In my Arms, In my Heart

Chapter 3

An Expected Visitor

A week later
Saotome Cottage

"Ranma, Ranko's back!" Nabiki cried out to the bath where he was soaking.

"Great, any interesting news?" He shouted back as he sighed out, enjoying the heat soothing his bones.

"Oh nothing really, Kuno is putting on the moves to Akane, and she's actually accepting them, Kasumi says that everyone else is going on with their lives normally." Nabiki paused for a second, "Ryoga popped up once too, but he was looking for me."

"Good, good..." Ranma felt sleepy and began to sink into the bath further.

"Oh, and daddy is coming over in two days, Kasumi will be with him."

"What?" A loud metallic sound similar to that of a church bell echoed in the trees nearby, and the back door opened up showing a worried Ranma, "Your dad's coming here?"

Nabiki arched an eyebrow, "Yes, I told you that he would eventually want to visit this area, not to mention I need him to cosign the lease documents for this piece of land as my guardian. It's not unexpected."

"Oh, I guess you're right, I forgot about that..."

"Speaking of unexpected, perhaps some clothing would help?" She nodded at his body, "I know we live out in the woods near the lake, but there's no need to get completely back to nature by wearing our birthday suits, don't you agree?"

"Huh?" Ranma felt a sudden chill from the wind and looked down, before turning beet red, "Oh crap!" Running into the bedroom, as the bath had toppled over when he leapt out of it, he tried to find some clothes of his.

Chuckling to herself, Nabiki felt better. Aah, I needed a little comic relief, it's been a tough week here. Kimura is pressing me regarding my workload, but I'm still doing better than he expects.

She looked to the room Ranma escaped into, still hearing him try to find some clothes. Ranma's holding up well in his job, I heard that he became something of a hero to the girls that work there. He's certainly taking it in his stride. I suppose to him it must be another form of training.

"Right, all done!" Ranma proudly stepped out of the room, now fully clothed though his hair was a little wet. Nabiki tutted loudly and picked up a towel from a rack near the door.

"Come on Ranma, you have to dry yourself first before putting on clean clothes, no?" She began roughly running the towel over his head, catching all the beads of water from his impromptu exit from the bath.

"Okay, I get it, Nabiki!" Ranma took over and rapidly dried out his hair, before taking off the towel, "There, how's that?"

Seeing multiple strands of hair standing up after being handled badly, tufts of hair pointing in the wrong direction, Nabiki giggled again, "Sure Ranma, you look good."

Smiling, he placed the towel back on the rack, never the wiser.

Nabiki looked over that timetable for the visit, it would be a Saturday, so Ranma would be working a shift in the morning for the lunch rush, whilst she could stay around the house and prepare.

"So, about that day..."

"Yeah, we need to talk about that... What's my role?" Ranma sat at the table and leant back in the chair, "Innocent girlie flatmate? No idea of martial arts? Politely staying out of family matters?"

Nabiki blinked. Oh my, he's getting faster at understanding these kinds of situations... "In a nutshell, yes, you don't need to be overly feminine though, tomboy behaviour is allowed. There's no way they would suspect you of a Jusenkyo curse, so keep away from hot water if you know what's good for you."

"I'll let you make the tea then." Ranma grinned widely.

Nabiki smiled back, "That would make sense." She looked down at her list, "Right, we need to hide away all items that could trigger a 'reaction' in them. We don't want anybody else discovering who you are, let alone daddy. Kasumi can help us out, but even her efforts may be in vain if we have the Kinjakan out in full view."

"No problem, I can hide the honour blade and anything else of mine away. There's a hidden floorboard under the bed where you can put stuff. What's next?"

"Well, it will be inevitable, but daddy may want to get to know you, ask about yourself and your past. It's only natural seeing as I'm living with you now. Remember, I moved here for no real reason. I can make up some random excuse like having to get away from the crazy life in Nerima, and for some alone time, but this will not be enough."

"So, you're saying that why, of all places, did you choose this tiny home, with me?"

"Exactly." Nabiki shrugged, "And to be honest, I can't think of a real reason, this place isn't exactly a high-flying place to make tonnes of money, any of the big cities would be better."

"The quiet maybe? Being surrounded by nature?" Ranma suggested.

"Possibly... Not to mention that this place will be called Saotome Cottage, perhaps I could use that as a reason, a familiar name."

"And a likeable roommate, no?" Ranma winked at her.

"Yeah, the effect isn't exactly the same if you're a guy." She winked back and got a response by way of a blush.

"So, my name is...?" Ranma asked, just to get the story right.

"Ranko Saotome, no relation to Genma naturally." Nabiki pursed her lips, "You're officially an orphan in your male family records, however the same doesn't quite have to be true for your female form."

"I don't think registering myself at two people would help, it may complicate things more when it comes to the government." Ranma frowned.

"Yeah, you're right..." She thought it over more, "You're called Ranma at the café, and no one has noticed anything weird yet. Perhaps Ranko would be fine for now, try to avoid any odd questions about your background."

"Sure thing!" Ranma laughed and stretched his arms up, "Creating one for my new self was hard enough as it is!"

Nabiki could only grin in return, "I'm still amazed at how well you did it."

"If he does pressure me for my family history, what should I do?" Ranma turned serious, "Should I just make up something quickly, like running away from home or being another orphan?"

Nabiki shook her head, "No, we can't risk saying anything more about your past. I'll just intervene, and I'm sure Kasumi will back me up, saying that it would be rude to ask something like that of you."

"Nice idea!" Ranma was much more relaxed, "Nothing could possibly go wrong now!"

Great, nice job breaking it hero, tempting fate isn't good, given how Jusenkyo likes to mess about with water so often...

Nabiki held her head as another headache came back to her.

"Is that everything covered then?" Ranma spoke, then frowned, "Are you okay?"

"Yeah, I'm fine, just another migraine." She popped two pills from a packet in her pocket and drank them down with a quick burst of tap water.

"Doesn't seem fine to me..." He eyed the pills, "How long you been taking medicine?"

"Not long..." No reason for him to worry about, it only started a few months when I was trying to find him...

"That's not exactly answering my question, Nabiki..." Ranma eyed her carefully.

Another side-effect of helping him all the time, he's learning! She began to chuckle at her own defeat, "Well, you got me there, I've been taking them for longer than a month now, you know, when I was still looking for you."

"Oh yeah..." He sheepishly scratched the back of his head, "Uh... Sorry."

"Idiot..." She got up and tapped him on his head with her knuckle, "No need for apologies, I told you before."

"Shouldn't you go to a doctor?" He changed the topic to avoid the guilt that threatened to wash over him.

"Nah, it'll pass, just happens to me when I get a little stressed."

"A little?" Ranma widened his eyes, "You must've been going mad inside searching, but why are you still stressed now?"

"Setting up a new life, trying to remember if I did everything right, filing all the necessary papers, bills and whatnot. After some time, it does get to you in the end."

"Okay!" Ranma jumped up, "That settles it, I know exactly to relax you."

He grabbed her wrist, but despite his strong hand he held it gently, Nabiki held back a flush, then began to panic as he guided her towards the bedroom.

Wait... What is he doing?

"I'm skilled in multiple techniques, this should be easy for a girl like you!"

Oh God... What kind of things is he going to do to me?

Knowing that it wouldn't be possible to resist him, given his recent displays in Nerima, she began to grow numb as he led her to their final destination.

Closing her eyes in the meantime, she was puzzled at gust of wind. Don't tell me, he took off his own clothes in an instant...? Or are they my clothes, it is really cold all of a sudden...

She then realised that the air was much colder, and that some insects were chirping.

Opening her eyes again, she saw Ranma let her go and stand opposite her.

"Okay, just copy what I do, I'm going to teach you no matter what you say." He looked at her face, "What's wrong, is it too cold?"

Nabiki realised her face was red, and held her cheeks. Damn it, he's right, what's wrong with me? I'm acting like Akane again... Ranma would never do something like that...

Coughing once, she nodded, "Yeah, I am cold to be honest..."

Ranma held his chin and smiled, "Then this will be good practice..." He stood up tall and looked at her, "Has your dad taught you before?"

"Just the very basic stuff, and that was a while ago..." She grinned, "I have become a little better at throwing weapons to hit my target though."

"Okay, so I'll start easy." Nabiki moved into a defensive position, "I'm not going to spar with you, not yet at least. For now we're going to mould your ki, to give you some defence at least."

"From punches?" Nabiki wondered, remembering how Ryoga withstood many painful attacks at once.

"From nature." Ranma grinned, "Punches and kicks come later. If you're not affected by the heat or the cold, you're already ahead of your opponent. That's what pops says – used to say." Ranma hesitated.

Nabiki sighed loudly, "I'm not getting out of this, am I?"

Ranma shook his head happily, "Not any more."

"Okay, I'll train, but I can't spend too long doing it, there is still homework." She dusted down her jeans and top just in case.

"Don't worry, half an hour is all you need to start off."

Ranma stood with his legs slight apart, his right fist enclosed with his left hand, both arms bent at the elbow to allow the hands to be in front of the chest. He lowered his head slightly closed his eyes.

"Just copy this stance for now, and close your eyes."

Sighing quietly to herself, Nabiki did so, despite her arms already shivering from the cold.

"Okay, now just breathe in and out deeply. Feel the cold air going inside..."

"Not sure my frozen nose would appreciate that..."

"... and the warmer air leaving you and heating your hands..." He ignored her interruption. "Keep doing this until I say otherwise."

They continued for five minutes until Nabiki's shivering slowed. She peeked out from one eyelid to see Ranma concentrating in the same pose, his ki fainting visible.

"No looking..." Ranma surprised her, and she closed her eye, "My senses are open now, so I heard the movement." Smirking, he lowered his arms. "Okay, you can rest now."

Nabiki lowered her arms and looked around, "Was that it?"

Ranma looked at her with his arms folded, "How do you feel?"

"Well, I guess the wind has died down a bit, so it isn't as cold."

"Oh?" He was smiling a bit, "Try waving your hands around in the air, like you're trying to do a backstroke."

"Like this?" Nabiki whirled her arms alternately in wide circles, reaching over her head and lying flat against her side for ten revolutions.

"Okay, now how do you feel?" He walked closer to her.

"A bit chilly, it's colder now?" Nabiki did feel the wind biting at her again.

"I don't know how pops learned this technique, but it is useful, it's how I first began to hone my survival skills." Ranma spoke clearly, "Without going into too much detail, because pops didn't either, by warming your hands up, you're fooling your body that somehow you feel warm overall."

"You mean, like placing your wrist under a running tap in summer to cool your body down? The cold water cools your blood vessels, and the blood passing through these parts reaches every part of your body in around ten seconds or so."

"Sounds similar." Ranma nodded, "The difference here is the ki." He threw a punch and held it there, giving Nabiki a side view of his attack, "When we fight, we use ki to defend and attack, but to really damage the person, we put a little bit more ki in the attacking body parts."

To illustrate this, Ranma's fist glowed blue as he let his ki leak out.

Nabiki placed a finger on her cheek, "Makes sense, a general ki shield is used when defending, but I'll bet you focus your defensive ki more on where you expect a hit to land."

"Right, so to counter that the offensive ki has to be stronger to hurt the person." Ranma smirked, "Ryoga had so much depressive ki I needed to put a load of my ki into my punches just for him to notice them, his defence was so damn high."

"Tell me about it..." Nabiki held her her and felt her eyebrow, where the scar used to be, "If I had better ki, I probably wouldn't get injured so easy." She tapped her foot impatiently, "So, what does this defensive and offensive ki have to do with keeping me warm in winter?"

"Isn't it obvious?" Ranma scratched his head, "Your fists are where you usually store offensive ki. By reminding them of your own heat, they will learn to fight with warmth. As you lower your offences, this will move to your normal defensive ki."

"Thus making my defensive ki learn to generate heat..." Nabiki felt her chin briefly, "So what was all the arm waving about?"

"If your hands are warm, it's because you were heating them up, and there with little wind. When you move them around, new wind touches them, making them cold."

"I see..." It's loosely based around keeping the extremities of the body warm, and somehow fooling the rest of the body that you are warm, when it fact it isn't

"You can't control your ki though, so this was more of a test really, the only way is to keep practising with some basic moves, then slowly trying to apply your ki to these moves."

"Sounds interesting, but you'd better not hold back when we begin to spar together." Her sharp gaze caused Ranma to sweat a little.

"Yeah, you're right, even though you're a girl, I shouldn't hold back on you."

"Excuse me," Nabiki narrowed her eyes angrily, "'Even though I'm a girl'? What is that supposed to mean?"

"Ah..." Ranma stopped moving, realising what he said, "Damn it... Why do I keep doing that?"

"I don't know, maybe you're just a little crass sometimes..." Nabiki folded her arms, still upset, "I'm going inside now."

As she closed the door behind her, she heard him cursing to himself and heard a distant boom.

He must be letting off some steam in the trees, we'll probably have more firewood for the stove now. She sighed and sat down on the bed. It's not like he's a bad person, he was just brought up in a very strange way, his dad is hardly the best of role model when it comes to treating women correctly.

She looked over at the letter from Kasumi, on a nearby counter. I think we've got everything ready for daddy, there shouldn't be any problems as long as everything remains calm and we don't panic.

She paused and glanced at the door behind her.

"Well, I don't think I'm the one who might panic..."

Next day

Nabiki got up early in the morning, and sleepily opened her eyes to see Ranma half-naked again, sprawled over his side of the bed with the sheets tangled in his limbs.

Well, how else could we live together, we would have to share the bed with each other, as long as there was no suggestive touching, at least not yet.

Getting up slowly, she walked to the closet and got dressed very slowly and quietly to prevent him from waking up.

I don't really mind if he sees me in the nude, but only on my terms. She looked back at the bed to see him move and wrap himself even tighter in the quilt.

Withholding a giggle, Nabiki stepped out into the main living room and cast her gaze over the entire room. Thanks to the distant neighbours, we've been able to borrow some of their electricity until we get connected. They said they would do it next week, so I can finally get us a fridge and charge my laptop, instead of sponging off the school to charge it mostly. I don't exactly want to inconvenience the neighbours too much.

Glancing at the icebox, she pulled out some eggs which were near the top, and the least cold.

"Still, fried eggs and toast I can make at least." grabbing a frying pan, and placing some wood in the stove, she starting cooking on the hob, and soon the smells of freshly fried eggs filled the house.

"Mmm..." A voice came from the other room, and in wandered a somewhat hungry Ranma.

"Morning Ranchan!" Nabiki excitedly welcomed him.

"Huh, Ranchan? Since when do you call me that?" He scratched his head.

"Don't know, thought I'd channel a bit of Ukyo, since she's the one who always liked to cook for you."

"Akane cooked for me also."

"That's true, though her food wasn't exactly the best tasting was it?"

Ranma chuckled and agreed with her, "I guess you're right."

Nabiki smiled to herself as she served Ranma his breakfast. We can't keep avoiding the topic, Ranma left Nerima and everyone he knew, friends and enemies alike. She watched as he tucked into her simple meal. I need him to open up more about those times, just so he knows that even though the situation was difficult, there were some good moments.

Ranma's happy face only made her warmer inside. He looked at her with a puzzled face after a moment.

"What's wrong, do I have yolk on my chin?"

"No, I'm just looking at you." She replied simply.

"Umm, why?" Ranma began to fidget under her intense stare, before Nabiki broke it off.

"Just thinking how far you and I have gone since that day you left. It amazes me still."

Ranma leaned back in his chair, looking up at the ceiling, "We've both been through a lot, haven't we?"

"Only in fiction could these things happen..." Nabiki remarked wryly.

"Eh?" Ranma turned his head in her direction, "Sometimes I don't understand you, the things you say are really strange."

"Like two peas in a pod." Nabiki shrugged, "I don't even get what I'm saying half the time, I feel like I'm rambling." She began to wash the frying pan in the sink, "But anyway, back to the point, the fact we both chose to do so much shows that we are not normal people in most respects, don't you think?"

Ranma changed and grew sardonic, picking up his glass of water and pouring it over his head, "Yes, because I of all people am normal when it comes to rain."

"That's not what I mean you idiot..." Exasperated, she let out a long sigh and threw a towel at the redhead, "I don't mean with curses or spells, just that we are different to others, even to everyone in Nerima."

Ranma had finished drying her hair and looked at her arm muscle as she flexed it, "So, physically, we're normal you mean?"

"Hell, I don't know how to explain it, most of people we knew were strange to begin with, but only you and me went this far to leave that insane world." Nabiki tapped her head, "In here, we're better than the others, we realised something was wrong, and we were determined to change that."

Grinning widely, the martial artist took it as a compliment, "Umm, thanks, I guess..." She walked to and looked out of the window facing the front of the house, "Still, we need plenty of time to think things through this new life, or whatever this is, don't you think?"

"Yes, yes I do think..." Nabiki chortled back at his choice of words, going up to the shorter girl and patting her on the back, "But, if we put our heads together, imagine what we could accomplish as a couple instead of as individuals."

"Then, let's train our bodies as well as our minds." Ranma lifted up the window shutter and leaned outside, breathing in the air wafting up from the lake behind the house.

"That sounds like a plan." Poking her head through the window also, and feeling the fresh air, she sent out a satisfied sigh.

Leaning in, she pecked Ranma on the cheek, and smiled when the girl held where she kissed, "In any case, you've got to go to work tomorrow and get back. Most likely they'll hang around to wait to meet you just once. So don't be late, as I'll get annoyed."

Still a little shocked at the sudden dose of affection, Ranma took a few moments to respond, "Sure, I'll get back as quick as possible."

"Excellent, now, I need to make the place look a little better. You can practise a few kata in the back while I spruce up here."

"Okay, see you later."

Walking out the door, Ranma began to move fluidly into forms learnt since a young age. Nabiki watched him from the window overlooking the sink, smiling to herself.

You know, I wonder if I'll ever be able to spar with him on the same level... It would help in normal life, I can imagine...

Getting a little tired, she began to wash the few dishes they owned and tidied up the house for the next day.

Next day
3:30pm

Ranma leapt from roof to roof, keeping to the darker areas as the sun began to set to avoid too many onlookers. Still in his female form, she ruffled her hair.

"I'm glad there were no perverts today, I don't want to be in a bad mood now. The lunch rush took some time too..."

Upon reaching the boundary of the city, Ranma landed on the ground and ran at top speed towards home.

"I wonder how Nabiki's holding up, her dad is a little pushy sometimes..." Thinking it through, she shook her head, "Nah, she'd be able to hold her own against him. There's no way he could change her mind."

Feeling the heft in her small backpack, Ranma smiled, "I didn't expect to get this many tips, need to remember to share it out with the other girls, can't take all of myself."

Reaching the front of the house, with the lake in the background, Ranma saw the warm light from inside and paused at the doorway.

Taking a deep breath, she readied herself, "Well, here goes nothing..."

Using the door knob and the trick she used to keep it locked, since the key and latch were not reliable, Ranma lifted the door slightly and pushed it open inwards.

Only to be faced with someone she did not expect to see ever again.

"So, you're my sister's housemate?" A short and somewhat upset girl was there, "Did you just come from work?"

"Aah-" Ranma faltered, trying to remember that she wasn't supposed to know anyone here, "Sorry, my name's Ranko, are you Nabiki's sister by any chance?"

Putting her hands on her hips, she replied confidently, and yet a little aggressive in her tone.

"Yes, my name's Akane, pleased to met you."

Author's Notes

Finally updated this story, been busy with real life.

I think I've cracked the formula for why my version of Nabiki is so popular, even to myself when writing her. She possesses a slight ability to break the fourth wall, acknowledging somehow that she is in a fantastical location where strange things happen. She can even quote TV Tropes, recognising them when they appear.

Till the next time.

- J