Monkey Head Butting Part Nine & Epilogue

A very big thanks to my prereaders, Harold Ancell, Michael Allen, Gary Kleppe, and David Eddy. My story would have been a bit different, and for the worse, if not for the timely comments of my wonderful prereaders! May the muse of fan fiction (still trying to figure out exactly who that is) look upon them benevolently!

Part 9 of more than 6 parts. Not to mention the end.

Monkey Head Butting!
m a davis/miko belldandy@angelic.com
Previous chapters at:
http://members.xoom.com/bellchan/
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This is the last chapter of my story.

Others have suggested some pretty interesting plots that I might have tackled. I don't plan to write any sequels or alternate stories to this... it's not a series continuation, alternate universe, or crossover story, so it doesn't really need anything else tacked on... but if anyone wants to do another story using mine as a springboard, feel free. ^_^ (cue eerie music) "Pick up the monkey brooch... put on the monkey brooch..."

Characters are copyright Takahashi Rumiko, no infringement intended. This is a fan work only, not for profit.

Monkey Head Butting PART NINE

It was late afternoon on a sunny Sunday, and two figures stalked a third through the streets of Nerima. Ranma and Akane, in the bodies of Nabiki and Ranma, respectively, followed Nabiki, in the body of Akane.
Nabiki hopped a train into downtown Tokyo. Once there, she walked a half-dozen blocks and entered a department store.
Ranma and Akane followed, trying their best not to be seen. As they stepped into the department store, however, they came to a halt.
"Where is she?" Akane asked. "Do you see her?"
Ranma shook her head. "Maybe she's just shopping, after all."
"No," Akane said. "What's she going to shop for, in my body?"
"I don't know," Ranma said. "Something for you, maybe?"
"Not likely," Akane replied, scanning the crowded store. "Anyway, my birthday's eight months away. You know that."
In fact, Ranma didn't know that. She made a mental note of the fact, then promptly forgot it.
"Let's split up," Akane said. "I go left, you go right. She's got to be in here somewhere."

***

"One of these days Kuno's going to wake up and realize that he can hire a professional photographer any time he wants to, for less money than he pays us."
Kyoko snapped another shot, then adjusted the telephoto lens. The sun was setting on the horizon. Across the street, seated right behind a floor-to-ceiling window, Tatewaki Kuno and (by all appearances) Akane Tendo were having dinner.
"Not before we graduate, I hope," Midori replied, snapping a few pictures of her own.
"About that dress," Kyoko said. She glanced at Midori's orange and yellow print sun dress, her sandals, and her wide-brimmed hat. "Not exactly what I'd wear for a surveillance mission." she said, a little disdainfully.
"It's hot," Midori said. "Please note, you're the only one on the street with an overcoat on, and dressed all in black, no less. If people are staring, then it isn't at me."
Kyoko kept her eyes glued to the camera, snapping away. "Whatever," she said. "Anyway, as long as Kuno doesn't notice...."
"...Which he won't...."
"...we'll be fine." Kyoko reeled off another six shots, then paused to rewind and reload.
"That's enough for now," she said. "You get some good shots?"
"Don't worry," Midori said, hefting her camera. "I know better than to blow an opportunity like this. If Kuno really pays up...."
"He will. He's delusional, but also a man of his word."
"As I was saying, if he pays up, we're solvent again, but hardly rich. I've got my eyes on a new dress, and these photos are my ticket to it."
"I hear you, loud and clear," Kyoko said. "That's why, above all else...."
"Don't screw up on the kiss," Midori said.

***

Ranma and Akane searched the five-story department store thoroughly. They searched the surrounding area in a several-block radius, finally winding up back at the department store.
Ranma stated the obvious. "She ditched us."
Akane nodded. "She must have seen you. You're not exactly a master ninja...."
"Hey! Who's to say she didn't spot you?"
"Anyway," Akane said, "this has been pointless. We'd better head home."
"We could stop in to see the ghoul," Ranma suggested.
"Yeah, let's do that," Akane said, distracted. She stared at the dresses on display in front of them. She took one and held it up. "Think Nabiki would like this?" she asked.
Ranma studied it critically. "I don't know. She doesn't wear dresses that much, does she? And when she does, they're more business-like. That one's more your style, isn't it?"
"I suppose it is," Akane said. She gave Ranma a look of appraisal. "Since when did you start noticing how Nabiki dresses, anyway?" She asked.
"Well," Ranma said, "I went through her wardrobe just two hours ago, of course...."
"Oh. Of course." Akane put the dress back, then moved to another rack. "It's just, that comment of yours about her doing shopping for me while in my body got me to thinking. Nabiki's birthday is only a month off, and I haven't bought her anything yet. Since we're already here, we might as well not waste the opportunity."
Akane selected another dress. "Okay, Miss Fashion Expert, how about this one?"
"Better," Ranma said.
Akane checked the price tag, then glanced about. "Do you see a changing booth around here?"
"Why? You're going to try it on? I thought it was for Nabiki."
"No, stupid," she said. She gave Ranma's body a nice, long look. "You are. You're the one in her body, right?"
Ranma got a look of horror on her face. "No! No way! I am not going to play dress-up again!"
"Come on, Ranma," Akane said. "You haven't bought her anything either, have you? Help me out, and you can say it's a gift from both of us...."

***

Kuno strolled with Nabiki through the streets of Nerima, talking about kamisama only knew what -- Nabiki wasn't listening. The meal had been quite good, the most expensive thing she could order, and Kuno had held up both ends of the conversation admirably, allowing Nabiki to ignore it all. But the long walk under the moonlight, with his arm about her waist, was getting on her nerves.
They paused on a bridge over the river and watched as the moon passed behind a cloud, then reappeared. Moonlight danced on the water.
"The moon is like a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas,"said Kuno, reflectively.
"Yeah," Nabiki said. "Whatever."
"My soul rides on that ship," Kuno continued. "My soul is tossed about as if in a storm of fear and doubt. How can I tell what is real from what is only delusion?"
"I can bang you on the head, if you'd like," Nabiki said.
Kuno wrapped her hands in his. "Oh, fair Akane! How like a dream this night has been! Often have I traveled these paths, with my arm around you, only to awaken to the sure knowledge and the certain despair that what I thought real was nothing more than the stuff of dreams! How can I know that the fates do not tempt me yet again?"
"Are you done?" Nabiki asked, trying to free her hands.
"Kiss me, Akane! Let thy love rain down on my heart, so that I will know the truth from the lie!"
"Impossible," Nabiki said. "The deal was for one kiss only, in front of the Tendo Doj... HEY!"
Kuno's mouth darted forward, seeking hers. Nabiki turned her head, allowing him to slobber all over her cheek. As he pulled back, Nabiki leaned in and rubbed her cheek dry on his shoulder.
*Yuck! Gross!* Nabiki thought. Then she straightened up. *I'm getting paid for this,* she reminded herself. *I'm getting paid a huge sum. For such a price, is there anything I wouldn't do, within reason?*
One kiss. It wasn't so much, was it? Her lips would touch his, for a moment, and then she'd be debt free. It was a slam-dunk deal.
So why was she so nervous about it? It wasn't as if they were her lips, even. Technically, they were Akane's lips. Rented lips. Borrowed lips. Not hers at all.
Or was that the problem? Nabiki couldn't help guilty about what she was doing.
They resumed walking, but the closer to her home, the more she felt a panic well up within her. Kuno was far from her ideal date. He was rich enough for her, and easy to manipulate, a definite plus, but he was also arrogant, tied to tradition, and more than a little delusional. Besides, he was more handsome than cute. Nabiki preferred cute.
It was only one kiss.
Finally Kuno stopped. He turned Nabiki to face him. They were there, she realized, standing before the Tendo gate. Kuno gazed into her eyes with a hunger that caused bile to rise in her throat
"One kiss, dear Akane," he said, "and I shall leave you. One kiss, to prove that this is more than a dream."
Kuno leaned down to claim his reward.
They bumped heads.
Nabiki stumbled back, cursing. Did this fool not even know how to kiss?
She began to sweat big time. What if they'd switched? Thank the gods the brooch was hidden in her room, rather than on her person. She went pale to think about what might have been....
"My apologies, fair Akane," Kuno said. "Perhaps I am too eager." He leaned in again.
Nabiki gave him a quick peck on the lips, then pulled back. Kuno was having none of it. Grasping her tightly, he crushed his lips against hers, his tongue forcing its way into her mouth.
Nabiki gagged, too shocked to even struggle. It seemed to go on for an eternity, and not for the usual, romantic reasons either. Finally, she wriggled one arm free and clobbered Kuno over the head.
He fell to the ground, stunned. Nabiki stared at the frying pan in her hand, equally stunned. *Where did that come from?* she wondered.

***

Across the street, Midori and Kyoko trained their cameras on the scene at the Tendos' front gate.
"She hit him," Kyoko said. "I don't believe it. Half a kiss from freedom, and she decides to clobber him. What's she thinking?"
"Well," Midori said, "at least it's in character. I thought she'd never get her sister down."
"You get the kiss?"
"Yeah. Did you?"
"Got it," Kyoko said. She snapped another picture. "How did she do that, anyway?"
"What, the frying pan?"
"Yeah. I thought only martial artists did that."
"I don't know," Midori said. "It's Akane's body, after all, and Nabiki's had training...."
Kyoko frowned. "Midori," she said, "I know how a turn signal works, but that doesn't make me Mario Andretti."
"I suppose not," Midori said. "Maybe she just got lucky."

***

When Akane and Ranma reached the Nekohanten, it was near closing time. Mousse swept and upended chairs onto tables. Shampoo, cleaning the kitchen, spotted them as they crossed the threshold.
"Ranma!" Shampoo exclaimed happily. Leaping over the counter, she applied a full-body Amazon glomp to Akane. Mousse glowered from the corner, while Ranma had to suppress the urge to laugh out loud.
"Shampoo, get off of me!" Akane said. "We're both girls, for heaven's sake! Let go!" She managed to pry the Amazon loose, pushing her back.
Shampoo frowned, but immediately bounded into the kitchen. She returned with a kettle of hot water and upended it over Akane.
"Hey!" Akane yelled. "That's hot! What're you doing?" Her voice descended into a lower register, as her body became male. Ranma couldn't help but laugh at the sight of his male self, clad in Akane's shorts and top, which were obviously both feminine and designed for a smaller frame. It was a fine example of why Ranma refused to dress as a girl, even when a girl.
"Now only one of us girl!" Shampoo exclaimed. Again she hugged Ranma. Akane shoved her back so hard that Shampoo stumbled backwards, into the counter.
"Stop grabbing me, Shampoo! Knock it off!"
"What wrong, Ranma?" Shampoo asked, obviously disappointed. "You no like Shampoo?"
"Did I say that?" Akane-kun asked, then paused. A glint appeared in his eyes. "Although, now that you mention it," he said, "there's something I've been meaning to tell you, Shampoo."
"Yes?" Shampoo's eyes sparkled. "Ranma! You come to say something special to Shampoo? Oh, Shampoo so happy!"
Akane paused, surprised by this reaction, then forged ahead. "It's just that, you've been pursuing me for so long...."
"Yes?"
"...and I've never actually come out and said anything, but...."
"Yes?" Shampoo held her hands before her, waiting for the words she'd longed to hear. Meanwhile, Mousse had put down the broom and stood with his feet apart, clearly ready to launch an attack should he deem one needed.
Sensing trouble, Ranma interrupted. "Ranma's not himself today," she said. "Pay no attention to anything he says."
Shampoo seemed to notice Ranma for the first time. "Nabiki?" she said. "You no interrupt Airen, or Shampoo be very, very angry."
"I just wanted to tell you," Akane continued, "that I like you as a friend, but...."
"He's delusional!" Ranma blurted out. "Don't listen to him!" Ranma took Akane's hand. "Don't even try to talk, you idiot! You're too brainless to know what's going on."
Shampoo shoved Nabiki Ranma back. "Shampoo warn you once more. You no interrupt!"
"Shut up, Ranma! This is between Shampoo and me!"
"See what I mean? He thinks I'm Ranma!"
"Ranma, you idiot!" Akane yelled.
"Aiya! Is true!" Shampoo said. She placed a hand on Akane's forehead. "You is sick, Ranma?" she asked. She paused in thought, then snapped her fingers. "Shampoo know what do! Great-Grandmother medicine cure Ranma quick!"
"Wait! I'm not sick!"
"Yes you are, Ranma," Ranma said.
"Is true," Shampoo said. "You act very strange lately, Ranma. Shampoo notice. Why you dress like girl all times?"
"Well, I am a girl..." Akane began, then trailed off. "I mean, normally... no, wait, that's not right." Akane-kun looked about in panic, focused on Ranma, and that glint reappeared in his eyes. "It's this stupid bet I made with Nabiki here," he said. "I lost, so I have to dress like a girl."
"What bet?" Ranma said. "I'd never make a stupid bet like that!"
"Look," Akane said, "We didn't come here for medicine, Shampoo. We hoped to talk to your great grandmother, Cologne."
"Great Grandmother not here right now," Shampoo said. "Is just Shampoo and Mousse."
"Great. Just great," Ranma said. "I'm tired, Akane. Let's go home."
"Just a second," Akane-kun said. He took a vase of flowers from a table and dumped it over his head.
"Ah, much better," she said, and followed Ranma out the door.

***

Shampoo stood in the doorway of the Nekohanten and stared up the street until long after Ranma had disappeared. When she turned to head back to the kitchen, a thoughtful look graced her face. Mousse felt he'd just avoided a major disaster. He could guess at Shampoo's train of thought; he saw the wheels spinning in her head, and chose to derail the train before it built up speed.
"Shampoo," he said. "You know that no one loves you more than I do."
Shampoo spared him an irritated glance. "Mousse, why you such stupid duck?"
"I love you, Shampoo!" Mousse said. "I love you more than anyone, including Ranma! What's stupid about that?"
Shampoo headed back into the kitchen.
"Mousse," she asked, as she began to wipe down the counter, "who you see just now?"
"Ranma Saotome," Mousse said, "and Nabiki Tendo. Why?"
"Nabiki Tendo not here tonight, Mousse."
The Chinese boy looked confused. "But I saw her! She was right there!"
"Even when you see," Shampoo said, "you no see. That why Shampoo call you stupid duck."

***

Kuno opened his eyes and sat up. Nabiki stumbled back, dazed. She had the presence of mind to mumble, "Thanks, Kuno, had a great time and all that," as she fumbled at the latch.
Kuno stared at her, feeling the bump on his head.
"You hit me," he said.
"Well, yeah, I did," Nabiki replied.
"That hurt."
A sweatdrop appeared on Nabiki's head. Had she blown it? After all she'd gone through...?
Kuno began laughing, loud enough to wake the neighbors in a several-block radius. "So!" he exclaimed. "It was no dream! Oh, praise the heavens! It was not a dream!"
Continuing to bigsweat, Nabiki slipped inside the gate and bolted it behind her. Kuno's laughter carried down the street as he walked home. Nabiki shuddered, then turned and spat all over the walkway.
"Yuck! Ack! Gag! Never again! Never again! Some things even I won't do for money!
If I ever say I'm going to do something like that again, somebody please shoot me!"
"I'm sorry," a voice behind her said, "but I don't carry a gun."
Nabiki spun about, nearly collided with a short woman on a stick.
"Cologne!" Nabiki exclaimed.
"Akane, dear," the Amazon matriarch said. "Or should I say Ranma?"
"Neither, actually," Nabiki replied. She instinctively knew to not lie to this woman when it wasn't absolutely necessary.
"Ah, yes, Nabiki," Cologne said. "I knew you were involved in this somehow. You always were smarter than the others."
"Whatever," Nabiki said, crossing her arms. "Is this a social call? Is there something I can do for you? I'm missing my beauty sleep, you know."
A light breeze tossed the Amazon's white hair about. She stared at Nabiki. She paused, apparently for dramatic effect, and then said, "Give me the brooch."
"Brooch?"
"Do not play dumb with me," Cologne said. "You are in Akane's body, and you used a magical brooch to get there. I want that brooch."
"Assuming for the moment that I have this brooch," Nabiki said, "why would I give it to you?"
Cologne sighed. "You're going to make this difficult, aren't you, Miss Tendo? This brooch is an ancient heirloom stolen from my people, and it must be returned to us. It's ours by right. It is also a very dangerous artifact, and can cause great harm in the hands of an amateur such as yourself. Hand it over."
"No."
"It is not a request," Cologne said. "If you won't cooperate, then I shall be forced to take it from you."
Nabiki's laughter rang out. "Take it from me?" she said. "What makes you think I have it on me? As you've noted, I'm not stupid."
The Amazon's eyes narrowed. "Where have you hidden it, girl?"
"Where you'll never find it, old woman," Nabiki replied. Her eyes remained locked with Cologne's.
"Careful, girl," the Amazon woman said. "You tread a dangerous path. Be careful that you are not trapped by your own carelessness."
"Is that a threat?"
"No," Cologne said, "it is a warning." She jumped to the top of the wall, then called back over her shoulder, "We will speak on this again! This conversation is not finished until I have the brooch!"

***

Nabiki popped the pills into her mouth, took a drink of water, and swallowed. She knew from experience that she'd be sound asleep within ten minutes; in a household like the Tendo's it was a very useful trick.
She slipped into her room and slid open her dresser drawer. She reached in, feeling along the wood roof of the dresser, and found the brooch where she'd taped it. She pulled it out and stared at it a moment.
Strange, that such an ugly piece of metal could be the source of such a powerful magic.
Carefully she slipped down the hall and into her room. Ranma was there, sound asleep on a futon, and thankfully wearing some of her pajamas. It was a bit creepy to see her own body from several feet away, but Nabiki shrugged it off. Quickly she pinned the brooch to Ranma's pajamas, the sat back.
While Nabiki waited for the pills to take effect, she studied her body from the unusual vantage point of another's eyes. She didn't like what she saw, not only because, like most, she was critical of her looks, but also because Ranma, in usual fashion, sprawled every which way, and snored in a most unbecoming manner. Nabiki made a mental note to not loan her body out to others, especially careless idiotic martial artists. She was lucky to be getting it back in one piece.
She leaned over the sleeping form of herself.
"Ranma," she called out. "Wakey wakey."
The increasingly gender-confused boy/girl continued to snore away. Nabiki frowned in irritation.
"Ranma," she said, a little louder. Still there was no response.
"Oh, look," Nabiki said, "Here's Auntie Saotome!"
Ranma shot up like a catapult. There was a crack as their heads met, harder than Nabiki had anticipated. Then she was sitting on the futon in her pajamas as the room spun about her. Ranma-as-Akane was nearby, rubbing her head and looking confused. Nabiki's head ached too, but she had enough presence of mind to undo the brooch and palm it, before Ranma noticed.
*Mission accomplished,* Nabiki thought with a smile. *What shall I do for an encore?*
"Nabiki?" Ranma asked. She rubbed her eyes blearily. "What are you doing here?"
"Well, it is my room," Nabiki said.
"I'm Akane again?" Ranma asked, still half asleep. "Maybe I should wake Akane and try her too."
"Go to bed, Ranma," Nabiki said. "We'll worry about it in the morning."

***

It was six a.m. Monday morning, and Ranma and Akane were yelling at each other.
Nabiki sat on her bed, wincing at the noise. You'd think switching those two around would allow for a break in the monotony. Maybe Father was right. Maybe nothing essential had been changed.
Should she leave them this way? For how long? A few days? A week? Perhaps even a month or more? After all, it might do them good, and provide Nabiki with a bit of amusement.
Maybe she wouldn't switch them back at all. She had the power, now, to use as she wished.
She toyed with the brooch in her hands. Under no circumstances was she going to let it out of her sight again. Those damned Amazons had been known to sneak into the Tendo household, and they weren't above thievery. Nabiki slid the brooch into her pocket, smiling. No, she and her friends had too many ideas on how to use this little trinket.

***

"So what's wrong with the way I'm dressed anyways?"
Akane stood in the hallway fuming. Ranma was dressed in her usual loose black pants and red top. Of course, Ranma wasn't Ranma, at the moment.
"What do you think?" Akane yelled. You're supposed to be me, remember? Do you want everyone to think I'm weird or something?"
"Ah, man, I'm tired of wearing dresses!"
"Ranma! You're in my body! You've got to dress and act like me!"
"That shouldn't be too hard..." Ranma said. "All I gotta do is be angry all the time...."
"Baka!" Akane yelled, clobbering Ranma over the head.
"Hey!" Ranma yelled back. "I'm the violent tomboy now, remember?"
"You idiot! All of this is your fault!"
"Anyway," Ranma continued, "you're wearing a dress. Aren't you supposed to be me? Since when did I start wearing dresses to school?"
"Since last week," Akane replied. "Kasumi's been wearing them, remember?"
Ranma's face fell slightly. "Ah, man, now everyone's gonna think I'm weird or something...."
"They already do," Akane said. "Besides, people are used to you being a girl. You switch sexes so often, it's a wonder anyone knows you're a guy."
"Hey!"
"Well?"
Kasumi appeared at the top of the stairs. "Hurry up, you two! You don't want to be late, do you?"
Akane narrowed her eyes. "We're not going anywhere until Akane here changes into a proper uniform!"
"Okay, okay," Ranma said, stepping back into Akane's room. "I'll put on the stupid dress. Geez, it's not like anyone thinks you're feminine or nothing...."
"RANMA!"

***

Ranma placed her thumb over the garden hose, spraying water all over Akane. Akane shrunk, transforming back into a red-headed girl in a dress, rather than a black-haired guy in a dress.
"I swear," Ranma said, "that old woman never used hot water before!"
"Well," Akane said, "at least it's more easily fixed. Come on, we're gonna be late!"
Akane ran down the street that led to their school. Ranma hopped onto the fence and began ran atop it, shadowing Akane.
Akane slowed down. "If you do that," she said, "people are going to see your underwear."
Ranma frowned, then hopped back down. "You're the one that insisted I wear this thing," she said.
"Baka."
"Uncute tomboy."
"That's my line."
"Oh, yeah. Um... hentai."
"Much better," Akane said. "Now hurry up!"

***

The room was empty when Ranma entered, quiet save for a persistent drip echoing from the showers. She moved quickly between rows of lockers until she found the one marked 'Akane'. This she yanked open.
Inside were two gym suits, a swimsuit, shoes, socks, and underwear. Some makeup sat on a shelf. Inside the door was a mirror and a picture of a certain black pig.
Ranma frowned. In the mirror, Akane frowned back. Ranma, never happy to see Akane frown, tried to smile. For some reason, it held none of the cuteness inherent in Akane's own smile.
Voices echoed off concrete and tile as girls began to stream in. Remembering why she'd arrived so early, Ranma undressed as fast as she could.
Several girls rounded the corner. They stopped and stared at Ranma.
"Akane? What's with the boxers?"
"Aren't those Ranma's?"
"Eeew, Akane, that's weird!"
"Um," Ranma said. "Um... I guess I grabbed the wrong underwear this morning...?"
"Huh?"
"Why would Ranma's underwear be in your room?"
"Don't tell me you two are sleeping together!"
"What? Of course not!" Ranma said, her cheeks flushing red. "Don't be stupid!"
"Well, it just seems weird...."
More girls entered the locker room, and those already there were quickly becoming naked. Ranma spun to face her locker, ignoring those around her. She pulled the swimsuit on quickly and ran for the exit.
Akane walked through the front door, nearly colliding with Ranma. Her eyes went wide.
"Ranma? What are you doing in here? You pervert!"
As one, the girls in the room turned. Seeing Akane, they began screaming, covering up, and throwing things at her.
"Ranma you pervert!" one screamed.
"What are you trying to do? This is the girls locker room, you idiot!" another yelled.
"Wait!" Akane yelled. Water buckets, bars of soap, and other objects bounced off of her. Cursing, Ranma grabbed Akane's arm and yanked her out into the hallway.
"What the heck are ya doing, Akane?" she said. "Don't you remember who you are right now?"
Akane's friend Sayuri poked her head out the door. "Akane, keep your hentai fiancée under control, got it?"
Akane was nearly in tears. "I... I didn't remember, I... I just wanted to change for p.e. ...."
"You have to use the bathroom in the nurse's office," Ranma said.
"Yeah," Akane said, rubbing her head. "Um... where's your swimsuit, then?"
"In my locker."
Akane glanced across the hall at the entrance to the boy's locker. "I'm not going in there," she said. "Especially like this."
Ranma sighed. "Just a second, okay?"
She walked over and pounded on the door, then threw it open. Boys, in various states of undress, glanced up.
"HEY DAISUKE!" Ranma yelled. "BRING RANMA HER SWIMSUIT, GOT IT? RIGHT NOW!!!"

Five minutes later, now wearing Ranma's swimsuit, Akane left the nurse's office. Ranma waited for her.
"So," Akane said, "you dressed in the girl's locker room."
"Well?" Ranma said, his face growing hot. "What did you expect? It's not like I had a choice, you know!"
"You hentai! Why not tell the coach you're sick?"
"I did."
"And?"
"Um..." Ranma looked away, embarrassed. "The coach said... that I didn't look sick, and that... um, that it... it wasn't my time of the month...."
Akane's face flushed red, and she looked away.
"Baka!" she said, softly. "I want my body back!"
"You're not the only one," Ranma said. "As soon as school's out, we're going to see the ghoul."

***

Nabiki, Kyoko, and Midori sat by the side of the pool, talking in quiet tones.
"We could switch with a teacher," Kyoko said. "Then you could alter grades as you like."
"That's kind of risky," Midori said. "You run a good chance of getting caught."
"Well, okay," Kyoko said. "How about this? You charge people to take their tests for them. A simple switch, and an hour later you've got a perfect A. I mean, any of us could ace a test for one of the lower grades."
"That's a good idea," Midori said. "That might work."
"I don't want people to know how it's done," Nabiki replied.
"That's easy enough," Midori said. "You pile on lots of mystic mumbo jumbo to hide the truth. Runic symbols on the floor, chanting by the light of the moon, candles and incense, that sort of thing."
"Sounds good," Kyoko said. "You know, the real trick would be passing college entrance exams. If we could find a couple of genius college students to work with, we could make a bundle real quick."
"No kidding," Midori said. "That's brilliant, Kyoko, absolutely brilliant!"
You know," Kyoko said, "something like this provides effective immortality, if you abuse it."
"No," Nabiki said. "I don't want to abuse it. All I want is to have some fun and make some money. Most of all, I want to keep it secret. I don't want to expose ourselves more than is necessary."
"Did Kuno make the deposit?" Midori asked. "We'll need to pay everyone at lunch, you know."
"Don't worry," Nabiki said. "The money's in the bank. I checked."
"The pictures will be developed by tonight," Kyoko said. "We can sell them tomorrow."
Nabiki nodded, frowning.
"What's wrong, Nabiki?" Midori asked. "Everything's turned out well, but you're not satisfied. Something's eating at you, I can tell. Is it the kiss with Kuno?"
Nabiki made a face. "No," she said, "it's something else. We've got a problem, girls; that Amazon woman is on to me. We're going to have to be careful."
"Shampoo's grandmother?" Midori asked. "Wow, Nabiki, you're talking about a dangerous woman there. What are you going to do about it?"
"I don't know," Nabiki said.
"Maybe that selective memory loss technique?" Kyoko suggested.
"Do you know how to do that?" Midori replied. "Do you know someone who could nail her with it?"
"Well, no...."
"We have to act fast," Nabiki said. "Ranma and Akane will go to see her eventually. Probably this afternoon, in fact. Then they'll know, and our game will be exposed."
The other two stared at Nabiki, eyes growing wide.
"What are we going to do?" Kyoko asked.
"Start thinking," Nabiki said. "We still have the brooch. By the time school ends, we need to have a plan as well."

***

Ranma dove into the pool and swam to the opposite side. Akane perched there, at the edge of the pool, along with several other girls.
"Akane," one of the girls exclaimed. "When did you learn to swim?"
"Wow, Akane! That was really good!"
"Have you been practicing in secret?"
Large sweatdrops appeared on Ranma and Akane's heads. "I... um..." Ranma said, "...yeah, that's it. I've, ah, been practicing...."
"Baka," Akane said.
Ranma flashed her a wicked smile. "Come on in, Ranma," she said. "I'll race you to the other side!"
"No thanks," Akane replied, glowering.
Ranma dove down to the bottom, and then resurfaced with a splash.
"That's great, Akane! I'm impressed!"
"Thanks!" Ranma said. "I think I'm getting good at it!"
Akane rolled her eyes. "Good at what?" Akane retorted. "All you did was dive down and come back up!"
"Yeah," Ranma said, "but until last week, I was an absolute cow in the water."
The girls stifled their laughter.
"Come on, Akane," one said, "you weren't that bad."
"Yeah, you're being too hard on yourself."
"No I'm not," Ranma said. "I was a rock. A lead weight. An anchor. A...."
"We get the picture," Akane growled. Steam appeared to rise from her body.
Ranma smiled. "I'm just saying I'm much better at it now!" As if to demonstrate, she backstroked out several feet, then swam back.
"Big deal, Akane," Akane said. "If you remember any of this by next week, then I'll be surprised."
Ranma had no reply to this. If she remembered this next week, she'd still be in Akane's body.
"Stop picking on her, Ranma," Akane's friend Sayuri said. "She really is doing better!"
"Yeah, grow up, why don't you?" Yuka added. "You're such a jerk sometimes!"
Akane looked at her friends in surprise, then lowered her eyes. She glared at Ranma again.
Ranma only laughed and disappeared beneath the water.

***

Soun and Genma sat hunched over the family table, sorting through the massive pile of shredded paper that had once been a book of ancient Chinese secrets. Birds chirped in the yard out back, greeting the morning sun as it emerged from behind a cloud.
The phone rang.
"Kasumi? Have you got that?" Soun called out.
"She's hanging laundry out back," Genma said.
Grumbling, Soun got up to answer the phone.
"Hello, Tendo-san?" a voice said. "This is Tofu-Sensei. I finally remembered something last night that I think you should know...."
As Soun listened to the doctor speak he toyed with the scrap of paper in his hand. Suddenly he held it up and stared at it. It was half of a picture of a pewter brooch, carved in the likeness of a grinning monkey.
"Funny you should mention that, Tofu-Sensei," he said.
"Father," Kasumi said, coming around the corner. "I was doing the wash, and I found this piece of paper in the pocket of Nabiki's jeans." She held up a damp scrap. Soun took it and lined it up next to his.
It was a perfect match. Now he could see the entire brooch.
"It looks just like an odd brooch I found in the dirt last week," Kasumi said. "At first I didn't think much of it, but...."
There was a knock at the door. Kasumi opened it. On the porch, balancing on her staff, was the Amazon matriarch, Cologne.
"Soun Tendo," she said, "we need to talk."

***

"Honestly, you're an even bigger jerk in my body," Akane said over lunch.
She opened her bento box, and her face fell. Leftovers. Great. In three days, Ranma had cooked enough food to last a week.
"That's not what I call it," Ranma said, stuffing her face. "I call it retribution."
Akane pulled out her chopsticks and began to pick at her meal. "Retribution? What the heck do you mean by that?"
"Airen!" a familiar voice called out. The tinkle of a bicycle bell mixed with sounds of screaming, shouting, and things crashing and breaking.
"Your girlfriend's here," Ranma said casually.
"My girlfriend?" Akane said. "What do you mean, my girlfriend?"
A purple-haired girl latched onto Akane. "Ranma!" she exclaimed. "Shampoo so happy to see you! You eat ramen I make for you, yes?"
"Oh, no you don't!" another voice called out. "Ranchan's going to eat the okonomiyaki that I made for him!"
"That would be your other girlfriend," Ranma said.
"They're not my girlfriends, you pervert!" Akane yelled.
Ranma watched Akane struggle with Shampoo. "Like I said. Retribution."
Ukyo planted herself in front of their table. "Hands off, Shampoo! Ranchan's MY fiancée!"
"Shampoo!" Akane growled, prying the Amazon loose. "Get OFF of me!"
Shampoo suddenly let go. She stepped back, looking from Akane to Ukyo.
"Okay," she said. "Shampoo see now. Ranma really want Ukyo as bride, Shampoo no stand in way." She turned and grabbed Ranma's hand. "Akane come with Shampoo," she said. "Leave two love birds alone."
Akane, Ranma, and Ukyo stared at Shampoo in shock. Ukyo was the first to react.
"Ranma Honey!" she exclaimed, wrapping her arms about Akane. "Did you hear that? Shampoo approves of us as a couple!"
"Now wait a second!" Akane exclaimed, but Shampoo was already dragging Ranma away from the table.
"You want ramen?" Shampoo asked, as she led Ranma to another table. "Is house special. Shampoo bring pork buns too!"
Ranma's eyes got big. "Well, why didn't you say so?" she said. She sat down and began stuffing her face.
"Ranma, you like?" Shampoo asked.
"They're the best!" Ranma replied, mouth full.
"Why you in Akane's body?"
Ranma paused, sensing a trap. "I'm not in Akane's body," she said. "I mean... um... I AM Akane, of course! I'm not Ranma at all!" She glowered across the room at Akane, being hand-fed by Ukyo despite her protests, and growled, "That stupid Ranma! I'm gonna pound him into the ground for no apparent reason!"
Shampoo smiled. "Always you is bad actor, Ranma," she said. "You is fool Mousse and Ryoga, but you is no fool Shampoo."
"What do you mean?" Ranma asked. "I sound just like Akane! Which is me! Akane! That's who I am, all right! Do I look like Ranma to you? With these wide hips and this flat chest? Of course not!"
A pair of shadows fell across the table. Cologne and Kasumi waited patiently for Ranma to finish.
"Hello, Ranma," Kasumi said pleasantly. "How's school so far?"
"Son-In-Law," Cologne said. "You do not, at the moment, make an ideal husband for my grand-daughter. Would you like your old body back?"

***

It was a busy day for Nabiki. She sat in the center of the lunch room, flanked by her two co-conspirators, while half the school lined up before her. A large black binder lay open on the table, next to a hand calculator and a checkbook.
"Name?" Nabiki asked.
"Kyosuke."
Nabiki eyed the boy at the front of the line, then flipped through the binder. "twenty thousand yen, is it? Okay, then." She wrote a check, then handed it to the boy.
"How do I know this is good?" he said. "I've heard rumors of how much you've lost. They say you can't cover all the bets!"
"I can cover them," Nabiki said, her voice laced with steel. "My checks are good. Now move out of the way, we don't have all day here. Next? HEY, NO SHOVING! YOU'LL ALL GET YOUR MONEY SOON ENOUGH!"
A girl stepped up. "Name?" Nabiki asked.
"You know who I am, Nabiki," the girl said.
"NAME?" Nabiki repeated.
"Uh... Sayuri."
"Let's see... Sayuri...." Nabiki searched the book. "Ah. Only 5,000? Big spender!"
"It's all I had," Sayuri said, defensively. She took her check and left.
"Next? Name?" Nabiki asked.
"Ono, Tofu."
"Tofu... Tofu...." Nabiki flipped through her binder. "Tofu... Tofu... I don't seem to have you down for a bet...."
Nabiki paused. She looked up. Dr. Tofu Ono regarded her calmly, his gaze never wavering.
"Tofu-Sensei?" she said, smiling sweetly. "How may I help you?"
Dr. Tofu smiled back.
"Nabiki," he said, "do you remember that Monkey Head-Butting technique which Ranma and Akane asked me about? Well, I finally remembered how it worked. It's not really a technique at all; it involves a special magical amulet, a brooch in the shape of a monkey's head."
Nabiki's gaze also didn't waver. "Yes?" she said. "That's very interesting, Tofu-Sensei, but what does it have to do with me? I'm very busy at the moment...."
Nabiki realized, suddenly, that Kyoko and Midori no longer stood to either side of her. Instead, she had Ranma, Shampoo, and Genma to her left, and Akane, Ukyo, Cologne, and her own father to her right. Tears flowed down her father's face. Kasumi was also there, standing a ways off.
"Daddy?" she asked. "Mr. Saotome? What are all of you doing here?"
"Nabiki!" Akane growled. "You knew all along, didn't you? My own sister!"
"Nabiki!" her father cried. "How could you do this to your own family?"
"The brooch, please," Cologne said.
"You have it, don't you?" Ranma said, cracking her knuckles.
"Moi? Surely you don't think I'd hide it from you?"
"Depends on the money involved," replied Ranma. She stepped forward. "How about I bump heads with you and find out?"
"Please," Nabiki said, "that won't be necessary...."
"Yes it will!" Ranma yelled. She lunged forward, banging heads with the middle Tendo sister.
Nabiki's world spun about. For the second time in twenty-four hours, she found herself in the body of her younger sister.
"Ha! I thought so!" Ranma, now in Nabiki's body, exclaimed. She stood up, knocking over Nabiki's books and records in the process. "Akane! Heads up!" she yelled, leaping head-first at her own body.
"What are you doing?" Nabiki yelled. "Stop that!" She tried to jump forward, but was grabbed by Shampoo and Genma.
Ranma and Akane's heads collided. They stumbled back, then glanced down at themselves.
"Awesome!" Ranma yelled. "I'm finally back in my own body again! Although," she added, " I'm still wearing a dress...."
Akane, in her sister's body now, glared at Nabiki, then smirked. "She ought to be punished," Akane said. "Maybe we could leave her in my body. Let her be the one engaged to Ranma for a while!"
"Very funny," Nabiki replied, "but I doubt you want to keep my body over your own. You've had your fun; now give me my body back."
"Not so fast," Akane said, digging through Nabiki's pockets. "Hold her. I want to find that brooch." She upended Nabiki's book bag on the table and sorted through the contents.
"Hey, what's this? Film?" Akane glanced up. "Who you selling cheese shots of now, Nabiki?"
"They're pictures of floral arrangements," Nabiki said, "nothing more."
"Ha! A likely story! Then you won't mind if I destroy them, will you?"
"Leave them alone!" Nabiki yelled.
"Hey, what's this? Hmmm, personal ledger." Akane scanned the figures, then glanced up. "Took quite a hit at the big fight, didn't you?" She glanced down again, and paused. "What's this about Kuno?" Akane's eyes went wide. "Kamisama! He paid you how much? Nabiki, what on earth did you do for Kuno? Wait, I don't want to know. For that kind of money, I don't even want to think about it."
"Hey, check this out!" Ranma said. She was flipping through a small black book that had spilled onto the table. "It's a book on everyone she's blackmailing! Wow! Students, teachers, principal, parents, relatives, neighbors... oh, come on, Nabiki, you can't be blackmailing all of these people!"
"Let me see that," Akane said. She glanced through the book. "Oh, see these pencil marks, near most of the names? That must mean potential blackmail. Boy, Sis, you sure got dirt on some powerful people here, don't you? Just in case, huh?" She glanced up and smiled wickedly. "What would these people think if they found out what's in this book?"
Nabiki rolled her eyes disdainfully. "If you want to, go right ahead," she said. "It will cause me a few problems, I admit, but that's all. I know you're mad at me, Akane, but there's no sense in being vindictive. It's not in your nature. Nothing you say or do is going to hurt me in the end, so you might as well forget all of your petty schemes to 'punish' me."
"Says you," Akane replied. She leaped onto the table and called out to the entire lunchroom, "Listen up, everyone! I, Nabiki Tendo, swear upon my mother's grave to buy everyone's lunch tomorrow! EVERYONE! Consider it my gift to you!!"
"Does that include take-out?" someone yelled.
"You got it!" Akane yelled back.
Nabiki's eyes went wide. "You can't do that!" she yelled. Around her, the cafeteria erupted into loud cheering.
"Hey," Akane said, "it's my money, right? I can do whatever I want with it! In fact, Ranma, I declare all your debts to me null and void! Let's start with a clean slate, shall we?"
"Sure thing, Nabiki!" Ranma said.
"Oh, ha ha, very funny," Nabiki said.
"Enough of this," Cologne said. "Where is the brooch?"
"Right here," Akane said. She pulled it out of a pocket and held it up. "Kind of ugly, isn't it?" She studied the odd piece of pewter with the grinning' monkey's face. "Then again, if it gets me back into my own body, who cares?" She leapt down from the table and glared at Nabiki one last time.
"Heads up, Sis," she said, snapping her head forward.

***

Akane checked her body over, as if to make certain all of the parts were in place. "I can't believe it's finally over," she said.
"Sez you," Ranma growled. "I'm still wearing a dress, in case you didn't notice. It'll be over when I get home and can be myself again."
Cologne held the brooch, while Dr. Tofu and Genma held Nabiki. Soun, still weeping, stood with Akane and Ranma, while Kasumi, Shampoo, and Ukyo stood a ways off. The lunch room had emptied as students headed back to class, and only a few remained to watch.
"The Monkey Head-Butting brooch," Cologne said. "To think, after all of this time, it finally reappears. I'm almost certain it was stolen by Happosai, but no matter. What was once ours becomes ours again."
"Fine by me if you take that thing," Ranma said. "I wouldn't be caught dead with it on me. It's an accident waiting to happen."
"You are quite correct," Cologne said. "This is a powerful magical talisman, and can be very dangerous in the hands of the unwary."
"How nice!" Kasumi said. "Everyone's back in their own bodies, finally! All's well that ends well, wouldn't you agree, Nabiki?"
"Whatever," Nabiki said. "If you don't release me, I'm going to be late for class."
"Nabiki!" Soun wailed. "Please forgive your father! I only want what's best for you!"
"My only concern," Cologne said, "is that you learn your lesson, Miss Tendo. This time you went too far. You used magic to alter people's lives, something far beyond your usual blackmailing and manipulations. You hurt your own kin in the process. Would you have enjoyed being stuck in Ranma's body, perhaps forever? Ranma and Akane had no way of knowing this was temporary. What if you'd lost the brooch? Then it would have been forever. And your actions do not affect just the two of them, but everyone who associates with them. I think you owe an apology to Ranma and Akane, at the very least."
Nabiki's shoulders finally slumped, and she stared down at the floor. "I... I'm sorry," she said in a quiet voice. "I'm sorry, Ranma, Akane. I was going to switch you back, eventually, I... I guess I got a little carried away. Please, forgive me, if you can."
"That's okay, Sis," Akane said. "I forgive you."
She elbowed Ranma.
"Ah, I forgive ya, Nabiki," he managed. "I mean, you've helped me out enough times... even if you always charge me...."
"Very well," Cologne said. "Now all that remains is to put this brooch away someplace safe...."
Kasumi stepped forward, putting her hands around Nabiki. "Oh, Sis, I'm so proud of you! I know how difficult that was for you to say. I forgive you too! Let's let bygones be bygones!"
Kasumi was now standing right in front of Doctor Tofu. The good Doctor, who had been working very hard to control himself, suddenly lost it. His glasses fogged over instantly. He let go of Nabiki and stumbled forward. "K-K-Kasumi!" he exclaimed. "How strange that we should meet like this!"
"Shimatta!" Ranma cursed.
Nabiki, Genma, and Kasumi were knocked back. "Look out, you fool!" Cologne yelled, before Nabiki stumbled into her.
` "Ow! Excuse me!" Nabiki said. She twisted, trying to keep from falling, and collided with Shampoo. The two girls fell to the ground, with Nabiki on top.
"I said careful!" Cologne cried out. "Now you've done it!"
Nabiki sat up, then looked down at herself. "Aiya!" she exclaimed. "What you do to me, Nabiki Tendo?"
"Oh, great," Shampoo said. "I'm a Chinese Amazon bimbo."
It took the others a moment to realize what had happened. The brooch was no longer in Cologne's hand, but hooked onto the front of Nabiki's shirt. The rest was obvious.
"Now, be careful," Cologne said. "That thing can be dangerous...."
Shampoo grabbed the brooch. "Here," Nabiki said, "give me that." Shampoo jerked her hand back, and the brooch sailed across the cafeteria.
"Don't lose it!" Cologne cried out. Several started after it, when a small man in a dark red gi leapt through an open window. On his back was a massive sack, from which dangled various items of lingerie.
"Eh? What's this?" Happosai said, looking up. The brooch landed neatly in his hand.
"Hey, what do you know?" he said. "I recognize this! It's the monkey brooch! This is the device that allows for the Monkey Head-Butting technique!"
Happosai glanced up and saw the others. In a flash , he pinned the brooch to his vest and bounded across the cafeteria.
"Akane!" he exclaimed. "Bump heads with me!"
"Not on your life!" Akane yelled. She met Happosai mid-air with a perfect block, knocking the diminutive master aside.
Happosai crashed into Doctor Tofu. The brooch again went flying.
"Stop it!" Cologne yelled. "Grab it, somebody!"
Seemingly from nowhere, Tatewaki Kuno appeared, bokken raised. He ran towards them. Falling, the brooch snagged his sleeve and stayed there.
"Pig-tailed girl!" Kuno said. "Date with me again!"
"NO! Keep away from me!" Ranma yelled. She placed a solid kick under Kuno's chin, and the kendoist was launched through the roof.
"Oh man, that was scary," Ranma said, then paused. "Again? What did he mean by again?"
The brooch fell onto Ranma's arm. She stared at it in horror. "Aaaaigh! Get it off me! Get it off me!"
Nabiki, in Shampoo's body, stepped forward. "Here, Ranma-kun, I'll take that off your hands," she said. Then, suddenly, a Chinese boy wearing thick glasses and a white robe glomped onto her.
"Shampoo! I love you!" Mousse said.
"I'm not Shampoo, you moron!"
"Ranma! Prepare to die!" a third voice called out. Ranma spun, to see Ryoga flying through the air head-first at her.
"Oh man! Not now, you idiot!" Ranma dodged in desperation. Nabiki lunged forward, snatching the brooch from her arm. Ryoga plowed into Nabiki, and they both went sprawling.
The brooch flew at Akane, who dodged it as if it were toxic. It landed in Cologne's hands.
Nabiki, now in Ryoga's body, looked pissed. "Great," he said. "First a bimbo, now the eternally lost pig-boy. Wonderful. Just peachy."
Ryoga, now in Shampoo's body, glanced down at herself in horror. "Aaaigh! What's happened?" she cried out. "Ranma, this is all your fault!"
Cologne look at the brooch in wonder. "Do you see?" she said. "I warned you, a device of this power can cause great harm...."
At precisely that moment, satellite Kuno fell from orbit, proving that what goes up must come down, and often on someone's head. Kuno collided with Cologne, and, for a split second, balanced precariously atop her, on his head, like some sort of bizaare circus act. Then he fell sideways to the ground, unconscious.
Cologne -- or could it really be Kuno? -- blinked, looking confused. The brooch was lifted easily from her hands.
Mousse held the brooch, a foolish grin on his face. "At last!" he said, "A way to defeat Ranma! Once I take Ranma's body, Shampoo is mine! Ranma! Prepare to face the depths of hell!"
"Oh, man!" Ranma said, jumping back. However, Mousse launched himself head-first not at Ranma, but at the wall. There was a loud crack, and he fell to the floor, unconscious. The brooch fell from his hand.
"I've got it!" Genma yelled.
"No, I've got it!" Ukyo yelled.
"Wait, I've got it!" Soun yelled.
"No! It's mine!" Nabiki yelled.
"Give me that!" Shampoo yelled.
More heads collided. Ranma and Akane couldn't keep track of them all.
With a Herculean effort, Kuno appeared to shove the knowledge that she was in Cologne's body completely from her mind. She gazed lovingly at Ranma. "Kiss me once again, pig-tailed girl!" she yelled, leaping directly at Ranma.
"GAAAH!" Ranma yelled, dodging yet again.
Behind her came a peal of maniacal laughter. "Oh no. Kodachi Kuno," she said.
This was followed by the deep, rolling laughter of her equally mad father, Principal Kuno. "De kahuna have de special buzz-cut for de keike dat are late for class, yeah?"
Behind that he heard a cry of "Oh, you naughty, delinquent children! Why aren't you in class?"
"Oh, man," said Ranma, "I am outta here!"
"Right behind you, Ranma!" Akane said. The two ran for an exit. They ran down a school hallway, came to an intersection, and paused.
The hallways were quiet. Akane and Ranma stood there, looking at each other.
"Hey, you two! No running in the halls!" a passing teacher called out.
"Sorry, sir!" the two replied.
They headed to their homeroom. Their shoes click-clacked on the linoleum, the sound echoing down the hallway. Lunch was over, students were in class, and the teachers had begun their lectures. The school day continued at it's usual pace.
"We're late for class," Ranma said.
Akane replied, "Aren't we always?"

***

Back in the cafeteria, the confusion was growing....
"What have you done to my body?"
"Your body? What about mine!"
"Sweeto! What a set of knockers!"
"Stop that! That's my body you're in!"
"Somebody tell me what's going on!"
"Oh, my," Kasumi said. She stood at a safe distance, trying to figure out who was who. "Oh, what a mess! How will we ever sort it out? Oh, my! Oh, my!!"


***

END CHAPTER NINE

***




EPILOGUE

It was afternoon in Nerima. In a small Chinese restaurant, business was booming. An old and very short woman with long white hair was manning the kitchen and taking orders. A Japanese girl with short black hair who wore a silk Chinese outfit was waitressing out front, while an old and very short man did the dishes in back. From the ceiling hung a cage, in which lay a duck, looking very pissed off.
"Great Grandmother," the girl asked, "when Shampoo get own body back?"
"As soon as we track Happosai down," Cologne said, "we'll get all four of you back into your proper bodies."
"Why do I gotta be involved in this?" the short old man complained.
"Because it's convenient," Cologne replied. "I do not trust the Tendo woman to behave herself, and she's the one that caused all of this, so I'm not letting her out of my sight until it's over. She gets your body because I can hold her easily that way. I need a waitress, and Shampoo would prefer to be female, so she gets the Tendo girl's body. You get what's left over. Deal with it, Mousse, it's only temporary."
Overhead, the duck began squawking. Cologne banged the cage with her staff. "Keep quiet!" she warned. "Or do you want to become Peking Duck?"
In the back, the old man paused to stare at his hands. "I wonder," he said to himself. "If I remember correctly, Happosai is incredibly quick, and has enormous chi... enough to defeat Ranma Saotome, in fact...."
The old man chuckled evilly.

***

At Furinkan High, a very long school day was drawing to a close.
Returning from the restroom, Ranma took a seat next to Akane. She was aware that more than a few sets of eyes in the classroom followed her every movement, and it gave her the creeps. What was up with those guys, anyway?
"Baka," Akane said softly.
"What'd I do now?" Ranma whispered back.
"Don't you know how to sit while wearing a dress? You're going to get it all wrinkled!"
Ranma sighed, stood, and smoothed her dress out before sitting again.
"By the way," Ranma said, "I couldn't help noticing that my... um... underwear... had... um... pink teddy bears on it."
Akane's face flushed red.
"Hey," she growled, "I'm not exactly thrilled to be wearing boxer shorts under this dress!"
Ranma fidgeted a moment. "We could... um, you know... switch...."
"Baka! Keep your voice down!"
Ranma's two best friends -- if any of his classmates could be called friends -- approached.
"Hey, Hiroshi, hey, Daisuke," Ranma said. "How's it going?"
"Hey Ranma," Daisuke said. "We were wondering about... you know...."
"What he means," Hiroshi said, "is that we'd like to take you on another date."
"A... date?" Ranma asked, dumbfounded.
"Sure," Daisuke said. "How about tomorrow night?"
"You could wear that blue dress again," Hiroshi said.
"Another date?" Ranma said, slow to react. "What do you mean by that?"
"Well, we had so much fun last week," Daisuke said.
"Yeah, Ranma," Hiroshi said. "We're glad you've decided to show your feminine side. We just want to help."
Daisuke nodded. "We're behind you all the way on this Ranma."
"What the heck are you two babbling about?" Ranma growled, becoming angry.
From across the room, a voice called out, "Pig-tailed girl! Akane Tendo!" Daisuke and Hiroshi took one look and fled. Moments later, Tatewaki Kuno landed on one knee at the feet of his two loves, a bouquet of red roses held out to each.
"Kuno!" Akane said. "You're yourself again!"
"Thank the gods," Ranma added. "The world's not ready for a Kuno/Cologne combination."
"Oh fair red-haired one!" Kuno exclaimed. "Now that my date with the equally fair Akane is accomplished, I must plan our second date! Perhaps, this time, you will allow me to date the both of you at once? Say yes and it will be so!"
"What?" Ranma and Akane both yelled. As one, they grabbed Kuno by the collar, lifted him, and tossed him out an open window.
"What was that idiot yammering about?" Ranma said. She glanced accusingly at Akane. "He said he'd been on a date with you!"
Akane, face red, retorted, "You know I haven't. Besides, he said the same thing about you!"
"Second date?" Ranma echoed. "Second date? He keeps saying that! I haven't been dating nobody! Why is everyone acting so weird all of a sudden?"
"Oh," Akane said, placing a hand to her mouth. She sat down again, hard. "Oh, I just remembered, those pictures of Kasumi and Kuno... oh god, she wouldn't... she couldn't... she didn't.... Oh. My. God. She did!"
"Care to clue me in?" Ranma asked.
Akane's eyes grew wide with horror. "Kuno's not crazy," she said. "He's dated both of us in the last week."
Ranma's eyes grew equally wide, then suddenly narrowed. "Nabiki," he growled.
Akane nodded. "I'm gonna KILL her!"
"Not if I get to her first!"
A girl who did not have long, purple hair came flying through the same window that Kuno had just flown out of. She rode a bicycle, and in one hand she carried a take-out box.
The girl, who looked every bit like Nabiki in Chinese clothes, leapt to Ranma's desk, allowing her bike to collide with the chalkboard.
"Airen!" she exclaimed. "Shampoo bring special ramen for you! Replace ramen what was destroyed at lunch!"
She set her delivery box on Ranma's desk.
"Still looking for Happosai?" Akane asked.
"What you think, Akane Tendo?" Shampoo said. "This look like Shampoo body to you? Great Grandmother fix everything, but not find pervert in Shampoo's body." A dark look passed over her face. "When Shampoo find, Shampoo kill!!"
The not-very-Chinese girl turned to Ranma. "Ranma? Why you still dress like girl? You like girl-clothes now?"
Ranma placed her head in her hands. "Please," she said to no one in particular, "please let this day end!"

***

Somewhere in Nerima, a girl with purple hair was perched on a third-story balcony, quickly stuffing lingerie into a large bag. She paused to examine a particularly fine silk and lace brassiere.
"Sweeto!" she exclaimed, then glanced down at herself. "If I'm any judge of size, and I am, this should be a perfect fit!"

FINI

Remember, if the world hands you lemons, fight back! Write something different!
Enjoy! And if you don't, write me anyway!

M.A. Davis aka "Miko"
belldandy@angelic.com
http://listen.to/bell/



Notes:

This story is a bigger than I intended it to be. A LOT bigger. In fact, it's probably the longest story I've ever written. ^_^

My original idea was just to switch Ranma and Kasumi around and have some fun. I don't remember why I picked Kasumi... less obvious than Akane, I suppose, although I managed to get around to that one too.

The fight, and most of Nabiki's scheming, seemed to flow pretty naturally from the basic plot. I debated whether Kasumi would really attempt to fight, but it seems to work as I've written it. Of course, I planned all along to switch her with Akane.

Plots that I did not foresee:

*The whole cooking challenge between Ranma and Happosai came out of left field. I wanted Happosai to show up so that they could ask him about the monkey head-butting technique... and the next thing I knew, he sampled Ranma's food and found fault with it. Ranma reacted badly, of course, and before I knew it I had a secondary plot on my hands. This is definately what they mean when they say "the characters took over the story". I had no control whatsoever!

*Kasumi's date with Kuno also just kind of happened. After his triumphant evening with the pig-tailed girl, it was obvious that Kuno would be desperate for a similar date with Akane. I debated having Kasumi and Akane switch before the fight, allowing me to pull this date off, but it just didn't fit right. It worked much better having Kasumi in Ranma's body right up until the fight, so I scrapped the whole idea.

*Nabiki's second gambit to salvage herself financially was another plot I didn't foresee. When I had Kuno beg for her to arrange a date with Akane, offering her whatever she wanted, it just seemed like the sort of thing he would do. But then Nabiki found out about Ranma's cooking fetish, and I figured she'd do something about it, so in came the food stand. By that point, there was no question that she had set herself up for financial ruin when Mousse lost. I realized she would have a chance to make her money back, if she could give Kuno his date with Akane. My only worry here was that I wanted it to happen. I wanted Kuno to get his date, and I didn't want to leave Nabiki in debt. But if I let her get away with so much, shouldn't I bring down the hammer of divine retribution? Why, of course I should!

I also wanted to see Ranma and Akane in reversed roles for at least a short while. Yes, the end is too long, but I didn't want to delete anything in particular.