Reflections

Lure the Tiger from the Mountains


*****************************************************
Chapter 1
Man tian guo hai
(Cross the sea by fooling the sky)

"Dammit old man, it ain't funny!" Ranma glared at
his father, convulsed in mirth on the dirt floor of an
abandoned warehouse in the Shanghai docks. A pounding
rain drummed against the metal roof, spraying through cracks
and holes, turning portions of the floor into greasy quagmires.

"You . . .you . . ." The stocky figure pointed a
quivering hand at his "son", before going off into peals of
braying laughter.

"Shut up!" Ranma smacked his father's bald head
with a rotting board, knowing better than to hit so hard an
object with his bare hand. He looked at the tiny, pale
appendage in disgust. Especially now. "This is all _your_
fault, anyway!"

"H . . .how do you figure that b . . . boy," he started to
go off in convulsions again, then sobered slightly as his son
hefted a rock, sufficient to crack even his thick skull. Pulling
a dirty kerchief from around his neck he wiped perspiration
from his heavy face, then stuffed the cloth carelessly in his
pocket. "How 'bout gettin' drinky for your ol' man," he
smiled ingratiatingly, showing a shadow of the masculine
charm that had once been his pride, and his downfall. When
his son made no move to honor his request he fumbled in the
rotting trash that covered part of the floor until he came up
with a heavy jug and drank thirstily.

"Criminy pop! Would you lay off that stuff?"
Ranma's voice cracked, a fact which almost sent his father off
again. "That's what got us in trouble in the first place. We
were doin' alright until you pissed off----"

"Sur . . .ely you don't blame _me_ for our present
troubles," Genma replied, with such exquisite diction that it
was nearly impossible to tell he had consumed enough
alcohol to kill ten ordinary men.

"I don't see no other fat thieving drunks around
here," Ranma replied nastily.

"Show some respect boy," Genma made a hasty
swipe at his son, age and drink throwing off his aim. He
missed, landed hard and started blubbering.

"Geez, pop, I'm sorry," Ranma said sadly. He knelt
beside his father, brushing him off, "why can't ya stay off the
sauce? You aint such a bad guy, when you're sober."

Genma lifted his head, his breath heavy with the smell
of cheap rice-wine. "Ah, boy," he boasted blearily,
". . .you should have seen me when I was your age. I was
magnificent. No man could stand against me in those days, no
woman resist me." He puffed out his chest, which still
remained several inches less than the girth of his belly. "But
that was before . . .before . . ." He started crying again.

"It's OK pops," his face tightened as he thought of
_her_, the woman who had turned his big, brave pop into this
drunken wreck of a man. "I'll take care of you." And I'll
never let another woman hurt you, he though grimly. I'll
never let one get her dirty claws into me, neither.

"Tha's my boy. My good . . .boy!" He tried clumsily
to hug Ranma, causing the other to squeal and fall back.

"Don't _do_ that!" Onna-Ranma rubbed his breast,
shooting an angry glance at his father.

"I'm sorry . . .sorry," Genma wept, blood shot eyes
taking in his "son's" petite form, flowing red-hair falling
below her softly flaring hips and amply filled tunic. "I'm
sorry, m'boy."

*****************************************************

"Married?" Tendo Nabiki almost dropped the dish
she was drying. "Are you kidding? I can't get married now. I
want to get into a good college."

"I'm sorry to disagree with you father," the eldest
Tendo daughter put in, "but I really think Nabiki is too
young to be thinking of marriage," Tendo Soun directed a
speaking glance at Kasumi, who returned his gaze calmly.
"And I'm much too busy preparing for my own exams. Of
course, we will submit to your will, as dutiful daughters
should." Soun pulled at a collar that was suddenly much too
tight.

"What's going on?" Soun turned gratefully at the
sound of his youngest daughters' voice, relief at being rescued
from Kasumi's "dutiful obedience", turning to dismay as he
noted the heavy walking stick in her hand.

"Oh, my baby," tears gathered in his eyes. "You've
hurt yourself again. Kasumi," he turned back to his eldest,
"go get her medicine. Nabiki, run call the doctor----"

"I'm on it, pop," Nabiki was already heading for the
phone; even before Soun finished speaking, while Kasumi,
her calm slightly ruffled, had opened the refrigerator and was
pulling out a plastic box containing an assortment of bottles
and small glass vials.

"Would you cut that out," Tendo Akane interrupted
with fond exasperation. "Nabiki, put down the phone.
Kasumi," she limped forward, taking the box from her sisters
hand and returning it to its place, "finish the dishes. I'll
help." She grabbed an apron from the counter-top. "You
wash, I'll dry."

"You shouldn't exert yourself when you're hurt."

"I'm fine, daddy." She shrugged, "I just overextended
a little on a spinning high-kick. No big deal." She grinned, an
expression that seemed to light the whole room. "But I really
blasted that concrete block. Wham----boom!" she pulled her
hands apart sharply. "Nothing but dust."

"I don't think it's safe for you to be doing such
strenuous things," Soun said worriedly. His spine firmed as
he came to a sudden decision. "I forbid you to use the doujou
anymore!"

The temperature of the room dropped several degrees
and Kasumi stepped back nervously, while Nabiki swallowed
a sudden lump in her throat.

"I'm heir to the Musabetsu kakutou Tendou-ryuu,"
Akane said coldly, looking at her father through narrowed
eyes. "If you want to forbid me the doujou, you have to
defeat me."

Soun's shoulders slumped as his spine jellied. He
_might_ be able to out-point his daughter in technique, but
she'd almost certainly insist on a knock-out, and that he could
never do.


Akane noted the look of misery on her father's face
and her own attitude softened almost instantly. "Daddy," she
put an arm around his waist and hugged him tightly. "I'm
sorry. I don't mean to hurt you, but I can't give up the art."

"I . . .I know baby," Soun hugged her back. "It's just
that I worry about you."

"Now," Akane stepped back, wiping his eyes with the
edge of her gi, "what was this about . . .marriage?"

*****************************************************

"I can't believe you did this," Ranma muttered,
stalking ahead of his father. "What were you _drinkin'_
anyway?"

"I didn't have a drop," Genma retorted, offended
dignity in every line of his corpulent frame. "except for a little
warm sake. Strictly for medicinal purposes," he hastened to
add. Those few dozen cases of beer didn't count, he thought.
Beer wasn't really _drinking_.

Swinging down the road, he easily matched his son's
pace, puffing only a tiny bit. He wasn't in prime shape by any
means, but several weeks of running for his life had burned
most of the liqueur from his system and added muscle to his
middle-aged body. "And you better be glad I did. .. If we're
going to remedy your . . .errr . . .situation-----"

"Curse, pop. It's a _curse_. It ain't no goddamn
'situation'."

"Errr . . .yes. But in any event, to get back into
Qinghai, we're going to need money, for . . .presents----"

"Bribes, ya mean."

"Please, son,"Genma affected a pained look. "You
simply _must_ learn a little tact."

"Oh, like _you_ ever learned any." Ranma couldn't
believe what his old man had gotten him into. Even if it did
actually sounded like a workable plan, which was frightening
in itself. The idea that Saotome Genma could conceive of
_and_ execute any action more complicated than removing
the cork from a wine bottle went against the laws of nature.
Pop was smart, Ranma knew, he just lacked staying power.

"In any event," Genma continued, uneasily aware
that his son's temperament, uneven at the best of times, was
balanced on a razor's edge since his . . .accident, "this will
give us a secure base of operations, food, shelter and a nice
bit of change to finance our return to China."

"I dunno pop, it just seems too easy, the way you say
it."

"It's _not_ easy," Genma growled. "You're going to
have to use a little charm, m'boy," Genma warned. "None of
your rough talk, be polite ----"

"Yeah, yeah. Don't be such a nag."

"Don't gulp your food----"

"Jeez pop, all I've got to do is sweet-talk some bitch
an' get her to fork over a little 'love token'." Ranma snorted
derisively at the thought. "Then you turn it into cash an' we
split. It's not like we ain't . . .haven't done this before." He
looked over his shoulder at his father. " Besides, girls love
fixin' stuff," his lip curled at the thought, "learnin' me
manners and how to talk right an' stuff just makes 'em go all
mushy."

"Pay attention, boy." Genma cuffed his son
affectionately on the head, "it's more involved this time.
You've got to act your part for weeks, maybe months. And
it's not something small like a ring or a broach or a yatai. It's
a house and a doujou." Ranma nodded, only half listening.
"And _this_ time, you've got to marry the girl."

*****************************************************

 

 
1