Disclaimer: My name is not Rumiko Takahashi, nor am I related to her. Ranma 1/2 does not belong to me. It belongs to her.
There is an empty lot right that is just next to the Kuno compound. It was bought by the Kuno family in hopes of creating an additional building to the Kuno manor for guests to stay. Unfortunately that plan had gone on permanent hiatus. For, you see, the originator of that plan, one Saya Kuno, is dead.
The empty lot was a favorite place for young Tatewaki Kuno, age 6. It was a haven when Tatewaki wanted to be alone to train in kendo or to escape his father and sister's annoying habits. A large fence separated the lot from the Mansion and the outside world and its only known entrance is a locked get on side adjacent to the Kuno mansion. Only Tatewaki knew about the loose slats at the corner on the back, and it was through there that Tatewaki entered the lot and sat along the fence.
From his hiding place, Tatewaki can hear the traffic of people coming from and going into the Kuno mansion. Saya Kuno was a very popular and well loved in the community, and known for her kindness and patience, which some joked was probably a prerequisite to marrying into the Kuno family. The Kuno house was filled with guests that came to pay their respects to the departed and offer the surviving family members their condolences. Tatewaki did not care. He just wanted to be alone.
Unfortunately, it was not to be. The shuffling of the slats and approaching footsteps gave a clue that the hiding place has been compromised. Still, Tatewaki made no effort to move or even look up to acknowledge the intruder, hoping perhaps that they would take a hint an leave him alone. Once again, it was not meant to be as the intruder began to speak.
No! Not her! Anyone but her!
Tatewaki's fears were justified when the figure stopped and leaned over in an attempt to make eye contact. Indeed it was Nabiki Tendo, age 6, a classmate of Tatewaki. If one were to ask Tatewaki if evil existed, he would refer them to the girl currently looking at him with large brown eyes filled mischief. Granted, if it were any other girl the face staring back at Tatewaki would be kind of cute, but Tatewaki knew better.
Nabiki Tendo was one of the more popular girls in Tatewaki's class, and kids often flock to her. If there was any activity happening in the school, Nabiki Tendo was sure to be in the middle of it. To the teachers, Nabiki Tendo is a bright and well-mannered girl, but behind their backs, she is as devious as they come. And woe to any one who angers Nabiki Tendo, for they will join the other condemned souls that suffer under her wrath. These days it seems that Tatewaki is the only one on that list.
While Nabiki Tendo takes up one side of the popularity spectrum, Tatewaki is on the other side. Tatewaki is often shunned and sometimes mocked by the other children for his choice of living the samurai lifestyle. This confused Tatewaki. Why is it foolish to live the way of the samurai? It is a path steeped in tradition that leads many a man to greater glory. Shouldn't all men strive to be this way?
Apparently, some think that the samurai way is antiquated. One of those people happens to be Nabiki Tendo. Tatewaki remembered back on one of the times when Nabiki Tendo would actually come over and talk to him. What started off as a civil discussion what girls should do in the presence of men became a shouting match. Tatewaki does not know what exactly a sexist pig is, but it probably is not a good thing. Since then, Tatewaki was a marked man. That was also the day Nabiki Tendo started calling him "Kuno-chan", knowing that it annoys him to no end.
Sure, there were times when Nabiki was nice to him; she is still the only one who goes out of her way to talk to him, but the insults and pranks outweigh the good. There have many times that Tatewaki wished that Nabiki Tendo was born a boy so that he could smite him with out any loss of conscience, but fate was cruel for making his greatest adversary a girl.
"Pretty neat hiding place, Kuno-chan. I almost didn't find you..."
The girl kept rambling but Tatewaki was not paying attention. Tatewaki was smoldering. How dare that girl try to bother him on this day. If it were any other day, Tatewaki would put up with her antics. But not today.
"Kuno-chan? Are you listening, Kuno-chan? Kuno-ch--"
"Nabiki Tendo, you have on many occasions insulted and ridiculed me for offenses I have know not of."
Nabiki Tendo muttered a comment, but Tatewaki could not hear much it except for the word "moron." Never the less, he continued to speak.
"I have weathered with your insults, and your pranks before, but not now in my time of mourning. Please depart post haste"
"WILL YOU JUST LEAVE ME BE, YOU HELL-SPAWNED BITCH! JUST GO BACK TO WHATEVER HOLE THAT YOU CRAWLED FROM."
"There!" thought Tatewaki. "That should get rid of her."
Only it didn't. A glance towards her direction indicated that she was still there—a little red-faced, perhaps (it was the first time he's ever used profanity on her), but showing no indication of retreating. Instead, she sat on the ground next to him without saying a word.
They sat there for a longest time in uncomfortable silence not looking at each other. Part of Tatewaki wanted to leave, but pride kept him rooted. He was here first. He was the one hurting. Why can't she leave him alone? Tatewaki was about to launch another verbal assault, but was beaten to the punch by his adversary.
"You know, I don't know what to do if my momma died."
So prepared for, at best, a major tongue-lashing that Tatewaki almost did not hear Nabiki Tendo's words. Tatewaki looked at his tormentor and saw that she was off into the distance and not really paying attention to him. Perhaps he heard wrong.
"What was that?"
Nabiki Tendo looked at him and sighed, then she made her reply.
"I said that I wouldn't know what to do if my momma died. I mean daddy will be around--that's for sure--but he always hangs around the dojo with Akane. That's my little sister, by the way, but you wouldn't wanna meet her cuz she's not so nice."
Nabiki Tendo's face darkened, looked down, and started muttering to herself about her younger sister. Tatewaki did not catch most of it, but did hear the words "spoiled brat" and something about cookies. After finishing her internal rant, Nabiki Tendo look back up to Tatewaki and spoke again.
"Anyways, I know Daddy loves me and all, but he spends most of his time with the little monster. Big Sister Kasumi doesn't want to play with me anymore saying that she's too old for 'baby stuff'. That leaves Momma."
"Without Momma, who will go to the park with me? Who will read to me at night? Who will let me eat takoyaki with ketchup?" "Who will pat my head and say 'Nabiki! You are such a clever girl!' Who will do those things if she's not there?"
When it looked liked Nabiki Tendo was finished speaking Tatewaki just grunted and nodded. Still, these are similar questions that he must face soon. Well, maybe not too similar. Takoyaki and ketchup? Ugh! Tatewaki looked at the girl and noticed some hint of moisture in her eyes. Was she about to cry? Impossible! It must be a trick of the light. Once again, Nabiki Tendo broke the silence.
"Your mother was very pretty."
Tatewaki nodded. "… Yes. Very."
"Tell me about her."
After some hesitation, Tatewaki began to tell Nabiki Tendo about his mother. He told of her unsurpassed beauty and kindness, and of how her cooking is exquisite and how she is the funniest person in the world. He told Nabiki Tendo of how every day he would come home and receive a hug from her asking, "How is my little samurai?" In hindsight, Tatewaki decided that mentioning that last fact was a mistake. A tell-tale snicker confirmed this. Great. One more weapon in Nabiki Tendo's arsenal.
When it came her patience in handling bratty little sister's, a contest began between Nabiki Tendo and him to tell the worst little monster (little demon in Tatewaki's case) stories all the while laughing and giggling at the divine punishment bestowed on their by vengeful mothers.
The reminiscing and laughter continued until finally there came a point where it became difficult not to repeat some of the memories that he wanted to share with Nabiki Tendo. Tatewaki tried his hardest to remember more things to say about her mother but he couldn't. He then finally came to a startling realization.
"There is no more, is there? That's all that I can remember of my mother. That's all that there will ever be."
The tears started coming, but try as he might, Tatewaki could not hold them back. Once Tatwaki felt arms encircled him he gave up the fight and began sobbing in earnest onto Nabiki Tendo's shoulder. They stayed like that for a while until the sobs waned and the tears dried up. Tatewaki looked up at the sky and noticed the sun was setting.
"It's getting late."
Nabiki Tendo nodded. "I gotta go back home now."
Both of them began to go their separate ways. Tatewaki took only a few steps when he heard Nabiki Tendo call out to him.
Tatewaki turned around. Nabiki Tendo was facing him with a somewhat cautious look in her face.
"You're gonna be okay, right?"
Tatewaki nodded, which caused Nabiki Tendo's mood to brighten and she began to wear to her usually annoying smirk.
"Good! Cuz I'm gonna get you back for what you called me. There are things that you do not say to a lady, you know?"
This time it was Tatewaki's turn to smirk. "Then luckily a lady was not present when I said them."
"Ohhh good one! You're really gonna get it, Kuno-chan!"
They stared at each other in silence, not knowing what else to say. Finally, Tatewaki spoke.
"Nabiki Tendo. This incident with the tears -- it never happened. Do you understand? "
Nabiki Tendo just smiled.
"What are you talking about, Kuno-chan? Why would I be hanging around your house? I was playing in the park all day."
Tatewaki nodded. "Of course. My mistake"
"Anything else Kuno-chan?"
Yes there was. "Must you call me Kuno-chan?"
Nabiki Tendo placed her index finger on her chin pretending that she was in deep thought.
"Hmmmm. Let's see..."
Once again that infernal smirk appeared.
"Of course I have to, KUNO-CHAN! See ya!"
And with that, Nabiki Tendo walked off laughing. Tatekwaki could not help but smile at the silliness of it all.
Kuno returned to school a few days later, and Nabiki Tendo was ready and waiting. Though, not as annoying as she was normally (probably holding back no doubt), she was annoying enough to get under his skin. By the time the week ended, it was like any other day.
Two months have passed.
Tatewaki found himself on edge. The walk to school had been eerily quiet. Where was Nabiki Tendo? Shouldn't she come by with her daily teasing by now? Tatewaki half expected Nabiki Tendo to jump out of bushes screaming "Ninja!" or something in some silly effort to startle him, but the attack never came.
When Tatewaki entered the classroom, the mood was subdued. Usually there would be a lot of laughing and giggling in the vicinity of Nabiki Tendo's desk, but the desk was empty. There were other children milling around and Tatewaki heard comments like "Poor Nabiki", but that did not solve the mystery. Finally class started and Takayama-sensei made an announcement.
"Class, as you may already have heard, Nabiki Tendo is not here because her mother passed away last night. The funeral will be held tomorrow. If you chose, you may go to the Tendo Dojo to pay your respects to the departed."
The Tendo Dojo was very well known throughout Nerima. Its students where known to be formidable fighters and its master Soun Tendo was respected throughout the whole community and known for his strength of body as well his mind. Mrs. Tendo was also a pillar of the community. It was unsurprising that the turnout was quite large.
Tatewaki paid his respects to Mrs. Tendo and offered Tendo-sensei his condolences. The martial arts teach was trying his hardest to accept the passing of his wife with the stoic grace of a warrior but the tears in his eyes betrayed his true feelings.
Near Tendo-sensei were two girls; Nabiki Tendo's sister's no doubt. One of them was not that much older than him, had long brown hair and somewhat resembled Nabiki Tendo. The other was younger than he and one had short, black hair. While the older sister had made attempts at maintaining a cheerful façade, the younger sister was looking none to pleased at all the attention that she was getting and kept asking for her mother. There was no sign of Nabiki Tendo.
Tatewaki walked around to see if he could catch a glimpse of her around the premises. No such luck. It was by chance that he overheard a conversation by two women.
"At least she stopped suffering"
"She was a very strong woman"
"Imagine lasting a whole year in her condition."
"Most people would have succumbed a long time ago"
A long time ago…
Tatewaki found himself remembering an incident two months back in an empty lot where a girl was talking about her mother.
Without Momma, who will go to the park with me? Who will read to me at night? Who will let me eat takoyaki with ketchup?" "Who will pat my head and say 'Nabiki! You are such a clever girl!' Who will do those things if she's not there?
And then the realization hit him.
"She knew her mother was dying, yet she still sought to comfort me…"
Tatewaki's search became more frantic. He must find Nabiki Tendo. Tatewaki was at the point of despairing when he heard a voice call out behind him.
"Excuse me, but are you Tatewaki Kuno?"
Tatewaki turned around to address the speaker. It was the elder sister, Kasumi, if he remembered correctly.
Tatewaki nodded. "Yes I am. How did you know."
Kasumi Tendo blushed. "It's your outfit. Nabiki often talks about a boy named Tatewaki Kuno, who dresses like a samurai, so I figured that you fit the bill."
Tatewaki could sense that the elder Tendo sister was holding back some information (probably an embarrassing story or something similar), but that did not matter.
"Tendo-san. Could you please direct me to the whereabouts of Nabiki Tendo?"
Kasumi Tendo thought for a moment. "You could try the park. It's one of Nabiki-chan's favorite places. Mother used to take her there all the time."
"Thank you Tendo-san"
And with that, Tatewaki left the Tendo compound.
Tatewaki found Nabiki Tendo over at the swing sets. She didn't notice him. She didn't notice much of anything as her eyes were staring lifelessly into the horizon. This was not the girl that Tatewaki new. The fire that fueled her has completely extinguished by her mother's death, a feeling that Tatewaki knew so well. His own feeling of loss crept back into Tatewaki as he was staring into Nabiki Tendo's vacant expression. That is when doubt crept into Tatewaki's mind.
I cannot do this. I need to get away. But she helped you when you were in need? Should you not return the favor in kind? No! Not when my own wounds are still fresh.
Thanking whatever gods to give him the fortune of not being noticed, Tatewaki proceeded to leave the area. He only took a few steps when he heard a quiet voice behind him call out.
Tatewaki stopped in his tracks.
Turn around. Turn around and say something. "In know what you are going through, Nabiki Tendo. ""It will be okay, Nabiki Tendo."
Instead Tatewaki broke into a run. That night Tatewaki cried, wallowing in his self-pity, and cursed his cowardice.
Nabiki Tendo did not return to school for many days. Rumors started surfacing that she was sick and had to go to a doctor which treats the head or something like that. When she did return, Nabiki Tendo wore the same lifeless expression that Tatewaki saw in the park. Many of her old friends made attempts at talking to her, but it did no good. Eventually, they gave up trying and abandoned her.
Nabiki Tendo eventually began talking again. She even began to tease Tatewaki, though not nearly as much as before. Still, Nabiki Tendo was nowhere near her old self. While maintaining a cheerful demeanor, this new Nabiki Tendo kept everyone at arms-length, while the old one would welcome and embrace them. This Nabiki Tendo did not want to be in the thick of things, and was rather contented to be in the wings watching the action.
Once every year this cheerful façade will disappear and she will become sullen and unapproachable. Tatewaki made the mistake of talking to her during one of those days and received a cold, hard glare in return. That was the last time Tatewaki had made any such attempt.
And then there was this money fixation. If there was a yen to be made whether by legitimate or shady means, Nabiki Tendo was there to collect. It is this fixation that provided a mechanism to for Tatewaki to speak with her these days.
This time it was to pay for pictures of her younger sister, Akane and the mysterious pig-tailed girl that fell from the sky one day. Both girls were vibrant and full of vigor and fire that attracted Tatewaki, and made him recall the fire that one girl used to have years ago. The fact that both Akane and the pig-tailed girl were prime specimens of femininity also didn't hurt. He was a man after all.
"Robbery! You sold more pictures to me last week, Nabiki Tendo. What, pray tell, has driven up the price of these pictures."
"Let's see. We have parts--"
"You used the same camera!"
"Wear and tear, Kuno-chan. Wear and tear. Don't forget labor. Do you know how long I have to wait to capture the perfect moment on film? Then we have artistic quality--you have to admit those are the finest I have ever taken. The yen is kind of weak this week as well, so I gotta compensate. Add the usual markup for overhead, which includes marketing and handling fees, and that leaves you a grand total of 10000 yen"
"You said they cost 7500 yen!"
"Had to add the "don't ever question my numbers" fee. Wait a minute. You did it again, didn't you? Oh well, 12500 yen."
Tatewaki gave a sigh of defeat. It's better to end this now.
"Fine. Take the money. The negatives are part of the package as well?" A picture isn't any good if it's not life-sized, right?
"Of course, Kuno-Chan"
The money was collected and Tatewaki received the pictures plus the negatives.
"It's a pleasure doing business with you, Kuno-chan" And with that, Nabiki Tendo walked away.
As he watched Nabiki Tendo's retreating figure Tatewaki revisited what has transpired. 12500 yen isn't really too bad, all things considered. It was nothing compared to what was owed on park a long time ago. Since then, there were no opportunities to redeem himself. In the mean time he will stay close and watch over her, and maybe another opportunity will come to settle the debt.
Okay! I'm finally done with this monstrosity. I really didn't think that it would be this long. The funny thing is that this was supposed to be a side story to an even longer story that sort of fizzled out. I couldn't figure out how to plot the big story. Somehow, the side story kept nagging in my head until I said "Fudge it! One-shot it is!"...or something like that.
You may have notice all the repitition of "Nabiki Tendo" throughout the story. This is my weak attempt at trying to emulate Kuno's point of view. Somehow I got the feeling that Kuno does not like using pronouns and thus I used them sparingly. I also realized that I can't do Kuno too well. Oh well.
For the record, I am NOT a fan of a Nabiki/Kuno pairing. I just don't see them clicking. This story was supposed to reinfoce this as Kuno disappointed Nabiki on her time of need.
I haven't decided what to write next. Maybe I might finish the Totoro story, or maybe I might start some other. There are still too many ideas floating in my head.
Okay. I'll stop writing now.