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A Ranma ½ story
by Adrian D. Moten

Disclaimer: Ranma ½ and its characters and settings belong to Rumiko Takahashi, Shogakukan, Kitty, and Viz Video. No disrespect intended by this simple fanfic.

Chapter 2: Aftermath Before Math

"Hey, Kasumi," Ranma said, poking his head outside, where the aforenamed person was busy pinning bed sheets onto the clothesline. "You seen mom 'n pops?"

She glanced over her shoulder, a pin between her seasoned fingers as she straightened out her latest quarry. "Oh, my, no, Ranma. Not since they left a little while ago."

"Oh. Know when they'll be back?"

"I suppose they may come visit in a few days," Kasumi said, snapping the pin shut onto the linen, imprisoning it on the line.

Ranma frowned. "Visit?"

She turned to face him fully. "Didn't Auntie tell you?"

"…tell me what?" He did not like the way the conversation was going.

"Last night, Auntie and Mr. Saotome had decided to return to their home and stay out of your and Nabiki's new life for the time being."

His eyes widened. "They just up and left me here?"

"It was decided that since you and Nabiki were now married, and you would inherit the dojo, it would be best to let you remain here and get adjusted to your new life without them interfering in your and Nabiki's fun."

He blanched at the idea of him and Nabiki having "fun" in the way they probably meant. It would be a cold day in hell before he let himself get tangled in her bedsheets.

"Is there anything else you wanted to ask me?"

He shook his head. "Don't think I could take the answer if I did. Thanks anyway, Kasumi."

"You're welcome, little brother."

Ranma coughed hard, as he almost choked on his own saliva upon hearing those words. Little brother…

Ranma looked at Nabiki's room door as if he was trying to peer through the wood fibers and see her directly. Since her emotional outburst downstairs, he really didn't want to approach her at the moment. He could imagine how she must have felt, though… Well, not really, but the whole marriage must have really taken a toll on her almost as much as it'd been affecting him.

For as long as he had been living in the Tendos' home, he could hardly think of a time he had seen Nabiki more than annoyed by anything. Not even his curse seemed to be that big a deal to her. Of course that didn't keep her from foisting him onto Akane at the first chance she got. But outside of their initial meeting, she usually found some joy in tormenting him, or scheming a few bucks here and there at his expense. Just a few weeks ago, he would have thought Nabiki was one of the most heartless people he had ever met before. But now, seeing her so open, vulnerable… It wasn't an act, that much he knew. She was very much torn up, and he certainly was not making matters any better.

It was still her fault, though.

Damn her, why did she go to such lengths to have some petty fun on his account? Making him her fiancé, putting him in so much trouble with Akane, faking her love for him, playing some strange music, why did—

Strange music?

Ranma paused in his thoughts. There was some strange music coming from the other side of the door. Quiet, almost nonexistent, but it was there. It sounded harsh, kind of like a harmonica, but it was richer and with a wider range. What the hell was that? It didn't sound like a tape or CD being played, and he never knew of Nabiki to be a musician of any sort.

Curiosity wanted to find out what exactly was making that sound. Instincts told him to go away, as the Pandora's Box he called his mouth would only bring more misery. Again.

He went with instincts and backed away from the door. Turning on his heel, he trudged to his room. His hand reached for the door knob, but it turned on its own. Instantly, Ranma stepped back, formulating an aggressive-neutral stance, preparing for any physical threat that he could deal with. In fact, a good brawl was just the thing he needed to distract him from his current woes.

Unfortunately (for Ranma, anyway), it was only Soun emerging from the room. He gave the younger man a broad grin. "Son! I'm glad to have caught you now."

"Oh?" he said, relaxing his body.

"Your parents and I had talked last night and we agreed that it would be better for your father to return home to his wife, and let you begin your new life here with little interference from us."

"Yeah, I heard. Least I won't have to worry 'bout pops rolling on top of me at night."

"Indeed. Don't worry about your belongings. Your mother placed them in Nabiki's room before they left."

The younger man staggered back a step, alarmed. "She did what? But—"

Soun clapped Ranma on both shoulders, chuckling heartily. "You're now a married man, son. It wouldn't do to sleep away from your wife, unless you've done something wrong and she puts you out on the couch." He laughed, wrapping his arm around Ranma's shoulders, then suddenly jerked him in tightly around the neck. The Saotome heir blinked in surprise, then noted the grave smile that the patriarch brooked him.

"Of course, you won't do anything wrong with my daughter, will you, son?" His expression intensified, the well-developed arm growing taunt around the young man's neck.

Though the mock chokehold was irritating, the expression was what made Ranma afraid to resist the hold. "N-no, of course not, Mr. Tendo."

And like spring rain, Soun was beaming a sunny smile again. "No need to be so formal, son. We're related now."

"Um, okay… Father."

"That's the spirit!" Soun clapped Ranma on the shoulders once again.

Too bad the Saotome son looked more like he was haunted by wailing ghosts.

"I'm in hell." Nabiki was sitting at her desk with an open English book before her, giving her "husband" a sidelong glare as he, partly dressed in a white undershirt and his favored Chinese-styled pants, rolled out his tatami mat and plopped it in the corner farthest away from her.

"Think I'm in paradise here?" He glared back at her from his side of the room, unfolding the quilt and laying it down on the crafted-straw bed. He couldn't help but wonder why on earth Nabiki wore cutoffs that short in the first place.

She absently pushed up the sleeve of her sweat shirt. "You're being a lot more passive about this than I would have dared hoped."

He simply grunted. "We're stuck right now. Probably for good, like this damn curse."

"Please." She turned back to her text, though she hadn't seen a word of it for the last ten minutes. "You're just not looking deep enough."

He frowned deeply, sharply looking at her. "You figure out something, then." He quickly added, "Or is whining and bitching the best you can do?"

The words stung Nabiki more than she cared to admit, but she was not about to let him know that. Or to have the last word. "So, you are just going to accept things, just like a dutiful little girl would… I see."

Predictably, a jab at his curse and masculinity incensed him. "What did you say?"

She spun around languidly in her office-type chair, bare feet stopping her so that she faced Ranma directly. "It's only been a day. There's a way out of this, and we can put everything back to normal. So stop being a weak little girl about this."

A tic began dancing a jig underneath his eye, his fingers flexing rapidly, making small, sharp cracking sounds. For a moment, Nabiki wondered if that last comment was just a little too much. The she frowned to herself. That kind of thinking is what got me in this mess in the first place. He really won't harm me… And to convince herself just that, she leaned in, smiling. "Or do you intend on hitting me like the coward you are?"

This time his knuckles sounded like he was breaking walnuts barehanded. Again, Nabiki wondered if that comment was just a little too much. A search for the voice of reassurance that was there a second ago discovered it cowering in a corner of her mind.

Just went she started to berate herself for being so stupid, Ranma suddenly relaxed. This, in turn, gave her cause to turn off the panic switch that was tripped. She even felt a little foolish for doubting her instincts.

"You know… you really like having your back rubbed, don'tcha?"

She almost fell out of her chair, so sudden the conversation changed directions. Her mind reeled from the comment, and she fought hard to get her thoughts together. "Where the hell did that come from?!"

He shrugged nonchalantly. "Dunno. Just something that came to mind. Probably from this morning, or something."

"A fine time to be mentioning that. Are you going somewhere with this line, or are you just wanting to get in my bed again?"

He glared at her. "Like hell. I'd sooner have sex with Kuno as a guy before I'd ever want back in your bed again."

"Hmm… Claiming you are gay… That could work."

He scowled. "Forget it. I ain't pretending to be a fag, not even to get out of being married to you."

"Oh, it's not like you have to really kiss boys as a boy, Ranma. I'm pretty sure I can find someone that can doctor a few candid—"

"Will you just shut up about that? That's not even the point!"

Nabiki frowned. "Pity, and that would have solved everything, too."

He sighed. "God, you're such a selfish bitch. Playing more stupid games even now."

She tried to ignore his words. "Look, Ranma—"

He thrust his hand up, cutting Nabiki off. "No, you look. You think you know everything, but I know something you don't."

"Oh? That would be…?"

"Akane already gave up on me."

Nabiki didn't speak. For a long moment, she only studied Ranma's face. The subject felt more like a bug under a magnifying glass. She finally drew breath through pinched lips, then spoke. "How do you know that?"

"Well, she just said that… that my wife needs me now. No Nabiki, no sister… just wife." He slumped down on his bedroll, his features arrested.

The quietude of the room after that only served to loudly ring Akane's words inside Nabiki's head.

She looked off out her window. "Ranma, get the fuck out of my room."

He rose to his feet without complaint. "I'm going to the dojo tonight, but I gotta start sleeping here tomorrow; I really don't wanna deal with your dad."

Her response was a thrust of her index finger pointed to the door. She never looked at him. She only heard him pick up a few things, and the door closing behind him.

She wished she didn't have to hear herself cry, though.

Ranma breathed a sigh of relief. That battle with Nabiki was more exhausting that his learning the Hiryu Shoten Ha or Kachu Tenshin Amaguriken. She almost got him, though. He really had wanted to hit her at that moment. Or rather, he really wanted to hit something, and Nabiki was literally marking herself as an appropriate target. Knowing her, it was probably just another plan to get out of their marriage.

But did they all have to end up with him getting disgraced in some fashion or another while she came out like a rose?

Selfish bitch, he thought to himself. On that, he set up his bedding, made sure the lights were turned off, and resolved to never get tangled with anyone even remotely like Nabiki for the rest of his life. Or his next one.

"Whoever said dreams are the key to solving our problems is a moron," Nabiki said to herself, still lying in bed. She shuddered, recalling the dream that essentially roused her mind into the waking world. The images were disturbing. She was wandering around in a giant expanse of darkness — staggering really, as she had a long, slender sword rammed through her torso, the ornate handle just visible from beneath her breasts — calling for help. The blood never stopped pouring from the wound, each step causing it to ooze and squirt whenever she stumbled, which was quite often. Logically, she should have stopped and done something about it. However, whenever she tried, she was attacked by the wolves.

They stood out against the darkness, their fur black as onyx. Predatory ruby eyes gleamed with a level of malevolence, hunger and bloodlust. And they could certainly not miss the smell of her blood. Anytime she paused for longer than a second, they would pounce, forcing her to run away from their snapping ivory fangs and continue her lurching. They never attacked her otherwise, though she could just see them nearby, three that she made out. One on each side and one nipping at her heels whenever she wavered in her stride. It was like they were herding her, driving her towards… towards….

The rest of the ethereal dream vanished the longer she remained awake. She didn't know if it was a blessing or a curse in disguise. However it measured up, Nabiki knew that today was not going to be an easy day. First day back to school since she and Ranma were married, and she dreaded the inevitable questions that would occur.

No, scratch that, she was more afraid of her reactions to them. Yesterday had shaken her world nearly to its foundations, and the flood of tears did little to clean up the mess left behind in the assault. And something the middle Tendo — correction, married Tendo, until she could come up with something — knew, if nothing else, was that she did not want to relieve those moments anytime soon.

Grumbling, she pulled herself out of bed, exaggeratedly stretching and yawning, then scratched her leg before locating her bath things and her school uniform. May as well get the day over with. The people would want to know the truth, and she needed to fabricate one for their inquiring minds.

"Thanks, Kasumi," Ranma said as she passed him a bowl of rice. He snared himself a piece of baked fish and proceeded to eat.

"You're welcome," she replied, then turned to her father, who had his nose buried in the morning newspaper. "Would you like anything?"

"Nothing for me at the moment." He sipped some of his coffee, and turned the page. "Where are your sisters?"

"Akane already left for school early this morning. Nabiki may be still getting ready for school."

"Actually," the subject of the latter sentence said, standing in the doorway of the dining room. "I was just looking for my dear husband."

Ranma coughed violently, having accidentally sent some rice and fish down the wrong passage. He pounded on his chest a few times to help clear the mixup.

"Aw, honey, are you all right?" she said, smiling at him.

He cleared his throat, eyeing her warily. "Just fine. What do you want?"

"I wanted to leave for school early enough to talk to our classmates about our marriage so we aren't late."

Now Ranma looked at Nabiki as if left arm was suddenly replaced with a blue tentacle. "Are you feeling well?"

"Never better, since you walked into my life. Please finish eating, dear."

"I… think I'm done for now…" He thanked Kasumi, who in turn supplied both him and Nabiki their lunches. He was convinced it was going to be his last meal, at that. Nabiki, happy to be married to him? Calling him dear? Surrendering to—

"I can't believe you actually fell for that load of shit."

He blinked into the present, fixing a bewildered gaze on Nabiki. They were far away from the house, treading the old path to school.

She smirked. "Here I am, lying my ass off to the family, and I thought you were smart enough to recognize that." She then looked at him flatly. "Or did you forget that I'm a selfish bitch?"

He frowned. "And I think I gotta make that title longer, now."

"I'm going to let that slide, because I am feeling much better. I have a plan."

"A plan for what?"

"My, we have to work on your short-term memory."

Ranma was clearly annoyed. "Just spit it out."

"You're no fun in your old age. Whatever happened to that spark we had on our wedding night?"

He gritted his teeth. "That's enough of this shit…" His expression went from frustrated to sinister quickly. "…dear wife.

The jabbing died on that note. "Anyway," Nabiki started, being more serious. "I have a plan to convince the school that we're not married and nothing happened."

"Oh. Found that time machine, eh? While we're changing the future, can we also go back to make sure I never got cursed? That'll be wonderful."

She smirked in spite of herself. "Seems like I'm rubbing off on you. But this calls for no time machine. Just a little explanation."

He crossed his arms. "Can't wait to hear this."

"This is all part of a plan to get Akane to admit her true feelings."

His head snapped around to look at her profile. "Say what?"

"Just like the movies," she said, smiling. "Man and woman are married. Enter old flame, who man still has feelings for. Unhappiness with his current life, the two gravitate towards each other until they re-ignite those old feelings, and they confess their deepest feelings. He leaves his wife, whom he was never happy with, and gets back with his true love."

Ranma studied her for a little while, a concentrated look affixed on his features. "I never thought you could be so… so…"

"Ingenious?" Nabiki primed, giving him a confident, half-lidded look.

He shook his head. "Sappy."

She glared at him. "Look, I'm doing this out of the kindness of my heart. Don't get smart with me, because I'll have no problem staying married to you."

"What? But I—"

"—can make your life a living hell." She tossed her hair back, leveling her gaze. "You thought our engagement was bad? Wait until I start trying in our married life. I'll start by selling off the dojo, and then…."

Ranma gulped, throwing up his hands. "Hey, hey, now… no need to get vicious. I was just saying you're like the last person I'd ever thought would be talking that soap opera junk other girls at school get obsessed with."

She seemed to consider what he said. "Well, now you know better. So, just try to look a little miserable, and we should be more than convincing.

"You mean I don't look miserable enough?"

She looked at him out of the corner of her eye.

Hands were thrown back up. "Sorry… just came out."

Nabiki's response was to turn away and continue heading towards school. Ranma fell in step behind her.

"Wait a sec," Nabiki said, stopping just at the gates of Furinkan High School.

"Hm? What's up?"

"Something's wrong."

He perked a brow, walking around her. "What do you mean? I don't see anyone—"

"That's just it. No one's out on the grounds talking, walking, or generally goofing around, waiting for the bell to ring." She scanned the grounds, trying in vain to find some sort of life outside. She was disappointed, which set off the hairs on the back of her neck.

Ranma, on the other hand, took one look up and pointed. "Well, there's someone who just ducked back inside."

She followed his hand, but missed the target. "Where did he go?"

"Dunno. He was a student, though."

Nabiki frowned. "I really don't like this…."

He shrugged. "Well, knowing the principal, he may have the field covered in pineapple bombs or something."

The thought of getting blown up — as it was a very real possibility with Principal Kuno manning the helm of Furinkan — made the married Tendo grow weak in the knees as well as feel lightheaded. "Ranma, if anyone ever suggests you to become a counselor, do me a favor… punch them out."

Ranma glanced behind him, seeing her stagger on her feet. "Aw, man…" He grabbed her by her shoulders, holding her like that until she was standing steadily. "Look, I don't what's wrong here, but I ain't gonna let anyone or anything hurt you, all right?"

She could tell he was serious about his statement. Despite herself, she did feel somewhat moved by that kind of determination. She shook her head, dissolving those thoughts. "All right." She then smirked a little. "But if you get me killed, consider yourself divorced."

"That's not funny." He couldn't help but chuckle a little at the thought. Then he swept her up into his arms, an action that caught the brunette off-guard.

"What the hell—" One hand had turned into a fist, poised in the air to strike.

"Hey, a man's only good as the promises he keeps, you know?" With his face set, Ranma took off running, streaking up the pathway, his eyes scanning everything that looked suspicious. If something odd was in his path, he hopped over it. Nabiki held onto him, her own eyes darting around, looking out for some surprise attack that invariably followed. She was disappointed that there was none. It would have explained away the missing students.

Just as they reached the front doors, one swung open partly, and two pineapples were tossed out, both heading straight for the two.

"What the?" The married man skidded to a halt as the seemingly harmless fruit sailed towards their location.

Nabiki was wide-eyed in disbelief. "Ranma!"

He didn't have the time to drop his accidental bride. Tightening his grip on her, the martial artist twisted his body around on the ball of his foot, angling a kick to smash one Hawaiian delight into the other that was lagging a little behind. With luck, the resulting explosion would be at his back, keeping her safely in front of him while he dealt with the damage.

Fortunately, the pineapples didn't explode as he figured. Instead, they made a hollow bursting sound, like someone jabbing a needle through a balloon, but deeper. Immediately, it started raining motley confetti and streamers. Then there were a series of capgun-like poppings in random intervals, and a series of shouts.

"Congratulations, Ranma and Nabiki!"

"Huh?" Both of them looked at the school doors, where a throng of people streamed out into the courtyard, waving banners, yanking on various party poppers, and generally having a good time. Students, teachers, even the principal (strumming a ukulele) were out there, celebrating.

"Congratulations?" they said as one, looking at each other.

"On your wedding guys!" one student shouted.

"Whodathunkit? You and Nabiki being on the up and up," another chimed in.

"You're so cruel, Ranma! Stringing Akane along while you secretly pined after Nabiki!"

"Lucky dog!"

"And I though for sure you were just trying to scam us out of money, with those bets and all!"

"You da man, Saotome!"

"We're so jealous of you, Nabiki!"

The small celebration washed over the couple for which it was held in honor like a phantom wave, both wide-eyed in disbelief. Their peepers grew more, if it was possible, as Akane approached them. That, in itself, wasn't the reason for their surprise and panicking.

Her smiling sadly holding her own set of unfired party poppers, on the other hand, sent up all kinds of alarms and warnings.

"I hope you didn't mind me setting this up, Nabiki," she said. "Kasumi thought it might help me work through this if I were to assemble a small celebration."

Nabiki hadn't even noticed that she slid out of Ranma's arms and was standing on her own feet again. "She did…." the older sister's mouth failed her in mid sentence, lips moving without sound.

Turning to Ranma, the former fiancée did her best to not look grieved. "I… was a fool for not seeing what… who you really wanted. I'm sorry…" she said, bowing, struggling hard to keep her composure. "I hope… we can be… friends."

The married man had none of the grace his new "wife" demonstrated a second ago. Instead, his mind went into Automatic Response Mode while the rest of him dealt with the shock surging through his body. "…uh, yeah… 'course… ah…."

Akane straightened up, herself on the brink of tears. "Thank you," she whispered, then pulling the strings on each party popper taunt, firing them off, one on either side of her. "And congratulations."

Ranma remained immobile. Nabiki, on the other hand, fainted dead away.

"This can't be happening," the brunette said, sitting up on the examining table. "What the hell did I do wrong?"

"Dunno," Ranma said, sitting in a chair in front of his "wife", holding a cup of water in hand. "Doesn't this kinda screw up your plan?" He took a sip afterwards.

She glared at her "husband." "Of course it does. Don't be an idiot."

"Hey, it's not my fault we got married."

The corner of her upper lip curled slightly, baring some teeth. "Like hell! If you weren't such a cocky, arrogant bastard—!"

He met her eyes with the same resentment she displayed, then went into a cuteness act. "'Hey, Ranma, let's get married tomorrow! Tee-hee!'" Cuteness dropped, he then glared fiercely at her before turning away. "Cry me a river."

"Good idea." She kicked her foot up, catching the bottom of the cup in his hands. Water splashed up, drenching her "husband" and triggering the Jusenkyo curse.

The newly made girl sputtered. "What the hell what that for?"

Nabiki said nothing, only slid off the table, picked up her bag and headed out the door, leaving a wet guy-turned-girl to fume at her back.

"Damn her," Ranma swore, then starting to get up.


He froze in his spot, only his eyes daring to turn in the direction of the familiar (but secretly dreaded) voice. He saw her standing in the doorway, wearing the same boy's uniform that she chose for attending Furinkan High School, wearing the same spatula bandolier around her body, complete with the handle of her enormous battle steel spatula jutting up from behind her. All in all, it looked like the same old Ukyo he remembered. However, there was something off about her today. Her face….

"Um, hi, Ucchan…"

She stared hard at the cursed, little girl before her, her eyes seemingly searching for something. "Say it isn't true."

He shrank back a little. "S-say what isn't true?"

Anger flared. "You know exactly what I'm talking about, you jackass!" Then it sputtered out, leaving behind the searching eyes. "Say you didn't really marry Nabiki Tendo."

He was expecting it to happen sometime, but not this soon. And how delicate his fingers were in his cursed body. He never noticed that before now. The way they danced on the empty air—

"Tell me everyone is lying!" She lunged for him, stopping within arm's reach, afraid of what he would say. "Please…."

The desperate tone of her voice grabbed his heart and wrenched it out of place, squeezing it tightly in its vise grip. He couldn't find the strength to put Nabiki's plan into action. "Y-yeah. But I can explain—"

He never got the chance to get any further. Ukyo's fist stuck him squarely in the jaw, ripping his lithe girl body off his feet. He spiraled for a second, only to have his flight abruptly halted by the examination table. His body folded over the top like it was a pile of soggy noodles, only to discover it couldn't stick to the surface like cooked pastry. Expectantly, he slid off the table, and fell into a pile on the floor beside it, moaning painfully.

The last thing he could remember was seeing a miserable Ukyo barreling out of the office, her sobs lingering along with the only other thing she said.

"You jackass…!"

The married Tendo walked the hallway of the second floor, fuming to herself. She tried to rationalize some answers for her current woes, an explanation that would set everything right, or at least justify her swelling misery and anger. So far, everything she has been planning lately has backfired in some grand fashion. Worse yet, she was being sabotaged, and by someone whom she would have never suspected in a thousand years: her own beloved Kasumi.

She's going to pay for this. I don't know how she knew what I was up to, but she's going to pay for this dearly.

"Nabiki Saotome."

Immediately, her thoughts were yanked into a whole new — and very revolting — direction. Turning furiously, her eyes lighted upon the person that had put her and Ranma's surname in the same sentence. If looks could kill, the authorities would never find Kuno's body.

"It is a fortuitous occasion, indeed. Had I not witnessed such an event with my own eyes, I would feel as though you would deem yourself capable of misleading me. But, no, it shall be upheld as truth, that you and the foul sorcerer Ranma Saotome have indeed found peace in a manner of holy sanctimony."

The more Kuno talked, the angrier and more volatile her mood degenerated.

He then knelt down before her, surprising the young woman. Hands roughened and trained in the pure art of kendo clapped together twice, then he followed up the motion with bowing his head.

Nabiki perked an eyebrow. "What are you doing, Kuno-baby?"

"Praying for your soul. May the gods honor your noble sacrifice, Nabiki Saotome. I shall never forget what you've done to dissuade the black magicks that Saotome cur has inflicted upon the beauteous tigress Akane." Quietly, he shed his tears. "Truly, I have misjudged you once again. I never once considered you alone would be a selfless soul."

Hitting him, while it would have probably been very therapeutic, would have been pointless. It wouldn't hurt him nearly enough. Maybe she could convince Ranma to beat him up good and live vicariously through him.

The kendoist bowed once at the waist, then stood erect. "However, I feel I must warn you."

"Hm?" Nabiki looked at him inquisitively. "Warn me about what?"

"My younger sister. Saddened as I am to say, she is not one for understanding such spiritual nobleness, and her affections for the cur Saotome leaves her weakened in emotional fortitude."

She waved a dismissive hand. "Yeah, yeah, she's head over heels in love with Ranma. What else is new?"

"Do not take my words lightly, Nabiki Saotome." She twitched at the title, but Kuno paid it no heed. "My younger sister has been known to hold a grudge for some, and her vengeance is oft swift and terrible. Your union with the one whom she seeks favor has placed a tree in her path. It is likely she will cut it down in all manners of the term."

The young woman took a few moments to digest the swordsman's words. "I see…."

"Truly. I must be off." He looked at her solemnly. "Again, I must thank you for your brave sacrifice. Your name shall always be remembered. Your deed shall never be forgotten." Regally, he strode away from Nabiki.

She stared at his back for a while longer. "I should have at least kicked him." Frowning, she added mostly to herself. "And when did I get this violent?"

"Thank the gods the day is finally over," Nabiki said, walking out of the school building. Throughout the day, just about everyone that had known about her had wished her good luck in her marriage. It was still irritating, but she let their words wash over her. She had something to think about, namely Kodachi Kuno.

Kuno's words clung to her as if he just spoken them, and not hours ago. Initially, she tried dismissing them as nonsense, but the gravity in which he said them still weighed upon her, convincing her to at least consider what could happen. However, after a few moments of considering what kendoist's eccentric gymnastic sister could do as revenge, Nabiki was left disturbed. She really needed to see Ranma. However, no one had seen him when she inquired at lunch. In fact, no one she talked to had seen at all, aside from that morning.

"Yo, Nabiki."

"Hm?" She turned around, and caught sight of the person she was looking for.

"Akane said you were looking for me?" Ranma said, walking up beside her.

She continued moving on through the gates. "Where were you? And why do you have a bandage of your face?"

The martial artist touched the flesh-toned bandage adhered to his cheek. "Oh, Ucchan came around just after you left. She was kinda pissed about us getting married, so she decked me."

Nabiki raised an eyebrow in question. "And that was enough to lay out the great Saotome, master of Anything Goes School of Martial Arts?"

"Ha-ha. The nurse let me lay up in her office for a bit. She was afraid I had a concussion or something, since I kinda left a dent in her table from where I hit it." He shook his head. "I'm cool, though."

"I already knew that. A mountain could fall on your head before it did any kind of brain damage."

He started to glare at her, but decided it wasn't worth the effort. "While I was there, I was thinking about what'll Shampoo do once she finds out." He drew his arms up above his head, then laced his fingers together, locking them as he held to the back of his neck. "Well, assuming she hadn't already."

"And Kodachi."

"Hm? What about Kodachi?" He looked puzzled as to why Nabiki had mentioned her.

Her face became a mask of neutrality. "Kuno mentioned this morning that Kodachi might try to take a stab at revenge, too."

"Dammit, I keep forgetting about her." He sighed, then looked at her. "Hey, what I said this morning still stands, all right?"

She looked at him, a twinkle of mischief in her eye. "'That selfish bitch' isn't long enough a title for moi?"

He nearly tripped over himself. "God, just forget I said that already!"

Nabiki chuckled. "You're still so easy to tease, Ranma-baby."

He sighed. "You know good and well what I'm talking about."

"No. How about you just tell me again?"

"…I said that I'll protect you, no matter what."

She smiled, taking great pleasure in dragging it out of him. "Well, that's good to know."

Sighing, he responded off-handedly. "Yeah, 'specially since you might be carrying my kid and stuff."

The brunette froze in midstep. The pigtailed fighter kept on walking, not noticing she had stopped. Panic streaked across her face, her heart thumping like a jackhammer inside her chest. It almost didn't seem real, like it occurred in another lifetime. The reminder was a bucket of cold water splashed right into her face.

She wanted to cry again for being such a fool, but she really didn't want to let anyone else see her at her most embarrassing moments. No one needed to know about those times. She didn't want anyone to know her secret fears.

Meanwhile, Ranma glanced over his shoulder, noticing for the first time the girl he accidentally married was no longer there. Turning around, he saw her still standing, her foot not touching the ground. Her eyes were dark, obscured by her bangs of hair. Worry drew on his features. "Hey, Nabiki?"

She didn't seem to respond at first, but a second or two later, her foot came down to the concrete. Her head shifted upward, revealing her face once again to him. She was smiling broadly, but Ranma felted disturbed just looking at it.

"I'm fine, Ranma-baby. Let's hurry up and get home." Without waiting for a reply, she hurried past him.

Watching her diminutive form disappearing around the corner of the walkway, Ranma let go of a breath he wasn't aware of holding and scratched his head. "Weird…." Shrugging, he followed after her.

On the opposite side of the street, a girl with ash black hair tied up in a one-sided ponytail dressed in a uniform in which the jacket clearly marked her as being a student of St. Hebereke had been hiding behind trees and fences, following the two newlyweds. She didn't follow any farther now, her intense hazel eyes creating their own well of tears. In one hand, a ribbon twirled slowly around its wand, cutting a groove on the grass and earth just by her foot. In the other hand, she held a videocassette tape devoid of any and all markings.

"Nabiki Tendo… how dare you take what rightfully belongs to me," the girl known as Kodachi Kuno spoke to herself. "And attempting to bind him to you for a long life of misery… I will not stand for it." She glared at the last place she saw the object of her hatred. "I will destroy you like the insignificant bug you are."


To be continued.

Chapter 3
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