~His Majesty King Eton Jet III~
No one said a word as Tesoro opened the unusually large doors that lead into the kingdom. Before their arrival Tesoro had instructed them to walk as quietly upon the marble floor as possible, to stair straight ahead and not look down, to bow before the King exactly two seconds after his initial bow, and to not say a word unless spoken to first.
Closing the doors behind them Akane tried hard not to look everywhere at once, the entire inside was covered in the color ice blue, even the marble that they stood on was the same unusual shade. Ryoga remembering to stair straight ahead caught the first glimpse of the King.
The King sat stone-like on his ice blue throne, leaning a little forward he regarded his guests. Atop his head sat a crown worthy of its wearer, made of pure gold it was at least a foot tall and was encased with brilliant dark blue sapphires. Ryoga couldn't take his eyes off the King; his icy blue eyes seemed to pierce strait through Ryoga. Skin as pale as milk shown through the dark graybeard that grew wildly around his face. Robes of Royal Blue flowed around his enormous body and fell past his feet, which were held in slippers that were dyed the same Royal Blue.
Tesoro motioned for them to walk forward. Akane and Ryoga walked side by side while Tesoro led them making them look like a triangle. They stopped about three feet in front of the King; not looking up Tesoro bowed before the great man following him exactly two seconds later Ryoga and Akane did the same.
"Your Majesty!" He said loudly, so the hall rang with his voice. "I have come back from my fifty year scout of Athanasia."
"Ah, Tesoro back so soon? Fifty years does go by in a flash doesn't it? Oh, and I see you have brought back visitors!" His voice boomed through the ancient hall.
"Yes your Majesty," Standing up he motioned toward the two kneeling people. "This is Akane Tendo and Ryoga Hibiki. They were venturing the Citonia Foothills when I found them, in my opinion they are brave without question."
"And why do you make such a brazen statement Tesoro?"
"Because your Majesty, they have faced the oldest creature in existence, Euro the Dark Dragon." He paused for effect; "They were prepared to take this creature on alone and without weapons!"
At this the King's jaw dropped wide open, even as a prince he had never run across the ancient Dark Dragon. Although he'd hunted for it with great effort it had always eluded him. He had sent many Knights and Dragon Slayers out after the huge beast; each one came back near death or didn't come back at all. Only Tesoro had met Euro previous times before and lived, these humans were indeed extra special.
Closing his open mouth the King stood up, with great effort on account of his heavy and numerous robes. "Please stand, great warriors!" Akane and Ryoga stood up and looked into the eyes of the great King. "This act of yours is very brave indeed, but we shall see if you are truly brave at heart. My soothsayer, Snick has a devise that can tell the true soul of any living creature. It is called a Soul Watcher. Come, be my guests at dinner tonight and there we shall see what you truly are made of. Tesoro I know it is not your duty but could you escort our foreign guests to their rooms?"
"With pleasure Kingum, Your Majesty don't you think it appropriate that you introduce yourself?" Tesoro asked, then added, "And don't you want to know why they're here?"
"Of courseI was, just about to do that." The King said beamingly. "I am King Eton Jet III, I am the sixth-hundredth king of Athanasia." Looking down at Akane and Ryoga regally he finished. "Why have you come to Majestic Jet brave travelers?"
It was Akane that answered King Jet's question. "Your Majesty it is an honor to meet you; we stumbled on Athanasia because of a training journey. I wish to better myself in Martial Arts." She paused unsure if she should say more. "My friend Ryoga had offered to take me with him to teach me. We were hopping to use your services."
"Ah, a training journey and how nice of you to think of meeting me as an honor! I must say not many of our women are interested in Martial Arts, but all our men warriors are the most skilled in the world! One of ours could take on a hundred of your best soldiers and come our victorious every time!" Pausing as he came down from his throne and walked toward Akane.
"After tonight's dinner, depending on what the Soul Watcher says, I will take you and Ryoga Hibiki here to meet Ultimate Master Q. He is the oldest, strongest, and wisest Martial Artist in the Universe. He is over six thousand years old, and has trained almost every day of his life. His looks I must say will be strange to you, but he is a good Master and will teach you well, that is if you pass. Now be off with you, it is a while until dinner and I must rest."
* * *
Walking down the blue corridors in silence Akane wondered for the first time in a while about Ranma. She wondered what he was doing and if he missed her at all. But an old thought came back into her head why should I care if that pervert misses me, it's not like I care she lied to herself. Scowling a little bit she didn't notice the two guys had stopped and ran blindly into them.
"Oof!" Ryoga exclaimed as he was pushed forward into a near by wall.
"Oh, I'm so sorry Ryoga! Are you okay?" She said a blush coming to her face.
"That's the third time today Akane. You feeling okay?" Ryoga sounded worried.
"I'm fine Ryoga, it's just that this is a lot to take in. It's not easy having your reality shattered in one day." Akane smiled sweetly at Ryoga showing him she could take it but she wasn't sure how much she could handle.
Tesoro seemed not to notice this interaction take place, standing near an open doorway he motioned to Ryoga. "This will be your room. There is a ringer near the bed to alarm the maid if you need anything. You will find suitable attire for dinner in the closet to the right and bed wear in the closet to the left." Nodding toward inside the room while he said this. "Sleep now, and collect your thoughts before dinner. I will send up a maid to bring you to the baths."
"Um, thanks. See you later Akane." Ryoga waved as he headed inside the room. Closing and locking the door behind Ryoga, Tesoro began guiding Akane to her room.
"Why did you lock him in?" Akane asked suspicious.
"I only did it because he has such a problem with direction, he may think the front door is one of the closets and go wandering off in the castle." Tesoro explained.
"Good idea!" Akane agreed.
"Just to let you know the Soul Watcher's test is a very hard test to pass!" A worried look came over his face. "The only way I can help you is to umwellif you don't mind."
"Is it that bad?" Akane cut him off; she was overly worried that they would kick them out of the kingdom. "What will happen to us if we don't pass?"
"Yes it is very hard but the worst thing that will happen is, they will banish me from the kingdom for lying and they will sentence you to wander blindly in the fiercest most horrible place of all in Athanasia." Pausing he lowered his voice. "The Venomous Abyss."
Completely horrified Akane cried out, "But what if we don't pass? Then all those horrible things will come true? You have to help us Tesoro! Please, the Venomous AbyssI can't believe your King would do such a thing! That can't happen!" She stopped raving for a few seconds, her face red and her breath heavy. "UmTesoro, what is the Venomous Abyss?"
"I was getting to that, the Venomous Abyss houses the most terrible demons, monsters, and evil creatures Athanasia has. Only one person has gone into the Venomous Abyss and come out alive, only one! And you just saw him sitting on the throne!" He stopped in front of a door. "There is a way I can help you pass the test. It won't assure you to be victorious but it will help."
"How?" Akane was anxious.
"Um, this may sound a little weird but let me show you into your room first. Okay?" Tesoro opened the door and motioned for Akane to walk in, he led her over to the foot of the bed and sat down on its feathery blankets. Raising a finger to her chin he brought her face closer to his and began to whisper. "It cannot get out that I have helped you, understand?"
Akane nodded eyes wide, whispering even lower now. "I have this gift you see to peer into the souls of humans, this is one of the reasons I was given Guardian of Majestic Jet, I can use this gift and your soul will show me what lies inside of you." Gazing into her eyes Tesoro's eyes began glowing blue. "Now to do this I need to kiss you. Is that okay?"
Akane had agreed with everything he'd said up to this point, kiss him? But she was saving her first kiss. "UhTesoro, well that's complicated, you see."
He watched her worried eyes grow into shimmering pools of embarrassment. "Its not that I don't want you to help me but," How could she refuse his kindness? "But how brave would I be ifif I accepted help from you? Wouldn't that insure that I wasn't confident about my bravery? Wouldn't that show?"
She saw his eyes, unreadable in their green hue. Then as after a spring rain they brightened and sparkled. "Wonderful Akane just wonderful! You have passed the first test. Hopefully your husband does as well!"
"The first test? What are youmy husband?" Confusion was no stranger in Akane's voice. She had no idea what just took place.
"Yes, you see the Soul Watcher is a series of three tests, at dinner tonight you will receive the second test, the third however can be sprung on you at any time. So be wary dear Akane."
"Uhbut I don't have a husband." Her face was still twisted in bewilderment, so the Soul Watcher was three tests not one, I almost didn't pass the first test. I wonder how I'll do on the remaining two?
"Than who is it you're traveling with? Is he your betrothed then? If not I must say I'm confused as well. You see no woman and man that I know of would travel together with out having such a bond between them. It just isn't done." Tesoro explained.
"Ryoga and I are just friends. I'm engaged to someone else Tesoro." She never considered how their traveling together would look to some people.
"I must say this is strange to me. Is this a common thing among your people?"
"Well not exactly, you see it just never occurred to us that people would look at us that way. I didn't expect to come across anyone deep in the mountains." Her voice faltered and for no reason she felt ashamed.
* * *
Ryoga had turned around and taken in the beauty of the room he was given. The ceiling was high and looked as if it were made out of smooth blue crystal. "What's with all the blue?" Taking a few steps into the room, Ryoga suddenly felt a warm sense of peace wash over him. "Hum, I wonder what that just was?" The walls were filled with tapestries showing a history Ryoga didn't recognize. People filled the intricate designs, most with glowing blue eyes and regal fighting stances. The rest of the people, without glowing eyes seemed to cower at the blue eyed regales. While looking these tapestries over Ryoga was suddenly aware he was being watched.
Quickly turning around unsheathing his umbrella Ryoga faced the center of the room. "Who's there?" Ryoga's umbrella drooped to his side as he beheld a glowing red light hovering above the center of his bed. Mouth open, Ryoga couldn't help but stare in amazement.
As the red light grew and brightened turning the whole room into a huge prism Ryoga was forced to cover his eyes with his left arm. "Ah, it's so bright!"
The light diminished itself to a dismal glow, at the center of this glow lay a beautiful woman in her mid twenties. Her hair was like lava, ruby red; it flowed around her shoulders and face. White as snow, her skin was flawless and her gown was as blue as the room around her.
"I am Blaze, the spirit of fire and rejuvenation." Eyes closed she spoke to Ryoga without moving her lips. "I have come to you favored being because of the fire that burns deep within your soul."
"Whawhat are talking about? Who are you?" Ryoga stepped toward the hauntingly beautiful woman on his bed, what does she mean, fire that burns within my soul?
"Every decade I am aloud to bestow upon a being of my choice, one gift or wish. I have chosen you, Ryoga Hibiki. I have sensed your pain and suffering, you are a lonely depressed creature. Please choose one thing about your life that you would like the most changed and I will change it for you." Slowly, Blaze opened her eyes, they were the same ruby red as her hair and shimmered in the natural glow she radiated.
"A wish?" Ryoga looked at his feet, unsure of what to think. Sure there are a lot of things I'd like changed. But what would Ilooking up triumphantly Ryoga thought, I can finally get rid of this curse! Finally, the curse that has tormented me for so long will be dead and gone! I never thought this day would come.
"Have you made your choice fortunate one? Be reminded that this will last forever and that once said you cannot change your request. Also be reminded that I do this of my own free will, in the past nine thousand years only two other humans have been selected for this great honor."
Her head began to sway, picking up the conflict in his head. His thoughts dwelled on a hundred different things, but the one thought that rang out to her was of a girl. A teenaged girl with bluish-black hair, was the one constant in his memories and feelings.
"I can feel the decision you have to make is a great one, I will leave you to think things through and come back for your wish this time tomorrow." With that her image began to fade from Ryoga's eyes and once again the blinding red light filled his vision.
She had been gone for a few minutes but Ryoga still couldn't find it in him to move.