Meeting Later - Chapter 20.
Disclaimer: These characters are not mine. They belong to the wonderful Rumiko Takahashi and her licensees (Viz Communications in North America). This work is strictly for the non-profit enjoyment of fans. No copyright infringement is intended.
Meeting Later is originally a story by Tom Wrensch, personally one of my favorite authors. Tom has given me the honor of continuing this series but the idea and first chapter is all his work.
Last Updated: 21/12/10
"Ranma, balance on the middle of the skate. Don't fear the toe pick," Akane snapped at her training partner.
The pair skated around the lightly populated rink on New Year's Day afternoon, Ranma had been smart enough to not yet point out Akane's ragging on his technique was more about her mood since the debacle with Happosai at the temple that morning. But now she called him scared.
"I don't fear the toe pick," Ranma shot back, going up on the points at the front of the blade on the figure skates he wore to run over the ice before reverting to the blade to glide beside her.
"Ranma, look at your balance. You have to stand on the middle of the blade, but you are either on your toes or your heels."
Automatically Ranma shifted his feet to obey, mentally becoming more aware of his stance. "You said my technique was good two days ago."
Akane glared. "Compared to the first time you were on the ice, it's a million times better. You can stand and you can fight. Now I'd rather you not look so prancing on the ice."
"Prancing?" Ranma's shocked voice echoed around the rink drawing more attention.
Akane glared at him. "Well you are. You don't look very intimidating when you flit around like that."
"Oh yeah, Martial Arts Ice Skating is the most macho and intimidating sport ever."
Jabbing out a foot, Akane stabbed the ice with the blade to send ice shavings up at Ranma's face before swinging punches in at him.
Sliding left on his skates, Ranma blocked her punches, reaching in with his longer arms to tweak her nose.
Growling, Akane kept striking out, anger pouring off her, imagining his cocky grin the same as Happosai's as he kept circling to the left around her.
With a crackle, the PA of the Rink manager's desk started. "Could the couple in the middle of the rink stop doing... whatever you are doing."
Akane glared towards the front desk, having already gotten permission to train for the esoteric art if they kept clear of the other skaters, but then took note of the other skaters who had backed away. She followed their gazes towards the roof where the lights hanging from chains were swaying in the dissipating wind.
Glaring at her fiancé, she wasn't surprised to see him looking up at the roof with a smile on his face.
"Akane if you can keep that anger till the match, when they try that Couple Cleaver move, we'll have it in the bag."
Pulling the tray of sweet bean buns from the steamer, Nodoka smiled and nodded.
"Making some snacks Aunty?"
Looking up with a smile for Kasumi, Nodoka nodded. "Well I think my son and your sister will appreciate a treat after the embarrassing morning. These are one of Ranma's favorites. His very favorite is the Brownies I have in the oven."
Nodding with a smile, Kasumi made a mental note to get some extra cake ingredients if those were Ranma's favorites. Her own smile faulted as the older woman glanced at the door then the window.
"Is something wrong Aunty?"
"By now I would expect my husband to have smelled these."
Kasumi brightened. "Oh, I saw him leaving the yard with a garbage bag."
Nodoka's eyes narrowed and she swept out of the kitchen leaving Kasumi with the sounds of the older woman running up the stairs.
Genma smiled to himself as he opened the gate to the Tendo property, having disposed of the infernal bane while he had the chance.
Closing the gate behind him, he froze upon hearing the distinctive sound of blade leaving a sheath.
"No-chan," Genma began to address his wife as he turned to find her glaring at him, the family sword in her hands. Tragically, without the magic of the dogi, she was still a danger with the weapon, with a clumsiness bordering on psychotic.
"Don't No-chan me, Husband," Nodoka began with a glare. "Go and bring back every shred, every piece, and every thread of that dogi. I may not be able to put you in your place anymore, Husband, but I still make your meals."
Frowning and wincing, Genma bowed his head as he backed out the gate and into the street.
"Well, why aren't you more mad with what he did?" Akane demanded as she led the way home.
Ranma shrugged at his exasperated fiancée. "Because, that is what Happosai has done most of the entire time I have known him. At least it looks like he is over breaking us up. Now I just have to deal with him pushing us together."
Pursing her lips, Akane glanced at him. "What do you mean?"
"Well he knows what happened now, instead of breaking us up he'll expect us to be doing it more. You know what he is like."
Warily, Akane looked at Ranma. "I don't think he'll go that far."
Ranma shrugged as he stepped up onto a low wall with casual grace. "Maybe, but I'm half expecting to be woken up insisting I steal your underwear in the middle of the night. Geez it might be worse than him against us."
"Oh yeah, as bad as him trying to make me kill you or break your heart," Akane deadpanned.
"Hey, we got out of that one. And really it sounds like you didn't want to kill me considering you ripped my kimono up."
Akane growled. "Good move, dummy, remind me that the first time I get to kiss you in weeks, you don't remember it and I was a perverted psycho demon."
It was Ranma's turn to glance down at Akane nervously in case she struck at him. "So, I just need to remind you of all this before our skating match and all the bad becomes an anger we can use to win."
"That's if they use the Couple Cleaver," Akane warned.
Shrugging Ranma dropped beside her. "They'll have to use their big stuff once we drive them to it with our moves. We have the basics down and by the weekend I'll be out skating you. We know most of the tricks they use, and they have no clue to ours. I mean Martial Art's Curling is gonna blow 'em away."
Akane glared her fiancé in annoyance at his own assessment of his learning rate as a skater, before rolling her eyes with a huff. "You can't call it a new Martial Art with only one move, idiot."
"Two moves, Tomboy," Ranma said, whipping out a short handled broom and trying to trip her.
Jumping over the stick, Akane stepped back from reach. She sighed loudly as she rolled her eyes again. "Seriously, Ranma, aren't you mad?"
Shrugging, Ranma put the broom away. "I ain't happy with him, but I prefer to think about the good stuff, like it failed and he ain't gonna release the demon in you again. I'm more worried about what I might do if I go neko-ken around ya. Kasumi wasn't very happy."
Akane blushed, ignoring the flush of heat from her body, and shook her head. "I'll handle Kasumi. She is just mad about what we did before. I guess I should be grateful for you not going neko-ken and kissing me before our camping trip. I'd hate it if you didn't remember our first kiss."
Ranma frowned. "But our first kiss was in the hot spring."
Confused, Akane shook her head. "We didn't kiss in the hot spring."
"Yeah, it was just after when you fell through the ice and... Nevermind."
Ranma quickened his pace.
"Sanzenin-san. I would speak in private with you," Tatewaki's voice boomed from the top of the stairs to the handsome blond skater.
Having just returned home with his fiancée, Mikado glanced up the stairs to his future brother-in-law. "Just one second, Brother. Let me bring your sister's bags in first."
With a grumble Kuno turned and strode back to his wing of the mansion, leaving Kodachi to lean closer to her fiancé. "Go, quickly. If he needs something from you, you two might start to get along better."
Seeing her lover glance at the bags, Kodachi laughed and kissed him deeply. Breaking off she left her own bags behind. "Sasuke! Get the luggage! Hohohohoho!"
Grinning, Mikado stepped quickly in pursuit of Tatewaki. He would have offered greetings but nearly laughed when he saw the Kendo hood the Kuno heir wore to cover his shaved head.
"Thank you for coming, Sanzenin."
"As quickly as I could. Need we be so formal, we are soon to be brothers."
Kuno glared distastefully at the handsome young man. "Your cavorting with my sister has yet to have my approval, let alone your marriage. But that is beside the point, as I need your debase mind to unveil a mystery that haunts me."
Ignoring Mikado's glare, Tatewaki drew two boken and pointed at two portraits. One, a twenty foot tall image of the leggy Akane Tendo he purchased and framed from the Juuban tournament last year, the other an equally massive blown up photo of the busty Ranko Saotome kicking an opponent out of the Love Dome fighting circle.
Getting a step ladder and a magnifying glass, the high school senior climbed up beside the redhead's image. "Do you see? The trim of an undergarment most unseemly."
Shaking his head in surprise at this subject from Tatewaki, Mikado smirked. "I have glimpsed her choice of underwear. She is somewhat of a tomboy, but I can understand her wearing guy's shorts would get you excited."
"That is not it!" Tatewaki bellowed in embarrassment. "Whyfore would such a beauty wear such unseemly garments. Whyfore would the innocent and pure Akane Tendo follow her and also wear such." Tatewaki moved his mouth in distaste as he recalled seeing Akane's choice in underwear as his head was shaved once more by the demon Saotome.
Mikado held his tongue that prissy Tendo might not be so pure anymore and instead spoke cautiously. "And you want me to tell you why?"
"You, who have proven to be a deplorable womanizer. You, who tricks women into failing to see your greed and lust. Who else would I, a pillar of purity, turn to for understanding of the deplorable."
Hiding a flinch, Mikado sneered and snapped back. "Trophies."
"Trophies?" Kuno asked confused.
Mikado casually shrugged. "It is one of the only two possibilities that fit. Either your 'pure' loves have been wearing the shorts of men who they have taken as lovers."
"Preposterous!" Kuno thundered.
"Or..." Mikado proffered unconcerned.
"Or they are the trophies. Someone who has claimed them or is intent on claiming them is making them wear his or their shorts."
Akane frowned as Ranma scoffed down another chocolate brownie.
She wasn't put out by his lack of manners in stuffing his face, but by the happy smile on his face as he ate, and the affectionate glances he gave his mother. Biting less than delicately into a sweet bean bun, she did smile a little knowing that while the older woman would always be Ranma's mother, without the dogi she was no longer pretending to be a martial artist.
"So where is Pops?" Ranma asked his mother between bites.
Frowning slightly, Nodoka sipped her tea. "Your father thought he would be helpful and throw out the remains of dogi-chan from this morning. If he is moderately wise he will not be back without every scrap and thread."
Frowning, Ranma considered asking if she planned to try and repair the suit again but instantly knew his proud mother would.
"Ranma, do you want to do some homework before dinner?" Akane asked standing up.
Looking between the plates of confections and Akane, Ranma grimaced, "But Pop's ain't here to hog it all. Can't we finish these first?"
Akane begrudgingly moved to sit down, even as Nodoka stood. "I'll get you a plate so you can snack and do your homework," the older woman said indulgently.
Akane had to glance away from the self satisfied smile on her future mother-in-law's face at winning this one.
Listening at the door as her son and future daughter-in-law argued over the solution to a geography question, Nodoka smiled and left them in peace to take gliding steps down the hall. Just as the sliding door to the guest room came into view, so too did her silently moving husband sneaking in.
"I don't see a bag, Husband."
Shivering at the icy tone, Genma turned with a smile for his wife. "No-chan..."
Not surprised at how her gaze got more chilling, Genma briefly considered the 'Crouch of the Wild Tiger' when he remembered he didn't really need to fear a physical beating from her without the dogi or the family sword that lay behind him in their room. Then he remembered a technique that might work better. Straightening his shoulders he looked her in the eye. "I'm sorry No-chan, but I couldn't find it. Someone had taken the bag by the time I got back there."
"Then you better find what garbage dump it..." Nodoka began before Genma held up a stern hand.
"No, I think it is for the best that it is gone forever."
"Oh you do, do you?" Nodoka said stepping forward.
Opening his arms wide, Genma smirked as he channeled his feelings for his wife through his center. "Cradle of Heaven!"
Her husband's affection washed over her, igniting the same old feelings deep inside, and though too off balance to jump her body still automatically lurched forward into Genma like it was magnetically pulled. As his arms encompassed her, Genma's lips found her own.
Breaking the kiss, Genma scooped up his wife into a fireman's carry and turned towards the guest room. "Wife, I will no longer tolerate that suit coming between us."
Literally swept off her feet, Nodoka decided she could be angry with her manly husband later.
"Oh, the fireworks were pretty. And Arisu was in her kimono and all done up like a doll, but it was just so stuffy to be in a suit surrounded by all these older people in suits and kimonos, on a boat with it raining on the windows and such," Daisuke explained as he walked to school.
Nodding at his friend but not really seeing why it was so bad to get a free dinner and date on Tokyo harbor, Hiroshi shrugged. "So did Arisu like it?"
"No idea. She didn't pull a tanto on me, but she didn't kiss me on the cheek at the end of the night either. Her mom kept on going on that she is too young for dating to the others on the boat."
"Maybe you should have groped her again," Hiroshi put in unhelpfully with a leer and a smirk.
"That might work for Michiko," Daisuke shot back, "But groping Arisu in front of her mother might have got me stabbed and kicked off the boat without a dock."
"Oh man, it definitely works for Michiko," Hiroshi bragged back with a grin. "I went to her place to watch the fireworks on TV. It was working, till her Uncle came home and riled her up."
"How far did you get?" Daisuke began to ask when both young men glanced towards a small park where a younger girl in a St Hebereke uniform was stalking around. What she was seeking was soon revealed when their classmate Hikaru Gosunkugi came into view, his light frame crouched as he edged around a garbage bin to keep it between him and the girl.
Spying their classmate hiding from the younger girl, Hiroshi looked to Daisuke. "Does 'Bro's before Ho's' apply here?"
"Voodoo is a classmate," Daisuke said with a shrug, using the nickname for their weird fellow student.
Hiroshi gave a casual shrug before raising his voice. "Oi, St H girl, what you looking for?"|
Kaori Kumayama glared back at the two boys in Furinkan high school uniforms. "My boyfriend. He won't talk to me and I saw him run into this park when he saw me."
Hiroshi frowned, "Didn't you two break up when you were kissing that other guy at the Christmas Dance?"
"Oh, this was that girl," Daisuke put in, having left by that stage in the dance.
Initially terrified that his classmates were going to expose him, Gosunkugi managed to start breathing again as they engaged Kaori in conversation, he stood and silently backed away to the nearest tree then started for edge of the park at a faster pace.
"He was kissing me," Kaori declared. "It was my idiot cousin and he grabbed me instead of his date in that stupid dark tunnel. That is why I have to talk to Gos-chan. It wasn't my fault and it didn't mean anything."
Surprised as the girl waved a closed fist at them, as if challenging them to say otherwise, Hiroshi held up his hands to placate her. "Hey, that's between you and him. But maybe he doesn't like his girlfriend coming on so strong."
The girl simply glared at them, her knuckles cracking as her fist whitened.
"So, we better let you get back to your search. Good luck."
Setting off at casual if speedy pace towards school, Hiroshi and Daisuke found Hikaru waiting for them at the next side street. "Thank you for distracting her."
"Dude, what is with her? Why did you date her?" Daisuke asked.
Biting his lip, Gosunkugi shrugged, feeling a little ashamed. "She liked me. At first she reminded me of... someone else, but it is nice to be liked by someone. She just likes to be in charge of everything. Like what we would do, were we would have dinner, and, um, when we should marry."
"Marry!" both boys exclaimed.
"Voodoo, she is like, what, twelve?" Hiroshi added.
"She is fifteen, but it wasn't my idea. On our second date she made me meet her parents and then started talking about it like it is soon. Why do you think I was looking for a way out."
"Come on, be a man and put your foot down," Daisuke said, grabbing his slouching classmate and pulling him up straight by his neck.
"I tried. She thought it was cute when I put up a fight in Love Dome, right before she pushed me out of the ring. She is like Akane Tendo, but instead of beating all the boys who used to want her away, she was just as dangerous and wanted to date me."
Daisuke and Hiroshi glanced at each other to see what the other thought and realized both were out of advice. Daisuke shook his head. "He has to speak to the master."
"The master might not find him worthy," Hiroshi said solemnly.
Daisuke matched his friends tone. "That will be for the master to decide."
Hiroshi nodded silently.
"Um, who is the master?" Gosunkugi asked nervously.
"Ranma Saotome," Hiroshi stated.
"Master of women's hearts," Daisuke added.
Ranma Saotome looked in at his fiancée.
"Akane, is this bra okay? Or should I wear one that lifts and separates?"
Counting to five, Akane looked at her currently female fiancé playing with his breasts through the blouse of his St Hebereke school uniform.
"Who are you trying to impress Ranma?"
"Well, no one," Ranma said sheepishly. "But I don't want Mom complaining because I have 'uni-boob' again. I had to go out on a date one time in a real flashy dress and she went off at me for having a sports bra on underneath."
"This isn't a date, so this is appropriate. I thought you said you were only going in your girl form today to tell the Love Dome officials your 'brother' or I can take your challenges? Do you want more challengers?"
Ranma tilted his head sheepishly before realizing the 'correct' answer and shaking it. "Course not."
Growling, Akane picked up her book bag. "Come on let's go. Or you won't get time for anything in Love Dome before you are expected to go to St Hebereke."
"Fine, but let's dodge mom on the way out. Just in case."
Walking through the school gates, Akane wasn't surprised to see some interest from the boys at the redhead beside her, her mind idly wondering how they would react to finding out the redhead was in truth a male.
Her mind flitted to a new subject forgotten as they left home, "So who did you go on a fancy dress date with?"
"Huh? Oh that, back when Sakura was trying to kill girl me and jump guy me, she had this guy who was hitting on her hard but she was always ditching him. Kind of like Mousse with Shampoo. Anyway he was going on about something I thought was like surgery or the like and begged me to go with him. Problem was I didn't realize I was in girl form and he was talking about a party. Then Mom found out it was some high class thing and went over the top with this red dress with sequins and stuff, hence the bra issue. Mom was pissed when I didn't come back with it."
Akane stopped and grabbed the redhead's shoulder. "You came back from this party without the dress? As in just your underwear?"
Squirming embarrassed, Ranma shrugged. "The party was some kind of art show but at some legal firm in a big building in the city. Boring as hell. Worse was Sakura was there glaring daggers at me and flirting with the guy I went with so I told her male me was pissed and waiting in this office and then I quickly dragged the guy I came with into the dark. He tried ta kiss me but I slipped away and turned out the light. I managed to open and slip out the window just as Sakura came in and started making out with the guy. I figured it was win-win till I saw my dress was caught in the window frame. Before I got it free, Sakura must have realized it wasn't me and shrieked, I jumped and kind of fell off the ledge and the dress ripped right off me."
"Wait, you fell off a skyscraper in your underwear? How did you survive?" Akane demanded, drawing the attention of several other students who wanted to know what the pair was talking about.
Ranma smirked smugly. "Actually it was brilliant even for me, I was just falling down the glass side and I took off my bra to..."
"Halt, I come to save you my loves!"
Cut off mid-sentence, Ranma looked up in surprise but Akane in tired annoyance as a bald Kuno ran forward.
"Verily, I knew this day was special, wherefore is my hated nemesis Saotome but fled before me as I unravel his true perverted ambitions," the wannabe samurai proclaimed.
Blue eyes crossing as Ranma followed Kuno's words, the redhead was still trying to work out if his true male identity had been insulted when Akane stepped in.
"What do you want, Upperclassman Kuno?"
"Ah my beloved and tidy flower, I dream of the day when I will date with each of you on my arms," Kuno's eyes looked off into some imagined scene before refocusing on the redheaded Ranma.
"Ranko Saotome, I would know the truth of the man who seeks to contain your vital purity? Is there another foul villain whom would force this unspeakable imprisonment upon you? Or is it just your brother's demonic lusts know no bounds and incestuously seeks claim the flesh of the same womb?"
Ranma looked to Akane to translate as she blushed at what little she understood shouted in the all too populated school yard. "Kuno, shut up or make sense."
"I refer to this!" the Kendo master declared and slashed upwards with his bokken at the redhead.
Still trying to work out what Kuno was talking about, Ranma jumped back too late from the attack, but the expert aim of the blade did its damage, the wood cutting like a sharp blade up through her skirt and blouse.
Ignoring the flutter of skirt and now open blouse, Ranma took a guarding pose. "Oi, bastard!" Raising his hands, ki began to coalesce between the redhead's palms. At least till the confusion washed over the swordsman's face.
"Kuno!" Akane cried as she tried to kick at the wannabe samurai as he stared at the plain white panties the redhead wore. As the wooden blade flashed again Akane had to pull up her kick, only to have the wind off Kuno's weapon blow her skirt up around her hips.
Akane pulled her skirt back down as Ranma-chan moved to stand between the swordsman and his fiancée.
Confused, Kuno fell to his knees. "Whyfore have you changed from male boxers? Have though thrown off the perverted shackles of your oppressors?"
"What are you babbling about, idiot?" Ranma demanded.
Immediately with the battle cry, an energy blast of ki shot from Furinkan's head disciplinarian, caught Kuno in the back and ground him into the turf. Approaching the two girls, the now diminutive child form of the teacher in the yellow dress was carefully holding a hand over her glass fish tank.
"Tatewaki Kuno, there is no delinquent fighting outside of Love Dome." Already recharging her ki from the fighting fish inside the bowl, Hinako was again growing into an adult. "Miss Saotome, you appear under dressed for a St Hebereke student let alone for being on Furinkan grounds."
"Miss Hinako," Akane said quickly, already recognizing the same tone her teacher had for Mrs Saotome in her voice as she looked at who she believed to be Nodoka's daughter, Ranko. "If we get Ranko to our change room, I'm sure we can find a replacement skirt so she can go to her school."
Ms Hinako glanced at Akane. "That's okay Dear, there is a replacement cheerleader skirt in the cupboards in Love Dome."
Akane looked nervously around as she hid her currently female fiancé behind a door from the perverted leers of the males of the school. Behind said door Ranma was grumbling about the dusty state of the spare cheerleader's outfit Hinako had dug out. "Feels like how Ryoga's clothes normally look."
"Next time don't let Kuno cut your dress off you!" Akane hissed before seeing Yuka and Sayuri warily approaching.
"Hey, sorry. I can't talk till I get Ranko out from Hinako's bullying."
"That is somehow Ranma, isn't it?" Yuka whispered.
Akane's eyes widened before recalling Yuka had been at the temple yesterday and so had seen when Happosai used water to trigger Ranma's curse in public to end the neko-ken mindset. Biting her lip, Akane pushed Ranma's book bag into Yuka's hands. "I'll explain later. If you make sure the girl's change room is empty, Ranma's uniform is in the bag. Wait for us there, with a cup of hot water too. Do that and I'll explain it all."
Sayuri frowned but Yuka smiled slightly and nodded, before rushing off through the male student body intent on seeing Ranko Saotome in a cheerleader uniform.
Finally dressed, said redhead was all too eager to ignore the calls of students of challenge to leap up into the fighting circle at the heart of Love Dome. "Yo, Ref. I only came today to say that any guy who wants to challenge me for a date, if I am not around, they can face my brother Ranma instead."
"Or they can face me," Akane put in with a glare that Ranma felt safer agreeing to this with a nod than opposing.
The female senior in the black and white blouse nodded and picked up her pen, then glanced back at the girl known as Ranko. "Will you be fighting today since you are here?" she asked, idly gesturing to the queue of boys already formed.
"Bring it on!" Ranma declared.
Ranma was smirking as Akane led the way into the girl's change room. "Did you see how disappointed Hinako was when the boys gave up when I threatened that my real self would review their hair cuts?"
Rolling her eyes, Akane shook her head, "You dummy, don't you realize how she is only riding you because your Mom got in her face."
"Hey, I had to show in Love Dome in this form anyway. And this cheerleading outfit is less embarrassing than being nearly cut up by that idiot Kuno did. So what if a few guys saw my underpants?"
"And mine," Akane reminded him, which earned a grimace of acknowledged anger.
Turning into the change room, Ranma was surprised to see two girls already there. "Oh, sorry. I'll go to the bathroom first," the redhead said quickly turning around to wait till the room was empty.
"Ranma Saotome?" Yuka asked.
Ranma turned in surprise, taking a second to recognize Akane's friends. For a moment he considered faking it but slouched, bringing his hand up to the back of his red hair. "Yeah, sorry bout this."
"How?" Sayuri asked plainly.
"It's a curse I got in China. I was knocked into a cursed spring, where a girl had drowned centuries before. There is a whole valley of these springs, or there was, and if you fall into one where something drowned in them in the past, you become that thing. I fell into the spring of drowned girl. My pop turns into a giant panda."
"Taro too," added Akane. "His monstrous form was from the same place."
"You knew about this the whole time, Akane?" Sayuri asked quietly. "Even when you went camping?"
"Yes," Akane nodded quickly.
"Heh," Ranma said, a smile creasing his feminine features. "She knew that the first morning at my home when she walked in on me in the bath."
Akane blushed as Sayuri and Yuka glared at the redhead.
"Like when you spied on us in the change room before you broke the water main?" Yuka accused, reminding them of how over a year ago the then mysterious redhead had been in their change room when the water-main later exploded.
Sayuri looked even angrier. "And at the hot springs last winter."
Wincing, Ranma didn't answer before Akane spoke, "You just saw him turn away when he thought you were in here changing. He was the same when I first saw him washing as a girl, insisting I cover up before opening his eyes. He isn't a pervert."
"Trust me, I know way more about naked women than I wanted to with this curse. Ain't none of it hot."
Yuka's lips twitched. "But you did know a lot when you went camping with Akane?"
"Yuka!" Akane hissed fiercely, covering the blush on her fiancé. Moving for action she took the cup of hot water from Sayuri and Ranma's uniform from Yuka. "Get changed before the class bell rings or someone comes."
Heedless of the girls, Ranma dropped his skirt and started pulling off his top, Sayuri turned away while Yuka stood more side on, still obviously looking.
"So, are you going to tell everyone?" Ranma asked nervously as he dropped his panties and stepped into boxers.
"Who else knows?" Yuka asked turning more fully back to him as the girl crossdressed into male pants. "Do you also go to St Hebereke's as a girl?"
"Kodachi," Akane nearly spat. "She found out and gave Ranma a uniform for his girl side, but he hasn't gone there once. She hasn't even told Mikado though for some reason."
"Maybe she thinks it is funny for Mikado to be drooling over a guy?" Sayuri offered.
"Or for Ranma to go to her school," Yuka added.
Ranma shrugged as he took off his sports bra. "Ain't goin' to a girl's school neither. Water still hot?"
Akane nodded and offered the cup, even Sayuri glanced and Yuka gawked as Ranma poured the cup onto his head. Suddenly, the male Ranma they were used to replaced the girl before them.
Akane stepped between her fiancé and her friends as they ogled at his chest, before he slipped his shirt on.
Finishing his uniform with a jacket, Ranma smiled. "So you gonna go tell everyone?"
Sayuri looked to Akane without answering. Yuka smiled slightly. "No, but you owe us."
Both Sayuri and Akane glared at Yuka.
Ranma looked between the three girls before shaking his head. "After last time where you wanted me to hit on a friend's date? How about I owe Akane something and she can agree to make it something you want?"
Seeing Akane smile was enough of a win for Ranma as he grinned. "Anyway, see ya in class."
With a leap to the top of some lockers, Ranma opened a high window near the ceiling and was outside within seconds.
Sayuri frowned at Akane. "Is the curse... something you like?"
Frowning, Akane shook her head. "I love him for him. Without the curse he would probably be more chauvinistic but I like male him, even with the curse."
The ringing of the bell put two of the girls running for class, the third took a longer moment. "I think it's magical," Yuka whispered.
The ringing of the school bell heralded lunch and Ranma eagerly pulled his bento from his bag. With rain outside there was no way he was going out in the wet and become Ranko again.
Hikaru Gosunkugi swallowed nervously as he approached the larger classmate eating his meal at his desk. It was all very good for Hiroshi and Daisuke to suggest Ranma could help him fix his current relationship trouble and maybe find a girl more his speed, but as he glanced behind Ranma at his first crush, Akane Tendo, now Ranma's fiancé, the dark haired boy might not like what he made Akane do that one time in the past.
His timidity cost him as another classmate got to Ranma's side first.
"I take it that your beautiful fiancée did not make that," Mikado Sanzenin said in a mocking tone.
Unaware that behind him Akane was glaring at Mikado, Ranma gave only a glance for the smirking boy while swallowing what he had in his mouth. "My Mom did. You got something to say about my Mom, Golden Boy?"
"That is Golden Star, Saotome," Mikado returned, wise enough to not pick at a dangerous nerve that should be saved for exploitation at an opportune time, like when Saotome was no longer school Hair Cut Monitor. "I mean my lovely fiancée is an excellent cook, despite being able to pay more for a chef to cook for us year round than your father earns in a decade. Don't you like it when your fiancée cooks for you."
"So what if I am still learning?" Akane defended her own pride, joining the two young men's conversation. "I'll have you know that my sister and his mother are expert cooks, even Kodachi's poisoned cooking looks bad compared to..."
Akane's voice trailed off as Ranma raised his hand, standing up he looked at Mikado. "This is the best you got? A vague dig at Akane's cooking? You think that will put us off our game on Saturday?"
Giving a shrug with his sleazy smile, Mikado held Ranma's stare. "This is for my amusement. I've heard about some of your training at the rink. Almost no pairs moves. You seriously underestimate the strength of a true Martial Arts Ice Skating team."
Ranma chuckled and laid a hand on Mikado's shoulder. "Hey, it's okay to be scared. I mean, you got a fiancée for a partner who is a good cook and a good martial artist. That's nice. I got a partner who took out thirty boys with a dozen cookies..."
"Idiot!" Akane stomped back to her seat after upending her bento on her fiancé's head.
"Oh yeah, such a tight team you two make," Mikado said with a laugh, walking for the classroom door.
Glancing at his fuming fiancée, Ranma half turned his body in his seat to look at Akane. Twisting his upper body further, he put his bento on the desk between them, making an offering gesture with his chopsticks while grinning. "Oh yeah, we got him scared."
Akane looked galled at Ranma as he brushed off her anger and then acted so sweet. Closing her eyes she shook her head and picked up her chopsticks, torn between kissing him and wringing his neck.
"It was only twenty two boys," she muttered.
"Halt, enemy of women, I challenge thee to single combat!" Kuno called the second Ranma stepped out of his classroom after the end of day bell.
Standing beside Akane, Ranma looked at Kuno in his full kendo garb, sans only the helmet, the hood of the outfit hiding his baldness.
"Come on Kuno, aren't you going to get bored losing all the time? Yes you can challenge me any time you want but you know I will just blast you before you can get to me. It certainly ain't fun for me to shave off one days worth of stubble from your head. If you really want this, I'm taking your eyebrows today too."
Ranma smirked as he ran home with Akane from the ice rink, "Did you notice how Hinako was lighter on me all day after she thought she made trouble for Ranko?"
Smiling past some exhaustion from another intensive training session after school, Akane nodded. "She doesn't want to upset Daddy if you are going to be his new son-in-law, but she is not happy with your mom still. I'm wondering what will happen when she next meets Aunty and she doesn't have the dogi to defend herself."
"Yeah," Ranma agreed, "If she starts swinging that sword around, Mom is still dangerous."
Akane pursed her lips. "But I thought Aunty never trained in the art?"
"She didn't," Ranma explained. "But if she reaches for that sword she carries, look out! Cause it could land anywhere. She is clumsier than you."
"Says the master of Martial Arts Ice Skating On His Butt!" Akane shot back, adding a raspberry for good measure.
Opening the gate, Ranma glanced at his fiancée as she took his skates. "After I put these away, I am getting in the furo first," she insisted, reminding him of a brief argument over his going first the day before.
"You can have it," Ranma said as he watched Akane start up the stairs. Once she was about half way up, he smirked. "As soon as I'm done."
Akane turned and leaped back down the stairs, rushing after Ranma with the skates in her hands. "Get back here, jerk! Stop!"
To her surprise, Ranma stopped. It became less surprising as she realized he was sniffing with his nose raised towards the kitchen doorway.
Glancing in, the engaged pair saw Nodoka and Kasumi gracefully gliding around the kitchen as they worked. "That sukiyaki, Mom?"
"'Is that sukiyaki, Mom?'" the older woman chided, before nodding and smiling for Ranma. "It is, my son."
Akane frowned at the longing look Ranma gave the frying meat, but it deepened as Nodoka offered Ranma and her a plate of dorayaki, pancake like pockets holding sweet bean paste.
Akane politely took one just before Ranma started his second, earning a glance of ice from his fiancé. "Weren't you getting in the furo?"
"You wanted to go first," he managed to reply as he started on a third.
Bowing politely for Aunty, Akane made her way for the furo, listening as Nodoka asked Ranma about his day.
"Finally, I been looking for ya. Did you want to work on our homework now?" Ranma asked, half relieved to find Akane in the kitchen. His relief faltered as he saw her struggling with something in a bowl.
Jumping in surprise, Akane smiled at her fiancée as she casually put the bowl of mix on the counter. "I was just doing some cooking."
Ranma stepped over, grabbing the still upright wooden spoon and lifting the bowl into the air by the solid mass Akane had been fighting to stir. "What, cement?"
Grumbling, Akane threw a punch at her jerk fiancé, too halfhearted to deserve follow up as he dodged.
Seeing her mood at another failed confection, though the first he had seen her screw up since moving back to Nerima, Ranma glanced at the large pot on the stove. "What's that?"
Stepping over and glancing in the large pot, Akane shrugged. "The beans for the sweet bean paste you like. They have to soak overnight."
She gestured to smaller pot she has prepared, "That is what is left of the filling your mom made from it. I was going to use it once I mixed up some batter."
"You mean the cement?" Ranma teased.
This time Ranma just caught Akane's fist, but not before her arm accidentally knocked the saucepan, sending it spinning to pour up her blouse.
Glaring at Ranma, Akane caught the saucepan, the damage done. "I was ruining it just fine without your help, idiot."
Ranma smirked, running a finger up Akane's neck, and then brining some of the bean paste to his lips. "You look tastier," he said, before her blush made him blush.
Pushing him back to try and control her hormones, Akane grabbed a cloth. "Let me clean up and I'll meet you in my room... To do homework!"
Frowning at the rain clouds swirling above, as if waiting for him to relax his attention, Ranma Saotome walked, with an umbrella at the ready beside Akane into the school grounds.
"Demon, I challenge you!"
Ranma groaned and slouched, then suddenly looked warily up at the sky as if it would rain now that he was distracted.
"Upperclassman Kuno," Akane began, wanting an end to another pointless challenge from the master swordsman, when her voice cracked and a giggle escaped her lips.
Looking back at Kuno, Ranma burst into laughter. "Aw come on Kuno. That is cheating! I can't fight you looking like that! What did you draw those eyebrows on with? They make you look like you should be in a sequined gown singing show tunes."
Red faced, less happy than he had been with earlier when he drew eyebrows onto his handsome and bare face, Kuno shoved his Kendo helmet on. "I challenge thee!"
Akane bit into her cookie with vigor, looking darkly at her fiancé gobbling three more from his plate and eying more from the central pile Nodoka had baked during the day. Seeing Nodoka's indulgent smile for her son as he stuffed his face, Akane wished she could make him react like this. Her mood deepened recalling last night's failed cooking attempt, though Ranma's innuendo still caused a shiver in her spine... and gave her an idea.
Excusing herself and standing up, Akane rushed upstairs to her room. With the ice rink holding special classes for younger kids today, they politely asked Akane and Ranma to give their training a break, and so the pair had come straight home to train in the dojo... at least till Nodoka and her smells of cooking had caught her son.
Akane understood Aunty was only doing it out of love, but it was irritating, more so that she could never compete with the older woman on cooking. Fortunately, she could remind Ranma to train in other ways.
Opening her closet, she pulled out an outfit she hadn't used in two months. Taking a deep breath, she hid her training gi under her bed then returned downstairs.
Nodoka and Kasumi looked up as Akane entered the room, the former's eyes widening as the latter's narrowed. The young Tendo was wearing the red and black outfit she had worn to the Juuban tournament. The pleated black skirt didn't cover anything below mid thigh nor above her hips where the strip of taut stomach was exposed below the red body hugging Chinese shirt. Because of the chill of winter, the young woman wore Nabiki's leather jacket with it but placed her hands on her hips to make sure it didn't cover any skin from Ranma's blue eyes.
Akane's eyes settled on Ranma. "Ready to train, Ranma?"
Dragging his eyes up her form, Ranma nodded and climbed to his feet. "Yeah, training."
Glancing pointedly at Nodoka, Akane turned to head out to the dojo when Kasumi spoke up. "Akane, shouldn't you be practicing in a training gi?"
"Well, we will be back in these outfits for the fight on Saturday, and all my training gi are..." Akane glanced at Ranma as her voice turned breathy, "...dirty."
Akane turned back to heading out to the dojo, if only to hide her blush as her self control broke.
Ranma stopped just outside the open gate of the school grounds and looked to Akane. "Bet you I get challenged the moment I put a toe over this line?"
Tilting her head, Akane grinned. Taking a deep breath, she made her voice as breathy and sultry as she could, with Martial Arts Sexy Voice. "I'll take that bet."
Frozen by her words and the sway of her hips as she stepped towards him, Ranma didn't move as Akane dragged one idle finger down his cheek and stepped closer as if to kiss him.
"Ranma Saotome, I challenge thee!"
Even though Kuno's voice didn't break Ranma's focus, it did Akane's as she smiled like the cat who ate the canary. "Guess he couldn't wait for you to cross that line first? I win."
Letting a shiver run up his spine, a remnant of the intense way Akane made him feel and by getting one upped, Ranma turned to see Kuno rushing towards them, this time having ditched his Kendo armor and wearing a traditional straw hat that came low on his brow.
"Enemy of women, you dare...OW!"
Dropping his sword, Kuno reached for the burning sensation on his back. Turning, he was surprised to see the diminutive Happosai behind him, smoking his pipe.
"Can it, wannabe. You obviously aren't a challenge to my students anymore. So take a hike," the old man cried before leaping in the direction of Ranma and Akane.
"Ranma my boy, I leave it to you to explain this. Consider it the first engagement gift I have for the two of you," the old man said. "Gotta run, I've got a date with the ladies Pilates class at the gym!"
Watching the old man bound off, Akane looked confused by his cryptic words, and the look of near wonder on Ranma's face didn't help.
For his part, Ranma drew close to Kuno who had retrieved his wooden weapon and glared at his opponent. "Despite the interruption and attack by your old demon master, a lecherous fiend no doubt the source of your own foul and debase lusts, I still challenge you. I shall end..."
"Pick a finger?" Ranma interrupted asking. "Pick the single finger with which I will beat you."
"I take them all!" Kuno cried as he swung his bokken, and found it stopped by a pinkie.
"The moxibustion of ultimate weakness!" Ranma declared.
"What?" Akane asked.
"It's like a pressure point. A powerful one. That can seal a man's strength," Ranma explained. "Kuno, until it is undone, you have the strength of a baby."
With a casual throw, Ranma tossed his book bag at Kuno's chest, toppling the senior student to the ground under its weight.
Walking over, Ranma picked the bag up. "Man, I'm kind of surprised. I want to feel bad for you because it really sucked when the old fart did it to me. But no, all your strength came from magic, so you aren't losing anything you earned. You can challenge me again when you get cured, okay?"
Akane looked down at the gobsmacked Kuno as he struggled to get up, before turning her eyes to her fiancé. "What's the cure?"
"It's just a counterpoint, and I went through hell trying to get it," Ranma declared, giving a shiver. "So good luck."
Seeing the shiver, Akane visualized Ranma struggling up a mountain fighting ghosts and demons.
Ranma shook his head as he flashed through the memory of trying to escape a sleeping Ukyo's arms before Ryoga killed him in his weakened state. Still, it had gotten Ryoga angry enough to help him learn the Hiryu Shoten Ha.
Hinako laid the test down on Ranma's desk. "Better, Mr Saotome," she said simply as she continued to Akane behind her.
"Excellent, Akane-chan," the teacher said more warmly, as she placed her student's exam sheet on the desk.
Turning around, Ranma looked at her result. He leaned in to whisper to her. "How is it me getting eighty and you getting ninety five, you get praised? You are only fifteen ahead, not double my score."
Only partly surprised at his attitude, knowing he was proud of what was a high mark for him, Akane shook her head. "Do you want the fact or the truth?"
Frowning, Ranma looked confused. "Huh?"
"The fact is that if we think of it as how many we got wrong, you got wrong four times as many as I did. The truth is she wants to marry my father. If you can make her want to marry one of your parents, you can get the praise and be called 'Ranma-chan' constantly."
Shaking his head, Ranma whispered back, "Nah, that's cool."
The ringing of the lunch bell cut into their conversation, Ranma following as Akane led the way out into the school yard.
Behind them, Gosunkugi bit his lower lip, seeing that Akane was with Ranma as nearly always. He had been working up the will to ask the martial artist for love advice, but with Akane at his side, it was awkward, to say the least.
With a deep breath, Gosunkugi walked up, and turned straight around as Yuka and Sayuri met up with the pair.
"Ranma," Yuka asked. "When and where were you born?"
"Huh? Um, Japan and on the nineteenth of this month."
Frowning but writing down what he had said, Yuka continued. "But where in Japan and what time of day?"
"Not like I was there to know," Ranma said, before correcting himself. "I mean, I would a been there but not like I remember it."
Akane grinned, shaking her head. "I'll ask his mother and get back to you, Yuka."
With too little a lead as he opened the gate, Ranma dodged around Akane's shoving hands, opening the way for her to dart through first.
Barely slowing her run as she rushed for the front door, Akane glanced back to see how close Ranma was behind her. Dumping her skates inelegantly, she was only a second in front of Ranma in kicking off her shoes and moving for the hall through the house, the racing for the furo.
Knowing Ranma had let her take the lead at the gate, Akane knew that only meant he was going to cheat somehow.
The second the shadow passed over her head, she jabbed a hand up, and kicked backwards, expecting either her fiancé to be the shadow or to be using it to distract her to pass her by. Anything goes.
Ranma was surprised by the dual strike, stepping around her kick by a hairs breath. Her punch had caught in his shirt, which he had launched over her head in hopes of dropping and wrapping it around her, but she was fast enough to twist and wrap it around his wrists and lock them together.
Off balanced by her own attacks, Akane fell and brought Ranma down on her with a clatter.
Swallowing noisily, Akane looked into Ranma's eyes for a long moment, feeling her body react to her shirtless fiancé lying on top of her. Ranma slowly shifted back, pink faced but unable to take his eyes off his fiancée's.
A small cough from up the hall made Akane's eyes widen and she rolled onto her stomach to look at her sister's slippers. She slowly looked up to see Kasumi's unhappy frown.
"Ranma, please go and use the furo. I need to talk to my sister for a moment."
"Right," Ranma nervously stated to the glaring, brown-eyed, young woman as he got to his feet.
For her part, Akane pushed up to standing quickly. "Do you want to do this in the hall or in private?"
Opening the door to her bedroom, Kasumi frowned as Akane walked stiffly inside and sat on the edge of the bed.
Shutting the door, Kasumi calmly walked to the desk chair and turned it to demurely sit and face her angry sister, realizing she would have to handle Akane carefully or she would fight against whatever she said rather than listen to her point.
Placing her hands down in her lap, Kasumi looked at her sister. "Akane-chan, I'm sorry I have been sticking my nose into your private life with Ranma."
Blinking in surprise, Akane tried to shift gears as Kasumi apologized rather than criticized her. Deflating, she smiled slightly for Kasumi.
"It's okay, I know you're just trying to protect me. It's just very frustrating at the moment."
Kasumi pursed her lips. "I can understand a little of how you feel, Akane-chan. Would you like to talk about it?"
"You're not going to go on about how Ranma and I shouldn't have done what we did?"
A twinge of a smile touched Kasumi's face. "I'm not mother, Akane. But I have always been scared that without her you or Nabiki, and to be fair I always thought it would be Nabiki, would be tempted to be reckless if you ever fell in love."
Holding up her hand to forestall Akane from interrupting, Kasumi tried to smile reassuringly but her eyes were wet. "Please forgive me, Akane, but I am just so scared that I have let others influence you, scared I didn't protect you as mother would have. I can't help but wonder if training with Grandfather Happosai eroded your judgment, or if Aunty pushed you while you stayed with her and Ranma."
"No, they didn't," Akane defended. "I mean some of the training with Grandfather was... I saw and read stuff I never even heard of, but he likes to talk about it, that's all. He never tried anything or tried to make me do anything that wasn't for the art. Aunty obviously wants me to be more feminine and such, and part of that was for Ranma but... it's him. I know I am safe with him. That nothing is wrong with him."
Red-faced at what she was admitting, Akane shrugged. "Don't you feel like that with Dr Tofu?"
"Tofu and I... we have a different path," Kasumi said.
Akane looked at her sister, but wisely didn't say the thoughts in her head, 'Didn't sound that different on Christmas Eve, Sis.'
Kasumi ignored the look to continue. "Tofu, after all, isn't a teenage boy."
"But neither is Ranma," Akane put in defensively. "He could go after any girl, but he is with me for more than just what we did."
Licking her lips, Kasumi nodded. "So your training has only been training?"
Rolling her eyes, Akane nodded. "I wish we could do more. Sometimes, even while sparring, just hitting him... I want more. I have to try not to even think about it. It is just so frustrating knowing I could probably push him to break his word again. It is so frustrating knowing we have been together so long but the only time I even got to kiss him was when I thought I was losing him or when I was possessed. It is so frustrating to have him so near but I can't kiss him when he says something sweet, or even something irritating."
Kasumi nodded but didn't interrupt hoping just talking about it might help Akane keep her control.
"I can only even touch him most of the time in practice. I am too nervous to even ask Ranma for the massage he owes me, the way it affects me..." Akane's words trailed off as a smile lit her face. "I got it, I can massage Ranma! I need to call Sena!"
In the blink of an eye her sister ran out of the room, leaving a frown on Kasumi's face.
Akane cautiously knocked on the door to the downstairs spare bedroom which housed Happosai. Wincing that she missed Sena on the phone as Tofu's sister had already left work, Akane had no choice for who to turn to for advice.
"Akane-chan? What brings you down here? Doesn't your new teacher have any positions for you?" the old man said, wiggling his eyebrows suggestively. The aged master put down the scroll he was reading from, obscuring Akane from getting more than a glance at the broken ying-yang design in pieces on the floor.
"Grandfather, I was hoping you might have some training scrolls for massaging."
"I thought Ranma was already proficient with that," Happosai asked.
"He is, but I want to massage him. Do you have any scrolls?"
With big eyes, wet with tears, Happosai smiled gently before springing over to his collection of toys, bras, trash, and training scrolls.
Pulling out and discarding several he formed a small pile. "Learn well my student, and your new master will be pleased."
Red faced, Akane figured it was smarter to simply take the scrolls and go study rather than deny any connotations he put in the words 'master' or pleasing him.
Back in her room, Akane wasn't surprised to find most of the material in the scrolls was far from appropriate till after the promise was over. Her eyes widened seeing one she would still question using after they were married.
The scroll she left till last was in its own ornate tube, with jade screw caps that took her a long moment to unscrew.
Unfurling the scroll, Akane only read the opening line, 'Super Happy Ending'.
She immediately rolled it back up to feed it back into its case. It took her a moment to realize that just screwing in the ornate jade end cap made her feel dirty and think of Ranma...
Half tempted to immediately return it to Happosai, Akane looked at the tube once more before hiding it in her closet. "After we're married."
Returning to the other scrolls, she started to review everything about massaging the rest of his body, with only her hands, and with her clothes on.
Kasumi frowned as her sister blushed again, glancing over at Ranma at the dinner table.
For his part, Ranma was too busy trying to devour the yakiniku his mother had cooked for the two families, not surprisingly because the diced meat dish was another of Ranma's favorites. Kasumi pursed her lips as she wondered how much of Nodoka's holding onto her son was influencing Akane's drive to get her hands on Ranma without making him break his tenuous promise of no intimacy.
Excusing herself towards the end of dinner, Kasumi moved into the kitchen to bring out some daifuku she had prepared. Transferring them from a single plate, she arranged the small round bean filled cakes on separate plates on a tray before bringing the tray and more hot green tea back out.
Returning to the families, Kasumi could almost hear the tension brewing.
"I just think Ranma should come upstairs for something," Akane said nervously glancing at her father and Uncle Genma.
"Akane-chan, I just thought Ranma would like to watch the movie on the television with his mother," Nodoka replied.
Ranma seemed torn, at least before his eyes set on the tray Kasumi was bringing.
Kneeling, Kasumi passed her father a plate first, letting Nodoka lean forward to appropriately take a plate to give her husband. Before Aunty could reach for a second, Kasumi placed the next plates before the older woman and her son, and then served her sisters and finally herself.
Smiling at the return of tranquility over the sweets, Kasumi frowned as Genma finished his two cakes in two gulps, and snagged one more from Ranma's plate.
"Hey, old man!" Ranma complained, leaning back out of reach as he finished his plate quickly.
Nodoka finished her own portion more demurely, but before she could take up the argument for Ranma to stay and watch television with her, Kasumi spoke. "Akane, I laid out a towel and some of Ranma's massage oils in your room."
Nodoka pursed her lips as Ranma looked to Akane. "Ya want that massage I owe ya, Akane?"
Swallowing her dessert, Akane shook her head. "I thought I might give you a back rub before the fight tomorrow, if you want?"
"Yes, daughter, you must help your partner relax so he can protect you tomorrow," Soun said quickly.
"See lad, this is the type of woman you want. One who'll make you feel good," Genma added.
Ranma marveled at the way Akane could change octaves mid growl.
Nodoka glared at her husband. "Perhaps it is nice to have a fiancé who inspires a woman," she said pointedly. Nodoka was so surprised when Genma glanced pointedly back at her that she had to turn away from him.
Nabiki began to stand and excuse herself when Kasumi glanced at her. "Thank you for helping me with the dishes, Nabiki-chan."
"What? But I..." biting her tongue, Nabiki smiled as sweet as saccharine. "Sure Kasumi."
Nodoka gave Akane a nod to head off, then turned to the fathers. "I believe you two were going to play shogi tonight?"
Genma began to stand but was cut off by Soun who didn't seen the byplay between his oldest friend and his friend's wife. "Sit down Saotome. Let's play."
"Thanks for this Akane," Ranma said with a yawn as he took off his shirt.
"I want to Ranma. I know it helped me to relax when you gave me a rub down."
"Heh," Ranma chuckled. "Didn't relax me too much when I did it. I had to tell myself not to be thinking inappropriate stuff about you. We were just friends then after all."
Akane blinked in surprise, tearing her eyes from his chest as he made such a frank admission before slumping his body down on the towel on her bed. Turning to the notes she had made and laying out one of the scrolls that had a body map on her desk, Akane picked up a plastic bottle of sweet smelling massage oil. Finally she found her voice. "You did?"
Nodding and giving another yawn, Ranma didn't look up. "Sometimes. I mean I didn't want to blow our friendship. You were the first girl not out to kill or marry me. I just figured Shampoo had put an aphrocadilac in that ramen she brought when she interrupted the first massage I gave you."
Ignoring his mispronouncing of aphrodisiacs and her body feeling like it had had some, Akane focused on keeping her voice level. "Why?"
"Cause of all the stuff I was dreaming about you."
Surprised by his candor, Akane squeezed too hard, oil jetting up from the plastic bottle into her face.
"Something wrong?" Ranma asked, as he heard her coughing.
"No," Akane croaked as she used a towel to wipe her face, knowing the taste of the lotion was on her tongue to stay now.
Turning back, Akane applied lotion to her hands and rubbed them together easily with the slick lotion. Moving beside her bed, she finally got her hands on Ranma.
Groaning in pleasure as his fiancée's fingers brushed over his shoulders and back, Ranma smiled. "That's good. Go a little harder."
Smiling at the tone of his voice, and the feel of his warm skin under her hands, Akane briefly noticed the sweat on her own skin, passing it off as because of the small space heater in the corner of the room quietly whirling. Her eyes darted over marks on his skin, breaking the smoothness of the skin over his muscles, a few old scars and even a couple small burns.
Moving down to his lower back, Akane licked her dry lips. "So are you missing Bokuto high?"
Ranma's voice was muffled by the pillow his face was against. "You're kidding right? Your school has it own arena."
Shaking her head with a smile, Akane kept rubbing into his flesh. "I think that is more the unique stupidity of our school."
"Maybe, but I like it."
Rolling her own shoulder, Akane found that reaching over him from the side was wearing on her right arm more than her left. Biting her lip, Akane kept working. "Do you like this? Am I doing it wrong?"
"It's fine," Ranma said. "Very relaxing."
"It's your move Saotome."
"I said, it's your move Saotome."
Nodoka looked at her husband quizzically as Soun repeated himself. Picking up the silk wrapped bundle that held the Saotome family sword, she poked her husband in the side.
Genma fell over sideways and gave a snore.
"Oh my," Kasumi said in surprise at Genma's reaction, earning a look from Nabiki who heard something in her tone.
Frowning, Nodoka stood and checked Genma's pulse. Satisfied, she looked at Soun. "Soun, I think we might let him sleep here tonight."
Soun nodded, still surprised and stood. "How strange. I'll get him the spare futon we can roll him onto."
As the older man went down the hall, Nabiki glanced at her sister. "Sis, did you do that?"
Hearing this Nodoka looked at the elder daughter of the family.
"No, well yes. Akane has been feeling some frustration with the situation with Ranma and I thought that some sleeping powder in his dessert would keep things... relaxed. I didn't realize it would be so potent or that Ranma would let Uncle Genma steal some."
Nabiki glanced at the older sleeping man. "You know Sis, that is an extreme form of birth control. And one I just can't really recommend."
Turning her eyes on her younger sister, Kasumi frowned. "Why not?"
"Sis, the only thing stopping those two from 'breaking Akane's bed' is the promise Ranma made. You just left our horny, frustrated, baby sister with the half naked object of her affections unable to resist or even remember anything she does to him."
Kasumi stood suddenly and made for the stairs.
"Oh my," Kodachi whispered to her companion as she peeked in the window. "Come beloved, here is an image sure to delight tomorrows audience."
With a grin on his face, Mikado edged up the ladder beside his fiancée, glad she was being quiet and didn't try to repeat the time she tried to laugh her signature laugh in a whisper. The doctor wrote a paper for a medical journal about that bruised larynx.
Peeking through the curtain into Akane Tendo's bedroom, Mikado was surprised to see Akane Tendo giving her fiancé a back rub. Raising the camera, he began to take photos.
"So what was Yuka wanting with my birthday time and stuff?" Ranma asked tiredly.
"Oh that, Yuka likes astrology," Akane replied, pressing her fingers into each muscle.
"What like stars and and the moon?"
Shaking her head, Akane stretched forward to rub the back of his neck with her hands. "Not astronomy, but the zodiac, the position of the stars and how it can tell our true nature and futures. Like we were both born in the year of the Tiger. That's why you are so stubborn but have a courageous side too."
"You don't believe in that stuff do you?" Ranma asked with a yawn into her pillow.
"I don't know. If so many people believe it for so long it has to have some truth to it. But Yuka used to be right into it, she even learned all the western astrology with birth dates and star signs and such. My bet is she is doing our charts, to see if we are a good match. She hasn't done those in a couple years." Akane's fingers softly focused on his ears and the sides of his face for a moment as her voice turned wistful.
"Why did she stop?"
"She started dating a senior, but her chart said they wouldn't work together, so she stopped doing charts. Guess the chart was right because he only asked her out to try and get her older sisters attention." Akane sighed.
"Did she do a chart for you and any guys?" Ranma asked with closed eyes.
With a little laugh, Akane put her leg over the young man face down on her bed, straddling his waist. "You getting jealous?" she managed to get out before turning pink at her new position. Her fingers got firmer into his shoulders as she redoubled her efforts.
"So what if our charts," Ranma began before yawning but still able to put some mocking tone into his words, "say we wouldn't be a good match."
Akane smiled wantonly, leaning forward onto his back to whisper in his ear, "Then I guess I'll just have to keep you as a lover."
Leaning back up, she waited for him to react to her words and look up at her.
"Ranma!" Akane said angrily, climbing off her fiancé to roll him up on his side, seeing he was indeed asleep.
"You idiot!" Akane whispered, a smile tugging at her lips despite her quenched hormones. Reaching down, she took a blanket to cover his bare chest before she climbed in with him.
Ranma snorted and rolled onto his back, pressing on her leg as she straddled him she rolled too and his arm grabbing hers and dragging her down.
Blushing and struggling, Akane managed to look up at his peaceful sleeping face, recalling a similar position she was in months ago when Nabiki tricked her into his bedroom and pushed her onto his sleeping form. At least there was no witness this time.
As Ranma's breath tingled over her neck Akane realized she had to get out of his arms before she did something stupid like stay and make him break his promise.
The door to her room banged open as a breathless Kasumi barged in, but before she could speak, the bedroom window slid open with a whoosh and cold air billowed the curtains.
"Hohohohohohoho!" Kodachi cried as she jumped into her old nemesis's bedroom. "My, my, I see you don't believe in the old adage of no naughty on nights before big competitions, Akane dear."
Struggling to get free, Akane was only thankful there was no camera this time. "This isn't what it looks like, he is asleep."
The click of the shutters focused Akane's attention to Mikado, still on the ladder at her window. With a growl, Akane grabbed the lotion bottle up and squeezed it hard at the blond young man. Dropping the camera on its neck strap, Mikado used one gloved hand to stop the stream from getting in his face or hair.
"Akane," Kasumi hissed, making her sister look down to see that Ranma's hug on her was now more intimately around her chest. "Wake up idiot!" she yelled, breaking out of his grasp with brute strength.
"He can't," Kasumi admitted with a guilty voice. "He had sleeping powder in his dessert."
Kodachi glared at Akane, "And you criticized my first date with Mikado."
"I didn't drug him," Akane defended, straightening her clothes as Nodoka and Nabiki joined Kasumi at the door.
"Neither did I... on our first date," Kodachi shot back.
"You ordered Sasuke to," Akane spat back. "I didn't ask Kasumi to."
"Why are you here, Miss...?" Nodoka said over all of them.
Kodachi posed for the older woman, seeing the similar features from Ranma's cursed form's face. "I take it you are Ranma-chan's mother? I am Kodachi Kuno, a friend of your son and your daughter. Hohohohohoho!"
Letting the laughter die down, Nodoka didn't waver, "And why are you here tonight?"
"Why I am visiting Akane-chan. More than once before when we have had challenges we have fought in all fairness before the battle. I thought she might be lonely without a little warm up for tomorrow. I had little clue that she had broken out of her prudish shell with a new form of warm up."
"I was only giving him a backrub," Akane restated before turning on Kasumi. "Why did you drug him?"
"I just wanted to make sure the mood in here remained... relaxed," her older sister explained.
From the window, Mikado smirked. "I know being with my beautiful fiancée relaxes me." He touched his clean gloved hand to his lips and blew a kiss to Kodachi.
Holding onto the ladder now with a glove covered in massage lotion, and not paying attention to how much of the slick substance had sprayed down on his shoes when he blocked Akane's previous spray, Mikado slipped.
Hearing a clunk for each rung Mikado's chin hit on the way down to the cold ground, Kodachi rushed to the window.
Not caring about the young man, Akane moved behind Kodachi and shoved. Kodachi went out but not before she flung her arm back, wafting a black rose under Akane's nose.
Landing lightly on her feet, Kodachi looked up at Akane, standing paralyzed at the window. "Remember this time Akane-chan, you might have gotten the best of me in our previous matches, but tonight I have you and your partner vulnerable and walk away. I look forward to victory tomorrow. Hohohohohoho!"
Checking her fiancé's chin for damage, Kodachi smiled and helped him to his feet, moving to the street before the pair roller skated for home.
Akane lay awake and very uncomfortable on Ranma's futon in the guest room. She didn't mind her sisters leaving Ranma in her bed and dragging her paralyzed form here, but she couldn't sleep. Between still being paralyzed and the smell of Ranma's pillow, she wondered if she would ever calm down enough get to sleep before dawn.
The sound of footsteps came from the hall outside but passed to head clumsily down the stairs. She briefly wondered if Nabiki had gone to get a drink of water or the like when the distant sound of the toilet flushing came faintly through the old house.
The footsteps returned, but this time the door to the guest room slid open, and Ranma's legs briefly came into her view as he stumbled inside.
Akane's eyes widened as Ranma pulled the blanket back, and climbed in with her. In a daze Akane felt him spoon in behind her and re-cover them with the blanket.
Goose bumps rippled over Akane's skin as his breath washed over the back of her neck as he began to snore almost immediately.
She was asleep shortly after.
Nabiki licked her lips as she looked down at her sister sleeping with a boy.
Tearing her slightly jealous eyes from the way Akane's fiancé was spooned so effortlessly beside the sleeping girl, she looked to Kasumi who was glaring at Aunty.
"I suppose you think this is appropriate?" Kasumi hissed at the older woman looking down on the sleeping pair...
"When I went to sleep Akane was paralyzed and alone on that futon, while Ranma was drugged and asleep in her bed," Nodoka faintly spoke with disapproval. "I don't think we can lay blame till we know what happened, Kasumi-chan."
Poking her sister in the side to get her attention, Nabiki tilted her head. "Why are we whispering? Why haven't you just woken them?"
"Because the last time I tried that I got pulled down on them," Kasumi hissed testily.
With an unladylike shrug, Nabiki stepped near and pinched Akane's nose closed.
With a choking snort, Akane shook her head free of Nabiki's fingers, and opened her eyes. She gave a long groan. "Way to ruin a nice dream, Sis," she said tiredly, not yet registering the other two women.
"Is that 'dream' drooling on your neck?" Nabiki asked with a sly smirk.
Shifting onto her back, Akane looked in momentary surprise at the slumbering face behind her, but the events before she drifted to sleep last night rushed into recollection as Ranma mumbled and snuggled against her side, resting his face on her shoulder. "Sorry, but in his drugged state he went to the bathroom and stumbled back in here. I was still paralyzed. Nothing happened."
Kasumi glared while trying to find the right words, leaving time for Nabiki to pipe in with a teasing jab. "You don't look sorry, Sis. Try not to smile like the cat that slept with the canary."
Rolling her eyes, Akane didn't move from Ranma's warm arms. "It is close, but it isn't really intimate. Nothing happened. We were just sleeping."
Nodoka nodded in agreement but Kasumi shook her head. "And his arms have been around you all night? How is that not intimate?"
"He was asleep," Akane defended, trying to glare back up at her standing sister but unable to wipe the smile from her lips.
"I think we can easily see how intimate this is," Nabiki offered. "A simple experiment."
Kneeling down, Nabiki leaned close to Akane's face, before speaking in a breathy voice like Akane's. "Shut up."
With an oddly muffled "Akane" Ranma's grip tightened. Akane blushed as she felt Ranma's hand sliding under her pajama top...
"Hah!" Nabiki said at the reaction Ranma had to the words she had been told Akane had used many times the night the pair had made love. "It's like Pavlov's dog."
Proceeding through the gates of St Hebereke Girl's High, the still smiling Akane led Ranma away from her angry sister Kasumi, her teasing sister Nabiki, and her smugly proud future mother-in-law, as well as their oblivious fathers.
Waving as the pair headed for the change rooms, the rest of the families started moving along with the students of St Hebereke and Furinkan High, as well as a few parents and Martial Arts Ice Skating fans, towards the large school pool with stadium seating turned ice rink.
Behind them, three attractive girls were turning the heads of a few of the boys coming for the show, only to have the attention stop at the angry look on the face of the middle one, carrying an over sized spatula on her back, and glaring at the back of the two families entering the building ahead.
"So what exactly happened last night while I was asleep?" Ranma whispered as they entered the building. So far all he knew was Kasumi was mad.
"Mikado and Kodachi attacked but I took care of it," Akane said without looking at him. "I'll tell you everything after the match. Here we are."
A printed page taped to a door was the sign for the "Boy's changing room." A similar sign with the other gender marked a second door.
With a nod, both turned the handle and entered, Akane's eyes were wary from experience, Ranma's from tales of Akane's experiences with Kodachi in the past.
Looking inside, Ranma immediately saw Mikado, wearing only his tights, and posing in front of a full length mirror.
Closing the door behind him, Ranma moved to a position to get changed. "Hey, Golden Boy."
"That is Golden Star," Mikado growled, turning from the mirror. "I see you weren't smart enough to shamefully bow out and forfeit. Now you get to lose in front of everybody."
Whistling as he got changed, Ranma gave the blond young man a grin. "You may not have heard this, but Ranma Saotome, does not lose."
A flash of light went through Mikado's dark eyes. "No, you just come in second a lot."
"Says who?" Ranma said, dropping his casual demeanor.
"Well, I'll always be Akane's first kiss. How is it having sloppy seconds?"
The dig hit Ranma more than he wanted to acknowledge, but rather than dwell, he went on the offensive. "Is all that makeup on your chin to cover the bruise or your zits."
Turning back to the mirror, Mikado assessed the efforts he had made to cover the purpling on his chin from the rungs of the ladder in last night's fiasco. While refusing the existence of any zits, his handsome eyes searched for those as well. "The only people who will be close enough to see my bruise will be my partner, and yours."
"What do you mean by that?" Ranma asked with a frown.
"This is the second time Akane has entered the rink for war, so it is only right that I remind her of what a real man tastes like," Mikado said. He raised a finger to point at Ranma. "I swear during his match, I will steal Akane Tendo's lips."
"What did you say!"
"What did you say!"
"Hohohohohohoho!" Kodachi laughed loudly as she smiled at her rival. "While Mikado and I are true to each other, on the ice we would not avoid such a powerful attack as Mikado's kiss attack. It has won so many of our matches. While so few of our previous opponents could rival the masculinity of my Mikado, your partner is a special case. Today, I shall use the kiss attack to steal Ranma Saotome's lips!"
"Is kissing and such all you ever think of?" Akane demanded angrily.
"It is all my fiancé thinks of, and I deny him nothing," Kodachi replied with a look.
Konatsu and Junko followed Ukyo as the angry young woman directed the way to seats a row behind the two small families ahead of them. Ukyo had been withholding her battle aura, but neither the cross-dressing ninja, Konatsu, nor the martial artist, Junko, dared hope it was her mood improving, knowing it was just her desire to not be noticed by Genma, Nodoka, or Akane's family.
Sitting down, both turned their eyes from Ukyo's white knuckled grip on her spatula, to the ice rink as the lights dimmed and spotlights lit up one of the entrance gates.
A feminine voice rang out over the PA. "Welcome students of St Hebereke and Furinkan High and guests, to this exhibition grudge match. Now introducing, our undefeated Martial Arts Ice Skating team, Black Gold!"
With undeniable grace, a pair of skaters entered the ice, moving clockwise around each other and around the rink as the audience of students cheered for them. The dark haired Kodachi's porcelain skin shone under the lights against the black leotard she wore, with some discrete glittering gold trim on her arms, as she glided in and out of the arms of her partner. Her blond partner wore black tights but with a golden jacket with a black rose image over his heart, Mikado's smile shining brighter than his outfit as the pair skated under the spotlights.
Projectors up among the spotlights started, creating images onto the ice. Flames in the wake of the skating pair gave way to still images of them skating, and past victories at the moment of the finishing blow appearing behind them as they glided on.
Ranma shifted awkwardly as he pulled at the fighting outfit his mother and Kasumi had made for him. Though based on the black and red fighting outfit from the Juuban tournament, the black slacks had been exchanged for tights that he felt left little to the imagination. His red jacket was tighter too, but still with the rearing black stallion, the Chinese style ties now purely for show.
Moving beside Ranma, Akane dropped her black leather jacket to show off the same tight red top like Ranma's she had worn to the Juuban tournament, exposing her midrift before a black skirt covered her waist. She had some skin tone tights on underneath in deference to the cold but her pink cheeks when he managed to drag his eyes up to her face made Ranma think she felt she wasn't wearing much. Not that he was complaining.
Feeling Ranma take her hand, Akane glanced down at the black bracers both wore on their forearms, her eyes narrowing on the matching red and dark blue hair braid bracelets both wore, imagining she could feel the silver ring dangling under his wrist over hers.
Turning to the other pair doing their entrance lap, Akane frowned at the images appearing behind the pair, and quickly guessed what images they might show of them. "Ranma, you should know that jerk, Mikado, had a camera last night. They probably plan to show shots of me massaging you to try and throw us off our game."
With a shrug, Ranma glanced at his teammate. "So, all the guys in the crowd will be envious. Let's kick some ass."
"Ranma, wait," Akane began to say but he was already pulling her out onto the ice as the spotlights turned on them.
Taking to the ice with some speed, both smiled brightly for the audience they couldn't see in the darkness as the auditorium PA announced them.
"And here are the challengers, the first time pairing of Ranma Saotome and Akane Tendo!"
With a loud cheering from the crowd, Akane and Ranma smiled and waved, Akane glancing at the face of Ranma eating up the attention. Her eyes turned to the ice ahead as the projectors put different images on the ice. The first image of was of the pair of them running towards the school in their uniforms, obviously taken without their permission or knowledge. Ranma shrugged to her as he pulled her around, cradling her to his side as they skated over the image.
The next image appeared ahead, and was obviously taken from her window into her room last night. The crowd of mainly girls in audience gave a low 'Woooo' at seeing Ranma face down on a bed, Akane rubbing his bare back.
"See, envy," Ranma whispered between smiling teeth.
Wincing and knowing it was coming, Akane saw the next image appear ahead, this one of her straddling her fiancé as she was massaging him. Prepared, she was able to keep Ranma from stumbling on his skates.
Ranma frowned as envy surged inside himself, unable to recall Akane doing such last night as he drifted off to sleep because of Kasumi's sleeping powder dessert.
"Good girl, Akane! Your mother would be proud! Daddy loves you!"
Ranma managed to catch the red-faced Akane and spin her in his arms to cover her stumbling as her father's voice rang out through the auditorium at seeing her forward actions.
Finally a last image appeared, this one showing a struggling Akane in Ranma's arms in that bed.
Genma's voice this time joined Soun's.
"That's my boy! You..."
Kasumi had been wondering who was growling behind her, but that was answered when an over-sized spatula swung over her head to impact the skull of the proud father Genma cheering his son.
"Ukyo-chan," Nodoka said in greeting as if the enraged girl attacking her husband was an everyday occurrence. "I am surprised to see you here supporting your fiancé."
Resisting the urge to brain the smiling older woman she hoped to have for an in-law, Ukyo couldn't manage a smile in return. "I wish I could support him, but now I see him photographed dragging that hussy to bed. Or are you going to claim this is another misunderstanding?"
Kasumi stood up, trying to get between Nodoka and Ukyo. "It's my fault. He was asleep because I drugged him."
"Oh, and he grabbed her while he was asleep?" Ukyo demanded in a low voice, glaring first at the nearly crying Kasumi then at Nodoka for an answer.
Nodoka simply looked at her, "I assume you recall when you were 'asleep' and dragged Ranma into your sleeping roll when he was afflicted with the Moxibustion of Ultimate Weakness?"
Ukyo frowned, recalling how she held Ranma down when he had been reduced to the strength of a baby, the dolt of a fiancé too involved with his issues of being weak to take advantage of the situation with her before Ryoga showed up like he had a claim on her.
Seeing Ukyo pause, Nodoka seized on the opportunity, "Perhaps Ukyo-chan, you'd take your seat and we can get back to watching the match and after you can ask Ranma on his honor if he was awake when he grabbed Akane-chan. Or if he has touched her at all in his memory since he last saw you?"
Nabiki smirked at Nodoka's choice of words but knew the older woman had no intention of letting her even ask a question her son was stupid enough to spill the beans over.
"Happodaikirin!" Ranma requested, even as he summoned his passions. His confidence based attack would have been hindered by the public embarrassment but these images only fed his plan.
"I don't have that many of them," Akane warned as she watched him gather his ki like a pinkish glow between his hands.
"Not the 'Stone', just use the rest as fireworks. Muteki Kurohyou Me-To Revised!" Ending on his attack's battlecry, Ranma released his blast across the surface of the ice with a wave of heat. Scorching over the ice, gouts of steam raised up off the surface.
"Happodaikirin!" Akane cried, tossing lit firecrackers into the air.
Between the smoke, steam, and flashes of light, the images being projected became unfocused and indistinct, Akane smirking in success as 'Boo's' came from the crowd, was caught off-guard when Ranma started to lift her up not unlike how Mikado had carried Kodachi in the ring. Hissing his name, her eyes widened just ahead of them, Ranma not seeing the danger as he glared at Mikado.
Ranma looked up as Akane tilted herself to fall behind him then kicked him in the behind. Before he could understand why Akane was attacking him, his body was already raised up, his palm on Akane's bringing him over her.
"You idiot," she hissed as she tilted and danced oddly yet gracefully on the ice. "You melted the ice, your skates would stop the instant you hit the puddle!"
Ranma's lips twitched with a smirk as he found it oddly easier to balance upside down on Akane's hand than on his skates. He was tempted to suggest that they untwine their fingers and let him balance on their fingertips, but discarded it seeing Mikado and Kodachi were racing towards them.
"And the fight begins," called the woman announcer on the PA. "Black Gold are already in bound!"
With perfectly synchronized steps hiding the clacks of four skates digging into the ice to sound as two, Black Gold built speed before linking hands. Spinning around each other once they shot towards Akane and Ranma, before parting to pass on either side of their opponents. Just as they passed both spun around and kicked out.
Synchronized more from Akane being in control, the two anything goes martial artists, countered by the simplicity of Akane using her hand in Ranma's to make him a bat and aim for Kodachi's head like a ball.
Dodging aside, Kodachi sacrificed her kick to be missed by the wielded Ranma, opening a gap for Akane to slide between Black Gold without either side striking the first blow.
Akane grunted as she lifted Ranma enough to drop him as vertically as possible, one hand grabbing his shoulder to help him stick the landing. Sparing a glare for his partner's cautiousness, Ranma hid the worst of his wobble in landing before breaking apart. The pair taking opposite turns weren't surprised to see Black Gold already bearing down on them, their opponents holding arms like doing a waltz as they glided on the ice.
"Hey, Black Gold, free target!" Ranma offered as he turned to clearly pass them on the side away from his partner.
Akane flushed as she turned in, "What are you doing idiot?" she cried.
Kodachi and Mikado smirked at the arrogant invite that aggravated Ranma's own partner. "Why take the obvious..." Mikado began.
"...when we can go for the weak link?" Kodachi finished as the pair turned into the angry Akane.
Breaking apart, this time Black Gold moved to skate past Akane, four slender ribbons reaching between the pair, hand to hand, knee to knee, and a cross formed by one each hand to knee.
Akane had heard of the pair using a ribbon for a trip like this in the past, and almost froze at the approaching net when her instincts took over. Kicking one leg forward and leaning, she used the blade of her skate to cut through the two ribbons right on the X, her head ducking the lowering upper ribbon as she skipped her back leg over the lower.
Her toe clipping the lower ribbon, Akane tilted forward but kept her balance. Shifting her hips she went into a spin to stay upright, bringing her back foot forward as she raked the ice, breaking hard with a shower of ice behind her as she faced her opponents, a small smirk on her face. "You picked the wrong link."
Dropping the ribbons, Black Gold turned in a sharp circle to come back together, skating hard to gain speed towards the now stationary Akane. Mikado smiled white teeth confidently as he goaded, "Says the team who been on the defensive the whole..."
Akane pushed right as the last of the ice she had chipped up thinned to show Ranma rushing in at the high speed he had been building since the instant Mikado and Kodachi had focused on his partner.
Swerving right as Ranma shot towards him, Mikado let Kodachi fall back far enough to be clear, the handsome blond leaving it to the last second to dodge aside, taking a grazing punch to the side as Ranma shot past. "Winner's strike first," Ranma declared as Akane shouted a warning.
With a wicked smile, Kodachi cried her attack, "Black Ice," as she splashed a black liquid on the ice ahead of Ranma.
Briefly wondering how Kodachi managed to squirt oil from the wrist of her outfit, Ranma didn't even try to dodge the bad ice. Figuring it would stop him on the spot or it might make his turning, the weakest of his skating skills, simply harder, and so he jumped over it towards the rink wall and focused on the first ice-skating skill he had 'learned'.
"Aren't those ribbons and ink cheating?" Konatsu asked, directing the question ahead to the Tendo's and Saotome's rather than his boss who seemed more intent on grinding her teeth.
Soun Tendo nodded, "They are unorthodox but the rules of Martial Arts Ice Skating were initially based on Ice Hockey tools, and never properly defined. I understand it is considered poor form to mar the ice like this with oil, but Ranma-kun did damage the ice making his steam ea..."
"Turn boy!" Genma roared over his friend as his son flashed across the oiled ice towards the wall.
Lifting one knee and twisting his lower half to impact it sideways, Ranma struck with both hands and his leg, the counter force bouncing him off the rink wall in one of history's most awkward ice skating turns.
Still his speed was high and even Kodachi was barely prepared for him racing towards her so soon after what should have been a damaging blow. With a clacking on the ice she danced backwards taking a serpentine pattern as she built speed, waiting for him to be close enough to commit his direction and she could drive to one side and escape being run over.
A warning call from Mikado was all she had before Akane barreled through from behind, one arm going low to trip up the raven haired girl. As Kodachi hit the ice, Akane reached Ranma, the pair grabbing hands, Ranma's momentum stopping as he swung Akane around him one hundred and eighty degrees to fire her back at Kodachi with even greater speed.
Sliding in front of his downed partner, Mikado made jazz hands at the pair, flittering his fingers, before opening his hands wide as more oil sprayed the ice between them and Akane, forcing her to break off lest she race in unbalanced against two opponents.
With a graceful pull, Kodachi was up in Mikado's arms again and picking up speed as Akane joined Ranma and the two pairs faced off.
With a white smile, Mikado looked at Ranma. "Shall we dance around each other all day or should we handle this ourselves, man to man?"
Akane clamped her fingers on Ranma's flesh too late as her partner broke from holding her to skate in, "Well we know I can out fight you and out dance you, so whatever you want."
"You can think that, but can you do both?" Mikado goaded as the pair skated towards each other, Akane and Kodachi forming a circling vigil around the outside. Just as the pair got close, Mikado cried out his singles finishing move, "Shiryō no Bon Odori"
Ranma's eyes went wide as what Akane had described as this 'Dance of Death' didn't do it justice. Mikado's body blurred as he spun in place faster and faster, coming to appear as most women believed him to be, having a hundred hands, punching and striking out of his vortex of impenetrable assault.
"Michael Jackson no Odori!" Ranma shouted back, stopping just shy of the approaching vortex, his steps appearing to move forward but ever staying inches ahead of the destruction in Mikado's reach. Continuing to Moonwalk on ice skates, Ranma smirked at the confusion on Mikado's face before he snatched one of his opponent's hands out of the whirling dervish like attack.
Frowning at the appearance of what appeared to be a gymnastics club in a sleeve with a fake fist painted on the end, Ranma recalled Akane using a similar trick with boken and shinai in the dojo to appear as if striking hundreds of times with only two hands by juggling the weapons in an offensive display. He also recalled Akane said she had copied that move from Kodachi in Rhythmic Gymnastics.
Stepping quicker to hide her move from Akane by being behind the men from her circling enemy, Kodachi turned in, again pulling out oil to splash behind Ranma as he was backing up. This time she gave her laugh as with a flick of her fingers she set it alight. "Fire and Ice! HOHohohohohohoho!"
Seeing the new danger, Ranma threw the baton in his hand at Mikado, and then thrust his arms back. Recalling his attempt to copy Herb's ki blast flight when snowboarding with Akane, Ranma hoped that at least it would be less of a mistake moving backwards than the high speed that had thrown him clear off the ski run.
Mikado smirked as he felt that he had Ranma trapped, only to have his target fly vertically up like Superman. He was so shocked that he nearly continued into his partners own fire.
With a gasp, Akane skated forward, coming under Ranma who was spinning in the air to the gasps of the crowd. As the announcers complained over the PA at losing count of how many revolutions Ranma made in the air, Akane skated underneath his landing point, and with a grunt tried to catch him before he hurt himself.
Seeing Akane below, Ranma's hands found hers as his skates touched down, and immediately slid from under him. Rolling without releasing Akane's grip, he dragged her over him and came up holding her with Akane's legs wrapped around his waist as they balanced on his skates. Akane blushed at the flush of heat in her body as most of the crowd gave a loud 'Wooo!' at the intimate position.
"Mikado, we can't be out done by a prude, Hohohohohohoho!" Kodachi cried, climbing up into a similar position on her partner. Mikado shifted for the extra weight as his hands supported Kodachi's thighs, and skated at their opponents. Freeing her arms, Kodachi looked into her fiancé's eyes to read his expression for how close they were. Spreading her arms, they went into the spin of their renowned 'Black Rose Spiral'. "Kuro Bara Senpuu!"
Putting Akane down, the pair in black and red made heavy carving sounds as their skates dug in to give them speed and avoid Black Gold's spinning swirling attack, Kodachi's hands out releasing black roses and unseen pollens.
"Get ready for our ranged attack," Ranma cried as he brought out a short handled broom.
Rolling her eyes, Akane refused to announce her attack as she knelt down, her hand bringing out a very special Happodaikirin. Bigger, though no where near the size of one of Happosai's truly massive firecrackers, this one was larger than her own head, and had a heavy stone base. With a bowling motion, Akane released the firecracker onto the ice, beginning a rumbling sound even as the wick sparked on its top.
Skating in, Ranma set the broom ahead of the stone, brushing the ice as if he cared how smooth the ice was as he watched the wick burn down.
Turning their spiraling attack form back towards Ranma and Akane, Black Gold slowed their spin to watch for this counter attack, as Ranma stepped behind the stone.
"Anything Goes Martial Arts Curling, Burning the Stone!"
Using the name of the curling foul where the broom touches the stone, Ranma swung the broom from behind like a hockey stick, and with a crack sent the explosive directly into their opponents.
Tilting back onto her hand to cartwheel back to her skates, Kodachi broke apart from Mikado to try to get apart from this counter attack but both were impacted still with a hard shove of force. Kodachi sprawled onto the ice as Mikado wobbled taking a long moment to regain his balance.
Ranma and Akane barreled in on the downed opponent, Ranma grabbing Akane's hands to slingshot her around him and across to the ice. "Guess you won't be getting that kiss, Kodachi!" Akane cried as she dropped knees first into her.
Two hands grabbed Akane by her armpits, pulling her up just before she could reach Kodachi. "Did someone say kiss?" Mikado asked in his smarmy voice as he pulled her properly into his arms.
Pulling up her arm to block Mikado from getting close enough to kiss, Akane felt Mikado twist her in his arms and his breath on her cheek as he moved close.
Dropped on her rump on the ice, Akane looked up as Mikado spun clear of her partner wielding the electric hair clippers Principal Kuno had given him. "Touch her again and I'll shave you bald, Sleaze-bag," Ranma threatened.
Two lithe black sleeved arms slid around Ranma's torso and turned him around. "Come now," Kodachi said breathlessly at Ranma, "The kiss attack is perfectly valid. Let me show you."
Nodoka raised an eyebrow at the forwardness of Ranma's opponent, only to be distracted as Ukyo stood up behind her for the second time.
Fortunately for both women, a cry of pain made them wince from their focus as on the ice Akane was fast enough to not only get back to her skates, but to grab Ranma by his arms. With strength belying her petite form, Akane stretched Ranma's arms back in their sockets to pull him up from Kodachi's grip, the raven haired girl left with only a grip on his ankles.
Ukyo smiled hopefully as some in the crowd chanted 'Couple Cleaver' even as Mikado snatched up Kodachi by the ankles and pull her to stand above him even and he began to spin.
f"This the couple cleaver?" Ranma asked as he was spun by his ankles over ten feet in the air.
"Do you think?" Akane snapped rhetorically as she was spun with her hands in his.
From below, Mikado crowed. "Feel the pain, Saotome. You have to let her go to save yourself! Drop your fiancée!"
"I ain't letting go so how about we show you another option! Akane get angry!" Ranma cried as he pulled the feeling of near death into his heart, his body chilling as he entered the soul of ice.
The wind began to form as Akane focused on Happosai, only to find her anger sliding into a memory of him finally removing Kuno as a bother with the Ultimate Weakness point. Even trying to focus on thoughts of Ranma's admitting that she kissed him in the mountains that she didn't remember faded with the memory comfort of him spooning up to her in bed last night.
"Angrier!' Ranma cried, "Think of Happosai!"
"I'm trying, it isn't working!" she snapped back, her arms straining.
Frowning at the pain in his shoulders from Akane bending them back like she had, Ranma looked into her eyes, her emotions flickering rather than getting enraged. "Don't think of Happosai, try thinking like him! Remember the training trip!"
Her body was all too willing to flush with heat again at just Ranma's words, Akane shut her eyes against the blurring crowd of witnesses, her mind flashing through memories that had been too often in her thoughts of late, her aura burning.
Kodachi tried to glance down at Mikado as gusts of cold and heat flew around them, never before having had this occur in the Good Bye Whirl. Below Mikado was looking down as the tornado formed around them, pulling them up, his skates leaving the ice.
As Kodachi and Mikado cried out, Ranma grunted as he used his own experience with the winds of the Hiryu Shoten Ha to force Akane down and lift Black Gold up. "Akane, turn it off now," he cried.
Akane glared at the command, as if she could turn it off so easily. It was only after imagining Kuno naked that her blood chilled enough and the winds dissipated enough till finally her skates touched down on the ice once more.
Ignoring the announcers over the PA, Ranma looked at Mikado now hanging off Kodachi's feet. "Hey Sex-crazed jerk, you gonna let go or drag your fiancée down with ya?"
"As if there is a doubt?" Mikado shouted back before he let go.
The upside down Ranma grinned and looked down at Akane, only to see her eyes go wide.
Mikado, attached by a rhythmic gymnastics ribbon to Kodachi's leg, was about to impact the ice when it went taut, yanking Kodachi to him as his own momentum stopped enough that he landed on his skates. Kodachi smiled as she pulled Ranma and Akane over, letting them topple before releasing herself to fall into her partner's arms.
Ranma hit the ice hard, sliding into a patch of oil slicked ice. Shaking his head to clear it, her rolled onto his stomach and looked for Akane, seeing only a couple feet out of reach, and holding her head from an equally bad landing on the ice.
Slipping as he tried to stand, Ranma glanced to see Mikado already spinning Kodachi around him to whip her forward towards Akane.
"Akane, get up!" Ranma cried, his face going pale as she looked at him with dazed eyes but made no movement to get up.
As Kodachi bore down, Ranma desperately worked his legs to try and get traction but the slick ice refused to let the skate cut in. Giving up, he got on his knees and cried "Cradle of Heaven," throwing his arms wide as he let his emotions for her radiate out.
Akane's mind might have still been too stunned to realize the danger she was in or the words being shouted at her, but her body treated the lack of instruction as permission to do exactly what it wanted as she dove from the ice into Ranma's arms, mashing her lips on his.
Skating around the pair in shock, Kodachi had one eyebrow raised as she looked at her prudish rival showing unheard of enthusiasm for her man. At the crowing of the crowd, Kodachi grabbed her approaching fiancé and not about to be out done, planted her own kiss on Mikado.
"You two timing jackass! You cheating, dishonorable jerk!"
Ranma had to struggle to break from Akane's lips and look across the rink at the death glare Ukyo was giving him before she stormed towards the exit.
As the collective awkward silence spread over the rink, Kodachi looked towards her blue eyed opponent. "One of your other women?"
"She was my best friends as a kid but my Pop stupidly engaged us because he was greedy," he said, watching as his mother hurried to follow Ukyo out of the arena.
Mikado was about to make a snarky remark when Kodachi put her hand over his mouth and glanced to Ranma haughtily. "Black Gold is prepared to accept a draw so you can deal with this personal problem."
Ranma looked up gratefully. "Thanks," he said instantly, dragging Akane to her feet even as she caught up enough to question this.
Kodachi smiled as Mikado made similar grievance against her palm but she pulled her hand away to kiss him into acceptance.
Akane was still struggling with Ranma surrendering victory when they reached the gate off the ice and she found him handing her his skates. "I've got to explain it to Ukyo."
Leaping barefoot over a cluster of confused audience members to the match, Ranma made it to the glass doors out of the building where he saw Ukyo glaring at his mother. He just started to push the door open when Ukyo slapped Nodoka across the check hard enough to drop the woman to the ground.
Genma was fast but Ranma was faster, both covering the distance to grab Ukyo and hold her by the arms, when Nodoka looked up. "Genma, Ranma, let her go."
The two Saotome's looked at the woman who was so precious to both of them but didn't release the struggling Ukyo as Nodoka stood.
"Please, let her go. I dare say that my allowing the engagement mess to drag out has only caused Kounji embarrassment to the point that I deserved that slap. Husband, as you have shown yourself to be only a detriment to these issues you will take Soun to a bar and not be within my sight before tomorrow morning. Ranma I'd like you to go and get out of your fighting outfit." Seeing the men release the struggling girl, she appraised the now somber girl who was looking at the ground. Nodoka gestured for the tea house across and a little up the road. "Ukyo-san, please join me for some tea. It is long past due we talked, woman to woman."
"He belongs to me," Ukyo spat, not touching the steaming beverage before her as the woman across from her looked infuriatingly sadly at her. "I loved him first. What more could I have done? What else could I ..."
Sipping her tea, Nodoka tried to keep pity from her eyes as Ukyo's voice broke. Putting down her cup, she spoke calmly. "I had thought you might be the one who would claim his heart. Unlike Sakura or Shampoo you offered him the friendship that my son most craved. Why he was never able to see you as more than that friend is not an answer I can give. The heart is a mysterious..."
"Oh yeah," Ukyo interrupted sharply, "like finding them naked or kissing the first day you brought her in was a mystery."
"I swear to you..." Nodoka began before she was cut off again.
"Like Ranma swore no intimacy and now he's making out on ice skates?"
Nodoka snapped back angrily, determined not to be cut off again. "Do you really think it was by yet another girl throwing her body at my son that she wormed her way into his heart more than Shampoo or Sakura? I gave you all a chance because it was more honorable to not drag yet another family into this dishonorable mess, you had a full year with which to win my son's heart. If one of you had I would have forced my husband to put an engagement with the Tendo's down a generation. But none of you did. So I asked my husband to consult with Soun Tendo to see if they still wanted to go forward with this despite the entanglements. My husband instead simply instructed Soun to engage Akane to Ranma. Akane came to me unaware of Ranma being the one she was being forced to marry and I kept them in the dark to let them be friends."
The slide of the door opening drew both women's attention, the chill air nothing against Ukyo's glare as Ranma and Akane entered, the latter with her hand on his shoulder. Despite Ukyo's glare Ranma didn't pull away from Akane's touch.
With a gesture of her hand, Nodoka directed the young couple to a booth across the room, away from herself and Ukyo. For a moment Ranma looked like he was going to approach before Akane dragged him towards the booth.
A young waitress shuffled over but seeing her customers already selected the booth she redundantly directed them to sit and took their order.
Seeing Ranma sit down on the same side of the booth table as Akane made Ukyo look back at Nodoka, near to tears.
From another booth, four feminine faces looked sadly at the byplay between Ukyo and Ranma before speaking in hushed tones.
"Ouch, he really did fall for your sister, huh?" Junko asked in a whisper.
Kasumi smiled somewhat bittersweetly. "He did. There is a lot of emotion between them for how little time they have known each other. It is just sad that so many are getting their hearts broken over this mess."
Nabiki's eyes were narrowed at the subtle grip Junko had on her companion's obi sash. Holding a still wrapped pair of cheap chopsticks in her hand, she pointed at the grip. "And how is Konatsu-chan involved in this mess?"
Blushing prettily, Konatsu shook his head and was about to speak through his gloss red lips, when Junko spoke over him. "Natsu-chan just wants to comfort Ucchan, even though he knows it is best if he holds back till Ukyo either wins or gets over Ran-chan.
Nodding, Nabiki smirked at the brown haired Konatsu. "Ah, you're the guy raised as some super woman ninja? Are you really as good as they say?"
Again blushing Konatsu raised a slender hand to his lips, "I am well trained."
Junko slapped his kimono sleeve, "Don't be so modest. Only Ran-chan could beat him."
"And you like Ukyo?" Nabiki pressed, tapping the chopsticks on the table.
"I respect Ukyo-san a lot," Konatsu said back in a hushed voice with a longing look for his heart's desire still crying in the distant booth. "She helped me break free of my awful step family and took me in when I had no one else."
Pursing her lips into a slight frown, Nabiki considered the crossdresser. "But you are not jealous of Ranma and Ukyo?"
Smiling sadly, Konatsu shook his head. "No, he also helped me break free and even helped me rescue Ukyo-san and Junko-chan from my Stepmother. If Ukyo-san truly wants Ranma then I wish them the best."
"Would you feel the same if Ranma cheated on Ukyo?" Nabiki asked quickly, earning gasps from Konatsu and Junko and an embarrassed warning glare from Kasumi.
Junko looked wide eyed at Akane and Ranma in their booth. "Did they?"
Nabiki smirked then sighed overly dramatically, "Have you ever known the mighty Ranma Saotome to break a promise?"
As Konatsu and Junko calmed and shook their heads, Kasumi silently started breathing again, promising to have a stern talking to her sister for her antics. The elder Tendo sister amended that to more than a talking to as her eyes caught the pair of chopsticks in Nabiki's hands, the younger Tendo daughter straining them to a slight bend with her fingers.
Ignoring Kasumi's glare, Nabiki used the chopsticks to tap lightly on the table again. "So if you support Ukyo after Ranma, why are you not angrier he is beside our sister?"
Junko looked embarrassed as she glanced to see if Ukyo or Nodoka were paying attention to them before leaning forward to whisper. "Well he is cute and kind of hunky, and really a sweet guy, but if he is anything like his father he is going to need to really love his wife. Anything less than devoted and I seriously doubt he wouldn't consider a training trip like his father and would you want to be left behind for ten years like Nodoka-san? I mean can you imagine a worse marriage than being left behind as a caretaker for a never used home?"
Nabiki raised an eyebrow as the girl she considered rather a ditz made a disheartening point about her sister's fiancé. Kasumi looked very sadly towards Nodoka for a long moment, leaving Junko to continue.
"What I fear is that Ucchan would go along with it. She loves her cooking and running the business, and that would probably drive Ranma to training trips. They both deserve better."
Akane looked silently at Ranma, trying to control her anger. She wasn't truly angry with him, just a little... not jealous, she assured herself, but peeved. Intellectually she knew he wasn't in love with any of his other fiancées, but when he lost the fight with Kuno and she was forced to return to Nerima, she couldn't get him to even talk to her for a week, and here he was chasing Ukyo who had just gotten a clue.
Pursing her lips, her grip tightened on Ranma's arm as she felt empathy for the girl, how mortifying to have the man she claimed to love, skating, holding, and kissing another woman in front of an audience.
Putting down his tea, Ranma glanced to Akane with a lost look, not sure what to do, but finding some reassurance in her small smile before looking back at Ukyo and his mother.
Sipping her tea, Nodoka reached out and touched the crying girl's hand. "There is no use in wondering what you could have done differently because it won't change what is happening. When you came after Ranma and his father, you brought violence and my son offered you friendship. When you offered him all of your love, he offered you friendship. He is not a complex young man and you know what he will do. What do you want to do, Ukyo-san?"
Glaring angrily at the older woman, Ukyo's jaw unclenched and a sob shook her shoulders. Wiping her eyes she stood and brought her shoulders up.
For a second Nodoka thought she might receive another slap and had to will herself to keep her arms down and accept it, but instead Ukyo turned from the older woman and glared at Ranma and Akane.
Opening her mouth, Ukyo seemed about to speak when she turned away, wet eyes looking at Nodoka. "I won't be at the meeting."
With that she walked out of the tea house, her back straight even as tears rolled down her cheeks.
To be continued.
A hard year to get writing done this one but finally another chapter.
Super special thanks to Taechunsa and Doc Emmit Brown for helping me clean up this chapter. And repeated thanks to them and Hpackrat, Lawrence Muishiki, Cupid's Bride, Angela Jewel, Katie, Sakurabana, Paul Henkel, Mzephyr, YouROCKharder, Mesrure Onal, Rosedreams, My-name-is-foxglove, MWhaleK, Michael Ahlf, and probably a hundred more of you out there who have pushed, proofed, or inspired me. And of course, Tom Wrensch, who started this story.
A special thanks to the awesomely talented siren-mergirl. Search for deviant art for her or Meeting Later: Akane for our very imposing heroine ready to battle for her fiancé.
One more chapter to deal with a couple loose ends, namely some love issues and meeting the 5th fiancée, then everything is set to get to the engagement meeting on chapter 22.
Thanks again for reading, please review all you read. The vocal minority gets what it wants, aren't you a minority? You would be if you took a minute to review.