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A Quantum Destinies Side Story
By D. B. Sommer

This is a story set in Jurai-Knight's 'Quantum Destinies' universe, and you will have to be familiar with that piece of work to follow this story. The events within take place some time after chapter nine of Quantum Destinies, which can be found on the following web site: http://home.earthlink.net/~sthesken/fanfics/qd.html

Standard Disclaimer: The Quantum Destines universe is Jurai-Knight's. Many of the characters within are not. Revolutionary Girl Utena is also owned by someone else.

Any and all C+C is appreciated. You can contact me at sommer@3rdm.net

Chapter 3

"You've done well, little grasshopper."

Utena smiled at Dean Fuji's rather weak attempt at a joke. True, she was something of his protégé, having been accepted at Ohtori due to his personal recommendation, but others had taught her as well, especially when it came to fighting. Miki and Anthy continued complimenting her on her victory as well. The accolades felt nice, but they were also starting to make her feel slightly uncomfortable. Something wasn't quite right.

Utena afforded a glance towards the now conscious Ranma Saotome. He had not remained knocked out for long, less than a minute. Now that he was awake, he seemed cognizant of everything around him, which was probably not a good thing. From the instant he had regained consciousness, Coach Fujinami and Dean Fuyutsuki were upon him, letting him know that he had failed his school and that there would be a price to pay for his mistake. Utena thought she caught the phrase, 'training day and night' in the diatribe somewhere. She suddenly had a great deal of sympathy for her opponent.

Ranma appeared shamefaced at his loss as well. He listened closely to what was being yelled at him, his attention going back and forth between the men as they took turns berating him. However, he did manage one glance in Utena's direction. The scowl he leveled at her quickly softened when he saw the look of sympathy on her face. He wasn't able to do anything else as Coach Fujinami turned up the volume when he took his turn to yell at Ranma again. Utena thought she now heard 'any wimp can do five hundred pushups in an hour. You can do a thousand from now on.'

It definitely sucked to be Ranma Saotome.

Neither Dean Fuyutsuki nor Coach Fujinami continued their tirade for overlong and Ranma was dismissed to the showers. Utena again watched with sympathy as he left. She wasn't sorry she had defeated him; it had been a fight for school pride that she had wanted to win. The only thing she felt sorry about was the unduly harsh punishment he was receiving because of his failure.

There was also one other thing that bothered her. At the time it had occurred, she missed what had happened. The fight had been so intense that her reactions had been instinctive. She instantly went for any opening that was there and tried to exploit it. But now that she had a chance to think, there was one point in the fight that had seemed unusual. Utena had feinted a hole in her defense in the hopes that Ranma would try to take advantage of it and leave himself open to the counterattack. It was a move with some risk; if she had not covered the feint, he would have connected with her face. However, she had been confident she would be able to move out of the way of the blow in time and counterattack through the hole in his defenses that would have appeared from the failed attack. It had seemed to work, when, for the briefest of seconds, Ranma froze in the middle of the attack. That opening had been all that she needed. Victory was hers upon that single error Ranma had made.

Except maybe it had not been an error. Utena remembered a time when something similar had happened before, in her second fight with Touga. A low sweeping thrust in Utena's direction, one that probably would have connected, had never met as Touga seemed to freeze up for a second in mid-swing. Again, as with this fight, Utena reacted to the unexpected save and counterattacked, dispatching Touga less than thirty seconds later. It was only afterward, when Touga complained of something odd happening in the fight, that he and Utena had pieced together what had happened. Anthy had used her telekinesis to interfere in the fight.

Later, Anthy swore she had not meant to, and that it had just slipped because she had wanted Utena to win (and that admission had irritated Touga to no end, since Anthy had not done the same in his first fight with Utena). It was only after Anthy apologized, and promised not to let it happen again, that Utena forgave her. Shortly afterwards, Utena and Touga had their rematch in private. She won that one as well, but the fact that her first victory had been tainted ended up souring the rematch. She had truly believed Anthy was repentant, but if that was what had happened on this day, then Utena had not truly won her fight. Again.

Utena did not want to embarrass Anthy unnecessarily by making such an accusation in front of everyone, and it might have simply been Ranma had made a mistake in the fight, but she had to be sure. Since asking Anthy directly felt too rude —especially if Utena's suspicions were wrong— she chose to attack the problem from a different angle.

Excusing herself from the others and claiming she needed a shower (which was the truth), Utena left them and went into the gymnasium. As she had hoped, the men's showers were located near the women's. Now she had a decision to make. It wasn't likely that Ranma had been in the shower all that long, meaning the wait might be for a while. On the other hand, if she tried to take a quick shower of her own, and he proved to be one of those guys that ran the water over themselves once and thought they were clean (she added a mental 'yuck' to that), then he might leave before her and she would not get a chance to ask him any questions.

There was one other choice Utena had, but it wasn't really an acceptable one. It would guarantee she would get a chance to talk with Ranma, but if someone saw her do it, her actions could very easily be misconstrued. In fact, it was almost certain that they would be. A part of her mind told her she should not have even considered it; she simply was not that sort of girl. However, she really did want to talk to Ranma, and it was the surest way to get the job done. The idea that the fight had not been fair was eating away at her, and she was becoming more convinced by the moment that something had happened. They had not fought long, but it seemed nearly impossible that someone as skilled as Ranma would have made such a blundering mistake so early in a fight.

Utena took a quick look around the gymnasium. It was after school hours, and there were no school athletic teams having practice, nor were there any other people using the facility. There wasn't even a janitor around. The whole place was empty, meaning that no one would ever know if she did it. Yes. Maybe she should go ahead with her idea. No one would be hurt, after all. And no one other than Ranma would ever know what had happened.

With that reassurance in mind, she headed into the men's shower.

Yohko kept under cover as best as she could while following Utena. The day had proven itself very interesting so far. She realized Nabiki was not going to be pleased that Ranma lost to the Ohtori girl. She also figured that since Ranma had beaten Nabiki in their public fight, and Ranma fell to Utena, others would begin to imply that Utena was better than Nabiki. And given that Nabiki had been showing a great deal of pride in her recently revealed fighting skills, it was almost certain that she would set up some kind of fight with Utena. Given how fast Ranma had fallen to the pink-haired girl, Yohko was not sure her money would be on her boss this time around.

Yohko had just made it into the gymnasium, using the bleachers for cover, as she followed Utena. There was a point where she had almost been seen as Utena made a quick look around the gym. Yohko recognized it as an 'I'm going to do something that I don't want anyone else to know about so no one had better be here' glance. Yohko could read people like a book with all the spying she had done for Nabiki over the last couple of years. Her guess was rewarded as she watched Utena take one more furtive glance before heading into the men's side of the showers.

Nope. Nabiki was not going to be pleased at all.

Ranma allowed the hot water to splash across his face, wiping away the last vestiges of grime that had been left behind from his sweat. Not that there had been much of a chance to sweat, not with how short the fight had been. Never, not in any of his memories, had he been defeated so thoroughly in so short a time. Not without somehow being tricked or having some sort of drug or magic used against him. Yet it had been a clean loss to someone that he should not have lost to. Utena might have been tough, but he had been confident he could have taken her. She was a girl, and although he had dropped a match or two to Nabiki, those had been flukes. He proved that in the real fight they had. And now this Utena girl had come along, not even specialized in the Anything Goes (at least he could admit that was part of why Nabiki was so good) and had beaten him in less time than it took to run a diagnostic test on his resonator.

Well, there had been one odd thing that had occurred during the fight. That one instance where his fist had been stopped in mid-swing without anything being there. No one had interfered, and it had not appeared that Utena had done anything. Perhaps if someone had hurled a thin wire around his wrist, that might have done it, but it had not felt like something had been looped around it nor were there any marks to indicate such had happened. It was as though some sort of force had seized his whole arm and forced it to stop. Then it went away the moment he was struck by Utena. That had been the turning point in the fight, and what had eventually caused him to lose.

The hot water continued to course over Ranma as he looked down at his hand. There was no visible sign of anything having been done to it. There was a slight cut from where Utena had blocked a blow of his with her bokken, but that was nothing. It had not felt as though he had been drugged. And besides, what sort of drug made your fist stop in mid-motion and did nothing else? He began to wonder if perhaps he was just making some kind of excuse for losing the match.

Even as the loss continued to settle in, Ranma swore he would not take it lying down. Repeatedly, he told himself he was going to train day and night to take the girl in another fight, not that Dean Fuyutsuki and Coach Fujinami were going to let him stop. Their combined reprimands assured him that he would be practically living at the school in order to build up his fighting skills and stamina further. That would mean he would have even less time and energy to devote to getting his father back from the world he was currently trapped in. Dean Fuyutsuki was going to be even less inclined to listen to any pleading on Ranma's part to be allowed to use his resonator once more. And then there was the ever increasing number of women in his life that took up even more of his time. All of them seemed to want to spend time with him, and were becoming increasingly demanding that he spend more time with each of them. Sometimes he wondered if he did not have a worse life then that of his jock counterparts. Engagements and
women were beginning to crawl out of the woodwork and attach themselves to him, though he admitted that he was dealing with the situation much better than any of his counterparts had.

Closing his eyes, he raised his face to the shower head and placed his hand on the valve, increasing the flow of hot water. If only his problems could be washed away so easily. It was unfortunate his resonator only transferred his mental essence. Being able to physically leave his world was beginning to look like the only way he would ever get out of the chaos his life was rapidly becoming.

"Hi there."

Ranma gave a yelp and nearly jumped out of his skin at the sound of the female voice that had come from the entrance of the showers. His head whipped away from the stream of water and his eyes widened in shock as he saw that the voice belonged to his opponent, Utena Tenjou. She was leaning lackadaisically against the wall at the entrance to the showers, still in that slightly tight white shirt and red shorts that she had worn for the match. The wide grin she wore reminded him of Nabiki when she thought she had one up on him. That set him on edge.

The first thing that went through Ranma's mind was that the girl must have come to rub his face in his loss. And he had been certain she had been giving him a sympathetic look when he was receiving his admonishment from his instructors. He was about to shoot off some acidic comment when he caught on to the fact that she was not exactly looking him in the eyes. It took a moment for him to realize where her glance had fallen to and what it was currently lingering upon.

"WAH!" He covered up his privates as best as he could. "What do you think you're doing?! I'm taking a shower!"

"I can see that," Utena said with a smirk.

"Well then, get out!"

Utena gave him a confused look. "What do you mean? I assumed the showers here were co-ed, like at Ohtori Academy."

Ranma's hands almost fell away from his privates. "They are?"

"No," she said with a laugh, making a mental note that Ranma didn't seem to think clearly when he became flustered. "I needed to talk with you."

Ranma felt his anger rise at the apparent attempt to make fun of him. "Well, wait outside! I'm busy!"

Remaining where she was, Utena said, "You're kind of shy, aren't you?"

"When I'm taking a shower, yes!" Ranma felt heat rising to his cheeks. The ones on his face. The girl had no business being in the showers.

She continued giving him a sweet smile. "That's a change of pace. Most of the guys I know seem to want me to see them naked."

"I ain't one of them!"

Utena was surprised at the ever so brief flare of anger she felt at his vocal refusal. It was as though some part of her, deep inside, felt that he had no business refusing her; she was the one that had won the fight. She shook her head free of the errant thought. Her sweet smile turned into a pensive stare. "I see. You're ashamed of your body."

"I am not!" Later, Ranma would wonder exactly why he moved his hands from his front to his hips.

Utena nodded appraisingly in response to his gesture. "I guess not." With that, she pivoted on her heel and turned her back to Ranma.

Ranma didn't know which he was more surprised by, the fact that he had unthinkingly stopped covering himself up, or the momentary surge of annoyance he felt at her turning her back to him after the gesture. He had wanted her to turn around, so why was he irritated that she had at last given in to his wishes? It was not as though she had laughed or made some sort of sarcastic comment about him, though it did almost seem as though he felt that she should have continued to look.

Getting rid of the strange thoughts, Ranma found himself scowling at the back of the impudent girl. He was about to say something about her leaving the shower area altogether when his eyes began to take on a mind of their own as they roamed over the intruder. Her legs still seemed very long, and her shorts really appeared that they might be just a little bit too tight. Not that he was complaining about that. And the way that her odd, pink hair cascaded down her back…

His hand sprang to the cold water handle of the shower. At least he was in the right sort of place to calm himself from the sort of reaction he was having. If Utena turned around now, he doubted if his hands were going to be able to hide everything.

Had Ranma been able to see Utena'a face, (and not so concerned about her not turning around to see the state he was in) he would have seen the look of confusion that overtook her features. Why had she been behaving in such a manner? She was never anywhere near that forward with anyone she knew, least of all some guy she had just met. It had taken every bit of rationalization she could muster to even enter the men's locker room. Once she was there, and heard the water running, she had almost left without saying a word. It was as she turned to leave that something happened to her. There was suddenly an overwhelming, almost primitive, urge to take a peek at Ranma. She knew she shouldn't do it, —she would have killed anyone that would have tried something similar with her—, but for some odd reason the desire would not leave her and she knew that if she did not do it, some part of her was always going to regret it.

So she was going to play the voyeur, at least that was the plan. However, once she laid her eyes on his tightly-muscled form, while a small amount of steam rose from the hot water that doused him, she found her body reacting on its own as she moved into full view and spoke up. Again, she could not say why she did it, other than perhaps she was becoming a pervert of some kind.

Almost as surprising as her move to look at him, was her reaction to Ranma's 'rejection' at her peeping. The anger she felt almost seemed to be instinctive, and for the briefest of moments she felt desire surge through her. The feeling passed as quickly as it came, and she rationalized it away as it simply being frustration over not having found a truly nice guy.

Despite the urges she had, and the fact that she really did not belong in the men's locker room, she remained where she was, provoking Ranma until he gave his little 'display.' At that point she felt a wave of
satisfaction run through her and at last complied with his wishes by turning around. She made a mental note to pay closer attention in her psychology class about sexual drives and feelings. There had to be some sort of reasonable explanation for her unusual behavior. She was sure of it.

When she at last felt her thoughts were collected well enough to start thinking clearly, she spoke to Ranma, leaving her back to him the entire time. It was surprisingly difficult. Ranma's body was quite pleasing to the eye, and she found herself wanting to look him over again, especially since he had seemed to get over at least a little bit of his shyness. But there was no time for that sort of thing.

"There's something I wanted to ask you," she said loudly enough to be heard over the running water.

"What about?"

"I had a question about the fight." Utena thought she could hear the sound of gnashing teeth behind her, but that was absurd. The water was making too much noise for her to hear that. She waited for Ranma to reply. When nothing met her but silence, she continued anyway. "During the fight, did anything odd happen to you?"

Ranma was about to snap back, 'Yeah, I lost' when he remembered the problem with his fist. At first he was not going to say anything, for fear she would think he was just making excuses, but then it occurred to him that she was the one asking the unusual question. Maybe it had not just been his imagination. "Well, something really weird did happen. I don't know exactly what it was, but there was a point, towards the end, when I saw an opening for a shot to your head. I was going to hit you, but then my fist just seemed to stop. I don't know what did it, but it was unlike anything I've ever experienced before. And I am not making an excuse. It really happened."

Utena gave a soft grunt, partially from having her fears confirmed, partially for the frustration at having been denied a clean victory yet again. "I believe you, and I think I know what happened. I can't go into the details, but let's just say I owe you a rematch. Give me a chance to talk to my friends and clean up, then we can have it." She started to depart, but stopped before she would be out of sight and turned to look at Ranma. "By the way, you would never have hit me anyway. The opening was just a feint to get me under your guard."

Ranma had his doubts about that, and was about to say as much, when he realized she was looking at him again. He covered himself up and said, "Fine. I accept the rematch. We'll have it away from the Academy though." There was no point in having it on school grounds. He was sure he would win, but if he should suffer a second loss on the same day, and have the Dean or his coach see it, it would all but ensure he was forced into a form of eternal slavery that would be disguised as 'training.'

"Sounds good," Utena said.

Ranma watched as she finally left the shower area and departed. Now he at last had a chance to think about the sudden, and unusual, turn of events. Somehow, there had been some sort of outside interference at the fight, though for the life of him Ranma could not figure out what it had been. Also, Utena had some sort of familiarity with the interference, implying that it had happened before. It didn't seem likely she was the source; she was too angry at what had happened. Also, there was something in her attitude that made it seem her anger was directed elsewhere. As hard as he tried, there was nothing he could come up with that seemed to make sense.

His thoughts turned to Utena's behavior after the fight. She must have been pretty brash to just waltz into the men's shower area and grab a look at his naked body. Part of his mind did point out that maybe he should not blame her too much. After all, he was good-looking and lots of women were attracted to him. Why should she be any different? And since she was from a different school, it might have been her only chance at trying to impress him. It was just a good thing Nabiki, Kodachi, or Ukyou, for that matter, had spotted Utena entering the showers. There was no way any of them would have believed, or accepted, the explanation of what had happened. They would have immediately blamed him for the perceived wrong, never mind the fact it was not his fault. Everyone blaming him for things going wrong seemed to be something that was happening in increasing amounts in his life. That was another parallel to his counterparts that he could have lived without.

Thinking about Utena again, he also considered the fact that she had dropped by for his confirmation that something odd had interfered with him in the fight. Once she received that confirmation, she immediately wanted a fair rematch. That meant she had some sense of honor, something that was not very evident in most of his opponents, either in his own or his counterparts' memories.

Ranma found himself unconsciously nodding in approval of her behavior (concerning the fight, not the peeping). He took his time cleaning up, silently deciding that she was most likely taking some sort of measure to make sure their fight was not interfered with this time. Yes. He felt sure it would be a fair fight this time, and in a fair fight, he was certain he would win. Utena would never know what hit her. And then afterwards, he could have an official rematch, and after a second victory, this one in front of Dean Fuyutsuki and Coach Fujinami, they would get off his back about needing the inhuman amount of training they had threatened him with.

Yes. He didn't have anything further to fear from Utena Tenjou.

Utena's head popped from around the corner of the showers. "By the way, did anyone tell you you've got a really nice-looking hiney?" She narrowly evaded the bar of soap thrown at her head. Laughing, she quickly left the showers, ignoring the string of accusations of her being a perverted weirdo that followed in her wake.

Utena snickered to herself as she exited the men's locker room for real this time. Ranma's reaction to her dropping by 'one last time', was worth going back for. Tweaking him was fun, and he seemed even cuter when he was flustered. Too bad it was not likely she would be seeing him again. He was a lot more fun to hang around with than most of the other guys she knew. The upcoming rematch might very well be the last time she saw him, so she swore she'd commit everything to memory and make it an event to remember.

Rather than heading for the girl's locker rooms, she exited the gymnasium and went to locate Anthy. Utena found her and Miki waiting by the limousine that had transported them to the Imperial Academy. Dean Fuji was nowhere to be seen, for which Utena was glad. The fewer people there were around, the less it would embarrass Anthy.

Anthy was the first to her side as she gave Utena a bright smile. The smile faded ever so slightly when she noticed the frown the pink-haired girl wore.

"Anthy," Utena began. "I thought I told you not to interfere with the matches."

Anthy gave her a perplexed look. "Yes, you did."

"Then why did you interfere in this one?"

Anthy's perplexed look grew. "But I didn't."

Utena's hand came up to her forehead. Anthy did appear sincere, but there was no other explanation Utena could come up with. "Are you absolutely certain there is no chance whatsoever that you used your esper powers to interfere in the match?"

Anthy nodded her head. "Yes. I am."

"You are?" Utena asked again. "Think real carefully. You said before when you interfered in my first rematch with Touga that you didn't mean to interfere either, and that your control just seemed to slip for a moment because you wanted me to win. Are you absolutely certain it didn't happen again?"

Doubt began to creep across Anthy's features. "I'm mostly certain."

Utena let out a sigh. "Anthy, you did interfere, didn't you?"

Anthy's shoulders seemed to sag slightly. "I'm not sure. I don't think I did. And I know I didn't want to. But Mr. Saotome seemed to be pressing you very hard, and I might have slipped just a tiny bit and maybe did just a little something. I didn't mean it if I did."

The downcast look Anthy had made Utena lose her hold on the anger that had been building up. Anthy was capable of many things, but lying wasn't one of them. "Look, I appreciate you wanting me to win so badly, but you can't keep doing things like that. It's a matter of pride and I can't have anyone helping me in a fight. Now if this keeps up, you're not going to be allowed to be around during any of my fights."

Anthy stared at the ground. "I'm sorry. I promise I won't let it happen again," she softly murmured.

Utena moved to Anthy's side. "I'm sure you won't. I have faith in you." Utena found herself rewarded by Anthy's smile returning. "That's better." Utena then turned to Miki. "Do me a favor, make sure she gets back safely to our dorm. Nanami's been developing a bad tendency to pick on Anthy when I'm not around."

"I didn't know that," Miki said.

Utena noted the way Miki's hand, still hanging at his side, balled up into a fist. She had suspected he had something of a soft spot for Anthy, spending a lot of time around her and treating her like a person instead of an object, which was unlike just about everyone else on the Student Council. Of course, Utena also thought he would occasionally give her sidelong glances when he thought she wasn't looking. There were mixed feelings about that. Miki was a nice guy, but she felt more comfortable with him as a friend instead of a romantic interest. And that time obsession he had was incredibly annoying. Besides, she had to admit that in light of the way she had been looking at Ranma, it was pretty obvious she was looking for a different type of guy. Probably nothing would come of this chance meeting with him, but it was still interesting.

Anthy spoke up. "Aren't you coming with us, Miss Utena?"

"No. I'm going to stick around here and have a rematch with Ranma. It's the least I owe him from what happened because of the fight." Utena shrugged. That was the only reason she was doing it, at least that was what she told herself. "Besides, I'm going to feel guilty about him having to do all of that extra work his teachers seem to be giving him. I mean, he was going to lose the fight anyway, even without your interference, but I'll feel better once he goes down in defeat fair and square. Tell Dean Fuji I'll find my own way back home."

Utena turned to leave when Anthy stopped her. "Wait a moment."

Utena did as she was asked. Anthy went into the limousine, then came out with a pink rose. She handed it to Utena. "For luck," she explained.

Utena should have realized it. One of the few interests Anthy had was in tending the botanical rose garden in the school's arboretum. She was the talk among the horticulturists and botanists at the school. The various roses she grew were more vibrant and alive than any others everyone had ever seen. Anthy claimed all one had to do was treat them with respect and love, then they would blossom as you wanted them to. Utena would not have been surprised if it was some kind of esper thing, but Anthy maintained she never did anything of the kind with them. They just liked to grow for her, she said. It was another odd characteristic of the girl Utena regarded as friend. A weird friend, but a friend all the same.

Utena accepted the offered rose and thanked Anthy. She told them 'so long' once more before heading off to the girl's locker room. There was just enough time for her to clean up before her rematch with Ranma.

Ranma picked up the pace as he led Utena towards the vacant lot that was located a little distance from the school. From what he had heard others say, it was a place where more than a handful of fights took place when one did not want the prying eyes of the Academy's teaching body looking over their shoulders. It was in the opposite direction from his home, but he would still have plenty of time to defeat Utena and make it home in time for dinner. That was assuming the fake Genma hadn't eaten every edible thing in the house beforehand.

The sun started to set as daytime began to give way to the early hours of the evening. The streets were unusually deserted. It was to the point where Ranma swore that he and Utena passed no more than a half dozen people on their journey, when there should have been at least fifty for that time of the day. The shadows of the buildings they passed sprawled across the ground, as though they were the hands of giants reaching for both he and Utena. Everything had an oddly surreal feeling, which made him uncomfortable. It unusual, for ordinarily he could not care less what the nature of a battlefield was. All that mattered was the opponent he was facing.

Ranma's thoughts returned to Utena. One of the reasons the light was fading fast was that she had taken forever to clean herself up after the fight. It had taken so long that he had been tempted to enter the girls' locker room and urge her to hurry. There had also been the temptation to get back at her for peeping at him. And it was not as though she did not have a nice body, what he had seen of it. If he had entered the shower, he would have been able to know for certain if the whole package was the same way.

Of course, there was also no telling what her reaction would be to that. It was not as though she would have had any business complaining after what she had pulled earlier, but he was not sure if she would be offended, or just flattered. There was no way he was going to try to encourage her to become interested in him. His hands were more than full with all of the women already in his life. He certainly did not need Utena fawning over him as well, even if she was cute and he had felt sort of turned on when they had fought.

Ranma shook his head. It was the same thing that had happened leading up to the first fight, and that sort of thinking was the last thing he needed. Especially since he had just thought that he did not need the girl in his life. No. After he beat her in this rematch, and a nice, big public one later on, that would be all of the contact he would have. Unless she initiated some with him, in which case he would be screwed. Metaphorically speaking, of course.

After a few minutes, he managed to tear his thoughts away from Utena's looks and back to the matters at hand. When Utena had emerged from the locker room, she was dressed once more in the school uniform she had arrived in, with a pink rose now adorning its left breast. It made sense since all of the clothing she had just fought in was full of sweat. It might have been just as well, since Ranma himself had changed into his school uniform also. Originally he had planned on returning home and getting another set of fighting clothes, but he quickly reconsidered. It was getting late and there was no time for going home, then heading out to the lot, and then traveling back. Also it would raise questions from his mother about where he was going, especially since she would probably have dinner started. Ranma wanted to get the whole fight thing out of the way. After defeating Utena, he would relax and then go home. It was a good plan. What could possibly go wrong?

The sun had almost set by the time they made it to the empty lot. It was a simple thing, in between two plain, gray buildings with only a handful of windows on either side, and the windows were boarded up on one of them. Another side of the lot was connected to the edge of a nearby park, while the fourth had a plain wooden fence that separated it from the street on the other side. There was no one to be seen, nor were there any of the sounds one associated with people being around. A soft wind blew, echoing off the walls of the nearby buildings and making the place seem almost desolate, as though they were going to be fighting on some sort of barren plain.

The sun dipped behind several nearby statues. All of them were of famous people in the Empire's past. The angle the sun hit the statues at produced elongated, distorted shadows that clung to the wall of one of the buildings that bordered the lot. That made it appear as though a demonic audience was observing them from the shadows; the only spectators he and Utena would have for their duel. The whole thing bothered Ranma enough that he felt a chill run down his spine.

Utena seemed less affected by the unusual aura their impromptu battleground held. Again she gave Ranma a wry little smile, as though she was going to enjoy the upcoming rematch. Ranma found himself involuntarily returning the grin. He admitted that she did look cute when she smiled, but all of the other girls he knew did too, even Akane. That was no reason to want her to stick around. There was going to be a fight between them in a few minutes, a vicious duel in which only one of them was going to walk away. Any sympathy would have to be given after the fight, not before.

They went more quickly through their respective warm up routines. Each of them wanted to get on with the fight and find who the better fighter truly was. Neither of them paid the close attention to the other that they had in the previous warm up that they had. Victory was now the only thing on their minds.

The shadows on the wall seemed more demonic than ever as they wordlessly began their match. Having taken a measure of one another in their previous duel, they immediately attacked, holding little in reserve. Bokken thrusts were dodged and a variety of fists and kicks avoided. Soft grunts and hard breathing followed, becoming increasingly louder as the fight continued, neither gaining an advantage over the other.

That was not to say that both went unscathed during the length of the battle. An assortment of punches and blows began to add up on each of the duelists. A punch in the gut for Utena. A strike from her bokken across Ranma's face. A thrust kick into the back of Utena's hamstring. A knee into Ranma's face from an unexpected leap attack from Utena. The tally on each side rose in even amounts as the fight progressed.

For over twenty minutes the two fought. Longer than any match Utena had been in. Longer than any fight Ranma had with Nabiki. Neither gave quarter as they kept up the inhuman tempo of the fight. Exhaustion entered the fray on both sides. Bursts of adrenaline became more important as rasping breaths became heavier and heavier. Yet still the fight continued, neither opponent willing to accept their first defeat at the other's hands.

Had there been a crowd watching the fight, it would have been mesmerized by the elegant violence that ensued as the two combatants flowed into a seamless pattern of aggression and passion. Both felt themselves elevating to a level of proficiency in their art they had rarely felt before in being taken to the limit of both ability and endurance. Conscious thought was reserved for attack and defense, but, subconsciously, neither wanted the fight to end for fear of losing the emotional high being experienced in their duel. It was far more than the physical attraction felt from the alterations done to them by science, it was a physical and emotional ecstasy that they would have made its presence known under any circumstance.

The feeling, the moment of connection the two experienced in their bond of violence, was shattered by the sound of clapping.

Spirit Eagle emerged from his hiding place next to one of the buildings and allowed the duo to see him. His approach to them paused momentarily when he saw the twin looks of pure rage that were directed towards him, even before he declared his intentions to them. The surprise only lasted a moment before he shook it off. In their exhausted state, he had nothing to fear from them.

As Spirit Eagle advanced towards the pair, his mind reviewed the events leading up to this moment. He had surreptitiously followed the pair from the Imperial Academy, after having witnessed only the tail end of their match. He had hoped to arrive there sooner, but traffic had been unusually heavy due to road construction. Upon seeing his target (and Ranma) he had quickly become impressed with her fighting skill. It appeared he was going to get a decent match this day, assuming the boy did not rough her up too much. A few moments of watching Ranma in action convinced Spirit Eagle that Utena's victory was most definitely not assured. With that in mind, it had been quite a surprise to see Ranma leave himself so blatantly open in the match and fall so quickly in short order. At the time, Spirit Eagle
wondered if he had overestimated Ranma's skill, at least until seeing the back lot brawl the two had been having.

After the fight had ended, Spirit Eagle waited to see if an opportunity to break Utena in half would present itself. Attacking her on the Academy grounds was somewhat risky, but it could be done. Staying out of sight, he followed Utena only to discover there was another watcher, one of the schoolgirls of the Imperial Academy if he judged her attire correctly, also following Utena. If that had not been bad enough, Utena had entered the boy's locker room shortly after the fight. Spirit Eagle had little doubt as to the nature of her visit, and decided that the 'condemned' should have one last fling before she became physically unable to have such an experience again for a very long time.

Since he had chosen to give her the extra time, he waited until she had emerged from the gymnasium and gone outside. He had seen her approach the limousine that they had presumably arrived in, and began to fear he would have to follow her all the way back to Ohtori. Luckily, after saying a few words to her comrades, she left them, the vehicle departing with everyone that had arrived with her shortly afterwards. That was all the confirmation the Native American needed to know he was going to get his chance in a short while.

He followed her back to the gymnasium, debating whether or not to try to get at her in the showers, when Ranma posted himself outside the girl's locker room and waited. That irked Spirit Eagle; apparently Ranma wanted another helping of Utena before she left. It was doubly irritating to Spirit Eagle when the two met up and headed out, leaving the school grounds together. At that point, Spirit Eagle was certain the two were probably going to rent a room in a love motel for another quickie, the horny little things. He had to admit that he had not been any better at that age. He was counting on probably having to sneak inside the hotel and to beat both of them up, when they went to an abandoned back lot instead. His first thought was that Ranma was being incredibly cheap in electing to do it in some deserted area instead of shelling out the cash to treat Utena with at least a little dignity. Then he saw the two start to warm up. Now things made sense. They were apparently going to hold a rematch of
some kind. Since Spirit Eagle was beginning to wonder if he was ever going to have a chance to take on Utena alone, he decided to let the two fight it out. Once they were both sufficiently weakened, he would march in and beat them up.

The fight lasted too long, however. Spirit Eagle had wanted to get back before nightfall, and that opportunity had already come and gone. Worse, the two were having an incredibly long duel. Spirit Eagle had learned martial arts and had become a fighter simply because it was the quickest way to get what he wanted, and he had no compunction against using violence to achieve his goals. Any beauty to the art itself was lost on him, and he failed to appreciate the elegance of what he had just witnessed. All that he had seen was that the pair had fought for a while and were now exhausted. That meant it was time to make his move.

Spirit Eagle stood in the middle of the battleground, allowing the two to admire his form. He was very tall, just over six feet in height, and was two hundred and seventy pounds of solid muscle. More than one opponent had hit him only to discover that he was rock solid. Speed was not his forte, but he was quick enough, and more than powerful enough to take on almost anyone and win. Certainly he could take care of two exhausted children, no matter how good they were in peak condition.

He had elected to travel around in a black silk top and matching black pants, with a red sash to break up the ensemble. It wasn't his usual fare; instead he preferred fighting in the more traditional garb of his homeland, just like he had when he was in the Arena. But it would have attracted too much attention and there was always a chance that someone would recognize him from his days in the arena. Jun Fan Lee might have been the star of the Arena in Spirit Eagle's day, but the Native American warrior had managed to attract a small group of loyal followers. Occasionally, he still gave out autographs. Somehow he doubted either Utena or Ranma were going to want his.

Ranma was the first to speak. "Who the hell are you?!" Rage was evident in his voice, even though from the expression on his face he had calmed down at least a little from the interruption. Utena might not have spoken, but her aggressive posture and near snarl on her features indicated she was in the same frame of mind as Ranma.

"The name's Spirit Eagle. Former Arena Champion." He did not bother employing any of the showmanship he frequently displayed in fights. Playing to the crowd was something he had been taught by his Arena 'masters', though the only time he used such abilities was when he was going to have a fight before an audience. Somehow he doubted if either of his opponents were going to appreciate his flare for the dramatic.

"There isn't a problem here," Utena said, the anger now almost dissipated. "This is an honorable duel between two fighters."

"Well, I'm afraid I'm going to have to disagree with you there. There is a problem here, but I'm afraid you're the one that's it." Spirit Eagle cracked his knuckles as he moved closer to Utena.

"What do you mean?" Utena asked, noting Spirit Eagle's carefully measured steps and marking him as someone that knew how to fight, just as he claimed. She noted that Ranma was glaring at the stranger as well. Utena began to sense a set up, but at least it appeared Ranma was not behind it.

"Someone wants you and your mouth out of the way, girl. I'm afraid you made enemies with the wrong person this time."

"Hey! Butt out of this!" Ranma shouted. Even if what the Native American had said was true, he had no business interfering in a private fight. Also, something about the large man unsettled Ranma, a reek of violence. Also, Utena had not come across as the sort of person that made enemies easily. She had actually been quite friendly to Ranma, had proven herself honorable and even gracious when she had 'won' their previous duel. She had also shown a measure of trust in allowing Ranma to choose the battlefield where their rematch would take place. All of the facts that cried out that Utena had probably not done anything that would merit having someone like Spirit Eagle hunting down.

Spirit Eagle afforded a glance to Ranma. "This doesn't concern you. Stay out of it." For some reason, he doubted that Ranma would take the advice. That was the other reason he had waited until both of them had expended a lot of energy. Beating either of them up one-on-one would have been easy. Dealing with both of them at the same time was a different matter. In their current shape, however, he anticipated little in the way of difficulty, even if they double teamed him.

Which was what it appeared they were going to do. Spirit Eagle was now closer to Utena than Ranma, but he found that the boy was moving closer, almost as though he was going to protect Utena, not that it would do either of them any good. All that would accomplish would be having two people beaten up instead of one.

"I think it is my business." Ranma moved closer as he continued. "You bust up a private duel and act like you're going to attack someone that's already been through a tough fight. That doesn't seem too fair to me and just speaks volumes about your character."

Spirit Eagle gave a little shrug, a move meant to relax them for a split-second, then attacked. He charged Utena, who was too slow to get out of the way of the shoulder block the man threw. The impact hurled her several feet away.

With her out of the way, he turned his attention to Ranma. The boy still had a good bit of speed left as he connected with a fist to Spirit Eagle's jaw. The blow was solid, but lacked enough force to do much damage to the larger man. Spirit Eagle retaliated by taking several swings at Ranma's head, all of which he evaded. After the fourth fist towards Ranma's head, Spirit Eagle switched tactics and lashed out with a foot, striking Ranma in the stomach. The fight was proving itself a little more difficult than he had originally thought, but he knew he was going to win in the end.

A bokken struck Spirit Eagle in the back. Instinctively he spun around with a backfist while his mind processed the fact that the blow meant Utena had already recovered and was ready for more. The backfist missed, and worse, rather than give Spirit Eagle the chance to back away from Utena, left him open for a right to his own jaw. The punch he lashed out with was blocked by Utena's bokken, but drove her backwards once more. Again Spirit Eagle had no chance to do anything as someone kicked him right on top of the head.

Spirit Eagle staggered backward a little from the unexpected blow. Ranma landed several feet in front of him, next to the recovered Utena. Rather than press an attack, Ranma turned to the girl.

"Are you all right?"

"Of course," Utena said. "Are you all right?"

"Never better," Ranma lied. The man hit nearly as hard as Ryouga. Aside from that, Utena had nailed him in the stomach a couple of times already, which did nothing to help him withstand Spirit Eagle's assault. "He's going down."

"You got that right," Utena replied as both surged forward and attacked.

In the first few moments, Spirit Eagle found himself hard-pressed by the attacking duo. However, their previous battle had taken its toll, and when their initial assault began to falter, the Native American warrior retaliated by fighting off the double team and getting an increasing number of blow past both warriors' defenses. He landed a few more on Ranma, but Utena was not built as solidly as Ranma, and suffered more from each blow.

Ranma bought them a measure of respite, when he attacked Spirit Eagle again with a midair assault. Spirit Eagle made a mental note of that, and continued fighting, waiting for Ranma to take to the air again. There had been a particularly annoying fighter in the Arena that had a fondness for mixing aerial attacks in with his style. He had beaten Spirit Eagle once on a televised match by using a series of attacks that way. But Spirit Eagle learned from his mistake and with the help of another fighter, a blond European that was simply known as Masters, had developed a counter to such attacks. In the rematch, the man that had originally beaten him fell in short order to the specially devised defense.

Now it would serve Spirit Eagle well once more as Ranma took to the air for a third time. The man avoided a kick from Utena, crouched and leapt straight up into the air, his arm extended. His fist began to glow with blue chi as he called out the name of the attack.


The nature of the attack caught Ranma off guard. The fist of energy struck him cleanly in the jaw, sending him flying nearly twenty feet away. Bereft of his senses, Ranma was barely able to get to his hands and knees.

Spirit Eagle landed on the ground only to have a vicious bokken thrust strike him in the lower ribs. The blow hit so solidly that the next to last rib in his left side was broken. A backfist connected with Utena's face, stunning her and driving her to the ground as Spirit Eagle roared out in pain. Her bokken landed at his feet even as he evaluated the damage the strike had done to him. Already he was finding it hard to breathe without a great deal of pain, and was thankful the rib had not punctured his lung.

Ignoring the pain, he picked up the bokken. "This little toy has caused me more than enough problems today." He hurled it like a spear, over the fence and out into the street. It would be making no reappearance today.

Satisfied it was indeed gone, he stalked towards Utena, who was still on the ground. "Before it was just business. Now it's personal." He considered starting with her right leg. Maybe he would pull it out of her hip before actually breaking the bone.

Spirit Eagle was towering above her when he heard the cry of anger come from above him. He looked up to see that Ranma had at least partially recovered, although there did seem to be a sort of glaze to his eyes. Spirit Eagle wondered if the boy was fighting with a concussion. It really didn't matter. When the large man hit Ranma this time, he wouldn't be getting up for several days. Perhaps Spirit Eagle would break all of the boy's limbs as well.

Again the Native American warrior crouched and prepared to launch another Hadou Shoryu Ken. Just as he was about to leap, a pair of hands locked themselves around his ankles. He looked down to see that the Tenjou girl had attached herself to his ankles, and from the look on her face, had no intention of relinquishing her hold.

Spirit Eagle only had time to look up into the sky as both of Ranma's feet connected cleanly with the larger man's face. He roared out in pain as he fell over, his balance destroyed between Utena's hold and the blow he had just received. Utena regained her footing while keeping her grip on his right ankle. Spirit Eagle tried to make her release the hold by striking her in the face with his free leg, but all he succeeded in doing was kicking her in the shoulder. There was no second kick as Ranma threw one of his own into the spot where Spirit Eagle's broken rib was. The cry of agony was cut off as he found himself airborne. Utena had shifted her grip and was now muscling him over her shoulder in a variation of a judo toss, though with the way he was balanced, it was pure muscle that enabled her
to force him over her shoulder and into the ground. Spirit Eagle found himself breathing dirt as Utena maintained her grip on his leg, twisting it until he thought he felt a pop at the knee.

At last he gave her a solid kick that released her hold and forced her away. Spirit Eagle tried limping to his feet, ignoring both the pain in his chest and leg. He had just made it up when he saw that both Ranma and Utena were standing before him, staring at him evilly. They did not bother looking at each other as they spoke.

"You want to finish him off?" Ranma asked.

"Yes," Utena replied. "And you?"

"You better believe it."

"Let's do it together then."

Panic filled Spirit Eagle's eyes as the duo drew back and threw two tremendous punches aimed right at his face. He knew he wasn't going to be able to block the blows, and all that went through his mind was the ignominy of it all in being defeated by a couple of kids.

Then the world went dark.

Ranma and Utena looked down at the sprawled out and very unconscious form of Spirit Eagle. Both of them nudged the prone body before them with their feet. When they received no response to the prod, each let out a sigh of relief. Even Ranma was not quite used to having a third party interrupt his duels.

"He wasn't so tough," Ranma said.

Utena looked at Ranma and wondered what that was supposed to mean. His uniform was ripped where he skidded across the ground. The right side of his face was covered in dirt from where it had hit the ground from when he was knocked out of the air, and there were still burn marks along the length of his jaw from where Spirit Eagle had unleashed that leaping chi attack. And that wasn't counting the injuries he had accumulated at Utena's hands before the Native American had interrupted the fight. Ranma appeared as though he could barely stand.

Utena's estimation was on the mark. Ranma's pride was barely enough to keep him upright. However, even hurting as much as he was, he still looked Utena over. Spirit Eagle had also marked her up. She seemed to be favoring both her stomach and shoulder at the same time. The right side of her face was swollen and slightly discolored from where one of Spirit Eagle's fists had connected, and her outfit was torn in several spots, though none were too revealing, for which he was thankful.

"I don't think we're in very good shape to continue this fight," Utena said. Adrenaline had stopped flowing through her body and exhaustion began to creep in. Continuing a fight was the last thing she wanted to do. All she wanted was to go back to her bed at Ohtori and fall asleep.

The same thing that was happening to Utena was also occurring within Ranma. His body was worn from the combined injuries he had accumulated from the twin fights. Of course, he thought that since he was a guy he could take it, but Utena did not look much better, if at all. The sun had long since gone down and it was truly night. It was going to take him almost an hour to get back home, which lay in the opposite direction he had taken from school to the empty lot.

"How are you going to get back?" Ranma asked Utena.

Utena considered that. When she had told the others she would find her own way back, she had not really considered how she was going to go about it. "I guess I can take the train. I should have enough money." She rifled through the bag she had brought with her to make sure that she had enough. She produced a wallet and fished out the money that was within, holding it out for both her and Ranma to see.

"You don't have enough money to buy a hard time." Ranma figured that the one hundred and twenty-five yen she had produced was not going to get her anywhere.

Utena gave a laugh that was more out of embarrassment than anything else. "I guess I left my money in my other wallet, and I don't think I can call anyone to pick me up this late at night. Looks like I've got a long walk ahead."

Ranma considered that. It was late. Ohtori was miles away. Clouds had formed overhead and were rumbling with the distant sound of thunder. Utena looked like she had been worked over by a gang of thugs. She was worn out. There was no telling where her bokken was now, and she had no money. Leaving her to walk back to Ohtori alone was just asking for trouble.

The words came to his mouth almost before he realized it. "You can stay at my place tonight. Tomorrow you can call whoever you have to get back to school, or I can loan you some money and you can take the train back or something."

Utena felt the heat rise to her cheeks at the suggestion. Still, she responded almost as quickly as the words formed in her mind. "Okay. Are you sure it won't be a problem? I don't want to impose."

Problems? Nabiki. Kodachi. Akane. Ukyou. His mother. His false father. The rumors that would circulate at school if anyone heard that she had stayed at his place.

"No. No problem."


The warm smile she gave eradicated any feelings of doubt he had. Somehow, he knew deep inside that inviting her along had been the right thing to do.

But then again, Ranma Saotome had never been known for having very good judgment.


To be continued.

Chapter 4
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