Looking Inside Ourselves
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Nabiki snapped awake, scaring the two companions inside the hot spring with her.
"You okay, sugar?"
"Nabiki no is hurt?"
She shook her head, clearing the last vestiges of her dream...nightmare...memory. "Yeah, just had one of those daydreams."
She leaned back, enjoying the warmth the hot spring was offering. While Shampoo was the only one not undergoing the Bakusai Tenketsu training, she was just as exhausted, having to have been the one launching the boulders. I don't remember it hurting this much.
But then again, Cologne had been working with me for a year before I even tried this.
They had started the day with mild katas, followed by Ranma and Ryoga going first in the Bakusai Tenketsu. To ensure they didn't get it too fast, and thus lose the true purpose of it, Nabiki and a very reluctant Ukyo donned tight bikinis to distract the two.
Lunch followed, before the two were back hanging again, but this time in their cursed forms. She did find it humorous to see a black piglet trying to break a boulder, but the sudden blood loss was even funnier when he caught sight of Shampoo in a bikini as well.
If she was the insecure type, she would have been upset that Ranma was losing concentration because of any one of them.
Then came the training for Ukyo and Nabiki.
Ukyo was muttering through as best as she could, as she had less experience with unarmed than any of the others, relying more on her Battle Spatula than her own flesh.
Nabiki merely distracted herself with thoughts. She went over Akane's battle again, trying to find in herself why she had been able to release a Shishi Höködan of such power.
She should have known earlier that something was up. She was relearning moves too fast, skipping levels of training that would have given her the reserves to get that tough.
Instead, she was going faster in the Kachü Tenshin Amaguriken than Ranma for a month, even her results in sparring were coming faster than they should have.
Her only excuse for not seeing it earlier was both the trial of merging, the joy of surviving, and then trying to trace down the creator of the rumors against Ranma.
Now that she had the time to consider why her reserves were huge, she was finding herself at a loss to answer.
True, while training under Cologne, she had gotten her reserves to be quite large, and she had never tried them out using an emotion-based chi move, as by then, she had learned of what they could do. She had spent much of her focus on using ki, and had even attempted to rip off DBZ by seeing if she could pull off a Kamehameha Wave, as it was one of the few pure ki ideas she could come up with.
It did make her feel sad: Ranma could invent a move in a minute; she had to steal off anime for ideas.
Maybe if this is happening, maybe I'm not as far as I thought I was in my pure ki research.
Wait! Does that mean I might be as close as I was to pulling it off before that bastard fucked me over?
She was taken from her thoughts by Ukyo getting out of the water. "Well, I better go start dinner. Any requests?"
"Shampoo be with you to help soon. She need to ask Nabiki questions."
Ukyo nodded and left, making certain to put on a padded sports bra instead of rebinding her breasts again. They received enough abuse in the afternoon, no need to add more now.
"Fellow sister, can you tell this one of the history of the Japanese Amazons?"
Nabiki nodded. She knew eventually Shampoo would start to try and get more information out of her. She was even fairly certain that Cologne was on her way. But over the last day, she had spent enough time trying to craft a believable story. "My mother knew most of our history, but she passed before I could learn much.
"I do remember when she started to train me. She brought out these old scrolls she had hidden in the attic. They were at least a few hundred years old, so she didn't keep them out for long, just long enough to show them to me. Then she produced a notebook, where she said she had written them down word for word from their original Mandarin."
Shampoo took those words in. The one who stole them may have lost them. If this woman took them and used them to train her girls, she would have made a fine addition to the tribe.
"Anyway, Akane had already decided she wanted to follow our Father's Art, so Mother decided to teach me her Art. My older sister was too kind to be a fighter, so she decided to train as was considered proper for a Japanese girl.
"But soon, Mother got sick. She read the books to me, asking me to keep up my work. But when she passed... I burned them all: the old scrolls and her books. Sure, I had them memorized, but I was young, and thought maybe they had made my Mother ill."
She looked at Shampoo. "Mother was able to tell me of our sisters in China, but pointed out that some of the rules the Elders lived by were out of date, so she made me promise to follow the new rules that she said our tribe had made. She even showed me how to look in on what might be happening to our fellow Amazons, by being able to find the rumors, and discerning what was truth and what was exaggeration."
Shampoo nodded, seeming to believe what Nabiki had said. It would have made sense to her. The PRA loved to spread rumors where it could, and she could hardly blame this girl for not knowing a history never taught to her, as well as trying to strengthen her own tribe.
"So, is an Elder coming here?"
She froze at that. "How...?"
"It would make sense. I am a stranger to you, using techniques you thought only your sisters in China knew. It would make sense to summon someone to confirm if I was telling the truth or not."
Shampoo nodded. "My great grandmother is coming."
Nabiki sighed. Well, at least I know how she thinks. "Come, let us get dressed. If we do not hurry, the males will eat all of the food."
The two girls left the hot spring laughing, but there was still a tenseness in the air.
The conversation was not done by a long shot.
Ranma sighed as she shifted back to male in the hot springs. "Damn it, Ryoga. Why do you keep passing out?"
Ranma was referring to every time they scrubbed before slipping into the springs, Ryoga would see Ranma as a nude girl and promptly pass out.
It was bad enough Ranma had to clean the pig.
It was even worse having to toss him into the springs to revert to normal after Ranma changed back himself.
"Sorry man, no idea why that keeps happening." Ryoga was embarrassed to say the least. He knew Ranma was really a guy, knew that his cursed form didn't change who was in it.
So why the hell was it seeing Ranma nude in his cursed form made him do that!
Ranma just shook his head. "Forget it. Just try and stop doing it."
The two settled in, enjoying the warmth as it removed the stress and soreness that the training had dealt them.
Ranma was soon losing himself in thoughts.
He found himself questioning his relationship with Ryoga more and more since they had come out here.
Before him was the same man who in Nabiki's future had sought to ruin his happiness, using his cursed form to get close and learn his secrets from his fiancée, and even had slept with his wife.
So, is this Ryoga the same as that one was? Will he betray me when my back is turned? Will he try to make my life hell again?
Am I even the same? I mean, I am not acting like I used to. I can speak clearly; I'm not sticking my foot into my mouth as often as before...
Is everyone changing?
How much have I changed?
Ranma had found himself becoming more introspective as time progressed. Part of him wanted to lash out and kill Ryoga for what he had done to him in that other timeline.
But another part realized that the Ryoga before him wasn't that Ryoga. They were friends now, training partners. Hell, judging by the looks Ryoga was giving, he might even take away a fiancée or two from the pigtailed martial artist.
But that caused a twinge of pain for Ranma. Nabiki had told him how much Akari and Ryoga had belonged together, but even she didn't know why Ryoga would risk his own marriage over Akane.
There were tons of pieces not making sense to him. He knew Nabiki had to be doing something about the Amazon situation, and had even warned him of Cologne; a mute point on some fronts now that he had a Phoenix Pill in him. Now, the Cat's Tongue Pressure Point could no longer harm him. Nabiki had informed him that this weekend, they were going off to get the Kaisui-fuu and store some of the water in case Herb decided to appear earlier than predicted.
But why was everything going the way it was now? Was chaos such a strong part of his life, that even a girl truly in love with him was becoming drowned in the life he was being fed into?
NO! He refused to believe that his life was destined to end up like...
"I'm so sorry..."
"Ranma, you there?"
The pigtailed youth shook his head, the image of a droned girl with red hair in a sinking boat trying to stay in his mind. "Yeah, man. Just lost in thought. What is it?"
Ranma blinked. "Huh?"
Ryoga leaned back some more. "I feel different, and not just because we finally settled things...well, more like I settled things with myself."
Ranma looked at Ryoga. "You mean you feel like the weight of the world ain't on you anymore?"
Ryoga nodded in agreement. "I know this sounds weird, but it feels like I'm not as lost as I once was."
Ranma just sighed. "You lost your need for vengeance. Now, all you have left to keep you going is you."
"So then...if nothing should be bothering me, then why do I have these weird dreams?"
Ranma could only stare. Was what was happening to him also happening to Ryoga? "Go on."
"Well, it might seem weird, but my dreams are making my sleep hell. One has me running from this crying woman in my cursed form, while this gigantic pig is chasing me. The other has that Akane girl—except much more older—laughing at me. I tell you, it is really confusing. All I know is that it feels like my heart is destroyed in both of them."
Ranma sunk into the water a little more, chewing on the information he had just learned. If my dreams are about what happened to my future self, then are these the future memories of that Ryoga? If they are, then the porker told Akari... If he then went to Akane...
Man, I'm seriously beginning to hate the damn tomboy. "So what do you think they mean."
Ryoga continued to star into the sky, as if he expected the Gods to give him an answer. "No clue, really. I just know it felt...horrible. I...I don't wanna feel like that."
"Ryoga, if you ever find the girl with the pig, make certain you never stray from her."
The Lost Boy stared at Ranma like he had just had asked him to sell his body in Taiwan. "Excuse me; she tried to have the pig kill me!"
"But she wasn't laughing at you. You said she was upset. Maybe you were seeing a future event, and you did something really bad to make her act like that. Maybe she was your one true love, even accepted your curse, and you betrayed her in the worst way possible."
The stare from Ryoga's surprised face slowly dimmed as he delved into the memory. The strange girl had held a strong place in his heart...so maybe it wasn't too far fetched that they had been in love. "Man, if you're right, then I hope I'm smarter this time around."
You and me both, Ryoga. You and me both.
"So, that's what he said?" asked Nabiki. She and Ranma had left the camp after dinner to chat. She was certain the others were still there, sleeping. Shampoo had worn herself out constantly tossing the boulders and resetting them, and the other two were tired simply from the training.
"Yeah, so, did that happen to Ryoga?" He had told her of Ryoga's dream, hoping she would know if it was true or not.
"Sorry, but I don't really know. But if Ryoga was still as wishy-washy then as he was during the last time I saw him, then I would say it was a distinct possibility that he told Akari. I know they were married for a while, but after the incident where you found him and Akane together, I never really kept tabs on them." Nabiki found herself cursing her sister once again. Is Akane really the cause of all this? Is she the lone figure who will never change?
"So, do you think Akane might change this time around?"
She looked towards the moon, fully out tonight, a sight she had done many times from her window in her apartment, trying to forget the smell of fast food. "I hope. She could be so much better than she is. But why she is this way... I know Kuno did some of this damage." She snorted a little. "Maybe I should take her to a monk and see if they can exorcise her."
"Couldn't hurt," said Ranma. "She sure as hell hasn't been acting right. She is slowly losing it, and you can bet that loss to you didn't help things."
Nabiki leaned onto Ranma's shoulder. "I really had hoped she would be better this time around. I mean, you weren't treating her substandard, she didn't have the engagement forced on her, she was getting rid of the Hentai Horde with our help—"
"She wasn't the center of attention." Ranma looked down at her. "She was always mad if someone showed me attention. You said she got jealous of me wanting to spend time with my own Mother, and that was even when I had to hide as your cousin Ranko. Maybe...maybe all she's afraid of is being left behind."
"Still doesn't excuse what she did in either timeline."
"You said we shouldn't blame them for how they were, only how they are now."
Nabiki nodded. "Maybe the broken Nanban Mirror is why these dreams are happening. I mean, how else you and Ryoga can be dreaming of the future."
"Some dreams," Ranma snorted. "All we dream about is what has to have been the worst day of those lives. I dreamed about a death as a drunk on a boat, Ryoga dreams about losing his wife and a woman he thought loved him, what's next?"
In the camp, two girls were twisting in their sleeping bags, dreaming of a pigtailed love who had just told them he did not return those feelings.