Chapter 1 Starting out
"Ranma! Wait up, you jerk!" Akane yelled.
"What now?" Ranma replied from his post on the fence.
"And where do you think you're going? This isn't the way home!"
"Aww c'mon now Akane, I'm just goin to the mall to do some shopping." he continued walking.
"Humph! I'll bet you're just saying that so you can go flirt with your cute fiancee! Fine! see if I care!" Akane turned and began walking away.
"Now Akane! It ain't like that! Aww geez! Ya never listen to what I'm sayin, don't you? You're so uncute!"
Akane stopped, her aura flaring up, and she turned back to him. "Oh yeah? So how come you JUST HAPPEN to be walking towards Okonomiyaki Ucchan's then?"
"I SAID I'm headin to the mall! It's THAT way!" he pointed in a direction, "Ucchan's place is THAT way!" he pointed in a direction slightly to the left, "This street heads THIS way, and then I'm gonna head THAT way, then THAT way, then I'll be at the MALL! Don't you ever understand the meaning of coincidence" Each gesture getting more fierce with each word and ended with him spreading his arms out to each side. "Geez! Get a grip Akane! It ain't like I'm cheatin on ya or nuthin! Besides, dontcha hate my guts or sumthin? So why do you care what I'm doin?"
Yes, it was the dreaded Saotome Anything-Goes Foot-in-Mouth Technique.
"Ranma no BAKA!" Akane pulled out her mallet and gave him a whallop meant to send him to the moon.
However, Ranma decided he couldn't afford the time it would take to get back and pulled out a quick little trick from Taro he learned. He pulled out some pantyhose he had confiscated from Happosai and snagged the top of the telephone pole just as he passed by it. He used the rebound to slow his ascension to the heavens and managed to get himself under control. She had run off to go home to sulk, but she was just passing under his pole. He remembered a little trick from an American comic he once saw and decided to have a bit of fun with Akane. He slid down the pantyhose upside down ala Spiderman and poked her back. "Hey, that wasn't very nice, there Akane, I TOLD you I'm just heading to the mall for this new hobby of mine."
She spun around and gave him a hearty smack on the cheek. Her hand throbbing (and Ranma's face for that matter), she cried out angrily, "Don't scare me like that! You should have been gone for an hour!" then she noticed what he was hanging on, "YOU PERVERT! And you're getting more like Happosai every day!"
Ranma let go and flipped over to land on his feet, "No, I was gonna to return these to their rightful owners which the old freak stole, but I had to use it so I wouldn't take an hour to get to the store! It's gonna close soon and it'll take a while to get there. The place I'm going to go to is in central Tokyo. Yeah, sorry for lyin to ya like that Akane, but I really am going shopping. As for the pantyhose, well, you remember Taro, right? And now it's ruined because of you!"
Akane looked at it for a moment, and indeed it was quite stretched. "Oh..."
"Anyway, the subway's that way also, so that's where I'm heading. Now if you will excuse me, I've got a long way to go. Tell Kasumi that I'm not going to have dinner."
Suddenly, Akane got angry. "Oh I'll bet you heard somehow that I was going to cook tonight since Kasumi's going out, is that it?"
"Really? Well, sorry, but I didn't know that." Ranma was just about to say 'And it's a good thing I'm going to be late then, isn't it?' when he had a quick image. It was a Chibi-Ranma saying that, then a Chibi-Akane turning blood-red, then Chibi-Akane smashing Chibi-Ranma out to Pluto. He decided not to comment any further. He was going to be really late as it was. Maybe he'd have to camp out for the night. He wished he had his camping gear. "Well, anyway, I REALLY gotta get going. It will probably take me the whole night to get back, and since it's not a school day tomorrow, I'll probably be back later tomorrow. Sorry Akane, about me not being there to eat your...pause...food, but I really didn't know you were cooking today. Honest! And when have I ever WANTED to not eat Kasumi's cooking?"
He mentally congratulated himself for getting himself out of that sticky situation. Anything-Goes prevent-Foot-in-Mouth Technique. He just made it up on the spot, and surprisingly, he found that it was easier to think about thinking before talking in martial arts terms. Find what the opponent WANTS to hear and say it without offending them, but winning the battle nonetheless. It sure beat the older technique, and a lot less painful for all concerned...mainly himself. He'd have to write down this technique; it was quite effective.
"O-okay, well good night then. Hope you don't catch anything so you could spread it to me!" Yeah, she still had to argue, but Ranma found it had the slightest touch of caring in her tone. Yes, the technique is a success. She turned huffily, but Ranma could tell it was faked.
"Cya around Akane!" He waved and turned to go on towards the subway.
'Now what is Ranma going to get me?' Akane absentmindedly wondered as she continued on home. She gave a mental giggle. 'Is he finally getting me an engagement ring by himself?'
After a few minutes, another thought came through 'I wonder how he managed to keep the money from Nabiki?'
Ranma came off the subway in central Tokyo and went outside. She mentally cursed/thanked whoever decided to throw out their wash through their window. Cursed because she hated being drenched so unexpectedly. Thanked because it made what she wanted to do a whole lot easier. It would be much less embarassing this way.
Earlier, he had watched a tournament as he was passing the living room, and wondered how there could be such martial artists around that he had never seen before. After watching for a while, he noticed the camera constantly switching to some younger person, usually a girl, with some strange headset that covered their eyes with a pink-colored visor. Wondering what was up with it, he asked Kasumi what that was.
She told him it was Angelic Layer and it was beginning to catch into a terrific craze throughout Japan. Wondering what the heck was Angelic Layer, Ranma found that the fighters were actually miniature dolls that the person with the visor was controlling with their mind. At first he was going to dismiss it and watch their fighting styles when he heard mention of a great prize. It was a way to get out of debt to Nabiki! He thought that if anyone could fight, whether it be in a full out bout or a miniature battle, he would fight too and win. Of that, there was no doubt. It basically all came down to the basic instincts and fighting forms.
He continued to watch, and saw the girl Suzuhara Misaki was winning with excellent technique. There was a girl who could fight. Although she looked pretty scrawny and wore an outfit that made fighting in a real hassle, he thought that she must also be an excellent fighter in real life as well. The screen said that she was last year's champion of all Japan with only 1 loss in the first local tournament. It also mentioned it was her first time ever playing Angelic Layer. Now that was impressive. If she could get into a game like that and win so constantly, she must have been training for quite some time. He wondered briefly if she was training in real life, or training on the Layer with her doll.
When the battle ended, he began to reevaluate his opinions of her. Getting off the egg-like seat, she clumsily fell off and landed on her face. When the stadium reporter came to her, she spoke shyly and blushed a lot. He also noticed she had no muscle to speak of at all. She, basically, was a wimp! But how did she do so well in the game? That fighting style was basically on par with Anything Goes! Quite flashy, and took to the air quite a lot. But there were small holes in her defence, but her speed, agility, and quick reaction time made up quite a bit for it. When she fought, she concentrated with all her might and was a really quick thinker. The style was also very rough. It wasn't from any direct school of martial arts that he could tell. Perhaps it was a secretive family style such as his? Whatever it was, it was good, and effective on the Layer.
Ranma may never admit it out loud, but he knew that he used the same skills whenever he fought. He could evaluate a situation instantly, looking for holes, advantages, and counter-moves several steps before an opponent even knew what was happening. He noticed that at times, his girl-form was built to better handle that kind of thinking. She could do things that were much more difficult to do when he was a guy. But from that, she couldn't do as much damage unless she caught her opponent unprepared and in a very vulnerable spot. He wondered then, could he possibly do the same? Could he, Ranma Saotome, fight as effectivly without using his physical body in these fights? It had something to do with those headsets, and seemed that willpower was a major factor. That must mean Misaki also had a powerful will. Smarts, quick reactions, will, strategy, a self-made martial art, a truely powerful fighting spirit? This was a prodigy. If his idiot of a father ever wanted to make another powerful martial artist, he wouldn't hesitate twice to take her on some stupid training mission. He hoped that baka-panda wouldn't notice the potential the girl had.
Watching some more fights, an advertisement told what stores had these dolls and there Ranma began his secret plans. This seemed that it would be quite a bit of fun!
So now she stood in front of the department store, dressed in the usual chinese red silk shirt and black pants, she mentally prepared herself to buy a doll. She mentally winced at the thought of what her mom would say. 'Getting a doll is not manly!' she would say and would bring out the tanto on the spot. That meant she would have to get a disguise whenever she came to a televised event. And a secret name. Hmm...well, that would have to come later. She figured in the number of people in the stadium, there were certainly lots of strangely colored hairstyles in Central Tokyo that another red-head wouldn't make as great a fuss. She would just let her hair out of the pigtail. She once again breathed a sigh of relief the Dragon Whisker finally lost its power.
Then she would be able to show off her martial...oh crap! If her father, or the Tendo's ever saw her fighting in Anything Goes, her cover, disguise or not, would instantly be blown. Crap! Now she wouldn't ever be able to fight in the great televised events.
Her biggest concern was Nabiki. But pondering the situation, she found that if she won, keeping Nabiki in the loop would certainly keep her mouth shut. The prize money was no joke. If Nabiki ever found out, telling her that she was trying for the prize to repay her would result in less information being spread. She hoped. Nabiki would certainly appreciate the fact that if the rest of the family knew, the games would effectively end. But what about Shampoo or Ukyo? Were they fans of Angelic Layer? She knew that many girls liked the sport. That's all it seemed to be composed of. There were a few guys, and even fewer were actually good at it. Now THAT was interesting. But Ranma knew that eventually she would have to let everyone know what she was doing. This was something that Ranma decided for herself! Something new to try out other than martial arts, despite the fact it still had a lot to do with that anyway.
Shaking herself out of that long session of mental anguishing, she entered the store looking for the toy section where she would find the starter kits for Angelic Layer. When she found it, she was surprised to see it had a whole section dedicated to it. The place was pretty big. There were sections for various costumes and equipment, the starter kits, various other accessories that were required to start up, wigs, and a whole slew of other things. It seemed it was mostly clothes though. It certainly was a girly sport. Girls loved to play dressup and all that. Ranma simply bypassed the areas with the overly-girly outfits and took a quick lookaround at the male selection. It wasn't as impressive as the feminine side, but it did have some nice designs. Ranma physically slapped herself. She didn't want to admit it, but if she stayed here too long, she would develop a fashion sense. Nah, better to stick with her cover and get a girl model. Besides, the female forms would naturally be slightly faster anyway. Sure she could set a guy model up, but a girl fighting with a guy avatar would be slightly strange. Better to keep apprearances up. Yeah, and that outfit would look cool on what she had in mind.
She went up to the area with the starter sets. Picking up the box with the egg and looking at the back, she found there were about 10 other necessary items to get. Going around the store, refusing to ask for help with the attendants wandering around, she found them and taking a quick look at the costumes for a final evaluation, she headed to the checkout counter. She wouldn't get a costume at the moment, she still didn't know exactly what the doll would end up like exactly. The instructions said that after inputting the user's desired settings, the doll would change shape in such a way that would finalize its settings. Then she would be able to get the measurements to get the right fitting costume. It was also said a person could tailor their own clothing with tiny cloth swatches from scratch if they wanted to. As she mentally reviewed what would have to be done to overtake such a task, she again slapped herself. She REALLY had to get out of here, and quickly! Paying for the things with money she withheld from Nabiki as long as she possibly could, she exited the mall as it was beginning to shut down.
Sure enough, it was getting quite dark already. Everyone would be asleep when she got back. Perfect! And she would be able to set it all up and get the clothes tomorrow! Fortunately, the subways kept going till late, and she decided some quiet roof-hopping would save yet a bit more money instead of taking the bus.
Upon arrival, she slipped into the guest room which had basically become the Saotomes'. Blowing a bit of sleeping powder confiscated from Kodachi into his father's face to ensure no interruptions, she began to unpack all the boxes. Reading the instructions, she found she had to open the egg in a bath to drain out the padding fluid. Eh, might as well, she had been a girl long enough. The furo had to be filled, but this late at night, no one would be too disturbed if she kept it slow and quiet. After taking a scrub, change, relaxation, and an opening of the egg, he went back to the room. Opening a few other packages, he found the little unit that looked like a laptop. He sighed when he looked at the thick instruction booklet. This was going to take awhile.
AN: Please leave a review!