M Shadowy, Lunatic Ascendant
(Disclaimer: Obviously, these things belong not to I: Ranma 1/2 belongs to Rumiko Takahashi und Viz, Tenchi Muyo to Pioneer Entertainment, and Azumanga Daioh! to Kiyohiko Azuma. For the cameos, Toru Watanabe belongs to Koshi Rikudo, the Taiidani and Vaygr to Relic and Sierra/Vivendi Universal. Blaaaarg.)
The girl was, to put it somewhat lightly, out of her depth. This was no longer particularly unusual for her; she had been operating in a state of out-of-her-depthness since the beginning of last semester, and had been doing fairly well despite being a normal, if extremely well trained, teenage girl. Despite her self assurance that she was normal, however, Akane Tendo was very decidedly not so.
See, for example, the reason she had been out of her depth since the beginning of the last semester - one (1) Tatewaki Kuno. Kuno, who was so extraordinarily weird that Akane seemed innutterably tame in comparison, had in his pigheaded arrogance declared that Akane was free for anyone to date. Provided one could first defeat her in combat, of course. In another place, this likely would have done little more than garner some odd looks and maybe some laughter. Not so in Nerima, and Kuno's declaration had led to an increasingly large number of idiots attempting to bludgeon her unconscious for reasons beyond the scope of human comprehension. This was hardly normal, and the fact that Akane continually prevailed where the average marine would have been pounded into a mushy paste (provided he was, of course, unarmed) merely showed her own abnormality.
Despite being a supreme annoyance, it was also excellent training, and Akane's skill had steadily improved. Indeed, her abilities had grown to the point where the pseudo-army attacking her could no longer even tag her, and some of them were fairly skilled. Understandably, she had developed a correspondingly high degree of confidence in her abilities. Then, as if to spite her adaptation, the situation had grown even stranger, and that, as they said, was saying a lot. Under the looming specter of a superlatively uncomfortable silence, she glanced over at her new companion, feeling a mix of pity and envy.
Pity because her companion was covered in a layer of soft fuzz that shouldn't have been there, and was a sex that she hadn't been born as and hadn't desired to be. One might question her blithe acceptance, but two things led her to believe the explanation given to her. The first was that she was in Nerima, and strange things happened therein. The second was Ranma's father, not only because he turned into a gigantorous panda, but also because he was in possession of a more than adequate supply of stupid to initiate the tragic events that had supposedly occurred. The envy, on the other hand, was largely because of Ranma's superlative martial arts skills. Akane could safely admit that she hadn't ever really seen anyone quite as good, though perhaps Kuno came close. None of her envy, not even a little, stemmed from the fact that Ranma's unnatural body was somewhat significantly more shapely than her own, non-magically acquired form. Really!
Still, Akane was at her core a good person. Insanely violent, perhaps, but good, even if it was in a violent way, and as such she was not going to be a jerk to the poor girl walking beside her. This did not, however, prevent her from pointing out that Ranma's disguise sucked. "That's never going to work." Akane noted.
Ranma pouted at Akane, before tugging the bucket-style hat down a tad lower over her head. "Will too." Muttered the Kitsune-no-Usagi with sure defiance. A lot of effort had gone into her "average school-girl" disguise, such as it was. Unfortunately, as said beasty-girl had what appeared to be red skin, huge, triangular ears that her hat didn't even begin to cover, and a ridiculously huge bunny tail just over her butt, even attempting said disguise was clearly a massive exercise in futility. As such, Akane just rolled her eyes, and continued walking.
And, after a moment, decided to continue along her previous course; even if it wasn't exactly endearing it was better by far than the uncomfortable silence that would otherwise be present. "Honestly, Ranma... the only person who that could possibly fool would be Kuno."
Ranma actually seemed to swell with pride at the thought that her costume would fool someone, before promptly deflating at the realization that this Kuno was probably a king-sized chump. There was a pause, and then Ranma asked, almost hesitantly, "Okay, I'll bite. Who's Kuno?" Akane blinked at her, opened her mouth to explain, and then realized that she couldn't. "Uh... Akane?" Ranma wheedled, perhaps slightly concerned.
Akane paused, clearly thinking furiously, before finally shrugging. No mere words could describe Kuno; any description would be at best a rough approximation. Besides, one could only repeat 'stupid jerk' only so many times before it got old. "He's... he's Kuno, okay!" She finally answered, "He's... he's just a... awww, you'll see him soon enough." Then, almost as an afterthought, she added, "Come on, we don't want to be late!" And dashed off.
Ranma blinked, shrugged, and took off in pursuit. She was certain that this Kuno chump couldn't possibly be that bad, and was at once both utterly correct and horribly wrong. Quickly, she caught up with Akane, then matched her pace. She grinned slightly, glancing over at her companion. Sure, she wasn't half the martial artist Ranma was, but she was still decent enough, and kinda cute too. She sighed softly. It was too bad they were both girls.
The run took only another minute, and Akane became increasingly agitated. For understandable reasons, she really hated the morning rush. She didn't like having to fight past a horde of idiots every morning, and very nearly hated Kuno for his part in it. And as she was almost as bad as one Ranma Saotome at concealing her emotions, it was readily apparent. "Uh, Akane, what's wrong?" The answer she received was extremely simple. "I. Hate. Boys!" A sudden confusion swept over Ranma; she was a boy, in mind if not body, so she was understandably concerned. At the same time, the not inconsiderable part of her that found Akane attractive let out a mental cheer.
Still, that explanation didn't really explain anything. "Akane, what the hell does that have to do with Gah?" The Gah was, of course, a direct response to the small horde of boys boiling out of Furinkan High Schools front gates. "Akane, I LOVE you!" One of them shouted in a voice just one step shy of deranged. While pulling back his fist to let loose a mighty punch. This was, of course, entirely the wrong way to go about proclaiming one's love, but every last member of the mob seemed to think that it was more than acceptable. Said Tendo, on the other hand, disagreed, which she displayed by proceeding to utterly demolish her opposition. Ranma, from her vantage point atop the fence (she momentarily forgot that she was trying to keep a low profile), was actually impressed.
Last night, Ranma had thought Akane was a decent fighter. And, in a one on one fight, that described her perfectly; not even to close to spectacular, but hardly bad either. Against a group, however, she was good. Perhaps even very good. Ranma doubted she would have still been standing if she didn't know how to use the mass of bodies against itself. Still... "What the hell?" She asked, not getting an answer. Judging from the way Akane was working the crowd she'd been doing this for a while, but the question of why remained; she doubted it was because Akane enjoyed it, the look on that notables face spoke volumes. The battle was over quickly, and Ranma leapt down, intent on answers.
"What the hell was that about Akane?"
As Akane glanced over at her something small zoomed past them and smacked into a tree in the background. Akane, being used to this idiocy, ignored it, but Ranma tracked to where it's flight terminated. Unable to quite make it out amongst the foliage, Ranma blinked, then looked to Akane, who had just opened her mouth to explain. "Truly, such a boorish lot..." That... did not sound like Akane. At all. Both looked over towards where the voice was coming from as a tall, handsome youth stepped out from behind a tree. "Oh. Kuno..." Akane intoned flatly, clearly unimpressed with the older boy's hauteur. "To think that they desire to date with... Hgurk!" Kuno's thoughts, such as they were, came to an abrupt halt as he opened his eyes and spied Ranma standing next to Akane.
Ranma, for her part, did not notice Kuno's mental derailment. Her thought's were elsewhere, namely, the unconscious idiots all around them. 'This was all so they could get a date? Are they that desperate?' Ranma thought, glancing around her in a mixture of stunned amazement and disgust. One thought occurred to her, something she'd never thought she would ever think for any reason. 'Feh. Men!' Ranma's confusion, however, was brought to an sudden end as Kuno's mental processes finally ground back into motion. And from somewhere deep within his unfathomable lobes lurched a thought which Kuno didn't even try to stop from busting forth. "Monster!" Because he was an idiot.
"... what?" Ranma asked, mentally still elsewhere but rapidly shifting gears. Kuno had, after all, referred to her as a monster. This was something she found, at the very least, irritating. Two reasons typically presented themselves: the first was that it reminded her of her formerly human status, and the second was that people typically attacked her after making such proclamations. Ranma narrowed her eyes, a slight frown gracing her lips as she contemplated pounding the jerk into the ground. Kuno, of course, misinterpreted this as Ranma cowering in terror.
Kuno didn't let his target's obvious irritation ward him off, however. Gesturing his Bokken towards the sky, he bellowed yet more irritating nonsense. "Foul Kappa, hiding in the shadow of Akane! No doubt you intend to pervert my Fierce Tigress to your foul ends!"
This proceeded to make both girls even more annoyed with Kuno, adding to the scale of his impending doom. "What?" Ranma almost demanded; she was having trouble keeping her voice calm, and unconsciously clenched her fists. Beside her, Akane echoed the sentiment, stiffening dangerously. Kuno, of course, misinterpreted this as Akane preparing to leap into his loving embrace, and Ranma cowering in terror.
"And that uniform!" Kuno continued, still oblivious. "What dark purpose have you for this school!" He demanded. Somewhere, perhaps, some part of Kuno's psyche was whispering, urgently, 'Dude, shut up before you get us killed!' "Well! Answer me!" Then again, perhaps not.
Asking "What" at this point was no longer applicable. Kuno's ranting was pushing all of the wrong buttons. Ranma twitched. Akane scowled. Both subtly began to ready themselves for the impending Kuno-Assault they were about to initiate. Kuno, of course, misinterpreted this as Akane preparing to aid him in defeating the wicked monster beside her, before leaping into his loving arms, and Ranma cowering in terror.
"As long as I, Tatewaki Kuno, the Blue Thunder of Furinkan High, still draw breath, you will never set foot inside this school, foul beast! I shall strike you down and release the beauteous Akane from your vile clutches! Have at you!" And he did. Kuno flashed forward like a speeding train, his weapon raised to strike like lightning from on high. Yes, the demon was doomed! He would save the glorious Akane and the school and... proceed to run, face first, into two separate punches from two equally separate but highly annoyed females. And so ended Ranma's first battle with Kuno.
But hardly the last.
Akane was, of course, completely correct when she had said that Ranma's disguise was doomed to fail. And as it completely neglected to do anything about say, one fuzzy tail or two large, fuzzy ears it failed spectacularly. For example only one person failed to notice Ranma's abhuman nature the moment she stepped into the class room and that had more to do with apathy than any other factor. Captain Apathy, also known as Toru Watanabe, found himself hard-pressed to remain oblivious to his new students unusual nature, though, as every student in his class stared blankly at the new arrival. Feeling a type of dread that had become quite familiar at his old job, he slowly turned his head to take in the Ranma's appearance. 'Sonuva... I thought I'd left this type of thing behind when I left Fukuoka.'
Externally, however, he remained calm. "Well, class, I'd like you to say hello to a new student. This is Ranma Saotome. She's just gotten back from a training trip in China so let's all give a warm uh... 'Ni Hao' welcome." The students, still stunned, proceeded to automatically do so. To the new kids side, Akane Tendo stood, looking somewhat worried, and Ranma scowled, looking somewhat more than merely miserable but at the same time dangerously defiant. 'Oh brother.' Watanabe thought. "Is there a problem?"
"No Sensei." Ranma lied gracelessly and bowed stiffly, before glancing back at the class. "Alright," Watanabe said tiredly. "Get to your seats." As the two headed off and rapidly found their places, Toru Watanabe studiously turned his back and began to write on the board, bound and determined to ignore the inevitable student press on the newcomer unless it got seriously out of hand. And, with their apathetic teachers attention elsewhere, the students finally sprang into action, barely paying attention to the lecture as they bombarded Ranma with questions, on tiny little bundles of paper. It didn't take very long for there to be a considerable pile of them. She shook her head, knowing she could expect nothing else. At least the interest in her seemed benign.
Shunting the problem of her classmates aside, she settled in to watch Watanabe-san's lecture but was soon half asleep. His droning voice and somewhat lacking interest in teaching certainly wasn't helping things, but Ranma had little interest in scholarly matters anyway. Deciding that remaining awake was probably a good idea, she decided to check out the notes. Surreptitiously she opened one of them and peered over the contents, blinking blankly for a moment before she shredded it into pieces, and twitched. Alright, so it hadn't been hate-mail, but the missive it had borne had been... perverted. 'Geeze, what a freak.' Sighing, she shook her head, and went on to the next one.
Covering the varied contents of the mound of notes would take up far too much space and time to be worth it; the number was quite excessively large. Roughly a third of the notes wondered if she could please remove the hat, and show them what she looked like without it. These notes largely went unshredded. The ones that were shredded were those that went Bam, and kicked that particular request up a notch by asking if she'd be so kind as to take off everything else at the same time. The rest seemed to ask random questions echoing a mix of concern and (to Ranma's mind) morbid curiosity, both of which were vastly preferable to scorn. Aside from tone, however, most of the messages asked very predictable questions. 'What are you?' 'Who did this to you?' Blah, blah, blah. She'd heard it all before and was utterly fed up with such queries.
But this being Furinkan, normalcy could not last long, and eventually she'd have to come across yet another oddball message. And, finally, with two left, she did. Ranma opened the message, and blinked. "Mascot?" She couldn't help but blurt. The student behind her, one Daisuke Ito, looked over her shoulder, blinked himself, and shrugged. "I think it's a great idea." He was quite careful to say so loud enough that the entire class could hear, but not quite enough for Apathy-Man to respond. Unfortunately, he did not quite anticipate the degree of reaction his comment would receive, for with this, all pretenses of discipline were abandoned. Like a tidal wave of bodies, the entire class proceeded to mash themselves into the limited space around Ranma's desk trying to find out what the "great idea" happened to be.
There was no way a teacher, no matter how blithe, could possibly ignore the ensuing ruckus. Ah, the excited babble of girls discussing something interesting, the braying chuckles of brash young men, the irritated shout of "Hey, watch the hands!" and the meaty smack of someone getting punched in the arm. Watanabe was about to break up the group when the hubbub dimmed slightly and one stepped forward from the crowd. "Um... Sensei?" One of the girls (Akane's friend Sayuri, as a point of fact) asked. Watanabe nodded for her to continue, and she did. "Can... can we... make her our class mascot?"
Watanabe blinked, his flat gaze showing no other sign of shock. Then, in a motion long since familiar to the class, he swept over to his desk, pulled out a king sized bottle of pain-killers, and popped an indeterminate amount of them into his mouth. Just a precaution, folks. "Yeah. Sure. Whatever." He finally answered.
"YEAAAHH!" Cheered the class; several of the boys hefted Ranma out of her seat and prepared to give her a victory throw. The more sensible members of the mob, noting the low ceiling, managed to get Ranma away from that particular bunch of idiots. Despite working at cross-purposes, though, the crowd was pretty uniform in their good cheer. Ranma, not one to submit to being manhandled, twisted out of their collective grip, bounced out of reach, and scratched the back of her head in confusion. Which is how she noticed that her hat had gone AWOL. One of the boys waved it teasingly at her, and Ranma scowled. She liked that hat! "Hey, gimme back my hat!" Shouted the cabbit-lass over the din, starting back towards the crowd.
"I won't allow it!" Bellowed an irate Tatewaki Kuno as he burst through the doorway. Everyone paused and looked at him, but before anyone could ask what, exactly, Kuno wasn't allowing, he sprang into action. It has already been noted in this chronicle that Ranma had become a living computer, and even though she was operating at a mere fraction of her potential her intellect had still received a formidable boost. Her father, as a direct response to his childs vastly enhanced analytical ability, had grown increasingly tricky; Kuno, by comparison, was and had always been sorely lacking in guile. As such, when the scion of the house Kuno roared across the room at his red nemesis, his target smoothly sidestepped his headlong lunge, and the vengeance of heaven fell not upon the "foul Kappa" but instead an innocent desk.
Whatever else could be said about Kuno, he was hardly a novice when it came to battle, and he did not hesitate upon the failure of his assault. He turned swiftly, easily reacquiring his target, and charged again.
And, again, Ranma sidestepped the raging Kendoist. Mostly. This time she left a foot sticking out as a friendly reminder not to annoy her. Kuno, obligingly, smacked into the outstretched leg head on and proceeded to sail out the door. With his his dramatic exit complete, he then unsuccessfully attempted to head-butt the floor into defeat. Despite this failure, however, he was undaunted. Man had yet to make a material as dense as the Kuno cranium, and hence there wasn't even a delay as Kuno declared, "I fight on!" and sprang to his feet. Only this time Ranma was prepared for it. And by that I mean delivering a kick to his head. Kuno wobbled back, raised his Bokken menacingly, and proceeded to dangerously keel over. Ominously, he lay on the ground, and Ranma nudged him experimentally with her foot. He continued lying still, like an impending doom and Ranma, satisfied that he was, in fact, threateningly unconscious, turned back to face her class.
"Feh, stupid jerk." Ranma muttered, and opened her eyes. What she expected to see was a few awestruck faces, perhaps a couple of envious looks from the other would be fighters in the school. Instead, she released a startled, "Urk... !" just before she was tackled by three of her class mates, members of the Furinkan High Fashion Club. The Kitsune-no-Usagi had sealed her fate as the classes mascot, and on the pride of the school, there was no way that she'd be allowed to represent without getting a proper makeover.
Ranma sat down on the lawn, glad to finally be out of the hands of the Fashion Club. Due to their relentless interference, the first few periods had turned into a chaotic melange of school work and being fussed over by said club members. It was an experience she did not care to repeat, and she counted herself lucky that they'd only fluffed her hair. And it wasn't exactly as if she could hit them to make them go away, either. She had been glad for a little while when they'd decided that make-up was simply unfeasible, but then they'd gone off onto a frightening tangent about the benefits of hair-dyes. Which in turn had led to a conversation largely outside of Ranma's knowledge, but included frightening phrases such as "enhancing the bust-line," or "emphasizing her figure," or "working those exotic attributes," and, most chillingly, "cleavage, as much as we can get away with."
Ranma was not yet really aware what most of those terms meant directly, but she could infer their meaning fairly well: they wanted to get her into the skimpiest possible outfit allowable by the school dress-code. She shook her head, then forced the disturbing line of thought from her mind. "Yeesh..." She muttered, peeling open her bento to get at it's enticing contents. "Man, Akane, what was with those girls?"
Akane rolled her eyes. "It's simple. They're perverts." This answer was apparently just a tad too canned, and Ranma merely blinked, nonplussed. The other girl pursed her lips, then decided to elaborate. "And they want to get you into the skimpiest outfit that they can with the school dress-code." Ranma sighed dismally, before grabbing a rice-ball and beginning to chew on it unhappily. She couldn't keep that up for very long though; the rice ball was simply too good. Her mood greatly improved, she grinned slightly and put aside aside the problem of the Fashioneers for commenting on the grub. "Man, your sister really knows her way around a kitchen!" She proclaimed happily, grabbing another treat from her bento. Akane grinned slightly and giggled, and Ranma blinked. "What's up, Akane?"
"Oh, I was just thinking I should try cooking for you." The girl said, her voice cheerful. Surely her family was joking when they said she was the worst cook on the planet, and it would be nice to have an outside opinion affirming her culinary abilities. Of course, she was studiously ignoring her classmates, particularly those who had taken home-ec with her, who happened to vociferously agree with her families sentiment.
Ranma, oblivious to the deathly-ill fate she was tempting, grinned. "Sure! With Kasumi around, you gotta be pretty decent in the kitchen too, I figure." Akane beamed at Ranma, who blinked. She was pretty sure that that shouldn't have gotten quite that good of a reaction, but oh well. She shrugged and popped the second rice ball into her mouth. "Anyhow," she muffled around her food, "If they gotta stick to the dress code, I don't see how bad it could be." Ranma swallowed her rice-ball and reached for another one, but paused when Akane answered. "I don't know about that Ranma. The dress-code isn't enforced very strictly around here..."
Ranma blinked, and looked around at the other students, each in a largely identical costume. "Yeah, right." She said with a sure sarcasm. Akane shook her head and sighed. "You know that old saying appearances can be deceiving?" Ranma rolled her eyes, clearly unimpressed with the ancient adage. Akane pouted and decided on a different tack. "Remember how Kuno blazed into our class-room wearing only his Kendo gear? He wears that to school every day, and no one stops him."
"Well, Kuno's a freak." The cabbit stated.
That brought the dark haired girl to a halt. Akane certainly had to admit that was true, but still... "You'll see, Ranma, you'll see." Sure, she could tell Ranma about the incredibly vague uniform descriptions and bizarrely detailed haircut requirements. She could tell Ranma about how the theater-club constantly came to their respective classes dressed in costume and got away with it. She could tell her about how the chemistry club had once needed to be evicted from the lab by Riot Police. But the look on Ranma's face told her that her companion would dismiss it all as hyperbole. Said companion opened her mouth to reply, but was preemptively interrupted by Yuka and Sayuri. "Hey, Akane, Ranma." The two gave little bows, and began to sit. "We bring news from the fashion front." Yuka said with as much melodrama as she could manage, which was quite a bit.
Almost simultaneously, Sayuri stage whispered "Ranma, run!" over Yuka's shoulder. Ranma rolled her eyes in disbelief; they just had to be blowing this out of proportion. "This is getting a little ridiculous. It can't be that ba-grhhk!" Ranma stiffened in shock, eyes wide and unblinking. Akane, despite her growing familiarity with the overzealous Furinkan Clubs, was impressed despite herself. That... that thing was... "They've... they've really outdone themselves." She finally warbled, perhaps also a tad stunned. Yuka nodded in agreement, and Sayuri snickered. Ranma coughed weakly, and shook her head, before wheezing, "You can't be serious!"
Another not exactly malicious giggle emanated from Sayuri following Ranma's disbelieving assertion. "Yeah... this is only a preliminary design." The girl teased without mercy. Ranma frowned, looking over the concept again, taking in the logic defying series of straps, strategically placed bits of cloth, and various errata. "Th-that's... yeah, they'll add more, right?"
Yuka ermmed. "Actually, I think their exact words about it was 'not enough skin.'" Ranma squeaked incoherently, and one of her fuzzy ears twitched. "That's not enough skin?" She finally demanded, the crushing grip of terminal embarrassment squeezing her lungs and flushing her face. "Yeah, according to them." Yuka rolled her eyes, and nodded her head meaningfully at the school and the devious, fashion-obsessed nut balls therein. Ranma tried, and failed, to formulate a response to this, and so just sputtered witlessly.
"How'd you get it, anyway?" Akane asked, trying to steer Ranma away from an aneurism via questions tactical and strategic. This worked somewhat, Ranma calming down a little as that part of her brain prepared itself for analyzing a not-so-tough nut. "We asked." Was the inevitable reply; Akane blinked, nonplussed by this simple response. Ranma shook her head, and sighed. Finally, she decided that if she didn't look on the bright side, she was going to go crazy. "Well, it's not like they can actually get away with it." She paused, waiting hopefully for an affirmation. The waiting lasted quite a while, actually, before she finally followed up with a not nearly so confident sounding, "Right?"
No response was forthcoming. Ranma's mood plummeted, and she decided it was time for another spirit lifting rice-ball. Unfortunately, she never quite got to finish it. Or even start it for that matter, for at that time, as you might have guessed, the collected Fashionites of Furinkan High marched around the corner. Ranma recognized the three leading were the club-members from her class, and she quickly designated them Tango, Victor, and Charlie. Unfortunately, with her unique appearance, spotting her was a simplistic matter, and the yard soon rang with the clarion call of, "There she is! GET HER!" The fashion club roared heartily and launched into pursuit.
"Uh... Ranma, run." Akane said with forced calm; even it wasn't her they were after, they were an intimidating sight. Ranma needed no further prodding. Lunch forgotten, she sped off as if the hounds of hellishly bad fashion were on her heels.
Mr. Kuroda glared at his inattentive new student. As she was hiding her face behind a newspaper she most definitely did not return said glare. "Ms. Saotome." He said pointedly. "While I'm pleased that you're keeping up on current events, could you please pay attention to the class?" Finally, she responded, peeking her head around the edge of the paper. 'Looks like Watanabe wasn't joking after all...' he noted to himself as he took in the girls alien appearance. He wondered what was up with the fedora though. And the shades. And the archaic looking trench coat. "Shut uuup..." The girl hissed at him, before burying her face behind the paper again. Kuroda frowned and was about to give the girl a sound talking to when suddenly the fashion-club roared past.
"Where is she?"
"Olly Olly Oxen Free, Saotome!"
"You'll look faaaabulous, Ranma! Stop hiding!"
"You're only delaying the inevitable! We'll find you!" Kuroda frowned, clearly one of the clubs had gotten totally out of hand. Again. They barely even perused the class-room, before, with a thunderous noise, the fashion "experts" were gone. Ranma peered nervously out into the hall, then hid again. Kuroda coughed; he could feel the eyes of the class on him, daring him to try something. In a normal school, this may have invited reprisals. This being Furinkan, Kuroda decided that perhaps he could let the new kid off easy.
Ranma trembled slightly; this, she had not foreseen. Gym class, normally what she would consider the high point of the day, was starting as an unbearable ordeal. This was not due to any unexpected difficulties in the athletic events, she hadn't even gotten to those yet. No, no it was all because of the locker room, and those occupying alongside her. Her class mates, mostly of the cute girl variety, and mostly in somewhat... limited states of dress were causing her some unintentional difficulty. Anatomy not withstanding, Ranma was still very much a guy in her heart of hearts. Which was the root of this particular problem.
Still, Ranma's embarrassment was not quite palpable, and as such she avoided the worst of the weird looks that she would otherwise have gotten. She still received a fair share, however; the more perceptive of the girls quickly figured something was up with her. Most, after a second of analysis, came to a reasonable conclusion given the available data. As she was blushing and embarrassed by being surrounded by a large number of mostly naked girls, she must be into Yuri, they decided. A few of these individuals decided to avoid her in the future, most decided not to bother her about it, and a small number found themselves... intrigued, but that is neither here nor there.
However, one Sakura Kinomoto figured it out. Through a truly bizarre series of intuitive leaps, non-logical deductions and total randomocrity, she arrived at a conclusion that, while not exactly correct, was frighteningly close. So, when her friend Hisa asked, "What's her problem?" Sakura had the answer.
"Huh? Oh, she's just a boy, that's all." And let there be no mistake, weirdly intuitive though she may have been, Kinomoto was anything but a quiet speaker. Her voice, despite being a kind of soft alto, always seemed to fill whatever space she happened to be in, drowning out other noise, like cars, other people, or explosions. In short, everyone heard her bizarre proclamation. However, her class mates had long grown used to Sakura's intuitive leaps and they'd similarly long since figured out how to deal with their eerie accuracy. "Oh... well, if you say so..."
By accepting them at face value. Though this one was asking rather a lot of their credulity, Ranma's reaction upon their blithe acceptance did speak volumes. It wasn't necessarily the twitching that did it, or the shocked expression, or even the shooting to her feet. No, if it were just these they might have been able to ignore the assessment. No, it mostly had to do with the first words out of Ranma's mouth. "W-what... why... how did you kn... nu... er... uh..." Ranma glanced around the room at the girls around her and realized that she might have been better served by keeping her mouth shut.
The only help Akane offered was staying out of it. And noting that Ranma was an idiot.
Several humiliating minutes later, Ranma stood on the athletic field and hung her head, raising her hands to rub at her temples. After determining that she was indeed a girl, her classmates had elected not to pound her, though they had managed to tease the story mostly out of her in the interim. The situation, barely tolerable, was made even more exasperating by that Sakura girl simply nodding and saying that that was what she'd thought had happened, more or less. It was... well, it was really, really creepy. "Man, how does that chick do that."
"No one knows." Akane admitted, with a shrug.
"What, not even her?" Ranma growled, gesturing at that person.
"No comment." Said person drawled.
"You suck, Sakura." Ranma muttered half-heartedly, eliciting a giggle. The only way this day could get any worse was if the Fashion Club... "There she is! GET HER!" Speak of the devil, the old saying goes, and he may show up. While whether that was true was debatable, the Fashionites certainly seemed to be making a solid case for it.
"... and that's how my day went." Ranma finished brusquely, clearly quite irritated. She paused for a moment, and then added, somewhat less harshly. "Thanks for askin, though, Kasumi."
Kasumi pursed her lips, and shook her head with a sigh. "Oh dear. It sounds as though the clubs haven't calmed down much since I last was at Furinkan." The very notion that the school could be less calm brought a horrified expression to Ranma's face, but Kasumi quickly eased those worries. "Don't worry Ranma, they just have to adjust to you. In only a day or two, they should calm down. A lot. I'm afraid I'm going to have to ask you to change though." She said, taking a slightly sterner tone. "That dress is... not entirely decent."
Ranma paused, marveling in the elder Tendo's capacity for understatement. "Not entirely decent? ... Kasumi, this thing is... I mean it doesn't even... ugh..." She couldn't even find a way to convey verbally the trashiness of the thing forced upon her, a situation made worse by the fact that they'd absconded with her regular uniform so she couldn't change back somewhere. "Kasumi, those people are nuts. I'm gonna go take a bath and get changed." Sighing, Ranma stumbled off down the hallway and into the bathroom. Once the door was closed behind her, she experimentally began to tug at a few of connective... strips; eventually, she figured out the key to removing the bizarre, high-fashion disaster and the flimsy, useless garment was swiftly disposed of.
She bathed automatically, and sighed in contentment as she sank in to the furo, the heat working the tension away from her sore shoulders. Right then, she felt certain that Kasumi was correct, and that tomorrow would be a better day.
And in this, actually, she was right. If nothing else, with the failure of her '"Impenetrable" Normal Person Disguise' she at least didn't have to wear girl clothes tomorrow, which cheered her immensely. With the now obvious laxity of the uniform code she could just go to school dressed normally, and so she would.
She also felt that, just perhaps, she might actually be able to live like a normal person in spite of her appearance.
And one, of course, can imagine how horribly incorrect that assumption was.
Due to a combination of factors, Washu Hakubi had developed a somewhat significantly higher than average capacity to determine that someone was screwing with her. One was, of course, her titanic intellect, what many would describe as her prime attribute, with which she could quickly analyze and interpret massive amounts of data. The second was the hard experience of being betrayed by someone she'd trusted; Kagato had been a close confidante back in the day, which was almost assuredly why he'd had such an easy time stabbing her in the back, figuratively speaking. Indeed, it was this second part that played the far larger role in her ability to tell that someone was mucking around with her affairs. Where most people would miss the pattern, or blame bad luck, or create a convoluted 'theory' involving Men in Black, vast paranormal conspiracies, and, of course, them, Washu would look deeper. When a suspicious pattern emerged, she could lock on to it and disassemble the web around it with a frightening speed.
Unfortunately, in this case, that something suspicious had started it's reign of terror under the guise of something perfectly normal.
Trying, as usual, to be helpful. And, as usual, failing with spectacular results. Usually the blonde was a mere annoyance, but in the immediate aftermath of the Minagi incident, her timing had proven to be especially infortuitous. Still, it would not have been a problem if it weren't for a serious anomaly, and sadly Mihoshi had destroyed the one piece of equipment that provided the particular function reporting said anomaly before she could track the reading to it's source.
That particular piece of equipment, the Systems Monitor, had once been a vital link in the labs Command and Control network, but with the advent of Mihoshi, Washu had spent a great deal of effort in decentralizing the laboratory intranet. As a result, the device had become thoroughly redundant except for one thing; it was the only device in her lab that could keep track of Ryoko and Ryo-Ohki, and as those notables were rarely anywhere but underfoot, the Monitor was still mostly useless. Or it had been, until the appearance of Ryoko's half-sister, Minagi, who had most decidedly not stuck around. Which, in turn, necessitated that the Monitor be taken off of standby in order to keep an eye on her, and the Monitor, in turn, had informed her of the anomaly - another cabbit. She'd narrowed the reading down to being somewhere in Tokyo just before Mihoshi had entered, stage left, and tripped right into the humming machine, cutting it's suddenly valuable service sadly short.
No problem, Washu had thought after shooing the concerned bubblehead from the lab. She would just build a new one, specifically meant to take care of this particular task. She'd expected to be done in under a day; now, almost two weeks later, she had yet to finish it. Every time she got close, Mihoshi would enter the scene and proceed to demolish her efforts entirely by accident. By now she knew that the errant nuisance was merely someone's unknowing pawn, but until she'd figured that out Washu had been seriously considering causing the ditz severe harm.
After three days of the ditzy GalPol Officer managing to provide incredible repeat performances, Washu had grown suspicious. Namely, she suspected that one of her housemates, most probably Ryoko, had been feeding Mihoshi industrial strength stimulants. But even at the time, that explanation had fallen flat; there was no way that Kiramitsu could repeatedly penetrate the defenses of her lab to get to the exact same point at least once a day. The Blonde was good, but not that good. It wasn't until an old friend Tenchi's, a girl named Hiwa, had shown up as, effectively, a ghost for one last visit that Washu's suspicions began to find something to lock on to.
Had the girls injury been purely physical, Washu could have dealt with it with absolutely no difficulty; even the basic medical science of Earth would have had the girl up and about eventually. The real injury was, for lack of a better term, 'spiritual' in origin, and there was no way for someone to receive that kind of injury from just getting run over by a car. The message was obvious; her opponent wanted her to know, and he, she, or it wanted her to know that he knew that she knew. Someone was screwing with Washu Hakubi, and, as might be expected, she didn't like it. Unfortunately, her data was sorely limited, and as such a proper response would have to wait until she found the extra ship.
She rubbed the back of her hand across her brow, trailing a film of dirt, and slipped the last chip she needed into place. She grinned, then took a moment to peek out of the hole in which she'd been lurking. Seeing no sign of Mihoshi, she emerged much like a gopher, dogged the hatch, and flipped her latest effort on. After a brief start-up the screen displayed the relevant information - Ryoko and the official cabbit right they were supposed to be, Minagi somewhere in the vicinity of Cygnus, and the knock-off lurking in the jungle known as Tokyo. She initiated a closer scan of the new variable and the system, better, faster, and stronger than before, delivered results almost immediately.
"Nerima, eh?" She chuckled; her opponent had finally slipped up. Despite the numerous setbacks she'd experienced in the past fortnight, however, she did not rush off to settle things then and there. Instead, she launched a gaggle of spy drones and sent them off to loiter around the area. She'd need to take a couple days to observe the unit before making her move, and she wanted to be certain that she handled this the right way. After all, her enemy, whoever it was, had gone to such great effort all for her.
The least she could do was return the favor.
Lady Andrea Nanashi Sakaki gripped the handrail tightly, watching in horror the battle around her. Task Force 55, detached from Taiidani Republic Battle Group 8, was in trouble. The titanic vessels that formed the core of the formation turned and twisted desperately under the assault of dozens of tiny Vaygr fighters and corvettes, the nimble craft evading the guns of their lumbering targets. A pair of bombers swooped across the carriers bridge display, and the deck shook beneath her feet. They peeled away swiftly, one catching a shell and blossoming into a bright fireball as an attack frigate roared past below, and the noble-woman frowned. She hated fighting, war, and death, and to be in the midst of it was... distressing.
And it was all because of her, she was certain. After all, she was among the last surviving members of the the house Sakaki, the family that had assumed the Throne after the death of the demented Riesstiu the IV and could, technically, be considered in charge of the Republic. Certainly holding the Imperial Crown was largely ceremonial, but she doubted that the barbarians of the Vaygr Reaches particularly cared about the fine text. A flight of interceptors plowed through a Vaygr formation, sowing death and destruction, and finally Sakaki could stand no more. She straightened and turned to face the Task Force's Commander, ready to demand a withdrawal. Upon catching sight of the one in charge, though, her demands suffered a heart-attack, did a back-flip into a half-gator, and died in her throat.
Suddenly, it occurred to her that she must be dreaming; the sight before her was too ridiculous for her not to be. Even with her hair ridiculously pale, almost to the point of being white, and with her skin a rich cerulean, there could be no mistaking the person before her for anyone else.
"Lemme guess, you're thinkin' this is a dream, right?" Ayumu Kasuga asked, her tone knowing. Even as Sakaki nodded, Commander Osaka continued. "Thought so. Too ridiculous not ta be a dream, really. I mean, me in charge, and lookit all our friends sitting out there." Sakaki blinked and looked over the bridge; manning many of the crew stations were her close friends, each too drawn up in their own little piece of the drama to notice each other. Indeed, the only other person in a position to notice something was up was the ineffable Captain Tomo, and being Tomo she obviously didn't. Momentarily Sakaki felt a stab of worry at the Task Force being led by the Bonkuras but then she remembered that she was dreaming and the concern flowed elsewhere.
Oh, right, she was going to say something... what was it? Oh yeah. "We need to get out of here."
"Yeah." Osaka concurred. "Tomo, bring us about ta 243 by oh 25. Have th' Tallsen lay down a cover fire down over grids K-19 ta K-32, and bring th' escorts in beside us. I want Lances Alpha through Kappa ta target group Omicron and punch us a hole outta here." There was a pause, and then, confidently. "We're gonna hit a home run with this one."
"Aye aye, Admiral!" Tomo cheered enthusiastically, before relaying said orders to the helm, manned by a quaking Chiyo-Chan. "A-aye, Captain!" Despite her nervousness (she had no doubt noticed who happened to be in charge too), Chiyo easily brought the vessel around, giving the people standing around the commanders chair a good view of the Battlecruiser Taalsien coming around and giving a pair of encroaching Vaygr warships a good drubbing. Several frigates burst forward from their lines and bore down on one of the enemies deadly warships and it's escorting craft, ranging fire pounding forth from both sides.
For a moment they watched the carnage in silence, but suddenly something occured to the Fleet Leader. "Hey, Sakaki." Osaka asked, the action in the distance having momentarily lost it's relevance. "I'm a Commander, right?"
"I... guess." The pseudo-noble replied.
"That means I'm not an Admiral right?"
Sakaki, not having much interest in matters martial, shrugged. "I suppose not." She was instinctively aware that the persona she'd begun this dream as would have been able to respond accurately to that question, but she couldn't quite summon up the dream knowledge she needed.
Besides, the question of rank was moot, at least at the moment. Besides, the Wild-Cat Idjit and the Space Case seemed to be doing quite well for themselves, as their ship slid past a gutted Vaygr destroyer and into open space. They were still being harassed by hostile strike craft, but without the looming capital craft promising an imminent doom they had been reduced to merely being a nuisance. They had, in essence, hit a home run. Exactly when it seemed as though nothing could go wrong, though, the tactical display fuzzed over and the external view went dead. "Report!" Tomo bellowed.
"Virus in the mainframe! We have reports of infiltrators on deck 27!"
Tomo slammed her fist into the railing and was about to bark an order when the fuzz was replaced with a face. If "face" is the right term, that is.
"Greetings!" The being on the other end intoned with carefully inappropriate cheerfulness. It's flat face sloped down into a vague football shape, and it's wide, black eyes stared at them with an infinite patience. Behind the creature, vastly more humanoid humanoids rushed about, securing the deck from the Taiidanii marines working to stop them. "I'm pleased to see you're doing well."
For a long moment, the bridge was silent. "Okay." Yomi cut in. "Now I can believe that this is a dream." Aside from Kagura (who really only said "Uh huh" dumbly, anyway), the rest of the bridge crew simply nodded mutely. And to this the entity seemed... pleased. At the very least it glowed warmly and absorbed a bolt of careening plasma.
"Yes." It answered enigmatically. Then, getting no response aside from further staring, it decided to continue. "This is indeed a dream, but make no mistake. Though it is not real, that does not in any way diminish it's importance for any of you. The so-called wheel of destiny has changed course."
"Um... okay." The bespectacled one finally demurred. "What does this have to do with us, exactly?" Ah, ever practical, Yomi brought a sensible question immediately to the table.
The entity... chortled(?) for a moment. "It's quite simple really. Your fates, separate and manifest, have irreversibly changed." There was a pause, but before anyone could demand that the explanation be explained, Chiyo-Dad glowed a luminous, swirling orange and began to prophesies. "Look to China, the fox-hare springs from the west and bears aloft the path to the stars. Be mindful of the curious crab and her compatriots, and watch for low flying defense drones."
There was a long, long pause, then finally, a squeaked "What" from Ensign (or whatever) Mihama.
"Was that too obscure?"
Sakaki looked over at Osaka, who seemed to be following the conversation, then back at the uh... cat. "... uh... yes."
"Are you saying that I have trouble speaking?" The entity demanded, glowing a dangerous shade of red. "Uh... !" Sakaki replied, somehow recognizing this from past encounters. An angry Chiyo-Dad she did not want to see... again.
"Do you have a problem with my voice? Do you think that the way I talk is annoying!" Sakaki, truly unnerved, squeaked and began to make warding gestures in the air before her. As suddenly as the rage had come, the entity was again calm; it ignored Tomo madly cackling at the severely discomfited Sakaki and sighed. "Ah well. To put it more plainly, inside of a week not one of you will be on Earth. Worry not; you have my assurances that you will reach your destinations safely. Also, don't worry too much about explosive decompression - you won't actually explode and I'm fairly certain that assistance will be close enough that you will not permanently expire."
That last reassurance wasn't exactly reassuring. "What do you mean 'explosive decompression!'" Kagura demanded, bounding to her feet.
"I'm sorry, but that's all I can say right now, good bye!"
"Hey, wait!" The athlete shouted, but her only reply was static. Soon, the white noise noise flooding the screen vanished, "Helm is back under my control." Chiyo reported shortly thereafter, her voice nervously wavering. Over the din of booting systems, one could hear the marines reporting that the boarders had been repulsed, which, despite the unreality of their surroundings, still brought a sigh of relief to the bridge crew.
All except Osaka.
"About Chiyo-chan's Father?"
Osaka looked at her and for a decisive moment the tall girl felt certain that her strange, spacey friend was going to point out that she was crazy, but instead she just nodded. "That who he is? Doesn't look a thing like her." Up ahead, Chiyo looked over the back of her seat at them and definitely looked like she thought they were crazy, but the twain ignored her. "Helm, initiate hyper-space jump."
"Roger that." Chiyo said sullenly. How could they possibly think that was her father? "Opening Quantum Tunnel." The window in space time slid open and swallowed their ship, but it hardly mattered because that was about the time that they all woke up.
Acknowledgements and Authors Notes:
Primarily I think I have to thank X to the Zoltan (again), for allowing me to use his idea for Sakaki's name and also for the general concept of the Azu-Gals being in danger in the first place. The blue skin and pale hair is just something of a nod to his 'Xians.' Once again, I urge people's to read his stuff 'cuz it's just so good.
I also have to thank my brother and his unexpected visit; without his inexplicable arrival I may never have finished this chapter.
I think I've pulled off the first Ranma/Tenchi/Azumanga cross-over ever as far as I'm aware. And it may even turn out to be good! Regardless, no more series will be added (except maybe for more cameos, like Watanabe-kun.) I hope you enjoyed this effort.