A Ranma 1/2 fanfic by Zorknot
Previous chapters can be found at
DISCLAIMER: The thunder crashed and the wind howled
outside the hospital window. The machines blipped and
whirred, keeping the young woman in the bed alive. Her
husband sat beside her, holding her hand. The doctor came
in with his stainless steel clipboard, a serious expression on
his wizened face. The husband stood up, a hopeful look in
his eyes. But the doctor shook his head. "I'm sorry," he said,
"but the characters in this fanfiction are not the property of
the author. They belong to Rumiko Takahashi and various
other copyright holders. I'm afraid there's nothing we can
Nicholas Leifker (http://www.thekeep.org/~nightelf/fanfic/)
These are people whose comments I've used to make this chapter better. They've helped me out. Please check out their sites.
THE STORY SO FAR: Things are a little quieter now that Copycat Ken,
having gone a murderous rampage, has been killed by Ranma. Ranma
and Nabiki have been through a lot, though, including a mind meld that
has caused them to share each other's experiences to an extent.
They've also bonded with the nekoken, and have the shared experience
of having killed someone they viewed as being an innocent. Akane is on
a weekend vacation with Sayuri and Yuka at the ryokan (Japanese
style inn) owned by Yuka's grandparents which is only a short walk away
from the beach. Akane was recently released from the lingering effects of
Shampoo's shiatsu technique, meaning she can now learn from her
mistakes, something she was previously incapable of doing:-)As we
begin this chapter, Hiro Kawagami who had been trapped in the body of
Nabiki's best friend, Hoko Tomo, is just waking up in his proper form.
Copycat had taken Hoko's body after killing her and had forced Hiro to
assume her form, however, because Copycat's camera took Hoko's soul
as she died, and perhaps because Hiro is a fledgling Necromancer, once
Copycat died both Hoko's and Hiro's forms were returned to them, along
with the memories of what Copycat had done while using their bodies.
And now for the next chapter of Thyself Known:
~~~~~ch. 10 posessions~~~~
"Possession requires both control and intention. It is
obtained from the first moment that both those conditions
exist simultaneously. Usually, intention precedes control, as
when you see a coin on the ground and reach down to pick it
up. Nevertheless, it is conceivable that a person might obtain
control of a thing before forming the intention to possess it."
~Please! Please! You have to tell them my name! Tell them
~I want him dead! Kill him! Kill him!~
~Is it over yet? Please tell me it's over. I'm so lonely.~
~He's gonna get all the money! He's getting away scott free
while I'm rotting here!~
~I don�t understand. I gave him everything in my purse. Why
did he shoot me?~
Hiro woke up with a gasp. All around him, shadowy figures
were trying to grab at him, begging him to help them. As
quickly as he could, Hiro reached into his breast pocket,
pulled out his sunglasses and put them on. The spirits
seemed to disappear, their voices fading with their forms.
The sunglasses were a message. I am not going to let
myself be affected. I am not going to care.
Hiro remembered his parents saying he used to scream all
the time as a child. That he'd have terrible nightmares that
would have him running from his room in fright. They
stopped when he was about five years old. Hiro's first real
memory was when he was five and just starting preschool.
Everything before that was a blank.
Aside from a few encounters with violent death, working in
the homicide division in his old precinct, Hiro had never seen
ghosts before. Even in those cases he could blow it off as an
over active imagination playing with his uncomfortably acute
ability to empathize with victims. Except for the last one.
The girl. He hadn't ever quite been able to rationalize that
one away. Something had changed when he saw her. Since
he saw what she had seen, knew what she had known. She
had broken through his defenses, walls in his psyche he
hadn't even realized were there, and she had left them
Ever since then, if Hiro listened, he could hear the
whispering of spirits. He had tried to ignore it. He couldn't do
that any more.
Some door he had held shut for more than twenty years was
open now except for what amounted to a metaphorical
security chain. His sunglasses�a symbol of cool...of a
cavalier care-free philosophy. When he had them on it
helped somehow. It helped to pretend he didn't care. Hiro
wondered if he would ever be able take them off again.
~My babies! They're all alone! My babies! Please!~
~It's so cold. Why is it so cold?~
~Kaori? Where are you Kaori? I can't see, there's too much
smoke. Call out your name, honey, so I can find you. Kaori!~
"I've got to get out of here." He said, rising to his feet from
the tile floor.
"Hey, you're up!" Hoko's voice, a real voice now coming from
a pretty girl standing next to him, noted. " How's it feel to be
in your own body again?"
"You're alive." Hiro said, confused.
"Yep! Apparently Ranma killed Copycat, and we got our
bodies back! I'm trying not to think too much about how
that's possible exactly."
Hiro nodded, "I remember this mist or something coming
towards me and then it's a blank."
Hoko grimaced, "When it hit me, I got all the memories of
what he did while using my body. It wasn't fun the first time.
The second time...I'm just glad it was quick. I kind of wish we
could resurrect the bastard just so I could kill him personally,
but I'll work with what I've got."
A vivid memory of falling on his severed spinal chord gripped
Hiro for a second before fading. "Okay...starting to come
back to me now."
~Is it over? Am I dead yet? I'm so lonely.~
~Someone please help me find her!~
~My babies! Please! Please! My babies!~
Hiro shivered. Some of the spirits were getting past his
defenses. "I really have to get out of here." He said, and
started walking hurriedly toward the door.
Hoko followed him. "Uncle Inamura said it'd be better not to
move you in case you had a concussion. It's only been a few
minutes. He's in his office at the department talking to Mrs.
"Screw that! This place is freaky." Hiro burst through the
door like a drowning man coming up for air.
Out of the morgue and in the relative warmth (and silence) of
the hallway, Hiro asked, "Inamura is your uncle?"
"He's not my REAL uncle, no. Nabiki and I used to hang
around his house a lot. We're friends with his daughter, Ami,
though lately she's been acting like a bitch."
They reached the elevator and Hiro punched the up button.
"Mrs. Saotome...that's Ranma's mother?"
Hoko smirked up at him. "You want the full soap opera
version or the plain facts?"
The doors to the elevator opened and Hiro moved quickly
inside. He wasn't sure if it was a real feeling or just nerves,
but he had a sense of something chasing him. He greatly
needed a distraction. He pressed the close door button
several times and when they closed he let out a breath.
"Soap opera version, I guess"
"Well," Hoko paused as she pressed the button for the
ground floor, which Hiro had forgotten to do. Her long hair
held a slight scent of lavender. "For about a year now, Mrs.
Saotome, Ranma's mother, has been visiting at the Tendos.
Thing is, she doesn't know about Ranma's curse, and she
made Ranma and his father sign a pact stating that they'd
commit seppuku if Ranma wasn't a 'man among men' ...
whatever that means. Now from what I got from the inside of
Copycat's head, Ranma's curse has changed recently, but
up until about a day ago it was triggered by water. Cold
water made him female and hot water made him male again.
Since it's easier to find cold water than hot usually, the best
way for him to hide the curse was to pretend to be Ranko
Tendo, Nabiki's cousin."
The elevator reached the ground floor and the doors
opened. Hoko continued talking as they walked out. "The
first I found out about this was the day girl Ranma came to
school wearing a girl's uniform. That was about a month after
Mrs. Saotome started visiting. About half the school still
thinks female Ranma and male Ranma are two different
people, but I and other students who pay attention to things
know differently. A lot of people called him a pervert and a
cross dresser and some things which weren't so nice, but he
just took it. Nabiki's sister Akane tried to get them to stop,
but she doesn't handle crowds well. It wasn't until Nabiki
started telling people the story and hinting that he would get
back at anybody who made fun of him while he was Ranko,
that the teasing eased off. Since then about once a month
Mrs. Saotome will stay at the Tendos for a few days and
Ranma will come to school as a girl. "
They exited the hospital doors and walked across the
parking lot to the police department. It was dark out, but the
street lights were bright enough that Hiro could see even
with his sunglasses. Hoko kept up her narrative. "The thing
is, because Mrs. Saotome thinks 'Ranko' is a girl she gets
concerned when 'Ranko' acts like Ranma. You know,
wearing boy's clothes, fighting people all the time et cetera.
She feels there's not enough of a parental influence, which is
why she shows up every month or so, and why when she
does, she makes sure Ranko goes to school dressed
properly in a uniform. The last couple months she's stayed
longer, like for a week."
"Must be rough for him," Hiro said. He had only been in a
girl's body for a few hours and he was barely able to stand it.
The idea of being like that for a week...
"Yeah the first couple times she was real depressed. She
still gets moody from time to time but Ranma's adaptable.
Lately when he's a she, she seems, I don't know, a little
more relaxed. She's more approachable when she's a girl, I
think. She has friends that male Ranma doesn't have. It's
almost like she really is a different person. Funny thing is
there have been more accidents at the school recently.
Ranma was always a water magnet, but now even when he
shows up as a guy about half the time he'll leave school as a
girl. I was talking to Yuka Hakimune, she's friends with
Akane and she'll hang out with female Ranma during lunch
sometimes, her dad is a psychoanalyst and she thinks there
might be a psychological element to the curse. That some
how Ranma is more apt to turn into a girl when he wants to
be a girl, on, like, a subconscious level. I guess since the
curse changed maybe he doesn't even need water. I still
don't know how Nabiki turned male though. The past few
days have been a real jumble, what with me getting killed
and coming back to life and all. I think I need a few days to
"I need at least a week for this freak fest," Hiro concurred.
They reached the doors to the police department and went
inside. They almost ran head on with Detective Inamura,
Sergeant Suzuki, and a kimono-clad woman carrying a
sword who Hiro assumed was Mrs. Saotome.
"Ah, Kawagami, good you're up. Do you mind taking Hoko
home? I've got paperwork to fill out and Suzuki's taking Mrs.
Saotome to see her...ah step niece?"
"I suppose that's an accurate term for our relationship even if
it's not technically correct," Mrs. Saotome allowed.
Addressing Hiro she explained, "I'm worried about her. I
know she's skilled at martial arts, I've heard she's almost as
good as my son, but fighting a serial killer? Even if she did
best him, it's just too dangerous for a girl her age."
Inamura shook his head. "She didn't just 'best' him, Mrs.
Saotome, she killed him. If it weren't for the allowances we
make for martial artists and for Sergeant Suzuki's
surveillance tracking the killer from the department, she'd be
in serious trouble. As it is, I want her to come in for a
Mrs. Saotome nodded. "I'll see that she does that."
"Now if you'll excuse me," Inamura gave a slight bow, "I've
got to make all this seem normal and put a nice little bow on
it before I report it to the main office." With that, he turned
"Well, I guess I'm taking you home then," Hiro said to Hoko.
Turning to Mrs. Saotome he bowed deeply. "It's a pleasure
to meet you Saotome-san."
Mrs. Saotome bowed politely, and having given his farewell,
Hiro turned and left.
Hoko followed him until they were outside again. Then she
stopped Hiro with a hand on his forearm. "Just what are
these 'allowances' anyway?" she asked.
"Well, I'm still new here, but as I understand it any violent act
committed between two martial artists is deemed strictly self
defense. If Copycat had killed only martial artists, there
wouldn't be much we could do without knowing more about
how they were killed. Our job is to protect those who cannot
protect themselves. Beyond that we do not interfere."
"Makes your job kinda easy then doesn't it? I mean the
martial artists here kind of police the area themselves."
Hiro shook his head. "That's what I thought. I transferred
over here partially because of the low crime rate, but if the
last day or so is any indication, when things go bad here,
they go REAL bad."
Hoko nodded somberly. "I'm glad you guys are here. I..."
Hoko looked up taking a breath and closing her eyes.
"Damn. It's so good to be alive!"
Without warning, Hoko opened her eyes and broke in a light
run toward the parking lot. "I'm driving," she declared over
her shoulder at Hiro.
"I'm not sure if that's going to work," He said attempting
mach her pace I'm bigger than you and..."
"I don't give a rat's ass if you're bigger than me, if you're
older than me or if you're a guy or a cop or a necromancer or
whatever the hell else you want to be. I don't even care if
you saved my life. I am driving my own fucking bike. If you
don't like it you can walk." She increased her speed as she
said this to the point that she was almost at a light jog when
she stopped suddenly, finding her bike in a pool of light from
a parking lot street lamp.
Hiro hadn't really noticed it before, having been preoccupied
with being in the wrong body when he first rode on it. It was
beautifully stylized with metallic red orange yellow and silver
in a brilliant flame design. The exhaust pipes were all custom
designed chrome with a nested flute pattern that, in the glare
of light, looked like white hot plumes of fire. It seemed in
direct contrast with what Hoko looked like, a rather
conservative girl with straight black hair, but it spoke
volumes of the fierce independence Hiro had seen in her in
only a short span of time.
This was not a normal bike. This was something that was
loved, cherished. Copycat knew that when he rode it. The
memory came unwanted now into Hiro's brain. Copycat took
as his the product of years of work and sacrifice. He did so
without any kind of respect or reverence as if it was his by
Hiro looked up and saw tears in Hoko's eyes as she touched
the seat of the bike. He understood. Stuck in Hoko's body,
he had felt completely violated, demeaned, helpless, but
Hoko hadn't just had her body taken away. When Copycat
had driven the motorcycle he wasn't just stealing a
possession, he had stolen a part of Hoko's soul.
Hiro whirled away from the bike, his eyes and fists clenched
at the injustice of it all. What the hell was the point of doing
anything if it could be taken away so easily? Why go through
the hassles, the pains, and the drudgeries that surround life
if the only reward was to have the things you cared about,
the things that helped make you who you were, stolen in the
blink of an eye? Was it all a waste of time? Was there some
memo Hiro didn't get saying, "Please include weather
conditions in all traffic tickets, and by the way this is all a big
joke, life is meaningless."?
Hiro wanted to hit something. Something hard that would
cause a lot of pain. He actually opened his eyes and looked
for something he could hit, when he heard Hoko release the
He saw her mount the motorcycle quickly, as if finally coming
to a decision and concluding the time for deliberations was
over. She gripped the handles of the bike and paused a
moment, a look of determination in her eyes. She was
reclaiming it. It was hers again.
"You getting on, or are you going to watch my dust?" she
called out brashly, her bravado only slightly marred by the
crack in her voice.
Hiro got on and Hoko keyed the engine, kicking it to life and
revving it with the handle. Hiro tentatively put his hand on
either side of Hoko's slight frame. As he suspected it was
awkward. Then Hoko took his arms and wrapped them
around her torso. She leaned back into his chest, her silky
lavender-scented hair touching his lower cheek.
Suddenly, it wasn't so awkward.
Hiro heard an odd sound behind him and craned his neck to
see what it was. Two tapered cylinders painted in the same
metallic fire pattern as the rest of the bike were moving out
of a concealed compartment. They looked almost like
miniature jet engines, but of course that was impossible.
"They're miniature jet engines," Hoko explained, yelling
slightly to be heard over the motor.
Once they were in position, on either side of the bike
connected by a short, flat sheet of painted metal, they looked
a little like wings. Inscribed on them were two Chinese
characters. They were the characters Hou and Ko. Together
they made up Hoko's name. The one on the left meant
Hiro turned his head back and squeezed the phoenix girl to
him as she flew out of the parking lot and into the street,
completely ignoring every speed limit.
~~~~~ patrol car~~~~~
The city seemed different at night. Nodoka looked up at the
passing streetlights through her warped and ghostly
reflection on the car window. The fat, eye patched form of
police sergeant Masaki Suzuki was driving beside her with
the dome lights on, mumbling something about not being
able to find "it". The "it" was apparently the tracking device
that he had put on the serial killer that her "step niece"
bested in combat, though why he should be so keen on
retrieving it was beyond her.
Nodoka tried to be proud of her son, but the feeling was as
warped and ethereal as her reflection in the window. She
had seen the news report. Ranma had chosen a bride most
dramatically, and there was little doubt he was the manliest
man in all of Japan... except she knew there was a problem.
Genma had said that something had gone wrong with
Ranma's bond with Ranko. Nodoka knew the two were close
friends and that they shared everything, but there was
something secret about their connection. Something that had
to remain secret if the Saotomes were to become a full
family again. Genma said something was agitating Ranma
and Ranko, that maybe the only way to keep both of them
from mental breakdown would be to adopt Ranko and banish
Nodoka knew about Jusenkyo. She had seen her husband
change first on accident, and then she had confirmed it.
Some part of her even knew about Ranma, but she couldn't
allow herself to acknowledge the true nature of Ranma's
bond with Ranko. There was too much at stake.
But was it worth it? Yes the contract required that Ranma be
a man among men, but what if the pressure caused two
children to be lost instead of merely one? This rash of
manliness on Ranma's part... was it as good a sign as it
seemed, or was a light burning brighter just before going
The patrol car pulled over behind a couple walking on the
sidewalk. The man had an odd helmet-shaped hair cut and
wore a black t-shirt with brown dogi pants--- an odd fashion
choice to say the least. The girl was fairly short and had fiery
red hair in a pigtail. Ranko of course, no one else had that
hair color, but she was wearing an orange shirt with the
shoulders cut out and white shorts, which seemed more like
something Nabiki would wear. Both of them walked
barefooted and when they turned around, shielding their
eyes against the glare from the headlights, it seemed as
though there were a bullet hole in the man's t-shirt. Nodoka
had the familiar sense of something having happened that
she was not likely to ever completely understand.
Sergeant Suzuki opened his door and grumbled out of his
seat, his rotundity making it difficult for him to get past the
steering wheel. Genma was anorexic compared to this
character. Nodoka got out as well, wishing to greet Ranko
and try to find out first hand some version of what happened,
even if it wasn't the truth.
Nodoka smiled when she saw Ranko's face. She loved the
girl. She loved her spunk and the way she cared for others.
She was real too, not some vague form that she could only
catch in fleeting glimpses and, more recently, on news
reports. Nodoka didn't know the precise reason Ranma
couldn't live with Ranko. Maybe if she adopted Ranko they
could find some way to live together? But even if they
couldn't, when it came down to it Nodoka, didn't really know
Ranma. And, worries aside, he seemed to be okay, mostly.
Ranko needed her.
The family sword vibrated in its sheath. Nodoka gripped the
handle tightly. Patience, Hayama, she thought, though it had
the feeling of a prayer. You will be released soon, but it must
be done the proper way.
Nodoka felt a wash of guilt. She had been thinking of giving
up on her son. Gods help her, but she had been thinking of
~~~~~nabiki and ranko: shisuki-cho~~~~~
Nabiki and Ranko had walked in silence for about fifteen
minutes before the patrol car pulled up behind them. Nabiki
could have started up the motorcycle again, but it would
have been too loud...too agitating. He and Ranko needed
calm. Something had happened to them and they weren't
sure what. Nabiki knew Ranko felt the same way. He and
she were connected to such a degree they were practically
the same person. They had differences, yes, but it was like
they were one brain with four hemispheres instead of two.
When they embraced they felt more complete, but at the
same time it was like one's right hand clasping one's left.
This feeling they felt, Nabiki knew he felt it differently than
Ranko, but he knew exactly how Ranko felt about it. Ranko
was a little scared. She felt out of control and unsure of
herself. It was the reason she wanted to be a girl at the
moment, because men weren't supposed to feel that way.
Nabiki would have chided her except he now knew the
extent of the brainwashing Ranma had endured over the
years. Men weren't supposed to feel, period. Even as
Ranma, Ranko had been a bit more sensitive than most. But
Ranma had severe stoicism beat into him at an early age.
Ranko relished her feelings having escaped through a
loophole in her conditioning, but she also feared them.
Nabiki, by contrast, was a stoic by choice. No one had
forced him to mask his emotions, or play on the emotions of
others, he came about it naturally. He had good reasons not
to trust his emotions, and that was why he was male. For
whatever reason, it was easier to block emotions in the male
form. Maybe it was the residual male ego from Ranma's
exchange in the bathroom, though a great deal of that had
been evened out with the apple technique. At any rate, it
was a little like all his life, Nabiki had been playing with a
handicap that he hadn't even been aware of, and now it
wasn't there. On one hand it was easier to not feel what he
was feeling. At the same time, it wasn't as satisfying. There
wasn't as much skill involved.
What Nabiki felt was cold, yet resolute. He would get them
through this, whatever it was. He would let Ranko worry,
because she needed to worry. And she would let him
pretend to ignore his own doubts, because he needed to do
that. They both felt different things, but knew that they were
really feeling the same thing, and their minds repeated the
same message over and over in varying iterations:
They had crossed a line. They had killed and felt no
remorse. They had passed a threshold. They had murdered.
They had changed. They ended a life. They were no longer
human. They did not know what they were.
And as they walked, this mercurial mantra winding through
their heads like the ticker tape from some tireless outdated
machine, they drew closer together, as they drew further
apart from the world around them, until the headlights of the
patrol car grew at their backs and they turned around,
shielding their eyes against the brightness.
"Alright, you chuckleheads," growled a short, fat man in a
uniform after clambering out of his vehicle. "Where the hell's
Nabiki and Ranko blinked a bit. They recognized Sergeant
Suzuki from the police station, but they looked at him
differently now. He didn't have much of an aura. It was dark
brown and seemed to appear almost accidentally around his
body as if it were embarrassed to be there, and there was a
thin red filament that came out of his eye patch and
continued above the buildings and toward the east.
Nabiki absently pointed in the direction the filament seemed
"Could you be a bit more specific? Not that I don't mind
searching through every god cursed alley this side of
Nerima, mind you. I do that sort of thing for kicks, really.
Every third fucking Tuesday."
Nabiki's eyes thinned. Beside him, Ranko piped up. "About
how much money do you think that information's worth, Fly?"
Nabiki smiled, "I'd say at least a couple thousand yen." Then
he saw Nodoka exit the patrol car.
Even though Nodoka was wearing a kimono, and her hair
was in her usual short, matronly cut, she was still Uma
Thurman to Sergeant Suzuki's Danny DeVito. Nodoka was
approaching middle age, but still looked in her twenties. She
was practically a taller Ranko with short, darker hair. The
resemblance was unmistakable, and yet Nodoka repeatedly
There had been times when the lady seemed quite sharp
though. As if hidden in her silken kimono was an iron
determination, and her predilection toward tradition was
really a well played ruse.
She had a strong aura that stayed mostly in the blue, but
shifted smoothly from light to dark and sometimes into
green. She was hard to read. What was oddest though, was
the sword she carried. It almost seemed like it had its own
aura. A blue and white vortex that seemed to whip around it
Nabiki noticed Nodoka tighten her grip on the handle of the
sword and moved between her and Ranko. He felt his ki
claws come out. Was Nodoka a threat?
Ranko's hand on his shoulder mollified him. This is my
battle, Ranko was saying, let me handle it.
Coming from behind Nabiki, Ranko called out to Nodoka,
"Auntie Saotome!" She rushed to woman in the kimono and
the two figures embraced, at first almost like strangers, and
then like vampires feeding off each other through their
hearts, and then, for a moment, like mother and child. The
moment passed like the shine of a silverfish and the two
released each other, but it was enough for Nabiki to suspect
that regardless of what played out on the surface, neither
Saotome held any illusions as to who the other really was.
But then why...?
"Saotome Nodoka?" Ranko interrupted Nabiki's analysis, "I
want you to meet...er...Takahata Hotaru, my boyfriend."
Nabiki cringed at the name. Not so much Hotaru, he was
used to being called "Firefly" by now and even though it had
some unfortunate connections to Sailor Moon manga, it was
still mostly gender neutral and probably the best choice.
Takahata, though, immediately brought Grave of the Fireflies
(Hotaru no Haka) to mind. Nabiki had hated that movie. Still,
this was improv. It wouldn't do to negate the premise.
"Pleased to meet you." Nodoka bowed slightly.
"Take it easy on me," Nabiki smiled and bowed slightly
After the introduction, Nodoka seemed to go distant for
awhile, thoughts apparently lost on some tangent.
"What the hell you trying to pull?" Sergeant Suzuki snapped,
reminding everyone of his presence. "I was at the precinct. I
know you two are really Ranma and Nabiki. You only have
one alternate form and you haven't even bothered to change
clothes. Why do you shapeshifters always have to make out
like you're masters of espionage or something?"
"I'm sorry," said Ranko with a saccharine smile, "You must
have been confused. I like to pretend I'm Ranma sometimes.
We're very close you see, and it's sort of a weird game we've
developed. Hotaru here had such a weird haircut, and it
reminded me of Nabiki's style, so I thought he could join in
on the act. We really didn't mean to be so deceptive."
Ranma lying so easily...that didn't use to be the case. Part of
it was from their bond, Nabiki knew, but he also knew that
part of it was from practice. When you're sure your mother
would literally kill you if she knew the truth, you learn to lie
"Listen, Red," Sergeant Suzuki pointed an angry finger at
Ranko, "I may not look like much, but I'm an officer of the l-"
Nodoka put a hand on Sergeant Suzuki's shoulder,
restraining him. "What she says is correct, officer. It's an odd
habit and I've scolded her about it, but she still persists.
She's getting a little old for these games, but I can't do that
much about it. I'm not even really her aunt, and besides,
children grow up so fast these days. I say let them be
innocent a little longer."
Nabiki felt a shiver run through his body. "Innocent" was no
longer a word that described him and Ranko. Not in any
sense. "We'll help you find your eye," Nabiki volunteered
hoping to distract himself from the thought, "just as soon as
we take care of payment."
"I'm not going to pay you!" Suzuki said incredulous, "I only
have two eyes, damn it, and thanks to you and your
psychotic sidekick one of them is lost somewhere in the dark
streets of Tokyo."
Nabiki blinked. Suzuki was seriously mistaken if he thought
Ranko was his sidekick.
"I'll give you a side kick up your ass, Cyclops. I don't care if
you are a cop," Ranko shot back. Her ki claws extended a
centimeter from her fists.
Nabiki touched Ranko lightly on her arm. Easy there,
Ranko calmed herself.
"Yeah, go ahead and threaten me, Ninja Girl. I don't know
why Inamura puts up with you clowns, but when the head of
the department gets back from America we'll see how..."
Suzuki trailed off. "Wait. How the hell did it get over there?
Shit. It's too close to the water." Suzuki moved quicker than
Nabiki might have guessed possible for someone so rotund
into his patrol car. "Sorry!" he yelled out of his window in an
insincere tone, "I got to get there before aw hell someone's
getting closer. Look, you'll have to walk home. Tell whatever
idiots try to mug you I said 'Hi'!" With that, Suzuki engaged
the engine, squealed his tires and left.
"What a rude person," Nodoka said.
Nabiki was inclined to agree.
It had a different name, but that's what Yuka and her family
had always called it, and so Sayuri and Akane took to calling
it that too. Night Beach. The reason was that it only seemed
like a beach at night, when it was colder and when most of
the people were gone. Yuka's grandparents still worked at
the ryokan where they were all staying tonight. All day they
would have to deal with the demands of the crazy gaijin
tourists who wanted hamburgers with their sake and
demanded a "real" mattress instead of a futon even after
their wives tried to explain to them that it's not that type of
hotel and that if they wanted that they could have gone to
the Marriot... The couple that stormed out a few hours earlier
still had Sayuri miffed. Sometimes knowing English was a
Yuka's grandparent's had to deal with that crap all day, and
they didn't get a break until the night. Then the two of them
would walk about half a kilometer out to the Night Beach and
sit, watching the tide come in to wash away all the madness.
Sayuri thought Yuka's grandparents were too nice. Family
was one thing, but letting her and Akane impinge on their
alone time was taking hospitality too far.
But despite feeling a little guilty she wouldn't say anything.
The moon was shining on the waves as they crashed upon
the shore and everything was crisp, cold, still, and beautiful.
Tonight they were all sitting on the cool sand, her, Akane,
Yuka, and Yuka's parents, uncle, and grandparents. They
were silent as they sipped the tea from the thermoses they
had brought. This was a precious gift, this moment, and
Sayuri didn't have the heart to return it.
Sayuri's mom was the stereotypical office lady. Divorced and
harried. Her mom tried, but the simple fact was that in order
to be there for your kids, you have to be there, and Mom
couldn't do that. Sayuri was used to feeling lonely, but it was
times like this when she could see what she was really
missing. Times like this, when she felt the bond that the
Hakimune family had, that Sayuri loved them more than
even her own mother.
Beside her, Akane sighed. "I needed this," she said,
seeming to put Sayuri's feelings into words.
"We all did," Yuka said, surprising her. Sayuri gave her a
questioning glance. Yuka never seemed to have any
problems. In response, Yuka grimaced slightly and got up.
"I'm going for a walk. You guys want to come?"
It was the kind of request you don't say no to, and at any
rate, the mood was broken with the silence. Sayuri and
Akane got up to follow her.
"We'll probably head back soon," Yuka's father said, "don't
stay out too late okay?"
"Okay, Daddy, we won't." Yuka said and started walking to
the edge of the surf. When they were out of earshot Yuka
said, "Guys, I need your opinion on something."
"What is it?" Akane asked, concerned.
"Yeah, usually we're the ones asking for advice." Sayuri
"I know, but this... I can't think about this clearly." Yuka
looked back toward her family, then she looked down,
crossing her arms as if hugging herself. They were all
dressed for the cool night temperatures, but every now and
then a cool breeze would cut through and cause one of them
to shiver. Yuka seemed to be suffering from a different chill
though. "I'm thinking of maybe not going to a university when
"But you're going to be a psychotherapist!" Akane protested,
"How can you do that without a university degree?"
"I know, but... It's Grandma and Grandpa. They're getting
old, and grandpa...he's starting to forget things. We're not
sure how long they can keep running the ryokan."
"Can't they hire more people or something?" Akane asked.
Yuka shook her head. "Grandma and Grandpa are very
traditional. They hire people from time to time to help with
repairs and the like, but otherwise they do everything
themselves. The ryokan's been in the family for generations
and they don't want it leaving the family. Daddy was
supposed to take over after them but he went into
psychology instead. So now..."
"Why can't you do both. Be a psychotherapist AND help with
the ryokan?" Sayuri asked.
"Even if I had enough time to do that after classes and
studying for exams and homework it wouldn't work out. Dad
tried that. What Grandma and Grandpa do, its like they're
monks or something. It�s a way of life. You can't just do it on
"Maybe your mom or dad could retire and help out?" Akane
"Mom and Dad are both very dedicated to their jobs. Daddy
almost has a complex about his work and Mom's a teacher
who actually cares about what she does. Asking her to retire
would be like... I don't know. It'd be like asking Grandma and
Grandpa to give up the ryokan."
They walked in silence for a while by the water. The beach
would always be here regardless of what happened to the
ryokan. But without the Hakimunes it wouldn't be Night
Beach anymore. It'd only be one of the many beaches of
Japan. If the Hakimunes didn't own the ryokan, it would be
some business man or woman, hoping to make as much
money as they could. They might even tear down the ryokan
and build another Marriot or Hilton. The beach would still be
a beach, but it would lose its soul.
Yuka's grandparents were like monks. Even during the day
the ryokan seemed so peaceful. People staying there were
treated to something almost sacred. It was why people like
Mr. Hamburger upset Sayuri so much. Here was this
wonderful experience they could have and instead they want
what they could have anywhere. But there were also people
who appreciated the gift, who came away having been subtly
changed by the experience. Without the ryokan...nothing. It'd
be nothing. Just a beach and another boring hotel room.
Sayuri suddenly had an idea. "Maybe...I could do it!"
"Huh?" Yuka asked.
"Listen, you and Akane know what you want to do right?
Well I don't. I'm not a martial artist, I'm not good at reading
people like you are Yuka, and really I'm not much good at
anything. Maybe I just need a calling though, maybe this is
it." Sayuri started to get excited, "I mean I love it here. I
could learn from your Grandparents and start helping during
the day. It's not like I'm doing that well in school anyway, and
so I could just work here full time. Then I could keep it going
when your grandparents aren't able to."
"Um...Sayuri," Yuka held up her hand in a stop gesture,
"You're forgetting the main problem here. You're not a
Hakimune, no matter how often you hang around the house."
Sayuri deflated. It was a stupid idea, and she was stupid for
"Sayuri, that was supposed to be a joke," Yuka explained
with a slight smile.
"I know. Sorry. I guess you're in a tight spot." Sayuri looked
up at the moon as she kicked at the sand. It was none of her
business what happened to the ryokan or to Yuka for that
matter. It wasn't her family. It wasn't her problem.
"Honestly, I don't know what to tell you," Akane said. "But my
sister Kasumi took care of the house after Mom died and
Dad became a wreck. She was going to be a doctor, but she
seems happy enough now, maybe it isn't so bad?"
Sayuri shook her head. Yuka wasn't like Kasumi. She had
too much ambition. Her dreams were too powerful.
Sayuri saw something out of the corner of her eye. She
turned her head for a better look. Oh it's just a gigantic flying
flat segmented thingy with a circular mouth and teeth. She
turned her head back to the sand beneath her. Wait a
minute... Sayuri looked again and the giant... thing seemed
to fly into the sand where they had been walking.
"Whatever you choose to do, Yuka, we're behind you,"
Akane said. "Right, Sayuri?"
"Did either of you see that?" Sayuri asked.
"See what?" Yuka looked around.
"I don't know what it was, but it was big and looked like it
went straight into the sand over there."
"Hold on," Akane said with a tinge of martial arts bravado,
"I'll go check it out."
Sayuri waited with Yuka as Akane stalked up to something,
and nudged it with her foot.
"It's okay I think!" She called out. "Somebody left their towel
and a camera, that's all it is!"
Sayuri started toward it but Yuka stopped her. "Hold it," she
whispered, "Remember this is the same girl who said that
the bomb the principal left in our classroom a few weeks ago
was 'just a pineapple'."
"Noted," Sayuri said, but she went ahead anyway. She felt
Yuka was being a little unfair. It had looked an awful lot like a
pineapple. The fuse was barely visible.
The camera and the green cloth, not really a towel in
Sayuri's estimation but more of a thin blanket, seemed to be
just that. The blanket was folded neatly into a square. The
camera rested on top. The words around the lens read
"Made in Japan". Now if it had said "Made in the USA"
Sayuri might have been suspicious. But if it was made in
Japan it was reasonable to assume it wasn't going to blow
up. Sayuri moved to pick it and the blanket up.
"Wait," Akane said, "I'm sorry. I think I may have called you
over too soon."
"What's wrong?" Sayuri asked.
"I don't know. It's...it's too... normal looking."
Akane looked like she was having some sort of epiphany.
She'd been getting the look a lot since she showed up at
Yuka's earlier this evening. Sayuri had asked her about it,
but she said she'd explain later. Akane swallowed. "I think,
yes. I've been through a lot the past year and something
happened yesterday...it's like I'm seeing everything I went
through for the first time. Look, we didn't see this the first
time we passed this point, right?"
Sayuri nodded. She glanced over a Yuka who was looking a
mix of impatient, concerned, and uncomfortably curious. "But
maybe we just didn't see the blanket and camera, because
we were talking with Yuka."
"But you saw something 'big' hit this spot right?"
"I don't know what I saw. It could have been anything."
"But...it's not anything. If something big landed here there
should BE something."
Sayuri frowned. "What, you mean like a giant crater, or a
giant bug monster or something?"
Akane was silent for a while. She seemed to mull over the
idea in her head for a moment before she said. "Yes. It's not
so much that there's nothing here. There is something, but
its completely normal looking. I mean before today, I might
just think 'no problem' and pick it up but...Sayuri, honestly,
something that falls out of the sky has no business being this
"Akane, I just said, I don't know what I saw. Maybe nothing
fell out of the sky. We have to be rational here. Someone
just forgot their camera and their blanket. We have to bring
them to the lost and found."
Akane just looked concerned at her.
Sayuri shook her head. "Look, if you won't take them I will."
She picked up the blanket with both arms, letting the camera
rest on top. The blanket was a little rough, probably made of
cheap wool, or maybe a polyester mix. Other than that there
was no sensation. "See? No problem. Now let's just get
going, shall we?"
If anything, Akane looked even more concerned. "Sayuri, I'm
sorry. I should have picked that up the moment I thought
something was wrong. Maybe everything's okay. I hope so.
But I've had to deal with curses and magic and demonic
possessions, and I'm getting major d�j� vu here. You've got
to promise me that the MOMENT anything strange happens
you'll tell me okay?"
"Akane, it's just a blanket and a camera, I don't see-"
"Okay okay, I promise, yeesh. What's gotten into you lately?"
"It's a long story. I tell you all about it when we get back to
Yuka. Just remember, Yuka and I are your friends. We're
here if you need us okay?"
"Thanks, Akane, but I don't understand why you're so
"You want to make me feel better?" Akane asked suddenly
"Give me the blanket and camera."
"No!" Sayuri snapped, "Why should I? Because of some
superstition you have about normal things?"
"Just drop them then. You can pick them up right after. Just
Sayuri almost did just that. She thought about opening her
arms and letting the blanket and camera fall, the idea made
her nervous though...She laughed off the tension. "Come on,
Akane that�s just silly."
Akane sighed. "If you can't even do that...Sayuri go ahead
and call me crazy. I've been called worse things. But you're
acting like I did before today. I think this thing is already
playing with your mind. And the way you picked it up, it was
like you were drawn to it. Like it chose you."
"Akane, you're crazy. This is a camera and a blanket, not
some demonic 'thing'."
"I already know you're not going to listen to me, Sayuri. Just
remember I'm here if you need me, and Yuka's here for you
too." Akane nodded toward the space behind Sayuri.
Yuka had come over while Sayuri wasn't looking,
"Something wrong?" she asked.
"No," Sayuri responded, "nothing much. Apparently Akane
thinks I've been cursed by an infernal camera and blanket
demon duo. I think she needs to get some sleep or
To Sayuri's exasperation Yuka did not laugh. Instead, she
asked Akane: "We aren't in Nerima right now, you really
think something like that could happen out here?"
Akane shrugged. "There are gigantic duck-billed platypuses
living in Ryugenzawa. Nerima doesn't exactly have the weird
Sayuri let out a small scream. "Am I the only rational person
Yuka put a hand on Sayuri's shoulder. "Yes, Sa-chan. And
I'm afraid that's a strong indicator that you've completely
dissociated yourself from reality."
"Hey, guys," Akane said, "someone's coming this way."
Sayuri looked where Akane indicated and saw a very fat
man in a police uniform bumbling toward them from the
beach parking lot. The moonlight was enough to see him
with, but he was using a flashlight to scan the ground in front
of him, and Sayuri was temporarily blinded when he directed
it at her.
"Oi!" The officer called out "Any of you girls see an eye?"
"An...eye?" Akane asked, her hand shielding her own eyes
from the glare of the flashlight. "No...uh...sorry."
"You." The officer directed the beam to Sayuri. She had to
squeeze her eyes shut against the light. "Is that your
"No, officer, we found it just a little while ago with the
The police man lowered the light and walked closer to her,
saying "I suppose you thought you'd put it in the lost and
"Yes, we were just going over there now."
The police man was the same height as Sayuri, short for a
man. The patch made him look like a pirate. A very round
pirate. He walked up to her, inspected her with the flashlight
for a moment or two then, looking at the blanket he smiled.
"Aha! I found you, you little bastard." He plucked something
off the blanket.
It was an eye.
Sayuri stared wide-eyed as the man took off his patch and
lifted his head to place the eye, with its dangling optic nerve,
into his empty socket. He blinked a few times, looking for all
the world like he had just put in a contact lens. Then he
addressed Sayuri casually. "I don't suppose you'll let me
take that blanket and camera? It's sort of evidence in a
"What do you mean, 'sort of'?" Yuka asked.
"We're done investigating. The murderer was killed. Open
and shut case. I had my eye on him the whole time. It's just
that he owned that blanket and camera that you're carrying,
and after he died they both flew over here some how. It's a
A blanket and camera flying ANYWHERE was more than
curious. Besides, murder? "Take it," Sayuri said quickly,
holding the blanket and camera out to the officer. She no
longer wanted anything to do with the two items. Strangely,
though, she felt as if she was betraying them somehow.
The officer moved to accept them. She tried to keep her
arms out, but she felt a wave of panic and brought the
blanket close to her again. The more she tried to release her
grip the more tightly she squeezed it until, like sand slipping
through her fingers the blanket was gone.
"Psh." The officer rolled his eyes. "That's what I thought.
Fucking demons. Ah well. It's yours now. Try not to kill
anybody." With that he walked off, grumbling about
"Wait!" Sayuri yelled after a few moments spent coming to
grips with the idea that the blanket and camera she had
been holding were now apparently gone. The next moment,
as the officer stopped, she realized something else. The
blanket and camera weren't gone. She could feel them. She
backpedaled mentally, changing the question she was going
to ask from "What the hell just happened?" to "What do you
Hearing the question, the officer turned around. His eye was
glowing a dark red. "I mean," he said, his voice taking on a
growl and a tone that was at once both angry and
condescending, "spiritual parasites that invade your body,
feed off your soul and force you to do bad things. Ask your
parents about it. Or your friend there," the officer nodded
toward Akane, "she has a demon of her own. Me, I've had
enough stupidity for one night. I'm off duty and late for my
beer appointment. I hope I never see you again, but I
probably will." He waved her off lazily as he turned back
around and trudged through the loose sand to his car.
"What a rude person," Yuka noted.
"Akane?" Sayuri asked.
"You know how you said to tell you the moment anything
strange happened to me?"
"I'm pretty sure this qualifies."
~~~~~shisuki-cho: two blocks down~~~~~
"Hey there," the gangly man with the pistols said, "How are
you good folks doing tonight? I'll be your mugger for the
evening. I'm going to want you to give me all you money and
valuable possessions. My friends here," at this point the man
nodded to the toughs on either side of him, "are here in case
any of you are feeling active. I'm hoping they won't be
The man and his compatriots were wearing octopus masks.
Pistols was apparently the "brains" of the outfit. Chain guy
and Bat-with-nails-in-it dude looked as if all their skill was in
their muscles. Anywhere else this might be impressive, but
this was Nerima. And Ranko Saotome was involved.
Nabiki knew all of Ranko's weaknesses as well as her
strengths. Even before the bond she had seen her fight
countless times. There was absolutely positively no way in
hell these guys even stood a chance. Nabiki almost felt sorry
"Do you have any idea where you are?" Nabiki asked.
"Yeah," Pistols responded. "We're in Nerima, the safest part
of the city. Lowest crime rate for five years now. Maybe not
so safe now, eh boys?" Bat boy and Chains gave their
leader a deferential guffaw.
"It's okay," Nodoka said, "I've got some money in my
kimono. Let me get it."
"No." Ranko put a hand on Nodoka's arm. "You are not
going to pay them. I forbid it."
"Ranko! You have no right to talk to me that way! I'm your
elder. Now this is hardly the time to start a scuffle, that man
has guns." Oddly, despite the referring to the danger,
Nodoka didn't seem afraid at all.
Ranko shook her head. "They're vermin. Rats. If you feed
them they'll just come back in greater numbers. They must
Nabiki found himself agreeing with Ranma. Furthermore he
felt an excitement rise within himself. A battle was coming. It
"What's gotten into you, Ranko?" Nodoka asked, concerned.
She didn't understand. She was human.
"Okay, obviously you people aren't opting for the easy way."
Pistols drawled. "Time for plan 'B'"
The next part happened extremely quickly, and it might have
ended badly except this time, Nabiki was ready for it. Pistols
lowered his two firearms and fired. One bullet came toward
Nabiki, the other toward Nodoka. There was a WHUMP and
a CLANG and then Pistols was bleeding profusely out of the
stumps where his hands used to be and Chains was coming
after Nabiki. Chains swung the heavy links he wielded in an
arc toward Nabiki's head. Nabiki caught the chain. Then he
made the chain wrap tighter around the man's wrist. Tighter
still, and then even more tighter until he heard the bone
crack and the man scream in agony. Turning to his right,
Nabiki saw something that broke the odd focus he was in for
those first few seconds.
Nodoka's sword was levitating out of its sheath. It cut the
third assailant's nail studded bat into pieces. Then it cut off
the assailant's leg. "Hayama, NO!" Nodoka screamed, but of
course the damage was already done.
The three would-be muggers were laying on the pavement
wailing at their injuries. Nabiki finally pieced together what
The CLANG was Hayama, apparently the name of Nodoka's
sword, protecting Nodoka. The WHUMP was...well there
was no getting around it, it was a force field. Nabiki had
made a force field that stopped the bullet coming toward her.
Then that thing he did with the chain. He had known almost
instinctively that he could stop it and control it. The chain and
the bullet were metal. Like the motorcycle.
Great, Nabiki thought, apparently I'm Magneto. Except
Nabiki's range wasn't that good. He had to be almost
touching something metal before he could control it and...
A wave of dizziness brought Nabiki to his knees. Ranko was
at his side immediately and Nabiki latched on to her arm.
The spots in his vision cleared gradually, but he still felt
weak. He stood up shakily and surveyed the scene again.
Yes, it was self defense, but these were out of towners and
they didn't know martial arts. Nabiki could barely see their
auras they were so weak. This would look bad unless it was
"We passed a pay phone a block back next to that
convenience store," Ranko said. "I'll call the ambulance."
Nabiki nodded. "Get a camera too. Just in case they try to
make themselves look innocent later."
Ranko shuddered. An image flashed in Nabiki's mind of
Copycat's camera rising and bonding with the blanket like
some chimerical serpent. "Yes, by all means get a camera
that's NOT possessed." With that, Ranko left.
They were different parts of the same brain. Left and right
hands of the same body. Ranko was only going a block
away but all of a sudden Nabiki felt horribly incomplete.
Ignoring the feeling as best he could, Nabiki walked over to
Pistols, whose hands had fallen pray to Ranma's nekoken
claws. He was crying incoherently about bitches and how
they cut off his fucking hands and how could they cut off his
fucking hands. Nabiki crouched down and grabbed the
unhanded former pistol wielder's hair, pulling his head up to
his. "Welcome to Nerima, baby. When you get back to
whatever hole you crawled out of make sure you tell your
fellow vermin the reason this place has a low crime rate. Oh
and Sergeant Suzuki from the Nerima Prefecture Police
Department says 'Hi'."
"Fucking faggot" Pistols spat out at Nabiki.
"On the contrary," Nabiki said, sotto voce so Nodoka
wouldn't hear, "I really am a woman stuck in a man's body."
~~~~~mall of nerima~~~~~
Ami Inamura was popular. She wasn't rich. She wasn't a
martial artist. Despite being at the center of any gossip pool
she was not herself any great source of information. She
knew everything the students knew; it was Nabiki and
sometimes Hoko that knew everything else. Ami was fairly
smart: she was third in line for valedictorian after Nabiki and
some foreigner named Sanjay Balasubramanian, but that
didn't mean much. No one even knew who Sanjay was. Ami
was the daughter of a police detective, that was a little
impressive, but still that was not the reason for her
The reason for Ami's popularity was that she worked at the
She was good at her job. She knew all the fashions, could
give tips to anyone coming in, and gave all her friends
discounts, which she took out of her commission, but that
didn't matter because so many people started wanting to buy
from her that she made the money back and then some. Of
course she wasn't technically supposed to do that but again
so many people started coming into the store the
management turned a blind eye.
Ami loved fashion. She was a clothes hound and knew the
latest craze before it became a craze. And the weird thing
was how people started coming to her for advice about other
things, like whether to dump their boyfriends or what they
should do about their friends who betrayed them and
whatnot. Ami had been going steady with her boyfriend for
more than a year now, which probably was why everyone
thought she knew something they didn't. The truth was
Masa, her boyfriend, had a apprenticeship at a design firm
and what with her work and school and his job she rarely
saw him except on the weekend. But still she gave what
advice she could and it seemed to help more often than not.
So Ami was popular. It wasn't really her fault. And if she
seemed aloof every now and again or arrogant, it wasn't
because she was being purposefully snooty, it was just that
she was so busy helping people she didn't care about with
their problems she didn't have any time for her friends.
Ami sighed as she folded the last sweater on the display she
was working on. She wasn't even sure who her friends were
anymore. She hadn't talked to Nabiki or Hoko in months and
everyone else she could think of couldn't really be depended
on for anything. Like Aki her coworker. She was supposed to
come in early tonight so she could go out with Masa on this
big dinner he had planned. But she still hadn't shown up.
And this was not the first time she had let Ami down either.
Ami was starting to get frustrated with everyone asking her
things. And the truth was she had started to be short with
people without good reasons. She was beginning to develop
a reputation as a bit of a bitch.
Ami just wanted a vacation. Just to leave the whole mess of
high school behind for a while and wig out somewhere
where there weren't any people. Instead she had another
display to set up and there were three more customers
coming in the back door. The martial artist entrance.
The three customers had blood all over them and a distinct
lack of fashion sense. Except for the older woman. Her
kimono was simple yet elegant. It was not the garment itself
but how it was carried. Still, it was far better fashion than the
orange shirt and white shorts that the short red-head was
wearing, and certainly better than the black shirt and brown
dogi pants the man had on.
The redhead was Ranma Saotome. Ami knew all about
Ranma. She was practically a celebrity around Furinkan and
yet somehow this was different from being "popular". Even
though she was a boy half the time Ranma still had friends.
And by the way she was acting around the man that came in
with her she seemed to have a boyfriend now to. Ami smiled
slightly. She had always thought Ranma was more girl than
There was something eerily familiar about the man. Or
maybe just eerie. His haircut was the weirdest thing Ami had
The blood Ranma and his companions were covered in
wasn't all that surprising. Ami had seen that a lot since she
started working here. "Someone try to mug you?" She
The customers nodded.
"Go on to the dressing rooms I'll get something for you to
wear while you shop. Don't let anyone else see you. Bad for
business you know."
As they went to the dressing rooms Ami wondered if she
could sell this information to Nabiki. Ranma with a
boyfriend...It was juicy. Nabiki probably already knew
though. Wait a minute, didn't Nabiki and Ranma...?
Of course Ami had a television, so she had seen what had
happened yesterday on the news, but the reality of it hadn't
really registered. Ami's eyes went wide as a hand came to
her mouth. That haircut...could that man be Nabiki? "Oh my
god, is it contagious?!"
Kasumi poured tea first into Tofu's cup and then her own.
Sitting down, she blew some of the heat off the tea and
sipped slowly, closing her eyes and letting the warmth fill
her. There was a slight chill this evening, a pernicious shiver
that she couldn't quite quell with warmer clothing. Turning
the heater on would be overkill and would waste energy,
especially with her and Tofu being the only ones inside. It
was a little too early for the furo. This was the best thing.
"Thanks, Kasumi," Tofu said needlessly. Still Kasumi smiled
and nodded her appreciation.
Kasumi let her thoughts drift. She had been so happy too
nights ago, now... It wasn't fair. That's what it came down to.
Kasumi realized it was a rather petulant argument, but that
was it. She had given up on being a doctor. That dream
seemed so far away now. She had decided her family was
more important and she did not regret the decision. But then,
with Auntie Saotome coming so often and Tofu opening up
to her, it made her think she could have more.
"Do you think we should talk about it?" Tofu asked.
Tofu and she each took a sip of tea before Tofu started. "We
don't know exactly what it means. It could just mean that
we'll get married. That would be nice wouldn't it?"
Kasumi shook her head. "The words came with the vision.
'The two will become one' doesn't mean we'll be joined. We'll
actually become one person. Either one of us will die, or we'll
merge somehow. Either way, we'll be alone again."
"What happened eleven years ago? Why can't I remember
all of it? What's this awakening?"
"Who knows?" Kasumi riposted. "I know what it seems like.
Armageddon, judgment day, the apocalypse."
Tofu gave a small laugh, "That would make Ranma the
Kasumi didn't laugh. "I'm a Christian, Tofu, so I use Christian
metaphors. But God's plan for us is often mysterious, and he
gave all of us, including any possible antichrists, free will.
Regardless of the situation, we have to try to make the right
decisions and help others do the same."
"We're home!" Ranma-chan called out from the side
"Speak of the devil," Tofu quipped.
Kasumi smiled as she got up to answer the door. Tofu was a
perpetual goof, but that was one of the reasons she loved
him. "Come in!" she called out as she walked past the steps
to the doorway.
Ranma was accompanied by her mother and Nabiki in her
boy form. Ranko was wearing a thin blue sweater and a
black...no it wasn't a skirt, it was a pair of pants but it was
loose enough in the leg and of soft enough material to make
the difference academic. "That's a lovely outfit, Ranko."
"Yeah, we went shopping." Ranma lifted up her bag and
Nabiki nodded lifting up his. Nabiki wore a dark green dress
shirt over an orange t-shirt tucked into black jeans. He was
lanky and attractive despite the haircut, which on a boy
made one think of a foppish prince in a period film. Kasumi
wondered how Nabiki withstood the experience of shopping
as a boy. It had to have at least been different.
Nabiki nudged Ranma and she spoke again, "Oh yeah, uh,
Nabiki said she was going to stay at Ami's house tonight.
This is Hotaru, my er...boyfriend. Is it all right if sh...he stays
Kasumi couldn't help raising an eyebrow. Even if it was part
of a ruse, Ranma claiming someone as his boyfriend was a
bit alarming. Kasumi recovered, smiling and playing the
game she usually played when someone close to her
wanted her to lie. She just pretended it was the truth. This
wasn't Nabiki and Ranma, her sister and future brother-in-
law, this was her cousin Ranko and her boyfriend. "That's
fine, Ranko-chan, but I don't think it would be proper for you
to stay in the same room. The house is a little empty right
now anyway. You can sleep in Akane's room if you want,
and Hotaru-kun can sleep in Nabiki's room, just as long as
he doesn't disturb anything. I'm afraid Nabiki-chan is a little
fussy about her possessions."
"Actually..." Ranko grimaced, "Akane and me aren't on the
best of terms right now. I think I'll sleep with Auntie Saotome.
By the way, if Akane comes back for some odd reason,
could you tell her I said sorry?"
"Of course, Ranko," Kasumi smiled. Ranko usually slept with
Akane when Auntie Saotome came to visit. What with the
nature of their respective nightmares, Ranko and her mother
simply weren't compatible sleep mates. "I think there's still
some rope in Grandfather Happosai's room if you need help
tucking yourself in."
"Thanks, Kasumi-oneechan. I'll show Hotaru where Nabiki's
room is. Are you okay, Auntie Saotome?"
"I'm fine, dear, thank you," Nodoka nodded, "I know my way
Ranko gave her mother one of her sad little looks, the one
that showed how much she wished she could hug her
mother, and be her child rather than simply some pseudo
relative. The look was only there for a second and then it
was gone, Ranma replaced it with a polite smile and bowed
slightly herself before escorting "Hotaru" upstairs.
"Tofu and I are having tea, would you care to join us?"
"I wouldn't want to intrude..." Auntie Saotome said putting a
"You're a guest, and you look tired. I have enough." Kasumi
"No thank you, I am tired and I'd like to get every thing ready
for bed early."
Kasumi smiled. Nodoka was a true Japanese. Wait to be
offered three times before accepting any kindness. "If you
don't accept, it will just go to waste. Please." Kasumi
motioned to the kitchen.
Nodoka bowed, "Alright, maybe I will have some. There's a
chill in the air tonight. Something hot might do me good."
Kasumi's conversation with Tofu had ended the moment the
other's had arrived, but Kasumi hadn't liked the seriousness
of it anyway. Paradoxically, having Nodoka there allowed her
to be closer to Tofu. She sat next to him, leaning into him
and clasping his warm, strong hand in hers. Tofu's most
impressive feature were his hands. Strong enough to set a
misaligned spine, delicate enough to make the most perfect
Nodoka asked how things were going, if she and Tofu had
set a date, whether Kasumi wanted children. All wonderful
questions. Hopeful questions. Maybe there was no hope, but
it was nice to pretend, and Kasumi was good at pretending.
All too soon, the tea ran out, Tofu went back to the clinic,
and Nodoka left to get ready for bed. Kasumi was just
putting away the dishes when Ranko entered the kitchen.
"Kasumi-oneechan," she said, "do you have a minute? I
need to talk with you about something."
"Certainly, Ranma-chan," Kasumi said, figuring there was
enough privacy that she could drop the "Ranko".
Ranma looked at the water heater, the one that broke during
one of Nodoka's first visits. "Did mom tell you anything about
what happened tonight?"
"No, I'm afraid Tofu and I took up most of the conversation.
Why? Did something happen?"
Ranma looked into her eyes now. "We were mugged."
"Oh my!" Kasumi said. "Are they all right?"
Ranma grimaced. "I sliced one guy's hands off. Mom's sword
got another guy's leg, and Nabiki crushed the third guy's
Kasumi was silent. Each injury was a surprise. Ranma's
because what with his dislike of weapons it was strange for
him to slice anything, and he rarely did something so
gruesome to another person before. Nodoka showed almost
no talent as far as Kasumi could tell, and Nabiki knew a few
self defense moves but she simply lacked the strength to
crush anybody's wrist.
"Yeah. It's weird, right?"
Kasumi nodded. "How did this happen?"
"Mom, I don't know about. Her sword just sort of hovered
around and sliced through the guy. But Nabiki and
me...we've changed, Kasumi. We've killed. I don't think we're
even human anymore."
Ranma nodded. "I killed Copycat Ken. He killed Hoko and
several other people, but he was being controlled by a
demon or something. It escaped after I killed him. It was this
huge segmented worm thingy with a circular mouth. I sliced
through a couple of segments and there was this blue mist. It
gave Nabiki the memory of killing Hoko. Copycat used her
body to do it you see and now even though she knows she
didn't do it, it doesn't matter. It still feels real."
"You two have gotten really close." Kasumi noted,
concentrating on the positive aspect of what she was
hearing, rather than attempting to understand it all.
Ranma nodded. "We're practically the same person. We're
just specialized now. She's put all her emotions into me and
I've put all my...whatever the opposite of emotions are, I put
that into her. That's why she's a guy now and I'm a girl. I
couldn't deal with this stuff as a guy."
"Is there more?"
"Yes. You know I'm fighting myself just to be here? Part of
me wants to escape. Part of me thinks you're just a nice
human who'll nonetheless try to trap me. I've joined with the
Nekoken. I have control over it now, but in some ways it's
worse than before. What I did to that guy... he was an idiot,
but he didn't deserve that. I know who I am now, Kasumi, but
I�m not Ranma, and Nabiki's not Nabiki. We're something
different. It scares both of us." Ranma's eyes were brimming
with tears. It was strange, but it was so clear that this fragile,
deadly creature had been a part of both Ranma and Nabiki,
and yet neither of them would have ever acted this way
Kasumi embraced the red-headed girl. "It's okay," she said,
"I love you, Kasumi-oneechan. You saved my life...when I
was Nabiki. When I was Ranma all I had was a kind stranger
to give me comfort, to keep me from going over the edge. I'm
afraid, Kasumi. I'm so afraid I'll do something terrible."
Kasumi wasn't completely sure what Ranma was talking
about now, but she held the sobbing girl close to her. "I love
you too imoto-chan," she said, because it felt right. "It will be
okay, little sister."
She could feel the girl relax in her embrace as her sobs
began to gradually subside. They rocked back and forth in
their embrace. Something clicked in Kasumi's head and she
said, "No matter what happens, no matter whether you're
Ranma, Ranko, Nabiki, or Hotaru, we'll always be family."
"Thank you, Kasumi-oneesama," Ranma whispered. "Thank
Hotaru fell on his ass for the third time, cursing out loud. It
was so frustrating. He had the kata right there in his mind,
but he just couldn't execute it. He didn't have the flexibility or
the power, or the muscle memory. It just wasn't there.
He didn't have any misconceptions. It was pure luck that got
him through that last battle. If the guy with the chains had
held out a moment or two more, Hotaru would have run out
of energy and gone as limp as a rag doll. His ki didn't work
like Ranko's. For some reason he couldn't just let it flow out
of him all the time. It was either on full blast or not at all. And
after he used it, it took a good minute to recover.
He had to get better. He had to or next time...
Next time he might kill someone...again.
He felt everything Ranko felt, but it was all oddly warped. He
couldn't just let the feeling wash over him like she could. He
had to do something. His pain converted direct into anger,
and that was something else that was keeping him from
performing the kata correctly. Even before Ranma received
the curse it was the more feminine, for want of a better term,
aspect of him that allowed him to be so graceful and to
achieve the peace he attained when performing his katas.
Hotaru didn't have even that now, which annoyed him even
further. He had given most of his femininity to Ranko once
they had gotten back so she could talk with Kasumi. He
hoped it worked, and he hoped Ranko was quick about it.
Hotaru enjoyed being a man more than he had expected, but
he kept running into surprising deficiencies. People just
didn't realize how much they needed a balance of masculine
and feminine to even function in the world.
Hotaru adopted a horse stance and punched the air to work
out some frustration. He hated thinking of it as masculine
and feminine energy, it seemed so sexist, but what else
could he call it? If you had too much of one you were a mad
person, all action and no emotion, if you had too much of the
other you were a blubbering mess, all emotion and no
action. It wasn't good and evil, light and dark. One wasn't
better than the other. It was less yin and yang and more like
the Korean symbol of umyong. Blue and red embracing in a
circle instead of black and white.
The punching wasn't doing anything for him. He was about
to try kicking when he heard a knock at the dojo entrance.
He turned to find Shampoo and Ukyo standing in the
"What do you want?" He asked, not able to stop himself from
being rude. He was a bit upset at Shampoo for trying to steal
his...well that was weird wasn't it? It was the cat in him that
had the problem. But while he was upset about almost losing
his mate the quarrel had been between two female cats over
a male. Now Hotaru was the male and Shampoo was still
female. The antagonism just didn't have any place to go.
Hotaru sucked in air. If he wasn't careful he would start to be
attracted to Shampoo. She was still in heat, though she was
almost out of it now.
"Who you?" Shampoo asked a little more breathily than she
had probably intended.
"That depends," Hotaru hedged, "on what your intentions
Ukyo spoke up. "We're here to issue a challenge to Ranma
Saotome and Nabiki Tendo."
"They aren't here," Hotaru snapped. "I'm not sure if they're
ever coming back." The words stunned him a bit after he
said them, because they seemed true. Unless some other
life changing event happened, he didn't see himself
becoming Nabiki Tendo again anytime soon. And as for
Ranma...Hotaru couldn't even think of Ranko as a guy any
more. The concept gave him the willies.
Ukyo looked at Shampoo, who was rather fixated on Hotaru,
then she looked back. "You have a cat curse or something?"
"Something like that," Hotaru allowed.
"You free tomorrow? I make too too good ramen for you. I
learn to make Okanomiyaki too if like..."
Shampoo made an enticing offer. Her...assets were
considerable. Not to mention her huge...tracts of land. And
she had the nekoken inside her. And she was in heat. It also
didn't help that Shampoo's new short hairstyle and the tight
okonomiyaki chef uniform appealed to the libido Hotaru had
inherited from Ranma.
"Easy, sugar." Ukyo admonished Shampoo. "Remember, it's
"I like fair moan." Shampoo said in what was almost a
trance. She stepped closer. "I want more fair moan."
Hotaru clenched his eyes shut. Get it together. I have to
control this situation. This isn't right. I'm really a girl. I'm
Nabiki Tendo, this is just a short term thing and besides I'm
with Ranko now and...Hotaru shook his head, Why the hell
am I even entertaining this. Just get control of the
situation...just. Hotaru opened his eyes. "I'll let you know
how to reach Ranma and Nabiki...for a small fee."
Ukyo's eyebrow arched up. "Ah...I see. So how did you turn
Damn them. Damn their feminine whiles, Hotaru thought
"This...Nabiki?" Shampoo looked disgusted, but not quite
Hotaru sighed. "Look, Auntie Saotome is here, so Ranma
has to be Ranko, if you remember Ranma's curse changed
with his thoughts? We had to do something to keep him from
changing. This," Hotaru gestured to himself, "Is the result. By
the way, my name's Hotaru Takahata while Auntie is here.
I'm 'Ranko's' 'boyfriend'." Hotaru made quotation mark hand
signs on both "Ranko" and "boyfriend."
Ukyo nodded slowly. Then a smirk appeared on her face and
she finally erupted into laughter.
"What so funny?" Shampoo asked.
"Oh..." Ukyo said between guffaws, "how... the mighty...have
fallen! Tendo Nabiki, the great manipulator of men forced to
be Ranchan's boyfriend!"
"I wasn't exactly 'forced'" Hotaru grumbled.
"You used him for a year, but then he ended up beating you
at your own game, didn't he? Ranchan never loses! 'Oh
please, Nabiki, you big stud you, please help me hide from
my mother, won't you?'" Ukyo put on the act, batting her
When she stopped, though, Ukyo was serious. "Nabiki, or
Hotaru or whoever you want to be. You, are a jackass. You
had this whole mystique going, like you knew everything. But
you didn't did you? The only thing you had going was that
you didn't get involved. You were Switzerland, and you held
everybody's bank accounts. Well the bank's closed, now,
sugar. You're going to war."
"Ranko loves me, and I love her. There's no war going on.
It's all been decided already" Hotaru countered, but it
sounded weak even before Ukyo responded.
"Funny. That's what I said just before Ranchan and his
father ran off with my dowry. You know he never paid me
back for that? And all those free okanomiyakis... that adds
up, you know. But it was all okay, because he loved me and
I loved him. And then one night I see him fucking Miss
Switzerland on the evening news. Well I think I'm owed a
little vengeance. And Shampoo over here, who's going gaga
over you because she got punished with a curse, punished
because she didn't want to kill Ranma, because she loved
him, even when she thought he was a girl, she's got a nice
little score to settle too."
Ukyo took a paper out of the flap of her uniform and stuck it
to the side of the dojo entrance with a throwing spatula. "So,
if you happen to see Tendo Nabiki or Saotome Ranma, you
tell them to meet us in two weeks at the abandoned lot, in
their correct forms, or else they'll be revealed as the
honorless, jackass, shitfaced, bastard fucks they are."
Ukyo turned and left, dragging Shampoo along with her. She
had walked almost out of eyesight in the night before Hotaru
snapped out of his daze. "Oh...Oh yeah?" he called out,
"Well, I never liked your okonomiyaki anyway!" Not quite
satisfied with this he cupped his hands around his mouth
and yelled "It tastes like paper mache!"
After she and Shampoo were gone. Ukyo's words remained
in the air. Nabiki would have been able to handle that
situation so much better. But Hotaru wasn't Nabiki anymore.
He looked around the dojo. Why am I here? This isn't me.
He looked at his hand, wider, less graceful than his normal
one, and felt a surge of panic. He tried turning female, but he
couldn't. Ranko took too much. The room seemed to spin.
Unconsciously Hotaru sent bright green tendrils of ki away
from him. They grasped at walls, but found no purchase,
they pulled on the metal of light fixtures of wires, they
levitated him a foot away from the floor as he tried to center
himself, to gain some sort of control...
"Control," Hotaru wheezed, eyes clenched as his ki tendrils
sputtered out and he began to drift back toward the floor. In
the last instant of consciousness before passing out, his ki
reserves dangerously low, he said the word once more in an
almost inaudible whisper: "Control."
2/3/07-a note about the editors,
1/18/07- Got this one done a little faster. I was going to put
more in this chapter but 31 pages is already getting a bit
long for me and this seemed as good a place as any to end.
Finally got Nodoka in. Nodoka doesn't seem to be a
swordswoman, and yet she carries a sword around with her
all the time. Odd. And it seems to get unsheathed at the
most convenient times. So I say it's possessed. There's a
little more to than that, but it's going to be at least five
chapters before I get to the big reveal on that arc. If I'm good
I might be able to end this series in 15 chapters. I have a
pretty good idea of what's going to happen, at least the
It gets weirder.
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