The Journey is the Destination
Author's Note: Ranma 1/2 is owned by Takahashi Rumiko and they have no connection to this what so ever. These characters are used without their permission and include a plea not to be sued as I have no money.
“I swear Nabiki, I have no idea what she is up to.” grumbled Ranma, her irritation sounding kind of cute with her higher pitched voice. That caused Nabiki to smirk slightly. “Cologne surely has something planned for me, something I know I am not going to like. I don’t want to get trapped by her and I don’t want to end up married to pork bun head.”
“Calm down Ranma. Honestly, you get so worked up sometimes over the smallest things. Do you really think I am going to let you and Akane get screwed over by the Amazons? That I am going to let my sister’s fiancée get dragged off to China to breed a new generation of Amazonian women?” Nabiki raised an eyebrow and stared at him, gauging her reaction.
Ranma sat down on Nabiki’s bed and rested her head in her hands, her face a bit pale. She was shaking slightly and Nabiki could not tell if it was in fear or anger. “No, I do think you are going to let that happen. Not if you can help it.”
“Well, then let me work something out with your mother and Kasumi, since we are the brains in this operation. I do think we should get together and plan this out so we are all on the same page. We may want to be proactive here and maybe go to her first. I’m not sure. You go get everyone together and I’ll get some information from my contacts. Don’t worry your pretty little head.” Nabiki grabbed her phone and started making calls, ignoring Ranma’s growl.
Ranma left Nabiki’s room, closing the door behind her and headed for the dojo. This whole situation was really making her tense and she just needed a release, something physical. Once she walked into the dojo and she looked around, seeing as she was alone, she decided to break some bricks, as the pile in the corner sort of called to her. It was actually a good stress relief though she rarely did something so static. In this case it was just what she needed.
After breaking her third stack of eight bricks, a rather amused voice called out from behind her, “Isn’t that actually what I usually do when I’m upset?”
Ranma turned and smiled at the short haired girl she deeply loved. “Yeah, it is, but I am so frustrated right now I thought I would give it a try.”
Akane smirked at Ranma, her eyes drifting over the piles of rubble that lay around the stack of bricks. “Is it helping?”
Ranma turned and looked at the destroyed masonry then back at the girl she wanted to marry. “No, it’s not.”
With a chuckle, Akane came up and hugged Ranma, her muscular arms enfolding the smaller girl. She leaned down and kissed the girl on the forehead. “I love you. So, what’s wrong? Is it still Cologne that has you so wound up that you’re breaking bricks?”
A slight pink tinge colored Ranma’s cheeks and she looked down, twisting one foot in an unconscious nervous movement, “Yeah.”
Akane let her go and stepped back, appraising her intently, looking her right in the eyes. “Ranma, if you let her control things you are only going to be messed up in the head. You need to make up your mind and do something. Aren’t you the one who is always saying that you shouldn’t let the enemy control the fight, that if you let them do that you are going to lose?”
“Yeah. I know. Nabiki is planning something.”
Akane sighed happily. This was progress. Since this whole thing had begun Ranma had been able to get past a lot of her issues and her irritating belief that she could do everything better than everyone was nice to see gone. “Good. Your plans rarely work out the way you want them to. I have no idea why this plan is working but I… I like how we are getting along and that people are not trying to cram a marriage down our throats all the time. So, if Nabiki is planning this we might actually survive and make it through together.”
This was the last thing the short, red headed martial artist wanted to hear. Ranma pulled one eyelid down and stuck out her tongue.
Akane followed suit and the two girls began giggling, finding it difficult to stay mad at each other. Akane moved back over and hugged the smaller girl. Ranma sighed and relaxed into the embrace, laying her head onto Akane’s shoulder, saying softly, “This is so much better than fighting all the time. Sometimes it’s fun but not all the time.”
“Yeah, it is. I am worried about what the Amazons have in store for us but I also believe in you. You really are the most amazing martial artist ever. If it comes down to an actual fight I am sure that you will win. You are my savior.”
“Thank you.” Ranma blushed, something that had been occurring more and more, not that she minded since it did not really affect her ability to fight. It’s just that it was so different than before. Sure she still felt awkward but this wasn’t as bad as it had been when she had tried to stay a guy all the time.
With a giggle, Akane hugged him tighter and said, “This is so much better than what we had before. I love you Ranma.”
“I love you too Akane.” Her voice was heavy with emotion and she looked up at Akane with heavy lidded eyes.
Akane’s gaze softened and she leaned down to kiss the red head again. This was more than a peck and Ranma’s mouth opened invitingly. Her chest rose, searching for a more intimate touch but all Akane did was hold the girl close, letting one hand drift down the shorter girls back to cup a butt cheek and squeeze. Ranma moaned appreciatively into Akane’s mouth. The kiss broke apart and they looked at each other, with a degree of hunger in their eyes.
“Good.” Akane said hungrily. “Now, we don’t have time for this so let’s cool off and go get Ukyo. I figure your mother can handle making it to the house on her own.”
Ranma nodded, panting slightly, clearly distracted. “Yeah, she’ll be fine.”
When their heads had cleared some, the two girl headed for Ukyo’s restaurant, waking instead of roof hopping in order to keep the illusion they had going about Ranma. Both looked slightly frustrated by this but there really was not a lot either of them could do about it. They were trapped in the lie that Ranma was nothing more than a simple girl and on the modest side. This was one of many flaws in the plan that seemed to becoming more problematic as things went along. It was an aspect of things that Ranma had not realized when the idea had come to her back when this whole thing had started.
Ranma shook her head in order to clear her thoughts, as she could see the okonomiyaki restaurant ahead that was their destination. This plan had gotten far too complex for her to follow any more, with too many people involved and too many twists and turns. It had achieved most of its primary goals and now all that was left on her list of obstacles was to deal with the old ghoul. If they could deal with Cologne and somehow neutralize her, then maybe, just maybe Ranma’s life might begin to return to normal, whatever that actually was.
Walking through the front door and under the half curtain, the two girls smiled happily at Ukyo and Konatsu, who were busy working. Ukyo called out, “Hey there sis, want the usual?”
“Please!” Ranma moved quickly to the seats in front of the grill and sat down. Akane took her time and sat next to her. Konatsu quickly got them plates, utensils, and drinks, setting them all down perfectly and e moved quickly but gracefully through the restaurant.
Ukyo was very quickly fixing the pancakes for Ranma and Akane, working with a skill the was incredibly, deftly working the spatulas to ensure that the food was not burned and evenly cooked. Once the food was tossed casually but accurately onto the plates, she looked at them and asked, “So what’s up?”
“Nabiki wants to have a meeting tonight about the Amazon issue. Everyone is supposed to be there so we can all agree on the plan or something. You know how Nabiki is.” said Akane, as she cut her first bite of the okonomiyaki.
“I guess we will close up early.” said Ukyo,, as she cleaned the grill, making sure it was ready for the next order. “This is a major issue.”
“Yeah it is.” said Ranma, already halfway through her food. “I really want to find a way to deal with this whole thing without having to resort to what I had to do to Saffron.”
At the somewhat haunted look Ranma had, Akane hugged the slight framed girl. “It’ll be okay. I am sure it won’t be that bad. I doubt Cologne would push it that far.”
“I hope not. The old ghoul is really cunning and she knows me. That is a dangerous combination. Of all my opponents she is the best at manipulating me. And on top of that, I’m not even sure if I can take her in a fight, not unless I take it too far.” admitted Ranma, looking down at the last few bites on her plate.
Ukyo snorted derisively, “Please. Save that for people who haven’t fought you. If Saffron was a God or even a godlet like everyone has said, then taking out Cologne should be no issue. If it comes down to a fight, you can take her. You are the best sugar, no doubt in my mind.”
Ranma shrugged. “I guess. She is the Elder in charge of training the warriors for her tribe. I am sure she has tricks I have never even thought of up her sleeves, just waiting to spring them on me. I just hope that Nabiki has a good plan, so we don’t have to fight. It would be pretty.”
“Here’s hoping sugar.” replied Ukyo. “Want another Ranma special?”
The girl blushed again and looked down at the counter a bit embarrassed, “Please. I’m still hungry.”
The others chuckled over this and Ukyo poured the batter.
Meanwhile across the town from where the girls were, Nodoka was walking towards the Tendo Dojo from the bus station. It was a bit of a drive from where she was now living to the Ward. Until Ranma and Akane married she would happily live in the small place she had. Once they were married however, she was sure that there would be little problem with them letting her come stay with them in the Tendo Dojo. She did not want to intrude on the girl’s marital bliss but wanted to help Akane with the house, as she knew the girl was not as skilled with wifely chores as her elder sister. Perhaps Kasumi would be staying as well? There was a lot about the future that was still up in the air. Hopefully, the two could get married and live together happily. That would be for the best.
Despite all her musing, Nodoka was a highly skilled martial artist and thus was prepared for most anything. When Elder Cologne dropped down into the street in front of her from the top of a nearby building, her hands went immediately to the hilt of her blade, her mind clearing and focusing on the threat ahead of her. Her own battle aura raised and her eyes narrowed, aware of the primary threat. The old Amazon woman’s eyes twinkled with mischief as she observed this. “Calm yourself, Mother of Ranma Saotome. It is time we talked. If you resist me, this will not go well for you.”
“You threaten my child and now you threaten me? How am I to take your words?” hissed Nodoka. “If you come at me, Elder Cologne, you will not find me easy prey.”
The wizened woman looked at Nodoka for a moment quietly and nodded slightly, clearly making her mind up about something. “If that is what you wish, then I will face you warrior to warrior rather than matron to matron. I would prefer words but I will meet your blade. Prepare yourself.”
With her thumb, Nodoka edged the blade of her katana forward, her eyes concentrated on Kuh Lon and the older woman’s aura, her body quivering in preparation. The Elder blurred into motion and the sword leapt out of its scabbard, Nodoka pivoting on over foot, the other sweeping behind her as she tried to keep up with the Amazon. The arc was crisp and direct but the sword connected with nothing. Kuh Lon was nowhere in sight anymore.
The staff poked her on the back of the neck and Nodoka slumped to the ground, unconscious. Kuh Lon stood over Nodoka and nodded, a pleased look on her face, “That is perhaps where Ranma truly got his more remarkable skills. Certainly the foolish Panda is not the sole source of the boy’s skills. That was closer than I had expected. You are truly skilled Nodoka Saotome.”
She picked up the unconscious Nodoka, and the honor blade, sliding it back into the sheath. With a grin, the old woman bounded away towards the restaurant, snickering to herself. This was going better than she had thought. Now onto the next phase of her plan. Soon Ranma would be an Amazon and bound firmly to the tribe, with no hope for escape.
Nabiki looked over the whole group sitting comfortably in the living room and frowned. While most everyone was assembled, there was one glaring omission. A cold weight settled in her stomach and she hoped that she was wrong. “Kasumi, do you have any idea where Mrs. Saotome is?”
Kasumi shook her head and said calmly, “I think she was planning on getting here before dinner to help me with cooking. Oh my, perhaps something happened to her?”
“This is not a good. I was counting on her help with this.” Nabiki frowned. This really was not going the way it was supposed to. Nodoka was a very smart woman and was a very good strategist. If she were gone that was not a good thing in the slightest.
Ranma turned from where she was talking with the other girls, only barely catching the mention of her mother. “Is something wrong?”
Nabiki looked over, her eyes guarded as she said, “I don’t know. It’s not like your mother to be late.”
Ranma sort of froze when she heard that. Something inside of her reacted to that on a primal level. She knew, without any doubt, that the Amazon’s had her mother. Sitting up straighter, she was about the say something when her eyes cut over to the garden, sensing something. She snapped to her feet and got into a ready stance, with Akane, Ukyo, and Konatsu leaping to their feet mere moments behind her. The house was ready for war.
Shampoo landed in the garden a moment later, alighting on the grass, standing a distance from the house, no weapons in her hands. She stood there, non-threateningly, hands open. “Airen, Greatgrandmother said tell you that she have mother. If want her back, you will stop foolish lie and come see her. I know you too too sorry over silly trick.”
Ranma growled and took a threatening step towards the lavender haired girl, pure menace radiating from the red head. Shampoo looked a bit shocked at seeing that and then she left, quickly, leaping easily over the wall surrounding the garden, pausing on top of the wall with a worried glance behind her. Ranma watched the girl go and then she screamed in frustration. Akane came up and hugged her comfortingly. “It’s okay. You’ll save her. We have your back when you go and do this.”
Nabiki came outside, looked over the yard, clearly calculating things and then said calmly, “So, are you going to rush off blindly stop this or are you going to stand there and listen to me?”
The look Ranma gave her almost made Nabiki take a step back in fear. This was an angry Ranma, a face she had never seen before, and the air crackled dryly as the girl’s aura burst out around her. She growled out, “I will make them pay.”
Akane bopped her on the top of the head lightly, making the red head blink and turn away from Nabiki. “Dummy. It’s not just you that’s involved in this. We are all here to help. We all care about you and your mother. You either accept that or you have to get past us. What do you want to do?”
Ranma stared at Akane for a long moment that seemed to stretch for a while, then she sighed, the tension leaving her body, her shoulders sagging. “Fine. We can all do this. I won’t rush off like normal and I will actually listen to what someone has to say. What is your plan Nabiki?”
Nabiki’s grin was predatory. This was a nice change of pace and she was going to relish it. Ranma was actually listening to her in one of these situations. Maybe the girl could be taught. There was hope yet. “Well, since there is only three of them and four of you. I am thinking that it should work out fine. If you are facing Cologne one on one, the other three should easily be able to take out Shampoo and Mousse. They won’t have a clue what hit them. Now… here’s what I am thinking…”
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