Author's notes: Yes, another new story. I've been writing what has been the most interesting and new fics can be so exciting when they first come to mind. That does not mean that I simply abandon the other stories. You can check out their status plus additional ideas that might become stories in my profile.
This story has not been proof-read. I go through my stories many times, but there are still likely to be errors contained within it. Thanks goes out to Shinji-the-good-sharer's board for their comments.
Disclaimer: I don't own Ranma ½ or any of its characters.
Chapter 1: The bet is on
Akane sat comfortably on the couch, watching the final round of the world's strongest martial arts competition. She didn't pay the knocking much mind. At least until she noticed that Kasumi's light footsteps were not present in the background. 'That's odd; Kasumi usually gets the door when we have visitors.'
"Kasumi? There's someone at the door." Akane said aloud, hoping she wouldn't miss the last few action pack minutes of the finals.
"Could you get that for me, Akane? My hands are full with making dinner and I can not leave at the moment."
Akane frowned, she really didn't want to miss this, but she couldn't refuse Kasumi either.
"Ok, Kasumi. I got it." Akane replied before reluctantly standing up, she took a quick glance at her father playing go with a large bald bespectacled man in a dirty white gi, before heading to the door.
'Who could this be? Ranma already had one challenger today. The next shouldn't arrive until tomorrow or the day after if we're really lucky.'
Shrugging her shoulders, Akane realized she was being rude by simply standing in front of the door. Akane shook her head to clear it of all the challengers that had recently plagued their household since the arrival of their pigtailed houseguest before opening the door to the last person she expected to see.
"Auntie Nodoka! What are you doing here?" Akane asked slightly distressed. Usually 'Auntie' would call ahead before coming, giving them plenty of time to make sure that Ranma was either absent or Ranko was present. Akane noticed that Nodoka's breathing was erratic, her eyes large and they kept sliding off of her face to peer behind her intently. She appeared almost frantic, paying little attention to even the haphazardly wrapped katana at her side.
"Ranma, are you here?" Nodoka called out, uncharacteristically walking past Akane without being invited in. Akane's heart nearly stopped as her eyes opened wide. 'This could be a problem.' Quickly, Akane followed after the rouge mother bent on finding her long lost son.
"What's wrong auntie?" Akane asked the woman as she investigated the kitchen. Akane was amazed that the older woman only briefly glanced at Kasumi, her hands full of pots and pans, before leaving without offering to help.
"I heard that Ranma returned from his training trip." She answered, almost to herself before checking the next room.
"How dare you steal my snack!"
Like a magnet, Nodoka's head whipped around to face the sound coming from the backyard. Her eyes went teary 'Could it be?' she dared to hope before quickly making for the backyard.
Akane groaned as she chased after her.
"I'm pretty sure that RANMA hasn't returned yet, NODOKA, but I think he will soon." Akane cried, desperately trying to stall the older woman and give Ranma some forewarning.
Akane wiped her brow as she heard the sound. And just in time as Nodoka rush right into the back yard.
"Ranko? Mr. Panda? What are you doing in the pond?"
"Um, I was just playing with Mr. Panda, that's all." Ranma finished with a large nervous smile.
"Oh, I see, what about the male voice that I heard just a second ago?"
"Male voice? There haven't been any guys, nope, not here." Ranma finished sweating heavily. Fortunately for him, his currently female body was so wet from the pond that no one could tell the difference.
"I see." Nodoka proceeded to investigate the next room with Akane following after.
"Dang, that was close. She almost caught you and me that time."
"Groorfff," responded the panda wiping a paw across its forehead.
"Don't know why I bother to talk to you at all when you're like this." Ranma mumbled before he waded out of the pond and over to the towel Kasumi had thoughtfully placed out before going to the kitchen.
"Maybe it's because you finally found someone you can talk to on an equal level." Ranma turned around to find Ryoga standing on the other side of the yard, walking casually towards them.
"Ryoga, when did you manage to get your pork butt back here?" Ranma replied with a smirk.
Ryoga frowned, but quickly smiled. Ranma didn't like that smile. Ryoga typically went off the deep end with a comment like that. He was acting way too calm for Ranma's taste.
"Seems to me that you are acting like a coward, Ranma. You're running away from your own mother, it's disgraceful." Ryoga said, his arms crossed before him with a look of distaste.
"You know what would happen if mom found out about my curse."
Ryoga placed a finger to his chin as if in thought. "Oh yes, the seppuku contract to end your life if you aren't manly enough. Well I can tell you now that even without the curse you are just a scared little girl. You're hiding behind a veil just in case your mother isn't able to take it. Well, it just goes to show you how right I was. So Ranma, prepare to die." Ryoga said calmly before pulling out a thermos from his bag, lobbing the opened canister at Ranma.
Ranma was so shocked he didn't even try to doge, instantly becoming his natural gender again.
"Groff!" Genma desperately tried to lunge out of the pond to change Ranma back before Nodoka made another pass.
"Oh no you don't," Ryoga said before carelessly whipping out his umbrella, driving it straight into the large bear's stomach, sending him straight into the wall with a complementary ticket to dream land.
Thump, Thump, Thump, Thump
Ranma's eyes grew wide, he knew what that sound meant and it wasn't good, he would be dead unless… His eyes shifted to the pond, Ryoga standing between him and his salvation with arms crossed and a look that just screamed he had Ranma right were he wanted him.
"Do you think you'll have time Ranma? You might be able to beat me, but can you do it fast enough to make it to the water?"
"2,500 yen" Ranma's eyes swiveled to the doorway where Nabiki leaned against the entrance with a proffered bucket of cool water.
Thump, Thump, Thump.
'I don't got time,' "Yes, give it to me!" Ranma was never so happy to have a bucket full of ice cold water thrust into his face.
"Ranko, what is all the commotion, did you find Ranma? Why are you soaked?" Nodoka asked as she came around the bend.
"Um…" Ranma spluttered, water cascading down his female form's face.
"Ranko was just telling me she was feeling a little hot after playing so much with Mr. Panda and their playmate, Ryoga. I just helped her cool down a little. Oh, it looks like Ryoga might be feeling a little hot too." Nabiki said, taking the heat off of Ranma while eyeing Ryoga carefully as he stopped inching his way forward with another thermos of hot water.
"I see, well please be good while I check Ranma's room to see if he may be there." With that she was gone, moments later another streak flew by the exit, suggesting Akane hadn't managed to keep up with the older woman.
Ranma growled as he realized Nabiki left taking her threat with her, letting Ryoga get him unaware once again.
"5,000 yen." Ranma looked up to find Nabiki had retaken her place at the door with a refilled bucket.
"Why should I? I've got plenty of time to pound porkster here and get to the water before mom gets back."
"You forget exactly which way your room's window faces, haven't you?"
Ranma moaned before nodding his head.
He almost expected Ryoga to try again, but found that Mr. Porky was carefully splitting his attention between Nabiki's poised bucket and the window above. 'I get it, the same reason I need the water now is the same reason that Nabiki's threat holds.
Looking up, he saw his mother carefully picking through his room, glancing out of the window periodically.
Moments later she left.
'I am getting so sick of that.' Ranma thought as he lowered his gaze from the window to find that Nabiki had abandoned him again.
"10,000 yen, and before you ask she is coming down the stairway now."
Reluctantly Ranma nodded his head.
"I'm sorry to be such a bother, dear, but an anonymous call said that Ranma would definitely be here today. I was so excited that I lost myself and was very rude, please accept my apologies Akane."
Nodoka came into view once more with a sweating Akane close behind. Absently, Ranma noticed that Ryoga took a few more paces back away from Nabiki as Akane took notice of him with a small smile.
"That's alright, aunty. I'm sure that Ranma will be back soon. He has been training so hard to live up to your expectations that he sometimes doesn't have much time to himself."
"Perhaps, but it is still inexcusable of me."
"Don't worry about it. I know how you must feel."
"Oh and Ranko?" Nodoka mentioned, looking up to said girl with a slight disapproving look.
Ranma blinked as he was addressed. "Yes?"
"It isn't decent to wear wet cloths like that in front of others." Nodoka's eyes glanced towards Ryoga whose own eyes tripled at the realization of just how see-through Ranma's cloths could be after seven consecutive dunkings.
"Uhh… yes auntie. I'll get changed soon."
"Good, well I had best be leaving now." Nodoka finished before walking away.
As soon as he heard the front door close, Ranma turned around, his eyes glowing an eerie red as he focused on Ryoga.
He found Ryoga slumped, blood streaming down the nose, and his eyes glazed over.
'How, how dare he!'
Breathing heavily, Ranma lowered his fist as he watched Ryoga fly through the air. That whole situation had been far too close for his liking. If this bad lucky continued, he would inevitably land smack dab in the middle of fulfilling that seppuku contract. Not a thought he cared to think about.
For the moment, disaster had been diverted. Unfortunately the long term problem seemed to become direr. He knew full well that favors from Nabiki meant more then simply owing money; it meant dealing with any odd 'jobs' she decided he owed as well. Tasks that typically where very embarrassing, but there wasn't a whole lot he could do about them.
Ranma squeezed his eyes shut as he heard the sound behind him. Reluctantly he turned to find a small smirk directed his way. The one that never failed to send shivers down his spine. He didn't know how she did it, a non-combatant, but Nabiki's current stare was more frightening then any of the previous odd-ball martial artists that he ever had to contend with.
"Saotome, I believe we need to have a little chat." The girl said before lazily walking into the house.
Ranma swallowed nervously. It was worse then he thought. It was bad when Nabiki demanded her price straight out, it was unimaginably worse when even she wanted to talk about payment behind closed doors.
Knowing that if he waited much longer the cost would increase exponentially, Ranma double-timed it up the stairs, passing a game of go played by one man with a mustache and long hair in a brown gi and one miraculously revived panda of a father, straight to the entrance of the lions den a.k.a. Nabiki's room.
Ranma gulped once. Just looking, he would never have known the insidious predator that lurked beyond such a cute ducky nametag.
Mustering his courage, Ranma knocked once before entering. He found Nabiki poring over a thick book that held a barrage of numbers, many of them with negative signs and even more colored red. He wasn't the best at math, but he figured that if you subtracted enough numbers from anything you were bound to receive a negative number in return. The problem was that his name headed the page.
His study of the book was cut short as Nabiki flipped the book shut and placed it under her bed before turning around to face Ranma.
"Took you long enough, Soatome. I don't have all day you know."
"Sure, and what did you want to talk to me about?" Ranma asked, putting on a cocky expression.
Looking dead serious, Nabiki appearing deceptively innocent in her school uniform, stared straight into Ranma's eyes. Ranma felt those eyes searing straight through his soul as if they were unraveling every mystery he might try to hide from her.
A minute passed and then another. Nabiki tilted her head slightly. Ranma's smile started to dissolve.
It was nearing the three minute mark and a few beads of sweat were starting to trail down his face as he waited expectantly. Finally, after the fourth minute, Nabiki responded; Ranma's smirk absent.
"I've been looking through the books recently and found that you have run up quite a tab."
Ranma felt the sweat start to accelerate. It was worse then he thought. She wanted to talk about his whole debt. There was no way that he would be able to pay back all the money he owed her. Whether coerced or not, he had agreed to the girl's prices to help him out of many desperate situations.
"The grand total comes to nearly 750,000 yen." Nabiki stopped again as Ranma's eyes bugged out, making him appear a scarlet bullfrog. Nabiki's lips lifted momentarily before dropping back into her customary neutral expression.
"But how could I…"
"Run up such a tab? You would be surprised how fast things add up especially with all the situations I've bailed you out of. But that is not the point. The problem is that with my standard 18 interest, compounded monthly, you will pay me back somewhere around the time I retire."
Ranma opened his mouth to comment but stopped when Nabiki held out her hand.
"That takes into account the odd jobs you have been doing around the market place and the part time job you managed to scrounge at the butcher shop. Both pay you a pittance simply because you are in high school and are not suppose to have a job. The point is I'm not willing to wait around for this money to make its miraculous appearance. There are too many other things that I have to deal with. What I purpose instead is a bet. If you win, you will be debt free. So, are you game?" Nabiki asked.
Ranma almost nodded his head in instant agreement. He caught himself as he recalled many similar events where he got himself in deep trouble simply because he never got the details before agreeing.
"What exactly would this bet be about?" He asked causiously.
Nabiki released one of her cunning smiles. Ranma suddenly felt like a worm herded towards a rather nasty jagged hook with no choice, but to charge forward.
"Easy. For a period of two weeks you will remain silent. No words, signs, insults, comments, or written communication. The only time you will be able to speak is if it is in direct response to a question from one of your instructors or to ask a curriculum based question to an instructor. Otherwise I'm sure you would be knocked out of school faster then your current sleeping habits would have."
"But I gotta be able to fight all of the guys that keep coming."
Nabiki frowned at Ranma as if he were a rather exceptional dimwit. Ranma labeled it Nabiki expression 134 of looks to avoid.
"You can fight to your jock-itch's desire. You just can't talk while you do it."
"But talking is half the battle, getting your opponent off balance with verbal sparing is part of the Anything Goes Martial arts style." Ranma complained looking rather pitiful.
"For the next two weeks, it just got dropped from the itinerary. That is, unless you happen to have the 750,000 yen on hand?" Nabiki asked with a condescending look and an out-stretch palm to receive the phantom payment.
Ranma glared angrily at Nabiki. He hated not having a choice. For most of his life the choice lay outside of his reach. It taunted him from afar, typically with the barrier of his honor, his father, or a combination of both standing directly in the way. Apparently Nabiki was all too willing to add herself to the mounting blockade.
"What exactly happens if I loose the bet? Do I owe you twice as much?" Ranma asked, realizing the critical piece of information that Nabiki had not mentioned; what she got out of it.
"Tute, tute, Soatome," Nabiki tisked, her index finger waving back and forth in front of Ranma's face. "I've already told you that at your current pace you will pay me back sometime when I'm ancient and grey, what makes you think I would want to wait more then twice that long to receive a debt? If money is all I wanted then I could simply let things continue as they have, with all the predicaments you get yourself into, I could eventually have you rack-up a bill of any size I desire."
"So what do you want?" Ranma asked getting annoyed with being led around by the nose.
"If you loose, then I cancel you debt…"
"What!" Ranma asked incredulously, interrupting Nabiki.
"Let me finish would you?" Nabiki asked, glaring at Ranma.
She continued the glare until Ranma sat down onto the carpet.
"Good, as I was saying, I'll cancel your debt and you will work for me doing anything I say until I graduate from college."
"Anything you say? What exactly does that mean?"
"I'll be frank with you, Soatome, it means you will be the muscle I use to work my way up the preverbal black ladder. If someone squelches on a bet, you will be the one to force the money from them one way or another."
Ranma nearly rolled back, horrified. "You got to be kidding, I'm a martial artist; I could never do anything like that."
"Then I would suggest you don't loose."
"Never, I will not agree to this."
"You say that like you had a choice in the matter." Nabiki drawled as she lay back on her bed, watching Ranma's reaction carefully.
Ranma stopped, his mouth half open. He owed her money, money he apparently would never be able to repay. If he couldn't repay her, he lost honor. She has given him an opportunity to get around the problem with this bet. He retained honor and he would be debt free. If he didn't win, he was consigned to at least five or six years of performing acts against the code he was raised to uphold. Everyway he turned, Ranma could find no solution to the problem Nabiki had posed aside from the one she was dangling in front of him.
"Let me sweeten the deal for you. As my employee you will retain 25 of the profits from the business."
"Money! You think money would make this easer? You're talking about abandoning my code of honor here."
"hummff, you're so naïve. Money is power. Power can fix nearly any problem. If you're not interested right now then the detail becomes inconsequential, the fact of the matter remains that your vaunted honor has left you with only one option. So, if you would hurry up make the only decision you can, I have other things I need to do."
Ranma stiffened as Nabiki extended her hand, once again staring intently into Ranma's eyes, daring him to not take the agreement offered.
His eyes twitched, passing from the hand, to the locked window, to the locked door behind him. All escape was gone. Even if he could leave the room without making his own exit, he would only postpone the problem. His honor would not allow him to leave when a possible solution had been offered. Slowly, agonizingly slow, Ranma reached out his own hand, taking Nabiki's, sealing the pact with a small shake.
"Good boy, now remember that does mean no signs or writing responses down for people."
Ranma was about to exclaim but found Nabiki close to his face, two fingers placed over his lips.
"Now what fun would it be to win so quickly after the bet just started?" Nabiki asked before standing to walk out the door, leaving Ranma sitting stupidly on the floor to think about the newest predicament he had just landed in.
Author's end notes: Yes, Nabiki appears to be acting OC. There is a reason behind this. The circumstances behind it will be revealed as time goes by. Pairings have not been defined, but I'm leaning towards Ranma x Ukyo.
Q: 750,000 yen! There is no way that Ranma could rack up such a large bill.
A: Though it looks like a lot 750,000 yen equates to roughly $6,446.63. You must also remember that Ranma has been living at the Tendo's for a long time. The presence of Ranma's mother means it is just after the end of the anime version which means the amount covers everything before that. Also 18 interest compounded monthly is a killer.
Q: Nabiki can't alter the deal after it's been sealed.
A: It was never intended to appear that way, but it has been fixed in the story.
If you have any questions please either send them in a review or directly to my email which is listed on my profile.
Thanks for reading,