Author's notes: Yes, another chapter added to the story once listed as complete. Did I lie? No, this was fully intended to be a humorous one-shot. Then a new idea popped into my head. Unfortunately with so many new stories out, I was a little leery of creating another. So I decided to add it to one of the preexisting stories. It just happened to work very well with this one. This fic has not been pre-read.
Disclaimer: Don't own Ranma, Akane, Ukyo… oh heck I don't own any of them.
Breach of Contract
Chapter 2: A New Contest?
Ukyo leaned back against the last hallway to intersect what was lovingly dubbed the tunnel of doom. She silently watched the dust settle as the man known as Tai barreled past her without even realizing nor caring of her presence.
She really loved it when it was her turn to lead those that broke the contract to meet their fate at the hands of Nabiki. Typically they were never seriously hurt. Most usually ended up miles away, utterly confused after hours of running without understanding why they were running in the first place. A third not scared off, found themselves a little more inclined to follow the contract. The few idiotic or brain dead enough to come back without fulfilling the terms ended up in a mental institution. It had only happened once so far. "I wonder how Kuno is doing anyway?" Ukyo thought aloud
It was definitely a testament to Nabiki's form of martial arts. She wasn't strong; a good kick would leave her sprawling on the ground. No, her advantage was the mind. Ukyo still wasn't sure of the specifics, but Nabiki had mastered the art of emotional control. She knew it was through a form of ki manipulation. Most advanced martial artists already knew that ki colored their emotions; Nabiki just flipped the concept, forming the emotional ki on a massive level, broadcasting it while matching her prey's ki frequency.
The body was enveloped and it was only a matter of time before the victim bent to the puppeteer's desired emotion.
Ukyo was surprised at first that the technique worked on martial artists at all, but then again, most martial artists were only concerned about ki when it took the form of large blasts or augmentation of their limbs to move faster. Very few ever bothered to train against such a threat because no one knew it existed. God like beings could and did fall before even launching an attack.
To her knowledge, only one person had ever beaten Nabiki since developing her formidable technique and that was Ranma. Ukyo herself had trained hard and could give Nabiki a run for her money as she modulated her own internal ki frequency. But the very act of changing the frequency made her ki elusive to use.
Nabiki, while she couldn't take a hit, had developed an uncanny ability to dodge. Someone not augmented with ki didn't have a chance at touching her.
"Hey there." Ukyo looked up to see the smiling face of Ranma. Her eyes instinctively checked him out even after all these years. It was hard not to with sculpted abs easily outlined through his rich forest green Chinese silks. He had filled out nicely since his youth; nothing close to a body builder's overdevelopment, rather a corded steal thirty times as strong. As she brought her eyes up to meet his, she found his usual hard eyes softening as they filled with her own reflection.
"Hey yourself. How is she doing?" Ukyo asked revealing a bright smile before nodding her head down the cavern of doom.
"Same as always. You know how she gets when she stays in there too long."
"I see." A small pout developing as she turned inward.
"Shouldn't you get back to your students, Mrs. Saotome?" Ukyo giggled at the reference. A dream fulfilled; one she once thought lost.
"They should be fine on their own. They're simply finishing up the breakfast shift."
"Good, some of those people looked like they hadn't eaten in a week."
"True, many of the recent homeless are too proud to ask for help. The excuse to help train my students sometimes doesn't even work anymore since these recent hard times came along."
"Yes, we'll just have to see how everything works out. Would you like to come with me and see if Kasumi has finished cleaning her students' clock?" Ranma asked, nodding up the hallway toward the exit of their home.
"No, I have some more thinking to do. You go on ahead and I'll catch up."
"Sure thing," Ukyo leaned in with a smile as Ranma gently cupped her cheek. "Don't worry too much; Nabiki is working on helping things out."
Ukyo nodded her head feeling the comfort radiate from Ranma's hand as he gently let go to visit with her co-wife. She gently watched as the love of her life walked up to the surface.
It was amazing how things turned out. In her wildest dreams she had never imagined her future like this. It was certainly a long and difficulty journey. Now that she thought about it, she could even remembered how it all started. That one day…
Ukyo stretched out her arms as the chime signaled her last customer for the day leaving. It had been a long and tiring shift that dragged on and on with always one more customer then she could handle. With no help, it was starting to ware on her. Hands moving automatically, Ukyo started cleaning the large pile of pots and pans she had had no time to deal with earlier in the day.
Though she loved to cook, bringing a smile to her customers left a warm feeling inside, going through a dinner rush was very tiring. Today seemed to be especially busy because of some large and obscure event held close by. She stopped paying attention to such things recently as she already had enough on her plate with school, the shop and trying to spend at least a little quality time with Ranma.
"I'm sorry, we're closed." Ukyo said off hand as she kept her attention on a particular stubborn dish.
"Oh, ok." The figure in her peripheral vision turned to walk away before Ukyo blinked, 'Was that…?'
Turning, she found herself facing the back of someone with a very familiar red Chinese outfit.
"Ranma? What are you doing here?" Ukyo asked, causing the pigtailed youth to stop, the door half open.
When he didn't immediately answer, Ukyo put down the dish, drying her hands on a rag before approaching her fiancé.
"Ranma, why don't you come in for awhile? I could use the company while I finish cleaning up." Ukyo offered lightly touching his shoulder.
Ukyo tilted her head when her touch brought a shudder from Ranma. For several long heavy moments, Ranma stayed where he was causing Ukyo to become concerned. Shortly, he squared his shoulders before turning around with a large grin.
"How you doing, Ucchan? Things been going alright?"
Ukyo wasn't sure what to make of this little transformation. It almost appeared as if Ranma's demeanor took a 180.
"Sure sugar, things have been going alright. Why don't you take a seat and I'll make you a special." She asked, gesturing to one of the stools in front of the grill before walking around to warm it up again.
"Thanks, but I'm not feeling too hungry right now," Ranma answered, taking a seat on one of the stools.
Ukyo's hand froze on the knob to heat the grill. That statement was just wrong. The whole situation felt wrong all together.
Turning off the counter grill, Ukyo pulled up another chair to sit in front of her fiancé.
"Ranma, what's wrong?" She asked very serious, her hands cupping her chin.
Ranma started to fidget under the scrutiny, his cocky smile suffering from the intense yet gentle gaze focused on him.
"Uh, nothing's wrong. What makes you think something is wrong?" Ranma asked, gently tugging his pigtail.
"One, you almost left when I said I was closed; two you didn't take me up on the offer for free food; and three you only pull your pigtail when you're really nervous. It all adds up to something is seriously bothering you. Now what is it?" Ukyo asked, not changing her position a wit.
At each reason, Ranma pulled back slightly as if struck. "I just ate, that's why I'm not hungry." He answered weakly in a whisper Ukyo nearly didn't catch.
"Ranma, I've known you a long time. I know that even if you just ate you wouldn't turn down free food. The only time you are not hungry is when you are too worried to eat." When she stopped, she found Ranma's eyes not quite meeting hers anymore, his cocky grin a pale shadow.
Ukyo waited a moment as Ranma continued to avoid her gaze.
"Ranma…" Ukyo waited until his roving attention returned to her face. "…please don't shut me out. I might be able to help if you tell me what's troubling you." She said quietly, her eyes shimmering on the brink of tears.
Ranma's smirk vanished in the face of Ukyo's expression, turning into a small frown.
"I…I don't know what's wrong, Ucchan." Ranma answered hesitantly.
Ranma nearly pulled back when Ukyo reached over and took hold of his hand.
"Take your time, sugar, I'm not going anywhere." Ukyo offered, lightly squeezing his hand reassuringly.
Ranma sat staring at Ukyo's face for a moment before shifting his eyes to the door and back.
Nodding her head, Ukyo stood up, locking the door with a triple padlock to make sure that no unwanted guests would appear.
"Why don't we go upstairs, sugar? Should be a lot more privacy up there."
Ranma hesitantly nodded his head, appearing less nervous now that the door had been locked.
Ukyo could understand why. People would always drop in unexpectedly on her fiancé at the worst possible moment, typically believing terrible things of him.
Once Ukyo double checked the locks, she led Ranma up to her personal apartment where he took a chair next to the mirror. Ukyo sat down on her bed, watching Ranma closely as something pent up seemed to struggle to come out.
"So what's bothering you, Ranchan? Another fight with Akane?" Ukyo asked quietly so as not to disturb his piece of mind.
She witnessed a mixture of emotions flash across his face, depression, anger, sadness, regret, deeper depression, and just a glint of hope all warred with one another. Ukyo cringed as a creepy feeling ran down her back. She almost felt like she was on the threshold of opening Pandora's Box.
The mixture of emotions started to settle to a general depression before he attempted to speak. His mouth stayed open for several seconds before closing, the words unwilling to come. At any other time, Ukyo would have found the expression funny, but she knew Ranma needed her silence for the moment.
"Everything." Ranma finally whispered.
Ukyo blinked at the unexpected announcement. "What do you mean 'everything'?" Ukyo asked.
"It's just that everything seems… wrong. It all seems to go on and on like a never ending clock. Every week there are at least three or four people out to challenge me. Most of which don't care what they do to get to me. They put people I care for in harms way. If one comes someday and I'm not good enough…"
Ukyo's eyes opened wide. This was the first time she had ever heard Ranma even think that someone might be able to beat him.
"Everyone is chasing me all the time. I'll admit, at first I enjoyed all the attention. There was no one besides pops on my training journey and as soon as we stopped long enough to make friends I was forced to move on. Having everyone's attention made me feel important. But now I have to look around every corner, cringe at the sound of a simply bicycle bell, knowing I'll get glomped just before Akane makes an appearance before hitting me. I'm tired of being hit, of being sought after. If this continues… I just don't know what I'll do," Ranma finished, looking down, hands holding up his head.
Ukyo watched Ranma carefully, waiting to see if he had anymore to say. She was surprised. She had always thought Ranma could take anything and jump right back into the fray. Now that she really sat down and thought about it, he was under a lot of stress. More then even she could lay claim to. Putting herself in his shoes, she realized she would have snapped ages ago, likely taking half the city with her in a bout of misery. Now looking into Ranma's depressed eyes, it appeared that the load was so great and wearing that he was falling into himself, ready to crumble at the softest touch. To be acting this way, that touch couldn't be far off.
'I have to do something. I can't imagine myself without Ranma, but I can not bear the thought of Ranma… I have to think!' Ukyo mentally strained as she tried to come up with some idea.
Ukyo's resolve strengthened as she turned her attention back to Ranma who was studying the floor intently. It was shocking to see him like this; so down in the dumps. Nothing should have taken him this far. It had to end... for his sake. She frowned as a possibility came to mind. A possibility she would rather bury in the depths of her imagination. She didn't have that option anymore.
"Ranma? Would it be better if you didn't have all of these engagements or perhaps just one?"
Ranma's tired eyes rose to meet Ukyo's before sighing. "I know what you're thinking, and leaving with you would honor…"
"Ranma, I'm not talking about running away with me." Ukyo said, her cheeks went a nice scarlet as her mind elaborated the possibility. "Unless you wanted to, then I would drop everything in a heart beat. What I mean is… I… may have an idea that might free you of the engagements," Ukyo finished, forcing herself not to bite her tongue. Ranma needed her now, more then he ever needed anyone before; as much as it saddened her, not even her bright dreams for their beautiful future were as important.
Ranma's eyes slowly turned towards her, a glimmer of hope in them that she could not remember seeing for some time. It helped spur her on.
"There's such a way? A way to actually maintain honor?" Ranma asked, an almost child like innocence illuminating his features.
"Yes, I was thinking about a contest…" Ukyo stopped as Ranma's expression lost all hope in the blink of an eye.
"And the winner gets me?" He asked in a neutral tone.
"Sort of, but there doesn't have to be a winner." Ukyo said, trying to push past the misunderstanding.
Ranma's perplexed eyes returned to her own.
"If there is a contest then there has to be a winner," he said blankly.
"I was thinking of something a little more elaborate then a cooking contest. What seems to be going on is a whole lot of girls after you for marriage and thanks to your no good jackass of a father, they each have written agreements to back up their claim. No matter how much they come onto you, I've never really seen any of them say how they envision their lives if you were to choose them. The contest would include spending a week with each of those participating in a way that they think the future will work out. At the end you can choose one or none or them. Part of the agreement will include that anyone participating will put up their part of the engagement based on your decision. So if you don't like how any of the lifestyles go you can choose none of them and be free to drive your own destiny."
Ukyo's eyes had drifted down as she finished, her voice a mere whisper, avoiding Ranma's intense gaze.
"Ukyo why would you…"
"Ranma, you may not realize it, but how you were talking… the look in your eyes; you're close to the edge. I wouldn't be surprised to hear you've been thinking of fulfilling that sepuku pledge." Ranma looked away showing just how accurate her words were. "As much as I do not want to be without you, I couldn't stand your loss. I'm willing to do this for you if you are willing to give it a chance," Ukyo finished, her eyes growing moist again.
They sat there together in mutual silence; each avoiding the other's gaze.
Both blinked at the sudden noise from below.
"RANMA! I know you're up there, now get down here," screamed a voice from the street.
Looking to each other, their eyes grew wide. They knew that voice. It appeared Akane had come to collect her missing fiancé.
Hesitantly, both stood to walk down the stairs.
"I hear you in there now let me in!" Akane screamed again as they walked into the main serving area.
"Ok, ok, just quite it down. The neighbors are already on my case about all the noise. The last thing I need is you making more." Ukyo finished unlocking each of the chains. As soon as the last fell, the door zipped open nearly breaking as it impacted the other side. Before them was revealed a steaming mad Akane who rushed in, hitting Ranma over the head, dropping him like a fly. You could almost see stars circle around his head.
"I knew you would be here with one of your hussies! You even locked the door so I couldn't get in." Akane screamed, a pale red aura developing around her, becoming ever more vivid.
"I'm not some hussy you jackass. We were just having a little talk." Ukyo scowled before kneeling down to make sure Ranma was alright.
"Like I would believe that story." Akane humphed, turning away with her arms folded under her chest.
"Why wouldn't you, if we really did do something, he would have gone out the back window when you started making all the racket." Ukyo answered, judging that though stronger then her typical punch, Ranma's toughened body would recover in a few minutes.
Akane opened her mouth to rebut only to hang there. Instead she switched her anger back to Ranma.
"Whatever, now come on you idiot, Kasumi's been worried sick about you being out so late." So saying she twirled around, stomping out the door.
Ranma rubbed his head, shaking it every few seconds to get rid of the cobwebs.
"Are you alright, sugar?" She asked as she helped Ranma to wobble back onto his feet.
"Yeah, I'll be alright in a second, damn tomboy needs to watch her strength."
"I heard that," an incensed voice shouted from outside the shop. It appeared Akane hadn't gone as far as she had led them to believe.
"Well it's the truth." He shouted back, followed by more stomping noises drawing away from the building.
Ranma was about to follow after Akane when Ukyo tugged at his arm.
Ranma turned around to face Ukyo, who found herself having a hard time keeping her focus on him, finding the ground rather interesting.
"Ranma, about what we were talking about…"
Ranma nodded his head. "Give me some time to think about it. I really appreciate what you are willing to do for me and it is a really good idea, I just need… time to think I guess."
Ukyo nodded her head and released his arm.
"Just let me know and we can start getting things together."
Ranma walked out of the shop following the heavy heeled thumps emanating from the distance.
Author's note: I can hear it now, a deal like this would cause dishonor in Japanese culture for the girls and Ranma would never allow it. It is true that we are working from the Japanese perspective and breaking such pacts would be very dishonorable, we are also working in the Ranmaverse. We have already seen two potential fiancées leave despite the agreements. One of these due to a contest with no apparent ramifications for the girl. The second fiancée I am referring to occurred at the end of the same episode as the first; with the hairy guy. As the second father makes no future appearance out for Ranma's neck, he too must have been handled with no resulting blood feud. Does this mean that there will be no consequences for anyone? No, they will be there. After all, I'm trying to take into account Japanese culture at the same time. They just won't show up for awhile.
Any questions, comments, encouragements, requests, corrections, or the like can either be submitted by review or emailed to me directly.