Saotome Ranma, high school junior, walked along an unfamiliar street.
"Stupid girl body..."
In an unfamiliar part of Nerima.
In unwanted clothing. She reached the gates of the Houjun Preparatory Academy and stopped, dropping her head in aggravation and causing the other students to give her strange looks as they passed by.
Ranma finally sighed. "Well, at least it's still Nerima. Can't be all bad, I guess... But why was I registered as a girl?! Damn it! And why did Momma have to get so excited about it?! A girl! Hmph! I don't miss 'Ranko' at all!" She lifted her head tiredly and entered the gates.
And stopped and gawked—this wasn't the Tendous' Nerima by a long stretch. Every direction she looked, the grounds were awash with money, from the expensive coiffures and dazzling jewelry on the girls to the impeccable grooming of the boys.
Ranma felt positively plain in her simple uniform and brushed out hair—her mother had insisted that the pigtail had to go when posing as a girl—but she failed to take note of the other girls surreptitiously eyeing Ranma's almost peerless figure, and the Houjun girls' uniform was tight in all the right places. Nor did they miss her lack of makeup or, more importantly, the lack of need for it. The redhead had a healthy, natural beauty that gripped you by the throat and squeezed, as the male half of the student population found out while their blood pressures spiked. Among the girls, envy burned green, and then blazed higher when Ranma found her way blocked.
A tall, slim boy, a senior, stood in profile to Ranma, pushing his too-curly blond hair back with a manicured hand. Many of the girls had hands to their mouths, afraid that one of their living daydreams was about to be taken from them. Ranma, on the other hand, crossed her arms under her breasts and grimaced. This guy put out smarmy vibes ten times worse than Kunou ever had. At least with Kunou, you knew where you stood.
"Somethin' I can do for ya... Bub?" Ranma asked.
The senior faltered; surely he'd misheard her rough speech. "Erm... I see you are new here, Miss... Miss..." He waited, but Ranma didn't volunteer any information. Confused, the senior finally turned and stared down into the most ferocious blue eyes he'd ever seen.
"Like I said, somethin' I can do for ya?"
"Ah... Ah... ..." He bigsweated. "Name?"
"Saotome Ranma... See ya 'round, Slick." With that, she walked around him and proceeded down the mall to the main entrance, only to be accosted by yet another boy. He was more ruggedly handsome, with straight black hair and a strong face. Where his comrade had failed with insufficient charms and skill, his powers over the fairer sex would surely win the day. He leaned forward, letting his eyes widen to show his appreciation, and opened his mouth.
"No," Ranma said, and walked around him. The ruggedly handsome senior wilted, his pupils expanded to fill his eye sockets, and he cried a river of tears.
At the third boy, a moderate fellow with dark blue hair and lots of white teeth, Ranma pulled a megaphone from somewhere and shouted, "NO! AIN'T DATIN' NO BOYS!!" Blown back from the blast, the boy landed in a rose bush, garnering some painful scratches.
The girls on the grounds whispered amongst themselves. Not dating boys?! Engaged? Gay? Three girls in the crowd grinned with hope at the last—they were sort of right to do so.
For her part, Ranma stomped in through the doors, muttering to herself. "Feel like I fell into a Marmalade Boy story... not that I watch that shoujo crap, of course... Arimi-chan was cute..."
A Ranma ½ Fanfiction
Disclaimers and Acknowledgments at the end.
If you have comments and criticism of substance, I may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Otherwise, please use the Review function at Fanfiction.net—I will see your general comments there.
Day One - Anonymity Lost
Rolling her eyes, Ranma looked again at the growing pile of notes on her desk, just increased by one. Everyone seemed to want to know something embarrassing about her. The first note hadn't even been diplomatic: 'What are your three sizes?' Though she knew guys always ask that of girls, it still took a few seconds for it to sink in that the smiley guy three rows over and frantically waving was asking it of her! Ranma had almost burst into a raging battle aura, but she decided to take another tack. After a moment, the note had returned to its sender and shattered on his desk, a line of glaring students between him and Ranma nursing their nearly frostbitten fingers. Unfortunately, it hadn't stemmed the tide, and Ranma figured there must be twenty notes piled on her desk. She looked back out the window, wishing something would happen. Furinkan was never this boring.
"Saotome-kun." The teacher stood over Ranma's desk with his hands on his hips, glaring.
Ranma looked up. "Hey, Yamamoto-sensei. What's up?"
"You're not paying attention!"
Yamamoto looked down at her desk. "And are those NOTES on your desk?"
"Well? What do you have to say for yourself?!"
Ranma's eyebrows lowered; this guy was becoming a serious pain. "I didn't put 'em there."
"I want you to dispose of them... Right now!"
She smiled sunnily, although the humor didn't reach her eyes. "Sure thing!" Holding her hands to either side of the pile, a greenish-yellow ball of superheated air formed and roiled, sucking the notes up and incinerating them—Yamamoto could feel the heat baking his skin. Ranma dismissed the ball of ki-heated air and blew the little bit of ash off of her desk. "How's that?"
Fortunately for Yamamoto-sensei, the bell chose to ring, and the class scurried out of the room for lunch, looking a little fearfully over their shoulders. Ranma sighed and grabbed her bento, walking around a frozen Yamamoto; the rumor mill was going to have a field day with this one. "Control... Control..."
"Momma packs a mean bento," Ranma muttered to herself during pauses in the stuffing of her face from her lunchbox, which was worth any two regular boxes in size. However, she could feel the weight of her classmates' eyes on her and caught fragments of whispered conversations within the confines of the cafeteria.
But the sudden appearance of a dozen roses in the general area between her mouth and her chopsticks interrupted her meal. It was not a safe zone, as far as Ranma was concerned, and she growled and looked up at the same curly-haired senior from before school.
"Saotome-san, I think perhaps we began on the wrong foot. My name is Sakowan Hideki. Please accept these roses as a token of my admiration."
Ranma couldn't help but smile. If Kunou had been as disarming, he might've stayed out of the nurse's station more often. "There very, er, pretty, Sakowan-san, but I think a few of those cryin' girls over at table three would like 'em better." Ranma had also learned a smidgen of poise in these kinds of circumstances from sheer dint of repetition.
"Ah, but your peerless beauty requires, nay, DEMANDS that I give them to YOU!"
Now this was more like Kunou. "Look, man—" Hideki blinked at the address. "—I'm REALLY not interested. I figure you can have your pick of the rest, but me? I'm a no-go. Here's your roses back."
Wilting, Hideki took the roses as Ranma stood with her bento and moved to another table, missing the blue-haired junior's approach. Ranma reached out, but suddenly the chair was being pulled out for her.
"Huh?" Ranma peered suspiciously at the fellow.
"Allow me, er..."
"Ah... right. My name is Shishio Shishoshi." He smiled, showing acres of pearly teeth.
Ranma choked off a laugh. "I'm, uh... sorry to hear that."
She didn't bother to enlighten him. "Something I can do for ya, Buddy?"
"... Three sizes?"
"Forget it." Ranma sat down. Besides, I don't even know 'em anymore. I think my tits got bigger over the summer... GAH! What am I SAYIN'?!
Shishoshi pushed her chair in. "Date?"
"Ha! Not a chance."
"But Ranma-chan, you—"
"... But Ranma-san, you're the most beautiful girl in the entire ward!"
Scattered growls could be heard emanating from feminine throats, and Ranma made a face. "If you knew how angry that kind of stuff makes me, you'd be running for your life right now."
Ranma put her hands on the table and pushed up from her chair. "All right! That does it! Three 'chan', and you're out!" She poked two pressure points on his chest, and Shishoshi began to fall to the floor. Ranma caught him and eased him into a chair. She picked up her bento and wandered around until she found a third table. "All I wanna do is EAT!"
The other students watched her warily. She'd already turned down the three handsomest boys at the school and just rendered one of them gently unconscious. Ranma sighed as she sat down. "Won't be here for long—"
Ranma blinked up at three girls with bento, standing at the table she occupied by herself. "Um..."
"May we join you?" another asked.
"Sure! Pull up a chair." Well, this wouldn't be so bad, after all.
The three girls sat and began untying their bento. "So why won't you be here long?" the first girl asked, long, wavy, dark brown hair bobbing as she spoke. Her smile sat in a cute, heart-shaped face. "Sorry. My name's Yuuki, Renzaburo Yuuki. That's Masaru Hitomi," she pointed to a girl of middling height with long, straight, jet black hair and a classically Japanese porcelain face, "and Hirameki Uma," a shortish girl, a little thick in her body and appendages and sporting a dishwater brown bowl cut. She also had a startling collection of freckles below each eye.
"Saotome Ranma. Girls."
"That sounds like a boy's name," Uma observed, peering through her thick glasses.
"What business is your family in?" Hitomi asked, throwing her hair over her shoulder.
"Business?" Ranma paused, chopsticks stuck in her mouth.
"Yes, business," Hitomi repeated, waving her own chopsticks. "Me, my father is one of the primary shareholders of Shogakukan."
Ranma scratched her head. "Shareholders? Is that a business? What's a Shogakukan? Is that a car?"
The other girls blinked. Surely she didn't mean that? "Um..." Hitomi continued. "Yuuki's father owns a textile company, and Uma's parents have always been rich."
"How... nice," Ranma said, sweat-dropping.
"So what business is your family in?" Uma asked.
"Um... Martial Arts," Ranma said, uncertainly.
"Oh!" Yuuki exclaimed. "Supplies? Tournament sponsors? What?"
Reddening, Ranma said, "No, just martial arts. The, er, family school... Musabetsu Kakutou."
Uma adjusted her thick glasses. "Your family doesn't own a business?"
"Uh... No? Momma owns a house on the other side of the ward, if that counts... Heh." Ranma was now sorry the girls were sitting with her.
The three girls exchanged glances, and Yuuki got the nod. "Ranma-chan," Ranma winced, "this is a private school. How did you afford tuition?"
"Um... Dunno. Pineapple-brain just transferred me without askin'. Tuition?"
"Yes, tuition," Uma said, blinking behind her glasses. "About three million yen of tuition."
Ranma fell out of her chair, and the other girls jumped up to help her back to her seat. With her eyes spiraling, Ranma said, "Ta-Ta-Taaa... Th-THREE... Mil-Mil-MILLION?!" Once back in front of her bento, Ranma gulped her tea. "GAAAH! I didn't think Kunou-kouchou wanted me out of the school THAT bad!"
The girls sniffed. "You know the Kunou family?" Hitomi said with a grimace.
"Not 'cause I wanna, that's for damned sure!" Ranma declared.
"She even talks like a boy," Uma observed. "Cool."
"Stupid Kunou and his Osage-no-onna," Ranma muttered.
"How do you know the Kunou family?" Hitomi asked.
"Gah. Fat-head Tatewaki thinks we're practically on our honeymoon. He's 'in love'," Ranma shuddered, "with me and my fiancée."
The three girls looked at each other. "Tatewaki-kun is bisexual?!" Yuuki almost screeched.
"He likes boys and girls, Ranma-chan?" Uma explained.
"Ewwww. No, I don't think so." Ranma shrugged and proceeded to polish off her bento. The girls blinked several times, trying to work the puzzle out, but decided it either wasn't worth it or too weird to comprehend.
Ranma's three new friends opened their bento and started to eat, and Yuuki continued the conversation. "Anyway, there's a rumor going around that you do magic tricks. Can we see?"
Ranma blinked up at them. "Magic tricks? I ain't got no hot water."
The light dawned. "Oh, THAT! No, that ain't magic—just martial arts."
"How is martial arts like magic?" Hitomi asked.
"It ain't. I just got rid of some notes with ki."
"Yeah... Like this." Ranma held out a petite, calloused hand, and a small yellow ball of superheated air formed above it, roiling and rotating slowly. The girls gasped, and Ranma dispelled it. "Just martial arts."
The trio traded glances, although Yuuki also fanned herself. The powerful little redhead was strumming all the right chords in her romance-starved heart.
Ranma polished off her bento and sighed. "Good stuff!" She leaned back in her chair and burped indelicately. "Say, you guys the welcoming committee or what?"
"Well..." Hitomi hedged.
Uma continued. "We, ah, overheard you yell at Shishio-kun that you weren't, ah—"
"—dating any boys," Yuuki finished.
"So?" Ranma looked from one face to another.
"So, you, ah, date girls?" Hitomi warbled.
"Feh! Got no time ta date girls. Got too many fiancées, already."
The welcoming trio face-faulted onto the floor. "Fi-- Fiancées?! PLURAL?!" Yuuki actually shrieked. The entire cafeteria went silent, and Ranma scowled.
The Chemistry Lab at Houjun Academy was situated on the fourth floor of the five-story main building, and the students attending the session were packing up to leave. One student, carrying an armful of books, stumbled, and his books scooted across the lab table. Fortunately, all the beakers and whatnot had been stowed away, so no damaged resulted. The student gathered his books and hastily left for lunch. Not so fortunately, one of his books had hit the lever on a gas lead.
A new fluorescent bulb flickered overhead, the manufacturers having missed an invisible flaw in the glass tubing.
Ranma was in her element: physical education. Wearing those annoying and super-tight gym shorts, she swirled around and around a set of uneven bars, executing moves that would make Olympic gymnasts pale. The gym teacher had stars in her eyes, and the group of senior boys peeking in the windows had hearts in theirs, but it was an explosion on the fourth floor of the main building that finally interrupted Ranma's routine. In no time at all, fire was billowing out of the shattered windows.
In the building itself, the explosion had rattled everyone to the point that an orderly evacuation was a distant dream. On the fifth floor, students ran across buckled flooring, screaming in terror. A handful of sophomore girls were trampled in the process and left behind in the panic. The fire quickly spread along the fourth floor and made serious inroads onto the fifth.
The gym class had gathered at the large main opening to the building, fascinated by the spectacle. Teachers, having regained their calm, started grouping their classes together and counting heads. One teacher became frantic, recounting twice.
Ranma had donned her school uniform, suspecting that class was over, and she now edged away and got close enough to hear the teacher sobbing to the principal that she was missing five girls from her class on the fifth floor. The principal comforted her by saying that the fire department was only a couple of minutes away. Ranma looked at the flames, already beginning to appear in fifth floor windows.
Skirting the teachers, Ranma ran towards the main building. The obvious solution to the problem, she thought, was some kind of Hiryuu Shouten Ha, but the logistics of it were daunting—the wind alone could make matters far worse than they were. She ran around the building, stopping at the pool about three-quarters of the way. Looking back and forth from the pool to the building, Ranma strained her brain trying to figure out how to do this.
The source of heat was plentiful, but the relative positions of the pool and the fire were not good. She wiped her forehead. Even the air was baking this close to the building... and then she had it.
Running along the side of the pool facing the building, Ranma stopped and then leapt in a high arc to land back at her starting point. Repeating the process, over and over, she began to tighten the radius of her lopsided spiral, trailing cold ki behind her. The path of the cold ki thickened as she spiraled inward. At the point at which she felt the balance to be correct, Ranma hit the ground.
"HIRYUU—" She ran the shortened distance to her jump point. "—SHOUTEN—" Leaping, she waited until the top of her arc, and then punched her fist at roughly forty-five degrees towards the burning building. "—HA!!!"
The air was hot enough and the ki cold enough that the invection funnel formed almost immediately and wouldn't allow Ranma to touch ground. She continued to feed cold ki into the outside of the funnel and tried to will the phenomenon to go where she wanted.
The angle of formation ended up being Ranma's saving grace, and as the funnel lengthened, the near end hit the pool and began sucking up water. Ranma increased the flow of cold ki, but she began to worry. To counter the intense heat of the building fire and the hot air, she was starting to feel the strain of generating so much sheer volume of cold. There was no plateau of balance in this situation that she could reach and maintain and no breaks in the process to recharge. Rather, the draw was steady and continued to grow. In its own way, this was far more taxing on her reserves than the fight at Phoenix Mountain had been.
As the funnel sucked up more and more water, some of it simply evaporated into mist in the hot core and some froze into shards of ice—Ranma was careful to keep herself out of the spinning shell of cold.
The far end of the funnel finally hit the building with a resounding boom, and some of the nearer fires were snuffed from the sudden blast of wind. Ranma looked back at the pool and saw that it was about half empty already. "Damn! Better be enough." Movement to her left caught her eye, and she winced from the sight of most of the student body gaping at her. They had walked around the remaining quarter that Ranma hadn't traversed, and a lot of boys fell to the ground, twitching. Ranma wondered what the problem was.
Gale force winds ripped through the fourth and fifth floors of the main building, carrying ice and mist. Flames flickered and died. Finally, the pool was empty, and Ranma let go of the funnel. It quickly balanced its outer and inner temperatures, breaking apart and simply dissipating or fragmenting into harmless whirlwinds, some hot, some cold.
Ranma hit the ground running, and she jumped to the fourth floor through a broken window. Small fires still flickered, and they wouldn't be held back for long. She banged hot doors open with her foot, scanned for people, and then moved to the next room.
"Gah! Ain't got time for this!! Fifth floor, she said."
A section of ceiling had caved in, and Ranma leapt through the opening to the next floor. The sound of two or three girls crying immediately caught her attention, and she rushed to the source, almost knocking the door off of its hinges with a blow. Three girls were conscious and huddled together, sobbing. Two more girls were unconscious and situated some distance from the three, and all of them looked like they had at least one broken limb.
"Okay! We're gonna get you outta here, but I'm taking those two first." Ranma pointed to the two unconscious girls. The screams from the other three to take them first startled the redhead, but she quickly gathered her wits, ignoring them for the moment. Picking up a handy desk, she threw it through one of the windows at an angle, taking all of the glass with it.
Ranma looked out and down, and saw that the ground was clear. She scooped the first unconscious girl up, twirled, and ran at the window, clearing it. The fall was a little on the long side, but Ranma was confident that she could land without difficulty, and she did, but returning would be the problem. Five floors was long going back up.
A small knot of students was visible. "OI!! Somebody take her!!" No one moved; they just stared. "CRAAAP!!!" Ranma ran a short distance from the building and lowered the girl to the ground. She then turned and gauged the height she needed to clear to make the fifth floor.
Nodding to herself, Ranma ran at the building, bounced up the windowsills on the first three floors, giving a strong push from the third floor to avoid the newly risen flames of the fourth, and hit her palm on the upper sill of the fifth floor window, redirecting her momentum into the room.
She repeated the process for the second unconscious girl and for one of the conscious ones. When she returned to the fifth floor for the fourth time, she finally heard sirens approaching. "'Bout damn time..." What truly bothered her, however, was the floor, blackening in several places and beginning to smoke. "Crap. I'm gonna regret this. I just know it."
"All right, you two! All together now... Put your arms over my shoulders... Yeah, that's it, and hold on tight!"
Ranma breathed in a lungful of acrid air, coughed once, and then ran at the window. She cleared it without difficulty, but the ground was rushing up at them, and the sudden screams of her passengers in her ears distracted her enough that she landed with her left foot just slightly out of line. The two girls were unceremoniously dumped on the ground, while Ranma hopped around on her right leg, squeezing her left ankle.
"SHIT! SHIIIT!!! That HURTS!!!"
The front door slid shut, and Ranma leaned back against it, sagging. Kasumi appeared from the hall.
"You're home early, Ran— OH, MY!!! What HAPPENED?!?!"
Her school dress was covered in soot and burned in several places, a splint was bandaged around her left ankle, and she had dark circles under her eyes. Ranma chuckled weakly. "Oh, not much. Just another school day, only it let out kinda early... Please tell me there's still water in the furo..."
"No, but I'll go fill it right away! Get out of those ruined clothes... Oh, dear." Kasumi took a better look at Ranma's apparel. "I don't know if that can be salvaged."
"And that's bad news...?" she muttered.
"Kasumi, is my son home? I saw his school things in the foyer."
"Welcome back, Obasama. Poor Ranma-kun had some type of hard day, although he hasn't told me what, yet. I think he's still in the furo."
"Thank you, dear."
Saotome Nodoka made her way down the hall to the bathing room, stepped through the outer door, and knocked on the inner. "Ranma-chan?"
No answer. She knocked again. "Ranma-chan, are you in there?"
Still receiving no response, Nodoka slid the door open. Ranma was still in the furo, but his head lay back on the tile rim, and he was snoring. Nodoka clucked, and walked in to stand over her son. She took his head in her hands and wobbled it around.
"Wake up, Son."
"Dear, it's not wise to sleep in the tub. Why, you could've drowned!"
"You look worn out, Son."
"Tough day... Lots of ki..." he muttered groggily.
Nodoka tsked. "Get out of the tub and have a lie down."
The youngest Tendou daughter, Akane, ran into the house, slapping the door closed behind her. "TADAIMAAAA! Oneechan?! Where are you?!"
"In the kitchen, Akane-chan!"
Akane pelted down the hall and entered the kitchen. "Is Ranma all right?!"
Kasumi blinked at her. "Yes. Why wouldn't he be?"
"There was big fire or something at Houjun Academy!"
"Oh, my!" Kasumi put a hand over her mouth. "So that was why Ranma's uniform was all burned!"
"AAAH!!" Akane tore out of the kitchen and up the stairway.
Kasumi smiled to herself and returned to her cooking. "'Not that I care or anything... He's just a big jerk... Ba-a-ka.'" She chuckled in time with her stirring.
Akane slammed Ranma's door open and ran into the room, but Ranma didn't even flinch. "RANMA!"
He was obviously all right, and Akane sagged in relief. "Ba-a-ka," she said fondly. She knelt beside Ranma's sleeping form and brushed the hair out of his eyes.
"Zzzz... Akane... chan... zzzz..."
"Oh, Ranma," she whispered, "you big dummy. What did you do today?" Akane looked around and listened, but no one seemed to be close by. She slowly leaned over and kissed his forehead, and then gasped. Arms had abruptly encircled her waist and brought her down on top of her fiancé, although Ranma continued to lightly snore. Akane sighed and laid her head on his chest.
They had come a long way since last school year. There were still fiancée problems, of course, but after the failed wedding, they had actually sat down and talked some things out. Akane found herself much calmer these days, and she and Ranma had progressed somewhat in demonstrations of affection, although always completely in private. No point in giving the dads any more incentive than they already had to start planning another wedding.
Akane found being sprawled on top of Ranma to be dangerously comfortable, and her eyes began to flutter closed. Sadly, the moment was ruined when Nabiki peeked in the door.
"AH! MY CAMERA!!" Nabiki disappeared, although the sound of her running and then rummaging in her room could be distinctly heard. Akane struggled against Ranma's grip, but even in sleep, he wasn't willing to let her go. He reached down and cupped one of her buttocks, and Akane froze, warring between panic, anger, and a whole category of more pleasant sensations and emotions she wasn't quite ready to explore.
Ranma's eyes shot open. "WHAT?! WHERE'S THE FIRE?!?!"
"Ask Akane, Ranma," Nabiki drawled. "You've got your hand on her better side."
"Huh? ... ACK! AKANE!! I'M SORRY!! ... Why are you layin' on top of me?"
"Uh... Uh... IT'S ALL YOUR FAULT!!"
"WHAT?!?! I was ASLEEP!!!"
Laughing, Nabiki left them to their quasi-argument, taking amused note of the fact that Ranma had yet to remove his hand from Akane's rear and she had yet to point this out to him.
Kasumi had made some last minute additions to the evening meal, some of Ranma's favorites. Ranma trudged into the dining room in a half-buttoned Chinese tang and his boxer shorts.
"Ranma, you should dress more appropriately for the table," Nodoka chided.
"Huh? Oh..." he said tiredly. "Forgot my pants. I'll go back up and—"
"Oh, that's all right, Ranma-kun," Kasumi said as she brought in the last item, the rice cooker. "Sit down or your food will get cold."
"Or gone," he muttered. Genma harrumphed.
Nabiki skipped into the room and ran into Ranma, spilling her glass of water. "Watch it, Ranma!"
"Gah..." She looked down at herself, and then shrugged, kneeling at the table. Nodoka gave her now daughter a wry look, but decided to ignore Ranma's cleavage showing through the half-buttoned shirt. No one else seemed to be paying it any mind.
As everyone passed rice bowls to Kasumi, Akane said, "Tell us about the fire, Ranma."
"Fire?" Soun said, perking up. "What fire?"
"There was a fire at Houjun Academy, Daddy. Ranma came home with his uniform all burnt up." It was a bit of an exaggeration, but it made for better story.
"Hmmm. The news should be coming on about now. Maybe they'll have a report on it." Soun rose and walked over to the television, turned it on, and reclaimed his seat in time to take his rice bowl. "Thank you, Kasumi-chan."
"You're welcome, Otousama."
A commercial on the television finished, and the opening music for the news program began playing. In short order, an impeccably groomed pair of Japanese men and one woman appeared on the screen.
"Good evening. I'm Sene Daisuke, your anchor for the evening. Kotobuki Hiroshi-san will have your sports tonight, and Niriko-chan will tell us about our weather."
"Now why is the guy 'Hiroshi-san' and the woman 'Niriko-chan'?" Nabiki groused aloud. Soun gave her an exasperated look.
"Our top story this evening is a spectacular rescue during a fire at Houjun Academy, a private school in the Nerima Ward. Our news van arrived at the scene in time to capture some amazing footage."
"Oh, noooo..." Ranma buried her face in her hands.
The screen showed snow for a second, and then snapped into a picture of the school, the grounds, and some kind of commotion at one end of the burning main building. The camera zoomed in to show Ranma riding what appeared to be a glittering tornado. The sunlight sparkled in a line along its length, and the red glow of the fire shone on its underbelly.
"Why is it sparkling like that?" Kasumi asked.
"Ice," Ranma muttered, her face still in her hands.
The camera had caught the phenomenon just before it hit the school building, and the resounding boom carried well into the camera microphones. After a second, mist came blowing out of shattered windows, and the fires could be seen diminishing, many going out.
Ranma had been turning and twisting over the funnel, and her skirt kept blowing up. The cameraman zoomed in and caught several nosebleed-quality views of Ranma's perfectly heart-shaped derriere, shining in the sunlight, her black panties quite visible by contrast.
"Now that's a sight for sore eyes," the sportscaster commented. It earned him a glare from the weathergirl.
"Nice panty shots, Ranma," Nabiki chortled.
Ranma pulled down her hands and then grimaced. "Crap. That's why all those guys were faintin'!" She then glared at Nodoka. "I told you panties were a bad idea, but nooo, you insisted!"
Nodoka sipped her tea calmly. "No daughter of mine is going to be caught wearing boxer shorts under her dress at school."
"But MOOOM!! Look what happened!"
"You're very pretty, Ranma-chan. Even the newsman said so, if not in so many words."
Having been firmly shut down and completely embarrassed, Ranma flamed red and put her face back in her hands. "I'm a guy," she muttered. Most of the family laughed or giggled, although Genma fidgeted.
On the television, the funnel dissipated, and Ranma hit the ground and bounded up through a fourth-floor window. The cameraman took the opportunity to film more complete coverage of the burning building. A crash was heard a minute later, and the camera turned and caught a school desk falling to the ground. A few seconds later, a besmudged Ranma leapt out of the window with an unconscious girl in her arms.
To the gasps and amazement of the news crew, Ranma landed without harm, yelled at some students, who didn't move, and then ran forward and laid the girl down. She then bounced up the side of the building and back into the same window from which she had exited. She did this twice more before her final leap with two girls holding on. What Ranma hadn't seen before was the flames suddenly rising to completely block the window behind her.
Ranma landed, dumped the girls, and screamed loud enough for the camera to pick up: "SHIT! SHIIIT!!! That HURTS!!!"
The newsmen laughed, and so did the family, except for Nodoka. "Dear, when you are female, I expect you to act properly and not use vulgar language."
"It hurt, Mom!"
Ranma sighed. "Okay, Mom."
The camera footage shifted to a picture of Ranma sitting on a bench, allowing a paramedic to check on her ankle. He was attaching a splint to it as the reporter spoke.
"That was amazing, Miss... Miss..."
"Really, quite amazing, Ranma-chan!"
Ranma scowled up at the reporter. "-san."
Akane snorted into her tea, earning a glare from Ranma.
The reporter paused. "How did you do all of that, Ranma-ch... -san?"
"It's just martial arts," Ranma said, exasperated.
The footage flicked off, and the anchorman turned back to the camera. "The five rescued schoolgirls are reported to be in good condition, suffering from a few fractures and mild smoke inhalation. The Prime Minister was later quoted by unofficial sources as saying that 'This is just a clear indication of the superiority of the Japanese National spirit, and in this case, specifically, Japanese superiority in the fighting arts. Saotome-san has my deepest respect and admiration...' In other news today, the Diet is deadlocked on the issue of..."
Everyone tuned out the rest of the news, and Ranma felt a hand squeeze her arm. She turned and looked into Akane's smiling eyes. "I— We're very proud of you, Ranma."
Ranma blushed. "Gah... Didn't do nothin' nobody else wouldna' done..."
"Hiibaachan, dinner rush start soon!" Shampoo poked her lavender-haired head into Cologne's room to see that worthy parked on the floor in front of the television.
"Great-granddaughter, come here for a moment."
Shampoo stepped in and stood behind Cologne. "What—"
"Look at this."
"--to capture some amazing footage," the newscaster said. The camera zoomed in.
"AIYAA! Is Airen! He doing Hiryuu Shouten Haa to put out fire! Aiyaa... Airen such hero..."
Cologne turned and looked up to see Shampoo's eyes sparkling. Shaking her head, Cologne turned back to the screen. "Well, nice to see youngsters putting knowledge to good use. I'll have to tease him a little about demonstrating secret Amazon techniques on national television, though... Cute panties." She began to cackle.
Ranma had continued to sit at the table, even after everyone else had finished, munching on the few crumbs left in the bowls while Kasumi and Nodoka picked up the dirty dishes and carted them into the kitchen. Once all the plates were gone, Ranma sighed; it had been a banner meal from Kasumi and would be fondly remembered until the next meal.
She rose from her seat and walked slowly down the hall, feeling oddly content. Her shirt was still a little damp from Nabiki's accidental spill, and she finished unbuttoning it, intending to remove it when she got back to her room. Maybe she and Akane could find something to do for the next hour or three until bed.
Her hair still smelled like smoke, however, and Ranma realized she would need to wash it before bed. She ran her fingers through it and shook it out. A narrow shaft of late evening sunlight cut across the floor, and on a whim, she decided she would sit on the front step and relax for a moment. Stretching, pushing her hair up with her hands, and yawning, Ranma toed the front door open.
She blinked to see an unconscious girl on the front walk.
Yuuki, Uma, and Hitomi had had a hard time tracking down Ranma's address, but they persevered, intent on checking on the redhead's condition after the rescue, although Yuuki most likely had larger plans in mind, like pampering, hugging, and other things done only in private.
The three girls made their way through the wooden gate and began walking towards the front door.
"Nice house," Hitomi said.
"Small," Uma said.
Hitomi rolled her eyes. "Oh, Uma..."
Yuuki was just about to step up and knock on the front door, when it opened. The trio stared at Ranma; her eyes were half-lidded, her Chinese tang was open and hanging off the peaks of her breasts, showing smooth skin and hard muscle all the way down to her loose boxer shorts, and her hair was pushed up in the back, her arms up, chest forward. Ranma's back was bent at an angle only girls could seem to pull off, throwing her butt back. It was, not to put too fine a point on it, a look and a posture that screamed BEDROOM to the three Houjun schoolgirls.
Yuuki wavered in place for a second, and then fell over, a fountain of blood erupting from her nose.
Ranma blinked and lowered her arms, finally seeing her guests. "Oh, hey, guys! What're ya doin' here?" She looked down. "Ack! Yuuki?!" She smoothly picked Yuuki up in her arms. "Y'all come on in."
Yuuki's head was visible, jutting out from in front Ranma's upper arm as the other two followed their host inside. A broad smile decorated her face, and her eyes were glazed over. Her head disappeared as she snuggled against Ranma's bosom, and Hitomi and Uma looked at each other, snickering.
The eldest Tendou daughter stuck her head out of the kitchen. "Oh, my! What happened?"
"She fainted on the doorstep. Can ya bring, er, a cold rag or somethin'?"
"Of course." Kasumi's head pulled back into the kitchen.
Ranma proceeded to the tearoom and laid Yuuki down on the tatami. She motioned the other girls to take a seat, and Kasumi walked in, a folded-over dishtowel in her hands.
"There's some ice inside. Just lay it on her forehead."
"Right— URK! Uh..." Hadn't Yuuki been lying on the floor? Why was her head suddenly in Ranma's lap? "Uh... right..." Ranma applied the towel, still trying to reconcile her memory to the current situation.
Akane chose that moment to enter. She stopped and stared at the quests, and then glared at Ranma, who was holding a towel on the forehead of the prettiest, or so Akane judged her to be. "Ranmaaa—"
"HEY! She fainted! All right?!"
Still grumbling, Akane knelt at the table, between Ranma and the other girls. "Who are these people, Ranma?"
Ranma rolled her eyes. "My friends from Houjun. I can have friends, can't I?"
Akane winced. "I... Sorry, Ranma."
"That's... okay, Akane..." They shared a look and a thought: old habits died hard.
"So, are you going to introduce me?" Akane said, smiling.
"Yeah. That's Uma-chan on the left and Hitomi-chan on the right, and this is Yuuki-chan in, er, my lap."
Akane gave Ranma an odd look. "Chan?"
"I'm a—" *Cough!* "—girl, remember?"
The light dawned in Akane's eyes. "Ohhh, yes. Of course."
Uma and Hitomi looked back and forth, trying to decode the conversation and failing. Yuuki chose that moment to try to rise, and Ranma helped her sit up. "Feeling better?"
Yuuki looked down at Ranma's open shirt. "Yes and no."
Yuuki smiled and sweatdropped. "HAHA! Yes, thank you, Ranma-chan. You're very sweet." And gorgeous and sexy and—
"No prob, Yuuki-chan. Just... be careful or something. Did you skip supper?"
The three Houjun regulars sighed; Ranma certainly was dense in some matters, it seemed. Oh, well, Yuuki thought, as she scooted next to Ranma and leaned against her.
Ranma blinked, and then looked at Akane, who blinked, too. Akane had been watching, and for once, Ranma had done nothing to necessarily encourage such a display, so her frustration didn't have a spark to ignite into anger.
"Well, ah... Anyway, what can I do for you girls?" Ranma looked at each of her guests in turn.
"We we're just concerned, Ranma-chan," Hitomi said. "After all, it's not everyday you watch someone run into a burning building."
"And make tornados and jump four stories," Uma added.
"And make such a daring, romantic rescue," Yuuki breathed against the side of Ranma's face.
"Awww, it was nuthin'." Ranma hummed and looked around, still missing the thrust of Yuuki's actions.
On the other hand, Akane was starting to see the light, and her eyes grew wide. At first, she felt a familiar anger rising, but it was derailed when the reality of Yuuki's attraction to Ranma's girl form settled in completely. She choked off a laugh, but she brought a hand to her mouth anyway.
"Akane?" Ranma looked her fiancée over carefully.
"Mmmnothing... Be back... in a minute." Akane hopped to her feet and ran down the hall. The front door opened and closed, and then they could all hear her braying in laughter.
Ranma raised one eyebrow and lowered the other, and then shook it off. "Uh, well, anyway, I'm fine. You guys shouldna' come all this way just for that!" Ranma said.
"Oh..." Hitomi looked at Yuuki, who gazed at the side of Ranma's face, her eyes flitting from detail to detail, "it was no trouble."
Akane stumbled back into the room, reclaiming her seat. She bowed slightly to her guests, a smile flickering from small to broad. "Pardon me for being so rude."
"Not at all," Hitomi reassured her. "So, Akane-san, what school do you attend?"
"Furinkan. Ranma used to go there, too."
"Ah, yes. Furinkan," Uma mused. "We hear a lot of strange things about Furinkan."
"And they're all untrue," Ranma said, leaning forward and wagging a finger, "'cause the real stuff is too weird to be believed."
"Ah... so..." Uma said uncertainly.
Someone knocked at the door and called: "Delivery!"
"Jeez. What now?" Ranma wondered aloud.
They heard Kasumi step out of the kitchen and walk to the door. There was low conversation, and Kasumi thanked the man and came into the tearoom. "Package for you, Ranma."
"Huh? For me?" She and Akane shared a bewildered glance. "Okay, Kasumi. Set it here, would ya please?"
"Of course. It's heavy... You know, there were four men in black suits with the deliveryman! They looked ferocious."
Everyone blinked, and then Ranma looked at the return address on the box. "Fujihara? Do we know any Fujihara, Akane?"
"Well... There's Fujihara Reiko in 2-A, but she doesn't know you or me that well."
"Maybe she thinks we're engaged or something." Ranma grinned at Akane, seeing if she would rise to the bait. The Houjun girls looked at each other, the same thought echoing in their minds: Engaged? Two girls?
"Ha! She can have you! Nyah!"
"Baka. Open the box and quit stalling—"
"Oh! Did someone get a package?" Nodoka asked as she walked into the tearoom. "And we have guests!"
"Yeah, Momma. These are my friends from school: Yuuki, here, and Uma and Hitomi over there."
"Very nice to meet you, girls."
The Houjun students exchanged pleasantries with Nodoka, but Akane brought them back to the matter at hand. "Open it, Ranma!"
"Yeah, yeah. Gimme a sec." Ranma proceeded to undo the twine looped around the box.
"Who is it from, Dear?" Nodoka asked.
"Somebody named Fujihara. Know any Fujihara, Momma?"
Nodoka had frozen, but Nabiki's entrance kept it from being noticed. "Ranma got a package? What is the world coming to..."
"Oneechan," Akane chided.
"Oh, just WON-derful. A new uniform," Ranma said, disgusted.
Ranma appeared to have no intention of removing the garment, so Akane reached in and held it up. "It looks the same."
"No, it's not," Nabiki said, reaching across and fingering the cloth of the skirt. "That's a finer grade of material. Got rich friends we don't know about, Ranma?"
The redhead looked at her new friends from Houjun, but they shook their heads. "May I see it, Ranma-chan?" Yuuki held out her hands.
Akane handed the uniform over and then dug around in the box.
"Ah. I thought so," Yuuki exclaimed. "Sora's Style Boutique. See the tag?" She bent the collar back. "Very nice uniform, Ranma-chan. We all get ours at Sora's."
"Ah. Hmmm," Ranma noised.
"There's more stuff in here," Akane said, as she pulled out a box about the size of a large, thick book. The brand name "Sony" was emblazoned across it. "Hey! It's a computer!"
"WHAT?!" Ranma took the box and shook it.
"ACK! Ranma! You'll break it!" Akane scolded.
"Huh. Like it won't get broke the first time someone challenges me." Nevertheless, she proceeded to open the box and pull out a very snazzy notebook computer.
"Ranma," Nabiki said, a touch of uncertainty in her voice, "who is your fairy godmother?"
"Got me. Fujihara somebody... Hmmm, well, I guess I'll play with this later... A computer... Gah. What do I know from computers?"
Akane smirked at him. "Not much."
"Nyah! Next box." She handed a smaller, flat box over.
Ranma opened it and then closed it immediately. "ACK!! Jewelry?! I AIN'T WEARIN' NO JEWELS!!" Everyone stared at her, and she sweatdropped. "Somebody raided the costume room at the school, I figure."
"Let me see," Nabiki said, holding out her hand. She took the box, opened it, and immediately shut it. "Grk... grgle... glrk..." She coughed once, and slowly opened the box again. "Glass. Has to be glass," she muttered, her eyes slightly glazed. Nabiki stood stock still, staring into the box, the contents of which were hidden from everyone else's view.
"Oneechan!" Akane reached up to take the box.
Nabiki snatched it away. "MINE! ... Anou... You really don't need— HEY!"
Kasumi had reached around and taken the box out of her sister's hands, and then her eyes widened. "Oh, myyy... Are you dating a rich young man, Ranma-chan?"
Ranma and Akane face-faulted, but Akane was up first. "WHAT is in the BOX?!"
"Oneechan, let me just—" Nabiki was foiled again, this time by Akane's martial arts reflexes, which nabbed the box in question from Kasumi just before Nabiki's hand closed on it. "Rats! Akane! Give me that box!"
Akane stuck out her tongue. "Not yours in the first place! It's Ranma's!"
"Oh! Well..." Nabiki fussed with her fingers, and then clenched her fists. "Like Ranma would know what to do with THOSE!!"
Akane opened the box. "Oh, Kamisama..." And Nabiki's hand tried to sneak in and take the contents, but Akane snapped the lid down.
"OW! Little sister..."
"Oh, my! Maybe I should hold onto those while you two work this out."
"Not a chance!"
Ranma and her friends backed up and stared at the three Tendou sisters, wondering where the pods were. Shaking her head, Ranma made a few arcane hand and arm motions, crouched over, and seemed to fade from the awareness of the others. Yuuki jumped when she realized that Ranma was no longer there. And just as quickly, Ranma seemed to fade back into Yuuki's awareness, holding the box in question.
"HEY! Where'd it go?!" Nabiki yelled. The three sisters looked around in a mild panic.
"Yuuki-chan, you girls are more used to this kind of stuff. Is it real?" Ranma held out the item of dispute.
Yuuki tentatively took the box, keeping a wary eye on the resident sisters, and opened it. Her eyes widened appreciatively. "VERY nice, Ranma-chan. Somebody likes you a WHOLE lot, but..." She slid the box across the table. "Uma-chan, you're the expert. What do you think?"
Uma nodded soberly, took off her glasses, produced a jeweler's loupe from somewhere, and held it to her eye. "Hmmm." She examined the contents for an achingly long minute, "Mmm-hmmm... Hmmm... Mmmm..." and then took the loupe off of her eye. She reached in and picked up in one hand a heavy necklace of blue gems and in the other hand a pair of earrings of the same stone.
"Right. Entirely composed of blue sapphires. The teardrop cut pendant gem is approximately twenty-two carats and the gems on the necklace are one to one-and-a-half carat brilliant cut stones. The earring stones are the same as the necklace stones. As near as I can tell, the color consistency is amazing, leading me to believe that they are all from the same matrix. I believe a spectrum analysis would bear this out. This is an extremely valuable set, Ranma-chan. It's museum quality. Kind of over-the-top for a school uniform, but very, VERY nice. I know some people who would mortgage their mothers to have this in their collection... which explains the added security Tendou-san just saw outside."
Ranma hadn't really absorbed the import of what Uma was saying. "So, errr... It's worth some money?"
The Houjun girls and Nabiki staggered. "Uh," Uma said, finally smiling at her naïve new friend, "yes, Ranma-chan. As a rough estimate, since the color consistency is flawless, about half a billion yen, given or take a hundred million."
Ranma and Akane fell over, and Nabiki collapsed to the floor.
"Oh, dear... What's his name, Ranma-chan? Is he handsome?" Kasumi smirked at her youngest sister's fiancé, as that worthy frothed at the mouth.
Nodoka surveyed the scene around her, and then sighed and nodded. "That's a pretty good estimate, Uma-chan. They were worth about a quarter billion when I was Ranma's age and wearing them around my neck."
The silence in the room roared, and then Ranma and the Tendou sisters all began talking at once. However, they stopped as Nodoka rose to her feet. She began to walk out of the tearoom. "Ranma-chan, come with me, please."
"Yes, Momma." Ranma trotted after her mother, throwing a quizzical look over her shoulder at the remaining occupants of the tearoom.
After they had left, Akane shared a look with her sisters. "What's that all about?"
"I think Ranma-kun is about to learn a little family history," Kasumi said mysteriously before leaving the room also.
In the Tendou's guest room, Nodoka knelt on the floor and motioned Ranma to sit as well. The older woman winced a little as Ranma sat in a cross-legged position, but she decided to ignore it in favor of current matters.
"Fujihara," Nodoka said stiffly, "was my maiden name."
"Huh," Ranma scratched her head. "I guess I never knew that, or didn't remember."
"I'm sure Dearest wouldn't have spoken of it unless absolutely necessary."
"Huh? Why not?"
Nodoka looked Ranma in the eyes and smiled briefly before continuing. "My parents did not approve of Dearest or of my marrying him."
"... ... Wait a minute! YOU went against your parents' wishes?! MOMMA?!"
"Don't tell me. They'd already engaged you to somebody else, too!"
"GAH! If it was good enough for YOU, why wasn't it good enough for—"
"They cut me off!" Nodoka interrupted, bringing a stillness to her child with the bitter tones in her voice.
"They cut me off... They didn't disown me, exactly, but... when I married your father, he was all I had from that moment on."
Ranma didn't know what to say, but his mother misread the meaning of her silence. "Do you really not want to marry Akane?"
Blushing, Ranma rocked her body from side to side. "Ah... Anou... Well... Maybe... Butnotrightnow!!" She was panting.
Nodoka beamed. "Well, that's all right, then!"
"No, it ain't, Momma."
"What... What do you mean?"
"All that stuff about... about..." Ranma's eyes flicked to Nodoka's katana and back. "And after what you just told me, how... how am I supposed to... err..."
"RANMA! You didn't think I would... well..." She trailed off, unable to complete the thought.
"If you'd seen me all decked out in that lingerie when Jiji slapped that moxibustion point on me, I wouldn't place any bets!"
"You... You wore... LINGERIE?!" Her hands automatically gripped her katana. "I sincerely hope it was as a daughter of the clan and not as a son!"
"See! See!" Ranma's arm waved up and down as she pointed at the sword. "What am I supposed to think now?! You're holdin' me to the same kinda promises you couldn't keep!!" She gasped as she instantly regretted her words.
Nodoka sagged, the katana rolling out of her limp hands. Her head bowed, and a single tear tracked down one cheek.
"Momma... I shouldna' said that. 'M sorry. I didn't mean it. Don't cry. I'm such a jerk. Don't—" Ranma stopped when Nodoka raised her hand, palm forward.
She pulled a handkerchief from the sleeve of her kimono and wiped away the lone tear from her lowered face. She stayed in that posture for another long moment, and then looked up, her eyes still suspiciously bright.
"No, Dear, I suppose you have a right to be... less than pleased. I suffered for my choice, and I suppose I wanted to spare you that difficulty."
"So... What are you sayin'? That if you had it ta do over again, ya wouldn't marry Pops?"
Nodoka chuckled. "No, I didn't say that at all..."
"Oh..." Ranma still wasn't sure what her mother would've done differently, if anything. "Well, okay, I guess." She scratched her head. "So what's the deal, then?"
"The Fujihara are your grandparents."
Ranma face-faulted. "Gah," she muttered, "found out I still have a momma, and now I find out I still have grandparents. Gah." She sat up. "So why are they sending me stuff? I mean if they didn't like Pops, wouldn't they... not like me... too?"
"Oh. So what gives?"
Nodoka sighed and fussed with her kimono for a second. "I suppose... that you are going to be their... heir. The necklace and earrings are the traditional female token of that in the family."
Ranma winced at the mention of 'female'. "Heir? Heir to what? Why me when I'm already heir to the Saotome Ryuu?"
"No, I don't think you understand, Dear." Ranma peered at her quizzically. "Heir to the Fujihara holdings."
"Holdings?" she said suspiciously; that had the ring of a Nabiki word.
"Huh..." Ranma conveyed concentration with her pinched face. "That's nice... I guess... There's some money in that, right? We could redo the doujou. Some of them repairs are workin' loose."
A hand to her mouth, Nodoka actually laughed aloud. "Son, I don't think I'm making myself clear. Let me see... Your friends from Houjun; are they what you would consider rich?"
"Sure! Their folks own companies and stuff."
"I see. Well, there is rich and then there is rich. The Fujihara family has, since the Tokugawa Shogunate, been amassing wealth of one kind or another. We... They may very well be the richest family in Japan. They own many, many companies and have sizable shares in twenty times more companies. Father could, if he so chose, adversely affect the national economy with a few decisions. Understand?"
Ranma's face worked as she tried to wrap her mind around what all of that meant. Nodoka tried a different tack. "Mother has tea with the Emperor's wife every Sunday afternoon."
Ranma tipped over. "GAH!"
A panic was building in Ranma's chest, but the source of it was still hiding from her, buried in the recesses of her intuitive thought processes. "So what's this got ta do with me?"
"Ranma, I am their only child, and you are my only child. What do you think?"
There followed a pregnant pause, then: "GYAAAAAAAAH!!!"
Everyone in the tearoom looked up as Ranma wobbled in. "Grammy has tea with Mrs. Emperor," she warbled as she walked past the tea table, her eyes unfocused. "Gramps rules the world. Tee-hee!" She stepped into the backyard and walked into the koi pond, deciding to simply stand there and let the fish nibble her toes.
"What? Ranma?" Akane rose and stood at the open shoji.
"What's wrong with Ranma-chan?" Yuuki asked.
"I don't know," Akane said, worrying lacing her words.
"What was this family history?" Nabiki groused. She hated being left out of the loop.
A voice from behind startled them. "Ranma's grandparents," Nodoka said imperiously, "are Fujihara Oujiro and Nanami, my mother and father."
Nabiki was the only one who instantly understood the significance of the names, and she choked on her tea, coughing and sputtering, although one by one, Yuuki's, Hitomi's, and Uma's eyes widened.
"SUGOI!!!" Yuuki yelled.
"Anou... What does this mean?" Uma inquired, adjusting her glasses nervously. Hitomi was in shock.
"As I told Ranma, I am their only child and Ranma is my only child. Since I was... They appear to have chosen Ranma as their heir, although nothing official has been recorded, I believe. These," she waved at the gifts, "are just part of the preliminaries."
Nabiki's coughing worsened.
Akane turned around from watching Ranma. "Well, that's nice! Anou..." She surveyed the shocked reactions around the table. "What's the big deal about the Fujihara?"
The Houjun regulars and Nabiki face-faulted.
"Well! That was certainly unexpected!" Hitomi exclaimed as she and her two cohorts from Houjun walked down the road, looking for a taxi. The area seemed devoid of such service. "Imagine: Ranma, heir to the Fujihara..."
"I'm hungry," Yuuki whined.
"I'm waiting until I get home," Uma said.
"Ooo! The Nekohanten! Let's try that! Our chef never makes ramen!" Before her friends could object, Yuuki dashed across the street and entered the restaurant. The other two shrugged and followed.
"Welcome Nekohanten. My name Shan Pu. Here menu. Drink?"
"Oo-long," Uma said.
"Same for me," Hitomi said.
"What's the house special tea?"
"Hiibaachan special brew. Very tasty."
"I'll have that then..."
"Okay. Be back soon."
After Shampoo walked away, the girls looked around. A boy in white robes cleaned tables while a very elderly woman perched on the counter next to the cash register, appearing to be deep in thought.
"You pick the weirdest places, Yuuki-chan," Hitomi said quietly.
"Oh, you have no sense of adventure, Hitomi-chan!"
"I think Ranma-san is more than enough adventure for one school term," Hitomi riposted. Uma remained silent on the matter. The elderly woman on the counter pricked up her ears.
"Imagine..." Yuuki said, hearts in her eyes. "Heir to the Fujihara dynasty. Oh, my..."
"Excuse me," a gravely voice uttered from the side. The girls turned to see the old woman balancing on a staff.
"Hai, Obaasan?" Hitomi answered.
"It wouldn't be Saotome Ranma you girls are discussing would it?"
The Houjun girls looked at one another. "Well, yes... it is," Uma answered. "Do you know Ranma-san?"
The old woman chuckled dryly. "You could say that, yes. He is a frequent, er, patron of our restaurant... Ahem. Did I also understand you to say that Groom— er, Ranma is heir to something other than his school?"
"Errr..." Two of the girls weren't sure they should speak of someone else's business; it would be rude and very bad form.
Unfortunately, Yuuki was still hovering in a pink haze. "Oh, yes! She's heir to the Fujihara!"
"Fujihara? Fujihara who?"
"Uh, Yuuki-chan, I don't think—"
"Oh! Only Ranma-chan's grandparents and the richest family in Japan! Why, they're personal friends of the Emperor and Empress!!"
Hitomi and Uma hung their heads.
"I... see," the old woman said, eyes slightly bulging. "Please... Enjoy your meal." She pogoed away, leaving the dining area of the restaurant.
"Yuuki-chan..." the others chided.
Cologne barely made it into the kitchen before bursting into laughter. "Oh, Groom," she chortled. "Life is never dull for you, is it? HAHAHAHA!!"
Shampoo poked her head through the door, eyes wide at the sight of her great-grandmother laughing so hard she was in tears. "... Aiyaaaa..."
Uma slipped into her home, "Tadaimaaa..." but no one answered her except the butler.
"Okaeri nasai..." He looked around. "...Uma-chan."
She smiled up at him. "Thanks, Hamano."
He took her coat. "And how was your day?"
Uma paused. "Very different."
"Yes, I heard about the fire, and I saw the news. Do you know that young lady?"
She shucked her shoes and put on house slippers. "I just came from her house."
"And you want to know the really different part?"
He laughed. "Okay."
"She's the heir to the Fujihara."
"Fujihara... OH! Them?!"
They walked down the long hall attached to the foyer and entered the kitchen. "The weird thing is she lives over in the middle-class part of Nerima and only found out about it today."
"Ah. A Cinderella story."
Uma chuckled. "Only if Cinderella did martial arts straight from a kung-fu movie. The wicked stepsisters wouldn't stand a chance, and the handsome prince would get a glass slipper shoved into an awkward place... She's so beautiful, too." She sighed wistfully.
"Hmmm..." Hamano didn't know quite what to think of that. "Well, it'll be interesting to see what develops."
"That's an understatement. Anything leftover to eat and have you seen my parents or sisters?"
"I put some things in the refrigerator for you, and the family is still out. A dinner somewhere or other."
"Oh... Didn't miss ugly little Uma, I guess."
Uma smiled a little. "Don't worry, Hamano. I'm used to it."
Hamano sighed and proceeded to serve the youngest daughter of the house a meal of leftover sushi and sashimi. Once finished, he chivvied her off to bed and retired to his quarters until the family returned home. He decided to phone another butler friend of his.
"Ne, Takeshi-kun? You'll never believe what I heard today..."
Her room was practically a geological museum. Uma stopped to appreciate some of the mineral specimens that graced her shelves and picked up her favorite: a smooth nodule of malachite. She ran her fingers over the green- and white-swirled stone. It wasn't an expensive item, but she'd had it a long time, and her constant fondling had polished the surface to a high gloss. Plopping onto her bed, she thought about Ranma and what she might be thinking right now and whether Yuuki had any chance at snagging the girl.
Her private phone rang and she picked up the receiver. "Hai! ... Oh, Yayoi-chan. Hey! You've heard about Saotome-san by now, right? Guess who she is..."
Dishes clinked in the sink, and Kasumi hummed a song to herself.
Nabiki dragged into the kitchen and looked around. "Any chance for some tea?"
"Of course. Let me put on a kettle."
While her sister filled the kettle, Nabiki leaned against the counter and proceeded to stare into space. Kasumi glanced at her. "Something wrong, Nabiki-chan?"
Nabiki closed her eyes and put her fists to her forehead. "How? HOW could I have MISSED this?!"
"Wha— Oh, that. You mean you didn't know?"
Nabiki put down her fists and peered at Kasumi. "What? Are you saying you did?"
Kasumi tutted as she turned on the heat underneath the kettle. "Of course I knew. One must do the proper checks, you know."
"Oneechan," Nabiki said, her eyes half-lidded, "that's disgustingly traditional of you."
"Well..." She shrugged. "It never hurts to be prepared."
"Now you're sounding like me."
"Oh, my." Kasumi laughed. "Shall I go and, er, 'lean' on some students to pay back their loans?"
"Ah... No, thank you." How could they tell you no? They'd give you the shirt off of their backs. I'd be ruined.
Kasumi resumed washing dishes, and in short order the kettle began steaming. She poured hot water into the teapot and set down two cups. When it was ready, Kasumi poured for them both, and Nabiki snatched up the cup almost before her sister had finished tipping back the kettle. Kasumi looked at her, and then her eyebrows went up as she figured out what was gnawing at her sister.
"Regrets haunting you, Nabiki-chan?"
Nabiki winced. "Can't hide anything from you, can I?"
The younger clenched her fists again. "So close... So CLOSE! And I never even KNEW it!!"
"Actually, I'm surprised at you, not knowing such a thing."
Nabiki sagged. "Two itinerate martial artists, showing up with little more than the shirts on their backs, and one of them a sex-changer and the other a, errr, panda-changer. I mean, come ON!! RANMA?! RICH?! I think I can be forgiven for making the assumption that there was nothing WORTH looking into!"
"Oh, I forgive you, Nabiki-chan," Kasumi smirked as she returned to her dishes.
"Gee... Thanks." Nabiki rolled her eyes.
"But will you forgive yourself? Besides, Ranma loves Akane, even if he won't admit it out loud. And the same goes for our little sister."
Nabiki sighed, and then looked sharply at Kasumi. "Say, just when did you find out all this?"
"Oh, about the second week they were here."
She studied Kasumi for a moment. "A few kind words, an 'accident' or two before Ranma got too attached to Akane, and you could've been the golden fiancée. Why didn't you?"
"Nabiki! I wouldn't do something like that to Akane!"
"Pffh! Back then, she would've gift-wrapped him for you!"
Kasumi smiled. "Oh, would she really have?"
"Of course!" Nabiki crossed her arms, confident.
"To use your word, 'pffh.' Akane-chan would've made up her mind very quickly, I think."
Nabiki downed the rest of her beverage. "Thanks for the tea, Oneechan, and I don't agree. I'm not sure of that even now." She set down the cup, patted her sister on the arm, and strolled out of the kitchen, smiling.
Kasumi stared at the doorway. "What are you thinking, Nabiki?"
Liquid soap squirted onto a washrag, and Ranma began to wash herself down. Nodoka had bought her the soap, and after a moment, Ranma knew why. It smelled very girly.
"Gaaah. I don't miss Ranko one bit." Ranma rinsed, picked up a bar of handsoap, and started a new lather working on her cloth, breathing in the simpler, cleaner fragrance. "Much better."
She froze at the sound of the inner door opening. Depending on who now stood in the doorway, Ranma could expect any number of different responses, most of them painful, scary, or at least uncomfortable. Her eyes rotated slowly to one side, and then her head followed. Nabiki posed, smirking at Ranma and wearing only the towel she held against her body—the scary category, definitely.
"Wash your back?" she cooed before stepping completely through the door and closing it behind her.
Nabiki had pointedly turned around to achieve that task and presented her bare back and bottom for Ranma's inspection. The middle Tendou was a very shapely young woman, and Ranma found her eyes caressing the smooth skin of the other's back, down to her firm and trim butt, and further into the dark recesses between— She shook her head vigorously before turning away.
"You didn't answer my question, Ranma."
"Ah... What?" Ranma didn't look.
"Wash your back?"
"Look at me, Ranma!" Nabiki barked.
Before she realized she had, Ranma had turned and now gawked at Nabiki, whose towel was now folded over an arm. Nabiki waited for effect, and then repeated her question. "Wash your back?"
"H-H-HEE! H-How m-m-much?" Ranma said in a daze, and then she jumped. "AAH!" She slapped herself. "Go away, Nabiki! Akane'll KILL me if she finds you in here like this!"
Chuckling, Nabiki sauntered over and toed a second stool into place behind the redhead. "Now, Ranma-chan, is that any way to treat your future sister-in-law?" Or wife...
"Come off it, Nabiki! ... Uh, lemme say that another way—"
"Oh, you're just too cute!!"
Ranma's eyes bulged. "WHAAAT?!" But a cloth moving up and down her back shocked her enough so that she forgot her wariness. She looked over her shoulder, her eyes bulged again, and she quickly turned around. "Maaan... Couldn't ya at least wrap a towel around, around... those?"
"I'm a liberated woman."
Primarily due to the rampant confusion over the proper course of action in such situations involving a non-fiancée, Ranma allowed Nabiki to continue for the next thirty seconds.
"Oh, dear!" Nabiki exclaimed. "I can't reach that spot!" She scooted her stool closer... and pounced.
"AAAH! WHAT are you DOING?!" Ranma could feel Nabiki's not inconsiderable bosom pressing into her back, and her arms were now around Ranma's waist.
"Ranma-chan," Nabiki cooed into her ear, "you really turn me off-ON! ... Aheh. Let N-N-Nabby-ch-ch-chan," Nabiki coughed, "rock your world!"
Kasumi was once again trying to instruct Akane in following a simple cooking recipe, but they stopped and looked towards the hallway.
"...aaaaaaaaAAAAA—" A nude, soap-covered redhead flashed by the kitchen entrance. "—AAAAAaaaaaaaaa..."
"...Ranma-CHAN, I DIDN'T—" Followed by an equally nude but not so soapy Nabiki, waving a washcloth. "—FINISH washing there..."
Akane and Kasumi blinked at each other.
"...aaaaaAAAAAA!!!" A screeching sounded in the hall, and Ranma turned and bolted into the kitchen, hiding behind Akane.
Nabiki slid past the opening, and then she also came into the kitchen. "RANMA!"
"ERK! AKANE!! DO SOMETHING!!" Ranma yelled.
"Get back into the furo, Ranma!" Nabiki commanded.
Ranma took two steps out from behind Akane before catching herself. "GAH! Don't DO that!!"
Akane had seen enough. "WHAT are you two DOING?!?! RANMA!! What are you doing with my SISTER, you PERVERT?!"
"MEEE?!?! NABIKI STARTED IT, TRYING TO WASH MY... uh..."
"MY GIRL PARTS!! OKAY?!?!"
Akane rounded on her sister. "NABIKI!!!"
Nabiki winced, both from the accusation and the noise level. "Just, er, being a good future sister-in-law." Or future wife...
"Really, Nabiki," Kasumi chided, "if you're going to seduce your sister's fiancé, you should be more discreet about it. What will the neighbors say?" She quickly turned around to hide her silent laughter and the concomitant expression on her face. She now knew what Nabiki had been thinking, and Kasumi could've spare Nabiki the trouble by telling her it wouldn't work.
"ONEECHAN!!!" Akane screamed, incredulous.
"Come along, Ranma," Nabiki said, hands cocked on bare hips. "Back to the furo. You heard Kasumi-oneechan. We can't be discreet, hanging around naked in the kitchen."
Akane lowered her head, ground her teeth, and clenched her fists. "RANMA!" she barked. "Go finish your bath!"
"Uh... But what about—"
Ranma stepped out from behind Akane and edged out of the room, giving Nabiki a wide berth.
Nabiki was grinning and wriggling her fingers at the redhead. "Tee-hee!" But she suddenly felt an iron grip clamp down just above her elbow. "HEY!"
"And YOU are going to stay here and explain yourself!" Akane said.
"Hmph! Can't make me!"
"Wanna bet?! Here's an apron. PUT IT ON!!"
"Can't mak— URK!"
Soun walked into the hallway, wondering about the commotion in the kitchen. He put out a hand to push the cloth covering the entrance aside and promptly found himself with a handful of soft breast. A completely nude onna-Ranma finished stepping through, and he presented a warding sign with his free hand. A little trickle of blood ran from his nose.
*BAMPF!!* Ranma removed her fist from Soun's face. "All guys are perverts... Squeeze, squeeze, squeeze..." She stomped down the hall and out of view, muttering.
Allowing himself a couple of minutes to recover, Soun then stepped into the kitchen. Nearest to him was Nabiki, wearing only an old, well-used apron. She had the bottom half pulled up and was examining old food stains with no small amount of disgust. Soun got an eyeful before Nabiki noticed him.
"Oh. Hi, Daddy."
Ranma was almost asleep when the door to the guestroom opened and Akane stepped in, shutting it behind her. Ranma sat up, and Akane knelt down next to his futon. She looked at him quizzically.
"Why are you a girl?"
"Oh, stupid Pops," she snorted. "Thought it was funny 'r somethin', 'cause of me going to Houjun as a girl. I think it bugs him as much as it does me, and he was workin' some of it off on me. Can't say as I blame him. Gah."
"Oh," Akane said in small voice.
"What?" Ranma asked. Akane looked over at Genma, snoring like a buzzsaw in his panda form. "Aw, don't worry about him. He's gone until morning."
"I suppose..." She looked down at her lap and clasped and unclasped her hands.
"Um... About Nabiki..." Ranma didn't respond, so Akane mustered the courage to continue. "In the furo, do you and she, er... do... anything?"
"WHAT?!" he yelled. "AKANE!! NO WAY!! YUCK! NABIKI?!?!"
Akane smiled a little. "Well, I was thinking. Nabiki's smarter than me, she's got a better body than me, and... she doesn't seem to have a problem with your girl body... Doing that sort of thing. Um... And since, well, you're rich now, you're everything she's always wanted, and Nabiki, she... Well..."
"Well WHAT?! AKANE!! What are you talking about?!"
"You don't KNOW her like I do, Ranma!" Akane raised her head, and Ranma could her eyes brimming with moisture. "When she decides she wants something, she doesn't quit! She's just like Shampoo in that way!"
Ranma shuddered. "Look, I ain't gonna do nuthin' with Nabiki, so just forget about it, okay?"
"Ranma! This is just the start! What are you going to do when you're a guy next time?! Being a girl didn't stop her, and being a guy sure won't. For guys... It's OKAY for you to... to... do THAT! But for us girls, once and it's all over! You'll HAVE to marry Nabiki then—"
"You don't trust me," Ranma said flatly.
"Fine. Even if ya don't, I wouldn't do that to ya." She lay back down and rolled over, her back to Akane.
Akane sat there for a moment, cursing herself. "Ranma?" she said weakly.
"It's not easy to trust a guy."
"Not whatever! Guys are supposed to go after girls! Any girl, almost! Even your own mother thinks so!" Unseen, Ranma winced. "That's what I don't trust!"
Ranma sighed. "Don't ya think I woulda already done that with Shampoo or Ukyou if that was true?"
"Not at all! Shampoo means going back to China, and Ukyou means working in an Okonomiyaki shop the rest of your life!"
Ranma winced twice more. "Okay, okay, but how's that different with Nabiki?"
"Simple! Marry her, and family honor is satisfied! Do you think your dad or my dad would really care?!"
"Uh... Damn. No, they wouldn't."
"Well, there you are!! And Oneechan doesn't make the kind of mistakes Ukyou, Shampoo, or even Kodachi does! She can out-think all of us!! And if you think she doesn't know what buttons to push with you, think again!"
A horrified expression had settled on Ranma's face. "What are we going to do?! I don't wanna marry Nabiki!! GAH!"
Silently thankful that she'd diverted his attention away from the trust issue, Akane shook her head. "I don't know, but she's going to hammer at you until you give in. That's all I can see, right now... What?"
Ranma had turned sheet-white, and then red, and then white, and back and forth.
Ranma looked over at his father, but the panda snores never faltered. "Uh... Well... I can think of one way to, ah, fix it so she don't, uh, 'you know'... with me..."
Akane tilted her head. "How?"
"Uh... You could, ah... beat her to the punch?" Ranma shut her eyes and cringed.
Silence. She risked cracking one eye and saw Akane staring at her. "Oh," Akane finally warbled. "Yes... that would do it." Her voice was high and unsteady.
Akane jumped. "Ah! Well! ... ... ... I, errr... I'll think on that." She staggered to her feet and weaved towards the bedroom door. "Yes... Must think..." The door opened, she exited, and then it closed.
Ranma sighed, "I never will understand girls..." and pulled her blanket over her, staring at a panda's back.
The phone rang at 3:00 AM, and the headmaster for Houjun Academy groaned and rolled over, glaring at the offending device. "This better be damned good..."
He picked up the receiver. "... Hai..." Pause. "WHAT?! Are you certain?!" Another pause. "Hai, hai. We'll discuss this further first thing in the morning. Ja." He hung up and flopped onto his back.
His wife had been roused from slumber by his exclamation. "Anata? Who was that?"
"At this hour? Is something wrong?"
"Not... exactly, but things have just gotten complicated at the school."
"It appears that our most recent transfer student and our fire heroine is none other than the sole heir to the Fujihara dynasty."
"... ... That Fujihara family?"
"... Hai..." He put his hands over his face. "I can see it now. This is going to turn the school upside down. Oh, the horror..."
End Fame—Day One
Disclaimers: Ranma ½, its characters, and its situations are the property of Takahashi Rumiko, Shounen Sunday Comics, Shogakukan, Kitty TV, and Fuji in Japan. It is distributed in North America by Viz Communications, Inc. All other characters are the property of Sinom Bre. This work of fanfiction is for free entertainment purposes only—no compensation has been or will be received for its composition.
Acknowledgments: Many thanks to Andrew Norris, June Geraci, and Rakhal Stormwarden for their suggestions and input on this story while in progress. Thanks to Ukyou Kuonji for the official prereading chores.
I am not actively working on this story at this time, but the feedback on this has been encouraging enough that I decided to post this first chapter anyway.