---Tokyo, Japan. Unknown location---
"Hello Nabiki." The voice was even, neutral.
She sat at a red marble desk across from a shadowed man. The reflections of her own shocked visage disturbed her. The echoing chamber was dark save for the light streaming in from a picture window that stretched behind her captor. The light kept the man's identity a secret. He was sitting behind the desk dressed in an immaculate white suit and blue-striped white shirt. His gold lapel pin cast a blinding light through the room.
"You didn't need to send the goon squad after me if you just wanted to talk." She said in a dismissive tone. Nabiki sat in an armless red velvet embroidered chair. This had been her greatest fear since starting her gambling operations, a confrontation with the yakuza syndicate.
"Ah! The "Ice Bitch" routine hmm? I don't want to talk, I want an explanation of your illegal activities." The man's features were hidden by the back-light. He had a ragged mop of black hair with a short pigtail. He seemed tall as the mountains and strong as a God to Nabiki who cringed somewhat in her seat.
"Oh? Illegal activities?' How are they any more illegal than yours?" She withdrew back into her emotionless shell. She was facing the right-hand man of the entire Nerima district, Ranma.' It soon became hard for her to remain emotionless, as she began to whimper. Death was hanging over her head like the sword of Damocles. If the Don so wished it, then this Ranma' would carry out his murderous commands.
"Touché! Excellent argument! I find the company of an intelligent womanstimulating, but your logic is flawed in one simple respect: it _is_ illegal because you didn't clear it with us." He rose from his chair with the distinct crinkle of starched fabric and slid a porcelain dish across the table's glittering surface. "Orange?" On the dish were five imported oranges. She reached out and took one.
"Th-thank you." The situation had gone from bad to worse, at first she was frightened but could stand up to the man, now she had lost all control over the situation. The business savvy Tendo sister was taken aback by the gentle, conversational tone he used.
Across from the perplexed girl, the Ranma' withdrew a glinting piece of metal. Nabiki drew in a breath, [A gun!] He then withdrew a cigarette from the polished gold case. [Settle down, Nabiki, you can handle this.] However long Nabiki talked to herself it didn't erase the fact that she was getting aroused from the sheer power this man stood for. He lit the cig then took a good look at his prisoner.
His smoky blue eyes danced in the mist, their very color blending in with the gray haze surrounding him. These selfsame eyes watched her eat the orange like a prisoner given his last meal, like it was a cherished thing.
"My schedule is quite full Miss Tendo so allow me to be blunt, we require a monthly payment of 40 percent of all profits made by your operation." He knew she'd accept it, the deal was too good, and once she did the trap would be sprung. He took a last drag from the cigarette and put it out in a crystal ashtray beside him. Rising to his full height of 6.1 feet, he extended a business card to his guest. "My superior asked for far more but I simply insisted that for such a small operation 40 percent was enough."
"II accept." Her hands were numb, the deal was too good! She'd heard of other Dons charging 60-80 percent a week let alone month. "Wait a second here, this isn't some kind of-"
"Don't worry Miss Tendo, this is not some kind of ploy for yourmerely a heartfelt gesture of kindness. I am known for my lenience on new operations but don't take this as a free pass, you _will_ clear any new operation with me first, alright?" His perfect teeth glinted in the light.
"Thhaaannkkswhoa! Wha-what d-did you d-do?!?" The world spun around her and darkness whirled before her eyes before she succumbed to the void and passed out in her chair. The remains of her orange bounced twice on the rug before lying still at his feet.
"Ah. I see the drug has taken effect." He whisked a bit of orange rind off his desk with a finger. He glanced at the unconscious girl lying before him and smiled warmly. "I'll see you in a month Miss Tendo."
Marriage of Shadows
A Ranma 1/2 Fanfiction
By Dr. Suekeiichi Kaiton
---Japan, Nerima Ward. Tendo Dojo---
A familiar room, her room, whirled into being as she awoke. Rising slowly, the nausea in her stomach advised her that was not a prudent action. Feeling the soft sheets under her palms she was in her bed, nothing was out of place, nothing was missing, she was still in her school uniform as she had been when they took her. It was dark outside, a street lamp flickered feebly outside her window, and she estimated the time she slept to be around four hours. One glance at the digital clock on her desk confirmed her suspicions.
Nabiki was known as The Ice Bitch' at school and most of the student body detested her due to her mercenary ways. Anything could be bought from Nabiki, and everything was for sale. She changed allegiances faster than France changes political systems, and many distrusted her. Her belief that money could solve all her problems stemmed from her mother's death. After their mother died the three Tendo sisters developed odd quirks, Kasumi for cleaning and housework; Akane for martial arts and fighting; and Nabiki for money. As her father remained an emotional wreak after their mother's death, he no longer taught classes at the dojo resulting in no regular income. She had long since established her operations to keep her family in the black and until today it had worked.
The development of the yakuza meant she'd have to work harder as almost half her profits would be gone. As she mulled this over Kasumi called up.
"Nabiki! Nabiki are you up there?"
"Yeah! What is it?" [Was it a dream? No, it was too real.] Checking her pockets she found nothing missing save a small bit of her sanity.
"Nothing, I just didn't see you come in. Dinner will be ready in an hour!"
"Thanks!" Apparently they had pulled her in through the window. She sat up with a start and shook her spinning head; [Perhaps a bath'll help clear it.] A white card fluttered to her feet as she rose.
It was an art deco rendition of a knight chess piece, its mane blowing in a breeze, with the words RA - N - MA, Kanto Sagara-Takeyama Alliance' emblazoned beneath. The card itself was an off white, the color of resume paper, and printed on thick stock with a slight marble finish. [Who ever this guy is, he sure knows how to make an impression.] Nabiki twirled the card in her left hand. [Who is he? Why was I picked up now? Too many questions, I'll find out if it kills me! Nabiki Tendo is never left in the dark!]
---Four weeks later---
It was Sunday and Nabiki was currently working out the odds for Akane's matches with Kuno for the week. Odds for Akane were in the left column, against in the right. She brushed a stray lock of her chestnut brown hair away from her eyes. [Her fights have gotten longer and longer, I'm losing money! Maybe I should start betting on Kuno] Thoughts of betting and fights left her mind as she heard the distant ring of the telephone.
*/Hello?/* Kasumi answered with her customary cheerful voice.
*/Yes!! I'll get her right away! Hold the line please/* Her voice rang with a different tone , an overjoyed expression in her face when she knocked on Nabiki's door.
"Nabiki? There's a _man_ on the phone for you." She just knew Nabiki would find someone, sooner of later. [Daddy was so worried she wasn't interested in men.] Her vacuous smile gave Nabiki cavities as she locked her desk drawer and sauntered down the stairs, already knowing who was on the line. Himher mysterious benefactor, although he made it crystal clear that he would not ask for any sexual favors from her as reimbursement for her payments, she still didn't fully trust him. Here she was an attractive young girl at the tender mercies of a yakuza underling and he didn't want anything? There was just something a little off with the situation.
"Miss Tendo, a limousine is waiting a block to the right of your house. Take it." The line was disconnected. Again she was kept in the dark but then that was natural when dealing with organized crime. With nothing else to do, she gathered the money in a black valise and sat in the tearoom.
Her mind whirled through possible scenarios as she munched absently on a rice cracker. [I should go. I wonder whether I should trust him now, he may pull the same trick like the orange again. No matter the cost, I gotta take control of the situation.] "Kasumi I'm going out! I'll be back in time for dinner!" She slipped on her shoes.
"Alright Nabiki! Have a nice time with your boyfriend!"
[Boyfriend? Where does she get these ideas?] "Alright!" Kasumi obviously didn't catch the snide tone in her voice.
Nabiki looked over her shoulder for the third time, sure it was only a block, but she wanted no witnesses to her meeting. It was drizzling out and the rain collected in the gutters and pooled in the streets, Nabiki always found rain to be comforting, a slow rhythm of nature. Sure enough as she passed the Yamada's house a black limousine was waiting, it's motor idling.
She heard a distinct click followed by the rear door opening. She stepped into the car cum office and saw her boss sitting across from her, his cigarette smoke curling around him like snakes. She shut the door and sank into the black leather seat across from him.
"Good evening Nabiki." The voice was cold. "I trust you brought the money?" He was once again hidden in the shadows, making identification impossible. His legs were crossed and his arms lay on control switches. He pressed one and a shelf next to her opened. "Champagne?"
She took up the glass and looked intently at the fluid. She gave him a weary glance. "I don't trust you. Not after the last time." To her surprise he chuckled and took the glass from her. After taking a long drink of it and refilling it to its original volume, he handed it back to her.
"Here, don't worry I won't drug you again. Think of this as an indirect kiss, hmm?" He laughed again as she blushed deeply. "Sorry about that, I tend to have an effect on women." He took up his own glass.
"D-don't you want the money? I have it right here." She drank delicately at the glass and wondered if what she tasted was the champagne or his lips, and patted the case next to her. In it was about 350, 000 yen, the forty percent of her monthly profits. She finished her glass with a pleasant buzz starting.
"You may keep it. I know what your family's financial situation is. Believe me, I take in enough money that your petty change isn't worth much to me." He fixed her with a cold glare.
"Y-you don't want the money? T-then why call upon me at all?"
"You see, this proves to me how loyal you are. I am fully aware that money is not your forte, information is."
In a flash of eye Nabiki understood the true motives behind this meeting, and complimented her benefactor on his shrewd thinking. Just like something she herself would pull, and had pulled on her business associates to test their own loyalties. [Using my own methods against me? How devilishly cleaver! I've underestimated you, I thought of you as just another yakuza, but beneath it you're a cold calculatorI like that.] "S-so what is my assignment?"
He shrugged off his jacket and lay it beside him on the seat. The shirt underneath was white with blue stripes, and her eye caught on his tie, a navy blue tied in a half-Windsor knot. His tie was held together by a silver clip in the same art-deco design as his business card; it twinkled softly in the light. "Your assignment is a man named Saotome, born of Genma and Nodoka Saotome, we don't know his name. All we know is that he was born in Juuban and he is eighteen years old." He leaned over to refill her glass. "I want to know everything: likes, dislikes, feuds, physical characteristics, the whole nine yards. Is that clear?"
"Yes. Is that all?"
"No." Smokey blue orbs bared down on her with a glistening intensity.
"No?" She had lost any probable sway in the conversation, sweat began to bead her brow.
"No. Drink your champagne."
The selfsame black limousine languidly pulled into the drive of an ostentatious compound on the Palatine Hill of Nerima,' where all the wealthy noble families dwelled. The main house was divided in two with a two story dormitory overlooking a placid koi pond in the courtyard, a bath house off to the side and three dojos spaced sporadically around the perimeter. This was an academy of martial arts, a self contained Shangri-La for it's students and training school for yakuza assassins. This was the Saotome School of Indiscriminant Grappling.
Well-dressed chauffeurs opened the car doors and ushered the young heir into the compound proper, the student's curfew already in effect. Ranma Saotome was a well educated man of eighteen with grand master status in several martial arts including kempo, kendo, judo, and Chinese Amazon Whu-Shu; and master status in countless others. A true protegee, Ranma was endowed with a cunning mind, one that he put to good use through his criminal enterprises. As of this night, he had finally met the woman of his dreams.
That was not to say, however, that he didn't already have two wives according to Chinese Amazon custom. On an ill fated training trip with his father, Genma Saotome, young Ranma defeated four of the tribe's strongest warriors.
"We're finally here Ranma, just like I told you hmm?" His rather portly father nudged him in the chest.
"Quiet Pops! Where are these secret techniques you keep blabbing about?" A seventeen-year old Ranma shot an evil eye at the rapidly retreating shadow of his father. [Humph! And this guy was personally chosen by the Don of Kansai? All he can ever think about is food; it's a wonder we haven't spent all our money on his stomach!]
"Never mind Ranma, I think I'll just sit my weary bones here awhile and partake of this feast." Genma began to inhale the banquet table, napkins, and all.
Suddenly a harsh, dry female voice rose from the din of the village. Who are you! Why do you desecrate the table of the victor? What is your business here? A shrunken monkey-looking wizen faced old woman bounded up to Ranma on an equally gnarled staff.
I am Ranma Saotome and that fat pig over there is my father. We have come seeking secret Chinese Amazon martial arts techniques, honored elder. Sometimes it's good to know the customs of a tribe and people before conversing with them, it helps the friendly trust between people grow. Ranma spoke in fluent mandarin to the supposed matriarch of the tribe.
"Well then, child of Japan, first you must prove your worth to us in battle. We of the Joketsuzoku do not just _give_ out our secrets to any outsider, you must become one of the tribe to seek our knowledge, you must face two of our warriors in combat." The old woman pointed a gnarled finger at the challenge log in the center of the village. "That is where you must prove yourself."
Ranma looked at the woman, then at the challenge log, then to his father eating the banquet, then back to the woman. "Alright! I'll do it!"
[Heh, heh, foolish boy! You seem so confident, lets just see you defeat the result of three thousand years of Chinese Amazon history. Then we'll see who's cocky!] Cologne was thoroughly convinced that the foreign boy stood no chance against her great granddaughters.
Needless to say, it came as a complete surprise and to the befuddlement of the ruling council when the boy felled the two champions in two minutes. As the bell's tool rang out in ripples of sound the boy was in motion, faster than the wind itself he wrapped himself around the girl on his left and disarmed her. Even as the first stood wondering where her twin swords had gone he had hefted the second over his shoulder and threw her down on the dirt, knocking the poor maiden unconscious. Just as the first began her charge against her assailant her whipped a first back and caught her right in the mouth. She fell in a crumpled heap at the very feet of Cologne.
Murmurs began to spread throughout the assembled throng that perhaps he _was_ better than they had first thought. Maybe they should reevaluate their ideas on the standing of men Soap! Cream! Stand up this instant! Don't give the _boy_ the satisfaction! Cologne screeched at the fallen warriors. Do you not hear me?! Get up right now! A low groan answered her demand. Sweat beaded the aged elder's brow as the two warriors were carried off to the healer, [I underestimated the boy, he's certainly good, I'll give him that. His technique seems vaguely familiarI've seen it before...somewhere, no matter. This boy'' aura is pathetic! He doesn't have enough ki to light a match!] Shampoo! Conditioner! Come here!
In a house off the main thoroughfare a purple haired girl's ears perked up. The book she had been browsing was dropped to the floor and the busty girl who had been reading it shook her younger sister awake. Shampoo was the eldest great granddaughter of Cologne and was therefore privy to the mystical knowledge that common warriors of the Joketsuzoku were not. With her purple hair reaching to her waist, a hem line on her cheongsam reaching up to her panty-line, and a bust that reached five and a half inches in front of her, Shampoo was easily recognizable. Conditioner! Conditioner wake up! Come quickly great-grandmother's calling! She grabbed hold of a wrist and yanked her younger sister out of bed.
C'mon Shampoo! I wanna sleep our matches aren't until this afternoon! Rising from a heap on the floor came a short, blue haired girl around fifteen pleading to be let alone. Conditioner was one year Shampoo's junior and liked to sleep. Her world revolved around eating, sleeping, fighting, and ogling men. Her blue hair was cut to the bottom of her neck then pulled in a tight ponytail adorned with a gold chain keeping in design with her sister's own odangos. While Shampoo's features were gorgeous, Conditioner's were ultra kawaii with twin dimples. Where Shampoo had a lithe figure that made men drool, Conditioner had a trim athletic body that allowed her greater agility. Shampoo had a killer bust and shapely posterior, and Conditioner had small, pert breasts and a tight behind.
You know we have to come when great grandmother calls, now get your bonbori and put some clothes on! Shampoo opened the dresser across the room and removed two pairs of heavy, round iron maces. Here, She through a pair to her sister, Let's go!
Cologne stood stock still balanced on her cane wondering where her great granddaughters were. Ranma was sitting on the challenge log holding his head in one hand, tapping on his knee with the other, feeling rather bored. The matriarch's eyes narrowed as she sensed a powerful force emanating from the boy, but as soon as she noticed it was gone. [Interesting]
Shampoo and Conditioner came to a rubber-burning stop at the square and listened to their grandmother's instructions. This boy has just defeated Soap and Cream in under two minutes, I want you to fight him and draw out his battle aura. Shampoo, a glance at Shampoo, Conditioner, a glance at Conditioner, the boy uses a hand based style that can parry weapons, he also likes to use the third eye method of fighting, use this to your advantage. Now go and show that male what the woman of the amazon tribe can do! At this point Cologne was viewing the fight as an experiment, she wanted to see just how good this Ranma was. [I think we might just have our second patriarch]
After the three combatants were in their respective corners, the bell was rung and Ranma sprang into motion, by doing nothing. He had overheard Cologne's conversation and would not give the warriors a chance to reverse his attacks, so he simply stood in the middle of the log. Conditioner just stood in a battle-ready stance and appraised the boy before her; Looks: gorgeous, body: to die for, ass: killer. A red mark declaring Grade A prime beefcake' was stamped all over him.
Shampoo was drooling as Ranma's breathing caused his gi to slip down a little and expose more of his chest. She was also mentally undressing him, but then again so were all the female villagers. The champion duo was reduced to quivering masses of hormones as Ranma just stood there placidly looking on.
Shampoo decided that if the male could defeat her she'd marry him without delay, which meant she had to get KOed before her sister. Not to say she didn't mind sharing either, that would beas well. As Ranma's back was turned she charged with bonbori poised for a deathblow. It never came.
Ranma heard the whistle of the girl's feet and the puff of their lungs as they struck simultaneously at his chest. With a quick weave and low tornado spin kick he knocked the feet out from under them together with a double backhanded fist to the jaw, spilling his would be competition to the ground. Flicking his pigtail behind him he picked up the fallen bonbori, two in each hand, and threw them in the air. As they fell he struck at the base of the grip and bent the metal plates back vertical with it, resulting in four metal umbrellas falling in front of the matriarch.
"You know," Ranma leapt down to speak with the dwarfish leader, "I was getting bored standing up there but now I'm just pissed that you people can't even touch me! Where're the secret master techniques' of the Nichieju now? If this is the best you women can do I'm leaving!"
"HOLD YOUNG MAN!" Cologne stabbed her stick at the boy's retreating back. "I would like an explanation for the battle aura you manifested during the fight, or lack thereof." Shampoo and Conditioner lay still on the ground, the rise and fall of their backs giving indication of the life still held within.
"You want an explanation?" Ranma's eyebrow twitched, [These people try to kill me, then they want an explanation?!?] "You want an explanation? HERE'S YOUR EXPLANATION!!!!" Ranma cut the wires holding his center and let his ki bubble to the surface in its most brilliant formlight.
"Aagggghhhh!!! Wh-what is this aura?!?!" Cologne was shoved back by the glowing ball and skidded backwards ten feet to gaze at the boy. Shampoo and Conditioner awoke with a feeling of cleanliness, of peace with the world, of the bright light swallowing up their depression and defeat. Soap and Cream awoke in the infirmary with mind headaches which were quickly forgotten as a divine burst of golden fire burst through the windows and blanketed them in well-being. All across the village illness was cured by the light and darkness was converted to light through the interaction of Ranma's ki and the surrounding chi. Miles away at the Musk citadel Prince Herb looked up from his scroll and gazed with petrified eyes at the mammoth materialization of ki looming on the horizon, no one of the Musk dynasty could control such power! [It's coming from The Nichieju villageif they have someone of that power we must consider terms of peace.]
After five minutes of blinding brilliance, the light faded and was enveloped back into the body of Ranma Saotome, who seemed none the worse for wear. After dusting off his gi and helping Shampoo and Conditioner to their feet he stood cockily in front of Cologne with a smirk on his face. "Was that enough explanation' for you? Now what about these secret amazon techniques?"
"You, you astound me son-I-law! Truly I've not seen an aura like that in the two hundred odd years I've been on this earth. I will teach you our secrets as they can be of far more use to you than us, also I offer to train you in ki manipulation." Cologne perched on her cane and fixed the boy with a mocking glare.
"Listen up old ghoul! I don't need your ki manipulation techniques, I just want to learn the secrets." She nodded softly. "You want to see ki manipulation try this!" Ranma levitated off the dirt and sand, slowly spinning around the matriarch until he became a blur of white and black. To Cologne's astonishment, he manifested twelve separate illusions of himself spinning around her. "Behold, the revised technique of the Splitting Cat Hairs! After practicing it, I decided that six selves gave the opponent too few to keep him occupied."
As Ranma formed together and stopped the demonstration Cologne spoke up. "Son-in-law, where did you learn that technique? That is one of the closely guarded secrets of the Nichieju, passed down over three thousand years!" [To think he can generate enough ki for twelve! This boy can't leave the tribe, I'll have to marry him off to get him to stay.]
"My old master Happosai taught me that when I was ten. He said it was one of the closely guarded secrets of the Indiscriminant Grappling School. Of course he's a real thief too so it wouldn't surprise me to know he stole it." Ranma suddenly found himself weighted by four Amazon warriors snuggling in his arms. "Hey! What the hell is this! And why're you calling me son-in-law?!?" Ranma was a bit taken aback but that didn't mean he didn't enjoy having four busty, beautiful, bouncy, willing girls hanging off him.
"Oh? I didn't tell you? In this tribe's law it states that if an outsider male should defeat an amazon in combat he is automatically married to her. You should consider yourself lucky to have _four_ beautiful amazons for wives. I would imagine you're happy." Cologne laughed a laugh of triumph as she recognized a man of honor at first glance. "You _will_ bed with these girls and become a member of the tribe Ranma, your strength and ki is remarkable! If it is hereditary that is." She looked disgustedly at Genma.
"Ah don't worry about that. You see my family's kinda high up in the yakuza so my mom had plenty of lovers, my mom says I got all my powers from him." His birth father was a man named Yosho Masaki who died a few months afterward. Ranma was decidedly embarrassed to admit he was a bit of a bastard but then again, that Yosho guy had a noble lineage.
"A dragon' hmm? You don't use your martial arts to kill people do you?"
"No! I'd never sully the honor of the art by using it for murder!"
[Gotcha!] "Well, since the authorities seem to overlook your kind, I suspect it is within your bounds to have mistresses?"
"Uhwell yeah. It sorta comes with the territory." Ranma was rapidly fidgeting, he knew when he'd got himself in a real mess.
"Well then it's settled. You will take Shampoo and Conditioner back to Japan with you while Soap and Cream stay here. You will visit every year and sire strong children." Her tone made no room for refusal. "Any wife that you marry in Japan will therefore become a member of the tribe so no violent action will be taken against them."
"Ah" Shampoo and Conditioner were acquainting themselves with his gi belt as he agreed. Soap and Cream began to sensually caress his back, he was now backed into a corner by his own honor! [That old ghoul, well maybe I should call her Cologne now, she used my own nature against me! I'll get her for this]
The darkness hid him from view as he alighted on the roof above his room, hopefully Shampoo wasn't in his room tonight. The window was designed for his quick escapes so he pushed it open and fell to the carpeted floor. His right hand snaked out to flip on his bedside lamp when two blurs, one purple, one blue darted into the darkened room and launched themselves at him.
Thrown backwards, Ranma landed on his queen size bed with his two queens begging him for attention. Shampoo was outgoing in nature, uninhibited, not willing to be on the bottom. She was a forceful creature that always wanted his attention. Conditioner was more timid and liked being taken, not doing the taking, she seemed to have more of an even temper but was also inventive when it came to ideas about coupling. With a final look at the two Ranma decided he wasn't going to get much sleep that night. He just hoped that Don Hojo worked out the truce between the Kanto and Sukigami alliances soon. He wouldn't be up for another job until the end of the week.
"How was your date Nabiki?" Kasumi was sitting in the tearoom when her sister walked in from the evening. "It certainly didn't seem like you were out for longdid something happen?" Ever the naïve elder sister, Kasumi had noticed the confusion and lust in Nabiki's eyes when she had first walked in, and misunderstood the situation, thinking that her sibling had been dumped.
"Nothing reallywe justtalked," said Nabiki, not wanting to involve her sister in the affairs of the yakuza. "We just drove around a bit."
"Oh" Kasumi seemed disappointed, in her heart she wanted to know all about her sister's boyfriend, it had been too long since something even remotely interesting happened to the household. "What did you talk about?"
"I'd rather not say. Let's just leave it as a personal discussion." Kasumi hoped they weren't discussing anythingimproper. Nabiki laid her left cheek to the cold table, cooling her rosy flesh and exhaled slowly as the bubbling giddiness of the champagne evaporated, leaving only the feeling of hollowness in her stomach. "He just makes me so frustrated!"
"He just doesn't want to discuss anything but business! I mean, I'm attracted to him and everything but he just doesn't get the hint, it's like I don't even exist to him. Damnitt! I _want_ to exist for him!" Nabiki rubbed her sore cheek, a slight indentation of grained wood fading with her ministrations.
Kasumi sighed as she remembered her own first love. "Just give him some time, he'll notice you eventually. Just don't let him get away, don't pass up your chance at happiness." [Like I did.]
"You're right. By the way, what did father want when I left?" He'd been shouting all about in glee as she walked out the door. "Was it the finances again?"
"No, Nabiki, we're alright for now. He wanted to tell us that some old friends of his were coming to the house tomorrow."
"Did he say why?"
Kasumi shook her head. "No, he just said that they were important people and that he'd worked with one before we had been born." Nabiki looked puzzled for a moment before pulling her wits together and stalking up the stairs to her room.
"It'll be interesting to see what kind of friends Dad had."
---Saotome Residence, family dojo---
Genma Saotome stood opposite his son in the family dojo off the main house. The Saotome residence was devoted to the schooling of potential students in the Saotome school of Anything Goes Martial Arts, therefore it had upon it's grounds two dormitories (male and female), one unisex bathhouse, four competition-sized dojos and the Saotome family estate. The family dojo was used only for special ceremonies initiating new assassins into service or by the family itself.
Ranma stood underneath the altar, symbolic of his place in the family, heir. He was freshly bathed and dressed, having been awoken from his wives' bed by a servant. Impatient to return to bed, he glowered at his father. "What's this all about? I need some sleep too you know."
"Ranma, my son, it is time for you to uphold our families honor."
"What do you mean? I've been through hell with you trying to uphold our families honor! Does all my training mean nothing to you?"
"It's not about that, Ranma. This is about an agreement I made a long time ago"
---Tendo Dojo, the following afternoon---
Nabiki and Akane entered the Dojo on a search for their father, after arriving from school they could not find a trance of him anywhere. Sure enough, he was sitting lotus-style under the altar in the centre of the dojo, his breathing creating a whistling noise echoing through the rafters. Akane slipped out of her shoes and slid, kneeling, in front of her stoic father. Nabiki simply stood in the doorway, watching the meditation cleanse him of earthly distractions. Whoever these guests were, they had to be important people for father to take ritual cleansing so far, just yesterday she'd found him splashing himself with freezing water from the garden spigot.
"Daddy? What are you doing?" Nabiki looked pensive as her father continued to ignore her and meditate. "Aren't your friends going to be here soon?" His eyes opened with a start and fixed on her.
"Nabiki, Akane, go and get Kasumi. I want all of you to meet in the living room, I have an announcement to make." This said, Soun Tendo stood, slipped on his slippers and prodded back into the house. Akane followed after him while Nabiki gave her an annoyed look before following his entourage. What was this all about?
Kasumi was finishing the appetizers and had put the kettle on for tea when Nabiki came through the curtains and told her father had called a meeting.
After the family had gathered, huddled around the table with tea and biscuits, Soun began his tale. "My daughters, you have brought me great joy through my life and I feel that I should do the same for you, my friends who will be here for dinner are part of this gift I intend to present to you.
"Many years ago I trained under the Master Happosai, with me in that torture was Genma Saotome, the man who will be arriving with his son. He was the sole practitioner of the Saotome Style of Indiscriminant Grappling, I was the sole practitioner of the Tendo School of Anything Goes Martial Arts. We struck a deal, and bonded it with blood, that if he were to have a son and I a daughter, or vice-versa, they would join the two schools together and ensure our legacy." Soun and moved from the table to the porch, gazing out at the skyline of downtown Nerima far away. "I had you, and Genma had his son, Ranma. Now he has come to fulfill this honored agreement, and I want one of you to marry him."
"But father," interjected Kasumi, "How old is this Ranma, I hope he's not younger than I, younger men bore me."
"What does he look like?" Nabiki spoke with her mouth full of cookie. "Is he cute?" Beneath that interested exterior lay the twisting gears of her mind, focusing on one goal, all the information on Ranma Saotome. Perhaps if she performed well in this task her benefactor would take more notice of her, she had already discovered his first name, Ranma.
"Idon't know." The world went quiet.
"You don't know?" The three Tendo daughters stared dumbfounded at their father, little realizing how ignorant he was of the situation.
"I don't know." He seemed almost joyful, wallowing in his ignorance, and shook his head enthusiastically in the negative. He turned to the porch, lighting a cigarette and watching the smoke swirl outside. The trees swayed slightly in an oncoming breeze, the koi pond's surface was unbroken, and the sun shown like a gleaming, gloating eye in the sky. Nabiki cursed her father then left the room, muttering something about changing clothes. Kasumi smoothed out her primly wear and also went to change into a kimono and Akane left to train in the dojo. Only Soun stayed behind, his gaze fixed solely on the horizon.
"If only you had left as I did, Genma, my daughters would never be in this kind of danger. Curse the Kanto Sagara-Takeyama Alliance."
Nabiki threw her yellow dress on her bed, seething with rage, so close to the truth and yet so far. Since her father had given her no useful information on this Ranma Saotome, she would soon have nothing to show her benefactor next week, all her other sources came up negative, it almost seemed like this "Ranma Saotome" didn't even exist. Now with the engagement looming over her head and her father's surprise announcement, she had more things on her mind than usual. Even so, determined to make a good impression on her new quarry, Nabiki applied moderate makeup and a little eye-liner as well as dressing in a stunning embroidered kimono. After a few last-minute touches in front of her mirror, Nabiki gave herself a wink and went out into the hall to await the arrival of this Ranma Saotome.
Down the hall, Kasumi was exiting her own room. Dressed in a pale green kimono made of silk embroidered with golden phoenixes, left to her my their mother, her hair was pinned in a traditional bun with the two gold clips holding her autumn locks tight to her skull. She wore sandals and her mother's pearl earrings, the picture of beauty and femininity. Suddenly Nabiki's own beautification paled in comparison to her eldest sister's, there was no doubt who Ranma Saotome would choose for his bride. Depressed at her failure, Nabiki moped down the stairs as Kasumi toyed with her hair. The kitchen was plain, only a yellow copper kettle for hot water and the formal tea set adorned the counters, the latter covered with a white napkin to hide its presence. Nabiki had just reached for a soda in the refrigerator when the doorbell rang, it seemed the moment of truth was finally upon them.
While Kasumi was adjusting her hair and Nabiki was moping about, Akane had the privilege to be the first Tendo to lay their eyes upon Ranma Saotome. After practicing her kata, she had been of the mind to take a quick bath before the _boy_ arrived. Even if she despised men, she didn't want to disappoint her father, no matter how weak-willed he may have been. With a towel atop her shoulders, Akane walked across the main entranceway and happened to see a black limousine pull up to the curb outside the gate. The sleek black came to an abrupt stop as the rear door opened and two men, one in white, one in black stepped out of the vehicle.
The one in white was the younger of the two, tall and handsome with raven hair and a short pigtail, carrying an air of superiority about him. The other was a bald man with glasses, looking completely unassuming with a massive girth and flabby arms. The younger helped the older out, grasping his arm and pulling himself out of the car with obvious complications, but it was the dance-like gait of the younger which caught her attention, his gliding quality which pointed to his obvious martial arts prowess. The younger supported the older easily as they casually walked right past her, not even acknowledging her presence, and rang the doorbell. Akane simply stewed in anger, waiting for one of them to notice her but such was not the case as they just stood on the stoop waiting for Kasumi to answer the door. Her anger growing by the moment, she was ready to let loose a slipper at the man's head when Kasumi's head appeared through the door.
"Can I help you gentlemen?" Her hair was up in a bun, much to Akane's surprise' and her eyes visibly widened as the younger spoke in velvet tones. Two well dressed men were standing on her steps, one of them had to be Ranma, had to be her soon to be her future husband. "Can one of you be Ranma Saotome?" She was brimming with delight at the prospect.
The taller of the two bowed low and grasped her hand, gently caressing it as she blushed crimson. "We have come to see Soun Tendo, your father, Kasumi. Is he in?" His voice rumbled up from deep in his throat, a pleasant drawl that made her knees weaken and quake, he was tall and handsome with thick, muscular arms and a ragged mop of raven hair terminating in a short pigtail. "You are Kasumi aren't you?" Truly, every nerve in her body was afire as his warm, callused hand rubbed her cool digits.
"Ahyes I am she, my father has been expecting you for some time now. He is waiting in the tea room, if you gentlemen would please follow me." She swept past the door and down the hall to a set of doors, the two men followed her wordlessly while Akane just stood outside the porch frothing madly in anger. The younger man seemed to take in the house as a whole, listening to the floors creak and settle, the echo of their footsteps and the immaculate condition of the various knick-knacks and ornaments adorning the tables. Although small, the Tendo household was prosperous and well maintained, he was sure Soun Tendo would have thought of his growing family when he left.
The older man opened the doors ahead of his son, leaving the handsome young man alone with Kasumi, both pressing against each other in the narrow hall. Kasumi turned away, blushing, to bring tea when his hand shot out and grasped her forearm. "Youdo know why I am here, don't you?" Kasumi looked up at him in shock, partly out of surprise, partly out of fear with his hand pressing urgently into her flesh.
"Y-yes. I am aware of your business here, Mr. Saotome. My father told all three of us yesterday, it takes some getting used to." Kasumi turned away when he let go, padding back down the hall to the kitchen where she disappeared from view. [She must know, that last comment of hers was pretty telling.] The young man joined the two elders in the tea room.
"Ah, Saotome, this must be your young heir. Very impressive indeed." Soun Tendo looked up from the table, he was facing the door while Genma gazed out at the koi pond. Ranma's face fell into his working mask as he sat cross-legged at the table and bowed low to the patriarch, placing a thick business card on the polished wood. RA - N - MA, Kanto Sagara-Takeyama Alliance' declared the card. Soun raised and eyebrow and slid the card back to the still prostrate youth. "Very impressive by far, he'll be taking your place soon, Genma." Ranma rose and took a rigid posture, hands on his knees before Soun gave his approval to relax. "It's so nice to see the younger generation still has some semblance of respect for its elders."
"He won't be talking my place in the near future, Tendo. The boy still has much to learn about the world, he still retains sentimentality towards women." Genma made no move to turn, no muscle in his frame twitched, he merely sat regarding the peaceful tranquility of the Tendo garden. "He still hasn't learned women can be a weakness, or a killer. Too many times has he been lenient on women, too many times has he taken them as lovers, it is good fortune that none have been assassins."
"I still retain a part of my humanity, you mean, Pops. I seem to recall you having a soft spot for mother and a couple of the maids." Ranma smirked as Genma coughed loudly and cast a withering glare at his son. "Don't give me all this sentimentality' crap again, Pops, you have it and so do I, it isn't anything to be ashamed about." Soun smiled at his statement and laid a hand on the youth's shoulder.
"Quite true, quite true, Ranma. It was because of that belief I left the business,' I just couldn't deal with the paranoia that Kimiko was an assassin." Soun remembered when they had trained under the Great Don Happosai, a wandering leader who held no affiliation but trained pupils in powerful skills useful in their line of business. The training had been long and hard, at the end Genma went to Kanto, Soun broke all ties with the yakuza and decided to live peacefully in Nerima. "It's nice to meet you, son, I'm sure you'll make my Kasumi happy."
"Does Kasumi know what you were?"
Soun's face drained of color and his mouth went dry.
Suddenly, Kasumi entered bearing a tray of tea and cakes, gently setting them down in the centre of the table before smiling demurely at Ranma and leaving. The doors gave off a resounding clack as she latched them again. Soun lit a cigarette before placing the prepared cups of tea in front of his guests.
"She knows, she knows a little of what happened when she was two, not much but she knows what I was. Kimiko had had the child a year into our training with The Master, it took two years before I finished and left the alliance. Nodoka bore you the very year Genma and I began our training, that was when we two friends made our pact." Ranma stood up after finishing his cup of tea.
"I think that I must meet your other daughters before I make my decision, Tendo-sama, it only seems fair."
"Ah yes, I knew you'd do that. Go, but I'm sure you'll decide on Kasumi in the end."
Nabiki had hacked into the city records database, hoping against hope for a clue about this Ranma Saotome' she was searching for. So far the computer had drawn a blank, the boy seemed to have no life, and only a birth certificate and schooling record appeared with no pictures or physical description. The subject was short and neutered, it almost seemed that someone had wiped his records, no wonder her benefactor needed her help in investigations. That was another thing that mystified her, why would a yakuza need a civilian to gather information, they had a comprehensive network of dummies in high positions in the government, why not have one of them order a search? Perhaps it was because there would be less of a chance that the local authorities would notice a little computer hacker? So many questions tumbled in her brain, she was so close to polishing them to gems, just a few more turns and she knew she'd come to complete understanding.
She was so intent on her screen she didn't hear the knock on her door until the person opened the door and shut it with a slam, breaking her concentration. "Kasumi, I'll be right with you, just gimme a minute. If it's you Akane, just sit on the bed and don't break anything, it'll just take a second." The clacking of her keyboard was the sole sound in the room, meaning Kasumi or Akane had sat on the bed and was waiting. It came as a complete surprise, however, when two hands grasped her shoulders. Intrinsically knowing the extent of the danger, she leapt over the attacker and landed in a pile on the floor, [That'll teach me not to try any of Akane's martial arts moves again] She thought ruefully. Even in tip-top shape, Nabiki wasn't trained in how to fall so she landed on her heels and crumpled to the floor as she fell face first. She hesitantly looked up at her attacker when she saw a large hand looming in front of her face.
Her eyes trailed up the white sleeve to a pinstriped white shirt and were drawn to the silver art deco rendition of a horse pinning the stranger's tie. Her eyes went wide as she took the offered hand and her benefactor helped her to her feet. He was dressed exactly the same as their previous meeting, at first she thought it was a dream from the fall, but then he snapped his fingers in her face, bringing her back to reality.
"Wha-what are you doing here?!? How did you get in?" Nabiki clung to his arms with her nails, her feet still numb and dragging on the floor. The figure smiled a gentle smile, one which took her breath away, and set her down on her bed. Nabiki could say no more as he casually took her seat at the computer and brought up the city's records.
"HmmMiss Tendo, it seems I have overestimated you. You still haven't realized who it is you're dealing with." She watched, transfixed, as he hit enter and typed a code into the database file for Saotome, Ranma.' Almost as soon as the key hit the board an encrypted file popped up. "Look familiar?"
The blanks spaces on Ranma Saotome's file were filled with images of her benefactor, as a young child, as a young adult and finally as he was now. She had finally figured it out, what better way to judge her abilities than to send her on the task of researching himself. [You sly devil, I may just have to kiss you.] Nabiki rose from her bed groggily as he leaned over to help support her.
"No, no, you have to lie down for awhile." He eased her back to the sheets and arranged the pillows underneath her head. She could feel his rough hand running along her arm and could almost touch the euphoria flooding her senses at their contact. He broke away then and twirled her desk chair around, sitting in it with a sigh. "So tell me, Nabiki, did your father tell you of our arrangement?" Ranma fixed his cufflinks as he settled into her chair, his casual authority changing it into a throne. He exuded complacency as he folded his hands on her armrests.
"Yes. He didn't tell us we'd be marrying a yakuza." [Not that I think he knows] She pulled at the hem of her skirt. "So what is the _real_ reason you're here?"
"Business and pleasure. This arrangement was planned at my birth, just a scant year before Kasumi was born, I cannot break the oath our fathers made. I did expect you to realize who I was beforehand, however." He rose form his seat and shrugged off his jacket, arranging it over the back of her chair. His face was impassive as he pushed her back onto the bed, slipping a rough hand under her knees and setting her straight on the sheets. "I've been disappointed, Nabiki." He leaned forward and lay against her, his hot flesh pressed against her body.
"Well, what do you want as reimbursement?" She could feel his breath, hot against her neck. He nuzzled her collarbone, licking her neck and nipping at her throat. His hand slid up her thighs, teasing the elastic of her panties and barely touching the cotton of her undergarments. The other hand messaged her breasts through the thin cloth of her shirt, the stiffening nipples pressing into his slick palm.
He kissed her then, his tongue mixing their saliva in her mouth, and her hands ran through his hair as she moaned loudly into his mouth. The bed creaked as she writhed under his firm muscles, her libido going wild, which was precisely the scene that greeted Akane as she walked in.
"Daddy wants us down in the tea room to meet this Ranma Saotome — what the hell are you doing?!?!?" Akane picked up her desk chair and slammed the black plastic amalgamation over Ranma's back. The distinct cracking told her she'd caused some serious damage, that was until the chair broke into four pieces. "Nabiki! Run while you can! I'll take care of this pervert!" She hefted the nightstand and threw it with all her might at the stunned yakuza. A burst of light suddenly vaporized the wood.
"About bloody time!" Ranma roared as a tall Chinese boy leapt through the broken window facing the door and fixed a distasteful glare on Akane. His features were painfully sharp, the cutting nose and chin fixed on an angular pair of cheeks and punctuated by two thin, oval eyes brimming with hatred. His hair matched Ranma's but was left unruly and trimmed short. The mysterious savior of Ranma Saotome wore a sleek business suit with mother-of-pearl buttons and tie clip, a matching medal swung from his neck as he helped Ranma up off the floor and dusted off his shirt and pants. "You know I can't use my own ki unless it's an emergency!"
"Ithought you would wish some privacy, Ranma-sama, I did not feel her ki until she was upon you." He seemed to shrink in embarrassment, his head nearly touching his chest as he stared at the reflection in his black leather shoes. "It will not happen again."
"I don't blame you, I'm sorry, Ioverreacted. Go and make sure the driver parked and then come back and wait outside, this shouldn't take long." He patted the other man on his shoulder and sent him off back out the window, the faint sound of tinkling glass the only indication he ever landed in the yard. Ranma plucked his white jacket out of the wreckage and dusted off the silk. "I'll make sure you pay for the cleaning, Ms. Akane Tendo." He was about to leave when Nabiki placed a hand on his shoulder.
"I'll come down with you," her cheeks were still red from their earlier encounter. "I'm sure my sister didn't mean any harm, Ranma. I'm sure she was just thinking of my well-being. Isn't that right, Akane?" She glanced back at the dumbstruck girl. "Aren't you going to apologize?" She let loose a glare daring her little sister not to.
"I'll let it pass, for now." Ranma's eyes bored through the prostrate girl's head before the couple left the room.
Soun and Genma sat at the table when they arrived. Kane sat fuming in the corner and glared at the young man as he sat cross-legged next to his father. Kasumi sat across from the three men on her knees as she prepared the formal tea set, her hair pinned elegantly in a hazelnut bun. Nabiki took a seat parallel to Akane yet a step behind Kasumi, completing the triangular arrangement. Soun sat between the two yakuza, rising as he spoke.
"Daughters, this is my good Genma Saotome, sensei of the School of Indiscriminant Grappling and father to your betrothed, Ranma." Genma and Ranma bowed as their names were called before Soun continued. "When Genma's son was born, your dear mother was pregnant with Kasumi, it was then that we agreed to unite the schools.
"I have left Ranma to choose his own bride, whom so ever he selects will be moving in with him tonight at the Saotome compound. Nabiki, Akane, I thought it would be best if you were on vacation if you were chosen. It seems that was all for naught, Ranma has chosen Kasumi to be his wife." Nabiki was beyond shock as Kasumi finished stirring the tea and drank deeply from the enameled cup before placing the object on the table and passing it to Ranma. As he took hold of the cup and pressed it to his lips, Nabiki stormed out of the room, tears swelling in her eyes.
Soun's cheeks were wet with his own tears as Kasumi and Ranma bowed to one another. Akane was ready to pound the pervert for seducing both her two sisters, especially for making Nabiki cry. Genma slapped his son on the back and gave the smiling eldest Tendo daughter a warm embrace. Outside, the bodyguard who had accompanied Ranma and Genma found himself feeling quite happy for his master, yet another lover to populate the rooms at the Saotome estate.
"Oh happy day! My little girls going to get married! Go and pack an overnight bag, Kasumi, you will be staying at the Saotome family home, tonight." Kasumi looked startled at first then hurried upstairs to pack, a chance at freedom and independence at last making themselves known in her world.
Ranma slipped off as the father's congratulated themselves, hastily making his way to Nabiki's room. He opened the door to an unexpected sight, the Ice Bitch of Furinkan High sobbing into her pillows. "Nabiki, it's me." She raised a face full of anger and reddened eyes and tears to regard him.
"Like that's any consolation now, you bastard!" She threw her alarm clock at his head, he merely caught it and set it aside on her desk. "I fell for you! Me! Me! And you-you chose her?"
"I had to Nabiki, for your safety." He placed a hand on her shoulder. She pulled away and swore at him.
"Shut up! I don't want to hear any more lies! You seduce me then marry my sister? What the hell kind of sick game are you playing? You filthy son-of-a-bitch! I should have-" She threw her head back as he slapped her, hard, on the cheek. When he spoke, it was through clenched teeth.
"Shut up, Nabiki. I had to do it, had to choose Kasumi. If I married you, someone involved in my operations, then you would've been put in danger. You'd know too much. Kasumi knows nothing of what I do, this is the way it has to be."
"So what? I just become your secretary who you just happen to fuck!?"
"No. You are my close associate and mistress. Do you like that scenario or the one where we part here and now, never seeing each other again?" He pulled her in close, knowing very well the feeling of rejection from someone you love, and pressed the small of her back to his stomach. "You'll come with Kasumi, my mother will explain your duties. Now pack up, I'll meet you by the car." He left her then, confused, hot and flustered.
He pulled on his jacket as Kasumi hurried out of her room. She looked at him again as she had when he first arrived then took his face in her hands before pulling his lips down to hers. His silk swaddled arm snaked around her kimono and pulled her closer, the sweet perfume she had sprinkled over her breasts enveloping all his senses. He tugged the kimono open at her neck, the creamy hillocks of her breasts heaving as she moaned into his mouth. He broke the kiss and delivered gentle nips at the soft flesh of her collarbone and buried his face into her voluminous cleavage. He inhaled the hot air from between her breasts, sniffing the musky scent of her arousal as her naked body throbbed against the silk garment. She was lifted off the floor as he pulled her up then gasped as he messaged her chest through the thick fabric of her dress. He broke away as she fell against him, panting and digging her manicured nails into his sleeves. The nails left deep impressions on his arms before he broke the kiss and picked up her chin to gaze at him. "We'll finish this tonight, I know you're anxious. Did you remember-"
"-Of course." She reached into a heavy overnight bag and produced a simple gold-painted box, roughly the size of a gold ingot, from that she pulled a short tanto inscribed with the Saotome name. "I've been keeping it safe." He had sent it to her months before, after their lengthy letter-writing relationship graduated from the cordial to the lustful.
When her mother, Kimiko Tendo, died eight years ago Kasumi was left to tend her family. Not even a week went by before she received a letter from Ranma Saotome, the son of Genma Saotome who had visited the family after the funeral and had sent her father a letter just a few days before. As the responsibilities of motherly duties extended before her like a grave, his letter sent with it a ray of hope. He also sent several thousand yen. Neither had known that Genma knew about Ranma's letters, nor did they realize he shared that knowledge with Soun. No wonder Soun knew that Ranma would choose Kasumi when he had arrived.
And so it had gone that way for eight years, every year another letter, each etched into crystal. Kasumi had saved them each in an antique wardrobe hidden behind her father's old desk in the attic, carefully wrapped in tissue paper and kept in their original boxes. She had written back the first time appalled at his extravagance, begging him not to send another like it because of the price such an item must fetch, although secretly she was inflamed by the idea that an older boy would think so dearly of her. They continued the annual letter-writing until the summer of her seventeenth year, the year she had graduated high school.
She had returned from the graduation ceremony and her father had hired a caterer for her graduation party. She had invited all her friends to the party so the dojo was full of music and talk, Kasumi never seemed to have a shortage of friends or admirers, at least up until then. Regardless of how happy her friends were she knew what her responsibility was then, to take care of her family not to go on to university. Although with her own nest egg, built up with her mysterious boyfriend's yearly gifts and wisely invested by Nabiki since she was fourteen, she could easily afford to go to one of the top universities, even Tokyo U. But, alas, it was not to be. Only one gift she had received had she truly been grateful for, and it was the one that arrived after all the revelers had departed and she was left cleaning later that night. A courier had brought it, asking her to sign his little memo and take the box. A slim golden box the size of an ingot and inside it was the tanto. Underneath the gift was a message: "I'll be coming for you, don't fret, keep this close. Ranma." She had brought the grip to her face and sniffed the barest whiff of his aftershave off the tightly-bound leather. It had brought on memories of his steamy letters to her. The steamy gray-blue of his eyes as he sighed in relief seemed to melt her innermost wants and desires.
"Good, I think my mother will accept this easier if you have that. Come down soon, Kas-chan, I'll meet you by the car." She kissed him once on the lips then softly padded down the hallway. "You can come out now, Tarou."
The lean, gaunt Chinese man who had broken Nabiki's window stepped out from a closet, dusting his black suit clean of lint. His curved eyes narrowed to slits and the scaled bullet-proof vest he wore underneath the vestments sparkled as he loosed his collar. "Do you think this is wise? Two sisters? One your first wife, the other your mistress?" A creak of Nabiki's door opening caused the man to leap in front of Ranma, his face tight and his arms set to defend his charge. When Nabiki walked out with a duffel bag, both of the men relaxed and resumed their place against the wall. As she passed, Nabiki playfully pinched Ranma's rear before running down the stairs, giggling all the way. It seemed he had been forgiven. "The amazons I can understand, this I cannot."
"Don't worry Tarou, they both understand their place, and if not then my mother will certainly beat it into them." Ranma grimaced as Tarou grinned, before slapping the older boy on the back and heading downstairs. "Come, I believe our ride is waiting." They dodged a sobbing Soun on the way down and narrowly avoided Akane's cinder block storm as she threw them at the men as they ran through the gate. "Thank you, Tendo-sama. I promise your daughters will be safe at my house, you and Akane can feel free to visit anytime." He withdrew a different card from his pant pocket, this time the name of a popular advertising agency with the wild stallion logo. "Just call ahead, okay?"
---Masaki Shrine, Okayama---
"A word with you father." The wrinkled old man plodded over to the middle-aged Emperor. Azusa turned, his robes swirling around his stern frame as his flagship commenced reclamation of Seiryu from the lake. Yosho hesitantly neared his father, quite possibly the most powerful man in the universe. "You do not approve of Tenchi." Mere moments had past since Tenchi, or rather Mihoshi, defeated Seiryu and claimed the throne of Jurai himself; Funaho and Misaki were already busy helping Sasami prepare dinner. It would be an experience, surely.
"You still know me so well, Yosho?" Azusa gripped his sword underneath the long robes, his knuckles white with irritation as this obstinate son of his openly defied his father. "The boy is weak, indecisive. His power over the Wings of The Light Hawk barely equalize his servile naturehe will never be Emperor." Azusa turned his back to his only son, choosing to gaze out at the tranquil waters. "If only you would return with us, all would be forgiven." Katsuhito, formally Yosho of the House of Jurai, sighed before dispelling the illusion Tsunami created around him, wrinkles dissipating, gray hair streaking black. When he spoke then his voice was full of vigor and youth.
"No, that kind of life is not for me, that was the reason I left. Will you never accept Tenchi?"
"Never, I will never allow one like him to take the throne."
"There is anotherone of pure Jurian blood." His twenty-year old secret was out.
"WHAT!!! Why did you not speak of this earlier!? Where is he?" Azusa's face suddenly lit up with the very idea of a true heir. "Can he be made to rule?"
"I don't know, I have not visited him in all the years since his birth. He is of pure Jurian blood however, so his powers are greatly increased."
"What noble other than yourself is on the planet? You were the only energy signature we discovered during the preliminary scan of Terra, Funaho herself was far too weak to sense until we were standing next to her!"
"Harunacrashed on this planet twenty megacycles before I defeated Ryoko, I encountered one of her daughters by Shion. She was of full noble heritage." The memories of that day existed side by side with his memories of Achika's mother. He had been visiting an old friend in Tokyo during a particularly harsh summer, the heat had been so intense as to melt the soles of his shoes to the concrete sidewalk. After the meeting and a few drinks in the Roppongi district he had slipped from under his friend's eye and wandered the streets, Achika and Noboyuki were still relative newlyweds and he didn't want to "cramp their style" as the saying went.
Yosho had met her in a park, an auburn-haired nymph with sparkling eyes and a quick smile. Just the sight of her lead him to believe she was of Jurian decent, a few well placed questions and he knew that Haruna's daughter stood before him. And stand she did, she was increasingly forward in her intentions and as he looked only thirty by human standards he couldn't disagree. The mixture of alcohol and the steamy heat succeeded in their purpose and he spent the night with her, and the next day, then the next night.
After the sake induced haze lifted after the first night he realized that the woman had sparked something in hima trace of youth that spilled out from the deepest recesses of his being and infused his mind and body with mannerisms and thoughts unheard from in seven hundred years. She had replenished his body with youth, and he had given her the seed of life. However, her pregnancy also played a role in his plans for Tenchihe knew Azusa would come one day and only a fool places all their hopes in one place. If Tenchi would not satisfy, well then his _son_ of noble birth would serve as forfeit. Yosho still had pangs of guilt over his untimely departure and the nagging pull of her perfume, her body. Shaking the thoughts from his head, the crown prince answered his father.
"Haruka died several decades ago, her tree had shriveled to nothing and Tsunami would take no action. Her death was so abrupt she did not even have time to give her daughter the key."
"Never mind that, Yosho, can the boy summon the Light Hawk Wings?" Azusa's eyes twinkled with hope for an heir apparent.
"I said I do not know. I have had no contact with himor his mother for that matter." Azusa sighed in exasperation, rubbing his temples as he forced the rage down to a slow simmer. To lose control at such a critical juncture would be fatal to not only his position but also his future! "If it so pleases the Emperor I will try to arrange a meeting."
"Make it sothe boy could not possibly be as pathetic as Tenchi. Go Yosho, I will inform Funaho and Misaki." Azusa - the Emperor of Planet Jurai, ruler of the Universe - gazed out at the lake and felt old for the first time in ten millennia. Funaho and Misaki soon came to him, the former wearing a mask of disapproval as the Emperor related the events — the latter quietly mashing Ryo-Ohki to powder in her arms. Both women seemed to waver on the deck as he explained, neither making more than a whisper of cloth to compromise their motion. Evidently Funaho was not pleased.
"Prepare you leave, we will visit this Son of Jurai today, whether Yosho can arrange it or not." Azusa never strayed his glance from the calm lake, the lake created as Yosho's spaceship Funaho vaporized during the battle with Ryoko seven hundred years ago.
"Yosho already arranged it," Funaho pouted, "He never said anything about a second child this morning. Mothers shouldn't have sons — they leave home and all they think about are girls." The second Empress of Jurai turned an walked back into the house to say goodbye.
"Oh! Another grandchild!" Misaki continued to crush Ryo-Ohki until it passed out in her arms. "Azusa-chan? Will you accept him as heir?"
"I don't knowif he is powerful and stronger than Tenchi I will." A wide beam struck him from his flagship, the massive amalgamation of wood and Jurian hand-blown plastics taking the ruler into itself. Misaki dropped Ryo-Ohki before she too was taken up into the throne room. Of yes, the Saotomes were going to have quite a surprise!
---Saotome residence, main gate---
"This the main gate, the only entry or exit point in the compound walls. Anyone who attempts to enter by scaling a wall will have to deal with nine feet of reinforced plexi-glass, hampering any unauthorized entry." [It is always best to assuage their minds as they enter a new life.] He sat back, watching with bemusement as Nabiki and Kasumi gazed in wonderment at the inner grounds.
The Saotome family estate was surrounded by placid koi ponds and running streams, low bushes and tall plum trees; presenting the compound as an idyllic paradise amid the smog of Tokyo.
"Good after noon, Ranma-sama. The Lady Nodoka wishes you and your guests in the dojo." A gray-haired servant appeared, quietly walking towards them as they stepped from the limosuine. He looked distinguished in blue livery, his gray hair and grey mustache trimmed and combed perfectly. His long silver hair fell from a neat ponytail down his back, the errant strands held astringently by a black bow. All in all he resembled a European butler from Edwardian England. Tarou reluctantly took his leave.
"Thank you, Gre-San. Please inform my mother that I will be with her shortly." The tall servant strode down the capacious hallway and disappeared around the bend. "Come along, Kasumi, Nabiki, you must meet my mother." Their eyes followed his movements as he placed a palm on the wall next to them as they stood in the main foyer of the compound, the twinkling sky opened to the heavens. His fingers slid underneath a board and a panel opened, revealing a control box. Nabiki stored that information for later. "Underneath the main building is the Saotome Family Labirynth which stretches for miles underground. They compose twelve separate levels of storage and personal chambers." The wall slid away to reveal a service elevator, the brass polished to a mirror shine. Ranma turned and motioned for the girls to enter, waiting until they were inside before entering himself. He closed the shutter and the lift began to decend downwards into the gaping abyss of myriad tunnels.
"How do you know where you're heading?" Nabiki lifted her hands from the solid gold (!) handbar. "Does it randomly choose a level or did that servant program it?"
"No, I did from that control box. That box has the main switch for all the electricity in the catacombs, but the subsideary switches can all override it." Ranma waited patiently for the lift to stop, gazing up at the rapidly retreating point of light that was the ground floor.
"Who was that man, Ranma-kun?" Kasumi, who had opened her kimono to expose more cleavage, looked disapprovingly at Nabiki.
"That was our butler, Gre Nade. He was here when my father was a little boy, if you want anything just ask him." The elevator screeched to a halt and Ranma pushed back the shutter obscuring a plain dojo contructed deep underground. As the door opened wide, a blur of lavender attached itself to his to body. A pair of soft breasts pressed into his stomach as gentle hands wrapped around his back and urged him out of the lift.
"Ranma! You listen to Mother now, yes?" Shampoo pulled him away as Kasumi and Nabiki fixed her with cold glares. "She have too too important news!"
Suddenly a crisp, clear voice rang out from the opposing end of the dojo. "Come here you two and sit by my son." Nodoka Saotome sat exactly in the centre of the floor underneath a banner proudly stating the Saotome Family lineage. "I am nodoka Saotome, I assume you are Kasumi and Nabiki Tendo?"
"I am Kasumi Tendo, I am honored to meet you." Kasumi bowed low and touched her forehead to the floor.
"I am Nabiki Tendo, I am honored to meet you also." Nabiki mimicked her older sister's actions.
Nodoka brushed away tears of joy with an embroidered kerchief. "Oh! My son is so manly! To have such nice girls chasing after him!" She gently touched Shampoo's knee. Kasumi and Nabiki sat opposite Shampoo, Nodoka, Ranma, and Conditioner.
"Nihao! I Shampoo of Joketsoku Amazon village! Very nice to meet you!" The purple haired girl crawled behind Nodoka and draped her arms around Ranma's neck. "I Ranma's wife!" Kasumi's jaw fell to the floor, Nabiki almost threw up. Hot tears welled up from Kasumi's face and she fixed the nervously smiling Ranma with hatred-filled eyes.
"Bastard! Youyou filthy rotton son of a-"
"That will be quite enough thank you, Kasumi dear. Now don't cry daughter, Shampoo is a wife only according to her tribal law, if Ranma didn't accept her she would have been exiled and cursed." Not to mention the fact that Nodoka, as a proper Japanese woman, would not allow her son to marry a gaijin publicly. Shampoo and Lavender could be his mistresses, but certainly not his lawful wives. Kasumi's outburst died in her throat, and soon the blue-haired girl stood up next.
"Nihao! I am Conditioner! I'm Ranma's wife too!" As opposed to her sister, Conditioner spoke passable japanese with little or not accent. This was the result of countless hours of study under Nodoka when her sister was out pleasuring Ranma and enjoying the sights and sounds of modern civilization. Clearly of the two, Nodoka favored her.
"Excuse me," Nabiki cleared her throat, "Am I to understand that Ranma now has four wives?" Nodoka laughed daintily behind her clothed hand.
"Why of course not, Nabiki dear. Shampoo and Conditioner are only married to him by tribal law. While in Japan, Ranma will only have one wife, Kasumi here. The rest of you will just have to be mistresses." Her proud smile threatened to engulf the sun. "I'm sorry to cut our introductions short, but a rather personal _family_ matter has cropped up. Gre?" The older gentalman appeared out of a wall. "Please show Kasumia nd Nabiki to their rooms."
"It will be done, my lady. Please follow me." Kasumi eagerly followed, excited to explore the rest of the house; Nabiki looked sullenly back at Ranma and Nodoka.
"By the rest of you' I assume Shampo, Conditioner and I? Right?" Nodoka continued to beam her smile back as Gre and Kasumi disappeared around a corner.
"Of course not! My son also has Asuka-chan of the Matsudira clan and hopefully two new girls on the way here now! Now please, I must insist that you leave us to our business, we will have a chance to speak this evening." Reluctantly she followed Kasumi, the Amazons following close behind.
When mother and son were alone, only then did Nodoka speak.
"My son I am overjoyed! Your father called me while you were away!" Nodoka, a woman of strong convictions and an even stronger will, suddenly giggled like a schoolgirl and twirled around in her maroon kimono, her auburn hair whiping around her neck. "Your _father_ called me, after so many years!"
"So what? Pop just called me a few days ago to ask how business was goinghe told me that he would be returning within a week."
"No, no! Not that worthless, spineless fool, Genma! You're real fatheryour real father Yosho!" She spun around and continued to giggle inanely as Ranma stood in stupified wonderment.
"M-myreal father?" Ranma's face swam from tightened apprehension to barely controlled glee. His cold flinty eyes turned moist with hopeful tears, Yosho - long thought dead — called? His true father?
"Yes, he is even greater than I thought before! He is royalty! Royalty! You are a prince, Ranma!" Nodoka wiped her cheeks before standing, brushing off her kimono before continuing. "His father and mother will be here any minute now, I want you to dress in your best suit and meet me in the garden."
"But I am wearing my best suit." Ranma patted away dust from Akane's tirade. "I seeI'll change." He rose from the tatami mat and bowed low to his mother. Nodoka return the gesture then hurried off to freshen up.
---The gardens, thirty minutes later---
Ranma found himself dressed in a white suit with an old tuxedo collar, the white tie billowing in the breeze as he sat, smoking on the porch. Nodoka sat next to him, Genma away overseeing the business.'
Apparently Yosho has said nothing eluding to how he and his guest would appear, only that they _would_ appear by three in the afternoon. Ranma was anxious to meet his biological father, surely he had inherited his power and intelligence from Yosho. He was more interested in how good his biological father was in the martial arts. As the clock chimed three, a golden halo decended on the garden.
Nodoka's eyes widened in surprise, then boggled in astonishment as four forms phased into being over the flagstones. Two were obviously women, two indisputably male; nevertheless, all four took corporeal form and landed with the fluttering of cloth. Nodoka stepped back, astonished aty Yosho's appearance, seemingly untouched by the ravages of time. She touched her face, one that should have been wrinkled and pitted with forty years of age, then found the tears returning with renewed vigor. "Yosho!"
The younger of the two men, a dark-haired, bispecticaled, youthful male ran forward and em,braced her, touching her forehead. Ranma stepped back as his mother flashed a brilliant white at his touch, white light pouring off her body in thick waves until the halo receded back into her head. As the glare cleared, he was dumbstruck at what he beheld.
Nodoka's elaborate kimono, previously embroidered with pheonixes, now had transformed into long robes and tassels, red cloaks and teal belts. She hung limply in the arms of Yosho, his own cloak enveloping her inert form. The older man and the two women merely watched the situation with dtachment.
"Is she the one you have chosen?" Azusa's rich baritone rang in Ranma's ears. "The daughter of Haruka?"