"How is she?" Soun asked worriedly as he puffed away at his cigarette, his fourth one in the hour. "Is she hurt? Does she need anything?"
"Mr Tendo." The officer sighed and rubbed at the bridge of his nose. "For the third time, she's about as well as can be expected. The prosecution against her have a lot of evidence, and the leader isn't from our area, so he's going to want to score a big victory."
The man in question took a deep breath from his cigarette and finally flicked it away. "My baby girl..." A few tears dripped down his face before he shook his head. "So some hotshot is going to decide to make an example of her isn't he?"
"Likely." The officer replied with a grimace. "I know how much you love your daughters, but this time you might want to let her go. As well regarded as you are, your daughter has done a fair amount of blemishing of your image, saving her would end whatever influence you have around here."
Soun frowned and looked out of the small office he was in. While Genma had managed to forge his body, Soun had taken the path of forging his influence. That had fallen by the wayside with the death of his wife, but it was a testament to his capability that even now he had favors to call on. He could probably get his daughter off with nothing but a warning, perhaps a fine. She was young and pretty, and put bluntly a terrific actor. But the evidence that Fate had gathered was enough that it would break whatever influence he had left.
He would do it in a heartbeat, if it wasn't the fact that his daughter had done this to herself. Some part of Soun blamed himself. A lot of it did actually. So many years in grief. Shattered. Looking back at it, he wondered where the years had gone, and what he had done.
Another part of him raged at the intruders that had shattered his world. It wondered what he could do to attack those that had injured his babies. It would be so easy to have a few petty victories. Maybe one or two large ones. A few petty ashes stolen from his families home.
Soun took another breath as he looked around the small office again. A tiny thing filled with paperwork and a few pictures. "Do you have a daughter?"
"No." The officer frowned and settled back, wondering if he was witnessing his friends fall. "My wife and I are still trying."
"Then you can't know how much this will hurt." Soun sighed and took a seat in front of the desk. "Here is what we are going to do. I want you to call the man in charge of the case. Tell him I am going to negotiate a deal for my daughter."
"He's not going to want to deal. In his opinion it's a home run case." The officer pointed out.
Mr Tendo shrugged. "He's young right? Self-righteous in his certainty that he can do no wrong."
"Five years prosecuting actually." The police man replied with a frown, not sure where this was going.
Soun chuckled. "Ahhh, I haven't done this in so long." With a sigh he looked at the ceiling. "That's why the young ones think they can come in and do whatever they want."
"You aren't going to be able to get your daughter off doing this you know." The officer calmly pointed out.
"I'm actually going to offer him something more than what he can get by wringing out my daughter." Mr Tendo got to his feet. "Tell him that I am offering double the normal sentence in community service. If he doesn't take it, I will simply start calling a few reporters around our area. It wouldn't be too hard to lapse back into grieving widow. After that, well..." Here the man shrugged. "Popular opinion would crucify him. It won't keep my little girl from being prosecuted, but it would let her out early. And remove his chance at a career in the future."
"If you think that would work." The officer frowned at the man. "A lot of it hinges on you still having your old influence."
"That you have nothing to worry about." Soun walked out of the room with a serious look.
It was a start. Mr Tendo thought as he walked out. It was a start.
Ranma yawned as she reclined on the beach in female form. Normally she wouldn't be caught dead like this, but her device had been brought in for tuneup and calibration after it's theft. So here she was, spending an enforced vacation on the beach in female form. Fortunately it wasn't all bad. Mostly just irritating that she had to wear a girls swim suit.
"All right!" Nanoha cheered as Fate came into view holding something.
It was a small gathering of people. The Wolkenritter, Nanoha, Fate, Yuuno, Arf, and Hayate. When you could teleport between dimensions, you could find a deserted beach quite easily. In fact, this particular planet was notable for being totally empty of anything remotely threatening.
"What do you have there?" Hayate asked curiously as Fate held up several small squirt guns. "Those look like they have some very interesting spells on them."
Fate nodded at Nanoha who grabbed one of them with an evil cackle. "Nanoha thought them up. We found something called Jusenkyo Packets. They are temporary curses like the one that turns me into a dog. Pretty harmless, and far weaker though."
Nanoha pressed her hand to the gun and a small flare of magic lit up. "With a bit of spell-work we figured out how to make them do a sort of hour transformation. It's a neat party toy."
With that, the girl spritzed Hayate with a smirk. The girl leapt back with surprise, and then looked down at herself. Or rather himself now. Hayate as a male didn't seem that different actually. Apparently the girl made a pretty effeminate boy.
"You..." Hayate coughed at his new voice, an incredibly deep and totally out of place tone. "Well, at least you added a clothes change to that."
"Huh," Nanoha blinked at the change. "Not bad Hayate."
Sighing, Fate handed a squirt gun to Hayate, and ignored the shriek of faux terror from Nanoha as the girl ran away. She also ignored the meow, and then the moo that responded back. Though she did check over her shoulder to make sure that the two were all right. Seeing a cow levitate a squirt gun was actually rather entertaining. Fate did have to note that the clothing change made animal morphs strange.
"Anyone else?" Fate ignored the squack as another transformation occurred.
"No thank you." Yuuno replied back as he watched in horrified fascination. "I already can transform."
"Ditto." Arf chimed in and dug into a picnic basket. "'Sides, those two look like they are really having fun by themselves."
"HEY!" Ranma's voice caused everyone to look up as the girl rolled away and then jumped.
Apparently the two girls had decided that other people were far more fun to change. The martial artist glared at the duck and the ram that Nanoha and Hayate had changed into. The squirt guns levitated menacingly.
The girl blurred as the squirt guns were triggered, and then the chase was on. With the three of them running down the beach.
"Yeah, I think they are having a load of fun by themselves." Vita muttered quietly and poked Arf. "I want some."
"Turkey ok?" The familiar held out a sandwich.
Fate smiled softly and sat down next to Yuuno, who was reading quietly. "I'm glad you could come."
"I had a lot of vacation time saved." The blonde boy shrugged with a smile.
A shriek of outrage seemed to indicate that Ranma had finally gotten tagged by the two mischief makers. Everyone else ignored them.
"We don't see you enough Yuuno." The blonde girl looked at the boy. "Video and letters aren't enough really."
"I try, but to be honest the Library takes a lot of my time." The reply back was rather neutral, Yuuno was as much a workaholic as Nanoha sometimes.
Fate rolled her eyes and sighed. "I'm going to have Nanoha start ambushing you and dragging you out."
The boy coughed with a small blush. "While I don't object, I think that would be a bit embarrassing."
"Thats the point." Fate replied.
A spritz of water sprayed Fate and Vita. Fate shifted into a male. The long hair on him really didn't suit the hulking build he suddenly had. The now man ignored the change, pausing only to glance at the troublemakers, who where now a pair of smug looking cats. Behind them, a horse had flopped on the ground with an exasperated expression. Well, as exasperated as a horse could look.
Vita's change was the real surprise though. Even as she squawked with rage, her form shifted into a very familiar form. How she looked as an adult. This caused a pause in the mischief of the two.
'Huh' Nanoha's telepathy sounded in their heads. 'That has possibilities.'
Vita looked down at herself with a slightly stunned expression.
That pretty much ended the play with the squirt guns. There was a bit more fooling around by Nanoha and Hayate, but everyone was back in their normal forms shortly there after. Well, Vita, still in her adult form managed to confiscate the extra gun and apparently had plans for it, but everyone else was soon back in their normal form.
Soon though, everyone but Fate, Ranma and Yuuno had to leave. As the sun began to set they built a large bonfire and got out blankets to relax. In the dusk they huddled close, and simply talked quietly.
"Reminds me of the good times in my recovery." Nanoha finally stated quietly. "Long nights like this with nothing but a fire and company."
Fate nodded with a melancholy expression. "It was... Peaceful."
Ranma shrugged and stayed silent. He was in male form now since there wasn't a chance of getting wet. Yet for once he had little to say. In front of him Yuuno lay in ferret form, half asleep and curled up.
"A lot more of it was bad." The brown-haired girl finally spoke again and laid next to Ranma was a sigh. "I'm glad I am fully recovered, but I never want to do training like that again."
"I never want to see it happen again." Fate replied and lay on the other side of Ranma.
The boy closed his eyes against the memories. The smell of the sizzling flesh that teaching the technique required, the screams. If it hadn't been self inflicted it would have been considered torture. Yet the results were worth it. An instinctive healing that removed what would otherwise be crippling injuries. Without it, Nanoha's capabilities would have taken a permanent hit. He... Wasn't willing to let that happen.
Nanoha stared into the fire with a small smile. "We have to do another trip like that again sometime though. Something with just a few people. Maybe Yuuno and Arf too."
"If you could tear her away from her babysitting." Ranma commented finally.
"It's her nature." Yuuno interjected sleepily. "Dog familiars tend to be fanatically loyal and dedicated to their masters. Since Fate doesn't really need her, she's assisting the family instead."
Fate smiled softly and poked Yuuno on the nose, waking him up. "She's my darling friend. What she does, always pleases me."
Yuuno flicked an ear and opened his eyes. "I didn't mean anything bad about it. It's just an observable behavior for various familiar types. Cat familiars tend to be used for tasks requiring independence. Dogs for loyalty or dedication. Birds are used for speed and observation. Rats are used for tasks requiring subtly or endurance. And then you have Dolphins which are used for aquatic tasks. Though the last one isn't very common at all."
"I know." Fate smiled briefly. "Just reminding you."
"Ah." Yuuno gave nod and then curled up again.
Nanoha giggled briefly and smirked at the ferret. "You know, maybe I should take lessons from you about being a ferret. My curse might be a pain, but it's kinda fun being so small sometimes."
The transformed mage in question perked up and got to a standing position. "Well, I can probably teach you the totemic magics required to do a full transformation like mine. It mostly takes time and a specific mindset. The curse might be a serious hindrance, but it does probably force the mindset."
"Huh," Nanoha blinked and pursed her lips in thought. "I think I might take you up on that. Do you have a good timeframe we can get started on that?"
Yuuno tilted his head up in thought. "I think I can arrange a few hours on your Earth Sundays. Considering the travel time it's probably the only thing that we can arrange."
To the side of Nanoha, Fate nudged Ranma with a small smirk. The boy rolled his eyes but stifled a chuckle.
"I can manage that." Nanoha chirped with a smile. "We can go around and do a few things when we are done as well! There are plenty of things on Earth that I haven't been able to show you yet. With Fate and Ranma all in Nerima I've got a fair bit of free time Sundays."
Ranma snickered slightly. "Yeah, thats the time that Akane, Suzuka, and Alisa go off and do their own thing isn't it?"
"How'd you learn about that?" The Brown-haired mage turned to Ranma with a questioning expression. "I've just learned about that myself."
"That's 'cause it hadn't happened till this weekend." The boy replied back with a shrug. "The three apparently hit it off pretty well when they came over, and since they don't do the combat stuff we do, they bonded over that."
"Oh." Nanoha's expression went a bit sad at that.
"They are still friends." Fate interjected softly. "But sometimes people drift away. We have very different interests nowadays."
"It's still sad." Nanoha sighed softly. "I just realized how much they have been drifting away."
Ranma grimaced in reply. "It's part of moving on. Had to do it a lot when I was training."
"It doesn't mean you have to like it." Yuuno interjected. "Or for that matter you have to lose contact. I still exchange letters with people I met while traveling."
"I thought you were in the library most of the time?" The blonde haired mage asked softly.
"Hardly." The ferret replied. "At first I was, but I got called out a lot to identify, contain, and excavate discovered artifacts. Most of them are just old items, but there were a lot of Lost Loggia."
"Huh." Nanoha chuckled. "My little ferret has been having adventures without me."
Yuuno shook his head with a sigh. "I honestly wish it were so. Most of it was boring. Well... I did have three or four adventures. Nothing big."
All three people in front of the ferret raised their eyebrows. Finally Ranma spoke with a smirk. "I think you've been holding out on us."
"No, really! None of it was as dangerous as the Wolkenritter." The transformed mage waved his tiny paws to emphasize.
"That leaves a lot of ground to cover." Fate chimed in with a small smirk. "There isn't that much more dangerous than that."
The ferret gave a slightly sheepish expression. "Well... I suppose I can tell you about some of the more interesting incidents I had."
"Story time!" Nanoha chirped.
"House calls are not usually something I do." Doctor Valentine stated calmly as he examined the small squirt gun. "However this was interesting enough that I made time in my schedule."
Vita, in her adult form, stood in front of the man with a stoic expression. She was attempting to keep her tongue under control right now, so she let the comment pass by her without incident. Though it was pretty obvious that she had a few biting comments.
The man turned around and began to adjust a console next to the bed. They were in a small clinic that had been commandeered by the Wolkenritter to deal with their unusual medical issues. Not that there were many since they were in essence constructs, but it never hurt to be careful. It had proved it's worth after the incident with Decay at least.
"Pretty simple transformation magic." Valentine finally commented. "It is very notable in how tiny and energy efficient it is. I can see how this is a derivative of the curse that your companions had been afflicted with. It's basically the same thing without being self sustaining."
Vita nodded in reply. "I just want to know if there is a way to keep it going." She grimaced slightly as she continued. "I already got a temporary measure, but it's really starting to suck being small all the time. As well as being considered a child by people who don't know better."
"I can see how that would be unpleasant." The doctor frowned. "I swear whomever made your book was either high or drunk. The lack of customization for the guardians is probably the least of it's issue. You really have no idea how lucky you are."
"I know." Vita leaned against the bed. "Trust me Doctor, we all know how lucky we are."
The man shrugged in reply. "Da." He blinked for a moment. "Wait you have another way of changing form? The way your construction works is that any permanent changes are impossible due to the constant refreshing of your form. It's like trying to change a river by dumping dye in it. Nothing should last nearly as long as this temporary curse."
Vita blinked and pulled out the necklace she had gotten from that disastrous mission with Signum and Ranma. "Yeah, this. It's a neat trinket, but it only works at night."
Valentine grabbed at the necklace quickly with an intense expression. The quick light of an analysis spell flowed around it and his expression changed from intense to frustrated.
"Gah! It's one of those extra-dimensional faith based pieces of impossible gobbledygook!" He finally hissed out in frustration before visibly getting himself under control. "I'm familiar peripherally with that work. It's a rather new magical framework from a recent contact. The thing is it makes absolutely NO SENSE!"
Vita managed to snatch the necklace back before the man did anything damaging. Clutching it to herself, the woman looked at the doctor flatly. "Well, it works doesn't it?"
"Combat Mages!" The Doctor spat the phrase like a curse. "Never realizing the underlying theories and precise formatting necessary for their spells to work just right." Twitching the doctor stopped himself again and shook his head. "Ack! Now I'm yelling. My apologies, it's just the particular style that the necklace is based on is still impossible for us to properly decipher. In fact, it's going to take at least a decade before we can adequately decipher what is necessary and what is just useless additions put in because their religion says so."
The Knight raised an eyebrow. "So you can't do anything with the squirt gun, or the necklace?"
"Well, in theory I might." Valentine frowned and looked at the console next to him. "But to be honest I couldn't get it done in a reasonable amount of time. Especially alone. You have to understand, you are pretty unique. We simply don't have enough data to do enough manipulation safely. And the research it would take is simply a waste of resources." Here the doctor grimaced. "That's blunter than even I would like, but it's the truth. You work, and you work well. We just can't take the years it would take to make you work differently and correctly."
Vita sighed in reply. "I suppose it was too much to hope for. Sorry for bugging you doctor."
The man waved his hand. "The squirt gun toys are entertaining enough to make me come out here honestly. The creators of those could make a pretty penny marketing the spell-work on the transformation magic."
"I will tell them that." Vita began to leave the room, leaving the man to continue his work on the console.
"Oh!" Valentine's exclamation made the woman turn. "You might actually have a bit of luck if you take that curse magic to the same place you got that necklace from. I might not be able to understand that faith based rubbish yet, but if it changes your form like you state it does, then the creator had a pretty good understanding of what you are. They might have better luck."
Vita frowned even as she nodded to the man. It might be something to pursue. It would also be difficult. She would have to speak with Hayate to see if it was worth pursuing.
Nighttime in Nanoha's neighborhood was best described as serene. The place was as suburban as it got in Japan, and illegal activity around the area was almost absurdly low. Even activity around the place at night was almost something to cause alarm, if it got noticed.
Naturally this made it almost absurdly easy for things that happened at night to be overlooked. Especially when they were as stealthy as Shampoo. The purple haired girl barely needed to exert effort to be unnoticeable as she strode through the streets towards her target.
After reaching the building that Nanoha lived in, she leapt, quite easily to the window where she knew the girl was sleeping. The window was pried open stealthily, and then the warrior simply sat at the entrance of the window with a calm expression. For a moment she just watched, her enemy sleep. Then she flicked a small pebble at the girl's forehead.
"Huh? Wasssablele?" The girl lurched up with a sleepy expression, totally out of it.
When her eyes finally found Shampoo that sleepy cleared abruptly, and the girl tumbled out of bed, lurching towards Raging Heart with a panicked expression. Shampoo made no effort to do anything as the girl moved, and indeed seemed to be almost amused.
"Is not here for fight." She spoke quietly a half smirk on her face. "Would maybe like one real one before she left, but Shampoo knows her limits."
"What are you doing here then?!" The girl half yelled, half whispered.
"Nanoha? Is something wrong?" Her fathers voice came from outside the door, making the brown-haired girl snap her attention to the door with an even more panicked expression.
"Is just visiting!" The girl called out. "You can put away the sword, Shampoo is unarmed, and without malice."
There was a beat of silence in the room as Nanoha blinked at the door then at Shampoo, totally confused. Finally Nanoha's father spoke quietly. "I would hope so. I am quite rusty after all, it would be a shame for me to forget to be gentle."
The warrior woman smiled broadly. "You and daughter are much alike. Shampoo wont move from window."
There wasn't a reply.
Nanoha's head tilted slightly. "What the heck?!"
"You not know?" The purple haired girl tilted her head and blinked with a clueless clueless. "Your father is warrior like Ranma. Could tell halfway across the block. One of those sneak ninja type. Shampoo guesses he is retired then."
The brown-haired mage looked shocked for a moment before visibly putting it out of her mind. "Ok, obviously I have to talk with him about that later, but first, WHY are you here?!"
"Shampoo is leaving soon. As soon as dawn actually." The girl pulled a rolled up scroll out and rolled it in her hands thoughtfully. "Great-grandmother says that she has gotten everything she could expect from the experience and Shampoo has to leave."
Nanoha crossed her arms underneath her breasts and glared at the other girl. "I honestly don't know why you are telling me this."
Shampoo sighed and looked up and out of the window, away from Nanoha. "Shampoo doesn't know either. Maybe regret? Maybe rage that this one has never managed to get proper revenge? Perhaps this one is feeling a bit of sadness that this chapter of her life has to end. She is going to be leader soon, and there is so much left to do."
The warrior woman set the scroll on the floor of Nanoha's room and rolled it towards her. Nanoha looked at it warily for a moment before finally deciding to pick it up. "What is this?"
"Is tracking technique. The one Shampoo can use to find you. The one we can use to find anyone we have met." The purple haired girl grinned a strange grin. "Shampoo thinks that you could use it no? Perhaps counter it. That would be a sight to see. Would have to tell her about it if you do."
"Isn't your village based on it's techniques? You are essentially giving us a part of your people for free." The brown-haired mage rolled open the scroll to examine the contents.
Shampoo shrugged and began to roll out of the window, but not before sending one long glance back at Nanoha. "You is enemy. We take piece of you, you take piece of us. Scales even now this one thinks. Perhaps next time we meet something different happen." With that the girl dropped out of the window.
Nanoha blinked as the girl left. She honestly had no idea what had happened there, but she was very confused. She barely noticed the door open.
"Ah." The sound made Nanoha turn towards her father.
"Don't worry. You might understand someday." He patted her on the head and began to leave, leaving Nanoha with still more questions that she had no idea of how to ask.
'Sooo, my dad's apparently a retired ninja.' Nanoha's voice came over the link the three shared early morning as they were all getting ready for school.
Ranma's reply had no surprise, but it did seem to convey a feeling of realization. 'Huh, that makes a lot of sense actually.'
'Really?' Fate's mental voice carried a bit of disbelief.
'What?' Nanoha added quickly.
'Yeah, he always had this way of making my hair stand up when he had to get his point across. Nice to know really.' Came the pig-tailed martial artist's reply.
'My dad is a ninja...' Somehow Ranma's confirmation made it seem a bit more real to Nanoha.
The reply from the male was mostly nonchalant. 'Eh, don't worry about it. Maybe he knows a few tricks he can pass on.'
'Already going towards the techniques I see.' Fate's reply was tinted with amusement.
'Hey! Techniques are important to Martial Clans. If Nanoha's part of one, getting him to share it is really important, it's sort of like passing on the family legacy.' Was Ranma's rejoinder.
'I think big brother has gotten most of that actually. I've got all the magic, but he's been trained in the sword techniques all his life.' The brown-haired mage interjected.
'...I remember seeing your brother and sister practice when I was over. You were invited a few times, but you dropped when we started working on the higher level spells together.' Fate replied thoughtfully.
'Hey yeah! Those sword techniques were really fun! Huh, so those are ninja techniques...' Ranma's voice had a tint of amusement.
Nanoha shot back quickly. 'You got the introductory stuff. Big brother was just getting into the advanced forms when you came around, and he was your primary teacher.'
'To be fair, most techniques probably can't stand up to our level of magic.' The blonde-haired mage interjected in a mild attempt to keep the peace.
Ranma didn't really care as he replied, and it showed. 'I had to work through some pretty strong roadblocks to get to where I could compete consistently with you two. A normal martial style would be pretty useless. Doesn't mean it wouldn't have fun tricks.'
'I think... I still feel kinda bad. Like I've missed a part of my family completely.' Nanoha finally spoke quietly.
'Hey, don't worry about it Nanoha.' Ranma's mental voice was unexpectedly soothing. 'They probably didn't want to bother you with it. With all the magic stuff we got into, it probably just slipped by the wayside.'
'They still love you and care for you.' Fate chimed in.
'I know, but I've been so invested in the TSAB that I have let everything in my family pass to the wayside. I'm just noticing that now.' Nanoha's voice sounded subdued as she sent to her friends.
Ever upbeat, Ranma's didn't hesitate in his reply. 'Still got time. Hey, maybe you can add a few mage tricks to the family style. I know a good barrier would upgrade most martial styles from obsolete to really dangerous.'
'That might actually be interesting. Didn't you say that Genma received an offer to design a training course for low level mages? We could use this to get an idea of what we could do.' There was a tint of interest transmitting from Fate.
'I thought you were going to be going full enforcer? That was more for just me and pops.' The martial artist was slightly confused.
'It's fairly easy to get a posting with less travel. To be honest I was going to switch to that after the current investigation was over. Jail Scaglietti is far too dangerous to allow to run loose, and I'm one of the highest class mages in the enforcers currently.' Came from the enforcer in question as she shifted into a lecturing tone.
Which went right over his head. 'Ah. Well, I know Nanoha's gunning for that training position, but I think this should be Nanoha's thing.'
'Hey, that doesn't mean I wouldn't want help.' The girl's voice was slightly panicked.
Ranma's transmission had no sympathy. 'Family styles can be really important. 'Sides, you can use it to get involved in your family again. Let em become a better part of your life and stuff.'
'That is a surprisingly good idea.' Fate chimed in.
A giggle came from Nanoha. 'Ranma can come up with good ideas! Sometimes. Not often, but sometimes.'
'Thanks for the vote of confidence. As for the offer to design that style, me and pops got some stuff already started. The bastard is prodding me to get married before he gives me good advice for the base still. Still think I'm too young for that.' There was a noted grumble.
'Think he would take a promise to do it later instead?' Fate sent after a long pause.
There was a longer one before Ranma finally sent. 'Maybe if I make a serious one... Gonna have to talk with him about it.'
The talk in question happened later that day. Ranma had finally cornered his father in the Tendo Dojo, where the two were still staying. Honestly, he had expected to be forced to leave after Nabiki had been arrested, but apparently Mr Tendo was more occupied with making sure that his girl didn't have her life ruined than with the two guests. In fact, if anything the man was grateful to Genma for assisting where he could.
Unfortunately that made finding Genma almost impossible at times. He was a slippery man on the best of days, but give him a task that he was actually invested in, and it was near impossible to pin him down for anything else. Ranma had almost had to resort to camping out next to the doorway to catch his father.
"Ya know pops, I'm glad you are helping your friend and all, but couldn't you spare some time for your son here and there?" The boy rolled his eyes from the doorway.
Genma gave a harrumph. "You have it so easy my boy, just get up and go to school. I've been running around all day. Give your old man some rest."
"Tch." Ranma made a noise of disbelief. "You can't tell me you are tired. I've seen you run for days on end, a little travel wouldn't even wind ya."
The older man just snorted. "Enough boy, you don't have to believe me, but I have had a long day. What do you want?"
"It's the whole marriage deal." The teen scratched his head as he replied. "It's seriously not something I wanna do anytime soon. The thing is, I want to start on that request you got from the TSAB."
"You can do that anytime boy. All I said I would withhold was the introductory stuff and a few secret techniques." Genma sighed and sat down. This was promising to be a painful session.
The reply was explosive and frustrated. "That's the most important part! Really, how am I gonna start something when I can't even remember the introductory training? I mean I have the basics down pat, but I've totally forgotten the best ways of going about it! It's all instinctive now."
"Idiot boy. I'm not budging on this." The man rumbled as he spoke, and crossed his arms. "Either get married or do it on your own."
The pig-tailed teen growled. "How about I promise you that it happens when I hit twenty? Word of honor and all that."
"No." The reply was flat. "Again, either get married or do it on your own."
Ranma's eyebrow twitched and he clenched and unclenched his hands in an attempt to avoid attacking his father. Around his neck, the newly replaced Nayru glinted as she picked up her master's anger. "I'm not getting married yet damnit!"
Genma sat immobile and unshakable. "You've already blown your chance at convincing Happosai to change the rules he set down. Anything Goes few rules, but the ones it does are unshakable."
"Yeah yeah, steal, sneak, and adapt." The teen waved his hand and then blinked. "Wait. When did Happosai reward you with your mastery? I'm sure he had more hoops than just get married for you two with all the tales of horror."
The old man raised an eyebrow at his son and didn't say anything. That in and of itself made Ranma blink a few times.
"Wait. He never did, didn't he? You probably blew his wrinkly ass up and then just started calling yourselves masters?" The teen asked incredulously.
"The master has always been a very demanding taskmaster." Genma finally spoke. "We have only one real rule. Anything Goes."
"So what's stopping me from saying I am a master now?" The pig-tailed teen finally spoke.
Genma smirked slightly. "I wont deny you from doing so. Neither would Soun. I would even deign to show my hidden techniques to a fellow master. You've certainly earned it by dint of power. I still won't show you how to begin your classes."
"Damnit, not again!" Ranma was almost crying from either frustration or despair, it was hard to tell at this point. "Why not?"
"I'll give you a hint. I want you to get married sometime soon. I however, also want you to grow as a martial artist. What's the best way to learn something?" Genma replied with a serious expression. "To really learn something inside and out? You can practice all day and every day, but there is always going to be a bit of something more to learn that you can only do by one thing."
The teen growled at his father. "I have no clue."
"You teach." Genma adjusted his glasses and stood up. "To really understand something, you have to be able to explain it to others. It's not real mastery until it can be taught. You can either create your own plan based off what you know to be the best basics, or you can ask my help. My help has a price. Your mind however is all yours. Though considering how much of a road block my little demand gave you, I think your mind has been a bit too damaged. I must have dropped you on your head a few too many times."
"Wait, wait." Ranma grabbed at his hair in frustration. "You mean all that I've gone through with Happosai and that demon, all that stress, and everything else, and the answer was to ignore you and do it all myself?"
Genma began to chuckle as he left the dojo. A scream of pure frustration followed him. Followed by a series of very nasty curses as Ranma discovered that Genma had disappeared.
Nanoha's families dojo wasn't as large as the Tendo's. It was more for personal use than any actual serious teaching. That didn't mean that it wasn't useful. It just meant that it was small and meant to be used only by a few people. It was cozy rather than extensive. It also made it actually a fairly good place to go if you wanted things to be practiced in secret.
This was what Nanoha and Shiro were doing. Or rather what Nanoha was attempting to demonstrate for her father.
"You do know you don't have to do this. My old skills aren't something that you need to concern yourself with." The man spoke quietly from his place in front of his daughter.
Nanoha shrugged and got into a stance as she held out her wooden sword, motioning her father to do the same. "It's part of my family. I care about you all, and I want to say I added something to it. Now that I know about you, I can tell you trained big brother and sister too."
Shiro got into a loose stance and held his training weapon out almost casually. "It never seemed appropriate to teach you. I've seen what you can do, my little techniques can't hold a candle to that. It's not wrong, simply the way the world works. That's the way progression works."
"Hah!" Nanoha charged forward and was almost casually sidestepped. Quick reflexes allowed her to deflect her father's counter, but the block itself made it easy for her father's foot to slip in and trip her. She fell to the ground with a wince.
"That doesn't mean I don't want to learn some." She spoke as she picked herself up. "I'm sure you have a few tricks."
The man fiddled with his sword absentmindedly as he thought. "Some concealment, some speed tricks, and a few awareness tricks. It doesn't hold a candle to Ranma really, he's gotten a lot of the same training."
Nanoha got into her stance again and began to circle her father, who appeared to be ignoring her as he thought. "I don't expect you to do what he does. I know part of what he trained like. It would have been deadly had Genma not been so lucky."
"True." Shiro sidestepped his daughter's next few strikes with quick steps, not missing a beat. "Don't underestimate what Anything Goes adds to the equation. It's ruthless in it's theft and exploitation."
The girl gave a grunt as she found the man's blade at her throat after one particular strike was too aggressive. "Isn't the Ninja stuff sneaky like that too?"
"Not really. There is a lot of honor in my art. A lot of blood too." Shiro took a step back as they got into position again. Nanoha was decent with a sword still, but it was obviously not her primary weapon. "Anything Goes for all it's ruthlessness is a rather bloodless art. My skills were used to kill. It might have been honorable in it's service, but never forget it was designed to be lethal. There are no real bloodless takedowns."
"You make it sound as if you are ashamed of it." Nanoha commented as she settled down to wait. "I'm not. My magic has even more potential to kill. That I don't make it lethal costs significant effort."
The man smiled slightly as he looked at his daughter. "I suppose that's a good thing considering you can level a city block in a few minutes."
"Part and parcel of Mid-Childa magic." Nanoha stared at her father as she waited for him to make the first move. "It's a mid to long range style. The conventional thought for the past few years was that speed and power were king. It's actually what Fate was trained as, and also her specialty."
"And that's changed?" Shiro's smile stayed in place as he moved deliberately and began to strike. One, and two, and three. Nanoha's sword blocked each attack, but she was forced to move back, and by the third strike the man's blade was able to tap her leg in another point. "You are blocking too much. Sidestep."
Nanoha nodded as they got back into their starting position. "The Wolkenritter happened. Their style is close and mid range with some long range to keep people moving. The entire style is a soft counter to Mid-Childa style. Amusingly Ranma's a soft counter to that style as well."
"So you have a trinity going there." Shiro chuckled as he began to repeat his attack.
"Not quite. The Wolkenritter can beat Ranma if they are sure not to play his game since he has an extreme close ranged specialty." Nanoha attempted to sidestep the first attack, but got clipped and stopped with a wince.
"Again." The man ordered before picking up the conversation again. "A peril of being a specialist."
"The one that always wins against Ranma is actually Hayate." Nanoha giggled slightly as she walked to her ready position. "Mostly because the few times she fought him, she panicked and blew up the entire area. Ranma ended up extra crispy from that. She's actually the only one that doesn't spar with him anymore."
Shiro raised an eyebrow before beginning his attack again. The strikes came in the same pattern, and this time Nanoha deflected the first strike before sidestepping the second and managing to counter before the third, and scoring her first point. "I'm glad that he's managed to keep up. I hope he's not injuring himself in the process of doing that anymore though."
"Nope!" The girl chirped happily as she got back into her ready position. "His style practices a sort of strengthening exercise that uses magic, or ki if you wanna call it that, to increase how powerful the body is. It's neat in that if you do it long enough you can shatter stone without any magic whatsoever. Once you can do that, a typical barrier can be broken if you can manage to keep close enough for long enough."
"Ah." Shiro responded as he waited. "That actually sounds pretty standard to most of the more potent styles actually."
"It's a good way to keep up with little magic actually." Nanoha frowned as she tried to plan her attack. "The biggest problem he's had is defense since we can still pour on the power if necessary. The whole level a city block thing."
"And how did he manage to get around that." The question came calmly as the man waited for his daughter to attack.
"At first we helped by charging a barrier." The girl frowned and jabbed forward with her sword, and almost lost it as she was batted away. "Nowadays he does it himself. It's actually pretty simple if you have a container and the proper calculations."
"Really now?" Shiro chuckled as his daughter made a few more probing attacks that were casually batted aside.
"Yep!" Nanoha paused in her attack and held out her sword. The item lit up with power. "See? It's really flashy because I am pouring power in it and it's not been prepared, but this could probably block a decent powered shot from me. Nothing big, but if I took the time I could have it stop an entire Divine Buster."
Nanoha's father tilted his head as he looked at the weapon. "Like this?" His sword didn't glow, but a bit of power shifted into it. Enough that Nanoha could feel it.
"Yeah!" Nanoha blinked a few times. "Wait... I just created a technique didn't I?"
"It has potential." Shiro waved around the sword. "It might very well have potential."
"Morning Fate." Ranma muttered to the girl with a yawn as he walked into the entrance to the school.
Fate cocked her head at the boy. He looked far less energetic than he usually did. "Are you all right?"
"This idiot decided to stay up half the night hunting for his father again." Akane grit out as she followed the boy. "It's been a few days and he still has a grudge. He kept us up half the night with it too."
The boy grumbled as he replied. "I'm still pissed at him and owe him a major beating."
Fate giggled at her friend as she began to walk towards the school entrance. "I suppose, but I believe it's a bit funny myself. The lesson fits your style fairly well."
Ranma stuck his tongue out at the girl. "It's the principle of the thing. I can't let the old man get one over me."
"I hate to say it, but he really did." Akane pointed out with no small amount of glee.
"Sure, it's pick on Ranma day again." The boy crossed his arms and sniffed, before blinking at the line of sullen looking students next to the door. "What's up with them?"
Akane and Fate both turned to look and blinked as well. On the surface it was just a half dozen students looking very displeased. The girls picked up what was wrong in a moment though. Each of them had a very horrible looking bowl cut. Including the girls amoung them.
"What happened to their hair?" Akane finally voiced.
Noting the attention, the students whimpered. "Quick! Run before they get you too!"
"Huh?" Ranma blinked as a blur swept past him. It wasn't nearly fast enough to get past him, but since he wasn't the target it didn't really register what was happening right away.
Fate had quicker reflexes since she was the target. Unfortunately she neglected to note what was the actual target. The blur missed her by a few feet as she herself blurred out of the way, and resolved itself into a strange looking man with a Hawaiian shirt and a palm tree on his head.
"Aloha!" The man brandished a pair of scissors from his new place in front of the school entrance. "Students at my school need proper haircuts! You all have to get one!"
"Urk." Ranma took a few steps back.
In front of him a few strands of golden hair floated gently to the ground. Fate looked around curiously as the entire school hushed. A palpable air of dread began to build as the blonde haired girl looked at the ground and then at her hair. It was like someone had taken a cleaver to half of it. Her long, almost ground length hair had been cut in half. The cut wasn't even straight due to the way she had dodged.
Everyone edged back even more as the girl smiled brightly at the man. "Bardiche." A chime and the device was being held in front of her.
The tip of it glowed with yellow magic, and the man with the palm tree found himself sweating heavily. His nerve broke as the light continued to grow, but he found himself in chains and unable to move as soon as he edged away. "Hehe, maybe the girl would like a free pass?"
"Fire." Fate's voice was as even as it always was.
The resulting blast was brilliant in it's intensity. It carried the man through the entire school and into the pool on the other side of it, causing a massive explosion of water and debris. In it's wake there was a hole the size of a bus, and the school began to creek ominously as the center of it began to fall into itself. At the side of the pool the man sizzled, still alive, but now sans palm tree and most of his clothes.
"Well..." Ranma said quietly as he chuckled nervously. "That wasn't as bad as I thought." There was a crash from inside the school.
Akane sighed and hung her head. "I think school is canceled for today."
Fate simply twirled Bardiche and deactivated the device. "I need to go get a haircut now. See you tomorrow." With that the girl walked away, ignoring the next crash from inside the school.
AN: Long time no see and all that jazz. I'll be honest, I've not been really interested in writing more for this, life and all that jazz has been more interesting lately. This chapter isn't my best work IMO, but at least I managed to get to an end for the Ranma arc. I have some planned for the next arc, but I've been unable to muster the interest to write to be honest, so it's probably not going to be written. It's been a fun ride non-the-less, and I hope that you enjoyed it.
Thanks for reading. Sorry for the wait. And hope you enjoyed.