Ranma Saotome: Attorney at Law
the Christmas special of the small continuity detailing a huge disaster that has gone on way too long
by Black Dragon

Well, nuts. At the time I'm writing this, it's eleven o'clock Christmas Eve. I've got like a tenth of Nexus II and Millennium done. Then my Dad takes me out to see A Christmas Carol, and now I can't get it out of my head. So the following is likely to be weird, rushed, and probably offensive. Merry Christmas.

Ranma Saotome: Attorney at Law
Case 6: The Christmas Episode

Inu-Yasha and Ranma walked down the street in silence, each one absorbed in their thoughts as they shuddered beneath the thick layers of wool and fleece against the cold.
The half-demon spared several glances at the pigtailed man, but Ranma remained staring straight ahead, his hands nonchalantly stuffed in the pockets of his coat.
Eventually, the pair reached their place of work, and they both stopped and stared up at the large building and the big, bold-print letters that loomed over them.
Mousse's Law Firm and Olde Style Doughnut Shoppe said the sign above, with the "O" in "Olde" portrayed by a gigantic strawberry-frosted doughnut with brown sprinkles.
Ranma sighed. "Every time I look up at this building, I wonder..."
Inu-Yasha glanced over at him with one eyebrow raised. "Yeah?"
"I wonder..." he mumbled again, a puff of steamy breath pouring out from between his lips, "... why is the sign in English when we're in Japan, here? Was it just so Mousse could do that stupid thing with the 'O'?"
Inu-Yasha sweatdropped. "I was expecting something a little more, you know, deep."
"I'm a practical man, Yasha," Ranma explained simply. "Well, our lunch break's almost over. Better get back to work!"
The half-demon frowned and scratched his chin. "Yeah... by the way, wasn't I mad at you for something recently? I keep getting the feeling that I'm supposed to be mad at you."
"Ha ha ha!" Ranma laughed, leaning over and putting an arm around his co-worker. "Don't be ridiculous, man! You and I are best buds! How could you be mad at me?"
Inu-Yasha's ears drooped slightly as he scratched his head. "Something about you sleeping with... someone..."
"Pft! You're probably just a bit peeved that I get laid more than you do," the pigtailed man said, moving ahead of his friend so that he wouldn't notice the beads of sweat pouring down Ranma's brow. 'Please don't let him remember... It took SO much money and planning getting his wasted enough to forget...'
"That... SOUNDS right, and yet..." Inu-Yasha sighed and shrugged his shoulders. "Oh well. If I can't remember what was wrong, it couldn't have been that important."
"Agreed!" Ranma said brightly. "And now, back to the old grindstone!"

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

"Aiyah! Hello Airen!" Shampoo cooed as Ranma approached his office, leaning over her desk as he approached to give him a perfect view of her cleavage.
"Hey Shamps! Nice hat!" Ranma grinned and flicked the white puffball of the Santa hat his secretary was wearing. "What's with the getup, anyway?" Moving past her, he opened the door to his office.
"What you talking? Tomorrow Christmas!" Shampoo said, following him in.
That's right, boy! Genma signed from behind Ranma's desk. What? Did you forget?
Ranma snorted. "Christmas? Whatever Pop. We celebrated Hanukkah last week, remember?"
Genma-panda and Shampoo remained silent for a moment. Then Genma raised another sign. We did? Why? We're not Jewish.
"Pop, we're lawyers!" Ranma said condescendingly, as if that explained everything.
Genma crossed out part of his last sign, and then wrote in an addition with a little arrow below it. So? We're not Jewish.
"Airen, you no going to party tomorrow? We all storm Kuno place and have too-too good time in mansion!" It was a bit of a Kuno tradition that whatever latest group was most annoyed with the family during a given year assault the mansion on Christmas day, tie up the inhabitants, and then hold festivities in the empty halls of their estate while the Ninja retainers tried their best to free the mansion's owners before the semi-traditional pinhata game (it was semi-traditional because it only occurred when they either guarded or hid the Kunos very well). After a number of years, all the various groups had started making a regular trip out of it instead of waiting for the Kunos to actually bother them (though the binding of Tatewaki was still reserved exclusively for the most irritated person present).
"Eh, I dunno. I've got a lot of stuff to do," Ranma said, shrugging.
Genma grunted and smacked Ranma on the back before hoisting another sign. Don't be silly boy! It's Christmas! Take a load off!
Shampoo pouted. "But Shampoo look forward to see Ranma there. Stick boy house have many, many empty bedroom..."
"While that is extremely hot," Ranma said frankly, "I don't see why you can't just wait until I'm done with work and then just go home with me. I might only have one bedroom, but we only need one."
The clerical Amazon pouted cutely. "Hmph! Why you no get in Christmas spirit?"
"Ah, I just don't see any point to it," Ranma mumbled, sittind down behind his desk and picking up some papers. "This big religious holiday rolls around and everybody starts making a big deal about it for no good reason, you know? I 'aint Christian, so what do I care?"
That's fine, but you're still not Jewish! Genma signed.
"I've got nothin' against Christmas, but I live EVERY day with good cheer and all that stuff. I just don't feel like getting swept up in all the parties and presents and singing and that junk."
Genma-panda shook his head before throwing up a new sign. Fine boy! Suit yourself! But mark my words, your lack of good spirit is most likely going to result in a long, convoluted plot involving self-examination and guilt that will eventually lead to a wasteful and tiresome change in personal values and ethics that could have been easily avoided if you would just stop acting like a jerk and come with us!
Ranma stared at the sign for a long moment. Then he squinted and leaned closer. "Wow, that's a long sentence... Dammit Pop, how do you write so small without opposable thumbs anyway? I can't even read it!"
Genma flipped the sign around. Oh, never mind. Then he flipped it over again. Well, we're leaving early. 'Nite.
"Bye-bye, Airen," said Shampoo, looking quite disappointed as she followed the panda out the door.

Ranma sighed as he heard the door shut, feeling a pang of regret at turning down Shampoo. "I didn't want to go to the party, but I guess I could have made more of an effort to get her to come home with me. I'd rather not sleep alone if I can help it." Glancing over a permit he was filing, he mentally started to go over other girls that he might be able to call in for a quick, meaningless rendezvous.
"Seras... nah, she's big on Christmas. Kind of a weird holiday for an infernal abomination to celebrate, but whatever. Kikyo and Kagome won't touch me after Yasha walked in on us. The Senshi all have parties to go to. Ryoko's out of planet for the weekend for the big Oni bash on one of Neptune's moons... that also pretty much rules out anyone Ataru knows." He sighed. "Mithril throws big Christmas parties, so Mao's out. ACROSS doesn't, but... well... Excel is a bit too much in the sack even for me." Ranma shook his head.
"No good. Everyone I know is either going to some big party or out of town for the holidays. Feh. Their loss." He picked up a stack of papers. "ME, on the other hand... I'm gonna get a head start on the December workload. Come the new year, everyone else's gonna have big stacks of work to do. But me? I'm gonna be on easy street! Heh heh!"
His chuckled trailed off into a yawn, and Ranma glanced outside at the snowflakes that slowly drifted down through the darkness to the street below. "Hm. Dark already. Winter sure hits hard around here."
Staring at his papers, he shrugged and then piled them together onto his desk, forming a makeshift pillow before he laid his head down on top of them. "Well, might as well grab a quick nap. Don't wanna burn myself out or anything. The point of ignoring Christmas is to AVOID stress."
It wasn't long at all before he was asleep.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Jingle! Jingle!
Ranma mumbled in his sleep, a few light moans interrupting the low rumbling coming from his nose.
Clank! Clink!
Ranma twitched slightly, and then shifted his arms.
Clank! Clang! Wham! Jingle! Clink! Clang!
Ranma shifted again. "Mmmm... that's it Shampoo. You're doing great. The secret's in the tongue..."
THUNK! Ranma's head rolled to the side as a huge meat cleaver embedded itself in his desk, barely missing his skull. Either from the vibration of the weapon's impact or a delayed response from his danger sense, Ranma's eyelids fluttered open as he slowly regained consciousness.
Once he saw who was hovering over his desk, Ranma grimaced and straightened in his seat, fighting the urge to yawn. "Okay, okay, I'm sorry. You caught me napping this time, Mousse. But I was plannin' on staying late anyway."
Floating above the floor (though from behind the desk it just appeared to Ranma that the Chinese man was simply taller than usual), the ghastly, semi-transparent form of Mousse sneered down at Ranma, chains wrapped haphazardly around his body and hanging from his arms.
"RAAAAANMAAAAAA! It is I, Mousse! I've come from beyond the grave to tell you a terrible tale of suffering, and deliver upon you a warning!"
Ranma blinked, then looked up at him. "Yeah, whatever. Look, as far as Christmas pranks go, this is pretty lame. Now could you take your knife outta my desk and leave? I have work to do."
The ghost of Mousse sweadropped. "RAAAANMAAAA! I have the feeling you're not taking this seriously! Do you doubt my ethereal nature?"
"Stop shouting my name like that," the pigtailed lawyer said, now doing his paperwork in earnest, "It's annoying. Shouldn't you be storming the Kuno mansion with Shampoo or something?"
A vein popped up on the spirit's head. "RAAAAA-"
"Mouko takabisha!" Ranma shouted, casually snapping off a ki blast toward the spectre's head. While a physical attack was useless against a ghost, Mousse found out the hard way that big balls of spiritual energy were not, and he was blasted through the wall as he experienced a sensation quite similar to, but subtley different from, mind-wracking pain.
Ranma blinked. The wall bore a large scorch mark, but no hole. Yet Mousse had just passed through it. "What the hell?"
"An interesting choice of words," the ghost of Mousse growled as he stepped back through the wall, his teeth clenched. "NOW do you see? I'm a ghost, traveling back from the land of the dead to speak to you!"
Ranma stared. "But... you're not dead."
Mousse just crossed his arms over his chest and glared at the pigtailed man. "Look, at this rate we're never going to get my stupid monologue out of the way so you can have your revelation and save yourself. Now, will you just shut up and let me talk?"
Ranma stared some more. Then he leaned over and swept a hand through Mousse's waist, sweatdropping as his hand passed right through his body without resistance. "... Did you die while I was taking a nap?"
Once again, a vein popped up on the spectre's head. "Dammit RAAAAA-" he winced as he noticed Ranma's hand glowing blue, and then cleared his throat. "Dammit Ranma! Can you just shut up and let me do this? Hitler and Ted Bundy are throwing a lava pool party in an hour on the seventh layer of Hell, and I'm going to be late as it is with all the cross-plane traffic!"
The pigtailed lawyer sighed. "All right. Fine. Go ahead and speak."
Glaring at the mortal, Mousse cleared his throat again and began. "Behold, Ranma! The fate that has befallen me! The chains that bind me! These chains are my deeds! My guilt! My shame! My sin, Ranma!"
Ranma frowned. "I thought they were your weapons."
"NO INTERRUPTIONS!! JUST SHUT UP AND LET ME FINISH!!" the ghost of Mousse screamed, blowing the aquatranssexual's hair back. "These chains are those that I forged during life, willingly and freely, and now they bind me to my accursed fate, to never know peace, just as I never found it in life!"
Then the spirit pointed at Ranma, his eyes burning fiercely. "You possess chains as well, Ranma Saotome! And what a ponderous chain it is! You, who forsakes all for the sake of coin and prestige, and revel in lust and deceit! Do you think you will not be judged? And even on this most holy and joyous of nights, you surround yourself with solitary comforts while seeking the company of women but to slake your insatiable lechery!"
Ranma considered this. "Sounds about right. So, what, am I supposed to apologize or something?"
"Tonight you will be visited by three spirits!" Mousse shouted, leaning over Ranma and glaring down at him. "The first spirit will come when the clock strikes one! The second spirit at the strike of two AM! And the-"
"Yeah, okay, third spirit at three. I get it," the pigtailed lawyer said irritably. "Is this really necessary? Can't you just tell me what I should change right here and now without having ghost popping out of the woodwork to bug me?"
The ghost of Mousse fumed for a long moment. "Yes, this is necessary. This is how these things are done. If any spirit just walked up to you and told you to change your way of life without doing a long and complex expose on your life and your slump into the rut you're currently in, would you believe him?"
"Probably," Ranma said honestly, "Meeting a ghost that's specifically come back from Hell to warn you is fairly life-altering in and of itself. I'd believe you."
"Well, that's too bad. I've already booked these guys, and I'm not getting my deposit back," Mousse snapped. "So stop being a smartass and go back to sleep. The first ghost should be arriving soon."
Stepping back, Mousse spread his arms wide, the chains around his arms clanking noisily. "My time here is short, I'm afraid, for I am doomed to forever wander this plane, never resting as the dead should! Heed my warning, Saotome! Heed my warning, or you shall join me in my immortal toil!"
With a final gut-wrenching howl, Mousse drifted down into the floor, fading easily through the carpet without so much as a mark left behind.

"Annoying little prick." Ranma frowned as he sat back in his chair, and glanced at the meat cleaver stuck in his desk. Then he grabbed the handle and yanked it free.
"Why is his knife solid when his body and chains aren't?" the attorney mused, twisting the cleaver about to get a better look at the edge.
Clang! He jerked backward as an arrow suddenly struck the broad side of the meat cleaver, knocking it out of his hand.
"What the hell?" Ranma whirled around toward the place where he estimated the projectile had come from, and sighed in relief when he saw who was there.
"Oh. Kikyo. Hell of a way to say hello," the pigtailed man murmured as the undead golem lowered her longbow. "So what're you here for? Inu-Yasha's probably left the office already, so..."
Kikyo lowered her weapon and stared at Ranma stonily. "I am not here for Inu-Yasha. I am here for you."
The pigtailed man slowly rose an eyebrow.
"Not like THAT," Kikyo snapped suddenly. She always did find it difficult to maintain her "wise, all-knowing spirit" image in front of the pigtailed seducer. "I have come before you as the Ghost of Christmas Past."
"I see," Ranma drawled, drumming his fingers on his desk. "So this isn't some lame, meaningless gig you took up to see me because Yasha's still mad at you and you're not getting any."
Seeing the priestess string up another arrow, Ranma threw his hands up. "Okay, okay, I get it. Fine. Where do we start, oh great spirit?"
"You will START by agreeing to never mention our... earlier discretion ever again," Kikyo said in the calmest voice she could manage at present. "Misunderstandings occurred and mistakes were made. It would be best if all concerned simply forgot it ever happened."
"Fine by me," Ranma agreed, standing up and approaching the golem. "But just lemme ask one question first. Then I'll never bring it up again. Promise."
Kikyo frowned. "Very well. Speak."
As a precaution, Ranma quickly plucked away the arrow Kikyo currently had resting in her bow. "Who was better, me or Yasha?"
Kikyo's eye twitched, and she glanced meaningfully at the arrow that Ranma held in his hand.
Then she rolled her eyes. "You were better. He was bigger, though," she mumbled softly.
"Not that much bigger, right? I mean, the guy's half-demon! That has to be an unfair advantage!"
"Can we GO, already?" Kikyo snapped, once again losing her cool. She momentarily contemplated batting Ranma about the head with her bow, but decided it would be an inexcusably undignified way to punish him.
"Yeah, okay. Let's do this, already."

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Ranma blinked in surprise as he suddenly saw snow falling all around him, and then looked about.
"The hell? Where am I?" Ranma asked, noting that he was standing on a rooftop in a suburban area. "Wait a minute... I recognize this place! This is the Tendos' house!"
"Indeed. So you do remember," Kikyo said suddenly from behind him, causing the lawyer to jump in surprise. "This is a Christmas from long ago... specifically, the late OAV series."
Ranma sweatdropped. "We're, uh, not supposed to mention stuff like that..."
"Never mind. Behold," Kikyo said, pointing across the roof toward a bench that had been, for reasons inconceivable to most, set up on the roof of the house rather than the yard. Ranma noticed that a younger version of himself was on it, speaking with Ukyo.
"Oh, great. THIS is a memory that could have stayed buried," Ranma muttered as he watched his younger self quail and try to keep Ukyo from snatching the present in his hand.
"You were so full of joy back then, despite your problems," Kikyo explained softly.
"I was too stupid to know how miserable I was," Ranma translated.
Kikyo didn't allow his cynicism to affect her lecture, and continued. "You were noble and kind-hearted, and always tried to do the right thing, no matter the cost to yourself. You did not see the pain and despair of others, but you did your best at all times to prop up those close to you, and let them take advantage of your kindnesses and hesitation."
"In other words, I was a sap letting everybody wail on me until they felt better about themselves," Ranma said sourly. Then he watched as memory-Ranma fled the bench, and winced when he ran into Akane (which he recalled would lead to another fiasco). "This is all that bitch Akane's fault..."
Kikyo shook her head. "The fault is your own. YOU make the decisions that dictate your fate."
"Fair enough," Ranma mumbled. "Fine. Then my biggest mistake was not dumping that cold-hearted psychopath first chance I got. Worst decision ever."
"Oh? Was your life back then truly so terrible?" Kikyo said challengingly. "Fighting for noble causes, performing heroic rescues, putting a lifetime of challenges and hardship to use for the greater good." She glared at him. "And NOW? You bicker in a courtroom over interpretations of law for profit and self-indulgence. You're greedy, selfish, have no respect for life or - ironically - the rule of law and order. No longer do you seek to protect the hearts of women, but rather you exploit them freely to slake your lusts!"
Ranma remained silent for a long moment, and then shrugged. "Well, yeah, but I'm happy like this." Then he jabbed a thumb behind him. "Have you SEEN me when I was sixteen? It was awful!"
"Enough! Behold!" Kikyo shouted, waving her arm in the air.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Ranma shook his head again as a thick fog suddenly sprang up around him and then disintegrated just as quickly, revealing completely new surroundings.
This time Ranma recognized that he was in the Tendo living room, but the scene wasn't as familiar as the previous scenario on the roof.
Shredded wrapping paper lay all over the floor in loose clumps, all but concealing the floor. Tables were scattered around the room, some looking as if they were shoved aside, some being turned entirely upside-down, and one was in pieces, having been smashed apart. Ranma knew enough about impacts and property damage to note that it looked to have broken from a single point of impact, obviously with great force, roughly in the middle of the table. Probably from someone striking the middle of the table with their fist.
'Or someone striking someone else's head with the middle of the table,' Ranma thought as he noted the unconscious form laying underneath the debris.
Sure enough, his younger self was insensate on the floor with pieces of table scattered around his body and little splinters in his hair.
He turned to Kikyo. "Okay, so what is THIS supposed to prove? I sort of remember this now. Nabiki made me pay for a gift idea for the girls, and then told me to give them all a kiss. Then when I said that I WOULDN'T give them a kiss, Akane heard me and somehow interpreted that as me confessing to kissing them, and, well..." he gestured to his body.
"Try looking beyond yourself, Saotome," Kikyo said sharply. "Can you see no one else in this room?"
"Just Kasumi," Ranma said, pointing toward the corner. Sure enough, there was the twenty-one year-old woman, wearing a home-knit sweater and looking over the living room sadly as she sat by herself chugging down egg nog.
Eventually a groan echoed through the room, and the younger Ranma sat up unsteadily, holding his head. "What the hell? What'd I say?"

"Oh, good. You're awake," Kasumi said, trying to force as much cheerfulness as she could into her voice. "I'm afraid your presents are gone... I think I saw Mousse destroying them earlier."
"Huh. Oh well. It's the thought that counts," Ranma said, shrugging as he rubbed the bump on his head. "Wow. This place is a mess." Then he looked up at the Tendo homemaker. "Kasumi... are you drunk?"
"Oh my. Am I?" She wondered, putting a hand to her mouth in surprise. "Perhaps a little. It makes the pain go away, you know!" She gave a perfectly empty, but still beautiful smile.
"Uh huh..." Ranma mumbled. "Uhm... maybe I could help you clean up or something?" Normally he wouldn't have bothered, but seeing Kasumi in such a state would be enough to kick-start even Genma's conscience.
"Oh no! I could never have a guest clean up their own mess!" Kasumi said in a horrified voice that sounded suspiciously sarcastic. "It's just not done! After all, I'm just a perfectly good young woman watching the best years of her life pass her by! It's not like I have any sort of life outside this home! What else would I do if I didn't have you people to keep me busy? No, no, you just run along and leave me alone to work, just like EVERYBODY DOES, every day of every week of every month of every single year!"
Ranma's pigtail was standing on end as he stared at the brunette and her obviously fake cheerful smile. "... Uh... so... help me out, here. Do you want a hug or what?" He asked awkwardly.
Kasumi slammed back the glass of egg nog and then stalked up to the martial artist, who (as usual) froze stiff in preparation to take whatever punishment was in store for him. "Ranma, do you know anything about the pain of being alone?"
Ranma shook his head rapidly. "No, I'm more familiar with the other kind of pain. Of being constantly surrounded."
"Nobody understands," the Tendo homemaker said sadly as she let the glass in her hand drop onto the floor. "Nobody notices. Nobody cares."
The pigtailed martial artist flinched guiltily, but then stood up and took her hands in his own. "Well... then what can I do to help?" Ranma asked, slightly nervous.
Kasumi just stared at him as if in a daze.
"It's probably my fault," Ranma said hesitantly, "or at least most people would say it is, so what can I do to make it right? Just tell me!"

Lawyer-Ranma chuckled as he put a few more pieces of popcorn in his mouth. "Heh heh. This part is great. Watch."
Kikyo frowned, not only because her "client" was enjoying this part of the revelation, but also because she had no idea where he had gotten popcorn from.

Kasumi stared at Ranma drunkenly for a few more moments, then snatched her hands away.
Ranma flinched like a kicked puppy at the movement, but then blinked in confusion as Kasumi grabbed the hem of her sweater and pulled it up over her head, revealing a cherry-red blouse underneath. "So, you want... a new sweater?"
He was no less confused or surprised when Kasumi suddenly tackled him to the floor, grabbing the back of his head while kissing him deeply at the same time.

The real Ranma couldn't help grinning as he watched the image of himself and Kasumi fall into the layer of crumpled paper and boxes, limbs flailing and twisting around each other. "Ah, desperation and alcohol. There's a recipe for a good time if I ever heard one."
"Be that as it may," Kikyo drawled, "taking sexual advantage of Kasumi's depression was unintentional in this case. You were still the naive, good-natured boy who couldn't bear to reject the woman after her heartfelt - albeit alcohol-induced - expression of grief."
Ranma nodded as he watched Kasumi wrap her legs around his younger self, invading his mouth with her tongue. "Yup. See, even at this point, I'm trying to think of some way to get out of this situation without personally hurting her. If I recall correctly, I figured my best bet was to make a lot of accidental-sounding noise to get Akane down here so that she'll beat me unconscious."
A red blouse went flying through the air, and Lawyer-Ranma blinked when it passed right through him. Shaking his head momentarily, he smiled warmly as he enjoyed the view of Kasumi straddling his younger self, her round, bountiful mammaries bouncing gently within the bright red brassiere.
"See, now I'm thinking that for Kasumi's sake, it'd be best to just let her do what she wants; she deserves it, right?" Ranma explained while looking far too happy for Kikyo's taste.
"What a convenient train of thought," the priestess drawled.
"I know, isn't it?" the pigtailed lawyer grinned brightly as he watched his memory replaying the loss of his virginity. 'And good riddance.'
"With this act of ignorance and desperation, you've begun your descent down the slippery slope into hedonistic lechery," Kikyo spat. "Now come, we-"
"Hold on a sec," Ranma interrupted, holding up a hand to stall her. "I haven't seen Kasumi in a while. I wanna burn this image into my mind." His attention was entirely focused on the squirming tangle of flesh, so he didn't see Kikyo's eye twitch.
A moment later, a blood-red bra sailed up into the air, passing through Kikyo's body.
Ranma wiped some drool from his mouth and straightened. "Okay, I'm good. Let's go!"
Kikyo's eye twitched again. "Somehow I sense you're not quite getting the right message here," she deadpanned.
"Well, it's still early. Let's see the next stop," Ranma offered.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

By now Ranma had accustomed himself to the weird shifting-scenes transportation method, and immediately started to take in his surroundings once his vision cleared.
He didn't get the chance to do more than glance out the window before the door to the room suddenly opened.

"K-Kasumi?" Akane asked, stuttering slightly as she stepped into her sister's room. She glanced around at the interior for a moment, though she herself didn't know quite what she was looking for within her eldest sister's room.
Kasumi turned her head to stare at her youngest sister with a very un-Kasumi-like disdainful stare. "Yes Akane? What's so important that you had to barge into my room like that without so much as knocking?"
Akane flushed in embarrassment and stuttered incoherently for a moment, unable to think of why she had done that. "I didn't m-mean to... I mean, I j-just sense that something was..." she gulped, then decided to change the subject. "Kasumi, everybody's downstairs enjoying themselves. Uh... why are you up here? And in your underwear, no less?"
Indeed, Kasumi was sitting on the edge of her bed wearing a lacy black lingerie set and looking like she had jumped straight out of a Victoria's Secret magazine. Akane also noted that the sheets and comforter of her bed had been disturbed and thrown about, although she didn't know what to make of it. None of the lumps in the blankets were big enough to hide a person underneath it, whether the perpetrator was Ranma or Happousai.
Akane shook her head. Kasumi wouldn't be meeting with a man in her room. The very idea was ridiculous.
Kasumi stood up slowly, and lawyer-Ranma found himself having to adjust his pants as he saw the gorgeous homemaker stare down at her sister over her breasts. "I'm in here in my underwear because I had assumed - silly me - that I could expect some degree of privacy within my own room, Akane. If I feel like coming down later, I'll do so. Now, was there anything else?"
Akane winced badly. For some reason Kasumi had been getting increasingly short with her all year. It confused and even frightened her, but because her oldest sister always had a legitimate cause to be upset with her she hadn't dared challenge her attitude. "Uh, well..." she gulped again. "Do you know where Ranma is?"
Kasumi tilted her head to one side. "What, you can't find him? Try looking down the street; I saw Ryoga wandering off several minutes ago and Ranma may have followed him."
"Th-Thanks," Akane stuttered, quickly exiting while closing the door behind her. She was in such a rush to escape the cold glare of her sister that she never did realize that Kasumi never technically answered her question.

"Jealous little bitch," Lawyer-Ranma and Kasumi said in perfect stereo.
After a moment, the Ranma from this particular memory faded into view next to Kasumi's bed, wearing only a tank top and boxers. Kikyo couldn't help but notice the sizeable tent formed by the crotch of Ranma's boxers (though the actual Ranma wasn't much better) as the nineteen year-old sidled up to her and slipped an arm around her waist.
"Well, that was a bother," Ranma mumbled as he kissed the nape of Kasumi's neck, running one hand down his lover's thigh. "Now, where were we?"
Kasumi moaned huskily as Ranma's lips worked up and down her neck. "I think... I was about to... mmmmm... open my Christmas present." Her hands slipped down his body and started to tug on his boxers meaningfully.
Ranma's expression of anticipation and bliss suddenly shifted to one of supreme annoyance. "Aw, man... incoming. AGAIN." Regretfully pulling up his boxers again, Ranma once again vanished into thin air, and Kasumi sat back on her bed with an annoyed expression of her own.
This time the intruder knocked first, and Kasumi raised her eyebrow.
Deciding to make the most of the extra time afforded by this more polite intrusion, Kasumi slipped under the covers of her bed and picked up a book from her nightstand so that it would look like she had been reading rather than simply sitting around in her lingerie. "Come in."

Kikyo noted with great satisfaction that Ranma looked appropriately distressed.
"Aw, man. I HATE this part," the pigtailed lawyer groused.

Nabiki strode into the room purposefully, closing the door behind her and wearing an insufferable smirk. "Hi sis. What's up? I didn't see you downstairs..."
Kasumi shrugged and tugged on the bookmark in her novel. "I was just a bit tired from all the preparations, that's all. I thought I'd rest my legs for a while."
"Oh. Okay, then." Then she turned. "And what's your excuse, Ranma?"
Everybody tensed, except possibly Kikyo. Lawyer-Ranma had been through this fiasco already and knew how it went. Nabiki wasn't quite facing the right direction, so she obviously couldn't see Ranma, but she knew he was there.
Kasumi frowned. "Pardon me? Where's Ranma?"
"Oh, I don't know exactly," Nabiki admitted, crossing her arms over her chest as her eyes swept through the room, "but I know he's here." Then her smirk shifted instantaneously into a glare. "Really Saotome. Didn't you promise to seal away the umi sen ken according to your father's wishes? To think, that you'd throw away your honor as a martial artist to peep on my big sister."
Kasumi's eyes widened.

Lawyer-Ranma held a hand over his face, mortified as his younger self suddenly appeared in a panic to defend himself, and consequently falling right into Nabiki's trap.

"I 'aint peeping on no one!" Ranma shouted, mostly out of instinct.
After a moment of silently staring into Nabiki's victorious grin, the young man's pupils shrank to pinpricks. "Uh... I can explain..."
"I don't really think that's necessary," Nabiki drawled, walking up to the sparsely clothed martial artist and shamelessly poking his erection. "It doesn't take a genius - or a delusionally jealous fiancee - to guess what's happening here, folks."
Kasumi swallowed nervously and put down her book. "Now, Nabiki, listen-"
"No Kasumi. YOU listen," the mercenary Tendo said lazily. "I don't know what you see in this idiot to let him into your panties. Hell, maybe you don't actually see anything in him past his joystick; you've gone a long time without a boyfriend so I guess I don't blame you. Bottom line is, I don't think Ranma's bright or gutsy enough to manipulate or seduce you, so I'm giving him the benefit of the doubt and assuming that you want this dirty little arrangement at least as much as he does. And you, at least, don't deserve to have this entire household crashing down on top of you for your indiscretions."
Then she turned a scathing glare on Ranma. "That doesn't mean, however, that I'm going to let this go easily." She stalked closer to Ranma, who backed up nervously as sweat beaded on his forehead. "Or cheaply. You two have been sloppy - no big surprise, since neither of you are exactly big on deceit - and it's going to fall to me to try and keep this under wraps in order to protect Kasumi."
Ranma backed into Kasumi's desk, leaning backward as Nabiki leaned forward over him. "Let me put it to you straight, Saotome. You're going to pay for my time and effort in keeping this quiet. You're going to pay through the nose." She leaned forward even more, and stopped when she felt something poke her thigh. Staring down, she let another smirk cross her face. "Or maybe through some other extremity, if I'm feeling nice. Might as well see what gets Kasumi so hot and bothered in the first place."
"Nabiki, please," Kasumi said softly, wrapping the sheets around her body as she stood up. "Ranma doesn't deserve this. He shouldn't be punished for-"
"For cheating on Akane? I think that IS worth punishing him for, actually," Nabiki drawled.
"But... But I just-" Ranma stammered, completely defeated. What could he say in his defense? "C-C'mon Nabs! Do we really need this on Christmas?"
The mercenary Tendo snorted. "Oh, don't give me that." Then her eyes narrowed. "And speaking of which. If you're going to run off and screw my sister, fine. But do it on your own time, Saotome. I need you down there making nice-nice with your fiancees - who would be SO interested to know you've lost your virginity behind their backs! - or it's money out of MY pocket. Get a move on."
Ranma gripped his hands into fists, trying not to tremble. He almost succeeded. "What're you ordering me around for? I'm not your slave!"
Nabiki laughed, and everyone in the room, including the largely unflappable Kikyo, winced.
"Oh, Saotome," Nabiki said in a voice full of affection and devoid of compassion, "you sure as hell are now. Move along."

The scene began to fog up, and Kikyo snorted as she turned toward the pigtailed lawyer. "You remember, don't you? Wallowing in fear and self-pity. The results of your own uncontrolled lusts."
"And I don't suppose Nabiki deserves a red mark for what she did, huh?" Ranma asked irritably, crossing his arms over his chest.
"Her personal demons are her own," the golem said, "and if I recall, she has already faced her judgment. This is about YOUR decisions, Ranma. And surely you recall the decision you made the very next Christmas..."

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The fog parted again, and the decor shifted significantly, though unlike the previous times, there was no complete change of environment. Ranma and Kikyo were still in a girl's room, but Ranma could tell right away that it was Nabiki's and not Kasumi's.

Knock! Knock! Knock!
Nabiki looked up from her ledger. "Come in."
The door opened and Ranma strode in purposefully, a book being held under his arm. "Hi Nabiki, I-"
"Ranma. Glad you came," she interrupted, snapping her ledger shut. "Listen, your girls are complaining that all I can sell them is a five-minute chat with you."
Ranma cleared his throat as he closed the door behind him. "Yeah, about that-"
"And I was thinking," Nabiki interrupted again, "about selling something a little more... how should we say, substantial? So I've decided you're going to do kisses this year. Though besides that, what would you say to the ladies buying some hardcore time with the Little Wild Horse?"
Ranma's eyes widened, his original purpose momentarily forgotten. "Wh-What?"
"Oh, don't act so affronted," Nabiki muttered, rolling her eyes. "They're all beautiful women, and you're hardly losing anything. If you can stand to do me, why not them?" She grinned at that. Kasumi DID have excellent taste in lovers. "I'll even cut you in on five percent. So you get hot sex with a bunch of total babes and you get paid for it. Your mom would be ecstatic."
"That's not the point!" Ranma shouted. "That would mean that I'd... you know... with KODACHI!"
Nabiki blinked. "Hum. Good point. Ten percent, then. Oh, and make sure to use extra protection with her! She isn't really suitable for reproducing, if you know what I mean. Best leave nothing to chance."

Kikyo stared down at Lawyer-Ranma, extremely annoyed. "And why are you smirking?"
Ranma chuckled. "Because I just figured it out. This is it. This is where it all began. My legal career."
"Yes, it is," Kikyo said solemnly. "All the pain and moral decay began long ago, but here lies the line you finally crossed into the realm of true indecency. The first link of your chain was forged in this room, on this day."

"Look, forget about selling time and kisses and whatever to my fiancees, okay? It's a moot point anyway," the younger Ranma insisted.
Nabiki raised an eyebrow, and then smirked as she slinked over to the pigtailed man and put her arms around him. "You have this... interesting expression on your face, Ranma. Let me guess... is this about... us?"
Ranma tried not to let his nervousness show as Nabiki pressed her body against him, but it was difficult. He hated the middle Tendo sister more than any other individual he'd ever met, but she could still be stunningly sexy when she wanted, and he wasn't so experienced in such affairs that he could ignore her teasing and flirting easily. "Y-You could say that."
"Hmmmm. Good," Nabiki said, poking Ranma in the nose. "Tell me, are you going to be visiting Kasumi ? It looks like it's going to be cold tonight, and I've decided I don't want to be alone."
Ranma's eye twitched. "'Zat so?"
"Mm-hm," the mercenary Tendo licked her lips. "So if you're going to do my sister, make it quick, because you're spending the rest of the night with me." It was something of a private joke, which Nabiki found horribly amusing, that of the three Tendo sisters, the one who was engaged to Ranma was the only one who had never slept with (or in fact shared any meaningful signs of affection with) him. Of course, Nabiki had no desire to marry Ranma herself, as that would bring too many unprofitable problems to her doorstep, but the man had God-like endurance and quite literally knew the female body inside and out. Akane was missing out on some of the most wonderful sensations a woman could ever hope for, and for what? Her petty pride. What an idiot.
"Look, Nabiki, I have to tell you something," Ranma said carefully, prying the brunette's arms off of him and getting himself some distance. "For a while now, you've been seriously pushing this blackmail thing. Last year when you said I was your slave, I didn't really take it seriously. But as time went on I realized that you're right; if I'm not your slave, I might as well be. I'm always working and handing you my paycheck, I fight who you want when you want, and you even make me sleep with you. And I don't say anything because I'm afraid of what you'll do."
Nabiki rolled her eyes and sat down on her bed. "Yeah, I know. Boo hoo. Poor Ranma has to do what he always does, and THEN has to have sex with a pretty girl. Such torture!"
Ignoring her outburst, the younger Ranma continued. "Eventually I figured, 'there's gotta be a law against this sort of thing somewhere, doesn't there? There's no way people can just let this happen!" Then he pulled out the book entitled Principles of Law Volume 1. "So I decided to take up law."
In one instant, Nabiki's entire facade of calm and control shattered. Not from dread, but rather from sheer shock. "LAW? You, Ranma Saotome, are studying LAW? Are you serious?" She gaped as she stared at him. The very idea was so completely absurd that her mind hadn't yet considered the ways in which such a field of study could affect her.
"Yeah. Law," Ranma said simply. "And I figured out something important about laws and how they're used to protect us."
At THIS point Nabiki was getting worried, though she once again adopted her unconcerned poker face. She had NOT been expecting this. What she had done to Ranma was quite serious according the court of law, which she had dismissed entirely. The idea of RANMA, of all people, Mr. Ultimate Martial Artist, turning to the police to solve his problems was nothing short of preposterous. Well, at least it had been until this very moment.
'Sure, I can reveal his secret and virtually - if not literally - destroy his life, but I would just be lashing out at him for petty revenge. And besides that, Kasumi would be in at least as much danger...' Steeling herself, she took a deep breath and forced her voice to remain calm and even. "Really, Ranma? What did you find out?"
Ranma crossed his arms over his chest and stared down solemnly. "I found out that laws are really, really complicated."
The massive sweatdrop that rolled down Nabiki's head was as much an expression of her relief as exasperation. "I see. So you just wasted a whole lot of time and gave yourself a headache." She smiled as she shook her head. "Ranma, Ranma, Ranma... did you really think I run an operation so fragile that a police report can touch it? Maybe YOU don't have the gray matter to understand the court system, but I assure you that I'm quite well-informed. I could have told you quite easily that you don't have a case."
The pigtailed martial artist shrugged. "That might be, but it wasn't a TOTAL waste."
"Oh?" Nabiki raised her eyebrow again.
"Nope! By studying certain records, I figured out how much evidence is usually needed to convict someone for murder!" Ranma said proudly.
Nabiki was silent for a long moment. "... So? What does that have to do with anything?"
Thwack!

Lawyer-Ranma grinned as he watched his memory-self tie up the unconscious Nabiki. "Ah, yes. It was the first time I'd killed someone purely for personal gain. Though technically I could claim self-defense if it ever came up. Good times."
Kikyo shook her head. "To lose respect for the sanctity of life... to lose those tenets of the martial arts you used to hold so dear... it is the most tragic thing that could happen to a man..."
"Oh, don't give me that, Miss 'Life is death, death is life, blah blah blah blah,'" Ranma parroted in an ultra-high voice, causing the undead priestess to glare at him.

"Ranma!" Soun's voice rang through the wall as he yelled up from the stairs, "Why do we have quick-dry cement laid out in the yard?"
"Just fixing up the dojo before the guests get here, Mr. Tendo!" The younger Ranma called back as he stuffed Nabiki in a sack.
"Oh! Well, that's quite thoughtful of you!" The Tendo patriarch said before going back down the stairs, his curiosity satisfied.

"Heh heh heh..." Lawyer-Ranma chuckled to himself before he noticed that Kikyo was glaring at him again. "What? Do you honestly mean to tell me that Nabiki didn't have this coming?"
"It is not for me to judge her sins," the golem priestess began, "but even if she did, was it just as right to do the same to Akane Tendo, Soun Tendo, Happousai, Tsubasa, Principal Kuno..." she trailed off for a moment, then pulled a list out of her pocket and scanned it. "Pink, Link, Lime, Mint, Pantyhose Tarou, that old man from the magic shop-"
"Okay, I get the picture," Ranma groused. "Perhaps the line sort of blurred at one point between lawyer and serial killer. But doesn't the good karma from killing Happousai sort of spill over into some of grayer cases?"
Kikyo's eye twitched again. "As I said, it is not for me to judge. But you WILL be judged, Ranma. Now come. My time with you is at an end, though I fear you've learned nothing from my efforts."
"That's not true. I've learned to appreciate the good old days," Ranma said proudly. "Say, before you go, could we go back to the last Christmas, but during nighttime? Kasumi felt pretty bad about me getting caught by Nabiki, and she wanted to make it up to me by-" the pigtailed lawyer was almost choked by the sudden wall of smoke that enveloped him. "Hey! Cough! Prude..."

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Ranma was somewhat startled when instead of smoke parting around him, he found himself waking up at his desk, as if the entire experience previous had just been a dream.
He stared at his desk, noting the long indentation that had been caused, one would imagine, by a large, heavy knife. "Of course not. I couldn't be that lucky." Not that the visions had been all bad. But he really wished that there had been less talking and more of him and Kasumi procreating. 'I really fell out of touch once she became a doctor. I should look her up.' As the last Tendo to survive a mysterious and tragic string of accidents and disappearances, Ranma had spent quite a long time comforting the poor woman (sometimes seven or eight times a night!) before they had gone their separate ways. The woman had just hit thirty recently, but Ranma had no doubt she could still knock a man out at twenty meters with a wink.
"So, Ghost of Christmas Past, huh? I suppose next is Present, then," the pigtailed lawyer murmured. Then he looked down at his watch. "Huh. It's late."
"HO HO HO!! Late, am I?"
Ranma jumped up in surprise, whirling around. "What? Santa Clause? But they killed you in Guardian!"
The large bearded man twitched. "No, I'm not Saint Nick, Ebeneezer, though he's a close relative of mine! I am the-"
"Whoa, wait, hold it, time out, pause," Ranma interrupted quickly. "Did you just call me Ebeneezer? Who's that?"
The Ghost of Christmas Present raised an eyebrow. "Why, that's YOU, Ebeneezer Scrooge! Did the Ghost of Christmas Past frighten you of your wits?"
"Look you overly jolly wad of ectoplasm," Ranma snapped, "my name is Ranma Saotome, and around here we use anime characters for our major parts! Who the hell are you supposed to be, Jet Black after losing his beard trimmer?"
The spirit frowned and pulled out a card from his back pocket. "Are you serious? Wait, let's see... take a right at the Citadel of the Dead... take the last exit from the astral plane, then... hmmm... I knew I should've taken that left turn at Albuquerque!"
Clonk! The Ghost of Christmas Present let out a strangled yelp as a spear haft came down on his head, and he slumped onto the floor a moment later. A moment after THAT, he slowly phased down through the floor, never to be seen again by any of the room's inhabitants.

Ranma raised an eyebrow as he looked at the girl who had clobbered the other spirit.
She in turn began to size him up, and she grinned. She looked to be a child physically, yet had a strange, otherwordly maturity to her that told Ranma she clearly was NOT a child. She appeared to be a human girl with dark red hair done up into two puffs of hair on either side of her head, but she had tiny bat wings and a spade-tipped tail. Her clothing was also clearly of the stereotypical demonic persuasion, as she wore a leather "miniskirt" (more like a particularly wide belt) and an equally sparse strip of leather around her chest. For absolutely no apparent reason she had a leather collar around her neck that had a heavy brass ring attached to it, and she wore skull earrings on her pointed ears. If it wasn't for the fact that she was desperately scrawny and flat as an ironing board, Ranma would have imagined her to be quite the seductress.
The demon girl bowed. "Name's Etna, serving as Ghost of Christmas Present! Sorry about that other sap. He won't be coming back."
"Huh. So you're going to lead me around the city now and show me a bunch of sentimental crap to make me want to reform and lead a good and honest life, huh?"
Etna shrugged. "Meh. I guess I SHOULD..." Then she grinned again. "But I dunno. We could use a guy like you down in the netherworld. I don't see any reason to mess that up."
Ranma winced. "Well, I'D rather not go to Hell, if I can help it."
"Pft! 'Hell?' What an outdated load of bull!" The demoness insisted, planting her spear into the floor. "Look, the netherworld 'aint that bad. Ghosts just like to bitch and moan about it because they get picked on a lot and end up messing around with the living world to get away."
The pigtailed lawyer scratched his head. "But, wait... in your netherworld, aren't sinners reincarnated into weak, humiliating forms only to get kicked around by the demons?"
"That only happens to losers," Etna explained cheerfully. "You see, the afterlife puts you on the path you've taken in life. So people who are nice and happy all the time become an angel and spend all their time singing and spreading love and generally acting like imbeciles. People who like money and violence and sex go to a netherworld in which those things are available, where they start near the bottom of the power ladder and get to make their way on their own, just like in life. If you were a weak, cowardly loser in life, then you become a weak, cowardly, and usually explosive loser in death." She poked the lawyer in the chest with her spear. "I could see a guy like you, on the other hand, making it pretty far and racking up quite the harem in the netherworld."
Ranma scratched his chin, then shrugged. "Well, that's all well and good I guess, but I still have an hour to kill until the next ghost gets here. So do you think you could go and do all the sentimental crap anyway?"
Etna chuckled throatily, and her tail slinked around Ranma's leg. "Well, if you're bored, there are... other things we could do to kill an hour."
Ranma winced and extracted his leg. "Uh, yeah... look, I don't sleep with kids."
The pigtailed lawyer yelped and jumped to the side as the demoness' spear nearly impaled him through the pelvis.
"I am NOT a kid!" Etna growled, her eyes glowing a bright yellow. "And I happen to be very sensitive about my body!"
"A sensitive demon. Well that's just dandy," Ranma groused, kicking away the spear that had embedded itself in his desk. "I really wish you spirits would stop chopping up my furniture. It already had a divot from the knife and a hole from the arrow. This is genuine mahogany, you know."
"Oh, stop your whining and get over here," Etna said irritably. "I've already been paid for this stupid trip, so I might as well do it."
Ranma stepped close to her, and suddenly a pentagram encircled the both of them. Then there was a flash of light, and Ranma and Etna vanished.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Ranma blinked rapidly as his vision adjusted to the bright flashes of light, and then took stock of his surroundings as he had learned to do right after the spectre's quick teleportations.
"Hey, we're at the Kuno mansion!" Ranma said, amazed at how brightly the massive house was lit.
Then he sweatdropped. "Wait a minute... is the house on fire?"
"Sure looks like it," Etna said. "But I don't hear any sirens, and it doesn't look like anybody inside the house cares."
Indeed, both astral travelers could hear the celebration within the mansion going full swing, complete with breaking glass and the occasional explosion. Sitting on the roof and roasting marshmallows in the slowly spreading blaze was Ryoga and Shampoo, with the latter clearly drunk and chatting endlessly to the wanderer, who was clearly ignoring her as he concentrated on his marshmallows.
Ranma frowned at the pair, but then shrugged and moved through the shrubbery surrounding the mansion (only half of which was on fire) to get a better look at the festivities. Etna followed, looking quite pleased by the sight that surrounded her.

"YEEHA!!" Inu-Yasha screamed before downing a mug of liquor bigger than his head. At either side of him stood Sango and Ukyo, each one wearing what could only be called a bikini in function, as their design seemed more in line with that of rubber bands.
Finishing the mug, he casually tossed it behind him, accidentally striking Dark Schneider in the head as he cuddled the two voluptuous brunettes against him.
"HEY!! Who the hell did that?!" The dark mage snarled, whipping around from where he had been talking most of the Girls Bravo cast into a foursome.
Inu-Yasha snorted and flipped the white-haired man off. "Eh, get over it, Schneider."
"You asshole! I'll kill you!" The wizard shouted, his cape (which he still wore despite being in his bathing suit otherwise) billowing out behind him as he charged himself with power.
The half-demon stepped away from the women he was escorting and made a show of drawing his sword. "Get outta here, you circus reject! I'll cut ya in half!"
D.S. suddenly grinned. "That's quite a big sword. Overcompensate much?" Behind him, several of the unnaturally buxom girls giggled in delight.
"Hey! You gonna let that jackass treat you like that?" Ukyo said angrily.
Sango just snorted. "Inu-Yasha isn't compensating for ANYTHING. Besides, at least HE doesn't need a magic spell to get it up."
"Woohoo! Fight! Fight! Fight!" Several spectators began to call out.
Dark Schneider's eyes lit up with rage. "You... little... that spell is just for... I don't NEED to-screw it! Fiery power blast of the damned!"
"Wind scar!"
KWAABOOOOM!!

Ranma looked downcast as he watched the massive explosion consume another part of the mansion. "Aw, man... it looks like everyone's really having a lot of fun. I didn't know the parties were like this. I thought they were more... you know... 'peace and good will toward men' oriented."
Etna shrugged. "To each his own, I guess. I wouldn't exactly call this gathering 'in the spirit of Christmas,' but it's what you miss out on when you decide to treat the holidays just like any other weekend."

Next to the pool, Naruto snapped his fingers as he laid back in the lounge chair and then pointed to Sasuke, who was passing by. "Hey buddy, could you get me a pop please? Thanks!"
Sasuke's eye twitched as he stared at his fellow team member, who was chatting amiably with half a dozen impossibly busty Ninja girls ranging from Mai Shiranui to Taki to Kaede Nagase. "Get it yourself, dead last!"
Naruto rolled his eyes and shrugged. "That's angst-boy for ya. Always has to be a pill, just to stand out." Then he grinned and tickled the underside of Kasumi's breasts. "Though I DO have a habit of 'finishing last,' if you know what I mean."
Sasuke fought down the urge to vomit as the girls giggled and moved in closer and started to paw at him. "Stupid idiot, chatting away with those women like some sort of imbecile... what do they see in him?"
A boy softly cleared his throat behind him. "Why, are you lonely?"
Sasuke's eye twitched as he saw Heero Yui offering him a beer. "For the last time! I'M NOT GAY!!"
Alucard, who had been passing by, winced slightly from the volume of Sasuke's proclamation, and then casually backhanded the Ninja into the pool.
Sasuke was startled, but backflipped around before landing on the surface of the water as easily as if it were Earth. "Fool. What do you think yo-"
Blam! A moment later Sasuke was sinking into the water as a thick cloud of red started to spread through the pool.
Alucard holstered his gun. "Hmph. Emo brats get on my nerves," the nosferatu mumbled as he continued along his way, a small horde of fangirls flowing behind him in constant worship.

Etna smiled happily. "Wow! You humans sure know how to party!"
Ranma sweatdropped. "Well, not all of them are human, but yeah, this is way cooler than I thought." He sighed. "Maybe there really is something special about this time of year... look at what I could miss out on..." Then his eyebrow twitched. "Besides, if things continue like this, then Ryoga and Shampoo might end up," he shuddered, "sleeping together." Normally he didn't care if Shampoo slept around with other men - since he certainly slept around with other women - but Ryoga got around more than a sailor; who knows where he'd been!
The demoness nodded. "Yup. Well, enough of the joyous stuff. Now to show you the depressing crap."
Before Ranma could protest that he wanted to see the Kuno pinhata event before he left, the magic circle flashed underneath him, and he and Etna once again vanished from sight.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Ranma, who was getting very used to teleportation by now, opened his eyes when he felt his feet touching solid ground again, and then opened his eyes.
"This... This is..." Ranma sweatdropped along with Etna as he looked at the dozens of posters of Shampoo plastered all over the walls of the study they were in. "This is really creepy."
"Three guesses whose house this is," the little demoness said, "and the first two don't count."
The pigtailed lawyer nodded. "Well, it's either Mousse's place or the author's room, and since I'm supposed to be viewing a depressing loser..." Ranma frowned. "Well, that still doesn't narrow it down, but I'm still going to have to guess this is my boss's house."
"Correct-a-mundo," Etna deadpanned, gesturing away from the study toward the French doors that lead into the dining room.
Curiously, Ranma stepped through the doorway, blinking in shock as he saw Mousse sitting all alone at a huge hardwood dinner table while poking a fork into a microwave chicken pot pie.
"Surprising, isn't it?" Etna mumbled, shaking her head. "The man who holds your career in the palm of his hand and provides your rent may see more zeroes on his paycheck, but look at this sap. He's miserable. He's lonely. He's bitter."
"He's ALIVE!" Ranma finally growled out. "What the hell? His ghost just visited me earlier tonight whining about how tough the afterlife is! How can he be alive again?"
Etna blinked in surprise, and then scratched her head. "Well, I... uh... I dunno."

Mousse sighed miserably as he swatted aside his pie. "Oh, Shampoo... why? Why do you spend every year in the arms of that womanizer Saotome? Don't I have everything I need to make you happy? Do I not have everything Ranma has, and MORE? Then WHY?!"

"Because you're an idiot!" Ranma snarled as he tried to kick the moping Amazon, only to stumble as his leg went right through his boss's chest without the slightest resistance.
Etna chuckled. "This 'aint real Saotome. This is a projection of the near future. You can't hurt him any more than he can hurt you."
"But he's supposed to be DEAD!" Ranma shouted. "Tell me, will Mousse survive?"
Etna closed her eyes for a moment, as if meditating deeply. "I see... an empty chair... being periodically occupied. And a length of chain... flying at a pigtailed man's head at high speed."
"Son of a bitch!" Ranma cursed.
"Never mind that," Etna said, grabbing the lawyer by the arm. "My time here is almost up, and I don't make overtime. I'd kind of like to make Hitler's Holiday Hellraiser Bash before it's over."
Ranma's eye twitched. "If you see that bastard Mousse there, stab him for me."
"Will do!" The demoness said cheerfully before thrusting a palm at the cursed man, causing another pentagram to emerge below him.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Ranma sighed wearily as he looked around at his new location, noticing that he was surrounded by a thick mist that seemed to surround him just a few feet from his body, creating a wall of smoky gray just out of reach.
As he moved a few steps, the mist flowed about to adjust, parting before him as it swallowed the path he had traveled.
"Okay... so now what?" Ranma mumbled, rubbing his chin.
A cold chill was all the warning he got before the mist in front of him suddenly swept apart, revealing a tall figure in black, ragged robes.
The pigtailed man gulped as he saw the large, twisted scythe the spectre carried. "Uh... hi. Ghost of Christmas Future, right? Charmed, I'm sure..."
The spirit said nothing as it approached, the shadows of its hood completely concealing its face. Ranma stepped aside, and the imposing figure slowly raised an arm, its hand emerging from the black folds of its robe to point toward another area of diminishing fog.
Ranma didn't notice what it was pointing at, because he was staring at the spirit's hand. It was... normal. Slim and tanned, with expertly manicured fingernails. Raising an eyebrow, he turned toward the spirit.
The spectre turned its hooded face toward the lawyer, and pointed its arm again, clearly indicating that Ranma should be paying attention.
Instead, Ranma's hand snaked up behind the figure and tugged off its hood.
"Hey! You're not supposed to do that!" The woman within the robes shouted in surprise, ruining her spooky silence. She was tall and well-tanned all over, with long platinum hair and perfectly defined features. She also had several blue triangular marks on her face which Ranma likened to tattoos. Ranma couldn't see her body, as it was still concealed within the voluminous robes, but his imagination quickly ran wild with anticipation. There was something about this woman that just screamed "bombshell".
"Sorry 'bout that. I was just curious," Ranma said, not looking sorry at all as he grinned.
The woman frowned, and then shrugged. "Well, whatever. Since the mood is ruined anyway, my name is Urd, Ghost of Christmas Future and Goddess of Love."
"Goddess, or ghost?" Ranma asked, stepping back and admiring the figure. "I'm gonna guess goddess."
Urd smirked and poked him in the nose. "Flattery will get you nowhere, Saotome." Then she frowned. "I was going for the ghost of the past, since that's my usual territory, but ended up getting in an argument with my little sister about... uh..." She scratched her head. "Well, I can't really remember what we were fighting about originally, but since I'm here, I obviously won. I think."
"Is your sister as gorgeous as you?" Ranma asked, slipping an arm around the spectre casually and leaning into her shoulder.
Urd laughed. "Ha! As if! She's just a scrawny little kid!"
The pigtailed lawyer grinned and held the woman a little tighter, feeling the contours of her body underneath her robe. "Well then, I lucked out, didn't I?"
"Tut!" Urd pinched his hand playfully as she stepped away from him. "Didn't I say flattery would get you nowhere? Now come on, I have work to do, here."
Ranma chuckled and backed off, but couldn't help but notice that the goddess had a certain sensual sway to her hips that wasn't there before. 'At least ONE of these spirits is hot and willing. I just might be able to salvage this night yet.'
Urd "Tsked" and glanced back at him. "I can read your thoughts, you know."
Ranma stopped short. Then he smirked. "Okay. What am I thinking now?"
The goddess of love looked startled for a moment, and blinked repeatedly. "Well... we'll see," she said, her lips curving into a lustful smile. The she pointed again toward a patch of fog. "For now, look! Look upon your future!"

When the fog parted, rather than Ranma being teleported to a totally new area like before, he witnessed what appeared to be a small segment of a scene with several people in business suits gathered around a table.
"Can you believe he's finally gone?" One man with an unusually rigid lightning-bolt mustache asked.
"It's about time," another man whose head was, oddly enough, a simple wooden chair, said. "It was absurd the way he conducted his trials! Preposterous!"
A third man with a prominent afro shrugged. "Well, he's dead as a doornail now. And did you hear how he went? Woo-HEE!"
The fourth figure, a woman with long green hair and a very pronounced figure smirked as she lifted a cup of tea to her lips. "A fitting death for the scoundrel. Hardly as... terrible as I would have hoped, but fitting."
There was complete silence for a moment as the emerald-haired woman sipped her tea. Finally, one of the men cleared his throat.
"Say... speaking of those who've passed beyond this mortal coil... well, how to put this..."
"Aren't you dead?" Said the fellow with a chair for a head.
The only woman present smiled mysteriously. "Yes, I was. I was resurrected and later traveled back in time to the point after my death."
"Right, right, that was the first time, though. What about later?"
The green-haired beauty raised an eyebrow. "Well, obviously I must have been resurrected AGAIN and sent into the past..." then she frowned. "Wait, that doesn't sound right. No, I was resurrected in the past and then sent to the future. To be brought back to the past, of course." Then she put her teacup down. "No, no, now that I think about it, there was no resurrection this time. I think the princess was mad at me for helping a youma sue her. So then I'm actually my past self sent to the future before being sent back to the past to be killed."
She hesitated for a few seconds. "Which is quite wasteful when you think about it."
The man with an afro shook his head. "Man, I HATE time travel."

Ranma fumed as stared at the gathering. "Damn it! Why won't the dead stay dead already? It's accepting this kind of bullshit that lets creeps like Al pass the bar exam, you know."
Urd smirked and ruffled the man's hair. "Aw, don't let it get ya down. The afterlife is more complicated than most people think."
The pigtailed man snorted in disgust, though he didn't pass up the opportunity to loop an arm around the sexy goddess's waist again. "So who're they talking about, anyway? They make him out to be a creep, but knowing these losers, he must be a prince of a guy."
Urd's smirk turned into a much more solemn smile. "Well, some people think so." Then she raised a hand and pointed off to the side.
Ranma blinked as another bank of fog parted. "Sh-Shampoo?"

The Amazon beauty was sobbing relentlessly while clutching the leg of Ranma's solid gold evangelion statue, the dark wet spot on the carpet testimony to the time she had spent in this state of grief.
After nearly a minute of the heart-wrenching scene, the door to the office burst open, and Mousse came charging in (still quite alive, much to Ranma's chagrin) while looking inappropriately pleased.
"Shampoo! Have you heard? Isn't it wonderful? He's dead! He's finally dead! It's just you and me! We can finally be together!" Typical of Mousse, he had passed right by Shampoo and was searching left and right in Ranma's office for any sign his beloved.
Shampoo had spent quite some time doing office work instead of acting as a warrior. So when she slowly rose up from the floor behind the bespectacled Amazon, it was no great surprise to see that she was holding a letter opener and a stapler instead of a scimitar or bonbori.
It did, however, make the scene that followed far too gruesome to describe in detail.

Ranma quickly turned away from the scene of violence, noting that his escort had already averted her eyes. "So... uh... I'll be honest. I'm pretty sure I know who died, here."
Urd nodded sadly, and then pointed to another bank of fog, which dissolved to reveal a gravestone.
The pigtailed lawyer sighed as he read his own name carved into the piece of rock. "Yup. I saw this coming." Then he frowned. "Wait a minute... I'm going to die in 2008? What the hell?" He turned toward Urd. "That's ridiculous! How do I die? Do I take on another case for a mob boss and lose? Do I piss of Judge Frieza? How do I have less than two years to live?"
Urd cleared her throat meaningfully, trying to keep a straight face. "You know the intern on the second floor who keeps hitting on you? The crazy fighter ditz?"
Ranma nodded slowly. "You mean Hakufu? The one with the obscenely huge boobs?" He was quite fond of cleavage, but the girl's volleyball-sized mammaries were nothing short of inhuman.
"Yeah, her. You finally decide to, well... 'try her out' would be the term you used. Will use. Whatever."
He nodded again. "Okay. And, what, does she have some horrible STD or something?"
Urd grimaced. "She ends up smothering you in her cleavage."
There was a long, awkward silence as Urd and Ranma stared at each other, each looking quite uncomfortable with the revelation.
"Wow. Just... wow." Ranma murmured. "I mean... I'm not gonna lie to ya; when I finally die, that's the way I wanna go, but... geez! 2008?"
"Yeah. Well, that's pretty much all I have to show you," Urd shrugged apologetically.
Ranma frowned at that, then shook his head. "Wait. Wait a minute." He scrubbed his hair with his hand in frustration. "I don't get this. First spirit comes, and she gives me a long lecture about how corrupt I've become, and shows me how I began my slow spiral down into the dark side or whatever. Second spirit not only says that the consequences for my actions in the afterlife aren't so bad, but also tells me that I should indulge myself whenever possible and enjoy life to the fullest, even if - or perhaps especially if - it means being violent and lecherous. Now YOU come along and show me that a bunch of bastards who have every reason to hate me are glad when I die, that my secretary/lover is sad when I die, and tell me how it happens so that I can avoid dying in the first place."
He shook his head violently and looked up at the goddess. "I don't get it! What are you people trying to tell me? How should I change? Should I change at all, or just take greater advantage of the joys of life when they're presented to me? Or is this all about enjoying Christmas? What's the message here?"
Urd sweatdropped. After a few seconds of silence, more sweatdrops joined it. "I... uh... don't really know."
Ranma resisted the urge to facefault. "You don't know. You, whose job it is show me visions to teach me a lesson, have no idea what the lesson is that I'm supposed to learn."
The goddess winced. "Well... yeah. That's pretty much it." She squirmed under the lawyer's gaze for a moment. "Well, don't get mad at ME. I'm only here because I lost a bet!"
"Won a bet."
"Whatever!" Urd said dismissively. "I got roped into this. All I know about this mess is that I'm supposed to show the reactions around your death."
"Well, that's just great," Ranma grumbled. "Well, then there's only one thing to do to keep all this from being a complete waste of time."
"Really? And what's thaaAAMNPH!" Urd was cut off as Ranma picked her up into his arms before kissing her passionately (and idly kicking away the scythe she was carrying well out of reach).
After a long moment of exploring the spirit's mouth with his tongue, Ranma broke the kiss and stared into her eyes. "Well, you said flattery didn't do it for ya. How's this?"
Urd spent a few seconds gasping for air, and then nodded approvingly. "This is good. Let's do more of that." Grabbing the man by the back of the head, she pressed their lips together with an almost desperate passion, and hooked her foot behind his in order to force both of them onto the ground.
As they tumbled down to the... nondescript surface below, the mist suddenly breached whatever barrier kept it away from the pair and completely enveloped them.
A few seconds later the mist was disturbed slightly as a black robe suddenly went flying through the air. It was soon followed by a suit jacket, a collared shirt, a brassiere, and a pair of pants.
"OH YES!! Right there! Harder! HARDER!!"
"Oof! Whoa! Easy there! 'Love goddess' indeed!"
"You have better things to do with your tongue than talk! Off with the boxers, Saotome!"
"Oh, HELL yeah!"

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

"Mmph? Huhn?"
Ranma stirred slowly as rays of light poured into his eyes from between the blinds in his office, and he turned his head to the side to avoid them.
Then his eyes snapped open. "What? What in the..."
Shaking himself awake, Ranma sat up in his office chair, blinking repeatedly. "I'm... I'm back? I'm back! I was asleep?"
Scrubbing his head with his hand, Ranma frowned. "Wait... was it... all a dream?" He wondered, falling back onto the backrest and shivering slightly at the feeling of the cool Italian leather against his skin.
He blinked. He then blinked again and looked down. "Huh. I'm naked."
Acting on a hunch, he looked around the back of his chair, and noted that a gorgeous, well-bronzed, and also naked woman was sprawled out on the floor behind his office chair with a ragged black cloak laying across her lower torso as a makeshift blanket.
"Well, that rules out dream," Ranma mumbled, searching for any sign of his clothes as the goddess stirred. "But then... that means..." his eyes widened. "It's Christmas day! I'm back! I'm really back!"
"Ya sure are," Urd said sleepily as she stood up, either not noticing or not caring when the cloak slipped off of her and left her body gloriously exposed. "Welcome back to reality, hon. Or as close as your life ever gets to it. Good work last night, by the way. You got any coffee? We didn't get much sleep."
Ranma shook his head to snap himself out of the stupor caused from staring at Urd's naked body (and the memories of what she could do with it) and then pointed out into the hall. "Try the break room; go right out that door and to the right. It's the second door on the left."
"Thanks." She began to leave, then hesitated as she noticed the effect she was having on the pigtailed man. She pointed at his prominent erection, smiling lazily. "Actually, you want me to take care of that first?"
"Tempting. Very, VERY tempting," Ranma admitted, rubbing his chin, "but I have some things I need to get to right away. Besides, you worked hard enough last night. Go relax."
Nodding dazedly, the goddess of the past turned and left the room as Ranma picked up his phone and started thumbing through the company directory.
"Sonsaku... Sonsaku... Sonsaku Hakufu... Ah! Here we are!" Idly opening another drawer where he kept his spare set of street clothes (in case his normal set got wet, or if Shampoo got overzealous in undressing him), he dialed the number with his other hand.
"Hmm, hmm, mm-mm... Ah! Hello! Sonsaku! Hi, it's Ranma Saotome! Yes, hi. Merry Christmas to you too," the pigtailed lawyer said cheerfully. "Look, I was just thumbing through my black book and I found your name, so I thought I'd give you a ring. Uh huh. Not exactly. No, no, nothing like that." Then he grinned. "You're fired, Sonsaku. Yes. Right. Yes, today. On Christmas. Deal with it." He leaned back in his chair, pulling on his boxers while holding the receiver between his cheek and shoulder. "Yes, I do have the authority to fire you. It doesn't matter. Mousse is dead. No, I don't know exactly when he died, but I'm definitely working on that." He rolled his eyes. "God, you're a whiner. Like I said, he's either dead or he will be soon. Tell it to someone who cares." He slammed the phone down with one hand while yanking his pants up with the other, and then pounded a fist against his chest.
"I feel great! This is a new day! A new opportunity!" He grinned brightly. "And I'm not gonna waste it. Never again. If there's one lesson I can take from that whole ridiculous fiasco, it's that you really don't know when you could just wind up dead some day, so one should take every opportunity to enjoy oneself!" Quickly putting on a shirt, the cursed lawyer skipped out the door into the hallway, the very picture of glee.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Mousse sighed as he stared up at Shampoo's condominium, a fairly large, though relatively light parcel in his hand wrapped in shiny purple gift wrapping.
"Oh, Shampoo," the myopic Amazon mumbled. "Why do I even bother? I know what's going to happen. You'll take my present, thank me politely, and then lock me out before I even have a chance to put my foot in the door." That wasn't entirely true, as he was fast enough to place his foot in the proper position easily while she was snatching the gift away, but the one year he had tried that had ended with his leg in a cast for weeks, and a letter from Shampoo asking to him to replace her door.
"This is all Saotome's fault," the near-sighted man growled, curling his hand into a fist. "Why do I allow it? I know what goes on behind those doors, and yet... and YET-"
"Hey boss!" Ranma suddenly shouted out behind him, causing the male Amazon to jump in surprise.
"What? S-Saotome?" Mousse stuttered. "Why are you... wait... you're here to seduce Shampoo, aren't you?" The Chinese man growled.
"Maybe later," Ranma admitted, sidling up next to his employer while patting him on the back. "More importantly, I found out something last night. You don't have any holiday plans, do you?"
Mousse blinked. "Well... it's not that I don't have any plans, but-"
"Spare me the excuses," the pigtailed man said bluntly. "You were going to spend Christmas day like you spend EVERY day: all alone in your big house moaning in self-pity and probably doing dirty things to yourself while staring at pictures of my secretary." He pressed on as Mousse started sputtering incoherently. "Well, I'm not gonna let that happen. Not this year. Nobody deserves that kind of misery, not even you."
Mousse stared at his employee, his mouth agape. "Wait... so... you mean... you're inviting me to-"
"Whatever you're thinking, it's probably wrong," Ranma admitted, taking hold of the gift Mousse was clutching to his chest. "Let me hold this for a sec."
The myopic Amazon blinked. "Huh? Why are you-"
Before he could complete that sentence, Ranma kicked him out into the street.
"Oof!" Mousse shouted, landing badly on his shoulder. "Damn you Ranma! I'll-" HOOONK! HOOOOOOOONK!
A bellowing horn interrupted his cry of vengeance, and the Chinese man was suddenly aware that Ranma had timed his blow to place him rather inconveniently in the path of an eighteen-wheeler. CRUNCH!

Ranma watched solemnly as the truck passed by, completely ignoring the droplets of blood that now sprinkled his pants and the present in his hands. "If you're going to haunt me, you'd damn well better be dead first!" He shouted after the vehicle.
After that, he took out a pen, scratched out Mousse's name on the gift tag, and wrote his own above it. Smiling broadly, he then walked up to Shampoo's front door and knocked.
A few moments later, the Amazon beauty opened her door cautiously (as she was expecting Mousse), and was pleasantly surprised to see her lover standing there instead.
"Merry Christmas, Shamps!" The pigtailed lawyer said cheerfully, quickly stepping in and giving her a peck on the lips. "I thought it over, and decided I WILL go to that party tonight! Thanks for inviting me!"
"R-Ranma!" Shampoo said, almost swooning in bliss. Then she noticed the present and her smile brightened even more. "You bring present for Shampoo?"
"I sure did!" Ranma said happily, thrusting out the gift toward her. "Aren't I thoughtful?"
Shampoo nodded, though she hesitated for a moment. "Why wrapping paper have blood on it?"
"Er..." Ranma sweatdropped. "It was... just really vicious trying to get this thing down at Wal-Mart. Or, you know, wherever I got it. The holiday crowds can get really violent."
The violet-haired woman easily accepted the ridiculous explanation, and tore the wrapping open before opening up the box within. "Aiyah! These very rare Chinese herb! How you know Shampoo want?" She asked with genuine curiosity. She really couldn't imagine how Ranma knew she had wanted several exotic plants from the Tibetan mountains, much less how to actually get them.
"Oh Shampoo, Shampoo," Ranma said condescendingly, reaching around her back and squeezing her close. "Don't you worry about that. Isn't the important thing that you got what you want, and that you feel, really, really grateful to me?"
Shampoo wasn't very good at expressing herself in words at all, so decided to show her appreciation by jabbing her tongue down his throat and pressing his hand tightly against her bosom.
After a few seconds of frenzied kisses and groping, she yanked him inside her home, and slammed the door behind her.

About a minute later, the front door to her condo opened up again, and Ranma (now clad only in boxers and sporting lipstick marks over most of his body) dragged a certain panda bear outside before tossing him onto the bloodied sidewalk. "Get out, Pop! What the hell are you doing here, anyway?"
Genma sniffled and raised a sign up into the air. I have nowhere else to go...
Rolling his eyes, Ranma quickly dashed back inside, slamming the door behind him.
Genma sat up and flipped his sign around. God bless us! Everyone!
Then he flipped it around again. Merry Christmas!