A Quantum Destinies Side Story
By D. B. Sommer
This is a story set in Jurai-Knight's 'Quantum Destinies' universe, and you will have to be familiar with that piece of work to follow this story. The events within take place some time after chapter nine of Quantum Destinies, which can be found on the following web site: http://home.earthlink.net/~sthesken/fanfics/qd.html
Disclaimer: The Quantum Destines universe is Jurai-Knight's. Many of the characters within are not. Revolutionary Girl Utena is also owned by someone else.
Any and all C+C is appreciated. You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Nanami Kiryuu straightened out her skirt, making certain she showed no more leg than would befit a girl of her social standing, while still displaying enough to catch a man's interest. It might not have been crucial, but every little bit helped. She knew she was attractive. She might have been a bit on the short side, but her shoulder-length hair complemented her above average figure perfectly. Her body was in great shape from the intensive works outs she regularly engaged in. And one thing Nanami Kiryuu was not afraid of was to show her figure off. Even as nice as it was now, she still had every reason to believe that as she got older, her frame would fill out even more, increasing the number of looks she already received from most men. Iizuka Takanoku, the person she was going to visit, was an example of such men.
Iizuka Takanoku was a pleasant enough individual. In spite of his obvious interest in her, he at least tried to maintain the appearance of being a gentleman. It was charming, in a way. Many of her suitors tended to be a great deal more forward in their attentions. When Nanami was in the mood, she would make the pretense of receiving them. If not, she would shoot them a cold glare or unleash a scathing word. Most of them would have the sense to go away, rebuked until she would give them a second chance to get back into her good graces. That would usually be dependent on whether or not she needed them for some task.
There had been a handful that had even been foolish enough to try to press the point. Regarding anyone that stupid as being inherently worthless, one of two things would happen to them. If Touga was around, Nanami would summon false tears, embellish what had happened, and allow him to defend her honor by beating up the offender. Those times were the best since afterwards he would hold and comfort her. The times when he was not around, she would take matters into her own hands and beat them up herself. It was easy. Growing up, she had studied under the same martial arts instructors her brother had. Her parents had not wanted her to do it, but Touga knew how much she had wanted to learn and had pleaded on her behalf. After some cajoling on his part, they accepted, and she had learned martial arts and sword fighting skills at his side. It had been like heaven. Now it was easy for her to beat up annoying men, especially with the additional training she had received in one of the Dean's advanced combat studies groups.
As to her fellow members of the Student Council, that was another story. Loathe though she was to admit it, the majority of them were better fighters than her. Of course, most of them were a year or two older, so at least she had hope for catching up to them. And if it was necessary, her brother could protect her, since he was the best fighter among them, or had been until Utena Tenjou showed up.
That was another unforgivable crime Utena was responsible for: usurping Touga's rightful position as the best fighter among the group. Nanami's thoughts turned darker as she remembered the one time she had tried to avenge her brother's loss by challenging Utena herself. It had not been much of a fight. In the end, the pink-haired girl spanked Nanami with her own bokken and sent her on her way; that was how easily she was defeated. Nanami had not been able to sit for a couple of days afterwards.
However, Utena was now going to pay for that and everything else she had done. And the best part of all was that Nanami was going to keep her hands clean of the whole matter. It was going to be a manipulation her brother would have been proud of, if she ever dared to mention it to him.
As Nanami skipped along, she took note that it was a nice day. She was glad she had chosen to walk to the Takanoku estate. There were other reasons for going as she did besides the weather. Taking one of the family cars would have meant one of the drivers would know where she had gone. And the fewer people who knew about her destination the better. Iizuka was devoted to her and would keep his mouth shut. So that meant the only people that would know she had ever visited him would be whatever servants happened to be there, and he could order them to silence as well. There was little chance that someone from Ohtori would meet him. He attended Whitehall Academy, not Ohtori.
In truth, it was only chance that the two had met. Nanami had gone to a party some middling noble had thrown and her parents insisted that she attend. As usual, both she and her brother had drawn a large gathering of admirers; admirers of both their looks and their wealth. It was as the party was winding down that Iizuka approached her. It had taken less then five minutes of idle talk for Nanami to determine that his interest in her was based more on her physical aspects rather than her monetary ones, especially since the Takanoku clan held as much financial influence as the Kiryuu.
Iizuka was somewhat attractive, and possessed refined manners that made Nanami decide she could accept his presence. Besides, someone with that much influence would be a useful ally to have. She feigned a small amount of interest in him, just enough to prod him into trying to impress her more. He had sent flowers the day after the party with a card telling her what a wonderful time he had. Since then, she had kept in touch with him, even going with him to a couple of high society functions so as to keep his level of interest in her high. The few times he tried to take things farther, she would deftly deflect him away with some excuse that he would inevitably accept. Now it was her turn to ask a favor of him.
Nanami arrived at the estate and paused in front of the main gate, making certain her white and blue dress was immaculate. Once certain of that, she retrieved a mirror from her purse and examined herself closely, adding a bit of lip gloss to make herself look perfect. There was only one final touch to add to gain his compliance. She looked closely in the mirror at her calm and collected face. It was time to bring her rather impressive acting talents into play. She put on a depressed, almost tearful expression that made her look as though she had lost something important to her. It was somewhere between tears and just plain depression.
Iizuka was going to be eating out of her hand.
Nanami was greeted at the main gates by a guard, who immediately escorted her to the Takanoku mansion. It was the first time Nanami had been there during the daytime, and she found herself very impressed by it. It was every inch of what was regarded as the classic Imperial design for noble families, mixing both traditional and more modern architecture in what most considered a perfect gestalt. Loathe though she was to admit it, it was probably more impressive than her own home.
Upon arriving at the entryway, she was greeted by Iizuka himself. He was wearing a black, silk shirt and loose white pants, appearing quite dashing, Nanami admitted to herself. She would have been quite taken by his appearance if her heart had not already been won by her brother.
Iizuka dismissed her escort and gave a formal bow. It was a bit of a surprise to her that he had not commented on her expression first, but she figured that he had simply not noticed it yet.
Her guess appeared on the mark as his own happy expression at her arrival became one of surprise as he at last took note of her 'distress.' "What's wrong?" he asked.
Nanami cast her gaze downward, using just the right amount of reluctance as she said, "May I come in?"
Iizuka was next to her in an instant. He placed his arm around her shoulder and escorted her inside, giving small words of comfort to her as they made their way into the house.
Nanami saw that he was leading them to one of the spacious living rooms. That would not do. They needed to be somewhere that eavesdropping would be next to impossible. "Could we have some privacy?"
"Of course." He changed his destination from the living room to upstairs and his bedroom, a large room that was twice the size of most apartments in Tokyo. Still, it would serve Nanami's purposes since it was unlikely anyone else would be present.
They sat down together on the bed, Iizuka daring to hold her hand, though it was intended as nothing more than a gesture of comfort. Everything was working out just as she hoped. She decided it was time to go on to the next stage of the plan. Nanami gave a soft sniffle, then began her tale. "I'm sorry. I don't mean to intrude, but I've been so depressed that I just had to tell someone, and you were the first person that came to mind."
"You can tell me whatever it is," he assured her.
That brought an inward smile to Nanami. Iizuka was obviously moved by her admission. She paused for dramatic effect, then continued. "It's just that there's been this girl at school. She's a new student that just transferred there a couple months ago. Since she was new, and from only a common bloodline, I was afraid she might become something of an outcast, so I tried to befriend her. Well, it worked, or so I thought. We hit it off very well, and I opened my heart to her, telling secrets I've never told anyone else. Things I wouldn't want others to know about, but since we were friends, I trusted her."
Nanami watched Iizuka nod in understanding. No doubt he was already coming to the conclusion she had hoped he would. Once she 'confirmed' his suspicions, that would make his agreeing with her plan all the more likely. "Well, it turned out she was doing nothing more than using me. Now she's blackmailing me by threatening to reveal the things I told her in secret. Some of them are about my family too. I don't want them to suffer for my mistakes."
Gauging the look on his face, Nanami decided it was time to go into the 'breakdown' part of the act. "Oh! How could I have been so foolish?! I was so stupid!" She began sobbing, only to have Iizuka hold her in an embrace.
"You weren't stupid. Just trusting. I'm not surprised. You're one of the nicest and most caring people I know. It's sick how that low-born used you for her own twisted schemes!"
Again, Nanami had to make an effort to keep from smiling. He was reacting even better than she had hoped. She had been certain she was going to have to lay on more tears to get him to agree with her.
"Have you told your family?" he asked.
"Oh no!" Nanami shook her head while remaining in his embrace. "I don't want them to know about my stupidity. I could never live with myself if they knew what a fool I'd been."
"I understand." Iizuka stood up, almost posing as he moved directly in front of her. Determination was written on his face as he declared, "You'd like me to confront her."
"No!" Nanami said quickly. She had to shift him back into her way of thinking, although he did have the right idea. "She's a thug. She's beaten people up before. If you tried to talk to, or threaten her, she'd just try to beat you up. I couldn't live with myself if she hurt you." She latched onto his hand and gave him a soft, almost lovelorn look for emphasis.
It worked. Iizuka was moved by her concern for his welfare. "All right. I won't go. What do you think I should do? Whatever you want, I'll do it."
"You once told me there was an ex-Arena fighter in your employ."
"Yes," Iizuka said. "He finished sixth in the Citizen Tournament twenty-two years ago. He was beaten by Jun Fan Lee. His name's Spirit Eagle. He's third-in-command of our bodyguards and completely loyal to my family."
"Spirit Eagle?" Nanami asked.
"He's originally from the western North American Prefectures." Iizuka didn't bother to mention that although the man was unquestionably loyal to the family, he was a violent person by nature. There was no need to unsettle Nanami further with talk of the man's brutality.
Nanami smiled. An arena fighter that good would be able to destroy a low-born like Utena. "I think he sounds powerful enough to do what needs to be done."
"You want him to intimidate her?" Iizuka asked. It sounded like a good plan.
"Actually, could you have him break her arms and legs?"
"WHAT?!" Iizuka exclaimed, looking at Nanami in shock.
Nanami hadn't counted on him being so squeamish. She began to cry in earnest, hoping to sway him with tears as much as words. "She's an evil person and very greedy and stupid too! She'll think it's just a threat and probably tell everyone what I told her! I'll be ruined!" Nanami began bawling in earnest.
After seeing her cry her heart out, Iizuka sat next to her again and embraced her. "Don't worry, Nanami. You're right. She's nothing more than a low-born commoner. I'll make sure she doesn't tell anyone. I'll even have Spirit Eagle break her jaw, just for good measure."
"Ohh," Nanami's eyes lit up. That would be a nice touch. "Would you do that for me?"
"Anything for you, Nanami-chan."
Nanami allowed that to slide. He had earned the right to call her that for a little while, but just in private and certainly never in the presence of Touga. "You're such a good friend." She even gave him a lovestruck look for good measure. After she knew she had him, she told him Utena's name and gave him a picture one of her associates had taken of the pink-haired girl. She then informed him of some information she had just happened to 'overhear' about Utena going to a duel, and how she'd be easy to beat after her match. Iizuka happily agreed to it and went about sending for Spirit Eagle. Nanami thanked him again and, after some small talk, left, promising they would get together next week when she had an opening in her schedule.
With her mission accomplished, Nanami practically danced all the way home. The thorn known as Utena Tenjou was about to be removed from her side for good.
"So, what's this I hear about you in some sort of challenge match after classes tomorrow?"
Ranma finished putting his books into his locker and turned to the sound of the voice, reprimanding himself for not hearing Nabiki come up behind him. He told himself he was going to have to be more aware of the people around him. Even with Anji and the rest of his fellow thugs expelled, he still got the feeling someone was watching him, and that made him uneasy.
"The Dean asked me if I wanted to participate in some sort of challenge match our school was having with Ohtori Academy," Ranma explained, while wondering where Nabiki had heard that he was going to be in a fight. He had just learned about it himself a couple of hours ago.
"I didn't see anything posted about a fight with Ohtori." Nabiki looked at Ranma suspiciously, her arms crossed as though she was daring him to contradict her.
"I dunno." Ranma shrugged. "I think it's some sort of special challenge. I guess they don't want a big crowd or something."
"Why?" Nabiki asked, the role of interrogator coming naturally to her.
Now Ranma was beginning to get upset. What he did on his own time was his business, and he despised being questioned in this manner. Nabiki wasn't his mother. "I don't know. He didn't say. He just asked if I was feeling up to a match and I said yes."
Nabiki saw the irritation in Ranma's expression and could not have cared less. If it was some sort of challenge match with a rival academy, why hadn't the Dean asked her to participate in it? Of course, Ranma was good, but she was better. That she was the one slighted and Ranma was getting angry about it made her temper flare slightly. "You shouldn't take such things lightly. You've done no research on who your opponent is. Do you even have his name?"
Nabiki's attitude was getting to Ranma further. As if he needed lectures in fighting from her. "As a matter of fact I do. Her name's Utena Tenjou."
A scowl creased Nabiki's brow. Ranma's opponent was a girl? That wasn't good. Ranma already had too many other women in his life, and most of them were hanging around him far too much already. Akane wasn't much of a threat, but the new Kuonji girl (who was not really Ranma's fiancee, Nabiki assured herself) was a growing hindrance. And then the snobbish Kunou girl was getting increasingly underfoot. The last thing she needed was the possibility of some strange girl from another school trying to get her hooks into Ranma as well.
Nabiki tried to think of what to do next. If this had been that other Nabiki's world, she probably could have talked that version of Ranma into letting her take the challenge, but her own version of the interesting youth had proven himself way too stubborn for his own good. There was no way she could call off the fight. She doubted talking personally to the Dean would do any good, even if she could convince him she was the better choice. At the moment, it appeared there was nothing she was going to be able to do to affect the situation. The most she could do was influence things slightly.
Nabiki said, "I'll try to get a background check on this girl and see how tough she is." And try to see if she had any boyfriends. Or was repulsive-looking. Or was a lesbian. Anything to see if she was a likely candidate to become interested in Ranma.
Ranma gave a grunt of disgust at her overprotectiveness. What did he have to worry about? It was only a girl he was fighting. "You're making too big a deal out of this. I'll fight her tomorrow after school, I'll send her packing back to Ohtori, and then it'll all be over."
Seeing Ranma was going to be intractable, she left rather than waste time trying to reason with him. There were times when she really wished the Ranma of her world had more of the qualities of the Ranma of the cursed-Nabiki's world. Now there was a boy who pretty much knew his place. Certainly he wasn't like the willful, stubborn mule-head that she had to deal with on an almost daily basis. And being obstinate quickly lost what little charm it might have held early on.
Nabiki's mind turned to other things, like how to get the information on the Utena girl on such short notice. There was someone she used to know that had transferred to Ohtori. She could ask that girl for some information on Utena. And then she could have Sayuri look through the school's database on the name. Perhaps she could even have time after classes to go over and see what she could dig up on her own. One thing was for certain; she wasn't going to miss tomorrow's fight.
Ranma watched as Nabiki left without even saying goodbye. She really was acting weird lately. Imagine, getting all worked up because he was going to be in a fight. She was probably just jealous because she hadn't been picked. It was small surprise since Ranma had proven himself the better of the two. She did raise a point though, and he wondered what Utena might look like.
The next day found Utena Tenjou rushing up to the special limousine that Dean Fuji had sent to take her and her companions to the Imperial Academy. As she turned a corner, she came upon the vehicle and saw that the others were already there. Miki and Anthy stood outside while Dean Fuji waved from the window. Miki appeared only slightly impatient, tapping his foot on the ground, while Anthy stood there, blissfully smiling.
Miki's finger hit the top of his stopwatch. "You're fifteen minutes and thirty-seven seconds late, Miss Utena."
Still gasping for air, Utena looked Anthy and Miki over. Like her, both were in their school uniforms. Anthy was in her regular female Academy uniform, while Miki wore the more formal white and blue of the Student Council. Utena herself wore her usual black-colored male cadet's school uniform. She thought they would present at least an impressive looking envoy to the Imperial Academy.
"Sorry," Utena said, "I was running a little late from class and had to stop by my room to pick up my bokken and fighting clothes." She indicated the items over her shoulder: a small duffel bag contained the clothing, while the bokken was held by a loop of cord on it. "Then Touga just had to stop me and give some big speech about me representing the 'pride of the school'." Actually, it had just been an excuse for him to try to smooth talk her again. It was flattering -he was quite good at it, after all- but she was able to recognize it for what it was, which made the whole gesture on his part futile.
"Well, we'd better get going. We don't want to be late for the match," Miki said as he began his stopwatch again.
Utena just smiled as she and her compatriots entered the limousine. As the car started and their ride began. Once again she found herself becoming increasingly excited about the prospect of proving herself outside the walls of Ohtori. Fighting with the other members of the Council was always interesting, but this was something altogether different. She was plunging into the unknown, and her heart was racing with the excitement. She hoped this Ranma Saotome was a good fighter. As excited as she was, it would be something of a disappointment if he turned out to be a pushover, like Kozue or Nanami were.
For the last two days the upcoming fight had been preying on her thoughts. She had even had a dream about standing triumphant over her foe, then helping him to his feet as he bowed before her in acknowledgment of her victory. Of course, it was more likely he would be seething in anger at his loss, like most of her opponents at the kendo and fencing tournaments ended up doing. It seemed like no one knew how to lose graciously anymore, or at least they were poor hands at pretending to hide it. If she lost, she knew she would accept it with courtesy and ask for a rematch. It seemed as if no one she came into contact with was very chivalrous. Life was turning out more disappointing than she ever would have believed.
Early in her life, when she was five or so, right after her parents death, she had been in deep mourning. There were no other family members to care for her, no aunts or uncles, which basically left her all alone. The government placed her within an orphanage, where she had problems from the first day she arrived. Her recent trauma made her standoffish towards the other children that had tried to become her friend. She simply refused to warm up to them. It didn't take long for them to ignore her as much as they could while she dealt with her problems. Life in the orphanage was miserable.
Utena was like that for several months, until she was looking through the small library on the premises and stumbled upon a book with a beautiful cover on it, featuring a handsome man on a big white horse. Curiosity got the better of her, and she began to read it. The story took place somewhere in Europe (she couldn't remember the country it had originated in) it was about a dashing young prince wanting to save a princess. Utena found herself captivated as the prince went through many tasks and trials before eventually rescuing the damsel in distress. However, it wasn't the princess Utena had identified with so much, but the prince himself. Even though he was a fictional character, he seemed so noble and caring that she found herself wishing someone had been like that with her when her parents had first died. If only someone had come along and helped her through her own situation, instead of her having to deal with her misery alone.
However, there had been no prince for her, nor for any others, it seemed. The world was lacking in them. That was when the idea formed in her mind. Years later, she would look back and wonder how a child of her age had come up with such an idea, and how it became so important that it ended up molding a large portion of her life, giving it the direction it now had. The idea really was quite simple. If there were no princes for her or others, then she would have to take matters into her own hands and become one. Not as a boy, of course, but as a girl. Princes could be girls too, or so she believed.
In pursuit of that childhood dream, Utena went on to read every book she could get of noble samurai, or foreign lords like the prince she had first read about, and endeavored to figure out just how she should act. As she got older, and after much trial and error, she thought she understood the concept pretty well. She tried behaving in a matter that she thought a prince would, trying to help others and protected those too weak to defend themselves. If someone seemed very depressed, or she was aware of some extraordinary hardship they had endured, she would go out of her way to try to cheer them up. If someone tried to push other around she would defend the oppressed. She never liked the accolades that sometime accompanied her actions, (she really felt uncomfortable being the center of attention) but understood that people were going to emulate her at times. The best she could do was accept the attention with grace and hope others would learn from her by example.
That attitude was why, after being in Ohtori for less than a week, Utena had to challenge Saionji to the duel. Almost from the instant she had arrived there, she began hearing others talk about the heartless things he did to those around him. The worst was when Utena had been looking out a third story window, only to witness him slap some girl in the face. Even from high above, Utena heard him laugh cruelly about how foolish the girl was in believing that he could be seriously interested in someone like her.
That was all it took. Utena raced down the stairs and confronted Saionji in front of everyone. It was impulsive on her part, but she could not tolerate that sort of behavior in anyone. She challenged him, and won. He then challenged her to a second match and had lost even more quickly.
How ironic it was that shortly after the second incident others dubbed her 'the Prince of Ohtori.' After that, something of a fan club for her formed, in spite of the fact she preferred to wear the boy's style of uniform to school. She never really thought of it as cross-dressing, even if it technically was. She just found dresses and most other predominately female styles of clothing too confining and 'unprincelike'. Even if it meant being subjected to the occasional nasty rumor, she continued wearing either unisex or male-styled outfits the majority of the time. Besides, the boy's uniforms looked closer to what she thought a prince would wear, and it was not as though there were any explicit rules against it.
It was right after the first incident with Saionji that Utena had been called to Dean Fuji's office. At the time, she had been certain she was going to be reprimanded for her behavior, but instead he told her not to worry about the incident and that she had been selected to participate in an advanced physical training program. Utena was happy to accept, and quickly found herself pressed to the limit in physical endurance as she was worked hard by a variety of special classes and regimens.
It was shortly after the second incident with Saionji that she found herself slowly drawn into the circle that the Student Council moved in. At first, she had thought they were approaching her to seek vengeance for one of their own being defeated at her hands —nobles could be cliquish at times— but that illusion was dispelled when it became obvious they were interested in her for herself, not in what she had done. Utena found that she too had been drawn to them, almost like a moth to a flame, though for the life of her she was uncertain why. They were not the sort of people she had liked to hang around in the past. Still, everything she had read indicated there was a higher fate, and it moved in mysterious ways. Perhaps it was some sort of destiny that she remain among them until such a time as she might be needed.
Or perhaps she would be given the opportunity to meet a prince of her own instead of acting as one for others.
Spirit Eagle continued stretching out as he prepared to leave for the Imperial Academy, Iizuka's orders still bringing a frown to his face. Life did not seem very good to him lately. He had not been in a decent fight in close to three weeks. It would have been longer, but he had actually found someone in Downside that had been able to give him a hard time for close to three minutes before he fell in the fight with Spirit Eagle.
Now he had what was shaping up to be a very boring evening. Spirit Eagle was being assigned the task of breaking some little schoolgirl as some kind of message to her. It really was a waste of his talents. The whole thing should have been given to one of the newer guards that had been assigned to help protect the Takanoku holdings, but instead his bosses were wasting their premier armbreaker on some snotty-nosed little kid.
Spirit Eagle broke off his exercises and headed to the one of the company's
garage's to take one of the cars stored there. Being taxied around like
some fat salaryman was one of the indignities he could barely
Driving was all right, but it made him pine for the days when he rode horseback in the lands of his youth. There wasn't a single decent horse in all of the Empire. He began to consider asking if he could take a vacation in the lands of his youth. True, he had grown up in abject poverty, but there was something nice about the freedom he had there, and perhaps it would do him well to go back and remember what his past was like. Besides, he could brag to everyone about what a tough guy he had become in the empire, even if he had failed to attain citizenship. He was still a man all the others back in his old home should respect.
Spirit Eagle gave a long sigh. At times like this he missed the fighting in the Arena. Sure, it had been tough, exceptionally hard on the body, and the life on the inside wasn't great, but at least he had been taken to the limit regularly. Now, he was afraid he was going soft without a decent sparring partner around. After he incapacitated several of his fellow bodyguards early on, the Takanokus would not even let him spar with them anymore. The only place he could occasionally find decent fights was during the times he spent in the seedier sections of the Empire. And now he was reduced to being sent after school girls. He supposed there was some outside chance this Utena girl might actually be able to put up a decent fight. From what Iizuka said she was supposed to be a fighter of some repute, but being taught to fight in a school of noble snobs was a far cry from learning how to fight in the dog pits that led one to the main arena of the Empire, where only the best fought. That was where you learned how to spill a man's blood and enjoy it. The only thing this whole business had going for it was that he wouldn't have to hold back when he broke the girl's limbs and jaw. Still, it was ultimately going to be a boring night.
Life just wasn't fair some times.
Nabiki Tendou finished her last class and hurried to find Ranma. With any luck she was going to have plenty of time to locate him before he got ready for his match. If even half of the things she had heard from her friend from Ohtori were true, the Tenjou girl was going to be nothing but trouble. She was pretty enough to have half the male population of her school panting about her, apparently had several nobles from the most prominent families practically in heat as they pursued her, and had more than a handful of WOMEN swooning after her. Worse, she cross-dressed (and Nabiki began to worry that Ranma had a thing about that after the whole Kuonji situation came up), was definitely not a lesbian, and the absolute worst piece of news of all, had nothing resembling a boyfriend.
Oh yes, she was apparently a damn good fighter, too.
Whether Ranma won or lost his fight was no longer a concern; as insensitive as he had been lately, he deserved to be smacked around a bit. What concerned Nabiki was not if he would be hit by Utena, but if he would get hit upon by her. She had to be there to chaperone the fight and make certain the little hussy did not get any ideas about doing anything with her opponent other than beating him up. If she even looked longingly at Ranma, Nabiki would straighten her out as to exactly who Ranma belonged to.
Nabiki continued racing down the halls until she caught sight of Yohko. She slowed down long enough to wave as she went past, and was about to make it around the corner, when someone called out her name.
Nabiki came to a dead stop. The voice was one she wished she could forget. It was upperclassman Kenchi Funiyaki: the head of the Academy's Security Junior Directorate Program, and essentially her class supervisor. He was close to the top of the list of 'people one does not want to run into, unless it is with a car.'
The two of them had a somewhat strained relationship from the first time they had met, largely because it was readily apparent Nabiki was smarter and more perceptive than Funiyaki. What was bad for Nabiki was that, although he was not as good as her, he was bright enough to realize that fact. Since then, he had taken what precautions he could in keeping her from overtaking him in some way. He was ruthless enough that he probably would have done something really bad to get her drummed out of the program altogether if he could have, but because of her father's position in the Directorate, that made such a setup all but impossible. So instead, he tried keeping her talents from being recognized by others by preventing her from getting in on any important projects. In turn, she had done everything she could to get around such blocks, while trying to get back at him. Lately, she had found herself too busy to deal with him. Likewise, since she was not butting heads with him, he did not go out of his way to have any contact with her. Until now.
Funiyaki had on a formal air about him as he approached Nabiki. "I'm glad I caught up with you. You left class so suddenly, Yurosaka didn't have a chance to tell you."
"Tell me what?" Nabiki was getting increasingly impatient to get to Ranma.
"There's a meeting of all the members of the Junior Directorate. Apparently one of the heads of the trainee program wants to see every member of the corps here in the Academy." Funiyaki's voice was disciplined and rigid, but there was a slight rolling of the eyes that Nabiki thought indicated irritation. No doubt it was because the whole meeting was going to be nothing more than an excuse for a bureaucrat to give a speech and make himself feel important.
"Ah, look," Nabiki said. "I've got some important things to do, so maybe I'd better skip the meeting."
Nabiki caught the faint hint of a smile on his face. It figured he would
enjoy upsetting her plans, even if it was nothing more than a coincidence
that allowed him to do it. There really was no choice at all. If the
Nabiki turned to Yohko. "Look, since I'm going to be busy, I need you to do something for me."
"Sure, boss. What is it?"
Nabiki gave her a brief set of orders to stay after school to watch the challenge match, and to keep an eye on Ranma afterwards. Nabiki told Yohko that the latter reason was so that she knew what shape Ranma was in, and so she would know what odds to set for his next fight. In reality, it was nothing more than a spy job to make sure nothing happened between him and Utena. It was going to be the best she could do under the circumstances.
"And you'd better behave, Ranma, or else," Nabiki muttered under her breath as she followed Funiyaki to the meeting.
Ranma found himself starting to become anxious as he finished changing and made his way down to the practice area in the field where the fight was going to take place. Maybe Nabiki had the right idea in doing a little background research about his opponent. As it stood now, he had no idea of what the girl he was going to face even looked like. He found himself wondering if she would be cute. Most of the girls in both his current and 'other' lives that knew martial arts were very attractive. However, at some point, his luck was going to run out and he was going to meet someone that was not going to be quite so… visually appealing.
Ranma noted that Dean Fuyutsuki and Coach Fujinami were already in attendance at the field. The Dean was looking down from the bleachers while the Coach stood next to the area where Ranma and Nabiki had their series of sparring matches. It seemed like only yesterday the two of them had tried to find out who the better warrior truly was. Of course, he was the better fighter, as the real match they fought had proven, but Nabiki was more than good enough to train with him. He still felt himself taken to the limit each time they fought. Now he wondered if his mysterious opponent would be the same. Not that he had any doubt he would win, he was just curious as to how tough she would be.
Coach Fujinami walked up to Ranma. Like the younger boy, he was becoming excited at the prospect of showing a rival school who the best really was. After all, Ranma was his protégé, and the accounting he gave of himself would reflect directly on the coach and his training methods. Besides, he had already met one of the coaches from Ohtori the day before and had made a forty thousand yen wager that Ranma was going to win. The skills with which Ranma fought, the perfect coordination with which he moved, all but guaranteed he would win the fight.
Ranma had damn well better win the fight.
The coach placed a comforting hand on Ranma's shoulder. "Just a few pieces of advice, kid. Whatever you do, don't get cocky. This girl's won a couple of kendo tournaments, and some of those fight trainers at Ohtori aren't too bad. She's probably got at least a couple of moves you should watch out for."
Ranma's confidence began to swell. So, she was a kendoist. Well, he certainly knew how to handle those. Kunou was supposed to be one of the best, and Ranma could take him in under a minute. He began to wonder how Utena would compare to the bokken-wielding twit.
Coach Fujinami backed off, giving Ranma one last, 'You'd better not lose' comment before returning to his place outside of the fight circle. He watched on as Ranma began doing some exercises to loosen up in preparation for the match.
In his place in the bleachers, Dean Fuyutsuki double-checked his data recorder unit, intent on showing off the findings at the next meeting, should Ranma win his match. Having what would be the current number one Adam and Eve in the project would make him the envy of all the others. He would be the one they had to pay attention to as Fuyutuski would relate his findings. He might not have been a glory-seeker by nature, but even he had his pride.
However, there was a chance he was jumping the gun. If things did not go as planned, Fuytusuki would be the one sitting down while Professor Fuji took all the glory and proclaimed the child from his project the best in the entire program. As much as got along with Fuji, that was still a very undesirable position. This was a match for bragging rights. Fuji might have come up with it, but Fuyutsuki was all for it now.
Dean Fuyutsuki thought that, for Ranma's sake, he had better not fail.
A half-hour passed, and the time of the match came and went. Ranma tried continuing to stretch out to stay loose, but he was quickly becoming bored with the situation. Both the dean and his coach appeared just as mystified at the delay. Ranma began looking around the empty field, trying to find something interesting to see. It was as he glanced back at the Academy that he thought he caught sight of one of Nabiki's associates hanging around. Now that he thought about it, it was unusual that Nabiki was not present for the fight, since she had been so annoyingly insistent upon attending it. Ranma wondered if Nabiki had changed her mind and thought the fight would have been boring, and had sent the other girl to watch it in her place. That got his blood pumping a little bit. He had sort of wanted to show off again to her who the better fighter was, but now she was feeling so snubbed by Dean Fuyutsuki's choice of representative for the school, that she had not even deigned to show herself. How stuck up.
Dean Fuyutuski looked at his watch again. He had been certain he had copied down the correct time for the challenge. He was about to give Professor Fuji a call, when he saw a couple of people approaching in a near run from the near side of the field.
Ranma noticed them too and looked them over as they approached. The first was a girl whose skin was so dark Ranma thought she might be from India. She was wearing a blue and white dress with a skirt that came down all the way to her calves. A pair of glasses were on her face, and from what he could see of her lower arms and legs, wondered how this could be the girl he was supposed to fight. She was way too skinny, and her muscle tone was a joke. Even the way she ran cried out the girl was no fighter. There was no way she could give him a decent match.
Turning his attention from her, Ranma examined the boy that was walking quickly alongside her. He was wearing a distinguished-looking white uniform with blue pants that appeared even more immaculate than the normal outfit Ranma wore to school. Unlike his female companion, he walked with the grace of one who knew how to fight, and fight well. Ranma found himself wondering if some kind of last minute substitution had taken place and the boy was to be his new opponent. Ranma noted the dark-haired youth lacked any outward sign of a weapon. The only item he seemed to have was what appeared to be a stopwatch he held in his hands.
The boy was still looking at the watch when he paused several feet outside the ring. As he stopped, his finger hit the button. "We're forty-one minutes and seventeen seconds late," he announced to the world, the sound of exasperation in his voice.
The girl next to him said, "Don't worry, Miki. We're not too late."
Ranma was going to ask them what was going on when another girl ran from
the direction the others had come to and towards the combat ring. She
was dressed in a black uniform that was every bit as formal-looking as
the outfit that the boy had worn, and wore red shorts that came down almost
to her knees. A bokken was looped through a strap on the back of a duffel
bag that she had slung over her shoulder. Her form appeared to be somewhat
slender, though it was hard to be certain since the uniform she had on
flared a bit at the top. He could see by the outline of her rather form-fitting
shorts that the muscles on her legs were well developed, although not
too bulky. That, combined with the shorts, accentuated her long legs.
In a way, they reminded him of Kodachi's, save that this girl was several
centimeters taller than her. Ranma figured she had to be his opponent.
He could tell by the way Utena ran that she too was a trained fighter.
There was no wasted motion, and she had a tension to the body
Taking the girl in all at once, he thought the most unusual thing about her was the long mane of pink hair that went almost half-way down her back. The first thing that went through his mind was a thought that this girl might somehow be related to Shampoo. Then he got a good look at the girl's face.
"Whoa," Ranma found himself saying under his breath. She was actually very good-looking, even if the outfit she was wearing did look like it was more suited for a guy than a girl. Still, it did somehow appear appropriate on her, augmenting her already good looks as opposed to detracting from them. It was kind of the same way it worked with Ukyou, though he admitted no one was ever going to mistake the pink-haired girl for a guy. There was no way her chest was bound, and her looks were obviously feminine.
The girl pulled up to a stop right next to the two that had arrived before her. "Well," she gasped. "We were only a half-hour late."
"We were forty-one minutes and seventeen seconds late," Miki corrected. "You were forty-one minutes and forty-eight seconds late."
"Oh? Let me see." The new girl held out her hand towards the watch. Miki handed it to her. She clicked the top of it once, examined it carefully, then clicked again. She gave a sigh. "It looks like it's broken to me."
"WHAT?!" Miki snatched the watch out of her hands and began pressing the button.
The pink-haired girl laughed. "Oh, Miki, I was only teasing. You need to relax." She watched him test the watch a few times before breathing a sigh of relief. Once she was sure he had calmed down, and was not going to hold the joke against her, she turned to look at Ranma. She behaved as though she had been completely unaware of him up until that point, something Ranma took note of. "Oops! Where are my manners?" She turned to her companions, indicating Miki first. "This is Miki Kauru, first year cadet and member of the Ohtori Academy Student Council."
Miki gave a formal bow to Ranma, which he returned in kind. Ranma took note that the boy almost seemed to be evaluating him even as he looked the Imperial Academy cadet over.
"And this is first year cadet, Anthy Himehiya."
The dark-skinned girl bowed before Ranma and said hello. Unlike Miki, she had a placid look to her that lacked the hint of anything other than a gentle smile. Ranma bowed to her.
"And I'm Utena Tenjou." The bow might have been formal, but the smile she gave Ranma was more of a sheepish grin than anything else. It sort of reminded him of the two versions of Ryouga his other selves knew, and he halfway expected her to place her hand behind her head and chuckle at him. The smile though, whereas on Ryouga it looked sort of goofy, on the girl it seemed just right. It gave her an easy-going demeanor that put Ranma at ease. He smiled back and was rewarded with an even greater smile on her part, and he found himself wishing she would keep right on smiling the entire time. Not only that, but he thought he could detect just the faintest hint of some scent in the air that excited him. It sort of resembled the one he could smell around Kodachi, and wondered if Utena wore the same kind of perfume as his aristocratic friend.
It was as he was enjoying both the sight of the girl, and that pleasant odor, that her name finally struck. Utena Tenjou. This was the girl he was going to be fighting. He shook his head free of the warm feelings that had come over him. There would be time after the fight to admire her. Right now she was the opponent he was going to have to beat.
Utena's demeanor was still easy-going. "Sorry about being late. I hope you didn't have to wait long."
"Nah," Ranma said. "It's no big deal."
Ranma noticed the girl's attitude shift slightly. There was a sudden seriousness about her as she said, "Why don't I get changed and then we can start the match?"
"Sounds good." Ranma looked after her as she headed for the girl's locker room. She was more than halfway there when he realized it was more like Utena's posterior he had been staring at than the girl herself. He shook his head free of such thoughts again, grateful Nabiki wasn't around to catch him doing that. Not that it was any of her business who he stared at and what parts of people's anatomy he chose to look upon.
Professor Fuji, the dean of Ohtori Academy, made his way up the bleachers to sit next to Fuyutsuki. "Sorry about how late we were. There was a good bit of road construction on the way over, and we got caught in the rush hour traffic."
Fuyutusuki nearly hit himself in the head for such a glaring oversight. "I should be the one apologizing. I forgot to warn you about that."
"Well, think nothing of it. We're here and the match is about to start. That's all that matters." Fuji pulled out a portable data recorder that was identical to Fuytsuki's own. Fuji gave it a test run to make certain it was working properly. Once he was convinced it was, he settled down and waited for Utena to make her appearance so that the match could start.
The wait was brief as Utena came out of the building and approached the fighting area. She had changed into a very informal-looking white T-shirt and black shorts that were only slightly shorter than the pair that she usually wore with her school outfit. The usual red and black Chinese-style outfit Ranma wore was not exactly formal either, so seeing her in normal attire for this somewhat impromptu match-up relaxed him a bit.
Utena began stretching out, preparing for the fight. Ranma found himself comparing her to Nabiki, remembering how his 'rival' would stretch out in a similar manner right before the two of them sparred. Although what Utena wore was a tad tighter than most of the things Nabiki tended to wear. Once again he was glad she wasn't present to harass him about the way he was sizing up the competition, which was all that he was doing.
As Utena stretched out, she finally took a moment to examine her opponent closely. Before, she had been too nervous at having arrived late to do anything other than feel embarrassed, but now that she had a chance to warm up, she took full advantage of the opportunity to look her opponent over. Ranma was only a few centimeters taller than her, though he had an obvious weight advantage which, if Utena wasn't mistaken, was all muscle. It was hard to tell since the red top and black pants he wore were slightly loose. There was no weapon around him, meaning he was probably a hand-to-hand fighter. That also meant she would have a reach advantage, but would need to avoid him trying to grapple with her. She was willing to wager that he would underestimate her wiry strength, like most of her opponents did. That might give her a trump card to play on him later, though if he was any good, a sudden burst of strength on her part to break out of a hold would only work once.
Utena watched as Ranma began to limber up. He was flexible, that was certain, and he had a face that was pleasing to the eye. Not that she did not know a lot of good-looking guys, but Ranma's was different. There was a lot of confidence there, but not in the manner that the nobles held. Even Miki possessed that haughty look of 'noble superiority', although to a much lesser degree then the others. She supposed it was something they were taught as children.
To Utena's eye, Ranma did not look like that. He displayed a kind of
easy-going confidence that lacked the arrogance the nobles possessed.
Utena wondered if he was sort of like her. At the very least, he
It was her turn to shake her head clear of such thoughts. She had to
mentally prepare herself to beat the hell out of the guy to prove herself,
and her school, superior to his. Now was a time for action, not
Utena finished warming up and moved to the side of the circle opposite Ranma. He stopped stretching out as well and stood, facing Utena. She had her bokken drawn, holding it in her right hand while keeping it pointed to the ground. Ranma was not fooled by the relaxed posture she had. That bokken could come up in a flash and block any attack aimed at her. He had enough familiarity with kendo to recognize that.
The coach moved in-between the two and gave them a brief version of the rules of the fight. Victory was gained by either knockout, submission, when one foe was rendered insensate, or if the coach called a stop to it. After both acknowledged the rules and bowed, he got out of their way and told them to begin.
Ranma brought up both fists and held them before him while Utena held her bokken in front of her, the tip pointed ever so slightly towards the ground. He watched Utena's eyes intently, waiting for her to make the first move. Most of the people he fought, both in his life and that of the duplicates in his mind, always seemed to throw the first punch. However, he was the one that always threw the last one.
Surprisingly, Utena remained where she was, watching Ranma even as he watched her. When it became obvious neither was going to launch any sort of attack right away, they began to move, circling one another as each looked for some sort of opening in their opponent.
They made a complete circle twice before Utena made the first move. She tested Ranma's defenses with a quick double thrust meant to gauge his reaction time. He easily got out of the way of the first one, and the second that followed on the heels of that. It was his turn to counterattack as he lashed out with a fist towards her head. She read the move correctly as a feint and cut to her left, avoiding the kick that was the real attack.
Ranma evaluated her as being superior to Kunou, not that that was going to make a difference in the end. All it meant was that he was going to have to be more cautious. The two traded feints and attacks until Ranma at last saw Utena extend herself too far on a blow aimed for his head. He found himself inside her guard and connected lightly with a fist to her shoulder. There was no chance to follow up the attack as she surprised him by landing a strike to his head with her elbow, then followed up with a reverse thrust kick into his midsection. His reaction was more out of instinct than cognizant thought as he thrust upward with his palm and landed a solid blow to her jaw. A loud crack met his ears as her neck snapped back and teeth slammed together. She backed up, keeping her bokken up and at the ready.
Both opponents looked at each other with new respect. There was not going to be a quick victory to be had on this day.
In their seats in the stands, Fuyutsuki and Fuji looked on. Both opponents were locked in combat, neither one giving quarter as the number of blows began to mount up on both sides.
"This is turning into everything I had hoped it would be," Fuji said as he kept one eye on the fight and one on his readings. Even in his prime, he could never have hoped to match either one of them. His, and the others', creations were nearly perfect.
"Indeed," Fuyutsuki said. He was not quite as excited at the closeness of the fight, having seen both Ranma and Nabiki in action on several occasions. Utena's style was certainly different from either of the other two, but what really had him anxious was to see Ranma victorious over the Tenjou girl. The number one male and female child in the project would be his, at least for a little while. Even he was susceptible to desiring the top children of the project being under his observation, and to a lesser degree, control.
"Your Ranma is turning out to be quite a surprise," Fuji added. "Is the Tendou girl as gifted a fighter?"
"Naturally." Fuyutsuki winced as Ranma took a nasty blow to the kidneys, courtesy of Utena's bokken. His follow up kick to Utena's chest evened it out, though.
"I might want Utena to fight Nabiki sometime. After she beats Ranma, of course."
Fuyutsuki's eyebrows darted up at that. "I wouldn't be so sure of that if I was you."
Fuji brushed off the warning. "Nonsense. You forget, I have the trained eye of a fighter. She's better than him. And unless she slips on a banana peel, she'll come out on top."
"Don't underestimate Saotome," Fuytsuki insisted. "He finds a way to win. Besides, I might not have served in the Security Directorate, but I have a fair eye when it comes to evaluating hand-to-hand. Your girl's good, but Ranma will be the one standing at the end."
"How about a little wager on that? Say, the loser bows out of the competition for the Yurisoko Memorial Competition?" Fuji's eyes fairly gleamed in challenge.
Fuytusuki considered that. The Yurisoko Memorial was a recent monument the Emperor was having erected in honor of those soldiers whose lives had been lost abroad and their bodies never recovered. One school was going to be allowed to present an honor guard at the opening ceremony. The competition for the event was going to be cut-throat, given the prestige of the occasion and that the Emperor himself was going to put in a rare public appearance there. One less competitor would only improve the Imperial Academy's position.
Ranma found himself becoming increasingly excited as the fight progressed. The struggle between them was becoming more intense, and his desire for victory matched the increase in tempo. The girl was coming almost as close to pressing him to the limits as Nabiki did. It quickly became obvious that she had training that far extended past simple kendo. She was well-versed in several forms of hand-to-hand as well, and had incorporated them into a rather unique style of combat. It was no Anything-Goes, but still the style served to challenge him.
Curiously, he was finding himself also becoming aroused the longer he fought with the pink-haired girl. Something similar happened to him when he had fought both Akane and Nabiki, and he wasn't quite sure what to make of it. He knew he had never felt it with any of the guys he had fought. Kunou, Mikado, the Wolf Pack. Nor had it ever happened in either of his counterparts lives. None of them had sent the sort of tingle through his being that was present when he had fought the girls. It wasn't that he enjoyed fighting them, but it was more like a heightened degree of excitement that encouraged him to victory. It was probably something that had to do with them giving him the hardest fights, although Akane was only difficult in the beginning.
A bokken thrust came close to his head and he backed off slightly. Utena was very good. She was also intense, but he thought he saw a smile during several slower moments in the fight. It was not a smile that was cruel, but rather one that seemed to hint that she was enjoying the fight, as though she was having fun at being taken to the limit by him as well. That was an unusually empathic feeling on his part, but any further thoughts on that subject were dismissed as Utena attacked him in a blinding flurry of bokken thrusts that he was forced to temporarily retreat from.
Utena was surprised herself as the first hint of feelings, similar to
those she had when she fought the guys back at Ohtori, started to assert
itself. It was a sort of arousal, she thought, but not one so intense
The fight continued on for several more minutes. They began to sweat and their breathing became more rapid as they continued to attack and defend against one another. Several times each landed a number of blows on their opponent, but neither one was able to capitalize on it as the other would defend themselves too well and find a way to recover. The fight continued on with neither fighter gaining a clear advantage.
Then Ranma thought he saw an opening. It was small, but might make the difference in the fight. The tip of her bokken was pointed away, and, if he moved fast enough, Ranma would have one good shot at her head. He raised his fist back and aimed for Utena's head. The opening in her defense remained as she drew back her bokken and prepared to swing. Like a blur, he brought his fist forward and…
…suddenly found it stopping in mid-motion. He was in shock, trying to figure out who had stopped his arm, but a side glance showed there was nothing there. No hand, foot, or even wire. It was some sort of invisible force that was so powerful he could not even bring his fist one millimeter forward, despite having the full use of his muscles to him.
That stop was the only opening Utena needed. She was on him in a split second as her bokken found its way into his stomach, doubling him over. The force that had prevented his fist from going forward left just as quickly as it came, but he had no chance to recover his bearings as a knee followed the bokken thrust. It found its way into his lowered chin, making stars swim before his eyes. Blindly, he lashed out with a fist, connecting with Utena's shoulder. However, the previous two blows had taken their toll, and there was very little force behind the punch. Utena was not even slowed down as she brought her bokken crashing down onto his back, bringing Ranma to his knees. He tried to get up, but a last blow to the back of his head from the hilt of Utena's weapon knocked Ranma unconscious.
It was over.
Professor Fuji stood up and applauded as Dean Fuyutsuki sat there in shock. Ranma had lost? How had that happened? He had been certain that Ranma was going to win. He had seen the young boy in combat with Nabiki Tendou on a multitude of occasions, yet he had managed to fight Utena for just over five minutes before falling to her. And she had made it look easy too. Now he was going to have to put up with Fuji's cooing about having one of the top two children in the project. And the absolute worst thing about this was going to be the withdrawal from the Yurisoko Memorial Competition. It was a disgrace Fuytusuki would not tolerate. The whole situation was Ranma's fault. The boy was going to be training extra hard in the days to come to make up for what had obviously been a poor performance.
The intensity of Coach Fujinami's scowl would have been enough to scare off even a hungry tiger. How dare Saotome humiliate him that way by falling to the Ohtori girl in less than six minutes. It was a slap in the face to Fujinami and all of his training. He was now out a considerable sum of money and would have to put up with the bragging of his associate at Ohtori for months now. It was all Ranma's fault, and Fujinami was going to make him pay by toughening him up even further. No one stayed soft under the tutelage of Masato Fujinami. No one.
Utena raised her bokken to the sky, victory at last hers. She did not remain that way for long as she came down from her emotional high and began to relax. Fuji applauded from the stands as Anthy and Miki came over to congratulate her. Having a moment, she looked Ranma over. His breathing was regular and he didn't seem too badly pounded on. When she had hit him with the last blow and knocked him out, she had made certain it was neither too hard nor vicious. It was obvious he could not take any more and she would never be excessively violent. Ranma might have seemed to be a nice guy, but even that was no defense against falling to her superior might. No one beat Utena Tenjou. Not even Ranma Saotome.
And Ranma just laid there, slowly breathing face down in the dirt.
To be continued.
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