One Week Earlier - Friday
Ranma's mouth fell open in utter horror as the gelatinous blob of mutated Jell-O engulfed another student, their screams muffled as the dessert closed over their mouth. Inside it were three other students, each trapped and floating helplessly inside its jiggling green mass. It rattled violently before a large tendril exploded forward.
With a cry of surprise, Ranma leapt away, narrowly avoiding the ravenous treat's attack. He landed, crouched, on top of a lunch table, the students hiding underneath wincing at the impact. They shouted in terror as the blob surged at them, bowling into the table and pulling it and them inside. As the table was consumed, Ranma flipped off, and then leaned away from a swinging glob that reached out for him.
He stepped back, avoiding another attempt, and worriedly noted that the dessert was growing larger and quicker with each student it devoured. His foot landed on an empty cafeteria tray, and he slipped, falling on his ass inelegantly. He swore loudly as a large lump of lime green Jell-O came at him.
"Ranchan!" Ukyou shouted, her spatula slicing through the blob's lashing tendril. It flopped to the floor, smashing into smaller globs.
"Thanks, Ucchan!" Ranma crowed, hopping back to his feet as the chef gave him a thumbs up. His smile fell when the Jell-O began to reform around her feet, trapping them inside.
"What?" she exclaimed in surprise, staring down in horror. With one final glance at Ranma, the Jell-O lifted her off her feet and dragged her across the floor, where it remolded itself into its bigger half. Ukyou was quickly sucked into its limey depths.
"No!" Ranma shouted and was abruptly on the defense once again, as the mutant Jell-O launched multiple jelly-like tentacles in his direction. He flipped and twisted in the air, avoiding them all, though his fellow students weren't so lucky.
With lightning fast speed, the sugary tentacles entangled them and yanked them through the air, back to its growing body. It jiggled, almost as if in delight, as it inhaled the students one-by-one.
Ranma's stomach churned. The role reversal wasn't lost on him, but the fact that a commonly eaten dessert was trying to eat humans in return really made him nauseous. That and the fact that Ranma hated lime Jell-O. By far the worst flavor, and here it was, now a living monster that clearly wanted to consume his being.
Well, Ranma Saotome wouldn't have that. No way in hell would he let some flabby, gauzy glob of lime beat him, he thought, glaring angrily. On the other side of the room, Akane defended herself with a lunch tray, fiercely beating the flailing Jell-O limbs away as they attempted to grab her.
Its body was expanding even faster, overturning and inhaling tables and their benches. The area to maneuver in the cafeteria was rapidly decreasing, and Ranma was quickly finding himself dodging near the walls. An errant strand of lime blob slammed into a window, shattering it easily.
"We're running out of room here, Ranma!" Akane yelled desperately.
"There's always room for Jell-O!" a random student exclaimed and received the full brunt of everyone's glare in response.
Ranma grimaced, knowing that he couldn't allow the gelatinous monster to make its way outside. He had to stop it here, while it was still small and contained. Sparing a glance at his battling fiancée, as she struggled to keep the gelatin from taking her, he noted she was now swinging an entire table in her defense, squashing the Jell-O's tendrils into the floor.
There was a moment, when time seemed to pause, before Ranma flipped back, bounced off the wall and launched himself like a bullet, straight at the green blob. He hit the quivering mass at full speed and with a loud 'Plop', before his body began slowly sinking into its center.
"Ranma!" Akane shouted, slamming the table so hard against the floor that it broke in half.
"I hate-!" was all Ranma managed in response before the Jell-O engulfed his mouth and his voice silenced.
Every student not yet swallowed by the cube like mold cried out in horror, seeing their savior willingly jump into the trembling beast. No doubt, Ranma was their best chance for survival, and now he was gone. The translucent green blob grew bigger, swarming over the floor and pushing against the walls. Students were crammed into the corners, fearing their end would come at the hands of a limey, sugar-free, dessert (or so the cafeteria had informed them upon entering for lunch that day).
Suddenly the Jell-O stopped, its jiggling paused, its many waving limbs slumping heavily to the floor. Hope rose in the chest of every Furinkan student, some even taking the chance to flee for the windows.
Akane noticed it first, the icy sheen that slowly spread across the blob's form. It started at the top of its center, extending down its sides, sluggishly covering it in a thick frost. The Jell-O hardened and began to crack around the edges. When the ice continued down its lifeless tendrils, freezing them to the floor, Akane knew exactly what was happening.
The Jell-O mold had become a giant block of greenish ice, dozens of fissures quickly appearing through its frozen shape. Its slim tentacles shattered spontaneously, the intense cold causing them to explode, and soon after, large blocks of lime ice were breaking off, hitting the floor heavily. From out of the cracks shone a bright red light and then the giant, mutated, frozen Jell-O erupted into a million pieces, breaking like glass, and littering the floor with miniscule bits of ice and a couple dozen chilled students.
Ranma-chan dropped to her knees, the rapidly melting ice having triggered her curses change. She exhaled heavily, breath chilled and visible to the eye. "-lime Jell-O," she finished coldly.
Disclaimer: The characters of Ranma ½ belong to Rumiko Takakashi. If they belonged to me, I wouldn't be writing this I'd be swimming in my pool of cash. I wouldn't bother suing me either. I got nothing you want.
"I was in preschool and a girl actually kissed me on the cheek. I didn't know what to do. I didn't know what it meant, so I instantly grabbed her face and kissed her on the lips. And, then I got suspended."
- Jensen Ackles
A Ranma ½ Story
AN: Don't really have anything to say here. Thanks to the very few that reviewed! As you can see, this chapter is a lot longer than the Prologue.
Chapter 1: Suspended
"Suspended? What for?" Ranma exclaimed angrily, slamming a fist on Principal Kuno's desk.
The interior of the Principal's office was dark and ominous, with only a massive spot light shining down from above and illuminating the man and his desk. Shadows shrouded the rest of the room and Ranma had no doubt the Principal kept all kinds of tropical traps hidden within them. Despite his outburst, Ranma's attention hadn't abandoned his surroundings.
"Watch it, 'ey, Kekki! You be doin' bad damage ta dis school! Da cafeteria is a mess, Kekki, and you ta blame!" Principal Kuno replied with a smug grin, crossing his arms over his Aloha shirt. "You need ta be punished!"
"I saved the cafeteria, you idiot!" Ranma retorted in frustration. He was coming very close to punching the man in the face, if only to wipe the smile from his face.
"Not da way I seen it, Kekki! T'ree days suspension!" Principal Kuno said.
"What, three days? That isn't fair!"
"T'ree days!" Principal Kuno repeated then leaned forward. "Unless . . ."
Ranma's eyebrow rose in distrust. "Unless what . . .?"
"Unless you be lettin' me cut dat hair of yours!" the older Kuno shouted and withdrew a large pair of shears, a manic smile spreading over his lips. "Den no suspension, Kekki!"
"Screw off!" Ranma shouted, leapfrogging the desk and planting both his feet in the principal's face. The older man flew across the room and crashing against the wall, his sunglasses snapped in half, lens cracked. As Ranma turned to leave, the Kuno matriarch spoke again.
"A week suspension," he uttered weakly, holding up a hand.
"Fine with me!" Ranma snapped, slamming the door shut so hard that the window in its frame cracked.
Principal Kuno giggled delightfully to himself, excited over the prospect of the Saotome boy not being at school for a full five days. The things he would do . . . Blinking, Principal Kuno glanced down, dully noting that the giant pair of shears had partly stabbed themselves into his leg.
His pained howl shattered the window in his door and echoed through the school, sending chills down the spines of every student.
"You're what?" Akane shouted, causing Ranma to rub his ears.
"You heard me, I got suspended," he said, still wincing. He was ready to leave for the day, backpack slid over his shoulders. There was no reason for him to stay, even if two periods remained. The teachers wouldn't miss him, and he wouldn't miss their lessons. He would get the notes from Akane later.
"For what? For how long?" Akane raged, glaring at Ranma, though she knew her anger was misplaced. Principal Kuno was to blame, there was no doubt, and Ranma's reply confirmed it.
"For wreckin' the cafeteria when I killed that Jell-O monster, of course," Ranma said flippantly. "Gave me a week."
"A week! A week!" Akane repeated, shocked and horrified. "How could he suspend you for a week? You can't be away from Furinkan that long!"
"Why, would you miss me?" Ranma asked smugly.
Akane slammed a fist into his face, annoyed by his attitude. "No! Who would miss you?" she snarled.
Rubbing his sore nose, Ranma frowned unpleasantly. "Geez, 'Kane, I was just jokin' . . ." he grumbled.
"I know, but . . . still, with you not here for a week, everything's going to go to hell! Ukyou and I can't protect this school alone," Akane admitted. Her eyes were glaring, but her mouth frowned and it made for an awkward expression.
Ranma shrugged carelessly and scratched the back of his neck. "I'm sure the school will still be standin' when I come back. I've missed days before and Furinkan's always been here when I got back."
"This is a full week, Ranma, not just one day!"
"Sheesh, if you're that worried, I'll stop by to check up on the place, but come on, 'Kane . . . everything'll be fine . . ."
"Can't you talk Principal Kuno out of this?" Akane asked wearily.
Ranma laughed and smiled nervously. "I tried, but he bumped it from three days to a week," he said weakly, still chuckling.
With her hand over her face, Akane groaned in despair. Her fiancée was an idiot that much was clear. He would be gone and she would have to deal with the insanity that drew itself upon Furinkan High School without him. Akane could already feel the muscles in her neck tightening into knots.
"Let's just . . . not tell anyone until tomorrow," Ranma said.
"So I can enjoy dinner tonight without the family blowin' up and ruinin' it."
Kasumi stepped out of the kitchen, skillfully balancing a large bowl of rice, a plate of fried pork, and a salad dish in her arms. With the grace of a ballet dancer, she wove her away to the table, avoiding the Ranma and Genma's wrestling match as they rolled about the room.
At the sight and smell of food, the two stopped, Ranma's foot pressing against Genma's forehead, Genma pulling Ranma's arms in the direction they weren't meant to bend. They snapped out of their match, instantly in their seats, though Ranma was glaring out of the corner of his eyes at his father. The old man had started the fiasco after telling Ranma that he smelled like a lime, to which Ranma took offense. He had bathed after coming home, not wanting to smell like lime Jell-O. If his father's insults had meant to declare war, Kasumi's cooking instantly proclaimed peace.
They sat calming, bewitched by Kasumi as she served the table. Ranma quickly wiped the drool from his lips before anyone could see and smiled brilliantly as Kasumi piled a large amount of pork on his plate, much more than his father's portion.
Genma grumbled, noticing the difference as well. Stealing would commence in three . . . two . . . one . . .
Ranma parried his father's chopsticks, swatting them away with each. Focusing his attention and ki into one of his sticks, he stabbed at his father's, quickly breaking it in half with a hundred taps.
A couple of seconds passed before Genma realized his chopsticks weren't in one piece and he gaped in dismay. He pinched the broken sticks together impotently.
With his father disabled, Ranma turned on his food, devouring with gusto. He could feel Akane's eyes on him, upset, not with anything he'd done at the table, but because of his suspension. There was nothing he could do about it, and honestly, he didn't care. A week off from Furinkan wouldn't be a bad thing in his mind. The amount of free time he would have to exercise and train would be a great boon. Maybe a trip to the forest was in order.
"You seem happy, Ranma-kun," Kasumi stated with a cheerful smile before delicately taking a small bite of rice.
"Ah, do I?" Ranma asked nervously, rubbing the back of his head. He returned her smile with an awkward one of his own.
"You were humming, idiot," Akane groused, angrily jamming a piece of pork into her mouth.
Ranma grimaced at her expression, slowly leaning to the side. In doing so, he pushed up against his father, who grabbed in him a headlock.
"How dare you ruin my meal, boy?" Genma shouted while tightening his grip as his son attempted to pry his arm off. With a twist in his seat, Genma tossed Ranma across the house and into the koi pond, creating a large splash.
"What the hell, Oyaji?" Ranma-chan snarled, rising from the water.
"You're the one keeping me from eating! Oh, what an ill forgotten son I have!" Genma proclaimed dramatically, standing and posing for effect.
Ranma-chan charged through the house. "I'll make you ill and forgotten, you bastard!" she cried and punched her father in the back of his head, smashing it into his food. "See, you don't need chopsticks, old man! Eat up!"
Genma's muffled groans were the only response.
"Yeah, tastes good, don't it?" Ranma-chan taunted, rubbing Genma's face into his rice.
Soun frowned, Nabiki sighed, and Akane ignored it as best she could. The three carefully lifted their plates from the table as it rocked from Ranma's abuse, not wanting their food to spill.
"Ranma-kun, would you please stop?" Kasumi asked kindly and calmly slipped a piece of salad between her lips.
"Seriously, Saotome, you're gonna break the table," Nabiki muttered. "And I'm gonna have to buy a new one."
Blinking, Ranma-chan slowly released her hold on Genma's head. "Sorry, Kasumi," she said before kicking her father in the ribs. As Genma grunted in pain, Ranma-chan grabbed the collar of his gi and hurled him at the pond. "Go wash up, you fat panda!"
"I can't imagine how much damage you'll do to this place next week, Saotome," Nabiki stated, shaking her head as she placed her plate back on the table.
"What do you mean, Nabiki-chan?" Soun asked curiously.
Ranma-chan and Akane both eyed the middle Tendo sister nervously; their dread grew as they realized what she was talking about and that Nabiki was more likely to reveal Ranma-chan's suspension than keep it under wraps.
"Ah, Nabs, you think you could, maybe, not tell right now?" Ranma-chan said anxiously.
"Tell what? That you got suspended for a week?" Nabiki stated blissfully, a wide smile stretching across her face.
"Oh, my . . ." Kasumi uttered, disappointed, a soft hand on her cheek. Ranma would be home all week; this was something Kasumi wasn't sure how to take. Certainly, it was a shame that Ranma had gotten himself into so much trouble, again, but to have him around for an entire week . . . Would the house be able to stand the certain chaos to follow?
"What do you mean suspended?" Soun exclaimed while jumping to his feet, demonic tongue snaking from his mouth as his face turned purple.
"Growf grof, growof ow wroof!" Genma-panda added, and then pulled out a sign from behind his back. Ranma always wondered where they came from, but chose to ignore the most likely place out of disgust. The sign read: "My son! What a failure!"
"Like you're one to talk! I bet you didn't even graduate kindergarten!" Ranma-chan retorted and ran at her panda father.
"Principal Kuno suspended Ranma for saving the cafeteria today," Akane explained, crossing her arms over her chest in annoyance. "It's not Ranma's fault."
"Yeah, I saved that stupid school!" Ranma-chan added as she dodged around her father's swinging sign. The two were bouncing through the living room, fat panda swiping at lithe redhead, until they made their way outside, battling in the backyard.
Soun's head quickly returned to normal, his expression tepid. "I suppose your daddy could go and talk to your principal and see about getting this removed."
"Won't be that easy, daddy," Nabiki said. "Principal Kuno isn't someone you can convince of anything through talk . . . or blackmail . . . or anything at all, really."
"Yeah, once he makes up his mind, he won't stop unless he's shipped out of the country," Akane added grumpily. She also didn't want her father going to Furinkan for fear of Hinako-sensei running into him. It wasn't forgotten on Akane that the teacher had a major thing for Soun, going so far as to proclaim her desire to be Akane and Nabiki's new mother. "Don't bother, dad, there's no way you can get Ranma out of this."
Soun hummed in thought, leaning back in his seat. He would still give it a shot, and prove that he could handle one simple school attendant. How hard could it be? Such a long time apart wouldn't be good for his daughter and Ranma, after all, they had to spend every waking moment together to help their love blossom.
Kasumi sighed as she watched Ranma-chan and Genma-panda bound around the backyard and clash over the koi pond. She had grown accustom to the elder Saotome's presence in her house over the years, and during the summer adjusted to Ranma's additional company. It was easier then, as Akane was always around to keep him occupied. Typically she didn't have to worry about Genma, as her father would keep the fatter man busy with day long shogi matches. So that would leave her to deal with Ranma, something she was sure she could handle, but knew she'd rather not.
Though, perhaps she could convince Ranma to help her around the house with his free time. That would be a nice change of pace. She glanced at the younger man turned woman, raising a slim eyebrow as the redhead dunked her furry father into the pond with a hard punch to his solar plexus.
Ranma-chan landed on the obtuse belly of her panda father, flexing her muscles in victory.
Probably not . . .
Ranma eyes sprung open as he fell through the air, pigtail smacking him in the face. His cry of surprise was cut short when he hit water, curse activating immediately. She burst out of the pool, glaring at her father as he dropped from their bedroom window. Jumping to meet him in the air, Ranma-chan back flipped from Genma's swinging fist, landing lightly on the edge of the pond.
"Boy, take your punishment like a man!" Genma shouted broadly. "Getting suspended for a week? You're weak, like a girl!" He pointed at Ranma-chan's current form for emphasis.
Ranma-chan took the bait, her temper immediately rising at the taunt. She crossed the pond in a single bound and the two met with a flurry of punches, kicks and blocks. Their limbs blurred, smacking loudly as they connected, until they separated, landing apart. Ranma-chan perched on the outer wall, glaring down at her father, who balanced easily on the edge of the pond.
Cracking her knuckles menacingly, Ranma-chan granted upon her father an equally frightening smile. "Punishment, eh? This is what you call a punishment, you big pansy? You've lost your mind, Oyaji!"
"We'll see about that, girl!" Genma retorted fiercely, though the manic look on his child's face made him swallow nervously. He blinked when his son turned daughter suddenly split in two.
The twin Ranma-chan's dashed in opposite directions, surprising Genma again, and he moved to block one. He was struck in the back and the Ranma-chan he was facing vanished as he flew through it. Cursing loudly at his mistake, Genma rolled with his stumble, and flipped back to his feet. His fist was already swinging at Ranma-chan as she closed the distance, but to his surprise it passed through another phantom.
Genma grunted as Ranma-chan's fist planted in his cheek, knocking him over and into the pond. Wildly, Genma-panda erupted from the water, blinking in confusion, furry head spinning. Looking around slowly, he pulled out a sign: "What was that?"
"You're three hundred years too young and fat to be fightin' me, pop!" Ranma-chan taunted, arms crossed under her chest, arrogant grin on her face. She jumped over the pond, slamming both feet into Genma-panda's face, and sprang off, launching the bear back into the water. Landing lightly on the patio, where Kasumi was waiting with a kettle of hot water and towel, Ranma gave the Tendo sister a winning smile.
"Thanks, Kasumi," he said, as he poured the hot water over his head then took the proffered towel, quickly drying off.
A little later, after breakfast, a grumpy Nabikiy approached Ranma. "You're gonna cost me a lot of money next week, Saotome," she said with a disgruntled frown.
Ranma grinned smugly, arms crossed over his red Chinese shirt. "No one to make bets on, Nabs? Kuno and 'Kane'll still be 'round."
"Bets on Kuno only bring in about 2,000 yen a week, Akane about 2,500. You're my cash cow, Saotome," Nabiki replied sullenly, exhaling heavily through her nostrils.
"Guess you're gonna have to go without this cow's milk for the week," Ranma said.
"Maybe you should try saying that while a girl, Saotome," Nabiki mocked.
"What's that supposed to mean?" Ranma asked suspiciously.
As Nabiki walked off, she smiled darkly. "Think about it . . . Though maybe you were dunked in Spring of Drown Milking Cow," she added as he walked upstairs.
There was a pause as Ranma thought over Nabiki's words, before his eyes widened. "Oh, gross, Nabiki! That's gross! My breasts don't do that!"
"Do what, Ranchan?" Ukyou asked curiously, much to Ranma's surprise. He hadn't seen her enter the house, and wondered how long she had been there. Clearly not long enough to hear the awkward conversation with Nabiki.
Chuckling nervously, Ranma rubbed the back of his head. "Ah, nothin', Ucchan, Nabiki's just bein' a pain is all," he replied and to change the subject, quickly asked, "What're you doin' here?"
Ukyou withdrew her giant spatula, slamming down on his head. The blow wasn't as hard as one from Akane, but it still stung both his head and his pride.
"What you do that for?" Ranma barked angrily, clutching his throbbing skull and the bump that was forming.
"Getting yourself suspended, you jackass!" Ukyou returned equally mad and she held up her giant spatula again threateningly. "School's the best place I have to see you, jerk!"
"So now I pretty much have to go a week without seeing you, Ranchan!"
Ranma glanced off to the side. "Eh, well, I'm sure you could stop by here and visit after school," he said simply, while purposefully avoiding eye contact.
To Ukyou this of course sounded like a hopeful invitation to come and visit when the chance was given. Her eyes lit up, sparkling with unconcealed glee. "Of course I'll come see you, Ranchan! What kind of fiancée would I be if I didn't?" she squealed, latching to Ranma tightly, her large spatula dropped. It clattered noisily as it hit the floor, bumping a side table, which shook and dumped the lamp that had been on it.
As the lamp fell, closing in on the floor, Ranma's leg stretched out and he, as if by magic, caught and balanced it on his foot, even as Ukyou continued to cling to his body. He swallowed and exhaled in relief as he kept the lamp level and from falling to the floor. With an agonizing speed, Ranma lifted his leg, slowly and carefully tipping the light until its edge rested on the lip of the table. He gently nudged it back into place as Ukyou leaned away from the hug.
There were still stars in her eyes and she mistook his nervous sweat for something else. "Don't worry, I won't let Akane hit you," she said.
"Thank you, Ranma-kun," Kasumi's sweet voice swept into the room, catching Ranma and Ukyou by surprise.
Ranma hurried to break free of Ukyou's grasp, and watched as Kasumi adjusted the lamp neatly, softly wiping it with a clean rag.
"Huh, ah . . . no problem, Kasumi," he said and grinned warmly. "I know you would've been upset if you had to clean that up."
Kasumi smiled sweetly back at him, heart warmed by his effort and consideration in saving the light.
"Oh! I'm sorry, Kasumi," Ukyou exclaimed, hurriedly picking up her spatula and blushing in embarrassment. She hugged the flat metal cooking tool to her chest protectively.
"That's quite alright, Ukyou-chan, just be more careful next time," Kasumi replied easily.
"Anyway, Ucchan, you better get goin' before 'Kane sees you and gets all ape angry," Ranma said and glanced around to see if his other fiancée was going to appear. When Akane didn't, he let his shoulders slump, and his body relax, if only a little; he always had to be on guard, in case of an attack. "I'm sure I'll see you 'round. I don't wanna stick around here all day; I'll get bored outta my mind."
"You can help me around the house, Ranma-kun," Kasumi suggested hopefully, eyes widening ever so slightly that the change in her expression was barely noticeable.
And Ranma didn't notice, his attention still guarded and on the house, expecting Akane's imminent arrival. "Uh . . . sounds like a blast, Kasumi, but no thanks," he said absently, not even looking at the young woman. "I think I'll use what free time I have to train."
A mad grin spread across his face at the thought. He would have an entire week away from Furinkan, away from the mob of madness, able to practice alone, undisturbed. Well, outside of his dumbass father. No doubt the old man would pester him every day to spar or for something useless. Perhaps he would have to find a distraction, something that would keep him busy and away from the old fart, but at the same time be a form of training.
A job at the Nekohanten was a possibility, for only the week. His father would definitely avoid that place; Genma was clearly afraid of the old ghoul, Cologne. But that also meant he would have to spend the week with the old ghoul and Shampoo, who would spend every minute trying to get into his pants.
No, he would have to find something else to do.
His eyes narrowed in thought, ignoring the conversation Ukyou and Kasumi were having. Of all his fiancées, outside of Akane, Ukyou was the calmest and most rational when dealing with the Tendo family. She got along with the family well, but then, everyone got along with Kasumi, so the two of them speaking nicely wasn't a surprise.
The goal at that moment was to find something to keep him occupied. His attention slowly turned to Kasumi, who was smiling as she chatted amicably with Ukyou. As his eyebrow rose, so did the grin on his face.
Ranma twirled through the air, arms clamped to his sides to make his body as thin as possible. Spiked chains and flying blades whizzed past and Ranma tucked into a ball, narrowly avoiding a massive battle-axe that would have cut his head from his neck. He landed in a roll, dozens of knives stabbing into the ground behind him.
"Whoa!" he exclaimed and hopped away as the battle-axe came down.
Mousse landed by his knives, swinging his arms, the chains and weapons spewing forth from his robes following Ranma's movements. "You can't run forever, Ranma Saotome!" he cried and laughed maniacally.
His laughter stopped when Ranma's fist slammed into his face, shattering his glasses and caving in his mouth. The blow knocked the cursed Chinese youth off his feet from the blow, thrown back, stumbling and crashing across the ground recklessly. He finally slid to a stop, assorted weaponry falling with his consciousness.
Ranma clapped his hands of the imaginary dust and shook his head. Mousse had jumped him, or tried, as he had headed home. Akane had gotten angry at him when he had said something along the lines of 'big breasts and gorillas don't mix' and subsequently uppercut him out of the yard and across town. While rubbing his aching jaw, he had calmly ducked (pun intended) Mousse's first attack.
Alone and hassle free again, Ranma hopped on a tall fence and starting walking home. It was a lovely day, so the walk wasn't a bother. Better than being cooped up at the house with an angry fiancée anyway. He smiled as he soaked in the warmth of the sun, enjoying the cool breeze that followed.
As he neared downtown Nerima's shopping center, he started listening to the sounds of the busy street. Numerous voices melded into one continuous rollercoaster of volume and conversation. Some were fast paced, others calm and easy. A few customers were bartering, or trying, with the vendors, hoping to get a better buy. A couple cars honked as they crossed in the distance. Amidst the jumble of voices, Ranma's ears picked out a single one that he instantly recognized.
"It's no trouble at all, Yasuki-san, Miaka-san," Kasumi said kindly before bowing to an elderly married couple. She was dressed in a pair of tight jeans and light blue blouse, her long hair tied in a neat ponytail. In her arms was a book, thick with pages.
For the first time since he had met Kasumi, Ranma found it hard not to notice the curves of her hips and how snug her jeans fit against her ass. He blinked, batting away the thoughts instantly, perturbed by the idea of Kasumi actually being attractive. Not that she was ugly, of course, far from it, but he had rarely ever bothered to look at her that way. There were more than enough women in his life to start dragging someone as innocent as Kasumi into it.
He blushed as he stole another quick glimpse at Kasumi's backside and snuck closer to hear the conversation better. Crawling slowly over the wall, he stayed out of sight, but peeked over at the three so enraptured in conversation.
"What would we do without you, Kasumi-chan?" the old woman, Miaka, said sweetly, smiling at the younger woman. "You really are a treasure."
The older man, Yasuki, grunted in his agreement. "Hmm, yes, when will you find a man and get married, eh? No doubt you'd make them very happy," he said roughly, but genuinely, and gave Kasumi a toothy grin.
Kasumi blushed lightly at his words. "Thank you, but I'm just doing what anyone else would do," she said to Miaka then looked at Yasuki. "And I'm fine the way I am. I don't need to find a man just yet. My family makes me happy more than enough."
"What about that young man you always talk about?" Miaka ask curiously, a tilt of her head.
Ever so slowly, Ranma's head peeked over the fence, ears burning, eyebrows lifted. What was this now? Kasumi had been talking about him behind his back, something Ranma had never considered possible.
"Ranma-kun is my sister's fiancée, Miaka-san," Kasumi replied simply, shaking her head. "I don't have any feelings for him."
Ranma surprised himself by frowning. He didn't know why, but he was disappointed by Kasumi's words. But, why should he care if Kasumi had feelings for him? That was the last thing he needed. Maybe it was because he wasn't used to women not being into him, so the rejection stung his pride. Yeah, that made sense.
"But you always speak so highly of him," Miaka continued, unabashed by Kasumi's denial.
"He does seem like a good young man," Yasuki added, rubbing his chin. "I'm sure you'd make him a lovely wife and he'd take care good of you. You said he's helped your family quite a bit."
Ranma's pride blossomed like a rose and he puffed out his chest, even though no one could see him. To say he had helped out the Tendo's 'quite a bit' would be a slight understatement, but he took the compliment anyway. He was surprised when, for the first time he could remember, Kasumi laughed.
Over the squall of loud voices and chatty banter, the shuffling feet and noisy cars, the sound of her laughter cut through. Ranma could hardly remember a time when Kasumi had truthfully laughed out loud and here he was front and center. Not once had she laughed so honestly around her family, around him. It was a pleasant jingle to his ears and he couldn't help the smile that flittered across his face.
The elderly couple was smiling as well, equally as delighted by the sound.
Smiling brightly and full of amusement, Kasumi shook her head, long hair swishing. "Oh, Yasuki-san, that's so silly. I couldn't do that to poor Ranma-kun, he has enough problems as it is."
"I highly doubt that you would qualify as a problem, Kasumi-chan," Yasuki said with a chuckle. "If I were fifty years younger . . ."
"You'd still be too old for her, husband," Miaka stated. "Did you forget your age again?"
Yasuki looked up, confused. "Eh? Aren't I seventy-two?" he asked and smacked his lips in thought.
"You're eighty-eight, dear," Miaka said, and Kasumi giggled.
Ranma chuckled quietly from his hiding spot. It was good to hear that Kasumi thought so much of him; he had always thought she might dislike him for all the trouble his presence caused around the house.
"Hmm, well, speaking with Kasumi-chan just makes me feel younger, I guess," Yasuki said huffily, though she meant to compliment.
"And how do I make you feel, dear?" Miaka asked in a dangerous voice.
Kasumi covered her mouth and giggled again. "You two are so cute," she said gently. "I have to get going, so I'll see you on Friday, okay?"
"Of course, Kasumi-chan, of course!" Miaka exclaimed and bowed as best her old body would allow. "Don't let us keep you, dear."
Yasuki bowed as well. "Thank you very much, Kasumi-chan."
"Happy to help," Kasumi said and started away, book clutched to her chest.
Ranma eyed the elderly couple for a moment, wondering what it was that Kasumi had done for them. Holding onto the wall with one hand, he rubbed his chin with the other. Kasumi had said that she would see them on Friday, and from the conversation, it appeared that the three met regularly. He found it slightly odd that Kasumi was good friends with old people. Did she have any friends her own age?
Deftly, Ranma crept away, stealthily following Kasumi as she continued down the street and out of the market. Soon enough she was walking alone and Ranma felt slightly perverse as he stalked her from the roofs, but he had become very curious to where she was going. Did anyone really know what Kasumi did when not at the Tendo home? A small thrill shot up his spine at the thought, and Ranma wagered even Nabiki didn't know all of her older sister's comings and goings.
He leapt to the next roof, then into a tree, suddenly feeling like a commando, preparing for an ambush. The few people in the area that passed Kasumi all greeted her with a happy or polite smile and hello. It was clear to see that almost everyone in Nerima knew her and were always happy to see her.
The two continued for another five minutes, Kasumi casually walking the sidewalk, and Ranma covertly trailing her, until she started up the stairs to the Nerima Public Library. Ranma considered following Kasumi inside, but didn't, deciding that it would put him too close to his target, so he waited patiently on the roof for her to exit. It wasn't long before she did, and Ranma took note of the new book clutched in her arms.
Blinking in surprise, Ranma watched in amazement as Kasumi seemingly danced and skipped down the stairs, wide smile on her face. Again, Kasumi was acting like Ranma had never seen. As she hopped gleefully, Kasumi at last looked like the young woman she was, rather than the always perfect housewife. So much excitement, enthusiasm, burst from her eyes and the swing of her hips, that Ranma wasn't sure if he was truly spying on Kasumi Tendo, and not someone else.
He followed her even more keenly now, determined to see more. When Kasumi turned past the building, he dropped to the street, creeping slowly to the corner. At a snail's pace, he stuck his head around, catching sight of Kasumi back. Inadvertently his eyes lowered and it was a moment before he caught himself staring at the way her hips swung, and the perfect shape of her butt. He heavily and loudly smacked himself in the face, frustrated that he was acting so much like a perverted creep.
"First you menace my place of higher learning, and now you haunt this noble house of literature, Saotome!"
Ranma ducked, the bokken slamming into the corner of the library, where his head had been, and cracked the plaster. Immediately he was rolling away, Kuno's downward strike hitting the sidewalk and cracking that as well.
"I ain't hauntin' anything, idiot!" Ranma shouted in annoyance, flipping away from Kuno's next attack. "And you're the one damaging the place!"
"You're very being damages my sight!" Kuno cried, swinging his bokken about widely.
Ranma bounced off Kuno's head as he dodged. "And you're voice damages my ears so I guess that makes us even," he mocked, grinning broadly. He leaned away from a slash and slapped Kuno's wrist, the bokken sent flying.
With his only means of attack and defense gone, Kuno had no way of stopping Ranma's fist as it crashed into his stomach. He slumped to his knees, groaning weakly, before Ranma kicked him in the head, knocking him out.
"Idiot," Ranma sighed, shaking his head. "You should try using the library instead of attacking it. Maybe you'll learn something.
"Doubt it," he added under his breath as he returned to the corner. When he peeked around it, Kasumi was nowhere to be found and he swore to himself. Turning around, he eyed Kuno dangerously. He suddenly had frustration to relieve.
As Ranma hopped over the wall and into the Tendo yard, the sweet smell of cooked meat and a soup he didn't recognize wafted through the house and straight to his nose. His stomach rumbled in anticipation and he stumbled into the living room, almost carried by the scents.
He vaguely noted that his father, in panda form, was doing the same. Ranma marveled at Kasumi's skill in the kitchen, and how fast she could whip up a meal. Had he really been gone long enough for Kasumi to return home and prepare dinner? The young woman was more efficient than any professional Ranma had ever met, and he wondered how she never faltered.
As he ate dinner, surrounded by the people he had come to consider family, he did so in contemplative silence. Without a word of protest, he fought off his father's hungry assaults on his food, instead focusing the bulk of his thoughts on Kasumi Tendo.
She was smiling at her family, the same happy face as always, but not like he had seen earlier. There was overwhelming love in the expression, but none of the joy that had made her skip down the library steps. Her behavior had switched into housewife mode, almost mechanically so, and Ranma debated whether Kasumi might be an android. It wouldn't be completely implausible if that turned out to be the case.
He turned into a girl after all; Kasumi being part machine would almost make sense.
"No human could have an ass like that . . ." he unwittingly muttered aloud.
"What, Ranma?" Akane asked.
"Ah . . . nothin', nothin', just talkin' to myself," Ranma chuckled nervously and rubbed the back of his neck, allowing Genma to snatch a couple of pieces of meat from his plate.
"Weirdo," Akane said, rolling her eyes, and she returned to her food.
Ranma clenched his chopsticks in his fist, having made up his mind. He would use his week off to trail Kasumi, to find out more about this other persona she had outside of the Tendo house. Maybe it was her normal personality, and he had missed it because he had never paid her any attention.
He would follow that ass- er, her, uh, Kasumi, and find out the truth, whatever that might be, he thought. To hide the blush that had crept into his cheeks, he lowered his head, staring at his plate tensely. He really needed to keep Kasumi's backside out of his mind before it got him into trouble.
Chapter 2 – Spying Ain't Easy
Ranma begins his mission to follow Kasumi around, and slowly starts discovering things he'd never known before. Another story begins.
AN: Starting to get somewhere. Originally this chapter wasn't gonna be this long, I think, but that's how things happen. Ranma always wasn't supposed to be staring at Kasumi's butt, but again, these things happen as you're writing. Thought it'd make it a little more fun. Anyway, leave a review telling me what you thought, good or bad! Thanks for reading.