Ah My Goddess Fan Fiction / Ranma 1/2 Fan Fiction / Sailor Moon Fan Fiction ❯ A Tale of Two Wallets ❯ Too Many Hibikis... ( Chapter 88 )

[ 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

"What a day this has been," Ukyo sighed as she-or rather HE-came within sight of the dojo (and one of these days Ukyo was going to find out how that old woman always managed to time it just right with her bucket and ladle).

He was going over in his mind his recent encounters with Makoto and Akane and coming to a conclusion that his affections were definitely shifting in the direction of one girl over the other. This alone was quite a revelation as it was not that long ago that Ukyo would have declared that ANY same-sex affiliation would be well outside her nature.

That second kiss with Makoto, however, had put to pale any doubts on the subject. It was not just her male form that reacted to the presence of women, even as a girl she felt the potency of that kiss spreading through her like a warmth that curled her toes, quickened her pulse and caused her mind to spin like a top, all of the symptoms normally associated with falling in love or a serious infatuation. It was everything that Ukyo had ever hoped to find with a man, but with Ranma effectively taken away as a prospect she had found it instead with the second person who had entered her life and made her feel special. Talking things out with Makoto afterwards had only served to confirm in Ukyo's mind that a relationship between them was feasible, perhaps even desirable, and certainly possible on a physical level. Makoto was a very dynamic and exciting person to be around, and having her back in Ukyo's life was unquestionably a good thing, and they really liked each other. Makoto did not mind the curse and even considered it a plus in their relationship, which was another positive check in her favor. There was no need for concealment of personal secrets…Makoto had plenty of her own that she was willing to share, and from what Ukyo had already learned there seemed no question that a bond of trust was growing between them.

The only problems that had so far cropped up was the time and distance between Makoto's home and Ukyo's current place of business, plus the fact that Makoto could be called away to senshi business at any time…and as good as Ukyo was in a fight, she knew from past experience that she lacked sufficient punch to cope with attacks by Youma. And then there was that rather unsurprising admission by Minako, a fellow team-mate, who obviously had been nurturing feelings of her own for Makoto, which made her a likely rival, yet oddly enough one towards whom Ukyo felt no strong resentment.

Ukyo hoped that Makoto would be able to sort things out with her closest friend, as she had her own sorting out to manage with the other person currently expressing a strong interest, Akane. This would be a difficult matter to resolve given the volatile nature of the youngest Tendo daughter. Akane already viewed Makoto as her chief rival for Ukyo's attention, how would she deal with an actual rejection? That slap she had given Ukyo earlier might well feel like a love tap compared to what could well be in store for Ukyo should Akane take it badly that she was out of the running.

And in another sense there was regret in having to tell Akane anything at all, because Ukyo genuinely liked the other girl and thought of Akane as a friend, one who had unique problems and definitely a bad attitude about her life, but on the whole had a good heart and a caring nature. Hurting the other girl's feelings was about the last thing Ukyo wanted on his list of priorities, yet at the same time he owed her the truth and would not lie even to spare Akane's feelings. Any possible chance of a relationship with Makoto hinged on severing rival claims by third party suitors, and it wasn't exactly as if Ukyo wanted to string the girl along with false expectations.

Ukyo wondered fleetingly if this was how Ranma had felt about informing Ukyo of his preference to stay in a relationship with Shampoo and Nabiki. It occurred to Ukyo that she had never even pressed the possible issue of an inclusion in the odd three-way relationship that had formed between Amazon, Saotome and Tendo. Could they have considered her as a fourth player? Perhaps they would never find out, for Ukyo herself had closed off that issue long before her ill-fated trip to China. In a sense she had brought Ranma the cursed water as a token of her willingness to end their engagement on a high note, and now she valued Ranma as a friend, nothing more than this. Nor did she feel resentment towards the two girls who had clearly won his heart, much though she did feel a twinge of possible envy. She liked both girls enough to consider them as friends, even allies, but there was nothing more between them than that, much though Ukyo knew of her-or his-attractiveness to both women.

Could she have made Ranma her own if she had caught up to him before his engagement to these others? Again that was problematic, though Ukyo did not deny the regret that she had felt about having to give him up in the first place. Discovering what a nice guy Ranma could be, and his innocence of his father's duplicity, made her see him in a new light and impressed on her those qualities that had attracted her to him when they both were still children. Yes she could have been his wife and counted herself a happy woman, but not if it meant causing unhappiness to another. When she had given up on her hate she had felt an emptiness inside her that told her how hollow her life had been without revenge as a major factor. That hollow space had since been filled, and now Makoto was seeing the light at the end of a very long tunnel, and for once it wasn't a speeding train headed in the opposite direction…


The cry had come from above, causing Ukyo to halt with a start and gaze upward with astonishment. There framed against the night sky was a fast-moving blur of white that took a moment for his eyes to track, and then Ukyo made out the human shape framed by a pair of luminous wings that picked up the light of nearby lampposts and reflected it like a pair of glossy phantoms. Ukyo reflexively ducked his head, even though the swift-moving form did not come low enough to be a potential danger.

As Ukyo tracked the movements of this angelic dive-bomber he recognized it as Akane in her cursed form, rising up as she caught a draft to stabilize and hover for a few seconds, and then angle back into a circling arc that carried her around for another pass as if the transformed girl was looking for a space for open landing.

Akane finally selected a section of wall next to where Ukyo had been walking and came down to a one-point landing with both feet planted along the top. Akane beat her wings for a moment to steady herself and even then had to manage a slight teeter before confidently managing her balance, at which point she looked down at Ukyo and grinned with a look of real triumph.

"Ta-daa!" Akane declared with her hands held out for further balance, "What do you think?"

"You were flying!" Ukyo exclaimed in surprised declaration.

"Yeah," Akane chuckled, "I kinda noticed!"

"Your wings actually work now?" Ukyo marveled, much impressed with the shorthaired girl's accomplishment, even as Akane herself beamed proudly at her own achievement.

"I've been taking lessons," Akane said, "I've learned how to use them!"

"Lessons?" Ukyo was somewhat confused, "From whom?"

"Ah…" Akane said more evasively, "Never mind that. Where have you been all day? When you didn't show up for class I…well…I kinda got worried."

"Oh," Ukyo replied, "Ah…well…"

"Excuse me," Akane hopped down off the wall, spreading her wings as she all but floated down to arrive on a more level footing with the disconcerted chef, "Sorry…I'm still trying to get the hang of landings. It's more like levitating than flying, and using my wings for stability, which is a whole lore more complicated than it sounds like."

"Yeah, I'll bet," Ukyo agreed, setting hands on hips as he enjoyed the happiness that the other girl was radiating, "You sure seem to be in a better mood than when I last saw you…"

"Ah…well…" Akane looked down and seemed genuinely embarrassed, "About that…I'm sorry. I didn't have any right to react the way I did. It was inexcusable and I should have been more willing to listen before I…jumped to any conclusions."

"What made you change your mind?" Ukyo raised an eyebrow.

"Somebody…well…" Akane's dark yes grew momentarily darker, " Let's just say I had my butt whipped by someone who told me that I was a spoiled and selfish brat who always wanted things to go my way. I…I don't want to have to say this…but I think they were right…I did blow up on you without thinking. It's kind of a reflex with me, or a bad habit…"

"Maybe a conditioned reflex?" Ukyo suggested, "I remember you telling me that the boys in your school used to pick fights all the time, and I can see how that might make you a little defensive."

"It's not just that," Akane took a deep breath and continued, "I'm always flying off the handle and losing it…I don't even know why I do half the time. I just get so angry some time that I want to hit something, but I didn't have any right to take it out on you…even if you shouldn't have been kissing that Makoto person."

"Ah well…" Ukyo remembered his business and said, "About that…"

"Who was that Tsubasa character who was coming onto you like that?" Akane pressed on ahead, plunging on to a subject foremost in her own mind, "You seemed to know her, but there wasn't time enough to get any detailed expressions. I can't believe that you've been seeking a relationship with another girl behind my back…"

"Wh-what?" Ukyo blinked his eyes, "Tsubasa? But he's not even a girl!"

It was Akane's turn to blink, "She wasn't?"

"Nope," Ukyo said patiently, "And if you'd given me a chance to explain I would have proved to you that Tsubasa is a cross-dresser, somebody I knew back in middle school who could be a real pest at times, always bothering me and grabbing me from behind and trying to force himself on me, and never once listening when I told him to get lost…"

"Oh…" Akane thought that over a moment then said, "That kind of sounds…familiar…"

"Tsubasa's a master of disguise," Ukyo continued, "But otherwise he's pretty much harmless. He's a not a fighter, just an annoyance, and he has this habit of popping up out of seemingly innocent objects, like a trash can or a mailbox, and glomping onto me without warning. Somehow he found out that I was a girl disguising myself as a boy, but rather than expose me to the principal he tried to leverage me into going out with him, and just to keep up appearances he took to dressing up like a girl and somehow got the crazy I idea that I'd want to date another cross dresser."

"Imagine that," Akane said, folding her wings behind her back as she crossed her arms over her chest, but otherwise continued smiling, "So he doesn't have a clue about the way you feel, sounds a lot like Mousse and Kuno."

"I guess," Ukyo replied, "I'm sorry if his glomping onto me like that gave you the wrong impression…"

"I'm sorry I jumped to conclusions," Akane replied, "But I am a little confused about why you didn't deck him. You said you've been trained as a ninja…"

"I've been trained to recognize legitimate threats and to counter them," Ukyo explained, "Tsubasa isn't really all that threatening, and if I clobbered the baka…well, I'd feel bad about it. After all, he's a lonely guy without any friends who's created this fantasy life to shelter himself against the world, and stomping his face into the ground would feel a little like kicking a puppy."

"I guess," Akane said, stepping back and doing a tight pirouette, "Well…what do you think?"

Ukyo blinked, "About what?"

"About the way I look, silly," Akane grinned, holding her arms up and thrusting her chest out, "My sister and Kodachi made this new dress for me to accommodate my feathers, and I was hoping to show it off for you. Do you like what you see?"

"Oh…" Ukyo had to admit that the dress did look good on Akane, and it flattered the other girl's figure far better than the school uniforms that she more typically was wearing. The flaps out the back afforded the wings easy movement, and those feathered stabilizers that decorated the other girl's legs were accommodated nicely by slits down the sides of the knee-length dress, along with Akane's tail feathers, which were certainly not typical of one's mental image of an Angel.

Ukyo had never been all that fashion conscious, but he had been in the habit of studying the way other women dressed from an aesthetic angle, often envying girls who could proclaim their sex openly, especially those who had figures worth showing off. He had to judge that the outfit looked incredibly good on Akane and certainly flattered her tomboyish looks, creating the impression that she was even more like an Angel than could be objectively determined as a fact. More than the dress, however, it was Akane herself who seemed to captivate the eye and make one pay special attention to her very kawaii, if somewhat ordinary features. Akane looked like a typical Japanese girl…until one examined her even close…and then an exotic quality could be discerned hidden beneath her exterior, an attractive element that made one want to continue looking until…

Ukyo caught himself in time to look away, coloring furiously at the way he had so easily fallen under a spell similar to that of the love pearls, making him forget all about his resolve to commit to Makoto. In a somewhat flustered voice he said, "You look…very nice, Akane-chan…I mean…that dress looks very good on you…"

The shorthaired winged girl's soft chuckle caused Ukyo to glance back in her direction, and then the cursed girl-turned-boy said, "What's so funny?"

"You," Akane grinned, "You don't have to feel bad about complimenting the way I look, Ucchan. I'm always saying that you look very handsome, even when you're in your girl phase. Heck, I like the way you look in either boy or girl types, and that outfit you insist on wearing looks very…distinguished on you."

"Distinguished?" Ukyo arched both eyebrows.

"All right," the grin softened as Akane's eyes took on a luminous quality, "I think you look absolutely gorgeous as either a guy or a girl, and I don't mind telling you that either."

"Ah…" Ukyo found himself at a loss for words, staring into Akane's eyes as though drawn to them by a magnet.

"It's okay," Akane turned away and rocked on her heals with a coy expression, "I don't expect you to just fall all over me and gush out poetry, like Kuno. I'm willing to wait to see if there's anything that may possibly be between us. I know you like that Makoto girl…though I don't really see why. She's too…tall for one thing…and as for that chest of hers…I didn't know that was what a girl like you wanted in another woman."

"Um…" Ukyo knew that technically he should have leaped to the defense of Makoto, but there was such a playful tone of good humor in Akane's voice that it made it hard to disagree with her…even if Ukyo wanted to say that there was nothing wrong with Makoto's chest in his own unabashed opinion.

"You know," Akane inclined her head and eyed Makoto with a look of pure mischief, "Sometimes I think being a boy is more than just an act for you…it's like you're trying to make up for a mistake you think was made at birth…but I don't see anything wrong with you also being a girl…when you feel like it."

"When I…what?" Ukyo blinked.

"Well, think about it for a second, okay?" Akane pleaded with her eyes, "Your father obviously wanted you to be a boy and he raised you to be like one even before you met up with Ranma. When you decided to be a boy for real it wasn't just because you felt rejected, now was it? Being a boy gave you certain privileges that we all wish we shared as women. I know because I've had to fight for respect nearly all of my life against guys telling me what I can and can't do, all because I was born a girl. Sometimes I've even wished that I was born a boy, the same as you, and if I had somehow gotten your curse instead of the one I now have…well…I wouldn't think it was that much of a problem. At least I think so now, but who knows?" she shrugged, "Boys come with their own sets of problems, as I'm sure you already know."

"Er…well…you could put it that way…" Ukyo reluctantly conceded.

"Being a boy means you don't have to do a lot of the things that they expect us girls to do on account of a lot of stuffy old traditions," Akane sighed, "Like inheriting your dad's restaurant. Why should being a girl be such a problem? Sometimes I even like being a girl…and I wouldn't really give that up just to avoid a lot of meaningless hassles."

Ukyo put a hand up to the back of her head and began rubbing beneath his ponytail, "Well…there are times I wish I could just be a regular, normal girl and not have to worry so much about pretending…"

"Right," Akane's wings moved as she changed the direction of her stance, as if shifting them was becoming second nature as she seemed to pay them no notice, "So you and I've been in the same boat for most of our lives…the only thing different is that you've pretended to be a guy and I've wanted to be treated like one, or at least given the same respect as a boy. Why should either of us have to be actual boys in order to get treated nicely, can you tell me that one?"

"Well…no…" Ukyo responded.

"Which is exactly my point," Akane leaned forward, "I like being a girl…in fact, I like it a whole lot at the moment, and you know why?"

"Er…" Ukyo found Akane's face alarmingly close to her own, but before he could even think to move away the winged girl leaned forward, slipped her arms around his waist and kissed him.

As with Makoto the previous day, that first kiss lasted longer than a few seconds and did something to Ukyo's body temperature that made him feel as if a low fever had settled over his brow, causing a mild case of congestion as his chest tightened slightly, and then Akane broke the kiss and stood back by a few inches to gaze up at Ukyo with a look of dull wonder.

"Wow," she said without elaboration.

"Wow," Ukyo mirrored the sentiments, and for a moment no other words passed between them, but then Akane reluctantly let her go and stood back to smile more shyly in the chef's direction.

"Forgive me," Akane lowered her head, "I didn't mean to do that…it just…well…it just felt right, like…it was something I wanted to do. Oh, I'm so embarrassed!"

"Huh…what…?" it was slowly starting to dawn on Ukyo that he had somehow let the momentum get away from his control, as if the words he had been rehearsing in his own mind the whole time he had been riding the Tokyo Public Transportation system had gone right out of his head during the course of this whole conversation.

"Ukyo," Akane pleaded with her eyes, "Don't think bad of me for being so forward. I really do like you, but I think I need to work things out, so…would it be all right for you if I wait before deciding which way to go? I mean…you're such a nice guy, and I really, really like being with you…but Ryoga…I've been hurting his feelings, and I need to somehow make it up to him, so would it be all right to wait for a bit? At least…until I'm more certain?"

"Uh…well…" Ukyo wondered how in the hell he had managed to bungle things so badly to let Akane continue thinking that he was interested in her in that…particular manner…even if-in all truth-he did find her more than a little cute, and that kiss had almost been as sweet as with Makoto…

"Thank you," Akane clasped her hands and bowed contritely, "For being so understanding. I'll try not to keep you waiting too long…I just need time to think it all out…and I don't…I really don't want to lose you to that Makoto…" a slight frown creased her brow, to be immediately smoothed out as Akane straightened up and spread her wings towards the heavens, "I'll see you soon…Senpai."

And with that Akane leaped into the air and was carried aloft on a breeze before Ukyo had time to think of a good response to that outpouring of emotion. Ukyo watched the winged girl angle to above-treetop level height then arc back towards the Tendo dojo, all the while feeling the confusion grow within his breast as he tried to take stock of what had just happened.

"I don't believe it," he said to himself at last, "How does she do it?"

Unnoticed by her, a figure sat perched atop the nearest streetlamp staring down eyeing the transformed chef critically as a slow smile formed upon divine lips, and a soft chuckle escaped her.

"Well, well," mused Peorth, "What have we here? Young love in delicate bloom? And such a lovely vision to behold…way to go, my daughter."

Peorth had heard the whole conversation, of course, and was privy to at least a few of the details concerning this strange mortal with the dual nature. It set her thoughts to wondering about just what sort of relationship she was examining, and what future impact this might have upon Akane. The youth was certainly handsome enough to explain Akane's interest, and such rare bishonen qualities. If Peorth were not currently involved chasing down her own amorata she might well be tempted to look him up for herself. As it was she could tell that he was a nice boy with a caring and compassionate nature plain in his expression, and he excited the pulse just to look upon his manly virtues.

Okay, so maybe there was a girl buried under those good looks, the point was-and here was where Peorth's burgeoning motherly instincts came into play-that this girl-turned-boy was someone who could make her daughter enormously happy. Akane's levitation ability had increased threefold just from the happiness she was radiating after that kiss that she had so cleverly stolen. It was proof to Peorth's mind of the potential for future happiness that could be derived from this Kuonji Ukyo, and for that reason more than any other he-or she-warranted a further study.

At least this Ukyo was a human mortal, Peorth reasoned, unlike the other chief contender for Akane's affections, that Ryoga boy with the blood of an Oni. That didn't sit well with Peorth at all, that her God-child would be joined to one who was descended from the line of Ganglot the Oni, a notorious prankster who loved to play games with the lives of mortal men and who had been responsible for much mischief in both Japan and China before her eventual incarceration. One had only to look to Urd for an example of what could happen if one combined two archetypes, only in this case using the template of a mortal.

Well, time enough to research the matter, Peorth mused…this Ukyo obviously needed some encouragement to make the right decision, guided by the wise and gentle counsel of a certain Goddess of the Roses. Peorth would look into that matter at greater length before making her next visit. The future well being of Akane was at stake here, and Peorth did not intend to fail her daughter in her time of utmost need. Besides…she was rather beginning to enjoy these particular mortals…they provided no end of amusement and diversion.

Ukyo decided he had better make a strategic retreat in order to figure out what had gone wrong with his attempt to explain things to Akane, but a warning sense born of long training caused him to glance up in the act of turning, around, only to encounter a peculiar phenomenon in the form of a swirl of rose petals, and as he outstretched his hand a single rose fell onto his palm. Ukyo's eyes widened in surprise, but by the time he glanced upward the source of the rose had long since departed, leaving only another mystery to further complicate a very unusual evening…

"Oh man," groaned Ranma as he sat on the roof of his mother's house and contemplated the Tokyo skyline, "I'm pathetic…I couldn't even give a ring to Nabiki and Shampoo without screwing things up…and all because of the stupid old man and his ideas about training…"

He had come back to himself in the Nekohanten just as Shampoo's father was finished repairing the rents to his clothing, and the discovery that he had not obtained either one of the rings meant that he would have to find his way back to the cat-pit and once again brave the horrifying dangers that it posed. Of course by the time he had got there the animal control people had come and left with all of the cats Mousse had trapped there, and there was no sign of either ring box, though Ranma had searched in the fading light, not even explaining things to his girlfriends when they had asked what he was up to. At last he had to give up and go home on account of a promise he had made to his mother to help out around the house. Now he sat where he was trying to come up with a plan to get those rings back without having to give away to anybody that he had lost them in the first place.

"How am I gonna explain it to 'em anyway?" he groaned as he looked over his less than appealing options: groveling, hiding his face, laying low for two weeks or getting a part-time job to earn himself the money to buy two rings before the date of the wedding.

"Perhaps you will not have to," a voice noted from a short distance away, and then paused to wait until Ranma had completed his arc and alighted on his feet in a fighting stance, "Not bad…five meters."

"You?" Ranma relaxed by a fraction, "But…what do you want?"

"I came to give you something, young War Master," Lotion replied, holding out a hand upon which two small objects rested, identical in exterior appearance.

"The rings!" Ranma almost lurched forward before remembering his manners and cupping his hands as the ancient Amazon passed them along to him, and then he said, "But how did you…?"

"You're welcome," Lotion smiled, "Unlike you I was fortunate in not having a parent who thought tossing a child into a pit of cats wrapped in fish sausage was a suitable form of education…though Cologne did many a comparable thing in the time of my tutorage beneath her. I was able to obtain these before the good officers of the oddly named Humane Society could arrive to lay claim to those poor beasts, and I thought, perhaps, that you might find a use for them, having been distracted from your mission by a certain sad example of the male Amazon population."

"That's swell," Ranma grinned, "Now I can get these to Shampoo and Nabiki! They're gonna be so please…"

"Which is why you should make plans to do so at your earliest convenience," Lotion urged, "Before another such disaster can intervene."

"Right," Ranma smiled, only to think about it for a moment, "What disaster? Uh…you know something I don't?"

"How much time do you have?" Lotion replied, "I leave it to you to figure out the details."

And with that the old woman took her leave in her usual mysterious manner, disappearing into the shadows without so much as a ripple in the air to mark her passing. Ranma stared at the space where she had been then shook his head.

"I wonder how Nabiki gets used to her doing that?" he mused, then clenched the two ring boxes in each hand and said, "This time for certain, and I ain't gonna let nothing get in my way! Just you wait Shampoo, Nabiki…I'm gonna get these on your ring fingers if it kills me!"

He paused and thought another moment, then looked up at the heavens and said, "Ah…I don't mean that literally, okay? I mean short of getting' killed, okay…?"

The heavens made no reply, but there was an ominous rumbling sound of thunder in the distance…

"(Now remember)," Professor Sidney Fox said to the other occupants of the cab as they stepped out onto the curb, "(We're going to drop you off at the address on the post card where you and your great-grandmother can get better acquainted. If things don't turn out then we'll take you wherever else you want to go…)"

"(I know the drill, Professor)," Ryomi said with mild exasperation, "(What I wanna know is how my granny could have known I was gonna be at that hotel with you guys waiting to get cleared through customs. Up until now I didn't even know I had a great-grandmother who was still alive and kicking. I haven't seen any member of my family for years, and there's no way I could have told her I was gonna be flying in…)"

"(Let's not, for once, look a gift horse in the mouth)," urged Nigel, "(Let's just look up the old granny and pay her my respects and if she proves to be the legitimate item, then your home free, Miss Hibiki. Otherwise…well, I'm sure we could find a good home for you someplace. After all, you're a lady with a lot of special talents.)"

"(I don't need a home)," Ryomi declared as she stormed off towards the front door of the unmarked studio doorway, "(I've been taking care of myself since I was little. I just wanna know if any of my family are alive, and why they've never tried to find me.)"

"(Maybe they have)," Sidney replied as she and Nigel followed after the girl, "(Maybe they just haven't known where to look. You know there is an old Japanese legend about the Hibiki family that says they were cursed long ago by a witch to never be able to find their way wherever they are going.)"

"(I thought that was just a rumor, like those legends about there being a Wandering Hibiki, or some such nonsense)," Nigel commented as he trailed in the rear of the trio, "(I just hope that Granny, whoever she is, isn't some toothless, senile senior citizen type who only speaks Japanese and can't prove the authenticity of her claims, leaving poor Ryomi here with dashed hopes and crushed expectations…)"

"(Would a Birth Certificate and a blood test do to prove our relationship, Mister Montrey?)" a sultry voice purred as the trio paused to see someone descending a spiral-shaped metal stairway who was in no sense of the word toothless or senile, "(I've prepared a lot in advance to satisfy the demands of even your skepticism, Professor Fox…and how do you do, my name is Ganglot.)"

Sidney, Nigel and Ryomi all stared with similarly dumbstruck expressions at the vision of unearthly loveliness that sauntered towards them with an artful sway to her hips and a graceful elegance that was as effortless as it was undeniable. Gold skin and silken pale hair with eyes of almost luminous gold surveyed them in return, and then her eyes turned warmly towards the youngest of the three visitors, and she spread her arms wide and said, "(Ryo-chan! Come let me look at you! My, what a grown young woman you are, and you look so much like your mother…)"

"(My…mother?)" Ryomi stammered incredulously.

"(Yes,)" the woman sank down to one knee and beamed at her, "(Your mother is my granddaughter, Hibiki Atsuko, the child of my beloved son, Razor, who is the aforementioned Wandering Hibiki your friend here was referring to a moment ago. That makes you my great-granddaughter, and I've been very much eager to have this chance to finally meet you.)"

"(Um…excuse me)," Sidney spoke up, "(Not to point out something that's a little too obvious, but there's no way that you could be her GREAT grandmother…)"

"(Oh ye of little faith, Professor Fox,)" Ganglot smiled as she straightened up, smiling even more sensuously as her eyes took in the Amerasian beauty before her, "(I should think someone with your background would be prepared to accept the unusual and unconventional, such as the fact that I am a lot older than I look and not at all as I must seem to others.)"

"(Er,)" Nigel raised a finger, "(Not to put too fine a point on it, but you see…that is the point. You don't even look Japanese, if you will forgive me for saying so…)"

"(And what's this talk about having a birth-certificate and blood tests?)" Sidney responded, "(How could you possibly…)"

Before she could finish her statement, Ganglot's hand made a fluid gesture and suddenly she was holding a folder in her hand, which same she flipped open and handed to the astonished Professor. Sidney hardly batted an eyelash as she examined the folder and pronounced, "(This does look authentic…and the blood tests…how did you obtain these?)"

"(Through magic, of course)," the golden woman replied, "(I regret that there wasn't enough time or I would have had a DNA test run to prove our genetic relationship, but you'll have to take my word on that as I've only been out from my tomb for a single day now.)"

"(Tomb?)" Nigel's eyebrows climbed towards his hairline.

"(Where I've been imprisoned for the past two hundred eighty six years)," Ganglot replied with a shrug, "(Give or take a season.)"

"(Okay,)" Ryomi made a "T" with both of her hands, "(Time out! Hold your horses! Just what kind of little kid do you take me for, lady? You expect me to believe all this, lady?)"

"(Well, not right away, of course)," Ganglot said with a wave of her hand, "(It would hardly be fair of me to expect you to believe everything on the first telling. I could have created an elaborate set of illusions that would have been pleasing to the eye and satisfy you with the utter mundane ordinariness of it all, but that would hardly be honest, and I so much want to earn your trust, my dear. After all, it is my intention to see you at long last reunited with the rest of our clan, including your mother and older brother.)"

"(And how are you gonna do that?)" Ryomi folded her arms over her chest, "(I've been around the world a lot of times and I don't impress easy.)"

"(I don't imagine that you do)," Ganglot inclined her head and sighed, "(You do remind me so much of my late husband, your great grandfather. He would have been very proud if he could have lived to see how true his genes have bred through you and the others…)"

"(I'm still waiting for proof)," Sidney closed the folder and held it outward, "All this does is prove that you have the means and resources to obtain the right documentation to make a convincing display of pedigree, but that doesn't tie you to her in any way.)"

"(If you want proof, Sidney)," Ganglot grinned, "(Then by all means try and find your way to the door and leave by your own power.)"

"(Eh?)" Sidney turned around to glance back the way they had come, only to find that their surroundings had changed greatly beyond even her most jaded expectations.)"

"(Ah…)," Nigel began with typical understated British aplomb, "(W-What happened to the door?)"

"(What happened to the room?)" Ryomi declared in even greater alarm.

Said room was no where in evidence, nor was there any ceiling, for all around them was what appeared to be a constellation of stars, comets, moons and planets circling at an impossibly far distance. Only the floor directly under their feet remained the same, the rest of the world was gone, vanished, no where in evidence with only Ganglot standing calm and serenely, arms folded beneath her ample chest as she gave them all a knowing leer as her appearance changed and a pair of bat-like wings unfolded from her back, giving her a far more alien cast as her smile revealed fangs of a non-human nature.

"(Well now)," Ganglot mused, as she seemed to grow huge and immense before the astonished mortals and her great granddaughter, "(Would you care to hear the rest of my story? I give you my word that it's better than anything you've ever heard about in your lives, and if you still doubt my bonafides after I am done…well…I'm sure we can come to a mutual understanding regarding Ryo-chan's welfare.)"

Sidney tried to remain unimpressed and failed as even her familiarity with the unexpected and unknown was taxed beyond her ability to disbelieve. As if to stress how much out of their depth they all were, Nigel said the inevitable, "(Sidney…I don't think we're in Kansas anymore…)"

"(No duh, Sherlock)," Ryomi replied, but even her skepticism was crumbling under the weight of the unearthly display of the Demoness's powers…

"What do you mean she just got splashed with Jusenkyo water?" Comb demanded in her usual calm and reasonable tone of voice, "You don't just get splashed out of the blue like that, ESPECIALLY not with water from the Spring of the Drowned Wolf!"

"Are you calling my son a liar?" Atsuko replied, "I'm telling you that Ryo-chan was there when it happened, now Kennou here is cursed, and I'd like to know how in the hell that could happen!"

"It wasn't me," Silk assured them, "I felt the disturbance in the air, and then suddenly there it was, as if some force had sent it deliberately in search of your younger sister."

"Sounds like the luck of the Hibikis to me," Yumi noted, "Your kind attracts trouble like a magnet, and it seems the girl just happened to be standing there when her luck rolled the snake eyes."

It was a typical day in the neighborhood, a bright and sunny morning with the kids all at school and the adults gathered together for a War conference. By mutual consent the women had agreed to meet at the Tendo dojo in order to bring Silk up to date with their suspicions, only to have the initial phase of their conversation be slightly derailed with the news of Kennou's newly cursed status. The girl herself was sulking, having had the details of her curse explained to her at length the previous evening, and even Shirokuro seemed oddly reluctant to disturb her meditations.

But pride did not die out so easily, and so the blonde girl raised her eyes and said, "Would you people mind not talking about me like I wasn't here? I don't know who's responsible for this craziness, but if you hadn't insisted on detaining me illegally then I'd never have been around to get splashed in the first place. Now because it of I've got to spend the rest of my life carrying an umbrella!"

"Welcome to the club," Atsuko replied, "I'll be happy to give you pointers in the Hibiki Ryu of Umbrella-jitsu."

"I'd like to know whose perverse whim was responsible for young Hibiki's fate being altered in such a dramatic fashion," Silk noted with a somewhat sour look, "I sensed that there was an intelligence guiding the waters to this specific location, which suggests to me that you have either made an enemy in very high places, or you have come to the attention of a mischievous spirit who thought to give you a form that was part creative insult."

"Could be Siren," Comb mused, "She's been known to pull stunts like this out of the blue…"

"Yes," Silk agreed, "But why target young Hibiki?" she looked directly at the blonde girl and said, "It doesn't quite fit her profile…I think you may share a kinship with whomever it was, which suggests another agency, as improbable as the notion may be, given the circumstances."

"What, you mean Momma?" Atsuko asked, then thought more about it.

"It would certainly be within her nature," Yumi agreed, "Your Demoness mother has a cruel and malicious nature, to say nothing of a wickedly perverse sense of humor."

"You mean she turned me into a bitch?" Kennou growled, standing up and making a fist, "Where do I find her? I'll beat it out of her! There's gotta be a cure for this! I won't stand for people messing with my life…!"

"Calm down, kid," Atsuko urged, "You may be hot stuff for your age, but you're not in the same class as my momma."

"Cybelle would be far more than you could handle at your current level of training," Comb agreed, "Her powers exceed our own combined strength by a factor of one hundred, and her only limitation so far appears to be her reliance on technology as a medium of transfer."

"That's exactly my point," Silk said, "Technology. I don't mean to belabor the obvious, but the dojo is about as non-technological as you can get around this place. How could she then reach out from the tree that imprisons her body to strike at young Hibiki without a contact point to serve as medium for her power."

"Whoah," Kennou blinked her eyes, "You're telling me her body is locked up inside a tree?"

"It's…complicated," Atsuko shrugged, "Momma's kinda like a Dryad in that all her strength comes from the tree that she's linked to physically and spiritually. I lived with her inside its trunk for most of my youth, but that was before Master Happy locked her up with spirit wards. Somehow she found a way to reach beyond her prison and connect by cable with the Internet, and that's how she's been causing me and Ryo-chan so much trouble."

"It could be how she found out about you, Kennou," Yumi noted, "She has unlimited access to the world wide web of information, and she's somehow managed to merge her power with electricity, which is something normal demons would tend to avoid like the plague. She's more Sorceress than Demoness any way, so she's far more adaptable than an actual full blooded demon."

"Like my Grandmother?" Atsuko asked, "I've heard stories about her, of course, but she's been trapped in China for close to three hundred years, ever since your people locked her up inside her temple."

"That was Grandmother's doing," Comb replied, "She harbored a grudge against the Oni for stealing her brother away, and for making a deal with a certain perverted martial artist we all know and loathe so well…"

"Now is that any way to talk about your elders?" a tired voice asked as the withered old man in question stumbled into the dojo and collapsed face-first onto the floorboards.

"What happened to you, Master Happy?" Atsuko asked in not-so-mild surprise, for Happosai looked closer to his actual age than anyone else present could remember.

"What hasn't happened to me?" the ancient pervert groaned, "Ever since she swallowed that pill, my life's been one long nightmare…"

"Pill?" Yumi asked.

"Don't you mean pearl?" Comb blinked her eyes, "You mean…that's where you've been all this time? You've been running from Hinako?"

"Not running," the old man whimpered, "She caught me…!"

"Caught you?" Silk's eyebrows arched, "You don't mean…"

"There you are," a young-sounding voice sounded petulant, "Naughty man, making me go running all over town trying to find you. Why did you leave our bed, you silly delinquent you…"

"HINAKO???" four voices echoed in chorus as they saw the young-seeming girl appear in their yard, setting childish fists to her hips as she stared at Happosai crossly.

"Kill me now," Happosai whimpered, "It's better to die with what dignity I have left than to be drained dry like a sponge. She's killing me with kindness…"

"You mean…?" Kennou hesitated, "Him…her…that kid and the old man? EEEEWWWW!!!"

"Hinako-sensei," Silk began, "Why aren't you at school? You're supposed to be teaching homeroom…"

"I've taken the week off," Hinako replied with an impish grin that was most disturbing on a face as youthful as her own, "So I can get to know my Happy-sama better…and if he hadn't made me chase him all the way across town then I wouldn't be stuck looking this young at the moment…not that I can't take care of that when I need to," she flipped her trademark coin and gave a leer that did not look appropriate for one of her tender-seeming youth.

"You made your own bed, Lecher," Comb stage-whispered to Happosai, "Might as well lay in it, you've had it long coming."

"Please," Happosai whimpered, "Have some pity…"

"Pity?" Yumi asked as if considering the word, then shrugged her shoulders, "Yeah, whatever…"

"Oh Master," Hinako smiled winsomely, "As if I would do anything to hurt you, you silly delinquent you."

Kennou looked at the seeming child, then at the withered old man and shuddered, "I don't even wanna ask…"

"Master?" Soun said as he came out to join the ladies outside the dojo, followed by Genma, Nodoka and three other strangers, a woman, man and child (whose appearance brought a startled gasp from Yumi), "What's wrong? Are you all right?"

"That's a matter of opinion," Silk replied with a smirking expression.

"Oh," Genma said in mock sympathy, "What's wrong, Master? Forget to take your vitamins?"

"Perhaps his supply of lingerie is running a bit low," Nodoka remarked with perfect straight-faced amusement, "Or perhaps he's been too busy to collect any."

"You?" the startled exclamation took most people by surprise, being voiced by one of the new arrivals as she and Yumi exchanged glances with each other.

"Eh?" Atsuko turned and stared at the woman in question, blinking her eyes twice as a peculiar sense of familiarity passed through her.

"What are you doing here?" Yumi asked in a level tone that was neither friendly nor overtly hostile.

"I was going to ask you the same thing," Naomi replied, "Is it customary for the owner of your establishment to make home deliveries?"

"When I need to give something my…personal attention," Yumi replied as her brown eyes narrowed, only to soften as she glanced down and smiled, "Hello, Rachael-san."

"Hi there!" the child said brightly in Japanese, "You're the lady who cooked the great food yesterday. I wanna have another!"

"You know these people?" Comb asked with arched eyebrows.

"In a manner of speaking," Yumi replied without taking her eyes off mother and daughter, "They're the people who visited my establishment last night. Remember me telling you about them?"

"Oh?" Comb became more alert, eyeing the woman now as if suspecting her of hostile intentions.

"Ah…" Silk glanced back and forth between brown haired business woman and chef and her own acute senses came to full alert, "Excuse me…Soun-chan?"

"Oh, where are my manners," the Tendo patriarch replied, "This is Ms. Naomi Nakamura from America, and her young daughter, Rachael-san. The gentleman with them is Haokun Kento. I take it you have already met them, Yumi-san?"

"Ah…" Yumi did not glance at Soun but there was a very subtle shift in her attitude from wary anticipation to a slightly more nervous and evasive expression, "You might say that…they were customers who visited my…nephew's establishment yesterday afternoon."

"Nephew?" Kennou realized that the tall chef was referring to the sex-changing okonomiyaki girl whom she had heard references to the previous evening, something about the girl carrying on a lesbian dalliance with Akane, but it was surprising to hear her aunt referring to her niece in her male aspect. Most everybody else here knew this Ukyo person was actually a woman.

"Nakamura," Atsuko frowned, "Does that mean your parents are of Japanese ancestry?"

"I'm told they were," Naomi replied, "But I'm an American citizen on an extended business vacation visiting your fair country. I was told that you have one of the best martial arts schools in Japan and I was wondering if you teach classes for children."

"Not presently," Soun replied, "But we can make one available if you don't mind leaving your daughter here for after school hour classes. I've trained all three of my daughters in the Anything Goes tradition, and if I do say so myself, you were not misled in believing that it is one of the finest in all of Japan."

"The Tendo and Saotome schools are the best," Genma insisted, "There can be no question about it."

"Yeah," Kento smirked, "I've heard you guys were pretty good. Your name's Saotome Genma, right?"

"Ah…" Genma's natural caution came into play, "That would depend on who is asking."

"Relax," Kento made a dismissive gesture, " I just wondered if you wouldn't mind trying me out. I've been away from training for a while and I was afraid I'd get a little rusty without a good workout. I can pay you pretty good for the trouble."

"Ah, well…" Genma's eyes went click, "Payment? How much?"

"I will put it on my expense account," Naomi smiled, "I confess to learning how good you people really are."

"I'll bet," Yumi noted with a return of her guarded expression.

"Is there something you want to share with the rest of us?" Silk asked the chef as she leaned closer to her one-time rival.

"Not unless I have to," Yumi replied back in a tight-lipped murmur.

"And who are you?" asked Rachael in a cheerful voice as she singled out Hinako, identifying her as the nearest one present to her own age group.

"My name is Hinako Ninamiya," Hinako said brightly, "I teach at the local high school in the Furinkan Financial district."

"Say what?" Naomi wondered if she had heard the child correctly.

"Man, they're getting younger every year," said Kento.

Comb was distracted by a motion out of the corner of one eye and smiled, "And where do you think you're crawling off to, Master Happy?"

"Eh?" Hinako saw Happosai had managed to pull himself along on his hands and knees almost to the edge of the dojo and properly hopped after him, saying, "Bad Master…you won't get away that easy…"

"If I hadn't seen it with my own eyes," Genma remarked.

"I know," Soun agreed, "Tragic is it not?"

And then the two family Patriarch's shared a mutual grin of almost childish glee and seemed ready to dance for joy at the misfortunes of their former trainer.

"So," Silk turned a sultry glance towards Naomi, "You say you're visiting on business…what sort of business are you into, if you don't mind my asking?"

"Not at all," Naomi replied, "I represent a large multi-national conglomerate seeking to establish offices in Japan. We're into advance technologies, and I myself am a Senior Vice President in charge of Research and Development. I can't share the details of our research, of course, but it is to the benefit of the world and not just our two countries."

"And you do it out of the goodness of your heart, eh?" Yumi smiled, taking notice that the child, Rachael, had wandered off to see what Hinako was doing with the ancient master. Too quick for anyone to stop her, she reached over her head and gripped the handle of her baker's peel, and with such speed that even Comb was taken by surprise she drew it overhead and slashed downward in Naomi's direction.

Before she could strike the other woman, though, Kento intervened, catching the flat of the giant spatula between his hands.

"Hey!" Kento cried, "What the heck is this all about?"

"Tell me another one," Yumi grunted as she tried and failed to withdraw her weapon, "You had a picture of this dojo in that portfolio I saw you carrying. Are you a real estate agent, and are you looking to acquire the Tendo properties for the company you represent?"

"Yumi-san," Nodoka sounded shocked, "This is most uncalled for."

"Yeah," Atsuko blinked, "And they call me paranoid and short-tempered…!"

"I don't know what you're talking about," Naomi replied in a level tone of voice.

"Yeah, sure you don't, lady," Kennou snorted, "And the big guy there's just your faithful watchdog." She ignored the growl from Shirokuro, which might have been a complaint or assent, "What are you…Reigetsu? You planning on kicking the Tendos off of their own place?"

"What are you talking about?" Kento frowned, "My uncle doesn't do stuff like that…"

Naomi made a point of pushing past Kento while keeping her gaze level and focused upon Yumi, "I don't know what you suspect of me, but I'll thank you not to make rash accusations without knowing more about me, Kuonji-san. Rachael, come to me now. It seems that we will not be staying long after all…"

"Now isn't that a pity?" Atsuko glared, "Somehow I don't think you'd be all that welcome, lady."

"Now just a minute," Soun looked from one face to another, "What's this all about? Who's thinking of taking my home and dojo?"

"Apparently they are," Genma said, his very relaxed manner masking a quick study that he was making of the man named Kento.

"Everyone," Silk said softly, now holding her silver flute in hand, "I think we should start this moment all over from the beginning."

"Uh oh," Comb said in alarm, "Now wait a minute-!"

Before she had a chance to finish her protest there was a sudden flash of silvery light as the flute became as intense as an incandescent bulb, but when the light faded everything seemed to be back to normal, except that Naomi was more relaxed and studying Yumi with only mild suspicion in her expression.

"…I can't share the details of our research, of course," she was saying, "But it is to the benefit of the world and not just our two countries."

"And you do it from the good of your own heart, eh?" Yumi said as her hand began to make its way to the handle of her favorite weapon, only to stumble as Silk "accidentally" bumped into her, even though to most people's perceptions she had been standing two meters away when this incident had first happened.

"Oops," Silk said smoothly, "How clumsy."

"Why you-!" Yumi's old reflexes nearly came to the fore as she glared at her Chinese rival, only to halt as it dawned on her that a sense of deja-vu took over.

"We would be only to glad to hear more of whatever you might wish to share with us concerning your business, Nakamura-san," Silk said pleasantly, "I'm sure it will prove to be a most fascinating discussion."

"Perhaps you might care to indulge me with a little free sparring?" Naomi asked, "I have a gi that I purchased in town waiting for me back in the car. I'll have Kento-san fetch it for me, then if you have a place to change I can work out some kinks that I seem to have picked up in my travels."

"But of course," Silk said with perfect candor, "I would be only too delighted to indulge you. Traveling from a great distance can be most distressing, as I should well know, and you most assuredly need a partner for working those kinks out of your system. Oh Kasumi, be a good child and show Nakamura-san to a room fit for changing."

"Of course, Auntie," Kasumi smiled pleasantly as she appeared as if previously summoned, when in fact she was happy to have something to do while Kodachi was away at classes.

Once Naomi and Kento had left them alone, Kennou broke the ensuing silence, "All right, somebody mind telling me WHAT THE HELL JUST HAPPENED?"

"You back-stepped," Comb said to her childhood friend, "Why?"

"Have you forgotten the lessons your own grandmother has so often tried to drum into your thick head?" Silk reminded the Healer, "Always be careful when you make an enemy, because in doing so you forfeit a potential friendship. There is also another ancient Chinese saying…you get more bears with Honey than Vinegar…something you should keep in mind some time," she glared at Yumi.

"And what's that supposed to mean?" the Chef asked dangerously.

"That for a former ninja you can be amazingly blunt and ham-fisted," Silk replied, "What was the idea of attacking her out in the open like that? Haven't you ever heard of keeping a low profile?"

"I wasn't going to hurt her," Yumi said stubbornly, "I knew she could take it. After all, she's a Hibiki."

"Say WHAT???" Atsuko reacted, while Kennou's eyes widened appreciatively to resemble those of Shirokuro.

"I suspected it from the moment she and her daughter came into my restaurant," Yumi remarked, "They both share your ability to comprehend languages…you notice how well the child speaks? Without even the same accent as her parent? Add to that they both have inordinate strength, and I suspect that they are also somewhat limited in their ability to perceive directions. Also too…there is a surprising family resemblance that I noted upon closer examination."

"You know, I was going to mention that myself," Nodoka said as if stating something novel.

"Say what?" Atsuko took a long pause before resuming, "Another Hibiki…?" she exchanged looks with Kennou.

"Odd that she was drawn to the dojo like this," Genma noted.

"Indeed," Soun frowned, "And what was that all about her wanting to take my dojo?"

"Only a suspicion, dear," Silk patted him on the arm, "I looped back time by thirty seconds so that we would have a better opportunity to probe her on the subject without arousing her suspicions. Leave it up to me, I'll get to the bottom of this one way or another."

"You looped back time?" Kennou's tone and expression were oddly muted.

"I can see your mother named you well," Nodoka complimented, her smile as pleasant as it was appreciative of the Lore Master.

"Another Hibiki," Comb turned to Silk and said, "Amazing coincidence, wouldn't you say?"

"Ah…" Silk seemed to consider the question, "Well…maybe not quite such a coincidence after all…"

"Uh oh," Atsuko groaned, "Don't tell me this is a side-effect of that spell you cast?"

"Spell?" Comb's purple eyebrows arched closer to vanish beneath her bangs, "What spell? What did you do?"

"Oh…nothing to be alarmed about," Silk said evasively, "Atsuko merely asked me if I could get in touch with her father, and I used a Spell Song to draw the elusive Hibiki patriarch to this location…"

"Ah…actually," Atsuko winced, "That isn't exactly what I meant…"

"You cast a spell to summon a Hibiki?" Comb's words were deceptively mild, but all at once she exploded with a pointed exclamation in Mandarin that caused Nodoka to gasp in shock and Yumi to blanch, while Happosai rallied to use his hands to cover Rachael's ears as even Kennou felt her toes curl.

"What was that all about?" Genma asked, blinking at the sense that his former Amazon suitor had come close to shattering his glasses.

"Ah…" Atsuko winced, "Let's just say she used a very bad word that loosely translates as, 'She who stands naked atop a high hill in a lightning storm holding up a metal rod while screaming that all gods are bastards.'"

"Whoah," Kennou noted, "Now that's heavy."

"What brought this about?" Soun wondered.

"Think about it," Yumi said, "A generic spell to summon a Hibiki…a Hibiki known to be a legendary wanderer who sows his seed wherever he travels?"

"You don't mean…?" even Genma seemed stunned at the implications.

"I think we're going to be visited," Comb growled, "By almost the entire surviving Hibiki clan, and all because you can't remember to temper the strength of your summoning spells," she added with a warning glare at her lifelong companion.

"Ah," Silk winced slightly, "Well…perhaps it won't be all that bad? I mean, how many people could we be talking about any way?"

The looks they all gave her were no more reassuring than her own instinctive sense that they were soon about to learn the answer to that question…the hard way…

"Okay," Ranma said to himself as he stood atop the tower of the Furinkan school building, "Same plan, slightly revised, and this time it's gonna go off without a hitch. No Mousse hiding in the bushes, no crazy suitors or martial artists looking to challenge me, even that Gosunkuji guy seems to have taken a powder. All right, there they are, now I'm gonna get these rings to them and say the words and it'll all work out just like it ought ta."

He spoke these words aloud as they seemed to help soothe his frazzled nerves, because the events of the previous day had checked even his boundless self-confidence and made him wonder if there was a conspiracy in the heavens plotting against the engagement. He repeated certain aspects of his little speech over and over until he was almost convinced of the infallibility of his own logic. He had not even voiced aloud the dreaded words, "What could go wrong?" just on the off chance that the kami really were listening. No sense tempting fate more than the engagement itself. All he had to do now was to get to Shampoo and Nabiki and make the engagement official.

"Okay," he said once more, having assured himself that all possible contingencies had been covered, "No problem…now I just gotta say the speech I wrote and hope I don't flub it. Geez, I wouldn't wanna come off sounding like an idiot proposin' to the both of 'em when we're already engaged to get…ah…married," he swallowed.

He was being ridiculous to hesitate and he knew it, but it was such a big commitment to actually make it official that the marriage was as much his idea as any dumb notion of their fathers, or even the Amazon traditions that had gotten Shampoo interested in him in the first place. He really did care a lot about those two, and watching Nabiki chat with Shampoo and some of her friends made him yearn for the nights when the three of them would share a bed together and not have to worry about any interfering (if well-meaning) parents. The more he thought about it the more he was certain that he wanted the both of them to be a part of his life forever. This was something he very much wanted to do, and waiting around to just let it happen did not suit him at all. His pride, for one, demanded that he make a demonstration of his own sincere intentions.

"Okay," he said, "Here goes nothing," and with that he took a leap off the roof, easily handling the forty-foot drop, unaware that pair of malevolent eyes were watching him from the shadows of a distant hill.

The huge dark shape began to surge forward as a petite voice murmured softly, "Now, Jasmine…now we find one who ruin life for Leechee…!"


Comments/Criticisms/Big Trouble in Nerima: Shadowmane@msn.com