Ranma Saotome International Man of Mystery.
Tomorrow never gets here.
The street was quiet and empty for blocks. The only sound was the buzz of a few electrical boxes. Winter had come, and the insects of summer were gone, leaving a cold silence to the streets of Nerima.
Ryoga cracked his knuckles and gave Ranma a half glance. They were leaning against the wall on the opposite sides of the street. They seemed to be looking at each other in a nasty way, but each was looking more at the wall and waiting for the first signs of their prey.
The clatter of a few tiles on the rooftops a short distance away cued them in. Both of them stood up and let their arms drop as they turned in opposite directions.
"Might get him all to myself." Ranma was pleased with the idea of Ryoga taking off in the wrong direction.
The Chinese boy landed in front of them and growled. He didn't have his carry out box with him and landed in a ready position. He seemed like he was expecting a fight. "What do you two want? I'm in a hurry!"
"What do you think?" Ranma snorted after his response and spared Ryoga an irritated glance. The lost boy hadn't moved from his side and turned around to face his opponent.
"How dare you frame me! You bat with feathers!" Ryoga pulled his umbrella off his back. "If you want to pay someone to kill Saotome, you pay me, don't try to pin it on me and let someone else do it!"
Ranma's face fell a little. "Ryoga, are you going to make me kick both your asses again?"
"Just try it!" snarled the Hibiki boy as he opened his umbrella and took a stance defensive against both of them.
"I don't have time for this! Get out of the way!" The Chinese boy seemed more agitated than afraid. "I've got something important to tell that dried up old mummy! You both know where to find me! I'm not running from you!" He took off right between them and made for the Cat Cafe.
"Huh?" The two boys looked a bit dumbstruck and looked back at the boy.
"What the heck?" Ryoga dropped his umbrella.
They both turned and started back towards the Cafe, Ranma tugging on the Hibiki boy's arm to keep him moving the right way on occasion. It wasn't far back. "Think he'd run?"
Ryoga looked at the ground and clenched his fist. "Not likely. He's a jerk and an idiot, but not a coward. Well, not often. He wouldn't run from the two of us. Maybe if we had Kuno or some of your wonderful girls."
"Since when are you so witty?" Ranma crossed his arms and narrowed his eyes at the boy a little. "What's up with us? Ever since we ran into that fat ugly guy we've been actin weird."
"I don't like violent people any more than you do. We might beat up a few more people than we should, but no one dies. If you're using a gun, you're not just trying to piss someone off." The lost boy snorted. "I'm not used to thinking this much. I don't like the idea of a hired killer running around."
"Yeah. That's it. Kind of sucks." Ranma nodded they reached the doorway to the restaurant. Shampoo was standing outside. "Sorry. No can visit Great Grandmother, you get stay and wait with Shampoo. Ranma so lucky!"
"Huh? What do you mean wait?" Ryoga had his umbrella out and glared at her.
The girl didn't look worried. "Not wait long. Mousse say, ask that Ranma, and Ryoga wait till he finished talking with Great Grandmother."
"Good job! Now get back and get your delivery box! I'm docking your pay, that's another delivery you could have made today!" Mousse sailed out and hit the opposite wall head first before slamming into the pavement on his back.
"Now, what is it you two wanted?" The boy sat up and checked his glasses over for a moment. He didn't look quite right doing it, and put them on again a bit skewed. He fell back out cold.
"Great. Now what?" Ranma hung his head.
"Now you take Shampoo to date?" The girl bounced up and down clapping her hands.
"Shampoo, I'm afraid you must come inside. Mousse has work to do. Son in law. I know enough about Mousse to tell you that even if he wanted too. He could not afford to hire such a man. He lives by our laws even here. He has money, but he must request permission to access it from His wife, mother, or in this case caretaker. I allow him to carry a small amount it's true. He is not the one you seek on this matter. He told me what the Hibiki boy said to him. I am in a position to assure you that it is not true. I would not allow it."
"What? What do you mean?" Ryoga clenched his fist and lifted the boy up by his shirt while rearing back to punch him in the face.
"You idiot! Don't punch him! We want him to wake up! Slap him!" Ranma kicked the unfortunate Mousse in the ribs and glared down at them.
The old woman sighed. "Listen to me both of you. Mousse wants very badly to kill you both. His views about Honor are similar to yours in this regard. If he is to kill you, he will do it on his own. Son in Law, as much as I'd enjoy you showing off for your future wife. Mousse has duties to see too. Unless you wish to fill in for him, I suggest you leave him be for now. I doubt he'll have time to be much trouble for you in the future."
"Fine." The Hibiki boy gave him a sound slap just in case and stood up.
"Yeah." Ranma turned and started walking.
"You heading for the Tendo place?" The pigtailed boy glanced at his rival as he walked towards his home.
"Yeah. Mr. Tendo gave me permission to spend the night in the dojo whenever I'm in the area."
"Just stay out of the pond will ya?" The other boy shoved his hands into his pockets and picked up the pace a bit.
Ryoga was too distracted to respond as he noticed something hiding in an alleyway nearby. "Hey. Isn't that Nabiki?"
"What?" Ranma gasped and froze in place.
The girl stepped out of an alleyway right beside him. "Hi, Ranma."
"Um. Hi, Nabiki." The unfortunate pigtailed boy shuddered as she moved right up beside him. He wasn't sure how she was doing it, but he was pretty sure he didn't have a choice about walking with her.
Ryoga had a smirk on his face as he walked up beside her. "Don't get the wrong idea or anything, but what has he done now?"
"That jerk with the gun was looking for him." Nabiki narrowed her eyes at the pigtailed boy.
"What?" The Hibiki boy seemed confused.
"He didn't tell you? Some jerk with a gun kidnapped me and held me hostage all last night." The girl seemed pleased with what she was doing to him.
The unfortunate pigtailed boy was sweating bullets on her arm.
"We ran into someone else with a gun yesterday." Ryoga didn't put the blame on the boy on her arm as usual. He turned his eyes forward, using them as guides to get where he was going.
"Staying over to play with Ranma tonight or something?" The girl looked a bit annoyed. Both of them were distracted, only Ranma's was mixed with a layer of nervousness. They were being too quiet, and it didn't take long for Ranma to stick his foot in his mouth often. "What's going on?"
The shivering pigtailed boy looked down at her and finally spoke. "We're still workin on that one."
Otto grinned just around a nearby corner. He had several rings on his hook that jingled a bit. None of the teens noticed it. He chucked several small green canisters around the corner, the wind was right and they didn't have a prayer. A haze of thick mist filled the entire street down the road downwind of him.
"I've got you for sure this time. Heh."
Akane Tendo was walking down the street in her uniform. Her sister hadn't come back yet. Her eldest sister had gotten worried, and now she was on her way to find her, and her idiot fiancee. Though, he hadn't been that bad in recent times.
She stepped around a corner and paused. Up the road she could see Ranma and Nabiki. Ryoga was behind them, and they all seemed to be talking. She frowned a bit as her sister's grip on his arm caught her attention. "That two timing jerk! How dare he!"
She fumed for a bit, something in the back of her mind telling her something about a hissing sound didn't catch her notice, nor the odd smell in the air.
"Ranma! Die!" She screamed and started forward. Her eyes went blurry as she leaned against the wall looking woozy. "What? Not again!"
Ryoga looked a bit excited as he heard a familiar call. "Hey! It's Akane!" The tone of his voice made it obvious he was looking forward to watching her cream him. It was the only thing she used that tone for.
The boy and her elder sister froze up. The older girl stepped forward. "It's not what you think! Don't be so..." She put her hand to her forehead and fell forward onto her knees. "What the?" She turned to look back. Ranma and Ryoga were both on the ground, awake, but struggling to do so. Her world went spinning and it took her a moment to realize she was on her back.
"Ha ha ha! Well, looks like I get to kill the lot of you. All at once." A familiar voice, and another reason to try and overpower the sensation that had washed over her. She heard something click and the gaijin madman stood over her. He was holding a large machine gun, she couldn't put a name to the AK-47. The glint of the metal on his platinum teeth shined the sun right into her eyes as she looked down the barrel. "I'll get to you sweetheart."
He looked up and started firing. She heard Ranma and Ryoga call her name in a weak and slurred way.
It sounded like gunfire from every direction. The man standing over her stepped away, firing as he moved. There was a smell, like burnt rubber, and the gunfire pounded against her skin, even though she couldn't really hear it any longer.
"Shit." She struggled to crawl onto her belly.
The last thing she saw, was two pairs of black shined shoes and the bottom of two pairs of black slacks.
Ranma Saotome was nervous. He was standing in the middle of a bright white office with black furniture. It wasn't a calming effect at all. Akane was the only thing on his mind, he didn't know what to make of her. It was a little frustrating, and he couldn't put his thoughts anywhere else, despite his position. "She wouldn't do some thing like that to her own sister. It's not like there's anything that would..." It wasn't the first time something like that had come up in his mind since he'd woken up on the black couch behind him. It shut down before it went any farther. "Who else could it be?" He was standing against the wall in the empty room. "It's not Ryoga, I'm sure of it."
He was looking around for an exit and waiting for his own patience to run out."It couldn't be Akane. I mean, she likes Ryoga. It's not like she's figured..." Once again his brain hit a wall he didn't want to jump over.
"Oh man. Akane wants to kill me! For real!" His eyes went wide and fearful. "Where the heck am I anyway?" There didn't look like there was a door in the room. It wouldn't take long for him to get frustrated enough to make one.
A section of wall popped open and a man dressed in a suit and tie with a warm grin on his face appeared before him. "Mr. Saotome, this way. We'll get you back with your friends and give you a bit of time to catch up before we speak with you. We've got an interesting offer. My name is Okami. I'll be speaking with you with my partner shortly."
"Huh?" The boy looked confused and did as he was asked. He found himself in a long empty hallway with lots of doors. They spent about three minutes walking down what seemed like and endless hallway with hundreds of doors before Ranma spoke up again to his guide. "What's goin on? Am I dreamin or somethin?"
"No." The man opened a door and Ranma walked in. He didn't expect what he'd found. It was a room with cement walls and a single lamp hanging from a chain over a table full of guns, grenades, ammunition, and a few pounds of C-4 already prepared with electronic fuses. There was a single chair in front of all of it. Ryoga and Nabiki were standing against the wall looking at the table, neither one said anything as the pigtailed boy was shown in. The door closed behind them leaving them alone.
Both of the boys looked at each other and walked up to the table at the same time.
"Now what?" asked Ryoga.
"Guess we should get ready." The other cursed boy gave him a serious looking nod. Ranma glanced over at Nabiki as he picked up a handgun and inspected it. His hands moved in fluid motions, checking the array of firearms in front of him.
"You know how to use these?" The girl was somewhat dumbstruck and stepped back with a sort of horrified expression.
"Sure." Both of them replied at the same time as they started putting them on. Before long, a table full of small arms was tucked away in their clothes on various straps. They had both stripped down to their shorts to do it. She couldn't see a sign of any of the weapons when they finished. Ryoga had stuffed most of the explosives into his pack, but Ranma had taken at least a few grenades, and some red canisters as well.
"It's Anything Goes. What? Your dad didn't teach Akane?" Ranma looked a bit surprised. "Not everywhere is Japan. There's a lot of places with all kinds of dangerous stuff."
"What about the martial arts code or something?" The girl was pressed against the wall and looked a bit alarmed. "Where did it all go anyway?"
"We've both fought Mousse a couple times." Ranma seemed a bit surprised to hear it.
"Not really, a firearm is just a sword with a longer reach." Ryoga shrugged her comment off. "Do we know what's going on yet?"
"Not a clue." Nabiki slumped her shoulders and looked somewhat defeated as she sat down at the only chair at the table and put her head down right in front of a small handgun. It was right in front of her forehead with a harness just to it's right. "What? Too small for you?"
"No. You might need it. We don't know what's going on here. Has anyone told you who they are or what's going on here?" Ranma had a very serious look on his face.
"What?" She looked up at him.
Ryoga spoke up and pushed it towards her as she sat up a bit. "He's right. They wouldn't have put this all here if they didn't expect us to take it. That handgun is small enough for you to handle. You've never fired before, it won't kick much."
"Aim for the chest." Ranma nodded at her and slapped her on the shoulder. "Stick with us. You might not need it. Don't worry about it unless ya have ta. We'll be around, don't worry."
"You're serious?" What little color had been left in the girl's face drained away. "What the hell did you get me into?" She gripped it and the holster, it took a bit of trickery, but she managed to put it around her shoulder comfortably without taking off her shirt.
The lost boy seemed a little amused at her fumbling. "We'll show you how it works once we get someplace safer. Stick with Ranma."
"No kidding." The girl was already latched onto his back as she abandoned her chair and moved up behind the most familiar of the pair.
The door opened and two voices spoke to them, one male, the other female.
Everyone looked up at the doorway. A man and a woman were looking down at them. The man spoke up first. "I am Okami, and this is Sakura. We'd like to hire the services of your respective dojo. Don't worry about the weapons, you'll be needing them I think. I'm afraid it will take you quite a way outside of Japan. Don't worry about the gun laws here."
The woman nodded. They were all being led down the hall. It was a bit surreal to have two people hanging off of him. Each with their own reason.
"Ryoga. Look, I'm there if ya need me fer now, but do ya have ta? I mean, we're walkin down a hall man."
"Shut up Saotome. I don't care much for this place."
"Sorry. It was the safest place we could speak to you. We'll be paying ten million yen a piece on completion of the job." The woman grinned as she heard a collective suction of air behind her. "We'll be your contacts, you should already have what you need. We'll be sending you something a little later to help you along. We'll be supplying you along the way."
Ryoga seemed to snap out of it first. "Ten million? For what?" He looked very interested and was muttering under his breath. "Please be 'kill Ranma'!" over and over.
The Saotome boy was also very interested, but stepped a few paces from his rival.
The hall had seemed endless for a bit, but the wall with what looked like a garage door. Okami started talking. "We have a mutual enemy. Don't worry. We don't want you to be hit men. Just delivery men." The group walked up to a doorway that looked more like a security gate than anything else. Behind it was a pile of small boxes. "Despite popular belief, you can't mail something just anywhere. Each package contains something very important, it must be delivered to the exact place written on the package at any cost, and we do mean any cost. I feel you should be warned, you will need your skills to deliver them."
The boys looked up at him as he handed Ranma a small light box. It had something inside it, but it felt firmly in place as he shook it. "What is it?"
"Electronics mostly. Nothing that will explode or anything. We gave you enough of that after all." The woman gave a small shrug.
"When you've finished your first drop. We'll contact you with instructions. Here are your new passports, thirty thousand yen in various currencies, and directions to your first delivery location. Your expenses are covered, we won't be deducting any of it from your pay. Don't trust anyone. You must deliver this in person, yourself. At no time will it be acceptable to allow anyone else to handle the package."
"Is this legal?" Nabiki was perplexed and stunned as she continued to hang off her sister's fiancee's back.
"Well, I suppose you know we'd only hire people like you for a certain kind of job. I wouldn't recommend using those weapons until your next delivery. You're still in Japan, and we can't protect you from it's laws. Shouldn't be very hard, this time." He waved his arm as the truck parked in front of them pulled out, revealing a vacant lot not that far from Nerima. The sun was drifting below the horizon. "You start right now. I suggest you get moving. We'd like to complete our transaction as quickly as possible. It will give you a shot at your new friend. He'll be looking to stop you."
"You shoulda just said that to begin with." Ranma glared at the man.
"Well, it's a pleasure." The trio jumped down and onto the ground as Okami gave a small wave. The door closed behind them in a rather final manner.
The three teens were standing around in a dusty dirt field looking confused. Nabiki stepped away from the pigtailed boy and gave a small sigh. Both boys stepped apart as well, stretching their arms and legs a little while the girl stood between them.
"Well, are you coming?" Ryoga arched his eyebrow at her as he realized she'd not yet taken off and was looking at the both of them with wide eyes. "I halfway expected you to start running home as soon as they let us out."
"Let her be. I ain't so sure she should be here. I can't make her turn away from that kind of money either. Look, I'll help ya out if ya want. It gets too bad, and I can't promise I can bring ya back. Ya ain't Akane." He paused. "Well, that ain't what I meant neither. Look, Once I start this..."
The girl looked a bit annoyed, but backed off. "I know. No coming back and all. No way. Ten Million? I've got no choice but to try, even if it kills me!"
"Yeah. If Akane doesn't first." The pigtailed boy nodded he seemed to get frustrated and stomped his foot kicking up a bit of dust. "She's the one who hired that jerk! Don't ya get it?" He turned to look at everyone else. "We can't just go back to the dojo. We gotta do somethin. We can figure it out on the way to wherever this job thing goes. I get that money, and I won't need a stupid dojo!"
"Huh?" Nabiki started laughing. "Are you nuts?"
"Nope. She's got reason enough ta kill us all. Look, she don't want to marry me, you've been takin all those pictures and stuff, and Ryoga here...well..."
"Don't you dare Saotome!" Ryoga lit up with a fires of rage and puffed his chest out.
The pigtailed boy snapped at him and jabbed his finger in his direction. They were all standing in a circle facing each other by this point. "Well. Sorry pal. She's onto you. That guy was gonna kill all of us, not just me."
He deflated and got a wide eyed slacked jawed look on his face. "Oh no! Not Akane!"
"At least ya still got Akari." Ranma looked pretty downcast and turned away walking away from the scene at a slow pace. The other two followed just behind him.
Nabiki was trying to just brush it off and act smug, but her brain wouldn't let her. "Akane? No way! She would never! I mean...I...All right, maybe you, but me? I mean, I'm her sister..." Her voice died out a bit. "My god. Akane? What do we do?"
Ranma gave her a weak smile and lifted the box up. "We got time ta think about it. I ain't gonna hurt her or nuthin. I just gotta get her to stop. Then, I ain't gonna bother her anymore. That's for sure." He turned and started sniffling and crying as he shuffled away. It was a pitiful sight, but no one noticed, because all three of them were hiding similar expressions as they walked away from Nerima and towards the city.
Akane Tendo woke up and coughed into the dust on top of the concrete under her. "Wha? Where?" She jerked around, expecting to be in some stupid prince's dungeon. The girl gasped as she didn't find herself in a lair of any kind. No sign of a cure for Ranma as far as the eye could see. She was right where she had landed, face down beside a wall she had once been leaning on.
She got to her feet feeling a bit light headed and staggered for a moment as her vision came into focus. She looked around, appearing almost drunk and confused. "What happened?" The other three were gone. She seemed to snap awake as she became angry. "What? They just left me here?" An aura started to burn around her as she turned and dashed back towards the dojo. "I'll kill them!"
"Ranma hasn't come back yet. I'm worried about Nabiki a little, but she probably with him. You know how he can be sometimes. He'll be fine." The older girl looked like she was trying to be strong and failing at it.
Akane was glaring at her after storming in, but it faded away as she stared at the bottom of the cabinets near the floor. "Wait. There was someone..." Her jaw dropped and she looked up at her sister. "Oh no! Ranma's been kidnapped!" She turned and put her hand against her chest. "I've got to save him!" She lit up and got a huge grin as she put her fist into the air. "At last! It's my turn!"
Kasumi had frozen and was giving her sister a confused stare. She was frozen in the act of mixing something in a large bowl with a wooden spoon and almost dropped it. "Um, what?"
"Sorry Kasumi, tell dad for me will you? I've got to go and rescue Ranma!" The girl was bouncing off the walls almost as she rushed away up the stairs to start packing. "Don't worry Ranma! I'll be there soon to pay you back!" She closed her door and the sign with her name on it fell to the floor.
Soun glanced over at Genma at the table as he ruffled the paper a bit. "I wonder what that was about? It's getting late, I hope Ranma returns soon. Might have to change the wedding plans a bit, eh Saotome?"
"Hmm, maybe so Tendo." His friend nodded and didn't seem to care one lick about what was going on around him. He was thinking over a cup of tea and gave Soun a small grin as he turned to look over at him. "Who knows, maybe he likes older women?"
"Well, I suppose it's a bit early to celebrate. We'll give them an hour." Soun looked quite proud. "My daughter Nabiki is quite a girl as well you know."
Genma was thinking only of liquor. "Indeed Tendo. I almost think it's a shame I'm not younger and single."
"I wouldn't go quite that far, Saotome." Soun looked a bit uncomfortable.
"Well, naturally. You're the father. Saotome men are known for our prowess after all." Genma gave a hearty slap on the back.
"Dear, Ranma hasn't returned yet." Nodoka walked up to the table from outside. She was finishing up some laundry so Kasumi could get started on dinner.
"Don't worry. I'm sure he's fine." Genma ignored her concern. "He's a strong boy, and he gets into a bit of trouble from time to time. It's healthy. I was the same way after all."
Nodoka turned away to help Kasumi in the kitchen. She wasn't satisfied by the answer too much, but it did make her feel better. He was a very manly boy after all. It hadn't escaped her attention that the middle Tendo sister was missing. "Oh, I do hope he's careful. I'm sure Akane wouldn't be pleased." Her cheeks became a bit pink as she thought about it.
None of them noticed Akane slip out of her window in her dogi with a pack on her back. She left behind a note on her desk. "Ranma and Nabiki kidnapped. Gone to save them! Don't worry! Akane!" She'd left a crude ugly drawing of what was supposed to look like a cute panda with a grin with it's tongue sticking out of it's mouth at the bottom of the page, with hearts that looked more like diamonds and squares, and balloons and sparkles that looked like snakes with swasticas scattered around it..
No more than two hours later, Soun was crying at his table. His head was buried in his arms as he let out deep bellows of anguish. Everyone was somewhat used to it. Kasumi had tea set out and was patting him on the back. "My babbbyyyy! Oh no! Poor Akane!"
"There, there. I'm sure Ranma will save her." Kasumi tried to comfort him.
"Husband, I'm worried." Nodoka was wringing a handkerchief in her hand as she looked at the note. "Akane must be worried. Look at this horrible picture! She must be in so much pain! I hope she's all right."
"Don't worry dear. Well, that's quite a dog...with three ears." Genma laughed and tried his best to make her feel better. He wasn't worried at all really. "This sort of thing happens all the time around here. They'll grow out if it."
"Oh, I suppose you're right, Saotome." That helped calm Soun a little as well as his wife.
"That's the spirit! Don't worry, Tendo!" Genma was pleased with himself for raising moral. "Why, who knows? When this is over, we might have a few grandchildren!"
Kasumi looked at the note again as well. "Yes. It looks like a very happy cat biting it's own tongue off, it's quite...malevolent." Her face contorted a bit as she handed what looked like some sort of satanic symbol back to her father.
"No, I think it's a cow eating it's own legs. See, this is an udder. Akane can be..quite creative?" He pushed it away and sighed. "Still, I can't help but worry about my poor Akane! All alone out there!" He put his head into his arms and continued to cry.
"Well, I suppose we could use a drink. It'll help." Genma poured the four of them a round of sake. "Don't worry, Kasumi dear, just a bit won't hurt."
"Yes. Just one though." Nodoka gave a serious looking nod and sighed a little. It would help take some of the bite out of the worrying. Having the men drunk would be enough. It would quiet them down for a while.
Damn it! This is turning out to be awesome! : Heh.
Next Time: Tokyo Express