Ryouga Hibiki was trying to find his way home
on one sunny afternoon. He spent the whole morning trying to find
a job in order to save up for his and Ukyou's wedding. The search
was fruitless, even though he did have quite a few interviews lined up.
So far, he missed every single appointment, as he couldn't find his way
to any of them.
"Chikushou..." He muttered to himself as he checked the clock hanging in a store window. According to the time, he missed his last appointment by two and a half hours. He sincerely wished that Jiro was still in town. Not that he blamed her--she had to leave in a hurry as soon as she heard that her adversary was in Nerima, hunting her down. Mentally he cursed Jakku Mizuno. If it weren't for that idiot, Mizuno, Jiro would still be around to take me to all my appointments.
"Feh," he muttered to himself. "Who am I fooling anyway? It's not like anyone will hire a 19 year-old young man who wouldn't be able to find his way to work." People stared at him as he walked by, partly because he was talking to himself, and partly for his curious appearance.
At nineteen, Ryouga Hibiki was actually a handsome young man (although he wasn't aware of it). He was tall, with broad shoulders, and muscular due to his training. He had serious changing-hazel eyes, and long dark hair--fastened into a low ponytail at the back of his neck and his bangs kept out of his face by his yellow and black bandanna. That combined with his slightly pointed ears and the fangs that he was named after, he actually looked a little exotic. Ryouga was also wearing his good shirt; a mustard-yellow woollen with long sleeves and cream coloured cuffs. He wore his good green trousers with yellow cords wrapping around the shins up to his knees. He wore brown leather sneakers instead of his usual martial-arts slippers. He also carried his heavy backpack, with his heavy red bamboo umbrella and a portfolio with his resumes in it. In short, the people stared because he looked like he had to go to an interview somewhere in the woods.
He took his eyes off the ground and looked around, in hope that he would see a building that he would recognise. He was in an area where the office buildings towered overhead. It all seemed familiar, but then again--so did everywhere else that he had been to. He sighed, wondering if he should see if he could Track someone yet.
"Excuse me..." came a voice from behind him.
Ryouga turned around. "Yes?" he asked, focusing on a young woman, a little older than twenty, wearing glasses and carrying a clipboard.
"Would you be interested in participating in a research and development project?" asked the young woman.
Ryouga shook his head. "No thanks," he said as he was about to turn away.
"My company will pay you ¥1,000,000 for your participation..."
"Pardon me?!?" asked Ryouga as he spun back around. That will cover that down payment on that building next to the restaurant, he thought. "Where do I sign up?" he asked. The woman passed him the clipboard that she was carrying. Without reading it, he signed his name at the bottom, and handed the clipboard back.
"Thank-you," she said as she pulled off the copy of the contract and handed it to Ryouga. She pointed out various things to Ryouga as she gave him some instructions. "Tomorrow, at 4 PM, you will show up here at this address." She pointed out the address at the top of the page. "You will be paid at the end of the session." She pointed to another part of the page. "And it is advisable that you wear some old clothes--ones that you won't mind getting stained or dirty." Ryouga simply nodded through everything that she said.
"Can I bring someone along?" he asked suddenly. The woman looked thoughtful.
"I suppose so, but without a contract, that person will not be able to participate."
"That's all right, she doesn't need to participate--just to make sure that I make it here on time."
"That's fine--uh..." She looked at her copy of the contract. "...Hibiki-san." She smiled at him, as to be reassuring. Then she reached out suddenly to touch Ryouga's ponytail, which hung over his shoulder and down his chest. Ryouga was startled.
"You have beautiful hair," said the young woman to him.
Ryouga's face went red and he stammered as he made his reply.
"Th-thank-you." He turned and proceeded to look for his way home.
Ukyou Kuonji had locked up the restaurant for the
day and was busy scrubbing the grill. She hummed along with a popular
love song that had been playing on the radio. Her spirits had been
high for the last month, and although the business was slow that day, she
saw no reason to lose her good mood. She had a very good reason to
be cheerful, and the reason was obvious to everyone. Because, around
her neck, on a gold chain was a diamond ring--an engagement gift from Ryouga.
Ukyou stopped her scrubbing and touched the ring. The ring was something special and not just in its meaning to her. She looked at it again. The ring was made of solid diamond--one piece, with an impression of roses cut into its surface. There was a gold band on the inside of the ring with an inscription: Always to be lost in love with you... She smiled. He's quite the romantic, she thought. She couldn't quite figure out how Ryouga came across the ring, but the fact that he gave it to her shadowed the loose ends of his coming by it to the point that it didn't really matter.
"Don't worry, Ukyou. He'll be home soon. He's on his way already." Jiro Hibiki sat on the edge of the counter, eating the last bit of her okonomiyaki. "Maybe he managed to find a job," she suggested. "I'm sorry that I couldn't take him to his appointments, though... But you know how Jakku is..."
Ukyou shook her head. "One would think that the jackass would have given up by now, but as you said--that is the way he is."
"Feh," Jiro snorted. "Perhaps that bump I gave him this time might convince him to give up." She shook her head. "Nah, who am I kidding?" She remembered the fight, and shuddered. It was starting to get harder and harder to defeat him, and now he was finally learning new techniques to fight her with. She managed to knock him out with his own bucket, and left while he was unconscious. She knew that she would have to deal with him someday soon.
Ukyou finished cleaning the grill and gave the counter a final wipe-down, and then she put her cleaning supplies away. Unwillingly, Ukyou was thinking along the same lines as Ryouga's little sister. She figured that Jiro did have a problem and that it would eventually have to be dealt with, but that still wasn't enough to bring her mood down.
The key turned in the lock, and Ryouga opened the door.
"I made it," he said breathlessly. "Hi Ukyou. Hi Jiro."
"Welcome back, Ryo-chan," beamed Ukyou. "How was your day?"
"Did you find a job, Oniichan?" asked Jiro.
Ryouga shook his head. "Sorry, no. I couldn't find my way to the appointments on time."
"Sorry, Oniichan." Jiro hung her head in shame.
"That's all right, I found something even better." Ryouga pulled out a piece of paper from his pocket. Ukyou took it from him and quickly read it. As she did so, her cheerful demeanour fell away. She glared at he fiancee.
"Ryouga, you jackass!!!" she yelled, crumpling the paper and throwing it at him. "Why did you agree to do this?!?"
"Huh?" Ryouga's reply was eloquent. "What do you mean? I thought it would be a great opportunity to put a down payment on that building next door."
"But at what cost?!?" she asked him in an exasperate voice. "Did you even read the thing?"
"Don't answer, you jackass! If you come back bald, I'll never forgive you." With that, she stormed upstairs to her room.
Jiro picked up the crumpled piece of paper off of the floor. She smoothed it out on the counter and began to read it. She grunted as she read through some of the conditions.
"How bad did I screw up?" asked Ryouga tentatively.
"Not too bad, actually--providing that you don't wind up bald." Jiro looked at another line. "But if you do, the company will pay an additional ¥100,000 to compensate." She shrugged.
"What kind of company is it?" asked Ryouga.
"It's the Kira-kira no Kamenoke Company. They specialise in hair-care and hair-styling products." Jiro folded the contract back up and handed it to her brother. "I wouldn't worry too much about it, Oniichan. These kinds of things usually have most of the bugs worked out before they test it on a person. Usually, they just want the consumer's opinion." Jiro chuckled, then continued in a high falsetto voice. "Does this make my hair shiny enough? --Oh! It feels so soft!" Ryouga laughed. Jiro then continued in her normal voice. "Actually, I think Ukyou's over reacting. You'll be fine."
Ryouga still felt unsure.
"Will you walk with me to this thing?" he asked.
"Sure. No problem," was Jiro's reply.
"Are you positive that there won't be any problem--like Mizuno...?"
"He's in jail and can't get out for the next couple of days," she replied. "Apparently he trashed someone's store while looking for me. I understand that the bail is pretty high," she then winked at her brother. "...And I'm not about to pay it, even if I did have the money."
"Don't mention it, Oniichan." Jiro started rummaging through her backpack, which was sitting next to the counter. "Why don't you call it an early night? I got some homework that I have to finish and you might want to be well rested for this appointment of yours tomorrow."
Ryouga nodded. "You're probably right. See you tomorrow, then."
"Good night, Oniichan."
The next afternoon, Jiro led Ryouga into the business
section of Nerima. Jiro was wearing her normal everyday travelling
clothes, and Ryouga was wearing his tank top and an old kangaroo jacket
over it. Along the way Jiro noticed that Ryouga was trying to stifle
"Didn't you get any sleep last night, Oniichan?" she asked.
"A little," he said as the yawn escaped. "Mostly, I was thinking about how upset Ukyou was last night. Why would she care about what happens to my looks? I'm not anything special."
Jiro glanced sidelong at her brother. "Whatever you say, Oniichan..." she replied as she shook her head in silent disbelief.
Soon they came to the building of the Kira-kira no Kamenoke company. Jiro stopped in front of the revolving doors.
"Would you like me to come in with you?" she asked her older brother.
Ryouga swallowed. "Perhaps you better... Maybe that will help me make sure that I make it to the right room, and I guess that I'd like a witness to whatever happens..." he grinned briefly, "in case I have to bust a few heads because of the results of today's activities."
"Sure," Jiro grinned back at him.
They went inside together.
In a little viewing room, a bunch of directors sat
around a table with a young woman sitting at the head. Everyone but
the young woman was a bit nervous. She had the final say in whether
she would fund their project or not.
Nabiki Tendou looked coolly around the room at the nervous faces that surrounded her. She didn't look into her attaché case where she knew there was a crumpled piece of paper, which had a list on it. A boy that has yet to be born gave the list to her and the list included the name of the company that was looking to be bank-rolled by her.
"So Ladies and Gentlemen," she began. "Tell me again what you hope to prove with this little 'project' of yours..."
A woman, slightly older than her, stood up and cleared her throat. She wore glasses and carried a clipboard. "Tendou-san," she started, "it has been common knowledge that the people of Japan cannot colour their hair to a shade of blonde or any other lighter colour without it looking unnatural, and not without it losing its natural texture, making it stiff..."
"Go on," Nabiki urged.
"Well anyway, we at the Kira-kira no Kamenoke Company believe that we have come up with a product that will allow the average Japanese citizen to colour their hair to any shade that they wish. The results will be as if the person appearing to have been born with that colour and without the stiffness that peroxide would produce."
"Sounds interesting," said Nabiki. "So how many volunteers have we got to try this new dye?"
The woman coughed slightly and blushed. "One," she said.
Nabiki raised an eyebrow. "One?" she asked.
"Um, yes. No one else wanted to try the product when they read the clause about going bald. The one individual that did sign didn't quite read the contract thoroughly before signing."
"Oh?" asked Nabiki as she sipped at her latte. "That's all right. Who is this one person?"
"His name is Hibiki Ryouga."
Latte was sprayed all over the table and the executives as Nabiki was startled. "Not Ranma?!?" she asked incredulously.
The woman was wiping her face with a napkin as she replied. "I'm sorry, who?"
"Never mind, it's not important. When is Ryouga-kun suppose to show up?"
"He is scheduled to be in at four. He said that he will be bringing someone with him."
"I'm not surprised."
The phone rang and one of the directors picked it and spoke quickly into the receiver. He put the phone down before turning to the rest of the room.
"That was Security. Apparently Hibiki-san and his companion has arrived."
Ryouga was nervous as he and Jiro showed up at the
appointed room. The door opened by a business-like woman in a lab
coat. She introduced herself to Mariko Yukiyama, the head lab technician.
Ryouga then introduced himself and Jiro to her and she let them in and
showed the two of them where to put their jackets. Ryouga looked
around. The place looked sort of like a hair salon, only with more
space between the chairs and mirrors covered two sides of the room.
Ryouga pointed the mirrors out.
"That's a lot of mirrors," he commented to his sister. "Why do you think they need so many?"
Jiro looked and shrugged.
"My guess is that the mirrors behind the chairs over the sinks are just that, only mirrors. The rest of them on the other wall are probably one-way glass. The room where the directors and researchers and others sit to observe without being underfoot should be on the other side."
"That makes sense, I guess." He then looked nervously towards the sinks. "I hope this doesn't involve cold water."
Jiro looked at him with surprise in her voice. "That's a very good point. I guess there's one way to find out." She turned to the lady in the lab-coat. "Excuse me, but can you tell me if this session involves cold water?"
The lady blinked at the odd question. "No, it doesn't. Is there a reason for us to be concerned about?"
Ryouga watched as Jiro thought fast.
"Yes, my brother experienced a traumatic experience as a child. It involved cold water--I really don't want to go into the details..."
The woman nodded. "I see... Well then, Hibiki-san, don't you worry about the water. It will be no cooler than luke-warm."
"Thank-you." Ryouga really didn't have anything else to say.
"So why don't you take a seat here, Hibiki-san," she said as she gestured to one of the chairs. "My assistants will be right with you. And for you Hibiki-san," she said as she turned to Jiro, "there is a waiting room just over there. Please take a seat in there until this is all over."
Jiro left her brother to the tender mercies of the
lab tech and her assistants. As she entered the waiting room, she
was a little surprised to find more of the mirror-like one-way glass.
Out of curiosity, she walked over to the glass in an attempt to look within.
Almost pressing her nose to the surface, Jiro was able to see through to
the other side. She saw a table with seats and a bunch of executives
placed around it. At the head of the table sat Nabiki Tendou.
Jiro was a bit surprised to see her; after all, the hair-care business
was pretty much the last place for the middle Tendou sister to be.
Not caring about propriety, or what the people on the other side would think, Jiro tapped on the glass, trying to get Nabiki's attention. Once she looked up, Jiro waved eagerly at Nabiki. The young investor gave a casual wave back. Jiro grinned at everyone in the hidden room and walked back to the couches and picked up a magazine.
"Do you know that person, Tendou-san?" asked one
of the project directors.
"You mean Jiro-chan? She's Ryouga-kun's little sister. A very nice young woman, only a tad too exuberant for her age." Nabiki smiled to herself. "Hopefully she will settle down before her Coming of Age."
The wall-speaker crackled and everyone turned to one of the main windows that were overlooking the lab. The head technician, Yukiyama, was standing with a clipboard in her hands.
"Everything's ready to go, Tanaka-san, Tendou-san," she addressed the head director and Nabiki. "Hibiki-san's settled in."
"Any possible problems that we should be aware of?" asked Tanaka-san.
"Not with the equipment, sir. But the sister of Hibiki-san states that there might be a problem it he was to be splashed with cold water."
The head director frowned. "But cold water is not required in the procedure. Did either of them expressed why they were concerned."
"Only that Hibiki-san had experience serious trauma with cold water as a child."
Nabiki snorted. "Jiro's quite creative to be able to make that up on the spot," she murmured.
Tanaka looked towards Nabiki. "Did you say something, Tendou-san?" he asked.
"Nothing important. Tell me, is there an intercom system hooked up in the waiting room?"
"Yes, there is." Tanaka passed over a small box with a series of buttons on it. "The green button is the one to activate the intercom in the waiting room."
"Thank-you," replied Nabiki as she took the box. She pressed the green button. "Jiro-chan? Can you hear me?"
Through the window, she saw the young woman start and turn towards her.
"Loud and clear, Nabiki-san," came Jiro's reply.
"That's good. Why are you here today, Jiro-chan?"
"Well, Oniichan needed a hand getting here and he'll more than likely need a hand getting home."
Nabiki chuckled at Jiro's reply. That's an interesting way of saying that Ryouga has no way in hell getting around without getting lost on his own. "What other reasons do you have, besides protecting your brother's interests?"
Jiro looked thoughtful for a moment.
"Also I guess that I'm supposed to make sure that there are no accidents. Ukyou didn't want him to come home bald."
"I really wouldn't worry about that," said Nabiki dryly. She pointedly ignored the way that all of the directors and executives looked away. "Now what's this about the cold water?"
Jiro walked towards the window, close enough to see through. She looked directly at Nabiki and said, "You know what happens when Ryouga-Oniichan gets splashed by cold water. You know how he gets. I just think that it would be in the best interests of everyone to make sure that doesn't happen. But you know that, right Nabiki-san?"
Nabiki brushed aside Jiro's implied threat. "Nothing will happen to Ryouga-kun that shouldn't happen," she said smoothly. "Will that satisfy you?"
Jiro nodded, and Nabiki released the button. She wasn't planning on dousing Ryouga with cold water, but she knew that Jiro always followed through on her threats, so having fun with Ryouga was out of the question--or was it? Her brow was furrowed, as she was lost in thought. Either way, she didn't like receiving threats, no matter how benign they may be. Her eyes narrowed as an idea came to her.
"Match him to her," she said to the head director of the project.
"I'm sorry...?" asked Tanaka, surprised.
Nabiki explained her idea to the directors and executives.
Ryouga sat in the chair, waiting nervously.
His fingers were making permanent indents in the leatherette arms of the
barber's chair. He really wasn't looking towards this.
A young woman came up to him. She wore a high ponytail and had on a loose-fitting black smock. She looked at him and smiled.
"How are you today?" she chirped as she pulled out a plastic apron from under the sink and pulled it up over him.
"A little nervous," Ryouga admitted. He then took a second look at this perky young woman. "Uh, are you a scientist?" he asked.
"Not at all," she replied. "I'm a stylist. Can't you tell?"
"Don't worry about it, handsome. Okay?" she said as she secured the plastic apron around his neck.
"Right." Ryouga blushed.
"My name is Hanako. What's your name?"
"Cute name, it really suits you." Hanako looked at him critically. "That bandanna of yours is gonna have to come off," she said.
"That's right. It is kinda hard to give you a trim with it on."
"I have to remove the split-ends, before we can continue, and besides, it would be awkward to try and shampoo your hair with it on."
Hanako removed Ryouga's bandanna and placed it on the counter. She also removed the elastic that secured his hair behind him. Carefully, she ran a comb through the thick dark hair and when she reached the ends with her comb, she professionally cut them off. As she worked, she kept asking him questions, mostly to take his mind off his nervousness. Most of the questions were innocent enough, except for one.
"So tell me, Ryouga. Does a cutie like you have a girl-friend?"
"Uh, I have a fiancee..."
"Oh? That tall girl with the short blonde hair?"
Ryouga chuckled. "No, that's my younger sister, Jiro. My fiancee's name is Ukyou."
Hanako sighed. "It figures that all the good ones are taken... Oh, well."
Hanako continued. "So the blonde girl's your sister, huh? Not much in family resemblance is there? --Except maybe for the ears. Are those ears for real?"
"Yes," Ryouga sighed. "They are." Why does everyone have to mention the ears...? he thought miserably.
"They make you look cute, not that you really needed any help."
Ryouga squirmed. All of the praise and compliments were making him uncomfortable. He envied Jiro who was at least in a quiet room.
Jiro looked up from the magazine that she was reading. She looked at the door and saw a young man standing there. He was wearing a black apron and carrying a pair of scissors. He was very handsome, and that fact didn't go by unnoticed by Jiro. She sat up straighter.
"Yes?" she responded.
"My name is Toshi. Tendou-san suggested that I should come and see if you would be interested in a complimentary trim."
"Really? That's terribly nice of her. But I'm afraid that there really isn't much of my hair to trim." Actually, Jiro didn't really trust Nabiki. "I'm also not under a contract."
The man smiled. "That's all right. She just thought that while you were waiting, you might like a trim." He smiled at her again.
Jiro melted under that smile. She felt her cheeks redden.
"Alright. A trim sounds like a good idea." She gave the stylist her most winning smile. "But I should warn you, if you try to incapacitate me in any way, I thrust those scissors through your beautiful eyes, then go do the same to Nabiki-san."
The stylist paled just a little. "That really won't be necessary, Hibiki-san, you'll see." He gestured to the door. "The chair is in another room, so if you will follow me..."
Ryouga was nervous as Hanako tipped the chair back
towards the sink. He knew that she had the tap running for a few
moments and she reassured him that the water was warm. Using the
movable nozzle, she carefully wetted his hair. When the hair was
thoroughly soaked through, Hanako turned off the tap and wrung out the
excess water form his hair. She took a bottle off the counter and
squeezed a generous amount into her hand. And then she applied it
to Ryouga's hair.
"Why are you so nervous, Ryouga-kun?" asked Hanako. "I promised that the water would be warm."
"Sorry," said Ryouga sheepishly. "Conditioned response, that's all."
"Apology accepted. Now this stuff has to sit in your hair for a few minutes, then I'll rinse it out. So be a doll and don't move, okay?"
"Okay." Ryouga settled down, thinking that what he was going through wasn't so bad. With the warm water and the steam and the towel under his neck, he was actually quite comfortable. That combined with the fact that he hadn't much sleep the night before, meant that he was having trouble keeping his eyes open. The last thing that he remembered was that Hanako was talking to a tall young man in black who appeared to be handing clippings of hair to her. He closed his eyes and fell asleep.
Nabiki was watching the process through the one-way
glass. She was glad that the directors were able to find Hanako to
do the actual work. She was the thing that Ryouga needed to calm
him down. And as an added bonus, he fell asleep, so now questions
could be asked to the staff in the lab, without making poor Ryouga nervous.
"What is the purpose of the stuff that she is using on Ryouga-kun, now? It's not shampoo, is it?"
Mariko Yukiyama came up to the glass, with clipboard in hand.
"What Hanako is using is a primer to alter the surface of the hair follicles. Our product is not used to colour the hair, as it is to coat the individual strands. But the surfaces of each strand of hair must be altered to allow the product to adhere properly. The fairer the shade of hair colour, the longer the hair has to be primed."
Hanako walked up to the technician and handed her the few clippings of hair that she received from Toshi. The tech took a close look at the hair strands and walked over to a chart with various shades of colours and labels on it.
"Are you sure this is what you want, Tendou-san?" she asked Nabiki.
The technician handed the scraps of hair back to Hanako. "This is shade #23. You'll find a bottle of it in the cabinet." She turned back to face Nabiki again. "We weren't intending to use this shade, but something much darker. There is no guarantee that it will perform correctly.
"Not to worry, replied Nabiki. "If this session should end in failure, I will not hold you responsible."
"Thank-you for understanding," said Yukiyama.
Hanako walked back to where She left her 'client'.
She chuckled as she realised that he was snoring softly. At least
I got him to relax, she thought to herself. She was about to
rinse the primer out of Ryouga's hair when she got an idea.
"Can I do his eyebrows?" she asked mischievously.
Tendou-san's voice came over the intercom. "Go ahead. I'd like to see how that would work."
Carefully, she dampened Ryouga's eyebrows with warm water then spread a little of the primer over each one. She figured that once the contents of bottle #23 had done its thing, the primer could be removed from the eyebrows.
You're going to be so pretty when I'm done, she thought to her sleeping client as she began to rinse the primer out of his hair.
Ryouga woke up after what seemed to be a few minutes.
The sound of a hair-dryer could be heard and he felt the warm air against
his damp head and a brush against his skull.
"Did I fall asleep?" he asked Hanako, the stylist.
"You sure did, handsome," she replied. "You were out for quite a while. But that was all right. We finished doing what needed to be done, and I'm pleased to admit that it was a success."
"So I'm not bald, eh?"
"There's no point in drying hair that ain't there," she confirmed. "Just give me a moment and you can have a look-see. Okay?"
"I guess so..." Ryouga replied as he settled back in the chair. A bit of damp hair hit his cheek and settled on the plastic apron. He took a quick glance at the lock of hair and his heart almost stopped. Jerking himself around, knocking away the hair-dryer, he turned to face the mirrors. His jaw fell open at what he saw.
Jiro had settled herself on the couch in the waiting
room. She just finished reading an article about the proper hair-care
for young women who are always travelling. Her hand went to her hair
momentarily. That Toshi really did a good job, she thought
to herself, and he wasn't hard to look at either. She picked
up another magazine with the title, 101 Hairstyles for Prominent Martial
Artists. She started leafing through the pages when she heard
"What the Hell did you do to my hair?!?" Her brother's voice came through to the waiting room. Jiro sighed and got up; she knew that she had better get into the next room before Ryouga started doing things that would become costly in the long and short term. She walked to the doorway to the lab and took a quick look around for her brother. But what she saw was the staff being chased around by an attractive, but raving madman.
"Oniichan? Are you in here?" she called out.
The madman stopped and looked at her. "Jiro?" he asked.
It was then that Jiro recognised the raving madman as her brother.
She blinked. Blink, blink. Ryouga looked different to her.
"That is a new look for you, isn't it, Oniichan?" she said dryly.
Nabiki Tendou watched as Ryouga chased the technicians
around the room. He was acting the way she thought he would.
It would shock anyone to have fallen asleep with dark hair, only to wake
up as a blonde. Because now, Ryouga Hibiki had hair
the exact same colour as his little sister. And it changed his appearance
quite a bit. And in a sense, it was Jiro's fault that her brother's
appearance was the way it was. Especially when it was the clippings
of blonde that Toshi, the stylist, acquired when he trimmed Jiro's hair
that helped determine the colour that Ryouga's hair would have become.
It wasn't much of a revenge, but it wasn't really much of a threat in the
first place, and Nabiki was satisfied that she got it. And she really
didn't like being threatened at all.
Nabiki packed up her papers and placed them in her attaché case, as she watched the technicians and the stylist Hanako corner Ryouga to finish drying and brushing his hair. She saw Jiro trying to calm her brother down. Their fair hair was easy to pick out from a bunch of brunettes and other heads that were darker still. Apparently the test was a success: Jiro's hair was naturally blonde and Ryouga's had been coloured to match it, and without knowing the truth, it was impossible to tell who was the true blonde.
She put a small check mark next to the company's name on the old crumpled list.
"Arigatou, Iikiba-kun," she murmured to the memory of the boy who won't be born for a year or two. So far, every item on the list she acquired three years ago was proven to be correct. And the Kira-kira no Kamenoke Company was the last item on the list. Nabiki smiled, her portfolio was growing at an incredible rate, partly due to the suggestions on the list and partly due to some investments into some other interests of her own.
Nabiki knew that her husband and her family had no idea why she was so determined to make so much money. People from outside of the family simply thought that she was merely greedy. But she had reasons. One the big ones was so that she would not be a drain on the Kunou family's wealth. In other words, she wanted to make a name for herself without relying on the Kunou-family influence. That was why she kept her maiden name. She knew how some of Tatewaki's family didn't think she was worthy enough for the family line. She was more than determined to show them otherwise.
There was another reason as well.
Under the cover of the table where she sat, Nabiki rubbed her hand slowly over her slightly protruding belly. Don't you worry, kiddo, she thought to her unborn child, Okaasan's promises that you'll get all the things that I never got. Nabiki remembered the hard times that her family had gone through over the years. As a business, the Tendou dojo was never very prosperous. There were times when the meals were meagre, the times when Soun couldn't afford his daughters' new clothes. She was determined that her child will not go through the same. Even if the marriage with Kunou goes sour, she will be more than capable of supporting their child. I'm going to do right by you, you'll see.
Jiro was leading Ryouga home. She was getting
a bit worried as Ryouga wasn't talking at all. He had his kangaroo
jacket on with the hood up, trying to conceal his entire head.
"It's not so bad, Oniichan," she tried consoling him again. "You're not bald."
"Might as well be," he muttered. "It looks way too different."
Jiro thought it over for a bit.
"Sure it looks different. In fact, you look a bit different, but not in a bad way. I bet that if you let your hood down, you'd find that a lot of girls would be looking at you."
Ryouga shook his head. "You're just saying that."
"No, I'm not. But here's something to think of, Oniichan..."
"At least we actually look like we are brother and sister," Jiro chuckled.
Ryouga smiled a little under the hood. "I suppose you're right," he said. "I wonder how Ukyou's going to take this, though..."
"She probably be surprised. But she'll be glad to see you will still have all of your hair."
"Would you stop it with the 'bald' comments? It's starting to wear a little thin."
"Sorry, Oniichan." Jiro pulled out the pamphlets and looked them over. "So are you planning to go back to the Kira-kira place for the follow ups?"
"I dunno. Why should I?" Ryouga had already sworn that he would never return to that place again...
"They will pay another $10,000 for each visit."
...Then again, it might not be as difficult of a visit as the first, he figured.
"I'll wait and ask Ukyou's opinion," he said to her.
The restaurant was closed for the evening.
Ukyou had finished cleaning sooner than usual, and now she sat waiting
nervously for Ryouga to return home. To be honest, she was more than
a bit concerned about the results of the testing. She sighed.
Ryouga may do the dumbest things at times, but his heart is usually in
the right place. Whatever had happened, he had done it with her in
mind, and she could appreciate that. She just hoped that neither
of them would regret it.
She heard the key turning in the lock and she looked up towards the door. She watched as Jiro opened the sliding door and bring Ryouga inside. His hood was up and his head was down. Ukyou steeled herself for the worse.
"Is he bald...?" asked Ukyou hesitantly.
"Nope!" chirped Jiro. "Not at all."
"Might as well be bald," muttered Ryouga. He slumped down even more.
"Huh? What happened?" Ukyou was concerned at Ryouga's mood. It had to be something drastic to have him act like this.
"I think he looks cute, Ukyou. He doesn't." Jiro was apparently enjoying herself, so Ukyou figured that it couldn't be that bad, whatever it is. Ukyou then decided to get to the bottom of the situation.
"Ryo-chan?" she asked.
"What?" Ryouga's voice was so low.
"Look at me."
Nothing happened. Ukyou tried again.
"Ryouga! Look at me!"
Ryouga raised his head sullenly. He met her eyes momentarily, then looked away. Ukyou was startled. Something was different about her fiancee's appearance but she couldn't quite figure out what.
"Take off your hood," encouraged Ukyou.
Ryouga shook his head.
Ryouga put his hands to his hood and left them there.
Ryouga pushed his hood down, revealing a long beautiful mass of blonde hair. Neither bandanna nor elastic band was holding it back, and so it tumbled down his shoulders and chest. He looked at Ukyou with apprehension in his eyes.
Ukyou reached out and touched a lock of the thick blonde hair. It's the same colour as Jiro's, she thought in wonder. She was surprised to find it felt the same as it did when it was black. She laughed, partially because she was relieved that Ryouga did not come home bald, and partially because he came home looking so--pretty, for lack of a better word. She looked into Ryouga's face and saw the apprehension intensify. He's frightened of what I would think, she realised.
"At least you didn't come home bald, Ryo-chan," she murmured as she reached up to kiss him.
Ryouga was a little more than surprised by the kiss;
he was expecting a different type of reaction from her. But she wasn't
yelling, and in fact, she actually chuckled at him, so maybe things weren't
as bad as he thought.
"So you're not angry?" he asked after he caught his breath.
"No, not really," replied Ukyou. "It looks rather pretty."
"Pretty?" he asked, confused.
Ukyou thought about her word choice for a moment. "Yes, pretty," she said.
He heard Jiro chuckled behind him. He sighed and brought out his bandanna from his pocket. As he tied it around his head, he glanced at his fiancee and remembered why he was in this particular predicament. He smiled to himself.
"I guess things could be worse," he said thoughtfully. "There is a good reason to why I did this..." He touched his blonde hair and gave the girls a mischievous grin. "And as the English put it: There are some things are worth dyeing for."