New Lamps for Old – Learning to play the game

Kodachi heard a familiar giggle, but looking around she couldn't find the source of it. As much as she would like to joust with the redhead it was almost time for school, damn the luck!

Straightening her skirt and grabbing her bag, she slowly trudged towards the door, pausing as she heard her beloved Ranma-sama's laughter. They were both here? She'd rarely seen them in the same area, much less together, despite everyone's claims. She had to admit they were somewhat protective of each other, but it didn't carry the romantic overtones she expected to hear from a couple.

And there it was again. She paused with her head on the front door and started to search for the source of the laughter. Following the sound, and hoping she wasn't imagining things again, she found herself at the door to her room. The redhead's giggle and Ranma's laughter rang out through the door, and she worried once more that she was imagining things. They'd never come to visit her before, and she'd opened her fair share of doors before, hoping to find something on the other side only to find emptiness and tears.

Frozen in indecision, Kodachi stood not wanting to lose hope, but too scared to open the door. Then, wonder upon wonders, the door opened and Ranko stood there with Ranma in the background, setting up a board game.

Ranko pulled Kodachi into her bedroom. "Where have you been? We've been waiting for you to play with us."

Akane stared at Ranma. She'd just seen him pedal off on Shampoo's bike before she arrived, but here he was, sitting in class and paying attention!

"I have a note for Ukyou's absence," Ranma announced, getting out of his seat and handing a folded piece of paper to Miss Hinako.

"Thank you, Mr. Saotome. It's nice to see you acting like a responsible student.'

"I've actually suffered an injury that has wiped a good portion of my memory, so while my behavior has improved, it'll take a while for my grades to," Ranma handed her a note.

"I'm sorry to hear that. Feel free to stay in during breaks and I'll see what I can do to help you catch up," she offered, reading the note.

"Thank you, Miss Hinako. I'll take you up on that."

Class went quickly with Akane tempted to send Ranma a note, but deciding not to, as he seemed to be working really hard on learning the material. Well, that and he ignored any attempts made to pass him notes by the various students wanting to know how he lost his memory. As the rest of the students filed out for break, Ranma stayed in to study with Miss Hinako.

Kuno burst in on Ranma writing down a series of book titles she'd suggested. "Is it true?!" he demanded.

"Is what true?" Ranma asked, confused.

"That you have lost all memory of your villainous ways and freed Akane Tendo from your foul spells?"

Ranma blinked. "I have lost any memory of villainous ways, and am no longer engaged to Miss Tendo. If it helps, I'm pretty sure she hates or dislikes me and seems to be unable to go any serious amount of time talking to me without attacking me."

"Oh glorious day! The heavens do shine verily upon the house of Kuno this day!" he announced grandly before rushing out the door.

"Is he okay?" Ranma asked Miss Hinako with some concern just before she shrank into a young girl. "Are you okay?" he asked.

The young girl giggled. "Of course silly! I'm just in my younger form now."

Ranma sent off a clone with a copy of the book list to the library, much to little Miss Hinako's surprise.

"That was so cool! Can you do more?!"

"Sure," Ranma replied, making a couple of handfuls of clones.

"Good. Can someone find my teddy bear? I lost him at school somewhere. He's small and brown and has a notch out of his left ear." She showed Ranma a picture of her holding the bear.

"You heard her guys, try not to be seen and be sure to change your appearance, thanks."

The dozen clones vanished.

Ranma summoned a clone, and he turned himself into a clone of Miss Hinako's bear. Ranma handed the bear to her. "Until we find the original, here's a duplicate."

Miss Hinako beamed as she hugged the bear to her, and it being a clone, hugged her back. Ranma retook his seat and got ready to take notes while Miss Hinako climbed up on her desk and continued her lecture.

Over a dozen clones scoured the school for a small brown teddy bear, while the school library received a small group of three who quickly assembled a collection of books. The clone with the list picked up the books and cloned himself much to the librarian's surprise, before having the clones reshelved all of the originals and left with the copies. They had quite a bit of reading to do, so the four quickly climbed up the clock tower where they perched like gargoyles and started reading through the pile of books while keeping an eye out for anything unusual.

Meanwhile, Ranma's clones from last night had scattered far and wide in a variety of forms to gather as much information as possible. It was interesting to note that eight of them were in police custody. Three of them had tried to blend in in the wrong place and had been accosted for prostitution. Another two had been arrested for soliciting a prostitute while questioning them about everything under the sun. Of the remaining three, two had been arrested for vagrancy, having decided to pretend to be homeless people but not knowing the safe areas they congregated in, and the final one had been arrested for jaywalking.

All of them could've escaped easily or simply dispersed themselves, but the holding cells held people who knew things you'd never learn in school, so they were content to remain disguised as random people they'd seen, learning everything they could. The majority of the clones were still out and about observing things and making conversation with a variety of people in a variety of forms.

Artemis and Luna crouched down under a bush and peered out at a blonde woman selling watches in the park, off of a table she'd set up.

"That's where the readings are coming from," Artemis whispered.

"Check out the watch around her neck. The second hand is the only thing moving on it and it's not moving at the right speed to count seconds," Luna replied.

"We need the Senshi, but she'll be gone before they get here," Artemis said.

"How do you figure?" a tiger striped cat asked, having crept up on them while they talked.

"The second hand on her watch. Luna pointed out, it's not moving at the right speed, so more than likely it was measuring energy collected. Youma aren't all that bright, so they'd make it as simple as possible. One revolution and return with the energy she harvested," Artemis explained.

"Artemis!" Luna hissed.

"Not now, I'm talking," Artemis replied, annoyed.

"So we need to take it down fast. Are we talking knockout or kill? And, what weakness or powers does it have?" the cat asked.

"Kill. It only looks human, it's stronger and faster than normal humans, probably able to absorb the life force of anyone touching it just like standard Youma, and I'm guessing some time based attributes," Artemis replied.

"How about Chakra based Elemental attacks?"

"Artemis," Luna hissed urgently.

"I said not now!" Artemis hissed back. "Magic based elemental attacks are best, ones powered by life force are only going to be partially as effective.'

"How about turning its own attacks against it?"

"That would be fine if you can work it," Artemis agreed.

"Excellent! See anyone coming?"

"Nah, the coast looks clear," Artemis said, scanning the area.

The orange cat streaked across the ground like a furry missile, leaping onto the display table set up for the watches before springing at the stopwatch around her neck.

"A stitch in time," the Youma announced, shimmering and vanishing, just before the orange cat would've reached her, and reappearing in the path ten feet away.

The cat bounced off a tree and landed on the path facing the Youma.

The Youma smirked and dropped its disguise, turning into a bunny girl that looked like Lewis Carroll's wet dream. "I heard the Senshi had Mau advisors, not warriors. As if the weakest Dark Kingdom Youma could be taken down by a scrawny little pussy like you."

The orange cat growled and its two tails lashed behind it as it turned into a tiger striped catgirl. "Fool! We of the Shadow Council have corrupted and turned the Senshi and their advisors months ago!"

The Bunny girl paled, fearing she was facing someone from a rival dark kingdom, not to mention being a rabbit faced by a tiger and whipped out the stopwatch from around her neck. "I won't be late, sealed fate!" she called, sending a glowing hourglass hurtling towards the feline.

The twin tailed tiger girl smirked and snapped her fingers, causing them to switch places just before the attack hit, engulfing the bunny girl in a swirl of sand that left her frozen in place. Making sure she wasn't observed, she dragged the bunny girl into the bushes. "Now what?"

Luna and Artemis were too busy arguing about who should have been paying attention to intruders to notice her, until she finally spoke up. "You guys! I got the Youma, now what do I do with her?"

"Who are you?" Luna demanded.

The catgirl shifted into a familiar looking redhead. "Ranma, but I go by Ranko when female, from the hospital, remember?"

"How did you do that?" Artemis asked, annoyed at the variety of abilities Ranma had displayed once more.

"And, who is the Shadow Council?" Luna demanded.

"I showed you I could shape change at the hospital and that was a simple replacement technique. The Shadow Council is a made up group of baddies to focus the Dark Kingdom on. If I was defeated, then the Youma would've reported back that they had competition and rather than focus on defeating the Senshi, would waste time searching for a rival Dark Kingdom to fight."

Artemis grinned. "Man, that almost makes it worth letting a Youma go. Actually, it may be worth it truthfully."

Ranko shrugged. "I'm sure there'll be other chances, but what do we do with this one?"

"Get the watch from her if you can, we need to return that energy to the people she stole it from," Luna ordered, accepting Ranko's presence for the moment.

Ranko managed to Kawarimi the watch with a similarly shaped rock once it became obvious that the Youma's hand couldn't be opened, as it was frozen in time.

"Now what?"

"Click it," Artemis suggested.

Having no better ideas herself, Ranko clicked the pocket watch causing it to glow brightly as it released the stored energy back to its rightful owners. Ranko blinked a few times and pocketed the watch, shaking her hand which looked a bit tender. "I say we steal her purse and go to lunch," Ranko suggested, already moving to do so before someone came by and complicated things.

"We can't exactly walk into a restaurant, few of them accept pets," Luna complained.

Ranko made a series of handsigns in little more than a blur before saying, "Henge!" and transforming the two Mau into humans.

"How did you do that?" Luna gasped out and then groaned. "You're just going to say 'simple transformation technique' aren't you?"

Ranko shook her head while sweeping all the watches off the table and into the purse the Youma left behind. "Actually, it was a fairly complex one. Changing yourself is easy, changing others is hard. If I hadn't had a lot of excess energy from the watch forcing some of the stolen Chakra into me, I wouldn't have tried it."

Luna and Artemis stretched and moved like they were familiar with the forms they were wearing, despite looking like older and more mature versions of Ranko and Ranma. Artemis offered his arm to Luna, who gratefully accepted it, still a little unsteady on her feet. "It's been so long since I took human form I can't remember how to do it. Hopefully this will spark some memories."

Ranko nodded. "And, now to an all you can eat sushi place!"

Unnoticed, half a dozen clones disguised as squirrels followed the energy trails from the stopwatch, searching for more watches.

A trio of larger than average ravens stood on the edge of the roof with two of them taking turns muttering things to the third who shrugged and said, "I don't understand raven. I don't know how many times I have to tell you that."

"A Shinigami!" a little boy below said in awe.

His father snorted. "No doubt it was simply trained to say things like that to con the gullible into donating money."

"No seriously," the raven said. "I wasn't raised around ravens, so I have no idea how to speak the language."

"A properly trained bird can memorize and recite dozens of phrases," the man said to his son. "It almost gives the illusion of intelligence."

Ranma chuckled. "Ladies, observe the prematurely balding, middle-aged, businessman. His thousands of memorized trivia facts almost gives him the illusion of wisdom."

"Of course, a really skilled trainer can actually train them to respond to certain words with specific phrases to enhance the illusion of intelligence."

The boy looked at the bird for a response.

"It's possible, but someone would have to be a psychic to be able to guess what someone would be able to respond with to keep the conversation up for more than a couple of replies."

The boy looked back to his father.

"A skilled behavioral psychologist would not only find it child's play to train a dumb animal, but could also predict and prepare responses for the dozen most likely paths a conversation would take."

"Dumb animal?!" The raven leapt off the roof and swept down on the portly businessman. The man yelped and swung, missing the bird by a mile as it circled around him closely and landed on the roof once more. The raven held up the businessman's cellphone.

"And, he apparently taught it to steal! That's it, I'm calling the cops and exposing this little operation!"

The raven picked out a number on the phone and spoke loudly enough to be heard below, "Hello, police? I was walking past the Hino shrine in Juuban and a rather rude man with no respect for traffic laws pulled up in front and parked across two spaces, one of which is the handicap one. I told him the police take a dim view of such behavior, but all he did was mutter something about police and dumb animals. You will? Thank you, it makes me feel so much better knowing responsible people like yourself are on the force."

The man paled, staring at the bird shocked, but managed to break loose from his stupor when the bird tossed the phone back to him.

"Call me a dumb animal again, I dare you!"

The priest had come out of the shrine sometime during the argument and had watched unnoticed until he finally decided to speak up. "Most Shinigami give offenders a run of bad luck," he said, amused.

The raven shrugged. "Bad luck can be brushed off as happenstance, having someone's car towed is solid enough to make them remember it rather than rationalize it."

"I've got to move my car!" the man said, grasping ahold of the one part in all of this he understood.

The raven held up a set of keys and jangled them. "Nope. Your car is getting towed. The only other punishment I have available at the moment is a six-month impotence curse," he lied. "So be glad you're getting off easy, because I don't want to punish your wife as well."

"AHH!" The man quickly dropped to his knees and thanked the raven for being merciful.

The boy smiled, not understanding everything that had gone on, but sure his father would stop telling him everything he liked wasn't real now.

The two large female ravens groomed the male who giggled. "Hey girls, that tickles!"

Kodachi rolled first, the dice coming up snake eyes. She could almost swear she heard the rattle of a viper as her ivory elephant game figure moved itself across the board. The crystal globe in the center of the board filled with smoke that slowly cleared to reveal a poem:

"Friends and Lovers are your goals,
But to reach them you must pay a toll.

Bare your soul and walk the path,
Name the number of both thou has!"

Kodachi blushed and paled as the words friends and lovers appeared in the ball with a question mark next to each.

Ranma scratched his chin thoughtfully. "I think it means you have to say how many of both you have."

"I've never had a lover," Kodachi said, but the word Lovers in the ball turned red, clearly letting them know that wasn't the right answer. "I'm a virgin!" Kodachi protested, "I've never taken anyone into my bed."

The word returned to green, indicating she was telling the truth.

"It's got to be a trick question," Ranma said thoughtfully.

Ranma's expression suddenly cleared as he figured out the answer. "Kodachi, everyone has at least one lover, after all, if you can't love yourself, who can you love?" Kodachi turned bright red and Ranma decided to make it easier for her. "I have you beat of course, cause Rosie Palm has five sisters.'

The girls burst out laughing, and once Kodachi gained her breath she admitted "One," and the number one appeared next to the very green 'Lovers'.

"I of course am completely innocent and virginal," Ranko claimed so innocently that Ranma and Kodachi were surprised she didn't have a halo over her head. "Unfortunately, my pulsating flow shower head is a complete slut!"

By the time they'd stopped laughing, Kodachi had overcome her bout of shyness at such an intimate topic and was more than prepared to move on to the second half of the question. "I have two friends," Kodachi said, only to watch in horror as it turned red.

"We are your friends, but we only count as one person," Ranma explained.

"It's true," Ranko added. "We are the same person, regardless of how many bodies we have."

"One?" Kodachi tried hopefully, and was relieved to see the word turn bright green.

"See, Ranma Saotome and Ranko Tendo is one and the same person," Ranma explained.

"It involves a magical curse, forbidden techniques, and ninjutsu," Ranko added.

"We aren't quite sure how we got this way, considering we have come down with a slight case of amnesia, but as you can see, we are your friend," Ranma replied.

"It could mean me like the first one," Kodachi said, only to watch the word friend turn red.

"Nah, from the descriptions we got, you are your own worst enemy," Ranma replied.

"I can't imagine the descriptions of me people gave were very flattering."

"Nope, but we don't care. You're our friend whether you like it or not," Ranko teased.

Kodachi had never been so relieved as at that moment when the word 'Friend' turned green at Ranko's words.

The globe filled with mist before more words appeared:

"Souls have been bared
And secrets shared,
With all you learned
A boon has been earned.

Which is more important,
the end of the nose
Or taste in clothes?"

Ranko read aloud and looked at Kodachi who shrugged.

"I guess you have to pick one," Ranma guessed.

"I go with nose, you can always hire someone with dress sense," Ranko said.

Kodachi nodded. "The end of the nose," she announced, and the words lit up just before vanishing into smoke.

"Anything happen to my nose?" Kodachi asked nervously.

"Nope, looks the same as it did a second ago," Ranko replied.

Kodachi licked the end of her nose and her eyes shot open wide. "My tongue is longer! I could never lick it so easily before."

Ranko and Ranma shrugged and matched her performance, much to her amazement.

"It lengthened yours as well?"

"Nah, they've always been like this," Ranma replied.

Ranko smirked and quirked an eyebrow at her, causing her to blush. "My turn," Ranko announced suddenly and rolled the dice.

An ivory zebra walked four steps onto the board and the globe filled with mist for a moment before the words appeared:

"From breath of life into shadow you're born,
But playing this game requires a more permanent form.

Shadow to clay with some sugar and spice,
Give flesh to this girl and a touch of vice."

Ranko froze and grabbed herself. "I can feel my Chakra...regenerating!"

Ranma made a quick couple of handsigns and laid a softly glowing green hand in the center of her chest. After a few seconds, he blinked and removed his hand. "You're real, female, no curse, and I'd say just over a tail's worth of power."

"No curse?! I'm female forever?" Ranko asked, eyes tearing up.

Ranma rolled his eyes. "Sure, because you know the curse is all that lets us change form."

Ranko's face cleared up, and she chuckled while rubbing the back of her neck embarrassed. "Ah, yeah."

"Can I ask, or is it too personal?" Kodachi asked.

"As Ranma we can create lots of ourselves, but the bodies are temporary and we eventually become one person again," Ranma explained, skipping the technical details.

Ranko smiled. "But, now I'm permanent."

"Make a clone," Ranma ordered as something occurred to him.

Ranko flicked a finger and a second Ranko appeared.

"Why did you need two of me?" Ranko's clone asked, and started giggling as an amazed Kodachi began to examine her with her hands in wonder. "Ohhh!" she moaned as Kodachi's hands reached some sensitive areas.

"Well, I wanted to know what happened when you released a clone. Are you still part of me, or are you completely separate?" Ranma asked.

Ranko's clone wrapped her arms around Kodachi and pulled her close. "Lookin' to raise the count from one to two?" she teased, making Kodachi blush. Ranko dismissed the clone, startling Kodachi. Ranma and Ranko both sighed in relief as they felt the memories from the clone hit them.

"Still the same person, just with an additional permanent body," Ranma announced.

"And it feels good to hold Kodachi," Ranko teased.

"Wow," Kodachi finally said.

Ranma grabbed the dice. "I believe it's my turn." Rolling an eight, he smirked as an ivory lion rolled past the others, stopping on a red square.

The globe's words read:

"The usual formula involves Puppy Dog Tails,
but with you it would surely fail.

For Vulpine not Canine is your nature at heart,
so I'll use claws of a fox to replace that part."

Ranma had been half expecting this, so he took it all in stride. "And then there were three."

The ball filled with mist again that took on a dangerous red hue.

"On the red square you did land
so someone has to lend a hand.
Better prepare for a wild ride,
volunteer speak or be left behind."

"I'll go!" Ranko and Kodachi quickly called out.

All three turned into smoke and were sucked into the globe.

And then there was none,
Now, wasn't that fun?

AN: Typing by Lucillia!