It was dinner time when it happened.
Things had been rather quiet, overall, the past three weeks. Ryoga only showed up a few times, random attacks were down, and the only super powered troublemaker was Pantyhose Taro. His latest name changing scheme involving a magic bridle that, naturally, did not work and in fact backfired spectacularly. Perhaps that is what lead to the event. After all, without the larger sources of stress in their lives the smaller things had much more time to build up.
Akane honestly should have seen it coming. Her friendship with Ukyo had been increasingly strained lately. While normally they could get along fine, the past few days she had been unusually tense and short tempered.
Akane had been particularly excited about this dinner. After all, she had made the rice tonight! It had been hard, and she had to do it over twice, but perfectly edible and fine tasting rice had been made.
Ranma had noticed his fiancee practically dancing on tip-toes as dinner was prepared. She saw the apprehension on his face. He was clearly the only one other than Kasumi to figure out her involvement. Still, she knew he'd eat it. He always did support her endeavors, despite his complaints. Of course, she knew that there would have been no complaints that night.
Cautiously, Ranma had taken the first bite. He had chewed, swallowed, and smiled. "It's pretty good." He said, directly to her.
Akane had nearly kissed him right there when he said that.
Then Ranma had suddenly passed out, falling face first into his bowl.
Before anybody else could have reacted to that; Konatsu appeared from the shadows. The kunoichi quickly wrapped Ranma in ropes and slung him over his shoulder.
"I have him Lady Ukyo!" Konatsu said.
Ukyo jumped over the walls surrounding the Tendo household. "Good work!" She gave Konatsu a thumbs up.
Akane instantly stood up, "Ukyo what the hell are you doing?"
Ukyo pointed at Akane as Konatsu dashed next to her, "Listen, sugar, I've been thinking lately. I realized a problem. Ranma is my fiance. It's not right, nor proper for him to be living with some other girl!"
Akane scowled, "Excuse me?"
"I mean, sure Ranma isn't very attracted to you… I mean he does say you're fat and flat chested a lot." Ukyo said, looking apologetic for a moment before her resolute expression returned. "But even then you're there, offering temptation! He might get desperate!"
This made Akane's temper flare up. "Excuse me!? Ranma isn't going to "settle" for me Ukyo!"
"No. He's not, which is why he's living with me from now on!"
OK this was enough. Akane took off in a dash towards Ukyo. However, before she could get close Konatsu threw down a smoke bomb. Naturally, they were all gone by the time the smoke cleared.
There was a stunned silence at the dinner table once what had just happened sunk in.
"Well now, Ranma sure seems popular with his girlfriends." Nodoka commented. This made Nabiki snicker and Akane's frown to deepen.
Soun immediately burst into tears. "Saotome, what can we do? Ranma's been taken away to a life of debauchery with a cross-dresser!"
Akane rolled her eyes, "Dad. She lives, like, ten minutes away. I eat lunch there all the time. We lived there for a week remember?"
"Akane…" Genma grabbed her shoulders, "It's up to you to rescue your fiance!"
"Wait! Saotome! It might be dangerous!" Soun said, "She can't go alone…"
Akane groaned, "Look. It's just Ukyo. She's not going to hurt me, we're friends."
"She kidnapped your fiance!" Genma shouted.
"And who's the one who pretended to engage her to Ranma to rob her dad Mr. Saotome? Thus making her think she's engaged to him?" Akane pointedly said.
Genma deflated, slightly, "Now listen here girl, I needed to eat!"
"Ah so you did." Akane grabbed Genma's gi collar, "Then Mr. Saotome…" She threw him over her shoulder, "You go get your son!"
With a splash Genma landed in the pond, the resulting panda held up a sign voicing his displeasure. "Ungrateful girl! I bring you a husband and this the thanks I get?"
Soun knew that if he was relying on Genma to take responsibility Ranma would never get home. "Akane… please. Go with somebody and bring back Ranma."
Akane sighed, "Oh, fine… I'll call Shampoo."
"Shampoo!? She'll just try and take him too!" Soun wailed.
"I'll go Daddy." Nabiki spoke up.
"You?" Akane asked, glancing over at her older sister. Nabiki, who hadn't done anything resembling martial arts since Akane beat her in a sparring match (at the age of 6) wanted to come along for a rescue operation? One that would, as such things usually did, assuredly end in violence?
"Sure, why not." Nabiki stood up, "So come on dear Little Sister. Let's go save your damsel in distress."
Akane frowned, "Ranma's not a damsel."
"Yet." Nabiki countered.
Nabiki, of course, had her own motivation for following along on this inane little rescue operation. She had been getting this nagging feeling that something in the status quo that her existed in her life had shifted.
She just knew that, as usual, her little sister had to be at the center of it all. All her life she had been an amused spectator in the life of Akane Tendo. When she got lost in the giant monster forest at five, that brief time she became a magical girl at ten that for some reason only Nabiki remembered, ending up with that magic diary at thirteen and so on. Ranma's engagement to Akane was just another chapter in her little sister's bizarre and entertaining life.
The question was, what about Akane had changed? She was definitely calmer than she used to be. Ranma had, somehow, learned quite how to not piss her off at much. She thought back to Ukyo's comments and realized that Ranma had not in fact commented on Akane's looks in any way for some time. In fact, Nabiki realized, Akane had been a little different since at least The Wedding.
Nabiki shuddered at that memory, it had seemed like such a simple plan. Get some money from the local lunatics when they turn in the wedding gifts. But then Akane had actually taken the money away! It had been the first time she'd lost money in a long time. Revenge was tempting, Nabiki was sure that figuring out the secret her little sister was hiding would be a good first step.
Akane looked up at the sign labeling the restaurant. Ucchan's Okonomiyaki. She looked over to Nabiki. "Just, you know, try to stay out of my way OK?"
Nabiki waved her hands in dismissal, "Oh don't worry Akane. I'm not the violent one in the family you know."
"Sure you're not." Akane said dryly. "This isn't going to be much of a problem. I'll go in, get Ranma, and then he can eat more of my rice."
Nabiki raised an eyebrow, "Surely you don't think Ukyo's going to take that lying down?"
"I can take Ukyo." Akane said, walking into the restaurant. "Besides, if Ranma's awake there won't even be a fight."
"You're assuming you're going to be lucky." Nabiki said following her sister.
Ucchan's was closed. Compared to the usual bustle of customers and sounds it was strangely quiet and empty. The only person Akane could see was Konatsu, currently scrubbing the grill. He looked up, and his eyes widened at the sight of the two Tendos. With a flash of movement he was standing in front of them, his stance guarded. "Good Evening Miss Akane, Miss Nabiki."
"Hey Konatsu. Ukyo's upstairs right?" Akane said, attempting to walk past him. However, he stepped in front of her.
"I'm sorry Miss Akane. Lady Ukyo said nobody is allowed upstairs." Konatsu said, his expression apologetic.
"I need to get my fiance Konatsu." Akane said.
Konatsu shook his head, sadly. "I'm sorry but Lady Ukyo said that especially you aren't allowed upstairs." He stood in front of her, a very pretty sentry. "Please go home, I can not let you pass."
Akane stepped back and frowned. Getting past Konatsu… that was a tall order for her.
It should be noted that Akane is a superb Martial Artist. Her strength, speed, and skill are all in the effectively superhuman range. She had been training in the Arts since she could walk. In terms of pure ability, Akane was easily in the top five percent of all fighters in the world. However, the current situation she was in put a wrinkle in the plan to fight it out. Konatsu is also a superb Martial Artist. In fact, he is the greatest kunoichi alive today. If Akane is in the top five percent, then Konatsu is in the top one percent. Despite his unassuming and feminine nature, Akane knew there was no way that she could take him in a fair fight. Akane also knew that, as a kunoichi, the concept of a "fair fight" was a hilarious joke to Konatsu.'
Still, Akane was a student of the Anything Goes School of Martial Arts. A school that taught adaptability, quick thinking, and a willingness to use the situation around her to bring victory! A tenant of the School said that victory came not to necessarily the strongest, or the smartest, or even the sneakiest. Victory came to the one who was willing to use what it took to grasp it! Her fiance was on the line, and Akane knew she had to defeat him. Looking around the room, she ran through the many sealed and powerful techniques of the Anything Goes school. Her eyes narrowed she took a deep breath and prepared herself. She looked Konatsu straight in the eye, pointed forward, and executed the technique.
"Look! A fifty yen coin!" She pointed behind Konatsu.
"Where!?" Konatsu turned around, his eyes wide and looking at the ground. Who could have possibly left such vast amounts of wealth just laying on the ground!?
Akane bashed a chair over Konatsu's head, knocking him unconscious.
"Sorry Konatsu, I'm in a hurry." Akane said as an increasingly large lump grew on Konatsu's head. She dashed upstairs.
Nabiki walked over to the unconscious ninja. "Hmm?" A 1000 yen bill had fallen out of his pocket. "Ooh. Thank you very much." She said, swiping the bill. Thus stealing a month's worth of wages from him. "Wait for me Akane!"
Ukyo was giddy. She had the room all nicely set up. An extra large futon, a mini-fridge filled with snacks. All the time in the world for Ranma to get to know her better.
"Ucchan." Ranma said, wearing the same chef's uniform she wore. It had been a long day of work, and now they were finally alone.
"Ranchan…" Ukyo swooned as he gently took her in his arms, planting a chaste kiss on her lips.
"We're alone, Ucchan…" Ranma said smoothly.
"Ranchan… I... " She whispered demurely, his smile burning with power and a sensuality that frightened her.
His hands roamed her body, and Ukyo cried out.
"Kyaa~!" Ukyo covered her red face, "Calm down Ukyo… no way Ranchan's ready for things like that yet." She looked over at Ranma, still asleep on the large futon. He would wake up soon, and would obviously be so happy that he had finally freed him from Tendos.
She felt a little bad for Akane, but decided to make her the maid-of-honor in their wedding to make up for it.
"Ukyo!" Then the door to her room was forced open, and Akane entered. Nabiki behind her.
Ukyo's jaw dropped, "What?! How the hell did you get past Konatsu?"
Akane smirked, folding her arms in a confident pose "You should know better than to underestimate me, Ukyo."
"She him with a chair while his back was turned." Nabiki added, and Akane glared at her sister.
Ukyo pulled out her Fighting Spatula. "OK, Akane, I'll say this once. Go. Me and Ranma have catching up to do!" With those words she thrust the spatula directly at Akane.
Akane ducked under the thrust. throwing up her hands to grab the handle the the weapon. Getting a grip on it, she began to pull. She knew she was stronger than Ukyo, and if she could disarm her the fight would be over quick. Ukyo, threw out a kick, forcing Akane to let go.
Out flew several spatulas, Akane ducked under them. Ukyo growled, she didn't want to mess up her room with flour bombs, but she needed to knock Akane off balance! She pulled out one of the bags, and was about to throw it… when Akane kicked one of the thrown spatulas off the ground! With a swift motion, Akane knocked her own throwing weapon at her. Ukyo was forced to duck.. but the spatula hit its target, her bomb. Suddenly she was blinded by the powder, the next thing Ukyo knew she was painfully kicked in the chest, her weapons knocked out of her, and she flew through the air.. to land directly on top of the sleeping Ranma.
The air cleared, and Akane folded her arms to glare at Ukyo. "Are we done here?" She asked.
Ukyo glared right back, "Not even close! I still-"
Then Ranma suddenly grabbed her.
Slowly the haze of sleep started to come off Ranma. He had been having a good dream. Akane had cooked something, and it had turned out good! Everything after that was fuzzy, pity it was only a dream. Akane becoming a good cook was too good for reality. He felt the warmth of another person on top of him. He must be in bed, so he knew exactly who must be on him. Smiling softly, he reached out and wrapped his arms around the person in question. He was still a little sleepy, but figured she was trying to wake him up. "Just a few more minutes…" He mumbled softly… yet as he held the person, his instincts said something felt off about her. It was like he was holding-
"Raaaaannnnnnmmmmaaaaaaa!" The familiar sound of his fiancee screaming his name in rage.
Ranma's eyes shot open, as he realized he was not holding Akane, but instead a red faced Ukyo. Instead, Akane was standing on the other side of a room he realized was Ukyo's. He quickly threw her off him, standing up and getting ready to convince Akane not to kill him. "Hey… Akane. What's up?" He gave his best impression of a nonchalant grin.
"What's up?! I come all the way here, fight off Konatsu for you, and I find you groping your kidnapper!?"
"Wait you beat Konatsu? How the hell did you do that?" Ranma asked.
"That's not the important part!" Akane jabbed her finger at his chest. "What were you thinking!?"
"I was asleep! I thought-"
"You thought what, Ranchan?" Ukyo interrupted, giving Ranma her own icy glare, "Did you think I was someone else? Like, I don't know… Akane?"
Ranma gulped nervously, "Err… of course not Ucchan! I mean, Akane has a bigger chest than-" That was, apparently, the wrong thing to say, as Ranma was bashed over the head with Ukyo's spatula.
"How do you know my size compared to Ukyo Ranma?" Akane asked sweetly. Her smile promising murder.
"I've seen her in a swimsuit!" Ranma said quickly.
"Wait a minute, you call her flat chested and you're saying I'm smaller than her!?" Ukyo shouted.
Ranma shrugged, "Compared to me both of you are." This time Ranma was imbedded into the ground by both Ukyo's spatula and Akane's fist.
"That is not the sort of thing you say to any girl!" Ukyo growled.
"Especially when you're not a girl at the moment." Akane added.
Ranma got up and was about to offer his retort when Nabiki, who had been spending her time in the back of the room observing, suddenly interrupted. "Oh my god!"
There wasn't much new about the events thus far. Akane, of course, failed to talk down Ukyo so there was a fight. Then Ranma did something dumb to turn the ire of the girls on to him. It was typical overall. So instead she focused on the small details. Namely, Ranma's reaction to waking up next to a girl.
He had hugged her and asked for a few more minutes. In other words, he thought a girl on top of him was trying to wake him up. And his reaction to that was to hug her? Did that mean… that Ranma was used to waking up with a girl on top of him? Not only that, but his comment. He had rarely before commented on Akane's looks without some lame insult before.
Then again, that could simply be because Ranma had grown up some and stopped the childish insults. Her mind again drifted to this revelation about Ranma waking up. What were his sleeping habits? Then it occurred to her that she didn't know how Ranma slept anymore. He had set up his own small room shortly after his mother had moved in. And with it came a change in his sleeping hours. He now woke up around the same time as Akane and Kasumi, the two early risers in the household.
Nabiki realized that she had never seen Ranma actually sleep in his little room. He and Akane got along almost perfectly lately. He "moved out" of his parent's room. He casually hugged a girl waking up. Made comments on Akane's breast size not meant to be insulting. Akane's comments on Ranma not "settling" for her, and in fact Ukyo even bringing up the "dangers" of him living with her. Her eyes widened, as it suddenly hit her. "Oh my god!" An epiphany that shook the very foundations of her worldview. The three martial artists turned to look at Nabiki. "Akane… you... " She pointed at her little sister, "You're sleeping with Ranma! Aren't you!?"
It was like Ranma and Akane turned to stone. Their jaws hung slightly open, staring at Nabiki. Ukyo's gaze quickly flickered between the two. "Uhhhh come on Nabiki, that's silly. Ranchan's not the type to… he'd only… I mean… he's not ready for that, and if he was he'd ask me right? Bu-but not before marriage!"
Nabiki smirked, "Sorry Ukyo."
Ukyo clenched her fists, "Ran… I… you jackass!" Ranma moved to quickly avoid the blow aimed at his head.
"N-now we can talk about this right?" Ranma said, ducking under a swing.
"You just couldn't keep it in your pants, could you!?" Ukyo shouted, as she and Ranma jumped around the room in Ukyo's desperate attempt to inflict bodily harm. "I should have known, you're just like any other guy! Well guess what Saotome, no way in hell are you keeping that up when we're married! Got it you moron?!"
Ranma blinked, "Uh, Ukyo, I think I should tell you that we're-" Unfortunately, Ranma stopping to talk slowed him down enough for the spatula to hit him in the face.
"I don't want to hear your excuses you horny jackass!" Ukyo screamed, as she began pounding down Ranma into the floor. "So shut up and take your punishment like a-" With a heavy thud, Akane hit Ukyo in the back of the head with the mini-fridge. She fell to the ground, knocked out.
Akane wiped the sweat from her forehead. "Well now that I've saved my fiance from kidnappers can we go home?"
"Ahem." Both of them glanced back at Nabiki. She had a gigantic grin on her face, "I'm right? Aren't I? You two are doing it."
Ranma and Akane glanced at each other frowning.
Nabiki chuckled, "I have to admit, keeping a secret like this from me is big. But now I wonder how many people will-" WAP! Nabiki's head tilted to the side, her expression stunned. Her eyes instantly locked onto the large bundle of bills now in Ranma's hand. He had slapped her in the face with them. Her eyes drifted to Ranma, who looked serious, to Akane who was giving her a very dangerous glare. Ranma pushed the money towards her. Nabiki slowly reached out and took it. Fifteen Thousand yen in total.
"I'll be quiet." She said.
Akane's face returned to a smile. "I'm so glad you listened to reason my dear Elder Sister."
"Now you're not going to tell anybody, right?" Ranma said his eyes narrowed, "And you're not going to write it down and leave it in convenient places for people to find. Or tell people bits of information that lets them put it together, or suggest that somebody go into Akane's room at night for a surprise or-"
"Yes yes of course." Nabiki said. Damn, she thought, he knows me too well. "I won't say or do anything that leads to anyone else acquiring the knowledge that you and Akane aren't virgins thanks to each other."
They both blushed at Nabiki's frank sentence.
Nabiki put an arm around Akane, "So does anybody else know?"
Akane sighed, "Kasumi." Ranma looked distinctly unhappy about that fact.
"Really? Wow. The three of us need to get together and have some girl talk." Nabiki said.
"And what about me?" Ranma said.
Nabiki glanced over at Ranma, "Well I'm sure we can find a pretty dress for you to wear while we braid your hair and talk about boys Saotome."
Ranma scowled, "Oh fine. Let's get home before Ucchan wakes up."
Nabiki glanced over to the unconscious chef, "Sure you aren't worried about her spilling the beans?"
Akane grinned, "Not really. Think about it. If she reveals it publicly then she admits she's failed. And if she accepts it then it's nobody else's business so she won't reveal it."
"And if she's pissed and reveals it to spite you…?" Nabiki said.
"Then I beat her up." Akane said flatly.
"We're home." Ranma said.
"Ah, welcome back son. Did you give your fiance proper thanks?" Genma waved a sign in Ranma's face.
Ranma rolled his eyes, "I'm fine Pop. Ukyo just, ah, wanted to talk." He walked past the panda to reach the living room, still set up for dinner. He took a look at the sight, his eyes widening. "Holy crap it wasn't a dream!?" He turned back to Akane, "You really did make good rice!"
Soun's eye's widened. "Wait… Akane made the…"
"I'm going to die!" Genma dropped the sign as he ran up to the bathroom for inducing vomiting.
Ranma and Akane rolled their eyes in unison. "You're an idiot Pops! If it was going to hurt you it would have done it half an hour ago!"
"Let me in Saotome!" Soun had dashed upstairs as well and was now pounding on the restroom door.
Akane sighed, "Honestly…" She muttered. She saw that Ranma had sat back at the table.
"Can you serve me up some, Akane?" Ranma asked.
Akane let out a soft smile. "Sure."
"Yes, I suppose this is it." Ukyo mumbled to herself, looking over in the mirror. The outfit was new, and different from her usual loose fitting androgynous clothing. It was fairly tight, and made it very obvious that she was a girl. Her shorts barely got halfway down her thighs. It was, in Ukyo's opinion, sexy without being slutty.
Obviously her fears had been founded. While it was a jerk move of Ranma, she knew Ranma could never resist a treat offered to him. Living with a girl like Akane had obviously been too much for him to resist. She probably threw herself at him.
Still, once she showed Ranma what a real woman like her could offer, things would get back on track. Besides, guys slept with girls who they didn't think were marriage material all the time. It was just how guys were obviously.
The door to her room opened, "Lady Ukyo?"
"Ah! Konatsu!" Ukyo turned around, "What do you think?" She grinned at her ninja roomate.
Konatsuk took one look at Ukyo, and fell to the ground, blood spraying everywhere.