Taming Shrews - Chapter 26 - AEM (GravityMassUniverse) (2024)

Chapter Text

Ranma

I blinked as I found myself sitting in a vast void, like the entire world had faded into shadows and smoke and fog.

I was dreaming, wasn't I?

I had been having a lot of strange lucid dreams, more so once I had tapped into the power of the curse. So I suppose I had to deal with the consequences and figure out what this dream was about.

I paused as my eyes caught something… “Light?”

It was golden Light, like the dappling of sun on the earth, brushing against my skin, and against a strange procession of water droplets, a push and pull of the elements.

I stepped towards the light and was caught flat-footed by the sudden feeling of being crushed under the weight of a planet, of an entire world bearing down on me.

WHY HAVE YOU COME HERE?

My eyes went wide open when I heard a voice echo with the rumbles and hum of the sun, pressing against the dream with the force of an atomic bomb. A pale shard of a greater power, echoing into eternity.

To observe the work of some of my Kin, who interfered with the cycle of life and death. One of yours, and now one of mine.

The second voice rang with the sound of the ocean, of the primordial chaos which birthed the world. There was a wry humor to the croaky layered voice, like a thousand million laughs in unison.

SHE INTERFERED IN AFFAIRS NOT HER OWN, MOTHER IS QUITE CROSS. The feminine voice warmed my body, like basking in the warmth of the shining day.

And yet… it was necessary, this world is not as it once was, destinies and fates twisted, the Order of Reality reshaped. The presence grew stronger and more defined as it continued. Your lover’s Tree of Ages has witnessed this.

The sun rumbled. HE HAS BEEN WORKING WITH OTHERS WHO SHARE HIS AUTHORITY IN INVESTIGATING THE IRREGULARITIES IN THIS WORLDLINE.

The primordial sea laughed. Then you see her potential, as a solution to some of the minor troubles left behind. The miko has her happy ending, and the result of that will deal with your discarded malice. The pervert and her hoshi-oni bride have long since settled down. The spirit-touched girl and her half-shinigami do not have the strength, and the cursed pair are already dealing with one irregularity in time. Her fate and story is still open-ended.

What the f*ck? It was sounding like… something had broken Time? Why, how, and where? Was it talking about this world or another, was my imagination just that weird?

MY BROTHER DOES FAVOR THE CHAOS SHE BRINGS, THE WILD WIND WHICH BLOWS ALONG THE PLAINS OF DESTINY. There was bemusem*nt radiating down from the heavens.

It does help that she is quite a pretty girl, enough to bring you out of your cave, the voice mused with a grandmotherly mirth. Perhaps she can coax you out from your throne, little one.

The sun simmered. SILENCE.

The two voices went quiet as I took a step forward, and I felt my heart race as their attention shifted. Their pressure increased until it felt like I was an ant being held in the hands of a mountain, the sky falling on me.

A figure congealed from the mist, a shifting face standing out from the sameness of the void. It didn't have skin, bearing a texture like ice and water and steam all at once. I had to contend with the fact it was very, very big.

It was larger than a mountain, no… as big as a planet with cracks for eyes that could fit entire countries between them.

It seems the little kitten is very good at eavesdropping, So few of Mine can embrace our connection. I'll have to send Plum her way, with the little one’s Gift as a Guide.

“Umm…”

The sun reached out to grab my chin and whispered.

FORGET.

I—

Ranma

I woke up to sand in my face, sputtering as my ire turned to a smug Nabiki, who was wearing a very snug and revealing bikini.

Not as nice as ‘Kane…

My cheeks flushed at the sudden thought, a trilling chirp escaping my lips. My hand slapped over my mouth at the sound.

In the days since the fight with Ke Lun, I had been noticing the side effects of the Nekoken more and more. Instincts tugging at the edge of my mind, sounds eagerly leaving my throat to express my emotions.

I purred when I was happy and comfy, I chirruped when I greeted people, yowled and growled and snarled when angered. I had been craving seafood and indulging in it for three days now.

“What do ya want?” I folded myself into my comfortable cushion, enjoying the firm, warm surface.

Wait.

“I had to keep my sister from combusting, you’re pretty cuddly aren’t you?” Nabiki said with a smug smirk.

“Oh…” I stretched lazily, arching my back before shifting into a comfortable seating position on Akane’s lap. “I guess so? Ain’t like Pops was ever one for hugs… not like I’d trust ‘em ta not use it as an attack.”

Nabiki’s smirk died. “Well thanks for letting me know selling him to the circus was a good choice.”

I snorted as I wiggled comfortably on Akane’s lap. “Nice. Ya got somethin’ ya wanna ask little old me?” I played up my cuteness, batting my lashes at the schemer.

Nabiki gave me a flat look, the gears in her head turning. “Right… I’ve picked up on a few things about you and I have a business proposition for you.”

“If it involves selling her pictures I’ll kill you,” Akane said in a way that sent chills down my spine.

Nabiki coughed. “No, your outfits… Do you make them?”

“Most of them, why do ya ask?” It was a good question. “Cuz I only had like three outfits, I had ta learn how to mend ‘em or I’d have ta be a nudist. Picked up a lotta good skills.”

I had very subtly found my way into a dojo that taught me how to make my own clothes.

“You make your outfits?” Akane said in shock, placing an arm around my shoulder to steady herself.

I hummed smugly to the beat of Mimi’s Delivery Service. “I do, getting the garments and other materials takes a lotta bargaining but I make do. Kasumi lets me at some of the old stuff ya guys don’t use anymore. Takes me like… fifteen to twenty minutes tops ta make a shirt, maybe an hour ta make a simple dress?” A wedding dress could take me triple that I’d guess?

“Do you have any idea how much money you’d be able to make with that kind of skill?” Nabiki sounded both astounded and intrigued.

“No. Though your face tells me it’s more than zero.” I guess customized clothing is pretty labor intensive.

And labor is value.

Akane glared at her sister. “So you’re just trying to get Ranma to work with you?”

Nabiki grimaced. “I… yes but I want… I want to do this right, okay? I know I messed up, and I know I’m kinda a greedy bitch but…”

“But you’re not exactly good at negotiating with people outside using lots of blunt manipulation?” I smiled at her scowl, knowing it was the truth.

Nabiki wasn’t stupid, but her skills didn’t lie in being a flawless operator. Her time working for production studios gave her the skills of a sleazy producer. Very different sorta game in terms of getting people to do what ya want.

“I’m still good at getting information, and I took your advice into account,” Nabiki sighed. “I’ve tried to do better, because I… I know I don’t show it, but I do care about my family. I do.” I couldn’t tell if she was trying to convince us or convince herself.

“Nabiki, are you being sincere about this, and if you are… Why do you want to work with Ranma on this?” Akane asked a good question, glaring at her sister.

“I don’t want to be a Genma.” Nabiki said with complete and utter seriousness. “Reopening the dojo is definitely reassuring but they’ve been fighting a lot when it comes to teaching students.”

“I’m guessing Pops’ idea of teaching is a good way ta get sued.” I said easily as I watched said panda get bodied by a wave. “So you wanna… what, set up a business plan and save up extra dough?”

“I can also set you up with a bank account,” Nabiki offered with a shrug until I stared at her. “What? Do you know how much I’ve made off of placing bets on your fights? Plus I do sell photos… so I’ve made a fair bit of money.”

“But not enough to make up for the savings your family is burning?” I said, having a good idea about the answer. “Also pretty sure I’d need Pops ta be in on this.”

Nabiki just lifted an eyebrow, and I looked past her to see Pops being harassed by a gaggle of kids and Ryoga, the muscle girl wearing a different wig as she kicked sand in his face.

Good.

“Point taken. I’ll consider it, if only ta knock some sense into ya.” I did have experience with a similar line of work. Even if mine was more flirting with people to get free food or performing labor in exchange for goods.

Memories trickled in, clear as day, of days spent reading on economic theory and the excesses of capitalism…

Hmm, something to think about…

“I don’t know what you’re thinking, but I don’t like it.” Nabiki said.

I grinned. “If you want my help, you’re gonna have ta make some concessions. I don’t want more people like my old man in the world either.”

Nabiki huffed. “Fiiine. It’s a deal, but we’ll settle on the details later. My sister clearly wants to talk to you.”

Huh?

Nabiki waved, sauntering away with a smirk. My head was tilted up, Akane staring at me with a frown.

“Are we going to talk about it or not? You promised.” Her word left no room for argument.

I sighed. “Yeah…”

She was right, we had a lot to talk about.

No matter how much I didn’t want to.

Ranma

I had reluctantly crawled off of Akane’s lap, sitting my butt down on a towel while waiting for her to begin.

“You know about what happened to my mother,” a statement rather than a question. “How I can’t ever see her again.”

I nodded, folding my legs back. “Yeah I do…” I replied, unsure of where she was going with this.

“Which is why that stupid contract makes me so angry!” I was startled when she punched the beach, forming a crater in the sand in the shape of her fist. “It’s… who even decides to make a contract like that… who, who accepts something like that?!”

“I thought you’d be mad at me,” I said without thinking, folding my hands together.

She looked stricken. “Ranma! Icould never be mad at you for being caught up in your dad’s mess,” she took a calming breath, chest expanding and contracting with a deep intake of air. “Your dad made you agree to a suicide pact so he could run off with you… and took you away from your mother.”

And that mother had agreed to it because of her own foolish, stupid reasons, leaving me in the clutches of Saotome Genma. A mother I barely remember, just glimmers in the dark, of her failing to understand me.

I remember being scared and confused, and it hurt to think about it. Hurt to think about how much I had missed out on in this life. It made my skin crawl with curling ice, with a pain that made me want to curl up into a ball and shut out the world.

It made me feel like how I felt before the curse… and in that first life before…

“I just want to talk, Ranma. I want to know if my best friend is alright.” Akane reached for my smaller hand, clenching it tightly with that soft, warm smile of hers.

I flushed deeply. “Best friend?” I asked, flattered and flustered.

Akane cracked a grin. “We both did agree to ignore the engagement, remember? You’re loud and rude have a huge ego, and you love being annoying way too much. But you treat me like a person. I’m not some prize to be won, I’m not a weird girl trying to be one of the boys… or a girl who can’t be the heir to her own school. I’m Tendo Akane to you.”

“I… yer my best friend too,” I whispered softly, stomach fluttering. “And ya can be really angry and noisy but it’s cuz ya care so much.Yer fierce and loyal, and you’ve stuck by me this whole time even when I was…”

Even when she thought I was a boy.

Akane smiled. “Of course, which is why we need to talk about your mom, and how we’re going to handle it with your…”

“Identity? The fact I’m a girl at heart?” I whispered sharply, inspecting my nails with a growl. “I never told ya why seeing her freaked me out back then right?”

Akane shook her head. “No. No you didn’t.”

“I don’t remember much… just remember feelin’ like a girl back then too,” I explained with a bitter anger. “I don’t think she liked that.”

It was hard to say though, my memory had always been a fog, in both lives. Maybe I was wrong, and mixing memories together. I just didn’t know anymore.

“I’m sorry…” She whispered, keeping a firm hold on my shaking hands.

“I’m used ta it, tomboy.” I had a hard time even mustering a grin. “Always figured stuff would go at some point, never been proven wrong.” Pops always found a way to f*ck things up, it was a real specialty of his.

“You shouldn’t be…” Akane grumbled. “Your parents are supposed to protect and care for you. I… I hate your father, I hate how he treats you, I hate how he uses you as a stupid bargaining trip instead of his kid!” The sheer anger in her voice was breathtaking, her fiery eyes impossible to escape from. “You deserve so much better than that stupid, pathetic panda.”

I quivered, pressing my head into her shoulder. “I umm,” I didn’t have any words that wouldn’t be embarrassing to say. “I don’t think I tell ya it enough, but yer a real good person ‘Kane.”

Akane flushed. “I… shut up.”

I laughed, sticking my tongue out at her. “C’mon, don’t be so modest. Ya got no reason ta be.” I decided to keep us on track though, despite my own nerves. “So what did ya have in mind for dealin’ with my mom?”

Akane’s blush faded. “I might still be figuring it out, because I don’t know if she’d even commit to the contract.”

I nodded, mother hadn’t shown up yet, we had fled to the beach before the confrontation could go down. But I knew it was going to happen at some point, I wasn’t going to run forever.

“I don’t know either… not really,” even with my foreknowledge I honestly didn’t know. She hadn’t committed in that other time and place, but the circ*mstances were different. “I just know that I ain’t gonna do it.”

What kind of honor was there in making your clueless kid sign a contract like that?

“This isn’t going to be easy isn’t it?” Akane said, utterly resigned to the disaster we were facing.

“No. Pops is an idiot, and I don’t know if I can trust my own mother. Then there’s that damn old lady screwing with us cuz of me.” I hadn’t thought learning the Amaguriken would have pissed her off so much.

“You still haven’t figured out what Shanpū and Ke Lun were talking about right?” Akane asked.

“No, I don’t know Tibetan, and I’m still learning Mandarin, so I don’t know why they’re so worried.” I said with a growl, knowing something capable of worrying two Amazons was bad.

“And those dreams Ryoga told us about—”

“Can you leave that be, please?” I asked, not wanting to think about it. “I don’t know what it all means yet. Not really.” I lied, knowing exactly what it meant.

I just didn’t like thinking about it, cuz existential dread is terrible.

“But it is weird isn’t it? Not bad just…” Akane looked uncertain.

I leaned back with a sigh. “Yeah. It is, but it ain’t like I didn’t already know that. I’m literally cursed by a magic spring, weird is just what I am. I just don’t know.”

Akane squared her shoulders. “Right… then maybe you’d like to know more about my mom.”

I blinked. “Why?”

“You taught me about my identity, about it being okay to like girls. So let me teach you about mothers.” Akane grasped my hand tightly, offering her kind grin.

I nodded. “I think I’d like ta know more about her.”

Akane spoke and I listened, letting the day go by without worrying about the future.

Ranma

“Finding this place was way easier than I thought it’d be…” I murmured to myself as I found myself in front of a certain cave, having traveled all the way to the Hida Mountains.

After winning the phoenix pill and taking a few days off, I had decided a quick trip was in order. As in it had taken me less than an hour to get here on foot, and would take me an hour to get back.

Took me a while to remember, and more time to pinpoint where that demon of a man was. But I was here and I had made some suitable preparations with the help of Yuka, and some help from Tofu.

Turns out the guy had some experience with drawing ofuda and talismans, cuz he inherited a lotta old knowledge when it came to spiritual power. Which was important when it came down to keepin’ a pervert like him away from the mortal world.

I had spiritually cleansed the area with clean water, assembled an array of ofuda and sealing paper around the cave entrance… and with Ryoga’s help sealed the whole entrance in Breaking Point crafted concrete.

Plus a big rock I found, and I’m not gonna describe how hard it was to carry concrete over hundreds of kilometers.

“f*ck it feels nasty in here,” I shuddered at the crusty, musty sensation the old man’s spirit tainted the air with. “Gross.”

The strangest thing was how I didn't sense a body within the cave, it was closer to a miasma spreading within the cavern. Happosai was definitely in there, but it didn't feel alive.

Was the bastard an actual demon? Or had my old man and Soun managed to seal the guy away somehow? Or had they killed him, buried the body and his Spirit remained?

Not my problem.

Regardless I had set up the seals around the cave which just left the step of imbuing them with spiritual power, according to how it had been explained by Yuka and Tofu. Though what I was practicing was closer to Onmyodo than it was to Shinto practices. I wasn’t a priest, but I did have a very good spiritual foundation.

It was a very eclectic Art, a kind of shamanism, appeasing the spirits to achieve a practical effect. Spirits or Kami existed in all things, spirits of air and stone, spirits of objects, spirits of places. Onmyodo was thus the practice of coaxing these spirits to do things. Using a mix of many practical tools.

Yuka was a dork.

Ended up learning the basic principles of seals and talisman from both of ‘em, and figured out some good characters.

Seal Evil, I mused to myself as I took a deep, steady breath, as I pushed my spiritual power into the seals, feeding the barrier the seals were forming around the cave. The sickening miasma reacted sluggishly to the barrier wrapping around the evil and malice it represented, seeming almost eager for punishment.

I stuck my tongue out, disgusted.

It seemed to be trying to feed on the energy, the pressure growing to try and encircle my power. It exploded outwards in a sudden violent motion and…

Light, Warmth, Protection.

The miasma was crushed flat by a sudden outside force, granting my barrier time to reach full strength as I pushed more and more of my power into the seal. I took a breath, recalling what Yuka had said.

‘Uncle says that one of the biggest factors in the power of a talisman is faith, your belief in the Kami, and in yourself.’

I hummed as I drew on my confidence, drawing on my experiences of living in this world, and of living outside this world. I knew the kami existed, I believed in them, and more than that I trusted them to help. I trusted my own power, my own skill, in the strength of my will.

I can do this, I ain’t gotta let this bastard out to terrorize innocent people!

The seals pulsed with a flash of gold, as the now complete barrier encased the malice and evil of Happosai. There was a second wave of spiritual power, which was very itchy to say the least, as the vortex of ki swirled down into the barrier.

Static buzzing between my teeth, itching along my nails and fingers, ghostly wind cresting around my ears, shadows of sensation as the warm energy spilled freely.

I clapped my hands as the miasma vanished under the seal, grinning.

“Gotcha, ya old bastard.” I celebrated openly.

Sooo…

How am I gonna get back ta Nerima?

Ranma

Cold air filled my lungs as I slammed the door to an empty public bathroom shut as a horrible agony hit my gums, far stronger than anything I had ever felt before.

Hurts, hurts, hurts, hurts!

I had gotten into a fight with Pops on the beach for running off for two hours, and he decided to be an asshole and toss a cat at me. I’d had my hands around his throat, and needed Ryoga and Akane to pull me off him.

I’d run off when my gums started to burn, and were still burning, like frostbite. The throbbing waves of agony blotted out my rage, as I let out a pained whimper.

What the hell is wrong with me?

It was like something was tearing its way outta my gums, knives cutting into sensitive flesh. I coughed, and a glob of dark blood fell into the sink, a chill running down my spine at the sight.

No, no, no, no, no

I swallowed and tasted the sweet, metallic flavor of my own blood. I don’t, I don’t like this. The pain was no longer radiating as intensely, so I worked up the guts to open my mouth, to figure out what was wrong with me.

I opened my mouth as wide as possible to see.

Oh.

Four, sharp fangs were proudly sported inside my jaw, with pointed incisors between them. I stared, mesmerized by the sight of the impossible change in my anatomy. I slid a finger down a fang, along a cutting edge over three centimeters in length. I could see where my carnassials would meet, my last upper premolars and first lower molars sharpened into shearing blades.

Incisors weren’t too different, just a bit pointed, though the incisors right next to my fangs (I have fangs), were sharper and longer than my old canines. The teeth of a primal predator, instead of those of a human.

“Ranma? Are you in there?” I heard Akane coming in and dove my head into the sink, washing out my bloody mouth with water.

“I’m okay, just needed ta cool off. But I’m good, everything is normal.”

I licked my teeth, trying not to panic at the sudden severe alteration to my dental anatomy. And finding it so incredibly easy, because something about those fangs felt…felt…”

Right.

It didn’t feel alien or unnatural, like it was just another part of growing up instead of supernatural. I think, I think that was a lot I needed to unpack, and I had no idea what to do.

I don’t know what to do, I realized with growing dread.

This wasn’t martial arts, this wasn’t any bit of science and nerdy sh*t I knew from both now and then. It wasn’t an event from a possible future, written in another world. I… who the f*ck could I even go to with this?

I could trust Tofu, but he wasn’t some kinda specialist in whatever the hell this was. Though he had talked a big game about his family keeping a lotta records, all the way back to the Sengoku period. His family had apparently dealt with that era of conflict and death, when the yokai were at their strongest.

Nowadays they are kinda rare, compared ta back in the day when they had entire tribes, clans and even kingdoms of yokai. Many can’t even manifest material bodies, or be seen by humans. There just wasn’t as much faith going around apparently.

I washed out the last of the blood down the sink, and turned to face a worried Akane, offering a closed grimace.

“Sorry ‘bout that… didn’t mean ta lose it so badly.” I apologized, trying to avoid talking about my condition

“He threw a cat at you, we pulled you off of him for your sake,” Akane said with a dazzling smirk. “But are you sure you’re okay?”

“I…” I thought for a moment, frowning.

“Ranma?”

“I’m fine.” I said instead.

“I’m fine.” I repeated, lying to myself.

Taming Shrews - Chapter 26 - AEM (GravityMassUniverse) (2024)

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