Author's notes: Wow, has it really been five nearly six years since this was updated? It's amazing how time flies. This one should be updated a little more frequently as it, Drop in Reality, and a new Ranma story have been my primary focus.
I'd like to give a big thank you to ranger5 and Noaki for reviewing and giving me a lot of good advise/corrections. Without them… well it wouldn't be nearly as good.
Sorry about the long wait.
The Twining of Two Souls
Chapter 2: Of Dreams and Dresses
Breakfast proceeded as normal after Akane and Ranma left, well at least for Genma. Food vanished after every blink of the eye. Woe betides any hand foolish enough to cross the table.
For the other two occupants of the house, things were a little different. Kasumi kept slouching, her eyelids drifting down as she ate slower and slower. Eventually her chopsticks hung limply from her fingers, slipping to the floor. Kasumi gave herself a shake, but her eyes continued to droop.
On the other side of the table, Ranma's earlier comments had set off Soun's paternal instincts like never before as his eyes watched his usually vibrant baby slump across the table like an exhausted kitten. Kasumi was always so full of life, making their meals and cleaning up like such a good girl. He could count the number of times she was sick on one hand with fingers remaining.
Now he sat anxiously with his newspaper, looking over the top nearly every other word, completely ignoring the food disappearing from his plate. It was for this reason he caught the young woman as she nearly fell face first into her breakfast.
"Kasumi! Are you all right? Please speak to me." Soun asked, holding her around the shoulders.
Kasumi's eyes fluttered open, seemingly one of the greatest struggles of her life. She offered a reassuring smile.
"I'm alright, Father. I… just feel a little tired. I think I may take a short nap after washing the dishes." Kasumi said, attempting to sit up.
Soun easily stopped the weak effort with a single hand.
"Don't worry about the dishes. I'm certain that Genma and I can handle those for one day." This little comment caught the attention of one overstuffed martial artist whose feeding frenzy stopped cold.
"Dishes?" He asked dumbly. "But that's woman's work I would never…"
Soun wasn't listening as he picked up Kasumi, carrying her in his arms. He looked down at her with a small smile as he recalled those late night movies Kasumi insisted she was old enough to stay up for only to curl up into his lap and fall asleep. How he would gently cradle her and tiptoe up the stairs.
Kasumi smiled at the half-remembered memories floated through her mind of that time so long ago.
"I'm… all right. Just… need a… little sl…" And just like that, Kasumi succumbed to the seductive realm of dreams.
"Don't worry, my precious little girl, take as much time as you need." Soun whispered, lightly brushing a strand of hair away from her eyes. "You remind me so much of your Mother." He stifled the swelling tears swelled with a wipe of his sleeve, unwilling to disrupt the girl's dreams.
Kasumi's world was darkness. Not a fearful darkness. Rather it was a soothing warm darkness that comes with a nice deep sleep. Thoughts were non-existent in this realm of dreams as she floated, resting in silent repose.
"Wake-up sleepy head," Kasumi's peaceful countenance scrunched as the childish voice echoed through her small world. Consciousness threatened to overwhelm the peacefulness of the moment and just once, Kasumi wanted to keep that wonderful sensation. Of course the chill wind running over her face did not help at all. Wait…
"Come on Ka-chan, before Pops finds out you're sleeping in!"
Kasumi abruptly found her world of dreamless sleep shattered as she was roughly shaken back and forth. She nearly flew out of her sleeping bag
"Wha… what's going on?" Kasumi squeaked, the words coming from her mouth sounding nothing like her.
"Hurry up or we're going to be late." Kasumi jerked back when a face filled her vision.
'Wait I know…'
"Is that you Ranma?" Kasumi asked, stunned to see Ranma's youthful face. He wore a stain covered gi and couldn't be more than five or six.
"Of course it is, silly. Now come on." As quickly as it came, the face disappeared, replaced by the inside of a tent. Kasumi looked around to find no signs of the bed she had gone to sleep in. It was replaced by a dark green sleeping bag with patches all along its seams. Next to her was another one in similar condition left in a crumpled pile. Her eyes shifted, noticing the tent around her. It contained only a few beaten up pots, a pan, and three lopsided bowls laying on the ground, but little else.
"Ka-chan!" drifted a voice from outside the tent.
Shaking her head, Kasumi grabbed a gi, only to stop looking in wonderment at her small arm. Her eyes trailed down to find that the rest of her matched. Her hand rose to her juvenile cheek.
"What… what is this?"
"Girl! Get out here now!" Kasumi jumped at the rough voice echoed through the tent. Some instinct drew her hand back to the gi neatly folded at her bedside, slipping it on. In a moment she opened the flap to stare in wonderment. Giant pine trees surrounded the small clearing. In the center was a fire pit. A little further on a line connecting two trees, several gis hanging in the middle with water droplets along the bottom.
"It's about time, now get a move on." Kasumi turned around in surprise to find Genma with a near full head of hair under his standard white bandana standing with his hands on his hips looking down at her. Behind him, Ranma literally jumped from foot to foot smiling with a wave as she came into view.
"Ah, yes," Kasumi responded, walking around him to take up a place next to Ranma, who stilled his antics under Genma's critical gaze.
"Now that everyone is here, we can finally get started. We'll do a nice morning jog to get the blood moving. Now, follow me." Genma turned around, sprinting off into the forest, Ranma a heartbeat behind.
Kasumi looked after. 'What is happening? I was asleep and now I'm suddenly…' She shook her head. 'I'll have to figure this out later.' She set off at a run, pushing her young lungs to bursting just to catch-up.
The group ran up the mountain, Genma leading the way swinging wildly from branch to branch, leaping over rocky roadblocks like a monkey. Ranma wasn't able to quite reach the branches, but made twice the speed on the ground, going around the same obstacles. Not even ten minutes in, Kasumi had to stop, her sides heaving as she breathed in and out. Red flecks filled her vision as she slumped against a giant oak tree.
"What's wrong, Ka-chan?" Kasumi couldn't even muster the strength to be surprised as Ranma appeared before her.
"I…I'm a little tired," she admitted, her breathing slowly coming back under control.
Ranma frowned in puzzlement before shrugging. "It's all right. You just joined us after all. I'll have to get Pops to take it easier on ya." Ranma took her arms, placing them around his middle as he turned around. Before she realized what was happening, he dropped down and picked up her legs. With a startled gasp, Kasumi found herself riding piggyback with Ranma running at a sedate pace.
As her heart beat slowed, Kasumi took the time to stare in wonderment, watching the trees pass by. Her eyes lit up as wild deer stared incredulous at them before leaping away.
"You…hea… doing… hea… all right?" Ranma asked, bringing the girls attention back to the boy.
"Oh my, I'm sorry Ranma. I didn't notice you were tired as well." Kasmi said as the boy stopped to lean next to a tree. Kasumi dismounted with a sigh, feeling a lot better.
Kasumi jumped as she saw a large black bear stroll out of the woods, staring at the deer they had startled away. Its large head swiveled from the fleeing prey to the two small children. Crouching back on two legs, it stood growling before crashing back down with a meaty thump. Its large girth barreled down on them. Ranma's eyes widened in fear before he jumped in front of Kasumi, taking a stance.
"You're not going to get Ka-chan. Do you hear me!" Ranma shouted, bringing the bear up short. It turned its head one way than the other before letting out a large snarl, its teeth showing. Dropping back down, it renewed its charge. The boy dropped his stance at the last second, grabbing Kasumi's arm and throwing the two of them out of its way.
The bear hurtled past, skidding to a stop, its maw gnashing in frustrated anger. Its head refocused on the children, slowly stalked after them. Ranma backed away as Kasumi hid behind a thin willow, watching in terror.
"Ranma, we have to run." She squeaked, looking in all directions for some means of escape. Only trees met her gaze.
"Won't work, he's faster," Ranma mumbled between clinched teeth.
Just as the bear came close, it rose to its hind quarters, its left paw raised high. Ranma looked at the bear and back at Kasumi, his resolve solidifying. The assault came. Ranma sidestepped out of the way, screaming as the other paw came around, clipping him in the back.
"AHHHH!" Ranma screamed. Even in pain, he rolled away as the bear pounded his last landing point. Ranma clutched his back, the white of the gi quickly becoming scarlet.
The bear sniffed at the air its nose orienting on Ranma's wound. The bear growled, charging at him. Ranma ducked behind a tree, kicking up dirt into the bear's eyes. It snarled as it pawed at the obstruction. The momentary distraction was enough for Ranma to reach Kasumi.
"Come on, Ka-chan, we need to get out of here while it's distracted." Ranma said, trying to lift the wide eyed girl. Those same eyes widened further as she pointed behind him. Ranma twirled around, seeing the bear looming over them, its mighty paw already hurtling towards the two.
'No time!' Ranma raised his arms to block, teeth clinched as he closed his eyes.
"Boy! I thought I told you two to keep up." Kasumi opened her eyes to find the bear laying unconscious on the ground. A mighty Genma stood over it with one foot on its massive hindquarter looking down on them with just a hint of relief.
He looked slightly less dignified as a small Kasumi grabbed onto the leg not standing on the bear.
"Uncle Genma, I was so scared. Ranma…hiccup… he was hurt." The large man easily picked up the girl setting her aside as he walked around the tree to check on the young boy. He took one look at the blood pooling before his eyes went wide.
"This isn't good," Genma said, picking the boy up in one arm. Kasumi found herself held by a strong arm, the trees a swirl as they zoomed past.
"RANMA!" Kasumi screamed, her hand reaching out as she sat up in her bed. Sweat dripped from her brow, her breathing heavy. Unfocused eyes darted around, not finding the trees there moments ago.
Kasumi, looking down, lightly plucked at the sweat soaked housedress she had been wearing.
"A… dream?" Kasumi asked, her breathing slowly coming under control.
The girl started as her door burst open, framing her Father's figure.
"Kasumi! Are you all right?" the man asked, his chest heaving.
"Oh Father. I'm sorry, I was having a bad dream." She said, offering a smile up to the older man.
He sighed, his composure coming back. "Ah, I see. I thought for a moment something had happened. Will you be going back to sleep?" He asked with concern.
"No, I believe I've had enough rest for the moment," Kasumi responded, lightly getting up. She withheld a hiss as her sore muscles protested.
"Ok, please take it easy for today." Soun said leaving.
Kasumi looked at herself in the mirror. "It seemed so real…"
Later that day found Kasumi walking through the market in a daze. Her mind replayed that vivid dream over and over even as her muscles complained with ever step.
'Was it only a dream?' Kasumi thought to herself. 'But Ranma looked so hurt…' Kasumi's brow lowered as she thought of the experience, fighting the impulse go directly to the school to make sure the boy had not somehow been mauled by a bear.
Kasumi shook herself from her dazed wandering to find that she had meandered beyond the food market. Directly in front of her was a shop, a slanted script in Chinese written across its front window. What drew her attention was the dress behind the script with printed leaves down one side of a red Chinese dress. A haze of green surrounded her eyes as they gazed at the other pretty dresses on display.
"My, that would look very good on me." Kasumi blinked shaking her head. "What am I saying? These are far too expensive. There is no way that I could afford something that pretty." With a nod to herself, she moved back towards the food stands to purchase ingredients for dinner. She had taken only two steps when her eyes lit up bright green. She stopped in her tracks, slowly turning back to the store with a small sleepy smile.
"Trying one on wouldn't hurt." Kasumi mumbled to herself. Walking into the shop, a small bell rang in the back.
Kasumi's eyes widened as everywhere she turned she found a dress, each more stunning than the last. There were vibrant blues and reds that put a rainbow to shame. Others had pictures of mythological animals such as dragons and unicorns embroidered with such detail that the creatures seem to come to life even as she looked at them.
Summoning her courage, Kasumi took a deep breath and ventured further into a world of fashion she had never dared tread before.
Walking down one of the aisles, she reached out to lightly brush against one dress after another. She relished the smooth silken textures and vibrant colors beneath her finger tips. Moving her head in wonder, her eyes happened to catch sight of a lovely rose embroidered onto the front of a baby blue dress. She stared for a long time, drawing hesitantly closer as a child might a long sought piece of candy.
She blinked when she saw a flicker out of the corner of her eye. Kasumi brought a hand to her mouth. She hadn't noticed the mirror at the end of the aisle. She stifled a gasp when she noticed it was her reflection, but instead of her plain clothes, she saw herself wearing the exquisite dress next to her. Tentatively, she raised a hand. The image duplicated the gesture. Lowering her hand, she stared in amazement as her reflection slowly smiled back at her.
A long carefree laugh escaped the smiling reflection as she twirled around and around in a grassy field surrounded by daffodils, roses, bluebells and hundreds of other flowers she did not recognize. All of them formed a collage of colors and tantalizing scents that Kasumi had never experienced.
Her reflection paused, pleasantly leaning against a large willow tree, her smile growing as another figure strode into the scene. Kasumi blushed as she saw Ranma wearing a set of silken Chinese clothes unlike any he had before. The front was stylized with a large black stallion running free along a green plain. A roguish smile appeared as he approached her. He leaned down staring into her eyes, revealing affection Kasumi had never known, yet felt so enticing. She leaned forward as he lightly lifted her chin leaning gently, oh so gently, forward. Her eyes fluttered close…
Kasumi jumped, spinning around to find a middle aged man in a three piece business suit, a frown marring his strong features. He stared down at her with distaste, his hand going through the excessively jelled hair with the first hints of gray. His brown eyes held more disdain than Kasumi had ever seen. His eyes flicked across the plain house dress she wore with a sneer. "I believe you took a wrong turn, Madam. The discount thrift shop is down the street."
Kasumi brought her hand to her mouth. Taking another peak at the mirror, she found only her reddened cheeks and a drab well worn housedress reflected.
Turning back to the employee impatiently pointing to the exit, Kasumi tried to think of something, anything to say. Embarrassment further flushed her cheeks to where she felt she would burn away. Tears swelled in her eyes as an overwhelming urge to run away overtook. She took only a single step before those same eyes lit a brilliant green. Her hand dropped to her side as a soft smile replaced the distress.
"I'm very sorry, but all of these dresses looked so pretty." Kasumi said gesturing to the dress behind her.
The man's rigid stance relaxed, his eyes dilating, an almost carefree smile replaced the harsh frown.
"Yes, they would look wonderfully on you. It would be a crime to let you leave without trying on a few."
The green receded from Kasumi's eyes, leaving Kasumi rosy as the man took dresses off the rack, handing them to Kasumi to try.
Hours later, Kasumi's flushed expression was barely visible over the dozens of dresses held in her arms.
"They all are so beautiful."
"On you they look exquisite, there is no denying it," the man that had attended her every need answered.
"But I couldn't possibly afford even one," Kasumi said with a small pout as she longingly caressed the top dress in her hands; the vibrant colored silk making her finger tips tingle.
"Tich," he clucked with his tongue. "That is not a problem. Even the models we employ do not do these dresses the justice you have today. It would be a crime against them to not go with you."
Kasumi stared up at the man in wonderment. "You mean… I can have these?" she asked, joy filling her heart.
"Of course you may." The man said with a kind smile.
Kasumi longingly caressed the top dress before shaking her head. "No, it just isn't right to take something so expensive like this." She said, reluctantly setting them down on the front counter.
"Hmmm," the man said staring down at her consideringly, his critical eyes taking in every inch of the girl. Kasumi squirmed under the attention, her fingers playing with each other before she stilled them, holding them in place behind her.
"I see that you are quite the virtuous young lady. Perhaps we can come to an agreement." The man said with a final nod.
"Please, come this way," he said, gesturing for her to follow as he walked into the back. She dutifully complied. As she entered the darker room, her eyes wondering over dozens of half finished dresses, several of the striking embroiders laid out.
"No, no, not this one either."
Her eyes trailed back to the man going through a large pile of cards, his face in deep concentration.
"Ah, here it is." He said, taking one out. He pinned something in Chinese on the back before handing it to her.
Kasumi numbly looked down at the foreign words, flipping it over.
"Wangs fashion designs." She read aloud, looking back up the man questioningly.
"I mentioned our fashion models before. Unfortunately most of them are very stuck up and it shows when they are photographed."
Kasumi nodded along, still uncertain what this had to do with her.
"You, on the other hand, have a kind caring quality that I believe would draw customers to our stores. If you feel it enough, I could give you those dresses in exchange for a single photo shoot with the company I do advertisement through."
"I… I don't know what to say," Kasumi responded, looking down at the card.
"Please accept, with you, I believe I would recoup many times the amount of a few dresses."
Kasumi stared consideringly at the card for several long moments, her expression going back and forth between desire and uncertainty. With a final nod, she deposited the card into her dress pocket.
The man nodded, "Wonderful, they'll be doing a photo shoot in a week at four pm. Just hand them that card and they will do the rest." Kasumi found a light hand on her shoulder, leading her back into the main store.
He handed her the neatly stacked dresses and held the door for her.
"Thank you so much," Kasumi said, tears shimmering in her eyes.
She gave a low bow before exiting, groceries a long forgotten memory.
The man stayed at the door, happily bowing until Kasumi rounded the corner. Slowly he stood straight. He lifted his hands, feeling his face to find a large smile plastered there. Confusion filled his eyes as it slowly dropped away into the more accustomed frown.
"What was I doing?" He asked bewildered. After a final shake of his head, the man turned to slink back into the store.
Author's end notes:
It's been quite some time since the last update which I do apologize for. You might be asking why update now? Well, my main focus had been Drop in Reality but unfortunately the interest there isn't very high. Each chapter only generated on average three reviews. One of the hardest things about authoring stories isn't receiving bad reviews. If it's constructive criticism than they can really help sharpen your writing. No, what is hardest is working in a vacuum. You write and put it out and… nothing. Did you do something wrong? Was the grammar horrible? Was the imagery confusing? Why isn't anyone saying anything?
It's because of this that I've branched out into some of the older stories and some new ones outside of Kim Possible. If I kept up just doing that story, I would likely have quit writing all together in frustration.
Sorry about the rant, it's been weighing heavily on my mind for months now. If you have a moment, please let me know what you think of the chapter. If there were any confusing parts or spelling/grammar errors. I really do want to improve and your comments help me to do so. Even just stating your perspective of the events happening really helps me see things through the reader's eyes and if what I'm trying to say is being said.