Chapter Three: Anatidaephobia Edit
The knock came quickly, but not totally unexpected. Nabiki turned to Ranma and nodded. Getting the idea, he dissappeared into the back room, and out of a window. Sensing it now safe, Nabiki answered the door.
Standing at the door were two faces who she did not expect to see for a very long time. Her face lit up with a smile. "Hiroshi. Daisuke. To what do I owe this pleasure?", she asked.
Hiroshi smiled and stepped into the restaurant. "Hello Nabiki. Long time, no see."
Daisuke followed his friends lead. "We're actually here on business, not pleasure."
Nabiki felt suspicious, but never let her smile diminish. "You're joking right? With you two, its always pleasure. What kind of business?"
"Well, theres been a murder last night. And we thought that you may know something about it.", Hiroshi said, straight out.
"Let me guess", Nabiki put her finger up, "Gendo Satoni?"
Hiroshi nodded, unsurprised.
Nabiki shrugged. "I was informed about it this morning."
"Makaro Sobaku? As in..."
"Yeah, his partner in crime.", Nabiki said, "But I had nothing to do with the murder."
"Of course not Nabiki. What do you take us for?"
"You really want me to answer that?", she said with a wink.
"So this Makaro Sobaku would probably be our first suspect. Nabiki, if it came to court, would you testify?"
Nabiki thought for a second. "Whats in it for me?", she said, knowing full well that with Ranma around, Makaro would most definately go to jail, or even worse.
"You never change, do you?", Daisuke smiled.
She thought for a moment. "Nope."
Ranma jumped along the rooftops of the main commercial district. He remembered many of the places below as old haunts, and other places he had just passed by without giving so much as a second glance. There were a few new establishments below, mostly coffee shops or arcades. He imagined the local businessmen would come to this area for their lunch break.
After jumping along the rooftops for a short while, he finally came to a rest. Making sure not to be seen, he found himself a good viewing point atop one of the many Coffee shops in the Commercial district. It was then that he felt a familiar, yet annoying presence.
Tatewaki Kuno stopped dead in his tracks. Since his Kenpo training had begun a few years earlier, his senses had become more fine-tuned. He could now jump with amazing accuracy, and had started to rely more on his fists than his trademark Bokken, but even still, Kendo was a big part of his life. 'The Law of the Fist', however, was taking over.
His senses had told him someone was watching him. Usually he would ignore such senses, as he recieved them often, but he also felt a dark presence as well. He looked towards the source.
Ranma's eyes went wide with surprise. He spotted Kuno only moments earlier, and began to watch him with curiousity to see what he'd been up to in Ranma's absence. But what he did not expect was for Kuno to freeze dead in his tracks, and shift his position to look directly at Ranma. No looking around, just from point A, to point B.
What surprised him even more, that even in his business suit, he had managed to jump up onto the roof of the building he was spying from, and go into a _KENPO_ defensive stance.
"And who might you be, to gaze upon one such as I?", he asked.
Ranma, mind still reeling at Kuno's newfound abilities, hazily answered. "R..Ranma Saotome."
Kuno's eyes went wide. He seemed shocked to hear the name, which was expected. What he did not expect however, was Kuno's reply.
"One such as you has no right to use the name of one so honorable as Ranma Saotome!"
Ranma's mind went blank. *Honorable?*, he thought, *This _CANT_ be Kuno!*
"Alas, it is with great honor that he died a warriors death, he and the brave soul Mousse, protecting the fair Shampoo from the likes of the evil Sorcerer, Kenoru."
- Kenoru? Who the hell is that?*, he thought.
"Listen, Kuno. It is Ranma."
"Silence knave! For the honor of all that loved him, I shall avenge in his permenant absence!"
And with that, Kuno attacked. He started with a quick crescent kick, followed by a barrage of various fist techniques.
Ranma, still confused as ever, managed to block the attacks with ease. Moment later, without so much as a punch being issued from Ranma, Kuno fell unconscious.
Now Ranma was _REALLY_ confused. He hadn't punched Kuno at all, not even tried to counter his attacks, but here he was, lying unconscious, with a bump to the back of his head. Looking around, he noticed no other persons nearby, and proceded to try and wake Kuno up. He had questions to ask. He was busily shaking the unconscious body of Kuno. Of a different Kuno than he had known long ago when a voice interupted.
"Hey!", it yelled, "Who the hell is up there? You'd better move on before I call the police!"
Ranma growled at the thought, he decided with Kuno's newfound skills, he could easily move to the ground after he woke up. No doubt he would be angry that Ranma had left, but that was to be expected. He needed to find out more. Ranma began moving along the rooftops once more.
"Here", Makaro offered a plate of food to the masked man.
"I am not hungry", he replied.
Makaro shrugged and stuffed the noodles into his mouth by means of chopstick, he busily continued to finish the plate off.
"When will we return to Uc--... To the restaurant?", he asked.
"In time, friend", was the reply, "We've got to give her time to go to the bank."
"Why do you not just accompany her to the bank and withdraw the money? It would save you the money of my accompaniment."
"Oh, but I enjoy your company. And we just don't work like that."
The man nodded. "I don't deal with your kind often, I usually work for individuals. Not organizations."
"Well, I'm surprised. The Yakuza could make you a rich man with your talents. I'm surprised you're not rich already."
"I have no need for money."
"But you charge a bundle. Just what do you do with the money anyways?"
"That is not your concern. Your concern is lies only on whether or not I have completed the task."
Makaro shrugged as he downed more noodles. "Fine, if you want to be like that."
The masked man mentally stroked the scar riddling the side of his face as he focused his vision to lie on the man in front of him. Since they had first met, he had immediately disliked him. He disliked all of his kind, even the individual clients. He even disliked himself, but he was not a man anymore, not a man of honor. Not even half a man. He had lost that five years earlier.
The clock hit twelve-thirty and Ryoga clapped his hands. The class in the dojo before him immediately stopped sparring and bowed in Ryoga's direction. He nodded, and let them all leave. He turned around to look at Soun, who had apparently stepped outside a few moments earlier to sit and stare at the Koi pond. He joined him outside.
"Brings back memories, doesn't it?", he asked.
Soun nodded, aparently dazed by the view. Ryoga knew something had been bothering Soun all morning, but had never worked up the courage to ask. He decided it was best to get him speaking, before asking.
"You remember when Ranma and I would fight, and it would always end up with one, or both of us ending up in the koi pond? If it was me, then Akane would come out and knock Ranma in for picking on 'P-Chan'." Ryoga chuckled at the memory. Still recieving no response from Soun. He was about to try again when Soun began to speak.
"Ryoga, my boy.", he began, not making eye contact. "You know I respect the decision you and Akane made to get married and have children, right?"
Not quite getting the idea, Ryoga nodded. "Yep."
Soun sighed and began to tremble. "I believe the decision may have been a bit premature."
Ryoga, truly confused could reply with the only thing he could think of. "What?"
"Ryoga, last night I had a visitor."
He nodded. "Someone we haven't seen in a very long time."
Ryoga tried to search the back of his mind. He finally came up with a name. "No. Not.. Happosai?"
Soun almost laughed as he shook his head. "Ryoga. It was.. Ranma."
"Couldn't of been. He was asleep all night, and if he had gotten out of his crib, then--"
"Not that Ranma."
Ryoga looked confused for a split second before the realization hit him. "R.. Ranma? You mean.. _THE_ Ranma? Ranma who died five years ago Ranma?"
Ryoga brain clicked into full overtime.
"Here it is", Daisuke motioned towards Hiroshi. "Makaro Sobaku. Petty theft, Extortion, assault, accused of rape, but the witness never showed up at the trial."
"So, this could be the guy then?", Hiroshi asked, hopefully.
"If it is, the guy doesn't cover his tracks well. I wonder if he's got an alibi."
"More than likely. These types usually do."
"Not surprising though. Should we bring him in?"
"Well, all we've got so far is a suspicion. If this was Gendo's partner, then there may be the friendship factor. I think we should question him before we bring him in."
Daisuke nodded his agreement and began to look up for more information on Makaro.
Kuno blinked his eyes momentarily at the sun staring down at him. He had aparently been unconscious for only a few minutes, at the sun was not much farther east than it had been when he had fought with the unknown man.
He sat and and rubbed the back of his head. He silently cursed the man for using such cowardly methods then as to take him hand to hand. After he stood up he looked around, to try and get his bearings. He had been knocked to the ground and dirtied his business suit. It looks like he would have to take the rest of the day off. His employees would more than likely understand, and his sister could cover his responsibilities until the next day.
He stood and thought for a few moments about his oppenent. He had said his name was Ranma Saotome. Kuno sincerly doubted that it was his real name, as Ranma had died five years earlier, but the actual reality of the matter, was that the fighting styles were very similiar. Maybe a few differences, but quite similiar. He even seemed to be better than the real Ranma, which was rather a contradiction in itself. To his knowledge, nobody had honorably bested Ranma in combat, not even himself. And even with his newfound skills, he probably still wouldn't be able to do it. Granted he would give him a run for his money, but in the end, Ranma would eventually win. He always did.
But why use Ranma's name? What would it gain him? He remembered the day he had learned of his death. To that point, Kuno had despised Ranma to a point that had clouded his mind with false truths. Like that Ranma Saotome was a sorcerer who had stolen the heart of Akane Tendo and the Pig-Tailed girl from him. After they had gotten married, and he had seen to happiness of Akane, he accepted they're marriage and focused on winning the heart of the pig-tailed girl. It was only after Ranma had died when he learned the truth. The truth that Ranma and the Pig-Tailed girl were one in the same.
The evidence had been so clear, since the second time he and Ranma had fought. They had jumped from a third story window and landed in the school's swimming pool. And suddenly, Ranma had disappeared, replacing himself with the innocent Pig-tailed girl.
Since that time, too many similiar instances had occured. When they traveled to China to rescue Akane from the clutches of Kirin, Master of the Seven Lucky Gods School of Martial arts. Ranma had accompanied them, but suddenly disappeared, leaving the pig-tailed girl in his wake. To the time they had been stranded on a deserted isle, and the Pig-Tailed girl disappeared to leave Ranma in her Absence. It had been clear in Tatewaki's suspicions for some time, but had never manifested itself in his conscious memory. After his death, it had.
Since that time he had done nothing but think of Ranma's fate. He had not been a sorcerer at all during the time he had known him. Not a practitioner of Black magic as he had originally thought. In fact, after thinking long anough about it, he saw Ranma as a very honorable man, who died an honorable death. It was himself that had been dishonorable, constantly pursuing that which he could not have. Akane Tendo and the Pig-Tailed girl.
Since that time, Kuno had allowed himself to be taught the art that Ranma had followed so honorably. Learning from Ranma's father, as well as the friend of Ranma. Ryoga Hibiki.
Ryoga and Genma had been hesitent to teach Tatewaki at first, but soon agreed after seeing the money he was willing to pay. He religiously followed his training, even agreeing to go on several training trips with Genma, Ryoga or sometimes both. However, after being lost in China for several weeks, he decided it would be best for him to lead the training trips when with Ryoga.
His friendship grew with Ryoga, and he felt proud of the fact that he was considered the Godfather of little Ranma, the son of Ryoga and Akane.
Kuno looked at his watch and he jumped down from the roof, surprising several bystanders, and walked off towards his home.
Five Hours Later...
Ranma leaped from rooftop to rooftop, backtracking his steps towards Ucchans, casually passing over the area where he and Kuno had the earlier confrontation.
The rest of the day after that had been mainly uneventful. He had gone to Furinkan to discover that Ms. Hinako was still teaching there, and she was still as she had always been. He had the pleasure of sapping two young martial artist of they're battle abilities before continuing his survey. Aparently, principal Kuno was no longer there, having heard talking from several senior students that they were thankful he left for hawaii three years earlier, he smiled. Also, aparently the legacy of himself, Kuno, Ukyo and Akane were still rampant among the students. He smiled at that thought as he continued his way.
The rest of the day held no more interest, and he decided it would be best to help Nabiki at Ucchans. He still wondered where Ukyo was, and told himself to ask Nabiki after the situation today was taken care of.
Ranma swung into Ucchans moments later.
"Are we ready?", he asked.
Soun paced back and forth. It was 5:30, and Ryoga had left a few hours earlier, looking rather phased at the revelation that had been brought forth. Soun told him to keep it from Akane for now, until they could figure out what to do. Of course, it was much to late now for Ranma and Akane to be together again, especially with little Ranma in the picture.
- Where is that boy*, he asked himself as he continued to pace.
"Are we ready?", the figure that had just swung into the restaurant said. Reflexivekly, Kimiko shrieked.
"What?", he asked.
Whacking Ranma over the head with a small cooking spatula, she replied, "You scared the hell outta me!"
"Ranma. They should be here in half an hour.", Nabiki said from the back room. "Can we get you something to eat?"
"No thanks, I'm not hungry."
Nabiki walked out of the room carrying a small case. She paused for a moment and looked at Ranma. "Why are you still wearing that?"
Ranma looked himself over. "Well, I don't think I'd be very welcome if I took it off."
"I think I have a box in back with some of your old clothes, you want me to get them?"
Ranma recalled Soun's shocked look when he had removed his cowl and shook his head. "Trust me, I'll be fine in this."
Nabiki frowned for a second, when realization hit her. "Ahh, you want to intimidate them eh?"
"Something like that."
"No problem then."
"Nabiki, could you do me a favour?"
"Call your dad, let him know I'm here so he doesn't worry."
Nabiki nodded and stepped over to the phone after putting the case down.
"Whats in the case?", Ranma asked.
"Just a prop.", she said as she dialed.
Soun raced to the phone as soon as it rang. "Hello?", he asked frantically.
"Daddy?", the familiar voice came from the other end.
Soun suddenly dropped his excitement, and almost sounding dissapointed, greeted his daughter. "Hello Nabiki. Its been a while since you've called."
"Jeez, don't sound so excited to hear from me, Daddy."
"I'm sorry, I was just expecting a call from a friend."
"Well, your friend is here right now, doing me a favour."
"Yep, he showed up earlier, surprising the hell outta me. Which reminds me, why didn't you tell me? I wouldn't mind being woken up in the middle of the night with news like that."
"Well, I wasn't sure what to do."
"And whats with sending him out this morning so fast? You'd think talking with your dead son-in-law would be more important than the morning class."
In the background, Soun heard a brief, but firm comment. "Hey, I'm not dead!"
Ignoring Ranma's comment, he continued, "I had to, I was worried about what would happen when Ryoga-- Oh nevermind, I'll be there in a few minutes!"
Nabiki looked down surprisingly at the reciever at the fact that her father had just hung up the phone while she was still talking.
"Something wrong?", Ranma asked, now reclined on a chair.
"You break it, you buy it Ranma.", Nabiki offered, noting that Ranma's weight with the chains and other such decorations riddling his suit was probably increased a good two to three hundred points.
Ranma nodded, "Wouldn't have it any other way."
And with that, a knock came to the door. Nabiki didn't even have to say anything while Ranma quickly and quietly moved his way to the back room. Nabiki answered the door.
"Ahh, Ms. Tendo", Makaro began, smiling at his victim.
"Your money's here, Makaro.", she replied, frowning.
"I hope you don't mind, but I brought our friend from earlier to ensure that our deal doesn't go sour."
"The only sour thing in this room is your face, Makaro.", Kimiko pointed out from behind the grill.
Makaro sneered. "Shut up wench before I give you the same fate as Gendo!"
Kimiko redundantly stuck out her tongue.
Makaro was seemingly easy to get angry, as he pulled out his gun a moment later.
"Would you like to taste lead?", he said, stepping further into the restaurant, and allowing the masked man in. He took one look around and whispered into his ear. Makaro frowned.
"Take care of it.", he said. "And then take care of them."
"I will not kill women", he replied.
"Damn you, just do your job! If you won't kill the girls, I will!"
The man sneered under his mask and began towards the back room.
Nabiki swallowed hard.
"Now, Ms. Tendo. Our mutual friend here has informed me of someone else in the restaurant. You have ten seconds to explain before I pull the trigger."
The masked man confusedly walked out of the back room.
"What?", Makaro asked.
"Hes gone. He must of slipped out the window."
"Well, what are you waiting for, follow hi--- URK!", Makaro screamed as he was struck from behind, and sent reeling into a table. Behind him, Ranma rose from a crouching position.
"Nobody hurts my friends."
Makaro looked up at Ranma and smirked. "You're going to pay for that, you fool."
Makaro pointed the gun at Ranma and pulled the trigger. The bullet connected with the wall where Ranma had just been standing. He picked up Makaro by the foot and took him to eye level.
"You're going to leave Nerima, you understand? You are not going to come back."
Makaro pulled the trigger again, this time connecting with Ranma's gut. He reflexivly dropped Makaro and bent over.
"I warned you, you bastard! Don't mess with me!", Makaro screamed. He stopped and stared as Ranma stood back up as if nothing had happened, and let neon green blood flow freely from his wound.
"What are you?", he screamed, then looked at the masked man. "What are you waiting for? Get him!"
Whether out of defiance or annoyance, the masked man punched Makaro out of the way, and slowly removed his mask.
"One who will see my true face will not live long.", he said as he removed the mask. He was looking directly at Ranma.
Ranma was ready for a fight until the very moment the man had removed his mask. Nabiki had aparently seen as well, because she shrieked in surprise. A large burn scar ran down the side of his face, but it was him. It was Mousse.
"Mousse?", Ranma asked.
Mousse simply smiled. "Whether Nabiki has told you of me, or you know my name because you know me, it is no matter. It does not change your fate."
"Mousse, wait.", Ranma began, but Mousse had already begun his attack. He first launched a Mace towards Ranma's head. He easily sidestepped the throw, but found that a bonbori was heading towards his chest. He couldn't block it with his hands, because they were too busy fending his fist attacks, but something unexpected happened. One of the chains hangin about his body had apparently become mobile in his rapid movement, and managed to block the bonbori from connecting to his chest. After it had been deflected, Mousse launched a Scythe from out of nowhere, but it had become entangled in another of Ranma's chains and was pulled from Mousse's grasp.
Mousse stopped attacking for a moment to rethink his strategy. "You're very skilled," he said, "But it makes no difference, you will die by my hand."
"Mousse, don't, its--" Again, Mousse was deeper into the attack, launching several weapons at once, Ranma felt his anger rise to a level it rarely ever got to. With the several projectile weapons heading towards him, he decided to take an old attack out of retirement. "KACHU TENSHIN AMIGURIKEN!!!", he yelled as he plucked each weapon out of the air and landed several hundred punches on his opponents person. Mousse was sent reeling back for a moment, but never lost his balance. he smirked evily.
"So, you've got some Joketsuzoku techniques in you, do you? That is an interesting surprise. It looks like I'll have to use my full power on you."
"Mousse. Stop, Its Ranma."
This caught Mousse in mid attack. He looked confused for a second, but then sneered.
"Ranma is dead. I saw it with my own eyes."
"Mousse, I'm serious. I'm alive."
"Impossible! He was burnt to a crisp. If he were alive, he would be burned beyond recognition."
Ranma pulled his mask off. "Like this?"
Behind him, he heard two distinct thumps hit the floor, while Mousse stared at him with wide eyes.
"Mousse, I'm alive. I don't know how, but I'm alive."
"But.. Five years..."
"Mousse, Its been five years, and I don't remember any of it, but rest assured, it is me. Ranma."
Mousse dropped his stance and stood there, mind reeling.
"Prove it.", he eventually said.
"Name your test."
"What was my biggest handicap?", he asked.
"You mean the fact that you turn into a duck, or your eyesight?"
"How did we come to be friends?"
"After I married Akane, you realized I had no interest in Shampoo and became a good friend."
Mousse started to let tears swell up in his eyes as he asked the last question. "Why?"
"Why have I lived the past five years of my life like this, when you were still alive?"
"Mousse, theres questions I can't answer. I don't even remember how or why I 'died'."
"I know how. But I don't know why. I blamed myself for your death, Ranma. I thought you were really dead, so I let Shampoo think I was. After that, I realized I was not a man. Not even half a man.", he scoffed, "Hell I wasn't even an honorable duck!"
"What happened to you after that?"
"I regained consciousness. I was protected from Kenoru's blast by your body. You gave your life to save mine."
"I'm still alive though."
"Are you? What kind of a life can you live now? Not a normal one."
"After I buried your body, I thought about things. I couldn't go back to the village, I couldn't even come back here as myself. I had disgraced my very existance. So I soon went to Shanghai. I started to sell my Services to the highest bidder, and did work. At first, it was simple things, like a bodyguard, a courier of stolen goods. And then I was paid to kill a man who had raped another mans wife. I accepted, and soon it became second nature." He shook his head, "I sent the money back to the village, and never even signed my name. If only I had known you were still alive, Ranma. I wouldn't have stooped to such depths."
Ranma stepped over towards Mousse and offered his hand. "Its alright Mousse, its not your fault."
"My honor has been taken from me by my own doing. My life should be forfeit."
"NO!", a voice came from the doorway. "You'd dishonor yourself further by taking a cowards death." Soun walked in. Aparently he had overheard much of the conversation. He placed his hand on Mousse's other shoulder.
"Mousse, you can redeem yourself."
"I have taken over 40 lives."
"That is unfortunate, it is a tragedy. But those lives, no matter how important, were they innocents?"
"No. I ensured myself of that, but by making judgements upon them.."
"You did not make judgements on those lives, boy. You were merely the weapon."
"It is still not forgivable."
"Maybe not, but it can be redeemed, in time."
"Redeemed? Nothing can redeem the taking of a life. Even a single human life!"
"Mr. Tendo, I think we'd do best to help him."
"Agreed. Mousse, you should come with us."
Mousse looked Soun in the eyes, and brought his attention towards Ranam before deciding. "I will no longer follow this lifestyle. I will try my best to revive the old Mousse. I thank you, my friends."
A gunshot fired at that moment, landing in Ranma's side. Forgetting about the first shot, Ranma covered the wound with his hand and scowled at the man who had shot the gun. Makaro, who had been silently listening to the conversation.
Before Ranma could act, Mousse had subdued him and had him against the wall.
"You are lucky I will not stoop to your level again, Makaro."
"Weakling! Coward!", came from Makaro's mouth, as well as several other insults and obscenities.
"Ranma, are you alright?", Soun asked.
Ranma looked himselfover. To his surprise the first gunshot wound had already healed over, and his leg was fast approaching that goal. Looking at the neon green fluid that flowed from his wound, he came to a realization.
He was no longer human.