Author's notes: Well, this didn't take nearly as long as the last chapter at least. I can't thank Porthos112 enough for all of his considerable effort in fixing my grammar, bringing the dump truck to fill all the plot holes, and simply being one of the best prereaders that I've ever had. Both he and James Axelrad have been pivotal in making this a far better story than I could on my own. Thanks you guys.

Disclaimer: I own neither Noir nor Ranma ½

The Fourth Sapling

By: brindani

Chapter 19: Cinderella's Ball

As the last shred of sunlight disappeared beyond the horizon, thick tendrils of darkness descended upon the landscape of Japan; the night slowly proclaiming its dominance over the sky once more. Lights throughout the city fought to stave off the encroaching gloom, forming a massive collage of shifting shadows. One building out-shone all others, standing prominently against the night. Its pristine outer-walls illuminated from below, revealed monolithic marble statues reminiscent of ancient Greece adorning its sides. Each time the massive doors swung wide, radiant light flooded the plaza, revealing several groups of Japanese ladies awaiting the respective escorts. Each wore a uniquely tailored western style ballroom gown with an outlandish hat to match.

Hushed voices issued from the various gatherings as they discussed the latest gossip, hair tips, or simply how rude the common folk were to gawk from across the street.

In the middle of this scene, one man drew attention. Standing off to the side, intriguingly unattached to any group, the man stared out into the darkness, his startling blue eyes highlighted by the lamppost above. His impeccable white suit with fresh a red rose was an extreme contrast to all of the other men passing by. More than one of the noble ladies fluttered their eyelashes his way, repressed romantic imagination going into overdrive as they coyly watched the mysterious young man.

Ranma was unaware that his presence had become the center of conversation. He was far to anxious to care as Chloe had yet to arrive and it was already… Ranma shifted his wrist into view… 8:23. He had glanced at the gold watch Nodoka insisted he wear at least five times in the past ten minutes. "Mom said it was 'a ladies prerogative to be fashionably late', but this is Chloe!" Ranma whispered under his breath

His eyes restlessly scanned the various groups, aware Chloe would not be in their midst since he had checked a few minutes ago. Concern ate at him as the minutes crawled by. 'Maybe she lost track of time getting ready? Not likely, Chloe doesn't even wear make-up. Maybe she had a visitor? Yeah, someone probably just distracted her for a moment,' Ranma thought, relaxing marginally as he nodded his head. It wasn't long before his eyes flew open. 'What if it was the Soldats? An ambush?!"

Ranma tensed, preparing for a quick leap to the nearest building to rescue his missing partner. The leap faltered when another in a long line of stretch limousines pulled up next to the curb. Something about this one felt different. His breath caught as the chauffer efficiently opened the door.

Firm lithe legs stepped out of the vehicle, standing straight. Background conversation ceased to the ears of one pony-tailed boy. The young woman was stunning. Unlike the other highbred ladies hampered by their bulky dresses from an outdated age, hers was form fitting, almost as if the night had seen fit to descend and attach itself to the greatest perfection it could find. Mouth hanging open, Ranma's eyes traveled further up, finding a young, yet full bodied figure. The faintest trace of blush perfectly highlighted those piercing brown eyes as they carefully examined the figures gawking at her.

Ranma's heart nearly stopped as those dazzling eyes settled on him. Without a sound, the woman glided up to him. Ranma gulped as she stopped, staring deeply into his eyes.

"I'm sorry I'm late." She said with a small bow.

Ranma blinked. 'Late? Do I know this woman?'

"Ranma? Did you hear me?" The woman asked, light concern evident in her voice.

Ranma's expression shifted from confusion to realization as the woman tilted her head.

"Chloe?" Ranma whispered, his eyes widened as they noticed the familiar purplish hair shimmer under the lamplight.

The girl blinked. "Yes, who else were you expecting?" She asked, indignation rising quickly due to Ranma's thoughtlessness.

"It's just… you're so beautiful… I hadn't realized..." Ranma stopped short, turning away to hide an embarrassed blush.

Chloe's eyebrows rose, as did a rosy hue along her cheeks. 'He… he said I look beautiful? He thinks I'm beautiful?' Coming back to herself, she eyed the young man's meticulously pressed white suit. His bright blue eyes framed by his carefully combed black hair which hung loosely in a ponytail. 'He is very handsome.' Chloe's blush darkened, hidden only by Ranma's turned head.

Neither took notice of the glares of envy from those around them.

"We… we had best enter or we will miss your contact." Chloe suggested, gaining control of her faculties first.

Ranma nodded his head. Turning to the building, Ranma offered his arm with a dashing smile.

"Shall we?"

Chloe nodded, accepting his arm, she allowed him to lead her up the walkway. The people parted before them, wild speculation as to their identities running rampant in their wake. The couple took no heed of the pampered upper class as they regally ascended the stairs.

Ranma's foot hesitated on the sixth step, his grand smile losing a hint of its strength. His hesitation brought them both to a stop. Chloe glanced in his direction, a touch of confusion as to their abrupt halt. The pony-tailed boy leaned down slowly, his face drawing near. Chloe's eyes widened even as her mouth suddenly felt dry. He drew closer, his lips mere inches from her own. Her eyes flicked from his eyes to his lips as she attempted to discern his intentions. 'Is he going to…'

"Before we enter I want your promise that what happens here never goes beyond these walls. That includes Altena," he whispered low so only she could hear.

Chloe almost fell down, shocked by the message and… maybe just a little disappointed. When his words sank in, Chloe nearly pulled away, only his strong arm keeping her at his side.

"I share everything with Altena. If this is important, then I will tell her." Chloe informed him even as she ceased her struggle.

"Then we stop here. I've personally guaranteed this person's safety. I can only reveal their identity to those they let me. They gave the okay for you, but no one else." Ranma turned an imploring gaze to the young woman. "Please Chloe, do this for me."

Chloe stared into his luminous eyes, losing herself in their endless depths, she felt herself drowning in those stormy oceans. Her own eyes widened trying to take on those incredible depths, her heart thumbing furiously against her chest.

"I… I guess Altena wouldn't need to know." Chloe offered before shaking her head, breaking the heady spell his imploring gaze cast over her. "But only this once, I don't like to keep things from her." Chloe said, her devotion clear in both her stance and expression.

"Thank you Chloe, thank you for doing this for me." Chloe's heart beat accelerated even under the gently smile Ranma rewarded her with in return for her promise.

She acknowledged him with a nod, relieved that her body hadn't begun trembling.

Turning back towards the building, the large ornate doors swung wide. Two muscular men in grey tailored suits stepped aside and bowed as the couple passed.

Beyond, Ranma nearly gaped in amazement as the large ballroom became visible. His senses were tantalized by the gentle music floating across the room. Dancing to this wondrous melody were dozens of colorfully dressed couples stepping in time with each other. All of this was illuminated by a massive chandelier hanging over-head.

"Your names please?" Ranma blinked at the abrupt question, he hadn't noticed the slender man standing to the side. The goateed individual held a long list in one hand with a pen poised as he stared at them expectantly.

Ranma smiled. "Ranma Ito and Chloe Tanaka," he answered, managing to keep the lie from his face.

"One moment." The man's eyes scanned through the list. Moments later, they widened as he returned his attention to the couple, his smile noticeably widened as he bowed low

"I bid you good evening, Mr. Ito. It is a pleasure to have you and your lovely companion honor our establishment. Please, have a wonderful evening."

"Thank you, I believe we will," Ranma said, returning a much shallower bow. Chloe gazed inquisitively at Ranma as they descended the long curved stairway, entering the ballroom proper.

Ranma didn't notice her expression as his eyes were busily shifting over the amiably chatting couples. Absently he slipped through the crowd, navigated them to a relatively vacant corner.

"Who do they think we are?" Chloe whispered, realizing Ranma wasn't going to offer an explanation on his own.

"Hmmm? Oh, just some important and in fluential people," Ranma answered vaguely as he captured two odd colorful confections from a passing tray. He assumed the items were meant to be hors d'oeuvres of some kind though what eluded him. Handing one to Chloe, he absently sampled the tidbit as he continued his search.

Chloe took the opportunity to observe the room herself. What she found was impressive. Nearly everyone in attendance was a very prominent or powerful figure of society. She also recognized several less known though equally powerful people. Many of these were the dirtiest crime bosses Tokyo would likely ever see. Her eyes narrowed as she spotted one of them discreetly handing money to an 'upstanding' politician.

Chloe found herself absently fingering her small collection of concealed knives and nearly laughed at herself when she realized what she was doing.

'Maybe I've been around Ranma far too long,' she thought, uncertain if this would negatively affect her abilities.

"Oh Mister Ito? Mistress Tanaka?" A voice cooed with an American accent.

Chloe turned to face the woman that approached them. 'Someone is calling us by our assumed names. It must be Ranma's contact.'

Ranma smiled as he turned to face the person.

"Ms. Nakamura, it's a pleasure to see you again," Ranma greeted, bowing low to lightly kiss the woman's outstretched hand. 'All of those manners Altena and Mother pounded me with are finally coming in handy,' Ranma thought to himself with a small internal smile.

Chloe examined the unfamiliar woman as she giggled at Ranma's gesture. Nothing about her really stuck out to Chloe. She appeared as just another of the highbred ladies with her overlarge strawberry red dress that extending for several feet around her. She couldn't quite see the face framed by a cascade of blond locks due to the ornate white silk fan.

"Such a charmer, you'll have to be careful of this one." Ms. Nakamura murmured suggestively to Chloe. It was a little odd hearing Japanese with a Georgian accent. Somehow, it seemed to suit the woman.

"Chloe, meet Ms. Nakamura. She is the person that you wanted to meet." Chloe nodded, her guess confirmed. 'Still, she looks more like a scatterbrained noble, not someone who deals in underworld information.'

Such thoughts were cut off as the lady's fan snapped shut, revealing two piercing brown eyes.

"I can assure you, Chloe, that the mask does not reflect the truth." The blond woman said, her accent mysteriously absent.

Chloe widened a little at the familiarity the other woman used.

"What, you do not recognize sweet little ol' me?" her smile widened as Chloe shook her head. "I'll give you a hint. We met when you arrived to pick-up Ranma." When Chloe again shook her head, the woman chuckled. "I'm not surprised; I've undergone many changes since then. Does the name Nabiki mean anything to you?"

Chloe's eyes widened in surprise. A moment later, she carefully reevaluated the woman. Comparing the girl she remembered to the woman that stood before her, she had to admit that everything from her gait to her voice had altered drastically yet appeared natural. Unless told, she would never have guessed. To fool her senses, Nabiki must have used some of the best services available to relearn every nuance of herself. A process Chloe understood to be quite painful.


"Dead? Yes, Ranma certainly killed my reality that night. He left me a reminder that I will stay with me until I die." Nabiki murmured, wincing in phantom pain as she unconsciously touched her side. "He also did an excellent job of splattering my vintage red wine everywhere too." Nabiki replied, no trace of her lapse evident.

"But how?" Chloe asked starting to feel light headed. Altena said this girl was dead and Altena's information was never wrong.

"It's simple, Ranma gave me a choice; assist him in revenge or die for my sins. Since that time, I've come to the conclusion that death would have been far easier." Nabiki said with a casual wave of her hand, undermining her words.

"Why didn't you return to the Soldats?"

Nabiki looked at Chloe incredulously.

"And what is the price of failure? Even if I had been willing to return after what they did, do you think Ranma would have left me alone? I would be dead before the night was over. Besides, blood is thicker than even my desire for power. They hurt my sister, nearly killed her against my orders. If it wasn't for Ranma, she would have died. Be assured, I will have my revenge." Nabiki's expression darkened as she absently fanned herself. The expression disappeared, replaced with a touch of humor. "Actually, being officially dead in the eyes of the Soldats offers a lot of freedom," Nabiki said, her large dress shifting as she shrugged.

Chloe was intrigued, she had never even guessed.

"Oh, that's another thing that I wanted to talk to you about, Ranma." Her intense gaze slammed into the pony-tailed youth. "Why, exactly, did you give those hookers my phone number?" Nabiki asked, her smoldering eyes flaring against his own.

Large beads of sweat formed as Ranma laughed nervously. "Well, I sort'a promised I would help if they got into trouble again and I couldn't give them my number..." Ranma faltered as Nabiki's eyes hardened.

"So giving them a dead person's number made more sense?" Nabiki said, her tone belittling the boy. Ranma gulped as he took a step back under that searing glare. "Or perhaps you forget that I am supposed to be a dead woman? Whatever the case, having me act as your secretary is a quick way to blow everything!" she hissed low so that only Ranma and Chloe could hear.

The furious expression evaporated into a carefree titter as an elderly gentleman and his wife approached.

"Ah, Ms. Nakamura, I'm so glad I caught up with you. I must thank you again for securing an invitation to this wonderful event. My wife has been adamant in coming after your delightful descriptions." The white bearded man said, his pressed formal military uniform prominently displayed several glittering medals under the light.

"Admiral, it is always a pleasure to see you." Nabiki said, her Georgian accent back even as she lightly curtsied to the gentleman. "As for the invitation, it was simply my pleasure." Nabiki gushed, the very picture of a carefree woman from the states.

"Indeed, I was hesitant at first, but now that I have had the chance to partake in such exquisite entertainment, I feel most honored by your gratitude. Please, you must allow me to repay your kindness."

Ranma and Chloe watched as Nabiki conversed with the two, making plans to meet later.

Chloe was amazed by the switch in manner and voice. It happened almost instantaneously and just before the admiral came into hearing range. It was a startling feat given the innumerable people meandering around them.

When the couple left, Nabiki returned to Ranma and Chloe. Said boy tugged at his pony-tail nervously.

"I'm sorry about giving them your number, I wasn't thinking…"

"Obviously, it's a trait I've had to deal with on a continuous basis. Unfortunately for me, I doubt it will stop anytime soon." Nabiki sighed with frustration. "Despite your foul-up, I managed to salvage the situation. I might have even found a way to benefit. Those girls have a fairly substantial information network. Most of which just can't be found anywhere else." Nabiki said, a smirk quickly growing. "I now have quite an appreciation for pillow talk." Ranma blushed as he slowly realized Nabiki implications. "As for you…" Nabiki pointed her fan as if it were a sword directly at Ranma's face. "…I found an appropriate punishment for your little stunt." Ranma chuckled nervously. It was never a good thing when Nabiki got that look in her eyes.

"What's that?" Ranma asked as the seconds stretched painfully.

"Easy, there were a couple of girls very interested in personally thanking the 'gun toting play-boy bunny girl'. When I happened to mention that their rescuer was not a heroine, but rather a knight in shinning armor, interest ran rampant." Ranma's face paled. He had spent the greater part of a year with three girls making his life a living hell, now there were even more? "It get's better, Ranma dear. You've started a little revolution amongst the prostitution community. The girls told others and the story spread like wildfire. From what Samantha tells me, all of those bunnies from last night want to personally thank you."

"fif…fifty girls." Ranma choked out.

"No, no, Ranma, nearly a thousand and growing." Ranma nearly collapsed. Only a supporting hand offered by Chloe kept him from the floor.

Chloe could almost see stars circle Ranma's head. She couldn't blame him, she felt a slight… annoyance creep through her at the news.

Regaining his footing, Ranma considered Nabiki critically.

It didn't take long for the dazed expression to fade, a confident smile in its place.

"No way, they would never have believed you so easily," Ranma proclaimed silently, assured he had found a hole in Nabiki's little joke.

"You're absolutely right, they didn't believe a single word," Ranma smiled, relieved he wouldn't be plunged into that horrible nightmare again. " first." The smile vanished. "In exchange for some very valuable information, I provided the standard tapes. Nothing fancy, just a small scene that showed the transformation. They were fascinated by that one. Sounds like even the hard core lesbians want a piece of the action." Nabiki smiled sweetly at Ranma.

By this time, Chloe was fully supporting Ranma's limp form, not looking pleased herself.

"Hee, hee. Don't let it worry you too much, the only time you have to make an appearance is if someone tries to put a stranglehold on them. Then again, you might want to watch your back. I've heard rumors that several of the more aggressive girls have taken to scouring Nerima in their spare time. Such devotion is admirable, don't you think so Mr. Ito?"

"Why did you do that, Nabiki? You know we have enough problems as it is. That kind of attention can only cause problems," Ranma demanded, regaining enough composure to only need partial assistance to steady himself.

"Well you weren't the one who had to cover for all of the extra phone calls. A lot of influential people became very suspicious. Besides, like I said, your devoted fan club comes with an excellent network. Some information even pertains to what we are doing."

Ranma raised an eyebrow askance.

"What might that be?"

"There are some people looking for you."

"A little late there, Nabs. We already know that." Ranma said.

"No, this doesn't sound like more of the black suits. There are two girls, one an attractive blond; the other a young brunette. They've been discrete about their search so far, but they are definitely looking for you." Chloe's attention became riveted to Nabiki.

"I see, did your information happen to come with an explanation of why these girls are after me?" Ranma asked, curiously meeting Nabiki's gaze.

"No, like I've already said, they are being discrete. What little we do know is that they are carrying a picture for both of your sides and believe you to be two different people," Nabiki finished.

"Hmmm," out of the corner of his eye, Ranma caught a glimpse of Chloe staring at Nabiki strangely. "You wouldn't happen to know who these people are, would you Chloe?" Ranma asked turning under his own power to face the girl.

The young purplish haired assassin's sharp eyes turned to Ranma. "I may, but they shouldn't be here. Even if they were, they shouldn't be searching for you in either guise."

"So who do you think they are?" Nabiki asked, her expression guarded.

"They may be the other group of Noir candidates." Chloe answered, meeting Ranma's intense gaze with one of her own, the meaning of this information lost on neither of them.

"Noir, hmmm it looks like the trouble we've caused has finally forced our enemies to bring things to a head." Nabiki said, fanning herself.

"Apparently," Ranma replied absently.

"Now we just have to decide what to do with them? Given some choice misdirection, we could easily have them running in circles for months." Nabiki said, tapping her fan thoughtfully on her chin.

Ranma's eyes went distant, looking past the grand ball progressing around them. "No, we will lead them to us."

Both Chloe and Nabiki looked at Ranma incredulously.

"You can't be serious. If the enemy sent these two, there can only be one reason, they are after your head." Seeing no change in his expression, Nabiki repressed a growl. "If that was too complex for your simple little mind, then how about this: They. Are. Here. To. Kill. You." Nabiki cut each word off, barely resisting the urge to slap the boy over the head to knock such a ridiculous idea out.

"Perhaps, but I need to discuss some things with them."

"What discussion could possibly be worth risking your life for? I doubt they have any more information regarding our enemy than we have already."

Ranma critically eyed Nabiki. "It's something important, but I can't tell you what for now."

"Something you can't tell me? Please, we are in this together and you know it; my brains and your thick headed brawn out for revenge. That was the deal from the beginning, so start talking!" Nabiki demanded, lancing Ranma with her most piercing gaze. She was startled when Ranma appeared completely unruffled.

"I'm sorry Nabiki, but the reason I need to meet them has nothing to do with revenge. I promise you will benefit in the end. All I can say is I've already been sworn to secrecy. I will tell you the moment I receive permission."

Nabiki started to growl again. "Stupid martial artist jocks and their asinine promises," she mumbled under her breath. "You listen to me," Nabiki emphasized by drawing close, jabbing her finger into his chest. "If you get your stupid head shot, all the knowledge in the world won't do me a hill of beans worth of good against these people. I need your abilities and I won't let you foolishly kill yourself before you've served your purpose."

"I love you too, Nabiki." The fully formed growl was suddenly accompanied by a twitch on her brow.

"Do not take these two lightly." Both Nabiki and Ranma turned to Chloe who looked to be doing some thinking of her own. "They are professional assassins of the highest caliber. If they are truly here for your life, it will be nearly impossible to dissuade them without killing them," she said in a low voice.

"For once in you life, listen to the voice of reason," Nabiki voice bordered on thinly veiled desperation.

Ranma closed his eyes, sighing. "I know this isn't going to be easy, but it is something that needs to be done." Ranma reopened his eyes, staring at Nabiki. "I promise you that this is for both of us, so please, can you help me do this?"

Nabiki nearly bumped into someone behind her in surprise when she found unconcealed pleading on Ranma's face. Her own features slowly darkened before she shook her head.

Ranma slumped where he stood. 'I could try to force her, but it would more likely backfire. I need her abilities as much as she needs mine. If only she would believe me just this once that this is for her own good.' Ranma thought darkly.

When Ranma returned his gaze to the woman in front of him, he recognized a touch of fear coloring Nabiki's cheeks.

"I guess I have to accept your decision, Nabiki, as this has nothing to do with our deal." The air of superiority swiftly returned to the woman. "But I will find a way to carry this out with or without your help."

"Oh please, you wouldn't be able to find those girls on your own if they were in the next building," Nabiki nearly snorted, utterly assured of her reasoning.

Ranma's face fell as he realized that she was right, without Nabiki's help, he would be searching blindly, a very deadly position when up against professionals in his field.

"I…do need to find them, but without help…" Ranma trailed off, both Nabiki and Chloe watching him with an equally intense searching gaze.

"Now that we have that out of the way, I have a list of targets that may provide leads given the right…motivation." Nabiki smirked, holding out a slip of paper unobtrusively. Ranma took the document without comment, his downtrodden expression annoying Nabiki.

To distract him, Nabiki snickered, "You must have been something else last night, because from what I heard not one of the girls leaked anything. You've always had a way with the ladies." Nabiki hinted, eyeing Chloe who remained attached to Ranma's arm despite having regained his composure some time ago.

Chloe blinked, staring down at thier arms as if realizing for the first time that they were still joined. Her expression became uncertain, yet she remained where she was.

Nabiki's smirk only grew before she returned her attention to Ranma. "That's all I needed to tell you for the moment. Get your mind off of those two assassins, they are nothing but trouble. Besides, you have the whole night, why not make the most of it dancing to the music? After all, you won't find a more talented group of musicians in Japan." She nearly laughed as Ranma's eyes bulged, his past concerns suddenly distant. She quickly turned away, engaging in conversation with an influential looking man.

Thoughts of his earlier encounter with the Saotome clan fled as Ranma wearily eyed the dance floor.

Chloe eyed the dance floor as well, the difference readily apparent as hers held anticipation. She loved to dance. She just didn't have many opportunities.

"Come on Ranma, let's go." Chloe said, nearly dragging the poor boy along in her rare display of enthusiasm.

Ranma stopped her cold, looking panicked.

"I… can't," he managed to choke out.

Chloe turned to stare at him. "What? Don't you feel like dancing?" Chloe asked, staring at him critically.

"I… yeah, that's it. I don't feel like it right now. Why don't we just call it a night?" Ranma nearly pleaded, trying his best to drag Chloe in the opposite direction only to find her blocking his path. Ranma's collar sudden felt constricted under her intense gaze.

"You don't know how to dance, do you?" Chloe questioned, the slightest hint of a smirk growing on her lips. "The greatest martial artist in the world and he doesn't even know how to dance. How… disappointing." She waved him off, moving towards the door.

"I can too dance." Ranma blurted, grabbing a hold of her shoulder. He cringed back as he realized his mistake.

"Prove it," Chloe responded, taunting him with an outstretched hand.

Against his better judgment, Ranma tentatively accepted the hand. Before he had a chance to retract it, he found his entire arm captured. Chloe, swiftly using the leverage, navigated him through the crowded ballroom. She continued to skirt the outer edge until she reached the maestro coordinating the music. As the current song ended, she caught his attention amongst the polite applause.

The maestro stared down at Chloe jovially; his eyes sparkled as she whispered into his ear. He shot Ranma a considering look before whispering back, giggling when Chloe blushed lightly.

Going back to the podium, he efficiently issued instructions to the musicians.

"What was that all about?" Ranma asked Chloe as she rejoined him.

"Nothing, now, shall we?" Ranma sighed as Chloe gently led him out where several others waited for the music to start. More then one smiled as gentle music floated across the hall. .

Standing in the middle of couples coming as close as their apparel allowed, Ranma stood, looking around at the others in confusion. Chloe shook her head, grabbing one of Ranma's hands, placing it around her waist while positioning the other on her shoulder. His hands set, Chloe lowered her own around Ranma's waist, bringing them together.

Chloe winced as Ranma's feet found her own almost immediately.

"Sorry," Ranma whispered, his nerves screaming at him to leave immediately.

After the fourth repetition, Chloe decided this was getting old fast. 'But how to help him?' Chloe considered even as she winced under another toe crunch.

In a burst of inspiration, she realized the answer.


Said boy had a hard time looking at his dance partner, feeling as awkward as if he was ice skating again.

"Look at me Ranma." The boy hesitantly looked at the slightly shorter girl. "Don't think of this as dancing, think of it like performing one of your kata. A very simple kata compared to the ones I've seen you do."

Blinking several times, a slow smile spread across Ranma's face. His perception shifted, formidable battle skills honed to a fine edge coming to bear on the situation. He analyzed everything, taking in each dancing couple, dissecting movement with a speed that would leave a supercomputer in the dust. His natural grace exerted itself as Ranma began to lead. Chloe only smiled as she followed along with one of the finest dancers she had encountered.

Music changed, upbeat, and classical, each respective dance performed flawlessly by the couple, drawing many stares of awe and envy from those around them. The two couldn't have cared less, each lost themselves in the music, only one other existed, moving in flawless coordination.

The night slipped away, and through it all, each held a grin.

Author's end notes: I don't know if I ever mentioned it, but I love a good twist, especially one that you never see coming. I'm extremely pleased to say that there were several people that questioned whether Nabiki had died, (Victor Khimenko, Vampwriter, and hmr) and one person who guessed about the champaign splattered on the wall along with the blood (Kadunta).

Think that one was easy? Don't worry, there are plenty more where that came from.