Disclaimer: Well, what do you want me to do about it? Okay, Tattoon Master, and Ranma 1/2 belong to someone else and blah, blah, blah...
< >: Thoughts
What’s a Mother For?
Eric Koboyashi, formally Ranma Saotome, yawned as he got up from his futon and looked about. He noted that Balla had already awakened and was washing up in the bathroom. He smiled a bit and silently said a thank you to the powers that be that had given him such a beautiful and understanding girl. She didn’t ask much from him. Oh certainly, she started out like Shampoo did during their initial times together. She showed a possessive streak like Ukyo and a stubbornness that reminded him of Akane at times. However, all of that changed as she came to know him and he of her.
Where each of the Fiancée Brigade had one or two redeeming qualities that was in excess, while everything else was lacking, Balla had varying amounts of the things that gradually made the former Saotome more attracted to her as time went on. The Tattoon Girl could be affectionate, yet held back on being sexually aggressive as the Amazon. She understood that he wasn't very experienced in such intimacy, and gave him the time he needed to get used to receiving such emotions and returning them.
She was devoted and would fight for him, but did not treat him like some possession. She knew that she needed to tame the ‘wild horse,’ not break him. She had learned that she needed to earn his trust and love, not expect to have them handed to her.
But most of all, she was the only person to have truly listened to him. Eric’s smile became wider as he remembered back to when she said that she would listen to him. From that point, Eric had discovered a rare treasure in her. He had wondered just how he would’ve ended up if she hadn’t found him. Most likely, he would have remained the bitter and lonely person that he had become when he had left Nerima and all of the craziness. She was the emotional support that he had desperately needed, when there was no one else who would give it to him.
Heck, she had even convinced him to stop smoking, and had helped purge his body of its nicotine craving.
Now some people would have thought of him as a coward for running away from his problems and obligations. However, as far as he was concerned, those problems belonged to Ranma Saotome and his stupid, arrogant pride. That idiot didn't realize when it was time to leave a sinking ship and cut his losses. Eric Koboyashi wasn’t going to take any crap, and he certainly wasn’t going to have people force him into something, just because they feel that they had any right to do so.
Eric snorted a bit as he found himself thinking as a different person. Deep down, he knew that he was still Ranma, but he wasn't going to act like his former self. That had brought him nothing but grief. So as far as he was concerned, the old Ranma was gone and good riddance. Eric Koboyashi was free and he had someone special, in which he could depend on for support and understanding.
With that in mind, he stood up and slowly walked to the bathroom. He came up behind Balla as she had finished brushing her hair. Without a word, he wrapped his arms around her and gently drew her close to him.
“Eric?” Balla asked in surprise as he suddenly showed a rare moment of affection towards her. Her body instinctively pressed itself against him.
He said not a word as he gently nuzzled the back of her neck and let his Secondary Tattoos appear. The markings let off a soft glow, which mirrored the tender feelings he was emitting toward her.
In response, Balla’s tattoos appeared and began glowing in sync with his. There was long silence between them as the priestess found herself being turned around and facing him. Then their lips gently touched in a soulful kiss.
“You know you have to talk with her sooner or later, Eric.” Balla stated as they ate breakfast.
“I don’t see any reason why.” Eric said quietly. “She hasn’t contacted me in over ten years, and I don’t feel that she should get to know the son that she gave away to that idiot Genma.”
“Eric...” Balla said softly while placing a comforting hand on his right shoulder. “That’s just your bitterness talking again. You don’t have to worry about Genma ever again. He’s going away for a long time. And I’m certain that if she doesn’t know about it now, she’s sure to find out eventually.”
Speaking of whom...
“WHAT?!” Nodoka cried out, as she gripped the phone in her hand. Guess who had just called from the police station?
Nearby, her sister Atsuko became very interested in the conversation that Nodoka was having with a certain someone that she had not seen in over a decade. When she had heard that no-good Genma had been arrested, she had silently made a prayer of thanks to Kami-sama. Divine justice had finally come.
At the city jail, Genma was sweating bullets as he listened to his wife’s cries of surprise and outrage on the phone. Calling his wife after ten years of separation had been a very drastic risk, but at the moment, he didn’t have any other option. Ranma was gone and he didn’t have anyone else to turn to. Soun was of no help whatsoever, as he continued to blubber about the schools never being joined, how the reputation of the Tendo School of the Anything Goes was ruined, and how dishonorable Genma’s son was. On that last note, Genma agreed whole-heartedly. How DARE that ungrateful son of his, ruin the Saotome Family honor and his long, luxurious retirement like this!
Nodoka was his last hope. Surely, with her traditional ways and her being Ranma’s mother, she could make the boy see reason! After all, she had the one thing that could bring him to heel. He feared it, so there was no reason that Ranma would able to ignore it, especially with his curse. And after he was brought back under his control, surely he would carry out his duty and get him out of this predicament!
The Panda Man then made a mental note to keep his own Jusenkyo Curse a secret from his wife.
Nodoka was wearing down a big hole in the floor as she paced back and forth, switching constantly from feelings of worry, anger and shock. Genma was going to prison? Her son had abandoned the Saotome name? ERIC KOBOYASHI WAS HER SON, RANMA?!
Sitting nearby and also wearing a look of concern was Atsuko. After she had been filled in the details, she wondered just what her sibling was going to do. She was just as surprised to learn that their favorite waiter at the café was also Nodoka’s son and her nephew. Despite the shock of this discovery, she was relieved in one respect. It seemed that Kami-sama had been listening to her previous prayer. Eric was indeed the total opposite to that greedy and idiotic brother-in-law of hers. However, this fact did not sit well with Nodoka.
“Eric is my son?! It’s almost too fantastic to believe! Why did he abandon the Saotome name? Why did he not tell ME, his mother? Does he hate me?”
“Calm down, sister.” Atsuko said as she walked up to her sibling and placed a comforting hand on Nodoka’s right shoulder. “Getting all worked up about this will not help. First of all, we can’t be one hundred percent certain that Genma was telling the truth about Eric and everything else. He’s not exactly the most honest person in the world, and he has lied before in order to get out of trouble.”
“Oh, I know that, Atsuko.” Nodoka said simply, surprising her sister. Seeing her expression, she gave Atsuko a bit of a glare. “I’m not TOTALLY ignorant of my husband’s habit of dishonesty. However, I can tell when he’s not lying, even though it’s been ten years, since I last saw him. And I also confirmed with the police that he is going to be sent back to Tokyo to face numerous felony charges! Why would he lie about something THIS important?”
Atsuko thought for a moment, then nodded. She knew of Genma’s behavior and he would tell the truth, if it could save his worthless hide. Taking a deep breath, she then asked. “So what are you going to do now?”
Nodoka nodded as she came to a decision. “First thing I’m going to do is get my son and...”
“Whoa! Slow down there! You‘d better think this through a bit more.” The elder Kobayashi girl said as she motioned for her sister to sit and calm down. When she did so, Atsuko also took a seat and began speaking in a controlled tone. “First of all, you can't just march in and claim Eric like that.”
“Well, why not? I’m his mother after all!”
“And exactly what kind of mother were you to him?”
“What are you talking about?”
“Nodoka, please understand this. It’s been over ten years since you last saw him. You didn’t write to him, you never phoned him, and you never even paid him a visit for all that time.”
“How could I? Genma never gave me an address since he and Ranma always moved around. All I got was a letter from every now and then, telling me that the training was going fine and everything was all right.”
“Exactly. And just what kind of feelings do you think a young child would have for a mother that was never there? A child needs both of his parents, especially while growing up. All Ranma had was that idiot Genma for company. Do you think he would just jump headlong into your arms? If Eric knows that you’re his mother, then why hasn’t he contacted you or told you the truth?”
“It’s quite simple, sister. It’s because he doesn’t want to be with you. You’re a stranger to him.”
“I’M HIS MOTHER!”
“Biologically yes. Emotionally, no.”
“What are you talking about?” Nodoka said with some anger in her tone.
“What’s Ranma’s favorite color?” Atsuko asked simply.
This inquiry caught Nodoka off guard. “What?”
“What’s his favorite color? Surely as his mother, you should know that.”
“What’s his favorite food? Does he like dogs or cats? What’s his favorite movie? What is he allergic to? What does he like to do in his spare time? Does he have any secret dreams or desires? Did he have any friends in elementary school or junior high? Do you know his plans for the future? Well, I’m waiting Nodoka. Do you know ANYTHING at all about your son since you last saw him?”
The wife of Genma bowed her head in shame as she realized what her sister was trying to tell her. In a quiet voice, she replied, “I... don’t know.” Tears began to stream down her cheeks as she looked up at her sibling. “Oh Atsuko! I don’t know ANYTHING about Ranma! I don’t know anything about my own son! What kind of mother am I? What am I going to do?”
It was then that Atsuko took Nodoka into her arms as Ranma’s mother continue to weep. She gently patted Nodoka’s back. “There, there. It’s not too late and I’m sure we can think of something.”
Nodoka’s sister nodded as she let her sibling calm down a bit, then came up with an idea. Gently pushing Nodoka away, she said, “Assuming that Eric IS Ranma, then perhaps we can work on what we DO know about him. For one thing, we know that he’s got someone who’s very close to him.”
“You mean... Balla?”
“Yes. I believe she can help us in understanding Eric Koboyashi.”
“Don’t you mean Ranma?”
“No Nodoka. I mean ERIC.”
The next day...
Balla sat on edge in the coffee shop, in which Eric worked at part-time. Currently, he was still at the school, as he had gotten stuck with clean-up detention again, but since business was slow, his manager was able to manage things without him. It was just as well, since he most certainly wouldn’t have approved of what the Tattoon Priestess was about to do.
She was going to meet her mother-in-law.
Balla had been quite surprised to receive a phone call from Nodoka’s sister, but the firmness in her tone made it quite clear that Eric’s mother wanted to see him. Aside from that brief time she spoke with the Kobayashi sisters previously, she didn’t really know much about Eric’s mother. However, her senses did tell her that Nodoka did have some... odd perceptions about certain things. And since she now knew the truth, things were only going to get more complicated. However, Balla had to know more about Nodoka before making a final judgment. If she really was the monster that Eric seemed to think she was, then Nodoka would never come near him. Not if she had anything to do about it!
The Tattoon girl shook her head and sighed. Here she was, getting all worked up over someone she hardly knew. She calmed herself down, just as her senses picked up two certain presences entering the shop. She took a deep breath and signaled to Nodoka and her sister.
Eric growled a bit as he put away the mops and buckets. Stupid clean up duty. As he looked out the classroom window and saw that the sun was setting, he glanced down at his watch and noted that he was running late. He needed to get to a phone and call Balla, to tell her that he would be very late for dinner. As he headed out the hallway, he began thinking back to their conversation the previous night. His significant other had been insisting that he should consider reconciling with his mother, since she may not be like Genma.
<Hmpf! If she just left me to that Panda Man all these years without so much as a phone call or a letter, then I don’t want nuthin’ to do with her. My life is finally getting back on line and just about all of Ranma’s Saotome’s headaches are gone. Why would I want to complicate things now?>
As he made his way to a nearby payphone, he continued to believe that his belief to not meet with his mother was the right choice. After all, it’s not as if she knew who her son was right?
“So you know all about my Eric?” Balla asked as she sipped from her cup of tea.
“Yes... I know that Eric... is my son Ranma.” Nodoka replied haltingly.
Sitting beside her, Atsuko nodded. “Yes, we were quite surprised to find out that our favorite waiter was my nephew. What we don’t understand is why he hadn’t told us all this time.”
“Well, to tell the truth, he didn’t know about it either until recently.” Balla admitted. Since Nodoka knew the truth, the Tattoon girl decided that there was no point in denying it. “Oh, and by the way, I would prefer if you were to speak of him as Eric. He has long since abandoned the name of Ranma Saotome.”
“I would also suggest that you do not try to force him into things that are no longer his concern. He does not take very well to such acts and gets angry... and you would not like it when he’s angry.”
“He has abandoned the Saotome name?! What kind of...?”
“That name has given him nothing but grief.” Balla said simply as she took another sip of tea. Already, she was beginning to dislike the impressions she was getting from Nodoka.
“So why didn’t he try to contact me? I’m his mother and...!” Nodoka stopped suddenly as she felt a hand on her right shoulder. She looked over to her sister, who was shaking her head, indicating that her sibling should calm down. This was not the time to lose one’s control. Taking a deep breath, Nodoka relaxed and asked in a much softer tone. “I mean, wouldn’t my son want to see his mother after more than ten years?”
Balla paused for a long moment before speaking. “I could ask the same of you. Wouldn’t you have wanted to contact your son, rather than waiting ten years? From what Eric has told me, you hadn’t even attempted to find him until now.”
“How could I?” Nodoka pleaded. “Genma left me no address and no way to contact him after he took our son on that training trip!”
Balla found it increasingly harder to keep her temper in check. “And you just LET him take your son away like that? I’m beginning to understand why Eric wants nothing to do with you.”
“Why you...!” She rose up with the intent on slapping the insolent girl.
Before Eric’s mother could say anything else, she felt a comforting hand on her shoulder. She looked over to her sister, who was shaking her head, while giving her sibling a firm look. This was NOT the time to lose one’s control. If she wanted even the slightest chance of being reunited with her only child, then she would have to calm down and listen.
As Nodoka sat back down and relaxed, Balla also put away her anger and gave her a small smile to give her some assurance that all hope was not lost. As both sides recollected themselves, they began to look for common ground.
“Mrs. Saotome, I wanted to get to know my mother-in-law before making any kind of judgment.”
“M-Mother-in-law?” Nodoka exclaimed.
“Well, perhaps to refer you as such is... premature.” Balla said gently. “By the laws of my people, Eric and I are husband and wife, though understandably, he was very disagreeable to the idea in the beginning. Many others and ESPECIALLY your husband, were responsible for his aversion to marriage.”
“What do you mean?”
“I think I know what she’s talking about, Sister.” Atsuko intervened. “Remember what Eric said at the fair?”
Nodoka became silent as she recalled how angry her son had been when he spoke to that girl, what was her name...? Yes, Kasumi. Then she remembered Ranma saying something about being engaged against his will...
“You mean... all those things that he said about being sold...?”
“That‘s right.” Balla confirmed. “To your husband, my poor Eric was nothing more than a bargaining chip to fill his fat belly. Well, from now on, he’ll have to get used to prison food.”
“Then... what Genma said about being in jail because of Ranma is true? How could he do such a thing to his own father?”
“He got no less than what he deserved.” Atsuko said, surprising both Balla and her sister. “In fact, he should have gotten worse.”
“Atsuko!” Nodoka chided.
However, her sibling would not be silent as she decided, that it was time to tell Nodoka, how she REALLY felt about her good-for-absolutely-nothing brother-in-law. Besides, she liked Balla’s spunk. “Nodoka, I cannot, in good conscience, just sit here and let you blind yourself to the truth. Open your eyes! Genma was bad for you from the start, and he would have dragged poor Eric down with him! It’s a good thing that your son had the sense to abandon him and live his own life. That idiot Genma has no one to blame for his troubles but himself, and it was about time that he was punished for his acts!”
“No buts about it, Sister! If he had done even a TENTH of the crimes and left ME to take the blame, I would have sent him to prison long ago! How can you defend a man who takes your only child away for ten years, then torture and sell him off like a piece of property, just so he didn’t have to work for anything? I don’t think he even had any INTENTION of contacting you!”
“He would have...”
“No he wouldn’t.” Balla said quietly, getting both women’s attention.
“What do you mean?” Nodoka demanded.
“Eric told me that his father never ONCE tried to get in physical contact with you, nor did he inform his son that you were still alive. For ten long years, all Eric knew was that pig Genma. I’m quite certain and so is my darling, that Genma would have never tried to find you, since you most certainly wouldn't have approved of many of the crimes he had done over the years, especially with his son. Eric informed me that his father was adamant with ‘Uniting the Schools of the Anything Goes and running the Tendo Dojo.’ Hmph! He probably saw it as a way of leeching off his son for the rest of his life. All he had to do was get Eric married to one of the Tendo girls and he could live off his son’s sweat.”
“Sounds like Genma all right.” Atsuko agreed. “And once that happened, he wouldn’t have even thought about contacting you ever again, Sister.”
“No! He would have told me!” Nodoka said in denial, though a part of her was beginning to realize the truth in their words. “He called me today and...!”
“And what, Nodoka?” Atsuko asked sternly. “Tell you that his son has abandoned him and put him in jail? Doesn’t THAT tell you something? It’s time for you to face facts. Genma can’t weasel his way out of this situation, since he lost his only means of escape, (your son), and he’s now trying to get you to bail him out! I say, let him rot in prison!”
“Atsuko... how can you be so heartless? If you had a husband, then you would understand!”
Atsuko‘s eyes narrowed, causing her sister to bow down her head in shame. The elder sister had been widowed for more than ten years and the loss of her own spouse had been a sore subject. She then countered with a firm tone. “At least MY husband was there when my children and I needed him. How is having a husband like yours, and being alone for years any different? Where was Genma for the last decade? No phone calls, no visits and only the OCCASIONAL letter with very vague details at best! He said he was too busy taking care of Ranma? Hah! More like he was too busy EXPLOITING him and filling that bottomless pit he calls a stomach! I cannot believe my sister is so dense as to not to see the truth in front of her!”
Nodoka then began to feel that world was turning against her. Even her own sister was all for abandoning Genma. But how could Nodoka do so? Wasn’t it the duty of every Japanese woman to remain obedient to one’s spouse? Genma was after all the head of the household and he knew what was best, right? Then the thought of never being able to come close to her only child caused her to shudder and lose hope. She didn’t know what to do.
At that point, Balla began to take pity on the mother of her beloved and decided that the best way for her to reconcile with Eric was to let her know more about him and how he felt. She allowed the mark on her forehead to appear as she focused on her mother-in-law. The sudden appearance of the tattoo caught both women by surprise as they gazed upon the eerie symbol that glowed on her forehead. Then the Tattoon Priestess reached out with her right index finger, while letting the mark on the back of her hand to appear as well. With the most barest of touches, she made contact with Nodoka’s forehead and focused. It was then that the girl noticed a certain someone coming in through the front door of the café.
Atsuko’s sister became wide-eyed as images began to flood her mind. All of Eric’s trials and tribulations began to flash before her as his entire life became one long and intricate string of memories. Every experience, and every emotion was hers to see and feel. It was if she was reliving her son’s life in exacting detail. She began to tremble uncontrollably as she saw each and every one of the horrors and moments of pain that her offspring had endured, all of which were connected either directly or indirectly by Genma. Tears streamed down her cheeks as the history of her son was revealed to her. She was especially shaken to her very soul as she saw the Neko Ken training and the accident at Jusenkyo. How could Genma have done that to him?
Finally, after what seemed to be an eternity, (though in reality it was only a few minutes), the images faded away and she was brought back to the present. Nodoka looked as she was about to faint dead away as Balla’s spell ended. She then gazed upon the Tattoon girl with awe, as she now realized that all that she believed about Genma was a lie. Balla knew far more about her son in a few weeks than she knew in his entire lifetime. And that fact filled her with absolute shame. How could she even claim to be Ranma’s... no, Eric’s mother?
In the truest sense, he had no mother. No wonder he didn’t want to see her. Who would after living in Hell for sixteen years? She had no right to even speak to him after all this. Where was she when he needed her the most? How could she have even let Genma take him away like that? How could she have just let him put her son through such things and not even lift a finger to stop it? Now that he was finally free of him and had someone who truly loved him, who was she to cause him more anguish? He deserved far better and if that meant Nodoka would never again see him as her child... then so be it.
Though it pained her to admit it, Nodoka knew that Eric was following his own path and it seemed that she was not a part of it. It saddened her that he would not even give her a chance, but it was his decision and as his mother, she had to respect it. Eric was a man among men, of that she had no doubt. He was strong, and had a beautiful and understanding wife. Balla would make him happy, and Nodoka could at least take solace in that.
It took a long while before she finally found her voice, and when she spoke, she did so with the most utmost of humility. “I’m... not certain of what you did, Balla... but I cannot deny what I have just seen. Genma has escaped punishment for his crimes for too long, and I cannot turn a blind eye to his actions, especially for what he did to my only child. My... son has suffered enough... no, far more than anyone could ever think to endure... and I will not seek to burden him any longer.”
Atsuko became shocked at her sister’s sudden reversal. To have her freely admit that her husband was good-for-absolutely-nothing, was quite a surprise in itself, but to have her give up hope of ever reuniting with her son was beyond belief. She became torn between feeling pride and pity for her sibling and did not know what to do.
Nodoka barely managed to hold in her tears as she held up a hand. “No, Atsuko. Ranma... Eric has lived without me for this long, and my being in his life now would be... (sniff)... irrelevant. I was never there for him... before... (sniff)... why should I change that now?”
“Nodoka... do you realize what you’re saying? You may never see Ranma again.”
At this point, Nodoka let her tears trickle down her cheeks as she shook her head. “He’s Eric... not Ranma. I see that now and I have no right to call him my son. It is a mother’s duty to see that her child is happy. I have long since neglected that duty. What kind of mother would I be, if I didn’t put my son’s happiness ahead of my own? If it means losing him... (sob)... then so be it.” She then gazed into Balla’s eyes and smiled a little. “Balla... please look after Eric and give him that which I did not. He doesn’t want to see me, and I can understand that. And even though I may never see him again, I’ll know that he has someone who will love him. That will be enough.”
Balla smiled back at her mother-in-law and said, “I am proud to be part of Eric’s life and yours. And I believe that you’re a little premature in thinking that Eric wouldn’t want to see you... now.”
With those words, she pointed toward the front door.
Nodoka and Atsuko both turned in their seats and saw Eric standing a few feet away from them. He had heard Nodoka’s every words and felt the sincerity in them. All the pain and anger he had felt against her had dramatically lessened. Though he did feel some resentment, his mother’s promise to leave him alone forever, made him rethink his stand against reuniting with her.
Finally, after a long period of silence, he spoke.
The café was nearly drowned out in tears as a mother rushed up to embrace her son and began crying nonstop. She held him in a grip that threatened to crush the life out of him, but Eric didn’t even notice as he returned the embrace and let ten years of pain wash away.
“Eric, I’m so sorry that I disobeyed you, but Nodoka already knew about you and...”
“It’s okay, Balla. It’s okay. Actually, I was wrong and I‘m grateful that you got me and my Mom back together.” He brought her close as they both walked home. After a tearful reunion and several more hours of talking with his mother, Eric had decided that letting Nodoka be a part of his new life would be all right. Though he could do without his mother’s doting and her subtle hints to give her some grandchildren. She had gushing nonstop about how he and Balla made such a lovely couple and had even been making plans to give them a proper wedding ceremony. This embarrassed Eric greatly, though he was thinking about how his significant other would look in a wedding kimono.
As they stopped at a corner, Eric couldn’t help but take her into his arms and kiss her. He didn’t care if anyone was watching and Balla more than deserved it for helping him come to terms with his mother. Who cared if anyone saw them? What they would see would be two people in love.
The Tattoon girl was thrilled at her beloved’s new boldness to show affection and returned the kiss with equal fervor.
Things seemed have finally been looking for the better and the worst was past. All of Ranma’s former headaches were gone and there was nothing and no one left that could threaten their future happiness now.
“RANMA NO BAKA!!!!!!!!!”
Well... almost no one.
To be concluded...
Well, one more part to go as I wrap this story up. I know it’s been a while since I updated this or any of my stories, but the problems in Real Life have not been kind. I hope to get part two of this chapter up soon, and I thank all those who have stayed with me during these hard times.
As to whom had just interrupted our two lovers, well, I’m sure anyone can guess as to her identity and that the final part will be... intense. See you there!