New chapter of this. Short. Sorry, seems to be how this story likes to work. If I get anything out, it's a short chapter. Anyhow, hope you enjoy it, and please tell me how you think it was, both good and bad.
Enough of my blathering, on with the fic!
Chapter 17: Happi News.
Ranko entered the Nerima PD's main lobby with a troubled expression on her face, thinking of what she'd seen only a little over an hour ago. She had seen Happosai brought down before, but it was almost never in straight up combat, and the burns all over his body indicated that the same sick bastard who liked jumping innocents in back alleys was capable of taking out a martial arts master.
When the redhead walked past the cafeteria on her way down a hall in the back of the station, she was joined by Kimiko, who had apparently just been eating dinner there before going home, though she didn't seem to notice. "Hey," the brown haired woman said, snapping her fingers in front of her friend's face. Ranko jumped, turning to her in startlement, and she snickered. "What's up? I haven't ever seen you this distracted."
Ranko shook her head as she entered the locker room at the back of the building, which she very rarely ever used when she didn't want to work out in the training rooms, and opened her locker.
"Hmm, I don't suppose she of the perpetually repressed libido is distracted by a hot date or something?" Ranko's partner tried, getting rolled eyes for her efforts.
"I ain't you, remember?" The redhead shot back, extracting a small bag with her sports clothes in it from the locker and slamming the door. "It's a bit more serious than that, actually."
"Oh," Kimiko said, slightly curious but also worried. "What happened?"
"That burn guy hit again," Ranko explained. "This victim ain't dead, but he's someone I knew."
"Oh," The injured police woman said again, a lot more worried. "One of your friends?"
Ranko shook her head. "Um, sort of," she noted, trying to be tight lipped.
"Ah, another mortal enemy who wanted to rip your head off," Kimiko noted. "How many of those did you have when you were younger?"
Ranko grimaced. "Lost count," she admitted, before slinging the gym bag over her shoulder and heading for the door.
"Just remember," Kimiko called after her, "Especially if it's someone you know, leave it to the CSIs and detectives to figure out or you'll be shot or something."
Ranko nodded, but the other woman didn't seem terribly convinced. Still, she had a date tonight, and it was looking like her partner was going to spend her time working out her frustration in the gym. This usually meant that Kimiko would stay far away, for fear of being dragged into the torture that the redhead laughingly called endurance practice.
"I'll see you tomorrow," she called, as the locker room door swung closed.
Umiko Hibiki had heard, seen and even done many strange things in her short life. She personally thought the time she'd ended up in San Diego at the age of six was quite an accomplishment, but at the moment she was processing a story that was about as improbable.
Aunt Nabiki had told her everything, at least as far as she could tell. At least she hoped so. After all, she thought that if there was something more involved than a sex changing Jusenkyo curse, her dad as a pig, and the love triangle from heck she didn't really want to know about it, and it was taking her a while to figure out how she felt about it.
The problem was, she was coming up with feelings on the subject that she was pretty sure weren't exactly good to have. She'd heard other children, in school, talk about their parents with pride, or defend them when they were insulted, but Umiko, to be quite honest, knew next to nothing about hers. They'd always been away, lost, while her aunts took care of her, and at the moment she was finding it much easier to empathize with Ranko-san, a friend who had helped guide her back home twice and seemed to be close to her aunts, than her father, who had apparently tried to kill someone over a fight that was older than she was.
It all seemed so stupid, but she was sure that she had gotten something wrong. Rolling over in her bed, she looked out the window, frowning out at the sun as it began to go down. "Oh well," she mumbled, watching the sky wash itself out with orange. "I guess getting grounded'll give me lots of time to think about it." Rolling over again, she grumbled. She was irritated at Ranko for one reason, even if it wasn't for her father. "Did she have to tell aunt Nabiki?" She muttered, sourly, tugging her blanket over her head and trying to get to sleep.
Later that night, Ranko had made it back to Nerima General, kind of wishing that she didn't have to visit this place again, but knowing that she needed to do something. Finding out what room Happosai was in was easy, as she was a police officer and he was noted as being part of an investigation, though her eyebrows rose when she got to his door and noted there wasn't a guard on it. Shrugging, she decided that the rest of the department had come to the same conclusion she had, and unlocked the door with a key she'd been given by the receptionist, pushing it open to reveal a well lit room where a little old gnome was sitting, trying to read a book.
As she got close to his bed, Happosai's head slowly rose to face the police woman, and she noted that his eyes seemed a lot dimmer than she was used to. "Hope I ain't interrupting anything," she said, gesturing to his book.
Happosai chuckled softly, putting the book down next to him. "Nah, it doesn't have nearly enough pretty ladies in it to be entertaining," he smirked, gazing at the redhead's chest happily rather than her eyes.
Ranko grimaced. "Can't believe I almost missed you," she noted, and tossed her gym bag onto his bed with a soft thump.
"A present?" Happosai asked, "for me?" After saying this, he scuttled forward, unzipping the bag and gleefully removing a grey set of sports bra and panties that were inside, enfolded in the fighting gi. "Hmm, not too frilly, are they?"
"They're the most full of energy I could think of without swiping someone else's undies, and I wasn't gunna do that," Ranko grumbled. "Take 'em or leav 'em."
The old man nodded, dropping his usual cheerfully lecherous act for a moment and actively beginning to draw the female energy from the undergarments, wisps of pink and red entering his body slowly. Once he was done, he set them back into the bag and looked at the woman much more steadily, his eyes much brighter. "Thank you, Ranma," he noted.
The redhead looked away, scratching the back of her head. "Ya didn't look too good, wasn't sure ya could get your fix on your own," she explained. "If you ever tell anyone, I'm taking the energy back by force."
The old man chuckled, leaning back against the pillow at the end of the bed and wincing at the burns that were still covering most of his body, even if bandaged. "Got it," he said, nodding. The room descended into uncomfortable silence for a moment, before Ranko finally broke it.
"Do ya got any idea who did it?" She asked, simply. "I know ya told them you didn't earlier, but this is off the record, did ya sense their Chi or something? Notice their fighting style?"
The old man sighed. "You know that anyone who tries to catch him will probably die," he commented.
"I recognized the aura," Happosai confessed. "I wasn't able to pin it down, it seemed… wrong, like it'd been twisted, but there was something familiar about it." He shook his head. "I know it was someone I interacted with in Nerima, and that it wasn't one of my favored glomping victims, unfortunately there was so much extra energy mixed in with the base signal that I'm not sure if it was originally male or female."
"Well, that narrows things down from half a city and a bunch of demons to twenty or thirty people," Ranko contemplated, before turning and heading for the door. "Thanks a lot, ol' freak."
As she was about to walk out the door, Happosai raised a hand and called, "Wait!"
"Hmm?" The former martial artist asked, turning back to the old man in confusion.
"Ranma," He noted her wince, and changed the name. "Ranko, I know I'm not the most moral old man, but whatever hit me has to be stopped. I'll probably be up again in the next few weeks, but if you honestly want to try and fight it…" He trailed off, before reaching over to a pad of paper on the edge of the table next to his bed, and grabbing it, began to write, seeming to etch words onto the sheet with his finger, though Ranko knew that he was probably using Chi to do it. She looked at the perverted master for a moment, confused, before he gestured her over to him.
Walking over, she was given the paper, and looked down to read a set of untidily scrawled words in a chicken scratch that she could barely make out. "I, Grand Master Happosai of the Anything Goes Martial Arts, hereby reinstate Sato Ranko as a practitioner and Master of said school, with all rights and responsibilities of said office."
The redhead blinked, looking down at the balding martial artist in shock. "Huh?" She asked, confused.
Happosai shrugged. "Those ungrateful students never even asked me if I wanted you kicked out in the first place," he explained, and then smirked lecherously. "I lost one of my favorite glomping targets when you left!"
The officer's eyebrow twitched. "Y'know, for a second there I thought you were being all noble."
"Of course not! Where would you get that idea?" Happosai chuckled, before beginning to cough, apparently having expended a lot of his new chi reserve on the paper writing trick.
"I'll go get ya some water," Ranko offered, walking out of the room and down the hall, her mind rather full of confusing thoughts. The loss of the majority of her art, and her lack of motivation to replace the central portions of it with something else to make her most powerful moves usable again, had been weighing on her for a good portion of the past ten years, even after she'd become a police officer to continue defending the weak. Looking down at her new, rather poorly scrawled, licence to continue in it, she briefly wondered what it meant. Shaking her head, she poured a glass of water from a water cooler around the corner from Happosai's room, and slipped the paper into her pocket for safe keeping.
As she came back into view of the old man's room again, she noted that his light was out, and there was a figure hurrying down the hall, looking about as suspicious as it was possible to be. "Hey, stop!" She called, though the figure just cast a quick look over its shoulder and broke into a run. Ranko followed after, even as her quarry burst through a door at the end of the hall and started down the stairs.
Deciding to catch up fast, the short redhead ran through the door before it could close all the way, grabbing the railing and throwing herself down to the next landing, directly in front of the figure. As she got a clear look at its face, her eyes widened. "What? Ba…" She started, before the person's eyes seemed to flash, catching her in her tracks.
"You have seen nothing. You will act as though I was never here," it said in a low and steady voice.
Ranko's eyes flicked around for a moment, before catching on the other's again, and she slowly nodded.
"Hey ol' perv, I've got your water," Ranko called, as she entered Happosai's room, only to see that the lights were off and he was asleep, snuggling the bra she'd brought him. Shuddering in disgust at that sight, she reminded herself that he needed those things to live, and drank the glass of water herself before tossing the disposable paper cup into a waist basket next to the door.
"Good night, I guess," she noted, turning and closing the door before heading downstairs, feeling for some reason that she was missing something.
Nabiki cursed her seeming insomnia, as she entered another set of sums in her currency calculator, cross-referencing them with a price list on her laptop and wondering when she was just going to fall fast asleep on the kitchen table. Still, it was rather understandable that she had such a hard time getting rest, considering the close call her family had just had regarding Umiko and the fact that her emotionally distraught sister was still missing.
Of course, Akane being missing wasn't anything new since she'd married Ryoga, but she was, or had been when she was younger, rather prone to making stupid decisions when upset and Nabiki would feel much safer if she was in the house. She wondered if she could convince Akane to wear that safety rope, this time, though somehow she doubted it.
As she sent the set of calculations she'd just made off via E-mail to her secretary to put into operation, the currently youngest Tendo sister heard the sound of the front door opening, and of a rather tired "I'm home." Shutting down her computer, she stood, hurrying into the hallway next to the dining room to see Akane, though the blue-black haired woman was half dead on her feet.
"Well, you look cheerful tonight," Nabiki said, her reflexive snideness overriding her immense relief.
Akane just nodded, walking into the kitchen and opening the fridge, before retrieving a bottle of Sake. Nabiki's eyes widened, then she sighed, pulling two glasses out of the cupboard over the sink and plunking them on the counter, moving her laptop into the middle of the table. She was pretty sure, judging by this reaction, that her sister wasn't taking things well.
"How could I be so dense?" Akane asked, morosely, filling both of the small cups and sitting in the chair across from where her older sister had been.
Nabiki frowned. "All of us missed it," she admitted. "I mean yeah, it's obvious, but it's one of those things that's hard to wrap your head around, and he never straight out told us or showed his curse around us like Ranma and the others did."
"When did you figure it out?" Akane asked, taking a long sip of her drink.
"About six months after you got married," the middle Tendo admitted, sheepishly. "I remember wondering how the hell I could be so stupid for weeks, before I realized how strange the idea even was…" She shook her head. "For what it's worth, I'm sorry I didn't catch it."
The former youngest Tendo snorted. "Not much," she muttered bitterly.
"Yup," Nabiki replied, downing her entire glass of sake in one gulp and resisting the urge to cough. "So, what are you going to do now?"
Akane didn't answer for a moment, looking out into the night beyond the kitchen window. "I have no idea," she admitted softly. "The last few weeks have been so confusing," she shook her head. "When I first found out about Ryoga's curse, and that Ranma knew… you know I tried to smash him with something? It'd be so easy if I could just find somewhere to put all the blame for this, but… Even I'm part of it," she admitted reluctantly.
Her older sister nodded. "If you want, I can try and arrange it so you aren't called at his trial," she offered tentatively.
Akane shook her head violently. "No," She said, firmly. "One thing I do know, if I run away from that I've failed completely."
Nabiki looked unsure, but eventually nodded. "If you're sure, sis," she noted, before bringing up another topic. "Um, what about Ranma?" Akane looked at the brown haired woman sharply, so Nabiki continued. "Umiko's gotten a little attached to a certain police officer," she admitted, letting a small smirk play across her mouth, and deciding not to tell Akane precisely what her daughter had done the day before, to avoid a heart attack. "She and Kasumi have made Ranko promise that she'll come back some time, are you all right with that?"
Akane poured another glass of sake, and sipped at it before admitting "I'm not sure." At Nabiki's steady look, she shrugged. "I think I'm going to need to think about that."
The older woman just nodded, before standing and putting her cup into the sink. "All right," she noted, "but things are probably going to be over soon, for good or bad,. I don't really want to pressure you, but I have to, at least on the matter of Ryoga."
Akane nodded, still nursing the bottle of alcohol, as her sister exited the room, heading upstairs.
OMAKE – OMAKE – OMAKE – OMAKE – OMAKE.
"You have seen nothing. You will act as though I was never here," it said in a low and steady voice.
Ranko's eyes flicked around for a moment, before a sudden, booming voice came from the ceiling, causing both her and her opponent to look up. "Your mind trick fails against high will, critical miss."
"Oh shit…" the figure started, before Ranko's eyebrow twitched, and she landed a quite painful knee into the thing's stomach.
"Oh, critical hit," the voice noted, sounding impressed.