It was a cold afternoon day, snow fell gently from the sky, landing
on the ground, but melting before it could cover it. Winter had come to
Japan after a long summer.

The home was stotic, almost serene in its presence. It loomed over
the neighborhood as a proud testament to its age and tradition. It was
two stories tall, with a smaller building at its side, a dojo.

A shadowy figure moved along the side of the wall, hugging it
tightly. His objective was still out of sight. He frowned and narrowed
his eyes as he glanced around at his surroundings. It was quiet, too
quiet.

His breath became visible as he exhaled and moved silently through
the yard. His footsteps leaving no indication that he had ever passed
by. Lightly he hopped into another set of shadows along the outer wall
of the home, around the corner; an empty porch stood in his way. A
creaky board could give him away if he was not cautious. He would have
to tread lightly in order to complete his objective.

He steeled his will frowning deeply as he concentrated and jumped
onto the wooden floor without so much as a whisper of a sound. He
relaxed as the wood held firmly, not giving his presence away. Slowly he
edged along the wall, smoke billowing from the open door to the porch.

"There," he muttered to himself. He quickly berated himself for
uttering the noise and crouched low as he peered around the corner into
the home. It was now in sight, a door on the second floor.

Glancing around he started forward; this was the most dangerous
phase of his operation. "I'm gonna make it," he thought to himself
confidently. "Just across this room, and I should..."

"RANMA! There you are!"

Ranma Saotome stood in the middle of the Tendo home with his jaw
hanging down. "Um...I've got to go..."

"Where? I worked hard on this!" cried Akane as she shoved a plate of
something unidentifiable into his chest.

"It's pretty far. It'll take me all day to get there..." replied the
boy as he glanced around for any help he could find. Everyone else had
already vacated the area. "Crap."

"What? You haven't even tried it yet!" snarled Akane as she started
to burn with anger.

"No! I wasn't talkin about that junk!" cried the pigtailed boy
defensively.

It was far too late though; his comment had sent the girl over the
edge. Her fist flew unhindered by the concoction in her grip and stars
suddenly flooded his vision. Then all went black.

Flames jumped up from the darkness, dancing hypnotically for a
moment before moving back into the distance.

Carrot Productions Presents...

A strange music filled the air; strings and electric guitars as it
slowly built into something stronger. The flames jumped up with the
sound, exploding into a violent dance as it peaked.

A Fanfic By Carrot Glace...

A silhouette of a woman in the nude seemed to crawl out of nothing,
her black form dancing against the shadows. She writhed seductively as
another appeared beside her.

In cooperation with Non-existent pictures...

A husky sounding female vocalist began singing lyrics in a language
that he couldn't understand as the two women's dance melted into each
other, creating a single larger silhouette. She turned to the side,
revealing a small firearm.

In Association with...well, no one really...

Her dance changed and she split into two again, both of them facing
off in a martial arts dance against the fiery backdrop. They began to
imitate martial arts in their dance, slowly kicking and punching at one
another.

Starring Ryoga Hibiki.

A judo flip pushed one of the women off screen, and the other
started to dance again, this time pulling a staff from nowhere. She
began a kata.

Akane Tendo.

Finally, she spun around into a kick, and a ball of flames rushed
into the air behind her as the lyrics to the song peaked.

And Ranma Saotome as...

The flames rushed up again, consuming everything.

Ranma Saotome, International Man of Mystery.

++++++++++++

Somewhere in China...

"So, Saffron has been defeated?" said the shadowy figure that sat at
the head of the table. In his lap was a small dog, a Chihuahua that
growled angrily as it stared forward fearlessly at the man kneeling to
the figure shrouded in shadows.

"Yes, a boy has destroyed the godling," said the man as he looked up
at his master. He was wearing a fez cap and had a long scar running down
his right eye. He was Arabic, but his build was huge. He had a mouth
full of metal and one of his arms ended in a nasty looking hook.

"A...boy?"

"Yes, his name is Ranma Saotome, he is very skilled," replied the
man.

"This Ranma Saotome, find out about him," snarled the darkness
shrouded man hatefully as he gripped the dog's neck. The animal yipped
in terror and whimpered. "Mr. Tacobeal is not happy with this. Saffron
was to lead us into a new age, an age where we ruled all. Our agreement
with his people us useless without the godling."

"Of course, I shall investigate," said the man as he bowed his head
low again.

"Of course you will," replied the man coldly. He turned his chair
away and frowned thoughtfully as he stroked his chin. "Could it be? A
mere human defeated Saffron. Project Sakuragami could have been more
successful than they had thought! I must be sure!"

"Project Sakuragami?" asked the Arabic man in confusion.

"Why are you still here?" snapped the shadowy figure as his fist
slammed into the arm of his chair.

"Forgive me!" cried the man as he shuffled off fearfully.

"Yes! That must be it!" said the shadowy figure. "Well, it seems I
may have a worthy opponent at last!"

++++++++++++++++++

Ranma sat up and looked around. He was lying face down in the yard
of the Tendo dojo and had just woken up from the weirdest dream. "I
don't think those dancing chicks had any clothes on..." he muttered to
himself as he put his hand against his head and shook it for a moment.
With a swift fluid motion, he kicked his feet out and jumped upright.
"Man, that was a weird dream."

"Aiya! Airen!" cried a familiar voice as he was promptly sent back
to the ground on his face. This time, a bicycle wheel was embedded into
the back of his head. "Shampoo bring too too delicious ramen for you!"

"Hey, great!" said the boy cheerfully despite his injuries. "Akane
cooked again, I'm starved!"

"What? Akane cooked?!" snarled a familiar voice. "How dare you say
that about Akane! Ranma! Prepare to die!"

The pigtailed youth looked up and blinked. "Hey, if you want some
I'm sure she's still got it Ryoga."

That stopped the lost boy in his tracks. "Sorry, I've got somewhere
to be. I'll punish you for that later Saotome." He turned away and
shuffled off rather quickly. Before he vanished he turned to look at
Ranma. "Where is the Unryuu farm?"

"Ranma! What do you think you're doing?" snapped Akane as she
appeared out of the home and saw him standing with Shampoo.

The boy shoved the empty bowl into the Amazon's hands and looked at
her, trying to think quickly. For once, his brain actually seemed to
work. "I was tryin to tell ya! I promised to take Ryoga to Akari's place
today!"

"You did?" said Ryoga in surprise.

"Yeah, I did, Porky," growled Ranma.

If Ryoga was smarter, he would have turned against the boy and
explained that it was a lie to Akane. He wasn't though, and he took it
at face value. "Oh. That was nice of you."

"Come on, we should go," said Ranma as he grabbed the boy by his arm
and pulled him away.

Shampoo and Akane blinked, looked at each other, and turned back to
whatever it was they were doing before Ranma showed up.

"I'll get it this time for sure!" said Akane as she walked into the
kitchen. She walked by Kasumi, and the girl shook her head with barely
hidden tears of remorse in her eyes. It was too bad, she had liked that
set of pots and pans.

Shampoo jumped upright suddenly and hopped onto her bicycle. "Aiya!
Shampoo is being late with delivery!"

++++++++++++

Ranma and Ryoga walked through the streets of Nerima a short time
later. It had barely even been a month since the whole wedding mess had
ended, and things were going back to the dreary normality that was
Nerima.

"Are you sure this is the way?" asked Ryoga irritably.

"Yes, now keep quiet and follow me! I don't get lost like you!"
snapped Ranma as he glanced back at the boy.

"I'm not that bad!" cried Ryoga irritably.

"Yeah you are, now pipe down and don't wander off," grumbled Ranma.

++++++++++++++

Fate had its hand in things that day. A black car rolled up behind
the pair. The window rolled down to reveal a slight shining from the
back seat. A lens.

"I've found them," said the Arabian man with a slight chuckle.

Little did he know, that he was being followed as well.

+++++++++++

It was a tiny two-seater car, a blue Toyota. Cramped inside were a
pair of leather clad individuals with shades. They turned to face each
other. One of them was a Japanese woman with long black hair. Her
companion was a rather skinny looking Japanese man with slicked back
hair.

"It's him," said the woman coldly.

"Yes, that's Otto all right," agreed the man with a small frown.
"What's he doing in Japan?"

"I don't know, it's nice to be home again though," replied the woman
calmly. "He seems to be watching that boy. I wonder if he has something
to do with the Phoenix Project?"

"We don't even know what that is," said the man with a rough
sounding snort.

"They're moving again, they're definitely following them."

+++++++++++++

"There they are! Keep going!" snarled Otto as he shoved the driver
in the back of his head.

"Yessir," grumbled the man irritably. He was a well-built Japanese
man, who was obviously not used to this sort of treatment.

"What are they doing?"

"I don't know sir," replied the man.

+++++++++++++

"Take that back!" cried Ryoga angrily. He charged forward with his
hand extended in a punch that shattered a nearby wall.

"Oh cut it out ya jerk! I'm bein nice today!" snapped Ranma as he
jumped over the strike.

"How dare you say that! You just lied to Akane to get out of eating
her cooking!"

"I'm sorry I told ya now! Jeez, I'm takin you aren't I?" grumbled
Ranma as he landed opposite the enraged boy in a defensive stance.

"I am not a tool for your own needs Saotome!" cried Ryoga angrily as
he struck the ground with his finger. A huge dust cloud exploded with
shards of the pavement mixed into it.

The pair jumped over a wall and continued their battle. Both of them
oblivious to the world around them.

++++++++++++

Otto cursed as he stepped out of his car and stared at the hood. A
huge chunk of concrete was now embedded into the front end, rendering it
inoperable. "Damn! They knew we were following them! You fool!"

The man driving was merely sitting there with a scowl on his face.
"Yes sir."

"Those bastards! Call another car! I've got to report this," he
growled as he opened the door and climbed back into the rear again.

The man hummed cheerfully to himself as he did so, glad to be rid of
him.

++++++++++++

"They eluded him," said the woman as she pushed her shades up her
nose and frowned.

"Who were they?" asked the man.

"I don't know, but we should find out," said the woman.

"Yes, we should," agreed the man calmly as he put the car into gear
and drove off. It puttered loudly and backfired a few times as it
crawled away into the city.

+++++++++++++

Meanwhile, just outside Nerima...

"Are you through yet? We're almost there," snapped Ranma irritably
as Ryoga tossed another boulder at him.

"Huh? We are?" said the lost boy as he stopped his attack and
paused.

Ranma pointed to a sign that showed the direction to the farm.
"See."

"Oh, I can find it from here," said Ryoga as he turned to walk in
the wrong direction.

"Oh no you don't. Last time I let you do that you came back all mad
at me for tricking you into going the wrong way. I'm takin you all the
way this time."

"Fine," grumbled Ryoga as Ranma grabbed the back of his collar.

"Come on, let's go see the Pig Queen," said the pigtailed boy.

"What? How dare you!" cried Ryoga.

"She asked me to call her that remember?" snorted Ranma irritably.

"Oh...yeah..." grumbled Ryoga as his anger faded. "You'd better
watch it though! I won't allow you to insult Akari that way!"

"Yeah, yeah," muttered Ranma as he continued to walk.

+++++++++++

A short time later, inside a Laundromat...

The two figures in leather stepped inside the stock room and closed
the door behind them. A stairway opened in front of them and they walked
forward in perfect unison, neither looking at the other as they removed
their shades.

At the bottom of the stairs was a huge computer. Its screen was
about eight feet wide, and a large panel of buttons was below it. Two
chairs slid up from the floor, and the pair sat down.

"Ah, welcome. Sakura, Okami, it is good to hear from you again," an
old man appeared before them on the screen with a pleasant smile on his
face. He was Japanese as well, and a large office could be seen behind
him with various technicians walking around behind him.

"As it is you," said the woman with a small smirk.

"We have a report Ma," said the man.

"We already have it on file," said Ma. "We took it from the video
records of your vehicle."

"Good," said Sakura as she nodded.

"Any ID on that boy?" asked Okami.

"Ranma Saotome, son of a poor martial artist, and a woman who has
ties with a lower class noble family. Nothing of any real importance."

"It's important enough to send Otto after him," said Sakura with a
frown forming on her face.

"Yes, Pei we suspect," said Ma.

Okami looked down at the console for a moment and pushed a few
buttons. "Any relation to Project Phoenix you think?" A small screen
with a readout of the information they knew appeared beside the man's
head on the screen.

"Possibly, we have no information on that. The Chinese Government
has been less than cooperative with us."

"What else is new," said Sakura with a rough snort.

"In any case, we must find out what Pei sees in this boy. Find out
what he wants him for, and don't let him get it."

"Right," said Okami coolly. "Pei won't get his hands on him. We'll
make sure of that."

"Good, do what you can," said Ma as the screen went black.

"It could be a distraction," said Sakura as she turned to stare at
her partner.

"It could also be important, we need to be sure," said Okami. "I
doubt if it's a distraction. You saw what that boy did. He had some kind
of explosives on him. They may be rouge operatives. We may be able to
get some useful information from them."

Sakura nodded and stared at the blank screen for a moment. "True,
they could be. Or they could be something else."

"We'll just have to find out, won't we?" said Okami as he grinned at
her.

+++++++++++++

"They escaped you?" said the shadowy figure on the small screen
inside Otto's car.

"Yes, they disabled my vehicle and used some sort of smoke screen,"
said the man as he scowled angrily.

"So, my suspicions seem correct. It seems Project Sakuragami was
more successful than I had thought. Our data tells us his name is Ranma
Saotome, find him."

"What is this project?" asked Otto as he frowned at the screen.

"Heh, super spies my dim witted friend. Irresistible to women,
stronger and faster than any man, and genius intellect. The perfect
human weapon."

"What should I do when I find him?"

"Bring them to me," said the man as the screen went black.

"That could prove difficult," said Otto as he scowled and sat back
away from the screen. "Then again, it could be fun!" He grinned, and his
teeth shined against the minimal light in the vehicle.

"Take me to Nerima. I've got work to do," he said to the driver.

It was a different man, but he appeared to be in the same situation.
"Whatever."

+++++++++++++

Nabiki Tendo wasn't having a very good day. She frowned as she
looked around the home. Akane had given up on cooking when the 'food'
had eaten the wooden spoon she was using to stir it. Kasumi was crying
softly as she killed it and tried to regain some sort of control over
her favorite room in the home, and Ranma was gone for a while. The
Unryuu farm was a fair distance away, but he'd be back by this evening.

All that meant one thing. Nabiki was bored.

She sighed and stared at the television with a straw in her lips as
she sipped at her soda.

The silence was broken as a knock came on the door. She sat upright
and blinked. Looking up at the clock she noticed it was too early for
Ranma to have returned. Kasumi hadn't heard it either and she stood up.

"I guess I haven't got anything better to do," she thought to
herself as she stood up to get it.

She pulled the door open and blinked at the huge figure standing
there. "Huh?"

The man glared down at her, a tiny fez hat resting on his hair.
"Where is the toilet? Ranma Saotome!" he said firmly.

"What?" said Nabiki dumbly as she noticed his metal teeth.

The man blinked for a moment and opened a small book. He glanced
down at it for a moment and coughed. "Where is Ranma Saotome?"

"Um...he's not here," said Nabiki.

The man stared at her for a long moment and frowned. He sighed and
scratched his head before flipping through the pages looking for the
phrase she had just used.

Nabiki rolled her eyes and leaned against the doorway.

"Repeat please?" he said as he looked up at her again.

She sighed and put out her hand. "Two thousand yen."

The man stared at her dumbly and looked at her hand for a moment.
"What?"

She cocked her eyebrow and continued to stare at him.

"I'm Otto."

"If you want English, Two Thousand Yen," she replied to his
introduction in English.

The man stared at her. "Where is Ranma Saotome?" he repeated in
English.

"Nani?"

"Answer my question!"

"Sumimasen?" said Nabiki with a cold looking smirk on her face. Her
hand was still extended.

The man sighed and pulled out his wallet after a short battle of
wills. "Very well. I don't feel like torturing you, and I'm in a hurry."

"He left a few hours ago, why do you want him?" asked the girl as
she frowned at him.

"I think he'll come to me," said the man as he smirked at her.

Nabiki stepped back with a surprised gasp as he grabbed her arm and
covered her mouth.

"Heh," chuckled Otto as the chloroform rag in his hand knocked the
girl out.

+++++++++++++++

Ranma Saotome had been home for several hours. "Hey, it's gettin
kinda late."

Akane looked up from the TV with a frown on her face. "You're right.
Nabiki should be back by now."

"Maybe I should go look for her?" asked Ranma as he looked over at
where Soun and Genma were playing shogi.

"Nabiki is gone?" muttered Soun dumbly.

"Yes, she's been gone a while now," said Kasumi as she fretted about
it worriedly.

"You know how she is, she'll be back soon," scoffed Genma.

"She left a note, but I can't read it," said Kasumi as she held out
a small letter.

Ranma took it and stared at it for a moment.

"What does it say?" asked Akane.

Ranma's face was hard, a cold scowl as he stared at her seriously.

"Is something wrong?" gasped Akane as she rushed over to his side.

"I don't know, I can't read it," replied the boy as he continued to
stare at her. "It's English."

Akane belted him upside his head. "Jerk! Don't scare me that way!"
She took the note away and stared at it for a moment. "I can't read it
either."

Soun and Genma were perplexed.

"I don't have a clue," said Genma.

"Quite so Saotome," agreed Soun.

"Oh my. I hope she's all right," said Kasumi.

"I thought you were passin English?" said Ranma as he stared at
Akane.

"Dope! I've only taken Freshman English! This is..." she stared at
it again. "Something about a meeting I think. I think this says she's
not coming back. I'm not sure. This looks like an address down here."

"Maybe she's stayin with a friend tonight?" said Ranma as he thought
about it.

"You're probably right," agreed Akane.

"Oh! I'm so relieved!" gasped Kasumi.

"Well, it was nothing to worry about after all!" said Kasumi
cheerfully.

"Why would she leave it in English?" asked Ranma.

"I dunno, you know how she is," said Akane as she shrugged.

The boy turned away and headed towards the stairs. "I'm goin to bed
then. She'll be at school tomorrow, I'm pretty sure."

"I guess so," said Akane as she put the note on the table.

++++++++++++++

"They're late!" growled Otto as he glared at the door of the hotel
room in frustration.

"You did leave a note didn't you?" asked Nabiki. She was tied to a
chair and glaring at the wall irritably.

"Of course I did!" snapped the man.

"I am so going to make you pay for making me wait like this, Ranma,"
she muttered angrily.

"Quiet down!" snarled Otto.

"I'm hungry, if you're going to drag me all this way, you could at
least be nice enough to feed me!" said the girl as she turned her head
towards him and frowned.

Otto stared at her and sighed. "I suppose you're right. I could use
something to eat right about now."

"Good, I know a great place that delivers nearby!" said the girl as
she smiled at him.

"I hate Asian food, I'm calling this place," he said as he snorted
at her. "All that fish gives me the runs."

"Well, aren't you pleasant?" snorted Nabiki. She had been hoping to
get him to call the Cat Cafe, or the Ucchan and call in a favor or two.

"You'll eat it or go hungry," he replied as he turned his back to
her and started to dial.

Nabiki sighed and hung her head as she played with the knots on her
wrists. "Akane is never going to let me live this down," she muttered in
Japanese.

"Speak English, or I'll break your jaw kid," snorted Otto as he
glanced back at her. He placed a pair of brass knuckles on the small
table beside the bed he was sitting on.

Nabiki cursed under her breath. She didn't doubt it.

Finally, he hung up the phone and stared at her. "Are you sure they
want you back? They were supposed to be here four hours ago."

"I'll get them for this too," she seethed angrily.

"I'm bored," said the man as he sighed.

Nabiki blinked at this and stared at him. "Hey...you got a deck of
cards on you?"

The man stared at her for a moment.

++++++++++++++

TBC...

Next Time: Are you sure she's missing?