Martial Arts Romance
Disclaimer: The characters contained herein belong to one Rumiko Takahashi. The story itself belongs to...eh, itself. Technically, I wrote it, but I still feel like it is its own entity, so yeah... Except for the title. The title remains a work in progress, even after posting. I hate titles.
Note: Merry Christmas, Smartycat! I hope you enjoy. And much thanks to ArtemisMoon for beta-ing this for me.
The sun shone, the birds sang, and the traffic hummed a pleasant mechanical tune. No screams could be heard, no bodies flew through the air, and all the houses, street signs, and mailboxes appeared to be intact.
In other words, it was an abnormally quiet day in Nerima.
Ranma Saotome was sitting on one of the stools in the Cat Café, entirely of his own volition. Much to the shock of everyone, he had actually walked through the front door rather than crash through the roof, and as a male, no less. Some of the more cautious patrons quickly paid their bills and left, convinced that, if nothing weird had happened yet, something really weird was bound to happen very soon.
But nobody crashed through the Café walls; no prince came to claim the Pig-Tailed Maiden as his bride; nobody even spilled a glass of cold water. It was shaping up to be an abnormally normal day.
And Ranma hated every minute of it.
"Nothing interesting has happened in WEEKS!" he moaned.
Shampoo beamed at him as she sashayed over to deliver his ramen.
"Husband come back to village," she said cheerfully. "Never boring day."
"Think I'll pass on that, Shampoo," he said, and began inhaling his lunch.
Shampoo pouted, but went back to the kitchen to fetch more orders without protest. Ranma wished she had pushed her case a little more. Fighting off an amorous Shampoo was better than nothing.
Five minutes passed - five long, infinitely boring minutes. Ranma's aura got increasingly darker, driving off the rest of the restaurant's customers. Ryouga Hibiki had caused enough property damage to make depressed people an object of terror in Nerima.
A hard whack on the head from Cologne brought Ranma back from the depths of his self-pity.
"Son-in-law or not, boy," the old crone said dryly, "if you are going to drive off the customers, I will have to ask you to leave."
Ranma perked up.
"If I resisted, would you fight me?" he asked eagerly.
"Afraid not, my boy," she said. "These old bones are not meant for casual use."
Ranma instantly deflated, causing the old woman to chuckle more.
"You could always take Shampoo up on her offer, boy," she said.
"And be regulated to a life of housework in the village? I don't think so!" Ranma shuddered at the mere idea.
"It would give you something to do, wouldn't it?"
Ranma gave her a deadpan look.
"I'd rather pick a fight with the Tomboy," he replied seriously.
Cologne shrugged, not in the least bit concerned.
"How about learning a new form of martial arts, then?" she asked.
Ranma jumped to his feet.
"What kind?" he asked excitedly.
"'Aggressively Non-Aggressive Defensive Combat,'" Cologne replied. Ranma gave her an uncomprehending look. "The younger generations have taken to calling it 'Hug Fu'."
Ranma's uncomprehending expression shifted into one of shock.
"'Hug Fu'?" he asked, and Cologne nodded. "Y'mean like what Shampoo does when she glomps me?"
The Amazon matriarch snickered. "Yes, that particular maneuver is called 'Embrace of the Octopus.'"
Ranma studied Cologne for a long moment.
"There's a catch, isn't there?" he asked suspiciously. Cologne shrugged. "I'd have to practice with Shampoo, wouldn't I?"
Cologne's withered eyebrows lifted themselves in surprise. "My goodness, Son-in-law, you have almost grown clever."
"No way, old hag!" Ranma said emphatically, taking her roundabout reply as a 'yes.' "Just 'cause I'm bored doesn't mean I gotta death wish!"
"You are awfully picky for someone who is terribly bored," Cologne remarked dryly.
Ranma shook his head and slapped some yen on the counter. "I'm bored, not crazy. Thanks for the food." Sticking his hands in his pockets, he sauntered out the door.
'Hug Fu', huh? Might be interesting.
Ranma shook his head.
Nah, the Tomboy'd kill me.
The thought, however, lingered...
...and continued to linger. The rest of the day found Ranma wandering the streets of Nerima, observing the couples on the streets and the way they all held each other. As he watched, he evaluated their embraces with a martial artist's eye, looking at what they did, and deciding how one could break out of it.
So basically, the goal of Hug Fu is to prevent movement. Shampoo glomps me so that I can't get out, until the tomboy whacks me with that mallet of hers. Ranma snorted. Seems kinda boring and pointless, unless you've got a fiancé you wanna keep close at hand. He shuddered. But hey, life's been pretty boring recently, and ya never know when something could come in handy. 'Sides, it IS Anything Goes.
And, he added as an afterthought, Akane can't complain if I ain't practicing with Shampoo.
That reassurance firmly in place, Ranma decided to give Hug Fu a try.
Dinner that night was an oddly subdued affair. Ranma and Genma fought over their meals, as always, but in complete silence. Genma had started taunting his son in the beginning, but Ranma had made no reply; he was too busy staring with frightening intensity at Akane and the recently returned P-chan. Akane chaffed under the attention, but this was such un-Ranma-like behavior that she hesitated to pull out her mallet.
And thus passed a good half of the meal.
She's got her arms wrapped around his body, leaving his legs dangling. Could he get out of that? Sure, his legs are free, but they've got nothing to push off of.
"Oi, Ryouga!" he said tauntingly. "You sure your sense of direction's that bad? You seem to find your way back here easily enough."
"Ranma!" Akane snapped. "Why do you keep calling P-chan Ryouga?"
"Sorry, they're just so hard to tell apart." Ranma smirked.
The pig squealed his fury and thrashed wildly in Akane's arms.
There we go! He thrashes around to loosen her hold, giving his legs enough room to get onto her arms and pu–
"RANMA, YOU JERK!!!!"
–sh himself out of her embrace. Ranma finished the thought mid-air, Akane's mallet having sent him in the general direction of the Kuno mansion. He completed his landing in the Kuno pond, fortunately on top of Kodachi's pet alligator that was knocked out by the force of the blow. She trudged out of the pond, grumbling about her cursed gender and how wet her clothes were.
Just then she looked up to see Kuno, formerly meditating by the pond and now gaping at the appearance of one of his loves.
"The Pig-Tailed Maiden!" he cried, charging forward.
Ranma leaped upwards and kicked the kendo team captain in the forehead, using that momentum to push herself away and escape.
I'd do a lot of things to learn a new martial art, she seethed, but letting Kuno touch me isn't one of them!
The insanity continued the next day. Ranma, instead of walking on the fence as was his usual habit, walked next to Akane on the pavement. Akane was very confused, and when Akane got confused, she wanted to hit things. She desperately wanted to hit Ranma, but even she couldn't pretend that walking on the pavement was a mallet-able offense. Extremely not-Ranma-like, but not mallet worthy.
So they carried on, Ranma whistling a merry tune, and Akane pondering the merits of punching a telephone pole.
The faint tinkle of Shampoo's bicycle bell was wonderfully familiar to Akane, or would have been, had Shampoo not been Shampoo. True to form, a few seconds later the young Amazon appeared, soaring through the air on her bicycle. But Ranma, for the first time in as long as Akane could remember, actually dodged the bicycle attack. However, this suited Shampoo's purposes just as well, because it let her toss the bike aside and tackle glomp her airen. This Ranma did not escape.
Finally, a mallet-able offense! An excuse to pound Ranma into being Ranma again! Akane had just reached for her trusty weapon of righteous fury when she realized something.
Ranma was not acting like Ranma.
Granted, he hadn't been acting like Ranma since he'd gotten back from the Cat Café yesterday, but still...
The Ranma Saotome Akane knew did not stand calmly while a beautiful Amazon girl snuggled up to him. The real Ranma Saotome always went into shock, or panicked, or started sputtering. That Ranma Saotome did not simply stand there, eyes closed as if he was meditating.
And that Ranma Saotome definitely did not break out of one of Shampoo's death grips without the help of a mallet launching him into the stratosphere.
This creature, however, who was most definitely not the real Ranma Saotome, did.
Akane and Shampoo stood equally slack-jawed as the young martial artist sauntered off, whistling a cocky and triumphant tune that would have been utterly Ranma if he hadn't been so utterly....not Ranma.
"Husband have identical twin?" Shampoo asked hesitantly.
"Not that I know of," Akane replied. "Could Happosai have summoned a demon to masquerade as Ranma?"
"Happosai no summon demon that refuses girl's advance," Shampoo said.
The two girls looked at each other, shrugged, and then went their separate ways.
Lunchtime found Akane seriously worried about her fiancé. Sure, he'd been acting weird all day, but it hadn't that bad to begin with. The whole staring at her and P-chan...well, maybe he was trying a different tactic to get her beloved pet to go away. Escaping from Shampoo's embrace? With a martial artist of his caliber, it had to happen sometime.
But taking a whole five minutes to eat one small bento was another matter entirely. If before she had been only mildly concerned about Ranma being possessed or being taken by a doppelganger before, she was almost convinced of it now. This was just NOT normal.
For his part, Ranma was wishing he was anywhere but in Japan, where simply holding hands was something to gossip about. He had been scanning the lunch crowd for the entire period, trying to find couples cuddling so that he could observe what they would do. But nooooo, nobody cuddled. The girls made bentos for their guys; the guys gave small presents to their girls. They talked, flirted, and blushed, but not once did they touch. Stupid Japanese reserve, he grumbled internally, conveniently forgetting that he was both Japanese and prone to 'freaking out' at the slightest female touch.
Direct observation proving to be useless, Ranma decided he would just use his imagination. He pulled out a nearly empty notebook and a pen mottled with teeth marks, and began working furiously.
Akane looked on with interest as Ranma pulled his things out and began scribbling something. Shooting another nervous glance at the bento and its few remaining grains of rice, she scooted closer to her fiancé.
"What are you doing, Ranma?" she asked curiously, and received no reply. Slightly miffed, she tried to peek over his shoulder, only to see a bunch of incomprehensible scribbles. "What's that?" Still no response. Akane glared at him, but the effect was lost on the oblivious boy. She huffed with annoyance before standing up gracefully. "Fine then. I'm going back to the classroom," she said, and then turned and left.
The bell came and passed, but Ranma lingered, thinking and drawing and analyzing. About fifteen minutes after Akane left he finally looked up to see any empty courtyard.
He ran upstairs to his English class, bursting through the door just as the teacher was giving out the sentence: "I want to do my best."
"Heh, sorry, sensei." Ranma put his hand on the back of his neck and grinned sheepishly.
His teacher was not impressed. "Go out into the hall, Mr. Saotome."
Every single time. Can't they think of anything else to punish us with?
"Sure," Ranma said, and, grabbing a bucket to fill, exited the room. Once the bucket was full, he balanced it on his left foot and, taking out the notebook and pen, resumed scribbling.
The two teens walked home in silence, each one lost in thought. Akane had spent the entire trek working up the courage to ask Ranma what was going on, but with no success. She didn't know how to deal with this strange Ranma, who stared at her, broke free from Shampoo, and ate his food slowly and actually put pen to paper.
Ranma stopped in front of the gate to the Tendo dojo, and Akane with him. What's going on now? she wondered.
"Oi, Akane, wanna spar?"
Ranma wanted to laugh at how large Akane's eyes grew and the smile that practically swallowed her face. Her enthusiasm for a sparring match between them never dimmed, even though all he ever did was dodge. She was always hoping that one day he'd fight her for real.
"Sure!" she said enthusiastically. "Just let me change into my gi!"
Watching her run into the house, Ranma grinned a bit affectionately, a bit wistfully, and more than a bit mischievously. Whistling merrily, he sauntered into the dojo proper. Akane arrive a few minutes later, bouncing as if the ground was actually a trampoline. Okay, so she's kinda cute... Ranma's cheeks tingled a warning, and he quickly pushed the thought away.
"Y'ready, Akane?" he asked. The girl nodded, and both martial artists adopted their beginning stance. A moment's pause, and then Akane charged.
It started out just like any other fight, with Akane attacking and Ranma simply dodging. However, the timing was just a little off, as if Akane had become faster, or Ranma had become slower. And Ranma had an unusual look of concentration on his face, very different from the bored-but-indulgent expression he normally wore while sparring with his fiancée. It was as if he was looking for something: an opening, a weakness, just the right moment to...
Akane yelped as a pair of arms suddenly wrapped themselves around her body, pressing her against a firm, warm chest. Somewhere in the confusion of her mind she realized that it was Ranma holding her thus. For a few long moments she could not move, entirely too aware of the weight of his arms around her waist, and the pleasant pressure of her breasts against his chest. A slight tingle fluttered through her body, making her skin flush with both pleasure and embarrassment. Not ready to deal with the pleasure, she focused on the embarrassment, and the familiar sensation of humiliated anger. Her aura burned, and she tried to reach for her mallet, but Ranma's arms prevented any such movement.
Ranma rejoiced as he felt Akane try and fail to retrieve her mallet. At long last, a way to escape the dread Mallet of Doom! Sure, he was infinitely faster than Akane and could easily have avoided it before, but, he reasoned, if she missed once, she'd just keep on trying. This way he cut off the source of the problem – the mallet itself. And if it happened to feel just a little nice to hold Akane like this, well, what did that have to do with anything? This wasn't about finally having an excuse to hold his fiancée; it was about finally being able to avoid the mal-
-let...of...doom. Ranma lay on the dojo floor, the thought finishing itself in short, staccato bursts.
"Ranma, you JERK!"
The stars circling Ranma's head jeered and laughed at the young man as Akane stormed away, her face an impressive shade of red.
Note to self: he thought dimly, Avoid the head butt, too.
Akane had a very forgiving temper, mostly because it avenged itself so quickly. But Ranma's latest offense left her, if not angry, then at least very, very wary.
Especially since he was once again walking on the ground next to her, chattering at seventy kilometers per hour about God only knows what, and showing absolutely no signs of embarrassment about yesterday's incident.
"So anyway, Pops is makin' some noises about going on another training trip soon. My guess is that Mom's gonna be coming around and he wants to avoid her again. Not sure what to do about that. I mean, I wanna see Mom, even though it means tryin' on a bunch of stupid looking girl clothes, but Pops and I haven't been on a training trip in awhile, and I really think the old man's getting soft. He could really use the workout, the fat old freak. Plus it'd be nice to learn a new technique or two. You wanna come?"
Akane suddenly stopped and whirled around, looking absolutely furious.
"All right, WHO ARE YOU?" she asked, poking Ranma in the nose.
"Ranma Saotome, idiot," her fiancé replied. "Shampoo put that weird shampoo stuff on your head again? None of my other fiancées forget who I am."
Under normal circumstances these words would have been enough to at least evoke a growled "Raaaaanmaaaaaaaa," but these were far from normal circumstances.
"You," Akane said forcefully, "are not Ranma Saotome. Ranma Saotome doesn't walk on the ground when there's a fence around; he doesn't take five whole minutes to eat a single bento, and he doesn't..." She struggled for the words. "....touch me. Ever."
"What are are you talkin' about? "
"So what are you?" Akane asked. "Are you some demon? Did Happosai summon you? Why haven't you stolen any panties for him yet? Or are you some sort of doppelganger?" Her eyes narrowed. "There isn't a Spring of Nearly Drowned Ranma Saotome, is there?"
"Not that I know of..." Ranma replied easily.
The two teens spent a long moment simply looking at each other, one baffled and the other smug.
"But really, you should come with me and Pops on a training trip," Ranma said, breaking the silence.
"More 'Bridal Training'?" Akane asked, a trifle bitterly.
"Naw," Ranma replied. "You're hopeless there. Hell, I'd make a better bride than you. No, what you need is some good old-fashioned martial arts training. You've really fallen behind. You're slow, you can't aim, you've got enough holes in your defense that Nabiki could probably knock you out with one lucky punch..."
Ranma rattled on as Akane's aura grew brighter and hotter. C'mon, just a little more... She finally reached for her mallet around "-and you really need to lose some weight," which was the signal for Ranma to make his own move.
Akane's mallet was almost right above her head when Ranma pounced on her. Unlike the last time, one arm was wrapped around her waist, not pinning down her arms, but she quickly realized that malleting his butt wouldn't do any good, and malleting his knees would result in an ungraceful tumble with her on top. She tried to head butt him again, but his free hand held her head gently, but quite firmly, in the crook of his shoulder, making it impossible to move. The comforting weight and warmth of his arms made it so she almost didn't want to move, either. Her mallet dropped from nerveless fingers as Akane's mind struggled to comprehend what was going on.
Yes! It had worked entirely according to plan. The close embrace prevented Akane from malleting him, and the addition of the hand holding her head in place ensured that she couldn't head butt him back into a mallet-able position. She was trapped, right where he wanted her to be.
Ranma pulled Akane a little closer, leaning his head forward onto her own shoulder and chuckling softly.
"I win!" he said triumphantly. "Beat this, Tomboy."
A pause, and then: "...Ranma?"
And she kneed him in the groin.
Ranma collapsed onto the ground, writhing in pain, and Akane stormed away, too angry to even mallet him. Stupid jerk. How dare he! Stupid, heartless, pain-in-the-butt JERK!
For his part, Ranma felt a strange sense of satisfaction, even through the pain. Okay, so that's another thing I need to watch out for. Ooooh daaaamn.... He whimpered piteously at a fresh wave of pain.
But still, it holds a lot of promise. Akane's being forced to make up new stuff. Soon enough she'll run out of things to make up, and then I will have The Ultimate Mallet Avoiding Technique!!! The idea of hugging her into shock, and then running away while she was immobilized, never even occurred to the pig-tailed martial artist.
Soon...very, very soon...
Ranma's triumphant cackle was abruptly cut off by a howl of genital-induced agony.
Shampoo narrowed her eyes, not liking what she had just witnessed: Ranma executing a primitive but quite impressive 'Monkey Mother Comforting Disgruntled Child'.
Husband teaching himself Hug Fu, she thought. Very very wonderful, but why practice on Violent Girl? Why not take Great-Grandmother on offer to practice with Shampoo?
What if Violent Girl gets wrong idea? Husband probably too focused on training to explain it to Violent Girl. What if Violent Girl thinks that Husband cares for her more than Shampoo?
Shampoo set Violent Girl straight after school. Husband loves Shampoo best, not Violent Girl.
That afternoon Akane walked home alone. The Furinkan Cooking Club meeting had been that day, and she had spent a good hour and a half trying to find their newest meeting place. They met in a different classroom every week, it seemed, and always forgot to tell Akane where it was, so the young woman had taken to asking Nabiki for the meeting locations. Unfortunately, in all the confusion regarding Ranma and his bizarre behavior, she had forgotten to talk to her sister about the club. She never did find them, and was a little miffed about it – after all, how hard could it be to say "Oh, Akane, Cooking Club is meeting in room 22B today"? – but not too much. It gave her an excuse to walk home alone, and plenty of time to think about the strange behavior of one pig-tailed martial artist.
What is going on with him? she wondered. Why does he keep hugging me? He never touches me, except to catch me when I'm falling or rescue me from some other danger.
Could it be... She blushed slightly. No. It's more likely that it's a demon of some sort than...that.
She looked up to see Shampoo standing in front of her, a serious expression hiding a complex mixture of emotions that Akane couldn't decipher. Not that it mattered; being alone with Shampoo always meant trouble.
"What do you want, Shampoo?" she asked, cautiously adopting a defensive stance.
"Shampoo know what Husband doing," the Amazon replied. "Shampoo figure out early today."
"And?" Akane prompted, trying not to show how interested she was.
Shampoo shifted her expression from serious to smug.
"Ranma bored, so Ranma teaches himself new martial arts style. Very old Amazon art known as Hug Fu. Great-Grandmother offer to teach him, but Ranma decide he rather teach self."
Hug Fu? What kind of martial art is that? I mean, Martial Arts Tea Ceremony at least makes some sort of twisted sense...but what kind of damage can a hug do? Akane looked back at one of her disastrous dates with Ryouga and all the destruction he had caused by trying to hug her. In the end, Ranma had taken her place and suffered the full force of the lost boy's affection. ...never mind. Hugs can be very destructive.
"So what?" Akane asked.
Shampoo narrowed her eyes.
"Hug Fu very old, much respected martial art," she said. "Husband using you as training tool. That only reason he touches you. Husband love Shampoo, not Violent Girl."
"Then why isn't he practicing with you?" Akane shot back.
"Husband shy," Shampoo said stiffly.
"Sure, Shampoo," Akane replied sarcastically.
Shampoo affected a nonchalant shrug.
"Shampoo only warning Violent Girl not to get hopes up," she said. "Shampoo said enough." Without any other goodbye, the young Amazon jumped onto a nearby roof and sped back towards the Cat Café.
Show off, Akane thought bitterly.
So...Hug Fu. She frowned. It sounds strange, but so's pretty much everything else I've heard of since meeting Ranma. And with how quiet things have been lately, I can just imagine him deciding to teach himself a new martial art. It certainly explains his bizarre behavior...
But if Cologne offered to teach him, why turn her down? Why pick me to train on? Only one answer came to her, extremely unlikely, but the only plausible explanation.
I'll talk to him when I get home, Akane decided, and resumed her walk home.
It was dinner by the time Akane got home, not the best time for a private conversation. Akane ate quietly, trying to subtly signal to Ranma that she wanted to talk without tipping their fathers off. Ranma seemed to catch the signal and then studiously ignored it. Stupid jerk! Akane thought angrily. If he thinks I'll give up just because he's ignoring me, he has another thing coming.
The moment Kasumi cleared the dishes away, Ranma zoomed off. Akane calmly helped her sister clean the table and kitchen, knowing that sooner or later her wayward fiancé would make his way to the roof. Once the cleaning was finished, Akane smiled at Kasumi, and headed towards the dojo to get a ladder.
"Don't you dare run away from me, Ranma," Akane called as she leaned the ladder against the wall. "I know where you live!" She couldn't see him, but smiled as she pictured the "Oh hell, I'm caught" expression on his face. She scampered rapidly up the ladder, and sure enough, he was wearing that expression.
Now that she had caught him, however, Akane didn't really know what to say. Subdued, she walked a little ways across the roof, and gingerly sat down next to her fiancé. He looked askance at her, but didn't say anything. Great, make me break the ice, Akane grumbled internally.
So they sat for awhile in a very awkward silence.
What's she up here for? Ranma wondered. She doesn't seem like she's mad about anything. Has she figured out the Hug Fu thing? Does she want me to stop? Why hasn't she malleted me then?
What's he thinking? Akane wondered. Does he think I'm mad about the Hug Fu thing? Does he even realize I know about it now? Is he afraid I have the wrong idea? Do I have the wrong idea? What if I really am just a training tool?
Only one way to find out, I guess.
The young man glanced fearfully over at his fiancee.
"WHAT?!?" A moment later Ranma was halfway across the roof, arms raised in a defensive position. Akane glared at him.
"Hug me, you stupid jerk," she snapped. "You've hugged me twice in the past two days; it's obviously not that hard."
"Keh. And why would I want to hug a tomboy like you?" Ranma asked, recovering his bravado.
"I don't know," Akane replied. "Why did you?"
Ranma gaped at her, turning a furious shade of red.
"I....it's...it's a new martial art," he stammered.
Akane wrapped her arms around her knees.
"Ah, yes," she said. "Hug Fu."
"Yeah! That's why!" Ranma attempted a smug expression, and succeeded only in looking relieved.
"Shampoo told me Cologne offered to teach you and you turned her down," Akane said. "Why?"
"'Cause she wanted me to practice with Shampoo, and you'd kill me if you caught me touching her," he said.
"Did you want to practice with Shampoo?"
"No!" Ranma stopped, a little startled by the alacrity of his answer.
"So you wanted to practice with me?"
Ranma snorted, but didn't answer. Akane studied him for a long moment, and then smiled, making Ranma's heart triple in beat from fear and excitement.
"I bet you're scared," she said.
"What? I'm not scared!" Ranma shot back defensively.
"Then why won't you hug me?" Akane asked. "It's not like you haven't done it before. I bet you're scared because this isn't a fight."
"Ranma Saotome ain't scared of anything!" Ranma said emphatically. "I could hug ya if I wanted to."
"Keh. What if I don't want to?" Ranma asked.
"Wimp." Akane stuck her tongue out at him.
"Am not!" Ranma exclaimed.
"Then prove it!" Akane replied sweetly.
Ranma twitched. There was no way he could get out of this without looking like a sissy. He'd really have to hug her. Slowly, very, very slowly, he inched his way over. Akane sat patiently, a soft, encouraging smile on her face. He gulped, his face steaming. This was it.
Centimeter by painful centimeter, he put one wary arm around her shoulders. Akane immediately snuggled closer, grateful that the wait was over and for the warmth. Ranma's arm hesitantly tightened around her, growing more confident with her positive responses.
"See, that wasn't so hard," she said.
"Heh." Ranma made no other answer.
"...you know, Ranma, you don't have to wait for a fight to hug me," Akane said shyly.
"No mallets?" Ranma asked, just as shy.
"If you warn me beforehand."
Ranma nodded, and gently lay his head on top of hers.
"This is kinda nice," he admitted.
"Yeah." Akane paused, then said ruefully: "We should probably go to bed."
"Yeah," Ranma agreed, and, quickly sweeping her into his arms, jumped off the roof, landing slightly on the grass below. He smirked at the startled expression on Akane's face.
"I...i..idiot!" she stammered, but the insult was ruined by the way her arms clung around his neck. Ranma's smirk grew, and Akane stuck her tongue out at him. They walked into the house and up to their bedrooms in a companionable silence.
Akane turned as they reached her bedroom door and pulled Ranma forward into a quick embrace. "Good night, Ranma."
Still a little hesitant, Ranma reciprocated the gesture. "Night, Akane."
"Here's your ramen!" Shampoo chirped in accented Japanese. Cologne had encouraged the girl to at least work on her business Japanese, and so Shampoo had slowly been correcting her standard restaurant phrases.
The bell on the front door tinkled, and Shampoo looked up to see a furiously blushing Ranma with his arm wrapped around the shoulder of a very smug looking Akane. What? It's not possible!
"Violent Girl let go of Husband!" Shampoo shouted, grabbing a pair of chopsticks to wield in place of her bonbori.
"Oh hush, Great-Granddaughter," Cologne said, pogo-ing in from the kitchen. "My eyes may be old, but I think they can still tell when a male is holding a female, and not vice versa."
"Great-Grandmother!" Shampoo protested. Cologne waved Shampoo silent, looking at Ranma and Akane with twinkling eyes.
"So, son-in-law," she said, sounding amused, "I see you've unearthed the secret of Hug Fu."
"Whaddya mean by that?" Ranma asked suspiciously.
"Originally, 'Aggressively Non-Aggressive Defensive Combat' was designed to prevent comrades rendered insane by battle lust from doing something incredibly stupid," Cologne said. "But as the years passed, more and more young people noted its similarities to simple hugging, and so began using it as a sort of warrior wooing technique."
"GREAT-GRANDMOTHER!" Shampoo wailed.
Ranma and Akane both gaped at the ancient woman.
"So does that mean..." Ranma asked hesitantly.
"No, we haven't given up on you yet, boy," Cologne answered his unfinished question. "Your blood will be ours, one way or another. But that is neither here nor there at the moment. Wait." She bounced off, and returned a few seconds later with a withered looking scroll. "Here." She tossed it at the pair.
"What's this?" Ranma asked.
"An ancient manual of secret techniques," Cologne replied, fighting back amusement.
"Really?!?" The young martial artist quickly opened the scroll, and then turned an even deeper shade of red.
"Ranma?" Akane asked worriedly, and peeked at the contents. "What the.....PERVERT!" Akane pulled out her mallet and knocked Ranma through the Café roof and into lower orbit. Looking much like a steaming tomato herself, she stormed off. Cackling, Cologne bounced over and picked up the abandoned scroll.
"What was that, Great-Grandmother?" Shampoo asked.
"Martial Arts Intercourse," Cologne replied gleefully. She looked up at the Ranma-shaped hole in her roof, and grinned. "Ah, it's nice to know some things never change."