Disclaimer. No anime/manga series and the characters therein are mine, have ever been mine or will ever be mine. Same applies to any other work of literary art the story refers to. This is a non-profit work of fiction.
AW:And the OoC warning still holds. In other news, Kasumi got her brain implant whereas the rest are still recuperating from their lobotomy. Char bashing? Probably more than a little in there. Writer's condescending attitude? Unfortunately that, too. And if your suspension of disbelief isn't shot to pieces after this chapter... get help.
Luna felt like there should be an ominous thunderstrike coming anytime now. Unfortunately, she wasn't in any position to do anything right now. Two days ago Usagi had - again - tripped on her way downstairs. Even though cats can fall from high without breaking bones, that doesn't hold true when someone falls on a cat. Owie.
It was of paramount importance that they find the Moon Princess and thwart the plans of Beryl and Metallia, and now she, the advisor to the four teenage girls with enough power to flatten a suburb on a whim, was out of the picture. Ami was sick too, right? Not really so sick she'd be delirious, but feverish anyway... which meant that Rei, Usagi and Makoto were alone in their meeting and her communicator was ... lost somewhere after Usagi's mother decided to clean up Usagi's room and put the items on their right places, which were the wrong places for the two defenders of love and justice.
She looked at the ceiling. 'It's just one meeting. Surely nothing that bad can happen. Right?' At this point she heard the thunder rumble in the distance. 'Shouldn't have thought that...'
Makoto and Usagi had pulled Rei aside when Kasumi was covering Ranma in another room, sharing their suspicions that Kasumi might be the Moon Princess they had been searching for. Rei felt torn between slapping the girls to their senses and congratulating them. Sure, they thought someone else than Usagi was the princess but was this even worse? And was she the princess they'd been looking for? Whatever the case might be, she did understand blabbering the senshi secrets to every suspect was not a good idea.
"We'll have to first find out whether she's the princess at all," Rei stated.
"Luna will know that!" Usagi practically yelled in triumph before being dogpiled by the other two.
"Keep your voice down, meatball head!"
The lower lip of the addressed girl began to quiver, but a mouthful of cookies from the tabletop, courtesy of Makoto, prevented the outburst.
"What if she is?" Makoto replied. "The Dark Kingdom might send their youmas after her if they even suspect she is."
"Mphe fudd fwafl fhew," Usagi mumbled, her mouth still full of chocolate chip cookies.
"Empty your mouth before speaking," Makoto urged Usagi.
"gulp We should trail her." The second try was a lot more easier to understand and was received with nods from both Rei and Makoto.
"But who's going to do that now that Luna's pretty much stuck indoors?" Makoto asked.
Two pairs of eyes focused on her. "Ehh... guys?"
"I have to stay here at the shrine."
"I... I have to take care of Luna!" The reason why Luna had to be taken care of in the first place was conveniently ignored by the young blonde.
Makoto's shoulders slumped. "Fine, just give me the disguise pen."
"Eheheh... about that..." Usagi began, nervously scratching the back of her head. The other two senshi turned to look at her, Rei with considerably less friendly expression on her face than Makoto.
"," she finally blurted out.
Ranma had woken up to hear a muted discussion in the room next to the one he was lying in. Yes, he was still at the shrine but in a different room than where he had been. Yes, he had turned back into a boy again. Thank goodness for small blessings. Straining his hearing he heard Kasumi talking with the teenage girls, even the one who - brrh - had kissed him, as a frog of all things. That wasn't exactly the kind of first kiss on the lips he would want to remember - but at least it was with a girl and it was, for better or for worse, unforgettable.
Kasumi was sitting next to him, the same vapid smile on her face as before. On her lap she had his gi she had pulled out from her bag.
Ranma took a full blast of Kasumi's radiant smile in his face when she saw him back awake. 'She ain't ugly,' he thought.
He peeked under the quilt he was lying under to see that he hadn't been dressed. Nope. Kasumi was still sitting beside him without any indication that she'd be moving anywhere.
"Uh.. Kasumi, could ya let me get dressed alone?"
Ranma didn't notice her pout as she stood up and walked out of the room.
When Kasumi stepped out of the small room Ranma was in, Makoto was still trying to keep Usagi out of Rei's reach. Seeing the audience Rei forced herself to calm down.
"You should come by another time when my grandpa is here, maybe he can be of more help," Rei told Kasumi. She honestly hadn't learned all that much about curses yet. Silently she wondered where exactly her grandpa had run off this time... or after whom.
At this point, Ranma stepped out dressed in his gi. Usagi, Rei and Makoto saw how Kasumi looked at him. The latter two had been admiring the physique at the older boy before Kasumi put him under covers while the former was reminded of her betrayal of Tuxedo Kamen.
Makoto wondered, now that she saw him in his gi, if he might be as good a martial artist as her old sempai. Maybe he might be her new one? Then she shook her head to clear off the thought. If Kasumi was the princess and she was to Makoto's opinion clearly smitten with him, she was hardly in position to take him for herself. Besides... a frog?
The war council of two had convened in Nabiki's room and battle plans were drawn. Refreshments were served on the intermission; more specifically, refreshments bought from the nearby general store.
The first plan was the direct approach. Akane had decided to challenge Ranma to a fight for the right to stay. She was the best martial artist in the region, and no cocky boy would take her that title away, as the heir of the Tendo school and the best martial artist in Nerima her victory would be guaranteed.
The other half of the council was also making plans, but with sneakier approach. Although as tempting as it was, flushing him down the toilet was not an option, especially if he had managed to win Akane. No, Nabiki would have to do more research on the frogman before she could formulate her own plans in detail. Besides, she had yet to find the definitive way to peruse his wallet to her ends. The least she could do now was to get his father to enroll him in the same school as Akane and her to give her plenty of money-making opportunities.
Their sister would be freed.
Genma and Soun were sitting in the family room sipping sake. Genma was in his uncursed form because now he needed only half the sake for the same effect.
"It looks like the families are going to be joined, Genma."
"But not the schools, Soun. Not the schools."
"Should we try to switch the engagement over to Akane? Kasumi hasn't ever been interested in martial arts before."
Of course, one key factor not voiced here was that Kasumi hadn't prepared the lunch before she went out to town with Ranma, leaving two men and two sisters on their own devices - and only one of them was eager to cook something to eat. Unfortunately, this one happened to be the one whose cookings were mostly inedible. This was not a particularly desirable event in the future for the two.
"More sake?" Soun asked and gestured towards the fourth, still unopened bottle.
"Please... I can still taste the food."
Upstairs, both Akane and Nabiki felt an unexplainable wave of nausea. And on an almost completely unrelated note, somewhere else the boulders blocking the entrance to a cave dislodged, permitting a small figure to crawl out of the cave.
The rain had abated, so for once Ranma was walking as a boy next to Kasumi. The two were heading for a train station to get back to Nerima and idly discussing this and that.
He took a look at the woman walking beside him. In Ranma's opinion, she wasn't a great mind. Her gait told him she wasn't a martial artist either, or not a good one in any case.
So why did he care how she felt? Did he? Pops had said that women were a distraction from the Art. But it was he who had arranged this engagement. Wouldn't be the first mistake he did... the nekoken, the Amazon village and the time he tried selling him as food after Jusenkyo coming first into his mind.
Kasumi took a look at Ranma's face, his brows scrunched in contemplation. The rumbling of his stomach brought another smile on her face. If they had had more money with them, they might've gone to a caf for a snack, but as it were, they had barely enough to take the train back to Nerima. "I'll make you something quick to eat once we get home," Kasumi told him, the smile not leaving her face.
Someone had once said that the quickest way to man's heart is through his stomach. For a true Saotome this was true twice as much. Whether she was a distraction or not, Ranma'd never turn down free food. 'Maybe this engagement thing isn't all that bad after all,' he mused.
Neither one noticed Makoto, who followed the two as they boarded the train.
The freshly forged bond between the two was set to test as soon as they stepped inside the Tendo household front yard. Trailing a hundred metres behind them, Makoto saw that this was their destination and probably their home - something Rei could've just as well asked the two - and turned back to the railway station. She still had homework to do for tomorrow's lessons, and she doubted she'd learn more without risking the chance of being discovered. The disguise pen would've worked wonders. Maybe Usagi had found it already and would bring it to school with her tomorrow.
"Ranma Saotome, for the right to court my sister, I challenge you!"
Thus spoke Akane, dressed up in her gi and ready to fight. Kasumi made a mental note to discuss this behaviour with Akane.
Genma and Soun whispered to each other. "Soun, even if Akane wins, we can always move the engagement over to her."
"Yes, she must've challenged Ranma so that she can have your boy for herself!"
Ranma grinned. He didn't expect Akane, a girl, to amount to much compared to him. But also from the honor standpoint he couldn't turn down the challenge. "I accept the challenge. The dojo, now?"
His grin was returned. "Yes, now," Akane replied and turned to move towards the dojo.
Kasumi gave an unflappable smile at Ranma. "I'll go start on the food and come watch the fight then," she told Ranma. This was the least she could do for her magical prince who prepared to fight the evil step... uh, just her sisters for the right to be with her. Nabiki got herself some water to drink before going to see the fight. 'This should be fun,' she thought.
Once inside the dojo the two duelists began stretching before their duel. The fathers stood off a bit to the side, talking in low tones and sparing a glance every few seconds at Ranma and Akane. Soon Nabiki arrived with her glass and saw the two scheming masters. 'Now what are they up to?' she wondered and tried sneaking closer to eavesdrop on them.
Before she got close enough to hear their whispering, Akane and Ranma both signalled they were ready to begin. The stage was set as the two took up positions on the floor.
"The fight is until the shoulders of either combatant hit the floor. Anything goes," Soun arbitrated. Genma signaled the fight to start.
Akane threw a tentative punch at Ranma, who sidestepped it and poked Akane on her forehead once with his forefinger.
Picking up her speed, Akane then shot a much faster jab at him.
"Aren't ya a slow one," he taunted.
A quick spin-kick and a series of punches didn't work any better for Akane as Ranma danced around them.
"A thick-thighed tomboy like ya can't ever hit me," the taunts continued.
She was losing her meager control on her anger. A leg sweep missed as Ranma leisurely jumped over it, and he dodged the elbow follow-up with ease. This play of Akane striking and Ranma dodging continued for a few minutes before Akane's temper got the best of her.
Furious, Akane threw a strong punch at him. A dodge and the dojo got the beginnings of a new window. The destruction didn't sit well with Nabiki at all; they didn't have enough money to waste on repairing the dojo as well. And if the fight so far was of any indication, Akane had no chance of winning. Well, since the match was anything goes after all...
Frog-Ranma fought his way out from the folds of his gi to see Nabiki stand in the sidelines, an empty glass on her hand and a wicked grin on her face.
Ranma was furious. He didn't like being made fun of, he didn't like losing, and he didn't like this. Things didn't look too good, though. He had begun to adopt Anything Goes to create Frog Fist style for this form, but he was far from finished with it. No matter, he would win, even if only for the sake of Kasumi's cooking. Even if he hadn't a taste of it yet, it couldn't be worse than what he and Pops had eaten on their trip.
"Ribbit!" he croaked and jumped at Akane head-on.
"Nabiki! That was not nice!" Kasumi, who had entered the dojo just to see Nabiki throw the water on Ranma, exclaimed. Nabiki started; Kasumi rarely, if ever, scolded anyone, let alone with a voice this strong. Maybe the fact that the kitchen was now a mess had a little to do with it.
This was also enough to distract Akane from the fight, who turned slightly away from the oncoming frog attack... just enough to make sure Ranma's jump ended up inside Akane's gi via the collar.
Akane tensed up, her face contorted in a rictus. Nabiki paled at the thought of what Akane might start doing now. Kasumi was not happy that her prince Valiant had jumped inside other women's clothing but hers, but didn't let this show outside.
She screamed and she jumped around waving her hands around, trying to keep the frog out of touch with her skin and her bra, and the frog jumped with her. The muffled croaks of near panic, meant to say "let me out of here", didn't serve to make her any calmer but only made her panic even more.
Ranma as well renewed his efforts twice as hard to get out of there as fast as possible, but whatever Akane was doing, was not helping him in the least. Eventually Akane hit the ground on her back as she lost her balance in her struggles, allowing Ranma to find his way out of Akane's gi through the left sleeve.
"The winner is Ranma Saotome," Soun declared. Akane launched herself up furiously whereas Ranma ran out of the dojo terrified. Kasumi picked up his gi and set out after him to get him to some hot water, leaving Genma and the rest of the Tendos to argue how the fight was resolved.
"There was no foul, the rules said anything goes," Genma stated. Akane was fuming. Had Genma had a rare, very rare flash of insight, he would've splashed himself with cold water and snuck away with the other half before making his next comment.
"And since the obvious reason behind this challenge was that you wanted to be the boy's fiancée as well, Soun and I decided to engage you as well to him -"
He didn't get any further before the Mallet of Pain struck him square on the head, dishing his both halves equal amount of hurt.
Nabiki tuned out the wailing of her father of her daughter hating her father-in-law. Then she let out a sigh of relief for not being included in the fiancée mess any more than she already was and moved out of the dojo. She'd have to be especially careful not to get into the same situation herself as Akane did.
Kasumi caught up on Ranma not far from the dojo, scooped him up and took him to the kitchen. She hadn't had the time to clean up the mess but to just put on some hot water for tea before she had left to watch the duel. Preferring his male form, she doused the water in the kettle on him.
In the kitchen Kasumi held the shivering Ranma, wondering aloud what exactly had gotten him this spooked up. 'Men do not cry,' rang in Ranma's head.
In the changing room, Akane was changing all of her clothing to something frog-Ranma hadn't touched and set down her kitty-print panties next to her bra with the same patterns. 'The gall of that pervert!' she fumed. Then she remembered she was now also engaged to him, which made her even angrier. A nice, long bath in the furo should help her calm down, if only a bit.
Just outside kitchen stood Nabiki and peeked inside the room, wondering what had affected Ranma so badly - and how she could use it to the benefit of the three sisters and her bank account. Tomorrow he'd have to go to school, and if the fathers followed her advice, he'd meet the Blue Thunder the first thing at the school yard. If he were smart, he'd hightail out of Nerima as soon as he could after that. Or preferably earlier.
AN: I guess the first chapter didn't turn quite all of you away then and this chappy was a bit too tame and sane as well. Time to up the ante for the next chapters ;-) Oh, and if you didn't notice it already - I'm ditching also the canon order in which the characters were introduced.
Thanks to those who have told my ideas are crazy - for this fic, I find that the highest recommendation there is.
The idea of kitty-print undies I got from a Fruits Basket fanfic "Reflection".