Mirrors Multiplied

Part One

by Jared Ornstead

A Disclaimer I stole (Oh, the irony! ;-)
Ranma 1/2 property of Takahashi Rumiko, Sailormoon property of Takeuchi
Naoko.

************************************************

The swirls of mist parted and out stepped a well built, handsome
male figure onto the streets of Nerima. On his wrist a light on a
bracelet flickered and died.
Ranma looked down at the piece of jewelry, at its dead lights, then
swiftly examined the area around him. "Well," he said, speaking to
himself. "Looks like I'm stuck here. The next step, obviously, is to
find out what `here' is."
He had dropped to one knee after exiting the now departed mists.
With his bearings back he pulled himself to his feet. "First priority
is information," he quoted, and felt an inward pang. With a grimace he
set his steps toward the Tendo dojo. "And that means Nabiki."

Hopping across rooftops Ranma had time to think. And his mind drew
him back to that first fateful time, when he and his father had stolen
the magic mirror from Happosai. Seeing Akane married to Ryoga hadn't
been so bad in retrospect, certainly not after what had followed.
That trip to Jusenkyo, where they had prevented their previous
selves from getting dropped in the cursed springs. That could have gone
better. Certainly bringing Happosai along, and then leaving him there,
had been a bad idea. How bad had become exactly clear when a *second*
pair of Genma and son had appeared at the Tendo dojo.
They'd mugged the little freak after that. Ranma just wished he'd
gotten some instructions before he'd gone and used the bracelet he'd
taken from him. Standing there in an agony of embarrassment he'd gone
and yelled out a wish. A really careless wish.

Dawn's rosy fingers were parting the horizon as Ranma jumped down
before the gates of the dojo. Repeating the phrase to himself "Take
nothing for granted this time!" He checked the wooden sign outside.
Yup, it said this was the Tendo's place, dojo included. That was good.
Ranma slipped inside the gate and knocked on the front door. It was
early, but Kasumi should still be up, and he'd figured out what season
it was by looking in the store fronts, at the items they had on
display. By that he'd figured that dawns were coming a little late this
time of year and this wasn't long before the Tendo household got moving
in earnest. So it should be ok.
Kasumi answered the door with her customary smile and a "Hello, can
I help you?"
Ranma exhaled a big sigh of relief. No knife wielding, half-crazed
Kasumi, it was just a normal one. Reading her body language it was
obvious that she didn't know him, yet.
He gathered his courage. "Ah, excuse me, miss Tendo. But I was
looking for Nabiki. Do you know if I can see her?" That seemed neutral
enough.
Kasumi answered. "Oh my. She's just getting ready for school now.
Would you care to wait in the parlor?"
Ranma nodded his thanks. "Yes, thank you. I would be happy to."

He'd maybe overdone it a bit on the thanks, but he *was* feeling
grateful. As she let him inside he looked around. This place was almost
exactly the same as the original Tendo home. The relief he felt was
almost tangible. Being stuck here wouldn't be so bad if he could
actually make it work this time.
This time. He shuddered a bit, remembering all the times he hadn't.
Kasumi went back to the kitchen and familiar scents wafted over him
from the open door. He breathed in a deep, double breath and smiled to
himself. It didn't seem to matter if weird alien things were rampaging
on the lawn or if it were her sisters she was cooking in the pot (only
that once, but that once was bad enough) Kasumi's cooking always
managed to smell delicious.
Ranma pulled his mind back to priorities. If he messed this one up
he'd have nowhere else to go. He had to make it work, and that meant
finding out as much as possible without revealing anything about
himself.
It wasn't long before Nabiki, in her school attire, came down the
stairs. She paused at the sight of him. "Oh. Hello, are you waiting for
someone?"
Ranma nodded. He'd found out by hard experience that getting
surprised was a bad idea. He'd known she was coming down the stairs
before her first foot hit the steps.
"Why yes, Nabiki, I was actually waiting to see you."
She blink-blinked.
So far not so bad, he just wished he'd been able to read more from
her reaction. Ranma continued. "Yah, I was hoping I could ask you a few
questions. If you don't mind."
The familiar mercenary gleam came to her eyes. Ranma almost wept
with joy at the sight of it. She noticed his reaction and did a
double-take. He quickly smothered it. Cautiously, she sat by him on the
veranda.
"Ok, first of all, I don't do business with people I don't know.
What's your name?"
Ranma grinned in reply, judging her reactions. "You charge for
introductions, Nabiki. Why should I give you one for free?"
She blinked, then settled into a more wary pose and counted out a
small stack of yen coins. Ranma left them where they were on the floor
between them.
"Tell me what you know about the Saotomes." He asked.
Nabiki's eyes hardened. She pointed to the coins. "I've paid for an
answer, and I don't like to be kept waiting."
Ranma sighed, he needed to learn about any possible blood feuds or
anything going on between their families before revealing his name, and
he couldn't afford to have her clam up now. With a bit of a pause he
hauled out a handful of coin and counted out a small stack equal to
hers, then placed it beside the first, which he made no move to take.
"Humor me." He asked.
Her eyes glittered at him in calculation, then she relented. He
groaned inwardly. Her prices always went up when she was annoyed, and
he couldn't afford to get everything he needed at inflated prices.
She pulled up her knees and wrapped her arms around them. "What I
know is that they have a house up on the hill near the Kuno estate,
addresses are extra," she added. "But other than having had a tragedy
in their family recently I don't have much about them. I usually occupy
myself with families who have kids in our school."
That told him alot more than Nabiki thought it did. "My name is
Ranma." He supplied, then pushed both stacks of coins toward her. "Any
details on the tragedy?"
She looked at the yen, but didn't take it. "I'd charge you for it,
but I really don't know anything about it. Why are you so interested?"
He fought for a moment over whether he should tell her. Finally he
stood up, and grinned lopsidedly down at her. "I have to go find out if
that information is for sale. Sorry, Nabiki, but I can't set a price
before I know how much it's worth."
She blink-blinked up at him, her own features relaxing. "Say,
Ranma. You're pretty good at this." She shuffled her feet. She'd
started to ask him for a date, she was getting pretty desperate. It was
unusual for her to find a guy who wasn't afraid of her. That he also
looked great and seemed to have a brain only made it better. But she
choked. "Are you interested in a little business proposition?"
He shook his head, smiling full force now. "Sorry, Nabiki. Maybe
later, but I have some stuff I have to take care of first."
He turned away from her and leaped over the wall.
Nabiki's jaw dropped and she stood staring at the spot that he'd
disappeared from. She considered herself a very worldly person. But
she'd had no idea that what he'd done was even possible.
With a bit of grinding of gears, the well-oiled machinery of her
mind began to pursue the thought of how she might find out more about
him.

Ranma ran across the rooftops. Nabiki had been a dry well, and that
was bad. By now he had hoped to have names, addresses, feuds, even down
to the hair color of the siblings he'd never known he'd had (that was
always a tricky one).
That she didn't know anything could mean alot of things, and it
didn't rule out much.
For instance it could still mean there was that stupid promise
between their families about uniting the school of Anything Goes. She
just might not know anything about it. In fact, he smirked recalling
it, if he remembered right the Tendo daughters hadn't learned about
that particular promise until he had, the day it was to happen.
His pop wasn't the only one to pull surprises.
Ranma paused, halfway up the hill. His mom's ancestral estate
wasn't all that far from the Kuno place, and it was nicer. But he
stopped himself before running all the way there.
Doubts wracked him. Without local information he could go charging
into anything. I mean, sure he could verify that it was his house and
all, but that wasn't the first part even of trying to fit in as
himself. How could he fool his own parents into accepting him if he
didn't even know the first thing about his life there?
"Okay," Ranma reassured himself, sitting down on the roof where he
was at. "If I was going to Furinkan I could wait and pounce on Sasuke
when he showed up to help Kuno out of something. He's the only one
besides Nabiki who usually knows much. But Nabiki doesn't know me, so I
obviously don't go to their school. And not knowing *where* I
supposedly went before I can't pass myself off as a transfer student."
Ranma leaned back, angst and frustration building. This had all
started so simply. Trying to undo the curse. But he and his pop had
really screwed that one up. They'd screwed it up so badly that Ranma
had gone on alone. Though that really hadn't been on purpose.
But by then it was too late. He didn't have the mirror anymore.
He'd been traveling by wishes from this bracelet they'd taken from
Happosai. And he didn't even know what it did until he was already
using it.

Ranma could remember standing in the yard. He and his old man had
just pounded the old freak flat and were pulling all sorts of weird
junk out of his clothes, trying to find something to set things right
again.
Behind him, the Tendo family had been huddled in fear, right
alongside the second pair of Genma and son.
The whole thing had been *way* too much for Ranma. And after
stripping Happosai dry they'd found nothing conveniently labeled "fix
everything." Which was a shame because they'd had no idea what else
they'd been looking for. There were mounds of undergarments on the
ground all around them, a few trinkets, and a freakishly huge pile of
scrolls.
Genma had bonked his son for the exclusive right to peruse the
scrolls, which left Ranma holding a pile of trinkets, trying to figure
out what to use them for.
In typical thoughtless frustration he'd reared back and yelled out
the wish that none of this had ever happened to him.
And you couldn't ever unmake a wish. He'd tried.

That first reality had shocked him the most. First it was finding
out that his wish hadn't just moved him, it had changed the past. He
had woken up in a world where he'd been born female.
It had taken him nine weeks to calm down.
There were parts that weren't half bad to start with. He'd been
living with his mother, had already graduated from a nursing program,
and had a job at a hospital. Then he'd had to deliver Akane's baby (by
Kuno) and he'd soured on that reality *real* fast.
The second thing was that, as much as he could tell, he kept his
own thoughts and mind, with additional skills and memories creeping in
gradually. He'd stayed in that reality just long enough to begin to
start liking boys. He hadn't been able to take it any longer than that.
Ranma shook himself out of his reverie. He had to plan.

Nabiki got to school just before her usual factors arrived. This
was unusual but a good practice for her, you could never know if your
underlings were going into business for themselves unless you stopped
by unexpectedly sometimes.
So far they hadn't. Her trio of lieutenants showed up without
customers in tow and Nabiki gathered them in swiftly.
"Look, you guys. I ran across someone interesting, and I want you
to find out all you can about a boy named Ranma Saotome."
She was guessing that was his name, but her hunches usually proved
correct. And if that didn't work she could always institute a broader
search.

Sasuke materialized on one knee before his noble master, who was at
that time, composing an ink painting. "Oh, great master, I bear news.
The treacherous Saotome whom you most despise has reappeared!"
Kuno's ink brush snapped, and he abandoned his painting. "Tell me
the way of it. I want everything, Sasuke."
The Ninja obeyed. "He has been seen on a rooftop not far from here.
He is without his sword, and appears vulnerable."
Kuno's eyes glowed. "Bring me my katana. I know not how this
treacherous fiend continues to live, but he will not be long in that
condition." Then he paused, as a thought flickered across his features.
"Sasuke, this man was on a roof you say? Well how, under Heaven,
did he get there?!"

Ranma had come to a decision. He couldn't afford to wait until
memories started trickling in. It was attractive to try, but he always
seemed to warp in right at a critical time, and who knows what could
happen if he waited?
He *could* play it by ear. That usually meant throwing himself
right in and trying not to bomb. He'd prefer to be more prepared, but
it wouldn't do to be caught sitting on a rooftop either.
Being caught, and knowing nothing, was always worse (in his
experience) than rushing in not knowing anything. If the first happened
then they were suspicious. If the second happened he could always claim
to be ill.
On the heels of that thought followed a bright inspiration. He
moved swiftly to act upon it.

Nodoka had a beautiful kitchen. She had staff to help, of course,
and for parties and occasions she relied on them completely while she
attended to other things. But cooking for her family had always brought
a sense of peace to her.
And she needed that peace just now.
She was just ladling out a serving for herself when a shriek tore
through the fog that had edged up into her mind. Painful reminiscing
gave way to cold-edged anger as she swept up her katana and rushed out
on the lawn to deal with it.
"If that bastard Kuno thinks that he can..."
The words died on her lips and the sword fell nervelessly from her
hand. In the outer garden and she saw her son, her *SON* was standing,
leaning against a tree. He was bleeding from a head wound, but her
experience with such things told her that it was minor. One of the
maids stood by a basket of wash she had been taking out to the cleaning
house. The contents had strewn all over the lawn when she had dropped
it in her surprise.
Nodoka's lips were numb. Her sword lay unnoticed on the grass
behind her. She took a step toward the phantom of what could only be
her son.
"Oh, Ranma. I thought you were DEAD!"

Ranma could hardly believe what was happening. The first thing that
had almost turned him back was the armed guards placed around the
compound. He wasn't used to seeing more than a few servants, even at
his mom's estate. In the realities where they lived more humbly there
were never any at all.
So where had all the guards come from?
Still, they hadn't turned him back. It had been easy enough to slip
by without being spotted. The second thing that had nearly thrown his
plan was, after he had placed himself and made a slight cut on his
forehead (for the head wound story he was planning on using), the first
reaction he got was a shriek.
It was more extreme than he had planned. The maid (whom he couldn't
identify) had dropped everything and let go a scream that would have
suited if a demon had bitten her.
And having lived on the spirit plane for at least one reality he
knew exactly how to judge.
Then his mom rushed out on the field. Seeing the look on her face
and the way she was holding that katana he'd almost abandoned his plan
and bolted then and there. Then she'd seen him. He'd never seen that
look before, not even the time she had asked him to commit seppuku.
His blood froze as she said, "Oh, Ranma. I thought you were DEAD!"
More swiftly than he could think more guards had materialized,
waving guns and pointing them at every possible angle. Somehow he and
his mother were in the center of this, being rushed back inside by the
household staff and servants.
In moments he found himself in a couch with towels wrapped around
him as an elderly lady nurse tended the cut on his forehead. There were
servants and butlers staring at him as if he'd done something more
amazing than sprout wings and fly.
Finally, he built the courage to say. "Mom, what's going on?!"
Nodoka sat weeping on a chair by his side. She hadn't taken her
eyes off him in minutes. "Oh, Ranma. Don't you worry about it. We'll
have you comfortable in no time. Please," she waved the nurse aside and
moved up close to her son. "you'll be fine. Just tell us where you've
been these last two months."
Ranma swallowed. The stress question. The BIG question. He had no
idea where he'd been because he had just appeared this morning. He
sweated, but answered it honestly. "I'm not really sure, mom. I'm a
little fuzzy on alot of things."
Nodoka frowned. This wasn't like her son at all. But her eyes could
not deny the reality before her, her fingers found the same young man
she'd thought lost. Letting the heart get away with her head for once
she threw her arms around her lost boy and hugged him tight.
"Oh, my son, my son. My only son. I felt sure I'd never see you
again!"
Ranma was a little taken aback. But decided to ride with it a while
longer. His arms found their way around his mother. "Sure, mom. I'll be
alright. You can tell pops that I'll be fine too."
Nodoka froze and pulled away just far enough to look down at her
son. "But Ranma, your father isn't here anymore."
He scowled. This wasn't going well at all. "You mean he's off on
another training mission?" He queried.
His mother wiped a tear from her eye. Shaking her head, she knew
that something had to have happened to her boy to cause him to act like
this. "No, Ranma. Your father is dead."

Nabiki got her information in the break just before second class.
Neatly typed sheets printed from a computer were handed to her on the
sly by one of her factors. Slipping them in among her class notes (she
stayed ahead against just this sort of need) she began to read during
class.
The first page was birth weight and vital statistics. Pretty close
to what she would have said from having seen him that morning.
Satisfied that she had probably got a match she turned the page.
Her eyes grew big as dinner plates and the kids around her grew
pretty certain that she wasn't reading anything at all related to
class.
It was all Nabiki could do not to drop her pose further. This guy
was loaded! I mean, she was used to rich creeps, for example Kuno,
dropping money around as if the word itself had no meaning. She had not
expected the haggler who had dickered price with her so easily that
morning.
Something was usually up when someone showed an out-of-place skill
like that. And Nabiki made most of her money when something was up. She
turned another page.
Her reaction nearly got an eraser thrown at her head. By this time
even the teacher knew something was up, and asked Nabiki to answer a
question related to todays topic. Nabiki recovered herself and answered
it credibly, but no sooner were the teacher's eyes off her than she was
back to her papers.
There was a note on her desk, demanding an explanation. It was from
one of her factors, so she couldn't ignore it. Hastily she scribbled
"This guys got a blood feud going on with the Kuno family!" before
returning it. The student who received it nearly shot up out of his
seat.
Nabiki couldn't blame him. She'd nearly had the same reaction
herself. But there before her were the details. They'd been going at it
for ten years now. Two ancient samurai families with notions of honor.
One had gotten slighted, she noted wryly that it was Kuno's dad who'd
done the slighting, and the other had responded the only way they
could.
It looked like all the proper people had been paid off, so there
was no official attention as the two families ripped each other up.
Nabiki turned the final page. After what she had seen it was a
tribute to her that she didn't cry out louder than she did.
The final page was a death certificate for one Ranma Saotome. Died
of sword wounds (though it didn't say it, that was included as an
aside) two months ago.

Akane was worried about her sister. She could tell something was
up. Heck, the *school* could tell something was up. Nabiki's
lieutenants were making a fortune just answering questions about their
boss. The approved answers only, of course.
For her sister to drop her guard this much always meant something
big was up. And the last time something big was up had been a near
foreclosure on the dojo.
Feeling the need for answers, Akane sought her sister out at lunch
and sat next to her. "Okay, Nabiki, spill it. The last time you were
this upset I had to pose for panty pictures to get us out of it." Akane
blushed slightly at the memory. Kuno wasn't bad looking, but he was a
freak of nature and everyone knew it. Those pictures had been blown up
to poster size and now decorated his room.
Nabiki raised her eyes from the papers she'd been studying.
Normally she ate in the lunch room where her services were easily
available to those who wanted them. Now she'd handed off the
information brokering to her small staff and was sitting in a secure
place in the yard. It was one of the safest places for talking she knew
of, and she had a boy or two from the sumo team hired to keep it
private. She guessed they had assumed it was okay to let her sister
pass. And now that she thought about it, it was. She needed someone to
talk to.
"Relax Akane. This has nothing to do with us. The finances for the
dojo are stable. So you can relax." She had just repeated herself and
she knew it. Why was she getting so rattled? Nabiki drew herself up.
"Okay, Akane, here's the deal. I ran into a guy this morning,
asking for information on the Saotome family."
Akane didn't get it. "So what's the big deal? People ask you for
information all the time."
Nabiki nodded. "That's right. But how many people ask me for
information regarding their own family?"
Akane thought about it. "Well, there was that time dad..."
"I mean, besides us?" Nabiki interrupted.
Akane shrugged. "I guess it is kinda weird."
Nabiki despaired about showing her sister how amazing this was, so
she switched over to the main meat of the subject. "And that's not the
oddest part. I've been doing some research. And do you know who this
guy is? He's from a big samurai family, one of the oldest in Japan, and
do you know what's more? I have a paper here assuring everyone that the
guy I just talked to this morning is dead."
Akane's eyes were huge. "Wow! So what's up? I mean, he obviously
isn't dead or he couldn't have been talking to you."
"Obviously he wasn't dead." Nabiki supplied, not mentioning how
very *not* dead he'd made her feel. "So I've been looking into that.
The doctor who performed the autopsy was Kuno's personal physician. So
he must have been paid off *real* big to fake something like this,
especially since Ranma obviously didn't intend to stay dead for very
long."
"So what's up?"
Nabiki shook her head. "I wish I knew. Why fake your own death only
to come back a few months later? There's got to be some reason to it.
Nobody does something that expensive for nothing."
Akane had relaxed long ago and was in the middle of eating her
lunch. "Could be he didn't have much choice." She thought, munching on
dough as she did so.
Nabiki heard her. Sword wounds, the blood feud. A theory clicked
within her mind. "Okay, sis. Try this on for size. These families have
been fighting for most of our lives, longer than I care to think about,
even if it isn't something ancient. Say that Ranma gets caught by Kuno,
the two fight, and Kuno wins. He's too spoiled to check the body
properly, so he gets one of his servants to do it. Well, if *I* were
badly wounded and I had the cash on hand I'd bribe a servant or two to
get me out of there. Some good surgery and two months would be about
enough time to heal, wouldn't it?"
Akane shook her head, having experience with martial arts injuries.
"Sword wounds bad enough to look deadly don't heal that fast. But in
two months he could move a bit."
Nabiki thought back to watching Ranma jump over their wall. She
would classify that as more than `a bit.'

Ranma sipped hot tea as the household fussed about him. Warm
blankets, food, medical attention, everything had come flowing his
direction and he wasn't allowed to say boo about it.
The family doctor had been brought in and pronounced the head wound
minor. Then he'd proceeded to thoroughly examine Ranma, after the boy
had been moved to his room, of course.
So Ranma sat, with a bandage on his face, and thought about what
his mother had told him. Pops was dead, gone. Somehow he couldn't bring
himself to tears about it. Somehow all this wishing had made reality
itself too strange. He didn't feel much, as if he were just waiting to
make another wish and watch reality change all over again.
Mourning someone when you could reasonably expect to see them again
in a few hours seemed pointless.
Except he wouldn't be leaving. The bracelet was all used up. Still,
the whole thing didn't seem real enough to mourn over. It had been
awhile since he'd seen his father as more than a sparring partner, and
an annoying one at that.
He decided not to worry about it. He'd better concentrate on how to
integrate himself to this place. His success on that still left
something to be desired, and he didn't have anywhere else to go.
Suddenly he grew tired of bed rest. He'd had enough of that and he
wasn't learning anything. Slipping back into his clothes he noticed, by
his bed clock, that school was going to let out soon at Furinkan.
If he knew Nabiki at all, she'd have learned alot in one day. He
decided to pay her a visit.

Amy looked up from her computer. "Bad news, guys. I'm reading
another energy signature, from a suburb of Tokyo we've never been
before. One called Nerima."
Lita sat up. "Could it be the Negaverse?"
Amy typed, then chewed her lower lip. "It's like nothing I've ever
seen from them, but it could be."
Rae stopped trying to steal her Sailor-V comic back from Serena,
who raspberried her and continued reading. "This wouldn't be the first
time they've pulled something new on us."
"Maybe you girls should check it out." Luna suggested.
"Awwwww! But this was just starting to get *good!*" Serena whined.

Nodoka came in with a cup of Swiss chocolate for her son, only to
find the room empty and the window curtains billowing.
She swiftly set down the tray and glanced above his bed, turning
white as a sheet. "Oh, Ranma! How could you have left your sword!"

Ranma leapt down to the lawn of Furinkan just as the final bell
sounded the end of school. He didn't know what school it was he went to
in this reality, but since his mother hadn't seemed too concerned about
trundling him off to class he'd decided not to worry about it for now.
Students began pouring out of the building with eagerness that
never seemed to change, no matter how much else was different around
them. True to form, Nabiki was late out of the crowd, taking up a place
where she would be available for private business.
He leapt down before her.

Nabiki was just getting prepared for her afternoon setup when Ranma
suddenly appeared before her. The shock was so great that she dropped
her books, turning white and stiff as she saw him.
Ranma stopped what he was about to ask her and instead looked
concerned. Akane saw her sister in such a state and ran up to her,
accusing Ranma. "What have you *done* to her!"
Ranma backpedaled, waving his hands. "Hey! I haven't done
anything!"
He would surely have continued but Nabiki chose that moment to
explode. "What are you *doing* here! Don't you realize that this is the
school Kuno goes to?!?"
Ranma took it in stride. "Yeah. So what?"
"Indeed." Spoke up a familiar voice. The crowd parted to reveal
Kuno, in full attire, standing with a steel katana held at ready
against Ranma. "How is it that the cretinous Saotome finds the audacity
to invade the very premises on which stand my holy feet? Have you no
regard for life? Very well! Since you have so little care of it, I will
relieve you of the burden life bestows!"
Ranma looked over his shoulder, unconcerned. "Kuno, you sound dumb
when
your spouting other peoples' poetry. Don't try to make stuff up. You
don't do it well, and you just end up looking *more* stupid. Which it's
hard to believe that's possible."
Kuno raged, and the entire student body dissolved in awe of the
newcomer. It was an awe they gave from a distance, but they gave it
more fully than they'd ever done before.
Nabiki recovered herself and hissed into Ranma's ear. "Hey, get
away now, while you can. I'll delay Kuno while you run for it." She had
no idea why she was doing this, she had no idea why she was doing it
for free either. She didn't even have an idea *how* she'd do it. But in
her intent she found herself totally sincere.
Ranma brushed it off. "Thanks Nabiki, but I'll take care of this.
Beating up Kuno is *just* the thing for my mood right now."
"How DARE you try and mock me!" Kuno spat venomously. "Pull forth
your sword, evil one, and feel the might of the great Blue Thunder!" He
raised his sword and lightning pealed in the background.
Ranma cocked an eyebrow. Very impressive, but after who knows how
many lives he'd learned how the kendoist did it. In fact he'd learned
alot in that time. Ranma cracked his knuckles. Yes, pounding Kuno into
the pavement was exactly what he needed to work off some stress.
Ranma drew his chi in just a bit, and struck a pose. Instead of
lightning or thunder, drums began to sound. Big drums beating out a
powerful cadence, with horns joining in soon after. It was the "Anvil
of Crom," intro music to Conan the Barbarian, and one of Ranma's
favorite pieces of music.
"Well Kuno, I figure that since Musashi defeated three masters of
the sword, with wood against steel, that I can handle *you* easily
enough bare handed."
Ranma stood in a very wide circle, all alone, after that comment.
Not that everyone wasn't impressed, they were, they just preferred to
admire that kind of bravery from a distance.
Kuno raged. "Very well, villain! Feel the wrath of the Great
Tatewaki Kuno!" And with that he stabbed forth into the space occupied
by Ranma's head. Ranma was no longer there, of course, so Kuno turned
the thrust into a slash, pivoting to track the fleeing knave. But Ranma
had already ducked the blow and landed a fist into Kuno's kidneys.
Kuno went down, but rather than press his advantage Ranma just
stood there, waiting for the kendoist to recover.

Akane had pulled her sister to the side. Questions raged within
her, but none of the answers were coming. She held onto her sister's
arm, preventing Nabiki from leaping into the fight as Kuno attempted to
spear the other boy's head.
"What are you DOING?" She hissed, trembling herself at the
viciousness of Kuno's attacks.
"You don't understand." Nabiki panted, not caring that she herself
didn't either. "That's RANMA out there!"
Akane nearly let go of her arm in shock. Ranma? As in the guy Kuno
was trying to kill? What in the world was he doing here!? Didn't he
even care that Kuno wouldn't hesitate to strike lethal blows before
witnesses?

Tatewaki could not understand it. Here, the wretched Saotome he had
defeated not two months before, was defeating his moves almost
casually! Yet he was not even wielding his own sword! He spun a great
circle and launched another dozen blows at the agile fiend, but not one
so much as grazed the monster's clothes.
Tatewaki could hardly stand it. Could it be that he had allowed
himself to relax in so short a time that his techniques were now
useless?
Ranma dodged another blow. Kuno launched another technique at him,
but he evaded effortlessly. The students stood like rocks as the two
battled, unable to move for fear of dispelling the illusion before
them. Some guy was not only fighting Kuno, but he was winning?
Not only was he winning but he seemed to be enjoying himself
immeasurably. One of Kuno's blows split the stone pavement on which
he'd been standing, yet the newcomer dodged it with hardly a concern.
Tatewaki couldn't stand another moment of this injustice. Here,
this knave had the audacity to confront him! A big drop of sweat
coursed his brow. And the knave was winning!
Kuno experience a brief moment of doubt. His opponent had never
been this good before. They had faced each other across their blades
too many times to count, and always he, Kuno, had been the victor. How
could the tables have turned so swiftly?
Then the answer came to him. Black Magic. Sad that even so fallen a
samurai as a Saotome would stoop to it, but it was obvious that the
wretched fiend had.
A small smile of victory spread across Kuno's face. He had his own
answer to magic.

The combatants sprang apart, Ranma covering a distance that only a
gazelle should rightly have been able to cross.
"Fiend!" Tatewaki spat. "So you have descended to the level of the
basest criminal. You DARE to employ sorcery against my person! Feel
then the wrath of the sword of my ancestors! Blue Thunder Attack!!!"
Kuno whipped his sword down, lightning appearing from the end to
crash against a tree where Ranma had been only a moment before. The
tree toppled and fell, burning in every limb and branch.
"Hey, not bad." Ranma called from atop the school wall. "It's not a
patch on what *I've* learned, but not bad." He jumped down, savoring
the moment. "Anyway, Kuno. Who'd need sorcery to defeat someone like
you?"
"Fiend!" Kuno struck out with lightning again, but again hit only
air.
Ranma came to land behind him, annoyed. "Hey, Kuno! Watch what
you're doing with that thing. You could hurt somebody by accident."
"Accident!" Kuno screamed. "How can it be accident when that is
exactly my intention!" He lashed out with energy again, this time
scarring the building.
"Hey man, I'd have thought you would have cared about your
classmates and all. Your attack is more dangerous to them than it is to
me."
Kuno struck a fourth time and Ranma dodged. But he was getting
vastly annoyed. Kuno could really hurt someone like this. He gritted
his teeth. Looked like it was about time to take this guy out. Nothing
permanent, but he'd have to make sure to do it in one blow.
When he landed he had exactly the right move, too.
Ranma assumed a battle stance. "Okay, Kuno. I've let you have your
fun, but you're endangering innocent people and I won't put up with
it."
Kuno struck out again and Ranma just sidestepped, allowing the bolt
to take out a chunk of wall.

Akane was having difficulty believing what she was seeing. Kuno was
wrecking the place and Ranma not only wasn't harmed, he wasn't
sweating! In fact his only concern seemed to be the danger Kuno was
putting *them* in!
Come to think of it. With Kuno thrashing lightning around they were
in a bit of trouble. So far he'd caused only property damage, but
pretty soon he'd accidentally kill some people.
In spite of that Akane couldn't bear to draw herself away. Watching
this young man fight was incredible! It was like seeing one of the
Sailor Scouts battles on TV, only this was right in front of them!
Nabiki sagged limp against her sister, drooling. Her eyes never
left the lithe body leaping and cavorting before Kuno's flashing
strikes. Nor was she alone in this, as more than half the girls at
Furinkan High followed her example.

Ranma drew himself to his full height. Somehow he couldn't help but
brag, and found himself quoting his teacher, repeating her words from
memory. "Behold, a secret technique developed over three thousand years
of Chinese Amazon history! A technique so powerful that even the last
emperor of the So dynasty lived in terror of it. Chestnuts Roasting
Over an Open Fire!!"
He threw 498 blows in the space of a second, landing enough on the
kendoist to send his body flying through the air and impact on the
building, only the kendoist hadn't moved.
Kuno stood there, his katana glowing with red hot heat. He hadn't
parried the blows, they came too fast to even see, but he was unhurt
all the same.
Kuno snorted. "So at last the pitiful Saotome makes an assault.
Pity it will do you no good, wretched one, as this blade defeats all
your actions against me."
Ranma noted the heat of the blade, that hadn't come from the
lightning, he'd seen it take that no problem. He smirked, figuring a
way to beat this.
Ranma threw himself into the proper stance. "Well Kuno, I must say
I am impressed. Too bad it's the sword I'm impressed with. *You* only
make me feel sick." Drawing upon his increased knowledge he brought his
battle aura to full force, glowing blue on the darkening field.
Despite the danger, students closed the circles around them just a
little, too enthralled by the spectacle to be wary.
"I regret using it on such as you, but the sword makes a worthy
opponent even if you don't. Feel now the ultimate technique of the
Saotome School of Anything Goes martial Arts!" Ranma brought his hands
down like wings, then struck powerfully forward. "Dragon Fist!"
A huge, ghostly dragon shape roared up from his outstretched fist.
The pavement curdled and split in its path as is shot across the yard,
streaking forward to explode against Tatewaki Kuno. The kendoist
struggled an instant, then lost as his sword failed and the energy
tossed him backward above the school building, the cooling remnants of
his molten sword flying off into space.

Venus looked down on the aftermath of the battle. She and the other
scouts were perched high on a nearby roof. She looked back at Mercury.
"So, was that it?" She asked, feeling a bit miffed at seeing someone
else handle something the Scouts had been called together for.
Mercury activated her visor, taking readings. "No, it wasn't. The
source of energy I'm reading was not the man or the sword, it was his
enemy."
"He sure has alot of power. But is he evil?" Jupiter pressed.
"He has to be from somewhere. That sword was powerful, and beating
it couldn't have been easy." Venus asserted. "Could he be another child
of the Moon Kingdom?"
Mercury resumed typing. "I don't think so. It's been a long time
but... Oh! Gang, I'm getting a strong reading about three miles from
here. It looks like another monster has popped out of the Negaverse!"
Sailor Moon stopped staring at the hunk they'd been tracking.
"What! Oh!" She sweetened. "Look guys, lets just leave this guy alone
for awhile. We've got real negacreeps waiting!"
Mars considered. "Well, okay. But I still say we should come back
and check more on this guy later."
Instant jealousy-fest. "Yeah, well don't forget *I'm* the one who
saw him first!" Sailor Moon said.
"Oh. You mean the same one who claims exclusive rights to Tuxedo
Mask and Andrew?" Mars quipped.
"Ya got *that* right." Sailor Moon gloated, and they all sped away.

Ranma stood, relaxing, at one end of a blackened trench. That *had*
felt good. He knew it was a little weird, but he was glad Kuno had that
magic sword. The extra danger had been just the thing to get him
feeling better.
The students around him were still immobile, unable to believe what
they had seen. He shrugged. Yeah, it hadn't been bad.
He was about to seek out Nabiki again and collect the stuff he'd
come for when wind began gusting across the schoolyard, and the beating
of propellers heralded the arrival of a helicopter. He looked up to see
a sleek combat variant, a three seater, swoop in above the trees, its
weapon pods traversing the area.
Ranma was considering whether to blow it or to duck for cover when
he saw his mom in the rearmost seat. She was waving to him wildly, then
signaled for the pilot to land. Between her and the pilot was an empty
seat.
Ranma sighed. There was no way Nabiki was going to do business
under the guns of that thing, and it was just as clear his mother was
pulling out stops to come get him. He spared a look at Nabiki, he
*needed* more info. But it was obvious he wasn't going to have the
opportunity right then.
With a leap and a grab Ranma was on the side of the low flying
helicopter, standing on a skid just before the wing. His mom
practically fainted, but he signaled the pilot up and watched as
Furinkan fell away beneath his feet. Then he clamored inside.

Tatewaki came to awareness in a blackened crater with smoldering
flesh. His first thought was how to punish Sasuke for having let his
bedroom get in such a state, then he sat bolt upright.
"I have been defeated in combat!" He cried out in surprise. For a
moment he experienced a guilty gratitude that his sword had absorbed
most of that blast. He could see the state he was in and knew that he
had been flung clear over the school building by the force of that
blow. To have absorbed it all would have meant the end to the great
Kuno name.
He clenched his fist in shame. "Oh! To be defeated by a Saotome.
Surely, my ancestors must rend the heavens with their cries!" He wept
tears of shame.
Kuno sprang to his feet, ignoring the pain it caused. "Curse you,
Saotome!"

The combat helicopter came to rest on a landing pad at the Saotome
estate, the occupants exited while the vehicle itself was lowered into
an underground hanger.
Nodoka allowed her son to get inside before her, then seized his
arm and dragged him back to his room. When the door was closed safely
behind them she blazed.
"Ranma! How DARE you leave this property unarmed? Do you know what
you would have done if Kuno had caught you? You would have *died*
that's what! He's not so honorable that he would have let you pass. And
what were you doing at that school!? You DO know that's where Kuno goes
to class don't you? Were you expecting him to give you flowers?"
Ranma listened to his mother rage at him. He'd been a blockhead for
most of his life, but survival had finally beaten most of that out of
him. When he'd fought Kuno he hadn't been listening to *any* of the
clues people were giving him. He should have figured it out that the
`former him' would have been toasted by Kuno easily. And what had he
been doing bragging?
Ranma remonstrated himself as a fool, while his mother did the
same. The pair of them were interrupted by a gentle knock on the door.
Nodoka pulled herself together instantly. There was this polite
fiction between servant and host in the great houses. The former
pretended not to see anything and the latter pretended that there
wasn't anything there to see. Still, both sides politely ignored the
other during those moments when control lapsed.
Nodoka opened the door. Standing there was Priory, the head butler.
She calmed herself, Priory, of all people, could be counted on not to
intrude on this kind of moment easily.
"Yes, what is it Priory?"
The head butler bowed. "Excuse me, Madam, but there is a young lady
here to see Ranma."
Nodoka nearly steamed. Thinking for a moment that it was foolish.
She was at the point of berating Priory for his interruption when he
continued on to add.
"She seemed very *interesting*, my lady. Perhaps you should see
her."
Nodoka calmed. Priory would not place a stress on *anything* unless
it was important. He had been calm when her family died around her. She
nodded. "Show her in."

Nabiki allowed herself to be led through the Saotome mansion. The
dollar value of some of the paintings alone was enough to send thrills
down her spine. She'd never seriously expected to see that kind of
wealth in a home, though it had been gratifying to keep their dojo
solvent.
Solvent was another thing, this was *opulent!* And money sometimes
turned her on. Not with Kuno, but a fat cash wallet did tend to jingle
in her ears.
The butler, Priory (she was always careful about learning names -
If you don't know them you can't drop them), led her to a room off one
of the major halls. It opened just long enough to allow her to enter,
which she did, then she was alone with the lady of the house and Ranma.
Nabiki got a little weak in the knees. There were those who said
nothing could impress her. But she was also the daughter of a poor
family who knew just enough about martial arts to know what can't
ordinarily be done.
So far there was very little she'd thought impossible that Ranma
hadn't done. Beating Kuno with that Dragon Fist of his, then flying
away on a late model assault helicopter.
Nabiki was impressed.

Nodoka examined the young girl. Shell struck, obviously. She
politely cleared her throat, then cleared it again when that didn't get
her attention.
Ranma solved the problem by skipping over to the girl and putting
his hand on her arm.
"Hey, Nabiki. You okay?"
The Tendo girl shook herself free of her bewilderment, trying not
to notice how Ranma's hand felt on her arm. "Oh! I'm sorry." Her brain
hiccupped and she forgot what she was going to say.
Nodoka smiled. "Priory says that you have something very
interesting to show us." She said, prompting the girl.
Ranma had led her to a couch, where Nabiki finally got her wits
back about her. "Oh, yeah. Well, it was after that fight with Kuno."
Ranma's mother almost lost her balance. She gripped a bedpost for
support. "I'm sorry. What fight with Kuno?"
Nabiki beamed. "You mean you didn't see it? Well, how could you
have, you got there later. Ranma took on Kuno today, at the gates of
our high school."
Nodoka sat down on the footboard.
Nabiki didn't notice. "Oh! It was incredible! I've never seen
anyone move like that." She went on to cover the major details of the
fight in glowing favor of Ranma, not forgetting to dwell on some of the
more powerful moves she'd seen.
She wrapped it up, "I think the whole school thought he was toast
when Kuno started flinging lightning bolts at him. But Kuno just
couldn't seem to hit him, in spite of his magic sword. Then Ranma told
him to cut it out, because the rest of us were in danger, but Kuno
wouldn't listen. So Ranma pulled out this Chinese Amazon technique he'd
learned. Chestnuts Roasting, or something. And it Roasted! I could tell
he hit Kuno about five hundred times with that one technique, all in
less time than it took to blink!"
Nabiki glowed as she concluded. "Well, even though it didn't work
it was impressive. So Ranma followed up with that Dragon Fist thing of
yours. I'd never seen anything like it in my life! Well, after he'd
flung Kuno over the school with it I went and found his sword. I hear
you guys send these to the family to let them know someone's been
defeated. And I didn't want you to miss your chance. I've never seen
*anyone* get defeated as badly as Kuno did today!"
Finishing proudly she unwrapped the bundle she carried. The sword
within was distorted and warped, marked where beads of metal had run
like droplets, but it was indisputably Kuno's ancestral blade.
The bedpost snapped in Nodoka's hand. Her eyelids twitched and she
bigsweated.
Nabiki couldn't resist adding a final touch. "And he did it all
bare handed!"
Nodoka shot from her seat and hovered over Ranma, flames burning
across her shoulders.
"Okay, son, you have *exactly* three seconds to begin coughing up
an explanation for all this! You've never fought without a sword your
whole life! How does it happen that you just seem to have defeated Kuno
that way? He's killed your father and almost killed you!"
Ranma took it calmly. "Okay, mother, I'll explain." He said
soothingly, then turned to Nabiki. "I will accept your word that none
of what I am about to say shall ever get repeated."
Nabiki nodded, but she cautioned. "Uh, I don't mean to accuse or
anything. But I have heard that the walls in big houses have ears."
The Saotomes looked at each other. The fiction between servant and
host was a fiction, nothing more. There could easily be any number of
listeners to their conversation.
"There really isn't anything private..." Nodoka ventured, thinking
of all the secret rooms and places they either couldn't reveal to a
stranger or weren't truly secure.
"We could always go to my place?" Nabiki ventured.
Ranma shook his head. "No. I mean, I'd love to go and all but I
don't think it'd be safe from Sasuke."
Everyone looked blank. "Who's Sasuke?"
Ranma flushed, hoping he wasn't lying. "He's Kuno's pet ninja. I've
caught him sneaking under floorboards, hiding behind walls, even in
people's trash sometimes. If he knew we were at your house there'd be
no keeping him from hearing everything."
Nabiki blinked. "Then why did you come this morning?"
Ranma blushed and extemporized. "Because there was no way he'd know
I was coming."
Nodoka's brain was spinning. There was so much that was new flowing
at her all at once. She crystallized. "Alright, if what my son says is
true then Kuno would have no reason to suspect we were going. Since
this house is compromised, young lady, we shall go to yours. Ranma, do
not forget your sword this time."

Seeing as how secrecy was their only value in going there, they
took no guards and a roundabout route to the Tendo home. But, again,
seeing as how that secrecy was not certain, Nodoka made sure they kept
a trio of fast-attack squads within a thirty second alert distance.
Ranma assured them that he could stop just about anything for that
long, at least.
Ranma opened the door to the Tendo home with a casualness that
alarmed both women, and he tossed his shoes off into the correct place
without even looking. "I'd prefer to talk in one of the upstairs rooms,
rather than in the dojo." He assured Nabiki.
Kasumi came around the corner, having heard the door open. "Oh, my.
We have visitors. Nabiki would you care to show your friends into the
parlor?"
Nabiki waved the offer aside. "That's alright, Kasumi. We were just
stopping by so I could get a few things from my room. Why don't you
come up, both of you?" She addressed the two. Both nodded and they
headed up with her.
Kasumi put a hand to her face. She knew that was the young man who
had been to see Nabiki that morning, and the woman with him was
obviously his mother. Kasumi's eyes sparkled with tears. Could it be
that Nabiki finally had a boyfriend? But, why would his mother be here
unless... Oh! And they wanted to talk privately...
Kasumi hurried to the kitchen to prepare the formal tea things.
Nabiki could be getting betrothed!

Ranma was first up the stairs and went straight to the right room,
barely glancing at the sign on the door for confirmation. Once inside
he pulled out the chair for his mother, and took the foot of the bed
for his seat, leaving Nabiki to wander in and sit at the bed's head,
all the time in wonder about how he knew her home so well...
Ranma waited for Nabiki to sit down, and noticed she was still in
her school things. He shook himself. "Sorry, Nabiki. I just rushed in
here. Look, if you want to get changed I could wait outside."
Nabiki considered telling him that it wasn't important, then it
occurred to her that it would give her a moment alone with his mother.
"Sure, Ranma. That's very considerate of you."
Ranma tossed her a grin and bounded out the room, opening and
closing the door in the middle of a flying leap.
Nabiki shook her hair out. "I'd give anything to know how he did
that."
Nodoka nodded her head in wonder. "So would I."

Ranma stood at the top of the stairs, leaning over the rail. It
felt so good to him to be back in familiar surroundings. He heard the
front door open and shut, without ceremony, without fanfare. That
spelled Akane. Sure enough, moments later, she was headed up the
stairs, eyes down, deep in thought.
"Hey, sleepy head!" He called down to her.
Akane jerked in surprise, nearly dropping her books. What she saw
up on the landing shocked her again, and she began to topple backward
in a light faint.
Ranma saw it happening, and knew that her light faint could swiftly
become heavy bruises. Leaping down to the stairs just below her he held
her and steadied her.
"Hey, I just didn't want you tripping over me. You looked like you
were lost in the clouds there."
Akane *had* been lost in the clouds, she admitted to herself. And
the thing that had sent her there was thinking about *him!* After the
fight that day, watching him defeat Kuno, *KUNO* with unarmed combat.
She'd been thinking about him without pause.
Akane leaned into him, almost expecting to be carried to the top of
the stairs, but he just steadied her, so she reluctantly resumed her
own support. "Those were some pretty fancy moves there." She smiled up
at him, liking the way being higher on the stairs brought her eyes
equal to his. "I saw you beat Kuno today."
Ranma nodded, pleased. "Thanks, Akane."
Shock rippled her again. "You... you know my name?!"
He nodded, swift to recover from his mistake. "Sure. I was doing
business with Nabiki when Kuno attacked. Afterwards she brought his
sword over to my house. I guess I must have asked her then."
Akane's eyes swam. He'd asked her name! That must mean that he
liked her! Yes, she could see it in his eyes! She nearly swooned.
Ranma caught her as she wavered. "Hey, maybe you'd better lie down.
You look pretty..." He paused. What to say? Pretty exhausted? Pretty
tired? She looked all red. Maybe she was running a fever? He decided
he'd better help her upstairs. Sweeping her up in his arms he carried
her to the top in a single bound, worked the knob on her door with the
toes of one foot, and deposited her on her bed.
"You stay there and rest. I'll go tell Kasumi that your feeling a
little faint."
Akane nodded, giddy and in love. He'd called her pretty!

Kasumi finished with the tea things and covered the set with a
cloth. That way all would be ready in case they needed it, and no one
would comment if they happened to peer into the kitchen.
She finished and then noticed that dinner was boiling. She had
become so occupied with her thoughts of Nabiki's hoped-for happiness
that she had neglected their normal meal.
Bringing herself back to rights she began to deal with the pot, but
a meal, once neglected, takes some getting back under control. In her
haste to cover the noodles she knocked over a bottle of cooking oil.
With steely determination she avoided going after it in haste,
leaving it at her feet for just the two seconds required for the meal
to begin behaving for her again. Then she bent to recover it. It had
left a large puddle, she was going to have to...
Ranma dashed into the kitchen. Seeing Kasumi he tried to come to a
stop, only to have his feet shoot out from under him. He'd fought on
ice, in plowing rain, and even on oil before, but there was literally
no time to recover. He managed to absorb most of his shock with a well
placed kick to the counter, but he still ended up knocking Kasumi down
on top of him.
He caught her arms to break her fall as best he could. She landed
on top of him, her face a few inches from his. He took only an instant
to take stock, seeing if she had any broken bones or injuries, but in
that instant a cloth came fluttering down off the counter and draped
over both their heads.
Soun Tendo chose that exact moment to enter the kitchen. "Kasumi,
are you done with dinner yet? Hello, what's this?"
Soun took stock. There was his daughter, lying atop a young man on
their kitchen floor. One was evidently holding the other, and their
heads were close together under a small sheet.
Kasumi raised her face, causing the cloth to fall behind her
shoulders, revealing both youngsters' features. "Oh, hello father." she
said. Both their faces were red with embarrassment. Then Soun noticed
the formal tea set, all set up for an engagement ritual.
He averted his eyes and laughed. "Oh, don't mind me. I was just
checking to... to see when dinner would be done! But come to think of
it, I'm not that hungry. Take your time, you two." He wandered off,
eager to call his friend and tell him the good news.
Ranma released Kasumi and they both separated, afraid to speak.
"I'm sorry, Kasumi." Ranma related, both were beet red and gazing
down at the floor. "I came rushing in to tell you that Akane may be
sick. She nearly fainted on the stairs."
For Kasumi everything could be resolved by polite apology and an
attention to manners. She nodded, grateful that this young man had
them.
Ranma, not knowing what else to do and anxious to make things
right, went to the broom closet and took out a bucket and cleaning
rags. In less time than it took to say "Oh, my!" He had the floor
clean. Then he was helping Kasumi to her feet.
"I'm sorry about the mess..." Ranma struggled for something more he
could do. Upsetting Kasumi was right down on the end of his list right
next to seppuku, among the things he would do nearly anything to avoid.
He spied the cookpots, once again creeping out of control. "Hey,
let me help you with this!" In a trice he was aproned and handling the
utensils expertly, rescuing dinner from being nearly burned.
Kasumi smiled in gratitude. Then noticed that their clothes were
all soaked with oil. "Oh, please let me do that. You've done so much
already. Why don't you go get a change of clothes? Or you could use our
bath. I could wash the set you are wearing..."
Ranma couldn't help but grin. The Tendo bath was where he'd had
more misunderstandings than any other place else he could name. "Thanks
Kasumi, but I wasn't planning on staying that long, and you need a
change as badly as I do. Why don't you go up and do that, then you
could check up on Akane while I finish up here?"
Kasumi smiled. What a sweet man. Nabiki was so lucky!

Nabiki finished changing. She'd learned alot from Ranma's mother to
confirm what she already knew about him, and that placed her in a good
mood for when she opened the door to retrieve him.
Nabiki frowned, looking at the landing. She'd expected him to be
there...
Kasumi drifted purposefully by, her clothes stained and darkening.
She was holding a robe and towel. "If you're looking for Ranma, I'm
afraid we had a little accident down in the kitchen. He's down there
cleaning up."
Nabiki nodded. "Are you headed for the bath?"
Kasumi nodded brightly. "Yes, I am. I'm afraid I spilled some oil.
Ranma was very sweet about it, even after we both slipped in it. I
offered to let him use our bath to clean himself but he insisted that I
go first. Wasn't that nice of him?"
When a confused Nabiki mumbled "Sure" Kasumi nodded, certain she
had brought them closer by explaining everything. Humming happily to
herself, she went to start her bath.
Nodoka added her confusion to Nabiki's.

"Wow, Kasumi wasn't kidding about you slipping in oil. You're
drenched!"
Ranma glanced over his shoulder at the two entering the kitchen.
"Oh, Hi! Mom, Nabiki, come on in. I've cleaned up the puddle."
Whistling happily he deftly forked out a noodle to sample. "Hmm, still
too early yet."
The ladies watched in wonder as he used one foot to open a cabinet
and hook out a strainer, while one hand pulled down a serving bowl and
the other continued to stir. All the while while he was concentrating
on reading the recipe Kasumi had laid out.
"It's like watching an octopus at work." Nabiki wondered.
Nodoka just looked on, bewildered. "Son, when did you learn how to
cook?"
He looked back at her, balancing a salad bowl on his head while he
casually chopped vegetables that flipped miraculously up into it.
"Uh, could I explain that a little later?"
She nodded numbly.
"Good, `cause I've noticed that people usually scream when I start
to do that, and I wouldn't want the dessert souffle to fall. I'm fixing
it up kind of as an apology for running into Kasumi. Anyone care for
some divinity while they wait?"
Nodoka sat down.
Nabiki leaned forward, correcting him. "We don't have any divinity,
Ranma, unless Kasumi picked up some while she was out."
He shrugged happily. "I whipped up a batch. I have some friends who
taught me these amazing cooking techniques, but that's all for later."
He trailed off, happily content to be doing no less than three
impossible things at once.
Nabiki found that she had to sit down too.
"Um, Ranma." Nodoka asked, more timidly than was her wont. "Why
don't you serve us some tea?"
Nabiki didn't notice, being lost in her own thoughts, or she would
have informed Ranma's mother that that was their formal tea set.

To be continued...

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************************************************

Author's Notes:

I wrote it. I like it. I got positive feedback from the person
who's opinion I care about. I stole indiscriminately from any source
that amused me. And post this merely for your enjoyment, if you care to
enjoy it. Otherwise you can go boil your heads in a bucket of Jusenkyo
water.
I know next to nothing about Japanese culture, made no effort to
keep the character true to the originals, and generally acted casually
about the whole thing.
What do you expect? This is a fan fiction. Not a famous art
display. I do this to have fun, not to make anyone else happy. People
who get their shorts all tight over minor stuff should recall that this
is, after all, a recreation.
I wouldn't do this if I didn't like to do it.

And I love to do it.

Flames, lawsuits and hatemail can be directed to
lawbreakers@whitehouse.gov

If you want to reach me I can be gotten ahold of at skysaber, which is
at qwest dot net. I don't spell it out in order to confuse the robots
seeking prey for their spam.