Ah My Goddess Fan Fiction / Ranma 1/2 Fan Fiction / Sailor Moon Fan Fiction ❯ A Tale of Two Wallets ❯ A Blast of Heaven ( Chapter 119 )

[ 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

Nabiki's Journal Continues:

You never know that the bonds of love will be tested so much as when you are facing a crisis where loyalties are called into question and one's very commitment is serious cross-examined. That is the lesson I learned late this very night, and as I jot my memories down in this notebook (for later transcription into my computer logs) I am humbled to realize just what I have gathered around me in terms of a family with our diverse personalities and shared beliefs in what it takes to make a more perfect union.

Ranma was disconsolate about the sudden impediment that had cropped up in his training, namely that he would have to find an opponent who was willing to go all out in order to defeat him, and one whom he would risk injuring in turn in order to master the new technique that Cologne has been teaching.

Having Uncle Genma insult and badger Ranma in order to teach him the "Soul of Ice" mindset that was a crucial part of this training was a bit of a masterstroke on Cologne's part (even now I feel tempted to call her "Old Woman" even if she presently looks not a day older than I am…which reminds me of what Lotion must have been like in her own heyday), but now she wanted to show Ranma how to execute the steps by making him wear some kind of metal harness that she had obtained from Kami-knows what place, and by making him dance the spiral while sparring with Ryoga showed him how he could hold down his Chi without causing the harness to clench up on him (any heat tended to make the metal overreact, which again makes me wonder just where the old Matriarch could have found it). By the end of this session Ranma could perform the spiral without having to manifest a "hot" battle aura, quite an accomplishment when you think of how much his lifelong training has tended to rely upon emotion to bolster his fighting spirit.

That said, Ranma was at an impasse when we sat down to camp and tried to think of who we could find who might be willing to go to the next phase of his training. It was proving difficult to think up a competent fighter who could actually press Ranma to his limits while manifesting the kind of "Hot" battle aura that is needed by the Hiryu Shoten Ha. Little did any of us (except for Lotion, of course) suspect that the solution to our problem lay right at hand, almost literally under our noses, busying himself about the place while dutifully tending to a slightly flustered Akane.

Perhaps I should put a word in about Kanzen Konatsu, the so-called "Perfect Kunoichi" who had been hot for revenge against us only a little more than ten hours ago…something about a bomb in the cake that had gone off on the "wrong" (or right, depending on how you looked at it) party. The story I got was that the kid's father had married some incredible old hag, then died off while the boy was still an infant. Konatsu's real mother had perished some time before this, leaving him at the mercy of a vicious family of female Ninja who had elected to raise the boy as a girl in all ways, a fact that was heightened by his bishonen good looks, which at a glance could fool almost anyone into believing he was female.

Konatsu learned to be a "perfect" Kunoichi while serving his evil stepmother and stepsisters as a virtual slave, doing their bidding in all ways and living a perfectly horrible existence. The Kunos had never treated Sasuke half as inhumanly as what his own clan did to him, causing the poor boy no end of potential psychological harm, though at least on the surface he seems reasonably stable, if just a little too obsequious and humble for my liking.

Somehow this guy had latched onto Akane with the notion that she was to be his newly fated "Mistress," all because my little sister had shown him the kindness of giving him a decent meal and allowing him to freshen up in our furo. Now Konatsu seemed intent on waiting upon Akane hand and foot (and by that I mean literally!) as repayment for showing him a little compassion, something I could tell Akane herself was not too comfortable about, but she seemed to lack the heart to tell him to leave, for all that his attention and devotion was making her uneasy.

Ukyo seemed oddly vexed-yet-amused with the situation, reminding me that our other Aquatransexual cross-dresser has yet to make her own mind up about her feelings towards Akane. Just when you think Kuonji has firmly and emphatically decided to make Makoto her "one and only," something like this comes along to point out the ambivalence in the Okonomiyaki chef's resolution…proof again that she does like Akane…at least as a "friend" (her preferred term for their relationship), and ignoring the fact that I'm pretty sure that they've slept together on at least one (or more) occasion. I think Ukyo is going to have to make a choice and stick to it pretty soon if she wants to avoid ticking off both of her romantic angles…and somehow I just don't see this thing ending as amicably as my own marital situation, with both Akane and Makoto agreeing to abide by one another in a three-way union.

There are times that I have wondered about how I let myself get talked into a joint marriage with Shampoo…after all, it's a pretty unconventional lifestyle, and in conformity-minded Japan such a thing could be asking for trouble further down the line. Shampoo's pregnancy further complicates things as it is no secret to anyone that Ranma is the father. I just wonder what will happen when (and I'm pretty sure now it will happen sometime down the road, based on how often we go at it) it's my turn to have a baby care of Ranchan…I'm still young, barely eighteen, after all, and I haven't yet even been accepted into a major college. Most institutions frown on letting pregnant mothers undertake any sort of heavy academic workload, how would the admissions boards react to the idea that I was involved in such an unconventional lifestyle…I mean, after all, I sleep with the woman who is having my husband's baby!

At the moment, though, Shampoo and I were faced with a more immediate problem of reassuring Ranma that we could be patient over his condition. The strength-sapping Moxibustion that had rendered him a temporary weakling was also leaving him feeling…less than his normally viral self, if you know what I'm saying. He felt like an invalid because his lack of confidence only made matters worse, and with his member at low mast, a guy used to pleasing two hungry girls like Sham-chan and me couldn't help but feel slightly emasculated.

There was, of course, the option of doing it with him while he was a girl, but Ranma's pride made him refuse that easy option. He wanted-no-he NEEDED to feel like a man with the both of us, and that was proving to be the crux of our current problem…getting him to recognize that our respect for him was not all based on his being able to get up an erection.

It kind of spilled out that he was facing a deeper doubt based on the implications of what this meant for him as "breadwinner" in our family. A large part of our income these days comes from his martial arts ability, both in teaching at the dojo (temporarily closed for repairs) and in the various bets that I often collected every time he went up against a new challenge. Without the ability to throw a good punch or kick he was at a substantial disadvantage…even I could knock him over with a feather! It all boiled down to him looking hard at himself and voicing aloud the sentiments, "Without my strength, what good am I to anybody?"

"That's just ridiculous," I tried to reassure him, "You have lots of other talents, Ranma, and I'm sure-even without your strength-you could make a pretty good living."

"Oh yeah?" he asked in reply, "Doing what?"

That caught me off guard and for a moment I hemmed and hawed while trying to think up a good answer. What could Ranma do for a living that didn't involve the martial arts? His academic scores had improved a lot over the last year (thanks to my tutoring) but he still had a lot of ground to cover if he wanted to fully graduate. Going from sub-standard to "adequate" was a far cry from placing in the top ten on the achievement test scores, and with the amount of work it had taken just to bring him along this far, it was a wonder that my own test scores had not correspondingly suffered.

What then kind of career could Ranma look forward to if I could talk him into attending college? Well, the guy did have eidetic memory, which helped a lot with "rote" memorization of dry facts and details, but anyone who really knows about education will tell you that this is a far cry from actually having a deep-level understanding of the subject matter itself. The problem was that Ranma's mind was just wired differently from that of another student…oriented towards battle strategies and the abstract understanding of complex relationships relating to vector forces…by which I mean his mind and body are all but hardwired towards physical combat. It's so instinctive for him that he's barely even aware of it most of the time, and it took a long while for me to get him to open up and explain it for me how he does many of the things he can do without apparently any real effort. Teaching this to a class had been another area of conceptual understanding that had taken quite a while to get across…Ranma prefers demonstrating his abilities rather than to have to put them into words. He prefers to teach by example, setting a goal for his students that they have to hurdle before he will consent to teach them their next technique or maneuver.

The problem was that Ranma-who is absolutely brilliant as a fighter-doesn't have the same level of passionate understanding when it comes to the sort of skills that would make one a good office worker or executive type. I just can't picture him working in a factory or on an assembly line, and he's not blue-collar enough to make a good construction worker. The only non-martial arts areas where I know he'd do the strongest are in history or geometry, and there we run into a whole different problem area of matching his actual skills to something that would earn him a paycheck.

So as I fumbled around trying to think up a good answer the dilemma I was facing must have shown on my face, so much so that Ranma was prompted to complain, "Would it have killed you to come up with an answer?"

"Ranma," I protested, "Don't be silly…I know we could work something out…"

"Maybe you could work it out," Ranma sulked, "You can work out anything…you've never needed to rely on strength, like me, to win all of your battles. You're too smart for that, and I'm just a dumb jock of a martial artist…"

"Ranma, you is being stupid," Shampoo surprised us by the quietly emphatic way in which she said this.

"Huh?" Ranma and I both turned to her, the former saying, "What do you mean by that?"

"You think you no being strong mean Nabiki and Shampoo love you any less?" I saw the flash of anger in her crimson eyes and was surprised at their quiet fierceness, "Shampoo no forget that Ranma is strong fighter, but is even stronger as man…you come for Nabiki and Shampoo when Kirin try force us to do his bidding, and you no quit even when you think you is losing. Shampoo know you have soul of warrior that she loves very much, and Nabiki know you never abandon her, not even when stupid men on Island try cook her for dinner."

Ranma gave us both a dubious expression, but I could tell that Shampoo's words were having an effect on him. Still he had to glance down and complain, "But I did all that while I was still strong…now that I'm a weakling…"

"You still try save us even if you weak," Shampoo insisted, "You kind of guy who no give up no matter how strong enemy is you facing. You think Shampoo could give her love to man who is no worthy of Amazon? Is no just strength of body…is strength of heart. Shampoo know Ranma have heart of lion, no give up, no back down, no surrender even if you fight dragon, you still fight to save us."

Ranma just looked at the purple haired mother of his child-to-be and said, "Yeah…but…when we met…the only reason you were even interested in me…"

"Is because you Outsider girl who strong enough to defeat Shampoo?" she smiled, "Maybe is reason in beginning…but Shampoo come to know that girl is boy, and boy is strong, much stronger than Shampoo herself. You no understand how much you teach Shampoo by example…Shampoo is different now than when she come to Japan first time…she now know she would choose you even if she have all of Japan men to choose from…if you weakest guy in whole world, Shampoo still choose you."

"Y-You mean that?" Ranma asked in wonder.

"What Shampoo know of Ranma she love," Shampoo replied resolutely, "What she learn she learn to love…even when you is being stupid."

I just looked at this allegedly "simple" barbarian girl from the backwoods of China and felt incredibly humbled by her simple declaration. No matter how much time I spend around her, Shampoo still continues to surprise me, and I realized implicitly that what she was saying went for both of us. It was my own thoughts that she was putting into words, so strangely eloquent for all her reflexive mangling of personal pronouns.

I could tell that Ranma was moved as well, but then we heard a slight sniff from the opposite side of our campfire as Akane put her own two-yen worth in on the subject.

"Just give in and accept that they won't abandon you, Dummy," my younger sister remarked with a slight smirk on her features, "No matter how you try to talk them out of it, they're not giving up on you, and you shouldn't give up either."

"Excuse me?" Ranma asked archly, "We're trying to have a personal conversation here…"

"Then don't broadcast it around when you know others are listening," Akane replied, "Go shack up in your own tent and leave the rest of us out of this. I'm sure Nabiki and Shampoo here will be able to get a rise out of you somehow during the night."

There was dead silence all around our camp as everyone turned to look at my little sister in amazement, myself included. Granted she and Ranma have never exactly gotten along in the whole time that they have known each other, but even for her that was a very crude statement, and insensitive, given Ranma's current situation.

"You are so uncute," Ranma sniffed in her direction.

The sound of a firelog snapping in two brought our attention around to Konatsu, who was holding the two bits of hand-chopped wood in either fist.

"Uncute, huh?" Akane sneered back, "Here we are out in the wilderness trying to help you get your strength back and all you can do is mope around feeling sorry for yourself. That's pretty uncute if you want to ask me about it!"

"Nobody was asking you, Tomboy," Ranma replied, "Why don't you just take your opinions and shove them up your…"

All at once Konatsu was standing directly in front of Ranma with his fists on his hips, scowling in a very feminine kind of way, but no longer so "girlishly" cute as the mincing little bondslave that she had been in prior moments.

"Do not address yourself to Akane-sama in those tones, Saotome," the Kunoichi said softly.

"Huh?" Ranma looked up in surprise at Konatsu and said, "What's eating you all of a sudden? Don't tell me you're upset because I called her a Tom-URK!"

Konatsu had reached down and had lifted Ranma to his feet so that he could hold him at eye-level, then she glared (in an appropriately "girlish" way, of course) at my new husband and said, "I told you not to call her that. Akane-sama is a lady…and she was merely rendering an honest observation. Looking at you now I can see why she is so offended by your presence. You do complain about your lot in excess, and that is most…disrespectful."

Ranma tried to punch the Kunoichi out, but without much strength to his blow it was barely even felt by Konatsu. In response to this the bishonen boy pushed Ranma back so hard that he went flying for a good ten meters, landing well beyond our campfire in an open spot of ground not too far from where Ranma had been training in earlier moments.

Shampoo, naturally enough, was on her feet at once and tried to punch the "girlish" boy's lights out, but he just dodged her fist as though she were standing still and moved beyond her reach as though she were trying to nail water. Shampoo tried to turn around and back-kick him but Konatsu easily dodged her foot and leaped clear of her follow up, all perfectly timed and without apparently little effort.

"Whoah!" Ukyo remarked in dismay, "He's good!"

"He moves like Ranma…maybe even a little faster," Ryoga remarked in a surprisingly appreciative tone of voice.

"Konatsu-san," Akane got up to protest, "You don't have to do this…don't be angry, he isn't worth it…"

"No," Cologne spoke sharply, surprising us all, "Shampoo, stand down. Do not take action, let them settle this between themselves."

"But Great-grandmother…" Shampoo automatically complained.

"Do what she tells you, young Warrior," Siren spoke up, "I, for one, would like to see how good this youth truly is. Perhaps he might even give young Saotome a decent workout?"

"Precisely," Lotion agreed, startling me to find all three Amazon Elders in agreement about something, "Young Master…think of this as an opportunity. See how good you are against an opponent worthy of your mettle."

"Worthy?" Ranma growled as he got back to his feet, "You've gotta be kidding. You think Girly-Boy here can give me a workout?"

"You may insult me all your like, Saotome-san," Konatsu said, "But I will not stand for hearing you taunt Akane-sama!"

"Oh now, is that a fact?" I saw Ranma smile unaccountably, "Is that the way it is? You're sweet on her, aren't you?"

"Awp-that has nothing to do with it!" Konatsu sputtered in protest, "Akane-sama is a lady…"

"Lady?" Ranma said scornfully, "I've seen gorillas that were more lady-like than her…"

"Why you-!" Akane reacted.

"Oh, what's the matter?" Ranma's tone grew more mocking, "Can't take as good as you give? Maybe you should take lessons from Girly-Boy here…I'll bet he could teach you how to behave like a real woman!"

"That tears it!" Konatsu rushed forward and attacked Ranma, who darted away as fast as he was able, leading the other boy along as the Kunoichi went all-out in an attempt to destroy him.

"Ranma!" I cried out, already on my feet and deathly afraid that my new husband had just literally bitten off a good deal more than he could chew.

"Stay where you are," Lotion spoke sternly, "Your Airen knows what he is doing."

"But Elder…!" Shampoo retorted.

"Have some faith in your man, Child," Siren urged, "You see? He has the situation under control…and I must say, he's chosen a very good opponent."

"Indeed," Cologne appraised as she studied the two combatants, "Ranma is maintaining his Soul of Ice while the Konatsu boy is manifesting a very fine battle aura. This should be interesting to see what develops."

"What?" I blinked, "You mean…?" I mentally kicked myself for not having caught on right away, being so concerned about the possibility of Ranma being injured and killed that I had forgotten the whole purpose behind this training, but…now that I turned my attention to studying the matter, I could see that Ranma was leading Konatsu on, following intuitively the steps he had rehearsed earlier while walking inward towards the center of a spiral.

"…Your mother was so ugly she probably slapped the doctor who helped her get delivered!" I heard Ranma calling out as he tried to avoid the deadly thrusts of the swift-moving Kunoichi.

"Is Ranchan asking to get killed?" Ukyo asked, "She's getting that Konatsu so worked up that he's not holding anything back!"

"That must be the idea," Ryoga belatedly caught on, "Why didn't I think of it…it's brilliant!"

"Brilliant?" Akane blanched, "Oh no…you don't mean…!"

"Uh-huh," Siren said complacently, "And it looks like he's almost got the boy all the way to the center of the spiral…uh…um…Cologne-chan?"

"Yes?" for once I didn't hear a wince in the Indigo haired Elder voice as she responded to that affectionate nickname.

"You did tell the boy what to do when he gets to the center, right?" the blonde Enchantress inquired.

I saw alarm suddenly register in Cologne's green eyes before she gasped, "Uh…oh…"

"Uh oh what, Great-grandmother?" Shampoo asked archly.

"I forgot to tell Ranma what to do to trigger the Heaven's Blast," the former Matriarch said with a sheepish expression.

"WHAT?" Shampoo and I cried together, "RANMA-!"

It was right about this time that Konatsu finally caught up with Ranma and delivered a stinging blow to the face that staggered our husband and almost drove him to his knees. They were at the center of the spiral now and yet without the finishing move it was clear that Ranma was about to receive a furious beating. As he looked up to see Konatsu preparing to smash him down again, and out of sheer reflex our husband threw an upward punch in his direction.

All at once all hell broke loose as a wind kicked up out of nowhere, the converging forces of Hot and Cold Chi colliding in a massive spiral that flared up into a full-fledged tornado. The wind whipped back out way like a whip uncoiling, slamming into us with a force that had to be felt to be believed…right up until Siren erected a magical shield to protect us from the brunt of the hurricane force-winds.

"OH MAN!" I heard Ukyo cry out over the roar that filled our ears in that tumultuous moment.

"HE DID IT…HE REALLY DID IT!" Ryoga exclaimed in equal amazement.


"Exactly," Cologne replied more calmly, and somehow I could hear her satisfaction over the shrieking winds, which only started to die down after a full two minutes of furious life.

When at last the winds died down there was no sign of Konatsu, but our camp had taken quite a battering with personal belongings scattered everywhere and a huge trench gouged out of the ground where the fight had taken place.

"Where Ranma?" Shampoo urgently asked as the both of us moved to the edge of the new trench.

"There!" I pointed as I saw a figure crouched down at the center of the bowl, and-sure enough-there was Ranma, looking battered and bruised but otherwise quite intact…which is more than could be said for the condition of his shirt.

"Ranma!" Shampoo bounded to his side while I was only slightly more leisurely in making my way to his side, and then at once we both set to checking him out for possible injuries like a pair of self-appointed field medics.

"Looks like Ranchan got through that one alive," I heard Ukyo remark over the ringing that was still filling my ears.

"He must have figured out how to do the finishing move on his own," Ryoga deduced with unusual perception.

"That's my Son-in-law," Cologne said with obvious satisfaction, "A true intuitive Combat genius."

"But…what happened to Konatsu?" Akane wondered.

"You mean him?" Siren pointed skyward, "He's still caught up in the vortex, but it should peter out in another few seconds."

"The boy did very well," Lotion remarked, "We must remember to thank him when he gets back down to Earth."

"Assuming he lands on something softer than-whoops!" Siren winced, "Spoke too soon!"

"Konatsu-san!" Akane headed off to attend to the fallen Kunoichi.

"Ranchan," I asked, as I tried to remind Shampoo that she had to be gentle in hugging him to her bosom, "Are you all right?"

"Hah?" he said with a faintly bewildered expression, "Oh sure…never better…Ouch…"

"You had best take your husband to bed and see to it he gets some rest before morning," Cologne urged.

"What bed?" Ukyo pointed out the condition of our tents.

"Don't worry about it," Siren replied, "I can put everything to right by the time you get to your bed…just don't strain the boy too much, he'll need his strength for tomorrow."

"Precisely so," Lotion remarked, "For when Ranma regains his full strength he will need all that he has to face my uncle…and then win back that which was stolen."

Shampoo and I agreed between us that we would not put any undue strain upon our husband, but all the while I kept thinking to myself that this was one heck of a way to start out a Honeymoon…but then again, how many other girls can claim to have one this eventful…?

Shampoo's Diary Resumes:

After Ranma recovered from his mastering of the "Heaven's Blast" technique he was confident that he would be able to force his Devil-Pervert of an Elder in order to win back his righteous manly prowess. Knowing our proud Man would soon be restored to full health, Nabiki and I abided to provide him comfort without demands, hoping between us that he would shortly make up for our sacrifice the day after.

It has been a strain to see my proud and manly Airen reduced to doubting himself because of the selfishness of Happosai. I wanted to personally punish the old fool for ruining what was to be a perfect day for both Nabiki and I, the celebration of our perfect marriage, which already has proven to be so fruitful. Knowing that I carry a strong daughter for my husband has been a source of great joy to me, and one day soon I hope to deliver to my Airen our first joint child, the heir of our strong union. I have always dreamed of being a mother, but I had not thought so soon to be blessed by the Gods with such a wonderful heaven's gift, and I hope my mother will be as proud of me as I will be to present her with her first grandchild.

Of course that is getting ahead of ourselves, so let me return to the narration of how Ranma got back his proper manhood.

Tracking down the Ancient Pervert was hardly a great task for any huntress of our village, for Happosai tends to leave a trail of outraged women everywhere he travels, and this time was hardly any exception. We only had to look for a traveling ball of stolen lingerie to find the master of our misfortunes attached to the bottom. Ranma took the initiative and went hunting after the pervert when he paused to take stock of his next perfidious crime on the rooftop a local building, and with a might dragon kick he struck out at his foe from behind…

…And promptly bounced off his head without apparent effect, his lack of strength proving insufficient to even gain Happosai's attention.

As we closed in to hear what happened next we could hear the Demon-Master lament that life had become boring without a challenge since Ranma had vanished from the scene. Staying out late at night, avoiding the clutches of Hinako-sensei, all this was easier to achieve with no one around to annoy or pester him into remanding his behavior. I am pretty certain that he was aware of Ranma's presence and was trying to needle him by pretending he was not there, something calculated to make my husband grow more righteously outraged and less in control of the situation.

But the old fool had miscalculated. Ranma-although righteously offended by the pervert's disrespectful behavior-had mastered the Soul of Ice technique and was not about to lose control to a worthless individual so far beneath his notice in terms of human potential. Ranma persisted and finally forced the Master to acknowledge his existence, then issue the challenge that defied Happosai to try and ignore it.

And to make certain that the Old Fool got the point, Ranma untied the bindings to the bundle of stolen lingerie, spilling it out across the rooftop,

"MY BEAUTIES!" Happosai cried in outrage, and then he turned in rage at my husband, manifesting an incredible battle aura, and at once attacked, falling into the trap set down by my darling Ranma.

But…then matters began to take a slight turn for the unexpected…

It had all seemed so perfect…Ranma was drawing his adversary steadily into an ever-tightening spiral, gathering up the "Hot" and "Cold" Chi currents that would be needed to effect the Hiryu Shoten Ha, and then-just as he reached the center and was ready to make the upward spiral punch that would finish off the Old Fool, when…all of a sudden…Happosai-and his Chi-disappeared from the center, canceling out the Heaven's Blast before it could be effected.

It seemed that the Perverted Master had been distracted at the sight of a woman taking off her brazier on a nearby balcony. Ranma tried again to get the evil Master's attention, but Happosai would not be so easily drawn in yet again to another spiral. Then Happosai surprised us all by announcing that he knew what Ranma was up to, that he would not oblige to fall victim to such an obvious technique, let alone one that had been used against him in his youth, and in saying this he directed an accusing hand at great-grandmother.

We all turned questioning looks at my Elder and inquired what was the meaning of this statement, only to have Siren inform us that she recalled an incident from nearly three hundred years ago in which Cologne had used the Heaven's Blast on a certain pervert. This discovery-to put it mildly-was most disconcerting…and I fear I said a few choice words about my young-seeming Elder on the subject of her memory, implying that perhaps-appearance notwithstanding-she was experiencing early senility in her inconveniently forgetting such a significant bit of information.

That was when Nabiki sought to confront the ancient pervert and demanded he end this game, threatening to take dire actions of her own if he did not relent to restore our husband to full strength. I added my own sincere determination to see him punished for his transgressions, but Happosai stubbornly dismissed our complaints and told Ranma that he could stay a weakling forever. When Nabiki attempted to lash out with her powers, however, Lotion intervened and told her "No," that it was improper for one Lore Master to challenge another in such a manner, not even against one who was unworthy of his own talents.

"Uncle," Lotion said sternly to the old man, "You bring shame on us both with your actions. Not even the memory of my true ancestor, your late and much lamented brother, could stay my hands from punishing you for what you have done against the husband of my apprentice. Since you will not listen to petitions for reason, you leave me no choice but to take stern actions against you."

Happosai began to say, "Do your worst, Niece…I won't-BLUBBLUB!" the latter noise coming from his mouth because a large quantity of water was doused over his head right there and then, and an angry Hinako stood forth with an emptied pail of water in both hands, a very stern expression on our homeroom teacher's features.

It was amazing the effect her presence had in earning the old Master's immediate capitulation. Perhaps there truly is some positive emotion towards her on his side of their relationship beyond that of fear, lust and exhaustion…but with Hinako at hand his behavior became noticeably more civil. He agreed to give back the scroll containing the Moxibustion pressure points…provided that Ranma could defeat him in straight battle.

Before any of us could decline this stipulation, Ranma immediately agreed to it, thus pulling the rug out of further negotiations.

Nabiki was not the only one displeased with this, but Ranma told us that he wanted to defeat Happosai on his own, to prove decisively, once and for all, that he owed the little man (even in his tall and handsome form) no loyalty or respect. Happosai, he insisted, is not his true master, and so we agreed to have another battle between both sides convened on the following day.

The only problem was that this was not sufficient time for even Ranma to learn another new technique, and there were none that could be taught in that time which great-grandmother might relate capable of changing Happosai's opinion.

And yet Ranma seemed strangely calm, and he said that we should not worry, that he had an idea that would turn the day in our favor. Then he made a very strange request of us both and asked Nabiki to fetch her camera. He had something in mind that he assured us would mean victory on the marrow, and when he explained what he had in mind the both of us agreed that it was a reckless and foolish plan, but perhaps the best one if we were to achieve success against the Ancient pervert.

But then Nabiki and I stated our own terms for helping him carry this off…and while he at first refused and insisted that he should be the one to bear the full burden, we reminded him that we had sworn to do everything together, that where he went we would follow as an Amazon family must. It was the least that we could do to show him that we were as committed to his success as he undeniably was.

And so the following day we convened our battle, Nabiki and I standing on one side, Hinako on the other. Our respective men faced each other in the center, and Happosai manifested an air of utterly indifference, even affecting to produce an ironing board and an iron for smoothing out his "treasures." (I saw Hinako frown about that, and I rather doubted that all of those articles belonged to her in the first place).

But Ranma was undeterred, convinced his plan would win the day, and to that end he reached into his shirt and pulled out his secret weapon…the photographs that we had taken the previous evening.

In them we each were depicted wearing revealing lingerie and posed in suggestive postures meant to titillate the fancy of any man who finds young women attractive. Nabiki and I were both portrayed in positions together while Ranma's female form was posed in the middle of our action…exactly the sort of bait that one would flaunt if your intention was to enflame the passion of a man who delights in viewing such perfectly natural behavior.

To say that Happosai-who was back in his old-man guise-fell for the bait would be a vast understatement…he suddenly produced a "Lust Aura" many times more intense than his Battle Aura could ever manifest. At once he pounced for those pictures as Ranma darted away out of his reach, forgetting all else in his maddened desire to see us in revealing attire, chasing Ranma into the spiral like the proverbial bee on a trail for honey.

When Ranma released the "Heaven's Blast" it was as though a small mushroom cloud had dawned over the campus, creating typhoon force winds that blew everything in its path like silk on the winds, but unfortunately this worked out even better than planned as we all found ourselves-the concerned onlookers-sucked into the spiraling vortex!

A good thing Nabiki had resisted her impulse to form a betting pool for this particular match. We wanted to keep the news of Ranma's weakness a secret from both our relatives and the public, so there were no crowds of onlookers to fall victim to the force of the winds with which we were confronted. Nabiki and I had spent the night at the Kuonji place, obtaining the silence of her aunt at the expense of including Makoto in our audience. Akane and Ukyo were on the sidelines with Ryoga, Minako, Ranma's cousin and their friends while Elders Lotion, Siren and Cologne comprised the rest of our audience, with a somewhat recovering Konatsu comprising the rest of our attending onlookers.

So it was that only competent martial artists and fighters were sucked up into the funnel that had been unleashed by Ranma and Happosai, and for the next several minutes we had to fight to recover our bearings as the world spun around us in a maddening swirl. I believe even I would have been sick had not Ranma fought his way to our side, gathering Nabiki and this one in his arms with as much strength as was left to him while we rode out the wave all the way to the bottom.

We were about to crash rather suddenly into a fence when a new force took charge and canceled out the funnel. We were lightly dropped to the ground as this new force dispersed the old, and then we looked up to see Siren at the center of a new funnel, one that was under her control as she brought her Enchantments into play, slowly easing herself down as she, Cologne and Lotion combined efforts at bringing an end to the furious Heavens Blast that had felled the mighty Happosai.

Everyone else seemed to come through the matter admirably well, Ukyo and Makoto rallying to one another's aid while Konatsu nobly risked further injury in protecting his "Mistress," my somewhat bewildered apprentice, Akane. Ryoga and his new girlfriend managed as well as the rest of their friends, in fact the resolution of our wild ride within the vortex ended much better than it might have had the Elders not acted to diminish the potential disaster.

As for Happosai himself, he had been slammed into the ground hard enough to create a small crater, but he had acquired his "prize," the photographs for which he had braved much. Hinako alone saw to his revival, being rather dismissive of the pictures taken of us and giving us all a stern lecture about leading her man into foul temptation.

But she was amenable to handing over the Moxibustion scroll, which had been left in her safekeeping, and with it great-grandmother was able to fathom the means by which Ranma's conditions could be repaired. She insisted, however, that it was Nabiki's right to apply the counter-Moxibustion, and after studying the scroll for a few moments our wife knew precisely what had to be done, and with a touch of her hands restored Ranma to full power.

To say that he was as delighted as a small boy given a new toy would be a vast understatement. He was so elated to have his strength back that he launched into an aerial kata and demonstrated a lightness to his moves that suggested that his mastery of the Hiryu Shoten Ha extended much farther than just the creation of a spiral.

Lotion then revealed that the Moxibustion scroll had been stolen from a nearby temple and vowed to restore it there (after having Nabiki fashion a serviceable copy). The Lore of the Moxibustion thus restored to safe keeping (meaning Amazon hands, as well as the temple for which it was sacred) we considered the matter sufficiently resolved, which meant that we could return to the celebration of our marital relations, the long-delayed Honeymoon of my much beloved Airen.

Tonight we are scheduled to have the Amazon half of the ceremony performed so that my union to my beloveds will be recognized in the eyes of our people. As I cannot marry either of my loves by the crude Japanese law that recognizes their own union, I am nonetheless to be fully adopted into the Saotome Clan and given the recognition that is my right, after which we will resume the Honeymoon with the three of us going off in seclusion to celebrate the restoration of our husband's wonderful manhood.

I meant every word of my pledge to honor Ranma regardless of whether or not he ever got his strength back, but I would be less than honest if I did not confess that it is very good to have my husband back to full power. I may be willing to sacrifice much, but I do not wish to live the rest of my life as a renunciate Buddhist Nun…although I might find some compensation being the primary recipient of Nabiki's affections.

Ranma is my lawful husband, however, just as Nabiki is my beautiful wife, and together we three stand united to face any obstacles which may remain before us. I do not know what the future may hold…no one can, not even the Lore Masters…but I do know that we will be stronger for the many challenges that we have endured together. In the fullness of time our love can but grow stronger when it is tested, and I know that I will always stand beside my Airen, ready to face the night itself in their arms, ready to bear the first of our children, even to fathom the strange ways of this Japan that is my new homeland.

We each bring something that is special and unique to our union…we are different people, united by our strengths, made whole by our resolution. I am the fist and the heart, Nabiki is the head, and Ranma our foundation, three parts made whole and the whole greater than our individual parts. This one is proud to stand beside such Airen, and she blesses the Gods of our ancestors that she has been allowed to find such noble and beautiful life partners. What adventures we face next will be up to the whim of the fates, but I know we will always prevail because we are the Clan Saotome and the future is ours to shape. We will never surrender that which has been hard won through every fight, and with the blessings of our elders we will continue to prosper.

I know this as surely as I know that my loves will care for me in my time of need…but I wonder if the same may be said for Kuonji, the Hibiki Clan and my somewhat benighted apprentice, Akane. Many issues have yet to be resolved, not least of which is the curious relationship that I have observed being formed between Elder Siren and my great-grandmother, much against the professed disdain of the latter. I also wonder about my mother, sometimes, who flickers between longing and dismissal for Ranma's father, even as Ryoga's mother does not seem to have surrendered just yet in her own pursuit of Saotome Genma. I also wonder about whether the affair between Kodachi and my sister-in-law, Kasumi, is but a passing fling or something longer lasting. Then there is the matter of the brother to the self-professed Black Rose, no longer so crazy and yet steeped in a darkness about his soul that troubles me greatly. And then there is the matter of my two younger sisters, who profess to have acquired their own Airen (and an Airen with a mouth big enough to swallow them both is certainly not my ideal for an in-law, I assure you!).

So many questions yet to be answered, so many possibilities that lay open to the future. Where to go from here with my own life…not simply as a mother or even as a fellow teacher and student of the arts with my loved ones…I have rediscovered my joy in the art of motorcycle mechanics, and with my father on hand to renew my education in that matter, I see much to look forward to, so much of the future that is open to me. I do not know what the future holds but I confess that I look forward to its discovery. It will be an exciting journey I am assured, and yet the road is never ended. There is always something new to be discovered, and when we get there the journey is always beginning…

To Be Continued

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