Subject: [FFML2] [fanfic][ranma]Comes the Cold Dragon:PartVIIdR4
From: Don Granberry
Date: 2/2/2001, 9:15 AM
To: FFML2
Reply-to:
lunohoco@lunohoco.com

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This is the fourth and final section of ParVII. It is the fourth
revision I have done since submitting it to pre-readers. Hopefully, I
have hunted down and killed all the grammar and punctuation bugs.

Issued here for commentary,

Don Granberry.



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      Extra special thanks to my pre-readers for helping me 
improve this one!

       Most of the characters in this piece and the setting 
for it were conceived of by Rumiko Takahashi for her Ranma1/2 
series of Manga. All such characters and the setting are the 
property of Takahashi-san and her licensees. All other 
characters, except those noted below, are purely fictional 
and any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, are 
purely coincidental.

      Jack Burton is the creation and property of  W.D. 
Richter, Gary Goldman, and David Z. Weinstein, screenwriters 
for the movie _Big Trouble in Little China_. The role of Jack 
Burton played by Kurt Russel. The movie directed by John 
Carpenter.

      Brief mention is made of Sensei Nobuhara Yagyu. Yagyu-
Sensei is the current and twenty-first headmaster of the 
Shinkage-ryu hyoho. He is a direct descendent of Yagyu 
Sekihusai Munetoshi, the founder of the Shinkage-ryu. The 
Shinkage-ryu hyoho was the school of swordsmanship adopted by 
the Tokugawa Shogunate. The Yagyu and their allied clans were 
instrumental in assuring a Tokugawa victory at Sekigahara.

       No insult of Yagyu-sensei or his renowned school is 
intended by mentioning him and the Shinkage-ryu in this 
story. Quite the opposite obtains. In this writer's opinion, 
it would be a gross violation of verisimilitude to write of a 
great, Japanese Martial Artist and not mention the Sensei and 
his school, at least in passing.


                       ------------------
 
           Comes the Cold Dragon: Part VIId Revision 4
 
                        ------------------

       Nabiki and Ukyo were downstairs waiting when Burton 
pulled up to the curb in front of the clinic. Kasumi had 
called them a block or so away. Kasumi got out of the front, 
after having thanked Burton for such an entertaining ride. 
Tofu Ono got out of the back next, then reached inside and 
withdrew a very limp Onna-Ranma. Nabiki noted the care and 
protectiveness with which Tofu seemed to be handling Ranma's 
limp form and found it revealing, but not terribly 
surprising. Ranma seemed to grow on everyone that was around 
him very much and Tofu had seen quite a bit of Ranma since 
his arrival in Nerima. It took Akane three separate tries and 
Kasumi's help to get out of the cab. Nabiki rolled her eyes 
at this. Not only would there be more bills, but Ranma would 
likely be furious once he found out. 
 
       "Are you okay, Akane?" Nabiki asked worriedly.
 
       "I'll be okay, Onee-chan," Akane said irritably, "I 
just overdid it a little, that's all."
 
       "Are you sure?" Nabiki asked.
 
       Akane grimaced as she nodded her head yes. Nabiki 
stood aside so that Kasumi could help her youngest sister 
into the clinic. The slow drizzle turned into a light rain as 
they went into the lobby. Nabiki deployed her umbrella, then 
turned back around only to find Konatsu clinging to the open 
door of the cab for support. The ninja looked like the 
proverbial cat caught in the washing machine--frazzled and 
bruised.
 
       "Oh, Konatsu!" Ukyo cried out, sounding dismayed. 
"What on earth happened to you? You poor baby."
 
       "It's a long story, Ukyo-sama," Konatsu said in a weak 
voice.
 
       "Where's Ryoga?" Nabiki asked, sounding concerned.
 
       "Ryoga?" Konatsu asked, sounding puzzled. "I haven't 
seen him all morning. Was he here?"
 
       "I mean P-chan," Nabiki amended.
 
       "He's in the trunk," Konatsu said tiredly. "He had a 
nosebleed and the Baato-san did not want him in the passenger 
compartment."
 
       "Konatsu, honey, are you okay?" Ukyo asked, with 
obvious concern on her face. Konatsu looked past the chef at 
Nabiki and gave her a sly wink, then slid into a slow 
collapse. Ukyo caught him, of course. 
 
       "Let's get you inside before you catch your death of a 
cold, Sugar," Ukyo said, carrying Konatsu towards the clinic 
door. Nabiki chuckled softly as she watched them go.
 
       "Hey Nabsy-doll," Burton said in Nabiki's ear, causing 
her to gasp in alarm.
 
       "Yeah, what is it, Jack?"
 
       "Money, remember?"
 
       "I've got one more little job for you first," Nabiki 
said.
 
       "Money, first!" Burton said, with a grim look on his 
face. "Gas ain't cheap around here."
 
       "You have a pig in your trunk," Nabiki said in a 
matter-of-fact tone, rather than starting another round of 
haggling.
 
       "Yeah, so?"
 
       "I need you to deliver him to the Unryuu farm west of 
town. Do you know here it is?"
 
       "Oh, yeah! That's the place where they raise all those 
Sumo pigs, right?"
 
       Nabiki nodded.
 
       "It's gonna cost ya! That place is way, way outta ... 
"
 
       Nabiki slapped Burton hard--with a wad of bills. He 
grinned stupidly in response.
 
       "You win!" Burton said, still smiling.
 
       "Put those in the trunk with him," Nabiki said, 
indicating Ryoga's loose clothing and other gear.
 
       "Wha? Whose stuff is this?" Burton asked.
 
       "It belongs to the pig," Nabiki said, handing Burton a 
thermos bottle.
 
       "The pig?" Burton asked sounding puzzled as he took 
the thermos. Realization dawned in his face. "You mean he's 
... "
 
       "Yet another victim of Jusenkyo, yes."
 
       "Has everybody in this town been to China?" Burton 
asked, then looked alarmed. "Damn! I nearly forgot Wang and 
Mai Ying!"
 
       "Who?" Nabiki asked.
 
       "Old friends of mine! I'm supposed to pick 'em up at 
the airport!" Burton said. "Would'ya mind if I picked them 
before I delivered your porcine pal to his farm?"
 
       "No," Nabiki said smiling evilly. She knew all too 
well how Burton drove. 
 
       "I wouldn't mind that at all. Just make sure he gets 
to the Unryuu farm, Jack. If you lose him anywhere near 
Nerima and my baby sister finds out, she'll throw a major 
fit."
 
       "What she did this morning wasn't a major fit?" Burton 
asked, sounding shocked.
 
       Nabiki shook her head no.
 
       Burton whistled as he clapped a palm to his forehead.
 
       "I'd better get goin'!" Burton said, sounding excited 
as he carelessly pitched Ryoga's pack and other things into 
the trunk. "Nice doin' bidness with ya, Nabs."
 
       "Pleasure's all mine, Jack," Nabiki said, suppressing 
the urge to laugh out loud. "Drive safely!"
 
       "Hey! This is Jack Burton you're talkin' to here!" 
Burton said, with an offended note in his voice and 
demonstrating his agitation by angrily waving his arms. As he 
got into his cab he added, "I always drive safe!"
 
       "Yeah, right!" Nabiki said, as she watched the cab fly 
off down the street and take the first corner it came to on 
two wheels. "Except when you're in a hurry, Jack!"
   
       
 
 
                 -------------------
 
  
 
         Nodoka Saotome awoke early, bathed, and made 
breakfast, finding that she missed Kasumi already. She could 
not blame the girl for walking Tofu home. Had it been her own 
daughter in similar situation, having a fine catch like Tofu 
Ono in the offing, she probably would have advised the girl 
to do the same. Kasumi had taken a small risk relative to the 
potential reward. Word would spread quickly, and that was at 
least part of the idea. Other girls would be warned away from 
the good Doctor with Kasumi Tendo, of all people, staking her 
reputation on him.
  
       Nodoka sat down at the table in Kasumi's usual place, 
seeing to it that Genma and Soun were amply supplied with 
food. Much to her chagrin, they began stealing from each 
other's plates. As embarrassed as Nodoka felt about it, Soun 
seemed to enjoy the game. Judging from the look of his 
technique, Tendo had plenty of practice at stealing food from 
the plates of others.
 
       "Husband?" Nodoka asked, seeing that the two men were 
fast approaching satiation.
 
       "Yes, Nou-chan?" Genma rumbled.
 
       "With your permission, I will be gone for most of the 
day," Nodoka said.
 
       "Oh? And why is that, my dear?" Genma made it sound as 
though he could refuse her, and if he did; Nodoka would have 
complied with his wishes. She was that kind of 
traditionalist. However, Genma was not nearly the idiot many 
believed him to be.
 
       "I wish to congratulate our son on his victory over 
that hoodlum," Nodoka replied, "and spend some time with 
him."
 
       "Of course, dear!" Genma said cheerfully. "That sounds 
like an excellent idea! I am sure Ranma will find your 
company a great comfort about now."
 
       This last sentence was habit on Genma's part. He was 
forever watchful of Nodoka lest she cause the boy to become 
soft. Nodoka managed to contain her desire to scream with 
red-eyed rage by giving Genma a polite sniff. 
 
       "Actually, I am rather counting on his comforting me, 
dear," Nodoka said with a grim smile. 
 
        Genma looked vaguely surprised for a moment, then 
smiled and nodded his head.
 
       "Of course, Nou-chan," Genma said in his rumbling 
voice. "Don't worry about him too much. You do remember what 
the doctor said?"
 
       "I will be leaving sandwiches in the refrigerator for 
lunch," Nodoka said. "Do try to make them last until the 
evening meal."
  
       "Of course, dear."
 
       The two men retired to their shogi board for yet 
another battle of wits. Had it been just them and Kasumi, 
Soun might have tried to help clear away the dishes, but knew 
better than to even try such thing in Nodoka's presence. They 
were slogging through an exceptionally difficult mid-game 
phase, when Nodoka quietly left the house in her tattered 
overcoat. She proceeded down the street towards the Ono 
Clinic carrying a picnic basket and affecting a kind of 
imperious dignity and reserve, despite her faded umbrella and 
badly worn geta. The life of a Martial Artist's wife was not 
an easy one, but Nodoka Saotome carried it off with a style 
that few could match. 
 
       She wished the food in the basket could have been for 
her son as well as Akane, Nabiki, and herself, but that 
simply was not possible given Ranma's condition. Hopefully, 
Nabiki had already seen after the delivery of Ranma's 
rations. She was shocked when Ranma did not appear to be in 
the green-space between the clinic building and the 
property's wall.
 
       "Ranma?" Nodoka called out.
 
       "In here, Aunt Nodoka," Nabiki called from the 
doorway. "He changed back much sooner than expected."
 
       "Already?" Nodoka asked with more than a little 
concern in her voice. "I thought Doctor Tofu said it would be 
at least a week."
 
       "Well, Ranma probably should have waited at least that 
long," Nabiki said, her voice sounding angry about something, 
"but he changed trying to help a friend out of trouble. I'm 
afraid your son is incorrigibly heroic, even when he should 
not be."
 
       "How is he?" Nodoka asked.
 
       "He's pretty weak, but Doctor Tofu thinks he'll be 
fine after a few days of rest."
 
       Nodoka closed her eyes, took a deep breath, then 
sighed.
 
       "What will it take for my son to have a little peace?" 
Nodoka asked as she tapped her umbrella against her geta to 
shake the water off. 
 
       "Doctor Tofu has an idea about that," Nabiki said 
quietly, clearly sharing Nodoka's concern. She took Nodoka's 
overcoat and hung it up carefully on the wall of the lobby. 
"We were about to call you."
 
       "He's here?"
 
       "Yes, he and Kasumi arrived here about an hour ago. 
Doctor Tofu is in the lab concocting some medicine for 
Akane."
 
       "Akane?" Nodoka asked, now even more concerned. The 
future of her clan was riding on these two young people. "Is 
she sick?"
 
       "Well, you know how my baby sister is, Aunt Nodoka," 
Nabiki said with an irritated sigh. "She never does things by 
halves. She overexerted herself this morning chasing after 
Ranma and Ryoga."
 
       "Perhaps you had best explain," Nodoka said. "Who is 
Ryoga?"
 
       Nabiki explained about Ryoga, then brought her up to 
date the morning's events. Nodoka was furious at Ryoga's 
behavior towards Akane, but managed to contain it behind her 
cold, steely facade. 
 
       "Perhaps I should speak with Doctor Tofu before going 
upstairs," Nodoka said after an uncomfortable period of 
silence. 
 
       Nabiki merely nodded her head in reply.
 
       "Do you have any idea why my son tolerated this young 
man's behavior?"
 
       "Aunt Nodoka, one of your son's shortcomings is that 
he is honorable to a fault. I cannot imagine why Ranma 
allowed it to go on, but I'm sure he had what he believed to 
be good reason. Kami-sama knows, it must have caused Ranma 
enough grief."
 
       This brought Nodoka up short. Much of Ranma's odd 
behavior towards girls was suddenly explained by Nabiki's 
observation. It was not that her son was unmanly. Ranma was 
simply trying to be honorable. Nodoka wondered why she had 
never considered such a possibility before. His behavior was 
truly amazing, given that his father had raised him.
 
       "I'll go see Doctor Tofu now," Nodoka said after 
another moment of silence. "Will you be joining us upstairs?"
 
       "I gather you brought a luncheon along in that 
basket," Nabiki said.
 
       "Yes."
 
       "I'll take it up for you and set the table," Nabiki 
said.
 
       "Thank you, Nabiki."
 
       "No, thank you, Aunt Nodoka," Nabiki said with a 
smile, "I was just about to order take-out. This will save us 
a few yen."
 
       "At least you won't have to feed Ranma in his dragon 
form," Nodoka said with a wan smile.
 
       "I wouldn't mind it too much. He'd make a great pet 
like that, you know."
 
       Nodoka managed a smile in lieu of a shudder, then went 
to find Doctor Tofu.
 
       "Ah! Youkoso, Saotome-san!" [Please be welcome, Mrs. 
Saotome.]
 
       "Thank you kindly, Sensei," Nodoka said. "How are 
things today?"
 
       "Well, Ranma is again in great need of rest. He 
changed back to his human form much too early, but Elder Ko 
Lon agrees me that he will be fine in a couple of days."
 
       "And Akane?"
 
       Tofu Ono shook his head.
 
       "She has the worst case of acute overexertion I've 
seen in years. She is going to be sore for at least a week, 
probably longer."
 
       "Will she recover fully?" Nodoka asked, her concern 
quite obvious.
 
       "Oh, yes!" Tofu said cheerfully. "She's quite strong, 
you know. A perfect match for Ranma in many ways."
 
       Nodoka breathed a sigh of relief.
 
       "Why don't you try cup of my special tea, Saotome-
san."
 
       "Special?"
 
       "Yes, it's quite rare," Tofu said. "It's a fine 
oolong, aged for two years with rose petals. I just received 
a box of it from China earlier this week."
 
       "It sounds delicious," Nodoka said, "thank you."
 
       Tofu smiled and poured Nodoka a cup of the brew. 
 
       Nodoka sipped accepted the cup and sipped it. Not only 
was it delicious, but she could feel the tension flowing out 
of her even as its aroma reached her nose.
 
       "Ranma has a great future ahead of him, you know," 
Tofu said with a sunny smile, "All we have to do right now is 
help him past this little hump."
 
       Nodoka tightened her grip upon her cup, fighting off a 
shiver.
 
       "Doctor, I'd like to ask you about my son's cursed 
form, if I may."
 
       "You mean his female form?"
 
       "Yes."
 
       "What would you like to know?"
 
       "Is it truly complete?"
 
       "Physically, Ranma is one-hundred and ten percent 
female in his cursed form," Tofu said in a careful tone of 
voice, "Mentally, I don't think he knows how to be a female. 
His psyche is overwhelmingly masculine."
 
       Nodoka nervously sipped at her tea again.
 
       "Then you don't think he ... suffers from ... has 
urges ... " 
 
       Nodoka could not continue and cursed herself for even 
thinking of the question.
 
       "That, I'm sure, is one of the unique challenges Ranma 
has faced on nearly a daily basis since the day he fell into 
that spring," Tofu said gently, "but his determination to be 
a man has never wavered insofar as I can tell."
 
       "Then it _does_ affect his mind to some degree?"
 
       "He has never said so," Tofu said evenly, "but I 
cannot imagine how it would be otherwise. He loses several 
kilos and several centimeters of his reach when he becomes a 
girl. The change in his body is totally complete, including 
fully female hormones according to the lab tests."
 
       Nodoka took another sip of tea and closed her eyes. 
 
       "My poor, poor son," Nodoka whispered after a long 
silence.
 
       "Oh, I wouldn't say that, Saotome-san," Tofu said, "He 
will have a much richer life than the rest of us for all of 
this."
 
       Nodoka opened her eyes wide with shock.
 
       "You sound envious!" Nodoka said.
 
       "Think of it this way, Saotome-san," Tofu said, "Ranma 
is one of the few people on this earth who will be able to 
know what it is to be fully human."
 
       Nodoka started to speak, but Tofu held up his hand.
 
       "Please, hear me out," Tofu said. "Ranma is not just a 
fine young man. He is also a lovely young woman, or can be 
should the need arise. Now he is also a powerful young 
dragon."
 
       Silent tears began to well up in Nodoka Saotome's 
eyes.
 
       "These are opportunities to be treasured, but they do 
come with a great price. They mean that Ranma must do three 
times as much growing up as any ordinary human being. The 
kami have seen fit to ask a lot of him."
 
       "It's unnatural!" Nodoka exclaimed.
 
       "Nonsense!" Tofu said, sounding amused. "It's all 
perfectly natural, just extraordinary, that's all."
 
       "Natural but extraordinary?" Nodoka asked, sounding 
suspicious.
 
       "Ranma is not the only man to have had this type of 
curse, you know?"
 
       "No?"
 
       "Nor is it peculiar to the orient if legend is to be 
believed. The Ancient Greeks have stories about at least two 
different individuals who spent parts of their lives as 
members of the opposite sex."
 
       "Did they ever meet?" Nodoka asked, her curiosity 
overcoming her fears for a moment.
 
       "Not as far as I know," Tofu said, "but you have to 
admit that it would have made for some intriguing 
possibilities."
 
       "I can't imagine," Nodoka said, then winced. "No, 
that's not true. I think I _can_ imagine and it is one of the 
things which concerns me."
 
       "You needn't be concerned, Saotome-san," Tofu said. 
"I've watched Ranma and Akane together now for quite 
sometime. Ranma is so much in love with her I do not think 
anyone, much less another man, could ever turn his head. He 
looks at Akane the same way no matter what form he is in at 
the moment. She is the same by him."
 
       Nodoka breathed a huge sigh of relief in spite of 
herself. She hated to admit it, even to herself, but her 
son's doctor knew more about him than she did. She was just 
now barely beginning to know who or what her son was. She 
could not deny that he was manly after seeing him fight that 
horrible monster and winning with such relative ease.
 
       "But what of his draconian form?" Nodoka asked. "You 
seem to think his female form has some effect on his mind. 
Won't this new form effect him as well?"
 
       "Oh, certainly," Tofu said, "but Ranma is basically a 
very decent human being down deep inside where it counts. To 
him, his draconian form is just another challenge to be 
mastered. Just as his Jusenkyo curse was a challenge to be 
mastered."
 
       "Has he really gotten control of curse?"
 
       "He has at least partial control," Tofu said, "that 
much is certain. Whether or not he has full control of it, or 
whether he will be able to control it all the time is another 
question."
 
       "Why?"
 
       "Well, changing forms without using water, or 
resisting it when he is splashed, takes a lot of ki. 
Fortunately, Ranma generates a great deal of ki. He is the 
strongest adept I or even Ko Lon has ever seen. Even so, he 
may not be able to resist the Jusenkyo affect whenever he's 
very tired, or has expended a great deal of ki. He is in his 
female form right now because of that."
 
       "Oh," Nodoka said. "I did not realize this might be 
the case."
 
       "Then of course, there's the fact that he will need to 
spend some time in his alternate forms once in a while in 
order to stay healthy."
 
       "What?" Nodoka asked.
 
       "Here," Tofu said with a gentle smile, "allow me to 
freshen our tea."
 
       "Thank you, Doctor," Nodoka said, as Tofu refilled 
their cups. She told him with her eyes that she would not be 
distracted from receiving an answer to her question.
 
       "Ranma will spend the rest of his life engaged in a 
kind of balancing act. In order to maintain the proper and 
healthy balance of his ki, he will need to spend time in each 
of his three forms."
  
       "Then he will need to be fully female when he is 
female?"
 
       "Ah, well more or less. He cannot help that, really. 
Mentally he remains masculine, but his body is, well ... "
 
       "Drop dead gorgeous and female?" Nodoka asked.
 
       "Yes," Tofu said with a chuckle, "and his draconian 
form is, well, very draconian as far as I can tell, even 
though I'm not sure of all the details." 
 
      Tofu unconsciously scratched the back of his neck with 
one hand, then said, "Once he reaches about age eighteen, 
Ranma will probably spend the bulk of his time in his male, 
human form."
 
       "I don't understand, he doesn't do that now?"
 
       "He tries, but he just recently gained partial control 
of his curse. His real problem has been that young women 
mature at an earlier age than young men."
 
       Nodoka gasped, then covered her mouth with one hand. 
Tofu raised his eyebrows in response.
 
       "You see now what I mean about Ranma having more 
growing up to do than anyone else? He has three different 
bodies now. Each of them needs time to grow. He's only 
seventeen."
 
       Nodoka closed her eyes and nodded her head.
 
       "His father may not approve of it, but Ranma needs a 
lot of nurturing right now. The next year or so is going to 
be quite difficult for him. I think it is well past the time 
he had a loving mother in his life. The same could be said 
for Akane."
       
        "I'm not sure of what to do!" Nodoka said, clearly 
distraught. "Is he my son or is she my daughter? Is he a 
human or is he some kind of kami in the making?"
 
       "Welcome to the club, Saotome-san," Tofu said in 
gentle, but amused voice. "I am his doctor, and I seldom know 
exactly how to treat Ranma either. I find that I must think 
every step completely through before I take it. He is no 
ordinary patient." 

        Nodoka sipped at her tea, looking upset despite its 
calming effects.
 
       "I think your job is much simpler than mine, really," 
Tofu's said.
 
       "How so?" Nodoka asked, sounding slightly offended.
 
       "You need merely do what is already in your heart, 
Saotome-san," Tofu said. "Just love your child and nurture 
him as best you can."
 
       Nodoka stared at Tofu for a long time without saying 
anything.
 
       "It can't be that simple, Sensei."
 
       "The normal standards for many things do not apply to 
Ranma," Tofu said, "but the most important ones are just as 
much the same for him as they are for anyone else. In many 
ways perhaps, they are even more important. Right now, he 
needs a mother who loves him. What could be simpler? Or more 
complicated?"
 
       "Is Ranma conscious right now?"
 
       "Yes, in a way," Tofu said. "He is aware of what is 
going on around him, but he is very lethargic. He may have 
gone to sleep since I came down here."
 
       "Then I will go see him."
 
       Tofu smiled at her.
 
       "Good! I'll be up as soon as Akane's medicine is 
finished."
 
       "She will bear him strong sons, won't she?"
 
       "Hah!" Tofu laughed. "Her daughters will be at least 
as strong as the average boy. Each of her sons will be more 
than a handful."
 
       "I look forward to that," Nodoka said with a grin, 
then left the lab and made her way up the stairs.
 
 
 
 
 
 
                   -------------------
 
  
 
 
  
       Happosai sat quietly in his cell, thinking and 
reminiscing. He had done much more of that than he liked in 
the last few days. He was, he had decided, a man living 
outside of time. He had, over the long years, slowly become a 
stranger in his own homeland without ever realizing it until 
today. Japan had changed so much from the time of his youth, 
that if he stopped and thought about it, she was hard to 
recognize. The number of people he had known when a young man 
and who were still alive was quite small. Out of them, the 
ones he could count as friends were even fewer. He had 
outlived the majority of his friends and all of his serious 
enemies. While his wealth was not vast, he was more than 
comfortable. He was at an age now where he would have to do 
something truly foolish to ever want for money. Wealth meant 
very little to him anymore. 
 
       The only thing left that he actually treasured was The 
Art. Oh, to be sure, he loved stealing lingerie, but he never 
kept it for very long. There was a ready market for stolen 
lingerie in Tokyo and he sold the stuff by the truckload. He 
did not enjoy keeping his silky darlings nearly so much as he 
did stealing them, but even that was beginning to pale 
somewhat. No, what truly mattered to him now was to see his 
Art continued. The true medium of a Martial Artist's Art is 
his students. Having watched two of his best do battle in 
Furinkan yard, there was no longer any question about which 
of them was his true heir.
 
       Like it or not, it was time for him to begin the hard 
and dangerous work of passing the torch. He would license 
Ranma to teach. In teaching, the boy would learn more about 
himself and The Art than he would from further study with a 
master. Happosai got out his writing materials and began 
drafting a license, no, a permit really. Ranma would be 
allowed one student of his own choice. If that student did 
well, then perhaps Happosai might certify him as a master of 
the Anything Goes School. In this, as in all else, the boy 
would have to prove himself worthy. Ranma would also have to 
prove himself capable of producing more than one heir. The 
Art was too important to have its future hopes pinned to the 
well-being of a single person.
 
       Happosai would have preferred that Soun Tendo had 
remarried and tried to have more children, but that simply 
was not to be. The death of his wife had reduced the man to a 
quivering shadow of his former self. Genma had been nearly 
hopeless from day one. The fool believed that a woman's 
influence weakened him, when obviously the exact opposite 
held true. Nodoka was all the backbone Genma had ever had or 
ever would have. Fortunately, Ranma Saotome showed every sign 
of having his mother's steely nature and implacable will. 
Happosai laughed mirthlessly to himself and silently thanked 
the kami. His waning years were going to prove interesting 
after all.
 
       
 
 
                      -------------------
  
 
 
 
       Nodoka paused at the top of the stairs. The climb had 
seemed interminable to her. She had begun to fear that she 
had waited too long; that the distance between herself and 
her child had become so great that the gulf between them 
could never be bridged. Now, on this very evening, she would 
find out if she were just a woman with a grown child, or 
hopefully, a mother.
 
       She took in the scene of the second story flat with 
fearful eyes. The place was warm, but the silence pervading 
the room was heavy, almost oppressive to Nodoka. Kasumi and 
Nabiki had finished setting out dishes for luncheon. Nabiki 
was sipping at a cup of tea while reading a textbook. Akane 
was lying on a futon next to Ranma, obviously suffering from 
great discomfort and awake because of it. Kasumi was kneeling 
beside her baby sister, holding a cup of tea for her. Ranma's 
appearance was positively frightening; Nodoka had never seen 
him so pale or his exhaustion so complete; yet he called out 
to her in the soft voice of his feminine form. Somehow, 
without ever opening his eyes, Onna-Ranma had detected 
Nodoka's presence.
 
       "Mom?"
 
       Nodoka fought against the adrenaline surging into her 
bloodstream. The desire to tear across the room and throw 
herself down by Ranma's side was nearly unbearable, but she 
had an example to set. Her son did need to do a lot of 
growing up, and he needed to learn the things his father had 
not troubled himself to teach, or worse, discouraged. Nodoka 
walked softly across the room with carefully measured steps, 
then knelt down by her son.
 
       "Yes, Ranma?" Nodoka asked as she took Onna-Ranma's 
left hand. She found the feel of it startling. There was 
little that could be called feminine about the feel of Onna-
Ranma's hand. It was all ropy steel wrapped in the hard 
calluses of pain and endurance. Nodoka clutched it a bit 
harder than she intended, waiting for Onna-Ranma to speak. He 
had to struggle several times to get out the words.
 
       "I'm ... I'm ... sorry, Mother. I ... did ... didn't 
... mean ... to ... disappoint ... you."
 
       Onna-Ranma opened his eyes despite the fatigue 
plaguing him, staring deep into Nodoka's eyes, worriedly 
seeking reassurance. Nodoka gave out a little gasp as she 
felt her heart plummet into those ocean blue depths.
 
       "Nonsense, Ranma! You have not disappointed me. I was 
a little frightened, that's all."
 
       "Didn't ... mean ... to ... do ... that ... either."
 
       "It was a most difficult battle, my son," Nodoka said, 
silently cursing at the catch in her throat. "You were 
magnificent."
 
       The obvious relief in Onna-Ranma's face tore at 
Nodoka's heart. Just the day before her son had faced a 
monster nearly five meters tall with careless ease, as though 
it were just pleasant walk in the sun. Today all Ranma 
Saotome was worried about was what she, his mother, thought. 
Tofu had been right. Her son might occasionally be as much a 
daughter as a son, or even a dragon in his spare time, but 
the truth was undeniable. He was her child. Hers! She loved 
him and he was as precious to her now as the day he was born.
 
       "We are about to have luncheon, Ranma. You should eat 
if you can."
 
       Onna-Ranma moved his head from side to side, and 
smiled faintly.
 
       "Had ... a ... really big ... supper ... last night, 
Mom."
 
       Nodoka laughed softly at this, as did the other girls.
 
       "Perhaps you should rest then."
 
       Onna-Ranma nodded his head, then felt about with his 
right hand until he found Akane's left. He gave it a squeeze 
before falling fast asleep.
 
       Nodoka looked up at Akane.
 
       "How are you feeling, my dear?"
 
       "I ache all over, Mother, but I'll be okay in a day or 
so."
 
       Kasumi and Nabiki both gasped at the word "mother." 
Both had on some level expected to eventually hear Akane call 
Nodoka that, but hearing her actually say it came as a shock. 
Even Nodoka had been taken aback, but she recovered her poise 
quickly. She gave Akane a sunny smile.
 
       "Good. Will you eat here? Or shall I help you to the 
table?"
 
       "I'd like to try eating at the table I think, Mother."
 
       Kasumi quickly moved aside, her face aglow with 
happiness.
 
       "Lean on me, child," Nodoka said to Akane. "Don't 
strain yourself any more than you must."
 

       
 
 
                   -------------------
 

  
 
 
       P-Chan woke up tumbling around within the dark 
confines of Burton's trunk like a dried pea rattling around 
in boxcar.  To say that he was confused amounts to the 
understatement of this century and possibly the one previous. 
He could remember very little of what had happened during his 
brief ride in the dogcatcher's truck. All he could remember 
was a hungry-looking dragon speaking with Ranma Saotome's 
voice. Shortly after he became conscious, the thermos Nabiki 
had given Burton shattered, covering him with hot water. 
While the sudden increase in size greatly reduced the 
velocity at which he banged into the limits of his confines, 
rattling around in Burton's trunk still hurt. Being assaulted 
by his own pack and umbrella only added insult to injury.
 
       "Great!" Ryoga shouted. "First you swallow me whole, 
then you go for a long jog! Is that how dragons settle their 
breakfast, Ranma?"
 
       The violent motion tortured Ryoga's middle ear 
unmercifully. Bile rose in his throat. The good part about 
this was that he had not eaten for quite some time and 
therefore threw up very little. The bad part of it was, his 
stomach insisted that he keep throwing up.  If Ranma doesn't 
stop running soon, my stomach is going to pitch my toenails, 
Ryoga thought as his empty stomach made yet another painful 
effort to heave its nonexistent contents. 
 
       "Why am I throwing up when I should be giving him 
indigestion?" Ryoga cried out between painful retches.
       
       
 
 
                         -------------------
   

 
        Jack Burton did not forget the black piglet in his 
trunk, but he did have more pressing concerns on his mind. 
Chief among those concerns was the traffic slowing his 
progress towards Haneda airport. He was thankful that his 
friends were coming in from Taiwan, rather than Australia as 
they had originally planned. That would have meant a trip out 
to Narita. The very thought of making a trip to Narita caused 
him to shudder. Once at the airport he could not convince the 
airport cops that he was there to pick up friends and not a 
paying fare, so he had to park in the garage. 
 
       
 
 
                        -------------------

 


        The sudden cessation of motion first came as a relief 
to Ryoga, but then he began to worry. Soon, very soon, Ryoga 
thought, he would be bathing in the gastric juices of a 
dragon. Then, over the next several days, he would slowly 
dissolve, as he became a part of his hated enemy. He would 
never see Akari or Akane again and it would all be Ranma's 
fault. Yellowish-green fire began to flicker around Ryoga as 
the worst case of depression he had ever felt began settle 
upon his heart. Unfortunately, he did not open his eyes. If 
he had, the light of his own aura would have given him cause 
for hope.
 
       "Oh, so you finally decided to take a nap and digest 
your breakfast, is that it, Ranma?" Ryoga bellowed. "I'll 
show you! YOU BASTARD!"
 
       "SHI-SHI HOKODAN!"
 
       Life for both Jack Burton and Ryoga Hibiki then became 
very, very complicated as Ryoga's ki blast tore Burton's cab 
to pieces and generally made a shambles of the parking 
garage. Airport security and damage control personnel 
immediately leapt into action. They were not amused by this 
turn of events, even after finding a naked and very befuddled 
Ryoga Hibiki standing in the middle of the wreckage.
  
       
 
 
                       -------------------

 

       Ukyo Kuonji lay back on her futon, marveling at how 
relaxed she had become. Konatsu had just proven to be a 
marvelous gift. She just wished she had been sensible enough 
to unwrap it sooner. Oh, well. No use crying over spilt milk, 
right? Konatsu might not be nearly as showy as Ran-chan, but 
he certainly possessed a great deal of talent. Oh, did he 
EVER possess some talent! Life without Ranma was going to be 
pretty good after all, provided she could figure out a way to 
explain things to her dad.
 
       
 
 
                       -------------------
 
 

 
        There were times when Nabiki Tendo well and truly 
hated the cellular telephone. Now was just such an instance. 
She was tired. It had been a very trying day, even though a 
Saturday. Now, while she and Kasumi were rushing about the 
house gathering the things needed to take Ranma and Akane out 
to Tofu's country house, the damned phone had to ring.
 
       "Tendo!" Nabiki all but snarled into the infernal 
device.
 
       "Nabiki Tendo?" A rough, masculine voice asked on the 
other end of the call.
 
       "Yes," Nabiki said, sounding both irritated and 
puzzled.
 
       "The Master told me to call and ask about your pet 
dragon."
 
       "Tell him the dragon is just fine and well fed for the 
moment, but that could change suddenly," Nabiki answered, 
with a fine, sharp edge of menace in her voice.
 
       The man on the other end chuckled then said, "He said 
to tell you that he needs to see you as soon as possible. He 
has something on hand that the dragon will want."
 
       "Tell him I'll be there as soon as visiting hours 
start tomorrow morning," Nabiki snapped. "I'm in the middle 
of covering another emergency."
 
       "Are you sure you want me to tell him that?" The man 
asked. "He seemed rather keen on seeing you this evening."
 
       "Tell him that I won't have the dragon leashed in time 
to make it tonight," Nabiki said, making sure her grin got 
across in her voice. "He'll understand."
 
       "I'll tell him," The man said, then broke the 
connection.
 
       Nabiki shook her head and went about her business. 
Happosai would just have to wait his turn. Ranma and Akane 
would always come first in her book. Well, Ranma would always 
come first, even if she went to her grave without ever 
admitting it to anyone. Well, anyone but Ranma. Her secret 
was safe with him.
       
 
 
 
 
                        -------------------