Author's notes: Another new story. The darn buggers just don't want to leave me alone. Sometimes I'm left to wonder just who is in charge. Well no matter who that is, I hope everyone enjoys.
Disclaimer: Out of everything, I only own Tai Sugurue. Pretty much everything else is not mine.
Breach of Contract
Ranma Saotome, it was the name of a legend. A legend who massacred all those that stood between him and the title of the greatest martial artist in existence. Whether it be dragons, a phoenix god, or the insane super powerful martial artist, none walked away unscathed.
In his heyday, the young man had devastated a large chunk of land belonging to a tribe of warrior women. Countries stood in awe of the awesome power and bowed themselves to the undefeatable destructive force of nature.
At least, until today. For he, Tai Sugurue, would conquer the legend. Tai thought as he brushed away several strands of midnight black hair away from his flawless complection with a fingerless gloved hand. Grunting, he shifted his large pack over his 188 cm body's shoulder. He wore a leather outfit that hung loosely around him, revealing rippling chiseled muscles.
From the first time he had heard that name, Tai drove himself into a frenzy of training. For countless years he shaped his body into the perfect weapon using a fluid mixture of technique, speed and power. He too had defeated any that stood in the way of claming the world's strongest title.
His recent defeat of a demon lord sent to bring the apocalypse was the signal that he was ready. Now he stood before the compound of the Saotome household. It was obvious that the place had undergone many changes in recent times. Indeed, as he looked, Tai could find subtle traces that the neighboring properties were recently absorbed.
Not that he could see anything inside, the fence was enormous, standing three or four meters tall and at least one thick. It was composed of a dark brown wood he was unfamiliar with; some foreign tree that would likely be stronger then anything local.
Tai shook his head, he was getting distracted. He couldn't afford distractions when he was so close. Walking around the corer, Tai found himself face to face with an enormous gate headed with a sign.
To submit application to become a student of the Anything Goes School of Martial Arts, please sign the waiting list.
Tai glanced to the side where he found a computer terminal. It was stationed in what resembled a phone booth. Out of curiosity, he entered the small building. His eyes widened when he found the waiting list displayed.
"23,671 waiting? My god."
Walking back out, Tai found further instructions below the first declaration.
To challenge Ranma in one on one combat, please pull cord and present submission papers.
"Submission papers? I don't need some stupid submission papers." Tai said to himself before pulling the cord. He jumped back as a great gong sounded throughout the area.
'That's some door-bell." Tai mumbled to himself clutching his heart at the unexpected noise.
Eventually the door swung open soundlessly.
Tai was startled as a goddess appeared before him. She wore an elegant emerald green evening gown, her brown locks cascading down her back in waves. Her piercing yet gentle brown eyes regarded him serenely. In all, he had the strongest desire to drop to his knees and beg forgiveness. For what? He wasn't sure; the desire was there all the same.
"May I help you?"
Tai blinked, he hadn't realized that he had been staring. "I'm sorry, my name is Tai Sugurue and I've come to challenge Ranma." Tai said nervously before bowing low.
"I see, my name is Kasumi, please come in." The divine girl replied before returning his bow with a small one herself and standing to the side, gesturing him to enter.
Picking himself up from his formal bow, Tai walked through the gate and blinked in surprise. The interior was enormous, containing a main house that looked closer to an ancient Japanese mansion raising high above him. Off to the side lining the way were three dojos, two on the left and another twice as big on the right. Branches from each formed a stone walkway framed with a dizzying array of flowers that shifted color ever three feet. In the middle, connecting all of the lines, stood a stone pavilion next to a small clear watered pond.
A small cough from behind brought Tai back to reality. Turning around, he found his angelic hostess waiting patently for his attention.
"Please follow me." She said before walking smoothly and gracefully down the walkway to the middle pavilion. Tai following after Kasumi and stopped next to one of four small stone tables. "Do you have your submission papers?" Kasumi asked unassumingly.
Tai felt bad, he still didn't believe he needed some stupid papers to challenge someone, but to deny this woman anything seemed sacrilege.
Hesitantly he shook his head as if a child waiting to be chastise. Kasumi nodded before pulling out and handing him a thick stack of papers.
"Please fill these out and sign after you have gone through them all thoroughly. I'll have someone come by and check on you once you are finished. If you will excuse me, I have to get back to class. It's been a pleasure meeting you." Kasumi finished by bowing low which he mirrored moments later.
Kasumi turned to walk down one of the paths heading to the left of the two dojos. He noticed nearly a dozen girls dreamily looking his way, whispering to each other and giggling as they did so. They stopped as soon as Kasumi reached them, returning to… cleaning?
Tai shook his head. Did they really need that many people to clean a dojo? Trying to find more clues, he noticed a small sign next to the entrance that he had missed. School of Anything Goes housekeeping. Tai blinked. He had come across many unusual schools in his time in the wilderness, but nothing like housekeeping. Taking a closer look, Tai was surprised to find several of the student's handling a mop as if it where a staff, fighting against others while cleaning the floor.
'Okay, now that is just freaky.' Tai thought to himself before looking at the paperwork the young woman handed him.
"What the hell is this! There must be two hundred pages in this thing. It'll take me days to read through it all."
Taking a deep breath, Tai sat down in one of the comfortable chairs before flipping open the first page.
I the applicant, herein known as party A, who wishes to pursue formal challenge with one Ranma Saotome, herein known as party B…
'My god, I'm having flashbacks from algebra. There is no way I'm going through this whole stack of mumbo jumbo. Besides, all these contracts are exactly the same. Not like anyone actually reads them.'
So thinking, Tai flipped to the final page, signing and dating on the dotted line with a small flourish.
'Well that was easy. Now what should I do? She said that someone would come along when I finished, but I doubt it will be soon.' Tai lay back in the very comfortable lawn chair and took a look around. He had already seen the dojo where a regal Kasumi was literally sweeping students off their feet. Letting his gaze drift, Tai was a little surprised to find that the pond that he thought was beside the pavilion was actually over it. In the center he found a circle about half a meter wide where several fish were lazing around. It was very peaceful, he had to admit.
Taking a closer look at the other dojo he found a small sign.
Saotome School of Anything Goes revised Okinamiyaki style.
Tai blinked again, Okinamiyaki style? He had been here less then five minutes and he was already weirded out by this place. Taking a look inside the dojo, he found seven people sitting in a row with small portable fryers in front of each. To the side, were the beginnings of what appeared like thirty people with small individual tables set in front of each. Some of the people appeared as if they had been dragged straight from the gutter. All were watching the seven in front of them critically. A woman wearing boy's cloths stood to the side with a small stopwatch.
He didn't hear it, but the woman said something, dropping her hand. There was an instant barrage of flying Okinamiyaki. Moments later, everyone had food in front of them.
Tai covered his mouth to suppress a snicker when he realized one of the patrons face was covered by an extra large Okinamiyaki. Apparently the instructor leading them noticed too as she was redressing an inexperienced looking student.
Finally taking his eyes away from the funny scene, Tai checked out the largest dojo expecting to find Ranma leading a class. He was hoping to study Ranma's movements and perhaps anticipate his style when they fought later on. What he found, to his disappointment, was twelve students in mere white-belts learning the proper way to land after a throw. The instructor was a short blue haired girl who guided them gently and gave them instruction.
Tai sneered, was Ranma not even teaching courses now? Had he become so weak? Tai's eyes narrowed. Visibly shuddering, Tai halted that line of thought. He could not allow himself to underestimate his opponent. Perhaps he was simply letting a student handle the lower courses. That must be it.
"Finished going through all the paperwork already, sugar?"
Tai spun around in his chair as he found himself face to face with the girl wearing boy's clothing, a ponytail hanging over her shoulder and a large spatula attached to her back. Now up close, there was no way that one could mistake the girl for a boy despite the cloths. She had developed very well during her teenage years and was doing nothing to hide the very shapely hour glass figure.
"Is something wrong?" She asked taking a step back to allow him some breathing room.
"Um, no, nothing is wrong. And yes, I've finished the paperwork."
"Wow, I'm impressed, it took me a good week to really understand everything in there. You must study martial arts speed reading or something. Was never much interested in that branch myself, just a bunch of bookworms trying to lay claim to a martial artist status if you ask me. But I must be boring you. I'll give you a few tips on finding Ryoga. If you're lucky he managed to stay in one place since this morning and you should be able to challenge Ranma formally in a little over a week."
"A week! I don't want to wait a week to fight Ranma. Why would I have to go searching for this Ryoga character? Its Ranma I want to challenge, not him."
Ukyo stared at the young man, and Tai once again felt like a little boy demanding a toy before his allowance at the end of the month.
"I see, if you want to challenge Ranma without going through Ryoga then you'll have to go through the legal department as outlined by section 3 subparagraph 2. Of course you know all about that clause?"
Tai shifted his eyes, avoiding eye contact.
"Ok then, please follow me." Ukyo said before heading to the large central estate.
Tai followed after, keeping several paces behind her. He didn't like how this place made him feel. It was like everyone was superior even though he hadn't fought or even seen Ranma himself.
As they walked up to the door, Ukyo took up the conversation again.
"That section I mentioned, in case it is a little vague, details that the contract you signed is binding and that a breach of contract is taken care of by our financial department." Ukyo mentioned ominously as the front door closed with a thud behind him.
"Taken care of?" Tai asked, his eyes opening wide.
"Our financial head will explain everything." Ukyo answered with a devious grin.
Walking down an expensive hallway lined with pictures from various artists, Tai continued listlessly, following on autopilot. He never noticed the hallway slowly led down, shifting into a dark rocky tunnel the further they continued. By the time they stopped and he did notice, they were standing before a rickety old door in what appeared to be a cave.
Relocating to the side, Ukyo gestured to the entrance.
"I hope to see you again sometime, if you survive." She said before leaving him to his fate.
Tentatively, Tai walked forward until he faced the door directly. Stopping, he heard sounds on the other side.
Placing his ear next to the door, he listened carefully.
"My precious, my pretty precious."
'Ok, this is getting a little weird.' Tai thought to himself, goosebumps running up and down his spine. That feeling only occurred a handful of times in his past. The dark lord was one such. 'What could be in here that is as great as a dark lord?'
Stepping back, Tai open the door, making not a sound.
What he found left him in awe. It was a treasure vault with millions of gold coins forming small mountains on the floor speckled with rubies, emeralds, and every golden trinket he could ever have imagined.
Amongst the piles of gold, he spotted a kneeling creature. That was the best he could describe the humpback with a shredded green cloak actually petting a large emerald sitting on its lap.
"My precio…" The figure stopped in the middle of it repetitious statement. "I smell something, my precious. Something to add to our collection. Been a bad boy he has." Taking a few whiffs of the air, the head slowly turned towards him, eyes alight in insane glee "Fresh meat." It cackled.
Tai screamed and ran out the door leaving the woman hunched on the piles of gold; his voice becoming a distant echo.
Several minutes after the martial artist left, the woman stood up straight, stretching her arms out.
"Taken care of another one I see," came a voice from the shadows.
The woman carelessly looked in the direction of the voice to find a pigtailed man standing in the doorway.
"Yeah, as easily dissuaded as every super powerful martial artist that wants your crown without going through the proper channels."
"How many does that make today?" The outline asked.
"Hmmm, counting that one it would be ten challengers, five undocumented marriage proposals, six girls stating that you are their fiancés from a previous bargain struck by your estranged parent, three of which were fraudulent. All in all a rather slow morning. Has Ukyo's class finished lunch yet?"
"Not yet, lunch isn't for another three hours. You've been losing track of time more often lately. Why do you insist on staying?"
"Practicing my art of course." Nabiki answered, absently rubbing the large jewel in her hand.
"Awe yes, anything goes school of lawsuits. I have to commend you on your fine expertise. Are you planning on taking on students soon?"
"No, this art will die with me."
"As to my other question?"
"I haven't forgotten, it has been a dream of mine to wallow in wealth. Ten years ago I could only imagine standing here like this with awe and hunger. More wealth then I could ever calculate no matter how hard I tried.
Now that I am here, it is only a punishment for my previous shallow actions," Nabiki gestured to everything around her "To remain here with all of this… cold meaningless metal."
"You know we don't believe that."
"Of course, and someday I will be able to accept your pardon, but until then we have other things to do."
"Your charity donations?"
"If it makes you happy, then do as you please. I need to get back to Ukyo and Kasumi." So saying the young man turned away, leaving Nabiki to her dark world.
"They do get lonely if their husband is not there to bring out a smile," Nabiki whispered as she watched the young man leave her once again, a small thread of guilt tugging her heart at the chance she had thrown away so many years ago for true happiness.
Author's end notes: Hmmmm, I'm not sure what to say about this fic. It is intended as a one-shot, but after reviewing it sounds like more chapters are possible. For the moment I'll leave it as is.
Now where did this actually come from? It was a funny idea I had somewhere between the realm of dreams and the sound of my alarm clock. It's amazing what things can come of that time. Why did it become a story? For the typical reasons such things do, it just wouldn't leave me alone!
I hope you like it,