Copyright Viz Communications © 2007, copyright Kitty Films © 2007, copyright Rumiko Takahashi © 2007. All Rights Reserved. Written for fan appreciation only.
Michael "TheZorch" Haney's
"A New Direction Taken"
Inspired by Adrian D. Moten's "Kasumi 1/2"
The rain came down in heavy sheets and the sky was a depressing gray. Perhaps they were reflecting the heart of one person who was standing in the midst of all this with just an umbrella to keep him dry. It really didn't matter to him if he got wet or not. Except for a certain problem which occurred when he got wet, but that stopped being annoying a long time ago. It was now just an accepted part of his life. It also wasn't like he'd catch a cold either, he couldn't get a cold, he couldn't get sick, and he couldn't die. Yet, death was foremost on his mind right now.
Saotome Ranma ignored the chill of the wind and the sound of the rain. All that existed for him were his memories ... so many memories. In his hand was a single red rose. They'd been her favorite flowers. This one came from the same garden she once tended and nurtured with loving care. Slowly he bent down and laid it at the foot of her gravestone. Today was their anniversary, he still had their wedding ring. Ranma wore it on a necklace so it would always be close to his heart. He missed her, even after all these years he still missed her. It had been eighty years since she passed away at the ripe old age of ninety-seven. He was now well over one hundred, yet he didn't look much older than twenty-one.
"They still bloom this time of year," he said to the spirit of his departed wife. No answer came, he really didn't expect one. He knew she was no longer here on this world.
"The house is still much the same," the continued while brushing a few dead leaves off the gravestone. "Though you really wouldn't recognize much of the neighborhood now. Ours is the only original building left in Nerima-ku, the rest are all new prefabs. They finished tearing up the last of the streets and replaced them with green-ways with grass and trees and flower gardens. You would've really liked it."
Ranma laughed, "They put another statue of me up not long ago. That makes five so far. You'd think I was someone important or something." He became very serious suddenly and touched the face of his beloved sculptured in a bust of marble. It captured her in all of her youthful beauty, and though she had grown old and gray before time had come to claim her in his eyes she was still that beautiful young woman he loved and married so long ago.
"I miss you, Kasumi-chan." he said softly.
"Lord Saotome," someone behind him said in a respectful tone.
He turned around to regard the young man standing behind him. "I'm done here," said Ranma. Without a further word he walked past the young man and headed for the cemetery exit.
"The delegation from the American Empire will arrive in four hours," the young man said as he caught up to Ranma. "The emperor is wondering if you still plan to attend the reception. He says they appear to be anxious to meet you."
Ranma sighed, "Tell him not to worry, I'm still coming. I made a promise and I always keep them."
"Hai," the young man nodded respectfully. "I'll make certain he is informed. Also, you wanted me to remind you that your great great granddaughter will be sending you a message at approximately 6 am."
Ranma smiled when he thought of her. She was the spitting image of his long deceased wife, right down to her sweet and gentle demeanor. "Yeah, I'm interested in hearing how things are going on Mars," he said.
They approached what looked like a limousine without wheels. The young man opened the rear door for Ranma. After he settled himself in the back seat the young man closed the door and took the rear facing seat in front of him. "The reception will begin in four hours, where would you like to go, sir?" he asked.
"Home," nodding the young man gave the instruction to the driver before raising the privacy window. The vehicle vibrated slightly as the anti-gravity system became active. The view of the cemetery through the windows dropped as the limo lifted into the gray, sorrowful sky.
"Lord Ranma, may I inquire something?" Ranma nodded.
"I do not comprehend why you continue to return to this place despite the fact that doing so causes you such emotional distress." Ranma scratched his head while trying to think of an answer to that.
He finally replied, "Maybe, its because I can't let go."
"Of the memory of your wife?" the young man asked.
Ranma nodded, "She's been gone for so long, but my memory of her is still so fresh, like I only lost her a few weeks ago."
"Perhaps I still do not completely understand humans," the young man looked uncertain.
Ranma laughed, "Don't feel too bad, most humans don't understand humans either, Konatsu."
Konatsu looked uncertain. "I endeavor to understand humans better, so I might serve you in a greater capacity as is my function."
"You have net access, there's tons of papers on human psychology out there." Ranma explained.
Konatsu nodded, "Yes, I do, within the past hour I processed over two thousand, five hundred and eighty three dissertations on human psychology, and one thousand, two hundred and eight clinical papers on the same subject."
"Yet, you still don't understand humans even after all that?" Ranma asked.
Konatsu replied, "You're earlier statement seems to hold true, as I found ninety percent of the papers conflicted each other. My logical processes are unable to rely on the information as accurate."
"Ok, Mr. Data," Ranma joked. "I think you're over analyzing things a bit. What do you know about love?"
Konatsu looked like he was thinking for a moment. "Love is the most powerful of all human emotions," he replied. "It can be a source of great joy and great sorrow for humans. Love can often drive humans to act in a manner that is quite irrational, and sometimes even self-destructive. Love can also override the human instinct for self-preservation. The twentieth century American science fiction author Robert A. Heinlein said this of love; "it is that condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to your own"."
Ranma shrugged and gestured toward the robot. "Based on all that, what does it tell you about me?"
Konatsu replied, "Your love for your deceased wife has not diminished in the many decades since her passing. You loved her so much that if it had been possible you would have given up your own existence so that she might live. However, you were unable to save her, thus you have what is classically called Survivor's Guilt."
Ranma smiled at the robot, tears welling in his eyes. "Maybe you understand us better you might think."
Had any of the original family lived to see Tendo-ke as it was now none of them would recognize it. The small plot of land which the house and dojo stood on had been expanded upon over the years. Some of the acquisitions were made by Nabiki many decades ago, and some were made by Ranma himself. Much of the block where Tendo-ke sat now comprised the entirety of the current compound. Surrounding the walled family land was a sea of uniform, prefabricated homes. Ranma paid little attention to the landscape as the limo touched down in a paved landing area near the main house and dojo. They looked completely unchanged, seemingly untouched by time, but that was only their outer appearance. Beneath the familiar facade the house and dojo were modern structures. What looked like wood was actually an artificial wood alternative, since the lumber industry went extinct after the global ban on harvesting trees went into effect decades ago, and the clay roof tiles were light-weight carbon fiber designed to recycle rainwater for household use.
Leaving the limo, Ranma passed Kasumi's rose garden. It was still in the same place where it had been when she was still alive. A small row of stones on one edge of the garden was the only remnants of the original wall that surrounded Tendo-ke in those days. He paused to admire the bright red flowers in their full bloom. He envisioned Kasumi, her delicate hands moving slowly, tending to the blossoming bushes with the same love and care she gave to her family. Banishing the vision Ranma went to the house and kicked off his shoes at the genkan just inside the front door. The running patter of little feet was the only warning he received. He caught the speeding blur, it giggled and stretched out a pair of of tiny arms which hugged him with surprising strength.
"Grandpa!" the little girl in his arms covered his face with tiny kisses. She was a beautiful child. Ranma had remarked once to her parents that they'd have to beat the boys off with cattle prods when she started junior high. Her hair was honey brown and waist long, her large curious eyes were the same bright blue as his. She wore a short white dress with an animated OLED print of Hello Kitty doing a cute dance on the front. She looked almost exactly like Kasumi did when she was a little girl.
"Ushio-chan, what did I say about rushing at great great grandfather like that?" A young woman of about sixteen stood in the front room by the stairs. She bore some resemblance to Akane, before her unfortunate haircut, and wore a frilly apron covering her Furinken uniform and held a ladle in one hand. It wasn't the same long, blue and white dress that the girls wore in Akane's time. Like most of the other Tokyo schools Furinken switched to a shorter seifuku with a blue skirt, blue blouse, and a white ribbon. She wore long thigh length stockings to complete the look.
Ranma smirked at her. "Leave her alone Narue, its not like I'm a feeble old man."
The teenager folder her arms over her small bosom. "Honestly, you spoil her way too much."
"Well, that's what great great granddad's do, isn't it Ushio-chan?" The three year old nodded before shooting her big sister a red-eye raspberry. Ranma laughed, kissed the little girl on the cheek and set her down. Before Narue could say any more the tiny girl became a blur dashing towards the family room down the opposite hall. The only thing Ranma could see of her was her trailing long hair and flashing calves.
Konatsu deposited his shoes at the genkan and went to the stairs. "If you excuse me, Lord Saotome, I will go upstairs and lay out your tuxedo for tonight." Ranma nodded.
"That's right, you have that thing at the imperial palace tonight," Narue remembered.
"Yeah, I promised I'd be there," replied Ranma. "Some big wigs from the American Empire are supposed to be there, or so the emperor told me." They went to the family room where Ushio was playing with a small fox with three tails. Warming themselves at the kotetsu table were a young teenaged boy in the dark blue military style gakuran worn by boys at Furinken High School, an elderly woman dressed in a black and white kimono, and a young boy about twelve years old who wore a black samurai hamaka. He was working with a thin slate tablet device.
"Hello, great great grandfather," the young boy said respectfully.
"How was your trip to the cemetery?" the elderly woman asked.
As soon as Ranma sat at the table Ushio climbed into his lap. "Uneventful," he said. "Kasumi-chan always liked the rain. She often said the sound it made was very calming, and it helped her flowers grow."
He regarded the young boy. "So, how's things with you Kei?"
The young boy paused what he was doing with the tablet. "I have nearly completed my latest design, " Kei replied. "This one will be far more efficient at desalinating sea water than previous methods. Instead of processing ten thousand gallons of sea water an hour this will process fifty thousand gallons a minute. Its to be presented to the board of directors in a few weeks. I've already set aside the funding for research and development so getting a prototype built and ready to present to investors in time for the next CES will not be a problem." Ranma smiled at the young genius. One of his earliest inventions was buried under the house, a prototype molten salt thorium fluoride reactor that was ten times more efficient and safer than previous designs. Electrical grids were a thing of the past as every house now had its own means to generate power. The Great Blackout of 2013 in America caused by a domestic right-wing terrorist attack eventually led to the elimination of vulnerable electrical power grids and the adoption of alternative power like hydrogen fuel cells and later safe, miniature nuclear power plants to power homes and businesses. Fusion and anti-matter power was still too expensive for the consumer market.
"You've got an interesting family, Saotome-san." said Narue's boyfriend. The teenager in the Furinken uniform.
"Sasuke, I thought I said you can just call me Ranma," Ranma reminded him.
Sasuke scratched the back of his head nervously. "That really wouldn't be very polite of me, I'm not even a member of the family, yet."
"You have plenty of time before you and Narue-chan get married," the elderly woman commented. "Enjoy your youth while you still have it." The teen blushed and the sound of a pan clattering to the floor echoed from the kitchen. She smiled just imagining the bright third degree blush that must now be painted on the young girl's face. Teenagers were so easy to tease.
"Sixty-three percent of marriages in Japan end in divorce," Kei deadpanned while not looking away from his tablet computer. "I intend to stay single. Makes life less of a hassle."
Ranma reached over and ruffled up his hair which annoyed the young genius. "You might be a technical genius but there are some things you still don't know yet."
Narue ducked under the noren curtain at the kitchen doorway and asked, "Is everyone ready for some tea?"
"Yes, please, dear," the elderly woman smiled.
"Ok, Auntie Kaede," the teenage girl vanished and quickly returned with a large tray with a tea service and several cups. She served Kaede first then Sasuke, then finally Ranma and Kei. Ushio climbed off Ranma's lap and sat next to him as Narue sat a cup of iced tea in front of her.
Narue waved a finger at the child. "No turning great great grandfather into a girl," she commanded.
"Ok," the little girl piped as she took a long sip.
Konatsu returned to the family room and knelled down next to Ranma. "Sir, I just received an update," the robot whispered. "The time of the reception has been moved back one hour, and I am told Queen Alexandria of Euro-England will be in attendance. The emperor would like it if you could arrive early so you can talk before the reception begins."
Ranma sighed, downed his tea, and looked mournfully towards the kitchen. The smell of one of Narue's world-class lunches wafted in the air. She'd inherited Akane's good looks, but thankfully not her cooking skills. "The true path of a martial artist is fraught with peril," he voiced one of his father's old quotes.
"The price of being so famous," said Kei.
"Its my second of three curses," Ranma replied. "You'll all probably be in bed by the time I get home tonight, so don't wait up." Konatsu followed him as he left and headed for the stairs.
Sasuke scratched his head and asked, "The first two I can understand, but what is this third one he's talking about?"
Kaede looked in the direction Ranma had left with sad eyes. "That one I think should be plenty obvious just by looking at him," she replied.
Nabiki had married into the Kuno clan. It had been, to Ranma, Akane, and Kasumi, one of the most unlikely of relationships, but surprisingly it worked out well. As a result Nabiki sent money home to supplement what Ranma made from his odd jobs, which went towards some badly needed renovations. One of these was the conversion of Nabiki's old room into a second furoba and toilet area, along with all of the structural reinforcements such a thing would require. It was connected to Ranma and Kasumi's room and Akane's room. The small toilet area was accessible via the door in the hallway and an inner door in the furoba itself. The tub was just big enough for three people, but wasn't nearly as large as the first floor tub which could accommodate about four to four and a half. The washing area was a little smaller also, and there was only one shower head in the room rather than two like downstairs.
These days only Ranma used the upper floor of Tendo-ke. Akane's old room was kept vacant, her belongings were left exactly where she last left them the night she passed away in her sleep at the age of eighty three. Konatsu did all of the cleaning on the second floor. Rarely did anyone else go upstairs except Keade. This was Ranma's domain. His Fortress of Solitude, one of the rare places on the earth where he could be alone to think. Kaede stayed in Soun's old bedroom on the first floor. Happosai's old room was turned into a library and den. The rest of the family lived in another house which was build further down the other end of the large family plot. They'd all get together every night in the old family home for dinner and sometimes lunch, but at night they returned to their own home. The family gave Ranma the space he needed. Part of it was also for their own protection. Ranma had made some very powerful enemies over the years, and on rare occasions they came calling at night. They knew better than to mess with his family though. Not since one kidnapped his great granddaughter, Narue and Ushio's mother. What Ranma did to him still gives many of his enemies nightmares.
He shared something in common with the old amine character Ikari Shinji. Memories often came to him in the bath, some of them bad, but he had a lot of good memories in that room as well. Often he didn't stay in the bath for very long. It was large and lonely. Not having anyone to share it with made it so. He couldn't bring himself to start something serious with anyone. Not because he was still too dedicated to the memory of Kasumi, but because he knew that one day she'd be taken away from him eventually. Ranma had lovers, on nearly every continent, but he would not marry any of them. They could spend the rest of their lives with him, but he couldn't spend the rest of his life with them. It was his price for having killed a god to save the life of the woman he loved.
After drying himself off Ranma retreated to his room to get dressed. On the dresser, in a clear plastic case which had turned yellow with age, was the silk rose he'd given Kasumi on the night of the senior prom at Furinken. They were married by this point, and she was swollen with child, but Kasumi still insisted on going out on the dance floor. She could only do the slow dances, of course. To Ranma it had been the most wonderful night of their relationship together. Being good to his word, Ranma didn't get in the way when Akane found another. Their relationship didn't last very long, only a week, just long enough for her to go to the prom with the young man. He didn't go to Furinken, but another school nearby. When Ranma asked what happened, she said, "you're a tough act to follow." Akane had two more relationships, and they ended just as quickly. Nobody, it seemed, could measure up to the man whom she really loved. She spent the rest of her life being content as the other woman.
He looked at the bed where Konatsu had laid out his good tuxedo. A glint of light caught his eye. It was his wedding band on its chain, neatly laid out for him to put back on after his bath. Flashes of memories flooded his mind and he had to grab the bedpost to keep from falling. There were so many memories in this room. Mostly good ones, and some not so good. He slept here, but often not peacefully. That was why he traveled so much, so he wouldn't have to sleep here, but he could never bring himself to get rid of the bed or change the room. He left the décor just as Kasumi had left it. Ranma took a portrait of Kasumi from the nightstand, one taken just after she gave birth to their son Ichigo. He clutched it to his chest as he sank to his knees and the tears came unabated. The years didn't dull his memory of her, he could remember her as if he only saw her yesterday. As he sobbed quietly the memories returned...
The dojo was filled with friends and family. The guest list for the wedding was kept at a minimum. Ranma didn't want to repeat of the failed wedding with Akane. Cologne and his mother sat together, sobbing and handing each other tissue. Hinako-sensei was the only member of the Furinken faculty to be invited to the wedding. The diminutive teacher cried sharing tissues with Nodoka and Cologne. Ukyo sat close to Konatsu who held her protectively. Ranma had seen them sharing brief kisses. He was glad to see she was moving on and he considered Konatsu more than worthy a guy for her. Shampoo only stayed until the music began, then she ran out of the dojo sobbing. Ranma nodded to Mousse, who stood at the front as part of the ceremony and the myopic martial artist went after her. Ryoga stood in as his best man, and to Ranma's surprise he accepted the role. He stood somber and quiet. It must have taken a great deal of will power for him to keep his anger under check. He knew why Ranma was marrying Kasumi and not Akane, and for her sake he remained civil. Happosai sat next to Cologne and was unusually quite and well behaved. Even Kuno Tatawaki was being peaceful and somber in his formal hamaka, his retainer Sasuke sobbed next to him. They insisted on attending to wish the two good luck in the wake of what Kodachi had tried to do. She was currently heavily sedated in the mental ward at Toudai University Hospital. Kei and Mizuho sat together, hands clasped tightly. Akane sat with Nabiki on either side of Dr. Tofu. The two girls were crying and the good doctor did his best to consul them. Then, the music began, the doors at the far end of the dojo opened and on Soun's arm floated an angel.
Kasumi never looked more beautiful than she did at that moment. They had compromised on the style of the wedding, going for a mix of traditional Japanese and Western. She wore her mother's white wedding kimono, the one she had worn during the unfortunate incident involving Happosai and a deck of cursed cards. For his credit, Soun didn't cry, not one bit as he lead Kasumi down the aisle towards the far end of the dojo where Ranma and the priest waited. His mom had done her makeup, it was very light. She was the kind of girl who didn't need a lot of makeup to look beautiful. Her long honey brown hair was done up in a neat traditional bun. As they drew nearer each other he could see the tears welling up in her eyes. Not from sadness, but joy.
Neither really heard the priest. So lost were they in each others eyes the rest of the world seemed to be tuned out, leaving only themselves. Soon it came time for them to exchange voes. This was the part where Ranma was most nervous. He wasn't good at writing these kinds of things. He was the kind of guy who into sappy stuff, but being with Kasumi had that kind of effect on a person. She was worth it, and he'd do anything for her. Another part of him was afraid, afraid that someone or something would come and interrupt the wedding. He tensed himself, ready to spring into action to grab Kasumi to protect her against any possible threats. If someone or something did come and try to sabotage their wedding, may the kami have mercy on their souls, because Ranma would show them none.
Kasumi watched him with expectant, loving eyes. He met her gaze, found strength in those loving eyes and the words he wanted to say came to him. They weren't the words he stayed up late the night before writing, these were written on his heart.
"Kasumi-chan," she nodded and smiled. "I ain't the best at this sorta thing. I ain't a poet, or flowery speaker like Kuno is. And I know I ain't really worthy of you, but I know deep inside that I love you. I love you so much sometimes it hurts, and I've never felt this way with anybody before. There ain't nothing I wouldn't do for you, I'd swim ten thousand miles, naked in a sea of broken glass just to be near you. I'd fight ten thousand Saffrons to save you. Just to look in your eyes I'd fight the whole damn world if I had to. I don't know how good a husband I'll be, and I don't know how good a dad I'll be either, but for you I'll do anything, be anything just to make you happy."
Tears came to her eyes unabated now. Ranma waited patiently for her as Akane came and brought her a tissue. After wiping her eyes Kasumi back into his and in them he could see her determination and love.
"Ranma-kun, when we first met I never imagined that one day we would be standing here like this," she began. "I was confused, even then, and not really certain what I wanted. I wasn't even certain what to make of you, but in time I came to know you better. Then, that faithful day came and we became stranded on that island in the middle of nowhere. For the first time I saw the real you. I saw the true Ranma. He is a kind, passionate, loving, caring person. A part of me fell in love with you long before our time alone. That made me realize just how much in love with you I really was, and I finally realized what it was I'd been looking for all this time. What I want more than anything is to be by your side, through the good times and the bad. What I've been looking for had been right there in front of me these past two years. What I want is you. You say you don't think you're worthy of me, but its me who doesn't believe I'm worthy of you. Yet, I want this more than anything. I want to be your wife, your love. You are the world to me and my life would be meaningless without you."
In a haze the "I dos" came, neither wanted to look away from the other. Neither heard the loud cheer as they kissed, or saw the embarrassing happy dance their fathers did together. Friends from school were invited to the reception after the service. The chairs were moved and tables brought in. Food prepared by Cologne, Nodoka, Ukyo and the neighbors were carried in. The DJ was from the Furinken AV club. Hiroshi and Daisuke danced with their girlfriends Yuka and Sayori. His mom and Cologne were both crying. The party lasted well into the night, and for a brief time it was the happiest moment in Ranma and Kasumi's lives.
Ranma had never been a fan of official state functions. He didn't like having people faun all over him. The old Ranma would have rejoiced in it, though. Back then he had an ego bigger than Godzilla. Nowadays he enjoyed solitude, or the company of his family. Usually it just him and Keade in Tendo-ke, except around dinner time when most of the clan gathered together. He liked things calm, a huge contrast to what his life had been like only a few decades ago. Those had been some wild times, then when the kids got older the adventures they had could give filmmakers more material than they could ever use in a lifetime. Life calmed down considerably after a while, the kids got married and started families of their own, and soon it was just him and Kasumi and Akane alone in Tendo-ke for the longest time. Keade didn't start living with him until after Kasumi passed away. He was able to fight youkai, youma, and super-human martial artists, but when it came to household chores he pretty helpless.
My how time flies, Ranma thought to himself.
"I often wonder about the place it is you go when you get like that," the voice pulled him from his revery. The reception had finally wound down after several hours. All of the international dignitaries had long since left to return to their hotel suites or had gone straight to the airport to start the journey home.
The current reining Emperor of Japan regarded him with a look of concern. It wasn't often one could make the claim of being close personal friends with royalty, but that was the relationship the two of them had. It was a relationship born out of strife and conflict. The country had been in trouble, the JSDF tried their best, but the towering beast once thought long dead proved too much for them. However, it wasn't too much for a young martial artist with the powers of a kami. Ranma wasn't able to kill the giant, radioactive fire breathing monstrosity, but he terrified it enough that it ran off with its tail between its legs all the way back to Infant Island. Godzilla never showed his scaly face in Japan ever again after that.
"I was just remembering the old days," Ranma said.
"That Queen Alexandria was an interesting woman," the elderly emperor smirked. Ranma rolled his eyes, the young queen had groped his butt more than once during the reception. It was a bit unseemly for a monarch to flirt so openly, but she was still rather young and inexperienced. By far she was the youngest queen in British history at just barely over the age of sixteen. Normally someone so young wouldn't have been crowned at such a young age, but the country had needed stability. A reining queen on the throne would instill in the people a sense of confidence that everything was going to be alright. The Euro-Asian War had just ended, France, Spain, and Portugal were now a part of the United Kingdom since their economies and governments had collapsed. Israel, Iran and Saudi Arabia were dividing up what was left of the Middle East while the Russian Republic acted as mediator to prevent yet another conflict from breaking out. The fight had been over oil, or what oil was left. Nobody had wanted to believe that the Middle Eastern oil fields could ever run out, but that's what happened, and when the prices went through the ceiling and then into high orbit it was only a matter of time before fighting broke out. Politicians in the UK had already foreseen this coming, and so they embraced green technology. Most of the rest of the world did as well. The United States didn't fair so well though, corporate greed and a severely busted patent and copyright system devastated their economy, but after a short six month Second Civil War they finally sprang back. However, China had taken their place as the top economic power in the world, second only to Japan which lead the world in green technology. Alexandria had been crowned queen in that turbulent time, and though the position was only a figure head with no real policy making authority the country still needed her on the throne to give the nation stability. She was young, inexperienced, and a bit naive but she was very intelligent.
"Not sure if "interesting" is a good enough word for it," Ranma scratched the back of his head.
The old emperor laughed. "Well, a lot of people were interested in meeting you. They all wanted to meet the man who frightened Gojira so badly he won't leave Infant Island."
Ranma rubbed his face, the fight had been a long time ago, but he remembered the pain. He regenerated at an incredible rate, but he was so sore for a month after the battle he could barely move. Kasumi and Akane had to feed and sponge bath him he was so bad off. "Hey, that wasn't an easy fight, that big lizard hits harder than Ryoga and the old freak ever did."
"That was a long time ago," the old man had a nostalgic expression. "I was only a young man at the time, new to the responsibility of being emperor. So much has happened since then."
Ranma laughed, "At least we didn't get caught up in that mess in Europe."
"That wouldn't have been pleasant, I agree." the emperor nodded.
He regarded his deceptively young friend with a grandfatherly smiled. "How are doing these days? Its been relatively quiet so we haven't seen much of one another for a while." Ranma frowned, it had been quiet lately, almost too quiet. While he did like the calmer life after having had so much chaos in his earlier days, it did bothered him some. Back in the day, when it got quiet for a long, it usually mean the shit thrower was armed and ready to target the fan at any minute.
"I put out little brush fires here and there, but nothing major," Ranma replied. "What little the Sailor Senshi don't handle I end up dealing with, but there haven't been any major youma sightings for a while. Dispersing evil spirits and poltergeists is about all I do nowadays." He sometimes felt like he should be driving around in old ambulance with a no-ghosts sign emblazoned on the sides. Maybe he should run around in his cursed form dressed as a miko for now on, he'd fit the part better that way.
"And your home life?"
"Still the same, quiet and peaceful, no major problems." That was where he really liked it quiet. The last thing Ranma wanted was turmoil in the clan. He'd seen clans with lots of infighting and how it torn them apart. He wanted non of that for his family.
"That's good to hear," the emperor smiled. "My youngest just got married a few months ago, wish you could have been there. He asked where you where and Konatsu said you were out of town at the time."
A young maid arrived and served the pair some tea. She looked at Ranma, blushing profusely, before going back into the imperial residence. "I was in China, Prince Herb was having trouble with some local oni and needed my help. Another one of those brush fires I mentioned." Ranma sipped his tea, he noticed under the cup a small slip of paper with a phone number on it. The emperor was a wise old codger, he noticed how the maid had acted and saw the slip of paper under the cup before Ranma did. He smiled at the antics of the young. Well, Ranma wasn't technically young, but he still looked the part.
"She's young and naive, don't steal her innocence away too quickly my old friend." Ranma could see the old man's eyes smiling.
"How old is she anyway, fifteen, sixteen?" Ranma guessed based on how she looked. The old man smiled in reply.
"You old pervert," Ranma smirked.
"I learned from the best," the emperor regarded him with a Cheshire Cat grin.
They both busted out laughing and spent the rest of the night just reminiscing about the good old day. It was nearly morning when Ranma and Konatsu stepped out of the limo back at Tendo-ke. He stopped by Kasumi's rose garden, he could still feel her presence, then went inside. He got to his room just in time to receive the message from Mars. His great great granddaughter had inherited his cursed side's good looks. Of course, his cursed side looked like his mother when she was just a teenager. The message ended and he smiled, everything seemed to be going well for her there in the fledgling colony. He quickly readied for bed, who knew what the rest of the day would bring and even he needed his sleep. As he drifted off he thought about Kasumi, the old days, all the wonderful memories that they made in this room. It seemed like so long ago. He missed her so much, he missed Akane too. Before long he was asleep and dreamed.
Time stops for no one, except for one young man. For him, decades seem to pass in the blink of an eye. He watched as his great great grandchildren grew up, started families of their own, then grew old and gray. One might think that he should emotionally distance himself from the family, to avoid the pain of loosing those he loves, but his family was important to him. While watching them grow old and gray was painful, he wouldn't give up the fleeting time he had with them for anything in the world. Perhaps being with them kept him from going insane. In every one of them he could see Kasumi's legacy, at least one daughter in each generation grew up to look like her. It was comforting to know that a part of her still lived on in the clan.
Still, he never remarried. He had lovers, an almost never ending stream of willing young women, but he wouldn't commit. It was one thing to stay with the family and watch over them as they grew old, but to commit his feelings that deeply to someone he had to watch grew old and eventually die was too much. Because of Kasumi he had developed a very healthy appreciation for sex, almost an addiction, and his inhuman endurance meant he didn't have to stop except when his partner was just too worn out to continue. His bouts in the bed were the stuff of legends online. The lovers in his life had formed a private social network. They knew why he wouldn't marry any of them, it had come out in their discussions. The reason was pretty obvious, everyone knew he was immortal.
That he was a kami.
The clan still lived in Nerima, but the place was very different now. The prefab homes grew old and were replaced by new construction. The plot of land owned by the clan expanded to cover a larger area of several thousand acres. Most of what used to be the town of Nerima was now owned by the clan. Only a small part of old Nerima was a mixed residential and commercial area populated by condos. Land values in all areas bordering the Saotome clan's land skyrocketed. The clan itself only occupied a small area, though. Tendo-ke still stood, it was a completely new building by this time. It was a recreation of the past recreation, but with new materials and technologies. Kasumi's rose garden was still in the same place. The homes of the other clan members were closer than they were in decades past, and the itself clan was much larger now. So much so that they couldn't come together in Tendo-ke anymore for dinner, but used the old dojo instead. A kitchen had been installed in the dojo, since it long ago stopped being used as a dojo. For a time it had been used for storage. Ranma simply couldn't safely practice in the dojo anymore, which was why the clan needed so much open land. Hearing loud explosions, seeing bright flashes of light, and feeling the ground shake in and around the Saotome property was common when Ranma was out practicing. The landscape out in the middle of his practice area looked like the surface of the moon, pockmarked with craters and scorched black by his use of his powers. Powers which grew stronger as the decades progressed.
Japan was no longer a sovereign, independent nation but a part of a single, united world. There were only a handful of holdout nations left, and some of them were already talking about joining the global community. The world government was not like any that had ever been seen before in the past. In a world where everyone could make their voices heard via the faster-than-light wireless Internet, politicians were pretty much obsolete. The people voted on everything, they made all of the decisions, and the day to day operations of the government based on those decisions was left up to a series of powerful sentient quantum computers. Paper pushers and bureaucrats were also a thing of the past. Government was fast, efficient, fair, and an even balance between socialist and democratic ideals. Everyone benefited from shared prosperity, homelessness was almost extinct, so was hunger and poverty. The people had unprecedented freedoms and enjoyed many rights and privileges. How much money you had did not matter anymore. What mattered was your knowledge and your skills. People worked to better themselves rather than focusing on material gain. Working yourself to death just to make ends meet was a distant memory. It was a whole new world now. A better world, yet despite the many positive advancements it still wasn't a perfectly safe world. It was not a utopia by any stretch of the imagination.
Konatsu, his eighth incarnation, watched patiently as Ranma came into sight. Trailing behind him was a squad of very exhausted soldiers in heavy powered armor. Youma attacks were becoming more commonplace and the Sailor Senshi couldn't be everywhere at once. Security forces had to band together in large groups and hit them with everything they had to take them down. Ranma could fight them barehanded with ease. After a time the enemy would retreat if it was even suspected that he was in the area. Sometimes they wouldn't retreat, which is what happened today. These attacks were starting to get very annoying, and the one thing you never do is annoy Ranma. Not if you intended to live long.
"I take it things went well, sir?" the human-like, bio-synthetic life form known as Konatsu bowed.
Ranma looked back at the soldiers as they wearily climbed into their waiting transport. "It could have gone better, but at least nobody was killed this time." Repair drones were already moving into the damaged part of the city. In a few hours the buildings would be restored and all signs of the furious battle would be gone. The sky was filled with drones doing sweeps for anyone injured. A few could be seen carrying away the more seriously injured victims of the youma attack. Nanotech and cellular regeneration technology would have them back on their feet in a day.
"That is always good to hear," Konatsu smiled.
The young looking martial artist/kami regarded his old friend with a smile. Though the body was new, the mind of Konatsu was the same. Ranma preserved the original machine intelligence every time he needed to have a new body when the old one could no longer be repaired. This new body was self-regenerating, and would likely last for thousands of years. His eyes strayed to a flower shop across the street behind Konatsu. It was on the other side of the police barricades that had been put up before the fighting started.
"Head on home without me, I'll be there in a little while." he patted Konatsu on the shoulder and walked past him. Konatsu knew where his master was going and why, he didn't have to ask. He'd served Ranma long enough to know what today was.
"Happy birthday Kasumi-chan,"
Ranma laid a red rose at the foot of Kasumi's headstone. It was her three hundred and seventieth birthday, and he never missed a single day. He came and brought a rose to her grave on her birthday, and on their wedding anniversary. On the anniversary of the day she passed away he'd spend the time looking through old photo albums. The original pictures had long since decayed, but the digital versions were still accessible.
He gently touched the cheek of her stone bust and imagined her blushing the way she always did when he touched her like that. As always there was no reply. Kasumi's spirit didn't dwell on Earth.
"The clan is doing really well," he whispered. "The family business has expanded, Nabiki would love that. There are branch offices on Mars, Europa and Titan, and there's talk of opening up offices on some of the outer world colonies. Yue, she looks so much like you, is living on Gliese 581c now with her husband. Your rose garden is still in the same place you left it. Konatsu has been tending it. He does a good job. I killed some more youma today, that makes twenty this week. I hope Pluto and Mercury can find out where these things are coming from so I can put a stop to it. Other than that, everything is fine."
He signed, closing his eyes. "I miss you," he turned away and was about to leave but something made him stop in his tracks. A few rows down he saw a woman and an adorable little girl who could be no more than three years old praying at a headstone. The little girl opened her eyes and looked at him, straight at him, and he felt a jolt of recognition deep down in his soul. He nearly wept right then and there, but he resisted the urge and just smiled a broader, happier smile than he'd ever done in centuries. He knew that this day would eventually come, but he wasn't expecting it to happen so soon, nor for it to happen here in the Nerima.
She was back. Kasumi had been reincarnated as someone else. He was happy for her.
Nearly the entire clan had showed up for dinner in the clan dinning hall, formerly known as the Tendo dojo. It was a rarity for that many to show up all at once. The table had been crowded, but thankfully there was more than enough for everyone. When dinner was finally over and everyone said their goodbyes one by one Ranma remained in his seat, at the head of big kotetsu table. He was still head of the clan after all. A few of the younger children were still eating and talking about the newest net games. One of the elder women of the clan, Haruhi, sat next to him enjoying some after dinner tea. She lived with him in Tendo-ke in the downstairs bedroom. It was something of a clan tradition for one of the elder grandmothers or aunts to live with him in the old house. A tradition started by Keade so long ago. People lived a lot longer now than they did back in Keade's time. Haruhi was well over ninety-five, but didn't look a day over thirty. The average lifespan for humans thanks to genetic engineering and nanotechnology was nearly two hundred years.
"Its rare to have this many of the clan show up for dinner at one time," Ranma commented.
Haruhi smiled. "Yes, especially with so many traveling off-world." Space travel was as commonplace as air travel had been back in Kasumi's time. Humanity had made it out into the stars over one hundred and fifty years ago, and made first contact nearly sixty years ago. Since most of the family worked for the family business they often traveled a great deal, and with the family business expanding to the colonies many were moving off-world. Yue had been one of the first to leave.
Ranma notice her looking at him strangely. "What, I got something on my face?" he wiped his hand across his cheek and mouth.
"No, I'm just wondering about something," she said.
Uh, oh, when Haruhi was wondering about something it often wasn't a good sign. "About what?"
"Nothing much, I'm just wondering why you're still single," Oh hell, this again, Haruhi had a reputation in the clan as a Matchmaker. Many of the marriages in the clan had been arranged by her. Ranma jokingly called her "Lady Seto", after the ancient anime character who was notorious for similar reasons. Like her, Haruhi had a strong presence, she commanded respect and often got it, and few in the clan challenged ideas. The only ones who really stand up to her was him and Naomi-chan, a young teenage descendant from Akane's side of the clan bloodline. She wasn't a tomboy, but she sure did inherit Akane's temper, and she was a monster when it came to kendo. The Kuno side of the clan were all kendoka, and she often devastated them in sparring matches. Her bedroom was filled with trophies from tournaments she's won.
"You know why that is," he looked away.
She sighed, "That's just an excuse and you know it." His angry gaze snapped back in her direction and she cut him off before he could say anything.
"I see how you look at all of the young couples in the clan," she met his gaze, those eyes so reminded him of his long deceased mother. "You don't think I don't notice, or that anyone else doesn't for that matter? We're really worried about you. We see the longing, the loneliness, the sadness. Why do you do this to yourself?" The anger left him as he looked down at his hands. For the longest time he kept telling himself that he didn't want to face the some thing he did when Kasumi died. Her passing had really effected him, she had been everything to him. Yet, he indeed had been looking at the young couples in the clan with sad, jealous eyes.
"Its not like I don't have women in my life, you know." was his rebuttal, and it was true.
"You're referring to your adoring fan club I take it," her voice was dubious. "There's a difference between having a lasting relationship and one based purely on rough sex. One is emotionally fulfilling, and the other only lasts as long as she's able to stay conscious, which according to many of the stories I've heard isn't too long." He rolled his eyes and she swatted him. He couldn't help it if pretty young things couldn't handle how enthusiastic he gets when he's between their creamy thighs. Girls today just don't have the stamina they need to keep up with him, but it doesn't stop them from coming back for more later though.
He felt her hand on his as she spoke softly. "Kasumi-hime-sama was a wonderful woman, she is the picture of womanly perfection that many of the young girls in the clan often strive to achieve. I know that you love her very much, and keep her memory alive in your heart, that's admirable and very sweet, but don't you think its time you let her go? Its been nearly four hundred years since her passing, its time to let go and move on." He met her gaze, the concern was easily readable. Every year Haruhi read him the riot act about getting remarried, and every year he relented and thought about it. But, he found anyone who stirred him the way Kasumi did. Yes, he had a lot of willing young women at his beckon call, but he didn't really know them. Oh, he knew their bodies well, but he really didn't know "them". If he were to start something with someone he'd prefer her to not be one of his young mistresses. The infighting and jealousy that would occur would just bring back way too many bad memories of the old days. When he spent an entire weekend with a cute young high school girl named Shinobu it fired off a huge shit storm from the rest of the girls online. He ended up having to spend a weekend with each of them in kind.
"I'll think about it," he nodded.
"You always say that, and I always keep having to bring it up again." she replied. He resisted the urge to roll his eyes, he didn't want to get swatted again.
He sighed, "Ok, but right now I need to focus on this youma problem. Sailor Pluto and Mercury are close to finding out where they keep coming from, and once they do I'm going to show them the Wrath of the Gods. When its finally over, I plan on taking a nice long vacation. Maybe a solar system cruise, I've always wanted to go visit the rings of Saturn." That put a smile on Haruhi's face, it was the first time she was able to get him to go this far. It was progress, small progress, but it was better than nothing.
"I'm going to hold you too it," she said, giving him that look, the kind his mom used to give him when she wanted to get her way. He could face down youma, vicious youkai, and hideous demons from the deepest pits of Hades but he couldn't face one determined old woman.
"Shit," he cradled his head in his arms and she patted him on the head, smiling from ear to ear.
It took six weeks for Pluto and Mercury to finally find the source of the youma incursions. Their headquarters was a huge pocket dimension inside a cave just outside of town. Ranma went in by himself while an army of close to one hundred thousand with some of the planet's heaviest artillery and the Sailor Senshi were guarding the entrance. For several hours there was no activity from the cave, then finally Ranma emerged and shortly there after the cave exploded and collapsed.
"What happened in there?" Sailor Pluto looked him up and down, he didn't have a scratch on him or a single smudge on his red silk Chinese shirt.
Ranma shrugged, "I wandered around in there for a few hours and saw nothing, then finally this big ass thing came at me and I just hit it once and it blew up, then everything else started blowing up so I left." The gathered Sailor Senshi all looked at him with shock.
"That means you killed the leader," Sailor Mercury gasped. "You killed their leader with one hit!" She knew he was powerful but she didn't know he was that powerful. By her calculations, for the leader to be able to make so many youma and create such a pocket dimension, it had to be immensely powerful. Near Demigod levels or above. Such a being would dwarf Queen Beryl in power significantly and would have been an extremely dangerous enemy for the senshi to fight if they'd gone in alone. None of them short of Super Saturn or Sailor Moon in Neo-Queen Serenity mode could possibly have taken him on and done some significant damage. Killing him, maybe, but not after a very long, tiring, and very painfully protracted fight. And, this guy killed it with just one punch!
"I feel so fucking gypped, after the past eighteen months of hell fighting all those damn youma I was ready for a good fight, but no it all had to end so melodramatic." he throw up his hands in disgust. After all of that annoyance this happens, he was not satisfied. It had been a very, very, very long time since he'd fought someone, anyone, who was his equal.
"I so need a drink, ja ne!" with that he jumped into the air and flew off with the Sailor Senshi just watching him go. After seeing Ranma take off the military commanders realized the danger was passed and ordered the withdraw of the troops. Tuxedo Kamen and the Sailor Senshi still just stood there looking at each other in shock. Pluto thought Ranma had the right idea, after all this she so could use a drink herself, and teleported out.
Sailor Venus laughed nervously, "Hey, just be thankful he's on our side." Everyone nodded.
"He does kinda resemble my old sempai," Sailor Jupiter added, blushing.
Everyone replied, "Everyone resembles your old sempai!"
Ranma stayed true to his word, if there was one good thing about him it was that his promises were better than gold. It had been a very long time since he'd gone on a vacation. Up until now his life has been a constant stream of battles with the monster or super-powered bad guy of the week. At least with the new form of government those boring social functions were a thing of the past. There weren't any more career politicians that needed to be impressed, no more world leaders, no more queens, kings, emperors, or dictators. Well, except for North Korea, they were still independent but weren't much of a threat anymore to anyone but themselves.
He left Konatsu behind to watch after Haruhi. The woman was more than capable, but it could get very lonely in that old house all by herself. This wasn't the first time Ranma had made a trip into space. He'd been to the moon many times, often fighting off one alien invasion attempt after another, and there was that one time he went to Mars. Terraforming had made the surface liveable, thought still a bit cold. Venus was being terraformed, the air was still toxic but the air pressure and temperatures were down to something less lethal.
Being on this cruise ship brought back fond memories of the past. One time, he and Kasumi went on a cruise of Southeast Asia. The kids were still in school at that time. Their grandparents watched over them. It had been the first time in a long time that they were able to have some real quality alone time together. Akane was dating someone else at that time, or trying to. She was never able to really settle for anyone else. Banishing the ghosts of the past, he turned and looked through the transparent aluminum windows at the beautiful scene of Mother Earth with her splendid gown of blues and greens. Such views were so common nowadays, most people were chatting and not really paying attention.
Everywhere he looked there were couples and families, some human and some not. Aliens walking freely among humans was also another one of those commonplace things that people never payed much attention too anymore. So much has changed since back then. Ranma was torn between wondering if being able to see all of this was either a blessing or a curse. Still watching the blue earth slowly turn, he headed across the deck. The ship would be leaving orbit soon. In the old days you had to get into an acceleration seat when that happened. Nowadays with inertial compensators it was no long necessary, and plasma thrusters didn't produce the violent rumbling of old style liquid or solid fuel rockets. The ship also had a Hawking Drive, named after the deceased handicapped physicist who's calculations eventually made the technology possible.
He really wasn't paying much attention to where he was going. It was often that he was lost in thought. Ranma wondered what Kasumi would think of all of the changes that have occurred in the world since her death. Would she even recognize the neighborhood anymore? It was comforting to know that her spirit had returned to Earth. That little girl really had been cute, she was going to grow up to be very beautiful. He wished for her to have a good, happy and long life.
"Oh my, I'm sorry," he'd been so lost in thought he didn't even notice when he bumped into someone.
"This is my first time in space, so I wasn't paying attention." she was very cute, he guessed she was probably about fifteen years old. Yet, her eyes, they weren't the eyes of a young innocent teenage girl, but the eyes of a very old soul. The eyes of someone who had seen a great deal, maybe too much. Eyes very much like his own. Then, he felt it, a sensation that was almost impossible to ignore. This cute young girl wasn't entirely human.
She was just like him. She was a kami, or a miko with an unspeakable amount of spiritual power.
He smiled and scratched the back of his head. "It was my fault, I wasn't paying attention to where I was going either." He knew there were other kami, he'd seen them before and went to the kami association gatherings from time to time in Izumo-ku.
The girl cocked her head to one side and smiled, "Is this your first time in space too?" Her hair was brown and cut short in a style that was very much like Akane's. Her eyes were the same color as his. She still looked very young but he could tell she was much older than she looked. If she was what he suspected her of being she was very old indeed. She was also adorably cute wearing what appeared to be a modified version of the hakama and haori worn by miko. It more resembled the outfit of Hakurei Reimu from the old Touhou Project games from a few centuries ago. Minus the hat.
He shook his head. "Nah, I've been off-world before a few times. I was just lost in thought is all."
He wondered if she could feel the same power coming from him. She did pay close attention to his eyes and she was blushing slightly. This was the kind of girl he'd target for a night of sexual bliss, a cute young innocent thing naive to the ways of the world and ready to be conquered. But, he didn't put on the usual charm that had them eating out his hand this time. Something told him to go a different route with this one. Though she looked nothing like her, this girl's demeanor was so very much like Kasumi's. She gave off a air of calm and peacefulness that was so familiar and comforting.
"I get that way too sometimes," she giggled in a way that made here even cuter.
"You here with family?" she shook her head.
"No, its just me,"
Her blush deepened. "Its Yurie, by the way. Hitosubashi Yurie."
He nervously scratched the back of his head. "Ranma, Saotome Ranma."
They both felt a gentle tug and looked down. Ranma stifled a gasp. It was her, the little girl from the cemetery. She stood there looking up at both of them, her tiny hands reaching out to both of them. She reached up with her arms beckoning Yurie to pick her up. Blushing a bit, Yurie looked around before reaching for her and put the little girl on her hip. The tiny child turned her adorable, cherub-like face and looked directly at him. Ranma felt a tug at his soul in those innocent young eyes. Was the part of Kasumi that still lived on in this little girl trying to tell him something? Was she telling him it was time to let her go? His pondering was interrupted as a desperate cry intruded on his thoughts.
"Kaori-chan! Where did you go? Has anyone seen my daughter, she just ran off this way." A blond woman of about twenty-five made her way through the throngs of ship passengers. When she spotted Yurie and the child she signed with visible relief.
"There you are," the little girl reached out from her and soon she was on her mother's hip. "I'm so sorry, she wasn't bothering you was she? I have no idea why she did that, normally she's such a well behaved child."
"Its ok," Yurie bowed politely. "She was no bother."
"Well, thank you for..." the mother turned to regard what she thought was the young girl's boyfriend when her eyes went wide with recognition. Had her jaw been able to hit the floor it could have plowed through the deck plates.
"Oh my kami-sama, y...y...you're...y...y...you're..." several emotions washed across the young mother's face as her mind come close to completely seizing up. She was brought out of her shock by a sound like the tinkling of little silver bells. Kaori was giggling and smiling as Ranma gently patted her on the head.
"She is a very special little girl," he smiled looking into the mother's eyes. "She'll grow up to be an exemplary young woman." Kaori giggled some more as he gently ruffled her hair and she tried to reach for him.
"Thank you," her mother, blushing profusely bowed her head and took off running with her child. Her friends and family on Mars were never going to believe that she and Kaori had just met the famous Dragon of Nerima.
Ranma saw the look on Yurie's face. "I get that a lot."
Throughout the entire trip the two kept running into one another, literally. Finally, as the ship was making an orbit of Jupiter, Ranma asked her to join him for some dinner and maybe some dancing. She accepted, and since then they spent all of their time together on the voyage. Their loneliness faded away the longer they spent time with one another, and by the time the ship reached Saturn they'd taken to cuddling in one of the private observation bubbles before going out to dinner. Ranma's suspicions about the girl has been confirmed, she was indeed a kami like him. In face, she'd been a kami long than he had been and much earlier in life.
"I was born in the late 60's in Onomichi-ku," Ranma listened to her intently. It was the first time since they'd started spending time together that she really talked about herself.
"That's on the Inland Sea, in Hiroshima province, right?" she nodded.
"It was a beautiful town, still is, up until my first year of junior high I was just an ordinary little girl, with below average grades." she blushed and absently ran a finger around the rim of her wine glass.
She looked up, her eyes seemed to be looking back through time. "Then, one day I woke up and knew I was a kami. The next thing I know my friends Matsuri and Mitsue had me on the roof of the school trying all kinds of embarrassing ways manifest my powers. It worked, I created a typhoon."
Ranma winced, "What happened?"
"We tried to stop it," she laughed. "Then Kenji, the boy I liked who later became my husband, got sucked up into a cyclone and suddenly I was able to use my powers. I saved him and calmed the storm. After that I was able to more easily tap into my powers and I could see all of the spirits that lived around town. So much happened that year. Yashima, the local kami of Reifuku shrine went missing, the Binbou-gami showed up in town and possessed my pet cat Tama-chan, a nekomata started a cat revolution, I helped an alien escape government capture, I helped the spirit of the Battleship Yamato reach his home port, so much happened so quickly."
Ranma laughed, "Sounds tame compared to what happened to me when my powers started working. Got the crap beat out of my by Gojira, stopped a couple of alien invasions, fought a horde of youma, got sucked into another dimension. My life's been almost a never end stream of battles."
"Oh wow, I never had to fight anybody," Yurie looked at him with sympathy. "Well, there was that this tiny, perverted old man who kept stealing girl's underwear around town. I swear, he couldn't be have been human. No matter what I did I could barely stop him."
Ranma pounded the table and started laughing. "What, I don't think it was that funny?" she scowled at him.
"Little old man, balding with some white hair, had a pipe and wore a dirty brown shinobi shozoku." she nodded, that described him perfectly. Chasing him down had been the first time in her life that she'd actually gotten made enough to want to really hurt someone. One day he trapped and molested Miko, it was her first year of high school, and she was changing into her gym clothes at the time. You could have heard her scream all the way to Hokkaido, that had been the last straw. In the end, he and his two thieving, cowardly cohorts managed to get away and never came back.
"That was Happosai," he explained. "He trained my father and his best friend in martial arts, if you want to call what they did training. They were terrified of the old guy, and for good reason. He may have been old codger but damn he was good. I used to chase him all over Nerima trying to stop him from stealing underwear and groping girls. The more girls he groped and more underwear he stole the stronger he got. I finally beat him though, challenged him to a match for the right to be called the Grandmaster of the Anything Goes School of Martial Arts. After that he retired, and became and an even worse pain in the neck. Finally one night he tried to steal the panties of two girls in Hinata-ku named Aoyama Motoko and Naruesagawa Narue. What they did to him was not pretty, he died later in the hospital. They weren't charged though, the old freak had a rap sheet so long you could stretch it to the moon and back a dozen times, so the cops called it "justifiable homicide" and let them go."
"Oh my, that's horrible!" Yurie gasped, she'd been angry with the old man but never really wished for him to die. Cause him much pain and suffering, yes, cause him to die, no.
"They were naked when they beat him, so he died happy I guess." he tried not to laugh.
A light bulb came on in her head. "Wait, your father and his best friend trained under him?" Ranma nodded.
"Was one of them bald and wore glasses, and other one had long black hair and wore a mustache?" Ranma nodded.
"The bald one was my old man," he told her folding his arms across his chest. "The other one was Tendo-san, master of the Tendo branch of the Anything Goes school, and the father of my late wife Kasumi. Happosai terrorized them into doing all the dirty work of stealing food and booze everywhere they went and called it training. Guessing at the time frame, I'd say they tore through your town just before they sealed him up in a cave for ten years."
"Ten years, but how could he have..." It boggled the mind, if he'd been trapped in a cave for ten years how could have have survived all that time without food or water. There was no way he could have been human then.
"I suspect the old coot wasn't entire human," Ranma shrugged. "He was either an oni or a hanyou. I doubt he was a kami. A tatarigami, maybe, but that would be stretching it." Tatarigami were mischievous or prankster gods, they really weren't evil and often didn't do much harm. Most of the time. Bin-chan almost classified as a tatarigami, but the misfortune and poverty that traveled in his wake wasn't done intentionally.
"I guess we've both lived in interesting times," Yurie laughed, lightening the mood.
"Happosai was just one of many weird chapters in my life," Ranma explained. "After all the weird crap I've been through nothing fazes me anymore."
"You're an interesting guy, Ranma." she reached her hand across the table. They held hands for a while before leaving the dinning hall and retreated to one of the private observation bubbles. Cuddling close they watched the rings of Saturn turning through the transparent aluminum. Yurie turned her head to look at something and her lips brushed against his. Electricity shot through her at the touch and she stifled a gasp. Tentatively at first, the two moved closer, and their lips met. The jolt of electricity became a surge that sent a warm sensation through her body and a shiver down her back. For Ranma, it was a sensation he hadn't felt in a very long time, and he deepened the kiss wanting more and not wanting to stop. The long loneliness and sadness that had covered their hearts for so long was suddenly blasted away. A deep need, a desire, a hunger, rose in both of them as their kissing lead to petting, then groping. Before things could go any further they left the bubble and practically ran all the way to Ranma's private suite.
Ranma had sex with so many women he'd lost count. He really liked sex, it was Kasumi who got him hooked on it because she just couldn't get enough of him. Akane was the same way. Yet, sex with his adoring young fans was just that...sex. Oh, it felt great, that was for sure, but it didn't feel the same as when he made love to Kasumi and Akane. It was something he hadn't experienced in centuries. It was the sane for Yurie, making love to Kenji for the first time had been incredible, and every time after that never lost that spark. After his passing she'd slept with a few men, but it just wasn't the same. She'd sleep with men to satisfy her needs, but there was something in her heart that they couldn't satisfy. It was true for both of them, until now.
As their bodies writhed together, the energy flowed between them, and it was an ecstasy unlike any they'd felt in so very long. This wasn't just sex, it was something more than that. It was something that couldn't be explained in words,. The deep wounds in their hearts were finally beginning to heal with every touch, every caress, every kiss, with every jolt of pleasure and cry of ecstasy. Their bodies were covered in a thin sheen of sweat, arms wrapped around each other, legs intertwined. After what seemed like an eternity the two lovers quaked from one final massive orgasm before collapsing. As they lay panting in each other's arms, Yurie buried her face in Ranma's chest and began to cry.
The pigtailed kami nearly panicked. Had he gone too far? He tried to think back, to see if he might have forced her, but she'd been willing all the way. Maybe he was too rough with her, sometimes he didn't know his own strength. But, the sobbing girl in his arms wasn't trying to get away. If anything, she was holding him even tighter, pressed herself against his body as if she was afraid she was going to be taken away from him any minute.
"Yurie-chan," he whispered, gently stroking her hair.
"I don't want to be alone anymore," her voice shook as the tears kept coming. "Please hold me, please don't leave me, I don't want to be alone anymore! Please!" He tightened his arms around her and just held her close.
"You aren't alone anymore, I'll never let you go," he promised. "I promise Yurie-chan, you'll never be alone again. I'll never leave you." The deceptively young girl in his arms relax with that declaration, and the evenness of her breathing told him she had fallen asleep. Ranma gently kissed her forehead, then pulled the covers over them. Soon, sleep came to claim him as well. That night, the nightmares never came for the first time in a very long time.
The Saotome Clan Hall was crowded, all of the clan members who were still living on Earth were assembled. Haruhi sat her traditional to the left of the head of the table. The immediate right from the head of the table, the space that faced her, had always been occupied by a photograph of Kasumi-hime-sama. Today Ranma wasn't at his usually spot at the table despite the fact that it was he who called for an important meeting of the entire clan. The room was abuzz with conversations, everyone was wondering what was going on and what was Ranma likely going to discuss with them. He even left Haruhi in the dark about what he was going to do, so when everyone asked her questions she had no answers to give them.
Finally, the shoji doors opened and Ranma strolled into the room dressed in a formal kimono. This raised more than a few eyebrows. Ranma almost never dressed in anything other than his trademark baggy pants and red silk Chinese shirt. To see him in such formal attire was very unusual. He didn't take his seat, but instead motioned for everyone to quiet down. The murmuring in the room stopped and when he was satisfied that he had everyone's attention he spoke.
"A long time ago, in this very house, I met a very special young woman," he stepped forward and picked up Kasumi's picture. Again, more eyebrows went up, it was the first time to their knowledge that the picture had ever been moved from that spot except when the table was being cleaned.
"None of you ever knew her as I did, you know of her from me and from the ideals she left behind which forms the beliefs under which this clan lives," he continued, holding the photo close to his chest. "She was more dear to me than life itself, she was my reason for living, and she was at the same time a reminder of my punishment. For the sin of killing a kami, to save someone whom I loved, I had to take his place. My punishment was that I could not grow old and gray with the ones I loved more than anything. I had to watch as they slowly died before my eyes, and for a time I wished there was a way that I could die."
Haruhi moved as to comfort him but he gestured for her to stay where she was. "I've watched so many of you come and go over the past nearly four hundred years. Despite the pain, I wouldn't give up the time I've spent with all of you and those who came before you for anything in the world. Since Kasumi's passing I've not been alone, I've always had the clan by my side, yet despite this there was always a void in my heart that no one was ever able to fill. A wound that no one was ever able to heal."
He looked at all of the in turn. "Until now," he turned and gestured towards the door behind her. A young woman of perhaps fifteen or sixteen years of age stepped into the room. She wore a formal, flowery kimono and had a flower in her hair. The young girl was blushing a very bright red and fidgeted a bit, but otherwise maintained her composure.
"Everyone, I want you to meet Hitosubashi Yurie," the young lady bowed politely.
"My innazuke," that's when the room exploded.
The deafening roar of shocked gasps, congratulations and non-stop questions finally ebbed when Ranma gestured for everyone to be quiet. "The actual date of the wedding has not yet been set. We'd like it to be sometime in the spring and it will take place over in the clan's private shrine. Only family, our clan and Yurie's, and close friends to the family will be in attendance, no press, no paparazzi. Yurie and I have discussed things and it will be a traditional Shinto wedding."
He moved over to the small portable shrine that sat in the corner and put Kasumi's picture next to the one of Akane. "Its time I let go of the past and started living for the future," he felt small gentle hands take his arm and looked up to see Yurie smiling up at him. "I've been torturing myself all of this time for something that was beyond my control. It finally took meeting a wonderful person to make me realize what I'd been doing to myself. I want to apologize to all of you, while I never emotionally abandoned the clan like Tendo Soun did when his wife died in a way I was acting just like him. I made you all worry about me. You don't have to worry anymore." He gently touched Yurie's face and she leaned against him smiling.
"This place at our table has remained empty for too long," he guided his intended to Kasumi's place at the table. With great reverence she sat down and Ranma soon joined her at his place at the head of the table.
"I hope to get to know all of you very well," her voice was nervous but she had everyone's attention. "I...I love Ranma very much, we're only known one another for a short time, but I already know in my heart that I want to spend the rest of life with him. Like Ranma, I too am a Kami." That caused a shocked murmur to run through those assembled.
"I was born more than four hundred years ago," she continued. "Like him, I do not age. I will never grow old, I will never die, we can both spend the rest of eternity together." Before she could say anything more Yurie found herself being whisked away by the women of the clan and subjected to all kinds of questions. Then men slapped Ranma on the back and congratulated him and pulled out the sake to toast his impending nuptials. After a while the chaos ended and dinner was served.
Six months later the wedding too place in the Saotome clan shrine. The entire clan had been assembled, members from off world had made the trip to attend the wedding. Close family friends were there, and two people in particular were given a space place of honor. A young woman and a small four year old girl. The priest accompanied by the miko of the shrine, all clan members, conducted the ancient Shinto ceremony of marriage. Everyone wore paper charms, which allowed them to see the other special guests of the wedding. Yashima, Bentaizen, and several other kami were in attendance. They were normally invisible except to those who had spiritual gifts, like the clan miko and priest, or were themselves kami like Ranma and Yurie.
As the ceremony wound down and everyone went to the clan hall for the reception, Ranma peel off from the main group and his new wife. She knew what he had planned, and went on ahead. Ranma went over to the young mother and asked her to come with him. They walked to the far end of the shrine to where pictures of past clan members floated in the air. The little girl holding her hand at her side looked with innocent at everything around her.
"I don't know why you graced us with the incredible honor of attending your wedding, Ranma-sama, but thank you." the young mother bowed deeply.
"Just call me Ranma, and there was a very important reason why I wanted both of you to attend." he gestured towards the holographic photographs. There were hundreds of them, past clan members who had passed way during the past four hundred years. Ranma gestured with his hand and floating pictures floated away, allowing just one to come into view. It enlarged, revealing itself to be the picture of Kasumi. Kaori was looking very intently at the picture, then went over Ranma and reached up with her hands for him to pick her up. Her mother was about to scold her but Ranma picked the little girl up and put her on his hip.
"What important reason, Ranma-sa...I mean, Ranma?" the mother asked.
"This is my first wife, Kasumi," he nodded towards the picture. "She was very dear to me, meant everything to me. I loved her so much it still hurt even now that she cannot be here." The young woman regarded him with a sad sympathetic look. She felt the same way about her late husband, Kaori's father.
"When I said your little girl was special, I meant it," he told her. The woman cocked her head to one side, not really understanding.
"Kaori is Kasumi's reincarnation," she gasped and covered her mouth, tears forming in her eyes.
"I know this may sound rather forward of me, but I'd like to add the two of you to the Saotome clan registry." he said. "Would there be a problem with that?" The stunned woman shook her head, she was too shocked to say anything.
"As members of the clan you can choose to live here on the family plot, or you can go back to Mars," he told her. "If you choose to stay here I'll can arrange for you and Kaori to have either your own house or you can stay in one of the other family homes. You'll receive a weekly allowance, as does every clan member, and we might even have a place for you in the family business. We're always looking for new talent and I understand you're pretty good at programming in Quantum C."
Ranma patted the little girl on the head and she giggled. "Like Kasumi, Kaori here has a great deal of spiritual power," her mother looked surprised at this. "Kasumi had the potential to be a very powerful miko. She was able to heal people by laying her hands on them, she was able to calm people who were angry with just her presence and she was able to exorcise evil spirits. I'd like it if Kaori could be apprenticed to Nami-chan, she's the head miko of the family shrine and has a great deal of experience. She'd be the perfect person to teach Kaori how to control the power within her."
Kaori's mother nodded, "We'll live here, my sister's home back on Mars is rather small. She took me and Kaori in because we were all alone here since my husband's death. I appreciate what she did for us, but she was really putting herself out to take me and Kaori in. She has a family of her own and barely has the room for her three children let alone two extra people."
"Ok, welcome to the family then." he handed Kaori back, who looked disappointed at not being held by him anymore, but as they began to leave the shrine she saw a group of children from the clan playing.
Ranma regarded them with a smile. "Let her go play, this entire area is very safe. Nothing dangerous can get anywhere near the children without suffering from a swift and excruciatingly painful death. Ninety-nine percent of the clan are martial artists with A and A+ rank ki manipulation classifications, more than half of them have master level magical powers due to being related to me, and nearly all of them have super-human strength, speed and endurance. If something threatening enters the family land, it won't live long." Kaori's mom boggled at this as she let the little girl down. The child took off like lightning to join the rest of the children running around playing. The young mother fallowed Ranma to the reception area in a daze. So much had just happened, and now she and her daughter were members of the most power family on the planet.
Yurie picked her way through thick brush and foliage. It wasn't hard following Ranma's passage through the thick growth, she was able to sense his essence and she saw the telltale signs of where he'd been in every broken branch and disturbed patch of dead leaves. Soon she found him, he was clearing dead leaves and branches away from what had once been a grave marker. The centuries had worn the stone down to almost nothing. It was virtually unrecognizable from an ordinary stone, but Yurie could feel Kasumi's essence here. This was the place, this was where she was buried. Her bust had been removed a long ago to preserve it. The headstone never received nano-reinforcement so it was allowed to erode naturally.
Ranma prayed silently at the grave for a moment, then moved away to Yurie's side. "I had to come here, its going to be the last time I ever get to see this place."
"I know," she looked up at the sky. "Its almost time, we'd better get going." Ranma nodded and the two popped out of existence. They reappeared in high orbit of the Earth, a love seat appeared and they sat down and waited. Holding one another the two watched as the light of the sun began to change, turning from it usual golden yellow glow to something more akin to red. The output of the sun increased immensely and began to have a profound effect on the planet below. The glow of fires could be seen on the dark side as the atmosphere began to heat up. Today was the last day anything would live on the earth. The people had moved away long ago and evolved, the race known as Humanity was gone, replaced to something far more advanced and not tied to physical bodies. The sun, which had given live to the earth for billions of years, was nearing the end of its life and becoming a red giant. Soon it would grow to swallow up the three most inner planets of the solar system.
"I don't like seeing the old girl go," said Ranma.
"All good things must come to an end," Yurie replied.
He smiled at her and kissed her cheek. "Not everything though," with that, they and the loveseat vanished as the two departed for someplace else on other side of the universe.