Falling to Earth

A Ranma ½ Fanfiction
Sinom Bre

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Chapter Four


Part Two

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"Oh, pardon me!" Nabiki bowed to a middle-aged woman that she'd bumped into during her third canvass of the Nerima shopping district. Snap out of it, Nabiki! she chastised herself. Your mind is all over the place, and now you're stumbling into people! The other woman tilted her head slightly, looked down her nose at Nabiki with an annoyed twist to her mouth and then stalked away without truly acknowledging the apology. Nabiki sighed. It wasn't as if she'd knocked the stuck-up old bint into a puddle of muddy water or anything; just a simple bumping of shoulders.

Dropping that line of thinking as not worth her time, she looked up and down the mall with a mild sense of despair. Face it; your chances of running into him at any given time are only a hair better than nil. She spied one of the many small eateries on the mall, one near the entrance where she happened to be when bumping into the other woman. She grabbed a waitress on the way into the seating area, ordered a milk tea, and took a chair at one of the empty tables situated such that she could easily see the people coming and going on the mall. It also gave her a chance to breathe and reflect on recent upsets.

First and foremost, at the moment, was the matter of Ranma-kun. Kasumi had hit most of the nails on the head during their little talk after dinner earlier, but she'd hit some of them with only glancing blows. Yes, it was true that she hadn't given Ranma-kun a fair shake at their last meeting, but that wasn't all that had bothered her afterwards. It was as if what she'd learned of his life and the things he'd had to do to get along had been unexpected enough to cause her to reflect on her own life and who she was. She'd been far from unsatisfied with what she found, but she'd been dismayed by one thing that had gone largely unnoticed, and her reaction to Ranma's revelations had brought it into stark relief. Was she truly that insulated from other people? She hadn't thought so. There was Kasumi and, to a lesser extent, Akane and her father, and... and...

And there it was. That really was all. There were two or three girls she nominally called friends from Furinkan, but at school and very occasionally after school at ice-cream shops or at some interesting local event were the only times she spent with them. Come to think of it, she could not remember any recent instances when any of them had called her at home just to chat and gossip. She winced, realizing that she had been the only one to call them outside of the aforementioned venues, but even then, it was rare.

Her milk tea arrived, and Nabiki smiled and thanked the waitress. She sampled it, distantly cataloging that the beverage was barely fit for consumption, but the she drank it anyway.

You need to change some things, Nabiki-chan. Yuka and Sayuri might as well be Akane's sisters, as close as they are. Kasumi has her tea club every Tuesday, but she regularly speaks and meets with them outside of that... and she could have Toufuu-sensei if he ever gets his act together. And Daddy... She wasn't sure who or what her father had besides his daughters, but his was a different situation altogether from being a generation older and raised with different expectations. Thoughts of friends triggered a strong memory of basking in the female Ranma's glow when she would laugh or make amusing attempts at being coy or sly in their conversation. Nabiki realized she wanted more of that feeling.

And then there was that other matter...

Ever since her rescue, she and her sisters had been conversationally dancing around and avoiding what had happened, and when Kasumi had stumbled in her speaking earlier, avoiding it yet again, an uncomfortable twinge had developed in Nabiki's stomach. She'd clamped down on it immediately, but it hadn't gone away. It was like a distant wail, slowly growing stronger and clearer, trying to develop into a writhing knot of screaming anxiety despite her iron control. She shuddered...

... and almost jumped out of her skin when a noise made her look up quickly and see Ranma walk by not three meters from her, having bumped into one of the chairs at an outer table and stumbling as if drunk. She watched him move aimlessly down the mall until he was quickly lost in the crowd. Shaking herself out of her stupor, she dropped a pair of one hundred-yen coins on the table and left. Regardless of whatever the stated price might have been, that poor excuse for milk tea hadn't been worth a quarter of that. She scurried in the same direction as her quarry, the climbing wail coming to a boil in her belly momentarily forgotten.

She found him quickly on a bench not at all far from where she'd lost sight of him from the eatery. Two large bushes flanked the bench, lending a false sense of seclusion, and Ranma sat dead in the middle, staring off into space. She did take note of something new about him, a slip of paper held tightly in his right hand and fluttering in the occasional breeze, but she dismissed it as unimportant. She steeled herself, A fair shake, remember? and walked up to him.

"Hi, Ranma-kun!" Nabiki smiled brightly for him. It felt patently unnatural to do so, but she persevered, only to have the smile fail anyway when, after a long pause, he looked up at her with blank eyes.

"Ranma-kun?" She waved a hand in front of his face. "Are you all right?"

He opened his mouth, shut it, opened it again, and then he just froze, as if his brain had locked up.

Nabiki reached out and tentatively touched him on the shoulder. "Ranma-kun?"

"I... ... ..."

"Yes? You what?"

No response at all save that same blank look. After another stretch of uncomfortable silence, he simply handed her the piece of paper she'd noticed he'd been holding. Confused, Nabiki took it and read aloud: "Saotome Nodoka, 138 Arisugawa, Oizumi-machi, Nerima-ku." She looked back at him. "I don't understand. Is this your house? Who is this Nodoka?"

"I... I didn't know! He never said!"

Nabiki tilted her head, studying him.

He finally uttered that which had him in a daze. "I... I have... a mother."

It didn't take her but an instant to take in the important aspects of the situation. He hadn't known about his mother for most of his life... and now he did. Ye, gods! She was at a total loss for a reasonable response that didn't flow from her natural sarcastic impulse to ooze some comment along the lines of "Well, of course you do! Your father certainly didn't squeeze you out of his—"

Nabiki's mind crashed to a halt, and she felt more than a bit of disgust at where that thought had been heading and was glad she'd chopped it off before it could finish. For lack of any better options at the moment, she looked back down at the slip of paper, memorizing the information, before folding it and slipping it into her purse for temporary safekeeping. She moved, hesitated, and then tentatively sat down next to Ranma, watching him as he stared off into space again.

What in the world do you say to someone in his position? she wondered, looking away and then doing a double-take. He was male! Why was it just now that she'd processed that fact?! It struck Nabiki like a runaway truck how complicated just thinking about Ranma would be, not that she shouldn't have recognized this already considering how much trouble she'd had with Ranma pronouns earlier when meeting with her sisters. She'd also been unconsciously thinking of Ranma as a girl in many of her musings, since he'd been a girl at their last meeting. One of the biggest aspects, if not the biggest, that dictated how people interacted with one another was that of gender. Ranma kicked that fundamental rule right in the fundament and waved goodbye as it flew out of sight. Oh, my, this was going to be difficult in so many ways. Nabiki paused; perhaps not. Ranma was born male and acted largely male even when a girl, and the only time he seemed not to was when it was a conscious decision, like when scamming food. Right. Male it is, even when it isn't... Kami, how am I going to remember that when he's not?

She set that aside for the moment and asked what she now realized was the only question on the table. "What are you going to do?"

Ranma slowly turned to her, his eyes darting back and forth. "Do?!" he warbled. "I... I dunno." His eyes sharpened marginally, as they focused at least somewhat on her. "What do you think I should do?"

"Errr..." she dithered. "Well, I... I mean, is there really any decision to make? Is there some reason you don't want to meet her? She is your mother, after all. Why wouldn't she want to meet you?"

"Yeah... That's what Officer Hiroshi said..."

"A policeman? What was that all about?"

"Oh! Uh... I dunno. It just sorta happened. I went to see Pops earlier, and we... had some problems... and some words. I got mad and left and somehow'r other the cop that worked the jail and me had a talk. Dunno how it got around to mom, but he did a little diggin' and... well... found out who she was and where she lived."

"The paper?"

"Yeah... HEY! Where'd it go? AH! I can't lose that!" He searched around himself on the bench and ground frantically.

"Relax, Ranma-kun! I just put it in my purse, so it wouldn't blow away."

"... Oh... Whew! Thanks, Nabiki-cha—" He stopped abruptly and finally focused his full attention on her, although his eyes were now shuttered and suspicious again. "Uh... What are ya doin' here, anyway? I, uh, thought you... well..."

Nabiki sighed. Gad. Here it came. How the hell was she supposed to talk about this and not sound like a total boob. She pulled her eyes off of Ranma and picked at the hem of the black knee-length skirt she wore, as it rode just above her knees when seated. Her legs were nice, she thought, perhaps her nicest feature short of her chest, which thanks to the Tendou genes was ample, perhaps even a half-size larger than Kasumi's despite her older sister's taller frame, but it'd been ages since they played those kind of bust games as younger girls. Only Akane seemed to have been passed over by that inheritance, although her chest wasn't small but merely average. Nabiki hated her face, however. She thought it looked weird. Some people called it exotic because of how her eyes sat relative to the rest of her features, but she thought it was just... weird. She then remembered that Ranma had thought her pretty the last time they met. A warm glow settled in her chest. Pretty was not a compliment she often got. Striking, sometimes, and chesty often, but pretty? Hardly... Except Ranma.

She giggled aloud, causing Ranma to lean back, blink, and look at her strangely. Mortified, Nabiki felt like slapping herself silly. What the hell was going on with her?! Had falling off of that building rattled her insides so much that she could wander off in the middle of an important conversation? But finally voicing that fact in her mind brought her up short.

She had fallen off of a building...


This was not the same thing as catching herself before crossing a busy road! She'd been well on her final way to being a smear on the sidewalk, no rational hope of avoidance, and by all rights, that's exactly what should have happened. Instead, the very kami she'd just cursed had seen fit to provide her with the rarest of persons capable of giving her another chance to live.

The roiling, boiling wail in her gut suddenly found itself unbound.

Her thoughts began to spin out of her control, and Kasumi's words echoed like a tolling bell in her head, making her dizzy and her legs feel like jelly: "...but for the absurdly good fortune of having someone capable of saving you from such a fall at the right place at the right time, we would now be planning a funeral." Absurd was right. Grandly absurd. "...but for the absurdly good fortune..." Outrageously absurd! She should be dead, buried, and feeding the worms! "...we would now be planning a funeral." Dead. Dead! DEAD!

The wail roared.

As her thoughts fed her emotions and her emotions her thoughts in vicious and growing spiral, Nabiki began to shake uncontrollably. The post-adrenalin shock immediately after the fall had been one thing, but the deeper, emotional shock of almost having died had been completely derailed by a second event containing a different kind of shock, that of watching a good-looking boy turn into a redheaded girl in a mad display of impossibility. She had, afterwards, been coasting on a survival high and the high of finding something novel in the world, not yet dealing with what could have happened to her—what should have happened to her—and not yet coping with the emotional earthquake that had only been delayed. Delayed, yes, but it had definitely not forgotten her, and her rosy emotions from a few seconds ago had loosened up her heart and mind enough for the bigger issue to come rolling out like thunder: she should be... should be... DEAD!

Panic exploded in her chest and her heart pounded in her ears.
She needed Kasumi! She looked around frantically—no Kasumi.
She needed her mother!! "Mother!" she croaked, still shaking severely, tears rolling down her cheeks, but there was no mother. There had not been for most of her life.
Tendou Nabiki had been proud of how she'd held up. She needed no one! No one!
"Oh, Mother, where are you?!" she hoarsely begged the descending darkness of the shopping district. The other shoppers on the mall had been reduced to misty gray phantoms of no comfort to her at all.
The old pain of her mother's death was born anew, further fueling the hysteria that overwhelmed her.

And then her frantic, watery, and agonized gaze locked onto the stunned Ranma seated next to her, who gaped at her with his own brand of panic reflected in his cerulean eyes.

"Are... Are you okay?!" he practically squawked, fidgeting and looking ready to bolt.

Once image chased another, as if linked in a relentless chain. The memory of the ice cream she'd taken from Akane that had come out of nowhere as she fell burst into her mind. The memory of her mother, dying in the hospital, and her fear that no one else would want her, would love her. Don't leave me, Mother!
An impact against her body, and a strange male voice, saying something she couldn't quite recall but found comforting nonetheless.
NOT... dead?
She clung to her memory of her clinging to him, as he ran them at a slant down the building. Something had been jarred loose in her during that fall, something that the boy sitting next to her had caught along with her.
Needs and wants, long repressed from one death, had crawled out again at the proximity of her own demise, and now they rose from where they'd been resting since her fall and seemed to overlay and fuse on the face in front of her, temporarily imbuing him in her mind with an overwhelming sense of safety.

Reaching out with shaking hands, Nabiki tightly gripped a stunned Ranma's shoulders and then crawled into his lap, wrapped her arms around his neck, buried her face, and began to wail and cry out three days of delayed traumatic stress and years of past due mourning and grief.

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Fortunately for Ranma, the bench upon which he now cradled Nabiki was somewhat out of the way, and it was getting rather late, so the pedestrian traffic was lighter. Ranma, however, was beyond acknowledging any of his surroundings. For the second time in his life and only three days apart, he held the same bawling girl in his lap.

He was stumped.

Completely forgetting about his own concerns, buried as they were by the quivering mass of live girl, he sat there, trying to determine the best attack to this problem. He could, of course, simply dump her on the ground and run like hell, and the part of him that had been taught to deny his softer emotions cheered in their section of the stadium of his mind. Or he could just sit here, wait, and do nothing. The uncertainty in him didn't exactly cheer, as they were, after all, uncertain. Another part of his mind remembered Nabiki's sister Akane standing over them the first time this had happened, motioning at him with her arms to hold Nabiki. Ranma considered the options as presented, especially that proposed by the mini-Akane in his mind's eye. Truthfully, nothing bad had happened as a direct result of the Akane-born solution, the uncertain section remained uncertain, and the deny-soft-emotion section muttered amongst themselves but couldn't truly fault the past results of the first.

Mind made up and actively wondering if he was putting his head in the mouth of the lion, Ranma brought up his arms and cradled the crying girl, and for some bizarre reason his mind couldn't latch on to, one hand started rubbing her back of its own accord. He just really did not understand any of this, but Nabiki seemed to prefer this action, as she relaxed against him somewhat. It still jangled his nerves fiercely to be in this position, and he wished he had someone he could talk to later about whether he'd done the right thing or not and what was generally expected in these situations, but alas, all he had was his Pop, and Genma was more likely to tell him to not worry about it or immediately find something to occupy his attention so he could pretend he hadn't heard the question at all. What he really needed was a...

A mother!

He was so surprised that he'd forgotten about his mother, he almost leapt to his feet and dumped Nabiki onto the ground. His muscles had tensed severely anyway, and it seemed Nabiki had noticed. Her cries quieted, and she pulled her face away from his neck. He peeked at her out of the corner of his eye, but she seemed to just be staring dully at nothing.

"Um..." he tentatively began, but further words failed him, as they often did.

Nabiki looked up at his face, and her eyes focused abruptly. She looked quickly at her position, back at his face, and then all around them. She scrabbled off of him and moved a couple of steps away, turning such that she presented her profile. Her hands rapidly and erratically smoothed her blouse and skirt, and only then did she wipe her eyes.

"I must look a fright," she said, shakily.

"Uh... No?"

Nabiki laughed once, harshly, still not looking at him. "Right. Listen... That, ah... That did not happen just now, understand?" She almost looked at him but forced herself to resist.

"... Errr... If you say so."

"Right... Right..." She looked all around her again, everywhere except at Ranma, continuing to mutter to herself in increasing severity. "I never do that. It did not happen! I won't have it!!" A clock on a pole stood in the middle of the mall near the entrance, and Nabiki looked up at it. "Oh, is that the time?" she quavered.

With Nabiki looking ready to bolt like a frightened hare, Ranma put aside thoughts of his mother for the moment, which was no mean feat, but it was aided by a sense of familiar annoyance that crawled out of a heavily bruised part of his heart. He'd been used many times in his life, and he at least knew the bolder signs, even though he'd hoped that Nabiki would be different. His face adopted the same stoniness that he so hated to see on his own father.

"So..." he said, his mood becoming thoroughly sour. "Now that you've soaked my shirt, you're just gonna run off again?" Ranma stood and shook his arms. "Maybe Pops is right," he grated. "Women sure do seem to be an all-around pain in the ass."

The words and sentiment were unexpected and jarring after what she'd just been through, and Nabiki whirled on him. "What?! How dare you! Where do you get off saying that to me?! I—" She stopped because he'd abruptly held out his hand, palm up. "What?!"

"You have somethin' of mine," he said, coolly, wiggling his fingers a couple of times. When she just looked at him blankly, he said, "The paper? With my, er, mom's address on it?"

"Oh!" And all that had occurred prior to her breakdown came crashing back in. "Oh, no! I... I didn't mean! I mean...!" Cursing herself, the situation, and how everything she'd planned for the possibility of finding Ranma again had gone completely awry, she scrabbled at her purse, yanked out the paper, and slapped it in his hand. She drew back her fingers as if he might burn her, and she winced at her own skittishness.

He didn't immediately pull his arm back but tilted his head slightly, boring into her with his eyes. After a few seconds of appraisal, under which Nabiki did manage to stare right back, Ranma shook his head once in apparent confusion and then walked off towards the entrance without a word. He managed to leave the shopping district and traverse half of a block down the road towards the park before he heard whom he assumed to be Nabiki, running up behind him. He stopped, turned, and stonily regarded her, as she suddenly stopped two meters away from him as if she'd hit a wall.

"What do you want from me, Tendou-san?" Ranma asked, although it came out rather meaner than he intended. He struggled with his emotions and rubbed the back of his head. "I mean... You sounded pretty clear to me when ya left the other day..." He remembered some of her other words. "Sure, I didn't spend much time in school, but I ain't..." He winced. "I am not totally... ignorant. I know..." He worked his mouth a couple of times. "I know when I don't measure up ta someone's, um... expectations?" He tilted his head again and then nodded to himself once. "Yeah, that's it. You made that pretty clear. And then..." He gestured uncertainly. "...all this cryin' and stuff..." Ranma dropped his arm and sighed, looking defeated. "What do you want, Tendou-san? If I'm just a bit'a fun or somethin' for ya today, at least just say that... so I'll know." Defeated and dejected, now.

He could see a number of emotions pass over Nabiki's face during his speech, but when moisture pricked in her eyes again, he flapped his arms a couple of times. "Crap! What is it with girls and cryin' all the damned time?!" he practically shouted.

A giggle impulsively escaped her at his antics, and she slapped a hand over her mouth in embarrassment. However, it brought a quick chuckle out of Ranma, followed by a hand raking through his hair. "I really don't get girls at all..." he muttered audibly.

"Ranma-kun," Nabiki said, having regained some measure of her composure, "I..."

At her pause, he watched her fight with herself and thought he heard her mutter something about a Kasumi, but he didn't know who that was. It was not a little fascinating to watch, but he really was getting tired of the ups and downs surrounding this girl. "Yeah?"

Nabiki sighed, and her shoulders slumped from her own measure of defeat. "Truth it is," she said to herself and looked up and caught him with her large brown eyes. "I came looking for you today because... because I felt I owed you an apology." Ranma's eyebrows disappeared into his bangs, but she continued. "You were right. I judged you the other day, and I... I shouldn't have. I don't have the slightest idea what your life has been like, and I made a snap judgment that... that I didn't want any part of that."

He said nothing, and stood there, arms hanging loosely at his side, although he continued to watch her, feeling cautious even yet.

"I... I don't know what else to say... really... Sorry?"

There was something about her expression, posture, and attitude that suggested that there was, indeed, more that she could say but for some reason did not. Eyeing her for a few more seconds, he nodded slowly. "Yeah... Thanks... But... You're probably right, ya know, to not want any part of... me. You're... That is..." He gestured at her. "I mean, look at ya! You're, well... You're normal. Ya get up in the mornin', go ta school, come home, and do it all over again."

He jabbed a thumb at his chest. "Me? I fight nearly ever' day, and go to weird places and... get a weird curse." He had a rare moment of conceptual-to-verbal clarity. "Truth is I'm a lot like the weird guy ya see on the tee-vee in them kung-fu movies. Not the kinda guy ya hang out with like, uh... like on dates and stuff, not that I've ever been on a date, but..." He backhanded the air, and shook his head once, forcefully. "That's not important and none of anybody's business. What is important to you is that Weird, Weird in flamin' ten-meter kanji, follows me around like a damn bored kami! Messin' with me ever' chance it gets just for the hell of it!

"And yeah, and there's a little nasty stuff, too. Ya know... thievin' when I have ta." He turned a little and gave her his profile this time. "It hurts ta say it, but you're right. We got nothin' in common, Tendou-san." He laughed bitterly. "Nothin' at all. I mean, I only told ya the littlest bit of stuff. For instance, after gettin' this girl curse, I had a match with a Chinese girl in a little village close by and beat her inside three seconds with one kick to the chin, and she got mad, gave me a kiss on the cheek goodbye, and then chased me all the way to the goddamn ocean tryin' ta take off my head with a goddamn sword! No bullshit about it!" He looked back at her sharply. "What part of that do ya really want?!"

He threw his arms up in the air, waving them around in frustration. "Hell! I don't know how much of it I want. And now that I think on it," he dropped one arm but held up the slip of paper in the other, "I don't know if I want ta even bring a mom I never met in on it! Yeah, I reckon my mom wants to see me—I can't really see how it couldn't be that way unless she ends up bein' just another weird thing in my life—but do I want to drag her in the way of all that?! I don't know! I just... don't know..." Trailing off, he let his hand holding his mother's address fall to his side, and he stared out into the darkness, his eyes flicking back and forth, searching.

After almost a full minute of silence between them, Ranma turned to Nabiki. "Thanks for the apology, Tendou-san. It... was nice ta hear, even if nothin' comes from it, but... Go home. I ain't got nothin' ya want. Go home and be, well... happy... and safe. I got nothin' ya want."

Before she could even consider a response, he leapt to the roof of the building beside them and disappeared. As he roof-hopped his way to the park, he ignored his wet cheeks.

"I ain't got nothin' she wants any part of... Nothin'..."

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Morning dawned bright but hazy and humid, and Ranma had been up with the birds, working through his morning regimen of kata, purposefully keeping his mind clear of any thoughts concerning events or persons from the previous evening. He sorely missed having a sparring partner, but he was stuck until his Pop served out his term, but he didn't really want to think about his Pop, either. After finishing his exercise, he stopped to look at his camp. Would he be coming back here? He didn't know, but perhaps it would be best to be prepared for the possibility, so he completely broke camp and fixed his pack. Lifting it onto one shoulder, he bounded out to a cobbled walking lane and trotted towards the east entrance to the park.

As he turned the last corner of the lane, he could see the line of concrete pillars that kept vehicles from driving into the park from the street through the entrance, and he spied a familiar figure sitting on one of the pillars, watching everyone who went in or out. He ground to a halt, sighed loudly, and couldn't decide whether he was pleased or irritated to see her. He circled widely around, giving himself time to further decide whether to talk to her or just jump the fence and skip her brand of messy altogether, but in the end for reasons he was unwilling to examine too deeply at the moment, he didn't feel inclined to avoid her, so he walked right up to her blind side.

"Tendou-san," he said, causing her to jump off the pillar and squeak, "what are ya doin' here?"

Nabiki scowled at him briefly for startling her. "What? It's a free country! ... More or less."

Ranma rolled his eyes. "That's not what I meant. I thought we settled this last night, so... what are ya doin' here?"

Ignoring his question, she countered with her own. "Going to meet your mom, Ranma-kun?"

He narrowed his eyes. "And if I am?"

"Weeell..." she drawled, acting now as if she were entirely in control of the situation between the two of them, "I would never dream of imposing—" She smiled at him brightly, and the flutter in his chest disturbed him. "—but if I'm not, could you use some company along the way?" She now gave him a sly smile from a three-quarter view of her face with eyes slightly lidded.

Ranma felt a whole other series of reactions from her new expression that further disturbed him, although it was far more thrilling to certain places on his person, and Nabiki seemed to know it, as evidenced by her sultry, throaty chuckle. His Pop's voice echoed in his head with the usual admonishments about women, and while he now suspected some truth in Genma's warnings, the reasons were new, strange, and surprisingly pleasant.

He palmed his face nevertheless. "I don't understand you. I don't think I'll ever understand you."

"Well, you should know by now, Ranma-kun," she cooed, looping her arm through his, opposite his pack, and pulling him out through the park entrance, "that's just how I like it..."

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Nabiki is, to my mind, nothing if not quintessentially mercurial...

- - - - -

Thanks to Rakhal Stormwarden for some spot pre-reading.

Ranma ½, its characters, and its situations are the property of Takahashi Rumiko, Shonen Sunday Comics, Shogakukan, Kitty TV, and Fuji in Japan. It is distributed in North America by Viz Communications, Inc.

Nota bene: There will be some corrections to the little article I included in the last chapter on Japanese municipalities, to be included in a future chapter of Falling to Earth.

Author's Note: I debated two main ways of proceeding from here. One was as done, where Nabiki invites herself along to see Nodoka. The second was to have Nabiki go home and stay home, and then Nodoka would bring Ranma along to the doujou and, surprise, Ranma meets Nabiki as a potential fiancé(e). However, the sheer difficulty of trying to pull off the second option killed it rather quickly, primarily because keeping them both ignorant of each other within the context of the engagement until they meet again is just too implausible, given all that has gone before. Ergo, Nabiki gets to tag along, which is fine and should prove just as interesting.

We shall finally meet our most beloved and honored Nodoka in the next chapter, Chakudan, Part Three, although I expect that chapter to take somewhat longer to plan out and write—the interplay between three people increases the complication geometrically.

Nabiki-chan says, "Otanoshimi ni ne?" — Please look forward to it, okay? for you weeaboo haters out there. Kill the dubz! Watch more subz!