NOTE: The way I'm running gender pronouns is that in dialogue the character refers to other characters by the gender they perceive them as. In the descriptive text the pronouns will refer to character's current gender.
Kodachi smiled as she touched down in front of her family estate. She had a wonderful idea coming to a boil in her head and wanted to see if it would work. She hadn't had a good chance for a trick since that disastrous wedding. Granted it would have been funnier if the wedding had actually happened, but at least she hadn't brought exploding bowls of noodles.
For a brief moment the noble girl debated whether or not to tell her "darling" and her
"rival" that she had essentially given up on the pig-tailed martial artist. She did not entertain the idea of being a hostage every time someone came along to fight Ranma. She would rather be a spectator of Ranma's life now, not an active participant.
Then there was the curse, and she did know about the curse though she preferred not to let on to that. She could stand having a gender-switching friend, but a husband? Still, teasing the argumentative pair was one of her greatest pleasures. Besides, she didn't know any other way to relate to them, and Ranma and Akane were the closest she had to friends.
Kodachi entered the main hall of the Kuno estate and sneered in the direction of her brother's rooms. She was about to turn away from them when she heard shouting from that direction. The gymnast frowned and began walking closer in that direction, trying to identify what she had heard.
The voices sounded more familiar as she traveled along, one she definitely recognized as her brother's ranting. The other was definitely familiar, but she couldn't identify it. She had no problem recognizing the emotions, a confused mix of pain, desperation, and lust. The gymnast started sprinting, producing a gymnastic club in one hand. The who didn't matter now that she knew the what. She idly commented to herself that she'd get to test her new toy.
Kodachi burst into her brother's room in the as a particularly loud shout was choked off at the end. She almost hesitated at the scene in front of her. The surprise and shock gave way almost instantly to rage. The dark-haired girl was on her brother in flash. She pulled the shocked swordsman up by his neck, causing him to release his grip around his captive's throat. Kodachi jabbed the club into his gut. Pressing a button on the handle at the same time sent a heavy charge through the would-be samurai, sending him against the wall.
Kodachi risked a glance behind her before advancing, and saw a flash of red dizzily running out of the room. It was enough for someone with Kodachi's experience to confirm the influence of some kind of drug. Considering some of the shouts, she suspected an aphrodisiac. This was all second nature to her, and did not distract from her main purpose. Kodachi angrily turned away from the fleeing and disoriented red head to her brother. A second gymnastic club joined the first and electricity arced between them.
Ranma noticed as the last remnant of her body's desire faded away. It wasn't a comfort. If the curse could do it once, it could do it again. Maybe next time she wouldn't even be able to fight it like she had this time. She didn't even notice the pain as she set her shoulder back into joint, that was a familiar sensation.
"Yeah, I was so busy with fighting the damn curse, that Kuno...beat me," Ranma said flatly. The samurai would probably still be trying to "break the spell on his pig-tailed goddess" if Kodachi hadn't come home. Considering everything else she was only barely surprised that she owed her escape to the Black Rose, especially as it came way too late.
Ranma huddled under the bridge, vigorously cleaning herself in the canal waters. She desperately wanted hot water, but she wasn't ready to head home yet, and there was no way she was going to walk into some other place beat up, and wearing nothing but a torn up shirt.
~It's probably a good idea to go soon, before they notice I'm gone,~ Ranma thought blandly. She was burned out, and struggling to find a way to hide this. She couldn't think of one,
~Akane was worried about the wrong people,~ Ranma groaned. There was no way she could marry Akane now. If her mother ever found out about this she would be cutting her belly. The idea was beginning to hold some merit for her actually.
She didn't want to live through life afraid that at some point her curse would take over again. She thought she could maybe stand it if she started to find guys physically attractive. She found Ukyou and Shampoo physically attractive, it hadn't affected what she felt for Akane. She could not stand life knowing that, maybe, at some point she would have to fight for control over her bodies simplest motions. The curse didn't even have any taste.
Ranma continued her rambling thoughts, trying to keep calm in the mental din. She was considering everything except the actual act. Even so she was still on the verge of tears under the bland mask, which already showed signs of crying earlier.
"If I hadn't started to lose my nerve with…" She stopped and thought for a moment. She hadn't been "losing his nerve" with Shampoo, she had been out right coming on to her when Akane kicked her out of the school and into the pool. That overwhelming lust had started while he was male. It wasn't the curse. It was the ramen. "Shampoo."
Ranma did not announce herself as she came in through one of the upper story windows. Listening at the head of the stairs she could hear Kasumi humming but no sound of game stones being placed. Soun and Genma were probably out "planning" at the local bar. She couldn't tell if Nabiki were home, but she probably had business somewhere. Akane had that study group, but she'd come looking for Ranma soon. Ranma was supposed to go with her after all. She'd worry about that later, for now she just wanted a hot bath to get rid of her female form, and everything that went with it.
Ranma made a quick detour to her room for a change of clothes and then slipped into the bathroom. She mechanically shucked her torn Chinese shirt and tossed it haphazardly at the trashcan. Normally it would have gone in no problem, but she was no where near her usual state of mind, and the shirt merely landed next to the trash bin. She remained in the changing room only a moment enough to drop her replacement clothes there and then stepped into the bath proper, eyeing the furo desperately.
Ranma stepped into the bath and nothing happened. She dropped to a seated position in the bath and stared silently into space for a long second.
"NO!" Kasumi nearly slipped and cut herself as the scream whipped through the house. It was followed almost immediately by several more screams of "no" and a few wordless shrieks. The eldest Tendo followed them to their source in a rush and entered the Tendo bath to see a hysterical Ranma-chan sitting a furo of steaming water.
"Ranma?" Kasumi said, surprised and shocked. Ranma had been locked in female form before and he always reacted badly, but never quite like this. Ranma was flailing around in the water just screaming. It only took a moment for the older girl to snap out of her shock and move to restrain Ranma.
Kasumi grabbed the redhead's arms and tried to hold them, but the drugs were mostly gone from her system. Her chi was recovering, and her strength with it. Such simple and direct methods weren't enough to bridge the strength gap between Kasumi and Ranma. Kasumi merely found herself forced to let go as she was pulled about.
Kasumi reached to her own early training and adopted a simple throw to pull Ranma out of the bathtub. Hysterical as she was, Ranma landed hard on the tile and was stunned. Kasumi took the chance to grab Ranma in a lock that Kasumi knew she should have been able to get out of easily.
"Get offa me! Get offa me!" Ranma screamed, crossing her legs and struggling, without technique or effect, against the hold. Kasumi was more than a little concerned by Ranma's apparent degeneration to a frightened untrained teenager. "I don't want to!"
Kasumi looked over what she could see of the naked girl's body and noticed that she seemed to have been in some kind of fight. Kasumi's eyes widened as realized the injuries Ranma had weren't those of someone that had been a martial arts duel. It was more like she had been overpowered, held down and...taken advantage of.
"Ranma!" Kasumi shouted. "Your safe, I'm Kasumi, Ranma. Its Kasumi!" Ranma's struggles steadily and quickly weakened until Kasumi was holding a silent, shaking girl in her arms. Kasumi released her hold slowly adapting it into a comforting embrace. Ranma leaned into Kasumi and cried silently.
"I didn't want to do it," Ranma whispered.
"Of course not, Ranma," Kasumi answered back, gently. She continued to hold the silent girl rocking gently and humming comfortingly for several minutes. Kasumi was glad that Ranma never looked up at her face, then she would have seen the tears in Kasumi's eyes.
"It was the ramen," Ranma continued, still needing to explain. "She drugged the ramen and I couldn't fight, and, and he…" Kasumi tried not to gasp as the redhead's grip tightened.
"Sshh, don't think about it right now," Kasumi stroked her head softly. "We'll deal with this when you're ready. For now, let's get you something to eat and then to bed." Kasumi she relaxed as the redhead nodded silently.
"Tadaima," Akane's mildly frustrated voice chimed through the house. She made her way into the living room, moderately surprised at not hearing an "O-kaeri" from her eldest sister. She was on her way upstairs when Kasumi appeared at the top of them.
"Akane, is Nabiki with you?" Kasumi asked as she began to move downstairs.
"She was getting some ice cream last I saw. Kasumi, have you seen Ranma? He skipped out on all his classes after lunch and..." Akane's voice trailed off as she saw that Kasumi had been crying.
"Ranma is in your room, sleeping," Kasumi said wearily.
"He's WHAT!?" Akane started to stomp up the stairs past Kasumi, but stopped as her sister grabbed her arm. "Kasumi?"
"I put him there," Kasumi told Akane quietly. "I thought he might feel...safer there. I also gave him something to make him sleep for a little while at least. It was probably not the best thing to do, but I did tell him I was doing it."
"What happened?" Akane asked, suddenly very worried. The sound of a kettle coming to boil broke the moment of silence that followed.
"Let us discuss this over tea, shall we?" Kasumi suggested, quietly walking down the stairs past her sister. She whirled back to face her younger sister, as Akane rushed upstairs. "Akane, wait!"
Akane was to her room before Kasumi even began to follow. As Kasumi had said, Ranma was sleeping on her bed. She, and Akane didn't bother to ask why he was in female form, was curled up in the middle of the bed. That was unusual, Ranma usually spread out when she slept. The few bruises on her face weren't unusual, Ranma was commonly covered in bruises from one fight or another.
"Not a girl," Ranma muttered in her sleep. Akane blinked as the redhead began to toss and turn. "Don't want to! Ahhhh...Noooo...mmm Don't want to! Akane!" Akane didn't hesitate to take a seat on the bed gather the redhead up in her arms. Akane was surprised that she was fully dressed in that baggy Chinese worker outfit, but didn't pay any more mind. "Ooooo...NO!" More startling than that, Ranma seemed to have stiffened as she took hold of him, and didn't relax for several moments.
"It's a dream, Ranma," Akane whispered. "Just a dream."
"Get offa me," Ranma whispered weakly. "Kill youuuuu.... Don't want to!" Akane continued holding the redhead and whispering soothingly. She was confused, she had done this before, though Ranma never woke up. Thankfully he only rarely remembered the dreams either. In all the times she'd soothed Ranma's nightmares, he hadn't ever mixed them, and there were those other sounds as well. Those REALLY disturbed her, and she tried not to think about them.
"The..there aren't any cats Ranma," Akane said again, misidentifying the dream with the phrase "get offa me". She always wondered whether Ranma actually heard her or not. "You're safe." She looked up to see Kasumi in the doorway as Ranma calmed down back into a dreamless sleep.
"I don't think sh…he is dreaming about cats," Kasumi said sadly.
"Then, what?" Akane dreaded the answer.
"Put he..him down, Akane," Kasumi said. "Let him sleep, we'll talk about this downstairs." There was no mistaking the tone of command in Kasumi's voice.
Akane watched as Kasumi set down the tea tray on the dinner table and then sit down on her shins. The younger Tendo was quickly losing her patience, but this was Kasumi, and as such commanded a deal more tolerance.
"What happened to Ranma?" Akane demanded as her sister poured the tea. Kasumi looked at her thought about where to start.
~Perhaps I should start with the familiar problem,~ Kasumi thought. "Ranma is currently locked in his female form. I found him in the furo screaming." Akane narrowed her eyes, that was bad, but it had happened before and Kasumi hadn't acted like this at those times.
"There's something else, isn't there," Akane asked. "What hap…" She thought back to Ranma's nightmare upstairs. Akane paled. "Oh no…Kasumi…he wasn't…"
"I didn't ask him any questions," Kasumi said. "But I gather he was drugged and then…raped…yes."
"He'd have to be drugged," Akane said looking down at her cup of tea. ~I should have made him listen to me, but all I ever did was tease and yell about "feminine modesty". Because I wasn't comfortable with talking about it.~ Akane looked back to her sister. "Who did it?"
"I did not ask questions, Akane," Kasumi reminded her. Nor did she volunteer the information that Ranma thought it was a drugged bowl of ramen. She didn't need to, Akane's face darkened with rage.
"Shampoo, the last time I saw him he was flirting with Shampoo," Akane growled. "I…tossed him out of the school…its…its my fault. He must have hit the pool." Kasumi came around the table to comfort her sister, who was descending into uncontrolled crying.
"You didn't do this to him, Akane," Kasumi said. "It's not your fault."
"This is NOT your fault," Kasumi repeated firmly. Akane shook her head slightly, but did not argue verbally.
"Tadaima," Akane and Kasumi turned toward the sound of Nabiki's voice.
"Check on Ranma, I'll talk to Nabiki," Kasumi said quietly. Akane stood up and dried her eyes.
"Yeah," she walked slowly out of the room, glancing at Nabiki as she headed for the stairs. Nabiki's normal dry good humor nearly died on seeing her sister, pale as Kodachi, walk past crying. "Kasumi needs to talk to you, Nabiki."
"What's going on, Akane?" Nabiki demanded.
"Kasumi will tell you," Akane said quietly, on her way upstairs. "I have to check on Ranma." That explained a great deal to Nabiki, something bad had happened to Ranma, again. She sighed and headed for the dining room where Kasumi was now calling her.
"What's Saotome gotten himself into now?" She walked into the dining room at sat down across from Kasumi.
"Nabiki," Kasumi started, she was going to take a different track with this sister. Nabiki did not take beating around the bush as well as Akane did. "Ranma was...raped today." Kasumi watched her sister and only noted her staring blankly in shock for a long moment, before Nabiki looked upstairs and then turned back to her sister.
"When, how, and WHO?" the middle Tendo asked, coldly furious.
Ryouga, P-Chan at the moment, was torn between confusion and anger. He had managed to find his way into Akane's room again, and identified the mass in the covers as a person. It was rather early in the day to be sleeping, but he shrugged that off. When the person in the bed had started tossing and turning, obviously having a nightmare, he had maneuvered to get on the bed to provide a comforting snuggle. That's when he recognized the sleeper as Ranma-chan.
~What's Ranma doing in Akane's room?~ Ryouga didn't pay attention to what Ranma was saying in his sleep. The fact that it was Ranma had removed the importance that it was a nightmare. For one thing Ranma had a lot of nightmares, for another it was Ryouga watching Ranma. ~The pervert probably plans to seduce Akane when she comes into the room. Just listen to him, he's probably dreaming about it right now.~ Ryouga had also conveniently edited out everything but the moans.
The pig was about to launch himself at the redhead, and probably get himself killed if Ranma happened to wake up, when the door cracked open quietly.
"Bwee!" Ryouga did his best to warn Akane about the presence of her potential attacker, as he saw it.
"P-Chan?" Akane glanced at the pig on her desk only a moment before moving to her bed and gathering up the sleeping martial-artist. She sighed as Ranma tensed unconsciously again. Ryouga watched in confusion as Akane rocked his "hated rival" gently, holding the sleeping girl in her lap. "Oh Ranma, I'm sorry." She said quietly.
"Bwee?" Ryouga took a brief leap to the bed and looked up at Akane questioningly.
"P-Chan," she said quietly, but with a curtain of steel Ryouga usually only heard directed at Ranma. "Behave, Ranma doesn't like you, and you don't like Ranma. But if you wake him up now I will ask Kasumi to serve pork for dinner." Ryouga's eyes widened considerably as Akane turned her attention back to Ranma.
~What's going on here,~ Ryouga asked. ~What in the world is happening here. Could they be...together now?~
"Who did this to you?" Akane whispered to Ranma, who was calming down in her lap. "Sanzenin, Kuno...Ryouga? I never thought of him as a...rapist, but he did use the fishing rod...I should have been there. I should have hit Shampoo..." Akane stopped talking, if he happened to wake up, that would not be something he would want to hear.
~Rapist?~ Ryouga was totally shell-shocked. ~Why is...Ranma was...raped? And Akane thinks I might have done it?~ He wobbled to the side in shock and fell off the desk to the floor. ~Kami-sama how could she think that. Wait a minute, this...has to be a trick. No one's good enough to do THAT to Ranma.~ He was trying to convince himself of this when the door opened again. He turned to see Nabiki walking into the room.
"He's still asleep?" Nabiki asked. Akane nodded as Nabiki took a seat by the bed and merely glanced down at the pig on the floor. "Isn't letting P-Chan stay a recipe for trouble?"
"Ranma was having a nightmare," Akane said. "I didn't have time to put him out."
"For once it's a good thing Ranma sleeps like the dead," Nabiki noted. "Poor jerk. Akane, Ranma can get through this."
"If he wants to," Akane muttered, brushing back Ranma's bangs.
"Just make sure he wants to," Nabiki smirked. "Still, if he wants to talk...I...know some people." Nabiki handed her sister a card. "Tell him I'll be there if he's nervous." Akane looked at the card.
"Survivors of Sexual Assault? Nabiki, you..." Akane looked at her sister in surprise and disbelief.
"Raped? Technically no, but...ask me later okay? I've never even told Kasumi," Nabiki said quietly. Akane nodded and pocketed the card as Nabiki cleared her throat and skipped past the uncomfortable topic. "Anyway, you let me and Kasumi handle every one else."
"I'm not going to just si..." Nabiki cut her off.
"You will take care of Ranma and keep him out of it," Nabiki said, talking low. Akane recognized the same tone of command in Nabiki's voice that her sister used. "That is the most important thing right now, leave vengeance to the professionals. I'm going to leave you two alone now, keep your temper. He's probably going to be lashing out."
"I'll..." she stopped short of saying "try." She had to do more than try. "I guess I'll have to. Could you take P-Chan with you?"
"Sure," Nabiki smiled as she picked up a fainted piglet. "Does this pig have narcolepsy or something?" Akane shrugged and continued to rock Ranma.
Kasumi was beginning to get irritated with her father and Saotome-san. Just how long could one sit at a bar anyway? She sighed in frustration, she couldn't just shuffle this into the background like she did everything else. She needed to take an active roll, and deal with the things that Akane and Ranma should be kept away from at the moment. Like Nodoka.
She looked up at the sound of someone at the door and walked to answer it. The eldest Tendo blinked upon finding Kodachi Kuno, on the other side. For once the noble girl had not showed up at their house in a leotard or scattering black petals everywhere. Kasumi hoped that meant that she didn't intend to cause a problem.
"Can I help you Kuno-san?" Kasumi asked, her normal tone was understandably strained.
"Tendo-san, have you seen Ranma anywhere? Has he been home?" Kodachi asked, not expecting an answer. The last place she expected Ranma to go was home, which was exactly why it had taken her so long to get here. Kodachi changed her mind when Kasumi didn't answer and just stared at her. "He is here, isn't he?"
"Yes...he's sleeping," Kasumi answered, Kodachi nodded quietly. "Why did you want to see him?" Kodachi reached to the side of the door and picked up a katana. She handed it to Kasumi almost negligently.
"It's the Kuno family blade," Kodachi explained. Kasumi stared at the weapon in surprise, Kodachi was basically handing over her clans honor. "I'm willing to abide by whatever he decides for Tatewaki, he'll understand. I tried to leave something for him to punish, he was still moving a little when I calmed down," she considered this for a moment. "Perhaps I should reduce the wattage on those clubs." She bowed and turned to leave.
"Then it was your brother?" Kasumi said, stopping Kodachi a few steps down the path. The noble girl turned and stared.
"You...know?" Kodachi sighed and looked away after Kasumi nodded. "Tell him I'm sorry I did not get home earlier."
"I will," Kasumi said. Kodachi nodded and continued walking out the Tendo compound. She didn't feel like roof hopping at the moment.
"Well, P-Chan," Nabiki said as she plopped the pig on her bed. "What am I going to do?" She sat down at her desk and considered the problem. "Do you have any ideas, Akane certainly seems to think talking to you helps."
~Is this real, am I having some sort of warped dream here?~ Ryouga asked himself.
"It doesn't even really have to have been a martial artist," Nabiki said. "Kasumi said that SHE took him down, if she did anybody could have."
~Kasumi. Beat. Ranma?~ Ryouga was trying to comprehend that.
"I can deal with that later," Nabiki said. "I'm not going half-cocked to the Nekohanten alone. Akane's too volatile, and I'm not sure she can beat Shampoo alone, much less the three of them if this goes wrong. It'll have to be tomorrow, or even later after I find out who Ranma is willing to let know about this. I'm definitely not letting Ranma near a fight until I'm CERTAIN he's fine. He could kill somebody and we'd be in a whole new mess. You wouldn't know anybody willing to play back up for me. Would you P-chan?"
"Didn't think so." Nabiki smiled slightly and then shook her head. "What a mess." Ryouga couldn't help but agree.
Ranma woke and found herself being held. She had a brief moment of panic until he saw that it was Akane holding him. A little further investigation showed that she was in Akane's lap. This was unacceptable, there was no way she was going to let Akane think she was weak. It was already a dying argument, Kasumi had probably told Akane everything. She had to think he was weak after hearing that.
"Akane?" She began. "What are you doing?"
"What does it lo..." Akane stopped herself. "Ranma, don't start now, it won't help anything." Ranma shook off Akane's grip and stood up. That confirmed it for him, she knew.
"Leave me alone," Ranma insisted. "If I hadn't freaked when I found out the curse was locked you wouldn't know anything about it. I can handle this myself." He started to leave the room, he shouldn't have let Kasumi put him here that was a mistake. Akane somehow beat him to the door.
"I'm not letting you deal with this alone, Ranma," Akane insisted.
"Why should you care?" Ranma demanded, looking up at Akane. "By tomorrow our fathers will know, the engagement will be finished, and I'll be handed a tanto. Congratulations, you're free."
"Do you think I'm going to let you be taken away from me?" Akane snapped.
"Somebody already did," Ranma reminded her quietly. Akane gripped the redhead's shoulders and gently drew her in.
"I'm not letting you go," Akane whispered gently. Ranma let herself be held and hesitantly circled her own arms around Akane. It felt too safe for him to worry about whether it was weak or not.
"Why do you want me?" Ranma asked after a long moment.
"You're the only you," Akane said softly, leaning against the door and holding her fiancee. "And I love you."
"Even...even if I'm never a guy again?" Ranma looked up from Akane's shoulder.
"I've thought about that since the first night you were here," Akane admitted. She noticed the odd look Ranma was giving her. "It stopped being important a long time ago. Ranma, do you..." Ranma looked away and stayed silent for a long second.
"I l-love you," she said, softly. Then she looked back up at Akane. "Akane?"
"What is it?" The redhead had a scared and needy look in her eyes. Then Ranma leaned upwards on her toes and kissed her. Akane held back a moment before returning the kiss. They broke the kiss almost a minute later. "Are you okay with that, Ranma?" The redhead nodded.
"I needed that," she whispered. Akane nodded, understanding a little, and then led Ranma back to sit on her bed. Ranma debated for a moment before sitting down on Akane's lap.
"Ranma," Akane held her breath as Ranma cringed. She knew what was coming. Akane immediately changed her mind about asking questions. "Never mind, but Nabiki had something she wanted me to give you."
"Great, Nabiki knows," Ranma sighed, leaning into Akane's shoulder as the raven-haired girl retrieved the card Nabiki had given her. Ranma scowled as she read it. "How long was I asleep, where'd she get this?"
"She had it on her," Akane explained. "Nabiki said that she'll be there."
"Nabiki?" Ranma blinked.
"You aren't the only one surprised," Akane said. "Maybe that would be a good idea though."
"I'll...think about it," she stared at the card for several seconds before Akane felt her shoulders start to shake.
"If you want to cry, Ranma, its okay," she whispered. "If anyone deserves it right now you do." Ranma shook her head in Akane in denial, but the tears were already coming. He mechanically put the support group card in his pocket and continued trying to keep the tears at bay.
It was like a small hole had been poked in a damn. At first there was just a trickle and some shaking, and then suddenly Ranma's head was buried in Akane's shoulder. Akane consoled the loudly weeping girl and rocked gently back and forth as Ranma released a flood of pent up tears.
"What is that?" Nabiki asked as she came downstairs and saw the sword on the table.
"The Kuno family sword," Kasumi said simply, coming out of the kitchen for a moment. "Kodachi brought it for Ranma." Nabiki stared at it as if it were serpent.
"It was Kuno?" Nabiki asked frostily. Kasumi nodded.
"Kodachi said she would abide by any decision Ranma made regarding her brother," Kasumi said. "I was given the feeling that she may have already taken some initiative."
"Good," Nabiki nodded, sitting down and staring at the sword. Then she thought of something. "Since when does she know about the curse?"
"Oh, I hadn't thought of that," Kasumi thought back and realized that Kodachi had definitely known what had happened while referring to Ranma as a he. Nabiki briefly considered telling Kasumi about her own past history, but it was just that, past. Kasumi had enough on her mind dealing with Ranma.
These thoughts were derailed by the sound of two drunk martial artists entering the house. Nabiki collected the Kuno sword and hid it while Kasumi checked the clock before returning to the kitchen.
"Oh my, it must have been a long planning session, there's only half an hour until dinner." The eldest Tendo tsked as she went back to work, Nabiki had to look to make sure she had just heard that.
"I don't think talking to them like this is going to do anything but harm," Nabiki added. She rubbed the bridge of her nose to try and stop the on-coming headache. "Why can't we have some mature adults around this place?"
"This plan can not fail, Tendo," Genma was saying as the pair made their way to the shogi board to finish the wait for dinner. "The houses will be joined by the setting of the sun tomorrow."
"You know, Saotome," Soun interrupted, he wasn't nearly as far into drinking as his friend. "Every one of our plans seems familiar somehow."
"You're imagining things, Tendo," Genma laughed it off. "Each plan is unique in its..."
"Own formulaic way, right?" Nabiki interrupted. "Can you two hold off on the plans the next few days? I really don't think our budget can handle the repairs."
"Perhaps she's right, Genma," Soun agreed, after hearing the word budget. "I'm still paying for the wedding, let's wait until we have some funds to fall back on."
"But we must act now before they go back to their old behavior," Genma insisted. "With the wedding and Jusendo passed we are getting so close to them being actually married." Nabiki was trying to come up with a decent threat to dissuade Genma, and the sound of chopping from the kitchen had taken a distinctly hard edge, when someone knocked on the door.
"I got it," Nabiki called out. She opened the door on what was either a very good thing or a very bad thing. "Auntie Saotome? How...good to see you."
"Why hello, Nabiki-chan," Nodoka smiled. "Kasumi-chan said she wanted to talk to me about something."
"She did?" Nabiki blinked. Kasumi wasn't nearly stupid enough to invite Nodoka over.
"Yes, well she did say that she would be over later tonight," Nodoka said. "But it had sounded urgent and I had nothing to do." She smiled serenely, though Nabiki detected a hint of steel in her eyes. Nabiki glanced at her katana.
~In other words you decided that since we didn't want you over here, then you absolutely had to come. I need to talk to Kasumi about what not to do,~ Nabiki sighed. "Well she's getting dinner ready right now, maybe we can help her?"
"That would be lovely," Nodoka gave a slight bow as she entered the house. As they passed through the living room, Genma turned pale and silent at the sight of his wife and her bundle.
"Kasumi, we may have a problem," Nabiki said as she came into the kitchen, Nodoka noted the phrasing and frowned slightly.
"What is...OH!" Kasumi nearly dropped her knife. "Oh my, uh, Auntie Saotome, this is a surprise. I thought I said I'd be by later this evening."
"Something seems to be distressing you girls," Nodoka said softly. "Do you wish to talk about it?"
Kasumi checked to see that her dinner was to a point that she could let it sit and then turned to face the Saotome matron. Nodoka stepped forward and belatedly noticed Nabiki blocking her exit from the kitchen. The middle Tendo kept one eye on the hallway, and the other on Nodoka.
"Auntie Saotome, something happened to Ranma today..." After Kasumi had given the facts of the situation as softly as she could, Nodoka stared forward white-faced.
"Is my son to be cursed with such luck his entire life?" Nodoka asked finally. "It seems that every time I come to visit some creative devil has devised a new hell and decided to test it on him."
"You're not going to make him commit seppuku then?" Nabiki asked. Nodoka turned to face her and narrowed her eyes. Nabiki had put as much ice in her voice as Nodoka could put steel in hers, it was quite obvious that she would do what she could to keep that from happening.
"No, I will not call upon him to do that," Nodoka said, more than a little angry at the Tendo girls. "If my son ever fails in that promise I fear his life would kill him before I heard about it." She paused a moment. "I would wait to discuss this with my husband until the drink leaves his blood."
"That is what we had decided," Kasumi agreed. "Auntie, Saotome-san mentioned something about a new plan earlier. Nabiki convinced our father against mentioning anything, but Saotome-san..."
"I shall try to keep him under control, Kasumi-chan," Nodoka nodded. "Now where is my son?"
Akane looked up from the small bundle in her arm as the door opened. She had expected Nabiki or Kasumi again, or dreaded one of their fathers. What she had not expected was Nodoka Saotome.
"A..Auntie Saotome?" That woke up Ranma, who was only just fading back to sleep anyway.
"Mom?" Nodoka winced at the look of fear in her son's, daughter currently, eyes. Both teens noted the absolute lack of a katana with the Saotome matriarch with some relief.
Ranma shook off Akane's hug and stood up, her face hardened and the only hints of emotional distress were the tear tracks on her face. Ranma walked to a wall, her arms behind her head and leaned back like nothing was wrong. While that transformation was happening Akane was glaring at Nodoka and glancing protectively at the redhead.
"What are you doing here?" Nodoka winced, everybody thought she was some kind of monster, she wished that she had never accepted that promise.
"Someone hurt my child," Nodoka said. "This is where I should be."
"I'm fine," Ranma snapped.
~Like hell you are,~ Akane thought to herself and moved between Ranma and Nodoka. ~And this isn't helping.~
"I'm glad to see the Tendos are so supporting of you," Nodoka said. "You are my child and I want to help you."
"I almost want to," Ranma whispered under her breath. Akane and Nodoka both heard.
"That is not what I meant," Nodoka said, looking down and standing up. "I believe Kasumi is finishing dinner if want to come down, and no, your fathers have not been told yet." She turned a sad smile to the teenagers and left the room. "Please try to trust me." Then Nodoka closed the door behind her and headed downstairs, wiping tears from her face before they could leave tracks.
"Ranma," Akane said as soon as they were alone again.
"Hmm?" Ranma asked, still putting on her non-chalant act.
"If you even think about turning a knife on yourself, you'll have to go through me," Akane promised.
"Yeah, I know," Ranma smirked a little. Her stomach growled. "Dinner sounds good." Akane watched the redhead fortify her mental wall and shook her head. Ranma was letting it out and then Nodoka comes along and she buries everything again.
Ryouga finally found the bathroom after several detours that seemed to cover every inch of Nabiki's room, though he was certain that had managed to get out of it at least once before.
Ryouga now knew more about the students of Furinkan High than he had ever wanted to know. Hopefully Nabiki would never learn about this, he could count on a life of hell if that happened. The box marked "trophies" in the back of the closet with the broken bowie knife especially bothered him for some reason.
The little black pig trotted into the bathroom and checked to make sure they still kept some of his spare clothes in the changing room. Then he was off to the furo.
Dinner downstairs looked on the surface to be normal. Though Ranma and Genma's normal food war was totally absent, thanks to three feet of steel that Nodoka had rested at her husband's throat before Ranma came downstairs.
Ranma's normal appetite was quite a bit less than normal, which meant that she was only eating roughly twice as much as everyone else. Kasumi and Nabiki both noted Ranma's apparent return to her usual crass, uncaring self, but that had always been a façade. It was even more obvious as one now.
"Something's bothering you boy," Genma noted sagely. "You're distracted."
"You're one to talk Oyaji," Ranma snorted. "Could you like breathe down wind, I don't like smelling sake all through dinner."
"Insolent boy, I'd toss you in the pond if you weren't already a girl," Genma's alcohol-fogged mind clicked on something. "Why are you girl?"
"I'm...stuck again," Ranma explained hesitantly. "And I don't want to talk about it!"
"WHAT!?" Genma shouted. "What happened this time? The old woman, magical water?" Akane watched Ranma's façade begin to crack, and reached out a hand to grip her shoulder. Akane suspected that either Ranma would break down and cry right there, or she was going to kill her father.
"Oh, the houses will never be united, WAAAH!" The sound of drawing steel caught everyone's attention. Everybody looked first too Nodoka and was surprised to see her katana still in its sheath. Nodoka blinked and looked at everybody a little confused at the attention.
"This seems rather drastic," Kasumi said, the Tendo spear had been taken off the wall and held in front of the two fathers. The normal protective cover over the blade was conspicuously absent. "But I am more than a little tired of these continued displays. Ranma has had a terrible, TERRIBLE day, and he will talk about it when he's ready." The blade cover was replaced and the spear returned to the wall. "Now, let's continue eating."
"Its always the quiet ones," Ranma muttered looking from her mother to Kasumi. Akane left her hand on Ranma's shoulder a moment longer and waited for Ranma to nod before returning to her own meal.
"Excuse me, can you tell me the way to Tokyo?" Everyone froze and turned to stare at the speaker. Ryouga flinched as he saw Ranma glare at him with undisguised anger and rage. It was something he was more experienced with feeling than witnessing, unless you count Akane. Then he noted Akane looking at him suspiciously. "Ranma, is that you? What are you doing in Okinawa?" He waited to see if the small deception took. It was a plausible lie, after all, he was always showing up and asking similar questions anyway.
"Hey, P-Chan," Ranma snapped. "This IS Tokyo. Though how you could tell the difference is beyond me." Nabiki blinked at the name reference, and then narrowed her eyes as she thought back over the past year and a half. Akane, still unaware of Kodachi's visit, was looking for clues that Ryouga might be the culprit to Ranma's situation.
~This was a mistake,~ Ryouga was thinking. ~He's going to blow any moment now.~ Ryouga sat down and cleared his throat nervously. "Are you okay?"
"W..Why do you ask?" Ranma asked, suddenly nervous.
"Uhh...you just look sort of," Ryouga hesitated as Ranma went from angry to scared.
Nabiki and Akane were glaring at him, Nabiki more so for a reason he couldn't figure out. "Depressed." Genma started to say something, but glanced at Kasumi and his wife and thought better of it.
"I'm...fine," Ranma insisted, turning away from Ryouga and back to her food. Akane snapped a look at Ryouga and shifted closer to Ranma, protectively circling an arm around her. A look from Kasumi quieted the fathers before they could celebrate the closeness of their children. Ryouga felt like he'd landed on another planet, he'd never seen Ranma like this before.
"Excuse me, please," Nabiki interrupted him, standing up and stomping towards Ryouga. "I just remembered some business I have to attend to. Let's go have a chat Hibiki."
"Uh, okay," Ryouga said. He glanced at Akane glaring at him as she reached over to comfort Ranma, and stood up quickly. ~This was a bad idea, he will tell if I piss him off at all.~ He stood up and followed the middle Tendo out of the dining room towards the dojo.
"You are taking advantage of my sister," Nabiki growled, whirling on Ryouga as soon as they were out of earshot. "And I assume you have some hold over Ranma to keep him from saying anything."
"Well...I didn't mea..."
"Didn't mean to?" Nabiki completed. "I hope you're not about to blame Ranma and ask for sympathy, I'm the wrong audience. Considering today, and you KNOW what happened today, I doubt Ranma is interested in whatever it is you have over him either."
"I...uh..." Ryouga dithered as Nabiki advanced on him.
"Shut up until I let you speak," Nabiki instructed him. Ryouga's jaw snapped shut. "Let me guess, you don't think its wrong, do you. You're not forcing her to do anything. She carries you around all of her own free will, am I right?"
"Well, I'm not..."
"Not doing anything but listen in to her thoughts, watch her get dressed, sleep in her bed, fondle her breasts, do I need to go on?" Nabiki backed him into a wall. "When Ranma got here I was excited that I might have a fiancee, want to know why? I thought I was pregnant, if I got married then I could always claim it was my husband's. Good thing I wasn't pregnant since I chickened out with the curse."
"His curse isn't so..." Nabiki slapped him.
"Considering what you know that was almost the stupidest thing you could say. I'm surprised he hasn't snapped already," Nabiki insisted. "And I said to shut up. Now about a month before Ranma showed up I had this date. You wouldn't know him. It was afterwards that I learned he had some unhealthy hobbies and the authorities eventually had a talk with him, he's in some prison now." Ryouga had little doubt that the boy's current whereabouts were anything but a coincidence. "Now on this date we went to his house, where I learned that lo and behold his parents were gone."
"You told Akane that you weren't..." Nabiki growled and he shut up again.
"I'm a big girl, I could take care of myself," Nabiki continued. "And he certainly seemed nice enough, then he took me to see his collection of knives. A very impressive collection, as a martial artist daughter I was moderately envious. He pulled out one piece in particular, an American bowie knife, from the late 1800's."
"The snapped one in..."
"Yes, the one in my room," Nabiki smiled viciously. "Good knife wasn't it? Well, he started checking and cleaning the blade and, in a very friendly manner, started talking about my Ice Queen reputation. Of course he was standing in front of the only exit from the room. He worked his way up from there, he never actually sounded threatening, but he kept playing with that damn knife. Of course, I said yes all of my own free will." The last phrase was said with a twist of self-mocking sarcasm.
"That's not what I'm doing," Ryouga protested.
"Oh really, what are you doing? Which is better? Deception or intimidation? How about drugs or magical fishing rods?" Nabiki emphasized the last venomously and Ryouga flinched. "I don't THINK you've hit the point of standing in the doorway while 'cleaning' a knife yet, I've seen you faint at the sight of female flesh too often to think that. You're lucky you didn't get Akane with that fishing rod, now there's no way for me to tell whether you would have followed through or not. So you are on probation for now. I will not let this continue though, understand?"
"Y..yes," Ryouga nodded furiously.
"You will not say anything for at least this week," Nabiki said. "And I'll tell you if I think its safe then. I'll also make sure Ranma doesn't say anything, he has more than enough on his mind already. He does not need Akane going ballistic right now. If you feel that you absolutely must be someone's pet, I'll set you up a box in my room. I think you've seen it, it holds what used to be a one hundred- year old bowie knife." Ryouga swallowed.
"No P-Chan, gotcha," Ryouga said. "What if I get transformed on accident?"
"Run. Now, Ryouga," Nabiki rocked back on her heels. "I believe I asked you earlier if you knew anybody willing to play back-up for me at the Nekohanten."
"Yeah, I'll go," Ryouga nodded. "If I'm not lost by then."
"You. Had. Better. Be. Here. Tomorrow," Nabiki poked him in the chest. "Understood?" Ryouga nodded. "Good, now I'm going to finish my dinner, I'll show you where you can stay along the way." Ryouga soon found himself in the laundry room and not willing to budge for fear of Nabiki.
"Where'd Ryouga go?" Akane asked as Nabiki settled back at the table.
"Pig probably got lost," Ranma growled as he ate his meal, eating at a sane pace.
"I know where he is," Nabiki answered. "And if he knows what's good for him he'll stay there. Don't worry about him, Ranma, I'm handling that." Akane narrowed her eyes and looked back.
"I almost wish he had started a fight," Ranma muttered. "I n...Its usually fun."
~Damn, I need to talk to Ranma to be sure,~ Akane sighed.
~They all seem to be protecting Ranma today,~ Genma thought. ~Hmm, Nodoka doesn't seem worried, a little upset, but that's expected. I should be safe. I guess its not important.~
~Oh Akane and Ranma are acting so close,~ were Soun's thoughts. ~All we have to do is solve the curse problem and then our schools can be joined. Oh happy day!~
Akane and the other women watched Ranma angrily pick at her food. Since Ryouga's appearance she had seemed enraged, and terrified.
~Was it Ryouga?~ Akane asked herself.
Akane stopped Ranma as she was about to turn into the guest room. The redhead looked at her in confusion.
"Ranma, you can stay in my room if you want," Akane said.
"Thanks, just let me get my..." she stopped as Akane pulled her along.
"I can sleep on the floor Ranma," Akane said. "You can have the bed."
"No way," Ranma pulled her arm back. "I don't need that, either you get the bed or we both get the bed, and I know the answer to that. So let me get my..."
"The bed is plenty big enough for us both Ranma," Akane interrupted. Ranma stared slack-jawed at Akane that she would take that suggestion.
"Thanks Akane," she looked down at the ground. "I wanted to ask..."
"I'm not going to try anything you know," Akane half-smiled.
"Would you mind if I did," Ranma asked quietly. Akane stared in surprise and hugged Ranma tightly. "Akane?"
"Let's talk first, okay?" Akane asked. "You might not want anything after this."
"Oh," Ranma nodded and followed Akane into her room.
"Oh how wonderful, the schools will be joined."
"I told you my plan would work, Tendo." Before the shouts got too loud a katana was drawn and Akane and Ranma looked to see Nodoka herding the nervous fathers downstairs.
Ranma had been waiting for her to get to this point. The red head sat down on the floor and leaned against the wall, Akane sat down next to her and took a deep breath.
"Was it Ryouga?" Akane asked bluntly.
"What!?" Ranma stared at Akane.
"Was it Ryouga that raped you?" Akane repeated, as softly as she could.
"If I had met Ryouga I would have been safe," Ranma said. "We haven't fought each other seriously in while. Kuno is the one, he thought it would break the spell the 'vile Saotome' had cast on his 'pig-tailed' goddess."
"Can you talk about it?" Akane was now further confused by Ranma's angry and frightened behavior after Ryouga had shown up, but she wanted Ranma to talk about this first. ~Kuno, of course it had to be him, nobody else is enough of a pervert. Even Happosai stops at groping.~
"I...can, it helps doesn't it?" Ranma asked.
"Ranma are you certain about this, you don't have to just because I asked," Akane wrapped an arm around her and pulled the red-haired head to her shoulder.
"I'm fine," Ranma insisted. "I can do this. I didn't think it would be that bad at first. He groped me when I was getting out of the pool and that's when I knew something was going on. I thought it was the curse...the grope was uncomfortable, but it didn't repulse me. I was confused until I turned around and...ki..kissed Kuno."
"You're safe, Ranma," Akane reminded him.
"Yeah, its not like it can happen with you around," Ranma said. "I'd be taken out of action with the nearest blunt instrument first." Akane scowled but didn't say anything, it held too much truth for one thing. For another she suspected Ranma was just lashing out.
"I'll try not to do that any more," Akane said softly, and gestured for him to continue.
"I..I felt like jumping him, b.but I managed to keep myself controlled to just flirting," Ranma said. "Then we were at the Kuno place, don't know how, I think I followed him there. I...my body...wanted it...it felt good...I hated that. Then he...started taking off my clothes, and I told there was no way I'd do that. He started ranting about magic and spells and declared he was going to free me." She stopped and took another breath. "I tried to fight, but my body didn't want to. I'd try to punch and I would just touch and rub him," Ranma shivered.
~Oh Ranma, I'm sorry,~ Akane thought starting to rock her. ~I should have been there to help you.~
"I had to settle for clawing, biting and yelling," Ranma stopped again and breathed. "Then he...got in my pants, and...I screamed, I was...crying and shrieking...like a girl...I don't remember much after that. I think my body just did what it wanted for a while, until I came to and started fighting again, an..and he said something about pain to drive out a demon. He was starting to choke me when Kodachi came in."
"Kodachi saved you?" Akane asked quietly. ~You had to wait for Kodachi to save you and I was at school.~
"Yeah, I ran while she was beating him up," Ranma said. They were quiet for long time.
"Why were you so scared of Ryouga?" Akane asked finally.
"I wasn't afraid of him," Ranma said, she hesitated before continuing. "I was afraid of fighting him."
"What's the difference?" Akane asked, trying to prod her into further discussion.
"I...haven't figured it out yet," Ranma whispered.
"You can survive Ranma," Akane said, after realizing that she wasn't going to elaborate. "You can survive anything, and if you need it I'll help."
"I hope I can," Ranma sighed.
"Let's get some sleep now," she cut off Ranma about to make a comment. "Just sleep for now." ~I don't want to risk hurting you if this is still those drugs talking.~
"Okay, I guess you don't want to do anything with a girl..." Ranma stopped as Akane leaned down into her face. Ranma didn't hesitate before leaning up into the kiss.
"A goodnight kiss is fine though," Akane said smiling softly. "Go to bed, I'm going to change and be right back."
"Thanks, Akane," Ranma whispered into the dark room as she settled down into the bed. A few minutes later she stirred momentarily from near sleep as Akane joined her and held her close and safe.
"How are you feeling now father?" Kasumi asked quietly. Nabiki and Nodoka were arranged on either side of her across from the two men. On the table were some empty mugs and an empty coffeepot. In the kitchen Kasumi had gone through their entire stock of coffee. They hadn't had all that much, since it was mainly used for guests and the residents mostly had no taste for it.
"I'm feeling fine, Kasumi, why do you ask?"
"You know coffee doesn't really work," Nabiki noted.
"No, not alone," Kasumi agreed. "But there are some herbs you can add to it..."
"Can we get to the point of why were forced at sword point to drink all the coffee in the house," Genma demanded. Soun nervously eyed the two blades in the room, the spear sitting next to Kasumi and the Saotome blade, fortunately sheathed, in Nodoka's hands.
"We are going to tell you something of our son's situation, Genma," Nodoka answered. "And I want you to think very carefully about your reaction. Thanks to that promise of yours, my son won't even trust me to comfort him in this time of need." Nabiki arched an eyebrow and appraised the Saotome matriarch remembering that she had been the primary enforcer of that same promise. Now was not the time to quarrel among themselves though.
"And I do not want to hear about canceling the engagement from you, Daddy," Nabiki said. "That is Ranma and Akane's decision." She was the only one with out a blade. The only other one she knew about in the house was the Kuno blade, and that was out of the question.
"Why would I want to cancel the engagement?" Soun asked, confused. Kasumi sighed as she prepared to tell the story that she knew so far.
Ryouga was woken up early by a pail of cold water. He stared at Nabiki in annoyance as the girl took him and his clothes to the bathroom and tossed him in while she waited outside for him to get dressed.
"Are you ready yet, P-Chan?" Nabiki asked after ten minutes.
"Just as soon as I find my way out of this cave," Ryouga's voice came from inside. Nabiki blinked and opened the door to the bath, glancing around she saw the hamper moving. The middle Tendo irritably lifted the lid and looked down at Ryouga.
"Should I even bother to ask?" she asked irritably. Ryouga laughed nervously. "Come on P-Chan, let's get going before people start waking up." She reached down and pulled Ryouga out of the hamper slipping a collar over his neck.
"Umm what's this?" he asked.
"A leash, what does it look like," Nabiki snapped. "Let's go."
"This is embarrassing," Ryouga sighed.
"Consider yourself lucky," Nabiki said. They went into the still dark streets of Nerima moments later, after a quick grab for a snack in the kitchen. It was only fifteen minutes later that they were at the Nekohanten. Nabiki unlocked the leash before banging on the door of the restaurant angrily.
"What is the meaning of the noise at this ungodly hour?" Cologne demanded as she opened the door.
"What Mercenary-Girl and Pig-Boy doing here?" Shampoo asked cautiously. Nabiki and Cologne both caught the fact that Shampoo was expecting, or dreading perhaps, some visitors.
"Perhaps we can discuss this inside?" Cologne suggested, waving Nabiki and Ryouga inside. The old woman glanced at Shampoo, who was doing a good job at appearing innocent.
"What is going on?" Mousse asked as he came in from the storeroom. "Nabiki Tendo, Ryouga Hibiki, what brings you here?"
"I'mhere on behalf of my brother-in-law to be," Nabiki said sitting down and examining her nails. Ryouga moved to sit down, but stopped as Nabiki glared at him. She didn't say anything, but it was quite obvious that she didn't want him to sit down.
"Ranma is not mercenary-girl's brother-in-law!" Shampoo insisted. "Is Shampoo's ai..."
"Shampoo, I'm here without Ranma's knowledge," Nabiki interrupted the amazon. "I'm not sure what his reaction to you would be. I know it wouldn't be pleasant, however, and I'd like to avoid seeing him in jail for tearing you limb from limb." It was perfectly obvious that Nabiki that such a fate was much better than the amazon deserved. Shampoo blanched and did not respond. The feeling of dread gripping Cologne worsened.
"You have explained your presence, Tendo-san," Cologne said from atop her stick. "What is Ryouga doing here?"
"Why, I should think that is obvious, Ryouga is my protection," Nabiki said. "Not only is he among the most powerful of Ranma's acquaintances, but he is also one of the few people that know about this situation already."
"You thought you needed protection?" Cologne narrowed her eyes in Ryouga's direction, the lost boy waved nervously.
"Until your respective reactions I wasn't certain who was involved," Nabiki explained with a shrug. "I still don't know how you will react."
"And you think he would make a difference?" Cologne asked. That stopped Nabiki cold and she thought of Shampoo's earlier reference to Ryouga as "Pig-Boy."
~Shit, they know about his curse. I'm vulnerable,~ Nabiki kept her face composed and shrugged nonchalantly, bluffing.
"Let us stop beating around the bush," Cologne insisted. "What has Shampoo done to deserve the son-in-law's hatred."
"Yesterday she brought him a special bowl of ramen for his lunch," Nabiki started. "Of course he ate it, Ranma will eat nearly anything you put in front of him. Soon after eating the ramen he was thrown out of the building by my sister." Nabiki paused for dramatic tension and glared at Shampoo. "He landed in the pool. Do you understand what that means?" Shampoo had paled at the mention of the pool but then stiffened her expression.
"Shampoo not know what you talking about," the purple-haired amazon insisted.
"I'm sure you don't," Nabiki said.
"What happened to Ranma-san?" Cologne asked, interrupting Nabiki's goading. Everybody noticed the lack of her usual title for Ranma.
"Ranma is Grandmother son-in-law!" Shampoo insisted, then backed down when Cologne glared at her.
"What happened?" Cologne repeated.
"Shampoo set out to catch a drugged Ran.."
"Shampoo no need drugs to catch Airen!" Shampoo protested launching herself at Nabiki. The amazon was intercepted mid leap by a yellow blur and tossed across the room.
"HIBIKI prepare to die!" Mousse launched a stream of chains at the lost boy. Ryouga was almost bored as he intercepted the projectiles and used them to reel in the blind martial artist. Soon Mousse joined Shampoo in a pile across the room.
"Not going to help, Cologne?" Nabiki asked calmly, she idly noted Cologne coming out of the kitchen with a powder-filled jar. ~That must be what did it. I didn't notice her leave, got to keep a better eye than that Nabiki.~
"He seemed to be doing well enough without me," Cologne shrugged. Ryouga smiled and cracked his knuckles. "You were saying, and please no dramatics this time."
"Ranma was raped by Kuno, and he is now locked in female form," Nabiki said flatly. Ryouga whirled to face Nabiki.
"He's stuck that way?" Ryouga gasped. "I didn't know that."
"Ranma-san must have a stronger will than I thought," Cologne said, shaking her head. ~The dose that's missing would have killed a normal person, and he still fought it down enough that Kuno had to force him.~
"Would not happen if kitchen destroyer not interfere with Shampoo!" the younger amazon insisted as she stood up, shoving off an unconscious Mousse.
"What do you plan to do about this?" Nabiki asked, coolly ignoring Shampoo.
"Is nothing to do, Ranma is male, and Shampoo Airen," Shampoo answered haughtily. "I do what I want with him." Nabiki stood up and walked slowly to look the purple-haired amazon in the face.
"Have I ever mentioned how I like those hair ornaments?" Nabiki asked. Ryouga nervously followed behind her, while Cologne watched curiously.
"What you talking about?" Shampoo demanded. Nabiki didn't answer, merely grabbed one of Shampoo's ear tails and slashed out with the small knife in her other hand. Shampoo reached up to feel where her hair had been cut. She hadn't expected Nabiki to make an attack, nor that Nabiki could move with any real speed.
Shampoo fumed for several moments before shouting "Shampoo kill!" and lunging forward again. She should have just attacked, the fuming and shouting had given Ryouga plenty of warning to intercept the attack. Being used to fighting Ranma, Ryouga found Shampoo incredibly slow, and the amazon could only glare at Nabiki out of range as her arm was twisted about in a hold that smashed her to the ground.
"What do you say Ryouga, will it go well in my box?" Nabiki asked brandishing the lock of hair.
"I guess," Ryouga agreed, eager to get off the subject of the trophy box.
"I suppose she earned that action," Cologne sighed. "I gather that if what I decide is unacceptable that you will engage your country's law?"
"That is one option yes," Nabiki admitted, not indicating whether it was the option she was considering or not. "How do you intend on handling this."
"Shampoo has failed in her task to acquire Ranma as husband," Cologne started.
"Shampoo not fail! Ranma is Air.." Shampoo did not get the chance to finish. Cologne reached out and jabbed her in the chest, hard, knocking the amazon off balance and to the ground.
"Sit down, Shampoo," Cologne ordered. Shampoo glared but made no other comment. "As I was saying, Shampoo has failed. She has shown herself completely without judgment in this matter." Cologne turned to face Shampoo. "Ranma has far too much power to be safely toyed with in that manner."
"You're going to punish her because she's an idiot," Nabiki spoke slowly, insulted. "And what is the punishment for this?"
"Complete loss of status," Cologne said. "And the cat's tongue."
"Hah!" Shampoo shouted. "Shampoo no let..." She stopped and stared down at the spot Cologne had touched earlier.
"It is already done," Cologne answered.
"Interesting idea," Nabiki said, and glanced up at Ryouga who swallowed nervously. "It is acceptable." She should stood up and started for the door.
"Hold a moment, Tendo-san," Cologne said. "You say that Ranma's curse is locked?"
"Yes," Nabiki said, turning her attention back to Cologne. I suppose you would know something about that?"
"The sex alone would not have locked the curse," Cologne said. "A connected condition would lock the curse, however."
"A connected...Ranma's pregnant?" Nabiki shook her head and had to sit down again as Cologne nodded. "So...end the pregnancy and he's fine?"
"Unless he carries a child to full term," Cologne said, smiling. "He will be locked permanently. The lock will recover about a month after he gives birth."
"Terrific, Ranma will just be thrilled to here that," Nabiki said snidely. Ryouga's mind had apparently short-circuited as he tried to comprehend Ranma as a mother. "How can we trust you're telling the truth."
"Because it is too direct to be a good a lie," Cologne said. "I would not allow myself to be found out so easily. And if Ranma were to arrive in Joketsuzoku a year from now finding out I had lied, well...the entire village put together wouldn't have lasted a minute against Saffron."
"Anything else," Nabiki asked, accepting the explanation.
"The normal use of the drug is to treat people with unhealthy inhibitions, such as Ryouga here," Cologne said. She pointed at the boy who was still staring into space and mumbling. "Or to enhance the pleasure of sex, such a large dose as this will have lasting side effects. Ranma will be more likely to desire sexual contact after this."
"Great, Ranma's horny," Nabiki sighed. "Anything out of control?"
"Considering Ranma's former attitude?" Cologne laughed. "It might just bring him up to the high end of normal."
"Do I have any other surprises coming, or is that all?" Nabiki asked. Cologne tossed a few packets to Nabiki. "Instant nannichuan?" Nabiki blinked. "What's this for?"
"Mousse keeps some for when he goes swimming. I doubt the clerk's office will look too closely at who is signing the husband and wife sections of the marriage license," Cologne explained. "There is also an ordering address on the packets." Nabiki nodded, but held up the packets again.
"The marriage only takes one packet," Nabiki noted.
"I'm going to give you a box," Cologne said. She pogo-ed into the store and came back with something about the size of a bread box "Mousse can always get more."
"And what is the purpose behind this?" Nabiki asked, already halfway guessing.
"Ranma has to give birth," Cologne said. "But it does not necessarily need to be Kuno's child." Nabiki blinked in surprise, she had been thinking along the same lines, but not quite that far.
"That is good to know, I'll make sure Akane gets them," Nabiki said. "Ryouga, let's go. I want to get my knew trophy into my box, besides I want to get some more sleep before the sun rises." Nabiki smirked at the destroyed Amazon as she walked out of the Nekohanten, Ryouga close behind, even if he was walking rather wobbily.
As soon as they were gone Cologne walked over to Shampoo and poked a sleep point, putting her out immediately. A few splashes of water and Cologne was soon burdened with a cat and a duck. The matriarch packed up a few more things, placed the animals in separate cages and left the Nekohanten without a word.
The cat's tongue would be removed as soon as Cologne could fashion a phoenix pill, but there was no reason to tell Nabiki that. Besides, that would take Cologne at least a year, and after that Shampoo would basically be a servant of the tribe. She might even find herself preferring the treatment she'd get as a cat.
There was just one thing Cologne had to do before leaving, and that involved the Tendo dojo. The old hag left her bags on the roof and sought out Nabiki's room. Cologne quietly entered the room, collected a small item and left silently as Nabiki opened her door, coming in from the bathroom. The middle Tendo instantly noticed something out of place in her room and flipped on the lights.
Her camera was not on her desk as usual. Nabiki frowned as she picked up the note in its place.
"Nice camera. Now matters stand even." Nabiki angrily crumpled the note and tossed it in a corner. She had put a lot of time and money into customizing that camera. It was virtually a part of her, and Cologne had just come in and snatched it with out any problem. Nabiki angrily wished that she had caused the amazons a little more trouble.
Breakfast was a subdued affair the next morning, everybody noticed that Genma was missing from the normal dinner table. Ranma growled as she glanced around. She had somewhat been hoping that the panda would try to "train" her with a heavy sparring session. She had looked around for the panda after Kasumi had told her about Kodachi's visit, feeling incredibly desirous of hitting something. She needed to find out where her level of concentration was, and Genma would have been safe target.
"Let me guess," Ranma said. "He had an urgent need to go on a training mission?"
"I'm certain your father will be back eventually," Kasumi said without any real conviction. Nodoka refused to comment at all, merely gripping her katana tightly. Soun was buried in his paper, but that was to be expected as well. Rain or shine, any serious problem that came up resulted in Soun diving into the paper or simply shutting off.
"Do you plan on going to school today," Nodoka asked. Ranma and Akane watched her cautiously, keeping an eye on the sword that was again at her side. Nodoka noticed.
"I was planning to see about skinning a cat actually," Ranma said quietly.
"I already took care of that matter," Nabiki yawned as she walked into the room, rubbing the sleep out of her eyes.
"You did what?!" Ranma snapped. She got to her feet again and turned to face Nabiki.
"You might have been hurt, Nabiki," Akane interrupted. "Why didn't you ask someone to go with you?"
"I wasn't alone," Nabiki shrugged. "It seems lost boy overheard some of yesterday's situation and offered to go as back-up."
"You, and Ryouga, went to go fight MY battle!" Ranma was incensed. "I'm not a weak, helpless g...kid!" Ranma had a sudden image of herself lashing out at Nabiki and growled.
"You want to hurt someone," Nabiki said. "You want to really hurt someone, don't you?"
"What do you know about it?" Ranma snapped angrily. Then she remembered the card Akane had given her. "Oh...sorry," he continued whispering. "I guess you do know about it."
"Nabiki?" Kasumi turned to her sister in concern, and Soun dropped his paper a little to look at her as well. "Do you have something you need to talk about?"
"I'll explain later," Nabiki said, cutting off the inquiry, Kasumi nodded with a look that promised that she would.
"Nabiki," Soun demanded. "Are you saying that you were...taken advantage of?"
"Not now Daddy," Nabiki repeated. "The matter was handled quite a while ago."
"Not now, Daddy," Nabiki said icily. Soun was torn between further questioning his daughter and returning to his paper and the world of boring stock quotes that didn't rewrite the laws of reality every few seconds. Since his daughter seemed to be promising terrible retribution in return for disobeying, he chose the paper.
Nabiki turned back to Ranma. "I spent months lashing out at you after you got here, so yeah I understand. Of course, I don't destroy buildings when I get mad, you don't have the luxury of lashing out."
Ranma thought back to the image he had just had of attacking Nabiki and shuddered. Nabiki was right, if she lashed out people would get hurt, and probably not the ones she wanted to get hurt. She should have learned that lesson with Ryouga's curse. That had happened because she had been lashing out without paying attention.
"Whatever," Ranma subsided and sat down deflated.
"That's why you let me handle lashing out for you," Nabiki smiled as she sat down at the table. "At any rate, Shampoo was inflicted with the cat tongue and a total loss of status."
"I hope she falls into a hot spring," Akane muttered, wrapping on arm around Ranma's shoulder. Ranma remembered the feeling of falling into a pool of hot water while afflicted with the cat's tongue and nodded in agreement.
"Did you ask about why my curse is locked?" Ranma asked.
"Yess, but I need to say some other things first," Nabiki answered, pausing in eating some rice.
"I'm not going to like it, am I?" Ranma asked.
"Kodachi came by yesterday," Nabiki said, ignoring Ranma. "She brought the Kuno family blade."
"Nabiki," Akane growled at her sister.
"She left some sort of message with Kasumi," Nabiki continued. "What was it again?"
"I already told him earlier this morning," Kasumi said. "What did they say about the curse?"
"Oh and the drug Shampoo used is going to make Ranma a little hornier it sounds like," Nabiki said. That got a reaction.
"WHAT!?!" Akane and Ranma demanded in tandem. Akane wasn't especially surprised considering some of Ranma's recent behavior.
"For how long?" Ranma asked, choking nervously.
"It sounded like a semi-permanent effect," Nabiki said. "But I wouldn't worry about that, I always thought you were a little prudish."
"Nabiki-chan," Nodoka coughed quietly. "You have yet to discuss the matter of the lock on my son's curse."
"Damn," Nabiki sighed as all eyes turned toward her again. "Well, the good news is the lock will go away."
"What's the bad news?" Akane demanded.
"He won't have to worry about periods for a while either," Nabiki added. Everybody's eyes widened except Ranma's who was totally clueless as to the significance.
"Thank goodness for small favors," Ranma muttered. "What's the bad news?"
"Remember what you said about new hells, Auntie?" Nabiki asked.
"Oh dear, this is going to be very bad isn't it," Nodoka blinked.
"WHAT is the BAD news!?" Ranma demanded.
"You're...expecting," Nabiki said nervously. "At least that's what Cologne thought the lock meant, you should probably get tested a couple months from now to be sure."
"Expecting? What does that mean?" Ranma was trying to keep from screaming in terror, this conversation was really scaring him. Nodoka was trying to keep from commenting about the silver lining to every storm cloud. She wasn't about to cause her son more pain by celebrating her first grandchild.
"Ranma, she's saying that you're," Akane hesitated and then moved to hug Ranma tightly. Now Ranma was very scared. "You might be...pregnant."
"But, I'm a guy," Ranma protested. "NO! NO! NO! I'm a guy! I can't be...NO!! NO! NO! I can't do anything about it?" Nodoka fought the urge to protest against an abortion.
"Not unless you want to stay male," Nabiki said. "According to Cologne you have to give birth to remove the lock." Nodoka quietly released a breath in relief.
"Can we trust her?" Akane asked tightly.
"She made a convincing argument involving Ranma razing Joketsuzoku," Nabiki commented. "I don't think she wants that to happen."
"Its not fair!! I can't be a mother! Its not fair!! I'll kill the bastard! I'll...I'll..." Ranma stood up, shaking free of Akane's hug and rushed upstairs. Akane stared after her nervously and then followed.
"Pork bellies are up today," Soun commented. The three women in the room glared at him.
Akane found Ranma in the dojo viciously punching at the training dummy. The dummy lasted for less than a second before it was shattered beyond all recognition.
"Ranma," Akane said quietly, and the redhead started to run away. "Ranma, STOP!!"
"Leave me alone, Akane," Ranma snapped. "You don't need...this." She gestured at herself in disgust.
"You let me decide what I need, baka," Akane insisted. "Besides you need someone right now, and it might as well be me!"
"This isn't fair!" Ranma shouted. "Two days ago everything was normal...then Shampoo, and...Kuno...Now this! I...I'm going to be a mother!!" Ranma sat down on the ground and curled into a ball. "I..I'm not worth anything!"
"Don't be a baka," Akane said sitting down next to him and engaging in the now familiar act of gathering up the smaller girl in her arms. "I'd hand over my life for you."
"It's not fair," Ranma muttered as the tears started to flow again.
"That's always when you're at your best," Akane whispered back. They heard a knock several minutes later and turned around to see Nabiki.
"Sorry to interrupt," Nabiki said. "But there is more, and you might WANT to hear this." Ranma and Akane watched Nabiki cautiously.
"What now?" Ranma asked wearily.
"Well, Cologne said that you had to give birth, and then a month after that the curse would unlock," Nabiki started the explanation. "But it doesn't necessarily have to be Kuno's kid."
"So I can get an abortion and go screw some other guy?" Ranma snapped. "HOPING that I happen to get pregnant!"
"What kind of good news is that Nabiki," Akane shouted. Nabiki smirked and tossed a few familiar looking packets to the floor in front of Akane and Ranma. "Instant..."
"...Nannichuan?" Ranma flushed red and looked at Akane.
"You aren't suggesting..." Akane's face flushed in embarrassment as well.
"It's either that or have Kuno's kid," Nabiki said. "Or stay female, your choice." Ranma and Akane looked at each other. "It'll be a while before a test will prove accurate, and you can't do anything until then anyway."
"Too bad we can't get married yet," Ranma sighed.
"And why not?" Akane huffed.
"We're both..." Ranma looked down at the packets of nannichuan and back up at Akane. "Oh."
"I'll just talk to Daddy and Saotome-san," Nabiki smirked. "I need to go out today anyway."
"Huh? Why?" Akane asked, confused.
"I suddenly need a new camera," Nabiki said irritably.
"Oh, Ryouga, what are you doing in the laundry room?" Kasumi was moderately surprised at the lost boy's presence.
"Nabiki said not to move," Ryouga explained.
"Oh, I see," Kasumi paused for a moment. Apparently her sister and Ryouga had a relationship. "Ryouga, would you know anything about my sister having once been in a similar situation to Ranma?"
"Could you ask her yourself," Ryouga said nervously. "I don't want to die."
"Oh my, you have a point, don't you," Kasumi said. "So how long have you been dating my sister?"
"Oh, I'm certain you are a perfect gentleman with Nabiki..." Kasumi continued.
"Ryouga," the lost boy quailed at the sound of Nabiki's voice. "What are you telling my sister?"
"Well, Ranma?" Akane asked hesitantly after Nabiki had left.
"I want to marry you," Ranma said. "And if I'm going to have a kid, we should be married."
"Obviously, you suggested it," Akane said irritably. "What about the other thing."
"The other thing?" Ranma asked uncomfortably.
"You know what I'm talking about," Akane said, a little crossly.
"I don't know," Ranma shuffled.
"If you don't want to have sex that way," Akane sighed. "I can understand."
"You'd have to be a guy Akane," Ranma said.
"Would you rather have my baby, or Kuno's," Akane asked. "I think I can handle it."
"You don't know what you're getting into Akane," Ranma said. "The curse is...wrong."
"I've been living with you for a year and a half," Akane reminded him. "I have some idea."
"No...no you don't," Ranma shivered. "Are you certain about this, Akane?"
"It's only a one-time thing, Ranma," Akane said. "Well, under control anyway."
"If you're okay with it," Ranma said.
"Let's try after we get married," Akane suggested. ~Then we can see if you're okay with it.~ "If either of us freaks out, I guess we'll have to skip it."
"Ohkay, but Akane," Ranma turned to face her. "Can we do it like this first? You as a girl?" Akane blinked and then nodded, though she'd rather only use one packet for the whole thing. No specific reason, just something that was nagging at her intuition. Akane hadn't learned to stop ignoring that kind of thing yet.
"I can definitely deal with...," Akane said. She was interrupted by Ranma moving onto her lap and kissing her suddenly. Akane returned the kiss, and they held the passionate advice for short time before Ranma broke off and started crying in Akane's shoulder.
"I wanted you to be my first and only," Ranma whispered.
"I know, Ranma," Akane said. "I should have seen before, but I see it now." She stroked Ranma's hair and patted her back comfortingly.
"I'm sorry," she whispered again, cuddling in closer. She could care less about "manly" as long as nobody else were watching.
"It's not your fault," Akane said firmly. The redhead was holding her as if she were terrified that Akane would just leave. She glanced out the dojo nodded. She waited until Ranma had calmed down a little before talking again. "Ranma, if we're getting married, we should take a bath."
"Hmm, yeah, right," Ranma said, standing up. Akane stood up next to her and started to walk towards the bathroom, before she noticed Ranma wasn't following.
"I said WE should take a bath, Ranma," she said, arching her eyebrow.
"Well, tell me when you're fin..." she started blushing furiously. "Oh, yeah." She gave a weak smile and followed behind Akane.
Nodoka passed a three way discussion between Nabiki, Kasumi and Ryouga, meaning that Ryouga happened to be in the same area and every once in a while he would be used as a point of reference. The boy didn't seem too happy though. Nodoka looked at the conversation for a moment before deciding to head on past to her original destination.
The matriarch wearily reached for the door to the bath, and stopped as she heard noises coming from the bath. The sounds held, perhaps, a character of hesitation or caution, but that was diminishing. It also in no way hid what was going on in the bath at the moment, even if they were trying to be quiet about it.
Nodoka took a moment to decide how she felt about this.
~I'm certainly glad my son obviously doesn't seem too nervous about sex after yesterday.~ Nodoka glanced back down the hallway. ~And that is supposed to be every man's fantasy, this is manly I suppose. I may have to reconsider the meaning of man if I am to maintain both my son and my sanity. I wonder what Kasumi-chan and Nabiki-chan were talking about.~ Nodoka walked back towards the laundry room.
"...is not the time to be talking about me," Nabiki was saying. "I'm more or less fine."
"How could you hide such things from your family," Kasumi sighed. She looked at Ryouga. "At least you confided in someone."
"I wouldn't calling confiding," Ryouga muttered.
"I didn't want to upset you," Nabiki said. "I wasn't certain how you'd take it anyway. There might have been some misunderstandings."
"How could I misunderstand that?" Kasumi asked kindly.
"It wasn't the same as what happened to Ranma," Nabiki said. "I WILL explain LATER."
"Hey, Mrs. Saotome," Ryouga waved, from where he was sitting. Kasumi and Nabiki glanced away from each other and mutually decided to drop the original subject.
"Auntie Saotome, I thought you were going to take a bath," Kasumi blinked.
"The bath is...in use," Nodoka said smiling and a little embarrassed.
"Oh, I see," Kasumi blinked. ~I wonder who it could be.~
~That was fast,~ Nabiki thought, coming to the proper conclusion based on Nodoka's reaction. "I need to talk to you anyway."
"Oh, what do you wish to ask Nabiki-chan?"
"Don't you think we should go somewhere we won't give some a death by nosebleed...or heart attack?" Nabiki glanced at Ryouga meaningfully. Nodoka and Kasumi nodded in agreement, Nabiki turned to the lost boy and pointed. "Stay."
"What is it that you wish to talk about, Nabiki-chan?"
"You might not like this," Nabiki warned as she went into her plan for Ranma and Akane's marriage. She wondered briefly whether she should edit out the suggestion that Akane get Ranma pregnant, but decided it would be better with her spin doctoring than if Nodoka discovered it on her own later.
"First of all, we'll have to get Akane and Ranma married quickly," Nabiki suggested calmly.
"I certainly agree," Nodoka nodded. "But that is impossible while they are both girls."
"We have some magic on hand that can help with that," Nabiki smirked. "Instant nannichuan."
"Oh my," Kasumi gasped. "Are you certain about how Akane would take that suggestion."
"Already talked to her," Nabiki assured Kasumi.
"What is instant nannichuan?" Nodoka asked.
"It is a one-shot version of a Jusenkyo curse," Nabiki explained. "Akane can be a guy for a time, and who's going to pay attention as to which of them signs which part of the marriage license?"
"That is an...interesting...solution," Nodoka sighed.
"It gets more interesting," Nabiki said uncomfortably.
"How is that, Nabiki-chan?" Nodoka asked, levelly. Nabiki noticed Kasumi also watching her expectantly.
"Well, Ranma might not be pregnant," Nabiki was about to continue, but was interrupted. For all she knew Cologne was lying about that, or else just plain wrong. She'd found that magic was rarely predictable, and she would trust it to act as expected when she saw it. Mostly, however, this was a cover for in case Ranma and Akane chose to have their own kid rather than Kuno's. She doubted either her sister or the Saotome matriarch would approve of that plan.
"Then why tell him he is?" Kasumi asked. "That certainly wasn't kind."
"Well, because the cure for the lock would STILL be to have a kid," Nabiki said, glad she was good at this kind of deception. "And I thought it might soften the blow if he thought it was already a fact."
"But if he is not pregnant then wouldn't that mean he is stuck unless," Kasumi's eyes widened.
"We have a lot of instant nannichuan," Nabiki said in embarrassment. "And yes I already talked to both of them."
~Oh yes, I definitely have to rework that promise,~ Nodoka thought to herself after Nabiki was finished.
Akane looked at her male body in the mirror. He was, too put it bluntly, a hunk, but that wasn't too comforting. Ranma was right, he really had, had no idea what being in the wrong body was like. Everything was wrong, he was too tall, too big. Then there were those different parts, it was just wrong. It was the only word that fit. Wrong.
It wasn't intolerable though, he glanced at where Ranma had fallen asleep on their bed. That was an interesting shift of reference. Their bed. At least that was past, he knew he could have sex with Ranma like that. More importantly, Ranma had not freaked out.
Akane stood up and walked out into the hall. He might be willing to be a guy for Ranma, but he'd rather be a girl. Plus she thought Ranma might overact upon finding himself in bed with a guy when she woke up. He was relieved that Ranma had accidentally woken her up after the both of them had fallen asleep in the afterglow.
"We can have our child, Ranma," Akane said. "And put this all behind us. Whether you get back to male form or not, I'll always be there." Akane returned, female again, and worked her way back into the bed. She was surprised when Ranma turned around to face her.
"I thought you were asleep," Akane said in surprise.
"Akane, I think I know what to do about Kuno," Ranma said.
"Are you going to tell the police?" Akane asked. Ranma shook her head and circled her arms around Akane's head.
"I want a duel," Ranma said. "I'll explain later."
"If you didn't want to explain now, why did you..." she could almost feel the blush in the darkness. Akane sighed. "Nabiki was right about you being horny."
"Well, you don't have to," Ranma said. "You never have to." Akane laughed quietly and then stopped Ranma from going any further with a kiss.
"We're married, we're supposed to do this," she whispered. There were no words after that.
Ukyou watched Ranma and Akane sitting next to each other and growled. Ranma didn't usually sit that close to anybody, neither did Akane for that matter. They weren't precisely hanging all over each other, just quietly setting next to each other.
With the information Nabiki had given, she had assumed that Ranma had been dragged into another adventure, and that Akane had gone off to help him. Sure they'd be closer after that, but that much closer? It was hard to believe. Ukyou had held back to observing them most of the day and waiting for them to get into a fight was driving her crazy.
~Damn it, enough of this crap,~ Ukyou thought. Ukyou quickly dismantled her portable grill and marched towards Ranma and Akane. The pair looked up at her cautiously as she approached. Ukyou noted Akane's hand reach out and grab Ranma's with a supporting squeeze. ~That's not a good sign.~
"Ukyou?" Ranma asked nervously as she sat down. Ukyou glanced at him in concern. She had expected some level of sarcasm, maybe suspicion, Ranma got paranoid after returning from adventures. She didn't know of any reason for Ranma to be nervous around her. None that she would expect.
"How have you been?" Akane asked cautiously. Ukyou didn't miss her leaning protectively closer to Ranma. Now she was even more confused. Akane didn't normally protect Ranma so obviously.
"You two are both acting weird," Ukyou said simply, sitting down. "I want to know what's been going on." ~Besides eating alone is boring.~
"I'm not sure we want to talk about it," Akane commented, keeping the focus off Ranma specifically. The effect, unfortunately, made Ukyou more curious.
~Akane hardly ever says 'we' in reference to her and Ranma!~ Ukyou thought.
"We'd have to talk to her eventually," Ranma muttered, looking down at the ground. Akane glanced at him and nodded reluctantly.
"Ranma, you shouldn't be hiding things from me," Ukyou said, a little more nervous than she intended. "Its not a good start."
"Ukyou," Ranma shuffled a bit, trying to think of how to put what he had to say. Akane arched an eyebrow and visibly swallowed her jealousy. She slipped an arm around Ranma's shoulders and squeezed him comfortingly.
"HEY! He's MY fiancee!" Ukyou snapped, standing up and glaring down at Akane. She didn't notice Ranma flinch, being focused on Akane.
"Like hell he is!" Akane snapped, anger getting the better of her for a moment. She rose to get into Ukyou's face glaring back.
"Stop it!" Ranma shouted. She snapped her mouth shut, getting to her feet and turning away from the both of them. Ukyou just stared in surprise as Ranma started to run. Akane immediately calmed down and embraced Ranma from behind. "I don't want to be a prize ag..."
"I'm know," Akane whispered. "I'll try not to lose my temper again." Ukyou shook her head clear of confusion at the alien sight before her.
"What's going on here?" Ukyou shouted. Her hands were twitching to hold the spatula strapped to her back. Ranma took a deep breath and calmed down, long enough to see the crowd starting to form around them.
"Uh...can we talk about this later, Ukyou?" Ranma asked nervously. Ukyou looked about and growled.
~Hell no, I want answers now!~ She glanced up. "The roof's clear."
"I can't get up there," Akane said, looking at Ranma. The redhead sighed in relief.
~Oh no! I'm not letting you off that easy.~ Ukyou turned Akane and offered very graciously, it was supposed to be gracious anyway. "I can give you a ride." It came out through gritted teeth.
"That's okay, Ukyou," Ranma sighed. "I got it. Akane?" Akane nodded, glaring at Ukyou. In the next moments they were on the roof to the disappointment of the students below.
"Okay, what's up you two?" Ukyou demanded after scanning the roof for onlookers. Akane was still glaring at her, it wasn't that normal jealous glare though. Ukyou wasn't certain what it was, yet.
The black-haired girl was being in general more protective, at the moment she was standing between Ranma and Ukyou. Ukyou looked at their hands still clasped, almost unconsciously and growled. If she could decide just who she wanted to spatula more she could have done more than just growl and try to keep her fingers from twitching.
"Me and Akane..." Ranma paused while Ukyou's eyes started to widen. "umm...got married." Akane blinked in surprise, she had expected Ranma to dither a little longer.
"Just like that? You can even SAY it just like that!" Ukyou shouted in shock. "Wait a minute, they have to be forcing you! You two just CAN'T be married voluntarily! Well, its no problem, we can get it absolved right..." Ukyou watched as Akane and Ranma just stood and shuffled uncomfortably. "You do want it absolved. Don't you?"
"No," Ranma said firmly.
"I don't want one either," Akane said. Ukyou turned away from them choking down the tears. She turned angrily back to the two of them.
~There's something else going on here,~ she thought. It was the only reason Akane would be so protective. As soon as she found what was going on she could get Ranma out of the situation. "Are you going to give me the 'let's be friends' speech now?" she asked flatly.
"Well, yeah," Ranma said.
"You know the girl is supposed to give that speech...but then, look at us." Ukyou gestured at her boys uniform and Ranma's girlish form. "Is that why you're a girl, can't ruin the cliché moment?"
"Ukyou," Ranma started. Ukyou didn't let her get started.
"Careful, Ranchan," she snapped angrily, standing up. "Spend too much time as a girl and you'll be having to fight the guys off too." Ukyou was stopped from leaving when Akane slapped her. "Watch it, sugar."
"Don't even joke about that!" Akane snapped. Ukyou looked between the furious Akane and where Ranma had curled into herself and was investigating the ground closely. Ukyou frowned and felt concern overwhelming her anger again.
"Why shouldn't I?" Ukyou asked hesitantly, suddenly confused and scared again. Akane cursed silently to herself.
"I...something already happened," Ranma said quietly, he still hadn't actually outright told anyone outside Akane yet. Ukyou blinked as Akane sat down and started comforting Ranma, working in glares at the chef at some points.
"Something..." Ukyou considered her jibe, and gasped. She walked around Akane and leaned down to look into Ranma's face. "The 'something' I'm thinking of?" Ranma looked at Akane.
"You don't have to say anything, Ranma," Akane insisted, then looked at Ukyou half angrily, half pleading. Ranma sighed and turned back to Ukyou as well.
"I lost...a fight," Ranma said, glancing down and shifting his posture noticeably. Ukyou looked over him a moment and then narrowed her eyes.
"Who was it?" Ukyou asked quietly. Ranma hesitated a long moment.
"Kuno," she answered finally.
"Kuno!?" Ukyou gasped. "How could he.." She clamped her mouth shut and slapped her hand over it. Akane was glaring at her, and Ranma had winced when she had started that comment.
"I was drugged," Ranma said quietly. "I couldn't fight."
"Shampoo," Ukyou narrowed her eyes, remembering the last time she had seen Ranma. Ukyou wasn't certain what to do. Part of her wanted to reach out and hug her friend, but mostly she just wanted to go out and kill a couple of people. Comforting was a feminine response, and something she was still a little unused to. Vengeance, pounding and slicing she understood very well.
"Nabiki took care of that," Akane said, slipping her arm around Ranma. Ukyou narrowed her eyes, Konatsu had told her that the Nekohanten was abandoned. Now she knew why, but Kuno was still in reach. Something else occurred to Ukyou then.
"You're stuck as a girl," Ukyou said, she couldn't see any other reason for her to remain a girl after...that. Ranma nodded, and Akane gave her another look that clearly stated "go away and leave him alone."
"There might be a cure though," Ranma muttered. Ranma and Akane both blushed and fidgeted nervously. Ukyou straightened her back and arched an eyebrow.
"And what does this cure need?" Ukyou asked. Ranma didn't want to do this. Even setting aside from how she felt about the problem, it was a lot like shoving Akane in Ukyou's face.
"If I err...have a kid," Ranma said. "I might be able to go back to normal." She edited out the fact that exact reason she had been locked.
"Have a kid?" Ukyou stared at him blankly. "How do you plan on that?"
"We, uh, have some packets of instant nannichuan," Akane said. "It's like a one-shot drowned man curse."
"What can you do with..." Ukyou's eyes widened as the explanation hit her. "You and him, as..." Ukyou's eye started to twitch as the mental image hit her. Ukyou thought for a moment, she couldn't do that. Acting like a guy was one thing, actually being one was something else. She glanced at Akane and grudgingly admitted defeat in her expression.
"Ucchan?" Ranma's asked, concerned. "Are you okay?" Ukyou laughed bitter but amused.
"Am I okay? Ranchan, you don't have to worry about me," Ukyou said. She shook her head and looked at Akane. "Take care of him, sugar, I'll be watching you."
"Just as long as that's all you do," Akane hmphed.
"If you two need any help just ask," Ukyou said. She shook her head again and waved before walking off.
"Thanks, Ucchan," Ranma said to the leaving chef. A few feet away Ukyou's face hardened.
"Kuno," she growled and started to wander off the school grounds. This was hardly unusual she had her business and she often spent only half days at school. The chef shook her head again and smacked the heel of her palm to her forehead. "I can't stop picturing that now!" She didn't comment that at least the irritating image of Akane and Ranma together was keeping out the image of Kuno and Ranma.
Ukyou stood in the empty husk of the Nekohanten and glanced about. She had known, of course, that nobody was there. She felt like making sure, just in case they had returned for something. Besides a little property damage would put her in a wonderful mood to face Kuno.
The first thing she did was search the building. She found quite a lot of food left behind, of course. Along with plates, bowls, chopsticks and other such necessities of a restaurant.
Walking through the storeroom she came across Mousse's things. At least she assumed they belonged to Mousse. Neither Shampoo, nor Cologne used weapons like chains, and neither of them would have so many spare glasses. Ukyou shrugged and started digging through the items.
The first items of interest she found were two boxes of instant nannichuan packets. She set those aside after another mental image of Akane and Ranma together as the wrong genders flashed through her head.
"I'll make sure they get those," she muttered. She didn't find anything else interesting until she had dug through a ridiculous amount of stuff.
Ukyou looked at the pile of junk she had excavated, and then looked at the box she had pulled it out of. She picked up the box, looked underneath it and then set it back down and looked inside again.
"How does he do this?" Ukyou asked as she picked up the item that had attracted her attention. She thought it was more instant nannichuan at first, but caught a closer look as she was setting it aside. "Instant Jusenkyo, assorted curses." She held the box for a moment and then set it aside with the two boxes of nannichuan. She glanced at the huge pile of junk again.
"Maybe he has a scroll in here somewhere that explains how to do this," Ukyou commented. She continued searching through the box for another fifteen minutes before finally hitting the bottom of the box, with nothing else more interesting than a yo-yo. "Guess not."
The chef walked back out into the main room and set the three boxes of Jusenkyo products to the side and out of the way before hefting her spatula. Ukyou glanced around and reminded herself that she couldn't survive the ceiling falling down on her like some people she knew. Well she could, but she wouldn't be feeling very well. Then she got started on some urban renewal.
Kodachi was gratified that their father usually avoided the estate. She did not want to deal with him at the moment. Not that it would matter, the title of clan head had passed to her quite a while ago. There was nothing he could really do to contradict her.
At the time she had been hoping it would prove to be a more difficult achievement. Unfortunately her father and brother had failed to recognize a cunning plot even when it was shoved under their nose. Quite literally.
Kodachi's thoughts were interrupted by the sound of footfalls behind her. She took a breath and turned around to face whomever was behind her. She was moderately surprised to find herself facing a gigantic spatula. Kodachi was very used to ambushes, it's just that she wasn't used to being on the wrong side of the ambush.
"Kuonji-san, shouldn't you be in school?" Kodachi asked calmly. "You certainly do not have any status or inheritance to fall back on."
"Where's your brother," Ukyou snapped.
"You are looking for my dear only brother," Kodachi said, sneering. "I see."
"Just show me where he is," Ukyou growled. "Or do I have ta beat it out of ya."
"I do not think that I'll do that," Kodachi insisted.
"And why not?" Ukyou shifted the grip on her spatula and stepped forward. "You KNOW what he did, don't you? Or did you think he finally won over the 'pig-tailed girl'."
"I saw..." Kodachi said. "And I do know about Ranma-san's...situation. I wanted to kill Tatewaki myself." She backed away from Ukyou and edged her hand closer to the gymnast's ribbon in her robes.
"Bullshit," Ukyou snapped. "Why didn't you?"
"I am saving that pleasure for Ranma," Kodachi told her. "Do you really want to steal that from him?" Ukyou angrily replaced her spatula and growled. Kodachi relaxed away from her ribbon as well.
"If you try to smuggle him away..." Ukyou said. "I found Ranma, and he's a lot a harder to track than your brother will be."
"I do understand your position," Kodachi said. "But I can not allow a peasant to threaten the Kuno clan. Do not take this route again, or I shall retaliate."
"Okay, I'm scared now." Ukyou rolled her eyes. "What are you going to do, laugh at me?"
"I am not in a particularly amused mood," Kodachi said slowly. "Good-day Kuonji-san, I'm certain you have business to attend to elsewhere." Kodachi turned her back on Ukyou and started walking away. Ukyou paused a moment, deciding whether or not to take the insult and cream Kodachi.
~Not worth it,~ she thought before leaving. "I'll just keep my eyes open." She was almost out of the room when the phone rang. Ukyou quietly padded towards the sound and listened as Kodachi picked it up.
"R..Ranma-san?" Kodachi said. "Why would you want...ah I see...he can be ready two weeks from now. Can you? Yes I can keep him under control. Where do you want to fight? I can find the place. Anything else? Yes, I can do that as well...I was already planning on it. Ranma? Is it possible that you and I might remain friends? I'm not brave enough to live your life Ranma-san, you have no worries about my pursuing you. The Kuno clan remains forever at your service and the service of your family. Good day." Kodachi hung up the phone and sat down, not noticing Ukyou. "I shall have to find this place so that I don't get lost on the fight."
"Lead the way, sugar," Ukyou said as she padded out of the estate finally. "I'll have to have Konatsu keep an eye on her."
"Ranma, are you certain about this?" Akane asked her. Ranma looked across the clearing where Tatewaki Kuno was sitting with his typical arrogance. Kodachi stood behind him maintaining an inscrutable expression that sometimes broke into disgust whenever she happened to look at her brother.
"No, but I have to do it," Ranma said. She hefted the Kuno blade in its sheath and stepped forward.
"So did he say anything about how he's going to fight this," Nabiki asked.
"Yes," Akane said nodding and keeping a firm eye on Ranma.
"You aren't going to elaborate are you?" Nabiki said irritably and turned her attention back to Ranma and Kuno.
"Ah my pig-tailed goddess returns bearing my family's honor," Kuno proved himself completely idiotic. "Truly the spell must be broken and must be ready to join the house of Kuno. Despite my sister's interference. Still I was told that that cretinous Saotome would be here today."
"Didja do it?" Ranma asked, trying to keep herself from just rushing at Kuno and killing him there.
"It is done," Kodachi nodded. "There is no longer a Tatewaki on the Kuno register."
"What is this!?" Kuno demanded. "You dare to presume authority to declare me ronin! I shall have to teach you your place, dear sister!"
"If you survive, you may try," Kodachi said.
"What do you mean by that, sister?" the no-longer Kuno asked.
"She means me, Kuno," Ranma snarled, the red head tossed the sword to Kodachi. "I'm here to challenge you."
"Towards what end, my goddess," Tatewaki asked, confused, glaring at his sister who was holding the family sword. "We have already proven and consummated our love." Ranma flinched and looked down at the ground clenching her fist. There was no hesitation about this, she knew she could pound the bastard without problem. Even in the unlikely chance that she should lose, Kodachi and Akane would step in. What Ranma wanted was to achieve the soul of ice again.
~This won't work if I just beat his head in,~ Ranma thought to herself. ~I need my control back. If can keep it facing this bastard, I keep it anywhere.~
The redhead shifted into a defensive stance and faced Tatewaki, face pale with anger and remembered helplessness. She took a long breath and cricked her neck.
"Didn't you hear me say I didn't want to?" Ranma growled, already knowing the answer.
"Obviously Saotome had cast a spell on you to delude you as to your true desires," Tatewaki insisted. "Perhaps that spell has been recast, or else my sister's interference prevented its removal. Never fear, pig-tailed girl, I shall endeavor to free you again!"
"There was no spell, bastard, and I wouldn't cast a spell on myself anyway," Ranma snapped. "And there is no way I'll let you...beat me again. The only one who touches me like that is Akane!"
"Congratulations, Tatewaki," Kodachi snickered. "You drove the poor girl to be a lesbian."
"Nay, this is but another enchantment of Saotome's," the swordsman declared. "I know how to deal with such curses, Kodachi, my blade!" The gymnast glanced at the furious Ranma, who nodded tightly, then tossed her former-brother a bokken.
"Let's get this going, there aren't any drugs this time, bakayarou," Ranma snapped.
"Fine then, have at you!" The swordsman lunged forward and was surprised when his foe backpedaled, rather than attack. He followed, attacking as he went, it was like fighting a mist.
"Is that a spiral?" Nabiki asked, trying to get a better look at the fight.
"Ranma wants to retrain in the Hiryu Shoten Ha," Akane explained. "He insisted in doing it this way." She didn't sound like she thought it was a good idea.
"Ha, see this Saotome, my love can not bear to harm me!"
"LIKE HELL!!" Ranma growled and launched forward. In a flash of motion, Tatewaki was tossed across the field into a tree. ~NO damn it!! You let him frazzle you! Get back in the spiral!~ Ranma snapped to herself. "Even if I liked guys I wouldn't want a delusional ra...jerk like you."
"Indeed, it must be a strong spell that holds you," Tatewaki groaned as he stood up. "But I shall free you yet."
The duel started again and Ranma almost instantly entered the spiral again. The swordsman was flying again before they could hit the center. This pattern was repeated several times, though they kept getting closer to the center of the spiral.
"If this keeps up, Ku...I mean Tatewaki," Nabiki smirked. "Will be dead before Ranma can get it off."
"This isn't funny, Nabiki," Akane snapped.
"I didn't say it was," Nabiki noted.
~He can't beat you. He'll never do that again. You can kill him any time you choose,~ Ranma repeated to herself. ~So forget him and get in the spiral, and stay in it or you'll never be able to trust yourself in a fight again!~ She started the first steps of the spiral again. ~Akane loves you.~ At that last bit of self-lecturing she felt a lot of fear fall away.
"There he goes again," Nabiki said, she noticed Akane release her breath at the new spiral. "What?" Akane smiled at her.
"He's got it this time," she said. "Before it was just the spiral. This time he's got the soul of ice."
The anger didn't go away, but it wasn't slipping the reins anymore. Ranma was in control, and the control was getting stronger. Kuno was burning strongly, with what Ranma didn't let herself identify, and Ranma was cold. The spiral went unbroken to the end, and the result was inevitable.
"HIRYU SHOTEN HA!!" The tornado lifted the ronin into the sky for nearly a minute before dissipating. Tatewaki continued to go up for several more seconds before dropping to the ground. As the kendoist was in uncontrolled flight, Ranma walked over and picked up a pebble.
"That was an...impressive attack," Kodachi said, swallowing as she watched her former brother.
"I take it you've never seen the Hiryu Shoten Ha before?" Nabiki drawled as she walked over to join the gymnast in staring up at Tatewaki.
"What are you doing Ranma?" Akane asked, as she watched the pebble start to glow in the redhead's fingers.
"Making sure he never does that to anyone again," Ranma growled as a large thud announced his opponent's return to Earth.
Ranma stomped over and looked down at him unconscious. Ranma already knew she could kill him easily, and the bastard already probably had more than a few cracked bones from that fall. She had something else in mind. The redhead girl kicked him over and applied the glowing hot pebble to Tatewaki's back.
"Now he's gonna know what its like being at everyone's mercy," Ranma muttered. "I kinda hoped he'd wake up so I could explain it to him." Akane walked over next to Ranma and looked down.
"Is that the strength-sapping moxibustion?" Akane asked. "Are you sure that will hold?"
"The only people who know the cure wouldn't help," Ranma snorted.
"Who would help a ronin," Kodachi asked, seriously. "But I am surprised you did not simply kill my brother, what is this moxibustion you used?"
"It makes him weaker than a baby," Nabiki explained. She nodded in agreement with the decision, this would cause Tatewaki infinitely more pain than simple death.
"My, isn't that amusing." Kodachi smirked.
"I ain't gonna be like him," Ranma declared. She turned away from the comatose boy. "Let's go back to town." She looked at Akane and leaned against the taller girl, and circling her arms around Akane.
"Yeah, let's go home," Akane smiled, hugging Ranma in return.
"Yes, I've had my fill of the filth around here," Kodachi remarked. Nabiki held back a moment and picked up the bokken from where it had fallen.
~Now I have to make it fit in the box.~ She started planning.
Tatewaki woke slowly and to a large amount of pain. He took a brief moment to remember what had happened. Yes, he had been fighting one of his loves again. The beautiful pig-tailed girl had, under the influence of Saotome's magic, accused him of rape and then was forced to turn her virtuous power against her true love. His sister must also be enspelled, how could she possibly think that she had the authority to remove him from the clan.
Tatewaki sat up and shook his head clear of the last of the knockout fog. It was just turning evening, so he must have been unconscious for a while. His goddess certainly had a strong attack. He felt like he had been buffeted by a storm. Tatewaki was beginning to catalogue his injuries, starting with the annoying burning sensation on his back, when he was made aware that he was not alone.
"Hey, you're awake," Ukyou Kuonji sat on a rock staring at him and holding what looked like was a canteen in her hand. "Good."
"Are you not another of Ra..." the rest of his sentence vanished as his body shrunk down ever smaller into something not nearly human. Ukyou walked over and snatched up the little mouse.
"Like your new body, pervert?" Ukyou asked. The mouse squeaked angrily. "It's a Jusenkyo curse, idiot. Something like this transforms Ranma into a girl. That girl." The mouse looked down at its body and after a long time shook its head in disbelief. Ukyou growled.
"You really are an idiot, aren't you? Goodbye, pervert. Have fun in the woods." She tossed the mouse back into the fields. She glanced up into the trees and smirked. "That's a pretty owl."