The Ultimate Technique
by Mike Breslau
It was a typical day in the Tendo household. The sky was blue, the grass was green, and Akane was angry.
Akane slammed the door as she stormed into the living room. "Ooh! I just can't stand that arrogant jerk."
Nabiki raised an eyebrow, as if to ask "What now?"
Akane continued, "He's rude and conceited and just plain insufferable..."
"And so much better than you are," interrupted Nabiki.
Akane glared at her sister, and then slumped in defeat. "He can fight better than me, he can swim better than me,
he can cook better than me,
he can sew better than me, his girl side is cuter than me, and I wouldn't even put it past that baka to be a better mother than me. How can I ever compete with Ranma? He makes me feel like a failure."
"Well, at least you've admitted it, that's a start," said Nabiki wryly.
"Are you going to try to improve yourself, or do you want to tear Ranma down?"
Akane was shocked. "Improve myself?"
Nabiki apologized quickly. "Sorry, shouldn't have mentioned it. It's just not your style." There was a pregnant pause.
"How can I tear Ranma down? There isn't anything he can't do," Akane complained.
Nabiki smirked. "There are many things he can't do: he can't pet a kitten, or ignore free food, or refuse a challenge. Need I go on? He is human, Akane."
"That's true, I guess."
"What if we gave him a challenge that's impossible to complete? He couldn't refuse and he couldn't succeed. Would that satisfy you?"
Akane's mood lifted. "I like it. Where can we find such a challenge?"
Another smirk. "Leave that to me, little sister."
Nabiki spent several days designing and fabricating her instrument of revenge, then she hid it in the attic and waited. On Saturday, as Soun and Genma were away in a bar plotting yet another hare-brained scheme to get their children hitched, she struck.
Nabiki came down stairs holding a musty-looking old scroll. "Hey,
Ranma-kun, look what I found in the attic. I think it's a martial art technique."
Ranma perked up. "Yeah? Lemme see." He was practically salivating.
Nabiki blew off some dust and carefully unrolled the start of the brittle-seeming scroll. The words "The Ultimate Technique," written in an archaic-appearing style, appeared.
"Oh wow!" exclaimed Ranma, and he rudely grabbed the scroll from Nabiki's hands.
"Hey, be careful with that," warned Nabiki, "It's old and fragile."
Ranma put the scroll down on a table and gently unrolled it a little further. He read aloud, "He who masters this technique need never learn another, for he will be able to sense and control all the matter and energy in the..." He paused in confusion and asked Nabiki, "What's this word mean?"
"It used to mean 'the whole world,' but now it might be interpreted as 'the cosmos'," she supplied helpfully.
Ranma's eyes widened. He excitedly unrolled the scroll further.
"Warning: while it probably will not harm you, the ultimate technique is very difficult to master. Only a few people have learned it - and they have changed the course of history."
"That makes sense," Ranma mused, "An ultimate technique would have to be hard to learn, or else everyone would be using it." He unrolled the scroll further.
"The student must spend at least four days and nights concentrating only on learning the technique. He must not eat, drink, or sleep during this time. The student has to attain an egoless state of awareness without thinking or dreaming." Ranma looked worried. "Four days without eating?
I suppose I could do that, but I wouldn't like it."
Nabiki nodded in agreement, and grinned to herself.
Ranma carefully unrolled a little more. "In the egoless state the student must give up all worrying, all caring, all wanting. In fact, he must not even want to learn this technique, for that desire would be a distraction." Ranma was outraged. "That's impossible! The only way to learn this technique is not to want to learn it. That makes no sense..."
"It did warn you that it's very difficult to learn," Nabiki reminded him helpfully.
Ranma unrolled the remainder of the scroll. "Once the perfect state of quiet alertness is attained there will be no distinction between your body and the world. You will be able to feel and move a mountain as easily as you feel and move your finger." He paused. "That's very tempting. If I could learn this then I'd be the best martial artist in the world." Ranma sighed. "But it'll never happen. No way would people leave me alone for four days. I can't even get a full night's sleep without somebody interrupting."
Nabiki said, "I bet you can't learn it even if I keep everyone from bothering you."
Ranma couldn't resist a challenge. "You're on. If I learn it, you forgive all my debts and don't charge me for anything for an entire year. And if anyone disturbs me while I'm trying to learn, then you lose."
Nabiki was taken aback. Those were high stakes. "Okay, but if I win then your debt is doubled and I get to take 30 pictures of each of your forms."
"All right, it's a deal," agreed Ranma. "Can you really keep my friends and enemies away from me?"
"No problem," Nabiki answered. "Ukyo will listen to reason, especially if it's only four days. Shampoo respects you, but she fears me. I'll explain to Nodoka that you're being 'manly,' and she'll keep Genma away.
I can handle my father easily enough. Only Ryoga might be a problem -
he's too pigheaded and impulsive - but he's rarely here."
Sunday morning Ranma ate a big breakfast and sequestered himself in the dojo. He closed the windows and doors, and settled down in the middle of the floor to meditate.
Akane greeted her sister later that day. "I see he fell for it. Are you sure he can't master this technique?"
Nabiki answered, "It was designed to be hard for him to learn. Ranma is a man of action; he specializes in speed and action without thought. Can you imagine him being still for four days straight? Or thinking without acting? Besides, it's not a real technique. I made the whole thing up."
Akane nodded. "Can we see what he's doing without peeking in the windows? We're not supposed to disturb or approach him..."
Nabiki grinned. "I've set up a webcam in the dojo. Come on up to my room and we can watch him on my laptop."
They went upstairs. Nabiki booted her computer and soon had an image onscreen. The picture was dim at first because it was dark in the dojo,
but adjusting the contrast and brightness quickly made it quite viewable. She increased the volume on the audio track until Ranma's breathing could be faintly heard.
"It looks like he's having trouble being quiet," observed the older sister.
"That baka couldn't hold still if his life depended on it," replied Akane.
Nabiki set her computer to take a snapshot of the image every few minutes, and they left.
After school on Monday the Tendo daughters gathered in Nabiki's room to check on Ranma's progress. He was sitting seiza in the center of the dojo floor and as still as a statue.
"Oh my!" exclaimed Kasumi, "Is he dead?"
"No, the baka's probably just asleep," replied Akane derisively.
"I don't think so," offered Nabiki, "Nobody could sleep in that position." She brought up an image-processing program and had it compare the five most recent snapshots.
They were pixel-by-pixel identical.
"Oh my..." muttered Nabiki uncharacteristically, "I didn't think anyone could hold that still." She increased the audio volume to its maximum,
and a slow steady breathing could faintly be heard. Ranma was still alive.
That evening, just before going to bed, Nabiki decided to take another peek at her current victim. She wasn't sure if she could get a good image, since it was dark out and there were no lights on in the dojo. To her surprise the light level was the same as it had been earlier, and so the image quality was unimpaired. Ranma looked the same as before,
except his clothes, which had been the usual red and black, were now glistening white. She realized with a start that Ranma seemed to be glowing slightly. "Must be his aura," she thought.
Suddenly, Ranma turned and stared straight into the camera, giving Nabiki the impression that he was looking directly at her, into her, and through her. She reflexively shrank back from his gaze. After a moment Ranma winked at her and then he abruptly disappeared.
"Okay, that was unexpected," thought Nabiki. Thinking it might be his father's silent thief invisibility technique, she checked the audio channel. Silence. Ranma was either somewhere else or holding his breath.
Nabiki went to be feeling troubled. It looked as if her little jest had spun out of her control - and Nabiki hated not being in control.
The Tendos were awakened that night by a light brighter than the sun coming from the dojo. Nabiki covered her eyes with her hand and attempted to peek between her fingers. The dojo windows and doors were still closed, but the intense light shone through every crack and crevice, and even shone through the shutters dimly.
Akane came into Nabiki's room while trying to blink away the afterimages. "What the hell was that?" she asked.
"No idea," her sister answered, "Just be glad it's not destroying the dojo."
The light abruptly stopped, leaving the Tendos blinking in darkness. The show was over. They groped their way back to bed and tried to get to sleep.
The next morning they were discussing the odd light show while eating breakfast. "You know, I once saw a movie in which people walked across a bridge made of light," Akane said. "Last night I was tempted to try it..." She trailed off as a feeling of calm overcame her.
Ranma entered the room, fazing through the door without opening it. The Tendos became aware of an aura of benign serenity and tranquility. He glided silently to the table - about a centimeter above the floor - and sat down. "Hungry," he announced.
"I'm sorry, Ranma," said Kasumi, "I wasn't expecting you, so I haven't prepared your breakfast."
Ranma gave her a smile that the Buddha would have envied. "No problem,
Kasumi." He gestured, and bowls filled with generous portions of rice,
miso soup, and fish appeared on the table before him. A large apple appeared in his outstretched hand and he began to eat it.
Nabiki recovered from her shock. "That's an interesting apple,
Ranma-kun. It looks more like a giant cherry than an apple. Where did you get it?"
"These grow in the Garden of Eden," Ranma replied. The tone of his voice showed that he thought it was of no importance.
Nabiki was the only one to grasp the significance of the "Garden of Eden"
She had a vision of large-denomination currency sprouting wings and flying out of her purse. "So, you've mastered the ultimate technique,
and ahead of schedule too..."
Ranma gave her that matchless smile again. "Not really. I've found that I don't want it."