Ah My Goddess Fan Fiction / Ranma 1/2 Fan Fiction / Sailor Moon Fan Fiction ❯ A Tale of Two Wallets ❯ Going Primeival ( Chapter 101 )

[ Y - Young Adult: Not suitable for readers under 16 ]

A Tale of Two Wallets

(An Altered Destiny)

Written by Jim Robert Bader

Proofread by Shiva Barnwell

Akane stirred, awaken from a deep and intensive slumber by a slight movement at her side. Being a trained martial artist she naturally came alert, in spite of a sense of having come out of something highly pleasurable that was worth continually doing. She could not account for this extraordinary good feeling, or why there was that peculiar taste in her mouth (her memories being rather fogged at the moment), but there was one thing of which she was absolutely quite certain.

She needed to get up and use the little girl's room…real bad! Her bladder was full and severely protesting a need for relief that would brook no denying.

Climbing out of bed, she took no notice of the peculiar lump that was presently hogging one half of the sheets, stumbling half-asleep towards the privy with only one thought on her mind: finding the throne and making her deposit. (She just hoped what these Nekonron people took for toilet paper wouldn't scrape her bottom too badly). The urgent need that was the call of nature distracted her sufficiently long enough from questioning the peculiar sense that she had not been alone the previous night, though some residual memories were starting to peek through the haze surrounding her awareness.

Thus unnoticed, her erstwhile nocturnal companion awoke with a slight intake of breath, feeling a twinge about her skull that spoke of the equivalent of a hangover, and with that a sense that something very significant had transpired in the hours before losing conscious awareness. A long and active career as a senshi put her on the alert for the strange, bizarre and unusual, but all that greeted her when she opened her eyes was an empty, unlit room, one that seemed only vaguely familiar until she reached over to a nearby lamp and fumbled to turn on the electric mechanism.

Yellowish light flickered to life and revealed the room that she had commandeered for herself and Makoto, but naturally her fellow senshi was no where to be seen, a fact which left Minako more than slightly annoyed. Her next thought was to wonder where the big goof had gotten herself off to, and did she really want to know the answer? Almost instinctively she knew that Makoto had been with Kuonji, a fact that did little to improve her mood and if anything aggravated her budding headache.

Well, nothing to be done for it now but to find some aspirin and discover what these Nekonron types did to cure a hangover. (Odd to think that she had one of those, for Minako was not normally a drinker) A shower or a good bath could wait until she had that little detail attended to, after which she intended to hunt Makoto down and skin her alive just for the principle of the thing. Imagine not coming by to wake her after spending all that time eating dinner. Minako had been looking forward to enjoying Makoto's home-cooked fare, which she had promised everyone would taste a whole lot more satisfying than boiled rice and pickles!

Knowing she would look a mess, Makoto didn't bother to dress in anything fancy, just grabbed a nearby kimono that she found hanging from a handy coat hanger and slipping it on with a few quick motions. She did not even bother finding her shoes as the room felt fairly warm and she much preferred to walk barefoot in the morning. She was almost to the door when she discovered something peculiar in her wardrobe and paused long enough to fish the thing out, holding it up to the light and studying it with some confusion as she belatedly recognized it as a long white feather.

A white feather? But…how…?

Donning a peculiar expression that much befit the mood she was in, she opened the door and slipped out into the hall, closing it just in time as the door to the privy slid back to reveal a much-relieved Akane.

Akane was feeling grateful to know that the Nekonron at least believed in the concept of indoor plumbing. Being somewhat fastidious by nature, cleaning her hands after using a stool was almost second nature, drummed into her with the force of habit by many chiding remarks from Kasumi. She was only slightly annoyed that it had been cold water that splashed her, which was why her wings were back in place, but having them gave Akane the idea of getting some flying time down to help release some of her pent up energy. The clean air was bound to clear her mind of lingering cobwebs.

The only problem was what to wear while flying, and it was a problem fortunately solved when she took notice of a pair of short pants with matching tank-top neatly folded onto a nearby chair, exactly in her size no less, which made her silently thank the room service people who worked this ship, always hovering in the background with their black-and-white outfits and hoods helping them to pass all but unnoticed by the ship's patrons. Slipping on these comfortable clothes felt so good that Akane resolved not even to bother with a bra or panties, considering this sufficient garb to obstruct the amorous views of any observant hentai who might happen to be lingering about the decks (she sent another silent thanks to Hinako-sensei and hoped her homeroom teacher was keeping the old pervert busy).

Akane was almost to the door when she paused, coughed a bit and discovered something lodged between her teeth, which forced her to spend a moment extricating it with her fingers. Holding it up to the light (and it only now belatedly occurred to her to wonder who had turned the light on during her time in the privy) she studied it with some slight amazement, wondering how such a thing could have gotten into her mouth, and was it really a yellowish hair, as fine as silk yet no longer than the joint of one finger?

Puzzled beyond imagining, she opened the door and stepped out into the hallway.

Meanwhile, a short distance away (but a world away for all that it really mattered), a male Ukyo was smiling contentedly as he rested his head on the softly rising and falling breasts of his beloved Makoto. Makoto was idly strumming fingers through Ukyo's unbound hair while relishing the afterglow of a long and intense session between them. At some point during their first session they had each drifted off to sleep together, but upon awakening they had wasted little time going at it with renewed vigor, and now that they had finally exhausted themselves with lovemaking all that was left was their second favorite part, the cuddle.

"So," Makoto finally spoke after the longest time of enjoying the silence, "How did that rate on your meter? Was it better doing it as a guy this time?"

"Sugar," Ukyo softly chuckled, "I wouldn't even know where to draw a comparison. It's different as a guy, but I like it either way…and at least as a woman I don't tucker out after a couple of shots."

"You won't hear me complaining," Makoto said in earnest appreciation, "That was my first time doing it with a guy, and my second time ever, and you know what…I like you just much either way. You really rang my chimes with that last time, Ucchan. Having you inside me…I can't begin to describe it. You made my world spin around and I'm still dizzy."

"Careful," Ukyo laughed, "Talk like that'll go to my head…"

"Which one?" Makoto's voice took on a predatory aspect, "If you wanna get it started up again…"

"You're insatiable, you know that?" Ukyo countered, then in mock-exasperation cried, "Women, what do they want? I'm only made of flesh and blood you know…"

"Faker," Makoto chuckled at her boy/girlfriend's feigned distress and she hugged Ukyo closer to her bosoms, "Maybe I oughta see what your limits really are, Buster. I can hold out as long as you…"

"Then maybe I'd better change back to a girl, just in case," Ukyo replied in a teasing voice, "That way I've at least got a fighting chance of holding out against you. I just know I'm gonna walk bow-legged as it is if I try getting it up again…"

"Poor baby," Makoto chided, "Why not let Doctor Kino have a look at it and maybe kiss it to make it all better…"

"You would too," Ukyo could not keep from chuckling, though his mind was fresh with the delirious sensation of what it had been like to feel Makoto's mouth closing upon his most prominent male member, providing him with a sense of what a velvety tongue she had, which licked him like a Popsicle and got him hard enough to plunge that organ into her hot and moist vulva a few moments later.

"Count on it," Makoto let a hand drift down to find and play with Ukyo's fanny, squeezing it possessively in such a way that the cursed girl/boy shivered with anticipation.

Before things got any further along, though, the felt the ship lurch sharply to one side, and then a screeching sound, almost like the hull being scraped against something hard and unyielding caused both Ukyo and Makoto to sit up in alarm, listening to panicked cries and shouts from outside their cabin.

"What the heck was that?" Makoto asked.

"Sounded like we hit something," Ukyo responded.

"What, you mean like in the Titanic?" Makoto blinked, "But we're on a boat that sails through the air, not the water!"

"Either way, I think we'd better go have a look, just in case," Ukyo said, and with some reluctance the two lovers got dressed and left their cabin, heading for the top deck even as they started bumping into the other passengers upon the vessel…

Just moments before this had happened…

Ryoga was glad that someone had finally come and relieved him from having to man the steering wheel. He had tried very hard not to turn it either to the right or the left or to in any way deviate from the course that it had been left at, but when the Navigator told him to turn six degrees to the right he naturally had tried to comply with those instructions. A short while later the man had ordered a twelve-degree turn to the left, and this too Ryoga had obeyed to the letter…or had thought he did at any extent. Given all that, he had wondered why the man had been so upset with him near the end, having taken another course reading and arrived at conclusions that frankly disagreed with his calculations.

Ryoga had sweated it out and tried not to be upset with anything the man said to him, even when the comments took on a personal character and left Ryoga shaking with anger, and in the end Ryoga had managed to hold his temper in so that when he was relieved of his post by the lieutenant that had given him the task in the first place he only mildly clapped the Navigator on the arm and left him screaming in pain about a dislocated shoulder. It served him right anyway, saying things like that about his mother!

Ryoga frankly did not know why the man should be so upset about his calculations being a little bit off. If the man couldn't do math, then why had they given him the job of Navigating in the first place?

Convinced that he had done all that anyone could reasonably have asked of him, Ryoga resumed his search for his room and wound up shortly thereafter in the kitchen. This by itself was not so remarkable a thing, but he was surprised to almost bump shoulders with the pretty blonde girl named Aino Minako, who was having a difficult time explaining to one of the cooks her desire to be cured of a hangover. Obviously she did not speak good Mandarin because the fellow thought she was asking for boiled squid and was receiving a lecture about the impossibility of pickling squid meat given their propensity for squirting you with ink, which is why Ryoga decided to step in and provide a much-needed translator.

"<Excuse me, honorable chef, but my friend wishes to know if you have something that can relieve her of a severe headache,>" he explained in careful terms, not wanting a repeat of the incident from the previous day when he had found himself in the laundry room of the ship.

"<Sure thing,>" the cook promptly responded, "<Just tell her to lay her head down on the chopping block there and I'll take care of it, no problem," he hefted a sizeable meat cleaver for emphasis.

Ryoga paled and said, "<I can't tell her that!>"

"<Relax, I'm just fooling,>" the chef adopted an easy smile as he set the cleaver aside then turned to the confused looking blonde and said, "<Now then…let's see where that spot is that my Mother always used on Father when he'd been out drinking.>"

The chef turned the confused Minako around and partially exposed her back, and before either the blonde or Ryoga could protest his taking liberties the man jabbed a finger at a spot and said, "<How's this, young lady?>"

Minako gasped, then flexed her shoulders and shook her head, rotating it in a circle so as to unkink her neck muscles, and then she smiled and said, "It's gone! How did he do it?"

"<Pshaw,>" the Chef replied, "<You foreigners must not know all that much about medicine if you don't know about the Pressure Points that can cure most common ailments. Tell you what, I'll even whip up one of the prince's special remedies for official holiday cures…pickled onions with pickled carrots and pickled radishes on rice. It'll give you all the nourishment you need to keep the DTs at bay, put a smile on your face and everything.>"

"What did he say?" Minako asked.

"Ah…" Ryoga considered the point then replied, "<Thank you for your kind thoughts, Sir, but my friend needs to refresh herself. Perhaps later when she is dressed for dinner.>"

"<Better have Mistress Mon Mon look her over,>" the Chef recommended, "<She'll know what's best for a cute young thing like her. Reminds me a bit of my youngest daughter…god rest her mother…>"

Ryoga thanked the chef then took Minako by the arm and gently guided her out from the kitchen. Once they were out in the hall he said, "I can show you to your room if you want…if you could do me a little favor."

"Sure thing," Minako gave the cute boy a pleasant smile and said, "What do you need?"

"Could you…um…" Ryoga hesitated, not wanting to look like a complete idiot before this friendly girl whom he'd only noticed on the periphery before, one of the friends of Usagi, who was Ranma's cousin, and thus probably somehow related to Ryoga (he really had to sit down and figure this one out one of these days…).

Minako found the boy's shy hesitation actually quite charming in someone who could be such a fierce terror in a fight and tried to encourage him by saying, "Don't worry, you can ask me, I won't bite."

"Ah…right," Ryoga cleared his throat and said, "Could you…show me where my cabin is? I'm having trouble finding it, and…ah…"

"Oh?" Minako cocked one blonde eyebrow at this, "Can't find your way, huh? Well, it is a pretty big ship, at least on the inside, so I don't really blame you for that. No problem then, I'll show you to your room and you can show me to mine."

"Ah…?" Ryoga wondered why the exact wording this cute girl used worried him so much.

"Relax, it's just a joke," Minako grinned all the more, liking this boy the longer she got to know him, and how typically male that he felt embarrassed about having to ask for directions. Nice to see he wasn't some kind of sex-crazed pervert out to shag a cute girl like her on the flimsiest pretext (not that she would have minded being asked by someone as hunky as him…which was not to say that she actually intended to let him take her to bed, although if he did ask she would certainly consider it…).

"HEY!" someone called out to the two of them, "Ryoga, get your butt up here this minute!"

"Huh?" Ryoga found himself rather annoyed about being distracted from having a pleasant chat with the cute blonde who was smiling at him in such a nice manner, "What do you want, Ranma?"

"Come out on deck and see for yourself," Ranma called out before pivoting on one heel and grumbling about "Clueless Morons."

Ryoga was surprised at the behavior of his alleged half brother, so much so that he was distracted from his normal impulse to be angry. At his side Minako said, "I guess we'd better go see what's up," which left him with no margin to contradict her.

Seeing nothing to be gained by refusing, Ryoga and Minako found their way out onto the top deck, at which point they saw a panoramic scenery that took their breaths away, almost picture-postcard perfect in the dwindling light of a setting sun, which as much surprised Minako as she had not realized it was that late at evening.

"What happened?" Minako asked, "Where are we?"

"That is the question," said Kodachi as she turned a curious look in Ryoga's direction, "Hibiki-san, by any chance you were no where near the bridge of this fair vessel within the past few hours…were you?"

"Ah…well…" Ryoga hesitated.

"That's what we figured," Nabiki groaned, "Don't ask us how you did it, Ryoga-kun, but you just put us a few thousand miles off course in the southern hemisphere, and this island dead ahead of us is named Pangea, which is supposedly also known as 'The Land That Time Ignored.'"

"Forgot," Ami corrected.

"Whatever," Nabiki groused.

"Oh my," Kasumi remarked, "Then that means we'll be a bit late getting home…"

"By about a week at least," Rei added.

"A week?" Usagi blurted, "No way! We have a mid-term exam to take by this Friday!"

"It will have to be postponed, I fear," Mon Mon said, "I don't understand how such a thing could happen. Our Navigator is usually so very precise in charting our directions…"

"Ah…well…" Ryoga winced all the more.

"Ryoga," Ranma eyed him suspiciously, "You didn't do anything to him, did ya? 'Cause that'd be real bad about now…"

"Stupid pig boy really do this one big time," Shampoo agreed, joining the chorus.

"Look out!" Minako cried, having been the only one to notice at that moment how close a certain volcanic hilltop was coming to their position…or rather how close to it their blimp was sailing.

"Oh no," Nabiki groaned, "This is just perfect…"

"Everyone, BRACE FOR IMPACT!" cried Kodachi, just seconds before their ship began a slow turn that almost managed to avoid scraping their bottom against said volcano…

"Well," Ganglot sighed, "The die is cast, I just hope they don't get in any worse trouble than I'm trying to keep them out of on this end."

She stared at one of her latest works, the portrait she had made of Ryomi, which was such an incredible likeness to the real article that her mother would have no trouble recognizing her on sight. The tattoos on her forehead were glowing slightly as she accessed the Yggdrasil database, viewing events many thousands of miles away as though she were watching a monitor screen in full living color.

Ordinarily it would have been problematic to view anything taking place upon that vessel, for there were rules under which all divine beings (be they heavenly or hellish) were governed and limited in their scope and ability to view and influence the events of a personal nature. Nekonron was under the protection and governance of a certain pantheon of gods whose sovereignty could not directly be challenged, so when it concerned Prince Kirin and his court there was usually a blank zone that could only be accessed with special high-level password clearance, and using same might draw unfavorable attention her way. Fortunately the Sky Ship was presently occupied by only one solitary priestess, and as long as the issues did not directly relate to her, both Ganglot and Peorth were free to operate…within certain parameters. It was a technicality that she had used to great effect, but there were potential consequences that would have to be taken into account when they developed further down the line. There was no such thing as a free lunch in the business of interfering in the lives of mortals…

As much as her attention was focused upon events taking place on the Nekonron sky, Ganglot was alert enough of her immediate surroundings to hear her great granddaughter ask, "Grandma? What's going on? Why is your face glowing?"

Ganglot eased back on her accessing of Yggdrasil and allowed her already-existing "stealth" programs to resume their normal function. She turned to Ryomi and replied, "Just checking back on the office, dear. There's much an Oni has to remain aware of if I don't want to fall behind the curve of events as they unfold all around us."

"This is like surfing on the Internet, right?" Ryomi shrugged, "I've seen people doing it, but I've never tried it myself…"

"That is a very apt analogy," Ganglot was pleased as her smile took on an indulgent grandmotherly aspect, "What a bright girl you are…and perhaps I should help you out with getting your own account started when things calm down a bit and I can trust having a PC terminal within the walls of this sanctuary. At the present I dare not provide such an access port for your grandmother, which is why we're forced to do things a bit on the primitive side…at least for the present."

"I see…" Ryomi fidgeted a bit, looking faintly uneasy about something.

"What is it, dear?" Ganglot asked in concern, "Is there something you want to ask me? Don't hesitate to be honest, I expect nothing less of you, and I will answer you forthrightly."

"You wouldn't try and con me, Grandma…like you did that Devil Hunter?" Ryomi wondered.

"I may stretch the truth and bend it to my needs when necessary," Ganglot replied, "But I am forbidden to tell a direct lie, so if asked a question I must answer it as honestly as I think prudent."

"What's the difference between bending the truth and lying?" Ryomi wondered.

"A law degree and a career in politics," Ganglot replied with a smirk, "A prudent liar will always tell the truth as much as they have to because it's easier to verify and cross-reference. All lies are distortions of the truth bent into unrecognizable patterns, but there is a fine line between telling half truths that deceive people and outright deceiving them…it a line that all Gods and Oni must operate within."

"Why is that?" Ryomi wondered.

"Because, child, the 'Truth' is a precious commodity that not every mortal mind is prepared to hear in an unvarnished package," Ganglot sighed, "If only it were possible for me to tell you everything I know without shattering your faith in the world completely…but there are times when the truth does more harm than good, or when suffering can be caused by being too honest…brutally honest…with someone who is not mentally and emotionally equipped to hear it."

"Like how so?" Ryomi wondered.

"Let me give you an example," Ganglot waved a finger to begin, "There is a man whom I know who is a determined liar, who has used deceit and deception as a tool to avoid the truth at every point of his long and colorful existence. The truth about him is that he cannot face the truth about himself without experiencing a severe loss in self-confidence and respect. He fears the truth and attempts to smother it under layers of self-delusion, acting as an impulsive and thoughtless being who does what he likes and seeks never to face the consequences of his actions. In some large measure I am responsible for his turning out the way he did, for I made a pact with him long ago that had consequences that echo down to the present."

"Who is he?" Ryomi asked.

"His name is Happosai," Ganglot replied, "And he is three hundred years old, give or take a couple of decades. I knew him as a young man who was deeply troubled and full of self-pity, and in an act of mischief that was partly malice on my part I granted him a wish, which same gave him what he thought he desired and sealed his fate down to the present."

"You gave him a wish?" Ryomi blinked, "Why would you do that, and what kind of wish did you give him?"

"In answer to the first part of your question," Ganglot began, "It was a combination of pity and vengeance that motivated me to strike up a deal with a young man whom life had treated most unfairly. You see…Happosai as a boy was much abused because he was small in stature and not very attractive. His father was not the best sort of role model that one could have asked for and belittled the youth, taunting him with saying that he would never amount to much in his life. In point of fact his father was deliberately needling the boy to try and make himself into a man, but it was cruel and thoughtless and did much to diminish Happosai's self-respect and self-image, and so he vowed to make himself into a great martial artist while nurturing his wounded pride by turning into a pervert who would ogle and molest young women."

"Ewww," Ryomi made a face, "Why would you ever want anything to do with a guy like that?"

"Mostly it was because I was a different person back then," Ganglot sighed, "I was angry and bitter over the loss of my husband, and more than a bit lonely. I felt I understood the demons that drove Happosai to be what he was even then, and it amused me to see the sort of mischief he could do if I promoted him from a minor to a major nuisance…especially since it majorly tweaked a woman with whom I then had a deep, abiding grudge. It's taken me close to three hundred years to see the folly of my actions, but in my own defense I would say that as much good as bad came from my mischief, so I must now live with the echoes that resonate down to the present."

"Who was this lady?" Ryomi asked.

"Her name is Cologne of the Joketsuzoku," Ganglot sighed, "And she is…or was…my sister-in-law by marriage."

Ryomi blinked, "Mind running that one by me again?"

"My husband's name was Rogaine of the Joketsuzoku," Ganglot explained, "The son of Yosho, a Prince of the Jurai, and Cologne's twin brother."

"And she wasn't too crazy about you getting hitched to her brother?" Ryomi fathomed.

"To put it mildly, no," Ganglot sighed, "He died in battle and I miss him terribly, but I resented Cologne for holding me responsible for his death, as if I were the one who put him up to it when in fact I begged him not to fight that battle, having had some foreknowledge of its eventual outcome."

"Was it because you're an Oni that she blamed you for that?" Ryomi asked.

"That and the fact that I doubt any woman would have matched Cologne's high standards in those days," Ganglot replied, "So when Cologne gave her heart to Happosai, only to reject him in the end, I saw a way of getting even with her, and spitefully I made Happosai into a stronger warrior than herself by granting his wish to be the world's most powerful-if perverted-martial artist."

"You made him what?" Ryomi blinked.

"That was the nature of the wish I granted him," Ganglot replied, "He wanted to become the world's greatest martial artist, so I had him phrase his wish to become the strongest perverted martial arts master in the world. With his powers and skills thus increased it was childsplay for him to steal the treasures of the Amazons and escape back to Japan, making a tour of the Orient in which he carved out a legend as both a pervert and a fighter."

"Sounds to me like you went a little overboard, Grandma," Ryomi said in a disapproving tone of voice.

"I know," Ganglot bowed her head sheepishly, "It was wrong of me and incredibly shortsighted, and it contributed to the decision by the Amazon Council of Elders to seal me away within my Temple for the past three hundred years. That gave me a lot of time to think about what I had done, even as I watched Happosai grow older and even more perverted. He managed even to make himself semi-Immortal by stealing the longevity of a powerful being, which is why he is still very much alive and kicking. Of course there has been as much good to come from this as evil as Happosai contributed to the line of the Saotomes and is, in fact, the great-great-grandfather of your older brother, Ryoga."

"You mean I'm related to this guy?" Ryomi made a face, "Ewww…"

"Well, fortunately I have noticed a recent change in Happosai's nature, and for the better I might add," Ganglot smiled, "And whether he knows it or not, the power of love has begun to redeem him from his perversion, so we will have to wait and see what comes of it all. I have hope of his eventual redemption, even as I do of making restitution for much of the evil that I caused in the old days."

"Is that why you're doing all this?" Ryomi asked, "You wanna make amends for all the bad stuff?"

"Well, that and I want to make certain that there are great-great-great-grandkids waiting in the future," Ganglot smiled, "But I'm afraid that's more in your ballpark than mine…you and your brother."

"Ah…gee…" Ryomi blushed and scuffed a foot on the floor, looking thoroughly embarrassed.

"Now then," Ganglot nodded to the portrait, "What do you think? It's not Rembrandt, but I think it's a pretty good likeness, don't you?"

Ryomi turned to study the picture that bore her likeness and blinked her eyes, then said, "Wow! Is that me? I mean…it's beautiful…"

"Only a pale reflection of the original, I fear," Ganglot ran a hand over the girl's long dark hair, which had be once again done up in its trademark warrior's braid.

Ryomi colored all the more deeply and said, "Aw…Grandma…"

"Your mother will be so proud when she sees you," Ganglot continued, undeterred by her great grandchild's modest behavior, "Soon…very soon it will all come together…just wait and be patient a little farther and you two will be reunited, I promise."

Ryomi turned to regard the bronzed Oni Princess before she asked, "And will Mom be happy to see you too, Grandma?"

"I hope so, dear," Ganglot sighed, "But we'll have to wait and see a bit, and it all depends on how soon it takes my son, your grandfather, to get here, which should be any…"

Without warning one wall of the gallery exploded inward, a wall over which no pictures or artwork had been left hanging, and through the gap in this wall a tall man appeared, flanked by a girl who looked very much like an older version of Ryomi.

"Bingo," Ganglot smiled, turning to greet these new arrivals, "Welcome, my son…you've been expected."

"I am?" Razor blinked his eyes as he saw the bronzed woman with the odd tattoos on her face and said, "Have we met before?"

"Huh?" Akiko glanced at the Oni, then at their surroundings and said, "Where the heck is this place, and who are you?"

Ganglot heaved a sigh and said, "This could take a while. Ryomi, dear…say hello to your grandfather and cousin. I have snacks prepared and accommodations have already been made for you, so by all means feel free to make yourselves at home, my children."

"Grandfather?" Ryomi said in amazement as he stared at the half-Oni, who blinked back before glancing at Akiko and back again, as if trying to make a connection.

"Grandfather?" Akiko echoed, "Oboy…something tells me we're not in Kansai anymore…"

"Good guess, Tonto," Ryomi replied, then grinned broadly as she added, "Well, whadya know? I always wanted a big sister…"

Yumi had calmed down considerably by the time she had arrived at the dojo, having taken the time to think long and hard about the curious words of the woman who had visited her the previous day, and she had concluded that there was no reason for her to rush into anything imprudent. After all, it wasn't like it was in the old days any more, and it wasn't like she in serious competition for Tendo Soun's affections, so why the hell had she let the woman's words rattle her so much? Wounded pride only went so far or explained so much, even with a Kuonji.

Getting all jealous and spiteful about her former affections was silly for a grown woman of her age and social standing, especially given her history with Soun, which had not started out on the best terms one could ask for. Originally she had sought him out because of a family obligation, a promised engagement that had been arranged by her elders when she was but a wee babe and not fully along in her Kunoichi training. Soun's grandfather, who had served with the National intelligence services during the second world war, and forged a pact with Yumi's grandfather to seal the clans with a promise of marriage. That dubious "honor" had fallen onto her shoulders when one the original candidates for said union had died in a kamikaze raid against an American carrier, and no more eligible candidates turned up until long after Yumi's mother had married her father to carry on the Kuonji traditions. It was not until she turned sixteen that her elders ever-so-generously informed her of the arrangement and gave her the assignment to go find that boy and seek to engage him.

Yumi had chosen to interpret her instructions in a different way. Being a proud girl and highly resentful of "the old tyrant" (the affectionate nick-name for her grandfather), she sought out Soun with the object of testing him, intending to kill the boy rather than marry him should he prove to be a weakling. No way would she give up her training just to marry a boy if he expected her to be some pathetic weak China doll who would fawn all over him like a nice little housewife.

Her initial efforts at testing or killing Soun had proven to be less than stellarly effective, but they did serve to put Soun on his guard around Yumi. Of course once she had spent a sufficient amount of time around him she began to see the youth in a different light, and this eventually caused a change in her own nature, so much so that she eventually came to regret her earlier impulsive actions.

By then it was too late, though, and he had already fallen in love with one of her rivals. Silk had given him her affections freely and generously, without reservation or condition, and though she was a barbarian outlander she carried herself with such lady-like poise that it left Yumi feeling like a country bumpkin. Soun was quite obviously taken with her and most probably would have married Silk had not the latter chosen to break off their relationship and return home to China. Soun wound up with Kimiko almost as a consolation prize, and to this day it still stung Yumi's pride to realize that she had not even been a runner up in the final competition.

Well…to be fair, she had not actually given him much reason to trust her in those days, and she supposed that some parts of her conduct had seemed spiteful and possessive, and her change of heart had come pretty late in the game, so earning back points to come out even would have taken a major stroke on her part if she could have somehow contrived to come across as more the heroic lady type instead of a reformed "bad girl." Of course she was no where near as bad in that department as that lunatic sorceress, Sybil…

Sybil? Yumi frowned as she thought of her other major rival (and fellow loser in the romance sweepstakes), Sybil the Sorceress, whose mad lust for Soun had partially been fueled by a belief that he was astrologically destined to become the heir of some sort of cosmos-spanning destiny, which sounded a lot like Atsuko's original reason for chasing after Genma. Sybil was a certifiable nut case, but definitely powerful, even if her spells did have a tendency to miscue.

Sybil…Cybelle? Could there be a possible connection?

As she was pondering this she strolled past the gates to the Tendo yard and by-passed the house, at least reasonably certain that she would find any occupants presently at home gathered around the back porch area, a deduction that proved entirely well founded.

Of course what she saw when she arrived there caused her to blink her eyes and take a moment to mentally back-pedal.

The first thing she noticed, naturally enough, was that the yard looked badly chewed up as if a major brawl had just set back whatever repairs had been made to the landscape and surrounding structures. The second thing she noticed was Silk sporting a black eye with Comb tending to her numerous cuts and bruises. In spite of looking like she had been through he proverbial meat grinder, Silk was grinning like an idiot and seemed to radiate an enormously happy aura of blissful self-contentment.

"What's been going on here?" Yumi asked by way of a conversation opener.

"Damnedest thing I ever saw," Kennou shook her head in disbelief, "Tendo-san and the witch went at it like cats and dogs chewing over a bone, and when it was over he gave her a ring…can you believe it?"

"A ring?" Yumi blinked, feeling a slight churning in her guts as she regarded the Lore Master, "You didn't…he didn't…"

In response to this Silk raised her left hand and showed a gold wedding band that-while simple and obviously not too expensive-seemed to fit on her finger as if she were born to wear it. Yumi saw Comb shake her head and sigh before closing her own eyes and laying a hand over Silk's swollen left eye as a warm seemed to briefly emanate from the Healer. When she took her hand away the eye was almost completely healed and the swelling had all but vanished.

"You should have seen it, Yumi," Atsuko remarked, "They fought tooth and nail for the better part of twenty minutes, and for a while there even I couldn't tell if they were trying to kill each other or not. Soun managed to land a lucky blow near the end there that put out her lights for about a minute, but he looked like he was about to collapse from exhaustion. He's soaking it off around in back right now if you want to find him, but I'd say it's a pretty good bet that him and Silk just made it official."

"You fought him…and lost?" Yumi said with an almost accusing expression focused in Silk's direction.

"I didn't throw the fight, if that's what you're thinking," Silk replied, "He beat me fairly and honestly without even resorting to cheating."

Yumi saw the panda standing off to one side hold up a sign that read, "Don't look at me, I was rooting for him to lose." Yumi noted that said panda was holding a wash basin with toiletries in one claw, which meant he was quite obviously intending to join Soun in a hot soak.

"I don't know why you pushed it so hard," Comb was grousing as she finished healing the least of her friend's bruises, "No one back home would have made a fuss if you'd both gone a bit easier on one another."

"No," the Lore Master shook her head proudly, "I wouldn't cheapen things like that. Soun-chan deserved my best efforts, and I owed it to Kachu that she would know her father is a strong man capable of defeating me in battle. I'm glad he went all out with me this time, it means he's finally ready to accept me as an equal," the smile on her face grew even deeper.

"Screwy way to land a husband if you ask me," Kennou groused, "Not that anybody has…"

"But weren't you telling me just the other day that you fought with a girl for the affections of a man you both love?" Atsuko countered.

"Ah…but this is different," Kennou insisted, blushing furiously, "She was trying to beat up the guy she claims she wants to marry…I was pounding on a wind-up toy who thought she was good enough for a human. I wouldn't be that rough on Yoshi, and he couldn't take it from me anyway 'cause he's a pathetic, nerdy little weakling…"

The Shadow Hound, Shirokuro, made a noise that sounded like a snicker, to which the blonde Hibiki girl snapped, "Oh, be quiet, you! At least I date within my own species…"

"Amazon romance isn't the same as fighting off rivals for the affections of a husband," Comb explained, "From the Bronze age down to the present we have given ourselves to the men who are strong enough or brave enough to court our affections. Of course until today I didn't think Soun exactly qualified, but from the way he fought I have to conclude that he was serious this time, or more so than when Silk first began to date him…"

Silk stuck her tongue out at her purple haired companion and said, "You're just jealous. Admit it, you were tempted more than once to challenge the Fat Fool, but you never knew how to goad him into wanting him to beat you."

Comb was about to say something obviously tart in response to this when Nodoka showed up bearing a tray with steaming mugs that smelled like hot cocoa. In her uncannily pleasant manner the katana-toting woman chimed pleasantly, "Oh, Yumi-san…I didn't know you'd be here today or I would have made another cup. Have you heard word yet from Ukyo and my son?"

"Not yet," Yumi replied, then seeing the disappointment in the other woman's eyes she went on to add, "But that's not necessarily a bad thing. I raised my niece to be capable and independent, and I'm sure she and the others are all right, whatever they're doing at the moment…"

(Or who with), she added silently, but preferred not to voice her curiosity concerning Ukyo's two girlfriends and which one of them had come closest to nailing herself a Kuonji.

"Soun's around in back if you want to see him," Nodoka's smile returned to full radiance, "I'm sure he'd be glad to know you stopped by if you don't want to wait for him to get finished."

"I think I'll go talk with him myself," Yumi paused to eye Silk before adding, "If that's all right with you, that is."

Silk made a grand hand gesture and smiled, "Why should I mind? Old friends don't need permission to pay their respects to one another."

Yumi turned away, hiding the scowl that she felt like wearing. Old friends was it? The little witch didn't waste any time prompting Soun to fall into her orbit. Obviously Yumi had been a little too relaxed in her vigil, and now she had lost Soun for real to an annoying Amazon marital custom.

The bath was located around in back of the dojo, which was odd as no trace of it could be seen from the outside, but stepping across some kind of threshold in back brought her into what looked like an adjoining yard almost as big as the Tendo lot itself with a full-sized swimming pool and perpetually hot bath framed by a garden light setting that was altogether very much like a portable hot springs. In spite of herself Yumi was much impressed with the landscape and vowed one day to figure out just how Atsuko could manage to arrange this. Quite obviously the Oni's command of her illusion power had grown considerably over the years to where she was almost a full-fledged master.

Finding Soun soaking in the shallow end of the steaming bath, Yumi paused to dismiss Genma (now reverted to his human form) from her thoughts as she steeled herself not to try and peer at the parts of the Tendo patriarch that she could make out from below the surface of the water.

"I hear somebody just got married," Yumi said aloud by way of announcing her presence.

Both men yelped a bit and ducked down to neck-level in the pool, hands obviously moving to cover their privates. Soun looked up with astonished eyes and said, "Yumi-chan? I didn't see…hear you enter…"

"Of course you didn't," Yumi folded her arms and adopted a cross expression (though her mood was improved a little at seeing him cower in her presence), "I'm a ninja, remember? You'll only see me coming when I permit it."

"That's assuming we'd want to anyway," she heard Genma growl in soft undertone, but Yumi could have cared less for the fool's opinion as her attention remained focused upon Soun.

"Yumi," Soun tried again, "I was…hoping that I would have the chance to speak with you…you've heard that Silk and I…?"

"Congratulations," Yumi replied in a neutral tone of voice, "I'm sure you'll make each other very happy."

"Ah…quite," Soun seemed to be struggling for words, but to Yumi's surprise he actually rallied himself to say, "It wasn't anything to do with you…I want you to know this."

"Eh?" Yumi lifted an eyebrow but did not elaborate.

"Yumi," Soun glanced down, then he rose a bit further out of the water and said, "You've always been a good friend, and I appreciate what you've done for me over the years…"

"What are you talking about?" Yumi was baffled at the man's behavior.

"I know you…did some things early on that we both now regret," Soun continued, "But what counts is that you were there for me when I needed a friend, and I will always be grateful and I…prefer to remember you that way."

"Ah…" almost against her will Yumi found herself blushing, looking away as though struggling to cope with the unexpectedly magnanimous behavior of the man whom she had once had such a crush upon.

"So…" Soun cleared his throat and said, "I want you to know that you and your niece will always be welcome in our home, and I still consider you a friend, which is why I want you to there when Silk and I are formally married."

"You…do?" Yumi blinked.

"You're family…after a fashion," Soun replied, "I haven't always been the kind of friend you needed or deserved, but I…have always thought highly of you, and it's never been easy for me to express this."

"Ah…I see," Yumi looked away, "So…you want bygones to be bygones…?"

"If that's all right with you," Soun replied, "I never did properly thank you for helping us out against Cybelle and those lawyers."

"That…was personal," Yumi replied, "My brother got the family mired in that business and somebody had to be there to dig us out."

"Nonetheless, you have been a friend when my family needed one," Soun noted, "And I hope one day that I will be able to return the favor."

"So you do, do you?" a perverse whim made Yumi smiled, and then in an off-handed manner she said, "By the way, did you know that your daughter, Akane, is seeing my niece on the side? I think she's interested in Ukyo with romantic intentions."

Yumi counted to three, then right on cue Soun rose up from the water and cried, "SHE'S DOING WHAT WITH MY AKANE???"

"I didn't say I knew this for a fact," Yumi smiled, "But it's just a suspicion I have. By the way, nice tush. Good to see a man like you keeps fit and trim, unlike some obese pandas I could mention."

Yumi pivoted on one heel and make her exit while the two men chewed that one over, Soun ducking back into the water with a yelp while Genma fumed impotently in her direction. For some reason she was in a lot better mood than she had been a when she had entered the bathing area, and she was even chiming a tune at the thought of what might happen in the time between the present and Soun & Silk's "official" wedding…

Nabiki's Journal Resumes:

In the words of a really old American-made television show I quoted the words, "When we get back home, Daddy's got some 'splainin' to do."

Naturally my companions didn't catch the reference, and Ranma and Shampoo just gave me funny looks, though I'm sure that they felt much the same way given our recent encounter with the family of Chardin.

One of these days I'm going to chronicle that mess that we ran into on that primitive island. I mean, being kidnapped by wild headhunters and given a hot bath filled with peas and carrots isn't exactly my idea of a scenic vacation. Shampoo making like Raquel Welch with one of those Pterodactyls wasn't much better, although she managed to come through the whole deal in her usual high spirits and even managed to snag one of the babies that the momma had made the mistake of trying to feed her to. She put the nasty thing in a cage and gave it to me as a present, which was a sweet gesture but not exactly my idea of a cute souvenir for my troubles. Of course Kasumi expressed an interest in the thing, so I gave it to her for a present, much to the delight of my sister and Kodachi, who seemed to relish feeding bits of raw meat to the greedy featherless buzzard and have even given it the cute name of "Lockheed."

Of course on the more positive note, the experience gave Kuonji the chance to be all heroically noble before her girlfriend (or should I make that fiancée?), and those Troglodytes who tried to make off with Makoto would up wearing Afros when Kino-san regained consciousness. I'm not too sure what most of the others were doing for excitement during all of this, other than it probably would have been awfully familiar to a girl named Fay Wray. Rei and Usagi seemed to have enjoyed themselves pretty much, but I'm a little puzzled about what happened between Ami and Mon Mon. The real surprise is that Ryoga appears to have picked up Minako for his girlfriend, which lets Makoto off the hook (at least for now) and sure has made Kuonji's life a whole lot more easy.

That leaves, of course, Akane, who had her own aerial encounters with those Rhodan wannabes, but she seems to have come through the whole thing relatively no worse than wear, if still a bit resentful towards Makoto. She hasn't given up on Kuonji by a far sight, but I think even she's beginning to catch on to the fact that she's been left behind at the starting gate with not enough time to play catch up as the final score seems destined to favor the senshi. I'm reasonably confident of the fact that Ukyo's been sleeping regularly with her girlfriend, while as far as I know my little sister has yet to get on first base, though the way I hear tell it, it sounds as if Akane's been doing her own share of "sleeping about" in various cabins.

Naturally Hinako-san couldn't just let us enjoy the trip without turning certain parts of it into a study on botany and zoology, but fortunately for us there were plenty of things for her to Zap with her coin trip, so she spent most of her time in her adult phase while Happosai lingered about in his cursed form, playing "Teacher's Pet" as if the role came to him second nature.

I really must make a note that the next time I get kidnapped I should remember to bring my camera because there are a whole lot of memories of this trip that I wish I could have preserved on film. Just the bragging rights for filming a wilderness setting that was straight out of the biology texts would have netted me a cool ten million yen, to say nothing on a top slot for "Japan's Greatest Home Movies." For now I'll just have to content myself with the thought of how good Ranma looks in a loin cloth, to say nothing of Shampoo donning those saber-tooth lion skins, which on her looked like a cave-girl bikini!

I asked Lotion if we ought to tell people about our experiences, but she confirmed for me that it would probably be a good idea if we kept the whole thing to ourselves, at least for the present. That tribe descended from a long lost colony of movie extras who got stranded there doing a "Kong" remake might have next of kin to notify, but I'm not too sure if the people back home would relish the discovery of the colony's peculiar eating habits.

Ah well, scratch one up for experience, and proof indeed that the world is even weirder than even I've been starting to imagine!

It had been some days since we left that mess in Pangea behind us, and even now I still shake my head and wonder if the whole thing were not some kind of a dream in spite of the very real way in which events had seemed to unfold during the three days that we were stuck there. Fortunately repairs to the blimp had been effected without too much complication, and we were winging it along well enough back through whatever boundary line we had crossed in the first place to first get there. Within a day we had come across dry land once again, only to discover when we neared a major metropolitan zone that it was not Tokyo Tower we were spying on the distance but the bloody EIFFEL TOWER that was somehow looming up on our horizon.

Don't ask me how we managed to cross from the Southern to the Northern Hemisphere (to say nothing of a few thousand nautical miles) without being any the wiser, even the Nekonron people were having trouble figuring that one out. Of course the stopover in Paris gave us a chance to stretch our legs again while taking a tour of the famous City of Lights, which is how we wound up making the acquaintance of a fellow named Picolet Chardin II, who promptly challenged Ranma to an eating competition, a field in which my iinazuke normally excels, but on this one occasion proved less than equal to the task.

I'll spare you for now from hearing too many details about what followed, suffice to say that we-meaning me and my sisters-learned about a certain arrangement our father was alleged to have made back when he was on one of his training trips with Happosai and Uncle Genma, starving as usual, when they came upon La Belle France Martial Arts Restaurant and Dojo, which is situated on the outskirts of Tokyo in a fairly swank section of town (and don't even ask me to explain that one, I'm still having trouble grasping the whole concept of a Martial Arts Restaurant-Dojo). To make a long and painful story short, they lost an eating contest, at which point Daddy pledged to marry off one of his as-yet unborn daughters to a son of the house of Chardin. Picolet-san was seeking to make good on the bet, seeing as how the men of his line have always had trouble finding a mate (of course the fact that he has a mouth that can stretch to the size of a pizza and a tongue that coils out longer than a snake might have something to do with his family's "problem").

Naturally Ranma wanted a rematch with the guy, but Shampoo and I managed to "talk" him out of it through some gentle, loving persuasion (well, that and about nineteen meters of rope). Since I rather emphatically stressed that I already have a prior engagement, Picolet naturally courted my sisters, and you can imagine what Kasumi and Akane thought of that idea, to say nothing of Kodachi and Kuonji.

Just what interest Ukyo has in my sister's welfare I'm still not too sure about right now since it seems pretty much clear that she's already decided on Makoto, who wants Kuonji on terms most decidedly exclusive. I think the idea of somebody trying to snag Akane brought out the smoldering embers of competitiveness in both Ukyo and Ryoga as they insisted on challenging Picolet and now have about a week or so to train before they can take him on in an eating competition.

I think Makoto went along with that idea because it gives her an excuse to cook for her "Ucchan." Akane offered to help out, but even Ryoga did not seem too inclined to take her up on her "generous" offer, the idea being to train in eating, not gagging on poison. Kodachi has helpfully volunteered to do her part to train our resident chef and lost boy, the idea of somebody making moves on her girlfriend being obviously a bit too much for her to stomach.

(Of course this whole business with food has gotten me to wonder a bit, and having come close to being someone else's "lunch date" certainly changes your perspective about what it's like to be on the wrong end of the dinner plate!)

I'm still having trouble grasping the idea that Daddy could have made two such engagements in a lifetime. I mean, my engagement to Ranma has worked out beyond anybody's expectations, but this thing with the Chardin's sounds a little too much like something Ranma's dad would have cooked up. It leads me to wonder if maybe there might be other possible engagements waiting out there to compete for claiming our affections. Good thing my own marriage is just a few days away from now…that leaves less time for the next disaster to happen.

Anyway, at long, long last we found ourselves limping for home, about a week later than we would have been had it not been for Ryoga. This time we left nothing to chance and had the boy tied up tight in Minako's room with spirit wards courtesy of Rei. Without his weird influence affecting things we finally arrived back home, at which point the Nekonron ship landed in the middle of our school yard, at which point they collapsed the gas bags and stowed them down below deck, pretty much leaving the ship where it was while we debarked in search of our home (after a customary ceremony of kissing the ground, which most of us did enthusiastically). Hinako-sensei then sought out the Vice-Principal to explain as much as she could about our absence and straighten things out for us about attendance.

To put it mildly I wouldn't wait to get back home, and neither could Akane, who winged off ahead of us to give Daddy the good news of our safe arrival. Imagine the surprise when she turned up a few minutes later with the unsettling news that Daddy was married to Silk and was now effectively our stepmother.

That was a bit less surprising than the even more unsettling news that we had just been served a notice of eviction…!


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