Sight Beyond Sight
by Trisar Alvein
THIS STORY IS HEREBY DISCONTINUED
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Enjoy the fic.
Prologue: See What I See
There were few ways to describe Nabiki Tendo's mood as she sat with her sisters, listening to her father attempt to enrapture them with some boy named "Ranma Saotome" who was apparently supposed to arrive this very evening to marry one of the girls. The reason there were few ways is because of how simple and lacking the mood was, for Nabiki was actually bored out of her skull, having long since tuned her father out. She'd seen what martial arts mindsets did to people thanks to Kuno, her father, and Akane, and so she had no desire to—
Wait, did he just say China? she wondered, setting her drink down. Quickly mentally replaying the last bit of audio input her brain received, she realized there were possibilities that might make it worth it if Ranma were a world-class fighter. Adopting a posture of interest, she leaned forward and uttered, "Wow! China!" It was easy to fake what came naturally, but Nabiki's enthusiasm was that she might be able to actually use Ranma rather than a possible romance.
"What's so great about walking to China?" retorted the youngest girl, Akane Tendo, obviously having made her decision about Ranma before the discussion ever started.
Leave it to little sis to not see the big picture, reasoned Nabiki. "Is he cute?" she asked, realizing that her plans would be for naught if Ranma weren't worth a passing glance.
"How old is he?" asked Kasumi, also having taken an interest. "Younger men bore me."
Nabiki couldn't argue with that. If Ranma acted anything like Kuno, then handsome or not she wanted nothing to do with him. Almost in stereo, Nabiki and Kasumi leaned forward, asking, "What kind of guy is this Ranma?"
The girls' father, one Soun Tendo, chuckled in what was undoubtedly meant to be a reassuring manner, but which Nabiki could detect the hint of nervousness behind. Finally, he cleared his throat and said, "No idea."
Blinking, Nabiki leaned forward and clarified. "'No idea?'"
"I've never met him," admitted Soun with a perfectly straight, honest, and guileless face.
Figures, thought Nabiki, though her train of thought was interrupted by a knocking at the door. Maybe it's Ranma? she wondered.
"I'll get it," said Kasumi, standing up and walking toward the front door. Nabiki heard the sound of a door opening, followed by a rather surprised "Oh my!" After that, the voices became too low to distinguish words, or even in fact who was speaking. Finally, Kasumi returned to the dining room with a rather large, sopping wet panda and a short, cute redhead in what appeared to be a very over-sized set of red and black Chinese clothes. "Father, Akane, Nabiki, this... is Ranma Saotome," said the older girl, gesturing to the redhead.
"Sorry about this," mumbled Ranma, bowing and scratching at the base of what Nabiki now identified as a braided pigtail.
"At last! You've come!" exclaimed Soun, grabbing Ranma by the shoulders.
"He is cute!" noted Nabiki. A bit short, though... and there's something odd here...
Wrapping his arms around Ranma in a paternal hug, Soun began bawling out how good it was of the Saotome child to come, only to suddenly cut himself off. "Wha...?" he mumbled, pulling Ranma away from him and glancing the younger child over carefully. Ranma could only manage to look bored and expectant, as if waiting for something.
Nabiki herself took a closer look, finally seeing what was off about the redhead. Humming inquisitively to herself, she reached out and prodded the "boy" in the chest, feeling the "boy's" pectoral squish in from her finger in a very identifying way.
"Um... could you stop that?" requested Ranma, now managing an irritated look.
Nabiki did so, then turned to stare rather pointedly at her family. "He... is a girl," she said, though that had to have been obvious at this point.
Her father chose that moment to faint, obviously not having expected this.
Nice, Daddy... Nabiki chastised mentally, then noticed that Ranma had already lost interest in the girls and was glancing into the corner of the dining room. The redhead's eyebrows climbed her forehead, approaching her hairline, but as Nabiki turned to look, she saw absolutely nothing out of the ordinary. As she turned back, she saw that the redhead was apparently having a very involved conversation with her panda while petting it.
"I'm telling you, Pops," muttered Ranma, trying to keep her voice low enough that it wouldn't be heard. "We really have to get some hot water. Now. Otherwise, that whole first impression thing I mentioned back at the front door, where I said to knock instead of just tromping in? That'll go right down the tubes."
"Growf, grrr, grf, bowf," uttered the panda solemnly. Are you sure about this, boy? was the impression that she got from it.
"Positive. If you want me to even try going along with this stupid little engagement thing you're planning, we're going to make a positive first impression. I'm touching you, I know you can see and hear that ghost over there in the corner."
The panda adopted a look of absolute contemplation, to which Ranma reacted by removing her hand, having no desire to get that many surface impressions at once. Instead, she turned around, seeing that the man who'd welcomed her initially was now bundled up in the center of the living room, bawling about how someone had sworn to having a son. The eldest girl, or so Ranma assumed, was trying to get him to calm down unsuccessfully, while the other two were looking at her as if she were a loony.
"Alright, how much did you hear?" she asked, crossing her arms over her chest.
"Nothing, we're just not used to strange girls talking to their pet pandas," said the one with a helmet-like cut to her brown hair.
"Nabiki!" chastised the other, who had long bluish-black hair. "She's our guest, be nice! Is he a trained panda?"
"You could say that... not that much smarter than he looks, though," replied Ranma, casually lifting her right arm to deflect a swipe at the back of her head from the aforementioned panda. The brief contact gave her the impression that he agreed with her about the hot water. "Then again, maybe he's learning. Could we get a couple glasses of hot water?"
The eldest blinked, turning away from the bawling of her father and tugging lightly at her light-brown ponytail. "Of course. How hot would you like it, Ranma-chan?" she asked, blinking again as the redhead twitched slightly.
"Please don't call me '-chan', and about as hot as bathwater," replied Ranma. She turned back to the other two as the ponytailed girl went into the kitchen. "So, can I get an introduction from you two, or should I call you Dama-jo and Karate-ko?"
"We'll let introductions wait until after Daddy becomes coherent, okay 'Kurenai-chan?'" replied the girl with the helmet haircut, smirking as her hit struck home.
"Okay then, if I'm Crimson, then you two are Ball-girl and Karate-kid," retorted Ranma.
"Hey, don't I get any say in it? I don't want to be 'Karate-ko.' My name's Akane Tendo," replied the black-haired girl. "You want to be friends, Ranma-ch... ehm... Ranma?" she asked, extending her hand to Ranma.
The redhead cocked her head to the side, then smiled and reached out. "Sure, I'd like—" she began, stopping as she gripped Akane's hand, her smile fading to a thoughtful frown. "Actually... I don't think you'd want to be friends with me," she said, pulling her hand back slowly, as if she'd already been rejected.
"Huh? Why not?" asked Akane, honestly confused. The ponytailed girl picked that moment to announce that she was returning with the water.
"You'll find out," was the redhead's cryptic reply as she and the panda each took a cup of water. With the look of the condemned marching to their execution, Ranma sighed and poured the water over herself. Red hair darkened to raven black, muscles went from delicately feminine to toned but definitely masculine, and where was once a short, cute girl there now stood a somewhat tall, incredibly handsome young man.
"Allow me to introduce myself," said the wet older man who stood behind the equally wet younger man, in the exact same place the panda had stood behind the red-haired girl just moments before.
"Never mind that, what did you do to Ranma?" asked Akane, glaring openly at the two.
"I am Ranma. Sorry about this," replied the black-haired boy, flipping his pigtail over his shoulder and walking out into the yard, stopping at the koi pond and staring into it. "Go ahead and tell 'em, Pops. I'll be out here." A scant moment after saying that, Ranma leapt up into the nearby tree and began having an animated conversation with thin air, it seemed.
The older man, who the girls now noticed wore a bandanna to cover his baldness and had a considerable girth to his figure, merely sighed. "I'm Genma Saotome. That was my son, Ranma."
"Is he...?" began the girl with the helmet-like haircut, glancing over at Ranma and gesturing vaguely to the side of her head.
"No! No, it's... something that resulted from training. Let's all sit down and see if Tendo-kun's awake, I'll explain everything. Not that I really think you'll believe it."
"I'm sure everything will make sense after it's all explained," smiled the ponytailed girl. "Oh! By the way, I'm Kasumi Tendo, and these are my younger sisters Nabiki and Akane."
"You really were that panda just now, then?" asked Nabiki, earning a nod in response. "I think we can afford to give you the benefit of the doubt. Even if it doesn't make sense, it can't be weirder than a man who turns into a panda and a boy who turns into a girl."
"I heard that! It's all Pops's fault anyway!" called Ranma from his tree, earning a trio of confused blinks from the girls, but an annoyed twitch from Genma.
"Let's all sit down... hopefully out of earshot," suggested the older man, preceding the girls into the dining room, where he sat himself down next to his recovering friend. "You awake, Tendo-kun?" he asked, rapping his knuckles lightly against the prone man's forehead.
"Saotome-kun? Saotome-kun!" bawled the elder Tendo, grabbing his old friend in a big hug. "Wait, if you're here... You brought your son, of course! Oh, the schools will be joined at last!"
"I wouldn't count on it," mumbled Nabiki, earning a vehement nod from Akane and a frown from Kasumi, though the two men showed no reaction. Still, the girls sat themselves down next to their father as Genma knelt across from them. "So what's the story? Were you born able to shape-shift with water or is it a trick you picked up at the circus?"
"Actually, it's a curse. We picked it up in China. I'll explain about it later."
"I can accept that... now how about explaining why Ranma is outside talking to himself and why he was looking around the room like he was seeing invisible things," demanded Nabiki. Truth be told, seeing the panda turn into a man made the curse incredibly easy to accept. She still wanted to know why the other guy acted like a total loony though. "Does he still have an imaginary friend?" she asked, remembering that Akane had imagined herself a friend to cope with their mother's death.
"They're not invisible or imaginary!" yelled Ranma from outside. "You just can't see them yet!"
"At least Ranma-kun's hearing seems to be quite good," observed Kasumi.
"W-well, no, he doesn't have an imaginary friend. And they're not quite invisible. It's part of a training I gave Ranma. See, I was... browsing—"
"Scoping!" yelled Ranma.
"—BROWSING a local bookstore that happened to have quite a bunch of books and pamphlets on martial arts—"
"Half of 'em were paper, held with staples, and scrawled worse than your handwriting!"
Fed up with his son's interruptions, Genma growled menacingly and charged out into the yard, grabbing the stone lantern near the house and chucking it up into the tree. The Tendo sisters heard a loud CRACK! followed by someone screaming before they saw Ranma plunge into the koi pond. Taking the opportunity to confer, the girls gathered closely with their father.
"Father, these are your friends?" asked Kasumi worriedly, glancing over as Ranma emerged from the pond, wet and female, and proceeded to kick Genma into the water himself. It wasn't enough that Ranma seemed incredibly rude, but his father was apparently quite the violent fellow. The curses, as well as whatever those not-really-invisible-or-imaginary things that Ranma mentioned only compounded her worry.
"I'm sure there's a perfectly reasonable explanation," soothed Soun, though the half-cracked grin he sported suggested his confidence was not placed in the Saotome family.
"Reasonable. I'm so sure," dryly cracked Nabiki.
"At this point, I'm willing to bet he sees dead people," added Akane.
"Gold star for karate-ko!" yelled Ranma as she bodily hurled her panda-bodied father over her shoulder in a classic judo toss, sending him back into the koi pond. "That's exactly how it is! Pops was scoping the store and was just gonna steal as many of the books as he thought he could get away with when a cop walked in and started browsin'. So, Pops decided to just buy the cheapest one he could afford."
Nabiki glanced suspiciously at the redhead who walked, unaffected by the stare, into the dining room and plopped down at the table, glancing at the Tendos but quickly turning away. As all four continued to stare at her, Ranma finally turned back to them. "Hey, I know I'm gorgeous, but you people are getting creepy," she said, and it was then that Nabiki noticed Ranma had maintained her bored, uncaring countenance throughout the entire conversation.
"So, what was this super-cheap book?" asked the brunette, moving to sit across from Ranma and soon being joined by her sisters. Soun also came over, but he sat at the head of the table.
"This," replied Ranma, reaching into a backpack that nobody had noticed sitting next to her and pulling out a thin, almost pamphlet-like book. The observers noted that it was paper and held together with staples, and that the writing was scrawled like a small child's. However, the title was visible, declaring the book The Art of Sight Beyond Sight.
"Sounds like something you'd use to peep," noted Akane, glaring at the redhead.
"That so?" asked Ranma, cocking one fine red eyebrow as a sopping wet panda finally waddled back into the house. The redhead cast him an irritated glance before chucking one of her shoes at him. "Dry off before you come in, Pops! You're gonna drip everywhere!" she yelled, before turning back to her listeners. "Sight Beyond Sight isn't a technique, it's not an amazing martial arts move, it's not some great, instant victory. It's more than all of those... and every day I wish I didn't have it."
"Because it... lets you see dead people," observed Nabiki, recalling what Ranma had said. "It's something that changes you so you can see, hear, and speak with the spirits of the... departed..."
"More than that." Ranma apparently took no notice of Nabiki's hesitation or unwillingness to speak of the deceased. "It's a change to a person's very spirit, their ki. Because of that art, I'm cursed more than Jusenkyo—that's the place we picked up these shape-changing—curses could ever have done to me, even if I'd soaked up everything that place tried to hit me with. There are only two types of people who should ever see the dead. Living, trained mediums..."
Kasumi gasped slightly, and as her sisters turned to look at her, her eyes were wide. As she spoke, shock, comprehension, and pity filled her voice. "Trained mediums... and those who are already dead," she whispered.
"Exactly. Because Pops was always pushing me to be the best... part of me is already dead. Oh sure, I breathe, I sleep, I eat—a lot, believe me—and if I'm injured, it hurts... but I can't die because I'm already dead."
Nabiki snorted in response. "So, what, you're a vampire?" she asked, sarcastically. "A zombie maybe? No, wait, I've got it! You're a ghoul, right?"
"Nabiki," chastised the eldest of the three sisters, laying her hand on the named girl's hand and shooting her a reproving look.
"You think it's funny?" asked Ranma, and despite her bored expression not shifting in the slightest, Nabiki couldn't help but feel she was being glared at. "You honestly think it's funny that I'll never know eternal peace because of my stupid father? You think it's funny that every day, I see people who have died, ranging from murder victims to someone who got in a car wreck. You should see what I see." With those words, Ranma's hand lashed forward, and Nabiki felt the redhead's palm flat on her forehead as the fingers gripped her skull.
"it's not funny, why does she think it's funny mommy?"
"ssh sweetie, i don't know. she doesn't know what ranma goes through"
"she's mean! i hate her, mommy, i hate her!"
"ssh, ssh, don't say that"
"i think she can hear us"
"she can see us, look, he's touching her"
The world around her had darkened. Kasumi, Akane, everyone was suddenly gone except for Ranma and herself... and all these people. Barely visible, young girls and older women, boys and men of all ages, ranging from healthy to horribly disfigured. One young girl began crying into the apron of a woman. The girl was scuffed and scraped, and Nabiki swore her skull was split open, but that couldn't be right... the woman had blood leaking down the side of her face and her nose was crushed inward, and her arm hung weirdly...
"Stop it! Stop it! Let me go!" screamed Nabiki...
...and it stopped. The world was back to normal, and now the tables had turned. Nabiki stared in shock, gasping, at the redhead before her, whose bored face extended a look of sympathy. "And now you understand. Now you see what I see, every day, every moment... and now you know what I will see until the end of everything."
"God... all those people... that little girl," shuddered Nabiki, being wrapped into an embrace by Kasumi and Akane.
"That little girl and her mother were in a car accident with the woman's husband three years ago," said Ranma. "You probably heard about it on the news but thought, 'Who cares? It's not me.' I bet you think different now."
"What happened?" asked Akane uneasily. All she'd seen was Ranma grab Nabiki's head, and then... this. "You just touched her head, right?"
"When I touch someone, my aura touches theirs. It... makes their aura like mine, just while I'm still touching them. They see everything like I see," replied Ranma. "Nabiki wasn't used to it, so all she saw was the dead. She couldn't see or hear the living anymore."
Akane frowned, remembering something. "Why didn't it happen to me? I touched you and nothing happened."
"I held my aura back. The last thing I wanted was to blow your mind just because you said, 'hi, wanna be friends,' you know."
"How do you stay sane?" Nabiki asked, pulling away from Kasumi. "I'm fine, sis... I'll be fine."
"I don't. I told you already Nabiki, I'm dead. At least partly. Because I'm both dead and alive, I see both the living and the dead. It's that simple. I could either try to fight it or I could accept it. Guess what's easier. Go on."
Kasumi looked ashamed. "How were you so... energetic earlier?" she asked.
"These spirits are... protective of me. Sometimes it's because I'm their only link to this world... other times it's because I'm the only one who talks to them. Either way... they're my friends. They don't like to let me get down in the dumps." Ranma stretched, her rather impressive assets pressing against the damp silk of her shirt and causing Soun to go bug-eyed. "Look, you guys can get the rest of the story outta Pops, but... can I at least lay down somewhere? I'm a bit tired."
"Oh, of course! I'm sorry... I'll show you to a guest room... I think we still have a spare futon," mused Kasumi standing up and reaching to take Ranma's hand to lead her. The redhead's instincts caught up with what was happening just a spare second too slow, and she felt her aura flood Kasumi's.
"she can see us?"
"why did she touch him? she knows what happens now..."
"mommy, she looks nice, though..."
"Oh... oh my..." murmured Kasumi, her free hand rising to her cheeks in surprise as she saw this 'dead world.'
And then the world snapped back to normal as Ranma snatched her hand away as if she'd been burned. "Can we go, please?" she murmured. Kasumi nodded in quiet agreement, shivering as she remembered, and led Ranma upstairs even as Genma, now finally dried, plopped himself down at the place Ranma had just vacated.
"Saotome-kun, how could this happen? The schools will never be joined!" wailed Soun.
"Told you," muttered Nabiki, shakily standing and making her way to her own room.
Son of the tarrasque, another angst fic.
I was hoping to avoid that, but I guess when you deal with speaking to the DEAD, you really can't. Oh well.
I... think I managed to explain everything. I hope. Oh well. I'm tired. Blah!
See you next mission.