Chapter 8

Acceptance of State

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The day began its slow progression.

Currently, Soun, Cologne, Shampoo, and Ukyo were inside the dojo, trying to iron out any wrinkles in the plan of the two girls, before offering it to the joined trio. After all, thanks to Nabiki's intellect inside their souls, they would want a detailed proposition.

Mousse and Ryoga were asleep in the guest room, trying to gain some energy. After all, the dojo was now covered with so many detection sutras, not even a bad feeling could get in without anyone knowing. So, the duo thought it best to rest up and be ready for guard duty that night.

Genma was still a panda, still chained to the wall, and still holding up signs about how this was all his dishonorable son's fault.

Akane had left earlier to head off to Yuka's house, needing some time away to consider things. After all, she couldn't take this out on Ranma, and she didn't trust herself not to at this point.

And finally, the trio was in the kitchen, trying to prepare lunch for both themselves and their assorted guests.

It was truly a weird sight to behold. While all three were performing certain tasks for the meal, signs of their sync could still be seen. Whether it was an ingredient finished and handed at the right time, or something as minor as an itch of one translating to all three scratching that place on their own bodies, the sync was still present.

Of course, their actions were for another purpose as well: to keep their libidos from striking again.

What had occurred in the bedroom had just been the beginning. After Kasumi had stopped crying and the link no longer being flooded by grief and sadness, the instincts returned once again unbidden. Before they knew it, touches were flourishing, as hands explored in areas only seen to them in the dreams.

When they were able to get control over themselves, they washed quickly, and headed downstairs, hoping that some mindless tasks would help quell the thoughts trying to send them over.

Nabiki smirked as she tasted the soup she was preparing, wondering if it would even be half as good as it was without Kasumi's skills in her head. "Needs more salt."

Kasumi stopped humming as she was cutting some meat. "Just a pinch, not too much."

Ranma nodded, the taste passing through the link quickly. "Not bad for your first try in a while, Nabiki."

She nodded, adding a pinch of salt, and continuing to stir, as Kasumi turned around and added the meat, as Ranma worked on the fruits and salads for the meal.

Ranma took a breath, feeling the tension slowly leaving them. "This is much better."

The girls nodded in agreement, both helping each other and Ranma keep away from any mischievous thoughts that might ruin their work to this point.

But, soon the work grew to only watching the meal to make certain nothing burnt. Dishes were set out; partial plates were put away for those who were sleeping.

This left them...alone...with only their thoughts.

"I don't think this is going to work long," said Nabiki, "unless we constantly cook all the time."

Kasumi nodded, feeling her body flush slightly as an image flew through one of their minds, too quickly for any of them to tell where it had come from, but the link too new to tell if they themselves had made it. "And we're still too weak to practice anything physical to burn off this energy."

Ranma nodded, throwing himself into the Soul of Ice, hoping to reinforce their resistance to allowing the full force of the bond to make them couple. "We'll only be able to hold out for so long at this point."

The females nodded. "Maybe," whispered Kasumi, almost as if she was afraid her very voice would make it true, "maybe we should let it happen, but on our own terms." Seeing the shocked look of her soul-bonded-mates, she continued. "We can't hold it forever, but we can control when it does happen. After all, it's not like Elder Cologne said it would ever end."

The others stared, before dropping their gazes, slowly nodding. The feelings were a torrent of emotion, a tsunami that none could hope to stand against. Each person there had been ignoring such sensations and needs for too long before they were bonded, and now it seemed to cry out for absolution.

"After lunch then," said Ranma, nodding towards the soup. "The meal's about done, and we can ask some questions from Cologne. We might not even be well enough to do it."

What remained unsaid was that what such acts would not only do to the link, but the people connected to it, was the fear at the forefront of their minds.

Chairwoman Mao and Kenosuke Okari sat in their chairs, at the small table before the council from the clan of the mother of Ranma Saotome.

Such meetings between demonic summoners and demon hunters were not uncommon. Despite what one is commonly led to believe by current dogmas, like humans, not all demons were evil. Most when they came to our plane of existence were either bound to the will of their summoner, or the type not to care what they did anyway, finding it too compelling to not act all powerful to those weaker than you. For some, human life force became the only source of sustenance that they could live off, and how long could you wait for a way home before hunger overcame rationality.

Many clans, like the Okari, would assist demon hunters in their trade, summoning low-level demons who knew things, weaknesses, strengths, attacks, and such, to better fight the darkness.

Techniques and weapons came to be developed, as the hunters studied what was summoned, seeking out paths of energy that could be exploited in a battle. Some demons were just older forms and more evolved forms of others, and any advantage in battle was well liked.

And finally, some metals and elements needed for tools used by the hunters could only be acquired with demonic help.

In short, it was very beneficial to both sides. If a summoner went rouge, the hunters would remove them, while still receiving support from the loyal and friendly summoners.

So, meetings between the two were not unusual, relations were never allowed to grow cold.

Meetings such as this, however, were very odd.

Chairwoman Nagomi of the hunter clan nodded. "We have sifted through the evidence provided."

The summoners nodded, Kenosuke already having thrown himself onto the sword when he arrived, stating that if they found them wanting, he and he alone would take the blame and any punishment they saw fit.

Nagomi continued. "We see reason to also come to your conclusion: that someone is trying to pit us against each other for reason or reasons unknown.

"Furthermore, we conclude that the Nekoken may in fact be in league with whoever is responsible."

"We came to such a conclusion as well," said Mao. "By our knowledge, the entity that is the Nekoken should have either rendered the boy's soul hollow or taken over by now through madness or intelligent control. The fact it has not yet down so after all this time does not bode well for us. Few can control a Nekoken demon inside its host, even fewer can keep it from completing its purpose for this long."

The hunter council nodded. "We agree. However, final words have yet to be heard from the boy's mother. Currently, we believe she has yet to inform him of her side of the family art."

"Feh," said Chairwoman Hami with sarcasm and disgust. "Nodoka didn't even bother to learn our art. She just carried around that sword of hers like she knows what to do. She gave up her training in the family style not only to marry that oaf, but because she saw herself as an Edo-period woman instead of what our clan preaches. We have received proof about her the sword she carries. I told this council many times before that Ranma should have been contacted directly."

"That may be," said Nagomi, "but it was the decision of this council to wait until Nodoka posed a threat to this boy. Such a time has come, and we already have several agents in and around the Tendo Dojo to restrain her should it be necessary.

"And do remember, Hami, it was you who agreed to let her marry that asshole, Genma."

The red-haired woman snorted. "She was too headstrong, and I preferred to still have her attached to this clan."

Chairwoman Umeka snorted. "And exactly where did she get those manly ideas from, if not her own family?"

"Enough," said Nagomi. "Matters here are too important to degrade into bickering of how Hami handled her daughter. Let us not forget none of us are without our problems with our daughters, or have you forgotten the reports I receive about my youngest's actions with her landlord."

The remaining women on the council nodded.

Seeing order had been restored, Nagomi turned towards the summoners. "You will have our support on this matter. I shall send Hami with you back to Nerima, and we shall prepare a party as well to send in a day. If this is a powerful force at work; whether singular or plural, we shall stand and fight it."

"And as for my daughter?" asked Kenosuke. "She cannot afford to miss the next Ascension."

Nagomi nodded. "As to matters of the heart, we normally let things progress naturally, despite my oldest daughter's need to meddle.

"But for the way things stand now, we will need to strengthen Ranma's soul and that of the Tendo sisters to withstand what he will be asked to do.

"But in the end, the choice to participate is still his."

Kenosuke nodded. At least...there was a chance.

And with the help of the Aoyama clan backing them and helping, Kito might just have her chance at everything she wanted.

In the end, that was the only real dream any Father would support.

After lunch, and after Cologne had explained the effects that could and would occur should they be intimate during any stage of the link, the three had moved to the living room.

Of course, it was not before the group had learned of Shampoo and Ukyo's plan.

Now, they sat to discuss it. That is not to say that nerves were being frayed, as they tried to put things into context, tried to keep the goal of survival of each of them at front.

And tried not to consider how badly this would affect Akane when she learned of it.

"So," said Ranma, not feeling anything concrete through the link to lend him any idea what the girls thought, "any thoughts?"

Nabiki stared at the blank wall, trying to come to terms with the plan, but also the reason for such an idea.

She knew as well as the others how "manly"-obsessed Ranma's mother was, and she had no doubt the woman would be thrilled with Nabiki and Kasumi both needing Ranma now, and the likelihood that by tonight, such an arrangement would be consummated—despite the angry glares of Shampoo and Ukyo.

Of course, the woman was also known to be overly dramatic on little things like her own warped sense of honor that belonged more in the feudal period than that of the current period.

In that respect, the idea made perfect sense. With four women both wanting Ranma; even if two of them were bonded against their own free will, and in the likelihood that even the initial try should have killed Ranma, the woman would be hard pressed to find Ranma unmanly, even given the fact that his death would be the death of Nabiki and Kasumi.

She had no doubt the woman would at least view their lives as meaningless should she view that Ranma was dishonorable in some way.

Though, Nabiki's mind was already cataloguing what behavior of the woman herself could be termed dishonorable. After all, if she was stupid to trust Genma to raise Ranma, then she was stupid enough to leave her own sins in the open as well.

But something she was expecting to be there, something she was expecting to be slowly consuming her mind was missing: jealousy.

There was not one shred of it. She knew that she should immediately be swamped with that emotion when the other two fiancées tried to sneak into Ranma's life with them. She could assume no such emotion would be present with Kasumi in that regard of Nabiki herself sharing Ranma with her sister, do to the fact that the link would remove such things.

But Ukyo and Shampoo were not linked to them.

So why...was there no jealousy?

That alone made her suspicious. While Ranma might not seem eager, considering his background, she knew she and Kasumi could feel...something...making him want to agree.

The Nekoken? Was it affecting their personalities? She knew male cats tended to seek out multiple and available mates; most likely a fact her younger sister had assumed when assuming Ranma was always cheating on her. And she knew female cats in heat really didn't care as long as the biological needs were met.

So, was the Nekoken cutting off her possible jealousy all together?

The main question however is: how far would you go to keep Ranma alive?

Could she go that far to save Ranma's life; a life she cared for more than her own after witnessing and literally reliving most of it in her mind?

Yes, she decided. If nothing else, it would be her own redemption. Ranma deserved to live, more so than herself, in her revised opinion.

Besides, should jealousy rear its green-eyed head after consummation tonight, she could always widdle the other two away.

Unknown to her, with her own thoughts inside the link, and each of the others also having relived her own life, the same thoughts were going through them.

So, when they looked towards each other, the same conclusions came up.

For now, it would do.

They just prayed that Mother Saotome would be satisfied with word for the moment, and not expect deed.

Nagomi sighed as the messenger bird returned, chirping in a tone that indicated the message had not been received, and the target not at home.

Sighing, she removed the message and began to change it. She knew Nodoka would soon be heading for the Tendo Dojo, and she would come across the group.

Should the woman decide to go through her plans, she would wait until sundown tomorrow for such an act as seppuku, giving the condemned boy one more day on Earth.

Luckily, by then, the Aoyama contingent would have set up shop in the homes of one of their local members of the Shinmeiryuu. As such, a quick call from any observers near the dojo would let the group know if Nodoka was acting stupidly, and ensure she did not harm Ranma.

Right now, the boy was a focal point in this whole debacle. His death would gain nothing, and Nodoka's warped sense of honor could not be allowed to cause the death of an innocent. She would be made to see reason, and made to step aside.

Matters were beyond the worrying of the felt insult to a single woman.

Whoever was playing them all was crafty, and knew how to bide their time. It was doubtful they would allow Ranma's death either, but they couldn't take the chance that Ranma was not an intricate part of their plan, and would thus also work to preserve it.

"This does not bode well for us all," she said, as she finished writing the letter.

Placing it in the tube near the bird, she began petting it. It was too late to send it out tonight. The elegant creature was not used to flying well with no moon out.

At first light, she would send it to the Tendo Dojo, and hopefully, to bring in the lost sheep of the Shinmeiryuu.

A knock on the door their only warning.

"Hello, is my son here?"