Untitled Document

Splitting Heirs
by Jeffrey Vasquez

A refreshing breeze blew through the window of the shrine office, causing a
set of chimes to toll lightly in the late spring, morning air. The serene
beauty of Jurai had never held Yosho's fascination like the Earth had.

He wasn't sure whether it was because of his heritage, or because of the
rustic, romanticism that the planet held. The technology was quaint and
primitive, while the daily struggles of life seemed to make every sacrifice
worthwhile. Life spans were measured in decades, not millennia, which made
them all the more potent and precious.

His eyes roamed the small valley that his home rested in, from the vantage
of the shrine office's window. The maples were a lush green, and a tangy
pine scent floated to him on another errant breeze. The lake was the purest
blue, reflecting the beautiful sky that graced this almost perfect morning.

Yosho sighed ponderously and looked up at the guest seated before him.
Whichever the case might have been, he had long ago given up any desire to
return to the planet of his birth. Unfortunately, for him at least, the
woman sitting quietly across the table had other plans. His now young face
wore a troubled expression at what he knew was coming.

"You will return to Jurai with us Yosho." Her voice brooked no arguments.
Unfortunately, that was what had been going on for the last two and a half
hours: polite, but firm arguing.

Yosho was at odds with himself. He had never before confronted his parents
on any issue. The closest that he had come, had been running after Ryoko in
spite of his father's wishes. At least there had been lives at stake then,
and the unquestioned passion of vengeance to consider.

He didn't have such crutches to rely on now. No, now he was faced with a no
win situation: disobey and face the consequences, or go back to Jurai and
face the political bigotry of the Court that he hated so much.

He detested being bullied, and in the end that was exactly what this was
boiling down to.

"Or what mother?" He cringed inwardly at the bitterness that his voice held.
This conversation had gone on too long, and he was losing his composure. He
needed for them to understand his position. He could care less if they
accepted it or not, so long as they understood. "Will I be disowned?
Banished? Or perhaps become a branded traitor?" The callous mockery that
laced his voice caused his mother to bristle slightly.

Funaho looked at him coldly, and he knew that his words had stung her. She
would never condone such actions, nor would his father dare insinuate such
things. Not if he knew what was good for him..

Yosho calmly set his teacup down before him. He hadn't meant the harshness
to enter his voice, but this conflict between father and son was old and
worn. A battle that had lasted nearly a millennium, and one that Yosho had
grown tired of long ago. The fact that Azusa had sent Funaho to fight his
losing battle boiled Yosho's blood.

He sighed in exasperation. "Forgive me Mother. I do not mean disrespect."
At least he hadn't meant it toward her. She shouldn't have been the one to
make this demand. But the man that he called "Father" had refused to
approach him. He was the Emperor of billions of sentient life forms, and
yet the man sent his wife to bully him into becoming the heir apparent.

Yosho had explained his reasons for abdicating the throne to Azusa before he
set out to face Ryoko. And when the man refused to listen, Yosho had turned
to Funaho and the High Chancellor. He had yearned for their understanding,
but received nothing but badgering and frustration from all sides. They had
left him no choice in the matter, and so he made a choice of his own.

Funaho looked at her only child, cooly. But, the iciness of her gaze
melted under the agony that hid behind her son's eyes. She had spent almost
one thousand years reading people; unlocking their secrets one at a time; by
the way they sat, and the way they moved. She knew her baby was fighting
her tooth and nail, and from the way her heart was breaking she knew that he
was winning.

His arguments were sound. She knew that if the crown were forced on him,
both he and Ayeka would suffer needlessly. A loveless marriage was the seed
of civil unrest, and Jurai had enough problems at the moment, without a
wedge forcing its ruling body apart. That was something that she hoped to
avoid at all costs.

She refused to let her emotions show; there was no need to let him know that
he had won his battle. Instead, she attacked him from a new position.

"Tell me then Yosho, if not you," Her voice took on a dangerous softness
that caused the hair on the back of Yosho's neck to stand on end. " ...then
who?"

Yosho looked at his mother calculatingly before answering. "Tenchi of
course."

"And if he refuses, or is found unworthy?" The Lady Funaho asked quietly.

"He is worthy Mother. I have trained Tenchi since his mother died. He has
accepted his heritage and will accept his place as heir to the throne." The
pride in his voice was evident.

Funaho hoped that Tenchi was all that her son promised and more. It was
going to take a miracle for her to be able to convince Azusa to accept the
boy in Yosho's stead.

"So all your hopes rest in this one boy -" She paused to sip her tea. "That
seems very unlike you son. It is a politically unsound strategy." The
mother eyed her son over the rim of her teacup. "I thought that I had
taught you better than that." Her frown caused Yosho discomfort.

This was an entirely new tactic for her; usually his father was the one that
questioned Yosho's every move. Her tactics were to lead you to the
conclusion that she felt was best, and make it look as if it had been your
choice all along. To have her challenge him like this, when she had once
been his staunchest ally, was a cutting betrayal. The insult inflamed him,
but the flames only blazed in his eyes.

She saw them and smiled.

When he responded, his voice was neutral, and emotionless. "Only a fool
would place his hope so fully in one arena."

Funaho's eyebrow rose slightly, feigning surprise. Yosho was indeed out of
practice if he was willing to give away so much, so soon. "So there is
another avenue that could be pursued if necessary?" Or perhaps he has
another agenda altogether?

Too late he realized that she had maneuvered him into giving away
information. He did his best to recover. "Perhaps, -" he said casually.
"If the need arose." He knew that she would pump him for information, and
eventually get all that she desired.

Out of practice.

**You've grown rusty son.** Funaho looked at her Yosho knowingly.

She hoped that Yosho understood that she loved him. But, when that love was
balanced against the well being of the countless citizens that made their
home within the Empire, she couldn't let it blind her to what needed to be
done.

"That is very reassuring. I would like to meet with this hidden trump of
yours." Her eyes stared at him intently, gauging every subtle move of his
body, watching his eyes for the slightest message.

Yosho's brow shot up in alarm.

**You're an open book Yosho.** She thought disappointedly. It was a
problem for another occasion though. Now was the time to press him for more
information. "Is there a problem with that Yosho?"

"No Mother." He hedged. How could he tell her that his trump card had been
missing for the last ten years? There was no use for it. He would have to
use drastic measures to find Nodoka's boy. "I will make the necessary
arrangements for the meeting as soon as possible."

"That will be splendid. Your father and I cannot wait to meet another of
our grandchildren." Yosho swallowed the rest of his warm tea in one gulp
and prayed that Ranma was every bit the man that Nodoka claimed him to be.
Somehow, the thought of any child with Genma Saotome as a father was less
than inspiring.

********

Ranma sneezed loudly as he and Akane walked home from school. A dread chill
ran down his spine that caused him to look around anxiously. Seeing nothing
amiss, he shrugged his shoulders and continued home.

*********

Splitting Heirs

Chapter one: To find a Prince

Disclaimer:

All characters portrayed in this story are owned by their respective
creators and companies. All others belong to me.

*********

Nodoka Saotome hadn't heard from her father in years; not since Achika had
passed away. The deep rift that had opened between them began with her
marriage to Genma, had grown steadily since then. She had thought that they
would never speak again, and resigned herself to living her life with her
wayward husband and son. When Genma had taken Ranma away, Nodoka felt as if
her world had shattered. She had born it with the stoicism that was
legendary among Japanese women.

Ranma had returned, both better and worse than she had hoped, but her life
was whole again and that meant a great deal. To receive a telephone call
from her father though...that was a miracle that she had never hoped to see.
It warmed her heart almost as much as finding Ranma again.

Perhaps the years had buried their differences, and Katsuhito Misaki would
once again be an active part of her life. She had tried to keep him abreast
of all that was going on in her family's life through monthly letters, but
it was not the same when he never wrote back. She missed her father
greatly.

Now he was coming to visit, and "make amends" for his long absence. All she
had to do was whip her husband into shape and make Ranma presentable for his
first real visit from his grandfather. A monumental task to be sure, but
one that Nodoka was sure could be attained. She wondered at the fact that he
was bringing guests with him..."Old family" he had said.

Perhaps they were cousins from mother's side, for she knew that father had
been an only child. A migraine began to slowly ebb behind her eyes as she
pondered all that she had to do before her father arrived next week. She
offered up a silent prayer that the Heavens would be merciful.

********

Ranma watched as his father desperately packed all of their meager
belongings. His mad dash about the room they shared in the Tendo home made
Ranma smirk, not a hard task considering the fact that his father was
currently an obese panda with wide bulging eyes.

Nodoka, from her position next to her son, could only shake her head in
disgust. It was on occasions such as these, that she really wondered if all
of her sacrifices had truly been worth it. She had left her father and her
sister's family for a fat and cowardly man. She shook her head as Genma
"growfed" and barked at Ranma to hurry and made a slight adjustment to her
observation. Genma was a fat and cowardly panda.

Oh, the shame!

One look at her son though, justified her every loss. He might not have
been as refined as she had hoped for, but there was no doubt in her mind
that Ranma was a man among men. In spite of his "affliction."

No thanks to his father.

Nodoka glared at the back of her transformed husband in exposed
disappointment. The panda in question whirled on his son abruptly, and
began scribbling on a large wooden sign.

[Why aren't you helping me!]

"Because I ain't goin' with ya, you old fart!" Ranma smiled smugly. "I ain
't never met Grandpa, and I ain't gonna miss out on this chance because you'
re too much of a coward to face him!" Nodoka smiled up at her son
approvingly.

[Traitorous child! To think, that after all that we've been through
together, you would abandon your own father!] The panda began to weep and
moan pitifully.

"So says the man who dumped his kid into a pit of starving cats." Ranma
deadpanned. "Shoulda done it a long time ago and saved myself some grief."
Ranma mumbled.

Nodoka smiled to herself as Genma began his crazed packing anew. Despite
the example of her husband, her son had learned the value of family and
family honor. It made her pride swell. Now if only she could do something
about his manners and speech before her father arrived, all would be well.

********

Yosho turned to his mother after hanging up the receiver. Funaho was unable
to hide her eagerness, despite the cool demeanor that she had painted on her
face. "They are expecting us within the week."

"You could not arrange for something sooner?" Funaho asked.

"No Mother. My daughter deserves time to prepare herself for our arrival."
He turned away from her, looking out the window of his office. "We did not
part on good terms, and I have never revealed the truth of her heritage to
Nodoka. I need the time to prepare myself."

"May I ask why?" Funaho asked in a miffed tone.

To think that he was ashamed of whom and what he was. It was enough to
cause Yosho to whirl on his mother angrily.

"What should I have said Mother? 'No-chan, you and your sister are actually
half breed aliens that will be despised by my people, and feared by your
mother's.' Our lives were hard enough as it was, after their mother died.
I refused to burden them needlessly, by alienating them from their peers."

He turned away from her and let his voice drop. "This planet no longer has
ties to the Empire, Mother. They are not as enlightened as the people of
Jurai." The angry cynicism dripped heavily from his lips.

Funaho stared at him seemingly unruffled, but Yosho knew better. She had
never seen him like this, and he meant to capitalize on it. He snapped his
fingers dramatically causing her to jump.

"One slip and my family would have been hunted and caged, instead of simply
ostracized." His face melted and morphed back to the distinguished face of
his alter ego. Yosho's young eyes stared at his mother from the wizened
face of Katsuhito Masaki. "I gave them peace. Their ancestry was a small
price to pay for their happiness."

Funaho smiled at her son, despite the anger and regret that she felt. It was
a motherly gesture, devoid of queenly authority, that again took Yosho by
surprise. He had protected his daughters like a true father. That one fact
warmed the smile immensely.

"I thank you for that my son." She wiped a tear from her eye, and soon
found her son's arms around her. She looked up; his face was once again
young and regal. A handsome young man that made her proud. "You did for
them, what I could never do for you." And then the tears began to fall in
earnest. The centuries of guilt poured from her heart, and Yosho held her
in the embrace of forgiveness.

He supported her for sometime, cursing his station and the people that had
shattered his happiness so long ago. He shook his head in shame. He hoped
that Tenchi and Ranma would forgive him for what he was doing to them; and
he prayed that Nodoka would understand as well. The last thing that he
needed was another wedge between them.

*********
Tsunami, The Ship of Jurai

She had waited patiently for this day a long time; waited and dreaded it.
Tsunami loved all of her children dearly, but few had experienced the
harshness of life that Ranma had seen. She could not directly interfere
with his life either, at the risk of disrupting the fragile balance of
things as they had been. But soon that would be behind her. Ranma would
stand before her, to receive his blessing just as Tenchi had.

She prayed silently that that blessing would be enough against the trials
and challenges that lay before both young men. She looked down on the
sleeping boy as he dreamt and smiled lovingly at his handsome face.

*********
Saotome Home, one week later.

For Nodoka, the week had passed in one of those "Eternal Moments." It took
too long to assuage her impatience, and passed far too quickly to accomplish
all of her goals. She wanted everything perfect for this meeting, and since
Genma and Soun had left for their "training trip" there was at least a small
chance that all would go well.

Ranma had fought her coaching at first, but then seemed to catch the
importance of what was happening. It was enough to gain his full attention
and he caught onto the lessons quickly. He had understood when she asked
him to return home, and had done so without alerting any of the other
"fiancées". Thank Heavens for small favors! In order to lessen the risk of
discovery, she had asked Kasumi and her sisters to help prepare the house
for her father's arrival.

Thankfully they had accepted, for her father had called two days before he
was to arrive, saying that he was bringing a few "extra special guests" with
him, on top of those that he had already commented on. She suspected that
his companions would be her sister's husband and son, but Father hadn't been
forthcoming with any useful information. When she pressed him about
numbers, he simply laughed and said not to worry that everything was taken
care of.

That in and of itself worried her. What would her guests think of their
host if she were unprepared? The worry gradually faded, in the flurry of
activity that followed his call. She and Kasumi set about preparing a feast
fit for a king, and Ranma and Akane set about preparing the guest rooms for
occupation. Nabiki grumpily swept the house, weeded the garden, and
finished any odd jobs and running that needed to be accomplished before
their guests arrived.

The time passed by in the blink of an eye, and the Day of Arrival was soon
upon a very nervous Nodoka Saotome.

********

Akane smiled at Ranma.

It was a rare and beautiful thing for the young martial artist to
experience, and for once he had decided to keep his mouth shut and enjoy it
for as long as he possibly could.

"This is so exciting Ranma!" He nodded silently as they prepared the last
room for Grandpa and his mysterious guests. "I never got to know my
grandparents before they died. I had a great-aunt that was kind of like a
grandma I suppose. But, it just wasn't the same as the real thing."

"Yeah." He said lightly, folding a freshly cleaned futon and storing it in
the closet.

"'Yeah'? That's all you can say?" She asked incredulously.

He looked at his fiancée quizzically. "What should I say?" He demanded.

Akane's posture shifted from excited, to extremely annoyed in the blink of
an eye. "Well, you could at least show some more enthusiasm! You can be so
insensitive sometimes!"

"Awww, what do you know!" Ranma said in confused annoyance. His brain
struggled for a witty come back, but drew a blank. His body made up for the
blunder by launching a pillow at Akane, followed quickly by an intelligent:
"Uncute tomboy!"

Akane caught the pillow, and threw it back rapidly with her own rejoinder.
"Baka!"

Ranma plucked the projectile from the air. "Flat chested, sexless, girl
wanna-be." The pillow flew across the room only to be caught again.

Akane was growing irked, and the pillow whizzed back at her fiancée.
"Thick-headed, muscle-brained, sex changing, pervert!" The pillow was soon
flying back and forth between the two in a complex game of catch, amidst a
verbal assault that would have destroyed lesser beings.
The barrage went on for a good ten minutes, escalating in volume and fervor.

The battle became so intense that neither of them noticed the door open
behind Akane.

********

Nodoka could hear her son, and soon to be daughter-in-law declare war on
each other. She sighed as she finished putting her hair up in its bun.

She knew it had been inevitable, but she had wished that they had chosen to
feud earlier in the week. To do so on the day that her guests were coming
was just asking for trouble. She smoothed out the fine green silk kimono,
that had been her mother's, and mentally prepared herself to confront the
bickering teens.

She left her room and quickly navigated the hall to the room that the pair
was supposedly preparing for the guests. The door made a poor barrier to
the sounds of the vocal skirmish that the couple had unleashed against each
other. Nodoka shook her head and wondered if the two would ever set aside
their differences long enough to settle down.

She reached out her hand and opened the door. She took one step into the
room, before her eyes bulged and something exploded in her face.

********

Ranma was having the time of his life. A bright, playful smile was spread
across his face, and was mirrored intimately by his fiancée. The insults
flew with abandon, even as the pillow careened between them. They had never
had an encounter like this before, where they just played. It was both
liberating and fun.

The moment swallowed both combatants, helping them to throw caution to the
wind. Akane launched the pillow at her fiancée with the force a wrecking
ball, only to have it speedily returned to her. She knew that she couldn't
catch or deflect it, so she did the only thing that presented itself. She
dodged, and started to close the distance between them; intent on making
this conflict a little more personal.

The pillow whizzed by her head...just as the door behind her opened.

Ranma called out in horror as the pillow impacted and exploded in his mother's
face. He was subsequently tackled by Akane and buried beneath a mound of
toppled bedrolls. Nodoka toppled with a squawk, as the eruption of white
downy feathers cascaded over her, coating both the kimono and her
meticulously styled hair in fluff.

Akane looked up at her mother-in-law to be, apoplectically. Shock and
embarrassment danced plainly on her face and in her body language, as she
rushed to help the woman to her feet. Blankets were thrown off in a rush,
and a couple of hasty steps drove the air out of Ranma's lungs. Not that he
was really conscious of the blows; he had turned white and was tentatively
edging his way further back into the room.

Nodoka looked at the fear in her son's eyes, and the worried look in Akane's
eyes and sighed. It was going to be one of those days...wasn't it? At the
very least the girl was taking more initiative with her son.

"Are you all right Auntie?" Akane asked in a strained whisper, unaware that
she was straddling on Ranma's chest. Ranma had frozen the moment Akane had
begun her inquiry, and looked for the world, like a deer caught in the
headlights of an oncoming car.

Nodoka began to reply when there came a knocking at the door. She looked at
Ranma sternly from her position on the floor. She crooked her finger in a
significant, no nonsense manner, motioning for the boy to approach her.
Despite the dread that he felt, the boy carefully set Akane aside, and
rushed to help lift his mother to her feet. He instantly began searching
her head for injuries.

It did wonders for her hair, causing Nodoka to mentally curse her luck. Two
hours of tedious work, destroyed by a runaway pillow and an over protective
son.

Another knock floated up from the door, eliciting a growl from Nodoka.

Ranma quickly determined that she was fine, and then set about repairing the
damage that he had done to his mother's beautiful appearance. His hands
blurred for a moment, gathering the floating down. When that was
accomplished, he set about repairing her hair. He thanked whatever gods had
exposed him to martial arts hairstyling, without it Ranma knew that his life
would have been in serious jeopardy.

Akane watched her fiancée, pole-axed. He never ceased to amaze her. Every
time she thought she had seen it all, he would go and do something new.

When Ranma was finished, Nodoka quickly scanned herself as best she could,
then shot Ranma and Akane meaningful looks that promised retribution later
on. Both teens smiled sheepishly back at her.

Below, the knock repeated itself.

When she was settled nicely, she made her way down the stairs to answer the
door. Akane smacked Ranma on the back of his head and then quickly returned
to the room to clean up the mess. Ranma grumbled darkly before pitching in.

********

Kasumi broke from preparing the tea tray to answer the door. Auntie would
have answered it by now if she had been able, but more than likely she was
still getting herself ready. As she opened the door her bright smile took
in a nervous, elderly gentleman in a very nice brown suit, followed by two
beautiful women in stunning kimonos. Behind them stood a handsome, bearded
man in a set of flowing robes. His regal face was stern and commanding,
which caused Kasumi to want to kneel before him.

She brightened her smile more, radiating peace and welcome in a way that was
purely Kasumi. It caused the gruff looking man to smile awkwardly, and the
nervous gentleman to calm a bit. Both women exchanged glances and smiled
happily back at Kasumi.

"Good afternoon." She greeted warmly. She bowed deeply, without knowing
exactly why. She could only accept the fact that it felt right. The group
before her reciprocated the gesture, some more respectfully than others.
Funaho and Misaki elbowed Azusa sharply in his ribs, earning a barbed glance
for their trouble.

"Good afternoon young lady." The elderly gentleman responded politely. "My
name is Katsuhito Masaki. I'm looking for the Saotome residence. Could you
please direct me to it?"

Kasumi began to respond, when felt a familiar presence behind her and
stepped aside demurely. Katsuhito gasped as he saw his eldest daughter
enter his vision. Tears of deep loss and love filled his eyes at the sight
of Nodoka.

She resembled Katsuhito's late wife in almost every detail, from the way she
had fixed her hair, to the noble presence that she commanded. In his eyes,
she was every bit the princess her ancestry claimed her to be. With a grace
that would have done both queens proud, Nodoka bowed to her Father and then
to her father's guests.

"Be welcome in my home." It was said with such love and tenderness, that
Misaki and Funaho immediately fought the urge to reach out and hug their
granddaughter.

Well, it was more like Funaho and Azusa restraining Misaki.

Katsuhito fought for control of his emotions as his daughter returned her
attention back to him. The message was meant for his ears only. All was
forgiven, and would be buried with the rest of the past, if he so chose. "Be
a part of my life again." She silently asked. And he could no longer hide
himself away from her; he could not deny her any longer. With a tender
smile, he reached out and gathered his baby girl into his arms.

A deep sigh washed out of her.

"Welcome home Daddy." She whispered into his ear. Misaki was bawling,
clutching at a teary-eyed Funaho. Kasumi's bright smile radiated love on a
solar scale, and Azusa shifted from foot to foot, agitated. All this mushy
stuff was putting him on edge.

Katsuhito sensed this and broke the embrace gently, but refused to let go of
her hand. Nodoka pulled him into the house followed by the other guests.
All was right with the world.

Both queens fell in love with their granddaughter instantly. Azusa looked
extremely uncomfortable and highly bored despite the fact that his second
wife was dragging him into the house.

Somewhere in the distance, thunder rolled through a clear sky.

********

Tenchi had gathered the girls together for a serious talk. One that Ryoko
just knew was going to cramp her style. She yawned as everyone took their
seats and looked up at Tenchi expectantly. All except Washuu of course.
The most brilliant scientific mind in the universe didn't seem to need a
lecture on social behavior. Ryoko's face twisted in disgust.

Why did they even have to go visit this cousin of Tenchi's? He was just
another one of Yosho's brood, and more than likely as uptight as Aeka. She
smirked at the thought. She could have had a field day with this Ranma, but
she knew what Tenchi was going to say; and it was going to be a major wet
towel on Ryoko's fun.

"Okay guys. While we're at my cousin's, could we please just control
ourselves?" Everyone looked at Ryoko, and in Aeka's case the look became a
glare.

The Space Pirate puffed up insulted. "What!" Tenchi smiled at her in a way
that made her knees go weak. Her head bobbed numbly.

"I've never met Ranma, so I want to make a good impression." Tenchi looked
a bit nervous, but excited at the same time.

"You can count on us Tenchi!" Sasami and Mihoshi cheered. Ryo-oh-oki
"meowed" and the rivals nodded their solemn agreement.

A dubious look formed on Tenchi's face, but the emotion was short lived as
Washuu exited her lab. A small object rested in her hand that reminded
Tenchi of a cross between a calculator and a portable cd player.

"Are we all ready?" Washuu-chan cried out enthusiastically.

"YES!" They all cheered (and meowed).

"Then gather around me and hold onto whatever's not nailed down!"

Tenchi's face paled dramatically. The reaction did not go unnoticed by
Washuu.

"Come on Tenchi! Have a little faith! After all, I am, the greatest
scientific genius in the Universe!"

Tenchi's face went from a light gray-green color, to a pasty shade of gray.
An audible gulp could be heard coming from his throat by all. Washuu
smirked and re-calibrated her teleporter a bit. With a mad laugh she hit a
green button, opening a large, black hole beneath everyone.

A feeling of weightlessness gripped everyone, followed by a great sucking of
air below them. Everyone screamed loudly, with the exception of Washuu, who
was laughing so hard her ribs hurt.

*******

Ranma felt like a bug in a jar. Everyone was just staring at him. Grandpa
and the other man, Azusa, were weighing him pound for pound like some kind
of horse or something.

The dark-haired woman that reminded Ranma of his mother seemed to distill
him with her eyes alone. Every move he made was being catalogued for future
reference and study. To what end, he had no idea. But, he could tell that
Funaho was a woman of high expectations, and for some reason he did not want
to disappoint her.

The blue-haired woman, Misaki, reminded Ranma of that Shiatori chick. He
just knew that she was going to sweep him up at any moment into a hug and
name him Pierre or Jean-Paul, or something. Out of the entire lot, she
scared him the most. Well, not scared, exactly. More like, put him on
edge.

Yeah, that was it.

The attention that he was receiving from his mother and the Tendo sisters
ranged from barely restrained pride to open amusement. Akane was smiling,
and had this really goofy look in her eyes that gave the young martial
artist the willies. It was with great relief that Kasumi began serving the
tea with Nodoka's consent. Ranma was out from beneath the microscope for the
moment, and he quietly heaved a grateful sigh.

Grandpa looked at him with a twinkle in his eye that drove whatever comfort
Ranma felt to the four winds. It was the same look that Genma had right
before he initiated some hell bent, life threatening, training regime. The
glance didn't last long, as the old man directed his attention back to his
daughter, who was helping Kasumi to pour for the women next to her.

Katsuhito allowed the silence to blanket the room for a short time, reveling
in the peace that he knew was about to be driven from the room. He felt his
father's weighty gaze at his back, and heard Funaho clear her throat
meaningfully. He took one last sip of the wonderful tea, before setting the
cup down on the table.

For a week he had agonized over how to approach his daughter and grandson.
He had hoped that he could do it on his own terms, and in a delicate manner.
But his parents took that option from him. They had said that if he didn't
have the courage to tell them the truth, then they would.

Poor Nodoka and Ranma wouldn't stand a chance against the combined might of
the royal family. Their old lives would be swept under the carpet and they
would be taken back to Jurai in the blink of an eye.

He silently cursed Azusa for his rejection of Tenchi. The boy was relieved,
and a little disappointed; not to mention how Aeka had reacted. She had
forced "Daddy" to reserve his judgment of Tenchi until after they had met
Ranma. Misaki and Funaho agreed, and Azusa caved in beneath a three-pronged
assault.

The pompous, old, stuffed shirt didn't like the boy because of the love his
baby girls showered on Tenchi. He never could share with anyone, or so one
of the Emperor's brothers had said. And so, now the burden fell to Ranma to
impress the egomaniac. He looked deep into Nodoka's eyes and tried to
convey all of the remorse that he felt. Her beautiful hands clasped his
calloused ones lovingly, breaking his heart.

The illusion that he wore would soon fall away and he would see his betrayal
mirrored in her lovely eyes. He wished that a mountain would drop on him.

Misaki laid her long fingered hand on his shoulder, and favored her sister's
son with a warm, encouraging smile. He nodded and turned his full attention
back to his daughter. "No-chan, there is something that we must discuss."
He looked up at the Tendo sisters meaningfully before continuing. "It is a
family matter."

Kasumi smiled sweetly and stood from where she knelt near Nodoka and
gestured for her sisters to follow her as she made her way to the kitchen.
Nabiki tried unsuccessfully to bury her curiosity, and left the room with
the intent of eavesdropping at the first opportunity. Funaho smirked
knowingly and tapped one of her bracelets, before returning her attention to
the conversation. Nabiki was in for a rude surprise to be sure.

Akane looked at Ranma worriedly. Whenever someone said "family matter" it
normally involved a new engagement for Ranma. She saw Ranma look to his
mother, and so shifted her gaze to Nodoka.

"Father, Akane is Ranma's fiancée." This caused a few eyebrows to shoot up,
accompanied by a large grin from Katsuhito. "Since she is soon to be
family, may she remain?"

Funaho again cleared her throat, drawing the attention of those in the room.
The question of Akane's continued engagement could be addressed later, after
the grandmothers had been given the chance to gauge her worthiness. For
now, she was intent on ensuring that the girl could keep her mouth shut.

Funaho's serious eyes bore into Akane's soul, chilling her. "On your honor
Akane-chan, you must promise not to reveal what you are about to learn to
anyone.at least until permission is given." The look intensified causing
Akane to swallow audibly.

"The consequences for wagging tongues are . . . unpleasant." Funaho allowed
Akane to fill in her own blanks. The power of the imagination was a more
effective deterrent than any real threat.

Akane gulped again and stared wide eyed at Funaho. Her brain was already
busy at work creating tortures for her wagging tongue. Misaki stifled a
giggle. Ranma didn't like the open-ended threat one bit, and his body
language showed it. He unconsciously moved closer to Akane, while glaring
at his mother's guests.

Funaho noted the gesture and made a point to question Nodoka about the state
of the pair's relationship at a later time. For the moment she felt
satisfied that she had Akane eating from the palm of her hand, and signaled
for her son to continue. Katsuhito shook his head again, and returned to
his task.

"No-chan, it is passed time that you and your son learn the truth of your
ancestry." His voice was calm, but his heart raced nervously. He and his
daughter had been apart for so long, that he had no idea how she would take
this news. Nodoka, for her part, looked calm and unflappable. Ranma's face
wore an anxious look of certain dread. The boy could tell a bomb was going
to be dropped.

The grandfather watched his grandson intently, and easily read the "Why me?"
that passed Ranma's lips. The response piqued Kastuhito's interest, but
circumstance prevented him from pursuing his curiosity.

Nodoka waited for her father to continue, before prodding him to continue.
"What truth is that Father?" The look that he gave her was apologetic, and
her heart fluttered. What was he going to say? Her mind ran through the
possibilities, each more far fetched and distressing than the last. She did
her best to contain the worry, but she knew by the concern on Ranma's face
that something had leaked out.

Ranma reached out his hand to comfort his mother. Despite his own worries,
he tried to give her his support. She squeezed his hand reassuringly.

To his surprise he felt Akane wrap her hand around his in the exact same
gesture. Katsuhito smiled at the combined front that he was facing. A
strong family could weather any storm.

"Perhaps it is best if I show you."

Nodoka looked from her father to the people behind him, and then at Ranma
and Akane. When she turned her gaze back to her father, her breath caught
in her throat. A mark, consisting of two distinct slashes that angled
toward the bridge of his nose, lit up with a light of its own. He stood
straight and tall, and a set tiger stripes slashed upward from his refined
jaw. His clothes changed from the handsome brown suit that he wore, to a
set of white and blue robes that seemed to flutter in a non-existent wind.

The moment Grandpa's face began to change, Ranma was moving. The change had
taken but an instant, shocking both Akane and Nodoka. He pulled them to
their feet and lashed out with a kick to the table that sent it flying into
the royal family. Their startled yells drew the attention of their
Guardians, and two giant, floating logs with weird Kanji materialized in the
middle of the room. This seemed to be enough to snap Akane out of her
stupor.

Ranma and Akane's ki flared, mingling in a beautiful dance of blue and gold.
The floating logs began to move forward, intent on neutralizing the threat
to their masters. But Ranma wasn't about to let whoever or whatever it was
get away with impersonating his grandpa like that and began to move forward
himself. He motioned for Akane to get his mother free of the room, and she
nodded.

The tension in the room elevated greatly, as the "guests" extracted
themselves angrily from beneath the table. Misaki shook tea from her blue
hair, and glowered at the young man. She was impressed at what she saw
before her, the boy had a great deal of potential to be sure, but right now
she wanted to spank him.

Hard.

Funaho calmly brushed some crumbs from her kimono; the only sign of her
distress was the stiffness in her posture. Azusa tried to restrain himself
from throttling the boy as he wiped the chocolate cake from his face and
beard.

Yosho had a beaming smile across his face at Ranma's demonstration. He hadn
't even sensed the boy move, and by the look of his ki, the crown prince
knew that he was dealing with a master of the Art. He wanted to test the
boy, but now was not the time. Best to calm the fires that he knew, before
he tried to control the raging inferno that was Ranma.

"Azaka! Kamidake! Stand down." Both Guardians stopped and Asaka turned to
his master.

"But Yosho-sama -" Yosho gave him no chance to finish.

"I SAID STAND DOWN!" The command in his voice cut through the room like a
wet blanket. Akane's ki guttered involuntarily and she sat down on the
floor with a loud thump. Nodoka flinched and her body followed Akane's by
some long buried reflex.

Misaki and Funaho looked up at their shared son and their jaws dropped at
the man's powerful display. He could run from what he was, but they knew
that he could never truly escape. Azusa radiated a father's pride, now more
determined than ever to put his son's behind firmly on the throne.
Regardless of whether he wanted it or not. Fathers knew best at any rate.

The only one untouched by Yosho's display was Ranma. He stood loose and
ready to move, his ki flaring brighter than before. Yosho looked into the
boy's eyes and saw a fire that was eternal. Nothing could douse the flames
that danced in Ranma's soul, he wagered not even death.

Nodoka had named him well.

"Wild Horse" fit the boy perfectly, and he knew in that moment that Azusa
would have a more difficult time bending Ranma to his will than he would
Tenchi. He had to diffuse the boy's apprehension before Ranma got himself
hurt. If he fought, he would give a good account of himself, but he would
still fall.

"Ranma." Yosho held out his hands in a gesture of peace. "I mean your
family no harm." He bowed low to Ranma, yielding himself to the boy.
"Please forgive my carelessness in handling this matter." Ranma lowered his
ki, slightly, but remained in his loose ready stance.

Trust was never easily gained, and Yosho knew that he would have to work in
order to prove that he was worthy of Ranma's. He nodded once in Ranma's
direction before looking down at his daughter. Nodoka's eyes were wide, but
not fearful. "Forgive me No-chan, I didn't know how else to tell you."

Nodoka looked up at the marked face that had been her gentle father's just a
moment ago. She studied it intently, seeing a cold iron buried there that
she had only witnessed once. The day she had told him that she was marrying
Genma.

Her gaze passed over each feature, but finally rested on the man's eyes.
Something indefinable reached out through those handsome eyes and touched
Nodoka.

"Daddy?" She reached out cautiously. Ranma started forward but checked
himself at the last minute. Yosho took his daughter's hand and held it
gently as he knelt down next to her.

"Yes, Snow Pea." If there had been any doubt in Nodoka, it was driven away.
No one had known his secret name for her. She threw herself from the floor
and into his arms. Ranma waited a moment, before relaxing his stance, but
his eyes roamed the room watching and waiting.

Akane was stunned, Misaki and Funaho looked pleased, and Azusa reminded
Ranma of a lion ready to pounce. The way that he was eyeing Ranma every now
and then sent a chill down Ranma's spine.

It was then that the air opened up above Ranma's head and a mass of flailing
appendages engulfed the martial artist.

All was silent for a moment, and then voices raised in surprise and anger
began sounding off. The tirade went on for sometime, accompanied by some
squirming and of all things giggling. Soon the noise died down as the group
realized where they were.

Silence fell again as everyone smiled up at the staring group of people
around them. A cute meow came from somewhere deep within the pile, followed
immediately by a guttural scream of primal terror.

End Part One