"Oh, Ranma-chan, why...why...?"

Nodoka sniffs as she slips the kimono off, then her underwear before
stepping into the bathing area. She came to the bathhouse near Furinkan High
School right after learning the stunning truth behind her child's
transformation. While part of her surged with pride at the thought of Ranma
being chosen for such an important task, the other parts of her shrieked at the
thought of her never being able to see her beloved child ever again.

Sitting down before a wash basin, she sprays herself with water before
soaping herself down, trying not to break down and weep at the destruction of
her family; there was a sizable crowd there today. But it was so hard. The
tears started after she parted from Ranma and Ukyou. They hadn't stopped no
matter how much Nodoka tried to rationalize everything. It was made worse
because her "adherence" to the contract her husband made with her concerning
Ranma was partially to blame for her child's ultimate decision to spend the
rest of her life as a woman.

"Excuse me...are you Ranma's mother?"

Nodoka blinks, then stares at Sayuri and Yuka, both draped in towels after
a soak in the furo. "Yes, I'm Nodoka Saotome," she dabs her eyes. "Who are
you?"

"Sorry, but we're two of Ranma's former classmates," Sayuri kneels beside
her, then tenses on seeing the flash of pain in the older woman's eyes.
"Oh...you know what Ranma did..."

"Yes, I do," Nodoka nods, suspecting that these two weren't told about
Ranma becoming a Jewel Warrior. "It doesn't really matter. My child is alive
even though she's become a girl now..."

"I'm glad," Yuka smiles. "I mean, yeah, Ranma and Akane-chan fought all
the time, but you could tell they cared a lot for each other. It's sad that so
few others took the time to see it..."

"Yes, that's true," Nodoka nods, soaping herself down.

"Um...she said in class that she was going to disown her family," Sayuri
bites her lip.

"Well, she amended that," Nodoka muses, a smile touching her lips. "She
said if she was going to come back home, my husband has to be thrown out of the
house or adhere to the contract he made with me before taking Ranma-chan on
her trip."

"Given what that lazy ass jerk did to Ranma, I don't blame her one
bit...oh, I'm sorry!!" Yuka gasps, covering her mouth.

Nodoka chuckles. "That's alright, dear. I suppose after what Genma put
Ranma-chan through, people would say things like that."

"So what are you going to do?" Sayuri muses.

"I don't know," Nodoka sighs. "I really don't know..."

"Nodoka-san!!"

"Oh, Yumi-san, hello!" Nodoka beams as Yumi walks in, then notices the
older woman beside her.

Sayuri and Yuka quietly withdraw as Yumi relaxes beside the Saotome
matriarch, her companion sitting to Nodoka's other side. "Were we interrupting
something?" Yumi wonders.

"Oh, they were just two of Ranma-chan's friends coming by wondering what
was happening," Nodoka muses, then gazes quizzically at her. "Why did you do
it, Yumi-san?"

"Why what?"

"Why did you choose Ranma to come with you?"

Yumi sighs. Nodoka knew now. "Truthfully, I didn't choose Ranma-chan,
Nodoka-san. She was recommended to me by Lord Ryasan. When I met her before
Jusenkyou, I saw the logic behind Vladimir's proposal and made the
arrangements. But the choice in the end was made by Ranma-chan herself...and
her Jewel."

"Yumi-chan, that's enough," the other woman scolds. "It's still hard for
her to accept what happened. It was the same thing for me when it happened to
you, remember?"

"Hai, Mother, you're right about that," Yumi sighs.

Nodoka blinks, then gazes at the older woman, who had Yumi's green eyes
and short-cut wavy brown hair, physically the same age as herself. "Excuse me,
you're...?"

"Sayoko Tachibana," the other woman confirms. "Yes, I'm Yumi's mother.
Pleased to meet you, Nodoka-san."

Nodoka blinks, then gazes questioningly at Yumi...

* * *

"Wanderer"
a fantasy crossover tale of Ranma Saotome
by Fred Herriot
fherriot@hotmail.com
**** **** ****
Based on "Ranma 1/2," created by Rumiko Takahashi; "NoeL - La Neige," created
by Pioneer LDC; and "Major Raeburn," created by Fred Herriot
**** **** ****

PART SIX - FAMILY

"So what do you think?"

Akane hums as she and Ranma proceed toward the Tendou dojo. "About what
Cologne proposed?" she muses. "Well, it would be a good idea for me, I guess.
It'd make sure Nabiki-chan and Kasumi-chan weren't hurt when we leave. But I
don't think one of those poor girls would appreciate being forced into your
shoes after what you just did with your family."

"Hai, that's true," Ranma muses, then sighs. "Still, it would be a way
for Mom to get the chance to know me..."

"Ranma! Akane!"

"Ryouga!!" Akane beams as the wanderer walks up behind them. "What brings
you around here?!"

Ryouga sighs, then notices Ranma's Jewel prominently displayed on her
shirt. "Oh...I take it you know what's happened to Ranma now," he gazes at
Akane.

"Hai, I do," Akane blinks, sensing his nervousness. "What is it,
Ryouga-kun? You look...bothered by something."

"Well..." Ryouga flusters. "Um...th-there's something I've got t-to
confess to you, Akane..."

Ranma tenses. "You sure you want to admit *that* now?"

He shrugs. "Got no choice."

"Okay...but don't say I didn't warn you."

"What?!" Akane stares at Ranma, then Ryouga. "What's going on
here...eh?!"

Her eyes widen as her mind scans Ryouga's energy pattern. *Oh, shit,
could she still sense it?!* Ranma panics, not wanting to get into a fight over
P-chan with a Praetorian-powered Akane even if she had a Power Jewel to defend
herself with.

Akane blinks, then shudders. "No wonder you get lost so easily," she
shakes her head.

Ranma faints! "Eh?!" Ryouga stares at her.

Akane sighs. "Okay, let's see what we can do," she reaches up to touch
his chin, her eyes reverting to gold as she concentrates her power on the dark
bands of energy flowing through him.

"H-hey...ow!!" Ryouga yelps as Akane's energy probes lance into him,
destroying the dark chi flow wrapped around his mind and nervous system, then
blinks as the sharp pain fades to a dull ache as she pulls her hands away.
"What did you do...?"

"Guess that was a real curse you had," Akane whistles.

"What curse...?" Ryouga demands, then stares quizzically into the
guardian's golden orbs. "Akane, what's with your eyes?"

"Oh...oh!!" Akane blushes, then laughs. "Oh, darn, sorry about that,
Ryouga-kun! I should've told you..."

"Ranma, what's going on here?!" Ryouga spins on Ranma.

"Well...ah, you see..." Ranma stammers, then sighs. "Simple. She's now
to me...what Lord Ryasan was to Major Raeburn."

Ryouga pales. "Lord Ryasan...?!" he gapes, then stares at Akane. "You
mean you're...?!"

"Hai," Akane tenses, sensing the wave of disappointment and disbelief
emanating from the wanderer.

Silence falls as Ryouga takes it in, then he sighs resignedly.
"Um...well, c-congratulations, Akane. I guess that means you'll be going with
Ranma to Kaemal..." he stammers.

Akane blinks as a sharp pain echoes through her from Ryouga, then feels
her face heat on realizing what that pain hinted at. "Ryouga-kun!!!" she claps
her cheeks, looking away.

"A-a-akane...!" he shudders, gulping.

"Baka!!" she playfully bats his nose.

"What?! What?!!" Ranma stares at her, then him.

"You should've said something, you know!" Akane humphs.

"W-well...!" Ryouga chuckles.

"I'm very flattered by your interest, Ryouga-kun," Akane hums.

"Um...ah...y-you see...well, you have shown me a lotta kindness since we
met..." Ryouga stammers, then shrugs.

"Yeah, I guess I did," Akane muses. "Anyhow, I gotta run back home. I'm
arranging a little dinner between my dad and Hinako-sensei. Pop by U-chan's
later and we'll talk there. See you later, Ranma-chan!"

"Hai," Ranma and Ryouga chorus as Akane runs off, then the former blinks.
"Akane-chan, your eyes!!"

Akane waves at them, her eyes back to their normal blue, then runs off.
Ranma and Ryouga watch her go, then both breathe out. "Oh, man, I would've
been in for it for sure if she found out about you being P-chan!" the former
muses.

"YOU would get in trouble?!!" Ryouga spins on her. "Hey, what about ME,
huh?! When did SHE become a Praetorian Guardian?!!"

"Last night," Ranma sighs. "C'mon, man, let's go to U-chan's. You gotta
get updated on a whole bunch of things."

Ryouga nods as they head off. Unseen by either, Akane stands just out of
sight past the corner, her eyes wide as their words roll through her mind.
*Ryouga...was P-chan?!!* her jaw drops, then silently, she heads home...

* * *

"You're immortal, too?!!"

"Pretty much so," Sayoko smiles as she enjoys a pleasant lunch with Nodoka
and Yumi in a cafe down the street from Furinkan High. "You see, the Seekers
weren't so heartless to give a Jewel Warrior that level of power without making
provisions to ensure that they wouldn't be totally alone when they set off to
work. So, a Jewel can bestow a special 'gift' on someone the Jewel Warrior
elects to be her live-in companion. That gift is the ability to live as long
as the Jewel Warrior herself."

Nodoka blinks, then points to the younger Tachibana. "But if you're her
mother, then that means Yumi-san didn't properly qualify as a Jewel Warrior
because she still had family..."

"Yes, that's true," Yumi nods. "But at the time I received my Jewel, I
was...technically an orphan. Emotionally orphaned, that is, just like
Ranma-chan was when she became a Jewel Warrior."

"What happened?!" Nodoka wonders.

Sayoko shakes her head. "It was a silly thing when you get down to it,"
she sips her tea. "Twenty years ago, Yumi-chan and Chisato-chan were
classmates at a senior high school in Kamakura. Ryou-chan attended a private
girl's school nearby. That Christmas, they elected to spend winter vacation
skiing in Aomori. Now, you have to remember, few women their age did things
like that then...without parental or other male supervision."

"While we were on the slopes, a bad snowstorm came on us," Yumi adds.
"Prior to that, we had crossed paths with a fellow named Kyuusuke Nakamura. So
all four of us had to take shelter in an abandoned cabin on the slopes to wait
out the storm." She shakes her head. "So there we were. Four people, cold,
scared, hungry and wondering if we'd get out of that situation alive. So we
did what we could to keep warm through the night."

"In that situation...things could've happened," Nodoka muses.

"Well, they didn't," Yumi asserts. "By the time the rescue people came
along, we were so cold, we dared not even THINK of taking one item of clothing
off. So nothing happened...that is until we got back to Kamakura. Kyuusuke's
brother Masato was a classmate of mine at school; he was Chisato-chan's
boyfriend at the time. He hears what happens and his imagination decides to
run away with him. And before we knew it, people were spreading all sorts of
crazy rumours about us!"

"Oh, dear," Nodoka covers her lips. "That's awful!"

"The worst was yet to come," Yumi closes her eyes. "Kyuusuke, bless his
soul, was a decent and honourable man. He tried his best to dispel the rumours
before they got back to our families. Sadly, he failed. Chisato's and Ryou's
parents threw them out of their homes and mine were on the verge of doing the
same to me. When he found out, Kyuusuke was so ashamed that he couldn't've
stopped us from being hurt...he committed suicide."

Nodoka winces. "I take it that didn't help matters."

"Not at all," Sayoko gently squeezes her daughter's hand. "I was unsure
as to what happened...but Kyuusuke-kun's action made so many believe that my
daughter's virtue had been...violated. My husband was ready to disown her then
and there. And when Yumi-chan came to me and pleaded that we take Ryou-chan
and Chisato-chan in until things cooled off...my husband overheard it and
he..." she stops, a flash of deep pain in her eyes.

"There's no need to say it," Nodoka shakes her head.

"But...shortly after that...that very night, in fact...we encountered
Vladimir and got our Jewels," Yumi smiles, her hand touching the alien pendant
around her neck. "So in the long run, things weren't desperate. He arranged
through the KGB to get us special bank accounts made in Switzerland and Canada,
then saw us off to Kaemal. We decided to wait a year, then come back for a
quick visit to see if things had cooled down so we could at least reconcile
with our families."

"What happened?" Nodoka urges.

"Well...for Ryou-chan and Chisato-chan, nothing had changed," Yumi closes
her eyes. "For me, Mother was unsure about the whole thing and my younger
sister was heartbroken over it. So when I walked in that day, Father went
ballistic. He attacked me with a bokan stick, so I..." she chuckles.

"Drew her Cat's Claw, poised it over my husband's neck and said 'YOU are
the one who disgraced our family, not me!'" Sayoko completes, then starts to
laugh.

"I'd hardly call that a laughing matter, Sayoko-san," Nodoka muses.

"Well, it certainly wasn't seen as such nineteen years ago," Sayoko muses.
"Given hindsight, the whole situation was utterly ridiculous. It's amazing
how blown out of proportion things can be if people don't keep a level head."

"Sort of like the way things were between you and your family," Yumi
adds.

"True, I suppose," Nodoka hums. "Anyhow, whatever happened to
Nakamura-san's brother?"

Yumi hums. "Chisato-chan confronted Masato at his university one day in
full uniform with the Cat's Claw, then after she trashed his dorm room and
threatening his life, she left him with a cut on his cheek...after telling him
to his face that Kyuusuke's death was HIS fault, not ours. We haven't heard
from him since."

"But I don't believe he's as quick to jump to conclusions like he was
before," Sayoko adds.

Nodoka nods. "So I assume your daughter bestowed you her Jewel's gift,"
she gazes at Sayoko. "Was there anyone else?"

"Just Mai-chan, Yumi's sister," Sayoko reports. "Ryou-chan was kind
enough to do that. We waited until she was old enough to enjoy it; she was ten
at the time Yumi-chan left home. Chisato-chan has kept hers in reserve, just
in case. Now that we have both your daughter and Kuonji-san, we could bring
you along, plus one or two others."

"Akane-chan would best fit that role," Nodoka hums.

"Oh, you don't know?!" Yumi's eyes widen.

"About what?!"

"Akane-chan becoming a Praetorian Guardian."

"Eh?!!" Nodoka gapes.

"I thought Ranma-chan told you!" Yumi chuckles. "I arranged for it
through Vladimir a couple days ago when I discovered that she still had pretty
strong feelings for Akane-chan."

Nodoka shudders, her head spinning at the storm of revelations she just
received. "So..." she shakes her head, then sips her tea, "...if Ranma-chan
gives me her Jewel's gift..."

"Then you and she can make up for all the time you lost when she was gone
training with your husband," Sayoko smiles. "For people like us, who've missed
a lifetime with their children, it's a dream come true. There were times I
missed being with Yumi-chan and Mai-chan, a lot of times. Even with Yumi-chan
busy on Kaemal, I haven't wasted it."

"Do we live on Kaemal?"

"No!!" Yumi shakes her head. "You may have the extended lifespan, but you
don't have any other means to defend yourself, not in a combat situation like
that! There's an...abandoned Seeker base near the galactic core that the Jewel
Warriors in the Milky Way use where all our companions and relatives reside.
We call it Sanctuary. Sort of like a country cottage for all of us."

"Think of it as something like your average salaryman job," Sayoko muses.
"You're minding the home while your relative is out doing her job. She tries
to come back when matters permit it."

"It hasn't been often, unfortunately," Yumi sighs. "We've been just too
busy fighting those things on Kaemal. As soon as we try to steal a couple of
days with Mom and Mai-chan, something new comes up and we've got to go back."

"But there's no urgency to it since we have so much time before us,"
Sayoko muses.

"I...see," Nodoka sighs, folding her hands under her chin. "It's quite
the temptation to say the least of it...but what on Earth do I do with my
husband?"

"That...is up to you, I'm afraid," Yumi sighs. "I don't envy you that
decision, Nodoka-san. It was easy for us to leave my father behind since he
just wouldn't listen to a thing we said. Chances are good that given how much
energy he's devoted to the fulfilment of his own dreams..."

"Not to mention ignoring the damage he's caused all those years," Sayoko
darkly adds.

"Hai, Mother," Yumi nods, then stares at Nodoka. "Genma might decide that
he will do ANYTHING to see Ranma-chan brought back under his control. Do you
really want that for your child?"

Nodoka sighs...

* * *

"It was a good dinner," Nabiki smiles.

The Tendou sisters stand in the kitchen, ears attuned to the muted
conversation in the living room. "Yeah, it was," Akane hums. "I think Dad's
starting to see all of Hinako-sensei's good points."

"Hai, he is," Kasumi smiles.

"And once things settle down, you can finally get back on Toofuu-sensei's
trail," Nabiki winks at her older sister.

Kasumi flushes. "Nabiki-chan!!"

They laugh, then Akane sighs, gazing out the window, sadness creeping into
her eyes. Nabiki gazes at her, then walks up and places her hand on her
sister's shoulder. "You okay?"

"Uh-huh," Akane nods. Not really, Onee-chan.

Nabiki blinks, startled to hear Akane's voice deep inside her mind, then
realizes that her sister wanted to keep the conversation muted until Akane had
a chance to convince Kasumi of her future intentions. *Who taught you that
trick, sis?!*

Svetlana did, Akane smiles at her.

Kasumi steps out of the kitchen at that time. The other sisters breathe
out. *Keep to psi-speech,* Nabiki insists. *What's bugging you, Akane-chan?*

How I'll miss this place when I go, I guess, Akane muses as she pours
herself some tea. I'm going no matter what...but part of me wishes it didn't
have to wind up this way.

*Things'll be fine,* Nabiki hums. *Keeping Dad distracted with Hinako's a
perfect idea. It might give him time to consider Ranma's reasons for doing
what she did.*

"You still don't like what happened, do you?" Akane muses.

"Well...I dunno," Nabiki muses. "I suppose if I sat back and thought
about it, maybe Ranma has a right to be angry at some of the things I did. His
dad never taught him any responsibility when it came to interacting with
others, so he didn't know what to do."

"You know, all you had to do was ask him, explain the problem to him...and
I bet he would've gladly helped," Akane gazes at her. "Maybe if you told him
the money from the photos when into paying for food and the property bills, he
would've done anything that was necessary...within some limits."

"Yeah, that's true," Nabiki sighs. "But like it or not, when it comes to
business, you gotta be ruthless at times. There was a market for pictures of
Ranma-chan. The person wanting them was prepared to pay millions for them.
For the sake of all of us, including Ranma-chan, I had to take it."

"True," Akane muses, then chuckles as she sips her tea. "You know,
Onee-chan, you've got the right sort of mentality to be a Praetorian
Guardian."

Silence falls as Nabiki stares wide-eyed at her sister. "You...you mean
it...?" her voice drops to a squeak.

"Hai," Akane smiles. "So...you want to take the Test?"

* * *

"Delicious!" Chisato grins.

"My pleasure," Ukyou nods as she starts collecting plates. "Well, the
real estate agent should be here tomorrow, so we can get things settled, put
some things in storage with Cologne and her family, then move out."

"You'll miss this place, won't you?" Ryou muses.

"Yeah," the chef nods. "You know, even with the problems with Ran-chan
and A-chan and all that, I had some very good times here. It'll be so weird
not working for a living anymore."

"Wandering's the only life I've ever known," Ranma sighs.

"Yeah, I guess that's another reason you couldn't've pushed it past the
friendship stage," Ryouga hums.

"Well, it doesn't matter anymore, thank the gods," Ukyou nods. "We all
have an understanding now."

"Yeah, some understanding," Ranma winks at Ryouga. "I have to submit to
both their sexual urges whenever they get horny!"

Ryouga, Ryou and Chisato laugh as Ukyou swats Ranma with her hand. "You
jackass!!!"

"And I thought starting a relationship with Chi-chan was hard enough,"
Ryou muses.

Everyone stares at the tall woman, then her lover. "How did that start,
anyway?" Ranma muses. "Neither of you strike me as the type."

"It was a mistake on my part, Ranma-chan," Chisato sighs, her eyes sullen.
"We weren't there more than a year when I became lovers with a native."

"I remember Koloss," Ryou shudders. "He was such a wonderful man. Always
asked us questions about Earth, wishing the day would come that...Kaemal would
advance enough so our races could finally make contact and all that..."

Both frown. "He was killed, wasn't he?" Ranma muses.

"Hai," Chisato shudders. "It had almost come to the point where I was
seriously considering giving him the Gift..."

"They attacked his village that night," Ryou sighs. "We later learned the
attack was arranged to ensure Koloss would die...all to break Chi-chan's
heart. A hundred people died just to ensure one person died, Ranma-chan.
That's what these monsters are like."

The others shudder. "So we vowed never to take native lovers again,"
Chisato sucks in air through her teeth. "But...hey, what the hell, you all got
needs, y'know. So...since there were few guys on Sanctuary to
date...well..."

"We drifted together," Ryou shrugs.

"That's hard," Ukyou hums.

"Hai, U-chan, it is," Ryou sighs. "Especially when all the guys who are
safe on Sanctuary are already taken."

"Yeah, especially Gioo-kun!" Chisato laughs.

"Who's Gioo?" Ranma wonders.

"Gioo Shigozei," Chisato smirks. "You see, there're these twelve girls.
Like us, native girls who got tasked to protect other planets when they became
Jewel Warriors. But, it turns out all of them were in love with Gioo-kun!"

"They made what happened between you two, Akane-chan and Shampoo look
tame, believe it or not," Ryou snorts as Chisato starts to laugh. "Well, one
of them gives Gioo-kun her Jewel's gift, then he gets dragged off to Sanctuary.
And to this day, he's still trying to make up his mind which one he wants!"

The others howl as they imagine twelve girls leaping all over one guy.
"Pity I couldn't've asked him for some advice when it came to my fiancee
problem," Ranma snorts.

"What problem?" a voice wonders as the door opens.

"Oh, Akane-chan, you're just in time!" Ranma snorts as Akane walks up.
"Ryou-chan and Chisato-chan were telling us about this guy on Sanctuary who's
got TWELVE Jewel Warriors all over him trying to be his girlfriend!!"

Akane blinks, then shakes her head. "I don't want to even THINK about
something like that anymore!" she sighs.

"How did things go with your dad?" Ryou wonders.

"Pretty good," Akane nods. "I guess sometime soon, Hinako-sensei will
become the second Mrs. Souun Tendou."

"Your dad deserves it, Akane," Ryouga smiles.

Akane stares at him, then sighs, a neutral look crossing her face. Ryouga
blinks, then shudders as realization dawns. Ranma notices the pensive stares,
then braces herself, understanding what was about to be blown wide open
now.

"Why?" Akane sighs.

"I..." Ryouga stammers, then bows his head. "Akane, I..."

"He said it himself, you know," Ranma muses.

"I can't believe you're defending him!" Akane glares at her.

"Hey, I was the one who cursed him, you know!" Ranma rises, staring Akane
in the eye.

"And you took responsibility for it," Akane nods, then stares at Ryouga.
"But I don't see you doing the same thing!"

"I..." Ryouga sighs, then gazes helplessly at her.

"You have some responsibility here, you know."

Akane and Ryouga stare at Ranma. "What makes you say that?!" the former
demands.

"He said it himself," Ranma crosses her arms. "You are the first person
to show Ryouga any real kindness. Yeah, he was P-chan when you and he came
together, but that still doesn't change the fact that YOU, of ALL the people
Ryouga's met over the years, gave him some place he could feel safe. You gave
him a place he could, even for a short while, call home...just like you gave me
a home."

Akane blinks, then feels her cheeks colour. "Ranma..."

"Ryouga, when was the last time you saw your parents?" Ranma stares at the
wanderer.

"Um...about five years ago, I guess," Ryouga muses.

"What about your brother and sister?"

"Who knows," Ryouga shakes his head.

Akane pales. "You mean his whole family...?!"

"Hai," Ranma nods. "When I was travelling, I had Oyaji with me, despite
all the hell that caused me. Ryouga's had NOBODY he could turn to whenever
he's needed companionship! No one at all, Akane!! And even though you just
eliminated his direction problem, the chances are slim to nil that he might
find the rest of his family since THEY suffer that curse, too! Put yourself in
his shoes, Akane. You feel as if the whole world is coming down on your neck
for reasons you can't understand...and someone, a kind person...offers a
helping hand, a warm home, offers herself to be a friend. What would you do?"

Silence falls as Akane considers Ranma's words, then gazes at Ryouga. A
year ago, she had taken in a wandering piglet she had found in a rainstorm. It
was love at first sight admittedly. And that piglet gave love back, listened
to her problems, offered her companionship whenever she needed a special
friend. Even more so, P-chan...Ryouga...didn't invade her privacy too much.
Every time she undressed, he either turned away or was overwhelmed by seeing
her without anything covering her. She doubted he had told anyone her secrets,
though it was obvious he may have used what he heard to continue prosecuting
his vendetta against Ranma.

"You really did...care for me, did you?" she hums.

Ryouga blinks, then sighs. "Hai."

Akane shakes her head, then stares at Ranma. "I'm sorry I didn't take
time to listen to you."

"Hey, it's okay," Ranma shrugs.

"But you still should've told me!!" Akane growls.

"I tried, believe it or not," Ranma crosses her arms. "Even with my
promise, I tried so many times to clue you in. All I got for it was your
damned hammer and a 'Don't pick on P-chan!!'"

"Hai, that's true," Akane blushes, then stares at Ryouga. "Now, will you
two FINALLY stop fighting each other?!"

"Hey, I ain't THAT crazy!" Ryouga shrugs.

Everyone laughs...just as a flash of light illuminates the door outside.
They turn as the door opens to reveal Nabiki. "Can I get something to eat,
please!" she calls out.

"Nabiki, you too...?!" Ukyou's jaw drops.

"Hai," the now golden-eyed Nabiki smiles, feeling the collar of her shirt.
While Akane had chosen red as her colour, the middle Tendou daughter had
chosen a bronze-coppery colour which matched the shade of an American penny.

"How was the Test?" Akane muses.

"Well, Vladimir said to me that my solution to the problem was...unique,"
Nabiki muses. "But considering that Tethis was about to kill Zeus' future
daughter-in-law, making Perseus take Andromeda's place would've been poetic
justice, not only for the people of Joppa, but the people of Perseus' home
town."

"You mean you had Zeus fight the Kraken?!" Ranma gapes; Akane had told her
and Ukyou about the Test right after the youngest Tendou had become a
Praetorian Guardian.

"Hai," Nabiki nods, then feels a stab of guilt rush through her as she
remembers her conversations with Akane. "Ranma, I..."

Ranma blinks, then smiles. "Forget it, Nabiki."

She heads off. Nabiki blinks, then stares at her sister. Akane winks.
"Like I said...all you had to do was ask."

Nabiki flushes as everyone laughs...

* * *

"THERE YOU ARE, YOU LAZY BOY!!!!"

Genma howls in shock as Happousai's voice thunders through his
sleep-dulled mind, bolting up to prostrate himself before the grand master.
"Please, please, Master, I'll do anything for you! Please don't hurt me,
please don't hurt me!!"

"Shaddup!!!" Happousai snaps, still scarred from Ranma's mega-charged
mouko takaibisha and sopping wet from his unwanted dip into the Pacific Ocean.
Eyes ablaze, he grabs Genma by his gi top and glares into his eyes. "Are
there things you haven't told me about my student yet, boy?!!"

"Wh-what things...?!" Genma stammers.

"Things like forming a chi field around herself to keep my hands away from
her virgin, voluptuous body, much less giving his chi attacks so much power
that I was shot five hundred kilometres away by one blast?!" Happousai growls.
"Well?!!"

"I...I..."

"So...you were trying to TRICK me into thinking Ranma was inferior to your
master, eh?!" Happousai grumbles, twirling his pipe. "Probably hoping your
boy might turn around and really hurt your master, eh?! You little worm, did
you honestly think you were going to get away with it?!"

"Um...well, you see...!"

"A-hem!"

Happousai blinks, then turns, staring neutrally at Nodoka. Sayoko and
Yumi stand behind her. "What is it?"

"What are you doing in my house, Happousai?" Nodoka gently thumbs her
katana.

Happousai snarls. "I am trying to get my student back!!! Whattaya think
I'm doing?!"

"Student?" Nodoka blinks, then gazes at the younger Tachibana. "Oh, you
must mean Ranma. Yumi-san, was there anything in the agreement stipulating
that Ranma would still practice Musabetsu Kakutou-ryuu when she became your
adopted sister?"

"Actually, no," Yumi admits, "...but since my family doesn't acknowledge
any links to a school created by a pervert like this so-called 'master,' then
whatever links Ranma may have to Genma's school were dissolved when she became
my sister."

"***WHAT?!?!?!***" Happousai and Genma bellow.

"Very well, then," Nodoka nods. "Happousai, do not come to this house
again. You do not HAVE a student anymore."

The aged master growls. "You have no right...!!"

"We have every right to refuse a slime like you," Yumi walks around
Nodoka. "You do nothing save cause trouble and laugh whenever your 'students'
get into trouble whenever they try to stop you. It's no wonder Ranma-chan
doesn't respect you, Happousai...if she EVER did. She learned a lot more from
her great-grandmother-by-blood...and despite what happened before Ranma-chan
and Shampoo-chan became blood-kin, Cologne'll ALWAYS have Ranma-chan's respect.
Can you honestly look at yourself in the mirror and say the same
thing...'Master?'" she barbs the word with an ocean of contempt.

Genma grabs Yumi by her shirt collar. "Are you out of your mind?!!" he
pleads, eyes wide with panic. "Do you have any concept of what the Master will
do to you if you resist him?!!"

Yumi stares at him, smiling. "You don't get it, do you? Ranma-chan is
still in a life-threatening situation because of your master," she leans into
his face. "The deal still stands."

With that, she shoves Genma away, causing him to collapse on Happousai.
The aged master catches the larger man with his pipe, then sends him into a
wall before walking over to glare into his student's spiralling eyes. "What
'deal' is this lady talking about, Genma?!" he growls. "WHAT HAVE YOU DONE
THIS TIME?!?!"

"I...I...I...!" Genma moans, then collapses on the floor.

Happousai shudders, then turns. "So why don't you...eh?!!"

There is no sign of Yumi, Sayoko or Nodoka. "Where'd they go?!!" the aged
master blinks, then muttering something under his breath, grabs Genma and
drags him out of the Saotome home. "C'mon, you!! We're going to find Souun
and have a little chat!"

As soon as the door closes behind them, a cloaking field vapours,
revealing Yumi, her mother and Nodoka. "He doesn't seem very pleased, does
he?" Sayoko muses.

"No, he doesn't," Nodoka sighs. "And that always leads to trouble."

With that, she heads for the phone. "What are you doing?" Yumi wonders.

"I'm warning Souun about this," Nodoka picks up the receiver. "Even
though he is that freak's student, he doesn't have to put up to this, much less
his daughters."

The Tachibanas nod...

* * *

"So now that we have a place where we can relax and rest up between
jobs...not to mention a power we can use to bring those closest to us along for
the ride...what now?" Ranma muses.

Everyone relaxes in U-chan's. "We have to decide who else comes with us,"
Ryou muses. "Nodoka is automatically included since she deserves a chance to
reunite with her child. That's one. Who else should we bring?"

"Kasumi?" Akane muses.

Nabiki hums. "I dunno, sis. I mean, if we use the Nyu-che-zuu's
mudspring to create clones of you and me, Kasumi will still have a family to
take care of...until she finally gets the nerve to solidify things between her
and Toofuu-sensei."

"But she could potentially sense something was wrong if the clones act any
differently than the real person," Chisato warns. "It could still lead to
heartbreak, especially if your dad's as emotional as Ranma-chan's told us he
can be."

"True...but I don't think Kasumi deserves to be condemned for who knows
how long minding our residence on Sanctuary while we're off fighting on
Kaemal," Nabiki shakes her head. "She's already ruined her life enough for us,
Chisato-chan. I say let her have her life back."

"She's got a point," Ranma nods. "Believe me, I know what it means to
totally subvert one's whole life to a single purpose. It hurts in one way or
another sooner or later."

Ukyou nods. "Well, we should make her a probable, then," Akane hums, then
stares at Ryouga. "What about you?"

"M-m-me?!" the wanderer jolts, then feels his cheeks heat. "Um...ah,
well...!"

The women laugh. "Baka, and I thought *I* had terminal foot-in-mouth
disease?!" Ranma slaps Ryouga in the back.

The laughter increases. "Thanks," Ryouga snorts, then shakes his head.
"No, I don't want it."

"You sure?" Chisato muses.

"Yeah, I'm sure," Ryouga nods. "All this 'gift' offers is a very long
lifespan. I'd go stir-crazy on Sanctuary not being able to do anything.
Personally, I'd prefer to be with you on Kaemal fighting these monsters...but
after my experience as P-chan, I don't cherish the idea of being forced through
what Ranma's gone through. As for the other way...naah, that's not me."

"Ryouga?" Ranma gazes at him.

He smiles at her. "All I want to do now is find my family. You asking
about them earlier got me to thinking, Ranma. I want my family back now."

The women nod. "Well, maybe I can prepare something for you before we go
just in case," Akane muses.

The phone rings. "U-chan's Okonomiyaki," Ukyou answers it, then blinks.
"What is it, Mrs. Saotome...WHAT?!?!" she gasps. "Oh, shit, no...!!"

"What is it?!" Ryou demands.

"We'll be there," Ukyou nods, then hangs up before facing the others.
"Happousai's gone ballistic. He's on his way to the Tendous right now dragging
Genma along for the ride. Instant he sees Hinako all grown-up full-time, he's
gonna know someone's been messing around with things he's been involved
with."

The others sigh. "Let's go," Akane rises...

* * *

"***WHAT IS THE MEANING OF THIS?!?!?!***"

Happousai stares wide-eyed at a grown-up Hinako Ninomura, now relaxing
beside Souun. While the Tendou patriarch is trembling, prepared to do anything
to please the aged master, the teacher is not impressed. "What does it look
like, Happousai?" she muses. "I am enjoying a pleasurable evening with a good
friend. Now, kindly take that child-abusing student of yours off the property
and don't come back...EVER!!!!"

Happousai shudders, his chi aura flaring as this revelation sinks home.
Someone was messing around with ALL his students, giving them the chance to
break away from his influence and chart their own lives. Who DARED do that to
him? HE is the master around here...he and he ALONE!! "Souun...!!"

"Wh-what is it, M-master...?" Souun stammers.

"Enough, Souun-kun," Hinako gazes at him. "There's no need for you to bow
to this lech anymore!"

"WHAT?!?!?!" Happousai howls.

"Hinako-chan, are you mad?!" Souun spins on her. "If you defy the Master,
we're ALL doomed!!!"

"Who says he's MY master?!" Hinako snorts.

"JUST A MINUTE HERE!!!!"

"What is it?!" Hinako glares contemptuously at Happousai.

"Is that the way to speak to your elders?!" Happousai hums, taking a
threatening step towards her. "Is that the way you thank me for what I did for
you?!"

"'THANK YOU?!?!'" Hinako shrills. "Oh, yes, I can thank you, alright, you
old freak!! Thank you for RUINING my whole life, forcing me to be a little
girl long after my friends grew up and got on with their lives!! Thank you for
making me ENJOY absorbing people's chi energy!! All THAT was because you
needed someone to cover for your sorry ass when you were panty raiding one
day!!!" She points accusingly at him. "It's no wonder Ranma-kun left that
twit behind you!! Some influence YOU were; he just turned around and took it
out on his son!! I won't be the LEAST bit surprised if when this is all over,
the ART itself dies! Who wants to practice it when it was created by an
honourless FOOL like you?!"

"***WHAT DID YOU SAY?!?!?!***" Happousai's battle aura flares.

A brick smashes him down from behind! Happousai shudders, then spins
around to see Ranma standing before the koi pond, arms crossed, a confident
smile on her face. Her Jewel was tucked under her tunic. "You bothering these
people, Jiji?!" she muses.

"There you are!!!" Happousai laughs, bounding out to lunge at her. "Come
to your master's arms...!"

Ranma dodges left, allowing Happousai to drop into the pond. "No, thank
you," she saunters over to a clear space by the dojo's entrance. "Besides,
you're not my master anymore, Jiji...not that you ever were...!"

Genma appears behind her. "What are you doing, boy...?!!"

*WHACK!!!!* The Saotome patriarch drops to the ground thanks to Ukyou's
combat spatula. "She's not your boy anymore, old man!!" the chef snorts.

By then, Happousai has emerged from the pool, shuddering with indignant
rage as chi leaks from every point on his body. "Boy, you will be taught some
RESPECT!!!!" he howls as his battle aura balloons to the size of the whole
Tendou home!

Ranma yawns as she stares contemptuously at the aged master. "Is that
meant to scare me?" she muses, turning away.

Roaring, Happousai lunges at her...and smashes into Ranma's forcefield!
He drops to the ground, his eyes spiralling as Ranma walks away, none the worse
for wear. "Brother, you are so boring these days, Jiji," she stares at her
fingernails. "I can't believe I actually allowed you to get away with all you
did! Hey, U-chan, do you think I should start colouring my fingernails?!"

Ukyou blinks. "Suit yourself, Ran-chan!" she shrugs. "You look good in
any colour!"

Happousai staggers to his feet, then spins on the chef. "Why don't you
come to me, pretty...?!" he lunges...

...and smacks right into her forcefield! "What was that, anyway?" Ukyou
looks confusedly around as the aged master again eats dirt. "A mosquito?! We
near a swamp or something?!"

"Search me!" Ranma snorts.

"We in time for the barbecue?" Nabiki wonders.

Ranma beams as Nabiki, Akane, Ryou, Chisato, Yumi, Sayoko and Nodoka step
onto the property. "Oh, we have guests!" Kasumi then appears beside Souun. "I
better get some tea ready."

She heads into the kitchen. "Ah, Akane-chan, my love, come to your
master's arms...!" Happousai bounds at the youngest Tendou...

...and smacks right into HER forcefield!! "A piece of paper!" Akane looks
confusedly around. "Somebody actually threw a piece of paper on top of
me!!"

[With apologies to Bill Cosby!...F.H.]

Happousai moans. "What's goin' on here...?" he sways to his feet, then
leaps. "Ah, Nabiki-chan...!!"

Once again, he eats dirt. "Brother, this dork just doesn't get a clue,
does he?" Nabiki muses.

Akane notices something. "Your eyes, Nabiki!" she hisses.

Nabiki blinks, then jerking on realizing that someone could see her and
probably deduce what is happening, closes her eyes for a second as she restores
them to their normal brown. Happousai is now trying to advance on Yumi. "Ah,
there you are, my dear..." he slurs. "Now, why don't you tell...me what deal
you...made with that idiot Genma there...?"

He smacks into her forcefield, then sinks to the ground. "Well, the deal
is quite simple, actually," Yumi sighs. "You see, if anyone comes around and
threatens Ranma-chan's life for any reason, then Genma surrenders all legal
custody of his child to my family and she becomes my sister. Quite simple,
actually!"

Hearing that, Happousai's eyes widen. "***WHAT?!?!?!***" he bolts to his
feet, then spins on the passed out Genma. "***YOU IDIOT!!!! HOW DARE YOU SIGN
AWAY MY STUDENT LIKE THAT?!?!?!***"

Leaping over, the aged master flips Genma into the koi pond! As soon as
the panda emerges from the waters, Happousai is all over him, jabbing him at
various shiatsu points, including one painful place on the back. As soon as
the Cat's Tongue takes effect, Happousai bounds to the porch, grabbing a cup of
tea from the serving Kasumi was laying out, then splashes the hot liquid on
the panda's snout. Genma howls with pain as he leaps out of the pool, making a
four-point landing near Ranma! OUCH!!!! he signs, then flips around. THAT
HURT, YOU KNOW!!!!

"So what?!!" Happousai leaps over to glare into the panda's eyes. "What's
this about you signing MY student away to this lady here whenever Ranma gets
into trouble?!!"

B-BUT...!!

"No 'buts,' you!!!" Happousai snaps. "Now fix it!!!"

He tosses Genma at Ranma. The Jewel Warrior dodges the flying beast,
allowing Genma to smash head-first into a tree! Genma moans, then standing,
spins around to glare Ranma in the eye. WELL, BOY?! he signs. DO
SOMETHING!!!

Ranma blinks, then stares at Ukyou. "Hey, U-chan, get a load of this
panda here!!" she thumbs. "Ain't it cool that it can draw on signs and all
that!"

"Shouldn't pandas be in the zoo?!" Ukyou muses. "After all, they are an
endangered species, you know!"

"True," Ranma muses. "Hey, 'Biki, you think we aughta call the animal
control people and get this fella into a cage?!"

"Good idea," Nabiki nods. "I'll go call them now."

Genma lunges over to place himself in Nabiki's path. HEY, WHO SAID
ANYTHING ABOUT ME GOING TO A ZOO?!

Akane concentrates on a large tree branch over the panda's path. The wood
snaps, the branch dropping down to belt Genma in the skull! As the beast
collapses, Nabiki walks around it. "Maybe I should call a circus instead," she
muses aloud.

"Nabiki, you can't be serious!!!" Souun wails.

Nabiki ignores her father as she heads inside and upstairs. The Tendou
patriarch shudders, then he lunges at Ranma. "***RANMA, HOW DARE YOU BRING
DISHARMONY ONTO THIS HOUSE?!?!?!***" he screams, his demon-head filling the
sky.

Ranma yawns, staying perfectly still as Souun crashes into her forcefield,
then collapses to the ground, the special effects fading as quickly as they
appeared! Happousai shudders, then lunges over to kick Genma on his side.
"GET UP, YOU!!!!" he snaps. "MAKE YOUR STUPID SON FINALLY ACKNOWLEDGE HIS
MASTER!!!!!!"

Genma moans, then staggers over to Ranma. BOY, THIS HAS GONE ON FAR
ENOUGH!! he signs, glaring into the redhead's eyes. NOW CUT THIS OUT AND
APOLOGIZE TO THE MASTER!!

Ranma stares at him, then looks away. "What makes you think you have the
right to tell me what to do?"

BECAUSE I'M YOUR FATHER, IDIOT!!!

Ranma's eyes fall on him, a sullen rage burning deep within those blue
orbs that causes Genma to quiver, the sign dropping from his paws. Ranma
closes her eyes, then looks away.

"I have no father."

A wind whips through the yard as Genma stares blankly at the red-haired
woman before him, the finality of her statement hitting home like a torpedo.
Beside him, a slack-jawed Souun stares at Ranma, eyes wide.
"Ranma...y-you...y-you can't mean that...!"

Ranma sighs, then stares at the Tendou patriarch. "I do this because I
care enough for YOUR family's honour to ensure that never again are you or your
children plagued by problems your 'friend' never had the courage to deal with
himself," she declares. "Good-bye, Souun Tendou. We will never meet again in
this lifetime."

With that, she bounds over the fence and disappears. Genma watches her
go, then staggers over to Nodoka. DO SOMETHING, DEAR!! he signs. WHAT'S GOT
INTO THAT BOY?!

Nodoka sighs, then looks away. "And who are you to make such demands of
me concerning Ranma?!"

YOU'RE MY WIFE!! HE'LL LISTEN TO YOU!

Nodoka shudders, then stares at him. "I have no son."

NODOKA!!!

"My husband killed my son."

NO, THAT'S NOT TRUE!

"And because of that, my husband is dead to me."

Genma stops, staring blankly at Nodoka as she turns away, taking the
wrapped bundle in her arms and unravelling it. "You are no longer a member of
my family, Genma. As my *daughter* just so declared to Souun...we will never
meet again in this lifetime."

The bundle opens all the way, allowing the shattered bits of the Saotome
honour sword and its scabbard to tumble onto the ground at her feet. Nodoka
then plants her foot on the haft, forcing it into the soft earth. "This sword
will no longer be the symbol of the Saotome family," she declares. "The dreams
it represents are now dust. The Saotome School is no more. People will never
again hear the name Saotome concerning either myself or Ranma."

With that, she walks out the front gate. Genma remains frozen in place as
Sayoko follows Nodoka. Yumi sighs, then walks up to him. "I hope that from
this day forward, every time you hear your stomach grumble, you'll curse that
sound for the misery it brought unto others...and now has been heaped ten-fold
on you. Let's go, girls. Our job here's done."

"Hai," Ryou and Chisato chime as they walk off the property.

Genma blinks, then collapses on his forepaws as a shadow then falls over
him. "I wouldn't've actually minded it if I married Ranma," Akane sighs. "But
you had to drag in all those other people you used and abused all those years.
You had to ruin so many lives just to make your 'man above men' to impress
Nodoka! Well, I'll tell you this, Genma!! I'd rather love Ranma as a WOMAN
than help you fulfil your sick dreams!!! ***NOW GET OFF THIS PROPERTY AND
DON'T EVER COME BACK, YOU SPINELESS WORM!!!!!!***"

A chi-charged Mallet-sama appears in her hands as she drops it HARD onto
the panda's skull, the shockwave from the blow rocking Nerima to its
foundations!! A pained moan escapes Genma's lips as Akane draws back, the
mallet vanishing as she walks away from him. Don't you think that was a
little hard, A-chan?! Ukyou wonders.

Nope, Akane winks at her. I charged it enough to blow out every
higher brain cell he's got in his mind. Come first thing tomorrow morning,
he'll be nothing more than a simple panda.

Too bad, Ukyou snorts.

"How dare you...?!"

They turn to Happousai, who now glares at them, his fists quaking. "You,
too, old man!" Akane thumbs behind her. "You've long outworn your welcome
here!! Git!!!"

Indignantly roaring, he lunges. Akane remains in place as Happousai comes
into range, then both her hands slam into the sides of his skull. His skin
automatically ignites as Akane applies the pressure, keeping him frozen in
place. Happousai's pained scream nearly shatters every window within a
kilometre as chi explodes, bursting harmlessly into space as Akane
telekinetically directs it away from inhabited areas. Finally, the screams
fade as the fire slowly winks out, leaving behind a burned husk that harmlessly
falls away from Akane's hands.

Akane sighs, then notices her father staring slack-jawed at him.
"Akane...?" Souun gasps.

"Why couldn't you've done something about this idiot?!" Akane wonders as
she heads towards the house, the wail of sirens filling the night sky...

* * *

Ranma, Nodoka, Ukyou, the Tachibanas, Ryou and Chisato watch from the
shadows of a nearby alley as the zoo keepers drag Genma off the Tendou property
for his final journey to the Tokyo Zoo. The ambulance had left sometime
before with Happousai for the local hospital. According to one of the
paramedics, the aged master had less than a three percent chance of survival.
"He got so pissed that he lost track of his chi levels when he was trying to
grab onto us," Ukyou muses. "Man, I'll give A-chan's friend this; when she
sets out to punish somebody, she don't kid around."

"True," Ranma muses, then feels her mother's hand on her shoulders.
"Disappointed?"

"About a lot of things," Nodoka sighs, then warmly embraces Ranma. "At
least we ensured no one can be hurt by Genma again. That's more than enough
for me."

"There must be more to that, Nodoka-san," Sayoko hums.

"Not really, Sayoko-san," Nodoka admits. "It's been over ten years since
I last saw him. Over time, the ache I felt at his not being there just faded
to the point where I wondered why I even cared. That contract I signed...in
the end really meant nothing other than to ensure my child came back to me.
And she did."

Ranma smiles. "Well, now we can really get ready to go."

"Hai," Nodoka muses.

"Ranma-chan, aren't you forgetting something?" Yumi hums.

Ranma blinks, then nods. "Right!"

She turns around, cupping her hands around her Jewel. The alien artifact
glows as a ball of energy forms between her palms. She then holds it out
before Nodoka. Her mother holds out her hands under Ranma's as the energy is
allowed to flow into her. Nodoka gasps as her body glows for a brief second,
then breathes out as she stumbles into Ranma's embrace. "I'm home, Mom," the
Jewel Warrior sniffs, at last one with her family.

"Welcome home, Dear," Nodoka squeezes her eyes shut, unable and unwilling
to dam her own tears. "Welcome home..."

*** The End...For Now ***

**** **** ****
WRITER'S NOTE: I'm ending this story at this point due to lack of interest,
real life and loads of other fanfic projects. It doesn't mean, however, that
if those of you out there who just might be tempted to continue it can't. For
those who would be tempted to continue this storyline, contact me at
fherriot@yahoo.com or fherriot@hotmail.com for more information...F.H.
**** **** ****