Disclaimer: The playground is by Rumiko Takahashi, I'm only swinging on
the monkey bars. Remember to leave the grounds cleaner than you found
them and please don't feed the Trolls.

This story is archived at http://www.kawaiikunee.com/slp/

Release 0.1, (Oct. 15, 1999)

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Ninjoubanashi
(just a few old-fashioned love stories)

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I happen, just in passing, to like Kodachi. And I don't share the
normal view that she's crazy. She's certainly _unbalanced_, but she's
hardly the only character in Ranma Nibbunnoichi of whom that may be
said.

However, she does have a problem. And unlike, say, Akane or Ukyou, it's
a very simple one. What is it, you ask? This:

She's a spoiled brat.

Now, a brat can continue to spoil for the rest of its life, or it can
dust itself off, and decide to grow up. Which it does depends on its
environment, the needs of the moment, and one other thing:

It has to decide to expend the effort of will required.

If the brat was spoiled enough, that might be a heroic effort indeed.

But anyone can be a hero, if only they choose to be so.

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(2 Years after the manga)
(Ranma + Kodachi)

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Yet If You Have No Mountain

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You that would judge me, do not judge alone
This book or that, come to this hallowed place
Where my friends' portraits hang and look thereon;
(And)history in their lineaments trace;
Think where man's glory most begins and ends,
And say my glory was I had such friends.
-W. B. Yeats

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Death is lighter than a feather,
Duty is heavier than a mountain.
-Traditional

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Strong arms reached out through the muggy summer night and powerful
hands closed around throats. There is an art to throttling people,
involving closing the airway and carotid artery enough to insure
lasting unconsciousness without risking death or permanent injury.
Judging by the fact that all the victims would later wake up alive, it
may be assumed that all of the attackers were sufficiently expert.

The alarm wires were expertly cut and the various other technological
sensors were expertly confounded. The paths and traps of the garden
maze were expertly traversed. The small packets of C4 were placed on
the doors of the main compound with expert care. All in complete
silence.

The explosions that destroyed the doors and entrance hall, on the other
hand, were not silent at all. Nor were they meant to be.

The attackers charged through the resulting chaos with a will, knocking
over stunned and uncoordinated yakuza and zaibutsu guards left and
right. Kodachi swivelled her head back and forth rapidly. Her shinobi
had a difficult task before them, and she must be able to assist them
as necessary, while also accomplishing her own mission.

Fortunately, the layout of her ancestral estate had not been radically
changed, and her sources of information on its new contents was good.
As well it should be, of course. Tatewaki had a great deal of dishonor
to redeem.

With her shinobi around her, Kodachi strode through the wreckage of the
Kuno mansion's central hall, silently gesturing orders to her raiding
force. Teams of black-clad fighters broke off to left and right of the
main group, each performing some independent task.

Not the least of these tasks involved neither destruction nor removal.
Instead a carefully crafted and _almost_ real illusion must be pieced
together in the fire-shot night. Layers within layers of falsehood must
be sown, and the degree to which the falsehood was obvious must be
gauged very carefully.

To the yakuza clan that now controlled the mansion, in fact if not in
name, and to their ziabutsu masters, one face must be presented. To the
authorities who would investigate the attack, another. To the agencies
of the press, and behind them to the public at large a third. And to
one very select part of that public, yet a fourth. And all of these
many faces must be created, each face by the very viewers it was
crafted for, by the same array of information.

And over all of these many facets must go a shield of truth.

Which everyone who might view it _must_ believe to be a lie.

Fortunately, all seemed to be going according to plan. But now the step
of the plan which she least desired to face was approaching. So far, no
fatalities had been suffered, by either side; but that was about to
change.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

The attackers, of course, had the benefits of surprise, training and
the stunned and disorganized state of the defenders. The defenders were
subject to the attackers mercy, but the attackers did not _want_ to
kill them. Generally speaking. Unfortunately, wanted or not, there were
some deaths that were necessary. It disturbed Kodachi greatly that
despite all their planning, some of those deaths must be chosen by no
fairer a method than random chance.

Ahead of the main body of her force went a thick spread of scouts and
commandos, feeling towards any resistance that might be attempting to
coalesce, seeking certain targets. An change in the pattern of noise
ahead of her told her that the most important of those targets had been
found.

Her peripheral vision tracked a small flash of red as a familiar
pattern of movement went by to her right, but she did not look at it.
She knew what it looked like in any event, and knew likewise that where
it was she need fear no failure.

But that was on the periphery, her focus was elsewhere. Locked tight on
the tall figure of her brother, standing at the forefront of what
pathetic stand the mansion's defenders had managed to muster, waving
his ridiculous bokken about and making an already impossible situation
ten times worse by his very presence. All according to plan.

As her troops smashed down the other defenders, she spun forwards
gracefully and caught his eye. He spent more of his time ranting than
fighting, of course, but that too was according to plan, and she paid
no attention.

She devoted a little of her attention to her own performance, but only
a little. She must dance a most carefully choreographed dance
impromptu, of course, but deception had been her constant companion for
two years or more now, and it proved no more difficult than she
expected, nor did she expect it to be difficult.

A slightly greater portion of her attention was given to timing. She
must keep an eye on the performance of the rest of the fight, for that
too must be carefully choreographed, and that too must be impromptu.
She must strike Tatewaki unconscious late enough to be convincing, but
early enough that some of the other defenders were still conscious to
see him fall. But her shinobi and Ranma-sama were fighting with her,
and here too she had no fear of failure nor need to greatly spend her
precious and limited store of conscious thought.

Instead she spent her time wholly on studying Tatewaki himself. Seeing
him as fully as possible and memorizing all she was able, bearing down
on the details again and again to hammer them into memory. He was her
brother, whom she dearly loved. Though she had planned the whole
operation out with him in advance, she had not seen nor spoken to him
in almost two years; and she greatly feared that she would never be
able to see or speak to him again.

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Finally, the dance wound to its pre-arranged conclusion, and she must
go on. She sped about the estate with a large contingent of shinobi as
others scattered to their pre-briefed tasks. There were many things to
do and little time to do them.

Finally, she returned to the central part of the mansion to find that
the confrontation she had dreaded was already underway, and proceeding
according to her worst fears.

"No, Ranma-sama, I cannot."

"Dammit, Kuno!" the diminuative red-head hissed, "We're talkin' about
ya' gettin' killed! This ain't no samurai fantasy, you baka!"

"I assure you, Ranma-sama ..."

"I liked it better when ya was callin' me 'foul sorcerer'."

Tatewaki flinched. "Ranma-sama, it is too dangerous."

"Dangerous ....!" Ranma nearly exploded.

"Brother." She walked up to him and hugged him around the waist.

"Sister, it is too risky." His arms encircled her shoulders strongly.

"Risky!" Ranma hissed.

"Too risky to you and _far_ too risky to Akane-sama. Already the police
are coming, and the back-up plans have a lower success factor, do they
not?"

"Yeah," Ranma snarled, "by maybe ten percent!"

"But the chance is already low, is it not?" her brother replied grimly.

Ranma snarled again, in frustration. But her brother was right, the
sirens were rising in the near distance. Worse, he right about their
chances, too.

Her arms locked briefly with desperate force. "I love you, Tatewaki."

His returned the pressure, "I love you, too, Kodachi."

She held the hug one moment, and then broke it. Thanking the Kami that
her tears were hidden beneath her kurozukin she turned away and began
gesturing her shinobi about their grim tasks.

They had already been busy. A great pile of timber, paper and filing
cabinets had been constructed in the center of the hall. The family
tablets were broken and insinuated into it and it was soaked down with
gasoline and wired with more than 20 kilograms of octol explosive.

Now they were dragging several stunned or dead ranking yakuza over to
lie across it. Her gestures pointed out several other, lower ranking
yakuza. These would be dragged nearer to certain other points around
the compound, already also rigged to explode. Not _to_ them of course,
but near enough. It would seem a careless error.

Behind her Ranma finally let out a pained curse. "Dammit, Tatewaki, _I
forgive you_."

"Yes," her brother said with a catch, "you were ever far kinder to me
than I deserved. But I have offended too deeply Ranma-sama. You may
forgive me, my sister may forgive me. Even Akane-sama might forgive me,
somehow. But I cannot forgive myself. I _must_ atone."

Ranma hissed in frustration. "Dammit."

Kodachi turned around again at last as Ranma hissed again, and quickly
drew a tanto from an inside pocket of her shinobi-gi. Stepping up to
Tatewaki, she roughly tore away part of his kimono to expose his chest.
Then she snatched the knife across it as skin tore and blood welled
before she flung the knife away to sink deeply into the wooden wall.

Then she stepped up to Tatewaki and suddenly shot her hands up to his
head, dragging it down for a deep, almost brutal kiss. When she stepped
away from him again, his back was facing the pile of pyrotechnics, and
he seemed already stunned.

She set herself and said one word, which Kodachi whispered with her:
"Goodbye."

Then she punched. Punched once, or punched a thousand times, to a
master of the Tenshin Amaguriken they are much the same thing. But
anyone whose eyes could have tracked the blow would have seen something
odd about Ranma's performance. Where normally the cloud of blows would
each have fallen on a slightly different spot, spreading the impact's
force slightly, this time blow after blow in succession fell on only a
few targets. Beneath their weight, bones cracked and flesh tore.

Tatewaki flew back like a broken doll to crash into the pile and snag
on an sharp upthrust point of steel, left for that purpose as the pile
was assembled.

Striding forward, Ranma caught a small device tossed her by one of the
shinobi and pressed a button. As she leaned over Tatewaki his eyes
briefly tracked her and she showed him the digital readout on its
surface. Then she placed the box down on the pile, conveniently near
his hand and leaned in to kiss him again, very briefly, before turning
and sprinting away after Kodachi and the others, drawing on her
kurozukin as she went.

They fled into the night, evading the lumbering, noisy police cars with
almost contemptuous ease. Behind them Tatewaki forced his eyes open and
stared upwards at the glittering stars. His days of dishonor were long
done with. The time when he completed his redemption was near. He knew
that the box was near, but his hand never moved.

As the racing force of shadow warriors split up into squads and pairs,
dividing into untrackably small pieces and fading invisibly into the
darkness the night behind them was split by flame and thunder. To the
end, Tatewaki felt no pain or fear at all.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

They finally stopped in a deserted warehouse, at Ranma's insistence.
Kodachi knew she should take charge of her clan-members, but at the
moment she simply could not bear to raise the energy. She would give
orders again, but not just yet. Give her a little time, just a little
time to mourn.

Ranma began snapping orders to the remaining half-dozen clansmembers as
soon as they entered, directing three of them to unearth a cache of
bottles and casks and boxes from within a dusty shipping crate. Another
was sent to wrestle a large iron bathtub-like affair from another crate
to the center of the floor. The last two were sent scurrying to hook up
a hose and fill the tub with hot water.

While they were doing this Ranma began disrobing with great haste.
Turning to Kodachi she spoke forcefully, "'Dachi. 'Dachi! Ya can't
afford to cry just yet. Ya gotta get undressed, we don't have much
time."

It made no sense to her, but she couldn't muster the energy to think
about it and she dully dragged off her shinobi-gi and underwear,
watching semi-mindlessly as Ranma poured the contents of the bottles
and kegs indiscriminately into the tub. Ranma followed them with
several packets she had apparently had hidden in her clothing, at least
one of which looked like a lock of bloody hair. Then Ranma took a
cloth-wrapped package from a box, and a scroll, and climbed into the
tub, changing gender in the usual blur, motioning her to do likewise.

It _still_ made no sense, and while being naked in the tub with Ranma
would normally be a considerable treat, she really wasn't in the mood
to appreciate it just now. But her husband seemed to know what he was
doing, so she went along.

Then Ranma asked her if she trusted him, which was a particularly silly
thing to ask she thought, and again she went along. Then Ranma
unwrapped the cloth and took out a shard of mirrored glass, and had her
hold it carefully between her hands so that one of its points was held
in each of her palms. Quickly then, Ranma folded the scroll into a
complex long shape and wrapped it around her hands, leaving enough to
wrap around his own larger hands which covered hers as he directed one
of the others to pick up the only cask he had left un-broached.

Ranma slurred out a chant in a language she didn't quite recognize and
nodded to the man holding the cask. That person then twisted the end
off and poured the liquid within over their heads and joined hands in a
long, silver wave, even as Ranma tensed and then slammed his hands
together, hard.

The shard of glass went through both palms and through Ranma's hands
too. Oddly enough, it didn't even much hurt at first. But then the
liquid reached her, and her flesh turned to ice, and her blood turned
to fire. And then it hurt a _lot_.

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After a timeless eternity of agony, Kodachi came back to herself with a
bitten-off shriek. She was sitting in a tub of ice-cold water and onna-
Ranma pulled her out of it with almost desperate force, hauling her
onto the dry floor of the warehouse as the attending minion jumped back
wide-eyed and all but threw aside the empty cask. Ranma released her
hand and she stumbled away from the tub briefly as Ranma leaned back
into the tub with the same speed and pulled out someone else!

Kodachi spun around, dropped her jaw and stared. The person looked like
her! Almost exactly like her except .... The hair was a little off,
perhaps a tad redder. And there was something to the nose and the line
of the jaw ....

The new arrival looked up into her eyes with an expression of sheer
disbelief. "S-sister?"

Sister? Check once, check twice. Eyes: check. Nose: check. Jaw: check.
This is Ranma we're talking about here: check. Flinging herself into
the other girl's arms she caught him (umm... her, actually) in a
tremendous hug.

"Tachiiiiii!!!!!" (Hmmm. Girl. Tatewaki is _not_ a girl's name.
Possibly trouble there.) Clutching each other to their breasts, they
babbled each other's names again and again.

Weeping she clung to her brother-turned-sister while Ranma dispatched
the minions left and right to clear away the mess and erase all signs
of their presence.

When Ranma brought them each some clothes they broke their embrace and
began to dress. Kodachi dressed with breathless haste. She had
something to do.

"Koibito!" No amazon could have done the glomp better. Weeping in joy,
she clung to the smaller girl, mumbling disjointed thanks.

"Aw, _geez_, 'Dachi. Don't cry. Ya' know I can't stand it when ya cry."

Tatewaki had dressed and now sat or her heels, looking up at Ranma and
Kodachi's embrace with large and luminous eyes. After a moment they
were lit by a flash of what any student at Furinkan two years earlier
would have called highly atypical intelligence.

"Ahhh ... well ...," Ranma stammered, "I figured maybe Tachi'd get
stubborn, so ... ah ... probably he didn't get the curse, so he's
probably stuck like that ... ah ... there's still hope of Nannichuan
water, but ya both gotta know that we ain't had a lotta luck with that
so far ...."

A glass of hot water was upended over the smaller girl's red head,
causing her ... to remain a small red-headed girl. Ranma whipped around
in Kodachi's arms to snarl at Tatewaki, "What'd ya do _that_ fo...,"
only to stop and flinch at the look in Tatewaki's new, more feminine
eyes.

"Ranma-sama," she asked in a pained voice (Ranma flinched harder),
"why?"

"You've got your honor," Ranma said quietly and looked off
embarrassedly to the side, "I've got mine. Don't ... ah ... don't go
all sappy on me, or nuthin'."

Tatewaki looked down at her feet as Ranma turned back into Kodachi's
hug. Ranma attempted to enjoy the hug, but something about the way that
the new girl had returned to a kneeling posture almost at his (her,
now, dammit) feet was making her extremely nervous. Also, Kodachi was
still sniffling slightly, and tears were a thing that gave the red-head
the willies.

Sometimes, they meant that the person using them was sad, but then,
_sometimes_, they meant the opposite. Girls were supposed to know about
things like that, but even after four years, Ranma wasn't a _real_
girl. All growing up with Oyaji had taught him was that they were bad
news. Ranma didn't understand tears, but she did understand that they
could be very important, and things that were very important that he
didn't understand made him _really, really_ nervous.

For almost all his life the only _important_ things had been honor and
the Art, and those she understood just fine, thank you, but then he'd
become a girl, and she'd gotten involved with other girls, and tears
were important to girls, so now they were important to him. Even if she
_didn't_ understand them.

One of the things that he liked about Kodachi was that she didn't break
down in tears at the drop of a hat. Not _real_ tears, anyway, and her
occasional crocodile tears were sufficiently obvious that even Ranma
could detect them. These, however, were _real_ tears. They were making
Ranma extremely nervous all by themselves, and she tried to offer
comfort to her wife so that they would stop and he could return to less
precarious emotional ground.

Eventually, Kodachi finished quivering in Ranma's arms and grasped her
honor close to her soul. Long before she had actually gave the orders
for the course of action that had ended in fire and thunder less than
an hour ago, she had understood that the results of those orders would
deal her two terrible, self-inflicted wounds. The first of those wounds
had been duly dealt, and terrible the pain had been, but beyond all
hope the loss had been restored. Now it was time to deal herself the
second.

"Ranma-sama," Ranma winced visibly, "I thank you. I had dreaded the
lonely life I must lead henceforth, but that, too, you have alleviated.
So I can let you go back to your family with a lighter heart."

Ranma dropped her jaw in shock, "Huh?"

Kodachi repressed a sniffle bravely, "Now, Ranma-sama, let us be
honest. Though you have *snff* always treated me with all the
friendship and passion that any woman could wish, and though you may
have even *snff* loved me in a fashion, I have long known that your
friendship with and love for *snff* ... for others was far greater. You
have restored the honor of the clan of Kuno, you have ended the threat
posed by that clan to the Tendo family and name, you have even restored
to me my brother's life."

Kodachi swallowed, "You have given us so much, it is only fair that I
return to you your freedom. I know that you only married me because of
what ... what Tatewaki did. Now that is over, and you can go back to,
to Akane-sama and Ukyou-sama." Kodachi held her head up and tried to
smile. She had allready broken down disgracefully tonight, and she
_would not_ let Ranma see how much this was costing her.

Ranma's shock was still open-mouthed, and he stumbled away from Kodachi
for a few steps, before regaining her footing with a series of hard
blinks. Then: "Are, you, out, of, _your_, _tiny_, MIND?" he all but
shrieked. "Settin' aside the issue of if they'd even _take_ me back,
what with Ucchan and Akane gettin' married an' all an' Shampoo takin'
Ryouga back ta China with her; can't ya just _see_ the kinda ways the
zaibutsu could screw th' Dojo or TendoCorp over if they got that kinda
opportunity?" Ranma waved her arms around wildly, "And I do _so_ love
you too, so there!"

Kodachi winced. This was harder than she'd thought it would be; she
kept wanting to beg. "Yes, Ranma-sama," Ranma winced again, "I know
that you do love me, but you love *snff* Akane-sama more."

Ranma moved up nearly into Kodachi's face, and jutted out her chin
pugnaciously. "Maybe that was true, one time. But not now. Dammit girl,
we just spent the last two years together, we went through all that
hell ta' reform th' clan, _now_ ya think I don't love ya?"

Kodachi shook her head frantically, and Ranma's voice rose almost to a
wail, "An' even if I didn't, _that ain't th' point._ Dammit, 'Dachi,"
and now it _was_ a wail, "when I married ya, _I made a promise_!" and
she was crying, tears streaming down her cheeks, "I _always_ keep my
promises! 'Nless," his eyes went wide in sudden horror, "ya don't
_want_ me anymore, cause of," her voice dropped almost to a whisper and
she turned her head way from Kodachi, "bein' a girl now an' all. I, I
...."

Kodachi's eyes widened in a horror of her own. She knew that cliff all
too well, she had talked her beloved away from it once before. Her arms
went around the smaller girl in a crushing hug and she pulled the
flame-haired head into the hollow of her shoulder. "Koibito! NO! No, no
never never never. Never in this world."

Ranma pushed his head into Kodachi's body and shook. "D-'Dachi. Mom and
them _had_ to disown me. You're all the family I got. Do - don't ...
please ...."

Kodachi held her and stroked her back, "Ranma. Koibito. Shh. I love
you. Shh. I'll never leave you. Never. Never by my will. Shh."

Ranma sniffed once more and pulled himself together. "Don't _say_
things like that 'Dachi. I may not like ta admit it, but I _need_ you."

Kodachi almost fainted from sheer happiness. "You'll always have me,
koibito." She continued the embrace.

From behind them, Tatewaki coughed slightly. "Me, too."

Ranma turned her head, "Huh?"

Tatewaki coughed again, "Well, I'm stuck as a girl, now, and I really
don't think that I'd make a good wife, in a conventional sense, ..."

Ranma narrowed her eyes and turned around.

"... for a normal person, that is, and you _did_ save my life, created
it really, and that causes all sorts of obligations on _both_ sides
..."

Ranma got a hint of where this was going, "Aaaaaaaa..."

"... and I haven't really got a legal identity anymore, and there's
only one thing that I really do still own, and I'm sort of Kodachi ..."

"...aaaaa_aaaaaaa_...."

"... myself in one sense, and you're already married to her ..."

"..._aaaa_AAAAA..."

"... and where else am I supposed to go, and ..."

"...AAAA_AAAAA_..."

"... whatever else may be said about my honor and whatever else I may
have done, and however foolish I may have been, ..."

"..._AAAAAAAAAA_!!!!..."

"... not even you can deny my devotion to you and my love for you, ..."

"... 'Da_chi_! ..."

"... in one sense or another, ..."

"... Da_chiiii_!!! ..."

"... and, after tonight, ..."

"... DA_CHIIII_!!! ..."

"... that sense is the only sense I'm concerned with, ..."

"... HeeeeelP! ..."

"... so I'm afraid you'll have to marry me, too."

Ranma turned to Kodachi with mute terror. Kodachi gawped.

Why that, that _hussy_. Her own sister, too ... well ... not _really_
her sister. Her brother, and she knew how _he_ had been about _Osage no
Onna_, but also, ...well ... herself, _really_.

In a sense.

Hmm.

It wasn't as though she could _condemn_ a girl for wanting Koibito,
even _as_ a girl.

Hmm.

And Tatewaki _was_ very like her. Hmmm. She'd always sort of wondered,
in an abstract sense, what it would be like, ...

... with a, a twin, ... sort of.

Hmm.

And Tatewaki really _didn't_ have anywhere else to go.

The poor dear was legally _dead_, at the moment. And would have to stay
that way. Without a family to protect her.

It was a terrible thing, not to have a family.

Hmm.

"_'Dachi_!!!"

Kodachi put her hand to her mouth to hide the smile, and said, "I'm
sorry, Koibito, but she _does_ have a point."

"_AAAAAA_!!"

"Saving a life _does_ confer an obligation, Koibito, ..."

"_'DA_CHIIII_!!!"

"... and besides, what else will we do with her? Throw her out into the
cold?"

"'Dachi! Tachi is _not_ a _she_!!! The body may be a girl's, but the
mind is still ..."

"No, Ranma-sama," Tatewaki interjected softly, "it is not."

Ranma spun around to face her. "Huh?!"

"Even if I had access to Nannichuan water, Ranma-sama, I would not make
use of it."

Ranma knelt next to the taller girl and held her shoulders. "Tachi,
don't talk like that! That's stupid!"

Tatewaki shook her head, slowly. "No, Ranma-sama, it is not. When I was
male I defiled myself by foolishness. I died so that the pollution
might be cleansed. Even though you have restored my life, if I allowed
the return of my maleness, I would too easily fall into that pollution
again."

She looked down at her hands, clasped in her lap. Her eyes began to
drip tears. "And ... and ... I never really gave up, you know. It was
so easy to ... I always ... and Akane ...." Her voice trailed off into
silence for awhile. Then she looked up, brown eyes dripping tears
meeting blue. She drew a deep breath. "I really did, you see. I did
love you both, in some twisted way. And then to do what I did ... I
cannot go to Akane, now. I cannot even dream it, but who else could I
go to save you and Kodachi-imouto? If you will not have me, I have no
place to ...." she trailed off into sniffles.

Kodachi knelt down and embraced Ranma, whose mouth was opening and
closing in silent, helpless frustration, from behind. "Koibito, she is
right. Who could she marry? If she married a man, she must assume a
role that she ill-equipped to play. She has had far less training as a
girl than even you have. If she marries another girl we will have to
maintain two masquerades where otherwise we would have to maintain but
one."

Ranma had hugged the crying girl in her arms into her shoulder. "I can
see that 'Dachi, but ...."

Kodachi hugged Ranma from behind, and stroked her hair. "Or should we
cast her out after you went to such trouble to restore her life? Or
should she be left alone for the rest of her life?"

Ranma winced and tightened her hug around Tatewaki's shoulders. "No!
But, Tatewaki ..."

Kodachi hugged her again. "Tatewaki is dead, Koibito. This is my sister
Tachiko, now." The newly renamed girl gave off a small sniffle, into
Ranma's shoulder.

Ranma opened and shut her mouth helplessly a few more times, then
turned slightly to look Kodachi in the eyes. Kodachi met her gaze
calmly. After a moment her lips twitched slightly. "There is this also,
Koibito. We will be continuing to support Akane-sama from the shadows.
It would be very difficult for Tachi to continue to make amends to
Akane-sama outside our clan, and I feel that she still wishes to do
so." Tachiko nodded firmly into Ranma's shoulder and sniffled again.

Ranma drew in her brows in concern. "'Dachi, I thought we were gonna
try an' continue rebuilding the clan! Not that I mind helpin' the
Tendo's and Akane-chan and Ucchan out, but I thought you wanted to
concentrate on ..." she waved her off hand aimlessly, "... the family,
like."

Kodachi drew another deep breath and sighed. "I _am_ concentrating on
the family, Koibito," she said quietly, "but I've been thinking."

"We Kuno's began as Ninja, you know, in service to our Daimyo's clan.
Then during the Tokugawa years we were ennobled ourselves so that we
could support the clan politically as well in espionage. But during the
Meiji restoration our ties with our overlords were broken, and we had
no duty to anyone but ourselves anymore. From the records I have seen,
it seems clear to me that that is when our decline began."

She shrugged, slightly. "It seems strange to say, but I think that
Kuno's _need_ to have a duty to someone else. Otherwise we go bad."

She grinned twistedly, "When I think of what a brat I was when we first
met .... What Tachi was even after that ...."

She shrugged, again. "No, Koibito, we must have someone to be
responsible to. And who better, to whom do we owe more of a duty than
the Tendos and the Saotomes?"

"Besides," she grinned at Ranma suddenly, "I promised Akane-sama that I
would do my best for her and you. I keep my promises, too."

Ranma looked at her steadily for a few seconds more and then slumped
slightly, hugging the still sniffling Tachiko a little harder. "Okay.
Okay, ah, Tachiko. I'll marry you, too. Just, ah, just no kinky stuff,
okay?"

Kodachi snickered slightly, and Tachiko surprised herself with a
tearful giggle, "I promise, Ranma-koibito, no 'kinky stuff'."

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

As they slipped out of the warehouse into the darkness, Kodachi
smirked, and whispered, "Now, does 'kinky stuff' include ..."

"'Dachi!!!" Ranma hissed, reddening.

Kodachi and Tachiko looked at each other and shared a slightly wicked
giggle. Ranma turned even redder, if that were possible, and led the
way into the night-time streets of Nerima with what have seemed to be
unseemly haste.

A little further on, as Kodachi came up parallel with her momentarily,
Ranma murmured "Duty, huh?"

Kodachi's eyes acquired a distant look for a few moments. "They say
that duty is heavier than a mountain, and it is true. But if you have
no mountain, on what will your foundations stand?"

Ranma nodded, "I guess."

Three silent figures flitted over a roof-line and leapt down into a
twisting back ally. Silent as ghosts, they disappeared, into the night.
And into all the nights that the future might hold.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

Author's notes,

It is my firm conviction that Kodachi's and Tatewaki's main problem is
not that they're crazy. It's that they're spoiled rotten brats. And
more than a little stupid, too. But that's true of a lot of Ranma
characters.

No, I don't know what Tatewaki did, it's not really important. If
anyone wants to flesh it out, feel free. In fact, I won't be returning
to this particular future at all, so I am making it free to any one who
actually wants to use it. Just send me an email, saying that you're
doing it, is all I ask.