The usual disclaimer: Ranma ½ is a trademark of Rumiko Takahashi and VIZ Communications, and its characters have been borrowed without permission. This story was written for non-commercial purposes only.
The Vengeance Rose
In which, Happosai tells a little tale. Since he wants to present himself in the best light (and hide the true extend of his crimes), Happosai will use a more formal style of speech and speak more metaphorical than usual. I've provided some footnotes to help everyone understand what the little creep is actually saying….
Happosai had just returned from a very profitable panty raid. There were about fifty women currently searching Nerima for him, but it appeared that he had made a clean getaway. Now, he felt it was safe to return to the dojo and see if Kasumi had made lunch yet. He bounced onto the dojo grounds and into the house. A nice meal would cap off the morning perfectly, and he had never known a better cook than the eldest Tendo daughter.
However, when he reached the kitchen, he received a rude surprise. Instead of the beautiful brown-eyed cook, he found a concerned blue-eyed boy wearing an apron and chopping up vegetables. He was so taken aback, it didn't even occur to him to throw water on the shape-changer and cop a feel. "Ranma, what are you doing? Where's Kasumi?" Happosai asked.
"Keep it down, old man." Ranma spoke with a warning tone. "The Tendos are a bit under the weather today, so I'm cooking lunch. For once, just behave yourself."
Happosai was further surprised. 'Old man'? Not 'freak' or 'pervert' despite the obvious haul? Ranma really was concerned about something. "All of them? Even Nabiki?" Happosai pressed.
"Yeah. She was a bit grim coming home from the campus last night, and she never came down for coffee this morning," Ranma answered. "Akane never went out for her run either. She got up, and got dressed, but now she's just sitting in her room."
"Any idea what's going on?"
"I think it's got something to do with the calendar. Pop has always made a point of taking me a training trip about this time of year. I told him 'No' this year, and now he's vanished."
Happosai walked over to the wall calendar and stared at it. There was nothing marked on it. Still, he felt there was something about this time of year he should have remembered. He left Ranma alone and wandered up the stairs. Sure enough, Akane was in her room, looking out the windows. She seemed very melancholy and sad – sad enough that Happosai let her be.
He stopped outside of Nabiki's door, which was shut tight. Placing an ear to the door yielded nothing, so Happosai placed himself into a small trance. He could feel the middle Tendo daughter in there, but she wasn't moving – just lying on her bed. He could feel the extreme sadness of her aura though.
Kasumi's room was empty, so the Grand Master of Anything Goes Martial Arts moved down the hall to Soun's room. There, Happosai found his disciple kneeling in front of the bedroom shrine where mementos of the late Mrs. Tendo were kept. It wasn't unusual to find Soun there, but he rarely posed as he did now, with his face pressed against the floor. It was also unusual to find Kasumi kneeling besides her father. While her face wasn't pressed into the floor, she did keep it bowed.
"So, that's it," Happosai thought. "It must be the birthday of Kimiko Tendo." He turned around quietly, and walked toward the stairs again. "Well, I suppose everyone should be allowed to grieve, but Soun should have moved on by now. Still, best to leave them alone."
As he started down the stairs to rejoin Ranma in the kitchen, something pricked the back of mind. Instead of the kitchen, he wandered out to the backyard and looked hard at it. "No, it's not her birthday," he thought. "She was born in the winter, about a week after New Year's. I remember being here when Kasumi was about one year old. Kimiko let me stay for the Holidays, but insisted I leave after New Year's so she could enjoy her birthday. I remember agreeing to it while we stood here sharing a rare moment of peace. So, what's significant about today and Kimiko?"
As he thought more about it, his eyes wandered around the yard until they rested on a vibrant rose bush. The bush was covered in large deep red flowers. The plant had deep green leaves, relatively broad for a rose bush, but the leaves hid thorns the length of a person's fingernails. Even now, the sight of that bush made his back ache. He chuckled to himself. "The only one," he thought. "In all this time, the only one…" Suddenly, his eyes widened. "No, not her birthday!" his thoughts exclaimed. He looked around the yard wildly, remembering a time when he stood in this yard, but it was with a crowd of mournful people. "No," he said quietly. "No, no, no, no…"
CRASH! CLANG! CRASH! CLANG!
Ranma heard the commotion upstairs. He threw down the knife he was working with and grabbed a heavy serving platter. He ran up the stairs to see Happosai bouncing up and down the hallway banging two metal trash can lids together. The young man threw the serving platter like a discus, nailing Happosai mid-bounce. "WHICH PART OF 'BEHAVE YOURSELF' DIDN'T YOU UNDERSTAND?" Ranma yelled at the old pervert as he raced toward Happosai.
Happosai shook off the blow and met Ranma head on. The old man touched Ranma's forehead with a finger and somehow stole all of Ranma's forward momentum, causing the shape-changer to collapse on the ground. "Don't stop me, Ranma," Happosai said. "This is too important." The martial arts master then yelled in a Chi-enhanced voice: "ALL RIGHT! EVERYONE OUT NOW!"
Soun angrily came into the hallway as Ranma was picking himself up. "How dare you! Is nothing sacred to you?"
Happosai turned to face the father of three. "There's nothing sacred about this day!" he yelled while grabbing Soun and lifting him aloft. Then he raced to Nabiki's door and kicked it open. The dwarf ran into her room to the window. He forced the window up and tossed Soun outside so he ended up near the rose bush Happosai had noted earlier. Nabiki sat up in surprise, still in her night clothes. "Get dressed!" he ordered her. "And join your father outside!"
Ranma ran into the bedroom and dove at Happosai again. Once more, the master robbed the student of his forward momentum causing the lad to hit the floor. "Damn," Happosai thought. "If I do that one more time, he's going to figure that trick out."(1) As Ranma got up, Happosai said out loud, "No, my boy. I told you – this is too important."
Kasumi came into the room with a hard expression on her face. "Grandfather…" she started crossly, but stopped as she looked at Happosai. The old man had such a stern and serious look about him, that it gave her pause. It was hard to think of him as a real teacher, but that's how he came across now.
"Don't fight me either, Kasumi" he said softly. "You know the truth, but you're too gentle to make them understand. This has to happen." He glanced at Ranma who was watching him carefully. "Ranma, please take Akane outside and meet me by the rose bush Soun is laying near." Akane was watching from the doorway in shock. "And either take off that apron or dump water on yourself, you look ridiculous. Kasumi, please take Nabiki and get her dressed. Then meet me outside." The two he addressed stared at him in disbelief until he clapped his hands. "C'mon! Chop, chop!"
In a short time, Kasumi shepherded Nabiki outside to join Happosai and the others. Ranma and Akane had managed to revive Soun, and all three watched Happosai warily. The old master had a small bag with him that obviously contained a bottle of saki and some small glasses. "Sit down," he ordered, making motions for them to form a semi-circle. He stood at its focus, with the rose bush behind him. Once they were seated, he half-turned and gently stroked an extremely red rose, being very careful to avoid the thorns. "You know," he began, looking at the three sisters. "One of your mother's gifts was gardening. She planted many of the trees and plants in this yard when she was a little girl. As the years went by, she developed the ability to cultivate many hard to grow plants. However, none of the plants were as difficult to grow as this particular variety of rose. It's almost impossible to get it to flourish in a domestic setting. I'd like to tell you the story of how she managed it." He had all of their attention now, so he continued…
"The story starts a little while after one of my students had gotten married. For some reason, this student had chosen not to invite me to the wedding, but I chose to overlook this little error and pay him a visit. The newlyweds were living at her ancestral home. It seems that the home had been gifted to her by her family upon celebration of the marriage, especially since the groom had chosen to take the matriarchal family name. "
"When I first reached the newlyweds' residence, I noticed that my student was not about, but I figured I'd introduce myself to the blushing bride anyway. I let myself into house and discovered the lady of the manor standing in a beautiful kimono, trying to figure out how to work a vacuum cleaner. You see, she had been an avid student of martial arts herself, and neglected to learn some of the more domestic arts. I later learned she also did not know how to cook. Indeed, her husband would later joke to a close friend that he ate like the gods – plenty of burnt offerings."
Ranma was struggling to maintain a poker face as Akane silently dared him to say one word. Happosai went on…
"As I watched the young lady get very angry with the machine, I determined that she needed consoling, so I decided to surprise her with a hug. Presenting myself in my best manner, I introduced myself to her and promptly gave her a fatherly embrace."(2)
"Unfortunately, the lady apparently had issues with her father and resented the gesture. She voiced her displeasure very loudly, and to such an extent that several of the couple's wedding gifts spontaneously shattered due to the frequency and volume of her displeasure. It was at this point that she explained to me in a very brusque manner that she was a proficient student of martial arts. Her pointed explanation was delivered with such vim and vigor that I was temporary astounded with its precision."(3)
"Seeing that I was a man of some intelligence, she determined that I should help her with the stubborn machine. She removed the floor piece and the long steel tube of the vacuum from the flexible hose and invited me to investigate the head of the piece to determine if it was clogged. I protested that I was not a mechanic, but she pursued her invitation with such passion that I was forced to investigate the head with great detail, and unfortunately became stuck."(4)
"Upon notice that I had not found anything amiss with the front end, she prevailed upon me further to investigate the steel pipe itself. Again, I insisted that I was not mechanically inclined. However, as I tried to remove myself from the head, the lady continued her persuasion. She implored me by applying gentle pressure using what would best be described as proper utilization of Newton's Third Law – repeated every two to three seconds. Such was her success, that I found myself exploring the steel pipe, again with great detail."(5)
"As I neared the end of the pipe, I reported my findings to the new bride. This left her temporarily puzzled until she determined that the blockage must be in the flexible tube. Despite my protests, she reattached the pipe and the tube and proceeded to guide me from the pipe into the tube and down into the heart of the infernal machine. As she was a proper maiden, she would not lay a hand on me, but provided gentle guidance using another cleaning apparatus."(6)
"Once I was in the machine, she attempt to aid my discoveries by turning on the machine, but it still would not start. She chose to relieve her frustrations by beating the machine, apparently forgetting that I was still inside.(7) Such was her level of passion that she could not hear my repeated entreaties to stop. Eventually, she did wind down and hear me."
"I implored her that it was filthy inside machine and could she please let me out. Upon hearing me, she explained at great length that she couldn't allow me to track dirt into her house, especially since the machine used to clean such a situation was still broken. She pondered this problem for a moment and then declared brightly that this must be the problem – the machine was in need of a cleaning, inside and out. Since I was inside the machine, she would kill two birds with one stone. I must admit I found her choice of words disturbing.(8) The lady of the house then proceeded to clean both the machine and myself by dunking us repeatedly in the koi pond."
"After the twentieth or so soaking, I insisted that both the machine and myself were very clean. She expressed great joy in this news and remarked on my intelligence.(9) She declared brightly, that she would now test the machine, but that I should stay where I was to observe if there were any further issues. She then proceeded to get an extension cord, drag the machine to where we are roughly sitting, and plug the machine in after placing herself some distance from the machine."
Happosai stopped his narration to take out his pipe, fill it, and light it. He did notice with some satisfaction that he still had his audience's undivided attention. He also chose to ignore some of the grins that were creeping on their faces.
"Unfortunately, both of us being students of martial arts, and neither of us possessing any engineering degrees, we could not predict the behavior of the resulting mix of electricity and water.(10) Of course, the fair lady did not know about the bottle of distilled saki that I had on my person. Nor did she know that it had broken when she dropped the vacuum cleaner at this spot and I had neglected to inform her of the occurrence. As a result, she was mildly surprised when the subject of her rancor ceased to exist once she plugged it in. Fortunately, I did not follow the machine into oblivion. However, I will say that a reminder of the occasion persisted about my person for an extended period of time."(11)
The grins on his audience's faces were now plainly evident.
"Having helped the fair woman greatly, I resolved to quit the premise. As I was leaving, the good woman reminded me of my manners and informed me that it is improper to visit a household unless the gentleman of the house is home lest evil minds think improper thoughts about the circumstances.(12) I subsequently informed the lady that she was above such reproach and need not fear idle tongues. I then left the dojo having remembered business elsewhere."
Happosai concluded his tale and waited for his audience's first vocal reaction. Soun was the first to speak after a moment's reflection and a mild swear word. "So, that's what happened to the vacuum cleaner. Kimiko told me she had accidently wrecked it when she used it to clean the rocks out by the koi pond."
"And you believed her?" Nabiki asked.
"You have to understand, Nabiki," Soun replied. "Kimiko was not always the great housekeeper you remember. When we first got married, she was hopeless at housework." He then smiled. "I didn't marry her because of her domestic skills, and had she never learned, I never would have regretted it. But, she was stubborn and persevered. Eventually, she became good at it, like everything else she turned her hand to."
"Hmmm…" Ranma ventured. "Like mother, like daughter…" he said with a raised eyebrow at Akane.
Akane wanted to get angry at the comment, but when she turned it over in her mind, it seemed Ranma had actually paid her a compliment. She felt a blush start to creep up her face – manifesting in full bloom when Kasumi gave a light chuckle and hugged her sister. Nabiki gave her younger sister an evil grin. "Now, we know where Akane gets her traits from – all of them."
Ranma looked at Happosai. "All right, old man. It's a good story, and apropos considering the day, but what does this have to do with the rose bush."
Happosai nodded in approval. "Good question, Ranma," he said. "You see, this variety of rose is actually a wild rose that is found primarily on large ancient battlefields. Some had theorized that it needed blood in the soil to grow, but it turned out they were wrong. It seems that the rose needs the echo of passion to survive. Strong passion at that, and lots of it. It's also been found near mid-wives houses and some 'lovers' lanes', and other more romantic places, but it's never been found in a cultivated garden before – at least, not until now."
The ancient master looked at the three sisters again. "The destruction of the vacuum cleaner left a scorch mark on the ground and nothing would grow over it. Anything planted here died, much to your mother's frustration, but she kept looking for something that would survive. I'm not sure where your mother found the seeds, or from where she dug up this plant, but she is the only person ever to cultivate the Vengeance Rose. Indeed, she may be only person who was ever capable of cultivating it, but such was your mother's passion."
He continued on: "Kimiko Tendo was full of life. She believed in it and did her best to live each day to the fullest, even when she was sick. That's why I was so distressed to find you remembering this day. Today is not a day she would want you to remember – It wasn't who she was. Indeed, it's not who she is. Remember her birthday." Happosai looked at Soun. "Remember her wedding day." He looked at the sisters. "Remember the day she gave birth. Remember the good times. Forget today."
The old man stopped there and reached into his bag, taking out the glasses. He filled them one by one and passed them out to Ranma and the Tendos. When he had served them all, he continued speaking: "If you must remember your mother's Death Day, I want you to hold an image in your head. I want you to picture the Attendants presenting Kimiko Tendo to Kami-sama's Throne Room. I want you to picture your mother bowing to Kami-sama in the fullness of her health, beauty, and youth, blushing prettily at the One on the Throne. I also want you to picture Death, that distinguished gentleman, standing next to the lovely woman and gently holding her hand, thinking about how it's going to take a week to get that damn scythe unstuck from where Kimiko embedded it in his skull. I want you to picture this, because that's probably how it happened."
Happosai stopped and waited for them. As he would have guessed, Ranma was the first to break. The young man started to laugh and then clasped his hand to his mouth. The lad wanted to look embarrassed, but there was a sparkle in his eyes. Akane looked at him and then repeated his gesture. Nabiki actually let a few laughs out before clasping her mouth shut. Soun was trying to force out tears, but it wasn't happening. Kasumi looked at her family fondly. "You're all idiots," she said with a chuckle, and then allowed herself a sunny laugh. With her laughter, the others dropped their guard and let the laughter out, much to Happosai's satisfaction.
When they wound down, Happosai raised his glass. "To Kimiko Tendo! The only woman I ever feared!" he shouted.
"TO KIMIKO TENDO!" was the answer.
(1) Too late. Happosai is in for a surprise the next time he pulls that trick.
(2) The pervert yelled "Sweeto!" and threw himself at her chest.
(3) Kimiko brushed him off, then dropped kicked him at the wall. When he bounced back, she punched him at the wall again and again (basically she dribbled him using her fist, but against the wall instead of the ground).
(4) She shouted "You moron!" and then proceeded to hit him in the face with the vacuum cleaner part.
(5) Newton's Third Law: For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Since he was wedged into the vacuum clean head, she smacked the head and pipe set against the ground repeatedly until he was jammed fully into the pipe.
(6) She grabbed a broom and walloped the pipe bulge that was Happosai, much like someone hitting a croquet ball, over and over again.
(7) Right…That's why she was using a baseball bat to aim for the Happosai shaped lump.
(8) Those were her words – but it was the tone that disturbed Happosai more. Sort of a malicious Voice of Doom…
(9) Actually, her exact words were "You must be an absolute idiot. Anyone with an ounce of common sense would have played dead."
(10) Perhaps not, but Kimiko had a fair idea. That's why she placed a picnic table on its side to use as a shield when she plugged the extension cord in.
(11) Happosai's body continued to smoke for about a month afterwards.
(12) Her exact words were "I don't care if you are Soun's Master. If you come around here again when he's not home, they will never find your body."