There was a lot of blood and shouting. So much shouting. That and the pain were what she noticed the most. But when she looked at herself she was fine.
'What happened?' She asked herself, uncertain why she remembered being so hurt yet not having a scratch on her. "Mama?" She looked around for her mother, but didn't see her. "Mama?" She called out again, getting scared. She was just a little girl after all, why wouldn't she be scared?
She was also in a place she didn't recognize, on a dirt path leading into a forest. Behind her there was just fog. In one of the bushes there stood a giant rabbit on two legs holding out a balloon. Wanting some sort of comfort, the girl approached him.
"Hey! Get away from her!" Someone shouted, making the rabbit flee. The girl panicked but didn't run, not knowing where to go.
"Mama?" She turned to see the new approacher, but she couldn't see who it was. They were covered in a silhouette, but unmistakably female.
"I'm sorry, but I'm afraid your mama won't be coming back. She had to go on to the wheel of Samsara."
"Can you take me there?"
The unidentified person shook their head. "I'm afraid not. Only dead people can go there, and you are still connected to your living body. If I take you there, I will basically be killing you."
"Ma... Mama's dead?" The girl began to cry.
"I'm sorry, but she is. But you need to go back. Your family needs you to live. Return, and forget this place."
Nabiki woke up with a groan. "That lousy dream again. 'Forget this place' indeed." She got out of bed and got dressed. "How can I forget when every day I set foot outside this house I see a constant reminder?" She asked herself as she put her shirt and shorts on, then left her room.
It seemed to be a normal day at the Tendo household. Akane went out somewhere for a jog and would later return to smash a few bricks letting out her stress. Kasumi was busy with breakfast for everyone, keeping to her routine of being the eternal housekeeper.
'Just a normal day for me.' Nabiki said, not enjoying it.
"Nabiki, I'm a little short on rice. Could you go get a small bag?" Kasumi asked.
Not seeing a way she could refuse, Nabiki sighed. "Sure Kasumi. Be back soon." After getting the appropriate amount of money and her shoes, Nabiki went outside. 'Sometimes I think Kasumi does this on purpose to make me go outside more often.'
Up ahead of her down the street there was a boy standing around like he was waiting for something. He had glasses, a bit of acne, a school uniform Nabiki didn't recognize, and hair that was obviously oily, though she couldn't tell if it was on purpose or from lack of proper washing. Either way, Nabiki didn't care.
The boy saw her and smiled. "I had a feeling you'd come-" He stopped when she walked right thru him.
"Go away." She said. "I don't like talking to ghosts."
"But I'm so lonely. Please just stay for a bit." The boy pleaded while hovering to catch up to her.
Nabiki picked up the pace while trying to still look casual. "Find someone else to haunt."
Nabiki glared at the spirit. "I said no. Got it? Leave me or I'll find an exorcist." Frightened, the ghost stayed back and she continued on. 'Dammit, ever since my mom died I keep seeing ghosts every time I leave the house. Will this ever stop?'
When she got home with the rice she noted that her father seemed to be crying positively as he read a postcard. Soun Tendo certainly seemed to be quite the happy man. "Nabiki, I would like you to stay here for a moment while I go get your sisters." He got up from the table, still carrying the card and keeping whatever secret it held from Nabiki.
'Okay, the occasional ghost is one thing, but Dad crying tears of manliness is a completely different thing.' She thought, her curiosity letting her think of all sorts of possibilities. It wasn't long before he returned with his two remaining daughters.
"I have great news for this family, but before that I must tell you a story from my past." The girls groaned as Soun tended to relive the 'glory days' a little too much sometimes, but they listened anyway. "During my training with the dreaded master, I had managed to seal the evil master away, but what I did not tell you was that I did not do it alone. I had met a wandering martial artist by the name of Genma Saotome, and he offered to help me seal away the accursed one."
"That was kind of cruel." Kasumi said.
"If you had known him you'd think otherwise Kasumi." Soun told her. "Anyway, I was quite grateful and asked how I could ever repay him. He asked for either a lot of money right away or a favor later, I chose the favor for obvious reasons."
Nabiki rolled her eyes. 'I don't think I've ever seen Dad hold more than 10,000 yen at one time.'
"So what's the favor?" Akane asked.
"That night we celebrated our success and we chatted. One thing led to another and we brought up the idea of our future children getting married and combining our schools." Soun continued, and even though all three of his daughters gave him odd looks, non-supportive, he ignored it. "Well, I got a postcard from him today saying that his son was in need of a place to stay and asked me to fulfill my favor to him by seeing if our idea has an merit."
"Wait, you're going to let a boy move in here?" Akane said, sounding like what Soun really said was 'I'm going to light you on fire.'
"Are you really expecting us to marry this boy Father?" Kasumi asked.
"Not right away. I'm not stupid you know. I just want to see if any of you girls can get along with him. Besides, I do owe his father a favor so I can't exactly tell the boy to go live on the streets now can I?"
"Doesn't he have other family to go to? Why here?" Akane objected.
"Akane, I'm sure if he did have those options he wouldn't be coming here." Nabiki said in a futile effort to calm down her less-than-friendly-to-men sister. "What kind of boy is he?" She then asked her father.
Soun wasn't sure how to answer that, outside of the truth. "In all honestly I can say that I do not know, but he should be here soon."
The three Tendo girls were staring at him with a dirty look. "You don't even know what the guy's like?" Akane nearly yelled, just as the rain started to fall. Just before Soun became the target for Akane's rage there was a knock at the door, and Nabiki started to try calming Akane's rage.
"Look that might be him, and we should at least make a good impression." Akane calmed down enough to nod her head. Soun and Nabiki walked towards the door and opened openedit, and looked at the boy that was standing in the rain. He had black hair that was tied in a braided ponytail, Chinese clothes of red, carrying a white robe over his shoulder, and a small black cat with light lavender fur on its ears, feet, and tail was sitting comfortably on his shoulder.
"You must be Ranma. My name is Soun Tendo."
"Yes, I'm Ranma Saotome. It's nice to meet you Tendo-san."
'He's young.' Kasumi noted, a bit disappointed.
'He's cute.' Nabiki thought, a bit pleased.
'He's here.' Akane groaned, a bit irritated.
"Please come in. Can we get you anything?" Soun offered.
"It would be rude of us to ask you for anything." Ranma said, only to get a loudly complaining stomach. "But if you offered us some food we would not refuse."
"We?" Kasumi asked, only for the black cat to mew. "Oh, I see."
Kasumi started to get some food prepared and put a saucer of milk for the strange-colored cat, who started licking the milk at a rapid pace. 'Poor kitten, it must've been starving.' Kasumi thought as she placed a plate of food in front of Ranma himself. To her shock he just stared at it like he had never seen it before. "Is something wrong?"
"No, not at all. Thank you very much." He said before eating the food itself, but he kept his eye on his surroundings. 'What are you thinking Grandma? This place doesn't look like much.' He was being cautious as Soun sat down in front of him.
"It is nice to meet you Ranma. As I'm sure you've heard from your father, he gave me some help and I promised a favor in return for it. Part of that favor is the possibility of marriage, and these are my three daughters." He first motioned to Kasumi who gave a minor polite bow. "This is Kasumi, age 19. She's been the homemaker of the house for roughly ten years. I don't think the house would be clean without her." Kasumi smiled before he then motioned to Nabiki. "My middle daughter, Nabiki, age 17. I'm terrible at managing finances at times, and she's the best at financial solutions." Nabiki winked at him in an almost teasing manner. "And finally my youngest daughter, Akane, age 16. Of all my children she's the only one who's kept practicing our family art so at the moment she's the one most likely to inherit the dojo." Akane lightly scowled at him, like a dog trying to keep a passerby from getting too close to their yard.
"Hello." Ranma said to all three girls. "Anything you'd like to know about me?"
"Yeah, like why can't you go somewhere else?" Akane rudely started.
"Akane, that was uncalled for." Kasumi scolded, but the aforementioned girl did not look repentant.
"If you must know, I don't have the money for an apartment or hotel. My grandparents insisted that the Tendo's would be hospitable, and Shampoo is cranky when we can't find a place to stay." The Tendos were confused until Ranma started petting the black cat. "And if I did spend money on a place to live, then I'd plummet into hell."
'Isn't that a little much?' The three girls thought, and Soun started to cry a little. "You unfortunate young man, you can stay here for as long as needed, that includes your cat as well."
Akane was still mad at her father's suggestion for Ranma, and when Akane started to walk towards Ranma, Shampoo started to hiss at her.
"She doesn't seem to like you very much."
Akane ignored this and looked at Soun. "Father, shouldn't we all have a say in him staying here? I mean, something this big shouldn't be just one person's decision."
Nabiki narrowed her eyes. 'Somehow I get the feeling that you wouldn't say that if Dad had said what you wanted to hear, or if Ranma had been a girl instead. That idiot Kuno really screwed up my sister.'
Soun crossed his arms. "Alright then, all those in favor of Ranma staying?"
To Akane's surprise, everyone in the room including the cat raised a hand. "But... but..."
"Majority vote Akane." Nabiki pointed out.
"Besides, it would be cruel to make someone we owe a debt to live on the streets when we have enough room to shelter them." Kasumi added.
"But we can't have a boy live here. He's going to be perverted first chance he gets." Akane insisted in hopes of overturning the vote. After everything she experienced daily at school the last thing she wanted was some boy doing the same thing in her own home.
It was then that Nabiki had a sly look on her face. "If you're so against it, then why don't you become his fiancee? If he's engaged then he's family, and if you don't do it then I just might. He's not bad looking."
Akane seemed morbid, but Ranma shook his head. "I don't mind working to pay rent as best I can, and Shampoo can earn her own keep as well."
"How?" All the Tendo's asked.
"That's a secret." Ranma answered, and Shampoo mewed.
"Regardless, you don't need to go anywhere at the moment. It's alright for you to stay, as we have more then enough room for you and your cute cat." That seemed to have a positive reaction for Shampoo, as she started heading towards Kasumi and rubbed her, purring.
Ranma smiled and bowed. "I guess I could stay for a little while, and if there is an extra room I would like to see it."
Ranma looked at the room for a bit, and nodded to Shampoo, as soon as Kasumi was out. "Kasumi very nice. She no like angry oni girl." A girl's voice was heard and Shampoo rubbed against Ranma again.
"I can understand. She was very nice."
"Nabiki no sure about. But so far no not like."
Ranma nodded. "I'll keep my eye on her."
"Akane... Shampoo no like. She reek of anger too too much."
"We probably caught her at a bad time. Hopefully she'll be calmer later." Ranma replied. "Just remember you have to act like an ordinary cat while we're here."
"Shampoo foreign, no stupid Ranma-sama." The black cat said. That's right, said, this cat could speak. "Can we take bath? No have real bath in too too long time."
"That would be good." Ranma said then stood up. "Oh wait, can't leave this." He picked up the folded white robe he had been carrying earlier. Shampoo jumped on him and climbed to his shoulder to perch, then he left the room.
Nabiki, meanwhile, was thinking about the situation, and she wasn't sure about it. Ranma was here on his own, but wouldn't someone at the age 16 be with their legal guardian?
'It's just plain weird, and why does he show up now?' She thought to herself, before she found her father. "Hey daddy, why isn't Ranma with his father? If this was about a favor of joining the schools, then shouldn't he be here too to help his son?" Nabiki asked, and the question was exceptionally valid.
Soun thought about it for a bit, but he couldn't think of too many reasons outside of martial arts. "I honestly do not know why Genma isn't here, but there must be a good reason. Some personal problems, or going off on a training trip, or maybe he has an additional occupation that demands a lot of attention. You know how sometimes parents have job transfers but the child has to remain behind for school. Who knows why Genma isn't here."
Nabiki sighed, she should've known that her father wouldn't have any direct answers either. 'Hmm, maybe I can check with my usual grapevine to find out.'
"I'm going out for a while daddy, and I'll be back before dinner." Before she went out, she froze. "Wait, is Ranma even in school?"
Soun froze too. "I didn't think about it. I assume he is or has been transferred to around here."
"We should be certain." Nabiki claimed then headed out.
'I wish I could call someone for this, but my gut's telling me this sort of thing requires me to be in person.' Nabiki rued as she walked down the street, something she wasn't particularly fond of.
Not two blocks away from her house, the boy in a uniform from earlier floated towards her. "Hey, will you talk to me this time? It gets lonely not being seen by others."
"How many times do I have to tell you to leave me alone? Find someone else who can see ghosts. I can't be the only one." Nabiki told the spirit, walking past him.
"I tried, but there's no one else here." The ghost complained, sounding like he was on the verge of crying. "Please, you're the only one, please."
"I'm busy." Nabiki replied, picking up her pace.
"Notice me. Notice me!" The ghost yelled, startling the mercenary girl since he hadn't done that in the week he had been haunting the street.
'Just ignore him, and he might leave me alone.' She thought as the ghost continued yelling 'look at me'. Unfortunately, Nabiki could feel the ghost's growing anger and resentment for being ignored.
'If she won't talk to me by asking, then I'll make her talk to me! I won't let anyone else have her!' The ghost decided, unaware that it was changing.
Despite the comfort of the furo, Shampoo felt a sudden chill. "Ranma-sama?" She looked to him only to see him blissfully ignoring everything. "Ranma-sama?" She repeated, nudging him with one of her paws.
"Not now Shampoo." He said, not even opening his eyes as he got more comfortable.
"Shampoo think just feel corrupted spirit in area."
Ranma now opened his eyes. "Dammit, my first real bath in I don't know how long, and this happens?" He then sighed in defeat. "Where's my robe?"
'Did the air just get chilly?' Nabiki asked herself, trying to keep herself from turning around. Then she felt the ghost try to hit her, only this time it actually touched her rather than pass thru her. Making her stumble to her knees. "What the heck?" 'In all my years of seeing ghosts, none were ever able to actually touch me.'
She looked to this ghost, but he no longer looked the same. Now he looked like some sort of humanoid catfish wearing a uniform. "I just want people to care that I'm around. No one ever did when I was alive. It was weeks before my classmates or family were even aware I was dead. I just want someone to notice me. And I'm tired of being nice about it."
'This is new.' Nabiki noted, getting back on her feet.
"Since no one noticed me in life, then I'll make them notice me in death!" The now catfish-like ghost said as he leered at Nabiki, "You'll be my ticket to getting noticed, and we can spend eternity together!" If the sudden change in the ghost wasn't alarming enough, that certainly frightened Nabiki. She tried to get up, but the ghost just kept her in place by using one of the fishy whiskers, which could apparently stretch, to grab her leg.
'I don't want to die!' Nabiki mentally screamed before another whisker started to go for her neck, but before it could reach her, a flash of metal sliced the whisker in two.
"Gaah!" The ghost cried in agony, letting Nabiki go, and that's when she noticed the person who saved her. It was Ranma, but he was wearing the silk robe he carried when he first showed up, with flames and wheels as part of the design. Shampoo rested on his shoulder and was ready to pounce at a moments notice, but there were two things that had caught her eye the most. One was a scythe as long as his body with an eastern dragon head with the mouth open, as if the blade was it's tongue or breath. Two, other then that robe, he was wearing only a towel.
"Who are you?" The ghost asked.
"Isn't it obvious? I'm a shinigami." Ranma answered.
"Ranma? A shinigami?" Nabiki asked herself.
"You can see him?" Shampoo asked, standing next to the startled girl.
"What? You can talk?"
"And you understand me. Wow, what are odds Ranma-sama come to house with medium in it?" The black cat asked itself.
"What is going on here?" Nabiki asked, seeing Ranma stand up to the ghost, who was shaking badly.
"I can't believe it, she really got an exorcist." He then bowed on the ground very submissively. "I'm sorry, I swear I won't bother her again. I just get so lonely."
Part of Nabiki couldn't help feeling bad for the spirit. 'Maybe part of this is my fault. No one really likes being ignored, I guess not even ghosts.'
"You need to move on. I can guide you to the wheel of Samsara." Ranma said.
'Samsara?' Nabiki asked, catching the familiar word. 'Where Mom went when she died?'
"What will happen to me then?" The ghost asked, his appearance returning to normal.
"You'll be reincarnated. You could be anything in your next life. But I can't promise what you will be next." Ranma told him.
The ghost thought it over. "Alright, I'll go." He looked at Nabiki. "I'm sorry I was so pushy."
"It's okay. And I'm sorry I was so rude." The mercenary replied.
Ranma turned to Nabiki. "You can see me, right?"
"Of course I can see you. Why shouldn't I be able to?" Nabiki asked.
"Living people shouldn't be able to see me. Wait, is the haori on right?" He checked his robe and saw he was wearing it correctly.
"What are you?"
Rama readjusted his hold on his scythe. "I'm sort of a shinigami."
"Sort of?" Nabiki repeated, confused.
"It's a long story. Anyway, I need your help for something. I sort of forgot my change. Could you spare me fifty yen?"
"Fifty yen? What for?" Nabiki asked.
"The fare for the spirit in order to move on. Reincarnation ain't free."
"What?" Nabiki asked, completely confused.
"Long story, we'll save it for later. Do you have fifty yen?"
Nabiki checked her hand bag. "Yeah, here you go." She tossed him the coin. 'I guess it's not that different than making donations at a shrine, but I always assumed that was more for the shrine itself than for the spirits there. Why would spirits need money?'
Ranma caught it. "Thank you very much. Shampoo, see her home."
"Hey, I don't need a cat escorting me." Nabiki insisted.
"You're actually escorting her. We don't know the area, so this way she won't get lost." Ranma said, then turned to the ghost. "Come with me."
The air shimmered to the point it looked like water rippling vertically. Ranma led the ghost thru it, then both disappeared.
Nabiki looked at the black cat. "You two have a lot to explain to me when he gets back."