Embracing Curse

Chapter Eight:

Akane Tendo's diary, September 2nd:

They were going to find out eventually, so I finally told Otousan, uncle Genma and Kasumi-chan that Nabiki-chan had been embraced (the term Aelfred-kun and Isabella-chan used) and that they were going to bring her over. Otousan's reaction was predictable, becoming teary-eyed and lying down with a damp cloth on his forehead; so was uncle Genma's, he ran into his room and took out all the anti-vampire equipment he could find. Kasumi-chan, well, I'm not surprised by her response either, but it still left me a little bewildered.

"When will they arrive?" she calmly asked after a while.

"A little after sundown I guess," I answered. Nodding, Kasumi-chan stood up and went to work on her chores, saying that the house should be presentable for our guests. I suppose being busy helps her think, I know she has a lot on her mind, like all of us.

It took forever for the day to end. I tried to make time go faster by entertaining myself with several activities: exercise, reading, performing kata, breaking tiles, watching TV, sparring with Ranma-kun, cooking…nothing worked.

When sundown finally came, my impatience increased as I counted each second until Nabiki-chan's arrival.

"Nabiki-san?" Aelfred turned to the newly fledged childe, who had come to a stop the moment her home came into view.

"This isn't a good idea," she stated, "What if I go crazy again and end up killing my sisters or my father?"

"There's very little chance of that happening," the silver-haired one responded, "Your frenzied last night because you were starving, and you aren't now."

"No I'm not! And we both now why!" Nabiki snapped, "You made me remember what I did, that bitch Isabella had to bring that awful memory out of hiding." She sat down and clenched her head, holding her hair in tangled clusters. "The worst part is: I enjoyed what I did. The tangy taste in my mouth, the smooth texture down my throat…" She couldn't go on, as each detail disgusted her even more.

"Do you feel remorse at all?"

"What do you take me for? Of course I do, baka!"

"Then all is well." Aelfred came down and put his hand on the brunette's shoulder, "Nabiki-san, most of our kind protect themselves from this feeling by learning how to enjoy murder." He raised her head and looked at her eye to eye. "As awful as it may be, this sentiment is one of the few things that keep you from becoming a true monster. Don't lose it Nabiki-san." She let these words sink into her mind.

"You sound as though you nearly failed."

"Several times… Shall we go?"

Ranma Saotome's journal, September 2nd:

The reunion with Nabiki-san went fairly normal. Uncle Tendo threw his arms all over her, wailing and crying out a waterfall, claiming that he was going to take care of his little girl no matter what. Oyaji kept his distance, with a garland of garlic around his neck. Huffing, Aelfred-san came up to him and yanked them away.

"First of all, you use the flower; second, only a minority suffers from this allergy. The only thing you'll accomplish is stinking up the place." I couldn't help snickering when I saw Oyaji's frightened face. He took the suggestion as the perfect excuse to leave; it's for the best, as he's likely to put his foot into his mouth at any given time. I turned back to Uncle Tendo and Nabiki-san, he was still holding her in his drenching, viselike hug.

"Otousan, please." Kasumi-san was trying to get those two apart. "We need to learn what really happened." Nothing could make Uncle Tendo budge, until Cologne popped up from behind and whacked him out cold.

"Take a nap, you need it." Hopping on her cane, she approached Aelfred-san. "It's good to see you again after such a long time, old friend."

"Do I know you?" he asked.

"Oh, come now, I didn't change that much over the years, did I?"

"Cologne!" Aelfred-san exclaimed, "Is it really you?"

"Hai, and she's not the only one." Happosai came into view, giving Aelfred-san yet another surprise.

"I don't believe it! Who would've thought I'd meet you guys after such a long time?"

Incredible, Aelfred-san actually met those two in their youth. He must have done so during his first trip to Japan, the one he told us about before. Of course, I realize now that Aelfred-san himself was the protagonist of this tale, not an ancestor.

Anyway, while those three made small talk, Kasumi-san approached Nabiki-san.

"Nabiki-chan, tell me honestly," Kasumi-san said, "How do you feel?" She reached out for her, but Nabiki-san pulled away.

"I'm okay, I…" Never before had I seen Nabiki-san that way, upset and at a loss for words. I could tell that it wasn't the change what had affected her, it was being betrayed by Fideto. Tendo Nabiki heartbroken, something I never thought possible. I guess one never really gets to know a person.

"I tidied up your room, Nabiki-chan," Kasumi-san said, "Would you like to have a little rest?"

"Hai, I'd like that," she answered quietly. She walked up the stairs slowly; Akane-chan wanted to help, but her older sister refused any assistance. Akane-chan went up to Aelfred-san and the prunes.

"I don't mean to interrupt your reunion," she spoke up, "but you have an explanation pending, Aelfred-san."

"Hai, please follow me into the dining room." As we went there, leaving Oyaji and Uncle Tendo behind, I got closer to Aelfred-san.

"I assume you met those two at the Amazon village three hundred years ago," I whispered.

"Correct, when I first traveled this way." Lowering his voice, he added: "And let me tell you, time did a number on that girl." One thing is certain, that old mummy's sense of hearing is second only to her swing.

Everyone else arrived shortly afterwards: Shampoo, Mousse, Ryoga and Ucchan. She'd run into the bozo just as he was leaving out the front door. There was an odd look in Shampoo's face, she seemed a bit disappointed.

Aelfred-san sat at the head of the table and cleared his throat.

"I will begin by saying, forget all you know. Forget everything you've read or seen; Stocker, Lugosi, Gellar, they're all wrong. In fact, if that blonde bimbo were to meet a real vampire, she'd be drained in a second."

"Before Aelfred continue," Shampoo interrupted, "Where little vampire girl?"

"She went over to see Fideto," he answered, "There seems to be animosity between those two."

"Fideto is a vampire too, ne?" Ryoga said, "And the one who bit Nabiki-san."

"Why did Fideto do it?" Akane-chan demanded, "Why did she turn onee-chan into one of your kind?"

"Akane, try to calm down." I was elbowed on the stomach so hard that I flew through the room for this attempt.

"First of all, don't call us vampires," Aelfred-san ordered, "Collectively we are known as Cainites, and each of us prefers to be called by our clan names. I am Gangrel, and Nabiki-san is now a Ventrue."

"You mean you're not the same?" I asked as I got back up, "How about the girl you defeated in the woods? She changed into an animal, just like you do."

"Hai, she did," he answered, "However, she is from Clan Brujah." The meeting became a confused mess, we all had questions and were asking them at the same time. The old goat quieted us down by raising his voice.

"Will all of you calm down? The clans are a very simple matter to explain. They are…" His voice drifted an expression went blank.

"Let me guess," Ryoga huffed, "Al Z. Heimer forgot what Aelfred-san has told him, ne?"

"No," Cologne corrected, "The old fool forgot that Aelfred never told us about clans in the first place." She turned over to face Aelfred-san. "I suggest you start by this topic, old friend."

"Hai, and I'll try to be as objective as possible."

Aelfred-san belongs to the Gangrel Clan, the wanderers. Most of these guys have itchy feet, rarely settling in one place for long. Since they spend so much time traveling in the wild, it makes sense that they are so close to wild animals. Aelfred mentioned that, in addition to changing shapes, he can communicate with animals openly. Mousse interrupted as Aelfred-san listed his traits.

"Shape shifting, sturdiness… You make it sound as though you've been dealt a winning hand."

"Being Gangrel has its drawbacks, of course," Aelfred-san amended quickly. "Our social status is rather low because of our nomadic habits; those high-class snobs consider us to be uncivilized bums, incapable of anything but fighting." He shrugged. "It's not a lie in my particular case, still, the attitude those bigwigs display irks me no end." This comment sounded familiar to all of us; every now and then, we meet either a king, a prince or some millionaire. One look at us and we're immediately classified as riff-raff; except for Akane-chan, who always ends up becoming a bride-to-be.

I could also tell that Aelfred-san is the prideful type, sort of like me. However, he's proud of his entire clan, while I'm a little more selfish. I should try to follow his lead and become proud of my heritage, although it will be hard having a walking embarrassment such as Oyaji for family.

"Your appearance has changed somewhat," Cologne noticed, "Your eyes weren't yellow the last time we saw each other."

"Hey, you're right," the old goat said as he got closer to Aelfred-san, "And that's not all, look at these." He pulled his hair away, revealing pointy ears. "What did you do, get contacts and plastic surgery?"

"Of course not, you dumb squirt." I could tell from Aelfred-san's tone that he was no stranger to the old goat's annoyance. Happosai stepped away and got teary eyed.

"All these years, and you're still being mean to me. Some friend you are!" Wailing, he leapt towards Akane-chan's arms for consolation. The quadruple punch we gave him (Aelfred-san and Ryoga pitched in) should keep him out of commission for a few more hours. Anyway, Aelfred-san continued after this interruption.

"Our physical appearance changes as we age. Through the years, my hair changed from brown to silver, my fangs grew, my eyes became yellow and a pelt grew on my back, among other things."

"You could've omitted the pelt," Ucchan said. "Then your clan becomes more animalistic as time goes by?"

"Hai, though I've been lucky enough to age gracefully, most Gangrel my age hardly look human at all."

Xian-Pu's diary. September 2nd:

Aelfred then proceeded to describe the clan to which Isabella belongs to, Malkavian. He said it plain and simple, the members of that clan are all insane.

Naturally, I couldn't believe what he'd said. That's sweet little girl a crazy person? She acts perfectly normal, unlike all the weirdoes I've met since I came to this country.

"Just because a person is insane, it doesn't she must act that way all of the time," Aelfred pointed out, "Most Malkavians display normal behavior, giving only little hints towards their derangement."

"We have seen several clues in Isabella-chan's behavior," the tomboy's older sister pointed out, "The way she acts towards us, and how she's always calling Nabiki Catherine."

"Could she be dangerous?" Ranma-airen asked.

"Ie, not at all!" Miss Kasumi hurried to correct. "It may be due to a delusion, but her affection towards us is honest." She smiled brightly. "We're safe around her."

Miss Kasumi is being too optimistic in my opinion. I could tell Aelfred was keeping it to himself so he wouldn't upset anyone, he knows crazy people are unpredictable, often in a dangerous way, and little Isabella is no exception. Maybe that other vampire didn't get Akane, but this other one might.

"Insanity is not only a Malkavians curse, it is also their weapon," Aelfred continued. "With only a thought, Isabella can make a person go crazy, sometimes temporarily, others permanently." He crossed his arms and took a deep breath. "I'm not ashamed to admit it, that girl scares the living hell out of me. She was powerful when I first met her, and surely is a lot more now after all these centuries." I tried hard to keep myself from giggling. It was a hilarious idea, a fighter like Aelfred afraid of a little child like Isabella.

"How old is she, by the way?" Mu-Su asked, "You mentioned being eight-hundred. I suppose Isabella is the same age, probably younger."

It's been three hours and writing this down is leaving me stunned all over again. According to Aelfred, Isabella is a little over ONE THOUSAND YEARS OLD! She makes Great-grandmother look like a toddler!

Just imagine. One thousand years as a supernatural, equal a lot of power; and insanity is often a synonym for dangerous… Now that I think about it, Aelfred does have a point about being wary around Isabella.

There wasn't much more to add about Malkavians, only that their abilities are more mental than physical, and that they give great advice every now and then. Aelfred asked us one question concerning Isabella before moving on to the next subject.

"I haven't been to this part of Japan in quite a while. Could someone like Isabella still fit in?" As though we had rehearsed it, we all answered in one voice:


Hibiki's travel log:

The redhead we faced in the woods belongs to a clan known as Brujah.

"Brujah, if they only knew how high they used to be ranked all those years ago." Aelfred-san shook his head sadly. According to him, they used to be avid scholars, always seeking for knowledge; if there was something new to learn, they'd go after it tooth and nail. "Unfortunately, they were also good at holding grudges, and they have very short tempers, the simplest discussion can drive them into frenzy." Frenzy is a blinding rage in Cainite terms.

"This frenzy you mentioned," Ranma spoke up, "It wouldn't happen to increase your strength, would it?"

"Hai, which makes it much more dangerous," Aelfred-san answered. "And it's only natural for frenzy to take place during battle. I'll tell you more about this eventually."

Continuing with Brujah history, they got mad at everybody; because of taxes, religions, invasions, destruction of cultures, corruption, etc. Over the years, they became rebels, rising up against any system, just for the sake of fighting against something.

"In truth, the battlefield becomes a Brujah better than a library," Aelfred-san commented, "Considering their main abilities are high speed and monstrous strength."

"They sound like people to look out for," Akane-chan said.

"Oh, not necessarily," Aelfred-san replied, "They're friendly folk once you get to know them, and learn not to upset them."

Akane Tendo's diary, September 2nd(continued):

Finally, Aelfred-san illustrated us on the clan Nabiki-chan is now a part of, the Ventrue.

"I don't want this to sound as though I have something personal against Nabiki-san, yet I must confess, Ventrue in the clan I am the least fond of."

Centuries ago, Aelfed's people worked single-handedly, rarely cooperating with one another. It was a bit messy when groups began to get together, someone was needed to keep order.

"The Ventrue moved shrewdly, securing their political and economical positions through dealings, transactions, disputes, etc. Soon they were ready and proclaimed themselves the leaders of our kind." Aelfred-san accepted that they are good at their job, and they're less corrupt than other leading clans. It's just that, in his opinion, they're so egotistical, thinking that no other clan is qualified to lead. "Control is the Ventrue trademark; one word puts a person under their power, just the way Isabella did with the Tendo."

"Looks like onee-chan is going to fit right in," I joked half-heartedly, "Knowing her, she'll soon be able to control entire corporations." I feel a little embarrassed about doing it in front of everyone, especially Shampoo, but I couldn't keep myself from crying. Ranma-no-baka, he was sitting right there next to me but didn't even raise a hand nor said anything to help me feel better.

After a few minutes, I looked at Aelfred-san straight in the eye and asked him:

"Why did Fideto do this to my sister?"

Ukyo Kuonji's diary, September 2nd:

"Cainites cannot have children naturally, embracing a child is the closest we'll ever get to parenthood," Aelfred-san told Akane-chan, "There are many other reasons he might have done it."

"Maybe Fideto truly fell in love with Nabiki-san and wanted his bride to be eternally young," I blurted out without thinking. It is a sweet scenario, in a twisted sort of way. But what Aelfred-san said next demolished my hopes.

"Isabella wouldn't say much about him, other than a colorful array of insults, but I don't believe such would be the case."

I noticed Akane-chan was getting upset, so I tried to come up with another subject. Rubbing my neck, I thought about asking how a vampire Cainite is made, it was already obvious that the bite alone doesn't do it. Then it occurred to me that this topic wasn't much different from the other one, luckily, Mousse saved me from a possible faux-pas with the next observation.

Ranma Saotome's journal, September 2nd (continued):

"One of the first fallacies I noticed from your people is the stake," Mousse said, "The girl we fought was completely unaffected."

"Oh, the stake works," Aelfred-san replied, "just not the way you see in movies." It turns out that a wooden stake works as a sort of tranquilizer, it paralyzes the Cainite but does not kill him. Of course, if he is unable to move as the sun rises, then we can officially say that it's a lethal weapon. Also, the stake must go through the heart, a very small target, otherwise it is useless.

"Do crosses work?" Kasumi-san asked, "Isabella-chan wears one around her neck." I hadn't really paid attention to that detail before, Isabella-chan's collar; indeed, it has a small silver cross. Aelfred-san explained.

"It's not the item which harms us, rather the spiritual power in the person. Amulets work as focus points, where the spirit gathers in enough quantity to cause us harm."

"How harmful is spiritual energy for a Cainite?" I asked. Turns out that it can be as harmful as fire or sunlight, which already are quite deadly. This explains why that redhead got so furious when I used the mouko takabisha, a well-aimed blast would certainly have been lethal.

There were many other things to tell, but Aelfred-san decided to stop there, for safety reasons.

"Ours is a precarious existence, we must keep everything we know in utmost secrecy. What I have revealed here is enough to assure my death sentence."

"What Aelfred told you is enough to have all of you killed." Isabella's sudden appearance, the announcement she made and our recently acquired knowledge about her chilled us to the bone. "Most of you at least," she added as she threw Akane-chan and Kasumi-san a kinder glance. Her visage switched to cheerful as she made the following announcement: "Good news, I am now officially Catherine's sire." She refused to explain this to all of us, only to Akane-chan and her sisters. I'll ask her about sires and childes later.

Class was dismissed. Shampoo and Mousse left with Cologne, not before she gave her goodbyes to Aelfred-san, promising to meet again and talk about the old days. Shampoo latched on to me, claiming that she would me at my side the moment I called, an offer which, naturally, ended up with my being hit by a mallet. How does Akane-chan move so fast? Holding her in a very tight embrace, Mousse made the same promise to Shampoo; at least he thought it was Shampoo, he was actually holding on to Kasumi-san. She just smiled and thanked him politely. Ucchan wasn't as enthusiastic, but also said that she would be close at hand.

Aelfred-san beckoned me to the yard, he had something important to talk about, Ryoga tagged along. I had a vague feeling of what he was going to ask of me, I was right.

"You seemed to disappear during our trek through the forest, Ranma-san," the Scottish Gangrel noted, "while Ranko-san appeared suddenly. From afar, I could see that her moves are similar to yours; furthermore, you two have a similar scent." His yellow eyes narrowed. "Can you explain this?"

"Sure thing, I've even got visual aids." The pigtailed martial artist jumped into the koi pond, emerging in the form of a buxom redhead. She laughed at Aelfred's shocked expression. "You should see me in a wet tank top, that's a breath taker. Surprised?"

"Ie, well, kind of. I was suspecting that you were some sort of shape shifter."

"We do change form," Ryoga replied, "but unlike you, we can't do it voluntarily."

"You too, Ryoga-san?" The answer came in the form of a splash of water, giving the lost boy his black and squealing form.

"Ryoga, Shampoo, Mousse and I are cursed by the Jusenkyo springs; it activates whenever we get wet, warm water reverses it."

"Jusenkyo…" The silver-haired Cainite pondered the name. "Hai, I heard of that place when I first arrived in China. I didn't know much Chinese back then, thought it was some lake that gave you the gift of transformation. It never raised my interest, since I was quite skilled in this ability already."

"It's a curse, not a gift," Ranma remarked, "Though we have found its uses. For example, P-chan here is Akane's darling pet."

"Kuee!!" the piglet snorted. The redhead picked him up by his bandanna.

"And I've learnt how to take advantage of my double identity."

"Kuee, (snort)." Aelfred started laughing.

"What's so funny?" Ranma asked.

"According to Ryoga-san, the only thing you've learned is to take advantage of your pectoral attributes." Both transformed martial-artists were bewildered.

"You mean you really can understand what P-chan is saying?"

"Hai, it's perfectly clear to me." Aelfred dug his hands into his pockets and looked up, "You wouldn't believe how much gossip goes between animals." Ranma followed the Scotsman's line of vision; they were looking at the moneymaker's window.

"A sire is a sort of sensei, ne? Is Nabiki-san safe in Isabella-chan's hands?"

"Kasumi-san trusts her, and she's not an easy woman to fool. In reality, there's nothing we can do. Once an idea gets into her head, nothing can stop her.

Guiseppe Fideto arose, as usual, at the crack of dusk. He immediately got down to business, a phone call here and a signature there, resulting in a multimillion-dollar profit. The ancient man wanted to have trivialities done with before pick up his newest acquisition. His plan was to embrace Nabiki without her knowing of it, resulting in frenzy caused by starvation, panic and confusion. By now, Nabiki was ready to be consoled by his loving arms. And although had no idea where she was, Guiseppe figured out  it would be easy for him to find her within the hour thanks to his money. One of his weaknesses was overconfidence, so he was quite surprised when his major obstacle barged through the door.

"Merda del maiale!!" the purple-haired vampiress hollered as she strode towards the desk, "How dare you do this to Catherine!?"

"Cuore? What's the meaning of this? Where are my guards?"

"Puking their guts out, literally." She gave a fanged snarl. "I repeat, why did you do it?"

"First of all, who is this Catherine you speak of?" The Ventrue was justly upset by this intromission, still, nowhere near as angry as the petit Malkavian.

"You know her by the name of Nabiki Tendo." Her voice took an anciently infernal tone. "Why did you do it?" Guiseppe calmly sat behind his desk again.

"Nabiki possesses many attributes which qualify her for joining my clan: intelligence, wit, ambition, resourcefulness and courage. And on a personal note, her beauty captivated me." He linked his hands and leaned forward. "I've earned a high rank among the elders, and am free to create any childe I desire."

"Not Catherine! She was never meant to be embraced!" Isabella took a deep breath, closed her eyes and relaxed. "What's done is done, I can only do the next best thing." Her eyes opened, giving a determined stare. "I will become Catherine's sire."

"Che cosa?" The dark-haired Cainite was now convinced that this was some loony prank. "I embraced Nabiki, and am perfectly able, and willing to be her sire."

"You have no right!" Isabella retorted. "You stole her from me, Fideto, you crept into our lives and yanked her away."

"I don't care what you believe," he replied tiredly, "I am Nabiki's sire, and nothing you say will change that."

"I make a claim of seniority." This announcement came out like a bolt out of the blue. "I am older than you, Fideto, by four-hundred years; and although I don't mention it much, I also have connections among the elders, and quite a reputation." The Ventrue was not ready for this, a maneuver for which he had no legal defense. He tried to come up with loopholes, but her stare innerved him, he was one of the few beings who knew how deadly this innocent looking child could be. "Any objections?"

"No," he finally sighed in defeat. Isabella nodded and started to leave, Guiseppe hesitated a little before following her as far as the door. Three of his bodyguards lay dead on the floor, blood flowed out of their mouths, mixing on the floor with green bile. "You can only make the claim of seniority once, Cuore," the ancient man reminded, "Why use it on her?"

"That is my business," she retorted curtly, "All you need to know, is that you will not go near her again. Ever!" Guiseppe let her go, his majordomo waited until she was out of sight before coming into view.

"Are you really going to surrender Signorina Tendo, Sir?" Phillipo inquired, "You do not normally abandon a project with such ease."

"You're young Phillipo, and have never met the clan of madmen. Whatever illusion is driving her, I'll let my nemesis be." Guiseppe tightened his fist. "For now."