A loud crash echoed through the yard as Akane Tendo's fist came down. The wooden board shattered into debris, as did the three cinderblocks on which it had stood. Her angry scowl changed to a smile as she wiped her forehead with her gi.

Slightly amused, Kodachi watched. Though she preferred to rely on precision and finesse, she certainly couldn't deny that brute force had its uses, and that Akane was an effective practitioner of it. Watching her was entertaining, in the same way that a visit to the zoo was.

Noticing Kodachi, Akane turned. "Anything I can do for you?" she said, sounding slightly irritated at the gymnast's presence.

"I have come to visit with darling Ranma. My school is hosting a dance next Saturday. I wish him to accompany me."

"You're out of luck." Akane picked up some unbroken blocks and began to construct a new pile. "Ranma's away for a while."

"Oh? Where has he gone?"

"Training trip. With his father. Left three days ago." She placed a fresh board atop the blocks, and took up her stance above them, preparing to strike.

"I see." Kodachi stared closely at Akane's face, wondering whether she was telling the whole truth. "And he will be returning when?"

A voice came from behind. "He won't be."

Kodachi and Akane whirled around. A young man stood confidently against the wall, flashing a debonair smile. His hair was immaculately groomed, as was the boys' school uniform he wore.

"Permit me to introduce myself," he said. "I am--"

"Shutaro Mendou," Kodachi finished for him. She'd seen his pictures in newspapers and magazines many times. His family fortune was rumored to exceed fifty billion yen.

"Ah, but I'm afraid not. Not any longer. I could explain...." He touched a control on his belt. "But it will be easier to show you."

Twin pillars of light suddenly flashed down, engulfing the two women in white radiance. And Kodachi Kuno was no more.

There was only Culliguni. Culliguni, class one madoshi of the Fellani. Culliguni, discoverer of the energon processes through which a warrior's bio-energy could be utilized to power the fusion cannon and fortune enhancement reactors. Wife of Mostruboli until he was executed as a traitor to the Union.

How strange to be alive again. So many sensations, feelings, experiences that had always (black rose) been taken for granted. The pushing of air against the chest as it flowed in and (black rose) out of lungs. The soft rubbing of fabric against flesh. The dull, (Black Rose) rhythmic thumping (BLACK ROSE) of the heart. The (BLACK ROSE) quiet strain of (BLACK ROSE BLACK ROSE) muscles as they expanded and contracted (BLACK ROSE BLACK ROSE BLACK ROSE BLACK ROSE BLACK ROSE BLACK ROSE BLACK ROSE BLACK ROSE BLACK ROSE BLACK ROSE BLACK ROSE BLACK ROSE BLACK ROSE BLACK ROSE BLACK ROSE BLACK ROSE BLACK ROSE BLACK ROSE BLACK ROSE....)

Gripping her head between her hands, Kodachi screamed.

"Ah, you've managed to resist possession," Mendou said. "I congratulate you, my dear. Very few people manage to do that." He turned to Akane. "Most remarkable, don't you agree?"

Akane said nothing as she picked up her piece of wood, and shattered it on Mendou's head.

"That hurt, you know." Mendou stepped back. "Both of you. Pity. But I am prepared to do this the hard way." He reached into his pocket, and the barrel of a weapon was pointed at Kodachi and Akane.

"That's supposed to scare us?" Akane glared at the rich boy defiantly. "You've got a lot to learn about guns and martial artists."

"Our scientists have considered the question of whether bullets would be effective against you. They're still arguing about it. Fortunately, we have other resources at our disposal."

A cloud of gas issued forth from the weapon, momentarily engulfing the women. From the neck down, Kodachi's body suddenly went limp, refusing to move.

"Either of you would've made a fine addition to our forces. But we really don't need you on our side. All that we require is a hostage."

"Hostage?" Kodachi's tongue pushed against the back of her molar, dislodging the pill that had been taped there. She swallowed, hoping she could keep Mendo talking long enough for the antidote to take effect. Then she'd show him that nobody beat Kodachi Kuno at her own game.

"You see, Ranma Saotome has been most uncooperative so far." Mendo grinned. "But now, I think he might change his mind, and serve us."

"Oh ho ho!" Kodachi's legs began to tingle. Just a few more moments, and she'd be able to move. My dear little man, the Black Rose has poisonous thorns. You'll never be able to use Kuno Kodachi in your plot to....What? What are you doing?!"

Mendo walked off, with Akane draped over his shoulder like a sack of flour. "Put me down, you ass!" she screamed. "Put me down!"

By the time Kodachi could move again, they were gone without a trace. She had been left behind. The Black Rose, overlooked as though she were insignificant.

She leapt into the air, headed back to her home. These Fellani, whoever they were, would learn the error of their ways. Ranma would be freed from their capture, and whatever plans they had would be ended.

Kodachi Kuno, the Black Rose, would see to it.