Disclaimer: I do not own Ranma ½ or any of the characters in it except the ones I added to make the story interesting.

Author's Notes:

First of all, this is a Divergence fic, wherein the Ranma ½ canon shall diverge early on from the events in Vol. 36 of the manga (wherein Nodoka Saotome learns of the Jusenkyo curses).

Revamp wouldn't have been possible without a helpful reader: Tai Kan.

It is also an Alternate Reality fic, wherein the people of Phoenix Mountain and Saffron shall likely remain as nothing more than legendary figures. So, Vol. 37 & 38 of the manga canon have not occurred and are not likely to do so.

An Ultimatum Ranko

By Zeltronica

A.U.R Chapter:1

Ranma walked out onto the beach and down to the water's edge, dropping his schoolbag and sitting beside it in the sand, recalling the events of just a few weeks ago with the Jellyfish King. Akane had actually been able to swim for once, thanks to that jellyfish swimsuit. He chuckled to himself; Akane had not been happy when the jellyfish swimsuit had dried out and become unusable, without it she still swam like a lead weight. Then the rueful smirk slipped from his face as he recalled the discovery of a challenge letter upon their return to the Tendo Dojo.

Prince Herb of the Musk Dynasty had returned to Japan once more, and he wanted a rematch. He had not taken his prior loss at Ranma's hands at all well, considering it a fluke, and wished to truly establish which of them was the better. Ranma would have a week to prepare for their battle, and then one of Herb's retainers would be sent to retrieve him and lead him to the site of their match, at which time the terms and stakes of their match would be discussed and agreed upon before they fought. To ensure that there was no interference in their rematch, or distractions, neither the location nor details of their match would be revealed until they again met face-to-face. And to ensure that the results of their match were fair and beyond refute, Ranma was encouraged to select an impartial observer of their match whose judgment he would trust to be fair and unbiased. Ranma had chosen Konatsu to be the impartial observer of their match.

Reaching beneath his shirt, Ranma felt the item concealed beneath it and suspended on a string about his neck, troubled by what it represented. Privately, Ranma had, more or less, resigned himself to the possibility that he would never be rid of his Jusenkyo curse, but...

Ranma sighed, heavily. He'd given his word of honor to abide by the terms of his rematch with Herb, and like it or not Ranma kept his promises. No matter how distasteful they may be. But, he'd been so confident of his ability to beat Herb yet again, that he hadn't even considered the possibility of losing. And the prize... It had been too good to pass up, even with the high cost should he lose.

Yet, he HAD lost. And even worse, he had lost fairly. The only way he might have possibly won would have been to resort to lethal attacks and techniques, and that would have been the same as admitting defeat under the agreed upon terms of the challenge. And now... Now, he had to deal with the consequences of his lose, which, admittedly, weren't ALL bad. He would still gain the prize he so desperately wanted...just at a far greater cost than he would have liked.

And if the others ever learned of what he'd agreed to do, win or lose... He'd sworn Konatsu to secrecy, but the kunoichi's first loyalty was to his mistress, Ukyo. And judging by the way Ukyo had seemed distracted in his presence lately...well, he was fairly certain Konatsu had told her and she was now trying to figure out what to do.

Ranma turned his attention back to the beach, diverting his mind from unpleasant thoughts, and allowing the sound of the seagulls overhead and the waves crashing on the nearby breakwater to calm him. He had time, for now. At least Herb had granted him that.

Using his schoolbag as a pillow, Ranma lay back on the sand, watching the seagulls soaring overhead and listening to the music of the sea as he allowed his thoughts to wander where they may in no particular direction. There weren't many people about to disturb him, and since it had only been a half-day at school Ranma had the afternoon to do as he pleased. Even if it was nothing more than laze away the remainder of the day on the beach, basking in the warmth of the afternoon sun and being lulled to sleep by one of Nature's soft symphonies.

Ranma was jolted awake, bolting upright into a sitting position, sputtering and coughing, as she suddenly inhaled a substantial quantity of seawater. It only took her a moment to realize that the tide had come in as she'd slept, activating her Jusenkyo curse.

"Aw, come on! I was having a good dream here!" Ranma shouted to the kami above, once she'd cleared her lungs of seawater.

Grabbing her schoolbag before it could be washed away, or become any more waterlogged, Ranma stood and stretched, ignoring a few whistles of appreciation from a nearby group of boys admiring the way her water-soaked clothing molded to her enticing curves. "Hmm, must have been out for a while," she muttered, noting the much lower position of the sun on the horizon. If she hurried, she'd have just enough time to get back to the Dojo, bathe, and get into a clean, dry, set of clothes before dinner.

Pausing in her trek back into the city, Ranma looked back to the sea, admiring the play of the fading sunlight upon the waters. Despite her troubles, both now and in the future, the afternoon had been a time of peaceful serenity that she greatly appreciated. The kami only knew when she would be able to enjoy such again. Finally, with a wistful sigh, she turned and continued on her way.

"I'm home!" Ranma called out, letting everyone know that she'd returned as she closed the front door of the Tendo home behind her.

"Ranma! Where have you been? I've been looking everywhere for you!" Akane stated grumpily, stomping down the hallway from the family room, a trace of concern in her voice. "You agreed to spar with me after school today."

Ranma gave Akane an apologetic smile. "Sorry, I forgot, was off at the beach and fell asleep; incoming tide woke me up. If you want, I'll spar with you in the morning, okay? Right now, I really need a bath and to get out of these clothes before they get too irritating," she said, pulling her shirt out to show the forming salt stains from the seawater.

"Alright, Ranma, but I'll hold you to that. And no holding back this time!" Akane stated with a stern but slightly cute expression, letting Ranma know to take her seriously.

Ranma sighed wearily, giving in to the inevitable, and turned to face Akane. "Okay, Akane, I won't hold back as much as I have been. Just remember, though, you asked for it." With that, Ranma continued on her way upstairs to gather her bathing things and a clean set of clothes.

After taking the time to ensure that the bath wasn't currently in use, Ranma closed the outer changing room door and gratefully began to strip off her now salt-encrusted clothing. Catching her reflection in the full-length mirror attached to the door to the toilet as she removed her undershirt, Ranma's eyes were inevitably drawn to the item suspended by the string about her slender neck and dangling in the cleavage of her ample bosom, once again reminding her of her recent loss to Herb and the consequences of her defeat.

"Damn it," she muttered softly, lifting the string over her head, removing the item from her person, and looking for a place to hide it while she bathed. Far more often than she cared to think about someone had intruded upon her in the bath, and the last thing she needed or wanted were questions about this particular item. Finally, squatting down, she secreted it behind the washing machine where it was highly unlikely to be discovered before she could retrieve it after her bath. Once satisfied that no one would find it, Ranma finished undressing, tossing her clothing into the hamper.

Attaching the "Occupied" sign to the inner bathing room door, Ranma opened the door and stepped inside the bathing room proper, closing the door behind her. A quick, but thorough, shampooing and cleaning, followed by a cold water rinse, and Ranma was more than ready for a short soak in the hot water of the bath.

"Ahhh, that feels great," Ranma sighed as she sank into the hot water of the bath, barely acknowledging the now all but completely ignored full-body tingling of the curse shifting her back to his birth gender.

Akane was about to sit down and watch some television before dinner when she heard a knocking at the front door. Knowing that neither of the fathers would answer it, and not wanting to disturb Kasumi's dinner preparations, Akane sighed and went to see who it was.

"Oh, Auntie Saotome," Akane said upon seeing who was at the door, surprised that Ranma's mother would be visiting so late in the day. "How are you?"

Nodoka chuckled at Akane's surprised expression. "I'm fine, dear. I was in the area and was hopeful that I might finally catch my husband and son here. Are they here?" Nodoka could see that Akane's expression turned sour as she hesitantly shook her head negatively, indicating that the young girl may not be being entirely truthful in her response.

"I'm sorry, Auntie. They...they're off on yet another training trip," Akane stated glumly, hating the necessity of lying to the older woman.

Genma Saotome jerked upright from the shogi board, the game with Soun forgotten, as he heard a voice from the entry foyer of the house that sent cold shivers of terror up and down his spine. His wife was, once again, making an unannounced surprise visit to the Dojo in her search for he and Ranma. Wasting not another moment, Genma bolted from his seat, conveniently overturning the shogi board and disrupting the game he'd been losing to Soun, and ran to where he'd seen his son heading. Ignoring the "Occupied" sign upon the door, Genma burst into the bathing area and, seeing his son just stepping out of the bath, grabbed up a handy fire-bucket of cold water and splashed them both with the contents, activating their respective curses.

Ranma sputtered, trembling from the shock of the cold water against his...now her, previously warm skin. "What the hell, Pops!?"

Genma-panda smacked her over the head with a sign he pulled from nowhere, before holding it upright to be read. [Keep your voice down, Boy! Your mother's here!]

Ranma rubbed at the spot where she'd been struck, muttering threateningly, "You hit me like that again and I'm going to shove that sign up your ass." 'Figures Mom would choose today of all days to come looking for us... I understand, Kami, really I do... But can't I have one day without being turned into a girl? Soon enough I'll have to...' Ranma shook her head, driving away those thoughts before she became depressed.

Genma-panda growled softly at his son-turned-daughter's threat and lifted his sign to deliver another blow to the back of her head.

"Ranko?" Nodoka called, appearing in the open outer doorway and looking quizzically in at the two, and causing Genma-panda to stop mid-motion.

"Auntie!" Ranma greeted in an overly falsetto excited tone, as she grabbed up a towel and demonstrated that she HAD learned at least SOME feminine modesty by wrapping it about herself. "I didn't know you were coming over tonight."

Nodoka smiled at the younger girl, who reminded her so much of herself at that age. 'Ranko is always so cheerful and happy to see me,' she thought. "I was just in the area and hoped to catch my husband and son in-between training trips, but it appears I wasn't successful. However, I was also hoping to have a talk with you as well...privately, if you don't mind?"

"Sure, um...where would you like to talk?" Ranma asked, a bit nervous.

Nodoka chuckled as she turned about to leave. "You might wish to get dressed, first, dear. Meet me at the front door and we'll go out for dinner, just the two of us."

The instant Nodoka had closed the outer door behind her, Ranma delivered a vicious spinning back-kick to her father's head, sending him into the wall and unconsciousness. "Stupid old man," she growled in irritation. Moving into the changing room, she closed the inner door behind her and then quickly dried herself off and dressed in the clean clothes she'd brought with her. Then, listening intently to insure her father was still out of it, she retrieved the item she'd hidden and donned it, slipping it beneath her shirt and making sure that even the string about her neck wouldn't be easily noticed as she shivered slightly at the coldness of the item settling between her breasts. A last check in the mirror to make certain that she was presentable and she headed out to join her mother for dinner.

"Are you ready, Ranko?" Nodoka asked, as Ranma stepped into the entry foyer.

Ranma nodded, giving her mother a bright smile before reaching down and putting on her slippers. "Yeah, I'm ready to go, Mo- Auntie." She cringed internally at the slip but forged ahead, opening the door for her mother and behaving as nonchalantly as she could as she followed her out of the house.

Nodoka, however, had caught the slip of the tongue... 'It's almost as if...well, no matter, I can get to the bottom of that over dinner,' she thought as she led the younger girl out the gate and down the street.

Shortly, the two women were strolling through the shopping district and Ranma decided to ask where they were going. "So, Auntie, where we going to eat?"

"I thought we could try that new Italian restaurant that opened up not too long ago, dear," Nodoka responded absently, pausing to admire a clothing store window display of several dresses. 'Ranko would look adorable in that one, I just know it. And absolutely stunning in that one,' she thought appreciatively admiring a dark emerald-green silk cheongsam with small golden dragons embroidered on either side of the high collar, although the diamond cut-out over the bust was a bit much in her opinion.

Ranma, noting that her mother had stopped, turned to see what had drawn her attention. 'Oh man, there she goes again imagining me in a dress... Though, I would look hot in the little green number...' "You okay, Auntie?"

"Yes, I'm fine, dear. Just doing a little window shopping. Shall we?" Nodoka gave Ranma a reassuring smile as she took her hand and they continued on toward their destination.

Ranma's head swiveled about as she and her mother entered the restaurant, taking in the high quality of the decorations and the pleasant atmosphere, as well as the enticing aromas of exceptionally well-prepared foods. There was no doubt in Ranma's mind, this place was top rate and she wondered if even Nabiki would be able to afford to eat in such a place. Which brought to mind the question as to whether or not her mother could afford it as well. Reluctantly, Ranma resolved to let her mother order for her and to use her very best table manners, resigning herself to having what amounted to a snack for dinner. She wouldn't embarrass or bankrupt her mother by going on one of her usual eating binges.

"Good evening," a slender foreign woman greeted them as she stepped forward, a set of menus in her hands and bowing in greeting. "My name is Lisa, and I will be your waitress for the evening. Will it just be the two of you, and would you prefer a table or a booth for your dining experience?"

Ranma was impressed, despite the woman clearly being a foreigner to Japan, perhaps originally Italian with her long dark hair, dark eyes and somewhat dusky complexion, her grasp of the Japanese language and her pronunciation seemed to be perfect...even better than her own, not that her own skill with her native language was all that exceptional.

"It will just be the two us. Perhaps a booth, with a view outside would be nice," Nodoka replied cordially.

"Certainly. If you will follow me, please," the woman responded with another bow before leading them further into the restaurant and to a somewhat secluded corner booth beside a large window granting them a view of the street and passersby outside. Handing each of them a menu, she again bowed and said, "I'll give you some time to peruse our fine selection of genuine Italian cuisine and return in a few minutes to take your orders. Would you care for anything to drink immediately? We have an excellent selection of teas that you may enjoy while you wait, and an extensive selection of imported wines to enjoy with your meal."

"Unless Ranko would prefer something else," Nodoka began, "I think we'll give your establishment's House Blend a try. Would that be alright with you, dear?"

"Sure, Mo- Auntie, that would be fine," Ranma replied, wincing at yet another slip.

Nodoka pretended not to have heard Ranko's slip, opening her menu as the waitress went to get their tea. 'She did it again, almost calling me 'Mom'. Such a delightful child, if only...' Nodoka thought, before turning her attention to her menu.

Ranma quickly opened her own menu to hide behind it. Looking over the selections she couldn't make heads nor tails out of the various offerings, but the prices, in large yen numbers, were all too understandable. 'Holy... I could buy enough ramen to eat for a month just for the cost of one of these things!'

"Um...Auntie?" Ranma hesitantly began. "Are you sure you can afford this stuff?"

"Don't worry about it, dear," Nodoka casually replied, still perusing her menu. "True, it's a little more expensive than what I'm used to paying, but it IS genuine foreign cuisine. Oh...I've always wanted to try ravioli. I've heard it's very good. Would you like to try some?"

"Sure, why not?" Ranma responded, before frowning thoughtfully. "Um...what is 'ravioli'?"

"Well, it was described to me as similar to a dumpling, stuffed with either some kind of meat or cheese mixture and served with various kinds of sauces, either poured over it or beside it," Nodoka explained, continuing to scan her menu. "I wonder...it's not on the menu, but perhaps they would be willing to make us a 'sampler' order of several types of ravioli with a selection of various sauces..."

As it turned out the restaurant was quite willing to provide such a sampling, at only a slightly higher cost, as a special order. Nodoka then surprised Ranma by also ordering two glasses of an appropriate complimenting wine with their meal when it was ready. Considering her most recent experience with alcoholic beverages, not that it could it really be described as a 'bad' experience...it was quite enjoyable actually, Ranma was rather concerned about its inclusion in their order and said so.

"Nonsense, dear," Nodoka stated, dismissing Ranma's concerns. "A single glass of wine, with a meal, is quite harmless even for a young lady of your petite stature. Just remember to take small sips throughout the meal, and have only the one glass."

"If you say so, Auntie."

"I do," Nodoka responded primly, before leaning forward and looking directly into Ranma's eyes. "So...have you found a boyfriend yet?" she asked with a grin.

Ranma flushed scarlet in embarrassment, suddenly all too aware of the metallic object nestled in her cleavage. No way was she going to mention anything about THAT, however. "Um...I...well... I-I haven't really been looking, Auntie," she finally stammered.

"Aw, that's too bad. You're a very beautiful young woman and should be thinking of the future," Nodoka gently admonished. "If you wait too long, all the good men will already be taken. I can help you find a few handsome and eligible young bachelors, if you'd like. Just tell me what you find attractive."

"No, no, no! That's quite all right," Ranma quickly stated, holding her hands up in warding. Then promptly stuck her foot in her mouth and began trying to swallow the rest of her leg, "I-I've already got my eye on a few g-guys, I don't really need any help! I...I just don't want to rush into anything!"

"Really?" Nodoka asked, sitting back in slight surprise.

"Uh, well...y-yeah..." Ranma hedged, not exactly lying to her mother, but not quite telling the truth either. "It's...kinda complicated."

"It always is, dear," Nodoka said with a knowing grin, just before their waitress arrived with their order.

After trying a little of the 'ravioli', which was pretty tasty, and taking a sip of her wine, tasted like a weird grape juice but not bad, Ranma hesitantly resumed her previous conversation with her mother. "So, Auntie...why are you so concerned about my...uh...'love-life'?"

Nodoka paused in her eating and sighed, heavily, before setting down her fork and taking a sip of her own wine. "I suppose it's just the matchmaker in me, dear," she said wistfully. "Everyone should have a partner, someone that they can love and trust to be there for them, in good times and bad. No one deserves to go through life alone."

Ranma grimaced, thinking, 'Like you've been since Pop and I left, huh, Mom?'

"Actually, I'm glad you're not rushing into a relationship and are taking your time," Nodoka continued, resuming eating her meal. "The kami know I should have taken more time in my own."

"Auntie...?" Ranma asked, hoping to get more information but hesitant to be too intruding.

"A topic for another time, perhaps," Nodoka said, shaking off her melancholy before turning a mischievous grin on her dinner companion. "So, Ranko...these 'guys' you have your eye on...are they 'manly'?"

'Ohhh, man...now I've done it...' Ranma mentally groaned. Still, if for no other reason than to prevent her mother from trying to hook her up with other guys, Ranma bit the bullet and tried to think of some of the guys she knew that, when described to her mother, she might find acceptable and drop the subject. The hard part, she thought, would be in describing the guys she knew in a manner that would seem like a young girl considering a potential future husband.

To Ranma's surprise, however, it wasn't really all that hard. Just focusing on the aspects she liked of the personalities of the guys she knew, friends and rivals, and only describing some of their physical features when Nodoka pressed for them, but adamantly refusing to reveal any names. Last thing she needed was for her mother to think she actually wanted to be with any of them...that way, and to try and 'help' things along.

Nodoka contemplated what she'd been told, slowly continuing to eat, before deciding to ask the question that was on her mind. "So, Ranko, I have a question for you. Could you please answer me truthfully?"

Ranma slowed in her eating, dreading the questions her mother might ask. "Um, sure, Auntie. What is it you wish to ask of me?" she asked, reaching for her glass of wine to take a sip.

"Well, I was wondering if my son was one of the men you fancy?" Nodoka asked with a smile.

Ranma choked and began coughing as some of the wine went down the wrong way, surprised at the question her mother asked. "N-no...*cough*... No, why would I be... What I mean is, he's Akane's fiancé," she stated, getting herself back under control and wondering what had prompted her mother to ask that particular question.

"Oh, so you DO fancy him; it's just that he's with Akane, hmm?" Nodoka asked, grinning knowingly. "I thought I recognized that last man you were describing as my son, having heard Akane and others giving very similar descriptions of him."

The last man she... Ranma's eyes widened as she recalled the last guy she'd described. And it had NOT been her male half. There was no way he was that arrogant and full of himself...was there? Oh, sure, he had a bit of an ego and all, but come on! He wasn't THAT bad! Still, better head this off fast... "Auntie, no. I like your son, sure, but as a friend...maybe even like a brother at times, but I would prefer someone else," she answered carefully, hoping her mother would be satisfied with her answer.

"Which brings us back to what you're really looking for in a man," Nodoka said, before assuming a contemplative look. "Or...is it that you'd prefer another woman? Don't be embarrassed, if that's the case, dear. I won't judge you."

'Oh man, oh man, oh man... Talk about finding yourself in the middle of a minefield,' Ranma thought furiously, beginning to sweat. Without any hesitation or thought, Ranma grabbed her glass of wine and downed the remaining contents in one go, struggling to find an answer to her mother's question that wouldn't come back to haunt her at a later date.

"Auntie..." Ranma finally began, hesitantly, "I...I won't say that I...haven't...considered the possibility of a relationship with...another girl. But...right now...I'm not interested in pursuing a relationship...with anyone, boy or girl. I've still so much to learn in the Art, and right now that's my primary focus."

Nodoka sighed, "The Art is a fine goal for a man, dear, and teaches them many valuable lessons on life. For women, however, I find it personally unseemly and unladylike...although a fine means of keeping our figures." Nodoka gave a smile at the last comment, sitting erect and straightening her kimono primly. Then leaned forward to whisper, "And an unwelcome surprise to those ruffians that refuse to treat us as the ladies we are."

Despite herself, Ranma found herself smiling knowingly back at her mother, having discovered an unknown depth to the woman. 'So, Mom doesn't really have a problem with girls practicing the Art, she just thinks it's unladylike to display it casually...'

Nodoka seemed about to ask another question when a ringing interrupted her. "Pardon me, dear," she said, before pulling a cell phone out of her kimono and answering it. "Hello? … This is she, how can I help you?"

Ranma gratefully went back to eating the delicious food, watching her mother curiously as she listened to whoever was on the other end. 'I wonder what Mom does for a living?'

"I understand. … Yes, I'll be there as soon as I can. Goodbye." Nodoka ended her call and replaced the cell phone in her kimono, before reaching into her purse and removing some money to place on the table. "I'm terribly sorry, Ranko, but an emergency has arisen with my work and I have to be leaving now. This should more than cover our bill. We'll talk more later, okay, dear?"

"Sure, Auntie, I look forward to it," Ranma said in her sweetest voice, and with that Nodoka quickly exited the restaurant.

Ranma released a sigh of relief once her mother was out of sight. 'Saved from disaster, by another disaster,' she thought ruefully.

Turning back to the table, Ranma rapidly consumed the remaining food, from both meals, and even finished off her mother's wine (she felt she needed it after the conversation with her mother). Sitting back and releasing a dainty belch of satisfaction, Ranma suddenly became aware of the silence in the restaurant and turned to see the other patrons staring in her direction.

"What?" Ranma asked, getting out of the booth and collecting the money her mother left. "Ya never seen a girl eat before?"

This, of course, prompted everyone to direct their attention elsewhere, such as to their own meals.

Snorting softly to herself in satisfaction, Ranma headed towards the register, paid for their meals, pocketing the still substantial remainder, and exited the restaurant.

It was now well into the evening as Ranma slowly made her way back to the Tendo Dojo, pausing on the street to admire some fireworks that were lighting up the night sky in the distance. Despite the nervous tension she'd been under while dining with her mother, Ranma was in a remarkably good and relaxed mood, possibly due to the wine she'd consumed. Perhaps, too relaxed...

"Pigtailed Girl!" Kuno shouted, suddenly appearing out of nowhere to pull her against him, his hands moving about her body, seeming to fondle her breasts as much as prevent her escape. "It is divine providence that we should meet this night, alone! Come, return with me to the Kuno estate where I can show you the length and breadth of my love for you in more...private surroundings!"

Ranma growled as she struggled to free herself from the delusional kendoist's clutches. "Lemme go, Kuno!" she snapped angrily, breaking free momentarily, only to be quickly caught again and spun around to face him, this time with one of his hands blatantly groping her bottom.

Releasing a weary sigh, Ranma allowed her body to go lax, deciding to try a different approach for once. After all, beating him unconscious, repeatedly, had never worked, maybe a softer approach would have better results. "Please, Tatewaki...just let me go?" she asked, as softly and pleadingly as she could muster under the circumstances.

"Never, my love! I shall never let you go! Tonight, we shall consummate our love with the Heavens themselves as our witness!" Kuno responded dramatically, before suddenly dipping her backwards, holding her securely with one arm across her shoulders and giving every appearance of being about to kiss her. As if that wasn't bad enough, Ranma suddenly felt Kuno's free hand slip beneath the waistband at the back of her pants and begin attempting to get beneath her boxers.

"PERVERT!" Ranma screamed in outrage, twisting about in his grasp and trying to pull his hand from inside her pants, snapping a knee upwards to break his forearm when he continued trying to get his hand into her boxers. That finally caused him to release her entirely and she wasted not a moment in jumping up into a spinning roundhouse kick that sent him flying into a nearby wall, shattering a good portion of it, and sending the overly amorous jerk into unconsciousness.

While she would never have done so ordinarily, Ranma was so enraged at what Kuno had attempted to do to her that she didn't even think twice about the brutal kick she delivered between his legs before turning and stomping away. She was nearly a block away before she calmed down enough to think even remotely rationally, pulling a small cell phone from her pocket and calling Emergency Services. In clipped, rough, tones she relayed Kuno's location and injuries, before promptly ending the call. She wasn't feeling like being any more charitable towards the perverted jerk than that; they'd send him medical attention or they wouldn't, she didn't really care at the moment.

She paused as she was about to return the cell phone to her pocket, staring at it, realizing that that had been the first time she'd ever used it to actually 'call' anyone. Nabiki had given her the cell phone after she'd returned from her rematch against Herb, and she had little doubt that Nabiki had some way of tracking her location through it. Nabiki had not been happy about missing out on setting up a betting pool for that particular event. Still, it had come in handy and it had made it convenient for Kasumi to call her if she needed her to pick up something from the market on occasion. In any case, if she ever needed to, she could simply leave it somewhere if she didn't want Nabiki to know where she was. With an indifferent shrug, she pocketed the cell phone and continued on her way.

"I'm home!" Ranma called out upon entering the Tendo house, kicking off her slippers in the foyer.

"Welcome home, Ranma-chan," Kasumi responded, stepping out of the kitchen. "How was dinner with your mother?"

Ranma gave a shrug, and said, "Eh, it was okay, I guess. Just more of the usual, you know. She thinks I need a boyfriend."

"Oh my," Kasumi obligingly exclaimed, covering her mouth demurely and hiding her amused grin. "Well, in any case, I just filled the bath a few moments ago, if you'd like change back. I can wait a little longer to take my own."

"Thanks, Kasumi," Ranma responded happily. "But are you sure? I can wait." She may have just bathed before going to dinner with her mother, but after her run-in with Kuno she was feeling more than a little dirty and wanting to restore her masculinity even if only temporarily.

"No, go right ahead; I still need to straighten up a few things in the kitchen before bed anyway," Kasumi said with a sweet smile, before turning about and returning to her kitchen.

Ranma leaned back in the bath, staring up at the ceiling, and just enjoying the luxury of a hot bath and his current masculinity. "I wonder if Mom'll be back tonight, or come by in the morning?" he softly asked himself, not really noticing that he was speaking his thoughts out loud. 'Yeah, she'll be back, so I'll need to be in girl-mode after this bath.' He didn't like it, but until he could figure out how to let his mother know that he and 'Ranko Tendo' were one in the same, without ending up having to commit seppuku, it was necessary.

Ranma dropped his gaze from the ceiling when he heard a scratching at the door, and watched it slide jerkily open to admit P-Chan into the room, who trotted quickly over to the bath and hopped in with him.

"Jeez, Ryoga, can't a guy take a bath without some pig hopping into the water?" Ranma asked with a smirk, only mildly irritated.

Ryoga didn't immediately respond, instead looking about the room as if seeking a place to hide before finally taking notice of Ranma's presence. "Look, I don't have time to fight with you right now, Ranma. Azusa's after me again and I need a place to hide or some way to throw her off my scent."

Right on cue, Ranma heard the girl in question entering the house.

"Charlotte, where are you? Come out this instant!" Azusa called out, drawing the attention of everyone in the house and waking those who had managed to fall asleep already.

Ranma started to shiver, sinking deeper into the bath, as he could hear the girl getting closer. 'Great, last thing I ever wanted was to see her again...' he thought.

Ryoga's search for someplace to hide or a plan to get Azusa to leave him alone became more frantic, when sudden inspiration struck. Before he could fully think about it, or for Ranma to sense his intent, Ryoga punched Ranma hard in the back of the head, causing him to slam head-first against the side of the tiled bath and slip into unconsciousness.

'Sorry about this Ranma, but know that your sacrifice shall not be in vain,' Ryoga thought as he quickly pulled Ranma from the bath and splashed him with some cold water turning him into a she. Then, pulling a Polar Bear costume from out of nowhere, Ryoga quickly dressed Ranma in it and propped her against the wall in plain sight of the doorway before rushing out to hide in the closet in the changing area.

{Don't ask why he had the costume or where he got it, you're better off not knowing. Trust me.}

A moment later, Azusa rushed into the room looking around for her beloved "Charlotte", until the fluffy polar bear propped against the wall caught her attention. "How cute!" she squealed in delight, rushing over to awkwardly pick the polar bear up, her original reason for even being there completely forgotten. "Let's go home, Antoinette. It's getting late and we need our beauty sleep." And with those words, Azusa headed back out of the room and through the house.

Standing at the top the stairs, Akane was about to investigate all the noise from downstairs that had awoken her, when she noted Azusa Shiratori happily walking out the front door of her home with a...Polar Bear?...slung over her shoulder. Akane just continued to stare at the now closed front door for several long moments, trying to understand what she'd just witnessed. Finally, she just shook her and turned about to go back to bed, muttering to herself, "I don't want to know."