Out of Sight, Out of Mind
"All's well that ends...?"
The sections that follow are excerpts of what happened before Nabiki found Ranma.
The 'Present Day' title starts from where we left off in the previous chapter.
Two months ago
"Hey it's not my fault!"
A loud crash followed by splintering wood could be heard cracking.
"Oh, and that isn't, is it?"
"Argh! Hand me more wood!"
The thrum of wire snagging around spare planks of wood echoed in the chamber, before twanging away sending them down the hatch to the recipient.
Monlon wiped her forehead, the helm still being piloted carefully. "Unbelievable, that wimp..."
Beneath the decks, Lime sneezed loudly.
"I heard that!" He shouted up.
Sighing woefully, he put some long nails between his teeth and began banging away at the ship's hull, repairing the holes wrenched away by the low tide. He slid another plank into place.
"Who does she think she is?" He muttered as he spat two nails into the wood, before taking a hammer to them. "Ruling over me like that..."
"Hey! No talking down there! I want to hear you working!" Monlon shouted, her brow furrowed as she navigated the unnaturally shallow river back to her home.
"Sarutoru would have done this much better than me!" Lime cried out.
"Maybe..." Monlon replied, her voice less harsh now. "But he's back home now in Togenkyo." She looked ahead. "We're going to stop here, there's a natural dock, come, get this ship moored!"
Lime obliged at top speed.
An hour later
"Anything in particular you want to eat?" Lime asked courteously.
From Togenkyo, they had managed to barter a small portion of the gold in the ship for a large pickle jar, in order for Monlon's stomach to readjust to Nekonron food style. It was half empty, but she still craved the odd delicacy.
"I don't know..." The last time Lime went hunting, he came back with a whole deer, and he didn't hesitate in munching down most of it in front of her. "Nothing too big for me, think a rabbit will be fine."
"Okay... No problem..." Lime attuned his nose to search for that particular scent and ran off.
"And don't come back with a bear like last time!"
Thirty minutes later
Lime had just finished cooking the rabbit, and was delighted at finding a fox for himself. Monlon sat nearby, waiting for him to serve her.
She received a clean leaf with tiny pieces of cooked rabbit cut up for her. "This looks excellent, Lime, thank you."
He blushed slightly, and then bowed awkwardly. "Ah... It... It was nothing... Monlon..."
As they sat opposite each other, they glanced at each other at the same time. They had both been acknowledged for the first time, called by their first names.
As Lime began to dig in on his fox dinner, he tried to hide his mouth from Monlon, seeing as how she nearly threw up the previous time. He paused during his meal to look up at the darkening sky.
"Still can't forget her?" Monlon asked kindly.
Lime's face was pained. "Yeah..." He looked down at his meal. "I miss her... Nothing seems to taste the same without her."
Monlon smiled knowingly. "I suppose so... When you're around the one you love, everything is perfect, the food, the environment, the fights, nothing seems to go bad. When you're not... Well, everything is different."
Lime smiled wanly. "I guess..."
Monlon sighed and got up, sitting next to the tiger man. "Nabiki was special to you, but you have to remember that she wasn't interested in a relationship. However, she thinks of you a friend, you should respect that."
Lime nodded once. "I know... It's just... difficult." He looked at Monlon. "How could I ever like another woman if Nabiki is still in me?"
Monlon closed her eyes slowly. "Life is all about change. Sometimes you have to make important decisions. This is one of those decisions. Do you want to pine over Nabiki forever, and die a lonely man? Or, do you want to accept just being her friend, and maybe find true love elsewhere in another woman?"
Lime stared wide-eyed at Monlon, before looking back to the fire. "Yeah... That's it... I have to decide..."
He watched a leaf danced above the flames, only to be set alight against the purple sky.
"I have to choose now..."
Two weeks later
"You pervert! Do you know how rude it is to peek in on a lady?!"
A scuffle outside the royal baths erupted between Mint and Lime, the latter being the more aggressive, whereas the former was barely able to defend against his powerful blows. The steam wafted out of the baths, as a short figure emerged, clad in a towel. Her elfin features and tri-coloured hair were unmistakable.
Herb smiled. "Thank you for protecting my female dignity, Lime." She fired a ki blast at Mint, the wolf boy bouncing several times against the rocky walls to lie still by the outer doors. "However..." She turned her red eyes at him. "That does not explain why you just happened to be here."
"Umm..." Lime began to sweat fast. "I... It was because..." He gave a wan smile.
"I see..." Herb's anger cross pulsed as her fist glowed silver. "Then you shall be punished!"
Another ball of ki hit Lime, but he didn't move, and allowed it to smash him around the room, until he landed on top of Mint, unconscious, but with a smile on his face.
Herb breathed deeply and tightened the towel around her body. She looked at the two retainers and smiled to herself.
"Well, this is a surprise, I'll have to compensate Nabiki for putting up with Lime, and for training him in the art of subtlety and manners." She grinned further. "Perhaps I can do the same with Mint..."
Herb retired back to the baths, and laughed out loud to herself.
Six weeks ago
Elsewhere in China
"Is this the place?"
A bedraggled figure pulled out a tattered map and a small piece of paper with a name and address. He looked up to see the sign stating where he was, and he smiled.
"I made it…"
Putting the paper away, he strode in to the village, ignoring the people and their wide-eyed stares at his outfit. Moving through the streets effortlessly, he found his way to a modest but respectable house.
Twisting his hand-held weapon of choice backwards, he rapped on the door.
"Yes?" A short blonde girl with a hat or some sort opened the door up, only to gasp in surprise. "Kirin-sama?"
"Yes, it is I." He bowed to her. "I have looking for you Lychee…"
"You look terrible!" She saw the edges of his cape had frayed and that his clothes were somewhat dirty. "Please, come in and let me make you some tea."
"That would be…" He thought for a moment, forgetting who he was speaking to. "… appreciated."
Lychee smiled and moved out of the way for Kirin to enter. Closing the door behind her, she made her way to the small kitchenette and boiled some water, preparing the cups in advance and tea leaves.
"So, what brings you here, Kirin-sama?" She asked casually, whilst pouring the hot water into the cups.
He waited for her to deliver the tea and took a quick sip of it, smiling at the taste of it. "I have come to bring you back to Nekonron." Seeing her frightened look, he cursed himself. "Sorry, that didn't come out right…" He closed his eyes and remained calm, remembering what Nabiki told him. "I have come to apologise for my actions to you a while back…"
Lychee smiled at him, though it was looking a little strained. "So, do you think I still 'hold a candle' for Ranma then?" Her eyes were challenging him by the fire burning in them.
He shook his head. "No, after a conversation with a friend, I realise that things are different to the way I imagined them." His eyes flashed back to that time when he shouted at Lychee. "I was boorish, and cared not for your feelings, but for my own pathetic insecurities. This blindness led me to judge you in ways I shouldn't have."
He lowered his bowl and chopsticks, placing both on the table. Lychee opened her mouth in mild shock, never having seen him do such a thing before, and held her hands to her mouth. He bowed his head, hands touching the table.
"I am sorry, Lychee, will you forgive me?"
Her eyes grew tear globules, and she sniffed loudly. "Yes, of course Kirin-sama…" She took a sip of her own tea to steady her nerves. "But, who made you think this way?"
Kirin looked back and a small smile. "A friend, someone who just happened to wonder into my palace, managed to solve my most demanding opponent yet, love." He stared at Lychee. "I should never have doubted your word." He passed his gaze over the small house. "Have you been living comfortably here?"
Lychee nodded. "Yes, my parents left me this house when they passed away, but it has been a bit lonely without y- someone to talk to…"
"I see…" Kirin nodded. "The same can be said for me, I sent out some of my men to look for you, but I never thought to come and find your village."
Lychee smiled happily. "Well… It doesn't matter now, you've found me, so let's talk about something else shall we?" She put a finger to her cheek, then lit up. "I know! How is your Ultimate Pickle recipe?"
"Well… We need to get the necessary herbs and vinegar; it's taking us time to do that. However I'm sure we will get it done in a few months."
They both smiled, knowing that their relationship was on the mend.
One month ago
Akane sat at her desk, writing away as the teacher droned on about some Japanese history. Her face was screwed up, trying to finish off her notes before he moved on to the next topic. Thankfully, for her and the class, the bell went.
"Okay class, remember the homework I set you, I want you to have it for next week. Off you go!"
The stampede nearly took him out as everyone ran out, but he managed to dodge out of the way in time. Akane wasn't one of them, choosing to walk out at a sedate pace. Clutching her bag near her chest, she began to feel warm.
"At least that strange winter has passed..."
The static of the school intercom crackled onto the speakers, and the unmistakable voice echoed around the building.
"Hello there keiki!" The headmaster's jolly tone sent shivers down everyone's backs. "Don' be forgettin', dis week is Tardy Week! Come in late to school, an' you be sitting detention with me. Too many times an' you be getting buzz cuts as punishment!" He laughed to himself. "See you next time keiki!" The intercom shut off.
Akane sighed, and walked by a room where three elder kids were beating up a first year. About to burst in to teach them a lesson, she was floored by the child Hinako bouncing in.
"Delinquents! Leave that boy alone! Happo Five Yen Satsu!"
Sucking the ki from the three bullies, they slumped to the ground, drained of all their power. The adult Hinako stood over them superiorly. "Let that be a lesson to you, no one bullies anyone in my school!"
Akane nodded approvingly and eventually reached her shoe locker, opening it to withdraw her pair, only to find a box inside with a note on top. Taking that out first, she saw that was from the usual person.
"To the fiery Akane Tendo,
My one true love, these chocolates alone cannot describe the sweetness you have brought into my life. Might I be so bold as to ask for a date tonight? I will send my servant to your home at 6 o'clock sharp, where you may give him your reply.
She folded the note away inside her bag and put her shoes on, before finally taking the box.
"Idiot..." She muttered under her breath, but a gentle smile adorned her face.
Walking off school grounds, she glanced off to one side-street and saw a terrified Gosunkugi being chased by a somewhat lusty Kodachi close behind him. Scratching her head briefly, she shrugged as it wasn't any of her business.
20 minutes later
Taking a detour from her usual route, she chose to visit her friend, walking onto a somewhat main street, where people were crowding around a restaurant eating from small tables and chairs outside. Akane popped her head inside and smiled as the owner recognised her.
"Akane! Please come in!" Moving aside the standard place for her, Akane sat down opposite the grill.
"How've you been, Ukyo?"
"Oh, things are great here sugar..." Ukyo nodded to another customer and added an extra layer of red peppers. "I got enough money to put some stuff outside, this way I get more customers. Someone said it looks a bit Mediterranean now..."
Akane shook her head. "No... I think it looks just fine."
Ukyo scooped up the okonomiyaki and shovelled it on a plate, flinging it through the air where a beautiful woman in a kimono caught it. "Konatsu-honey! Take that to Table Two please!"
"Right away Ukyo-sama!" He did his job, act feminine for the customers who didn't know his secret, but also to wink mischievously at those who knew his true identity.
Ukyo turned back to her favourite customer. "The usual, sugar?"
"Yes please!" Akane liked a small appetiser before having her full dinner. She withdrew her purse from her school bag.
"Oh, don't worry, this is on the house." Ukyo remarked as she flipped the meal.
"Are you sure? I can pay you know..." Akane wasn't sure about getting a free meal.
"It's okay, once in a while I'm allowed to treat my friends..." She winked at Akane. "Right?"
Akane brightened up. "Okay Ukyo!" She pulled out the box of chocolates. "Would you like one?"
The chef nodded and pulled one rosy one out. "Mmm..." She chewed it slowly, all the while keeping an eye out on the food she was making. "This is lush!" She saw the box it came in. "Kuno give it to you?"
Akane nodded hesitantly.
"You know, he has been really gentleman-like these past few months..." Ukyo mused, before adding her sauce on the snack. "I mean, when was the last time he tried to jump you?"
Akane shook her head. "I don't even remember... He wears the school uniform now, and leaves his bokken at home..." She scratched her chin pensively. "It's like he's a completely different person..."
"Or, maybe something got into him..." Ukyo looked at Akane with a wry grin before continuing, handing her order over. "Love can do that to a person."
"Ukyo-sama, Tables Three and Four are empty." Konatsu was carrying several plates and was walking behind her.
"Thanks Konatsu-honey, just wash those and relax for a bit, the rush hour is over." She looked back to see Akane smiling back at her. "What?"
"Looks like something, or someone, got into you..." Akane took another bite out of her okonomiyaki, allowing Ukyo to blush without teasing her. She decided to change the subject back to herself. "I still don't know about Kuno though... He's asked me on a date this time, by note."
Ukyo shrugged. "Up to you, sugar. We both know him, he was a creep for one year, then he changed and treats you like a girl, not some trophy. I say go for it, if he tries pulling the moves on you in the first date, then you know he hasn't changed. Otherwise... Give him a chance, you never know..."
Akane polished off her tasty meal and nodded enthusiastically, standing up. "Okay, I'll accept him, for today." She held her fist and grinned evilly. "I can just punch him away if he does anything."
Ukyo slapped her heartily on the back, trying not to burn herself on the grill. "That's the spirit!" Akane walked away to the door and was about to leave before Ukyo chimed in again. "Go get him girl!"
Akane facefaulted onto the ground outside.
Later that evening
"Kasumi, could you help me with these earrings?"
"Of course, Akane."
The eldest Tendo girl moved behind the youngest and helped to fasten two small sparkling earrings through the ear lobes.
"Does this dress look okay?"
She moved away so the Kasumi could see all of her. It was a conservative long dress, black with blue tinges, as well as a shimmering if the light shone on it in a particular fashion.
"You look very pretty, Akane." Kasumi smiled, her face lighting up further than usual. "You must really want to impress Tatewaki."
Akane held a pensive look. "Not really… He said I was going to some fancy place to eat, and that I needed to wear something formal." She looked desperately at Kasumi. "Are you sure I look good enough in this? My arms are all muscly, and my hair's too short…"
Kasumi held her hands on both of Akane's cheeks and titled her head upward to look into the eldest Tendo's eyes. "You are beautiful, Akane. Don't let your insecurities affect you. You are the reason that all the boys follow you everywhere, because you are beautiful, especially when you smile." Kasumi released her youngest sister and watched her carefully, again flashing that brilliant smile at her. "If you smiled a bit more, you would realise it yourself one day…"
Akane blushed at herself, then nodded vigorously. "Okay, Kasumi. I'll make more of an effort to smile."
The serene one passed her a matching handbag. "I'm glad, Akane." A short car horn could be heard outside. "That must be your date. Go and have fun."
She tentatively walked out of the room, Kasumi close behind her, and they descended the steps together. There was a knocking on the door, and Akane began to shiver. Kasumi's gentle arm on her shoulder relaxed her.
"There, no one is asking you to be anyone different, try to be yourself. A date isn't something permanent, you don't even have to see the person again if you don't like him. Just have fun for tonight."
"I'll try… But it's with Kuno…"
"Well… He's been better with you. Try not to let your past with him affect the way the date goes."
"O-Okay sister…" Akane nervously walked up to the front door, and opened it.
Standing there was a handsome man in a formal tuxedo, with a bouquet of roses. Kuno bowed.
"Akane Tendo, you are a vision of a goddess, this paltry gift of flowers pales in comparison to your beauty." He held them out in front of him. "Please, accept them." Akane blushed furiously, looking at the exquisitely cut stems wrapped in an elaborate silk. She walked behind her and handed them to Kasumi.
"Th-Thanks Kuno, Kasumi will put them in water." She walked up to him nervously, afraid he might try and jump her.
"Well, then, shall we go?" He held his arm to his side, indicating the limousine parked outside.
Akane swallowed once, and nodded.
Ten minutes later
Elsewhere in Nerima
Akane had her door opened by and neatly dressed Sasuke, and Kuno escorted her to the door of the restaurant. She stared, boggling at the sheer wealth displayed in the region.
"Umm, Kuno, are sure about this?"
"Of course!" He smiled proudly. "My family frequently visit this place. "He walked up to the reception. "I have a reservation, under the name of Tatewaki Kuno and Akane Tendo."
The maitre d' looked down at his list, then at the girl. "Tendo?" He nodded sagely upon looking at the blue haired girl, and seeing the family resemblance. "Very well, sir and madam, would you care to follow me this way?"
Kuno strode in, followed closely by Akane, as they began their first real date.
Elsewhere in Japan
A figure strolled past a window, realising that it was the right one, and knocked on the door.
"It's me…" The person replied.
A short gasp and the door was flung open, as the figure fell inside.
Akari was struggling to hold onto him, his weight was making her legs quake. He took a few moments to wake up.
"Sorry Akari, I'm just… tired…"
She looked a little guilty. "I know, I'm sorry, it's my fault, I shouldn't have asked you to get the milk, I forgot."
He smiled wanly. "It's okay, I guess I didn't remember too, I couldn't find my way back." He held out a shopping bag for her. "Here's the milk you wanted."
Akari hesitantly took the bag and pulled out the one litre carton and shook it, hearing only a solid wet noise sliding up an down inside.
Ryoga blushed, putting a hand behind his head. "Well, it is a week old, and I didn't have a fridge anywhere… But if you like cheese, then it should be of some use…"
Akari sighed and smiled lovingly at him, throwing away the rancid carton into the bin. "It's okay Ryoga-kun, I'll get another one. First come here…" His rucksack was deposited at the entrance, along with his boots, which he thoughtfully took off when he came in. She watched as he meandered around a table and two chairs, despite there being no obstacles in the way, and he stood in front of her.
Picking up a jug of water from her dinner, she poured it over him, and wasn't surprised when the clothes hovered in midair for a moment, before flumping uselessly to the ground.
Rummaging inside the loose articles of clothing, she found the somewhat despondent black piglet staring up at her. Cradling him in her arms, she nuzzled against his snout, kissing him on the forehead.
"All that travelling must have been hard you, I think it's time you have a long good scrub, what do you think?"
P-chan's eyes widened, as a small trickle of blood leaked from one of its nostrils, but he looked into Akari's sensual eyes and he nodded mutely.
Humming happily away to herself, Akari walked off towards the bathroom, ready to give her boyfriend the pampering he deserved.
Later that evening
Akane returned, her mood somewhat happier. Kuno was polite all evening, and despite his occasional ramblings of how beautiful she was, they managed to have a long, coherent conversation.
She walked by the dojo with a spring in her step, hearing her father teaching children some basic moves, whilst Genma was in the backyard teaching three of the top students some more advanced techniques.
"Come on, boy! You can do better than that!" A short battle cry and followed by a loud splash. "You see, you need to improve your speed. Kasumi will take care of you now."
Akane peeked around the corner to see her eldest sister use a towel to dry one of the ten-year-olds. She looked right to see Genma staring proudly at the boy, until a punch into his back from a nine-year-old girl made him pause in his thoughts.
"A good hit." He made a defensive posture. "But you're a girl, you're too weak as you are, but you're fast -"
His tirade was interrupted by a mallet to his head, sending him skidding into the pond. Akane dusted her hands off, handing back the weapon to her sister. Akane winked at the little girl. "Girls can be strong too, just get some upper body strength first."
The girl nodded back, and giggled as the panda rose from the waters. Akane gave it an angry stare and walked inside. Kasumi had finished drying the child and followed her upstairs to her own room.
"How was it?"
"The date was fine..." She shook her head. "No, in fact, it was good... Kuno did lay it on thick though with his compliments."
"Well, it's early days yet..." Kasumi helped Akane take off her earrings, which had begun to itch her.
"Still..." Akane looked down. "It's a shame I can't share this news with everyone... I wish I could ask her for help on this..."
Kasumi looked off to the side, where a familiar bird statue stood. "I wouldn't worry, I'm sure she will be able to give some pointers..."
Akane sighed and removed the rest of her jewellery, and looked up out of the window, to the night sky.
"Where are you, Nabiki?"
1 minute later
Nabiki broke away from the kiss, her heart pounding fast, her breathing heavy.
"Wow… I never thought you were such a good kisser, Ranma…"
The beet red man was staring at her with shock, and managed to stammer out a reply. "W-Well… Back in Nerima, Shampoo did force me into loads of kisses, I kinda learned from each one. I just never kissed anyone when I wanted to…"
"Heh…" Nabiki smirked. "Sounds about right…"
"So…" Ranma scratched his cheek nervously. "What are you gonna do now?"
Nabiki took a moment to let him sweat it out. "I think I'll stay here for a bit. You told me that you can only use that technique on me after week, so I'll make it worth your while to keep me around for longer than that…"
"How're you going to do that?"
The house darkened as the sky overhead clouded over. A prompt shower drenched the land and the house. The inside was surprisingly dry for such an old home, however, right above Ranma, a portion of wood gave way and soaked the individual beneath it.
Cursing to herself Ranma grumbled and began to squeeze the bottom part of her silk top. Nabiki raised an eyebrow, and then chuckled.
"Well, once this rain stops, my advice to you is to get some new planks of wood and do up the roof first. The house must be dry for us to live here."
She smiled as Ranma nodded obediently.
One week later
Nabiki sat there while Ranma prepared lunch, with some eggs from the neighbouring farm, rice and herbs. He laid the plates out in front of them at the table, and ate pensively.
"Yen for your thoughts, Ranma?"
He smirked back. "What, only one? I'm not the bargain bin, Nabiki."
She quivered a little. Perhaps I shouldn't have been teaching him how to fight back with words… "You're right, you should just tell me for free before I bankrupt you further."
Ranma gulped loudly, and loosened his already loose shirt. "Well… It's been a week since you arrived…"
Nabiki nodded, knowing this was coming. "And now you have to make a decision." She put down her knife and fork. "I'm not going to stop you if you want to get rid of me, just make sure you tie up all the loose ends, my sister knows that I've been looking for you." He frowned at seeing the same bird messenger as his during the week. "So, what's your final choice?"
Ranma stood up and walked over to the kitchen area, where the window looked out over the bare land where the foundations for his dojo were. He looked back once at her before gazing out again.
"All my life, I was taught only to be one thing, the greatest martial artist ever. I'm sure that I'm nearly there, just a little more power…" He clenched his fist. "Things changed though… Pops 'introduced me' to you guys, and I ended up with an engagement… You know the rest, Ukyo, Shampoo, even others like Kodachi and…" He shuddered briefly. "Kuno… My reasons changed from getting a cure, to not marrying someone, to becoming manly, and all the rest…"
He turned around and faced Nabiki. "When I was in Nerima, my ultimate goal was lost, I couldn't be best in the middle of all that…" He strode forwards and sat down. "Now, I escaped, and I'm here, all alone, and with a great chance to finally show the world how good I am… But…" Here he paused for a while, thinking. "I forgot, whenever I was learned to fight, I was with someone. Pops may have been a lousy dad, but he was a great fighter. Even now I can't fight him full out, he invented the sealed techniques. I'd just barely beat him, and the only reason why is because he's getting old."
Nabiki raised an eyebrow. "But I'm not like your dad, you saw the scar, I get hurt easy, like a normal human. I can't spar with you."
He agreed. "Yeah, but I could teach you…" He saw her look of disbelief. "Well, I don't think you'll beat me, but you'd be my first student, and I'll at least give you lessons in how to defend yourself. Those Yakuza are still out there."
Her face darkened. "Yeah, I guess you're right…" She puzzled over everything. "So you want me to stay so you can teach me? Is that the only reason?" Perhaps I'm fishing too deeply…
Ranma leaned back in his chair and peered at the ceiling, concentrating hard on something. "Nah, I guess I can't lie to you, Nabiki." He sat up straight and stared into her face. "What I'm trying to say is, it's lonely here… I never get any guests, and I miss other people. Friends are even rarer…"
Nabiki grinned. "You're right, we are friends after all."
His ego inflated once more. "Yeah, you know how they say, 'It's lonely at the top'."
Nabiki 'hmphed' and stood up, taking her plate with her, casually spilling her water on Ranma. "Maybe… But girls don't end up at the top. Remember that, Ranma." She chuckled to herself. "I'd love to stay with you, so long as you don't get any high-and-mighty ideas about what women are supposed to do around the house."
Growling slightly over the new gender, the redhead calmed down. She then started laughing to herself. "You know what's funny? About when I left Nerima?"
"No…" Nabiki sat next to him. "Do tell."
"One person knew I was leaving, and was awake to see me…"
"What?!" Nabiki had Ranma lifted up by her collar. "Don't tell me this is more of those memories of mine –"
"Ack! Leggo! It wasn't you, I promise!" Ranma was fairly helpless by the purple glowing Nabiki, and she lowered her slowly. "Nah, you won't believe who it was. It was Kasumi…"
"Kasumi?!" Nabiki's jaw dropped for a few seconds. "Please tell me you're joking…"
He was adamant. "She was in her room, and she was still awake when I came to burn that incense thing…"
"What did she say?" Nabiki was fascinated that her own demure sister could catch Ranma out.
"She figured out I was leaving, she saw that I had begun to get rid of a few things from the house early, things with me on them. She said that seeing my bag packed and ready was the final clue."
"Gees… I told you not to do that…" Nabiki scolded. "What next?"
"She asked me why… And I told her… Everything… I couldn't lie to Kasumi, you know how nice she is… was…" Ranma smiled warmly. "She hugged me… I…" She choked up. "I hadn't felt so loved since… Since I left my mum…"
Nabiki gazed at him sympathetically. "I'm sorry, Ranma…"
This apparently strengthened the redhead, and she took in a deep breath. "It's not your fault, I just didn't expect her to just listen to me and understand everything…" Ranma gripped her knees and squeezed. "She assumed that I was going to do something about the memory, and asked me what she had to do… I told her to lie in bed…" She stopped talking, and blew out roughly, the wet fringe now flopping off to one side. "Kasumi forgave me, she said she couldn't hate me for wanting to leave, and she didn't try to stop me…" She closed her eyes.
Nabiki continued the thought. "And you burned the incense compound… Kasumi forgot like all the others."
Ranma nodded, still with her eyes closed.
"Still, it doesn't matter any more, if you want we can invite her and give her those memories back. I'm positive she won't tell anyone…"
Ranma seemed happier at this point. "I'd like that…"
Nabiki crossed her arms. "It would also be good, she could spy for us, especially on Shampoo. In case any more of the Amazons decide to come and check up from the contents of the letter you had Cologne send them, we can have a warning in advance…"
Ranma waved her off. "Don't worry, it's something they can't do. Remember, Cologne is – was – an elder. They can't doubt her word. Honour thing, you know… This was is best, they won't go back to China, and no more of them will come looking for me."
Nabiki sighed. "I thought you had Herb kill all of them for a moment… I'm glad that this 'retirement' dispatch worked."
Ranma puffed out her chest. "Of course! I'm Ranma Saotome!"
"Yeah, yeah… Heard it all before…" Nabiki quipped mildly. "Even with all your power you were beaten up badly by yourself after that Nekoken attack…"
"Bah, that wasn't my fault! It was the Kinjakan!"
"Huh?" This is new… "What do you mean…?"
"Oh… Oops… I didn't tell you, that fiery wheel powered the Hiryu Shoten Ha, and didn't stop for about ten minutes… At least that's what time I woke up after I fell…"
"Are you crazy?! You could've burned the city down!" Nabiki yelled.
She shrugged innocently. "Well, I didn't, so what's the problem?"
Nabiki threw her arms up in frustration.
"So, what do you think you'll do around here?" Ranma asked.
"I'm not sure, I'll see if any jobs are going in the town, maybe finish off my school studies and just take the exams from here. If not, I'll go back to Nerima just to do them."
"What kinda job you looking for?" Ranma asked, flicking some stray water droplets away from her.
"Anything to do with finance would be a plus. Otherwise working in business would be fine for me." Although, the chances of a young woman progressing far is low…
"Great, I'm sure you'll do well!" Ranma was enthusiastic at her prospects.
"I'll also make sure that we're legally allowed to live here, and to get some planning permission for your dojo, maybe a look in to getting electricity, water and phone lines patched over to here."
"Umm, yeah…" He looked confused. "I never needed them, but if you think they're important…"
Nabiki rolled her eyes. "Yes, they are needed, how am I going to use my laptop without electricity?"
Ranma stared at her in mild amusement. "Maybe you don't need one, ever thought about that?"
The evil stare back didn't faze the redhead at all. Ranma started laughing and leaned back in her chair. The happy expression grew to a serious one again and the focus shifted to Nabiki.
"I'm glad you're staying, it would have been… difficult, otherwise…"
"I know… I can imagine what it must feel like…" Nabiki stood up and walked over to her, putting a hand on Ranma's shoulder. "I'm here to stay, you're not getting rid of me that easily."
Her truthful grin banished all the insecurities of the person in front of her, and Ranma held Nabiki's hand as she stood up to face her.
"Thank you, Nabiki… It's nice to have a friend…" She wondered out loud.
"Oh?" Nabiki fluttered her eyelids to a half-open state. "Didn't I mention last week that we moved beyond that stage?"
Ranma coughed uncomfortably. "O-Oh yeah… I forgot…"
Nabiki stepped closer, but paused. "Could you get some hot water and change back to a guy?"
The flash of pain was blatantly obvious to Nabiki, but Ranma still went to the stove and pulled off a lightly heated kettle. Pouring the warm water over himself, Ranma reverted to his true gender.
"Is this good enough?" Ranma asked, a hint of anger and spite in his voice.
"Ranma…" Nabiki purred, and looped her arms around him. "Don't be that way, I know you're still the same person inside. I just have to get used to the idea. I'm not like Akane or Shampoo…"
She pressed her body against his and kissed him, casually flicking her tongue past his lips. Moaning with satisfaction, she was happy to feel Ranma loosening up greatly. Removing one arm, she picked up his old glass of water from the table and poured it over his head, managing to get some on herself.
Excellent… It worked…
Ranma was so relaxed, that he no longer realised that the kissing had changed. She was now angling her head up to kiss the taller Nabiki. Only by opening her eyes after a minute did she realise she had changed sex again.
Nabiki thumbed the empty glass. "Just a test, you kiss differently as a girl, more tenderly. I liked it…" Nabiki came over and ruffled the red hair. "Sorry about earlier, I was just building up some courage to kiss you as a girl…"
Ranma regained her wits and put her hands on her womanly hips. "Oh? Since when did Nabiki Tendo need courage?"
Nabiki had already turned around to go to the bedroom to work on some more things, but she stopped and looked back. "Since I met you Ranma. Since I met you…"
They both smiled. Nabiki held out her hand and Ranma took it, as they strolled into the room side by side, ready to prepare their new life together…
Wow, took a long time coming, my new teaching job really takes it out of me. I lost all will of writing for months on end…
Given that my schedule is tight as it is, don't know when the sequel will arrive. Yes, there will be a small follow-up, talking about the troubles the two face when starting a new life together, but expect some cameos from the old characters, so keep me on your author alert list to be informed of when I upload it.
This story was inspired by a few things, firstly a story where Nabiki acts as a detective (on I forgot the title), how I like her character (intelligent, money-grabbing), and a way to solve Ranma's problems in one go. As I mentioned in the previous chapter, my main pride is in my memory, so I knew that I should write that as the theme. The entire story came to me in two minutes, the big events, the characters Nabiki would meet, and all of it gelled immediately. I tried to end all the plotlines at the end of the manga, namely what happened to all (or most of) the people Ranma met?
Part of the reason for writing was also because someone close to me has the same condition as Shinnosuke, only more severe (30 second memory, as in the movie Memento), thus living without short-term memory. When you're faced with someone like that, you begin to respect memories and what they hold.
Finally, I heartily recommend 'The Writer's Journey' for a wonderful insight into how successful movies are made, talking about the different genres, character types, and trial that people have to go through. I feel that Nabiki has passed through most of them. I hope you've liked her odyssey to discover Ranma, and some things about herself. This has been a chance to write something different, a story where the main character isn't present throughout, detective clues and some genuine issues with life.
Till the next time,