Part One of Two
It was a typical day in the suburb of Nerima, Japan. Blue skies. Chirping birds. The laughter of small children on a bright sunny day… And one pig tailed martial artists being pursued by two fiancées, one cackling mad woman, four rivals, one perverted old master, another equally old Amazon ghoul, three cats, a ki sucking nine year old high school teacher and one giant, grinning Stay-Puff Marshmallow Man. All and all it was a pretty normal day for Ranma Saotome, gender cursed heir to the Anything Goes School of Martial Arts.
Well, almost normal.
Admittedly, the giant Stay-Puff Marshmallow Man was a bit of an anomaly, but Ranma took it in stride. Several strides even. Some would call it a flat out run. To his credit he had tried to stop the lumbering confection with a few well placed Moko Takabishas, only to find out that the high energy interaction between ki and marshmallow produced a less than desirable effect—molten marshmallow goo. Sadly, it hadn't been enough to put Mister Stay-Puff down for the count, but it had been enough to cover all the participants in today's Saotome 5k marathon in a scalding white coating of sugary goodness.
Ranma rounded a corner and silently prayed that he would be able to shake his pursuit. It was a prayer that would fall on deaf ears as fate had placed Akane Tendo dead center into his escape route. She knew what was happening. Fiancées. Ranma's betrothed stood before him and pulled a mallet out from behind her back like the Samurai of old. But this however was no ordinary mallet, however. No, Akane had been shopping and managed to pick up an honest-to-god dwarven war hammer with a +3 to strike pigtailed fiancées listed at fifty percent discount. She never could pass up those going out of business sales. Ranma saw the gleam in her eyes and tried to skid to a halt, but it was too late. She rolled the AC check and swung for the fences, launching her favorite two-timing pervert on a reverse trajectory that would send him sailing over the pursuing mob at Mach three and strait into the belly of Stay-Puff.
The Marshmallow Man didn't stand a chance. Ranma cut through him like an armor piercing pig tailed projectile, blowing a perfect hole strait through the jovial giant's body. He didn't remain jovial for long as a mach three wave of hydrostatic shock rippled through his mass and caused his plump white body to promptly explode, covering a five mile section of Nerima with giant globs of marshmallow stickiness. As for Ranma Saotome…?
His day was just getting started.
Ranma stepped through the door of the Tendo dojo and mentally set his countdown clock. By his estimates, he had about fifteen minutes before the world came crashing back down upon him and he was determined to use that time wisely… He was going to get a snack.
"Hello, Ranma-kun." Kasumi greeted cheerfully from the kitchen, and the martial artist couldn't help but to smile.
"Hi Kas-chan! Got anything to snack on?" He asked and she tilted her head curiously. "I'm kinda in a hurry."
Kasumi walked over to a counter and pulled out a few cookies from the jar and set them on a plate for Ranma. She had no doubts that the martial artist could easily finish off the entire jar with his version of a snack, but that just wouldn't do before lunch. "Here you go, Ranma." Kasumi watched him annihilated the snack with an unusual gusto and grew curious. "What's the rush?"
Crumbs fell from the martial artists mouth as he swallowed another cookie, this one practically whole. "Oh, just the usual."
"Oh my." Kasumi knew exactly what 'just the usual' was and gracefully stepped back into the kitchen in order to harden it against the coming apocalypse. She proceeded to lock the cabinets, hide the glass and secure all sharp utensils. With any luck, her domain within the house would come through relatively unscathed. Kasumi watched Ranma finish off the last cookie and considered the events surrounding his arrival. While the chaos that surrounded the boy was annoying, he was thoughtful and well meaning enough. Hardly the womanizer that her little sister portrayed him to be, she thought. And at least he gave her warning when trouble was about to land in his lap. When he could, that is. Life around the Saotome's didn't exactly follow a predictable pattern.
As if sensing her thoughts, Ranma looked up and smiled. "Don't worry, Kas-chan. I'll be outta here in another minute or so." Kasumi nodded and made final preparations. Akane really didn't know what she was missing and her attempts to subtly point that fact out to her sister had fallen on deaf ears.
Ranma stretched a bit in preparation for the next heat of his marathon when a silent warning blasted through his skull. No! It was too early! They couldn't be here alre—
"Shampoo find Airen!" Circulation to his left arm was immediately cut off as Shampoo's vice-like grip snaked around it, locking it and her body in place at his side. Ranma looked down into the bubbly Purple haired Amazon's smile and knew there could only be one thing coming next….
"HOW DARE YOU TOY WITH POOR AKANE'S HEART, RANMA!" Yep, that was it, Ranma thought as he twisted around to the source of the accusation, Ryoga Hibiki. The pigtailed martial artist had long ago since realized that such situations were like tumbling dominos… Once set in motion, they could only lead to one inescapable conclusion…
"Get off my Ran-chan, you Amazon Hussy!" Act two, scene one. Enter Ukyo. Even through the growing escalation of violence, Ranma noticed Nabiki watching the chaos play out from the stairway and silently wondered if he could get her to lay odds on who would tumble in next.
"Curse you, Saotome! Haveth thou not enough women to ensnare with thy wicked magicks!" You just can't turn a phrase any better than good ol' Kuno, he chuckled inwardly. Not that you would want to, but—
"Ranma, you enemy of women!" Blades flashed out of Mousse's sleeves as he demanded swift retribution from the TV. Ranma began moving to the doorway as the reaction of suitors and fiancées approached critical mass, and like it's nuclear counterpart would most likely explode violently when it did. 'Most likely?' Ranma snorted mentally as he corrected himself. Try 100 certainty. The last thing he needed was yet another hole in the wall or broken appliance blamed on him. He glanced at Kasumi. Especially when there were non-combatants in the area.
Kasumi watched from the sidelines, tentatively peeking out the kitchen and awaiting the finally catalyst that would send the already unstable mixture of social angst spinning wildly out of control. She had seen these situations enough to realize that it wasn't an 'if' but'when'. Then she saw it. The Catalyst. The Harbringer of Doom. The single trigger that spelled certain doom for the interior of the house…
The little sister took in the entire situation, Shampoo locked onto his arm and Ukyo in close proximity therein. The Catalyst armed, stage two, safeties unlocked. "What the HELL did you think your doing, Ranma?"
"Akane!" Ranma protested and Kasumi simply shook her head in disappointment. "It's not what you think!" The eldest sister watched as Ranma spoke the necessary armament codes and the Catalyst went into stage one meltdown. Detonation was all but assured.
"Oh, I think it's exactly what I think!" Akane fumed and brought a war hammer to bear. "Two-timing pervert!" Somewhere, a digital timer began cycling down to zero.
"I can't let let you live, Ranma!"
"I shall smite thee and freeth the fair Akane Tendo and the vibrant Pigtailed girl!"
"Ranma leave kitchen destroyer, date Shampoo!"
"Ran-chan's going to be my fiancée, Amazon slut!"
"I'll defend you, Shampoo!"
"Prepare to DIE, Saotome!"
Ranma Saotome braced for impact. Some days it just didn't pay to get out of bed.
Ranma was decisively engaged as knives, banadannas, a red umbrella, spatula shiruken, bambori and a dwarven war hammer whipped around the martial artist as he attempted to lead the battle outside without much success. Property damage was rapidly climbing when the unthinkable happened. Three more bandannas cut in and the tactical computer that took over Ranma's brain in combat instantly calculated the angle, direction and velocity, coming to a horrifying conclusion. He abandoned his herding efforts and rolled out to intercept the blurring clothe shirukens. The martial artist took one out with a clean deflection by hand. Ranma was out of position to take the second projectile out with certainty and threw his entire arm out to block it, pain cracking through its length. But the third…
Kasumi's eyes widened and she slammed the kitchen door shut just as the ki-infused bandanna hit, blowing the structure apart in a hail of fragmented wood. Ranma's eyes widened. A non-combatant- Kasumi of all people –had just been hit.
"ENOUGH!" Ranma's ki-enhansed voice roared over the fighters and everybody froze. The martial artists who had taken out a god emerged for the first time since that incident and there was no disputing the order. Playtime was over. "Everybody who doesn't live here… GET OUT." Shampoo looked like she was going to protest but was cut down in a withering stare. "Now."
Ryoga looked horrified for his part in the matter and left without a grumble. Shampoo was unwillingly escorted out by Mousse and even the Kendoist left without another word. Ukyo followed last. Akane simply stood rooted in place as Ranma picked through the wreckage that had once been a living room and stepped through the remains of a shattered kitchen door. He found Kasumi getting to her feet with a stunned look on her face, favoring an arm.
"Aw, shit Kasumi, I'm SO sorry!" Ranma stammered as he helped her gain her balance. "Your arm Okay?"
Despite the carnage that had just been visited upon her, Kasumi formed a weak smile. "It's okay, Ranma. Just a bruise." She saw the uncertainty in his eyes. "Really Ranma, it's ok. I think I will go up to room for some rest, however." He watched as she stepped over the remains of the door and padded silently up the stairs. Ranma cursed himself. Damn that wasn't supposed to happen.
"It's all your fau—"
A hard-edged stare cleaved through Akane's justification like a hot knife through butter and it stunned her into silence. "What's that in your hand again?" Akane's mouth fell open, then snapped shut. Her face turned a bright pink because he was right. The hammer disappeared quickly behind her back as she desperately tried to avoid eye contact. Ranma cared for Akane. Deeply. But he wouldn't accept any excuses when it came in to direct conflict with his honor, and if he had to accept Kasumi's injury as a direct result of his lifestyle, then Akane had damn well better for participating in the chaos herself.
Ranma turned away from her and guilt overcame him. He had to check on her. The pigtailed boy took to the stairs and encounter Nabiki, who had observed the entire incident. She subtly blocked his path. "Smooth, Saotome. Why didn't you do that before?"
Nabiki didn't concern him at the moment. "Because a non-combatant never got hurt, let alone Kasumi. She never done anything to anybody." He moved to step around her and she blocked his path obviously this time.
"She's tougher than she looks."
He studied her intently now. Nabiki was up to something, He knew it. "Look, she came damn close to taking Ryoga's bandanna and I'm gonna check on her. It's my responsibility." Ranma thought he was going to have to force his way by the sister for a moment until she simply shrugged and stepped aside.
Something like a faint smile crossed her lips and it caused Ranma to pause. "Don't say I didn't warn you."
He looked at her one last time and stepped up to Kasumi's door, twisting the handle. Normally her privacy would have been of primary importance, but his honor demanded not only a complete apology, but the insurance that she was in fact, ok. The door clicked open and he found Kasumi sitting upright on her bed. He paled in shock.
She was missing an arm.
Kasumi's head snapped up from the missing stump and locked onto Ranma.
Ranma Saotome staggered at the sight. Kasumi was not actually missing an arm. After all, it was lying on the bed right next to her. His mind rapidly began to shut down as his eyes snapped from the arm to her stump and back. Several possibilities rippled through the limited bandwidth his brain was now operating on, amputation being the first. But there was no blood and she didn't appear to be in any pain. He focused in on the stump and Kasumi simply watched patiently. A small mass of parts seemed to hang from the opening and Ranma took a tentative step forward to get a closer look.
"Um, Kas-chan…? Your arm…"
Kasumi favored him with a gentle smile. "The incident knocked it out of alignment, unfortunately." Ranma twitched. "It requires a simple adjustment."
Mental bandwidth started to open back up as he recognized Kasumi's trademark serenity. It helped stabilize him… Somewhat. She was still missing an arm. That was sitting on the bed. She picked the offending arm up and began to make adjustments to it with a small tool. "Prosthetics?" Ranma voiced his next theory.
The eldest Tendo maintained her smile and shook her head. "No, not prosthetics." Ranma was thoroughly confused and his mental process began to shut down once again. If it wasn't a prosthetic arm then what on earth… Seeing the complete confusion in his eyes, Kasumi let him off the hook. In a manner of speaking. "All of me is like this, Ranma-kun." His jaw dropped and she reconnected the arm, locking it in place with a click.
"Ah… Ah… All of you?"
Kasumi's smile brightened. "Maybe you had better explain it sister." She was talking past him and Ranma turned to find Nabiki in the hall behind him.
Nabiki nodded. Bluntness just wasn't a normal aspect of Kasumi's personality. The middle Tendo didn't have any such hang-ups however. "Kasumi's a machine, Ranma."
His conscious thought wavered. "Impossible."
"She can take off the other arm if you don't believe me." Nabiki commented and she was rewarded with a horrified look.
"Nonononono!" Ranma held up his hands in protest. "But how..? Hell, when for that matter!"
Kasumi stood up and walked over to the pair. Ranma simply stared. "I've always been like this, Ranma-kun." He looked at Nabiki for a translation.
A pained look crossed Nabiki's face. "The really Kasumi died with Mom in the crash. As she was… dying… A large corporation approached us and made us an offer."
"An offer." Ranma intoned, his voice clearly set in disbelief.
"We were offered a substantial amount of money to field test their new artificial person." Ranma stared at Nabiki in silence; still debating whether this was some complex scheme to make money off of him. "Kasumi was in a coma. It was only a matter of time and daddy couldn't let go."
"So the corporation took a sample of her DNA and combined it into their unit's programming." Nabiki continued. "After that, it was easy to model her to look exactly like the real Kasumi." She turned to her older 'sister'. "Why don't you give Saotome here a quick run-down of your specs."
Kasumi nodded. "I am a Type Three Mobile Autonomous Artificial Life Form. My central processor consists of high bandwidth crystalline monofilament core capable of learning and processing at fifty billion instructions per second. My functions are sustained by a biomass reactor with a functional life of three hundred and fifty years under normal usage. I was originally designated unit prototype 001, serial number 804115," Then she favored Ranma with a twinkle in her eye.
"…But you can call me Kasumi."
Ranma was speechless as she served dinner, but then, who was the recipient of a gender changing curse to doubt such an outlandish explanation? He could dismiss Nabiki. Hell, Nabiki being an android would have been more believable than sweet, innocent Kasumi. But then it did go a long way towards explaining how she readily accepted the unbelievable chaos that surrounded his life. Phoenix birds. Dragons. Gods. Stay-Puff Marshmallow men. He had always assumed that Kasumi lived in her own little reality and dismissed the happenings with an 'ignorance is bliss' attitude. Even her ki had always felt a bit off… Maybe because it wasn't ki at all? Now that kasumi was revealed to be… artificial… It kinda made sense.
Kasumi watched Ranma and hid her trepidation. The secret that they had kept for the past two years was out and she sincerely hoped that it wouldn't break the family apart. Scenarios ran through her crystalline brain and like so many other incidents involving the young Saotome, a clear-cut outcome didn't present itself. There was one factor that could be counted on in every single one of those scenarios and that was Ranma's honor. It was a sticky thing, she realized long ago and Kasumi did so love the mental challenge his multiple engagements provided her. There were so many variables to consider and she thoroughly enjoyed processing through them all. Combined with the inherent chaos in his life, it made for a challenging and highly unpredictable dynamic. She had one of the most advanced chipsets ever designed for a brain and secretly rejoiced with every new element that imbedded itself into Ranma's life. Calculating their cause and effects was several magnitudes more enjoyable than simply cooking for the family.
Still, the one thing that remained constant through it all was Saotome's honor, which created its own whirlwind of chaos. It placed his actions in direct contrast with those of his father and the numerous engagements he was unwitting place into. How many was still unknown, but Kasumi was certain they would keep her happily generating scenarios for some time to come. Now it was supremely ironic that she was forced to consider a new element in those very scenarios, one she had never even considered before.
And she was worried. Ranma was such a nice boy. Sure the chaos in his life created a certain amount of property destruction that could be bothersome to contend with, but it he made her life so much more interesting. Now that he knew The Secret, there was no telling how he would react or where his honor would take him. Especially with her sisters for keeping such a secret. The possible scenarios were positively titillating, yet frightening.
"What's wrong with you tonight, Boy?" Genma Saotome was worried himself. The boy in question was successfully defending his plate against his Meal-Fu technique, but wasn't bothering to try and take any back.
Ranma took a quick glance at Kasumi. "Nothin' Pops. Just got stuff on my mind."
Genma peered at him once more and nudged Soun, who smiled. The schools were going to be joined, of course. Ranma finished the last morsel off his plate and considered his next words very carefully.
"That was a very good meal, Kas-chan."
Kasumi smiled with a combination of pleasure and relief. It was obvious that he still had a lot on his mind, but those words went a long way to assuring her that she was still accepted by the young martial artist. Still, it would probably be best to have a talk with him later on.
His passive table manners weren't lost on Akane either. "Yeah, what's wrong with you now?" Her tone was dripping with sarcasm, still smarting from the earlier lunchtime redress.
"He knows." Nabiki mentioned simply, but the effect on Akane was profound. Kasumi simply sat and ate for her part.
Ranma noticed no discernable reaction from Soun as he lifted himself from the table. He decided this was going to take at least a few hours of katas to work out, and made his way to the dojo.
"Is it so bad Ranma?"
He froze in mid-strike and found Kasumi standing in the doorway of the practice hall. Kasumi the robot girl. Ranma fell out of his kata stance and studied the eldest Tendo carefully. A few hours ago he wouldn't even had suspected that there was no blood flowing through her veins. Heck, he could still barely accept the fact himself. Of course, it was hard to dispute the re-attachment of an arm he witnessed first hand.
"Nah, I guess not." Ranma answered, and Kasumi took the reply as an invitation to enter the hall. "Just a surprise, that's all."
"You're taking it quite well." She observed as he wiped the sweat from his brow, evidence of how hard he had pushed though his practice.
"Heh," Ranma chuckled. "Remember who you're talkin' to? I just got done being chased by a giant marshmallow earlier today.
Kasumi giggled, and sat down next to him. "A very good point. I guess I should give you a bit more credit."
"Look, I don't know how to say this…" He avoided eye contact, staring at the ground. "I, uh, don't care whatcha are… I'm sorry about this afternoon…"
Kasumi blinked. "Oh…"
Ranma's head snapped up suddenly. "Not that I mean that you're not a girl or nothin'!" he stammered, regardless of the fact that she technically wasn't. "I mean, um… It's just that I'm sorry and you… Uh… Aw crap." He watched Kasumi simply stare at him and he fell into a slump. "Me an my big mouth." Needless to say, he was surprised when a hand fell gently on his shoulder.
"Why are you sorry, Ranma-kun? That was the nicest thing anybody has ever said to me." Ranma cocked his head in surprise. "I can't think of a higher compliment to paid than the one you just gave me."
"I, uh…" Sometimes there were advantages to being clueless and this time Ranma decided that his total inability to see Kasumi as a machine was one of them. "Come on, what about Akane and Nabiki? How about Mister Tendo?"
A slight frown crossed Kasumi's face now. "Akane and Nabiki… It's a complex relationship. Suffice to say that there is a line to exactly how much of a sister they consider me. As for Mister Tendo…" Kasumi's frown deepened and Ranma was beginning to be sorry he even brought the matter up in the first place. "He is still in denial. A rather unhealthy denial."
They sat in silence for a moment and Ranma decided a tactical change in subject was in order. "You're not like any computer I've ever met…er, used… Whatever."
Kasumi giggled again and his cheeks flushed. "And why do you say that?"
"Well, if I hadn't seen the arm, I wouldn't have had a clue." Ramna explained. "It's kinda confusing… Is that really you, or were you just made all nice?"
"I suspect that if you complimented Akane half as much as you're complimenting me, you'd be married by now." She replied with a mischievous grin and Ranma's blush deepened. "But to answer your question, I am really me. Of course, I had some basic programming added, but I am fully aware of myself and can make my own decisions and have emotions."
"Frankly, I'm happy you're talking it so well." She added and the question lit up his eyes. "After all, I'd hate for one of my principle sources of enjoyment not to like me."
Ranma was thoroughly confused. "I'm a source of… Enjoyment for you?" That's when he realized he should probably stop asking questions as they were only leading to increasingly bizarre answers.
"The excitement you bring to the household is quite enjoyable," Kasumi admitted. "With you around, I never know what is going to happen next. Simply trying to calculate all the permutations and outcomes brightens my day considerably." Ok, NOW she was starting to sound like a computer, Ranma noted silently as she continued. "Without you and your father, life would be much duller."
Ranma was struck by a rare moment of insight and sympathized with her aloud. "Wow… As smart as you have ta be stuck cooking and cleaning house…" He could only imagine the mind numbing boredom. Like he would be if he were forced to forgo martial arts in favor of those activities. The very thought sent shivers down his spine.
Now it was Kasumi's turn to be surprised. He understood. He truly understood. It wasn't a torturous existence by any means. She loved to cook, after all. The act of creating something that gave others pleasure pleased her to no end, but for it to be the end all, be all of her existence… The eldest Tendo watched as a smile began to creep across Saotome's face.
"Oh nothing…" Ranma replied, though it was plainly obvious it was something. "Say, what you doing tomorrow?"
"Same thing I do every day, Ranma-kun." She admitted with the tiniest bit of remorse in her voice. Ranma appeared to pay it no heed.
"Can you get up about, say, an hour or so earlier?" He asked and her curiosity grew exponentially.
"Good! I gotta go get some homework done. See yas tomorrow morning!" And with that, Ranma bounced out of the dojo, leaving a perplexed Kasumi Tendo in his wake.
Ranma was up to something. It didn't take a brain the size of Kasumi's to realize, especially after he asked her to go change into something more 'rugged'. She made her way down the stairs for the second time this morning and while Ranma wasn't completely satisfied, he nodded his approval at her jeans and loose fitting sky blue top before leading her out to… The dojo?
"Ranma… What do you have in mind?" She could guess easily enough. Dojo. Rugged clothing. Ranma Saotome.
"We're gonna make your life more exciting!" Ranma smiled and took to the mat.
"But I already know martial arts."
This gave Ranma some pause. "You do?"
Kasumi nodded. "One of the pieces of software I was pre-loaded with was a basic self defense course."
"Which style?" He asked curiously.
"Tae Kwon Do, brown belt."
"Feh." Ranma sniffed with an amused expression and rolled his eyes. "I said we're going to make your life interesting. Now watch." Ranma stood for a moment with indecision. She already had some basic knowledge, though by her reactions to yesterday's events, no practical application. Now all he had to do was select a demonstration kata. Ranma nodded to himself and picked a mid range form that would emphasis both ground and aerial technique. It wasn't anything a beginner to Anything Goes would be able to accomplish on their first day, but would display the dynamics that could be employed. The martial artists then began a five minute exhibition that burned through multiple techniques across a wide spectrum of the Anything Goes school while Kasumi watched him intently, studying every movement. The kata finally ground to a halt and she noticed he hadn't even worked up a sweat.
"But I'm not sure I want to—" He smiled at her, cutting off her protest.
"What's your hobby again?"
"Calculating the variables and permutations in your life? Mapping the different outcomes and branches each new element impacts."
"You're gonna so love this." Ranma stated smugly and set up for the next kata. Kasumi watched once more as he began to roll through the same movements. What was he trying to—Her eyes widened as Ranma suddenly diverged from the basic kata and leapt into a whole new series of movements that blended in and out of the original with smooth, flawless precision. Just when Kasumi thought she could identify a pattern, the twisting martial artist diverged from the norm once more. Calculating his movements was proving to be quite a challenge, as there seemed to be no predictable set of variables to—
Ranma spun through the last of his kata with a grin, knowing the point had been driven home. He slowed and stopped, enjoying the look of surprise on Kasumi's face as she stood at the edge of the mat.
"Lots of them variables to predict, huh?" Ranma commented cheerfully, to which Kasumi could only nod dumbly. "More than a couple outcomes?" Another surprised, dumb nod. "What you just saw is the bedrock of The Anything Goes School of Martial Arts—dynamic, unpredictable combat using a wide range of styles and techniques woven together to form a supremely adaptable style."
Kasumi was in shock. The depth of his hobby was a revelation in and of itself because it was exactly as he described it; An art filled with a massive number of permutations, variables and outcomes that could be chosen or dismissed on the fly. Tae Kwon Do didn't hold a candle to it. While that was impressive enough, two other concepts occupied the bulk of her high bandwidth monofilament crystalline brain. First, how eerily similar their hobbies actually were, even if the subject matter was entirely different. Second, the fact that Ranma was actually going out of his way to make her life interesting based on her wants and desires. That was something that hadn't occurred for a very long time.
"Now you may have some training, but it's obvious you don't have practical experience." Ranma outlined his observations aloud. "Why don't you show me what you've got so I can get a feel for your skills."
Kasumi nodded and the two traded spaces. She took up a stance at the center of the mat and Ranma's smile faltered slightly. She was starting out in a standard Anything Goes combat stance? I thought she said she only knew—Ranma's thoughts were instantly obliterated as Kasumi launched into a kata that was decidedly not Tae Kwon Do based and at a skill level obscenely higher than any brown belt could have produced. In fact, it was the exact same kata he had just finished running through for her. Now it was Ranma's turn to stare in shock as he watched what amounted to a mirror image of himself dance across the dojo mat. That shock deepened considerably as she began to modify her style, actively incorporating elements of Tae Kwon Do into her technique. By itself, it wasn't that spectacular until one considered that she was making it up on the fly and using a style she had seen only twice before… Let's just say Ranma Saotome was damn impressed, and that alone was no small feat when it came to martial arts.
Kasumi's kata wound down and her face affected her trademark serenity. "Was that what acceptable?"
"Uh, Kas-chan…?" Ranma shook himself out his mental stupor. "How'd ya do that?"
"You copied my kata almost exactly," Ranma explained. "…and mixed some Tae Kwon Do in there to boot. I thought you said you were only a brown belt?"
She stood confused for a moment, then realized his dilemma with absolute clarity. "I committed your kata to memory as you performed it. After that, it was a simple matter to recall and duplicate it." Kasumi explained and Ranma nodded dumbly. "From there, I simply added my knowledge of Tae Kwon Do in."
"So you mimicked my style after only seeing it twice from memory and developed your own practice kata on the fly." It didn't sound like a question, but it was.
Kasumi simply nodded once more as if it were nothing. "Did I do something wrong? I was pretty sure those were the primary tenants of your school."
Ranma remained silent and studied the woman in front of him. It kinda made sense given what she actually was. Probably has a photographic memory, he reasoned silently. Like me when it comes to martial arts. Still, even I couldn't go from zero to a limited mastery in the span of ten minutes. I'm good, but not that good, Ranma admitted to himself. How best to train her then…? Ah, that might work… Especially with a memory like hers.
Ranma came to a decision and produced a lopsided grin. "Alright, Kas-chan… Let's see just how much you can soak up in the remaining half an hour we got before Pops wakes up…"
The good cheer was getting on Akane's nerves. And so was the smile. Why Ranma was so happy this morning was beyond her at the moment, but she knew from experience that it was a foreboding portent. Not that she was necessarily adverse to the concept of her fiancée being happy, just that liberal amounts of chaos usually followed in the form of women, glomping and other two-timing perverted shenanigans; Normally in that order. Neither was this lost on Nabiki Tendo, who picked up on a fact that her sister missed—The double helpings on Ranma's plate.
Apparently Kasumi was feeling generous.
Not exactly the reaction I was expecting after Ranma found her missing a limb, she thought and continued to study their interaction. No hard feelings, extra helpings and all smiles. She imagined that was supposed to be a good thing, but she knew… Knew that with Ranma Saotome, good things led to unpleasant surprises and chaos. Nabiki couldn't have known it, but she and Kasumi were more alike than she realized as the middle sister ran down the probability and outcomes tree like it was second nature. The only difference between the two was that one did it for fun, the other risk assessment and profit. The other was also determined to find out exactly what was up.
They finished up and Kasumi took the dishes away. Nabiki pounced as Ranma began to climb the stairs. "What are you up to, Saotome?"
Ranma paused in ascent. "Up to?"
"Cut with the 'innocent martial arts jock' act." She pressed. "You know what Kasumi is and you're acting like she's just another everyday person."
"Why wouldn't I?" Ranma shrugged. "If she's everything you told me, there's no reason not to. Seems nice enough to me."
"She's not Kasumi, Ranma." Nabiki stated with a hint of hostility. "My sister died years ago."
An uneasy feeling began to creep through Ranma. This wasn't a conversation he really wanted to be having because even he could recognize the angst roiling just below the surface. "Look, I got no say in that. All I know is the person I met two years ago is the pretty much the same one that I saw last night."
Nabiki studied the martial artist intently now. "How can you just accept her?" Of course she had, but it had taken years to do it. Even then, there was always a line that Nabiki never allowed herself to cross. Kasumi was closer to a nanny or maid than anything else. And she knew Akane felt the same way. Daddy, on the other hand…
Ranma forced a smile before turned back for the stairs. "Trust me when I say my entire life has been one huge crash course in acceptance."
A fist blew by Ranma's head at high speed, and her narrowly dodged the attack. Damn she was fast, he noted for perhaps the hundredth time in two weeks. The happy homemaker super computer android named Kasumi continued to impress the young martial artist to no end as he progressed through her early morning training. A kick snapped up and Ranma was forced to block it, reverse and disengage. Strong too. He normally had a rule against hitting girls, but pretty soon he wouldn't have a choice in the matter if he was going to continue training her. Besides, at the rate she was progressing, she would be able to take a hit, unlike a certain tomboy he knew.
Simply put, she was just getting too good.
Kasumi was soaking up his technique like a high-density martial arts sponge, and the most difficult part of it all turned out not in the learning, but the actual application and weaving of technique into one cohesive form. She could copy anything he showed her after seeing it only once, though improvisation remained a challenge. An aerial roundhouse kick flew overhead and Ranma snorted mentally. Improvisation or lack thereof, she was still better than ninety percent of the world martial artists out there. In two weeks no less.
Ranma disengaged once more, this time holding up hand. Kasumi knew the sign and dropped out of her stance. Enough sparring for the session.
"You're gettin' better, Kas-chan!" Ranma grinned. It was the truth too. Prior to her morning practices, she had never had a reason to feel out her body's limits and her reaction times and strength had been steadily increasing each morning. Sure, she knew the specs hardwired in her BIOS, but it was like cooking in a way. She was still getting a feel for it and engineers always built in room for tolerances anyway. "You just gotta polish those transitions up a bit though."
Kasumi smiled politely at the praise, then frowned slightly. "Hmmm… There are so many variables and branches to choose from. It's difficult to the form the proper response from all the available options."
Ranma rolled her words around in his head and a small realization suddenly snapped into place. "What do you mean all the available options?"
"Depending on the circumstances, I've observed that there can be up to several thousand techniques and counter techniques to be employed within a finite space—" Kasumi watched Ranma's eyes roll back, an indication that she had since learned meant too much information. It was only became an issue when she was talking about her hobby, so she summarized for him instead. "I mean there is too much to decide on at once, especially if I want to plan further into the fight."
"Well there's your problem."
"Problem, Sensei?" She smiled cutely and Ranma couldn't help but to smile back.
"Sure. You're thinking too much." Kasumi simply blinked and he continued. "You think I run through every conceivable move available before I do it? Heck no. I suspect I'm better at improvising than you, but sill, you simply don't need ta plan it all out in advance."
"Then what do you suggest?" She asked. "I can't just start with random—"
"Nonono…"Ranma cut her off gently, but with authority. "Here… Maybe do it this way; Think about what you know about me and my style." Kasumi nodded. "Now pick stuff you know would be good against me-" He held up the finger once more. "-NOT all of it. Just some." Kasumi nodded once more and Ranma stepped into a defensive stance. "If the stuff you chose don't work, you can always grab more until it does, Got it? Begin!"
It took less than thirsty seconds of sparring to realize that he had created a monster. Ranma flipped left and began to throw guards up left and right as Kasumi's responses and transition time improved exponentially beyond what they had been a mere five minutes ago. After five more minutes of defensive observations, Ranma called the practice to a halt once more.
Kasumi noticed the light frown on his face. "Did I do something wrong?"
Ranma simply shook his head. "Nah… but just warning ya…"
"Looks like tomorrow I got to start hittin' back."
"Whatever you're doing to her, stop it." Those words stopped Ranma dead in his tracks. He swivled around to face Nabiki and saw she was wearing her game face. In other words, all business. She obviously knew something was up so there was no point in even denying it. That didn't mean he couldn't make her work for it.
"Why should I?"
Her game face flickered and for a moment saw another- The face of nobility expressing her annoyance to a peasant. Ranma hated nobility. That look more than anything else decided the outcome of the conversation before it even began. "Because Saotome, she's becoming unpredictable."
Nabkik cast a sharp stare into the martial artist. "She's a machine Ranma. Machines are supposed to be predictable. Whatever you're doing is making her do… Stuff."
Now Ranma was curious. "What sort of… 'Stuff'?"
"Stuff like Aerobics, Saotome." She spat back at him. "Robots don't do aerobics." They do if they're looking to explore their limits, Ranma surmised but held his silence. "She's been skipping making our meals. She's painting of all things. And that's just the tip of iceburg."
The look Nabiki received was one of absolute boredom. "You do realize how stupid that sounds…?"
Nabiki snapped at his impudence, snarling back, "Of course it does, but that's not the point! The point is she's becoming less and less predictable since you started you started to interact with her. Appliances should be predictable and you're not helping."
Appliance? Ranma's gaze narrowed sharply on the sister. Nabiki had finally hit The Wall, a part of Ranma that would seek no compromise concerning his friends and love ones. The middle Tendo was asking him to abandon somebody who had done nothing but treat him- perhaps the only person –with absolute respect. If there was one thing the girl in front of him should have known by now, it was that Ranma Saotome never abandoned the people he considered his friends.
"And if I don't?"
Nabiki paused for a split second as his tone took on a dangerous edge, but the moment quickly passed. This was Saotome and the initial blustering protest was to be expected. All she need do is apply subtle pressure and he'll fold like a piece of paper. "Then I'll just to make your life hell."
She shivered as the temperature dropped around her suddenly. It wasn't an emotional reaction… The temperature was actually dropping around her future brother in-law. "More than you already are? Just remember one thing, Nabs," He leaned in and she took a step back. His facial expression was a mask of ice. "Even my patience has a limit." Ranma let the threat hang in the air before simply walking away and out the door.
Few have would suspect that little within the house walls escaped Kasumi's notice and her augmented hearing easily picked up the conversation between Ranma and Nabiki. The middle sister's thoughts were to be expected. They stung, but were expected. Ranma's however made her glow. A wide smile crossed her face.
She would have to think of a positively unpredictable reward for her unlikely champion.
End Part One.
Was going to originally make this one big story, but I have the attention span of a fly so I divided it up into two parts so I can move onto other projects, then come back to this one later. I know, it's cruel to leave you hanging, but I have an overactive imagination and too many projects on my plate :p
Part 2: Kasumi does something unpredictable. The sisters find their family stability threatened. Pressure on Ranma mounts from all sides. Can you love an android? Can they love back? Is Old Man Winters really the person haunting Scooby and the Gang? Part 2 holds all the answers to these and other burning questions.