Matchmaking (and Moneymaking)

The Trap, Part 1 (Day 1)

Ryoga had spent many nights at the Tendo home, but usually he slept in Akane's room as P-chan. This time, however, he found himself waking up as a human on the Tendo's roof. Ryoga sighed as the events of last night came back to him. 'What does Nabiki want me to do? She never really explained.' Ryoga thought. 'I can understand her telling me not to sleep in Akane's room, but why did she tell me NOT to leave Nerima? She also told me to try and stay in human form, but I would have done that anyway...'

He pondered the situation for a few more minutes, before he heard a ladder come to rest lightly against the edge of the roof. A moment later, Nabiki came into view. "Have a good night's sleep, Hibiki?" She asked, a smile on her face.

"I've had worse..." Ryoga said cautiously, not sure what else to say.

"That's good." Nabiki responded, sounding far too cheerful. "Kasumi's almost done with breakfast. If you can manage to find the front door, I'm sure you could join us." The smile changed to her usual smirk as she continued, "And in case there was any doubt, that wasn't a suggestion. Pretend that you just got here, and I think it goes without saying, but don't tell anyone about our little deal." Seeing Ryoga nod, she left.

Ryoga frowned as Nabiki disappeared back down the ladder, but did not say anything. As he got up and leapt down from the roof, he thought, 'It's not too bad so far, at least. I don't like having to do what she says, but she hasn't really asked me to do anything that bad yet. Idid mean what I said about a dry roof not being the worst place I've slept...' Ryoga shuddered as he remembered some of the worse places he had spent the night during his travels.

Walking around the house to the front door, Ryoga made sure to keep one hand on the wall to keep from wandering off. It was one of the tricks he had learned over the years to keep himself from leaving a building before he meant to. Of course, it only worked when he was paying attention, so it wasn't foolproof.

Reaching the front door, he knocked as if he had just arrived. A few moments later, Kasumi answered the door. "Hello, Ryoga," she said with a smile. "You're certainly here early today. Would you like to join us for breakfast?"

"Thanks, I'd love to." Ryoga said honestly. Even if this was a part of whatever Nabiki was having him do, only a fool would pass up the chance to enjoy Kasumi's cooking.

Following her inside, Kasumi led him to the dining room, where Nabiki and Soun were already sitting. Ryoga was thinking to ask where Ranma and Akane were, when the answer came in the form of Akane's voice shouting "Wake up, Ranma! We're going to be late!" from upstairs, accompanied by a faint splash of water. Akane quickly came down the stairs, followed by a female Ranma a few minutes after.

Akane gave Ryoga a friendly smile when she saw him, but Ranma just sped to the table and started eating, as her father was already doing. Ryoga and the Tendos began eating at a more sedate pace, when Ranma's attention suddenly snapped from her food to the Lost Boy. "Wait, Ryoga!? When did you get here?" To herself, Ranma thought, 'I saw 'P-chan' last night, but he usually doesn't change back without a reason if Akane's home, so what's up?'

"Shut up, Saotome!" Ryoga snapped, annoyed that Ranma did not even notice him right away. "I just got here a bit earlier than usual."

"Yeah, well, if you're here ta fight me, I'm ready any time!" Ranma bragged, while defending her food from Genma's chopsticks.

"Ranma, quit picking on Ryoga!" Akane chided. "Besides, we need to leave soon."

Ryoga was surprised when it was Kasumi that spoke up next. "Why don't you go with them, Ryoga? We wouldn't want you to miss school just because you came to visit."

Nabiki grinned at that. She had been about to suggest that herself, as things would go more smoothly if she could keep an eye on both of the pair she had plans for, but the less 'suggestions' she had to make herself, the more she could get away with overall. Her grin widened when Akane spoke up, "That's a great idea! After all, we don't want you starting to talk like Ranma, just because you travel so much."

Ignoring Ranma's indignant "Hey!", Ryoga was about to immediately agree since Akane liked the idea, when he remembered who was responsible for him being there in the first place. Hesitating, he glanced at Nabiki, only to smile when he saw her give him a surreptitious nod. To Akane he said, "I-I'd love to go to school with you!"

Ranma just snorted and rolled her eyes, before going back to eating. With everything set up here, Nabiki left for school, and Ranma, Ryoga, and Akane, followed shortly after.

As they ran to school, Akane and Ryoga used the ground, while Ranma took her usual route along the top of the fence. Glancing up at the redhead, Akane said, "Ranma, we don't have time to stop by Dr. Tofu's today. You should have changed back before we left!"

Ranma, who had stayed as a girl because of the deal she made with Nabiki the night before, shot back, "You're the one who splashed me in the first place, ya uncute tomboy!"

Before Akane could respond, Ryoga jumped up onto the fence and took a swing at Ranma, while crying, "Saotome, how dare you talk to Akane like that!"

Ranma jumped over the blow, and landed back on the fence. Continuing to run, only now facing backwards, Ranma taunted, "Haha, missed me, P-chan!"

As the two fought their way to school, Akane chased after, calling out, "Stop fighting you two!"

Nabiki watched from a second story window as the trio arrived at school. As they did, she heard a voice from behind her. "Did you need us, Boss?"

Nabiki turned around to see two of her classmates, Kogane and Chikara. Nabiki liked to think of these two as her Assistants, as they helped her run the various operations she managed, and each got a (smaller) share of the profits in exchange. She also knew that most of the rest of the school thought of these two as her henchmen. Nabiki saw no reason to correct them.

Smiling at the two, Nabiki said, "Yes. I am officially closing the betting pool on who Ranma will end up with."

Kogane was confused by this. "But didn't you say we needed to find a way to get people to change their bets away from Akane? Or are you worried more people are going to bet on her?"

"On the contrary," Nabiki said quietly to make sure none of their other classmates overheard. "I want to make sure that no one switches their bet away from my dear little sister."

Chikara leaned forward and asked eagerly, "Do you have a plan?"

"Girls, I always have a plan," Nabiki stated with her trademark smirk. "However, it is going to take up most of my attention for the next month, so I need you two to handle our normal operations in the mean time. Can you handle things by yourselves for that long?"

To anyone else, Nabiki's words may have sounded condescending, but both the girls she was talking to knew that no one but Nabiki had the right combination of cunning and luck to pull off some of the things she had done. The middle Tendo sister was a regular karmic Houdini!

Exchanging a glance, the pair turned back to Nabiki with looks of determination, and said in unison, "You can count on us, Boss!"

Nabiki clapped the girls on the shoulders as she said, "I knew I could count on you." Before more could be said, the bell rang for class to start, and the three went to their seats. Even as Nabiki sat down, her mind was already at work on the next step necessary for her plan. 'Sorry girls, I will need some help for this, but it's not something ordinary schoolgirls will be able to do for me. Fortunately, I have plenty of options, but I think two in particular will be useful. One could show up to steal panties at any time, so I'll just have to keep an ear out for screams from the girl's locker room. As for the other... I think I'll order ramen for lunch.'

Lunchtime came around, and Nabiki used a nearby payphone to put a call though to the Nekohanten. She heard Cologne's voice answer the call. "Hello, this is the Nekohanten. How can I help you today?"

"Hello, this is Nabiki," The girl said.

"Ah, more information to sell to my great-granddaughter perhaps?" The Amazon Elder queried.

Nabiki hesitated for a moment. 'I have to get this just perfect,' she thought. 'Of all the people in Nerima, Cologne is the biggest threat to any given plan I may come up with. Sometimes it's nice to have someone actually give me a challenge for a change, but the cost of failure is too great this time.'

"Nothing comes to mind at the moment," Nabiki said to cover her pause. "I actually just called to get some lunch today."

"Very well, then," Cologne replied with a slight tinge of disappointment in her voice. After taking the girl's order, she said, "Alright, Shampoo should be there with it in a few minutes."

"Actually," Nabiki cut in before Cologne could hang up. "I'd rather have a day off from listening to my sister complain about her. Would you mind having Mousse bring it over instead."

There was a brief pause before cologne said, "...Very well. He should be there shortly." There was no mistaking the suspicion in the old woman's voice.

As Nabiki hung up the phone, she frowned. 'This could be bad,' she thought, 'If Cologne decides to interfere too soon, it could ruin everything. I'll have to find some way to deal with her.' With that thought in mind, she headed to the front of the school to wait for Mousse.

True to Cologne's word, Nabiki saw him arriving on a bike a few minutes later. Fortunately, he was wearing his glasses, so he quickly pulled up next to her. Taking her payment and handing her the ramen, Mousse said, "Cologne mentioned that you requested I bring the delivery rather than Shampoo. You have my thanks for not giving Saotome even more opportunity to work his way into her heart."

Nabiki grinned at the opening presented to her. "Speaking of Saotome, I have a proposition for you. How would you like to help me make sure Ranma NEVER marries Shampoo?"

Mousse had been starting to get back on his bicycle, but froze as her words registered. Whipping around to face her, he said, "Can you really do that, Tendo?"

"If the endeavor I am currently working on succeeds, then Ranma will be married to someone else, and Shampoo will be more likely to kill Ranma, than marry him." Seeing the smile spread across Mousse's face, Nabiki continued. "Of course, it would be significantly easier if I had someone to help me. Perhaps someone with access to ancient Chinese magical artifacts and potions?"

Mousse frowned at that. "As much as I like the sound of that, it isn't easy for me to get access to that monkey mummy's artifacts without getting caught." Mousse shook his head. "Besides, if Ranma marries a different girl, Shampoo is required by our laws to kill her."

Nabiki suspected as much, but that didn't affect her plan as much as the boy thought. "Oh, I know you can be creative when it comes to getting your hands on magic. And as for the rest..." Nabiki paused as she noticed her ramen was starting to cool. "Actually, my food is getting cold, and I'm sure Cologne wouldn't be too happy if you don't get back soon. Tell you what, meet me at my family's dojo tonight at midnight, and I'll explain everything."

Mousse nodded and got back on his bike. "Very well. Tonight, then."

As he headed off, Nabiki went to find a good place to eat her food, thinking, 'Now I just need to talk to Happosai, and wait for tonight.'

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