Author Note: Well as promised I would release another chapter this round on C-H-A here is the long-awaited chapter 11 of An Ultimatum Ranko.
I will warn while most everything is good emotional content and revelations I must warn of some dark momenta that takes place within this chapter and sorry ahead of time if it's not your cup of tea.
With all that said on with the show! -Zeltronica
After a subdued breakfast the next morning Akane followed Ranma and Herb to their shared room, "Why Ranma why, choose this slut over me? And you Herb you are worse than Shampoo! Spreading your legs for everyone, I bet even your retainers got some..." Akane shouted turning purple with rage at this point, while an angry red aura was manifesting itself around her.
"Tendou stop!" Ranma growled out through gritted teeth looking to her former fiancée as if for the first time, while the blinders came off of her eyes continuing to speak "If you make one move towards her you will regret it because I will no longer be holding back!" she finished as she watched the byplay of anger sputter in Akane's features waver briefly her angry aura dim ever so slightly for a just a brief moment before it came back in full force.
Herb feeling her own anger burning to a heated crescendo at this point made to push past the redhead, but before she was able to Ranma put up a halting hand to stop her forward momentum. "Ranma I can fight my own battles, and besides I will not be coddled like I'm some helpless child!" She spoke with more venom than she had intended.
Ranma just sighed with exasperation at the other girl, and soothingly spoke to the soon-to-be mother of her child and or children. "Herb your right your not some China doll, or some helpless child and I'd normally let you fight your own fights. This time is different as she insulted both of us, and your in no condition to fight at the moment. Have you forgotten you're pregnant?!" she questioned.
Herb bit her lip slightly feeling frustrated tilting her head looking to the right, "Eh..." she started to say trailing off as she stepped back from the door as Ranma was keeping her gaze on the fuming blue-haired girl as she grabbed the doorknob closing the door behind her.
Herb stood there near the door listening as a bitter argument was in process between both the father of her child and or children and his/her former fiancee, she let a sigh escape her lips in frustration as she walked over to the bed sitting down proceeding to turn on the television to drown out the noise of the ensuing argument beyond the door.
On the other side of the door...
"It wasn't like that dammit!" Ranma exclaimed, feeling quite angered at the accusations thrown her and Herb's way, though she begrudgingly had to admit the girl had every right to be angry.
Akane still fuming shouted, "Oh then tell me what it was like Ranma? How long have you been fucking that Chinese slut for anyways? You were supposed to be my fiancee and you been sleeping around behind my back and worst of all keeping secrets from me!"
"Look you have every right to be angry I get it-" Ranma said finding herself interrupted by her former fiancee,
"Oh, I definitely have a right to be angry you two-timing bastard especially since you gone and knocked up that Chinese whore in there!" Akane exclaimed.
Ranma reached up pinching the bridge of her nose as she tilted her head downward feeling a slight headache coming on, speaking in a softer tone, "Herb isn't any of those things dammit. Sure we did the deed one time okay that certainly doesn't make her some slut or a whore. We were drinking things happened."
"You-" Akane started to snap finding herself interrupted by the red-head, "Listen Akane neither of us has truly been happy with the arrangements our parents started. We constantly argue and fight I am tired of it and frankly I would think you should be as well."
She then continued, "I really have been meaning to talk to you I just was worried about how you were going to react. Heck until yesterday I didn't even know I was going to be a father so everything pretty much has exploded in my face and now you are doing everything I feared you would and more wanting to fight the soon to be the mother of my child or children ." she paused letting out a haggard sigh the gravity of her final word scaring her slightly more than if just a single-digit number.
She then continued, "So if you want to get mad at someone then that is fine you can take it all out on me, but leave Herb out of it it's not her fault. I made this mess by not being fully honest with you from the beginning." she finished.
Akane still feeling angry spoke, "Did you not feel anything for me?"
"Of course I did and I still do but you know as well as I that things have changed between us and I don't see a way back from this," Ranma explained, as she kicked the tip of her toe against the tiled floor. As she then went into an explanation of the deal she had struck with Herb while bringing the item hidden behind the fabric of her shirt into view.
Having listened to her former fiancee's explanation Akane's anger had slightly tapered off though her expression one of hurt now, "I don't know what to say you are so selfish... To think you would have even agreed to all that just for an item to control the curse but Herb is a man. I mean aren't you only interested in women?" she questioned.
"I; well Herb certainty isn't a guy right now, and well current form speaking neither am I per the moment. However to tell the truth I have been doing some soul searching for a while now I've searched high and low for a cure for this curse and came to the conclusion it will always be a part of me." Ranma explained pausing a moment.
She then continued, "I have also come to terms with myself and my feelings and have come to the realization that love isn't as simple as I once believed no thanks in part to how I was raised." she let a tired sigh escape her lips leaning back against the door.
"I hope at some point you can forgive me. However if not that is fine but for what it was worth you were always my favorite fiancee despite all that has transpired between us I would go to bat for you any time even fight a demigod for you if it ever came to it." she finished.
Akane's expression was sullen as she listened to her now-former fiancee's words, while she could tell the other girl for once wasn't lying to her in the slightest. Though those words still did little to comfort her also a part of her still wanted this whole thing to be a dream yet she knew it was all very real.
The aqua-transsexual had been keeping this secret for quite a while now from her which made her wonder what other secrets her currently redheaded now-former fiancee was keeping from her. That and she was still quite angry the girl had led her on to make her even consider attempting to fix their relationship only for her hopes to be dashed by this new development in their lives, she opened her mouth to say something more but quickly closed it.
Taking an intake of breath the blue-haired girl spun on the ball of her left foot walking away down the hall as the redhead watched her go her features one of concern though she was slightly relieved to see the girl leave down the hall and eventually disappear around a corner.
Taking her own intake of breath Ranma turned opening the door to the room crossing the threshold before closing it behind her, observing the multicolored-haired girl was leaning back against the headboard of the bed, clutching a pillow to her chest with her knees pulled up against it.
Tears ran down her cheeks her features sullen and her eyes a storm of emotions directed to the television though Ranma could tell the girl's mind wasn't on the show, it was something else.
"I am so sorry you had to hear all that...You have to forgive Akane she can be a bit hot-headed, she didn't mean any of that stuff ya know she'll calm down in a few days." Ranma offered halfheartedly.
Herb didn't bother to look at the redhead instead she focused on the television she wasn't so much sad as she was more so morose, "You are far too nice and forgiving of that girl despite how she has treated you. No, she meant every hateful word. You don't need to defend her anymore." She pointedly stated with an undercurrent of angst to her tone.
"You are probably right, but still I feel responsible 'cause I haven't treated her much better admittedly I make fun of her, even talk bad about her cooking I've been a bit of a jerk-." Ranma started to say finding herself interrupted.
Herb shook her head speaking up, "Sure you maybe have been a jerk but you yourself told me about how you first met her and what all went down. She has been grinding on you ever since your curse came to light and from that story, it sounds like almost all the abuse started on her end." she paused for breath attempting to calm her emotion which was threatening to spill forward.
She then continued, "You told me she splashes you with water belittles you over your curse and in conjunction your manhood and rarely with nary a word of apology yet you seem to apologize over and over for both yourself and her. You need to stop and you need to stand up for yourself and stop defending the actions of others especially if it is detrimental to your own well-being."
Proceeding to cross the distance the redhead climbed onto the bed sitting just in front of Herb in lotus fashion as she listened to the dragon girl's words realizing they held truth, though even so none of it in her own mind excused her own actions.
With an agreeing nod, "You are totally right Herb, but it still doesn't excuse my actions as of late accepting responsibility is a man's job and that is what I am doing regardless of who started it I cannot and will not ignore my own complicity in this mess." Ranma said, preceded to reposition herself onto her knees leaning in raising her left hand proceeding to wipe the tears from the hybrid dragon's eyes inquiring in a soft voice, "Are you okay?"
Without a word Herb simply shook her head side to side lips quivering, setting the pillow she was holding aside, preceding to reposition herself leaning in falling against the redhead who caught her in her arms embracing her as she then sobbed against Ranma's left shoulder.
'That answers that of course, she isn't okay that was a stupid question dummy hormones and pregnancy probably has Herb's emotions all out of wack.' Ranma inwardly thought as she with her right hand rubbed the hybrid dragon's back gently. She listened to the other girl's sobs which only added to her own emotional toll though she willed herself to not shed tears, though a solitary one slid down her left cheek despite herself that she quickly wiped away.
She had times she had held Akane in much the same manner to comfort her, though now it was a different girl other than her former fiancee in her arms and she still didn't quite know how she felt about Herb as of yet but she did feel something she just didn't know how to quite put it into words.
Though the feeling she got was neither good nor bad leaning more indifferent since she emotionally was still trying to find where the two of them stood as trust wasn't something she was easily ready to give due to their colorful past with one another.
While she had already matured to a point she realized she would need to mature further at the realization she would soon be a parent figure.
Though she didn't know what was scarier thought the fact of being a father but also sometimes a mother figure but the fact she would be both a king and a Queen depending on the situation both subsequently and in conjunction having to be responsible for more than just herself.
A few minutes later...
Having finally got her emotions under control Herb sat on the bed in lotus fashion as she watched Ranma go from one point of the room to another in the process of preparing for school with slight curiosity the process of changing from her casual clothing to the school uniform was a sight to behold.
Though it wasn't the first time she had seen Ranma's girl half naked, and she had seen herself in a mirror more than once but this girl, in particular, she had an attraction for and she felt kinda flustered though whether it be due in part of having her own curse or her own will she managed to not show it in her features.
She observed the redhead took great care about her appearance in the mirror with her constant preening, even going so far as to wear her hair up into duel ponytails with matching white bows which the tricolor-haired hybrid dragon thought gave the girl a cute look.
Herb had already had the luxury of learning about the agreement Ranma had made with his grandparents which while they seemed a bit extreme even to her she could understand it. She certainly wasn't going to complain since watching the process was interesting.
"You look great Ranma. You seem to be taking this girl stuff a lot better than I would have expected considering your being a man and all," she stated as she tilted her head slightly giving the red-head a lopsided smile of appreciation while also at the same time giving her a marveling look.
Adjusting the ribbon of her uniform Ranma peered at the dragon princess through the mirror observing she was marveling at her with those amber eyes, "Yea well I am not entirely cool with it. However if I am going to do something I may as well give a good go of it." she explained.
"What is High School like?" Herb inquired her curiosity peaked.
Ranma doing a couple more adjustments, eventually crossed the distance to the desk in her room proceeding to collect her school items she would need going on to explain, "Well it's boring, to be honest. I mean you meet other students sometimes making friends with the other girls. Or get bullied by others for being too pretty and or ugly than another at least on the girl's side of things." she paused momentarily.
Inhaling a slight intake of breath she then continued, "Well you have several classes which all take place in the same classroom since the only thing that changes during the day is the teachers who rotate in and out and the curriculum they teach." she finished.
"Sounds interesting. The Musk doesn't really have school the way they do things here in Japan. For instance, I was taught by a private tutor that my father hired for me who taught me everything I would need to know for the day I become his successor." Herb explained, proceeding to lean back against the headboard of the bed.
Ranma having listened to her words pondered, "So does that mean everyone in the tribe can only get an education if they can afford it or?"
"Well, education is optional where I come from for the normal civilian populous since we typically are isolationists and prefer a more primitive lifestyle that is closer to nature. However, Royal dignitaries are expected to be educated in both the Musk world and the civilized world." Herb explained, reaching up with both hands taking a hold of her right longest bang fiddling with it in a stair-step method of stroking.
Ranma pondered on her words imagining simple people in a similar situation to the Amazons just with different customs and practices. "Sounds pleasantly simple." she softly said.
"It can be. I think you would like it compared to the noisy nature of Japan. Of course, we have fewer governing laws as well-meaning you could live a very free life especially if self-sufficient." Herb offhandedly said as she continued to fiddle with her hair.
Ranma spared the dragon princess a glance momentarily, "Though the tribe is built on a warrior code and believe in the survival of the fittest and in conjunction only the strong survive."
"Well yes and no. Sure my and soon to be your people built the tribe based on a warrior code. We do believe in survival of the fittest but that doesn't mean we abandon our old and infirm. With the new policies Father has implemented and allowed me to implement we now reorganize and try to find things these people can do that is still a benefit to the tribe based on their skills." Herb explained pausing momentarily for breath.
She then continued, "As for those who have been weakened by illness we have implemented policies that ensure these people are cared for up until the very end." she finished.
"What about women how are they viewed in the tribe?" Ranma queried, picking up her school bag walking over by the door that was the room's only exit.
Herb let a sigh escape her lips going on to say, "Well that is a touchy subject as you know like the Amazons we Musk have been known to treat our females not much different than they treat men. Though in light of my curse I am vowing to make some changes in that regard."
"Sounds like you have an uphill battle in the future Herb," Ranma observed, proceeding to open the door to the room.
Herb frowned slightly giving a nod, "Yea..." she trailed.
Ranma exiting the room looked to the tricolor-haired dragon princess soon to be her spouse, "Well it looks like the way things are going when the time comes you won't be fighting that battle alone." she called before closing the door heading off to school.
Herb stared at the now-closed door with an expression of awe as the red-heads words were not lost on her which made her feel something inside that she couldn't quite put into words.
Later that afternoon Herb ventured out of the room glancing around the hallway observing neither her retainers nor anyone else for that matter much to her surprise since she had expected either one or both of her retainers standing guard outside the door.
Her clothing consisted of white slacks and a white silk blouse that was a tad large on her frame which was fine for her since it was quite comfortable, her feet bare.
'Strange where could they have gone?' She inwardly wondered to herself since they never strayed too far away from her without so much as a word. She then heading towards the main hall of the house passing a few individuals who looked to be dressed in the academy training attire.
These individuals gave her only a minor notice not saying anything except to give friendly smiles as they carried on to their perspective destinations. Upon arriving at the main hall she glanced around noting it was devoid of life with exception of a lone maid who was tidying up some dusty wall murals.
She then headed for the stairs walking down its spiral length eventually making it to the ground floor choosing a path that was the East Wing of the academy. She didn't get far when she heard a voice call out from behind her she immediately recognized being her mother.
"Out for a stroll dear?" Remedy called to her son currently daughter.
Pausing in her step Herb turned to face the woman observing both her retainers standing not too far behind the woman carrying some bundled items.
"Yes I thought I would walk around a bit." she paused momentarily before saying, "I see you have both my retainers working for you."
Remedy nodded going on to explain, "Yes I felt it prudent to have them help me with bringing some items back from the palace for you. That and well I don't think you will need armed guard here of all places since the security seems rather on top of things."
"Seems reasonable enough." Herb casually said looking to her retainers with a blank expression, gaining a thoughtful expression speaking her mind. "Once she is done with you both please go rest." with that she then turned and continued on further into the East wing.
"Yes my Lord!" Both retainers called in unison.
Remedy watched her child gaining distance by the second before walking in the direction of the stairs, both Lime and Mint following closely.
Herb continued further into the east wing pausing next to a class observing some girls in the process of practicing sword-based art observing an unfamiliar woman who stood before the class demonstrating how to properly use a sword in a defensive stance.
'Quite beautiful.' She inwardly thought as the woman performed a flourish and a kata that were flawless to her trained eyes. Though she herself didn't see the need of using weapons since she could charge ki energy into her arm using it as if a sword if the need was to arise.
As she continued to observe the class a little more before moving stopping briefly before another room that was as large as the one that had active training, however, this one was devoid of any signs of life. The lights currently were off.
Stepping into it the lights automatically turned on. She glanced over the walls observing murals, banners displaying the motto for the sword-based arts that were the schools' founding.
Eventually, she turned to leave the room proceeding to return to the main hall glancing around eventually setting her sights on the main entrance walking towards it only to pause in her step as she heard a woman she recognized as Ranma's grandmother call out to her from behind.
"Prince Or Princess Herb is it?" Neji inquired of the multicolored-haired girl who had her back to her.
Herb turning to face the elder Saotome, "It's Prince. However no need to stand on formality just call me Herb if you will."
"As you wish Herb-san. How are you liking it here so far?" Neji inquired as she could see there was a visible unease about the girl even though she was trying to hide it.
Pondering over the elder woman's words momentarily Herb softly said, "To tell the truth it is a nice place you have here."
"Thank you for the compliment Herb-san." Neji said with a satisfied expression, then her features gave way to a thoughtful expression, "Is something troubling you by chance?"
Herb took a slight intake of breath, "Not anything in particular." she offhandedly said pausing momentarily before starting to speak again but then closed her mouth her gaze falling to the floor tile.
Deciding not to press too much Neji then gently offered, "If you decide you want to discuss it later I am willing to listen."
"Thank you I'll keep that in mind," Herb called, turning towards the door walking over opening it walking out closing the door behind her.
Neji observing the multicolored-haired girl disappear behind the door then proceeded towards the house library which was one of her more favored areas of the home.
It was the lunch hour Ranma sat at her desk on its surface was a bento meal her mother had prepared for her which was that of a delicious miso chicken bento with strawberry, kiwi, and onigiri. Also on the desk was a thermos the lid already off which could be used as a cup that currently already filled with melon juice for its contents.
She retrieved her chopsticks breaking them apart as she eyed the contents which both looked and smelled mouth-watering as she proceeded to dig in being sure to take it in small bites so as to not gain unwanted attention from the other girls that were in the class also eating their meals.
She was off by herself whilst almost all the other girls had formed tiny circles with one another speaking on various topics most of which revolving around girlish interests which wasn't the types of topics she was in to but she could hear them well enough since they despite trying to be quiet with one another were a dull roar.
Eventually, Arisu, Saiya, and Aiko returned to the class moving some desks over to join her saying their greetings to her as they readied their own meals.
"Sorry, we are late Ranko we had to gather some paperwork for you," Arisu called cheerily, placing the papers on the desk just to the side of the redhead's thermos.
Ranma frowned glancing at the paperwork recognizing it as the Gymnastics charter paperwork. She reached over taking the thermos lid taking a sip from its contents. 'Ugh I hate paperwork... but a deal is a deal.'
Noticing the girl's reaction Aiko spoke up, "Something wrong Ranko?"
"N-no nothing really. I gave my word I'll fill this stuff out before the end of the third period." Ranma said, taking yet another morsel from her bento with her chopsticks bringing it to her lips taking it in chewing then swallowing.
Arisu seemed pleased with the redhead's response, "Thank you for doing this it will help our school's chances greatly. That and well the team captain will be grateful since she is the one who wanted us to make it happen to begin with."
"Captain?" Ranma queried a curious brow raised, a brief memory of the girls who piled into the headmistresses office came to mind. Also how the headmistress had said they knew of her circumstances.
Arisu replied, "The captain of the Gymnastics team as soon as she heard you transferred in I guess went and seen you in the Head Mistresses office and she was highly interested. Though she said some things about you that sounds crazy, to be honest."
"Oh, what kinds of things?" Ranma inquired, taking another sip from her thermos cup, before unscrewing the cap pouring some more contents into the cup. Saiya and Aiko looked to their friend with peaked interest waiting for her to speak up.
Arisu then continued, "Well she said something about you being a boy but I've seen you during gym class in the locker room and you don't have the equipment for that."
Ranma had been in the process of sipping from the contents of her cup about choked, recovering saying without a single thought, "Well of course I don't at this moment."
All three girls looked to the redhead with curious expressions, saying in unison, "What?"
"What do you mean you don't at this moment?" Saiya questioned her voice raised slightly, the rest of the class starting to look their way.
Ranma bit her bottom lip realizing she had goofed, "It's a complicated story. Well one that you may or may not find hard to believe. I'll explain after school if that is okay" she offered since it was a touchy subject and one she would rather not give in the classroom among the other girls who she hardly knew.
"Sure I would like to hear it," Saiya said, sparing her friend a concerned look.
With equal curious expressions to their features Arisu and Aiko speaking in unison almost as if of the same mind, "As would I."
Later that day...
The school had finally ended and Ranma had just finished up the rest of her paperwork dropping it off with the captain of the Gymnastics team who enthusiastically took the paperwork and rushed it off to get it filed before the office closed.
With this done, Ranma made the journey home with Arisu, Aiko, and Saiya in tow who all three still wanted to know just what their friend meant by her words earlier that day.
"So Ranko mind explaining what you said earlier?" Arisu inquired of her friend whom she was looking at her back as they walked.
Ranma didn't bother stopping or looking back, "Not here just follow me home I'll explain there." she called over her shoulder.
"If it's something you aren't wanting the rest of the students to know but a select few are you taking us somewhere to brutally murder us?" Saiya inquired morbidly in jest.
Rolling her eyes Ranma shook her head at her friends' morbid jest saying, "No not quite anything so sinister. The subject is pretty sensitive to me and well it's one I rather explain in familiar settings."
"That was a terrible joke Saiya." Aiko dully said as she walked.
Eventually, the group arrived at the Saotome estate making their way up to Ranko's room as the three girls got settled in Ranma shrugged her school bag tossing it onto the desk, meanwhile Saiya, Arisu, and Aiko all seemed to glance all over the room.
"Wow, this is a really nice room you have Ranko," Aiko called as she marveled at everything she was seeing.
Then all three girls turned hearing the door open observing a girl with multicolored hair enter the room shutting the door behind her without so much as a word or a knock.
Herb glanced to the girls briefly, then directed her sights to Ranma tilting her head, "Friends of yours?"
Nodding her head ever so slightly, "Yep Herb... course may not be the case in a few moments but we will see."
Arisu, Saiya, and Aiko all gained worried expressions at the redhead's words wondering just what she meant by that. Even more curious than they were wondering who the multicolored-haired girl was as well since she had a slightly refined air to her.
Herb walked over to the bed sitting down on it as she looked to Ranma expectantly to which Ranma gained a slightly sheepish look going on to say, "Oh sheesh. Gal's this is Prince Herb my soon-to-be wife and or Husband depending on the gender she is at the time."
Ranma then continued gesturing to her friends, "Herb these are my friend at school Arisu, Saiya, and Aiko."
The dragon princess shook her head negatively ever so slightly not entirely displeased by her soon-to-be wife's words, but she knew the redhead meant well.
"Soon to be wife?! Gender she is?" All three girls said all at once with curious expressions to their features.
Herb shrugged her shoulders feeling more than a little awkward, "It is a very complicated story." she simply said, then went on to add shyly, "Please to make your acquaintance Arisu, Aiko, and Saiya."
"Please give me a moment to get changed into something a little more comfortable I'll be right back," Ranma said as she grabbed up a pair of black slacks, as well as her classic red silk Chinese style shirt heading into the bath closing the door behind her.
Arisu turning her attention to the dragon princess. "When Ranko said Prince did she mean princess as in Royalty?" she inquired.
Herb gave a simple nod saying, "Yes it's Prince Herb, but in my current form it would be a princess I am the Royal heir to the throne of my and soon-to-be Ranma's people."
"Ranma as in Saotome Ranma?" Saiya questioned her curiosity getting peaked.
Once again Herb nodded her head saying, "Yes the girl you call Ranko is in fact Saotome Ranma that is her true name."
"Oh wow but Ranko isn't as tall as Ranma... nor as dumb," Arisu said offhandedly as she was slightly confused, but at the same time, she was very curious. However, things were starting to click together as far as the captain's words were starting to become clear and why.
A few moments past and Ranma opened the door to the bath exiting still in female form but held a cup of water steam wafting into the air which she sat on a nearby dresser proceeding to hang up her school uniform which was already on hangers.
"So myself and Herb here were afflicted by a curse we got in China at a place called Jusenkyo which was shrouded in a horrific mystery that myself and my father and several of our friends came to find out was very true and well due to our lack of being able to read a word of Chinese wasn't able to avoid it." she started to explain.
Herb then added in her own two cents, "Mind you unlike Ranma Jusenkyo is well within my backyard so I had extensive knowledge of Jusenkyo... Unfortunately due to events I rather not go into too much detail about with the exception to say simply that mistakes were made I ended up cursed with this body you see now."
Ranma then walked over lifting the cup of steamy water up turning it over her head rendering a change of gender which resulted in her getting taller, her then his hair changing to that of raven hair as he placed the cup back on the dresser proceeding to redress his hair into a ponytail.
All three girls stood there looking at their red-haired girlfriend who was now a raven-haired boy. "Oh wow, you are him... Saotome Ranma!" all three exclaimed in unison.
"Hai yes I am Saotome Ranma... I am so sorry for deceiving you and to tell the truth I am so tired of doing so but you have to understand I don't really like explaining my curse all the time. Also even though I am starting to get used to having it I am still not entirely comfortable with it." Ranma explained apologetically giving a deep bow of her head.
"So both you and Herb are or were... 'er currently."Aiko started to say pausing as her brain was trying to wrap around the concept she was trying to convey.
"Men!?" Saiya explained with some slight confusion as she was trying to also wrap her mind around the concept.
Herb and Ranma both nodded in unison the latter going on to say, "It's a complicated thing but we are working on it."
"Please don't take this as an offense but are you both gay?" Arisu inquired with genuine curiously.
Herb shook her head negatively at the girl's words, while Ranma spoke up, "Well not exactly well I don't think of myself as being gay exactly in that context, and it is complicated." he said going to explain to the girls the duel and agreement he and his soon to be spouse had agreed to.
"Oh wow, that is some explanation!" Aiko exclaimed but she was understanding of the choice of the two.
Saiya seemed satisfied with the explanation going on to think, 'Too think curses like that actually exist...' she trailed before going on to say, "Well being girls part of the time isn't so bad it could have been worse you could have animal curses like some of your friends as you said."
"Could have been worse is right... but now I am dealing with another matter which has now kinda put a nix in both mine and Ranma's original deal." Herb commented, scooting back easing her back against the headboard of the bed.
"Oh, what do you mean Prince 'er Princess?" Arisu questioned looking at the dragon princess.
Herb gave a slim smile, "Just Herb is fine no need for formality unless we are in a Royal sitting or my retainers are present." she offered.
"Oh okay, Herb... What do you mean what is nixing your original plans?" Arisu inquired a curious expression to her features.
Ranma then spoke up, "Well due to a little drinking and I guess-" he then found himself interrupted by his dragon-hybrid fiancee. Herb then finished his words, "I well became pregnant so we are going to have a child or maybe even multiple children we will know more when I go in for more testing."
"Oh wow!" all thee girls exclaimed in unison with shocked expressions.
Ranma felt awkward yet at the same time relieved as he wasn't having to keep a secret from the girls anymore though they had yet to make it clear if their friendship had changed or not.
"Well if you gals are angry any at all at me for keeping my curse a secret from you and deceiving you I can understand if you don't want to be my friends anymore." he reasoned.
Arisu shook her head negatively, "Actually quite the opposite I am relieved you are being honest with us. That and well now I feel we can be better friends without the secrets you have been keeping."
Aiko then added her thoughts, "To be honest the only thing I feel is jealousy at the fact that you have the making of the fairy tale princess ending all us girls strive and wish for... and you both are so hot in your girl forms... I bet Herb is handsome in her male form."
She paused momentarily before adding, "And well you Ranma your male form is easy on the eyes I won't lie Herb is a lucky girl!"
Herb for her part blushed at the girl remark but said nothing since the remark held true in her current form. She then heard Saiya add in her own thoughts.
"Wow, this really sucks... One of the hottest girls in our school not only is taken by another really hot girl. To add insult to injury this hot girl turns into a really hot man and he is soon to be a father... Ranma you are full of surprises." she said shaking her head slightly.
Feeling slightly relieved at the girl's reactions Ranma spoke, "Arigato... I really like you gals I appreciate your understanding."
"So Herb when is your baby shower and can we be invited?" Aiko inquired, turning to look to the multicolored-haired girl expectantly.
Herb blinked momentarily, "Baby shower?" she questioned in a faraway voice having been caught off guard.
"Oh yes, I and Saiya want to come as well so when is it?" Arisu inquired with a curious brow raised.
Ranma listened to his friends and soon-to-be spouses' words before saying, "Basically a thing women like to do when one of them becomes pregnant they give gifts and such." he explained pausing briefly before continuing, "It goes without saying I must ask that you girls please keep everything you learned here to yourself I don't really want to be answering questions at school about mine and Herb's arrangement or the fact I am soon to be a father it would be most appreciated." he finished.
"Absolutely." All three girls said at once to which both Ranma seemed pleased on his part, though Herb kept a blank mask she only hoped her future spouses trust in her friends was not misplaced. Though so far she had started to take a liking to the trio.
Eventually, the group said their goodbyes before Ranma walked them to the door at which Aiko, Arisu, and Saiya all left for home the raven-haired martial artist watched them before they finally disappeared around a corner of the gate entrance of the estate wall.
He then returned back to his room as soon as he entered he observed Herb looking directly at him with an expectant gaze to which he reached up scratching the back of his neck, "Yea sorry I didn't let you know I was bringing them home but I wanted a safe place to explain about this curse since I kinda messed up at school today." he explained.
"Oh, a slip of the tongue I take it?" Herb inquired, to which the raven-haired martial artist gave a nod of his head as he closed the door behind him.
Observing his nod, shrugging her shoulders Herb offered, "You really should think more carefully about the words you are going to say before you say them."
Nodding his head as he walked further into the room eventually sitting down on the bed stretching some as he considered her words, "Yea there is some truth to what you say. All honestly with everything going on with you and well as us I have a lot on my mind so I kinda just blurted it out when Arisu mentioned the fact another girl at the school said I was a boy."
"It happens it was a mistake and probably won't be the last such is the nature we face having a curse such as ours." Herb offered to which Ranma cracked a slight knowing smile at her words.
He then went on to say, "Yea this curse could be both a blessing and a curse all in one. Knowing when to keep it a secret, and when to just tell the truth is difficult to cause people tend to react differently and not always in the way we would want them to." his last words directed at a certain blue-haired ex-fiance he once was engaged with.
Ranma pondered a moment before saying, "To tell the truth Herb I once hated my curse with a passion and I still do loath her in some ways... but that disdain is becoming watered down little by little as time draws on my only true fear is one day she will take me over and I won't be me anymore."
Herb haking her head negatively, "That isn't quite how Jusenkyo operates Ranma while the springs will curse the user as a punishment it also teaches and can sometimes become a blessing in disguise and it will never take you over and possess you." Herb paused momentarily taking a breath.
"Basically the springs only appear random at the surface. Sure my people have been using spring of drowned girl for a long time to procure wives for ourselves. However, that is a forced event by my people. However, for whatever reason people that wander into the valley and are drawn to Jusenkyo typically fall into a spring that is quite the opposite of who they are." she finished.
Ranma considered her words momentarily, 'If that is the case then that means I...' he trailed inwardly thinking to himself gaining a look of realization to his features, "So I guess maybe I have been looking at this curse thing all wrong." he stated.
"Only slightly but it sounds and looks to me like you are already figuring things out for yourself." Herb offered in assurance.
Some time passed as the duo sat in silence birds could be heard chirping somewhere outside the balcony windows, as well as the droning of a lone vehicle that roamed the main road until eventually becoming a distant sound before fading out altogether.
"So..." Both Ranma and Herb trailed in unison both pausing briefly glancing at one another.
The latter speaking up in offering, "You go first Ranma."
Ranma tilted his head leaning back slightly, "No it's fine you go ahead Herb?" he queried.
"How was school?" she inquired.
Ranma shrugged his shoulders going on to say, "It was school little boring but I didn't have too terribly hard of a time. What about you?" he questioned.
Herb still leaning back against the headboard of the bed shrugged, "Well I have been walking the entirety of your family's academy I must say I am impressed though I doubt I would ever have need of a sword. Also, I noticed your family has a female instructor which is intriguing who is she?" she posed a question of her own.
Ranma seemed to gain a thoughtful expression, "Oh that is Reila she apparently teaches sword-based defense classes mostly for female students. You know you could have asked her yourself." he pointedly said.
Herb sighed at his words knowing he had a point, "Well true I could have but she looked rather busy. Of course not sure if you can notice or not but Reila as you call her wreaks of Jusenkyo waters."
His interest peaked Ranma looked to his tricolor-haired fiancee with a questioning gaze, "She does how can you tell cause I can't really tell at all."
"Well as a hybrid-dragon we tend to have senses far greater than humans and our sense of smell is heightened and well since my falling in that smell is ingrained into me," Herb explained, pondering a moment as she observed the necklace her spouse was wearing just beneath his shirt having seen it when he had his shirt off.
Ranma considered her words not at all surprised as he had suspected it strange his grandfather had just happened to have a locket connected to Jusenkyo, 'Is Gramps Reila I wonder... Reinji... Reila-Reila being an unusual name to be sure.'
He then considered the dinner he and his family had and his mother asking about her friend Reila and Reinji assured her it wasn't the same Reila. 'But she is so young... and Reinji is well old...'
"You are deep in thought what are you thinking?" Herb queried a curious brow raised.
Ranma then reached into his shirt retrieving the locket and observed the ring he had placed upon its chain a thoughtful expression to his features, "Herb this ring you gave me it is a matching one to the one you have correct?" he inquired looking in her direction.
"Yes, it is a matching set," Herb answered also nodding her head.
Ranma then posed another question, "Okay were the rings a part of a set of three by chance?"
"Come to think of it, yes but the locket was stolen by a short man in a purple gi and wound up with the Amazons last I heard we didn't pursue it cause we knew where it was at the time not that we couldn't storm the Amazons and take it or nothing just Father felt it wasn't worth it so we left it in their care," Herb explained as far as her knowledge on the subject went.
Ranma gained a half-lidded expression, "Gramps why does it not surprise me the old lech is involved somehow in this though has no barring on the matter at hand..." he trailed allowed. He brought his right hand up cupping his chin.
"Matter at hand?" Herb questioned her curiosity peaked.
Nodding his head Ranma then went on to say, "Well my Grandfather his brother married an amazon of that tribe and well I think she may be a high ranking one at that considering Neji said the old ghoul had best give up essentially if she still expected her seat when she got home."
"Okay so your grandfather's brother married a possible high-ranking Amazon but what does that have to do with these items?" Herb questioned her curiosity getting a bit more peaked.
Reaching up unclasping the locket holding it out for Herb to take Ranma spoke as she took the proffered item preceding to open it as she did so, "Well this locket is part of that set and the woman in that photo is the Amazon in question I believe."
Herb looked at the photographs a knowing look crossed her features, "Hey I know this woman this is Matriarch Salts she is the current leader of the Amazon tribe!" she exclaimed.
"Interesting so if Grandfather had this locket it could mean only one thing," Ranma stated feeling quite sure about his thoughts.
Herb spoke up, "That he has a Jusenkyo curse as well this is unusual and coincidental. I have never heard of two people from the same family getting the curse outside of their children being born with a Hereditary curse before."
"Well I for one am curious so shall we pay my grandfather a visit?" Ranma questioned of the dragon princess as he stood up.
Herb gave a nod proceeding to scoot off the bed to a standing position at which both she and Ranma left the room in search of the elder man sometimes the young woman in question.
Eventually, as they searched the various rooms Reinji typically frequented they had no luck however eventually they both made their way to the East Wing, and there in her typical place they found Reila in the middle of teaching one of her classes.
Of course, Nodoka was at work around this time and if Ranma was right and he felt he may be this is the perfect time for Reila to do her teaching sessions while his mother was away from the home.
Reila briefly paused in her session observing the duo intently looking in her direction from the observatory window she gained a nagging sense of anxiety wash over her person as she wondered what the two wanted. Though she figured it could wait until her class was over as she continued teaching.
Eventually, Reila's class came to an end and the students were busy cleaning the dojo up for the next class that would come in later that day, as Reila made her way back to the office waving for the duo to follow her which the two quickly crossed the distance following her inside.
"So what brings you here Ranma... and you are?" Reila questioned curiously of Herb though before the dragon-princess could speak the earlier spoke.
Ranma decided to be blunt, "Just going to go straight to the point... Gramps the gig is up this is your cursed form yes?" he questioned in a lowered voice so as for the students not to hear while holding the locket up in his right hand.
Herb slid the door closed to give them more privacy, as she looked to the woman she had learned called herself Reila.
Reila started to speak but paused raising her hands slightly, then let a long-drawn sigh escape her lips giving a slight nod of her head, "Yes you caught me son... but I can explain if you will let me?" she offered admitting her grandchild was right.
"Sure I am all ears but I think I figured it out already... unless there is more to the story?" Ranma questioned in curiosity.
Reila nodded as she walked over behind the desk sitting down gesturing to the chairs before her desk which both Ranma and Herb sat down.
"My story really goes back to when my brother wanted to go to China and I decided to go with him. As brothers, you want to look out for your sibling and I did he eventually met a beautiful Amazon defeated her and well she chased us all over Jusenkyo valley and I ended up falling into the spring of drowned girl gaining the form you see before you now," she explained pausing for breath allowing the two to articulate what she had just said.
She then continued, "Well what I did not know is our family was cursed and I wasn't the first Saotome to fall into spring of drowned girl as it seems to skip a few generations like some bitter exchange of fate and now you have apparently fallen into the springs."
"But if it's hereditary then why didn't Mom-" Ranma started to say finding himself interrupted.
Reila shrugged her shoulders, "That is simple really your mother was born female this generational curse thing seems to only affect the males of our family."
Listening to Reila's words Herb gained a look of knowing biting the corner of her left lip as she pondered on what this could mean, 'Generational curse but that would mean someone in the family angered a powerful Jusenkyo Priestess.'
Observing Herb's lip-biting Ranma spoke up, "Care to enlighten the rest of the class Herb what are you thinking?" he inquired.
Herb replies, "Well sounds like someone in your family not sure who pissed off a powerful priestess of Jusenkyo, of course, there are none left they have all been wiped out during the war of the three tribes mine being one of them several hundreds of years back."
"Retracing steps won't fix things in the now," Reila muttered aloud, as she crossed her arms just under her chest.
Nodding his head in agreement, "Agreed can't cry over spilled milk now can we... But tell me Gramp's how is your female half so young?" he inquired.
Reila said softly, "Well the curse doesn't age at the same rate as the normal body unless you live it in equal terms... myself and Neji realizing the problem I face wanted to help you with the eventual reality of the fact one day depending on what you do you will be simply a girl such is the fate I will face sooner or later if you wear that item permanently or not."
"Okay, so the curse does age so it is not an immortal thing?" Ranma inquired of his grandfather.
Reila nodded his head, "Yes if you give her time to grow you could balance it out she is around the age of fourteen to sixteen give or take which is a little younger than your birth form."
Ranma felt slightly relieved an idea taking shape in his mind, 'Oh good I really wouldn't want to live forever. Long-lived sure but not forever especially as a girl.'
"Sounds to me like these three items are convenient unfortunately they are a curse in themselves if abused... as just by observing your cursed form Gramps you really messed up unless you wanted the second wind on life that is." he pointedly stated.
Reila nodded her head, "Point taken... I guess I should have told you the entire story for context." she offered.
"But you couldn't because of Mom she doesn't know about it somehow. To make matters worse being the overly protective father you went to school pretending to be her friend... pretty low of you but I won't poke you too much since I cannot say I am much better Gramps. Kami-sama knows I have been keeping secrets for far too long myself." Ranma said feeling slightly bad at the entire thing.
Herb looked between her soon-to-be spouse and her soon-to-be grandfather-in-law currently grandmother-in-law going on to think, 'The pot calling the kettle black' she thought to herself finishing the words he never did though she wouldn't say it out loud.
Reila let a sigh escape her lips tilting her head looking to the ceiling, "To be honest I been meaning to talk to your mother about it but for some reason, I am finding it difficult to face her." she explained.
"Well you better and soon Gramps the longer you put it off the worse things will be... and to be honest by this point you've already put that conversation off far too long." Ranma pointedly said looking at his grandfather expectantly.
Reila nodded her head, "You are right Ranma I really need to... I just want a little more-"
"Little more time... It is always a little more time Gramps... but tomorrow never comes you should do it soon or if you want I can talk to her for you?" Ranma offered, as he already knew his mother would be hurt by this but the sooner she got through it the better as far as he was concerned.
Shaking her head rapidly and negatively Reila said almost in a shout, "No I'll talk to her in a day or so I promise no need for you to get involved!"
"If you want Gramps I'll be there when you talk to her?" Ranma offered reassuringly.
Reila smiled as she nodded her head, "That is quite alright I won't need the backup but I appreciate the offer none the less Ranma."
She then turned her head gazing at Herb, "Prince Herb I take it it is a pleasure to make your acquaintance even under these conditions."
"Likewise." Herb simply stated with a slight bow of her head.
It was just then that a knock was heard on Reila's office door that called all three's attention to the door observing just on the other side of the glass was Remedy Herb's mother.
Reila waved her in at which Remedy opened the door standing just on the other side of it looking at the blue-haired woman behind the desk. "I hope you don't mind but I came to borrow your grandchild for a bit?" she inquired which caused the blue-haired Saotome woman to become tense.
"How did you..." Both Ranma and Reila started to say in unison.
Remedy shrugged explaining, "I am a user of magic and I have a keen sense of smell. So can I borrow him for a bit?" she inquired once more.
"Sure we were just finishing here," Reila said still feeling tense as three individuals had figured her out all without her saying or doing anything that she had known of.
Remedy gave a cheeky grin to the blue-haired woman, "You look great Mr. Saotome I bet your male form was quite the looker in its younger days." she said, turning her attention to Ranma, "Okay come with me young man we have some matters that need attending."
"Shall I come with Mother?" Herb inquired of her mother to who shook her head negatively.
Remedy continued to shake her head, "No it's fine dearest you won't need to be there to protect him. I promise not to break him." she assured with a mischievous grin that made both Ranma and her daughter uncomfortable before turning to walk away.
"Well, I guess I'll go see what your Mom wants," Ranma said with trepidation as he stood up to follow the woman to wherever it was she was taking him.
A few moments passed as Herb and Reila sat there looking off in the direction of the dojo exit Ranma had already disappeared around the corner.
"Your Mother I take it she can be a mischievous sort?" Reila inquired of the tricolor-haired girl to which she simply nodded her head saying in warning, "You have no idea. Don't let her gentle demeanor and mannerisms fool you she is just as dangerous as any Musk warrior and what she lacks in physical combat she can make up for it in spell power."
Reila considered Herb's words momentarily going on to offer, "Though being a full dragon locked in human form I imagine she has considerable strength and toughness." to which Herb just gave a nod.
Herb eventually left Reila's office heading back to the main hall from the East wing pausing in her step observing Ranma's mother was standing just at the foot of the stairs as if waiting for her as she got closer the woman held her hand up in a halting motion.
"Prince Herb if I may take some of your time?" Nodoka inquired of the dragon princess.
Herb nodded her head, "Sure what is it?" she inquired.
Seemingly please Nodoka spoke up, "I would like you to come with me to dinner at a restaurant I know since I would like to discuss some things with you if that won't be too much trouble for you?" she inquired.
Herb deliberated only a moment going on to say, "Let me go to my room and get changed and then we can go." she offered.
"Sounds good I'll wait here for you." Nodoka offered a pleased expression to her features.
Herb & Nodoka
Dinner for two...
The restaurant Nodoka had chosen was a little on the high-end side featuring several booths, and three floors along with several VIP lounges one of which she had rented out specifically for her and Herb so they could not only eat their meals but speak without the worry of being interrupted with exception of the occasional host or hostess who would refill their drinks.
"So tell me a little bit about yourself Prince Herb I am very curious.?" Nodoka inquired as she sipped on some red wine that was in a glass she held in her right hand.
Herb considered what to say briefly, "Well for starters as you are aware I am heir to the throne of the Musk Dynasty. I am a decedent of dragons and I am immensely skilled in martial arts and a chi-master." she answered.
Nodoka considered her words posing another question, "So by dragon decent, that means I could expect you to be of old-time royalty perhaps?"
"You have the right of it Mrs. Saotome I will not try to woo you with false words or appearances," Herb said with honesty, as she reached over taking the teacup in hand bringing it to her lips to take a sip.
Seemingly pleased with the response Nodoka set her glass on the table, "Honesty is a rare thing these days it would seem. Arigato, I appreciate the honesty."
Considering another line of questioning, "So what attracted you to my child. Or more importantly please I mean no disrespect but understand I heard the story you tried to kill him so what changed?" she inquired with a piercing gaze.
Herb for her part let a sigh escape her lip not at all shrinking under the woman's gaze, "I admit I may have overreacted a bit back then-" she started to say finding herself interrupted.
"Overreacted! You not only locked his curse but you also tried to take his head off quite literally. So why the sudden change of heart?" Nodoka queried interrupting the dragon-princess.
Herb set the teacup down as she considered a proper response before going into the story of how she met Ranma and what happened subsequently as a result of their initial meeting at the cat cafe.
She then went on to say "Too tell the truth I honestly really did overreact that day I had a lot going on. My actions were regrettable in the long run. However thanks to the events that played out I gained respect for your son. That and I believe I have found my soul mate."
"Well my child has some trust in you that is to be sure. Also, you seem to be an honest woman or man whichever it is you prefer. I know this pregnancy you are going through was not expected given both your and my son's reactions. Are you sure you wish to go through with having his children?" Nodoka questioned with curiosity.
Herb gave a nod of her head, "If you are asking if I would prefer an abortion the answer is no and that had never entered my mind." she relayed.
"Is that to ensure he is anchored to you perhaps?" Nodoka grilled, looking to the Musk Princess to gauge her response.
Shaking her head rapidly and negatively, "No that is not the intention... If Ranma doesn't want me I will raise the kids on my own. It will leave me in disgrace but that is a sacrifice I would make for my people but I do care for him and would want him to be mine and I his if he will have me." she said a sour expression to her features as she wasn't liking the direction of the questions the Auburn-haired woman was posing.
"I see..." Nodoka trailed seemingly pleased with the response. 'She truly wants this and not just to save face.' she inwardly thought to herself.
She then went on to say, "Well I am satisfied it would seem you are serious about this."
"Oh?" Herb inquired in agitation, her expression one of confusion.
Nodoka pondered momentarily going on to pose a question, "Well with that out of the way. Let me ask you this Herb how much about my child do you actually know?"
Herb thought on the subject a moment before speaking, "Well I know he is a man worthy of respect and who has earned mine to be sure. A very capable martial artist who has some social issues given that he isn't very good with his social interactions. He can be both friendly and quite intelligent when he wants to be and above all creative."
she then went on to add, "Also well is quite appealing in both forms in appearance his personality is a little rough around the edges but I believe this could be refined given time."
Nodoka seemed rather pleased with the dragon princess's words, "Sounds like you had a pretty good idea what you were getting into when you pursued this deal you made with my child." she simply stated too which Herb simply nodded her head.
"He is a bit socially awkward but that is because he was raised on the road by his father since the age of five where he lived and breathed martial arts. He barely attended school outside of correspondence mail the way I understand it. Also due to the constant moving around he never made any true long-lasting friendships" she explained.
Herb pondered on the woman's words, "I see that must have been difficult for you to not have had your son in your life for such a long time. My people take our sons away from the mother at a young age to avoid weakness and distractions but such is the way of tradition in a predominantly male-run society." she explained.
"It was difficult to be sure but I managed somehow. Tell me Herb if you have sons will you let them be taken from you or Ranma if he is to ever be a mother of your children I only ask cause I know you too are when not a woman a man?" Nodoka inquired of the Musk Princess.
Herb tilted her head going on to say. "Tradition would dictate that is what needs to be done. To tell the truth I cannot make promises one way or another until that bridge is crossed and or burned."
"For your sake, I hope that doesn't come to pass as a mother I can tell you there is nothing worse than having your child out of your reach and wondering what has become of him or her," Nodoka stated with mild sadness at the memory of her past.
She then decided to move the subject along, "Are you aware that my child has trained in the nekoken?"
Herb considered the question, "The cat's fist yes vaguely but I have never witnessed him use it. It is a very dangerous technique and the user becomes practically invincible when properly mastered." she noted.
"Yes, unfortunately, my husband didn't read the scroll correctly and my son did master it but now has an uncontrollable fear of cats and in turn, if pushed too far by this fear he enters the Nekoken and will stay that way until he calms down," Nodoka said pausing momentarily.
With a saddened expression she then continued, "Unfortunately only two people have ever managed to calm him down a kindly old woman from the way I understand it and she passed away. That and well Akane his former fiancee."
Herb considered her words a moment, 'Both Interesting... and truly terrifying.' she inwardly thought to herself filing the information away for later.
She then went on to say "Well I'll keep this in mind if cats are ever a problem Mrs. Saotome."
"Let us see on a lighter subject Prince Herb why don't we talk about Ranma's taste in food shall we?" Nodoka offered, taking yet another sip of her wine.
Herb drank some of her tea going on to say, "Sure I am all ears."
Nodoka then went into an elaborate conversation about what her son preferred when it came to foods, as well as his many likes and dislikes that she knew about while Herb listened intently.
As this took place two hostesses entered the lounge wheeling in a car with various food dishes placing them upon the table in front of the two women before finally, the hostesses gave a courteous bow of their heads retreating shutting the door behind them.
Remedy & Ranma
Tea for two...
After a brief instance of teleportation, Ranma and Remedy found themselves in Paris, France, and looming just ahead of them was the Eiffel tower which looked majestic in the hue of the blue sky with very sparse clouds as they were off in the background.
"You certainly are amazing your Highness!" Ranma exclaimed as he looked around at the various sights and sounds marveling at the sheer fact that they had stepped through a portal directly onto another land far from Japan.
Remedy nodded her head a beaming smile of pride to her lips, "Why thank you for saying so Ranma but you mustn't flatter me so much." she said cheerily.
The duo then started in an easterly direction as Remedy lead Ranma to a place she knew of that she and her husband would sneak away to when the guards were not looking from time to time.
Eventually, the duo arrived at the place it was a small cafe with a quaint view of a park just out front few patrons were inside this shop which was of the typical architecture that can be found in Paris.
Both stood at the entrance only for a man that was well dressed quickly crossed the distance from where he stood. He had dark brown hair that was cut short and dark green eyes and finely chiseled features, his outfit consisted of an expensive four-piece suit, a black tie hung down tucked into the gray vest he wore just over his white silk button-up shirt.
"Ah, Lady Remedy you have come once again. No husband this round my Lady?" The gentlemen inquired in French to which Ranma watched with a curious expression to his features as he couldn't understand a word.
A wan smile to her lips Remedy shook her head negatively going on to say in French, "Not this time sad to say my Husband had other matters to attend. However." she paused gesturing to the raven-haired martial-artist at her side.
She continued, "I have brought a very special guest Marquise."
The man revealed to be named 'Marquise' glanced to the raven-haired martial artist an approving look to his features, "By special guest, I would venture you would like our very best tea my Lady?"
"Yes, that and the loft room if you will Marquise I honestly wish to have a very delicate and private conversation with this young man." Remedy gently said briefly peering at Ranma which made him feel slightly uneasy especially since the only thing he understood was the man's name.
Though he also had an idea they were both talking about him which made him wonder just how things were about to go. 'I wonder what they are talking about?' he inwardly wondered.
Ranma then started to speak, "Your-" he then quickly found himself interrupted by the Musk Queen who shook her head negatively, "No need for that unless in a Royal sitting just call me Mom if you will humor me. We will be family soon enough."
"Eh... Yes Okay, Um Mom what are you two talking about?" he hesitantly questioned as he watched Marquise cross the distance entering what he assumed was the kitchen.
Remedy gained a pleased expression to her features, "We were discussing arrangements. Now follow me Son-in-law we have much to discuss." she called preceding to walk over to a spiral staircase to ascend them.
Ranma followed close as they both went to the upper floor preceding too the loft room in question which was fairly large since it was the entire upper floor of the cafe restaurant.
Upon entry Ranma observed it had a solitary white marble table with two black classic wood carved chairs which was the centerpiece of the room, plants were all over as if a small garden, and just in front of the table was a large window which gave a view of the park.
The rest of the room had a lot of décors mostly of French origin along with various paintings of historical figures on the walls.
Both Ranma and the Musk Queen took their seats across from one another at the table, a hostess appeared bringing a tray with tea along with various other snack items placing them on the table before quickly leaving the room.
"So son-in-law mind telling me a little about yourself?" Remedy inquired before retrieving one of the two white pristine teacups up bringing it to her lips partaking of its contents.
Ranma retrieving the other cup holding it with both hands as he looked to the greenish-brown contents, a thoughtful expression to his features for a few minutes saying, "What all would you like to know?" he queried.
"I just want to know about the person my child has his heart set on. After all, mothers want the best for their children certainly you understand that yes?" Remedy inquired of the raven-haired martial artist.
Ranma nodded his head in understanding, "Yes I get it." he simply stated carefully considering what to say deciding to go with the truth, "Well I am seventeen and into martial-arts which I have been practicing since I was five years old due to the fact my Father took me on a long training trip in china which is how I got the curse to begin with."
"The curse how do you feel about it?" Remedy inquired a curious brow raised.
Ranma sipped from his perspective teacup before sitting it down on the white saucer that sat on the table just in front of him, "It is well..." he trailed pausing letting a sigh escape his lips.
Remedy perked an eyebrow just as the raven-haired martial artist started to speak once more going into his exact thoughts on it, "Too be honest I have come to realize it will be forever a part of me..."
He then went on to reiterate what he had said to Herb about his thoughts on the curse and this seemed to satisfy Remedy as she gained a slim smile of approval to her lips.
"So what do you think of Herb?" she inquired.
Ranma considered what to say a moment, "Well he is definitely a man worthy of respect and I can't say I have met a stronger opponent to date." He said going on to explain to the mother of his soon-to-be spouse how he had met Herb and what lead the two up to this point.
Listening intently Remedy seemed pleased as everything said aligned perfectly with how her child had described it and not even a single attempt to twist the truth in the slightest.
'He is fairly truthful even if still slightly in denial of his own feelings regarding the curse.' Remedy inwardly thought though she figured there was probably some information she wasn't aware of that caused this denial even if slightly which most likely the boy's father had a lot to do with it.
She then went on to say picking up her teacup, "So when you agreed to Herb's request did you consider the role you will be expected to play when at his side especially in royal sittings?" she inquired.
Eliciting a knowing nod from the raven-haired martial artist. To which the Musk Queen then preceded to go on to say, "Despite the fact it was my child that wound up pregnant and will soon be your wife. For appearance's sake, it will be expected for you to take on the role of wife and mother of you and my child's child and or children while among certain parties specifically in Royal sittings after Herb's pregnancy comes to an end."
Carefully listening to Remedy's words Ranma gave an understanding nod as he had already known this might become the case.
"However outside of Royal settings I am sure you and my child can figure out the details of your relationship and even swap roles accordingly." she paused momentarily to allow Ranma to articulate what she had just said.
Once sure he was following her she then continued, "Second I am not sure how much Herb has told you but a warning is fairly too late in this case since you two have already sealed the deal-" she then found herself interrupted by the raven-haired martial artist.
"What are you-" Ranma started to say finding himself interrupted by the Musk Queen who gave him a piercing gaze that caused him to shut his mouth and listen.
Remedy then continued speaking, "How much do you know about spring of drowned girl Ranma?"
"I know that the spring supposedly had some young girl drown in it like fifteen hundred and now two years ago and those who fall into the spring take on the form of a young girl between the ages of fourteen and sixteen years old and typically look like they would had they been born a girl." Ranma explained to the best of his current knowledge surrounding the spring in particular.
Remedy nodded her head, "Well that is partially correct but what if I told you that young girl wasn't a normal human?" she inquired.
Gaining a confused but an expression of curiosity Ranma posed a question of his own, "What do you mean not a normal human? If not human what was she?" he inquired.
"Well, she..." Remedy paused trailing a moment a sad sigh escaping her lips, "She was once a priestess but not just any priestess. She was a hybrid dragon from a long-extinct tribe that once lived in the valley. My child did his homework and found out you were the most compatible for a child. That and well he had been smitten by you since the day he met you which may be partially why he overreacted and tried to kill you but didn't quite understand it himself."
Ranma gained a look of realization, "So basically my female half isn't truly human is she?" he inquired.
"Yes and no she isn't complete but she has already affected your male half due to you and Herbs coupling you have gained some of her traits and undergone a metamorphosis of sorts." Remedy said pausing briefly sipping her tea finishing the cup before setting it down.
Taking a slight breath, "I won't lie to you Herb doesn't even know what has transpired since I haven't explained everything and neither has his father about our species. However, I do know that eventually, you will carry Herb's children yes?"
"Yes, I am aware that would come to pass eventually though what does that have to do with anything?" Ranma questioned softly.
"Well upon carrying Herbs children your metamorphosis will be complete and you will be a dragon-hybrid like my child. I know this may be scary but it is too late to reverse it... You are no longer truly human even as we are talking now I figure it's best you hear it from me then find unexpected changes down the road in the mirror." Remedy explained not at all attempting to hide anything from the raven-haired martial artist.
Finishing the contents of his tea Ranma placed the cup on the saucer considering her words carefully and though his mind was having trouble wrapping around the facts he realized the woman wouldn't lie or mislead him, unlike some individuals.
"So my curse is the entire reason I was able to impregnate Herb, to begin with?" he inquired looking expectantly to Remedy who nodded her head.
Shaking her head negatively Remedy answered, "No you could have impregnated him as a human but your curse had already transformed you to a point. That and well the dragon blood flowing through your veins is the reason my child realized you were compatible with him from the beginning and sought out a way to get you to give a relationship a try."
"Well, I've had a lot of weird stuff happen in my life... I guess this isn't too much of a surprise." Ranma dully said with an expression as if he had expected something oddball to be thrown his way.
Remedy then added in a question, "Are you having second thoughts about going through with this?"
Ranma shaking his head negatively saying, "No a deal is a deal and I said I would give this relationship a chance. Hybrid-dragon or not it doesn't change who I am as a person. When I give my word I try very hard to keep it plus she is currently carrying my kids so I have honor-bound duty to stand by her."
"I see I am very pleased to hear you say that son-in-law." Remedy said a pleased expression to her features.
Ranma then posed a question of his own, "So about Dragons is it true... well mind you I read this in a book and most are Myth based. Well here goes once two dragons meet they share an eternal connection and bond for life even if they are apart?" he inquired.
"I can confirm this is true once two of our species bond it is for life. Even if the two get angry with one another and separate we still remain together forever eventually resolving our differences." Remedy confirmed as she picked up the tea kettle pouring some more of its contents into her cup.
Once done she set the kettle down. Preceding to pick up her tea partaking of it savoring the taste. She then considered her next line of questioning.
"So son-in-law how much do you know about Royal etiquette especially feminine etiquette?" Remedy inquired, raising a curious brow.
Ranma considered the question momentarily, "Well not a lot. Though I have been trained in Martial-arts tea ceremony, and I went through some bridal training when I had to participate in Martial-arts battle dining."
"Well, those are starters that is good we won't be completely starting from scratch then." Remedy said pausing momentarily before continuing, "I'll help you the best I can. That and I am certain Herb will gladly give you pointers if you just ask." Remedy offered a pleasant smile crossing her lips.
The Musk Queen and her future son-in-law then went on to discuss Herb's likes and dislikes as well as other matters that will be expected of Ranma down the road.
Eventually, their conversation winded down as Remedy then considering the fact she would have to return to China very soon.
"Son-in-Law I sadly will be returning back to China very soon I would ask that you keep close to Herb and get to know him better... Plus he could use the company in a land of strangers?" she inquired.
Ranma nodded his head in understanding going on to assure, "Yes Mom I had already planned too."
"I am pleased that we are on the same page." Remedy said as she retrieved a tiny ornate purple box similar to a jewelry box holding it out in the palm of her left hand.
Ranma took the proffered box in hand questioning In curiosity, "What is this?"
"Consider it a gift from myself and my Husband to you and my child I am sure you can figure out how to best utilize its contents, Son-in-Law.
Ranma opened the box looking at its contents with some careful consideration he realized what he could do with the contents, "I understand."
Remedy seemed pleased as the two then eventually got up leaving the cafe, stepping through a portal to return back to Japan.
Herb and Nodoka
Eventually, the two of them were running out of things to discuss as Nodoka proceeded to retrieve a bundle wrapped in silk cloth offering it to Herb.
Herb with a curious brow raised inquired, "What is this?" as she took the proffered bundle in hand.
"I would request you give this to my son I am sure he can figure it out. I must admit there is more to you than I first thought I am glad we have had our discussion and hope to in the future have more." Nodoka said feeling quite satisfied as she now had a better grasp as to who her future daughter sometimes son in law is as a person.
Later that evening Ranma had returned to his room finding it empty he walked over to his dresser opening a drawer proceeding to place the box he had been given inside before shutting the drawer and locking it with a key.
He had much to consider in the days to come one chief among them is a future wedding that would be planned though he wasn't sure who would be doing the planning since the last one was planned by Nabiki and that got wrecked royally ironically by the invitations Nabiki had sent out.
Recalling the tragic events surrounding the second failed wedding Ranma simply shook his head negatively letting a tired sigh escape his lips before saying aloud, "Noway will I allow her to do the planning this time..." he trailed in a promise to himself.
He then paused in his thought process when he a light knocking at the door, "Who is it?" he called.
"Ranma it is me your Grandfather mind if I come in?" came Reinji's inquiry from the other side of the door.
Ranma walked over opening the door, "Sure come on in Gramp's."
Reinji entered the room as Ranma closed the door watching as the elder Saotome crossed the distance looking out the balcony window.
With a curious brow raised the raven-haired martial artist then questioned, "Something I can help you with?"
"Oh, nothing really I came to talk with you about the future of the school. However, we can have this conversation another time if you would prefer?" Reinji offered to which his raven-haired grandson shook his head negatively.
Ranma continuing to shake his head, "No we can discuss it now that is fine." he assured.
"Well as the Master of the Saotome sword-based arts it is my duty to ensure you are properly prepared to become mine and Neji's successor. With that said I wish a spar with you at some point I'll allow you to pick the date but the faster we start training the sooner you will be prepared." Reinji explained.
Ranma nodded his head in understanding saying, "Hai I understand Gramp's perhaps maybe next weekend would be perfect. I kind of have my hands full with Herb and everything else going on."
"Speaking of where is your lovely bride to be?" Reinji inquired which caused Ranma to turn red as a tomato.
Ranma quickly Stammered, "Sh-he-she. Well, I don't know as of yet Herb wasn't here when I got back."
Reinji nodded his head in understanding, "I must say son you kept this secret close to the chest it really caught all of us off guard. Including that Tendo girl Nabiki who I have come to realize is a real information shark."
"Well, I kinda wasn't planning to tell anyone due to the nature of the deal... See Herb wasn't supposed to be the eventual bride... I-I was going to be." Ranma explained stammering the last.
Reinji perked a brow at this, "So you mean to tell me you had decided to be a girl all along?" he inquired.
Shaking his head both rapidly and negatively, "N-no that wasn't it. Well not exactly" he explained quickly going into damage control mode explaining the deal he had made with the Musk Prince.
Eventually, once Ranma had explained everything Reinji nodded his head in understanding as he had a clear picture now, "Quite the deal you struck all for a ring to control your curse and have some say over your life had things really gotten that bad between you and the Tendo's and your father that you would even consider a deal with a man who made an attempt on your life?" he inquired.
"Yes, things were pretty bad. I even had considered offing myself at one point. Though After our first battle I had deemed Herb a man worthy of respect and he did the same for me apparently." Ranma explained in a somber tone.
Reinji didn't seem surprised by his grandson's admission given everything he had learned about him about his time living in Nerima and how Genma had raised him.
He then went on to say, "Well all things considering I wish you and Herb all the best. As your Grandfather, I have nothing but love, respect, and pride for you. I really believe you are a worthy heir to our school to be sure but you also appear to be growing into a fine young man."
"I appreciate the kind words Gramp's. However, I still have a lot more to learn." Ranma said feeling quite content with his grandfather's kind words.
Nodding his head Reinji then walked to the door that served as the room's exit opening it, before he left the room closing the door he said, "If you ever should need advice don't hesitate to ask I'll help in any way I can."
"Arigato Gramp's!" Ranma called after his grandfather through the now-closed door he had disappeared behind.
Time wore on eventually Ranma looked up from his manga he was reading observing the door open revealing Herb carrying several shopping bags from various outlet stores filled to the brim with stuff.
She walked further in kicking the door closed with her left foot dropping the bags on the floor looking rather tired and weary as she walked over sitting down on the edge of the bed letting out a sigh of relief having been on her feet walking from one store to the next.
"Yo welcome home..." Ranma started to say pausing before saying, "You went shopping?" he inquired to which the Musk Princess nodded her head.
Herb then slowly eased herself back laying down looking up to the ceiling, "Your Mom insisted on buying me clothes and took me from one store to the next..." she explained trailing briefly before saying, "That woman truly likes to shop!"
"Sounds like Mom alright." Ranma simply stated, returning his gaze to the manga reading a few lines flipping the page just as something landed in his lap.
Reaching down he took the white wrapped bundle in hand, "What is this?" he inquired.
"I don't really know your Mom told me to give it to you and that you would know what to do with it." Herb explained as she was in the process of scooting back on the bed until she was against the headboard right next to Ranma.
Ranma set his manga down opening the bundle observing its content which was filled with currency as he realized what it was for almost immediately, 'Why you sneaky...' he thought with a nod deciding to address the dragon princess.
"I see." he simply said as he shifted the manga off his lap.
He then swung his legs off the bed standings up walking over to the dresser proceeding to retrieve a key from his pants pocket unlocking the drawer placing the bundle of currency by the box that Remedy had given him. With that done he closed the drawer locking it then replaced the key back into his pocket.
Upon observing a questioning look from his fiancee, "I keep things in that drawer I don't want rifled through or taken if you want in just ask." he both explained and offered.
"I see I doubt I'll have to ask. However, thank you for the generous offer." Herb lightly called as she flipped on the television on the screen a scene was depicted of some police show.
With that Ranma resumed his place on the bed picking up his manga returning to reading it once more as both relaxed together, Herb having shifted closer to him as he adjusted accordingly to ensure he was still comfortable.
After a few minutes of silence with exception of the television, Ranma reached over pressing the mute button for the television via the remote speaking up with a question, "Say Herb want to go do something either later tonight or tomorrow?"
"What would you have in mind?" Herb inquired with an interested brow raised.
Not even a moment he spoke, "What about we go get dinner and possibly a movie tonight, or if your not up to it tonight perhaps tomorrow if you are we could go to an art festival that is being hosted?" he inquired.
"While dinner and what you call a movie sounds nice I don't think I am up to either tonight I am quite tired. However, maybe the art festival would be great." Herb offered in acceptance.
Nodding his head Ranma then said and offered, "Okay art festival it is. However, if you change your mind about tonight let me know and we can go out."
"Thank you I'll consider it if I should get the energy before then," Herb said as she lowered into a laying position slowly closing her eyes for a nap.
A few moments the dragon-princess was asleep which left Ranma to flip the television off, then went about leaving the bed collecting all the stuff Herb had dropped on the floor proceeding to place them atop the nearby dresser top.
With this, he went back to his position on the bed reading his manga flipping the page once more pausing briefly looking at the sleeping girl next to him before returning back to reading.
As he did so he inwardly considered his mother and the rate at which the dragon-princess had fallen asleep, 'Mom and her shopping are enough to tire anyone it seems.'
Throughout the rest of the day, the dragon-princess had slept not even stirring even when Ranma had given her a few nudges to rouse her to no avail. Ranma tilted his head looking at her.
He then slowly went about sliding the blanket down and under her in gradual shifts once free he brought the blanket over her letting it fall just under her chin saying with a light chuckle, "Well good night your Highness."
From there Ranma also decided to call it a night changing into his typical green boxers, white muscle shirt before climbing into bed and under the blanket on the opposite side of the bed using a remote to turn the light off.
The following morning if you could call it that which was early about two-thirty-three in the morning Herb had awoken and subsequently woke up Ranma only to give him a request which he upon listening to the request didn't even try to argue since when he gave her a look as if he wanted to refuse she gave him a sour expression and that was all it took for him to quickly get out of bed putting on some clothes and quickly heading out in the dead of night.
Still groggy as he made his way up the sidewalk Ranma reached up wiping the sleep from his eyes as he went his facial features half awake. 'Chocolate Ice cream and a jar of pickles what a weird combination she asked for...' he thought to himself as he continued to walk the glow of a convenience store not far down the path.
Eventually, he arrived at the convenience store in question it was a decently large one the main sign out by the curb reading Seven-A-Hellen. He continued inside walking straight to the cooler glancing at the different ice creams eventually deciding to grab a dark chocolate sixty-four ounce, along with a second one for himself.
That done then went to find pickles upon finding the shelf in question he noticed a variety deciding to settle on a jar of Koch Dill pickle, along with another jar that had sliced versions. With this done he meandered over to another cooler grabbing a couple of melon flavored drinks before heading to the counter.
As he was heading to the counter he stopped observing a shelf of medicine taking note of various items that were meant for pregnancy deciding to pick up a couple of items that he felt might be useful before bee-lining it for the counter at which the store clerk greeted him as he placed his wanted purchases on the counter so they could be rung up.
The clerk looking at the items on the counter as he was ringing them up spoke to the raven-haired martial artist who looked like he had recently woke up, "Pregnant wife I take it?" to which he received a nod from the martial artist.
"Yep, a pregnant soon-to-be spouse." Ranma lightly said still too tired to a point.
The clerk who was in his early forties was a balding individual wearing brown kaki's, a plain white button-up long-sleeved shirt. He then said, "Well congratulations and good luck with the wedding! Ah to be so young becoming a father at such a young age that has got to be tough."
"Well I honestly don't know just yet how tough it will be but I'll manage somehow... How much I owe you?" Ranma inquired as he was retrieving some bills from his right pants pocket.
The clerk finished ringing up the items then made a quote as he was bagging up the items being purchased to Ranma who handed the proper amount of bills and yen.
Upon paying the clerk Ranma took the preferred bags heading for the exit and returning home as quickly as he could muster not wanting to make the dragon-princess wait any longer than she had to, but also so he could go back to sleep or so he hoped.
Though upon returning he put both sixty-four-ounce containers of ice cream along with the drinks inside the mini-fridge since Herb didn't want hers instead she happily had taken one of the jars of pickles opening the lid proceeding to snack on them.
"Thank you for getting the ice cream and these things," Herb called between bites, Ranma for his part just watched her in amazement as she practically devoured the entire jar within seconds and was now drinking the liquid contents of the jar.
'Wow she definitely can keep up with me on speed eating for sure.' he inwardly thought to himself.
He then offered, "Want me to make you an early breakfast, or will that be enough?"
"No this is enough. Thanks for the offer." Herb curtly stated before finishing the rest of the jar's contents followed by an involuntary dainty burp her cheeks becoming red slightly in embarrassment.
Ranma for his part cracked a slight genuine smile doing his best not to chuckle since he was seeing a side to Herb he hadn't observed before now which was a little less dignified than expected from a person of her status.
'He actually smiled.' Herb inwardly observed to herself since she hadn't seen him do so before in her presence.
Time marched on throughout the morning it was coming up about noon as Ranma had got himself dressed wearing black silk trousers and a white-n-black Chinese style silk shirt. At the wrists of his shirt he had rolled them up slightly creating a white cuff, the buttons were gold, the ties white, his feet a pair of white socks.
Currently, he was digging through the drawer where he kept most of his belongings he needed to lock away collecting the currency he believed would be necessary for the day's festivities.
He looked off to the door to the bath considering the individual that currently resided within proceeding to fish out some more money as he ran the math through his head.
'Welp hopefully this is enough.' He thought to himself since while he had a considerable amount to pull from between both his Mother's gift and Herb's he didn't want to go overboard since this money would be needed for later once their little ones were born.
Eventually, the bathroom door slid open, and out stepped Herb she had her hair dressed in the usual style he had met her, she wore a Chinese style white silk shirt with flower-print patterns, along with silk black pants her feet bare.
"You okay?" Ranma inquired of her as he glanced at her while still crunching numbers in his mind's eye.
Herb nodded her head ever so slightly curtly replying, "Yes I was feeling quite nauseated this morning but the nausea medication is starting to help."
Ranma seemed to nod as he shut the drawer proceeding to pocket the cash he had got out proceeding to lock the drawer then pocket the key saying as he did so posing a question, "Well that is good I am glad so I had considered having a small lunch here but instead I think we will get something while we are out what do you think?"
Giving an ever slight nod of her head saying, "Yea that could work... What do you think of this outfit or should I wear something else?" she inquired.
Giving Herb a once over Ranma shrugged responding with, "I think it looks great though you could switch the pants for a skirt though that is entirely up to you."
Giving a slight frown Herb spoke up, "Oh would you prefer me to wear the skirt of our relationship?" she inquired gaining a falsetto serious expression.
Ranma was waving his hands in a warding gesture as he began to sweat a little. "No-no that's not what I'm saying... just it might be a little more comfortable for you is all! Wear what you like since I don't mind either way..." He admitted to her with a hint of panic edging in his voice.
while going on to whisper his next part. "although I think we'll both be wearing the skirt at some point in this relationship, even if it looks good on you!" Ranma said with just a little redness to his nose.
"Ah well, then I'll go with this one for the time being." Herb said with a light giggle and a blush to her features.
While it seemed the raven-haired martial artist seemed clueless to the compliment he had given her she did notice it.
Deep down she still didn't know how to fully feel about the situation since she was a prince of a male-dominated society. Ironically a right now a princess and a pregnant one at that, though at this moment she felt content in Ranma's company.
About half an hour the festival was fully underway as both Ranma and Herb had finally arrived visiting various booths looking at the various wares the stall merchants had to offer, Fireworks shot into the sky in a reddish-orange streak before bursting into a shower of various colors and cracking sounds.
Herb observed a white-n-blue mask noting it had the face of a Fox within the particular stall she stood just in front of posing a question, "Excuse me may I see that?" she inquired of the merchant who was an older bald man in his late fifties.
"Sure Miss." he simply stated proceeding to take the indicated mask down from its perch proceeding to hold it out for the multi-colored-haired girl to take.
Ranma looked on as Herb took the proffered mask inspecting it tilting her head, observing her features he shook his head, 'Well we may have found our first purchase.' he inwardly thought.
The Mask was a typical traditional mask you would see at a festival the eyes were blue, with the mouth depiction in light red.
"So Miss would you like to buy it?" the elder man inquired, looking to the girl expectantly.
Herb started to speak when Ranma said, "Sure she'll take it."
Herb's eyes lit up surprised she wasn't going to ask but she did like it, "Really Ranma we don't-" she then found herself interrupted as Ranma went on to say, "No really I insist how much?"
"How about an even one-thousand yen?" the elder man inquired of the raven-haired teen.
Ranma reached into his pocket retrieving the appropriate amount of yen dropping it into the elder man's waiting hand, he was then pleasantly surprised when the man then grabbed a similar mask to the first holding it out for him to take.
"What's this?" he inquired.
The elder man shrugged saying, "I was young once perhaps the two masks will complement one another much as you and the misses here sure do."
"Uh 'eh Yea thank you this is very much appreciated." Ranma stammered a red tint to his nose and cheeks as he proceeded to take the proffered mask which resembled a cats face though Ranma shivered slightly looking at it as he did his best to think of it as a raccoon, Herb had already put hers on but wore it on the right side of her head just to the back.
After speaking with the vendor a little longer Herb and Ranma then weaved through the crowded area checking out other booths even stopping to play some games winning a few prizes along the way eventually Ranma found himself carrying a bag they had picked up from one of the stalls with several items in it even a medium sized Polar bear teddy he had leaned over his shoulder.
Eventually, they took a break finding a bench to sit on Ranma took the stuff he was holding it sitting it on the bench, which Herb started going through the bag eventually finding some snack items which were peanut flavored cookies proceeding to snack on them.
"You want something to drink perhaps maybe even something to eat I could grab us something from the vendor over there?" Ranma offered to which Herb between nibbles of the cookie in her hand gave a nod of her head.
She then once swallowing said, "Sure how about something with cherry for the drink." she paused momentarily looking to the indicated vendor stall saying, "Well I am not very particular but maybe something with pork or fish?"
Glancing between the pictures above the vendor in question considering what his soon to be spouse had indicated saying as he did so in an offer, "Okay I'll get us a couple of cherry limeades, and some Pork and chicken Gyoza's then if you are still hungry after that we can pick something else up?"
"That will work." Herb simply stated as she finished off her snacks.
With a slight nod, Ranma was up and heading to join the line at the stall to order the food items they agreed upon while Herb waited leaning back against the bench as she glanced to the sky observing some fireworks that shot into the air bursting into showery sparks.
'This is nice...' She trailed in thought as she considered back home not remembering a time she could be by herself without her retainers or armed guard, yet here nobody knew she was royalty which had its perks one being she could relax her guard to a point whereas back home she was always ever vigilant for possible threats to her well being.
Too her Japan was quite noisy but within that same token, she viewed it as a safe place though she knew Japan and her country had checkered pasts which her ancestors and even her mother and father might have quite a bit more knowledge about, as for herself she could only recall the events from her childhood up to now and things were far more peaceful now than they were then.
Ranma waited in line patiently moving up every so often with the crowd every so often sparing glances towards Herb's location since while he didn't readily expect trouble at a festival he still kept himself guarded for potential issues that may arise.
As he did so some random kids were running through the crowd shooting each other with water guns, Ranma attempted to duck a stream of water only to find himself hit in the face by a large blast which in turn caused him to become a she.
The red-head indignantly wiped her face off shaking her head negatively letting a sigh escape her lips, Ironically nobody around her not even the two people behind her seemed to notice the change mostly because they were all distracted by the run-away children spraying one another with water guns.
'Well that happened but otherwise, this has been fun so far.' she inwardly noted to herself, as she considered her current objective considering her options, 'Well maybe I can get extra for a little less?' she inwardly wondered since her female half always seemed to have luck getting men to give her free eats she wasn't about to pass up on an opportunity when it presented itself.
She was also determined to make the most of her time at the festival with Herb and didn't really want things to be ruined by anyone if it can be helped.
Also on her mind was the immediate future while she was still living in Japan she didn't want to be reliant on others to take care of herself and her family.
Though she knew full well Herb would gladly take responsibility and pay for anything they both may require and desire, and her family was well off enough and she was soon to be heir to it all still she didn't want to rely on that solely.
No her pride as a man wouldn't allow that she really wanted to be counted on as someone who when push came to shove could be relied upon and not a burden to others and above all, she wanted to be a better parent to her children than her father ever was to her.
Eventually, the line moved up and she was second in line to the stand she once again did a cursory glance pausing as she noticed someone approaching Herb from the crowd she then noted just who it was as she recognized the teen in question anywhere.
'Kuno what is he doing here?' she inwardly wondered torn between staying to get their food and wanting to head over to run the boy off or the very least make sure he wasn't going to be a problem for her soon to be spouse.
Herb glanced up observing a familiar man from quite some time back though she never really talked to him at all but it was looking like a conversation may soon present itself as he was walking up to her his gaze centered directly on her.
"Can I help you?" she inquired of him.
Tatawaki gazed at the girl taking in her beauty momentarily before speaking, "Why yes my good Madam if you have seen Saotome Ranma my manservant Sasuke says he observed he was in your presence just earlier?" he inquired.
"Yes, he is over there getting us some things." Herb softly said indicating with her left index finger towards her currently female fiance, she then went on to say, "You're Kuno Tatawaki I presume?"
Looking to where the dragon-princess had indicated Tatawaki didn't see the martial artist he was looking for however he did see his pig-tailed love interest speaking, "Yes my name is Tatawaki Kuno. I don't see Ranma are you sure he is over there?"
"I am absolutely sure look closely the girl at the counter is Ranma currently in his female cursed form." Herb explained nonchalantly. She then inwardly went on to think, 'Now I remember he is the delusional one.'
Tatawaki glanced between the dragon-princess and the red-head who was in the process of being handed items from the vendor going on to say, "Don't tell me that cur has used his vile sorcery on both you yet another young maiden in full bloom and the pig-tailed girl he will surely pay for this travesty!" he exclaimed.
"No-no you have it all wrong Kuno. I am with him willingly as for the pig-tailed girl she and Ranma are one and the same it's a curse he and I acquired from Jusenkyo." Herb explained though she realized anything she said to the delusional man would fall on deaf ears.
Tatawaki listened to the dragon princess's words though he still for some reason couldn't wrap them around his head since in his mind he believed wholeheartedly the raven-haired boy was a practitioner of black magic and that both these girls needed saving.
"You need not say any more since you have been affected so deeply by his vile magic you can't speak a free word of your own how I feel for you..." He paused momentarily, raising his training sword high.
He then went on to say, "Fear Not young maiden the day of reckoning is fast approaching I will defeat him and free you and the pig-tailed girl from his grasp so help me Kami-sama this I swear!"
Herb blinked as she listened to his words almost feeling moved though she kept a blank expression before saying in a mere whisper trailing, "Oh sorry Mario but your princess is at another castle..."
She then went on to think, 'Well I have to hand it to him he is determined but the delusion is strong with this one I am not even sure mother could fix him.'
With that Tatawaki walked away heading off in a random direction seeming to search around the crowds of people looking for an enemy he just walked past yet didn't realize it since he felt the two were two separate individuals.
Ranma finally arrived at the bench sitting down holding a drink carrier in her left hand, while carrying a bag in her right hand, "Okay I got us two separate drinks, and the old man threw in an extra order free of charge so there should be plenty for the both of us." she explained.
She then looked off in the direction of the delusional martial artist observing he wasn't anywhere to be seen saying, "What did he want?" she inquired.
"Oh, he wants to save us both from your vile magics." Herb said with a slight chuckle, taking one of the drinks in hand sipping from the straw.
Rolling her eyes Ranma shook her head ever so slightly saying, "I tell you that man frustrates me I wish he would just listen and understand."
"You can't fix crazy at least not easily. I am not even sure my Mother could fix him... it's almost like he is vexed by a curse of his own that has nothing to do with Jusenkyo." Herb explained between sips, as the red-head retrieved one of the boxes from the bag opening it revealing the food items, along with two separate sets of chopsticks and some sauce.
Ranma nodded her head as she took a tiny sip from her own drink going on to say, "Not to mention he gives me the creeps, and well I try my best to keep my temper in check but he will be overly amorous with me and will hug me and shit even when I tell him no." she paused momentarily thinking on recent events.
She then continued "I am not sure if it is stress or what and Though I am not proud of it I lost it and broke his arm and since then he has been after me even more so like a man possessed and I looked into those eyes of his and it genuinely scared me I thought if he caught me he would try to do things to me."
"Love especially delusional love can be a frightening thing." Herb offhandedly commented, proceeding to retrieve a morsel of food nibbling on it, Ranma doing the same nodding her head in agreement with her fiance's words.
After enjoying some more of what the festival had to offer Ranma took Herb to their final stop for the date being a cultural art museum which they walked the halls looking at various sculptures and portraits.
Herb glanced at several of the displays pausing to take in a portrait of a Chinese emperor though this one wasn't one she was familiar with which made her tilt her head as she tried to place the individual in the painting though no matter how much she thought on it nothing rang bells.
"I don't think this person ever existed," Herb said a curious brow raised.
Ranma glanced at the portrait nodding her head, "Yea I think this is just a painting of the person who designed it as if to say what they would look like as one."
"Makes sense. Beautiful art though to be sure." Herb observed to which Ranma nodded her head spotting a restroom saying, "Hey gimme a moment won't you?"
Herb nodded her head taking the items from the festival in hand as she watched the red-head rush over to the restrooms, quickly entering the men's room after several minutes later coming out a man his hair slightly damp.
"Sorry about that." Ranma stated as he walked overtaking the items from Herb who just nodded in understanding as she then started walking over to an armor display of traditional Japanese samurai armor.
As she glanced over the display Herb spoke as she placed her right hand upon her belly, "It is fine I understand completely I would do the same if I could but we both know that is currently not possible."
"Yea... Speaking of how are you feeling do you want to head home for some rest?" Ranma inquired with genuine concern to his features.
Shaking her head negatively replying with a request, "No I am not too tired yet I want to explore the museum some more if you don't mind?"
"Sure sounds good to me." Ranma offered, as Herb stepped close leaning against him hooking her left arm around his right which he allowed as they proceeded to continue further on checking out various displays together as they walked Ranma shifted the bear slightly as it had shifted slightly and he didn't want it to hit the ground if it could be helped.
Long Forgotten Memories...
Eventually, the duo ran out of things to look at proceeding to head home taking a route that would offer them a quick route to their destination but would take them through one of the seedier elements of the area which meant Ranma's attention to his surroundings would go up a few notches for both of their safeties.
Herb was also scanning the area though she felt quite safe since both she and her love interest could both fight if need be though she hoped the night would remain smooth as the rest of the date which she thought was wonderful especially since Ranma had planned the entire thing himself.
"Thanks for taking me to those places it was really nice." she said to which Ranma gave a lopsided smile saying to her, "No problem I am glad you liked it. While I made the plans it was your Mom who gave me some insight into what she felt you would like."
Hearing this Herb grinned at an image of her mother that crossed her mind's eye, "Yes that makes sense she would have great knowledge on my likes you were wise to listen." she paused momentarily going on to consider something else to add, "Also your Mother gave me some insights into you as well perhaps next time we can go somewhere that you would enjoy?" she offered.
"I would like that... You know if I didn't know better I would say our Mother's are conspiring together but then against could just be a coincidence." Ranma stated as they walked Herb simply nodded her head in agreement.
She then offered, "Well I don't think they talked it over but our moms seem almost like of the same mind it would seem though I bet they both would get along quite a bit. Our Father's on the other hand I am not quite sure how those two would get along."
"Well, I am not sure how well I will get along with him since I never met the man what's he like?" Ranma inquired.
Herb thought on her father tilting her head pausing in her step as did Ranma she then went on to say as they both started walking again, "Well he is similar in appearance to my male form but he is quite stern but as an Emperor, he has to be. He is both wise and patient and he is benevolent and a very capable fighter I dare say if we both had to fight him it would be a tough fight and we both might lose."
"Why you think together we might lose?" Ranma inquired, as he spared her a glance.
Herb shook her head side to side explaining, "Well I say we might because I haven't been able to beat him in martial combat as of yet."
"Ah if that's the case then there is a chance we could win but I hope to never have to find out," Ranma stated as they both came up to a crosswalk pausing briefly waiting on the light.
Herb as she watched the light while waiting going on to say, "Oh but you will he will wish to spar with you to judge the kind of person you are. I do recommend not holding back against him and giving it all you have he will be honored if you do and be mindful if facing defeat cause he will judge you by how you react should that be the case."
"Sounds like I got my work cut out for me I'll do my best when the time comes," Ranma stated just as the light for walk came on both he and Herb making their way across the street.
The duo continued up the street in conversation about various subjects eventually coming up on an alley Ranma had paused in his step looking to the right unhooking his arm from Herb's she didn't even notice as she continued forward a bit further.
Observing several individual's dressed like typical thugs were surrounding a very beautiful young woman with short raven-hair worn in a pageboy style her eyes emerald dressed in a red mini-dress, one of the men he observed slapped her causing her to fall to the ground to which he and his men had started kicking and stomping on her.
He gained a look of both fear and concern, the smell of cigarette smoke filled the air he could smell coming off one of the men, in particular, being the one who slapped the young woman the brand he could distinguish easily from past experience his expression turned to one of anger as he dropped the items he was carrying proceeding to charge down the alley several overhead water pipes burst suddenly triggering his curse changing him to female.
She was on them in an instant taking one man down after another in rapid succession as the young woman who was up to this point being pummeled slowly crawled away proceeding to turn around laying back against the wall looked on as she watched her attackers getting brutally beaten by an irate red-head that to her had come out of nowhere.
Meanwhile back with Herb who spoke, "So Ranma want to get something to drink before we head home?"
She paused in her step having not heard a reply and noticing Ranma was nolonger at her side when she glanced in the direction she had expected him, "Ranma?" she questioned glancing around before narrowing on the items on the ground a little bit back.
She closed the distance to the items scanning her surroundings before observing down the alley several men that numbed up to nineteen were all on the ground moaning in pain. She then observed the object of her search now female was currently relentlessly kicking one of the individuals in his left ribs.
She also observed a woman who looked battered and bruised from a recent beating. She reached down gathering the items Ranma had dropped crossing the distance between herself and the young woman being sure to avoid the spraying water.
"Are you okay?" She inquired of the raven-haired woman.
The woman with a fearful expression and shivering as she looked to the newcomer, "I-I'll be alright please she's goin to kill him..." she trailed in a mere whisper though it sounded urgent.
Analyzing the situation it didn't take much for Herb to deduce the woman her fiance saved was a sex worker whether by vice or choice. In her country, she and her people wouldn't bat an eye at vigilante justice depending on the situation.
However, she knew in Japan they had laws and these same laws could land the father of her children in prison should the man die by his/her hand. With this knowledge, she then called to her red-haired fiancee.
"Ranma that is enough you are going to kill him," she said, though it was to no avail as the redhead continued her assault.
Herb frowned slightly as she closed the distance as she dropped her items on the ground reaching up grabbing the red-head by her right bicep only for the smaller girl to whirl on her throwing a single punch with her left hand that the dragon-princess easily caught in the palm of her hand though the force of the blow stung slightly.
Ranma had a faraway look to her features almost as if in a trance-like state, her features one of both anger and fear, Herb spoke softly saying, "R-anma?"
she looked into the red-head's eyes a look of fear in them, her lips seemed to tremble she could tell right away something was off about her red-haired fiancee like something was different almost like the Ranma she knew wasn't the one standing before her.
Ranma seemed to start trembling seemingly to back away putting her hands up in warding as if to protect herself as she said in what could be described as a child-like voice, "Plea- Please don't I swear I didn't mean to do it... Daddy please don't hurt me I'll be a good girl I promise!" she exclaimed as she fell down onto her butt preparing for a beating that never came.
She then seemed to glance about briefly looking to her fiance gaining a different expression but still one of fear as she gained her faculties.
"I-I remember now..." Ranma said in a far-away voice.
Herb gained a puzzled expression saying, "What do you mean remember now what is it?"
Ranma then seemed to gain her faculties as she shook her head side to side, the fearful expression becoming more apparent to her features as she tilted her head down and to the right, as she softly explained, "I... I remember why."
She paused as a couple of stray tears rolled from her right eye down her cheek continuing, "I remember why I was so driven to become the martial artist I am today and why it is so important I never lose."
She then walked over sitting to the right of the woman she saved her gaze directed at the ground as she retrieved a cellphone proceeding to dial a number bringing it to her ear.
"Yes there was a girl being attacked and she could use some medical attention... also the men who attacked her will also need attention," she explained rocking her head side to side as she waited for the operator.
She then said, "Yes she is mostly bruised no I don't know why the men were attacking her that is between her and the authorities. No the men who were hurting her did not getaway... No, they are alive probably will need medical attention." she then listened to the operator ask yet another question, "Who attacked them? How should I know I just got here."
Listening a bit further, "No I don't wish to give my name over the phone I'll talk to the Authorities when they get here if that is important to their investigation." she stated as she hung up the phone.
A few minutes went by as the trio sat in silence the men were still out cold, the twentieth man and ring leader had passed out from the pain he was feeling.
"Thank you for saving me. My name is Saiko." the raven-haired woman said both timidly and softly.
Ranma glanced at her briefly saying, "No problem really. I would ask what you were doing here with them but I have a pretty good idea from my own past experience."
"My ex-husband sold me to them I wasn't always a hooker before being trafficked I used to have a good job and then everything fell apart and we ended up in drugs and other things," Saiko explained, a wistful sigh escaping her lips.
Ranma nodded her head saying, "Well I am not going to judge you Kami-sama knows I haven't a ground to stand upon to make judgments like that." she then observed her dragon-princess was looking at her with concern, "I guess I lost it again much how I lost it with Kuno... That man over there wreaks of a particular brand of cigarettes it really really upsets me."
Herb still concerned replied in an offer, "Care to talk about it? You don't have to if you don't want to."
"I... I guess I'll talk to you see my story goes back to when I was twelve I was quite young at the time and I wasn't always as good as I am now at martial arts Heck I even struggled initially since my heart wasn't completely in it." Ranma paused momentarily.
She then continued, "Well so my father took me on a martial-arts training trip we had traveled around for many a day and eventually arrived at Jusenkyo where I acquired this body of mine I was young at the time." she paused in her explanation thinking of the girl with them.
"Yea it's a curse yes they are real as crazy as this sounds but let me continue before asking any questions please this is a quite touchy subject for me as it is." she both explained and requested.
Saiko nodded her head saying, "Go ahead I'll listen."
"Well, my father had a bad habit of selling to me to strangers for food and other items in exchange that I would marry their son's and or daughters depending on gender. For the life of me, I am not sure why I put up with it or went along with it for that matter I guess I never gave it much thought you see he would in a week to a month come back and get me and off we would go to the next destination." Ranma explained pausing for breath.
She then continued, "Well My Pop's ran into a man who apparently was a doctor who had a little boy who was quite sickly and wasn't going to live very long and he told my Pop's this sob story of how his wife had died and that he wished his son had an older sister to look after him... Well, Pop's I guess got his heartstrings tugged, and low and behold here twelve-year-old me happens to have a female curse so naturally, he sells me to this guy."
She paused almost choking up but continued, "Me and Pop's had been on the road and things were pretty rough the weather was colder and damp and we had been struggling to get food so I guess I viewed this as relief and it was initially my first night at the man's house was perfect I slept on a warm comfortable bed for the very first time in a long time."
Both Herb and Saiko listened intently as the red-head spoke gaining a worried expression as she continued her story.
"Well, that is until I woke up the following morning I barely could move and quickly had found I could not I awoke to realize I was strapped to a cold stainless steel table and my clothes were missing... I still remember the cigarette smoke that permeated the air choking me causing me to wretch."
She paused as she started to sob as she then went on to say, "That man no that bastard was standing there wearing a full attire you would expect from a surgeon fixing to operate on a patient. He had told me that we were going to play doctor and then proceeded to do things to me I rather not mention as the memory of it hurts I felt so violated so dirty it made me hate my curse with every fiber of my being."
Herb crossed the distance proceeding to hug the now distraught red-head, who after a few minutes of relentless crying between sniffles spoke, " I-I guess I had blocked it all out of my mind until now. I am so sorry real men don't cry... real men aren't weak this is why I had decided to become stronger... to become the man I am today to be a man among men so this would never ever happen to me again and I would protect the weak."
she paused momentarily before saying, "Especially since I couldn't help any of the other children under that bastard's care nor could I save that boy his supposed son who was an earlier victim he died of an overdose to the drugs the man was doping me with for nearly three years straight before my father finally found me in a brothel I had been sold to."
"That is so horrible and to have happened when you were so young," Saiko said softly feeling genuinely sorry for the redhead.
Herb felt genuinely sorry for her fiance having heard her tale, "I take it you gave your old man a proper pummeling?" she inquired.
"No-no I never told him what happened... he found me at the Brothel and I am not even sure if I had anything done to me while there I honestly don't remember even being there," Ranma explained pausing briefly before continuing on saying,
"Pop's told me he found me there and well I had pretty much blocked out the entire thing and he never pushed me for answers and never really tried come to think of it. I guess he was just glad I just went back to training in martial arts since after my first month back in his care I was catatonic for a bit finally coming out of it and focused on my training and becoming manly. I guess my reason for this was a way to both get stronger and forget about what had happened to me and it worked out pretty well until recently maybe this is the source of the pent-up anger and rage I have been feeling." she finished.
Saiko then offered from her experience, "It is sometimes best to talk to someone about your problems it can help lift a burden off your shoulders that does nothing but eating at you."
"I do admit talking about it does help me somewhat." Ranma stated looking to Herb briefly observing her expression which while it held concern was mostly blank she said softly, "I am sorry if this puts me in a negative light with you... but its a past I buried but you know now so I understand-"
Shaking her head negatively Herb interrupted her currently red-haired fiance saying, "No need for apologies Ranma and it doesn't change my mind about you. Matter of fact I am glad you were brave enough to share this with me and this will stay between us nobody else needs to know unless you wish to talk to them about it."
"Arigato," Ranma said feeling quite relieved by her fiance's words she wasn't quite sure if she would have ever told her plight to anyone before this... but she was relieved she had done so since the sorrow she had buried deeply seemed to wash away leaving her feeling emotionally rejuvenated.