Disclaimer: I neither own nor claim to own Ranma ½ or Sailor Moon. I would not be opposed however, if either of the authors bequeathed to me ownership.
Author's Note: A version of this has been sitting on my hard drive for nearly a year, so I figured it was time to polish it up a little and try releasing it. While I'm hoping you find the direction I plan for this story interesting, I will state that it will not feature a reincarnated Ranma or Ranma wearing a fuku in the slightest. Canon for both Ranma and Sailor Moon will be a reasonable blend of the manga and anime. Spoilers for both series in their entirety will be found in this story.
It should be noted that the first two scenes were inspired by Bob Lobster's "Moon Over Neptune," one of quite a few of his stories I would be very thankful for him to continue.
A huge thanks to Verkisto for being my grammar-nazi on this. I think I broke her by submitting a story based on anime. Also thanks to the people on TFF, for helping me big time on the characterization.
I hope you enjoy and comments and critique are very welcome.
It sucked to dress up.
Glaring at her untied bow tie, Tenou Haruka cursed the day that Michiru threw out all of her clip-ons. As much as Haruka loved Michiru, her fellow Senshi's insistence upon maintaining a certain level of propriety drove her nuts at times. She would much rather play the piano in motor-oil stained sweats than dress up in this ridiculous monkey suit. Thankfully she didn't have an Adam's apple for the blasted bow tie to press up against.
"Haruka? Are you almost ready? We need to leave within ten minutes so we make it to the hall with time to spare," Michiru called out from the bedroom.
With a soft sigh, Haruka looked into the mirror once more to make sure everything was tucked in properly. "Yeah, I'm almost ready," Haruka replied after a few seconds. "Can you come in here and help me with the bow tie?"
Haruka smiled lecherously when Michiru glided into the bathroom wordlessly to assist her. Clad in a strapless black dress that exposed tantalizing flashes of her thighs through the high cut slits, Michiru snatched the bow tie from Haruka's hands and deftly tied it around her throat.
"What would you do without me?" Michiru murmured as she wrapped her arms around Haruka's slender frame.
"Dress the way I want," Haruka said flippantly.
Oops. Her mouth definitely outpaced her brain. In the mirror Haruka saw Michiru's eyes flash before her mouth tightened into a pout. Haruka suppressed a grimace at that pout. If she didn't do damage control quickly, she would be lucky to share a bed with Michiru tonight.
"Uhh… Only because I wouldn't know how to dress myself without your guidance," Haruka blurted out. She quickly swiveled to directly face Michiru and flashed her a smile.
With a raised eyebrow, Michiru released her hold on Haruka and strolled back into the bedroom without saying a word. Shit. Michiru was the most vindictive person Haruka knew. Not only did Michiru believe in getting even, she believed in establishing a deterrent through excessive retaliation. A few months prior to Galaxia's invasion, Haruka accidentally grabbed Michiru's favorite one-piece swimsuit and used it as a chamois, completely ruining it in the process. For the next three weeks, not only did Michiru refuse to touch her in bed, but she also managed to put a dent in every single one of Haruka's vehicles. Even the damn lawn mower.
Stifling the urge to curse, Haruka strode out of the bathroom to find Michiru. Upsetting Michiru would have been completely avoidable if she wasn't so insistent on bringing Haruka up to her standards for etiquette. Haruka had tried several times to foist Michiru's attentions towards Hotaru, but for some inexplicable reason without doing a thing, Hotaru met every standard Michiru had. And even Haruka didn't consider herself foolish enough to attempt to involve Setsuna in one of her schemes.
Haruka caught up to Michiru outside the bedroom as she began to head downstairs. "So, are you ready for tonight?"
"Am I ready?" Michiru repeated with humor lacing her voice. "You do realize that tonight's piece is at the upper limits of your ability to play the piano. I know that I am ready. If I were you, I'd be less worried about my apparel and more worried about hitting my notes."
Crap. Nothing she was saying tonight came out right. Of course, Michiru was enrolled at Toudai and was a member of their orchestra. While Haruka still got a thrill out of playing the piano with Michiru, she now spent the bulk of her time trying to qualify for the All Japan Touring Car Championship. "Have I ever let you down?"
Michiru snorted gently. "I'll deign not to answer that. By the way, Hotaru called while you were getting dressed. She's going to spend the night over at Usagi's."
Opening her mouth to suggest just what she and Michiru could do with no minor in the house, Haruka quickly shut it. It was just safer to stay quiet for now.
"So you can be trained," Michiru noted with a quirk of her lips. Realizing that her keys weren't in her pockets, Haruka brushed past Michiru to enter the kitchen.
Only to stop. In front of her sat Setsuna, sipping from a mug of what Haruka presumed was tea, staring at the wall. That wasn't unusual. What was unusual, however, was that Setsuna, normally an impeccably dressed woman, was wearing oatmeal grey sweatpants with a maroon Harvard University sweatshirt. And, as if that in itself weren't enough, there was also a large bottle of cognac open next to her. Now that was truly unusual. Hell, Haruka hadn't even known that they had cognac in the house.
"Are you drinking?" Haruka asked after her brain restarted.
Crimson eyes turned to face her, noticeably unfocused. "Well, yes, I suppose I am drinking," Setsuna replied in an even tone, although faint traces of a slur could be detected. "It's really the only remedy I have right now."
"Michiru! Problem!" Haruka waited for Michiru to enter before trying to determine why their reclusive roommate was getting tanked in their kitchen. "So uh, what's the situation?"
"Mmm, no threat to the timeline or our lives, so don't worry your little head," Setsuna answered after taking another pull of her drink. "I just kicked myself out of the Time Gates for the next two years. Stuck here to suffer whatever is coming our way."
"Suffer?" Michiru said softly. "I don't think it would be that horrible to live with us for a couple of years. We do like to think of you as a friend, despite your tendency to withhold information."
Setsuna's lips curled up into a sardonic smile. "And I tend to think of you two as my friends, despite your tendency to rush into situations like a pair of fools." Haruka flinched, thinking of her (well-intentioned) betrayal of Hotaru and Setsuna the previous year. Despite being assured that there were no hard feelings, it tore her apart thinking that they had for all intents and purposes killed their adoptive daughter and housemate. "No, if it weren't for the circumstances I would be enjoying the chance to actively raise Hotaru."
"Circumstances?" Michiru queried while Haruka was wondering whether this would require her to go above and beyond in the name of Queen Serenity again.
"I relieved myself of duty less than an hour ago under most ominous tidings." Silence filled the kitchen as Setsuna's head lolled slightly to the right, viridian hair nicely complementing the maroon sweatshirt. "I… Future me – well, I assume it was future me, I suppose it's possible that it was past me and I simply erased my own memories - was laughing as I told myself to enjoy the time off."
Both Haruka and Michiru started snickering at this pronouncement. All that buildup for this?
"You don't understand!" Setsuna insisted, a blush creeping into her cheeks. "I never laugh like that. The only reasons I can speculate for laughing is that whatever will be happening will be either highly embarrassing or annoying to me to the point that I would be tempted to violate my oaths to remove the cause of my distress."
At this point, Haruka was having trouble breathing she was laughing so hard while Michiru had resorted to covering her mouth with her hand to suppress her giggling.
"Don't worry Setsuna," Haruka gasped out once she brought herself under control. "We'll protect you. Won't we Michiru?"
"Oh, yes," Michiru stated evenly, her giggles under control. "We'll be with you every step of the way."
"Knowing my luck, you two will be the cause of whatever is going to happen," Setsuna groused, glaring at her housemates.
Picking up her keys, Haruka smirked. "Seriously, whatever it is, I'm sure it's one of those things that you'll be able to look back in ten years and laugh."
"I do have quite the memory, Haruka," Setsuna stated, pouring more brandy into her mug. "Perhaps I'll forgive the one who is responsible in a millennium or two."
Michiru cocked her head to the side as she began to back out of the room. "You're making a lot of assumptions Setsuna. Are you sure you don't wish to attend our performance tonight now that you're here? We can easily get you backstage access."
"I am your elder by several millennia," Setsuna countered. "I will be perfectly fine drinking by myself."
It took three minutes for Haruka to finally convince her lover to allow Setsuna to drink by herself. Haruka didn't blame Michiru for being concerned for the Senshi of Time. Setsuna drinking seemed unnatural. In all of their previous interactions with her, Setsuna had been the epitome of composure and seemed fully in control of every situation. To see her drinking herself into a stupor was disconcerting.
"At least it sounds like this isn't a threat to the Princess," Michiru said, interrupting Haruka's internal monologue as they exited the house. "You do have to admit, our prior modus operandi with Senshi affairs have put us at odds with our comrades. I'm really glad that we're not facing a further strain on our relationship with Hotaru and Setsuna."
"Hey! We did only what was necessary," Haruka protested as she slid into her new imported BMW Z3. It was so nice to reward oneself for saving the world.
Taking care not to wrinkle her dress, Michiru slid into the car, double-checking to insure that her violin was on the backseat. "I still can't believe you imported one of these," Michiru noted in a blatant attempt to change the subject. "Aren't European vehicles supposed to require a lot of maintenance?"
As the car pulled out of the driveway, Haruka unconsciously smiled at the thought of her new baby. "I do have my own pit crew, you know. I'm actually counting on this beauty to break down so I get a chance to really learn what makes her tick." Michiru just shook her head at Haruka's infatuation for her cars. "Hey, that crazy stalker of yours isn't going to be there tonight, is he?"
"Why? Are you afraid of his wooden stick?" Michiru asked with a trace of mockery in her voice.
"Oh, puhleeze. What could that nut do? Didn't he call me a scoundrel or a cretin? As I said, he's just some crazy stalker."
With an uncharacteristic smirk, Michiru faced Haruka. "Well, he has demonstrated that he is well versed in literature. Quite the sophisticated man. Perhaps I should be questioning why I put up with your boorish company."
Her eyebrow ticking, Haruka focused her attention back on the road in lieu of a rejoinder. How the hell did Michiru always get the best of her?
"Tut-tut, lover. If you keep pouting, you'll develop wrinkles."
Haruka really needed to redirect Michiru's nagging elsewhere.
In a rare state of relaxation, Ranma Saotome committed to memory the interior of Kioi Hall. The four chandeliers were dimmed just enough to expose the wooden paneling of the hall while creating what he supposed would be an intimate setting. Thankfully, he wasn't here on a date. To his right, Kasumi sat, leaning forward, visibly enjoying the performance on stage. Even with the conservative neckline on her emerald green dress, she looked incredible dressed up. Recalling so clearly that he could almost hear them again, he remembered Nabiki's snickers as he tried to articulate how Kasumi had looked upon seeing her present herself before departing from the dojo.
There were fates far worse than being the escort to Kasumi Tendo. When an old friend of hers had given her the pair of tickets, no one in the dojo had been surprised when Soun Tendo had forbidden her attendance without a male escort to ensure her safety. Naturally, neither Soun nor his pops had the inclination to attend a "sissy, good-for-nothing" concert, so he was conscripted to be her date.
Fortunately, for once, Nabiki didn't throw fuel on the fire. Initially, she demanded 20,000 yen to prevent any fiancé or rival-related incidents, but an idle comment from Kasumi hinting that Nabiki would no longer receive any help with her laundry was more than enough to deter Nabiki's avarice. Ranma wasn't too concerned; odds were that Nabiki just jacked up the price she charged everyone else to make up for the money she failed to bilk at the Tendo Dojo.
An increase in the tempo of the piece brought Ranma's attention back to the duo performing on stage. A quick glance at the program guide reminded him that this was Sonata for Piano and Violin No. 3 in C minor, composed by Edvard Grieg. Which did absolutely nothing for him. While he enjoyed the purity of classical music, especially compared to that electronic crap Akane and Nabiki were enamored of, he had absolutely no clue who any of the composers were.
The piece hit its crescendo, only to fade away into a conclusion a couple of minutes later. The lights came back up in the hall as he joined the rest of the audience in a standing ovation. Ranma had to give the couple on stage credit; they played some damn good music. A quick glance at Kasumi showed that she was beaming while enthusiastically clapping. To see this degree of reaction from the normally placid woman made it completely worthwhile to have dressed up in a suit.
Fidgeting with his tie, he waited for the applause to die down as people began to exit the hall.
"Oh Ranma, thank you so much for accompanying me tonight," Kasumi said warmly as she patiently followed him towards the exit. "It was oh so much fun."
"Anytime, Kasumi. I actually liked the show."
"'Concert' or 'performance' would be the proper term, Ranma," Kasumi corrected gently as they got in line to pick up their coats. The weather that evening had been unseasonably cold, even for early November, with the low around 5 degrees Celsius. "Would it be all right with you if we waited outside for Kaiou-san and Tenou-san to leave so I could get them to sign my program?"
Scratching his pigtail, Ranma nodded his consent. "Don't see why that would be a problem. I'm in no rush to head home."
Sadly, Ranma would extend this parent-and-fiancé-sanctioned trip as long as humanely possible. Peace and quiet were two abstract concepts for him these days. Not that he had ever been well acquainted with them, but ever since the wedding attempt Ranma had felt as if Nerima was a pot of water set to boil.
Focusing back on Kasumi to make sure she was still next to him, Ranma walked outside, blinking as he faced a small grove of trees. Kioi Hall stood on top of a hill in the Shinjuku district; an island of tranquility in a sea of electronic signs. Through the bare branches, Ranma saw neon pink and bright white lights flickering as they advertised their wares.
A small cluster of people had gathered to the side of the building waiting for the duo to appear. It didn't make sense to Ranma why people would want to wait around just to get the signature of a musician, but he sure as hell wasn't going to deny Kasumi something so simple. Especially if it kept him away from the dojo.
Nearly half an hour later, the musicians emerged from the building. The girl with the aqua hair was pretty attractive. Resisting the urge to smack himself in the head for that thought, Ranma was damn thankful that she already had a boyfriend. Ranma smirked slightly to see Kasumi press up against the gaggle of fans, attempting to get a signature.
"Halt!" A far too familiar voice rang through the air. Ranma groaned at the prospect of fighting in his suit. "Your crimes shall go unpunished no more! Repent now and release my sea-born maiden from your wicked grasp, foul cretin, or prepare to feel my wrath!"
Quickly pivoting to face Kuno, Ranma stared dumbly as the kendoist ran straight past him to face the blond man. Clad in a silver hakama over a blue kimono, Kuno pushed through the small crowd to stand in front of the blond, who had positioned himself in front of aqua hair.
Shit. Ranma had thought he was finally done with Kuno. After graduating last spring, the kendoist had begun attending some university and disappeared off the map. It was a mixed blessing. On one hand, it was just one less idiot that Ranma had to deal with trying to either kill or grope him. On the other hand, Kuno was an invaluable stress release for Akane to vent upon. With his absence, Ranma found himself involuntarily picking up the slack.
"Varlet! I bestow upon thee but one chance!" Kuno proclaimed, withdrawing a bokken from his kimono. "Let it be said that I am as merciful as I am wise. Stand aside scoundrel, or I shall smite you with the unyielding wrath of the heavens!"
So that's what happened to Kuno. The idiot had found himself a new woman to fixate upon. He still was a complete idiot, though. There was no way that pianist could defend himself. It was one thing to fight Ranma or Akane since they were both martial artists. But some musician?
Before Ranma could intervene, the pianist responded to Kuno's blathering. The blond man spoke too quietly for Ranma to hear what was said, but it obviously pissed off Kuno. With a shout, the kendoist charged forwards, heedless of the non-combatants in his path.
So much for a peaceful resolution and keeping his suit damage free. Automatically augmenting the chi to his legs, Ranma leapt over the crowd to intercept Kuno.
Stifling a curse, Ranma spotted the course of Kuno's assault. If Ranma simply took the blond guy out of the way, the violinist would be hit with the full force of Kuno's attack. Making a quick decision, Ranma altered his trajectory. Landing a few feet in front of Kuno, Ranma kicked the pianist as gently as possible out of the way before scooping up the violinist and leaping out of the strike range of the thrust of Kuno's bokken.
To his surprise, the violinist barely reacted when she realized what had happened to her. She merely gave Ranma a slightly confused gaze before turning her head away to look back towards her boyfriend. Ranma shifted his attention to Kuno and saw a lost expression on his face as the kendoist's bokken failed to meet its target. Chuckling softly, Ranma re-established eye-contact with the violinist cradled in his arms. "Sorry 'bout kicking your man, but I needed to get him out of the way of Kuno's attack."
A slight smile formed on the aqua-haired woman's face, but before she could reply, Kuno yelled, "Saotome! How did I fail to see your hands orchestrating these events? Foul sorcerer, you may have saved your golem, but I shall strike you down to save my loves!"
"Golem?" questioned the aqua-haired woman as Ranma set her on the ground.
With his hands free, Ranma quickly positioned himself to the front and left of the violinist in order to keep her out of the line of attack. "What the hell, Kuno? That guy isn't even a martial artist." Ignoring the protests voiced by the pianist on the ground, Ranma continued to advance towards the kendoist. "Seriously, how do you get into Toudai and not understand that your loves loathe you?"
"Nay! Enslaver of women, your words are-"
"Tatewaki-kun," Kasumi interrupted in a vacant tone as she emerged from the crowd. "How nice it is to see you here. How are your studies proceeding?"
"Fair Kasumi!" exclaimed Kuno, as he turned to face the eldest Tendo sister. "I did not know you were planning to attend this magnificent performance. If I had been aware of your presence, I would have insisted you be seated in the family box."
Sharing a wry look with the violinist, Ranma steadily maneuvered himself towards the pianist, who was pushing himself back up.
"Why, thank you for the offer," Kasumi replied with a honey-laced voice. Ranma ceased his efforts to help the blond, staring in shock. Could Kasumi get rid of Kuno without resorting to a fight? "I haven't seen you in such a long time. I know that Nabiki has missed your company." Bullshit. What was Kasumi doing? Nabiki mourned the loss of Kuno's business for all of three seconds before thanking Kami-sama that she was going to a different campus for university. "Would you like to come over next Saturday evening for a meal?"
"An offer to dine at your residence? I dare not refuse. Such splendor is your offer, I must make haste to free my calendar for this divine event." To Ranma's relief and amusement, Kuno inserted his bokken back into his kimono before turning to face him. "Know this, demon! Your execution has been stayed solely by the grace of fair Kasumi. You and your golem will face my wrath in due time!"
The kendoist promptly walked back into the crowd, drawing looks from the patrons that ranged from curious to outraged.
Flashing Kasumi a quick smile, Ranma turned towards the pianist. "Sorry 'bout kicking you. I figured you'd prefer that to being whacked with that bokken."
The man brushed dust off from his tux before focusing on Ranma. "Thanks for the save, then." The pianist extended his right hand. "Tenou Haruka. Just call me Haruka."
Giving the man's hand a quick shake, Ranma plastered a smile on his face. "Saotome Ranma." Searching for the girl he had saved, he saw that she was already back with the crowd, signing more signatures. "Oops, looks like I'm keeping you from your fans."
"Mind waiting for us to finish? I'm sure Michiru would love to thank you."
"Sure, why not?" Ranma answered with a shrug.
Haruka gave Ranma a tight smile before he started to head over to join his girlfriend.
Seeing Kasumi heading back towards the line, he whistled to get her attention and waited for her to come over and join him. "He said that they wanted to talk to me after they're done with the crowds. Thanks for getting Kuno to back down Kasumi. I really didn't want to explain to mom why I ruined yet another suit."
"Oh, how wonderful! And it was my pleasure, Ranma. Don't worry, I'm sure somehow you'll be out of the house next Saturday."
They fell into a companionable silence, watching the crowd dwindle at a decent rate. Finally, after twenty minutes, the last fans took their leave and the pair of musicians approached.
"Once again, thanks for the help," Haruka stated as he slipped his arm around Michiru. "And this is my lovely girlfriend, Kaiou Michiru."
The woman pursed her lips before giving Ranma a sly smile. "Although you took liberties with me that most men wouldn't dare, I am quite grateful for your assistance. If you would indulge me, why did Kuno-san call you a 'foul sorcerer'?"
"Cuz he's an idiot?" Ranma speculated to the amusement of the pair. "The idiot spent the past two years of high school stalking a pair of women. Since both paid me more attention than him, he declared me a 'foul sorcerer' that obviously had 'bewitched' his loves. Didn't matter that I never actually did anything with those two, he would just attack me regardless. I just can't believe he went after a guy who obviously can't fight."
Haruka sputtered indignantly while his girlfriend raised her hand to her mouth to laugh softly.
"Ranma." Uh-oh. That was definitely a disapproving tone from Kasumi. "My apologies, Tenou-san, Kaiou-san. Ranma was raised alone by his father on the road and thus lacks many social graces." Ranma definitely didn't like the near-sinister grin that appeared on Haruka's face. "Since he failed to introduce me, I am Tendo Kasumi, a friend of Ranma's."
"It is a pleasure to meet you," Michiru intoned smoothly. "I too know what it's like to date someone lacking a certain social polish."
The blush that appeared on Kasumi's face took Ranma by surprise. "Oh my. Oh my. You misunderstand. If anything, my relationship to Ranma is one of siblings."
"Don't worry about that," Haruka interjected, eliciting a surprised look from Michiru. "Say, Michiru, Ranma here did us quite a favor. Don't you think he deserves a reward?" Her expression cautious, Michiru slowly nodded. "How about you teach Ranma some basic etiquette? You're the best person I could think of for the job."
"Oh, that would be wonderful!" Kasumi said, pressing her hands together. "If you learned to be more polite, I'm sure there would be much fewer people trying to kill you, Ranma."
This statement made Ranma drop his head into a palm while both musicians looked at Ranma in confusion.
"I suppose I could," Michiru said after an awkward silence. "I'm not quite sure how I would go about doing it, though."
"Just go out to dinner with him. As soon as he opens his mouth, you'll just nag at him until he learns manners," Haruka suggested.
While it sounded good to Ranma, the glare Michiru was directing at Haruka made Ranma empathize with the man. It strongly resembled the kind of look that Akane gave him when he screwed up.
"That sounds like a lovely plan," Kasumi stated, breaking Haruka free from Michiru's death gaze. "Would next Saturday work out for the first lesson?"
After a moment's consideration, Michiru nodded her head. "That would be fine. Tendo-san, it was a pleasure meeting you. Saotome-san, I look forward to seeing you next weekend."
"Nice to meetcha!" Ranma called out after they had exchanged contact information, while Kasumi waved goodbye. Haruka and Michiru walked to a nearby sports car and departed within moments.
Damn, it was time to head home. At least he had made it through the entire concert without triggering his curse.
As the television blared in the background, Nabiki glanced surreptitiously at her sister, Akane. It was quite amusing to watch her eyes flicker back and forth between the eleven o'clock news and the entry hall. Shifting slightly on the couch, Nabiki could nearly see her sister's battle aura enveloping her lavender workout shorts and tank-top. It wouldn't take much to make her boil.
"My, my, my," Nabiki drawled out lazily, eliciting a curious glance from Akane. "Kasumi and Ranma are most certainly late. I expected them at the latest thirty minutes ago. I do wonder what is delaying the two of them."
Bingo. Hazy red aura was now visible. At times, Nabiki felt a little remorse at just how easy it was to push Akane's buttons. For the supposed heir of the Tendo Musabetsu Kakutou Ryuu, she certainly lacked anything resembling self-control. It was something of a pity, but if she didn't control that temper of hers one day, she'd never advance any further in martial arts. Granted, Ranma and Kasumi would complain to Nabiki that she was merely antagonizing Akane for her personal amusement (which was true), but Nabiki would rationalize that she was doing something of a favor for dear little sister.
It was unknown to Nabiki if anyone believed that line anymore. Not that it mattered.
However, it was a shame in Nabiki's opinion that she no longer could provoke Ranma like she used to. Ever since the attempted wedding, there had been an intangible shift in their interactions that put her on edge. She wasn't sure what the trigger was since it didn't seem as if he wanted much to do with Akane anymore, but somehow she toggled the filter in that vacuum of a head of his that determined whether or not he was in a fight. While he was a naïve idiot in nearly every social interaction, he was an unparalleled genius at fighting. Unfortunately, he had treated virtually every interaction with her these days as being in a fight.
He still could be taken advantage of, but it required much more of an effort to end an exchange with her as the clear victor. Furthermore, there was a limit to how far she was willing to provoke him. The middle Tendo daughter had the sinking sensation that if she tried to sell Ranma off in either of his forms again, she would be experiencing his full wrath. She wasn't certain what exactly Ranma's "full wrath" entailed, but she sure as hell didn't want to be the one who sent him over the edge.
The sound of a door opening caught both sisters' attention. Two female voices could be heard in soft conversation before a familiar high-pitched voice huffed in exasperation. Seconds later, a red-headed Ranma-chan stormed past them towards the stairs, virtually swimming in her suit. Ooh, Fumiko, her successor for operations at Furinkan High, could probably make a killing selling shots of Ranma-chan dressed like that.
Gentle footsteps followed shortly after, signaling Kasumi's arrival. At least now she could get some answers. "So when did Ranma get in touch with his feminine side?"
"I'm afraid it was somewhere on the subway. Some salaryman got a little too grabby, so Ranma got a little over-excited and broke the man's hands."
"Hmmph. Serves the pervert right."
Nabiki pondered momentarily whether Akane was referring to Ranma or the salaryman, then deemed it irrelevant. "So what delayed the two of you? At the latest I expected you home nearly thirty minutes ago."
Taking a seat on the couch next to Nabiki, Kasumi gave her a beaming smile. "Oh! I wanted to get Kaiou-san and Tenou-san's signatures, so we waited for them outside after the performance. Then your friend Tatewaki got a little over-excited and Ranma had to rescue them."
"Kuno-baby was there?"
"That idiot is hitting on another woman?"
"Oh, yes. Although luckily Ranma got Kaiou-san and Tenou-san out of the way before any harm could be done." To Nabiki's shock, Kasumi clapped her hands and let loose a squeal. "They were so thankful for Ranma's help, I arranged for Kaiou-san to give him etiquette lessons. Isn't that wonderful?"
Upon hearing her sister's proclamation, Nabiki felt her jaw drop. Ranma was going to be instructed in etiquette? By a celebrity musician? Oh, this had disaster and profit written all over it. She would have to tread carefully, though. Kaiou would likely have lawyers that could make life very uncomfortable for her.
"Wha-wha-wha…" sputtered Akane, who apparently shorted out her brain trying to figure out how to deal with this development.
"Now, don't worry, sister, Kaiou-san is currently dating Tenou-san, another woman. She will pose no threat whatsoever to your relationship with Ranma," Kasumi assured Akane. To Nabiki's fascination, Akane's aura's intensity increased. It was definitely time to get out of the line of fire.
"So let me get this straight," said Nabiki, humor lacing her voice. "Ranma is going to be tutored by a beautiful celebrity. Who is a lesbian. Does she know about Ranma's curse? Because, seriously, Ranma is a dream come true for any lesbian. Don't you think so, Akane? If she were to marry him, she could claim to be straight while having nonstop lesbian sex with Ranma."
"Gah!" Akane muttered before she stormed upstairs.
"Nabiki." Resisting the urge to flinch at the disapproval in Kasumi's voice, Nabiki turned to focus on her sister. "Did you really have to provoke Akane like that?"
"You saw her, sis. She was ready to blow her top. Better aim it at Ranma than one of us."
"PERVERT! HOW DARE YOU HIT ON LESBIANS!"
Both Kasumi and Nabiki looked up at the ceiling as a loud thud resonated through the house, most likely signifying that Akane had knocked Ranma out for the night.
"Nabiki, Akane is already under enough stress as it is. Are you deliberately trying to make her snap?"
"Whoa there," Nabiki said, raising her hands in a display of submission. Damn, Kasumi was in a nagging mood tonight. "Akane really needs to learn how to ignore my insinuations. Hell, even Ranma knows better now than to take what I say at face value. Sis will never progress further in martial arts if she doesn't learn to control herself. And you know what they say, the hottest fires create the sharpest weapons."
"That… That analogy doesn't quite sound right little sister," Kasumi said tentatively as she stood up.
"Heh, well I'm not a martial artist, but you catch my drift," Nabiki stated, watching her sister begin to close the shoji screens for the night. "Hey, isn't Tenou a guy? I could have sworn everything I heard about her stated she was a male."
To her annoyance, Kasumi schooled her face into its usual obliviously happy expression. "After I met Konatsu, I've learned to look for the Adam's apple whenever I meet someone new in order to avoid offending them. Tenou-san definitely did not have an Adam's apple."
With a noncommittal grunt, Nabiki turned her attention back to the television. It took her nearly a minute to realize that Kasumi was still in the room.
Looking back towards the hallway, Nabiki saw Kasumi frowning at her, arms crossed beneath her breasts. "Nabiki, I need you to lay off provoking Akane. I know you love your mischief, but I fear between you, the fathers and the Amazons she's going to snap under all this pressure. This is her home; she should be able to relax here."
Rolling her eyes, Nabiki made a dismissive gesture with her hand. "Relax? In this house? Why do you think I paid the extra money to live in the dorms? I thank the gods that I got my brains from mother and not father. Hell, I'm still trying to figure out how Ranma is as relatively well balanced as he is with those complete whack-jobs for parents. Little sis needs to learn how to deal with the pressure like Ranma or she's going to go on a mass-murder spree. There is a reason that I only spend weekends here."
"You mean besides my cooking and doing your laundry for you?" Wow, she hadn't heard Kasumi use that tone in speaking to her since the wedding attempt. "Very well. I do expect for you to not encourage Ranma's acquaintances to interfere with these etiquette lessons. I found Kaiou-san to be a very enjoyable person and would hate to strain whatever relation we had to one another."
It was an easy choice. Kaiou was wealthy, popular and sane. The last thing Nabiki needed was for Shampoo to make an attempt on Kaiou's life, thus exposing herself to media and government scrutiny. "I'll keep my hands off this one. Don't hold me accountable though if someone else hears about this and acts on their own."
The usual vacant smile quickly returned to Kasumi's face. "I'm glad to hear that. Oh, will you be here next Saturday? I'm planning on preparing that steak you've grown so fond of."
Mmm, steak. The meat of affluence. Mentally drooling, Nabiki enthusiastically nodded her head. "You can count on it, I'll be here." Her eyes studying Kasumi, Nabiki wondered what set her sister off earlier. "Hey sis, what's wrong? You seem a little off tonight."
Kasumi's hands pressed down the sides of her dress, as if she were weighing her response. "Ranma was so much happier tonight the farther he was from Nerima. It simply brought to my attention that the status quo will not last forever. Thanks to Uncle Genma, no matter how the situation is resolved, it's going to be messy. And unless something drastic changes, I'm afraid Akane will be hurt no matter how it is resolved."
"Will you please talk to me? I'm sorry, I didn't mean it like that!"
Refusing to make eye contact with her lover, Michiru strode into their house. How could Haruka put her on the spot like that and insult her a moment later? Privately, she usually found Haruka's ability to jam a foot into her mouth hilarious in retrospect, but now, ignoring the Senshi of Uranus was the only way Michiru could prevent herself from lashing out in anger.
A hand reached out and grabbed her shoulder, forcing Michiru to stop. Turning around, she saw Haruka, already withdrawing her arm with a repentant look on her face. "Listen, I'm sorry. I screwed up. I should have talked to you before I volunteered you. And I really shouldn't have said what I did afterwards."
Michiru arched an eyebrow, staring frostily at Haruka. "Yes, I am rather curious as to what led you to volunteering me to give lessons in etiquette, of all things. Please, do explain."
In an uncharacteristic manner, Haruka sheepishly toyed with her blond hair and looked down. "Did you see him jump? I've never seen a martial artist move like that," she said, her voice's tempo increasing in excitement. "I'll admit that I was a little intimidated and pissed off the way he automatically disregarded my talents as a martial artist. So I may have thought that if you were to help him, I could ask him for lessons later on."
"Are you sure it wasn't that you finally found someone with worse manners than you to focus my attention on?" Michiru retorted, vocalizing the line of thinking that had kept her temper seething for the ride home.
The guilty wince on Haruka's face confirmed her thoughts. Oh, Haruka was definitely intimidated and impressed with Ranma-san's martial arts prowess. Ranma-san himself seemed like an interesting person, one she wouldn't mind getting to know better herself, if only to get a clearer explanation as to why Kuno-san was stalking her. Still, Michiru schooled her expression into one of stony disapproval at the cavalier way Haruka went about volunteering her.
With an audible snort, Michiru rolled her eyes before turning away from Haruka and headed further into the house. Who did she think she was kidding? Peering around the corner of the kitchen door, she saw Setsuna sitting at the table with a few decks of cards. Thankfully, there were no glasses nearby, indicating that her housemate's drinking binge had ended.
"It's good to see you looking sober. Are you feeling any better?"
"Yes, I am," Setsuna answered with a wan smile. "It does feel quite alien to be barred from the Gates of Time. Even when certain future events were blocked from my vision, I could still study past events. I'll adapt, though. Now, what did Haruka do now to piss you off?"
"Hey!" A yell could be heard from the blond Senshi as she entered the kitchen. "Why do you assume that I did something to piss off Michiru?"
"I could say it was the inflection of Michiru's tone, but you are you," Setsuna responded dryly. "So what transgression did you commit?"
"She volunteered me to teach someone etiquette, and said that I would do so through nagging," Michiru interjected, her tone returning to its previously frosty level. "On that note, I think it's time I get out of this dress and take a bath. Setsuna, we're here for you and I know that Hotaru is going to love spending more time with you. Haruka, if you would give me about twenty minutes to unwind and curb my temper before you join me, I'd appreciate it."
Giving Setsuna a smile, Michiru pivoted sharply and exited the kitchen.
Setsuna blinked with curiosity as Michiru headed upstairs, her movements conveying cold fury. Times like this made her very glad she hadn't taken a serious lover in nearly 17,000 years. Relationships were just too damn messy. She shifted her gaze to Haruka, who looked half-ashamed and half-exasperated, and quirked her eyebrow. "So a nag?"
To her increasing amusement, Haruka shifted nervously, as if facing a disapproving parent. It was so rare to see her like this. "I didn't mean it like that. I know I screwed up. "
With her mind still slightly fuzzy from the alcohol, Setsuna had to exert a significant amount of effort to refrain from laughing at the sullen expression on Haruka's face. "Perhaps Michiru could be persuaded to teach you to think before you speak. Who knows, you may just come out ahead from pissing her off."
"Eh, now I need to figure out how to explain to her that I'm getting up at four this morning to watch some stock car racing in Brazil."
"Good luck with that." Setsuna watched as Haruka walked over to the refrigerator and started to rummage through it before turning back to her card game. It was amazing how many variants of solitaire one could develop when living in isolation.
Drat. She lost. Looking up, she saw Haruka polish off an apple before tossing the core into the garbage bin. "Just out of curiosity, who is Michiru giving lessons to?"
"Some guy named Saotome Ranma," Haruka said as she walked out of the kitchen. "Sleep well, Sets."
With a start, Setsuna stopped shuffling her cards. Saotome Ranma. For some reason that name sounded familiar. She resumed shuffling as she pondered just where she knew him from.
Not him. That kid somehow attracted every mentally unstable powerhouse in the hemisphere. She shuddered at the thought of the crazies he attracted following Haruka and Michiru home. Why oh why were her housemates bound and determined to add needless complications to her life?
Her eyebrow twitching, Setsuna got up to pour herself another drink. It was going to be a long two years.