A Cursed Night; The First Bid For Freedom
Disclaimer: I do not own Ranma ½ or DC Comics, DC Animated, Buffy, Lord of the Rings, or any other misc. things I might reference or have characters mention in the course of dialogue.
Thanks to Dogbertcarroll for going over this and giving me a second perspective.
If it’s your first time reading the story, welcome. If not, thanks for reading again, as of January 16, I’ve rewritten the entire thing, added more bits and pieces and reworked some core ideas, but enough is the same you can just continue reading from the newest chapter.
It was the day before Halloween, and thanks to that bastard Snyder, who thought it would be good to get ‘volunteers’ at the last second, Xander needed a costume. Still grumbling about procrastinating principals, Xander headed into the new costume shop, hoping they would have a second hand one, or at least a cheap selection. As Buffy and Willow gushed over a medieval ball gown, Xander saw his last chance at an easy costume, a plastic toy gun, grabbed by a little rug rat. With a shrug at his bad luck, he began to look at some of the cheaper costume sets. The absolutely dirt cheapest one was a fake red silk Chinese shirt and black pants at five dollars. Grabbing it before anyone else could, Xander headed for the checkout.
Ethan raised an eye at the boy’s choice. “That’s hardly a costume, hold on a second.” Rummaging around underneath the counter, Ethan pulled out a small piece of paper. “Here, it’s directions on how to braid your hair into a pigtail; it will make the costume more authentic.”
“Thanks.” Taking his purchase and the extra paper, Xander started walking towards home, not bothering to wait for Buffy or Willow; they were still busy gushing over the noblewoman’s costume. And fashion, especially hundred year old fashion, was way out of his grasp.
When the magic swept over Sunnydale that night, Xander disappeared to be replaced by Ranma, martial art genius and aqua-transsexual. “Great, where am I now? I knew I shouldn’t have let Ryoga lead.” With a curse, Ranma set off down the street, easily beating up the few mini demons roaming around. They weren’t anywhere near the level of things he was used to dealing with, and their heads smashed together easily enough. Suddenly a scream rent the air. Immediately Ranma set off roof hopping in its direction, it was a martial artist’s job to protect the weak after all.
Landing in front of a blonde foreigner who was dressed in something that looked like it belonged in Nabiki’s photo shoots, Ranma looked around for trouble. All he saw was a car, granted it was an American model, one that looked pretty pricey, but still just a car. “What happened?”
The girl stared back at him blankly. “Great… doesn’t speak Japanese like any decent person should.” With a sigh, Ranma picked up a rock, throwing it at high speeds and cracking the head of another one of the mini-demons that seemed to infest the area, sending it into unconsciousness. “Well, come on.” Picking up the girl and ignoring her squawk of protest, Ranma leaped for the roofs again.
Unfortunately, the roof of the building he landed on just happened to have a plumbing problem, or at least it developed one the moment he set foot on it. Water sprayed from one of the exposed pipes, hitting him and changing him into a short busty red head. The girl in his arms frantically tried to escape after his curse triggered, screaming something he couldn’t understand and messing up his next jump just enough that he had to rebound off the target building’s wall and land back on the street. He dropped the girl to the ground and she backed up against a nearby wall.
With a sign Ranma tried to focus on his half remembered English lessons, finally stumbling on the word for curse. Unfortunately for him, his attempt at saying curse sounded awfully close to cur, a rather nasty insult from Lady Elizabeth’s time period. Somehow, for all his martial arts skills, Ranma wasn’t able to dodge the angry kick to his shin; he always had a weakness when it came to angry women. “You foreign pig! How dare you insult me, I am of the highest station!”
Grumbling about stupid girls and uncute tomboys, Ranma began to follow Lady Buffy as she stormed off into the night. She was the only remotely sane person that he had met so far and he was loath to lose her. Eventually they ran into a red headed spirit, who despite being dead still couldn’t speak Japanese. As Ranma wondered about those myths that portrayed the ancestors as wise, and what whoever was drinking at the time they decided that, the two girls yelled at each other in rapid English
Ignoring their conversation, he was only able to pick up a scattered word or two; Ranma merely followed them as they wandered around. He choose to tune out the spirit’s ramblings, she made even less sense then the English teacher, and he swore the man was teaching them from old computer game manuals and rock magazines. The few monsters were easily handled, even with the handicap of carrying around the spirit girl’s body; it had been the first place she led them to.
“Stop here a second.” The two other girls looked at him blankly in incomprehension. He wasn’t sure if it was his accent or he had used the wrong words, and frankly he didn’t care. With a sigh Ranma dropped the body on the ground, ignoring the spirit’s protest and headed for the cafe they had just passed. The coffee contraptions were beyond his understanding, all the nozzles, dials, and bronze handles made no sense, but the sink was working just fine, the water hot enough to reverse his curse. He ignored the gob stopped expressions on their faces at seeing him change and instead stole a couple of the cookies from the display, they might be old, but they looked tasty enough. Wiping the crumbs from his snack away he grabbed the spirit’s body again. “So, where to now?” With a shake of her head the spirit started leading them away from the consumer section of the town and deeper into the houses, where they proceeded to wander randomly again. He was sure spirit girl had a destination in mind for them, but the living lady kept getting distracted, she stared at the display in the one jewelry store for what seemed like half an hour.
When the spell finally ended, Xander almost dropped Willow as his body reverted from the Adonis that was Ranma back to the scrawny teenager he actually was. He looked around frantically, finally realizing they were in the neighborhood by the school.
“Library?” he asked as Buffy hurriedly tore the wig from her head.
“Library,” confirmed Willow.
Giles found them quickly enough, it was standard practice to head to the school after anything exciting, but the explanations were brief, the man looked tense and didn’t stick around. Equally exhausted from the night the teenagers accepted his lack of details, already planning to grill him in the morning, and headed to their respective homes, trusting that the vampires would still be enjoying their night in.
The next morning Xander awoke with a groan, nightmares of cats having plagued what little sleep he had gotten. Cats didn’t terrify him the way they did Ranma, and even having their eyes glow as they chased him around and around was low on the nightmare rank. However, a smile grew a crossed his face, he would gladly trade the random dreams for the all the esoteric martial arts knowledge that seemed to be stuffed in his mind, training programs that fit his schedule floating by his eyes. If he worked at it, by the time graduation came around he should have his body up to an acceptable level, able to take on vampires and demons with ease. ‘I can’t wait to see the look on Buffy’s face the first time I beat her in arm wrestling. I’ll have to wager something too, just to make it sweeter.’
Cheerfully for once he climbed out of bed and made his way to the bathroom to wake himself up, cold water always did the trick. Still half asleep he let the water run over his hands for a moment before cupping some and splashing it onto his face. Feeling much more awake and finally fully opening his eyes, he let out a scream at the horrific sight in the mirror.
The god of Jusenkyo was cruel, having been betrayed and anchored to a small, rarely visited domain, doomed to a slow death as its believers died out or were stolen by others. The god hungered for release from its imprisonment, and any who got close to the pools fell within its range, allowing it to see crucial information about them and give curses that suited its goal of chaos, for the more chaos that came about from its cursed pawns, the more power it received. For Shampoo, it was cursing her to be the very thing her husband to be feared. Ranma, man amongst man, became an ideal looking girl, and a similar situation applied to Herb. The lazy Genma fitted best as a panda, something that let him escape numerous situations that should have taken his life. Akane was allowed to remain uncursed as she was drowned in an untouched pool, which was enough to put her in the god’s domain and increase the tension between her and the other victims for escaping unscathed. Pantyhose Taro proved immensely useful to the god, giving it control over a monstrous warrior, which is why he was allowed to survive mixing two curses, most beings would have suffered…unpleasant effects. Mousse was actually meant to be a bat, to fit the phrase ‘blind as a bat,’ but his eye sight was horrible enough to mess up the god’s plan, and it decided not to waste precious energy trying to fix the mistake
The moment that Xander’s body transformed into Ranma’s, a Jusenkyo curse was forever placed upon it, for the god was quite interested in gaining a foothold in a different part of the multi-verse. All its efforts so far had merely prolonged its life, a holding pattern that was slowly decaying. But here in Xander was a true chance at freedom. As a result it took the equivalent of several mortal lifetimes to decide on Xander’s curse, manipulating the Springs and infecting one with a true part of its essence, creating a new Spring.
In the god’s home dimension, as Xander came into contact with cold water for the first time, the Jusenkyo guide suddenly felt the need to say, “Poor customer fall into Spring of Demon. Not too sad tale of demon that drowned in the spring untold years ago.”
Upon seeing the sight in the mirror Xander instinctively lashed out, smashing the offending object, the sink, and part of the tub before collapsing, mind unable to take the shock. When he awoke, it was laying in a puddle of steaming water. With a groan he lifted his head, the right side of his face feeling sore and tender from where it had rested in the hot water. “What…what happened?” A hiss escaped his lips as he pushed himself back to his knees, a shard of broken mirror cutting his palm. He stared at the red blood bubbling up from the small gash, highlighting his tanned skin. “Was it just my eyes playing tricks on me? Or maybe something left over from…last night…” Xander’s voice trailed off as the memories he gained from Ranma filtered through his head, the fact Ranma had a curse and his own experience minutes earlier forcing him to connect the dots. “No…No…No! I can’t be cursed! I can’t!”
Frantically Xander rushed to the kitchen, the closest source of cold water, he didn’t want to know, but he had to check. He almost wrenched the cold water tap off in his haste, but when the water was finally flowing, he hesitated. His choice was taken from him as the water suddenly sprayed erratically from the tap. Before it even hit, before he felt the change, he knew, for all curse victims automatically became water magnets to the extent that water would flow uphill to reach them and always at the worst times. The mirror above the sink, made to resemble a window and to provide the illusion of greater room, served perfectly to show him his cursed form.
His own familiar face stared back at him, but twisted into a dark mockery of itself. A set of horns sprouted from his forehead, arching back to curve over his head, protecting it from any attack from above. Another set of much smaller curved horns sprouted from his shoulders, one each, making any kind of tackle a devastating attack. His hair hung down to his neck, thick, coarse and black, resembling wire more than hair, like a tangle of snakes.
Small bits of flame licked out of a mouth full of pointed teeth, combining with the aura of shadows that seemed to linger around him to create a hellish sight.
Stretched out behind him was a massive pair of batwings and in the corner of his vision he could just see a spaded tail flicking around, the new appendage feeling unnaturally natural.
His hands were vicious, clawed things, bone spikes jutting from the knuckles. His legs were like the back legs of a canine, they had the stereotypical elongated ankle, and his feet were clawed as well. A final set of bone spikes rested on his knees, another natural weapon to supplement his already large arsenal.
Whatever hellish pit had spawned him had not skimped on defense either. Bony armor covered his entire body, and his exposed skin was thick and leathery, giving him obscene amounts of protection. His coloring was a combination of reds and black, the bone armor being a deep black, his skin a dark crimson, the membranes of his wings were a deep wine red, the bone pinions the same pure black of his spikes. The only part of him that remained largely unchanged was the general structure of his face, the color leeching out of his skin to leave it bone white, contrasting with the pure black of his eyes. As he stared his eyes seemed to change, a blue and bronze flame flickering deep inside of their obsidian depths.
A bestial roar of hatred and pain echoed over Sunnydale as Xander took in his new form, the loss of his humanity brutally hitting him.
When Giles arrived in the library the day after Halloween, all he wanted was a few minutes to savor his cup of tea, liberally laced with brandy after the night he had. Instead he found a nearly comatose Xander huddled in the corner, practically buried in a rain jacket, poncho, and tarp. Pink, girlish rain boots completed the strange outfit, looking like they had been stolen off someone’s front porch. Walking forward he gently shook the boy’s shoulder, hoping to wake him up and find out exactly what he was doing in the library in such strange attire.
“Huh? Wha?” murmured Xander sleepily. Suddenly he bolted upright, staring directly at Giles, recognition dawning on his face. His hands, previously hidden by the tarp, were encased in rubber gloves. They shot forward, latching onto Giles’ jacket and pulling him closer, allowing him to see the fires of insanity in Xander’s eyes. “Giles! You have to help me!”
Carefully Giles grabbed Xander’s hands and eased them off their grip on his shirt. “Don’t worry Xander…I’ll help. Whatever you need, I’ll help…” He kept repeating that phrase in the same voice people use when they talk to the crazy, old, or senile. He hadn’t needed to use it since crazy aunt Willmia had passed on, but he found it easy enough. Slowly Xander calmed down enough to actually talk sense.
“I’m still cursed somehow. I don’t know how. It’s not even the same curse as Ranma. He turned into a girl, I turn into a…a demon!” Giles could easily hear the raw hatred in Xander’s voice as he spoke that last word.
“You don’t look like you’re a demon, unless you’re one of the human looking ones?” asked Giles carefully, not wanting to upset Xander further.
“No! I’m one of the seven foot tall demonic looking ones!” shouted Xander in reply while gesturing wildly with his hands.
“Okay…ok. It’s just you don’t look like a demon…” Giles replied, holding his tea out for Xander, hoping the brandy spiked beverage might calm him slightly.
“I told you, I’m cursed. Didn’t you see…?” Xander trailed off, realizing Giles missed everything that had happened the night before to them, being too busy stopping the madness. “You didn’t see…I must sound crazy…but I’m not! I’m not!” Before Xander could continue his rant, the tea cup in Giles’ hand suddenly cracked, dropping the now cool liquid, mostly water, onto Xander.
“Good Lord!” Giles was pushed back as Xander seemed to explode, his new form no longer fitting under his water protection gear, or even in the corner. He towered over Giles by at least a foot, his horns making him appear even taller. The shadows in the corner thickened and grew around Xander, cloaking him in darkness and making Giles take another step back. Of course, Buffy chose that moment to show up.
“Giles I-” Buffy froze when saw Giles backing away from Xander, but only for a second. “Look out Giles!” she shouted as she dashed a crossed the room, stake in hand, pushing him to the side. Xander, half crazy, in shock, unused to his new form, and not believing Buffy would actually attack him, didn’t have a chance to react before Buffy slammed the stake into his chest, hard.
The stake, high quality hard wood from a fruit bearing tree, smashed into the bone armor directly over his heart and stopped. The tip flattened and cracks appeared in the grain from the impact. Reflexively Xander swung at the source of the mild pain in his chest, and she back flipped away, a good thing, for if the punch had connected she would have suffered serious wounds from the knuckle spikes.
Buffy prepared to charge again, intent on hand to hand, and Xander raised his own clawed hands, an instinct to fight rising inside of him. He could feel something inside her repulsing him, some itch on the back of his neck, but at the same time something was calling towards him, the draw of it getting louder and louder...
“Stop!” Before they could engage, Giles was between them, forcing both fighters to stop, though Xander’s claws and tail continued to twitch, reaching for the man. With a growl he threw himself backward, and unused to his new body, careened into a bookcase sending it to the ground.
“Giles, what are you doing?” demanded Buffy. “Demon!” She gestured to where Xander was sprawled on the fallen bookcase. “I slay demons! I am slayer; that is slayee.”
“That’s Xander!” He also pointed to where Xander was tripping over his own tail and skidding on the scattered books while trying to gain his feet.
That actually gave Buffy pause. “That’s Xander?”
“Yes. I saw him transform myself. Apparently a…curse I believe he said it was? Well, a curse was leftover from the spell last night. He came here for help and something caused him to transform while we were talking.”
“I do remember something like that, but my memories of last night are rather fuzzy. I thought he was a red headed girl though…”
“I was.” Xander’s voice was like rocks scraping against each other, and it startled both of them. “That was Ranma’s curse. He hated it…but…I would gladly trade him for it…” Xander trailed off as he stared at nothing.
Giles cleared his throat, hoping it would get his attention, but he just continued to stare. When he didn’t react, Buffy reached forward, tapping him on his shoulder, right next to his bone spike. Startled, Xander turned to look at her, and all she could see were eyes as black as obsidian staring back at her. She continued to gaze into them, trying to see some of the warmth or humor that was normally found in Xander’s eyes, but there was nothing. A hint of blue flame started to appear and she took a step back in shock, eyes turning away.
The pain Xander felt grew worse as he saw Buffy’s reaction, for he didn’t know the true reason, all he saw was her recoiling backward. With a bitter laugh he climbed to his feet, staggering as he did. “Hot water, give me hot water!”
Backing away slowly, Giles gestured for Buffy to watch Xander as he went into his office for his electric tea kettle. Coming out of the office with the hot water he found Xander standing in place, swaying, and Buffy by the weapons cage, axe in hand.
Xander lunged for the kettle, making Buffy start, ripped it from Giles’ hands, and poured it over himself. To the watchers the change seemed instantaneous, leaving a naked Xander standing in the middle of the library, but to Xander it was like the water was washing away the evil, the taint. “See; cursed!” He laughed again, the sound still sounding inhuman and strange coming from him, so different from his normal chuckles. “I don’t even know how! You have to help me Giles, you have to!” He lunged forward, grasping Giles’ jacket again, begging him.
“Of course, of course I’ll help you…But first let’s get you some clothes…” Gently Giles pulled Xander up and lead him to his office where all the spare clothes were kept, leaving a blushing Buffy standing in the library alone. Suddenly Giles poked his head out of the office. “Pick up the shelf for me would you? The books go on it by author name.”
The entire gang gathered together during first period, skipping it for the more urgent matter of Xander. “So you change with cold water and back with hot? Fascinating…” Giles stopped talking when he caught sight of Xander’s glare. “Sorry…You were saying?”
“I dressed as a stereotypical Asian martial artist; I thought it would be from some random action movie, like Jackie Chan. Instead I became a guy named Ranma, a cursed martial artist. He became a girl when splashed. Last night everything was fine, and I had some nightmares when I slept, but that was it. It was in the morning when I splashed myself that I saw…” In what was rapidly becoming an annoying habit to the others, Xander trailed off.
“So your curse wasn’t the same as Ranma’s? Can you confirm that?” Giles asked Willow.
“Right. Ranma was defiantly a short…gifted red head,” Willow blushed as she finished speaking, turning nearly as red as her hair as she remembered how Girl-Ranma’s breasts had bounced.
“So how exactly does one become cursed? It’s not contagious right?” asked Buffy with a hint of concern.
“Jusenkyo,” was Xander’s simple answer.
Giles took a moment, running the word through his head. “Pools of…Sadness?” he questioned, wondering if he got the translation right. The Eastern languages had never been his field of study.
“The Pools of Sorrow. If you fall in you assume the form of whatever drowned there…what you would have looked like if that was how you were born.”
“So it’s one of a set of curses? There are other ones?”
“Of course! I told you that already, I told you Ranma changed into a girl!” snapped Xander.
Giles made calming motions with his hands as he spoke. “Alright, I just want to be thorough. Curses are tricky things; you never know what information might be helpful.”
With a sigh and a muttered apology, Xander went back to pacing. “Each Spring is different, and there are hundreds. I know of Girl, Panda, Black Piglet, Duck, Cat, Octopus, Child, Frog, Man, Samaritan, Twins, Warrior Goddess, and Yeti-riding-Bull-carrying-Crane-and-Eel.”
Giles choked for a moment when he heard the last several listed. “What?”
“I know, I don’t really understand it either, but the Springs do exist, Ranma had run-ins with the people who go cursed.”
“A goddess drowned there? And a curse could actually put you into multiple bodies?” asked Giles for clarification while scribbling down notes.
“I don’t know if Rouge actually turned into a goddess or just a powerful spirit entity. As for multiple bodies, it depends on the Spring. The Twin Spring will make the person into multiple copies, but the Yeti one turned its victim into a Minotaur like creature with wings. The guy actually added tentacles later by using the Spring of Drowned Octopus.”
“So the Springs’ effect is cumulative?”
“I guess; Ranma was never sure about it. He always thought that if you got dunked in the Spring that matches your natural body, then it would cure the curse.”
Giles stopped writing and slowly set down his pen before looking at Xander. “Do you know of any other cures?” he inquired, careful to keep his tone neutral.
“No, Ranma tried several, but that seemed to be the only permanent one, and it was never proven. But you can find one right?” Xander asked, hope in his voice, “Ranma never had anyone who really knew anything about actual, practical magic helping him.”
Giles sighed, rubbing the bridge of his nose, hoping it would help the headache that was forming. “In all honesty Xander, I don’t think I can.” He ignored the betrayed look he received and soldiered on, trying to explain himself. “Every curse I’ve ever heard of before would activate and then have some kind of trigger that would undo it, even if that trigger would never happen, simply to save on the amount of magic it would cost as permanent spells are much, much harder to cast. This curse is nothing like that, the way you describe it…it almost sounds alive, being that it can adapt and change as other parts are added.”
“So there’s nothing you can do? Nothing?!” Xander’s voice rose to a yell at that last word.
“There’s a spell I can cast, it’s rather simple but it will let me have an idea of what we’re dealing with. I have the ingredients in my office with the casting supplies. Buffy, if you’ll come with me; I’ll need help carrying one thing.” They headed into Giles’ office, leaving Willow alone with Xander.
“Is it really that bad Xander? I mean you do get a powerful form out of it right? From how Buffy described it, you could easily take on the monster of the week and win,” Willow finished with a tentative smile.
“That bad? That bad?!” Xander rounded on her, getting right in her face. “I’ve lost my humanity! I become a DEMON! I’m one of the things that plague our town, one of the things that have systematically decimated our kindergarten class. And there’s something else...when I changed these two times, I’ve felt something different, and I don’t know what, but it scares me. And Ranma’s curse got locked several times, and once he got hit on the head and actually thought he was really a girl for a time. What happens if that happens to me? What happens if I start to lose myself?” he finished in a whisper with a voice filled with fear.
Hesitantly Willow reached forward and embraced Xander. He gratefully let her, happy for any comfort, anything that would still the torment and shadows in his mind. He hadn’t been entirely truthful with her, with any of them. It wasn’t just that fleeting sensation he had felt that scared him, it was the way he thought, the fact he had actually considered going through Giles to get to Buffy, knowing that it would give him the advantage in the fight, the time he needed to end her, and the look on her face would be wonderful in its despair.
Buffy appeared, interrupting their tender moment, lugging an enormous full sized mirror. “Just place it in the middle of the floor there Buffy,” Giles voice floated out of his office. Buffy easily set the gigantic mirror down despite the fact it must have weighed over a hundred pounds. “Thank you,” Giles stepped from his office, chalk and special dust in hand. “This is a rather simple ritual designed to show magic influence on a person. It can be done with any sized mirror but a body sized one lets the caster see the entire body,” he explained as he made some chalk markings on the ground and sprinkled the dust on Xander. “Please step in front of the mirror.”
As soon as Xander took his place, Giles began. “Mih no detcilfni si cigam tahw ees em tel.” Xander glowed blue for a moment, and then it faded.
“What, that was it?” asked Buffy.
“What did you expect Buffy? A mystic dance and a sacrificed rabbit? I did say it was simple.” Giles stared at Xander’s reflection. It was a clear blue image of him, darker blue lines running throughout representing the various mystical pathways and energy convergences of the body. A curse or harmful magic would normally be represented as a black blotch on a certain pathway, what pathway would also offer insight into how to cure it. Xander’s image looked like it had a net of barbed wire over it. “Good lord…”
“What is it?” demanded Xander.
“I’ve never seen anything like this at all…It’s completely covering you… Xander, trying to remove this curse would be like…like trying to remove barbed wire spider webs. Only the best mage in the world would attempt to undo something of this magnitude, and even then there would most likely be damage.”
“What kind of damage?” asked Willow with a grim sort of curiosity.
“Blunted emotions, lost memories, changes to personality. There’s been studies done, some people fully recovered and others, well, didn’t,” admitted Giles. “It's always a case by case basis, and there were never any as extensive as this.”
“Who’s the best? Who gives me the best chance? Give me a name!”
“Fate. He’s the best there is. The only problem is I, and the Watcher’s Council, have no idea where he is.”
“How do I find him?”
“You don’t,” stated Giles bluntly. “I’ll have the Council start looking, there’s no way you’d find him on your own. But are you sure about this Xander, is it really so bad that you’d risk losing yourself?”
Xander hesitated. “It’s not just a physical change though Giles. Something else inside me changes as well, I don’t know what, but it scares me. And I’m afraid that I might come to like it...but what about something temporary? They used waterproof soap for a quick fix. Is there anything like that where I can keep the cure and just not change?”
“We’ll have to research it, I’ll grab the books. We’ll be looking for artifacts or spells.” Giles bustled off, grabbing several different stacks of books and dropping them in front of the teens. “If anyone asks, your helping me with a very important project, I’ll write notes to get you out of class.”
Only the sound of turning pages broke the silence for the next hour. Then everyone heard a new sound, the steady drip-drip-drip of water. Xander looked up from his book just in time to receive a face full of water from the leaking water sprinkler above his head. The chair buckled and broke under his new forms weight. Calmly standing up from the ruins of the chair he made his way over to the still heated kettle and poured some water over himself, turning back to his now naked human form. “I need more clothes, and some kind of cure.” He walked into the office to retrieve another set of spare clothes, leaving the others staring, shocked, at his destroyed chair.
Coming back out Xander pulled up another chair, this time making sure to grab his tarp from the corner and drape it over himself.
It was just before lunch when Giles cleared his throat to get the group’s attention. He hesitated before speaking, but then looked at the remains of the destroyed chair, which prompted him to continue. “There may be something. But it won’t work the entire time, and it’s dangerous.”
“Well what is it?” demanded Giles
“It’s called a Ring of Withering; it was invented as a torture device and assassin’s tool and was common throughout the middle ages. Its use dropped out once medical technology found a way to deliver water via drip. In fact-”
“How does it help me?” interrupted Xander before Giles could really go into lecture mode.
“Quite simply, it repels water through a minor shield, not noticeably either. Water will touch you, but it won’t, it’s rather hard to explain, let’s leave the explanation as its magic. You’ll still be able to drink water, but you will dehydrate much, much faster, and the magic will have other effects. You’ll overheat faster, and you can develop several skin conditions. I’ll have the Council send one of the torture versions; they’re less gaudy and noticeable. However you cannot wear it for more than eight hours,” Giles paused to glare at Xander, trying to drive his point home, “No more than eight hours, understand? Then you must leave it off for just as long as you wore it.”
“Eight hours, got it. Now can I have it?”
“I need to contact the Council still, they’ll send it express, and it’ll be here by tomorrow.”
“Can’t you teleport it or something?” mused Buffy, thinking about the possibilities for buying from boutiques in London and having the Council ship her stuff over.
“No. The Hellmouth complicates any incoming magic, plus the Ring itself is magical, making teleportation practically useless.”
The bell rang, signaling the beginning of lunch. Buffy and Willow immediately headed for the door, not wanting to deal with Snyder if they were late for their classes, but paused when they realized Xander wasn’t behind them. “Xander?”
“I’m not going to class, I’m going to go home and sit in the kitchen with the kettle on until the Ring arrives. Call me when it does.” Without any sort of goodbye Xander left through the back door, leaving the group, more specifically Willow, staring at his back sadly before the door slammed closed.
On his trip home Xander had to use his mangled tarp as a shield no less than four times to avoid getting splashed from garden sprinklers, a burst water main, and an exploding bird bath. When he got home he immediately set the kettle on a low boil so as to always have hot water available, but he still didn’t dare leave the kitchen. There was no telling when a pipe could burst in a hallway, or the washer explode in the basement. Instead he began to do what exercises he could, he was far from in the best of shape and he needed to improve if he wanted to use the memories he gained.
For nearly two full days Xander stayed in the kitchen, leaving only to use the bathroom and always carrying the kettle when he did. Finally the call arrived from Giles and he left the safety of his home. It was a dangerous path to the school library, filled with drainage ditches, lawn sprinklers, and people watering their gardens. Water would come at him from all angles and directions. Finally he reached the safety of the library.
“Oh my god, sorry Xander! I just wanted a drink of water,” apologized Willow.
Xander glared at her, feeling irrationally angry and her for the mistake. Visions of tearing her head from her shoulder and watching the blood drip out began to dance through his head. He shook it violently to clear out the sight, and focused on Willow still standing frozen in front of him, like a deer in headlights. “Give me hot water!”
Giles quickly hurried forward with his kettle, splashing Xander and returning him to normal. “The Ring, give it to me!”
Giles reached into his pocket, pulling out a plain silver ring set with a black stone. He began to hand it to Xander but hesitated. “What did I say about the Ring?”
Xander’s eyes never left the Ring, it was what he needed. It represented hope, a way to keep himself from loosing himself, be it to the curse or to the cure. “Eight hours, then wait eight more. Now let me have it.”
Reluctantly Giles handed the Ring over to Xander who immediately put it on, letting out a sigh of relief as he did so. “Thank you.”
“I am glad I could be of assistance. My friends in the Council have already begun looking for Fate, though it will take awhile.”
The meeting went along the normal pattern after that, discussing the various small things Xander had missed and the creature Buffy ran into on patrol.
Time passed for the group. Xander tried to avoid the Slaying, choosing to sideline himself in order to practice with Ranma’s memories and get stronger. While this would have normally meant he’d have abandoned all social ties, Willow chose to stick with him, often sitting and talking with him while he worked out or helping him research a cure. There were three places he spent his time, the school library, the school gym, and the only dojo in town. In the library he was reading every single magic book Giles had, looking for anything regarding a cure or a way to shift his curse on his own, though he hadn’t found anything terribly useful yet, as most if not all practical magic was beyond his abilities. The reason he spent time in the gym and the dojo were intertwined, he wanted to be able to be at Ranma’s skill level, a goal that could take a long time. It was a long, hard climb for him as he tried to get his body into what anyone from Ranma’s memories would call decent shape and what normal people would call extremely good.
Ranma had spent his entire life training with a master, and fighting his many rivals, and all Xander had was his borrowed memories and a karate instructor, that being the stereotypical martial art that most people wanted to learn in America, and as such the most taught and common one. He didn’t have Ranma’s stamina, endurance, strength, or speed, things that Ranma had built up over a lifetime of continuous training and sparring. The one advantage Xander had was the fact he was close to his full growth, he could do exercises that Ranma had to wait years to do so that they wouldn’t damage his body.
He trained to increase his chi as well, doing meditative exercises and practicing reinforcing parts of his body, as the training wasn’t entirely dependent on his physical abilities and would open up some of the more powerful moves Ranma had learned such as the chi blast or Heavenly Dragon Strike, or the non-offensive Hidden Weapons style stuff space.
Classes became a time to meditate or catch up on sleep, letting his exhausted body rest. He tried to focus on the classes, but they just didn’t seem to hold his attention, even less than normal. Compared to the magic and the martial arts, algebra just couldn’t compare, and the mundane classes couldn’t help him with the magic. Despite what many fledging magic users thought, and what got many of them into trouble, magic had no relation to science; it couldn’t be described through those terms, which was why it was called magic. It played by its own rules.
Then, a little more than a month after Halloween, at the end of third period, it happened. “Xander, come on, we’re going to be late for lunch,” Willow stated, having stayed behind to talk to the teacher for a moment while her friend continued to sleep. “Wake up already!” She nudged him with her bag, getting no response. “Xander?” This time she shook him, hard, again getting no response. “Xander! Oh my god, he’s not waking up! Call the nurse, call an ambulance, call someone! Xander!” Frantically Willow tried to wake him as the teacher grabbed the wall phone and called for the nurse.
The school nurse had absolutely no idea what was wrong with him, but thankfully the paramedics arrived quickly, Sunnydale was a small town and the hospital wasn’t far. Buffy and Giles showed up just in time to see Xander carted away on a stretcher bed, a frantic Willow being held back by a teacher from following. Seeing Giles and Buffy on the edge of the crowd, she managed to break away in an impressive show of strength for a girl her size, making a bee-line for the pair. “Xander wouldn’t wake, not even when I shook him!” She trailed off into a stream of incomprehensible babble.
Giles looked at the retreating ambulance before grabbing Willow by the shoulders, making her look at him. “Concentrate Willow! Now, think, did Xander’s skin look strange at all? Were his eyes sunken; was he warm to the touch?”
Willow paused, thinking hard, trying to remember the details she might have overlooked in her panic. “I don’t know about his eyes, but he did feel hot. His skin didn’t look normal either, too pale.”
Giles let loose with a string of curses that blistered the air, making several nearby teachers look at him in askance and a couple of students take notes. “The bloody foolish boy! I told him not to keep the Ring on for too long!” Taking a deep breath he forced himself to calm down. “I’m going to go to the hospital and make sure it’s off him, he’ll improve much faster that way. I’ll be back before schools done, hopefully with good news about his condition.” Still grumbling about bloody idiots under his breath, Giles stalked off to his car, glaring at Snyder when he tried to approach, making the little man run off.
“I’ve never seen a case like this,” the doctor admitted, having agreed to discuss Xander with Giles after he explained he was the school’s representative. The doctor thought it was a little funny to send the librarian and not an administrative staff member, but he knew what it was like to have staffing problems. “It’s a severe and prolonged case of dehydration mixed with heat exhaustion. It’s not fatal, but not even close to healthy. If I had to guess, I’d say around 7percent fluid loss, over 15 is fatal. He’s showing several of the major symptoms like the shriveled skin, lack of urination, and delirium when we can rouse him. Thankfully he made it here before the really dangerous symptoms could occur, like spastic muscles and low blood pressure.” The doctor stopped again, making some notes on a clipboard. “Anyway, I’m used to seeing stuff like this in the summer with athletes, but not in winter. Also the elderly or the pilots of those really high flying airplanes, all that dry air isn’t good for them and they usually forget to drink. Do you have any idea what could have caused this?” the doctor asked, generally curious as the case might make an interesting article in the medical journal he followed.
“He has been exercising quite frequently, near fanatically in fact,” admitted Giles, as he couldn’t say a magic ring was to blame.
“Makes sense, even if its winter, enough exercise and too much soda instead of water could cause this” the doctor mumbled as he headed out of the room to visit his next patient.
It wasn’t until the next day that Xander was lucid and recovered enough to receive visitors. The moment they received clearance, Buffy and Willow charged into his room, Giles following at a more leisurely pace. Willow made a beeline for his bed, immediately latching onto and hugging him.
Xander woke from his mediation at the noise they made a second before Willow impacted him. Hugging her for a brief moment he then immediately focused on Giles. “Where’s my ring?” he demanded. “The nurse said I wasn’t wearing one, so you have it, right? I need it back.”
All three looked at him sadly, Willow even weeping slightly. Giles spoke up, “I’m not giving it back.”
Xander sat up, partially dislodging Willow, anger clearly evident in his body language and voice. “What?! Why not? I need it!”
“Because I can’t trust you with it,” stated Giles clearly.
“But I need it! You don’t understand what it’s like!” shouted Xander, all logic lost in his anger.
“How long were you wearing it a day?” Buffy interrupted.
“Twenty hours, now give it back.”
“Twenty? Twenty?! That’s over double the amount I told you,” bellowed Giles.
“So? I needed it,” said Xander. “I know what it sounds like...but I do...I can’t change, I can’t!”
“You bloody foolish boy! Do you realize how close you came to dying? If I wasn’t here to take off the ring, not even water intravenously would have saved you from the other complications. And if you had collapsed anywhere else, you’d be dead.”
“Maybe I want to die? Did you all ever consider that?” shouted Xander. His words echoed in the suddenly silent room, shocking Willow enough to make her stop crying.
“Do…do you really mean that?” Willow asked, speaking for the first time.
Xander glared at them all angrily before sighing, shaking his head. “No, not really. I don’t want to die until I can get this damn curse cured, I’ve felt like something’s been missing, not whole, and I’m scared of what it is. It’s just that you all don’t understand how it is, you can’t. You think it’s just a change in body, but its more than that,” he finished in a frustrated tone.
“Then explain it to us, to me. Please Xander;” begged Willow, “We want to know what’s going on.”
Xander sighed again, running a hand through his hair before hugging Willow. “Alright. You have to understand, it’s not just my body changing. When I’m…that, I still have my own mind, but it’s different. It’s so easy to hate, to be angry, but it’s not just anger. I still know what I’m doing, and I get these visions, I can see the atrocities I want to do, how to do them...and how to get away with them, to shift the blame onto others, to plan things out.” He took a moment to gather his thoughts.
“I know I’m not making much sense,” he continued with a wry grin. “I’m so quick to anger, to hate, but it’s cold...clinical...and seductive. Once, when I changed, I had an entire plan on how to kill Snyder and the other teaches I don’t like and blame it all on the troll, and I’m 90 percent sure it would have worked perfectly...and I couldn’t see why I shouldn’t go through with it. But that's not all...”
Xander hesitated before continuing. “The demon I change into, I think it feeds on souls...I’ve woken up in the middle of the night, after I’ve taken off the ring to sleep, and I could feel my parents in the house, feel their life energy...their souls.
It’s like nothing I’ve ever felt before…The demon, it senses the emotions in people and how they flavor the soul. Fear...it’s the best thing I’ve ever tasted...If I changed in school, gave in, the idea of the feast I could have...” He trailed off, a dreamy look in his eyes, and the others exchanged worried looks. Shaking himself, he came back to the conversation. “When I change, it’s like being a coffee addict in a premium cafe, surrounded by dozens of cups, smelling the coffee, practically tasting it...but knowing to drink a cup would be to kill a person...and I think, if I started, I wouldn’t ever stop.”
A silence fell over the group as Xander stared down at his hands, refusing to look at the others. “And that's why I’ve been avoiding patrolling, I’m afraid that with every vampire we see, every demon we face, I’m seeing what I’ll turn into, a monster preying on humanity. I started out using the ring less than eight hours. It was just school at first, and karate class afterword. About seven hours. Then it was the time between school and karate, it let me hit the gym without worries, and I was still only wearing it for eight hours, maybe fifteen minutes more, but close enough. I never wore it to sleep, until the roof began leaking. I would wake up hours, or even minutes after I went to bed, in a cold sweat, dreams of horrific massacres and cunning plans filling my head, the hunger deep inside me, waiting. I stopped getting full nights of rest, without fail I’d wake up at some point as a demon. Even sleeping in class wasn’t hasn’t been enough to make up for it either, so I started wearing the ring to get a decent amount of sleep. First it was one night a week, then two, then three, then every other day, until finally I was wearing it all the time. I only took it off after karate and before I went to bed, four or five hours,” he stopped talking, taking a deep breath and a drink of water from the glass by his bed. “Don’t you see? With the ring on, I might have been risking dying, but without it I was risking all of you, my sanity, and my soul...if I have one left.”
Willow gripped him tighter, mumbling about how she had no idea what he had been going through. Even Giles looked a little ashamed at how quickly he presumed to know about the curse. Finally it was Buffy who spoke. “I have an idea what that’s like, even if it can’t quite compare. Ever since I became the Slayer, I keep having urges to kill demons and vampires, which is normal. But occasionally, on a really bad day, I see myself doing the same to classmates, maybe not killing them, but at least beating them up, knowing that I could. I don’t carry stakes in school for that reason, cause when I reach for one and don’t have it, it’s usually enough to jolt me out of the funk.”
Giles adjusted his glasses, entering scholar mode. “It is well recorded in the Watcher journals that Slayers suffer the urge to hunt, and that it can be transferred to…other targets, which, unfortunately, has happened if the Watchers don’t find the Slayer in time or there is a more negative influence on the Slayer. There are certain mediation methods that have been discovered which may aid you, both of you, in keeping your inner peace.”
“Thank you for that, but I still need the ring,” stated Xander.
“I understand now that you really do need it, but we still can’t trust you with it…you almost killed yourself.”
“We have to work something out; you heard what he was going through.” Willow was siding with Xander.
“I know. How about if Willow keeps it for you? She lives near you so she can give it to you before bed and collect it in the mornings. The same can be done before school and afterward,” proposed Giles while looking at the teens. “Is that acceptable to the both of you?”
The teens both nodded in acceptance of the deal.
Xander was released the next day after a minor incident with cold water caused him to change in front of the doctor’s eyes. He immediately found some hot water to change back and the doctor repressed the incident, but still rushed Xander out of the hospital, gladly helped along by Xander. Being in the hospital as a demon was unbearable, the brief time it took to change back was all he needed to know that. He knew that a man two floors up was dying, that the little girl below him was weeping for a lost mother, the doctor on the third floor was afraid he had messed up the last procedure. It wasn’t telepathy, just the flavor of their souls at the moment, and reasonable guesses. He needed to get out of there before he changed again.
The others, they were there for him when he got out, even if he didn’t patrol with Buffy anymore. The group helped to center him, keep him rounded and balanced, and everything was going fine for the first time since he was cursed.
But then the day that Xander had hoped would never happen finally came. He thought after the talk in the hospital they finally understood, but what worried him was they did, and the threat was large enough they were still asking.
“Xander, we need your help,” stated Giles solemnly as Buffy nodded behind him, Willow following them up.
Xander carefully set the weights he had been lifting down before looking at the group. “With what?” he asked cautiously
“The Judge,” replied Giles.
“I was with Angel, we saw it in action. It burned the humanity from a vampire, turning it into some kind uber-vampire, mindless but really, really strong. Angel barely managed to kill it while I attacked the Judge… Just touching it…it burned, like freezing cold, but hot at the same time, you know?” Buffy trailed off, lost in the memory of the pain.
“The Judge can’t be harmed by any weapon forged, you read the book with us, you know that. But apparently the protection goes deeper than that, physical attacks from humans can’t harm him either. With enough power, he’ll be able to turn people to charcoal with only a look, and his power will keep growing. But you, you can fight him. With the training you’ve been doing, and the demon’s strength, you can win.”
“No, absolutely not. No, no way, no how. Find another way, you have all those books. Surely something in one of them has another solution.”
“Xander, we’ve been looking. That’s why I wasn’t with you today; I was in the library looking for answers, looking at more of the records of the time. The army that defeated him before, it was made from neutral demons, demon mercenaries, and humans who volunteered to distract the Judge, even knowing they couldn’t harm him,” Willow explained. “And with Angel gone-”
Xander interrupted again. “Angel, what happened to Angel? What did I miss?”
Buffy didn’t answer, just started to mumble under her breath about dishonest bitches.
Giles cleared his throat uncomfortably before answering, “He lost his soul. He’s Angelus again.”
“He attacked me in the hallway,” added Willow, shuddering at the memory.
“What?” Xander shouted, knocking the weights to the side in his rage as he stood up. “Right outside?”
“That bitch, Calendar, Kaladardash, whatever, she knew and didn’t tell us about the loophole!” Buffy shouted.
“That’s not the point. We need your help, we can’t find another solution,” interrupted Giles, stopping the fight.
Xander sighed, running his hand through his sweaty hair, trying to get his calm back. “This is what I’ve been afraid of. I really, really don’t want to do this. The longest I’ve been a demon has been when I’m asleep, and I’ve never killed anything in that form, I’m afraid of what might happen. You’re not just asking me to risk my life, which I would do in an instant, but my humanity and my soul...but I’ll do it, I mean, it’s this or the world right? Bout time I was the big damn hero.” He gave a weak grin. “Just promise me you’ll let me use the ring more afterward, I think I’m going to need a decent night’s sleep after this, you can still have Willow check up on me to if you want, in fact, it’s best if you do.”
“I think we can all agree to that Xander, and even if you didn’t help, all you needed to do was ask, it’s easy enough to rearrange the schedule to let you get a night with it,” said Giles.
“Enough talking, we need to hurry!” Buffy practically began dragging them all out of the room, not even giving Xander time to restack the weights.
As they were walking out of the school Ms. Calendar approached them. “Do you…uh…is there something I can do?”
“Get out of our way,” was Buffy’s blunt and angry answer.
“I just want to help,” Jenny tried again, looking at Giles.
He turned, refusing to meet her eyes. “She said go.” Willow didn’t say anything at all.
The group continued to walk, but Xander stopped, staring at Jenny. “I want to talk to you afterword, they mentioned you knowing something about curses.” Jogging slightly he quickly caught up with others, leaving Jenny staring at their retreating backs.
“I knew it,” shouted Buffy angrily, slamming her fist into one of the random pipes decorating the factory, the empty factory.
“We haven’t a bead on where they would go?” Giles asked as he examined the abandoned table and chairs.
“I don’t know. Uh…” This time Buffy slammed a chair to the ground. “Somewhere crowded I guess. The Judge needs bodies, right?”
“The Bronze?” suggested Willow.
“It’s closed tonight. There’s not a lot of choices in Sunnydale. It’s not like people line up to get massacred.”
Xander remained silent, clawed hands tightening and releasing as he tried to control the frustration that the Judge wasn’t in the factory. There was something in the air of the factory, a mystical stench that was driving him crazy. He felt the need to find whatever was making it, his gut told him it was the Judge, and utterly destroy it. It was similar to what he felt around Buffy, but without the attraction that he associated with souls.
“Uh, guys?” interrupted Oz, the only one with a vehicle large enough to carry Xander in. Despite his van Giles still had to drive as well to make room for the entire group. “If I were gonna line up, I know where I’d go.”
People were fleeing and screaming from both ends of the mall. At one end stood the Judge in all his blue horned glory, while at the other stood Xander, scarier simply for being the archetype of what most people considered demonic, despite the fact the Judge had burned a man alive. Xander loved it; the fear was so thick on the air that even without consuming anyone’s soul he could still taste it.
Xander’s claws left gashes in the tile floor as he stalked forward, wings folded back behind him. The Judge slowly approached him, trench coat flapping as he walked, before stopping a fair distance in front of Xander. They faced each other in the empty mall, each having their own group behind them. For the Judge it was Angel, Drusilla, and several nameless minion vampires, while Xander had the Scoobies. “Pathetic demon! You dare face me, The Judge, destroyer of armies and the burner of humanity? You turn traitor to the darkness to aid these pathetic humans like the ones that failed to kill me before? I assumed that by now the true breeds would have destroyed all you traitorous swine.”
“Maybe, but what are you going to do about it? I have no humanity to burn out,” Xander bluffed.
“If you side with these humans you obviously do.” The kaleidoscopic lightning hit him and he could feel something snap inside him, then everything went red.
With a groan Xander sat up, rubbing his head, feeling even emptier than normal. “What hit me?” He looked around, the mall was utterly trashed and he was absolutely covered in dark blue liquid, puddles of it decorating the area around him. Bones were littered around, large and small, some still covered in scraps of flesh or chainmail.
“The Judge did.”
Turning, Xander saw Buffy sitting just a few feet away on a mostly intact bench, crossbow in hand. “I…I remember getting hit by the lightning, then I felt strange…” He trailed off, trying to focus on the fuzzy memories lurking right outside of recollection.
“When it hit you, you went crazy, absolutely berserk. You let out a scream…roar…screech, I’m not sure what to call it, but it froze my blood just hearing it, it even made the Judge take a step back.” Buffy shivered at remembering that sound, it had actually scared her, despite being a Slayer and knowing that her friend was the one who made it. “Then the fire came, it was all the colors of the rainbow, it covered you completely. You literally tore the Judge to pieces with your claws, and your wings, you were using them like a pair of spiked arms. Even your tail, it was like the spade on the end was razor sharp. When you finally stopped, there was nothing but the head...and it was still alive. He screamed as you...as you ate him. Then you turned toward us. Giles was prepared for that, he had some hot water he grabbed from a tea stand when you went berserk. You collapsed and I put the ring back on you, then the others left. I was nominated to stay here and guard you until you got up, or carry you out if it looked like the police were gonna show. Come on, Giles is waiting in the car.”
Slowly Xander picked himself up, the memories filtering in. Something felt off though, he couldn’t figure out what, not when he was still kind of out of it. Then another memory popped up, the taste of the Judge, its energy as he consumed it, and he shivered in remembered ecstasy, the feeling driven from his mind. When he got to the parking lot where the others were waiting, he approached Oz’s van. However, seeing Willow sitting there and talking to the guitar player, and the slight fear that appeared in her eyes as he approached, made him veer and head for Giles’ car instead.
It was the next day when Xander finally shifted forms again, making use of one of the abandoned warehouses dotting the industrial district. Precautions were taken in case the madness was still lurking in his demon form, large chains placed on his feet and wrists while Giles carried a tranquilizer gun he had gotten from somewhere. Several kettles and thermoses of hot water also decorated the area, just in case. He also made sure Willow wouldn’t show up, he couldn’t stand to see the fear in her eyes again. “Alright, before we start, go over one more time what happened when the lightning struck, for the official record.”
“When it struck, I felt something snap in me, I don’t know what. Then everything went red, I only remember bits and pieces of what I did to the Judge. After I came to, it felt like something was missing from me. Before, it was like a piece was gone, like I was half full, now, whatever it was, it’s gone completely.” Xander shuddered while saying that, for empty couldn’t describe the piercing ache he still felt, had felt ever since the high the night before had left him. Something important had been taken from him, he was sure of it.
“Well, are you guys ready yet?” Buffy asked impatiently, holding a bucket of cold water several feet away from Xander.
“As ready as I’ll ever be. Hit me.”
Buffy swung the bucket forward, the water striking Xander and changing him.
He could feel the difference immediately. The hunger was there, it was always there, but there was something else as well. He had felt some kind of energy which from his reading he had to assume was magic in his demon form before when he changed. However, he had never before been able to fully tap into it, there was always some kind of block preventing it; it was like there was a dam separating it from his conscious control. It would leak out, making the shadows move around him, the flames appear in his mouth, allowing him to fly, something that should have been impossible considering his wingspan and body weight, and other miscellaneous little things. Now, the magic was everywhere, the block was gone and the energy was all he could feel, overwhelming and all encompassing, pure power at his finger tips, and he couldn’t contain it.
Xander’s body burst into flame, black and red fire racing along his arms, blanketing his wings. Shadows swirled around him, mixing with the flames, cloaking him in darkness, indecipherable from each other. “Xander?” asked Buffy cautiously, hot kettle in hand.
“I can feel the power, the magic. The books talked about it, but there’s so much of it...” He lifted a clawed hand, fire coalescing into a swirling vortex. Pointing his palm forward, he let it go, flame spiraling out to engulf a pile of crates, consuming them, leaving only a small pile of ash. The flames began to gather again, seeming to begin to take shape and grow solid.
Before the flames, and Xander, could complete whatever they were doing, Buffy threw the kettle on him, changing him back to human. “Xander, what were you doing?” demanded Giles.
Xander slowly shook his head, trying to gather his thoughts. “The magic, there was too much of it, I couldn’t properly control it. I just had to use it, to let it out. Now that I know what it’s like, I should be able to handle it.”
“Did you think of what it might have done to us?” Giles shouted, gesturing at the still smoldering piles of ash.
“Of course, that’s why I aimed at the crates, give me some credit,” Xander answered angrily.
“You shouldn’t have aimed at all because you shouldn’t have used the magic! Especially if you have no control over it!”
“It surprised me; I had to let it out! I asked for help, not accusations and judgment!” yelled Xander back in reply. “And I do know how to use the magic, I’ve read enough of your books looking for a cure, I just haven’t had practical experience because I’ve never had the power in human form. Besides, it’s enough like chi that I know the basics. It’s the amount that caused a problem, and suddenly being able to access it. It was like a tidal wave, you should be happy the whole block isn’t ash. Thanks for the help with this, but I’m out of here.” With that Xander stormed out of the building, leaving the others staring at his retreating back. What he didn’t tell them, and what scared him, was the fact he was starting feel the demon’s magic as a human.
“So, what do you know about curses?” asked Xander, standing in the computer lab.
“Not all that much I’m afraid. I only know of Angelus’s curse, and not much about that either,” answered Jenny.
“I was led to believe that was a big gypsy thing, along with fortune telling.”
Jenny laughed a little at that, the stereotypes surrounding her people had always amused her, even if some of them were true. However, she became somber before answering. “That was once true, but it wasn’t just the Jews sent to concentration camps. Much knowledge was lost back then, including the information on Angelus’s curse. Any specifics about other curses as well. I’m sorry I can’t be of more help,” she offered.
Xander nodded, “It was a small hope anyway. Thank you.” With that he left the lab.
After that, Xander increased the amount of time he spent training, adding in small amounts of practice in his demon form, no matter how much he still hated it. He knew he needed control of his magic; otherwise a random change could spark disaster. Where before he had no conscience control of it, merely instinctively using it to be able to fly and draw shadows to himself, now he had no control of it and it was a raging river.
Unlike his chi, which he had a solid grasp on, the power came freely and trying to control it was like trying to tame a raging river. Slowly, ever so slowly, Xander was getting the hang of it, able to stem the tide and push it back under his control. In fact, he had managed to twist his magic enough that he could duplicate his chi stuff space, a theoretically limitless area reachable through use of life energy. Imagine his surprise when he was able to reach the items he had stored in there while human, mainly small items like pencils for test purposes and to expand his chi capabilities.
Then came the night he was looking forward to, that he had been practicing to reach. He had been watching the paper for several days, waiting for a particular kind of obituary, the kind that signaled a fledgling vampire would rise. He arrived at the cemetery just before nightfall, and sat down on a nearby tombstone, waiting for the vampire to rise. An hour after the sun set he could hear the scratching of dirt that meant it would reach the surface soon, and he began to prepare. He summoned all the chi he could, and began to infuse it not with one emotion, as Ranma and Ryoga had done, but with some of the power of the demon that he could feel.
An utterly smooth and perfect ball, red and black, the colors that seemed to appear everywhere in his life now, formed in his hand just as the vampire’s head broke surface. Xander released his attack with a simple whisper, “Burn.”
The ball struck dead on, but there was no glorious explosion. Instead the ball splattered into a liquid, and whatever it touched caught fire. The vampire, the tombstone, and the ground around it all burned with eerie flames, which spread higher and higher before cutting out abruptly. Xander stared at the damage his attack had done, better than he had expected. Letting a satisfied smirk cross his face, despite the fact he felt like he had run a marathon, he turned to head home. The attack might have been exhausting, but it was useful, though he would have to be careful when using it.
Xander stared at the computer screen, debating with himself. He hadn’t really hung around with Buffy and Giles lately, still mad from the fight in the warehouse. He still came to the library to browse through the occult books, looking for information on a cure, but it was usually when only Willow was there. Despite what Giles had said about needing a world class mage to attempt a decursing, he couldn’t stop hoping or searching. It was when he was going through the books they had scanned onto the computer last year that he found a possible lead, an older book, translated from Latin to Spanish, and then finally to English, that mentioned an ‘ideal form.’ The intention behind the spell was to grant a person their so called ‘ideal form,’ which in theory would allow him to change what he shifted into. He stared at the screen for less than a second before hitting the print button, hate for his curse easily outweighing Giles’s warning.
It took him three days to finally get the ingredients; the magic store had to custom order some for him, which took a large chunk of his parents’ drinking money. His dad tried to yell at him about it, while drunk, but all it took was a simple demonstration of lifting the couch, a massive thing they had gotten from the thrift store for absurdly cheap because no one else wanted it, one handed for him to shut up and walk away.
He kneeled in his basement as a demon, a ritual circle surrounding him, incense burning. Thankfully, he had remembered to remove the smoke detector. Slowly he began to chant in Latin, something he was able to do due to pronunciation guides, while he sprinkled several ingredients around him on the inside of the circle. Finally, twenty seven Latin phrases later, he was done, just as the incense ran out.
In another dimension, the god of Jusenkyo frowned as the magic was cast, cursing its lost power. Before it could have erased the thought from the boys mind, but now even its efforts to simply influence the boy to feed were failing. It could only hope that the beings of power in that dimension didn’t interfere with its plan.
Feeling no different he looked down at his body, which looked exactly the same. Pushing down the bitter taste of defeat he changed and forced himself to slowly clean up from the spell, making sure everything landed in the trashcan without touching, as mixing ingredients after a spell could have bad side effects.
More calm after the simple task, he thought about what to do, finally deciding to go back to the school and check the book again, see if here was any mention of a delayed effect. It happened when he started walking there, a set of sprinklers activated, dousing him with water right when he was next to a group of girls he recognized from school. He wasn’t wearing the ring either, having planned on saving it to be able to sleep through the night, so he transformed in plain view.
To his surprise they didn’t immediately freak out and start screaming about demons, aliens, or out of control movie props. Instead they stared at him with the same look they usually reserved for the school jocks or movie stars.
With a leap he sprang into air, not staying around to let them change their mind and suddenly start screaming. It was only a quick flight to the school roof where he landed; grabbing the hot water thermos he kept in stuff space, splashing himself to turn back. Quickly he descended through the roof access and made his way to the library. The computer had just begun to boot up when Giles walked in.
“What are you doing here, it’s after hours?” He demanded in a rather hostile tone, the type he would use when speaking to one of the school delinquents that frequently tried to skip class in the library.
“Huh?” was all Xander could say. While he hadn’t been on the best of terms with Giles since the warehouse, as he viewed his experiments and practice as dangerous, they had at least been friendly to each other.
“I said what are you doing here, Mr. Harris?” Giles repeated.
Xander paused, trying to decide how best to answer. “I’m researching a spell.”
“Well, do it during school hours, if I’m being forced to put up with you, at least I’ll be getting paid for it.”
Xander blinked, trying to comprehend that Giles, ever polite British Giles, actually said that. “Alright, I’m leaving, no need to get hostile.” Slowly he made his way to the side exit, all the while wondering what could have made Giles so angry.
The next day when he arrived at school he was greeted by dark looks as angry mutters followed him down the hallway. People he didn’t even know glared at him. It was like that the entire day, though the looks got darker and the whispers nastier.
Finally the last bell rang and Xander dashed for the exit, leaving a classroom full of angry teens behind him. Hurriedly he made his way to the library, absently noting that his locker had gotten demolished, not that he actually used it. He had his hand on the door when a voice ran out. “Stop!” Turning, Xander saw Giles standing there. “The library is closed.”
“You said come back during school hours,” protested Xander.
“That was for anyone but you, you’re not welcome here no matter the hour.”
Xander stared at Giles in disbelief; then the anger came. He had been suppressing it all day, staying in a minor version of the Soul of Ice, a chi technique that generated cold and was maintained by an emotionless state. Now, he snapped. With a strong shove Giles was sent stumbling out of his way and Xander strove through the doors.
A fist met his face, sending him crashing back out. Slowly he climbed back to his feet, wiping the blood off his lips as the other students laughed and jeered at him, cheering the fight on. Buffy was standing right in front of him, fist still outstretched, a smirk on her face. “Going somewhere?”
“Move,” Xander gritted out through clenched teeth, putting all his rage and frustration in that single word, as he glared at her.
“Hmmmm,” Buffy lifted a single finger, putting it on her lips and tilting her head to the side, miming heavy thought. “How about no? What will you do then?”
“I’ll make you,” replied Xander, confident in his abilities.
Buffy actually laughed when he said that, loud and mocking. “You’ll make me?”
Xander walked forward, inviting her to make the first attack, and she obliged him.
Normally a Slayer is much stronger and faster than a human, after all, they were designed to be better then vampires which in general were much stronger than humans, they were predators after all. Xander might have been in only average shape before Halloween, but he had been exercising obsessively in the four months since then. While he wasn’t at an Olympic level, he was above the average, which when combined with his chi manipulation, the very thing that allowed Ranma and his peers to perform super human stunts like roof hopping and shattering concrete, gave him physical abilities just below a Slayer.
He caught her fist, using her own momentum against her to send Buffy flying backwards. His four months of training, chi, and memories wouldn’t normally be enough to overcome the abilities of the Slayer, but Buffy made a critical mistake, she underestimated him. Taking advantage of his successful attack he quickly dashed through the doors, slamming them behind him.
His ring, the only protection he had against the water magnet park of the curse, was broken, so of course a pipe in the ceiling had burst. Looking down he saw the gem on the ring had been smashed from his collision with the floor.
Buffy burst through the library’s doors, Giles hot on her heels. “Xander, good to see you, can I help you with something?”
“Yeah Xander, anything I can do?” chimed in Buffy. Suddenly her voice got throatier, huskier, “Anything at all?”
Xander, standing there in demon form with his claws raised to defend himself, was utterly confused. “Ah…no thanks, I just wanted to research a spell…”
“Ah well, in that case how may I be of assistance? Do you know the name of the spell, what volume it was from?” pressed Giles.
“It was one of the volumes stored on the computer…Magics de Amor, I think. Third section?”
“I’ll begin searching immediately. Do you want me to summarize what I find as well?”
“Sure,” replied Xander hesitantly, really freaked out and wondering if it was some kind of prank.
“And while he’s searching, maybe we can find some way to…entertain ourselves?” Buffy draped herself around Xander, fitting neatly under his arm, not even coming up to his shoulder, forcing him to sit on the nearby table. He sat their uncomfortably as Buffy practically began to molest him, feeling all over his arms and chest.
Finally Giles spoke up. “The Magic of Love, section three, all about appearance spells, like how to make yourself more attractive.”
Xander sat up, dislodging Buffy from his lap and causing her to pout and reattach herself to his arm. “What? That’s what that book’s about?”
Giles adjusted his glasses while peering at the screen. “Yes, it got a tad messed up in translation, but that’s the general idea.”
“Well how do you break those spells?” demanded Xander.
“Get away from Xander you slut!” Willow came barging into the library and barreled into Buffy, dislodging her with a squawk. “He’s mine!”
Thousands of years of Slayer instinct disappeared in a second as Buffy got into a catfight with Willow, hair pulling and clothes tearing included.
More students came pouring in, each clamoring for Xander’s attention. The males merely wanted his presence, to be near him, to help him, but for females it was a more…personal kind of interest.
“Giles, how do you break the spell?!” Xander yelled over crowd of screaming students and staff.
“Do you want me to print out the answer or summarize it or…” Giles voice was swamped by the roar of the crowd. With a roar Xander sent his shadow out, reinforcing it with magic to push the students back. Snapping his wings he jumped up, more magic giving him a perfect vertical flight out the skylight, sending shards of glass tumbling onto the people below. The screams of adoration followed him as he fled.
Eventually Xander went to settle on the roof of a gothic styled building, chosen specifically so that he would blend in with the gargoyles, only to hiss in pain as his feet met the roof. “Figures, I choose what has to be the only consecrated church in Sunnydale.” Lifting off again he instead settled for the center of a warehouse roof, being far enough away from the edges that no one could see him. “The spell…made me more attractive?” he pondered aloud, trying to order his thoughts. “But it must have gone wrong, mutated with my curse. Now everyone loves my demon form and hates my human one…Thank god the males only want my attention…” He shuddered in revulsion at the alternative to that effect. “Giles has the cure but I have no way to get to it with all those other people around. I’ll wait a bit then go to check it out, if they’re still there I’ll go as a human, it’ll be easier to deal with them hating me at a distance then loving me up close.”
Xander settled down to wait, pushing down his distaste at having to remain in his cursed form. He finally stirred at nightfall, having spent the last several hours meditating and working with his magic, trying to gain more control over it. Stretching his wings after the several hours of staying still, he launched himself off the roof and into the air, magic carrying him more than the air under his wings.
The school was empty and deserted when he landed on the roof, and a sense of déjà vu hit him. Shrugging off the feeling he dropped down into the library. The inside was a wreck from the mob earlier and his hasty exit, broken glass, fallen bookcases, and scattered books were everywhere. Luckily the computer was intact and he reached forward, using two of his claws to twitch the mouse. Instead of the familiar background of the school’s mascot, the screen stayed black. Peering closer at computer revealed the problem, brown stains covered the entire tower; someone had spilled coffee on it.
“Figures,” he groaned, gravelly voice echoing in the library. “Now I’ll have to find the hardcopy.” Xander looked around, trying to remember what they did with the books once they had scanned them. “I think we stored them at Giles house, he didn’t want them open to the student body after Moloch…I still don’t understand why he didn’t add a password to the database as it is.” Shaking his head and muttering about half hearted measures and technical novices he jumped back out the window, unaware of the eyes watching him.
An unnamed student who had stayed behind in the library, hoping against hope that the light of his life, the most important person in town, Xander Harris, would show back up quickly pulled out his cell phone, intent on bragging to his friends that he saw Xander again and that he knew where Xander was going.
One of the laws of the universe is that gossip moves faster than light…
It was a mob, complete with torches, but of the electric variety, and it was completely surrounding the set of townhouses that Giles lived in. His form, all dark colors, blended easily into the darkness as he flew overhead, but all it took was once person to spot him and then the call went out. “XANDER!”
People were trying to reach and touch him, jumping off of cars, trees, and even the townhouse complex. Yells of “I love you!”, “I want your baby!”, and “You left me alone!” As Xander flew over the edges of the mob, more and more hostile cries began to ring out. He landed on the back on a parked SUV, one that no one was standing on. Quickly he reached into stuff space and pulled out a thermos of hot water, intending to switch back. Minor anger would be better and easier to deal with then the mix of passions from both ends of the spectrum that he was currently facing.
The change in the mob’s mood was as instantaneous as Xander’s change in form. The crowd swelled, make shift weapons appearing as they advanced on Xander’s position. “Great, seems like they hate me either way. Time to pull a page out of Ranma’s book, I just hope I’m skilled enough.” Taking a breath Xander jumped into the crowd.
There was a trick that Ranma was quite fond of, as it was useful for both transportation and for annoying people. Quite simply, it was jumping on people though Ranma had it down to an art form. Whether it was on an item they were holding, like a weapon, or on their face or head, he would land and crouch there. In fact, Ranma was so good at it his victim often didn’t know he was there until they saw him.
Xander, using all his skills, was attempting to emulate Ranma and travel over the crowd that way. Cries of “Owe, my face!” followed him as he bounced from head to head dodging tire irons and pocket knives, even ripped up fence posts and mailboxes. Leaving several footprint covered faces behind him, Xander reached Giles townhouse and dove through the second story window, sending glass flying. Climbing to his feet he stared at his cut covered hands. “I seem to be doing that a lot lately; maybe I should invest in a pair of gloves.” Thankfully the room was empty, besides several hundred books stacked everywhere in no particular order. “This could take some time,” he groaned. Loud banging noises began to sound from the floor below as the crowds tried to batter their way in. “And it looks like I don’t have that.” Quickly he began to look through the books, hoping it would be there. Typically, his luck held and it wasn’t anywhere in the first stack, or the second, or the third…
“Xander!” Giles had arrived as Xander was searching his sixth stack. Quickly he pulled out some cold water and splashed himself, seeing the hate disappear from his eyes. “You left me while I was trying to help you! What did I do wrong? Didn’t I find the answers quick enough? Wasn’t I good enough for your attention?” Xander shivered, that last comment could be taken so many ways that he didn’t even want to contemplate. Still, he could use that…
“I’m sorry, but all those other people kept interrupting us.” Xander repressed a shudder as he said that, but bravely pushed on. “I’d love to have your help now; I still need to find how to break those spells.”
Giles face lit up at those words. “Of course, I have the original book here. Let me get it for you.” He bustled off, and Xander followed, heading into a spare bedroom that had been converted into a library. Quickly and efficiently Giles went to one of the book cases and pulled down a book, the book, Magics de Amor. “Here it is. To break the spell you must perform a specific ritual, calling upon the goddess Aphrodite saying that you are sick of love under false pretenses.”
“Do you have the ingredients here?” demanded Xander, worried now that the pounding from below was getting louder.
“Yes, breaking a spell is much easier to deal with in this case then making it as attraction spells are fickle things. All it requires is some fire and blood from the caster.”
“What do you have to say?”
Giles rattled off several Latin phrases in reply. “Alright, can you say those slowly for me as I do the ritual?” asked Xander.
“Of course,” replied Giles, “I’m glad I can help.”
Xander grabbed a nearby bookcase and dragged it in front of the door, preventing it from opening, just as a resounding crash was heard from downstairs. Summoning a flame in one hand he dug his talons into the other, making sure a steady stream of blood dripped down and into the flame. “Alright, hit me.”
Giles abruptly punched him in the arm, something that Xander barely felt thanks to his demonic form. “Not that way, I mean slowly tell me the ritual phrases.”
“Sorry Xander.” Giles slowly started to say the Latin phrases, clear enough that Xander could follow along and repeat them, even as the door and bookcase began to shudder violently. The only reason the shelf didn’t fall on the first shove was that the group outside the door wasn’t unified, those that wanted to kill Xander for ignoring them and those that still just wanted to help him or just fuck him senseless were fighting each other over who would get to enter the room first.
The flame in Xander’s hand changed to a bright pink, clashing with the rest of the flames dotting is body, and a light giggling heard before the flame snuffed out. While a non-magical fire would have just gained Aphrodite’s attention, a magical one was like sending up fireworks and flares, making her pay personal attention to the spell and as such, Xander now had two spiritual entities following his actions, even if he didn’t know it.
In the other dimension the god cursed, but allowed the other being of power to monitor his key to freedom. Upsetting all the beings of power native to the universe would prove detrimental to its plans, so it was better to give into this small request.
The pounding on the door stopped and the roar of the mob faded away to a dull murmur as mutterings of “What am I doing here?” and “Why am I dressed like this?” filled the air. The mob dispersed, leaving a wrecked neighborhood in their wake as Sunnydale Syndrome, a result of magic tied to the Hellmouth, took over.
“What happened?” demanded Giles, staring at demon Xander and the barricaded door.
“A spell, which I did perform correctly, went awry due to my curse.”
“And what spell was that?” Giles asked, arching an eyebrow.
“Turns out it was a mistranslated attraction spell, I thought it was a cure as it talked about ‘ideal form,” offered Xander, hoping he wouldn’t get in trouble, not that he cared all that much as long as Giles didn’t stop looking for Fate.
The book Giles was holding dropped to the floor with a thud. “Do you know how lucky you are?” he inquired. Giles cut Xander off as he opened his mouth to answer. “Never mind, just be assured that you are very, very lucky. Attraction spells were meant to be bound to a single target, and the effects were exponential so that the caster would get the victim to like him or her, married, and then pregnant, all very quickly. I can’t imagine what casting that without a binding, and with a cursed caster, would do to the spell.”
“I’ll write a report on it if you get me another ring,” Xander bargained.
“What happened to the last one?” Giles asked with curiosity in his voice.
“I had a run in with Buffy while she was under the spell.”
“Ah, yes…that would do it.”
As Xander was wandering around in the early morning, having gotten up before the crack of dawn to search for vampires or other demons roaming around, he saw the blaze, still easily visible in the dim morning g sunlight. Roof hopping closer he spotted Giles standing on a nearby roof watching the flames consume the old factory. He landed next to the man and waited.
After ten minutes of silence, Giles finally spoke. It wasn’t his normal tone, the one filled with knowledge and caring, but a darker one of hate, anger, and deep remorse. “He killed her you know?” Giles fell silent again and Xander waited patiently. “I guess you wouldn’t know, would you? You have exactly been keeping in the loop.” The roof was silent once again besides the crackling of the flames. “Angelus killed Jenny last night, right after we had finally made up and gotten back to where we were. He left her in my bed, mocking me. So I killed that son of a bitch.” Giles stopped, and a crash filled the air as a section of the roof finally gave into the devouring flame. “Crosses at all the door and windows, and Molotov cocktails, lots of them. Spike and Drusilla weren’t there…but he was. And he never made it out, I made sure of that.”
The pair watched the burning building again in silence, until Xander was the one to break it. “Did it make you feel better, the vengeance I mean?”
“Some, but not as much as I hoped.” Giles looked at him, his natural curiosity pushing aside the sorrow for a moment. “Why?”
“Because when I see Ethan Rayne again, I’m going to gut him like a fish and roast what’s left. I may have missed him last time he was in town, but next time…next time I won’t.”
Giles didn’t say anything in reply, merely turned back to the roaring fire.
The fact the god had cursed Xander was already making changes to the universe, something it had counted on. As Xander continued on in his life he affected the carefully made plans of a group of beings of power, and as those ordered plans went awry, the god gained power. Angelus was dead by the hand of Giles, never to come back, and Spike and Drusilla had fled down after the brutal burning of their base. The ghosts from the Sadie Hawkins dance never found a pair of lovers that mimicked their situation as closely as Buffy and Angel would have, and as such never had the strength to materialize on the night of the dance; allowing it to go uninterrupted and letting Oz and Willow get closer. As each plan was side tracked, the god began to gain power back. Even if it’s original plan of having Xander turn and consume the souls of the town hadn’t worked, other plans could be made, and perhaps this was for the best. A steady stream of power gave it the chance to prepare for its freedom and to defend against those that might want to stop it.
Xander continued to get closer and closer to Ranma’s level, mainly due to chi manipulation. While he didn’t have the physical abilities of Ranma, Ryoga, or their ilk, he made up for it by reinforcing his body with the chi and a plethora of special attacks copied from the various foes Ranma had faced. Then came the day that changed the world.
It was shown on every single channel worldwide when the Thanagarians appeared at the world peace summit to offer help against the Gordanian threat, stating they wished to make a shield generator. To the world it was an easy decision on who to side with, the stereotypical story of good versus evil, of angels versus demons. Shayera, Hawkgirl, had been a member of the Justice League since it had been founded, an early Thanagarian scout, but the first official interaction the world had with the angelic looking aliens was when they blew up a Gordanian vessel that attacked Washington, DC. The fact the Gordanians were a race of green, ugly lizard people, stereotypically evil looking to the average person, just made the choice easier for the world, even if the influence was subconscious.
“I don’t believe them.” Xander’s statement prompted several exclamations of disbelief, ironic considering what he said.
“Why not?” asked Buffy. “I think it’s great, maybe their appearance will even help keep demon activity down.”
“They are risking their lives to help us against the Gordanians,” Willow added.
Xander sighed, running a hand through his hair. “Maybe I’m paranoid, or I’ve just watched too many episodes of the Twilight zone, but I keep thinking of that episode where the aliens appear with the guide ‘How to Serve Men.’”
“That doesn’t sound that bad,” Buffy interposed.
“It was a cook book,” explained Giles. “Rather good episode that one.”
“O, that does change things, doesn’t it?” Willow asked.
“Look I might be wrong, but I still don’t trust them. Besides, someone has to play devil’s advocate. Just do me one favor…don’t mention demons or anything supernatural to them, especially not the fact you’re the Slayer.”
“I agree with him there,” Giles stated. “It is best to be cautious.”
“This is Commander Hro Talak. In the name of the Thanagarian authority, we claim your planet as a garrison and have instituted martial law. Your world faces a crisis from which only we can protect it. But to be effective, we must be free to act and move without interference. Cooperate and our stay will be brief and without incidence. Stand against us and our wrath will be unforgiving.” Swarms of fighters and Thanagarian troops flew through the sky, illustrating the strength of his threat.
Xander looked away from the TV and turned to the others in the library. “I told you so.”
“So what do we do about it? Do I slay them?” questioned Buffy, looking at Giles for orders.
Giles took off his glasses, rubbing cleaning them as he thought. “No, it’s too risky. For now we just stay low. The rest of the supernatural community will be doing the same, and the stupid ones will be kept in check by the smarter ones. They’ll consider it too dangerous to show themselves and risk exposure or annihilation.”
“Well, you might not do anything, but I will,” stated Xander. “We have to do something before they finish whatever they are building in the desert.”
“Why? They did say they would leave without incident,” offered Willow weakly.
“Think about it people! Why go through all this trouble to help us? If the Gordanians were wipe us out, it would take time and burn resources, stalling them and helping the Thanagarian war effort. Now they build a shield, attacking us and imprisoning the Justice League in the process, but for what purpose? How does it help them?” Xander turned to stare at Willow. “Don’t answer that, it was rhetorical. It’s obvious that whatever they’re building it won’t help us.”
“So what do we do?” repeated Buffy.
“You don’t, I do. I’m going to start a guerilla war tonight. There’s only the five hawks and the tank here, and only because the army base. If I take them out, hopefully they’ll send more.”
“And what will that accomplish?” demanded Giles. “Besides getting you killed, of course.”
“Simple, I’ll be the distraction for whatever the Justice League is planning.”
“They’re not planning anything!” shouted Willow. “They were captured.”
Xander stared flatly back at her. “They’re the Justice League; do you really think they’ll stay captured?”
He began to walk toward the exit when Giles stopped him. “Good luck.”
Xander stared back at them, a small arrogant smirk growing on his face, an expression that was pure Ranma. “Luck? I don’t need luck; after all, it’s just skill performing anonymously.”
The base was deserted, the troops having been sent back to their homes, or hotels, by order of the commanders in the pretense of obeying the Thanagarians’ orders. In reality, the transmission included a code, a secret one that all troops learned during boot camp, the code to begin guerilla warfare. All a crossed the nation, soldiers, both retired and active, guardsmen, and even civilians struck back against the invaders using whatever weapons they had. If there was one thing humans were good at, it was violence, especially when things held dear were at risk.
Xander glided easily through the darkness, a combination of the various balance exercises Ranma knew, techniques he had stolen from ninjas he had faced, and the Umisenken or Way of the Silent Thief, a set of Martial Arts techniques that could actually render the user invisible as long as they kept their emotions in check.
The Thanagarians weren’t paying that much attention, after all what did they have to fear? The Justice League was captured and they had a remarkable technologic advantage capable of forcibly disarming human technology. As a result, they were doing what all soldiers on guard duty with a non-dangerous assignment do, playing cards, or at least the Thanagarian equivalent of them. A single one was guarding the door of the building.
Xander ran along the wire fence and then easily leaped onto the guard tower, swiftly climbing up it. From there it was a simple jump to the roof of the guarded building where he landed without a sound. Xander crept to the edge of the building, holding onto the edge with his toes and lowering himself down, right above the guard’s head.
Snap! Crackle! Pop! The guards head was turned completely around as Xander snapped his neck. His body dropped to the ground with a soft thud, Xander landing next to it a moment later. He stared at the door, pondering his choices of how to break in and kill the remaining guards. Finally he made up his mind.
The breaking point was a technique made by the Chinese Amazons, designed to clear stone by way of shattering it using the chi lines inherent in all non-organic objects, though Ryoga had made a version that worked on wood. As a martial art technique it was extremely useful as the training involved hanging the trainee from a tree and repeatedly bashing boulders into them until they could shatter them with a touch. A result of this was making the trainee nearly invulnerable to blunt force trauma or crushing impacts. While Xander had never undergone the physical parts of the training, he could see the chi lines that had to be touched to use the technique.
Xander touched the metal door and it exploded into shrapnel, all the pieces heading in to the room where the other Thanagarians were staying. The room inside was covered in internal organs, blood, and feathers, the exploding door having acted like a fragmentation grenade. Miraculously, one was still alive, screaming in agony, which trailed off as Xander watched, fading to a bubbling gurgle, blood splashing from his mouth. Staggering to the corner Xander vomited, chest heaving as he spewed his breakfast on the ground. “What have I done?”
It was one thing to see a demon vanish into goop, or to have snapped the first guards neck, that was clean, but to see the bodies, the stink of their torn bowels and dismembered organs, knowing he had done that without even giving them a chance, that was something completely different. Still, he forced himself to straighten up. There would be more coming soon, they had to have some way of monitoring their troops, and he had to prepare. Forcing his nausea aside and trying to ignore the smell, he began to search the bodies, pulling off intact pieces of armor and various weapons. He let out a whistle when he found the ranking officer’s weapon, forcing himself to be cheerful. It was a nice, ornate, short sword, the perfect length for a smaller human. “I bet Buffy would like this, I think it’ll make a nice birthday present.”
Walking outside Xander looted the last corpse, the fact it was completely intact making it easier for him. He gladly picked up the large axe and hefting it to test its weight and balance. “This is much more my style.” Giving it a practice swing he casually made his way over to the hover tank parked in the middle of the parade grounds. “Now what to do with you?”
Clambering on top of it he gripped the edge of the hatch, and applying all his strength, ripped it from its hinges, throwing it aside like a Frisbee. Dropping down inside he looked around at the various buttons, control screens, and the single control yoke. “Well, since I have some time until they arrive, might as well make myself at home.”
It was less than half an hour before the reinforcements showed up, and apparently the Thanagarian commander wasn’t joking when he promised unforgiving wrath as there were at least a dozen tanks and a hundred troops. Quickly warming up the laser cannon, the one thing he actually learned how to work in the short time he had, he fired off as many shots as he could, depleting the power cell and cutting down a quarter of the tanks, he was a rather lousy shot. “Hmmm, looks like I overstayed my welcome.”
Leaping out he sprinted into the desert, fading out of sight as he did, the tank exploding behind him as the troops over rid the IFF safeties and opened fire on it.
The soldiers immediately headed into Sunnydale, patrolling the streets and doing house to house searches for him, showing the picture they had evidently gotten from some piece of recording equipment on one of their soldiers, even if it was extremely blurry. Xander was sitting on a roof once again, looking down at the pair of hovering soldiers below him. Pulling off his belt he infused it with chi, a trick Ranma had learned, or stolen, it really depends on point of view, from Ryoga. The technique, called Iron cloth, could turn average every day cloth as hard as steel with a razors edge. Dropping off the roof he landed on one of the soldiers, decapitating him and immediately turning to the other, slamming the cloth blade into his exposed stomach and twisting it violently, provoking a haunting death cry. Once again stripping the bodies he faded into the shadows as more soldiers flew towards the downed pair.
His next target was a much tougher one, but the psychological effects on his targets would be undeniable, for it was one of their tank groups consisting of three soldiers and a tank. In preparation he pulled out one of the weapons he had taken from the Thanagarians, a glaive. Glaives are a type of pole arm with a foot and a half blade attached to a six foot staff, usually with a hook on the reverse side of the blade to pull riders off of horses. This glaive also featured a small spike on the other end of the pole, perfect for stabbing downed victims. Taking it in hand he leapt onto the roof of the tank, sticking the glaive into the armor to anchor himself. It was a wise decision, the tank spend up, swerving around and trying to shake him off. Once again pulling the hatch off, he dropped a firework inside, a Happo fire burst.
Happosai, the Grandmaster of the school of Anything Goes, had an ultimate attack, one he used enough that Ranma figured out how it worked, even if he would never use it himself as he deemed explosives a copout compared to real martial arts. The attack was a bomb, formed by combining an ordinary firework and chi together. While useful for blowing up objects, it was never lethal, a result of the life-force put inside of it interacting with the explosion. The only way to make the bombs lethal would be to use an inordinate amount of explosives, like the size of a car, which in that case it would be easier to just make a regular bomb.
The tank exploded, hurtling the three unconscious occupants away. Xander landed on the ground, glaive still in hand, clothes burning from the explosion. Twirling the glaive around he brought it up, holding it with both hands, just in time to block a vicious overhead mace strike. Kicking his attacker back he dodged to the side, a laser bolt barely missing him. He pole vaulted with the glaive into a flying kick, knocking the Thanagarian trooper back to earth several yards away. As he landed he stuffed the glaive away, leaving his hands free for more maneuverability. All three surviving Thanagarian troopers were surrounding him, floating at least ten feet off the ground. Smirking he made the come hither gesture. “Come on you overgrown turkeys, if I fought the Gordanians at least I’d have a challenge.”
All three troops charged at him, melee weapons raised high and crackling with electricity. Easily jumping two stories into the air Xander pulled out one of the smaller throwing axes he had requisitioned from the aliens and let it fly at the single separated trooper. Reflexively blocking the alien didn’t see the second axe that impacted his skull, cutting easily through the helmet.
Falling back to earth Xander pulled out the short sword from earlier, deflecting one attack, and brought his free hand up and crossing it over his chest for added strength, blocked the second attack with a summoned axe. With a grunt of exertion he landed, still blocking both attacks, barely managing to maintain his balance. Giving up all resistance he let the aliens push him backwards, dropping his weapons and rolling to the side to dodge the attacks, hitting a minor breaking point in the process to send up a smoke screen of dust. Regaining his feet he swept an arm out, using one of the most powerful attacks from the Yamasenken or the Way of the Noisy Thief, sister school to the Umisenken.
The Fierce God Assault Blast, a presumptuous name, was an attack based around moving an arm so powerfully that a vacuum projectile is created, capable of easily cutting through stone. While useless against the advanced alloys used by the Thanagarian military, it was quite effective against flesh.
The vacuum blade, delivered at chest height, easily cut into both of the soldiers, making a deep gash appear a crossed both their chests. Charging into the dissipating cloud, Xander dispatched one with a vicious kick, hitting the same area the blade had struck. On the other one he used another attack from the Yamasenken called the Poison Snake Searching Hole Palm, a rather long name for a move that ripped out an opponent’s heart.
Knowing that other Thanagarians would soon be appearing, Xander moved from body to body, cutting throats and stripping the remains. At the last unconscious soldier, a survivor from the tank, he paused, considering. Knowing he only had another minute at most before more troops arrived at the scene he quickly scooped up the last Thanagarian and headed into the sewers.
Once away from the scene and safely in the sewers Xander slowed down, painfully limping as he walked. ‘Ugh, I pulled something with those last moves. My arm feels like jelly and I know I sprained something with that jump.’ Still he kept going, carrying the alien to the buried church where the Master was once imprisoned.
Xander dropped the Thanagarian on an empty pew right before his arms were about to give out, collapsing on another one as his knee actually did give out. Resting for a moment he shakily stood back up, facing the large empty area where the preacher once would have been. The area was suddenly no longer empty; instead it was covered with an arsenal of alien and medieval weaponry, a back pack, food, rope, med kits, and other miscellaneous items. A sigh of relief escaped Xander’s lips as he let go of the stuff space technique. While extremely useful, it was a chi hog, taking up more and more chi as items were deposited, something he had used for training purposes, and now that he wasn’t maintaining it he had a lot more chi to spare for accelerating his healing.
Grabbing the ropes, two sets of handcuffs, and the single sock in the mess, he tied up and blindfolded the soldier, making sure to hit the ‘Instant Unconsciousness’ pressure point as he did, hoping the aliens were similar enough for it to work. Kicking his backpack in an attempt to make it a bit more comfortable, he laid down, intending on getting a couple of hours of sleep before the interrogation.
Slightly more than three hours later he was awoken by the curses and yells of his prisoner. Climbing back to his feet a little reluctantly he walked over to the pile of junk, grabbing several breakfast bars and a bottle of water. Eating quickly, he splashed himself with what water remained in the bottle after slaking his thirst, just enough for the transformation. Bending down he grabbed three daggers from the pile before slowly walking over to the prisoner, steeling himself for what he was about to do.
Roughly grabbing the alien with one hand, Xander dragged him over to the large cross, kept up by the Master as a mocking reminder. Hitting a paralysis point, which he hoped was the same for the humanoid alien, he cut the rope away, and stretching out a wing and an arm, nailed them to one arm of the cross with a dagger. Ignoring the scream of pain and the thrashing as the Thanagarian tried to get away, the paralysis point undone by the sudden massive pain, he grabbed the other set of limbs, repeating the process. The same was done to the legs using the longest of the knives. Ripping up his clothes he bound the area around the wounds, slowing the blood loss to make sure his victim would live longer. For a moment he let the alien hang there and simply savored the emotions wafting off of him.
Taking a deep breath and letting the magic flow freely into what he like to call his special effects, Xander tore the blindfold off the prisoner. “What is angelic scum like you doing here?!” Xander was right in the soldier’s face, flames from his mouth scorching him as he yelled.
The Thanagarian went to say something but Xander backhanded him, sending a tooth flying and leaving half his face a mangled mess from the spikes on his knuckles. “Give me a clear answer or I rip out your soul, giving it to my brethren to torment for the next thousand years!”
While the soldier had been trained to resist interrogation from the Gordanians, this was a situation he had never expected to be in. He was crucified and before him was a creature that resembled the things from the old histories of his planet, the very reason they still carried melee weapons and used a special forging technique in all their creations, and it was threatening to rip out his soul. There was no one in the cave with him besides the beast, his comrades’ weaponry was scattered haphazardly on the floor beneath him, and he was underground, a terrible thing as claustrophobia was a fear that the majority of Thanagarians had.
“Tell me what you are doing here, and the end will be swift…” Xander said softly, almost lovingly stroking the side of the soldier’s face, the tips of his claws trailing right by the eye. “Otherwise I’ll leave you here to hang. You can already feel it, can’t you? How hard it is to breathe? You’ll be here suffocating, alone in the dark, until I get back. And then…well, it has been many years since I’ve feasted on an angelic soul, and I’ll be able to get my answers that way as well…”
That was all it took, the soldier broke. “The planet, it will be destroyed. The construction in the desert, its part of a hyperspace network to our enemies’ planet. When activated, Earth will be lost, but we’ll win…I swear…that’s the truth.” Nodding in understanding, Xander reached forward and prepared to snap the soldier’s neck, but stopped. The temptation was welling up inside him. Here was a victim no one would miss, an alien that had just declared genocidal intentions toward the human race; surely it would be okay to eat him, to take his soul. His clawed hand gently traced the bleeding face, making the soldier, a young man, almost a boy, shiver.
Gently he grasped something only he could see and began to pull. The boy screamed, a glowing outline of his head beginning to separate from the physical. The screaming became a duet as both the soul and body screamed, voices intertwined as more and more of the glowing figure was pulled out. With a final, near inaudible snap the soul was ripped free and the body fell silent, face twisted in agony as it stopped straining against the daggers embedded in its flesh and slumped back against the cross. The insubstantial soul continued to scream on, grasped in Xander’s hand as solid as the body behind it. He could feel the fear and pain coming off it even stronger now that it was freed from its fleshy prison. Xander stared at it, entranced, blue and bronze flames beginning to fill his obsidian eyes. His mouth began to open as he slowly leaned down to the soul, the flames growing even brighter in his eyes.
A thump suddenly shook the cavern, dirt trickling down from above, and he shook his head, the fire in his eyes disappearing. With sudden horror he looked down at the soul in his hands, the pain filled eyes of the alien boy staring up at him even as he continued to scream. With a shout Xander let go and the soul hovered in place. He stared at it in horror as it floated, a tangible reminder of what he had nearly done. He kept watching it though, wondering what would happen, if there was something he could do or if he had doomed the soldier to wander as a ghost. Finally, after long minutes had past, the soul floated upward and began breaking into pieces, disappearing into the air.
Gathering all his stuff back into stuff space he heated one water bottle with his flames as fast as he could, dumping it and transforming back before heading to the surface, eager to leave the cavern and the dead body of the alien boy. He tried to focus on what he knew of the Thanagarian plan, anything to distract him from the body that seemed to watch him leave. The desert construction was halfway a crossed the world, too far for him to reach, it was up to someone else to stop that. But he could at least provide a distraction, anything he could do that would take his mind off what he had nearly done.
The next morning he walked down the street, his head down to avoid notice and his backpack out, looking to the entire world like just another school kid. The thump had been the Thanagarians blowing up the deserted army base, leveling it completely in retaliation. All night the TV had been filled with threats of further retaliation, and the warning that next time they attacked an army base they’d put all the human soldiers inside before leveling it. Looking around he kept careful note of the increased patrols, at least five troopers in every one. Passing an electronic store he saw the ceaseless, mind numbing propaganda trash they were broadcasting, featuring a Thanagarian that seemed to never blink or change tone. However, every third repeat or so it would switch over to a list of names or a series of pictures and demand information on them. Xander noted several of the small time heroes he had heard of before, like Vigilante. ‘I guess I’m not the only one causing trouble. But it will all be meaningless unless someone stops the hyper drive.’
Seeing an alley up ahead and one of the larger patrols, accompanied by both a tank and a Thanagarian in black armor, heading in his direction, Xander made a choice. Ducking into the alleyway he pulled out one of the more mutilated pieces of armor he had picked up. He ran back out, waving his hand to get their attention. “Hey, look at what I found! I get a reward, right?”
The dark armored Thanagarian, dubbed Black in Xander’s mind, waved three of the regular ones forward. They slowly went into the alley while the others kept their guns aimed at Xander. A few moments later they came back out, bringing the demolished chest piece with them. Black swopped down, taking it for inspection. Looking over it he turned to Xander. “You! How did you find this?”
Xander shrugged, bringing all his acting skills to bear. “I saw flashes of light through my window last night. I didn’t want to check it out then, so I waited until now. That’s when I found it.” He paused. “There is a reward, right?”
Black glared at Xander before pulling out their version of a radio. Nodding at whatever he heard, he turned back to Xander. “You’re coming with us to temporary command and you will tell us exactly what you saw.”
“What about school?” protested Xander, all the while grinning inside.
Ignoring his question, Black gestured to the patrol and two of them grabbed Xander, carrying him to a flat platform on the back of the tank. With a whoosh of air the entire patrol set off.
Temporary command turned out to be a medium sized, hastily erected base located outside of Los Angeles. A small wall of what looked to be heavy duty plastic with no gate surrounded the sight, tall enough to prove a problem for anyone without wings or hover tanks. Several tanks and other hover vehicles lay parked inside of it and there were some wide, half sphere tents set up as well. ‘Damn, no explosive barrels in sight, there goes plan A,’ thought Xander as the tank came in for a landing.
He was forcibly pulled off the tank and escorted into the structure, going through several slate grey hallways. Finally they arrived at what looked to be the command center. Several large screens were set up, showing what appeared to be real time images of different patrols throughout the south west area, alien symbols flowing down the edges. Several scientist looking types, though still armed, were watching the screens and typing on keyboards. In the center stood a Thanagarian male in ornate armor, dubbed Fancy by Xander.
“Sir!” announced Black, snapping a salute. “This is the human that found Trooper Dul’s armor. He claims to have seen something last night as well.”
“Well? What did you see?” demanded Fancy.
Xander’s mind raced as he frantically tried to come up with a believable story. ‘Ah, screw it. I wanted to be a distraction, so time to be one!’
The short sword appeared in his hand, stabbing into Black’s side. Xander twisted it viciously, tearing the mortal wound even bigger, before putting it back into stuff space. Jumping back he gathered his chi and magic together and let it fly with a shout of “Burn!”
The blast missed Fancy, who dodged at the last moment, and struck the bank of screens, exploding in a splash of flaming liquid. The magic napalm landed on several of the technicians as well as destroying the screens, and their screams added to the confusion.
Xander just managed to pull out the short sword in time to block an attack from Fancy’s axe. Frantically he brought it back up to block another flurry of blows. He had no formal training with the sword besides what Ranma had, and it showed; only his chi enhanced reflexes and strength allowing him to block the constant attacks that were keeping him on the defensive.
He was only a tenth of a second slow, but it was enough, with a clang his sword was sent flying from his hand and out of reach. Xander was surrounded, the surviving technicians and Fancy all had their weapons drawn and pointed at him. “Human scum! You come in here and attack us, your betters, and expect to win? You’ll pay for your folly with your life.” Fancy raised his axe for the final blow.
“Maybe, but I’ll take you all with me when I go!” The water balloon that appeared in his hand, patterned like a grenade, actually made the Thanagarians take a step back before it burst. With a roar of rage Xander let his magic run wild. A massive pillar of fire surrounded him, destroying the ceiling and launching a wave of flame away from him, sending the technicians hurtling back. Fancy was unscathed, his axe held sideways in front of him like a shield, the weapon absorbing and blocking the magical flame.
Xander felt exhausted after the outburst, feeling weaker than he had ever before, the flames covering his body flickering fitfully. Taking a step backward and away from the recovering Fancy, he suddenly felt a little better. Still he knew he had to fight and as if responding to that thought his flame aura consolidated in his hands, forming a large broadsword. He swung it at Fancy, who dodged, bringing his own weapon up.
The two weapons, flaming broadsword and alien metal axe, clashed. The axe won, its design, dating back hundreds of years to when the Thanagarians turned away from the worship of the great Old Ones, overcoming the demonic flame weapon, cutting through the blade and disrupting the construct, sending it breaking apart in a shower of sparks and shadow.
Xander backpedaled, raising his arm to block another swing, the axe cutting deeply into his bone armor. He kept retreating, each of Fancy’s attacks leaving another bleeding gash. Then he tripped, stumbling over a piece of destroyed screen and falling backward. He swung his arms, trying to regain his balance, but it was too late, he landed with a thud on the ground. Fancy moved forward for the killing blow, satisfaction clear in his eyes. That faded out as he stared down, seeing Xander’s tail impaled in his chest. The axe dropped from his limp hands and he slowly crumpled to the ground, incomprehension on his face.
Xander laid there for a moment, trying to regain his breath. His wounds still bled freely, his demonic healing not working on the nth metal inflicted wounds. With effort he managed to pull a bottle of water out, heating it with what little magic he had left and dumping it on himself. The transformation wasn’t painful but the aftermath was, every little wound and scrape that his demonic form ignored, not to mention the big bleeding gashes, burning anew on his human form. Still, he began to heal ever so slowly, his chi repairing the wounds. He knew it wouldn’t be enough though, and pulled out the med kits, hastily bandaging his injuries enough so that he wouldn’t bleed out. While he wanted to do more he knew that there would be more Thanagarians coming, his fight with Fancy hadn’t exactly been stealthy.
Pulling out one of the alien blasters he faded into the Umisenken and began to make his way to the entrance, checking each room for aliens as he went. In the final hallway he encountered the expected troopers; they were advancing down the hallway slowly in pairs, weapons raised and ready. Xander was taking careful aim when he heard a sound behind him, starling him enough to lose his concentration and make him visible once again. The reason the troops had taken so long to appear, and given Xander enough time to finish his fight with Fancy, was because they were doing a coordinated assault, several pairs of troopers had come in the hole Xander had blown in the roof.
“There he is!” The cry went up, and all Xander had time to do was react. He pulled the trigger on the rifle, filling the hall with laser blasts. The soldiers, acting rather stupid, fired at him, and he ducked. The bolts flew overhead and into the opposite group. Regaining his composure he fled back into the Umisenken and crawled into the nearby room. He let the technique fade once again, it wasn’t worth the chi at that point, and began running the length of the wall, tapping every breaking point he could see on it. It exploded into the hallway, knocking the troops back and killing half, while the others were shielded by the bodies of their comrades. Using his chi senses Xander fired, ruthlessly picking off the survivors. He walked the remaining distance to the outside, a new gun drawn and ready as he wasn’t sure how to check the ammo.
The base was still, not a single Thanagarian in sight. “That’s not enough though, they still might be in the other buildings.
He went around, checking the buildings one by one, a dangerous task as in several the Thanagarians had set up ambushes or traps. Still, he finished, having several extra wounds and a minor concussion for his problems. Xander stared at the decimated base, the main building still emitting smoke from the gaping hole in its roof. “Now, how the hell do I get out of here?”
Eventually Xander figured out how to operate what appeared to be a cargo skimmer full of ammo and supplies, though it took several false starts and one wrecked skimmer before he figured out the controls were inverted. After filling it to the brim with scavenged weapons he made sure to use the Breaking Point technique on each tank, demolishing the barrel to put them out of commission.
He docked the skimmer in another one of the large caves surrounding Sunnydale, one that he learned of when Buffy cleared it of demons back in his sophomore year. Locking the doors he settled down inside to get some rest, however, sleep proved elusive. His mind kept going back to the fight with Fancy and his near death experience over and over again. ‘It was luck that let me win, he didn’t expect my tail to actually be sharp. If I had used it before then, I could have had a cleaner, easier victory instead of a last minute save.’ He sighed to himself, ready to admit a fact that he really didn’t want to. ‘I need to train more in my demon form and not just with my magic. I have to practice controlling the hunger, turn the demon from a two sided blade into a tool that's safe to use. It may never happen, but I owe it to my friends and the Thanagarian solider to try. Still, why did I feel so much weaker in there?’ He puzzled over that question, before remembering how the soldier’s axe had absorbed his fire. ‘Maybe their weapons affect demons? That has to be it.’
Making his way back home he collapsed in his bed. In the end he slept much longer then he had planned to, the exhausting fights and injuries having taken their toll on him. He awoke near nightfall with a groan, back kinked from the uncomfortable, but safe, sleeping conditions. Stretching to ease out the stiffness made him let out a yell and wince as his bandages pulled away from where they were stuck to him with dried blood. Leaving the vast majority of his looted weapons and regular supplies behind to save chi, he headed back to the surface. The town of Sunnydale was deserted when he ventured back out into the night. There were none of the previous patrols, not a hover tank or soldier visible n the sky. In fact, the only sign of the Thanagarian occupation was the continuous broadcasts, though they were changed. “Great! The Justice League is loose; we have hope yet.” With no enemies to fight, and any other potential ones too far away to reach, he went back to his home to sleep some more after grabbing some fast food.
It wasn’t until the next day that the world learned the full story of what had happened. The Justice League had broken free of their imprisonment and demolished the Thanagarian flagship and hyper drive generator, saving the Earth from destruction once again.
The group met in the library several days later, discussing the newscasts. Xander snorted in disbelief at some of what was being said, specifically the demands of the politicians, who he believed had gotten them into the mess in the first place. “I can’t believe they really expect people to turn over Thanagarian equipment, or that they’re taking credit for helping the Justice League out.”
“You mean you won’t?” asked Willow, ignoring the comment about thieving politicians, she did agree with him on that after all.
“Nope, to the victor go the spoils. I am now the proud owner of a wide assortment of Thanagarian war equipment. Not to mention several sets of armor and a rather nice collection of those chest emblems, I might have to make some kind of trophy belt out of those,” he mused. The hover skimmer was a secret he was keeping to himself. “That does remind me though…I have a gift for you Buffy. I had planned on waiting till your birthday…but I figured you’d might like it now.”
“Ooohhh, what is it? Gimme gimme gimme!” Buffy jumped down from the table she was sitting on and sprang over to Xander, bouncing up and down, and acting like a child as she demanded her present. Xander’s eyes briefly tracked the rather…interesting effects the movements had on her chest before pulling out the ornate nth metal short sword.
“Here, have fun using it. I’m sure your enemies will get a shock.” The rest of the group groaned at the bad pun.
Summer passed quickly for Xander in a whirl of training and exercise. The start of the new school year, his senior year, was barely noted, only by the fact he had less time to do physical exercises and more time for the meditational ones. After all, it wasn’t like he was going to pay attention in class besides the bare minimum needed to pass.
Faith arrived, and at Xander’s insistence his curse was kept quiet. If the Watcher’s Council hadn’t informed her, he had no intention to.
Halloween came and went, marked only by Xander swearing vengeance once more on Ethan Rayne and that he would find a cure.
Then the band needed fundraising. “The band needs new uniforms. You will sell the candy to raise money. I’m sure even you delinquents can understand that concept?” asked Snyder snidely as he handed them each a box. When it was Xander’s turn, he refused to take it.
“No,” he stated flatly, staring at Snyder and for a second tapping into his chi, making his eyes seem to glow, a variation of Mr. Tendo’s demon head technique. Snyder gulped, quickly backing down and finding a different person to pick on.
The next day in class Xander barely paid attention when Giles didn’t show up for study hall, only noticing because the fill-in teacher let them out early, giving Xander an extra hour which he spent at the school pool, using his replaced Ring of Withering to get in a swim. It was a rare luxury; usually he had other concerns that merited use of the ring.
It wasn’t until that evening that he realized something was wrong, as his karate instructor wasn’t acting normal but was instead challenging the students, mainly teenagers and children, and bragging when he won. After a hard fight, mainly due to the fact he was sticking to only the karate moves of the Anything Goes style, he won, tossing the fool to the mat. Quickly leaving as the man canceled class, seeming to pout, Xander headed for the rooftops. By then the adults seemed to all be moving in a single direction, so of course Xander followed, making better time than they did.
He arrived at the candy factory at the same time as Buffy and her group, consisting of her mother, Giles, and Snyder. Doing a double take when he saw the last member, he pushed it to the side of his mind and followed them into the building just in time to see the one man he hated more than anyone else, Ethan Rayne, make a run for it. “Ethan!”
He charged after the man, easily passing Giles and catching up to Buffy, chi and rage giving him the strength to actually pass her. Then the pursuing group reached a dead end, the path they were following ending in a plain wall surrounded by crates of chocolate ingredients. Ignoring whatever Giles and Buffy were discussing Xander closed his eyes, trying to focus on that sixth sense that all high quality marital artists had, the one that let them sense danger and chi.
Xander slammed his hand into a nearby crate and roughly ripped Ethan out of it, holding him a good half foot off the ground. “Ethan, because of you, I’ve seen hell.”
“What did I ever do to you?” Ethan managed to get out around the hand choking him, vainly scrabbling at the same hand in an attempt to get free.
“You don’t know?” demanded Xander, rage in his voice. A wicked smirk grew a crossed his face. “Well, let me show you.” Still holding Ethan up with one hand he pulled out a water balloon from stuff space and broke it.
Xander relished the fear on Ethan’s face, tasting it with his demonic senses, savoring it like a fine wine. “Thanks to you, I’m cursed like this, and I plan to show you just how much I dislike that.”
“Xander, no!” yelled Buffy, scared at how her friend was acting.
“Punch him a good one!” shouted Giles at the same time, still under the effects of the mind altering chocolate.
“Stay back Buffy, I’ll only warn you once,” Xander growled out, not taking his eyes off Ethan.
“You can’t kill him, we need to find out what’s going on,” insisted Buffy.
“Fine, that’s just one more thing for him to scream out. I’ll have it in a moment.” Xander’s off hand lit up with flames, and he slowly pushed them into Ethan’s arm, prompting a scream. The room filled with the smell of burning flesh, and Buffy’s sensitive hearing could make out the pops and crackles as Ethan’s skin roasted.
She rushed forward, intent on dragging Xander away from the screaming man, but the shadows around him writhed to life and pushed her back. Giles own movement to stop him, the actual torture before him having overcome part of the chocolate’s effects, halted at the sight of living shadows. Reaching to her back Buffy pulled out the Thanagarian short sword Xander had given her, she had taken to carrying it with her at all time in a scabbard that ran parallel to her spine, the handle being covered by her hair at all times. “Don’t make me use this on you!” she threatened, not sounding very convincing.
That actually made Xander turn to face her, still effortlessly holding Ethan Rayne up against the wall. “Will you, will you really? If you could face the thing that made you the Slayer, the thing that took away your choice, took away your normal life, condemned you to die early, would you? And what would you do to it if you could?”
His words made Buffy stop dead in her tracks, and seeing that he continued pressing his point. “This piece of scum did that to me, he took away my very humanity! And he will pay for it, you won’t stop me. Of course, don’t forget what he tried to do to you…you do still have the remains of that mark, don’t you?”
Buffy stayed frozen in place, his words ringing in her ears. Somewhere deep inside her, she blamed her powers on breaking up her family and she knew they were responsible for her temporary death in sophomore year. And yes, she did still have the scar from where the tattoo was removed. The sword wavered and then pointed to the ground. She grabbed Giles, pulling him back. “Get that information, and I won’t ask how you did.”
The screams lasted for a half an hour.
Xander came back out of the factory, covered in blood and other things. “The demon, Lurconis, feeds on babies. It should be in the sewers. Now, I still have some business to attend to…” He walked back in and the screams resumed, making Buffy shudder and race from the area.
Later, as he stared down at the ruin of a once handsome man, he was torn. It would be so easy, too easy, to rip out the man’s soul, to watch it scream and writher in his hands. But the question was, if he ripped out Ethan’s soul, could he leave it at that?
As he ripped the soul from Ethan’s body, it came out clean and unharmed, beautiful in comparison to the wreck of flesh beneath it. There was no duet this time, the flesh too damaged to do more than moan and whimper. He held the screaming soul in his claws, and once again the blue and bronze flames flickered to life in his eyes, but they quickly faded.
“As much as I want to eat your soul, to make you suffer, I’m not going to take that risk. I have no idea how it would work, I’ve never done it before, and I’m not going to chance having your soul stuck with me, or damning my own. So now, disappear Ethan Rayne; I hope you enjoy hell.” With those final words, Xander let go and turned away, leaving Ethan’s soul to hover over its destroyed body.
The ripples from the god’s curse grew larger as more time passed, further diverging the plans and granting it more power, but not yet enough, not even close to enough, to free it from its bindings. However, it was no longer in danger of wasting away, the steady stream of power had allowed it to expand its domain in its home dimension, ensuring that even if Xander was killed it would still have a new, larger stream of victims. It was at the point it could influence Xander, but decided against it, so far he had benefited the god, it wasn’t time to mess with what worked, not yet.
There was a certain coolness in Xander’s relationship with the Scoobies after the band candy incident, an elephant in the room that none of them were willing to discuss. As Willow grew closer to Oz and Buffy became bogged down in college prep work and slaying, Xander drifted further from the group, finding comfort in the endless exercise and pushing his body to the limit, especially during winter break.
“You want me to do what?!” demanded the demon while looking at Xander like he was crazy. The demon, one that resembled a body builder on steroids, had been sitting and enjoying a drink at Willie’s Alibi Place when Xander approached him.
“I want you to come to the woods with me for an hour a day, I don’t know how many days, and swing a boulder at me,” explained Xander calmly, all the while looking like he was making a normal request.
“You’re crazy, I’m out of here.” The demon turned back to its drink, ignoring him.
“I didn’t tell you how much you’d be getting paid yet though.”
The demon perked up, he was perfectly willing to take money from a crazy person. “Paid?”
“Yes paid. One hundred dollars a week until I get done what I have to, and a partial week still counts as a week,” elaborated Xander. “So, do we have a deal?” He held out his hand.
“Sure.” They shook, and that same day Xander began his Breaking Point training. While he could perform the technique, the damage resistance the training imparted was too good to pass up.
Senior year continued to pass by with Xander, the most supernatural excitement he had was when Jack O’Toole picked a fight with him at school. Easily beating the boy, and sensing no life energy from him, he hunted down the zombie later that day and finished him off, using the guy as a chance to see how some of his more damaging martial arts worked on a human.
Then, Giles approached him with another mission. “You want me to do what now?”
“Buffy killed a demon whose blood has a negative effect on humans, she’s currently telepathic and it will drive her mad if not stopped soon. So I need you to hunt down the other demon and rip out its heart. You’re the only one who can, the rest of us would most likely become infected as well, all it takes is a brief contact, but you should be protected.”
“Alright, for Buffy.”
Finding the demon wasn’t hard; Willy had the information and was quick to give it up. Apparently the demon knew what would happen to the Slayer, and what she would need, and was trying to skip town as fast as possible. The fight was quick and brief, the demon having little in the way of natural weapons, and its scabby skin was particularly easy to cut.
As Xander flew toward Buffy’s house, still in demon form to prevent any blood from contaminating him, he heard the screams. “It wants to kill us all! Our souls aren’t safe! The blue fire will consume us! The god of change will sweep the world!” Buffy’s screams trailed away as he got closer, then suddenly started again as he landed. He stepped inside, the door was unlocked, and as he made his way up to her room the screams got louder and louder. Finally she fell quiet, and Xander saw Giles coming out of her room, empty needle in hand.
“It’s a sedative, she was starting to thrash around and was hurting herself and Joyce, we couldn’t hold her. It should keep her out until the potion is ready.” Hoisting up a large pot, he indicated to Xander to put the heart inside. “I have to let this boil, but she should be okay soon. Will you be waiting here?”
Xander shook his head. “No, we have no idea if she’s still reading minds while she’s knocked out, the last thing I want is for her to be stuck inside a nightmare she can’t wake from. Besides, the last thing she wants to see if the face of the person she was screaming would ‘consume our souls.’”
He left as quickly as he could after that, though he couldn’t help but wonder what she meant about a ‘god of change.’
Buffy seemed to avoid him at school after the incident, and though he had saved her life he couldn’t help but feel he might have lost part of their friendship. Then the news came, at the beginning of May just a little while before graduation. “I found Fate.”
That little announcement made Xander sit up, all thoughts of missed training time, food, sleep, sex, in fact, just about every thought but those involving a cure gone from his mind. “Where?”
Giles peered at him intently from over his glasses. “He’s on the other side of the country. But I can’t tell you where yet.”
Xander blinked, Giles’ statement slowly filtering through is head. “You can’t tell me?” he repeated slowly.
“No I can’t.”
“But you have found him?” asked Xander for clarification.
“Then…WHY IN GODS NAME CAN’T YOU TELL ME WHERE HE IS?!” Xander yelled, storming forward and getting right in Giles face.
Giles took a step back with Xander following him as he answered. “I can’t tell you because you’d go to him and to get a cure.”
“THAT’S WHY YOU WERE SEARCHING FOR HIM IN THE FIRST PLACE!”
“Yes it was,” agreed Giles. “But we need you here.”
“You need me here?” Xander repeated, appearing to have calmed down. The fact he seemed to be glowing red rather contradicted that appearance though.
Giles took off his glasses and polished them, refusing to actually look Xander in the face. “Yes. Between Faith’s betrayal and the Mayor’s planned Ascension, we need you here to help and it is quite possible that we might need your…other form as well.”
“You’re blackmailing me?” The disbelief was clear in his voice.
“To put it crudely, yes,” stated Giles, still refusing to look at Xander.
“You have all the resources of the Watcher’s Council, and you need my help.” Xander fell silent, a shudder wracking his body as he fought his anger. He lost. Surging forward he grabbed Giles, easily lifting him above the floor by the collar of his jacket, forcing him to stare at him. “Understand this Giles, after this Ascension, we are through. You will give me the information, and then we will never speak again, god help you if we do. And if you die before I get the information, I will find a necromancer to pry it from your dead body!” Dropping Giles roughly to the ground, Xander began to storm out of the building before stopping at the door. “I don’t know what hurts more Giles, that you’re keeping the cure from me, or that you think you need to blackmail me to help save the world.” With that he left, ignoring Giles attempts to explain.
“Well, that went worse than expected,” muttered Giles, still lying on the floor. He began to slowly pull himself to his feet. “Last time we asked him for help, he thought it cost him his soul. He’s never been the most balanced when it comes to a cure, and without his help the whole state would probably die.” Consoling himself with the fact he was doing what was necessary to save thousands, if not millions of people, Giles headed to his office to begin trying to find whatever else he could about the Mayor’s plan.
The doors of the school exploded outward as Xander heedlessly pushed them aside. He strode angrily down the street, praying that something, anything, would be dumb enough to attack him so he could let off some steam in a way that didn’t involve torturing Giles.
His prayer was answered. “Hey.” Xander looked up, Faith was standing on the side of the road just in front of him, knife held loosely by her side. “Me and the boss were planning on how to shake up Buffy but we couldn't really come up with anything. But maybe if I left you on her doorstep it would work.”
“Thank you god!” With that, Xander charged forward.
By now, with over a year and a half of intensive training under his belt, Xander was a match for any Slayer, if barely. He had an advantage over Ranma in that he knew precisely which training exercises would work and which wouldn’t, allowing him to skip over the more crazy ideas that had actually caused harm to Ranma and set back his training. In addition, Xander had a lot more free time then Ranma ever did, what with the fiancées and rivals that always bothered him, and access to more professional equipment then rocks and trees, meaning he could get in more, better training, which he did with a fanatical zeal. Faith was a Slayer and had all the inborn strengths and skills that came with. However, she relied more on instincts and power than anything else. As a result, the fight was brutal and one sided. He knew precisely which moves to use to cripple a stronger opponent, techniques Ranma had to constantly use when he was younger and fighting his father.
Faith reflexively tried to stab him as he charged her, so he grabbed the arm and twisted it, making her drop the knife. Two quick punches to pressure points made her other arm seize up momentarily, enough for him to do a sweeping kick and send her tumbling to the ground. Stunned, she blinked and then gasped as the pain finally caught up to her.
“You know, that was rather pathetic. Buffy could have given me a better fight,” taunted Xander, looking down at her with contempt.
That did it. She surged back to her feet, and flew at him in a rage. This time the exchange of blows lasted much longer, actually giving Xander some practice with a stronger then average opponent. He knew it wasn’t wise, but he limited himself to her level to get some experience fighting with the more disabling moves he knew. Sadly, he couldn’t use the aerial moves from Anything Goes, as no one he had met yet could actually use the chi necessary to follow him in to the air. Still, practice was practice and he wasn’t going to turn down the opportunity to vent.
The fight raged up and down the street as their fists and legs clashed, Xander occasionally tossing out taunts to keep her motivated. Finally though he got tired of the battle and hit a few, precise pressure points. It only slowed her for a moment, but it was long enough for him to take advantage and knock her to the ground. Jumping forward, Xander stepped on her neck, keeping her pinned to the ground before she could recover. “That was a good fight, it did help me deal with my anger, but unfortunately for you, it wasn’t good enough. I want someone to suffer like I’m suffering, knowing there’s a cure out there but unable to get it, misery does love company after all. And guess who just happened to wander by?”
Applying more pressure to her throat to keep her on the verge of choking, Xander reached into his chi pocket and pulled out a lighter and some paper. Pushing down extra hard and making her gag, he quickly kicked her over onto her stomach and tore the back of her shirt. Crumbling the paper into a ball he lit it and shoved it into her back, prompting a scream.
Xander stepped back, waiting for Faith to regain her feet. Once she did, she again charged him. Her fist connected with his face with a thud, but he didn’t even flinch, didn’t even move. More and more hits followed, even a kick to the groin, but Xander did not move. Finally, Faith stopped, collapsing to the ground with a ragged sob. “The Ultimate Weakness Moxibustion, it seals your strength away. With it, your strongest blows feel like a baby’s taps. And guess what? Only I can remove it. Now suffer.” With that final remark, Xander strode away into the darkness, leaving a broken Faith behind him.
It was two days before Graduation when Giles finally found the courage to approach Xander. “We’re having a meeting; we found some information about the Mayor.”
Xander didn’t even look at him, merely nodded and changed directions to head for the library. Willow, Buffy, and Oz were already waiting inside. Going over to the counter Giles pulled down a book and opened it to a marked page. He dropped it on the table for them all to see. “This is what he’ll become.” The group peered at the drawing.
“A Balrog?” demanded Xander. “He’s going to become a fucking fictional creature?” The others looked at Giles, demanding an explanation.
“No, unfortunately. Tolkien was a member of the Watchers, a librarian in fact. He used many of the Council’s books to gather inspiration for his stories. In this case, he used the information on a series of Greater Demons the Council had amassed, even used the same name.”
“You stopped me from finding a cure because you expected my cursed form to be useful in fighting what basically is itself on steroids? What is wrong with you?” Buffy and Willow both turned to look at Giles, horrified at what they were hearing. He made it worse by refusing to meet their eyes.
“I can explain-”
“No, I don’t want to hear it Giles…I don’t want to hear anything from you but where Dr. Fate is. Now, I have a plan on how to defeat it, and I won’t even need the demon to do it. Just make sure you keep everyone out of my way.” With that Xander strolled away, leaving the girls to demand explanations from a very guilt ridden Giles.
The day of graduation was quite sunny, ironic considering what the Mayor had planned. The students marched out in their burgundy robes to the music and took their seats as it stopped. Snyder approached the podium and stared out at the assembled crowd. “Congratulations class of 1999. You all proved more or less adequate. This is a time of celebration, so sit still and be quiet.” He surveyed the students. “Spit out that gum…Please welcome our distinguished guest speaker, Richard Wilkins the Third.” He stopped again, glaring at one particular student. “I saw that gesture, you see me after the ceremony.” Snyder walked off to the side and began to clap, the rest of the people following suit.
The Mayor shook Snyder’s hand, and stepped up to the podium. Taking out some cue cards he laid them down and stared out at the crowd. Clearing his throat, he began. “Well. What a day this is! A special day; today is our centennial, the one hundred anniversary of the founding of Sunnydale, and I know what that means to all you kids… not a darn thing. Because today something much more important happens: today you all graduate from high school! Today…”
Xander ignored the Mayor, instead double checking everything he had and running the plan through is mind again. A shadow fell a crossed him, prompting him to look up and pay attention again.
“And so as we look back on…” The Mayor stopped and groaned. “…On the events that brought us to this day.” He paused and winced again. “We…” Yet another halt and groan. “We must all…” This time it’s a muffled scream. All the people, students and guest alike, began to look nervous and uneasy, sensing something was wrong with the Mayor, and not just health problems. There was enough power in the air that even the most grounded of people could tell something was about to happen. Abruptly the Mayor straightened up, fighting off the pain to stare at them all calmly. “It has begun; my destiny.” A wide, evil smile grew a crossed his face. “It's a little sooner than I expected, I had this whole section on civic pride…but I guess we’ll just skip to the big finish!” The Mayor burst into flames and the courtyard erupted into screams as people frantically tried to get away.
A group of vampires moved up the stairs to corral the people back, but the Slayer and her friends went to stop them, cutting through their numbers. Meanwhile Xander prepared for the coming fight. Ripping off his graduation robe revealed the Thanagarian armor he was wearing below. He hoped that the minute traces of nth metal the aliens added to their armor would be some protection. Reaching into his chi pocket he pulled out a specific set of weapons he had chosen in advance just for the fight. Apparently the Thanagarians had some hand to hand specialists as there was a pair of armored and spiked gauntlets in the supplies Xander had stolen. Unlike the normal gauntlets on the average troopers’ armor, these were made entirely of nth metal, just like the melee weapons, and capable of producing the same electric, magic disruption field. Sliding them on and making sure they fit perfectly; Xander waited and observed the transformation.
The Mayor fell to the ground, withering and convulsing even as the flames grew. A flickering blur seemed to overlap the man, made of fire and darkness, flashing between the mortal man and the form of something distinctly other. He arched his back unnaturally before breaking into severe muscle convulsions that threw his body across the stage. His spine twisted horribly, tendons and sinews tearing and ripping. The few remaining people panicked and fled at the sight of his agony, any thoughts of trying to help him gone as his back cracked.
The Mayor’s flickering flesh, barely visible due to the flames, bulged unnaturally as if something inside him was trying to break free, and he scratched frantically, tearing at his face. The bones of his fingers lengthened, tearing through the flesh of his fingers, turning them into cruel talons, and he ripped at his skin and remaining clothes, tearing them off in bloody strips that combusted in the flame. The Mayor’s teeth grew into sharp fangs, and he bit into his own shoulder, tearing out a hunk of flesh. The convulsions increased, his whole body bulging strangely. Horns grew from the side of his head and curled forward, even as the fires consumed his nose, leaving only a set of gaping slits. The convulsions stopped abruptly and the man that was the Mayor climbed unsteadily to his feet. He stared out at the crowd with bloody, eyeless sockets filled with a flame like the very center of a fire. Almost his entire bloodied musculature was displayed whenever the flames shifted, only patches of raw, red skin clinging to his frame.
The hazy shape still clung to the Mayor, and staring at it hurt Xander’s eyes. An extra backwards bending joint had formed in his lower legs, in the manner of a bird, and long talons emerged from his toes. With a sickening, wet cracking sound, a pair of long skeletal wings unfolded from the monster’s back, sheets of bloody skin hanging briefly between the bloody bones before the fires scored them away, darkening the pale bone to black. With another bone cracking noise, a tail lengthened out and dragged on the ground. Then the flames and shadows grew, and with them the Mayor, until he was towering over Xander, easily four times his height.
With a mighty roar the flames grew into a many thronged whip and flaming broadsword, eerily similar to the weapon Xander’s form could summon.
“Hey Dick, down here!” Despite not having eyelids, the Mayor gave a good impression of blinking, the charcoal like flesh around the eyes compacting, before looking down to see Xander standing before him.
Dashing forward, Xander nailed the Mayor in the leg with what looked like a single punch, before skipping backwards and dodging the reflexive kick. He still wasn’t quite up to Ranma’s level in pure speed, and as such that single attack was merely dozens of punches in a single second instead of the hundreds Ranma was capable of. Still, Xander considered it a fair trade; he knew he was getting better in a more rounded way then Ranma did.
With a growl of pain the demon swung his sword down, making Xander dodge again. However, this time he rolled forward and came up next to the other leg, once again unleashing dozens of punches to a single spot. Darting ahead, he ran between the Mayor’s legs and jumped over the tail, punching it several times in the process. The Mayor turned to face him, whip uncoiling and striking forward. Xander danced between the sections before letting the final one wrap around one of his gauntlets. Triggering the electric field he watched and laughed mockingly as the fire strand dissipated. Swaying to the side to avoid the follow-up sword strike, he began to back away, leading the Mayor to the now empty parking lot. “Come on, you become a demon and you still can’t beat a plain old human!”
With a roar, the Mayor charged after him. Xander led him around the parking lot, slowly forming a gigantic spiral, insulting him whenever he slowed down. Just when it seemed the Mayor was about to give up the chase and search for easier prey, Xander let loose his biggest taunt yet. “Hey, Dick! Whatever happened to Faith? I mean, I haven’t seen her around at all since I beat her and sealed her strength. I left her laying there in the gutter like trash; I figured it was fitting; after all, that’s what she is. Did she ever make it back that night, I never bothered to check?”
“I’ll crush you, you vermin and your soul will be the first one I eat! I’ll get the answer on how to help her from you as you dissolve in my stomach for the next thousand years!” The Mayor’s aura flared up even brighter and hotter than before, forcing Xander to dip deeper into the Soul of Ice to bear the heat.
Finally though, the pattern was complete, Xander could see the trail of melted asphalt from where he had led the Mayor around, forming a gigantic spiral. Letting the Mayor reach him, he darted forward and thrust his fist up, making contact even as he screamed out the name of the attack to help him focus. “Heavenly Dragon's Strike!”
The Hiryū Shōten Ha, or Heavenly Dragon's Strike, was a complex attack Ranma learned based on a clash of temperatures. The fighter develops a Soul of Ice, keeping entirely free of emotion, and then leads the opponent or opponents around in a circular motion. The attack depends on the conflicting natures of the user’s cold chi and emotional status, and the opponent’s hot chi and anger. Other hot emotions, such as lust, or actual heat, could be used as a substitute. The user releases a corkscrewing uppercut while remaining in the Soul of Ice to trigger the attack. The pressure differences from the hot and cold form a tornado with an Eastern dragon on the inside and the opponents are sucked up and battered by the wind and debris. Well, that is usually the case.
Xander’s technique was formed through his own chi, which had slight a slight demonic taint, and the magic and aura of the demonic Mayor, which had unforeseen effects on the attack. Additionally, the ever watching god supplied Xander with the tiniest bit of its own power, just enough to Change things and help ensure victory for his pawn…
The Mayor was sucked up into a massive tornado, wings utterly useless with the high speed winds. The very asphalt was being ripped up by the force of the winds, and Xander had to use everything he had to stay on the ground, even with the calm pocket surrounding him. Instead of a normal Eastern Dragon, a Western one formed, actually moving to claw at the demonic Mayor. The wind was cutting, small debris being whipped around inside at such speeds to mimic a blender. The Mayor grappled with the magical chi construct, clawing back at it and rending it to pieces. Still, he was stuck in the tornado of blades, and heavier objects, like the few cars left, were being picked up as well, adding more blunt force trauma to the mix. The Mayor flexed his flames, expanding them in a bid to shatter the temperature difference that fueled the tornado.
Seeing that, Xander extended his own aura, feeding as much cool chi as he could into the storm to prolong the effects. Weapons began to fall from his sleeves as he diverted chi from his chi pockets to the storm. A sword, a glaive, thermoses with water, and a laser rifle all ended up lying on the ground, protected only by the bubble of still air near Xander, but still he kept seeking more and more chi, pulling it from deeper and deeper within himself. Finally, he collapsed exhausted and the tornado dissipated, the end never really in question as Xander faced a being of flame and shadow, and arch demon of the old world.
With a tremendous crash the Mayor hit the ground, his wings too shredded to be of any use. Weakly, Xander staggered to his feet, picking up the Thanagarian sword that lay on the ground even as the Mayor climbed from the crater his impact had formed. The Mayor definitely looked worse for the wear. Claw marks covered his body from the dragon, one of his horns was broken off from an impact with a car, and smaller gashes covered his body from the razor debris, leaking liquid fire and shadow. The wings were both ripped to shreds and one bent oddly, whether it was from the wind speed or a car Xander had no idea. Neither weapon was in sight, having disappeared into the tornado, leaving the Balrog with only its natural weapons, of which it still had many.
“Foolish boy, you really though that would defeat me, a greater pure breed demon? And now you expect to best me with a sword?” The Mayor actually managed to laugh, a noise like an erupting volcano.
“No, I don’t. The sword was just a ruse. I didn’t want to reveal my trump card if you weren’t getting back up.” Saying that, Xander dropped the sword and pulled out the one item he hadn’t let fall out of stuff space. Aiming the gigantic Thanagarian cannon, Xander let it charge for a second, hearing the high pitched whine peak, signifying that it was fully charged, then fired.
“Well gosh,” was all the Mayor had time to get out before the blast vaporized his head. Fire shot out of the stub of the neck, a pillar reaching hundreds of feet into the air before it abruptly snuffed out. The glow of the Mayor’s body faded away to grey before a sudden wind kicked up and the entire corpse, now turned to nothing but ash, blew away.
The cannon dropped from limp fingers. “I think I’ll take a rest now.” Xander toppled backward, just missing the dropped sword.
In another dimension a hungry god laughed as it absorbed the essence of the demon its pawn had killed, the energy it expanded to help the boy letting it lay claim to the demon’s power.
When Xander awoke he was laying in an unfamiliar bed, but not the hospital. He sat up with a groan, “Where am I?”
“Xander!” A blur rushed him and attached itself to his chest. He managed to stop himself from kicking it away in reflex when he realized it was Willow. “You’re alright, we were worried.”
He hugged her back awkwardly considering the fact Oz had just stepped into the room. The rest of those ‘In the Know’ about the supernatural soon followed, surprisingly including Mrs. Summers. However, the moment Giles stepped into the room Xander ignored everyone else. Pushing Willow off him he stood up, albeit unsteadily, and glared at Giles. “Where is he?”
“Salem, Massachusetts, two miles north of the town. He has an invisible tower there, only those who know of the supernatural, or know of him, can find it. That’s all my contacts were able to find out, he doesn’t like the Watcher’s Council much. Here are the notes I complied about your curse, I hope they help.”
“Good. Now, where are my things?” Quickly gathering them and making goodbyes so fast it would be considered rude, Xander rushed out the door of the Summers’ house. He had a cure to get.
Thanks to Dogbertcarroll for going over this and giving me a second perspective.
1/12 - Rewrite to the chapter, editing done, scenes expanded and others taken out.
I’m still not entirely happy with this first chapter, it still has a lot of my old writing style but I feel the others are better written.