Strangers in a Strange Land
Chapter 3
By Chris Olsen

All the characters in this story are the creation of Akahori Satoru, Kotobuki Tsukasa, and Rumiko Takahashi

                    Strangers in a Strange Land:  Chapter 3

    Minutes passed in the dark alleyway, seeming like hours.  With nothing to do but wait, Nabiki quickly started to wish she had gone with Ranma and her younger sister.  Her growing boredom was broken when she heard the sound of a door behind her opening.  Nabiki whirled around as the open doorway lit up the shadowed alley with light from inside what sounded and smelled like a large kitchen.  A middle-aged man in a white apron walked out of the door carrying some boxes before Nabiki could figure out where to hide.  He looked at her quizzically for a few seconds while Nabiki hesitated in indecision.  Finally he spoke.  “What are you doing back here?”

    Nabiki hesitated a bit more before answering.  “I'm waiting for my… master.”

    The man looked dubious.  “In the alley?”  He shook his head and muttered under his breath.  “Must have gotten lost.”

    Nodding to himself, he waved Nabiki towards him.  “Come with me, we'll contact your master inside and tell him where you are.”

    Nabiki blinked, taking time to formulate a response.  “No, I must wait here.”  She spoke with no inflection, keeping her face as emotionless as the other marionettes she had seen in the Kuno mansion.

    The man looked surprised.  “No?”  His brow wrinkled and he put his boxes down next to the door.  “Huh.”  He peered at her, scratching his head.  “Maybe I wasn't clear enough.  That was a direct order.  You're lost.  No ones going to be meeting you here.  Come inside, and I'll call your master for you.”  He shook his head muttering to himself again.  “Dressed like that, must be lost.”  Nabiki involuntarily glanced down at the elegant kimono she was wearing, which did, in fact, look quite out of place in the dark alley.

    Glancing back up at the man, she came to a decision.  < I’m not going in there with him.  I might not be able to leave.>  She turned away.  “I have to leave now.”  The man started to protest, but Nabiki hurried around the corner before he could say much.  < Don't mess this up, girl!>  Nabiki angrily told herself.  < One slip in the wrong place and who know what will happen>?  She forced herself to keep to a fast walking pace.  < Don't run… you'll just look suspicious if you run.>

    She faintly heard the door slamming shut in the alley behind her and breathed a sigh of relief.  < Good, I guess he didn't feel curious enough to bother chasing me down.  Still, I can't go back there.  If he sees me waiting around in his alley again, he's sure to figure out that something's up.>  Nabiki started walking down the street in a random direction.  < Now what?  Akane and Ranma will be expecting me to be waiting for them there.  How am I going to meet up with them if I can't stay in that alley?>  She tried to think as she walked.  < I need to be able to stick around somewhere nearby until they get back, but what can I use for an excuse?>

    Nabiki frowned.  < I don't know enough about marionettes to know how to act, or what a lone marionette might be  doing….>  She found herself walking onto a busy street and forced herself to keep going.  < Just keep calm and walk like you’ve got some place to go and everyone will assume you do.>  It seemed to be working.  No one questioned the lone
marionette as she moved down the street.  Nabiki used the opportunity to look around until she noticed the puzzled looks she was starting to get.  She automatically schooled her expression.  < OK, obviously marionettes don’t normally go gawking around at the scenery.  I should keep my head still and just observe unobtrusively.>

    It was getting dark now, but the street she was on was still busy with pedestrians.  Most everyone dressed as they would in feudal era Japan, although there were the occasional exceptions.  The one constant was men, men everywhere.  Marionettes seemed to be few and far between.

    Makes sense.  Nabiki mused.  < Not everyone would be able to afford his own personal robot.  I wonder how common marionettes are around here?>  Nabiki spotted a pair of marionettes after several blocks.  They were walking on either side of an older looking man in a richly embroidered robe.  The two marionettes were both tall and attractive looking, and wearing rather provocative clothing, although not so much so to be tacky.  Nabiki was mildly impressed, in spite of herself.  < I wonder how I’d look in that?>  She smirked slightly as she passed the small group.  < Status symbols eh?  That makes sense, servants,
bodyguards and decoration all rolled into one.>

    Nabiki schooled her expression and went back to quietly observing the crowd as she walked down the street.  She noticed several more marionettes as she wandered, slowly coming back around to the alleyway she was to meet Ranma and Akane at.  A few men had a single marionette walking behind them, a variety of different types.  They were modestly dressed in kimonos, for the most part, although, like the men, there was some variation.  There was a marionette outside of what appeared to be a
particularly successful bar of some sort, inviting people inside, and another sitting motionless in the window of what appeared to be a pawn shop, although she seemed a bit dusty.  What all the marionettes had in common was a general standard of beauty and equally vacant expressions. Some seemed cheerful, others calm, but none of them seemed to have anything in the way of real emotion.

    < They’re all dolls.  That’s about all I can see.>  Nabiki shook her head slightly.  < At least it won’t be too hard to fake those vacant expressions.  I just have to keep from reacting to anything, and who could be better at that then me, the “Ice Queen”, Nabiki Tendo?>

    Nabiki nearly lost her composure just moments later.  Coming down the street toward her was a large group of marionettes.  The largest, at least, that she had yet seen up to that point.  Five marionettes were walking in a group clustered around one unremarkable young man.  Nabiki had to force herself not to stare.  She slowed down slightly and took as good as look as she could without appearing too obvious about it.  The marionettes in that group were as varied a bunch as Nabiki had yet seen.

    The shortest of the five was around Ranma’s height, just over five feet.  She had purple hair elegantly gathered into two long braids hanging down on either side of her head, and wore a formal looking pink and white robe that looked like a cross between a kimono and a dress. On her head she wore an elaborate but heavy looking pair of red hair ornaments.  Despite the formality and elegance of her clothing, she had the appearance of a prepubescent teen

    The second marionette Nabiki noticed seemed a bit older, perhaps around sixteen to eighteen years old in appearance.  Her clothing was as playful, however, as her demeanor.  She appeared to be wearing a form-fitting, one piece, black, spandex outfit under a flowing white shirt with long billowing sleeves that flapped about in an entertaining fashion as the lively marionette bounced around.  That, primarily, was what drew Nabiki’s eyes to her.  It wasn’t the bright blue hair peeking out playfully from underneath her jaunty yellow hat (which, incidentally had a shiny red ball attached to the left side of it, quite similar to one of the hair ornaments the first marionette was wearing) and cascading haphazardly down her back.  It was the animation of her
movements and the bright, cheerful smile on her face that made her vividly different from the others.

    Nabiki blinked in confusion.  < She’s acting like a kid out on a family trip.>  The other three were less unusual, at least in
comparison to the majority of the marionettes Nabiki had seen.  All three were tall, although not quite as statuesque as the two palace guards had been.  Two of them looked particularly fierce.  One had long red hair gathered up in a topknot and held back from her forehead with a white headband and falling down to her waist.  She was more handsome in appearance than beautiful, with a proud look in her eyes.  She wore a tight fitting pair of black bicycle shots that left her midriff bare, and a tight red and black, spandex halter top with a high collar that showed off her impressive cleavage through a diamond shape cut out in
the center.  The white athletic socks and shoes, and the fingerless gloves she wore with the large blunt spikes over the knuckles gave Nabiki the impression that she was spoiling for a fight.  The other of the more warlike pair had short, spiky blond hair, and wore a red, star shaped eyepatch over her right eye.  She was dressed relatively casually, in a blue muscle tee under a red high collared vest and cut off jeans, which gave her a punkish look.

    The last of the five marionettes had short dark bluish hair in a pageboy cut, a bit like Nabiki’s own hairstyle.  She was dressed in a white collared shirt with the sleeves rolled up, a red tie, and a knee-length blue skirt with slits up the sides give her legs full mobility, as well as please the male observer’s eye.  She had a serious, thoughtful expression and was the only one in the group to notice Nabiki’s gaze.  She looked back for several long seconds and Nabiki forced herself not to react, although the searching intelligence in those eyes was frightening.

    Nabiki forced herself not to react and to keep moving at a steady pace.  < Does she suspect?>  The group passed on,  leaving Nabiki behind, and she breathed a heartfelt sigh of relief.  Her relief was heavily mixed with an almost overwhelming curiosity, but there was no way that she wanted to risk that last marionette’s gaze again.  < Those marionettes were alive!  Like Ranma, Akane and me.  I knew that it was possible, because we exist, but….  Godai described the Maiden circuits as if they were a very special piece of technology.  If I’m not badly mistaken, however, five of them just went by, in those five

    Nabiki went over the scene in her mind once more.  < Why did that guy have five marionettes?  He didn’t look like anything special, his clothes looked ordinary enough, he seemed like any other man I saw on the street.  He’s young, maybe my age… or at least the age I remember being.>  Nabiki hesitated.  < Wait, there was another young man walking with them… rich clothing, permed hair, slightly effeminate.  A rich man’s son if I’ve ever seen one, and I’ve seen plenty.>  She shook her head.  < No, the marionettes were with the first guy.  The rich kid was a hanger on… which makes me even more curious about the first guy.>

    Nabiki stopped, glancing behind her to where the group in question was almost getting out of sight.  < Should I follow them?  If they spot me, they’ll probably be able to catch me, and I’m currently wanted by the authorities.  They aren’t cops, but… they do look like they could be dangerous, especially those last three.  Still, they’re the only marionettes I’ve seen besides Ranma Akane and myself that were more than robots.  What should I do, play it safe or take the risk?>  Nabiki had never been one to shy away from risk, but the situation had never had such dire consequences before.  < It’s not worth it.  There’s no telling if I could find out anything useful by following them and equally possible that I’ll get caught.  Ranma and Akane would never know what had happened to me.>

    Nabiki sighed and turned the corner, letting the group go.  She started moving back in the direction of the alleyway she was to meet Ranma and Akane at.  Before long she reached it, and after only a moments hesitation slipped into the alley again.  She looked around at the darkened alley once for hiding spots, then looked up, coming to a decision.

     < OK, I’ve done this already today.  There’s no reason I have to have Ranma and my little sister around to do it.>  Eyes firmly on the edge of the rooftop, Nabiki gathered herself and before she could change her mind, leaped.  Nabiki found herself overshooting her target by half a dozen feet.  She panicked and landed awkwardly, almost skidding back off the roof when she landed.   One flailing hand dug into the roofing tiles, tearing a couple off before finding a purchase and stopping her from plummeting from the roof.

     Nabiki sighed in relief and pulled herself fully onto the rooftop, then gazed down at her handhold in amazement.  < Wow… I can hardly believe how strong I am in this body.>  Nabiki took her hand away from the series of inch deep grooves her fingers had carved into the roof’s surface and shook her head.  < Clumsy, someone is going to notice that. I’d better hide.>  Nabiki looked around and spotted an overhang she could crouch under that would provide good cover if anyone happened to pass by on any of the nearby rooftops.  < From what I’ve seen, it’s a real possibility.>  She went to the overhang and sat down,  preparing to wait.  < You know... being bored would be a nice change about now.>


     Ranma and Akane had reached the palace uneventfully, and had immediately attempted to sneak in.  They had been  dodging patrols of guards ever since.  Hiding on the rooftop of one of the outriding buildings of the imperial palace, Akane and Ranma watched yet another groups of guards go by.  The guards were off two types.  Groups of men with staves, and groups of identical marionettes with bisento spears. The group that was currently going by was of marionettes.  They all had identical features, short black hair done up in the formal fashion of ancient Japanese female nobility, in buns held together with long pins.
They all wore orange and green kimonos and carried long bisentos.  Each patrol they had seen had been a group of eight at least.

     As the latest group hurried by, Ranma shook her head in frustration.  “They know we’re here, Akane, there must have been some sort of silent alarm when we hopped the fence.  These patrols didn’t start running around until we came in.”

     Akane nodded.  “You’re right, Ranma, but what can we do about it? How are we going to get past them and into the palace?”

    Ranma hesitated.  “I’m working on it.”  She glanced left then pushed Akane down flat on the rooftop.  “Stay down, here comes another patrol.”  Several long moments passed until the coast was clear again, and Ranma sat up.  “I’ve got it.  Since they know we’re here, we just have to make sure they know we’ve left!”

    Akane looked slightly puzzled.  “And how are we going to do that?”

    Ranma winked.  “You’ll see.”


     Lorelei waited in the imperial throne room for Otaru and company. When the internal alarms had gone off, she had been evacuated to one of the most secure locations in the palace until the palace was confirmed to be secure.  Her location wasn’t particularly reassuring.  It had been here, in fact that the latest incarnation of the Shogun, Ieyasu and his chancellor had been murdered, by two of the five marionettes that she was waiting to see along with Otaru.

    The fact that Faust had ordered them to do it, orders that, at the time, they had been incapable of disobeying, made Faust the one responsible.  Faust had been driven insane by generations of memories forced upon him and he had been pardoned by the very men he had slain, living on inside their best marionettes.  The pardon had been given in order to stop the war, and so that Faust could use his influence and resources in an attempt to save the planet, an effort that had succeeded, although killing Ieyasu and his chancellor for the final time in the process.  The pardon still held, although it was unlikely Faust would be very welcome in Japoness any time soon.

    Lorelei, in fact, held no fear of Faust’s “Saber Dolls” as he called them. They had finally gained enough consciousness to have a will of their own, not to mention the fact that Faust would never want her hurt in any way.  Beside herself, perhaps, and Otaru, in fact, there were few that would even consider the “Saber Dolls” guilty of any crime.  They were machines after all.  No laws existed to punish someone else’s property.

    Lorelei shook her head slightly, chiding herself for her negative thoughts.  Despite the precautions that were being taken to assure her safety, she felt no fear.  The Saber Dolls had vindicated their existence by helping to save her and in the process, the whole planet. Their first acts as free intelligences had been ones of peace, and they had shown no signs of dangerous intent since then.  In repairing Tiger, she had discovered nothing but a gentle nature in the original programming of Faust’s marionettes.  They had originally been the child Faust’s guardians and their violent actions since had been at his maddened command.

    Before too much time passed, Tamasaburo and Baiko came into the room, kneeling before her to report.  (Despite Lorelei’s protests, the two head sentries insisted on a great deal of formality when dealing with her, especially in the throne room.)  “We have summoned Otaru and his marionettes to the palace.  We have been informed of a pair of intruders in the palace, but they apparently fled before we could return from our mission.  We have searched thoroughly, but there is no sign of them.”  Baiko reported calmly.

    Lorelei nodded.  “I see.  And Otaru?”

    Tamasaburo spoke next.  “At his rate of travel, he should be arriving any time now.  We proceeded him here by several minutes, but our search took precedence over reporting back.  In fact, if he noticed the alarm outside, he will probably be….”  Otaru and his three marionettes burst into the room at a run, followed closely by Faust’s two, and last, by a panting Hanagata, Otaru’s aristocratic neighbor and friend.

    Otaru came to a halt, looking relieved.  “Lorelei, we heard that there were some intruders looking for you.  I’m glad you’re alright.”

    Lorelei blushed slightly, glancing at the floor in front of her rather than meet his gaze.  “Yes, I’m fine.  Whoever they were, they were apparently driven off by the guards.  I don’t think you need to worry about me here in the palace.”  She looked up, having composed herself.  “These intruders, however, are why I asked you here. Tamasaburo and Baiko informed me earlier today that three marionettes, apparently ones with maiden circuits, had approached the palace compound, intending to sneak inside and find me.  What their purpose was, we don’t know.”

    Cherry, the short purple haired marionette in the pink and white robe, spoke up.  “Where did these marionettes come from, Lorelei-san?”

    Lorelei looked in Cherry’s direction.  “The Kuno family apparently built them.  The Kuno’s were some of the first group of clones produced from Ieyasu’s DNA, 300 years ago.  They had much to do with the original construction of the first marionettes, and had a hand in building the prototypes of the maiden circuits that were built in order to rescue me.”  She paused.  “It isn’t surprising that they were able to build some of their own.  Unfortunately, however, they apparently have been
unsuccessful in their efforts.  They reported to the palace guards that the three prototype Saber marionettes that they had built had malfunctioned and gone rogue.”

    Lorelei hesitated.  “The Kuno’s have offered to provide us with pictures and specs we can use to track down these marionettes, and have pledged to pay for any damage caused in their capture, as they are responsible for them getting loose in the first place.”  Lorelei frowned slightly.  “Baiko, could you please escort general Kuno in?”  Baiko nodded and got up from her kneeling position to go to the door.

    Otaru blinked.  “General?  You mean that he’s part of the council that took over leadership after the Shogun’s death?”
He grimaced and was about to go on when Lorelei loudly cleared her throat.  “Oh!  General Kuno!  Thank you for joining us!”
Otaru glanced back and spotted the man who Baiko was escorting in the room.  <Yeah, I remember this guy.  He’s one of the old men that wanted me to take Lime and the others and assassinate Faust after the Shogun died.  I told them that I wouldn’t kill anybody, but I wonder what would have happened if Ieyasu hadn’t turned out to be still alive, sort of, in Baiko.  Ever since the war ended and the Shogun died for the last time, the council has been in charge.  At least there hasn’t been much for
them to do since.  Nothing major has come up ever since Lime and the others got Lorelei back, which is lucky.  I wonder what will happen if the council had to make any important decisions… at least before the new Shogun grows up.>

    Otaru went back to paying full attention to Kuno, who had just been rehashing what Lorelei had already told them.  Godai Kuno brought out some photos and schematics of his ‘missing’ marionettes.  He gave them to Otaru, who immediately passed all of the technical data to Cherry. The short, purple haired girl poured over the schematics while the other four marionettes crowded around behind him to get a look at the photos. There were three photos, obviously taken before the ‘birth’ of the
missing marionettes.  All three were close-ups of the three sleeping on a lab table.  Two of the three were pretty normal looking.  Both had short black hair, one with a pageboy cut, the other with more of a feminine style.  The third picture was of a girl with red hair in a pigtail, quite distinctive.

    Most marionettes in Japoness, unlike his own bunch, had black hair and relatively modest appearances, like the majority of women in the Japan of the past, which Japoness did its best to imitate.  Otaru knew his bunch, as well as Baiko and  Tamasaburo, were the exceptions with their bright and varied hair colors and styles of dress.

    Lynx, one of Faust’s two Saber Dolls that Otaru had been taking care of for the last few weeks, reached over his shoulder to point at the photo of the girl with the pageboy cut.  “Her.  I saw her on the street earlier today.  She was looking us over, examining us pretty thoroughly, I’d say.”  Lynx looked carefully at the photos a while more, then nodded.  “Yes, I’m positive it’s her.”  She smiled.  “I like her choice of hairstyles.”  Lynx ran a hand through her own blue hair straightened her tie, and went over to join Cherry looking over the schematics.

    Bloodberry took a careful look at all three photos and swore angrily to herself.  “Damn it, we were only a few feet away from her!  I remember her now.  She was wearing that green and white kimono, right? She just walked right by us!  What nerve!”  The fierce redheaded marionette shook her head and slapped one fist into the others, letting the large metal studs in her glove smack loudly into the leather palm of its counterpart.  “Don’t worry Otaru, she won’t make a fool of me twice!”

    “Yeah!”  Enthused Panther, her red translucent eyepatch glinting with an interior light.  “If I catch her, I’ll slam dunk her in the
Japoness Fuji!”

    Otaru gave Bloodberry and Panther a frown, but said nothing.  < I sometimes wonder if my trio is rubbing off on Panther and Lynx more, or if they’re picking up bad habits from them.  Bloodberry has been a lot more threatening sounding since she buddied up with Panther.  Not that I mind her making a friend, but I wish they wouldn’t keep trying to top each other.>

    As Bloodberry and Panther were making their boastful statements, Lorelei glanced at Godai out of the corner of her eye.  < Is it my imagination, or does he look pleased that they’re planning on destroying his marionettes?>  Otaru took another good look at the pictures before handing them to Lime, who looked at them with some interest.

    “Otaru?”  Lime spoke up for the first time since Kuno had arrived in the room.  “Why did they run away?  Why would they want to run away from home?  I like it at home.  Is something wrong with their home?”

    Otaru blinked and turned to the normally playful and cheery marionette.  “Lime?”  She had her head cocked to the side in confusion, causing the red ball on the side of her bright yellow hat to point downward.  Otaru hesitated.  <‘General’ Kuno claims that there is something wrong with his marionettes… but what if Lime’s right?  What if there’s something else going on here?>  Lime was the most innocent and friendly person he knew.  Sometimes, however, her most basic questions hit right to the heart of a matter.  “I don’t know Lime.  I guess we’ll have to find out.”

    Godai Kuno frowned very slightly.  There was a slight chance that the malfunctioning marionettes would be allowed to escape, or worse, be treated as if they were real humans, like those owned by that reckless boy, Otaru.  If people started thinking of marionettes as human, then all sorts of chaos would result.

    Godai spoke up, clearing his throat.  “As I feel responsible for this, I must insist that I help with the efforts to rid our city of this threat.  I’ll be happy to send half a dozen of my best combat marionettes along with you, to make sure nothing unforeseen goes wrong.”  He smiled gracefully.  < That way, I can make sure that those three mistakes don’t talk to this bleeding heart bunch.  Who knows what strange ideas they might come up with?>

    Otaru simply shook his head.  “No, I’m sure we’ll be fine on our own.  A few extra combatants would just get in the way.  The bunch I have are the best, after all.”  As one, the five he was so casually boasting of glowed with pride.  Lime giggled and put her hand behind her head bashfully.  Cherry went off into a vivid fantasy about Otaru-sama ‘properly’ or rather  'improperly’, rewarding her, while Bloodberry, Panther, and Lynx just grinned to themselves.

    Lorelei spoke up.  “Thank you Kuno-san.  I’m sure Otaru will be able to handle everything.  We appreciate the offer.”  The dismissal in her voice was very subtle, but it was there.  Baiko stood to escort Godai out, and he bowed and left quietly, although with a slightly angry glimmer in his eye, that again, only Lorelei noticed.  When he had gone, Lorelei turned to Otaru.  “Otaru-san….”  There was considerably more respect in the way she said his name then she had Godai Kuno’s.  “If you can, don’t hurt them.  Just find them, and see what’s going on.  I’m not so sure General Kuno is telling us everything.”

    Otaru nodded.  “I’m starting to think the same thing, Lorelei.”


    Looking down at the meeting going on below them, Ranma and Akane were careful not to make a sound.

    After running out into the palace courtyard, making sure they had been seen, Ranma led Akane out of the palace over the nearest wall, then back around the opposite side, quickly and quietly.  They had hid on a rooftop and waited for the commotion to die down.  Then, as the last group of guards headed inside, they had slipped over the wall once more.

    “This way,” Ranma had confided to Akane,  “we’ll blend right into the crowd, whatever security system they’re using will just see us as two more guards.”  Akane had been impressed.  She normally didn’t think of Ranma as very intelligent, but when it came to tactics, he was always surprising her.  The plan seemed to have worked.  They had snuck after the last group of guards, using every bit of stealth they possessed.  Ranma, especially, was skilled at moving without making noise or being seen.
Akane simply followed the petite redhead, doing her best to imitate her movements.

    As the guards entered the main palace, so did they, slipping inside before the doors could close, and then quickly hiding.  After several minutes things had quieted down, and Ranma had led Akane toward the center of the building.  When the security had gotten too tight, Ranma had leapt up and opened a roof panel.  They had continued on through the spaces between the ceiling and the next floor.

    After what seemed like hours (but was probably only minutes) of creeping around in the cramped space, they reached the area above a large room that Ranma figured to be near the center.  Ranma had pulled up one of the ceiling tiles slightly, and they had looked down to see a large and varied group of marionettes, along with two young men, sitting on the floor of what appeared to be a traditional Japanese throne room.

    Ranma and Akane were careful to keep their weight only on the supports between the tiles, not on the tiles themselves. They exchanged glances, but made no sound.  Ranma pointed down at the room, nodded and put her hand to her ear.  Akane nodded back and they both started listening intently to the conversation, while seeing as much as they could through the thin hole Ranma had created by moving the tile.

    There was a current of air running through the ceiling, which made it difficult to hear, but they could make out most of what was being said.  One of the marionettes was talking, a feminine looking one with long reddish/blond hair and wearing a checkered shirt and a pair of jeans.  Both Akane and Ranma listened intently when they heard her say something about
the Kuno’s.  The marionette was apparently saying something about some prototypes that the Kuno’s had lost.  Ranma and Akane instantly realized that she was talking about them.

    Apparently, the Kunos had claimed that they had malfunctioned and were running rogue somewhere in the city.  When Godai Kuno was escorted in by one of the tall amazonian palace guards, Ranma and Akane shot each other a tense look, then went back to paying full attention.  Godai had handed out a bunch of papers and some large photos, which they couldn’t quite make out due to the angle and distance.  While one marionette went over the paperwork, most of the others gathered around the photographs.

    A blue haired marionette with a hairstyle similar to Nabiki’s pointed at one of the photos the young man was holding.  She identified the person in it as someone she had seen earlier, and fingered her own hair as if in example.  With the description she gave there was little doubt.

    Ranma and Akane glanced at each other and mouthed the same word. “Nabiki.” As two of the more warlike looking marionettes started spouting boastful threats toward Nabiki, Akane grabbed Ranma by the shoulder.  Ranma glanced up and Akane shook her head toward the way they had come, looking urgent.  Ranma winced and nodded down at the group
below.  Akane grimaced and started crawling as quietly as possible away, not sparing Ranma a second glance.  Cursing in her head, Ranma followed her ex-fiancee.

    When they had gotten well out of earshot, Ranma bit out a question. “What are you doing?  We still haven’t found out where Lorelei is, or what their plan is!”

    Akane glared at the redhead.  “They know where Nabiki is, and they’re going to throw her in some volcano!  Do you want to let them get there first?!?”

    Ranma made shushing motions with her hands.  “Of course not Akane… now keep your voice down.  I was planning on hearing a bit more about what they had in mind, then stopping them….  But you’re right, they might be able to reach Nabiki first if we take too much time getting out through the palace security.”

    Akane blinked incredulously.  “Did you just say I was right?”

    Ranma rolled her eyes.  “I did, didn’t I?  Well, don’t let it go to your head.  Now we’ve got to move fast.”

    As they hurried out of the palace, Akane wondered.  “Do you think that one of the girls in that room was Lorelei?”

    Ranma shrugged.  “Nah, unless she dye’s her hair.  I mean, what Japanese girl has red or blond hair?  Not to mention blue or pink.”

    Akane glanced over at her ex-fiancee’s scarlet locks and rolled her eyes, but said nothing.

End Chapter 3

Author's Note:

I hoped you liked it! C&C is always welcome!