thy weaponry and stance indicate thou art a warrior of some prowess. By all means, come to the Enchantress's side and swear fealty." She pointed to a spot where he could kneel before her.
"I don't think so," Hawkeye scoffed. She notched an arrow and aimed it at the Enchantress. "I'm only going to tell you once, release all of these guys from whatever hold you have on them and give up. And don't make any sudden moves. Aside from making me nervous, you're liable to fall out of that top."
Urd remained motionless, though not because Hawkeye had ordered her to. She was stunned at the idea that the mortal could resist her magically enhanced charms. She could not sense any magic coming from him, and he was far too small to be Thor in disguise. How vexing. She would have to subdue the archer and find out exactly why he was immune to her spell. She waved her hand before her.
Hawkeye suddenly found his arrow twisting in his hand, having been turned into a snake. "Not again," she moaned. It appeared this woman had the same tricks that weirdo with the funny eyes did. Luckily, Hawkeye knew it was only an illusion. Summoning all of her will, she envisioned she was holding only an arrow, and not a slimy reptile writhing in her hands. Refusing to let go of the serpent's tail, she pulled back and let the snake fly to the target she had originally intended.
The snake flew true, landing at the far end of the bed and detonating on impact. The low yield explosive had almost no blast radius. No one suffered more than a few splinters, though the bed was destroyed. The men holding it reflexively let go so they could protect their faces, sending Urd spilling to the ground, landing bottom first on the grass below.
Urd recovered quickly from her surprise. She looked at the men and pointed in Hawkeye's direction. "Subdue him!"
The students, body builders, and policemen all rushed toward the target of the Enchantress's ire. Hawkeye gulped. She really hadn't planned on fending off all of them. Lighting fast she started releasing her arrows. Flare, glue, sonic, bolo, and a variety of other non-lethal types spread into the midst of the angry mob. Hawkeye was delighted to see Ranma was among those blinded by the first flare arrow. He was left covering his eyes and flailing blindly about until his vision returned.
After Hawkeye downed nearly half their number, she suddenly realized she was out of anything that could disable a number of her attackers without risking serious injury to them. She had to find a defensible position, somewhere they could only come at her in ones or twos.
The archer saw what she needed in the highest ground in the courtyard; a tree standing only a handful of meters to her left. Right before the mob was upon her, she shot a cable arrow into the highest branch that could support her weight. The miniaturized motor pulled her up faster than she could possible manage on her own, taking her up to the branch and to the relative safety of the tree. The best her foes could manage now was to climb the tree, where she could fend them off with her hand-to-hand skills, or alternately club them in the head with her bow, should she run out of arrows.
Hawkeye had just notched a couple of blunt tips when she noticed the Enchantress make a waving gesture in her direction. Now that she had a clear shot, it occurred to her that removing the head of the snake might cause the body to fall apart. Hawkeye aimed at the villainess.
Before she could release her arrow, two other tree branches swung impossibly in the archer's direction. The limbs wrapped themselves around her, pinning her arms to her sides. Thor or the Hulk could shatter the branches by shrugging, Giant Man and the Wasp could change their sizes to escape such bonds, but unable to get to any of her arrows, Hawkeye was totally helpless and at the mercy of the Enchantress. She was left squirming in her bonds, thinking it the second-worst day of her life. Not only had she failed to achieve vengeance against Ranma, but she had the added indignity of losing to a trampy-looking villain.
The Enchantress smirked at her handiwork. The archer was an impressive warrior, especially with the strange arrows he used. He had single-handedly disabled half her followers. She'd have to double her persuasion enchantment to properly ensorcel him.
"Seize him!" she ordered her followers once again.
Several of them began climbing up the tree when a red blur landed in their midst. Even Urd's eyes were hard pressed to follow the blur as a half-dozen men fell to the ground in the span of a couple of seconds. She only caught a glance at the figure as another half-dozen of her men charged into the fray. They too joined their comrades on the ground.
Now there was a space around the figure and Urd got her first look at him. He wore a loose red robe with voluminous sleeves and a demon's mask with two tiny horns at the brow over his face. A pair of overlapping letter 'D's were on his chest. Currently his hands were tucked into his sleeves, making it appear as though he had only one semi-circular arm.
Urd reached out with her senses and but could feel no demonic energy from the being. That was good. She didn't like demons. Satana Satanadana (Urd still wondered how that could be pronounced 'Mara') was trouble enough when their paths crossed. She had no desire for dealings with other demons if she could help it. No, this strangely-garbed warrior held the scent of decay that all mortals possessed. The smell didn't foul her senses; it simply tipped her off to the fact this being would die in an eye-blink of time, by her reckoning.
Another oddly-dressed mortal, and an impressive fighter as well. She would test his mettle to see how he might serve her. "Defeat him," she ordered her minions.
As a mass, they rushed him. The stranger leapt over the heads of the crowd, a huge net flowing out from his sleeves and landing on his foes. It expanded to encompass the entire horde. The more they struggled, the tighter the net bound them. Had they moved with any coordination, they could have removed the net, but the Enchantress's spell made them incapable of obeying anyone other than her.
There was one man that evaded the net. Urd marked him as an exceptionally large youth, passingly handsome. He was the type that might entertain her in a bed, with a few years of proper training. He moved like a lion, as evidenced by his evasion of the net when all others had failed. It appeared remarkable mortals were homing in on the most remarkable of Asgardians. She decided to sit back and watch the fight.
Daredevil noted he had managed to dispatch all but one of the remaining horde.
While Hawkeye had done his work well, judging by the number of unconscious and
reeling people surrounding the area, the archer had been caught while Daredevil
was free. That was the difference that made him better than Hawkeye. Daredevil
felt a sense of pride that he was better than so many of his fellow Avengers.
One of these days he'd prove it to the annoying egotist, Captain
The hero's radar sense informed him that one of the possessed mob had evaded the nets. Daredevil felt sorry for the poor guy. He was completely outclassed. The blind adventurer decided to go easy on him. After all, it wasn't as though the guy could be blamed for falling victim to some supervillain who had the ability to capture a person's mind. Luckily, Daredevil knew he was made of sterner stuff. No one could control his mind, no matter what their powers were.
Just as the figure was nearly upon him, Daredevil finally managed to sort his
foe's heartbeat apart from the others. The hero's defenses momentarily went
down as he recognized the familiar pulse of Captain
A hard right struck cleanly, nearly breaking Daredevil's jaw and sending his senses reeling. A kick to the gut knocked the wind out of him and sent him flat to the ground. It was more reflex than design that enabled the hero to roll out of the way of the foot aimed at his stomach, one that might have ended the fight if it had landed. He continued rolling as the second and third stomps barely missed him.
Having recovered some small amount of his wind, Daredevil retaliated in the
brief opening that was provided as Captain
They were near mirror images of one another as each returned to his feet and
backed away. Captain
Daredevil began wearing down his foe with a methodical attack that systematically
It was time. Daredevil decided to finish things off with a powerful nerve strike to the shoulder followed up by a blow to the head. Then he'd deal with the woman who was responsible for the blind adventurer's meaningless victory. She was the one he was truly angry at for confounding one of his dearest wishes.
Just as Daredevil was about to land the final combination of blows, someone came at him from behind. While an ordinary man would have fallen victim to the ambush, Daredevil could see equally in every direction all the time thanks to his radar sense. He brought his elbow back, hitting the attacker in the face and knocking him out in one blow. It was one of the entranced policemen, judging by the smell of the uniform and the silhouette of the gun and nightstick in his belt.
Dealing with the newcomer's attack proved costly as Captain
Where were these men coming from? Daredevil paid closer attention to where the net lay. While they had not functioned as a group, there was strength in numbers and, more by happenstance than design, those closest to the edge were free. Worse, with an opening in the netting, others were quickly following suit. While Daredevil could have dealt with either the slow trickle of normal people or Captain Japan alone, combined they would overwhelm him in a matter of minutes.
Since retreat was not an option, there was only one recourse left, at least one that would incapacitate rather than injure. He had to act quickly before it was too late. From his sleeves the hero hurled numerous canisters in both the direction of the mob and at his feet. They exploded on impact, releasing jets of a smoky substance far and wide in the air. The effect was instantaneous as everyone began rubbing their eyes at the tear gas. Everyone, that was, save Daredevil. While his eyes watered and hurt like everyone else's, such meant little to a blind man.
Taking advantage of the situation, he whipped out a pair of billy clubs, one
for each hand. He turned to the now blinded Captain
A cheaper victory Daredevil couldn't imagine. While he could taunt Captain
A sudden breeze kicked up around the area, blowing the tear gas away. Daredevil's senses perceived the approach of the villainess who was no longer content to merely watch from the sidelines. Now here was a victory the blind adventurer could brag about, single-handedly dispatching their foe and demonstrating to everyone that he didn't need a team to succeed in the superhero business.
After conjuring a minor wind to blow away the haze, the Enchantress turned an amused smile upon the warrior. Truly he was impressive, having dispatched both her remaining minions as well as the tall youth. He would be a wonderful addition to her servants. Since he had managed to resist her glamour, like the archer before him, Urd boosted the power of her allure by a threefold with a wave of her hand. Now he could not help falling for her.
The Enchantress stood before the man and turned her most sultry gaze upon him. His expression was unreadable behind his mask, but she knew it could be nothing but the most slavish of devotion. "Gaze upon the face of your new mistress and show how much you wish to serve her."
In response, Daredevil drew back his fist and punched her in the face.
To a normal woman of Urd's proportions, the blow would have rendered her stunned, if not unconscious. To an Asgardian in the fit shape she was in, it simply turned her head. Her shock was total as she remained looking away, saying softly, "Thou didst strike mine face."
Daredevil cried out in pain at the unexpected resistance and held his now sore hand tenderly. "What are you made of, concrete?!"
"Thou didst strike mine face," Urd repeated more loudly.
Thanks to his blindness, Daredevil was spared the sight of the Enchantress' face as it contorted from unearthly seduction to a naked fury that no mortal could hope to match. Even her slaves backed away in fear from her.
Daredevil could tell something was amiss as a sensation similar to the effect of electricity built up in the air and started to surround him. With his uninjured hand he whipped out another billy club and drew back with it, intending to deliver a much harder blow, something that would ring even Thor's ears.
He was too late as with a wave of her hand, the Enchantress hurled a mystic bolt of energy into him. The energy simultaneously fired off most of his pain synapses, as well as hurling him nearly halfway across the schoolyard where his body slumped to the ground, unmoving.
The ferocious look of hate grew even greater. "Thou has committed the most grievous of crimes in attempting to mar mine perfect features. For this unforgivable transgression, thou hast earned the most painful of punishments." Urd raised her hands wide apart above her head. Between the hands an oval of purest darkness formed. Its obsidian depths seemed to suck in not just light, but bleached the color from everything. It grew larger with every second, as though the Asgardian's anger fed it, and Urd had no shortage of anger for her foe. "Behold, the most powerful of spells, 'Oblivion's Embrace'. It shall not only end thy life, but it shall eradicate everything, even thy soul. There will be naught left to stride either the halls of Valhalla or Hel."
Just as she was about to unleash the spell, powerful hands grasped her wrists and a voice commanded, "Enow."
Thor looked down at Urd, relieved she had prevented the fiery tempered goddess from eradicating Daredevil. In truth, her comrade had saved himself with the tear gas. When Urd had blown the cloud away with her magic winds, it had been forced into the school, blinded Yuka and Sayuri. That was the opening Akane needed to limp away. Once she was a safe distance away, she struck her cane against the floor. Transformed, she flew out, her godly form immune to the gas, and confronted Urd just in time to prevent Daredevil's eradication.
Urd spun in Thor's grasp, her look of rage disappearing as instantly as it arrived, transforming into delight. "At last, I have found thee, oh most handsome of gods."
Thor was unmoved by the flattery. "Thou hast gone too far. Thou doth know the spell of Oblivion is only the All Father's to employ. It is forbidden for any others to call upon it."
"Had I a care for the blowhard's edicts, I would not be here, now would I?" Urd scoffed as the spell winked out of existence, obliterating itself. "Tis most wonderful to see thee again after so long, mine Prince."
"Would that I could say the same," Thor said.
Before he could speak further, Urd stood on her tip-toes and grabbed Thor by the head, bending his face downward. She kissed him with all the passion she could muster, her lips drinking deeply of his.
For a moment, Thor found herself lost in the power of the kiss. Truly it was incredible, tantalizing her senses in ways she could never recall, and served well for one who often referred to herself as the Goddess of Love and Beauty. And the way her lush, voluptuous form ground itself against hers, Urd's breasts pressing against Thor's own—"
Thor roughly shoved Urd away. "I am not a pervert!" It was as much an entreaty as a statement.
"Be not so prudish. It hardly becomes you. Thy lascivious nature is one reason I have sought thee out," Urd told her. "Now thou art bound to love me for all eternity. Hahahaha--"
"Cease thy foolish ranting, Urd."
The Enchantress' laughter died. "Eh? Thou should not speak to the love of thy life in such terms, Dearest."
"Thou are not now nor ever hath been mine love. I have no interest in such as thee or thy gender," Thor assured her.
Urd backed away, horrified. "Tis beyond belief. Not only hath the cream of enchantment failed to bind thee, but no less than two mortals have resisted mine allure as well." Once more she accessed her extra-dimensional space, this time whipping out an elaborate hand mirror. It was made of the purest adamantine and crafted so perfectly that the roses lining the frame seemed real. Only a god could be responsible for its creation.
The Enchantress looked into the mirror's surface. "Magic Mirror, I command thee to speak. Have I lost mine beauty?"
The face of a handsome man with blond hair and eyes of the deepest blue appeared on the surface. It proclaimed, "Honey, I'd like to strip you naked, smear you in honey, and lick—"
"Enow." Urd silenced the mirror and replaced it in the hole. "Thor, surely thou dost not find my form repellent?"
"Thy beauty is surpassed only by thy vanity," Thor informed her with a touch of jealousy.
"Then how can thee resist mine… hold, weren't thou taller in times past?" Urd looked the 'God' of Thunder over for the first time. Her brows arched in curiosity as her eyes settled on Thor's chest. She held out her arm and touched the chest in question, feeling the unexpected lumps carefully.
"Woulds't thou not do that?" Thor grumbled.
Rather than stopping, Urd began fondling the lumps. Eventually she centered on the most rounded parts, pinching slightly and confirming her suspicions.
Thor swatted the appendages away using a blow that would have broken the bones of a non-Asgardian. "Stop that now!"
The Enchantress finally obeyed Thor's wishes. "So, thou hast encountered transgender magic. Uncommon sorcery, but not unheard of. Tis usually most complex, though given time I believe I can overcome it. Unless thou wishest to remain that way." Urd moved closer to Thor, snuggling against her. "While mine preference is for company of a male nature, I have dabbled upon occasion with members of mine own gender. Some quite talented. Things can get boring over millennia, and a change of pace ofttimes serves to whet the appetite as well as distract."
Thor pulled away, thoroughly scandalized. Before she could utter epithets of Urd's perversions, a section of the wall surrounding the school exploded, producing a huge cloud of debris and dust. Relieved at what was undoubtedly a clarion call to battle, Thor turned her attention to the cause of the disturbance.
Striding through the dust, the armored figure of the Executioner approached. Upon seeing Thor, it raised its hammer, which was extremely slender and bore a strong resemblance to a croquet mallet.
"Skuld!" Thor exclaimed. Upon seeing the figure, previously forgotten memories of the identity of the armored warrior surged to the forefront.
The Executioner leveled the hammer in Thor's direction. "So, I see mine fears were well founded. Thou has conspired to take mine elder sister from Asgard and make her yours."
The accusation made Thor stare at her fellow Asgardian in disbelief. "Surely thou art joking."
"I would never joke when it comes to mine sibling!" the Executioner's hollow, metallic voice bellowed. "And refer to me by my proper title: The Executioner."
Thor's eyes narrowed. "Thou still goes by that ridiculous title? Skuld, there be no such position in all of Asgard. The All-Father doth not execute anyone. He satisfies justice by exiling criminals to distant, malicious lands." That probably wasn't the best of recourses, since some exiles not only survived those harsh realms, but thrived there, founded their own kingdoms in those places of exile, then raise armies to seek revenge on Asgard. While Asgard always won, there was usually a feeling of irritation when some criminal turned their punishment to their advantage.
"I have decided I am the Realm Eternal's Executioner and that's that!" The figure strode forward, hammer held menacingly before it.
The Enchantress was about to calm her sibling down and explain what was really happening, then changed her mind. She was curious to see how the transformed Thor would perform in combat, and her sibling's overprotectiveness could be trying at times. Besides, Urd rather enjoyed being fought over. The right to have beauty such as hers at one's side should always be a prize worth fighting for.
Realizing that further words would settle nothing, Thor approached her foe as well, intent on meeting Skuld head on. It would be best to end the fight quickly, for Skuld's sake as well as the innocent bystanders in the school.
The moment they drew within range of each other the pair drew back their hammers and, as if by silent consensus, swung them forward. The weapons met head on, filling the air with the sound equivalent to a ton of explosives going off. The impact sent a wave of force to radiate outward. It traveled across the school, shattering all the windows on one side and knocking all in the school yard off their feet.
"Od's Blood!" Thor exclaimed as she backed away from her foe.
The Executioner didn't seem surprised in the slightest. "Foolish Thunder God, I have improved mine hammer much since our last encounter. No cheap victory shall thou attain this time. At long last the name of Skuld shall be on everyone's lips as the greatest of gods, while the God of Thunder's name will be quickly forgotten, like some god I cannot name, since they be forgotten."
"Mine name is legend, and shall be until the end of days," Thor promised.
"Not when I am through with thee." The Executioner pointed the hammer at Thor. "Observe one of the other improvements to my Mjolnir 3005." The head of the hammer began to spin around in one spot, like a propeller, while the handle Skuld gripped remained stationary.
The head spun faster and faster, causing a wind to kick up. Suddenly, an opening appeared directly in front of the head, as though the winds had made a rip in reality. "Thou are not the only one capable of creating fissures in the space-time continuum. Observe this dimension of ice and storms!" Pieces of hail the size of basketballs began shooting out of the aperture, heading directly for Thor.
The Goddess of Thunder reacted almost instantaneously as she began whirling her hammer by its thong. Savage winds kicked up as cyclonic forces originated at her hammer. The power of the wind was so great that the pieces of hail slowed down, stopped, then reversed direction, heading back to their point of origin.
Several impacted on the Executioner's armor, staggering the warrior. Instantly the hammer's head stopped spinning and the volley of hail ceased as the hole in reality closed up.
"Now thou shall know the power of the storm!" Thor knelt on one knee and tapped the end of her hammer into the ground. A bolt of lightning arced down from the heavens and struck the Executioner on the top of the metal helmet.
Smoke rose from the Executioner's still form. Thor rose to her feet, a look of satisfaction in place. "And now this match hath ended."
The Executioner laughed. "Dost thou believe me so weak that a mere spark could render me senseless? Mine armor is made of a material that can ground the lightning, a simple counter to such a simple attack. Thy arrogance truly knows no bounds." The Executioner ran forward, closing the space between the gods in a heartbeat.
Thor, surprised at her attack having failed so thoroughly, fell victim to a fist from the Executioner. The blow stuck solidly and sent Thor flying through the air. She impacted with a wall of the school and bounced off, cracking the concrete behind her.
Seeing the successful handiwork, the Executioner laughed. "Mine power lies not solely in mine hammer, as thou hast just borne witness. Sing my praises, Thor, and I shall be merciful."
Thor glared daggers of anger at her foe. "Sooner would I tie bloody meat to my person and try to pet the Fenris Wolf than admit defeat to the likes of you."
"I shall slaughter the cow myself," the Executioner boasted as the armored warrior drew back the croquet-shaped hammer and let it fly. Miniature jets burst from the handle as it sped unerringly toward the God of Thunder.
Thor drew back her hammer, intent on swatting the weapon away like an annoying insect. She would then follow up by doing the same to Skuld. However, when the flying hammer was almost upon her, the air was suddenly filled with a sextet of the missiles.
Thor froze. That was all it took for the true hammer to strike, the others disappearing upon contact. Thor was knocked to the ground again while the Mjolnir 3005 returned on its jets to the Executioner's hand.
"As thou can see, not only does it return to mine hand, but it can attack from every angle as well. Mine hammer is superior to thy ancient piece of debris Odin created. My intellect is superior to all, even the All-Father's!"
A low growl issued from Thor. Slowly she returned to her feet. Whereas before she seemed to be ready for battle, now she had changed. There was an intensity about her that had been lacking earlier. The few people that remained on the battlefield drew back slightly. Even Urd grew concerned. The only one that seemed to not notice, or was outright ignoring the change, was the Executioner.
Thor softly intoned, "I have been merciful with thee since I know thou cannot help being an insolent whelp, but no more. Thou hast gone too far, and I will brook no further insult."
Thor brought Mjolnir back once. A thunderhead formed behind it, like a small thunderstorm had appeared at ground level. Winds howled and lighting cracked as the ground trembled with thunder. With the storm at her side, Thor charged forward, Mjolnir crackling with overflowing power.
The Executioner yielded no ground. Instead Mjolnir 3005 was brought back in answer.
With a tremendous clash that made the Norse poets of yore compose ballads,
the hammers met, producing a sound that dwarfed their previous contact. Uru
met Uru, as the forces ran rampant into one another with such force that earthquake
centers as far away as
The Mjolnir 3005 shattered into a hundred pieces, shrapnel burying itself in just about everything save human flesh.
Skuld stared down at the charred remains of the handle, all that remained of five years of intense work. "Thou art a jerk!"
The armored warrior punched Thor hard in her stomach. The goddess grunted, but stood her ground, releasing a quick puff of air as the only acknowledgment that a blow had landed.
"Thou hast taken thy best shot, now tremble as thou feelest mine!" Thor drew back her fist and unleashed every ounce of her Asgardian might. Shouting out a war cry at the top of her lungs, Thor released her punch. The blow was a blur to the naked eye as it connected cleanly with the Executioner's head.
>From her vantage point among the branches of the tree, Hawkeye watched as a blue object flew from the Executioner's head, skipping along the ground like a flat stone across a pond. Eventually it skittered to a stop, allowing Hawkeye to make out the object: the Executioner's helm. Curious as to what such a powerful, belligerent warrior must look like, Hawkeye turned to look at him, wagering he resembled a giant ape in human form.
The archer was startled to discover that she still had no idea of what the Executioner looked like, since not only was there no helmet on him any longer, but there was no head either. All that remained was a depression where the head had been moments before.
"No!" Hawkeye shouted. "Thor, you've gone too far! We're heroes, we don't kill! It's not our place to choose who lives or dies! If we do that, then we're no better than the scum we fight against!"
Hawkeye's condemnation was cut short as the Executioner, evidently deciding that heads were about as useful to locomotion as helmets, raised a fist and threw another punch at Thor.
Thor, not surprised in the slightest, caught the fist in a grip of iron. "Dost thou not know when the battle hath been lost?!" The goddess squeezed, crumpling the hand into a twisted stump of metal.
Before the Executioner could throw another punch, Thor slipped her hammer onto her wrist with its thong and dug her hands into the depression that had previously housed the Executioner's head. Digging her fingers in, she tore into the armor, creating finger holds. Now with some leverage, she exerted her strength to the fullest and pried the armor apart, ripping it in two halves.
A small girl fell out of the hole in the bottom of the armor, landing solidly on her behind.
"What the hell?" Hawkeye said, mostly to herself.
The girl, who appeared to be in her early teens, rose to her feet. Her hair was long and raven-black, and fell to nearly her waist. She wore a loose white and red outfit, feminine, but something a child would wear. Blue markings were on her forehead and cheeks. She pouted, highlighting her youthful appearance.
"Thou art a meanie!" she informed Thor, before going for an oddly shaped cylindrical object attached to what was clearly a tool belt around her waist.
Thor ripped the object from her hands and hurled it high up in the air. The object detonated nearly a half mile above everyone's heads.
"Thou hast ever been a brat, but this goes too far!" Thor shouted in the girl's face.
The Enchantress finally entered the situation, placing a calming hand on Thor. "Be forgiving to mine sister, Thor. She hath been through much of late and is distraught."
Skuld wiggled out of Thor's grasp and clutched Urd possessively. "I will not allow thee to take mine elder sister away!"
Suddenly, a wave of deja vu washed over Thor. Seeing the sisters together triggered it. She tried wracking her memory for the reason for the sensation. Unlike her first viewing of Urd and Skuld, where the memories rushed forward in a torrent, the very attempt at recalling this memory produced a shooting pain that seemed to bounce from one side of her skull to the other. Though there was definitely something there, like the shadow of a memory in place of the real one, but the pain served as a barrier, intent on not letting her in.
Rather than backing away from the pain, Thor tried to force her mind through it. The agony increased exponentially until the goddess was certain her head would split like an overripe golden apple. Still she persisted, refusing to back down.
Then suddenly a single memory returned, ending the agony. It was of a painfully beautiful woman who should have been at the sisters' sides. Her beauty wasn't merely physical in nature, like Urd's, rather it was an aura of serenity that could only be divine in origin. A tear welled in Thor's eyes as a name attached itself to the face. "Belldandy." The word was closer to being breathed rather than spoken. She turned to Urd. "Where is Belldandy?"
The result of the question was instantaneous on Skuld as she burst into tears, clinging tightly to her sister. Urd's response was to jerk, as though shot, then a sorrowful expression crossed her features.
Thor's heart leapt into her throat. "Where is thy sister?"
Urd would not look her interrogator in the eye. "I do not wish to speak of her."
Thor grabbed the Enchantress by the shoulders and shook her. "Tell me!"
This time Urd's face contorted into anger. "Enow!" She placed her palms against Thor's chest. There was a flash of light as her mystic bolt hurled Thor so hard and so far that she collided with the tree that trapped Hawkeye. She struck so hard the tree cracked at the base and fell, as though brought down by an axe. Luckily, the branches that held the archer cushioned her from the worst of the fall.
Urd turned contemptuously away from the fallen goddess. "This game ceases to amuse me. If thou doth wish to spurn mine advances and remain on Midgard then by all means, enjoy thy banishment. Thou shalt find it more curse than blessing. There can be no other outcome when dealing with mortals." Another brief look of sadness crossed her features. She placed a hand affectionately around Skuld's shoulder. "Come, sister. Let us away to our home, where we belong." With her free hand she summoned a portal. Drawing Skuld closer, she stepped through. The aperture closed behind her.
By the time Thor returned to her feet, the pair had departed. There was no trace of the portal. Were it not for the destruction and the Executioner's ruined armor, it might as well have been a dream. Now Thor was more confused than ever. Banishment? What had Urd meant by that? Thor had not been banished from anywhere. She was simply Akane Tendou, transformed into the scion of Asgard. Wasn't she?
But that didn't explain her knowledge of Urd and Skuld. Seeing them had opened doors to memories, doors whose presence she had been blissfully unaware of. What were those images? Remnants of a previous life? False images produced from the magic of the transformation? She found it hard to even ask such questions, as though her own mind didn't want to know.
Of almost as great a concern, at least in Thor's mind, was this Belldandy person. For some inexplicable reason, that name bothered her more than the memory issue. All she had was a vague recollection of a woman by that name, sister to Urd and Skuld, yet it affected her in a way nothing ever had before. Whatever answers she could hope to have had departed with a spurned goddess whose pathway Thor could not possibly follow.
Suddenly, becoming Thor didn't seem quite the liberation Akane had thought it was.
To be continued.
Author's notes: Yes, Spragg the Living Hill was a true Marvel character that predates Fantastic Four 1. He was one of their old horror line, though he did appear in the mainstream universe decades later in the second She Hulk series. Yes, Leap Frog was a horrible Daredevil villain as well. A guy in a frog costume with springs in the feet. At least they made him a comedy character later in life.
|Act 2, Scene 3|
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