The Ultimate Technique - Chapter 2 - Nabiki

By Mike Breslau

Disclaimer: Better folks than I own most of the characters that appear in this scribbling.

AN: this was supposed to be a one-shot, but many reviewers wanted to know what happened next. So here it is.


It was not a typical day in the Tendo household. Oh the sky was still blue, the grass was still green, but Akane was not angry. In fact, nobody could be angry when Ranma was around because of the calming influence he projected.

Of all the residents in the Tendo home Kasumi was the least affected. Not because she was oblivious (as most people assume) but because she was already serene by nature.

Ranma had gone upstairs to take a nap, missing yet another day of school. Staying awake for three days will do that to you. He awoke refreshed after a few hours and used the opportunity to think about his situation.

When the girls came home after school Ranma was nowhere to be found. Akane and Nabiki both searched the house looking for him. "He's in the back yard," Nabiki announced.

Akane joined her sister at the back door. "How can you tell? I don't see him..."

"It's simple. Here is where I feel the most serene." Raising her voice Nabiki called out, "Hey Ranma-kun!"

Ranma faded into view, performing a kata upside down and suspended a meter above the ground. He righted himself in midair and turned to face the girls.

"What are you doing?" asked Akane, her voice sounding almost accusatory.

"I have to reinvent my Art," answered Ranma. "The Saotome school is filled with midair techniques, but in the past it's always been limited by gravity. Now that I'm free from gravity it opens so many opportunities. I need to extend my skills for true three-dimensional moves without regard for up or down."

That sounded reasonable to Akane, who felt a pang of jealousy. "Okay, but why practice invisibly?"

Ranma repeated one of his father's maxims: "Never let an enemy know how good you really are." He drifted to the ground and approached the girls. "Nabiki, we have to talk."

"Yes, we do," Nabiki replied as they went into the living room. "I hope you'll answer some questions for me."

Ranma was unsurprised, as if he expected it. "What questions?"

"What are you; what have you become? What can you do now? What do you feel, or what do you want? You've changed so much I can hardly recognize you..."

He laughed. "That's a lot of whats. I'll try my best, but much of it is hard to explain - I don' think there are words for it. What am I? I'm sorta human, I guess; I don' think I'm a kami or nothin' like that. The best thing I gained from the scroll you invented is freedom: freedom from fear, freedom from want, heck, even freedom from gravity."

Nabiki was surprised. "You know I invented that scroll?"

"Yeah. I didn't know it when I started, but when I finished it was obvious."

"You still haven't told us what you can do now," Akane reminded him.

Ranma answered, "Following the instructions on the scroll, I cleared my mind, ignored all distractions, and opened my senses. When I became calm and centered enough I became aware of a new sense that I'd always had but never used before. You know how you can tell how much your elbow is bent, even with your eyes closed?"

Nabiki helpfully supplied, "Proprioception."

Ranma continued, "Yeah, that's it. Now I can feel everything for kilometers around me as though it was part of my body. At first, it was hard to understand what I was 'seeing' - it looked sorta fuzzy - until I realized that I could see about a week into the past and a few minutes into the future. As I practice, I get better at 'focusing' and I can 'see' further. Also, my other senses are sharper, my emotions are clearer, an' I can think better than ever."

"Enlightenment?" Akane wondered.

Nabiki had an insight. "Centuries ago a man named Siddhartha sat under a distant pipal tree, cleared his mind of all distractions, and meditated. He eventually became enlightened and now is known as Gautama Buddha."

"Buddhism," Akane realized where this was leading.

"But Siddhartha didn't fly or become invisible," Nabiki objected.

"Siddhartha wasn't a ki-adept, a god-slayer, or a Jusenkyo victim, and he didn't have the nekoken training. If I've gone beyond him, it's because of my unique background."

Akane responded, "So if I tried to learn the ultimate technique I wouldn't come out the same as you..."

"You'd be much better than you are now, but where you get to depends on where you start from."


The four-day leave-Ranma-alone period had expired, so the "adults" had returned to the Tendo-ke. It was morning and Ranma pretended to sleep, floating comfortably two centimeters above his futon. Genma snuck into his room preparing for his oh-so-predictable "surprise" pounce-and-spar session with his son. (You could set a clock by him.) Genma leapt, only to go sailing out the open window and into the koi pond.

The panda sat up in the pool looking quite confused. "Growf." [I never missed the boy before...] He climbed out of the water and dried himself off - mustn't upset Kasumi - and reentered the Tendo-ke. This time he tiptoed into the room with a bucket of cold water. As he attempted to splash Ranma he found himself grabbed by a hundred unseen hands and unceremoniously tossed out the window and into the koi pond.

"Growf!" [What the hell?] Again he dried himself and returned to the scene of the attempted martial arts lesson. As he stealthily opened the door he didn't see his sleeping son - instead he came face-to-face with a wide-awake splendid specimen of a lion, complete with sharp and conspicuous fangs and claws. Genma blanched, signed [nice kitty,] and backed out of the room. The lion smiled.

The panda changed back into a pudgy human and went to wake his old buddy. "Soun, Soun, wake up! Something terrible has happened - a lion has eaten my son!"

Soun sat up and burst into tears (you were expecting anything else?). "Waah, now the schools will never be joined." Genma ran to fetch some towels.

At breakfast Genma tried to sneak some food from Ranma's plate. To his surprise, he found his chopsticks removing morsels from his own plate and putting them on Ranma's plate. "?" he exclaimed.

Ranma answered with a smirk. "The rules have changed, Pops. You don't always get your way any more."

Genma sulked, and remained silent for the rest of breakfast.

As they were leaving for school, Ranma turned to Akane and asked, "Want a ride?"

Akane was puzzled by the offer, but she could sense that this was something he was eager to do. "Okay..."

Ranma crouched down on all fours. "Climb on my back. I promise you won't get hurt or scared."

"A horsey ride? Aren't we too old for that?" She straddled his back, curious to see what he would do next.

"Not exactly," answered Ranma with a grin, and he morphed into a snow leopard. They lept over the fence and took off down the street at high speed. The leopard's smooth gait gave a comfortable ride; invisible forces kept the rider securely on her mount's back without a saddle.

Akane found this to be quite exhilarating. "Wheee! Gidyap!"

When the arrived at the school the leopard bounded over the fence and stopped, crouching down so Akane could dismount. The other students looked on in amazement - even by Furinken's standards, this was unusual.

Kuno was standing there in a state of shock, nearly inarticulate for once. "My fierce tigress..."

The big cat padded up to Kuno and roared. "I'm a leopard, not a tiger!"

Kuno fainted. The predator followed Akane into the school and morphed back into Ranma.


(flashback)

Nabiki probed further. "Okay, your senses are sharper and your thinking is clearer. That doesn't explain levitation or walking through walls."

"I understand how the world works, and I understand how to control it. You promised as much when you invented the ultimate technique. Heck, I even understand how my curse works, and I'm trying to figure out how to control it. I've already mastered the nekoken - I'm not afraid of cats anymore..."

"Knowledge is power," murmured Nabiki. It was her favorite mantra.

"There's a downside," offered Ranma.

Akane asked, "What could that be?"

"Now I realize how much I don't know - and that's a lot. I don' know lots of things that everyone else knows. I don' know how to be polite, I don't know how to make small talk, heck - I don't even know how to talk good. Baka panda didn' let me learn anything except martial arts. I thought insults were a sign of affection. What a waste."

"Oh," said Akane. She had much to think about. Did Ranma insult anyone else?

Nabiki said, "You should be able to learn good manners by finding a few cultured individuals and watching them for a while. Just don't let them know that you're studying them - that's bad manners."

"Where am I going to find normal, polite people (except Kasumi)? This is Nerima..."

"And you missed all that school, too," observed Nabiki.

"Yeah. There are hundreds, maybe thousands, of kanji that I haven't learned. And without the kanji my textbooks are written in secret code. How am I going to memorize all those characters without repeating years of schooling?"

Nabiki had an inspiration. "Ranma, don't memorize the kanji. Each one is drawn with a deft, graceful pattern of brush strokes - a kata in two dimensions. Learn the brush strokes as a kata and you'll have no problems mastering all of them quickly."

Akane interjected, "Martial arts calligraphy - a piece of cake for Ranma."


After school Ranma returned to the Tendo-ke later than usual. He had consulted with several of his teachers about how to catch up on his academic studies. Some of them thought that was the most amazing thing Ranma had ever done.

Soun and Genma were playing (and cheating at) their usual game of shogi. Ranma gathered together the Tendo sisters and interrupted their parent's game. "Listen up - I have some announcements to make. From now on I will only do things that I consider reasonable and proper; nobody can force me to act against my will. That means all the engagements are off - if I get married it will be by my own choice."

Soun roared, "Boy, you WILL marry a Tendo! The houses must be joined." He launched his dreaded bunny-head attack.

Kasumi covered her mouth and (mostly) suppressed a titter.

Nabiki smirked.

Akane lost her self control and laughed out loud. "Look in the mirror, Daddy."

Soun walked over to a mirror and was shocked by what he saw. His terrible demon-head attack had been replaced by a bright yellow, cross-eyed, floppy-eared, buck-toothed, fuzzy bunny-head with a comical expression on its face. He burst into tears...

Genma yelled, "Insolent boy, you must marry one of Soun's daughters. It's a matter of family honor!"

"What do you know about honor, old man? You have less than none yourself. You only use it when it suits you in order to get your own way on something. Well, you can't bludgeon me with honor any more."

Genma tried to grab his unruly son. Ranma didn't move. Genma's hands passed harmlessly through Ranma's body without meeting any resistance.

Ranma reached out and pinched his father's nose. "You can't touch me, Pops, but I can touch you."

Genma tried pleading. "We agreed to join the schools even before you were born."

Ranma asked, "So it's imperative that the schools be joined?"

"Yes!" chorused Soun and Genma.

"And it's important that a Saotome marry a Tendo?"

"Yes!" they chorused again.

Ranma smiled maliciously. "That's easily arranged, then."

Genma felt a familiar tingle - his Jusenkyo curse was being activated without water. Instead of a panda, his new form was a red-headed, rather attractive, Rubenesque woman. The Tendos looked shocked.

Ranma smirked - controlling the Jusenkyo curse had its advantages. "That was easy. Genma can marry Soun and the schools will be joined. You can give birth to your own heir, Pops, without imposing your will on anyone else. And once you've given birth you'll never regard women as weak again."

The Tendo sisters looked upset. The fathers looked aghast. "That's not what we meant," said Soun.

"What's the matter, isn't she attractive enough for you? I think she's rather cute..."

"Can't you turn me back the way I was?" pleaded Genma

Ranma tapped his foot impatiently. "Yes, I can, but you have to choose. Is it more important for the houses to be joined or for you to keep your manhood? You can't have it both ways."

Soun slumped in defeat. "We can't persuade you, can we? This is not how I wanted the schools to be united."

Genma conceded. "If you'll turn me back, the pledge to unite our schools will be null and void."

"I'm calling the shots here. Cancel the pledge first and then I'll turn him back."

"You win," said Soun, "The pledge to unite our families is now voided."

"Yes," agreed Genma, "We will not force anyone to marry." Genma felt that familiar tingle and reverted to his male form - with two minor differences.

Ranma smiled again, warmly this time. "I fixed your eyesight, Pops, so you won't need glasses now. And you're not bald anymore. Aren't you glad I'm feeling generous?" Ranma secretly hoped that boosting Genma's "manliness" would make him less likely to try to live vicariously through his son, thus giving Ranma more freedom.

There was much nodding of heads.


Later that day as Nabiki was studying in her room Ranma knocked on her door. "Nabs, can I talk to you privately for a bit?"

"Sure, come in."

Ranma entered quietly without bothering to open the door. "Nabiki, my sense of honor suggests that I pay for my keep and my father's too. We can be 'guests' for a week or two, but by now we're residents, and your family shouldn't have ta support us."

"You continue to surprise me, Ranma. What do you have in mind?"

"Well, I could just conjure money, but that's illegal, so I won't. Do you remember those bowls I made at breakfast yesterday? They're sapphire, not glass."

Nabiki's eyes widened. "You're hinting that you can make jewelry out of thin air?"

Ranma nodded. He gestured and a golden bracelet in the shape of an intricately carved dragon appeared on her desk. There were two tiny rubies for the dragon's eyes.

Nabiki picked up the bracelet and examined it closely. "It's solid gold isn't it? It's beautiful, Ranma, but I may like it too much to be able to sell it..."

Ranma beamed in response to her praise. "Now that I'm out from under Genma's control I can express the artistic side of my nature." He closed his eyes in concentration and produced a three-inch long pin in the form of a solid platinum flute - with moving parts. There followed a slightly larger pin in the shape of a trombone, and a golden tortoise who's carapace was inlaid with abalone shell segments.

"That's enough for now, Ranma. If you make any more I won't be able to hide them all from your father."

"You won't have any trouble selling these?"

Nabiki drooled and gave a cat-ate-the-canary grin. "No problem, no problem."

Ranma left, satisfied that honor had been restored.


To be continued...

Author's speculation:
Genma = gen ma = dark horse = night mare = nightmare?
Ranma's father is a nightmare? I've seen hints that support this theory. Anyone know for sure?

Mike