by Lerris Smith
Disclaimer: I do not own Ranma 1/2 or Sailor Moon. This piece of work is purely for entertainment purposes. The plot, of course, is my own with the occasional input from others.
Author's Notes: This story is complete. The rest will be posted in a few days.
Genma Saotome and Soun Tendo were firm believers in destiny. To them, the joining of their respective schools of martial arts through the marriage of their two youngest children was foreordained and written in the stars, or at the very least on a drink napkin in a bar almost nineteen years ago. It should be noted, that despite their best intentions, they were unable to bring the proof of their commitment with them that day, as they were too busy running away from the establishment's owner who was insisting they pay their tab.
Of course, as with all dreams, sometimes reality has a way of tossing in the storm clouds to rot the silver lining. In this instance, the inept manner in which their children were introduced probably didn't help matters, but then that is a well known tale and shall not be repeated here. Fate though, can sometimes be a fickle mistress, and sometimes, just sometimes, the inevitable can take a left turn and end someplace quite different than expected, particularly when expectations are perhaps not as widely shared as the aforementioned duo could wish for.
On the remains of a once tall mountain, Ranma Saotome held Akane Tendo gently as he lifted her out of the waters that had been promised to restore her body to life. He patted the side of her face gently and said, "Akane. Akane. Wake up. Please wake up. Come on, please, please, wake up for me."
As his panic grew, his words became less and less coherent. The others noticed his ki flare around him in a golden aura but it didn't register to him. Only the cold body he held in his arms registered to him as he continued with, "Come on. Hey, I love you you tomboy, now wake up. Wake up!"
He also failed to notice how he had unconsciously shoved some of his ki it into the unconscious woman's body. Only the relief when she opened her eyes registered to him.
He thought about all of that on the trip back, well all he could remember of it anyway. He had been a little incoherent with fear at the time, but he did remember telling her that he loved her, although he prayed no one else did, for while it was true, he had realized it to be the kind of love that he had for Ukyo, Shampoo, Kasumi, and even Nabiki. Well in the later's case the feeling usually never lasted more than a week, yet the bottom line was he was fairly sure that none of it was the stuff marriages were supposed to be based on.
Then of course there were the words that he kept trying to put out of his mind. "Many shall come for you, yet the key lies in three set in motion by another's hand." He forced his thoughts away from that particular subject. That particular stray thought had almost cost him in the last battle, and he would know soon enough, or perhaps too soon. It was odd to be both eager and apprehensive about something at the same time.
Akane had been pretty quiet on the way back. She was friendly, but mostly quiet and kept to herself more often than not, when people were trying to ask her questions. Of course, Ryoga had gotten lost early on, and Ranma, himself seemed no more talkative.
Shampoo and Ukyo noticed, and were more than a bit worried about how distant Ranma was on the way back to Nerima. They had had little money and had elected to walk much of the way until they could get to a train and then a boat and then likely another train.
One night, Shampoo asked Ukyo, "Why Airen always look up at stars? Shampoo here, and well spatula girl and kitchen destroyer. Stars be no that fun."
Ukyo sighed and said, "I don't know sugar. I just don't know. I asked him once, but he pretended not to hear." Shampoo grimaced slightly. She didn't know why, but she had a bad feeling.
One night, when the moon was but a tiny sliver in the sky, a bright violet flash could be seen almost right over them. It looked a bit like the flash from lightning, yet they could see no lightning, and there was not a cloud in the sky. Ranma noticed it though, and it brought a somber smile to his face before he yawned and went into his tent for sleep. Shampoo thought it must be a good omen. After all, her airen had smiled. She would try to wake him up in the morning and then perhaps he would smile again.
A wedding came. A beauteous Akane Tendo had made everything seem right for a fleeting moment. The promise of being normal had reinforced that, yet the effect was short lived. Normality slipped down the gut of a troll. Tempers and bombs flared, and the wedding ran away in defeat. Time passed. History unfolded, yet little else changed, but then this is the beginning of the story.
Setsuna threw a pillow at the wall. Would they never learn to keep it down? For the tenth time this month she considered getting her own place. Anything to stop putting up with that, but no, the best way to insure the creation of Crystal Tokyo was to stay right here and suffer. Those two were insatiable and they didn't even have the common courtesy not to flaunt it! She threw the other pillow and then instantly regretted it, since she would have to get up and get it.
Just when she was sure the worst was over, the crescendo began again. Setsuna shrieked as she pulled her staff out of the air and opened a portal to the gates of time. She entered the gate in her nightgown. As her feet touched down on the ancient marble, she began to finally relax in the blissful silence possible when you are on a completely different planet from the ones that are tormenting you.
She took several deep breaths as she considered the problem. They were fresh out of enemies, so there was no respite there. If she dated a guy, that wouldn't wipe the smug grin off their faces. The same for any of the inners really, or pretty much any woman she might find. Kami-sama knows she had dated enough ordinary people over the years to know how boring they were, but the fact remained that she just could not or rather would not let them keep that all superior smirk on their faces.
It was fortunate that the eternal gate had a search routine that would make the guys who run Google weep with envy. She entered her search parameters and waited. A few minutes later a three dimensional representation zoomed in on a cute red head that was lying in a storm drain. Setsuna said, "Ah hell. Not him. Anyone but him."
She looked at the readout and its confirmation that Ranma Saotome, heir to the Saotome school of Musabetsu Kakuto Ryu was the only guy that fit her search criterion. With a sigh, Setsuna started making plans, while dreaming of the day she could snuggle up behind Ranma as he cooked breakfast and watch out of the corner of her eye as she saw Michuru and Haruka's surprise. Oh yes, it was going to be a lot of work, but then the payoff should be worth it.
Setsuna didn't notice her half crazed expression as she plotted and schemed. She did, however, seem to be enjoying herself.
Ranma walked quietly back through the gates to the Tendo property. Akane was a bit touchy today, which Ranma almost understood, emphasis on the almost. Once or twice his curse had been locked a touch too long, after all. Not that the one thing necessarily led to Akane's sour mood. No, Kasumi's description was still the most apt. She was a sweet girl, but she was also a violent maniac. That was Akane.
Now, if only she was a sweet girl a bit more often, although not too often mind you. He had no intention of getting married anytime soon. Almost a year and a half living here had made that one goal almost as important as the art. No sir, not even a startlingly accurate prophecy about his future would change that, although that prophecy was more than a little troubling, especially today. He remembered, "for it is the last of the three that shall claim your heart for she is also the first and she sees the truth," before continuing on.
He listened to the sounds of breaking bricks and altered his course slightly to avoid the dojo and enter the kitchen area. There Kasumi was just finishing washing the dishes. Without a word, he glanced around and then quickly helped her dry and put them away. After they finished, Kasumi took a pot of hot water off the stove and put tea bags in two cups, before pouring hot water in each and handing one to Ranma.
Ranma dipped the tea bag several times before tossing it in the waste basket just as Kasumi added her own. They sat down and drank their tea quietly. Kasumi was more than a little amazed at her own accomplishment, well accomplishment was perhaps too strong a word, yet she thought it impressive.
Over the course of the time he had been here she had managed to teach him to be polite, although he only applied those skills when she was the only one present. Of course, the others truly had not changed a great deal, which was a shame really. Oh well, it was time for her to get ready for her date with Dr. Tofu.
As she left for her room to change she said, "Aren't you going to go see what Akane is doing?" Ranma looked up at her as if pondering the question. He then took another sip of tea as Kasumi decided that was his answer and continued on her way.
Minutes later, the doorbell rang and Ranma glanced at the clock on the wall before resisting the temptation to answer the door. He drank another sip of tea. There was little left in the cup, but he was torn between rushing to meet, and possibly defeat, the moment and enjoying it. He chose the later as he heard Kasumi answer the door.
After a about a minute, he heard Kasumi's soft voice call, "Ranma-kun, you have a visitor." It took him a moment to notice the slight stress in Kasumi's voice, so good was she at masking it. He downed the last bit of tea and headed to meet his destiny, and dang destiny for being so annoyingly punctual.
Standing in the living room with a small amused smile on her face, was a stunning green haired, red eyed young woman wearing a thin white blouse, black belt, and dark blue pants. She held a slim briefcase at her side. Ranma thought that she was perhaps just a little older than Kasumi, and for some reason she seemed a bit familiar.
She said sweetly, "Hello Ranma-kun."
A chill went down Ranma's spine. He had sort of been expecting it, but the part of his mind dedicated to fiancée radar was signaling a four, no make that five alarm fire. He gave his best clueless smile and said in an oddly loud voice, "Hello, would you be here from the adopt a pig foundation to pick up little P-chan?" He had been saving that line.
Kasumi was fighting hard to hold onto her serene smile, yet the upturned corners of her mouth were trying to betray her. Setsuna, herself, was puzzled for a moment and seemed to be on the verge of speaking, when she heard a, "Ranma! How dare you try to get rid of my P-chan!"
Kasumi resorted to covering her mouth with her right hand as she looked around, as if wondering if there was any dust she had yet to slay. She noted that Ranma's acting had improved after all this time. She could almost believe he was genuinely afraid of the glowing mallet, but not quite. She reached behind her to open the front door and a few seconds later she saw a glimpse of Ranma's smirk as he was shot though and out the door at an angle that she thought would land him in Furinken's pool, well if the wind was right. Yes, the last talk with her dear little sister had done a world of good, although it helped that Ranma made sure to stand in front of the door. After all, there was no substitute for planning. This kind of thing had saved them almost five hundred dollars in construction fees this month alone.
Setsuna too saw his not quite adequately concealed grin and congratulated him mentally. Perhaps her prep work had not quite been enough. Then again, the game was more fun when the prey was lively. She set down her briefcase and flipped it open as she handed a stack of papers to Kasumi. She then said, "I believe you will find everything legal and in order. I of course have many extra copies. I will be back tomorrow to pick up my husband. Please make sure he is ready then." With that, she briskly exited the house, leaving behind a bemused Kasumi Tendo and a fuming Akane Tendo.
Setsuna walked around the block into the alley before summoning her staff with a casual gesture and opening a portal back to her study. She walked through and dismissed her staff before taking a seat in her slender black leather chair.
She was still a bit surprised that she had been able to change something like who Genma borrowed money from to build Nodoka's house, without changing much of anything else in history. Originally Genma had used money borrowed from Nodoka's mother, but then, only a minor change was required for him to lose that money.
She doubted Nodoka ever noticed she had signed the papers, although she briefly wondered how Genma had gotten her to do so, but it didn't really matter. It was ironic that with the changes, the pressure Genma put on Ranma to get married made more sense, but then, what was one more arranged marriage in the grand scheme of things, to Genma Saotome anyway?
Of course, her other bit of meddling was just as important, if not more so. It had taken her an hour just to work out her lines. The time of her meddling was about a day after they had gotten blessed by Jusenkyo's touch and met the Amazons. She smiled as she remembered seeing the red head's face behind the disguise field generated by the spare disguise pen. At that point, she thought, that if someone had invented a brand new religion on the spot, they would have found a convert in her, well as long as it included rewarding the fateful by healing them of afflictions or some such.
It had been a bit of work to create the fake accident where the wheel broke off on cue on the horse and carriage she borrowed, but sure enough Ranma dashed to rescue the 'old lady' from being horribly injured in that 'accident.'
In passable Japanese, the old lady asked in a gravely voice, "Japanese are you?" Ranma-chan nodded and she continued with, "I thank you for ye assistance and would ask that you allow me to reward you." She watched their eyes light up as she continued with, "Come to my house and I shall tell your fortunes." She smirked inwardly at the sudden disappointment on their faces before continuing in a hopeful, yet still gravely tone, "Perhaps I could even get you two some food. It's the least I can do for you saving my life and all." Their eager grins came back full force.
The trip back to the house she had borrowed took about twenty minutes, with Genma making Ranma hold up the side of the carriage without the wheel while he and the disguised Setsuna rode in it. He called it strength training.
Setsuna knew that she herself couldn't do it, at least not without calling her powers. That made it all the more impressive in her book, particularly when she had only been a girl for a day.
They gobbled down the food she had provided like starving men, although she knew for a fact that they had eat yesterday. That was when Ranma had acquired the interest of the Amazons after all. Fortunately, neither noticed the extra bit she added to Ranma's drink. She had considered adding something to Genma's as well, but simply providing plenty of sake seemed to be doing the job. The additive to Ranma's drink was something rare and precious that she had very little of. Given that the plant it was made from had been extinct for several thousand years, it was unlikely she would ever be able to get more.
After Ranma finished his food, and drank all of her special tea, Setsuna directed her into the little room she had setup to tell his fortune, while Genma remained behind to sleep off the food and sake he consumed.
Ranma seemed a bit spooked as he entered the little room and hesitantly sat down at the circular bench that surrounded the well worn round lacquered table. The disguised Setsuna said in a gravely voice, "Relax. You be safe here."
Ranma-chan tried to relax, but after finding out that magical gender bending curses were real, anything else that was mystical was more than enough to put her on edge. Setsuna sighed, apparently disappointed in Ranma-chan's apprehension.
Ranma watched as the old woman stared into the crystal ball. After a few minutes she seemed to be aglow with a soft violet light.
Ranma-chan glanced back at the exit in the dim light, noting its location as she started to speak. Her voice started out rough and raspy with age as before, but melted into a clearer, younger voice. It was almost as if someone else entirely was speaking as she said:
"Many shall come for you, yet the key lies in three set in motion by another's hand. The first to appear will smile for what she sees. The second will smile for what she wishes to see, but it is the last of the three that shall claim your heart for she is also the first and she sees the truth."
"Before the last appears, you shall face your worst fear three times. Should you prevail against your fears the heavens will celebrate your victory on the night of the new moon that follows, yet for the third they shall remain silent, for it shall be as salt. Fear not though, the heavens will not forsake you, for in their time they will celebrate once more, and that time shall herald the arrival of the last who was first, and she shall win your heart."
Setsuna congratulated herself on her acting skills after the pair left. Everything went off without a hitch, and thanks to the additive, Ranma would remember that prophecy word for word for years, just as she intended.
Back in the present, Ranma recalled those words as he sailed through the sky. They fit. The three that were referred to as being his father's messes were Akane, who smiled at what she saw, right up until she saw him as a guy anyway. Next was Ukyo, who was always smiling and dreaming of him serving Okonomiyaki. As to the third, well he thought that she was the one that just arrived, and of course Shampoo was, in a way, his own fault.
He had also faced his fears three times. He had been locked, frozen as a girl forever, but had beat Herb, and the next new moon sure enough the sky flashed with a violet light. He had beat Saffron, but almost lost someone he cared about that day. Saffron's defeat was also followed by the violet flash of light on the new moon.
His final fear he supposed was probably either how crappy his life would be after marrying Akane, or perhaps it was fear of commitment or something. Either way, he had faced that fear and came through it in one piece at the failed wedding, although the dojo hadn't been so lucky and had required extensive repairs.
There was also no flash of violet on the new moon that followed that mess, yet now several months later there was one, and a new girl shows up at the door, just like clockwork. It had to be her, the one foretold. He still wasn't too sure about this destiny stuff though, but it did look like fate may have him this time. Of course, fate was sure about one thing. Ranma was changing gender in three seconds, now two seconds, now one, as he splashed down right in the middle of Furinkan high school's pool.
Ranma-chan walked home slowly, not really paying attention to where she was going. The weather was nice, and she was in no hurry. To say that home was her destination wasn't precisely true, but she did start off going that direction before making a random right turn where she was supposed to turn left.
She walked aimlessly until she spotted Dr. Tofu's little clinic and saw him outside sweeping the sidewalk.
"Hey Ranma," called the doctor.
"You look preoccupied with something," prompted Dr. Tofu as he sat down on the steps outside.
"Ya, I was just thinking about things. Well, you know that every now and then a new woman my dad conned shows up?" Ranma sat down a few feet away with her back to the building.
"Oh, did another one come by?" asked Dr. Tofu out of curiosity.
"Ya, but this one is different, I think."
Dr. Tofu said, "How so?" Ranma had definitely perked his curiosity. He gave the strange boy girl almost free medical care from time to time, mostly just for the chance to help him out and see what crazy stuff he was involved in. Dr. Tofu listened as Ranma told him about the prophecy, what she had figured out, and how she guessed the new one was the one in the prophecy.
He thought it all quite strange, but then he had never heard of anyone living see a prophecy so detailed come true. They were usually vague enough that one could interpret them as coming true regardless of what happened. He wondered for a moment if it could be a setup, but that seemed so unlikely as to be absurd. He said, "So, you are pondering what to do about it, whether to see where it leads, or to try to get rid of her like the others?"
Dr. Tofu noted that Ranma seemed unenthused by the prospects, and he thought he knew why. He explained what he thought he figured out and gave her some small advice. As Ranma-chan left on her journey to the Tendo's Dr. Tofu noticed a spring in her step that hadn't been there before. He supposed that some things just needed a fresh perspective to understand.
Ranma-chan whistled a merry tune as she slipped through the side door into the kitchen and greeted Kasumi with a smile and a finger to her lips indicating her wish not to be noticed just yet. Kasumi looked at her questioningly but remained quiet.
Ranma then picked up the tea kettle from the stove, tipped it over her head, and rejoined the male gender. With an economy of motion he then wiped his face with a towel, refilled, and then finally replaced the kettle on the stove. He did this almost completely silently save the appreciative glance he gave Kasumi for always keeping a kettle handy.
As he was placing the kettle on the stove, shouts could be heard from the living room.
"What the heck is this Saotome? You! You sold your son to another woman, again!"
"Hey Tendo. It was a long time ago, and I needed the money. Don't worry it will work out. The boy will do his duty and marry your Akane."
"I beg to differ," came Nabiki's voice, "These papers look legal and they were filed well before your supposed promise to join the schools. Simply put, if Ranma marries Akane then we would be a party to the breach of contract and she could take us for every dime we own. We would end up penniless and on the street."
"I am not marrying that pervert anyway!" screamed the youngest Tendo, yet her words lacked as much force at they once had. Kasumi frowned slightly in response before Ranma opened the door and walked into the living room silently before stating in a loud, yet not yelling voice, "I'm going."
"Boy. You are staying right here and marrying Akane. You have no say in the matter. The minister will be here shortly."
All eyes turned to Ranma as he said simply, "No." in the same calm, clear, and carrying voice as before. Akane looked like someone had punched her in the gut yet she didn't say anything. Nabiki broke into the silence with, "Why Saotome?"
He said in an almost whimsical tone, "Why not?"
Nabiki blinked. The others blinked. Full blown rants were in the stages of formation, yet Nabiki beat them all to it when she said, "Oh. Good point."
Soun's head swiveled, almost more than should be humanly possible, as he gasped out, "Good point? Good Point! What pray tell is so good about it daughter?"
Nabiki was completely unphased by her father's near shrieking panic. She responding in an oft hand tone, "Well, if he marries Akane it destroys our lives and probably ends with us living on the street. Besides, if they had wanted it that badly the last wedding would have happened. Now, if he goes with the new one, well her family was the first one his father sold him too, apparently, and she was attractive and such right?."
Kasumi nodded and Nabiki continued with, "Perhaps it will work out, and if not, well he doesn't really lose anything by giving it a try, and its not as if anyone is holding a gun to his head," other than his father, she added silently, but then she didn't think Genma would go that far.
Of course, she mused internally, she had helped insure the destruction of the last wedding. That had turned out highly profitable in the end. At least after she sold the wedding presents and collected on damages. It had even saved her sister from potentially marrying when she wasn't really ready, which was a bonus in her book.
They all boggled at her, and then at Ranma who had nodded during the end and said casually, "Ya, thats about it. If you know where I'm supposed to go, I'll get my stuff and get going." Dr. Tofu had put it into perspective for him, but then he thought incriminating the doctor would not be a kind thing to do. He tried to remain casual, but it was difficult, especially when Akane ran off to her room in tears.
"Boy," Genma said in a low dangerous tone, "You will marry Akane when the priest comes." Nabiki stepped back towards the kitchen where Kasumi was watching. Ranma said, "No," and Genma simply disappeared.
Ranma's arms shot out in an Amaguriken, followed up with a sweep kick and then spinning on the other foot before punching downward hard into apparent nothingness, yet the nothingness made a loud whack sound before the floor gave way and the nothingness resolved into Genma's unconscious form.
Ranma said softly , "Someone better call the doc. I couldn't gauge my hits too well when he did that."
Soun just stood there agape. Sure the boy practiced incessantly and he had fought that phoenix king, that musk prince, and all those others while Genma had mostly just sat around, except for the morning spars, but to be able to beat Genma's sealed moves, and for Genma to even use them. It was insane.
Nabiki looked at Ranma with a touch more respect, and perhaps a bit of fear as Kasumi called the doctor. She walked over, handed the papers to him, and said, "Its all in there. Um, good luck Saotome." She would miss him she realized, and not just for his profitability.
He replied, "Ya, you too Nabs," as he took the papers from her. He glanced at the papers as he headed upstairs. He had been lucky, very lucky that Genma had attacked in rage, effectively negating much of the Umisenken's potential. That skill had been sealed for a reason.
As Ranma got to the top of the stairs, he stared at the little duck on Akane's door for a moment, before heading to the room he and his father shared. He still had little in the way of possessions and had kept most of it in his pack as a matter of habit. It only took a few minutes to pack the rest and be back out the door and again and staring at the duck. He knocked softly and heard a, "Who is it?" in a bitter voice.
He said softly, "It's me, Ranma. Can I come in for a bit?"
Nothing happened for almost a minute, and then the door opened to a teary eyed Akane who motioned him inside.
"I just wanted to, you know say goodbye."
Akane glared at him, but did not comment.
He glared back and said, "Hey, its not as if you really wanted to marry me right?"
"That's not the point."
"Then what is the point?" asked Ranma.
"I don't know," she said in frustration, "but that's not it."
Ranma paused for a moment as he searched for something to say. Finally he said, "Hey, you know about..."
Akane gave him a, "How stupid do you think I am?" look before saying, "Ya, I guessed it a long time ago, but I, for one, can act." Ranma looked a bit skeptical, but she continued with, "Hey, I'll have you know I made a very good Romeo and Juliet." She placed emphasis on the, "and Juliet," before continuing in a more normal tone, yet it almost seemed to be filled with a sort of forced patience as she said, "And no he never tried to take advantage of me. Of course, the little pervert also never really tried to tell me either, and if you're wondering, the few times he actually managed not to get lost, he slept in the middle drawer on the bottom. She silently added an, "except for the first time," to her thoughts, but then she had only thought him a pig then.
Ranma pulled open the drawer and sure enough there was a little blanket folded up and even one side bunched up like a pillow. It even smelled faintly of pig. He asked, "Um why?"
"I felt sorry for the poor sap okay? He was also useful in keeping our dad's from pushing us together."
"You? Why didn't you just outright and tell me, not that you didn't do everything else."
"I promised. Well I suppose I really gave the promise to that one dog I dragged in that night long ago, but I meant it for Ryoga so..."
"As my sister would say, you are an idiot."
"Don't mention it. Well, ah heck just go."
Ranma nodded and quietly walked out the door, and after a brief goodbye to a stunned Soun he came up to where the doctor was examining Kasumi with his eyes. He set his pack to the side, placed a hand on the doctor's shoulder, and said, "Hey doc?"
Dr. Tofu blinked and turned. "Oh, Ranma. Don't worry about your dad. He has four broken ribs, a half dozen cracked, and a minor concussion, but he will recover. Of course he won't be able to do martial arts for a couple months."
Ranma nodded, relieved that he was alright, but in some ways relieved that he was not too alright. He said, "Thanks doc. I owe ya," before bowing formally to Kasumi, who embraced him in a warm hug. He then turned back to the doc and said, "Now, get back to what you too were doing. She might not wait forever, you know doc."
"Ranma!" screeched a blushing Kasumi who looked at an equally blushing Ono Tofu as Ranma made his way out the door. As he walked away from the Tendo home, he did not notice the two young women who stared out different upstairs windows with fond expressions on their faces. The one continued to stare until he was beyond view, while the other glanced down to a check that was in her hands along with a note. She had been rather surprised when one of her assistants brought her the packet of information. It was an obvious bribe of course, and equally obviously it had been deliberately kept separate from what had been given her sister.
"Dear Ms. Nabiki Tendo. I have investigated and understand the complexity of the situation. This letter contains information on full tuition scholarships for Akane, yourself, and Kasumi. You may use them at any school you wish, provided it is accredited, you can get in, and maintain satisfactory grades."
"The fifty thousand yen check is to help in the short term. While I know that only about a one third of the money you made from running bets on Ranma's fights and such went to your household's expenses, this should help with things in the short term. " Nabiki was still more than a bit awed at how professional this person was. She would have to meet her someday.
Of course, the money really wasn't that much as these things go, but the scholarships were a dream come true, if they were real. She doubted they paid anything beyond tuition, but just getting that paid for would be enough, especially if she was careful with the other money she had saved.
Of course, there was the chance that the scholarships and such would be pulled if Ranma didn't marry this Setsuna person, but she hoped that wasn't the case. The real problem was avoiding having her father and that fat fool accuse her of selling out. Of course, she mused, the scholarships appeared to be in some other companies name so there was really no need for anyone to ever find out their true source. The news of their good fortune could wait, but verifying the authenticity was something she wanted to do now. With that, she put the papers back into the nondescript folder and walked out of the house to begin some inquires.
A few minutes later a priest knocked on the Tendo door. Kasumi answered it with her practiced smile and said, "Won't you come in? I'm sorry but the wedding has been called off, but the least I can do is get you some tea and something to eat to thank you for coming."
The priest came in, and noted the hole in the floor and the bandaged form of Ranma's father, who was pretty much being ignored at this point. He put it out of his mind as something he really didn't want to know about as he let Kasumi lead him into the kitchen.
Setsuna breathed a small sigh, as another bit of her prep work looked to be paying off. Nabiki was, if anything, practical. She was also the kind of person she would have considered insuring a scholarship for regardless. That kind of drive and wit was often an asset, provided she avoided joining the Yakuza, which was still a possibility, but with her newest change the odds on that dropped from thirty seven percent to twelve percent. Kasumi, herself, stood a good chance of becoming a successful nurse or doctor, although it was pot luck whether or not her and good doctor would work out or not.
Akane well, Akane was hard to predict. About half the time lines had her living a perfectly normal life, with a normal husband, who incidentally always made all the meals. She seemed happy in those time lines and often taught the art, albeit never at Ranma's level. The rest of the time lines were varied. She married Ryoga in a few, and once it even worked out. She died young giving birth to a baby girl in one. She saved the Senshi at a pivotal moment in another, and in a variation of that one, died in the process. In a few, Ranma ran back to her or one of the others.
She didn't look at them all. For now, it was enough to know that Ranma hardly ever appeared in any of her searches. The time gates had a deliberate blind spot to the life of its guardian and those directly involved in its guardian's life. It was a protection of sorts, so that even if the gates were to be overtaken, they could never be used against their guardian, or at least that was how it was explained to her. She personally thought Serenity had ordered that limitation along with many of the others to help prevent abuse.
Untraceable scholarship offers that just happen to fit Shampoo and Ukyo had also been sent out. It was possible that Nabiki would fill them in on where they were likely from, but she doubted it, as doing so would only endanger her own.
She stepped through a portal back to her bedroom and immediately glared at the wall where the distracting sounds were coming from, again. Resolve firmed, she walked into her study, sat down at her desk, logged into her laptop and brought up the security camera for the ice cream parlor, just in case Ranma had decided to follow the directions in the letter already.
The screen showed Ranma sitting on a bench near the parlor. He kept turning to look through the window of the parlor. She zoomed in a bit, and was, for once thankful for all the back doors governments tended to put in these things. A few seconds later, she laughed as she realized what he was doing. He wasn't looking for her so much as trying to read the menu.
She walked over to their room and knocked on the door of the noisy pair before waiting all of about thirty seconds for them to get presentable. She then walked in and grinned her best irritating secret smile.
"Yes, Setsuna? You wanted something," declared Michuru archly.
Setsuna smiled and said cryptically, "Yes, if you see a short attractive red haired young woman around in the next few months, don't worry about it."
"Red head," inquired Haruka, who immediately got elbowed by Michuru.
Setsuna grinned and said, "Well, you can go back to whatever. I have some things to do."
About a minute later, she very quietly walked up beside Ranma and sat down when his face was again turned to stare at the window. She then leaned over and said in a silky voice, "See anything good?"
Ranma jumped about five feet up in the air and said, "Don't do that!" to which Setsuna could only laugh. He then looked around and sat back and said, "How did you do that anyway?"
"Guess," she said with amusement.
"Okay, okay. I should of known that anyone pop schemed would know something about the art."
"Yes," she said cryptically. Then seeing his frustration she said, "Shall we go get a closer look at the menu?"
"Um." Ranma scratched the back of his head, trying to come up with an excuse. She didn't know about the curse, or he would have just changed. While he was pondering, he felt a tug on his wrist and before he knew it they were through the door and seated at a small booth.
It was a tiny place with only two people working, one of which had a small nameplate with the word manager on it. He came by and gave Setsuna a frosty glare which she returned with a winning smile before he said, "Can I take your orders please?"
Setsuna fished a coupon out of her pocket and handed it to him. He said, "Ah, you want the all you can eat ice cream special for two. Well coming right up." Setsuna hadn't missed his annoyance at seeing her, nor how it had intensified when he thought he was out of sight. Perhaps he was still mad about the last time she had brought Usagi and the gang in and did the same thing. Ah well, if he had only been polite about it last time, rather than embarrassing her by accusing Usagi of abusing the all you can eat special. The princess had been in tears after that. Now, it was payback time. She giggled and hoped that Ranma would set a new record.
Ranma got a little nervous when she giggled. It reminded him eerily of Kodachi, yet she had a gleam in her eyes that reminded him a little bit of Nabiki. He said awkwardly, "So you are Setsuna. So, um, what did my pop do this time?" He had read the papers. The only one that mattered was the contract where Genma borrowed money to build his mother's home, with himself promised to marry the first born daughter of the Meio family, one Setsuna Meio, should his pop default on the loan.
In an offhand manner she said, "I really don't know anything more than you do, except my father wanted me to pursue the marriage contract. Maybe he sensed your potential. At any rate, when I learned about your other fiancées I waited awhile, but since you never chose I decided it was past time to honor my father's wishes."
Ranma nodded. It made perfect sense to him. The ice cream arrived after that and just kept arriving. After Ranma's eighth helping, and after she had heard a bit of his life story, and told some edited bits of her own, she decided to have mercy on the owner and suggested they get going.
There was a cool breeze as they walked to Setsuna's home. As they approached her house she said, "I live with a few others in a big house, so, well I've heard about some of your fights, and I'd appreciate it if you didn't tell anyone where you will be."
Ranma said okay in a hesitant tone.
"It is just that Michuru and Haruka have a daughter in junior high, and I would not want her endangered." Her voice got more serious as she said, "If anyone endangered her, I would finish it."
Ranma nodded. There was a coldness to her when she said that, that made him believe her. He had no idea how she would finish it, but he very much feared that she would do exactly that.
Time passed, and while it was a large house, all the rooms were already in use, so Ranma, at Setsuna's insistence slept in a futon made up in her study. In fairness, it was a very expensive futon that was almost as comfortable as a full bed. He got to know Setsuna, Michuru, Haruka, and Hotaru-chan and grew to like them almost as if they were his family.
Despite Setsuna's increasing temptations to just get him drunk and seduce him, she never acted on her temptation. Well, she had gone to her wine cellar once via a portal, but the wine got consumed during the course of ordinary meals rather than how she originally intended.
She did, however, watch, listen, and learn. She watched as he showed seemingly endless patience walking Hotaru through exercises designed to build up her stamina, and she stared with amazement along with Haruka and Michuru to see that Hotaru did get stronger. The changes even marveled her doctor, who after calling and talking with Ranma, promptly went off to meet one of the priests Ranma had studied under.
She watched as Ranma would get into sparring matches with Haruka in the park that quickly turned into all out fights. A few days later she was the proud owner of a small warehouse nearby. The spars got more interesting when Makoto caught on to them and joined in. Quite often it was Ranma against the both of them, and despite how hard they tried, Ranma would always win.
Of course, things might have been different had any of them transformed, but Ranma didn't know about that, so to even things out Setsuna joined in herself, except she resorted to truly underhanded tactics. She knew where he was ticklish and took advantage of the fact that he would not fight back against a girl who wasn't trying to injure him. Needless to say, it was a route after that.
She had the most fun watching the craziness he pulled off to avoid getting hit by cold water. He was becoming really good at that, but it was eerie how water would sometimes defy physics to go after him. Yes, that was truly entertaining, and more than once she had to pretend he was faster than he actually was at getting to hot water, and cover for him for a moment.
Setsuna knew that most of the inner Senshi were annoyed with her, particularly Minako who thought he would make a great boyfriend and of course Makoto who thought he looked like her sempai. She also had heard once or twice that he was two young for her, but really, who wasn't? She had outlived nations, although that was not precisely true either since much of that time had been spent in a time field at the gates where time passed much faster than normal. Still, she guessed with everything she was still well over two hundred years old. Two hundred plus compared to almost eighteen, yet she was growing to like him a great deal, and her plan while not a success yet, was still heading in the right direction.
About a month later they were sitting in the living room. They were watching some anime that Hotaru liked, one with a young girl would would catch magic cards of all things. Ranma was sitting in a single person leather chair, while Hotaru was between Michuru and Haruka on the couch. Setsuna came in and made room beside Ranma as she snuggled up against him. The show was almost half over when Hotaru tripped sending her glass of water unerringly towards Ranma, changing him to a soaked red head who was not wearing a bra.
Haruka's eyes popped and Setsuna reacted as she turned the surprised red head to face her and gave her a kiss that curled her toes. Hotaru laughed and laughed at the silly expressions on Ranma's face and on her momma and poppa's. It was several minutes before anyone found words, or in Ranma's case, remembered to breathe.
Haruka said, "All this time... All this time. You told us about a red head back then, but all this time..."
Setsuna said, "Hey, I like his guy side just fine mind you, but I figured once you saw that, I'd better hurry up."
Michuru licked her lips once before she caught herself staring. She said, "Shouldn't Ranma do something about, um that..."
Setsuna looked down and appraised her fiancé's drenched shirt and what it covered. Ranma finally summoned the focus to speak and figured out what they were referring to, "Hey, you're all girls."
"Your point?" asked Michuru dryly.
"But, but, its not natural."
Setsuna said, "You mean, you hadn't noticed?" She was amused that he had apparently forgotten, at least for now, that she already knew about his curse.
"I, I thought they were working out or something. I mean Akane would sometimes work out in her room. It sounded a little odd though."
Hotaru laughed and laughed before saying in a barely coherent voice, "I must be the only normal one here."
Author's Notes: This story is complete. The rest will be posted in a few days. Don't forget to click on the review button and let me know what you think.