Exit, Pursued by a Bear
By Lord Raa
Disclaim-me-do: Good morning beautiful breasts of my neighbour. How did you get inside these binoculars?
Nabiki was not happy with the latest bombshell her father dropped.
"Ranma and his father will be staying here for the time being," the moustachioed man repeated. Misunderstanding the look on his middle daughter's face as one of confusion rather than one that was a mix of fear, anger and betrayal, explained why they would be staying.
"Akane needs more training before she can beat Shampoo, and Saotome-kun will be helping with that."
"But that means Ranma will be staying here!"
"Well, yes, he needs to continue his training if he's to take over the running of the dojo," Soun added as Shampoo walked up to them.
"Mr. Tendo, when do you think we'll be able have that rematch?"
"I'm not sure that we need to have a rematch," the mercenary girl answered. "You were clearly too much for Akane to handle."
"If you think I'm good, Ranma makes me look like a clumsy child," the Amazon shrugged, completely missing Nabiki's point.
"Yes, I did notice that Ranma is quite skilled. How long has he had that curse?"
"About a month," Shampoo answered. "But you should see him when he's in his normal body."
Nabiki noticed that Shampoo's body language changed when she mentioned Ranma's normal body. 'I just need to speed things up with this rematch…'
A short while later, Soun, Genma and Akane were analysing the morning's match.
"I think we might need to hold off on the rematch," Soun said, somewhat apologetically.
"What? Why?" the teenager asked.
"Your skills aren't where I expected them to be," Genma answered. "Ranma-"
"You don't think I'm good enough for Ranma?" Akane interrupted.
"I don't think you're good enough to beat Shampoo," the portly man replied curtly. "If you plan to marry Ranma and take over the dojo, then you'll need to be able to take on all challengers."
"Who said I wanted to marry Ranma?" Akane protested.
"But I thought that since he and you were the same age…" Soun trailed off, suddenly losing his voice under the withering glare from his youngest daughter.
"Regardless of which of you wants to marry Ranma, you'll have to beat Shampoo in the challenge," Genma said. "Shampoo's skills should have hinted to you how big the world of martial arts is. You might think that kendo boy is hot stuff, but he's nothing compared to what's out there."
Seeing that the Tendos were silenced by his words, the balding man continued. "If you're not straining every sinew, working every muscle to be the best, then you're no longer a martial artist. If you're not sore when you're going to bed, you're just a playing at keep-fit.
"Fitness classes won't keep a dojo open."
Soun swallowed, moved by his friend's words. "I… yes. We must train Akane harder; she must beat Shampoo."
"Don't I get any say in this?" Akane asked, beginning to feel railroaded by the two fathers.
"Even if you want Ranma to run the dojo, you need to improve to defeat Shampoo," the moustachioed man replied.
Nodding, Genma added, "Shampoo isn't invincible, not by a long shot. But it will be hard work. You're not a pampered city girl, who's afraid of a little hard work, are you, Akane-chan?"
"What? I'll show you hard work!" Akane shot back, her pride having taken a cheeky bitchslap at the hands of the fat man.
"Good. We start tomorrow morning at 5:30," the Saotome master smiled. "You too, Tendo-kun."
"What? But I've already done my apprenticeship!" Soun whined. "I don't need to get up that early anymore."
"Anything Goes solidarity," Genma replied. "You want to prove to your daughter that you're not all mouth and no trousers, don't you? That your style of Anything Goes can do more than defeat idiots like that kendo boy, right?"
"Then it's decided, the three of us start tomorrow morning at 5:30, ready to train properly."
Nabiki was passing the room where her father and younger sister were talking with Mr. Saotome.
Curious as to what they were talking about, she crept closer for a spot of eavesdropping.
"Then it's decided, the three of us start tomorrow morning at 5:30, ready to train properly."
'Crap, they're still going for this duel thing with Shampoo? I'll have to sabotage things to get rid of Ranma.'
Slinking away, the mercenary girl left to think about what she could do to help speed up the departure of the Saotomes.
It was nearly lunchtime, and Shampoo was feeling a little restless.
Akane would have been easily dispatched, were it not for the interruption from that idiot with the bokken.
When one added in Nabiki's irrational dislike of Ranma and Kasumi's and the two fathers' insistence that there was a delay before the match was continued, her restlessness was turning into frustration.
Absently walking through the house, she found herself in the kitchen where Kasumi was preparing lunch.
"Can I help you, Shampoo?" the brunette asked.
"Feeling a bit restless. Can I help with lunch?" the Amazon asked.
"Yes, if you could wash and chop these vegetables for me, it would be a great help," Kasumi smiled.
As the two continued to prepare lunch, Kasumi's curiosity was getting the better of her.
"Err, Shampoo… how did you find yourself travelling to Japan with Ranma-kun?"
The purple-haired girl shrugged. "Is simple tale of girl encounters bear, bear turns into boy, girl challenges boy to stop idiot Mousse asking her out, boy's idiot father gets in the way of happy life and now girl has to fight other suitors for right to marry boy."
"That's hardly an everyday tale, Shampoo," Kasumi replied, smiling politely.
"You do not live with a local idiot who keeps bothering you," Shampoo shrugged as she chopped the vegetables.
"I take it you're referring to 'Mousse'?"
"Yes. He blind and stupid," the Chinese girl muttered angrily. "He bother me from early age. He nothing like Ranma."
"You like Ranma, don't you, Shampoo?" the brunette asked rhetorically.
"Ranma special, and I do not mean bear curse. He smart, cunning and strong. He so very strong," said the Amazon, thinking back to the time she'd pretended to hurt her ankle to get Ranma to carry her part of the way.
Genma Saotome hadn't approved, but a quick splash of cold water in his face and he soon understood why she couldn't walk on her "injured" ankle.
When he was in his cursed form, Genma Saotome was an incredibly fussy man, almost driving Shampoo to the point of physical violence at times. But he was easily convinced to do the sensible thing, like taking a ship back to Japan instead of swimming across open sea.
"So, Shampoo, what will you do if you lose to Akane?" Kasumi asked, rousing Shampoo from her thoughts.
"You do not think about losing. Only about what you can do to win," the Chinese girl answered. "Mr. Saotome teach that philosophy to Ranma."
"You ever think 'what if dinner doesn't taste very nice'?"
"No," Kasumi admitted.
"It's the same thing."
At lunch, Soun announced that there would be some changes to the normal daily schedule.
"Oh, in what way, Father?" Kasumi asked. She was not one to embrace radical changes in her routine just for the sake of change.
"For a start, Saotome-kun and I will be stepping up Akane's training. This will mean starting training early in the morning," the moustachioed man answered.
"How long will it be before the rematch, Daddy?" Nabiki asked.
"I don't know just yet, Nabiki, but it shouldn't be too long before we can get this little contest settled," Soun smiled. "But not only that, Shampoo and Ranma will be attending school with you and Akane."
"It's going to take that long?" Nabiki blurted out, catching everyone by surprise.
"Well, Ranma will still need to go to school if Akane wins the challenge. We might as well register him and get him settled," Soun explained.
The middle Tendo daughter gritted her teeth and glared at Ranma. "I suppose that makes sense, Daddy."
Ranma just rolled his eyes at Nabiki's naked hostility while Shampoo shot threatening look of her own at the mercenary girl.
'What's her problem with Ranma? He's never tried to hurt her or any of her family. He doesn't want to force anyone into an engagement,' thought the Amazon. In fact, Shampoo had difficulty getting Ranma to see her as anything other than a training partner. And that was not because of a lack of effort on her part.
On several occasions on the trip to Japan, she'd snuggled up to him in the night. Though when she'd claimed that it was because it was cold, Genma had splashed Ranma with cold water to prevent any fooling around.
'Ranma's father might give the appearance of a fat lazy idiot, but he's a lot sharper than people think.'
The fact that Genma had trained Ranma to his current standard was proof enough of that.
Ranma made the wise decision to do his best to ignore Nabiki. The girl was attractive, yes, but he didn't need the hassle of a girl treating him like a time-bomb.
He turned his attention to Akane and Kasumi. They may have had their own personality quirks, but at least they didn't cower in fear whenever he entered the room.
Later that afternoon, Akane was watching Ranma practising with his father in the dojo.
She had seen that Ranma had some skill, even as a bear, but the display in front of her was a real eye-opener.
The pair dodged, ducked and moved in ways that seemed impossible to evade the countless punches and kicks they launched at each other.
Eventually, Ranma landed a good hit with his elbow on the back of his father's head, ending the match.
"Not bad, Ranma, at this rate you'll be able to take over the dojo when you're 30," the balding man said, goading his son.
"I'm… Oh, I see what you did there, Pops. Very sneaky, I can't let my guard down around you for a minute, can I?" Ranma replied.
"Can't blame me for trying, can you, Son?"
"No, I suppose I'd be the same in your position. At least you're not trying to force things. If that were the case, I'd have to get really violent," the pigtailed martial artist replied, quickly falling into a Jeet Kune Do stance. "Round two, old man."
"With pleasure, boy!" Genma said, jumping to his feet and gesturing for his son to attack.
Ranma took on the role of the dutiful student and grappled with his father, taking the pair of them to the ground.
As the two struggled on the floor, they rolled towards Akane.
The Tendo heir scrambled to get out of their way, knocking her bottle of water over Genma's head.
"Ranma, stop!" he called out.
"I'm not falling for that one again, Pops!" Ranma countered, continuing to keep his father in the choke-hold.
"But where's the PPE?" the balding man gasped. "Someone…could…get…hurt…"
"Isn't that the whole point of martial arts, Old Man?"
"T-that's not what I mean… What about the risk assessment? Or the liability waivers?"
Ranma realised what had happened and released his father from the choke-hold. He felt bad about hurting his father when he was in his cursed form. Not that he wasn't infuriating with his nit-picking and pedantry, but when Genma was in his health and safety mode, it felt like hating water because it was wet, or fire because it was hot.
'Or even a bear for being covered in fur,' the pigtailed Saotome mused. "Fine, do your risk assessment, I'm taking a break."
Akane watched Ranma walk off, into the house. "I thought that Ranma was serious about martial arts?"
"He is, but he's not concerned about important things like Health and Safety, which is a real shame."
The teenager could hear the capitalised "H" and "S" in Genma's words. "Is health and safety that important?"
"It's all fun and games until you lose an eye or the use of an arm, young lady," the portly man chided as he adjusted his glasses.
"Didn't you complain that I wasn't taking it seriously enough and that you were going to start training me and my dad at 5.30am?"
"Well, yes, but it still has to be done properly," Genma insisted. "You can't just throw someone into a pit of venomous snakes or someone's going to get hurt."
"Of course someone's going to get hurt – the clue's in the description 'venomous snakes'. Who would do something that stupid?" Akane demanded. "Surely there aren't people that stupid?"
"Heheh," Genma laughed nervously. "Let's focus on our assessment of the dojo, shall we?"
Shampoo looked up at Ranma as he walked into the Tendo home. He wore a frustrated look on his face.
"I was practicing with Pops and he got all fussy," the pigtailed youth answered. "I should be used to it by now, but you know how he gets. Anyway, what are you up to?"
"Grammar practice," the Amazon replied. "Japanese is a tricky language, but at least it standardised. Many different dialects in China; can cause confusion. Not to mention simplified and traditional characters. "
There wasn't much Ranma felt he could say or do in response to that observation, and so just smiled politely.
"What do you think of Akane?" Shampoo asked, changing the subject.
"I can't really know her after a day, but she seems alright. Her sister Nabiki is weird, though."
"Yeah, she think you some kind of monster. What about other sister, Kasumi?"
"She's always come across as nice, but like I said, I've known them for a day. She could be hiding some sort of terrible secret, for all we know."
The Amazon picked up on the humour in Ranma's voice. "Maybe she psycho killer?"
"We meet again, Mr. Bond," Shampoo said before bursting out into laughter.
Ranma joined in with the laughter before adding, "No, Mr. Bond, I expect you die."
Kasumi and Nabiki entered the room, the older sister intent on enquiring about numbers for tea, while the younger wanted to see what Ranma and Shampoo were laughing about.
The mercenary sister glared suspiciously at Ranma. "What are you so happy about?"
The pigtailed martial artist didn't take kindly to Nabiki's aggressive attitude and answered defensively, "Private joke."
"I'll make us all some tea," Kasumi said, hoping to defuse the situation.
"Yes, tea would be nice," Shampoo agreed. She looked at Ranma. "Unless…"
"Mind control through the tea! What fiendish plan!" Ranma declared theatrically, causing the Chinese girl to burst out laughing. He looked at the quizzical looks on the Tendo sisters' faces and explained his joke. "Shampoo asked me what I thought about you, and I said that since I've only known you for a day, I couldn't really get a handle on things.
"I mentioned that Kasumi could be hiding some sort of secret, and we decided that she's a super-villain."
"A super-villain?" Nabiki asked incredulously.
"Oh yeah, the whole living in a hollowed out volcano with a private army type thing," the part-time bear replied, causing Kasumi to blush at the attention.
"Careful," Shampoo said, "You don't want her to make an example of you to the others."
"Example?" the homemaker asked in confusion.
"You know when people like Blofeld say things like 'you have failed me for the last time' before they drop them into a shark tank," Ranma clarified, enabling Kasumi to finally cotton onto the joke
"Alas, I couldn't get the parts for a shark tank, so I had to make do with a koi pond," the 'super-villain' sighed theatrically. "Koi aren't very good at instilling terror in people. And don't get me started on how long it takes for them eat a man's body…"
Nabiki wasn't amused, however, and she left for her room.
"What's up with her?" Shampoo asked. "She act like Ranma only five seconds from killing us all."
"I don't know what to say," Kasumi said apologetically. "I can understand why she would be afraid of Ranma when he's a bear, but that doesn't mean she should be so rude."
"I'm just going to ignore her when she's like that," Ranma decided. "It'll be easier that way."
Shampoo nodded in agreement. "It for the best."
"Now, what about that tea?" the homemaker asked.
Akane returned from her training session to see Ranma, Kasumi and Shampoo drinking tea and eating snacks.
"Where's Nabiki? She'd be annoyed that she's missing out on tea and snacks."
"She decided that she didn't like being around me, so went off in a huff," Ranma answered.
"Odd," Akane mused. "I mean, she tolerates being around Kuno."
"Who?" Shampoo asked.
"He interrupted our match earlier," the Tendo heir explained.
"Wait, does that mean I'm worse to be around than that idiot?" the pigtailed martial artist asked.
"Well, he is rich," Akane added. "And Nabiki does love money."
"He seemed to be under the impression that you and he were romantically involved, Akane," Kasumi said. "You never mentioned anything like that before."
"I'm not dating that idiot!" Akane insisted.
"Ok, but why would he think he's got some say in who you date?" asked Ranma. "Last time I checked, you don't get to order people around like that."
"Well, it started at school. He made a declaration that if you wanted to ask me out on date, you had to beat me in a fight."
"That's one of the most stupid things I've ever heard," the pigtailed young man decided. "And I went to the cursed pools of Jusenkyo to train."
"But he's rich, popular and captain of the kendo team, so people do what he says," Akane countered.
"Doesn't make it any less stupid," Shampoo opined. "Kuno as bad as Mousse."
"I think you're right there, Shampoo."
"Mousse is boy from village. Always annoy me from when we were little. Made worse because he can't see properly and always confuse others for me."
"Heh," Akane smiled. "I guess that we've got more in common than I first thought: we're both martial artists who are being hassled by idiots."
To be continued…
Pre-read by Chi Vayne and previewed on various intertubes.
Until the next time.