Nabiki lay face down on her bed, legs up in the air as she read a manga. It wasn't her usual fare, but she was way ahead of her financial goals for the week and felt she deserved a treat. A tapping on her window interrupted her reading. "Of course," she thought, "The first afternoon I can just kick back and relax in weeks, and it would have to be interrupted by my least favorite person to have a heart-to-heart with. Then again, he could be here because he finally 'figured it out'... Considering the number of clues I've left for him, it'd be about time." She buried the excitement that last thought elicited, and without looking up, asked in a bored tone, "What is it, Ranma?"
"Can I come in?" asked the boy hanging upside down outside her window.
"I am extraordinarily busy right now," she said, idly turning a page in her manga. "If you want to use up my valuable time, it will cost you 500 yen, up front." A moment later, Nabiki was sitting up and putting a 500 yen note in her pocket while Ranma leaned against her desk. "Right, so what do you need?"
Ranma fidgeted nervously for a few moments before mumbling something unintelligible. When Nabiki scowled and pointedly checked her watch, he quickly blurted out, "I want to help out with expenses!"
"What are you talking about, Saotome?"
"It's obvious, isn't it? Your father doesn't teach any classes, but you still have a bunch of mouths to feed—especially since me an' pop got here. And there's other stuff, like clothes, and the repairs whenever Ryouga or Shampoo come by... I shoulda seen it sooner, but I guess I had other things on my mind. Anyway, some stuff got me thinkin' lately and I finally realized why you're so big on making money all the time." He frowned. "It ain't right for you to have to support your family by yourself. Especially not with me an' pop freeloading off of you. So, here," he said as he pulled a wad of yen from his pocket and tossed it onto the bed next to her.
Nabiki stared at the money for a moment and thought to herself, "Got to do this just right..." Turning to Ranma with a glare, she forcefully retorted, "Listen here, Saotome—we're doing just fine and don't need anyone's charity! Yes, daddy doesn't teach, but he doesn't have to. We have..." she paused as if quickly trying to think of something on the spot, "...investments. And they're doing quite well, thank you very much! So, just take your money back and stop wasting my time."
"Sorry, I ain't taking it back—guess you'll just have to keep it. I'm sure you'll find a good use for it," Ranma said as he folded his arms.
Nabiki looked down and glared at the floor for a moment before looking up and fiercely meeting his gaze. "Fine. If you want to give me gifts, I'll take them, but don't think they're being used to support my family."
"Wouldn't dream of it," he replied with a small smile before leaving the way he entered.
Nabiki looked down at the money on her bed, and with a chuckle whispered to herself, "Hook, line, and sinker."
Nabiki sat at the desk in her room and studied her bank statement intently. "Almost enough..." she breathed. "With Saotome's gifts these past months and yesterday's wedding, I should make it with time to spare." An angry pounding on the door made her quickly put the statement away. "Hm, I wonder whether this is the happy groom or the radiant bride." More loudly, she called, "Come in."
"Ah, the radiant bride," she thought, but wisely didn't say, as her younger sister walked in and carefully closed the door behind her before fixing Nabiki with an angry glare.
"Why?" Akane asked in a voice that wasn't loud but was full of emotion. "Why did you sabotage my wedding? And don't tell me you invited all those people just to bring in more money—I know better." From the fierce gaze and the balled fists, it was obvious she wasn't going anywhere until she got an answer.
"You're not ready to get married."
"That's my decision—not yours!"
"That's true," Nabiki allowed with a nod. Then, narrowing her eyes slightly, she added, "But I'm still not going to let my little sister turn her life into a train wreck just because she thinks she's ready for something she isn't."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"Akane, you're only sixteen, and you were about to marry someone you can't even admit you love. More importantly, you don't trust Ranma; do you really think a happy marriage can come from that?"
With a bit of uncertainty in her voice, Akane replied, "I-I had my reasons."
"You mean the Nannichuan water." Nabiki sighed. "It was a nice thought, but how long do you think it would have been before he decided you'd married him out of pity?"
Akane stared at her sister. "You don't really think he'd—" She sighed. "Yes, of course that idiot would." With a touch of annoyance still in her voice, she asked, "Is there anything else?"
"Just one more thing," Nabiki said, fixing her younger sister with a stare. "There's no way I'm going to just sit back and let you get trapped in an abusive marriage."
"Abusive marriage? What are you talking about? Ranma would never hit me!"
"I know," said Nabiki flatly.
Akane looked confused for a moment, then paled as her eyes widened. "You think I...? I do not! Except when he deserves—"
"As if you'd ever accept that excuse from a man talking about his wife. Face it, Akane, you need time to sort things out before you're ready for marriage."
Akane stared at the floor for a long moment, then quietly said, "Maybe you're right..." She looked up at her sister. "Do me a favor, though. In the future, try talking to me before calling in the armed thugs."
Nabiki smiled and said, "Will do. Now, if you don't mind, all this sisterly bonding has left me exhausted—and I have a feeling my next 'satisfied customer' is going to be coming around for a chat pretty soon."
As Akane left and closed the door, Nabiki leaned back and sighed. That had gone well; she'd been afraid her actions at the wedding might have driven a long-lasting wedge between her sister and her. Still, she'd only told Akane part of the truth—stopping her from messing up her life had been one of the reasons she'd disrupted the wedding, but the money had been just as important. And, of course, there was also the little matter that hell would have to freeze over before she'd ever allow Ranma to end up as her brother-in-law.