Disclaimer: I do not on Ranma. Enough said about that. This story is a collaboration effort between me and Drakuzz. Managed to get another chapter out and only in two months this time. Hope we can keep that rate at the very least. Hope this chapter is to your liking. Without any further delay, we hope that you will all enjoy this chapter.
By David Knight and Drakuzz
Chapter Nine: The New Girls in Town
A week had passed and Ranko was a bit upset. Her arm was in a sling, her ribs and head were still bandaged up…
But at least she was able to walk.
Her brother... Well she and Kasumi were babysitting him. Kasumi had whipped out her katana more than once to keep the pigtailed martial artist from training at all.
Ranma definitely wasn't the most complacent of patients; he wasn't used to being injured and made light of his wounds. His pouting got the two women to smile at each other, because he was trying to look angry and he was actually rather cute.
"I have to run some errands now," Kasumi said getting her purse and slinging over her shoulder a bundle wrapped in cloth.
"I can't believe you are taking your katana with you outside of the house like that," Ranko said.
"Better to have it than not to have it," Kasumi reasoned.
"Let her go, sis. It's Nerima, no one will notice," Ranma said as he walked out of his room, his chest heavily bandaged still.
"If we were in Kyoto, they'd notice," Ranko said absently. "So glad I use a backpack to stash my sword into." She looked over at Kasumi. "See ya for dinner?"
"Of course," Kasumi smiled walking out the door. She went downstairs and out of the apartment.
Ranko closed the door and looked back at her brother. "You should be resting in bed."
"I'm tired of being in bed, sis," Ranma complained, as he'd been doing for five days straight now.
"Do you want your wounds to open up on you," Ranko asked.
"It wasn't that bad," Ranma said.
"Not that bad?" Ranko snapped. "You were bleeding internally and out for two full days before you came too. You got broken ribs and..."
Ranma rolled his eyes. "I've taken worse, sis. The old man had me training even with a broken leg."
"... You're joking, right?"
"How do ya think I can fight while hurt?" Ranma asked in annoyance.
Ranko shook her head. "Great. My brother's a masochist."
"If you wanna be the best..." Ranma said and smirked. Suddenly there was a knock on the door to interrupt him and he looked at her.
Ranko shrugged as she opened the door. "Kasumi, is that..."
"Baka! You mind telling us what your problem is, Ranko-chan!" A voice Ranma hadn't heard before yelled.
"ACK!!!" Ranko fell backwards, her mouth hanging wide as she couldn't believe it.
Ranma looked up, somewhat interested as he saw two girls that looked his sister's age. The girl on the left had cotton candy pink hair done in two pigtails, wearing a pink blouse and a white skirt. She had slung over her shoulder a pink backpack.. The other girl was a brunette in a blue jacket, white shirt and jeans along with a pendant around her neck with the yin/yang symbol in the center. A large black dufflebag slung over her shoulder, she stared at Ranko with a rather annoyed look on her face.
Ranko stared eyes wide right back at her. "Megumi... What... What are you and Kaede doing here?"
"Your grandfather came and told us where you were staying." Megumi snapped. "Two months, Ranko-chan, and all you've done is call us, tell us everything is fine and you aren't sure when you are coming home. Then your grandfather lets us know you were attacked by a Youkai but nothing else. What is going on? I thought we were friends."
Ranko stared at Megumi taking in her words while the girl with pink hair walked over to Ranma. "Hello," she said with a bow. "My name is Shino Kaede and the other girl is Kurosaki Megumi. How do you do?"
"Uh... Saotome Ranma," he said and bowed awkwardly, his ribs protesting.
Kaede and Megumi stared at Ranma then for a bit before staring back Ranko.
"Kaede, Megu... Meet my twin brother Ranma."
"TWIN!!!" Both girls shouted at the top of their lungs.
"Something wrong with that?" Ranma asked, surprised at receiving such shocked responses. In Nerima it was rare to find someone that reacted like that.
"You never told us you had a twin!"
"He's your surprise that you told us about! You rotten little imp! You're just like your grandfather!" Megumi growled, though good-naturedly for Ranko that knew her.
Ranma just blinked at that, not knowing how to react.
"Yeah well he's the one that took care of that Youkai, and he's much better than I am in a fight," Ranko said to them, enjoying the shocked expressions on their faces.
Ranma's chest puffed with pride at that, hearing his sister praise him so much.
Ranko rolled her eyes. "Oh give it a rest already," she muttered.
"And besides the fact that you forgot about us," Kaede said, a small smirk forming on her lips. "I think you forgot about me more than anything."
Ranko stared Kaede for a while before her eyes widened and with her good hand slapped it over her eyes. "Ugh! I should have thought of it after we came home!" She groaned. She looked back to Kaede. "Can you work on him first? He's worse off than I am and he'll probably be glad to get out of bed."
Ranma blinked in confusion as he stared at his sister and the new girl, unsure of what she meant.
Kaede was right over him now, looking at him calmly. "I am going to use magic to heal your injuries. That is, if you are alright with letting a white witch work on you."
The pigtailed martial artist blinked his eyes at that. "You can do that?" He had pretty bad experiences with magic so far... But having his injuries healed so he could get back to training sounded great to him.
"There's a lot that magic can be used for," Kaede said, holding her hands over him. "Just don't expect me to pull out a wand or start riding on a broomstick. We don't do either of those. We really dislike those stereotypes." She looked right at him. "Do I have your permission?"
Ranma gave her a smile, the one that usually got him into so many girl troubles. "Thanks."
The moment he said that her hands began glowing white, she started moving them slowly back and forth over the whole length of his body.
Ranma grimaced slightly. The feeling of having his wounds mended was a little discomforting.
Kaede gave no response as she continued to do her work. Ranko looked on. For someone who hadn't been healed via magic, the first time was always the worst. It wasn't like a video game where a white mage threw a cure spell on you and you instantly regained health. Reality was seldom like a video game where the supernatural was concerned.
The redhead easily made out the change as Ranma was healed. His breathing started to become easier while his posture relaxed. Even if trying to hide it he'd been moving stiffly these days because of the pain.
"Very bad, was it?" Megumi said simply.
"You have no idea," Ranko muttered. "I really would have liked having you there."
Megumi simply smirked at that response. "Then maybe you should have thought of calling more often and letting us come up."
Ranko gave her a flat stare yet Megumi knew there was more to it. "I wanted to have time alone with him. Is that so wrong?"
"... No. Sorry," was the curt simple reply, yet she saw Ranko relax. Everything was good.
"It wasn't that hard," Ranma said as he flexed his arms, testing their range of movement and nodding glad that he didn't feel any more pain on his chest.
Kaede turned around to face Ranko. "You next. Honestly, you look as bad as the first time we went on one of Megumi's Youkai hunts."
Ranma grinned at Kaede. "That thing you do is pretty cool."
Kaede blinked, having heard his voice and turned around to face him, blushing. "Oh well thank you. But healing's just one aspect of my powers."
The pigtailed martial artist chuckled and scratched the back of his head. "I guess magic isn't so bad when folks like ya use it."
"So what's your bad experience with magic?" Megumi asked while Ranko decided to take a seat on the couch and let Kaede now work on her.
Ranma rolled his eyes. "What isn't? It's been nothing but trouble since I know it. Curses, spirits, demons. You name it."
"Magic is neither good nor evil, it all depends on the intent of the user," Kaede said simply as she continued healing. "Although, there are some that just pull cruel jokes, like creating a place where you fall into water and are cursed into some other shape or form. I can't remember the name at the moment though."
Ranma sweatdropped heavily at that. "... That was a joke?"
"Some magician who got driven insane by a sorceress decided to have some fun in the last few years before he died, using his magic for creating rather serious 'practical jokes'. When asked why he did it, he told the mages that 'I thought it would be funny to see people turn into other creatures when it rained.'" Kaede said simply, finishing up her healing. "At least that's what mother told me."
Ranma just sighed and looked at the ceiling. It figured that his misfortune was the butt of somebody's joke.
"What's wrong?" Kaede asked.
"Kaede, you really didn't have to mention that about Jusenkyo to him," Ranko muttered, taking her arm out of her sling and starting to remove her bandages. "Kami-sama does it ever feel good to take these off."
"Jusenkyo. How did he..." Kaede blinked before looking at him. "You've been there!"
"... Kinda..." Ranma said hesitantly.
"Let it go for now girls, okay?" Ranko said to them. "With our luck you'll probably see it on your own."
Ranma blinked his eyes and turned to regard his sister. "You okay there now, sis?"
"Yeah," Ranko said, looking at her brother. "All better now thanks to Kaede."
The young man nodded and started to remove his own bandages, revealing healthy skin underneath.
"So, does that mean you are ready to get into sparring again?" Megumi asked with a smirk. "Although, given how out of shape you are, I'll probably win. Again."
Ranko shook her head with a slight smirk. "Give me a few days, then we'll have another match."
Ranma looked at Megumi with interest at that. "You girls spar often?"
"You kidding? She trains everyday," Kaede said with an exasperated look on her face. "She doesn't care about her schoolwork or what she's doing after it, or go to any clubs..."
"I don't need to waste my time with that crap," Megumi snorted. "I'm perfectly fine being a C student and already got all the people that I want as my friends, and again grades don't matter cause I'm going into the family business full time once I graduate."
Ranko gave her brother an amused look. "Basically she's just like you bro. Well as far as sleeping in class goes."
Ranma blinked at that and looked at Megumi. "You mean she actually takes the art seriously?"
"I'm not a martial artist, not in the conventional sense." Megumi said as she lifted up her duffle bag and put it down on a nearby table, letting a clang be heard. Out of the bag she took the scabbard of a clearly European style sword. "I come from a family of demon hunters."
Ranma crossed his arms and frowned in thought. "Like the one I killed?"
"Yes," Megumi narrowed her eyes, examining him. "What's with the frown?"
The next words out of Ranma's mouth made his sister sigh, as he still had a lot of the macho ideas their father beat into his skull. "Isn't it a little dangerous for a girl?"
Megumi's eyebrow twitched. "... Excuse me?" She asked in a low tone of voice.
Missing the look she was giving him completely Ranma went on. "I mean, even I had a little trouble with this one. Maybe you shouldn't worry about 'em and stuff."
"Why you son of...!!!" Megumi snarled, glaring daggers at Ranma. "What gives you the right to judge me you rank amateur?!"
Ranma's eyebrow twitched at that. "What did you call me?"
"A rank amateur."
Kaede looked back to Ranko. "Are you sure we shouldn't...?" She started to ask softly, not to be heard by anyone but stopped when she saw Ranko shake her head.
In fact, the red head was doing her best to keep a smile off her face. "Oh no. If anything, we should just let it happen."
Ranma glared right back at Megumi, his knuckles cracking loudly as he clenched his fists. "Look, ya uncute tomboy! Saotome Ranma is no amateur."
"Care to put your yen where your mouth is you chauvinistic pig?" Megumi returned, not scared in the slightest by his retort.
The pigtailed martial artist smirked at her, purposely giving her a line that seriously upset his sister. "I don't fight girls."
"Oh, so you're a coward then."
Ranma twitched at that. "I don't want to make you look bad."
"Are you sure it's so you don't look bad?" Megumi returned.
"Saotome Ranma doesn't lose," he returned with a confident smirk.
Megumi simply matched that smirk, hand on her sword's hilt. "Prove it."
Ranma eyed his sister sideways. "She ain't got no marriage laws, right sis?"
"She's a normal girl," Ranko said with an amused smile. "No wacky amazon laws or anything similar to it."
"Just making sure," Ranma said and turned his full attention to the girl, placing his hands behind his back and assuming his casual stance. "Take yer best shot," he challenged.
Megumi stood there waiting for it until she saw it happen.
"BAKA!" Ranko shouted right into her brother's ears. "Are you insane?!!"
Ranma blinked a couple of times, wincing at the ringing in his ear. "What?"
"You are NOT going to start a fight in our apartment!" Ranko declared, fully adamant about this. "This is NOT the Tendo dojo where things get broken on a regular basis and get fixed by Kasumi-chan!"
"I never break the stuff," Ranma said more than a little defensively. And some of it was true, since usually it was his opponent that did all the destruction while he dodged around.
"Maybe, but there's no way I'm going to let you fight in the apartment!" Ranko snapped. "And why do you ask. One, small space. Two, you two fight for even a minute here the whole apartment is pretty much guaranteed to be totaled. Three, I don't feel like getting the rest of people LIVING in the building involved by the noise the fight will make." She shook her head. "How is it during a fight you are aware of your surroundings, just not when you start?"
Ranma backed off, not wanting to upset his sister and having to admit some of what she said was true. It was just that in Nerima people were so used to these fights that they hardly ever noticed anymore. "Uh... The lot we use to practice, then?"
"That will be fine."
Kasumi walked into the Nekohautten. She wasn't sure what would happen, but she could only hope for the best.
"Welcome, Tendo Kasumi. It is so rare to have you visit us," Cologne said as she sat at a table, the restaurant suspiciously alone.
"I hope it won't be the last," Kasumi said as she walked to the table that Cologne sat at and put her purse down but kept her bundle close to her.
"Your company is too gracious for me to want and cut contact. Now what is it that you want, child?" Cologne asked amiably.
Kasumi thought for a moment before speaking her words. "I do not want us to become enemies."
"It has never been my intention, child. We simply seem to have a shared interest," the Amazon elder said calmly.
"I know enough about Amazon law to know that Amazons view threats to their goal as obstacles to be removed," Kasumi said evenly. "You and Shampoo have seen how I've been around Ranma-kun since I received this." She put her hand to the necklace she kept around her neck, yet her eyes never left the matriarch's. "I have no intention of losing Ranma-kun without a fight. If Shampoo should win his heart then I'll have no regrets, but I... I care too much."
Cologne nodded to herself. "I expected no less from you, child. Please believe me when I say, though, that it was never my intention to harm your sister or your family. Now that Son-in-Law might be engaged to you it changes nothing between us."
Kasumi nodded. "I do. I just needed to hear it from you and say what I needed to say." She then got up from her chair. "Thank you."
"How have you felt with that magic item, child? No negative side-effects?" Cologne asked casually.
Kasumi stopped, frozen and turned around. "If you mean have I felt violent when I am not transformed then no... But how...?"
"I was merely making an inquiry, girl. Magical items as powerful as that one are indeed rare to come across," the old woman pointed out.
"Oh," Kasumi said, letting out a breath. "I thought you might know something about where this came from. But no, I haven't felt any bad side effects from when I have used this at all."
"That is good and most fortunate. I pray all magical items were like that one you wear." Cologne tilted her head to the side. "Do you intend, perchance, to use it to your advantage in winning the Son-in-Law?"
Kasumi shook her head. "Not unless you count sparring with him when transformed as to my advantage. I am grateful for having this item, but I'll win Ranma-kun's heart the old fashioned way. It will be something I obtain with my own two hands."
"Then I must praise your restraint. It is, I'm afraid, something your younger sister finds herself lacking severely. But I digress... I'm sure you have things to do, as do I. Have a good day, Tendo Kasumi," Cologne said with a smile.
"And you too, elder," Kasumi said with a smile herself before leaving the restaurant.
Not ten minutes after leaving the apartment the four of them found themselves at an empty lot that showed some scars from combat. It would've been faster, but Ranko convinced her brother they should walk normally instead of roof-hopping for Kaede's benefit. The sight was funny as she 'convinced' him by pulling him by the ear till they reached the street.
Now Ranma and Megumi stood facing each other while Ranko and Kaede watched from the side, waiting for the match to begin. The pigtailed martial artist stood in his usual non-stance, giving the girl in front of him a curious glance.
Megumi simply held her sword out in front of her, her left hand holding it by the scabbard while her other hand held it by the hilt. "Here's how Ranko and I fight. If I'm knocked out, she wins. I put her into 'kill', I win. Simple, isn't it?"
"Yeah, yeah," Ranma said dismissively, obviously not considering her a threat. "Can we get done here? Got better things ta do than humoring a tomboy."
In one swift motion she removed her sword from her sheath.
And in that swing, even Ranma couldn't have been prepared for the lightning shaped charge that followed that swing, moving faster than he could have and hitting him squarely in the chest, knocking him off his feet.
"What were you saying about humoring someone?" Megumi said with a smirk, dropping her sheath and keeping in a ready stance now.
The pigtailed martial artist skidded on the ground for a couple of feet before he used his momentum to flip elegantly back onto his feet. He casually patted his chest down as if removing some dirt with a bored expression on his face. "That it?" He asked casually, not giving away the fact that it actually hurt as much as one of Ryoga's punches and he'd been taken by surprise.
Megumi's eyes narrowed slightly as she decided to take to the offensive, moving so fast that Ranma had to move, yet her sword nicked the end of his pigtail.
Fast. Megumi realized as she continued to press on using speed. She needed to see how this guy fought before she could make any real plans. She knew his style was not Ranko's and thus needed to see him actually fighting before she could really make her plan. If she tried ending the fight right from the start, not only would she show all of her cards but there wasn't even a guarantee she'd win.
Ranma for his part kept dodging the girl's attacks. He was used to fighting sword wielders and knew that no matter the sword style used attacks were limited to nine basic types. Using that to his full advantage he started to read Megumi's attacks from her body language before she even got close to him, dodging by growing margins as he studied her form. She obviously had experience fighting with a sword and had both good technique and speed. He was slightly faster, thanks to all his training with Ranko and Kasumi, and kept ahead of her attacks without the need to block anything.
Noticing this after a few minutes Megumi decided to give Ranma a surprise. The next strike she made went up, she then continued down, which she knew he was to dodge and move away from as he had executed this same pattern earlier.
Except this time the blade went down and into the ground. "Spire," she mouthed, looking directly at Ranma. At once a spire of earthen rock shot from the ground and struck him in the chest.
Ranma once again was sent flying back, and yet again he recovered without outwardly giving a sign of having felt the attack. The look of concentration on his face and the look he was giving Megumi was opposite to his previous disinterested looks. Inwardly he was remembering what he saw on her first attack and comparing it to this second one, his tactical mind working overtime as he put the pieces together for a strategy to fight against the girl's attacks. They weren't that different from Kasumi's in some aspects, particularly on one that he could fully exploit. He smirked once more, now more confident as he figured out how to attack.
I've got other tricks, however not going to use them yet, she thought. Right now she'd shown two of her moves and she'd gotten nothing in return except that she'd seen him only able to dodge her swings.
She'd have to gamble now, and hope she wouldn't put herself into check mate, otherwise she'd never hear the end of it from her friends.
Moving to the left she followed through with a sideways slash to the left then to the right, raising the blade forward, yet moved in a way that she knew she was leaving herself open for an attack.
Ranma frowned as he saw the opening and contented himself with dodging the attack with inches to spare. That opening was too obvious, especially since he'd already seen and gauged Megumi's skill to be above such mistakes. When the swing was over and she closed the opening was when the pigtailed martial artist attacked. Like a coiled viper he struck forward, a lightning fast strike to poke the girl's nose and let her know he was there, before jumping back to gain a little distance.
Megumi narrowed her eyes, knowing what the intent of that was. She had dealt with men like Ranma before. Guys who had their whole 'men-over-women' philosophy and she had been able to prove every one of them wrong or at least obtain their grudging respect in the cases that she didn't win.
Ranma was a typical of the type. Infuriate and make the opponent make a mistake, then strike. She hated that but was very much used to it. Female Demon Hunters were looked down upon by most and thus not many stuck to it. Those that did not break became great and well respected.
Leaving myself open is not a good idea. She knew as she decided to try one of her techniques again, not a new one but she would try getting into close range with it. She lunged forward, swinging her blade into a downward arc, followed by upwards and then forward slash making him jump back from her slash, but then jumping up into the air herself and swung overhead, releasing the same technique she used at the start of the fight.
To her surprise Ranma seemed to have read her mind, for when the technique went off he was already out of harm's way and inside her defenses. "Boo!" He said as their noses almost touched.
Instinctively, she turned her sword around, hilt forward and struck, intending to smash it right into his face.
That's when she realized one fatal mistake she'd made, one that Ranko had been expecting as she knew not to engage her brother in mid-air. The pigtailed martial artist twisted impossibly out of the way of the attack and took a hold of her wrist. With a small twist he increased her downwards momentum as his upward one was similarly increased. Then finishing his grappling maneuver Ranma placed his foot on the back of the out of balance girl and kicked down. The result of the short encounter, that lasted all of two seconds, was Megumi falling to the ground uncontrollably while Ranko's brother performed an elegant extended backwards flip.
Megumi winced, feeling the pain from that fall and hitting the ground as she rolled and managed to get back to her feet. Okay. Aerial combat, don't go for. Keep him on the ground or you're through.
Ranma landed lightly and looked at the girl with a smirk. "We're even now."
"Are we?" Megumi returned, looking at him with a neutral face. She already assessed that he was better than Ranko. Beating him by knock out was simply not possible. Not at her present level. Going for kill position however, that she might have a chance for. She just had to think of the right way to do it.
Ranma started advancing on the girl once more, eyes intent on her movements so he could predict anymore of her special attacks.
Megumi readied her blade, closing her eyes before moving forward rushing at him with more speed than previously shown. As her movement speed increased, her form became blurred to Ranma, until he saw two more images appear on either side of her.
Ranma's eyes widened at the new development and he jumped backwards, trying to buy time to see what Megumi was doing while he kept out of range.
Ranko narrowed her eyes. 'Now she's using Shadow Steps.' She knew the trick behind it, but Megumi managed more often than not to trick her with use of the technique. She wondered now just how well her brother would fare.
The three Megumis continued moving after Ranma until they fired off the same energy projectile at the same time, showing three shots coming at him.
Having no room to dodge and not willing to bet that two of those were illusions, the pigtailed martial artist had no choice. He thrust his hands forward and a blue glow formed. "MOUKO TAKABISHA!!!" He cried as he launched a chi blast forward to meet the incoming attacks while the force of his own blast propelled him backwards.
The blasts exploded causing a cloud of dust to form obscuring view and sight. Megumi however kept her ground, standing right where she was she struck the earth with her sword and bent down on one knee while holding the hilt with both hands, eyes closed.
Ranma landed on a crouch and skidded back a couple of feet, eyes intent on the girl now that she was just one again. So far she'd surprised him with her weird techniques, even if he could now mostly defend against them.
Megumi opened her eyes and pulled out her sword from the earth. She took another shot in his direction, ripping through the earth as it barreled down towards him.
He dodged to the side just in time, the near-miss ruffling his hair as he started running towards her to engage in close combat. It was obvious now that in long range she held the advantage.
She moved towards him but keeping low to the ground waiting for what appeared to be an attack from her opponent.
Seeing the girl coming low Ranma jumped over her on a flip, narrowly avoiding her sword, and kicked her in the back to try and unbalance her.
Try being the key word, it felt like he just kicked a rock. His leg hurt because of the shock of hitting her back. He could feel bone crack as he kicked her.
Megumi simply smiled as she took her sword out of the ground and fired off another projectile blast.
The pigtailed martial artist barely managed to avoid said blast, landing on a crouch and favoring his left ankle. His eyes narrowed as he stared at the smirking girl, gauging this new development.
"So, not as easy as you expected, now is it?" Megumi said smugly.
The pigtailed martial artist's features darkened at the taunt. "Ye asked fer it," he said as he stood up, now looking serious about the fight.
Something Megumi frowned at. "You son of... Has this all been a game to you up until this point?"
"Wasn't it for ya?" Ranma asked in surprise.
Megumi gripped her blade, her knuckles fully white. "You insult me. To think you're this good... And you insult everyone, weak or strong by treating even a sparing match as if it's a game!"
"Games are all yer worth, tomboy," Ranma said with a snort and a dismissive wave of his hand.
Megumi just let out a roar as she swing her sword down... Only this time the energy blast she sent at Ranma was not the size of a basketball but rather the size of a person.
The problem was that in her anger she became too predictable and fell right into Ranma's hands. In the beginning of the fight she kept her cool very well, but as it wore on the pigtailed martial artist worked on her and now she was playing his game. "Gotcha!" He cried with a grin as he seemed to appear to her side, arm cocked back. "KATCHU TENSHIN AMAGURIKEN!!!" He cried and attacked, centering all of his punches in one spot as he usually did with Ryoga to get through his endurance.
She grimaced in pain as she felt the blows, the first three coming in without her defense, and knew if it kept up she was finished. Fortunately she had her sword in the ground after shooting off her attack and had only lost her grip due to his initial punch. She managed to get it back after feeling her ribs crack slightly and glared at him. Now he knew his punches weren't working as her free hand moved to punch. "Take this!" She screamed, driving her right hand into his chest.
Ranma allowed the punch to push him back, robbing it of some momentum, and smirked as he now knew how she did that technique. In fact all of her techniques so far depended on one thing.
Megumi worked overtime, knowing that right now time was running down. This was the second hardest fight she'd been in. Only her sessions with her father were worse, and she lost to him every time.
This guy was just too much. She wasn't even sure now if she could get him into kill position. She took her time to catch her breath. Though he tried not to show it, he definitely had to be hurting. Especially when he hit her so many times rapidly while her body had been as hard as rock.
The pigtailed martial artist hurt alright, but he was used to fighting even with broken bones and still pulling off victories. Megumi was good, he had to admit that, yet he was better and he was going to prove it. With that in mind he launched himself forward again.
This time Megumi kept her sword in the ground. She wasn't ready yet to go moving far just yet and needed some more time to control her breathing so she kept to her stone skin technique. 'You want to hit me. Come and take a shot at it.'
What followed was Ranma's usual strategy against weapon wielders, and pretty much why he never wanted to depend on a weapon other than his body. He had noticed the exact moment Megumi's skin hardened when he was hitting her, and so his kick didn't come at her directly, but at the hand wielding the sword.
Her sword hand felt it, the technique not finished but even more disconcerting her sword was sent high into the air. She tried to get up for it with a jump and, unfortunately, forgot that in the air Ranma had the advantage.
A quick jump brought the pigtailed martial artist to her level and he grappled her into a submission hold, arms painfully locked behind her back, even as he kicked the sword away. He twisted their bodies in such a way that when they landed Megumi wasn't hurt.
Megumi tried to get through it. Rearing her head back hard, trying to break it, but at this point she was through... And she knew it. "... I concede."
Hearing the words Ranma let out a breath and released her. The fight had been different from what he was used to, but still fun and demanding. He winced as he took a step back, his hurt ankle sending pain all the way up his leg.
Megumi just lay on her back, taking breaths as she was trying to get herself together. This had been a demanding fighting. Very demanding indeed.
"Okay, so who needs it more first?" Kaede asked as she and Ranko approached the two of them. "Healing, that is."
"I'm okay," Ranma said so the girl could work on her friend first.
"Listen to him. He's too prideful to let himself be worked on before others," Ranko said to her friend. "Unless of course he's been rendered unconscious and thus we need to work on him first."
"No chance of that happening," Ranma replied with a confident smirk.
"Oh, so that didn't happen when the youkai nearly killed you and you passed out and had to be carried to the doctors office and didn't wake for three days?" Ranko said with an amused smirk while Kaede worked on Megumi.
"I beat it before that," the pigtailed martial artist defended himself.
"Yeah, but got lucky," Ranko said, keeping a smile on her face.
Megumi sat up while she was being healed, looking over at Ranma. "I know you were taunting me, getting under my skin that entire time of the fight with your insults... But I want to know. Were you honestly surprised when I asked you if you were treating this as a game?"
"It was a sparring match, you crazy chick," Ranma said as he scratched the back of his head. "If it had been real that first punch would'a taken ya out."
"True enough," she conceded. "But is every fight to you just a game?"
"Do ya like your art?" Ranma asked in return.
"Of course I do."
"Then why not have fun with it?" The young man asked with his head tilted slightly to the side.
Megumi simply lowered her head. "I enjoy my art. To have 'fun' with it...That leads to people getting hurt... Or killed."
"If ya can't have fun with it then ya'll never improve," Ranma sentenced and raised his right first, knuckles bleeding from when he hit her stoneskin. "It's a way of life."
"And when someone is hurt by a mistake you have when you treat the hunting as a game, how do you live with yourself then? What happens if you try to just 'play it out' without thinking of the other person?" Megumi returned. "I have to have limits on myself."
Ranma shrugged his shoulders. "If it's serious I fight serious."
"And so, what's your opinion of me then?" Megumi asked, Kaede now finishing her work on her and moving towards Ranma now.
"Ya need ta lighten up," Ranma said and averted his eyes.
"Funny," Megumi said mirthlessly as she stood up on her own two feet.
"Now hold still," Kaede said as she started to heal Ranma's own injuries.
"Thing about having a healer on hand, injuries that take a while to naturally heal go away a lot faster thus making everyday stuff much easier to do and no one the wiser," Ranko said, speaking from experience.
He watched in amazement as his knuckles stopped bleeding, and then he could feel his ankle support his full weight without pain. "Thanks," he said to the girl with a heartfelt smile.
"You're welcome, but not yet done," Kaede said as there were still a little bit more to heal.
"So, what do you think of my friends, bro?" Ranko asked with a smirk on her face.
"They... Uh... They're nice," Ranma said, a little uncomfortable.
"Nice, huh?" Megumi frowned as Kaede finished her work on Ranma. "Well you're better than me, but you're not better than my dad."
"How do ya know?" Ranma asked with a smirk.
"'Cause my father beats me every time in under five minutes," Megumi said simply before grinning to Ranko. "And takes half that long to beat your twin."
Ranko looked down at the ground embarrassed. "Hasn't fought me since I left home months ago," she muttered under her breath. Truth be told in her few matches with Megumi's father, which he asked for her to face him, she had her ass handed to her. It was worse than facing her grandfather. Though Megumi's father was nearly three decades younger than the elder Saotome.
"So?" Ranma asked. "That first punch would've had ya on yer ass. And it's not about time," he said seriously. "It's about who keeps standing."
"Ranma," Ranko said looking at her brother seriously. "If Megumi's father had been there, he would have taken out that Youkai, no problem. Believe me when I say he's damn strong."
Kaede raised her eyebrows. "'Damn strong'? Interesting vocabulary you've been picking up."
Megumi simply chuckled. "Let it go, Kaede. If the smug twin can get the prissy princess to loosen up, so be it." She did give her friend an amused look. "You know, you HAVE been more loose than you were months ago."
Ranma grunted and turned to his twin. "Is your friend always such a sore loser?"
"No," Ranko answered. "I think it's just how you did it that is the whole irking thing. Don't worry. Next time you beat her, she won't be this bad. She never is when she loses twice and so on with someone."
"Hey!" Megumi snapped. "You are making it sound like I lose a lot more than I actually do!"
Kaede shook her head as she finished her healing. Megumi stood up, feeling her injuries gone.
"Look, how about we take you both to the dojo? Kasumi's probably making dinner right now, right?" Ranko asked her brother.
Ranma nodded, looking forward to the eldest Tendo sister's cooking as always. "If ya behave ya can have some too," he said to Megumi with an annoying smirk.
"Hey enough of that, okay?" Ranko said, trying to defuse a potential situation. "Let's just get moving."
Ranma snorted but either way stopped the teasing. He just locked hands behind his head as he casually walked next to his twin towards the Tendo dojo.
As they were walking though there was a rustling by a pair of garbage cans and leaping on top of said cans was one stray black cat. Looking at the teenagers it meowed.
"Nice," Megumi said walking over to the cat, picking it up and stroking it. "And where did you come from, little kitty?"
Ranko laughed a little. "Such a tough girl and yet when it comes to felines she always caves."
"Um, Ranko, what's wrong with your brother?" Kaede asked.
"C-C-C-C-CATTTT!" Ranma screamed like a girl as he jumped back, hitting the wall of a building as he stared in horror at the monstrosity in Megumi's arms.
Ranko blinked hard. "Ranma?" She asked uncertainly, never expecting this elicitation of fear out of him. "What's wrong?"
"You have to be kidding me!" Megumi exclaimed, walking in his direction. "Are you telling me, tough guy, you're afraid of the little kitty?"
As the little monster was brought closer to him Ranma's eyes widened more and more with fear. "GET IT AWAY FROM ME!!!" He cried out as he turned and jumped to the top of the three-story building, bolting like a bat out of hell.
"... What just happened?" Kaede asked.
Sadly there was no one to answer her question, seeing as both Ranko and Megumi were as flabbergasted as she was.
It wasn't long before Ranko's face gained a frown. "Come on. Let's go to the dojo."
"You mean we aren't going to go after your brother?" Kaede asked, surprised by this choice of action.
"Not when I don't know what's wrong with him," Ranko said fuming. "And believe me, I think I know exactly who to ask as to why my brother is so afraid of little kittens."
Kasumi arrived back home with groceries which she put away in the kitchen before going into the dojo. She saw her father and Genma sparring while Akane was training by herself through the exercises Ranko had drilled into her over the last three weeks. It was safe to say she had made some improvement in skill.
As Kasumi unwrapped her katana from its bundle, she heard her other sister step into the dojo. "Hello Nabiki. How was your day?"
"Same old, same old, sis," Nabiki replied casually. "How was your talk with Cologne?"
"Best possible outcome," Kasumi answered calmly..
Nabiki nodded seriously. "Kasumi... I don't know if you'd considered it but... Do you think it wise to tell the Amazons you're pursuing Ranma? You haven't even told Akane."
"I don't want to become enemies with them, Nabiki. I needed to say it now rather than later," Kasumi said before glancing over to Akane. "And it was a lot easier telling them than telling her."
"You're going to have to do it. And soon," Nabiki said. "Akane-chan may be a little dense, but she's starting to suspect your intentions. And she'll most likely lash out at Ranma-kun for being a pervert."
"I know," Kasumi sighed, not looking forward to telling her. "I'll do it soon, Nabiki. Just let me work up the nerve to do it. I'm trying not to fall back into old habits these days."
Nabiki nodded and grinned. "And how is your pursuit of Ranma-kun going, sis? You managed to get him in the sack yet?"
Kasumi blushed. "Nabiki!" she gasped.
"It's an honest question, sis. You know with Ranma-kun you have to go all the way or he won't even know you exist," the middle Tendo sister said with a smirk.
Kasumi was going to say how crude of a comment that was when the door to the house opened. "Ranko-chan. How nice of you to..." She then noticed that she was not alone. There were two girls that she had not seen before whom she assumed had to be Ranko's friends. She did notice that Ranko had a rather frustrated look on her face.
"Where is my idiot father?" The irritated redhead asked.
Nabiki just pointed at the sparring forms of Genma and Soun, dancing around the dojo with skill that bellied their age.
Ranko walked over there with her friends following. Kasumi and Nabiki decided to follow as well. "A word with you, father."
Genma turned slightly, not letting his attention deviate from his opponent, and looked at his daughter and companions. "What brings you around today, Ranko-chan?" He was trying to gain his daughter back, now that she obviously wasn't leaving with her grandfather.
Something she knew he would never succeed at. She had grown up detesting this man, and even if she hadn't she still had ample reason not to trust him. "Tell me something, is there a reason why my brother is deadly afraid of cats?"
Genma faltered for a moment and Soun's fist impacted with his jaw, thankfully rendering him unconscious and unable to answer.
Soun was surprised by that. Incredible... I wasn't expecting to knock him unconscious with that blow.
Ranko frowned, noticing the slight breathing. "You aren't fooling me, father. I know you aren't unconscious. What did you do to my brother?"
"Uh... Whatever are you talking about, Ranko-chan?" Genma asked nervously as he sat up.
"So you don't know about the Nekoken," Kasumi said, surprising them.
"Nekoken?" Ranko asked, unfamiliar with the term.
"Your father threw Ranma into a pit of starving cats as a child and now whenever he sees a cat he freaks out." She glared at Genma, showing how much she didn't like that.
The look Ranko gave her father was so unlike any she had given him before upon hearing that revelation.
"... What?" Genma asked nervously at the glare he was recipient of.
"You threw my brother, as a child, in to a pit of starving cats!?!" Ranko exclaimed in outrage. She honestly didn't think her father couldn't go any lower with his insane actions as far as child raising went.
Obviously, she was yet again mistaken.
"It was for his training," Genma protested. "The Nekoken is an undefeatable technique."
"Undefeatable?" Megumi snorted. "What sort of technique is undefeatable when the user runs like a chicken with its head cut off at the sight of a baby kitty?"
"Actually, the worst of it, is when the terror reaches a certain degree," Kasumi clarified. "If he's near a cat too long, Ranma will act like a cat, attacking anyone and anything he perceives to be a threat."
"In other words, a berserker," Megumi said shaking her head before staring at Genma. "Are you really Ranko's old man?"
Genma adjusted his glasses and looked at the girl seriously. "I am."
"See, I have trouble believing that," Megumi said with all honesty. "I mean you look like Seijuro-san, but from I've just seen, you've only seemed to inherit his looks. I mean, what kind of father endangers his own son like that? I mean, we ought to be grateful Ranko wasn't subjected to this." She turned to her still angry friend. "You weren't subjected to this inane form of 'training' were you?"
"No... This had happened after..." Ranko trailed off. "Doesn't matter."
"After what?" Megumi blinked. "Ranko, after..."
"I said it doesn't matter!" Ranko snapped, fixing her glare at her own friend, telling her to let the matter drop. Something everyone took note of.
Genma grunted and turned to regard Ranko. "Daughter, what happened to your brother?"
Ranko turned back to her father, her anger still there. "My brother freaked out after seeing a stray cat. Which is why we even bothered asking you."
As they sat there it was obvious Genma wasn't going to say anything meaningful, not that Ranko expected him to.
"I should go looking for him," Kasumi said suddenly.
Genma looked up at that. "Let the boy get it out of his system. He'll be fine."
Kasumi didn't bother responding. Instead she activated her necklace, changing into her ninja form, changing in front of Ranko's friends who weren't expecting it. She then looked at Genma. "Thankfully for us, you aren't my father. So I don't have to listen to a word you say." Without another word she took off.
Kaede and Megumi stared for a bit before speaking. "Damn," Megumi breathed. "Very interesting town Ranko." She gave her friend a smile. "Now I see why you like staying here. Need to look into doing the same to keep up with you."
Ranko simply smiled back, though looked in the direction Kasumi had gone. So did Kaede. "Is she your brother's boyfriend?" Kaede asked.
"No, but my father and her father are trying to get her or one of her sisters to marry him," Ranko said, getting curious stares from her friends.
"It's to unite the schools, girl," Genma said, annoyed that they forgot he was still only a couple of feet away.
"And how does making my brother lose rational thought every time he sees a cat help 'that'?" Ranko challenged.
Genma winced but turned to regard his daughter anyway. "It makes him unbeatable. When the situation comes that he can't lose he has that technique to fall back on if all else fails."
"Can he tell friend from foe?" Megumi asked him.
"... Mostly," Genma said, remembering how Ranma usually tore into him when he was in the cat fist, but avoided the others.
"I still don't like it," Ranko muttered, looking over to Kaede. "Can't you do anything?"
Kaede blinked. "Hey I heal physical injuries! Not mental trauma! Only experts even attempt to go messing around with someone's brain. It's very sensitive to magic, especially if he's got a curse on him."
"The boy will be fine," Genma said with a grunt. "I trained him. He never lets anything keep him down."
"That's exactly what I am afraid of," Ranko muttered under her breath.
Kasumi felt like Shampoo at the moment, trying her rooftop approach, looking for Ranma. 'I just hope he hasn't entered the Nekoken. That's the last thing we need.'
He was in none of his usual thinking spots, meaning he either found a new one or he was looming around in some alley digging food from a dumpster.
'Need to keep looking.' Kasumi decided to broaden her search now. Five minutes later, when she spotted a flash of red, she knew she had found him. Upon further inspection she could see he was doing a kata, while jumping from one building to another. "Ranma!" She called out to him.
Ranma paused in mid-kick, balancing himself over a flagpole with his toes, and turned to look down at Kasumi. "Hey, Kasumi! What ya doing here?"
"Looking for you," Kasumi said looking up. "We were worried you went into the Neko-ken."
Ranma jumped off the flagpole, back-flipping elegantly, and landed next to the older girl. "Nah. Managed to get away on time."
"Well after you ran off as you did, Ranko and her friends went after your father, guessing correctly it was all his fault," Kasumi said with a slight smile underneath her mask. "One can only wonder how that turned out after I left."
"The old man has it coming," Ranma grumbled and smiled. "So why did you come looking for me, anyway? We were going to see each other tonight."
Kasumi's cheeks blushed, and she was glad her face mask hid that. "Well, I was, worried, about you I mean, Ranma-kun."
Ranma blinked in confusion at that, but nodded anyway. "Thanks, I guess."
"So, training now?"
Ranma grinned at that. "Always."
"Your sister has some rather interesting friends," Kasumi said. Ranma shivered slightly at remembering the cat incident and nodded. He wouldn't live that one down for a while. "They seem nice. A lot of energy." Kasumi looked at Ranma quizzically. "... Did you get into a fight with them Ranma-kun?"
The pigtailed martial artist shook his head. "Nah. Just a sparring match."
"You don't look you had a fight with them at all, though," Kasumi said, yet just knew he had been in one.
Ranma frowned in confusion for a minute, before his eyes widened in realization. "Oh, that. One of 'em does this magic healing thing."
"...And you let someone use magic on you?" Kasumi let a smile form behind her mask yet again, amazed that Ranma would allow it, considering how much he hated magic.
"She did heal my ribs, ya know?" Ranma asked and flexed his chest, indicating that his wounds from the fight with the Youkai were completely gone.
Kasumi let out a gasp. His ribs were healed indeed. "Wow. That is something." She looked up then. "Well if you're ready, we should get going back to the dojo."
Ranma blinked his eyes at that. "What for?" He knew they were having dinner at the dojo, but it was still too early for that.
"Well you don't want to have your sister worrying about you now, do you?" Kasumi pointed out.
The pigtailed martial artist scratched the back of his head nervously, obviously not having thought that Ranko would be worried about him. It was still very new to him, to have people worry about him.
"Well shouldn't we get going?"
Ranma smirked as he looked at the girl in kunoichi attire. "Think ya can keep up?"
The light in her eyes clearly stated that the challenge had been accepted.
Back at the Dojo, Ranko and her friends were still there, her friends just looking around or sitting patiently. Genma went back to sparring with Soun, now that the threat of his daughter's possible reaction had passed.
"Find it amusing you didn't go after your father," Akane said, bemused.
"Then I'd be setting a bad example for you, grasshopper," Ranko replied before smirking. "'Sides, I'm getting tired of just beating on him like my brother does for every dumb thing we find out he's done. It just seem too... Clichéd. Like how the coyote keeps trying to go after the roadrunner, only to get splatted."
"That's the way those two bond," Nabiki commented from the side dryly. "And don't deny it, red. It's in your blood, too."
Ranko shook her head.
"Very amusing place," Megumi said from where she sat. "I really wish you had thought to call us earlier instead of us having to come down to see you."
The middle Tendo sister raised an eyebrow at the comment. "You find it amusing?"
"Amusing, interesting," Megumi shrugged. "When you're a demon hunter, you think you see it all. It's refreshing to know I haven't yet."
"You hunt demons!?" Akane exclaimed, in disbelief about that discovery. "But... You can't be any older than me!"
"Yes. Nope. And Kaede's a witch," Megumi answered with a smirk.
"As in a magic-using witch?" Nabiki asked from her sitting position.
"Yup, I healed Ranko and her brother. Her brother twice. Once when I first met him and then after I healed Megumi after the two of them fought it out in a vacant lot," Kaede said, shooting an amused look at them. "So stubborn, those two, they ought to get married."
Megumi's face went red as she snapped, "We are not alike at all!" She huffed, crossing her arms.
Nabiki kept her face blank even if inwardly she was amused. "If it's not like that then why do you protest so hard? Trying to cover something up?"
Megumi refused to even answer that with a response.
"Oh!" Akane exclaimed. "Can't believe I forgot." She went over to a nearby table and picked up a letter, one that she gave to Ranko. "This came in the mail for you... Well to your whole family."
Ranko sighed. "Knowing father it's probably another fiancée for my brother..." She then shivered before becoming angry. "Oh he had better not have engaged me to someone!"
Not too far away Genma shuddered, which gave Soun the chance to land a kidney blow in their fight.
Ranko immediately opened up the envelope and started to read it with everyone in the room watching her.
After a few moments, they saw her hands shaking, until her eyes rolled up into the back of her head and she promptly fainted.
"Ranko!" Kaede cried lifting her friend up from the ground, but she was totally out of it.
Not wasting a second Nabiki went for the note and read it, wondering what could make the redhead drop in a faint like that. While her reaction was a lot more controlled than Ranko's she was still surprised.
"What? What is it?" Akane asked.
"It appears, dear sister, that one Saotome Nodoka is coming to visit her children," Nabiki said in all seriousness, turning out of the corner of her eyes to see Genma and Soun still engrossed in their sparring match.
"Ranko's mother? The mother she hasn't seen since she was a baby?" Megumi said, loud enough for both of the older men to hear it. "She's coming here?!"
"What?!" Genma asked with a look of panic, which was erased as Soun landed a roundhouse kick that sent the man into dreamland.
"I won!" Soun exclaimed. "How is that for lowering your guard, Saotome?"
"...Oh I have to be around to see this," Megumi said with a devious smile on her face.
Luckily for Genma he was somewhat saved from the humiliation as he was completely out this time.
Ranma grinned as he walked on the fence, all covered in sweat, and looked down at the now normally-dressed Kasumi walking by his side on the sidewalk. "You're really improving, Kasumi. You almost had me there a couple of times."
"Thank you," Kasumi said, blushing a little bit. She had a serious question to ask though. "Ranma-kun. How did you end up coming up with the inspiration for your techniques?"
"What do you mean?" Ranma asked in confusion, not really understanding the question.
"You have so many techniques. More than I could count," Kasumi said. "All I have is Raikou Nami. I am not sure I should limit myself to only one technique."
Ranma shrugged as he continued walking. "If it's all ya need, then it's fine. Most of the moves I know I learned 'cause I had to."
"So you aren't out to master every technique known to man?" Kasumi questioned.
"Why?" Ranma asked and smirked. "Ya don't see me tryin' ta learn the Bakusai Tenketsu, do ya." He turned forward. "I only learn what is useful for me, or learn how to fight it."
"I guess you have a point," Kasumi agreed.
"So you gonna try and learn new techniques?" Ranma asked, knowing why she asked in the first place.
"Maybe," she said with a grin as they walked past the gates into the house.
They saw everyone in the family room, with Ranko laying on the couch out cold and Genma an unconscious mess on the floor.
Ranma's eyes widened and he rushed into the room, moving faster than humanly possible. "What happened to her?" He demanded as he forced his way to her side.
"She read a letter," Megumi said while she noticed that Ranma wasn't even listening to her. His entire attention was on Ranko as he placed a hand on her forehead worriedly.
"Son," Soun said putting his hand on the boys shoulder. "I think you should be sitting down as you read this." He handed to Ranma an opened letter.
Ranma read the letter, now assured that Ranko was fine, and his eyes widened. His reaction wasn't as extreme as her's, though. He was more used to having stressful situations left and right. "Mom's coming here..." He whispered.
"Your mother?" Kasumi gasped, surprised by this but also knew this would be something Ranma would want.
"Yeah." Ranma looked up to see Ranko waking up a little. "And according to that letter, she'll be here tomorrow."
"The mother you haven't seen in so long," Kaede said dreamily. "It's just like a soap opera. Can we stay?"
Megumi shook her head. "You and the mushy stuff. Give me a fight any day of the week." She had a smirk on her face. "But as I said before, I would love to see how this all plays out."
"Come on, girls!" Ranko pouted. "You make it sound like my life here is the number one rated TV show in Japan!"
Ranma didn't pay any attention to it though. His mind was focused on one thing and one thing only.
He was finally going to see his mother!
To Be Continued...
Author's Notes:Yes, Nodoka will be showing up next chapter but don't expect a normal, happy go lucky reunion. This is the Saotome clan we are talking about after all. There will be many surprises for the tenth chapter and something you've long been suspecting will be confirmed in a very shocking way, one that will have long lasting ramifications. Until the next time...