Akira frowned, realizing that he had to do something. The way things were were getting entirely too comfortable. It was beginning to feel "right" to be this tall and muscular fellow with the gleaming smile. Time for Akane to return, but how?
Looking around in desperation, Akira felt more of Akane beginning to slip away and made a choice.
The wizard merely smirked, looking past the transformed former sixteen year old Japanese girl. A sign displayed where almost everyone would ignore it, read "Only Three Per Customer."
Besides, after he was done here, he could go visit Juuban.
"Sobe beverages, 'Zen Blend'." Akira looked at the label on the tea and wondered about the contents briefly. He was really good at English, but some of the writing here looked to be a _completely_ different language.
What the heck was a 'schizandra' anyway? The yin/yang symbol with the little lizards was kind of cute, and Akira picked up the bottle.
ZEN BLEND by Gregg, strangely enough.
The Wiz frowned. "THAT was not supposed to happen."
"What *was* supposed to happen from a product called 'Zen Blend'?" A reasonable sounding voice asked.
"She would have been turned back to Akane, all right, but would have been exchanged with some fanfic writer named Zen. Zen would then have been the 16 year old son of Soun Tendo." The Wiz stopped. That had *not* been his wolf. It had not been one of his cursed antiques, nor the perverted leprechaun, nor had it been any of the sentient cursed items. His eye caught a short elven fellow leaning up against a copy of the Unabridged Necronomicon. The book appeared to be flinching. "Oh Puck."
"Well, I *was* Toltiir up until a few days ago, but people started confusing me with that Osciir fellow so I dropped the cat guise. Too bad, Bast liked it."
"They're confusing an Elder God with... Never mind. I don't want to know."
"So, everyone would have remembered the children of Soun Tendo as being Zen, Nabiki, and Kasumi? Out of those three who would have been the Tendo heir? Hmmm. Anyway, I got this request from Lian'Ascot, god of temporary positions to see what would happen, against all odds and usual use of the Spells R Us curses, if Akane got a major good thing happening out of it. So I tweaked the odds a little."
"You call that 'a little'?"
"As much as you do."
It was a simple marker, with an equally simple little stone plaque at its base. A few dried flowers, a paper fan, and an origami swan marked the spot. Nothing elaborate.
To Soun, Akane, Kasumi, and Nabiki it was VERY important. It was the gravesite of Mrs Tendo.
A shadow passed over them after a few moments.
"Pardon me, Mister Tendo." The staff thunked down, causing the rings at the top to jingle. "Might I have a word with you?"
-----------------Spells R Us shop--------------------
"Having a Zen Master intervene is NOT a small change."
"Who says he's a Zen Master?" The tiny elf shifted into a doglike creature. He'd been Coyote for a few years too. Nah, he'd done that role to perfection and it was time to move on.
"Well, that's not... He isn't. You wouldn't. Not. No."
Coyote grinned. "Yup. Okami."
"The Children of Gaia Theurge?! You're mad, mad I tell you!"
"No, just slightly annoyed." Coyote frowned.
Years later, Kasumi looked up from her cooking in THAT way. It immediately got Nabiki's attention away from the rice cookies.
Nabiki winced. She fully expected this to have to do with some of the magazines she had hidden under the mattress. Forbes Japan, Popular Science, Cosmopolitan, not the sort of thing that Kasumi OR Akane would approve of.
Nabiki winced again. Trying to keep a secret in this house was an exercise in futility. Nabiki knew that the pressure was on and that both she and Akane were fully expected to join up and become Zen Buddhist nuns. No doubt Mother was explaining how Nabiki had SEVERE doubts about that sort of life for herself.
"Kasumi, Nabiki, Akane," Soun yelled from where he had been going through the mail. "Thank you, Mother." Kasumi sighed and her eyes focussed on this world again. "Oh, Nabiki. Akane's in the dojo. Can you go fetch her? Father has something he wants to tell us."
"Kasumi?" Soun stuck his head in the kitchen.
"I already know, Father. Isn't this wonderful? Oh, and Mother says hello and you ought to cut down on the sake."
Soun trembled and quietly withdrew. After a few moments he mumbled a "yes dear."
Nabiki sighed and left to enter the dojo, rubbing her eyes at what she saw. Akane, unlike Nabiki, had unexpectedly taken to the spiritual training and was quite likely to become one of the warrior nuns of the order. Either an Exorcist or Devilhunter. Maybe both.
One only had to look at Akane sitting in a full lotus position, attempting to find a true zuzen state to know how far she'd come over the years. Especially when one noted that she was a couple of centimeters above the floor.
"Uhm, Akane?" Nabiki hesitated to interrupt her sister. Akane tended to scare people. Most of the guys at school thought she was cute until they found out her dream was to be a warrior Buddhist nun. That and the disconcerting way she tended to look THROUGH you.
"I know." Akane's voice was cool and impersonal. It also sounded as if it had come from far away. "I see them."
"Them?" Nabiki shook her head.
"You'll see." Akane settled to the floor. "Too bad. I was almost there."
"You've said that before," Nabiki pointed out. "What will happen when you get there and reach this 'true zuzen' state?"
"You weren't paying attention to the instructions, were you, my sister?" Her voice still as calm and cold as a snowdrift, Akane rose in a single motion from her lotus. That gaze that tended to unsettle the boys at school turned in Nabiki's direction.
"Kasumi was talking to Mother. She said it was important." Nabiki didn't want that gaze turned on her, either.
"I understand," Akane said and shrugged, walking past Nabiki towards the house. "The concerns of the material world are as nothing to the greater Truths that lie beyond. I suspect that if you join the Order beside me, they shall have to purge these worldly instincts from you. Sister Shinrai will be more than happy to take your training personally."
Akane allowed herself a small smile that Nabiki couldn't see from her angle. Akane didn't need to see Nabiki's face to know how pale and fearful it had become. Things were progressing well.
Nabiki rushed in to find Kasumi and Akane settled into place and facing their father. With a slight bow of apology, Nabiki knelt on her own cushion to listen to whatever odd thing was going on.
"Ahem. Well. There's this arrangement," Soun began.
"Yes, father. Well, at sixteen, Ranma's a little young for me. AND he's a bit immature since he's spent his entire life training in the martial arts without any friends or peer groups."
"Mother told me, Father." Kasumi began pouring tea, though she left a cup of plain springwater for Akane as was her preference. She put a second kettle out on the table.
"Well nobody has told *me*!" Nabiki groused.
Akane nodded in thanks to Kasumi and sipped at her springwater. "Sister, if you had bothered to learn, you would not need anyone to tell you that Father had made an arrangement with an old friend of his to marry off one of his daughters with the son of that old friend."
"WHAT?!" Nabiki hated this. As usual, she was the Last To Know. No Spirit Guides, no "Oneness With The Universe", no nothing. Feh.
"Yes, the son of a very good friend of mine." Soun nodded. "The son's name is Ranma Saotome. If one of you three were to marry him, and carry on the dojo, the Tendo family legacy would be secure."
"I cannot marry, Father," Akane calmly announced. "Mine will be a life of constant denial, meditation, and training. Worldly concerns would detract from that goal." Akane smiled a little, thinking of some of the ordeals and tasks she could put herself through when she was accepted. It would be wonderful.
"Err. Yes, I suppose." Soun sweated a little despite the damp chilly air. "Anyway, I guess."
"Mother told me that he's a got a good heart, unfortunately with his father's inept parenting, you have to dig quite a ways to get to that heart." Kasumi sipped at her tea. "Oh, and she says that you really ought to choose your friends better. But you knew she never approved of your choice of Masters to study under."
"Not a pleasant fellow?" Nabiki sipped at her tea, aware that Akane was studying her again and getting nervous under that unblinking gaze. She felt as if she were an onion, with one layer after another being stripped away under that scrutiny.
"No, and their Master will return to their lives in three months, two weeks, three days." Kasumi blinked at how pale their father had just turned.
Soun glanced at the calender, figured out when that would be, and made plans to be out of town at that time.
"So family honor demands one of us marry this Ranma?" Nabiki tried to figure out if she had this down right. Soun nodded. "He's got a good heart but you've got to cut away a lotta crap that his father's fed to him?" Kasumi and Akane nodded.
"He's pretty good at the martial arts," Akane conceded. "However this has weakened him by neglecting the philosophical and spiritual components of the Art. All this Ranma knows is how to fight. Not really a suitable husband for anyone, I'd have to say." "Well, shucky darns," Nabiki rolled her eyes. "Family honor you say? DARN, and I was *so* looking forward to a life of privation."
"I'm sure we can get you out of this," Akane said in her usual emotionless voice. "Worldly concerns are so ephemeral, after all. I wouldn't suggest Devilhunter or Exorcist, but I'm sure Sister Shinrai will have some ideas as to your vocation within the sisterhood. Just think, you could be in that shrine on the mountaintop living on snowmelt and without any distractions to keep you from spiritual concerns."
"Oh my, that would be wonderful, wouldn't it Nabiki?"
Nabiki twitched. A stone floor, four pillars, no walls or ceiling, hidden observers to make sure she didn't go anywhere or do anything except meditate. Snow, cold, a thin cotton robe. Four trainees a year had to be hospitalized for exposure, frostbite, or starvation. "Uhm. Gee, I don't know how I could not enjoy that. But it is family *honor* so I guess that we'll just see what this Ranma is like before I marry him."
Kasumi and Akane briefly smiled before returning to calm expressions.
"Let go of me, old man!"
"They're early," noted Kasumi with a glance towards the clock.
"They're late." Akane didn't bother looking at the clock. Another needless material thing. "You have enough hot water?"
"Most of one kettle, a second kettle here, the furo's hot, and there's a third kettle warm on the stove. Mother didn't tell me why."
Nabiki and Soun ran back, just ahead of a running panda and a girl who was slung over one shoulder.
"Hey, pop, you're scarin' 'em spitless."
"Rough edges doesn't even begin," sighed Akane. "Oh well, let's get this over with."
"What is this? Why did this panda come visiting? Why are you pouring hot water over...?!" Nabiki came to a halting stop as Akane poured some water over the panda, turning it into an older man in a gi who was staring fearfully at Akane.
"Genma? Then this would be Ranma?"
"Yeah, I'm Ranma. Got any more of that hot water?"
Nabiki blinked. "He's cute." She liked cute guys.
Akane poured a little hot water on Ranma, who got taller and his loose clothes suddenly fit a bit better. "Yeah, they went to Jusenkyo. Anyway, hot water restores them to normal until cold water puts them into their cursed form. Yadda yadda. You know this would never have happened if your yin and yang were balanced."
Nabiki blinked. He was still pretty cute. Nabiki lunged and grabbed Ranma by his shoulders. "Are you into personal suffering? Eat only brown rice? Talk to dead people? Float in midair while trying to attain a state of No Self? Answer questions before they are asked? Believe that capitalism is wrong because it emphasizes the material world? Hate ice cream and candy because they detract from spiritual growth?"
Ranma blinked at the sudden barrage of questions and the desperate look in the girl's face. "Uhm, no?"
"THANK KAMI!" Nabiki clung to Ranma. "We have something in common. Thank you."
"It's not too late, Nabiki. If you change your mind. . ." Akane let it hang there. Her sister's spiritual growth *would* be derailed if she got involved with this guy.
Ranma looked around. "Would someone mind explaining what's going on?"
Akane sighed. "Kasumi here doesn't have the potential for life as a warrior nun. I and Nabiki, on the other hand, do have some potential for life as religious asthetics."
"I'm also not Buddhist," said Kasumi with a shrug. She had learned from Okami, but had already had her own personal beliefs at that point. Whereas Akane had been so impressed with the spiritual fighting techniques that she had readily absorbed their doctrines.
Nabiki didn't let go of Ranma's arm. An image of that mountaintop temple, herself turning blue in a thin robe, icicles hanging from her hair, her nearly frozen body being carried off by Sister Shinrai for more "special training" like she'd gone through when she was younger and had tried to buck the system. "It's family *honor*, Akane. *Family* honor. Someone's got to do it, Kasumi's not interested, you can't do it, so it's up to me."
"Nabiki," Kasumi's voice sounded approving. "Mother will be so happy to hear that you're getting married and concerned about family honor. However, we mustn't rush into this."
"Well *I* am not getting married to anyone. I've got to go back to China and get cured!"
Akane looked over Ranma as if he were some sort of bug. The question being was he something like a ladybug or mantis that you wanted around, or like a pest that you casually crushed before it could become a problem. "No you won't."
"Whatta ya mean by that!" Ranma was confused and a bit stressed. This one girl was still holding onto his arm and the warmth of her body through his damp clothes was proving distracting. That girl over there seemed to be watching something move that he couldn't see. This girl confronting him looked kinda cute but was giving him a look that made him feel as if he were about to be dissected or something.
"Jusenkyo will only cure its curses when it is ready to do so. The spirits there are capricious and slow to loose their hold on its victims." Akane appeared to come a decision. "You won't find a cure just yet. Go or don't go, it makes no difference."
"Oh, and who died and appointed YOU god?" Ranma's voice had continued to rise. Akane, however, was as calm and uncaring as ever.
"Nietzche." Akane shrugged. "While many of his conclusions are flawed and self-serving, he did have his good points."
"As for you, your yin and yang are seriously out of balance. Your father has taught you many martial arts, but has neglected the spiritual and philosophical grounds upon which the martial arts were built. You are like a tree without roots, a house without a foundation, you have strength but you lack completeness and that will bring ruin in the long run."
"Is that a challenge?" Ranma had no idea what was going on but it felt like he was in a fight and rapidly being pummelled.
Akane didn't smile, that would have given her away. "Very well, a challenge. If I win, you give your word as a martial artist that you will treat my sister Nabiki right. If you win, I pull some strings to get you your trip back to China. Deal?"
"Deal!" Ranma was confident he would win, though there was an unnerving feeling when he tried to meet this girl's gaze. She could probably win a staring contest with a statue. And what did "treat her sister right" mean anyway?
The two found that their audience had followed them to the dojo.
"It would be best if you weren't here," Akane said calmly. "Ranma is fairly prideful if I'm reading him right. Losing in front of a group would be unnecessarily harsh." She didn't bother to state how long it had been since she'd read someone wrong. At sixteen, a year was a long time.
"Pretty confident, aren't you," growled Ranma. "Tryin' to rile me, but I don't hit girls so you don't have to worry that much."
"That's a stupid attitude." A trace of anger actually showed through Akane's calm. "Don't pick on the weak, that's fine. Treating an entire gender as weak is not. Especially when you are a girl half the time."
"I AM A GUY!"
"Start." Nabiki said, tiredly. This wasn't going well. Nothing ever went well. Why couldn't this guy just be affectionate and get her out of this madhouse? The image of herself on that mountaintop returned, this time adding how emaciated she looked after a few days of nothing but snow to eat. Nabiki shuddered again. She _liked_ material things. She _liked_ being warm and wearing clothes that had actual colors and designs. Nabiki _enjoyed_ eating foods that actually had a flavor.
There was a brief moment while both waited for the other to attack. Then Ranma started forward and found that he couldn't lay a finger on his opponent. He started analyzing Akane's style and noted that she shifted effortlessly from Wing Chun to Ju jitsu to Kenpo to Anything Goes.
After five minutes, the spectators were mainly sitting. After ten minutes, Ranma was gasping for breath and had still failed to connect. Akane waited for an opening and finally moved, savagely striking out as Ranma's head dipped.
Akane took a deep breath. She disliked this, but there were times when you had to be brutal. Looking down at the fallen martial artist, she let her pity for him show. "You never had a chance, Ranma. All you understand is the basics of physical combat, not the Art itself which encompasses far more than merely being able to hit or avoid being hit. Your father's teachings have crippled you, not only as a fighter but as a human being.
"You can do fine against the petty dojos and part time martial artists. Against someone like myself who has made themselves part of the True Art, you have no more chance of survival than a tree without roots against the flood." Akane sighed again. "What a waste. You've been denied a normal childhood, no home or mother, no life beyond constant battle. Now you need to learn something beyond the physical. Not all battles are fought by the fist alone, y'know."
Akane walked away, knowing that the paralysis shiatsu would wear off in a few minutes. Passing Nabiki, she spoke softly enough that only the two could hear. "Sister, take care of your iinazuke. Be gentle and kind to him now. Be supportive. He has just had all the hardships he's endured in this life proven to be completely needless suffering. If you handle this right, you'll have his undying devotion."
"He'll probably challenge you to a rematch."
"I'll win again." Akane almost shrugged. "He's good, but he's so easy to read it's pathetic. Now if he gets some of the philosophy behind the Art, devotes some time to mastering the spiritual side, he might have a chance against me. In another year. Oh, and the paralysis shiatsu will wear off in another few minutes."
Akane walked on, not looking back to where Nabiki had crossed to her iinazuke. Akane _almost_ smiled.
"They'll make a cute couple," said Kasumi at the porch, who hadn't bothered to head to the dojo. She knew full well what had occurred though, as she knew what Akane was capable of.
"True," said Akane. "Ranma will challenge me twice more before he gets the idea that the fullness of the Art is not something you can learn in a single sitting. When he does, and starts researching those angles, he will grow as a person and as a martial artist."
"It's nice of you to help out your sister like that."
Akane raised an eyebrow. "Is that you or Mother talking?"
"Me. Though Mother approves."
"Well, I haven't put all mortal concerns behind me yet. After I join the Order officially, I'll have to renounce all worldly ties including family." Akane's eyes shone slightly. To become One with the Art, and through the Art, One With The Universe. It was possible for her, she knew. She had glimpsed it.
hi people. is this different enough? this is just something i worked out that i thought would be amusing and different. it's wrapped up here, though if (like the Genma Ascendent piece) someone wants to take the idea and run with it, feel free. (For that matter, if someone wants to write the Zen as Soun's son piece, that's one i wanna read. snicker. chortle. Image of someone slapping Ranma out of the way with his spatula when a certain chef shows up.) i personally think this particular concept has been explored enough here that there is no need to go further. Other opinions will, and should, vary.
Akane is *good* at the Art, though pursuing the Zen ideal of nothingness to the extent she has means that she comes across as not only cold but almost Vulcan. She is extremely self-controlled and aware of her immediate environment. Given the nature of the series, what with ghost cats and the like, some mystical abilities seem mandated for an order of warrior-spiritualist-monks/nuns.
Kasumi's spiritual training went a different route and she talks to her mother. While that may not be unusual, her mother answering is. She knows Dr Tofu is interested but wants him to make a coherent first move. She's a Shinto Shrine Maiden.
Nabiki went through a lot of the same training as Akane. Think of Akane's initial success with Martial Arts Rhythmic Gymnastics and you have Nabiki's success in the spiritual realm. A clearcut case of one's nature at conflict with one's environment. She's a little less materialistic, and more affectionate. Sister Shinrai is the humorless authority figure who scares the heck out of Nabiki, particularly following some training "accidents" that i wasn't cruel enough to write out. No, you hentai, not *that* kind of training. Soun is a little more stable, but with Kasumi talking to his dead wife, Akane apparently cold and dedicated to becoming a warrior nun, and Nabiki practically ready to flee for China at the first sign of Sister Shinrai, he has more reason to be unstable than in the canon.
Ranma has just been challenged to grow up. You know how he is about challenges. Major kick in the pride. If Nabiki plays her cards right, and she's more compassionate here, she'd own Ranma by the third episode. i'd put in WAFFy scenes where they exchange horrors they underwent in training, Nabiki taking the lead in any affection exchanges, but that's just me.
Eventually Nabiki & Ranma face Shampoo, Ukyou, etc. Akane is quite capable of taking them both on all by herself. Cologne is beyond her limits and would give Akane quite the surprise. Happosai would eventually show up, and much of that would remain. In this story, Nabiki is a fair martial artist but it isn't really her bag either.
so long, and thanks for all the fish. gregg, aka email@example.com