Ranma ran towards the Tendo Dojo with his fiance's hand in his – or rather, her – own, under the pelting rain of a powerful thunderstorm. Droplets of water relentlessly pounded the already soaked couple as they made their way down the street, Akane holding her book bag above her in a futile attempt to block the water from her face. Ranma looked up and glared at the distant clouds, cursing under her breath, and glanced back at her fiancé as they neared the dojo.
"We're almost there!" She yelled out at the other teen. Akane blinked and looked at her, then nodded and they both redoubled their efforts.
Only ten seconds later they were in through the front gate and running towards the door to the house. Ranma opened the door and both teens stepped into the genkan and shut the door behind them. Akane leaned on the wall while Ranma sat down, both of them panting to catch their breath.
"We're home!" Akane yelled out into the dark house. Her oldest sister poked her head from behind a wall and looked at the two.
"Oh, welcome ba... Ah, you're soaking wet! I'll be right back with some towels for you two," She said, before disappearing again.
"Thank you!" Akane called out, taking her shoes off.
Ranma sighed and took the already loose tie out of her hair, letting it fall to her shoulders. The redhead looked up at the roof and clicked her tongue in annoyance at the pitter patter of water falling all around them.
'Figures this would happen today,' She thought in annoyance. She glanced over at her fiancé and frowned. "Sorry, Akane. Those clouds came out of nowhere."
"It's not your fault." Akane said with a roll of her eyes. "The park's not going anywhere. We can go tomorrow, after school," she said.
Ranma frowned. It was hard for them to get together, alone, on school days – every wacko in town seemed to make it their life's work to bother them during and after school. Only on the rare weekends did they have a chance to spend time together.
"Ranma, Akane, here you go." Kasumi returned to the hall with two large towels which the other teens gratefully accepted.
"Ah yeah, sorry about this," Ranma said as she dried herself off, starting with her hair and head and working her way down.
"It's okay," Kasumi said with a smile. "Unfortunately, the power's out, so you're going to have to wait for a little while to change." She said apologetically.
"Ahhh, crap," Ranma muttered, looking up at the lights. 'So that's why it's dark.' After a series of very unfortunate accidents, the Tendo residence had switched over to full electricity despite it being rather expensive to do so. She shook her head and sighed, standing up and kicking her shoes off. "That's okay, I'll figure out some way to pass the time or something," Ranma said.
"Mmm, I'll be in my room," Akane said, walking away. "I've got to get out of these wet clothes."
"You should change clothes too, before you catch cold." Kasumi said, looking at Ranma.
"Yeah, I figured." Ranma said, hanging her towel over her shoulders. Kasumi nodded and turned away, while Ranma tied her hair back into a pigtail. The martial artist started walking for the guest room, her mind going back to the matter of finding time to be with her fiancé. It was only recently that the two had actually started taking their relationship seriously; after the whole wedding disaster two months before, it had been Akane that approached Ranma and asked if he wanted to see a new martial arts movie that was coming out.
The martial artist himself hadn't realized that the outing was a date until halfway through the movie, when he noticed Akane very blatantly (though she herself didn't seem to realize how obvious it was) watching other couples and then later on imitating other girls by snuggling up to him or such. The rest of the night was a very awkward experience for both, and neither of their faces resumed a normal color until sometime the next week. It was now April, and the school year had just started again, making both of them second year students. But Ranma wasn't too sure she could take much more of school; it'd felt like ten years of academic torture had been stuffed into one there.
The teen finished tying up her hair and opened the door to the guest room, then blinked as she looked in.
"Eh?" She looked around the room and frowned. Genma's travel pack and his mother's suitcase were both missing, as was any sign that the room had been occupied all day. She walked into the room and noticed a folded up note on the floor. She knelt down and picked it up. It was addressed to her in her mother's handwriting. She unfolded it and started reading.
Your father and I have decided to take a trip together to reconnect. We'll be back in a week.
"Well that's rather sudden," She muttered, before looking around. "But they took all of their stuff. Just for a trip?" She frowned and then shrugged.
After changing clothes to a white tank top and blue shorts, she walked over to the window and looked out with a frown. She'd hoped to spar with her father, but he was gone now. It'd be nice if Ryouga showed up, but she was starting to get annoyed with the pig's little 'habit', and had planned to talk with him about it as soon as possible. She hadn't seen him since the failed wedding, and while that wasn't at all strange for the lost boy, things were starting to get boring without him. No one else in town besides the old man, Happosai, or the ghoul measured up, and the old fart was always busy chasing and being chased after by girls while Cologne was just plain uninclined to fight.
And she didin't really want to have anything to do with fighting the Joketsuzoku anyway…
She sighed and turned around, leaning on the wall next to the window.
'Hmm… There's gotta be something to do…' He thought. 'Maybe Akane would…'
Her eyes widened as she suddenly realized the answer to her boredom.
'That's right! Akane's…' She grinned and started walking towards the door. '…a martial artist too! …Enough of one, anyway!'
A bit later, Ranma walked back into the guest room with a sigh. Akane was a martial artist, but she wasn't nearly as skilled or focused, and it'd turned more into a lesson than a sparring match. Though her fiancé had been upset with losing so handily, she'd lit up with a determination to get better, and listened to advice. The other teen was actually still practicing in the dojo, but Ranma had left out of boredom.
Even after an hour, the power had yet to come back on, and though the rain had let up, it hadn't stopped altogether.
"Something big must have broken. Maybe I'll just nap until its back on," She sighed, rubbing her stomach. "Hopefully dinner'll be ready when I wake up." The redhead walked over and opened the closet, grabbed her rolled up futon and carried it over to the center of the room. She rolled it out just as the door opened.
"Ah, there you are, Ranma-kun." Ranma looked up to see the eldest Tendo daughter standing at the door. "The radio said that the power should be back on within the hour. They had to replace some old power lines." She said.
"Ah, okay." Ranma nodded. "Thanks for letting me know."
"You're welcome," The elder girl smiled and left.
Ranma sat down on the futon and laid back, then stared up at the ceiling.
"Hmm…" She turned her body and lay down on her side. The teen groaned and turned around again. She sighed and reached up to squeeze one of her breasts in annoyance. 'You know, I don't think I'll ever get used these things flopping about. Just whose idea of a joke was this, anyway?'
Ranma yawned and blinked her eyes open as she slowly faded back into the world of the living. The first thing she noticed was how bright it was.
"Eh… Morning… already…?"
The second thing she noticed was how she was no longer in the Tendo Dojo.
"Oh great," She groaned and quickly sat up, looking around the room. "Was I kid…napped?" Feeling the familiar restriction of tight clothing, she looked down at herself and took in her own appearance.
Her hair now fell down to her elbows and she was wearing pink, rose-print flannel. She was lying in a large western bed with dark red blankets and silk sheets, and the bed had elegant, semi-transparent drapes.
"The heck…?" She muttered, holding her hands up. "What's going on here?!" She scowled and hopped out of the bed, then started looking around.
The rather spacious room followed a similar theme, with variants of pink and red as a constant. The room was decorated extravagantly, with a plush pink loveseat and a velvet red dresser. The carpet was more burgundy in color, but there was a fluffy pink rug in the middle of the room. There were fluffy stuffed animals of various sizes scattered about, and a mahogany desk with a large vanity mirror on top of it. A widescreen television hung on the wall across from her bed.
"What the hell is this?!"
There was a knocking sound and she turned her head to the large white door on her left. The door, knob, and frame were all just as exquisitely crafted as the rest of the room. It was like she was in some kind of… western manor.
"Young miss! Is there something wrong?" The voice of a young man came from the other side. "Please say something!"
"Young miss?" Ranma muttered, confused. "Uh, err…" Her mouth opened and closed several times as rapidly looked around the room, then down at herself, then the door.
"Miss, I'm coming in!" The man yelled. The door opened and the young man walked into the room. He was dressed in a black suit that reminded the young martial artist of a stereotypical butler. The man spotted her and blinked, and the anxiety drained from his face. "Ah, you're… okay?" The man asked.
"Um…" Ranma stared at him. He was about a head taller than her, had pale skin, and short hair. His features were plain, and he had a medium build. 'Who's this guy?'
"I'm sorry to barge in, miss, but I was afraid something had happened," He explained. "I heard yelling…"
"Uh…" Ranma shook her head, then fixed a frown on the man. "Who the heck are you?" She demanded, taking up a martial arts stance. "Where am I?"
The man stared at her for a moment, then sighed and hung his head.
"Young miss… I know you don't want to go this new school, but you can't stay home on the first day!"
"Huh?" Ranma blinked in confusion as the man walked over and grabbed her by the wrist then started pulling her into the hallway.
"Come on, we've got to get ready for school. Miss Kajiwara will help you, she has a bath and your uniform waiting."
"W-what? Hey, leggo!" Ranma tried to pull her arm from the man's grip, but he held fast. "Let go of me, you jerk!" She said, putting all of her strength into pulling away, but he didn't budge. Her eyes widened. 'This guy… he's strong!'
"Come now, is it really worth this much struggling? I'm sure you'll make new friends!" The man said exasperatedly as he lead her away from the room. "There's tons of fun things to do in even a normal high school!"
"What the heck are you talking about?!" She demanded.
He sighed again.
"Please don't try to say you've got amnesia again, young miss," He said. "That spontaneous recovery the last two times kind of clued us in."
The man chuckled.
"You're a good actor, I'll give you that. But please, just try to behave, just this once?" He asked, turning around and looking down at her.
"Listen buddy, I really don't know what you're talkin' about. I think you got me mistaken for someone else."
"You're even changing your manner of speech," He muttered, shaking his head. "Maybe you should be an actor." He turned and knocked on yet another elaborate wooden door, and it opened, revealing a plump woman dressed as a maid. "Kajiwara-san," The man said with a heavy sigh. "She's got amnesia again."
"I heard you coming," The woman said, reaching over to grab Ranma with meaty hands. "Come on child, even if you've got amnesia you're going to school." The woman pulled Ranma into the room and shut the door behind her. Ranma stumbled a bit as the woman locked the door, quickly turned, and scuttled off.
Ranma blinked and looked around the bathroom in awe; there was a bathtub in the black marble floor that was full of water and bubbles. There was also an open shower stall with two thick glass walls on the far side of the bathroom, set in the similarly black marble walls that went around the room.
"This is a washroom…?" She muttered.
"Come now, you've got less than an hour to get ready," The woman said, snapping the martial artist out of her reverie. "So go ahead and get in."
Ranma looked down at the tub and blinked.
'Hmm, well, at least this will clear everything up. Can't say they'll be too happy, though.' She quickly whipped her pajama shirt and pants off and dropped them on the floor, much to the dismay of the woman watching her. The woman shook her head and walked over to pick up the discarded clothing as Ranma glared at her underwear.
'Eww, panties!' She quickly discarded them and walked over to the tub. Luckily, there was a towel next to it, so when she transformed and shocked the poor maid, he'd be able to run away with something covering him up. She doubted her clothes were anywhere in this building, and the people probably wouldn't take too kindly to him borrowing someone else's clothes after this little misunderstanding.
She plunged into the water and sighed in relief. The water was hot and refreshing. Her breasts and hair freely floated, and the warmth of the water softly caressed her body. It was very relaxing-
Ranma frowned. Something was wrong. Horribly wrong.
"The heck!?" She shouted, looking down at them. "No. No! No! No!"
"What is it now?" The maid demanded, looking down at her.
"Why am I still a girl!?" Ranma demanded, scowling up at her. "What did you people do to me?!"
"What nonsense are you talking child?!" The woman demanded, walking over to her. "First amnesia, now you're..!" The woman shook her head, closed her eyes and sighed. "Calm down, Chie… just… calm down… this is a difficult time for her."
Ranma stared at the woman as she muttered and started to regulate her breathing. She was feeling a bit sheepish, yet she knew she had a reason to be angry too. The teen's self-consciousness won over and she looked up at the woman with a slight grimace.
"Um, sorry for yelling…" she muttered despite herself.
"Apology accepted," The larger woman said with a smile. "Now come on, let's get you ready."
"O, okay, but, uh, what for, exactly?" Ranma asked with a frown.
"Your first day of school at Juuban Municipal High School."
"Huh? Juuban? What about Furinkan?"
"Furinkan?" The woman blinked. "Why would you go all the way there just for school?" She asked. "That's even further than your last school, dear! At least Blue Rose Academy had a prestigious reputation. I can't see why you'd want to go to just another high school in an entirely different ward."
Ranma looked over at the woman and sighed.
"Listen lady… Sorry to say, but my name's Ranma Saotome, and I'm from Furinkan. There's been some kinda mistake here,"
"Okay then, Ranma-kun," The woman said. "I'll play along with your story, if you humor me."
"Let's say that you're… Teriha Fujibayashi, and you're starting your first day of school at Juuban High. Will you go along with that, at least for today?"
"Erm…" She sighed "Can I at least have a phone call? I know I can prove it if I get…" She blinked. 'My parents are on vacation, and I don't know where they are… so that leaves the Tendos. Not that it changes where I'm calling…' She looked up at the woman. "If I can call the dojo where I live, I know I can prove that you've got the wrong person."
"You live at a dojo?" The woman asked with a smile.
"I'm engaged to the owner's daughter." Ranma said with a slow nod. "And I'm not a girl. Er, it's… a long story."
"Well," The woman picked up a small washcloth and bar of soap. "We don't have much time, but I'll listen to what I can. In exchange, all I ask is that you bathe." She said, handing the cloth and soap to Ranma. Ranma accepted both and looked down at them.
"Um, in the bathtub?" She asked.
"Yes, dear, don't worry about the dirt, I'll clean it out."
Ranma shrugged and then started to bathe as she went into her tale.
Ten minutes later, Ranma was staring at a girl's school uniform on the counter beside the bathroom sink.
"I'm not going to wear this." The red-head said, turning to look at the woman
"Please don't make this any harder than it already is, dear." The woman said.
"No way, I'm a guy!" The teen shouted. "Listen, I shouldn't even be sticking around here. I'm sorry but, I'm just gonna go home now." She turned and started towards the room's exit.
"Dressed like that?" The woman asked, and Ranma froze and looked down at herself. She was covered only in a white towel.
"I've worn worse!" Ranma snorted, continuing towards the door.
"Please tell me you're not serious, young miss…" The woman asked. Seeing Ranma open the door, she sighed and rubbed her temples. "Fine, fine! You can call this dojo if you just put on the uniform, okay?" She said.
Ranma frowned, then looked over at the uniform. Honestly, it was preferable to the towel, which would likely end up getting stolen or something at some point.
"Fine but… do I have to wear the panties?" She asked.
The woman gave her an appalled look.
"What are you saying, young lady? Of course you have to wear the panties! Honestly!" The woman grabbed the uniform and carried it over to her. The teen accepted it and looked down at it.
"Well, that guy's gotta have some boxers, right? That butler guy!"
"That's disgusting, young lady." The woman said with a revolted look on her face. "You're taking this act a little too far, don't you think?"
"It's not an act!" Ranma snapped, gritting her teeth. "Fine, I'll just put on the stupid panties. But I'm calling the dojo after that!"
"Yes, yes…" The woman sighed.
Ranma looked at herself in the mirror with a sigh. The uniform she was wearing had a navy blue skirt that went down to just above her knees and long-sleeved white shirt with a matching navy blue collar and sleeve cuffs, although there was a red-stripe that went around them, just before the edge. Her hair had a bit more luster to it than usual, and was styled in a braid, but it was slightly thicker than her usual pigtail and tied together with a pink ribbon.
'I look pretty good.' She thought, striking a coy pose in the uniform. 'I wonder if it's innate talent?' She switched to a karate stance.
"Okay, you've only got forty minutes left to get to school," the woman said. "If you want to make a good impression, you should be there as early as you can."
"What? I'm calling the dojo so we can get this straightened out. I don't need to make a good impression." Ranma said with a huff.
"You can use your cell phone on the way to school." The woman said. Ranma frowned. "For now, hurry on downstairs, your breakfast should be waiting for you. I'll take care of the bathroom, young miss."
"Breakfast? That I can do! Thanks!" She quickly turned and ran to the door, then opened it and looked around. 'The food will probably be as good as the rest of the place!' On either side of the door was a long, extended hallway. The wooden floor had a long green rug running its length, and the white walls were covered with expensive looking paintings. At one end there was a stand with an expensive vase, and the other, a stand with the bust of some guy.
She quickly turned and started jogging down the next corridor, ignoring the maid dusting off a painting. The maid noticed her and cried out in surprise.
"Ah! Young miss, you shouldn't run in the house!"
Ranma slowed down and frowned, then sighed and shook her head. She continued onto the large double doors in the middle of the hall that were propped open, revealing a grand staircase.
"Urr…" Ranma's jaw dropped at the size of the room. It was wider than the dojo's interior in either direction, and was comprised of different three floors. The third floor consisted of a balcony with a marble railing on three sides, and the staircase itself on the other side of the room. Both the left and right side of the room had its own staircase that met in the middle on the second floor, and then converged and stretched out towards the center of the room from the wall.
"Huh…" She walked out to the railing and looked the room over. Large and expensive looking paintings covered the walls, but they were nothing compared to the portrait across the room.
In the portrait stood a lifelike rendition of herself, an older woman, and similar man in formal western dress. The painted girl-Ranma's hair was in curls and she wore the most elegant, frilly pink dress with ruffles she'd ever seen in her life. It looked like a veritable nightmare to move around in. The woman wore a similar dress, but it was dark red, and the man wore an exquisite tuxedo that seemed to enhance his frame.
'That must be the girl they're mistaking me for,' Ranma thought. 'Though I guess I can see it. Creepy.'
"Buh?!" Ranma jumped and turned around to look at the young maid she'd passed in the hall.
"You should hurry up. You don't want to be late for your first day at this new school, do you?" The woman put a hand on her shoulder. "Just forget about all the things that happened at Blue Rose. You'll make new friends, okay?"
Ranma rolled her eyes and shook her head.
"Um, right, see you later," The red head said, turning and pulling herself up onto the railing. She frowned as her arms protested, and she fell back down to the ground from halfway into the air. "W-what?" She muttered. She tried lifting herself up again and frowned, then settled for lifting a leg over the railing. 'My arms must be tired… somehow…'
"Mistress! What are you doing?!"
Ranma blinked and looked over at the maid.
"Jumping," She said simply.
"What?! No!" The maid cried out in a distressed voice and grabbed her by the arm, then started pulling her back over the railing. "I know you're upset, but please try to understand! It's not something worth killing yourself over!"
"What? But it's faster!" Ranma cried out and tried to resist the woman, but to her shock, was easily pulled back over the railing. 'Is everyone here some kind of monster?!' She thought, looking at the woman in shock. She studied the woman's body and frowned, seeing that she actually had a very average build. 'What the hell?'
"Come now, let's walk down the stairs together," The maid said with a sigh.
"What? I can go by myself!" Ranma snorted, trying to pull away again.
"You promise not to jump off?" The maid asked, looking at her.
"What? Of course I'm gonna jump, it's faster!"
The maid just shook her head.
Ranma sat down at the head of the luxury table in the lavish dining room and for once did not focus on the magnificence of the room around her.
Instead, she focused on the splendid plates of food before her. It wasn't much, but it smelled delicious. It was an American affair, with two slices of french toast, two pancakes, two sausage links, two slices of bacon, and two over-easy eggs. She quickly grabbed a fork and knife and began to tear into the deluxe breakfast.
The two maids on her left giggled at her table manners and began to whisper to each other.
"She must be having another growth spurt."
"Mmmm, that was pretty good," Ranma said, wiping some egg off of her chin and licking it off of her finger.
The two maids stopped whispering and looked at her in shock. The three plates were spotless.
"Did you make this?" Ranma asked, looking up at the one she'd heard.
"Err, no, Master Shigenuma prepared your breakfast for you, as he always does, young miss." The woman said.
Ranma blinked. She didn't know who Shigenuma was, but apparently he was a master. A master at cooking.
"My lady, are you enjoying your break…fast?"
Ranma blinked at the familiar voice of the man who'd found her that morning, and turned to see him standing at a door.
"Has your food still not come?" The man asked, clearly upset. "Oh dear. I wonder what's taking them? You're going to have to eat on the way, we've only got twenty seven minutes left until your class starts!"
"Nah, I already ate, but hey, I was supposed to get a phone call," Ranma said with a frown.
"Phone call?" The man blinked and frowned. "You can use your cell phone on the way there, can't you, mistress?" The man asked.
"What?" Ranma blinked.
"Well, if you are done, then come on, we don't have much time," He said, looking at a wristwatch. "If we leave now, we should be able to arrive with five minutes to spare." He turned and started walking back towards the door he'd come out of. Go on, your things are by the door."
"Er… wait, where's my cell phone?"
"I just said it's by the door," The man said.
'Hmm. I'm guessing the door's that way,' She thought, pushing her chair back and standing up. She followed after him.
"Miss, did you forget something?" One of the maids asked when she reached the door.
"Eh?" Ranma blinked, then turned and looked at the woman.
"If so, then one of us can get it for you while you wait for Mitsukoshi," She said.
"Er…" Ranma blinked, and looked up at the door. She turned and looked around, then started walking towards one of the other doors in the room. "Err, no, I'm fine," She said.
"Then perhaps you should go wait for him outside?" The maid said with a smile.
"…Listen, I'm just trying to get my phone call," Ranma growled as she started towards another door. That time the maids just giggled to themselves and she took it as a sign that it was the right way. She pushed through the door and came into another hallway, the end of which lead to yet another well decorated room, this one with two bronze statues evenly spaced apart from the middle of the room. The walls were painted with a renaissance era-esque image that wrapped around the whole room and stopped at the two white pillars framing the archway, which contained very large and elegant double doors, whose own knobs were carved into the face of some noble beast.
"Uh," Ranma looked around. This place was really starting to wear on her. Why couldn't she have at least been kidnapped by Japanese? She shook her head.
"Young miss," A maid standing under the pillars held up a pink backpack that had various knick-knacks attached to it.
"Er, thanks," Ranma walked over to the maid and accepted the backpack, and immediately started looking through it for the phone. The maid opened the door and Ranma frowned as she stepped forward into the morning sunlight. She finally recognized the phone as one of the cute knick-knacks and shook her head as she opened it. "Man, what's the world coming to?" She muttered, before she started dialing the number to the Tendo residence.
She looked up and proceeded to blankly stare at the mansion's massive gardens. The grass seemed to stretch on in either direction, with flowers, hedges, and statues dotting the landscape. In front of her was a roundabout with three roads – one on either side of her and one leading away from her, and a patch of grass and fountain dotting the center. She stood on a patio with stone stairs that went down to both her right and left, and had a railing and an arched stone roof.
"We're sorry; the number you have called has been disconnected…"
Ranma frowned again when she heard the machine.
"Don't tell me… Soun forgot to pay the phone bills again?" The teen muttered, before sighing. "Urgh… not a time for this!" She growled and put the phone into the backpack as a stretch limousine drove up to the roundabout from the left. "You know, I've had enough of this. I've got to go and find out what's going on here! Breakfast was fun, but…" Ranma tensed and started running forward. The teen leapt up and over the rail and then quickly leapt over the limousine and started towards the main street…
Or so she'd planned to do. She was incredibly shocked when her jump instead ended up with her feet colliding with the railing, causing her to violently swing over the edge and slam into the wall before falling straight down into the grass and hedges below.
"Waugh!" She cried out in shock, surprise, and most of all, pain. "Ow!" She sat up from her place on the ground and rubbed her knees, which had hit the grass first. The fall hadn't been too far and the grass was soft, yet she could feel it as acutely as if she'd been clobbered by Ryouga. "What the hell!?"
"Young miss!" She looked up and saw that the limousine had been parked, and the driver, the same young butler from earlier, was staring at her in terror. "Are you alright?!" The man started running around the limo and over towards her, and she growled, standing up and dusting herself off. "You mustn't play so rough, you'll hurt yourself and dirty your dress!"
"I'm just fine!" The teen snapped. 'Then again, no I'm not! What the hell just happened?!' Ranma muttered, her mind going back to that moment and trying to analyze the entire sequence of actions. 'First, I jumped. I should have cleared the damn fence easy. I wasn't distracted, and I used the right amount of leg strength. So what's the hold up?' She frowned. 'Let's try that again.' She looked over at the butler who was running towards her and then jumped up and over his head-
Only to fall back down to the ground before she cleared three feet, and land with her leg extended forward.
The girl's eyes widened as she instantly noticed what was wrong.
'Chi,' She thought to herself. 'Chi, there was no chi! And for some reason it took much more effort than it should have even just for that light hop!' She sat there and closed her eyes for a moment. After training in the art for her entire life, it had become instinctive to burn more chi for almost every action, which was what made her so capable.
"Young miss! What are you doing?" The man, Mitsukoshi if she remembered, asked.
"I'm trying to find my center," Ranma said.
"Can you find your center in the vehicle, my lady? We're short on time!"
Ranma sighed and looked up at the man.
"There's no way I'm going to some school I don't even belong too, just because you guys mistook me for someone else. Will you get that into your thick skull already!?"
The man sighed.
"Young miss, why do you have to make things more difficult than they are?" The man sighed and shook his head. "Come on now. Don't do this to yourself, you've only got twenty three or so minutes until class starts!"
Ranma sighed and looked up at him in annoyance, then closed her eyes and focused.
"Fine. If I have to carry you to the car, then I will," the man said, as he began to do just that.
Ranma continued to ignore him though; her brow was creased and her body was growing warm from the effort she was putting into her search. Worldly sensation fell away from her and she was swallowed up into an all-consuming darkness as she dove beyond her subconscious and into the raw quintessence of her own existence.
Urameshi Yusuke's eyes opened and he immediately winced at the grating sound of the alarm going off right in his ears. The part-time spirit detective, part-time ramen chef clumsily reached over the side of the futon and felt around for the source of the noise, and once he found it, he started pounding his fist into it to make it stop. When it did, he stopped pounding it and sighed, rolling back into bed.
"Damn alarm… I don't even have a stupid alarm…" He muttered as he closed his eyes and tried to get some more sleep.
As the thought echoed around inside his skull, there was a strange, nagging feeling that something was wrong with what had just happened. Four minutes later, just as sleep began to creep back up on him, he frowned and slowly opened his eyes to peer over at the alarm.
There, on the cheap, worn carpet, sat a digital alarm clock with red numbers lit up, informing him that it was 7:36 A.M.
"Eh?" He muttered. "When did I get that?"
The alarm went off again. He quickly pounded it again in an attempt to silence it, but with no success. Annoyed and slightly confused as to why it didn't explode into a billion pieces, he growled and grabbed the wire connecting it to the wall and pulled it out. His cognition took over as he sat up on his futon and stared at the alarm in confusion.
'When did I get that?' He frowned and wiped some sleep from his eyes, and finally noticed that his blanket was different. "And this?" He muttered, before looking around the room.
And then he realized he wasn't in his room.
"Huh?" He frowned, looking the place over. It was a tiny studio without even a bathroom or stove – more like a big closet than an apartment, like the one he'd gotten after moving out of his mother's house, but without any of his personal effects. He frowned and shook his head, then looked it over again. 'Did I fall asleep at someone else's place?' He frowned and looked out the room's only window. He didn't recognize the area outside. He was still feeling somewhat groggy, and his memories seemed to be pretty hazy. "Musta had a few too many drinks or something…" He muttered. He didn't feel particularly hung over, but he was struggling to come up with any other explanation.
'I've never been here before. Did someone find me or something?' He yawned again and stood up, looking around. 'Huh. Looks like a student lives here.' There was an open briefcase leaning against a wall, with worn books and notebook paper sticking halfway out, and a school uniform was lying neatly folded next to it. He stood up and looked around for his own clothes, then frowned when he noticed they weren't there.
'Great, how am I supposed to get out of here?' He thought, looking around. There were two other school uniforms, but that was it. It was as if the guy living there had nothing else. 'Whatever. I'll just throw some of those on and pay him back some time,' He thought, grabbing some of the clothes. As he started to put them on, he stopped and stared down at himself.
He wasn't wearing his own underwear.
Ignoring whatever possibility that represented, he quickly looked around the room for his own underwear. There was another pair like the one he was wearing, but it clearly wasn't his. The cute little animal prints alone said that much. Without any alternative, he simply resumed putting the pants on. 'I'll take polkadots over pokemon any day of the week.'
Dressed and mildly annoyed at the situation, he looked around for any sign of where the guy who owned the place might be.
'Feh, maybe I'll take a look around the neighborhood, see just where the hell I am. Might figure out who it is then,' He thought as he walked towards the door. He took a step outside and saw that he was on the second floor. He quickly located the stairs and walked towards them, trying to remember what exactly had happened. 'Last night I closed shop at around ten. They were having some kind of event because of the baseball game and I made a killing outside the stadium, enough to cover my rent in one day. So I went out to celebrate with the guys… we went to a bar… after that is kinda hazy…' He frowned.
"Huh." He looked up. "I don't feel hung-over or anything…" He narrowed his eyes. 'This better not be one of Kuwabara's stupid jokes.'
'Where… where is it?' She swayed about in blackness, and after moments of frantic searching, she finally found her center. Gone was the raging bonfire of prime life force, powerful yet controlled energy just waiting to be grasped. Instead, there shining in the darkness was a tiny, silvery orb. She held up a hand and the ball appeared, floating just above it, just inches away from her palm. It gave off a slight heat and strange, liquid-like smoke seemed to swirl around it and radiate in every direction.
'Is it compressed? Sealed?' She frowned as she studied it and wrapped her hand around it. But there was no feeling of… restraint, or binding… It just felt… diminutive… and raw.
Ranma's eyes sprang open and she saw that she was sitting in the back of the limousine; already they were coasting through the thick congested streets of the morning rush. But the teen paid it no mind.
"What's going on?" She muttered.
"Hm?" The driver glanced at her in his rearview mirror. "Finally speaking again, are you?"
"Huh?" Ranma blinked and looked at him. "How long was I silent?"
"Well, I'd say about fifteen minutes." He said. "That's a new record, isn't it?"
"Record?" Ranma muttered. "For what?"
"The silent treatment?" The man snorted. "Though I figured you were just thinking…"
Ranma frowned and looked down at her hands.
'What was that? Did I get hit with something like the weakness moxibustion?' She frowned. 'I never knew it was possible for someone's chi to be so small… but then again…' She looked up at the man, Mitsukoshi, and frowned, narrowing her eyes. 'Most people don't have enough for you to see it unless you look really hard… could that mean that I'm at the same as them?' She frowned and crossed her arms, her foot tapping the ground. 'How did this happen? It's gotta be some kinda magic. I've gotta get out of here and figure out how to undo it!'
"We're here," The driver announced, and she looked up sharply. They were in a school's parking lot.
'I've got to make a break for it…' She thought as he opened his own door and started walking around the car to her side. 'Though, to sneak in and do this to me while I'm sleeping… I was just about to get some hot water, damn it!' The man opened the door and smiled at her.
She stood up out of the car and as he shut the door behind her immediately took off running towards the street. She glanced back and saw that Mitsukoshi was staring at her in shock, his mind just barely registering what was going on.
And then she crashed into something hard and warm.
"Auck!" She cried out and fell down to her bottom. "Ow!" she blew a breath through clenched teeth and rubbed her sore butt. "What gives!"
"Hey! What was that for?"
Ranma opened her eyes and blinked several times, then looked over at what she'd run into. Sitting on the ground across from her was a boy her age, dressed in a school uniform and wearing a frown on his face.
"Why are you asking me? You're the one who was standing in the way!" She growled, getting to her feet and rolling up her sleeves. The boy got up as well and scowled at her, shaking a fist.
"What's yer hurry?! And shouldn't you be lookin' where yer goin'?!"
Ranma felt two strong arms grab hold of her shoulders and froze.
"My apologies, sir, the young lady seems to have taken leave of her senses this morning," Mitsukoshi said. "Are you injured?"
"Eh?" The teen frowned and looked himself over. "Not really, but…"
"Lemme go! I don't need to go to this stinkin' school, damn it! I gotta get back to the dojo!" Ranma struggled to pull away, but the servant's grip was steadfast.
"Ugh… Young Miss…" The man shook his head and looked at the young man standing before him. "Again, I apologize for the inconvenience. Unfortunately, class is to be starting soon, and we still have to go see the counselor, as this is her first day here. She's a little nervous," The man said with a chuckle as Ranma desperately increased her efforts to escape.
"Eh?" The teen stared at them, then smirked. "So you're stuck going to school, eh? Heh heh! Sucks to be you!" He looked over at the butler and grinned. "You make sure the little lady gets to class, okay?" He stuck his tongue out at Ranma and made a face. "See ya later, chump!" The teen turned and started to skip down the sidewalk, humming a very smug tune.
"What? You little punk!-"
"Come now, young miss," Mitsukoshi said. "You don't want to be associating with someone like that. We should get to seeing the counselor." He started to drag her back towards the school building with a resolute expression, ignoring that she was now slamming her fists into him.
"No! Damn it! Ngnurgh! Lemme go!"
Shirahama Kenichi opened his eyes and looked upon his room for what must have been the first time in weeks if not months. He blinked in confusion as he surveyed the room and found that it was just as he'd remembered despite the multiple bookshelves full of self-help books and other personal effects that he'd collected over the years, all of it was present. Everything was a little blurry, which he attributed to having just woken up, but it was the same as always. He looked down at his bedding and could see that it had a familiar set of blankets, one of several that he switched through. But he noticed one thing was off when he looked out to the window. The sun was already well over the horizon. It was past six o'clock, maybe even seven.
He quickly glanced around the room for his clock, and found that it was indeed past seven; 7:42 to be exact.
"Huh?" He blinked and rubbed his eyes as he slowly woke up and looked around. "That's strange… I remember falling asleep in the dojo… why am I here? And why did they let me sleep in?" The young teen frowned as he considered the possible implications. "That can only mean… they must be preparing some new kind of nightmarish training regimen for me, and they didn't want me to see it before it was ready." He sighed and rapidly wilted.
"Ah, well…" The young martial artist jumped to his feet and scrambled around the room looking for his clothing. Insane Martial Arts Masters or no, if he was slow, he'd be late to school.
"But man, I'm still pretty tired," He thought with a pained groan as he forced his body to move. It had been a long time since he'd felt so… lethargic; the senseis always made sure he'd gotten enough rest to endure their… delicate attentions. That was probably the best word for what he was feeling right now, he realized, as he put his uniform on. Maybe the senseis had seen that he was exhausted, and decided to give him a break for once?
Hah. Yeah, right.
"Ugh…" The teen groaned as he grabbed the book bag near his desk, shuffled through the door and to the bathroom, washed up, and finally made his way to the breakfast table. His mother and father were there eating, and it was with a bit of surprise that they looked up at him. Strangely enough, the table was only set for three people. A quick glance at the clock told him that there was no time to wonder about Honoka.
"Oh, Kenichi!" His father started. "You're up early!"
Kenichi blinked at that.
'Does he know what training I've been doing recently?' He thought to himself with a small, tortured frown. He picked up his egg from the plate and swallowed it whole, then grabbed his toast and sped off. "Sorry, gotta go or I'll be late!" He called out as he ran out the door.
He never got to see his parents stare after him in surprise before looking at one another in confusion.
Not twenty seconds after leaving his house, he began to feel that all too familiar burning sensation in his legs. Despite the pain, he kept running for two more blocks before he could feel himself reaching his limit. He bent over and panted, leaning against a wall and barely able to keep standing. Kenichi frowned and looked down at the ground. He was breathing roughly and his body was already coated in a light sheen of sweat. After a whole year and more of training he'd gotten used to this sensation… but for it to happening so quickly?
"I must… be really tired," He thought. "My legs are still weak from the training…" He let his confusion show on his face as he looked up. He still had a few more blocks to go. "But I wasn't feeling this tired a minute ago," He muttered. "Strange…" Absently, he rubbed his eyes and tried to focus them properly. Things were still a little blurry, but it would likely go away in a minute or two. As strange as it was, though, he didn't let it stop him from making his way to school as quickly as possible.
Nearly ten minutes later, soaked in sweat and barely able to stand due to the pain in his legs, it was all he could do to stare up at his towering high school. Legs shaking and using a large stick to support his weight, he made it onto the school grounds and sighed as the bell for classes rang.
"Dang it…" He muttered as he made his way to the classroom.
When he got there he saw a multitude of familiar faces… as well as a number of faces he did not recognize.
"Huh?" The young martial artist frowned as he looked the students over in surprise and confusion. There were also a number of people who should have been there, that were missing. But no one besides him seemed to have noticed. The other students all talked amongst each other as the teacher in the front wrote something on the board in preparation for the school day. Some of the students stopped talking and started looking in his direction as soon as they noticed him. Several of them gave him looks of surprise when they noticed him and stopped talking in favor of staring, which lead to their conversation partners noticing and then doing the same. The class slowly grew quiet as the confusion spread across the room.
Kenichi's eyes darted around the room in search of one specific person as a feeling of unease began to build within him. He found her, sitting by a window and looking outside, but she seemed a bit distracted, like she was day dreaming.
Silently, Kenichi made his way into the room and over to where she was sitting. The seat just in front of her was empty, so he sat down right there and looked the room over in silence before leaning over to her desk.
"Psst. Miu-san," He said, shifting his gaze about the room. When she didn't look at him, he blinked and tried again. "Miu-san!"
Miu Fuurinji, the granddaughter of Kenichi's oldest master of the dojo he'd been living at for the past year, the girl who he'd had a crush on that entire time, blinked in surprise at her name being called, and turned her entire body to look at him. Noticing that he had her attention, he started whispering.
"Miu-san, something strange is going on here! Were some of our classmates swapped out?" He said. "Did I miss an announcement or something?"
Miu blinked at him as a look of confusion registered on her face.
"Miu-san?" He asked, a feeling of unease settling upon him.
She blinked again, then opened her mouth.
"Who are you?" The blonde teen asked, tilting her head.
Kenichi felt his body go rigid.
"I'm sorry… I feel like we've met before, but I can't quite…" She gave him a sheepish look and blushed.
"M-Miu-san?" He asked. "This… what?" He sighed. "Is this some kind of joke? That's not very nice…"
She turned a brighter shade of red.
"I'm sorry, maybe if you gave me your name I could…"
Kenichi remained silent, as did the rest of the class. The sound of the teacher writing on the board stopped after a moment, and the man started talking, calling the attention of most of the students.
"Now class, as you know, the cultural festival starts in… three…" The teacher went silent, but Kenichi hadn't registered any of those words in the first place. "Shirahama?"
"Y-you're kidding, right?" Kenichi blurted out to the girl he'd been working so hard to be able to protect for the past year. "You, you're joking…"
She shook her head and bowed sheepishly several times.
The world seemed to fall away from Kenichi Shirahama as he took in those words. A year and more of training under those hellish martial arts masters, and living under the same roof, and she was saying she didn't know who he was? It was… it was pretty impossible, now that he thought about it. She had to be playing with him, or… the masters! They'd put her up to this!
He chuckled and waved it off with a small smile.
"I see," He said sheepishly. "Sorry, then." With that, he turned around and scrunched up his brow in frustration. 'What's wrong with those people? Isn't there such a thing as too far?! How can they take advantage of a young innocent boy's heart like this!?' He muttered to himself, the image of his masters laughing at him from the background appearing in his mind.
"Shirahama!" The teacher yelled out, startling the young martial artist. "It's nice that you're on time for once, but I would like for you to participate in the class."
"S-sorry sir!" He cried out, looking up at the teacher. The teacher looked a bit surprised at his response, and there was a mumble going around the rest of the class. "Uh, what was the question?"
"I said," The man started with a sigh, "Did you have any suggestions for the culture festival coming up in three weeks? …And did something happen to your glasses? Are you okay like that?"
"Glasses?" He blinked several times. 'I don't wear glasses…' He frowned. "Uh… I'm fine… as for the culture festival… Uhm… well… we could…" He blinked several times as he tried to figure out what to suggest. Searching for some ideas, he glanced around the classroom, but the many unfamiliar faces only served to make him more uncomfortable. "Hm… ah…"
The teacher sighed and shook his head.
"That's okay, Shirahama." He looked over to one of the other students, one whom Kenichi didn't recognize. "Fujiwara-kun, do you have any ideas you would like to submit?" After a moment of being silent, the teacher sighed again and looked over the class. "If there is anyone with an idea, please do speak up." the man said. The students all looked amongst themselves and started muttering to their neighbors, but Kenichi ignored it.
The young martial artist was glancing out the corner of his eye at the girl behind him. It seemed that she'd started day dreaming again, and was staring out the window. There was a look on her face that reminded him of when he'd first met her.
'Ah well, I'll just take it as it comes,' He decided, looking around the class room as other students volunteered ideas for the culture festival. "Chances are I'll end up in the gardening club with Izumi-san again..." He sighed as he looked the classroom over.
They still hadn't explained why so many of the students had been switched out, but no one else was making a big deal of it, so he decided to let it rest. When the first class started, and he got out his books, he paused to look at his hands. Something was a little… off about them, but he couldn't place it. Shrugging again, he waited for the lesson to start.
Ranma stared at the green haired woman sitting behind the desk with a frown. The counselor, whose name Ranma didn't care to learn, spoke with Mitsukoshi, who stood to the teen's left with a hand on her shoulder, in polite, even tones as the two traded pleasantries that had no place being said in Ranma's situation; weakened and trapped. Was the counselor, hell the whole school, in on it? She warily looked back from one to the other until the woman finally said something to her.
"Miss Fujibayashi, I'd like to welcome you to Juuban Municipal High School." The woman started. "I understand that you were a student of Blue Rose academy before this. While we can't give you the same treatment that you got there, we'll get you settled in soon enough. I know you'll do well here." She said.
Ranma only remained silent, watching the woman before her like a hawk.
"Have you thought about which club you'd like to join?" The woman asked.
"Well, you'll have to do so by tomorrow," The woman said. "Participating in an extracurricular activity after classes are over is mandatory in this school. Now then… class has already started, but I will escort you there personally to explain the situation," The woman said, standing up. "Please do not make a habit of arriving late. We cannot afford to give any of our students special treatment. I hope you understand."
Ranma just gave her a disinterested look while Mitsukoshi nodded.
"Yes, we apologize for the inconvenience," The man said. "Please, lead the way."
Ranma followed the woman towards the classroom, with Mitsukoshi just behind her. The walk through the halls was quiet, and Ranma blinked. It was so unlike Furinkan; there were no recently patched holes in the walls from large scale destruction and as a result the paint on the walls wasn't chipping, the floor tiles weren't all cracked and missing in some places, and the lockers weren't so old they looked like they'd been bleached out in the sun because the school's maintenance funds weren't being sucked up by the constant patching up of said holes. There were literally no truant students wandering around, and looking through the windows, none of the classrooms they passed seem to have major troublemakers.
The place didn't exactly stink of new, but it was well kept.
Finally, they stopped before a classroom marked B-2, and Ranma blinked, brought out of her reverie as the counselor knocked on the door lightly before sliding it open.
"Excuse me, Hatanaka-sensei?" The woman said lightly.
"Ah! You're here? Then…" A warm middle aged man's voice flowed out of the room and into the hall. "Is she here?"
The counselor nodded before turning and smiling at Ranma, who glanced over at a smiling Mitsukoshi. She finally sighed before walking over to the door.
'I'll have to figure out an escape plan, one that will take long for these idiots to notice…' She thought bitterly as she stepped into the room.
"Ah, yes!" The balding, glasses wearing teacher, who wore a brownish suit and tie that looked to Ranma like a dirty rug, smiled and beckoned her over. Ranma went over and stood by his side and looked over the class. "Class, as I was saying earlier, we have a new student joining us as of today. This is Miss Teriha Fujibayashi. Is there anything you'd like to say about yourself, Fujibayashi-san?" The man asked, looking down at her.
Ranma glanced up at him, then looked back over the class.
"…" Ranma sighed and finally opened her mouth. "…I like martial arts." She said finally.
The teacher chuckled and patted her shoulder.
"Is that so? That's good! A healthy appreciation of our country's traditions is always admirable!" He said with a smile. "Is there anything else?" The man asked. Ranma looked up at him and frowned.
"Uh… well…" The man looked over at the counselor, who was watching from the door with a smile on her face. "I'm to understand that you're… the daughter of Fuji Corporation's previous C.E.O?"
There were some gasps at that, and Ranma blinked. She didn't recognize the company, and looked up at him.
"…Um…I guess…" She said with a shrug. 'Wonder what they do,' She thought as the classroom was filled with mutterings around her.
"Right, well," The man smiled, but it looked like a bit of the wind had been taken out of his sails. He cleared his throat once and the class room quieted instantly. "Class, remember that while she is here, she is a student like the rest of you. I expect you all to treat her with the respect you would your other peers." He said. "Now then, Miss Fujibayashi, if you could take the empty chair next to Miss Tenou?" He pointed towards the middle of the class, where a tall blonde teen was sitting with her arms behind her head. There was only the one empty chair, so she walked up to it and sat down, setting her bag down on the floor beside her.
"Well then, Hatanaka-sensei, if you'll excuse me," The counselor said with a smile.
"Of course, of course," The man nodded as she shut the door behind herself.
Ranma glanced around the classroom as students all stared at her, and sighed, leaning on her desk. She noticed the blonde girl – Tenou - smiling at her out of the corner of her eye, and felt a tingle in her spine. The look at the other girl was giving her was one that she often received from a suitor right before something bad happened.
Ranma looked up at the board and tried not to shudder.
"Right, well, first period will be starting shortly. I want all of you to take care of Miss Fujibayashi." The home room teacher said, gathering his briefcase.
Ranma sighed as the teacher of the first class of the day, a young brunette, went on and on about something or other. She sat with her head resting on her arms, watching the woman in boredom. The woman was new to teaching, as apparently this was only her second year, and Ranma wasn't sure she was understanding what was being said, or not.
'Way I see it, my best shot is to go to the bathroom sometime before lunch. That way, I get the 'bathroom' time plus the whole lunch period, and however long it takes them to notice after that.' She glanced outside the hall. 'But I know a place like this wouldn't just let me walk off campus. If I could switch to my normal boy form then it'd be easy but I'm locked…' She frowned. 'Hmm… Maybe… I'll use… but then again…'
She sighed and tilted her head.
'Yeah, I've really got no choice. I'm so weak without my chi, and my body doesn't seem to have any real muscle. I literally couldn't get away otherwise.' She shook her head. 'What the hell kind of magic did this? It's almost as bad as the curse!'
There was a cough to her side and she glanced out the corner of her eye at the blonde girl…
'No,' Ranma thought frowning as she eyed the teen appraisingly. 'She's not just some girl…'
She blinked as she noticed how the blonde was holding a folded note loosely in her direction. She turned her attention back to the teacher and surreptitiously accepted the note and opened it on her desk, under the cover of the arm that was still on it, without making a sound.
Hey there. You look kinda rough. What's eating you? -Haruka
Ranma glanced at the other teen out the corner of her eye, and noticed that the blonde was hiding a small smile while watching the teacher.
'Hmm…' Ranma picked up her pencil for the first time that day and started to scribble under the question.
I've been kidnapped by a rich family who is making me pretend to be their heiress or something and sending me to school in her place. Same old, same old. - Ranma
She held the paper to her side without looking and it slid out of her grasp. She glanced at the blonde as the teacher droned on and on about something that was making absolutely zero sense, and noticed the blonde grinning.
After a moment, the note was ready again, and the blonde's smile had been subdued a bit.
'Ranma? That a nickname? And you like kenpo? –Haruka'
'Yeah. Nickname. And yeah. Trained my whole life. -Ranma'
'Really? Jujutsu? – Haruka'
'Well, that and a lotta other stuff. –Ranma'
'Pretty much anything you can imagine.'
'Sounds impressive. But no matter how I look, you look a lot more delicate than that.'
'You think I'm lying?'
'Intuition says no on the lying. So what gives? Did you stop years ago or something?'
'The rich family stole my abilities somehow.'
Ranma frowned when Haruka snorted, causing the teacher to turn and face them. The blonde quickly hid the note and proceeded to rub her nose.
"Sorry, I sneezed." She said.
"Ah, right… okay then…" The teacher adjusted her wide frame glasses and then turned back around. Haruka waited a long moment, then finally, before Ranma had even noticed that she had written something again, a new note was ready.
'You're pretty funny. What kind of food do you like?'
Ranma blinked and glanced towards the back of the classroom when she got the nagging feeling they were being watched. There, in a corner, sat another teen with aquamarine colored hair, and Ranma was getting a familiar vibe from her.
'Anything that tastes good. Who's the chick in the back?'
'The one giving me the eye.'
'Hm? Oh, Michiru. Heh heh, that's my fault, don't worry. I'll introduce you later.'
Ranma blinked, then shrugged.
Yusuke frowned as he walked along the sidewalk. The area he'd found himself in wasn't very familiar at all, but after searching for a bit, he'd managed to discover that he had somehow been taken to Azabu Juuban.
'Heh, wonder how that dumb broad is doin' in school,' He thought with a grin. 'Man, I'm so glad I'm done with that mess. Cookin' ramen ain't glorious, but it covers the rent.' Of course, being a ramen chef could only cover the rent if he was actually working, and that was impossible given he didn't have the pocket change to get home. 'I'll have to see if the guy who lives at wherever the hell I woke up has some spare change. Otherwise, it's a long walk home…'
Juuban was strangely absent of any youkai presence, but he paid it no mind and instead continued on. He stopped at a construction yard, and looked it over.
'If I cut through here I can probably get there faster,' He thought, as he started walking through it.
When he reached the center, though, he was surprised to see a group of thugs standing around someone and kicking them. He raised an eyebrow seeing that it was a pink haired girl, pale-skinned girl wearing a school uniform. She was taking it without protest, but as he got closer, he could see her struggling to block their attacks. The young brawler narrowed his eyes and glared at the group of thugs.
'A girl? They're beating on a defenseless girl?' He growled. 'I know defending girls is Kuwabara's shtick, but fuckthat.'
Without warning he ran forward and drove his fist into the back of the nearest thug's skull. The man flew forward and into another, who stumbled as the now unconscious man fell down.
The thugs all stopped what they were doing and looked at the downed man in surprise.
"What the hell?" One of them demanded, and they all looked over at Yusuke.
"C'mon guys, if you're gonna beat on someone, at least let it be someone who will fight back," The young brawler said with a frown as he stood back.
"What?" The girl asked, looking at him. "What are you doing here?! They'll kill you! Run!"
Yusuke only laughed at her statement, and one of the men scowled and stepped towards him.
"You think you some kinda hero, kid?"
Yusuke snorted and stuck his hands in his pockets.
"Not at all. My hands slipped. See, I'm just prone to violence when someone's getting beaten up by jackasses."
The man growled and started walking towards him.
"So now you're supposed to be cool or something?"
"Hey, I'm just telling the truth," Yusuke said with a shrug.
"Well, me and the boys are gonna fix them hands of yours." The thug said, reaching into a pocket and pulling out a pair of brass knuckles.
"No, run! You don't know what you're getting into!" the girl said from the ground. "Just forget about this!"
Yusuke frowned and looked down at her.
"Hey, I'm not in the habit of running from fights," He said, looking up at the thugs with a grin. "And I know damn well what I've got myself into here. Bring it, ass pirates."
The thugs all smirked at him and started to pick up various things lying around, including steel pipes and iron rods, while one of them held up a chain and started to twirl it about.
"We're gonna enjoy this, punk."
"I thought I said bring it," Yusuke said with a frown. "I'm trying to be a gentleman by letting you take the first swing, but I don't have all day you know."
They all growled and charged at him, and he switched positions, ready to react. When the nearest thug swung a pipe at him, he ducked under it and took hold of the pipe, then brutally punched the man in the nose…
Or so he'd thought. The man took a step back, but hardly looked hurt. Yusuke was surprised by the reaction, but didn't have time to consider it and instead stepped around another attack. He slammed his knee into that attacker's gut and then, with the same leg, kicked out at one that was trying to blindside him, hitting him square in the chest and knocking him off of his feet. He turned around while ducking under the swing of a chain and slammed his fist into the chin of the man wearing brass knuckles, sending him a few inches into the air.
He frowned as he considered the ruffians who were still standing with his fist still out.
'Did I get slower or something?' He thought with a frown.
"You think you're really somethin', don't you, punk?" The man with the brass knuckles said as he stood up.
Yusuke smirked and looked over at him.
"You clowns really think I'm try-"
He was interrupted by sudden pain as a chain suddenly slammed into the side of his head. Yusuke fell to one knee from the sudden pain, and his surprise lasted long enough for the same man to hit him again, sending him painfully to the ground. He clenched his teeth and started to move, but the man kicked him hard in the face, like a footballer trying to score a goal, and he was rolled to the side from the force of the kick.
"Ain't got much of a mouth on ya now, eh, punk?" The chain wielding man said as he walked over to the downed teen and kicked him hard in the waist.
Yusuke grunted hard in pain, but said nothing, his mind reeling with confusion and shock.
"Let him go!" The girl cried out.
"You shut up, you stupid little bitch," The brass knuckle user snarled. "We'll finish punishing you when he's done."
Yusuke moved to get up, using one arm to hold his face. He got up to his knees and pulled his hand down and away from his face when he felt blood on it, and more of it dripped out of his nostrils.
'Shit,' He thought as he started to stand up. 'What the hell's going on here? How did they get me so bad?'
One of the men swung a metal pipe into his back, hard.
"Screw you!" Yusuke yelled out as he endured the blow and grabbed the pipe, then used it to pull his attacker off balance and punch him in the nose at full strength. The man cried out in pain and Yusuke was rewarded with a satisfying crunch of bone. The teen struggled to stand up, though, looking down at his fist in confusion. 'That… that shoulda taken his head clean off!'
Another man swung a pipe at his head from behind, knocking him off of his feet.
"You won't be getting up again, kid." The man said as he raised the pipe over his head and swung down, drawing a sickening crunch from the downed teen's body.
Two classes later, Ranma was eying the clock. After the first teacher left, Haruka stopped the note passing, explaining that the other teachers weren't as lax and would notice right away, so she was bored out of her mind. Ranma had managed to steer the conversation towards martial arts, though Haruka seemed to like racing of any sort as well. For some reason, the red-head felt as if Haruka was someone she could get to like, without the whole girlfriend thing coming into question. For one, they were both girls at the moment, and the blonde seemed way, way more level-headed than any of the other girls she knew.
'I'll have to see her sometime after this is all over,' Ranma thought as she sat up and eyed the clock.
It was finally time. She held up a hand.
"Um, sensei," She started.
The slightly overweight man turned to face her with a frown on his face.
"Yes… Fujibayashi-kun, was it?" The man said.
"Er, y-yeah. I really need to go to the bathroom." She said, wincing and crossing her legs. The man sighed and waved a hand.
"You should have said something earlier," He said. "Do you know where it is?"
Ranma nodded fervently.
"Well, go on, then."
"Yes, thank you, sensei," She said, getting up and quickly making her way out of the room. She could feel Haruka watching her and glanced back, noticing the other teen had another small smile on her face.
Once she was in the hall, she looked around, and started walking towards the bathroom. Once she was out of view of the classroom windows, she closed her eyes and focused in on her chi. It proved much easier to find the second time around, now that she knew what she was looking for.
That moment, anyone who was watching her would have seen her suddenly seem to disappear.
Ranma ran, panting, along the sidewalk outside the campus.
'Man, this weakness thing really sucks. I've got to start working on it right away. I hope somebody at the dojo has a clue what the heck's goin' on around here.'
When she was finally two blocks away, she stopped and panted. The girl turned left into a construction yard and sat down in the dirt, sweat already pouring down her body.
"Man, I," She paused to gasp for breath, "-didn't know people could," She paused again, "-be this weak!"
She sat there and caught her breath, and looked around the yard.
'But now what? How do I get to the fricken dojo from Azabu-frickin-Juuban like this?!' She looked down at her body in disgust, and pinched her stomach, pulling on a layer of fat. 'I'll have to take a train, and that means tons of perverts. Gross.' She gagged. 'The girl only trains are a bit expensive, so it's not… worth… it…'
'How am I going to get on a train? I don't have any money on me…' She frowned and her head sank. 'I can't walk all the way to Nerima. This body would never make it for one, and I could get attacked easily… Hmm, an heiress should have a bunch of spending money, though. Does that mean I have to go back to the mansion? Will they let me leave afterwards?' She growled in frustration and clenched her fists. "What the hell am I supposed to do!?"
She stood up and kicked a nearby stack of pipes, then yipped and started jumping up and down at the incredible pain in her foot.
"Ow! Ow! Ow!" She fell down to her butt and cradled it gingerly. "It's like I'm a little kid again! Damn it! At least the weakness moxibustion hadn't taken away pain resistance!"
She growled and stood back up, then started walking through the construction yard.
"Damn, damn, damn." She sighed. "Parents gone, Dojo disconnected, body weak… Isn't there something I can do? Someone I can call?" She started going over the people she knew in her mind until she noticed a dark spot on the ground out of the corner of her eye. She blinked and quickly looked up, noticing the form of a uniformed school boy, lying face down in the dirt.
He looked slightly familiar.
"Hey, wait…" Her eyes widened as she recognized the boy as the one she'd run into that morning and she quickened her pace until she was by his side. As she knelt down, she noticed that he was severely beaten, bleeding with bruises, welts and shallow cuts covering his face and body. He was unconscious, and the caked blood in the dirt beside him said he'd been like that for a little while now.
"Hey! Wake up, damn it!" She gingerly rolled him over and opened his jacket, then pulled up his shirt. Luckily there were no knife wounds, but it looked like a rib or two was broken, maybe three. She couldn't see any other serious injuries but he was already badly hurt, and just because she couldn't see it didn't mean it wasn't there.
"Shit, he's screwed," she muttered. "Did he get into a fight with yakuza or something?" She muttered. Looking his body over, she could tell that he wasn't very fit. He actually looked kinda puny.
Suddenly, she felt a spark as she noticed someone nearby was watching her, and quickly turned around, looking up at the branches of a tree whose trunk was beyond the wall enclosing the construction project.
"Who's there?! Did you do this?!" she demanded. She waited for a response, but it never came. Scowling, she stood up and pointed at the tree. "I can tell you're there, you bastard!"
"Hn. Not bad for a weak human." A short man whose body was covered up in all black except for a white shawl wrapped around his neck stepped forward on one of the branches, but the other branches hid his face and head. "If you want to save his life, then you should get him some help, don't you think?"
Ranma growled. That unmistakable, oppressive feeling in the air – it was demonic energy. Weak, but youki was youki.
"So, you did it, then?" She asked, growling.
"Hmph. I would not have stopped while he was still able to hold a solid form." The demon snorted. "And even if I had, you're fooling yourself if you think you could fight me."
"Why are you here?" She demanded.
"You don't need to know." The demon snorted. A second later, his body vanished from sight, but Ranma remained on her guard. She looked around several times, then finally turned her attention back to the unconscious school boy.
"He's right," She quickly stood up and ran back out to the sidewalk, and was glad to see that there were a few people walking around. "Hey! Somebody call an ambulance!"
Tsukino Usagi, the girl sometimes known as Sailor Moon and Princess Serenity stretched her arms high over her head and yawned, then leaned back against the tree she was sitting under. In front of her sat an empty bento, not even a speck of grain left. The blonde's stomach made happy gurgling sounds and she patted it in satisfaction, a content smile on her face.
"So what are you guys doing after school today?" Minako asked from her right. The other blonde was still eating her meal, at a much more reasonable pace.
"I was planning to study," Ami said from her left, where she sat, reading a book. "Would you two like to join me?"
"Pass." both blondes said in unison.
The bluenette shook her head.
"One of these days…" She muttered.
"Well, I mean we can do homework, but we're not going to do any more than we have to," Minako said. "…Besides, we've got Chibi-Usa's going away party tonight."
The other two girls frowned as they considered that.
"Hmmm…" Usagi sighed. "I wish Mamo-chan would take me out for a date after all of this…"
"Didn't you go on one yesterday?"
The other blonde blushed.
"But it wasn't enough! I want more! More dates! More!"
"You're already spoiled as it is," Minako snorted, looking away and crossing her arms. "You've got that poor man wrapped around your little finger!"
"I know, isn't it great? He's older, he's got money, he's smart, mature, and he's all mine!"
"Bah! Don't get full of yourself. If it weren't for him, I bet you'd be single until you were thirty."
Usagi gasped at the other girl's comment.
"Hey, take it back!"
"Oh yeah?" Minako smirked. "You really think you have what it takes to reel a man in?"
Usagi shrank back at the comment, and the other girl continued.
"What grade are you getting in home economics, hmm?" Minako grinned and leaned in on the odango-headed girl and poked her in the stomach, which was a little flabby. "And what about this, eh? Eh? And you're a little short on the goods up top, too!"
"That's enough, Minako-chan," Ami said, not looking up from her book. "I seem to recall your last batch of chocolate chip cookies were made into industrial grade charcoal."
"H-hey, that was just… chocolate chip cookies aren't particularly important, you know," She said.
"And neither is what grade you get in home economics, or having a flat belly, or large breasts…" She paused and cleared her throat. "Usagi-chan is a kind, loving girl and I just cannot see her being alone until she was thirty."
It was Usagi's turn to smirk at the other blonde, who had eased up off of her and was looking sheepish.
"I would say twenty-nine at the latest." Ami said, to which Minako snickered, and Usagi frowned.
"Hey! Ami-chan, whose side are you on?" Usagi demanded, turning to face the other teen.
"Well, Usagi-chan, you've got to admit, unfortunate as it may be, men have traditionally preferred practicality and good looks over-" She was interrupted by a beeping noise, and stopped talking altogether.
"Huh? Why did you start beeping?" Minako asked, peering over Usagi at the blue haired girl.
"…That was the Mercury Computer, not me." Ami said, reaching into her bag and retrieving the device.
"Oh." Minako looked down at the compact computer and raised an eyebrow. "Have you ever considered upgrading to a tablet?"
"Those things are hardly upgrades," Ami said with contempt. "Gimmicks at best. Touch screen keyboards are always either too sensitive or under sensitive, and they never work the way I want them to. I haven't seen any tablets with a satisfactory OS yet, either – they always have such limited functionality that you have to pay additional fees to even use - I suppose I could write my own OS but then the warranty would be voided and the hardware is just not worth the money. When they make a pressure sensitive tablet with a fully functional OS, then I might consider it, but until then…" She muttered something that sounded rather unkind about tablets and tablet owners under her breath.
Minako and Usagi blinked at each other.
"Okay, jeez, sorry I asked." Minako muttered.
"Hm? Oh no, it's quite alright. You didn't know." The bluenette said. "More importantly, the Mercury Computer seems to have picked up some strange energy signals around the city."
"Is it an enemy?" Minako asked, tilting her head.
"It's not anything we've ever encountered before, no," She said. "Not a youma, or daimon, or anything like that. It's more of a… static field of… raw energy? Though they seem to be slowly disappearing." She frowned. "Though there does seem to be one source of negative energy. It's right here in Juuban…"
"Should we investigate it?" Minako asked.
"What? But lunch is almost over," Usagi said in a half-whine.
"That's not what's important here." Ami said. "I say we should indeed investigate this matter. It's not too far."
A twenty year old looking Usagi walked beside Minako and Ami on a populated sidewalk. The blue haired teen was watching both the road ahead of her and the screen of her minicomputer.
"That disguise pen is really nifty," Minako said, looking around. "Not a single person has hassled us for being out of school yet!"
"I know, right?" Usagi said with a grin.
"Don't even think about using it to skip school." Ami said in a stern voice.
"Hey, that's not a bad idea!" Minako said, sharing a look with Usagi.
"We're here." She announced, looking up.
"Huh?" The other two girls stopped behind her and looked up as well.
There was an ambulance with a young man in a partial high school uniform being loaded upon a stretcher. The two blondes winced upon seeing the kind of devastating injuries he'd received, and his bloody under clothing. There was a small crowd around the area as the ambulance was loaded up and emergency personnel got into the vehicle with him. Ami approached the nearest bystander and spoke.
"What happened here?" She asked.
The middle-aged woman turned to look at her.
"They say he was badly beaten," the woman said. "With those youma creatures popping around these days, you never know what's going to happen next." She shook her head. "That poor child."
"Sorry to bother you," She said.
"Not at all," The woman replied.
Ami turned around and walked over to the other two teen as the ambulance's sirens began to wail and it pulled away.
"Did you hear that?" She asked.
"You think it was some creature?"
Ami tilted her head, her face betraying her confusion in the matter.
"Most of the enemies we've run into now have used magical methods to extract some sort of… item, or energy, from the victim. This was a savage beating," She said. "What could it have to gain from doing that?"
"Maybe it was bored?" Minako asked with a frown. "Monsters aren't exactly nice, you know."
"Hm. Well, he had on a high school uniform. I believe there is one in this area," Ami said, frowning as well. "It may have simply been bullies."
"I'd rather it wasn't something we had to deal with…" She mumbled. "…But we can't just let something that is doing this to people, monster or not, go unpunished."
Ami looked down at her computer.
"Well, the negative energy signature is gone," She said. "There isn't much we can do about it right now anyway. Let's get back to school. We might make it to class without being tardy if we hurry."
As the blue haired girl and Usagi turned to walk back to school, Minako spared one last glance about the area.
"Hmm… It's been a while since I had to deal with bad guys that were human. Always monsters and magic these days…" She said, turning away.
When lunch time came, Kenichi turned around to speak with Miu again only to find that she had disappeared from her seat. Confused, but accepting, since the masters had likely put her up to it, he simply reached down to grab his lunch…
… and promptly realized that he didn't have one.
"Oh crap…" He sighed and shook his head. "Does this mean I have to go all the way back home..? Maybe I don't need to eat… then again, if I don't, that training will probably kill me…" He sighed heavily. "I'll just have to go home and get something…" He muttered. "I've got an hour, I can make it there and back before class starts again…"
After he got outside, he stopped, and looked around for any familiar faces. It was likely that one of the Shinpaku Alliance would be able to explain what was going on to him, but he couldn't see any of them around.
"It's funny, you'd think on a day like this Niijima would be around causing trouble for me…" A bead of sweat formed on his head and rolled down the side of his face and he looked around nervously. "Not that I'm disappointed or anything… hope I didn't jinx myself." With a sigh he put his hands in his pockets and started walking.
Kenichi blinked. That voice…
He turned around and looked for the source of the voice. A girl was running towards him through the lunch crowd, but he didn't quite recognize her. Her voice was definitely familiar, though, and when she finally got close enough, he was shocked by what… or rather, who he saw. Unsure of his eyes, he rubbed them and blinked, only to find that she was still a little blurry, but that didn't change the fact that Kisara Nanjou – tomboy ex-delinquent and expert Tae Kwon Do user - was running towards him, dressed in a proper school uniform and wearing some thick bottle-cap glasses. She carried a lunch box wrapped up in a plain white cloth with blue stripes going along the length.
He pinched his arm several times and winced at the pain.
"Ken-kun! Hiya!" The girl said with a big smile on her face when she got near. Kenichi watched her in eerie silence as she stopped right next to him and put her arm around him in a friendly manner. She panted roughly and he blinked in confusion several times while she caught her breath. He could see clearly the sweat that was on her face, as if that little run had exerted her.
"Kisara-san, are you okay?" He asked. Had she been training too, or something? There was no reason for her to be so tired… and the glasses… and the uniform… and the overwhelming sense of utter wrongness…
"Fine, fine! But, Ken-kun! How's it goin?" She asked.
Kenichi raised an eyebrow.
"Ken-kun?" He blinked. "Er… okay, I guess…" He nervously shrank away from the girl who could have once pummeled him into the ground on a whim. It was true that she tended to be very cozy and cheerful, but he'd never seen her act so…
…Friendly? Towards him, anyway. She was more like this with Miu…
"Eh? Well, that's cool. Where ya headed?" She asked.
"Er, well, I was going to run home real fast and get my lunch… It seems I forgot it…"
"Eh?" She frowned. "What, were you planning on skipping the rest of the school day or something?" She asked, frowning.
He blinked at that.
"Er, no, I just wanted to rush there and back," He said.
"Huh!?" The red head was clearly taken aback by his statement. "But you'll still be late for class, you might even miss one!" She said with a frown.
"Huh?" He blinked; Kisara, worried about him missing class? "Uh, I'll be fine, really." He said.
"No way! That's ridiculous." She looked at him out of the corner of her eye. "Besides, you promised to eat lunch with me today!"
Kenichi frowned as confusion set in.
"I did?" He asked, pointing at himself, and she frowned.
"Yes, you did! Did you forget already?!"
Kenichi shrank back and held his arms up to cover his face.
"U-uh, no! I didn't! Heh heh!" He waved his hands up defensively. "But, uh… well, I don't have a lunch…" He looked up at her through his hands and noticed that she was staring intently at him. After a moment, she blushed and looked away.
"W-well… if that's the case, then I'll share mine with you." She said.
"H-huh? R, really?"
"Yeah! Now come on, hurry up! I know the perfect spot!" She turned and quickly started running, pulling him by the hand.
"Uwah!" He gasped in surprised. For a moment, he was terribly off balance and it seemed like he would trip and fall, but he managed to get it back and follow after her.
After a moment, she led him to a tree that granted some good shade and they both sat down.
"So, Ken-kun," She started, "I heard you came on time today! How did you do that?" She asked as she started to open her bento, taking care to unwrap the cloth tied around it. "It's always so hard for me to get up in the morning!"
"Uh, well, I ran," He said with an honest chuckle, rubbing the back of his head.
She blinked at that and stopped in her motions.
"W-what? You ran? All the way here?"
He smiled and nodded.
"B-but, you normally sleep in about an hour… how come you woke up so early?" She asked as she set the lunch container on top of the soft cloth and stared at him.
"W-what?" He frowned, taken aback by that revelation. "Err…" Kenichi blinked. "I normally sleep in an hour?"
"Yeah. By the way, did you ever end up finding that Sword-of-something-or-other? I had to pull out cause I was tired, but I was hoping you guys might have found it," She said, tilting her head.
"S-sword of what?" He asked.
"Huh? Did you forget?"
She rolled her eyes and opened the bento before she started talking again.
"Silly, that's what we were searching for last night. You know, in the Rune Dungeons?"
"Rune… Dungeons?" He muttered.
"Yeah, you know, Tales of Final Star Online Two: The Silver Revenant Feathers of Celestia? The MMORPG that we play every night?" She gave him a look that said what she was talking about should have been obvious, but for the life of him, he could not understand what she was talking about. "Well, you seem to have forgotten it anyway. You did seem kinda preoccupied last night." She held up a pair of chopsticks and pulled them apart. "Okay then! Say ahh!" She said as she dug into some rice.
Kenichi eyed the pickled plum in the center, and the rest of the lunch, then looked up at her.
'Hey, that's a lot of food… It's almost like it was made for more than one person…'
She held the chopsticks up and looked at him pointedly, and he blinked.
"Well," She blushed, "I only have one pair of chopsticks… so we're going to have to take turns eating, okay! Say 'ah', all right?!"
"A, ah!" He shrank back from her for a moment and shook his head. "Wait, I'll be fine with your scraps, you don't have to go this far!"
"What? No, we're taking turns, I don't want to take more than you." She said calmly.
After a moment, he sighed, and gave her an exasperated look.
"Okay, Kisara-san. Did Niijima put you up to this?"
Kisara froze solid, before quickly looking around. Seeing no one around, she leaned in close and he started to sweat nervously.
"N, Niijima? What does that violent thug have to do with anything?" She asked in a whisper, frowning at him.
"Violent thug? What are you talking about?"
"What?" The other teen looked surprised at his question. "What do you mean, what am I talking about? He's a monster!"
Kenichi frowned and pulled away from her.
"Uh, are we talking about the same alien here?"
Kisara's eyes widened and she quickly leaned in and covered his mouth, before looking around again.
"Mmpf! Mmrg!" Kenichi struggled for a second, but she held fast.
"What are you, crazy?" She demanded, leaning in closer until they were almost face to face. "You know he hates being called that! Are you trying to get yourself killed, Ken-kun?"
Kenichi frowned and grabbed her hand and pulled it away easily.
"Oh yeah, that's really funny," He said. "Niijima put you up to this, didn't he? This is just the kinda thing that guy would do…" He said, shaking his head. "Crafty little bug… But I've gotta wonder how he managed to get the whole class to…" He frowned and tilted his head. "But then the teacher…"
Kisara just stared at him, a blank look on her face.
"Uh, Ken-kun? Are you okay?"
"Huh?" Kenichi frowned. "Uh… Kisara-san… since when do you call me, 'Ken-kun'?"
"Hmm? Since middle school, you dork!" She said with a grin, before slapping him on the back.
"M-middle school?" Kenichi's eyes widened. 'B, but we didn't… I didn't meet you until high-school!' He thought. 'Did Niijima really think this out that far? That jerk, what's he trying to do?' He huffed and sighed.
"Sheesh… you're being weird today. But anyway, aren't you hungry?" The red head asked, taking a bite of her lunch. "Open your mouth already!"
"W-wahh!" Kenichi cringed. 'B-but… sharing a meal like that is something I could only do with one person! How am I supposed to get out of this?'
"Then say ahhh!" She said with a smile as she grabbed some more rice.
"Er…" The young martial artist felt heat in his face as he blushed in some embarrassment. 'This is probably all part of the game, isn't it, Niijima? You trying to get blackmail material on me?' He thought, before closing his eyes and opening his mouth. "A, ahh…"
"Yay!" He could feel the chopsticks in his mouth and took that as his cue to bite down on it. He blinked as she pulled the chopsticks away.
It was pretty good. The pickled plum was just right, there wasn't too much or too little flavor.
"T, this is pretty good," He said after he swallowed it and opened his eyes.
"R, really? Thank you!" Kisara blushed and smiled at him.
'Oh boy…' He looked down at the ground. 'What will Miu think? This, this isn't cheating… is it?'
"Um… thank you for the meal." He said awkwardly when there was no more food left.
Kisara giggled as she wrapped the bento in the cloth again.
"Just don't forget yours next time, okay?"
Kenichi smiled nervously and nodded.
'Something is… wrong here.' He thought to himself as he watched her tend to the bento. She looked perfectly content to be doing so, not like she was being forced at all. It was just so… un-Kisara like. 'Was she that good an actor?'
He narrowed his eyes.
"Say, Kisara-san… you, you like cats, right?"
"Hm?" She blinked and looked down at him. "Not particularly. Actually, I'm allergic." She said, tilting her head and frowning slightly.
"Er…" Kenichi made a face. "I see, heh heh…" He said, rubbing his neck. The school bell rang and he blinked. "Wow, has it already been an hour..?"
"Ah! Seems so!" Kisara smiled and slapped him on the back again. "Well, it's been fun! I'll see you around, Ken-kun!" she said, before taking off towards the main school building.
Kenichi held up a hand after her and frowned then let it fall back down to his hand. Kisara was not so good an actor as to lie like that. No matter how much Niijima was paying or blackmailing her with.
"Allergic?" He muttered. "That… that can't be… right… "
Ranma sighed as she walked back into the classroom. She'd left the scene before the ambulance could arrive to avoid being questioned, and scolded for being out of school in the first place. A nearby police man would have probably checked the scene out, and from there she'd have been lead back to school and her plan would have been found out by the counselor and her kidnappers.
Haruka Tenou was sitting with the aquamarine-trussed teen at Ranma's desk, and the two looked up at her.
"Oh, hey, Ranma. What happened with the bathroom?" Haruka asked, looking at Ranma, who walked over to her desk.
"Eh?" Ranma glanced at the blonde. "Err, well, uh…"
The blonde chuckled.
"You trying to play hooky on your first day?" She asked.
"That doesn't sound like someone from Blue Rose Academy to me." The aqua haired teen said with a smile.
"Eh? Ah, you're… Michiko, right?" Ranma asked, looking at her.
The woman giggled.
"Michiru. Michiru Kaiou," She said, standing up. "Forgive me, I was rather blunt, wasn't I? And stealing your chair no less."
"Er, it's okay," Ranma said, waving a hand and kneeling down to her bag, which remained right as she'd left it. "I'm actually about to go back out."
"But lunch is almost over," Haruka said. "You're not really trying to play hooky, now are you?"
"Well…" Ranma looked up at them, at a loss for what to say. "I have somewhere I really have to go."
"Why can't you just go after school?" The blonde asked, raising a brow. Michiru looked on interestedly as well. "You can even have your chauffeur take you." She said the last part with a grin.
Ranma frowned. There was no need to explain exactly what was going on yet, especially since it was bound to be so unbelievable to a couple of… normal people.
"It's some place he won't want to take me. At least, I don't want him to know about it." She said with a shrug. "…They think I'm going nuts at my house."
"So you do have a chauffeur?" The blonde asked, grinning at the shorter teen.
"Err… I guess," The teen shrugged. 'I can't afford to get too distracted here, I've got to get to the dojo.' She rummaged through her bag, but saw only notebooks and school supplies. Nothing resembling a purse or wallet. 'Damn. Now how am I supposed to get to the damn dojo?' She sighed and stood up, then dropped down into her chair.
"What's up, red?"
Ranma took a second to realize that Haruka was talking to her.
"Er, I don't have my wallet," The red-head sighed. "I kind of need to ride a train to get where I'm going."
Haruka and Michiru glanced at each other, and shared a smile before looking down at her.
"Where do you want to go?" Haruka asked, raising an eye brow.
"A dojo in Nerima," Ranma said with a shrug.
"Nerima?" The blonde asked.
"Why go that far for a dojo?" The aqua haired teen asked. "There are a few around here, aren't there?"
"Er, well, I know that one pretty well." She said with a shrug.
"Nerima is two districts over from Minato, isn't it?" Michiru asked. "Is this place that good?"
"It's only thirty or so kilometers," Haruka said, waving a hand. "Not a long train ride."
"Mm, well, still, I can't walk that far," The red-head said.
"Hmm…" Haruka smiled, and Michiru glanced at her.
"Dear, you're not thinking of…"
"Well, why not?" The blonde asked with a grin. "If it's so good that she'd be willing to jump on some pervert infested train instead of ride with her chauffeur? Sounds interesting."
"Well…" The green haired teen sighed and said, "I suppose it wouldn't hurt."
"Perverts tend to lose fingers around me." Ranma said with a snort. Haruka's grin widened.
"Heh. Well, why don't you just ride with us after school? I'd like to check this place out," The blonde said.
"R-Really?" Ranma's eyes widened. "But, you don't have to go out of your way for me like that… I mean, after all, we only just… huh? You have a car?"
"Sure, on both counts. And don't worry about it," Haruka said with a wink.
"Haruka just can't leave a beautiful damsel in distress alone." Michiru said with a smile. "And we weren't planning to do much today anyway. We seem to have a lot of free time these days."
Ranma blinked, then chuckled nervously.
"Er, right… damsel…" She looked away from the two and felt a bead of sweat drop down the back of her neck. 'Oh boy… I can see this going wrong in a few ways…' The martial artist turned back to them and smiled and nodded. "Er yeah, that'd be great!"
"Right. Make sure to let your people know that you're going to ride home with friends then." Haruka said with a chuckle.
"Err… right…" Ranma looked down at her cell phone and picked it up, then started looking through it. Unsurprisingly, she didn't recognize any of the names there, and Mitsukoshi wasn't one of them. The closest thing was Mikkon, which she assumed was a friend of the phone's actual owner… if there was such a person.
Ranma blinked, noting that the first three kana for Mikkon were the same as Mitsukoshi.
'Hmm… maybe…' The bell rang and Ranma then frowned. 'I'll just wait and see what happens.'
Several hours later, Ranma walked over towards the front of the school, where Mitsukoshi and the limousine waited for her. She walked over to him and held up a hand as he opened the door.
"Um…" She blinked trying to figure out how to regard the man. 'I've got to convince him that I'm going along with their little plan…' She thought, steeling herself. 'Here goes!'
Her face lit up with a megawatt smile, and she opened her mouth, cranking her pitch up three octaves for good measure.
"Mikkon! I made some friends today!"
The man blinked at her, then smiled back.
"Oh, so you're back to normal are you? I told you you'd have fun here!" He said.
Ranma hid a smirk.
"Yep! My friends just invited me to go out and do karaoke with them!" She giggled and gave him a double-fisted smile. "I can't believe it! I'm so embarrassed!" She leaned in and whispered in a conspiratory voice. "I've never done karaoke with common people before! Can I go, can I go? Please?"
"You still have a lot to learn, don't you?" He said with a smile. "Okay then. Why don't I give you all a ride? We can all go!"
"Mm…Mikkon!" She stuck out her tongue and lightly pounded a dainty fist into his chest. "It's supposed to be a girls' get together! You can't come!"
"Girls?" He asked, tilting his head. "I see. Then I'll just wait in the…"
"I'll ride with them, okay? Don't worry! If I need you, I'll just call you!" She turned and started running towards the building again, against all of the bodies pouring out.
"Huh? Well…" He blinked and frowned, then held up a hand. "Er…"
"Okay! See you later, Mikkon!" She said, looking back and waving at him.
When she got inside the building, Haruka and Michiru were standing there and watching her. Like others who preferred to leave uniforms at school, the two had changed their clothes; the blonde was dressed in a jacket and jeans that had a sort of masculine feel to them. If it wasn't for the jacket being open, revealing a thin yellow shirt underneath, she was sure the tall blonde could have passed for male. Michiru stood next to her, wearing a silvery-blue sundress that instead seemed to highlight her femininity.
"I didn't know you had that in you." Haruka said, giving the young red head an honestly impressed look. Beside her, her aquamarine haired companion stood, holding a hand over her mouth to hide a giggle.
"I have to be able to deal with these things at a moment's notice," The young martial artist said, waving a hand. "You know, keeping up appearances, changing from one person to another in a split second…"
"Oh? I see." the aquamarine haired teen said with a smile.
Ranma slung her bag over her shoulder and followed Haruka and Michiru to the school parking lot.
"Say, doesn't that sound familiar?" Haruka asked with a chuckle, looking at Michiru.
Ranma reached over and grabbed her phone as the two talked, and looked it over. It was one of the most expensive looking ones she'd seen.
'Man, how many features does this thing have?' She thought as she scrolled through menus and the like. She looked around the shell for the brand name and noticed the word "Fuji" written in romaji. 'Fuji? Hm, why does that sound familiar? Don't they make cameras or something?' She thought for a moment.
"So, Fujibayashi-san," Michiru started, glancing back at her. "Why don't you tell us about yourself?"
Ranma looked up from her phone and realized that the three of them had stopped walking. She processed the question she'd been asked about a second later as Haruka was opening the door to a rather shiny and comfortable looking sports car with a convertible top.
"Eh? Er, please, call me Ranma," She said. "Wait, this is your car?"
"Hmm? Yup," Haruka said as Michiru opened the door to the passenger side and got in. "C'mon, climb in." As she said that, the top began to fold back, and Ranma stared at it in awe.
"Wow, you guys must be loaded!"
She was surprised when the two in the car looked at each other and started laughing.
"Eh? What, did I say something funny?"
"Loaded?" Haruka asked, wiping a tear from her eye. "You're the Fuji Corporation's ex-C.E.O.'s daughter, aren't you?"
"Huh? Er…" Ranma took a moment to remember what had been said about her that morning, and nodded before finally climbing into the back of the car. "Yeah, I guess."
"You could buy a handful of these with your weekly allowance, couldn't you?" The blonde asked, smirking at her.
"Really?" She glanced down at her phone. 'Fuji…? Maybe I should… look into this…' She shrugged. "I er… never really had an interest in buying… cars… before… Not quite old enough. I figured they were super expensive too." She shrugged.
"Oh dear. Just how expensive did you think they were?" Michiru asked, turning to look at her with a slight smile as Haruka started the car's engine.
"I just figured cars like this were way up there with private jets and stuff." Ranma said with a shrug.
"But doesn't your family have a few of those?" Haruka asked, looking into her mirror as she backed out of the parking space. "Most high up company officials in a business that large tend to, I think."
"Oh… uh… err…" Ranma's mouth opened and closed several times. "Ahahah! Let's change the subject! It'll just sound like I'm bragging if I talk about me, you know?"
Michiru tittered, covering her mouth with a hand, while Haruka chuckled again.
"You don't have to worry about that with us. We're not exactly struggling ourselves," The blonde said as she pulled out into the street and joined the flow of traffic. "But if you insist, that's okay. What about your interests? What do you do to pass time, besides martial arts?"
"Hmm? Well, when I'm not practicing martial arts… I like to watch variety shows. Occasionally if I'm bored I'll pick up a manga that's lying around, and I do play videogames when there's fighting in it. But usually I'm training or fighting."
"Oh?" Michiru asked. "Didn't you usually do anything with your friends from your last school?"
"Hm?" Ranma blinked, then shrugged. "Well… yeah, I mean, I guess. But it's like…" She looked up out the window at the cars that they were passing by. "Most of the time, people would only try to get to be friends with me so they could… get something from me. I had a lot of suitors too," She said with a sigh. "The attention was interesting, but after a year it just kinda got tedious, y'know?"
"Oh?" Haruka asked. "So Blue Rose is that kind of place, eh?" The last part had been muttered just loud enough to be audible. Ranma blinked and glanced up at the front, and noticed Haruka's slight frown through the rear-view mirror. "Well, don't worry about that anymore. We won't let anyone harass you at Juuban."
"Yes, that's right." Michiru added. "No one should have to go through that sort of thing."
"Eh? Er…" Ranma blinked. "Well, I kinda got used to it," She said with a shrug. "I don't mind the chaos and all, but it would be cool if people weren't out to either actually kill me or marry me, you know? I had a few jealous rivals too, some of them were just plain hilarious."
The two ladies in the front shared a look.
"I'm sorry, but it sounds interesting." Michiru said amiably.
"Yeah, well," Ranma sighed. "Most of them get old fast. So uh, what about you two?"
"I like to race," Haruka said.
"Yeah, I know," Ranma said with a nod.
"Just checking," Haruka responded as she put her hand on the gear shift and turned onto a particularly empty street.
Ranma noticed these two things and her face went blank.
"Uh… don't tell me-"
"Don't worry, we'll be in Nerima before the hour's over," Haruka said with a grin.
Ranma glanced down at her phone.
It was 15:33.
"Oh dear, you always get like this." Michiru said as the blonde suddenly slammed down on the gas.
Ranma slammed into the back of her seat.
"If you haven't already, you might want to put your seatbelt on," Haruka warned as the car shifted gears.
The second half of the school day, Kenichi had managed to steal a few glances at Miu. She hadn't changed from the morning at all, and was still just staring outside, yet somehow was able to answer whatever questions the teachers asked. When it was almost time to go, he stole one final glance, only to see that she was staring at him intently. He was taken aback by the concentrated look on her face, and smiled, then turned back to face the teacher. When the day was over, he turned to look at her, only to find that she had vanished once again.
Later, when Kenichi walked into the gardening club's greenhouse, he was surprised to see three students he did not know already tending to the plants. They all immediately looked over at him in various states of surprise and he blinked, then smiled.
"Oh, um… hello. Are you all looking to join the club?" He asked with a smile. 'Izumi's going to be so happy!'
One of two girls looked at him and frowned.
"What are you talking about?" A girl asked.
"Err," Kenichi tilted his head. "Well, I mean, you're all already here, so I assumed you were interested in joining the gardening club…"
They shared a look and then burst out laughing.
"That's a good one, buddy," The only guy in the club said. Kenichi turned to look at him and blinked; now that he looked at him, he looked awfully familiar. "Are you here to join the gardening club?"
"Huh?" He pointed at himself and chuckled. "I'm already a member. One of the only three!"
They other teens all looked amongst themselves again and one of them sighed.
"That's pretty far to take a joke, don't you think?" she said. "Listen, we don't care if you're gonna join or not, just make up your mind, would you?"
'They don't seem like they're joking…' He thought. 'Weird… but then again, all of today has been weird. I get the feeling this isn't something I'll be able to figure out on my own...' He looked up at them and held up a hand. "Er, sorry, but I just remembered that I had somewhere to be. Excuse me for interrupting…" He turned around and walked back out of the greenhouse. 'Maybe… Koetsuji-sensei will know what's going on… if he's not in on it himself…'
Twenty minutes later found Kenichi aimlessly walking down the familiar streets of what had become his home. For some reason, it felt like he'd been carrying a tremendous weight, and he was tired.
"Hmm… Miu-san and Kisara-san… both have been acting strange today." He muttered. "But… the more that I think about it, the more something feels off. I can't quite get it…" He stopped before an empty lot and sighed. He sat down on the dirty ground and dropped his books beside him, then sighed in relief. "Wow, these books are way heavier than I thought. I can't believe all the kids carry that much weight," He muttered as he looked up at the lot and tilted his head. It was full of weeds and dead grass, and trash littered the place here and there.
There was a strange chill in the air, and he could feel the hairs rising on his neck. Something was… wrong about this place.
"Huh… I haven't seen this place before…" He muttered. He looked around to get a feel for where he was and found himself becoming increasingly confused.
"Hey, wait a minute… this… this isn't right…" He muttered. He pointed at a building that he recognized, and then turned around, looking about. "That, that place is right across the street from the dojo! Isn't it?" He muttered. "Maybe I crossed into a similar neighborhood…" He muttered. Looking around again, he frowned in plain confusion and shook his head.
"This can't be right. A neighborhood that looks that similar to the one I've lived in for the past year? Are they getting that generic?" He muttered. He sighed and slid back on the ground, hitting a piece of wood with his hand. Surprised, he turned around and looked down at the piece of wood.
And his eyes widened in shock for the nth time that day.
The last kanji was missing, as the sign was broken, but… it was definitely the sign that hung above the entrance to the dojo. His head whipped up and he looked around the empty lot in confusion. As he did so, some of the landscape began to look familiar to him. He closed his eyes and focused on a mental image of the dojo from where he'd have been sitting, and then opened them, and found that the two almost matched perfectly, with one rather large exception.
"Where… where'd the dojo go!?"
A short time later, the three cruised down a freeway off ramp at a more relaxed pace.
"What did I tell you? Within the hour," Haruka said, as they pulled off towards a traffic light.
"Ah-heh-heh… y-yeah…" Ranma straightened her shirt out and started to tie her hair back into a pigtail without bothering to check and see if the blonde was right. She'd let her hair out earlier and had to remind herself several times not to sit up on the back of the car as they sped down the freeway because she wasn't sure if she could maintain balance with her weakened body. 'Man, that was awesome! First thing I do when I get back is learn how to drive a car!'
"So," Haruka started. "Which way from here, do you know?"
"Huh? Oh yeah," Ranma quickly looked around and for the first time felt at home as she recognized the area. "Hang a left and go straight, for uh, thirteen signals…"
"Hmm… Okay," The blonde said as she switched lanes and made the turn.
"So, uh, anyway… Michiru, you don't mind if I call you that, do you?" Ranma asked.
"I don't mind," The aqua-marine haired teen said.
"You said you were into playing the violin and swimming, eh?" Ranma asked, looking at Michiru. "Eh heh… That's cool… I can't say I know much about classical music, though…"
"Oh, I can play more than classical music," Michiru said. "I've played support for a few pop and rock bands as well, and I know several other instruments," She said with a smile.
"Huh. You'll have to let me hear it some time," Ranma said. "Say, can you play the drums?" She asked. "How about an electric guitar?"
Michiru smiled and glanced at the redhead out the corner of her eye.
"Well, once you know a bit of music theory, it's easier to pick up other instruments. I haven't really tried either of those, but I think I could if I did." She said.
"We're coming up on that thirteenth light," Haruka said.
Ranma blinked, but refrained from making a comment on how fast it'd been.
"Make a right just before the gas station," Ranma said, continuing when the blonde did so. "There should be a department store down here… Turn left and stay on that road until we hit the residential district. It'll be easy from there."
Not ten minutes later, after going down that road, which curved and winded away from the freeway, they had crossed into the residential district. Ranma sighed in relief as familiar houses passed them by – or, rather, as they passed the houses by.
"Okay, just turn left into this street…" Ranma said.
"Say, this dojo," Haruka started. "It's not in the industrial area?"
"No, the family lives there. It's their ancestral property," Ranma explained. 'Well, finally. Man, I never thought I'd be so glad to see Nerima again,' She thought with a relieved sigh as they passed ever more familiar houses. 'Look, there's Tofu's clinic… eh? Sakai?' She blinked. 'It changed ownership? Maybe that's why I haven't seen him around… Huh, the least he could have done was said goodbye, you'd think.' She shrugged.
"So Ranma, you seem to know this area pretty well," Haruka said. "Come here often?"
"Eh? Yeah, I guess you could say that," Ranma said. 'I've been living here for a year, so I've been coming here more often than anywhere else…' She suddenly noticed what street they were on and spoke up. "Turn right at the drainage ditch…"
The redhead frowned as the houses started losing their familiarity.
'Hey, shouldn't that one be white? Why is it yellow?' She looked around and started noticing more discrepancies. 'Did we make a wrong turn?' She scratched her head. "Um… Turn right here…" She said. Haruka followed her instructions and soon they were coasting down the street the Tendo residence resided on.
And coasting… and coasting…
"Say, we almost there yet?" Haruka asked.
Ranma frowned as they passed a familiar house.
'Hey, that's the Yamane's place, isn't it?' Her eyes widened and she quickly turned around, whipping her head about. "W-what? Wait a second, where's the dojo?"
Haruka slowed to a stop.
"The dojo! It should be… right here somewhere!" She said, pointing at a relatively new looking house. "What's that doing there?"
Haruka and Michiru looked at each other.
"Did you make a mistake?" The blonde asked, turning to look at the red-head.
"I… I'm not sure," Ranma said. "Maybe we missed our turnoff… these neighborhoods tend to be pretty generic, after all," Ranma said with a sigh. "Sorry about that."
"It's fine, we've got time to kill and gas to burn," The blonde said, driving down to the end of the street.
They coasted through the neighborhood some more before finally coming back to the street where the dojo… was supposed to be.
"Hey red, sorry to say, but still no dojo." Haruka said.
"That's... odd…" Ranma muttered. 'The dojo's not here? We must have really made a wrong turn somewhere… I'll just have to see if someone can turn us in the right direction.' She looked up at the driver. "Hey, would you mind waiting for a bit? I'm gonna ask for directions."
"Sure thing," Haruka said, pulling off to the left of the street.
Ranma hopped out of the car and started running up towards what looked like the Yamane's place. The family's dog, Bess if she remembered correctly, immediately started barking at her from behind a fence. Ranma frowned at the dog's reaction; the mutt was definitely familiar with her by now, so that meant something was wrong.
"Oh well," Ranma thought, knocking on the door. Several moments later, a familiar middle-aged woman opened the door and Ranma looked up at her. It was Ms. Yamane… only, the woman looked as if she had lost some weight, and her face was a little more haggard than usual. 'Is this a relative?' Ranma wondered as the woman stared back at her.
"Can I help you young lady?"
The familiar voice snapped Ranma out of her mild surprise.
"Eh? So it is you, Ms. Yamane?" She asked.
"Hm?" The woman blinked. "Er, have we met before?"
"It's me, Ranma, from the Tendo Dojo?" Ranma said, sighing in relief. "Sorry, it looks like something weird is happening again…"
"Tendo Dojo…?" The woman muttered.
"Yeah… I got lost," Ranma said sheepishly. "Could you point me to the dojo?"
The woman shook her head.
"I'm sorry young lady, but there's no dojo in this area."
"There's no dojo in this area," The woman repeated. "Where did you hear that there was?"
"What? Wait a second, what do you mean, there's no dojo in this area?"
"Just that. Isn't now, and there hasn't been for as long as I've lived here." The woman said, starting to frown. "Where did you hear that kind of rumor? That's not a Fuurinkan uniform, so I know you're not local. Where are you from?"
"Uh…" Ranma just stared at the woman as her brain tried to work through what'd been said.
The woman sighed.
"Well, anyway, I'm sorry, but I have to get back to work. If you'll excuse me…" She said, before slowly closing the door.
Ranma stood there for a moment, then turned around and looked at the lot where the dojo was supposed to be.
"It's supposed to be right there!" She muttered. 'What's going on here?!' She frowned and started walking towards the place. She crossed the street and walked up towards the front yard. As she got closer, she felt a shiver go down her spine, and stopped. She looked up at the house and frowned. 'The dojo is supposed to be right here damn it! And what is old lady Yamane saying, there's been no dojo here forever?' Another shiver went down her spine and the teen started towards the house again.
Then she felt it. A familiar… ambience. Despite the fact that she was staring at a house that she'd never seen before, it felt like she was looking right at the dojo, as if she were about to walk in through the front gate and everything would return to normal.
Ranma took a step forward and the world around her churned about. She stared in surprise, yet with a feeling of expectation, as the visage of the strange house was slowly replaced with that of the all too familiar Tendo Dojo. When it was solid, she looked around and saw that the blue sky only extended several meters above the dojo from his vantage point. Beyond that was a black, cloudless, empty nothingness. Her body was suddenly awash with energy and the muscle weakness that she'd felt for the whole day was gone.
She wordlessly ran forward, pushing the door open as quickly as she could. Inside, the house was just as she remembered.
"Hey!" She called out. "Is anybody here?!"
There was no response, and she ran into the house and began to methodically check each and every room, but she could feel from the very beginning that there was no one there. When she got to Akane's room, she looked out the window and was surprised at what she saw.
She frowned as she heard Michiru's voice calling to her from outside.
"Where are you?"
The redhead hopped up to the window sill and then hopped to a nearby tree branch before leaping up to the roof. She stared up at the sky and her eyes widened with surprise as she noticed that it was slowly disintegrating.
"What the hell is going on here?!"
"Ranma! Is that you?"
She turned towards the voice and ran along the roof of the house until she spotted Michiru and Haruka standing over the koi pond.
"Huh?" She frowned. "You guys are seeing this too, right?!" The red-head called out to them, and they looked over at her.
"What? What are you doing up there?" Haruka cried out.
"It's dangerous! Look!"
Ranma turned around in time to see that the disintegration was slowly accelerating and now only half a meter away from her face.
"Shit!" She turned and dove down towards them. She landed right in front of them and rolled forward before jumping up to her feet and turning to look up at the sky.
"What's going on here?" Haruka demanded, looking at the red head. "How did you…"
"I have no idea!" Ranma shouted. "The dojo… I knew that the dojo was supposed to be here, and I felt something pulling me. So I walked over to that weird house. But then everything got all weird and the dojo appeared, and now this! What the hell is this!?" As she spoke, her body began to visibly glow. "And get this; Miss Yamane says that there's no dojo here, and there never was!"
The other two teens noticed Ranma's glowing and shared a disturbed look.
"Ranma, calm down," Haruka started.
"It'll be easier to figure out what's going on if you do." said her partner.
Ranma realized that the two of them were right and then closed her eyes. After a single deep breath, she opened them again. Her aura was gone.
"Sorry, you two. But this is really weird. I just… I have a really bad feeling about this." She said.
"Believe me, you're not the only one." Haruka said, looking up. Despite the fact that they could not see anything beyond the blackness, it was as if she were looking directly into the sun, so she quickly raised a hand to block the light.
"Okay, so… have any of you seen anything like this before?" Ranma asked, looking from girl to girl. "Because I know I haven't."
"…Well…" Haruka looked down at Michiru.
"I think we're in the same boat as you, Ranma," Michiru said. "From what I can see though, this space seems to be destabilizing. I'm not sure why it's here, or how we got here, but I don't think we want to be here when it's all gone." She said.
"This space?" Ranma asked. "I don't get it. What do you mean, 'this space'? What kind of space are we in?"
"If I knew, I would tell you," Michiru said, looking around. "But like I said, I've never seen this before."
"Okay then," Haruka said. "If we're going to leave, then let's figure out how," she said. "That black stuff isn't slowing down you know," She pointed out. Already it had started eating away at the dojo, and it was still shrinking in from all sides. Worse yet, it appeared to be getting faster by the second.
"We'll just have to get out the way we got in!" Ranma said, running forward.
"Hey, what are you doing?!" Haruka demanded, as she and Michiru took off after her.
"We don't really have a choice but to try," The other teen said. The two of them caught up with Ranma just as they hit the blackness.
The two girls passed through and into the darkness, but Ranma hit an invisible wall and screamed out in pain as her body was wracked with some kind of black energy. She was blasted backwards and into the koi pond with a splash. The red head sat up out of the water, dazed, in time to see the blackness coming in from all sides. Her entire body was hit at once and she screamed out in immense pain as everything went blank.
Ranma opened her eyes and sat up, rubbing her head. When she'd hit the blackness, a pain seemed to take hold of her that seemed to last for both an eternity and an instant. Looking around, she could see the unfamiliar house was still where the dojo was supposed to be, and Haruka and Michiru were looking down at her in concern. She quickly closed her eyes and tried to find her center.
Not surprised to see that the familiar ethereal bonfire was gone, she searched for a few moments and considered giving up when she finally stumbled upon a glowing font of energy about the size of a compact car. It was significantly smaller than it should have been, but much more than the tiny little ball from before.
It was also visibly shrinking.
She mentally grasped the energy and focused on holding it there. The shrinkage seemed to slow down, but continued despite her efforts.
'How do I stop this?' She thought with a frown. She didn't understand what was going on, so the most she could do was take a stab in the dark on this one. It would have been nice to have the old crone around to give her some kind of hint, but she had no such luck. 'Okay, calm down. I need to figure out what's going on here first off.'
She focused on the chi before her and the manner in which it was shrinking.
'Hmm…' It wasn't as if it was bleeding some kind of excess off… rather, it was just evaporating… somehow slowly ceasing to exist. As she watched it, an idea struck her. 'Let's try this…'
The teen focused again, though this time not on the chi, but on her body. She ignored the state of things as they were, instead focusing on how it was supposed to be… how they really were.
She opened her eyes and quickly looked around again.
"Hey! Are you alright?!"
She jolted from the sudden shout and quickly turned to look over at Haruka, who was kneeling by her side.
"Ranma?" Seeing her move, the blonde seemed to calm down a little. "You're okay?"
"Yeah, sorry… I just…" She sighed and shook her head. "I was a little dizzy."
"Yeah, you spaced out for a minute there," Haruka said, standing up. "Michiru was about to call the ambulance."
The aquamarine-haired teen in question was indeed holding a phone and looking down at the red-head.
"Are you sure you're okay? You don't hurt anywhere?" She asked.
Ranma nodded and stood up, dusting her skirt off.
"Yeah… but I've been better, though." She frowned and looked herself over. Her battle aura was there… tiny, probably even imperceptible to the untrained eye, but there.
"That was a very strange… phenomenon that we just experienced," Michiru said, putting her phone away. "Would you happen to have any idea what it was?"
Ranma shook her head.
"No way, this is weird, even for me." She sighed. "Can you give me a second?" She asked, looking down at her hands with a frown.
Both Haruka and Michiru stared at her for a moment, then shared a look.
"We should get away from here while we can." Haruka said as she started walking away. "We're not sure if that… whatever it may have been, is going to happen again."
Ranma nodded and mutely followed the two of them to the car in an almost robotic fashion while she abandoned the world around her in favor of her inner one. They all got into the vehicle and Haruka started it up and pulled away from the curb.
Feeling the… diminishing of her aura slow to a stop, she finally closed her eyes again. The mental representation of her life force's reservoir appeared immediately. She'd managed to stop it from getting any smaller, but it was still far less than what even someone like Kuno had.
She opened her eyes and looked down at her body. Physically, she was still the same as she'd been that morning, with an embarrassing bit of flab on her stomach and waist which she could grab between her fingers. It didn't hang out or anything, but it was still very, very wrong.
"You sure you're okay?" Haruka asked, glancing at her in the rearview mirror. "You're spacing out again."
Ranma nodded and sat back in her seat.
"I'm just wondering what the hell that was," She sighed, rubbing her head. "This is just frickin' great. I don't know what's going on anymore. Sorry to drag you guys into something weird. I'll understand if you don't want to be around me anymore."
Michiru looked back at her, frowning.
"Nonsense, what sort of people could abandon you to something like this?" She said. "Still, you seem to be a bit… wholly unaffected by the situation yourself."
"Yeah," Haruka said. "Most people would be freaking out right about now. Like, remember that time that evil sorcerer took over the airport and threatened the Senshi with the destruction of Tokyo? Mass panic and confusion, that."
Ranma blinked. Sorcerer? Senshi?
"What the heck are you talkin about?" The red headed teen asked. "When did that happen?"
"About a year and a half ago, wasn't it?" Haruka asked, glancing at Michiru.
"I believe so," The aquamarine-haired teen nodded. "It was on national television."
Ranma frowned. A year and a half? That meant it would have happened right around the time she'd gotten to Nerima… maybe a few months after? She couldn't be exactly sure.
"What? I'd remember something like that… what kind of senshi are you talking about, anyway?"
Haruka glanced at her through the rearview mirror again.
"You know, the Sailor Senshi." She said, as if expecting that to answer everything.
Ranma blinked. It didn't.
"I've never heard of these 'Sailor Senshi'," Ranma said. "What are they?"
Michiru and Haruka shared a look, and the blonde pulled her car over to the side of the road.
"They're defenders of love and justice. Superheroes, for lack of a better term," Haruka said as she and Michiru looked back at her. "They fight demons and evil wizards and mad scientists that want to destroy the planet and such. You've seriously never heard of them? They're really popular, they've even had a sentai show based on them. Not that it's at all accurate…" She muttered the last part with a muffled snigger.
"Not really," She said. "I don't pay attention to that kind of thing, really. I've got my own fair share of foul sorcerers to think about. I'm sure this mess with the dojo was caused by one such person," She sighed.
The other teens shared a look and nodded.
"If you really suspect that, you might want to get in touch with the senshi then," The blonde said. "I can't guarantee anything, but they should be able to help you, at least to figure out what it was we just went through."
"It certainly wouldn't hurt to try." Michiru said, retrieving her cellphone and beginning to type. "It'd be too dangerous for people like us to try and figure it out, anyway."
Ranma frowned and opened her mouth to respond, then sighed.
"I guess," She admitted with a semi-shrug. "What, do they have some kind of Evil Wizard Troubles Hotline or something?"
"Well… no," Haruka said, glancing at Michiru.
"I have a friend who claims to know them," Michiru said without stopping her text message. "I can't guarantee we'll get you a meeting, but I can try."
"Well, thanks," She said. "Still, sorry about all of this."
"No problem," Haruka said. "Is there anywhere else you want to go?" She asked.
"Hmm… well, yeah, there are a few places I'd like to check," Ranma said.
Ranma guided the blonde to the places where the Nekohanten and Ucchan's should have been, but unsurprisingly, neither were there, replaced instead by some other businesses. When they cruised by Furinkan, Ranma noticed with growing confusion that the school had been completely remodeled and even had some new buildings that she hadn't noticed before. It looked quite a lot more modern than she remembered, too, with a new sign in front of the school.
"Say, Red," Haruka said, noticing Ranma's disposition. "When's the last time you were here? Nothing you've said has been right so far… not counting that weird phantom dojo, and technically even that's not there anymore."
"Yesterday," Ranma said with a growl. "I bet it all disappeared just like the dojo."
The Michiru and Haruka shared a look, but otherwise remained silent.
"If you guys don't mind, there's one more place I want to check, not too far from here." Ranma said.
"Sure," Haruka said with a shrug.
Ten minutes later, the convertible stopped in front of a two story house that Ranma had been to many times in the past. The pig-tailed martial artist could not hide the relief that surged through her at the sight of a familiar something.
"I can't believe it, it's actually here, like I remember, instead of some freaky replacement!" She said, looking up at the Hibiki residence in awe. Like any other house in the area, the yard was absolutely tiny, as space was a premium in Tokyo, and the entire property was fenced in, with all of five feet separating it from the neighboring houses. 'Then again, maybe Ryoga's house is like the rest of the family and got lost when it was supposed to go away.'
"Someone else might live here," Michiru pointed out.
"Ugh… I hope not." Ranma muttered.
"Well, who are you here to see?" The blonde asked, glancing back at her.
"A friend from middle school. I'm gonna go see if he's here," Ranma said, hopping out of the backseat of the convertible and walking up to the plant that was potted in a large cement block at the front gate of the house. She grabbed it by the base and strained to pull the plant up out of the block with a grunt, the large block of dirt from the pot sticking to the root in a single big clump. She pointedly ignored the strain it was putting on her, instead looking down inside the pot.
"Um, Ranma… isn't that a bit heavy?" Michiru asked as she and Haruka watched.
"Not really," Ranma lied as her arm began to sag under the weight despite the extra boost she was getting from her chi. She felt another surge of hope when she saw a small, faded key covered in bits of dirt at the bottom of the container. She reached in to pick it up, then replaced the plant and walked over to the door.
'Hmm, maybe I should knock just to be sure…' She thought, doing just that. Waiting for a few minutes, she was unsurprised by the lack of response and instead stuck the key in the door and opened it, then proceeded to walk in and look around. Everything was just as she remembered. 'Finally, some consistency,' She thought, walking straight to the kitchen. 'Then again, they're never here to redecorate in the first place.'
The refrigerator had a notepad sticking to it, with three little notes hanging around it. One from Ryouga's father, about a business meeting in Europe, dated two weeks ago, one from his mother about a shopping trip dated six months ago, and finally one from Ryouga himself about the food in the fridge being two years past the sell-by date, so he was about to throw it away, dated three months ago.
'Yuck,' she thought, grabbing a note and pen nearby. 'Still, he's due to show up here soon if it's been that long.' She quickly started to scribble on the pad and blinked. 'Um... geez… what phone number do I give him..?' She frowned and shook her head. She sighed in annoyance when she realized she didn't know "her" cell phone number and turned around and ran back through the house and outside.
"They here?" Haruka asked, looking at the redhead.
"Nah, I need to leave a note, but I forgot my cell number." The teen said, searching her backpack for the little device. She found it quickly and then blankly stared at it for a moment, not quite sure what to do. There were so many bells and whistles on the main page alone that she didn't really have the slightest idea of how to get the settings. "Um, how do I get my phone number?" She asked, looking at Haruka. "Do you know?"
Michiru giggled and looked the other girl over with a small smile.
"Let me see it," She said, holding a hand out.
Ranma looked at the proffered hand and shrugged before giving it to the other girl.
"Sorry, I'm not used to something this fancy," She said.
"Really?" Haruka asked. "I'd have thought you'd be one of the first to have the newest models."
Ranma chuckled nervously.
"Er, well… ah…"
"Your phone number," Michiru said, and Ranma looked over at her. "Zero, nine, zero," She started, and the red-head began writing. "Five, nine, seven, zero, Seven, one, three, one." Ranma nodded and turned around, then started heading to the house again.
"Thanks!" She called back as she ran into the house.
Once inside, she stuck the note on the fridge and read it over for mistakes.
Hey Ryouga, next chance you get, call me at 080-5970-7131. –Ranma
Ranma blinked, then grabbed another post-it note and appended,
If I don't answer, wait by the damn phone so I can call you back.
She stood back and looked it over, then nodded and walked out of the house, closing and locking it behind her. She walked over to the plant and lifted it up again, then tossed the key back and dropped the plant back onto it, sighing with relief when she let go. 'Whew. Man, I hate being weak.' She thought, dusting her hands off and walking back to the car. She hopped into the back and sighed.
"Man, I hope that idiot gets back here soon," She sighed. "But yeah, this is the last one. Sorry about all of this, and thanks," Ranma said.
"Hey, it's not a problem," Haruka said, getting the car back onto the street. "So, where to now?"
'Yeah… good question.' She shook her head. "I donno… I'm out of ideas," The redhead admitted.
"You wanna go home then?" The blonde asked as she turned onto a large street.
"Huh? Er…" Ranma blinked, considering it. "Not really… you guys wanna hang out or something?"
"Sure. Any ideas?"
"Want to get something to eat? My treat,"
"Sure," Haruka said. "Do you know anything in the area?" Ranma frowned at the back of the driver's head, while the blond looked at her in the rearview mirror as the car stopped at a light. "Heh, sorry, I couldn't resist." Haruka said, glancing at her in the rear view mirror.
Ranma rolled her eyes, and sat back in the car.
"You said you spend most of your time training, right?" Haruka asked as the light changed and she started going again.
"Yeah," Ranma said. "You could even say my life has been a constant battle up to this point, really."
"Really?" Haruka whistled. "I hate to admit it, but you just seem a lot less in shape than most martial artists I've seen," she said.
"I did tell you about the rich family that kidnapped me and stole my skills right?" Ranma asked with a snort.
The blonde blinked, then glanced at her through the mirror again.
"You were serious, weren't you?"
"Well… I'm not entirely sure it was them, at this point, but I've got no idea who else it could have been."
There was silence for a moment as the other two teens considered the information.
"Hmm…" Haruka frowned. "Well, you'll have to show me your moves some time."
"Yeah, sure. Just as soon as I figure out what won't break this puny little body," Ranma muttered.
There was a contemplative silence, before Michiru looked back at her.
"Do you ever do anything else, like go to amusement parks, or the movies, or anything like that?"
"Sure, but every time I leave the house I'm attacked by this or that," She said. "It'd turn into a fight anyway. I'm kinda surprised nothing has happened today…" She frowned. "That might have something to do with this whole bait-and-switch deal."
Michiru shook her head and turned to look away from her.
"You poor girl," She said with a heavy sigh.
Ranma frowned and opened her mouth, but stopped and closed it.
Ranma looked up at driver, who was giving her a sidelong glance.
"Hey Red, you wanna go bowling after we eat?" Haruka asked.
Ranma blinked as she considered it.
Kenichi walked into his house with a frown on his face and sore arms and legs. His mother walked into the room upon hearing him shut the door, and gasped.
"Kenichi! There you are!" He slipped his shoes off and slowly made for his room as she continued talking. "Where have you been? It's dark outside!" She inspected him as he got closer and frowned. "And your clothes are all dirty! How did you do that? Were you playing in the dirt or something?" She asked.
Kenichi looked over at his mother and then down at his books.
"Mom, I… I think I need to be alone for a few minutes." He said. "Sorry…" He walked past her and she watched him with a small frown on her face.
"What happened this time? Was that awful Niijima boy picking on you again?" She asked. "Ken-chan, you've got to stand up for yourself! If that little hoodlum and his cronies are bullying you, you've got to let people know! Remember when they broke your arm? What if something like that happened again?!"
Kenichi looked at her out of the corner of his eye, then shook his head nervously.
"Ah, actually… It was something else! I just, uh, got distracted with thinking… and uh… yeah… I'm not done yet."
She blinked at his statement several times, then frowned.
"Are you sure it's not him?" She demanded, though most of her energy seemed to be gone.
"Yeah, pretty sure," He said with a smile. "Can I go now?"
"Well, all right." she said after a brief pause. "You be sure and get your homework done."
"I will…" He said before going to his room. He sighed and dropped his books at the door before walking over to his bedding and flopping down on it. He rolled over to look up at the ceiling and sighed. "Miu and Kisara are acting strange… I get incredibly tired really fast… Ryozanpaku dojo is gone… Just what in the world going on here?" He sighed and looked over at his bookshelf. As he did so, he noticed that the setup of his room was actually slightly different from before, but the differences were so small as to have been imperceptible unless one was paying attention. For one, on his desk was a much newer looking model desktop computer than his old hand-me-down.
He got up and walked over to the desk, inspecting it in confusion. He blinked in surprise as he noticed a pair of glasses sitting next to the keyboard, and picked them up. With a frown, he blinked his eyes several times; the blurriness that had pervaded him all day did not go away. It'd made reading hard, and he had had to lean in close to the books to get a good image.
"Huh…" He slowly lifted the glasses up to his face as a bead of sweat formed on his forehead and slowly made its way down his face. He closed his eyes and put the glasses on, then opened his eyes again.
The blurriness was gone.
Kenichi pulled the glasses away from his face, his hands shaking.
"This… this can't be right…" He muttered, rubbing his eyes. The blurriness was still there. He shook his head and set the glasses back where they were, then looked the rest of the room over. There were a couple of posters he did not recognize on the wall, something about video games he was not familiar with. Frowning, he walked over to one and looked up at it in confusion. On it was a handsome bishounen man dressed in regal clothing with a elegant sword at his waist and a cape, and a caption beside him.
"Big brother!" He was jolted by the sudden shout and turned around to see a sight he was not expecting.
There standing at his door was Honoka, clad in a dark purple leotard. He gasped as he looked her body over. She was much more fit than he remembered; her abs were perfection, her arms and legs had shapely muscles, and her entire body seemed to be brimming with healthy energy. The leotard was nearly identical to Miu's, in that it was so thin as to resemble body paint more than clothing, but it went all the way down to her shins rather than stop at her thighs.
The boy shuddered; while on Miu it would have been attractive, it was very strange seeing his sister in that getup.
Stranger still was the musculature.
'Since when is Honoka so buff!?' He thought, eyes wide. He raised a hand up to her abs and ran a finger over them; they were rock solid. 'Did the masters train her behind my back?'
The girl giggled.
"Hey, that tickles!" She said, backing away from him for a second. "But hey, I heard you were brooding again! Did that meanie Niijima bust you up again? If he did, just say the word and I'll wring his little alien neck!" She said, walking into his room with a bouncy stride and an annoyed look on her face.
"What? No, it's nothing like that," He said, tilting his head. "Uh… have you been working out or something? When did you get that… athletic?" He asked awkwardly.
"Huh?" She snickered and then started laughing. "Of course I've been working out! I've been training with Fuurinji-sensei for a year now! Remember?" He blinked as he saw her right arm blur up towards his chest, then fall back to her side.
The buttons in his shirt spontaneously came undone all at once and he blinked.
"See?" She folded her arms behind her head and gave him a bored look.
'T, that was fast!' He stared at her in confusion, "B-but wait a minute… did you say Fuurinji-sensei?" Kenichi quickly bounded over to her, garnering a look of surprise from her. "You mean the elder?"
"Huh? Elder?" She frowned. "Fuurinji-sensei's the same age as you!"
"E, eh? You mean, Miu-san? Not the elder?"
"Of course? Who's this elder you're talking about?" The thirteen year old asked, frowning.
Kenichi let go of his sister's shoulders and backed away from her. He looked down at his hands, then over at the glasses on his desk.
"But… no one ever told me you were training this whole time… You'd think at least Miu-san would have said something about this…" He shook his head. "Wait a minute… what do you mean, who's the Elder? You know Miu-san's grandfather." He asked with a slight frown. She stared up at him in confusion.
"Sensei's grandfather?" She blinked and held her finger up to her mouth. "Nope, I've never met her grandfather."
"…" Kenichi frowned at that. "Why haven't I seen you in those clothes before? When were you ever training?" He asked. "Did they ask you to keep it a secret from me? Why?"
She frowned and he could see that she was getting even more confused by his questions.
"I've never seen you do more than play Othello with Apachai at the dojo." He said.
Honoka closed narrowed her eyes in confusion and a bead of sweat rolled down the side of her head.
"Apachai? Dojo?" Kenichi froze. "Big brother, what are you talking about?"
"The… Ryozanpaku dojo," He said, looking at her carefully. "Where the six crazy martial arts masters live… and where I have been training in martial arts for the past year."
She tilted her head and looked at him in surprise.
"You've been training at a dojo?" She tilted her head the other way. "Have you been going every other day or something? No one told me about this…" As she was talking, Kenichi looked down at his hands again, incidentally finally realizing what it was that seemed off about them. There were no calluses. "If you wanted, I'm sure I could have asked Miu-sensei to help you out, you'd be way better off than you are now-"
Kenichi suddenly ran around her and through the door to the hallway.
"Huh? Big-brother?" She blinked, then shrugged and turned to follow him out.
Kenichi made a beeline for the bathroom and immediately opened the door, then peered into the mirror. He pulled his shirt up… and a look of shock settled on his face again and he took a step back from the mirror.
"No… no, this can't… this can't be happening! No!" A look of utter horror came to his face as he stared at the mirror. "No! Nooooo!"
Staring back at him was the body of a slightly over-weight, but definitely unfit sixteen year old. Honoka ran into the bathroom and looked at him in surprise.
"Big brother! Are you alright?!" She asked. She looked at what he was doing and then looked at the mirror and then him again. "What's wrong? You sounded like you were hurt!"
Kenichi's only response was wide-eyed shock and horror.
"Big brother? Big brother!" She ran over to him and started shaking him by the arm. "Get a hold of yourself!"
"What's going on here?!" Their mother asked as she walked over to the door. "Ken-chan, are you all right?!"
Kenichi felt a bit woozy as his sister shook him about and he let his shirt drop.
"It's got to be a dream," He muttered, looking down from the mirror. "It's… got to be," He gasped as he tried to flex his muscles. He pushed down on one of his biceps and it gave easily. Turning to look at Honoka, he quickly grabbed her arm and did the same thing. "F, flex your arm," He said. Confused, she did so, and when he tried to push down on it, it felt as solid as a rock. He quickly pulled away from her and looked at her in horror.
"B, big brother?" The younger girl asked, confused. "What's… what's wrong?"
"Kenichi, are you all right?" His mother asked, walking into the bathroom.
"No! I'm not all right!" He snapped. "I can't… this… I don't understand!" the two females were taken aback by his sudden burst and the wild look on his face. "Somebody tell me what's going on here! Everything is totally wrong here! Kisara allergic to cats, Miu doesn't know me, the dojo is gone! Honoka is as strong as I am… or used to be… but she doesn't know the elder? This has been going on way too long to be a dream!"
His sister and mother looked at each other with worried expressions and frowned.
"Ken-chan… What… what are you talking about?"
The young martial artist stared at them, for a moment, unsure of what to say.
"I…" He shook his head. "I've got to calm down and think," He realized, closing his eyes. "This… this is getting me nowhere." He sighed and shook his head, then took several deep breaths. 'Think, Kenichi! Who could I go to in a time like this? I have no clue where the masters are in this upside down world… Maybe Honoka would know?' He opened his eyes and looked at his younger sister. "Honoka." He started. "Aside from Miu-san, does anyone else teach you?"
She blinked at that, and tilted her head, then nodded.
"Sometimes, we visit dojos and the masters let us practice with them," She said. "But that's rare."
"Uhm… maybe once a month?" She said, tilting her head. "Why? Did you really want to start practicing with sensei and me?"
"Um, maybe…" He said amiably. 'Hmm… If Miu doesn't live at the dojo, then…' He looked up at his two family members and noticed the expressions they were giving him. "Um, could you give me Miu-san's phone number?" He asked.
"Eh? Well, yeah, but… if you want to learn, wouldn't it be better to just ask her when you see her at school tomorrow?" She asked, tilting her head. "You go to the same school right?"
"Er, this is about something else, something in class today," He said. "I've got to ask her something else…"
His sister and mother traded looks again, and the younger female shrugged.
Later, when the sun was down and the moon had begun its ascent, Michiru chuckled lightly as she lead the way from the bowling alley to the car, with both Ranma and Haruka following behind and looking slightly less cheery.
"Three games in a row?" Haruka muttered.
"You were cheating, weren't you?" Ranma asked.
"It's just technique, girls," Michiru said with a chuckle. "Skill and technique."
"Ha! Just watch, I'll figure it out in time to beat you next time we do this." Ranma said determinedly.
"I don't know, Ranma," Haruka said with a snort. "Just over half your shots were gutterballs,"
"I'm telling you, I'm not used to being so weak," She said. "I'll have it down by then, mark my words!"
"Words marked," Michiru said with another chuckle as they reached the car. Both the top and windows were up. "Well, it's fairly late. Did you want to go home?" She asked, looking at the red-head.
"To those rich kidnappers?" Ranma asked with a frown.
"We don't know that it was them," Haruka pointed out as she unlocked the car remotely while walking to the driver's side. "But I think, unless you think they're going to hurt you, you should try to play along and see what you can learn."
Ranma frowned just as Michiru's phone started beeping. She looked over at the aquamarine haired teen to see that she was looking at her phone.
"Hm. It's the friend I mentioned earlier. She got the Senshi to agree to meet with you on Sunday. It seems they were dealing with a monster attack tonight." She said.
"Really?" Ranma blinked. "That was fast."
"They're interested in your case," She said as she got in the car. "This was the first monster attack in a while, and it seems like this was a straggler from the last group they destroyed, so they have quite a bit of free time these days."
"They say where?" Ranma asked as she joined them in the car.
"Not yet. I'll send you a text with directions when they do."
"Hey, are you going to be free Sunday?" Haruka said. "We're going to the best spot in town to watch the eclipse. Wanna come with?"
"Eh?" Ranma blinked. "I didn't know there was gonna be one… but I don't think I can go…" She said.
Haruka looked back at her as she started the car.
"So, you decided what you're going to do?" The blonde asked.
"Yeah… I guess I'll go to the mansion," Ranma said.
The three sat there in silence for a minute while the car ran.
"So how do we get there?" Haruka asked, before looking at her.
"Huh? Er… gimme a sec," Ranma said, grabbing her cell phone.
When the fashionable sports-car turned onto the Fujibayashi property, Haruka whistled.
"Wow. I gotta admit, nice digs ya got here, Ranma." The blonde said as they pulled up to the driveway. "You actually live in a castle?"
"I do now, apparently. You can let me off here, I'll just walk the rest of the way," The red head said.
"You sure about that?" Haruka asked.
"Yeah," Ranma said. "Thanks for the good times. I'll see you later if they don't mail me off to Mars," the red-head said as she opened the door and grabbed "her" bag.
"Hah, you bet." The driver said, turning to watch her climb out.
"Call us sometime, we'll be happy to play again." Michiru said with a smile.
"I will," Ranma said, before closing the door and stepping back. She waved at the two of them as Haruka pulled the car back out and into the empty street before turning to face the mansion.
When Ranma stepped into the mansion, Mitsukoshi was there to greet her.
"Ah, young miss," He said. "How was your day? Did you have fun?"
"Um, yeah, sure," She said. She held up her backpack to him. "Here, you take this."
"Of course," He said. "Did you receive any homework for tonight, young miss?"
"Err… no?" Ranma chuckled nervously. "They said I should take it easy because it was my first day. Yeah."
"So in other words, you have homework." He said.
"What? No, how did you get that?"
He sighed and opened her bag, then peered inside.
She frowned and ran over to him, but he held it up out of reach.
"Hey, who said you could look in there!? Stop!"
"Aha, here we go…" He pulled out a piece of paper and held it up for her to see. "This is homework, isn't it?"
She immediately snatched it and balled it up, then put it in her mouth.
"I haf no idea whath you're talking abouth."
The man looked downright scandalized by her behavior, and she triumphantly turned and walked around him.
"Now if you'll exuthe me…"
"Not so fast," He said, grabbing a hold of her. He turned her to face him and reached for her mouth, but she bit down on his hand and he pulled back. "Ow!" He looked over at the redhead and saw her clamp her mouth shut. "Just what is wrong with you, young lady?"
She gave him a serious look.
"I thought I told you guyth earlier-"
As she spoke he reached inside with lightning quickness and pulled out the paper. It was wet and crinkly, but still whole.
"- that I - Damn it, I knew I should have swallowed that!"
"Come on, stop playing around," The butler said with a sigh. "It's not exactly a good idea to eat paper."
She crossed her arms.
"I've done it before. S' good source a' fiber."
"We don't know what kind of ink this is," He pointed out, unfolding the paper. "Ugh… dear girl, did you really think you could get out of doing this by eating it?"
"I could if I'd swallowed it." She pointed out.
"But then you'd get a failing mark," He said with a sigh. "Do you really need that on your first homework assignment?"
"Hey, you're a butler. I order you to do it for me," She said, turning around.
He gave the sopping wet mess an incredulous look.
"Are you kidding? Come on, now, it can't be that hard," He said, turning to face her… "Just do it and you can…"
He blinked, and looked around.
She was gone.
"Young miss? Young miss?"
Ranma stretched her arms up overhead as she walked down a hallway.
'Man, I don't know how much more of this crap I can take. Just this morning was bad enough, having all of these morons calling me "young miss" is gonna get really annoying.' She sighed and stopped walking. 'I need to train. No pops to wake me up, no Akane to toughen me up, no old goat to randomly show up and surprise me… at this rate I'll go soft to the core!' She frowned and continued walking. 'I've got to find some place they can't see me… or just train under the Umisenken…' She blinked. 'Hmm, that might not be a bad idea, actually… it might give me a challenge.'
She snickered at the idea of training right in front of people without them ever noticing.
'I might also get to learn something about these crazy people who've kidnapped me. Now to switch into some take it easy clothes…' The teen resumed walking. 'I just need to remember where this girl's room is, maybe I can find something there…'
Kenichi sat on his bedding and looked down at his cell phone as he put in the number. He'd thought it would have been different, but it'd been the same as the number he remembered for her cell phone. With a bit of hesitation, he pushed "talk" and held the phone up to his ear, then waited. It rang a couple of times, and then he heard the familiar voice.
"Miu-san!" He could not hide his relief at the familiar voice, but quickly remembered the reason he was calling. "It's me… Honoka's older brother. Kenichi?"
"Hmm..?" There was a pause as she considered it. "Ahhh! Of course! I'm so sorry, how did I forget that?" She sounded genuinely apologetic, which made him chuckle. At least he could count on Miu to be the same… he hoped. "I didn't know you were in my class! I'm so sorry!"
"It's okay, I'm a forgettable guy…" He muttered. "But, um, you're not busy are you?"
"Well, I was about to get started with tonight's homework…" She started sheepishly. "…but I can spare a few minutes. What was it you needed?"
He paused as he realized he hadn't thought up anything to ask her. He very quickly went over the conversation he'd had with Honoka and spoke about the first thing that came to mind.
"Um… do you know anyone named Apachai? Apachai Hopachai to be exact." There was silence on the other end for a moment before she spoke up.
"Apachai…" The way she was testing the name told him that it was unfamiliar. "I've heard it before, but… I can't quite remember where… sorry…"
"I see," He muttered. "How about… Kouetsuji Akisame?"
There was silence.
"I… I knew a man with that name," She said with a bit of unease in her voice. "But Shirahama-san, how do you know that name?"
"P, please call me Kenichi…" He said.
"E, eh? But I..."
"Uh, makes me feel old when you call me that," He said. "As for Koetsuji-sensei…" He paused as he considered that. What could he say? What would sound right? "Um, how did you know him? He's a jujutsu master… right?"
"That's right, he was… but… he passed away three years ago." Her voice was hard.
Kenichi choked on his breath and stared straight ahead.
"Um, yes." She said.
There was a pause.
"I… I see," He finally said.
"Shirahama-san… how did you hear about that name?" She asked.
"Please just call me Kenichi," He said. "As for that… I, I saw it on the internet," He said. "I… I was hoping to learn from him…" He said. "What about… Ba Kensei? Kung fu master?"
"Hm? I've not met anyone like that." She said, confused.
"Okay…" He said. That was better than dead… slightly. "What about Shio Sakaki?"
"I've heard of him," She said. "He's a very skilled Karate master, but he's supposedly already got a great many disciples, I'm not sure if he'll be able to spare time for you." She said. "Sorry…"
"Really?" Kenichi frowned. "Sakaki-sensei has… a lot of disciples?" The teen muttered. "Well, I suppose…" He shook his head. If Koetsuji-sensei was… dead, there was little chance that Miu knew where Shigure was… and there was actually no way he could think of finding the weapons master. 'But what about Honoka? If there are no other senseis, then Miu must be…' He thought. "Say, Miu-san… You're a master class fighter, right?" he asked.
There was a pause.
"…Well… supposedly I'm close to it, but actually…" She sighed. "I'm not really a master yet. I didn't want Honoka to call me sensei, but she insists."
"I see," He muttered. "But you must be pretty skilled."
"That's what I'm told," She said. "…Ever since… my own master died two years ago… it's been harder on me, to balance things, so my progress has slowed down…"
"Ah, I see…"
There was a long, silent pause.
Kenichi blinked. There was another pause, and then he blinked again.
And his jaw dropped.
"Wait a minute, what?! Your… your master is the elder, isn't it?!" He asked, alarm and panic showing on his face.
"Elder?" She asked, taken aback. "Er… yes, my grandfather, I guess he was an elder…"
Kenichi felt his blood run cold.
'The invincible superman? D…dead?' He suddenly felt woozy and light headed as that statement tried to sink in, but his mind failed to wrap around the concept.
"Hello? Kenichi-san?" Miu's voice drifted into his ear, but it didn't register on his ears at all.
"The super human who invented 108 invincible techniques, among them the Ryusui Seikuuken?" He shook his head. "But… but how?"
"Shira…Kenichi-san? Can you speak up? I can't quite hear you…" She broke him out of his shock and he blinked several times.
"Uh…" Kenichi blinked and looked around. The situation had only become more awkward. "I'm… I'm sorry…" He shook his head. "So… wait, if you're not a master… why did you take on Honoka as a disciple?"
"Er… I kinda need the money to pay rent…I didn't mean to deceive you or your family if that's what you think!" she said with a bit of panic.
"Oh no, that's fine," He said with a bitter chuckle. "You're probably a better teacher than most dojo instructors are anyway." He said.
"A, ah… that's not true…" She sounded embarrassed.
"Sure it is," He said with a smile. "I still remember when you first taught me those steps for the reversal technique, the Ba Gua…"
There was yet another pause.
"Huh?" She asked intelligently.
"Er, uh, nothing," He said. "Um, I'm sorry, I'm taking up all of your time, aren't I! I, I'll see you tomorrow, okay? Bye!"
"Wait!" Her voice cried out to him, and he blinked. "Um… nevermind. Bye bye!" She promptly hung up the phone and he blinked again in slight confusion.
"Huh…" He shook his head and put his phone down, then stared at it. "Man, the more I find out about this… bizarro world, the more insane it gets. Koetsuji-sensei, and Elder… dead? This is insanity." He muttered as he stood up and started for his desk. "But at least Miu is still the same…"
"Brother!" He blinked as a missile flew into the room and latched onto him, knocking the wind out of him. "Does this mean you want to learn martial arts too?" Honoka asked, looking up at him with excitement on her face.
"Gack…" Kenichi gasped for breath and looked down at her. "Uh… maybe…" He blinked several times and then raised an eyebrow down at her. "Say… Honoka… what was it that made you want to take martial arts in the first place?" He asked.
She blushed and looked away from him.
"W-well… there was someone I wanted to protect…" She said, glancing up at him. She looked away from him and started fidgeting. "B, but enough about that! You're finally going to be joining me and Fuurinji-sensei then?"
Kenichi looked up.
"Well, hopefully, I'll wake up from this nonsense soon," He muttered. "But, to protect someone…" He smiled. "That's a pretty good reason, I think…"
It was only about an hour later that Kenichi began to feel the phantom tug of sleep. After playing a few video games with Honoka(during which she insisted on sitting in his lap for some reason), he shooed her out of his room and got ready for bed after taking a bath. His homework wasn't done, but he didn't feel like doing it – after all, this was only a dream, or perhaps some kind of training induced coma – it wasn't going to hurt, right?
He sighed and succumbed to exhaustion at only eight forty three.
Usagi sighed as she got up off of Mamoru's motorcycle and took off her helmet. After Chibi-Usa had returned to the future, a single, final Daimon that had called itself "Rangy" had attacked some people in Juuban, searching for pure heart crystals to deliver to masters that had already been defeated. She, the other senshi, and Tuxedo Kamen had only barely managed to defeat the creature, and Luna had said she would be talking something over with Artemis before following her home. She looked down at the shiny helmet, at her own reflection, and frowned. The pink haired girl from the future – her own daughter – had shared so many of her own facial traits that it had felt sometimes like she was looking into a mirror. Now that she was staring at herself, the reverse held true, and her heart ached as she remembered the little girl's face.
She looked down at Mamoru, who smiled back at her through his visor.
"We'll see her again. I promise you that much." He said.
"Yeah… I know we will."
He nodded and gestured towards her house with his head.
"Its getting late. Your parents will be worried," He said.
She looked down at the helmet, then set it on the bike and walked over to hug him. He hugged her back, and after a long moment, she broke away and opened the bike's storage compartment and put the helmet inside, then stepped back.
He waved and then took off, and Usagi turned around and walked along the path to her house. She opened the door and stepped inside with a sigh.
"I'm back!" She called out, dropping her shoes at the entrance. Her parents would have thought that she'd just gone out with her friends, since they'd have forgotten about Chibi-Usa when she returned to her own time. She sighed and walked into the living room, then froze at what she saw.
There, sitting next to her younger brother, with a plastic bag in one hand and chips in the other, was a girl who looked slightly older than her, whose pink hair was in a style almost identical to her own. The only difference was the buns on top; the pink haired girl's were pointed.
"Ah, Chibi-Usa!" The pink haired teen called out with a smirk. "How did your date go?" She raised the chips to her mouth and started to noisily munch on them, while Usagi stared back at her in shock and confusion.
'What. The. Heck?' Usagi shook her head. "Chibi-Usa? What… what are you doing here?! And why are you so old!?"
"What? Chibi-Usa is you, silly," Shingo said, looking back at her.
"Yeah, silly." The pink haired teenager said with a self-superior smirk.
Usagi gawked for a moment, then ran over to the other girl and grabbed her by the arm and roughly pulled her away and out of the room.
"What's this I hear about a date?" Usagi's father demanded as he walked into the room. "Chibi-Usa, are you still dating that older boy?!"
Usagi ignored the fact that even her father was calling her that and instead shouted back as she dragged the other girl upstairs and into her room.
"She's lying, it wasn't a date, I swear!"
Once in her room, she slammed the door shut and stood over it, then stared at the other girl, who was calmly munching on chips.
The blonde Usagi pointed at the other Usagi and opened her mouth,
"What is this!? Some kind of trick?! Didn't you say you were going home?! What's going on here?! Why are you older than me!?"
The pinkette rolled her eyes and swallowed the food in her mouth.
"I did go home, stupid. Stayed for a few years," She said. "And now I'm back! Geez, and I thought you'd be happy to see me, odango!"
Usagi stared at the older girl for a moment, and her hand dropped back to her side. It was almost like staring into a mirror. Almost.
Suddenly, there was a knocking at the door.
"Chibi-Usa! Tell me the truth! You're not still dating that older boy, are you!?"
The pink haired Usagi chuckled with a sinister smile as she reached into the bag to retrieve more chips.
"It wasn't a date, I swear!" Usagi turned to look at the pink haired girl and frowned. "Why are they calling me Chibi-Usa?!" She demanded, walking over to her.
"Well, I'm technically older than you right now, so I figured, why not change a few things up?" She asked, holding up a finger. In a puff of smoke, Luna P appeared on the tip, spinning in place. It slowed down and stopped spinning, then floated off and started to orbit around the girl's head. "I mean, it makes more sense this way, right?"
"Technically my butt!" Usagi growled as she ran over and grabbed the other girl by the shirt. "No it doesn't! Fix this right now!" She blinked as she looked down and noticed that the other girl was wearing a familiar pink t-shirt and jean short-shorts. "Hey, are those my clothes you're wearing?"
"Yeah, but the shirt's a little tight on the chest," The pink haired girl said with a frown, to which Usagi blushed and scowled. "I'm going to have to go shopping soon. Anyway, it wouldn't make sense for them to call me Chibi-Usa anymore, I'm the older one! So Nyaaah!" She stuck her tongue out at the girl who was biologically her mother.
Usagi narrowed her eyes.
"I will not forget this," She said, gritting her teeth. "Mark my words, you little ingrate!"
The pink haired girl rolled her eyes.
"Sure you will,"
The blonde narrowed her own.
"Just watch. When you get back, I'm gonna give you a royal spanking!"
"Yeah, sure," The pinkette said, waving it off. "Listen, I'm gonna go finish watching TV. Those old sentai shows uncle Shingo watches are absolutely hilarious."
She stood up and walked back out of the room, leaving her future-mother to sit there and watch.
Usagi stared into the hallway silently for a moment. She growled and walked over to her desk and opened it, then retrieved her diary. She picked up a pen and started writing.
'Note to self: Spank daughter.'
As Ranma lay in the bed of the girl whose life she'd been given, she stared at the window beyond the silken drapes to the side and considered the day.
'Just what the heck is going on here anyway…? Let's try and put this whole situation in perspective, now,' She thought with a frown. 'I woke up right here, in this bed, this morning, without warning, two districts away from where I fell asleep. Okay, that's easily explainable by kidnapping. The clothes-switching is too.' She frowned and turned her head, looking out the window to her right. 'Suddenly being weak isn't, though. That would have had to have been some kind of magic. Locked in my girl form is also possible with magic, but I only know one way for that to happen and there's no reason for Herb to be involved…'
She sighed and turned on her side.
'The dojo, Nekohanten, and Ucchan's being gone I have no idea how to explain, but at least Ryouga's house was still there. And after watching them, all of the people here seem to honestly think that I'm the daughter of some moneybags type, and there's pictures of a younger girl-me all over the place to even back them up. Considering all of this…'
'There's only one thing it could be.'
The redhead sat up.
'Some kind of complicated, meticulously planned, expertly executed and drawn out conspiracy whose only purpose is to make me think I've gone utterly crazy!'
The red head clenched a fist.
'Well screw that. There's no way I'm playing along with this stupidity. I'm gonna high-tail it out of here and figure out who I need to beat up to make things better.'
She quickly sat up, then groaned and clutched her side, and fell back down to the bed.
'Just as soon as I get into shape. Yeah, that's it, I'll get back into shape and then kick some ass, everything will be better.'
Sighing as the pain diminished, she stared straight up trying to figure out what to do next.
'I'll have to play along for a little while… see if I can figure out who is behind all of this and reverse this stupid curse lock and weakness. Ryouga's the only clue I've got… if he ever gets home…'
From the roof of her condo, Tenou Haruka looked out over the city. There was an endless stream of lights moving along the ground so far below, and in the distance one could see clearly the high rise corporate buildings, whose lit windows indicated the people still working in them.
"Here you are," came the familiar voice of her partner. "I'd thought you might be up here. You always come out here to think."
The blonde chuckled.
"Perhaps I should stop, purely for the sake of being less predictable."
The aquamarine-haired teen walked up to her side and put an arm around her own.
"You are thinking about Ranma?"
Haruka glanced down at Michiru.
"I am thinking about what she represents." The blonde answered. "She may be dangerous."
"I do not think it is Ranma we have to be wary of."
When Haruka blinked and looked down at her, she continued.
"She's not the only one, love. Mercury just informed me that at least seven other unidentified energy signals have appeared in much the same fashion, all over the course of the day, and that's just in Tokyo. At least one of them was similar to a daimon in composition, and evidence suggests it brutally attacked a high school boy."
The blonde frowned.
"Sounds like we're going to be real busy soon." She said, wrapping an arm around the other girl.
"Oh?" Michiru raised an eyebrow. "You're going to help the inners?"
Haruka snorted and looked down at the other teen.
"You're the one who even communicated with them. But honestly, I have this sneaking suspicion that the problem at hand concerns all of us. And we did say we'd help Ranma. But…" The blonde turned to look out over the city. "If she… turns out to be an enemy to the kingdom, then we cannot hesitate to slay her."
"Erm, pardon me…"
Both girls blinked and turned around to face the speaker. It was a young man with a long sleeved yellow tunic, black pants, and a very large traveling bag on his back.
"I'm sorry, but can you tell me the way to the Tendo Dojo?"
The two teens blinked in unison, then looked at each other.