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Matchmaking (and Moneymaking)

By Maltrazz

Humor / Romance

The Loophole

Nabiki liked money. In Nerima, this wasn't so much an opinion, as an accepted statement of fact. Most people thought Nabiki dealt with bets and blackmail so much because it was fast, easy money. What they failed to realize, was that the amount of time and effort Nabiki put into her endeavors was what allowed her to be so successful.

Nabiki enjoyed the money she made, but she also enjoyed the satisfaction of knowing she had properly balanced the odds she gave so that she always came out ahead when offering bets. She liked the money, cared more about the thrill she got from manipulating someone with a well placed threat and a few photos. Nabiki was surrounded by martial artists that could break all the bones in her body without even breaking a sweat, but none of them dared touch her. It wasn't because she had money, it was because she was the Ice Queen who could ruin the life of anyone who crossed her.

Nabiki liked the money, but she LOVED the power, and the reputation that came with it, too.

However, sometimes money WAS the more pressing concern. Nabiki usually had more than one 'operation' going on at a time, and she spent a lot of time going over the details of the betting pools and any ongoing or potential blackmail she was running. It was this scrutiny, combined with the luck that had been with her all her life, that had kept Nabiki from making any significant losing bets, or pushing someone too far with blackmail.

Such was how Nabiki spent one afternoon, shortly after the failed wedding between her younger sister and their freeloading house guest. With that event in recent memory, she had decided to review all standing bets in regards to whom Ranma would end up with. The results were not surprising, but they were not pleasant either.

"Dammit Akane..." Nabiki mumbled. She rarely swore, but her sisters could frustrate her to no end, at times. Mainly it was Akane that did so, but Kasumi could be trying in her own way, because she was the one person Nabiki could never bring herself to include in her schemes.

Akane was another issue entirely. She was Nabiki's sister, so she would not blackmail her directly, just like she knew Akane would never attack her. However, her younger sister's temper had worn away most of her patience, and she didn't mind including her in her schemes peripherally, or taking bets involving her.

She knew Akane did care for Ranma, so she was hesitant to interfere in their relationship. Sure, she had done so once before, temporarily becoming Ranma's fiancée, but that was before she was sure of her sister's feelings. Even so, numbers didn't lie, and with a frown, Nabiki turned from her thoughts back to the notebook in her hands.

She double-checked the numbers, but the result was the same. Adding the new bets since the wedding attempt, if Ranma and Akane did end up together, the amount of money she would get from bets on others would not be enough to covers the losses of paying out the bets in favor of her sister. "I can't lose money," Nabiki grumbled. "I NEVER lose money..."

Nabiki turned her head to glare at the wall between her and Akane's rooms. 'I didn't interfere because you were my sister, but you dragged this on too far...' Nabiki thought. Looking back at her notebook, she spoke aloud. "The gloves come off now, Akane. NOBODY makes me lose money!"

Closing the notebook with a snap, Nabiki got ready for bed. Tomorrow would be the first day of figuring out how to turn the situation around. This would take careful planning and set-up, but those were things Nabiki excelled at.

A week of no progress can be both frustrating and disheartening. For a week, Nabiki had tried to come up with a way to turn things around for the betting pool concerning Ranma. However, Ranma WAS the problem.

In order for her to make money, Ranma would need to end up with someone other than Akane, but the issue was that Ranma had never really shown interest in any girl except Akane. True, he had never truly outright rejected Ukyo or Shampoo, but it was clear to her that he did not see either in a romantic light. Nabiki sighed as she felt a headache coming on.

"Oh my, is something wrong?" Nabiki looked up at the sound of Kasumi's worried voice, seeing that her sigh had drawn the attention of the others in the room.

It was right after school, and Nabiki had come home to find Kasumi having tea with Ranma's mother. Deciding that a cup might help with the near constant headache that the situation had given her the last few days, Nabiki had joined them.

Seeing the concern of the other two, Nabiki forced a smile and said, "I'm fine, just a bit... stressed."

Nodoka set her hand on the girl's shoulder. "Well, if you ever need someone to talk to, you can always come to me."

Nabiki sweatdropped as she thought, 'Yes, I'm sure you would be sooo understanding about my plans to use your son to make money at his expense.' Out loud, however, she just said, "Thank you, Auntie."

Nodoka withdrew her arm, only for a familiar piece of paper to fall from her sleeve as she did. "Ah!" Nodoka cried, before mumbling to herself, "I must be more careful with such an important contract."

At the word 'contract', Nabiki realized that must be the Seppuku Contract that Nodoka had mentioned carrying with her at all times. 'That's probably the most influential thing in Ranma's life right now.' Nabiki thought. 'And since I need leverage over him... but how can I make use of it?' As Ranma's mother picked up the contract, Nabiki asked, "Since we already know about the contract, would you mind if I looked at it for a moment?"

Nodoka hesitated for a moment, before shrugging and handing her the paper while saying, "I suppose there's no harm in letting you read it."

As Nabiki took the paper, her eyes were already runny over what was written. She had gotten a glimpse of it once before, when Nodoka first told them about it, and an idea was already forming in her cunning mind.

Nabiki loved the Japanese language. Whether written or vocal, there were many times it could be misconstrued, or the means of words intentionally twisted. It was the reason legally binding contracts had pages of redundancies in order to make certain that as many openings for abuse were closed as could be done in a timely manner.

I single page with two sentences on it was hardly what Nabiki would call a 'detailed contract'. She could work with this.

She quickly memorized the writing, so that she could reproduce it later before handing it back to Nodoka with a smile. "Thank you, Auntie. I am a bit curious, though. What would a guy have to be or do to be a Man Amongst Men to you?"

"Well, they would have to be a handsome man, a powerful warrior, have a healthy interest in women, and manage to get a beautiful wife."

"I see, that makes sense." Nabiki said. Finishing her cup of tea, she excused herself and returned to her room. Writing the contract she had memorized before she could forget, Nabiki sat back in her chair with the copy in hand. 'Every contract has a loophole.' Nabiki thought. 'With a contract this simple, it should be easy to find one. With a way out of this contract as bait, Saotome should jump to do what I need.'

Nabiki spent the next half an hour considering different ways the contract could be interpreted. For the most part, any changes were so miniscule as to make no effective difference. Finally, she found a way to read it that gave her pause.

"I will train Ranma, and return with a son who is a Man Amongst Men. We will commit seppuku if I fail."

'Wait a minute,' Nabiki thought as she was struck by an idea. 'If you read it like that, then the 'Man Amongst Men' doesn't even have to be Ranma, as long as it is a son of the Saotomes. Of course, since Ranma is their only child, they would have to have another for that loophole to work...' Nabiki threw the copy of the contract onto her desk in frustration, and slumped in her chair. 'Dammit Nabiki, think! At this rate you're going to lose money AND get that arrogant jock as your brother-in-law!'

Suddenly, she sat up straight as inspiration struck. "Brother... in... law..." Nabiki mumbled. "Hold on, a son-in-law is still a son, and with Ranma's curse..." A Cheshire grin spread across her face.

Quickly grabbing the notebook concerning the bet that had lead to this, Nabiki scanned through it. 'Practically every girl in Ranma's life near his age has been bet on. A few even bet on me for some reason, though those bets were placed with my assistants. However, none of the bets are for males. Ranma has been very vocally against any romantic involvement with a guy, though. Although, they say 'actions speak louder than words', and Ranma has never had a problem acting girly to get what he wants.'

Nabiki relaxed in her chair as her thoughts continued. 'The next problem would be finding another guy that fits Nodoka's criteria for a Man Amongst Men. Most of Ranma's rival would qualify for 'handsome', 'powerful martial artists', and 'interested in girls', and the 'beautiful wife' part would be taken care of if Ranma went along with it, but that's a separate issue. Let's see... Kuno would be ecstatic to marry 'the Pigtailed Girl', but Ranma would probably rather commit seppuku. Mousse would be completely uninterested. That would leave...'

"Oh, P-chan, you're back!" Nabiki heard Akane's happy cry from downstairs.

'A certain Lost Boy who is already obsessed with Ranma.' Nabiki's thought continued, her smile wider than ever. 'Come to think of it, I think Ryoga is the only one Ranma ever actually dressed up for. If not the only, then definitely the most frequent. If I suggest something like this straight out, though, neither would agree. This will take some time and some fast talking...'

As she heard Akane getting ready for bed, Nabiki thought, 'Still, can I interfere with my little sister's relationship for money?' Glancing back at the notebook still in her hands, Nabiki quickly added up how much would be made if ALL the bets lost. 'That is a LOT of zeros. Yeah, I think that would sooth my guilt.

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