All characters from Ranma 1/2 were created by Takahashi Rumiko, not me. Rights to such are owned by Takahashi-sama, Shounen Sunday Comics, Kitty Video, and (in North America) Viz.
Urd, Skuld and Verdandi are mythological. But the interpretations of them within this fanfic are the work Fujishima Kosuke, not me. Rights to such are owned by Kodansha, AIC, ADV Films and (in North America) AnimEigo and Dark Horse Comics.
Tail Kinker Presents
Chapter Six of Six: A Demonic Wager
"I am uncomfortable with this, Peorth." Belldandy set the breakfast dishes on the table. "You have interfered with her training once before, with disastrous results. Her progress has badly stalled since your...prank."
"I have apologized for that, both to you and to her." Peorth sighed. "And if I've caused this blockage, I need to be the one to remove it."
"Fayu has allowed it. My misgivings are mine alone, and I cannot stop you." Belldandy looked up. "But I must intervene if it looks like you are acting improperly."
"I can agree to that." Peorth looked down at her hands. "But I was expecting my powers to return before now. Can I use your phone?"
"Yes; the number you want is Speed Dial 9."
- - - - -
"Good morning, Belldandy." Nabiki bounced into the kitchen, looking quite energetic. "Boy, I'll be glad when I master that self-regeneration thing, but while I'm still in training, waking up each morning has become a treat."
Belldandy smiled. "That is because you're beginning to learn the regeneration, so each hour of sleep seems more like two."
"Good to know." Nabiki grabbed a bowl of rice, then suddenly noticed Peorth.
"Whoa. You look like hell."
"Thanks." Peorth grinned unsteadily. "I think we're going to have to further postpone your training with me."
"Well...it seems that my suspension has been extended two more weeks."
Nabiki sighed. "What did you do this time?"
Peorth scowled at her. "I was trying not to blow your cover! When I was talking to Kasumi, I bent the truth pretty far. Too far; the Council decided that I ended up lying overall, and slapped me with a two-week suspension."
"It could have been worse," said Belldandy. "They don't have the authority to strip your license, but their recommendation carries a lot of weight with the Almighty."
"Yeah, they decided that since I was lying for someone else's benefit, not my own, that they'd let me off light." Peorth's voice was sour. "I'm sorry, Fayu, but I guess I can't teach you at the moment."
"Bell?" Nabiki turned to her older sister. "Does Peorth need her license to teach? Or is being First Class good enough?"
"Well, the license is not needed, but since her powers are suspended--"
"Then she can still cover the theory, right?"
"Yes, but--" Belldandy looked down. "Are you unhappy with my training?"
"Not at all!" Nabiki jumped to her feet, and grabbed Belldandy's shoulder. "I really enjoy learning from you, Bell. But this is a matter of honour between me and Peorth."
"Honour is better than dishonour." Belldandy sighed. "All right. I can understand a little better now." She looked up again. "Can I help?"
Peorth smiled. "It'll be nice to be working with you again, Belldandy. But we'll need one more person, a mortal." She tilted her head. "Know any mortals around here?"
- - - - -
"Blessings are the core tool of Gods and Goddesses." Peorth leaned back in a squashy armchair. "They are our stock in trade, and as such, they are one of the most important things you will need to learn to reach Third Class."
"So I take it they're on the exam." Nabiki smirked.
"Oh, yes, you do need to pass an exam to become Third Class. I have administered several Third and Second Class exams, and even one First Class." Peorth smirked. "But since Skuld, Belldandy and I have all trained you, you will not be tested by any of us, but by another, Third Class or higher."
"Let me see...there are five Goddesses living here. I'm the one being tested, and you three are training me..." Nabiki's voice was dry. "Who could be my examiner? I wonder?"
"It might not be Urd." Skuld grinned. "Usually, your examination is held by a God or Goddess of the Class you are applying for. Peorth was sent to examine Urd when Urd sat her First Class--"
"Whoa. I thought Urd was Second Class."
"Yes." Belldandy nodded.
"Did she fail?"
"No. She turned it down." Peorth drew a pair of wire-rimmed glasses from a pocket and unfolded them. "Being First Class requires a lot of commitments, that Urd wasn't willing to make." She set the glasses on her nose, and unrolled a scroll. "Now then. We've covered the theory. Shall we move on to practice?"
The shogi opened, and Keiichi stuck his head in. "Hey, Bell. Urd said you wanted to see me?"
"Yes." Belldandy smiled. "Would you be willing to help train Fayu?"
"Uh, sure." Keiichi shrugged. "What am I supposed to do?"
Peorth grinned. "First step in a Blessing: The mortal has to want it." She unrolled the scroll in front of Keiichi.
His eyes bugged out. "What?!? A Suzuki GSX-1300R Hayabusa, for only ninety thousand yen? Who the hell is that desperate?" He pulled out his wallet, and opened it. "I haven't got even two thousand...Man, I wish I had the money for that bike!"
Peorth turned to Nabiki. "That would be your cue."
Nabiki clasped her hands. "Metal and fire, gather and bless this man with the spoken desire of his heart."
The doorbell rang.
Nabiki blinked. "Was that supposed to happen?"
Belldandy grinned. "Blessings often take indirect routes." She turned to Keiichi. "That's probably for you."
Keiichi jumped up and ran.
"Not bad effort, Fayu, but I'm afraid that if your performance during your exam is the same, you are not going to pass." Peorth rolled the scroll. "You made one mistake."
"And that is?"
"Because you called on Elemental Spirits." Peorth tucked the scroll back into its case. "Other powers do exist; Elementals are great for short-term effects, but anything that lasts longer than a few seconds needs a better energy source."
Keiichi walked in, holding an envelope and looking depressed. "Thanks for trying, Nabiki." He handed her the check.
Nabiki looked at it, and blinked. "This check is drawn on your account."
"Yep." Keiichi sighed. "I don't think that my bank account has ever had ninety thousand yen in it at one time."
- - - - -
Nabiki collapsed into bed with a groan.
"Six tries, and not once did I manage to pull it off." She sighed. "This is turning out just like the rest of my training."
Nabiki sat bolt upright, to see a young boy standing at the foot of her bed. His grey hair was thick and full, but the cast of his features was definitely that of a young man.
"Okay, who the heck are you?"
"Gere." He bowed courteously. "God Third Class, License Limited to research."
"Third Class." Nabiki sighed. "You're gonna be my examiner, aren't you?"
"Yes." Gere sat down, cross-legged. "But don't worry. I want you to pass, so while I must ensure that you have learned what you need to know, I will be trying to help you pass at the same time." He grinned. "Since my portfolio includes education, I know that often a test signifies the beginning of education, not its end."
"Yay." Nabiki rolled her eyes. "All right, Gere. When do we start?"
"Tomorrow morning." He rose. "I want you well rested, and you're to have a hearty breakfast before we begin."
- - - - -
"Your examination will be marked out of forty." Gere unrolled his scroll. "You will be asked to demonstrate three techniques, and marked out of ten for each."
"And the final ten marks?"
"That will be for general attitude. Pass rate is thirty points, but if you score less than eight on attitude, I have to fail you, regardless of your overall score."
"Fair enough." Nabiki set down her bowl. "Finished my breakfast. Let's get started."
"Produce your teleportation focus."
Nabiki reached into her robes, and drew out a five-yen coin.
"Somewhere, there is a mortal that needs help. Find him."
Nabiki closed her eyes, and stretched out her mind.
--almost nothing left in the house to eat--
--bills are due next month--
--need to put some aside for tuition costs--
She tasted the karma at the other end of the five-yen channel; highly positive. This person needed money badly, and certainly had the positive karma to fuel a Blessing. Almost automatically, she slid through the focus.
Gere blinked as the five yen coin clattered to the floor. "Oh, she's good at that." He frowned. "The moon has already set; I need to follow her! Belldandy--"
"Certainly." Belldandy touched Gere's shoulder, and the two followed Nabiki's path through the Ether.
- - - - -
A five-yen coin is not worth much; often, if dropped, it will be ignored and forgotten. This one had fallen into a storm drain; Nabiki materialized a few inches above the drain, and dropped to her feet.
"This looks like--"
She leaped to the top of the nearest house - amazing how easy that was when you knew the trick - and looked about.
"Nerima. So I'm guessing the voice that I heard was Kasumi." She fished out another five-yen coin and focused.
And blinked in surprise.
"That's kind of a surprise." She grinned. "Ranma, worrying about anything non-Martial Arts related?"
Gere and Belldandy appeared nearby. Gere pulled out his scroll and made some notes, but otherwise took no action.
Nabiki paused. "Hey, Gere...I know we're in the middle of an exam, here, but my brother-in-law sounds like he needs a hand. Can I..."
"We can resume any time you are ready, Fayu."
"Thanks." She turned back, and closed her eyes.
And tasted a dark presence.
Her eyes snapped open. "Guys, there's something bad around here."
"Oh, dear." Belldandy raised a hand to her mouth. "It might be that Demon that Skuld warned us about."
"Maybe...but it's really powerful." Nabiki shuddered. "Even I can feel its power level; it's almost on par with you, Bell."
"A Class One Demon?" Her eyes widened. "There's only one on Midgard."
"Never could get the drop on you, could I?" A figure stepped out of a shadow. Nabiki blinked; the shadow could not possibly have concealed this Demon.
The Demon was tall, blonde, and rather attractive. Gender was difficult to determine; Male or female seemed equally likely. Bell's next sentence cleared that up.
"She's Mara, a First Class Demon with an Unlimited License." Belldandy sighed. "Evil, but not sadistic or twisted."
"Why thank you, Bell." The Demon made a mocking bow towards the Goddess. "Nice to know I have some friends in Heaven."
"You're always welcome to visit us, Mara, provided you leave any bad behaviour at home." Belldandy smiled.
Mara chuckled, then jerked a thumb towards Nabiki. "This the hatchling I've been hearing about?"
"Goddess Fayu, Fourth Class, Unlimited." Nabiki scowled at the Demon. "Skuld warned me about another Demon in the area, a new one." She jerked her head towards Belldandy. "Since Bell knows you, I doubt you're the new Demon."
"As a matter of fact, the new Demon is well known to you." Mara grinned, and jerked a thumb over her shoulder. "Meet my protege. Asherah, Succubus in training, Fourth Class Demon."
The woman that walked out of the shadows moved with the grace of a cat. She was all curves, and every one of them wiggled in just the right way with every step. Her long red hair was unbound, and she was dressed in a simple halter and skirt. Her ears were longer and more pointed than Nabiki recalled, and when she smiled, Nabiki noted that her eye-teeth had become much longer.
Nabiki gulped. "That's Ranma--the Demon Ranma, that Happousai summoned. I thought Akane destroyed her."
Mara laughed. "You should be very glad that she didn't. Asherah is your Doublet."
Asherah smirked. "You're here to Bless Ranma. I still haven't forgiven him for choosing that bitch Akane over me." She raised a fist. "He left me to be bound in a world of pain! I spent thirty days in that living hell, until Mara released me and offered me my contract."
She smirked at Nabiki. "Do your best, Goddess. I shall ensure that it comes to naught.
"I shall make Ranma suffer!"
- - - - -
"Greetings, Belldandy. And good to see you too, Gere." The small black cat sat down between the two.
"Welsper!" Belldandy reached down and scratched between his ears. "Is this where you have been?"
"Someone has to sit examination for the girl, and since I'm a Demon Third Class..." He sighed. "Demotion sucks."
"I've heard that you've been researching Midgard felines." Gere's voice was mocking.
Welsper scowled at him, then shifted to speaking Wolfen. You cannot mention anything about me to Belldandy. She must remain unaware of my true reasons for being here.
I'll say nothing to her. Gere grinned, exposing long canines. But if you interfere with my examination, I'll chase you up a tree.
- - - - -
Nabiki scowled at Asherah. "That's my family you're trying to hurt. I can't let you do that."
"But you can't hurt me, either." Asherah's voice was mocking. "I'm just as good a martial artist as Ranma...and I'm your Doublet, as well."
"That means that this must be a battle of wits." Nabiki grinned. "You ever won against me in that arena?"
Asherah waved her off. "That was before I became a Demon. I think I can handle anything you can dish out."
"Want to make a bet?" Nabiki raised her eyebrow.
"All right." Asherah turned back. "You're on. What are the stakes?"
"If I win, you never try to harm Ranma, Akane or Kasumi."
"Very well." Asherah smirked. "If I win, you will renounce your Divine status. Fair?"
Nabiki blinked. "Not hardly!"
"That's my offer, and I've already accepted yours." She turned back towards the dojo. "If you don't think you're up to it..."
Nabiki ground her teeth. "Fine. You're on."
"But you're gonna lose." Nabiki stepped forwards, and clasped her hands.
"There is a wanderer below, one who would call this house a home. Should his state remain the same, he and those he protects will lose their shelter and go hungry. In the names of Tyr the Warrior, Odin the Teacher, and Hugin and Munin, bring to this wanderer that which he needs to survive." She raised a hand, and traced her Rune in the air. "I call upon the Elements of Metal and Air." She closed her eyes, and drew Karma from the house below, and from the entire Ward. "I call upon the Earth Spirits who guard this land, and upon the Spirits of the wanderer's Ancestors. Let his path of wisdom and guidance be shown!"
A golden shaft of light leaped up from her, piercing into the heavens, sounding a single brilliant note.
Asherah smirked. "Did Belldandy not teach you the basic Runes?" She stepped towards the Tendo-ke. "Fehu is an unstable Rune. Its effects are temporary at best. To invoke Metal and Air make it even more unstable. Tyr and Odin? Questionable at best. I almost don't need a spell."
She reached into her mass of red hair, and withdrew a toothpick. "But I will use this. I prepared it some days ago, bound it to the Dojo's wealth. You are quite right, Fayu; Without wealth, the Dojo is doomed."
She snapped the toothpick. "As this is broken, so is their bank."
"Are you done?" Nabiki was examining her fingernails, an attitude of boredom clear on her face.
"Yes." Asherah grinned. "Your Elemental energies are drained away uselessly, and without those, the Earth Spirits and Ancestor Spirits cannot be called. Why make it so easy on me?"
"Because those were my decoys." Nabiki turned back to Asherah. "I was hoping you'd do something like that. A broken bank would be a bad thing for the Dojo, were it not for one thing." She turned and pointed down towards the compound. "Or more likely, fifteen or sixteen things."
Asherah gaped at the small crowd gathering at the back gate.
"Normally, your ploy would have been a good one. With the bills due, and no food in the house, Ranma and the girls would have been worried to death. But with Ranma finally deciding to accept students..." She grinned. "The Ancestor Spirits responded to the need, not to the energy. You countered the Elemental Spirits, so the quick burst of wealth they will receive will be gone as fast as it arrives, but next week, those students will still be there.
"Certainly, Fehu is an unstable Rune...for wealth. But for social standing, you only need a quick leg up. The rest of the climb is done on Virtue."
Asherah roared angrily, and vanished in a cloud of smoke. Nabiki smirked. "I win."
She turned back to Gere. "All right, that was entertaining, but back to the business at hand. What's next?"
Gere shrugged. "Back to the Temple. Can you give me a lift? My Focus is currently unavailable."
"Sure." She flashed a thumbs-up to Belldandy. "See you back there."
- - - - -
The coin flared, and Gere and Fayu appeared in the family room. Fayu turned, and tilted her head. "How did I do?"
"Teleportation. Seven out of ten. Mastering side-along teleportation will come with time, but at least you can manage it when flush with energy."
Peorth gave her a thumbs up. "Good work!"
"Channeling. Eight out of ten."
"Whoa." Fayu raised a hand. "Channeling? Did you score me based on my little match with Asherah?"
"Of course." Gere grinned. "How better to test you than to pit you against a Demon?"
"That's not fair!"
Gere shrugged. "We don't promise fair. Channeling is eight out of ten."
"Why only eight?" Skuld looked puzzled. "She can draw down a lot of power at once."
"She still hasn't learned to tap her source, and her access to Elements is not yet up to par. But yes, she can access a lot of power, though with less than perfect control. Eight out of ten."
"Don't argue, Skuld." Peorth shook her head. "He's the examiner, and he can mark her as he pleases."
"Blessing. Seven out of ten. Too many ruffles and flourishes for a simple task, and the fact that it was your family was a mark against you."
"Yeah, but I set up that nice trap for Asherah."
"That you did, and I marked that in your favour."
Fayu did a quick calculation: twenty-two points. She needed eight or better on the fourth score.
"Attitude...nine out of ten."
"Yes!" She leaped into the air.
"One point lost for hesitation. But you risked your position to help those who needed it, went head-to-head with a Demon though you had an unfair condition placed on you, and you faced up to a Class One Demon without so much as a twitch."
He rolled the scroll. "Fayu, do you accept the rights and responsibilities of a Goddess of the Third Class?"
Fayu bowed. "I do."
"Excellent. You will receive your license and classification notices by telephone within forty-eight hours; Asgard will need to process your test results and file your portfolio."
Fayu blinked. "No glowing bolt of light, no writing in fire on the wall?"
"No." He shrugged. "Just your license card, which as long as it doesn't get lost in the mail, should be here within the week."
"Now if you'll excuse me...I can't leave until the moon comes up, so I might as well kick back and relax." He shimmered, and took on the form of a large grey wolf.
"Oh, he's so cute!" Skuld launched herself towards the wolf.
- - - - -
Belldandy set the two bags down on the doorstep, and knocked on the door.
"Another student?" Kasumi opened the door, and smiled. "Belldandy! How nice to see you!"
"May I come in?" She picked up the canvas shopping bags again.
"Certainly." Kasumi led her into the kitchen. "I'm afraid that you've caught us at a busy time. Ranma has twenty new students. I'm not sure why exactly he decided this morning to start taking students, but it took all of five minutes for the first to show up." She looked pensive. "We took their first week's fees, but then the property taxes arrived in the mail; it left us quite out of cash, and the electric bill is due tomorrow." She sighed. "Without Nabiki to manage the finances, we are not doing as well as we used to."
Belldandy smiled. "Luckily, you have sisters to help you out." She set the two bags on the counter. "This should be a week's worth of food, even with the way Ranma and his father eat. Without having to budget for food, can you meet the electrical bill?"
"Oh, my." Kasumi's eyes sparkled. "Yes, this will make all the difference. Thank you so much! I must find some way to repay you."
Belldandy smiled, and tilted her head. "Your thanks is all I need, my Sister."