Matchmaking (and Moneymaking)

The Bait

Nabiki ignored the others at the table, as she ate dinner. She still knew what the others were doing, however, such as Ranma and Genma fighting over food, as it was the same as what they always did. Tuning them out allowed her more time to think, though.

Nabiki had a plan; get Ranma and Ryoga together. However, there were some major obstacles to overcome. Namely, Ranma had never shown any interest in Ryoga. 'Well,' Nabiki thought, a certain fishing pole in mind, 'never shown interest without magic or disguises being involved, that is.'

As Nabiki continued eating, so too did her thoughts continue flowing. 'Magic is always an option, but if either of them connected it to me, I could be in trouble. Especially in Ryoga's case, as he is not exactly open to reason when he gets angry. I'll leave that as a last resort.

'Trying to straight up blackmail them into it probably wouldn't get either mad enough to do something stupid, but it probably would not work either. I'll keep that thought as a back-up.

'Bribery would be next to useless on those two, but offering to forgive what they owe me might give me a little bit of leverage. Besides, what I would lose from that is mere pocket change compared to what I'll gain if I can pull this off.

'A subtler route will probably be better for dealing with these two.' Nabiki nodded to herself as she came to a decision. 'I'll need to get them at least a bit friendlier with each other before I can pull off this plan. Ranma should be easy enough to lead by the nose with a promise to help with the Seppuku Contract. As for Ryoga...' Nabiki smirked as she sent a glance at the piglet in her little sister's lap, 'I think this will be the perfect opportunity to use the 'P-chan' blackmail I've been saving.'

Nabiki finished her meal, and sat waiting for the rest to finish. Ranma and Genma were the first to leave. 'Figures,' Nabiki thought. 'I was hoping to talk to Ranma alone, and he's the first to leave. Oh well, I'll just wait until later.'

Ranma relaxed as he sparred with his father. Some might be surprised that fighting would put him at easy, but something had felt 'off' lately. If anything, Nerima had been too calm. Ranma knew his life could only go so long without something of note happening, and with Ryoga having wandered back into town earlier that day, Ranma suspected that whatever was going to happen, would happen soon.

While Ranma had little control over the strange events that happened from time to time, when he fought, it was completely different. Even with his superior experience, Genma could no longer keep up with Ranma's speed when the teen went all out, so Ranma found their daily spars consisting less of true martial arts, and more of dirty tricks. Even so, his father was no pushover... at least, not once a fight got underway. Unfortunately, while Ranma did not have to worry about things like Seppuku Contracts or fiancées during a fight, sometimes he relaxed just a little too much, and his father would manage to land a blow.

Which was the reason why Ranma went flying through the air into the koi pond.

"Dammit Pop!" Ranma cried as she surfaced, the water having triggered her curse.

"You're getting slow, girl," Genma taunted. However, his tune changed a bit when he saw the redhead emerging from the pond with a scowl and a pail of water. Backing up, he said, "Well, I think that's enough for today. Hey, Tendo, how about a game of shogi?" Without further ado, he hurried inside.

Ranma sighed as he left. 'Sure, I could o' caught him, but it's getting late anyway.' Walking towards the house, Ranma rang out her drenched shirt as best she could as she grumbled, "Ugh, I'm soaked. Better go take a shower." Ranma was preoccupied with thoughts of changing back as she passed through the Tendo living room on her way to the stairs, and failed to note one of the sisters get up and follow the redhead.

Heading into her room, Ranma went to grab a new set of clothes, when she heard a voice behind her. "Do you have a moment, Saotome?"

Turning around, Ranma found that the voice belonged to Nabiki. "Uh, yeah, what d'ya need?" Ranma responded.

"Actually, this isn't about what I need, so much as what you do. I've got some information I'm sure you'll want to know." Nabiki said in an all-too-friendly tone.

Seeing as this was Nabiki, the unusual tone of voice immediately put Ranma on guard. Still, she was curious what Nabiki was talking about. "What d'ya mean?"

"Come to my room and I'll explain. For once, you've got nothing to lose." With that said, Nabiki left the room.

Now THAT had Ranma's attention. 'Why would Nabiki want to talk to me if I ain't gonna have to pay her?' Ranma thought. 'May as well find out.' Leaving the change of clothes on her bedding to grab later, Ranma followed Nabiki to her room.

As they entered her room, Nabiki sat on her bed, and gestured for Ranma to take a seat at her desk. "Ranma, you know I have no issue giving people problems if it means making me money." Nabiki paused until Ranma nodded hesitantly, not wanting to anger her when she was acting this oddly. "That said, I won't be stingy when someone's life is on the line."

Ranma bolted up in shock. Thinking of the person that she usually had to save, Ranma exclaimed, "What!? Is Akane in danger again?"

"Calm down, Saotome, this has nothing to do with my sister." Nabiki said calmly. 'At least, not directly,' she thought before continuing. "I'm talking about you, and the Seppuku Contract your mother carries."

"Oh," Ranma said lamely, calm again, now that she knew what the conversation was about... somewhat. "What about it?"

"We both know your mother will never consider you a Man Amongst Men while you have the curse, and I believe you still have no solid plans to get it cured." Nabiki started, to which Ranma nodded hesitantly, and hung her head. "Well, yesterday, I talked to your mother and found out a few things, as well as getting to read the contract a bit more closely than when she first told us about it."

"Why does that matter?" Ranma asked. "We already knew what it said, didn't we?"

"Not quite," Nabiki countered. "What we knew was the contract's intended meaning. However, there is usually more than one way to fulfill an agreement, and after reading it... I know how you can complete that contract without even needing to remove your curse."

"What? Really?" Ranma said, excited at the prospect of being free of the threat of seppuku. However, Ranma curbed her excitement when she realized who she was dealing with. "Wait, how much is this going to cost me?"

"I told you, didn't I, Saotome?" Nabiki said while shaking her head. "Money's not as important when someone's life is on the line. Believe or not, Saotome, I don't plan to charge you for my help on this."

Ranma smiled widely at that. "Gee, thanks Nabiki! I guess you're not as bad as I thought!"

'Not as bad as you though!?' Nabiki thought with her eye twitching in annoyance. She wasn't annoyed so much by Ranma thinking that of her, so much as saying it to her face. "Although, in exchange for my help, I'm sure you wouldn't mind doing a few favors for me, right?"

"Uh, I supposed that's fair," Ranma said warily, while she thought, 'Not surprising I suppose. She wouldn't be Nabiki if she didn't get something out of it.' She asked Nabiki, "What d'ya need?"

"Hmm," Nabiki pretended to think about it a few moments before saying, "To be honest, most of what I need done is part a larger endeavor, so they need to be done at the right time. The same is actually true for what needs to be done to fulfill the contract with your mother." Nabiki grinned before continuing. "How about we make a deal? I know what you need to do to fulfill the contract, but it's a bit complicated. I could try to explain it to you, but I'm not sure you would understand all of it." Nabiki was lying through her teeth about the complexity of what needed to be done, but she needed a reason not to explain it just yet.

"Well, a load of good that does me!" Ranma said in annoyance, while thinking, 'I know Nabiki's smarter than me, but I don't have to like it being rubbed in like that!'

"Now, now, Saotome, this is exactly why I offered to help." Nabiki said. "I could tell, you, but you might make a mistake that could literally get you killed. You know I'm less likely to overlook something. So, why not let me be the brains, and you be the brawn, for lack of a better word." Seeing that she had the redhead's attention, Nabiki continued. "We should probably need about a month to fulfill your contract, or at least set things up so that it is as good as done, and what I need done should be able to be done within that time as well. So, what I propose is this; For the next month, you do what I say, and I'll make sure the Seppuku Contract gets fulfilled."

Ranma did want to take care of the contract, but she didn't forget that she was dealing with Nabiki. "How do I know this ain't just a trick to get me to do what ya want?"

"What, isn't my word good enough?" Nabiki said innocently. Receiving a flat stare of disbelief, she frowned as she thought, 'I really HAD hoped that would work. Good thing I always have a back-up plan.' Continuing on, she said, "I suppose I should offer some collateral." Seeing Ranma's confused expression at the last word, Nabiki sighed and explained. "I mean, offer something as incentive to keep my promise. So, if I fail to hold up my side of the bargain, I will forget all the yen you currently owe me." 'I didn't want to do this,' Nabiki thought with a mental grimace, 'but if my plan succeeds, what I'm risking will be chump change compared to what I stand to gain.'

Ranma was stunned by her offer. 'Nabiki takes money, she doesn't offer it!' Ranma thought. 'If she's willing to put money on the line, she must really be serious about helping me.' "Nabiki, sorry I doubted ya." Ranma said. Thinking for a moment, she continued. "Just for a month, right?"

"That's right," Nabiki said with a nod. "At that point, even if your mother hasn't declared the contract fulfilled, everything should be set up so that you can easily finish it yourself. So, do we have a deal?"

Ranma nodded back, "Deal." Ranma paused for a moment before continuing. "Uh, is there anything else? 'Cause otherwise, I wanna go shower and change back."

"About that," Nabiki said, her friendly smile replaced by her usual grin. "Starting tomorrow, I want you not to change back to a guy anymore. If some else prompts you to do so, like your parents or my father, then go ahead and do so, but I want you to stay in your cursed form as much as you can."

"Wah? But that's-!" Ranma started, only to be interrupted.

"Believe it or not, Saotome, it is part of what needs to be done in order to keep my side of our little deal." Nabiki said firmly.

Ranma sighed before responding. "Fine, but can I at least change back tonight?"

"Of course, I did say 'starting tomorrow', didn't I?" Nabiki said, before sweatdropping as Ranma zipped out of the room, not wanting Nabiki to make her do anything else. Nabiki shrugged before getting up herself. Thinking aloud, she said, "Now I just need to get the other part of the plan."

A few hours later found 'P-chan' startled from his sleep by suddenly being lifted into the air by the bandana around his neck. Thinking it was Ranma trying something again, he twisted around to try and bite the hand holding him.

Before he could manage it, though, a voice that was definitely not Ranma's spoke up. "Bite me, and I tell my oblivious little sister why her 'pet' is so scared of hot water."

Freezing up at that, Ryoga let his eyes adjust as he was carried from the room, and saw that the person carrying him was actually Nabiki. 'Why is Nabiki getting me in the middle of the night?' Ryoga thought. 'And what she just said, does she know about my curse?'

While he was thinking this, Nabiki carried him to her room, and set him down on her desk. Turning away, she said, "We need to talk. Let me know when you're presentable."

Turning his head, Ryoga saw that there was also a kettle of what he presumed was hot water on the desk, as well as a set of clothes. He briefly considered trying to escape, but considering the fact that the clothes were his, her earlier threat obviously wasn't just a guess.

Quickly changing back to his human form and getting dressed, He nervously said, "Er, I'm changed."

Turning back, Nabiki nodded and spoke. "Good, as I said, we need to talk. You see, I need your help with something, and If you don't want me to tell Akane the truth about 'P-chan', then you'll cooperate."

Ryoga swallowed nervously. Ranma knowing his secret was one thing. For all of his rival's faults, Ryoga knew Ranma would keep his word not to tell Akane. Nabiki was another issue, but he also knew that when she made a deal, she honored it. The question was... "What do you want me to do?"

"Well," Nabiki said with a grin, "do you remember awhile back, when you got lonely enough to use the Koi Rod on Ranma?"

Indignantly, Ryoga grumbled, "It's not like I meant to use it on him." Ryoga was too preoccupied with memories of that event to notice Nabiki's surprised expression before she schooled her face to a more neutral one.

Nabiki's thoughts were flying a mile-a-minute at his statement. 'Wait, WHAT!? I thought you were interested in Ranma's girl side! Don't tell me you really did fall for all of Saotome's pathetic disguises? Damn, damn, damn! If you weren't trying to use the Rod on Ranma, then who-?' Nabiki calmed down as she realized what must have happened. 'Fine, I guess I'll just have to do the same with you as with Ranma. Damn, this will be harder without you cooperating...'

To Ryoga, she bluffed, "I thought that might be the case. You were really aiming for Akane, weren't you?" The way Ryoga stiffened and sputtered at the accusation was all the confirmation she needed. "Ryoga, I think we both know that if I wanted, Akane would never talk to you again. Lucky for you, I'm more interested in something else. In exchange for me not telling Akane about 'P-chan' or the intended target of the Koi Rod, you are going to do what I tell you for the next month, understand?"

Having to manipulate Ryoga as well would make her endeavor much more difficult, but Nabiki always had a back-up plan. Luckily, she already had a few people in mind that would be happy to see her plan succeed for their own reasons.

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