Chapter Four: Meet the Ladies! Enter Xian Chu and Kodachi!

Ranma awoke the next day with a monster headache and a lump the size of a golf ball, wishing to all the stars and saints that he had seen who had hit him and not just an almost positive guess that Akane had something to do with it. Knowing his luck, he was probably right.

Grumbling irritably and rubbing his head, Ranma made his way down to the living room and breakfast, hoping this day would go better than the way his night went.

Yet, being Ranma Saotome, no sooner had he set foot in the hallway, than a pot full of freezing cold water was poured upon his head and he was reverted into his female half, Happosai perched on top of his head with a lacy pink bra being dangled in front of his eyes.

"Time for a little photo shoot, Ranma!"

Insert mental sigh.

Just as he was about to rip the little lecher off his head, Ranma was suddenly under a burning stream of water, there was a new hole in the upstairs wall and his skull was Happosai-free.

What the hell...?

"Good morning, Ranma," Bikutoria greeted cheerfully, grabbing his attention as she waved a kettle-filled hand at him, "Kasumi asked me to inform you that breakfast is ready and that you have fifteen minutes 'til school starts."

So saying, she turned around and made her way down the stairs, leaving a bemused Ranma to stare after her for a few minutes before shrugging and following her into the kitchen.

The whole family was there, minus Happosai and plus Ryoga, eating happily; although the minute Akane noticed that Ranma had entered, her expression immediately turned sour.

What's her problem now? Ranma wondered, taking a seat next to Nibiki and Soun, accepting some breakfast from Kasumi at the same time before looking over at Bikutoria, who was dealing with an overzealous Ryoga. Is it because I came to breakfast with Bikutoria or wha-?

Ranma's thought process was interrupted by the all too familiar, but no less annoying, cry of "Ranma, darling!" that seemed to reverberate through the entire house before hitting his ears.

Groan. I really don't need this today! Making his way to the door, Ranma was stopped by a hand his shoulder; looking up, he saw that Bikutoria had also risen to her feet and was on her way to the door.

"Wait here," she stated, gently pushing him back down before heading out of the kitchen amid more cries of "My darling Ranma, are you there?". Pausing at the doorway, she turned and winked, "It might be a trap, I'll check it out."

Before another word could be spoken, before Soun or Gemma could utter a counter-point or Ranma sit back down fully, Bikutoria had made it to the front door and opened it.

"My dearest, most darling- Who are you, and why hast my Ranma not heeded my call?"

Gee, maybe it's because I'm tired of you and your brother's constant declarations of love or challenges, depending on what form I'm in. Ranma sighed, starting slightly when Ryoga prodded him in the shoulder.

"What d'you want, P-chan?"

To his complete surprise, Ryoga didn't bristle at the nickname, or bark at him not to call him that in front of Akane. Instead, he hissed, "Why are you letting Bikutoria answer your calls, you coward?!?"

Ranma was almost instantaneously irate, and didn't bother to hide it. "What the hell is that suppose to mean, you little-!"

"Shush!"

Startled back into sullen silence by Nabiki's sharp whisper, the two boys simply glared evilly at each other as they listened to the conversation going on outside the Tendo-Saotome home.

"...has yet to finish eating his meal, so you may have to wait a few more minutes." Bikutoria finished, her voice light and pleasant, a strange tone for one such as Kodachi, unknowing of the girl beforehand or not. "I'm sorry for the inconvenience, miss...?"

"Oh, my poor Ranma! Force to eat such meager cooking!" Kodachi cried dramatically, setting Ranma's teeth on edge as he reminded himself that it was against martial art's code, against a man's code, to hit a woman.

"I believe that Kasumi's cooking is far from meager," Bikutoria's voice had taken on a less pleasant tone and Ranma smirked slightly at the deep, ruby blush that completely covered Kasumi's face at Bikutoria's words. She seemed to almost read his mind, and he was glad of it.

"Nothing will do for my Ranma but my cooking, only mine, simply no one else can compare!" Kodachi's voice took on a high pitched fever before her trademark laugh came blasting through the walls again, making Ranma's hair stand on end and causing even Soun to wince.

"I'm sure you feel that way, miss" Bikutoria's voice had harden a few more notches and it made Ryoga, Akane and Ranma worriedly raise from their seats. "Yet, I just saw him eating some of Kasumi's 'meager' cooking and it looked like he was enjoying himself immensely."

It seemed Kodachi finally realized that this girl was not going to admit that she was the only gourmet for Ranma, for her next words were as cold as Bikutoria's as she snapped, "And who are you to say how much my darling Ranma enjoyed his breakfast, anyway?!?"

"I'm the newest addition to the Tendo-Saotome household," Bikutoria's voice had a definite note of icy challenge in it and it drove Ryoga, Akane and Ranma to their feet fully and it also made them start hurrying toward the front door, "Bikutoria Ryuoki of the School of-"

But whatever Bikutoria was had been drowned out by an ear-piercing shriek, even more unnerving than Kodachi's laughter. The group made it to the door just in time to see Kodachi on her bottom, pointing one shaking finger at Bikutoria, who looked utterly confused.

"N-new addition? Y-you?" Kodachi's eyes quickly filled with tears as she threw her hands up to cover her face, looking the very picture of a heartbroken maiden, "No! It's not true, this simply cannot be!"

Confusion and anger quickly turned into concern as Bikutoria reached out a hand to Kodachi's quivering form, her voice soft as she asked, "What's wrong, miss? Are you alright? What did I say?"

Lifting her hands up and spotting Ranma in the doorway, Kodachi drew in a dramatic gasp and threw herself in his direction, crying out, "My most beloved Ranma, tell me this isn't true!"

Ranma side-stepped Kodachi's sudden lunge, causing the kimono-wearing gymnast to fall to the ground before grumbling, "Why don't you tell us what is so horrible before you start screeching again?"

"Oh,my darling!" Kodachi ignored the 'request' and began to cling to Ranma's legs, sobbing hysterically and causing Akane to glower angrily at her. "It's because I neglected you, isn't it? It's because I failed in training for my wifely duties-"

"Tell me this isn't her normal personality and that she's on some kind of drug," Bikutoria asked incredulously, also giving Kodachi's prostrate form a look that was less than sympathetic.

Kodachi's cries were soon getting to a pitch that only dogs would hear as Ranma attempted to shake her off his legs. Akane watched them sourly for a minute before answering bitterly, "No, this is normal... for her."

"Ranma!"

"Oh, great. More trouble," Ryoga muttered, drawing Bikutoria's attention as he watched a petite, blue haired Amazon girl leaped over the Tendo-Soun wall and came to a landing right in front of Ranma... and on top of Kodachi.

"Xian Chu so happy to see Ranma!" She cried, unaware or uncaring of the fact that she was standing on Kodachi Kuno's back. "Xian Chu and Great Grandmother make special meal for Ranma. You eat now!"

"You know, it's usually custom to ask someone to eat your cooking, instead of demanding it," Bikutoria giggled, trying to process the sight in front of her. "Also, going through the front door is more common than springing over the wall."

"Not around here..." Ranma muttered, now trying to pull the overzealous girl off from around him, Akane's face seemingly permanently etched into a frown beside him. "Get off of me, Xian Chu!"

Xian Chu, however, would not be deterred from her loving embrace, only holding tighter until two hands grabbed her by the arms and removed her from her limpet grasp of Ranma's form.

"We really need to get back to breakfast, or we'll be late for class. I prefer not to be tardy on my first day of school." Bikutoria seemed to enjoy the look of surprise on Ranma's face as he watched her move the struggling Amazon away with no apparent effort or struggle of her own.

"She's right, Ranma dear," Kasumi called, her face not entirely devoid of the ruby color that dominated it a few moments ago-which caused Ranma to grin again-as she stuck her head around the bamboo frame of the window, "You've only ten minutes until the first bell!"

Swiftly setting Xian Chu down on her feet, causing the girl to slightly wobble before her balance was restored, Bikutoria gave her three new friends a bright smile before asking, "Shall we go, then?"

Ryoga turned his face away from that shiny smile, which caused him to miss the frown that immediately took its place, as Akane quietly explained, "Ryoga doesn't go to school with us. He tried to apply for it once, but Ranma kept bothering him and he couldn't enter..."

"Oh, that's too bad..." The tone Bikutoria had used made Ryoga's head jerk up; she even looked as disappointed as she sounded!! Did that mean...? "Well, will we see you afterwards, then, Ryoga?"

Confused by the invitation made out of interest, instead of obligation, it took Ryoga a few moments to understand what was being asked of him. When it finally registered that it was an offering of friendship, Bikutoria couldn't seem to help the giggles she got at the enthusiastic nods she got as an answer.

"Five minutes!" Kasumi called in warning, jumping starting the three teenagers into motion, interrupting the argument that had started-"It's not my fault Ryoga's an idiot!"-and leaving Ryoga in the yard with an unconscious gymnast and a slightly irritated Amazon.

Note the sarcasm on 'slightly', this is important later.

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Running toward the school felt nice after the chaos that morning. Ranma glanced down at Bikutoria running beside him as he remembered how easily she had removed Xian Chu from her hold on him and had to ask, "When did you register for school? And why Furinkan High? Why not some private training facility?"

"Well," Bikutoria answered, only panting slightly, "I've been all over the world, training in different types of martial arts, because my brother is always saying 'be always on your guard or your enemy will surprise you' and being surprised in a to-the-death match would be very bad..."

"That's understandable, especially when you're in a match" Akane puffed, running on Bikutoria's other side and marveling at how easily the girl kept up with their frantic pace. It was almost as if she had been doing it her whole life... "But that doesn't answer why you registered for school instead of a training facility."

Nodding at the statement, Bikutoria continued with, "He said that I needed to learn to interact with people, and that it would make it easier for me to figure out how to read people, to see what their next move would be."

"So this is simply another training exercise in his mind? Another way for you to train?" Akane asked bewilderedly, faltering in her steps before Bikutoria righted her a moment later.

"Yes, but I don't mind," Bikutoria sighed softly, with a half-hearted smile that told the pair otherwise, "At least this way I'll be able to make a few friends, I never got to do that before..."

Ranma was about to ask what her parents thought about all of this when the all-too-familiar cry of "Prepare to die, foul sorcerer Saotome!" rang out, signifying that; one; they were near the school buildings and two, that Tatewaki Kuno had spotted them, or more precisely, Ranma.

"How do you get anything done around here?!?" Bikutoria asked Akane incredulously, watching as Ranma dodged Kuno's various attempts to harm him with an almost careless ease. "This is absolute, utter madness!! It's either declarations of love and marriage, or people trying to kill him! Aren't you worried about Ranma's safety at all, Akane?"

"I could care less if he gets hurt! I hate him!" was the immediate reply, but Bikutoria could tell otherwise as she watched Akane watch Ranma closely and even saw the indeterminable flinch Akane made when one of Kuno's mad lunges missed Ranma's side by mere inches.

"Hold still, impudent fiend!" Kuno cried, his mounting anger causing him to miss more and more, Ranma seemingly simply stepping out of the way. "Take your beating like the dog you are!"

The downward sweep of Kuno's shinai was suddenly halted by an upraised hand and irate voice asking, "What exactly did Ranma do to you that caused such animosity between the two of you?"

Ranma stuttered to a stop as well, his fist raised in a blow of his own and his jaw on the floor. Whether because of the rush of SAT-style vocabulary Bikutoria sprouted that he barely understood, or from the fact that Bikutoria had appeared out of nowhere, it was uncertain; but, one thing was certain and that was Tatewaki Kuno was looking at Bikutoria with an all-too-familiar star-struck expression.

"Uh-oh," was all Akane managed to say to warn the girl before Bikutoria was suddenly enveloped in a suffocating embrace that preluded Kuno's overwhelming cries of love at first sight.

"Oh, you beautiful blooming rosebud of womanhood! Has that incorrigible fool magicked away your affections for himself as well? Never fear! I shall defeat the loathsome sorcerer and once he is vanquished you and I shall go on a triple date with Akane Tendo and my pigtailed goddess!"

"As fun," the word was punctured by a stomp to the foot and Kuno releasing Bikutoria with a cry of pain, "as that sounds." this was a spinning elbow to the chest, "I much rather," roundhouse kick to the face that sent Kuno flying, "get to school before the bell."

Akane had joined Ranma in slack jawed amazement as they watched Bikutoria dust off her hands and turn to them with a smile... with slipped when neither moved from their stunned positions.

"What?"

Moving in a rare moment of synchronization, both simply shook their heads and decided to leave their questions alone for now and made it into the school just in time for the bell to ring.

Bikutoria's introduction to the students of Furinkan High was dealt with as much grace as Ranma's was, only the boys were the ones intrigued and the girls viewing her as a challenge in affections.

It wasn't until lunchtime that Akane and Ranma decided to ask their questions about what happened that morning, but they couldn't seem to find their mysterious new house guest anywhere.

"Bikutoria! Bikutoria!" Akane's calls to the girl grew more and more worried as the lunch hour slowly passed and there was still not a single sign of the newcomer to the dojo. "Where are you?"

"She isn't in any of the classrooms or out buildings," Ranma stated, worried as well as he came running up to from where he had been searching, "Has there been any luck on your end?"

"No, not at-Can you hear that?" Akane asked suddenly, as a high trilling came floating through the air like a birdsong. "What is that? Ranma, can you hear where it's coming from?"

Ranma was already heading toward the sound and threw his answer over his shoulder, "Yeah, I can hear it, it sounds like a flute and I think we found out where Bikutoria went..."

Sure enough, the sound lead them to Bikutoria melancholy playing the instrument in the branches of a tree on the edge of Furinkan's property, stopping when she heard the two approaching.

The apprehensive looks on their faces immediately put the redhead on defensive alert, "What's wrong? Ranma? Akane? Did anything happen?" Bikutoria gracefully leapt out of the tree, pocketing her instrument and running up to met them as they came toward her. "What is it?!?"

"Where have you been?" Akane's voice took on an angry note now that the worry over the girl proved to be unfounded. She was half afraid that Happosai had gotten a hold of her despite the order not to touch her. "Do you have any idea how worried we were about you?"

Ignoring Ranma's mutter of 'You mean, how worried you were about her', Bikutoria had the grace to look sheepish as she rubbed a hand along her arm, her words hesitant and unsure. "I'm sorry, Akane, it's just that I've only been around groups of ten, maybe twelve, people when I was training with my brother. That many people... it was a bit overwhelming..."

Ranma, who had trained daily with just his father for years, knew what it was like to suddenly be overwhelmed by the mass of people that gathered in towns and villages. Akane, on the other hand, wasn't as understanding, having lived in Furinkan her whole life but she kept silent as well.

Shaking her head to dispel whatever memory her mind had dragged up, Bikutoria smiled in the way that said she didn't want to talk about what happened. "I guess lunch is almost over. Want to get back to school?"

Wondering at the bizarre conundrum that was Bikutoria Ryuoki, Akane and Ranma followed her back to Furinkan's main building and the rest of the surprisingly peaceful school day.

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A/N: Wow, what can I say? I honestly forgot I even had this fic until I found it floating around on my computer. To those of you who waited this long; you guys have the endurance of saints and I love you!