Disclaimer: If any one of you accuses me of trying to claim Ranma ½ or any other anime, game, etc. as my own... I will deny it. Then, I will sick the Doomsday Slime upon you.

AN: It is somewhat depressing when you have to go back and read your own writing to know where your story is... bah. Oddly enough, I remember that this was the story I had the most fun writing. Anyway, lessee if I can pick up where I left off, eh? Before that, though: looky, the first writing key thing I've ever bothered to post! Note that I changed the way I do thoughts... I'ma go back and edit all my other stuff to follow the same format, later. I'll probably change it again, too- let me know what you think, hmm?

"Regular Chatting" (isn't it obvious?)

Dreams, Flashbacks and "deific commentary"

Innermost thoughts and shameless secrets

Sounds, (undue) emphasis, those little voices in the back of your head

Location and Time, parallel dimensions included

Where Kindness Leads You

Chapter 3: Watch Your Step

After School, The Same Day

"Mr. Saotome."

Snore. Twitch. Drool slightly.

"Mr. Saotome!"

Snort. Mumble. Adjust position.

Alright, so the little delinquent wanted to play hard ball. Shifting from an irritated frown to a triumphant smirk so suddenly that it would cause any rational person (which automatically roots out half of Nerima) to back away slowly in fear of upcoming reprisal, a one Ninomiya Hinako began to arm the most deadly weapon at her disposal as Furinkan High's most beloved (see: feared) English teacher- a five yen coin. Giggling in an almost sinister way, the sometimes child began to draw a bead on her favorite hapless pigtailed victim. That's right, you just keep snoring away. If you thought you were tired before, think again!

Taking several steps towards Ranma's desk, she leveled the coin at the back of his head, a good foot and a half keeping it from physical contact. Then again, this particular armament didn't NEED physical contact to be effective- she just wanted to see the look on his face when she gave him his rude awakening. Breathing in deeply, she was about to unleash her technique when the outstretched arm of its intended target seemed to wink out of existence for a fraction of a second before returning to normal. Exhaling loudly, Hinako blink-blinked and froze momentarily. Finally coming to the decision that it was just her imagination reacting to the stress of her chosen career, the chi vampire once again prepared to drain the dozing martial artist. I really need to take a vacation soon, I'm starting to see things! At least this should relieve some- wha?

For the second time in the span of less than five minutes, Hinako blink-blinked and stared at her hand, finally noting the conspicuous absence of her weapon-of-choice. Slowly, her gaze traveled from the strangely empty hand to the lightly drooling pigtailed lump. That can't be right...

The very same arm that she had perceived as an anomaly earlier remained in the exact same place as before, its hand palm up with fingers forming a loose fist. Something glinted metallicly from the cover of the digits' shadows- she had a pretty good idea what. So this... this delinquent pretended to be asleep just to toy with me! Well he can't fool me anymore! Even with his head down like that, I just know he's laughing at me! Oh, I'll give him something to laugh about alright...

Gritting her teeth in a decidedly unhappy manner, Hinako made a grab for the five yen piece. Ranma's hand slid away from the annoyed teacher all too casually, further degrading her already bad mood as she completely missed the coin.

Her eye twitching erratically now, the irate instructor growled slightly before whipping both hands out as fast as she could manage. The hand merely shifted its position several inches to the left, narrowly avoiding both attempts at claiming its treasure.

She swung at it in an arc, intent on retrieving her precious yen piece and punishing the troublemaker. The hand was lifted into the air, allowing the approaching grab to pass harmlessly beneath.

She jabbed at it with her left. The hand moved back down to the desk and out of the way.

She flung her right at it. The hand simply slid to the right and away.

Smash. Fling. Snatch. Grab. Pluck. Nab. Cross. Seize. Grasp. Snag. Curse.

Left. Up. Duck. Back. Right. Lift. Forward. Reverse. Drop. Slide. Snore.

Finally at the end of her rope, the enraged chi vampire screamed in frustration and lunged at the boy , arms stretched forward to grab the coin. Of course, as luck would have it, she badly miscalculated just how much momentum there was behind the flying leap.


One moment he was having a strange dream about playing tag with Ms. Hinako, the next Ranma found himself sprawled across the floor atop the remnants of his desk and acting as a cushion for none other than said English teacher. Blinking tiredly, he calmly peered into the older woman's eyes with the stoicism of a true martial arts master- then the remnants of his earlier dream faded away and reality came crashing down with the force of a tomboy's mallet.

Eyes widening in alarm, he gaped at his teacher's shocked face with the horrified awe of a deer caught in headlights. Mental faculties that had just recently reawakened instantly shut down again, refusing to have anything to do with the onrushing bout of physical violence. Unfortunately (and, quite frankly, unsurprisingly), Hinako recovered first, blinking once before taking stock of the situation. This is just great. If the rest of the faculty could see this, what would they say? ...Well, the female half would probably be cheering me on while the male half would die from jealousy. Glancing back down at her currently petrified student, she let loose an annoyed sigh. I better snap him out of it before he's traumatized or something. Frowning slightly, the chi vampire attempted to garner the pigtailed boy's attention- conveniently forgetting that she was still basically straddling him in the process. "Mr. Saotome. Mr. Saotome! Hey, I'm talking to you!"

Pursing her lips, Hinako considered her options. After a few moments, her eyes sparkled mischievously and the triumphant smirk from before reappeared, stronger than ever. This'll show him! Fitting punishment- and fun too! She mentally cheered, barely stopping herself from giggling out loud. Calming herself, she leaned forward until their noses were practically touching. Putting on the most alluring look she could muster, Hinako purred into the stunned martial artist's year, "Oh Ranma, need I remind you that teacher-student relationships are illegal? Not that I mind of course," she finished with a suggestive wink. Three... two... one...

The proximity of his admittedly attractive (not that he'd ever say it out loud) English teacher caused warmth to flood his face. The way she said his name sent a shiver up and down his spine. The mention of the "R" word, in context with any female, elicited a twitch from his brow. The wink she added at the end finally jump started his brain enough to activate his standard jump-as-far-away-as-you-can-and-hope-that-you're-out-of-pummeling-range reflex. Shrinking against the wall with enough force to leave an indentation of his back, he attempted to alleviate as much wrath as he could before the beatdown started. "I didn't do nothin', honest! I didn't mean to! It wasn't my fault! Blame the panda!"

Once again suppressing the urge to giggle at the sight of Ranma making warding gestures and shooting off as many excuses as he could, Hinako started to sashay provocatively toward the panicked young man. This caused said young man to abandon his hysterics in favor of a defensive stance, hopefully shielding his head. Gonna die, gonna die, gonna die!But, but, I didn't want it to end like this! ... Funny, I always thought it would be Akane that did me in, not Ms. Hinako...

Coming to a stop just a few feet away from her pigtailed victim, Hinako paused to grin cheekily at his cowering form, uneasily watching her from behind the safety of his arms. Bending over slowly, coincidentally giving him an excellent view of her cleavage (wether it was intentional or not is debatable), as well as the beginnings of a nosebleed, she wrapped her fingers around the object Ranma had dropped in his earlier bout of frenzied stammering.

To rehash, in D&D terms:

Ranma: Luck Roll (2+1) vs. DC 666 Failed Save

Power Attack with Feminine Rage +5 (DC 20+9) + Weakness vs. Female (DC +20) + Cosmic Sucker Feat penalty (DC +600+17) 0 damage (Hard Head Feat reduction) + Stun + Confusion + Nosebleed

Indeed, he came much closer to a successful saving throw than usual.

At last, Hinako was able to clutch her prize possessively. When she stood up again, Ranma finally got a glimpse of what she was holding in her hand. Shocked realization was swiftly followed up by dawning horror as the chi vampire once more leveled her favorite five yen coin at him. The cheeky grin from earlier had taken on a decidedly more sinister look as she stated in all-too-sweet voice, "Now then, Mr. Saotome... about your behavior in class today..."

(AN: Huh... I really think that D&D reference is out of place, but... I like it too much to move it, so there!)

Two hours later, an oddly familiar figure crawled its way toward the Tendo Dojo's front gate.

No, Ranma was not having a good day anymore. The walk with Kasumi had been quite enjoyable, one of the oh so rare peaceful moments the pigtailed warrior had these days. Once at school, the classes had been the same as usual- boring but bearable, barring only a handful of minor annoyances (see: Kuno). Even the fight with the slimeball thingy at lunch had been somewhat pleasing, since it gave him a chance to test one of his new moves. After school, however... just plain sucked. Ergh... Ms. Hinako went overboard this time. If I didn't know any better, I'd say she enjoyed tormenting me! Aw man, the only thing worse is what she said she'd do ta me if I slept through class again. At this thought, Ranma shivered involuntarily- of course, wether it was due more to what would happen if he slept or the fact that he would have to stay awake in class now is anyone's guess.

Sighing tiredly, the sometimes girl struggled to his knees and feebly reached a shakey hand upward to let himself in. Sadly, he made it only half way before his arm gave way and hung limply at his side once more. Gritting his teeth, he tried again- this time, he didn't even make it half as far.

Grumbling to himself miserably, Ranma was about to just keel over and take a nap right then and there until a sweet voice reached his ears, instnatly flooding him with relief. "Oh my! Ranma, what are you doing out here? And why are you so late?" Lifting his head to see the eldest Tendo daughter with renewed energy, the Saotome heir managed a weary smile.

"Uh, hi Kasumi! I just, you know... dropped something down here..." he trailed off lamely, hanging his head in an effort to hide the growing sweatdrop. "And, uh, I had to stay after school to talk with Ms. Hinako."

"You had to stay after school? Did you do something?" Kasumi had a look on her face that was only vaguely reproachful, but it was enough to make Ranma's head hang even lower and his shoulders droop slightly as he mumbled his reply, "I just slept through her class, same as usual."

The look seemed to intensify a bit, and now there was an admonishing tone to her voice. "Ranma, you can't keep doing that. Please, you need to try harder- your education is very important. If you want, I can even help you study."

Wincing at her tone more than the words, Ranma completely missed the note of hopefulness at the end. Even if he had caught it, though, he probably wouldn't have known what it meant. "I really did try Kasumi, I really did. It really wasn't my fault. Something, er, happened at lunch and it made me really tired..." He trailed off, absorbed in his thoughts. Come to think of it, I never saw what happened to that slime thing. I hope I don't have to fight that thing again- it smelled worse than Akane's usual cooking!

Suddenly, Kasumi's offer of assistance registered in his mind. With no small amount of appreciation in his smile, he looked her in the eye once more and responded in an unusually cheery voice, "But I'd really appreciate any help you're willing ta give me, Kasumi- I definitely need it." A bit embarrassed about admitting to a weakness (even if it was painfully obvious most of the time), he grinned sheepishly and scratched the base of his pigtail.

Favoring the downed martial artist with a genuinely happy smile, Kasumi was about to reply when she blink-blinked, remembering something important. Touching a finger to her lips cutely in apparent contemplation, she said thoughtfully, "Oh, yes. Dinner will be ready soon, so you'd better hurry and clean yourself up. Come along, Ranma." Motioning for the pigtailed boy to follow, she began to walk toward the house. After several moments, however, she noticed that he wasn't behind her. Turning around, she found the reason why he was lagging behind, causing her to giggle uncontrollably. "Wh-what are you doing now, Ranma?"

The object of her good humor was currently flat on his belly, inching forward along the ground like some sort of worm or caterpillar. Watching him scoot forward ever so slowly, her laughter died away as Kasumi thought to herself idly. More of a caterpillar than a worm, I think. Closer to a butterfly, really- yes, definitely a butterfly.

Ranma was beyond humiliated at this point. Kasumi of all people had seen him flopping about on the floor like some kind of bug! He tried as hard as he could not to blush from embarrassment as he avoided the unreadable look she sent him, standing several feet away.

Breaking out of her thoughts, the eldest Tendo daughter noticed the way the pigtailed boy refused to met her gaze. Fiddling with her skirt nervously for a moment, she came to a decision about what she should do given the situation. Stepping toward the Saotome heir, she called for his attention softly, "Ranma."

Startled out of his previous mortification by the nearly inaudible sound of his own name, Ranma managed to stutter weakly, "Y-yes?"

Now standing just a scant foot and a half away, Kasumi crouched down in front of him, extending a delicate hand. "Here, let me help you."

Eyes widening slightly at the unexpected offer, Ranma nodded his head and placed his hand in hers before he could even stop to think about what he was doing.

Carefully, and with surprising strength, Kasumi pulled the drained young man to his feet and gently pulled him against herself, allowing him to lean on her for support. Wrapping her other arm around his shoulders, she began to ease him toward the front door. "Are you alright, Ranma?"

"Uh y-yeah, just a little tired. I'll be fine in a few hours."

"School is out tomorrow, so you'll have plenty of time to rest."

He craned his neck to look at her, clearly surprised. "Really? Guess I forgot."

Kasumi giggled again, turning her head toward him as well. "Because you were so busy in school?"

Chuckling lightly despite the hint of redness on his cheeks, Ranma was about to answer when a sudden thought occurred to him. "Hey Kasumi, has anything happened here while I was gone?" Better safe than sorry, after all, he added to silently.

"Not really... oh, Akane found P-chan again." He could've sworn that 'P-chan' had been said with no small amount of distate. Brushing it off as a product of his weariness and imagination, he turned his attention back to the woman helping him along. "Other than that... nothing eventful, really."

Ranma simply made an acknowledging noise and concentrated his already flagging reserves of energy toward taking step after painful step. The mention of Ryouga's porcine alter ego didn't even penetrate the haze of fatigue.

Without even realizing it, the couple had already passed through the front door and were now standing just inside the living room, mildly surprised at their sudden arrival. On the couch, Akane sat watching T.V. while holding her pet "pig". Fortunately, she hadn't seen them enter, therefore competely missing how close they were, as well as the way their hands still remained interwoven.

While Ranma was too out of it to take note of the immediate danger, Kasumi recognized it immediately. Her younger sister was oblivious to them, but she definitely did not like the way P-chan was glaring at them- or rather, at her companion.

Releasing the pigtailed boy's hand, but not before giving it a tiny reassuring squeeze, she assisted him in standing under his own power before quickly stepping away. It wouldn't do to have gotten this far without any problems only to have Ranma belted over the horizon by his oh-so-loving fiance. "I'm going to go finish the preparations on dinner, Ranma. Why don't you go rest on the sofa?"

Too exhausted to manage more than an affirming nod, he began shuffling toward the invitingly comfortable piece of furniture. Kasumi stood and watched him with a worried expression, nibbling on her lower lip a little before heading off toward the part of the house unanimously dubbed her domain.

After what seemed an eternity, the thoroughly bushed Saotome heir finally made it to the sofa, plopping down on it with a short sigh of relief. P-chan, who had continued to glower at him the entire time, began to bristle and growl at his hated enemy's nearness. Akane, noticing her pet's unusual (only because she's too dense to ever notice) behavior, turned to see what was bothering her P-chan. She immediately spotted Ranma sitting nearby, apparently holding a glaring contest with her beloved pet pig. "Ranma! Stop looking at poor P-chan like that! Honestly, you can be such an immature jerk."

Ranma, too tired to formulate any coherent replies, just gave a noncommittal grunt and closed his eyes, manipulating what was left of his ki toward dispelling some of his exhaustion.

Seeing that the "immature jerk" wouldn't be bothering her poor P-chan again any time soon, the youngest Tendo daughter settled for an annoyed "hmph" and decided to go into the kitchen and grab herself a can of soda. If I find out that he picked on P-chan while I'm gone... ooooh, he's gonna get it!

Concentrating on the flows of ki in his body, Ranma idly noted the departure of his tomboy fiance. Feeling a bit more at ease with her well out of melee range, he began to relax even further. Wait a sec... I didn't sense her taking Bacon Boy with her. But that means...

His thoughts were painfully interrupted by virtue of a sharp set of porcine teeth clamping down on his ankle. Having already regained enough energy to jump to his feet and dance around in a frenzy- he did just that. "AAAAAAARGH! Dammit, get offa me! Leggo!"

This, of course, only encouraged the boy-turned-pig to apply more pressure to his bicuspid deathgrip. Swiftly coming to the conclusion that hopping around like a crazed maniac and screaming his head off wasn't going to dislodge the little porker, Ranma reached into his own small compartment of Hidden Weapons Space ( nowhere near as developed as Mousse's, but he was improving) and withdrew a thermos full of hot water. With a deft twist, the cap popped off and he upended the entire contents on his porcing opponent- which was probably not the greatest of ideas, as the image of a wet and naked Ryouga, still gnawing on his ankle, assaulted Ranma's mind. With a deep grimace of utmost disgust, he kicked his nudist rival across the living room. Instantly, the Eternally Lost Boy was back on his feet, facing the Saotome heir in an offensive stance- a very offensive stance, as the earlier mental picture was replaced with a new one that burned his innocent eyes even more. Reaching into his personal plot of Weapons Space once again, he pulled out a cloth bundle and chucked it at Ryouga's face- hard.

The package, which consisted of clothes, the usual headband, and a backpack several times the Hibiki boy's body weight, impacted with enough force to knock him over. Jumping to his feet once more, Ryouga quickly dressed himself before facing his opponent once more- to the infinite relief of said opponent. "Ranma! How dare you try to corrupt Kasumi! I will not stand for this dis... umm..."

This really was not how Ryouga had pictured this encounter would turn out. He was supposed to confront Ranma, who would try to deny his wrongdoing, and beat him to a pulp! Nowhere in his grand plan did it mention the pigtailed menace trembling in rage with a veritable bonfire of ice blue ki burning around him. Uh... maybe I can just work around this?

At that moment, said pigtailed menace trying in vain to quell the rising anger. Corrupt... Kasumi? He really thinks I'd do anything bad to Kasumi of all people! I've been accused of a lot of stupid crap before, but this! Hell no! That stupid... that... !

Beyond that point, coherent thought slipped out of his grasp and he growled menacingly. Taking a slow, deliberate step forward, he flexed his muscles in preparation of the ass kicking that was about to occur.

Unfortunately for Ranma, he'd been too absorbed in his outrage to pay attention to what was occuring behind him. Thinking about it several hours later, it was one of the worst mistakes he'd ever made- and he'd made plenty. Hindsight is 20/20, after all.

Akane stood a scant handful of feet behind the unsuspecting Saotome heir, a can of soda in one hand and her mallet in the other. Battle aura flaring up, she crushed the already forgotten can of soda and tossed it off to the side without taking her eyes off her target. By now, Ryouga had noticed her arrival but was too preoccupied to say anything- not that he would bother to warn the ever deserving pigtailed boy, anyway. Switching her mallet to a two-handed grip, she held it to her side and gave the Saotome heir his eulogy in a decidedly unfriendly tone. "Ranma... stop picking on Ryouga!"

Halting in his tracks, Ranma's expression changed from one of intense anger to shock before settling on resignation. Taking a deep, calming breath, he braced for impact. He was not disappointed.

For many years afterward, the residents of Nerima would remember the oddly martial artist shaped firework that shot up into the sky, blazing a brilliant blue. Rather than the usual keening whistle, it almost seemed to scream out in frustration, "Uncuuuuuuuuuuuuute!"

The explosion that followed at the apex of its flight was memorable, to say the least.

AN: Huzzah! ...Right. Anyway, sorry for the massively, ridiculously long wait. Meh. I'm back now, anyway- and with good news! I joined the Air Force, woot! I'll be shipping off to basic on August 1, 2006. I just need to survive until then. Wish me luck, eh?

Ah... in other, completely unrelated news... Well, it's been a while since I've written anything. Let me know what ya think, eh? I'd appreciate it! I honestly hope you enjoy my own unique brand of humor. Good night!