Dancing in the Dark
Chapter 12: Cakewalk
Disclaimer: Don't own it, and never will.
"Love has one flaw. So many people in history have tried to tell us about it. Shakespeare gave us the tragic Romeo and Juliet who killed themselves. Homer told us of Paris and how his obsession for Helen caused a war and meaningless deaths. All the evidence is before us. It might get beautified in films, but it's always there."
Smoothing back her hair, the girl wrapped her fingers lightly around the stem of the glass in front of her. Tracing the mouth of the cup with her thumb, she looked up at the person before her. With a smile, she popped the question that had lingered in the air, "I'm guessing you want to know what that flaw is. . .am I right?"
Without waiting for a reply, the girl crossed her legs and leaned forward across the table, one hand propping her chin. With a perfect lipstick smile, she simply answered the person, "Love always makes lovers blind."
Not seeing the exact reaction she desired, the girl sank back into her seat and crossed her arms. "You see," she said softly, so that only the person across from her could hear her, "love will make any normal person change to their opposite, Mr. Hyde, or in some cases, Dr. Jekyll. Take me for example: I'm a business woman. I'm cold, mean, and ruthless when it comes to money.
Yet, add a little drop of romance into my life, and chaos would ensue. I'd be falling over myself, constantly feeling heart ache, and worst of all, be utterly confused at times. I would lose money and be looked down upon in the business world as a blubbering fool. . . . That's just what love does. It turns the world upside down and makes any rational thing seem crazy and any crazy thing rational.
And that's exactly what's happening to the little quartet, one half is playing the other, but things are getting messed up and disorganized. When love enters the picture, carefully planned things go awry, and in this case, the plan ends up working a little too well."
Turning toward the figure across from her, she smiled once again. "Hopefully though, with our help, everything will end up right. . . right Kasumi?"
Kasumi giggled and covered her mouth with the back of her hand. "I think they'll pull through. You on the other hand. . .Nabiki, I think you should hold back on those drinks. You're starting to remind me of Kuno and his love stories."
Hearing the comment, Nabiki frowned and pushed her glass toward the center of the table. "I think I'm done for now."
Kasumi giggled again and glanced at her sister. "This is exciting! I feel like a spy in one of those old war films. Ooohh!"
Raising a slim eyebrow, Nabiki glanced at her sister with a questioning look. "Kasumi. . . we've been here for ten minutes. We haven't even seen anyone yet. How can this possibly be exciting?"
Clapping her hands lightly together, Kasumi laughed, "You don't understand, I'm almost always in the house. I've never had an opportunity like this. It's. . . it's. . so cool!"
"Okie dokie then. . ." Nabiki mumbled as she rolled her eyes toward the window.
Suddenly she paused and her eyes grew wide as a smile stretched across her face, "There! There they are!"
"Yes, it seems that Ranma met with Shampoo and both agreed to work together," Kasumi pointed out as she watched the two talk together.
"Good. So all's going according to-Oh crap," Nabiki suddenly said and turned away from the window.
"What's wrong, Nabiki?"
"Shhh! They're coming in here! Quick! We've got to hide! It'll look to suspicious if we're seen out here together."
Kasumi raised her hand to her lips in a surprised "Oh!"
"But where do we h-ahh!" Kasumi squealed as she was dragged under the table. "Nabiki! You could have warned me!"
"Shhh. They're close by!" Nabiki hissed, clamping a hand over her sister's mouth. She then quickly disappeared from under the table cloth. After a second, she reappeared with her drink in hand. Kasumi simply stared at her, amazed. Seeing her expression, Nabiki stared back, "What? I paid money for this drink. I'm going to finish it."
Kasumi simply shook her head and huddled under the table. Nabiki peaked under the table. "Kasumi. . . They're going to sit at the table next to us. Listen well."
Suddenly, she felt a tugging on her sleeve. Turning back toward her older sister, she whispered, "What?"
"Nabiki, someone is going to sit here!" Kasumi nearly shrieked, her eyes wide as she tried to scoot closer to the edge.
Nabiki just pulled her sister toward the edge and placed a finger to her lips. As they sat there, huddled under the table, they heard a voice greet someone near the table. "Yes, sir, you may sit here. The women sitting her before must have left."
To the side, they heard the waitress mumble angrily, "Stupid girls. They didn't even leave a tip."
Kasumi held her sister back as she tried to thrash at the waitresses legs with her red nails. "Shhh. Nabiki, you can't do that! It wouldn't be very nice."
Nabiki shrugged her sister off, "Don't worry about it. . . I'll just get her later."
"Pardon me, Nabiki? What was that you said?"
Kasumi let out a little "eep!" as a chair was pulled out from the table. A pair of legs appeared under the table. Shrouded in black pants and bound in a criss-cross fashion with cords, Nabiki swore they looked familiar. Suddenly she felt a tap at her shoulder. She turned and saw Kasumi lifting the edge of the table cloth and pointing toward a couple near the back of the restaurant.
"Let's see if Ranma and Shampoo really did fall for our plan," Nabiki smiled.
Together they tried to listen onto what the two martial artists were talking about.
"-I agree. We can't let Mousse and Akane win that contest. If we want to be cured, we have to get the Jusenkyo water."
Shampoo drummed her fingers lightly on the tabletop. "But Shampoo is curious. Why would the violent kitchen destroyer want part of the prize? She not cursed."
Ranma leaned against his hand. "Yea, I've been wondering 'bout that. Plus, if they had a 'cure' for the prize to any Jusenkyo curse. . . wouldn't they need both the spring of drowned man and woman? Unless of course they're talking about something different from that. ."
Rubbing her temples in irritation, Nabiki muttered quietly, "For once Ranma decides to use that small brain in his skull. Figures it has to be now."
Kasumi watched as her sister muttered and glanced back at the two at the other table. As if a light bulb was suddenly lit in her head, Kasumi turned toward Nabiki, "I've got an idea."
Glancing wearily at her sister, Nabiki simply said "Tell me. I'm all ears."
"But Nabiki, you're not all ears. Can you imagine what you'd look like if you were just made up of ears? That'd be scary."
Nabiki simply stared at her sister. She felt like saying something, but she let it die. Why bother? "Anyway," she said with a sigh, "what is it you're thinking of?"
Kasumi laid her hands in her lap as her face became very animated. "Well! I thought we might get in a little scrap like this, so I brought along some disguises."
As she shuffled into her apron pockets (Kasumi felt she couldn't leave it behind), Nabiki looked at her sister with a bit of appreciation. Knowing Kasumi's sewing skills, she could only imagine what kind of disguises her sister could have concocted. This should be-
"interesting. . ."
"Wow, Nabiki, I didn't think they were that convincing." Kasumi said with a blush behind the thick plastic frames. Nabiki probably could have seen her sister smiling if the bushy mustache hadn't obscured half of her face.
Peeling herself from off the floor, Nabiki sat up and stared at her sister. "What in the world were you thinking when you made those!"
"I didn't make these," Kasumi's mustache flapped about, "I bought them after I had seen this actor in an old black and white American film. But he smoked a cigar too. . . .hmm. I wonder if I should have bought some of those as well. . ."
"Forget it Kasumi," Nabiki muttered as she cursed television. Staring at the disguise on Kasumi's face, she reached out a hand to her sister, "Well, I guess we just have to work with what we have."
Kasumi giggled as she handed over another mask. "Now what else were you planning besides making me look like an idiot?"
"Ignoring that last statement, first, we have to find a way to get out from under here. . ," Kasumi tapped her chin in thought.
"Well, since there's no one eating at my place tonight, I guess I'll come here and eat out."
Looking out from under the table for a moment, Nabiki instantly recognized the chef near the door. The huge spatula on her back was a dead give away. A wide and devious smile suddenly stretched across Nabiki's face. "I think I just got an idea on how we can do that. . ."
"Hmm. . . this place seems a little bit busy," she mumbled as she reached for the door handle.
Hearing a slight yell of pain she turned back with curiosity. She watched as a man near the back suddenly flung up an edge of table cloth and glance under the table he was at. She thought he was familiar and tried to look more closely, when suddenly two faces blocked her view.
"Welcome to . . . uh. . . Konatsu's Place! Are you ready to be seated Miss. . ."
Staring at the two waiters in front of her, she wasn't sure what to make of the two. The thick black frames and obtusely large mustaches reminded her of a film she had seen the other night. The one with the small ponytail seemed a lot more energetic than the one with the long ponytail. He was the one who wouldn't let her leave. Knowing how persistent this waiter probably was, she gave her name, "Kuonji, Ukyo."
"Wonderful Miss Kuonji! We don't have many tables open, but since you look a little tired, we'll go ahead and sit you here with this gentleman for now!"
Both waiters grabbed one of her forearms on either side and quickly guided her to a table near the back, her protest meaning nothing to them. Suddenly, Ukyo was quickly plopped down in a chair, a bit dazed. Looking up, she saw an equally surprised man sitting across from her. It took her a minute to recognize him, but she did. "Ryoga?"
"-and that's why we wanted to ask if this young lady could sit with you until we found another open table. Is that alright?" the short haired waiter finished with a toothy smile. Or that's what Ukyo thought she saw behind the bushy mustache.
"Um. . I guess. But what about all those empty tables over there?" He pointed.
"Ehh. . ." the short haired waiter started.
"Those are reserved for some guest tonight," the second one quickly supplied.
"Oh yes, heh heh. . . forgot about that," the first said, scratching the back of their head in embarrassment.
"Oh. . .okay. Then that's fine. She can sit here with me," he suddenly turned at his new guest. "Oh! Hey Ukyo."
"Hi Ryoga," Ukyo replied as she searched for the two waiters that suddenly seemed to disappear, "What brings you back to Nerima?"
With a blush and a goofy smile, he scratched his head, "Well, I got lost again. But I was meaning to bring Akane back some candy I found in China."
"That must be nice. . . being able to travel around so much," she replied distractedly. Where were those two?
"Well, yea, if you have a place to stay. Half the time I just sleep outside in a tent. This last trip though, somehow I lost my tent, so it was just me and the stars."
Giving up, Ukyo turned back to Ryoga, "Well, that stinks," she winced at the torn and ragged clothes Ryoga wore, "And hey, if you ever need a hot meal and a place to stay the night, you can always rest at my place for the night."
Ryoga looked up with a surprised face. "Wow, really?"
Damn her conscience! She looked at him with a smile, "Of course! You can stay there, but you've got to earn your keep. You just have to help me with some tasks around the restaurant like cleaning windows and such."
Thinking about the past when they had basically used each other to split up Ranma and Akane, he suddenly stopped smiling. "Now this isn't some new plan to get you and Ranma together is it? Because as far as I know, Ranma and Akane aren't getting along to well. That's what I remember from the last time I was here."
Sounds like always, Ukyo thought to herself. "No, nothing like that. I just don't want you sleeping on the streets or anything. It would be bad on my conscience, you know?"
"Oh, okay." Ryoga suddenly beamed with a grateful smile, "Thank you Ukyo-san, I really appreciate it."
Ukyo suddenly found herself wishing the temperature of the room was a little bit cooler. Her throat and face suddenly seemed to burst into a rosy fire. Why was he so grateful? It wasn't as if it was that much. He certainly didn't have to look at her that way. . . with that smile and those cute fangs . . . Closing her eyes and fanning the thanks away as if it were nothing she replied with a murmur, "It's n. .nothing. Don't get s. . so worked up over it."
Ryoga suddenly paused at watched Ukyo carefully. Was that a blush he saw? What in the world. . . Although. . . it certainly did make her look cute. . .He suddenly found himself growing hot in the chest. As both were suddenly quiet, neither noticed as the two "waiters" suddenly sat down behind them and bridged the gap between them and the other two martial artists behind them.
"Phew! Getting away from that one table was impossible! I can't believe they actually mistook us for waiters. Bah!" Nabiki fanned herself as they sat down at the table.
"Well, I suppose the masks did exactly what we'd hoped for, but just a little too well, "Kasumi explained as she grabbed a cup from the center of the table.
Nabiki stared incredulously at her sister, "Uh.. . yea. . . Any ways, now that we've finally gotten over here, are you finally ready to start?"
"Just let me pour some tea for myself. After all," she said as she grabbed another cup for Nabiki, "we should use this pot that we borrowed and not waste it."
"Fine," Nabiki mumbled as she held her cup up. As she took a sip, she winked at Kasumi and gave a loud sigh, "Did you hear about this new DANCE CONTEST they're having here, eh. . . Shingi?"
"Yes, I did hear about a DANCE CONTEST, um. . oh my. . Kaneda," Kasumi almost bellowed, "I also heard they had some PRIZE. What is it, do you know?"
Nabiki sipped her tea again. "Well, I heard it was some weird miracle CURE for all those CURSED."
"Really?" Kasumi asked, "Can it cure ANY kind of CURSE?"
"YES. I actually SAW them UNDO the CURSE on this one odd individual who was CURSED to turn into a kind of yeti when hit by COLD WATER."
"But Kaneda, I heard there was ANOTHER prize for the couple who won the DANCE CONTEST," Kasumi coughed, this was getting a bit tough on her soft voice, "Did you hear what it was?"
"Oh yes. It was something about a HONEYMOON to someplace. It was said that the couple needn't be necessarily married at the time, but rather going to get married."
"I see, I see."
They both took secret glances at Shampoo and Ranma. The two were now staring down at the table, chunks of the table missing from where they were sitting. "I guess that last part really got to them," Kasumi mumbled.
Suddenly the two martial artist turned toward one another. With a look of determination they suddenly grasped the other's hand, fist like, and both said at once, "We have to win the contest."
"Shampoo no care if stupid lovebirds want honeymoon too. She only want cure for curse!"
Ranma nodded, "Yea, and if that Pantyhose Taro was able to get cured, then we sure as hell should be able to. We have to win that contest!"
Both suddenly jumped up and ran out, a look of determination on their face. Turning away from this, Nabiki smiled. "Well, I think that worked nicely. Now we just have to convince them that Akane is forcing Mousse to marry him and vice versa. That will finally set things straight. . . well. . . sort of."
"And this whole fiancé mess will finally be sorted out," Kasumi smiled as she sipped at her tea, "How wonderful it will be! No more smashed walls or windows, no more wedding intrusions, no more ruined dinners. . . ahh. . .yes, it will be wonderful indeed."
"Yes, that is something I'm most definitely look forward to, " Nabiki suddenly stopped as she stared at the table to the other side of them. "Oh no."
"What is it, Nabiki?"
"You know how we were speaking pretty loudly?" Nabiki combed her fingers through her hair, "Well, I think Ryoga and Ukyo might have heard us as well."
"Oh my. You don't think. . . you don't think they'll get involved, will they?"
Nabiki massaged her temples as she took off her mask, "If Ryoga heard about the cure for the curse, I'm sure he will, but as for Ukyo. . . I don't know. If Ryoga finds out about Akane and Mousse, then maybe he'll ask her, but if Ukyo finds out about Ranma and Shampoo, she might just do it any way. Crap, this really is going to get hectic. When Ranma and Akane are involved, it always leads to more chaos. First all the fiancées will come, . . "
". . and then all the rivals?" Kasumi supplied helpfully.
"Right," Nabiki buried her face in her hands, "Kasumi. . what have we done? We just turned this into a war."
Kasumi smiled as she took off her own mask. Reaching across the table, she patted her sister on the shoulder, "So is love."
Nabiki raised her head quickly and stared at her sister. "You know what? We still have to convince Ranma and Shampoo that the two 'love birds' are being forced to marry one another."
"Oh yes. I forgot about that. How do you want to proceed about that?"
"Well, you remember when we first met Shampoo? And you remember that little book she gave us to explain the laws? Well, I've been reading it recently and I-"
Both women looked up to see a red-faced waitress stalking toward their table. Nabiki grimaced and Kasumi looked a little confused. Grabbing her sister's hand, Nabiki jumped from the table, "Kasumi run! They're going to make us-"
"YOU FREE LOADERS! COME BACK AND PAY YOUR BILL!"
Kasumi looked at her sister with a disapproving frown. "Nabiki. . . how many times have I told you. . ."
"Not now! I'll do it next time, I swear!"
"Oh Nabiki. . ," standing up, Kasumi turned to the waitress with a small frown, "I'm sorry ma'am. We would have paid earlier, but we're currently trying to help our little sister and her friend join with their loved ones . . and well. . it got a little messy. I do hope you'll forgive us."
The waitress went through a rainbow of emotions as Kasumi talked to her. From angry to confused, to sad and understanding, the waitress listened to Kasumi's little story. With tears in her eyes, she grasped Kasumi's hands lightly. "Oh, don't worry about it. We've just had a few martial artists in here lately that never 'remember' to pay. It's been hard. But I understand now. Bless you! Trying to help your sister and her friend with their love problems. . . you truly are a saint! And don't worry about the bill, it's on the house. After all, a few drinks are nothing to worry about."
"Are you sure? You must at least take a tip," Kasumi beamed a big smile at the waitress and pulled some coins from her apron.
"Yukino?" Came a voice from the kitchen.
"Oh thank you, miss. You're too kind. I do hope you are able to succeed with your plan."
"Yukinooo. . "
"Thank you so much. I'll have to come here again," Kasumi smiled again.
"I'll be looking forward to it."
"Oops, guess I better go. Good-bye!" The waitress waved as an angry chef came from the kitchen and started dragging her away by the collar.
As Kasumi and Nabiki left the restaurant, Kasumi noticed her sister staring at her. "What is it, Nabiki?"
Shaking her head in amazement, Nabiki simply asked, "How do you do that?"
With a look of utter confusion, Kasumi simply tilted her head to the side, "Do what?"
"Forget about it," she huffed, throwing her hands up in exasperation, "Now, about this forced marriage. . . "
"Where is Kasumi, Ranma?"
"I don't know, Shampoo. Let's split up and look for her. You look upstairs and I'll search down here."
With a nod, the Amazon quickly bound up the stairs. As Ranma was coming out from the kitchen he suddenly heard the door open and voices usher into the house. He smiled when he saw that it was two of the Tendo sisters. Yet, as he walked closer and they caught sight of him, they both suddenly grew silent and simply stared at him.
Both looked at each other as if nervously. Stepping forward, Kasumi laid a gentle hand on Ranma's forearm. "You mean you haven't heard?"
Ranma smile began to droop as he saw how Kasumi was acting. "Heard . . . what?"
Gazing back and forth across the room, Nabiki stepped closer as well. "Are any of your friends here with you?"
Staring at Nabiki with a confused frown, he replied, "Yea, Shampoo's upstairs. She was helping me look for Kasumi, here. Why?"
Both sisters suddenly glanced at one another. What is going on here, Ranma wondered. Before he could ask, Kasumi turned to him. "Ranma, I need to tell you this in private. . . let Nabiki walk Shampoo back home. Okay?"
"Okay," Ranma answered awkwardly and called out, "Hey Shampoo! I found 'em."
"Good, good! Now Shampoo ask for dance lessons," the girl smiled as she bounced eagerly down the stairs.
Neither noticed the quick grin exchanged between the two sisters. "Hey Kasumi, can you teach us. . .eh. . . how to dance?"
Kasumi smiled weakly and nodded, "Of course Ranma. I would love to. Just out of curiosity though, why do you want to learn now?"
Ranma's mouth broke in a crooked grin. "Um. . . well. . ya know. . . There's this contest and-"
"Shampoo and Ranma just want to learn is all. Shampoo only know some Amazon dances, but Shampoo want to learn new ones. Please, can you teach us? Yes, please?"
Nabiki smiled inwardly as she saw the Amazon smile and clasp her hands together. This was too easy. . . .
Kasumi sighed as if the whole world weighed down on her heavily. "Of course. . . I can start teaching you tomorrow. For the meantime though, you better get home Shampoo."
"That's right," interjected Nabiki with a cocked finger to the side, "I believe your grandmother was looking for you. . ."
"Ai-yah! Shampoo hope grandmother isn't too too angry," Shampoo yelped, heading toward the door, "Bye-bye Ranma, Shampoo see you tomorrow."
Grasping the Amazon's arm carefully, Nabiki stepped forward, "Wait one second Shampoo. Let me walk you home. I need to ask your grandmother something."
"Okay, but hurry. Shampoo no want to be too late," she mumbled as she slipped on her shoes.
As soon as the front door slid shut, Kasumi turned toward Ranma. Odd, she thought, he seems a little distracted. . . . maybe even a little depressed. . . She turned toward him, "Ranma, would you care to help me prepare some tea?"
"Hmm? Oh yea. Sure thing Kasumi," Ranma mumbled slowly.
Walking toward the kitchen, Kasumi smiled. Now Ranma and she needed to have a little chat. . .
"So. . . Shampoo. . . how are things going on at the Neko Haten by the way?"
Shampoo threw an annoyed glance at the Tendo girl. She was walking this slow and was trying to make conversation? If this girl didn't know Ranma she would. . .
"Things are fine. Business is good and customers keep coming. All good," Shampoo said with a smile plastered on her face.
Nabiki grinned as she looked at her nails in the streetlight. Now for the real ice breaker.
"So how's Mousse been?"
Shampoo froze for a moment and stood rigid. Nabiki stopped and stared back at her with pseudo concern. "Are you alright, Shampoo?"
Shrugging it off, Shampoo balled her fists and strode forward. "Shampoo fine, thank you!"
"Oh. . .that's good. . . but how is Mousse?"
Her eyebrow twitched at the sound of the name. "He fine."
Brushing nonchalantly at invisible lint on her sleeve, Nabiki continued the inquisition, "Oh well that's good to hear. I wasn't sure how your grandmother would take it that he, an Amazon male, is dating an outsider."
The violet hair about Shampoo's shoulders swung to her right as she threw her head to the side in a cheeky denial. "No, grandmother no care about stupid duck boy. He date anyone he please. She actually happy he date Tendo girl."
Nabiki feigned shock and lifted her eyebrows. "Really now? I'm surprised she's not furious. What with Akane forcing Mousse to marry him and all. . . ."
Shampoo stopped for the second time. Her whole body was stiff as she turned her wide eyes toward Nabiki. "What you say?"
Clasping a hand to her mouth (really to cover her grin), Nabiki stared back at Shampoo, aghast. "You mean you really haven't heard about this? I thought everyone knew. . . especially you."
Her eyes wide, Shampoo stalked toward Nabiki. "What happen? Tell Shampoo!"
"Oh of course I'll tell you," Nabiki smiled as she held her hand out.
"What this for?" Shampoo asked looking down at the girl's hand.
"Hey, if you want the info, I need to see the money," Nabiki said with a grin.
Shampoo grumbled as she dumped the contents of her pockets into Nabiki's hand. Counting quickly through the cluster of yen, Nabiki looked up and frowned. "This is little for something so juicy. . . but I'll give you a break this once."
"Well," Nabiki started, pocketing the money quickly, "it all started when Akane left home one day, angry as usual at some comment Ranma made about her cooking, when she ran into Mousse. He had just finished a delivery. Akane was already so furious that when she saw him, she just went ballistic and attacked him. Mousse unfortunately had forgotten his glasses and was eventually knocked out by Akane.
I guess Akane remembered the Amazon rules from you Ranma knocked you out, so she demanded that he date her. I guess she was just so jealous of you and Ranma hanging around each other so much that she wanted to get back at Ranma by making him jealous. But, I don't think she understands what she got herself into. Then I guess the tribal council heard about their little dates, and because they believed Mousse would never be able to marry someone (because of course he wasn't beating you), they approved the marriage, or really demanded it.
So now, they're dating and apparently, when they finish some contest, they're going to use the money from it and get married. . . Crazy, huh? Don't mention it to Ranma or anyone else though, or this 'free' information will end up costing you. Oh, it looks like we made it. I'll see you later."
Shampoo still stunned, barely caught the last bit. "But wait! Didn't you say you need to talk to grandmother?"
Nabiki scratched her head lightly. "Eh. . . it's late and I'm tired. I'll talk to her tomorrow. Bye."
Waving lightly toward Nabiki's retreating back, Shampoo mumbled out a good-bye and stood for a while near the entrance. So that was what was going on. They always had seemed like an awkward couple. . . and the way that Mousse always treated her so nicely. . . and that kiss in the alley. . .
Shampoo wrung her hands. She was so confused. . . did she like Mousse? Did he really like her? Crouching toward the ground, she put her face in her hands. Why was this all happening to her? She was an Amazon warrior, wasn't she? Warriors weren't supposed to feel this way. . . especially over an inferior male.
Curling her arms around herself and leaning against the wall, she leaned her forehead on her forearm. Beneath her arms, she muttered, "Stupid duck-boy. . ."
Suddenly, she heard a door swing open and the two bells above the door tinkle lightly. "Shampoo?"
Staring upward, she looked into Mousse's face. "No. . anybody but him. . .," Shampoo thought, quickly looking back down. "I can't deal with him. . . not now."
"What do you want Mousse," Shampoo asked slipping back into her native tongue and starting to stand.
"Oh, nothing. I just saw someone near the door and was just wondering who it was. Are you alright?"
"Yes, yes, just fin-!" Shampoo let out a little yelp as her foot slid forward from under her. Suddenly, two strong arms braced her upwards and held her lightly.
After blushing hotly for a moment, Shampoo steadied herself and walked out of his bracing arms. "I don't need your help duck-boy," Shampoo muttered, flicking her hair behind her carelessly as she grabbed for the door, "I'm not a little girl."
She stifled a gasp when she felt his hand wrap around her wrist. Turning back wearily, she tried to mask the emotions riveting through her face. He gazed at her silently as he held her hand. Shampoo's eyes flicked back and forth as she stared back at him, her voice quiet at her lips. She just hoped he didn't feel her pulse, beating crazily as her heart raced. Yet, although all these emotions were racing through her, she felt a silence overwhelm her as she wondered what he could be thinking.
"No, you're not a little girl," he murmured, his eyes linked with hers, "And I'm not a little boy. We're both grown."
He let her hand slip from his as he stepped closer. Shampoo felt her whole body flush as Mousse continued to gaze down at her. A lump formed in her dry throat as she tried to mouth words, something to try to communicate with him. "Yet, that doesn't mean we can't accept help from others."
Shampoo shivered as he pushed past her and went inside. With folded arms, she grabbed at her shoulders and leaned against the wall. This boy, what. . . what was he doing to her? Her emotions were tossed about in a storm every time she laid eyes on him. It was as if she were watching herself from above, uncontrolled and wild. It almost felt like she was going crazy. She felt like she wasn't sure of anything any more. Mousse was being forced to marry Akane, right? Then why did he seem so happy around her? She thought. . . she thought that he liked her. . .
Suddenly, the bell above the door clanged as the door was nudged open. A bit teary eyed, she turned with a gasp. Could it be? Her heart began to flutter in her chest. With a name already on her lips, she whispered, "Mu Tsu. . . "
"Excuse me? Do I look like that idiot duck? You haven't been using any of the other drugs that last merchant snuck into the restaurant? Come here girl, let me check your eyes! If you've been using those drugs so help me, I'll. . . I'll. . !"
BAM! "Ouch! Great grandmother, I swear that I didn't use them! I was just confused! Sorry, sorry! Please stop hitting me!"
"You better not have," Cologne huffed as she pulled her staff away, "Or else I'll send you back to China!. . . I swear. . . mistaking me for that duck. . . Just get in here before I lock you out!"
Rubbing her sore head and muttering soft curses in Chinese, Shampoo stepped into the restaurant and watched as her grandmother hopped up the stairs on her gnarled staff. "That stupid duck boy got me in trouble again!"
Reaching her door upstairs, she grabbed her head gently and turned the handle. Suddenly, she felt something move behind her. But, before she could turn to see who it was, she felt a quick peck on her cheek. She knew she should be mad. She should have turned around and strangled him. But. . . . she didn't.
All she could do was breathe. . . and that was pretty difficult.
A soft whisper blew small wisps of her hair away from her ear as she heard his voice, "Good-night, Xian Pu."
She stood there, her body flushed. Even after she heard the door slide shut to Mousse's room, she remained there standing, her hand still to the door. Realizing how she must look, she quickly stepped inside and slid the door shut. Her back against the door, she took a deep breath. . . and smiled.
"Ranma, do you like my little sister?"
Hearing such a frank question, Ranma nearly spit up his tea. Taking a big gulp, Ranma scratched his head nervously and turned to Kasumi with a crooked smile. "Sure I guess. . . Nabiki's okay when she's not trying to steal your money."
Kasumi's mouth was turned up in a little smile as she set down her tea lightly. "No, no. I was talking about my other little sister. . . Akane."
Suddenly, Ranma thought, the ceiling was utterly fascinating. "Um. . . well. . .yea. . I guess she's alright. You know, when she's not trying to hit me or kill me with her toxic food."
"Oh, I see. . . . I guess you wouldn't really care then. . ."
Turning his eyes toward her, he watched as she poured another cup of tea for herself. "Care about what?" he asked anxiously.
"Oh my," Kasumi cradled her cheek in her hand as she looked at him with surprise, "You mean you really don't know?"
Ranma felt his skin crawl as Kasumi looked at him that way. "No, I guess I don't. What is it?"
"Oh dear, I thought you knew about this whole situation between Akane and Mousse. I mean she mentioned it to me, but I would have thought she'd have told it to you as well . . hmm. . . perhaps it was for the best not to. I mean it might have made you angry after all," Kasumi spoke with a pondering look on her face.
Edging closer to Kasumi, Ranma felt looked at her anxiously. "What Kasumi? What is it?"
Turning back to him she smiled softly, almost as if she felt bad for him, "Oh Ranma, Akane's being forced into marriage."
"Yes, I know it's awful," Kasumi sighed, placing her hand to her chest, "I guess Mousse forgot his glasses and accidentally knocked Akane out with one of his weapons (he thought it was you). At first, he simply tried to help her up, but when he found out it was Akane, he thought of you and Shampoo hanging out so much lately. So, he figured that he'd make you jealous by hanging out with Akane and therefore making Shampoo jealous by distracting you and dating Akane.
At first he told Akane about it and she agreed in order to help him win Shampoo over," Kasumi continued, sighing, "But then, I guess word of this ordained 'marriage' reached the Amazon tribe, via Cologne, and well. . . now they're stuck together. The tribe threatened to ostracize Mousse from his tribe and his family if he didn't go through with it and Akane. . .
Ranma scooted closer and gripped the table edge tightly in his fists.
". . they told Akane that they would take the dojo as compensation for voiding their combat-marriage laws. It's terrible," Kasumi sighed and wiped a "tear" from her eye.
"But wait. . . . who cares about the stupid dojo!" Ranma yelled as he jumped up from the table
"Ranma. . . we care," Kasumi whispered, looking shocked, "That's our family history. We can't just give that up. And I know that Akane couldn't let Mousse just be cut off from his family. Not to a friend whose become so close. So. . . well, I guess they're stuck together now. They're going to use the money from the dance contest to get married and for their honeymoon."
"But there's gotta be some other way!" Ranma yelled, stalking back and forth, "I mean she can't just marry him! She's my fiancée. I mean, they don't even love each other. . . right?"
Kasumi turned away. "I guess not. But they have been awfully friendly as of late. . . ."
Ranma blanched at her words and sank down to the floor, digging his fingers through his thick locks. Seeing his frustrated state, Kasumi smiled. Resuming her sober expression, she turned to him, ". . hmmm. . .," she mumbled as if coming upon a revelation, "no, no, that wont work. . "
Turning, Ranma stared at her vividly and jumped next to her, on his knees and practically begging. "What, what is it?"
"Well. . . you know how if the Amazon laws work? Like how Shampoo was trying to kill you at first and then ended up trying to marry you? Well, if you and Shampoo were to beat Akane and Mousse in the dancing contest, maybe. . . just maybe, it would cancel out the Amazon laws because then Mousse would be beaten and would have to forfeit his 'claim' and Akane would be beaten and look like an unworthy bride for an Amazon male."
Ranma's eyes grew wide, "You're right! That'll probably work. Thanks Kasumi, you're a genius! Wow, I've got to tell Shampoo about this-"
"Don't worry," Kasumi quickly interjected, grabbing onto Ranma's arm, "Nabiki explained the situation to Shampoo as well. She understands. I don't think she told her of this plan to beat Akane and Mousse in the contest though. If you bring her here early tomorrow, I can start teaching you two."
"Okay, I'll get her tomorrow," Ranma yelled as he ran up the steps to his room.
"Oh, and Ranma?"
He turned quickly, "Yea, Kasumi?"
"Don't mention any of this to Akane or Mousse, you don't want them intentionally knowing that you're trying to beat them. Let's keep it a secret so they wont expect it, okay?"
Ranma frowned for a moment, but sharply nodded before heading up the stairs, "You're right. I won't say a word."
Kasumi watched as him until he disappeared from her site. Quietly, she gathered the tea cups and went into the kitchen. Looking about once more, she grabbed the phone and quickly dialed a number. When the ring stopped she heard a soft, "Hello?"
"Nabiki, he fell for it. Did Shampoo?"
"Hook, line, and sinker. Did you tell Ranma of the way to 'break up the marriage?'"
"Yes, he just ran upstairs now. Oh Nabiki," Kasumi giggled, "This is so much fun! I feel like a spy!"
"That's great," Nabiki laughed as she heard her sister's enthusiasm, "Just don't mess up and get caught. Alright, I'll see you when I get home. Bye."
As Ranma ascended the stairs, his mind was pregnant with the things Kasumi had just revealed to him. So that was the reason why Akane had been acting so weird lately. "Damn that stupid duck," he thought angrily, clutching a fist tightly, "If he had just worn his thick glasses, he wouldn't have caused this whole mess."
Sighing, he scratched his head as he opened the door to his room. As he looked to his left he grimaced. "Stupid panda," he muttered as he stepped over his father and toward the window. I guess him and Mr. Tendo didn't know about Akane and Mousse. They were probably too dense. Shaking his head, he opened his window and, grabbing the frame of the window above him, threw his body out the window. While in mid-flight, he suddenly twisted like a cat and threw himself backwards.
And with the grace of a trained martial artist, he landed lightly on his feet, barely tapping against the roof top tiles. This was always the best place for him to think. Stretching out on the roof top, he laid his head on his crossed arms and looked up at the stars. Maybe it all would work out, he thought as he closed his eyes.
Akane couldn't love that dumb duck. . .
Ranma's eyes snapped open. Turning over with surprise written all over his face, Ranma found a face peering down at his.
"H. . .Hey Akane."
Akane smiled as she sat down next to him, "Can't sleep?"
"Yea, I guess," he sighed as he watched her, looking out to the stars.
"I can't either," she said as she threaded her fingers through her hair, "I guess I've got way too much on my mind."
"Tell me about it," Ranma mumbled with a sigh.
They sat there for a little while, both lost in thought. Ranma couldn't begin to fathom what she was thinking about. Turning toward her, he watched her. She seemed so care free. . . .could . . . could she really love him?
"Akane. . . Do you lov-"
"What was that Ranma?" she asked, turning to him with a smile.
He froze as she gazed at him, "Err. . . nothing. Forget it."
As he turned away from her, Ranma didn't see Akane frown. "Well, I guess I should go inside. It's starting to get cold."
Before she got up, Ranma sat up and quickly grabbed at her wrist. "Wait, Akane."
With a blush on her face, she mumble a small, "What?"
Ranma's own face flushed and he gulped. "A. . Are you happy? I mean . . . with how everything is right now?"
"I. . I guess," she muttered in response, her face red in the darkness.
Ranma watched her face and felt something grow cold inside of him. So she did love him. . . she wasn't sad at all. He let go of her wrist and sank back to the roof. Turning his back to her he muttered, "I see."
Akane was getting frustrated now. What was up with him? Was he trying to mess with her head? She stalked toward the edge of the roof before she turned back to yell at him, "Would you make up your mind! If you're going to be nice for once, then do so. Don't suddenly switch to being a jerk!"
Ranma whipped around with a frown. "Well I'm sure the duck boy can cheer ya up! After all, he seems to be the only one in your life these days!"
Akane scoffed, the anger beginning to boil. "Oh really! It seems to me that you've been spending an awfully lot of time with Shampoo lately! Are you sure you're not confused? How many times have you guys kissed? After all it seems like you two are pretty friendly!"
Ranma jumped to his feet and blurted out, "We haven't kissed!" then Ranma paused and began twiddling his thumbs, "Well, . . . I mean. . . not like that. . . I mean she has kissed me before but I didn- I mean, that doesn't matter! We haven't really kissed, unlike you and four-eyes!"
With a huff Akane felt her anger sizzle to the surface, "Well at least. ."
Anger can make people do stupid things. Akane was quite aware of this fact. . . that was of course after her anger subsided. Thankfully she was able to think somewhat clearly through it. . .
". . . Mousse is a good kisser!"
. . . but then again, there are other ways to slip up.
As soon as Akane uttered those words, she clamped her hands over her mouth. Crap, she thought frantically, what the heck am I saying! We haven't actually kissed! She looked at Ranma and saw his head bowed down. Oh no! she thought as a frown appeared on her face. She may have just blown her last chance with Ranma with that comment. . .
Suddenly Ranma's head jerked upwards and he stared at her, flames burning in his eyes. "Are you saying I'm not a good kisser!"
Akane nearly fell flat on her face. This was ridiculous. . . but she wasn't going to walk away defeated! "Maybe I am!"
Ranma grinned haughtily and brushed back his bangs flippantly. "Well, I've been told by a lot of girls that I am indeed an excellent kisser."
Folding her arms across her chest, Akane stared at him cynically. "Uh-huh. Sure they have. For crying out loud, you sound like Mikado Sanzenin!"
With a shiver, Ranma's arrogance slipped from his face. He turned angrily toward her. "Don't ever compare me to that weirdo! I might not have kissed a lot of girls, but I'm not a bad kisser! I bet I'm better than you!"
Flustered and angry, Akane blurted, "Prove it then!"
Anger was indeed not Akane's best friend.
Ranma blinked for a moment when he heard this. Did she really just say that? Yet, when he glanced at her, he saw her smirk with confidence. His doubts were quickly forgotten as he saw it. Oh heck no. There was no way a Saotome was going to give up a challenge that easily.
He swiftly strode over the edge of the roof where she was waiting for him. She on the other hand tried to cover up the shock she was feeling. What was wrong with her? Where in the world did that come from? But then, suddenly he was there, standing in front of her and gazing down at her eyes.
Both were nervous and flustered. . . .
"Well are you going to kiss me or not?"
. . . but neither was going to admit defeat.
"I am, I am," Ranma muttered, lightly grabbing her shoulders, "I just gotta get ready!"
Both stared at either expectantly and challengingly. Ranma began to lean in. Akane stared, her eyes wide and yet still stubborn to not give in. Ranma stared down at her as he leaned forward. A few inches away, he muttered, "Okay, you gotta shut your eyes! I can't kiss you with you glaring at me like that!"
"Hmph!" Akane shut her eyes.
Well, Ranma thought as Akane closed her eyes, at least she's not staring at me like before. That'll make this easier. As he leaned in closer, both could feel each others body heat, both nervous, but too stubborn to admit it. And although Akane couldn't see Ranma's close proximity with her now, she could certainly feel it. An uncontrolled shiver ran through her body and she felt her face flush.
Then Ranma saw the light blush tinge her cheeks in the moonlight. . . Okay, so maybe this wont be so easy. Dang! Why does she have to be so damn cute?
Closing his eyes, Ranma leaned close. Both were just centimeters away from one another. Their lips just almost touching-
Both suddenly snapped their eyes open. Bending slightly over the edge, Ranma's hands still on Akane's shoulders, they gazed over the side of the roof. A few sweat drops ran down the back of their necks. How in the world. . .
"Awww! Come on! I needed one more inch and my final photo would have captured the moment!" Nabiki frowned and snapped her fingers as she let her camera fall back around her neck.
"Oh Nabiki! You shouldn't have taken that last picture. They would have actually kissed," Kasumi softly chastised.
"Come on boy, show her the ol' Saotome charm!" Genma grinned broadly.
"Yes, son, don't stop on our account, go ahead! Unite our two schools!" Soun smiled, waving his hand.
As the other residents of the Tendo household (except Ranma and Akane) took turns leaning out Akane's bedroom window and looking up at the two embarrassed teens, more calls were made.
"Come on, just kiss her already! This picture will make me a ton of money!"
"You can do it Ranma, my boy! Just swoop in and steal a kiss!"
"You too Akane, don't keep the boy waiting, kiss him!"
"It's not what you think!" They shouted in unison.
Ranma and Akane quickly put a few feet between them. Unfortunately, both forgot that they were on the edge of the roof. Akane's heel slipped over the edge and she let out a yelp as she fell backwards. She curled her body as she tried to soften her landing.
Suddenly she felt herself stop. Cracking an eye open, she looked up. Ranma's eyes searched hers. "Are you okay?"
A pink blush flushing her cheeks, she simply mumbled, "Mm-hmm."
"Good," he smiled with relief.
They stood like this for a few moments, just looking at each other. It seemed like time stood still as they gazed into each other's eyes, having no idea what to do.
"Okay then. . . kiss her now!"
Of course, they could always get some suggestions. . .
Realizing that he was still holding her, minutes after they had already landed, Ranma quickly set Akane to her feet. "Err. . . sorry," he whispered.
Then, turning toward the people leaning out of the window he shouted, "Shut up already!"
He glanced back down to see Akane walking inside. "It's not like we're gonna kiss anyway," he murmured.
With a sigh he scratched his head and started to head inside. As he was walking toward his room, he suddenly heard a small whisper, "Ranma?"
He froze and whipped around. There was Akane, gazing at him softly. Checking her left and right, she quickly walked over to him, and standing on her tiptoes, kissed him lightly on the lips.
Stepping away, she smiled, "Don't worry about earlier. You can prove it to me later."
With that, she quickly went in to her room and shut the door. Ranma on the other hand was still frozen. After a few moments, a smile grew on his lips as his posture straightened and he touched his lips. He quietly walked to his room and shut the door behind him.
The other house members, having already left Akane's room and sitting downstairs were suddenly started when the heard a loud shout of joy from upstairs.
Wow. . . long, long time since I've updated. Goodness gracious. I meant to make this long, but whoo! That took a long time! A few writers' blocks, exams, and such later and I finally got this done. . . YES:) So happy indeed.
Well, I'm not gonna make my author's note long or nothing cause I'm extremely tired and I just want to post this.
patpat21: Don't worry, this is definitely a Ranma/Akane and Shampoo/Mousse story. :)
frozenangel1992: Well, I got a few, but I finally got it out! Hope you like it.
Lacey52: Thank you for your nice comment! Well, I know I'm prone to making stupid grammatical mistakes and such. Hope I made less this time. I've got to go back through my chapters and edit. Just haven't had much time as of late. Thanks for pointing that out though!
tsuki-chan: You're so nice:) Wow. I think you made my day. And about Mousse? I guess I just love his character too much. He's better in the manga though, I think.
Yamchas Big Pants: HAHAHA! I love your pen name! HAHAHAHA! Thank you for the comment! Yes, Mousse it one of my favorite characters as well. Goofy as he is. :)
AmberFox and Lyell: Hahaha! I like your comments. If I announced little glimpses into the next chap, I would have definitely used yours. Thanks for the comments!
Ryogas-Baby-Gurl: Hmm. I didn't think about that! But then, I dunno. We'll just have to see. I'm glad you got to do your dance as well. I hope this long butt update makes ya happy. :)
ForgottenSmile: You mean like not updating in forever? Sorry. I know it's bad, but with all this biology and such I've been studying for, a LOT has been on my mind besides this story. But thanks for the encouragement. :)
dracolov: Phew! What a relief! I didn't want to die. . I still have to pay off my loans:)
Quiggibub: And look! In this time I did it in almost a year! Awesome, no:)
Den Scurman: I hope Nabiki and Kasumi's little plot put a smile on your face. It put one on mine. :)
Roja-Cyd: Well, sorry this one took as long as it did, but I'm glad you understand. I'm in college now and I hardly have any time. Study, study. :)
glazedlookineyes101: I appreciate your comments very much! Believe you me, I do need a bit of constructive criticism (a lot ). I understand what you meant about the "fake romance" as well. It's kind of getting annoying for me too. I hope this helps stimulate your enthusiasm a little more. I tried to really think about a good way to end this (because I usually end up doing that at the very end. . .unfortunately :( ). I'm not going to end it on quite the same note you suggested, but it will be interesting.
All reviews are welcome! Thank you all who have reviewed and continued to read/review on this. Hope you enjoyed it.