Kuno is arrested for a crime his father doesn't think he committed, and Tendo Nabiki is on the case!
“The abbot of the Monastery of Sh’u was truly heroic,” he said. “He had vowed to raise me as his own, and he kept his word, and so well did he pound an education into my head that I eventually did quite well in my chin-shih examination. When I left the monastery, it was not in pursuit of scholarship, however, but in pursuit of an unparalleled career in crime. It was quite a shock for me to discover that crime was so easy it was boring. I reluctantly turned to scholarship, and by the accident of handing in some good papers I was entombed in the Forest of Culture Academy as a research fellow, and I escaped from that morgue by bribing the court eunuchs to get me an appointment as a military strategist. I managed to lose a few battles in the approved manner, and then I became one of the emperor’s wandering persuaders, and then Governor of Yu, and it was in the last occupation that the light finally dawned. I was trying to get enough evidence to hang the loathsome Dog-Meat General of Wu-san, but he was so slippery that I couldn’t prove a thing. Fortunately the Yellow River was flooding again, and I managed to convince the priests that the only way to appease the river god was through the custom of the ancients. So the Dog-Meat General disappeared beneath the waves tied to a gray horse — I was sorry about the horse, but it was the custom — and I tendered my resignation. Solving crime, I had belatedly discovered, was at least a hundred times more difficult than committing it, so I hung the sign of a half-closed eye above my door and I have never regretted it.”
— Master Li to Number Ten Ox, Bridge of Birds, by Barry Hughart
Every Sherlock Holmes needs a Watson to be a sounding board, provide extra muscle (or in some cases the muscle), and to make him look good by comparison — and not so incidentally, to act as the chronicler of the master detective’s exploits. In the case of Tendo Nabiki, fate seems to have picked me for that role. My name is Saotome Akane, master of the Saotome-Tendo School of Anything Goes Martial Arts, wife of Saotome Ranma, and sister of Tendo Nabiki.
If you’ve lived in Japan for any length of time you’ve probably heard of Tendo Nabiki’s exploits, if not of her. If you are a part of the Martial Arts community you may have heard of the events surrounding The Case of the Ruined Sake. If you are a member of Japanese Intelligence you’ve almost certainly heard of The Case of the Russian Diplomat. And the entire world has heard of The Case of the Emperor’s Wedding. But everyone starts somewhere, and Nabiki wasn’t always famous even in the law enforcement community. For her, it started during her last year of high school.
It had begun as a normal day, for those living at the Tendo Dojo anyway — get in a fight with my future husband at the breakfast table; have Ranma get splashed by the ladle lady on the way to school and turned into a girl, courtesy of Jusenkyo (yes, it’s that Satome Ranma); have Kuno Tatewaki attempt to hug us both while demanding that both his “fiery Akane” and “pig-tailed goddess” (Ranma again) accept his boon of being allowed to date him; the two of us seeing how far we could knock Kuno in return, while Nabiki took bets on distance and how long he would be unconscious — it had been months since she had been able to get anyone to accept a bet on any other outcome, no matter how high the odds.
It was at this point that things took a turn for the weird even for us. No sooner did Kuno hit the ground unconscious, then a policeman stepped through the school doors, talking on a cell phone. Within a minute, a police van pulled onto the school grounds and four more policemen jumped out of the back, wrapped Kuno up in enough chains to hold an elephant, tossed him in the back, and drove off, leaving the entire observing student body stunned into silence.
Except for Nabiki, that is — she was demonstrating a vocabulary that I had never realized she had as she cursed Ranma and me, Kuno, and the police to the deepest pits while ranting about the money she might have just lost. It seemed that one of the things she’d taken bets on months earlier was that my constant morning fights would lead to Kuno’s arrest. The bets had carried high odds, thanks to Kuno’s money and social status and his father being principal of the school, and now Nabiki was facing the possibility of one of the most massive payouts in her short career as a bookie.
With the excitement over, there was nothing to do but head to class and speculate on what that had all been about. And speculate we all did, with the general consensus being that someone had finally complained about Kuno’s constant attacks on me and Ranma to someone that the Kuno fortune couldn’t buy off and the Kuno social status couldn’t scare off, all of which made those that had bet on the possibility very happy.
The speculation got even more intense when Nabiki was summoned to Principal Kuno’s office just before lunch. Then, half an hour into lunch the intercom summoned me and Kazuki, the school’s foremost computer nerd, to the principal’s office as well. This was not good at all, trips to the principal’s office involved bizarre haircuts, exploding pineapples, and booby traps, all courtesy of Principal Kuno.
Only, this time it didn’t. We were met by a secretary and escorted through the booby traps, and there wasn’t an exploding pineapple in sight. And when we were led into his office, he didn’t look like the same Principal Kuno all the students hated, either. Oh, his outward appearance hadn’t changed — he was still dressed in a floral print shirt, wearing a lei, and had a small palm tree on top of his head. But where before he’d always been filled with a manic (not to say maniacal) energy, now he was slumped at his desk with his head in his hands, and looked tired and old.
He sat up when the secretary announced me and Kazuki, and pointed at two seats in front of his desk on either side of the one Nabiki was sitting in. After we sat down he stared at us for a minute, then shrugged and without the fake Hawaiian accent and slang said, “Nabiki has taken on a job for me, and requested your help. You are excused from any classes you need to miss in order to accomplish whatever tasks she asks of you, and you have access to whatever school resources you need.” Looking at Nabiki, he asked, “Is that satisfactory?”
Nabiki nodded and said, “That’ll do.” She stood up and headed for the door. “Come on, you two, we’ve got places to go.” Turning in the doorway and looking back at Principal Kuno, she added, “Don’t forget those bodyguards.”
He just chuckled and waved us on. “Now that you’ve pointed out the need, I think you can trust me to take care of it.”
Nabiki led us down to the currently empty computer lab and motioned Kazuki toward his favorite computer, then sat herself across from him while I took a seat next to her. “I’m sure by now the two of you are wondering what’s going on,” she said, and smirked when I glared at her. “Well, it has to do with what happened to Kuno Tatewaki this morning. It seems that after he left for school Kodachi’s very badly beaten body was discovered in her bedroom. She’s in surgery right now, and may not survive. As for Tatewaki, the police have arrested him for attempted murder, murder if she dies as a result of the beating. Principal Kuno doesn’t believe it, and has hired me to find the real killer.”
Kazuki shook his head at that. “The evidence must be pretty damning, if the police have made an arrest already. And why hire you instead of a professional?”
Nabiki shrugged. “For the second, he’s being a skinflint as well as in a hurry, and I know the people around the schools fairly well. As for the first, that’s what you are going to find out. I want you to hack into the police database and access whatever records they have for the case.”
Kazuki stiffened for a moment, then sat back and shook his head. “Not a chance. Playing around as part of your organization is one thing, interfering in an ongoing investigation is something else entirely.”
“Relax, Kazuki,” Nabiki replied. “I don’t want you to alter anything, just download whatever they have and set it up so that you’ll be alerted if they add or alter any of the records.”
Kazuki thought about it for a moment, then nodded. “All right, I’ll do it — for twenty times my usual rates.”
“No problem,” Nabiki said with a grin, “Principal Kuno’s paying for it this time.” Kazuki immediately turned to his computer, turned it on, and started doing who knows what.
“And what about me?” I asked. “Why am I along for the ride?”
Nabiki just quirked an eyebrow at me. “Why, I should think that’s obvious, considering the shape Kodachi is in — you’re my bodyguard.”
“And what is my cut?” I asked, then grinned at Nabiki’s flabbergasted look. “Hey, Kazuki’s getting paid, you’re getting paid, so I’m getting paid, too.”
Nabiki glared at me, then sighed and nodded when all I did was cross my arms and glare back, then glanced sideways at Kazuki. “Kazuki, you’ll send what you find to my personal computer as soon as you get it?” At his distracted nod she stood up and said to me, “All right, come on, let’s head for home. We’ll discuss your wage on the way.”
As we walked toward the estate we settled on 1,500 yen an hour, starting when Principal Kuno gave us our marching orders. Then I asked the question that had been bothering me ever since Nabiki had told me what she wanted from me. “Nabiki, why me?”
“Why not Ranma, you mean?”
“Yeah, I guess. I mean, you could probably talk the idiot into doing it for a small reduction in his debt, maybe even for free. So why not?”
Nabiki gave me a sharp look, then chuckled. “Yeah, I could get Ranma for cheap — Ranma, and then Shampoo, and Mouse, and maybe even Ryoga, and who knows who else? All followed by a major brawl. No, thank you, I’ll settle for you, and some peace while I investigate.”
I just shook my head ruefully; Nabiki had an excellent point about the chaos that followed Ranma wherever he went (and still does).
Well, it turned out that being a bodyguard can be pretty boring, especially when you are just sitting around waiting for information. It took several hours for Kazuki to forward the available police records on Kodachi’s assault, and as soon as they arrived Nabiki abandoned the DVD we’d been watching to check out the file. The first picture turned out to be of Kodachi at the crime scene, and after I saw it I decided to skip the rest. Nabiki’s only comment was, “Good thing her father’s loaded, she’s going to need top-notch plastic surgeons.” So while I watched TV, Nabiki spent several hours scrutinizing photos, maps, records and interviews. Finally, big sis shut down her computer and stood up. “Come on, little sis, we’re off!”
“Off where?” I asked, and she grinned.
“Why, to the scene of the crime, of course!” Nabiki said, and so after a quick phone call we set off for the Kuno mansion. I admit it was nice to be able to get in without worrying about booby traps, being met at the front gate by a woman, one of the Kuno family ninjas (loose black clothing, single-toed slippers, hood, the works) for escort. It was a bit of a surprise, though, when Nabiki waved off a chance to interview the servants or view the crime scene. “Why repeat the police’s work?” she said, and asked to see Kodachi’s bedroom, instead.
No surprise, her bedroom was huge, and magnificent, and very uncluttered — having servants to pick up after you must be nice. Still, Nabiki looked through the closets closely, paying special attention to the closet full of sports equipment — hoops, ribbons, pins, leotards, a pair of ice skates ... nothing unusual, I thought. But Nabiki found something interesting there, staring into the closet for a full minute after she finished searching it.
Then, she turned her attention to Kodachi’s drawers, looking through all the clothing and underwear, chuckling when she found a box of condoms tucked away among her school supplies (dumping out the packets in the box into her palm and looking them over for a moment), and raising an eyebrow at a drawer full of odds and ends — medals with the ribbons crumpled up around them, movie ticket stubs, pamphlets of various plays and museums, some old photos of a woman I guessed was her mother in plastic coating, another of a smiling girl in a maid’s uniform. “Kodachi’s personal maid?” Nabiki asked the ninja that had escorted us from the gates, and at her nod pocketed the photo. “What’s her name?”
“Nobunaga Mai, Mistress.”
Finally, Nabiki turned to Kodachi’s desk, opening the drawers, pulling out files and glancing through the contents, occasionally paying closer attention. One in particular she studied for some time before returning everything neatly back to its original place.
After that, she turned to the ninja and asked to be shown the path onto the estate through the security system. When the ninja acted surprised at the suggestion, Nabiki said with a smirk, “This is a home of a clan of ninjas, of course there’s a secret way out!” At that, the ninja (who never bothered to give us her name, rude of her) murmured something in a language I didn’t recognize, much less understand, and listened to empty air, then nodded and motioned for us to follow her.
She took us through a section of the mansion that, while clean enough to make my older sister Kasumi happy, had an unused feel to it, like it was a museum more than a home, and eventually to a door at the back of the house that opened onto a small garden. We walked alongside the meandering garden path, at Nabiki’s insistence walking on the grass to the side, Nabiki scanning the path as we walked. When we reached the place where the path came closest to the estate wall the ninja turned toward the wall only to freeze at Nabiki’s shout of “Stop!” The ninja froze in place, and Nabiki asked, “I take it this section of wall is free of video surveillance?” At the ninja’s nod she continued, “What about motion detectors?”
“No, mistress, motion detectors have the same problem as video surveillance. However, there are weight sensors on the wall that will sound an alarm in the mansion while activating video cameras if you don’t know how to temporarily deactivate them.”
Nabiki nodded, and asked which section of the wall would have the sensors deactivated, then walked alongside the most direct path carefully scanning the grass, and nodded in satisfaction at reaching the flower bed along the wall and motioned us over. There at the foot of the wall was a pair of footprints, one set facing toward the mansion and another, partly overlaying the first, facing the wall, the shape of the soles and heels clearly outlined. “I’m afraid you are going to have to create another way out for yourselves, because the police are going to learn about this one. Who knows about this exit?”
The ninja had been staring at the footprints in shock, but finally shook her head, and with more respect than she’d been showing us up to now said, “I believed that only the ninja sworn to the Kuno family knew of this, but obviously I was wrong. I will let my superior know and I am certain inquiries will be made.”
“At a guess, I suspect you will find that Tatewaki and Kodachi were both told shortly after they became teenagers,” Nabiki said, and turned back towards the mansion. “Anyway, we’re done out here — anything else to be learned will require experts, pass the word to let the police know about this.” With a silent nod, the ninja led us back to the house, again avoiding walking on the path at Nabiki’s insistence, and we were soon out the front gates and on our way home.
As soon as we got home, Nabiki was on the phone and within half an hour seven of the girls in her little organization were with us in her room. She was less than happy with me being there, but by now I was curious and insisted, not that the meeting lasted very long: “Junko, I want you to make three copies of this photo. Once she’s made the copies, Emi, Kana, Midori, you three are the best fast talkers, I want you to take them and hit the pharmacies in the wards around Nerima and find out which one the girl in the photo, Nobunaga Mai, used to buy condoms, and how long ago. Check the ones close to the first train stops outside of Nerima. Eriko, Shizu, Hideko, I want you to check the ice skating rinks. Focus on the ones between St. Hebereke Girls’ Academy and Kolkhoz High, or off to the side of both without being too close. Find out which one Kodachi’s been using to practice, and how long, and get a description of the guy she practices with. But don’t make a big deal about who she’s with.”
“Cute girl, nice outfit. Cosplay?” Junko asked on being handed the photo, then simply grinned at Nabiki’s quelling glare. “Right, I can’t spill what I don’t know. Right on it, boss,” and the group broke up.
“So Akane, just how long has it been since Kodachi made a try for Ranma?” Nabiki asked as we watched her underlings go their separate ways from our front door.
I frowned at the question, thinking back — had it really been that long? “Two or three months, I’d say,” I responded, and Nabiki nodded thoughtfully.
“In that case, I’d say that Kodachi’s maid bought those condoms about ... call it two months ago,” she predicted.
“Why two months ago?” I asked. “Just because she hasn’t been around here lately and she’s got a box of condoms?” But she just shrugged.
After a few minutes I knew I wasn’t going to get a response (there’s no point in badgering Nabiki — she just turns more stubborn, then makes you regret it later), so I asked instead, “So what was in that file you found so fascinating?”
“Oh, just some plans for setting up a Martial Arts Ice Skating tournament,” she said offhandedly.
“Really, just that? For something that had nothing to do with the attack you certainly spent a lot of time looking through it.”
“Who said it had nothing to do with the attack?” she responded with a grin, then headed back to her room.
It was several boring days of following Nabiki around before her amateur investigators reported. The news from the hospital during those days was cautiously optimistic — Kodachi had survived the emergency surgery and was now in an intensive care unit. The doctors still said it was a coin toss whether she’d live and less likely she’d every wake up, but that was a decided improvement over the first day — Kodachi was tougher than she looked. Nabiki told me (when I asked) that the information on the footprints had been added to the police case file, but nothing seemed to have come of it and they still seemed focused on Tatewaki as the primary suspect. Then came the calls from Nabiki’s subordinates and a new meeting.
“All right, what have you got?” Nabiki asked when her six subordinates were again gathered in her room. “Let’s start with the pharmacies. Emi?”
Emi, Kana and Midori exchanged glances, then Emi said, “You were dead right, boss, ‘my good friend Mai’ purchased condoms at the second pharmacy I checked close to the second train stop past Nerima, about two and a half months ago.” She grinned. “It’s a good thing she’s such a beautiful girl, the clerk remembered her clearly. Actually, I think he tried to pick her up — he may have succeeded, from the way he acted, I suspect he’s seen her a lot more recently than two months.”
Nabiki’s eyebrow rose, but she turned to Eriko, Shizu and Hideko. “So, how about the skating rink?” she asked.
“I found it,” Hideko said eagerly, while the other two girls rolled their eyes. “Right between the two high schools, like you suggested. She’s been practicing there almost every afternoon for around half a year. Her practice partner is tall, brown-haired, handsome, and with the biggest ego the skating rink staff has ever seen — and that’s saying something, apparently. Still, that ego didn’t keep a couple of them from having his picture and glaring at each other. It’s Mikado Sanzenin.”
“Interesting thought, I’ll keep it in mind,” Nabiki said blandly. “All right, now give me the details, people — which pharmacies and rinks you visited and in what order, who you talked to, exactly what they said as best you can remember, everything.”
The rest of the meeting took several hours to get all the details Nabiki asked for. After the six girls left, I finally got the opportunity to ask, “So it was Sanzenin?”
“I think so,” Nabiki said.
“But why?” I asked.
Big sis shrugged. “Why were they together, or why did he try to kill her?” she asked.
“This is all speculation, of course,” she cautioned. “But I suspect they got together because of Kodachi’s ego. She’s good at martial arts gymnastics, but it just isn’t all that popular — once she graduates from high school, she won’t be able to use it to enjoy the spotlight. Martial arts ice skating isn’t all that popular, either, but single women and couples ice skating certainly is. Grace, skill and good looks can take you far in that sport, and she had two, so she just needed to acquire the third and set up a tournament to show off her talents in her new martial art — all of them — and she’d be set to keep center stage for years.
“But for that, she needed a trainer and a partner. Because of the way that she was keeping track of Ranma in both forms, she knew that Sanzenin was sidelined for a time and lost his partner. I suspect she looked him up and offered to make him her partner — she’d get the training she needed and a handsome partner, he’d get to return to the spotlight he’d enjoyed.
“Unfortunately for her, he has as big an ego as she does. He probably thought that she would be another Azusa — only she wasn’t, and it must have become quickly clear to him that she had no intention of becoming a junior partner or allowing herself to be perceived as such. I don’t know which of the two seduced who first, but he succeeded in turning it into a true love affair, at least on her part.”
“Oh, come on, now you’re making things up,” I scoffed. “There’s no way you could know that!”
Nabiki just smirked. “The movie ticket stubs in Kodachi’s drawer,” she said. “Do you keep them after the movie?” I shook my head. “Neither do I,” she continued. “Neither does anyone, unless there’s something important about the movies that turns them into keepsakes, like a date with your love — or lover.”
“The box of condoms,” I said.
“The box of condoms,” Nabiki agreed. “There’s no way Kodachi is going to buy those herself, so who else would she trust to buy them for her but a family servant that she’d close enough to, to have the girl’s picture in her drawer? So Sanzenin’s now Kodachi’s lover — she’s shown him how to get through the Kuno estate’s security so he can visit her without being seen — but he finds that she’s no more malleable after becoming his lover than she was before. Certainly, the fact that she professed to be in love with Ranma didn’t make her amenable to his suggestions, I don’t see why it should be any different with Sanzenin. In the end, his ego can’t handle it. But he can’t just quit, Kodachi’s been training hard. If he quits, he turns his partner into a competitor — and one with the looks, possibly the skill, and definitely the money needed to outshine him. So one night he sneaks in to visit her yet again, only this time he tries to beat her to death with one of her brother’s bokkens.”
I had to shake my head in amazement. It all seemed to fit together, it fit what we’d found in Kodachi’s bedroom, but I would never have put it all together, myself. “So, what now?” I asked.
“Now, I have a talk with the police, call up Principle Kuno and present my bill, and you can thankfully stop shadowing my every footstep,” big sis replied.
And so it was. She placed a call to the police, and an Inspector Higo came out to visit us. She refused to let me be in the room when she spoke with him (she said I had a lousy poker face), but as curious as I was I waiting around when the inspector left. As he stepped out of the front door on his way out, Inspector Higo turned around. “You know, the investigation you did was very impressive, even with the advantage knowing all the players gave you. Have you considered joining the police?”
Nabiki shook her head with a grimace. “No, too much paperwork, too many people looking over your shoulder, too much grunt work before you work your way up the ranks.”
He chuckled. “You’re going to find that, whatever organization you join,” he pointed out. “Well, if you change your mind let me know and I’ll put in a good word for you.”
She watched him leave, an unusually introspective look on her face. “He does have a point,” she muttered. “This has been fun, but I’d much rather be my own boss. I’ll have to think about this....” Then she noticed I was watching, and her face took on its usual look of amused superiority.
Within a few days I had my payment for my bodyguarding, more money than I’d ever had in one time in my life. Through Nabiki’s back door to the case’s files, we knew the police were repeating Nabiki’s investigation. It didn’t take long until Tatewaki was dropped as a suspect, but they kept him in jail for a little longer — just long enough to keep Sanzenin thinking he was safe, until they dropped the hammer on him. A month later, Kodachi awoke from her coma.
The final act took place months later. Nabiki was making plans for college, Ranma and I were enjoying the break between school years and rejoicing that we’d dodged the bullet with the wedding fiasco. All was as usual, when a stretch limousine pulled up in front of our home and the driver let Kodachi out.
Her face was still heavily bandaged from the latest plastic surgery, and she seemed — almost withdrawn, certainly not the energetic lunatic I’d known for years. It came as a complete surprise when she asked to seem Nabiki, instead of Ranma.
Nabiki happened to be home that afternoon, and the three of us were soon enjoying some of Kasumi’s favorite tea in the family room (Nabiki asked me to stick around, just in case, when I fetched her from her room).
After a few minutes of silence as we all gave the tea the attention it deserved, Kodachi put down her cup and came straight to the point.
“Father tells me that it is because of you that Mi — Sanzenin-san was arrested for my near-death,” she said abruptly. “I owe you my life.”
Nabiki just shrugged. “I doubt it,” she said nonchalantly.
But Kodachi shook her head. “It was you that remembered the need for bodyguards. Without that, Mi — Sanzenin-san would have had the opportunity to try again, once it became clear that I wasn’t going to die, after all. No, I owe you a debt — and the Kunos always pay their debts.”
Nabiki looked thoughtful for a moment, then grinned. “You’re an expert chemist, right?” she asked.
Kodachi looked baffled at the odd question, but nodded.
“Then we’ll just mark this one up to a ‘someday’ favor — as in, someday I’ll ask you to put that to good use for me. How about it?”
“That is all?” Kodachi asked as I stared at my big sister in shock, stunned that she wasn’t squeezing Kodachi for all she was worth, and Nabiki shrugged again.
“Your father paid me well, and I may need your skills very badly sometime down the road,” she tossed off.
Kodachi gazed at her for a time, then nodded brusquely, thanked us for our hospitality, and took her leave.
It was years later that I finally found out what Nabiki had in mind that afternoon.
AN: I started this story quite awhile ago, when someone was posting a series of episodes on Anime Addventures where Ranma was a member of the Tokyo CSI unit. The episodes were deleted for grammatical errors, but not before there was some speculation as to what Nabiki was up to. It occurred to me that she probably wouldn't be all that great of a team player, but would make a handy private investigator and decided to write my own story.
It ought to be easy enough, right? You come up with a crime, who did it and why, figure out what the clues are that the police might miss but a sharp-eyed PI can catch, write up the story of how your hero finds and reveals them, and viola! According to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's son, his father could knock out a Sherlock Holmes story in a few hours. Well, it turns out it's a lot harder than it looks and Doyle was a frikkin' genius.
I doubt I'll write any more of these, but it's at Anime Addventure for anyone that wants to play, post April 12, 2010. The rules are that each episode is a complete case, and the options are other cases. They can be repeats of the ones I have that no one's used, or entirely new ones. The cases don't need to be in chronological order, but should follow the Sherlock Holmes/CSI format — a minimum of personal sidestory information and the focus on the case itself.