I do not own anything written by Rumiko Takahashi.
Ranma's coming! The mantra once again echoed through Nabiki's mind, and the earth-haired girl sighed as the answer to the math problem she'd been working on vanished like it had never been. It had been days since she'd ... fed ... Ranma, and the nature spirit and boy she'd come to like so much was just hours away — a day or two at most, if that waste of space she ... he ... called a father would just hurry up, and she couldn't wait to meet that gorgeous hunk she'd seen in her dreams in person!
Nabiki sighed again, then frowned as she remembered Ranma's brief visit the other day, when the busty — and deliciously naked — redhead had told her that her father was bringing the two of them to the Tendo dojo, 'to visit an old friend'. There's something more going on than just a visit, I know it — that greedy, lying bastard could care less about any 'old friend', or he would have dropped by years ago. So why now? Maybe Ranma will be able to convince him to talk before it's too late, whatever it is. As it is, we'll probably have to step up my own plans.
She shook her head and decided that she was too distracted for school work. Pushing away from her desk, pulling her laptop out of its case and sitting on her bed, Nabiki booted it up, pulled up Genma's police record, and reviewed it yet again with a sigh. I suppose I should be glad he never did anything to really hurt anyone, but considering the statute of limitations, with this list of petty thievery and con games he'd get a few months — less than two years at most if he got anything at all. Especially since most of those injured eventually decided not to press charges. I wonder why? Still, that's not long enough to get Ranma completely out from under his legal authority.
Closing the police records folder, Nabiki opened up another file she'd started the day after Ranma's feeding, her notes of her conversation with Cherry Blossom when the effervescent sprite had returned from her spying mission on one Nodoka Saotome. Her face relaxed from a scowl to a slightly lascivious, slightly embarrassed smile at the memory of the cute little winged and naked blonde hovering in front of her face and commenting on her sex life. That bubbly airhead act has to be a con job, Nabiki thought, remembering the scatterbrained manner of the report — Cherry Blossom's delivery had been near-incoherent, jumping from one observation to another without any rhyme or reason Nabiki could figure out, but the observations has been spot-on, insightful, and thorough, very thorough. And it had covered subjects that Nabiki couldn't understand a sprite knowing at all — financial statements and business records, rankings in kendo and kenjutsu tournaments, the hints that Mrs. Saotome had some sort of sideline career that used up what little free time she had ... it's like Kasumi's comment on Cherry Blossom's cooking skills. Why would a sprite learn enough to understand all that? For that matter, I didn't think the little airheads could learn all that. There's something really strange going on here.
Still, in the midst of the minutia and shadows of Cherry Blossom's report there'd been two things Nabiki found very promising, and she read once more of the reports from private investigators searching for Genma Saotome and his son Ranma, going back almost eight years, and of the torn up seppuku contract in the little shrine Nodoka had created in honor of her son. Shutting down her laptop and putting it away, Nabiki flopped back on her bed and stared at the ceiling, again debating the pros and cons of contacting 'Auntie' Saotome, the way the contract had been torn up versus the fact that it existed at all. Finally, deciding again that she'd just have to wait and see what the future brought, Nabiki pulled out her latest manga and tried to distract herself from thoughts of the coming meeting.
Kasumi sighed and paused, pans in hand, as she gazed out the kitchen window for a long moment before resuming her preparations for that night's dinner. Ranma's coming, she thought to herself, and how am I supposed to handle this? The elder sister thought back to the other day, when Nabiki had told her of Ranma's hunger pains, and how she'd taken care of them — and how she intended to keep on taking care of them, as necessary. Nabiki had been half shame-faced, half resentfully rebellious at how she must have expected Kasumi to react, but Kasumi had simply thanked Nabiki for her honesty and walked away. Since then, she'd found herself needing to be extra-careful as thoughts of Ranma and Nabiki continually intruded on her daily routine.
It wouldn't be so bad if Ranma wasn't actually coming here, she thought half-despairingly. At least that way, even if Nabiki insists on not waiting for marriage as she should, there wouldn't be any chance of pregnancy. But with Ranma's boy-form available ... and with her preferences Nabiki will want to try him out as well, and without birth control it won't be safe for a couple of weeks. And I know she isn't going to be willing to use birth control — that would mean actually buying it and she'll be worried about what would happen if the wrong person found out about it. Chuckling slightly to herself, Kasumi admitted, Of course, I can't buy it for her, either — oh, horrors, the rumors that would start if the neighbors found out! Too bad there's no way that Akane would get it for her, any rumors that would start are better than the ones beginning to circulate at school right now.
Coming to herself, Kasumi realized that she'd been staring out the window again, and with another sigh picked up a kitchen knife and turned to the melon on the counter.
A tall, dark-haired and mustached man stood in the doorway to his home, staring down at the battered postcard with a panda on the back that he held in his shaking hands. Again, he read the short note: "Hi. Bringing Ranma from China. Saotome." Tears started flowing from Soun Tendo's eyes as he thought back to the days he and his fellow apprentice had suffered under the 'tutelage' of the perverted Master Happosai, and the agreement they had made to join their children and their schools when their plot against their master had actually worked. Over the years since Saotome had left on his son's training trip, and as Soun's students has fallen away because of his emotional outbursts after the death of his wife and money had gotten tighter and tighter, he had first worried and then despaired. But now the silence had finally been broken, Ranma was coming, and his daughters' futures would be secure!
"Kasumi! Nabiki! Akane!" the tall martial artist shouted as he rushed into the house with the good news.
The pigtailed boy in the red Chinese-style shirt and black draw-string pants stared at his balding, bulky father in shock. "Engaged?" he asked again. "You engaged me to one of the Tendo daughters when!?"
Genma chuckled nervously while trying to unobtrusively shift to block the alley exit. "Before you were born, when I and my fellow apprentice agreed to united our families' schools. Ranma, just think of the new techniques there will be to learn!"
Ranma hesitated for a moment, then remembering Akane and unconscious boys scattered around a school yard, stared suspiciously at Genma. "And which of the girls will I be marrying? What do ya know about 'em, anyway?"
Genma waved dismissively. "Any of them, it doesn't matter — one woman is as good as another." Then, as Ranma's stare turned into a glare, he hastily continued, "Besides, I don't really know anything about them. It's been ten years since I've spoken to Soun."
Ranma laughed bitterly and started to reply, when thunder rolled down from the clouds that had blown in suddenly and thick raindrops started spattering down around the pair. "Oh, that's just great!" he managed to say, just before the shower turned into a downpour and a large panda found herself watching her son's suddenly empty clothes drop to the alley floor.
"Fiancé?" Akane asked, staring at her father in disbelief.
"Yes, the son of a very good friend of mine..." Soun replied.
Nabiki shook her head where she knelt between her two sisters at the dining room table and tuned out the building argument as she listened to the sound of rain start coming through the wall windows behind her. Not a good way to start, Dad, she thought, then flinched slightly as suddenly she found herself looking at the bountiful breasts of her favorite cute redhead, now floating above the middle of the table.
Ranma looked around quickly, then shifted out of the way as an oblivious Akane leaned over and shouted across the table at her father, "Wait a minute! Don't we have a say in who we marry!?"
Nabiki stood up, interrupting Soun's response. "If there isn't anything more important to discuss, I have business to take care of in my room."
"But we haven't discussed which of us will take the Saotome engagement," Kasumi objected, and Ranma's eyes widened.
"I'll marry who I choose to marry, so what anyone else decides doesn't really matter," Nabiki said firmly as she walked toward the door. While Soun and Akane stared at Nabiki's retreating back, Kasumi rolled her eyes and motioned to Ranma to follow her. Ranma looked puzzled for a moment, then nodded in dawning comprehension and floated up through the ceiling.
Nabiki stalked into her room to find the nature spirit already waiting for her. Striding up to her, she stared at her pigtailed friend for a moment, then asked, "And how long have you known of the engagement?"
Ranma backed up a little, startled at Nabiki's biting tone and the suspicion boiling off of her. "J-J-Just a few minutes," she stuttered. "I finally got Pop ta tell me just before the rain started."
Nabiki gazed at her for a few minutes as the sound of the argument, or at least Akane's shouts, drifted up from downstairs. Finally, Nabiki's gaze softened and she stepped forward and pulled the nervous cutie into a hug. "Sorry, Ranma, I shouldn't have doubted you. Just letting my paranoia getting to me a little, I guess."
Ranma hesitantly returned the hug as she sighed with relief. The ugly feel of her friend's emotions had faded away, replaced by the usual warm feeling she enjoyed so much. "That's all right."
The two luxuriated in being together again for a moment, then Ranma sighed and pushed away as new shouts erupted from below, only from Soun this time: "Kasumi, my naginata, hurry!"
"That'll be the panda gettin' here," Ranma muttered, "might as well get this over with." She promptly started sinking through the floor.
"Get what over with?" Nabiki asked, but Ranma was already gone. What could she be talking about? The only one down there that can see her is Kasumi, at least when she's a nature spirit... Oh, no, don't tell me she's headed for the furo!
She rushed out of her room and down the hall to the stairs, and had just started down when Akane's scream of "AHHH! Naked pervert!" reverberated from the family room, followed by a loud crashing sound. Nabiki shook her head ruefully and slowed to a walk. Coming to the family room doorway, she stepped past the large panda carrying some sopping wet clothes and a couple of backpacks and looked down at the black-haired, pigtailed, and very naked hunk she remembered from her dreams lying unconscious under the dining table while a panting, furious Akane stood over him and glared equally at the unconscious boy at her feet and the panda just inside the room's entrance.
"What happened?" Nabiki asked, looking between Akane and the corner where her father was taking a naginata from his eldest daughter standing behind him.
"This panda just walked in!" Akane shouted. "And ... and then, this ... this naked pervert just appeared out of nowhere right next to him!"
Nabiki stepped next to her younger sister and turned to look the panda over, then nodded at the backpacks. "Well, Dad, you did say your friend and his son had been to China, so" — looking up at the panda's face — "Jusenkyo?"
The panda nodded, and Nabiki gave a sharp laugh and glanced at Akane. "I don't know what kind of spring could turn a boy into a ghost, but congratulations, kiddo, you may have just knocked out your future husband!"
Nabiki sat next to the unconscious black-haired boy lying on a futon in the guest room, gazing thoughtfully out the window. Well, that could have gone better, she thought with a grimace, then felt her expression soften as she looked down at her newly-arrived friend. Still, he's here and that's all that matters.
Her head jerked around at a soft knock on the door, her expression hardening, then she relaxed at the sound of her older sister's voice. "Nabiki, is Ranma waking up yet?" Kasumi asked softly. "Can I come in?"
"Sure," Nabiki responded, "and no, Ranma isn't waking up yet."
Kasumi quietly slipped inside and closed the door behind her, then tiptoed over to Ranma and stood gazing down at the unconscious boy. "He's very handsome," she whispered. "Is this how he looked in the dreams you shared?"
"Yeah, it is," the brown-haired girl said with a dreamy smile. "I sure lucked out, didn't I?"
"If the inside matches the outside, yes you did," Kasumi responded, then reluctantly added, "And I have to admit, he does seem to be a nice boy."
The dreamy look on Nabiki's face vanished as she glared at her older sister. "All right, Kasumi, what do you have against Ranma? You hardly know him!" she growled.
Kasumi held up her hands palms out in a placating gesture. "Easy, Nabiki, easy! I don't have anything against the boy, not really. It's just that ... well ..." She fell silent for a long moment, then sighed. "Nabiki, do you intend to repeat your dreams, only in real life?"
"You mean, do I intend to take him to bed and screw his brains out?" Nabiki asked, glancing at her older sister and grinning at the blush that sprang to life on her cheeks.
"Well, in a word, yes," Kasumi admitted.
"At the first opportunity. Why, got a problem with that?"
"Yes, little sis, I do — several, in fact," Kasumi said firmly. "First, it just isn't proper to do that outside of marriage — even with a fiancé." She quickly waved down her sister's gathering protest. "Still, as you have said so often and demonstrated again tonight, 'proper' is not something you care about, I know. Though you should at least pretend to care, to maintain the family's reputation — that will be important if Father's dream of reopening the dojo with Ranma as the sensei works out."
Nabiki froze with her mouth open, then swallowed her rebuttal and gazed thoughtfully down at the handsome face she had before seen only in her dreams. "You may have a good point there, big sis," she reluctantly admitted. "Ranma wants to teach someday, and his reputation will be important. And," she added even more reluctantly, "my reputation will affect how he's perceived. Damn it!"
Kasumi put her arm around her younger sister's shoulders. "Now, Nabiki, I don't expect you to act the perfect dutiful daughter, or sister, or fiancée or student as the case may be. Just please think about how your public actions will reflect on those closest to you?"
Nabiki nodded with a sigh. "It looks like you finally found an argument that works, big sis, I'll try. Still," she added with a grin, "that's just in public. What happens in private doesn't count!"
Kasumi chuckled ruefully, shaking her head. "That's if it stays private. But tell me, Nabiki, do you have any birth control?"
Nabiki stiffened, then with a groan dropped her head in her hands. "No, I don't," she murmured.
"And right now, you're — what was that odd American phrase? — as fertile as a turtle. It won't really be safe for a couple weeks, and I don't know how Ranma would handle it if you got an abortion. And you don't want to get one behind his back."
"Yeah, a secret like that would not be good," Nabiki agreed, lifting her head out of her hands and shaking it. "How did I miss that?" she asked bemusedly.
"You got bedazzled by a pretty face," Kasumi said primly, sitting up ramrod straight. "Of course, such a thing could never happen to me!"
"Dr. Tofu will be sorry to hear that," Nabiki replied slyly, then laughed as Kasumi slapped her gently on the shoulder. "Ah, well," she sighed, "I guess I'll just have to convince Ranma to let me play with his nature spirit form. Not that that's a hardship, she's cute as can be like that, Jusenkyo sure worked out for us. Maybe now that I'm her fiancée she'll loosen up a little there."
Blushing, Kasumi gratefully latched onto the change of subject. "So you want the engagement?"
"Yeah, I do," Nabiki said. "I thought of suggesting that you take it for a little while — I'm afraid that Genma will want to keep Ranma under his thumb, and I'll probably scare him. Still, that lazy bastard can hardly run away now, not if he wants the lazy future I think he's angling for, so he'll just have to deal with me — and maybe his wife." She smiled viciously, and Kasumi joined her as she thought of the report from Cherry Blossom.
"I hope I'm here to see that," Kasumi agreed, and got up. "I'll let the fathers know that we've agreed that you should take the engagement, and with a couple new members of the household I have some work to do getting everything set up before bedtime. Bring Ranma downstairs when he wakes up, I've set some supper aside for the two of you."
Nabiki nodded distractedly, her gaze returning to Ranma's face, and Kasumi sighed and shook her head ruefully as she headed for the door.
On the roof over the guest room window, Xian Pu quietly moved back and to the other side of the roof, then roof-hopped away into the night. A few minutes later, she reached the park where she had stashed her pack and pulled it out, her hands automatically setting up her camp as her mind repeated the conversation she'd heard over and over.
Not a mage, just a Jusenkyo curse, and what do I do now? she thought as she finally tried to relax on her blankets after her meager supper, gazing at the few stars coming out in the darkening sky and trying to fight off the despair threatening to overwhelm her. It looks like I'm going to be stuck with that fat fool after all, unless I can find some other man able to defeat me in fair combat that the elders would accept as a replacement. Yeah, right, she snorted derisively. I'm the champion of the tribe of the best warriors in the world. The fact that Genma was able to beat me was incredible enough, even if I was tired from winning the tournament — what are the chances that there's another man around that could repeat that miracle?
Unable to find her usual comfort in the darkening night sky with most of the stars washed out by Tokyo's light pollution, Xian Pu turned on her side and rested her head on her hands. Maybe it won't be so bad. A couple of children to do my duty to the tribe, and maybe he'll lose interest in me. And he's overweight — if I'm really lucky, he'll eat himself to death or something. Then, remembering the muscles under the fat that she'd pounded her fists against during their brief fight, she laughed bitterly to herself. Not a chance. Face it girl, you're fucked — and all too soon that will be more than a figure of speech.
Wishing desperately that she could be scooped up by her mother and have everything made right again like when she was little, Xian Pu curled up in her blankets and cried herself to sleep for the first time in six years, since the night of her mother's death.
Once the purple-haired girl had sunk into uneasy dreams, the imp that had followed her from the Tendo Dojo slipped away to report what little it had learned.