Chapter Two: A Reason to the Rhyme Edit

The dawn spread itself over Nerima Ward around 5:47 AM. It was a Monday morning, about time for everyone to commute. And as usual, the train was filled to capacity. Amidst a flurry of activity, a single man could be made out in the puzzle of flesh. He stepped away from the boarding area, and squinted from exposure to the western sun. The man was easy to make out as a foreigner, but he also has an alien quality to him. Needless to say, no passenger would stand anywhere near him, if they had the choice. He looked around briefly, before choosing his direction, and then set off, not knowing exactly where his feet would take him.

Perhaps he would find what he was looking for today. Perhaps tomorrow. All he knew was that what he was looking for was in Nerima, and that he had to find it. Then man left the train station, and began his quest down Kinoichi Street.

The light shone in through the upstairs window, and blasted through Nabiki Tendo's eyes. She squinted reflexably, and then slowly opened them. She sat up and pulled the blanket off of her. To her relief, she was in her own bed. Alive. She secretly thanked god and went down stairs into the restaurant.

Kinami, her main okonomiyaki cook had been already awake, she was already dressed in her usual cooking garb, and had already started to heat up the griddle. Nabiki greeted her and fetched herself something to eat before they opened the restaurant.

Opening the refridgerator in the back room, Nabiki pulled out some milk and a box of cereal from the cupboard. She was in a remarkably good mood, and didn't want to jinx it by allowing herself a large meal. As she sat down to eat, she noticed the gash in the side of the table.

The gash was nothing new. In fact, it had been there for close to five years. Nabiki knew she really should buy new furniture, but what for? Expecially if this furniture had nothing else wrong with it. Nabiki let her mind drift as she ran her fingers around the edge of the gash. She knew how it had gotten there, she had been there when it happened. Ukyou had put it there, with her spatula. She also knew why it was put there. She had accompanied Ranma and Akane to Ucchan's one day, to take care of the impending disaster that Ranma and Akane's decision would cause.

Of course, she had accepted a fee for her accompaniment. Nabiki had accompanied them to ensure Akane's safety. It was well known that Ukyou was not a match for Ranma, but they had to ensure that Ranma wouldn't have to be alert for every day of the rest of his life. Nabiki had dug up some dirt, and threatened to use it if push came to shove. It had worked, and since she couldn't strike Akane, she had driven her spatula into the table and walked out. About a week later, Nabiki recieved a letter.

There was no return address, though Nabiki, Akane and Ranma desperately sought her wherabouts. But what was more interesting was the contents of the letter. It was not adressed to Ranma, or even Akane. It was addressed to herself.

Ukyou had left the deed to Ucchan's to Nabiki, knowing full well that she was capable of taking care of the place, and even making it succeed. Which was exactly what it had done. Succeeded.

Ranma died a few months later. A sad event, but Nabiki wasn't about to let it ruin her life. Yes she cared deeply for Ranma, as a sister would a brother, but life goes on. She had to continue. She had made the Okonomiyaki restaurant into a nationwide hangout. There had even been a time when Jackie Chan himself had shown up and eaten at the restaurant during a business trip into the country. Of course, they added other things to the menu, even some western foods. However, the main source of revenue was the Okonomiyaki.

Nabiki chuckled to herself. Ukyou was a great cook, even Nabiki knew that. However, she also knew that she lacked the business sense that had caused the restaurant to thrive as much as it did.

Kinami stepped over and unlocked the door, allowing the regulars entrance. The regulars weren't there.

Nabiki's eyes shot wide, and her stomach did the splits. There, in the doorway a familiar form stood, along with another man whom she didn't recognize. She felt her stomach wrench at the memory of the man. His name was Makaro.

Makaro had made his presence known the previous year, after Ucchan's sudden burst of popularity. He had originally been one of a duo, a partnership with a man named Gendo.

At first glance, they had seemed to be nice people. Nabiki was an excellent judge of character, but for some reason she couldn't pick up anything out of the ordinary with them. She showed them a table and rushed off to help Kinami and the other staff with dinner. When she turned around, she found that much of the restaurant had been emptied, and whoever was left, was leaving at that very moment. Gendo and Makaro stood there smirking at her.

They were very polite at first, introducing themselves as Yakuza. But Nabiki knew with that name came trouble. After a while, they propositioned Nabiki with a deal. She would cater to their meetings and such, and offer her a 'fair' price. However, when they say 'fair' they mean 'free'. Nabiki had refused, knowing full well what they were capable of, but Nabiki also knew what she was capable of.

In the end, they had won. One night they came into the restaurant, and brutally attacked her, leaving her nearly dead. She had spent a week in the hospital, after many visits from Gendo and Makaro, and returned to the restaurant. After that she had no choice but to do as they said.

Then last week she had pulled something. She may not have had the connections of the two Yakuza men, but she pulled up a little bit of attainable information from another Yakuza member, who was a close friend of hers. She found out about Gendo's family.

Gendo's family was wealthy, and even well respected in the community. His father was even the mayor of a town to the west. If the press even got wind that a Mayors son was a Yakuza member, they would have a field day. She waited until Gendo was visiting alone before informing him.

At first mention of this, he threatened to kill her, and her family. But when she informed him that the information was at that moment in the posession of a dozen people, who would gladly contact the press if anything were to happen, Gendo backed down. Since then, neither he or Makaro came by. She had won. It was over. Or so she thought.

"Well, Miss Tendo.", Makaro began.

"What are you doing here?", she demanded, "I went over this last week with Gendo. If you--"

"Mr. Satoni has suffered an.. accident.", he informed her.

"He.. What?", she asked.

Kinami backed away from the door and started towards the back room.

"Where do you think your going?", the other man asked, "You're staying right here miss. This concerns you too."

Makaro nodded and smirked at Nabiki. "Gendo told me of his little chat with you last week. He wanted me to find a way to get around it, so I did."

"You.. Killed him didn't you?"

"Now, Miss Tendo. Do I look like the sort of person who would do that?", he said, looking out of the restaurant towards the limosuine that had been parked out front.

"Come on in.", Makaro said. And a man walked into the door. He was dressed in black, and a mask had covered his face.

"Why am I here?", the man asked.

Nabiki stood back and took the image in. The voice seemed somewhat familair, but she couldn't place it.

"Meet our new friend. He just got here from China. He speaks pretty good Japanese eh?"

"What do you want Makaro? Get to the point."

"My point, Miss Tendo. Is that our previous deal is now Null and Void. If you wish to continue your... meaningless existance, I suggest you do what we say, unless you want us to release our friend here."

"I will not kill a woman.", the man said.

Makaro frowned and looked back at the man, "You'll do what we pay you to!"

The man began to walk towards Makaro, but upon seeing Makaro's jumpy reaction, just chuckled and fell back into place.

"Anyways, our new deal is this. We will allow you enough money to pay your help. We will allow you enough money to pay your bills. But the rest, Miss Tendo. Is ours. Try anything else like you did with Gendo, and I will personally see to it that you are eliminated."

The man with the mask looked to the floor. It had seemed like he had wanted to say something, but for the time being, remained silent.

"And now Miss Tendo, we shall return at closing time. Leaving you enough time to get to your bank and empty it. Consider it a... Price. The price for Gendo's life."

Nabiki gave a cold stare at Makaro as he left, and then, collapsed to the floor.

"Well, that went remarkably well.", Makaro said, after informing the driver of their next location.

"Yes.", the man in the mask said.

"What is wrong with you?", he asked, "You shouldn't be questioning my _PAYING_ authority in front of others!"

The man looked up at him and replied, "I apologize. I am being paid for this, but I knew that woman."

Makaro's eyes shot open. "Why didn't you tell me?"

"You didn't tell me who it was until I had seen her."

"So", Makaro began, "Who was she?"

"I don't talk about my past."

"No, consider it a paid conversation. You've piqued my interest."

"I don't sell conversations. Only services."

"Well", he said, "Your no fun. This had better not be an obstacle, however. If I pay you to kill her, you do it."

"I will not kill a woman."

"If I pay you to, you will, or I'll have the entire Nerima chain of the Yakuza up your ass."

"Threats have no meaning to me."

"They will.."

The man shook his head.

Changing the subject, Makaro spoke up. "So, why don't you take off your mask?"

The man leaned back and replied, "If I were to show you my face, I'd have to kill you."

Makaro started to chuckle, still unsure if it was a joke or not, but upon seeing the stillness of the other man, he knew it wasn't.

Nabiki rushed about the restaurant frantically. Since the incident only minutes earlier, she had thrown up twice, and broke down crying three times before she finally gained control. They would be back tonight. God, that wasn't enough time to think about it. Nabiki was definately brighter than most people. Her crude business sense had left more than one person broke in her day. But she couldn't get her way out of this. More time. She needed more time!

She rushed to the cash register. Already, a few of her regulars started to show up as the Yakuza left, most of them visually worried about Nabiki's behavior. She had pulled out the money from the register and begun to count. Good, same amount as was there last night. Maybe if she could hide a certain amount of money--

No. That wouldn't work. They'd find out, and have her killed. Nabiki cherished her money, but even she knew her life was worth no price. It would take some time to think of something. She considered force. Her father? No. She didn't want him involved. Her sister? No. She wasn't skilled enough. Even Gendo was more skilled than her, and that.. Masked man apparently had done him in easily. Ryoga? Possibly. His strength was unmatched, and his Shi Shi Hokoudan would probably blast that man to kingdom come. But no, that wouldn't work either. Above all else, she did not want her family involved in this. If Ranma were still alive, at least he could gather up the strength to fight them. He beat a _DRAGON_ in combat, the Yakuza would be no match for him.

Nabiki sighed and put the money back in the register, she walked to the window and sighed. The only thing she could do for now, was follow their orders.

Soun opened his eyes. Aparently he had slept in a little longer than usual. He attributed his sleepiness to the disturbing dream he had the night before, and stepped out from his room on the top floor of the Tendo home. The home was empty. Genma and Nodoka had left last month to live with her family. Soun smiled at the memory of his dear friend and wife living with him the past five year, even after Ranma's death.

Thinking about Ranma had immediately reminded him of the dream he had the night before. Ranma had shown up, %100 alive, even if a bit disfigured, and wearing the strangest suit. A chill run up his spine as he remembered. Soun began to step down the stairs of the home when he noticed the picture missing.

The picture he had taken only last year was missing from the wall by the stairs. He looked towards the ground, and noticed that it wasn't there either. It was gone.

He thought for a second, trying to remember if it had been misplaced when he had given the place a cleaning the day before, but promptly remembered that he hadn't even dusted it, let alone take it down to wash the frame. He immediately began to search for it.

He remembered the day the picture was taken. The entire family had gathered together, even Genma's family had posed for it. He remembered the hard time he had positioning everyone together correctly so there would be no problem fitting all of them in. He mentally counted the number of people in his head.

The whole Tendo family was there, as well as the Saotome family. Kasumi, Nabiki, Akane. He smiled at the thought of his three daughters. Kasumi was in her fourth year at Medical School. She had since married Dr. Tofu, which was the main reason he had popped up in Souns memory of the event. Genma and Nodoka were there with Ranko, the child they had after Ranma's death. Nodoka had originally wanted another child long ago, before Ranma had died, but Genma had nothing to do with it. He only wanted one child, and Ranma was it. But after he died, Genma and Nodoka could only find happiness in each other, they're relationship has blossomed after that, and they were like teenaged lovers again, then Ranko showed up.

Ranma's alias before Nodoka knew of his curse had been Ranko, and they had named they're new child that for two reasons. 1. Out of respect for Ranma, and 2. Because of her red hair. It wasn't long after that, the Tendo/Saotome family pact had been reborn. Akane had had a child at the tender age of 19. Even though it was against Soun's wishes, they went ahead and had the child. 'They' being Ryoga and Akane.

Originally, Soun had thought the idea of Ranma's friend marrying his widow was scandalous, and an outrage. But seeing Akane upset nearly 24 hours out of the day was even worse, and he had relucantly agreed to the wedding, under the condition that Akane would keep 'Saotome' in her name, out of respect for Ranma. And thus, Ranma Saotome-Hibiki was born.

Soun since then had grown to love Ryoga as a son. He still felt guilty from time to time for allowing the marriage, but Ryoga had assured him that he felt the same. If Ranma and Akane were a perfect match, then Ryoga was the next best thing. If only Ranma could have had a son before he died.

Again, his mind drifted to the dream he had the prior night, but when he walked into the tea room, his brain went into overtime.

Ranma barely acknowledged Soun's presence, he had his mind on other things. For some reason he had not been tired at all the night prior, and had spent his time trying to remember more about his past, and looking at various pictures around the house. He had remembered most of his life up to the Saffron incident when he noticed it.

The picture had been rested on the wall near the stairs. He had passed it several times in his efforts to remember more by looking around the place, but had never actually noticed until he accidentally knocked it off of the wall. He picked it up, and was about to replace it when he saw them.

Akane was the first he recognized. Then bit by bit, each of the people in the picture began to surface in his memory. Kasumi. Doctor Tofu. Ranma wasn't at all surprised at this. He had expected them to marry, and he silently chuckled at the memory of Dr. Tofu's lightheadedness whenever he was in Kasumi's presence. Next he noticed Nabiki. Although her image in the picture was well presented, he could note a hint of worry in her eyes. Next he came to his father and mother. This was a shock to him, to see them so close to each other, and smiling. Most of his memories of his mother were of hiding and lying. Pretending to be 'Ranko' the cousin of the Tendo family.

Most notably about his parents, was that they were not alone. It seemed that there was another member of the family. One that Ranma could not remember no matter how hard he tried. A little girl. Her hair was red like Ranma's girl form, and did share alot of Ranma's girl-form qualities. Right down to the eye colour. He mentally noted that he would have to visit his sister one day soon, as well as his parents. At least to tell them that he is still alive.

What he noticed next blew his mind. Ryoga, his.. 'aquaintance' from memory, but friend from heart was shown holding the hand of the woman he loved most. The woman he had endured this curse for. He was holding Akane's hand. Not as friends, but as lovers. The image of a small boy sitting on the ground between them seemed to verify his worries. After that point, he had been enraged with pure anger and hatred, but let it die down to simple contemplation afterwards.

"Ranma?", Soun said, stepping towards him.

Ranma temporarily cut himself loose from the trance long enough to greet Soun, but not much else.

"Hello Mr. Tendo."

"Ranma...", he said, placing a hand on his shoulder, "it wasn't a dream."

Ranma scoffed, "I wish it was."

"Ranma, whats the matter?"

Ranma turned and pointed towards the picture laying on the tea room table. The frame had been broken and picture crumpled and if by a fist.

Soun immediately knew what was wrong. "Ranma, I wanted to tell you last night, but..."

"It's not your fault, Mr. Tendo.", he said, depressingly, "I know you just didn't want to hurt me."

"Ranma, you were gone so long, they thought you were dead, as did the rest of us."

"I loved her."

"I know Ranma, we all knew. And it was painfully obvious after you had gotten married--"

"What?", Ranma asked, looking even closer into Soun's surprised face.

"You mean, you don't even remember that?"

"No, of course I don't remember. How long were we married before I disappeared?"

Soun looked sullenly towards the ground. "Five Months."

Ranma took this new information in. He knew he loved her, but he didn't know that they were married. The last thing he could remember was the botched up wedding, which, if memory served him correct, was _SERIOUSLY_ botched up.

"How long after the Saffron incident did we get married?"

Soun looked into Ranma's eyes. Though they were mainly covered by his cowl, he could imagine the pain which was portrayed in their image. "Nearly a year."

Ranma tried desperately to remember what was going on. He would have to question Soun for whatever he was fuzzy on, or didn't remember.

Soun suddenly noted the time. Quarter to Ten. He let an image pass through his mind, and quickly decided it would be best to avert a meeting between Ryoga and Ranma at this point. At least until Soun could have a talk with Ryoga about the events that have transpired. "Ranma, we're going to have to finish this conversation another time. As much as I'd like you to stay around, I think its best you go out and find some things out for yourself, the morning class will be here soon."

"Morning class?", Ranma asked.

"Yes.", Soun winked at him, "This dojo has become a hotspot for aspiring Martial artists!"

Ranma began to protest his leaving, but after Soun began to push him out of the door, he knew it was futile.

Annoyed, he started to speak, "When should I come back?"

Soun looked at the clock and then replied, "About four."

"Gendo Satoni", Daisuke said, dropping a file down in front of Hiroshi.

"What?", he asked.

"Gendo Satoni. The corpse?"

"Oh. Thats his name?"

"Yep, and get this. He's the _SON_ of Mikasagi Satoni."

Hiroshi frowned, "Who is...?"

"You don't follow politics much, do you?", Daisuke replied. "Mikasagi Satoni, as in _MAYOR_ Mikasagi Satoni of Kosaka."

"You mean hes the sone of a mayor?"

"Duh. Apparently junior here was a member of the Nerima Chapter of the Yakuza."

"Have we got any more information on the perp?"

"Not yet. Apparently there's a few rumours floating around underground that there's a new assassin in town, all the way from China."

"Could it have been him?"

"More than likely, I got the file of another of his 'clients' back in Hong Kong. Lets just say the MO is... Similiar."

"So, whats the deal on motive?"

"Well, apparently this guy was big on extortion. A few business owners stepped forward after his death and told the whole story."

"Could it have been one of them?"

"Doubtful. From what I hear, this Chinese guy is expensive, and from the amount of money Gendo was extorting from them.. Well, use your head."

"I see. Do we have anything else on the suspect?"

"Just a file larger than a breadbox. He's got over 40 confirmed killings, and another 15 unconfirmed. This guys MO is strange, but methodical. He kills them three times through. First, he hits them in the heart with a--"

"A bonbourri, then crushes their skulls with a mace, and takes their heads off with a scythe."

Daisuke nodded. "Pretty much."

"Daisuke, maybe its just me, but doesn't this sound familiar. A single man, having two or three weapons at his disposal."

Daisuke shook his head. "It can't be him. He died with Ranma."

"Yes, but isn't it possible that Mousse survived? I mean, When Shampoo came back, spouting that they were both dead, she had no evidence!"

"Look, even he was _WAS_ still alive, he couldn't have done it. Mousse may have been nearsighted and quick to judge, but there's no way in hell he was a killer."

"Well, maybe there was someone else with Mousse's skills. It possible!"

Daisuke paused for a moment. "Your right", he said, "We should check out the immigration department for any Jokusetsuzoku immigrants."

Hiroshi nodded, and began to flip through the file that Daisuke had thrown on his desk. He looked up at his friend and contemplated.

"Do we have a list of the business owners that were being extorted?", he asked.

Daisuke acknowledged him and pulled a sheet of paper from the files on the desk. "Right here", he said, handing it to him.

Hiroshi scanned the sheet quickly, seeing if anything would pop out at him. Fortunately, something did.

"Well, I'll be.", he muttered.

"Whats up?"

Hiroshi didn't even answer, he just turned the paper around and pointed at a name. Daisuke let a grin show on his face as he recited the name.

"Nabiki Tendo."

"Where is the damn bus?*, Ryoga thought. He normally took the bus to get to work, it was part of Akane's master plan.

Since Ryoga had constantly been getting lost, she began to walk with him to certain places, and soon worked out a system. For cross- town destinations, a map would be drawn, and he would use mass transportation to reach it.

For shorter trips, like from the front door to the bus stop, he soon learned, that instead of focusing on the main destination, he would focus on 'baby-steps' as Akane had called them. For instance, His first destination from the front door, would be to follow the walkway to the sidewalk, from the sidewalk, he would walk three streets left of his position, and wait at the bus stop. The bus soon showed up, and he got off at the third stop. From the third stop, he would get off, walk across the street, turn left, walk two streets over, and face his right. That would usually place him at the outside wall of the Tendo Dojo. From that point, he was usually okay, but from time to time he would turn left instead of right and end up missing for days at a time. Before long, Akane stopped getting worried and just waited patiently for him to return home.

Although not completely 'fixed', his sense of direction was getting remarbly better. He had even learned to retrace his steps.

He let his brain wander for a minute when the bus showed up. Again able to process conscious thought, he stepped onto the loading platform, and let the doors close behind him.

Ranma knew he couldn't be seen, and he made sure he wasn't. Since he had left, aparently, Nerima had been nearly devoid of Martial Artists, and he found himself easily escaping the views of everyone he passed by, over, and in some cases, under.

He soon found himself blocks away from the Dojo, and began to think of where his new destination would be. He thought for a moment, and then reluctantly decided the closest place would be the Nekohanten, and set his sights for the restaurant.

Although he hadn't expected anyone he knew to be there, there was still the chance that it was run by someone associated with Shampoo, Mousse or even Cologne.

He passed from rooftop to rooftop on his journey to the Nekohanten. He wasn't hungry, but he needed to see things for himself.

While jumping across a wide street, he had waited for the nearest vehicle to pass by between him and the other end of the street, incidentally, the vehicle had been a bus. He timed his jump correctly and jumped across, landing on the bus and then on the other side of the road, leaving behind nothing but a thump and a small dent.

Ryoga had nearly had a heart attack. Here he was, just sitting on the bus, counting the stops, when the roof _RIGHT_ above him had nearly caved in. Examining the ceiling he noted two foot-shaped dents and began to wonder. It had been a long while since any _GOOD_ Martial artist had come to Nerima, and the ones that were there, he knew personally. Shampoo and Ukyou had left a long time ago, Tarou hadn't been seen in.. God only knows how long, Happosai went to America, but it was doubtful that he weighed enough to make that kind of dent. Ryoga suddenly felt a familiar chill run up his spine, it was only moments later when he released that it was the same as the one he had the night before.

Akane felt the chill run up her spine. She had felt a familiar presence, but dismissed it, so as not to worry her son.

Ranma Saotome-Hibiki was three years old. He would be four in five months, and he was already becoming the elite martial artist that his namesake would have been proud of. Although Akane felt remorseful that she never had the chance to have big Ranma's child, she loved her son with all of her heart.

For a reason unknown to Akane, she had been thinking alot of Ranma over the past two hours since she woke up. She couldn't identify exactly why, but the thoughts were pouring in her head like an endless waterfall. Her memory drifted back to the time she found out Ranma had died. The day Shampoo returned to Nerima and gave the dreadful news that Mousse and Ranma had died protecting her.

Originally Akane was in denial, she waited day after day on the front porch of the dojo, but he still never showed up. It was only after that that she had accepted the fact that he would never come back.

Akane did the only thing she could do. She ignored it. Pretended she had never met Ranma, but that had come with its consequences. After two weeks of her 'ignorance', she was admitted into the hospital, near death because she hadn't eaten anything. She may have been able to forget about Ranma, but she also forgot to eat. Her only support during those times was Shampoo, Nabiki and most notably, Ryoga.

She had found out of Ryoga's 'secret' just before Ranma had died. She was extremely angry at him for weeks afterwards, but after Ranma died, it just didn't matter anymore. Before long, she found herself becoming attached to him.

The courting process was long, and not without its share of problems. She cared for Ranma deeply, and being with Ryoga felt like betrayal to Akane, even if Ranma _WAS_ dead!

But soon, fate had taken its course. She had fallen in love with Ryoga. True, the feelings weren't as strong as they were for Ranma, but there were feelings nonetheless, and before long, Ryoga proposed.

Getting her father to accept the proposal however, was harder. The old man gave in after a while, and they were married. It wasn't long after before she found out she was pregnant.

And thus, Ranma Saotome-Hibiki was born, and much to Akane's relief, there was no trace of the Jusenkyo Curse. It just wouldn't do well to have your first born wander around as a piglet.

She smiled at her son. Even though he was a mere three years of age, he took martial arts seriously, even more seriously than his parents. He seemed to follow after his namesake. Most children his age watched the greatest kids shows, and went to preschool to play with toys, but little Ranma, was a martial artist at heart. In fact, at that very moment, he was practicing his Kata on the balcony.

"Whatcha doing honey?", she asked her son.

"I doing kata!", he excitedly replied.

"Wow", she feigned. "Well, when your done, why don't you come in and have something to eat?"

Little Ranma nodded and jumped into the house. Even for a three year old, his balance and Coordination was impecable. Akane often wondered about it, but soon dismissed it as a gift.

The Nekohanten was still the Nekohanten, much to Ranma's relief. It was still a restaurant, and still open. But the owners, however, were not the originals. From a quick check-in, he had found out that these people had purchased the restaurant from Shampoo and Cologne five years earlier, but refused to tell him any more than that, and shooed him away with the threat of calling the police. Even though Ranma could easily take the police down, he just wasn't in the mood for such a thing. He looked around for a moment, and then decided on a new destination. Ucchan's was three blocks away.

"Ranma Saotome?", the voice asked.

At first, Ranma thought it was his visitor from the previous night, but on closer examination at the source, he changed his mind. The source was an old man. A white beard extended down to his stomach area, and his eyes sparkled with intelligence.

"Who are you?", he asked.

The man walked up to him and replied, "I am Count Nicholas De Cogliostro."

Absolutely positive that he didn't know the man, Ranma began to interrogate him. "That doesn't tell me much." he said.

"Of course.", the man stepped up to Ranma and held out his hand, "We have something in common."

"Oh yeah? Whats that?"

"Your curse."

Ranma's brain worked into overtime, considering the mans statement, he soon broke free of his trance and stared at him.

"So, that doesn't explain how you know my name."

"I have my sources.", the man explained. "I'm surprised it was you actually, from my examination, during your life you were a kind person, if not a little.. Shall we say.. Ill-tempered?"

"What do you mean?"

"Well, I had thought I had narrowed who the new Hellspawn would be to a government assassin. I was in New York for the past few months waiting for him to emerge there, but a few days ago, I felt your presence beginning to manifest. I had to follow it."

"You're not answering my questions!", Ranma was now near-raging.

"I suppose you'd need a better explanation. Above all, you should remember the deal.. Correct?"

"The deal...", Ranma looked towards the ground, "Yes."

"Well, lets just say, long ago, I had made the same deal."

Ranma looked into the man's eyes. He wasn't lying. "Why did this happen to me?"

"You are a hellspawn. A warrior recruited by the likes of Malebolgia."


"You apparently did something during your life that warranted being sent to hell. Upon your arrival, Malebolgia offered you something, in exhange for your services."

"Hell? You're crazy, old man.", Ranma said, turning to leave, "I'm not dead."

"You are dead, Saotome. Even if you don't realize it now, you will.", Cogliostro said, but it was too late, Ranma had already disappeared.

Ranma jumped from rooftop to rooftop, Ucchans was just a little further, and Ranma didn't want to stick around with the old man. Of course he wasn't dead, how would he be here?

But the premise did explain a few things, like how he no longer had his Jusenkyo curse, and how there's a good six years missing from his memory, five of which he had been apparently dead. And also-- No. He stopped himself. He was thinking crazy things, of course hes not dead.

Ranma kept jumping along the rooftops until he reached his new destination. Making sure the place was empty, he went through the doorway.

Nabiki sighed. Two things were bothering her. The first was that, since the few customers that had shown up earlier, barely any had came into the establishment since, and the place was devoid of life. The second was what she was going to do about Makaro. She took a look back outside into the main restaurant, and noticed Kinami sitting in one of the chairs eating some of her own Okonomiyaki. She mentally noted to charge her for the food.

She went back to thinking about what she was going to do before she was interupted by a screech.

Kinami had known the consequences of eating the supplies, even if there were no customers, but she knew she would accept the punishment and pay for the supplies out of her wages. She was hungry, and it was the only thing she could do to take her mind off of the incident earlier.

Kinami cooked herself some okonomiyaki and sat down at a table. She began to scarf it down, wondering how she would help her good friend Nabiki. She had the beginnings of an idea when she saw him.

He had appeared out of nowhere, coming through the door without so much as the sound of a footstep, and he was dressed strangely. Chains all about his body, even a large red cloak and a cowl. She looked to him like a sadistic superhero, when she let her larynx take over.

The woman screamed at him. A response he had expected. However, he had also expected it to be someone he would recognize. It was not, some woman dressed in an okonomiyaki chefs outfit. Ranma shrugged inwardly, he wasn't in the mood for asking questions and began to turn around an leave. He was nearly out the door when he heard it.

"What the hell is-- Oh my god.", the females voice said from the back. Ranma immediately recognized it.

"What the hell do you want? We've got until tonight!", Nabiki yelled at him.

Ranma felt his guts wrench inside of him. Here was someone else from his past someone he recognized. Here was the sister of his love, Nabiki Tendo.

"Nabiki..", he said.

"We've got until tonight!", the voice replied, "And who gives you the right to call me by my first name!"

"Nabiki", Ranma pleaded, "Its me!"

Nabiki began to let her stern expression evolve into something else, but then returned to its former position.

"Who are you?", she asked.

Ranma began to think of what to tell her. 'Hey, its me Ranma, I'm not dead, just had amnesia for the past five years' didn't seem plausible. "I'm a friend.", he replied instead.

"Oh yeah?", Nabiki stepped up to him, "I don't have friends who dress like that."

"You don't even recognize my voice, do you?"

Nabiki thought for a second and replied, "Yeah, it sounds familiar, but that doesn't mean a thing."

"Nabiki. If I tell you who I am, you've got to promise that you'll hear me out."

Nabiki stared up into his eyes. "Fine." she said, still visibly suspicious.

"I'm... I'm Ranma."

Something clicked. Nabiki let the name seep in. The voice, she knew it seemed familiar, but Ranma? She let herself think long and hard over the present situation. A number of possibilities ran through her head. At first she thought was that it was some sort of sick joke, but the posture. The way he talked. It _HAD_ to be Ranma.

"Ranma?", she said, backing away, "H..How?"

Kinami also knew the name. Many nights had passed by when Nabiki would talk of nothing but Ranma and his skills, and his curse. She also made sure to mention how much money she had made off of him.

"I thought Ranma was dead.", she said to Nabiki.

Ranma looked at Kinami. He was sure he didn't recognize her, but asked anyways, "Do I know you?"

Kinami turned towards Ranma and smiled, "No, but Nabiki sure does talk about you alot.", she held out her hand, expecting it to be shook.

Ranma reluctantly held out his gloved hand. They shook and Kinami immediately began to inspect his costume.

"Hey, cool threads!", she said, "I was never really into the goth thing, but I've gotta admit.. Very trendy!"

"Ranma?", Nabiki asked, mouth still gaping wide open.

"Yes, its me", he held out his arms as a friendly gesture.

Nabiki ran into them immediately. She hugged him as hard as she could. Her brother-in-law was back. _HE_ could help her with her problems!

"N..Nabiki?", Ranma asked.

"I can't believe you're alive!", she cried.

"I'm.. uhh.. I'm not going to be much longer if you keep hugging me like that."

Nabiki smiled. Now _THIS_ was the Ranma she remembered. Sense of humour intact, even if his wardrobe was a bit... different.

She backed away from him for a moment and took his image in. "Get tired of the same old clothes?"

"Well", Ranma said, looking himself over, "This isn't exactly by choice."

Nabiki smiled. She didn't know what he meant, but she didn't care either. Ranma was back. The _ONE_ person that could save her from the Yakuza. The _ONE_ person outside of her own family that she cared for like a brother. Nabiki wouldn't let her smile go and even let a tear run down her cheek. Suddenly, her business sense had taken over.

"Ranma", she said, "I've got a problem."

Ranma knew this. He knew this ever since he saw her only a few minutes ago. She was afraid of him, even threatening him. Of all the possibilities in Ranma's mind, he could only narrow it down to one.

"Somethings going to happen tonight.", he said.

Nabiki nodded. "Yakuza.", she said.

Everything began to fall into place. There were still a few things he was unclear on, such as how Nabiki got to own Ucchans, and why they were extorting such a small business, and when they had made they're presence known in Nerima, but he got the main idea. Extortion.

Ranma felt obligated to help, and that was exactly what he planned on doing. "You can count on me.", was all he could say.

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