Greetings, and welcome to my horribly late update. Again, I apologize to everybody about being a whole three months late, but I had a taste of Ranma's chaos in my life. Ever since I wished you all a Merry Christmas, I had my computer on its deathbed, a change of job status…twice, only to be blessed with a new computer by my loving parents (I want to be like them when I grow upI'm 28, BTW), only to realize that I needed Office 2000 to actually complete the story as well as all the normal installation of all my stuff onto the new comp. I'm just now finally completing this during a blackout of all cable services (I have cable broadband)…sigh. That and I've been reading several excellent fanfics that have taken valuable time from this story Yes, they are great, and I bear no ill-will toward (insert authors names here) for distracting me, as their stories are very much worth reading. Check these guys and gals out. Oh yeah, and also darn Yu-Gi-Oh the TCG for taking up my Monday and Thursday nights and the occasional Saturday. So, now that you're back, please enjoy the final chapter of…Final Judgment: Kodachi!
Final Solution: Kodachi
All eyes stared in disbelief as the coin did the statistically improbable.
"I don't believe it," said Ryoga. "So I guess this means that everybody's free to go if it lands on the edge, right?"
Happosai was speechless, as was Taro. Neither of them had even considered what would happen if the coin had landed on its side. Ranma and Kodachi gave twin sighs of extreme relief.
"You lose, freak!" exclaimed Ranma.
"No buts, you old goat. You lost fair and square, so give us the baby and leave us the heck alone."
"That's no fair," he started to cry. "I should get a do over…"
"No do overs."
After missing its cue, the wind picked up a little, blowing a tumbleweed by. Everyone watched as the tumbleweed ran over the five-yen piece. Ranma's face fell, realizing that he should've picked up the coin from the ground before it was able to fall and cursing that tumbleweed for defeating him. He also saw the result.
"Well," laughed a very happy Happi, "looks like I'm the winner after all. Well, time's a-wastin'. Let's get going, 'Dachi-chan!"
"Over my dead body you will," growled Ranma as he took a menacing step toward the two. He only stopped because of Ryoga's hand on his shoulder.
"Don't do it, Ranma," he warned. "Remember the baby. He won't be safe till they're in the dojo."
"I can do it, Ryoga. I won't let them get the baby or Kodachi. Get offa me."
"I can't…" Ranma managed to get away from Ryoga only to be mummy-wrapped by Kodachi's ribbon. "What the?!"
"Like I promised, my dear friend, I shall resist all attempts at rescue. Please don't make this any harder for me."
"You think this is easy for me?!" yelled Ranma. "I can't just let you go!"
"Don't make me do this, Ranma," said Ryoga as he walked up to him.
"But we gotta stop…"
Ranma fell to the ground unconscious.
"He'll come to," said Happosai. "Guess we'll just have to give the kid to Kasumi when we get back home. Ok, let's get going." He attempted to contain himself, then decided the heck with it. He sprang up and onto Kodachi's chest. "Let's go home, honey!"
Kodachi did everything in her power not to hit him off of her chest. After a few seconds of restraint, she did hit him off.
"Please, not in front of them…"
Happosai thought for a moment, looking between her and the boys behind her. He saw that Ryoga was barely keeping himself from launching himself at them while Ranma, even while unconscious, was somehow inching his way towards them.
"Fine, let's just go."
And the three finally left. Ryoga stood there for a moment using every ounce of self-control he had to stay where he was. Finally he calmed himself, at least enough to regain meaningful though processes.
"Great, now I have to carry him back to Dr. Tofu's clinic…oh man! I have to find Dr. Tofu's clinic. Will you ever stop tormenting me?" he yelled at the still twitching form of Ranma. Sighing, he slung him over his shoulder and began what is supposed to be a simple trip back to the clinic two blocks east. Naturally, Ryoga goes north-northwest.
About ninety seconds earlier…
"Hold on," said Cologne as she halted Genma. "I think I felt two heavy concentrations of depression ki…"
"Most likely in the same area where I heard someone yelling no. I've only heard that scream once before, and it was definitely the master."
"At the park?"
"We'd best hurry. If they've managed to incapacitate my husband," Genma twitched, "now would be the perfect time to hit him with this."
She whirled the fishing pole around once and they both roof-hopped toward the park. They reaching the park and looked around. Cologne could no longer feel the wave of depression from earlier, but knew that they had originated somewhere near.
"The master wouldn't want to make a public spectacle if he tried to talk to them, but generally he wouldn't mind embarrassing his opponents in front of a live audience."
"You do realize that that didn't help whatsoever, don't you?"
"Hmmm, I guess not."
"There," she pointed at a small clearing next to the park. They quickly ran to where the others were just moments ago. "They were definitely here, and recently as well."
"What is it?"
Genma was on the ground cradling something.
"You see this? Five whole yen!"
Cologne smacked her forehead and groaned. Then something caught her attention.
"Genma, look at this."
"What is it?"
"These lines in the dirt here, don't they remind you of something?"
"Now that you mention it, the boy always seems to leave his mark whenever he hits the ground."
"I thought so. And it looks like he was carried off by someone. Why would Happosai be screaming if Ranma was carried off…he may have been kidnapped and Happosai couldn't stop whoever did it…but he knows how to fight even when weak. This doesn't make any sense."
"What should we do, then?"
She thought for a moment. "Time is of the essence. You go back to the clinic and let the doctor and Mr. Tendo know what we know. I'll track down whoever took Ranma and bring him back. While I'm gone, it'll be up to you three to protect Ukyo and my granddaughter."
"You protected my son. Least we could do is the same for Shampoo."
"Despite what I've seen of you before, I'll trust my granddaughter's safety to you…mainly because I don't have much of a choice." She mumbled that last part.
"Did you say something?"
"No, just keep the girls safe until I return."
Cologne studied Genma for a moment, wondering if she was doing the right thing. She sighed and left to track the one carrying Ranma. Genma watched her go into the woods. He watched the woods for a moment longer before turning around. He saw a small five-year-old girl looking down at the fallen yen. She was about to pick it up when Genma suddenly grabbed it before she could get it.
"That's MY yen!"
Now he noticed a small crowd of mothers and children talking about the mean, evil, bad man before them. Not wanting them to get a good long look at his face, he quickly ran for it, seeking shelter in the clinic.
"That clinic has to be around here somewhere…" said Ryoga as he still carried the unconscious Ranma over his shoulder. Many were perplexed when he asked them for directions with some pig-tailed boy tied up in some kind of ribbon over his shoulder, and their perplexity evolved into utter confusion once he went in any other direction other than the ones they had just given him. Things only got worse for these poor people, however, as they were then subjected to the sight of what appeared to be a living wrinkle hopping around on a stick and asking them if they had seen anything strange or unusual recently. Many failed to resist the urge to point straight at this 'wrinkle,' earning them a snarl or a whack on the head, depending on how severe they were with her. It was nighttime now, and he figured that it was time to see if Ranma had had awakened yet.
"Yo, Ranma? You awake?" No answer. He removed him from his shoulder and held him before him. "Hey, wake up all ready!" He started to shake him vigorously, then stopped after a few seconds. "Still out, eh? I can't believe that you're so weak that a bonk on the head could knock you out for so long. You still have all kinds of bruises from that fight back on Monday. Geez, what's wrong with you?" Little did Ryoga realize was that Ranma had awakened several times that day, but each time he tried to get up, Ryoga unwittingly turned around and knocked him right out again with a nearby tree.
Ryoga perked up. "Ranma, you ok?"
"…ooooohhhhh, it hurts…"
Ryoga laid Ranma on the ground and started to cut the ribbon to free him.
"Geez, Ranma. I can't believe that you've been out all day from one simple bop on the head."
Ranma gathered his strength for a moment, now that he had finally regained consciousness for more than five seconds, and he grabbed Ryoga by the collar and pulled his upper body from the ground to come face-to-face with him.
"If you ever knock me out with a tree again I swear I will smack you through so many trees you won't see straight for a month."
"Wha…what'd I do?"
Ranma let go to allow Ryoga to stand up. Ranma slowly got to his feet and stretched to get all those kinks out.
"Oww. Man, I hurt all over. What've you been doing to me?"
"I was just taking you to the clinic so you could recover, that's all," said an increasingly annoyed Ryoga.
"I recovered about five minutes after you knocked me out the first time," Ranma yelled back. "I would've told you I was back hours ago if you didn't keep hitting all those tree with my head all day long!"
"Hey, I was just trying to help!"
"Geez!" Ranma exclaimed. He was about to continue when he started to look around. "Um, I know this is a stupid question, but where are we?"
Ryoga also started to look around them. "Well, I haven't been getting any good directions from people lately. They just looked at me strange."
"Yeah, carrying around an unconscious person mummy-wrapped over your shoulder will do that to people. Ok, gimme a map."
Ryoga went through his backpack that he had somehow managed to retrieve and got out a map. Ranma went over it for a moment, trying to compare the map to their surroundings.
"Ok, I think I have an idea of where we are. Let's go this way."
"Kay," Ryoga replied.
They went no more than five steps when something tapped Ranma on the shoulder.
"What is it, Ryoga?"
"There you are, Sonny-boy." The boys nearly jumped out of their skins as the voice rose from between them. After regaining control of their racing hearts they looked down to see Cologne. "I must say, Ryoga, you truly are a wonder. I'm one of the best trackers in our village and I still couldn't track you down."
"Yeah you did."
"No, I couldn't. I was just now finally able to find you, apparently only after you took over directions, Ranma."
"Hmm, that would explain how that guy found us last weekend."
"Let's hurry back to the clinic. No offense, Ranma, but I do not feel comfortable entrusting the safety of my granddaughter and Ukyo to your father."
The boys glanced at each other.
"You have no idea, do you?" asked Ryoga.
She simply raised her eyebrow.
"They're off the hook, now," reported Ranma. "Happosai freed them from the pledge."
Cologne smiled for a moment, then noticed the looks on the boys' faces.
"But at what cost?" she asked wisely.
Strings with bells hung from every window and every door was nailed shut. This way, if anyone tried to enter, they would have to make so much noise that at least somebody would hear, and they would be able to defend themselves. Most of them had only just recovered last night with the rest waking up that following mourning. They were sore, weak, and still very tired, and that was the least of their worries. After hearing that Ranma had been kidnapped and Ryoga got lost again, the first reaction was to rescue him from Happosai, but then they learned that Happosai didn't have him most likely and that Cologne was tracking him down. They then knew what had to be done, and that was to survive until Cologne and Ranma returned. Nobody thought to ask Dr. Tofu why he had so much boarding ready and waiting to block off all the doors, and Mousse's clever idea to cover the windows with transparent bells on very thin strings, making them virtually invisible, made it easy to determine which window the intruder would enter from. All that was left was to cover the main double-door entrance. Tofu, Genma, and Soun stayed on guard while the others rested and recovered, ready to attack and defend themselves at a moment's notice. Indeed, if anyone were foolish enough to come through those doors, they would have to have the worst luck in the world.
"We're back!" called out Ranma from behind Ryoga, who had accidentally pushed the doors off their hinges, startling everybody. The first thing that hit the boys was a huge wave of tension, swiftly followed up by the death glares from everybody as various projectiles were thrown. Only a spinning cane saved them from that onslaught.
"ENOUGH!" yelled Cologne as the projectiles ceased.
Now that they had a good look at the people in the door did the proper reactions finally activate, resulting in Ranma getting dog piled by three girls.
"Oh my God, Ranma!" exclaimed Ukyo and Akane.
"Ranma, Shampoo so glad you safe!" sighed Shampoo.
"Oh, it's them," muttered Kuno.
"Glad you're back," said Mousse as he patted Ryoga on the back.
The three adults simply sighed and took a seat now that they could finally relax.
After a few minutes of questions Cologne called everybody to sit down in the waiting room. Ranma and Ryoga stood on either side of Cologne as everyone else took a seat on the couches and armchairs. Soun and Genma had gone outside get something to repair the door. Kuno simply stood nonchalantly in a corner, seeming not to care about the goings on in the room.
"There seems to be a new development," said Cologne, instantly gaining everyone's attention. "Ranma, you may as well tell them."
"Yeah," he mumbled as he shared a glance with Ryoga. "Um, we don't have to worry about the freak anymore…"
"What?" yelled the girls.
"How can that be?" exclaimed Soun and Genma as they had just returned.
"We made a deal today," Ranma continued. "He got to have one of us and the rest of us are released from the whole deal…"
The girls started to celebrate, then realized what was really said.
"So who did he get?" asked Akane.
"Which of us has to be sacrificed?" asked Ukyo, really not liking where this could go.
Ranma hung his head as me mumbled.
"He got Kodachi."
Everyone in the room gasped not at the news that Kodachi had sacrificed herself to save them from Happosai, but at how fast Kuno had moved to grab Ranma with both hands by the collar and held him up against the wall with his feet dangling.
"WHAT DO YOU MEAN 'HE GOT KODACHI!'"
"I…I…,"Ranma stuttered for a moment, still shocked at how fast he had moved. He shook his head. "Hey, I tried to stop her, I really did!"
"And you let that…that…monster take my sister to have his way with her?"
Even Cologne took a step back as everybody saw Kuno's aura flared a deep sea blue. Ryoga stepped back because his sleeve was slightly singed.
"No, I tried, but she promised to fight back if we tried to save her. I tried to jump him but she wrapped me up with her ribbon! Heck, Ryoga had to knock me out so I would do nothin'."
Kuno's glare turned to Ryoga, the look demanding an explanation.
"Whoa," was Ryoga's first response as he composed himself. "Look, Kuno," he started as he tried to step forward only to be grabbed by Kuno's other hand and dragged to be face-to-face with him, making Ryoga sweat from the heat emitted from Kuno aura.
"Why did you stop him, Ryoga?" growled the actually menacing, demon-eyed Kuno.
"It…it was all part of the deal. He was going to go for Ranma, but Kodachi made the counter-offer and said she'd fight anybody trying to save her to make him choose her. He flipped a coin and it chose her. If she didn't stop Ranma I would've tried to save her too!"
"And why in the nine levels of Hades would Happosai want to spend time with Ranma?"
"Because he's cursed, that's why!" exclaimed Ryoga.
Kuno released Ryoga, causing him to stagger backward onto the couch with the girls, landing right next to Akane, and returned his attention to Ranma.
"And what of this curse?"
"It's the same one Pantyhose Taro's got, but I change into something else."
"And what would that be?"
"If you…could just put me down for a sec, I could show you."
"And why should I trust you? You'll just run and hide like you always do."
That peeved Ranma a little. "Look, Kuno," he said coolly, "I'm not going anywhere. Everyone in this room knows about my curse except for you. If you don't trust me, do you at least trust Cologne and Dr. Tofu?"
Kuno glanced at the two adults who were wondering why Ranma brought them into this. He looked at Ranma once again. "I have no reason not to."
"Then they can show you and you'll listen, right?"
Kuno's aura faded out of sight as he lowered Ranma back to the floor and stepped back.
"You have my utmost attention, Saotome."
"Doctor, could you get me some hot and cold water?"
"Um, sure?" and the doctor left.
"Cologne, if you don't mind, is there any way you could show Kuno that I'm not going anywhere?"
She nodded. "Mousse. Shampoo."
"Yes?" the Amazons responded.
"Please hold Ranma in place for the demonstration."
The Amazons complied and held Ranma against the wall by his arms as Tofu returned with a bucket and a kettle. Ukyo and Akane glanced at each other, wondering if he was finally going to get it this time now that his sister was on the line.
"I'm ready when you are," said Tofu as he took a plastic cup out of the bucket of cold water out.
"You may proceed, doctor," said Kuno.
"Be careful not to hit Shampoo with that, ok, Doc?"
"Not a problem, Ranma."
He poured the water on Ranma's head, causing him to transform. Kuno grabbed her by her shoulders.
"Kuno, watch closely and carefully," said the pig-tailed goddess and warm water hit her on the head, changing him back.
Their eyes never broke contact except for the height adjustment.
"Saotome," Kuno growled, "What have you done…to…"
Cold water changed him back into her, and hot water changed her back into him, just like with that Taro guy.
"This…this is not your doing, is it?"
"You know I'm not the only one," said Ranma as he glanced at Mousse, who nodded back. Mousse motioned Tofu to hit him with the water, and he was.
"Quack!" said D-Mousse from his robes."
Kuno fell to one knee.
"How…how could I…? And everyone else…? But what about…?"
Shampoo helped Kuno to his feet and guided him to an armchair as Ranma walked up to him. Mousse made sure to change himself back in the meantime.
"Now do you understand why the freak was after me?" Kuno dumbly nodded. "Kodachi's changed, Kuno. I know you must've noticed. I tried to talk her out of it, but she willingly made that sacrifice, saving me and my friends. Even though this was all her fault, even she didn't deserve that."
Kuno looked up into Ranma's eyes. "May I have some water, please?"
Tofu gave Kuno some water as Ukyo looked at Akane and Ryoga.
"I've never seen him like this before," said Ukyo.
"Neither have I," said Akane. "He's not even speaking in poetry anymore."
After downing two cups of water and getting another refill, he stood face-to-face with Ranma.
"And you say you did everything in your power to stop them?"
They started into one another's eyes.
"Yes, I did. I swear on my honor as a martial artist that I did everything I could to stop her."
Kuno studied the man before him for a moment.
"If it helps any," said Ryoga, "he was still trying to save to her even after I knocked him out."
"I see," Kuno whispered. He then upended the cup of water on top of the already wet Ranma, turning him back into her.
"Wha'cha do that…?!" she started when she suddenly found himself in a hug from Kuno. 'Even after all that, the bum still didn't get it?' Then she heard a sob from deep within Kuno's chest and felt a drop land on her face. 'What the? Is he…crying?'
"Thank you, Ranma Saotome," whispered Kuno as he failed to hold back another sob.
"Um…" as she realized why he was hugging her. Hesitantly, she partially returned the hug, mainly just lightly patting his back a couple of times.
Soon Kuno stepped back, hands still on Ranma-chan's shoulders. "Let it be known that on this Friday that I, Tatewaki Kuno, shall officially renounce my love for the pig-tailed girl, as well as my vendetta against Ranma Saotome, for what he did in his rescue attempt of my sister. Although it pains me to do so, I must, as I cannot and will not love a man in that way and I cannot hate someone who was willing to sacrifice himself to save my sister's purity. What say you, Saotome?"
Kuno continued to talk, but Ranma had tuned him out. Something he said was bothering him. It was the afternoon when he was knocked out, but it was night when Cologne had finally found them in the woods behind Furinkan High. If he was right, he was going to have to have a calendar installed into his brain or something.
"Um, excuse me," said Ranma, interrupting Kuno's speech.
"I thought today was Thursday?"
"No, sonny-boy," said Cologne. "I took me almost two days to find you boys."
Ranma-chan smacked her forehead.
"Oh my God, I don't believe this."
"What is it, Ranma?" asked Akane as Ryoga realized what Ranma was thinking.
"I thought this was Thursday. Everything about Kodachi and the deal, all that happened Wednesday."
"You mean that my sister…"
"For a whole day already," she finished sadly.
Kuno sat back down again and wept. Ranma wanted to comfort him, but her legs weren't working, and was instead lead to the couch by Mousse and Shampoo.
"We should let them be," said Cologne to the others. They nodded and dispersed throughout the clinic.
"Well, looks like we're free from the freak, huh?" said Ukyo.
"Yes, we is, but why we no feel happy?"
"Because of Kodachi, that's why."
"Shampoo see why she change, but no know how much."
"Tell me about it. I've only known her as the crazy psycho gymnast that Ranma couldn't stop complaining about, but when I saw her last week, she was like a completely different person."
"Traumatic happenings change people for better or worse. In Crazy girl case, she change for better."
"You have a point. You know that we both wanted her head, and I even had a chance to get her, too, but now…"
"She having punishment worse than anything we do. Shampoo no want that even to worst enemy."
"So what are we gonna do about it?"
"Shampoo no know."
After a pretty rough night, everyone made their way to the Tendo Dojo. Residents saw the group walking together, and many fell into various degrees of confusion and/or fear. There was Ranma, generally the center of all the chaos that they had learned to live with. Around him were three of his fiancées and that sword guy just behind the Tendo girl. Next to the sword guy was the old hopping lady, with the other two guys Ranma was always fighting as well as the community chiropractor walking just behind her. Behind the chiropractor were Soun Tendo and his friend, the father of Ranma Saotome. This sight wasn't very unusual, but it was what they were doing that had people scared and confused. There wasn't much talking or yelling. No punches and kicks being thrown and nobody getting launched into LEO. There were no dimensional misplacements nor were there any energy blasts flying around. The group of people, affectionately referred to by the populous as the Nerima Wrecking Crew, was simply walking like normal everyday people. Children ran home to their parents, asking them what this meant. Adults ran back home to call their parents, asking them what this meant. Many parents in the area called several different psychic hotlines asking them what this meant. Nobody had an answer to this strange cosmic anomaly walking down the street but two things were for sure, first was that the populous knew that whatever was about to happen was not going to be good, and secondly that the populous were keen observers of the obvious.
The crew had finally reached the Tendo household as the gate opened before them Nabiki stood there, looking everyone over. She seemed calm, but inside she was very nervous. She only knew they were coming by seeing them out the window. Even now, they were mostly silent. She knew something was going to snap, and she knew that it was going to happen here.
"Wow, welcome back, everybody," greeting Nabiki. "We weren't expecting all of you today, but come right on in. I'll get some tea."
A few of them glanced at each other as they entered the house. Many shoes were deposited at the door as everyone made their way to the living room.
"Welcome home, everyone," greeted a happy Kasumi. Everyone stared at her, not for what she said, but at what she was holding.
"Um, Kasumi," said Ranma, "what's that?"
The bundle in Kasumi's arms made a cooing sound.
"Why, it's a baby, silly."
"Oh, is that all?" asked Soun. Ranma dove to the left as Akane and Genma ran upstairs as Soun's demon head appeared. "Dr. Tofu! What have you done with my daughter?"
Tofu fell back on his butt, waving his arms franticly as his glasses began to fog up.
"We didn't do anything, Mr. Tendo! I swear!"
Soun began chasing Dr. Tofu around the house in his full samurai armor shooting arrows at his back. He kept missing, however, as Tofu began dancing around with Betty, his mysteriously appearing skeleton while singing something about having a baby with Kasumi, which wasn't helping matters any. Ryoga, between arrows, managed to make his way to Kasumi as the Amazons followed suit. Ukyo sought shelter in the kitchen with Nabiki.
"So, where did that baby come from?" asked Cologne.
"Oh, that was very odd," she started. "Grandfather came in with Taro and Kodachi a few days ago. Taro sat down with me while the others went into the dojo. He gave me the baby and told me to take care of it. I was about to ask him why when we had a visitor. He said something about Taro breaking some Jusenko rules and chased him off with a really big sword. I've been taking care of the little fellow ever since. He's quite a handful so Nabiki had to help me with the house."
"So that's the baby Happosai kidnapped," said Ryoga.
"What do you mean?" asked Mousse.
"He threatened to hurt that baby if Ranma didn't come with him willingly. That's when Kodachi stepped in and everything else we told you about last night happened."
"So," said Cologne coldly, "he resorted to that, huh? As his wife" collective twitch "I must make sure to scold him with severe punishment." She didn't say what was really on her mind, as she didn't want to traumatize the baby with her words.
"And to think," inserted Kuno, suddenly appearing at the table, "that my sister, who had once derived pleasure from throwing wounded puppies to play with Mr. Green Turtle, would actually make such a sacrifice for a mere babe? The wrath of Heaven is slow but sure. Indeed the true darkness of Nerima was not Saotome, but that foul demon Happosai! I shall have my righteous vengeance against him for what he has done with my sister."
"For once, I have to agree with you, Kuno," said Ryoga. "If I weren't there to see it myself I never would've…wounded puppies?"
"Kodachi make complete change, yes?"
"More so than any of us though possible," chimed in Mousse.
"We shall all see that he pays dearly for what he has done," said Cologne, still deep into using the soul of ice to prevent her from crashing into the dojo at that very moment, "but for the moment, we can only wait and tend to Ms. Kuno when he is finished. Remember," she continued with a dark gleam in her eye, "he has to come back for his collection sometime."
In the kitchen, Ukyo had finally found safe haven from Soun's arrows. She really didn't want to be caught by any stray arrows. She turned around to find Nabiki looking her over with a smile on her face. What confused Ukyo was the fact that she had an apron on.
"Welcome to my kitchen, Ukyo," greeted Nabiki.
Nabiki put her hand on her forehead in though for a moment before answering.
"It seems like taking care of a baby if a full-time job, so I've had to fend for myself for the past few days."
"Why don't you order out like you always do?"
"I thought I'd explore the kitchen for a while, see what I like."
Ukyo summoned every once of her willpower not to pratfall, and somehow succeeded. She held her head with both hands for a moment as if trying to keep her head from exploding.
"Akane was right. There's got to be something wrong with us."
Nabiki smirked. She loved doing that to people.
Upstairs, Akane was finally in her room for the first time since Monday. She looked around to reassimilate herself to her room. It still boggled her mind that something could've knocked her out for such a long time. She placed her school uniform in the dirty clothes pile in her closet. She had wondered at first who had changed her clothes while she was unconscious, but was then told that her father had done that for her. Again, a wave of relief washed over her as she plopped herself on her bed. Finally, something ordinary. The events over the past few weeks and especially the past couple of days were very stressful, and she knew that there was no way in fulfilling her smashed object quota for the week, so she just lay there thinking of ordinary things. She wondered where P-Chan was. She thought about how much homework she was going to have to make up next week. She thought about how much homework she was going to have to help Ranma make up next week. She wondered why everything in her life always seemed to revolve around Ranma. Wait, that's not ordinary. She quickly dismissed that line of thinking. She really didn't want to do any heavy thinking at the moment, considering that her mind was already near the breaking point with everything that's happened that month. She flashed back to several things that had happened. She remembered back in chapter 3 when the Amazons offered to house and protect Ranma and Ukyo for the month. She then went to chapter 6 as she seemed to have been easily picked off by Mikado and how both Kunos had come to her rescue. Then in the next chapter (7) when Mousse had told her about Kodachi's break up with Ranma. If nothing else had affected her this month, that one event did. Now she noticed a tear coming from her eye. She wiped it away, wondering what brought that on. She thought about what Kodachi had done for the others, sacrificing herself for the good of everyone else. Another tear broke out. Ah, that was the reason. Somewhere between the chaos threat level red and trying to protect Ukyo's virginity…boy that sounded strange, that somehow she had gained a lot of respect toward the Kunos, especially Kodachi. She found herself wanting to know this new Kodachi, this strange new being that managed to escape from the depths of near-insanity. She realized that she was on the verge of crying in earnest, and began to weep in the realization that she may never get to know the new Kodachi. After being Happosai's toy for an entire weekend nobody would be the same. She may even relapse as a way of coping. She wept and she prayed that Kodachi would somehow be saved so she could have a new friend.
Meanwhile, somewhere near the outskirts of Osaka, a man pressed the stop button on his stereo as he paused in his training. He looked toward the general direction of Nerima.
"Hmm, something doesn't feel right," said Guy. "What is this feeling? Like something bad's about to happen…better hook up with dad online and see if he knows anything." He stood there for a moment longer. "I hope it doesn't have anything to do with those kids I met last week. What were their names? Ryoga…and Nabiki Hibiki. Heh, cute. Anyway, time to hit an Internet café." He packed up and left for Osaka in hopes of discovering what his uneasy feeling was about.
The day had finally come. All arrangements pertaining to and in correlation with the pre-fight agreement had finally expired. Life could finally return to normal…which is extremely relative in this district. We come back to the Tendo dojo to where the Tendos had their first fight-free night since Ranma's arrival over a year ago. This wasn't because of any new bonds of friendship or bouts of self control, oh no. For what seems to be the first time ever, nobody really felt up to it. The only real action yesterday was when the police came by to pick up the baby, which resulted in them having to tackle Soun to rescue Dr. Tofu. After some explanations, no arrests were made and Tofu sat down, dejected after realizing that the baby wasn't theirs. After that, the energy level dropped considerably. This mourning, however, innocents walking by the dojo passed it from the other side of the street, seeing that the entire house had a battle aura. If they had dared to go inside, they would've seen that everyone present sitting before the double-doors of the dojo itself. The doors were still closed and the lights were out, giving no indication as to when Happosai was leaving. Ranma stood between the doors and his friends and family, making sure that nobody jumped the gun. Dr. Tofu had his doctor's bag and was ready to immediate first aid. Cologne also had brought some healing items with her, just in case. No weapons were brandished yet, but were ready to come out at a millisecond's notice. Sensing that the readers were getting tired of all the descriptions of what was going on, something finally happened, causing only a few to notice.
"What the?" exclaimed Soun.
"You felt that too, Tendo?"
"As did I," replied Cologne, relaxing her ready stance.
"But how did he do that?" asked Tofu.
"What?" asked Ryoga.
Ranma just now noticed himself. Happosai's ki had completely disappeared.
"I thought he knew of that technique," said Ranma, "but I didn't know that he knew it."
"What's going on?" asked Mousse.
"Open the door, Ranma," commanded Cologne. "My husband" collective twitch "is gone."
For once Ranma obeyed without question and Cologne and Tofu raced past the young ones, stunning most while Ranma and Kuno were right behind them. The others were about to go in when Ranma reappeared.
"Don't come in, yet."
"Why Ranma no let us in? We have see if Rose Girl okay!"
"Believe me, I know, but we have to let Dr. Tofu and Grans check her first."
"They're right," said Kasumi from behind everyone. "They need space to make sure that she'll be all right."
Meanwhile, inside the dojo, Tofu was checking her pulse as she stared blankly into nothingness. Cologne checked her pressure points as Kuno stood behind them pacing.
"Please tell me that she'll be okay," pleaded Kuno.
"I'm not entirely sure yet," said Tofu. "All of her vital signs are a little weak, but nothing serious. Most likely from not eating for a few days."
"Her chi is also weakened, but nothing to serious," stated Cologne. "Although without further study and more light I can't be sure why she's catatonic."
"She's okay to move, so we can take her to my clinic for further treatment."
"Agreed. Kuno, would you…"
"Good. Take her to my car and we'll take her to my clinic."
Back outside, the others were still debating with Ranma and Kasumi when Dr. Tofu walked out with Cologne. Ranma made space for them as Tofu continued to his car. Kuno then emerged carrying the comatose Kodachi, causing everyone to gasp.
"Do not worry, children," calmed Cologne as she saw a bum rush threatening, "She is not well but she may still be fine, but we have to get her to the clinic as soon as possible. Go, Kuno."
"Yes, ma'am," as Kuno rushed her to Tofu's back seat.
"They shall drive, but if you…"
Cologne straightened her hair.
"Of course, they didn't need in invitation. Nabiki, Kasumi, we shall call to inform you on her diagnosis."
"Thank you very much, Cologne," said Kasumi.
"Now hurry up and get there," chided Nabiki playfully.
Cologne smiled as leapt to meet up with everybody at…
…the clinic would've lost a couple of doors if they had been repaired already, as the majority of the cast had wedged themselves into the double-doors and got themselves stuck.
"Great, this is all your fault, Ranma," growled Akane.
"Geez, what did I do, this time?" he growled back.
"Will someone just try to back up for a minute?" asked Ukyo.
"I hope they don't have to come in this way," said Mousse.
"Fortunately they came in from the back," said a very amused Cologne as she hopped over everybody, beating them all to the waiting room.
"That's great, " started Ryoga, "and can you help us out a little?"
Cologne smirked, causing Soun and Genma to glance at each other worriedly. She walked up to the crowd and poked Ranma's left middle toe. After the dust had cleared and everyone had recovered, they crossed back over the street that they had flown over so violently mere seconds ago and entered the clinic a few at a time this time.
"What'cha do that for?!" yelled guess who.
"Don't worry, Ranma," laughed Cologne. "You'll only have a slight limp for a few hours."
"Man," said Ryoga, "do you Amazons have an exploding pressure point for everything?"
"No, that was originally a party game technique."
"What the?" was the average response from everybody.
"Elder." Cologne looked toward Kuno. "The doctor would like to see you for a moment as well as Ranma in about five minutes.
Cologne nodded and went into the examination room Tofu and Kodachi were in as Kuno took a seat. For once the cast surrounded Kuno for a reason other than beating the living daylights out of him. They still bombarded him, however, but with questions rather than fists and feet. Kuno held up his hands to quiet them so he could answer.
"Please, please, not all at once. At this moment they are examining her body to see if that vile fiend had done anything to her. Of course, that is the only reason why I politely left my sister's side. Once they have completed the exam, they shall call for Ranma and I. This is all I know."
With solemn nodding, everyone took a seat and waited. After a half-hour, Tofu came out, getting everyone's attention.
"How is she, doc?" they all asked ala the Smurfs.
"We're still checking her. I just wanted to ask if you could repair my door while we handle things here." Insert group pratfall here. "Oh, and could you come with me, Kuno, Ranma?"
The boys nodded and followed Tofu into the room and closed the door behind them. Cologne had just finished dressing her when they entered.
"Have you told them?" she asked.
"Told us what?" asked Kuno.
"Well," started Tofu, "Cologne did some hypnotherapy to try to snap her out of her current condition, but all we got were mumbling about Happosai. We've tried everything I know, but nothing's worked."
"There is but one last resort for us to try, but to do this, we must first ask for your permission."
"Kuno I can understand, but why do ya' need me here for?"
"Because you're the closest thing she has to a friend," replied Tofu. "She sacrificed herself for your sake. I'd say that gives you some say in how we treat her for this."
Ranma looked downcast for a moment while Kuno spoke up.
"How is she physically?" asked Kuno. "If that demon…"
"Calm yourself, Kuno," commanded Cologne. "Amazingly enough, she is still a virgin, and other than being touched, she was not violated. Her body came out of the experience far better than I dared hope." Kuno gave a huge sigh of relief as Ranma pumped his fist while whispering 'yes!' "Her mind, however, is our current dilemma."
"So what is it that you ask of us, Elder?"
"There is a technique that we Amazons use on our enemies…" Ranma's eyes went wide, "to ensure that whatever obstacles keep us from our husbands would never do so ever again. Very few have ever broken free of it, but it does have another use."
"You want to use that shiatsu technique on her, don't you?" asked Ranma.
"The what?" asked Kuno.
"It is the Xi Fa Xiang Gao Shiatsu," informed Cologne as she held up a bottle of Formula 411. "I'm impressed that you still remember what it does."
"How can I forget," deadpanned Ranma. "I almost went to China to get Akane to remember me."
"And had I known that Shampoo had done that, I would've called her back home so you would follow and come to us, but that's all water under the bridge." Ranma's eyebrow twitched.
"This Shiatsu made dear Akane forget you?"
"Yes, it's that powerful."
"Incredible. But I don't understand. How can this revive my sister if she forgets about Happosai?"
"As I said before, there are other uses for the Xi Fa Xiang Gao, like deeply burying an extremely traumatic experience to the point of almost never being able to remember it, for example."
The boys stepped back in shock.
"You can do that?!" yelled Ranma.
"Indeed, but the Shiatsu must be done within a week of the trauma or it will either erase entire blocks of ones life's memories or not work at all."
"So much for trying it for your fear of cats, eh, Saotome?" Ranma gave Kuno the weirdest look, wondering how he had managed to say the very thing that was on his mind. "But as for my sister…how far back would she forget?"
"A wise question, Kuno. While my granddaughter knows the fundamentals of the Shiatsu, I was taught by its creator, thus I can be somewhat specific."
"I would imagine that you'd want her to forget everything past leaving the clinic," inserted Tofu.
"I would not be averse to that."
"Could you let her remember a little bit later than that?" asked Ranma.
"Because she had some good memories before we ended up in the park. I don't want her to lose those. I know I wouldn't."
"Very well," said Cologne. "I shall try to let her remember up until mid-afternoon. She will not remember anything after that, but there is one thing that you must do to insure that she does not relapse. Dr. Tofu shall explain."
"According to what Akane told me about her experience, she had to try to remember while being reminded constantly in order to break the Shiatsu. In this case, we have to make sure that that never happens."
"So in other words, we don't tell her what happened."
"Close, Ranma. We do tell her that something really bad happened to her, and of the condition that we found her in, but not what or why it happened. This is so she can try to figure it out when she's ready to deal with it later in life." The boys nodded in understanding. "This also means letting everybody else know not to tell her, either."
"That's…gonna be interesting," commented Ranma.
"You all go ahead," said Cologne, "I'll stay and prepare the Shiatsu."
They nodded and left the examination room. Now in the waiting room they saw everybody busy trying to get the doors repaired. All repair activity stopped when they saw them coming out.
"How isWhaDiCanyoushtelsh…blah blah blah," everyone tried to ask and all words meshed with each other to form a loud and excited blob of unintelligible sound coming at them. Tofu held up his hands and called for their attention, which he received rather quickly.
"Ok, before we go into anything, we have to have a serious moment here." He waited for everyone to acknowledge this. "Ok, Cologne is trying one last technique to try to revive Kodachi, and if it works, we have to make sure that she doesn't relapse into this state again."
Shampoo gasped as Mousse stepped forward.
"Don't tell me she's using the Xi Fa Xiang Gao Shiatsu Technique!"
"What?" exclaimed Akane as Soun and Genma glanced at each other.
"No way," said Ryoga.
"What's that?" asked Ukyo.
"It's a Shiatsu that causes loss or restoration of memory," informed Tofu. "In this case, it's to cause memory loss. Reminding her of what happened may cause her to remember, after which we have no idea how she'll react. So to be safe, I want you all to never tell Kodachi what happened to her this weekend. You can talk about how we found her and what condition she was in, but not the fact that she was Happosai's plaything. Anything relating to what actually happened to her may cause a relapse, so stay away from that topic whenever possible. I understand that this is a bit much, but as I said, this is our last resort since nothing else worked."
"Saotome and I have already agreed to this and I pray that you will also agree. I know that I…"
"Kuno…" He stopped as everybody looked at Akane. "You've been a pain in my side for years, and you're sister was even worse once Ranma showed up. If you think we're going to do this because we like you, you're sorely mistaken." Everybody was taken aback by this. "I'm not going to do this for you, Kuno. I'm going to do this because I owe Kodachi a debt that I'm honor-bound to repay. I don't like the old Kodachi, but if this will make her a better person than I have no problem doing this. I just want you to understand why I'm doing this."
"Such a tigress even in desperate times…but I do understand."
"I owe her big time, too," said Ukyo. "I'd probably be where she is now if it weren't for her."
"Shampoo agree. Flower Girl make great sacrifice for Shampoo, Shampoo gladly make this sacrifice."
"Normally I'd try to get lost if I saw her around," said Ryoga, "but after what I've seen from her, I want to help her, too."
"As do I," said Mousse. "Kuno and I have been comrades-in-arms for nearly a month now, so this is the least I could do to help him."
"After what she's done for my family during her time of reconciliation, you can count on the Tendo clan to help with her recovery."
All eyes were now on Genma Saotome, who just looked back at them with a few screws in his mouth as he was trying to screw in the hinges for the doors.
"Eh? What'd I miss?"
Various people simply smacked their foreheads.
"Rest assured," spoke up Genma's one true friend, "I'll make sure he doesn't tell. Perhaps I'll tell his wife next time she comes to visit…"
Genma almost choked on the screws in his mouth upon hearing this.
"Tendo, you wouldn't dare!"
"Just agree and all will be right with the world," he replied.
Genma grumbled in agreement, hating being made to agree to anything just to be charitable. Mousse and Kuno glanced at each other in surprise.
"Amazing to see where Nabiki gets it from, isn't it?"
"Indeed," he replied with a cautious smirk.
"So we're all in agreement, then?" Tofu asked. Every nodded in acknowledgement. "Good. Now, when you see her, don't rush her. Give her some time to recover."
"Recover, perhaps, but I do feel strangely refreshed."
Everybody jumped when they heard her voice. Standing at the doorway of the exam room was Kodachi running her fingers through her hair, standing next to Cologne balanced on her cane. Of course, being teenagers and such and being full of all that youthful energy stuff, they promptly forgot the good doctor's orders and bum rushed the refreshed amnesiac. Cologne barely managed to dodge all the happiness as she maneuvered her way to Tofu.
"So, I see you didn't tell them," she said quietly.
Tofu raised an eyebrow. "No, would you like me to?"
Cologne nearly jumped. "By the gods, of course not. You saw what happened to the girl when she heard about my husband's virginity. I don't have enough 411 to wipe out everybody's memories."
"Who would've guessed that the most perverted man in Japan is actually a three-hundred-year-old sexually repressed virgin?"
"Who indeed?" she replied. "I had no idea all the things I can show my husband that he's never experienced before.
"Keep talking like that and I'll be your next shiatsu patient."
Cologne glanced at the grinning doctor and cracked a grin herself. They returned their attention to the reunion as Kuno picked up his sister in a hug and twirled her around a bit as everybody else celebrated her return. Everyone was quite happy that Kodachi was back. When asked, she recalled going into the park, but nothing else afterwards until she woke up at the clinic. She did ask about the baby, and was relieved to find that he was found and returned to his parents. Afterwards they all left to hook up with the other Tendo sisters at Ucchan's to continue celebrating not only Kodachi's miraculous recovery, but also for getting through the month. During the celebration, Ukyo and Shampoo managed to get Kodachi to go upstairs with them while everybody else was distracted by the best okonomiaki in the world.
Kodachi looked at the two girls before her and shifted nervously, not knowing what was going to happen. She knew that they were in a good mood, but she still wasn't sure what was going to happen. Ukyo and Shampoo, on the other hand, had already discussed what they were going to do with her. After a quick glance and nod, they both took a step toward her, causing her to tense up.
"Look," started Ukyo, "we both had a rough time because of you, but in the long run we came out better for it." Kodachi finally looked up to make eye contact. "I guess I'm trying to say that we don't hate anymore…"
"Is true. Flower Girl help protect us and break up with Ranma. You make great sacrifice to make up for too too bad things you did. You is different now, so we no can hate without reason."
"Although this month would've been reason enough," chimed in Ukyo as Shampoo nodded in agreement, "but if Ranma can forgive you, so can we."
They looked at Kodachi for a moment, then Shampoo spoke up once again. "But no think we trust you all way yet."
Kodachi looked up to see serious looks on both their faces.
"We may not hate you for what you did this month, but we still got a lot of history to get over. It's just because you've changed so much that we're even giving you a chance."
"We no hate you, but we still no trust you much. Shampoo know you understand, yes?" She nodded in understanding. "Good. Spatula Girl…" she caught a glance from Ukyo, "sorry, Ukyo and Shampoo talk earlier. We agree to start over."
"Just don't give us an excuse not to trust you, k?"
"I'd…I'd like that," Kodachi finally responded.
Shampoo extended her hand.
"Hi, My name Shampoo. Is nice to meet you."
"I'm Ukyo, world's best okonomiaki chef," she introduced with an extended hand. "What's you're name?"
She looked at the two girls before her and genuinely smiled at them for the first time. "My name is Kodachi Kuno, the Blossoming Rose of the Rhythmic Gymnastics Martial Arts world. It is a pleasure to meet you both."
It was weird, as they had finished their okonomiaki and there weren't any more on the grill. It was only then that everyone had noticed the three missing girls. Speculation flared as they wondered where they went.
"I hope they aren't fighting?" said Ranma.
"Why's that?" asked Akane.
"I mean, Kodachi just got through some rough stuff today. She's in no condition to fight."
"Humph, why don't you ask her to be engaged with you again, then, if you care so much for her?"
"That's not what I meant!"
"Do not fret, Akane Tendo, for he did not mean such a thing." Both looked at Kuno in surprise. "I have always known of his general dislike of my sister, thus I know that he may never be my brother-in-law, which brings us both much comfort, I imagine."
"For once I agree with him," said Ranma, still wondering when Kuno got so observant all of a sudden.
"Fine then. Guess I'll just make some okonomiaki till Ukyo gets back."
"Ah, to finally taste the heavenly cooking of my sweet love!"
Ranma blanched, both at what Akane had said and at Kuno's declaration. As Akane started to go behind the grill, Ranma grabbed Kuno and drew him close to whisper to him. "Look, I kinda owe you one and I'm paying you back right now, so you better listen up, Kuno. Don't eat her cooking. It's evil, I tell you. Cooking like that ain't human. Few have eaten it and lived to tell about it. I'm tryin' to help you out here, man. No matter what you don, don't…eat…"
Akane replaced the Near-Undodgable Hammer of Clobbering™ as she glared at the now roadkill resting on the seat.
"I'm right here, you jerk. I'm getting better, you just don't give me a chance."
"…unnn…" he replied.
"Do not worry, my dear. I shall give you that chance."
Akane was about to grab a nearby mini-spatula, which would've cursed the entire grill, but was stopped by a room-wide gasp. She looked around and saw everybody looking towards the stairs. There were Ukyo, Shampoo, and Kodachi returning to everyone. Cologne watched carefully at their body language and saw that there was a strange peace between them.
'These kids sure did grow up this month,' she thought as the celebration got underway again. 'Well, guess it's time to go.'
Cologne got up and made her way to the entrance.
"Hey, Grans!" called out the roadkill as it began to recover back into Ranma. "Where are ya' goin'?"
"I do not know about you young ones, but I am very tired from this month's activities. I'll be taking a vacation for a few days before returning to track down my husband." Collective twitch.
"You know," Ranma mused, "that ain't a bad idea."
"What're you thinking, Ranma-honey?"
"I'm thinking we need a break. You know, get away from this place for a few days, ta' help get over what's been goin' on and stuff. Would be nice to do some training, too."
"That really isn't a bad idea," said Mousse.
"Shampoo like idea, if is ok with grandmother."
"We'll be fine, granddaughter. You both may go."
Shampoo squealed happy noises as Mousse pumped his fist.
"I could use some time off myself," said Ukyo. "I've already had my nervous breakdown for the year."
"What about you, Ryoga?" asked Mousse as he turned to where he used to be. "Uh?"
"He just went out for some fresh air," replied Kasumi.
Ranma shrugged. "Oh well, guess that means he'll meet up with us sometime out there."
"Well, I don't know about you, Akane," said Nabiki," but I've had enough traveling for one month.
"Oh, I wouldn't miss this for the world," replied Akane, the statement coming out a little stronger than she wanted. "I need to train more so I can be more helpful next time something like this happens."
"Let's pray nothing like this doesn't happen again," said Soun. "As for myself, I, too, shall stay home. I have a lot of time to make up for with Nabiki."
"Guess I'll…" started Genma.
"You will also be staying to help me, Saotome."
"Come here for a moment," he said as he dragged Genma outside.
"….okay…" said Ranma. He looked at the last two who hadn't answered yet.
"Ranma Saotome," started Kuno, "as much as I would like to travel with you to ensure my beloved Akane's safety, I must instead decline." Everyone once again gave Kuno a weird look. "There are many things that I must meditate upon, you not being the least of them. Besides, I shall train in my own way to avenge myself against my accursed father." He then turned to Mousse. "I shall entrust the safety of my beloved to you, my friend." Mousse raised an eyebrow just over his glasses. "Surely I shall return the favor one day."
Mousse glanced at Ranma before answering. "Um, sure. Ok."
"Very well. Shall we go, dear sister?"
Kodachi was surprised slightly as she heard none of the normal sarcasm or venom in his voice. "Yes, brother dear," she responded in kind, "but just until it is time to leave for our vacation." Now she was the one getting the looks. "I am well aware that I have just been traumatized, but I feel that I must try new ways to cope with things. For that, I need to once again commune with nature. That is, of course, if that sits well with you."
Ranma glanced around the room to see people's reactions. He didn't notice anything overly horrific, although he did notice a couple of aura's flash briefly. "I don't see why not. Just make sure that you're careful, k?"
"That I shall," she responded.
Just then Soun and Genma reentered.
"Ranma, my-boy! You'll be going on this trip to hone your skills as a sensei."
"WHAT!" he yelled.
"That's right, boy. I'm going to help Soun train Nabiki here, so you're going to help train Akane there, you got that?"
"What the?" exclaimed Shampoo and Ukyo.
"Training Nabiki?" Mousse.
Nabiki just buried her head in her hands as Kasumi patted her on the back to comfort her. She didn't want anybody to know that she wanted to train again. At least they don't know about her and Ryoga yet.
"As if she wasn't formidable before," muttered Kuno.
"What makes you think that I wanna train that…"
"In order to carry on the school, boy, you have to be able to teach. If you can't do that for your fiancée, what makes you think you can teach anybody else?"
"Don't worry, Ranma-honey. We'll help you out."
"What'll be so bad about training me, anyway. It'll be about time you took me seriously."
"And you'll have to do as Ranma instructs, Akane," said Soun.
Akane blanched. "Wh..wh…what!"
"That means you're gonna have to do what I say, don't it?"
"You're not the boss of me!"
"I'm the sensei, so that means I AM the boss of you!"
And that is how the joyous celebration of Kodachi's recovery degenerated into a huge fight between Ranma and Akane. After Ranma left to visit LEO, everyone else simply shook their heads as they returned home to pack for their upcoming "vacation." Kasumi coordinated everybody to meet at the train station that Tuesday. With Kodachi trying out her new sense of generosity, all train tickets were on her, at least just for her party. Soun, Genma, Kasumi, Nabiki, Cologne, Kuno, Sasuke, and Dr. Tofu bid them farewell as they began what would be later known as a heckofa trip. What happens on this trip, however, is but another story.
Wow, that was fun. I don't know about you all, but I sure didn't see half that stuff coming. This is by far the longest story I've ever written, and I've never been more satisfied with finishing this. I want to thank everyone for reading and I truly hope that you enjoyed this story at least half as much as I enjoyed typing it. Again, I'm very sorry for getting the ending out after almost three months, but as I mentioned on the top of the page, I've been quite busy these past few months. As you may have noticed, I did leave some room to continue. I have a couple of ideas that I want to use, but until my life stabilizes, I'm not going to be able to write much, if at all. That's not going to stop me from reading and reviewing, however. I find that I enjoy reading other people's works and giving them reviews. I like to help. Anyway, feel free to drop me a line if you need a pre-reader or any kind of advise. I'll be glad to help. Well, I'm off, but don't worry…I'll be back…I always come back. (B-D)-- --