Had she known what would happen ahead of time, Nabiki would not have remained in bed. No, she would have booked an immediate train ticket for an impromptu week-long vacation, well away from the chaos and tumult of Nerima.
Since she had no such foreknowledge, and the day itself was ironically free of any unnatural warnings, omens, or portents, she simply went about her day as normal.
It had all come to a head with a confrontation with Mousse. From what she'd gathered from the initial bellowed rant, he had gotten ahold of some magic trinket or another with vague instructions for an unclear result, and after much deliberation had decided to keep it safely stored and not use it, being unsure what it did and having no real way to test it. Then Saotome, being himself, had later entered the scene and provoked the myopic Amazon somehow and from there...
Nabiki had found herself with two equally horrifying realizations then. First, that Ranma, who the vitriolic rant was aimed at, was not actually present. Second, that Mousse was not wearing his glasses. And then, as she found herself paralyzed momentarily, her brain stuck between the options of yelling at him in an attempt to pierce the fog of rage, or just giving into panicked flight, he threw it.
It flew threw the air as straight, accurate, and fast as a glowing arrow, and time seemed to slow as it approached. She could feel her body moving even as her mind began to shut down, a desperate and instinctual attempt to avoid the clear and present danger. It was too slow. If she was a martial artist of Ranma's level, then she would be fast enough. If she was even at Akane's level, she might be able to dodge. As she was, though, only practicing a little every now and again to keep in shape, it was a hopeless effort from the very beginning.
The world went white as it struck home. Then, with a sudden shift, she went from standing on solid ground to falling from a great height. She felt that with the wind rushing past her, it would be pointless to scream, as the sound would be torn away, unheard by anyone or anything. She did so, regardless.
Then there was impact and pain, as she landed badly. There had been a sickening crunch, and one of her legs was awash with burning agony. The other was horribly numb, and she couldn't quite decide which was worse. She blinked for a few moments, until her vision ceased swimming and the blackness receded, then took stock of the situation.
She was covered with muck. From an aesthetic point of view, this was horrible, but she was thankful for it. If she had landed on solid ground instead of this marshy sludge... she probably wouldn't have fared nearly so well. Slowly, she looked towards her feet, and regretted it. Her legs were a mess... broken and bent in unnatural positions, splinters of red-stained bone poking out through the leg she couldn't actually feel, making her almost glad of the lack of sensation. She made up her mind, then and there. She was going to make Mousse pay for being a moron and attacking people blind, and then she was going to make Ranma pay for being a moron and antagonizing dangerous people, and then she was going to make Akane pay for not keeping her fiance on a tight enough leash... and then, she was going to find a way to get out of the madhouse that Nerima had become, for good.
Her body throbbed, reminding her that all of this was contigent on her first walking... no, unrealistic expectation on these legs, crawling out of this mire, or at the very least gathering enough strength to yell for help. It might take a little while, though, because her first attempt at a deep breath was met with agony, turning it into a rasping, coughing wheeze.
No good. Her whole body was a wreck, it was just that the worst damage to her legs distracted from the rest of it. She was distracted from her thoughts, then, by a nearby squishing noise. A footfall in the muck, followed by another, moving closer to her. She looked up gratefully, to see who it was, and if they seemed inclined to be helpful.
A grinning skeleton looked right down at her, one hand clutching a long, wickedly barbed and serrated curved sword. It contemplated her for a moment, as she stared right back at it, and then the sword rose. But before she could even so much as draw in breath to try to scream again, another, larger sword swung through the skeleton, breaking it up into a number of bony pieces.
"Well, that'll do." an old man said as he stepped into her field of vision, followed shortly afterward by a hulking suit of armor, holding the blade that had shattered the skeleton and an oversized shield besides. The old man squatted by the fragments for a moment, fishing through them for something before standing back up, having apparently found what he was looking for as he tucked something away in a pouch.
"Not much call for these, but can't hurt to keep it on hand in case someone shows an interest. And well now, lass. Let's have a look at you."
"..." Nabiki replied eloquently, stunned into silence by the pile up of one thing after another until the old man prodded at her leg. She hissed in pain and spasmed involuntarily as he pulled his hand back and rubbed the mingled mud and blood between his fingers for a moment, an inscrutable look on his face, before wiping it off.
"Figured you for some sort of golem I'd not seen before, lass, falling so suddenly from the sky and all. Would be a great deal simpler if you were, in fact, but that's human blood and no mistake about it." He grumbled. "Shame. No profit in this for me, then."
He grunted and rose to his feet, before turning away.
"W-wait... You aren't just going to leave me here?"
"I'm an old man, lass, and grown out of the good-hearted follies of youth. If I take the expense of carting you to a city and being sure you recover from that spill, I'll be seeing fewer meals and tightened belt for months. And old as I am, I might well not have so many months left to me that I can afford as many lean ones as a young buck can handle." He pointed out, pragmatically.
"And you'll just leave me here to die, then?" Nabiki spat. "Or do you think someone else is just going to happen along, or that I can crawl out of this mudhole myself? I'll find a way to repay you, if you save me! But leave me to die, and I'll curse you from beyond the grave, and my death will be on your head!"
"... Bold one, you are." He said. "But we'll see, won't we. And how do you plan to repay me, before I kick the bucket? Got any useful skills, or maybe you're an Enchanting prodigy? No?"
"... I'll find a way." Nabiki said, not willing to admit that she wasn't sure what Enchanting might entail, though it sounded like it had something to do with magic.
"Hmph. We'll see, won't we. You're right, though, that at the end of my days I'm not quite so ready to bear the burden of more than what I've already brought down on my head." He said, sourly, as the hulking armor picked her up like a rag-doll, painfully jostling her broken legs and sending her vision swimming. "That Core'll make up the difference a bit. Not all, though. Crying shame as I'm too old to stomp through ruins an' dirty caves to look for more. Well, we'll get those legs set and splinted up, at least. With luck, you'll have no infections to worry about, else you might lose them. Can't rightly afford a proper high-class doctor that can fix that sort of thing, either."
"Here's hoping..." Nabiki rasped through the pain.
"Bah. Let's get you to the wagon. Can't leave it be for too long."
Another mass of armor, black and spiky, was waiting by the wagon on a dirt road that barely qualified as a goat-track, and she got loaded onto the back, alongside small heaps of bundled trade goods, and the old man set into cleaning and properly setting the bones in her legs. Not particularly gently, either, and constantly grumbling about how the medical equipment and bandages he was using was that much more that he wouldn't be able to sell, and was only a temporary measure in any case.
"... So, what's the deal with the armor?" Nabiki asked later, rasping in an effort to ignore the pain.
"My golems. Old man like me, don't expect I'll be wandering wilderness roads alone without protection, do you? Enough talent to keep going, never got the knack to keep a third. Won't find me fooling about risking my own skin fighting alongside 'em, though, like you see idiots do from time to time." He grumbled.
Nabiki could really understand sentiments like that. Better than having to fight for yourself, especially if there were a lot of things like that skeleton before wandering about.
The old man wasn't exactly forthcoming, but it seemed like there wasn't much to do on a long stretch of empty road, and through passing time, she needled a few more tidbits of information out of him.
Enchanting was a thing that a lot of people did, and handled everything from keeping plumbing going to creating 'Golems', a lot of which ended up slipping the leash through the centuries, somehow, or were carelessly abandoned. Causing a danger to travelers who went through rural areas. And if they were cut down, and left any golems they happened to have on them ownerless, then the wandering cohorts were reinforced.
Most people could handle enough Enchanting to keep a golem, if they could afford one. Few could keep two, and fewer still three. Some people would try to fight alongside their golems, though they were usually completely ineffective, and dividing their concentration meant that that they could keep fewer of the more combat-effective golems active...
She drifted off into an exhausted sleep before she learned much more than that, though.
AN. "Enchanted Arms", a decent, though not spectacular, game. I really liked the golems, but really disliked how they handled it. No matter what the situation, sending in your human characters to fight it was always a better decision than using a golem in their place.
Given that these are generally supposed to be combat weapons made so that humans don't have to fight, or something, it makes no real sense. Good idea, but poorly implemented. Shame. Especially since I didn't really like any of the actual main characters. Stoic swordsman, idiot hero, the spunky princess, and the money-hungry loli with a gun. Woo.