A Ranma ½ story
by DB Sommer
Any and all C&C is appreciated. You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Disclaimer: Ranma ½ and its characters and settings belong to Rumiko Takahashi, Shogakukan, Kitty, and Viz Video.
The staccato tapping of Kachiko Tendouís fingertips playing across the wood of the dining room table filled the air. She sat lackadaisically, slouching slightly, projecting an air of lassitude that was only contradicted by the half-lidded and highly suspicious stare that was directed towards the two girls seated on the opposite side of the table.
Then all four fingers struck the table at once and remained there, signaling an end to the waiting. A soft whoosh of air was exhaled, and Kachikoís posture straightened slightly.
"So let me get this straight. You somehow got this wish granting ability?" She pointed to Akane. "You wished your mother hadnít been in a car accident which killed her. A noble sentiment, I suppose. However, the result of this wish was that I get plucked out of time and thrown over twenty years into the future, where I get to meet the two of you, who it just so happens are my children, one of whom is older than I am now."
Akane shifted uncomfortably. "Well, itís a bit simplified, but yes, thatís pretty much what happened."
Kasumi nodded her head in agreement.
Kachiko leaned over the table and close to the girls. "Tell me something, donít you think I would be a bit insulted at being told such a stupid lie? I mean, come on, youíve not only got magic, but time travel paradoxes thrown in there as well. What sort of sucker is going to believe that?"
"But itís true!" Kasumi insisted.
"Ha!" Kachiko slammed her hand down on the table, not hard enough to crack it, but with enough force to make it shake. "Oh please, changing some of the furniture around in my house is not going to make me fall for this pathetic lie. Especially since all of the new stuff you used is incredibly tacky. Donít you people believe in bright colors? Youíre as drab as my parents."
"We can prove this is the future, and youíre our mother," Akane said.
"Sure you can. Why, this place is teeming with signs that itís the future," Kachiko said dramatically, rising to her feet and entering the kitchen. She gazed in Ďaweí at her surroundings. "Look at all this futuristic equipment. Ohhh, a microwave. And whatís that? Why itís a stove. Obviously the design must be good, since it looks exactly like the same one thatís been here since before World War II. And is that… could it be… Oh my God! Itís an object that produces cold so that food will last longer. It must be what sci-fi writers call a refrigerator! I am in the future! Oh my!" Her eyes rolled into the back of her head, and she gave a soft cry before sagging to the floor.
"I donít remember Mother being quite this sarcastic," Kasumi quietly confided to Akane.
Kachiko rose back to her feet and returned to the table, staring at the two girls again. "Tell me something — and you can be honest with me — this is all one of Wacky Wakabaís little practical jokes, isnít it?"
The girls looked at one another. Akane asked, "Wacky Wakaba?"
"Oh sure, sheís one of my close friends, as if you didnít know," Kachiko said slyly. "Sheís always pulling practical jokes like this. Did she tell you about the time she tried slipping a bomb in my locker, only I saw her plant it, so I switched the lockers? Boy, you should have seen the look of surprise on her face when she went to get her books and that baby went off. She was out of the hospital in a week. Sheís a tough little thing. And then there was the time we were at the celebration for the baseball team coming in second in the national championship, and she tried to slip me a powerful aphrodisiac. Only our drinks got mixed up and she ended up drinking it instead. Boy, was she surprised the next morning. And sore. She couldnít walk straight for a week. Oh, oh, and best of all, up until now anyway, there was this time that she sent love letters to this locked up stalker serial killer and pretended they were from me, so he would get fixated on me. And then she helped him escape; only he turned on her, so it turned out I had to save her. That girl always knows how to keep me on my toes." Kachiko nearly doubled over in laughter at the memories.
Akane and Kasumi looked at their mother, aghast. Akane blurted out, "What are you talking about? Those arenít practical jokes. Those were murder attempts!"
Kachiko waved her hand dismissively at them. "Sakura says the same thing, and like I keep telling her, donít be silly. Theyíre jokes. Wakaba just has a weird sense of humor. Sheís a buddy. Sheís done lots of favors for me. Why, half the guys I dated in high school were dating her right beforehand. Sometimes only the day before I started going out with them. She mentions it constantly, and donít think for one second I donít consider myself in her debt because of it."
"I… see," Akane admitted.
"So are you two ready to fess up about Wakaba being the mastermind behind this?"
"Not at all. Weíve never even met someone named Wakaba. You really are in the future," Kasumi insisted.
Kachiko rolled her eyes and rose to her feet. "All right, letís see what I can find to prove this isnít the future." She looked around until her eyes settled on the television. Triumphantly, she walked over to it and examined the buttons along the strip on the bottom. "Now weíll see what the television stations of the future are broadcasting."
With the flick of a switch the screen came on and a voice loudly proclaimed, "—Down here at Miharuís Used Cars, we have great deals every day! Low prices mean low interest rates! Come on down right now and weíll even throw in an extra tire for nothing!—"
Kachiko looked at the screen in horror. "You mean they still have used car salesmen in the future?! Have you learned nothing? Next thing youíll tell me is you didnít kill all the lawyers either." She smirked at the girls and changed the channel.
"—day we are proud to present for your viewing pleasure: Akira Kurosawaís Seven Magnificent Samurai.—"
"Of course. Nothing but cutting edge films as well," Kachiko chuckled, and changed it again.
"—and high standing member of the Diet, resigned today over accusations of bribery.—"
"—taxes were raised yet again.—"
"—news today of more unrest in the Mid-East.—"
"Oh yes, itís all so very different now in the future," Kachiko said blandly, leaving the television on.
"But we can prove it to you," Kasumi said. "We have your shrine in the living room."
Kachikoís eyebrows rose slightly. "A shrine? To me? Now this I have to see." She exited the room, only to return a minute later. She held up a photo of an attractive woman somewhere in her late twenties or early thirties, her brown hair done up in a bun. It had been taken outdoors. She stood next to a tree, dressed in a light gray kimono with her hands crossed in front of her. The single shaft of sunlight seemed to be focused solely upon her, giving her an unearthly aura. The corners of her mouth were turned slightly upward, and her eyes spoke of warmth and caring. Holding the picture before the girls, Kachiko pointed to it. "This is supposed to be me?"
Both Akane and Kasumi nodded solemnly at the picture that had rested in its place of reverence for over a decade. Kasumi said, "It was one of your favorites."
Kachiko looked at it again. "BWAHA HA HA HA! Youíre so lame! Like this could ever be me."
"But it is you!" Kasumi insisted.
Barely able to reign in her laughter, Kachiko got out, "Yeah, right. As if Iíd ever pose like this for a photo. Whoever you got to dress up like that didnít know me at all. Wakaba should have known better that to try and pass this ringer off as me."
"What do you mean?" Akane asked.
"I hate kimonos," Kachiko explained. "Theyíre tight and confining. I never wear them voluntarily, and would never let myself be photographed in one. And then thereís this hair in the picture. Aside from the fact it looks completely lame, it just so happens that I hate permed hair."
"But you always wore it that way," Kasumi said.
Kachiko fingered her locks. "Nope, this is the way I like it. Iíd rather be bald than have a perm. This easier to manage and makes me look cute." She considered Kasumi for a moment. "You know, youíd probably look better with shorter hair, like me and Akane, or whatever her real name is. Not that you look bad, just that youíd go from being real cute to real hot. You got kind of a round face, like me, so it would suit you better. Trust me on this." Kachiko returned her attention to the photo. "But all of that is just circumstantial evidence. Whatís really the most damning detail that shows this is a fake is that smile."
"Whatís wrong with Momís… I mean, your smile?" Akane asked.
Kachiko rolled her eyes. "Itís sooo not me. I mean, this woman looks like itís taking an effort to even get her lips pointed upward. Now when I smile, itís something the whole world can see. Watch." She held the photo side-by-side with her head, then gave a huge, toothy grin that nearly took up half her face.
Kasumi said, "You look better with a soft smile."
"You look like a demented hyena," Akane agreed.
Kachiko scowled at the two girls, then held the photo in front of her. "Iím insulted at the insinuation that I could ever look like this. You know what the woman in this picture cries out so hard that it makes my eyes tear? Frumpiness. Sheís an old frump that probably hasnít had a fun day in her whole life. I can easily believe sheís some housewife with three kids. She looks tired, boring, and is right on the verge of lapsing into a coma."
Kasumi was aghast. "How dare you say such things about my mother? Er, Mother." The shock drained out of her as she realized the quandary that was present. She looked helplessly at Akane, who just shrugged her shoulders in response.
Tossing the photo on the table so it landed in front of them, Kachiko said, "You know something? If I was to turn into someone as dull as this, I would prefer being dead. Better that than some living hell as a mindless automaton chained to a boring husband and obnoxious kids for the rest of her dreary existence."
"That was not the way things were! You were happy!" Kasumi cried out.
Akane was shocked at seeing her sisterís emotional outburst. Certainly, Akane was also disturbed at their motherís commentary on what she theorized life had been like, even if this version of Kachiko Tendou hadnít lived through those years, but to see the usually placid Kasumi on the verge of anger was almost as disturbing as the idea that the girl before them was in reality their mother.
Kachiko whistled. "Youíre a good actress. I can almost believe you really think Iím your mother. I—" Her head darted in the direction of the television.
"What—" was all Akane got out before Kachiko made a hushing motion with her hand.
"I heard something." The time lost girl went over to the television and turned it up.
The news reporter continued. "Many gathered in Moscowís Red Square to celebrate the anniversary of the fall of the Soviet Union. Crowds turned out in the hundreds of thousands—"
Visibly disturbed, Kachiko changed the channel.
"—well, Mr. Morisato, this so-called design flaw with the Shinohara OS is as much a media sensation as the so-called Y2K bug that was supposed to cause the end of the world as we knew it. But it looks to me like we made it well past the year two thousand without the collapse of civilization. What you have yet to accept are that labors are the way of the future, and this interface system is the first step towards that future—"
She changed the channel again.
"—since the unexpected cancellation of the popular series back in two thousand and one. People have been writing in and demanding that it return—"
Kachiko turned the television off. She shot the two girls an angry glare. "Exactly how did you manage to override the signal and show those to me?"
Shaking her head, Akane said, "We didnít. Those are really the television programs that are on right now. Youíre in the future."
For a moment, Akane was worried the girl might hit her, then Kachikoís eyes alighted on something that grabbed her complete attention. "Ah ha! An oversight on your part." She walked over to a side table and picked up a folded over newspaper. "Letís check out the date on this little thing." She unfolded the paper and came to the front page. Her eyes scanned over it. A second later, the paper made a crinkling sound as it was wadded into a very small ball and hurled into the garbage can with considerable force.
"Itís easy to make fake newspapers. Iíve seen them before. Itís be a lot easier to make than the television trick."
"Mother," Kasumi said softly.
The way it was stated, in such a firm yet soft manner, reminded Kasumi of the way the woman who had raised her would have issued the command. Instinctively, the rest of what she had been planning to say died on her tongue.
Kachiko walked over to a nearby window and stared out. She began looking at the sights that were afforded by the view. Aloud, she calmly said, "Looks like you got someone to fix up the fence and build a koi pond out back. Thatís nice. I always liked the idea of a pond; less grass for me to cut. I have to hand it to you, this is one elaborate hoax. The Matsui residence looks the same as always. So do the Tanakas. And as for the Morimotos…"
Akane and Kasumi watched as the girlís lips pursed slightly and one of the muscles on the side of her face began twitching. "Okay. Completely changing a house. That can be done, too."
"Now youíre being unrealistic," Akane said.
"So says the girl that claims she got a wish from a genie and brought her dead mother back from the past." Kachiko snorted. "This is ridiculous. Iím out of here."
"Where are you going?" Kasumiís voice was tinged with panic.
"Out where I can find someone to set me straight." There wasnít the faintest hint of doubt in Kachikoís voice. If anything, it sounded tired. She turned sharply on her heel and headed to the front door.
"Do you suppose you could untie us first?" Akane asked.
Pausing, Kachiko looked to where she had tied the girls together, back-to-back. Upon entering the house, and believing the intruders to be thieves, she had managed to grab some rope that had been conveniently lying around and spun it around Akane, whom Kachiko had sensed was the more physically capable of the pair, and immobilized her. It was a simple matter to quickly do the same to the completely untrained Kasumi. Once they were incapacitated, they had revealed their fraudulent tale to her, which eventually led to her losing her temper at the inexplicably elaborate scheme.
"No, I donít think so. Youíre staying here. Once I get to the bottom of this, Iím going to make you two apologize for trying to drive me nuts. See you later." Kachiko headed out of the room and into the hall. A moment later she opened the front door, closed it behind her, and entered the world beyond.
The time-lost girlís footsteps were confident as she hurried in a familiar direction. She knew damn well where she had to go to get to the bottom of matters. Sakura was the one person in the world Kachiko would trust with her life, and more importantly, she had no tolerance for Wakabaís pranks. The idea that she would was as alien as Kachiko giving up martial arts. It would be a simple matter to visit the best friend she ever had and hear from her mouth how this whole thing was an elaborate hoax, and boy would Wakaba pay for going way over the bounds this time. Bombs and aphrodisiacs were one thing; playing with a poor young girlís mind was quite another.
As Kachiko made her way through Nerima, the unsettled feeling that had come into being since watching the fake television programs, grew to ungodly proportions. The neighborhood was not quite right, like the Tanakaís house. While the overall layout to the area was the same, it was in the smaller details where the discrepancies became obvious. Houses werenít quite the way she remembered them. They had different colors or altered exteriors. Cars looked different, as though their basic designs had changed overnight. Everyoneís clothing seems slightly off as well, especially among the teenagers. While there were familiar school uniforms and business suits, many of the more casual styles had been altered almost to the degree where it felt like she was walking through a foreign country. Why, some girls were even wearing clothing that bared their midriffs, and no one even seemed to take notice.
"Maybe it was some sort of post-hypnotic suggestion," Kachiko murmured to herself. Time travel was impossible. Those two girls at her house were not her non-existent daughters. She was a virgin. With one notable exception, virgins didnít have children, and certainly not three grown offspring. It was a stupid joke that Wakaba was really going to be given hell for.
With each block traveled, with each person passed, the uneasy feeling in Kachikoís stomach grew until it felt like she would expel the contents of her stomach over the sidewalk. Panic, an emotion she rarely experienced, ate away at the edges of her controlled demeanor. She wanted to grab the people that passed by and order them to start acting normally, but she fended off such irrational thoughts with the assurance that Sakura could make it all better. Sakura made everything better. She had a way of explaining things that could make complete chaos seem, if not like order, at least understandable.
Not a moment too soon in her opinion, Kachiko arrived at her destination. She stood outside the small walkway to a familiar two-story structure that was on the small side. Sakura lived with her parents, older sister, and her sisterís husband and child. It was terribly crowded, which was one of the reasons Sakura visited the Tendou residence so often; it was the only place where she could get some space of her own. After this little escapade, Kachiko was going to recommend Sakura move in for at least a week until everything felt like normal.
Ten steps up the walk, the same ten steps it had always taken, and Kachiko found herself standing next to the entryway of the house. Finger shaking with uncharacteristic nervousness, she pressed the familiar red button for the doorbell (or was it a different shade of red?) and heard a ringing from inside. Already her spirit started to ease at the well-known sensations.
"Coming," a feminine voice from inside announced. A handful of seconds later, the door opened to reveal an average-looking woman, a bit on the heavy side, in her late thirties, and with a long mane of black hair that appeared slightly frazzled. Automatically she said, "Greetings—" and stopped as her eyes focused on the young woman standing outside on the porch. Her eyes widened and she drew back in horror for a moment as she breathed out, "Kachi…"
Kachikoís mouth went dry. No words could come out, no matter how she tried to force them. Everything she had known, everything she had wanted to believe contrary to the evidence presented to her, was lost in a second and she understood the horrifying truth.
Just as quickly the woman composed herself, drawing up to her full height before bowing. "Iím sorry. Please forgive me. You remind me of someone I knew from a long time ago." She rose from her bow and looked her visitor over more closely. "Tell me, is your last name Tendou?"
Automatically, Kachiko managed to say, "Yes."
A look of profound relief passed over the womanís features. "That explains it. Youíre one of Kachiís daughters, arenít you?"
Despite feeling her world knocked out from under her feet, Kachikoís mind went from being completely dazed to processing information. In a far off voice, her mind managed to form a response using what knowledge it had gathered in the last few hours. "Yes, Akane. Akane Tendou."
The woman bowed again. "Itís an honor to meet you. What brings you here, might I ask?"
Kachiko was still in a daze of sorts. It took a moment to come up with an answer. "You are Sakura Daisho?"
"Itís Ogawa now," Sakura informed her. "Iíve been married for some time. No oneís called me by my maiden name for years."
Years. "You knew Kachiko Tendou well, didnít you?"
A pained look crossed Sakuraís features. She shifted uncomfortably. "Why yes, we were best friends when we went to high school. But we… fell out of touch over the years. I doubt if you were born the last time we saw one another. I read about her death in the paper."
"You know sheís dead?" Kachiko asked, more bile rising to her throat.
Sakura nodded. "It was a tragedy. Even though weíd had a falling out, it still broke my heart." A sniffle escaped the older woman.
The way Sakura, even one whose image was distorted by the years, sniffled caught Kachikoís attention. "You and I… I mean you and my mother had a falling out? But you were best friends."
Sakura gave the younger girl a sad stare. Tears were starting to form in her eyes. "Ah, my dear. Iím afraid youíll discover that even the greatest of friendships can mean nothing when a man becomes involved in the situation."
"Oh." Even Kachikoís tumultuous mind didnít need more information to figure out the reason of why their friendship had fallen apart.
"Events reached their peak late in our senior year. We exchanged harsh words. Your mother had quite the tongue on her. Things degenerated from there until we barely spoke to one another. Then we stopped talking altogether." She dabbed at her eyes with a handkerchief. "I just wished I could have made up with her before she passed on. Itís just, I thought there was always enough time to do it later, so I never got around to it. And now itís too late."
Seeing her friend in such pain served to kick Kachikoís senses back into full working order. Whatever the physical differences between the Sakura of Kachikoís yesterday and the woman before her now became meaningless. Kachiko soothed, "I know for a fact she forgave any disagreements you two had before she died. She… she could never hold anything against someone who was her best friend. Not for long. She… had so few friends. I know she valued your friendship most of all."
Sakura appeared buoyed by the hope. "I… Iím sorry. This has all caught me off-guard. Youíre certain she forgave me?"
"As sure as Iím standing here now," Kachiko assured her.
Sakuraís obvious attempts to stem the flow of tears were to no avail. "Iím sorry. I didnít realize how much this bothered me. But now, when I thought forgiveness would never come…" She began crying some more.
Automatically Kachiko reached forward and hugged Sakura, the years that stood between them melting away. Never had she seen her best friend cry, especially not like this. Such guilt, no matter the cause, pained Kachiko to see, and she did her best to remove it and comfort the woman.
After several minutes, Sakura regained some measure of her composure. "Forgive me for making such a spectacle of myself."
"Ah, donít worry about," Kachiko waved her hand dismissively.
The response surprised Sakura. "You know, you sound exactly like your mother when you do that. She used to wave her hand and gave that same reply to everything she thought was unimportant."
"I, ah, take after her a lot." Kachiko shifted uncomfortably.
A soft gasp escaped Sakuraís lips. "Where are my manners? Forgive me. Iíve been keeping you out here on the porch and crying on you all this time and I still donít know what brought you here."
"My feet," Kachiko joked.
"Oh dear, you seem to have inherited your motherís pitiful sense of humor as well."
"Hey! Iíve got a great sense of humor!"
A high-pitched laugh escaped Sakuraís lips. "She used to say that exact same thing whenever I mentioned that shortcoming." Significantly more cheerful, she said, "Now, what brings you here?"
Kachiko shifted uncomfortably. She wanted to run, but needed to stay. Not just to be in the presence of someone familiar, but because she needed to know everything that had happened during her absent years. It would be only one piece of the puzzle, but a vital one. "Sak… I mean, Mrs. Ogawa. Could you tell me about my mother?"
The question made Sakura nod. "Now I understand."
That caught Kachiko off guard. "You do? How?"
The older woman smiled serenely. "She died when you were very young, and you want to know more about her, donít you?"
Not one to pass up such an obvious opportunity, Kachiko said, "Yes. Thatís it. Definitely. Iíd like to know everything about her. Oh, just one thing. Do you remember her disappearing for a brief while back in the summer when she was seventeen?"
Sakura paused in thought. "Not that I can remember, and that was long before we started having problems. We saw each other practically ever day. Why do you ask?"
Thinking fast enough that it surprised even her, Kachiko explained, "Someone said she might have taken a trip during that time, but I guess they were wrong."
Not completely certain what to make of the that, Sakura simply replied, "Why donít we go inside? Itíll be more comfortable and I can serve us some tea."
"Iíll take mine with some lemon and a hit of sake."
A haunted expression passed ever so quickly across Sakuraís features. Then the soft smile returned and she laughed. "Forgive me, but you are exactly like your mother. She wouldnít willingly drink it any other way either."
Sakura ushered Kachiko inside. As they entered surroundings that were familiar yet strangely alien to the younger girl, an errant thought occurred to Kachiko. "What happened to the guy you two fought over?"
"I married him, so it wasnít all for nothing," Sakura admitted, blushing heavily.
Intrigued at the sort of man who could come between two such close friends — and at how he could have possibly picked Sakura over someone as vibrant and vivacious as Kachiko herself — the younger girl asked, "Is he around?"
"No, heís at work. But I have pictures of him. Hereís one. You can see him for yourself." Sakura picked up a framed photograph that had been sitting on a stand next to the kitchen.
Kachiko took one look at it and recoiled. "You two actually fought over him?"
"Yes," Sakura sighed, holding the photo to her bosom.
"Thanks for doing me a favor and winning," Kachiko murmured in disbelief.
"What was that?" Sakura asked.
"I can tell by the picture he has a nice personality," Kachiko blurted out. "Why donít we go back to the topic of my mother?"
"Of course." The older woman took one last longing gaze at the photo before setting it down and moving to a couch so the duo could speak.
Within moments they were talking like old friends, a fact Sakura found oddly comforting, despite the awkwardness of the situation. They remained in conversation until well after the sun disappeared below the horizon.
Nabiki looked at her two sisters and, for once, didnít know what to make of the situation. "Youíre absolutely certain this woman was our mother? It wasnít some impostor or evil duplicate from a mirror, or an animate statue that looks like her, or some spirit possessing her body?"
Akane snapped, "Itís not like I had any time to take a DNA test or something! I made the wish, and she jumped us almost as soon as she came in."
Kasumi shrugged. "Iím uncertain too. I know sheís young, but I canít see Mother being so hostile to strangers in her house. And she moved so fast that even Akane couldnít do anything before she was tied up. Mother didnít know any martial arts. Only Father did."
"Unless she stopped practicing after she got pregnant or something. The dojo is actually from her side of the family, and she was an only child," Nabiki pointed out. "How about looking up some old photos of her and see if they match?"
Kasumi placed her finger to her chin in thought. "Actually, now that I think about it, I donít recall seeing any pictures of mother when she was young. The only ones I can remember are from after she and Father were married."
"Thatís odd," Akane said.
"Yes. Now that I think about it, youíre right. I wonder why that is." Nabiki began to ponder the dilemma, then realized there were important matters at hand. "But why did she come back so young?"
"I didnít wish for that," Akane assured her. "I only wished she hadnít died in a car accident and was here with us today."
"What precisely did you wish for? I mean the exact phrasing?" Nabiki asked.
Hand to her temple in thought, Akane reluctantly admitted, "Iím not so sure I remember the exact wording. A lotís happened since then, and I was in a hurry. I did word it carefully though, so she didnít end up dying later on from something else. Iím pretty sure I said I wished she hadnít been in a car accident and was alive today and with us."
"That sounds about right." Kasumi continued wringing her hands in concern.
Nabiki held up her own hands in surrender. "Maybe Daddy can shed some light on it. Right now what I want to know is where she is. Where would she go?"
"How should I know?" Akane snapped.
Nabiki said, "You wished for her back. Maybe thereís some sort of link between you."
"There is. Sheís my mother, and Iím her daughter. Itís the same link you have."
Kasumi made her way between the two and spoke in soothing tones. "Now, everyone needs to settle down." Kasumi forced her own worries under control for the sake of her sisters. Her words had the desired effect as both Nabiki and Akane cooled off.
Nabiki was about to say something else when the sound of the front door opening reached their ears. Not hearing anyone announce their arrival, all three girls remained in the living room waiting for the visitor to approach them. The sound of footsteps informed them they would not have to wait long.
Within seconds, Nabiki laid her eyes upon her Ďmotherí for the first time in over ten years. Despite the difference between memory and the girl standing before her, the resemblance between Kachiko and her daughters, especially Akane, was too striking to miss. Despite the usual control she had over her emotions, Nabiki felt a sort of happiness slip through as she said, "Hello, Mother."
Kachiko let out a tired sigh. "You must be the middle one Akane and Kasumi were telling me about. Nakiki."
"Nabiki, actually," she corrected.
"Whatever. Someone else must have picked that stupid name." Kachiko plopped down and sat cross-legged on the floor, staring off into space.
Akane and Kasumi approached her hopefully. Akane was the first to speak. "Um, I donít mean to be nosy, but where did you go?"
Staying in her seated position, Kachiko said in a quiet voice, "To see a friend. Now I know you guys were telling the truth. I really am over twenty years in the future. Somehow your wish pulled me out from my present and to here." She closed her eyes and seemed to tremble slightly. "Do you know what this means?"
Akane laid a reassuring hand on her shoulder. "Yes. Youíre trapped in a time and place not of your own making. Everything you knew is changed or disappeared altogether. Everyone you knew has gone on without you, and youíre just a memory to them. In a lot of ways, itís like youíre alone. The entire world you grew up on is gone for good. I know itís terribly frightening, but I promise you weíll be with you every step of the way and help do whatever it takes to put you at ease."
Softly, still with her eyes closed and trembling, Kachiko said, "Who cares about all that?"
"What?" Akane said.
Suddenly Kachiko shot to her feet, knocking Akane over. Pumping her fist to the sky, the time-lost girl shouted, "Donít you get it?! I cheated death! BWHAHA HA HA!"
The trio of girls cringed and drew back.
A cold aura of power glowed around Kachiko. In delirious glee she shouted, "I have a second chance at everything! I mean, getting cut down while I was still relatively in the prime of my life? Talk about being cheated. And to have it happen to someone as nice, cute, and intelligent as me? I tell you, when something like that happens, it makes you think there isnít such a thing as justice in this world. And then there was how pitiful my life was before I died. Sakura told me some of the stupid things I did after I ended up in a car accident and damaged my leg so badly I could barely perform martial arts anymore. I canít believe I let my parents convince me since I was shot as a martial artist I needed to give up the art, settle down, and marry young so someone could carry on the dojo. And having several children before I was twenty-five? Why, itís like I was given a death sentence before I was dead."
"Excuse me, but we are those children, you know!" Akane shouted. Nabiki was scowling at the raving woman as well, while Kasumi looked truly disturbed at her motherís declarations.
Kachiko didnít hear a word. She yelled to the sky, "This time, Iím really going to do things right! None of this marrying young, having kids, or crossing streets! Iím going to have fun, fun, fun until I keel over from exhaustion, and then Iím really going to cut loose! And it begins now!"
Without giving the astonished girls a second glance, Kachiko headed directly for the refrigerator and began rummaging through it. Within seconds she pulled out a large bottle of sake and removed the top.
Kasumi waved her hands and tried getting her motherís attention. "Excuse me, but thatís father and Mr. Saotomeís sake. I donít think itís really proper to…"
Placing the bottle to her lips, Kachiko tilted her head back and proceeded to drink. The bottle never left her lips as she guzzled the liquid down in loud gulps that filled the otherwise shocked silent room. The alcohol was gone as quickly as if it had been poured down a drain.
"Ah! Now thatís the way to start things off!" Kachiko tossed the bottle against a wall, shattering the glass container and creating a small collection of shards in that area of the room.
"Iíll clean that up," Kasumi said in a daze as she left the room to grab a broom and dustpan.
"Whatís all this racket?" A new voice, carrying an authoritative tone, demanded from the doorway leading to the living room. Everyone turned to see Soun Tendou looking crossly upon the scene. His anger was short-lived as his eyes fell upon a young woman again for the first time. He blinked once for Disbelief. A second time for Denial. A third for Acceptance.
He was across the room in a flash, embracing the impossible dream. "Oh, my love, Iíve missed you so much!" he wept.
So consumed was his mind in being given his heartís deepest desire, that it failed to notice the girl stiffen under his grasp. Lost in turmoil, it failed to register the tightening of muscles in response to his familiar grip. And though his mind was preoccupied, his body still responded to the savage uppercut dealt to it by flying up into the air like a missile, through the second floor, through the roof, and across a distance well out of sight of the residents of the house.
"What the hell was that?!" Kachiko huffed out, her fist still coiled and prepared to lash out at anything else that might try to jump her.
In a tired voice, Nabiki said, "That, was your husband and father of your children: Soun Tendou."
Kachiko stomped her foot in anger and pointed up to the hole in the ceiling. "Donít be stupid! Thereís no way Iíd ever marry an old fossil like that! And heís a pervert, too! He ran right in here and groped me! I feel like I need a bath! Ewwww!"
Patience wearing thin, Nabiki said, "He was somewhat younger when you were married, and since heís your husband, heís done a lot of more intimate things with you — myself, Kasumi, and Akane being proof positive of that."
"The hell he has!" Kachiko raged. "Iím as virgin as pristine snow, and intend to remain that way until I find the right guy. If that geriatric lech even looks at me funny, Iíll rip off his !#$%ing balls and feed them to the fish out in back."
Finished cleaning up the broken glass, Kasumi looked worriedly at her mother. "Oh dear. Does this mean I should look up the number of a marriage counselor for you and Father?"
Kachiko ominously intoned, "It means youíd better look up the number of a morgue if he tries to lay one more perverted finger on me again."
"Whatís all this racket about?" A different voice asked from the doorway where Soun had entered only minutes before.
Kachiko was about to bellow out a general condemnation about clobbering the next pervert that dared to enter the room when her eyes alighted on the speaker and the words floated out of her mind and into the void beyond.
Upon hearing the shouting, Ranma had entered the room fully expecting the typical scene of carnage and confusion. Instead he found himself looking at Akane, who had mysteriously gained narrower hips. It took him a second to look more closely at the face and realize, "Hey, you arenít Akane."
Kachiko sauntered forward. "Damn straight Iím not. My name is Kachiko, but I insist you call me Kachi." She stood next to Ranma and looked deeply into his eyes. "And whatís your name?"
Confronted with someone who looked so much Akane, but was looking at him in a way Akane definitely did not, confused him enough that he stumbled over his words as he spoke. "Iím, ah, Ranma Saotome."
"And what brings you here?" Kachiko asked. "Besides your feet," she added.
"I, ah, live here…?" It was almost said as a question.
Kachiko all but purred, "Well, well, well. It looks like thereís hope for the future yet."
Collecting some of his senses, Ranma got out, "Whatís that supposed to me— umph!" The rest of his words were smothered as Kachikoís lips pressed against his. Ranmaís eyes widened in shock at the move. Kasumi covered her mouth in surprise while Nabiki merely shook her head.
Akane had the most profound response as she shouted, "Ranma! How dare you kiss my mother like that!"
Ranma darted his lips away from Kachikoís and gestured wildly with his hands while shouting, "I did not kiss her! She kissed m… Did you say sheís your mother?"
"Actually, I didnít kiss anyone. I jusí lost my balance since the roomís spinning so much," Kachiko explained as she slid down Ranma and all but pooled onto the floor at his feet. "I feel dizzy and nauseous. I think Iím suffering from the side effects of time travel."
"Youíre suffering from the side effects of pounding down a whole bottle of sake," Nabiki stated coolly.
Kachiko snorted, "Ha! Iíll have you know Iíve drank entire bottles of sake before and been perfectly fine. Observe." The young girl rose effortlessly to her feet and stood as rigidly as a tree. Nabiki walked over and tapped a single finger against her motherís chest. Kachiko proceeded to fall over and land with a thud, just like a tree that had been chopped down.
"Didnít drink any of them all at once, did you?" she said to the girl on the floor.
"A minor detail that escaped my notish," Kachiko slurred. "Ranma, help me to my bed, would you?"
Seeing what terrible shape the girl was in, Ranma did as he was requested by picking her up in his arms. "Um, which bed are you sleeping in?"
"Yours will do," she said groggily.
"And where do I sleep?"
"Donít be shilly. Itís your bed. Youíll be sleeping in it too,"
"Sheíll be sleeping in my room," Akane said in no uncertain terms. "Iím responsible for her being here, so itís the least I can do until we get things sorted out."
In a completely bewildered voice, Ranma asked, "Um, exactly what is going on here?" as the girl in his arms began singing, "Iím not very dead; Iím just very happy," extremely off key.
Akane shook her head at the scene. "First, we put her to bed, then weíll get to the explanations. Itís going to be a long and confusing one this time, even for around here."
Ranma groaned in surrender.
To be continued.
Authorís notes: Well, got this one finished. This was a transition chapter, and subsequently I wasnít able to get into the flow I really wanted to with it. But it was necessary since I had to get some groundwork put down and the way paved for future chapters. Hopefully, the next chapter will be more in line with the more humorous style of storytelling I really want to go for in this series as Kachi begins her first steps in actually interacting with the fun-loving lot of people around her, and we get to see their reaction to her.
Special thanks to lots of people too numerous to name.
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