AN: I told you I'd get around to it eventually.


Water. All around him, water.

Ranma grimaced as he gazed at the wide, blue expanse through the tinted window on his right. He'd known this school was situated in the middle of Tokyo Bay ever since Satsuki's letter had arrived, but somehow it hadn't really sunk in that he'd agreed to live in a place surrounded on every side by his personal nemesis until he was actually looking at it. Water already practically rolled uphill to get him, and he'd just made it that much easier for it. Great...

In contrast, the vehicle's second occupant didn't seem to possess any particular issue with this. One might even say that such worries never so much as crossed his mind.

"Oy Pops, would ya stop that?"

Genma looked up from the five star steak meal he'd been loudly devouring on the opposite side of the royal looking stretch limo, which they'd found waiting exclusively for them upon arriving at the bay. It said a lot about what awaited them that they'd likely only be in here for all of ten minutes (at least, assuming this limo would at SOME point start moving faster than the average toddler's walking speed), and yet there was a literal banquet laid out inside. One containing what looked to be enough food to satisfy a moderately sized humpback whale, at that.

"It's a short trip my boy! Eat while you can!" Genma declared, a bit of food spilling out of his mouth as he moved on to his next course.

Ranma snorted, trying to ignore his father's loud, continuous pigging out as he looked out the back window, where the Tendo vehicle — slightly less showy, but screaming RICH no less than his own transportation — was following just behind them. He wondered how they felt about all this. Nabiki was probably drooling all over the seats at the thought of all the money waiting for them. Though then again, maybe not, since he was pretty sure that would hurt the resell value of the vehicle if she ever somehow got her hands on it.

He thought back briefly to two days ago, on the afternoon of the day the letters arrived. Nabiki had, as expected, eventually managed to "persuade" Akane to take up Satsuki's offer, and somehow cajoled her younger sister into bringing her along as well. This, along with a little added pressure from the mercenary girl, had resulted in Soun caving like a piece of wet tissue paper and deciding to join them, the man unable to stand the idea of being away from even one of his daughters for any sustained period of time longer than the average school day. Which of course meant Kasumi had been subsequently asked to tag along by all three of them, ostensibly because no one wanted to leave her alone in a completely empty house, but in reality at least two-thirds of the persuaders were probably more concerned with having someone around to cook who wouldn't unwittingly poison them. Ranma still wondered when Soun would work out that this plan essentially left the Tendo Compound under the care of Happosai, once the old lech inevitably made his way back to Nerima again, and what the man's reaction would be when he did.

A chopstick came flying at the side of the pigtailed teen's neck from the corner of his vision. His pop's idea of keeping him on his toes, probably. He idly snatched it out of the air and sent it back, spearing it into a meatball.

Ranma had to admit, he was curious as to what exactly Nabiki had done to get everyone on board. Not only had she convinced both her sister and her father in near record time, she'd also convinced the lingerie squadron to lay off for a while until the money to pay them back could be obtained. Apparently, something about his city council position and how it looked taken alongside his association with Genma had been mentioned to Soun, and Akane had probably caved to some "gentle" blackmail. But Ranma still couldn't figure out what Nabiki could have said to convince the Panty Police to turn around and leave. Hopefully not something that would come back to haunt HIM later.

The recently speared meatball curved towards Ranma's head, set on a collision course with his ear. Grumbling, he turned and chomped down, snagging it between his teeth and chewing while spitting the chopstick out like a dart before turning back away.

The cursed martial artist pressed his forehead against the window, feeling unusually subdued for once. His original plan had been to go find Satsuki and get the whole story about the apparently rather serious "end of the world" issue the moment he arrived, but he'd realized once they'd gotten closer to the bay that he had absolutely no idea where to find her. So when the chauffeur had insisted that they be shown to where they'd be living for the next however-long, he'd agreed for lack of any better ideas, despite it sounding like the worst one Ranma had heard in weeks. Not only did he not particularly care about the "luxury" awaiting them, but the sense of foreboding that had been steadily increasing in him for the last couple days now had no outlet whatsoever. There was no way to use it for productive purposes, no goal to funnel it towards. All he could do for the moment was... wait.

Peeling himself away from the glass, Ranma leaned back in his seat and sighed. On the plus side of things, at least he wouldn't have to deal with his fiancees for a while. Only one of them would even be around for the foreseeable future, and as such he'd resolved that THAT mess was on hold until after all this apocalypse stuff was done. Not that he was particular keen on resolving it even before all this happened, given what such would entail, but the world was a tad more important than his unwanted marital affairs, so they'd just have to be-

Yet another movement in his peripheral vision finally got Ranma annoyed enough to pay more than idle attention to his increasingly annoying parental figure. He stood and spun, a complaint already on his lips, only to find a wine glass filled with what looked like sparkling cider flying at him mouth first. A desperate attempt to snatch it out of the air and duck was made, but he'd noticed it a bit too late for that — all Ranma managed to catch was the stem of the glass, which left the liquid free to fly out and splash him directly in the chest. It was ice cold, and accordingly Ranma felt his height shifting downwards and his newly wet shirt shifting forwards.

Wonderful, just what he'd wanted. To be a girl BEFORE he even set foot on the island.

"What the heck was that for?!" Ranma yelled, seething. "I oughta...!"

"Pay attention boy!" Genma reprimanded in his "teaching" voice. "This is a lesson! Ever since we got in this limo you've been letting your attention drift, which is completely unacceptable! A martial artist must be aware of his surroundings at all times. He should not sit around getting distracted by daydreams!"

Before Ranma could protest further, the limo began to turn and slant upwards. The words she'd been about to speak died on her lips as the "city" came into view through the window, a veritable mountain lined at every point in view by buildings.

All of which were of slightly rougher make than Ranma had been expecting, honestly. That was a bit strange.

A fork and knife spiraled towards her stomach in a quick, tight arc. Ranma flipped over them, letting them spear into the back of the carriage, and slowly turned her head towards Genma.

"Boy, did I not JUST tell you-!"

Ranma grabbed up a clean plate and sent it whizzing like a discus at the one Genma was currently eating off of. The angle it flew at was perfectly skewed in a way such that neither plate broke, but the second one's back end rocked violently upwards, as if its front had been struck by a hammer. This sent the half-eaten shrimp on its surface flying neatly towards Genma's face... only for the man to lean backwards, grinning as the seafood zipped past his chin.

"Hah! You'll have to do better than-"

A pair of chopsticks flew up Genma's nose while his head was tilted back, causing him to cry out at the intrusion and fall to the floor. Naturally, the older martial artist refused to take this lying down, and so began a uniquely expensive bout of Saotome Style Martial Arts Food Fighting.

30 seconds later, the limousine's interior was looking decidedly less fancy, and Ranma was covered in the fluid of roughly four different drinks. As the most likely items to actually hit her, for some reason, Genma had almost immediately sequestered all of them on his side of the car. The older martial artist was himself currently bedecked by the culinary contributions of at least six separate dishes, but unsurprisingly this was doing very little to assuage Ranma's irritation with the man.

As drink number five struck home on her lower thigh, Ranma concluded that travel in the slowmobile was no longer worth it. She'd have to find the place on her own, but there was no WAY she was putting up with this all the way to the top of the island.

Throwing one last plate of seaweed to join the noodles already draped upon Genma's head like the world's grungiest wig, Ranma ran to the back of the carriage, forced the door open, and hopped out despite the limo still being in motion. Not that this was by any means difficult, given that it was driving up the incline at all of 5 miles an hour. Why exactly did people like to ride in these things again?

Unsure if her father was likely to follow her out or not, Ranma decided to go the extra mile. Figuring the panda wasn't going to want to hike up the island when someone was perfectly willing to drive him up instead, she immediately ran to the side of the upwards spiraling road and vaulted over the edge into the city below, falling a few stories before lightly landing on someone's roof.

Said roof did not take kindly to this intrusion, cracking slightly even beneath Ranma's currently rather diminutive weight. Not wanting to cause any property damage (at least not quite this early), the redhead quickly sprang down to the street below. Landing in a crouch, she brushed herself off before standing and taking in her first close up view of Honnou City.

...it reminded her of the rather run down, crime infested towns her and her old man had passed through more than a couple of times on the training trip, honestly. Everything in sight was dingy, faded, and looked like it was about to fall apart. A homeless man was sprawled out on the step of someone's house, covered in rags and snoring loudly. A couple of thuggish looking boys stared at her from an alleyway across the street, possibly trying to mentally weigh whether it was worth trying to mug someone who'd just casually jumped almost five stories to the ground.

Hmm. Maybe the rest of this place would be more impressive.


Ten minutes later...

'Well.' Ranma thought to herself as she walked up a grimy looking street, a stray piece of litter blowing by like a tumbleweed. 'This makes no sense at all.'

This was a slum. Not that such a thing was that surprising — regardless of a city's location, that sort of thing was bound to pop up — but it was an expansive slum. It looked to cover the entire base of the island, with no end presently in sight.

Why? Satsuki apparently had enough money to throw around that literal millions of yen barely even counted as a drop in the bucket. Ranma would have thought she'd been tricked, or that perhaps the imperialist girl had been severely overstating her resources, but then again she had in fact been picked up by a limousine, and subsequently presented with more food than she'd ever seen in her life, barring her time at Chardin Manor. Clearly, she was missing something here.

At least she wouldn't have to worry about having to live in a mansion, if all of this was any indication. Though that actually brought up another oddity — wasn't this city actually pretty new? Ranma had been to Tokyo Bay before during the training trip, and she was almost certain that the city she was standing in hadn't existed then. So if her memory wasn't playing tricks on her, there was no way this place was old enough to accumulate this much damage. Yet everything still looked like it was about ready to collapse in on itself. Again, why?

A couple of guys leered at her still damp chest from the splintered doorframe of a nearby store, sending a shiver of disgust down Ranma's spine and prompting her to jump on to the closest two story roof that looked like it wouldn't disintegrate under her feet. She needed to get some hot water, and quick. Though where exactly she could get that, in a place like this...

"Ohhhh! Kangaroo! Grasshopper! Jumping frog! Hiiiiiii!"

After taking a moment to realize the voice was talking to her, Ranma looked down. A girl who looked like she'd stuck three-forths of a coconut on her head and called it a haircut was smiling up at her from the street below, waving her arms back and forth above her head so fast they were a blur even to her trained eyes.

"Um. Hi." Ranma said just loud enough to hear, giving a small wave back before turning away.

Well, she couldn't just wander around forever, and she wasn't particularly enjoying strolling around down here anyways given how little there was to see. The limo had been going to the top of the island, but it wasn't like there was any hurry. Maybe she should go try to find Satsuki instead. Though given this city's design, it was hard to imagine anywhere a person like her would be likely to actually...

A series of thumping noises issued from the side of the building she was on, and Ranma turned to see the coconut hair girl pulling herself on to the roof. Which confused her, as she was pretty sure there wasn't anything to grab on to sticking out of that wall-

"How'd you do that?" the girl asked, suddenly all of a foot away from her.

"Gah!"

Ranma jumped back, startled. The girl immediately followed, seeming to almost teleport into a crouch as she lifted and poked at Ranma's limbs, still pouring out questions like a fountain.

"Do you have springs in your shoes? Are you part bunny? Do you pretend to be a pogo stick sometimes by hopping on one leg? Is it-"

Ranma blurred, extricating her leg and jumping to an adjacent rooftop, never taking her eyes off the alarmingly fast girl. Said girl thankfully didn't follow, instead simply scampering to the edge of the other roof, still looking at her wide eyed and happily quizzical.

"Who are you?" Ranma asked, warily.

The girl looked confused for a moment, before seemingly having an epiphany. "Oh! I didn't introduce myself!" she exclaimed, bonking the top of her head with one hand and making a V over her left eye with the other. "I'm Makanshoko Mako! Hiya!"

NO STAR STUDENT, MAKANSHOKO MAKO

Something enormous and red flashed into existence for a moment, but before Ranma could so much as blink, it was gone.

"What's your name?" Mako asked.

Ranma didn't answer. That hadn't really been what she'd meant. sure, she'd gotten a name, but who even was this girl?

The martial artist quickly did a once-over of Mako, trying to ascertain if she was hiding anything. From what Ranma could tell, the girl's chi seemed... normal, honestly. A bit higher than average, making it easier to sense, but just as utterly unfocused as most non-combatants. Extremely unfocused in fact, to the point that Ranma doubted its owner could consciously do much of anything with it, even if she knew how.

...hmm. In that case, unless Mako's outfit was one of those weird transforming ones, which it didn't look to be, she probably wasn't someone to worry about having to fight. Ranma relaxed a little.

"Wait, is your name a secret?" Mako continued obliviously upon failing to receive a response, her face suddenly taking on what might have been intended to be a look of deathly seriousness, but honestly just looked both ridiculous and rather cute on the girl's googly facial features. "I see! Understood!"

Huh?

"Don't worry, it's safe with me!" Mako proclaimed, saluting Ranma like a soldier. "My lips are permanently sealed!"

"Wha-"

"No doubt they'll resort to devious, underhanded methods to try and make me talk, but I'm prepared for them!"

"Hang on-"

"Threats, blackmail, torture, they'll never pry it out of me! I won't crack no matter what they try!"

"Who's they-"

"I'll take your secret name to the grave if I have to! In fact, I'll have no choice, since I still don't know it! I-"

"It's not a secret!" the redhead blurted out, desperately trying to cut off the extremely weird path Mako's thoughts seemed to have gone down. "My name's Saotome Ranma, okay?"

"Oh." Mako's strange one-man conversation halted as she immediately resumed her normal stance and expression. "Hi Ranma! Nice to meet you!"

"...uh... right..." Ranma replied somewhat hesitantly, trying to readjust to the sudden shift in conversational tone. "Nice to meet ya, I guess..." she finished lamely, dropping off the building into the alleyway between them.

Mako moved to follow Ranma, but stopped at the ledge of the roof, looking down as if only now realizing she was not currently on the ground floor. Then, her cheeks puffed out determinedly, and the martial artist below watched with slowly mounting concern as Mako turned around, ran forward...

"Hey, wait, what are ya-"

...and threw herself off the building, plunging towards the ground in an arcing, rather graceless swan dive.

Ranma sped out of the alley towards the street, moving to catch the girl before she smashed her skull all over the road... only to stop short upon seeing Mako's face. The determined, utterly unpanicked expression she wore seemed to indicate that she was either stupidly fearless, or knew perfectly well what she was doing. Figuring that Mako wouldn't have lived very long if it wasn't the latter, Ranma held herself back — and indeed, despite the energetic girl's horrible choice of falling position, she hit the ground in a perfectly executed tumble, rolling across the road while expertly bleeding off speed.

-SLAM-

Just enough for her to crash into the wall of the house across the street, rather than through it.

"Uh. You okay there?" Ranma asked as she walked over, offering a hand to the dazed girl currently splayed out on the ground. Mako's eyes rolled around in their sockets for a brief moment, before swiftly refocusing as she happily grabbed the outstretched hand and swung herself back up, looking none the worse for wear.

"Yep, I'm fine!" the brown haired girl enthusiastically replied. "Or, wait-" Mako grabbed her head between both hands and shook it around like a piggy bank for a few seconds. "Yeah, everything sounds good!"

"Er... alright then." Ranma mumbled, unable to think of any other way to respond. This was turning out to be one of the weirder first impressions she'd ever received, which was quite the feat. Mako's was already beating out Sentaro's, and during that one she'd been paralyzed, kidnapped, and carried off on horseback.

"Right. So, quick question. Do ya happen to know a Satsuki?" Ranma inquired, figuring maybe she could at least get some directions out of this happenstance meeting. It didn't hurt to ask, at least.

"Huh?" Mako tilted her head. "Satsuki? You mean the Ruler of Honnouji?"

Ruler? What?

"I got no idea. Kiryuin Satsuki?" Ranma tried to clarify. "Long black hair, usually looks angry, has a habit a' occasionally blindin' anyone lookin' directly at her-"

"Like this?"

Mako pulled her face into a startlingly good imitation of the girl Ranma was looking for, putting on a far sterner frown than he'd imagined she could possibly pull off, somehow instantly thickening her eyebrows, and substituting a discarded length of pipe she'd found somewhere for her sword.

"Uh. Yeah. Like that."

The impression vanished as Mako nodded excitedly. "Yep, I know her!"

"Great. Any idea where I could find her?"

Mako put a finger to her lip, eyes staring up into the sky. "Well, school is out for the day, but she'll be there again tomorrow. She's pretty scary though, and I don't think most people can meet her on short notice. Probably not at all, actually."

"No worries, I have it handled." Ranma waved Mako off. "So where's the school then?"

"Oh, it's up there." Mako pointed towards the zenith of the island. "Right at the top! You can't miss it."

"Perfect." Ranma nodded appreciatively and turned to go, but stalled before walking away completely. "Oh, one more thing. Know where I could get some hot water around here?"

Mako smiled widely and nodded, not even hesitating before pulling out what appeared to be a wrapped bento box... from the top of her uniform.

Ranma blinked. While she was perfectly used to people pulling random mallets of varying size and the occasional kettle out of thin air, conscious access to the space those things came from was a far rarer talent. It required the ability to create and hold a chi pocket, and generally wasn't something one could learn on a whim, to the point that the only people she knew that regularly used it were her pops, Mousse... and based on what she'd just seen, Mako.

Which made no sense whatsoever. Nothing about this girl did thus far, in fact. Putting aside how simply strange she acted, Mako had no apparent muscle tone or training, yet she'd easily climbed straight up the side of a house with no obvious handholds to assist her. She'd done a headfirst dive off a roof only to immediately smash into a wall, but had taken no more than superficial damage from it. She had access to a highly specialized chi technique and some sort of flash step maneuver, despite the fact that her wildly untamed energy signature indicated neither of those things should be possible for her. What the hell was going on here?

"Here you go!"

Ranma looked up. The other girl was beaming at her, holding out a thermos full of what appeared to be steaming hot water. Probably usually used for tea or noodles, if she'd fished it out of her lunch.

"Huh."

Ranma shrugged and gratefully took the thermos. She supposed Mako's various oddities didn't really matter that much at the moment. The lively girl didn't seem to be hostile, and if it was actually important, then the mystery she presented would almost certainly come up again some other day, Ranma figured.

The redhead dumped the hot water over herself without pause, figuring if Mako had tricks like the ones she'd shown thus far up her sleeve, a little thing like an instant sex change couldn't possibly weird her out too much. Ranma sighed with contentment as his birth form returned to him — hopefully he'd be able to stay in it for the moment.

"Thanks." he said gratefully, handing Mako her thermos back. "Seeya round."

With that, Ranma turned and left, heading for the peak of the city. Mako looked on as he walked away, before turning around and skipping back towards her house, eager to tell her family about the gender changing bunny girl she'd just met.


This city was bizarre.

Five minutes ago, Ranma had reached a flat ring of land that seemed to mark the end of the incline, within which stood a tremendously tall wall that looked to reach all the way around the island. Large openings were placed within the rock at regular intervals, but each of them seemed to be individually gated by a heavy duty portcullis, preventing anyone from going any further into the city. Thus, Ranma had gone looking for another way up — except, as he'd quickly discovered, there was no other way up. He'd even gone and asked someone who looked like they probably wouldn't try to shiv him an alleyway — the only access points for the giant track looping around the island were at the bottom and the top, and the gondolas that passed through the four widest gates apparently only operated during school hours. The other gates had never been seen to open at all, and there were no stairs whatsoever, which left it a mystery to Ranma how most people were supposed to regularly travel between the levels of the island.

Of course, he wasn't most people. It had taken approximately five seconds for the martial artist to scale the vertical wall of rock (wondering briefly why he hadn't just done that to begin with), and upon reaching the top, he'd found...

Ranma squinted at the view before him. This... this was an island, wasn't it? Because if he didn't know better, he'd think he somehow pulled a Ryoga and managed to walk directly from the center of one city into the middle of an entirely different one.

He turned around and looked over the ledge he'd just climbed. Yep, still the same city. But whereas the buildings down below were crumbling, shoddily constructed, and mostly under three stories tall when they weren't built halfway on top of each other, the ones up where he was now were well built, in good repair, and were primarily composed of apartments that seemed to start at five stories and only go up from there, with a scattered mish-mash of shopping outlets crammed where space allowed inbetween them.

Ranma scratched his head, the city's design making even less sense to him now. It almost seemed deliberate — even the architecture of the two areas was noticeably different, as if the buildings on the lower level had been made intentionally badly.

A suspicion struck him, prompting Ranma to leap up several nearby apartments, treating them as successively higher stepping stones until he finally reached a point where no others were blocking his view. Upon reaching the roof, he craned his neck up, and lo and behold — there in the distance laid another massive wall, looking rather more smooth and shiny than the one he'd just scaled, and leading up to... some sort of giant, bell shaped grid?

Ranma squinted. Maybe "bell" wasn't the right word, as the shape resembled the top end of a volcano more than anything else. The spiraling road that wound around the island seemed to come to an end somewhere up there as well — was that the mansion area? Either way, it was huge, metal, and looked really expensive, seemingly proving that Satsuki had not in fact been bluffing about just how much money she had access to.

Which only made the question of why the city looked like this even more confusing.

Ranma jumped his way back down to the street, slightly disgruntled. He wasn't usually one to wonder about this sort of thing, but if he was going to be living here for an extended period of time, he rather wanted to know why someone had seemingly built this place to resemble a wedding cake slowly rotting from the bottom up.

Shrugging, he began walking further into the area. While Ranma figured he could probably just roofhop his way around now that he was in an area where said roofs weren't quite as likely to collapse underfoot, it didn't seem worth the effort when the nearby buildings were so variant in height. With the apartments as they were, travel by roof would probably end up being more of a puzzle than a convenience. Besides, he kind of wanted to get to know the city a little better before he really started doing that in earnest. He needed to scope out the best places to eat, at the very least.

As he turned the corner on to an avenue of shops, a uniformed boy with a darkened brow, helmet shaped hair, and the largest chin Ranma had ever seen short of Gamagori strolled past him, frowning all the while. This would not have been a particularly noteworthy event, had Ranma not simultaneously spotted three people nigh-identical to said boy walking on the other side of the road.

'Huh.' Ranma briefly looked back the way he came as the lone male marched out of sight. 'Twins? The four person version, I guess?'

He turned back around, and a ponytailed girl in a fully blue, one piece version of the outfit Mako had been wearing walked past a clothing store. A store whose cashier, visible through the window, appeared to be that very same girl. As well as one of the patrons of said store.

Ranma blinked a few times before jumping up to hang on an open apartment window, looking down over the various passerbys milling about below.

Here, two guys. There, a girl. Three girls. A guy WITH a girl. All of them identical. All of them wearing uniforms. All of them wearing expressions that made them look like they were constantly dealing with some rather unpleasant bowel issues.

Weird. Apparently, this level of the city was entirely populated by clones. Unfortunate clones, too. The guys' faces all looked like gorillas whose faces had been smashed in by other gorillas, and their overshadowed eyes and perpetual scowls looked even worse on the girls that shared them. Not that it really mattered, but Ranma imagined if HE was going to make half a city's worth of the same two people, he wouldn't be so cruel as to make them all look like this.

Either way, it was creepy. Mostly because the pigtailed martial artist imagined this was what the result of a successful mass haircut operation by the former-principal Kuno might have looked like. Ranma gave an involuntary shudder at the thought as he dropped back down to the street and warily continued forward.

The buildings he was passing seemed to be pretty standard at least. Convenience stores, a supermarket, a decently large hospital... overall, this area seemed more like what the martial artist had initially expected from the island. Aside from the disturbing feel the occupants gave it, it was even pretty nice. Maybe a bit more modern than he was used to, but-

Ranma stopped walking as a tantalizing smell wafted through the air and into his nostrils. His stomach growled, his eyes closing almost involuntarily as he breathed in the wondrous scent.

Mmmmmm...

Whatever it was, it smelled better than even the practical banquet that had been provided by the limo. What WAS that?

Following his nose, Ranma dreamily made his way over to where the smell seemed to be originating from. When he was all but on top of it, he opened his eyes, and immediately started drooling.

In the doorframe of a fancy and new looking restaurant sat the most delicious looking piece of food Ranma had ever seen. The dough was cooked to utter perfection. The sauce was still sizzling, fresh off the grill. The toppings were all of his favorites, the smells combining to create something near-heavenly. Even the serving platter, a giant spatula the size of a person, gleamed beneath the sun like a polished jewel.

...wait.

"Hey there Honey!" Ukyo said brightly as the spatula, okonomiyaki and all, met Ranma's chin in an absolutely devastating upswing that sent him sailing into the wall across the road. He met it head first, breaking through the concrete up to his neck before stopping. A brief, ridiculous image of himself as a large floppy dart flashed through Ranma's mind before he felt something tug him out of the wall by his collar, and he was suddenly face to face with a perfectly furious looking Ukyo.

"You ABSOLUTE, COMPLETE, UTTERLY SELFISH JACKASS!" Ukyo screamed as she glared into his eyes like the sun itself. "You seriously tried to just up and move to an entirely different part of Tokyo without even TELLING me?!"

"I left a note though..." Ranma mumbled, still seeing stars covered in little okonomiyaki toppings swimming around his head. How had Ukyo just put his skull through the wall? She was a decent martial artist, but she didn't normally have the raw strength for that. Did all women get this much stronger when they were angry, or was it just his fiancees? If Ryoga got this kind of force multiplier when enraged, then- well, actually that would explain a lot, come to think of it-

"You call a page reading 'Ucchan, not gonna be in Nerima for a while, seeya some other time,' a NOTE?!"

Well, yes, what was her definition of a note?

"That doesn't tell me ANYTHING! Not that you were moving, and not that you were moving HERE!" Ukyo yelled, putting extra emphasis on certain words by jabbing a blunted mini spatula progressively harder into his chest. "You made it sound like a training trip!"

"Does it really matter now though?" Ranma asked, still feeling slightly lightheaded. Ukyo wasn't usually one to go off like this. This couldn't just be because he hadn't told her the right way, could it? "I mean, you're here anyways, so..."

"I'm only here because YOU are!" the chef shot back. "They sent me a bribe! It's not like I wanted to take it! I was going to turn it down, except it came attached to a message that told me you already took them up on their offer!"

"Wait, Satsuki sent you an invitation too?" Ranma supposed that made sense, since Ukyo had apparently been fighting during the school invasion as well, but how had Satsuki even known for sure he was coming? It wasn't like he'd mailed her back.

Ukyo's glower intensified even futher. "Oh, so you're on a first name basis with her, hmm?"

...something told Ranma that virtually any answer he could give to that question would be a bad one. However, for once, he felt prepared for this. Not all too long ago, Nabiki had made an idle comment to him after one of his umpteenth arguments with Akane — something along the lines of "Maybe one day, you'll figure out how to use that tactical knowledge of yours to keep your foot out of your mouth for more than two seconds." While obviously meant sarcastically, Ranma hadn't thought it to actually be a bad idea — he did tend to be better at various things when they were couched in terms of battle, after all. Thus, he had spent a couple of hours that night drawing up a list of pre-thought out strategies, meant for use not in physical fights, but in conversation.

And right now seemed like the perfect time to try one of them out.

"Er... hey, Ucchan, why're ya down here, exactly?" Ranma asked, deciding to employ 'Plan D'. "Didn't they offer ya a 'two star' position, or somethin'? I thought if you got that you went to a mansion."

Miraculously, this actually seemed to work. Ukyo simmered down from a boil to a mere stew as she let go of Ranma and crossed her arms. "Yeah, they did. But I requested a place and restaurant where I could actually sell my food after seeing where they originally tried to set me up. Have you seen the level the 'two stars' live on?"

"Only from down here."

"So not up close then? Once you see what's up there, you'll-" Ukyo paused as her train of thought re-railed. "Hey, NO, you're not getting out of this one that easily!"

Shoot. Plan D(istract)'s effectiveness had proved short lived. Would any of the others work here?

Ranma rapidly iterated through them in his head. Probably not... damn. No easy way to deal with this, which meant the only thing left was the ultimate fallback. Plan E it was.

"How exactly do you plan on making this up to me?!"

Ranma appeared to think about the question for a moment, before squinting and pointing over Ukyo's shoulder.

"Um, is that Tsubasa posing as that wall?"

Ukyo whirled around, only to find herself staring at a perfectly normal wall. Or maybe it was Tsubasa, but if she couldn't tell at a glance then neither could Ranma. She spun around again, only to see the pigtailed boy leaping up on to a nearby building.

"Sorry Ucchan, talk to ya later, gotta go, bye!" Ranma's voice echoed back to her, growing quieter as he Plan E(scape)'d into the distance.

Ukyo grit her teeth, tightened her fists around her battle spatula... and sighed, before turning around and walking back inside. She wasn't going to catch him now, but she'd see Ranma at their new "school" soon enough. Right now, she needed to keep working on getting this place set up, at least if she wanted to be back in business anytime soon.

She gave a quick smack to the wall on her way in, just in case.


Ranma touched down on a roof a few blocks away, relieved that strategy had worked so well. Sure, Plan E was functionally identical to the Saotome Secret Technique, but that apparently worked both in and out of battle, and if it ain't broke don't fix it, right?

Seeing as how walking around on the ground like a normal person hadn't exactly worked out for him, Ranma decided to stay up where he was, and continued — with some difficulty — roofhopping his way up the side of the mountainous city. As he bounced an extremely irregular path across the tops of Honnou City's many one star residencies, he pondered what he was likely to encounter at the top of the island. Even as slow as the limousines were, his pop and the Tendos had probably arrived by now. Depending on how distracted his old man was by the new place, Ranma figured there was a 50/50 chance that there would be traps waiting for him in the entrance. More so if the stupid panda was still fixated on making sure he was constantly aware of his-

Ranma screeched to a sudden halt halfway across his current rooftop. Slowly, he backed up, his head gradually turning to the right as he prayed that his eyes had been deceiving him. Upon realizing they had not been, he let out a beleaguered sigh as he simply stared at the restaurant across the street, which was undeniably the Nekohanten. Now taking up residence in Honnou City, for some reason.

The universe apparently wanted to make it extra clear that he was never going to get away from his fiancees for any extended period of time. Based on what Ranma had seen so far, Kodachi was probably waiting for him on the next tier of the city.

The pigtailed fighter experienced a brief moment of hope that perhaps it was just a very similar looking restaurant, which also happened to have the same name. Hope that was very quickly dashed by the dreaded ringing of a bicycle's bell coming up behind him, accompanied by an even more horrifying sound.

"Airen!"

Deciding to take a page out of Mako's book, Ranma promptly dove off the ledge of the building, wanting to avoid getting tire tracks forcibly imprinted across his back/face/self in general for once. He touched down in a crouch on the sidewalk below, ran forward several meters just in case Shampoo jumped down, looked up to check if unwanted fiancee number three was still after him...

!-CRASH-!

...and promptly ate rubber.

"Aiyah! Shampoo sorry!" the purple haired girl exclaimed, her tone not sounding particularly sorry at all. "Airen is okay?"

Ranma gave a muffled sort of groan, his mouth still full of tire. Why. If she wanted him to like her so badly, why did she always do this.

"Shampoo tried go off next roof over so not land on Airen, but Airen move under bike after Shampoo jump!"

Uh huh, right. That hadn't been on purpose at all. Except, he was pretty sure Shampoo didn't generally ride her bicycle on rooftops. Not until now, at least, when he had just so happened to be nearby, on a rooftop. It was amazing, honestly. By now Ranma figured he could probably dodge nearly anything the amazon could throw at him, yet the moment she whipped out her stupid two-wheeled engine of death, the thing unerringly honed in on him like it had a vendetta against his person worthy of a Hibiki. One of these days he needed to figure out what sort of bike-based martial art Shampoo had obviously been learning, if just for the sake of figuring out a counter to it.

Shampoo removed her bike from his face, allowing Ranma to get to his feet, only to immediately be glomped, as per the usual. He sighed, closed his eyes, and waited for the inevitable.

...

A single eye cracked back open, carefully scanning the area. Hang on. No Mousse charging in blindly while throwing around half an armory? No stupid panda bashing him over the head with a sign ranting about unfaithfulness? No Akane punting him into the air, planting him into the ground, or tossing water in their direction?

...huh. This was new. And a little inconvenient to be honest. Had he ever actually escaped one of Shampoo's glomps under his own power? When was the last time he'd even had the opportunity to try?

In response to Ranma's seeming lack of protest, Shampoo snuggled deeper into his side. "Shampoo so happy Airen here! No thought she would get see him for too too long time!"

Ranma squinted at the human octopus currently wrapped around his torso. "Whaddya mean? You followed me here, there's no way me bein' around should be a surprise."

Shampoo removed her head from his chest just long enough to shake it in the negative. "Is too! Great-Grandmother never say Airen coming, she just tell Shampoo we moving here, only few hours after school get destroyed."

Ranma tilted his head. Huh, that was before he'd even "decided" to come, which meant the Old Ghoul had plans here that didn't involve him... that, or she just predicted he'd end up here anyways and had decided to get a headstart on things. Yeah, that seemed more likely.

Two extremely similar male figures moved past them on the sidewalk, staring at the purple haired girl and her captive with frozen frowns as they marched past. Ranma felt Shampoo tense, pulling her head away from him to train a wary eye on the departing pair of indistinguishable men.

"Brr! Whole city so creepy!" Shampoo complained. "Full of ugly identical boy and girl who look like no have eyes. Shampoo no understand why Great-Grandmother think set up here was good idea."

She took a moment to briefly shiver, before happily pressing herself fully back on to Ranma. "At least Spatula Girl and Kitchen Destroyer not here. Now Shampoo get Airen all to self!"

Ranma opened his mouth to inform her that no, Akane was probably on the next level of the city, while Ukyo was in fact just down the street, but in a flash of good sense remembered Plan S(hut it) and cut himself off. He was fairly sure that if the three of them didn't know about each other, he did not want to be the one to make any of them aware of the other two's proximity.

"Look, Shampoo, I really gotta get back to Pops." he said instead, trying to worm himself out of her grip.

Shampoo nodded vigorously, ignoring Ranma's squirming. "Okay! Shampoo come with!"

"Er... won't the Old Ghoul be angry at ya for leavin' the restaurant?"

"Shampoo no think Great-Grandmother be mad she abandon Nekohanten if she with you, Airen." Shampoo replied with a cheerful smile.

"Oh yes she will be."

Shampoo cringed as the person that had quietly pogoed up beside them lightly whacked her over the head. "Get back inside Great-Grandaughter." Cologne ordered. "We have a lot of work to do if we're to establish ourselves practically from scratch again."

Shampoo let out a slightly piteous whine as she finally let go of Ranma (*phew*) and turned to face the amazon matriarch. "Great-Grandmother, no is fair! Shampoo stuck doing so much now!"

"Feel free to blame Mr. Part Timer, who apparently still hasn't managed to make his way back to Nerima yet, nor found the notice I left him of our new location." Cologne replied, an undercurrent of annoyance running through her tone. "Until then, we simply have to get by without him. Which means more work for everyone, you included."

"Duck Boy's gone missin'?" Ranma interjected.

"Indeed." Cologne grumbled. "While it isn't as if he's under any obligation to be here, it is still irritating having to fill a position I did not expect to be vacant. I would have booted the boy back to China long ago if I thought he wouldn't just come right back, yet now he vanishes all on his own. Heaven only knows where our wayward errand duck has flown off to."


"I'm telling you, it's THAT way!"

"Ryoga, which way is he pointing?" Mousse asked irritably, unable to see the man as anything other than a giant blur.

"This way," Ryoga replied, guiding his companion in a direction 90 degrees contrary to the one the man's finger indicated. "Thank you sir."

"What's WRONG with you two?!" the frustrated man called out as the pair walked off.


Ranma just shrugged in response. He had never been quite sure why Cologne had decided she wanted to run a restaurant to begin with, but he wasn't about to question her decisions either.

"Stupid Mousse need hurry back! Shampoo tired of washing dishes!" Shampoo sulked.

"Heh." Ranma remarked aloud as the Chinese girl stomped back to the Nekohanten, longingly looking back at him only once as she grudgingly ducked back inside. "Never thought I'd see Shamps admit to actually wanting Mousse around."

"If only to provide menial labor, but yes, such were my own thoughts on the matter as well." Cologne snickered. "Then again, if the hearts of the young weren't so universally fickle, I likely would have given up on you long ago, Son-in-Law."

The tricentenarian coughed and gestured up the island's omnipresent incline with her staff, still managing to somehow stay atop the length of wood as she did. "Now then Sonny Boy, I'm afraid I must ask you to run along for the time being. As you might have guessed, I'm a bit busy at the moment, but I'm sure we'll both have more time later to... discuss the future, should the need arise."

Ranma didn't know what that was supposed to imply. Was she hinting that she knew why he was here? Admittedly, the thought of talking to Cologne about Satsuki's impending apocalypse HAD crossed his mind a few times in the past couple of days. This did not, however, make him particularly inclined to do so, seeing as how the old ghoul would gladly take advantage of any little scrap of information he gave her to use for her own ends. Besides, he still needed some actual proof the world really was going to go kablooey before he was willing to take the idea more than half seriously.

Deciding not to think too much about it for now, Ranma leapt away, content with having been given an easy out for once.

"Yes." Cologne mused as his silhouette passed out of sight. "I imagine we'll have quite a lot to discuss soon, Son-in-Law..."


AN: It's rough, it's unpolished, I'm not as happy with it as I wish I was, but it's freaking DONE. Mind, I was planning on rewatching KLK in its entirety before starting this fic — or at least watching Episode 25, since I still haven't seen it (as you may have already read) — but that was delaying this endlessly because my motivation to watch that many episodes at once doesn't really hold up for series I've already seen, even if I really like them. So I'm just skipping that, and hoping you can forgive me if my interpretation of Honnou City's structure is off.

This chapter is pretty Ranma-centric, being more of an introduction to Honnou City than anything else. Hopefully it works, because this is probably the fourth variation on the chapter I came up with. I'm NOT changing it now.

As a parting note, one of the main parts of this chapter that stalled this? Mako. I have absolutely no idea how to write Mako. I feel like she really needs a visual medium in order to fully express herself, and even ignoring that her personality is pretty hard to nail down in writing. I'm not going to just make her Hyper! Random! Etc!, but she teeters on the edge of that so often in canon that it's reallllly difficult to know what she'd say in a given situation. I'd say "whatever is funniest", but that's only sometimes true. She's generally very energetic and upbeat, despite the pit she lives in and the school she attends, but that makes her sound ditzy, and she's really not. She tends to think simply, though not stupidly, and also really weirdly, which lets her have some surprising insights throughout the show. Not that they exactly sound like insights, because she didn't even necessarily mean them as insights, or at least not in the way they were taken, and there's also this propensity she has for going off on pseudo random tangents that somehow wrap back around to what she was originally saying, except not exactly, and arrrrRRRRRGH. I think I managed to get down something sort of recognizable as her in the end, but... well, give me tips if you have any, please. Decent quotes of hers (from any situation) are even better.

Here's hoping the next chapter doesn't take another year and a half to come out!