Departures and Arrivals

Author's Notes: One person pointed out that Ranma 1/2 is originally a romantic comedy and seemed to imply that I should follow in that tradition. To be honest, if I was that good at writing romantic comedies I might, at least for some stories. This, however, is an attempt at something more serious. I can't promise that everyone will like it, nor will I necessarily try to do so. Now on with the show.


They were in a plain brown room with no apparent walls or way out. Ryoga was lying on a futon that was just slightly too small for him with Akane sleeping on the other side of the room. He couldn't remember how they arrived here. They had been running away after that happened. He still couldn't believe his hated nemesis was dead. It was what he had wanted, what he had dreamed of for so long, wasn't it?

He went over to check on Akane. He could still see the odd tear slide down her cheeks. She was so beautiful, that his heart ached to be so near her. How could she love me now? I killed her fiancée. No, that can't be right. It just can't. Ryoga desperately tried to avoid facing the obvious conclusion. Ranma was far tougher than that. I suppose his natural ki reinforcement might have failed if he was really sick. It had happened to me before, but a sick person feels different than that. You can feel the sickness in their aura, but now that I think about it, whatever that was barely had any aura at all. Yes that is it. It wasn't Ranma. It must have been some trick of Happosai or something. Perhaps something like those mirror clones. Ryoga was sure he was on to something, but the nagging guilt remained. It certainly looked like Ranma.

Ryoga's doubts remained as he went over and shook Akane lightly. "Akane. Akane, wake up." He gently shook her.

Akane yawned and stretched as her vision came into focus. "Ryoga?" She looked around. "What is going on?"

"Don't you remember?" Ryoga said sadly.

"No, that can't be true. It must have been a dream. Ranma can't really..." She looked down at her arms and could still see little brown flecks that also partially covered her shirt. "It can't be..."

"I was there Akane. It happened. I'm not too sure that was Ranma though. He had almost no aura. Anyone living should have some."

"That has to be it. Come on, I mallet Ranma all the time and it never..." Her words trailed off as she again saw the spots on her arms as what she had said filtered through her brain. I mallet Ranma all the time... No, that can be right, can it? and there was all that blood. What if it was Ranma? Akane unconsciously hugged herself as she lost herself in her own thoughts.

To Ryoga she just seemed to grow still. Ryoga looked around at the medium sized plain brown room with absolutely no visible exists. It felt like a bad dream to him. The room seemed to mock his sense of direction, with its lack of exits. He had to get out. He had to know. He went to the farthest wall from where Akane was sitting and placed himself directly between the wall and her. "Bakusai Tenketsu!" The wall clearly wasn't stone. He didn't know what it was. It was only perhaps an inch thick from what he could tell of the small hole that he made. He through that it might be made of metal, but it seemed a bit like a plastic too. Well the breaking point may not work well, but it does work. He proceeded to Bakusai Tenketsu the outline of a rather short door.

Akane had focused on what he was doing about mid way through.

"Come on Akane, let's go find out... Let's go find out." The second sentence was softer than the first yet somewhat wistful.

Akane seemed doubtful, but took hold of his hand. Kami-sama knew when she would find him again if she let him out of her sight.


Washu was not known for designing the lower levels of her manufacturing lab for human use. In fact she never went there preferring to let the automatic routing and design algorithms fill in all the pesky details, so she could focus on the big picture. It could be argued that placing an unguarded ship only a few hundred feet from an unguarded detention cell was a bad idea, but then the computer didn't know that. It just knew to build a Mihoshi resistant room around the pair and wait for further orders. Since they were alive, the computer of course made sure the room environment was maintained via a hidden air handling system, but beyond that ignored them.

The ship that they were approaching was odd, even by Washu standards. It was a silver gray color and shaped a bit like the shadow an eagle might cast. What made it strange were the orange white balls of energy that surrounded it at regular intervals. If one looked closely at one of the balls of energy it seemed that they might contain something solid, but it was difficult to tell. To the pair that approached, the size of the ship made it look much like an ordinary wall with an odd door.

Ryoga was about to make a door with the breaking point when the door opened. He peered part way inside and then glanced back at Akane. Her eyes were unfocused and wet with tears she seemed to be trying to fight, yet hints of curiosity seem to be there as well as she focused a little and tried to see past the bulk of the lost boy.

After the odd little room there was a second door which opened onto a hallway. The place was big, yet Akane was fairly sure they had passed the same areas multiple times. If she was right, then there seemed to be a few bedrooms, a large empty room, a couple bathrooms, and a room that might have been some sort of living room. She didn't see a kitchen, yet she thought perhaps that room might bear a closer look at.

"Where the heck are we now?"

Akane stifled a small laugh. I can't start acting like Ranma... She stopped and tried to get ahold of her feelings. I have cried enough for that jerk.. I have.. She looked down at the flecks on her arms that she had not managed to rub away yet. She wanted to bathe. Something familiar caught her attention. "Isn't that were we came in at?" She continued down the hall since she was fairly sure the other end was the one direction they had not taken.

After about half a minute of walking they entered an oval shaped room that seemed to be covered in about 300 degrees of glass along the front and sides. Four workstations in a diamond formation filled the room. Three seemed to be more detailed while the one in back near the door seemed more sparse.

"Wow, this is weird. Isn't that where we came out of over there?" She pointed to a cube type structure sitting a few hundred feet outside the window.

Ryoga looked at her as if to say, "Your asking me?"

"Oh, nevermind." She walked over and sat down in the closest seat. It looked quite comfortable covered with what looked kind of like black leather. She harrumphed and said with a quiet sigh, "I wish we could go find Ranma. That couldn't have been him before." Her voice seemed uncertain as she once again found a spot of blood to remove from her arm.

A young woman's voice seeming to come from everywhere said, "Washu OS loaded. Pilot imprint complete. Destination accepted and computed. Drives reaching critical threshold in 3.. 2.. 1.. 0."

Akane had never really been one to drink, yet Ryoga had flirted with the evils of alcohol a time or two. He remembered the sensation when he woke up after a night spent trying to tend to his grudges against Ranma. This was much worse, and seemed to last forever although in reality it only lasted a little over a minute.

"Ship reintegration into normal space complete. Calculating destination coordinates. Location error. Present location is approximately 10 times as far from input destination as starting point."

"What?" came from the two teens.

"There is an error in the drive systems. Cross checking reveals that the controlling matrix was incomplete when the command to move the ship to Ranma occurred."

"What? Move the ship to Ranma? I never asked. This doesn't make any sense." She looked out and saw nothing but a sea of stars. "This has to be a bad dream."

"You clearly expressed a desire to go to Ranma. I looked up the destination and found planet Ranma at the tail of the fifth spiral arm of the Jurian galaxy. Since you are the registered commander on record I computed the destination coordinates and jumped..."

Ryoga seemed happy and that irritated Akane more than anything, as she tuned the female voice out of her thoughts. She looked at him and said, "What?"

"I just find it funny that for once someone else got lost other than me."


Nabiki was the first to awaken. She was lying on a very large and soft bed with Ukyo to her left and Shampoo to her right with Ranma-chan to the left of Ukyo and Ayeka to the left of Ranma-chan. Ranma-chan had an arm around Ayeka's middle. Kuno was nowhere to be seen. She very carefully inched off the bed in an attempt not to wake them up. Fortunately, whatever the mattress was made of did not transfer motion at all, making the process easy. Well that explains why I was the first to wakeup. Sleeping between a couple marginally stable martial artists and their objective just isn't healthy.

The room was large with tree branches shading the bed area and some kind of artificial light shining through the branches. A dresser and mirror were along one wall and a decent sized doorway could be seen off to the right. Passing through the doorway and looking right yielded what appeared to be some kind of bathroom. Walking straight led into what looked like a natural hot spring. Unfortunately, no further exits appeared. She stepped back into the bedroom and saw that one wall was blocked with what looked like vines. She reached out and carefully touched a vine. It was oddly rigid yet still felt like a vine. She yanked on it, but it failed to budge. A fancy jail you have found for us Saotome. She walked back over to the bed to where Ayeka and Ranma were.

Ayeka and Ranma seemed oddly peaceful as they were. Small smiles graced both of their faces. It was the first time she had seen Ayeka wear an unguarded expression. Since Ayeka was the closest she gently reached out to shake her shoulder making sure Ayeka could see her face, and preparing to try to prevent her from waking the others just yet.

Ayeka's eyes snapped open and she quickly looked around without moving her head. She blushed briefly as she took notice of the position she was in. She then quickly focused on Nabiki as the memories of what happened before came back.

Nabiki said quietly, "I woke up first and figured it was best we didn't make much noise for now.."

Ayeka said quietly, "Yes, that might be best. Saran is a fool, but his family is still powerful."

Ranma's eyes remained closed as she carefully removed her arm from Ayeka. If it wasn't for her movement neither of the pair would have realized she had awakened. Ranma asked quietly, "Is it safe to open my eyes?"

Nabiki smirked and took stock of the clothes she had ignored before. All of them were dressed in what seemed to be royal purple two piece pajamas. Nabiki touched the fabric and thought it might be silk, yet it seemed softer and somewhat more form fitting than any silk she had seen. Nabiki continued in a soft yet irritated tone. "You might as well, though I may have to thank whoever felt the need to change our clothes."

Ranma failed to entirely suppress a wince as she opened one eyelid and then the other before looking around. Just to prove that Ranma's foot in mouth system was still fully functional he said, "Well mother would be proud."

Thoughts of Ranma's crazy mother passed through the pairs mind as they tried to figure out just what Ranma meant. Nabiki glanced around and realization dawned as laughter escaped the middle Tendo daughter's normally controlled features. Ayeka took a bit longer until fragments of Ranma's memories of his mother surfaced combined with a few choice ones from her own eccentric mother. A blush began to bloom on the princesses face as her searching mind pieced it all together. "Oh my, but your a girl now. Surely she..."

Nabiki cut her off by saying in her best Nodoka imitation, "Ranma is so manly. Oh, think of all the grandchildren."

Ranma winced as he thought of the likely encounter. "Um Nabiki..?"

"Yes Ranma-kun?" she said sweetly. Somewhere along the way the conversation resumed normal levels.

"Another topic please?" Ranma had briefly considered asking her to never mention this to his mother, but well he didn't have any money anyway.

Ukyo and Shampoo yawned and turned to see what was going on.

"Ranchan!"

"Airen!"

Ranma sighed. Weren't they trying not to wake them up? "Um. Guys..." Ranma thought fast to try to avoid a potential war. "Shouldn't we deal with our kidnappers?"

Ayeka said, "It is unlikely we will be able to leave this room until we arrive wherever we are going. Those may look like vines over the door, but they are very strong."

"Shampoo see about that." Shampoo moved over to look at the vines closely. "Living things no have breaking point." She pulled her bombori out and brought them down against the branches. They compressed the vines slightly before they rebounded leaving no evidence to show of her efforts.

"Well, that went well." commented Nabiki.

"Shampoo is probably the strongest here right now." said Ranma in a soft, yet somewhat bitter tone.

"Aiyah. Airen much stronger than Shampoo!" Shampoo walked back to the huge bed and resisted the temptation to glomp her Amazon law fiancée. Instead she stared at Ranma's female form and vaguely wished she had some hot water.

"Yah Ranchan. We have all seen you fight."

"I know Cologne must have taught you how to read ki signatures. Take a look at mine."

Shampoo's eyes became slightly unfocused as she starred at something that she seemed to be having trouble finding. She glanced over at Ukyo and then back at Ranma, and then over at Nabiki and finally Ayeka who she stared at longer than any of the others besides Ranma. She then looked between Ranma and Ayeka and frowned slightly before speaking. "Ranma and new girl no have noticeable ki signature." She said the last as if stating that wet was dry. It was clear she couldn't believe what she saw, yet it also seemed she was certain. "Spatula girl's is normal, and even mercenary girl has a noticeable ki signature."

Ranma's first words were quiet. "I was wondering.." She continued a bit louder and steadier, "I can't really read them anymore. You see Akane didn't know how sick I really was that day. Had she known, I don't think she would have done it, but as it was between the damage when the mallet hit and when I landed..." She paused for a moment and searched the faces around her. Nabiki's seemed slightly guilty, while Ukyo and Shampoo just seemed confused. Ranma thought that Ayeka was perhaps a little wistful, and perhaps also somewhat proud. She smiled at her and then quickly passed the same smile to the other fiancées lest she actually provoke the final battle a bit early. Her next words were softer. They seemed precious to her as if something she was happy to share, while at the same time being reluctant to give them away. "Ayeka saved my life. From what I have been able to figure out, I was very near death. I should have died, save for her, and the risk she took almost cost her her own life." Ranma smiled at her then, and this time she did not share the smile with the others.

Shampoo clenched her hands as Ukyo frowned. As the woman who saved her Airen's life, Shampoo could not attack her, not and keep any sense of honor at all. Her irritation could be heard when she asked, "New girl save Airen's life?"

Ayeka seemed pensive for a moment at the tone, before a small blush crept up her face. She was not used to being the hero. "I just did what I could..."

Nabiki looked at the blushing princess. It seems you have had an adventure Ranma, but then it would be surprising if you had not. "So, what did you do?"

Ayeka spoke up causing Shampoo and Ukyo to turn to her. "I did something forbidden, since quite often both patient and donor die in the attempt. Ranma is now Jurian in an odd sort of way..."

"and Jurian's don't seem to have ki." finished Ranma quickly. He continued in a more normal pace, "At any rate, could you lay off the blunt force weapons a bit? Right now my resistance to injury is not so great."

Nabiki quirked one eyebrow a little at that. Neither had given very complete answers and Ranma's, "right now" made her wonder.

Just then a hum could be heard growing in volume.

"What is that noise?" asked Nabiki.

Ayeka answered, "It sounds like the ship is beginning to descend through a planet's atmosphere.".

Ranma turned back to Ayeka. "No way! I mean we were just kidnapped. How could we be landing so soon?"

"Jurian space tree ships can travel through hyperspace very fast, and we don't know how long we were unconscious. Had I been on guard..." Ayeka's tone became somewhat bitter. She continued after a small pause with, "Had I been on guard, I might have stopped the beam."

Ranma put a hand on her arm causing the irritation factor of a couple of fiancées to rise. "Hey, we all have our bad days, although I'm making it a point to severely limit mine. That last one really hurt." Her smile proved to be infectious as Ayeka couldn't resist smiling herself when she saw it.

"Not to interrupt your sentimental moment, but shouldn't we come up with a plan? I mean we have three martial artists here and I suspect Ayeka can do something."

"Aiyah, mercenary girl is right. Shampoo teach clown boy to mess with Amazon women."

"I'm in Ranchan."

"Saran may expect something of me, but if he is distracted or unconscious..."

"Right, well I may not be able to punch through concrete at the moment, but dealing with him should be a piece of cake. Just remember everyone that he is the first priority. We need to knock him out before he manages a shield or something fancy."


Landing on Karna actually went amazingly well. A half dozen guards walked up to their room with Lord Saran following in what he imagined was regal attire. The vines moved out of the way. A bombori impacted the young noble's face sending him to dreamland, while Ranma and Ukyo took out a couple of guards with fancy footwork. Ayeka then summoned fourth her energy logs and left the other four guards in a smoking pile. They tore up one of the sheets to tie them all up and gag them.

"Well, what now?" asked the middle Tendo daughter.

"How should I know? I never had to deal with being taken to another planet before."

"We will have to leave this ship. A Jurian tree ship responds only to its master."

Shampoo pulled a knife out of nowhere and walked toward the ridiculously overdressed fool. "If ship no work for us then..."

Ayeka sighed. "I'm sorry Shampoo-san, but the ship is alive, and intelligent. It probably won't go out of its way to stop us since it has no reason to care, but if we were to threaten its master..."

Nabiki finished with, "Let me guess, when one of us is separated the room will suddenly lose its air or something."

"There are many ways a Jurian ship can defend itself. One common one would be for it to travel near a star and selectively make part of one side transparent to lethal levels of radiation so as to kill one or more people." She grimaced and then continued, "One can never underestimate a Jurian ship."

"So how did you learn all this sugar?" The unvoiced, "What the heck is going on?" seemed to resonate in the room as Ukyo finished.

"It is not unheard of for royal kidnappings to occur." Ayeka paused and then continued ruefully, "Of course my training did stress the importance of getting away before getting taken to another planet.."

Ukyo still seemed confused as Ranma-chan started to speak, "Well, if we are on our own in the middle of who knows where, perhaps we had better get some supplies and um our clothes and hot water." The last was said in an almost pleading tone.

They had to knock out one more person along the way, but beyond that the place was surprisingly empty. Well there was some muffled thumping coming from somewhere, but it didn't seem too important. They looked around until they found their belongings and a splash of hot water for Ranma in what appeared to be the kitchen.

The chef and Shampoo immediately started ransacking the pantry and some weird kind of refrigerator. Before long Ukyo and Shampoo had several gray cloth sacks of food and Ayeka and Ranma had a similar sized sacks of spare clothing.

"Isn't carrying all this going to slow us down? I mean aren't we supposed to be escaping?" Nabiki thought it a bit odd that escape felt a bit like a shopping trip, but then again Ranma did have experience in such matters.

"Well, if I could use ki anymore I could fold most of the stuff into where Mouse hides his weapons." Ranma glanced at Shampoo.

"Shampoo already carry several weapons, can maybe carry four bags that way as long as it not too far. Mouse better than Shampoo at that." So it was decided that Ranma, Ukyo, and Nabiki would each carry bags, while Shampoo secreted what she could in weapons space. Ayeka and Shampoo were thus free to fight if needed. Shampoo could buy time and Ayeka would zap, or that was how the theory went.

Ayeka was getting worried. "We had better hurry. Someone will come looking for him soon."

Outside the ship it felt a little like they had stepped out of a time machine into the early 1900's Arabia. An elegant palace with four surrounding spires and one large central spire sat in front of the ship. The central spire seemed to be composed of blue crystal. It seemed to catch the evening light and diffract it into splashes of blue in the surrounding city.

They walked for awhile until they were several blocks from the ship. Nabiki panted slightly as she looked back at the glowing spire. "Why is that glowing? It seems brighter than the sun should make it."

"I have never seen one so large. It is a rare form of energy crystal. It is probably releasing the energy it soaked up from the sun earlier today."

"Cool" added Ranma.

"Beautiful" echoed Shampoo and Ukyo.

As they walked, they passed a few people in the street who took little notice of them other than perhaps a bit of interest in their odd clothing and curiosity about their bags. Nabiki asked a few questions, but it was obvious that the language barrier was not going to be crossed today.

"I hope someone has come up with a plan." mused Nabiki.

"Yes, that would be most helpful." declared the princess.

"Not really. I was sort of hoping there was some forest here or someplace we could live for a few days until we had some idea of things. Maybe we could hitch a ride on another ship or something."

"That seems unlikely. This is a rural world. There can't be many ships."

Nabiki frowned. "This sucks."

"Aiyah, mercenary girl too too right."

"No kidding sugar."

"Look at the smoke. I think a building is on fire somewhere on the other side of the city."

Nabiki smirked. "Perhaps we haven't come to paradise. We better get moving. If there is something going on, I don't want to get it blamed on the outsiders. I think I see the edge of the city up ahead."


It took them until well into the night to find the cave they decided to use temporarily as shelter. Fortunately, the twin moons provided more than enough light to navigate as long as they were careful.

Ayeka yawned and stretched as she sat down on one of the natural shelf like structures inside the cave. A small hole in the top let in a flicker of light, but the blue glow from the tiny crystals scattered throughout provided a soft illumination throughout the cave. "I wish we had one of Washu's food machines here."

"Me too. Ah well, at least the Tomboy and her cooking is safe back in Nerima. Shampoo, will you come with me to look around?"

"Airen go on date with Shampoo?"

Ranma felt the spike of irritation through the bond he had with Ayeka. Part of it was undoubtedly the general mess, but then part of it was obviously Shampoo and Ukyo. Ranma sighed. "No, we are just going to look around and maybe see what else is around to eat for when that stuff runs out. Come on. Ukyo if anything happens try to buy Ayeka a little time. Her attacks are pretty powerful, but take a little while.."

"Ok, Ranchan. We will be here... Come back soon."


Nabiki slipped off her shoes and laid back. "I should have known I couldn't avoid all of Ranma's adventures.."

"Yea, he does have that affect, doesn't he?" Ukyo sighed and kicked a rock half heartedly. "Well it looks like the fiancée wars are over..."

"Ukyo-san, what do you mean?"

"You don't know? You of all people don't know. It figures. You haven't noticed the looks he gives you, the times he reaches out to comfort you or just brush again your arm almost without thought. If that is not love, then it is more than any of the rest of us have ever had from him."

Ayeka blushed but remained silent and thoughtful. Ukyo noticed a look of longing and was that regret on the other brown haired girl. "Regretting something Nabiki?"

"Whatever." She couldn't quite keep a slight blush and a slight frown from touching her face.

Ayeka spoke wistfully, "Ukyo-san, Do you really think so? I mean, it hasn't even been that long since Tenchi-sama..."

"So, what happened to this Tenchi?" asked the curious chef.


Once they were out of sight of the others the Amazon glomped onto her reluctant fiancée.

"Airen!"

Ranma tried to peel the perky beauty off of himself, but lacked the strength to do so. Ranma wondered if she even needed the breaking point for her doors for a moment before saying, "Shampoo, could you please let me go?"

"Ranma, you is really weak?"

"Yes Shampoo, now lemme go." He tried once again to grab ahold of her sides and push away. The only place with better leverage was a really bad idea. It was really irritating that being able to outperform many Olympic athletes was considered weak by most of the people he knew. Well, what was really irritating was, if he understood this Jurai power stuff correctly, he would probably never get his speed and strength back since it seemed Jurai power did other things. Then again all he had to base his knowledge on was fragments of Ayeka's memories and the only really interesting ones were when Tenchi got desperate.

Shampoo released him when she noticed he had stopped paying attention only to be surprised to see Ranma catching his breath. Her face seemed troubled when she said, "We go look around now?"

"Yes"

The moonlight provided barely adequate light to scout, but then both were used to so little. They spotted a few odd animals that looked almost like deer, but had gray fur and slightly shorter necks. About half a mile away from their campsite they saw evidence of a significant number of people going to and from the city somewhere although where they had no idea. Ranma was tempted to check it out, but considering how difficult it was to see, it seemed better to wait.

"Let's head back. Keep an eye on each other's trail. I don't know if there is anything truly dangerous to us around but considering we are completely on our own..."

"When you get so cautious?"

"I think it was the part where I almost died..."

"Oh." Shampoo seemed oddly thoughtful for a moment as they made their way back.


The food they had swiped from Saran's ship turned out to be quite good putting to rest the long standing theory that the only thing Ukyo was good at cooking was Okonomiyaki. Of course the portable heating device that Nabiki had swiped made things oddly easy, even if she had no idea why it was doing whatever it was doing.

Night came and Shampoo took up the first watch followed by Ukyo and Ranma. Ayeka volunteered to watch for awhile but Ranma said it was okay and for her to get some rest. Ranma felt her faint disappointment at this, but the truth was that three was enough and Ayeka simply wasn't aware enough of her surroundings to keep watch.

Shampoo moved to near the entrance to take the first watch, while the others got as comfortable as the situation permitted. The blankets they robbed from the ship helped a great deal. Shampoo kept one wrapped around herself to protect herself from the cool night air.

It didn't take long before Ayeka crept up near Shampoo.

"Hello Shampoo-san."

"New girl."

Ayeka frowned slightly at that. It was irritating to be addressed so. She composed herself almost immediately and sat down near Shampoo. "Why do you do it Shampoo-san?"

"Do what? What new girl mean?"

"You were trained to be a leader of your people. They are a harsh people from what little I know, and yet you pretend to be less intelligent than you are. It is a puzzle."

"Does Ranma know?"

"No, I do not believe so. I don't think he ever learned to look for deception. It is possible he sensed it though."

"Will you tell him?"

"I won't lie to him." Ayeka scrunched her nose a little. "I can't really. He would sense a lie from me, but then I have no particular reason to bring it up either. I was just curious as to why?"

"Did you know that your are perhaps the only person other than Great Grandmother to notice and she happily plays along. It was a fun game to chase Ranma all over. Who knew that some would actually take the old laws seriously? It caused a bit of a mess back home which is part of the reason Great Grandmother left, and part of the reason I got my curse."

Ayeka remembered vaguely Shampoo's cursed form but the few memories were laced with such a menacing feel. "Yes, becoming a cat must have made things interesting with Ranma."

"Too, too right!" Shampoo said mirthfully. "Do you know what I really hate sometimes about being a cat?"

"No, what?"

"Cat's can't laugh. It comes out as sort of a pathetic mewling. But to see Ranma jumping around and acting like a kitty is so.."

"I know." A close look could see one small tear fall from Ayeka's right eye.

"You do?" asked Shampoo in confusion.

It was near the time when Ukyo took her own watch when they finished their stories. Ayeka for one found it odd that she was so open with Shampoo, even telling some of what she had not told Ranma. It was refreshing to talk with the Amazon and oddly wierd. It did truly seem that Shampoo had given up on him, or at least realized that it wouldn't work out. She wondered if her relationship with Ryoko wouldn't have been better if they hadn't been competing over Tenchi so much.

Of course, when that tiny little fact that Ranma had left out and she hadn't felt the need to add was revealed things might change. Ranma may be weak now, and in truth there was the possibility he would always be, but she didn't think so. She could feel the faint echo from his Jurai power when he was close and she thought it was getting stronger, but it was still hard to tell.


The ground was hard even with the blankets. Ukyo yawned quietly and glanced at her watch. It seemed time for her watch had come so there was little point in trying to go back to sleep. Ukyo grabbed her bag and took her position. She waved the pair back to where they had setup blankets. She yawned and said, "Go get some sleep. Its my turn."

Shampoo shrugged and walked off. Ayeka got up and with a simple, "Goodnight Ukyo-san." followed after.

Ukyo still didn't entirely understand all of what was going on, but then she was pretty sure no one else did either, except perhaps that Ayeka and she seemed uncertain as well. Well Ranchan, I used to get jealous of all the times you rescued Akane and not me, so I guess I asked for this. The thought failed to give any comfort. I wonder what kind of world this is? The people seemed normal enough from what she could tell earlier. Well it is not as if I had that much waiting for me in Nerima. Well there was Konatsu. He was sweet if nothing else, but being stuck here meant not having to tell her father that she had failed and that had to be a good thing, right? Besides Ranchan is here, even if it seemed he had finally chosen and I was so sure that given his options I'd win. Ukyo smirked and sighed. The last thought was a bitter one indeed. It figured if given three logical choices Ranma would find a fourth. He was annoying that way.

Ukyo yawned as she saw Ranma coming up to take his watch.

"My turn. Go get some rest.."

"What are we going to do?"

Ranma paused for a moment and then shrugged and answered, "I don't know. I suppose we shall have to learn about where we are and go from there."

"You act like being kidnapped and taken to an alien planet is a normal part of your week."

"Hey, given my skill at attracting weirdness, it is a normal part of my week, well year anyway."

Ukyo's expression and tone became more serious. "So, what about us...?"

Ranma gave a weary sigh. "What would you have me do?" He paused for a minute, not really expecting an answer and then continued, "I'm so very sorry Ukyo, but nothing has ever really changed in how I feel for you. I know I've told you many times. You are a precious friend that I don't want to lose, but that is all." He swallowed and wiped a tear from his cheek. "That is all." He pressed his lips together and tried to control his features.

"Bastard! You damn bastard!" The words were quiet, yet cutting. She reached for her battle spatula but let it go. She then ran off to where her pallet was in the back of the cave away from the others.

Ranma sighed. "Aye, perhaps I am." He hoped the others were still asleep. He really did not want company. His hopes would seem to have been in vain as Nabiki came into view.

"Hey Saotome."

"How much did you hear?"

"Who me?" Ranma gave her an exasperated look and she replied, "almost all I think. You know you did the right thing."

"Yes, but it still sucks."

"Yes, it does. So what about my sister?"

"What about her?"

"Are you mad at her or?"

"I think irritated is as close as anything. I'm never marrying her you know."

"I know. Your marrying Ayeka right?" Nabiki asked as if to confirm something, but her voice seemed less certain.

"You know I'm holding you to your original word."

"Hey that was yesterday or, ah heck okay, whatever just tell me."

Ranma smiled. "Does it matter so much?" It seemed he very much wanted an answer to that question himself. He continued, "If I can get married or at least engaged just for beating up a woman, then perhaps Ayeka and I are already married, or perhaps even more than that."

"Your not making a lot of sense Saotome."

"I do not think I will ever leave her side, nor do I think I will ever want to." He said this as a simple fact as if, to him, it was an obvious thing.

"So, she is that perfect eh Saotome?"

"Perfect?" Ranma tossed the word out as if testing it. "No, she is sometimes vain, a little obnoxious, occasionally stuck up and snooty. Not long ago she would have looked down on me as beneath her I think, and yet she is also beautiful, caring, kind, and patient. She has been through a lot. Someone she loved, more than she had ever loved anyone before, left her for another not long before I met her, yet she still saved me, and almost died doing it. Somehow, I remember what it felt like. It was as if she enfolded me in her very essence. It was indescribable. It was perfect. It was something I'll treasure always. So, no I don't think she is perfect, but then who is and what does it really matter?"

"Oh, okay."

"It is kind of fun to have the great Nabiki at a loss for words, but then I have been thinking of things for awhile, trying to find the answers. You still don't understand do you?" Ranma tilted his head one way as if listening for something.

"What? Of course I understand."

"No you don't." Nabiki grumbled, but waited for him to make his point. "There are many possibilities. Some are more likely than others. What if Akane had gotten over her tendency to anger and make snap irrational judgments? What if I stood up for myself from the beginning? What if our father's had not pushed so much? What if all the other fiancées never showed up, or what if I was given a true chance to choose. What if another had been picked or we never abandoned Ukyo? How about if I met Shampoo first in guy form?"

"So, what is your point? Are you trying to say it is all fate?"

"No, I'm saying it doesn't matter anymore. Many other roads were possible, but we are on this one, and so far I rather like this one." His smile grew as he said the last words. "Sure my fiancée just got kidnapped, if that is what we are, but I'm used to that. At least this time I've managed to avoid mallets, spatulas, and bombori and even had some fun times I want to remember for a change."

Nabiki yawned. It seemed a little forced. "Well, I'm going to get a bit more sleep. See you in the morning."

"Goodnight Nabiki."

Ranma continued to listen intently. It was hard to tell, but he was pretty sure they all heard most of that. He had thought that most of them were coming to grips with the idea that he might not choose them before the Akane incident, but it was really hard to tell. It had been almost two years after all. Nabiki was the surprise. Had he not met Ayeka, well who knows where life would have led, although he suspected it wouldn't have been here.

Author's Notes: This is a long chapter and took awhile to write. I try to avoid creating just another slight variation on the cannon arc or plots, but it can be challenging to keep things interesting. Outside ideas are welcomed. I wouldn't say that Ranma's fiancées problems are solved, but there is no one pushing them there and they have been in this game a long time. The next chapter will likely focus more on developing the story of the planet and how our heroes will fit in, or not. We might even find out what happened to Kuno.

I think I'll work on Kitten's Hope next. Let me know what you think of this. I did make some changes based on comments received, so the reviews do matter.


2005-08-04