[soundtrack for this: Better Place, by Rachel Platten]
The intensity of Akane's fighting spirit rose even higher. Akane backed up and forced Nabiki closer to the wall behind her. She assumed Akane was moving her to where her little sister could control the shielding better. She could feel Akane burning with the power of her fighting spirit.
She knew what Akane had yelled had been about Mom. "Oh, Akane ... " she whispered as she stepped forward and put her hand gently on her sister's back. She focused hard on her own Ki and tried to pull as much strength as she could from it. She hoped that if she was using her own Ki, it might help Akane in some way. It wasn't much, but it was all she could do. Akane was slowly slumping in a slow wilt under the onslaught of the energy her little sister was shielding her from.
She was scared, but also angry. Very angry. Why do we have to go through all of this, just to love who we want?! It isn't fair! She thought furiously, as she focused on her resentment and fear from the last few days. She saw movement out of the corner of her eye and looked down at herself. She was glowing now too. It was a much weaker flickering blue aura than the powerful one her sister was putting out, but it was all she could do. She leaned into Akane's back and pushed and tried to help Akane stand against the unbelievable power being unleashed in the street.
Gradually, Akane reversed the slow slump against the power she had been struggling against being overwhelmed by. Akane started to stand up straighter, and stronger. Her little sister clenched her body and she could feel the power inside Akane surge up at her sister's call as Akane yelled and fought back against the onslaught.
The color of Akane's battle aura changed from a brilliant white to a pure white with a very faint blue fringe. Akane's posture firmed up, and her little sister dug in her stance and growled in defiance. Nabiki could see little rips appearing on the edges of Akane's clothing, and her sister's hair was flying all around her in disarray, but Akane didn't retreat one step further.
Nabiki lay her head down and pressed it up against the back of Akane's neck as she poured everything she had to give into her sister. "Hang on, Akane, please hang on!" She yelled over the battle.
"T-That's ... what I ... was going ... to tell ... you!" Akane managed to get out as she yelled back over her shoulder in a strained voice. Nabiki smiled. She loved her sister. Ranma would do well with her.
As abruptly as the energy wave had started, it stopped. Akane actually took two steps forward and stumbled to a stop with a surprised yelp.
As for herself, she ended up on her hands and knees and wincing as she caught herself from falling. She looked up gratefully to thank Akane but swore instead as she dove to catch her little sister. Akane was slowly slumping to the ground and falling backwards with her eyes rolled up into the back of her head.
She managed to catch Akane's head in her hands as she lunged forward with her arms outstretched. She shifted to a sitting position and pulled Akane's head into her lap and then looked up to survey the battlefield.
Daddy was down on one knee and breathing heavily while resting a fist on the ground. Kasumi was standing behind him with her hand resting on his shoulder. But her elder sister wasn't watching Daddy. Kasumi was watching Tofu with fear on her face.
Nabiki looked up at the fight and cringed. Ranma was breathing heavily and resting his hands on his knees as he watched the old woman warily. Tofu was standing to the right of Ranma and holding his left elbow with his right hand. She could see blood seeping from in between Tofu's fingers. It was obvious that Tofu had shielded Ranma from the brunt of the Amazon Elder's attack. He was wobbling on his feet a bit, and his clothes were actually smoking!
She looked back quickly at Miso and found Tofu's master standing calmly in front of her friends with a small smile curving up one side of her mouth. She didn't see a battle aura coming from Miso, but she could still feel it. She did see something that shimmered almost transparent in the air around Miso and her friends though. Maybe it was some kind of shield? Riko had her fists clenched at her sides and was grinding her teeth while tears of righteous fury slid down her friend's cheeks. She knew Riko hated situations like the one they were in. Regardless, her friends seemed to be all right.
The same, however, could not be said for the Amazons. Almost all of the Amazons were on the ground now, most of them had been thrown up against the walls on either side of the street. All of the ones down looked to be unconscious.
Only Shona and black and white armbands were still standing, and Shona was standing a few paces in front of the other two elites, and was just now dropping her hands from a guarding position. As she watched, Shona slumped to her knees then slumped to the side to sit heavily on the ground. The fight seemed to have been knocked completely out of her. Black and white armband hurried to either side of Shona and dragged their elder sister back behind the walls of the Tendo home, out of range of the battle.
She turned her eye to Shampoo and found the young Chinese warrior who had started this entire thing standing about twenty paces behind her great grandmother, next to the wall. Shampoo didn't look hurt. The young Amazon was alternating looking at Ranma with anguish in her eyes, and at her great grandmother with growing disbelief. Nabiki was sure that Shampoo couldn't believe that her great grandmother had so casually injured so many of her fellow Amazons, simply to try to overpower Ranma and Tofu.
Tofu looked over at Kasumi and grimaced. Before anyone could do anything further the old woman blurred into motion again and threw something at Ranma. Tofu reacted instantly and moved in front of Ranma before Nabiki could even blink. The man she had, until recently, always thought of as her family doctor, and friend, unwrapped his hands around a knife that he'd caught centimeters from Ranma's chest. Tofu's hand was bleeding freely now. It had not been a clean catch. He'd saved Ranma's life, again.
Tofu dropped the knife to the street and growled as he stepped in front of Ranma while he tore a strip of cloth from his gi and wrapped it around his hand. Ranma had stood up fully, but he was still breathing heavily. She knew he was fighting tired, and it was showing.
"Very noble, Doctor. But, hopelessly futile. You think you can defeat me? Me, the First Elder of the Joketsuzoku?!"
"Yes." Was the simple answer Tofu gave as he stood in front of Ranma.
"Fool." The Elder Amazon said as she snapped her fingers. Shona and the two armband girls leaped over the wall and threw themselves at Tofu with grim faces and emotionless eyes. It was the same tactic they had used on Ranma earlier. Shona dove for his legs while the armband girls wrapped themselves around each of his arms and hung on as tightly as they could.
Tofu's eyes widened in surprise and he tried to shake them off, but it was too late. The Amazon Elder darted in and landed a solid strike on Tofu and sent him sprawling. He crashed into a wall, and lay still. Without missing a beat, the old woman advanced on Ranma. He held himself in a combat stance and glared. He was breathing heavily and there was a trickle of blood coming from the corner of his mouth, but he still seemed like he was able to fight. Shona and the two elites however, seemed to be down for the count. All of them were laying scattered around the ground around where Tofu had been standing. Cologne had gone through them to get to Tofu without hesitation. Shampoo was staring wide eyed at her elder now, with her mouth open.
Nabiki could tell that Ranma was doing his best to project confidence, but she could tell from very tiny signs in his face and body language that he was hurt and not at all confident of winning. She wanted to do something to help him, but couldn't think of anything.
She looked down at Akane, hoping for insight, but Akane was still unconscious. She found herself taking hesitant steps towards Ranma after she laid Akane gently on the ground and stood up. She paused and bit her lower lip and tugged on the ends of her hair nervously. She wanted to jump in and help him. But she knew damn well she wouldn't survive getting in range of the Amazon Elder.
Shampoo was looking rapidly back and forth from Ranma to her great grandmother, and back again. Nabiki could tell Shampoo was waging a private war inside herself as her loyalties were tested liked they never had been before.
The Elder Amazon launched herself at Ranma and he braced and tensed his left hip. She knew him well enough by now that he was doing that to try to psyche the Old Ghoul out. He would tense left and then go right. About one out of every five times, he actually would go left, though. He was very good at keeping his opponents guessing. This time he did indeed go left.
It didn't help him. The Amazon elder simply pivoted in the air and altered her strike so it connected with him solidly in the air, instead of on the ground when she landed.
Ranma's head whipped back and he choked back a yell of pain as he missed the block and staggered backwards on heavy feet. He started to sink to his knees as he gasped for breath.
On no. She thought as she gasped as well. She took one step then another towards him. Across the street she saw Shampoo mirroring her actions. She knew the old woman would kill her, but she didn't care. She couldn't let Ranma be killed, she—
Before she could get any closer, her thoughts were interrupted as the old woman let out a battle cry and lunged at Ranma with her staff.
Nabiki moved without thinking. She yelled Ranma's name as she started to sprint to get to him. Her eyes darted to Tofu as she ran. She desperately hoped that he would be up and moving, but he was still laying still by the wall. She swung her gaze back to Ranma as she strained to get to him. She knew she'd never get there in time.
"Please don't!" She cried out in desperation.
Shampoo appeared in front of Ranma then and slammed the ground with a powerful strike that sent a hot shock wave out in every direction. Shampoo could also move with superhuman speed, when she wanted to.
Shampoo stood tall in front of Ranma and spread her arms open wide protectively in front of him, and stared down her great grandmother. "No!" Shampoo screamed in an agonized voice that held the final vowel of the word in a scream that was obviously breaking everything inside that the young Chinese warrior had ever held sacred. The young Amazon had tears streaming down her cheeks.
She thought for sure the Elder Amazon was going to simply go through Shampoo to get to Ranma, like she had with everyone else. But, at the last possible moment, the old woman pulled her attack and came to a stop less than a meter from Shampoo. It appeared there was a limit to her ruthlessness. Nabiki stopped as well. She knew her mouth was hanging open. Shampoo was actually defying the Elder Joketsuzoku!
She loves him that much? She thought sadly as she watched the young Chinese girl throw everything away to save him.
She felt a presence behind her and flinched back from it as she tried to raise her guard up. She turned her head and found Akane limping over to her, not an Amazon. She rushed back and looped her arm around Akane's waist and stabilized her.
Akane slumped up against her and breathed heavily as she asked a question. "Wha ... wha's goin' on?" Akane asked with slurred speech. It was quite apparent the hit to the head was still affecting her younger sister.
She looked back at the stand-off between Shampoo and her great grandmother, and sighed. "Shampoo is defending Ranma." Was all she said as she watched as the old woman frowned and switched to Mandarin and ordered Shampoo out of the way. "移一下。现在。"
"What'd she say?" Akane asked. Her little sister's voice was clearing up. She thought about protesting ignorance, then sighed and decided that if Akane couldn't keep her secret, then nobody could.
"She said, 'Move. Now.'" Nabiki translated.
Shampoo shook her head violently as tears streamed down her cheeks, and refused. "我拒绝！我爱他！"
"I refuse. I love him." Nabiki whispered the translation without being asked again. Akane looked over sharply at her with wide eyes, then slowly dragged her attention back towards Shampoo.
The old woman drew her eyebrows in and scowled as she warned Shampoo away. "这将是你最后的机会。"
"This is your last chance." Nabiki translated.
Shampoo continued to shake her head as she continued to cry, but the young Amazon's eyes hardened as well. She didn't know for sure, but it seemed like Shampoo's eyes were narrowing with hatred. It seemed Ranma was that powerful of a force for the Amazon. It appeared that Shampoo would rather fight her own tribe, than let him be killed. Nabiki took an involuntary step backwards, as did Akane. Both of them could see how over the edge Shampoo was. There was a wild and desperate look in Shampoo's eyes now.
The old woman took a step towards Ranma, and Shampoo shouted her own warning. "停止！我不会允许这样的！"
"Stop. I will not allow this." Nabiki whispered to Akane in a chilled voice as emotions affected her strongly. She was breathing rapidly and trying not to cry so her eyes would stay clear, but her body was fighting her.
Shampoo glared at the old woman and began to glow with a bright purple battle aura. Shampoo had obviously reached her limit, and chosen sides. Shampoo was going to fight to the death for him, if the old woman didn't stop.
Shampoo's great grandmother paused and looked at Shampoo sadly. They held each other's gazes for several moments as each of them said with their eyes what their laws and pride would not allow them to say out loud.
"我不能。" The elder Amazon said sadly.
"I can't." Nabiki whispered as a tear slid down her cheek as she watched the scene unfolding in front of her. She squeezed her sister tightly with worry, she didn't think Shampoo would be enough to stop the old woman.
The Elder Amazon drew herself up to her full height, raised her staff, and attacked. A heartbeat later Shampoo snapped two fighting sticks off her back and leaped to meet the attack. Both she and Akane jumped back quickly to get out of their way.
Her eyes immediately sought out Ranma, and she found him rising slowly to his feet as he got his breathing under control. Shampoo was buying him the time he needed to recover. She looked over at Tofu and was crestfallen to see him still laying unmoving by the wall. She didn't even bother to look for Miso.
I hope he's all right. She thought sadly. She didn't dare try to get to him to check on him, though. He was laying across the way from her, and in between them the battle was raging. She just had to trust to Tofu's training and hope he would recover on his own.
In the meantime, Ranma had regained his feet. He took a deep breath and leaped into the fray with Shampoo against the old woman a moment later. The motions of the fight became too frantic for her eyes to follow then, so she just tried to follow the color of Ranma's shirt.
"Enough of this!" She heard Daddy yell. She turned back and saw Daddy striding quickly towards the battle with Kasumi in tow. He paused and put a hand on both her and Akane's shoulders, like he wanted to touch them for the last time, then he stepped in front of them, and jumped to join the battle.
All three of the Tendo sisters stood shoulder to shoulder and watched the fight. Nabiki was numb. She was beyond fear. Her whole world was at risk at the moment. If things went badly, she knew she wouldn't ever recover from it. All she could do now was—
Kasumi screamed in fright and snapped her out of her reverie. She refocused back on the fight and gasped as she saw both Daddy and Shampoo fly out of the center of the fight in opposite directions. Both of them crashed into the walls lining the street, and slumped down to the ground unconscious. Shampoo's fighting sticks clattered to the ground, broken.
A moment later the fight paused enough for her to see that Ranma was the only one left standing ... and he was standing on the far side of the old woman ... who was now standing only a few paces in front of them.
She sucked in a nervous breath and stepped back anxiously as quietly as she could while holding Akane up. Ranma swore and blurred into motion as the old woman smiled grimly and turned to attack.
Kasumi screamed in fright as the old woman's staff arced down towards the eldest Tendo sister, Kasumi flinched back—
A cold and furious shock wave like a blast of arctic air slammed into all of them as blurred motion surged in front of Kasumi and knocked the Amazon back. It also knocked Ranma back.
Nabiki gasped in surprise and hope as she turned expecting to see Miso finally stepping in to settle the issue.
It wasn't Miso. It was To...Doctor Tofu. He'd woken up and responded to Kasumi's screams. She stepped back a bit as she looked at him. He was clearly wounded, but he was also visibly furious. He was clenching his teeth and had both his hands balled into fists. She'd never seen him as he was now. She thought she had seen him angry before, but what she saw and felt from him now was orders of magnitude more serious than she had ever seen before.
"Get away from her! NOW!" Doctor Tofu yelled as he stood in front of Kasumi and trembled with fury.
The Elder Amazon leaned casually against her staff and sneered at him. "You cannot possibly hope to defeat me, pacifist. We both know there is only one side that will be walking away from this fight, and that the boy isn't going to be able to sway that outcome. I am sorry, but honor demands that I remove the boy's motivation to stay here, then take the boy. If I have to have him carried back, then so be it. As for the Tendos ... I'm afraid their fate is sealed. You have been an honorable opponent, pacifist. I do not fault you for trying to help them. Leave now, and go with my blessing."
Doctor Tofu smirked. "Whoever said I was a pacifist?"
"You have deliberately pulled strikes that would have killed. I have watched you fight. You are a pacifist. Do not try to trick me. You try my patience."
Doctor Tofu sighed and shook his head. "Being deeply loved by someone gives one strength, while loving someone deeply gives one courage. I have both. You don't know me at all." He said like he was lecturing a small child.
"You're quoting Laozi, my countryman. That doesn't make you clever, nor does it change my observations of your pacifistic nature."
"Fine, then how about this... I swore an oath as a doctor to do no harm. I try to live my life by that oath as well. But I am not a pacifist. I know full well that those who stand for nothing, will fall for anything. I am also not acting as a doctor right now. And I am telling you that you may leave now, and return to China, and never return, and we can end this peacefully. If not, then I am fully prepared to die for any one of them. I died a long time ago. I have nothing left to lose." He said in a voice that rang with steel.
"So be it." The old woman spat out as her battle aura sprang back into life.
Doctor Tofu's aura flickered into view as well. It started out small, but quickly grew larger than anything she had ever seen him produce before. He turned around to Kasumi and surprised everyone by quickly grabbing her older sister around the waist and staring into her eyes. Then he pulled Kasumi into a quick hug that spoke very clearly about his feelings. He stepped back from her older sister before anyone had time to process what he had just done. "I still love you, Kasumi. I haven't forgotten my promises." He said in a sad voice.
She knew tears were streaming down her cheeks. She could see tears on Kasumi's face as well. He'd finally said it. He'd finally dropped the act and admitted that he still loved Kasumi.
Her older sister sank slowly to her knees and nodded with her eyes fixed on him as he backed away to fight. Kasumi had dropped all of her masks. The naked fear and love she saw on Kasumi's face made her ache for Kasumi.
Doctor Tofu walked over to where Ranma was now kneeling on the ground and breathing heavily, trying to recover. He reached his hand down and grasped Ranma's forearm and pulled him somewhat roughly to his feet. "Ready, Ranma." It wasn't a question, it was an order from a fully grown man who was taking control of a situation out of control.
Ranma looked over at Doctor Tofu and nodded quickly and somewhat wearily. "Let's finish this ... quickly." He said with exhaustion in his voice.
Doctor Tofu smiled, which looked weird with his battle aura flickering around him. "I'll do what I can. You go left, and I'll go right, okay?"
Ranma nodded then looked straight into her eyes. It was a look that took her breath away. In his eyes she saw the promise of a life together with him. He was fighting for her, to save her, and her family. She did her best to look confident for him, and to encourage him. A blink of an eye later he nodded then blurred into motion, and she could see him only as a red streak that was darting around the old woman.
Doctor Tofu was the darker streak blurring around on the other side of the Amazon Elder. The battle quickly grew faster than she could possibly follow.
She and her sisters took one step back, then another, then more. They quickly retreated from the battle as blows rang out in the street that sounded like giants were stomping on houses, and felt like someone was hitting a drum the size of a mountain.
Dust and debris started to swirl around the combatants like a cloud as the hits continued to rain out. The walls around the street started to vibrate with the shock waves, and small pieces of concrete and little stones were starting to rise up into the air on their own and move towards the combat, sucked into the incredible power focus in the street. She glanced over at Akane nervously, as did Kasumi. They were all thinking the same thing. If the old woman unleashed another powerful attack like she'd done earlier, Akane was in no shape to shield just one of them, let alone both of them.
A lone figure stepped into her peripheral vision off to her right and she tilted her head against the wind of the debris cloud to look at who it was, hoping it was Shampoo or Daddy recovered enough to help.
It was Miso.
Doctor Tofu's master was standing with her arms folded, and untouched by the battle in the street. The woman's eyes were glowing a soft white. Her friends were standing meekly behind the woman, paralyzed with fear. Nothing was touching her friends though. There was a shimmering energy surrounding Miso and her friends.
Miso swiveled her heavy gaze over to Nabiki and her sisters. The older woman looked ... sad ... but Miso didn't move to do anything, she just watched.
She shook herself and refocused on the battle in the street. Ranma and Doctor Tofu were now surging to the edges of the battle and making the old woman chase them back and forth. As they did so, they would pause moving just long enough that they stopped blurring.
Ranma was breathing heavily and had his teeth clenched so tightly that she was sure he would shatter them if he bit down any harder. Doctor Tofu looked more or less neutral, but his eyes were lacking any of the kindness he normally had in them.
Each time the Amazon Elder would reach one of them, they would engage in rapid-fire hand-to-hand combat. Each strike and block rang out loudly in the street, and could be felt even where she was standing. Nobody was holding back, they were all going as hard as they could.
Ranma unblurred next. He started to exchange blows with the Amazon, but after only a couple of hits he stumbled and started to wobble on his feet. She gasped in fright and squeezed Akane tightly. Ranma swore and pitched forward off balance. She screamed as her hands flew to her mouth while the small shape of the Amazon Elder blurred towards him and raised her staff. Would the old woman kill him?
Then Ranma did something she had never see him do before. He ... slid ... or something, so that instead of falling he circled back around and came back to his feet. It had looked like a tree that had been cut down and had been falling to the ground, but then the tree had stuck to its roots and swung to the side and back upright again.
That must have been the secret technique he said he knew. She thought to herself as she breathed in panicked quick breaths while her heart hammered in her chest.
The Amazon's strike landed where she estimated his head would have been as Ranma stepped in sharply and stomped on the staff and broke it. He then darted in and threw multiple strikes to the Amazon's head and body, trying to pierce her guard.
The Amazon responded with a fury that rocked her back on her heels, and she wasn't even the one fighting. The old woman was totally focused on him and overpowering him. Ranma was l—
Doctor Tofu's blurred into position behind the Amazon and his hands flashed out sharply and strongly and struck the Amazon quickly and forcefully in multiple places across her back and neck. The Amazon tried to turn and defend herself, but as soon as she did Ranma lunged forward and grabbed the Amazon's arms and locked himself around her as strongly as he could. The Amazon screamed in rage and tried to shake him off just as Doctor Tofu slammed the final places on the Amazon's back. The dust and debris in the air swirled around the combatants menacingly as the old woman's fighting spirit abruptly died out.
The dust cleared enough for Nabiki to see a moment later. She found herself sitting on the street shaking and breathing heavily. She didn't remember how she'd ended up like that. Akane was kneeling in the street and slowly slumping down to the ground in exhaustion. Without being held up, it was clear Akane had reached her limit.
Ranma was standing over the Amazon Elder, panting with exhaustion. He stood there and looked at her with those piercing blue eyes and smiled. Dust swirled around his feet and danced around him carried on the wind. His clothing ruffled in the breeze, but his eyes stayed on her. He was more tired than she had ever seen him before.
Doctor Tofu was breathing heavily too but he recovered first and looked directly at Kasumi. Her older sister returned his gaze and nodded again fiercely. Kasumi let out a cry that was a mix between a whoop of joy, and a sob. He smiled at Kasumi and began to walk over to her.
Daddy was getting up on his feet again too, and he was pulling Ranma's dad up as well. She looked over to where Shampoo had fallen, and saw the young Chinese girl was being pulled to her feet shakily by Shona and the two armband girls.
The remaining dust and debris in the air whipped around Shampoo on the breeze as she looked at Ranma sadly from Shona's arms. The breeze pulled Shampoo's hair forward so it masked her face for a moment, and only her eyes showed. Those eyes were the saddest eyes Nabiki had ever seen. Shampoo didn't look even once at her great grandmother who lay unmoving on the ground, she only looked at Ranma.
Shampoo moved, as if in a daze, and stepped away from Shona and the two armband girls. They gathered behind Shampoo meekly and looked down at their Elder on the ground, defeated. They had blank eyes. Many of the rank and file Amazons were gathering behind Shampoo as well now. None of them looked interested in fighting anymore.
Doctor Tofu walked over to Kasumi and talked to her quietly. Nabiki looked over at Akane. Akane had been so brave, and so strong. Nabiki knew she owed Akane a debt she wouldn't be able to repay easily. Akane was already recovering a bit of her strength. Her little sister's head was up now, and watching Ranma.
"Is she dead?" Nabiki called out to Doctor Tofu.
He looked over at her with Kasumi in his arms, and shook his head. "No, just body-locked. I can keep her that way for the rest of her life. Don't worry, its over." He said kindly as he turned back to focusing on Kasumi.
She shuddered with relief as she unclenched from the terrible knot of anxious worry that had been clawing at her insides all day. She turned her attention back to Ranma and saw that Shampoo was slowly walking up to him with tears dripping from her chin while her whole body trembled.
Shampoo looked over at her and nodded her head slightly to her. Nabiki nodded back, not knowing what the Amazon meant. Then Shampoo walked a few more steps closer to Ranma. He narrowed his eyes at the Amazon, so Shampoo slowed down and held her hands up, showing she had no weapons. None of the rest of the Amazons were moving. They were all standing in exactly the same posture Shampoo had been using for the last few days with their feet together, their hands clasped in front of them, and their heads down.
Ranma nodded and Shampoo walked the last few steps to stand right in front of him. Shampoo gazed up at Ranma and shook with emotions even Nabiki could see from the distance she was at. Ranma watched Shampoo, but otherwise stood impassively. Shampoo smiled bitterly to herself then reached up and cupped his face gently with her hands and pulled herself up on her tiptoes to gently kiss him on the lips. Ranma stiffened in surprise, but didn't lean in or hold her. Before Nabiki even had time to get upset, Shampoo pulled back and stepped away from him.
Shampoo folded her hands in front of herself and bowed formally to him, and then again to Nabiki. Nabiki was still sitting on the ground next to Akane, so she couldn't return the bow as Ranma did — although he didn't bow nearly as deeply to Shampoo as Shampoo had to him.
Shampoo turned back to Ranma and made an announcement in a loud but sad voice that everyone on the street could hear. "I am the First Elder now. My Great Grandmother has been defeated, and has brought shame on our tribe."
Ranma nodded, obviously not sure what to do with that information.
Shampoo smiled patiently at him. "This is over. My sisters and I will return to China today. They will not return so long as I live." Shampoo declared sternly. "Please forgive them." Shampoo added in a earnest voice. "They fought because they love their family, same as you. There was no hatred, just duty." Shampoo pleaded with him.
Ranma nodded slowly. "If this is done, then yeah, all right. No hard feelin's ... I guess." He said in a confused voice.
"Good. I'm glad. Maybe ... maybe some day, you can visit us in China. You will see, my tribe will be different then." Shampoo said with no real hope in her voice.
Ranma just looked at Shampoo; he made no promise one way or another. Shampoo sighed and turned to leave, but stopped when Daddy called out to her. "Young lady, stop." Daddy said in a neutral tone from the side of the street.
Shampoo paused and looked at him. He softened his face into something approaching a smile. "You demonstrated a real sense of honor and loyalty during all of this. You proved without a shadow of a doubt that you bear no ill will to my family. You may stay with us if you like, and teach in my dojo. You've earned it." Daddy said solemnly.
Shampoo's sisters looked at her with worry in their eyes as Shampoo smiled. "That is ... a very generous offer ... but I can't accept. My duty is to my family first, no different from you." Shampoo said with a soft shake of her head.
Shona visibly relaxed when Shampoo refused, which caused Nabiki to smile. She had a feeling the relationship between Shampoo and Shona was similar to her own relationship with Akane.
"So this is goodbye?" Ranma asked softly. He sounded somewhat hopeful. Shampoo smiled and nodded. "I have a question before ya go." Ranma said as he held up a finger for Shampoo to wait. Shampoo turned and raised an eyebrow at him. "How come your Japanese is so good all of a sudden?" He asked.
Shampoo smiled softly at that. "It is sometimes ... useful ... for people to think someone isn't as smart as they actually are. You might know ... someone else ... who does that." Shampoo said softly while looking right at her and winking.
Nabiki winked back. Shampoo then said to Ranma in Mandarin, "我会永远爱你。" The new leader of the Amazon tribe spun on her heel and turned to leave, having declared her undying love for him. Shampoo paused once and said over her shoulder, "别聊。" Then Shampoo turned again, and walked down the street, rounded the corner, and was gone. Shampoo had said the same final farewell to him that she'd said the first time she'd given up and gone home to China. Shampoo left her great grandmother laying where she'd fallen.
Nabiki turned to comment to Akane, but Akane wasn't there. She looked towards Ranma and saw Akane walking slowly over to him, as if she was in a trance. He turned to face Akane and smiled widely.
Akane reached him and fell into his arms and sobbed. He held her little sister and stroked her hair for several moments before he picked Akane up off the ground and spun her around.
Time slowed to a frozen crawl for Nabiki.
"It's over, it's all right." She heard him say softly several times to Akane. Akane wrapped her arms around his neck and pulled her mouth up to his neck. She couldn't tell if Akane was kissing him or trying to whisper to him. She was having trouble focusing as a cold feeling settled on her. Ranma held her little sister up in his arms and whispered to Akane. It was clear who he had chosen, just as she had feared he would.
So ... this is what it feels like to die. She thought as the door slammed shut on her future with him. She scooted backwards so her back was up against the wall behind her. She pulled her knees up to her chest and hugged them tightly as she averted her eyes. She couldn't bear to watch.
Her heart was breaking, and it was so much worse this time. The first time it had broken for him, she hadn't been invested in the relationship, and she hadn't opened up her heart again. Now she had, and ... oh God, it hurts so bad! She wailed silently as she stared down at her knees as all color, sound and hope left her.
She wanted to cry, but the best she seemed to be able to do was shudder like she was dry heaving. She seemed to be suddenly lacking the ability to feel things properly. Her whole body was shaking as she gasped for breath and tried to control the feeling of spiraling descent she seemed to be falling down into. The dragon inside her had laid down and gone still.
She smiled bitterly to herself as she thought about what she'd said to him just a little while ago when she'd confessed her love to him as she worked to pull him back from Shona.
That's the big problem with loving someone. It doesn't matter what anyone else thinks, but it does matter what they think. If they don't return your feelings, then no deal. It doesn't matter how hard you try, how much you love them, or how much you want it. And of course he didn't pick me. What could I offer him that Akane couldn't? I'm a fool for even getting my hopes up, I'm worthless! She berated herself.
She pulled in a couple of shuddering deep breaths then tried to encourage herself. I ... I can survive this ... somehow ... I can ... I just have to—
A pair of legs came into her view and stood in front of her, interrupting her thoughts of despair.
They were Ranma's legs.
She looked up in misery at him. The only thing worse than him choosing Akane was going to be him trying to let her down easy. She opened her mouth to tell him not to bother, as she tried to summon anger to say something hateful to him, but no sound would come out of her mouth.
He crouched down and looked at her worriedly. She stared into his eyes and tried to hate him, but she couldn't. He'd protected and fought for her, he'd been sweet and wonderful, and he'd been there for her when she'd needed him the most. She didn't hate him, she loved him. She stared at him and allowed herself to feel betrayed. She knew he hadn't promised to pick her, but she didn't care.
"So ... um ... about that ... " he said hesitantly.
She looked at him fiercely and plastered her disappointment on to her face as she glared at him. He's not really going to try to do this, is he, he's not going to try to pretend everything is fine, is he? She thought bitterly as her breathing rate increased while her sense of loss mounted inside and mixed with the mind-numbing pain. She was rapidly getting close to hyperventilating.
She could tell he could see and feel how she felt, and it paused him for a moment as he looked at her with wide eyes. He continued as best he could. He never had been very good at being honest and open about matters of the heart. She listened and waited for the hammer blow that would shatter her.
"A-Akane said she wanted to hold me at least one more time ... before ... before she let me go ... " He said quietly. "I'm sorry, but I felt I owed her at least that much." He added in a small, nervous voice.
As his words broke through the gathering fog in her mind, it felt like a hand had reached out and stopped her just as she had been sliding over a waterfall. His words dragged her back through the icy current and pulled her back into reality.
Was he saying... She looked up at him with bewilderment through watery eyes as the dragon inside her lifted its head with tentative hope as well. "What are you saying? Are you saying..." She had to ask. She couldn't finish the question, she just looked up at him with the last shred of hope left alive in her.
He smiled and nodded. "You, Kiki. You." He whispered with a shy smile curving the edges of his mouth up.
Shivers of joy hit her everywhere as she began to tremble as emotions raced through her. She found herself crying again, and for an entirely different reason. She was starting to feel ... bright, and warm inside. "Really?" She asked in a small voice as she hugged her knees tightly. He can't be serious. She thought. This must be some sort of a joke. But ... he wasn't cruel. He wouldn't joke about something like this, would he? She allowed the hope to worm its way into her heart and waited as she bit her lip and looked at him.
"Yes, really. I think you're right for me, and I think I'm right for you ... I mean ... if you want..." He said softly as he reached down a hand for her to hold. She unclenched her arms from around her legs and grabbed his hand with both of hers and nodded earnestly.
"Yes, oh yes!" She said in a shaky voice and smiled as she wiped the tears away with her shoulder. He pulled her up on to her unsteady feet and she swayed a bit. He had to reach out and steady her by holding her around the waist. She looked into his eyes and smiled as he smiled back. "You ... love me?" She couldn't stop herself from asking. She needed to hear him say the words now.
He nodded slowly at her and said, "Yup, I'm pretty sure I do." He said with a small smile. She threw her head back and made a noise that was a mixture between a squeal and a laugh. She felt something inside herself trigger, and felt a rush of warmth and brightness flood her body. It felt like it was leaking out of her pores.
"Nabiki..." He whispered to her.
"Mmm?" She responded with her eyes closed as she leaned into him happily.
"You're glowin'..." He whispered.
"I must be really happy then." She whispered back with a smile curving the edges of her lips as she leaned more firmly into him and kept her eyes closed.
After several happy moments had passed while she allowed herself to start to unwind from the terrible fear and anxiousness she had been living in for the last seven days, she opened her eyes and looked around happily at a brand new world.
Her gaze came to rest on Dadd—...Dad's. He nodded silently to her and smiled in approval. Ranma's Dad was standing next to ... Dad. Genma had his hand behind his head as he laughed with joy while he watched them. Kasumi was standing wrapped in Doctor Tofu's arms and crying happily as he rocked her back and forth and they whispered to each other.
Nabiki locked eyes with Kasumi for a moment, and they shared a knowing smile. Akane was standing next to Dad and watching her with a sad but happy look on her face. She knew her little sister wouldn't have given Ranma up unless Akane had been sure. She had a lot of debts she needed to start paying back to Akane ... starting tomorrow.
She buried her face into Ranma's neck and smiled as she whispered to him. "Private time. Now. I've shared you for more than long enough." She said as she started walking him backwards towards the house while trailing her blazing golden aura. She passed her friends who were standing around near the gate to their home and chatting happily to themselves. Miso was nowhere to be seen.
Riko smiled widely at her and shushed the girls and hustled them out of the way. They obeyed Riko reluctantly. She could tell they wanted to talk to her, but now was not the time. She was grateful Riko understood that.
She looked into Ranma's eyes as he walked backwards towards the house with his arms still around her, and his warmth surrounded and infused her. She shuddered a little bit as the weight of what was happening started to settle on her. She realized then as joy filled her and a different, older weight lifted off her, that the depression she had been suffering since Mom had died had changed to just sadness. Her feelings about Mom's death were now just memories and sadness mixed with love and peace.
The peace that Miso embodied was the peace she now felt. That had been why Miso had resonated so strongly with her. Mom had embodied that peace as well. Feeling that peace, after being without it for so long, had been part of her reawakening.
All of this time, she had been so critical of how Kasumi and Akane had been dealing with mom's death, and she hadn't bothered to look at how she had been dealing with it. She realized that she had dealt with it by refusing to deal with it. She'd been convinced that if she'd been strong and acted care free while she shut herself off from the world, that she could keep going.
However, she hadn't been aware of the consequences of that until Ranma had caught her that night. The consequence of shutting herself off like that had been that she had shut herself off not only from pain, but also from love and joy.
Ranma had forced her to open the door back up, because she had wanted to love again. As she pushed him towards the house, she allowed herself to open the door up a little more, and gasped as it all hit her. The pain of losing her mother mixed with the joy she was feeling now with Ranma. She knew she was experiencing the most important moment in her life since Mom had died. Ranma looked at her worriedly. She was sure some of what she was feeling was showing on her face. She smiled at him to reassure him. They had their whole lives to talk about it. Now was not the time for that, now was the time for them.
He had saved her in more than one way. She had a bond with him that was beyond special. He was real. He was an anchor for her. She didn't have to put on an act with him. She didn't have to be anyone but herself with him. And he loved her as herself. She'd had no idea how much she'd needed that until he'd given it to her.
He was also the kindest and most loyal guy she'd ever known. She knew he was interested in her because he thought she was beautiful. But he had also shown that he appreciated her intellect and the fact that she didn't take him for granted. They weren't a perfect match. But ... who was?
She walked him backwards into the house urgently, and stared into his eyes with a huge grin on her face. She knew she had tears threatening to spill from her eyes again. She could feel them catching in her lashes. He smiled back at her nervously but with eyes that spoke volumes more than he could still say right now. She could hear Mom's words ghosting clearly in her head. It was like Mom was talking to her.
You'll just know.
She knew Ranma could and would say more in private. She didn't need him to say anything publicly. He had done more than enough for her. She held him tightly around the neck as she pushed him backwards and walked him up the stairs. She ran her fingers through his hair and would have purred with desire for him if she hadn't known he was afraid of cats.
You will trust him.
They reached the top of the stairs and she increased her pace. She pushed him urgently with her hips to move faster. As they reached the door to her room he displayed his remarkable martial prowess and quickly reached backwards and opened the door as they banged into it.
He will be kind.
As soon as they were through the doorway she kicked the door shut behind herself, and then reached back and locked the door. She then smiled at him hungrily as she launched herself into his arms. He caught her easily and held her so her eyes were level with his.
He will be your partner.
"So, can I kiss you now? Have I earned it?" He asked somewhat defiantly.
She smiled radiantly at him and threw herself back and laughed with pure joy. He held on to her and she just hung backwards from him for a moment and shivered with glee before she did a hard sit-up and answered him by diving at him, grabbing his head and burying her fingers into his hair as she kissed him as hard as she could while the dragon inside her screamed in triumph.
He loves me, he really does! He chose me over Akane! She still couldn't believe it. Never, never, never in her wildest dreams had she dared to hope for what was happening now. Tears started to stream down her cheeks as she sobbed with happiness while she kissed him. He was kissing her back, hungrily. He wasn't kissing her like he'd kissed Ukyo, or Shampoo. He was kissing her strongly, with obvious desire. His strong arms squeezed her tightly as he kissed her with a yearning she could tell he was barely controlling. He was warm too. She felt herself melting into him. She could have happily stayed in his arms for the rest of the day and just enjoyed his kisses.
He will be your equal.
She kissed him back just as hungrily and with a fierce need. She had a week's worth of emotion to work through with him, and it had been a traumatic week. She twisted eagerly around in his arms like she was trying to wrap around him and push through him at the same time as she kissed him with feelings that were too hard to put into words, and too numerous to count. He had to take a step back to brace himself to keep from falling over as she pressed into him and wrapped her legs around his while he continued to hold her off the ground. When she finally surfaced for air, they were both breathing heavily.
"Why're you cryin'?" He asked with confusion in his voice.
"Because I'm happy." She said with a delighted smile as she rested both her hands on his chest and leaned into him as the tears kept coming.
"That doesn't make any sense." He said, confused.
"Are you saying you don't want to kiss me any more?" She teased.
"Hey, no, I had to work hard to earn that." He protested. "I just ... don't understand why you cry when you're happy." He said wistfully.
She shrugged in his arms and said with a happy lilt in her voice. "What can I tell you, I'm complicated."
He will be the person that you want to be there when you are sad and when you are happy.
"I guess you are." He said with a smile.
"But you knew that before you chose me," she whispered. "And ... you chose me anyway." She bit her lower lip and looked at him as he nodded his head eagerly.
"Complicated or not, we fit together real good." He whispered back. "Besides, I've never had anyone challenge me before to earn a kiss." He added with a touch of pride in his voice.
"Oh, you earned more than that." She said giddily as she slid out of his arms. He looked at her in confusion and she smiled softly at him. She started to lift her shirt as she smiled radiantly at him. He blushed bright red as he realized what she was doing.
He startled her and lunged forward and grabbed her wrist and stopped her.
"What are you ... don't you want..." She stammered, embarrassed. She had hoped, if he'd chosen her ... that they could finally—
"It's not that I don't want to ... it's just ..." He interrupted her thoughts, then trailed off shyly.
"Just what?" She asked softly. She was willing to be as patient with him as she needed to be. She didn't need to be physical with him right away. She could wait until he was ready.
She looked at him and raised an eyebrow at him as he fished around in his pocket for something. He smiled in triumph a moment later as he pulled something out and held it out to her in a closed fist.
He slowly opened his hand, and her heart stopped. In his hand was a another small white box with the word Tasaki emblazoned across the top in silver lettering with sea-green tint to the trim. As her heart started beating again she held out a shaking hand and let him drop the box into it.
The box was a bit dinged up, and the edges were a bit crumpled, but it was unmistakably the twin of the box he had given her earlier. She turned the box over and sucked in a startled gasp through clenched teeth. On the bottom was written 榊二 in silver pen. Sacred two. There were multiple ways to interpret that. She looked over at him with wonder in her eyes. How had he managed to keep that secret for so long?
"I have an answer for you now, Nabiki, about what I want. What you asked me for." He said shyly.
She knew she had to have a silly grin on her face. "Well, what is it?" She asked. She knew, but she was still eagerly awaiting hearing him say it.
He looked down for a moment at his feet. When he looked back up, he looked into her eyes. "You, I want you. W-Will you m-marry me?" He asked sincerely.
"Ask me properly." She whispered as she handed him the box.
He nodded and knelt on the floor while he opened the box and smiled at her. "Will you marry me?" He asked as he held up a beautiful diamond ring. It was a simple yet elegant design. It suited her perfectly. The dragon inside her shrieked with joy and danced around happily.
You'll just know.
She grinned ear to ear as she put on a fake challenging face. "Will you cherish me?" She whispered.
He will never say hateful things to you or be violent.
"Yes!" He said eagerly.
"And you love me?" She asked him in a mock stern tone.
He will be your friend.
"Yes, I do!"
"Will you honor me?" She asked as she sucked in air through teeth clenched with joy as emotions crashed into her that she couldn't describe with words. The emotions were making her arch her back involuntarily and flex her toes as she tried to keep from dissolving into a laughing, giggling, crying puddle of euphoria.
He will be your confidant.
"I can't think of anyone I would rather honor, than you." He whispered.
"Will you ... will you challenge me? Will you play with me?" She breathed the question quietly as she shivered with elation.
He will be the love of your life.
"I'll never stop, I promise."
"Then ... yes, Ranma, I'll marry you. But ... you'll have to earn it." She gasped loudly as her eyes opened wide as her heart opened all the way up and she let him all the way in. She was so happy, she wanted to scream. She was dancing on her toes and squirming with a giddy euphoria. She was full of too much of what she didn't have words for, to be still.
He stood up and reached for her left hand. She held it out to him as steadily as she could. It was still shaking wildly. He grasped it softly in his warm hands and slid the ring on her finger slowly. It was a perfect fit.
She lunged for him and tackled him to the ground and kissed him as strongly as she knew how. He wrapped his arms and legs around her and kissed her back, just as strongly. When they both came up for air later they stared at each other. He didn't seem as shy with her as he'd been in the past. He was still being a gentleman, but his hands had been roaming her body just a little bit as they'd kissed again.
She smiled and decided to see if he was ready for more. She stood up on shaky legs and started to lift her shirt up again as he sat on the ground and watched her curiously. His eyes widened as she started to lift her shirt again.
She paused and looked down at him, hoping he would consent. He looked at her with a mixture of fear and longing and she thought for a moment that he would say no, then he smiled and nodded as he stood up. She beamed at him and tore her shirt off, leaving her in only her bra. She walked over to him and began undoing his shirt as well. The well worn Chinese silk catches opened easily and his shirt fell off like water streaming down a window. He wasn't wearing an undershirt.
He was very muscular. He was also scarred. She knew that many of the newer scars were because of her. She leaned in and kissed the hand he'd hurt saving her from falling off the building. He smiled and cupped her hands in his and kissed her hands in return. Shivers ran up and down her spine and she gasped as emotions hit her hard.
She leaned into him and kissed him on the lips again as she traced the muscles in his back softly with her hands. She broke the kiss and leaned back in his arms again happily as she breathed him in hungrily. She loved how he smelled. She pressed herself back into him and felt him bury his face in her hair and breathe her in. He pulled her towards him even more tightly and kissed her passionately and with a longing that had probably been building all week. She grinned into the kiss.
She had never been more excited or happy in her life. Ranma had chosen her over everyone else, and he loved her, and she loved him. He loves me! She thought happily. She wrapped herself around him and gloried in the feeling of the intense warmth of his body on her bare skin. She felt electricity shooting down her spine as the world turned a little less dark and cruel, and a little more bright and wonderful.
He scooped her up and carried her towards the bed. "It's a deal." He softly whispered his reply to her earlier challenge.
He smiled at her as he lay her down on the bed and leaned down to join her as she reached her arms up and dug her fingers gently into his hair and pulled him down to her eagerly.
I did it, Mom, I found him, and I love him and he loves me! She thought brightly. She knew Mom knew.
She was whole again.
FINAL AUTHOR'S NOTES
Thank you all for reading and reviewing, you have helped my writing a lot! This story is now complete. This entire fanfiction story was one giant experiment for me to work on my writing skills to hone them for my novel. I think I have succeeded at that at least on some level ;)
Dropping me a note about your thoughts on the story will always be appreciated, regardless of when or how you do it ;)
ABOUT MY NOVEL:
The novel I am working on publishing is a story that has the same shape as the story you just read. The main character is a young woman, like Nabiki. She is smart, like Nabiki, and she uses her smarts to help and hurt people, like Nabiki. She is also surrounded by a cast of characters similar to what you just read. As a matter of fact, Riko in HMDR was based on a character in my story who I wanted to trial run in front of a live audience.
I crafted this fanfiction story as a partial mirror of my novel. When you read the novel, it should feel familiar to you if you have read HMDR. I wanted to try out various things I was working on in the novel, so I wrote the fanfiction story as a semi-replica of the type of story told in my novel.
There are differences though. My novel is a science fiction story. It is set in space, on a space ship, and everything that goes along with that is present too. The tone of the novel is essentially identical to HMDR though. Although I think HMDR ended up being a bit heavier in the end (kind of hard to stay light and fluffy when dealing with mother-death =_=). The novel will flirt with heavy stuff as well, but it will probably feel a little lighter.
So, what is the novel about?
Here is the 15-second summary:
"A young woman finds herself being forced to fight to save her ship and her shipmates using her knowledge of computers and science. Luckily, she has friends to help her. Some of those friends are more useful than others, and some of them think they are funnier than they actually are. During the course of the story she will be called upon to fight like she has never fought before in her life, and she will be placed in situations she doesn't know how to deal with while others look to her to lead them."
I will either publish as "R.D. McAdams" or just simply "Robert McAdams" I haven't decided which yet. Just remembering "McAdams" should take care of it regardless ;)
If you like my fanfiction, I suggest you visit my site (the address is in my profile, it is just my ff net screen name ended by the most common site address domain) and download a copy of it, just to be safe. If my novel is published by a traditional publisher, there is a VERY REAL possibility they will require me to delete my fanfiction, most likely with little or no notice.
There is a newsletter you can join on my site (it is linked to from my profile). When I publish my novel (via whatever method I decide to go with), I will send a notice out to the newsletter first. If my fanfiction hasn't been deleted by the time I publish, I will also post a notice to FF net in the form of a "new chapter" which will notify people following me or my stories that the novel has been published.
That's all. Thank you for reading. I hope you enjoyed the story. I enjoyed writing it for you ;)