Reiko: The Priestess
By Bryan Neef
Based On an Idea by Andrew Norris.
The lines seemed to go on forever. Ranma fidgeted as she looked ahead of her. Next to her stood hermother, Nodoka.
"Are you nervous, Dear?"
Ranma nodded. "I haven't been in a crowd this big since...since I left home."
"I understand. Are you sure you want to do this?"
Ranma nodded. "I have to. I don't think I told her who I am now."
Nodoka chuckled. "Always forgetting what's important, eh?"
Ranma turned an angry glare towards her mother. "How dare you! I haven't forgotten what's important to me!"
Nodoka put up her hands in defense. "I'm sorry, Dear. I wasn't thinking. You have not forgotten anything. You only forgot that Nabiki hadn't seen you in twenty years. I understand."
Ranma sighed. "How do I tell her that Saotome Ranma is dead?"
Nodoka adjusted her purse as they neared the ticket window. "Just introduce yourself. Let her know you didn't have the chance."
"Swept up in the moment? She'll say I haven't changed."
"She knows you have changed. You told her yourself. She'll understand."
Ranma smirked as she took her ticket. "Just like she did back then? I hope so."
Nabiki sat on the bench, looking over the crowds. The turnout was better than she expected for an exhibition match. She kept looking for a particular woman. "Where are you, Ranma? I know you're here," she whispered.
"I'm Sueshi Koiji, one of the officials for the matches. I'd like to speak with you about your style."
Nabiki nodded, knowing the conversation. "What do you want to know?"
"Well, it says here that you practice an unrestricted style. What does that mean, exactly?"
"We take the best aspects of the traditional arts and combine them into a fluid style. This allows us to adapt to our opponent. If he practices aikido, we have the aikido counters. Our style is based around kempo."
Sueshi nodded. "So you practice your familys variation of kempo. I'll give this to the announcer and referee. Theyll appreciate it."
"That's not accurate. Kempo is the basic style. Everything else is a modi- fication of another style we've incorporated."
"I'm not sure I understand. Do you have time to demonstrate?"
"I do, but I'll need the cooperation of the other schools here."
"Hmm. I don't think they'd appreciate that. Unless you can demonstrate, I won't be able to let you participate."
Nabiki nodded. "I'm hoping the only other surviving master comes. We may be able to show you then."
"I see. What's this person's name?"
"Will he be willing to assist you?"
"Only if I can convince her to come out of retirement."
Nabiki smiled. "Hai. She's the sister I never had the opportunity to properly welcome into my family."
"I see. You have twenty minutes to demonstrate your school."
Nabiki watched Sueshi leave. She closed her eyes for a second, praying Ranma was up to the task. She opened her eyes, finding the woman she sought standing before her.
"Ranma! Auntie! Am I ever glad to see you!"
Ranma returned Nabiki's embrace. "We're glad to see you, too. Are you ready for the tournament?"
Nabiki sighed as she finished her hug with Nodoka. "I am now, if you're willing to help me demonstrate the School."
Ranma stiffened. "I-I can't. I'm sorry, I just can't fight anymore."
Nabiki nodded sadly. "I understand. Y-you've given up on your old life."
"It was filled with too much pain. I became a new person, in order to save myself."
"'A new person?'" asked Nabiki with arched eyebrows.
Nodoka smiled. "Tendou Nabiki, allow me to introduce to you my only daughter, Masaki Reiko."
"Masaki Reiko? Nice name."
"Thanks. Sorry about not telling you yesterday," replied Reiko shyly.
Nabiki waved her hand. "Think nothing of it, Sis. I don't care what you call yourself now, as long as we're family."
Reiko bowed. "I regret I can no longer fulfill the pact between our families. I am, however, willing to accept you as my sister, as I should have long ago."
Nodoka smiled at the two women before her. Gone was the depressed youth she had once called her son. In his place stood a strong woman who had built more for herself than she was willing to admit. She was also pleased that the bond of friendship and sisterhood had lasted nearly two decades.
Nabiki smiled her predatory smile. "Reiko, would you be willing to help me get into the tournament?"
"I thought you were already participating."
"So did I, but a complication has arisen. I need to show off to the judges, but I can't use any of the other participants."
"I can't. But, we can do this..."
Nabiki, Reiko, and Nodoka stood on the train station's platform. Nabiki held a small statue. Both Reiko and Nodoka faced her.
"Congratulations, Nabiki," spoke Nodoka. "You have proven yourself a true master of the Art."
"You are better than I ever was," added Reiko.
"Thank you. But I'm not that good, Reiko. You were the best fighter I ever met."
Reiko smiled. "That's all I was. You, however, have taken what I had and elevated it to a form I never would have accomplished. You win every fight you enter simply because you know what to do. I just reacted."
"Thank you, again, Reiko, Auntie," replied Nabiki with a small bow. "I guess my train's here. Please, Reiko, come see us soon. I'll let tell Father and Kasumi that you're well."
"Thanks, Sis. I will visit. I have missed you all."
"You and your family are always welcome at the shrine," added Nodoka.
Nodoka and Reiko watched Nabiki board the train. Reiko took a sharp breath. "I'm glad that's over. I don't know if I'm ready to face the whole family, but I need to."
"I'm proud of you, Dear. You have grown into a fine, young woman."
Reiko chuckled. "And I no longer hate myself."