I can't draw, and I understand that gravity would not be a Sekirei's friend with those proportions.

As everyone who reads my stories should know by now, I run a series of polls to determine which story will be updated in any given month. The choices here on fanfic are limited somewhat, but I routinely have two or more polls going on over on my pat r on page. This was the case this month: I had three polls going over there, two of which linked back together afterward, with the two most popular choices being the two small stories I update here. I did this so that I could give some of my stories that are still technically active but which haven't been updated in a while a shot in the arm. I am happy to say it worked.

Fate-Touched won first place with a staggering showing, bringing in 295 votes here on fanfic letting it take second place here and once the pat r on votes were added in, took in a total of 1,527. This puts it far and away the winner.

In second place by the narrowest of margins, is another story that hasn't been updated in a long while: Anything Goes Game Changer. It brought in 176 votes via fanfic, with a total of 1184 votes.

Nipping at its heels was the first place winner here on fanfic, FILFy Teacher. It brought in a total of 1177. AGCC won by only 7 votes.

I thought FILFy would win and actually put in several days' worth of work on it, but, the people spoke and I had to listen. Then too, AGCC is one of the two stories I can see ending sometime this year if it keeps winning.

In fourth place, with a decent showing was Stallion of the Line with 962, 213 of which came from fanfic votes. Scoring an even 200 points here and bringing in a total of 874 was GDWHOM. Semblance just can't seem to bring in enough votes here on fanfic to really contend without massive pat r on support: it only brought in 80 here and won a total of 500.

The other choices were for pat r on content, which will remain a mystery, unless you go and sign up LOL.

This has been betaread by Hiryo, and checked over via Grammarly once more, as well as Justreadin' now, another of my patrons. Hopefully we've caught all the larger mistakes LOL.


Chapter 8: Zounds, Escalation Abounds!

"This is it? I mean really?" said one of the Special Forces operatives to his teammates as they all stood at the top of a small hill, staring out across the large valley before them, the valley of Jusenkyo. "All this way for a bunch of puddles with bamboo poles stuck in them? I mean it's interesting that some of them are steaming and some of them aren't even when there so close to one another, but that's it. The way this place was spoken about in our briefing, I expected something a lot… grander."

"Sir does not know what he speak of. This is cursed springs. Its looks are deceptive, yes, but its power is undeniable. Every spring you see is having separate curse where something drown. Fall in, you become the something when wet, hot or cold." Said their guide.

He was a short rather rotund man, wearing an old communist uniform, complete with green cap. The sight of that had caused a few of the team members to reach for their guns when he came out of his hut a few miles back. From there he had led them directly up from the trail a mile back and had not let them out of his sight since.

The team leader had begun to wonder if they would have to do something about him before taking some of the water samples. The rest of his team though were still wondering why the man sounded as if he was speaking a foreign language, despite the fact all of them could speak Putonghua, the language used in the majority of China.

Hearing this last bit of mangled Putonghua the team leader shook his head. "You and our boss, believing in magic in this day and age? Pu-lease! Anything you call magic is just an unknown field effect randomizing the quantum properties of matter. Or perhaps telekinetic powers." He added after a second, thinking about a lot of the Sekirei he had seen in their abilities.

The guide blinked slowly at him then shook his head. "You is a very strange guest sir. And rather sad too. You not understand Jusenkyo's power."

"What I don't understand is why you're still speaking pidgin when we all speak Chinese perfectly well," said one of the others, finally voicing the question they had all been wondering.

"That is part of the curse upon the guide young man," said a new voice, causing all five mercenaries to turn, their rifles rising. "None of that now gentlemen," the voice said sharply while they all stared at its diminutive owner, their trigger fingers twitching. She was a very old looking woman, sitting on top of some kind of staff that was half again her own diminutive height. She had long gray hair, wide eyes, and a face that only a prune could love.

"Hmm, now this is most interesting," the crone said, hopping around them for a moment even as their guns turned to track her. "What are trained soldiers from Russia, America, Canada, Ukraine and… I can't fix your accent… It sounds like a mix of North American and Australian, but you look like you do not come from either of those countries."

"Ah, um, the accent's an affected one," the man so addressed said, staring. "Er, I'm originally from South Korea."

"An old prune is talking," the American, who was the team leader, said dumbly staring at the woman. "And it's hopping around on a pogo stick."

"You Americans do not have the legends of Baba Yaga, then?" the Russian asked, to a muttered agreement from the Ukrainian.

"Hmmf, the name's Cologne boy, and I both know that legend and do not take kindly to that comparison!" Cologne retorted, before suddenly disappearing to their senses. The next instant she was beside the Russian, smacking him hard on the shin with her stick and then away.

He began to hop on one foot cursing, in Russian, which was a really good language for that kind of thing. In response, the others all raised their weapons.

"Oh please if I really wanted to hurt him, he'd be without his leg right now." Cologne cackled. "You soldiers always think those guns of yours are the be all and end all, but you are wrong."

"We'll be the ones making the threats here!" said the main from Ukraine, raising his rifle to his shoulder and pointing it at her. "Now what the hell are you doing here? And how did you do that disappearing reappearing thing?"

Cologne simply shook her head. "It wasn't a 'disappearing reappearing thing' as you put it," she said dryly. "It was simple speed. And as for your being in a position to threaten me…"

She gestured, and suddenly five arrows embedded themselves in the ground in front of the men, each one directly beside their rightmost foot. There was a bare inch between the arrow, which was now stuck in the ground halfway up their length. Since the ground was solid earth that was extremely impressive.

All of the men cursed, falling back and dropping to the ground to limit their profiles before raising their rifles, looking around for targets. But there was no one in sight, not even to their trained eyes. That meant the locals were either further away than anyone with a bow should be to accomplish that kind of shooting, or they were better at hiding than five Special Forces veterans. That was a scary thought, made scarier by the fact that the old woman hadn't moved, simply sitting on her pogo stick and cackling at them.

After a moment when no more attacks were forthcoming, the team lead waved the others to their feet. "All right, you've made your point," he said coolly. "But why are you here?"

"That is my line!" Cologne said with another cackle. "You're in our territory. This is Amazon land. In fact, you've been in our territory for the past five days. For mercenaries you move rather slowly," she finished, cackling again at their expressions. They all thought they had been making pretty damn good time given the terrain. "Now tell me, why are you seeking out the cursed springs?"

"Our employer recently discovered something that convinced him these cursed springs were real and ordered us to come here to get some samples," said the team leader.

"Interesting, I didn't think anyone in this day and age would believe anything written down about magic unless…" Cologne paused, then chuckled shaking her head. "I don't suppose you lot have come from Japan have you?"

"Yes, we have. Is this going to be a problem, our taking sample I mean?"

"Taking samples from the cursed springs? Oh, it's not a problem for us," she cackled again. "It will be a problem for you though. You see the moment you enter that valley down there, you will start to be affected by the magic of the place. No one comes to Jusenkyo without being cursed in some fashion."

The American, Russian and even the Canadian scoffed at that, while the Ukrainian and the South Korean looked as if they were having second thoughts. "How does that work ma'am?" The South Korean asked, making his tone as respectful as he could make it.

This won him an approving nod from the old woman, and she gestured down at the springs. The magic of Jusenkyo goes beyond the springs themselves. The entire valley is cursed and will make certain you fall into the water one way or another. Either the side of the spring you're kneeling beside while getting your sample will erode and you'll fall in, there will suddenly be a geyser from one of the hot springs, or an animal will startle you into them. If you were a martial artist and came here to train on the poles one of them might break under you. It will seem like a random event, but it will have the purpose of getting you cursed. This is fact."

"You noticed the guide?" Cologne asked, gesturing to the rotund man, who had bowed his head when she appeared and had not spoken since. "He was cursed to act in that manner it is a mental rather than physical change, one of many mental changes you can run into if you fall into the wrong spring. The guide is forced to sound like a foreigner who can barely speak the language to anyone who talks to them regardless of the language involved."

"I don't believe in this magic crap, there has to be some other explanation for it," the American said shaking his head. "I'll thank you for the advice, but I think we can handle it."

"Ah, famous last words, yet they still keep getting used even today," Cologne said with a cackle. "Still, if you want to throw yourself onto the primed grenade that is lady luck, who am I to argue? I'll just sit back and laugh."

A few moments later and her words proved prophetic. She was indeed laughing.

OOOOOOO

Ranma moved through the nighttime skyline of Tokyo (he was never going to call it Shin-Teito, not even in his mind), taking care to not be seen by anyone in any way, in particular by the numerous cameras set up around the city. There were even more of them now than there had been when he arrived, a sign that the infrastructure for the Sekirei Plan that Minaka had begun was still ongoing.

Not that it mattered. Ranma could still avoid them pretty easily. He doubted anyone but another martial artist who specialized in mobility or a similar Sekirei could've done the same, considering it involved running up and down buildings, hanging by his fingers, and then leaping across twenty-five to fifty feet of open sky to the next building without being seen. To Ranma, it was actually fun.

It was also fun to pass Sekirei as they moved around in the same fashion. They didn't worry about being seen by the cameras, though they were moving around the rooftops like he was. As he stopped, hiding in the shadow underneath a window, Ranma watched as two Sekirei hopped around below him, moving purposefully away. The odd thing about humans and Sekirei, they don't look up. Sekirei routinely take to the rooftops, and when they're on the ground they do look up automatically, but once they're up here, they stop looking up for some reason.

In this manner he was able to cross the entire city, eventually arriving near to the headquarters of the Ashikabi of the East, Izumi Higa. Flipping himself upwards, Ranma paused, holding himself there in a sign of amazing arm and core strength while he made certain there were no cameras in position to see him.

There were a few cameras here, two of them one each in a corner across from one another, but they were currently facing downwards, moving on mounts to cover both the area around the building, specifically the shorter buildings around them, and their own rooftop. He paused there for a second, timing it, then just as the camera on the nearest corner would have seen him he finished the flip, then instantly leaped from there onto the top of the maintenance shack on top of the building. From there, he stared across to his actual target, the hospital that the Ashikabi of the East apparently owned via his family's pharmaceutical company.

Pulling out a pair of binoculars he had taken from Matsu, Ranma stared at the building. In particular, he examined the sides and the roof while he contemplated the information the two computer experts had put together on his target. I sooo do not want to know why Matsu of all people had binoculars. No, Ranma focus.

Izumi Higa, bishounen asshole, with a major ego thrown in. Hmmm, should his name be bishole, or assounen? Meh, whatever. Treats his own Sekirei more like employees and not very well-liked employees either, at least from what Kocho and Matsu were able to find out. Treats not-bonded Sekirei as targets to be brought into his 'company' by any means necessary, but doesn't seem to target normal people or be sadistic about it, just egotistical. Matsu found some notes and pictures, which might point to him treating a few of them better, a few worse, but nothing concrete.

Moved his operations entirely into the hospital, because it was both in the inner city and more easily defended. Kocho said he moved into the highest levels of the hospital, which is one of the three largest buildings in the city and owned by his company.

Mainly he's got the same attitude problem the brat of the south has, only worse. This guy is older than me, and should seriously have been raised to better appreciate other people's feelings or how to treat them as actual people. Mikogami, he's just a bratty ass. This guy… well, I'm not willing to do more than humiliate him just yet, but that might change in the future.

Eventually, he had surveyed the entire building and frowned thoughtfully putting away his binocular's in his paused, staring at first at the hospital than out towards MBI tower, barely visible given the height he was standing at he was still able to see it. I wonder which building was built first, and who began this comparing sizes thing. Still, I found a way in.

The video cameras on the building and those around it weren't able to see higher than the twentieth floor. If Ranma could get up onto the building above that point, he could climb the rest without any cameras spotting him. Mind you, most wouldn't be able to get there given the large area between the hospital building and the nearest buildings. There were several smaller buildings around the main building, as well as a parking garage, all of whose roofs were fully covered by cameras.

With that in mind, Ranma pulled out his rope once more, twirling it idly then hurling it upwards, and across the intervening distance at an extremely high angle. Even Ranma couldn't jump 300 yards straight up. Hurling a grapnel with enough force to embed it in the concrete that far away though that Ranma could do. The grapnel wouldn't last long, but it wouldn't have to.

Soon he was across clinging to the side of the building, before pulling the grapnel out, letting the rope fall. Getting back out of course won't be a problem Ranma thought, actually grinning at the idea. Then an idea occurred to him, and he smiled, staring into the distance as he figured out where he was going to take Nabiki on their date.

Shaking that thought off Ranma began to crawl upwards, his fingers digging into the concrete, leaving tiny little indents as he moved. He stopped occasionally seeing movement inside, ducking out of the way before any guards could see him. The security's no joke, he thought, watching as one Sekirei made her way into the room outside of which Ranma was currently clinging. She looked around, then moved on to the next one to the right, making a thorough sweep of it while on the floors above and below her human guards did the same.

Still, it's obvious that they still don't understand how vulnerable they are to Sekirei type infiltration, well at least they should think of it in those terms. If they were, they would have their exterior security on the building all the way up rather than just the first 20 floors. MBI tower also has that problem or did. I bet after my and Uzume's last trip there they are solving that little issue.

On the top floor, however, Ranma ran into a problem. While there were several Windows here, he couldn't see anything like a bedroom in any of them. Shrugging, he moved over to one that looked in on an office, and slowly began to cut the window with a tiny knife, it's edge sharpened with his ki. Fearing that the latch would have an alarm on it even this high up, he didn't open the window, instead cutting the panel out before gently easing it down inside then hopping in after it.

The room was a quintessential office, though done perhaps a little larger than most, with a desk to one side and a computer screen currently facing the window. Across from it was a doorway leading out, and Ranma quickly moved in that direction, looking the door over with a little flashlight he brought along just to see if there was any more security. There didn't seem to be on this side of things and he unlatched the door quickly.

Ranma found himself in what looked like a makeshift sitting room and nodded, turning to one side then the other looking at the two doors leading off. One of them led toward what Ranma felt was the center of the tower, probably connecting to a hallway there. The other led into a corner of the tower, and Ranma realized that must be his target's bedroom.

Moving in that direction, Ranma tried the door and found it latched. Shrugging, Ranma began to slowly remove the doorknob then reached into it, and unlatched the actual lock. Despite that, he was not surprised when the alarms began to go off as he forced open the door.

Inside Ranma saw a man stirring in the bed, obviously his target given the reports on the other man's looks. A few lights had also begun to go on with the alarm, giving him a better view. He seemed a somewhat tall, thin young man with blonde hair wearing a sleeping shirt and shorts. Great, he's sleeping alone, with Sekirei that ain't exactly a certainty. Still, makes this a lot easier.

Before the man could fully rouse himself, Ranma had crossed the intervening space and a jab to the side of his neck knocked him out quickly. Moving back towards the door he locked it once more then moved to the bed.

Pulling open the man's shirt, Ranma took out a permanent marker from his pack, noting offhandedly that the man had some definition for a non-martial artist, but didn't look anything special. There were no marks or scars to speak of on him, and his skin was a pasty pale, even paler than Akitsu's, to Ranma's eyes. He began to write out a few messages with the marker then pulled out some color dye, pouring it liberally onto the man's upper body and neck, working it into the skin quickly from the chest up. Then he began to shave the man's head, his hands going so quickly the hair seemed to literally explode off his head.

The martial artist was halfway through that when the door behind him exploded and four Sekirei raced in, followed by several human guards. "Step away from our Ashikabi!" shouted the first one, lunging forward, her twin swords reaching for Ranma.

But Ranma hopped away towards the wall furthest away from the charging Sekirei, a wild grin on his face. "You lot really need to work on your security, not that it would have stopped me if you had." Ranma's face hardened and he raised his fists, causing the four Sekirei, who recognized him from reports about Ranma's activities in the city, to stiffen and spread out.

Smirking at that Ranma went on. "Tell your Ashikabi when he wakes up that if he doesn't change how he is acting, towards both his own Sekirei and those still free that I'll be back." With that Ranma smashed his fist back against the wall, shattering it for a yard in either direction, then turned and leaped out into the air.

For a moment the four Sekirei stared then they and the human guards raced over, gaping down at Ranma. As they watched the intruder flipped several times, then flung his arms to either side slowing his descent before he flipped himself twice more, landing and rolling on the nearest rooftop. Coming to his feet he raced on without pause, seemingly unhurt.

"What the hell is he!?" muttered one of the Sekirei.

A nearby guard heard her of course and looked at her goggling. "You, um, isn't he one of you lot?"

"Not likely, not with that curse of his," she replied, but not going into any details. After all the guard didn't want to know, sighing, she turned to her fellow Sekirei. "We might as well wake our Ashikabi up if we can. He…" she paused, staring at him, then bit back a giggle as the other people in the room did the same at Higa's new appearance. "He's really not going to like this."

OOOOOOO

Ranma had actually missed a few tiny cameras here and there, and the hospital's cyber-security wasn't nearly as good as Higa thought it was. This was because Minaka had retained one of the three brain type Sekirei for MBI. With her help, they were able to watch everything that Ranma did once inside the building.

Roused from sleep because of his orders to be notified of any incident involving the cursed martial artist, it took Minaka more than twenty minutes to regain control of himself. By the time he did, he had a plan on how to use this going forward.

It is almost time to start closing the city and declaring the game openly anyway. Even though many of the Sekirei have yet to be released we can move that up, make it a response to the many incidents that go against the rules. I can also use that to segue into cutting off Nerima from public transportation. Let us see how Ranma reacts to other people paying for his folly. That is all I can do until Karasuba returns from her assassination mission unfortunately. And that could take a week or more! For now, it serves both my own entertainment and the game for the wild horse to be allowed to roam free of my designs. Though I wonder how young Higa will react to the *snort* affront to his dignity.

At that Minaka couldn't stop himself, and he pulled up a loop file from the computers which had witnessed Ranma's 'assault' on Higa, cackling all the while.

OOOOOOO

Job done for the night, Ranma stopped by Miya's place to pick up an anxious Akitsu, who he found hadn't moved since she had followed him there earlier that evening. Akitsu had somehow just known he was leaving the Tendo house despite her being asleep in Kasumi's room when he tried to leave.

She had then come out onto the roof, and the sight of her had nearly caused Ranma to pass out, his blood having traveled first to his face and then down south so quickly it left him light-headed. Akitsu had stopped sleeping naked thanks to Kasumi's influence given she slept in the oldest Tendo girl's room. But the diaphanous silk negligee and barely-there white panties weren't much better, framing her body against the moonlight in a way that made all her curves stand out to a degree Ranma would never have thought possible.

Thankfully, Ranma had convinced her to at least change her clothing before coming with him. Else the trail of men who had died via nosebleeds would have given their progress through the city away.

To his surprise, Miya was also awake sipping tea quietly next to Akitsu, both of them sitting on the patio in the backyard. "Did you have an interesting evening?" Miya asked as Ranma landed on the grass before them.

Ranma shrugged. "Not so much interesting, but it was fun…for me anyway," he finished with a grin. "It won't be so much fun for the Asshole of the East once he wakes up tomorrow."

"And what did you do to your poor target?" Miya asked, smiling slightly as Akitsu stood up instantly from where she had been sitting silent vigil next to her the entire time. She moved to stand beside Ranma, staring at him from head to toe to make certain he was all right before taking up position next to Ranma and slightly behind him.

Miya felt her smile widen when Ranma reached across and gently tousled the other woman's hair, letting his hand linger on her cheek in that for a second before he turned back to Miya. Seeing Akitsu-chan's devotion to Ranma is always cute, but seeing Ranma's growing affection towards her is even better given Akitsu-chan's unique situation.

Despite her simple pleasure in the growing and surprisingly deep bond between the two, Miya was very interested in the current topic. Anything that made her feathers' lives better during this damn game was something she was very concerned about, especially anything that dealt with the power-hungry Ashikabi who were willing to use their current feathers to gather more to their flocks.

"Well let's see, first I broke into his building, showing that it could be done despite all the additions to the security they've been adding since this 'game' began, Kocho and Matsu were right about that. Then I found Higa, broke down his door, knocked him out, and began to draw messages on his body like those I wrote down for the little brat of the South and a bit more too. My favorite… let's just say it was built around an arrow pointing downwards and a phrase involving removing certain parts of the body."

Miya giggled, one hand rising to hide her mouth, not noticing Ranma frown at that gesture. "Mah, that does sound like a message with an… 'edge' … to it. Not, that it isn't a pretty picture, indeed if not for my agreement with Minaka it is something I would already have seen to. Anything else?"

"Died him blue from the chest up," Ranma said with a smirk. I was going to make the bishole - bishounen asshole- look like one of those American Smurf creatures, and had just begun to shave his head when I was interrupted. I got away clean enough, oh, they obviously knew who I was, but beyond that clean." He smirked, cracking his knuckles. "And if Higa's dumb enough to send his Sekirei out looking for me in revenge, that means there will be less of them to cause trouble for other Sekirei."

Miya nodded at that, then gestured him away. "Very well, but it's getting late, and despite what you might think, it is still a school night. I do not want to hear about you having to skip school, and I have convinced Akitsu-chant to tell me if you do."

Ranma turned a mockingly pouting glance to Akitsu, who flinched a little but met his gaze stoically. "Miya-san is scary," she said simply.

"True enough," Ranma said with a grin, throwing an arm around her shoulders and hugging her slightly. "In that case Miya-nee, we'll head off now. See you later."

Miya nodded at that, and watch the two of them hopping away over the rooftops before she let loose another laugh, making no effort to cover it this time. My word, Ranma certainly does bring a certain flair to his duties! I wonder what the others will think about this when they hear?

On their way back, Ranma once more slowed down then came to a halt once they had entered Nerima area, pausing on a small three-story apartment building. "Akitsu," he said hesitantly. "I, I talked to Nabiki earlier, and I was… Erm… have you talked to her?"

"Yes," Akitsu said, looking at him closely now, her body moving automatically to follow him even so.

"And, what do you think about it? About her and me dating to see where it goes?" Ranma asked. He personally wasn't certain how he felt about it. He liked Nabiki, sure. She was intelligent, witty, funny and sexy. But Ranma was worried he'd try to make them both happy only to make neither happy and wreck what he already had with both girls.

Realizing her Ashikabi wanted her real opinion, Akitsu swallowed her initial words, which would have been to say it was up to him as her Ashikabi. Instead, she replied honestly. "Ahh…While Sekirei are supposed to be able to share their Ashikabi, that is not something I would enjoy. I like Nabiki as a person, and she is not a Sekirei, therefore no threat on that level. I, I also have her word that she won't try to, to…" she paused then looking down, the words catching in her throat.

Sighing, Ranma pulled her into a hug. "She said she won't try to replace you, and I wouldn't let that happen anyway," he pulled away, tapping his chest with two fingers. "She can't replace you here it's just not going to happen. She might make her own place there, but that doesn't mean yours will disappear."

Slowly a smile crossed Akitsu's face, and it was perhaps one of the most beautiful things Ranma had ever seen. It was, loving, tender and a few other emotions Ranma couldn't place. She hugged him tighter, staring up at him with that smile before she turned away just enough to lean against his shoulder.

"So warm," he heard her mutter.

In Akitsu's mind, she had always felt she was an ice flower which yearned for the warmth of the sun, which should melt her but instead was freeing her heart. And while she was still broken, the sun currently hugging her as tightly as she was him had begun to warm her inside and out. Each time they had a moment like this, she felt that warmth spread further. "…thank you, Sun-sama," she said now.

"Sun-sama?" Ranma asked, cocking an eyebrow at her.

She smiled, her smile slightly changing to show some amusement along with the myriad of other emotions Ranma could see in her eyes. "Ahh…You seem to like giving nicknames to people, that is mine for you. It is either that or Ashikabi-sama."

Ranma laughed, his hands moving to trace the chains. "And if I say you can't use either?"

"Ahh…I would hate to disobey Sun-sama," Akitsu replied after thinking about it for a moment, her eyes actually twinkling in the light of the moon above them.

Ranma laughed, then using her chains to pull her over slightly he kissed her on the lips. He didn't let it go too far though, stepping back and keeping her in position by the use of her chains. "All right. I just wanted to make sure you were okay with the idea of Nabiki and I going on a date. Now let's go. Miya was right, it is a school night."

Once they were on their way, he said, "Oh, by the way, I'd like you to think about where you'd like to be taken out on a date too. That's going to happen before I take Nabiki on one."

Behind him, Akitsu's smile widened even more at that, as the warmth within her soul grew again.

OOOOOOO

Higa was furious, utterly and completely furious in a way that he had never ever been before in his life. The image staring back at him from his full body mirror explained why he was so furious neatly of course. Before this, he would not have actually described himself as vain, but incredibly pretty people sometimes didn't see themselves that way until they no longer had those looks to be vain about. This was certainly the case for Higa now.

On his stomach and sides were myriad small messages either attacking his morals and masculinity or making coarse threats to his 'pretty boy face' or… extremities. That could have been borne, but above that started the real travesty. From the bottom of his pecs up Higa's skin had been dyed a deep, almost comedic blue. On top of that, half of his hair had been shaved, while the rest was still in place. The fact it was the front portion of his hair rather than one side or the other did not make it any better.

The dye would eventually come out and a permanent marker could be washed away with the right solvents. They would sting, they weren't supposed to be used on skin after all but it would work. The hair, however, there was no easy way to solve that issue. Not unless I have a hair transplant or try some of my company's more… bizarre pharmaceutical experiments.

Higa supposed he could wear a wig to hide his deformity, but to do so he would have to shave off the rest of his hair, or somehow contrive to find a wig life-like enough to fuse into his own.

Grimacing, Higa reached for his personal organizer, made a note to look into those wigs and sighed, before pulling out the large bottle of solvents that would remove the permanent marker. As he did, his eyes caught the one message that was written in an arrow, and shuddered a little, before his anger caused his fear to disappear once more.

Moments later Higa's skin was still somewhat bluish, and his head entirely defoliated, Higa marched into the sitting room outside of his of the room where the assault had occurred. "How did this happen!?" he barked out, rage deep in his eyes.

That rage was not helped when one of the two Sekirei waiting for him with his second-in-command began to choke in an effort to hide her laughter. Luckily for his personal health, his second-in-command simply pushed his glasses up his nose, then relayed the information they had found out after a night spent examining the incident. He handed over pictures taken of the outer wall where Ranma had climbed. We have cameras on the rooftop, but not from the twentieth floor up. We just didn't anticipate someone being able to get up that high without being seen. Even the messages written on MBI Tower's exterior didn't go that high so we had no anticipation of someone being able to do so.

"We think that this Ranma guy somehow crossed from one of the other buildings going upwards at an angle steep enough for it not to be caught by the cameras," said Toyotama. She was a green haired woman who insisted on going around with a belly top that looked more like a bikini than anything else, a Sekirei crest on one side. "It wouldn't be easy, but if someone was able to string a rope between the two buildings, it's possible. Getting in silently after that point, that would've been way more difficult for most of us."

Sitting down, Higa leaned back in his chair frowning angrily. He was tempted to beat the Sekirei on duty last night for this breach of security, but it would have been pointless. They were not involved in the electronic side of things after all. "Have all the guards on duty last night fired," he said instead. Move the day shift to the night and hire new guards for the daytime. Then you Toyotama, Ichiya, I'm assigning you to find this Ranma and liquidate him. He is becoming a liability to our plans going forward."

Ichiya, a butch looking woman with a slight tan to her features who fought with her fists nodded gleefully at that. But Toyotama, who had met and fought Ranma twice by this point, shook her head. "We might need to call in some serious backup to do it. I hate to admit this, but that human's far more skilled than either of us, even together."

"You'll get all the aid you need once you have found him, or…" Higa frowned, looking off into the distance. "Perhaps we should bring in some assassins to do our dirty work for us. After all, while he might appear to have some superhuman qualities, his proof against bullets has yet to be explored."

And even if he is immune, if he is human, and he certainly seems to be given the fact he actually has a paper trail, there might be other beings out there that can match his abilities without possibly costing me valuable pieces in this game. Indeed, finding any such to put on retainer for the future could be a good idea if the first batch of assassins fails, Higa thought.

"Yes," he said abruptly, turning to look at the duet pelts. "That is a better idea. Remain on your current task, and pass orders to your fellow aliens that they are to fall back if Ranma ever challenges them while you are all hunting for more of your kind to bring under my banner Sekirei. We'll act as if we are responding to his threat at this point until the specialists I will hire arrive." He saw the Ichiya scowl and rolled his eyes. "If they fail, you will be free to try your own luck."

OOOOOOO

"So the two of you have decided to live here then?" Miya asked one hand on her chin thoughtfully. While she was smiling lightly, her eyes were slightly flinty as she looked at the two people in front of her. "I'm not certain if I am happy to have more tenants, or unhappy that one of them is a drunken lush and the other a perverse man who might take advantage of her in a time of weakness."

Across from her sat Kazehana and Minato. Kazehana she knew very well from their time together on the first generation of the Disciplinary Squad and after. She was independent, carefree, and strong, but also careless and a lush. Minato, on the other hand, she had never met before he arrived with Kazehana the night before.

"You say that like I wouldn't enjoy every second of it Miya," Kazehana said, with a laugh, throwing her arms around her new Ashikabi. The moment she had recovered from whatever drug she had imbibed Kazehana had pulled Minato into the deepest, longest kiss their lungs could manage. It hadn't been as long as she wanted, but then again Kazehana knew practice made perfect.

The fact that she had found someone that she truly enjoyed being with, who had made her react after Minaka had rejected her was an astonishing thing. There was some physical resemblance between the love of her past and the love of her now, but Kazehana couldn't care less about that, or even the growing suspicion that Minato was Minaka's son. She didn't care at all. Kazehana was happy, and that was all there was to it.

"We won't do anything under your roof that you disapprove of Miya-sama," the man said, nodding his head rapidly.

"Why would we have to?" Kazehana chimed in with a laugh. "That's what love hotels are for."

Nearby Musubi smiled somewhat wanly as she saw this. She didn't know what hotels had to do with love, but they must be really nice. On top of that, seeing another Ashikabi and Sekirei pair get together hurt a little given that Ryoga had yet to return. Ranma was certain he would though, and probably suddenly. That gave her hope, and Musubi was good about living on hope.

Despite that, Miya noticed Musubi's sadness, and gently bopped Kazehana on the head with her ladle gesturing her out the door. "If you have that much energy, perhaps it is better to make use of that energy in more profitable ways. Go get some groceries," she ordered. "And when you get back, we'll talk about what else you have to do to remain living here Kazehana-san. That list starts with remaining somewhat sober during the day and ends with you aiding Ranma-san in his patrols around the city, so do not think living here will be a sinecure."

OOOOOOO

Despite not getting back until around three in the morning the fear of Miya's response was so strong that Ranma forced himself to go to school the next day. Though he did fall asleep in class pillowing his head in his arms, a book open and stuck on its bottom in front of him. The teachers knew that he was asleep back there, but after one demonstration of what happened when a teacher chucked chalk at him, they stopped attempting to wake him up. Seeing a thin chalk stick embed itself in the wall next to where you were standing would do that and provide the next teacher an obvious reason to not go that route either.

At lunch Ranma sat with Nabiki as had become his habit, dozing off against the tree rather than eating something, something that had Nabiki's eyes widening in shock. He must've really tired himself out last night, this is the first time I've ever seen him not gorge himself on Kasumi's food.

This observation did not stop Nabiki from asking Ranma to take her over to Miya's so she could talk business with Uzume after school however. Feeling those arms around her, one under her legs the other behind her upper back, Nabiki almost missed the look on Akane's face as the two of them were about to go out over the rooftops.

Her younger sister was still getting some very odd looks from the students, given her broken arm but at least Kuno wasn't back yet. That brightened both our days right there, she thought, before shaking her younger sister's look of anger and irritation from her mind so she could stare around her taking in the view as they were hopping along. "This is never going to get old is it?"

"Hasn't yet for me. I love being up high like this, it's somehow the best way to see the world y'know. Less cluttered and noisy than on the ground," Ranma replied.

"I um, have a question. Would you mind waiting until next weekend for our date Nabs?" Ranma asked as they moved towards Miya's place. "Finally, I got Akitsu to admit to actually wanting to go someplace, and like I said, I want to take her out on a date first." That'll take some time to set up, and this'll give me a chance to round up some things for our own date too."

"What do you have in mind?" Nabiki asked then added almost absentmindedly. "And don't call me Nabs."

"Wouldn't that be telling?" Ranma asked, not teasingly, he was honestly confused. "I thought the guy was supposed to surprise the girl with the date."

"Sort of but not quite. Unless we agree on something beforehand, yes the actual 'thing' we're going to be doing on the date should probably come as a surprise. But it's not like you have to keep the entire event a secret." Nabiki replied, somewhat hesitant herself. She had never gone into romance novels or even talking to her friends about romance, so she actually wasn't' certain about what went into setting up an actual date.

Ranma nodded, thinking that maybe he needed to write that down somewhere. "Well this whole dating thing is new to me you know?" he said, giving voice to both their thoughts at that moment. "Anyway, Akitsu wants to go to the ocean, to the beach specifically, and that's going to take some doing given the fact that she isn't supposed to leave the city according to Minaka and his merry band of sycophants."

"Ooh," Nabiki cooed, leaning away from his chest to give him a mock-surprised look. "You used a big word, Ranma I'm so proud of you AAKKK!"

Ranma made to drop Nabiki as he leaped from one rooftop to the next, and she quickly clung to him, pressing her chest against his. That chest wasn't quite up to Sekirei standards. "You can walk on your own you know," he drawled. Despite that, his arms around her were gentle, even the hand which had found a grip on her rear somehow.

"Point taken. Truce?" Nabiki squeaked, though whether or not that was because of her scare or the fact Ranma's hand had just squeezed her rear she couldn't say. "Um, you were saying?"

Ranma smiled moving his arms slightly so his one arm went under her legs once more, the other around her shoulders not having moved. "I was saying that to get to the beach we'll either have to sneak out or breakout and that'll take some planning. As for our date, yours and mine…" Ranma went on, after hopping to the next group. "Well, ya like being up high, so I figured I'd look around for places up high where we could have a picnic. Are there any kind of foods you particularly like or want to try?"

That, Nabiki frowned at. Personally, she preferred actually eating at a restaurant rather than have a picnic out, the more high class the better. But she was willing to compromise on that. Ranma was actually planning their date, and despite not knowing him more than a few months Nabiki knew that was pretty big. "I suppose I'd like to try French, I've never had it, or perhaps some Italian. I love Kasumi's cooking," she said hurriedly, "I mean her cooking is amazing I'd put her up against any regular restaurant out here, but she doesn't do foreign cooking very often. Mainly because our younger sister and father didn't like it when she attempted it in the past."

"My dad'd feel the same way," Ranma said with a snort. "Though I think your little sister might surprise you. I heard her talking to a few of her friends at school, and they were talking about a new American restaurant downtown."

"American is very different from French or Italian you plebian," Nabiki said drolly. "And if you don't know the difference, maybe I should be the one to choose the restaurant."

"We can try that the next date," Ranma said equably.

"Mm, that works," Nabiki said with a nod, smirking at the fact that Ranma had just basically stated there would be a second date.

Soon after that the two of them were at Miya's place, where they hopped down.

There they found two people that Nabiki hadn't met before this, which Ranma introduced quickly. "Yo Minato, and er, Kazehana right? Guess you're feeling better huh?"

Kazehana's bust size made Nabiki's jaw drop, being larger than even Musubi's, who had been sparring with Miya nearby. The man, Minato, seemed to be a nondescript college-aged boy. Beside his shaggy hair and wide-eyed look, there didn't seem to be anything that would stand out about him.

The two of them had been airing out a few futons together in the backyard when Ranma landed next to them. Kazehana quickly turned, her hand rising, then paused as she noticed who it was. "Well, if it isn't our savior from the other night," she said, winking at Ranma then smiling down to where Nabiki was still in his arms. "And is this your latest rescued princess?"

"Hah, hell no," Nabiki said as Ranma set her down. "Not only have I never wanted to be anything as useless as a princess, but I'm human. I'm not involved in this game, and I actually rather like being the outsider looking in. I might enjoy a bit of excitement, but getting into actual fights is rather barbaric in my mind."

Kazehana gasped taking a step backward and placing a hand over her chest, causing it to wobble noticeably. "Ouch, that hurt," the wind user mockingly, then winked at that Nabiki as she simply laughed. "Nice to meet you all the same."

"I still can't thank you enough for helping us Ranma-san," Minato said earnestly to the younger Ranma, using the honorific for the young man, though it made Ranma wince slightly. "If you hadn't come along and saved us as you did, Kazehana and I would never have…"

"Danced the beast with two backs!" Kazehana caroled, pulling a blushing Minato into kissing the side of his face. "This afternoon was fantastic!"

The two younger people were now blushing, though it was hardly noticeable on Nabiki's face thanks to her self-control. "Well that's nice," she said, "but we're actually not here to talk to you. I'm here to talk to Uzume. Is she here?"

"My drinking buddy? Sure, she's up in her room."

"Not anymore," said the brunette, hopping out of her window to land next to them, grinning at Nabiki and Ranma as she threw a friendly arm over Nabiki's shoulders. "Hey Bro, Nabiki. Bro, said you'd have a job for me?"

"I've got a few actually," Nabiki said, holding up a folder after pulling it out of her book bag, which Ranma had on his back the entire trip. "Are you free today? If so, I can call and get you involved in a few kid's parties this evening as a mascot animal. They're always welcome, even if they don't match known characters. Kids like large fluffy things."

"Heck yes!" Uzume said, grinning. "Just tell me what kind of costume I need and I'm so there. I've got like a dozen to choose from, cheering up Chiho-baby's given me access to a lot of them."

Nabiki blinked. "Um, all of them? You're probably going to have to change after each party and there are four I can schedule you for tonight. They'll be small things, not a lot of money each, but it'll add up. And then, Ranma said you might want to be involved in some of his martial arts construction jobs over in Nerima." Nabiki replied, making no effort to shuck Uzume's arm off. Even after only meeting her a few times, she had gotten used to Uzume's cheery, overly friendly ways.

"Sure I guess, though I don't know anything about construction. Still, I'm pretty strong, so I guess I can help lift things and such. I really need the money, so anything I can do to help…" Uzume said, trailing off and looking away.

"That and a few other things," Ranma said with a nod. "I can teach you some of the construction techniques on-the-fly, you Sekirei have a natural speed and strength advantage like you said, so we'll work with that. Beyond that, Nabiki here had a plan to bring in more money."

"You have all of those cute outfits, but do you have anything that'd bring in an audience of a slightly older persuasion?" Nabiki asked circuitously, waggling one eyebrow at Uzume from about a foot away.

"What'd that old program I saw one time call it?" Uzume said with a grin. "'Something for the dads'? Yeah, I can figure something out if you give me an hour or so."

"Why don't you and I work on that for a bit, Ranma I know is anxious to head home to grab Akitsu and go on patrol. Then we can finalize our agreement here." Nabiki said, pulling out another folder.

Uzume looked at it in surprise. "Actual paperwork? You don't need a legal ID for that?"

"I know where you live and what you look like, and, well Ranma vouches for you," Nabiki said, adding the last bit on as if it pained her, making Ranma roll his eyes and Uzume to laugh. "That's enough for this kind of deal."

Ranma went home and grab Akitsu, heading out on patrol. They saw a few fights going on, but all of them were one-on-one, so they didn't get involved beyond at one point Ranma stopping the fight when it looked as if it was going to spill over down the regular streets.

Back at Izumo House Nabiki was having a much more hair-raising discussion. "So tell me, Nabiki exactly what is your relationship with Ranma hmmm?" Kazehana asked as she lounged across from the middle Tendo at the dining table.

There was a faint smile on Kazehana's face even if one of her hands was twitching as if she desperately wanted to be holding something. But Miya was sitting there too and the fear of number 1's ladle kept her from bringing back any alcohol. Her taking Minato, and subsequently taking over two hours to get back, had pushed things as it was. Even Kazehana knew not to push her old captain too far.

"Oh no, you're one of those aren't you?" Nabiki mock-groaned, though her lips were twitching somewhat as she did. "A romantic busybody."

"Tsk, I prefer to simply call myself a romantic, and drop the busybody. I'll raise my hand to being nosy though," Kazehana replied cheerfully. "Now, stop dodging the question."

Miya coughed delicately from where she was sitting down at another side of the table, causing Kazehana and Uzume, who was also there, to stiffen. "Ahem. I would like to know about this as well. I can see that something has changed between the two of you from the first time he brought you over. But I also know that he and Akitsu-chan are becoming ever closer. So I would like to know your intentions towards my student."

Hearing that from Miya made even Nabiki sit up and answer honestly. The woman was Ranma's chosen master and big sister figure, so Nabiki knew she had to say on the gorgeous landlady's good side. "Okay, well you know about the agreement between our families. Well, Ranma and I have decided to give dating a try."

"OH!" Musubi said from where she was sitting next to Kazehana. "Does that mean Ranma is your destined one? Kazehana-san told me about dates and what they meant. Though she refused to explain the phrase 'bumping uglies'. Why would anyone want to bump uglies?"

If Minato was there he would possibly have died of the blood rushing to his head too fast, but thankfully he wasn't there. Both he and Kazehana had been given chores around the place as part of their staying in Izumo House, and today was his day to clean the bathhouse.

Uzume collapsed sideways guffawing as Kazehana giggled until Miya began to frown, her Hanya mask peeking out from behind her. All of them froze at that, Uzume mid-guffaw, quailing under the glare of the thing made of utter darkness. Nabiki seemed to stop breathing feeling a pressure all around her as her monkey mind gibbered at her to run and hide. "Corrupting innocent minds is forbidden in Izumo House."

As Kazehana gabbled apologies and promises that she wouldn't try to educate Musubi further, Miya turned back to Nabiki, the mask now gone. Even so, some of its fear leaked through to the civilian. "Now, please answer the question."

"Um, well love doesn't work like that between us humans Musubi. We date in order to get to know someone. Ranma and I are um… kind of interested in each other? The whole agreement between our families is serving as impetus, but that's it. And he and Akitsu are very much an item already, which neither he nor I want to damage." Nabiki said, her words coming out in a jumble and at times not well chosen, but heartfelt for all of that.

"Very well. That makes some sense." Miya said, then smiled brightly, the last vestige of darkness leaving her expression. "Now, who's up for some tea?"

The quiet of course didn't last for long. "So, what about Ranma attracted you to him? Does he live up to his name?" Kazehana asked.

Uzume quickly joined in. "How many dates will you force bro to take you on before you decide to ride the wild horse?"

Rolling her eyes Nabiki replied. "Actually it was more because he was fun-loving and a breath of fresh air in my rather boring life than any kind of physical attraction. The body doesn't hurt though." She finished with a laugh.

Rolling her eyes, Miya stood up from the table. "Come Musubi, let us put your time to better use than listening to these gossips." It was obvious to her that Nabiki, Kazehana, and Uzume were going to get along all too well.

OOOOOOO

Surprisingly the next week passed somewhat more peacefully, even if many could tell it was the calm before the storm. Uzume's job as a giant party favor went off without a hitch. She was surprisingly good with kids, and her costumes were so well made she retained a lot of mobility and they didn't smell, a noted bonus to the people who hired her. The next day, her work with Ranma at his demonstration of martial arts construction also went over very well. Her choice of what looked like a sleazy version of a southern belle's outfit went over very well with the male portion of the onlookers, and Nabiki was beginning to think that she could be the centerpiece for a whole ad campaign.

On the Sekirei side, MBI had slowed the rate at which it released the last dozen Sekirei, which allowed for more fights around the city. Better in Ranma's perspective, Mikogami and Higa had seemingly taken Ranma's warnings to heart, or at least had started to become more circumspect in how they hunted more Sekirei to add to their harems. Ranma actually wasn't certain if harem was the right word to use in the southern brat's case anyway.

That wasn't to say there weren't incidents. Most of which could be used as examples of the phrase 'unintended consequences'. Some of them didn't even directly involve Ranma, while others most certainly did. The first such incident occurred on Monday at the Tendo's house.

Kasumi stared down at the ninja as the ninja stared back, a large sweatdrop appearing on his face. After a second, the homeowner's eyes slowly narrowed. "While I have not attempted to stop you from observing my home or the dojo from the roofs around us, I do not appreciate you using my rice cooker as a hiding place Mister…"

"Uh, um, I'm Sasuke, Kasumi-san. I, I'm not from anyone official or the MBI or anything like that miss, and I'm not so much observing your house but observing Ranma and the Sekirei who come here. My mistress is interested in them given the injuries one of them was able to do to her brother." Sasuke hastened to reply. Something about this woman made him completely unable to not answer her questions.

"Be that as it may, it is rather rude to observe them on the family property. If you wish to observe us, then you must come in and act as a guest is that understood," Kasumi said sternly.

For some reason, Sasuke couldn't find it in him to argue and he simply nodded, "Yes mistress."

"Good," she said smiling and gesturing him out of the rice cooker. "Now please come have some tea."

Just then, the doorbell rang, and Kasumi sighed. "Take a seat at the table, I'll be with you in a moment. And do not try to hide around our property, I will know where you are, and I will be most cross if I have to chastise you again for your lack of manners."

Feeling like a little child who had been scolded by his mother, the ninja sat at the table docilely as Kasumi moved to the front door. Outside, she found Haihane and Tsukiumi, glaring at one another, though with little heat. They were not friends or even friendly, but there seemed to be something almost honest about their rivalry, which had sprung up during their time coming to the dojo.

"Hello girls," Kasumi said smiling politely. "Please come in. Ranma and Akitsu left earlier to go on a quick patrol before Kazehana-san takes over, but they should return soon. Are either of you hungry?"

"That is a loaded question to ask any Sekirei Kasumi-san," Tsukiumi said, chuckling as she followed the homeowner in. She had a great deal of respect for Kasumi, whose attitude reminded her somewhat of Miya, though without so much steel visible under her exterior.

Both Sekirei paused as they saw the little man sitting at the table. "Oh, this is another guest, his name is Sasuke, and he was asked to observe Ranma and Akitsu for some reason by the owners of much of this territory, the Kunos."

"Is he an enemy then," Tsukiumi asked, straightening up abruptly and scowling at the little man.

"N-no!" Sasuke said hastily waving his hand and getting to his feet bowing politely to the ladies. "Not at all! I was sent to simply observe. Essentially my mistress wishes to know how strong Ranma is and his stance towards MBI. I'm supposed to observe him and Akitsu unseen, but I suppose that's just not in the cards any longer."

I apologize if my finding you will get you in trouble. On the other hand, if you observe from a distance, I doubt Ranma will care one way or the other. He's probably already noted your presence anyway." Kasumi said.

"Oh thank goodness! It would be a mark of great shame for me to have to do this, the honest way I suppose you could say," Sasuke said, chuckling and rubbing at the back of his head ruefully. "We ninja are always supposed to perform our missions in the dark."

Tsukiumi rolled her eyes at that but sat down across from Kasumi while Haihane stood there. Then she drooped, poking at the ground with one finger. "That's a ninja. So not living up to expectations. Naruto and Ninja Scroll were so much better," she mumbled.

Sasuke heard this and actually growled, showing the first bit of aggression Kasumi had yet seen from the diminutive man. "I'll have you know that that particular animation is not about true ninja but overpowered child soldiers who lack any true understanding of what ninja truly are. As I said, we ninja do our work in the darkness, unseen. We are not about throwing around superpowers, one-on-one fights, or overpowered teenagers acting as if they have had a botched lobotomy, let alone stupid eyes that allow us to cheat our way to strength!"

From this, it could be deduced that Sasuke had a bit of a complex about the anime Haihane had named. Since he shared a name with one of the main characters this should have already been obvious.

Haihane's eyes narrowed dangerously at that, but she sat down across from Sasuke. "Okay, convince me. But first, tell me this at least: is the shadow close technique real?"

"Well, it is real for a given value of real. I can create clones like that, but I certainly don't retain their memories or anything like that. But they are very useful."

As Haihane began to grill Sasuke on what a real ninja was like, Tsukiumi looked at Kasumi for a moment. "By the way, Miss Kasumi, didst thou know that public transportation is no longer going into or out of Nerima?"

"I have, but it doesn't really matter much to us here. Yes, public transportation is nice, but there's no place farther away than a day's walk where I needed to go. And I would wager it's the same with much of the other people in Nerima. We're almost our own little community here really in many ways.

"True. Indeed, the dedication of this area to martial arts and the way that I hath not been harassed here as I hath been elsewhere brings me to another question. Dost thou know any place that has an apartment for rent? Specifically one who is being rented out by a woman?"

"I do. In fact, I would be fully willing to introduce you to the owners. Though I think they would balk at taking the MBI card if you were thinking of paying with that." Kasumi cautioned.

"Wilt they taketh cash? I can use the card to get out cash elsewhere in Shin-Teito and bring it here to spend."

At that moment, Akane and Yashima came in to find the two new Sekirei sitting there along with an unknown and very short, rather rat-like man. Akane glared at them all equally, but with her arm still banged up, there was nothing she could do about their presence. And she actually liked Tsukiumi at least, since her attitude towards men was somewhat like Akane's own. She simply nodded at them all, then headed upstairs, Yashima and Sayuri and Yuka following quickly.

"So that's Tsukiumi, wow you weren't kidding when you said she's stacked!" Sayuri said in an undertone.

Tsukiumi still heard her though, and flushed somewhat but didn't reply elsewise, continuing her discussion with Kasumi about apartments or houses for rent.

Then the front doorbell rang, and Ranma's voice shouted out. "We're back!"

Sasuke made himself scarce quickly, disappearing over the wall, much to Haihane's amusement, and Ranma and Akitsu entered. "Hey girls, we weren't able to find any action out there, so I hope the two of you are up for some serious sparring!"

The two Sekirei sitting at the table might not have liked one another, but their attitude towards combat and training was much the same. So it did not surprise Kasumi when her two remaining guests stood up as one and said, "always!"

Kasumi and Tsukiumi's discussion had far-reaching consequences, which Tsukiumi would never have predicted. The first consequence was that the denizens of Nerima slowly learned that MBI had cut them off from public transportation. This didn't matter much, as Kasumi had predicted, but the belligerence level of the area rose sharply. The second consequence was that other un-winged Sekirei began to move into the area, thinking it a strange safe haven somehow.

One such event occurred when Ranma and Akitsu were heading out of Nerima. They were passing over the main road out of the town when Akitsu paused, not making the full leap as she should have and instead landing on top of one of the lampposts. Ranma noticed this and turned, but her eyes were not on him for once, but she had already leaped backward out of sight.

Frowning, Ranma turned and leaped after her only to hear a voice to grab his attention mid-jump. "Ah, my proud tigress Akane, what varlet has so wounded your perfect form!? Tell me, so that I might smite him for you and secure your heart!"

Right, Kuno's back, damn it. Ranma thought, landing on the same rooftop as Akitsu and crouching down next to where she had hidden behind the protective wall around the rooftop, which was one of the many garden rooftops around here. And Akitsu's still a little freaked out about him, which is entirely understandable come to think of it.

At the end of the street, Ranma could see Akane, scowling at Kuno as Yashima stood next to her, clad in one of Akane's dresses and frowning as she looked at Kuno. Akane's build was the closest to Yashima's of the Tendo girls, though the chest area had to be taken out a little bit. The two of them had left before him and Akitsu since Ranma had to talk with Nabiki again before they went out on patrol.

Kuno stood nearby having just rounded a corner and spotted them. He wasn't in his traditional kendo outfit, rather he was wearing a decent men's kimono, with a large cane in one hand as he walked. His stance also wasn't quite up to normal, looking a little unsteady.

"Kuno-senpai, I see you're feeling better," Akane grumped. "I didn't see you at school though. What a pity."

What she meant with that last line was open to interpretation, but Kuno decided it meant she had missed him. He laughed wildly, throwing his arms wide. "Ah my fierce tigress has admitted she hast missed me, my day is complete! Alas, my family doctor has not yet allowed me to take up the sword once more. I have yet another week until my body is once more fit to let me date thee and win the affections of the glorious Yuki-onna from the vile company which hath placed her with that cretin Ranma."

Beside Ranma, Akitsu shuddered, then her eyes narrowed just a tiny bit at Kuno's insult to him. She stayed put though, which Ranma thought was rather smart of her.

"That's…nice, Kuno-senpai. I am sure the school has missed you." Akane replied though it was of course quite forced. Oddly for all her anger at perverts and men in general, Akane was also a stickler for the proprieties of treating those in higher grades with respect, something that confused Ranma.

What also confused him were the looks of confusion on two passersby as they heard Akane speak. They were both nondescript types, the woman was quite short, even shorter than Ranma's female form, her age somewhere in the freshman college or high school level. The man looked a bit older, but not much more, his black hair shaggy and longer than the girl's blonde hair. He wore jeans and a jacket, whereas she wore something like a modified schoolgirl's dress and skirt combo.

Their body language though was what caught Ranma's attention: they both looked like they were ready to run at a moment's notice, and not like normal Nerima passerby. These two looked like they were used to being chased. And in this city, that normally means the girl's a Sekirei these days. With that in mind, Ranma asked Akitsu to take a look at the girl.

She popped her head up, staring over at the duo as Kuno continued to spout at Akane. "Ahh…I cannot tell Ranma-sama. She isn't one of the Sekirei I know, and other than her physical abilities, the only way I could tell if she was a Sekirei is to see the crest on the back of her neck."

Ranma nodded, but for some reason he could tell that made Akitsu a bit depressed. So when she ducked back under cover he leaned over, pressing a gentle kiss to the crest on her forehead. Damn, I'm getting way better at this whole showing affection thing. "Don't worry about it Akitsu, it was just a question."

He watched as a rosy tint entered Akitsu's cheeks and she leaned against him as Ranma raised his head to watch what was going on below.

As Ranma looked on, the man with the girl made the mistake of speaking loud enough for Kuno and Akane to hear. "Huh, that's kind of weird Kuno, that wannabe-actor seems to have the same name as you. Weird coincidence."

Kuno turned quickly glaring at the man. "You there, cur! You should know not to interrupt the speech of your betters. But what is this lie thou hast spouted, that this plain-faced girl has the same name as the noble house of Kuno!?"

"Erm," the man backpedaled quickly. "S, sorry man, Um, I didn't know that was your last name. It's just yeah Kuno here has the same name. Sorry about that."

"Bah!" Kuno roared, seemingly enraged at the very idea as the girl wilted both under his glare and his earlier insult to her looks. "You thinketh to use the name of Kuno, of which I am the living patriarch, without repercussion? Even the stars themselves would quail at such effrontery, plotted or no!"

The fact Kuno was the head of his house or at least had deluded himself into thinking that, was interesting. As was the fact he was about to attack the two passersby. And dispelling the idea she was a Sekirei, the girl looked was getting ready to run instead of fight, while the guy stepped forward to confront Kuno. Huh, so she's not a Sekirei then, just someone with an unfortunate name.

Deciding to step in at this point before Yashima or Akane dealt with Kuno physically, Ranma motioned Akitsu to wait there and leaped from that rooftop to a lamp nearby, waving Akane back from where she had been about to punt Kuno away. After all, I'm kinda hoping he comes back after the pasting he took with some new techniques or skills. If he hasn't, well, that'll just be sad. And worth an immediate return to the hospital.

As Kuno made to raise his cane like it was his bokken, Ranma grabbed it at the upswing, holding it still. "That's about enough of that Kuno." He smirked when the girl also responded, cocking her head as if she was wondering what she should stop. "These two ain't martial artists, that's obvious. If you want her to get her name changed, fair enough, but that's something she'll need to do via the law, not something you can force her to via threats. Now, why don't ya go back home and make some plans for when yer free to come to school again? Your kendo clubmates've been slacking in your absence."

"Tsk. Verily thou speaks well once more Saotome, while your sister didst gain all the family's good fortune in appearance, you seem to have gotten some skill in oratory. And the news of my junior's actions most displeases me too," Kuno mused, pulling his cane free from Ranma's hand as the pigtailed boy let his grip slacken.

"I will go, but know, though messy-haired lout, that the name of Kuno is one that shouldst not be infringed upon!" With a final huff, Kuno turned and walked away as the others watched him.

"Erm, thanks for that kid, though I could have handled it." the shaggy-haired college-aged boy said. "What loony bin is missing a patient, eesh."

Akane shook her head, moving up to stand beside Ranma as Yashima did the same. "No, you couldn't have. Even wounded and with a stick, Kuno would have smashed you flat with a single blow. He's one of the strongest martial artists in Nerima." That rather galled Akane, since she knew he was stronger than he had let on in their fights, but she had no choice but to admit it at this point given how badly she had overestimated herself of late. Akane was prideful, not stupid.

An instant later Akitsu landed behind Ranma, causing both the girl Kuno and the as yet unnamed man to jump back. Ranma ignored that, looking at them quizzically. "So yer name's really Kuno? Ya might want to change that if you're going to be around Nerima for very long. Go by your last name or come up with a nickname everyone can use for ya."

"Kuno doesn't have a last name, she's a Sekirei like that one." The man replied, gesturing to Akitsu and staring hard at Ranma. "Huh, so you're the Ashikabi who can fight like a Sekirei? I thought you'd be older looking, no offense. Um, I'm Shigi Haruka, and this is my Sekirei Kuno."

Akane blinked, staring at the girl who seemed to shrink in on herself before turning and glaring at the man, her one good arm rising into an attack position. "If she's really a Sekirei why the heck does she look ready to bolt instead of fight!? Did you do something to her you pervert!"

"What, no! Nothing like that, we just, Kuno is just weak that's all!" Shigi replied backing way as Kuno did the same, quailing slightly as she looked at the three women who she assumed were all Sekirei, even Akane with her broken arm. "And we don't want to fight at all!"

"Huh?" Ranma said, holding up a hand to ward off Akane. She huffed, but subsided, still glaring at the older boy.

Quickly Shigi explained. Kuno was physically speaking very weak in comparison to most Sekirei, and while she had a special power to offset that, she couldn't use it very often. Her sound based attacks were decent, but hurt her throat and were of limited range too. She also was not at all interested in fighting, and Shigi was unwilling to risk their bond in the game. They had been running from fights ever since. "That's why we're here. We heard about you Ranma and wanted to see if you would help us escape the city."

Hearing this, Ranma scowled. Why anyone would want to not fight when they had the abilities of a Sekirei, even a weak one, was beyond him. He also didn't like the idea of running away at all, and the idea of escaping the city was weird too. "You do know if you escape the city MBI would just send people after you? They might not be able to do so openly as they can in Tokyo but they would still do it. You'd spend the rest of your life running."

"Well if that's off the table, what about us getting a room somewhere here in this district?" Shigi asked. "We're desperate. Anything we can do to not play this mad game we'll do! I've even gotten rid of Kuno's MBI card."

Sighing Ranma waved around, kind of fed up with the guy's cowardice. He was so quick to try and protect her from Kuno when he thought Kuno was just a crazy guy, but when it comes to it he isn't willing to fight? Blech. "I suppose ya can look. And if anyone comes after ya, me or one of the other martial artists around can help. Now if you'll excuse me, Akitsu and I need to get going."

With that, he leaped up onto a nearby roof, followed instantly by Akitsu, who had remained silent throughout this discussion. Kuno looked at her as she passed, wilting even further, but neither Akitsu nor Ranma noticed.

Akane sighed. "Come on, I'll show you around the district, I was doing that with Yashima already. Though I won't be able to help you find a job or a place to live, you'll have to ask my big sister about that."

And of course, there were moments in Izumo House too. This was to be expected when there were two new tenants, especially when one of them was Kazehana, Sekirei number 3. Boisterous, fun loving and teasing with a body to match, Kazehana was the sort of woman whose personality could fill a room if she wanted. Plus, she and Uzume were drinking buddies, having met up a bare week after Uzume had escaped earlier than she had been scheduled to be released. This needless to say led to an incident.

Ranma and Miya danced across the lawn, their limbs flickering so fast Akitsu could barely follow the action. Ranma leaped, twisted, danced around the more immobile Miya, spending more than half the time in the air, attacking with both ferocity and skill. But Miya simply matched him, precise, controlled her speed still beyond his and her strength such that his hands tingled even when he redirected her blow in order to remain in the air. None of his jabs penetrated her defense, while her sword sheath did pass his, punching through here and there over his body, leaving light welts.

Sitting on the patio alone, Akitsu simply watched her Ranma-sama in action. Musubi was not there at the moment, having been teamed up with Yashima to patrol the area, making certain to step in and stop any unfair fights. This was something Musubi was happy to do even though she didn't think she should really join the Sekirei Plan without having already found her destined one. Later on, Kazehana would go out on patrol too though she did so alone, Minato staying at the inn most of the time, though he had found a job at a nearby bookstore. Given her power over wind, while sober there was no way she could be caught if she ran into trouble she couldn't fight her way out of, and such occurrences would be rare indeed for the ex-Disciplinary Squad member.

Ranma, Akitsu, and Nabiki had arrived about an hour before. Ranma wanted to get in some sparring time, and the two students had met up with Akitsu outside of school, heading straight here. Nabiki had wanted to come to finalize some more plans with Uzume, who was quickly becoming a real friend to the younger girl.

Sooner than Ranma would have liked Musubi and Yashima appeared over the rooftops. Yashima smiled and waved at the people in the backyard, but turned and left without hopping down to join them. She was quite leery of Miya for some reason and appeared somewhat jealous about Kazehana and Minato, and she wanted to get back to Nerima as quickly as possible.

Musubi didn't notice this as she leaped down exuberantly, her large breasts bouncing so much even Ranma, with all his self-control, could only gape for a moment. However, he controlled himself quickly, turning away as Musubi landed smiling happily at Miya. "I'm home landlady-san! We didn't see anything while on patrol, so can I please spar with you too?"

"Mah, I suppose you can. You certainly have a lot to learn before you can catch up to this one," Miya replied, a small smile on her face as she gestured with her sheath at Ranma. She set it down then, picking up her ladle. Using even the sheath would be too much against Musubi. "Ranma, if you could go and rouse that lazy drunkard for her patrols? After that, I'm afraid I have to ask you to look at the dishwasher for me."

"That's fine Miya-nee. Have fun Musubi," Ranma said, hopping over to the patio. Akitsu was instantly by his side, and the two entered the inn as behind him Musubi charged forward.

Inside Ranma headed upstairs to the room Kazehana and Minato shared. Officially, Kazehana was supposed to have her own room on the other side of the hall. But even Ranma knew she spent her nights in Minato's room. They didn't do anything, of course, they went out in the mornings for that kind of thing. Oddly mornings were the least busy in terms of the Sekirei Plan.

Inside the room, he found not only Kazehana but Uzume, Kocho, Matsu, and Nabiki. All four Sekirei were drunk, drinking from their own small sake bottles and laughing having a great time as they watched something on a small computer screen set up on the futon to one side.

In contrast, Nabiki was passed out, a saucer set nearby, though she was just as undressed as the others. Her uniform's skirt halfway off, unbuttoned with one arm out of the sleeve. Her skirt was down by her knees. This showed off that Nabiki was currently wearing white lace underwear, which was quite sexy in Ranma's opinion, an opinion created in the .00025 seconds in which he took in the view before turning and facing a wall.

"What the hell!?" He squawked loudly, so loudly it carried around the property. "What the hell were you five doing in here?"

"Oh, this and that, mostly talking about boys, men, romance, and funny cat videos," Kazehana replied, almost sounding sober, or as close to it as she ever sounded. "Dreams for the future, dreamy guys, what these two were looking for in an Ashikabi, that kind of thing."

"Mmm, Kenji Tenzai," Kocho moaned, falling to one side and giggling uncontrollably, her hands moving down her body, her normal staid, self-control gone. "Heheheh, you can fit your data chip into my core anytime…"

"We've found out that Nabiki-chan here finds you almost as attractive in female form as in male," Kazehana said, patting Nabiki familiarly on her bare ribcage. "And that she's a lightweight when it comes to drinking, something to keep in mind when you go on this fabled date of yours. You're rather cruel to put that off for so long though. Not that she hasn't been doing good work, but still, a girl likes to see some enthusiasm when it comes to dating!"

Of all the people he had met since getting his curse, Kazehana had taken it the most in stride. To her, it didn't matter at all, she was going to tease and taunt him whatever body he was in. Minato, on the other hand, had fainted and looked rather uncomfortable with Ranma the few times he had seen Ranma in his female body.

"Boo, bad number 3," Matsu muttered, clearly drunk. If her tone wasn't enough the fact she missed when tried to reach out and poke Kazehana, who was sitting right beside her, would have proven the point. "Bad, bad, Kazehana, can go out, goes out, free, free like a birdie." Her attempt at poking Kazehana having failed, Matsu seemed to collapse. "Not likes me, me, old number 2, needs ta, ta shtay here, to hide, hide from the man, from MV, no MBI, thash it. Wanna go, wanna see shome sights."

She reared up, throwing her arms wide, this time clocking Kazehana in the side of the head, though the wind user hardly seemed to notice watching all this with a grin. "Want's to get an Ashikabi!" then Matsu deflated once more, pouting at Kazehana. "Bad old number 3, won't share."

"At least let me have a month with him before you start to try and beguile him, Matsu," Kazehana reproved. "Or like you said, go out and snare your own man."

"NOooo," Matsu said, whining and now digging her face into the futon. "Can't go out, the black crow will get me!"

Ranma groaned, looking at Uzume who hadn't turned from watching a few kids and a large tabby cat playing around on the video screen. "You got Nabiki drunk? Nabiki, the always in control, never letting her guard down, Nabiki? Really?"

"Ara, now this is rather unpleasant," said a voice from the doorway, causing all of them to turn. Akitsu was nowhere in sight, having retreated away from the doorway to allow Miya to stand there her ladle raised, a Hanya mask already appearing behind her accompanied by the wailing of souls in torment.

She stepped forward and Ranma ducked around her, saying he'd be back to get Nabiki later but it was best if she slept it off for now.

He reached Akitsu's position quickly, by which time the four inebriated Sekirei were pushing through the realm of sobriety into the cold, terrifying depths of the scared-out-of-their-minds. Miya stood over them now, looking down like a vengeful goddess about to smite the sinners. "There are so many things wrong here that merely one rule just does not cover it. So let us list all the things you are doing currently that are FORBIDDEN in Izumo house… then we will discuss your punishments…"

As screams began behind him, Ranma grabbed Akitsu by the hand, reaching out to grab Musubi's with the other. "Come on you two, let's get out of here. I don't think Izumo House is going to be fit for living in for a bit…"

OOOOOOO

Eventually, Ranma decided to just go with it and see if he and Akitsu could just run out of the city. With Haihane's connivance, Ranma was able to figure out the Disciplinary Squad's schedule and where there was a hole in it. It wasn't really considered an actual hole of course since most people would think the two heavily armed squads of guards at the checkpoint complete with automatic weapons and a roadblock formidable enough on its own without the Disciplinary Squad. Even most Sekirei would be slowed down by that, especially if they had to defend their Ashikabi at the same time. Ranma and Akitsu however, could simply bull their way through.

Friday came around once more and found Ranma and Akitsu once more roof-hopping out of Nerima. As they crossed the almost visible line between the martial arts crazy district and the rest of the city, Ranma paused, frowning as he saw Kuno and her Ashikabi walking along a road nearby. "Akitsu, have anymore Sekirei shown up in Nerima who don't want to fight?"

"Ahh…only one more," Akitsu said after a moment. Since she went around on errands with Kasumi on a nearly daily basis Akitsu actually knew more about what was going on in Nerima on a street level than Ranma was. "Besides Kuno, another Sekirei-Ashikabi pair have moved into the territory. The Ashikabi in question is a young boy, around 12 years old. The Sekirei in question is not willing to gamble her bond in the game. All the others who have moved into Nerima are more than willing to fight, they are just not willing to be rushed to find an Ashikabi."

"Which means that Minaka-aho can't object to their presence," Ranma mused then laughed. "I love that."

Akitsu nodded. She wasn't certain that the other more powerful Ashikabi would agree to let their weaker brethren band together as they sort of were at this point, or are that the Disciplinary Squad would not be sent after Ranma eventually for his interference in how the game was supposed to be: I.E. a free-for-all where only the strongest survived. Then again, given what the Haihane had said the last time she had been at the dojo she, Benitsubasa and the two new members of their squad were very busy. And since Ranma had proven he could fight any one of them pretty easily, the fact they were waiting wasn't that unusual.

The two of them remained silent for a time, simply enjoying one another's company as they raced through Tokyo heading southward and out the other side where they hopped up onto one of the highways, racing along the protective wall on one side. There they passed several dozen cars stopped for inspection by the troops set there to make certain that no Sekirei was trying to make a break for it.

Despite that, Ranma had been surprised that there had been no incidents just yet. Most people seemed to be taking a wait and see attitude to the new changes Minaka had forced onto the city, the traditional Japanese desire to not make waves going along with people's desires to not die. But that record was about to be broken.

As they saw the checkpoint Ranma and Akitsu didn't slow, continuing moving forward racing now almost as fast as a normal car could go on the road. Soon enough they were spotted in turn by the inspection teams.

"Halt!" shouted one of them, raising his gun and pointing it towards Ranma and Akitsu. He paused as he noticed that Ranma was moving just as fast as Akitsu. But he still shouted, "No Sekirei is allowed to leave the city limits! Turn back, or you and your Ashikabi will be fired upon!"

"Let's do it Akitsu!" Ranma said slowing down just enough for Akitsu to nearly run into his back.

"Hai Ranma-sama!" Akitsu said, her normal slow response utterly gone as usual when faced with combat. The two of them had also talked about what they needed to do at this point.

She gestured forward around Ranma and a wall of ice appeared, flashing forwards towards the men at the checkpoint. They fired, but their bullets spanged off of the yard-thick wall of ice, startling them. Two of them began to race to the vehicle set to one side of the checkpoint which had a heavier weapon on the turret.

But before they reached it, Ranma was on them from above. He had leaped up into the air the instant Akitsu had conjured her wall, betting on the fact that despite their equipment and uniforms these troops would be green, unable to break their attention away from the sudden appearance of an ice wall and a rampaging Sekirei.

He had been right, and now he landed in among the four men racing for the APC. He lashed out, tapping each man gently- for him - in the chest, sending them flying. Several times he caught their weapons, tossing them to shatter against the concrete wall.

He then grabbed the microphone from one man who had been in the process of calling in help. "None of that!"

"You, you can't do this, MBI, the president he'll send out a kill team for yoGAHH!" The man babbled as Ranma lifted him up hurling him to slam bodily into several more men.

"Meh, I don't want to leave the city entirely, just for the day basically. I promise to be back by 10 o'clock tonight," Ranma said, holding up his hand mockingly as if he was performing a vow. "We're just going on a beach date, that's all."

The men who were still conscious blinked owlishly at that through their pain filled eyes and Ranma handed a few back their weapons after Akitsu passed, nodding politely to them as he had asked her to. The quixotic nature of their politeness after the event would be sure to throw the men, sticking in their heads more than if they had simply rushed by. And now that they had an actual reason for Ranma and Akitsu having left the city, they probably wouldn't object to it as much as they would have otherwise.

"Well, that happened," said one of the men lamely, watching the two of them race out of sight over the horizon. "Um…who's going to call it in to mister crazy pants?"

"You," said everyone else there, causing the first man to groan.

OOOOOOO

Minaka looked down at his phone thoughtfully. This, this could provide me an excuse to get rid of both the broken Sekirei and her Ashikabi, though obviously, he can't really be her Ashikabi, he's simply her lover.

I could just eliminate her now suppose, activate the self-destruct at the base of her skull. But then again, there was that report about it possibly being broken in 07's case due to the cold temperatures reported in the lab when that fool adjuster attempted to force an Ashikabi bond on her. That lab's walls were still frozen solid from one wall to the other, covered with inches of ice.

I can also choose to use this incident as an excuse to sic Karasuba on Saotome later. Yes, that is a better idea. Besides, given some of the plans that Higa has put in place, perhaps I personally won't have to lift a finger. That would be better all around, considering my first attempt at escalation seems to have fallen flat entirely.

Then again, the unforeseen gathering of single-pair or still free Sekirei within Nerima has also allowed me to identify other problem children, and placed them where they will always be visible. So I will let it continue. For now, as long as they are willing to play the game, I will look the other way. If that changes, so too will my response.

OOOOOOO

Ranma and Akitsu reached the beach he had chosen for their day trip, which was called Tatadohama after about two hours' worth of running at Akitsu's best speed. It was not the nearest beach to Tokyo, but it was off the beaten path enough for it to not have much in the way of crowds. It was down a hill from the bus stop to the beach, giving a great view of the ocean and the cliffs to either side. The beach wasn't very large, but the waves were great, and out to sea there were a few rocky outcroppings sticking out of the shore. There were also a few food stalls set up here and there near the back of the beach, which abutted the cliff.

Once there, Ranma forced himself to enter one of the family changing areas after sending Akitsu into the girl's only changing rooms. Thankfully the children's restroom was empty at the time. Staring into his reflection in the mirror, he mumbled "Okay Ranma, you can do this. Remember it's for Akitsu. She doesn't have a problem with your female form, it's not a problem at all in fact. It's just a thing. A thing you have to embrace in order to swim or be around cold water at all."

He sighed, then before he could have second thoughts about the whole affair, splashed himself with water from the tap, triggering the change. Once in his female form, Ranma reached into his bag, pulling out her swimsuit.

A moment later, she met up with Akitsu outside the changing area. She was already surrounded by men attempting to flirt with her but she was just ignoring them, staring intensely at the door leading into the family changing area. When Ranma came out, her eyes seemed to soften slightly and she moved swiftly to Ranma's side. Ranma could instantly feel happiness somehow radiating off her despite her expression not changing at all, as usual.

As the two women stood there, any observer would've been forced to comment that the difference between the two of them was like night and day. This was indeed the central observation of the four men who had been attempting to flirt with Akitsu. The next few observations had to do with commenting on their bodies of course.

Ranma was the picture of an outdoorsy sort of girl in excellent health. Her skin was lightly tanned, her red hair done up in her simple pigtail, and she wore an equally simple blue one-piece on that covered her from crotch on up without any break. It was only the body underneath that made it at all attractive.

In contrast, Akitsu was pale though not sickly, just obviously paler than most people. Her tan hair was shorn short, but still looked well cared for. Her outfit was also quite a bit more elaborate. She wore a choker around her neck and bracelets that looked almost like they were handcuffs, but without any chains linking them. Her swimsuit itself was a shiny black two-piece, which stood out starkly against her skin.

Ranma smiled at Akitsu, taking her hand and looking her up and down, blushing slightly. "You, um you look nice Akitsu! Very, very nice. But you know you always do and ya don't gotta um…" Ranma shook her head. "Right, stop the compliment after the first sentence gotta remember that."

Despite the stumbling words, Akitsu took Ranma's appreciation to heart. Her little smile made an appearance, and she moved even closer, pressing her body into Ranma's side. "Thank you Sun-sama."

Blushing Ranma took Akitsu's hand, leading her towards some lounge chairs nearby. Two of the boys attempted to talk to them, but Ranma once more ignored them, actually batting one out of the way as if he was a fly when he got too pushy, trying to invade her personal space. The fact that the man flew three feet before landing on his rear caused the other three men to stop and stare at the very short redhead before deciding to move on to easier targets. "Did you put on any sunblock Akitsu? You got the kind of skin that looks like it'd burn easy."

"Ahh…forgot," Akitsu said, reaching into her bag and pulling it out.

Feeling one of his newfound urges, Ranma smiled, pushing Akitsu down to sit on the side of one of the chairs. "Let me Akitsu."

Akitsu did not shiver when Ranma squirted some sunblock onto her arm, but she did shiver when Ranma began to work it into her skin. Her eyes closed when Ranma moved to her back, then her sides. She arched her back, her head lolling backward as Ranma began to put some lotion on her legs. For Akitsu this was the equivalent of a loud moan. The feelings didn't dissipate as Ranma, fighting the urge to let his hands wander, worked her stomach then her face.

It came almost to a shock to Akitsu when Ranma pulled her hands away without letting them do more than brush her bikini-clad chest. The redhead backed away slightly, coughing and looking away. "Um, all, all done Akitsu."

"…Ah…thank you Sun-sama," Akitsu replied, the look in her eyes a heavy-lidded one. Nonetheless, she looked to the side at the sound of the ocean and some kids screaming as they raced along in the waves.

Ranma understood without words and tugged Akitsu to her feet. "Come on Akitsu, let's go."

Akitsu followed and the two of them made their way to the shoreline still holding hands. Just as they were about to enter the water however, Akitsu realized she had forgotten to tell Ranma one of the reasons why she had wanted to come to the beach. "Ranma-sama… I cannot swim."

Blinking at that, Ranma turned back to her opening his mouth and then visibly thinking before actually saying anything. "I guess that makes sense Akitsu. Still, I suppose I can teach you how to swim easy enough."

Still holding Akitsu's hand Ranma pulled her into the water. "Get used to being in the water first, sometimes the waves bother first-time swimmers."

Soon the two of them were standing chest deep, on Akitsu, in the water. "Okay Akitsu, now let yourself float for a moment…"

A second later Ranma regretted that suggestion when a wave caused Akitsu head to submerge and she seemingly panicked for only the second time since Ranma had met her. Unlike with her first meeting with Kuno however, she didn't freeze, rather she froze the water below her, pushing upwards quickly.

"Okay, so maybe this could be tougher than I thought," Ranma said, her eyes narrowing.

This trend continued for a time. For a bit Akitsu would be fine, slowly moving her body through the water. But the moment she tried to swim or even when her head just went under the water when she didn't expect it, Akitsu would panic. Sometimes this resulted in ice chunks appearing to help her out, so many that a few of the other swimmers started to shiver, several even leaving the water muttering about the odd ice bits that had appeared.

After one time, Ranma decided that at least half of this had to be purely mental on Akitsu's part. The redhead had been standing in front of the taller woman, holding her hands and telling Akitsu to kick out, slowly moving around as Ranma let her push them.

Hmmm, I wonder what'll happen if I give her something that'll motivate her to push past her fear. Hmm.. so what'd… yeah, that's a stupid question. Ranma began to blush, but once more, she decided to go with all of these new instincts that had started to come out of the woodwork since Ranma had begun to notice girls.

Pulling lightly on Akitsu's arms, Ranma pulled Akitsu toward her not stopping until Ranma was holding the taller girl in a loose hug around her middle. Leaning in Ranma began to whisper in Akitsu's ear. "Okay, how about this Akitsu-chan. I think ya need some motivation. So, so every time you perform an exercise without panicking I'll do, *gulp* I'll do this…"

With that, Ranma let one of her hands slide down Akitsu's back to her rear. There she squeezed the thin latex clad rear, finding the material felt almost like rubber but did nothing to stop him from realizing how nice a rear it was, or how smooth Akitsu's skin was.

Akitsu's eyes didn't widen, but she gave off the air of being startled for a second, but also very happy. Getting Ranma to initiate something like this was a great sign in her opinion. She pressed her body against him for a moment, willing him to notice her hardened nipples underneath her bikini, but then sighed as Ranma stopped, his hand moving up her back once more. "Hai, Sun-sama."

From there the lesson went very well and by the time they were both turning into prunes, Akitsu could actually swim. And Ranma's gropes of her rear had segued into feeling her rear under her swimsuit, and even, when Akitsu successfully swam underwater for several yards, feeling up her chest under the water.

At that point Akitsu was so turned on, she had to do something, something to make the growing tension inside her snap, had to take it that last few steps. She held Ranma's hand there on one of her breasts and gazed soulfully down at the short redhead. "Ahh…Sun-sama…"

Understanding Akitsu's nonverbal communication better and better, Ranma knew what she wanted. If anyone had asked Ranma before he arrived back in Tokyo, that he would be initiating contact like this with a girl, Ranma would've called him a pervert. It wasn't like girls hadn't interested him it was just that he wouldn't have known how to do anything with that interest. Now, with Akitsu following him around Ranma had learned quite a bit both about her and about girls in general, and even 'her' own body, much to her chagrin. Yes her submissiveness was a little hard to get used to at first, but now that Ranma was, s/he found it was sort of a turn on not that s/he would have ever admitted that allowed.

With that in mind, Ranma smiled. "Well, I suppose you do deserve a reward…" The redhead reached up with her free hand putting it behind Akitsu's head and pulled her down into a deep kiss.

Kissing while in girl form was kind of weird from Ranma, there was a height difference to think of normally, even without the water. To say nothing of the feelings it evoked in his own body, the different erogenous zones. She wasn't nearly as comfortable with that as she could wish, but that didn't really matter now, nor did the fact Ranma could tell she was turned on almost as much as Akitsu by what she had been doing to the girl. Right now though, her not being comfortable with it actually helped, since ignoring her own state entirely allowed Ranma to concentrate more on Akitsu.

Ranma's tongue pressed against Akitsu's lips, thrusting inside to roam in Akitsu's mouth, dominating Akitsu's tongue and the kiss like she had been dominating Akitsu since she began to flirt with her today. That, plus the added feel of Ranma's other hand caressing her rear quickly pushed Akitsu to the finish line, and she leaned into the shorter girl as her legs turned to jelly. "Ahh…" she moaned, finally making an audible noise, the warmth in her body pulling into a crescendo.

As Akitsu recovered from her orgasm, Ranma realized they had developed a small audience. Several men were staring at them while one mother was glaring her hands over her child's eyes. Thankfully no one had been able to see anything they had been doing beyond the kiss, but two girls kissing openly was enough to garner attention. Guess it's just lucky we're not close enough to shore to let some of the asses still on land ta record us.

"Come on Akitsu," Ranma said, pulling the other girl along gently. "I think we're done swimming for the day.

After that, Ranma bought them a beach ball, and they kicked it around for a time, just generally having fun on the beach. Ranma allowed Akitsu to bury her and vice versa, and they started to build a large sandcastle, which Akitsu then promptly began to drizzle small amounts of water onto the castle, freezing the water as it started to soak through. This made the castle a little more permanent than the few other castles around for a time.

As Akitsu was concentrating on that Ranma's stomach began to rumble, and she groaned. "Come on Akitsu-chan, let's go feed the beast."

Akitsu, whose own stomach had begun to make noises in sympathy, nodded, quickly getting to her feet and following after her Ashikabi. Ranma led them back to the changing area, where Ranma changed forms as well as out of her bathing suit as Akitsu did the same next door.

Once they were out, the two of them began to move toward the food shacks. But their walk was interrupted at that point. There was a loud crack and Ranma grunted, twisting around as one hand rose to the other shoulder. "Ow!" Rolling around, he dodged another something, which impacted the ground in front of them. "What the hell! Someone's firing at us?!"

Looking down at his shoulder, Ranma saw a large bruise there. The bullet hadn't penetrated, and the bruise already disappearing thanks to his healing ability. After all, no bullet was going to hit with as much power as a jab from Miya's sword sheath. Thank you toughness training! Still, I don't want to get hit in the head, Ranma thought, trying to figure out where the shots were coming from.

They were coming from one of the cliffs, connected to the main beach by an area which had been marked on the map at the top of the trail leading to the beach as being too dangerous. Either that sign was a plant or someone ignored it, Ranma thought, noticing that Akitsu had also begun to duck and dodge, her eyes like lasers as she stared around for the threat to Ranma.

"Akitsu, get ready!" He said as he reached down, grabbing tiny pebbles and seashells.

He hurled them ahead of them on an angle at the nearby water, racing in that direction rather toward than toward the strip of land which connected the cliff to the beach. Each of the pebbles slammed into the top of the water at near supersonic speed, creating large waves.

Akitsu understood what she needed to do without needing to be told, and she raised her hands pushing her freezing powers into the water, freezing it instantly to block the next few bullets. Then as they moved, she shattered the ice, hurling that ahead of them, before the two of them did the same thing advancing quickly.

The speed with which they close obviously surprised the sniper, but he had help. Three other people nearby pulled out guns from their hiding places and began to fire machine guns at them as the normal beachgoers screamed and began to run away. Luckily the shooters didn't even try to fire at them, they were here to kill Ranma, no one else.

Again Akitsu raised ice shields and Ranma took to the air, leaping up over her last ice shield as it shattered, pushing off the bits and pieces as hhe pushed himself higher into the air. At the same time, Akitsu took control of the ice shards, hurling them at the group of three shooters, impaling two and causing the other to roll away before turning and running.

Gaining the cliff face Ranma landed on top of the sniper before he could escape, his two feet landing on the man's back as he tried to run away, planting him into the ground knocking him unconscious and maybe doing a little bit of permanent damage. Not that Ranma cared particularly. Guns were seriously uncool in his opinion and anyone who used them too.

Akitsu dealt with the last man by closing the distance, her hand lashing out with a speed she would not have been able to perform at a bare week ago. The blow hurled him backward, unconscious.

Ranma looked away from watching this when he heard a noise on the far side the butte, an engine starting up. Another man roared out to open sea on a tiny speedboat.

Before he could go very far, Ranma grabbed up a stick from a nearby bush, and brought it around, using one of his sword-based ki techniques. "Fierce Dragon Slash!"

The blast of ki caught the boat near the back. Even at this distance it still retained enough power to slice into the ship, cutting about halfway through it from the place it struck. The ship quickly careened to the side, crashing into another rock outcropping and dumping the man overboard.

Before he could try to swim away, Akitsu was on him, gesturing with her hands as she landed on the rocky outcropping having made a prodigious leap even for a Sekirei. The man soon found himself encased in a yard wide icicle from his neck down. "Ahh…stay." She said.

The battle over with Ranma jumped down toward the two men Akitsu had skewered, dragging the sniper with him. There he began to do some very rudimentary first aid as the bystanders began to come out of their various hiding places. Ranma figured since these idiots hadn't attempted to make this attack a bloodbath, he could make certain they all lived. Even if they won't exactly be mobile for a long while. Luckily Akitsu had missed their vitals, though one guy had lost a few fingers to a speeding ice spear, and another an ear.

After that, he turned to find that Akitsu had come up towards him, albeit far more slowly than she normally would have. This was because she had pulled the ice cube and the man frozen in it after her. Ranma smiled at that, nodding in appreciation before looking at the last captor. "Now I wonder who sent you lot after me?"

Akitsu paused, wondering if her Ashikabi wanted the man to reply, then realized he was already unconscious from the impact of the ground. "Ahh…he is not able to reply Ranma-sama."

"Yeah I know," Ranma said with a chuckle. "Besides, there's only a few it who it could be. Minaka, the bishole of the east or the southern brat. Mikogami didn't strike me as the type to use hired killers, and Minaka would've wanted to send troops wearing the uniform of MBI so that everyone knew what would happen to people who try to break the cordon around Tokyo. So it's probably the pretty boy. Well…" Ranma paused wincing. "Unless it's someone from my old man's past trying to get at him through me. I shouldn't ever really discount that idea."

"But I'm gonna assume that it's the bishole, trying to get back at me for my break-in or our activities stopping him from winging Sekirei by force. The question is should I just escalate right back? Hah! Who am I kidding!" Ranma laughed at his own joke. "Nah, the real question is 'how' not 'should'."

Even Akitsu could tell this question was rhetorical and she stayed silent, looking down at the men she had defeated so easily, then around at the damage done to the beach by the battle. In the distance, she could hear the sound of sirens and incoming helicopters.

Before she could mention this Ranma had moved towards her. He put his arms around her, grabbing her rear slightly and lifting the girl up into his arms, kissing her hard. Akitsu had no defense against the sudden onslaught, and she moaned, her arms going around Ranma in turn, her entire body suddenly flaming with warmth once more.

Then Ranma pulled away, their tongues intertwining in midair for a moment, before breaking off as he breathed heavily. "You know Akitsu, we make one hell of a team!"

"Hai, Sun-sama," she moaned, gently moving her hips where they ground against Ranma's hard stomach willing her Ashikabi to continue, ignoring the gathering onlookers or even the distant sound of sirens. But unfortunately, Ranma had noticed both and put Akitsu down quickly. "Come on, it's time to get out of here."

OOOOOOO

Ranma and Akitsu entered Tokyo the same way they had exited it, causing a few of the guards on duty to stare at them. These were obviously not the same guards that had been on duty earlier that day, but they had been warned about the Ashikabi and Sekirei pair that had escaped earlier that day.

Ranma waved at them cheekily as they went by, shouting out "Don't worry, that's probably the last time we'll be out of the city until this whole 'game' thing is solved."

Grumbling, the men made no move to try to stop them. The two passed the checkpoint moving into the city and continued on their way, still balancing on the protective wall on the side of the highway as they raced on.

It was around 11 o'clock by the time they got back into Tokyo proper and the two of them moved straight towards Nerima, making no move to go to Miya's place tonight. But they did end up stopping as Ranma noticed a flash of water followed instantly by a blast of steam in the distance.

They turned in that direction, moving quickly over the rooftops to find Tsukiumi and a man who could only be the fire user Akane had described, Homura. His clothing looked singed and pockmarked, but his mask was still in place.

He was slumped against the wall of the alleyway as Tsukiumi standing above him, her arms crossed as she glared down at him. But Ranma had been around Kasumi enough times to note the small changes in body language and face that denoted true anger and which was her worried anger. With a tsundere, it's a very thin line there.

"Tsukiumi, is everything all right?" he asked, hopping down from the rooftop, landing lightly next to her.

The water-user looked at Ranma and Akitsu and calmed down a little. "Where have you two been all day? I went by the dojo several times and Kasumi-san said you were out."

"We went on a date," Ranma said with a shrug, still examining Homura with his very limited medical skills. "It was kind of fun, until the team of assassins attacked us near the end. Now, what's wrong with him?"

"This is Homura, I don't know if you have actually met him before this, though you both are in the same business. He doth have taken upon himself the same task you did, and that which I have joined in much to my own chagrin." Tsukiumi replied dryly.

"I've heard of him," Ranma said, moving over to the man and checking his pulse. He was still awake, looking at Ranma as Rama touched his neck, but his eyes slumped closed after a second. "What happened?"

"I know not. I was heading back to Nerima and home when I saw this one practically on fire. T'was as if his power over fire was going haywire, consuming him. I didst douse him immediately of course, and that seemeth to have stopped the symptoms, but I do not know what caused this in the first place."

Frowning Ranma thought about where they were in relation to the dojo and Miya's place for sighing and moving forward with the man up. "We'll put him up in the dojo for the night, and see if he gets better overnight. There doesn't seem to be anything physically wrong with him now, he just seems to have fallen unconscious from exhaustion. That's nothing a good night's sleep won't cure, but if he's having trouble with his powers, maybe Miya can help them, or doctor Tofu..."

OOOOOOO

"Ah, excellent Karasuba, you're here. Welcome back and all that rot." Minaka said, smiling in his somewhat mad way. "It has been a most amazing few weeks without you around. Many things have changed, mostly for the good as much of it has added to the game in new and interesting ways. However, that does not mean that there haven't been occasions where I have missed having my true armored fist around."

Karasuba smiled back, sitting down and crossing her legs on Minaka's desk. If an observer looked closely, they would see splotches of red on her shoes and leggings. There were a few other such splotches on one of her hands. "Oh, do tell?"

If Minaka noticed those marks, he didn't care. "Indeed. I think it is time to remind people why the Disciplinary Squad should be feared…"

End Chapter


For those wondering, Kenji Tenzai is a 'character' from Red Alert 3, one of the commanders the player works alongside with on certain missions if he plays the Empire of the Rising Sun.

This is not actually the chapter I had intended to put out, but I felt that I was cramming too many events into one weekend. So I decided to space it out, showing some of the other scenes that would've happened afterward before this date, then ending the chapter here before things escalate once more with Nabiki's.

Next chapter will showcase the fire user finally stepping into a normal character role, and further canon events start to occur while the conflict between Higa and Ranma escalates further and the eternal wanderer returns just as Karasuba and Ranma meet for the first and possibly last time.

The poll for July should be up by tomorrow afternoon. If you want to have more of a saying in what stories I concentrate on, please consider signing up over on my Pat R on page. There you will get four votes in each poll - the small story poll and the Star Wars Crossover story poll (which includes ATP when I can say that I will be able to update it) - for every dollar, and access to my Ranma/Fairy Tail crossover Making Waves as well as several teaser chapters, omakes and future story concepts.