Christmas Cake-

some people say this is dark, others semi-dark, i don't really think it's dark myself, except maybe off-camera.

char by R.Takahashi, everything else the fault of metroanime@mindspring.com

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Excerpt from Pacific Century Club, Spring edition 2001

Nabiki, age:26
Nontraditional Japanese woman seeking marriage and to live in the States. Only serious respondents, please. Some martial arts training acceptable but no dedicated masters or major hentai.

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June 10, 2001
Dear Sir,

Okay, this is a form letter. I got forty five responses, which is rather more than I expected. What, there's no women over there? I was rather surprised to see this sort of response, to say the least.

First, a little further introduction. Like it says at the bottom, my name is Nabiki Tendo. I'm a 26 year old OL who has been pretty much stuck in that position for the past five years. I've heard that in America, there are complaints about a glass ceiling. Here in Japan, it might as well be diamond for all the effect my scratching away at it has done. The final blow was yet another of my male trainees, whom I had described as a blithering incompetent, being promoted over me.

My actual job description is assistant supplies manager. Misleading, isn't it? Anyway, that's
been my life since I left college with my much vaunted Business Admin degree.

Second, let me make myself clear. I am in this not only to find someone, but to get a crack at the comparitively open markets in America. If you can't deal with a wife who pulls in more money
than you do, this is the time to pull out. As my little intro running in "Cherry Blossoms" and
"Pacific Century" states, I am not a traditional submissive domestic Japanese woman. Not that the image hasn't always been mainly hype, or that you can really find one. I will NOT be a stay-at-home housewife, I can't cook, and I have no idea what "Magical Girl Mitsuko" (referenced in at least four of these letters) is.

If you deceive me and waste my time, it will become obvious soon enough, and trust me that I can make your life a living hell.

Sincerely,

Nabiki Tendo
3-4-17 Takahashi
Ota-ku, Tokyo 142-0034, JAPAN

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Sept. 23, 2001

Dear Richard,

Well, congratulations, you made the first cut.

Oddly enough, my first letter cut down the amount of respondents to a bare trickle. From
forty-five to three in one exchange. I'm letting you know about the others because I want no
pretenses or misconceptions here.

Nice photo, by the way. There is one thing about it that really drew me. You are smiling,
but the smile isn't reaching your eyes. There is a sad look to you, as if you've been through
a lot of hardship in your life, and it has left a few scars. Trust me, I know the feeling very
well indeed.

I'm not living with family now. The situation is a bit complicated, and I hope to get to that
in a later letter. Instead, I'm in an apartment complex of one room flats in Ota-ku. It's a run
down little place with some weird neighbors. I'm in apartment ten, isn't that bizarre? But I've
gotten used to bizarre, though I haven't seen too much weirdness since I left home.

Anyway, I've got to cut this short. Time is money, and I'm having to pull in a part time
job in addition to full timing. Matsuhiro, the incompetent dweeb who was promoted over
me, seems set on making my life miserable, and I need to pull in extra money in case I'm
fired from my main job.

Sincerely,

Nabiki Tendo
3-4-17 Takahashi
Ota-ku, Tokyo 142-0034, JAPAN

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October 11, 2001
Dear Richard,

Yeah, I guess the references to my family life would spark some curiosity. I can't tell you the whole story, though, suffice to say it gets more bizarre than you can imagine. Sometimes, oddly enough, I miss that weirdness - it was never boring and I can usually sit uninvolved on the sidelines.

My father is a traditionalist martial artist, who took the death of my mother particularly hard.
He's an emotional rollercoaster ride with little sensibility to him.

My eldest sister is often described as "not entirely there" - though she was. The airheaded
guise is just her way of coping. When Ranma, more on him later, showed up she was only minimally like that. The stress of dealing with the increased weirdness he brought made her retreat further and further into that shell. The final blow came when her "love interest" -a Doctor Tofu Ono, lost it in her presence one too many times. A new patient, one that didn't yet know about Tofu's strange inability to handle being near Kasumi, was killed when the good doctor found a pressure point that was used by assassins a few hundred years ago.

Kasumi is not well, nowadays. She is getting better, and isn't drinking nearly as much. She's
here, by the way. There can only be one mistress of the house, and little sister is the one who got the ancestral home.

Akane is my youngest sister, and the only one to marry. She inherited the dojo, the house, and
what little inheritance our pitiful father could pass on. She also gets something from her late husband's estate, which helps her manage. She has her hands full with little Ranko anyway, and teaching classes in the Anything Goes martial arts style, which is a school of freeform Kempo.

As for Ranma Saotome, half the stories I could tell you, you wouldn't believe anyway. Hell, I lived through it and I have a hard time believing it. He was an egotistical, self-centered, immature, easily conned, and vain young man. He was also generally honorable, someone who could remain largely unfazed by whatever life threw at him, and capable of learning almost anything if it had martial arts attached to it. I miss him.

Anyway, that pretty much sums up the family situation. Kasumi works at a quick-mart now that she doesn't raid the liquor cabinet. Funny thing, is that when our mother passed away, she took over the "mommy job" and now I've taken on a similar role for her.

Would it surprise you that this correspondence thing was Kasumi's idea? She started in on it when
she was going through detox. She's met some guy named Scott through it, and they're getting along
fairly well. I think it is actually helping, since I just haven't had a lot of experience as the nurturing type. Business has always been my focus, until I found myself trapped in the OL. Only thing I can say about _that_ is that it is still better than being in middle management.

Gotta go to work. Good luck with your dentist visit.

Sincerely,

Nabiki Tendo

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Nov. 21, 2001
Dear Richard,

Well, Kasumi's gone to a face-to-face meeting with Scott. Just a week long vacation, but we've all got our fingers crossed.

Well, except for daddy. He doesn't want any of us to move any further away. If he was a little unstable after mother's death, then the death of his son-in-law pushed him completely over the edge. Martial artists are _supposed_ to have good discipline. To get away and try again in a new environment is part of Kasumi's dream. This correspondence relationship has so far been great for her. She's not drinking anymore, lost the extra poundage she put on when she was "on the skids" and stopped all that awful smoking. She used to be a good cook, but if it all smells and tastes like ashes...

So screw what daddy wants. There have been lives ruined enough by him and his demands and wishes. Parenting is one of those jobs that has damn little training, but one where a screwup can destroy people's already slim chance for happiness way too damn easily.

I saw Akane (youngest sister, remember) and Ranko the other day. Little girl is growing like a weed, hard to believe she's only six years old. They were planning to name the little girl Kimiko until Ranma passed on.

Glad everything is going well in your area. I must confess I don't understand a lot of the technical terms you use, but then it isn't my area of expertise.

Oh, and my second job, is an aerobics instructor assistant. Efficient, isn't it? I get extra money, plus I can exercise during that time.

That trip to China sounds interesting. If you have a stopover in Japan, be sure to let me know.

All for now. Ja ne!

Sincerely,

Nabiki Tendo

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December 24, 2001

Dear Richard,

Well, I warned you when we met at the airport about Chinese curses, didn't I? At least it isn't a Jusenkyo curse, those are triggered by water. You only have to worry about the full moon, which at least has the benefit of being predictable.

I'm glad I mentioned Chinese curses, though, as your little mishap provided some much needed humor in my day.

The pictures of your other form, by the way, are quite amusing. Brings back memories.

I'm still writing Andrew and Brian, but like your relationship with the Chinese girl, I'm just keeping my options open for the moment. May one assume that you have now crossed her off your list? Staring at a Chinese actress gets you a cursed to turn into her during the full moon? Even Akane at her worst was never THAT jealous/vengeful. We didn't have to deal with Chinese
sorceresses back when Ranma was around, though a few of his opponents came close.

As soon as I figure out some sizes, I'll send you some clothing. I understand guys are very reluctant to do this sort of thing, and at least you won't unexpectedly transform unless you ignore the calendar. It'll amuse me to no end.

Now that you're familiar with curses, I can tell you about Ranma. He transformed to a girl when splashed with cold water, had a bunch of nonsense drilled into his head about being a "man among men", and a mother who was ready to cut his head off for not being manly enough. Compared to his problems, you've got it easy.

The thing that makes it really funny (to me at least), is that your cursed form resembles someone I used to know: a delivery girl for a local ramen place. Except for your hair being black, and styled different, that is.

Sometimes I wonder what happened to Xian Pu. She went back to her homeland after Ranma died. She was trying to marry Ranma up until Ranma married Akane, then trying to get Ranma and Akane both to marry her (so long as she got Ranma, though I know she didn't like little sister at all, or sharing.) She still didn't care for Mousse, who was pursuing her rather like Tatewaki pursued Akane back in the old days.

Well, got to go to my second job, enjoy the photo.

Sincerely,

Nabiki Tendo

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Feb.21, 2002
Dear Richard,

Sorry to hear about the latest problems that have struck you, due to the curse. I've included my business card, call me when you need to talk sometime. I wonder how many of Ranma's problems he could have overcome if _he_ had had someone to talk to. "We can't unmake the mistakes of the past, only learn and grow from them." I forget who originally said that.

Work is fine, Matsuhiro has levelled off some. He feels he has shown me who's the boss, and now his pride assuaged, has reverted to being the incompetent dweeb I trained months ago. He's just no longer a hostile incompetent dweeb. I really hate my job.

The two jobs, of course, is why I've just sent a couple of scribbled postcards your way in the meantime. Exhausting!

It's coming up to the Sakura Festival, and all the little cherry blossom watching parties are being scheduled. Just what I need to see, a whole lot of OL and middle management types falling down drunk. Sometimes, sitting back and watching the festivities can be rewarding, but is mainly just boring. The one surprise from last year was watching the shy little flower (Yuki from Accounting) get thoroughly smashed and doing a table dance in the park. She's SO shy that if I showed her the pictures she'd probably die of shame that very second. You never know, eh?

Glad you enjoyed the chocolate. I just happened to have some lying around going to waste.
No big deal. Not like I eat it, and Kasumi's abstaining as she tries to lose an extra few pounds. Ah, to be in love now that the cherry blossoms are (almost) here.

Glad she's found someone, as it means I won't have to shepherd her all her life.

As for the tape, I appreciate it. Financial news, breaking developments in industry, it stirs the blood! Now if I could just get my hands on some of it. So frustrating with all the regulations and restrictions on the Japanese marketplace. There are times when I'm tempted to go find that 'Spring Of Drowned Man' and take a dip, just to overcome the sexism. But then I think
about how crazy Ranma's life got and I wonder how much of that might have been caused by his curse.

Akane's doing well, so is Ranko. Yes, it _is_ difficult to be a single parent in Japan. She does get help from her grandparents on Ranma's side, and my father is occasionally functional enough to be of some assistance.

In case you're wondering about the extra tracks on the paper, I'm writing this on the bus. When I was younger, the buses were immaculate, on time, and operated smoothly. Now the smog level leaves grit more often than not, the drivers are working longer and longer shifts, and maintenence is a lot more infrequent. There's also the unthinkable in "safe" Japan, rowdy youths, punks, and gangbangers. I hope I got the terms right. There are no Japanese equivelants, as it is a Japanese tradition to ignore unpleasant truths - unless it is someone else's unpleasant truth. Instead we typically employ foreign words, as if that will make it a foreign problem.

It is _not_ the Japan of my relatively optimistic youth, but I have always been the sort who has wanted to see clearly what is going on. Sometimes the truth hurts.

All for now,

Nabiki Tendo.

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Mar. 9, 2002

Dear Richard,

First, the good news.

Ahem. You are cordially invited, etc, etc. The invitation is being sent seperately. I _do_ request that you be there. Kasumi, _finally_, getting married. Though Father had a kitten fit at HIS daughter marrying a gaijin.

I'll tell you, that proclamation was enough to stop conversations cold when he made it. I was meeting him at Ucchan's, a little eatery run by an old... acquaintance. He started off about what a blotch this was on his family honor, and how one daughter killed her husband (not true) and another was now abandoning family and honor.

I slapped him. HARD. And to think I called Ranma an idiot. Ranko started wailing, as
apparently that rumor had gone around school, and here was her grandfather confirming it. No,
he was just repeating something that got into that empty head of his. Ranma was protecting Akane
when he made his final sacrifice and was killed during a martial arts grudge match. Pure luck
ended the fight, I have this from reliable sources. An attack that Ranma could have deflected or
avoided was fumbled badly and was heading for Akane who had refused to stay back out of harm's
way. Ranma shoved Akane out of the way, but didn't have time to do the same himself.

To say that, not only in front of Ranma's daughter, but the mother of that child, who still blames herself at least a little for not getting to a safer position. Well, I'm still Akane's sister, but the hell if I'll acknowledge that man as my father. Ukyou threw him out a few moments later, mainly when she got over _her_ shock.

Sorry, I'm still so ticked about all this that I'm shaking when I think about it. I'll write again when I've calmed down.

Sincerely,

Nabiki Tendo

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June 4, 2002

Richard-chan,

THAT was exactly the sort of gift I most appreciate, and I thank you dearly for
it. With everything going on, I could hardly envisage a time when I more needed a pick-me-up.

First, Ukyou is Ukyou Kuonji. I wouldn't quite call her a "friend" so much as a former
business associate. She was one of Ranma's fiancees. She took the wedding hard. Really hard. Spent some time getting psychological counseling after a suicide attempt. Was still doing that when Ranma died. She's better now, certainly has more sanity than my father. Somehow, though, her okonomiyaki just don't taste as good when she still had that spark when Ranma was around. One of her shrinks took a look around the neighborhood and said they ought to just put the walls up here. Konatsu, Ukyou's employee, has also been getting some much needed help. He's going to have gender reassignment surgery later.

Kasumi, dear older sister, who was a prim-and-proper Japanese housewife for so long, will be getting married next month _in America_. Who'd have thought? She's looking more alive than she has in years, and remnants of the old pre-collapse Kasumi keep popping up.

She knocked over a vase yesterday, and said "Ara~". No cussing, no scowling, no weeping, just the equivelant of "oh dear" and calmly sweeping up the pieces. _I_ almost broke into tears on seeing that.

Big sister is leaving, but she's also back. Thank all the kami.

Oh, and as for the white wrapping on the gift. Nice try, but you got my size wrong. I'm just glad Happosai isn't around anymore. Besides, the gift itself was perfect. I can't wait
to try it out.

How did you know that gold is one of my favorite colors?

Nabiki Tendo

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Aug 19, 2002

Dear Richard,

Damn but that was a nice ceremony. Kasumi and her husband Scott, despite their differences, looked good together. For a minute there I could almost see the Kasumi that was the nineteen year old saint.

It was a pity that it was a night with a full moon. I'd mentioned to Kasumi about your
curse, so it wasn't the surprise over your sudden transformation which caused her reaction. It was your resemblence to Xian Pu, actually. Good thing the ceremony was already over, as you
could probably tell. It is a pity that language also changes with your curse, as my little
Chinese-Japanese and Japanese-English dictionaries were not nearly up to the task.

I hope they got all the cake out of that wedding dress, I bet it cost quite a bit.

Well, the disaster she had with Doctor Tofu, and the nearly disastrous courtship of
Akane & Ranma taught both of us the lesson of making sure of our feelings, then taking charge
ourselves rather than wait for the male to take the traditional role of pursuer.

That's why Kasumi proposed to Scott, never mind the perceptions locally about "yellow
cabs" and the stereotypes about "green card hungry foreigners" over there. Too many things can go wrong if you wait too long.

As for me, well... Brian in Florida stopped writing me about four months ago. Andrew, on the other hand, is getting married to some Filipina girl. I wish him luck.

Guess it's down to thee and me.

Nabiki Tendo

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We interrupt this fic to bring you a LIME WARNING.
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November 12, 2002

Ri-chan,

Your visit last week was...interesting, to say the least. Hmmm, mind you, I'll never look at smores the same way ever again. Or whipped cream. Or a ride in an elevator. The strawberry was a bit much. Oh, waitaminute, that was MY idea.

I never expected you to propose in that manner, either. It's not like my mind was anywhere near clear at that point. I guess all the loneliness and hopelessness of my life here
in Tokyo just overwhelmed me for a moment when I agreed to it.

Anyway, I've got the tickets, have notified Akane, Ukyou, and Kuno. Don't knock Kuno, he's a lot better than he used to be. He's even courting Akane in a far more sensible manner than he used to. Who knows, with his newfound sanity, he might actually succeed in that endeavor.

Kodachi, now there was someone I never expected to see. A pale shadow of her former self, but much more sensible. I hear she's almost off medication now and is pursuing a degree in Chemistry.

As for my job. I considered telling that flake Matsuhiro to go stuff it. I didn't have
to. Yuki, the sweet, shy, demure little doll, was groped by him the other day. Not only does it
turn out that this fragile flower practices Tiger Claw style kung fu, but she learned it and became "shy" because she was raped years ago.

They think Matsuhiro will recover, after all, Yuki realized what she had done and
got some ice really quickly. He may have trouble using the toilet stalls for awhile, but the trauma teams got there before the rupture was too complicated.

Yuki has decided not to press charges. Matsuhiro had been doing things like that and
worse, but the Japanese virtues of silence and stoicism had helped him, and now Yuki is sort of
a hero in her department.

Funny thing, nobody asks her to go get coffee anymore.

See you in two weeks,


Nabiki!

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Excerpt from Pacific Century Club, Spring 2003

Xian Pu (28) Nihao! Know two people found okay guys like this, so giving try. Bright, perky,
Chinese girl looking for strong warrior husband. Ability to relocate and speak Mandarin big plus.
No peoples with cat phobia. Preference given to boys with no ego size of mountain.


End?