Echoes of the Past
Chapter 10: Alisa
My new penthouse is a place of tension. On the leather couch, Ranma sits comfortably and watches me as I pace back and forth across the living room. I'm trying to figure out how to break the fact I'm a vampire to the boy lightly. After another minute of silence, Ranma shifts uncomfortably and it occurs to me that there's no real way to break him into that fact gently.
I decide to go with the lesser reason these guys could be after me first.
"Ranma, do you know how wealthy I am?" I suddenly ask, turning mid-stride to look him in the eyes. He just shrugs in response.
"I've got the impression you have some money," he finally admits, crossing his arms. He looks around the condo significantly, pausing on the sixty-four inch plasma television. "Things like the TV, your cars, and this penthouse were all a pretty big indicator. That and my pops never mentioned paying you for your training during all the letters means you're probably pretty well off. I guess it never really occurred to me to think about your money beyond that, youba-chan."
One of the reasons I think I actually love him: He knows I have money and it doesn't seem to bother him, but he's never really asked me for anything or exploited my wealth. Oh, of course he's benefited from it. The trips to China and Europe, the nice clothes, the premium-quality ingredients I stock our kitchen with, they've all been gifts to him which he's thanked me for... Yet I've always had the impression he took those things as a given aspect of being with me, that he'd have been just as happy with my company had we been wandering like vagabonds across the world.
"I have a lot of money," I finally say, breaking the oppressive silence once more. Before he can start to speak, I interrupt him. "Not a lot of money as in, I could probably buy myself a nice car if I felt like it. I mean I have a lot of money as in I could buy myself a nice country if I felt like it."
"A country?" Ranma croaks, and I grin at that.
"Not a large one, or a first-world country, but some of the smaller ones? My wealth more than matches their GDP. I'm probably the wealthiest woman in the world, Ranma," I inform him.
"Huh," he says, leaning back and staring at the ceiling. I let him process the surprising information, waiting. He looks back at me. "Huh. Uh, so that's why these guys were trying to kidnap you? Some sort of ransom thing, then?"
I want to tell him that that's exactly what this was. That these men more than likely wanted to kidnap me to extract a ransom of a few million dollars and then just let me go on my way. It would have allowed me to keep from possibly spoiling my relationship with this young man for a few more years. It would have been borrowed time, but it would have ensured he'd be mine for that time.
Instead, I must risk everything on his feelings for me. Risk that he loves his youba-chan enough to overcome the feelings of doubt and revulsion which will no doubt swallow him. Sometimes I hate my nature. Sure, it's a nice deal, overall. Yet there are times, like now or when Tendo was joking about my children with this young man, that I know my position is not universally a good one.
"No, that's not it. If they'd just wanted money they could have tried to collect a ransom for you instead of lying in wait for me," I finally admit, and he slowly nods. I smile sadly at that, at his ability to think critically. It's one of the more useful things I've taught him since he began living with me. "Ranma, I'm sure you realize I'm older than I look. You've certainly made enough jokes about my age. So tell me... How old do you think I am?"
"Ain't you always telling me it's not polite to ask about a woman's age?" Ranma jokes, his chuckling fading only slightly at the dirty look I shoot him. He shrugs, kicking his feet onto the coffee table and leaning back deeper into the couch, hands folded behind his head. "I dunno. You can't be any younger than twenty or so. I'm guessing that that's not the case, since you're talking about older. Twenty-seven or twenty-eight, maybe?"
"Older." I inform him, getting a raised eyebrow in return.
"Thirty?" If it keeps going up at this rate, it's going to take forever.
"Ranma, what if I told you I'm not human?" I asked, seeing the surprised look on his face. He chuckles weakly at the serious look on my face.
"Stop kidding around, youba-chan. It's not working," he tells me. Yet his heart rate has suddenly increased. I can smell the slight perspiration on his brow, just beginning to squeeze out of the pores of his skin. I can feel his fear, and more importantly... I know he's lying when he implies he's dismissed the idea entirely.
"Ranma, you're smarter than that," I tell him, sitting down in the chair across from him. "You know I'm not human. I can tell."
"Some things haven't always added up," he admits warily, a frown on his face. "No offense, youba-chan, but your physical abilities don't match your training or even your body. You hardly ever work out except when you train me and your body doesn't show the sort of muscle mass mine do. In fact, the only reason I know how strong you are is because I've fought you before. Just based on your looks, I'd say you weren't any different from a hundred girls I've met at my school."
"You're correct, Ranma," I tell him, standing and walking to the bookshelf. I pull a more recent printing of one of my favourite books, stashing it behind my back as I stand across from him. I tap his foot with mine. "I'm far stronger than I should be, and I'm older than I look. What else have you put together in that head of yours?"
"Your treatments," he says slowly, frowning and rubbing his chin with one hand as he puts his feet on the floor, leaning forward. His eyes meet mine. "Every few days, whenever we're in the city, you have to go out and get your medical treatments. But for some reason you always go in the evening."
"You're getting close," I tell him with a smile. I wonder if he notices my fangs? I lean forward a bit. "Speaking of evenings, what have you noticed about me regarding them? I know you have, Ranma. A lot of little things about me have been bothering you recently, haven't they?"
"They have," he murmurs. He glances around. "I've noticed something about that, too. You're always stronger at night. It's not black and white or anything, but you've always been able to move faster and hit harder at night."
"And?" I prompt.
"...and sometimes you sleep through the day. You're a real night owl," he says. Something clicks in his mind.
"So I'm stronger than most people, especially at night. I'm older than I look. I disappear every few evenings, or I start to get weak," I tell him. He nods slowly. I've built the suspense up long enough, broken it to him as gently as I can. I toss a copy of Bram Stoker's Dracula into his lap. "He doesn't get many things right, but it was fun to read when it first came out."
I leave him to stare at the book and walk out onto the roof, closing the glass door behind me.
I've been staring at the rising moon for thirty-three minutes and fifty-five seconds when Ranma opens the door from the living room to the roof of the condo. I know, because I've been counting the muted click of the seconds hand of the kitchen clock ever since I left Ranma to his thoughts.
He comes to a stop right behind me, and I'm both surprised and relieved to feel his hand on my shoulder. He gives it a gentle squeeze, and I love him all anew for that support.
"So, vampires," Ranma says. He does his best to keep his voice level, but with my hearing I can detect the shakiness in his voice. "So, this Count Dracula guy made you?"
"Like I said, that's just a story, Ranma," I tell him, turning around. I flash him a small smile, which he returns. "My story begins a lot farther back than that book."
"Wow, so you're like, really old," Ranma says with an impudent grin. He backs out of range as I try to swat his shoulder with a slap. "What's the matter, old woman? Can't keep up with a little boy like me?"
"You!" I growl, launching myself forward. With a laugh he rolls under me as I try to dive for him, forcing me to plant my hands and spring back to my feet. I spin in place to see him sitting casually on the ground. "I hope you know you're going to pay for that old woman crack, boy. I'm far too pretty to let you get away with calling me an old woman."
"I hear they can do great things with plastic surgery, and you've admitted you've got a lot of money," the pigtailed boy informs me smugly, kicking his feet up and cartwheeling away as I advance. We're thirty stories up and playing a game of tag which involves leaps which take us dangerously close to the edge of the the roof when I realize something.
Ranma has been holding back on me. The little bastard has actually been holding back on me!
"What the hell, Ranma? Since when are you this good?" I demand, crossing my arms and glaring at my student. He shrugs. "No, seriously. Usually you're not quite this strong, or quite this fast. Something's different."
"Well, I've noticed something, youba-chan," he admits nervously, scratching the base of his pigtail. "It's only something I've figured out in the last few months now that I've started to catch up to you. You aren't nearly as durable as I am."
"What are you talking about?" I growl, walking up to him. My fingers sharpen and I jab them into my arm, holding the gruesome wound close to his face. "Watch this!"
He winces as he watches the wound heals very quickly. Within minutes the only evidence of the wound at all is the small amount of now-drying blood on my arm.
"That's just it, youba-chan. You heal quick, that's true. But you can be hurt a lot more easily than I can. I've noticed that several times when I hit you, I've felt ribs giving beneath my blows," Ranma informs me, and I realize it's true. He doesn't tag me often, but when he does... I've been relying on my healing. I've gotten so used to the feel of healing wounds during our fights that I've been ignoring them because they simply disappear. "Me? You hit me just as hard..."
"...Oh my god!" Immediately I lift his shirt up. I've tagged him four times just in our last sparring match, each hit capable of splitting concrete. What have I been doing!? He's-
He's fine. Just like he's been every time in the past. Damn me, how could I not have noticed until now? How could I not have noticed how far I've been taking our sparring?
Easy answer, of course: He's been taking it. I'm so used to humans being grievously injured when I hit them anywhere near full strength that I just assumed I was taking it easy on Ranma. Caught up in battle, I'd never noticed just how close to my limits I was taking our fights these days.
"Like I said. Now that I know you'll be okay, and you aren't gonna really get hurt for long..." He says, grinning. His grin falls when he sees how pale I've grown.
"Ranma, you don't understand, do you?" I say, and he shakes his head. "Ranma, a vampire grows stronger with age. I'm one of the first. There's no way you should actually be this strong!"
"What can I say? I'm the best," he informs me simply.
"How are you doing it, though?" I demand, poking him in the chest. "You shouldn't be able to just train your body to this level of toughness, strength, or speed. At this rate, you'll be as strong and as fast as I am within months! This is impossible!"
"It's probably my chi. Pops mentioned it to me a few times," Ranma admits, walking over to the deck chair and sitting down. He grins. "But first, you've got to tell me a bit more about yourself, youba-chan. You've been keeping secrets."
"Looks like I'm not the only one," I mutter darkly, though I join him in the seat next to his regardless.
I'm the first to talk. I tell him about my first life. About Yaksha's birth and the events which surrounded it. About how he grew too quickly. How he took me from my family and made me like him. I told him of the dark days, of our horde swelling and pillaging. Of how lost in the darkness I truly was. Then I tell him of Krishna. Of my promise to Him. Ranma listens to it all.
Then I tell him of living quietly for thousands of years, avoiding all others of my kind. I don't tell him of my many lovers. I don't tell him of the many murders I've committed. I already know he's thinking about these things. If he really wants to know, he'll ask. Instead, I tell him of the wondrous sights I've seen, the people I've met. I tell him of sailing across with the first settlers to America, of helping the struggling people of my colony survive by covertly using my powers to aid them.
When I finish, the moon is high in the sky.
"Wow," he says, leaning back in his chair. His face is blank. I feel no trace of fear from him, only wonder. "That's... Wow."
"Your turn," I tell him, mock-scowling. I move across to sit on the end of his deck chair, poking him in the chest. He shoots me a curious look. "Now, you have to tell me everything you know about this 'chi' thing. I've only met one person who can fight a vampire as old as me on equal ground, and you know Krishna wasn't a normal human. What's your excuse?"
Thus, Ranma began to tell me the legends he was raised with. Of martial artists of unimaginable skill and power. Of warriors capable of shattering rock with a single touch or use the very energy of life itself to form a blazing ball of force. Of fighters who could walk on water or fly through the air. People who lived in every story of this strange land I found myself in, suddenly granted strange truth given my perspective of Ranma.
He falls asleep mumbling a tale of Musashi fighting four masters of the sword with a bokken carved from a boat paddle as the sun rises. Watching Ranma slumber quietly on the deck chair, I call his school and inform them he's sick and won't be in today. I'm sitting at the foot of his chair watching him when I too fall asleep.
So Alisa has finally admitted to Ranma what she is. This is going to have repercussions down the line, obviously, and it's certainly changed the nature of their relationship, for better or worse.
Now, those of you wondering about Ranma's sudden durability... It's not, really. Alisa was never especially durable in the novels. She just healed fast. She's frightened of guns. Ranma, mid-way through the manga, is taking shots which shatter thirty-foot stone statues and continuing to fight without a word.
Alisa is, at this point, stronger and faster. She also heals much quicker. Ranma, on the other hand, just doesn't get injured nearly as easily. Alisa's basically been the Bakusai Tenketsu training for Ranma for the last six years.