Chapter 1: Curses, foiled again!
Tatsuno (since the official name change) Ranma glanced around the dojo from where the new/young succubus floated in one corner. The open room looked very different from its usual airy openness. The sun had set, so the light was the soft glow of the candles and braziers bordering various circles that combined with the outside night to form walls to replace those the succubus could barely see.
Those multi-colored sand and chalk circles faintly glowing with residual magic took up most of the floor space, two large circles in the middle with three smaller circles bordered by braziers for the three Amazon elders on one side and two more bordered by candles for Nabiki and Nodoka on the other, leaving the larger circles in the middle to an ordered outline of flowers and crystals. The smaller circles and one of the larger ones were pasted onto large paper mats, leaving only one on the bare polished wooden floor. (The Amazon elders had been impressed with the concept of the circle mats when asked to help create theirs, and Ku Lon and Dao Paz had promptly started discussing the possibility of woven circle mats before Lo Shun had dryly suggested they focus on preparations for the ceremony first.)
Ranma’s lover and mother were both dressed in the robes that Nodoka called her working uniform. Like the dojo's walls those robes were translucent, but the kanji embroidered along the edges and the katanas both wore shone with power (though Nabiki looked less than comfortable with the extra weight, unnecessary this time but Nodoka insisted for the sake of building good habits). To Ranma’s succubus vision both women seemed to radiate magic (they had spent most of the day in meditation and ritual cleansing preparing for the night’s ritual, and Ranma was still slightly grumpy about not being able to skip the half-Saturday of school like Nabiki), so much so that she had trouble making out their faces — and in the case of her mother she was careful to look only at her face; she was getting accustomed to her attraction to the apparently bare bodies constantly on display while she was a nature spirit (which was most of the time), but she didn't want to get used to feeling that attraction to her mother's exercise-shaped nakedness.
The Amazon elders, too, had spent the day performing their own cleansing rituals. But for the three of them, it had involved a series of group dances performed on the grass of the Tendo yard between house and dojo to the double-beat of drums hammered out by one of their warriors and her husband (softly, to avoid disturbing Nabiki and Nodoka inside the house), interspersed with chants while kneeling and bathing in pungent smoke from braziers kept fed by other warriors and their husbands.
In fact, the only Amazons not involved were Shan Pu and Pa Fum, and the only reason the Champion and her wife weren’t was because they were guarding the camp was in case their wandering husband returned. (Akane wasn’t involved, either. But however unhappy she was about not being involved, her still-healing ankle precluded it.)
Now those five smaller circles were all occupied by their intended recipients, all radiating an oddly peaceful tension except Nabiki, who was just tense. Ranma spared her lover a soft smile where the middle Tendo stood in her circle beside her sensei, her sprite familiar sitting on her shoulder and katana on loan from Nodoka at her waist. Seeing Nabiki’s and Nodoka’s nods, Ranma refocused on the large circle toward the middle of the dojo, the one that wasn’t pasted on paper. There in the center lay Genma on his back, his massive bear arms and legs circling Dr. Tofu lying on top of him. The kanpo was blindfolded with a gag locking a mouth guard in place, his body bound by leather and cloth cords and even wrapped with some chains they’d managed to locate. It was the best they could to, and they’d just have to hope it was enough.
Everyone looked as ready as they could be. Ranma called out, “We’re ready.”
Instantly, Kasumi rushed through the dojo’s open door, her simple white robe billowing about her legs and brown hair still damp-dark from her own purifying bath sticking to her neck and back, radiating equal parts fear and hope. She paused at the edge of the empty large circle pasted on paper, hiked up her robe, and stepped to the middle to carefully lie down. She took several deep breaths for steadying calm and nodded, a nod perhaps only Ranma saw thanks to her ability to see the life energy of all living things — but in this case, that light actually seemed to be dimming as the same dark, ugly, slimy aura seemed to ooze from her, reaching for and intermingling with the same terrible aura from a suddenly thrashing Dr. Tofu, fighting against the Panda’s arms and legs pinning him in place. Damn, so much fer the blindfold keepin’ him from knowing she’s there, Ranma thought as she softly called out, “Go, we’re good!”
The Amazon men lining the back wall behind their Elders instantly started beating a low, complex rhythm on small drums as their wives chanted in a language Ranma had never heard before, or anything like it — whatever it was, it had no relation to the Japanese she knew or the Chinese she’d heard on the last stages of the training trip. The Elders started their own chant, their voices merging with those of their warriors. And ... it was working! Those horrible auras linking Kasumi and Dr. Tofu wasn’t growing any less, but they were ... pulling apart? Tofu’s fit seemed to be easing off a little — and Nodoka and Nabiki joined in.
Nodoka and the Elders had had several long discussions over the past almost two weeks since Akane’s victory over Kodachi, but in the end they couldn’t see any way for them to join together in a single ceremony — the worldviews underlying their respective rituals were simply too different to be merged, at least not in the time they had. So instead, they had divided the night’s work into two spheres of responsibility and as the Elders fought to mitigate the impact of the curse on Tofu, Nodoka and Nabiki’s voices rose in a chant that Nodoka had worked out and then Nabiki had translated into Esperanto to attack the curse itself — and ... it was working!
Ranma’s hands brushed her floating fiery-red hair back out of her face, away from her eyes, holding the breath she didn’t actually need as she stared. The curse’s black aura was fading, becoming more translucent, the slimy feeling that made her want to take a bath fading! And more important, the Doc’s writhing was easing off. Her fists clenched and a manic grin spread across her face as a wave of joyful triumph from the others washed over her.
But the curse seemed to realize it was under assault, almost as if it was alive, and it began to cast off additional streamers from both Kasumi and Dr. Tofu, fighting to connect, to strengthen the link. The triumphalism faded, turned desperate as the volume of the Elders’ voices raised to fight against the curses’ attempt to rejoin, and began to drown out the chanting of their Japanese counterparts. Nabiki’s voice faltered for a heartbeat as the Amazons’ rhythm interfered with her own and the fading curses darkened for a moment before she recovered, then her and Nodoka’s voices grew louder as they fought to avoid being drowned out. The two chants mingled and clashed, one thread of the multitude streaming from Kasumi snapped through to connect with Tofu and with a burst of mania that made Ranma wince he began to convulse — and with a wet crack both bones in his right forearm snapped.
Instantly, Nodoka broke off her chant to shout, “Kasumi, out, now!” The paper foundation for the ritual circle tore as the eldest Tendo daughter sprang to her feet and rushed from the room into the night-darkened yard, and Nodoka sighed as the chanting and drumbeats from the rest broke off. She turned to her currently-daughter to find Ranma shaking from the whipsawing backlash of emotions she’d just been through. Nabiki walked over to pull her fiancé into a hug as Peach Fuzz flew a circle around the pair before settling on her fellow nature spirit’s shoulder to rub her head against Ranma’s cheek. Nodoka joined them, wrapping her own arms around them in a group hug, but waited until Ranma fought her shivering under control before stepping back and asking, “What did you see?”
Ranma reported in a tight, over-controlled voice, shivering in Nabiki’s arms as she remembered that disgusting, slimy feeling of the curse brushing across her, and felt her fiancée’s arms tighten around her. She wiggled for a moment, luxuriating in the feeling of soft skin on skin through the robes and trying to ignore the bitter disappointment Nabiki was radiating.
“We were so close!” the middle Tendo burst out when Ranma finished.
“No, child, we were not.”
Ranma looked down at the shrunken, ancient woman balancing on her staff. The succubus had been so caught up in her lover’s embrace and attempting to push away the memory of the disgusting touch of the curse her retelling had invoked that she hadn’t sensed the approach of the blazing torch of Ku Lon’s ki. “What d’ya mean?” she asked.
“Just what I said,” Ku Lon snarled, then sucked in a deep breath as she fought her own disappointment under control. “The curse’s resistance rose to match our own strength,” she finally continued, “and I did not sense any diminution in its increase as it did so. I suspect it would have been able to continue to do so however strong our own attempt was — whatever demon was responsible for this curse, we cannot match its raw power.”
“So that’s it?” Ranma asked. “There’s nothin’ we can do fer Kasumi an’ the Doc?”
Nodoka glanced over at the other large multi-colored circle and smiled approvingly when she found the Amazon men were already dealing with unbinding a once again sane Tofu, one of them supporting him on his feet and another keeping his broken arm steady as a third unwrapped him while around them their warrior wives snuffed out the candles. The circle was hopelessly smeared, but it wasn’t like they’d be trying again anytime soon if at all ... not this way. “No, that’s not ‘it’,” she replied, returning her attention to her disappointed child, running her fingers through Ranma’s shiny-soft hair. “It just means we won’t be able to defeat the curse by overpowering it. Every curse has a weak point, a loose-hanging thread one can pull on to unravel it, we simply have to find it.”
Nabiki sighed. “So much for the easy way.” She twisted her head to get Ranma’s hair out of her face, then looked down at Ku Lon over her armful’s shoulder. “But you did your part, I’ll have the rest of your payment to you tomorrow when Ranma and I pass the park on the way to the train station.”
“Oh?” Nodoka queried, raising an eyebrow.
“Yes, Ranma and I still need to return those scrolls Genma stole from the Buddhist temple in Nekomi. I thought we’d make a day of it.” Nabiki’s eyes met Nodoka’s over Ranma’s head, and Nodoka nodded. However serene a front Kasumi might put up, she had to be mourning over the night’s failure. Returning the scrolls was the perfect excuse for getting the two empaths out of the dojo for the day while hiding the fact that they were avoiding their grieving sister/future sister-in-law.
“Very well, no training tomorrow. But you leave after you help clean up the dojo,” Nodoka added. “But that’s for the morning, tonight Kasumi is going to need us.”
Chapter 2: A Second First Meeting
Ranma sighed with relief as he and Nabiki exited the train at Nekomi. It had been a long ride, and Ranma had felt himself winding more and more tightly with every passing minute. He and Nabiki had been surrounded by strangers pressed close by the crowd, and he had been unable to stop trying to see in every direction at once for any possible incoming threats — with only civilians around and everyone so crammed together he couldn’t differentiate one ki source from another. Only Nabiki’s hasty grab had kept him from sucker-punching one boy not much older than the pair that had stumbled and bumped into him. But now they were off the train and the crowd had spread out, and he wasn’t trapped in a steel box with no sight lines. He could feel his tension draining away along with Nabiki’s loosening grip on his arm.
Hefting the backpack slung over his shoulder with the stolen scrolls they were returning to the Buddhist temple, he forced a smile that he knew wouldn’t fool her in the slightest — she still had her empathy even if he didn’t — and asked, “Which way?”
The earth-haired girl in shorts and a T-shirt glanced around as they left the station to orient the street with her memory of the map she’d pulled up online before they’d left the dojo, then tugged him toward their left. “This way.”
He relaxed still more as they walked along, and he scanned the neighborhood around them. It was a peaceful place, quiet, shade trees along the sidewalks, individual homes with the occasional store and apartment building, a park with children playing. And they’d left all the insanity behind them in Nerima. As the minutes passed Nabiki’s hand relaxed even more, until she let go of his arm and reached down to take hold of his hand. He had to admit that, while it wasn’t as good as being in succubus form and basking in the love that Nabiki radiated whenever they were together, the outing was turning out to be rather nice.
Then he recognized the street they were on from the online map’s street view, looked around — yes, those were the steps leading up to the temple, and they did seem vaguely familiar so it was probably the right place — it looked like Nabiki would be able to forgive Morimasa’s debt. He wasn’t looking forward to the explaining how he had the scrolls, even if he could lay the blame at his father’s feet, but he was eager to get it over with. And apparently Nabiki had picked up on his eagerness, her hand slipping free of his as he bound up the steps.
As he reached the top of the steps he felt something sweep through him and paused, frowning. That had felt tantalizingly familiar, but not —
“Who are you and what are you doing here?”
At the childish-sounding if peremptory demand, Ranma glanced around. The first thing he saw was some sort of robot that looked like someone had tried to make a painted steel statue out of balls and tubing, with a Samurai jingasa perched on the ball serving as its head and circles for eyes and a straight line for a mouth drawn with a marker. But as bizarre as that mannequin was, what really drew Ranma’s attention was the young raven-haired child standing beside the robot. Presumably she was the one that had made the demand, and she was glaring up with him with her hands on her hips with what was clearly supposed to be a stern frown. She failed miserably. For one, she didn’t even come up to what passed for the robot’s shoulder, much less Ranma’s. Second, she was dressed in a fairly conservative school uniform, with a blue knee-length dress and white under-blouse with puffy sleeves. Combined with her unblemished, fresh-faced beauty, she looked incredibly cute — like a kitten trying to face down its mama. But what really had Ranma staring at her wide-eyed was that she had no more ki than the robot beside her.
“Well?” she demanded when Ranma failed to respond.
Ranma shook himself free of his shock — since getting cursed he’d been introduced to a whole new world, so he supposed even an obviously living child without any life force was somehow possible — and swung his backpack down off his shoulder. “Hi, I’m Sao — uh, Tatsuno Ranma,” he said with a smile. “Do you know where the head priest is? I have some scrolls for him.”
“There are no priests here, haven’t been for years,” the child replied.
“Oh.” Ranma frowned thoughtfully, then shrugged. “Well, I’ll just talk to your parents, see if they know how I can contact the priests that used ta live here.” He strode around the girl and continued along the walkway toward a building that he definitely recognized. Yep, this was the right place.
“Wait, it’s not — stop!”
A hand trailing fire flashed into view from behind Ranma. It was attached to a flexible metal cord of some sort, and quickly circled around him several times, managing to bind one of his arms to his side before going taut to stop him in his tracks.
Ranma turned around to find the metal cord attached to the girl by a now-handless wrist. “Another robot,” he said, smirking, “that explains the lack a’ ki. One problem with usin’ a cord that’s tied ta you, though, it’s also tied ta me.” Even as her eyes widened he grabbed the metal cord and yanked. She shrieked as she flew through the air toward him, but he was already falling onto his back. His feet slammed into her stomach and catapulted her over him until the cord snapping tight brought her to an abrupt halt in mid-air. She dropped straight down onto the stone walkway with a resounding thud.
Ranma rose to his feet and unwound the cord around him by the hand at its end as the girl-bot pushed herself up on shaking arms. “That’ll teach ya —” he started to say just before catching the faint sound behind him of metal on rock. Dodging to one side, he barely got out of the way as a massive hammer wielded by the ball-bot slammed down where he had been standing. Its straight line for a mouth had been rubbed off and replaced with a frown.
Ranma backed up as the ball-bot approached, slipping his backpack with the scrolls off his shoulders. He glanced toward the entrance to the grounds to find a wide-eyed Nabiki standing there staring at them, and grinned. “Hey Nabs, catch!” he threw her the backpack and charged toward the ball-bot, just as a high-pitched shriek rose from the building.
Nabiki stood staring up the stairs leading to the temple she and Ranma had come to visit as her fiancé bound up the steps.
This wasn’t the first temple Nabiki had visited since her Awakening, she had wanted to find out if there was any overlap between the sacred and the supernatural and so had visited both Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines. The results had been ... inconclusive. She had felt something, welcoming and with a shining purity like nothing she had believed could possibly exist. By that time she had already begun summoning imps to dig up the dirt she needed to protect herself and punish her enemies, though, and had felt distinctly uncomfortable. Still, though she wouldn’t have wanted to risk the possible backlash from failing a curse against someone on holy ground, she hadn’t sensed anything specifically protective in nature.
That was definitely not the case here — to both sight and Sight, the wards on this temple (and they were true wards) were a dazzling tower, and their overwhelming power and purity had been enough to freeze her in place.
And she hadn’t sensed a thing until she’d turned to look up those steps.
Ranma disappeared out of sight at the top by the time Nabiki shook herself free from her shock, and she hesitated before forcing herself to start up the steps. Ranma was already up there, and while he ought to be all right on his own for a minute or so — they were returning stolen property, after all — he was far from the most diplomatic person she knew. She really wished she hadn’t asked Peach Fuzz to stay behind and watch over Akane, not that she had any idea what her sprite familiar could do to help here.
Sshe reached the top of the stairs just in time to see her fiancé dodge out of the way of a descending hammer wielded by the oddest-looking robot she’d even seen!
“Hey, Nabs, catch!”
She caught the backpack with the scrolls out of pure reflex then dropped her arm to dangle it from one hand as she watched a laughing Ranma effortlessly dodge another swing of the hammer even as a young raven-haired girl with oval blue hollow tattoos on her cheeks and forehead ran out of the temple. The newcomer knelt by another robot pushing itself up from the stone path (at least, Nabiki assumed it was a robot — not many girls could have a hand lying yards away, attached to her wrist by a cable), then rose to her feet and shouted something Nabiki didn’t catch before summoning a round object seemingly out of nowhere to hurl at Ranma.
Ranma had just sprung back from another clumsy swing of the hammer, and now he leaped toward the flying ball, catching it and twisting to hurl it at the robot made out of balls and pipes. The resulting explosion sent both Ranma and the robot bouncing across the lawn in opposite directions.
Nabiki started to giggle helplessly. What was it with Ranma and random fights? Not fair, there was nothing random about Ryoga or Kodachi showing up. But life’s sure been more exciting since RAnna first showed up. Though this one might be more random than most —
“Skuld, what is going on out here!? This is no time to — you!”
Nabiki turned at the exclamation to find a skimpily-clad, breathtakingly beautiful woman — tall, tanned, platinum blonde — that had just stepped out of the temple now staring at her with eyes gone wide ... and this woman had an upside down triangle tattoo on her forehead and one just below each eye — blue tattoos. Nabiki felt herself go light-headed as she connected them with the elongated red diamond tattoos Mara had sported on her forehead and cheeks, and the incredible wards protecting this temple. And like Mara, she couldn’t sense her presence at all. Oh god....
Or rather, goddess. Nabiki was abruptly remembering in sharp detail every schoolmate she had threatened, the money she had extorted, the false friends she had ruined. She began to tremble. She hadn’t brought her best defense against surprise encounters with the supernatural on their outing — Nodoka had come up with a version of the obscurity glamour Gosunkugi had cast on his shed at Furinkan High for the scabbards of their enchanted katanas, but while Nabiki had tested it during the past week she couldn’t be sure if everyone’s apparent obliviousness to her walking around with a katana across her back had been the glamour at work or their ‘that’s Nerima’ attitude and she hadn’t wanted to test it on an all-day trip across Tokyo. Though if the wards were anything to go by the enchantments on her katana might only anger the goddess in front of her. Or amuse her —
Then another young woman stepped out of the temple, not quite as tall as the other with long, earth-colored hair, a beauty less lush but more ... inviting? And with her own blue tattoos, a stretched diamond like Mara’s between her eyes and triangles under each eye like the goddess she’d followed. And also psychically invisible. “Urd, who are you speaking to?” Then her gaze fell on Nabiki, and she winced. “Oh, dear.”
Nabiki’s legs gave out, and she yelped as she fell backward and her butt smacked down onto the path’s stony surface.
The latest goddess immediately hurried over, offering a hand to help Nabiki up, Urd sauntering along behind her. The brunette said, “I’m Belldandy. I am so sorry, we didn’t mean to frighten you.”
Nabiki held up the backpack. “Uh ... we brought the scrolls back?”
Urd and Belldandy exchanged confused looks, but Belldandy accepted the backpack. Slinging it over one shoulder, she again offered a hand up. “Why don’t you come inside for some tea? You can explain just what scrolls you are returning. Urd — ?”
“Sure, I’ll watch the children, keep the damage down.” She winced as the ball-robot slammed into a large tree bordering the temple grounds. “ ... somehow.”
Nabiki stared down at the tea cup in her hand, a tear trickling down one cheek. She whispered, “That is the best tea I’ve ever tasted in my entire life.”
“Thank you,” Belldandy replied from where she knelt at the other side of the low table. She took another sip of her own tea before setting the cup down in its saucer. “You spoke of scrolls you are returning?”
“Yes.” Nabiki set down her own tea cup. “Ranma and I recently found the scrolls his father stole, from here and other places, and are trying to return them.”
“I see,” Belldandy replied thoughtfully. “That may explain why there was only one priest here when I and my fiancé arrived — with the theft of the scrolls, this temple went into decline. You can leave them with us, and I’ll try to locate one of the monks that used to live here.”
“Don’t you know?” Nabiki asked. “I mean ... you recognized me and, and so did the other one, the wards on this place are incredible, and ...” She hesitantly motioned at her face.
“Ah.” With a gentle smile, Belldandy reached up to touch a blue triangle under one eye. “Yes, we’re color-coded. So Mara has made her offer, then? And you haven’t accepted yet, or the wards would have registered your affiliation when you passed through them. But no, we aren’t all-knowing, and I and my sisters are a little out of touch here.”
“But if you’re out of touch, how did you know me?” Nabiki protested, then winced as the house shook when something or someone crashed through the outer wall somewhere beyond their room. She held her breath, then sighed with relief at the sound of Ranma’s laughter from outside. At least one of us is having a good time, she thought, smiling softly. It had been less than a week since the Rhythmic Gymnastics Martial Arts competition, but all she could remember hearing from Ranma even from days before that had been the high, clear laughter of her succubus form — also delightful, admittedly, but not the deep (well ... deeper, anyway) rumble of the hunk that was his original form. Nabiki missed it. Enough! Get your head back in the game. She refocused on her hostess, and on seeing nothing more than a wry smile at the ongoing property damage (and noting to herself that leaning on her empathic sense was making her visually lazy) asked again, “Why do you know about me? I can’t be that important!”
“Don’t sell yourself short,” Belldandy replied, before lifting her tea cup for another sip of her cooling tea.
Nabiki followed suit, and closed her eyes for a blissful, relaxing moment, before refocusing on the goddess. She cocked an inquiring eyebrow.
Belldandy fidgeted, then put her tea cup down again with a sigh and reluctantly said, “Still, I wouldn’t have known about you if I hadn’t been temporarily assigned to your case.”
“ ‘Temporarily assigned’?” Nabiki carefully set down the tea cup, mind racing. “You were the reason Ranma kept showing up. You messed with my summoning circles, didn’t you? Why?”
“To give you a choice of futures.”
Nabiki had felt herself growing tighter and tighter as she’d thought back over the past weeks, she could see the strings, her and Ranma dancing like puppets, but the goddess’s last statement yanked her up short. Everything she’d experienced since before her Awakening screamed at her that she was being played, but she wanted to believe ... and she remembered the wards over the temple — not just their power, but their purity — and relaxed. Even if I am being played, I am not going to complain about the results. “So you set me up for Mara’s offer?”
Belldandy blinked, then shook her head. “No, I set you up with Ranma, I was unaware that Mara had visited you.” She frowned thoughtfully for a moment, then slowly nodded as the gentle smile from earlier reappeared. “But upon reflection I cannot say why I am surprised. Before you met Ranma Mara could simply wait until the untimely death that was your probable fate, then make you her offer when your soul descended to Niflheim. Now she must no longer be certain of your final destination, and so has to move while you are still alive. I expected her to attempt to manipulate your circumstances to undo my own tweaking, but it seems she was wiser than that.”
“Huh.” Nabiki stared down at her own by-now-cool tea, a broad grin spreading across her face as she processed what Belldandy had said. Mara had been certain of her damnation before, and wasn’t any longer — and that meant she was salvageable! That alone was worth the long train ride to reach the temple and the equally long ride home, however disappointingly ... uncomfortable Ranma had been. She had been hoping for a chance for a long, relaxing snuggle with her fiancé ... mandated by the close press on the train ... but Ranma’s lack of empathy in his human form had —
Nabiki froze, grin vanishing. Did she dare? Even if the goddess sitting across the table had brought her and Ranma together, however pure and kind she seemed, she was a stranger. But when am I going to get the chance to speak to a spirit this powerful again? Finally, she looked up at her hostess. “Belldandy, Ranma has been having an increasingly serious problem with spending time in his human form ... it’s the lack of his — her, I guess — empathic sense, he feels vulnerable without it.” She hesitated for a moment then forced herself to continue, blushing furiously. “Also, he can’t ... perform ... in bed ... in human form. When Mara made her offer, she said she could fix that. Ranma turned her down, of course,” — nonchalantly ignoring the part Cherry Blossom had played in that rejection — “but that doesn’t mean he’s happy about it. I’ve been thinking that his missing empathic sense is to blame for that, as well. Can you ... give him that empathy, or tell me how to do it?”
But Belldandy had begun shaking her head even before Nabiki finished. “I am very sorry. You are right about what Ranma needs to again become comfortable in human form, but outside of an assignment I am forbidden to interfere.”
Nabiki’s face fell and she sighed. “Well, thank you for that much. At least now I know what I need to do to get Ranma back to normal.” She frowned when Belldandy winced. “Don’t I?”
Belldandy visibly struggled with herself for a moment, then her expression firmed. She asked, “Are you aware of how long Ranma is likely to live?”
“As long as she can manage,” Nabiki replied, wondering what the goddess’s point was. “Oh, his human form will grow old and die, but once her succubus form reaches full maturity that’s it.”
“Yes,” Belldandy agreed, “unless something truly unfortunate happens, Ranma will have a very long life as mortals see it — as a succubus. It will not matter how hard he fights against the ... the nature of his new species, eventually he will be forced to accept it.”
“And the longer he fights against it, the harder it will be to accept in the end? Is that what you’re saying?”
“That, and he will have an easier time adjusting when he is younger, with fewer regrets. I believe the sooner Ranma accepts what will eventually be her only ‘normal’ the happier she will be.”
Nabiki grimaced as she stared at the wall — that wasn’t what she wanted to hear, but considering the source ... “I’ll ... think about it,” she finally replied. Then, smiling slyly as she glanced at her hostess out of the corner of her eye, she asked, “You aren’t going to get in trouble, are you? For ‘intervening’ outside of your assignment?”
“No,” Belldandy assured her, “I didn’t tell you anything you didn’t already know, simply offer advice.”
“But you had to ask me if I knew that Ranma’s immortal, what were you going to do if I didn’t?” When Belldandy didn’t respond except to take another sip of her tea as her cheeks took on a faint tinge of pink, Nabiki found herself fighting back a giggling fit. So even divine beings sometimes work around the rules. For some inexplicable reason she suddenly felt much better about taking the goddess’s advice.
Then there was another crash of shattering planks mixed with splashing water — inside the house this time — following by a shouted “Hey!” in the high soprano of Ranma’s succubus form.
Nabiki smiled ruefully. “I think this is the most fun Ranma’s had since we met — at least, out of bed.” Belldandy’s faint blush blossomed, and Nabiki lost control of her giggles for a brief moment before she fought them back down. In a tightly controlled, breathless voice, she said, “It looks like Ranma will be taking the train home in succubus form. That’ll make her happy.” (And truth be told Nabiki as well, since she wouldn’t have to keep on her toes to protect their fellow passengers from Ranma — and if Ranma merged with her, they could even ‘talk’.) She bowed to Belldandy from where she sat and formally said, “My thanks for helping us return the scrolls, and the advice you’ve given.”
Belldandy returned the bow. “I am honored — and happy — to have been able to assist you. Won’t you stay to dine with us?”
“No, we have a long train ride home, and tomorrow’s a school day. Besides,” she added as she cocked her head, listening as a new, childishly high voice began berating her fiancé, “I suspect at least one of you will be happier to see our backs.”
Belldandy sighed. “Perhaps, Skuld is young and cares greatly for her children, even if she will undoubtedly take advantage of the opportunity repairing them gives her to upgrade them. But I won’t insist. My Father’s blessing on you and Ranma, as you choose your future.”
Nabiki shivered. “Thank you,” she responded as she rose to her feet to go collect Ranma. She was not going to ask just who Belldandy’s father was, she suspected she wouldn’t like the answer.
Ryoga felt his spirits lifting as he looked around — he thought the city park he found himself walking through looked familiar, and if he was right ... He walked through a ring of trees and smiled at the sight of scattered tents. He was home!
His purple-tressed Second Wife darted out of one of the tents and bounded toward him, his ocean blue-tressed First Wife right behind her. He barely noticed Pa Fum, though, his eyes fixed on Xian Pu’s rapidly approaching abundant, jiggling breasts in the same tight silks she’d worn when he’d first seen her. Then they slammed into his chest as she leaped up to throw her arms around his neck, her lips pressed down on his ... and he was out like a light.
Xian Pu rolled off of her husband, now lying on his backpack flat on the ground, and growled at her First Wife.
Pa Fum was all but doubled over with laughter, and at Xian Pu’s snarl she dropped to her knees. “I think you’ve ... invented a ... new technique!” she managed to gasp out in the Japanese they were now using almost exclusively, so that Xian Pu could better talk with their husband. “Might ... have trouble ... picking out who’s vulnerable ... though.”
Xian Pu pasted on a put-upon expression as she rose to her feet and strode over to offer her wife a hand, though she was hard pressed to keep her lips from curving into a pleased smile instead of a frown. While they were now sharing a combined bedroll (though so far for no more than sleeping, to Xian Pu’s growing frustration), Pa Fum’s natural shyness and low self-esteem had made her almost invisible except when she forced herself or Xian Pu made an effort to include her. The Amazon Champion was happy to see her nominal immediate superior in their village’s family hierarchy slowly relaxing, coming out of her shell.
“Xian Pu think ... I think ... there nobody vulnerable like Husband,” she said as she pulled Pa Fum to her feet. Turning, she stared down at the Lost Boy. And this time, she had no trouble frowning. “I think he getting worse, not better,” she finally said.
Pa Fum joined her, snuggling against her wife a little when Xian Pu’s hand settled on her hip. But she was frowning as well. “You ... may be right,” she finally said, “you didn’t even need to flash your breasts at him to knock him out this time. This could be a good thing, you know, a sign that he’s more accepting of us as his wives?”
“If this keep up, he ‘accepting us’ mean not able to be in same room without knock out,” Xian Pu rebutted. “Besides, how we get him used to us if he gone week at a time? We need speak to Great-Grandmother again.”
Chapter 3: Not a Crossroads Deal
Gosunkugi was getting desperate. Better said, he was getting more desperate.
It had been almost a week since the botched summoning ritual had brought him to the attention of Gautrek, and it had been all he could do to talk the demon out of eventually tearing him limb from limb on the spot and depositing the pieces outside of his father’s wards around the Gosunkugi home. He didn’t know how his father had earned the demon’s hatred, but it was intense.
In fact, the only thing that had prevented that grisly end had been a name, tossed into his frantic babbling as he tried to come up with something — anything — that he could trade for his life: Ranma.
That name had caught Gautrek’s attention, and it had demanded everything Gosunkugi knew about the boy with the Jusenkyo-succubus curse. It had found Gosunkugi’s story of his humiliation at the hands of that baseborn nobody amusing, and had promptly given Gosunkugi a way to avoid that grisly death, to which Gosunkugi had just as promptly agreed. — acquire Ranma in his succubus form, but instead of taking his own revenge turn him over to Gautrek. From the fire in the demon’s eyes, he thought it hated Ranma even more than it hated Gosunkugi’s father.
The problem was that in the few days since he hadn’t been able to come up with a way to do that, and he was certain that sooner or later Gautrek was going to tire of waiting and simply take the revenge available to him as a consolation prize. Think, think, think! he thought as he glared daggers across the Furinkan High grounds to where that slut Nabiki and her sex toy (currently human) were enjoying their lunch under their usual tree. Okay, two problems. First, for some reason I haven’t been able to summon Ranma even after Father broke Nabiki’s Journeyman Curse. (Once he had finally guessed what Nabiki had done to him, he had swallowed his pride and asked his father for help. The amount of effort it took for the elder Gosunkugi to break the curse had been dismaying. Oh, his father hadn’t found it unusual, had even commented on the sloppy effort for someone that powerful when he learned who had cursed him — but his father didn’t know that she had cast the curse with no preparation or ceremony.) Second, even if I do manage to summon him, I’ll have to break him to my will — alone. And I don’t think I can. Even in the privacy of his thoughts, the admission was wrenching. But he was finally coming to understand his father’s mantra of ‘know your enemy’ — and learning that a competent enemy could make the prospect of final victory even sweeter.
That was assuming that you actually achieved that victory, of course, and the ice at his core grew as he remembered yet again what Gautrek had threatened to do to him before tearing him limb from limb — it had made his own plans for Ranma’s succubus form seem like a schoolboy’s idle daydreams.
Nabiki’s laughter drifted over to him, and his teeth ground together ... accompanied by a growl from nearby. Gosunkugi turned to find Kuno Tatewaki sitting on the grass a few yards away, also glaring at the couple, and his own snarl shifted to a grin as inspiration hit. Here was someone with resources he didn’t have, who could perhaps provide answers where those incompetent imps couldn’t.... “Don’t care much for the ‘happy couple’?” he asked, making sure to add an ironic twist.
“A truly vile witch, to sport so lasciviously with that foul defiler of the pure and innocent, Tatsuno,” Tatewaki replied, not taking his eyes of the couple.
Gosunkugi blinked, then looked around. He still couldn’t see anyone else close to Nabiki and Ranma, and she was seemingly focused on her fiancé to the exclusion of everyone else. He looked back over at the lunatic beside him. “Who’s Tatsuno?”
Tatewaki tore his gaze from the pair, and looked over at Gosunkugi. “So you haven’t heard? I am surprised. The news has not yet come to the attention of the common herd, of course, but I would have thought that with your own ancient lineage and righteous fury toward those unworthy peasants you would know all that happens around them.”
Gosunkugi stomped on his own rising anger at the jumped-up sword-swinger’s condescending tone. “You have mistaken me for me for my father,” he replied, fighting to keep his tone even. “I don’t have access to his resources when I fight my own battles. So what’s this about ‘Tatsuno’?”
Tatewaki returned to glaring at his original targets. “Ranma’s mother has demonstrated the depths of her depravity by divorcing her husband and taking his son, leaving him without an heir of his blood to carry on his name.”
It was really that simple? Gosunkugi wondered in sudden enlightenment. Just a name change and suddenly he can’t be summoned while a succubus? No, it can’t be that easy, he must have rejected his father as well as the name, accepted his mother in his father’s place wholeheartedly. He briefly considered just what it would take for someone to so completely reject his own father, before shrugging it off as pointless. He had his own concerns. So I now know how to summon Ranma, but that will do me no good if I cannot dominate him. So I need to learn his weaknesses, his fears. And the imps have proven practically worthless, it isn’t worth it to add to my debt to them.
Gosunkugi continued to stare blindly at the oblivious Tatewaki as he wracked his brain for some alternative way to spy on Ranma without success, until sudden revelation hit — Tatewaki had known about Ranma’s change of family, when no one else had. Tatewaki had resources Gosunkugi didn’t. All he needed was to talk him into putting them to proper use.
“You know, it truly is a shame that Ranma should keep such a fair spirit enslaved,” he mused. “I could possibly free her of the chains binding her to him, but Ranma’s will is too strong.”
Tatewaki’s gaze snapped of him. “You know how to free her?”
Gosunkugi opened his mouth to boast of his skill in the Mystic Arts, and paused — he did not like the venom in Tatewaki’s voice when he labelled Nabiki a ‘vile witch’. Instead, he cautiously said, “I-I-I have some small skill in the Mysteries. But as I said, I can’t beat Ranma until he’s weakened. I need to know his fears, his vulnerabilities.”
Tatewaki stared at him for a long moment, eyes hard, before giving him a curt nod. “Very well, I will learn that which you need, and you will free that fair spirit from her enslavement. But be warned, if you betray or harm her, there shall be no escaping my righteous fury.”
Gosunkugi gulped, but nodded. “Of course, it is our duty to protect the innocent, after all.” Tatewaki stared at him for another long moment, then without a word refocused on the happy couple and Gosunkugi scrambled away. He would have been offended at the curt dismissal, but was too happy to get away from the possibly violent upperclassman — Ranma and Nabiki had already given him one beating, he had no desire for another. He would have to study up on the Eye of Death Curse, then after Ranma was dealt with cast as powerful a one as he could. Tatewaki couldn’t threaten him if he was dead, after all.
“We’re home!” Nabiki called out as she, Ranma and Akane shucked off their street shoes for house slippers, a broad smile on her face — she had had a very good day. Ranma and Akane added their own announcements as Ranma headed for the stairs and Akane for the guest room she was currently occupying, both eager to change and head for the dojo for Akane’s training (what she could do with her ankle still bound up, anyway).
As Nabiki started to follow Ranma, Kasumi hurried from the family room to intercept her, saying in a low voice, “Nabiki, Elder Cologne wishes to speak with you alone.”
Cocking an eyebrow at her sister, Nabiki asked, “What about?” Whatever it was seemed to have perked up her big sis, the miasma of depression that had made it so uncomfortable for Nabiki and succubus Ranma of be around her had faded substantially.
“She didn’t say.” Kasumi replied as she led Nabiki back to the family room. The Amazon elder was sitting at the low table sipping tea. The elder sister bowed to Ku Lon. “Thank you for sharing your insights into your people’s cuisine. I look forward to tomorrow’s demonstration.”
Ku Lon returned the bow from where she sat. “I too look forward to tomorrow, child, it is always a delight to teach one that truly seeks mastery of her Art.”
As Kasumi left the room, Nabiki knelt across the table from Ku Lon and offered the elder more tea before pouring a cup for herself. After taking a sip, she set the cup down on its saucer. “As much as I would enjoy making small talk, Kasumi said you wanted to talk to me alone so we need to hurry. But first, thank you for taking Kasumi under your wing, it’s helped her deal with last Saturday’s fiasco.”
“It is my pleasure,” the diminutive elder replied. “If she continues as she is for a few more decades, she will be a true mistress of the Culinary Arts.”
“True, she seems to have all the potential there and left none for Akane,” Nabiki agreed with a slight smirk. “So, Elder Cologne, what can I do for you?”
“It is not so much your help I need as Ranma’s,” Ku Lon replied. “But from some comments you made over the past week as we prepared for Saturday’s attempt at relieving your sister of her curse, I feel there may be ... issues with the form that help would take.” She paused, but Nabiki simply motioned her to go on. “Our Wanderer returned yesterday, but ... you remember his issues with physical intimacy?”
“Oh, yes!” Nabiki replied with a broad grin. “Funniest thing I’d seen in months.”
“Yes, well, the situation is quickly losing its humorous aspect — he’s getting worse. Pa Fum believes that as the reality of his marriage has set in and his attachment to his wives grown stronger, the possibility of the sexual benefits have become more real to him.”
Nabiki stiffened where she sat. “Wait, you aren’t asking that Ranma sleep with him?” she demanded.
“Oh, no, not at all,” Ku Lon hastened to assure her with a grin, “his wives would do their best to kill me if I did — and attempting to assault an Elder is a serious crime.” Not that I didn’t consider suggesting it, just for the entertainment value. “No,” she continued as a relieved Nabiki lifted her tea cup for another sip, “what I wish is for Ranma to make use of her ability to manipulate dreams while granddaughter has her way with him.”
Nabiki choked on her tea, and Ku Lon hastily hopped over the table to pound on her back as she hacked and coughed. When she could breathe again and a chuckling Ku Lon had returned to her own place, she said, “Well, that was unexpected. I assume you want Ranma to have Ryoga experience in his dream what’s happening to him in reality?”
“Essentially correct,” Ku Lon agreed.
“I see.” Nabiki frowned thoughtfully. “This is going to be full intercourse? For Shampoo’s first time?”
“Yes, though it’s hardly her first time.” Ku Lon shrugged. “Young warriors are a lusty lot, and Granddaughter has taken full advantage of the attentions she received for her acknowledged skill. She was most disappointed that only married warriors and their husbands came on this Hunt.”
“Poor, deprived baby,” Nabiki snarked.
Ku Lon chuckled. “It’s good for her, not to have a man in her bed whenever she wishes — it’ll prepare her for marriage to a Wanderer.”
Nabiki smiled in bemusement at how different the Amazons were from the Japanese, then turned her attention to Ku Lon’s request. “There’s a problem,” she said after a moment. “Ranma has gotten quite skilled in dream manipulation — she often spends her nights in mine — but other than the first two times when we didn’t really understand what was happening, none of them have involved sex.” Her cheeks heated, but she pretended she wasn’t blushing as she continued. “You know about his performance issues when male, and neither of us were experienced before so we don’t know what it’s actually like ... how much it differs from girl-girl.”
“I see,” Ku Lon mused. She considered the problem for a moment, then asked, “Has Ranma manipulated anyone else’s dreams?”
“Yes, Akane’s, when we were helping her understand Ranma’s succubus nature.”
“And does Ranma’s ability to merge with others work in dreams?”
“Yes, it does,” Nabiki replied, blushing again as she remembered the dream where they had tested out that possibility. It hadn’t involved sex, exactly, but fondling her own dream body while Ranma possessed her certainly pushed the line they’d set. Fun, though, since Ranma had felt every touch, every shiver of pleasure — a brand-new way to punish her fiancé at need. And it’ll work just as well awake, she thought, daydreaming of that cute redhead merging with her, filling her naked body, the spirit’s moans sounding in her mind as she stroked herself, almost brought herself to orgasm....
She yanked her attention back to the Elder as Ku Lon spoke.
“Then I don’t see the problem. Simply let her travel the dreams of those that do know how it differs.” She frowned thoughtfully. “Actually, the truest experience would require merging with lovers in the act.”
Nabiki instantly shook her head. “Not happening. We’re at least trying to keep just what kind of nature spirit Ranma turns into a secret, and the only one of those who know that could ... provide the needed experience is her mother. Neither of them would be willing to go along with that. And before you ask, no, Ranma won’t simply find some couple in the neighborhood that can’t see her that she can merge with. That’s the kind of thing his father would do.”
“Really?” Ku Lon cocked an eyebrow. “That’s going to change eventually, you know.”
“I know,” Nabiki quietly agreed, “but not yet.”
Ku Lon shrugged. “It still isn’t a problem. Ranma’s nature is common knowledge among the Amazons here, and all the warriors except Xian Pu are married. As I said, warriors are a lusty lot — when I announce what we need we’ll have volunteers.”
Nabiki opened her mouth to hotly reject the suggestion, but paused as she remembered a gentle face of ageless beauty, and the advice that goddess had given. She really wanted to reject the Elder’s suggestion, but ... You’re going to have to share Ranma sooner or later, given her nature. Better with people that won’t be sticking around. And since her discussion with Belldandy she had been haunted by the image of a Ranma grown old, dying to become permanently what he had fought against all his life. Finally, she nodded. “That would work. I’m sure I can convince Ranma to go along,” she slowly said, then went on more briskly, “So that leaves the matter of payment.”
Ku Lon took a sip of her tea, then asked, “And what would you suggest?”
“Ranma’s easy,” Nabiki replied. “She’s been adapting —” She broke off when she remembered that Ranma was no longer a Saotome, and so could conceivably be denied the use of what was after all a Family style. Genma didn’t seem to be planning to do that any time soon, but why take chances? “Ah ... she’s been developing a new martial arts style for her succubus form, but she’s been hindered by the lack of a decent sparring partner that can actually see her. Akane’s willing to help, but still healing from her injury in last week’s competition with Kodachi. Besides, she ... lacks experience.”
“Whereas I have an abundance of experience,” Ku Lon finished. “I can not only act as a sparring partner but critique the techniques and offer suggestions. Yes, developing a style for someone of Ranma’s unique nature will be a fascinating exercise, I would be happy to help.”
Not to mention that you’ll already be familiar with the style if you ever have to actually fight her. But that unlikely possibility was far outweighed by the advantages. “That leaves my payment.”
“Yours?” Ku Lon repeated, eyebrow lifting again.
“Mine,” Nabiki agreed. “You’re asking me to share my fiancé, even convince her to go along with this. That will not be easy for me, in either case, and requires compensation.”
“I see. So what payment would you require?”
Nabiki paused. What would she require? She couldn’t imagine what the Amazons had that she’d want: all the cash they had she’d paid them, she was trying to get rid of her ill-gotten gains, and accepting cash felt too much like pimping out her fiancé; she had no desire to become a martial artist, and she had Ranma for a sensei if she changed her mind and Nodoka already training her in kenjutsu; she certainly had no desire to become a cook, and again, had Kasumi if she changed her mind. And why am I asking for payment, anyway? It’s not like this isn’t inevitable, anyway.
She was just about to say as much, when another thought occurred to her — Ranma’s adjustment to his succubus form wasn’t the only long-term issue in their relationship. Instead she said, “With your village’s proximity to Jusenkyo I imagine you have some experience with the springs there. How much water is needed for someone to be cursed?”
“Why do you wish to know?” the Elder asked, eyes narrowing.
Nabiki hesitated, but Ku Lon simply waited patiently and the middle Tendo finally said, “Because I may at some point in the future wish to become a succubus, myself.”
Ku Lon’s eyes widened in shock at the statement, then she began to chuckle. “Even if this journey does not accomplish its ultimate purpose, I am glad to have come,” she said with a smile. “I have not met so many delightful, unpredictable people in decades! Do you truly love him so much that you wish to share his fate?”
“In a manner of speaking.” Nabiki hesitated again, then shrugged. “As a succubus Ranma is immortal, and I am not. I have no particular desire to become a succubus, but if I cannot find another means of achieving immortality it will have to do.”
“I see.” For a brief moment the Elder’s thin smile turned wistful, then the moment was gone. “It only takes a barrel of water to inflict a curse, and the water only needs to be dumped over the victim — bathing in it is not required.”
“Then that is my price — a barrel of water from the Spring of Drowned Succubus. Do we have a deal?”
Ku Lon considered the offer for a long moment, then nodded. “We have a deal.”
Chapter 4: Shoring Up the Base
Akane groaned in pure pleasure as Ranma’s hands moved along her back. The afternoon’s training had been brutal, and she was well content to be lying naked on several towels spread on the tiles next to the furo with Ranma straddling her hips as his hands worked their magic.
She had been worried that her broken ankle meant that she wouldn’t be able to train, but Ranma had pointed out that there might be fights where she wouldn’t be able to maneuver: perhaps she’d been chained to one spot, or had someone behind her that she had to protect. And then he’d noticed that she had a hole in her situational awareness — a huge hole. Thanks to the daily mass assaults by the Hentai Horde her situational awareness was excellent, so long as the potential attackers were within melee distance. But since none of the Horde had used ranged attacks, she automatically classified anyone she wasn’t focusing on that was more than a quick dash away as harmless.
The result of that revelation was a transforming splash of cool water, followed by the now floating naked redhead her sensei had become recruiting Peach Fuzz and as many more of the sprites currently enjoying Kasumi’s gardening that wanted to ‘play’. Akane had spent the afternoon rotating on her brace keeping one eye on the succubus as the redhead flew around the dojo, looking for an opportunity for a sudden ‘sprint’ at her for a touch. Her other eye Akane had tried to keep on the sprites flying around, carrying stones they would periodically throw at her when they thought they could catch her by surprise. The only rule Ranma had laid down was that the sprites couldn’t aim for her head, and the they proved to be surprisingly strong — those stones had hurt. By the end of training her situational awareness had noticeably improved, and she ached all over. Ranma’s offer of a massage was accepted after only a brief hesitation.
Her hesitation before stripping naked in front of her once again male sensei didn’t last much longer than when she accepted the massage; after all, when Ranma was a boy he might as well be a eunuch, and when she was a succubus Akane might as well not be wearing any clothes at all.
Akane was finding that there was something she hadn’t considered, though — Ranma might be a functional eunuch but she wasn’t, and even staying away from her ‘naughty’ parts his hand were as wonderful as Nabiki had boasted. As a result, the damp spot on the towel underneath her hips wasn’t just from her quick wash to get rid of the sweat, and the spot was growing.
“Should I be jealous?”
Akane tried to bolt upright, only for Ranma to grab her shoulders and gently push her back down. He complained, “Blast it Nabs, ya just ruined half my work!”
Nabiki smirked as she pushed herself upright from where she was leaning against the door frame and stepped into the room, sliding the door closed behind her. “I’m sure Akane is so disappointed that you’ll have to spend more time using those magic hands on her. Are you giving her the full treatment?”
Akane twisted and lifted herself up on one elbow. It only took her a moment of a furiously blushing Ranma’s almost incoherent denials to realize what her sister meant, and Nabiki laughed when her now also blushing younger sister added her furious denunciation to the bedlam.
“Joke! Joke!” the middle Tendo asserted, holding up her hands, then sobered. “Though in a way, it’s what I’m here about. While you were training I had a really interesting discussion with Elder Cologne.”
When she finished explaining the deal she’d agreed to pass on (leaving out any mention of Jusenkyo water), Akane just stared at her, shocked silent. Akane could not believe that her older sister was actually ... actually ... pimping out her fiancé!
Just as she was opening her mouth for an epic rant, Nabiki continued, “You know, Ranma, beyond getting a sensei of your own to help design your new style, this might actually help with the problems with your human form. One of them anyway.” Glancing at Akane, she added, “Though that would mean little sis would have to give up her bare naked massages.” She grinned when Akane blushed as red as Ranma’s hair.
“Ya really think so? That it could help?” Ranma asked. “You’re really okay with this?”
Nabiki shrugged. “It’s not like you won’t be doing this sort of thing sooner or later — with someone besides me, I mean. So sure, it’s what you are.”
“Yeah, I guess....”
“Great! Then I’ll leave you to finish your massage, my sensei should be home any moment. And you just know your mother is going to want to knock me around the dojo some more.”
“Start over my massage, ya mean,” Ranma grumbled as he gently pushed Akane back down onto the towels then shifted back up along her body. “Ya ruined what I’d gotten done.”
Nabiki just laughed as she slid the door open and strode out.
As Ranma’s hands started over again on Akane’s neck and shoulders, she tried to force herself to relax and actually think about the conversation she’d just listened to. Something just didn’t seem right....
“What are you up to?”
Nabiki, sitting on her bed, continued staring out her window as she tried to ignore the sound of her younger sister’s voice. She’d known Akane was there, of course, the girl’s emotions were spiking all over the place — determination, anger, disgust, confusion, worry, fear, love ... Akane was a mess. But Nabiki had been hoping that she’d take the hint and go away when Nabiki didn’t acknowledge her presence.
Really, all Nabiki wanted to do was go on staring out the window, like she’d been doing since Ranma had left almost fifteen minutes earlier. She liked to think of herself as a hardheaded girl (except whenever that smile and its accompanying love-blast from a cute redhaired succubus threatened to melt her down into a puddle of happy goo), but apparently she’d been lying to herself. It didn’t matter that Ranma didn’t leave by the window, or that the window was facing the wrong way, or that the early night meant there wasn’t much to see but streetlights even if it had been facing the right way. It was a window into night, and apparently that was symbolic enough. It seemed the study of all the symbology behind mystic rituals that her sensei had her doing (when she wasn’t doing schoolwork or getting beaten black-and-blue practicing kenjutsu) was bleeding over into her everyday perceptions. I’m going to have to be careful about that.
When it finally became clear that Akane wasn’t going to leave, Nabiki turned on her bed to face her sister with a sigh. She asked, “What makes you think I’m up to something?”
Akane stepped into the room and walked over to sit on the chair in front of Nabiki’s desk. “Because you actually involved me in that little discussion in the furo,” she replied, her cheeks turning pink. “You’ve been pushing for me to ... become more accepting of Ranma’s nature as a ... as a spirit, and you drop that bombshell on me? You could have just waited until we were doing schoolwork and pulled him aside.”
“Actually, I couldn’t,” Nabiki disagreed. “I wanted to catch Ranma in human form and while he tries — and he really has been getting better — him and schoolwork are an uneasy fit. Best to leave him to it.”
Akane giggled her agreement with her sister’s assessment, then asked, “And why did you want to talk to him in human form?” Then she laughed when Nabiki facepalmed. “Didn’t mean to admit that? You’re really off your center, aren’t you? So why didn’t you want to?”
Nabiki hesitated for a moment, then shrugged. “Because I was lying,” she admitted. “Oh, not about the deal or anything like that,” she hastily added at the blast of sudden anger from her sister, “just about it probably helping Ranma’s sex drive when human. If Ranma had been in succubus form, she’d have read me like a book and never have bought it.”
“Explain,” Akane ground out through gritted teeth. “What do you really want?”
“Ranma’s happiness. Maybe, her sanity.”
Akane’s blazing anger vanished, swamped by shock. “What!? How? Why? He’s seems fine, what’s wrong?”
“Yes, I would like to know as well.” Both girls looked toward the open door just as Nodoka stepped into view. She walked into the room and closed the door behind her. “You have been somewhat distracted — thoughtful — since your trip to Nekomi last Sunday. What is wrong with my son?”
Nabiki gulped at the stern expression on her sensei’s face. Suck it up, girl, she’ll have to hear about this sooner or later. “Right. Akane, remember how I said I wanted to keep Ranma sane and half-way human?”
Akane looked blank for a moment, then nodded.
“Well, I’ve pretty much given up on ‘human’ — now I’ll just settle for sane.” Nabiki quickly laid out the advice she’d received from Belldandy, though hinting that it was something she’d come up with herself — with mixed results. Yeah, Akane’s buying it, she thought with carefully hidden satisfaction as she ‘tasted’ her interrogators’ emotions, she’s still too willing to take things at face value. I wonder if Ranma has any stories from his years on the road that might help cure her of that?
Nodoka though, from the suspicion still mixing with her concern, wasn’t buying it for a minute. Ah, well, she already knows there’s at least one demon watching us, why not add some goddesses? Though wondering just why she and Ranma were so important in the larger scheme of things was enough to make her nauseous.
But the Tatsuno matriarch was apparently willing to put off further discussion for a more private moment. She simply said, “So you believe my son should adjust more rapidly to his secondary form?”
“That’s just it, it isn’t his secondary form,” Nabiki replied. “In fact, you don’t really have a son, not anymore. Right now, that succubus form is the one he ... she ... is most comfortable with. You were the one that told me about the asexual nature of succubae, but I don’t know if you really thought through what that means — I know I didn’t.”
“Ah. Yes.” Nodoka considered that for a few minutes. “So to sum this up, Ranma is more comfortable in succubus form, and you believe that should be encouraged — that Ranma should essentially become a succubus able to become human in preparation for the day that the human form is lost. Even if that means doing things that any human would be ostracized for, even arrested.”
“Yeah, I do,” Nabiki agreed. “And Akane, that’s where you come in.”
“Me?” her sister squeaked. She had been going pale and beet red by turns as concern and embarrassment had warred with each other throughout Nabiki’s explanation, and now she paled again as a bolt of fear shot through her.
“Yes, you,” Nabiki replied, unable to keep from grinning salaciously at her. She instantly sobered, though, when Akane began trembling with fearful disgust. “Sorry, sorry, just teasing, I’m not going to ask you to do anything perverted, or even sexual. Though it would do you good to loosen up a little.”
“So what are you asking?” Akane growled, flushing with embarrassment and trying to ignore her sister’s advice.
Nabiki carefully considered her words, then said, “Akane, you’ve been ... confused. About Ranma and what she’s going through. You’ve been better since your fight with that lunatic Kodachi, but still ...” She paused and waited for Akane’s reluctant nod of agreement, then continued, “Just ... try to be accepting, at least of Ranma herself even if you can’t be accepting of what she’s doing, at least not all the time. Ranma hasn’t gotten a lot of support in his life, and the fathers ...” She left that statement unfinished, but her audience both nodded as they filled in the rest for themselves. Genma’s emotions had been even more confused and scattershot than Akane’s and it came out in how he treated his child, avoiding him one day and trying to pretend they were still on the road with each other and no one else the next, and her father had his head firmly stuck in the sand and was fighting hard to keep it there. “Anyway, for some reason that completely escapes me after the way you’ve treated him, he really likes you — maybe it’s because you’re his first student. If you turn on her again, she ... won’t take it well.”
Akane stared at her for a few moments, then muttered under her breath, “A lion is a lion.”
Nabiki grinned — she was going to have to buy something really nice for Kasumi for coining that phrase to comfort Akane after that nature show, it was proving so useful. “Only this lion still thinks she’s a lamb, and learning otherwise is just a wee bit rough. So, Princess, can you do it?”
Akane blushed at hearing again the mocking epithet Nabiki had used, that day — was it really only a few weeks? — when she had ripped on Ranma for being a pervert, and Nabiki had returned the favor ... with interest. She took a deep breath and said firmly, “Yes. I can do it.”
Nabiki’s grin softened into a smile. “Thanks, little sis, it means a lot to me.” Then she raised a hand to cover a prodigious yawn, then waved toward the door. “Now, git!” she ordered. “It’s been a long day and will be longer before Ranma gets home. Besides, I think Nodoka wants to talk to me. Or is it Sensei?”
“ ‘Nodoka’, in this case,” the older woman replied. She watched Akane hurry from the room after making her ‘good nights’, and the pair listened to her footsteps down the hall to her room. Then Nodoka turned back to Nabiki, and without preamble asked, “Like Akane, I was under the impression that you were looking for ways to help Ranma stay more human. What happened in Nekomi to so radically change your mind?”
Chapter 5: Pushing the Limits
Tatewaki strode through his bedroom suite on the way to his large bathing room, already shedding the kote covering his hands and then his breastplate, followed by tare, hakama and keigoki as he went. Normally he would have been more caring of his kenjutsu training uniform rather than scattering them about for the servants to clean up, but with the meeting of the Kendo Club after school and his own practice after that it had been a long day and all he wanted to do was soak in his private hot tub.
Well, almost all.
He hissed in pained relief as he sank into the steaming water, turned on the jets, and leaned his head back against the headrest. “Sasuke!”
Several minutes later the tiny family ninja, dressed in the loose black garb of the ninja that myth called for, bustled into the bathing room. “Master Tatewaki called his humble servant?”
“Yes, I have a new assignment for you. You are to spy on Tatsuno Ranma and the fiery maiden that he has so brutally bound to him, and learn what terrors fill his heart, that we might weaken his will and free his slave.”
“But master, when he has ... exchanged places with ... the fiery maiden, she cannot be seen. How am I to follow her and avoid her gaze?”
“I care not of the difficulties of your task, only that it be done. You have your orders!”
Sasuke dropped to his knees and touched his forehead to the tiled floor. “It will be done!”
“Of course.” Tatewaki waved him away, and as Sasuke left the room turned his thoughts to the servants — more specifically, the more comely female servants. In the short time since her hiring Maruyama Mitsu had been making her willingness apparent in her flirtatious walk and come-hither smiles, a romp would be just the thing to prepare him for the night’s slumber.
Sasuke turned the corner to the servants’ entrance, and stopped at the sight of his mistress waiting for him, dressed in a translucent robe over her lingerie, an embroidered velvet bag in one hand. “You have been instructed by my boorish brother to spy on the Tendo residence.”
“Yes, Mistress,” he instantly replied, wonder how she’d hacked his surveillance system this time.
“I approve. We have a score to settle with the peasant that publicly humiliated me, and there will be a day of reckoning! But you face the challenge of infiltrating a residence inhabited by beings invisible to the mortal eye.” Opening the bag’s ties, she reached in and pulled out a choker and held it out. “You may make use of this, for so long as your mission lasts. It will allow you to see those of the Other World, and so avoid their notice.”
Sasuke’s jaw dropped (thankfully hidden by the veil across his lower face). The glow of the dark stone in its silver setting wasn’t just a trick of the light, the power it radiated was greater than any item he’d ever seen — so great that even Sleepers such as his master and mistress must be able to sense it. If his young mistress was still a Sleeper, he couldn’t tell thanks to the choker’s radiance. Perhaps avoiding Mistress Kodachi since her defeat was not the best decision.
Accepting the choker in shaking hands, he dropped to his knees and fixed his eyes on the floor. “My mistress honors me far more than I deserve.”
Kodachi waved off his statement. “I know, but the honor is incidental, the success of your mission is what matters. Do not fail us.” With that, she strode past him toward her suite.
Sasuke waited until the sound of her footsteps faded into silence, then rose to his feet and slipped the choker into the pouch at his waist. It was good to have an excuse to hide his ability to see the supernatural, but he would have to be very careful that the choker wasn’t damaged — Kodachi wasn’t as ... forgiving ... as her brother.
Pulling his black veil up from around his neck to cover his lower face, Sasuke slipped out the entrance and vanished into the night.
Ranma soared down toward the horizontal life-glows circled around a red-glowing fire pit that had to be the Amazons in the tents she couldn’t see even hints of at that distance. One last barrel roll stretched the smile on her face as she felt the air pull at her red-skinned wings. She really should have gone straight to the encampment when she left the Tendos, but the night and her own nervousness had conspired to tempt her into a quick bout of aerobatics first.
Peach Fuzz whooped in Ranma’s ear, the sprite’s arms tightening around her neck, and the succubus’s smile broadened even more. It seemed her first impression when she and Peach Fuzz made their short dives into the Voice while guarding Akane from Kodachi hadn’t been flukes, the sprite really was a speed junkie. And by themselves, sprites weren’t all that much faster than Ranma’s succubus form without the wings.
Then she saw a gnomish-shaped life-glow hovering above the faint shine of the grass, that had to be one of the Amazon elders balanced on her staff, and her nervousness mixed with shame washed over her again — this was something her father would do, not her! She muttered, “Why am I doing this?”
“Because Nabiki asked you to, and you can’t say no to her any more than I can — and without a familiar bond as an excuse.”
Ranma smiled at Nabiki’s name. “Yeah, I guess so.” But as distracting as happy thoughts of her lover were, it was brief — because from the resigned determination Nabiki had been feeling when they separated, Ranma doubted she had much faith this would work as she’d suggested ... and Ranma had no idea why she still wanted her lover to go through with this. And yer chances a’ figuring it out suck. Because while Ranma might be the best martial artist in the world (his age, at least — or was, not that she’d say that out loud, and would be again once she figured out a new style to go with her succubus form), it hadn’t taken him long to realize that in any other situation Nabiki so badly outclassed him it wasn’t even a competition. And Nabiki didn’t care all that much about martial arts. Thanks to their shared empathy she didn’t doubt Nabiki’s love for her, but sometimes she couldn’t help but wonder why.
Then she stiffened as a thought struck her, and as she slowed to hover in front of Ku Lon and absorbed her wings, she whispered, “Peach Fuzz, is Nabs watching through your eyes?”
“No,” Peach Fuzz murmured in her ear, and she relaxed again — this was going to be difficult enough without an audience — and refocused on Ku Lon shining with life in front of her. At three centuries of age the gnomish elder on display through her faintly green translucent robe wasn’t exactly a delight to the eyes, but by now Ranma’s eyes tended to slide right past such sights. More interesting was the way the staff she was balanced on glowed in the dark — like the wards over the Tendo household and the occasional building, apartment, even rooms Ranma had noticed scattered throughout the city, or the katanas that her mother and now Nabiki bore; only much more faint.
Ranma made a note to ask her mother about it later, and bowed shallowly where she floated. “Greetings, Elder.”
The ancient gnome raised an eyebrow. “Being rather formal, are we?”
Ranma shrugged. “Ya hired me, I figured ya deserved some respect. Some.”
Ku Lon chuckled as she twisted on her staff and began to pogo along, away from the camp. “You do know you will have to give me the true respect when I train you?”
“Yeah, I always do when I’m trainin’,” Ranma replied as she caught up and floated along beside her. “Except for Pops, a’ course. So how we gonna do this?”
“It isn’t obvious? You possess a man while his wife is as amorous with him as you could possibly need.”
“Uh, yeah ...” Ranma reached up, disturbing Peach Fuzz as she rubbed at her neck. “These guys do know I’ll be there, right? Wouldn’t wanna be perving on ‘em.”
Now Ku Lon outright laughed. “You, my young friend, now ‘perv’ on people every day of your life. But you have no need to worry here, they not only volunteered, they are eager.”
“They are? But why?”
“Sexual fetishes come in many varieties, my young friend, and I imagine you’ll eventually learn them all — Ru Kai and Heng Chu enjoy an audience, back in the village they’ve actually been punished several times for public indecency. And for the Joketsuzoku, that takes some doing.”
“Got it.” Ranma was glad it was night, the dark hiding her furious blush. Her blushing wasn’t helped by Peach Fuzz’s equally furious giggling.
Then the three approached another small grove, this one softly lit up by several lanterns scattered throughout. Inside the grove, a young Chinese couple seated on a spread out blanket looked up at their approach — or rather at Ku Lon’s approach, obviously unable to see the succubus and sprite. As they rose to their feet to bow, Ranma looked them over approvingly — while the blue-haired man was obviously no fighter he had kept himself in shape, and the sea-green-haired woman had both the weapons (two swords, in her case, across her back with a hilt over each shoulder, the dense steel barely translucent at all), the musculature, and the silky-smooth movements of a trained warrior. “Greetings, Elder,” the female of the two said respectfully, though with a saucy grin. She ran a hand along the long braid lying along her neck and down between her breasts, as if petting one of the furry demons that sometimes haunted Ranma’s sleep. “Have you brought our audience?”
Ranma fought back a shiver at the eagerness suffusing the pair’s emotions. “Uh ... yeah, she did. Um ... she did tell ya how this’s gonna work?”
The pair turned to bow in Ranma’s general direction. “Yes,” the woman replied, “you will possess my husband, and he will lie still while I have my way with him. And then Ryoga will be a very lucky man—no less than three lovely ladies lusting after his body! You are lovely, aren’t you?” She frowned and squinted exaggeratedly at the spot of to her empty air where Ranma’s voice had come from, then giggled at Ranma’s panicky, (lying) babbled denial at lusting after Ryoga’s anything.
Ku Lon chuckled for a moment before saying, “Ranma, these are Ru Kai and Heng Chu,” indicating the wife and husband, “your eager volunteers for tonight’s training.”
“Oh, yes,” Ru Kai agreed. “We’ve never had an audience that could actually share in the sensations and emotions of the act, we could not ask for a more intimate voyeur.”
“Yes, I’m sure you all will have a wonderful time. I’ll just let you all get to it.” Ku Lon waved her farewells to the three and pogoed off into the dark (for the humans), chuckling to herself.
Ranma watched the Elder’s life-glow move away, then jerked when the warrior spoke. “Let’s get started.” The pair turned away from the departing Elder they probably couldn’t see anymore, and Heng Chun lay down on his back while Ru Kai started unbuckling the faintly visible harness for her swords. Her reddish nipples were already crinkling tight from her eager anticipation, the first shine of dampening folds between her legs (her sea-green hair was natural) were a counterpoint to the small tent Heng Chun’s cock was building in his tight leather breeches — the visible signs of the growing lust they were feeling.
Ranma felt her own hunger beginning to rise in response. “Y-y-yeah, l-let me get in p-place.” She blushed at the quiver in her voice, but the warrior simply smiled and waved toward her husband. Ranma took a deep breath (that she didn’t really need) and turned, gently pushed Peach Fuzz off her shoulder, and drifted down toward the reclining Heng Chun — by now she was somewhat used to what passed for possession for her (she still couldn’t actually take control, but trying would let whoever she was ... ‘occupying’ was a better term ... know what she wanted done) but had only occupied a few people, all female. Now she reached down to lay a hand on a well-muscled chest so different from the normal soft mounds, reached, and with the usual twisting feeling found herself looking at the world through Heng Chun’s eyes.
“Weird,” she thought absently as her host’s lusty/loving gaze followed his wife’s hands working at the ties and buckles of her harness and skimpy-cut, blue, thigh-length cheongsam. As always, Ranma felt oddly blind with her eyesight reverted to the ... solidity ... of his mortal body while still in her succubus form — the dark closing in with the life-glow’s vanishing, clothes more sensed than seen before suddenly appearing....
Heng Chun twitched. “Ranma, was that you?”
“Oh, yeah, sorry ‘bout that.” Ranma instinctively tried to rub her neck under her shoulder-length hair, and Heng Chun twitched again when he felt the ... pressure ... to move his hand. “Oops, sorry again.”
“Don’t be, this is fascinating!”
Ru Kai had laid aside her weapon harness, and now her hands paused for a moment on the cheongsam’s fastenings at her throat. “Ranma?”
“Yes, she’s speaking in my mind.”
“Interesting, but not what we’re here for.” Heng Chun’s breath hitched as she wriggled out of the dress, leaving her naked except for her slippers, and Ranma felt her own hunger growing stronger with the sensation of his stiffening cock pressing against his tight pants. Ru Kai smiled saucily, striking a pose that froze her husband where he lay. “I’d say you still like what you see.”
Heng Chun laughed, and at Ru Kai’s inquiring look said, “Ranma is equally impressed.”
“What, just this?” Ru Kai reached up to cup her breasts, flicking her thumbs across the hardened tips. “So let’s give her something to really be impressed with. Remember, keep your hands to yourself, this is all me.”
She dropped to her knees, her fingers busy with the ties to her husband’s breeches ... and Ranma realized she had a problem as a fresh wave of lust accompanied Heng Chun’s groan at the sensation of Ru Kai’s fingers slipping along his engorged cock. Crap, that feels good, but Ryoga’s not gonna feel any a’ that! How’m I supposed to separate the emotions from the physical stuff? Heng Chun’s eyes squeezed shut with another groan as his wife’s tongue joined her fingers, sweeping the length of his cock and twirling around the mushroom tip to lick off beading pre-cum, and that just made things even worse. “Open yer eyes!”
Heng Chun’s eyes snapped open. “Sorry about that.”
“Ya don’t need ta be sorry, just don’t do it.” Then at Ru Kai’s inquiring look at her husband’s apparently one-sided conversation, added, “And ya don’t need ta speak ta answer, just ... think hard.”
“Think hard, riiiiight.”
Ru Kai had slipped her mouth down over as much of his cock as she could take in, her teeth gently scraping along his skin. As she began to bob her head, Ranma did her best to focus on every physical sensation as she watched: the warm, wet swirl of Ru Kai’s tongue; the pressure as the occasional suck briefly hollowed her cheeks; her hand pumping his cock below her mouth; the way Heng Chun’s hips twitched as he forced himself to not thrust his hips up to meet her descending mouth — the rising pressure that was almost but not exactly the same as Ranma’s own rising hunger. When this was over and Ranma returned to her lover they weren’t going to be making love, Nabiki was going to get fucked!
Then Ru Kai, lifted her head, Heng Chun’s cock pulling free from her mouth with a pop, and slowly swept her tongue across her lips as she shifted to crouch with her knees on each side of her husband’s hips. “Enough of the pre-game show, time to play!”
“Wha’ ... ?”
Heng Chun chuckled. “We aren’t complete barbarians, there’s actually a couple old televisions and video players in Nyucheizu. Each new tape of Japanese football is popular.”
Ranma barely managed to respond to her host’s explanation, absently wondering how he could be so ... so rational as the sensations of Ru Kai running the tip of his cock back and forth through the Amazon’s wet folds and across the nub protruding from its hood washed through her.
Then in one swift move Ru Kai positioned Heng Chun’s cock at the opening of her sheath and dropped, burying that iron rod hilt deep inside her. Ranma lost all coherent thought as the combined force of the physical sensations of the wet-hot vice gripping that rod and the pure need from both Amazons hammered into her, simply riding the ever-mounting waves of pleasure and lust as Heng Chun’s own need grew every time his wife dropped to grind their groins together until his unbearable pressure exploded.
Ranma found herself floating next to the couple, her floating red tresses waving as she shook from overload. She watched almost uncomprehendingly as Ru Kai stiffened, head thrown back, mouth open in a soundless shriek, before falling forward to lie limply across her husband’s body. Her own body gently rose and fell as Heng Chung hyperventilated.
Finally his breathing eased. “Ranma? Are you still here?”
“I ... yeah ... I ... wow! That ... incredible ...”
Ru Kai rolled off her husband to flop onto the blanket next to him, both bodies slick with sweat. She took his hand and gently squeezed while her other hand slid through her folds, coating itself in the milky fluid oozing from her sheath. Ranma felt her own shaking ease as she basked in the couple’s love for each other.
Ru Kai smiled up towards the succubus’s voice. “The best you’ve ever had?” she asked slyly, bubbling with good humor.
“Ah ... no, not really.” Ranma found herself rubbing the back of her neck again. “Once me an’ Nabs, uhhh ... knocked me out.”
“Hard to beat that,” Heng Chung said as he began to laugh, and his wife slapped his chest.
“Jerk. Of course that’s better, she was with the girl she loves.” Looking in Ranma’s direction again, she continued, “So did we give you what you need? Because if you need more, Heng Chung ought to be up to a repeat performance.”
“N-n-no, I’m ... I’m good ... thanks, see ya later!” Ranma bolted straight up through the trees. Bursting out of the leafy cover like a breaching whale, she spun and twisted to fly along the tree tops, her red bat-wings snapping out.
“Hey, wait for me!” Ranma paused, twisting around and hovering as Peach Fuzz’s life-glow popped out of the tree behind her. The sprite flew over and settled on her shoulder. “That was quick. That good, huh?”
“Uh, yeah....” Ranma’s cheeks heated and she reached for her neck before snatching her hand down.
“Ooooh, you can still blush!” Peach Fuzz giggled. “That’s still so weird, a blushing succubus ... so did you get what you needed?”
“Well ... not really.” Ranma sighed, embarrassment forgotten. “It was all so overwhelming I couldn’t focus on the physical side a’ things.”
“Oh. So what’re you going to do?” Grinning, she leaned over and whispered in Ranma’s ear, “You could do it again ... and again ... and again, until you aren’t ... hungry, anymore.”
“No!” Ranma could feel her cheeks heating again. “No, it, uh ... it doesn’t help even if I’m ... ah, ‘full’. After I got knocked out me an’ Nabs tried. Being ‘full’ doesn’t keep me from ... ‘tasting’ my ... ‘meals’. No point in askin’ for more.” Why am I blushing an’ stammering so much? I was getting better about this, I was! ‘Course, till now the only person I’ve ‘fed’ from is Nabiki....
“So that’s a bust, then. So what are you going to do? You’re going to want Elder Ku Lon’s help with your style.”
“I dunno.” Hovering in the night air above the trees, Ranma started to slowly spin in place — she’d been told that fully grown succubus had few natural enemies, that most died shortly after being born (spawned?) and she’d skipped that stage, but that was no reason to become careless. “What I need is some way ta get the sex without the ... the ...”
After a few moments Peach Fuzz tugged on one of the tresses bleached of their fire by the moonlight. “ ‘The’ what? What crazy idea popped into your head this time?”
Ranma winced as the tug yanked her out of her reverie. “Oh, right! ... You sprites feed off a’ something plants radiate, right?”
“Yes, their excess life essences, especially flowering plants and trees, same as you do with sexual energy. So?”
“So ... can ya feed off a’ that ‘life essence’ when you’re diving in the Voice?”
“Of course not, the Voice is a ... a memory ... of course, why didn’t I think of that?!”
Ranma grinned. “Hey, you’re not slow, I’m just a genius! Ow!” She rubbed her head where Peach Fuzz had yanked on her hair again. “Why does that even hurt? It’s not like this’s a real body.”
“Oh, it’s real enough, it just isn’t physical ... sort of.... Whatever.” Ranma felt her hair around her ear shift when Peach Fuzz shrugged. “Come on, let’s get back to the house, we’re going for a Dive!”
Ranma lay on the Tendo lawn — floating, really, her natural state as a nature spirit, but at least her back was touching the grass even if her hair was floating about her head and drifting with the breeze. (She really needed to learn how to style or at least cut her hair as a succubus.) She was staring up, through wall and floor at her lover stretched out on their bed. At that distance the succubus couldn’t see the translucent image of whatever clothes Nabiki might be wearing, so she didn’t know if the middle Tendo was still wearing the shorts and T-shirt she preferred outside of school or dressed for bed, but either way Nabiki was still awake.
For a moment she again considered letting Nabiki know she was back, before rejecting it — she wasn’t done, after all. She glanced around at the sprites that had been browsing through Kasumi’s flowers that Peach Fuzz had called over and were now circling the pair, then lifted her head slightly, so she could focus on her chest. Peach Fuzz lounged between her breasts, an arm on each mound like easy chair arms, bumble bee wings tickling the soft skin of the trough between. Ranma asked, “So how we doin’ this?”
The tiny brunette shrugged. “The usual way. How much experience with the Voice do you have?”
“You mean besides not getting carried away by its music? Beyond the vision when I first met Cherry Blossom and our flights when we were bodyguarding Akane, just once when Gosunkugi summoned me.” She quickly told of how she’d found herself back when she’d first met Nabiki, and how the vision had given her the hint she needed to deal with the would-be slaver and rapist. (She left out how she’d lost herself in the Voice just after, to get away from the memory of what Gosunkugi had wanted to do to her — not her proudest moment, and Peach Fuzz already knew about it anyway.)
“Wow,” Peach Fuzz said when she finished, “the Voice really likes you — having it step in by itself like that is rare.” She frowned for a moment, then shrugged again. “Something to tell Nabiki and your mom about later. Right now, we’ll be doing the same thing only deliberately. Close your eyes and concentrate on the moment you want to go to, then let yourself ... ‘fall into’ the Voice.”
“Just like that?” Ranma asked doubtfully — that seemed a little too easy.
“Just like that, though you have to make sure you don’t get swept away by the Song.”
“ ‘The Song’, right.” Ranma gazed at her lover’s familiar for a long moment, then closed her eyes with a sigh, and tried to follow her rather sketchy instructions. Focus on when and where you want ta go, and let yerself fall inta the Music. So just when do I want ta begin? She could feel her cheeks heating yet again as she thought about it. She didn’t really need to experience the blow job again, he’d already had that when Nabiki had tried to sleep with him — it hadn’t worked out, but at least Ranma knew what it felt like. So, just after. She concentrated on that moment, just before Ru Kai’s mouth had popped free of her husband’s cock and she’d shifted to crouch over him. There. Ranma tried to fix the moment in her mind and relaxed to let the symphony of the Voice rise. Even with her eyes closed, her vision exploded in kaleidoscopic colors, she seemed to whirl about in the musical tide, then in a crescendo of Song slammed to a stop hard enough to take away the breath she didn’t have.
“Wow, I’m impressed. I didn’t expect you to get it on the first try.”
Ranma opened her eyes to find herself floating above Heng Chun lying flat on the blanket, Ru Kai kneeling by him with her head bobbing and one hand between spread knees.
“Get in there, quick, before you lose the moment!”
Ranma turned her head to find Peach Blossom hovering by her shoulder. But she was between ... how ... later, she’s right, you gotta move. The succubus twisted and dove down into Heng Chun.
The experience was decidedly odd — she could ‘hear’ the thoughts she’d exchanged with Heng Chun about the popularity of Japanese football, even sense herself, as stunned by the sensations and sex-hunger as she’d been.
And she could feel the wet heat of Ru Kai’s folds as she crouched over her husband’s groin, ran the tip of his iron-hard cock between her sopping folds, the Amazon’s eager lust — and this time the sensations, both emotional and physical, were crystal clear, without Ranma’s own lust-hunger clouding her mind. It worked! Oh, there was still the tide of the Voice singing in her mind, trying to sweep her away. But while it was louder, stronger than when she’d gone flying with Peach Fuzz, it was still easily resisted and alien enough that she could divorce it from what was happening.
Then Ru Kai positioned her husband’s cock at the entrance to her sheath and dropped, and Ranma ignored everything else to focus on every sensation as the Amazon bounced — the tight, wet heat encompassing that iron rod, the way Ru Kai’s muscles clenched and milked it as she rose and fell, the growing pressure as Heng Chun neared his own release, his balls tightening, then the explosion as he fired his seed up into his wife, causing her to stiffen as her own orgasm exploded through her before falling forward onto his chest.
Pulling herself up out of her host, Ranma’s eyes widened at the sight of herself, floating there shaking from the overload of what she’d just experienced. Oh, right, a’ course I’m here. She ignored her shadow’s embarrassed stammering as it thanked the pair for their help before fleeing up through the trees, instead looking around — and Peach Fuzz landed on her shoulder again.
“So, did you get what you needed?”
“Yeah, I did. It’s not enough ta get creative with, but for a one-time shot for Ryoga’s dreams it’ll do just fine. So let’s get — wait.” Ranma stared down at the pair below her, now laughing softly as they talked over what had just happened. (She assumed since they’d switched to their native tongue, but she couldn’t think of anything else they’d be laughing about at that moment.) Her cheeks heated at their amusement at how embarrassed she’d been, but she couldn’t really fault them — she had been a stuttering, blushing, practically incoherent mess. But it wasn’t the incomprehensible conversation that held her in place, it was ... “Nabs.”
“Nabiki?” Peach Fuzz repeated. “What about Nabiki?”
“What’s wrong with Nabiki’s dreams?”
Ranma ignored the confused sprite, watching as things heated up again below, the pair apparently ready for round two even without an audience (that they knew of). Ru Kai was sliding down her husband’s body, to lick his cock clean before lowering her mouth over the hardening rod, again bobbing, bobbing ...
“Whoa! She didn’t do that before!” Peach Fuzz exclaimed as Ru Kai’s lips slid down the full length of the hardened cock until her nose was pressed into the sparse pubic hair at its base. The sprite glanced sideways at Ranma’s flaming face, smiling slyly. “She must not have wanted to overwhelm you on your first time ... so to speak.”
Ranma felt her cheeks burn even hotter but continued to ignore the sprite, waiting ... and then Heng Chun grabbed his wife by the shoulders, pulling her up his body — and Ranma abandoned her hesitation and dove, slipping into Ru Kai’s body even as Heng Chun rolled them both over. As the succubus settled into her new host, Ru Kai eagerly spread her knees wide to make room for her equally eager husband and a single thrust completely buried that iron rod in her seed-lubricated sheath.
Ranma silently shrieked at the sensation of Ru Kai’s inner walls stretching to accommodate their welcome intruder. She could not believe how full she felt, as if the thrusting, pounding cock was trying to push through Ru Kai’s womb into her stomach on the way to her throat, every vein seeming to imprint itself on the hot, wet walls for an instant at the bottom of each thrust — Nabiki’s fingers had never felt like that, and Ranma wondered distantly is this was what Nabiki’s big dildo felt like.
Ranma pushed through the tide of new sensations to again become aware of the larger world to find that Ru Kai had wrapped her legs around Heng Chun’s hips, her fingernails digging into his shoulders as she babbled in Mandarin. Then the muscles of her sheath started to rhythmically squeeze as if she was trying to milk the cock plundering her depths, he grunted, thrust hard, again, again ... and Ru Kai shrieked as the sensation of a fresh wave of her husband’s seed pumping into her depths took her over the edge and she exploded.
Ranma let the familiar wave of pleasure wash over her, carry her along for a moment before a fresh wave hammered her, and another, until Ru Kai slumped bonelessly, gasping for breath. Ranma waited as her host’s breathing slowly eased, wanting to experience the full range of sensations. Though ... she frowned at the wet feeling of something oozing down along the crack of Ru Kai’s ass. What could —
She flashed out of her host, hovering over the pair, shaking, so shocked she barely noticed their exhausted contentment. With a soft laugh Heng Chun rolled off his wife, and try as she might Ranma couldn’t keep herself from looking — yes, that oozing wet had been the overflow of Heng Chun’s seed spilling out around his cock rolling white down between Ru Kai’s cheeks.
Ranma twisted and flew after her earlier self up through the trees into the night sky above, aimed at the moon.
She didn’t climb far before she stopped, and Peach Fuzz quickly caught up with her, circling around the redhead curled into a ball, slowly wafting on the breeze. “Uh ... Ranma? What was that about? Why ... ?”
“ ‘Cause a’ Nabs,” Ranma replied, her voice muffled. “The first couple a’ times we shared dreams we didn’t know what was going on, and ... we were in bedrooms, and I was a guy. But neither of us really know what it’s like, with me as a guy. So we’ve been avoiding more a’ them, but she wants me as a guy an’ I can’t ... perform, when human....”
“And you decided to find out what it’s like for both of you, so you could at least be the guy in her dreams,” Peach Fuzz finished when Ranma’s voice trailed off. She sighed. “Moved a little too fast, did you? Got more than you were ready for?”
“ ... Yeah.”
“Well, what’s done is done.” Peach Fuzz abruptly darted in, and Ranma yelped, exploding out of her ball. The sprite giggled as Ranma glared at her, rubbing one ass cheek. “Come on, let’s get home. You may have moved too fast, but now you can make my mistress a very happy woman.”
Ranma forced a grin. “Ya got that right! And you’ll be enjoying every moment through your link with her, won’t you?”
“You bet I will, Hot Stuff, and this time I’m not gonna let it knock me out!”
Ranma laughed, then closed her eyes. Letting the tide of the Voice rise up to wash away the World, she focused on Home: the cool night breeze, the grass beneath her back, Nabiki’s naked backside above her lying on their bed....
The World snapped back into focus and her eyes snapped open at the sensation of unexpected weight on her stomach. There staring down at her over Peach Fuzz’s stirring body resting between her breasts were two glowing slit eyes framed by white fur.
Ranma’s scream of pure terror woke up everyone in the Tendo household, and startled a sleepy imp so much it fell off of its perch in a tree across the street from the Tendo compound.
Chapter 6: Open Secrets
And it's back! Now that I've finished The Unexpected Hobbit and Coming Home and have reread this series up to now, I can again pick up this story! The current plan is to alternate between this story (and its sequel, once it's finished) and another of my current stories (currently, The Yuxia Bond). I've also returned to smaller chapters, since I actually seem to get a higher weekly word count that way.
Nabiki lay on her back on her bed, wondering where Ranma was. She had given up on staring out the window as boredom combined with the long day caught up with her, but she was too worried about her lover to sleep. So she’d simply laid there, still dressed, staring at the ceiling, and waited.
And waited. Surely it shouldn’t be taking this long? I don’t care if those Amazons could take the Olympic gold in sex, there’s no way Ranma would stick around once she had the bare minimum she needs. But while succubae are tough they aren’t invulnerable, and Ranma’s mental state was likely to be shaky after ... that.
Stop it! If anything had happened you would have heard from Peach Fuzz. You haven’t, so it hasn’t. You’ll just have to be patient until Ranma gets home.
And that was another thing worrying her — Ranma getting home. She might have been able to hide her little lie by setting everything up with Ranma while he was in his male form and so lacking his empathic abilities, but she hadn’t been able to come up with an excuse not to see the succubus off when she left ... not that she’d tried very hard. But while she was certain it was the best course to take she was far from happy about it, and there was no way Ranma hadn’t picked up on her feelings.
So where is she? That’s it, I’m done waiting. Just asking Peach Fuzz what’s going on isn’t spying, no need to borrow her senses —
The scream of pure terror from outside her window combined with a wave of panic slamming into her through her familiar link with Peach Fuzz practically levitated Nabiki from off her bed. That was Ranma! She dove for her window, getting there just in time to see a cat streak up the compound wall like a mountain goat up a cliff side and vanish into the night. Looking down, she found her fiancée floating a few feet off the lawn, curled into a ball.
She whirled and rushed for her door, meeting her sisters and Nodoka in the hallway, her sensei holding her unsheathed katana in one hand. All Nabiki said as she pushed past Kasumi and Nodoka on her way to the stairs was, “It was a cat.”
The small parade reached the backyard to find the fathers looking around in confusion while Peach Fuzz hovered in mid-air as she verbally tore a strip off another sprite that Nabiki didn’t recognize. Her familiar ending her tirade with, “Cherry Blossom will hear about this!” As Peach Fuzz’s victim fled, she turned toward Ranma then bobbled in the air for a moment when she noticed the newcomers, then flew over to settle on Nabiki’s shoulder.
“What happened?” Nabiki demanded as she reached down to pull a Ranma she could now see was literally shaking up into her embrace.
Peach fuzz sighed. “We didn’t quite get what we needed at the Amazons’ camp, so we were making an info-dive into the Voice. We came here where we’d be safe behind wards, and Rose Hip was supposed to be keeping watch while we were gone. But instead she decided to enjoy Kasumi’s flower garden, and Ranma woke up to a cat sitting on her stomach. I don’t know why she’s so freaked out, I was the one that almost ended up a nighttime snack.”
Nabiki twitched as a wave of shame and regret washed over her and the women, except for a confused Akane, all turned to glare at Genma. In a voice that could have frosted a hot iron, Nodoka said, “I suggest you make yourself scarce for awhile.” As Genma jerked a nod and followed the cat over the wall to vanish into the night, she turned to Nabiki and a Ranma curled even tighter under the wave of anger they were emoting. With a sigh she closed her eyes and took a deep breath.
Nabiki shivered as the anger she was picking up, stoking her own rage, dropped to a level that allowed her to bring herself under control. Without a word, she walked past her father back into the house. I’m going to have to watch that feedback effect, apparently it doesn’t just apply to orgasms.
When they reached the top of the stairs, Nabiki glanced at her older sister. “Kasumi, can you explain what’s going on to Akane? Mother and I will be cuddling with Ranma for awhile.” And your own anger isn’t helping. For once, Nabiki had no hesitation applying ‘Mother’ to the now-Tatsuno matriarch, not with the clear sympathetic concern she was picking up now that her sensei had her anger under control.
“Of course.” The outwardly calm Kasumi guided Akane toward her room.
“Can I join them?”
Nabiki twitched at Peach Fuzz’s telepathic request — she still wasn’t used to voices in her head when Ranma wasn’t merged with her, and her familiar’s ‘voice’ lacked its usual bubbly happy edge. “Sure, it’s no secret ... at least within family. But don’t tell anyone else.”
“My lips are sealed.” The sprite buzzed up from Nabiki’s shoulder and followed the other two Tendos.
Nabiki walked into her own room and sat on the bed, Nodoka following her, and as the two cuddled Ranma the middle Tendo fought to push her anger away, to focus on her love and concern for the curled-up succubus in her arms. Slowly, Ranma’s shivering eased as her fading terror was replaced by embarrassed shame.
Finally uncurling, Ranma looked up and Nabiki almost squeed at how cute she looked with the furious blush on her face. That blush deepened (undoubtedly from picking up Nabiki’s delight), and she opened her mouth, only for her mother to beat her to the punch.
“No, you have nothing to be ashamed of. Your father should be ashamed of what he did to you.”
“And he is,” Nabiki added, “he was practically wallowing in it when he left.”
Ranma stared up at the two, and quietly asked, “He ran away?”
The pair hesitated, but fair is fair. Nabiki reluctantly said, “Actually, Mother ordered him to leave. Considering how angry she was —”
“And still am,” Nodoka added.
“— that was the smartest thing he’s done in ages.”
Ranma surprised them — and herself — by weakly giggling. “That’s not sayin’ much.”
The other pair’s laughter joined hers, and Nabiki felt muscles she hadn’t realized were still tight relax as she felt something in them all ease.
Then Nodoka rose to her feet. “I’m happy you’re all right, Ranma. And now, it’s been a long day, and you have much to discuss. Pleasant dreams.” She glanced at Nabiki, and Nabiki nodded back. She hadn’t forgotten Nodoka’s advice after her sensei had learned the more ... interesting (better than ‘terrifying’, if perhaps not as truthful) details of her and Ranma’s Nekomi trip.
Now Ranma was looking quizzically up at her fiancée. “What d’we have ta talk about?”
Nabiki sighed and reluctantly released Ranma, gently shoving the succubus away so she could rise to her feet and begin stripping for bed. “Private, we’ll talk about it after I’m asleep. Can you not merge with me tonight? I feel like cuddling.”
Ranma smiled, radiating gratitude. “Sure, Nabs, me too.”
Watching the yard from where he’d hidden underneath the porch outside the living room, Sasuke decided that the sprites that infested the compound had finally grown distracted enough for him to make his exit, so long as he moved carefully. Just as his own Art allowed him to see them it protected him from their notice, but only if he didn’t make too large an impact on the world as he moved through it. And having a sprite that didn’t know he was there collide with him on his or her way from one patch of flowers to another wouldn’t help.
It took him over an hour to get across the lawn, up over the wall, and away from the Tendo compound. Once up on the roof of a house across the street and out of line of sight of anyone at the Tendo home’s upper windows, he raced across the rooftops toward the Kuno estate, very happy with the results of the night’s work.
He had been expecting to have to haunt Ranma’s every step (or flight) for long, boring days if not weeks. And even better, the weakness he had discovered would be useless to the two Kuno siblings, Sleepers that they were. Oh, they would come up with separate, ludicrous plans that were as likely to clash as anything else, but as ignorant of the world behind the mask of normality as they were those plans would be no threat to a succubus.
So now he could report to Tatewaki (he was really hoping that his master would be finished with whichever of the servant girls he had chosen to take to bed, but the delusional would-be samurai would be angry if he waited until morning), return the broach to Kodachi (who might also have a servant girl in her bed, but usually satisfied most of those urges at school), then sit back and enjoy the show. It was really all he could do, given their mental states.
In his haste, he failed to notice the pair of imps flying high in the night sky ... high enough to keep him in sight.
Chapter 7: Foul Ball
Warning, High Citrus Content!
I know, almost two weeks since my last chapter and a month since the last chapter for this story. Part of that was because last month was miserable, what with doctor's appointments, catching the flu, and an early onset of allergies, but the other part is because much of this chapter is Not Safe For Work so I couldn't work on it during my work breaks. On the plus side, a third to a half of the next chapter for this story is already written.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Nabiki was sure that Ranma was frowning thoughtfully. She couldn’t see his face, the way she was leaning against his chest with his arms around her, both leaning against a tree shaped perfectly for the purpose — as it should be, in her dream. But the ... thoughtful focus? ... intent? ... that Ranma was radiating said that he wasn’t just enjoying the view of the meadow with a brook running through it — the same place they’d been visiting the night Gosunkugi had first tried to summon Ranma.
“So the kami that got us together thinks it’s a good idea for me ta go native,” he repeated.
“And that’s really why ya pushed for me ta help out the Amazons.”
“And Mom agrees.”
Nabiki had been tightening with every ‘yes’, and now she almost leaped out of her skin when he lightly kissed the back of her neck and murmured, “Okay.”
She squeaked, “Okay?”
“Yeah. When I got splashed during the fight at the temple, the magic there ... I don’t think I’ll ever feel anything more powerful. I hope not. But it felt ... clean, I guess.”
“Pure. It felt pure,” Nabiki suggested, relaxing as she remembered that visit to Nekomi. She had no real reason to go back, but some day she’d come up with an excuse....
“Yeah, pure. So, if the kami that lives in a place like that think it’s a good idea, an’ you an’ Mom agree, it’s probably a good idea.”
It wasn’t going to be that easy, Nabiki knew, nowhere near. But ... It’s a start. When Ranma puts his ... puts her mind to something, she does it. And as part of that, she was going to have to start thinking of Ranma as female all the time, not just when her fiancé was a succubus. Ranma’s male ‘incubus’ form was coming sooner or later, but even when it did he’d ... she’d probably use the female form as the default — everyone in the household that could see her were female, after all, including her mother.
The thought brought a hint of disappointment with it ... Ranma was a handsome hunk of man flesh ... but she felt herself relaxing thanks to the apparent ease of his ... of her acceptance. And as she relaxed she sensed Ranma’s own tension easing. Still, there was one more issue....
Twisting so she could look up at Ranma’s face, she asked, “And you aren’t angry that I manipulated you?”
He smiled down at her. “Nah, not really. It’s who ya are, and you were just lookin’ out for me.” Then his smile turned into a grin, echoed by the amusement in his emotions. “Besides, Mom told ya to quit it, didn’t she?”
Nabiki blushed, remembering the dressing-down she’d received from her Sensei ... or under these circumstances, Mother. “Yes, Mother did. She pointed out that tactics appropriate against enemies, opponents, or even allies in some cases aren’t appropriate in intimate relationships. She was ... rather forceful about it.”
His grin broadened, the amusement intensifying. “Thought so.”
Nabiki tried to pout, but the relief sweeping through her at Ranma’s easy forgiveness was too intense for anything but a broad smile of her own. Besides, with Ranma in her succubus form, however he looked in Nabiki’s dream, there was no hiding that relief from Ranma’s own empathy. As wonderful as it is to know how each other feels, it does cut down on opportunities to tease. A bit, at least.
Relieved at having the difficult part of the night out of the way, Nabiki contentedly snuggled back down in her fiancée’s arms and let her gaze wander over the beauty of the meadow stretching before them, the brook softly burbling. She was going to have to make sure she woke up early enough for the two to enjoy a round before breakfast — that would be the ultimate cap on getting Ranma over her Cat Fist-induced panic attack — but for now she was content to simply enjoy the scenery and luxuriate in the sense of Ranma’s presence. “So, why were you so late?” she idly asked. “Peach Fuzz told me you needed to dive into the Voice for some reason, but it still shouldn’t have taken so long. How many rounds did you need to ... ah, observe until you had it all set?”
She stiffened when she simultaneously felt the body she was pressed against tense up, and was flooded by the oddest mix of uncertainty, accomplishment, embarrassment and ... was that disgust? Not exactly, but something close.... She twisted again to look up at Ranma, to find his face so beet red she should have been able to feel the radiant heat.
“Uh, yeah, ‘bout that ...” Ranma reached up to rub his neck beneath his pony-tail. “Well, y’see, when I actually merged with Heng Chu during the sex, his emotions were too much, I couldn’t focus on the physical side. So me an’ Peach Fuzz went into the Voice ta see if it’d be different there, and it worked. But then ...” he hesitated, his blush actually deepening, then shrugged. “I did it again with Ru Kai, ta get how it feels for a girl.”
Nabiki’s jaw dropped, that was the last thing she had expected. “You did what!? Why?”
“ ‘cause ...” He hesitated, then gently cupped her cheeks with both hands and leaned down and kissed her.
What — oh! Oh, Ranma ... She eagerly responded, and a kiss that had started as gentle as his hands quickly turned ardent. When they finally broke from an imagined lack of air, they were both panting. Nabiki was luxuriating in the wave of loving lust washing over her from her lover, and knew he was sensing the same; there was no doubt where this was heading. But first, with a voice that shook she asked, “You did this for me?”
“Hey, ya deserve the best I can give.”
Nabiki responded by pulling Ranma’s head down into another kiss with one hand while the other started working at his trousers’ fastenings.
Suddenly, there were no trousers to unfasten ... or shirt to pull over his head. For that matter, her own T-shirt and tight shorts — and underwear — had vanished as well, leaving her open to the cool breeze.
Ranma chuckled against her lips, then pulled back to grin at her. “Sorry if I spoiled yer fun, but ya seem ta be in a hurry.”
“You got that right!” She pulled his head back down to resume the kiss, the hand formerly occupied with Ranma’s trousers now caressing his chest. The hard muscles of his martial arts-toughened physique was excitingly different from the soft, utterly gropable breasts of her succubus form.
And that’s not all that’s hard, she thought as she felt the stiff length of Ranma’s cock pressed against her thigh. Remembering the first time they had tried and failed, the night Ranma had been propositioned by Mara, she broke the kiss to slide down his body. This time was going to be different.
Ranma groaned as Nabiki slid down his foreskin and ran her tongue around the tip revealed. His groan deepened as she replaced her tongue with her lips even as her hand squeezed and pumped along his lower length. She grinned around her mouthful, pleased at his response — the response she’d failed to elicit during that first fiasco. If he’s enjoying that, this should really get his engine revving! She sucked in a deep breath through her nose, then slid her mouth down the full length of his cock, and frowned in confusion around her mouthful. From her research (and now that she thought of it, she really should have practiced with her dildos), she’d been expecting to have to suppress her gag reflex when the tip of the length stretching her lips hit the back of her throat, but ... nothing. And while she could feel the tickle of his pubic hairs against her nose it felt ... washed out, faded?
“Uh, Nabs ...” Ranma’s hands gently gripped her head and pulled her up, cock tip popping free of her lips. “Ru Kai didn’t do that, not that all-the-way-in thing. I don’t know how it feels, and it looks like you don’t, either?”
Nabiki sighed, shaking her head. “No, I don’t. I guess that’ll have to wait until later.” When you have an male body I can play with, even if it’s your ‘incubus’ form.
“Yeah. But fer now ...” Ranma’s voice had turned into a growl that Nabiki returned as his eager lust mixed with and boosted her own, and he pulled her up along his body and twisted, pushing them away from the tree and landing so that he was on top. Normally Nabiki wouldn’t have been ready so quickly, but this was her dream and if she decided she was ready then she was ready! She spread her legs and reached between them to grasp his rock-hard rod, lining it up with the wet folds of her cleft. With a single thrust Ranma buried himself to the hilt.
Ranma’s cock wasn’t the largest object she’d had buried in her sheath — one of her dildos made Ranma seem almost small — but other than the first two dreams she’d shared with her fiancé everything she’d had inserted there had been under her own control, and looking back those dreams had had a faint unreal edge to them. There was nothing unreal now, the cock stretching the walls of her sheath as it plundered her depths was as hard and veined as the most realistic of her dildos but warm and attached to the man (being) she loved and definitely not under her control. It only took a couple pounding thrusts for the gentle wave of her first orgasm to wash through her (more, she would think looking back, because of their success than any physical stimulation).
She ‘resurfaced’ from that first burst of pleasure to find that Ranma hadn’t even slowed down, the thrusts pounding her ass against their grassy ‘bed’, and thanks to the rising pleasure bursting with each thrust she didn’t want him to. She wrapped her legs around his hips, trying to bury him deeper still as she clawed at his back and shouted her demand: “Harder! Harder! Harder!” He did his best to comply, and she distantly thought that it was a good thing they were dreaming or she wouldn’t be able to move in the morning until the growing pressure of the rising tide (both hers and his) washed all coherent thought away and she lost all sense of anything but her and Ranma’s pleasure and the hard cock they were centered around.
Finally that building pressure burst, and she shrieked as she felt her sheath clench around that pistoning rod while her exploding pleasure slammed into Ranma. She barely felt his hot seed bursting into her depths as that pleasure mixed with Ranma’s own climax and hammered back into her. The grassy meadow they were lying in rippled out around them as if they were a pair of rocks dropped into a pool, the trees bordering the meadow exploded into a kaleidoscope of colors ... and Nabiki jerked awake to find herself still lying on her side in her bed, her arms around the limp body of the succubus she’d been cuddling when she’d finally managed to fall sleep. “Great, we did it again.”
Rolling onto her back with her unconscious lover resting weightless on her chest, she stared up at the night-shrouded ceiling. Now that it was over, she found herself shivering with more than just the echoes of their lovemaking as she realized what could have happened. What if, during their dream, she had let go of Ranmo? With Ranma’s own circling arms loosened when she was knocked unconscious, she could have been falling through the house on her way to bedrock right now! Sure, Nabiki or Mother could have just summoned her back if she got too deep before she woke up and got lost underground, but they were trying to find a way to prevent that.
Then she felt Ranma begin to stir, making her suck in her breath as soft skin brushed across her nipples through her T-shirt. That pleasant sensation made it easier for her to bury her worry as blue eyes blinked open. “Na-Nabiki?”
“Relax, Ranma, I’m fine. Everything’s fine. More than fine.”
Yes, the chapter title is a baseball metaphor. They managed to connect bat to ball, but it didn't quite go where they wanted.... ~_^
I'm seriously considering adding a third story to my rotation, my A New Future series has been haunting me. Though before I do I'd have to do the same thing as I did with this series, read the stories to date again to refresh my memory.
Ranma blinked as the world came back into focus, to find herself lying on top of Nabiki, her lover’s arms around her. “Na-Nabiki?”
“Relax, Ranma, I’m fine. Everything’s fine. More than fine.”
Ranma sighed and twisted in Nabiki’s arms so she could bury her face in the crook of Nabiki’s neck. “No, everything is not fine,” she mumbled. “Not only did we knock me out again, but I got so caught up in the pleasure that I couldn’t really maintain the fantasy, it went all wrong.”
Nabiki giggled and ran her fingers up Ranma’s faux-backbone, making the succubus wriggle and almost purr. “It certainly seemed okay to me, though maybe I didn’t notice because of the way you were blowing my mind. And yes, we knocked you out again, but you were only unconscious for a few minutes this time. Maybe you’re getting used to it?”
Ranma sighed, then twisted so she could kiss her lover on the cheek. “Maybe. But we’re still not doing that again till I know what we’re doing in my gut and not just my head. An’ that means it’ll be awhile, I’m not gonna be haunting the Amazon camp for couples getting it on ta spy on.”
She felt Nabiki’s disagreement, but the Tendo stayed silent and after a few moments that disagreement morphed into reluctant acceptance. She sighed but nodded, her hair brushing against Ranma’s cheek. “I understand, you can only push so fast. Take as long as you need. But your own nature will catch up with you eventually if you take too long.”
It took Ranma a moment to realize that Nabiki was talking about the way succubae went into heat, and how they bred. She shuddered at the thought — she’d been okay with it before, but now that she’d actually experienced the female half once ... It’ll happen when it happens, don’t go borrowin’ trouble. She nodded against Nabiki’s neck again then pushed away, gently breaking their embrace to float in the air above her lover. “But that’s later, ya got a busy day tomorrow, I’ll let ya get back ta sleep. I got some thinking ta — to — do anyway.”
Nabiki attempt to protest was interrupted by a yawn, and she giggled and snuggled down into her bed. “Tomorrow ...” she murmured even as Ranma could sense the sleep stealing over her as she relaxed.
In less than a minute Nabiki was out like a light, and Ranma looked over at the basket on the shelf that her lover’s familiar used for a bed now, and the tiny sprite glowing with life she could see curled up on the silk scarf Nabiki had given her for bedding. “Peach Fuzz, you awake?”
The sprite perked up at her name, and looked over the rim of the basket. “Sure, what’s up?”
“Did we knock you out this time?”
The room sounded with Peach Blossom’s tinkling laughter. “No, this time I managed to stay conscious, but it was close. You two may be ruining regular sex for me.”
“We are? I’m sorry!”
“Don’t be. You’re ruining it because what I get from you two is so much better, and as randy as you are it’s not like I’m being deprived. If I ever feel personally deprived I’ll just find another sprite happy to give me a good reaming while you two get it on, that shouldn’t be hard.”
Ranma felt her cheeks heating up, and hastily changed the subject. “Were you giving Nabiki advice while we were talking?”
Peach Fuzz laughed again, and flew out of her basket and over to land on the floating succubus’s shoulder. “Yes, I was. My mistress is kind — to us, anyway — and cunning, even smart, but she isn’t as patient as she could be. Now, what did you really want to talk about?”
Ranma reached up to rub her neck behind her loosely floating hair ... was it her imagination, or was her hair getting longer? I’ll hafta see if getting my hair cut when I’m human will change its length when I’m a succubus, having it drifting around my face when I’m fighting could be a problem. It ought’a. But what’ll happen when I’m just a succubus? But that was a problem for another day, she had more pressing problems right now. “Ya got me. The vision I saw, the night I ... Found out I’d never have sex as a guy. Almost fell for a demon’s trap. “... the night I met Cherry Blossom. The one Cherry Blossom said is the first thing all nature spirits see when they’re born, hatched, whatever. Can I see it again, and not just remember it?”
Peach Fuzz’s eyes widened in surprise. “I don’t know, I don’t know of any sprite that’s tried, a time when the Voice hasn’t been enough. It could be dangerous, though. Did Cherry Blossom tell you some nature spirits get lost in it?”
“Yeah, she did, but …” Ranma was tugging at her hair now, her cheeks burning. “What I saw then ... what I felt ... it made everything better. Made everything make sense.”
Peach Fuzz’s gaze softened. After a long moment she said, “It’s been that rough a day, has it? Cherry Blossom’s on her way. Let’s head out to the backyard where we won’t wake up Nabiki.”
The pair flew out of the room (Ranma just ghosted through the wall but for Peach Fuzz Nabiki had started leaving her window open a crack so her familiar could slip out, and added more blankets to her bed), and Ranma flew down to the koi pond. Once there she hovered in place above the placid water, closed her eyes, and let the music of the Voice swell and sweep her away.
Ranma jerked then rubbed the ear Cherry Blossom has shouted into, her cheeks heating. “Sorry ‘bout that, maybe I should’a practiced my katas instead.”
The blonde sprite buzzed around to hover in front of Ranma’s face. “Or you could have just enjoyed the eye candy enjoying Kasumi’s flowers.” She grinned, cocking her hips to emphasize her tiny patch of pubic hair and reaching up to heft her perky breasts. “We don’t mind, really, it’s not like you can do anything but look.”
Ranma shook her head, averting her eyes. “I think I’ve had enough a’ that today.”
Cherry Blossom settled on Ranma’s shoulder and snuggled up against her cheek, an arm circled around her neck. A moment later Peach Blossom settled on her other shoulder. The newcomer said, “I’m sorry, just trying to lighten the mood. It’s just ... I’ve known succubae that could sit — well, hover — and watch us for hours. Your day was really that bad?”
Ranma sighed, her shoulders slumping (causing both sprites to tighten their grips around her neck to avoid slipping off). “Yeah, it was. Peach Fuzz told you?”
“Peach Fuzz showed me. All right, let’s try this. Peach Fuzz already told you how to explore the past, do that only focusing on the vision itself. If you get stuck ...”
She hesitated, and Peach Fuzz spoke up. “We can have Akane use their Champion Bond to pull her out of it.”
Ranma felt Cherry Blossom’s hair brush against her cheek as the sprite nodded. “That’ll work ... probably. Do it.”
Taking a deep breath, Ranma closed her eyes and remembered — remembered how she’d seen, in the midst of that magnificent, overpowering vision of the spirits of life moving among all that lived, pushing it to thrive and grow.
And then she was there in the vision as before, but focused on humanity soaring ever higher, with her own kind that flitted about among the ocean that was the children of Europe settled throughout the world, haunting dreams and making them wonderful, pushing people together, giving them courage to seek the companionship they thirsted after, holding them together in ties of passion through good times and bad, and occasionally through the borrowed seed of men, infused with the succubae’s nature, giving humanity men and women of power and sometimes wisdom to provide leadership and guidance: Myrddin of Britannia, called the son of the Devil by the Christians that didn’t understand; Newton and Washington hiding their heritage even as they strove to bring their very different dreams to life; Joan of Arc ignorant of her inheritance but leading her people to greatness nonetheless — all heirs of the succubae, always among the most powerful of the Awakened. And those were only a few of the ever growing number — kings and queens, advisors and lovers as the power behind the thrones, merchant princes and modern businessmen, generals, inventors and entrepreneurs, and one powerful Initiate after another unrecognized for what they were by the societies they lived in and guided and loved....
And every last one of them gaijin.
The thought was like a splash of cold water, jerking her out of the vision. Her eyes flew open to find herself still slowly spinning above the koi pond, a stream of sprites spiraling around her while Cherry Blossom and Peach Fuzz kept pace with her turning. Her two companions were wide-eyed, radiating shock.
Cherry Blossom asked, “What happened? You were doing so well, all red and orange, when you suddenly went shot through with muddy blue and gray!”
“Uh, I dunno what that means, but I noticed somethin’ ... somethin’ I’m gonna hafta talk ta Mom about —” She glanced up at the dark window of Nodoka’s room. “— in the morning.”
Mara’s head jerked up from the paperwork spread across the raised top of her coffee table, alerted by the mystical touch of a request to enter her quarters through the living room’s summoning circle.
In her own chair across the room, Calise looked up from her book. “Finally?”
Mara focused on the ‘feel’ of the request and nodded. “It’s Gorash.” She turned to the summoning circle in one corner and snapped her fingers, and the imp appeared in its center. Mara frowned at it. “You’re late.”
Gorash bowed, low enough to show its acceptance of the accusation but not quite low enough to be groveling. “Yes, there was a development I waited to fully work out before reporting. Ranma-as-succubus is up to something with the Amazons. Whatever it is involves sex, but I’m not sure how — at least, none of the cries I heard from as close as I dared approach were hers. But what’s really interesting is what I learned when I followed Ranma back to the Tendo compound. The imps keeping watch there reported that a tiny human dressed as a ninja snuck over the wall into the compound. Shortly after Ranma arrived home she screamed — as terrified a scream as I’ve ever heard — and a house cat came over the wall and ran across the road to one of the nearby homes.”
Mara interrupted: “That would be the Cat Fist so-called training his father inflicted on him as a child, it’s in their file. Now Ranma is terrified of house cats.”
Gorash nodded his acknowledgement of the information (and the hint to do some background research in its spare time), and continued, “Almost an hour later the ninja slipped back over the wall. Once across the street he took to the roof tops and headed to the Kuno mansion.”
Mara and Calise both straightened in their chairs. Mara murmured, “Did he ...”
Gorash nodded again. “The ninja was good, too, very good. As usual there were sprites all around the Tendo compound, both entering and leaving, and not one noticed him — not ignored him, didn’t even know he was there. He had Jenkin’s Amulet with him, but wasn’t using it. They didn’t even notice that.”
“He is good,” Mara agreed, “and obviously knows something of the supernatural world if not the spiritual one. Thank you for your report.” She snapped her fingers again, and Gorash vanished before it could make its usual snarky comment.
She settled back in her chair with a sigh, and considered the new information for a few minutes before glancing over at Calise. “Remind me in the morning to arrange for a mortal Initiate to get that obscuration spell cast on the broach. I intended to do that, but got distracted by a surprising number of fires I needed to start.”
“Why don’t you let me handle that? I’m the one that gave the broach to Kodachi, after all. In fact, why don’t I become her handler? She’s already past time to return it, so someone should drop in on her to lay down the law and it might as well be me.”
Mara’s gaze sharpened. “Are you sure you want to get that involved? This is looking to become almost as big a fiasco as one of my missions targeting the Norns.”
Calise flinched, but her gaze stayed steady. “Yes, I do.”
Mara matched her gaze for a long moment, then closed her eyes with another sigh. “Fine, welcome aboard the oncoming train wreck. Why don’t you move into my guest room for the duration? That way you won’t have to make the trip back to your apartment if there are any more late nights like this.”
At the absolute silence that followed her statement, she opened her eyes again to find Calise staring at her, eyes wide in stunned amazement. Finally, in a small voice Calise asked, “Really?”
Mara grinned. “Relax, you said it yourself, everyone knows how thoroughly twitterpated I am about Urd so we’ll be safe enough.”
That wasn’t what Calise meant and Mara knew it, but it was a serious enough issue that they could pretend it was. For demons hook-ups were normal and even friends-with-benefits not uncommon, but true loving couples were incredibly rare ... and a threat to everyone around them. Demons didn’t cease to be demons because they fell in love, such pairs were still as aggressive and competitive as ever only now with a partner they trusted to watch their back. That kind of advantage in the Underworld’s status games could be overwhelming, and such couples were inevitably ganged up on by pretty much everyone until they either broke up or were driven into going rogue. But with Calise having hidden her crush on Mara (mostly) and Mara’s crush on Urd common knowledge (apparently), there would be no suspicions that the pair were becoming such a couple. Probably.
Calise fought to keep her smile from turning into a grin, and mostly succeeded. “I’ll miss my lawn floor, but I suppose I can make the sacrifice. Sure, I’ll bring some clothes after my shift tomorrow. But for now ...” She rose to her feet and yawned theatrically. “I’ll enjoy that grass on my bare feet one more night.”
The chapter title comes from Pink Floyd's song. Not exactly a perfect fit, but not bad.
Nodoka slowly came awake, and opened sleep-filled eyes to the surprising sight of her son/daughter floating above her, her forehead furrowed in concentration has she grabbed at nothing and spun in place. Ranma’s look of concentration turned into a scowl, and she muttered, “No, that won’t work ... probably.”
Nodoka pushed herself up to a seated position and rubbed at her eyes. “Ranma, dear, what are you doing?”
Ranma jerked in surprise and looked down. “Oh, you’re awake! Mornin’, Mom, I was just workin’ on my new style.”
“Yes, that was obvious, and you were very intent on it.” Nodoka rose and pulled her nightdress up over her head, hanging it up before slipping on her robe. “I suppose what I should have asked is why you are doing that here.”
“I ... made a deep dive into the Voice last night.”
Ranma paused when Nodoka stiffened, a bolt of fear going through her. She had questioned Cherry Blossom closely about the Voice, and any deep dive was dangerous. But obviously Ranma had come through all right, and Nodoka forced herself to relax. “Were you accompanied?”
“Uh ... yeah, Cherry Blossom and Peach Fuzz were watchin’ out fer me, they figured that even if I got lost they you could use my link with Akane ta pull me out.”
Nodoka hadn’t missed her child’s hesitation, but set it aside for later. She’d want to talk to the sprites first. “I need to bathe before leaving for work, come with me to the furo. So what were you looking for?” Nodoka left her room for the stairs, and the older woman was amused at how the succubus had floated through the wall without hesitation to stay beside her mother. If she stayed in the same position relative to her mother she’d be bisected by the stairwell wall, and Nodoka didn’t expect that to bother her either. In some ways at least, Ranma was adjusting nicely to her new nature.
Rubbing at her neck as she floated along, Ranma replied, “Well ... I wanted ta ... see more a’ what succubae do. What they ... what we are all about. Anyway,” she continued hurriedly, “I noticed somethin’ weird. Mom, how much are people like you and Nabs — people that know magic, not just that can sense the supernatural — how much of a part do ya play in history?”
Nodoka frowned thoughtfully as she set the ‘occupied’ sign and entered the furo. She slipped out of her robe and got herself wetted down, ready for soaping up. (She was amused at how Ranma tried to not look at her without being obvious about it — while her child had been getting accustomed to seeing her naked body through her clothes just like everyone else, apparently seeing her unclothed body was a problem. And from the blush on Ranma’s cheeks, she’d sensed her mother’s amusement.)
But she set aside her amusement as she soaped up and pondered her child’s question. “I would think quite a bit,” she finally said. “Throughout our history, Initiates served emperors, shoguns and daimyos — the storm that prevented the Mongol invasion wasn’t an accident.
“After Admiral Perry forced us to open our ports to the West, there were Initiates among those sent out to learn Western ways and they found it much the same there, though the Western Initiates at the top of the heap for the last century have devoted themselves to ideals rather than thrones or even nations — the Enlightened Lodge, they call themselves. The Royalist Lodges lost power in the United States thanks to its civil war, and the same thing happened in Europe thanks to World War One.” She grimaced. “Though we did much the same, in the rebellion of the more traditionalist samurai against the Meiji Restoration — our Initiates likewise split into Traditionalist and Modernist camps, supporting the armies of both sides and both claiming to be loyal to the Emperor. The Modernists kept the upper hand for over a generation, but the Traditionalists made themselves partners with the new military and rose to power as it did. Both sides fought against the Americans and British once the war turned against us, though — attempting to control the weather as we did against the Mongols, hide our fleets, alter fate to our warriors’ benefit — for all the good it did. The Western Initiates were as good or better than ours and there were more of them. But the Modernists were able to leverage our defeat in a war the Traditionalists helped start, along with their cooperation with the Western Initiates that came with the occupation, to take power again. That was when the Gosunkugi family found themselves again out of power that they still haven’t recovered from. Why do you ask?”
Ranma was staring at her, wide-eyed at what she’d heard, but shook off her shock at her mother’s answer. “Yeah, ya see, well ... ya know how every so often the women succubae get pregnant have human children instead a’ baby succubae mistaken for miscarriages? When I took another look at succubae I saw how important those children have been. Almost all a’ them Awaken, they’re some a’ the most powerful Initiates in history, an’ even the ones that never learn ta be Initiates or even what they are can be important — have ya heard of Joan of Arc? Heard voices and saved France from bein’ conquered by the English? She was one. And I noticed that every last one a’ them is gaijin, even though by now we ... succubae ... can be found all around the world. Can me an’ Nabiki even have kids? And just how important have the children of succubae been in the West’s domination of the world?”
Now it was Nodoka’s eyes that were wide as she stared at her child. Finally, she shook her head, and started rinsing off the soap she’d lathered over herself (amused again, this time that Ranma had gotten focused enough on their discussion that she had stopped trying to avoid looking at her mother). “I have no idea how significant the impact of succubae’s children has been, but if they are as powerful as you say it must have been significant. As for whether you and Nabiki can have children, I don’t know that either. What you observed would indicate not, but don’t forget that you aren’t a normal succubus — or at least, how you became a succubus wasn’t normal. Perhaps Elder Ku Lon will be able to say. However, that will have to wait until this evening, after I return from work and we finish training Nabiki and Akane. You need to get ready for school.”
Ranma grimaced. “School, right.”
Kuno Tatewaki, descendent of nobility, upholder of the ancient code of Bushido, and rising kendo star, strode through the crowd of peasants scattered over the school lawn enjoying their lunches as he searched for the one he sought — there! The pale, hollow-eyed boy he was temporarily allied with was off to one side, where he could keep an eye on the vile witch Nabiki and that foul despoiler Ranma while being out of their line of sight.
Not that it would have mattered, the way the pair was so lasciviously all but draped over each other (though the witch was once again trying to hide her inherent nature as a slut with a more modest form of school uniform).
Making his way around the edge of the mob, Kuno gracefully folded down next to the mage (though of course he did everything with grace, it was his nature), and laid his bokken on the grass and opened his bento. Between bites, he murmured, “I have news.”
Gosunkugi glanced toward him, then back at their common enemies (the only thing they had in common, and Kuno couldn’t wait for their alliance of convenience to be over). “Yes?”
“It seems that he is terrified of cats.”
Now, Gosunkugi’s attention shifted over to Kuno and stayed there. “ ‘Cats’?”
“Yes. That vainglorious boaster is absolutely terrified of the common house cat!”
“Quiet!” Gosunkugi hissed, glancing around at the other students enjoying their lunch. No one appeared to be listening, but some at least were close enough to have overheard and with the rumor mill buzzing with the news that the school’s champion blackmailer had started letting victims off the hook for services rendered speculation was running rampant about just what form those services needed to take. News of a plot aimed at her living (if not necessarily breathing, half the time) sex toy would be just the kind of juicy tidbit some fool hoping to get off the hook would take to the witch bitch.
Kuno’s expression turned murderous at the reprimand but he fell silent, and Gosunkugi’s mind raced as he considered the samurai-in-his-own-mind’s information. Finally, he slowly murmured, “We can work with this.”
“Really?” Kuno scoffed. “What are we going to do, throw cats at him?”
Gosunkugi glared at his co-conspirator. “The Mystic Arts aren’t just a matter of tracings on the floor and chanted phrases,” he hissed, “strength of will matters. And whatever we might think of Ranma’s galloping egotism his will is strong — and so his resistance to the Mystic Arts — is strong. But if he found himself surrounded by cats ...”
Kuno’s derision faded into thought, and he slowly nodded. “Yes, I have heard that fear can be a crippling weakness. But how do we surround him with cats?”
“If you can collect the cats, I can create a summoning circle in their midst. Then at a predetermined time, you can guarantee that Ranma is switched for the spirit he has enslaved and I will summon her. Once she is present in the circle, I can switch her again for her master and work my magic while he is weakened by his fear.”
Kuno’s slow nods turn firm. “Yes, that will work! But it will take time to gather so many cats. Where will we store them?”
Gosunkugi grinned viciously. “I was thinking we could use one of the storerooms beneath the school....”
Slightly short, before I would have waited until I finished the next two scenes to post it. But on the plus side, it was published this week!
Chapter 10: There Ain't No Such Thing as a Free Lunch
Ku Lon put aside her now empty bowl and bounded up onto her staff as Xian Pu and her wife escorted their visitors up to her tent — Tendo Nabiki and Tatsuno Nodoka, with Ranma in nature spirit form drifting along beside them (both human women bearing katanas that didn’t want to be noticed, something that would be pointless at home but Ku Lon could understand the need for in a modern city). Normally courtesy would require the offer of a meal, but the visitors had timed it so that that invitation could be withheld without giving offense ... if the guest was feeling generous, as these would be. And that was a good thing because the Amazons were once again reaching the end of their financial resources, the income from the training they’d provided to Ranma and Akane before the duel several weeks ago and their participation in the attempt to break the curse on Kasumi and the doctor now spent. The bowl she had just emptied hadn’t been anywhere near full enough.
The newcomers stopped in front of her and Nodoka bowed, quickly followed by the other two as they greeted Ku Lon. (Well, Ranma kind of bobbed in the air, but she at least tried.)
Ku Lon acknowledged the respectful greeting with a nod, then gestured for them to sit as she said, “I must admit to some surprise, I only expected Ranma.”
“Yes, and I’m sure Ranma is eager to get on with developing her new style,” Nodoka agreed, “But she learned something interesting last night that you might be able to provide some insight into, and we have another task for which we would ask your help.”
“And that I’d pay handsomely for,” Nabiki piped up to add.
“Indeed,” Ku Lon responded, showing none of her sudden eagerness at the possibility of more income. Not that her control would keep two of the three from sensing it, but even so appearances mattered. “So, Ranma, just what did you learn?” She listened, frowning thoughtfully as the succubus explained what she had seen in a vision and what her mother had told her after. “Nodoka is correct about the part Initiates have played in history, it is the same in China though we have different labels — not ones adopted from the West,” she added with a very faint smirk in the Tatsuno matriarch’s direction. “And what you observed about the effect succubae have on the number and power of Western Initiates explains a great deal. As for your own fertility, it could well be that you are only fertile with those of European descent. However, due to the nature of the springs of Jusenkyo there is another possibility. You see, those springs don’t just change you into another sex or creature, but into what you would be if you were born that sex or creature. It may well be that you are not just a succubus, but what you would be if you’d been born a Japanese succubus. In which case, you may well be fertile with women of Japan, perhaps even China and your other neighbors around the Middle Kingdom.”
Nodoka was nodding her agreement. “Yes, that makes sense. It would explain why Ranma’s initial succubus form looks so much like me when I was her age.”
Ku Lon nodded her agreement with Nodoka’s confirmation of her point, then turned her attention to Nabiki. “And what task do you wish to hire me for?”
“I think it’s time that Ranma and I have the same champion bond she has with Akane. Unless you’ve come up with another way to break the curse on Kasumi and Doctor Tofu?”
“No, we haven’t.”
“I didn’t think so. So we want to be bonded, but the ritual requires at least two Initiates and I won’t be able to help. Can you take my place?”
Ku Lon slowly nodded, (pointlessly) hiding her excitement at acquiring such a useful mystic tool. “I’ll have to learn the ritual, adapt it to the Amazon traditions, of course, but I would be delighted. I would suggest that Dao Paz or Lo Shun — or both — replace Nodoka as well, that way we can avoid the complications we faced mixing traditions when we tried to free Kasumi and her man.”
Nabiki and Nodoka nodded their agreement. (Ranma had lost the thread of the discussion, drifting higher as she watched a pair of warriors sparring some yards away.) Nabiki added, “And I think it’s time for those cooking lessons for Kasumi — that victory dinner you cooked for us was some of the best ramen I’ve ever tasted and I’d like to keep on having it even after you’ve left.”
Xian Pu finally came to the end of her patience. “What about Husband? Can Ranma fix too too annoying problem when Husband come home?”
Her attention caught by her name, Ranma dropped back down. Ku Lon was amused at the way she shifted to where Xian Pu would be looking at her if she could actually see the succubus. “Yeah, sure, I’m ready.” Ranma snorted derisively. “Not that one training session’s enough ta really go on, but it’s enough fer one go.”
“So speaks a true artist, always striving to be the best,” Nabiki said, then laughed at her fiancé’s furious blush. Ku Lon suspected there’d been an emotional undertone to an otherwise unremarkable compliment that the non-empaths had missed.
“Very well,” the elder said, “you may inform Kasumi that I will be there at noon tomorrow to further her mastery of the Art of cooking, and expecting the two of you” — glancing between Nabiki and Nodoka — “tomorrow evening with Ranma.” When the two gave their assent, the elder looked up at the succubus (again slowly rising to better view the sparring). “Now, Ranma, let’s get started on your new style. What have you developed so far?”
Kodachi was actually singing softly to herself as she strode into her suite. It had been that good a day, and good days had been in short supply since that peasant Akane had cheated her of her rightful victory. Her standing at school had taken an enormous hit due to that defeat, and she had struggled to reestablish her due place as the queen of the school. But some meager funds spent, two girls abruptly transferring out and one especially strident nobody sent to the hospital (all three from her team, which had unexpectedly stung), and all was well. The news Sasuke had returned with the previous evening of the most humiliating weakness of Akane’s guardian spirit had simply boosted her good mood even higher — she didn’t know yet what use she could make of a fear of common house cats, but she would think of something. “Oharu, attend me!”
“Oharu is asleep, and won’t be waking up while we have our ... discussion.”
Kodachi whirled around, to find a woman she didn’t recognize straightening from where she’d been leaning against the wall — fiery-haired, crescent-shaped tattoos on forehead and cheeks. The door to the suite closed.
“Who are you, and how did you get in here?” Turning slightly to hide one hand, Kodachi palmed one of her ribbons from its hidden holster on her thigh underneath her skirt.
The stranger smirked. “My name is Calise, but you will call me ‘Mistress’.” Instantly, Kodachi’s ki-infused ribbon was whipping toward Calise, only for her to lift a single hand. A spiraling ribbon of glowing script that Kodachi had never seen before appeared around that hand before snaking out to intercept her ribbon, twisting along its length and shredding it into a long cloud of threads drifting to the floor.
Before Kodachi had a chance to react the line of glowing script wrapped itself around her, pinning her arms to her sides and her legs together. She toppled forward to slam face-down, only the thickness of her carpet’s pile keeping her nose from breaking. The now panicking girl rolled onto her back, shouting, “Sasuke!”
“That oh-so-competent ninja serving your family can’t hear you. Or rather, he’s hearing the typical exchange between you and your servant as she prepares you for bed.” The trespasser stepped around her victim and crouched beside her. Kodachi shuddered at the sight of eyes now glowing red. “Now, we need to talk.” She rose to her feet and strode toward the bedroom, Kodachi rising into the air and tugged along in her wake by the ribbon of script. Once in the room Calise dropped into the plush stuffed chair by the window not occupied by the aristocrat’s sleeping servant, ignoring the outside view of a night-shrouded garden as Kodachi settled down on her bed, propped up against the wall.
Once she was settled, Calise raise a hand and twisted it and the broach Kodachi had worn during the match appeared. Calise’s grin sent shivers down her spine. “You’ve been a bad girl, deciding not to return this to its rightful owner once your match was finished.” Calise seemed to waver for a moment, and suddenly the elderly store owner that had loaned it to her was sitting in her place. Voice still that of the intruder, ‘he’ said, “That rightful owner happens to be me.” Another watery distortion and the woman was back.
“I-I-I didn’t know.” Kodachi cursed the quaver in her voice and fought to steady herself.
“So what? Honor means that what you knew was irrelevant, you should have returned the broach. But then, you know nothing of honor. Well, now you are dealing with someone that understands keeping your word — and the consequences when you don’t — very well.” Her grin stretched, turning into something that belonged on a creature from the Deeps. “And thanks to your little ... accident ... those consequences are going to last for a long, long time.”
“My-y ‘accid-d-d-d-dent’?” The quaver had gotten worse, but Kodachi no longer cared.
“Oh, yes. This broach is much more than just a window into the depths beneath the placid surface of the everyday world, and your ki was just similar enough to the magic that normally powers it to allow it to bond with you. You are fortunate that ki and magic aren’t more similar or the resulting explosion would have killed you, and almost every other living being in that auditorium. As it is that bond will last for the rest of your life, and since the broach is mine you are mine as well ... for the rest of your life.”
The ribbon of glowing script binding Kodachi silently vanished away, and as she slumped down onto her bed with a gasp her self-declared mistress rose to her feet. “I’ll be borrowing the broach long enough for someone who understands it much better than you to place a veil over it, to hide its true worth. Without that veil your ownership of it, and your life, will be very short indeed.
“Your servant will awaken shortly and give you the babying you require before bed. But you’re my slave now, just remember that when you consider how to treat her.”
And in a heartbeat, the space where Calise had been standing was empty.
Floating just beneath the high ceiling, the invisible demon watched as her new servant simply lay on her bed and shook until the servant girl lying curled up in the chair by the window sleepily stirred, then shot bolt upright when her eyes took in the night outside the window. She whirled in her seat, then thrust herself up out of the chair with wide eyes and a face bleached of color at the sight of Kodachi on the bed. “Mistress, forgive me! I ... I don’t ...”
Kodachi’s mouth opened, then she paused, took a deep, shuddering breath, and waved a hand. “Think nothing of it. Now, prepare me for bed.”
With that, Calise silently drifted up through the ceiling, through the roof, and into the night sky. Well, that was promising. Perhaps Kodachi is actually sane enough to prove useful. She wasn’t foolish enough to think that Kodachi had been broken of her arrogance, breaking her to the saddle would take some work. But perhaps ... just perhaps ... the effort would be worth it. I may actually enjoy this.
Spirit of Place
Other Names: Gei-ryo (Japanese), Genius Loci (Roman), Kami (Japanese), Leshy (Russian), Nymph (Greek).
Places are often said to have spirits. In animistic belief systems all places have spirits, from forest glades to lakes, rivers, seas, deserts, and mountains. Since mankind began to settle in one place to grow crops, this also includes spirits of places like cities, subway tunnels, monuments, and so forth. The spirit of a place may be dormant much of the time, unless “awakened” by magic, or it may be active on its own.
A spirit of place protects and preserves the area it embodies, known as its “domain.” People aware of the existence of these spirits respect their territories and avoid offending them. If a spirit is dormant, it may not be able to take an active hand in protecting its domain until it’s too late to prevent its destruction. This may result in the destruction of the spirit as well, or it may simply make the spirit very angry with those responsible for the damage.
This does not mean a spirit of place cannot get along with humans; it may consider local inhabitants part of its domain and be protective of them as well. Religions like Japanese Shinto respect spirits of place and seek to honor and placate them. Tribal shamans help maintain good relations with their local spirits.
Spirits of place usually have great awareness and power where their domains are concerned. They may control certain aspects of the domains, able to change the flow of a river, create storms and earthquakes, and similar phenomena. In this respect they are similar to elementals (p. 55).
Spirits of place can appear in several forms. The most common are human or humanlike, an animal, or a feature of the domain, sometimes in humanoid form, such as a stone, tree, and so forth. In human form, such spirits look very much like normal humans, although they may have exotic features (a forest spirit having leaves in place of hair, or a river spirit having blue skin). Their animal forms are usually those of animals common to their domains. A sea spirit might appear as a dolphin, while a city spirit materializes in the form of a pigeon or stray cat. Finally, a spirit of place may materialize as a natural feature of its domain.
Spirits of place are strongly tied to their domains. Most spirits of place cannot leave their domains without suffering ill effects. Although the spirit of each place is unique, they may exhibit similar characteristics. The world traveler can assume, for example, that most forest spirits are similar in ability, in the same way that most people are similar. The size of a spirit’s domain depends on its power and influence. A spirit may oversee a single tree in a forest, a particular grove, or the entire forest. Often such spirits have a hierarchy, with more powerful spirits ruling over lesser ones.
— The Beginner's Guide to a World of Spirits (Ilvermorny School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, first year text book)
Genma was not a happy man. In truth, he hadn’t been a happy man since the afternoon his (as he then learned) ex-wife showed up to confront him with his misdeeds and inform him that not only was she taking away his son but that in the eyes of the law she had done so years earlier.
Still, that unhappiness had encompassed his entire life and had not been eased the night he had followed Nodoka and gotten a glimpse of the secret life she lived, and the larger world she lived it in. His current unhappiness was centered on the piece of Ranma’s life he had been left by Nodoka’s dictated ‘agreement’ — his son’s training. Or rather, the lack of his son’s training. He had understood why Ranma had had to focus on Rhythmic Gymnastics Martial Arts before Akane’s match, but that had been weeks ago! But since then it seemed like the only time he saw his son was at meals, and since they weren’t sharing a room anymore he could wake Ranma up for an early morning spar by throwing him out the window.
So now he had taken time off from his job working for Dr. Tofu and was lounging in his old friend’s yard, waiting for Ranma to get home from school and hoping that this time Ranma would return as a human and not the elusive spirit he had been spending entirely too much time as.he carefully stayed away from the koi pond — being splashed into a panda would not improve what conversational skills he had, however much he had come to enjoy lazing about in that form.
Finally, the front gate and to Genma’s relief it was the boy that strode through — and even better he was alone, the Tendo daughter that normally returned with him was absent. Genma sat up. “Boy, where’s your student?” (Another thing he was unhappy about, and simply had to accept — Ranma ... his student ... had taken a student of his own and asked neither permission nor advice.)
Ranma shrugged. “She’s got some kinda school club thing. She’ll just hafta do her school work after dinner.” After she gets in her own training, went unspoken. Genma might be unhappy with Ranma taking a student without permission but he had no problem at all with how Ranma had pushed that student, even while her broken ankle was healing. With a grimace, Ranma added, “I’ll hafta get my own schoolwork done before dinner, so after Akane’s training I’m ready to visit the Amazons.”
“And is what you are doing with the Amazons more important than your own training? It has been weeks since we sparred.”
Ranma winced, but nodded. He walked over and plopped down next to his father. “What I’m doin’ with the Amazons is training, sorta. Right now, all it takes is a splash a’ cold water and I become practically helpless. Sure, I’m invisible and can fly away, but it’s like everybody new I meet these days can see me! And what if I’m trying ta protect someone?”
Genma nodded. “So the Amazons are helping you develop a new style, for your spirit form? Your mother agreed to let me continue your training, you should have asked me.”
“Well, yeah, but Pop, ya can’t see me. How are ya supposed ta help come up with new techniques if ya can’t see the ones I’m tryin’ out?”
Genma opened his mouth for a rebuttal, but paused. Finally, he sighed and nodded. “A good point, I need to talk that over with your mother when she arrives home from her business. But for now, put away your school supplies and change clothes. We may not have time for a full training session, but I want to see how much you’ve slipped.”
Walking the now intimately familiar route to the Amazon encampment, Nabiki turned her head and raised an eyebrow at the way her succubus fiancé — or was that fiancée? — floating beside her was rubbing her hip. Only with half her attention, though, the rest looking through Peach Fuzz’s eyes as her familiar shadowed the imp following them. “Ranma, right now you’re a human-shaped bundle of energy. Even if your father ripped your leg off instead of just bruising it to the bone, you shouldn’t be feeling it now.”
Ranma grimaced. “Tell that to my leg. It might be psy — psycho — all in my head, but that doesn’t mean I’m not feeling it. I need ta spar with Pops more.”
“Right, I’m sure you’ll have no trouble working into your schedule with your copious spare time.” Nabiki rolled her eyes. “Between school, training Akane, and working with Cologne on a new style, I’m surprised we manage to share a bed!”
“Yeah, good thing I can’t hardly see books when I’m a succubus, much less read ‘em, or you’d have me studying all night.”
Nabiki fought to keep from wincing even as she giggled — Ranma really didn’t like schoolwork, and while the emotions behind her comment had been lighthearted they had definitely had an edge — but gamely replied, “Maybe I’ll have to see if I can figure out a way for you to do that.”
“You won’t have time for that, you’ll be too busy turning the circle you used to let Akane see Ranma in spirit form into a medallion.”
Now Nabiki did wince, as she turned to look at Nodoka on her other side. “Sensei?”
Nodoka grimaced, her emotions a mix of shame, dislike, and determination. “Genma just reminded me of my decision to allow him to continue to train Ranma, and pointed out that he cannot help when he cannot see.”
Now it was Ranma’s turn to wince, and Nabiki made a point to ask her later why she was feeling both relieved and guilty. She was finding that sometimes, being able to sense emotions just left her more confused than she would have been without it — a more accurate appraisal of reality, perhaps, but sometimes she missed that old mistaken certainty even if it would have damned her.
“That is a fine idea, your ex-husband seems to be as excellent a martial artist as he is a horrible father.”
Nabiki shrieked, practically levitating as she whirled around to find the tiny form of Ku Lon balancing on her staff behind them. Beside her, Ranma was laughing so hard she curled into a ball where she hovered in midair, arms wrapped across her stomach. Her laughter only intensified when Nabiki boxed her ear, setting her spinning in place, as she fumed. “Baka! You could have warned me!”
Getting her laughter under control, Ranma brought her spin to a halt and uncurled. “Hey, ya gotta know what’s happening around you. Yeah, I saw her comin’, but so did Mom.”
“True,” Nodoka agreed, “it seems we need to work on your situational awareness.”
Nabiki paled, thinking about just what that training might entail. She grumbled, “I was focused on the imp following us.”
“And so not paying attention to everything else,” Nodoka riposted. “And you didn’t even reach for your sword. Yes, definitely more training in situational awareness.”
Nabiki pouted for a moment — when she had accepted Nodoka’s offer to train her in the mystic arts, this was not what she had had in mind! Hopefully, by the time she and Nodoka finished consulting with Dao Paz and Lo Shun her sensei would have forgotten about her little addition to Nabiki’s training. Yeah, right, like that’s going to happen.... Peach Fuzz’s giggles in the back of her mind told her that her familiar didn’t think so, either.
Ranma dove toward the dummy that Ku Lon acquired from who-knows-where, her red-furred bat-wings tight against her back for maximum speed. Just as she was flashing past the dummy she extended her wings, one of them catching the dummy across the throat and sending it skidding across the grass on its back. The impact spun her around like a frisbee, pain erupting through a wing now bent in the middle at an unnatural angle. Gritting her teeth, she fought the spin to a halt and pulled her wings into her back — her vision went white for a moment from the explosion of pain that caused, but she fought through it, extended her wings again ... and as Ku Lon had hoped, the freshly extended wing was once again its proper shape. Ranma looked around, found the nearby tiny grove of trees, and headed for it as fast as her pulled tight wings permitted, twisted to pass between two trees ... and slammed head-first into the tree she hadn’t been able to see behind them.
By the time the pinwheeling stars filling her vision faded, Ku Lon was perched on her staff beside her. “Well, that could have gone better,” the Elder mused, chuckling.
“Ya think?” Ranma groused, rubbing the top of her head. She turned to rub her back against a tree, trying to relieve what had to be a psychosomatic burning pain between her shoulder blades. Only then did she realize that her wings had again withdrawn into her torso.
Ku Lon’s chuckles turned into laughter for a moment. “It is a good thing that you are as durable as was promised. Still, we did learn that you can easily fix any damage done to your wings. And while that technique would be next to useless in the forests of my home, here in this city it could be devastating — after all, you can see and fly through all the buildings and others cannot.”
“Yeah, ya got a good point,” Ranma agreed, frowning thoughtfully. It wasn’t a tactic she could use in an honorable challenge, but not all of the fighting she’d engaged in over the years had been duels or sparring. For that matter, she couldn’t really use it against anyone she wasn’t trying to kill, hitting someone that hard across the throat would crush the larynx and hitting anywhere else would probably do more damage to the wing than the target. But ... “What if I ... my biggest problem is the way a bounce away from anything I try ta punch. But the way I stopped spinning after I hit the dummy, what if I try ta use that ta add more weight to my hits without actually flying at it?”
“A good thought.”
Amazon and succubus spun around at the comment, and Ranma’s jaw dropped. Behind them stood an apparently nondescript man: Japanese, dark hair, average height, not bulky but his musculature covered by a loose gi, someone Ranma wouldn’t have given a second glance passing on the street ... if she was limited to her human senses. But to her succubus senses, the man was a blazing pillar of Life, the power blazing like a bonfire similar in feel to both the ki radiated by martial artists from her father to the Amazon Elders and the life energy of the sprites she had encountered since acquiring her curse — only the level of power was like a bonfire next to a tiny campfire.
Ku Lon dropped down from atop her staff and bowed deeply to the newcomer. “Welcome, honored Elder, and thank you for accepting our presence in your home.”
The man bowed in return, as deep as hers had been (accounting for size differences). “Thank you, and all that follow the Way are welcome here.”
Noticing Ranma’s confused expression, Ku Lon explained, “This is ... Nerima?” Their visitor nodded. “ ... Nerima, the kami of this ward. Kami of locations are ... often influenced by the area’s more powerful and influential inhabitants.” Turning back to Nerima, she bowed again. “You have the Amazons’ gratitude for your patience with our extended ... visit. How may we repay you?”
Nerima waved off the question. “You owe me nothing, it has been a pleasure to have you here. The skills and techniques your warriors have displayed in their spars have been a joy to observe. Actually, I am here to offer my services as a sparring partner.” He abruptly shrank to half his size, then expanded to half again as large. “I can take any shape needed, and know every Art and technique practiced by those within my domain. I would be delighted to be a part of the development of such a unique example of the Art.”
Ranma actually felt lightheaded at the thought of all that knowledge at there service, only barely hearing the spirit’s next words: “Also, you will be pleased to know that your Wanderer has just re-entered my domain, he will arrive here within minutes.”
Ranma’s euphoria vanished.
The "textbook" quote is lifted from GURPS Spirits, slightly modified.
Chapter 12: A Qualified Success
Ryoga was nervous — really nervous. After he had once again found himself at the Amazons’ encampment they had waited until he had a chance to share a meal with his wives, catching up on what had happened while they’d been separated before telling him that they had a possible solution to his ... problem.
(His wives had been thrilled with his story about finding himself in the middle of a fight between a young Japanese man and older Caucasian man built like a bull — both had been throwing balls of their own ki energy at each other — at least, he thought both had been using their ki, though the ki of the bulked up one had been practically black — and he was determined to figure out how to do that himself.)
He had been excited to learn there might be an easy fix ... until they told him just what it entailed — someone they’d found able to manipulate dreams, that would allow him to experience his second wife having her way with him without losing consciousness. Because he’d already be unconscious.
So now he was lying naked under a blanket on his bedroll in his wives’ tent, both cuddled up against him with Pa Fum’s head resting on his right shoulder and Xian Pu on his left, waiting for sleep ... and stiff as a board, wide eyes staring at the ceiling lit by a hanging kerosene lamp.
This isn’t going to work.
Ranma was nervous — really nervous. Yes, she was a succubus, but thanks to her part-time status up until now she’d been able to get by with eating regular food while human — the few times she’d needed sex-as-sustenance her fiancée had been happy to satisfy her. And yes, as a succubus she had seen people having sex, with her inability to really see most building materials she couldn’t help it. But before she had always looked away, to give people their privacy as best she could; now she wasn’t just going to be an observer, she was going to be a participant — of a sort — and the one time that had been the case (other than with Nabiki) it hadn’t turned out so well.
So now she was floating just below the tent’s ceiling (the tent’s kerosene lamp actually inside her, and didn’t that warmth where her heart should be feel weird), and growing more and more frustrated. She just wanted to get this over with and he wasn’t even trying to fall asleep, he was just lying there with his eyes wide open — if he’d been able to see her, he’d have been staring right at her face.
A’ course if he could see me he’d be looking a little farther down — he is a guy, after all. Or maybe not, I wouldn’t be here. Will you just sleep!
To her shock, almost as if in response to her silent shout, he yawned and his eyelids slowly drooped. Within a few minutes he began to snore. What? Did I do that? She pushed aside the thought, he’d have time to think about it later, talk it over with his mother and fiancée. She whispered, “He’s out, let’s get this done.”
There was a soft chuckle from Xian Pu as she sat up. “Not hard to know, as loud Husband is. Maybe good thing he Wanderer, after all, most of the time Shampoo ... most of the time I and Perfume able to sleep. But Ran — but sex spirit right, let’s do this.” She flipped the blanket back, and her eyes widened at the sight of his impressive length even when limp. She murmured, “At least that never be disappointment.”
Pa Fum sat up as well, scooting a few feet away from Ryoga. “Xian Pu, are you sure about this? Tradition ...”
Xian Pu turned to look at Pa Fum, her stern expression softening to match the honest affection she felt for her wife. “Yes, Sham — I am sure. I know tradition is when two wives marry at same time First Wife makes love to Husband first, but this not make love — this is me using Husband to play with self. You deserve better.” Smile turning sly, she added, “Besides, I have more more experience than you.”
“Much more,” Pa Fum corrected, but she was blushing furiously, making Xian Pu giggle.
So was Ranma, though she was swallowing her own giggles, and when Xian Pu glanced up at the space she knew Ranma occupied and asked if she was ready the succubus’s answer was rather breathless. “Give me a moment.”
She dropped down to hover over Ryoga, laying an open palm on his forehead. She didn’t want to actually possess him; even if the thought of actually sharing his experience to the extent merging would cause didn’t feel squicky, she was worried it would interfere with her ability to control the dream. But simple contact ...
Me and Nabs should have practiced this. But things had been moving too fast, and she couldn’t back out now — Ryoga could vanish in the middle of the night looking for the park’s restrooms, and who knew when he’d be back? So she eased her way into her frienemy and sometime sensei’s mind, and as expected found the emptiness of a sleeping mind that hadn’t started dreaming yet that she’d come to know from her nights with Nabiki. Slowly she pushed the scene she’d seen from the top of the tent into that sleeping mind, so that it faded into view like a slowly focusing camera lens. (She’d learned the hard way that having that image spring to life in an instant would not only jerk Nabiki awake, but give her such a shot of adrenalin that it would take her forever to go back to sleep.)
But the image was finally in focus, and she shifted it so that it was as if Ryoga was looking along his naked body at his wives through Ranma’s eyes, a few inches above his face. “Okay, we’re ready.”
I’m dreaming. It was a distant thought, barely a ripple. But still, there was an unreal quality that normally only came at the tail end of dreams, as he was slowly surfacing to the waking world.
Only he wasn’t waking up.
Looking along his naked body, he watched in the light of the kerosene lamp and the fading light of dusk coming through the open tent flap as his Second Wife undulated on her knees, arms raised above her head, while his First Wife’s fingers were busy with the lacings down the sides of her co-wife’s tight dress. Then the dress was falling away, revealing Xian Pu’s large, firm breasts with nipples pointed rather than mostly flat as before. (The sight of them earlier may have laid him flat, but it was also burned into his memory.) The tuft of hair at the top of the ‘V’ of her legs showed that the purple of her luxurious hair was its natural color.
He felt the familiar gathering darkness that even a pale shadow of that sight had brought before, only to hear an oddly familiar female voice dimly echo in the back of his mind — “Oh, no, you don’t! — and the darkness vanished as the unreal quality of his view sharpened. Perhaps too sharp, as that wave of purple hair flowed down to cut off his view of his groin and he felt the wet warmth of her lips and tongue slither around his rapidly hardening rod. Within moments that rod was so hard it almost ached, and his wife lifted her head, parted her hair and smiled at him.
A moment later she was crouched over him, knees on each side of his waist, hand grasping his spit-wet rod. She shuddered as she rubbed its head between her engorged nether lips, coating its tip with her juices, and then slowly lowered herself until her hips rested on his. He shuddered at the wet, tight heat that engulfed him, and again the world began to lose its focus as darkness crept in around the edges. His wife froze in place, motionless as the darkness faded away and she again gained an unreal clarity. Her lips moved and he realized she must be saying something but only now noticed that the world was completely silent — no rustling leaves from the trees around the tent, no light billowing of the tent’s canvas from the same breeze, no birdsong from the trees’ inhabitants. Then the Amazon lifted her hands to massage her breasts and tweak her nipples and her hips started to move, and all thoughts of the lack of sound vanished in the sensation of the wet, gripping walls of her sheath sliding up and down along his shaft. He tried to thrust his groin up to meet her pistoning hips, but he was still locked motionless.
Another pair of hands appeared between Xian Pu’s arms and chest, pushing his Second Wife’s hands aside to take their place on her breasts, and she lifted her hands to run them through her hair and clasp them behind her head, lifting and thrusting her chest forward as she continued to lift and fall. Every muscle in his body seemed to tighten further with each slippery drop until they must have been like steel as he felt his hips growing slick with her juices.
And suddenly his butt clenched, his achingly hard sword actually seemed to harden more, before exploding again and again, filling her cleft with his seed, until his every muscle went limp as a dish rag.
“Good boy...” For a moment he felt a soft ghostly hand on his forehead, and then the world finally faded to black. His last sight was Xian Pu swinging a leg across him, milky-white oozing from her cleft, to kneel at his side, revealing Pa Fum behind her. Her head was again dropping toward his now-limp rod.
If Ranma had been in her human form, he would have been drenched with sweat. Of course if she had been in her human form, he wouldn’t have been able to pull off the stunt she’d just managed. It probably hadn’t been perfect — she thought she’d been focusing too hard on transferring what she was seeing into Ryoga’s brain while fighting to ignore the lust radiating from husband and wives — but only the Lost Boy would know how well she’d done and she was never going to ask him.
She may not have been sweat-drenched, but she was shaking as she drifted back up towards the tent’s roof. Her voice was strained with the effort to keep it steady as she focused on Pa Fum (doing her best to ignore a Xian Pu cleaning up the mixed juices and seed coating her husband’s rod and thighs with her tongue). “All done, he’s out.”
Pa Fum had been watching Xian Pu and rubbing her thighs together, radiating her own lusty need, but at the sound of Ranma’s voice she looked up. “Did it work?”
“He stayed aware a’ the dream until Shampoo was done. Whether it actually helps, who knows? You’ll hafta find that out yourself when he wakes up.”
“I will.” But Pa Fum’s attention had drifted back to her co-wife and she pounced on her, pulling her away from their husband and onto her back. She purred, “I think I’m done waiting,” before sliding down along Xian Pu’s body towards her cleft oozing white.
Ranma blushed furiously. “Yeah, right, I’ll just ... see ya guys tomorrow.” She fled through the tent’s roof — she really hoped her mother and fiancée were through with their discussions with the Elders about whatever mystical ritual they were researching, she needed Nabiki and a secluded spot in the park she’d noticed bad.
When Ryoga woke up it was to find the tent dimly lit by the kerosene lamp turned as low as it could go, the night empty of any sound but distant, intermittent traffic. He didn’t know how late it was, though from how rested he felt it had been at least a few hours.
He glanced around, surprised not to find his wives sleeping with a head on each of his shoulders as usual, only to find them to one side wrapped around each other ... and from the flesh revealed by the slipping blanket that had covered them, neither was wearing a stitch of clothing.
Before that night, that sight — and what it implied (more like, what it shouted) — would have sent his thoughts into a spiral that would have had him out like a light. Now, though he was blushing furiously, enough to feel light-headed, he didn’t feel more than a little wobbly. It seemed their exposure therapy had worked.
Good thing, because he really needed to pee.
He silently groped for his pants and pulled them on, then rose to his knees and readjusted the blanket covering his wives. Pa Fum murmured something in her sleep and unconsciously tightened her grip on his Second Wife, and Ryoga smiled fondly at the pair. Maybe this whole marriage thing really would work.
Then under pressure from his increasingly strained bladder, he grabbed his backpack and backed out of the tent while pulling it after him, rose to his feet, slung his backpack onto his back, and set off toward where he thought the park’s toilets were.
In six steps he found himself in the middle of the day. At least he thought it was the middle of the day, it was a little hard to tell with the blowing snow. He hastily put down and opened his back pack to pull out his coat, already shaking thanks to the bitter cold.
At least there was one problem solved, from the depth of the snow-covered naked rock of the gorge in front of him with the river of ice at the bottom ... and the thinness of the air ... there wouldn’t be anyone around to complain about a little yellow snow.
Though as cold as it was he really wasn’t looking forward to whipping out his dick.
Chapter 13: Gathering Mysteries
Nabiki slowly came awake, and smiled ... she still had the same armful of naked, red-maned nature spirit that she’d gone to bed with lying on her chest, Ranma had stayed with her through the night. She’d quickly decided there was no better way to wake up than to that sight, her personal succubus was incredibly cute when she was asleep. And Nabiki had had more opportunities to enjoy the view, Ranma had been ... clingy ... over the past few days since she’d fulfilled Nabiki’s bargain with Ku Lon. He’d been happier about spending school time as a human, too.
Speaking of school ... she glanced at her clock and grimaced — yeah, she’d actually slept through her alarm again. Since Ranma had come into her life she’d been sleeping much better — she didn’t even need her morning coffee to kickstart her day, anymore — but it did have its downside. She was going to have to turn up the volume. (Though perhaps Kasumi disagreed, her older sister didn’t come upstairs to wake them up when they overslept, like she had on the rare occasions it happened before Ranma’s arrival.)
She concentrated for a moment on her link with Peach Fuzz — her familiar was outside enjoying Kasumi's flower beds — then regretfully sat up and gently shook Ranma awake. “Come on, sleepy-head, we’ll need to hurry.”
Ranma’s eyes blinked open. “Again?” she asked as she wriggled to be let go. That wriggling did interesting things to Nabiki’s libido, but unfortunately they wouldn’t have time to do anything about it. (Something Ranma was well aware of, from her poorly hidden grin and the ‘giggles’ echoing through her emotional output. Nabiki was going to have to think up an appropriate ... punishment ... for being teased first thing in the morning.)
Nabiki made it downstairs just as Akane came in from her morning run (Ranma had just sunk through the floor, the cheater!), and the middle Tendo called out to her sister just as she was about to enter the washing area: “Akane, wait! Ranma’s in the furo.”
“What?” Akane turned to look at her.
“When we woke up she went through the floor.”
Nabiki grinned as she strode past her sister. “ ‘Cheating’ is for tests and duels, in real life if you’re in a fair fight you didn’t do it right. Not that it means anything right now, there’s room for all of us.”
“But he’ll be a guy!”
“That won’t be attracted to you at all, so it doesn’t matter. The only reason I warned you was so you wouldn’t say anything stupid when you were surprised, come on. We won’t have much time before breakfast is ready.”
Akane hesitated, but finally followed Nabiki and the two stripped, grabbed towels, and entered the furo, Akane with her towel wrapped around her. Ranma was already rinsing off, with water Nabiki assumed he’d scooped up from the steaming furo or the bucket would be dropping through her succubus fiancé right now. Akane resolutely kept her eyes away from the (currently) boy until he was done and settled into the furo. As soon as Nabiki was done rinsing off, the youngest Tendo took off her towel and hung it up, then hastily rinsed off and joined the other two in the furo.
Nabiki just shook her head. “Akane, why are you so embarrassed? It’s not like Ranma doesn’t see everything you’ve got whenever she’s redheaded.” Or attracted to you when she isn’t. But that wasn’t something Nabiki was going to say out loud, ever — while her fiancé seemed to be adjusting to the suggestion that she think of herself as a succubus that turned into a boy instead of the other way around (if slowly with the occasional setback, like her clingingness over the past few days), that didn’t keep him from feeling wistful whenever he saw his reflection.
Akane shrugged, doing interesting things to her breasts (even if those breasts were rather small compared to Ranma’s, or even Nabiki’s — and Nabiki's sacktime with Ranma was doing interesting things to her libido, she’d have to watch that). Oblivious to her sister’s sudden blush, Akane said, “I don’t know.” She looked over at Ranma apologetically. “Like Nabiki said it’s not like you don’t see me naked all the time, I don’t know why it’s different here.”
Nabiki smiled. Akane’s admission had come hard, but she’d pushed through, Nabiki thought both because of the subject and because of Ranma. She’d even stepped on the anger that had been her protective shield against the world. “Good for you, little sis,” she murmured.
“It’s the clothes,” Ranma said, “just knowin’ they’re there makes a difference even when I can’t hardly see ‘em. With Mom —” He broke off, blushing furiously, and Akane hastily stepped into the gap even as she went a little green with nausea.
“While I was on my run Nakada-san stopped me to ask about Hanachiyo. Have either of you seen him?”
“Who’s Hanachiyo?” Ranma asked, immensely grateful for the change of subject ... for a moment.
“Hanachiyo is the cat that decided to use your breasts for pillows during your last dive into the Voice,” Nabiki replied. She winked at Akane. “Do you think Ranma’s scream scared him so badly he didn’t stop running for miles and couldn’t find his way back?”
Akane giggled as Ranma’s blush deepened, but shook her head. “That was my first thought, too, but he’s only been missing a couple of days. Nakada-san only really started getting worried this morning.”
Ranma glared at his giggling student. “Remember, we’re practicing roof-hopping tonight and you’ll need me to catch you when you fail — when, not if, it took even me awhile ta figure it out. And I hope wherever that furry demon is, none of ‘em come back!”
“ ‘None of them’?” Nabiki repeated. “You mean more than just Hanachiyo are missing?”
“Well ... yeah.” Ranma reached up to tug on his pony-tail, ashamed. “I keep an eye out for those little hellspawn, and over the last few days I’ve been seein’ less a’ them around.”
“Weird.” Nabiki frowned thoughtfully. She didn’t know of any rituals that called for the sacrifice of large numbers of cats — or any other animal for that matter, those that did call for animal sacrifices only needed a handful at most. Still, she’d make sure to ask Nodoka during her training that evening.
Ranma stood up and stepped out of the furo, grabbing a towel. “Wherever they went, I hope they stay there. Breakfast should be just about ready.”
Nodoka had just entered her store when her cell phone rang. She fished it out of her purse, and her eyebrows rose at the sight of the number before she lifted it to her ear. “Kenji, how pleasant to hear from you.”
“Nodoka, I’ve managed to get an extended lunch today. Do you have time to meet me?”
Nodoka frowned ... while she usually was able to get away, Kenji knew that she sometimes met with clients to appraise antiques over the lunch hour when they could step away from their own businesses; for him to get an extended lunch hour without asking her first meant time was important. Which meant she would be rescheduling just such an appointment she had that day. “Of course, our usual place?”
“Actually, I’ve heard of a new place we can try out. Why don’t I pick you up?”
Her frown deepened, but she managed to keep her growing concern out of her voice. “I will be waiting. What kind of place is it?”
“That would spoil the surprise, I’ll be there at noon.”
The place turned out to be an American-style steakhouse, not Nodoka’s favorite food and above her usual price range; Kenji knew both of those facts — actually, it was even more out of Kenji’s price range than hers. Nodoka felt herself tightening as her hard-acquired instincts as a Scout kicked in, eyes searching for possible threats, mystic senses reaching out ... nothing, the day was as ordinary underneath as it appeared on the surface.
Once they were and had placed their orders and received their meals (Nodoka had ordered a salad while Kenji had splurged on their most expensive steak, but her favorite Pocari Sweat wasn’t available so she had to settle for water), she unobtrusively looked around in approval of Kenji’s requested table ... one that left them dangerously exposed if attacked but out of earshot from any other patrons if they kept their voices low, especially with the waterfall that made up much of the wall a few yards away. “So,” she asked between bites, “why are we suddenly living in a spy novel?”
She really wished Kenji had smiled at her description, but he didn’t. Instead, he sighed and leaned back in his chair, staring into the wine he’d ordered with his steak. “I followed up on Noriko, that spirit you used an echo to summon? I couldn’t treat it as a murder, of course, but I was able to find a case file with missing person reports from several of her friends ... but the only reason I was able to find them was because we transferred all our records from paper to electronic filing a few years ago. According to the note attached to the case file, the original reports were never followed up on because they were filed in the wrong folder, of a case that was being closed out.
“I managed to hunt down one of those friends, Ishonomori Yukiyo, and she told me that she had called several times after making the initial report and was told each time that the investigation was ‘ongoing’, but that the detectives had no leads yet. She also printed out a copy of a photograph she had of Noriko and her lover, ‘a better one than the photo she gave the detective who questioned her’.” He put down his wine to make air quotes with his last statement. “The detective that there is no record following up on the reports, whose name she couldn’t remember — it has been almost sixteen years, after all. She was rather bitter about the whole thing.
“After I interviewed Ishonomori I reported what I found to Superintendent Kikuchi. The next day he thanked me for my due diligence, and ordered to turn over the evidence and testimony to Inspector Sugimura so he could follow up on it. At the same time I was handed several new cases to investigate. That was yesterday. I was back in the office late, thanks to the sudden influx of cases ... I found the file in the shredder basket when I went to drop in some papers of my own.”
He picked up the wine glass again, stared at it for a long moment, then tossed it back. “Nodoka, something about this case ... even after sixteen years someone important doesn’t want it to see the light of day. And I haven’t the faintest idea who or why.”
“I don’t either, but if there’s any link to my side of reality I might be able to find out. I assume you rescued the file from the shredder?”
“No, something didn’t feel right even before I found the file in the shredder basket, so I’d kept my own copy.” He dug a flash drive out of his pocket and handed it to her. “It isn’t much, but it’s more than you had before.”
“Thank you, I’ll review it and check with my own sources. Nabiki is going to be so disappointed, we’re going to have to move her training back to the mornings.”
“My student.” Before he could ask ‘a student of what’ she grinned and added, “But that’s for tomorrow, why don’t you have them box up the rest of your steak. Unless you think the wine you’ve been drinking might affect your ... performance?”
He grinned back. “That sounds like an excellent suggestion.”
Chapter 14: Unlikely Allies
London, several days later:
Mara’s back arched, her mouth wide as she hissed thanks to the pleasure ripping through her — for a change she didn’t have to fake her orgasm, the Minister of Parliament currently jackhammering her was a considerate lover who had made certain she was well primed to blow before beginning his final assault. She’d have to make sure his accommodations when he arrived in Hell weren’t ... as bad as they could be, maybe ‘borrow’ him from time to time.
(Considering that he thought he was fucking an agent of a foreign power on less than friendly terms with his nation, there wasn’t much doubt about where he was headed — though in a way he was correct, since the woman who had signed the contract with Mara was an intelligence operative for a foreign power, if not the one the MP thought. Sure, Mara could have gotten the intelligence Vedenin had contracted for without seducing Cecil, but where was the fun in that? And she’d get points for killing two birds with one stone.)
Then a tendril of power tapping on her shoulder yanked her out of her pleasure haze, and her gaze followed that tendril to the window, to find Gorash crouching on the window sill. This had better be good! From the unworried grin on the imp’s face he obviously thought it was, and with a mental sigh she sent her own tendril of power.
Cecil twitched when the cell phone in her purse went off with a blaring of trumpets, then resumed thrusting into her. She sighed and lightly pounded on his shoulder. “Cecil, stop, I have to take this call. He groaned but complied, rolling off of her, and she rolled over to grab her purse off the night stand and fish in it for the phone.
A moment later she flipped it open and the trumpets stopped. “Hello?” ... “Sayanskaya, what’s wrong?” ... “Of course, I know something’s wrong, or you wouldn’t be calling me at this time of night!” ... “He did what? Who’s — ?” ... “Right ... right, she did good, but you were right to call. I’ll be there as fast as I can manage, but it’s going to be at least an hour.” ... “Well, he’ll just have time to reflect on how stupid he’s been, won’t he?” ... “Yeah, I doubt it’ll do any good, either. Anyway, I’m on my way.”
Closing the phone, she turned to Cecil to find him softly laughing. She smiled ruefully as she slid off the bed and began gathering her clothes off the floor.
“Ah, the glorious life of a spy,” he murmured. “You don’t hear that in the movies.”
“Yes, well, James Bond never married any of the women he hopped into bed with and end up with teenagers. Hopefully, you won’t be reading about this in the morning paper. I’ll call as soon as I can.”
“I’ll be eagerly awaiting your call, if only to hear what that was all about,” he replied as he started gathering up his own clothes.
As soon as Mara closed the door to her car, Gorash crawled out from under the passenger seat. Mara glared at him for a moment before returning her attention to the road. “You couldn’t have waited?”
“I did wait,” the imp replied with a smirk. “You got off, didn’t you? It’s Cecil going home with blue balls. Is there such a thing as blue ovaries? And aren’t you a little high rank to be doing this kind of grunt work?”
Mara shot it another look at the mention of her target’s name, but mentally shrugged it off. If she asked, it would just say it needed to know enough about her current project to avoid blowing anything up when it reported to her, all while looking as innocent as any imp was capable (not much). And she’d have to accept it, because it was a reasonable excuse. And neither one would believe it for a moment.
So rather than waste time on the dance, she replied, “Others may prefer the Master act for keeping subordinates in line, I prefer the common touch — they’re less likely to feel like I don’t care about their input when they see me doing the same work, even when the know better ... besides, it’s fun. But you already knew that, you just wanted an excuse for that horrible pun — I mean, really, ‘grunt work’? So, the idiots are finally making their move?”
“The delusional, really, Kuno is intelligent enough once you make allowances for his delusions, and Gosunkugi’s had reality club him alongside the head, knocking a lot of that unthinking arrogance out of him. But yes, Gosunkugi’s imps have finished his construction and cat collection, he’s putting his plan into operation today.”
“All right, alert Calise, she knows what to do.”
The imp nodded and slipped back under the seat’s shadow and away, and Mara’s lips stretched into a predatory grin. This was going to be fun!
Kodachi felt her gut tighten when she sauntered out of her algebra class to find her new mistress waiting for her. It was all she could do to keep her shoulders straight and her eyes level, and she thought she saw a hint of respect in that mistress’s eyes. But if so, it was just a hint in the fiery-haired, tattooed woman’s cool gaze.
“Kuno-san, there is an issue at your brother’s school that needs to be dealt with. Come with me.”
“But of course, anything that impacts my dear brother,” Kodachi snarked, eliciting chuckles from students listening in. “Lead on.” Calise raised an eyebrow but said nothing, turning to lead the way out of the school. Kodachi joined her, silent until they left the building. As they walked down the school’s steps, she quietly said, “Please forgive any disrespect, I could not act differently without questions being asked about you that I believe you might not want asked.”
“So there is a brain underneath all that accumulated arrogance,” Calise mused. “The way you treated your servant after our little meeting suggested as much, but it is nice to have that reinforced. Perhaps you will be of more use than I thought.
“But,” she continued, voice hardening, “you will amend your behavior, so that you can give me proper deference ... and quickly. If you wish to avoid public humiliation I suggest amending your behavior toward everyone, so that your subservience will be lost in the clutter. Understood?”
Kodachi blanched and nodded frantically. “Yes ... Mistress.””
Calise glanced at Kodachi out of the corner of her eye, and decided to ignore the hesitation. Kodachi was still growing accustomed to the sudden change of direction her life had taken, the demonic troubleshooter could accept a little arrogance and disrespect while her newest minion adjusted. A little arrogance ... for a little while.
So to Kodachi’s relief her mistress said nothing more about it. Instead, she lifted a hand and a package wrapped in plain brown paper appeared in her palm. “Here is your broach. It’s magic has been veiled but it is still distinctive, so wear it under your clothing and you should be safe from assault by others that would be desirous to take it from you. Make use of only its inherent gifts or, in an emergency, tap it to only power your ki techniques. If the gift for more awakens within you I will see to it that you receive training, but untrained magical use will simply shred the protections on the amulet and make you a target. Do you understand?”
“Yes.” Kodachi’s agreement was stiff as she controlled her reflex to ... reprimand ... anyone that sought to dictate to her. Still, that control came easily and she was rewarded with an approving nod from her mistress.
“Excellent. Your mission, and you will accept it” — a grin flashed across Calise’s face and was gone — “will be to go to find your brother at his school and shadow him.” She handed Kodachi the package, turned her hand upward, and another object appeared in her palm, a ring this time. “This ring will keep you unnoticed to all around you, mortal and supernatural, unless you attempt to physically assault them. Which you may well have to do. Your brother is acting the unwitting pawn of a young mage whose hatred of Tendo Nabiki — the sister of the Tendo that bested you in the ring — is all-encompassing. That mage is seeking to slake his hatred by seizing control of Ranko — the spirit that was protecting Akane when you tried to attack her — and turning her into his personal sex toy. It may well be that the spirit and the Tendos won’t need your help, so intervention only if necessary. Do you understand?”
“Shadow my deluded, stick-up-the-ass brother while he plays the fool, intervene only if it seems that the mage he is servicing is likely to succeed in his aims. Do not allow my presence to be noted otherwise.”
“Correct. And don’t let anyone see your broach.” Calise handed her minion the ring and vanished.
Kodachi stared at the empty space where her new Mistress had stood, and for a moment her features twisted into pure, burning fury before she managed to school her expression. She did not scream her overwhelming hatred to the sky.
The invisible Calise floating beside her was impressed ... there was definitely more to the girl than just another brat. Though I should have realized that after I read of her skill in manipulating ki, that is not that mark of one more spoiled rich kid.