A wise man once said than an empire was more than the royals who ruled it. It was more than the people it governed. It was the land itself. It was the air, the water, and most importantly the life.
And so the legend was born. In a distant land by the name of Amerin, the people lived in prosperity and life flourished. The secret was in acertain family heirloom passed down to each ascending empress. Unknown, to many, including the emperor by her side, the only other person to know of it was her chosen daughter. The one born with the mark.
It was rumored that the heirloom was a scepter, which the empress used to control the rains. Others said it was a glove, a ornate jeweled glove, that the empress used to control nature and the people. But no one ever found the truth.
Centuries passed. The land and the people lived harmoniously. But, tragedy always strikes those who feel they are invincible.
With the birth of her third child, Karoi Tendo became gravely ill.
However, the land did not suffer. For the child was to be the next empress. And so the circle was complete. The empress died, happy in the knowledge that her legacy was to live on, but saddened by the thought of never seeing her daughter ascend.
Alas, a human can only do so much, in so much time. The child's time would come. And the land would once again rejoice. And so our story begins...
The Wolf's Eye
Written By Silver Princess
"Your Majesty, a man is here to see you. He claims he is the son of an old friend." The young messenger bowed his head to the floor, his eyes never leaving the black marble. It was protocol for all servants of the Royal House of Tendo.
The figure sitting high upon his golden throne looked up for a moment. The current conversation he was holding with his eldest daughter put on hold. "Yes Jeric? Who is he?"
Still continuing to gaze at the dark floor, the young man answered. "He claims to be the son of an old school mate of yours, sire. One by the name of Genma Saotome." The emperor's attention was grabbed immediately by the familiar name.
He nearly stood up in excitement. But his daughter's soft hand on his arm let him remember his place. He schooled his features into their normal, benevolent mask. "Show the man in, Jeric. Quickly."
Jeric bowed low before his emperor and walked back to the Receiving Room. As soon as the messenger left, Soun turned to his daughter, distress written in his eyes.
"Oh, Kasumi! He's finally come! I knew he would someday! He's going to ask...oh! What will I say! What will I do!"
His eldest smiled down at him. "As mother used to say, 'The truth shall set you free'. Isn't it time you let go of your burden, father? Its been 10 years. Let it go. Tell him the truth, but only if he asks."
Soun nodded at her wisdom. He smiled whimsically as he saw pieces of his beloved Karoi shine through her smile. 'So beautiful. Its a wonder Tofu went wild when he was first courting her', he thought to himself.
Within a few moments, the large oak doors leading to the Throne Room, were slowly drawn open. A young man along with Jeric walked the long carpet to the throne.
Soun took a long, perusal look at the young man. He mentally shook his head at the figure in front of him. It was hard for him to believe that this was the same little boy who used to terrorize the maids and send his prize swans on an early trip to the West.
Jeric bowed again to his Emperor. "My liege, may I present Ranma Saotome, son of the Royal Highnesses, Emperor Genma and Empress Nadoka." The Prince nodded his head to the servant and then bowed shortly before the throne.
"Emperor Soun, my father sends his greetings and his regrets that he was unable to make this trip. Family...difficulties have risen in our home. It was necessary that he remain there to...rectify them." Prince Ranma grimaced mentally as he skimmed around the truth.
'Difficulties? Hah. More like he got in trouble with Mother again. *sigh* He will never learn...' Ranma thought quietly. A small smirk appeared at the corner of his lips.
He slowly glanced around the throne. 'Hasn't changed much. But... something feels like it missing. I wonder.'
Emperor Soun smiled weakly at the Prince. He felt a fainting spell coming on. 'Oh dear. Not now.'
"Welcome to my palace, Prince. My home is your home. My servants are now yours. Any accommodation you require will be at your fingers. You need only ask. Now, forgive me for interrupting this meeting, but I fear that I am feeling a bit under the weather at the moment. Please excuse me. My daughter, Princess Nabiki will see to anything you require. Good day."
With that said, Emperor Soun stepped off his throne, and with the help of Kasumi, walked out of the Throne Room. Ranma frowned as he watched them walk out.
'He wasn't this feeble the last time I saw him. Of course, seventeen years is a while...but still. What happened?'
A soft clearing of a throat brought his attention back. Before him stood the second daughter of Emperor Soun Tendo. A quick overall glance proved that her tastes hadn't changed much. A modest looking dress was one's first thought of her apparel. Until she turned. Two long slits up to her mid-thigh were seen.
"Nabs. What happened to your father?" Princess Nabiki cringed at the nickname. Only Ranma ever got away with calling her that. And she forever resented him for it.
Placing on her 'business mask', she appraised the male before her. 'Oh, nice chest. Great for cuddling. Long, strong legs. Great for-'
Ranma interrupted her thoughts. "When you're done with the silent auction, would you care to answer the question?" He smiled as her mask slipped for a moment.
Nabiki silently fumed at him. 'Jerk! We'll just see of he's as gullible now as he was back then.'
"Of course Ranma-dear. But it'll cost you." He reached inside his cloak and pulled out a small cloth bag. He weighted it for moment in his hand.
Nabiki was surprised when Ranma tosses it to her. A silver bracelet glinted in the sunlight as her right hand reached out to catch it.
A thought hit Ranma as the light hit his eye. "Nabs?" Bright brown eyes searched light blue-gray. "Where's Akane?"
The question floated around the room in the silence. The small cloth bag in Nabiki's hand fell to the floor. Ranma was surprised. Very few things made Nabiki let go of money. This had to be big.
He glanced at Nabiki's wide shocked eyes and pale features. 'Damn. This is not going to be good.' Nabiki shook her head for a moment and reached down to pick up the bag. Ranma turned away with a slight blush. Her dress dropped in places that a noble lady's shouldn't.
"Well?" Nabiki straightened and walked over to a side door. "Let me show you to your room. We'll talk there." The guards quickly opened the large oak door and Ranma followed her through.
~~*** -- ***~~
Ranma took a long look around the well-furnished room. The dark tapestries flowed into to the black marble floor. The large four post bed could fit at least 5 men. And the bath could hold at least an army of people.
'Yup. Same old palace.' He removed his dark blue cloak and draped it over the large stuffed chair seated before the fireplace.
"Well? Where is your little sister? Terrorizing the maids still? I won't believe it. She's what-all of 27 years now, isn't she?"
No one answered him. For a moment, Ranma thought he might have lost her in the large room. But she stepped out of the shadows by the door.
Her eyes were large and wounded. As if someone had just robbed the Palace Treasury. Tears swam in dark brown eyes ringed with pain.
"Do you honestly not know? I swear, if you're lying to me Ranma, I'll see to it that every single dirty little secret I've ever saved about you is posted in the Royal Courtyard!?!"
Ranma took a step back from her outburst. This was new. Nabiki always wore her mask of ice. 'Something's wrong. Dear God, what happened to this family.'
Nabiki blinked back the tears rapidly forming in her eyes. 'Damn tears. Cry a river and still there's more left.' She started as she felt Ranma's hand touch her hand. He gently lead her to the large chair before the fireplace.
With a gentle push, she sat down. She took a deep breath and looked up at Ranma. He sat on the floor before her, giving his undivided attention.
"Talk Nabs. What's going on around here? Its' like someone died or something!"
Nabiki flinched as he hit the truth. "Ranma, I have something to ask you. And I want you to answer as truthfully as you can." Ranma frowned but nodded in agreement.
"You remember the project my father had Akane start when she turned 10?" Ranma looked away as the memory rushed back to him...
A young Ranma looked around the large garden for his friend. She was never late...so where was she?? Quick footsteps registered to his ears before the small body flew into him from behind.
"Ranma! Ranma! Ranma! You won't believe this!!" He turned to see the young girl behind him jump up and down in excitement. 'Must be something major. She's never this happy anymore.'
Excitement sparkled in her hazel eyes. Her smile was bright enough to blind the Sun. Ranma felt something catch in his throat. He had never looked at his friend like this before. Why now? He shook his head and tried to concentrate on her babble.
"Papa has given me a project! Can you believe it! ME! Of all his three daughters, he chose me! Oh! I can't wait to see what it is!" Something flashed in her eyes for a moment, and her smile faltered.
Ranma immediately went on alert. "What's wrong?" Akane looked back up at him and tried to regain her earlier enthusiasm. But it wasn't working. Something had changed. She looked away in with a solemn expression.
"P-Papa says that we have to leave immediately. We're leaving right before sunset." Ranma frowned. She often left on short notice, but that wasn't new. What was so different about this time?
"So? You do that all the time Akane. What's wrong?" Bright hazel eyes looked up to him pleadingly. She opened her mouth to answer but her voice caught in her throat. She cleared in softly and tried again.
"Ranma. I...I won't be coming back." The words hit him like a shock of cold wind. His soul twisted in dread.
"You're joking right? I mean...you can't leave and-and not come back! That's not fair!" Ranma felt his world close around him. His lungs were burning with each breath he swallowed.
Akane felt a spark of betrayal at his words. "You mean you're not happy for me!?" Angry tears now stung her hazel eyes. Her soft lips were now pulled into a frown.
Ranma glared at her for a moment before speaking. "Why should I be!? You're leaving me! Jus' like everyone else in my life! Why should I care anything about you!? You're NOTHING like her! You will NEVER BE!!"
As soon as the words were said, Ranma regretted them. He knew Akane hated being compared to others. It brought back memories that were best left in the past. However, what was said...was said. Nothing could change that.
"I-I'm sorry. I didn't mean that Ak-"
"Save it! That's all you really want isn't it! You just wanted your precious best friend back! I'm nothing but-but a replacement!" Her small fist were clenched by her sides. The knuckles turning white.
"You can't even be happy that my father has finally looked at me without seeing my mother in me. That he doesn't bawl and whine that life isn't fair that his sweet Kaori was taken from him! Do you KNOW how it feels when your own Father won't LOOK at you!?!"
Ranma was stunned into silence. Akane had been moody before, but man oh man was she grouchy today! He held out a hand to try to calm her down. It didn't do any good. She took a deep breath and closed her eyes. Her small hands brushed at the sides of her dress.
"Look, I'm going to leave now. Maybe one day, when you finally grow up, you'll see that I'm not abandoning you. I'm only following my destiny. You'll understand...someday."
Akane opened her eyes and looked up at Ranma. She bit her bottom lip and tears began to fall from her eyes. Quickly, before she lost her nerve, she stood up on her tiptoes and planted a quick kiss on his cheek.
"Don't forget me," she whispered before she pulled away from him. Before Ranma even had a chance to react, she turned and fled the garden the same way she came in.
That had been the last time he had seen Akane. His parents forbade his leave the palace to visit the Tendo Empire. It was if...they were trying to keep him from something. His father had thrown him into vigorous training for the next 10 years.
His anger at her betrayal in leaving him, slowly changed into regret. His last words to Akane weren't what he meant to say. He NEVER would have ever wanted he the think that she was a replacement for someone else who had also left him.
Shortly after he turned 13, he remembered that Akane and him were promised to be wed one day. He was surprised to find out that the betrothal had been nulled and void since the day she had left that last time. He questioned his father and received a threat to cut him from the throne in return. He was careful not to mention it again. He just wished he could take back what he said.
He always regretted saying what he said...always...
A hand waving in from of Ranma's face woke him from his trance with a start. "Huh? Oh sorry, Nabs! Didn't mean to zone out on you like that. You were saying?"
Nabiki frowned a bit at the look on Ranma's face. 'He was remembering something. And from that much grief reflected in those eyes, it must've been Hell.'
"The Project. Remember?" Nabiki internally smirked as confusion fled from his face to be replaced by a similar business mask of her own.
"Yeah. Akane mentioned it. She never did tell me what it was though. And where is she!? I figured she would've at least stopped by to say 'Hi' at least. I was her fiancé once."
Nabiki was again shocked by Ranma's apparent lack of knowledge. She carefully took a deep breath and tried to explain again.
"The reason Akane isn't here right now, has to do with the project she did for our Father, Ranma. You see, thirteen years ago, Akane was married to a neighboring empire."
Ranma felt the room slip away for a moment. His old fiancée, the girl who he thought about constantly for the past 17 years of his life...had gotten married...?
"I still don't see your point, Nabiki. Make it quick, before I lose interest in this conversation." Ranma bit back more angry words. This trip to Tendo's Empire was turning more and more into a living Hell.
"Ranma, no one is allowed to speak of her husband's name within the walls of this Royal Palace. It is considered high treason and death is always the result. Akane didn't want to marry him. Father was blackmailed into it."
The young man in front of her whirled around