Pretty Magical Girl Ranma
The Short Goodbye
Ranma spun left as the Lost Boy's Breaking Point technique turned what had once been a perfectly good sidewalk into a detonation of hailing concrete. Fragments ripped through the air where the martial artist had been standing, impaling the wall behind him like some misshapen shotgun blast.
"Ryoga, I really don't have time for this!"
He ducked under the next spinning roundhouse kick that took a chunk out of the already pulverized wall behind Ranma. …And he was only aiming for, oh, my head, He thought sarcastically and began to probe his opponent's defense with a few combinations of his own. Ranma frowned. All the basic stuff was meeting with solid deflections, which could only mean one thing-Ryoga had been practicing.
"You'll make time for my vengeance, Ranma!" Ryoga snarled and renewed his offensive with vigor. "I've seen hell because of you! …AGAIN!"
Sidestep. Duck. Quarter flip. It was all automatic as Ranma wondered just what hell he had inadvertently visited on the directionally challenged combatant this time. For Ranma, hell was Akane with a kitchen all to herself, but lord only knew what he had done to Ryoga. Dodge. Reversal. Roll out. He's probably just pissed that he got lost in the bathroom again. In fact-
"I said pay attention!" Ryoga face contorted with rage while both hands began to glow. Whatever, Ryoga. Like a stupid ki blast is going to-Wait. Both hands? "Shishi Houkou Dan Double!"
Ranma's responses were still on automatic when the duel ki-shots roared in. His initial movement would have neatly removed him from the path of the first, but however neglected to take into account a second ball of spirit energy. Blue light bathed his person as the blast flashed toward him at high speed. For most people, the situation would have spelled certain disaster. Of course, most people weren't Ranma Saotome, heir to the Anything Goes School of Martial Arts either. There was a reason this boy was called a martial arts prodigy and it showed even in how he reacted to the unexpected attack. It was a nearly impossible movement as Ranma whipped around to face the blast and generated his own blast. The two met in a blinding flash and the pigtailed boy was blow across the street landing feet first into another wall that promptly buckled on impact. He fortified his body with ki for the shock and flipped out of the crumbling indenture and back onto the street.
Sloppy, Ranma chided himself. Sloppy and careless. I just got too used to him dealing the same stale moves for months, that's all. I guess I should take it as a complement. After all, he's just copying my Moko Takabishi Double blast. Now Ryoga affected an arrogant smile from across the street and it was starting to get on his nerves.
"Really P-chan," Ryoga's smile evaporated like a snowflake in hell. Hit, Ranma smiled wickedly "Can't you come up with something original?"
"DIE, RANMA!" The pig boy snarled in undistilled rage and launched another Double blast downrange. Ranma was already in the air as the energized balls of ki obliterated the street he'd been standing. Now that's a difference, Ranma noted as tumbled through the air into Ryoga. Wonder how many doubles he can actually light off? He put the question on hold and powered up his own Moko Tababisha, bringing it down on Ryoga like a ki jackhammer.
The shock stunned Ranma, his downward momentum stopped by two more blasts that simultaneously intercepted his own. Power erupted around him, reversing his fall violently. THREE doubles? He extended, turning his uncontrolled aerial tumble into a controlled, skidding landing. Ranma now considered his opponent in a new light as he recovered back into a combat stance. While he could pump out single blasts all day long, doubles put considerably more strain on his system and two was his limit. Ryoga had just cut loose with three and by the looks of it, wasn't showing signs of significant strain. Impressive, Ranma thought, but not good enough. He powered up another ki blast and sent it down the street, where Ryoga was more than happy to meet it with his own one more. The two flashed together, annihilating one and other in a release of incoherent energy.
The second's worth of blindness was all it took and Ranma was inside the lost boy's guard with three hard kicks to his mid-section. The force sent him into the opposite wall with a satisfying crunch. He pressed the attack, but Ryoga recovered and managed to deflect the next round of blows. He rolled right and came to rest by his hiking pack, grabbling the traditional red bamboo umbrella that was never far from his side. Ranma skipped back as the umbrella swung in and watched it take another chunk out of the already abused apartment building wall they had been dueling around. The umbrella popped open and Ryoga gave it a mighty hurl. Now it was Ranma who had to roll away as it cut it's own path down the street, it's bamboo edge slicing down light poles and traffic signs in the process. The pig-tailed boy was up again and ready to press his attack once more when he noticed the faintest edge of amusement on Ryoga's face. Shit, the umbrella! The warning blasted through Ranma and he went prone. The umbrella whistled back overhead, cutting brick out of the wall and gutting a fire hydrant before returning to Ryoga's outstretched hand.
The resulting fountain of water doused both combatants, but only one had an umbrella. Part of Ranma was getting pissed. He was now a she, cold and wet. The other part had to give Ryoga his due. The umbrella had been popped open too fast and too conveniently not to have been a preplanned move. Two attacks and some humiliation all combined into one move. Nice. The pressure from the hydrate dropped to a burble and the last of the showers pattered down on Ranma who found Ryoga smiling coldly once more. Smile while you can, pig-boy, she thought evilly. My overall power may have decreased, but my technique is the same and I even get a slight bump in speed.
Ranma blurred forward in a spray of water and Ryoga brought his weapon to bear, only to have it neatly sidestepped. Two deflections later and she opened Ryoga's guard wide and unleashed the Haku Dato Shin Sho into several parts of his body. The lost boy instantly knew it was the beginning of the end of the fight. The attack would punch super-concentrated spikes of ki using the girl's fingers tips through his body. Overall, the damage radius was minute save the fact that the spikes would reach through his own ki fortified body and into the vulnerable points. The first hit his chest. A second into his abdomen. His arm. Another chest shot. Then the redhead's hand began to glow and began to power up a ki blast at pointblank range. Ryoga watched with disbelief. Did she even realize…?
Even as the ball of destructive ki energy coalesced in her hand, she knew there was something wrong. Ranma shoved the ball of power into Ryoga's chest only to watch it ablate off his person with slight pressure, it's energy scattering harmlessly as her bare palm impacted his chest. It almost burned, nothing more.
The moment stretched eternally as the two stood frozen in the street, Ranma holding her striking stance while Ryoga simply stood there.
The moment passed and brought the umbrella back down and swatted the girl into the already scarred wall, leaving another to match Rtoga's previous. Stars blasted through her vision as she hit without preparation and she fell to her knees. Ranma's mind was racing as it fought around the daze. What the hell was that! The Haku Dato Shin Sho not going through his body was bad enough, but the raw ki attack she had produced didn't have anything behind it! The girl looked up to find Ryoga simply waiting behind a neutral mask. Fine then. Again! Ranma recovered into an attack crouch and powered up the next ki-ball and frowned. Something was very wrong. It was everything she could do just to keep the matrix to contain the energy, let alone feed power into the damn thing. Ryoga stepped forward, watching Ranma curiously now. He could see it too. Ranma glanced at him, then the ball in her hand. She willed herself to feed it. To power it. But power was dissipating through the containment matrix she had woven faster than she could feed it and the pathetic ball began to flicker. Her eyes widened. She couldn't power it? Ranma shoved the dying ball into the waiting concrete where it hit with a dull thud and scortched the ground, but otherwise did nothing to harm it.
She stared at the burn mark, unable to meet her opponent's eyes. "The Haku Dato Shin Sho didn't get through." It was half question, half knowing statement. If it had, he sure as heck wouldn't be standing up strait right now.
"No. The ki blast was also… Pathetic." Ranma's head snapped up, glaring at Ryoga. She drew up to her full height, which was still a full head shorter than Ryoga. This can't be happening again. She could attempt to draw the boy into the Dragon, but she wasn't going to take the fight that far. Too much property damage associated with that attack for the nerima suburb. Ranma tried to pull more power from her body and was barely able to form the container for the ball this time. She was going to have to do the unthinkable. Ryoga was too strong to fight on her female body's merits alone. Sure she was fast, but the connection to the ki within her was tenuous and her control fleeting at best. One good smack from Ryoga without her body fortified by it and she would…
"Ryoga… I… I…"
"No." Ryoga stated with certainty. He knew exactly what she was going to say. "I won't accept your forfeiture of this match." Ranma stared at him now. If he decided to press this match there was a very good chance he could pull it off. Kill her maybe. "You're not even worth fighting right now. You're weak."
Ryoga glared at the girl in front of him with contempt before snatching up his pack and walking back down the street from whence he came.
Akane watched her fiancé walk through the gates. He was a she and obviously having a very bad day if the look on her face was any indication. As the redhead passed by her, Akane knew just the thing to snap her out of it.
Ranma paused, tilting her head to finding a warm smile on Akane and the redhead managed a weak smile of her own. Truth be told, the engagement had not been going well and they both knew it. That didn't stop either from trying however, and the fact that they had gone from disgruntled acquaintances to an almost sibling relationship was a miracle unto itself. Ordinary people would have snapped long ago under the constant turmoil and stress that plagued their daily lives, but Akane and Ranma weren't ordinary people. They had both been entered into a prearranged marriage by their parents, bound by their will and honor to continue the Anything Goes School of Martial Arts of which Ranma was the heir apparent. As if that pressure weren't enough, Ranma had his curse, two more fiancées that would claim him by any means necessary and numerous more rivals that would kill him over the previous fact.
"So what happened?" Akane was almost afraid to ask, because the look in her eyes spoke of a heavy burden. It was something she had seen too many times and recognized it instantly. There was little they could keep from one another these days.
Ranma's weak smile vanished and was replaced by a slight frown. "It's… It's gone…"
Gone? What's gone, Akane wondered? Ranma saw the question on her face and simply stretched out a hand. A look of intense concentration flickered across her face and her hand tensed. Akane watched as a ki orb flickered to life and Ranma strained herself even more. The ball grew slightly and gained more presence, then began to waver. Her breathing began to labor and beads of sweat popped from her forehead. The ball was now the size of a cantaloupe, but it wasn't like any Akane had seen before. The ki ball suspended in Ranma's hand was a pale imitation of the destructive force she knew her fiancée could unleash at the drop of a hat and this ball was… dying. Her eyes widened as the containment matrix began to unravel and raw ki diffused into open air before collapsing entirely in on itself.
Ranma dropped to her knees, plainly exhausted. "That's the best I can do, Akane… I can barely feel it inside of me…"
Akane simply stared down at the redhead, still piecing together the implications. That can't be the best! He's unleashed ki blasts that would annihilate a small building! "You can't… At all?"
Ranma stared at the ground. "Nothing. Ryoga won't even fight me now…"
Which was probably for the best, Akane thought, but neither was she kidding herself. The only time the two passed up a brawl was if it would constitute a breach in their honor. Without ki to tap, Ranma was… Almost ordinary. Which by any measuring stick was still exceptional, just that going to toe to toe against an opponent like Ryoga would be tantamount to suicide. No ki to augment his movements, to fortify his body or to unleash the devastating attacks he had come to rely on in dealing with any number of advesaries he faced over the last three years. She may be pleased that he couldn't fight Ryoga, but there was no understating the magnitude of the problem.
And once his rivals found out…
…Let alone the other fiancées in waiting.
"Come on, baka." There was no harshness in her voice as the redhead looked up at Akane. "I'll get Kasumii to draw you a bath and we'll schedule an appointment with Doctor Tofu."
The Doctor's hands pressed down Ranma's spine with deliberate precision as the young martial artist waited shirtless on the physician's examination bed. Doctor Tofu walked around him now and poked a few more fingers into his pecs and abdomen. "And you say you first noticed this in your female form?"
Ranma nodded. "I was able to produce two Moko Takabishas before the change. Now it's like I can barely grab onto anything inside of me…"
Doctor Tofu stood up, and looked from him, to Akane and back. "Then I think I'm going to need to examine your girl-type as well." Ranma visibly twitched and Akane's face froze.
"I'll be waiting outside." Akane stated with no small frost and exited the examination room promptly. It never helped to remind Akane of the curse.
Ranma sighed. "Alright, Doc. If you think it's best." He wasn't looking forward to a partially nude examination as a chick, but it wouldn't be the first time he'd had one at Tofu's hands and Ranma always appreciated his professional demeanor throughout the checkup. A cold glass of water and some shivers later, The Doctor was back at her spine, tracing the ki lines along it, then around the breasts. The girl's cheeks turned a light shade of pink but she otherwise maintained her silence.
Doctor Tofu turned from the table and retrieved a thermos or warm water, offering it to Ranma. She proptly spilled the contents over her person. "You can come back in, Akane." The fiancée opened the door and returned to her seat staring at the two men expectantly.
"I'm not sure how to explain this…" Doctor Tofu picked over his next words carefully. "For a high ki user such as Ranma, there are well established routes and points his power flows along, normally the result of years of training and discipline in the art." Both followed so far. It was a fact they were both intimately aware of as martial artists. "Through that discipline, the user can call upon the reserves stored within his or her body. The more orderly the distribution and storage, the easier it becomes to access. That would be Ranma on any other day."
"But not today." Ranma grumbled.
"But not today." Tofu confirmed. "From what I've been able to map throughout your body, there is very little order in those pathways at the moment. In fact, there was even less order when you transformed just now." Ranma was beginning to look very unhappy. "It was almost as if the transformation disrupted the established lines of ki throughout your body…" He thought intently for a moment, then retrieved another glass of cold water. The doctor placed a single finger on Ranma's forhead, a powerful point of chi, while the other held the glass ready. "One more time with permission?"
Ranma shrugged and was doused with the water. Tofu concentrated on the points feeling the complacent ki shear and tear with the change. He then grabbed the warm thermos and repeated the process. Again, the ripples tore through the point, creating disorder. Doctor Tofu stepped back and contemplated the experiment. Then he noticed Akane's and Ranma's pink face as they stared at one another. "Uh, right. Sorry about that. It would appear as if my hypothesis was correct. I could feel the shearing that time."
The shirtless martial artist didn't like where this was going. "Every time I change?"
"It would appear so." The Doctor confirmed, handing Ranma his silk shirt back. "It's not that your ki is gone, so much as it's impossible to form in an orderly manner. It would certainly explain your fight with Ryoga."
"But why now?" Akane asked the most obvious question before Ranma could open his own mouth.
Doctor Tofu scratched his chin thoughtfully. "Well, you've had the curse for about three years, right?" Ranma nodded. "Maybe it's just taken that long to break down the path ways. It could even be the curse further adapting to your body for all I know. You might want to ask Cologne or-" He stopped short as both teen's radiant glare fell upon him. Both had enough Amazon games to last them a lifetime, and neither wanted to know the old hag's price for help this time. "Or maybe not. But regardless, I can theorize two immediate conditions these ripples create. First, every time you change, your ki becomes impotent. Second, the longer you remain in one form or the other the more of a chance it is given to rebuild their pathways."
Ranma was now looking at the man in horror. "Um… How long… To rebuild the pathways?" And that wasn't even the least of his problems. Everytime he changed! He was a water magnet for cryin' out loud! That was a hell of a combat liability against the people he faced on a regular basis. "But Ryoga wasn't affected…"
He hated to keep giving the boy unknowns, but… "Honestly, I'm at a loss. Maybe it's simply a random element imbedded with the curse. Frankly, magic isn't my specialty." Doctor Tofu thought on it a moment longer. "But if you would rather avoid the Amazons I might be able to help with a referral…"
"A friend of a friend of an uncle, actually." Tofu elaborated. "Maybe he'll be able to tell you more. The only thing I can suggest is to keep your changing to a minimum."
Ranma looked at the good doctor with a critical eye. "Right. A minimum."
Somehow he just didn't see that happening.
"Oh look! Halley's Comet!" Genma pointed off into the air and Soun twisted around to see. After all, those things only come by every seventy-five years or so. Genma scooped another shogi piece from his distracted opponent's board.
Soun Tendo turned back to their game. "I must have-" He stopped, eyeing the board carefully. He could have sworn there was a piece right there… "Old friend, did you happen to see piece I just moved?"
"What?" Genma feigned ignorance with a skill that could only come from years of practice. "Wait a minute. You're not trying to cheat again are you?"
"No, no… but I could have sworn…" Soun tried to retrace the moves that led up to his subsequent missing piece.
"Look Tendo, I don't have time for-" Genma's banter was cut off as the front dojo gate opened, admitting a diminutive figure. He stood only slightly talker than Happosai and the most obvious features to strike the casual observer was the rather large domed shell he wore over his head. Next was the long cane resting lightly on his shoulder, ending in the shape of a bronze spade ring with two more rings hanging from it. The rings jingled lightly as the old man approached the pair playing shogi on the house porch.
"Where might this one find Ranma Saotome?" The crackled old voice addressed the Soun and Genma as he came to a stop next to the board.
Genma Saotome eyed the old man warily. No significant ki readings. He's old. Not much of a threat by himself. A monk maybe? "You're not here concerning a fiancée are you?" The old monk shook his head. "A rival?" Negative. "Seeking revenge?" Another no. Genma considered the old man once more and shrugged, turning back to the house. "Get your butt out here, Boy!"
Ranma padded down the stairs and found the parents with a guest outside. "Keep your shorts on, Old …man?" He found the monk staring up at him, studying him intently. Oh god, not another old ghoul…
"This one hears you have a minor problem, young one." The old man smiled mischievously and Genma's ears perked up. Problem? This would be the first he'd heard of one.
Ranma winced. Damn. Secret was out. "Um, yeah. A problem."
"With a curse." The monk probed deeper.
"Uh, yeah… Are you…?"
Genma relaxed. Whew… Thought he had a new problem there for a moment.
"This one was referred by Doctor Tofu, yes." The old man confirmed. "The ki is still disturbed?" Ranma nodded and his father's gaze narrowed on him. Maybe there was something to this after all. The boy was holding out on him, he was sure of it.
"Kneel." Ranma did so, coming down to the monk's height. "This one does not deal with ki, but with magic. Mind you this one is not your personally physician to help or call at your whim, as only the curse interests him…" He paused, staring at Ranma with ancient eyes. "…Not you."
Ranma arched an eyebrow. Pretty damn direct, but whatever. Not as if they were going to become best buddies anyway. Just tell me what's happening so I can get on with my life. Ranma nodded, and the old man seemed placated.
"Now that we understand one another, let us begin." Genma and Soun watched as the Monk lowered the staff and hanging rings onto the boy's head, closing his eyes. The bronze spade began to glow with a light jingle and the old man closed his eyes, concentrating. Ranma could feel a wave pour through his body, reflecting around inside his very being. The feeling continued for several minutes before finally washing away entirely.
The Old man returned the staff to his shoulder, frowning. "The damage is irreparable." Ranma's jaw dropped with proclamation and the old man continued unaware. "The taint of death magic surrounds you. Powerful death magic. If your doctor was correct, the side effect is most likely associated with the chaos of its implementation."
Ranma's mind was barely able to form his next coherent thought into words, still stunned by the certainty of the old monk's prognosis. "Wah… What about removing the curse?"
"Ha!" The monk laughed and his staff jingled lightly as his small body shook. "This one does not believe it can be done, but will humor you. Tell this one about the curse and its result."
"It's the Jyusenkyou curse." Ranma explained through his ever-mounting depression. "Basically a hundred springs, each with their own drowned victim. Anybody who falls in," He shot a hot glare at his father, "will take the form of whatever drowned there last. Cold water activates the curse, warm water reverses it."
The monk looked at the boy thoughtfully for a moment and shrugged. "The amount of spilled blood is enormous. And it continues?"
Ranma shook his head. "No longer. The site is destroyed."
The old monk considered him, watching the flames glow in his eyes. Destroyed in a manner that he had no small part in, this one bets… "Unless you are will to sacrifice a greater number of souls or ally yourself with extremely powerful magic, this one does not believe the curse can be reversed."
The glowing flames switched to panic. Damn it! I'll be dog meat before the end of the year! I can't stop myself from changing long enough for the ki to settle and while I could probably take out the lower level opponents around here on skill alone, anybody even approaching Ryoga's level is going to hurt. Bad. Think… Think… Think…
The old man nodded and turned his back on the Ranma, walking back toward the gates. "Um, maybe I can learn magic!"
Genma's eyes popped open. He didn't know what was going on, but that was most likely the most ridiculous comment he'd heard from the boy in years. "Magic! Are you daft, boy? You're a martial artist, not some stage magician!"
The monk turned back to Ranma with a frown. "You are an unsuitable vessel. Willing, yes. Good student, yes. But your body is closed to those arts by nature. Nothing you can do-"
Ranma was standing over his father now breathing anger down on the man. "Dammit, Pops! Keep you mouth shut! I'm in serious trouble here!"
Genma's fist shot out and grabbed the boy by his shirt, pulling him down. "Listen, Boy! A true martial artist must be ready day or night for trouble!" His father used the downward momentum to plant a foot into Ranma's chest. "And not rely on magical parlor tricks!" Genma kicked out hard, rolling backward and suddenly, Ranma was in flight. There could be only one landing zone.
"Waddja do that for?"
The Monk stopped short of pulling the gate open and looked back toward the female voice, finding a soaked redhead waist deep in the property's koi pond. He walked back over to the pond's edge and stared at the girl curiously.
Ranma wasn't exactly happy and his sum total experience with old people staring at her such as this one was that they were either perverts or manipulative backstabbers. "Whaddya want now? You already said no, so leave already." Besides, it was time for her to kick some panda ass, she thought darkly.
"Your curse?" The monk asked simply.
He nodded. "This form is open to the teaching. It has great potential."
It wasn't the first time in Ranma's life that she was both thrilled and crushed simultaneously. So she could learn magic, but he couldn't. Great. Would anything else like to conspire against my male form, she thought sarcastically? But still, it was a shot. Not just at restoring his ki, but his form as well…
"But why not me as a guy?"
"Because magic is not like ki. You harness the forces around you and manipulate them as they pass through you." The old monk explained patiently. "Life force creates ki. Magic is. Your body must be naturally receptive to those forces so that it may pass through you and your male self is dead to magic. This one believes that your female self however, hold great potential."
Ranma stepped out of the pond and was processing the new information when her father stormed over. "Boy, you ARE a MARTIAL ARTIST!" A hand reached out to grab her shoulder, but paused just out of reach. The redhead blinked in surprise and found her father floating a foot off the ground. Floating?
She looked down at the monk, who simply smiled mischeviously. "This one has not had a promising student in several hundred years. Do not disturb us." Genma's arms and legs flailed wildly as he drifted lazily over the pond.
"Ra- Ranma! Stop him!" Genma pleaded desperately and the girl smiled. If the old monk was looking to score points with her, he was certainly doing a fine job of it now. Now if he'd only drop-
Ah, that's the stuff, Ranma smiled wickedly, and led the old man back to the house, leaving a giant wet Panda in their wake.
"It is not so easy." The old monk sat inside at their dining room table, sipping the tea Kasumi has so graciously served them both. "To reverse the death magic surrounding you requires an equal or greater amount of magic, either willing or …Unwilling."
Ranma nodded slowly, Akane having found his side only moments before to hear the explanation. "So we're not talking about a quick fix here."
"Years of practice. Dedication to the Art will be required." The old man confirmed solemly.
It sucked, but there was one thing about the Old man that had his immediete respect-He didn't sugar coat the issues or mislead him. Yet. Sakkarin he called himself. Evidentially he found Ranma worthy of revealing his name considering they might be working together.
"Look, I know better than anybody that the arts require sacrifice," Ranma sighed wearily. After over a decade in constant unceasing training, he had better know that fact by heart. "But I've got a lot of… friends who have just been waiting for an opportunity like this to get to know me better."
Sakkarin nodded. "You concentrate on the end goal, yet there are many steps to strengthen one from here to there. Endure and you will face your… 'friends' easily." He said the last with a twinkle in his eye.
Ranma was thinking long and hard on the old man's words. Even something simple like floating people around would make his opponent's think twice… The idea was already gaining merit in his mind when another, more pressing question rolled forth. Nabiki, who was out at the moment, would have been proud.
"What's in it for you?"
Again, the mischievous smile appeared. "You, of course. As this one's apprentice, you shall carry out tasks for him. And if you have as much potential as this one thinks you do, his name will be carried far and wide through circles most powerful."
Ranma thought on it some more. Apprenticeship wasn't so bad. Performing tasks wasn't bad either. Can't be much worse than Old Pops has already put me through, he thought grimly. But there was…
"All that time as a girl, Ranma?" Akane voiced his concerns as if she were his thoughts manifest. Ranma nodded soberly. Yeah, that was going to be a problem.
Sakkarin took another sip of tea. "Only during class and practice. It is the only way you may learn but you are not required to stay female exclusively." The monk watched Ranma dwell on the matter and decided not to push too hard. "This one does not require a decision today." He slid a gold coin across the table. "Think on it tonight and tomorrow and let this one know before sunrise of the day after."
"More tea?" Kasumi walked in smiling gently at the old monk, who returned her smile.
"Thank you, but no." He pause a moment and cocked his head slightly. "Kasumi Tendo, you are fascinated by the medical arts, are you not?"
Kasumi looked down at Sakkarin. "Oh my, yes… How did you know?"
"The house whispers of your desires, Kasumi Tendo." He smiled. "It is very fond of you."
She had known the dojo was part of her just as much as she was part of it, but had never considered the relationship from a metaphysical standpoint, let alone from one that would find the house aware of her presence. "The house is… fond of me?" Now Akane and Ranma were starting at the old Monk.
"Indeed." Sakkarin confirmed. "It also desires you to pursue your dreams…" Then he winked. "As long as those dreams do not take you away from it for so long."
Medical school had always been on her mind… A nurse's license, maybe more were the dreams floating though her head. Kasumi was a sponge when it came to medicine. She had borrowed numerous books from Doctor Tofu and raided the public library for everything she could get her hands on. She just didn't spend her days at the house idle and now she found herself actually running out of material that could be considered easy access. The next logical step would be a university, but she couldn't even think of that until Ranma and Akane got together. Kasumi's mood soured a bit. And they were certainly taking their sweet time to do it. No that she could blame them, but…
"Are you offering… To teach me as well?" She ventured and the Ranma-Akane couple's eyes widened. Kasumi? Magic!
"Magic, yes," Sakkarin grinned a wrinkled smile. "but the divine art of healing is best left to others, not this one. Still, this house whispers highly of you and your desire, while this one can feel your potential as well. An excellent student you would be."
Now Akane was feeling slighted as her older sister began to seriously consider the offer. Everybody was going to run off and learn something but her! "Um, what about me? Can I learn some magic too?" she asked hopefully.
Sakkarin had already decided on that from the moment he saw Akane Tendo, the un-fiancee of Ranma Saotome. "Goodness no!" Akane's eyes flew open in shock. "Too much chaos flows through you. Discontent. This one could not assure your own safety in the teaching."
A bright blue aura flashed to life around the girl as her eyes lit with fury over the perceived slight. Her hand slowly pulled a large mallet from behind her back.
Ranma was now mentally at DEFCON one. "Akaneeee…" He whispered up to her softly, but with much trepidation. First, the last thing he wanted to do was interpose himself between the girl and her anger, second, she was about to assault his potential sensei and third… "Remember the panda." He hissed softly.
The battle aura dimmed slightly and the hammer drawing hand froze in place. The panda in question had been dunked into the pond with little to no effort on Sakkarin's part. That wasn't so much of a big deal, except for the fact that the panda continued to be dunked. Repeatedly. He'd fall into the pond, rise back up, fall and rise again. All courtesy of the little monk's magic. To their knowledge, the process was still going on outside even as they spoke. Akane slide the hammer back in place and settled for a heated glare before spinning away from the table and stomping upstairs to her room.
Sakkarin smiled that mischievous smile once more, then looked back to Kasumi. "Ranma learns this art out of nessesity. You learn it out of desire. This one is certain that at the conclusion of your training you will be a Healer of the highest rank and regard." Kasumi's own eyes widened now and the possibilities raced though her mind. Her dream could come true! Albiet in a most unorthodox way, but she loved…
"Again, you need not decide now." The old monk stated, standing up from the table. "I thank you for your hospitality Kasumi Tendo, Ranma Saotome." His fingers snapped and the monk was gone in a flash of light and poof of smoke.
Tendo and Saotome were left to simply stare at one another in awe.
"Boy, you had seriously better not be considering learning magic." Genma snapped at his son from across the dinner table.
For once, he and Akane were in agreement. "Honestly Ranma, magic tricks are for kids."
Ranma ignored his fiancée and smirked at his father. "Yeah Pop? I didn't exactly see the special technique that got you out of the pond."
Now it was Soun Tendo's turn to jump in. "Your father is right. This is the Anything Goes School of Martial Arts, not Magical Arts."
"What happened to the 'Anything Goes' part, Daddy?" Nabiki quipped and Ranma had to smile. He tried not to let it spread to wide since the knife called Nabiki would just as soon slit his own wrists as their parents.''
Ranma consumed another morsel of food. "Look, I explained the problem already. My transformation disrupts my ki now. I am a water magnet. Do the math, people." Then he had a wicked idea. "Heck, Nabiki oughta be happy to have me out of the house just to get rid of the damage and food expenses anyway."
Nabiki snatched a glance at the young Saotome. It was an obvious ploy to get her on his side, but an effective one regardless. That was no small consideration, but she couldn't let him off too easily. "True, but then I loose all the income from your pictures." Ranma's cheeks turned pink. That's what I was looking for, the middle Tendo thought with delight. "But he's right. Our outgo would be substantial less."
He mentally sighed in relief. Nabiki was a lock. "Besides, it's not as if I'm giving up the art or running out on the engagement. In fact, I'm doing it to get the art back."
"Hmmf." Genma snorted. "We'll see. But don't even think of running off until we've decided."
"Oh, hey, no problem, Pops."
Truth be told, he had decided for himself by the next morning. Ranma had been thinking on the matter for the entire night and realized learning that art wasn't just a means to an end, but something fascinating in and of itself. I mean come on, he thought that night. If you can make something float around, what else can you do? And disappear before their very eyes? You can't tell me that wouldn't be useful in a battle. So the day rolled along, marked only by the passing of the occasional fiancée glomp, a mallet queen's temper and surprise attack by Mousse. I was lucky, Ranma realized. The fiancées weren't hostile and Mousse was easily taken out by his natural abilities. Granted, without the ki to fortify his body, he had to avoid Akane's mallet of death, but thank God he was fast enough for that.
Now night had fallen and the decision was made. He only had one thing left to do before he did whatever he was supposed to do with the coin.
Tap Tap tap.
Kasumi looked up from her book and found a male Ranma hanging down into her window. She smiled and opened it up, letting the young man in. "You really ought use the door, Ranma." She said with mock reprove. Not only was it his normal mode of entrance concerning the sisters, but she could guess easily enough why he was here, but she asked anyway. Besides, it was a rare occurrence to find Ranma in her room. Helping her in the kitchen, yes. Miscellaneous chores, sure. But she could literally count the number of times he had been in her room on one hand.
"What can I do for you Ranma?"
Ranma looked her, uncertain how to proceed. "Well, the old guy offered, um… Well, that if you wanted to come along… Y'know. Just thought I'd stop by before I left."
"You're not going to wait, are you?" Kasumi observed. Not that it was a surprise. "Neither of our fathers will be pleased."
Ranma shrugged with indifference. "It's not as if I'm running of to China. Or marrying another fiancée. Heck, I've even got a shot of getting rid of the damn curse. Ain't no way I'm passing that up."
Kasumi saw the certainty in his eyes. She had been on the fence herself, which was surprising in its own way. She had a strong loyalty to her family and the house, and it no small part in her thoughts. Now that the monk Sakkarin had mentioned it, she could feel the house. Its approval. It was willing to let her go. Encouraging her to live her dreams. Kasumi looked at Ranma. His confidence. The house's approval. It was all she needed to tip the scales.
She pulled the packed suitcase from under her bed and Ranma about fell over in shock. "You've already packed!"
"Shhhh…" Kasumi smiled, finger at her lips. "I had not decided until a moment ago. Still, this whole business about leaving in the middle of the night…"
"Tell me about it." Ranma rolled his eyes. "I'd tell 'em if I could, but you know the parents. Pops said maybe, but maybe means no. Akane would get furious and if the other fiancées ever caught wind of it, I'd never have a moment's peace. And that's not counting the likes of Ryoga, Mousse, Kuno, Kodachi and God knows who else."
Kasumi nodded with sympathy. His life was horribly complicated most of the time, and she certainly couldn't blame the boy for running off in the middle of the night to pursue his dreams. It inspired her at the same time, though. To pursue her dreams as well- A world-class physician! A giggle escaped Kasumi's lips and Ranma smiled knowingly. Her face turned to a visage of contemplation for a moment.
"We should leave a note."
Ranma nodded. Wish I had thought of that, he mused. "You better write it. We both know anything I put on paper will be mud." Kasumi smiled again. So true. She sat down at her desk and began scribbling a note to indicate their leave of absence. "Oh, and make sure to tell them I didn't seduce you or nothin'." Kasumi couldn't help to giggle once more and it heartened Ranma. "And remind 'em that I'll make sure nothing will happen to yas. Oh, and that Akane-"
"I think they'll understand, Ranma." She smiled back at him. Maybe he really does need a break form all this. There's just entirely too much pressure on him for a boy his age.
"Yeah, I guess you're right." He said agreeably, then something else occurred to him. "Jeez, I hope they don't starve."
Now Kasumi couldn't decide whether to frown at the disparaging of her sister's cooking or smile at the compliment to her own. Lacking a clear avenue, she opted for a mild instruction. "I'm sure Akane will be fine. I think the house will take care of her."
The house, Ranma thought. That was still an odd concept to grasp, but he had to agree. The martial artist patted a wall gently. "Yeah, it's been a good house. First real home I've had in nearly a decade." Then he chuckled. "It'll probably be happy with the break I'm givin' it and all."
"Ok, done." Kasumi left the note sit on the desk and stood before Ranma. "Now what?"
Ranma dug the gold coin out of his pocket. Thank God Nabiki hadn't seen it or he'd be risking his life and sanity keeping it from her. "Um, he just said use it." The eldest Tendo looked at it curiously as well. "Hmmm… We'd like to see ol' Sakkarin now?"
The coin began to vibrate in his hand and Ranma dropped it to the floor in shock. What the-! The golden disk began to glow as it sat on the floor, and continued to glow until no detail could be discerned from its surface. Both Tendo and Saotome took a step back when it started to change shape, first into a bright square, then elongating into a three-foot by two-inch rectangle. Then it began to grow. The base dimensions remain the same but it climbed in height to about the size of a…
The glow faded and before them sat a door, supported by nothing and complete with doorknob and intricate oak finish.
"Uh, right." Ranma stepped forward, looking around the other side of the unsupported door. Weird, but cool, he thought. Kasumi looked at him with uncertainty and he grasped the doorknob, turning it. The door itself clicked open, and their eyes looked on in awe.
"Well, come on you two," Sakkarin quipped. "This one doesn't have all day!"
Ok, ok… Standard Fanfic Plot #6: Ranma goes magical, gets some back. I dunno, it just seemed like it'd be fun to try out myself. Hopefully I'm doing a good enough job so far for yas. Enjoy part 2.
Sakkarin; In casting this character, you'll need a reference to the game Samurai Showdown (or Spirits, depending on how anal you are). He looks exactly like the character Caffeine-Nicotine, but is of course, a mage. I would have just used Caffeine-Nicotine as his name her if it were so damn cumbersome and corny. So I chose an artificial sweetener instead. Hey, doesn't that stuff cause cancer too?
Kasumi; I didn't originally intend on the Kasumi match up, but after about page five, I decided I like the idea the more I thought on it. Generally, Nabiki is more fun because of all the angst that she brings to the table, but I'm sure I can get by with magical girl Kasumi quite well. It'll be fun, trust me.
Shaule Sachs/Zaxxon - The Travelers; Somewhere along the way, my idea got kind of tangled up with his and I have to admit, it is one of the better multiverse Ranma fanfics I've read. …Even if it is a tad on the lemony sub-dom side. Seriously though, this fanfic originally started out staying within its own timeline and world with Ranma learning magical arts. Frankly, it's a lot more fun now :D
Pretty Magical Girl Ranma
Be It Ever So Humble
A seven-foot line of vertical light cut into the local reality, forming atop a water tower in Nermia, Japan. The line increased to a three-foot width, forming what amounted to a luminescent two-dimensional wall. The first figure that stepped out of the unnatural barrier was a diminutive five-foot two redhead clad in an elaborate earthen brown robe, decorated with royal blue highlights. It wrapped around the neck, leaving shoulders and back bare. A shawl draped around those smooth shoulders and her step onto the water tower was accompanied by a jingle, the result of the rings hanging off spade tipped staff in her hand. She looked around, smiled slightly and held out a hand to the waiting trans-dimensional gateway.
The next figure that stepped through the door of light had a peaceful air about her as she took the redhead's hand. Her rolling brown hair wavered in the wind softly, as did her dark blue kimono-like dress. The golden dragons along its lines seemed to ripple with life as she stepped carefully onto the water tower top. Whereas the redhead's free hand was occupied by a staff, a thick leather-bound book rested in hers, golden leaf flashing in the sunlight. Her robe cleared the gateway and the redhead nodded. The act seemed to cause the wall of light to shudder and collapse in upon itself as if it had never existed.
They both stepped to the edge, and the brown haired woman's peaceful serenity cracked slightly in favor of a frown. "Now Ranchan, you know I don't like heights." There was no anger in the reprove, just a mild reminder of the fact. She could get over it though. All of Nerima stretched below them and it was a beautiful view.
"I know Kaschan…" The redhead smiled sheepishly. "I just wanted to gate in where I knew nobody would take notice of us." Ranma took in the expanse below her for herself. "Besides, I can't count how many times I came up her for some peace and quiet."
Kasumi had all but forgotten the height, agreeing with Ranma on that matter. One could easily appreciate that fact… Especially if one were a martial artist who used to have three fiancées, two scheming parents and too many rivals to count. "We might want to change into something a tad more appropriate before we step off your little foot-stool here."
Ranma blinked with mild confusion before her words finally caught up to the redhead. Oh yeah. What had been her standard girl-type fashion statement for the better part of two years now would probably tend to draw some attention to their person. Probably no more than leaping martial artists, giant pandas and flying Pheonix birds, but that was no reason to give the entire family a heart attack. She smiled as the image of her father's reaction to the robe played out in her mind.
"Ahem." Kasumi brought her attention back to reality with amusement in her voice. "We need to give them some time to adjust."
The redhead smiled wider. Leave it to Kasumi to know exactly what she was thinking. Ranma blinked, and her clothes evaporated, replaced by a silken red Chinese shirt and black pants.
"The jewelry too, Ranchan." Kasumi pointed out with that same amused smile. Ranma grumbled and willed the jewelry from sight. Now only the staff remained and Kasumi knew better than to contest Ranma on that issue. It served as a magical focal, defense and most importantly, a fond memory. She too willed her apparel away in favor of a simple pink dress with elegant white frills. Like the staff, the rich leather bound tome remained firmly in her hand.
Kasumi nodded, and they both stepped off the water tower's edge, floating gently to the ground.
Akane Tendo spun stepped through another kata with vigor, the day's exertion evident as sweat dripped from her. It had been a month and a half since the disappearance of her sister with the baka pervert and she still worried. Sure, it had left her undisputed control of the kitchen and yeah, the note from Kasumi was a small comfort, but it simply wasn't like her to just up and disappear into the night, note or no. Ranma, sure. As much as she grumbled over the matter, she could easily see his point of view these days. The week following the disappearance was sheer chaos as one fiancée after another popped in to inquire- sometimes forcefully -on where their fiancé had run off to. It didn't help matters when they learned her older sister had skipped town, but at least it had been Kasumi, since nobody in their right mind would believe that Kasumi had a thing for Ranma or the fact that Ranma would take advantage of Kasumi. The Fiancées of Destruction were still suspicious as hell, but that pairing would have been the last thing on their minds.
In the end, the truth set them free. Ranma had gone off to learn new techniques, which was the truth. Kasumi had gone off to medical school, which again was the truth. What the family dared not tell a soul was that they had ran off together, to the same school to learn magic of all things. The devil's in the details, Akane smiled internally, and set up for another kata. Dad was furious of course. It took nearly two weeks for demon head Soun to finally exhaust itself while Genma promised he'd boot his son so hard his grandkids would feel it. Suffice to say, the baka had quite a bit of explaining to do when he got home and her sister had better be-
"You've been practicing."
Akane froze mid strike. That voice. It was a girl, but that voice! She spun around and around found Ranma Saotome in his female form leaning against the back wall of the practice hall, grinning.
"RANMA, WHERE THE HELL HAVE YOU BEEN!" She stomped over to her, unsure whether she was going to lay the boy-girl out or just chew his ass off. Or both.
Her anger only caused the redhead's grin to increase. "I can't tell you how much I've missed that."
That stopped her immediately. The anger was still there, but the comment wasn't a jibe at her expense. It was pure honesty, and she knew Ranma well enough to know that for a fact. The anger stalled momentarily, she took stock of the girl in front of her. It was the same Ranma that had left her a month ago, yet something indefinable had changed. And the staff? For the first time she noticed a staff leaning against her body, rest in the crook of her collarbone. In fact, it looked like the old guy's staff if she remembered correctly. Did they give them out like candy or something? Enough curiosity had built up to stay her anger until she could formulate something close to probing questions. A tongue lashing wasn't nessisarily out of the question either.
"Did I hear you yell Ran-" Nabiki popped her head into the practice hall to find Ranma leaning against the wall and her little sister barely reigning in her anger. Nabiki recovered from her surprise rather quickly. "Ooh, a lot of people aren't going to be happy with the betting pool." Ranma shared her humor with a smile. "Most people weren't expecting you back for another month." She stepped into the dojo fully now. "So where you been, Soatome?"
Ranma affected a lazy shrug. "Magic school. Here and there, mostly."
"HEY!" Akane's rage fired back up once more. "I'm asking the questions here! Where's my sister!"
"Probably saying 'hi' to her parents." Akane missed the subtle twist in grammar but Nabiki did not and her grin instantly died, eyes narrowing sharply on Ranma.
"It would seem we have a lot to talk about, Saotome." Nabiki remarked flatly, but it did nothing to dent Ranma's spirts much to her surprise. The dyanamic has changed, she noted silently as the redhead pushed herself off the wall, walking past Akane to the doorway she stood in. That pointed observation didn't even produce a blush. That's a lot of change in a month and a half. The staff jiggled happily as it balanced lightly on the redhead's shoulder. Another oddity. I'm missing some serious information here, she decided.
'Ranma, I'm not done with you!" Akane charged, intending to forcefully stop the girl by gripping her shoulder. Or at least that had been the plan. Her hand slapped down and through her shoulder which promply faded from existence, causing Akane to stumble, flailing desperately to maintain her balance. Nabiki watched in shock as Ranma popped back into existence behind her sister. Freakin' magic school indeed. Ranma tipped the staff downward beside Akane so she could grip it and maintain her balance. As soon as the sister righted herself, she tipped the staff back to her shoulder. Akane couldn't believe it either and stared at Ranma with incredulity.
"But… you were just… Where…?" Akane was gibbering mess, anger forgotten for the moment.
"We are so gonna make money off that move, Saotome." Nabiki smiled evily, yen signs flashing in her eyes.
"I miss you too Nabiki, but no." Ranma's light smile never faded from her face as she walked around the still stunned Akane.
Nabiki blink. Wait. Did Ranma just say no? To me? That set her analytical brain into motion. Nobody bluffs me, least of all a martial arts jock named Ranma. "Oh, I think I can persuade you to help out."
Ranma paused beside her, never changing in tone or her expression. "Naw. Besides, I learned a little secret a few years back…" She let Nabiki hang with curiosity and gave her a gentle pat on the shoulder, whispering, "Blackmail only works when your victim gives a damn."
The redhead proceeded out of the practice hall, leaving two stunned sisters in her wake.
"Boy, you've got a lot of explaining to do."
Genma Saotome looked at the girl in front of him with seething irritation. To his left stood his wife Nadoka Saotome and his right, Soun Tendo. The Boy- or girl as the case was -had disappeared for a month and a half to go learn magic tricks, of all things. That was the last thing the heir to the Anything Goes School of Martial Arts should be doing, let alone departing with his fiancée's sister in the middle of the night.
"Quite right, old friend." Soun rebuked sternly, eyeing his future son-in-law. "Highly improper behavior."
"Indeed." Nodoka chimed in, but with a twinkle in her eye. "You should have taken Akane with you too." The pair at her side faceplanted into the floor as she lost herself in visions of her manly son seducing two Tendos.
"Not like I wanted to go with the baka in the first place!" Akane retorted from behind Ranma, watching the scene from the edge of the living room with her sisters Nabiki and Kasumi. The middle sister stared at Kasumi with piercing interest. Like Saotome, she had been gone for forty-five days and returned with an indefinable something. And like the pigtail boy, seemed to have an artifact in her possession at all times. For him it was that odd ringed staff. For her, it was the rich leather bound book.
Ranma's father swifty recovered from his wife's words and continued. "…Not to mention you're still prancing around like a girl with that stick." He paused momentarily. "We're awaiting, Boy."
Kasumi stiffened at the mention of 'the stick' and she quietly prayed that the elder Saotome wouldn't push that particular button too many more times. The slight but audible intake of breath didn't go unnoticed by the middle sister. Nabiki was definitely going to be pumping her sister for information tonight.
"Easy, Pops." Ranma smiled, brushing past the parent's misgivings. "It was a training trip to fix my Ki pathways." Well, more than a training trip, she amended silently, mirroring Kasumi's thoughts exactly as if he could have heard them.
"And what of my daughter?" Soun menaced, threatening to burst into a demon head at any moment.
"Invited by Sensei." Ranma replied easily. "I just told her I was going."
The answer seemed to mollify the parent for the moment, but his own father continued to probe the matter further. "We told you not to leave without our permission, Boy." This gained nods from the two remaining parents.
"Come on, Pops," Ranma started with a hint of dejection. "If you had a potential cure in your grasp, would you wait for permission to go get it?"
Genma opened his mouth, then closed it, looking at the girl in front of him. A moment passed and he asked, "Well… did you?"
Now Ranma smiled. "Kas-chan and I are workin' on it."
Even as Nabiki's poker face slipped, she watched Nodoka's eyes shine brightly. The Saotome matriarch just heard what I did, she thought. Both sets of eyes were instantly on Kasumi even if Genma, Soun and Akane sat blissfully unaware. Kasumi simply smiled her peaceful smile, but both women recognized the term of endearment the moment it had left his lips, and it certainly hadn't been one uttered by him before.
"Hmmf!" Genma snorted, staring down his son. Gone for forty-five days and the only thing he had to show for it was a jingling staff. Pathetic. Speaking of the staff… "Yield the stick, Boy. There's no place for weapons in The Art!"
"Mr. Saotome, I don't think that…" Kasumi stepped forward to warn Ranma's father, but was ignored as his hand shot out to grasp the length of the staff. Genma's hand locked around the shaft and tried to pull it back, meeting with resistance. Ranma's smile vanished instantly.
"I said let go, boy!" Genma pulled harder, failing to notice his son's blue eyes glowing now.
Another tug and Ranma's patience broke violently. "Back off, Old man!" Ranma pulled the staff back suddenly, and Genma with it, over extending the father's center of gravity. She gave the shaft a hard slap with her free hand that sent it twirling clockwise, its rings singing the entire time. Already off balance, the father began to flip as well and Ranma extended out left, sending him flying into the living room wall with considerable force. The glow in her eyes softened momentarily and she held up two fingers, whispering a something intelligible. Genma's ki poured through his body as it reflexively braced him for an impact that never came. He opened his eyes and blinked, finding himself upside-down, suspended four feet in the air and inches removed from the wall itself. The entire family stared in shock, save Kasumii, who simple sighed.
Ranma walked over to his father. "Get this through your head right now Ol' man," She fumed. While the majority of her heat was directed at her father, the proclamation obvious went for everybody in the room. "There are only three people who can even touch this thing. One of em's dead and you're not the other."
The glow faded from Ranma's eyes and she took a deep breath to calm herself and the action seemed to disrupt whatever was holding her father in the air. With no warning, he fell to the wooden floor with a painful "oof!" She continued is a calmer voice. "If I didn't go for the training, I'd be dog meat, Pops. You know what I face. I'd be screwed in a battle without my ki."
The father stared at his boy from a painful upside down position on the floor while Soun broke the silence. "No worries, Son! You've only been looking for a month and a half. Something is bound to-"
"We've been looking for nearly twelve years." Ranma's tone dropped to sub zero temperatures. Her shoulders slumped with fatigue and she padded up the stairs silently, save the ever-present jingle of her staff.
Every eye was riveted on him until he turned the corner. Once out of sight, they all snapped to onto Kasumi.
"Oh my." She murmmered, suddenly the center of attention. "Ranma-kun is right though. The Jyusenkyou curse is saturated with death magic. It has been extremely… resilient to our attempts to break it."
Nabiki couldn't hold her silence any longer. She arched a skeptical eyebrow. "Twelve years?"
Kasumi sighed. The questions would only get tougher from here on out. "For all of you, only a month and a half has passed. For us…" Kasumi paused, looking into the eyes of each family member carefully, "Nearly twelve years have passed. For Ranma, that mean she is an accomplished mage. For myself it means that I have become skilled in the healing arts." Kasumi made her way to the stairs herself. "Please realize in your dealings with Ranma-kun that all of your information on him- and her -is quite out of date." Not to mention myself, she added mentally, turning on them without another word for the stairs and her room.
Nabiki stewed in her room, unable to focus on her homework. She pushed away from her desk and paced the room, mind running furiously in circles. Twelve years? It was absolutely unbelievable coming from Ranma's mouth, but Kasumi never lies. Ever. If she said they had been gone for twelve years then they had somehow been gone that long …But the implications. And the clues. She didn't have all the information yet, but what she did have was leading- albeit vaguely -to a very disturbing conclusion. First, the dojo. Explaining things to theirparents. Daddy didn't exactly rate a plural all by himself. Second, their familiarity, as in the fact that Ranma had no problems violating what she normally perceived as Kasumi's personal space or confiding in her. Next was her own sister's subtle reactions to the parental confrontation and finally, her defense of Ranma in that meeting.
The middle Tendo dissected these facts carefully. On one level they were behaving as very good friends would to one another, almost best friends. That alone was a disturbing change from the last time she saw the two. But the hints… The hints themselves were pushing her to a more startling conclusion. Which of course, was impossible. Kasumi had Tofu. Ranma had Akane. And a curse for that matter. And fiancées in waiting. Twelve years is a long time to get to know one another… A voice from the back of her head whispered. But it was Kasumi! Ranma! They're only three years apart in age, it countered her objections. But… But… Ranma was a barely a man! Twelve years ago. The whisper reminded her. Jeez, that would make him older than me now! But they didn't look any younger whatsoever!
Nibiki's attention snapped back into the real world. Time to get some answers. She stepped out into the hall and found Kasumi's room, twisting the handle. Traditionally, there had been no real privacy between the trio, so it was understandable that when the door swung open Nabiki's entire world shattered.
Kasumi. Arms. Legs. Entwined. Around Ranma's marvelous male physic. The rhythmic movement and soft caresses on her bed ground to a halt as their heads snapped to the doorway, the couple's eyes locked onto Nabiki. Part of her was thankful that a thin sheet covered the lower half of the obviously nude partners while the other half of her just wanted to see. Well there's your answer, the voice in the back of her head mused. And you didn't even have to ask the question.
Something close to a coherent though began to form in her mind when another door clicked off to her left. "Oh, you're talking to Kasumi… too?" The words died on Akane's lips as she stepped up to the doorway with Nabiki. Her eyes widened and her mind stopped receiving input. Ranma… Her fiancé… Kasumi….! Whereas Nabiki couldn't tear her eyes away from the couple, the reality circuit breaker in a Akane's brain slammed down hard and she simply proceeded down the stairs. Less than ten seconds later a piercing howl echoed through the dojo.
A door slammed somewhere downstairs And Ranma's head dropped in defeat. Kasumi closed her eyes shaking hers in disappointment.
Nabiki took a deep breath. "I'll give you two a moment." Her gaze narrowed on the couple. "You have so much explaining to do."
She didn't know the half of it.
Ten minutes later, the two separated, clothed and went to find their respective sources of angst. Kasumi sat down on Nabiki's bed, smoothing her nightgown out while her sister's gaze bored into her. She couldn't wait to her this one.
"Oh my…" It was less of a statement and more a resigned sigh. Amazing how two simple words could be bent to form so many emotions, Nabiki through wryly. "I have no idea where to begin."
Nabiki did. "Let's just start with the part where you began shacking up with Saotome and take it from there."
Kasumi winced, but they had been prepared for this eventuality. Granted they had both hoped to explain everything under calmer, more controlled circumstances, but…
"Ok then," Kasumi decided. "Seven years ago."
The middle Tendo choked. "You've been… With him… For seven YEARS?"
"And her." Kasumi smiled mischievously, something she Nabiki hadn't seen since their childhood. The comment did nothing to hold her sister's choking, but she could let Nabiki just interrogate her and not have any fun.
Nabiki eyed her sister wearily. Obvious Ranma wasn't the only dynamic to change here. Ranma and Kasumi. Ranma-chan and Kasumi, for that matter! And she obviously had no problems admitting the latter either. Kasumi, the happy hentai homemaker. Nabiki's mind boggled.
"Dare I even ask why?"
Kasumi nodded. "Some of the tasks Ranchan's Sensei sent him on were …arduous. I had taken to following him around as much for mutual company as to make sure he stayed out of trouble." She looked directly at Nabiki with a smile. "Of course, you know Ranchan and trouble."
"As in he's a magnet." Nabiki supplied and Kasumi nodded once more.
"That particular errand for Sakkarin-sensei ended up lasting two years on the Sha-Ni Plane." The sister watched as Kasumi's eyes clouded darkly. "It wasn't a very pleasant world to put it mildly."
Nabiki considered choking once more, but settled for a hacking cough instead. Wa- World?"
Kasumi's eye's brightened. "Of course! You don't think we stayed on Earth for the last twelve years now did you?"
Nabiki gaped. "Forty-five days, Sis! Count em. That's how long you've been gone to us."
The smile faded. "Yes it is easy to forget sometimes." She continued, "Anyway, we spent the next two years fighting for our lives, though it was Ranma who took the brunt of keeping us alive. Not simply kept us alive but sacrificed to keep us alive." Kasumi saw the question in her sister's eyes. "Ranma's male form is barren to magic and crippled to ki because of the curse, so he stayed in his female form for nearly the entire time to protect us both."
"So female Ranma can perform magic but male Ranma can't?" Nabiki thought she grasped the problem.
"Exactly." Kasumi confirmed. "And since he can't use ki in either form, his skill in the martial arts- while still exceptional -was nowhere near the level of what we faced on a day basis. So instead he would use offensive magic and I would keep him spell healed and summon as backup."
Nabiki blinked. Did she even want to ask? "Summon… what, exactly?"
"Oh, elementals, undead, giant spiders… maybe a demon or two but they can be testy at times." She replied casually. And the scary thing was she meant it casually too. "Well by the time we returned home, we had become an inseparable… and..."
Nabiki sighed. "Nature took its course." Kasumi let the silence speak for itself. "You have no idea how many betting pools you just ruined. So I take it since you share the same bed you're also…"
She couldn't suppress the sharp intake of breath. That is going to take some getting used to hearing, Nabiki realized. Ranma was now totally off limits to any and all fiancées. "God, this is going to become a nightmare once it gets out."
Kasumi's next words sent shivers down Nabiki's spine. "I've lived through nightmares. They'll either accept my claim or they'll be… disciplined." The finality of that statement was stunning and Nabiki no longer had any doubt that she could back that claim up fully and completely. The eldest Tendo looked directly at Nabiki now, dangerous storms flickering in her eyes. "And I almost can't wait until the Amazon's try to force Ranma's hand. They'll find he has become a very changed person."
That was Akane. And Soun Tendo. And Genma Saotome. And Nadoka. Akane's piercing scream had woken everybody up and the entire family had now cornered Ranma in the family room as she related the same basic tale to her audience. The parents had taken the news surprising well, but that was to be expected. When it came right down to it, Kasumi and Ranma had predicted their responses with startling clarity, i.e., one Tendo girl was ultimately as good as another. The two fathers straddled the middle ground in their feelings on the matter. They didn't want to see Akane hurt, but the Dojo's future was positively secure, as was their retirement. Mother and Akane were on totally opposite ends of that spectrum, however. Nadoka was positively delighted as there was no longer any question of if there would be grandbabies, but when. Her son was without a doubt a manly man.
Akane on the other hand was an anti-matter mixture of crushing depression and betrayal and the bright blue aura flickering around her was the clearest indication of that. Sure it had been a rocky relationship and it had been slowly getting better, but to instantly go from THE fiancée to castaway without warning was indescribably crushing, and both Kasumi and Ranma had been dreading this very moment for seven years.
Ranma looked down at the floor now and it was as if his solid frame visibly shrank. "We… We've been together… For twelve years. Training. Fighting. Hopping from world to world knowing nobody else. Trusting nobody else. For most of that twelve years I've only had two people I could rely on. And that's Sakkarin-sensei and Kas-chan."
"Worlds?" His father looked at him as if he'd grown a second head. The remaining three were likewise, save Akane who still radiated disgust
"Yeah, worlds." He looked up meekly at the family, Akane's aura flickering but somewhat diminished. "Some of them were beautiful… The Plane of Azeroth… Arcadia… Faerûn … But some were nothing short of hell." The meekness disappeared and fire began to burn in his eyes. "Those places made me sorry I ever bitched about your training trips Pops, and in those places I had exactly one person I could rely on no matter what."
"But… Us…!" Akane's aura had all but faded, tears streaming down her cheeks. "Three years together, Ranma!" She screamed at him plantiffly.
"Dammit Akane! I tried! WE tried! For five years we tried!" Ranma said, frustration creeping into his voice. "Neither one of us thought it'd be proper! Hell, half the time I think the old fool sent us on errands just for match making purposes!" There was annoyance in that last part, but everybody before him noted the affection he named the old fool with. Ranma clutched the staff that had followed him everywhere for the last four years.
"But that all changed after Sha-Ni." Ranma shook his head and the edge of steel crept across his features. "Two solid years of constant life and death struggle all because of my damn quest for a cure. I can't tell you how many times I almost lost your sister and frankly I don't give a damn if I ever find one after that."
The entire downstairs family reeled. Never once had Ranma even come close to giving up his dreams of being one hundred percent male and right here and now they had just heard the impossible. Even Akane's smoldering resentment and betrayal was checked by the shocking admission.
"I dunno… Maybe someday." Ranma admitted, but an aura of gloom and haunted memories hung around him. "But I got my priorities strait on that place…"
"So I'm nothing to you now…!" Akane's voice cracked and the tears continued.
And now came the moment Ranma had dreaded for so long. "You're a friend. A best friend… But the engagements are over. For everybody."
The hand came in across his right cheek and Ranma did nothing to avoid the stinging slap. "I don't think I can take a friend like you."
With a final tearful glare, Akane had gone to lock herself in her room.
Sunlight crawled through the windows and Nadoka Saotome stepped softly out of the guest room that she shared with her husband. Even as she rubbed the sleep from her eyes, a delightful smell tickled her nose. Food. Breakfast. And by the smell of it, a goodbreakfast, which shouldn't have been possible. With Kasumi gone, Akane had tried to take over the kitchen with disastrous results. The family still wasn't sure what she had served that night so many weeks ago, but the moment it slithered off their plates, the youngest Tendo was relieved of her command in a most expeditious manner. Nadoka stepped in to take over the kitchening duties and it had run smoothly ever since, which brought her to the dilemma at hand. Akane couldn't cook. She had just woken up. Nabiki never stepped foot in the kitchen, so who could possibly be fixing such a delightful aroma?
Nodoka padded down stairs and saw Ranma outside through the window practicing his katas. She sighed, heartened her to know that he wasn't slacking off on his manly practice. Nadoka stared at her son a moment longer before seeking out the kitchen and the only person who could possibly divine such a breakfast aroma. Ranma's wife! While she would have never outright admitted the fact out loud, she was secretly glad that Akane had been disqualified, however rude the surprise may have been. She was a good girl, but she had a long way to go before she would be worthy of a manly man herself and it had been all she could do to keep the ex-fiancée from destroying the kitchen entirely. Nabiki wasn't much better when it came right down to it. Of course she had a head on her shoulders and was attractive, but trust in that one was sorely lacking. Maybe given time, she could amount to a womanly woman but fate had conspired against both the younger daughters. Of all the Tendos, only Kasumi came close to her the womanly ideal for her son. Now if she could be persuaded to take up some combat training, she would be perfect. Maybe even the katana, Nadoka smiled to herself. I could teach her while the grandchildren run around…
Nadoka pushed open the kitchen door and her pleasant daydreams were rudely interrupted by the impossible sight playing out in front of her: In the middle of the kitchen fixing breakfast was indeed Kasumi Saotome, but standing in a whirlwind of controlled chaos. Bowls floated. Spoons mixed. Knives sliced through the air. And Ranma's wife stood in the middle of it all humming a tune with a peaceful smile, as if she were conducting an orchestra. Being a womanly woman herself, Nadoka wasn't one prone to fainting spells though what she was now witnessing severely taxed that ability.
"Oh my…" Kasumi noticed her visitor and the state of shock she was in. She walked through the busy cloud of floating kitchen implements and gently took her mother in-law by the arm, leading her out of the kitchen and closed the door. "Take a deep breath Mrs Saotome… It's ok…"
Nadoka did take a deep breath and her grip on sanity was helped in no small part by Kasumi's calm demeanor. It took a few moments for a coherent thought to tumble from her brain to her mouth. "Ah… Is it okay to leave… Um, that going on in there without you?"
"Oh most definitely." Kasumi replied happily. "Most of those are enchantments. They'd continue to work even if I fell asleep." Nadoka blinked, still trying to wrap her head around the concept. "Now the omelets I pay special attention to." She smiled mischievously.
Nadoka shook her head, sitting at the table. "Do you always cook like… That?"
Her daughter in-law shrugged. "Mostly, but it's always good to get your hands dirty once in a while." Then she cocked her head curiously. "Of course, it has been a while since I've cooked in a proper kitchen too."
Ranma's mother nodded dumbly, still trying to take it in. In lieu of anything that made sense, she decided to latch on to something she could make sense of.
"So when can I expect grandchildren?"
"Come on Boy! Let's see what you learned!" Ranma halted his kata and turned around to find his father and a smug look plastered across his face. The pig-tailed boy smiled right back and gave the staff in his grip a graceful twirl, sending its rings singing. Genma frowned. "Without the stick, boy."
Ranma sighed. He just wasn't going to let good enough alone. "Kas-chan?" Kasumi poked her head out the patio door. "Could you watch Sakkarin for a moment?" She smiled and took possession of the staff.
"I thought only two other people could touch the stick…?" Genma eyed him suspiciously and watched Kasumi ducked back into the house.
"Yep. I'm one and your daughter in-law is the other." Ranma stated matter-of-factly.
Genma bit back a sharp retort. That whole daughter in-law thing out of the blue is going to take some getting used to, he thought as he stared at his son taking up a an unusual battle stance. His body was facing him edge on to present a minimal attack aspect while the right arm arched gracefully outward, the left curled around in a hook. Whatever that was, it sure as hell wasn't a standard Anything Goes technique, he observed and took up his own battle stance.
Ranma watched his father take up a dragon stance. Before the two had parted company last, he was able to beat his father a solid eight out of ten times, assuming ol' Pops didn't outright cheat. Now he was facing him for the first time without the ability draw on ki or even a weapon to even the odds. Ki did a lot for the martial artist. It acted in offense and defense, softening and deflecting blows that would otherwise break bone while enhancing muscle power and reaction times. High ki users were even able to mold that power into a variety of hand to hand and ranged attacks …Much like I used to be able to, Ranma thought with some regret. Any damage I do today would be on my physical merits alone. Likewise any damage I take. But that's what the Dancing Leaf school specializes in, Ranma smiled. It will make for a good opener.
The two engaged simultaneously, Genma leaping into a high arcing tumble that brought him down into his son, who was already sliding right to avoid the hard kick and the numerous combinations the attack would open up. The Dancing Leaf was an art of minimal contact, maximum damage that he had picked up on the Plane of Hyrule. Ranma darted in and tapped his father forcefully, sending his airborne attack out of control and spinning into the ground violently. The style also emphasized the subtle magnification against an enemy's own attack against it, and Genma found that out the hard way as he augured in with a pillar of dust and rubble. Ranma didn't wait. He switched stances and rushed into the cloud, finding Genma easily despite the lack of visibility. The Jyuuken School was next and tagged several key points along his father's body. While he didn't necessarily have the gifts that could put the school to its full use, the pigtailed boy targeted the major ki points, reducing the flow through them. It wasn't the decisive shutdown a true Jyuuken master could achieve due to his handicap, but the attack would help even the odds in the long run.
Ranma jumped back just as a roundhouse kick blew by his head and Genma re-engaged with vigor. The attacks were coming faster now and Ranma struggled to keep from being decisively engaged. His father feinted and reversed with a punch that landed his ribcage at full power. Ranma rolled away, favoring his side. It was days like these he missed the ki buffering he had come to rely on so many years ago.
"You're getting soft, Boy!" Genma leered. "I haven't even dipped into the clan special techniques yet!" Despite his bravdo, Genma was getting concerned. The boy may not be able to use ki, but he had more fighting styles than you could shake a stick out now and that punch should have hit with substantially more power.
"You just go ahead and try those techniques, Pops. But I gotta warn ya," Ranma affected lopsided grin, "you'll get hurt when you do!"
Genma ground his teeth at the challenge and watched Ranma slide into yet another attack stance he had never seen before. Fine. Time to put the boy to bed and go get breakfast. Genma charged in and initiated the Umi Sen Ken, abruptly fading from sight. Even as he cloaked, Genma knew something was wrong. His ki was being restricted? Ranma saw a faded ghost of his father and initiated the Coup de Vitesse school on the shocked old man, abandoning his usual defensive measures for a brutal and crushing offense. There was no elegance in the favored style of the Sphynxian Plane and Ranma opened Genma's guard like a can opener, landing several punishing kicks and an uppercut even as the father realized his technique had been breached. His ki buffering was also limited thanks to the Jyuuken school of attacks and he took the damage, yet it still wasn't enough. The father spun off, breaking contact and retook the offensive. His ki output may have been limited, but the speed it provided was sufficient to do the job as he landed two more punches to Ranma's gut before grabbing him by the shirt and flipping him into the koi pond with a splash.
A female Ranma sputtered to the surface, spitting out pond water, but instead of the usual cursing Genma expect to hear, she broke the surface with a wild grin.
"Damn, just like old times!"
Genma limped over to the ponds edge and did something most un-father like-gave Ranma a hand out of the pond. He eyed the smiling girl warily "What the hell's happened to you, Boy? You got some good hits in, but…"
"Yeah, but not enough power." Ranma shrugged, already used to the fact after twelve years of hand-to-hand combat experience without ki. "That's why I slapped the ki points on you in the opening moves, Pops. You got too big an advantage in offense and defense for me to fight normally."
Genma stared with sympathy. "That bad?"
"Hell yeah." Ranma admitted openly. "Think of all the crap I can't unleash without ki… Chestnut fist, the Dragon, my Moko Takabisha, the Umi Sen Ken, the Haku Dato Shin Sho…" Ranma simply shook her head. "That's half the Anything Goes School heavy offense right there, not even counting the fact that your attacks land with full force without ki shielding." Genma winced, only now realizing until just now how bad it actually was. "Now Kas-chan could probably hold her own against you, but it took me three schools of combat just to give you a bruising."
Genma nodded, but froze suddenly. "Kaschan…? KASUMI!" Ranma's father did double take as he realized just who his son, the redheaded girl was talking about. "We are talking our Kasumi, right?"
"Sure. We've only had ten years to polish her skills." Ranma remarked casually and headed back to the house. "Taught her everything I know and every style you just saw me use here… And unlike me, she can use her ki, even if she doesn't have the raw capacity we have …Or had in my case."
Genma had a pensive look about his face as he watched Ranma. He had just come to a sobering realization. "Kinda hard to take over the dojo if you can't master the art, Son."
"Aw, don't worry about it, Pops. I've had some time to think this over." Ranma brushed his concern aside. "I can still teach everything we use in Anything Goes and Kaschan can spot on some of the higher ki techniques." The father was still worried. " 'Cides, I would have kicked your butt if you've let me fight with Sakkarin." Even as he said the name, Ranma held out her hand and the staff materialized in midair, dropping into her waiting hand with a jingle.
"Neat trick." Genma remarked testily. "But you can't rely on a weapon, Boy."
Ranma stopped short of the patio door. "You're right, Pops. That's why we learned how to do this…" Ranma held out his free hand and quickly formed a series of complex signs. Her eyes glowed ever so slighty. The koi pond rippled and a glob of water the size of a baseball separated from the surface, floating up and over to the pair. The orb rippled lazily above her palm and Genma stared at it with incredulity. She extended her hand suddenly and the glob of water shot across the dojo property, obliterating Akane's pile of anger management bricks with a loud crash. When the dust cleared, only scattered debris remained.
Genma Saotome gaped, his estimation of magic usage suddenly increasing. "Well why the hell didn't you use that on me earlier, Boy!"
'Was a guy." Ranma admitted. "Boy-type can't use magic, and God knows I've tried."
"No ki or magic?" His father just shook his head in sympathy. "Cryin' out loud…"
"That's what I've been tryin' ta tell ya, Pops."
Having fun with this chapter dropping hints at just how extensive Ranma and Kasumi's training has been and the family just now realizing how much change has occured. Hope you're enjoying it so far, and if you can guess guess all of the obscure references littered throughout this chapter without looking at the notes below, you have my sympathies ;)
Azeroth; The World of Warcraft.
Arcadia; The World of Skies of Arcadia
Faerûn; The World of Forgotten Realms
Hyrule; The World of Zelda
Jyuuken; A fight style that emphasizes precision lethal strikes to disrupt the chakra (for our purposes, ki) flow throughout the body. Only members of the Hyuuga Clan have been known to use this style to its fullest potential due to their unique ability to "see" chakra/ki flow throughout any living organisim. Reference anime Naruto.
Coup de vitesse; Coup de vitesse is a fusion of several western and oriental martial arts, developed primarily as a hard style where emphasis is placed on offense sometimes at the expense of defense, resulting in a very brutal and effective style. Coup de vitesse lacks the elegance of judo or aikido. It is an offensive hard style that borrows from every martial art, from savate to t'ai chi, and distills them all down into sheer brutality. Reference David Weber's Honor Harrington series.
Dancing Leaf; An Art of minimal contact, maximum damage. The style also emphasized the subtle magnification of an enemy's own attack through redirection. I made this up.
Ki; Though it's never been explained in-depth in the series, I attribute ki as playing the same roll as chakra does in Naruto… It powers nearly every super human ability Ranma performs, from augmenting rooftop hopping to allowing a body to utilize advanced combat techniques, such as the Kachu Tenshin Amaguriken. Without the ability to properly utilize this ki, Ranma is limited to standard combat forms. While many are still lethal, a skilled ki using opponent of equal skill will have a substantial edge in movement, offensive and defensive techniques over a skilled non-ki user.
Fiancées of Destruction
Nodoka watched in amazement as dishes floated out of the kitchen, setting themselves onto the table in orderly precision. The aroma had begun to awaken the other family members and Nabiki found herself staring at the unusual sight as well. She had to find a way to make money off that! Behind her was Akane who was still smoldering from last night's revelation, but even that was checked by the sight in front of her. The only one who seemed oblivious to the matter was Kasumi, who was intent on watching father and son- or daughter as the case now was –talking outside.
It was really, really hard to get mad at her older sister Akane was finding, but she was working up to it. Part of the problem was that Kasumi was the oldest sister after all, and if push came to shove, could have claimed Ranma at any point during their engagement. Did claim Ranma, she corrected herself. The second biggest hurdle to stoking that bonfire of resentment toward the sister was that she was genuinely sweet, nice and well meaning. Even though she had imminent domain concerning the engagement, nobody believed she would actually take that option. But she had and it left Akane out in the cold. The thought threw a bit more fuel into the furnace. From fiancée to nothing in forty-five days without a single clue, and Akane was beginning to wonder if they had been fooling around before that. Yes, that had to be it! Besides, when has Ranma ever shown restraint? Probably been fooling around for months before the incident and ducked out just to consummate the affair! But it's Kasumi, you idiot, a voice rang in her mind. She's not capable of that level of duplicity! True, Akane thought. So there had to be another reason. Then Ranma must have taken advantage of her sweet nature and—
"Coming to breakfast, Akane?" The gentle voice called to her and she snapped out of her introspective. The entire family had already seated themselves and was digging in, save Kasumi, who had a concerned look to her face.
Everybody focused on Akane with those words, cutting off any strategic withdraw she had in mind. The youngest Tendo forced a smile. Fine then. No surrender, no retreat. Even as she made her way to the table, another cold, hard spike was driven through her: The spot normally reserved for her by Ranma was now occupied by Kasumi herself. Of course, Akane thought irritably, kicking another log into the mental pyre.
"So what's with the book, Sis?" Nabiki asked, motioning to the ever-present book on Kasumi's person. It now sat in her lap even as they ate breakfast and curiosity finally got the better of Nabiki.
Kasumi paused, considering the answer that would best relate to her audience. "It's my medical encyclopedia." She smiled. "It's a storehouse of every medical condition known to exist across seventy two planes of existence and nearly as many remedies to those conditions. Disease, curses, spells and the like."
Nabiki's eyes flashed with greed. Medical information and cures from seventy-two planes of existence! What medical specialist would sell their soul for that book, let alone part with vast sums of money for it? "Um, just where might a person acquire a copy?"
It was all Kasumi could do to not to giggle at the lunacy of what her sister was suggesting while Ranma choked on her food outright. "Well, first you would have to journey to Candlekeep on the Plane of Faerûn and obtain Masteries in Alchemy, First Aid, Herbalism and Spell Healing under Lady Galadriel-sensei's tutorage. Only upon your graduation do you receive The Book."
Nabiki simply stared.
"She's actually being modest. Kasumi was named a High Cleric of the Radiant Order just over two years ago." Ranma remarked and the eldest sister blushed slightly. "Not to mention the fact that she holds Artesian ranks in every one of those fields and has been personally anointed by the Goddess Belldandy herself."
Nabiki shook her head as if to clear it, digesting all of the impossible information. "Um, okay… Maybe I could, um, borrow it?"
"Of course!" Kasumi replied cheerfully and passed the ancient tome to Nabiki.
It only took a few turns of the pages for Nabiki to realize why a mischievous grin stuck to her sister's face. "What the…? It's written in gibberish."
"High Elven." Kasumi corrected. "And even then, it's heavily enchanted so only the owner can read it."
She passed the book back to her older sister with irritation. If she didn't know any better, she'd think that Kasumi had gained a sense of humor somewhere in her travels. Meanwhile Nodoka beamed with delight from across the table. She hadn't understood half of the qualifications her new daughter in-law held, but everything she had hoped for since the birth of her son was finally falling into place. Ranma was without a doubt a Man Among Men, caught in the act of servicing his wife, who was indeed shaping up to become a Woman Among Women. Blessed by a Goddess and pregnant no less! The part about 'holding the embryos in stasis until they settled down' went right over her head, but the mention of twins did not. Nodoka fidgeted happily and suddenly produced victory fans from out of nowhere. The rest of the family simply looked at her as giant sweat drops rolled down the sides of their heads.
Soun Tendo took another bite of his breakfast looked at Ranma. "You've been gone for twelve years did you say?" She nodded. "So why don't you look any older?"
"Well, a lot of our training took us to out of the way places and our method of travel isn't exactly convenient." Ranma explained. "Some gates to other worlds rotate hourly while others rotate over years, so Sakkarin-sensei took the measure of drastically slowing down our biological clocks with a few spells."
"Slowed down?" Nabiki questioned precisely. "How slowed down?"
Ranma looked at Kasumi. "Ten to one?"
"Twenty to one." She corrected her husband.
Close enough, Ranma thought. "Twenty years of real time to one year of physical age."
Nabiki did a quick number crunch and twitched violently. "That's a lifespan of over a thousand five hundred years!"
The pigtailed girl shrugged. "Hadn't actually thought about the math before."
Now Nabiki was getting frustrated. Not only was the cure to every aliment across seventy-two worlds less than three feet from her person, but the secret to near eternal youth was right in the same room with it! "You do realize you're driving me nuts, right Saotome?"
Ranma smiled with delight. "Yeeeaaah." Kasumi couldn't help but to giggle now. The tormenting smile faded into an easy grin. "Tell you what… We have a deal for you."
Kasumi nodded, pulling out a small suede pouch. It was purple with a silver strand drawstring tied to keep the contents from spilling out. Ranma continued, "Yep. If you can stop cheating, extorting and blackmailing people, you get what's in the bag."
Nabiki's eyes flicked from one smiling Ranma to one smiling Kasumi, then back. "What's in the bag?"
"Can't tell ya." Ranma's smile widened.
"It's a surprise." Kasumi added pleasantly.
Nabiki's gaze narrowed on them. "That's not a very good deal. Or safe, for that matter. We're talking the dojo's primary source of income." The couple simply nodded and the rest of the family watched with fascination. Nabiki? Give up Blackmail? Impossible.
'Entrapment' was the first word that came to her mind as she weighed her options. There were several considerations to be taken into account… First, both knew that the games she played were the dojo's sole income. Granted, she enjoyed those games to a certain extent, but they had been born out of necessity first. The second consideration was Ranma, and he was a big one. The last three years hadn't exactly seen any love lost between the two as he had been her primary source of income. Fortunately, he wasn't one to hold too big of a grudge, but she couldn't discount the possibility of revenge entirely. Kasumi counter-balanced that concern however. She wouldn't take revenge on her sister and if she were married to Ranma, most likely wouldn't let him either. She was good with guilt trips like that and something told Nabiki that her sister was extremely adept at managing her husband's ego.
So if they knew they were cutting off my income and her sister probably had her best interest at heart, the logical conclusion would be that whatever was in the bag would somehow compensate her for the loss. Nabiki ran through the facts a couple more times before deciding that stepping out on faith was probably the best option. Not her favorite option by any stretch, but probably the best one.
"Ok. Agreed. I'll take the bag."
"No blackmail, extortion or related activities?" Ranma asked once more just to be sure. "If we find you cheat, your present will go up in smoke. Literally."
Nabiki sighed. "I promise." Kasumi handed her sister the pouch, and she eagerly dug into it, finding jems. Jems of every size, shape and color imaginable. She held a large ruby up to the sunlight and gazed at its flawless beauty. I don't even want to guess how many carets the stone had, she thought and continued to pour the stones into her hand. Black diamonds. Luminous pearls. She rolled another stone around in her fingers and it refracted light in every color of the rainbow through its blood red core. God only knows what that is, she wondered and set it back down into the pile.
"Buying yourself back into our good graces won't work, two-timing pervert!" Akane spat even as she stared at the fortune in front of her sister. Nabiki looked at her as if she had spoken sacrilege.
"Akane… Just shut up." The entire family's jaw dropped with Nabiki's words and the youngest sister was reeled. She let stones pour through her fingers. "We just went from broke to fabulously rich, so don't screw it up for the rest of us, okay Sis?" Then she turned back to Kasumi and Ranma. "What if I would have said no?"
"Then we just would have had to tease you one stone at a time." Kasumi smiled.
Ranma leaned over the table now also grinning. "Consider your ban on blackmailing my revenge."
"Ha!" Nabiki laughed loudly. "Then you need to take vengeance on me more often!"
Akane's fist slammed down hard on the table, causing the dishes to hop. "What is wrong with you people! That hentai Casanova seduced my sister and you're all fine with it? He's a foul sorcerer and if you have an common sense you'll kick him out on the streets!"
Kasumi frowned. "Please don't talk that way about my husband, Sister."
Akane stood up suddenly with a look of panic in her eyes. "Don't worry, Kasumi! I'll help you break his lecherous hold on you!" She blasted Ranma with one last glare and stomped out of the house for parts unknown.
Nabiki watched her as the door slammed shut behind Akane. "Is it just me or did she sound a lot like Kuno-baby?"
Genma stopped his son and his wife at the foot of the front gate. "You're not taking off for another twelve years are you, Boy?"
It almost sounded like concern, Ranma noted and shook her head. "Nah. Just going out to tie up some loose ends." Genma nodded, then watched in horror as her clothes were replaced with the slightest wave of her hand. Her silk chinese shirt and pants had just been replaced by a light yellow midrift and tight bluejeans. Not only was it not conservative, but it was accompanied by jewelry; a sharp departure from the Ranma that had left them a month and a half ago. She tipped the staff back over her shoulder while Kasumi simply remained in her own dress, content with her current fashion.
"You can't seriously be thinking of going out like that?" His father gasped, looking around wildly to see if anybody saw them. His boy was now a girl and feminine. Very feminine.
"Sure, why not?" Ranma shrugged. Of course she knew exactly what the problem was and she just couldn't help but to enjoy watching the father squirm.
"I know you got a curse Boy, but don't you think that's taking it a bit far?" Genma twitched, hardly believing that his Son would be so… indulgent with his female form.
It was fun to torment him Ranma admitted to herself, but he was going to have to get used to the new facts of life sooner or later. "Look Pop, you musta missed last night's episode. I don't care no more and since I don't care no more, I might as well look good doing it." Genma was rendered speechless, so she continued. "I lost all interest in finding a cure after two years in that hellhole so I thought I might as well settle in for the long haul."
"No buts." Ranma cut his father off. "It's also a tactical consideration. Most of my power resides in this body and today I'm breaking engagements and takin' names. You know damn well the Amazon's aren't gonna take no for an answer." Either his father's mind was stuck in neutral or he was seriously contemplating what his son was saying since he remained silent.
"It's nothing more than a fashion accessory to him, Father." Kasumi added brightly, having long rationalized the matter herself. She even encouraged it to some extent for her husband's own mental well-being, not to mention that it kept the bedroom lively. No need for father to know that, however. The word 'father' snapped Genma out of his contemplation sharply. "Besides. He's a man in every way that matters so there's nothing for you to worry about."
Genma sighed. Obviously the Boy's own wife was okay with it and that was a topic whose road he really didn't want to wander down anyway. "All right, Boy. Have it your way. Na-chan won't be happy with you though."
"Mother has twin grandchildren on the way, so I doubt she'll mind too much." Kasumi smiled and Genma's eyes widened before simply passing out.
Ranma shook her head at his wife. "You enjoyed that, didn't you?"
His only reply was a serene smile.
The pigtail girl snorted and her left hand extended and she began to form a complex multi-part Seal with her fingers.
"Contingency," she whispered to no one in particular and a blue aura flashed to life around Ranma. A series of complicated hieroglyphic rings flared to life on the ground around her, shining skyward before fading away as if they never existed. "Guards in place, Kas-chan?" Kasumi nodded and the two left the Tendo compound hand in hand.
"Damn you, Ranma!" The Lost Boy fumed, causing the pedestrian traffic around him to stop suddenly. He looked up to find twenty or so sets of eyeballs riveted on his person, while whispers began to filter through the air. Ryoga's face turned a bright shade of pink. Of course it didn't help matters that the aforementioned object of his angst wasn't within a few thousand miles of his location. This was, after all, Paris. He pressed on through the crowd, which was now giving him a wide berth anyway and stepped right into the path of…
Actually he would have never recognized her if it hadn't been for Kasumi Tendo at her side. Not that Ranma actually looked any different, just that her current fashion was so out of place on the martial artist as to create a mental short circuit in Ryoga's brain. In this case, Ranma plus feminine clothing did not bridge the recognition gap. Neither did the jewelry for that matter.
"Ryoga!" He watched as Ranma's face lit up with a smile and she dashed across the remaining few feet to crush Ryoga in a hug. It was a brief hug, but long enough to kick another dozen mental circuit breakers out of play. "God damn it's good to see you, Buddy!"
What the hell! Ryoga's brain desperately rerouted function through the areas that hadn't yet gone off line and tried to make sense of what was occurring. He had left his rival to his fate just over a month ago and in that time was now wearing feminine clothing, jewelry and had no problems with displays of affection or close contact regarding his girl-type. The higher logic centers of his brain began to shut down, so he settled for something simple instead.
"Ranma, what are you doing in France?"
Ranma snorted with amusement and Kasumi produced a cute giggle. "Welcome to Tokyo, bro!" Ryoga reeled and Ranma was practically bouncing around him with energy. "Man, I can't tell you how much I've missed you!" Even Kasumi stepped over to him and clasped his hand in warm friendship. It was obvious to the pair that the Lost Boy was on the verge of a nervous breakdown, so they dragged him into a local coffee shop where he could recover his mental footing. It was really too bad they were going to have to destroy it outright once more as they had their family. Regardless, several burning questions gnawed at Ryoga.
"Are you still weak, Ranma?" It was absolutely blunt and to anybody else would have been perceived as an insult, but Ranma wouldn't have it any other way.
"In the manner you mean, yeah, I am." Ryoga's face registered shock. Over a month and still no cure? "The curse seems to have a random element in it because of all the blood sacrifice. It's chaotic like that and it disrupts my ki pathways each time I shift forms. Hell, you've got me so outgunned in terms of raw martial arts power it's pathetic."
The Lost Boy was stunned on to many levels to speak. Did Ranma just admit… Defeat! But in a way it made sense. Even he couldn't help but to notice that the same chaotic element that had crippled his chief rival had also magnified his own ki-output ten-fold, and with this new information all the pieces fell into place. It also went a long way in explaining why he could now pump out Shishi Houkou Dan Doubles like water from a facet.
"I see." He finally concluded. No Ki meant no real martial arts. No martial arts meant no rival. Even his honor couldn't justify dueling Ranma in his present state. "But there's got to be a—"
"No." Cure? Ryoga blinked at the finality of her statement. Ranma took his hand on the tabletop they sat at, surprising Ryoga once more. He made a weak attempt to pull away but encountered resistance. "And I think it's time you knew the whole story."
He could only sit back as they detailed their lives over the last twelve years and continued to hammer Ryoga with reality crushing disbelief in story after story. Their apprenticeships in the magical and healing arts. The master Sakkarin and his errands. Their journeys to other worlds. Life and death struggles against horrors unspeakable. The wedding hit him hardest.
"MARRIED?" Ryoga looked as though he had been stricken by a bus. "But… But… Akane?"
This time Kasumi took the question. "You have our permission to pursue her if that is your wish." The statement had the desired affect, instantly bypassing the normal short circuit that would have led to the outrage of poor Akane's heart being broken.
"Just like that?" Ryoga stared at the pair in clear confusion.
Ranma shook her head. "Not just like that. We've been off-plane for just over twelve years and have married in that time. Kas-chan even has twins on the way."
"Akane will need somebody… close to her in the days ahead." Kasumi took the conversation over smoothly, soothing Ryoga as she explained the situation. In reality, this conversation had been mapped out five years in advance as both Ranma and Kasumi could predict each family member's response with startling clarity. That clarity extended to Ryoga who if not handled like the time bomb he was, would erupt into full Akane-defensive mode that would stoke his fury for quite possibly the rest of his days. "Do you think you could do that for my little sister, Ryoga?"
Does she think I can do that? Ryoga realized with no small amount of shock. It's only been my driving focus since meeting Ranma, for cryin' out loud! Revenge may have been out of the question now, but this was no paltry second best. Even as he considered the possibilities of such an arrangement, the inherent dangers manifest themselves to him quite readily.
"If she ever finds out…"
Ranma nodded. The curse has its grip on him too, and holding a loving relationship was much harder when you led the double life of your spouse's pet pig. "Kas-chan?"
Kasumi smiled took Ryoga's hand from Ranma. "This won't hurt a bit." Before he could question what wouldn't hurt a bit, her hand began to glow and in it, his. Her eyes began to glow likewise and he gasped as Kasumi seemed to look through him. It only lasted a few seconds but in that time he couldn't tear his eyes from hers and not for trying. The glow fade and her smile returned.
"What the hell was that!" Ryoga had managed to capture the attention of the entire café and turned beat red. He slumped down into his seat and stared at the two with ravenous curiosity.
"A consultation." Ranma grinned, then turned to his wife. "What's the prognosis, Doc?"
Now it was Kasumi's turn to smile widely. It always gave her a tiny thrill when her husband recognized her skills as a consummate professional. "Actually better than yours…" The look on Ranma's face said it all. Total surprise. "I might very well be able to break both curses at once."
"WHAT!" Ryoga shot up from the table and stared at Kasumi in awe. This time he didn't give a damn who was watching him. "Are you… serious!"
Kasumi's wide smile settled back into a serene one and Ranma marveled for perhaps the thousandth time at how Kasumi could convey so much emotion with little minute change to those beautiful lips of hers. "If it were just the Jyusenkyou I would have no chance neutralizing it, much like my Ran-chan's current condition. But the addition of your directional curse makes a cure possible. They overlap on one another creating instability and there is a chance- a small chance –that I can set them against one another."
"Both… at once?"
She nodded, but her smile faded. "We cannot assume the procedure will be without risk, however. The death magic of Jyusenkyou is strong and your directional curse has held its power for generations. The only reason I'm even able to affect change is due their chaotic overlap, and playing with chaos is not something to be undertaken lightly."
A cure. But a risky cure, Ryoga realized, looking from Kasumi to Ranma. "My only question is… Why?"
Ranma's girl-type smile burned a hole through any suspicion he was still harboring. "Cuz Ryoga… I learned somewhere along the way that rivals are a dime a dozen and enemies are even cheaper. You've always been there for me and now it's payback time."
He was stunned. This wasn't the same Ranma he had left out on the streets over a month ago. There were so many questions that needed answering, but that statement by itself told him that they could wait.
"It will take a few days to prepare." Kasumi stated and he nodded dumbly.
Me and Ranma. Friends. Who would have thought…?
Candlekeep; An ancient fortress-turned-library, south of Baldur's Gate and north of the kingdom of Amn and its capital, Athkatla, also on the Sword Coast. Located on the Plane of Faerûn. Reference game Baldur's Gate I & II
Lady Galadriel; Elven female, aka- Lady of the Galadhrim, Lady of the Golden Wood, Lady of Lórien. Reference JRR Tolkien's Lord of the Rings.
The Radiant Order; An association of clerics, spell casters and alchemist dedicated to the healing arts. I made this up.
Belldandy; Nord Goddess of the Present, fiancée to Keiichi. Reference anime Ah My Goddess!
Ketteiteki Hi; An Ôdachi, Kasumi's weapon of choice. Its name translates to 'Decisive Light'. The Ôdachi is a Japanese long sword, not to be confused with its shorter katana brethren.
Crapspace Bonus Track:
Detour 1/2 (an alt version of this fic or, "Ranma teh Succubus")
The screech of torn metal and dying animals echoed across the park as a jagged edge of light punctured the sky. Kids and parents alike ran for their lives while the tempest grew into a pitched crescendo ten feet above the ground. Had anybody actually stayed around to watch they would have been amazed to see a female fall from the sky, sheathed odachi in one hand with a fiery red ponytail trailing through the air. She landed into a graceful crouch and thumbed the hilt of the sword, allowing an inch of steel to glitter in the sunlight. The woman scanned her immediate surrounding warily and relaxed once it became clear that there was no threat. She notched the long katana back into its sheath and was starting to draw to her normal height when the vortex disgorged another figure who promptly bounced off the Saotome's head. The diminutive foot and half high gnome recovered from the bounce and flipped gracefully to the earth where upon the redhead shot him an annoyed look, then shrugged. Both looked back up at the flickering porthole of light, which promptly collapsed in upon itself.
The old gnome scratched his head. "Looks like the ol' boy ain't coming."
The woman sighed, shaking her head. "Jeez, how could he possibly get lost in a slip hole?"
The old man nodded and his eyes brightened. "Sweeto!" He jumped up and found a cushioned landing between the V-neck that held the redhead's generous breasts, where he snuggled in as if it were a throne.
Ranma Saotome rapped him on the head lightly with the pommel of her odachi but otherwise favored him with an affectionate look before plucking him off and affixing him to her shoulder. "One of these days you're gonna have to stop that, ya old fart." She took one last wistful look into the sky.
"That's what you always say." Happosai chuckled. "Don't worry. He'll be along in a few days."
"Better be." She snorted. "Or his ass is mine."
"Isn't it already?" The old master retorted with no small measure of humor.
"Hmmf." Ranma sniffed. She tied the sheathed sword into the belt of her white and blue kimono-like robe. "Dojo?"
"Dojo!" Happosai confirmed happily, pointing the way with his pipe.
Kasumi hummed a merry tune as she fixed dinner, though few would believe that behind her mask of serenity was a very discontent woman. Not that she didn't enjoy looking after the family and working in the kitchen, but there was something missing from her life. The family filtered in while she set the table. It was rather ironic that it was the very calm around the dojo that brought that feeling to the forefront, and Kasumi remembered back to a time when she would have enjoyed that calm. That was two years ago, then Ranma Saotome dropped into their lives and turned it upside down while shaking them sideways. He had been the catalyst in their lives that helped them break death's shadowy grip on the family. For the space of two years, Ranma and company had unknowingly helped them all in one way or another through his bouts of chaos, rivals and fiancées. Of course there was the property damage. And the incessant duels. The bickering. And extortion. But regardless of how bad it got, it was a new life, and it had come not a moment too soon.
Now it was gone.
Ranma Saotome, heir to the Anything Goes School of Martial Arts, betrothed to Akane Tendo had been missing for over a year now. The circumstance of that disappearance were plain enough, Kasumi recalled as the family began eating. Meals these days normally consisted of small talk and the like, but nothing outlandishly exciting. Nabiki still cooked the books. Akane still pounded on boys and she still maintained the household. Occasionally Genma or Nadoka would drop by to see how things were doing, but other than that, their lives were quickly sinking back into the pre-Saotome slump. He had departed in the middle of the night, leaving only a note to explain his reasoning, which was to find a cure. The curse had finally manifest a random element within it, one that disrupted the young martial artist's ki pathways every time he shifted forms. The consequence of this was that his ki usage became impotent for an extended amount of time, resulting in a serious handicap in battle.
Ryoga had been the first to notice apparently. Without ki to speed up his attack fortify his body, Ranma fell quickly and yet Ryoga would not finish the fight. He had recognized the fatal weakness and refused to exploit it, following the same code of honor as he had before. Shortly thereafter, the family had found the note detailing his quest for a cure and neither had been seen since. Granted, Ryoga-kun might be pure coincidence. After all, he did have a perchance for misdirection, but his absence for an entire year was unusual even for him. Like wise, the old master. The total lack of panty raids had left Nermia stunned, not that anybody complained. Him being gone was best for all parties concerned, regardless of the circumstances he disappeared under.
Kasumi was about to serve seconds when she paused, subtle awarness rippling across her consiousness. It was the house Wa and it had been disturbed, she noted, pausing in her duties. Something was about to happen. No idea what, but it felt strangely familiar. Almost as as it…
"Pretty ladies!" Happosai bounced into the room, radiating lecherous enthusiasm. With a light flip, the old master landed squarely on the table's center, favoring the sitting occupants with a grin. Kasumi was glad she was already standing. He quickly swiveled to the Tendo patriarch and Soun stiffened under his scrutiny. "Miss me, Tendo?"
"No- Um, YES! Yes, of course, Master!" Soun Tendo choked, hoping his trespass went unnoticed.
Happosai nodded, either missing the slip or simply ignoring it. He turned back to the two seated daughters, ignoring Kasumi completely. Nobody messed with Kasumi, and being such a sweet woman had nothing to do with it. She controlled the food and one did not want to upset such a lofty station in the household. The elder pulled a lacey pink bra from his pocket, unfolding it to proudly display. "Now which of you pretty ladies would like to model this for—"
"Remember the deal, ya old fart."
All eyes snapped onto the new comer who had just rapped Happosai across the head with the end of her scabbard. It was a moment of deju'vu as the four Tendos studied the woman; she could have easily been Nadoka Saotome. She was 5'6", wearing a white and blue kimono that hugged every soft curve, as if the deep 'V' neck that displayed her ample cleavage wasn't enough. Nabiki was already eyeing the jewelry, which her expert eye instantly appraised to be worth a small fortune. The stranger brought the sheathed sword back up to her chest, cradling it in her arms in a most Nadoka fashion, reinforcing the illusion further. Yet there was one thing that shattered it completely: The fiery red hair. It was totally off from the Nadoka they knew, especially when it was braided into a long waist deep ponytail. The pieces fell into place for Kasumi and Nabiki simultaneously.
Akane stood up with a start. It was impossible! Her body was completely different! Her face smoother… It was as if she were in her mid twenties instead of the eighteen year old martial artist that had disappeared. But it was! She bolted from the table and crushed Ranma with a bear hug. After holding it for several seconds, she released it and gave the redhead a good slap across the face.
"WHERE THE HELL HAVE YOU BEEN?"
"Ow." Ranma rubbed her cheek, but maintained her smile. "Nice to see you too."
Crapspace Notes: The whole 'Leave, come back agian more powerful than before and completely OC' is just stale ameature night for the most part. I have better thigs to do.