"Nodoka, dear, may I have a word with you?" Mrs, Soh requested in a calm, yet demanding voice. She approached her daughter, finding her in the den, nursing a cup of tea that the mother knew had been made almost an hour ago. She approached Nodoka, finding the cup near empty.
Almost as if shaken out of a stupor, the daughter almost listlessly looked towards Ayumi, "Mother?"
"I am aware of you're use of my retainment," the older woman stated, sitting down in the chair across from her daughter at the small table.
Nodoka looked back into her tea, "I just want my son back."
"Dear..." Ayumi sighed, before continuing, "I know how much you've been hurt by your mistake. Every day since I have watched what life you had ebb away until you were broken." The mother reached over to her daughter, putting a hand upon Nodoka's against her cup, "The gods and ancestors know that if I knew this would help, I would have done this for you agest ago." Nodoka looked to her mother with a curious expression that held a little trepidation at what was to be said next. The younger Soh's eyes found the elder's, as she spoke more sternly, "But it will not."
"Genma refuses to even allow me to see him!" Nodoka argued, "You have told me that I'm punished myself already, why must I let him do the same?"
"No, I mean this... this custody battle you're pursuing," Ayumi clarified, "Taking Ranma from Genma would be no worse than when he left you without him. Worse yet, Genma was the only parent Ranma had known for quite some time. Surely you-"
"Surely I wouldn't deny Ranma his father, as his father has denied him her mother?" Nodoka responded, before pausing, "I... I want to be with Ranma again, and if this is the only way to do it, so be it."
"I could stop this, they are my retainers," the elder Soh stated without any conviction; she hated how her daughter had been for so many years, yet in just the previous instant, she had seen Nodoka more invigorated than since Genma had left for a final time with Ranma.
"Please, mother," Nodoka pleaded, "if you truly wish for my happiness, you won't stop me."
Ayumi sighed, and relenquished her hand from her daughters. With her eyes closed, she stood up, opened them, and made her way out of the room. Nodoka didn't turn to watch her mother leave, choosing to stare where she had been. "Forgive me, mother, but I don't wish to suffer any longer"
Nabiki strode down the stairs, glad for the day of respite that Sunday supplied. No school, no business, no worries...
Exept for that one.
The middle Tendou sister almost chose her instinct to ignore Ranma, and continue into the tearoom to watch a little TV, but at a whim redirected herself towards the pigtailed prodigy. Kneeling next to Ranma sitting on the back porch, she put on her most pleasant expression, "Hey yourself, kiddo."
Ranma beemed at her, "Whatja doin'?"
Nabiki had to look away, lest her expression of seeing such a disgustinly innocent expression on a guy near her age cause her physical illness, "I wasn't doing anything important. Any reason you care?"
Ranma pouted slightly at the question, even if she said it nicely, "I just wanted to know."
"Well, now you do!" Nabiki patted Ranma on the head, and began to stand up.
"You want to play?"
Nabiki turned to Ranma, looking at him over her shoulder, "I'm a bit too old to be playing... and I think you are, too."
"But I like to," Ranma argued, not seeing what she meant. His father played with him all the time, same with Shampoo, and Pops was definitely older than Nabiki... he thought.
"Is Pops older than you?"
Nabiki frowned slightly, "I'm pretty sure he is."
"Then why not? He plays with me!"
Nabiki pretended to muse on the point, "Maybe because he doesn't have anything better to do anymore? I mean he does have to always take care of you, after all."
Nabiki sighed dramatically, "Ranma, I know it's beyond you to realize how much your dad had to give up for you, but I'm pretty sure your father loves you all the same."
Ranma nodded, though his expression seemed unsure of her words,. Almost instinctually, he knew there was something wrong with what she said, "He says he does."
"And I wouldn't doubt if he probably meant it, too. I mean-"
Nabiki's 'cheerful' grin became a bit more sly, "Sis wants to talk to me, Ranma, have fun for me, alright?" With that, Nabiki nearly skipped to Kasumi, smiling innocently, "Yes?"
Kasumi glared at Nabiki, unnamused at something, "What the hell do you think you're doing?"
Nabiki blinked, shocked at the frankness and exeptionally harsh demand, "Uh, what do you mean?"
Kasumi leaned against the doorframe she was standing in, folding her arms across her chest, "That was far from appropriate, what you said to Ranma." Kasumi leveled a sterner glare at her sister, "Be fortunate that Uncle Saotome or even Shampoo hadn't overheard that."
Nabiki threw her hand into the air, "What? What did I say?"
Kasumi sighed, and walked back into the kitchen, "We both know full well it wasn't what you said, but what you wanted to imply. Honestly, I expect this level of immaturity from Akane, even if it still disappoints me, but from you... wash your hands and help me cut the carrots, please."
Nabiki grumbled about being suckered into cooking duty with her sister, "That was dirty, Kasumi."
"The eldest Tendou daughter knew what her sister meant, and smiled to herself for the even slight avenging on Ranma's behalf. "I'm not trying to punish you," Kasumi lied, "but I think it's best we talk about this. Ranma may be here for quite some time."
"Why? It's not like any of us can go through that stupid engagement plan, even Mr. Saotome's against it now. And having the two of them in the house without extra income is going to really drain us. It's not like Daddy's income is all that lucurative."
"We'll get by, that won't be a problem." Kasumi began preparing the stove, "You know? That's the first time I recall you willingly going near Ranma."
Nabiki's brows furrowed, as she concentrated on keeping the carrot slices even, "Well, how am I supposed to deal with him? I mean we're pretty much the same age, yet he acts like he belongs in diapers!"
"That's not very nice at all, Nabiki."
"Sorry, but I just don't know what to do around him, alright? Yeah, I admit I'm not comfortable around the reta-the guy, frankly, I don't see how you managed to do it so easily!"
Kasumi paused, understanding where Nabiki was coming from, but still unsure of the attitude she's been giving the boy, "Nabiki, I do it because I understand he can't help it. Even for his disability, he's actually quite bright and good natured. If you would simply spend some time with him, you could understand that." Nabiki looked up at Kasumi, who turned to meet her gaze, "You're very smart, Nabiki, probably the smartest of us all... as much as it irks me to say it," Kasumi joked, though a faint hint of sibling rivalry entered her tone, "I know you can think past simply seeing him as 'the retard', and learn to appreciate how special Ranma is."
"He's special alright, the kind of special they build separate schools for," Nabiki mumbled under her breath, just under Kasumi's hearing.
"What was that?" Kasumi enquired, "I'm sure it was about Ranma, and it wasn't nice."
Nabiki handed Kasumi a plate full of carrot slices, "It probably wasn't, even if it was true." Before Kasumi could retort, Nabiki left the kitchen and headed upstairs.
Kasumi set the plate down, and looked back to the stove, "I guess you overhead everything?"
"She say something about separate school for Ranma." Shampoo stated, as she rounded the corner from the second kitchen entrance.
Kasumi sighed, "I apologise for-"
"You say she also nice girl? Just give her chance?" Shampoo rolled her eyes, and went to the sink to wash her hands, before taking over Nabiki's place at cutting vegetables, "Shampoo think you no really related. Mother of sisters is really wolves, yes?"
Kasumi stifled a chuckle, "I guess they're just sheltered, this is a new ordeal for them."
"Is you too, right? Peoples like Ranma is too, too rare."
Kasumi wasn't all too positive on how to respond to that, "Ranma is a jewel. Regardless, I couldn't help but wonder how he would be without his disability."
"Shampoo imagine strong, brave..." the Amazon smirked, "Too, too handsome. He already great fighter, he be best if have warrior mind."
"I think he's perfectly fine without one. Would it really be necessary for him to be some sort of fighter?" Kasumi enquired, trying to picture Ranma as some sort of martial artist adventurer; braving dangers and testing feats as if they were an everyday thing.
"Shampoo no know, it not what Ranma fated to be. Gods choose Ranma to be innocent, he examp-... ex... he icon for us all."
Kasumi nodded in agreement, "May the deities preserve that innocence, as well."