Copyright disclaimers: Ranma ½ is the intellectual property of Rumiko Takahashi, SHOGAKUKAN, and is distributed in the U.S. by Viz Media.

{Alright, damnit, this isn't complicated … So why is it so damn hard to make a choice?}

I was a weird sight. Standing in my underwear, the bra and panty variety, staring at my closet in anger. Not because everything in it was offensive. It was almost the exact opposite.

Mom had decided on Ranko's particular style of clothing, and from the looks of it she had used Akane's closet at the base template, with a touch from Nabiki. Lots of skirts and sundresses, with complimenting blouses.

What was setting off my anger wasn't the thought of wearing any of it, I wore my uniform most of the week. What was one more skirt when I was out as Ranko? No, it was the fact the somehow Mom had done a brilliant job of avoiding anything girly.

I'd only browsed over the closet in passing, never really paid it much attention. Now that I was looking over the outfits more carefully, I had to appreciate that my mother was far more thoughtful and subtle than I'd given her credit for. All the colors were at worst neutral, and most of them colors I liked.


Nothing with frills or lace. It was all a sensible wardrobe for … a tomboy! A girl who wanted to look nice, but wasn't as concerned about being chic or fashionable. I was daring this closet to cough forth something which would tick every box of what I wouldn't stand for.

It stubbornly refused to play my game. While I had no desire to wear anything within, this was a fair compromise given the current way my life was running.

I could've retreated to the dresser and just went with some shorts, but I was also feeling rather guilty about trying to cheat my way around. Mom had done such a good job of trying to make me comfortable with this situation. Although, it was her fault I was up here in the first place …

I had originally dressed in one of my usual silk shirts and slacks, and was about to dash off to meet up with Akane. Only for Mom to halt me before I cleared the stairs.

"Ranma, you're not trying to go out like that are you?"

I had given her a guileless glance, confused by her question. "Yeah, s'wrong with this? I always wear this … oh …" And it began to dawn on me, I was in Ranma's usual clothes, but Ranko was the one going to meet with friends.

"Mom, come on, what's the big deal? So I wear the same outfits, not like anyone is gonna …"

She cut me off with a raised hand. "Ranma, I spent a small fortune on that wardrobe, the least you could do for me is try some of it out before letting it collect dust. Moreso, dear, those clothes aren't properly fitted for you as a girl."

Her hand swept over my body, and it was true. These were comfortably suited for a taller and broader male frame. I had to roll the pants up several times to keep the cuffs from dragging the ground. The shirt was baggy on everything but my chest. It was comfortable, but I did look I was wearing hand-me downs, and everything but my best outfits showed their time on the road.

Arguing with her was pointless anyway. It had been foisted on me whether I wanted it or not, but Mom had done it out of love, mostly. Blowing out a long breath, I just conceded the point and proceeded upstairs once more.

Now I was staring into my closet, trying to just pick something. Hell, most anything would do, but I was having an internal war with myself not to give in. Trying to keep from crossing a line. All these clothes were alien. Belonging to someone else, not me.

Yet, they were mine, and I was in the female body they belonged to. Grinding my toe into the flooring I growled.

"Damnit Ranko, you're not even real and you're running my life." I began to flip through the assortment one more time. Finally, I found something that could work. A navy dye skirt, it was pleated but I could deal. Sliding it on and securing the zipper, it hung to just above my knees. Just the right fit for my hips.

I couldn't bring myself to go for any of the blouses so I went into the drawer holding my t-shirts. Working through them slowly and considering what might work. The print on one jumped right out at me, and I almost fell over laughing.

It was a royal blue, and contrasted nicely on the skirt, to my eyes anyway. I love the color blue in a myriad of shades. Across the chest in bold, white font was kanji that roughly stated: "I kick butt and look good doing it."

{Well, it's true.} I chuckled and slid on a thin, white undershirt, tucking it to the skirt. Then pulled on my tee. I thought about my slippers, but they wouldn't be right for this outfit, and didn't fit well for my feet anyway. I remembered some boxes on the top shelf of the closet.

Growling in annoyance as I had to get up on my toes to reach anything there. Kami being just a hair under five feet tall was a pain in the ass. The larger boxes had to be the kimono she ordered tailored for me. A trio tucked into the corner however, were the right size for shoe boxes.

In the first box was a pair of white sandals, with a two inch heel. "Oh funny, Mom."

The second box was a pair of black sneakers. Girl's style, with a low ankle cut to them. Worked well enough with this outfit, I just grinned and slid on a pair of dark socks and tried them on. Perfect fit.

Though I don't remember looking at anything but a pair of simple slip ons for school. Oh well, they fit, worked for me. Was going to have to break them in, but they would do, and complimented the ensemble. I modeled for myself in the mirror, and sighed.

{I do look good. Hell, I look incredible. Dammit, Mom you did way too good a job.}

I just grinned and shrugged. "Oh well, gonna do this, might as well be hot while doin' it." I slid the shoes off again and hooked my fingers in them while heading downstairs. Might as well stash them in the genkan, just add to the power of the illusion of Ranko.

As I passed the family room, Ukyo and Shampoo were waiting quietly at the kotatsu, sipping on tea. Rather than coming with me, Mom was kidnapping them for a shopping trip. Likely also going to go scope out Ucchan's and get a feel for the restaurant.

Neither of them looked particularly happy.

Their eyes were down in their cups and still pointedly ignoring each other. Mom seemed to be the only force holding the peace. I have no idea how long that would last. Hopefully, they could work out some kind of amicable deal before they went to each other's throat.

"Hey, you two both look nice."

Though Shampoo always looked nice. She was dressed in a scarlet top and matching silk pants. The clothes hugged her body just right in the proper places, and were comfortably loose in others. I could stare at her all day.

Far as I knew, Ukyo didn't have much by way of 'feminine' in her wardrobe. Still she was wearing a nice, cream colored blouse, with a black skirt and dark leggings underneath. Her hair pulled back in a high ponytail. She was also not wearing those chest bindings, but a proper bra, and her curves showed she was a real and proper girl, with envy creating proportions

No one from our class would have easily guessed the bishonen boy was actually this smokin' babe.

It might be a bit chauvinistic, but they were both hot. Different builds and features, but still they were beautiful and radiated entirely different kinds of sexy charm. Shampoo was confident and just exuded it through every motion and glance. Ukyo was that kind of sexy, and adorable where she just didn't know she was.

"Alright, not playin' favorites, so no arguin'. Call it." Pulling out a coin from a pocket in my skirt, I gave it a flip.

They both blinked in confusion before Ukyo muttered, "Heads?"

The coin clinked down softly onto the table, bouncing once and landed '500' markup. They both looked from it, to me, still confused.

"Heads it is." Keeling down, I shocked Ukyo by giving her a soft kiss on the cheek. It wasn't much, just a soft peck. We were still feeling things out, and romance was a bit of a touchy spot. Hell, having a conversation was still tough for us.

She instantly turned beet red and began to stammer. Girl was too cute for her own good. Just muttering aloud her embarrassment and confusion.

"R-r-ranchan, w-w-hat was that for?" Her eyes locked on the table and she looked ready to hide under it to escape.

"A kiss for my fiance, I am allowed to do that, right?" The girl just stammered more, giving a weak affirmative. I just grinned and stroked her cheek. Then quickly hopped over to Shampoo before she broke a piece off the table.

Ukyo was still blushing hard and soaked in her own thoughts. She didn't spare a glance as I kissed Shampoo a little more confidently. I then whispered to her softly, my Chinese still had a thick accent but we could communicate clearly.

"Please try to get along, for me? I know this is going to tough on all of us, but … we can make this work, can't we?" The girl shivered to the excess of cool breath I tickled her ear with.

"Not happy about it, but I promised Mother I'd try, and I'll try for you too. Love you, Airen."

Looking to me with conviction and longing her eyes. She wanted to go with me, and not be drug along with Ukyo, but then she always wanted to be with me. Girl would follow me to the most mundane and boring thing on earth and find a way to be happy.

{I'm a lucky bastard … never take these girls for granted. Have to make this work. If I ever see tears in those eyes, I'll break.}

"Love you too, Airen." I said back with a playful wink and kissed her temple. Quickly sliding up and out of the room before Mom caught us and chastised us for not following proper etiquette. Ukyo also wouldn't likely hold kindly to it either.

Ndoka was still in the kitchen, taking inventory. A pad and pencil in hand, jotting down what she would need for the week. She kept a well stocked pantry, and I don't know what she could possibly have need of. The kitchen was her ground though, not mine. No harm in checking to see if anything was low, and getting it while they were out.

"Going out Mom, be back this evening. We're gonna grab lunch in town, but I'll be back before dinner." Getting her attention as I walked into the room.

Smiling she nodded, "Alright dear, hold on a minute." She reached into her bag on the counter, pulling out a small drawstring wallet. She peeled off a few notes and handed it to me. Ever the traditionalist, she controlled all of our finances, and my allowance.

"Have a good time with your friends."

"Thanks, love you, have a good day." I surprised her with a quick hug, a thing she was definitely not used to. Though she just smiled and returned it softly. Then I dashed to the entryway, slipped on my shoes and moved out the door.

I met up with Akane at the dojo. My old man had effectively kidnapped Soun and pulled him off into town. Likely going out drinking and thinking up stupid ideas, but such was the routine of Genma Saotome. Wise of him to be scarce, I still wanted to put my fist through his face.

Akane had gone with a soft pink skirt and a pale, yellow blouse. She looked adorable and well, cute. Being her fiance wouldn't have been so bad, but my current romantic troubles didn't need any additional ingredients in their mix.

"Yo, you look nice." The girl blushed a bit, looking to the ground.

{Agg, please don't do that! I'll wind up falling for her too.} Though I didn't give voice to my thoughts.

"Where's Ryoga?" Quickly changing topics to something else. I didn't notice him working out in the yard, or lapping the house in confusion.

"Hmm? Oh, his parents called last night, both of them found their way home. He took Checkers out for a walk early this morning so they could spend the weekend together."

"Good for them, hope they get more time together."

"Speaking of which, where's Shampoo?" Giving me a curious glance. We were something of an inseparable pair. It was unusual for us to not be together, and she originally part of this little outing.

"Mom roped her into goin' shoppin'."

Starting to walk together, we moved on our way toward the school to meet up with the other girls. I explained the important details about Ukyo and what had transpired in the course of one evening. By the time we'd gotten halfway to the school, Akane suddenly stopped and just stared at me.

When she did speak, it was a soft, controlled squeak. Managing to keep from blurting out things to the whole neighborhood. "Married?!"

Sucking on my lip, I just shrugged and sighed. "Yup, Mom is checkin' on it today, but seems that contract my old man signed is legit. If it is." I just shrugged again, giving her a helpless look. "Then Mom is gonna try and pull a little switcheroo, Ukyo will be married to Ranko."

Her jaw worked but no sound came forth for a long time. She just gave up and blew out a long breath. Looking like she was about to develop a headache herself from such a bombardment of stupid my old man had wrapped me up in.

"Ranma, if … things had gone different, I think it wouldn't have been so bad for us to be engaged." Blushing as she spoke, looking at the tops of her shoes. "You're sweet, and you try so hard for Shampoo to be happy together, but … no offense, I'm glad you shot that down.

"I don't want to imagine what kind of strain all this mess would put us under. You call your Dad stupid all the time, and I'm beginning to see why." Shaking her head as she looked off down the street.

"Trust me 'kane, no offense taken. This is hard enough for the three of us, and I don't know how we're gonna make it work. I feel bad enough as it is, you and Shampoo are already friends, and I want everyone to be friends with Ukyo, but this kind of puts a really bad stress on everyone."

All she could do was nod, I just shrugged again and gave her a gentle nudge with her shoulder. "But come on, look at us, supposed to be goin' out and havin' fun, and we're already mopin', let's go meet up with the girls and have some fun today."

Slowly, a grin spread on her lips and she nodded. We continued idle chatter about class, and whatever else came to mind. Anything to put the past week behind us, and the trouble we were going to face moving forward. Better to stress about that when we had to, not get preemptively worked up.

We met up with the others by the school gates and then moved off as a group to browse the neighborhood. Doing what friends do, yacking at one another about nothing important, cracking jokes and just trying to have a good time.

Window shopping wasn't my idea of a fun, but the girls were good company. The talk about boys wasn't of any interest to me, but I found plenty of other things to add my thoughts on. I had been slowly learning the popular shows on tv, anime and manga, and the like among my age group.

Ten years on the road didn't lend itself well to having much pop culture knowledge. Was hard to know what you liked if you didn't experience it. Yuka was a baseball fan, particularly of the Yomiuri Giants. Stroke of luck, the vice president of the Japanese branch of my old company had taken us to several games.

Didn't know current players, but there was something I could share a passion for. I was going to have to study up on the current game, but there was a thing we had in common. This world had a lot of parallels to my own, and I wasn't completely out of place. It was going to make connecting to my friends easier.

Lunch was a nice little ramen spot that Shikako knew of. Have to admit, the old man knew how to make a good bowl of broth. I was at war with my stomach on how much to eat, it was so tasty. My stomach won, as it usually did, and I put away three bowls, good thing the price was reasonable.

"Wow, Ranko … where do you put it all? Is there some kind of secret martial art for putting what you don't burn into the spots you want?" Yuka asked with a glance down to my chest.

"Yeah, it's just not fair. You have those muscles AND those curves." Makoto chimed in. Half teasing and half jealous.

A burn rose onto my cheeks as I paid the tab for my food and coughed. "I dunno, just lucky and good genes?" It was a bit weird to be complimented so heavily on my body, something I wasn't used to. It was also just petting that vanity of mine.

{Weep in envy girls, we all can't be hot as me.} There was no point in trying to contain those thoughts as they whipped through my head. I just relished in the praise and moved on.

Akane, however, was blushing herself. Four girls thought they were just teasing at another. When in fact they were teasing a boy who turned in to a girl, and it was probably a slap to Akane's pride.

I snorted a bit and shrugged, "Curves we can't really help, all genes. Muscles? Well, if you worked really hard, you might be able to get thighs or abs like Akane. I'd kill to get definition like that to much stomach."

The girl turned a brilliant pink and her mouth tried to stammer a protest. "Wha … Ran-KO what are you …"

"Yeah, Akane, do you have that flat, washboard thing going on. Toned to perfection, but not going all macho chick." Shikako teased, poking at Tendo's stomach.

The girl squirmed and slapped those fingers away, jumping to the other side of me to use as a shield. Though she was blushing hard, she did grin all the same. Her ego still needed a lot of reinforcement, poor thing was going to be developing her confidence for awhile yet.

"Alright girls, enough, Akane can only blush so much before she turns back into a tomato." I grinned, turning with the punch which grazed my shoulder. It wasn't hard, but serious enough. The girl trying to look mad at me for my teasing, but grinning all the same. Also showed how much she was improving.

Even at this close a range, a month ago she would've announced that like a car horn. On guard I could've dodged it any number of ways. Now she was doing an excellent job of tightening her muscles subtly right before she launched her attack. Still could've dodged, but a lot closer than it had been a few weeks ago.

We finally came upon the skate rink and I began working through possible means of getting through scenarios. Ryoga wasn't here, and even if he was, he didn't turn into a little black piglet. Shampoo wasn't here, and didn't turn into a cat.

So, no cute animals to worry about.

None of our belongings looked particularly cute, or adorable. I'm pretty sure there was nothing to worry about. That would probably prove to be an incorrect conclusion, but for now we didn't seem to be in any danger of the headache I was expecting.

Still, best to keep my guard up. Life had a habit of throwing very strange curveballs at me of late.

I can say I was very good at ice skating.

Very good at falling onto my firm, well padded ass.

Akane had brought along a pair of her old skates for me to use. They fit my feet well enough, and I didn't have to risk the 'rent a foot disease' outcome.

I still would've preferred NOT to be on the ice, but just visiting the arcade at the rink was not an acceptable plan. The girls were here to skate first, play games possibly a distant second.

I was trying to be a good sport, but this was beginning to get on my nerves. Sure, I couldn't skate in my past life at all, but I also wasn't a high caliber martial artist either. Even with my female body, I had mastered my sense of balance, and could perform techniques to make a pro-gymnast green with envy.

Well, on a solid foundation at least. Even a tree branch would do, long as it could support my weight even only momentarily. My abilities hinged on something we rather took for granted. Friction.

Which ice skating relied on there being very little of, so the metal on the skate could glide across the frozen water. The slickness and inability to find a firm grounding was driving my balance crazy. My training called for my legs to be strong and stable, rooted to the earth, even if it was for a jump. Your base was the source of your power.

Hard to get a good base when you were on a surface that didn't want to cooperate.

"Wow, Ranko, I figured you'd master this in no time and be showing off inside five minutes." Sayuri was just watching me with wide eyes, disbelief written on her face. A look mirrored on all their faces.

Akane offered me a hand up, and easily pulled me upright once again. Grabbing onto the wall, I tried to set myself, even as my legs were shaking for balance. She tried again to give me the basic instruction on how to turn my feet and use them to push off and move.

Rather than humor in her eyes, the girl looked concerned. She was so sweet. Taking a soft breath, I growled and fought to get my legs stable. Letting go of the wall, I nodded. Letting Akane begin to gently pull me.

I watched her feet and carefully matched her motions. Soon, I was standing!

"Hey! I think I got the hang of this!" The girls laughed and cheered, following close behind.

"You ready to try and move on your own?" Akane still looked concerned, but not too worried now I wasn't planting myself back onto my posterior.

"Yeah, I think I can move without problems." She nodded and let go of my hand, and I began moving freely. Working my feet carefully to begin moving on my own power. Least I had that part going for me.

Now I wasn't holding the others up, and the girls could start actually enjoying themselves. In ways that didn't involve laughing at me anyway. This was pretty fun. Be nice if the rink wasn't so crowded, but what you gonna do? Popular place and it was Saturday.

"Go get 'em girl!" Yuka grinned, and then made a mistake. Her hand gave me a pat on the back, a bit too hard. Wasn't that big a deal, in any other situation. I suddenly became a runaway truck. Well, I don't know if a hundred pounds of woman counts as truck, but anyway. I started freely accelerating and found I had a problem.

Knowing how to stop, and being able to stop were separate issues. The rink was crowded and I didn't want to take a dive and risk hurting someone. This ice was a bit too well polished and I suddenly was picking up speed.

"Waaa! Run away Saotome!" I squealed, pinwheeling my arms more out of panic than need for my balance. I would've happily aimed for the wall surrounding the rink, but too many people were in the way, so I went leaning and trying to just weave around them.

"Ranko, hold on, I'll catch up to you." Akane called to my back and was setting herself to accelerate and catch me.

"No, I'm okay, I'm okay … I'm moving, I'll figure out how to stop." I called back to Akane. People just watching in confusion as if we were putting on some kind of show. Teenagers being weird, what else was new?

Akane looked ready to protest, but slowed down and bit on her lip. This day was out was turning into something of a headache. Here we were trying to have a good time, but I was doing a good job of ruining the mood. Oh well, I'd just get the hang of this and not worry my friends anymore.

I'd mastered my body again. I'd beaten Shampoo. I could match Ryoga in a fight. Ice skating shouldn't be that big of a problem. At the very least leaning out of the way of people was proving easier.

"'Scuse' me, sorry, coming through, really bad at this. Sorry!" I kept calling out as I worked my way around people and tried to keep from crashing into someone. Sure, I was only slightly more graceful in my motions than a bus at the moment, but I was avoiding people. Then I came across a sight which made my heart dip.

A group of grade schoolers on the ice, taking lessons.

"Ah crap" I could try a sharp turn, but fast I was going I'd still probably risk running over one of the kids. Could've tried a power slide, but I don't know if that would've stopped me enough or not. My only viable option was to jump. I could clear the kids, the rink, and just crash wherever it was I was going to crash.

Better me than a bunch of six year olds.

I tensed my legs and was gauging the best place for a leap, and how good my arc would be. So focused on it, I didn't notice someone suddenly swoop down on me and pluck me up in a bridal carry. Doing it with all the ease of snatching up a pillow from a sofa.

"Are you alright, miss?" A smooth voice purred close to my ear.

{Ugh, great, I found a pervert.}

He held my weight easily, tucked close to his chest and turned on a dime. Easily moving around the kids and seemed to be intent on lapping the rink while I was in his arms. He was trying to be dashing. Hair perfectly coiffed and teeth almost sparkling as he put on one of those pretty boy smiles.

My response was less than passionate, "Yeah, thanks, could you drop me off by the ring entrance? Think I'm ready to get off this ice awhile." In fact, I was trying to sound bored and downright not interested.

"Of course, could I have your name though?" His grin never breaking, confident in his charm and sex appeal.

{Uggggg … this guy is even creepier than Kuno. I didn't think that was possible.} Everything about the man's posture and the aura he was giving off just sent an uncomfortable tremor up my spine.

"Ranko Saotome." Was my flat response, my neutral expression giving way to a frown. He didn't seem to be taking the hint of my discomfort.

{Certainly as vacant to reality as Kuno.}

"Ranko, that's a lovely name, although I think your namesake pales when compared to you." He smiled and continued just moving amongst the crowd. Taking his sweet time to use an indirect route to get me back to Akane and my friends.

The kanji for Ranko could translate to 'orchid child.' I suppose I should feel flattered he found me attractive, but then I knew I was hot. Were I in to guys, he'd still never have a shot. Sure, I could agree he was handsome, but everything about him was just off putting.

Give me Ryoga anyday, least he was noble and sincerely shy in his courting attempts.

My frown just deepened as he tried to play flattery. "Thanks … now, could we actually get back to the gate?"

"Oh, I'm sorry, I was lost in your eyes. They're so deep and lovely."

I was going to gag at this rate, or strangle him and use his body as a snowboard to get to the rink wall. He finally turned and started off toward the gaggle of girls I had arrived with. Hopefully I could escape any further harassment before my stomach decided to evacuate my lunch.

"Miss, before I let you go, may I make a request? Just a humble reward for my actions?" The boy just grinned all the wider, a leer forming in his eyes he couldn't quite hide.

{Oh, I'll give you a 'reward' alright. You can kiss my fist, and I'll remove your front teeth at no additional charge.}

My fingers were twitching in anticipation, I wanted to hit him so hard. Even if the jerk did deserve it, would betray my own code of conduct. Giving him an open palm would've been satisfying, but inappropriate. No, I think a good, hard slap would do just as well.

He was beginning to lean in, with or without my consent he wanted to steal my lips. Good thing for him neither Shampoo or Ukyo were here. He'd be sporting a new dent or two in his skull for the trouble. Possibly worse depending on how violent they were feeling at the moment.

Before I could raise up my palm though, I was spared any further worry he was clocked in the side of the head by a flying figure. All I caught was a quick blur of pink and then the boy was being bowed backward. Somehow he still had me in his arms.

"Miki, quit being a letch and come on. It's time to train." A soft voice spoke, sounding somehow both cute and annoying at the same time. A girl dressed in a soft, pastel pink leotard was snatching on my savior's hair. Easily keeping the boy hauled backward and looking at her upside down.

Long hair, likely dyed a softer shade of brown than was natural for her, spilled a freely down her back. She was pretty, but in an adorable sense. Her expression was pouty as she looked in the boy's eyes. I took the break to slip his arms and glide the last few feet to the wall.

"Oh, that time already? Alright, just a minute." The girl let him right himself, and with a grimace he rolled his shoulders and tried to get an ache out of his spine. He glanced to his arms and blinked, finding them absent of myself.

"My apologies Ranko, perhaps we can talk more later?" He asked hopefully to my retreating back. I just propelled myself over the wall and slid off my skates. Giving him the cold shoulder, but as per most of the perverts around here, his mind spun it another way.

"Beautiful and shy." I heard him mumble, his voice sounding ever more intrigued. He suddenly coughed and grunted.

"Miki, stop staring at her butt and come on!"

"Hey, wait, Azusa … oww, that hurts, stop pulling my hair!"

I didn't look back at the byplay, just rolling my feet once they were free of the skates and began to march over to the lockers for my shoes. Grinding my teeth was becoming a bad habit.

The other girls had left the ice and caught up to me. Four of them were gushing about the handsome boy who had rescued me. I didn't really pay attention to who said what, it was just prattling background noise that I wasn't going to let distract me from my mission.

Ice cream!

I needed a fudge sundae. A huge one. Doubly huge.

"Oh, oh, that's Mikado Sanzenin and Azusa Shiratori!"

"The Golden Pair?"

"Ranko, you got saved by Mikado Sanzenin! He's so dreamy, oh I wish he'd hold me like that."

"Did you see the way he looked at you? He's totally hooked on you."

"Are they about to do that famous training thing of theirs? The Assault of A Hundred Foes? I've got to see this in action!"

And so the conversation continued. If only the girls knew the level of perversity in that chauvinistic playboy. I'd met his type a time or two in my past life. But none of them had been nearly so … ugh, creepy.

Of course, I wasn't a girl at the time either, and no one would have given me a second glance with such a face. I was really feeling the desire for a bath.

I just motioned a hand. "You girls go ahead and watch, my legs are still wobbly. I need ice cream." Talking to them gently and not wanting to put any anger to my words. It would just be misunderstood.

"Ranko … do you want some company?"

That voice gave me pause and my tension started to bleed away. Turning I smiled to Akane. Tension was written all over her face, even to the point of looking apologetic. As if somehow that mishap were here fault.

"Sure, le'me pay this time, I'm just a little … embarrassed by that … display." Letting myself relax and ease out the worry. When she wasn't getting worked up and upset, Akane really was sweet. I'm just glad I had the chance to get to know her and see it.

"Alright, you're on." Grinning she moved with me to the lockers so we could put away the skates and back our into regular shoes. Then we could go enjoy some treats and maybe hit the arcade. I was done with the ice today. If I risked a second trip, Sanzenin was likely going to try and make good on stealing that kiss he wanted.


Somehow that was a mark of pride for him. If I remember, he claimed to have kissed nearly a thousand girls, with or without their permission. In compare, I suppose it's tame, better kisses then notched in his bedpost, but a molester is still a molester.

Akane glanced back as the arena filled with the sounds of combat. I didn't need to look on, I knew what was happening. The rink had been cleared so the so called Golden Pair could train. A hoard of men in hockey gear would skate towards them and try to bum rush them. Much like the morning hentai hoard had been at high school. Though there was no perverted objective.

I'll hand it to them, the pair were skilled and as a well oiled machine. Slapping aside and knocking around the men who were trying to attack. I don't know if there were actually a hundred people who they defeated, routinely at that, but it was a good show for an audience.

I wasn't interested in this particular show on ice though.

I had other things on my brain, like sweets.

If there was something to like about this rink, it was the attached treatshop. As soon as we entered and I took note of the menu hanging behind the counter, I was in love with the place. So much to try, so little money to spend at the given moment. I was still set on a getting a hot fudge sundae, especially large.

The queue was thankfully short as we arrived, and it was a quick trip right up to the counter. An older woman, thinning and greying hair, was playing server. Good, no young guy ogling my goods. Unlike my impulse, I felt a wave of revulsion at the idea of flirting for some extra scoops or toppings.

"Greetings ladies, would you like to try for a prize today? We're running our once a month lottery, five hundred yen for a draw. Ten lucky people today will get half off their order, one lucky person gets to pick a special prize." She had her sales patter down perfectly. Mixing her kindly, almost grandmotherly face with a sweet voice.

However, something else entirely got my attention. "Half off, huh? Why not." Pittance to chance a spin compared to what I could save.

Fishing in the pockets of my skirt, I pulled out the change purse Mom had purchased for me along with the outfit. It was plain leather, and could pass as unisex, so I had no complaints. Rummaging through the metal inside I plopped a coin down.

The woman smiled and brought over a hopper from the backcounter. Made from dark, lacquered wood painted across with beautiful white and blue landscape designs. This was no cheap little gimmick piece, but something that had been painstakingly crafted. Shop didn't go in for half measures.

Taking hold of the brass handle, the woman began to turn the wheel slowly. From the sounds of the items clattering inside, they were made of glass and not plastic. Atmosphere overkill.

Round and round about fifteen times and then she suddenly stopped it. Catching one of the beads inside and tipped it out onto the counter. A silver marble gently rolled out of the opening.

"Congratulations dear, you're only our second winner today, your order is half off." She smiled wider and gently set the marble onto a display over the icecream counter I hadn't noticed. Ten slots for the second place price, and another for the grand prize.

"Alright, today is lookin' up." My grin could split my face with its width as I scooted over the proper counter and began eyeing the menu and the contents of the service freezer. Doing a quick count of the bills in my hand, my allowance wasn't going to take the major hit I had feared it would.

All for a worthy cause, that of satisfying my sweet-tooth, but now I'd even have extra for something on the way home after we were done playing.


I was so wrapped up in the thoughts of what I wanted to combine together I tuned out whether Akane was playing or not. She obviously was because I was very suddenly snatched back to reality by a noise.

"Congratulations dear, grand prize winner!" The woman suddenly said in a louder tone. Sitting there on the counter was a gold marble. Only minor attention came from the other customers. Some of whom clapped and paid congrats to Akane.

Tough crowd, but then we weren't in a casino or some kind of huge contest. It was just a treat shop.

"Hey, 'grats 'kane." I grinned and gave her a soft pat on the shoulder. The girl was actually blushing a bit, like this was some big event. All I could do was shake my head and grin. Girl was too cute sometimes.

The old woman toddled around the counter and gently took Akane's hand and pulled her around to a storage room in the back.

"Sorry, we don't have much space, so I can't keep these things up front, but if you'll take a quick look and pick out something from our grand prize collection."

It wasn't much more than a closet space which wasn't being used for much aside from the usual boxes of napkins, plastic utensils, straws and the like, but one side of shelves was dedicated to the prizes.

Was expecting it to be some cheap kind of stuff you'd find at any festival booth, but I was in for quite a shock. They were all large, plush animals. Mostly on the mythical side of design - dragons, kirin, phoenix that kind of thing. Big enough to serve for pillows, but not cheaply made. The eyes looked like real glass, you could barely see the stitching, and the covers looked like they were made of silk and quality felt.

Lady wasn't kidding about why they'd do this just once a month. Sure these things didn't look terribly expensive, but they weren't the kind of thing you could just give out every day. Something a parent might give a younger child for a birthday or something, not every day of the year.

Not my kind of thing, but then I wasn't the person who had won. Akane's eyes lit up immediately and she was biting her lip in concentration. This was the kind of stuff right up her alley. She didn't really have much of a collection of such things, but there were a few old toys she still cherished sitting on the shelf in her bedroom.

Something like this would be a hard choice for her, or so I thought. After a moment of scanning the shelves she zeroed in something. A plush done in white and lavender. An inuyoukai, dog demon. Though it was done up to be exceptionally cute and not intimidating as they were drawn.

{Right … no weird, cross series irony here.} I just held my peace, this was her new toy, not mine.

"This one." She plucked it off the shelf and smiled. "Are you sure it's okay?" Giving the lady a shy expression as she slowly pulled down the plushy.

"Of course dear, you won this prize, and it's yours. Now, why don't we go see about getting you girls that ice cream?"

"Yes ma'am." Came the meek little reply from Akane as we stepped back out to see to the reason why we had come here in the first place. I gently took hold of her arm and pulled her back along with a bit more speed.

Girl was keeping me from my sundae after all.


"Akane, it's adorable." The girls had finally joined us after the Golden Pair had gotten done roughing up a bunch of hockey players, then skated some more once the rink was free.

Now they were cooing over Akane's new dog plushy, and rather miffed they had missed out on the half off chance for our ice cream. Too bad that, but snooze ya lose, and all that. Besides, my wallet couldn't afford to treat all six of us, even with the coupon.

"I don't know why, but the second I saw it, I knew I wanted it." She smiled and nuzzled into the thing again. Aside from when she was downing her parfait, the thing hadn't left her lap.

For my part, I was only half listening to the conversation. My head was slowly moving on a swivel. Now that I had no more of that sundae to distract me with its sublime, sugary goodness, I was keeping an eye out for a certain ice-skater.

I hadn't forgotten about those two, and I was going to do my damndest to not get sucked into their stupidity if I could help it. The memories of certain facts about them came to mind. They were one of the first or second major headaches to crop out aside from the usual annoyance of Kuno.

Mikado was a pervert and molestor, who stole kisses from every girl he thought was remotely cute.

Azusa had a similar tick, but in a different manner. Girl was an out and out spoiled klepto. What she found cute she stole, mostly other people's belongings, but she wasn't above stealing pets as well.

In the manga timeline, Mikado would have kissed Ranma, and that would piss him off so bad he'd challenge the man to a fight. Akane would find Asuza kidnapping Ryoga, who would be a cute little, black piglet at the time, and they'd consequently challenge each other for right of ownership.

Hence, Akane and I would be pulled into a duel with the famous Golden Pair. I really had no mood for that stupidity, if I could help it. Don't know how this was going to backfire on me, and I'm sure it would, but I had to no just how much I could change.

There was no P-chan for the girls to fight over, as Ryoga had no curse now. This toy, however, was something the ditz might try to snatch from Akane. And none of my friends were safe from the lechery of Mikado Sanzenin, if I wasn't there to put my knuckles into his jaw at least.

"Hey, should we go to the arcade next, or how about karaoke? It's only three." Yuka queried as they finished the last of their ice cream and were cleaning up the table.

Not a bad suggestion, I was done with skating for the day. Hell, I could call it done for the year. No more desire to slide and glide across the ice with either my face or my butt.

"Is it that late already?" Makoto whined as she looked to her watch. "I'd love to, but I can't. I need to get going soon. I'm supposed to help Mom make dinner, then babysit my little brother for awhile so my parents can get some time alone." She made a sour face as she spoke.

"Aww, that's too bad, but come on, don't look like that. Your brother is adorable! Unlike my sister, who is just a little neet." Sayuri giggled.

"Hmph, you only say that cause he's three, and says a lot of silly stuff cause he doesn't know better. He's a little terror." The girl's frown deeped on her face as she spoke of it.

"My brother was like that at the same age, but Mom says so was I." Shikako laughed. "He's ten now though, so not quite as much of a bother, my little sister though, she's twice as bad as both of us put together."

"Akane and Ranko are the lucky ones, no younger siblings." Yuka cut in, grinning to us. "Of course, my sister and I get along pretty well, we're less than a year apart. Although we do fight a lot over outfits."

"Yeah, Akane you're the baby, no one following in your footsteps to bite your ankles." Makoto groused, and then glanced to me. "Hey, when are we going to meet your brother, Ranko? You guys are like twins, right?"

My head snapped back around to the conversation as I was suddenly put on the spot. I blinked like a deer caught in the headlights. Of course I'd have this conversation at some point, but my brain had been so focused on a pair of skating idiots, I couldn't come up with anything remotely interesting to say.

"Come on, fess up, he's cute right?" Sayuri pressed.

"He's been training up in the mountains, isn't he? He must be a total stud, lots of muscles." Shikako looked like she was going to drool at the fantasy in her head.

"He's not … dumb as a rock is he?" Leave it to Makoto to break the mood. Although the words suddenly sent a tick into my eye I had to fight off.

{Girl, I've forgotten more crap than you've learned in your life. No, calm down … even if they are indirectly insulting my education. They don't know any better.}

"Come on Ranko, fess up, give us details!"

I could only recoil and work my mouth, but no words came out. It was entirely unexpected when Akane broke the tense silence.

"He's handsome." I felt a blush suddenly climb up into my cheeks. Four pairs of eyes all moved to the Tendo daughter and leaned in.

"What? We're both the heirs to our families' branches of the school of Anything Goes Martial Arts. I met him right around the same time as Ranko. He's cute, reliable, kind, a gentleman, maybe puts his foot in mouth easy, but he always apologises."

A blush was starting to creep up my cheeks as Akane spoke about me in quite a flattering manner. Although there was never a leer in her eyes, it was genuine friendship and admiration.

"Yes, he does have some delicious muscles, and he's got a great butt." She blushed a bit, but grinned and shot me a look.

Okay, girl could be a tease when she wanted to.

"But," She drawled out slowly, "He's also head over heels for Shampoo, and she's crazy for him. And can be kind of crazy jealous too."

{Well, it's true. Now I've got to figure out how to factor Ukyo into this craziness too.}

"Aww." Was their collective pout.

"You did say that back to the Hentai Hoard didn't you? Oh well, maybe we can just watch him practice sometime?" Shikako pouted.

"And drool on the dojo floor?" I added with a quip, finally collecting my brains to get back into the moment.

"Maybe." The girl grinned to me, and a shiver ran down my spine.

{Okay … definitely have to keep that particular meeting far off in the future, and hopefully without Shampoo around … Or Ucchan, they'll scare these poor girls away forever.}

"Well, I need to get home, sorry girls, we have to do this again sometime." Makoto rose and collected her things. "See you at school Monday." She smiled and bowed.

With that, the group decided on a collective breakup for the afternoon. Next weekend was open, and likely we'd be meeting up again to do something like this. Plans to be discussed at school.

To my shock, we made it out of the rink without issue. No sign of the Golden Dorks anywhere. One by one, the others peeled off and made their way to their own homes. Akane and I made it back to the dojo without issue.

Weird, but no point in complaining.

One annoying fight avoided means I could avoid others.

My expectations were not avoided in the form of my old man though. Sitting out on the engawa, just outside the family room, he was nose deep into a game of shogi with Soun. Both of their eyes locked on the board, watching for a chance to cheat, or deny same to the other.

"So, this is where you've been hiding." I snorted as I walked into the room. Leaving Akane to dart upstairs and stow her things. Kasumi smiled and handed me a cup of tea as I sank down in front of the kotatsu.

My father's cheek began to twitch, trying to ignore me and keep himself staring at the gameboard so hard it might catch fire under the intensity of his gaze.

"Shampoo's been lookin' fer ya, Ucchan too, actually. Should be here any minute." I said while glancing to the clock, as if expecting their arrival.

My father's concentration finally broke and he spun to face me. Eyes filling with worry. Worry for his own, meager existence at the hands of two jealous, hormonal and raging teenage girls; both romantically linked to me.

Sipping on my tea calmly for a minute, I glanced to him and snickered. "Don't worry, Pop, they're checkin' out Ucchan's restaurant and shoppin'. Don't know of any plans to meet up here today."

"Boy, don't scare me like that! You could give me a heart attack." He growled and then adjusted his glasses, starting me up and down. "And what are you wearing?!"

In his outburst, he didn't notice Soun quickly rearranging tiles on the board to more advantageous position. His hands moving quickly and with surprising stealth. Then resumed just staring at the board when Genma turned his head to check his friend. Too late.

My eyes rolled and I snorted. "Oh gee, I dunno Pop, my clothes? The one's Mom picked out so I wasn't wearing a bunch of ratty, patched up crap most of the time? Why, what's wrong with 'em?"

I dropped my gaze to stare at my outfit. "I think given my figure, they're pretty modest, all things considered. Or do you have some kinda issue with me not wearin' a skirt that drops well below my knees? You gonna harp me about feminine modesty or somethin'?"

My brow arched higher as I stared at him, and he glowered back at me. The whole situation didn't sit right with him at all, and that was just fine with me. A nice little, inside joke between me and Mom. He shouldn't be complaining anyway, Mom's weird ideas aside, it was keeping our guts in place, and our heads on our shoulders.

A loud clack brought his attention back to the shogi game he had been ignoring. His eyes going wide and frowning. Trying to recreate the previous situation in his mind.

"Hey, I could swear that lance was there." Pointing to a spot further up the board.

"Saotome, are you alright? Your memory seems to be slipping a bit today." Soun said with strained innocence. Turning his eyes outside to the yard as my father stared at him, then went back to the board.

I shot Mr Tendo a thumbs up and grinned. He returned the gesture quickly and then resumed looking as innocent and serious as possible, mostly failing both, but not like my old man had any right to complain about someone successfully out cheating him while he was distracted.

Akane came back down and we spent some time watching tv for awhile before I finally collected my old man and began home.

Granted, said old man was kicking and screaming, but he was coming along. More under threat of Mom's disappointment he wasn't home for dinner, than anything I did.

"Quit blubberin' and come on. Sheesh Dad, they're not gonna kill ya, I think. Well, not at home anyway, Mom don't want any blood on the tatami."

"Oh ha ha, Ranma. As if those girls scare me." My father puffed himself up and just turned up his nose at the idea. As if the mighty Genma Saotome would be frightened by school girls.

"Uh huh, so you were just playin' tag with Shampoo yesterday then? Yeah, has to be it, cause you ran out of the house so fast, I'd swear you thought Death was on your heels." Adding as much sarcasm to my voice I could.

He growled at me but stowed his reply, not rising to the barbs verbally. I just grinned, silence was fine with me. We proceeded inside and were instantly treated to the wonderful aroma of Mom's cooking. Our stomachs growled in unison, and neither of us had the shame to care.

"We're home." I called in from the entryway and made my way into the house. Pop excused himself to move around the back and avoid running into anyone for the moment.

Wise move on his part. He did have a knack for trying to avoid situations that put himself in peril … sometimes.

No sooner were my shoes off and I was in the hallway than soft, rapid footfalls were hitting the floor. Then my neck was grabbed and I was being smothered in fabric, and a pair of very soft orbs.

"Airen, welcome home. Shampoo miss you." Crushing me into her wonderful bust as she hugged me in. I would've been content to remain in this position awhile, preferably in one of our bedrooms, and not the hallway. Though, a cough interrupted.

Shampoo frowned and gave a little 'hmph' of annoyance before she released me. When I stood again, she kissed my cheek. Then suddenly stepped back. Arms crossing under her chest and she stared down to the hallway. Away from the person who had broken into her tender reunion.

Without a source of annoyance to focus on, Ukyo suddenly blushed. Looking from Shampoo and then back to me. The girl was still in her clothes from this morning, and fingers began to pull on her ponytail. Swirling some of it around her fingers.

"Ah, welcome home, Ranchan. Hope ya had a good time." She blushed and stood still for a long minute. Her eyes dropping to her toes and found them incredibly fascinating.

I had to keep myself from smiling, I didn't want to give her bad ideas about why I was smiling. The girl was beautiful, but also adorable. Such a sharp contrast from Shampoo. Well, she was too embarrassed to take initiative, I stepped up.

"Thanks Ucchan." Kissing her cheek softly, "Hopefully you girls had a good day out with Mom."

She nodded in turn and smiled a bit, glancing at me through her hair. Gently taking hold of her hand, I did the same with Shampoo. "Come on girls, let's go see if Mom needs help setting the table and have dinner."

The day hadn't been as bad as I feared, now hopefully tomorrow would let me weekend end peacefully.

I hope.

A/N: So here is another chapter out, in short order after I'd finished chapter ten, I'd put out eleven and twelve. I'm not sure if it is a bit tedious or not, as I did the whole weekend one day at the time. However, it's how it came out and I'm working on thirteen now. I'm working on having more time for writing, but the holidays are coming up and I work retail, so my output might drop off a bit.

Thanks for reading and sticking with me.

Till next chapter.