I don't own Ranma or GD. I have a brief announcement at the end, but for now on with the show.
Chapter 20 Business Opportunities and long range investments
Nabiki grinned as she went over the books for her restaurant, ecstatic that it had been doing better than she had ever assumed it would. They had been open for a little over a month now, and she was now one of the leading merchants in the city. The only ones richer were jewelry dealers as well as a few specialized blacksmiths. There was also of course the martial arts Masters, but most of them were pretty poor in comparison. In fact she had more liquid capital than any of them, and had slowly but surely been diverting a bit of her funds into city projects which made her increasingly popular with the other merchants and the normal townsfolk.
This coupled with the fact that she had her very own ninja working for her for the past week feeding her information had cut down heavily on the push to tax heavily her connection to Earth. The two were-rats have been a godsend she thought, though if Lydia keeps on cursing around Kasumi she's not going to be among the land of the living very long. Lydia had yet to learn that cursing around Kasumi was a Very Bad Idea, and still couldn't quite control her mouth around the older sister.
Lydia was also having issues with the nature of the work. She was short tempered, had a lot of energy, almost ADHD, and thought of spying as a task unworthy of her skills. She was still doing it because she liked steady work and having friends in high places which Nabiki was quickly becoming, but her mutterings about it being beneath her and not a good challenge were getting old. She also wasn't acclimatizing to life on Jade very well, surprisingly missing many of the modern luxuries she had bee getting used to while on the run back on Earth. Nabiki surprisingly wasn't, she had everything she needed to be happy right here on Jade, well that and she had brought her mp3 player and headphones with her, and every time she went back for more food for the restaurant she downloaded more music.
Romeo on the other hand had taken to the spying business like a duck to water. He was patient, he like do use his rat-given abilities to spy on people, especially when there were pretty girls involved, and had a decent eye for detail and a good hand when it came to writing his notes. In fact if it weren't for the fact that Lydia would probably blow her top Nabiki would've placed Romeo in charge of the two of them. Eventually though, Nabiki knew that Lydia would prove a worthy addition to her spy group, since they were in the process of expanding into the other cities of Jade. That meant in the next few weeks as her the girl's need for a bit of a challenge would be met when her spy network and business ran up against local crime groups.
She frowned as she looked over at the were-rats latest observations. Thanks to Kasumi's aura, crime in the city had completely died away except for random bar fights and other random, mostly emotion driven events. Organized crime was completely gone from Seer's Hamlet now, most of its members gone, and even teen gang groups weren't making as much trouble now. Because of this she sent the two were-rats with a caravan group that were leaving the city for the next city over a manufacturing city predominated by dwarves named Khaz-Morgan to pace the way for her business and the rest of her spy network.
What they found there was that the crime in the surrounding territories around Sears Hamlet had kept on going, simply working around the fact they couldn't work in the city/town any longer. The rangers were cracking down on them hard, and frankly they didn't have many people outside the walls to prey upon, and those that were there were more than prepared to defend themselves, so even there raiders, thieves and other sports were having trouble. On the return trip the two mall rats had used their own initiative to spy on one of the brigand groups.
They had been able to get close enough to overhear several conversations about someone that the criminals simply called the 'old pervert'. Apparently he (that was the only part they were all sure of, some thought he was a human mage, others an elderly elf or were-cat) met with them surrounded by a harem of nubile girls of all races, hence the name. He wasn't a part of the established crime syndicates, but he had come to dominate the area around Jade in some fashion, relying on a lot of ready cash and a loyal group of all female operatives from all walks of life and type who followed his every command. He had been operating for at least three months, and was now deeply involved in the slave trade that preyed on the were-cat communities past Seer's hamlet. Nothing unusual there, very fast for an unknown true but not unheard of, what was odd was his paying for captured mages. Six mages had disappeared in the past two months. Most of them were mere apprentices, not very powerful and not missed, but the overall number was worrying. Looking at it from all angles Nabiki was certain that someone was collecting mages, and she remembered Thropan mentioning concerns along those lines. However thanks to Kasumi and the Edge Guard these plans had been mostly foiled for the past few weeks, and almost completely reversed in some cases. She wondered absentmindedly if the Dwarven Weaponsmaster G'nolga had worked with this guy before meeting up with Ranma and according to her to her spies quitting all illegal activity.
She knew that Brianna and the Edge Guard were even now out in the field trying to chase down where the hell these slaves were going, paying particular attention to the mages as it was such an unusual aspect of the slave trade, but Nabiki was more concerned about the fact that she couldn't find any kind of background for this guy no matter where she or her people looked. He reminded her all too much of the way she couldn't find anyone who knew the background of the judge and the sheriff here in Seer's Hamlet as well as other women in powerful positions in the lands and cities around them. While at the moment her relationship with both women was frosty cordiality, she had not forgotten that first attempts to attack her, and had continued to look for any kind of person who had met them before they ran for their offices. Unfortunately it looked as if they'd simply sprung out of the ground fully formed. She was quickly coming to the conclusion however that they must have come here from somewhere else and was determined to take a few hours off to head back to Earth and do a search there as soon as she could get some time off. While she didn't have anything like the burgeoning spy network she had here back on Earth, she did have access to the Internet. It was astonishing what one could find on the internet if you looked.
Her thoughts were interrupted as the door to her office, which she had purchased three days ago in the building across from the restaurant, opened. She stood up from the small desk, her order for furniture not having been completed just yet, and smiled happily at her visitor. "Ranma," she said, "how are you doing? How did Sheila's first adventure go back on Earth?"
"It went all right," Ranma she said shrugging a little, looking a little anxious. "We ran into some kind of big old baddies from Jade's past, and then we spent a few days searching for clues around the site before we were picked up by Ace. So, um, I, I came over and wanted to see if you and Kasumi want to go out. I'm free today and tomorrow, but Gina's already got another dig lined up that we'll be leaving for soon."
He frowned a little at that, not really understanding why Gina seemed to flit from one place to another like a mayfly. He felt she should be concentrating on getting back into the city where he fought that giant lizard thing, not just because he wanted another around with the bastard, which he did obviously, but because surely questioning a living person about ancient times would be much better than trying to figure it out by clues and other stuff.
Nabiki smiled happily. "I was actually just thinking about getting off for the night, though I can only do it tonight, I'm interviewing a construction group tomorrow." Her plans to head back to Earth for the evening were thus shelved for more important things.
Ranma grinned happily and later that night the two of them went out dressed a little classier than normal but not so much to a classy restaurant on the outskirts of town. It was famous for having the best seafood around and the ambience of the place was great too. All the tables were outside under an awning held up by little trees spaced around the area, and songbirds perched on the branches, warbling away.
Ranma looked at the setting and frowned while Nabiki smiled happily thinking the place looked like a good investment long-ter, if the owners were thinking of expanding. She looked over and noticed Ranma's frown. "What's wrong Ranma?"
He answered, muttering out of the side of his mouth as they were led to their table. "Well it's just all those birds. Birds aren't exactly hygienic you know. What if they take a crap in the food or something?"
The waiter, a young elf, or at least young seen evening elf you could never tell with that race, chuckled a little. "Don't worry," she said happily "the owner's wife is a bit of a mage, and she spelled the birds to only defecate in certain areas away from the food and diners."
"Well that's a relief" Ranma said and Nabiki giggled. She really enjoyed being around Ranma, he was so random sometimes and so very down to earth at the very same time.
They sat, listens to the menu and ordered, though Nabiki was further amused by the fact that a few of the specials were knockoffs of things they Kasumi had introduced at the restaurant. Octopus balls in particular. The local equivalent of an octopus was actually a fresh stream based creature, and it was even tastier and more filling than the original on Earth. Kasumi had greatly enjoyed getting to know the local ingredients, produce and fish and fowl during their first few weeks hear. Surprisingly the one thing that no one had been able to transplant to Jade successfully was mushrooms. The local equivalent of legumes like that were so widespread and so durable that the mushrooms couldn't compete. Nabiki had already had plans to farm some mushrooms on earth and bring them in, she was just waiting for Kasumi to come up with a dish that would have them at the center of it and see how it sold first.
"So," Ranma said, looking across at her. "How are you two doing?"
Nabiki smirked a little, "Doing quite well actually." And then he she went into detail about her business as well as what Kasumi was doing. Most of this Ranma had heard before of course, but he had been gone a week and being brought up to speed was always a good thing.
It amazed him how much Kasumi in particular had grown from the mold she inhabited for so long. Back in Japan she had been a simple housemaid almost, sort of busy for caring for everyone in the house but not really venturing outside of those borders. Here she had blossomed; she ran the kitchen and the floor while Nabiki did the bills and all the paperwork, sailing through the restaurant and the city around with a happy smile. She had blossomed in other ways too, having become friends with everyone she met in Seers Hamlet, becoming a very important figure in the city, having an almost celebrity status now.
And Nabiki, of course he thought sardonically is also being kept busy by her budding spy system. It would not surprise him at all to come back in a few weeks and find out that she had the largest spy network on Jade. It wasn't just the fact that Nabiki was good it ferreting out secrets, she had an incredible ability to figure out what people were thinking, Kasumi gave her a resource that could figure out if someone was trustworthy, and her ability to analyze information was better than anyone Ranma had ever seen (well bar himself out of fights anyway).
After a bit Nabiki slowed down Ranma telling her some more about their recent adventure, as well as how Moisha and Sheila had performed. "0h by the way," he said reaching into his weapon space (which he had emptied specifically for this purpose so he could wouldn't have to search around inside and try to find it) "I have a present for you."
"Ranma you shouldn't…" Nabiki broke off with a gasp as he pulled out an opal as large as three of her fingers put together. It sparkled with varicolored lights, red green and orange flecks gleaming on a background of blue.
Ranma reached out and gently took one of her hands and turned it palm up then placed the opal in her palm. "When I saw this I thought of you," he said looking at her and smirking.
Nabiki cocked her head trying to keep her eyes on his face rather than on the jewel in her hand. While Jade had rubies and even diamonds galore, in fact they had so many rubies it was used as currency in areas where the worth of gold coins weren't trusted, they didn't have any opals or pearls. No creature on Jade made pearls, and opals were very rare, considered good luck on Jade. The majority of them were kept by families from their time on Earth and were never sold on the open market. "Why is that?" she asked.
Ranma grinned at her impishly. "Because there's so many facets to you," he said simply. "The first time I met you, you came off as a bit of a, well," he coughed uncomfortably and looked away as Nabiki smirked wickedly at him. She knew perfectly well she had acted a bit of a bitch that first day he turned up. "Then after that I found out you had this whole spy mistress and loan shark thing going on, then found out that it wasn't just because you enjoyed it, it was because you had to pay for the family. Then I found out about your sense of humor and the fact that you like rock 'n roll music and everything else." He said quickly moving on from the awkward start. "It's just, I'm just looking forward to learning more, about you, about Kasumi, about Brianna."
Nabiki laughed, mentally adding Sheila and Moisha's names to that list. From anyone else that would've sounded corny as hell, but from Ranma it just came off as sincere, stutters and all. She reached out and grabbed his chin and pulled him across the table to give him a long lingering kiss then laughed a little as she pulled back seeing his dazed and blushing expression. Despite all the times they had kissed and even gone a little further than that he still blushed and stuttered as if it was the first time. She found it rather endearing actually. "You're not the only one looking forward to figuring out more about their partner," Ranma she said smirking a little and then leaning back in her chair.
A moment later the food arrived, along with s bottle of wine with the chef's compliments. The chef himself came out to greet Nabiki, one merchant to another and to ask her to pass on his good wishes to Kasumi, who apparently had already made friends with him and his wife. The chef was an old were-jaguar, and he did his own fishing with his four sons for most of the ingredients for his cooking hence why the restaurant was only open for dinner.
The two merchants talked shop for a few minutes then the chef graciously bowed out after presenting Nabiki with the wine bottle.
The meal passed peacefully after that for another hour but as they were finishing the main course, a very well done carp equivalent with a very light tangy sauce glaze and grilled shrimp skewers with the local pepper equivalent, three large muscular barbarian types shouldered their way past the maitre de at the front entrance.
They spent a few seconds looking over the crowd of diners, while the diners looked back at them their own eyes worried or hard, and Ranma could hear a few of the mutter about having left their weapons at home. He however didn't bother listening to the side conversations he simply kept in his eyes on the three types that were coming towards them. Behind them and mage came forward as well, and he whispered, "Why do I get the impression these guys are here for one of us?"
Nabiki chuckled a little but her eyes had turned cold, and she began to gather her ice power. She could never quite get used to calling it magical power, that just seemed a little too fanciful for her, but she had known long before meeting Dr. Diggers that she had a stare that could turn a brave man's blood to ice.
As the for the barbarians through the restaurant they began to trip and stumble, one of them even nearly killed himself as he tripped over seemingly air and knocked into a table and nearly took a knife to the eye. Another one stumbled against a tree and took a heretofore unseen nail to the arm, and he began to curse in pain. They began to look worried but they still reached the two diners and after taking a few minutes to recover themselves the one in the lead spoke up. "Nabiki Tendo?" Nabiki nodded her hands on the table now folded as she looked up at him, her brown eyes, which a few minutes ago had been warm and inviting now hard cold chips of ice.
The man shivered but when on gamely, "You're beginning to encroach on someone's territory. They want you to stop. This is the friendly warning, you won't like the unfriendly."
Nabiki smirked a little and said "Yeah, how about no."
"Unfriendly it is," he said and tried to reach for his sword only to find Ranma's hand gripping his forearm so tightly he couldn't even move it. It was like being in the grip of an ogre. Ranma squeezed and the man whimpered, going to his knees where he was met with a hard elbow to the face, knocking him out.
His fellows reached for their weapons and suddenly found themselves doused with hot soup as a waiter who had been standing behind a little ways away watching all this in shock as he made his way through the tables suddenly tripped and sent the family sized portion of soup he had been carrying cascading over them. They went down squealing in pain.
The mage lifted his hands and tried to cast a spell, but Nabiki had been concentrating her attention on him while her eyes were on the first barbarian. The mage gasped and looked down at his feet to find they were frozen to the ground. He barely raised his hands again before Ranma was right in front of his face and a single punch laid him out. By the time he was done with that, the two barbarians that had been doused with hot water had blessedly been frozen solid by Nabiki.
She laughed a little and dragged one of the frozen statues over to the table then propped her feet on it. "So," she said cheerfully, "what should we get for dessert?" Ranma laughed and the rest of the diners, many of whom had risen to their feet to help or run away started laughing as well.
The rest of the evening passed much more agreeably, and Nabiki and Ranma made their way back to their apartment. Once there Nabiki leaned against the doorway her hands around Ranma's waist, her eyes half lidded as she gazed at him. Ranma took the hint and leaned in for a kiss which Nabiki immediately returned, her mouth open and inviting.
After a few minutes Ranma broke off the kiss sighing contentedly as he moved down to her neck sucking on it gently. "I'm glad you had fun," he murmured nuzzling into her neck. "I just wish my chaos didn't kick while we're on dates."
Nabiki chuckled a little throat away and then pulled him inside the apartment. "I don't mind," she said smiling a little. "It makes life more interesting, beside this time it was mostly because of me and what I've been up to lately. But now, I have a gift I've been meaning to give you."
Ranma looked up at her as she pushed him into the sofa, then his eyes widened as she kneeled down between his legs and reached for his belt. He almost reached out to stop her but a look in her eyes told him not to, this was something she wanted to do. "After all," she murmured as her prize came into view already standing at attention. She licked her lips unconsciously, feeling her body begin to react. "You got me my own ninjas. Someone's been a good boy and good boys get rewarded." After that all thoughts of protest left Ranma's mind.
For her date Kasumi wanted to go to a local theater. The play was supposed to be a romance set a few generations ago between an elf woman and a human man and Kasumi thought it would be lovely. They were easily able to get tickets since Kasumi was truly becoming a local celebrity.
Ranma picked her up dressed in a good black silk shirt with a red dragon curling around his midriff and up to one shoulder as well as black silk pants, and in his hand he held a rose.
Kasumi came down dressed in a locally made skirt of excellent quality with varicolored strips of blue and white. Her hair cascaded down her back newly combed and while there was no makeup on her face this only allowed her natural beauty to shine through.
Kasumi blushed heavily under Ranma was appreciative gaze and he bowed grandly. "Y-you, l-look lovely Kas-chan," he said, stuttering a little. "Here" he said, handing her the rose. She took it gratefully sniffing at the petals for a moment before she allowed him to place it into her hair, and Ranma gave her his arm and the two walked off.
Nabiki, as well as all the other workers at the restaurant saw the couple and there were many sighs of how romantic from the girls and mutterings from the men about how Ranma was making them all look bad. Nabiki however simply grinned and waved. She had her fun the previous night and wasn't about to begrudge her sister her turn with Ranma.
Their date passed uneventfully, Kasumi's power as hearth mistress keeping the two groups of thugs coming in from outside of Sears Hamlet with orders to intimidate her and Nabiki far away. These groups weren't nearly as good at hiding their intentions as the group that had interrupted Nabiki and Ranma at the restaurant the day before, and hadn't even made it past the first few blocks of the town before running into issues. The two specifically trained mage catchers in the group found themselves unconscious, having come close to a building where some workers were working on the roof and being brained by dropped piles. They would later find themselves for a moment captives of the sheriff, and then turned over to someone else…
The other group, led by a were-tiger and consisting of other were-cats all of whom looked far less reputable than most of the were-cats in the city, had run into issues almost immediately as well. First they started tripping, losing their weapons through shattering on the ground and then by running into acquaintances of theirs from their past including one were-cat who the leader had a feud with. Soon enough they had been captured by the equivalent of a citizen's brigade and swiftly turned over to the rangers to be transported to the nearest were-cat den for justice.
Kasumi and Ranma knew nothing of this, losing themselves in the play they were watching and sharing frequent kisses at intervals. Their date ended as it began, with the two of them back at the apartment, their arms around one another in bed. While Kasumi wasn't nearly as ready as Nabiki or Brianna to take her relationship with Ranma to the next level that didn't mean she couldn't have fun, and the two of them would wake up half naked and Kasumi's and Ranma's arms around one another in a lovers embrace.
That same night Sheila had come over to Jade after having taken a day to acclimatize to the wonders of the Diggers household and technology in general. That done and with her thoughts about the topic she wanted to share in order she went through the portal to Jade, a were-jaguar on a mission. Despite being told that Gaja was having a luncheon with Weaponsmaster burst into his suite in the Edge Guard barracks.
The old man looked up at her calmly, using a napkin to wipe his mouth as one white eyebrow arched in query. Gaja knew that Sheila was the one Edge Guard member who wouldn't burst in on him like this unannounced unless it was very important. "Yes Sheila, what can I do for you?"
Karia looked at the younger girl too, a grin growing on her face as she wondered how she could steer the conversation with her to questions about Ranma. "How was your time on earth?"
"It was fun, right up until we met something on our expedition, something you need to hear about." Sheila replied her face set in grim lines. Quickly and as simply and accurately as possible she described the meeting with the shadow race as well as the reptilian. She went into detail about the fighting, about Ranma's element enhanced ki attacks damaging the shadows, and about their possibly being factions among the strange alien race.
Both of her listeners had first listened with shock then growing concern then incredulity and finally fury, and the Weaponsmaster shook her head. "I'm going to have to share this with the other weapons Masters, especially the Ten," she said coldly, "More importantly with Armsmaster Julia. If the shadows are still out there somewhere, they represent a danger to all of Jade. Not again" she said, her cold tone giving way to anger as she banged one fist down on the table between her and Gaja. She wasn't quite old enough to remember the war of freedom, but her mother could and the stories she told about the shadow were horrifying. "Not again, not as long as I still draw breath."
Sheila nodded looking a little relieved. "That's pretty much why I wanted to tell you, none of the others seemed to understand but I knew what those things were and what they're capable of. My weapon damaged them a bit, but not as much is Ranma's attacks, or the strange techno-attacks of the reptile. I don't," she paused in thought remembering the last few minutes and the way that shadows had talked, "I don't think," she began again slowly, "that the shadows at present are a danger, at least not the group I met. But if there's another faction out there, the faction that really conquered Jade in the first place it would still be a danger."
The old were-cat nodded seriously. "I'll meet up with mage council and pass this on as soon as I can," he said thoughtfully, then turned and looked at the dark elf. "Will you send a message to your people about this?"
The dark elf nation was one of the most powerful in Jade, in fact if you were technical about it, it was the most powerful not because it was large because it wasn't, but because it had the most number of weapons from the war fought against the shadows, as well as a sense of secrecy and a hidden nature that made the other nations wary of it. Karia merely nodded, already writing out a message for her people.
"Thank you for bringing this to our attention Sheila," he said looking up better his younger compatriot. "This way at least if they return again we won't be caught unprepared. But keep it to yourself please, we don't want to cause a panic."
The Weaponsmaster nodded seriously, thinking that it was a very good thing that she was going to be leaving in a few days for the start of the tournament ceremonies. While the actual tournament wouldn't start for another two weeks the ceremonies and meetings and discussions started in a few days. Julia was already there, having left Seers Hamlet a few days ago with her mother, and they would be meeting up with Julia's father at the capital. Thus Karia could sound out the two most dangerous of the Ten, maybe even three if G'nolga was there as well and could be bothered to listen.
Sheila went away with A sense of relief, having handed off the problem of the shadows to her older and hopefully wiser fellows. With that done she could take on the next adventure with Gina and the others with a clear conscience.
Ranma leaned back against the curved wall behind him, looking around at the very, very small enclosure he found himself in. "So," he said sardonically tell me again what we're looking for down here? Because I've got to tell ya, this is pretty boring."
"I finally was able to translate something from Atlantis that I took from the notes from a site I was on a few months back" Gina replied tartly, her eyes on her controls as she maneuvered her Gina-sub down into the trench along the ocean floor in front of them. Gina had become more and more quietly, desperate lately, searching for something, any kind of archaeological find that she could present at the upcoming Adventurers Ball. She was not going to be shown up by that big breasted small minded, big assed bitch Laura again, even if it killed her!
Sheila shrugged from where she was seated next to him, looking out the porthole with fascination as a fish with a light on its front end went by. "Personally I don't mind, the view down here is incredible." Moisha nodded though she was far too busy enjoying her time in Ranma's lap to really take in the view. Every so often she would surreptitiously grab his hands and move them up to cup her breasts but he would immediately move them back down to her hips and she would giggle a little at his blushing face. She had drawn the short straw.
Gina smiled, happy someone was having fun. Brittany had been intending to go along on this trip, but had decided at the last minute to spend some time with their dad. Moisha came along, having proven her worth on the last trip, and Sheila had as well, just wanting some more adventure. Ranma of course came along as her bodyguard, a job that he did far better than even Brittany had. She reminded herself yet again to run some tests on his odd element attack, the thing acted way too much like an EMP pulse for her liking, and she had noticed that some of her electronics at her lab had began to react very oddly when he was around.
Ryan had come along as well having supplied a series of maps for the city they were looking for, and he was amnning the sensors and the headlights. "I think we're coming up on the target trench now Gina. Huh," he said suddenly looking at the radar screen, his eyes narrowing.
Gina leaned over not at all incidentally smooshing her breasts into his arm. "What did you see?"
Ryan grinned, letting one hand fall to land on one of her thighs and give it a squeeze as he replied. "I thought for a second I saw something on our radar behind us, it was only there for a second but…"
Gina frowned, then reached forward to fiddle with the controls trying to up the amp of the radar. A second before that however something began the street through the water at them. "Torpedoes incoming!" she shouted.
Behind them in a slightly larger submarine sat Daishi, Zelda, and of course their boss Peewee, not having learned their lesson the last time they messed with Gina and her crew. Zelda pushed up her small sun glasses, not that she needed them here, but hell they were part of her look, "So those goodie goodies are somewhere down there?"
"Yes," said Peewee slowly, keeping his voice down. "Gold Digger and her group should be about 400 meters down, if all goes according to plan…"
"Yeah that's another thing," Zelda said, looking towards the front of the submarine, "why do we have to take your mom's submarine on this trip Peewee.
Peewee gave her the evil eye. "don't even start that again Zelda!"
From the front a woman with the same hair color as Peewee as well as the same kind of spectacles spoke up, her voice almost otherworldly in its cuteness. "Now remember Junior, you promised you wouldn't plot evil plans or antagonize your little playmates while mommy is driving. This trip is only for your edutainment, I don't what happened at your father's geothermal research laboratory to happen again."
"Mom," Peewee exclaimed angrily "for the final time do not address me as Junior! I am none other than Lord Talon master supreme of the DNA helix and these two aren't my playmates! They are Daishi and Zelda! My obedient lackeys who I have personally enhanced via genetic reconstruction!"
"Now Junior you better watch that tone," his mother replied, "you wouldn't want mommy to give you a spanking right in front of your playmates… would you?" On the last two words her voice deepened and eldritch fire began to blaze from her eyes.
Peewee shrunk back into his chair muttering "No-no, mom sorry."
Thankfully for him hit his Daishi spoke up just then. "Lord Talon, my subsonic bio-genetically enhanced hearing has picked up a low-frequency sonar ping. I have pinpointed our prey's exact position."
"it's them," Peewee said smirking evilly. Immediately he struck a button that shot all three of the seats up into small ball shaped submarines that had been attached to the side of the larger submarine. "Power deploy! Accelerate to attack speed!"
Back in Gina has submarine Ryan was busy gloating yet at the same time arming the submarines weapons as Gina took evasive action. "Now did I call it or what! Three sonar contacts at six o'clock kind!"
A voice came over the submarines radio as a small torpedo sped past them. "Ah Gina Diggers, I see you've gone for customization over utility once again. Honestly, that submarine looks like something a normal child could make out of legos."
Gina growled, "What in the world Peewee what are you doing down here?!"
"That's Lord Talon to you harlot! Once again you see that there is nothing you have that I cannot take away!"
"Are you an idiot? We don't have anything yet we just got here!"
"Oh but you do have treasure," said Peewee in a gloating tone of voice, "you know the location of Muthia and if my memory serves me correctly your databases mention the existence of legendary power resting there."
Gina gaped for a moment and Peewee answered her unspoken question, "I founded mention of it in the data folder where you normally keep your graphic files I believe it was labeled 'beefy stud-muffins,' naughty, naughty Gina.
The eclectic scientist-cum-archeologist groaned. "Guys I hate to say this but we've got a security leak!"
Ryan however had other things on his mind. "I want to hear more about your little picture collection Gina, 'beefy stud muffins,' aren't I your boyfriend, aren't I enough for you?"
Gina shook her head. "Not now Ryan, load all torpedo tubes and get ready for action! Archaeology isn't all sunshine and rainbows and excavation you know sometimes you have to get tough!"
At the back of the submarine Sheila, Moisha and Ranma all looked at one another then shrugged. At the moment they were entirely at the mercy of the two at the front, and it was not exactly a very pleasant feeling. Not even Ranma or Sheila could survive outside at this depth, and neither of them had any background in using the controls of the submarine.
Eventually however Gina came up with a plan and the submarine released in him screen that blocks their opponents view and they raced away.
Zelda groaned aloud "oh come on! I smog cloud that is so lame, and damn cliché to!"
"Full speed pursuit!" Peewee shouted, "we can't lose them, not when we're so close!"
Daishi however shook his head in his own sub. "Lord Talon the cloud is interfering with my sensors we've lost him!"
"what," he shouted, "you incompetent fools you…" he paused and then went on in a much more controlled tone as his radio went off. "Are the gone?"
Daishi nodded, his image appearing on Peewee's heads up display. "Yes my Lord, outstanding acting job."
Peewee smirked a little, "I know I was good wasn't I."
Zelda gaped "I thought we were being serious why didn't anyone tell me anything about this?"
"Because you lack acting skills Zelda," said Daishi diplomatically.
"Daishi's being kind," Peewee said harshly, "You couldn't act your way out of a wet paper bag girl!"
Zelda pouted a little, it wasn't her fault she had been a damn waitress and not an actress before meeting up with Erwin. "You can both bite me!"
"Silence," Peewee ordered, "I would've liked to have been the first to come down here but Gina managed to beat us to this location. Thus we have no choice but to let her go in ahead of us as we couldn't risk her finding out what we are after by us going in first letting her observe our actions. So while Gina rushes ahead and shipping traps on her way to the gold and gems you two will sneak in and snatch the real treasure." Both of his minions responded with an affirmative to that, and the three small subs continued downwards.
"Okay we're almost there," Gina said as she gently coasted her specially created and highly advanced submarine forward, pouting a little at how Peewee had derided her design.
"Who-wee, lookey there" said Ryan looking ahead as their powerful lights solve some kind of huge building ahead of them on the ocean floor. "Heads up Gina, sensors have picked up a layer of air at 34 degrees and up."
"It must be a way into Muthia," she replied happily. "How's the pressure?"
"Dense but breathable so take us up." Gina did so and a moment later the front of the submarine broke water into a small loading area of some sort.
She looked around in surprise as Ranma leapt out and the firm ground stretching explosively and glancing around. "This doesn't look exactly old-fashioned to me he remarked
Gina nodded. "It's pretty advanced for a civilization that vanished 4000 years ago." In fact the interior of the area they found themselves in reminded Gina very much of El Dorado in its visible tech level, though the ambience was more like Atlantis.
"You sound surprised Gina weren't you expecting this?" asked Ryan.
"Not really," she replied grabbing her bag out of the air when Moisha threw it at her. "This place was mentioned in an old Chinese legend I found in that quaint Shaloin temple last summer. The legend mentioned an ancient floating city which sank to the bottom of the sea but it didn't mention anything about its technology or anything like that."
Ryan smirked a little pushing her gently on the shoulder. "At any rate congratulations Gina, feel better now?"
Gina frowned. "What's that supposed to mean Ryan?"
"I mean you've been in this slump for a few years now. You haven't made a major discovery for quite a while and when Laura found that Babylon tower foundation you looked about ready to cry last year at the awards ceremony."
The other three looked at one another then shrugged none of them having been at the awards ceremony Ryan was talking about, nor had any of them noticed how anxious Gina was getting. To top it off Sheila and Moisha were both a little edgy for some reason.
Ranma noticed this and nudged the tiny were-jaguar with an elbow. "What's wrong?"
"Someone else is here," Sheila muttered. "I can hear a heatbeat that isn't one of ours own, its kind of weird too."
Moisha nodded. "Like, whoever it is smells like a fish but also like a human and, like, somehow some other animals mixed in. I can't localize it though, like, there's no wind or anything in here."
Gina kept talking to Ryan while Ranma and the other two looked around warily. "Well I think this discovery is much greater than anything found before. If this room is only the tip of the iceberg we can only imagine the ancient mysteries waiting to be unlocked here."
"And ancient treasure, like don't forget that part!" Moisha said perkily, bouncing in place as her mind went off on a tangent, forgetting the still hidden watcher. She and Brittany had plans for after she got back to camp out in the mall and shop until they dropped. Her portion of the treasure she got from their last trip would last her at least a few days, hopefully this trip would pay for even more.
Ryan paused for a moment watching her chest bounce up and down his eyes members rising and falling to follow the movement but Ranma after a brief glance blushed and looked away trying to find the person that Sheila was positive was watching him. He suddenly turned around and stared at the pool of water by their submarine. "Head ups guys, we've got company!" Immediately Sheila pulled out Ice Fang and Moisha pulled out a sai from her bag.
A naked man with a long green hair done in a ponytail down his back jumped up out of the water to stand on the lip of the pool, his back to them for a moment. "You didst well to spot me!" he exclaimed, "but it matters little. The thief Ryan stole something from me, and if I do not get my maps back I will have to get medieval on thee."
Gina had gone into guy watching mode, her eyes staring in wonder at the naked boy in front of them.
Ranma however had twigged on the word thief. "Ryan, anything you want to tell us?" He asked looking over at the red-haired man angrily and moving to stand next to him and Gina, Sheila and Moisha behind him.
"This guy's one of my competitors named Taur, the little exhibitionist is ticked that I beat him to the secret room at the Great Wall of China, and the maps I found there are the ones we've got to use here."
The man turned and glared at them all. I knowest only two of thee," he said coldly but "yet those two are enough. Ryan, treasure hunter, martial arts expert, and thief."
Ryan rolled his eyes. "Get over it and put some skivvies on or something will you, you're grossing out my girl right Gina?"
Gina didn't look away her eyes wide as she kept staring at Taur's naked form. "No he's okay Ryan he's fine."
"Meh," said Moisha waving a hand. "like, I've seen better."
Sheila looked over at her quizzically. "When?" She thought the man was pretty decent looking but his smell was irritating the hell out of her, but that was all physically there was wrong with him. He was no Ranma of course, but still good eye candy.
Moisha grinned. "Like, when we got back from that first expedition we did a week ago, like, I took advantage of my rat form a little too, y'know sneak around if you, like, know what I mean."
Ranma shivered where he was looking at the odd Taur. Something was telling him he really didn't want to know what had just caused the two girls behind him to start giggling hysterically. "So if you're just here for Ryan, you know we could just leave him here." He went on ignoring Ryan's glare and gesturing over to Gina who was now clutching said maps, her eyes still locked on the green haired man. "But if you want the maps I think we need them."
"I wantest both! Taur exclaimed, sending another shiver down Ranma's spine as he remembered Kuno saying much the same thing at times. "Get thee ready to rumble!" With a brief full body shiver Taur actually changed his lower body into a horse, now resembling a centaur.
Ryan scoffed however not taking this threat very seriously. "Oohh, horsie mode, I'm so scared!" Ranma simply shook his head, deciding to let Ryan clean up after himself here. After all this guy didn't seem like much of a challenge.
Gina broke out of her stupor for a moment and raised a hand moving in front of the two boys. "Ryan wait!"
"Relax Gina, this guy can't touch me." The redhead responded, smirking confidently as he took a stance.
"But there's no real reason to fight here, not when we can have extra help instead." she replied moving forward. "Wait a second Taur" she said keeping her voice level, "we're not here for treasure our interest here is purely scientific."
Ryan and Moisha both booed a little at that, but Sheila and Ranma both shrugged.
Taur stammered "Wh-what do you mean by that?"
Gina smiled softly and went into a prepared speech. "This is one of the missing pieces of the puzzle, the puzzle of humanity's history, no the world's history!"
"Y-you quest for answers," said the green haired man. "Then thy purpose coincides with mine own!"
Gina went on to try and convert Taur to her side, and the others all tuned her out, wandering around the room. Yet at the same time Gina was practicing her conversion skills, Daishi and Zelda had found another entrance to the ruins, and were making their way stealthily thought it.
After a little while Gina fell silent, her words having had an effect. "Forgive me I hath misjudged thee! Never have I heard of a cause so just, so worthy, I, I myself am searching for, for the answers to my known existence mine own destiny! I see that now milady, please I beseech thee let me join thy side."
Gina smiled happily sticking out her hand to shake. "Sure! Welcome aboard bud!"
"So I want to be clear here," Ranma said slowly, ambling over to join the conversation again. "We're not going to fight? Because now I'm getting kind of bored." Sheila nodded emphatically in agreement. Nothing here was interesting to either of them, and even Moisha hadn't found any holes to explore.
Taur gestured in front of them. "Please alloweth me to apologize for mine rudeness towards thee earlier I didst not mean to diss thee. Come I invite you and thine companions to see what I hath uncovered thus far within these ruins. I assure you this place hast got it going on!"
"You mean you've already discovered this place and explored it" Gina stuttered a little looking worried.
Taur nodded not noticing her expression or what caused it. "Indeed, yet there ist still much I hath not gained access to but with thine help perhaps we may prevail!"
Gina sighed and fell to the back of the group while Sheila Ranma and Moisha went ahead, both of the were-girls keeping away from the shapeshifter.
Ryan through an arm around her shoulders and said, "Well at least you're the first human to discover it, right?"
Gina frowned but shrugged his arm off. "That's nice of you to say," she said smiling a little weekly. "But I meant what I said in my speech to Taur. The discovery and the knowledge we gain from this place is what's important, not who found it first."
The two of them hurried up to find the three adventurers, and that was what they really were not archaeologists like the two of them, Ranma was here for the fights, Sheila for the fun and adventure, and Moisha for the money.
Moisha shivered as Taur glanced back at her, his eyes lingering on her body and she suddenly wishing she had dressed in something not so form fitting. As he made to speak Moisha quickly looped n arm around Ranma's waist and Taur frowned but moved off, transforming his lower half into a spider shape, freaking Moisha out even further. She wasn't afraid of much, but spiders, especially large spiders freaked her out and this guy was now basically half of a giant freaking spider that looked like it could eat her even in her wererat body.
She leaned over to Gina as the blond came up to join them and whispered hopefully, "do you like want me to go off on my own again?" She hadn't seen any holes yet for her rat form, but hell anything to get away from the freaky green-haired shapeshifter. "Like this place is bound to have some rat holes or something somewhere…"
Gina frowned and shook her head. "This place is so deep underwater it probably never had rats Moisha, and honestly I don't want us going off on our own down here." Moisha pouted but nodded, deciding to stick near Ranma as much as possible.
They followed Taur for several minutes, then had to stop and wait for him to go forward and open a door to let the non-arachnid people through. When they stopped Sheila stiffened, hearing two new heartbeats and glared up at a corridor that exited into the area around them. "We've got company guys!"
Daishi groaned aloud, wondering how the hell the werecat had heard them. Zelda however shot down into the open area below, smirking evilly. Daishi saw this then decided to use it as a distraction, turning back and making his way back the way he had come as fast as possible to the next intersection.
Sheila frowned. "I heard two heartbeats" she muttered, then dodged Zelda's incredibly fast punch. Ranma jumped over her kick, and Moisha ducked under another. All three of them jumped away, surrounding Zelda with Ranma standing protectively in front of Gina protectively. Sheila and Moisha were behind Zelda now, with their back towards the corridor Zelda had jumped down from. The werejaguar looked over at the wererat. "You think you can go after the other one?"
Moisha nodded easily, then jumped up and with a final flip of her tail was gone after Daishi, transforming into her rat form mid-step.
Ranma shook his head at the bald woman facing them. "Do you really think you've got a chance against all of us, um, Zelkoh?"
The genetically modified former waitress growled angrily. No matter how cute the guy was that was just irritating. "My name's Zelda asshole! And there's no way any of you can stand against me now, not when I've been modified even further, made stronger and faster than I ever was before!"
Ranma frowned, his hands twitching. "So that means you cheated even more than before! I hate fucktards like you that think ya can skip ta the top without putting in the time!" He crouched low, his hands balling into fists. "I think ya need ta learn that yer genetic mods don't mean shit if ya don't have the skills ta back it up."
Zelda gulped a little, her sense of superiority leaving her, but she gathered herself, and was about to charge forward when she suddenly dove to the side, yelping in shock as a sword slashed through the place she had just been standing. "Wh-what the hell!"
Sheila smirked as she rested her sword on her shoulder. "Now, now, you have to always have good situational awareness, otherwise look what happens."
Zelda scowled and charged at her then dodged again as a kick from Ranma hammered towards her head. "He-hey, two on one isn't fair!"
"Oh please, Ryan scoffed, as he prepared his new ki attack, as if that would stop you if you had the numbers advantage."
Zelda scoffed, and made to punch Sheila who dodged it almost languidly, returning a kick to the chest that doubled the larger woman over. A blow from Ranma tossed Zelda to the side and before she could get up Ryan shot his new, still unnamed ki attack at her, knocking her out.
Ranma frowned. "That's it? God I hope there's something else around here ta fight, that was pathetic." Sheila nodded while Ryan celebrated in his own manner, moving into a victory pose like those often seen in fighting games. Gina merely groaned aloud.
Elsewhere Daishi had found what was supposed to be what he was searching for, but rather than the stone of the djinn was a massive six-armed statue twisted about itself like some kind of strange circus act. "This shouldn't be here," he muttered to himself softly so as Taur, who he had seen making his way up the same giant plinth, couldn't hear him. "These ruins are supposed to hold the stone of the djinn, the fossilized remains of the entire ancient genie race fused into one piece. But this statue, wait, this thing, could it be alive?"
A noise alerted him and he dove over the edge again, holding on by his fingertips so that Taur couldn't see him as he scaled the side of the monolith and stood in front of the statue. "Great statue, the green haired man cried, "Here mine words! When I first camest onto thee, you said to me that no one alone can solve thy riddles and gain entry to thy secret chambers alone. Well I hath got some friends to aid me now so bringest it on!"
The eyes of the hereto for and moving statue slowly opened, allowing red eyes to be seen as the statue began to chuckle.
Down below Moisha had followed Daishi, but stopped as she noticed Taur making his way up the plinth that Daishi had just scaled. She frowned a little then transformed back to her wererat body, and was just about to jump over to the plinth when everything around her began to quake.
Back with the others the ground underneath the group began to quake and Gina, who had just been about to launch into a speech about them not being here for the fights, nearly fell down a ravine. Ranma burst into action, shooting downwards and kicking off the falling rocks momentum reaching out and grabbing her and tossing her back up to Ryan who grabbed her as he was grabbed by Taur, who was on a rising spear of stone, clinging on to it in the form of an octopus, which allowed him enough hand s outreach out and grabbed Moisha and Sheila as well as Ryan.
For Moisha however this was not a pleasant experience, as she had been caught mid-leap, and even now was being turned upside down. "Like let me go, she shouted, "gravity is not my mmhmh" her voice was suddenly muffled as she was turned upside down and her large breasts impacted her face covering her mouth.
"Thanks Taur," said Gina gratefully "you saved us."
"For mine friends I could do no less," he replied.
Below Ranma had just kicked off one of the side of the walls and then back onto the cliff side and continue to do this moving up towards them, scowling a little but otherwise not bothered by his current circumstances. He wasn't afraid of heights after all, and mid-air maneuvers like this were a staple of his martial arts school.
Gina breathed a sigh of relief as she saw Ranma coming up towards them so quickly and then gasped. "Oh no! Zelda! We didn't save her!"
"Worry not Gina," said Daishi from where he stood on top of another pillar. "We take care of our own."
Gina breathed a sigh of relief. Despite the irritation they caused her she would never want to be a party to murder. "Daishi, what's going on?"
The blue haired man shrugged looking over at the massive statue that was now moving around freely. "Ask him."
The six-armed thing began a long drawn out speech as Ranma made his way up toward them, now jumping off both plinths and pushing ever higher towards them.
Moisha had been turned the right side up by this point and was leaning against Sheila's legs and trying not to look over the edge. "Like, how is he just sort of, like, standing on air like that?"
Sheila looked down at Moisha, then reached down and ran her fingers through the wererats violet hair. "Nice hair, you've got to tell me what you do with it. In answer to your question some kind of magic I guess. It's not exactly unusual back in Jade for people to fly you know. Wizards and mages do it all the time if they can't teleport. Or aren't travelling with an entourage."
Moisha nodded, leaning back against the shorter woman's legs, then reached out and high-fived Ranma as he landed next to them. "Like, awesome stuff Ranma! Like, you'll have ta show me some moves after this!"
Ranma nodded then turned his attention to the six-armed man's spiel to be certain of one thing. "This guy's been stuck down here a little too long if you ask me."
As if to emphasize Ranma's words and man broke out into a little ditty like he was performing a commercial. "Friends, do having trouble escaping danger? Fighting monsters? Staying curse free? Well, why not give my patented solution a go! It's called Stay at Home!"
Moisha shrugged. "Like I'd that dude, but like I wouldn't be paid. Like, this girl needs her bling!"
Ranma and Sheila just scoffed. "You're a little too late in my case dude," Ranma said laughing a little, "curses, heh, I got too many curses to count already."
Gina ground her teeth angrily. "Guys shut up. This host is adopting the most effective method to date for conducting a contest of knowledge and you three aren't helping!"
Taur nodded, looking over them all, his eyes lighting on Moisha's form for a moment before turning to Gina. "This is the guardian of the place. I didst meet him earlier whereupon he said he could showed me Muthia's mysteries, but the key to unlock said secrets wouldst take two or more."
"Of course!" the six armed man said, apparently having heard this. "It takes two or more to play."
Ranma looked across at the six-armed man wondering what it would be like to fight him. He reminds me of that snake guy after he transformed, but not nearly as bulky or tough looking. Frankly he looks more like a scientist than anything else. As the man outlined the rules Ranma raised a hand like he was in school, causing the man to stop talking for a moment. "Quick question," he said cheerfully. "What's to stop us from basically kicking your ass and taking these mysteries ourselves?" Ranma had not enjoyed having to save Gina from a sudden death.
Daishi, Moisha, Ryan and Sheila all looked at him then as one brought one hand into the palm on the other hand with a "oh yeah" expression on their face.
Gina however ground her teeth. "Gina scowled at him. How many times I have to say it she shouted were not here for treasure were not here for fights were here for knowledge! And what better way than answering his questions?"!"
"Ahh a true explorer!" the man declaimed grandly. "Besides which," the forearmed man went on, still in the game show host voice "if you do that all the riches will disappear and this place will collapse around your ears!"
Ranma frowned scratching his pigtail. If Moisha transforms into her rat form I can carry her easy, I can carry Gina and Sheila, neither of them are very heavy. beat his ass , then about a minute to shove as much of the treasure and that surprise box thing into my weapons space grab them and go. Ryan can look after himself as can the ninja dude, the spidider guy… I well he freaks Moisha out so I really don't care about him.
Gina looked over at him and shook her head "no," she said sharply reaching over to slap them upside the head. "We're here for knowledge not just to let you fight new and unusual people Ranma." Ranma pouted. The fight against Zelda wasn't his idea of a good time, she was simply too weak.
"I find your stance compelling," the man said laughing as Ranma shrugged unrepentantly. "The rules are simple contestants, answer five riddles first and you win." Ranma frowned, there was something off about all this. Still he, Sheila and Moisha sat back and let the two brains take the field for now, and after a few minutes, Gina's esoteric knowledge pulled them ahead of Daishi's knowledge of assassins throughout history.
"AWW, yeah," Ryan said gleefully. "That's what I'm talking about! Bring on the gold baby!" Moisha nodded rapidly in agreement and Sheila was about to join them but noticed Ranma still staring narrowed eyed at the six armed man.
"Um," Gina said slowly. "I think we should take the mystery box."
"What?" Moisha screeched reaching forward and shaking the blonde. "Like what are you on girl!"
Ryan nodded emphatic agreement. "Look at all that gold Gina, come on, what could be worth all of that?"
Gina growled wrenching out of Moisha's grip. "Knowledge!" She shouted, waving a finger at them. "I've been telling you forever Ryan, that my main goal as an archeologist is to understand, to learn things I didn't before!"
Ryan flinched back from her anger but muttered, "Yeah, but that doesn't pay the bills hun."
Gina scowled. "That's your opinion." Besides she thought, that's what Nabiki's business is doing for us anyway. The re-sale of the rubies she brought back was more than enough to pay for Gina's labs, and almost the entirety of the money for her expeditions as well. She turned and stared at the six-armed man. "We'll take the mystery box!"
The mystery-man nodded grandly, and handed it over to them. "Ta-dah, what you've won is this! A slam iron pot, have a nice life!" with that the man and all his myriad props disappeared with a pop.
Moisha fell to her knees putting her arms around Sheila's legs and wailing inconsolably as Zelda began to laugh. Daishi didn't laugh, instead staring at Gina and the pot she was holding in speculation.
Ranma however reached over and patted Gina's head. "Good choice, never take gold from strangers."
"What's that supposed to mean!" Ryan exclaimed angrily. "We could've all been set for life!"
"That cat was reminding me a little too much about my old man when he was trying to hoodwink someone. There's something about that iron pot, he was trying so desperately to lead us away from it there must be."
"I hope you're right," said Ryan doubtfully. Ranma shrugged and turned to lift gina onto his back and make their way down the plinth to the ground far below. Three more hours of searching turned up nothing except a few technological marvels some of which Gina looked at and took apart to investigate more thoroughly later. After that the Diggers group set off, with Gina intent on running as many programs as she could find to figure out the secret of the pot when she got home.
This chapter was really hard for me to get out because my muse for this story is not being very organized frankly. I have bits and pieces of several chapters down the line, but this one refused to be written. Alas, I am afraid this story is going to be put on hold going forward. RL has gotten bad lately, and I need to drop one of my stories. Horse of the Dead has become a sort of guilty pleasure small scale, few characters, lemony goodness, so it's something I can write to let out my frustrations. Harry and my marvel cross is just really fun to write because I love changing all the characters, and Chaotic Space is my favorite story by far, since it has moved so far beyond canon. So this story was the loser, and will no longer be added to until January. I am sorry, but that is the way it has to be.