'Bringing Ranma to Nerima. Genma'
These simple five words written on the back of a panda post card were enough to make a man cry with joy. "Finally, the day I've been waiting for is here."
He immediately got up and started running around. "Kasumi!" He yelled upon reaching the kitchen, seeing his first daughter preparing some food. "Head to the dining room. I've got something to tell you all."
Without waiting for a response he ran upstairs and opened the door to the bedroom of his second daughter, who shrieked in surprise. "Daddy! I keep telling you to knock!" She yelled, glad he didn't catch her doing anything she didn't want seen.
"Sorry Nabiki, but come downstairs. I've got big news." The man said before heading to another room. "Akane? Where is that girl?"
The girl is question was out jogging in the carless streets of Nerima, dressed in a yellow tank top that briefly gave glimpses of a dark sports bra underneath and yellow shorts with red strips down the sides of the hips. She would occasionally throw jabs while running, perfectly content in her own little world.
Until the loud sounds of some angry birds behind her got on her nerves and made her stop. She turned, frowning, and saw what looked like a cat trying to climb up a tree to get to a nest with some birds attacking it. The angle however made the tree block her view of the cat itself.
Even though she knew it was perfectly natural for cats to go after birds like this, Akane was already annoyed so she grabbed a rock and threw it at the cat, hitting its paws and making it let go. The sound of pain though was nothing like any feline she had ever heard before.
"What was that?" She asked herself, starting to wonder if it would have been smarter to just ignore the situation than give in to irritation.
The animal in question dropped from the tree voluntarily and got around the base, and now Akane could see this was clearly no cat. For one thing, it was easily bigger than most dogs, and while quadrepedic it barely looked like a cat at all. The legs looked similar to that of a tiger but that's where it stopped. The tail was covered in green scales and looked serpentine, and the head looked like a kind of feral monkey with a slight mane. And it looked rather angry.
Akane panicked. "It's a monster!" While the rational part of her couldn't believe there was a real monster in front of her, this was no ordinary animal and she couldn't deny what was so clearly evident.
Naturally the only thing she could do was resume running, this time not to jog but to flee. This was a bad idea, as most mammalian predators have the instinct to pursue something frightened that runs from them. So the creature ran after her, moving rather fast.
'My only hope is that this thing doesn't know the streets like I do.' Akane told herself, changing directions before it could catch her.
The creature didn't seem to be that nimble, so it couldn't turn as easily as she did, but it was fast while running straight. As a result, Akane had to make a lot of turns to keep it from getting her. All the while she kept running away from her home, not wanting to lead it there. She wanted to lose it.
'Now suddenly I wished I knew where that idiot Kuno lived. Let him deal with the monster.' Akane thought, grateful that her self-managed training regime was keeping her from getting tired or muscle cramps. But it was starting to rain lightly, something she did not enjoy being out in. 'Great, rain. Well hopefully this creature doesn't like it either.'
If it didn't like the rain, it wasn't by enough to give up the chase.
Akane was forced to make another turn, because it was either that or jump into a canal, crossing the bridge above the waterway. But on the bridge a group suddenly appeared, startling Akane and making her fall on her rear.
"There it is." A red-haired teenage girl holding a staff said. Perched on her shoulder was a small lizard that looked somewhat like an iguana to Akane.
"Ya shaar?" An adult man who looked rather tall said with a strong slur, but he didn't look drunk. He wore a simple white tank top and black shorts but no shoes, and his tan hair had two tuffs in it making him look like he didn't know how to brush it. At his feet was a dog, but it looked somewhat like an ugly pug.
The creature that had been chasing Akane stopped, seeing the extra company, and stood its ground like a predator guarding its fresh kill from a rival.
"Yep, it's a definite Nue. And it looks like a cub too. The adult must not be that far from here." The redhead said.
'What is going on here? And there's more of this thing around?' Akane asked herself.
The redhead pointed out her staff which had a clawed hand at the end towards the creature, and her eyes glowed a soft jade color. The creature growled but its own eyes glowed the same color. "Good, I got a connection. Now go back to your parents Nue cub."
The monkey-faced cat creature turned around and walked off. The redhead followed, and so did the rest of her group.
"Wait!" Akane yelled, making them stop. "Who are you? And what the heck is that?"
The redhead looked to her, eyes still glowing. "It's better that you don't know." She then turned and left in a rush, the creature running now and them following.
"Alright, I've had enough." Akane said to herself, getting home and heading home at a more relaxed pace. 'At least it was a girl that helped me. A guy would use it as leverage and expect me to do something for him.'
"Akane, where were you?" Soun asked when his youngest daughter came home.
"Out for a jog, it... went weird." She said, not feeling like admitting what happened. "I just want a bath."
"It will have to wait. I've got news for the entire family."
Akane frowned. "No, that will have to wait. I'm taking my bath now."
Soun frowned. "Akane, dining room. Now." He used a little bit of his demon head technique to force her to comply, which she did, taking a seat next to Nabiki.
"So what's the big news?" Nabiki asked.
"An old friend of mine named Genma Saotome is going to be staying with us for a while, and so is his son, Ranma."
"A houseguest?" Kasumi asked.
"A boy?" Akane asked too.
"Is he cute?" Nabiki asked, the only one of the girls who sounded excited.
"I don't know. I've never met the boy." Soun admitted, not earning any favor from his children. "But I have been keeping touch with my friend for years. He and his son have been traveling all over the world learning various martial arts and facing many threats. You see, my friend and I were once students under the same master, and when he became fathers it was our dream to have our children get together to continue the legacy of this school."
"Wait, you're trying to set us up for an arranged marriage?" Akane asked, aghast.
"Akane's right Father. It's bad enough we know nothing about this boy, but for you to know nothing too? I question your rationality." Kasumi added.
"Girls, they are going to show up today whether you like it or not. At least be nice to them. Then we'll see how things go." Soun insisted.
'Something tells me he intends to force the whole marriage angle whether any of us like it or not. Well, I might as well see if the boy had anything of value before making up my mind.' Nabiki thought.
"Can I take my bath now?" Akane asked, not wanting to think about this too much.
"Sure Akane." Soun said with a nod.
Two hours later when the rain had stopped there was a knock at the door, and Kasumi went to answer it. "Hello."
"Is this the home of Soun Tendo?" A fat bald man in a white gi asked.
"It is, are you Mr. Saotome?"
"Yes. With my boys."
"Boys?" Kasumi repeated, confused, seeing two men behind the man. "Father only mentioned you having one son."
"I do have only one son. But I have more than one boy."
'That makes no sense. But at least one of them looks older than me.' Kasumi thought. "Well come on in then. I'll go get my father."
They followed her in, where they soon found Soun seated and reading a book. "Tendo!" Genma said happily.
Soun looked and smiled. "Ah Saotome, good to see you again old friend. And this must be Ranma." He said, looking to the tallest member of the group.
"Ee?" He asked, pointing at himself.
"Sorry, wrong guy. I'm Ranma." The shorter guy with a pigtail said. "This is my brother Fisk."
"Fisk? Is that a nickname?"
"I didn't see you had pets." Kasumi said, noting a lizard and dog.
"They're not pets. They're family." Ranma told her. "This is Dragoon and that's Fu." He pointed to the lizard then the dog.
"Saotome, you never mentioned a second son." Soun said to Genma.
"It's... complicated old friend."
"Well hey there." Nabiki said in a friendly manner, seeing Ranma and currently liking what she saw. "So you're the boy we've heard so little about."
"Yeah that would be me. My name's Ranma. Yours?"
"Nabiki. I hear you've been all over the world."
Ranma nodded. "Yep, I've been to the Himalayas, England, Brazil, Indonesia, China and more."
'Not cheap to go to any of those. These guys definitely have money. Now to see if he's worth investing in.' Nabiki though, her interest peaked. "Interesting. I've often wanted to do some global traveling.
"Well maybe you-"
"No boy, you know we can't take company along on our trips." Genma told his son. "She couldn't handle what we do."
"Oh I can't can I?" Nabiki asked, sensing something was being kept from her.
Behind a corner in a hall, Akane was listening in. 'Weird, that boy... why does he seem so... different than the others? And why does he look and feel so familiar to me?'
"Hey Saotome, where's your wife?" Soun asked, remembering Nodoka and wondering why she wasn't here too.
"That's another long story old friend. Right now let's not waste time telling stories, at least not while sober."
Soun smiled. "That's the Genma Saotome I know. C'mon, I hope you still like the Nagano brand."
"My tastes have kind of changed from being abroad, but an old favorite would be appreciated." The fat man said, following his old friend to the kitchen.
Ranma, Fisk, Dragoon, and Fu all seemed to sigh in unison.
Kasumi went to her hiding sister. "You don't have to hide Akane. He's not going to bite you."
"I'm not worried about him biting me Kasumi." Akane said dryly, then looked back at the group. 'Wait, they look... it can't be.' Now that she was focusing on more than just Ranma she could see what she hadn't before. 'It is, it's the same group that got that thing off my back. That boy is even dressed and equipped like that girl. Are they twins?'
Ranma could sense someone was watching him and turned. "Who's there?"
Akane couldn't help herself, she hid again. Fu was the first one to get to her, and a closer look told her this was no ordinary dog. The face looked better suited to a lion than a dog, and it even had a bit of a mane it looked like, but the body was clearly that of a dog.
"Kasumi, what kind of dog is this?" She asked.
"He's a Chinese breed. You don't see many of them outside China." Ranma said, coming up and petting Fu. "Hi, I'm Ranma."
"Akane." She replied politely. "By any chance do you have a sister?"
"Not that I know of. Why?"
"I saw a girl earlier today that looked a lot like you and I swear she was with these companions of yours too."
"Wait, that was you?" Ranma asked.
"That was me? So your group was involved? What the heck was that thing chasing me?" Akane asked.
"You were chased Akane?" Kasumi asked.
"It's hard to explain." Ranma said.
"Hard to explain?" Akane repeated, starting to get mad. "Look mister, I have not had a good day today. I've been chased by a wild animal thru the rain, been told my sisters and I might be engaged to some boy we know absolutely nothing about, and now that you're here you refuse to tell me what this is all about? I don't care how hard it is to explain I want to know everything!"
Ranma shrugged. "Alright then. Better get comfortable and no screaming."
Ranma leaned against a wall in the room, with Akane and Kasumi joining Nabiki back inside. "I'm not one for long explanations, so I'll make it short. Do any of you know what a cryptid is?"
Akane had no idea and shook her head, Kasumi tried to think it over since she felt she should know this. Nabiki was the one to speak up. "Yeah, it's connected to cryptozoology, the study of creatures that are debated to be real or fictional in that there's no concrete proof of the existence or absence of. A cryptid is an animal, or any organism for that matter, that currently is unknown to standard science. The most famous example being the Loch Ness Monster of Scotland."
"Ah yes, Nessie. She's a good one. Remember her Fisk?" The pigtailed young man said to the other male in the room who nodded. Dragoon chirped like a lizard and Fu barked as if in approval.
Nabiki arched an eyebrow. "So what's this about?"
"Wait, you're saying that creature that was after me this morning was one of these mystery animals?" Akane asked.
"It was a Nue, I'm sure you've heard of them before."
"Nue? The Japanese chimera? Those aren't real." Nabiki said.
"Oh trust me they're real. And your sister was being chased by a young one this morning." Ranma said, turning to Akane. "Did you do anything to the Nue to make it angry?"
"Hey I was being chased! Don't make me sound like the bad guy here!" Akane stated.
"It was a cub, alone and probably just starting to learn how to hunt on its own. It wouldn't try to attack a human unless provoked. So did you provoke it?"
"I thought I saw a cat trying to get to a birds nest. I threw a rock to make it stop. How was I supposed to know it was a monster?" Akane justified.
Ranma frowned, and Fisk looked hurt. "Cryptids are not monsters. They're not mutants, demons, aliens, or anything like that. They're just not well understood."
"You speak like you spend a lot of time with them." Kasumi said.
"I do. In fact, it's actually why I've been traveling so much. You see, the Saotomes are cryptid experts. We make it our mission to protect them from people and vice versa."
"So you're the Animal Welfare Society for the mythological?" Akane asked.
"Actually that's a pretty good way to put it." Ranma said.
"Hold on, I want proof mister. Show me a cryptid." Nabiki stated.
"Got any hot water?" Ranma asked. "That way I can show you one."
"I'll get some. How hot?"
"Warm but not burning."
Kasumi nodded then left.
"While we're waiting, Fu and Dragoon are two cryptids. Fu is a lion-dog." Ranma started.
"Wait, you mean like those statues you see at shrines?" Akane interrupted. Fu barked as if to say yes.
"Yes, and Dragoon is a drakon. Think of that as a lesser dragon." Ranma continued, and Dragoon hissed and even unveiled a hidden frill, surprising the girls. "You're better than a dragon anyway Dragoon." He added to pacify the reptile.
"Are you a cryptid?" Nabiki asked.
"No, I'm human. Not many cryptids can pass off being human without complex disguises. Fisk here is lucky that way." Ranma answered.
"What do you mean?" Both Nabiki and Akane asked, just as Kasumi returned with a glass of warm water. Fisk held out his hand and she gave it to him, and he dunked his other hand into it. All three girls were amazed to see the tall thin man transform into something resembling a sasquatch.
"What the heck is he?" Akane asked, a little afraid now. Even Kasumi had backed away.
"We don't really know what kind of cryptid he is. He was once called the Fiskerton Phantom, back in a small town in England, so we call him Fisk or Fiskerton. Pops said his DNA appears to be half primate and half feline, but nothing he can really identify." Ranma explained, and Fisk waved at the girls to help them feel less uncomfortable.
"And turning into a human is normal for him?" Nabiki asked.
"Not quite. On our last trip in China to get some people away from a Qilin habitat we stopped by a training ground called Jusenkyo. This is sort of like the location version of a cryptid, I don't know the actual name for that. Anyway, this place is cursed, causing transformations to anyone who gets wet there. Fisk got a curse that makes him look like a human male when he gets wet. I... got the opposite." Ranma explained.
"What, you turn into one of these when you get wet?" Akane asked.
"Not quite. That girl you saw earlier, that was me." He admitted.
"You?" Akane repeated, confused. "Wait, when you say the opposite, you mean like how he turns into a human male you turn into a human female?" She asked, pointing first to Fisk then to Ranma.
Ranma nodded. "Yes. I'm hoping we can find a way to get this cured, but we don't really know that much about unknown places. Just unknown creatures."
"So let me get this straight. You and your family travel the world, somehow, all to help these odd organisms, and in the process you got genuine curses?" Nabiki asked, and everyone in Ranma's group nodded. "Well, this is a lot to take in. But I want to know if Dad knew about this."
Akane nodded. "Yeah, I mean it's one thing to not tell us about an arranged fiancee until now, it's another to leave out that said fiancee is some kind of creature collector."
"Hey I don't collect cryptids. These guys are my family." Ranma defended. "The guys who do try to collect cryptids are real jerks."
"Still, I hope you'll understand that none of us are exactly eager to be a part of this plan our dads have." Nabiki told him.
Ranma nodded. "No problem. I wasn't exactly thrilled to find out about this either."
"By the way, what did you do with that Nue? And how did you get rid of it?" Akane asked.
"The how is my personal secret. As for the what, I told you it was a cub. I just returned it to its mother." He answered. Just then, Fu perked up and started to growl. "What's wrong boy?"
The loud sound of a growl was heard from the yard.
"I think something's here." Kasumi said.
Ranma grabbed his clawed staff and went to the back door, followed by his group. Scratching at the door could be heard, not unlike a hungry stray cat, but this was much bigger than a stray. Ranma's eyes glowed jade, but none of the girls could see it.
"Akane, the mother is here, and she's not happy you hurt her cub."
"But how could a monster even find me?" Akane asked.
"Scent. How else? And it's not a monster." He answered. "But it is in a bad mood. I'm struggling just to keep it from breaking down this house."
"What are you doing? You're talking like you're somehow controlling whatever is out there." Akane asked.
"I am. And it's not wanting to go away." He answered, sounding like he was struggling.
Akane frowned. "Now you can control these things? That's it, this is just too crazy. This has to be some kind of stunt or something to jerk us around." With that she went to the back to see for herself what was going on.
"Akane don't!" Kasumi called out, but to no avail. Akane opened the screen door connecting the house to the backyard, and went pale. There was a Nue just like the one she had seen before, only twice the size of an African lion and lacking a mane giving it a lioness look here.
"This has to be some kind of a fake." She said mostly to convince herself but she didn't sound convincing. Then the Nue roared at her, making her hair get cartoonishly straight and swiped at her. She jumped back but it did tear right thru her clothes, essentially stripping her to tatters and her underwear.
"Alright alright, just get rid of it!" She shrieked, inadvertently giving Ranma a glimpse of her unmentionables.
Ranma went up to the adult Nue, eyes still glowing. "You have your cub and it's safe now. But if you stay here too long your Shroud won't work. You're too big to hide in here. Take your cub back to your den before more people find it and you. As powerful as you are, you can't fight off an entire city of angry humans. So please, for the good of your cub, go home."
The Nue growled, but this time it didn't sound angry. And a moment later it turned away and started to walk off, the young Nue Akane had hurt earlier next to it.
Ranma's eyes stopped glowing and he looked to the girls. "It's alright, you're safe now."
"How did you do that?" Nabiki asked, in awe of what she just saw. 'This guy has power, that is such a turn on.'
Genma came out. "Did something happen boy?"
"Yeah, just an angry mother Nue. She's gone now." He answered.
Soun was surprised by the appearance of the other cryptids in the house. But he wasn't panicked. "Saotome, I don't think my house or the neighborhood is a good place to be having cryptids running around."
"Wait Dad, you know about these things?" Akane asked.
"I told you girls that Saotome and I go way back. You didn't think martial arts was the only think we did when we were younger did you?"
"No, but no one would think 'old friend' would also mean 'creature expert'." Akane rebuttled.
"They're called cryptids. Crypt-tids. It's not that hard to remember." Ranma corrected. "And they're family, so if they're not welcome neither am I. Speaking of which, why am I here to begin with?"
"I already told you boy." Genma stated.
"I want to hear it from him." The teen boy told his father, pointing to the other man in the room.
Soun cleared his throat. "Well son, it's as your father said. He and his wife along with me and my wife came up with the idea that when our children were old enough they would wed and inherit this dojo. Ensuring the legacy of our school would continue for another generation."
Ranma did not look convinced. "So you're saying you think if we don't marry the legacy dies with us?"
"What?" Soun asked, thrown off.
"You said me marrying one of them will 'ensure the legacy of our school', as if somehow any alternative can't get the same result. Besides, what legacy are you talking about?" Ranma asked.
"Boy how dare you question us?" Genma said, not liking how his son was trying to poke holes in his intentions. Ranma tended to do that a lot and it really got Genma irritated.
"I dare because you make a lot of stupid decisions and I'm not going to get caught up in any if I can help it." Ranma argued.
"This is not a stupid decision." Genma proclaimed.
"Of course it isn't." Soun added.
"Then you won't have a problem explaining why you made it and didn't once bother saying a word about it until today." Ranma replied.
"Eez aite." Fisk commented.
"This is none of your concern Fisk." Genma told the cryptid.
"Ranma, how about you and my girls go to another room and talk amongst yourselves for a bit?" Soun suggested. "Maybe you'll feel better then."
'More like you're hoping I'll pick a fiancee after just one conversation.' Ranma snidely thought. "Alright, but no eavesdropping. Dragoon, Fu, I'm counting on you two to stop them." A chirp and a bark were his responses.
'Can I get a new day already? This one's broken.' Akane thought to herself.
If she only knew what was going to happen to and for her in the days to come.