Weebee: So we've established that someone's been sneaking in and narrating the fic.
Shadou: Just narrating it? How do we even know we're the ones writing it anymore?
Weebee: Because… we typed things? Though… I will admit this does look a lot more competent than I'm usually capable of.
Shadou: Yeah, it's a lot better than my usual writing style as well. So… there must be someone else writing this and… I dunno, writing us in?
Weebee: A someone-else insertion? A crossover with real life? ...My head hurts.
Shadou: Well, in any case, we hope you all enjoy the fic. Roll tape!
Chapter 3: The Pervert's Clinic
"I can't believe it," Akane mumbled through a mouth full of baked goods. "How can a guy even cook this well?"
"Well, he's not exactly a guy right now, right?" Ranko replied as she finished off the muffin she was eating.
"Hey!" Ranma growled, tugging irritably on the edge of her skirt. "This was your Mom's idea, remember?"
Ranko just smirked, as she reached over to the brown paper bag her doppelganger was carrying in her off-hand and grabbed another muffin, evoking another protest from the Muffin-Bearer.
"You realize I only made 20 of these, right?" asked Ranma.
"It's not like you're going to eat all of them," Ranko replied, before taking a bite.
She nearly choked when Ranma looked at her oddly and replied, "Of course I am, why'd ya think I cooked 'em?"
"I don't understand how you can look almost as good as me if you eat like Daddy," Ranko said after she cleared her windpipe.
Ranma shuddered. "I really wish you wouldn't call him that."
"What's wrong with calling Daddy Daddy," Ranko responded, "He is my Daddy, after all."
"Alright, I get it! Just stop saying that!" Ranma said as she shuddered again.
"But why?" Ranko replied. "Daddy's my Daddy, so there's nothing wrong with calling him Daddy."
Apparently deciding that speaking was just making things worse, Ranma repressed a third shudder and kept her mouth shut.
Ranko smiled victoriously before turning to the girl walking on Ranma's other side. "You're being pretty quiet, Akane. Something wrong?"
Akane didn't respond for several seconds, her eyes remaining closed as she chewed. "Oh, these are just really good," she complimented, finishing off her second muffin.
Ranma shrugged. "It's just Kasumi's recipe, and she can make it better."
"Who can make what better?" said Nabiki as she came up behind the trio.
"Here, this will settle it," Ranko proclaimed, swiping yet another muffin from the steadily emptying bag as Ranma looked on forlornly. "Try this."
Nabiki looked down at the brown object dubiously. "This isn't Akane's, is it?"
"Hey, aren't two jokes about that in a day a bit much?" Akane asked, irritably, but was soundly ignored as her older sister took a bite.
Nabiki pondered for several seconds during her mastication before swallowing and clearing her throat. "Whoever made these has a bright career in baking ahead of them." She eyed the bag Ranma was holding. "And you said someone makes these better?"
"Yeah, Kasumi does. It's her recipe," Ranma restated.
"If Kasumi makes better than this, she's been holding out on us," she pronounced evenly before making a grab for the whole bag. "Those would sell better than Taiyaki at Tanabata."
"Hey! No way, I'm keeping the rest of 'em," Ranma responded, covering the bag protectively as she leapt up to the top of a small nearby building.
"Your loss," The middle Tendo shrugged, before noticing that the martial artist was staring off down the street, surprised.
"Hey, is that Tofu's clinic?"
"Um… yes," Ranko said, somewhat caught off-guard by the non-sequitur.
"Tofu's clinic's… never mind," Ranma replied before shaking her head. "I've gotta go talk to him."
Akane and Ranko shared a look before Akane spoke up. "Why do you need to talk to that creep?"
Ranko nodded. "Yeah, he's the guy that was harassing Kasumi when she was eleven."
Ranma rolled her eyes. "Oh come on, you have to know that was just his condition…"
Nabiki gave her a dead stare. "What condition is that? Lolicon?"
"Lowly-what?" Ranma asked, confused.
"You know, liking underdeveloped girls way too much…" Nabiki clarified, obviously irritated.
"You're saying Kasumi's underdeveloped? You ever looked at your sister?" Ranma said, and then winced as she realized who she was talking to.
"Yes, I'd say at eleven Kasumi was underdeveloped," Nabiki replied. The other two girls nodded, seeming not even to really notice the implication that Ranma could think Kasumi was attractive.
The pigtailed redhead just decided to count her blessings and move on. "I think it's Kasumi, rather than the fact she was eleven. Back home, he was still nuts about her. Think that's why he left town, ta find a way to get over his crazy reaction."
"Whatever," Akane said, crossing her arms over her chest. "Why do you want to talk to him, anyways?"
"Well, aside from Cologne or the ol' freak, Tofu was the most reliable source for figuring out when something weird was goin' on," Ranma replied. "I think this qualifies."
The three girls just looked at each other and shrugged. "Well, you're a little too developed for his tastes, so knock yourself out," said Nabiki
Ranma just shrugged back, and began leaping off. For a moment the thought came to mind that, given what else was strangely different here, Dr. Tofu might actually be the 'creep' the others described him as. Still, she needed some answers, and he was the best option short of going off to China to find Cologne.
Landing neatly in front of the clinic, the bag of muffins still carefully balanced in her left hand, she reached out to open the door, only to hear a voice frantically yelling "Wait!" Turning, she saw a blue and white blur charging at her, resolving into Akane as it came to an unsteady halt.
"What's up?" Ranma asked, tilting her head, confused.
"I'm not letting you go into that… pervert's den alone!" The blue-black haired girl growled, suddenly seeming a lot more like the one Ranma was used to.
"Fine," Ranma rolled her eyes. "Just don't attack him unless he gives you a really good reason, all right?"
"Of course," Akane huffed as Ranma opened the door, the sound of the jangling bell bouncing around a sparsely populated waiting room. After walking over and scratching her name on the ledger next to the door into the back portion of the clinic, Ranma moved to sit down and Akane took a seat next to her.
A few moments later the doctor exited the back room, writing something on a pad of paper and tearing it off to hand to an elderly man with a cane. The man thanked him and slowly hobbled out the door as the doc turned and examined the ledger. "Saotome?" He looked up and around the room before catching sight of the two martial artists. "Oh, Akane Tendo and Ranko Saotome…" He looked down at the ledger again and blinked. "Though… I don't know how you managed to mangle the last Kanji of your first name that badly…" He shook his head. "It's good to see you two. I haven't seen either of you since Mrs. Saotome decided to change doctors… nine years ago."
"H.. Hello, Doctor," Akane said, bowing somewhat nervously.
Ranma looked the older man over, not seeing any appreciable differences from his own version aside from a much less battered looking set of glasses. "Hey, doc," she said, casually.
Tofu nodded to the two of them before turning to the rest of the room and calling his next patient. A man and woman who had been sitting on the other side of the room got up and followed him into the back, leaving the two martial artists alone.
"So," Ranma said, after several seconds of silence. "What happened with the doc that got you guys so mad at him? He seems fine to me."
"I'm not exactly sure," Akane admitted. "It's just, during one of our checkups, he started babbling and speaking to Kasumi in this really weird, out of it sort of way. Then he grabbed this study skeleton he had on the wall and started dancing out of the room with it."
"Okay," Ranma nodded. "Sounds pretty standard Tofu so far. Then what happened?"
"Well, we told Auntie Nodoka about it," Akane explained. "She went to visit him, and when she came home she was pretty angry. She told us that what the doctor was trying to do wasn't a good thing and that we should stay away from him. ...I only figured out what that meant later."
"Why? What was he tryin' to do?" Ranma asked cluelessly.
"He was trying to molest her!" Akane burst out angrily.
"Well, while I can see how someone might get that idea, it certainly wasn't my intention," said Tofu, making both girls jump. "Ms. Tendo, I'd love to talk about this, but I have a patient to attend to. Could you at least keep your voices down if you're going to continue out here?"
"I…" Akane wasn't sure if she should be angry or mortified, but in either case, her face was turning red.
"We got it, sorry doc," Ranma replied. The brown haired man nodded, turning while opening a file he'd been holding in his hand. The next few moments were spent in an uncomfortable silence, until Dr. Tofu emerged back into the waiting room with the old couple.
"Are you going to be all right, dears?" The old woman asked as she approached the two sitting girls, appearing worried.
Akane merely buried her burning face in her hands, while Ranma scratched the back of her neck. "We'll be fine, I think."
"I'm sure Dr. Tofu will take care of them, Michiko," the woman's husband said, "We need to get going."
The woman nodded before turning and accompanying him out of the building.
"Hmm…" Tofu said, studying the two martial artists intently. "I'm honestly unsure of what to make of you two," he confessed. "It's not every day I get children from families that changed doctors without notice or warning coming into my clinic, especially with that kind of accusation. Why exactly are you here?"
"My fault, doc," said Ranma. "I'm kinda new 'round here. I didn't know you had that kind 'a history with the Tendos or Saotomes."
Tofu looked at Ranma and adjusted his glasses on his nose. "Unless I'm quite mistaken, you're the daughter of Nodoka Saotome. And, given I was your doctor for several years, I don't think I'm mistaken."
"Well, that's sorta the issue," Ranma explained. "I'm not the daughter of Nodoka Saotome. I'm her son."
This time, Tofu took his glasses right off, squinting at Ranma before putting them on again. "Excuse me?"
"Well, it's kinda a long story," Ranma said, while Akane stayed back and watched for the moment. "I know you've heard of Jusenkyo. I've got the curse of the spring of drowned girl."
Tofu shook his head. "Young lady, I know in a very general way how those springs work. There's no reason why anyone would look like someone else's twin after falling into that spring… at least not unless they're very closely related, and I know Mrs. Saotome only had one child. If you're trying to play some kind of joke…"
"Look, I'll show you…" Ranma started, and then frowned. "Damn, I can't change in this uniform…"
"I have some patient gowns, if you'd like," The doctor offered. Ranma immediately nodded, and a look of mild surprise crossed the brown haired man's face.
"Ranma, are you sure that's a good idea?" Akane asked nervously.
Both of the others in the room looked at her quizzically. Then Tofu's expression soured. "Ms. Tendo, if you'd like I'll lay out the gown in the other room, and then come in here to wait with you while Ms. Saotome changes."
Akane nodded. When the preparations had been made and Ranma left the room to change, she asked, "You said that we misunderstood what happened, so what actually did?"
"It's… hard to explain," Tofu replied, rubbing the bridge of his nose where his glasses sat. "Though I think it might be a good idea if I spoke to Mrs. Saotome. Just… please tell her not to bring Kasumi along with her this time?"
Akane nodded uncertainly just as Ranma re-entered the front room, dressed in a cloth hospital gown and holding two cups of water. "Okay, watch this carefully, 'cuz I've had to show it off way too often lately," the redhead said.
Tofu nodded, and Ranma upended one cup over her head, shifting into male form. "Incredible, an actual Jusenkyo curse…" the doctor said, startled. "Can I see the other glass for a moment?"
Ranma approached wordlessly, handing him the second water glass. Tofu dipped a finger in it and raised an eyebrow. "So, cold… this will turn you back into a girl?"
"Yeah, hot water's birth form, cold water's cursed form," Ranma explained.
"I know," Tofu admitted. "That's why this surprises me. Do you mind?"
Ranma obligingly stepped forward and the second cup was poured over his head, returning her to female form.
"Well, that eliminates any ideas I might have had about Ranko having been to China. Who are you, exactly?" Tofu asked.
"Well... that's the real complicated part, and the one I came here to ask you about," Ranma responded. "See, I sorta am Ranko. I mean, we've got the same family, friends and stuff, it's just that I was born a guy, and she was born a girl. There are a buncha' other differences, too, but I think most of 'em come from that."
Akane snorted. "Well, that's clear as mud."
Tofu seemed to have another opinion. "I see. So perhaps you somehow came here from an alternate reality?"
"Um, what?" Ranma deadpanned.
"Well, an alternate reality is more of a concept than an actual thing. The idea is that there could be a world that is almost the same as our own, but different in a few small ways. In your case, Genma and Nodoka Saotome had a son, rather than a daughter." He thought for a moment. "Well, there's also the possibility that Ranko fell into the spring of drowned boy, then fell into the spring of drowned twins, and then 'Ranma' here fell into the spring of drowned girl... but that just sounds a little too contrived and I'm not sure it would work."
"...right," Akane said, slowly. Ranma had been right about Tofu being used to the weird.
"So, do you have any idea on how to deal with this alternate reality thing?" Ranma asked, deciding to skate right over the other explanation, which gave her a headache and sounded vaguely wrong besides.
"Unfortunately, no," Tofu replied. "Like I said, in most cases it's only an unproven theory."
"Proof's sittin' right here, doc," Ranma cut in.
"Perhaps," Tofu continued on. "But in any case, your best bet would be to try and figure out how you got here in the first place and reverse it. If you know anyone with any reality-changing magic or technology, you could check with them. Unfortunately, I'm not that kind of Doctor and I don't have a TARDIS." At the two teens' blank look, he sighed. "Never mind."
"Well, the way I got here was Shampoo slappin' an ofuda on my face," Ranma explained.
"I still don't get what Shampoo has to do with anything," Akane complained.
"It's… never mind," Ranma found herself parrotting Tofu. "Thanks for the help, Doc."
"It was no problem. And Ms. Tendo, I really would appreciate it if you would pass that message along to Mrs. Saotome. This isn't really something I can let lie. Given the situation at hand I really am surprised she didn't report me, as she really should have."
Akane nodded slightly uncomfortably. "I'll talk to her, but I can't promise anything."
"That's really all I can ask for," responded Tofu. "I'd like to thank you for bringing this to my attention, and for the chance to clear my name."
Akane fidgeted. "It wasn't anything, really. And I think we should be going." She turned to Ranma, who seemed deep in thought. "Ranma, you okay?"
Ranma seemed to come to herself. "Yeah, sorry. Thanks for the help, Doc," she said again, and started for the exit.
"Um… Ranma?" Akane started, and Ranma paused. "Your clothes."
Ranma looked down at herself, blushed, and headed back to the room where she had left her clothes. Tofu just chuckled.
"We're home!" Akane called, as she and Ranma shucked their shoes in the front hall of the Tendo Dojo.
"Welcome home!" Nodoka called back from the kitchen. "Could the two of you come in here for a moment?"
The two high schoolers looked at eachother for a moment, Ranma shrugging before they headed down the hall. When they entered the kitchen, they saw Nodoka cutting vegetables for dinner, a pot of water steaming on the stove. Ranma briefly thought of snagging some, before recalling that her male form probably wouldn't get along well with the Furinkan girls uniform she was currently wearing. "What's up?" she asked, casually.
"I heard that you and Akane visited Dr. Tofu's clinic today," Nodoka said tersely, the sound of knife hitting cutting board getting very slightly sharper.
"Uh… yeah, that," Ranma said. "I wanted to see if he knew anything about why I was here."
"Well, Ranma," said Ranko, entering from the yard. "When a mommy and a daddy love each other very much…"
"Ranko," Nodoka interrupted. "This is a serious and private matter. Don't you have training to do?"
"Yeah, but the Master is still asleep," Ranko responded, obliviously. "And Daddy's passed out again."
"Well then, don't you have homework?" Nodoka asked in a dangerous tone.
"Finished it already," said the redhead, still either missing or choosing to ignore the clues. "So, what's for dinner?"
"I think she was trying to tell you to buzz off," Nabiki pointed out, her head poking in through the door to the hallway. Noticing a slightly pained look from the older woman, she smirked. "And I know that applies to me, too. I'm going."
"Whatever," Ranko said, turning. "Make sure to invite me to the wedding!"
"Wait," Ranma said, beginning to look pained herself, "Did she say 'the Master?'"
"Could we please return to the matter at hand?" Nodoka asked. "I would like to know why you thought it was a good idea to visit Dr. Tofu's clinic."
"He's always been a good source of information when wierd stuff is going on. Like now," Ranma said, deciding that she wasn't going to get any help from Akane or any of the eavesdroppers.
"That man is dangerous. I don't want you going anywhere near him."
"Um, auntie? Actually, we should probably talk to him…" Akane started, and Nodoka turned her stern gaze on her. She fidgeted uncomfortably, but continued. "He says that what happened nine years ago was a misunderstanding, and he wants to explain himself to you… without Kasumi there."
"And you believe this?" The older woman looked dubious.
"Well, he was alright the whole time we were there," Akane replied. "I think we should at least hear him out."
"I believe him," Ranma cut in. "I mean, I've been at Tofu's clinic lots of times. He's never done anything weird… or weirder than usual at least, and he's had plenty of chances."
"And what, exactly, is weirder than 'usual'?"
"You know… Insanely jealous amazon Jusenkyo Cursed martial artist fiances breaking down walls, fishing rods that make you fall in love, tattoos or noodles that give you superpowers, haunted bras, haunted dogis, haunted bells, haunted… well, just about anything, really," Ranma rattled off.
Akane winced. "We never told her about most of those."
Nodoka turned on Akane. "You mean these happened?"
"Well, most of them. I don't know anything about the amazon." Akane answered, sheepishly.
Nodoka rubbed her temples briefly before deciding to pursue the saner topic, for now. "So Dr. Tofu wants to talk then?"
The two teens nodded, eager for the return to the older subject. "And he specifically said not to bring Kasumi this time," Akane added.
Nodoka considered for a moment as she turned to tend to the now merrily boiling pot on the stove. "I will get into contact with Dr. Tofu, but in the meantime I don't want either of you going near the clinic again." She raised her voice. "That goes for you two as well!" There was a loud thud outside the door, followed by footsteps and a slight shuffling sound. Nodoka noted the shuffling and raised her voice again. "Ranko-chan, you're losing your touch!"
"Am not!" called Ranko from the yard.
"Are you sure you want to do this? I don't want to hurt you or nothing," said Ranma as he stood across the dojo from Akane, each wearing a sparring gi.
"How about you worry about yourself?" she replied. "I'll call a break if I need one, don't worry."
"Are you two done posturing yet?" Ranko asked from where she leaned against the wall near the door. When both nodded she clucked her tongue. "Not nearly enough trash talk."
"Do you want to call the start, Ranko?" Asked Akane.
"What, you need someone to say to start fighting? Just go already." Much to the redhead's annoyance, the two in the middle of the room apparently used that statement as their cue, Akane pushing off into a hard charge. Ranma didn't move, his hands still jammed into his pockets... until his opponent was on top of him, whereupon he was suddenly about a foot to the left.
The youngest Tendo immediately lashed out with a punch, which her opponent deflected easily as she couldn't put much power behind it. She cursed under her breath as her momentum carried her past Ranma, opening her back to an easy counter which came in the form of several taps along the spine.
"Okay, gotta give him that point," Ranko called.
Akane grumbled; she'd been counting on him to block, which would have allowed her to bleed off some of her momentum. "Since when were we playing for points?" she asked. Ranko just shrugged. "Alright, let's go again. I won't let you win that easily," she said to her opponent.
"Are you sure you can go again so soon?" Ranma asked.
Akane just looked confused for a moment. "You only tapped me. Why wouldn't I be-" she started, but then her legs gave out from under her. "Oh, you sneaky little jerk!"
"At least ya didn't say I was cheating," he said, before bending down and tapping a few points on her back. "You'll be feeling pins and needles for a minute or so, but then you'll be fine."
Ranko smirked. "What's the Master always trying to teach you about underestimating your opponent, Akane?"
Akane rolled her eyes. "Yeah, yeah. I know."
"Sounds like this Master of yours gives pretty good advice," Ranma said, his voice seeming oddly hopeful.
"Yeah, sometimes. Usually, he's just an old lech and a pervert," Akane responded, and Ranma's hopes crashed.
"Hey! He's not that bad," Ranko argued.
"No, most of the time he's worse!" Akane shot back.
"I was afraid you'd say that," Ranma mumbled. "Can you move yet Akane, or are we done?"
"After a first round like that?" Akane sniffed and began hauling herself to her feet. "This is far from over!"
"Ooh, dramatic," Ranko said, mockingly. "In case you need a signal again, go!"
Akane gave the redhead a dirty look, only realizing her mistake when a fist slammed into her stomach. It wasn't hard enough to really hurt, but it did knock the breath out of her. Ranma continued his assault by grabbing both of her forearms, bringing his leg up into a kick that knocked her on her back as he let go.
"Point to Ranma," Ranko said.
Akane gave Ranko another dirty look as she recovered her breath. "That's not fair!"
Ranma shook his head. "Damn, thought you got over that one," he muttered.
Akane gave him a sharp look.
"Anything goes. Long as it's within the rules of the competition, it's fair."
"Yeah, Akane. You should know better than that. You left an opening, he took it." chipped in Ranko from the sidelines.
"Fine, whatever. This time's for real," Akane said. For some reason this made Ranma shake his head again. She didn't question it, and immediately bolted towards him. This time, though, she ran rather than charging, throwing two clean, strong strikes. Ranma swayed out of the way of each, and then seemed to bow backwards out of the way of a roundhouse kick. This was followed by a flurry of faster, weaker strikes that he glided around, leaping over kicks and ducking under punches that tugged his pigtail in the wind from their passage.
Apparently, after a few seconds of this the male martial artist got tired of close range dodging and jumped away, allowing Akane to get a good running start on a badly telegraphed haymaker that caused Ranko to wince. Ranma casually leapt over the predictable attack, landing easily and turning to get a look at his opponent. Akane, having lowered her arm and instead planted her feet on the wall, pushed off hard with a fist aimed at his chest. He tried to block, but his arms came up too late. Akane connected hard, and the force of the blow sent him flying across the dojo to slam into the floor eight meters away with a jarring impact.
"Point to Akane," said Ranko.
"Yeah…" Ranma coughed. "I'll give 'er that one."
"Wow, I honestly didn't think that would work," Akane said, walking over and offering the pigtailed martial artist a hand up. "What happened?"
He shook his head. "Flashback to an old fight. Last time I saw that move, we needed to fix that wall."
"Well, I'm tired of watching; I'm in next round," Ranko said, walking into the center of the Dojo to join the other two.
"But then who will provide the snide commentary?" Akane asked, sweetly.
"Could always get Nabiki," Ranma offered.
"Kasumi!" Ranko exclaimed.
Akane shook her head. "Nah, she isn't nearly rude enough."
"No, I mean Kasumi, Hi," Ranko waved at the older girl as she entered the Dojo.
The eldest Tendo daughter smiled. "I could try to be rude enough, if you'd like, but it will have to wait until later. Dinner's ready."
"Alright, I'm starving!" Ranma said, as he started toward the dojo exit.
"You didn't fill up on the rest of those muffins?" Ranko asked.
Ranma blinked. "Oh, right… I forgot them at Dr. Tofu's."
Ranko and Akane speared him with angry glances, before Kasumi cut in. "We really shouldn't keep Auntie waiting; she'll start dinner without us."
Ranko looked upset. "But I didn't get my turn," she complained.
"You'll get your chance, Ranko," said Akane. "It's not like he's going to disappear tomorrow, right?"
"But what if he does?" Ranko pouted. "He just sort of showed up at random, after all."
Ranma scratched the back of his neck and laughed nervously. "I guess now's a bad time to tell you guys I'm planning to head off to China?"
Weebee: I hope you enjoyed this chapter. Many commas died to bring you this text. *sidelong glare at Shadou*
Shadou: Yes! I remember that! I remember killing commas. So many commas...
Weebee: So at least we're doing something… you monster.
Shadou: I find your lack of grammatical understanding… disturbing.
Weebee: And your faith in your grammar check is yours! ...wait, crap. I messed up the line again, didn't I?
Shadou: Oh, yeah. Bigtime. Especially considering I find grammar check to be about as useful as a screen window in a submarine.
Weebee: That's screen door, Minako. Anyways, we hope you all enjoyed this chapter. Please R&R. I'm sure whoever is writing will find it helpful.