'The Art of War'

'So then we may take it that any army with its baggage-train is lost; without its provisions is lost; without its bases of supply is lost'

( ----------

"Femboy's getting sneaky, that's for sure..." Tarou quipped, irritated on losing his presence since yesterday. The intel he gathered from Kasumi stated that she was the last to see him that night, though from the way Nabiki had been tied down in her room without anyone else's knowledge would suggest otherwise. When asked if they had bothered to check Nabiki's room to ensure he wasn't still hiding in it, Tarou slapped his face in irritation at the blank expressions everyone returned.

He was beginning to get concerned that Ranma was getting enough time to recover himself, which would make him more difficult to ruffle. Heh, not that it wouldn't be difficult to return him to such a state, after all he was still a wuss when it came to women. Nonetheless, the lull in his entertainment was bringing him to no end of boredom. If this kept up, he would have to give up on this game, and just go hunt for Happosai...

Tarou's head snapped up, before he brought the binoculars to his face. He growled, as he watched Ranma infuriatingly wave to him, before jumping from the roof he had been standing on. "You're getting cocky, girly-boy. All units, target has been spotted due We-"


( ----------

All contestant participants turned to the sight and sound of Furinkan High's clock tower roof exploding. Though none of them truly had concern for the misnamed young man that was providing them field direction, his loss would make their task all that more difficult.

"(Correction, Ranma's heading due south)"

Ukyo raised an eyebrow at the voice, "Tarou, is that you? You okay, hon?"

"(Uh... yeah... cave in, that's all... ahhh heh heh..."

( ----------

Ryoga breathed, hoping they bought it, before crushing the comm. unit in his hand. He wasn't sure what Ranma had been telling him was the truth, but from the way Ranma had shown up at the Unryuu Farm early that morning, begging his fanged rival for his assistance, told Ryoga how serious it was for Ranma to throw away his pride like that. Plus, the involvement of Pantyhose Tarou confirmed that whatever was happening around Ranma wasn't innocent.

Ryoga now decided he was fully in on helping Ranma. It wasn't as if he hated his pigtailed nemesis now, it was just that Ranma could manage to infuriate him to the point where he just wanted to beat Ranma to death. Besides, if Akane was truly under whatever spell or potion Tarou had all the women under, it would behoove him to give his cooperation 100 percent.

With that, he started unwrapping Tarou's pantyhose from around his waist, and tying the willingly cursed young man with them, hoping to ensure his un-interference in the future.

( ----------

'Do not swallow bait offered by the enemy. To not interfere with an army that is returning home.'

( ----------

"THERE HE IS!" Shampoo shouted, catching sight of Ranma's pigtail disappearing around a corner. Akane, Ukyo, and Hinako trailed close behind, not willing to let their rival gain the advantage over them. After a chase into an alley, they caught sight of the pigtail disappearing into a door, before the door shut.

Without any restraint, Shampoo shattered the door inwards, unwilling to let the barrier provide any impediment. Just as Hinako, being the one that brought up the rear, entered the dark room, another barrier fell over the entrance, this one sounding quite a bit sturdier than the last metal door that had been in its place.


Each of the women's eyes went wide, as the war cry instilled them with more fear than they had ever conceived...

Happosai tossed away the pigtail he had been luring the girls with, eager to sample the rather provocative outfits of Shampoo and Akane, as well as claim the silky prizes of a couple more women who had been in consistent arousal for several days. He was glad he had decided to hear out his ingrate heir's request. Though Ranma wasn't worthy of his assistance, he figured this was a great start for the pigtailed boy to get back into his graces.

( ----------

Ranma watched from a distance, as the trap was sprung. He felt more than a little guilty for what he did to the four girls...

"Feh, the perverts deserve him..."

But his guilt was far from all-consuming.

"You know that was far from a nice thing to do, Son-in-Law."

Ranma turned, and smirked at the youthful looking Amazon Matriarch, "Hey, old ghoul, looking pretty good today."

Cologne's eyes flashed a slight hint of surprise, before she returned the smirk, "Why thank you for noticing, I was wondering when you would finally succumb to my charms."

"Ah, I gotta admit, that any guy in their right mind wouldn't be running from a body like yours..."

Cologne berated herself for blushing.

"But I ain't into that mature stuff."

The blue haired woman frowned, "You know, Son-in-law, I think someone needs to be taught a lesson on the appreciation of beauty."

"Yeah, but I'll just have to pass on that," Ranma responded; his arrogant tone truly beginning to concern Cologne.

The matriarch braced herself, visibly going into a fighting stance, "And what makes you believe I will allow you to escape this time? Face it, sonny-boy, with 3000 years of Amazon history, and a body that rivals yours in ability, your chances are very small."

"Well, you're probably tooting your own horn if you think you're as physically capable as me, but instead of finding out, how about I show ya something interesting?"

Cologne cocked her head to the side, "And that is?"

Ranma held out a document, with his father's signature at the bottom, "Written permission to utilize the Umisenken." With that, Ranma began to fade from Cologne's view.

"CURSES!" The Amazon shouted out, as she just missed grasping onto Ranma before he disappeared. With nothing she could do about it now, she quickly made her way to where the girls were trapped; the matriarch's basic humanity not allowing them to be trapped with a demon like Happosai, especially in their current states.

Just as she was about to use the Bakusai Tenketsu on the door, the frantic screams, pleas, and cries gave her reconsideration. Perhaps it would be best they kept the old letch contained for the time being... so his interference was kept at bay. It wouldn't do anyone any good if his meddling spoiled the wholesome competition the girls had going, after all.

( ----------

Ranma stood on the highest point he could find in Nerima, smirking to himself. As much as he would hate himself later on, he decided that this was war... He didn't know what got the girls so hot and bothered (well, actually he did, being the gorgeous stud he was), but it had to be stopped before he ended up married before the end of the week.

Tarou said it was some sort of contest going on with him being the prize, and as much as he hated being treated as such before, it nearly infuriated him that they had 'officially' claimed such. What's worse, Cologne, Hinako, Kasumi, and Nabiki were in on it. That realization made him wonder exactly how much of the female Neriman population was out for his bod.

Shaking off the swelled head that would no doubt impede his thinking, he moved on to neutralize another set of threats.

( ----------

"Kasumi, we need to talk."

The eldest Tendou daughter gasped, before she spun, and found Ranma standing before her in the kitchen. "Oh, Ranma-kun, I was just beginning to prepare dinner for you!"

Ranma raised an eyebrow, "This early?"

"Well, it was going to be rather elaborate," Kasumi responded, fiddling with her hands. She was not prepared for Ranma to simply show up like this, she had hoped the meal she was preparing would lure him back to her by its scent alone; she was working on Ranma's favorite foods, after all. "You w-wanted to discuss something?"

"Yeah, Kasumi, but I think we need to sit down." Ranma urged, following through with the advice Akari had given him. Fortunately, she and Ryoga were far enough removed from the main of Nerima to not get caught up in the madness that was currently surrounding him, which allowed him to ask her for advice on how to handle women. Also fortunately, he and Ryoga had left before the girl started eyeing Ranma curiously.

"Um... okay..." Kasumi responded, with a sinking feeling she wasn't going to like this conversation.

( ----------

Ranma patted Kasumi on the back, attempting to console the older girl, "So you see, I just can't be with a woman that sees me as nothing more than an object of desire. I'm a person with feelings and needs other than se... seeee...sexual," Ranma stuttered out, rather uncomfortable with the conversation, and making Kasumi cry. As it was the Soul of Ice was the only thing keeping him firmly in place.

"I... I guess I haven't been acting like a proper young woman," Kasumi spoke up, feeling dejected, but seeing Ranma's point of view.

"I mean, you and Nabiki are like the sisters I never had..."

"And Akane?"

"Er..." Ranma paused, "She's like the... um... brother I never had... what with her being such a tomboy and all..."

"Oh, Ranma," Kasumi responded, breaking a slight smile, "I'm sorry I made you so uncomfortable. Please, allow me to make it up to you, I'm preparing your favorite!"

"Hey, that'll be great... sis!" Ranma exclaimed, before giving Kasumi a tentative hug, still concerned about her level of arousal to even such a minor display of affection.

Ranma left the kitchen, and breathed easier. Hurting Kasumi's feelings was the hardest thing he ever had to do, and he would rather face off against Herb and Saffron in tandem than have to face Kasumi's tears again.

"Saotome! I hope you don't expect me to buy the bull you just sold sis..." Nabiki smirked, well understanding what all men desired, even if the concept had to be hammered into their thick skulls, and stabbed into their tiny, one-track minds.

Ranma froze, before bracing himself for the next challenge...