"Now," Belldandy said. "The only promises listed are the ones that accompanied a conscious determination to do something for the other person. Usually such accompanies a phrase like 'I promise' but it is the serious determination to accomplish the task that is important."
"Let's see," Urd said. "Shall we start with the obvious ones?"
She picked up a pack of papers herself and started at the top of the list.
"Ranma: 'We'll make sure the schools continue, that's a promise'" Urd said in a mildly mocking manner. "Which is moderately problematic since you need to get the whole Tendo school out of Soun Tendo pass both that and the Saotome on to a student or two who will make sure the arts continue."
"Well," Nabiki said. "At least we have a bit more time to get that done."
"Corollary to the previous promise," Urd said, voice rising with a smirk. "Nabiki: 'Yes, I'm sure you'll all live to see the day when eager little Anything Goes cadets are walking around the streets.'"
"Ahh," Nabiki said, embarrassed. "Did I say that?"
"You do have to be careful of making jokes when making promises," Belldandy warned unnecessarily.
"Next obvious one," Urd said. "Nabiki: 'We'll be back to see how everybody's doing as soon as it's safe for Midori.' That one you might be able to finish fairly soon."
"Yeah," Ranma was saying. "I was thinking about peeking sometime."
"I do believe that is a good idea," Belldandy noted.
"Something up?" Nabiki asked Belldandy.
"Not that the files are telling us," the middle goddess said. "But the two of you left certain…contingencies in Nerima behind you, and I respect the instincts of my peers."
"Excuse me?" Ranma asked. "What's that mean?"
"One thing at a time," Urd said. "More promises to get through."
"Right," Nabiki said, though she was eager to know exactly what the first class goddess was talking about when she said "contingencies." "So, what's next?"
"Ranma: 'This is your only warning,'" Urd said. Everybody looked toward Ranma.
"Shampoo," he explained simply.
"Right," Nabiki said.
"Oh dear," Belldandy noted. "Was that really necessary?"
Ranma put a protective arm around his daughter and looked particularly grim.
"I suppose it was," Belldandy said, sighing.
"Hopefully that one never has to be fulfilled," Urd noted as she moved to the next one.
"Ranma: 'I promise not to leave the toilet seat down anymore,'" Urd said, glancing to Ranma again, who just shrugged. "Nabiki: 'I promise, Ranma, you've got nothing I haven't seen before.' Interesting wording there."
"Out of context!" Nabiki sputtered, flushing brightly.
"I'm sure," Urd noted, smirking.
"What's the big deal about rental DVDs?" Ranma asked.
"Oh, looks like you'll have to educate him later," the "cupid of love" said with a snicker. Nabiki's mouth twitched as she reached over to cover Midori's ears.
"Urd," Belldandy said in a mildly lecturing tone.
"Moving on," Urd noted swiftly.
The number of seemingly day to day common promises to each other, most of which would not have been considered heavenly promises when spoken by friends or even roommates, was large. Urd recognized the character of such serious appreciation and respect for another being. She'd peeked at Belldandy's promise file since living with Keiichi and compared it to other goddesses who were merely dating some boyfriend or another.
Still, she couldn't help teasing, and she began to comment and remind that there were many, there were other, more significant promises.
"Nabiki: 'If we find your daughter, we'll tell her you want to see her."
"Ranma: 'Yeah, if you need help with a show or something, you can call me and I'll help ya out.'"
"Ranma: 'You'll make it, and I'll be there to see you get the trophy.'"
"Nabiki: 'When you make it, we'll be there to buy your first CD.'"
"Ranma: 'If I see a ghost, I'll tell you."
"Ranma: 'I'm sure you'll get a better job.'"
For about half an hour they had been highlighting what seemed to be the more serious of the promises. Well, at least Nabiki was highlighting them, occasionally reminding Ranma to do so as well.
For his part, Ranma hadn't forgotten most of his promises, having learned that lesson with Ryouga and the bread feud, among other things.
He just hadn't realized that he'd made so many promises.
"Married couple promise number three-thousand-fifty-three," Urd noted, rolling her eyes.
Belldandy had half-given up on convincing Urd to stop making comments and Ranma and Nabiki had stopped reacting as strongly sometime after the fifteenth exaggerated commentaries.
There weren't more than a couple hundred promises total, family oriented or otherwise.
"Midori: 'You can have a dinosaur pet! I'll get you one," Urd read. "Ran…wait a minute."
It was a long reign, full of questions that filtered visibly through the air, the messengers of the great king confusion.
Ranma and Nabiki blinked and looked down at Midori as that last promise was read out loud.
"Are you sure you read that properly, Urd?" Belldandy asked.
"'You can have a dinosaur pet…'" Urd reread.
Silence reigned a second time.
"But…" Ranma said. "Huh??"
"Ummm," Nabiki said. "We're supposed to make sure that happens?"
"Apparently so," Belldandy noted.
"And it'll be purple like my hair!" Midori said smiling broadly.
Tarou frowned as he sat atop a warehouse and looked out over Furinkan-cho.
Coming back to Nerima only to find that Ranma Saotome had flown the coop was a rather unwelcome surprise.
He'd actually been hoping to rope the martial artist into his most recent plan to get his name changed, but if the jerk was gone, he wasn't sure what he'd do. It would mean coming up with a new plan.
The cursed fighter frowned and considered his original plan. It had been rather simple. He was going to try to spark an alliance with Ranma and a few of the other locals against Happosai and push the little creep into a corner where he didn't have anywhere to go, no panties to steal or glomps to make.
And once he was at his lowest, then Tarou would offer to switch sides if only the freak changed his name.
Unfortunately, the linch pin was getting Ranma since he was the easiest way to get the martial artist population moving off its collective butt.
That, and he probably would keep the other martial artists from tearing his hide off too badly in the aftermath. As arrogant as he was, Tarou had no illusions about how much power it would take to force Happosai to ground and what that combined amount of force could do to him.
The success of such a coalition and betrayal hinged on getting someone to lead it who had a highly honed sense of mercy and compassion in combination with an incredible degree of skill and the ability to apply vast amounts of force to insure his will. He needed a person who would understand the reasons behind the betrayal.
In otherwords, a ridiculously powerful sucker.
All because his enemy was almost ludicrously powerful and cunning.
He was considering this as he looked down into the streets and saw something rather curious.
Akane Tendo, in one of the parks pacing about as if in a quandary of indecision.
Pantyhose found Akane rather interesting by nature of her connection with Ranma Saotome. Given that Ranma was no longer around, had been gone for a year, in fact, he really hadn't expected to see Akane still around the town, maybe he should have hung around a little to hear more of the story from Ukyou.
The woman's eyes flickered occasionally toward a set of shops across the street. It took a few minutes but Tarou eventually figured out what exactly was attracting the youngest Tendo's attention.
A clinic, one of the few where a legal abortion could be obtained. Something Tarou could tell based on the signs held by a small scattering of protestors milling about.
The realization of what she was trying to decide on lowered Tarou's opinion of the girl from the gutters where his respect for most people lay. Among his faults was an adherence to old-world traditions and little accommodation for modern-world tolerance.
But it did make for any interesting possibility.
Ranma had been gone for a year, but Akane was being indecisive about an abortion clinic.
Perhaps Ranma had been staying closer than he wanted people to know.
That was both good and bad.
It was good because Tarou could still see about getting the martial artist into his plan.
It was bad because it indicated that the fighter was getting as tricky as he was strong.
In any case, this was his best chance of finding the fem-boy and not having to completely scrap a plan.
He jumped down from his perch into the park and strutted his way through the tame trees toward where Akane was having her personal crisis. She saw him coming from pretty quickly.
"Tarou," she said, dropping into stance.
"Hey, Butch," Tarou said, snickering.
He didn't worry about the girl's fighting him. After all, he may not have been a serious martial artist, but, then again…neither was Akane.
Akane trained only to maintain her skills, not to advance them, much like he did, and she wasn't as skilled as he was.
Nor did she have a powerful second form to fall back on.
"What's a piece of trash like you doing here?" Akane demanded.
"Trash?" Tarou said, smirking as he looked across the street toward the clinic Akane had been watching. "Well, aren't you the pretty little black kettle?"
Akane winced as she took in the fact that Tarou had figured out what she was there for.
"What business is that of yours?" Akane demanded.
"Muck up your self-righteous delusions all you want," Tarou said. "I'm only interested in where the father is."
That brought Akane pause.
"The father?" she said, slipping momentarily out of stance before realizing who she was facing. "What do you want him for?"
"I have a proposition for him," the cursed-warrior said. "Direct me where to find him and then you can go back to bloodying your hands."
"I couldn't tell you if I wanted to," Akane said, grimly. "But he's probably up at his girlfriend's farm."
Tarou frowned and crossed his arms.
There was something not quite right here.
Across from him, Akane felt cautiously suspicious, wondering just what Tarou wanted with Ryouga.
"Another woman already, Butch?" Tarou asked. "Isn't that some sort of record?"
Akane twitched again and resisted the urge to attack Tarou. This wasn't someone she could afford to play her usual game with. Even she knew that.
"Where's this farm?" the rude man asked.
"You're not hurting anyone, are you?" Akane asked.
"I told you," Tarou said. "I have something to suggest, not making an attack."
"One condition," Akane said.
"What's that?" Tarou asked.
"You don't tell anybody about…" she gestured vaguely to her stomach. "This."
"Not even Daddy?" Tarou asked.
"Especially not Daddy," Akane said coldly.
"I can keep that promise," Tarou noted with a smirk.
"The farm's just out of town," Akane said, indicating a direction. "The Unryuu Pig Farm. Appropriate place for him, really."
"Thanks, Butch," Tarou said, starting to turn about. "I'll be sure to let Daddy know who sent me his way."
Akane winced and thought about asking Tarou not to, but it would be pointless, the young man was already leaping away. Besides, Ryouga couldn't think any less of her after the last thing she'd done to him.
She turned away from the clinic, looking over her shoulder uncertainly.
After that encounter she really couldn't go through with making a decision today.
As both Akane and Tarou left, another figure strode out, face grim and angry.
Gosunkugi stepped out of the shadow that he had been…observing Akane from and considered what he had learned today.
Akane was pregnant.
She'd given herself over to some man and was now considering ending the resulting condition early.
It couldn't have been Ranma, after all, Gosunkugi had been watching for the martial artist to return and Ranma never had. The young warlock had a firm confidence in his ability to make sure no one came and went that he didn't know about.
Which left the warlock in a quandary of just what to do about this situation.
One thing he certainly knew of course.
He knelt down and placed a small stone dog on the ground before quickly imbuing it with animation. A few whispers later and the dog was running off to pursue the scent of the leaving cursed-warrior.
Soon, he'd know where and who this mystery father was, and by then he'd know what to do about the…person.
As for now, he almost had the materials that he needed for the ritual, the beginning would soon be done with.
Cologne, Shampoo and Ukyou sat uncomfortably in the Tendo Dojo among a small collection of other restaurant owners. Kasumi Tendo was quietly serving drinks and refreshments as their host continued to speak to the group of them.
"There can be certainly no doubt," the shrill and enthusiastic voice was noting. "That having such vivacious girls as myself and my peers attending your restaurants as waitresses will bring you all much business, but I'm certain you can see that the purpose for such manual labor will bring more."
Kodachi Kuno stood in front of them with three other St. Hebereke seniors, all dressed in varying waitress uniforms and posing prettily. To the left was a poster with a blown up version of one of the buttons worn by the four girls that read: "Tip a waitress, plant a garden."
"And then we can take whatever proceeds we earn can go toward the purchase of some of these vacant lots and the supplies to make them into a local flower garden," the girl noted eagerly.
"She has a good plan," Ukyou heard a man say. "But really, flower gardens? What's that going to do?"
"What do you expect from a Kuno, something practical?" another asked.
"Really," Ukyou muttered to no one in particular. "This new virtuous phase of Kodachi's is getting a bit bizarre."
"It's no phase," Cologne noted from her seat before she cleared her throat and started speaking louder. "The plan has merit. Flower gardens of appropriate beauty will draw visitors to the ward. Visitors who will want to eat."
"What did you say?" Ukyou asked as Cologne's commentary was taken account of and discussed.
"I said," Cologne noted, turning toward Ukyou. "That Miss Kuno's new attitude is not merely a 'phase.' Clumsy as she is at expressing herself, she honestly does wish to help those around her."
"Is very annoying to talk to," Shampoo agreed morosely. "Shampoo wonder where she get this idea."
"That would be me," Ukyou said, sighing. "Last week, she came in and took the charity jar off my counter and stared at it for twenty minutes before finally ordering something."