Author's Note: Please note that this is a sequel to "Out of Sight, Out of Mind"
Read that story first before continuing!
In my Arms, In my Heart
One week later
Two people were staring at the tall metal cylinder outside the small wooden home, both with different expressions.
"So, you're telling me this is how we're going to take baths? Outside, in full view of the lake?"
"Well, it's that, or actually using the lake, and the water in here is at least hot."
Nabiki, her arms folded, looked miffed at Ranma, not appreciating the idea of exposing herself to nature despite no one else being around.
"Come on Nabiki, you have to give in you know..." Ranma winked at her, "Besides, it's been a week, and you are becoming a bit, well, peaky..."
"Excuse me?" Her eyebrow arched high, "I'm sorry that I'm not like Mr Indecent Exposure in front of me."
Ranma did blush and look away, "It's not like I had much choice in the matter, the house is really old and there's no bath indoors. The Kinjakan is the best for heating the water up outside anyway."
Nabiki rolled her eyes, "Look, Ranma, it's not the whole idea of bathing outdoors that offends me. I'll bet it'll be be lovely surrounded by trees and whatnot. It's more the fact of undressing out here and getting in, or if I undress in the house, I have to run out and jump straight into the bath stark naked."
"Ah..." Ranma cocked his head to one side, "Yeah, I never thought about that..." He looked back at the house and thought to himself, "Tell you what, give me two minutes..."
Running inside, he pulled out some metal poles he found a while ago, and bent them into shape, sticking them into the ground near the bath. Going in again to get some old carpet, he draped it over the poles to create a makeshift changing cubicle.
"Well, it's nothing special, but it'll have to do for now." Nabiki smiled at his resourcefulness, "Thanks Ranma, every little helps."
"No problem..." He threw her a towel and began to go back inside, "I'll grab a chair for you to sit on inside the changing room, if you need anything just shout, I promise I won't peek."
"Okay then..." Nabiki went inside the small room, the carpets surprisingly keeping the wind out, and undressed, folding her clothes onto the chair.
Leaving the small room, wearing her towel, she gently lowered herself in to the bath and sighed.
"Well, I suppose it is a start after all."
Leaning back, Nabiki closed eyes, savouring the tingly heat.
Three days earlier
A young woman walked up the path, curious at the location, and held a map showing her where to go. Confused at the directions, and that the taxi couldn't just take her in front of the door, she just accepted it and went her own way.
Eventually, she reached the house and knocked on the door, seeing that there was no doorbell to be seen.
"Sorry, do I know you?" The eldest Tendo daughter was puzzled.
"Sorry..." Ranma moved away from the door, "Nabiki's inside, she's just making lunch."
Kasumi looked about the house and saw how dilapidated it was. She didn't take her shoes off since the twosome inside wore either slippers or shoes, due to the old floorboards.
"Hi sis..." Nabiki called from the old style cooker, "Just give me a second."
Returning in a minute with a pot of warm tea, she offered some to Kasumi, who accepted it. She also passed a portion of food to her.
"Your face!" The eldest Tendo girl stood up in shock and felt Nabiki's forehead, "It's healed! I can't even see the scar any more."
"Yep, all thanks to a little magic." Nabiki winked back, glad to have her looks back to the way it was before, "But that wasn't what I wanted to show you." Kasumi had a look of puzzlement about her, "Now, you're probably wondering why I called you here." Nabiki was casually eating her rice and toppings.
"I did, but I assumed it was because you found this person..." Kasumi indicated Ranma.
"That's true, but it's not just that..." Nabiki looked to him, "Ranma, show her."
Nodding quietly, he picked up the glass of water and emptied it over his head, activating the transformation.
Kasumi lowered her tea and was still for a second or two, "Oh my... A Jusenkyo curse too?"
"I know it's hard to believe, but Ranma here has been living with us for a long time, but because of many things, he left Nerima. Due to a miscalculation on his part, I wasn't affected when he removed your memories."
Nabiki paused to let Kasumi take this in.
"So, you mean to say that I knew him too? Were we friends?" She asked Ranma directly.
"Uh, yeah, I guess so..." He scratched his head, "You did help me out now and then."
"There must have been a good reason for leaving. I can't imagine you would leave if you thought you couldn't stay in Nerima." Kasumi's face was sympathetic, "It can't have been easy for you, Ranma."
The redhead shuffled her feet, "No, it wasn't, at all... But you somehow knew about it before I did it..."
"Really?" Kasumi put a finger to her chin, "Well, I must have been worried about you then."
Nabiki nodded in agreement, "I thought as much..." She gave a pointed look at Ranma, "But he's avoiding the point, so I'll say it for him." Nabiki moved closer to Kasumi, who didn't move at all, "You can get your memories back, all of them related to Ranma. How things were back then, with the fiancée fights, martial arts challenges and the other crazy times when everything went pear-shaped."
"Was it that bad?" Kasumi seemed surprised, "But, how can I get those memories back??"
"I have an antidote." Ranma stated simply, "Back when I had Cologne make the incense to forget me, I also got her to make enough for two people to remember everything from back then." She looked down at the table, "I didn't think I would ever get to use them on anyone though..."
"So, did you use it on Nabiki then?" She asked.
"Yes, though it was for different reasons," She sulked at Ranma with mock sadness, making her giggle in amusement, "Because his best laid plans went wrong with me, I wanted to remember him, and broke through the spell. But there was one time I forgot, the time when I told Ranma how to go about the plan."
"So, I'm the only other person you want to remember you?"
Kasumi's emotional voice struck Ranma, and she looked away, "Well, that's if you want to. I don't want to force you or anything..."
"Of course I want to know you, Ranma..." Kasumi's smile melted his heart, "I mean I don't know what I've missed from my life without having you around, but I can imagine it must have been interesting." She paused for a second, her hands clasped together, "I only want to know why you chose me, out of everyone you knew..."
Ranma mumbled something, her red face making Nabiki smile knowledgeably.
"What was that, Ranma?" Kasumi leaned in closer, and he swore he could still smell the meal she cooked earlier that day.
"Because..." Ranma managed to raise her voice slightly, "Because, you were kind to me..."
Kasumi nodded and sat back into her chair, "I hope I was..." She pulled the shorter girl's hand towards her, "Please use the antidote on me now."
Nabiki gazed at Ranma and did a slow nod, showing that Kasumi was ready and accepted it.
Standing up and going to the sink, Ranma pulled out the shampoo bottle and comb, walking back to Kasumi.
"Do I just sit here then?" She inquired.
"Yeah, just relax, it'll be done in a minute."
Waiting for her shoulders to lower from reduced tension, Ranma passed the comb and shampoo into her hair pressing the necessary points. Like the time with Nabiki, it took a full minute of re-energising the right locations at the right time stir up the locked away thoughts.
Once it was done, Kasumi experienced the same convulsions, though Ranma and Nabiki were there to gently hold her to stop her from falling or hurting herself.
Afterwards, Kasumi looked up, her glazed eyes now alert and she looked at Nabiki first, then at Ranma.
"Oh my..." Her tone was that of interest, "I thought I would never see you again, Ranma."
Standing up, she moved over to the redhead, and pulled her into a loving hug, "Thank you for making me remember. I never regretted knowing you, and I feel blessed to have those fun times back again with me."
Ranma said nothing, except to allow herself to be dragged in deeper and shook against Kasumi's top, letting out some quiet tears.
Later that day
"Ranma..." Kasumi was saddened at the story he told, "How could you go through with it all?"
The now male Ranma sighed, "I couldn't figure out a way any more... There were too many problems and unfinished business with everyone around us..."
"But..." Her face had fallen, "Alone?"
Nabiki held Ranma's hand, "Yes, he had to... How could he escape all that without going it alone?"
Kasumi traced the hand-to-hand contact and stared at Nabiki, "And, is he going to be alone for much longer?"
A smirk stretched across Nabiki's face, and Ranma glanced at her, as if unsure of her answer, "Yep, I'll be staying here, Kasumi. Daddy should know that I can't stay at home forever."
"I'll try to make it a bit better around here," He remembered how the Kasumi, who was a stranger to Ranma, viewed the place as a little too run down, "Nabiki is a girl after all."
A light punch to his head and they laughed, even Kasumi smiled.
"Ranma, I'm sure you'll take care of my sister. I don't know how father will take it given you're still a little too young, but I can make up some reason for him and Akane."
"I can't tell you things are going to be great over here, sis, I mean I miss home already. Akane and daddy do grow on you after seventeen years of life or so. But," She looked to Ranma and tightened her hold on his hand, "in a way, daddy is going to get his wish. I like Ranma as a person, maybe even more than that..." She felt him return her hand squeeze, "He's not going to go through this alone, because I'll be with him, whether I'll just be a friend to him, a simple housemate, or as his girlfriend, or even his future wife some day." She grinned like a predator, "I'm not going to let a simple promise between parents cloud my mind, and I'm not diving head first into this relationship."
Kasumi smiled kindly, "Well, I wasn't about to convince you otherwise Nabiki, when your mind is set on something it doesn't change." She held her hand to her mouth and made a quiet laugh to herself, "It sounds like you were saying that to yourself mostly."
Ranma smirked and nudged Nabiki in the ribs, "I guess she has you figured out then..."
Pinching his elbow, eliciting a gasp from him, she glared at him, "Not really, Kasumi can notice things too you know."
"So, are you going to be staying the night?" Ranma asked the elder sister.
"I'll need to really, it's too far to go home now, and I am tired." She looked about the house, "No disrespect to the two of you, but I think I'll stay in a bed and breakfast, I don't think you have room for a third person."
Ranma turned away, "Yeah, I thought about expanding to make a few more rooms, hopefully enough for a real house."
"All in good time Ranma, all in good time..." Nabiki chided him for trying too hard, too soon. She indicated her sister, "Now be a gentleman and escort Kasumi to a hotel, you'll keep her safe, won't you?"
"Course I will!" He stood up and walked over to her, "Ready for a short walk?"
"Looking forward to it," He tone was earnest, "I've heard wonderful things about this lake."
Opening her eyes, Nabiki noted the time by the amount the sun had set, casting her in a warm orange, the shadows of the trees creeping up on her.
"Mmm, that was odd... Thinking about Kasumi..." Stretching her arms up over her head, Nabiki yawned, "I wonder how she is now." Shivering slightly as the cool breeze from the lake passed over her, she sunk deeper into the water, "I'd better get out now, or the cold will be even worse..."
Thinking back to the time of their formerly forgotten date, and how Ranma created heat for her, she tried to think of how he did it, and felt for her, albeit much smaller, ki.
"Well, I know it's there, and it does have the impression of being purple in colour..." She tried to manipulate it into another form, but gave up once she was screwing up her face in frustration, 'What am I doing? Ranma learned this by getting close to hypothermia and getting frostbite. There's no way I can do it inside a hot bath."
Using the traditional method of heat preservation, she pulled out her towel and got up, immediately wrapping herself in it and stepping into the changing room to pick up her clothes, before jogging into the house.
"Ranma!" She called out to him, "Can you heat up the room? I need to change!"
"Sure, just a second..." Coming outside, he pulled out the Kinjakan from beneath the bath, and used it to fire up the stove, then creating a fan from it to waft the heat from the burning blade into the bedroom.
Nabiki gasped as the hot air hit her, but her skin appreciated it greatly as she changed into clean clothes.
"Still, it is good to have free heating, that Chinese weapon is really versatile, though I hope no one steals it." Nabiki mumbled to herself, before returning to the main living room.
"Was the bath okay?" Ranma asked as he looked around the room, thinking of things he could improve on.
"Yes, it was perfect and peaceful." She didn't lie, after all the times of fighting back in Nerima, having a quiet bath time was not one of them.
"What's on your mind?" Upon her questioning look, he continued, "It looks like you have something to say, I've seen that look on your face before."
Sighing, she nodded, "Yeah, you're right..." Nabiki went to the table and sat, holding out a hand for him to join her. Understanding the gravity of the situation, he did.
"Now..." She folded her arms and closed her eyes, "You know what this is about, we're both living out here, North Japan, two teenagers, or young adults depending on your viewpoint, alone without any real means of supporting ourselves." She paused to breathe in, "What are your opinions on this?"
Ranma sat there, dumbfounded, before shaking his head, "I guess you're right, Nabiki..." He looked guiltily to one side, "I do have these plans, but nowhere did I think of to actually get them done."
"That's why I'm here." Nabiki tapped at her head, "To think of these things."
"So," He tentatively asked, "What's the plan?"
"Simple..." She got up and began to pace around the table and the room in general, "I'm getting Kasumi's help with dealing with daddy, and how I've decided to move here. Sure, it's not Tokyo any more and things will be tougher in one sense, but again, I may be in luck, because I have a lot of knowledge that people don't have. Most people tend to work in Tokyo with this information, and so there may be demand for my services." She raised a second finger, "Two, I need to finish my studies first, so an easy transfer to a local school will be best. I can quickly make connections here if need be, and get all the necessary dirt on the teachers to bribe and coerce my way up the pecking order." A third finger joined the other two, "Three, I need your help in both these things, and more."
"What kind of help?" Ranma asked, intrigued.
"Daddy is not going to like this, no matter how nice Kasumi is, and he may come down to visit. I've asked Kasumi to not mention your gender or anything, but that I was staying with a flatmate. If he does come round, you know what to do."
Nodding, after catching her drift, Ranma smirked, "Turn into a girl? No problem."
"Exactly, a boy and a girl living together, no matter how innocent it may be, will be too much for him or for anyone else to see, so I need you to pretend to be a girl when any guests come around. I know it'll be tough for you, but unfortunately, it's the only way for now."
Thinning his lips, he nodded hesitantly, "If you say so, I'll do it..."
She managed to get his pause and rushed to intercept it, "Ranma..." She strode over to him and planted a big kiss on his lips, "Don't get me wrong, okay?" Watching his eyes as they stopped swirling from the sudden passion, she spoke on, "I like you, a lot. I can't say it's real love for now, because that spell I was unwittingly put under, to find you until there was no more hope, has more or less vanished from me. Yet, despite that, I want to stay with you, because in that long journey, I learned a lot what life must have been like for you, the things you went through, and the pain you felt. For that, I want to be close to you, to see if these feelings, this understanding of you, can translate to love. I need you to know this, and know that I'm not rejecting you in any way, nor do I want to force you to do something you hate."
His jaw had half-dropped at this moment, which he promptly closed, "I know, Nabiki... I know I'm not the best guy for you, and if you chose to leave, well, I'll know why. I trust you, that's why I'll follow your ideas."
"Then you'll forgive me now if I ask you what you're going to do in the meantime..." Nabiki held his hand and got him up from the chair, she avoided his eyes, her fringe covering her face, "Are you going to stay around her fixing up the house, are you going to start working for a living, are you going back to school, or something else?"
The face of confusion appeared again, Ranma pulled her hand to loop under his arm to touch the back of his shoulder, and he hugged her, "Without anyone around, I could do what I wanted, I got by barely, stealing a few eggs, but leaving some money, then earning a small pay here and there from some fights to buy more things. But," He left the hug and tilted her face up to his, "that was not living, it was more like existing... I would never be able to able to run my own dojo like this, let alone start one up." He smiled sincerely, "Tell me what I need to do, and I'll do it, anything to keep us afloat, together, whatever."
Nabiki blushed at the close contact, and while she initiate it with the kiss, she coughed loudly and turned around, acting cool, "I'm not your master, Ranma, I won't dictate you life for you."
"Yeah, I know..." He sighed exasperatedly, "But all you can do is give advice, it's up to me if I want to take it or not, no?" He folded his arms again, "So, what are your recommendations?"
She scratched her chin, "Okay, I'll be honest with you. To run a dojo, you need to have some backing behind you, someone powerful or influential. These people are not necessarily the same people. One thing that applies to both is knowledge. For that you'll need education, no one wants lessons from someone in kindergarten, so for now you should finish school, maybe even attend the same one as me."
"Sounds good enough, but how will I get these people to notice me?" Ranma raised his eyebrow.
"Leave me to deal with the powerful ones, these are motivated by money only, and may have shady dealings. With a few lucky bribes and tips, I can get your name mentioned and spread fairly easily in that circle, and only two people need to really give their name for you to be officially authorised to run a dojo."
"So the influential ones I'll need to deal with?" He placed a hand over his head, stretching before cracking his knuckles.
"Not that way, Ranma..." She grinned sardonically, "These ones are nearby dojo owners. Anything Goes pretty much covers all the basics and even a few advanced techniques from different places. I'm sure you'll do well there, all you need to do is to impress a few people, perhaps by challenging their top pupils, before the masters begin to ask you for a spar. That way you'll learn new things, and also get their respect."
"There's still a problem though..." Ranma frowned, "How are we going to be able to afford school fees?"
"Well, daddy will cover me, no problems there. I can try and get you into school for free, but no guarantees there. You really need to pay more attention in class though, no sleeping this time."
Pouting slightly, Ranma, sighed, "I guess I have no choice, it's not like last time when pops and I freeloaded off you back then."
"There'll still be a money problem though..." Nabiki placed her hands inside her trouser pockets, "As it is, we're barely breaking even, using the leftover money I had from my school bets for decent meals and so on." She looked out the window, "We'll both need jobs, just part time, enough to get food, clothing and one day pay the bills." She looked sternly at him, "It won't be easy, we may have to work after school, or even on the weekends."
Ranma swallowed hard, "Work? But I don't know much really..."
"Relax, I've got a few ideas, but they do revolve around your girl form." Nabiki winked, making Ranma pale.
"No way! I'm not being a bunny girl again! You left me as collateral last time you had a date, remember?"
She waved him off, "Bah you got away from the security easy enough, besides, I don't plan on you doing anything risky like that, not unless things get bad for us..." She looked out the window, "Waitresses do earn a bit bit in tips, not to mention certain types of café's, though I doubt there's as many here as in Tokyo. What you need to do is something legal, but not as a guy, because the school won't be happy with us working as well as being educated."
Ranma thought it over, "Okay, I'll think about some jobs, and I'll get back to you, I need to look around town for a bit to get the hang of job hunting."
"Like I said, in the meantime, I'll get us enrolled at school. You've got to try to remain male there, no matter what. If the curse comes out, well, it won't matter much, since all the crazy people are back in Nerima anyway. Just try to keep it a secret for now, if at all possible." She paused for a few seconds, "Hang on... What's happened with your records? Aren't you officially dead?"
"Yep, Ranma Saotome is no more." He grinned, a little too proudly, "But I also thought of something else, I would need to have some kind of record if I wanted to continue living normally, so I've prepared some documents to put into the system, with the same information about me, only to say I was an orphan. I just need to have time to go to a Public Records office to use the pressure point to make people my slave for an hour to get them in. I even thought of using an old orphanage which has been shut down years ago." He was about to go on, before he saw her face, "What?"
"How the hell did you come up with that?" Nabiki asked, mouth agape, "That was what I was thinking of..."
"I guess you just rubbed off on me in the end." He admitted, "When I used the formula I was ready to come back, thanks to what you said about removing me from the system. I knew that if I suddenly reappeared years later, things would be difficult without any information on me."
She sat down, shocked, "That's... very well thought out, Ranma. Even I believed you wouldn't even want to come back, that all you wanted was to die.'
"Like I said, I would never have thought of the idea without you." He moved to her and patted her back, "And don't worry, I'm still here, I haven't given up at all."
She smiled inside, "Good, I'm glad to hear it..." She got up and clapped her hands, "Okay, I'll get to work now on finding a nearby school and getting my documents transferred over. Like I said, careful of daddy or any guests, we need to have people see you as the girl."
"No need to remind me, I know..." Ranma smirked, I may be a little dim and I know I'm not the brightest student out there, but I do have a good memory, thanks to pops no less."
"Whilst I'm researching schools, I'll also find out where the local Public Records office is. In the meantime, see about getting a decent lock on our door, and also check out some jobs."
"Sure, for the time being, I can just lodge some wood into the keyhole to seal it up, and I want to get part of that cupboard fixed."
"Good point..." Nabiki clicked her fingers, "I'll get daddy to help me in getting this land for me from the registry, just so we can legally live here at least."
"Ahh..." Ranma froze, "that means he'll definitely come around then, to see the place..."
"You're probably right, why buy land if you've never seen it before. Daddy's slow, but not a complete fool... I'll get Kasumi to help us, maybe to come along herself with him."
"That should help us..." He began to scratch his head harder.
"Look..." Nabiki pulled Ranma by the hand, and out of the house into the back, with the view of the lake there. "I know this is a lot to take in, and you're probably worried inside about things going wrong, but we have one thing in our favour."
"What's that then?" Ranma enquired, his stress evident.
"Each other." She smiled and kissed him once more on the lips, this time more sedate and polite, "We'll get through this, and even if we don't end up married, or lovers, we'll still be friends, and that's a guarantee from me personally."
"Wow, that's one big promise, sure you can keep it?" Ranma cheekily jested.
"Of course I can." She put her arms on her hips as the sun began to set, "I'm Nabiki Tendo, and nothing can stop me."
And you thought this story would never be written...
It almost wasn't, I'll be honest with you. But, as with all my other stories, I can't give an exact release schedule, due to work commitments.
I know, the start is a bit wordy, and almost no action, unless you can kissing and walking action packed. I had to get this out of the way, I mean the ending of the previous story was fine, they move in together in a small town/city, without electricity or money, and they live happily ever after? It could happen, but only in an ideal world, or an anime-based one. This is an anime, but has strayed into real life in certain respects, the military involvement, and actual problems faced by particular characters, be it physical or otherwise.
Though most of you won't like it, and I'll admit I'm not too happy with the way the chapter turned out, but given how Nabiki evolved in the previous story, she would need to state her misgivings about the whole set up, which Ranma even agrees he thought was hard to continue the way they were going.
Thankfully, with this exposition out of the way, I can safely ignore the boring job and school hunt, and move on to the more juicy parts, namely the inevitable arrival of Soun, and the new trials Nabiki and Ranma have to go through to live together.
Suffice it to say, it won't be easy...