"What the hell?" she screamed, looking around and seeing something other than the room they'd been in.
The bed and floor were the same, but they appeared to be on a platform and she could see a small island floating not too far away with… a pumpkin headed scarecrow on it?
"Item world," Xander explained popping up from under the covers. "I figured we'd raise your phone, and you, a couple of levels before we tried to call the gatekeeper."
"Item world?" she asked, calming down as she stared at a sky as chaotically colored as a colorblind preschooler's finger painting and seeing a statue of a cell phone floating overhead?
"Inside every item are a number of levels. Most items max out at 30 and the deeper you go the more powerful the foes. The foes are flaws in an item made into replicas of people and creatures. As the flaws are destroyed the item becomes… better. I have no idea why, it's just the way things work."
"And raising my levels?" she asked.
"As you defeat flaws you become more powerful," he assured her.
"I don't have any weapons…or clothes right now," she pointed out.
Xander grinned. "I noticed, but fortunately for you I have a number of items for you."
She looked at Xander's naked form as he climbed off of the bed and stood up. "And you're keeping them… where?"
"There are a couple of abilities you automatically learn when you land in the Netherworld, or become an apprentice to one that has," he explained.
"Apprentice? I don't remember becoming an apprentice."
"You were a bit distracted while I was making you one," Xander admitted.
"Oh," she said blushing.
Holding out his hand a pair of red panties appeared. "Succubus panties," he explained. "They enhance charisma and the ability to learn magic."
"Learn magic?" she asked excitedly as she put on the panties.
"Yes," he agreed. "We'll start with basic elemental attacks." A can of soda appeared in his hand. "But first take this can and think about putting it away."
The can vanished from her hand. "Warehouse… I have a warehouse," she said in wonder.
"Yep," he agreed and summoned a black dress, a leather jacket and a pair of ruby red shoes. Once she'd put them on he handed her a belt, beret and staff.
"Now what?" she said excitedly filled with energy.
"Now lean against me, because while in contact with me you can use any spell I know, as long as you have the mana to cast it. Cast a spell enough times and you won't need my help to cast it anymore."
"I…I can tell a lot about that pumpkin creature just from looking at him," she said in wonder, taking a little more time to look around.
"What element is he weak against?" Xander asked, getting dressed.
"He's weak against fire," she said.
Xander stepped up behind her and wrapped his arms around her. "I'd advise starting with rank one fire spells."
"What kind of power is star?" she asked as she instinctively ran through all the spells she could learn from him.
"Holy electrical," Xander replied. "Fire, ice, wind and holy electrical are the elements I can teach you."
"There are some healing spells too!" she said in awe.
"Yes," Xander agreed. "And some various other spells, but first we teach you how to defend yourself and grow stronger."
"Ok," she agreed. "Here goes." Taking a deep breath the waved the staff at the pumpkin head and yelled, "flambé!"
The creature burst into flames and vanished a second later.
"Did I kill him?" she asked nervously.
"It's gone, but it was never alive so you couldn't kill it," Xander assured her. Walking to the edge of the plateau he pointed out a robed figure below that looked just like her. "They are mindless drones, bits of entropy, not people. They don't have friends or family. They have no purpose other than to cause destruction. I can make them into people, but that's neither here nor there."
"Ok," she agreed. "Though the idea of having a twin of me who is a healer is really tempting."
Xander chuckled. "Fine, I'll exhaust her so we can make her human."
"R-really?" she asked in shock.
"A healer is always a good addition to the party and we were going to need one anyway," he explained. "Wanting a twin you is a bit kinky, but not all that strange."
She blushed and admitted, "I have been called a narcissist before."
"And I, like all guys, have a thing for twins."Ten Minutes Later
"How's it going?" she asked.
Xander ignored a low level ice spell and flicked the cleric in the forehead, reducing her to one hit point. Running out of mana, she hit him with her staff. Sighing, he lifted her up and threw her onto the bed whereupon she vanished. The bed glowed white and sounds of fighting came from it for a minute before falling silent.
"Done," Xander announced. "You'll need to make her your apprentice, but we'll handle that later. For now, let's mop up this level and get to the next one."Three levels later
"I…am…exhausted," she admitted as they stumbled through the doorway and silver coins cascaded into their warehouses along with a few items.
"For a first timer you did good," Xander assured her, opening a door to exit the item with a gesture.
As they re-entered reality she sighed. "I better call home before they think I've been kidnapped."
"Check the time," he said. "Time passes differently in item worlds."
"We've only been here for ten minutes?!"
A somewhat battered and bruised version of her appeared on the bed. "Please keep it down, my head is killing me," she groaned.
Xander handed her a can of soda that seemed to glow with its own light. "Drink this."
The can was downed almost before he finished saying it and she sighed as her bruises faded and her energy returned. "Much better."
"You know… you haven't even asked me my name," the girl said wondering why that suddenly seemed so important, where before she'd wanted to remain as a nameless prostitute.
"Nabiki," he said, shocking her. "Another one of our abilities is to know everyone's name and title at a glance. I was just avoiding using yours until you felt comfortable enough to tell me."
"Oh," she said, feeling better.
"I don't mind being a Tendo," the cleric announced, "but I probably should have a first name."
"What would you like as a first name?" Xander asked.
"Yuri," she said after a moment's thought.
"And now to make you Nabiki's apprentice," Xander said with a grin.
Nabiki popped her head out from under the blankets. "Was that…we're in the item world again."
"Easiest way to get there without a gatekeeper," Xander said from behind the bed.
"And becoming an apprentice?" Nabiki asked.
"Yuri, you want to become Nabiki's apprentice?" he asked.
"Hell, yeah!" Yuri enthused. "Command me, mistress!"
Nabiki opened her mouth, paused then shook her head and chuckled. "What next, master?"
"We continue on," Xander said. "The goal is to reach level ten, gaining power and money as we do so, because I'm going to need help contacting the gatekeeper and for that a special leveled phone should be the perfect focus."Level 10
"Chill!" Nabiki cast, causing ice to form around a catgirl.
"Got the first rank fire spell down already?" Xander asked, as she leaned against him so she could use his spells.
"Almost," Nabiki replied. "But she's strong against fire and weak against ice, so I just switched over."
"Cure one," Yuri cast on Nabiki, practicing her healing spells until Nabiki picked up some fire spells for her to learn. "How is she able to cast spells without using their proper names?" the cleric asked.
"Since we are humans we can… alter spells a bit," Xander explained while Nabiki flambéed a succubus. "It increases the speed we learn at and makes it a little cheaper to cast. That's the theory anyway," Xander said. "Repetition, specific gestures, visualization and a bit of verse can all have an effect. It depends on the caster, local laws of magic, and tons of other stuff I know little about. I'm more of a practical caster than anything else, I learn enough to do what I want and then move onto a different subject."
"Ember, Ember burning bright, let us light up someone's life – Kiss of Flames," Nabiki intoned, blowing a kiss at an approaching fighter and sending a pair of glowing red lips to attach themselves to his cheek before encasing him in flames.
"Rank two," Xander said proudly, a gun appearing in his hand as he picked off a bowman who was moving into range.
"Looked impressive, but it took up more mana than I'm comfortable using on a single spell," Nabiki said shaking her head. "I'll concentrate on the first rank of ice now and experiment later, once I have all them down."
"Flambe," Yuri cast, breaking into a big smile as an approaching cleric went up in flames.
"Now that I wouldn't have guessed was possible, she's learning your personal versions of the spell rather than the standard ones," Xander said. "My two main areas of study were practical and tantric. Outside of that I'm mostly clueless."
"Chill," Nabiki cast covering another opponent in ice.
"The more skill you have with a spell, the more effective it is," Xander explained. "And as you raise levels in it, you can cover more area with it and do more damage. My first rank holy electrical attack: Taze, does more damage than my second rank holy electrical attack: Lightning Asp, because I went nuts using it on everything until I got ridiculously skilled at it."
"Cool," Nabiki said with a smirk. "Hey, what's that green door?"
"That is the special level ten bonus that sometimes appears. It's usually a puzzle or a game of chance, though sometimes it's dangerous. Wanna see?"
"Sure," Nabiki said.
Xander picked her up and walked over to the green door. He'd barely touched the knob before they were teleported inside, to a rock cavern with a series of stalls in the wall, manned by various monsters.
"What about, Yuri?" Nabiki asked concerned, as he set her down.
"Time stops while we're in here," Xander assured her. "When we step out, not a second has passed."
"Oh," Nabiki calmed down. "So, what's this?"
"Traveling Bazaar," he replied. "Which is good, because I need more consumables."
It was several hours before Nabiki had finished comparing prices and examining everything for sale from the different monsters. Xander meanwhile had visited the healer and gotten all healed up. He found it strange that only in traveling bazaars and item worlds could they heal him without tantric magic.
"You know, you never asked me why I was doing this," Nabiki said, after visiting the healer herself.
"A virgin prostitute," Xander replied easily. "I assumed that it was because you desperately needed money."
"Obviously," Nabiki replied. "But the reason I needed money is different than most."
"I'm listening," he replied, knowing she needed to unburden herself from her tone of voice.
"My older sister came down with breast cancer, just like our mom before she died. I wasn't out on a street corner because I'm too lazy to learn to type and get a job as a secretary, I was out there because the cost of treatment is more than my family can afford, but if I can get enough money together I can get a loan for the rest."
"How about we go heal your sister, then we continue this?" Xander asked.
"Y-you can do that?" she stuttered out. Nabiki had hoped his healing magic was powerful enough to heal Kasumi, but she figured she'd have to either learn it herself or help Yuri do so.
"Sure," Xander replied easily. "We should take a break anyway, so let's go heal your sister."
"My family is really high strung, so when we get there let me do the talking, alright?" Nabiki asked, hoping things would go smoothly but expecting the worst.
"Sure," Xander agreed readily, as the taxi sped towards the Tendo household. "I don't speak Japanese anyway."
"Couldn't you learn the way you taught me English?" Nabiki asked.
"You are, literally, the first friendly face I ran into," he replied. "I just got to your world while searching for my own."
The car pulled up in front of the Tendo residence, a two story house with attached dojo and side yard. Xander handed the cabby a bag of silver coins and after barely a glance he enthusiastically accepted them.
Nabiki lead the way and the instant they were inside they were set upon by a young girl screaming something in Japanese. From the reactions of the other people in the room it was something exceptionally foul.
"Blaze," Nabiki cast nailing the dark haired girl with a fire spell.
Things got loud.
Xander was dressed in his Levis and a Hawaiian shirt, as all his other clothes were armor of one type or another, while Yuri still had on a simple white cloth robe with the hood up.
A red haired woman who spoke very little English served the two tea, while Nabiki flung around fire like it was going out of style.
Yuri pulled back her hood and used the red haired woman's moment of shock, at seeing another Nabiki, to slip her the tongue.
"Nabiki control yourself!" the woman ordered in English once she'd managed to free herself.
"It's Yuri," Xander corrected.
"I noticed," she replied, confusing Xander.
"My name is Yuri," the healer introduced herself. "I just gave you the ability to speak English."
"Oh," the red haired woman said, noticing she did in fact know English quite well now.
"So, what is going on?"
Nodoka Saotome, whose husband Genma turned into a panda bear when Nabiki's father had splashed him with water to put him out, explained how the younger girl had accused Nabiki of only caring about money and finally showing her true colors. Naturally this lead to Nabiki setting Akane on fire and Nodoka's son, Akane's fiancé, had quickly put her out, turning into a red haired girl while doing so from the water that got on him. The resulting row allowed Nabiki to blow off a lot of steam and a lot of fire spells.
Xander waited until everyone had calmed down before casting Esuna on the two cursed men, restoring them to their original bodies.
"I-I'm human!" Genma exclaimed in English, having heard the guests speak to his wife in that language.
"Until the curse gets triggered again," Nabiki explained, surprised at what she could see when she looked.
"Cure one," Yuri cast, healing the small amount of damage Nabiki had done, as she had either purposefully cast a very weak version, or they were extremely fireproof humans.
Taking advantage of everyone's shock she quickly explained in Japanese, "Xander is training me in magic and knows some high rank healing spells. I asked him to heal Kasumi, so that's why he's here."
"You can heal my daughter?" Soun asked hopefully and then repeated it in English when Genma nudged him.
"Yes," Xander agreed. "My magic is made for healing wounds, but it shouldn't be too hard to come up with a brand new healing spell if the standard ones don't work."
"We'll pay anything!" Soun promised tearfully, "Just heal my baby!"
Ranma translated for Akane who was nearly bald, as healing didn't regrow hair.
"What is Nabiki paying?" she asked and Ranma translated into English.
"I'm helping him return home, which requires me learning some of his magic," Nabiki quickly interjected.
"And her?" Akane asked pointing at Yuri.
"A possible Tendo sister from another timeline," Xander lied, once the question was translated, as he really couldn't think of how to explain her, never having gotten that deep into the theory behind gaining minions from flaws.
"You mean you didn't separate Nabiki into good and evil parts?" Ranma asked.
Nabiki placed a hand on Xander's shoulder and cast, "Taze."*ZAP*
Ranma lay on the ground twitching with sparks coming off his hair. "I probably deserved that," he admitted.
"So where is Kasumi?" Nabiki asked.
"Doctor Tofu returned and swept her off her feet," Nodoka said with a tear in her eye. "He said he'd rather be a ronin who got to spend five minutes with her, than a respected doctor who married someone he didn't love."
"So, he's at his old clinic?" Nabiki asked.
"Yes," Soun said, tears running down his face. "He marched over here with a priest just an hour ago, married her and…took her home. He even took her name."
"Let's go heal her so she can have a proper honeymoon then," Xander suggested standing up.
"You…you can really do it," Soun said seeing the certainty on Xander's face.
"Let's go before we're too late," Xander said, not wanting to waste time, just in case they didn't have it to spare.
Ranma's father picked up Xander and showing speed and strength you wouldn't expect from such a heavyset man, ran out the door. Everyone chased after them, but by the time they'd caught up he'd delivered Xander to Tofu's clinic and was standing guard outside.
"What's the meaning of this?" Soun demanded confused, as everyone caught their breath.
"Several times cures for our curses have come into our hands," Genma said thoughtfully, "and thanks to fighting and delays they've always fallen through."
"This has nothing to do with our curses," Ranma pointed out.
"I'm not willing to take the chance it'll turn out the same way," Genma said. "So he's in there now healing her and I'll stop anyone who tries to interfere."
"I better-"Akane began only to have Ranma pull her back just before Genma's foot would have impacted her stomach.
Everyone turned shocked eyes to Genma.
"No one will interfere," Genma said solidly.
"I wasn't going to interfere!" Akane exclaimed. "I was just going to make sure everything went okay."
"You don't know the first thing about magic, none of us do," Genma replied. "So all you could do is get in the way at best. But more likely you'd misinterpret something and interfere."
"That's… surprisingly well thought out," Nabiki admitted.
"And that is why I still respect the fat bastard," Ranma said cheerfully. "Because occasionally, he'll do something like this."
"I… I thank you old friend," Soun said solemnly, "I think I'll join you in guarding them."
Nodoka beamed and moved to stand beside her husband. "While it's unseemly to interfere in another clan's affairs, I can't fault your heart."
"You adopted Doc into our family," Ranma said suddenly, realizing why Genma would be this protective of the couple, much to everyone's shock.
"Kasumi deserved more than a clanless ronin, and a man who would sacrifice everything for my daughter-in-law is an acceptable son to me," Genma admitted.
"The world's gone mad," Nabiki said in shock. "I'm feeling respect for Genma!"
"You aren't the only one," Akane muttered pinching herself.
"Your chi has grown," Ranma told Nabiki.
Before she could say anything the door opened and a smiling and healthy, Kasumi Tendo pushed Xander out the door. The sound of the deadbolt locking was loud in the silence.
"Did you offend her?" Yuri asked curiously.
"No," Xander waved it off. "Just look at it from her point of view, she expected to die a virgin bride of the Doc, and then she was healed and whole and it's her wedding night."
Nabiki translated what he'd said into Japanese.
"Oh, my," Akane said, blushing brightly.
Nabiki hugged Xander so tightly, Yuri cast cure-two on him to make sure he was in one piece. "Thank you, thank you, thank you!"
"Bar?" Genma asked Soun.
"Bar!" Nodoka agreed before dragging the two off. "I've got the wedding of a son and a daughter to celebrate!"
"Strange but good," Akane said slowly in English carefully pronouncing every word. "Thank you."
"Yuri teach her English, please," Xander asked.
Stepping forward, Yuri kissed Akane with tongue, which froze both Ranma and Akane in place.
"Now you can understand and speak English," Xander said.
"I can," Akane said. "I would get upset, but I'm much too happy and confused."
"Let's get something to eat," Yuri suggested.
"Any places around here accept silver?" Xander asked.
"The Cat Café," Nabiki said. "Cologne would probably prefer silver to local currency."
"Dinner's on me," Xander offered.Typing by: The Last Primarch!