THE BET- A STUDY IN SCARLET PART FIVE:
Original Bet Entry "A Study in Scarlet" by Gregg Sharp
Continued (With permission) by Dave Menard
Flames, Comments, Questions? e-mail me at deibu_kun@sympatico.ca

DISCLAIMER: The Bet is Gregg Sharp's fault. Ranma is Takahashi's.
Blame me for everything else.

WHAT HAS GONE BEFORE: Too much to summarize here. The meat of
it is, Akane's mind has been switched with that of a much-older
counterpart of hers, a warrior-assassin known as Scarlet who
hails from the distant future, where mankind has returned to an
almost feudal existence. Ranma is engaged to Kasumi, an
arrangement that is confusing to both parties. While Scarlet is
in the present attempting to woo Ranma, Akane is forced to deal
with the often strange repercussions of Scarlet's
two-hundred-plus years of adventure in Aramar. For more in depth
review, go to http://spghome.tripod.com/ for previous chapters.
Gomen. Thus dies the grand tradition of ASIS synopses.

IMPORTANT AUTHOR'S NOTE: The following fanfic contains
characterizations (most notably that of Kasumi) that differ
significantly from what is generally regarded as "in character".
I respectfully point out that, having read 90% of the original
manga and seen every anime episode released in North America, I
can find nothing in the source material that would invalidate my
conceptions of the characters' back histories and motivations.
Those who disagree may mail me privately, of course, and I'll be
happy to discuss the matter. Otherwise, sit back, crack your
canned beverage of choice, and enjoy.

PART FIVE BEGINS HERE!

"Father, would you like a backrub?" Akane asked, kneeling
down behind her parent. Soun looked up from the evening paper,
pleasantly surprised.

"Why, yes! Certainly, Akane, that would be wonderful."

"Here you go..." Akane began to knead his shoulders, using
all the knowledge of pressure points she had gained to put him in
a relaxed, pleasant and (most importantly) highly suggestible
mood.

It was a risky, her latest gambit to win the affections of
Ranma Saotome. In addition to the risk, it involved a severe blow
to her pride; something she was loathe to give up. Yet, didn't
True Love involve the sacrifice of pride on the altar of
communication? A wise woman had once told her that love means
ego-death. It would be painful, agonizing, even. Yet wasn't Ranma
worth even that sacrifice?

"Aahhhh..." Soun sighed contentedly. _This_ was the true joy
of having children.

"Father..?"

"Yes, my dear?"

"I was wondering. About the engagement..."

*****************************

"Tsk. Now why won't this come off?" Kasumi scrubbed
mercilessly at the scorch mark on the bottom of her saucepan.
"Honestly, you use them once and they get blackened-"

A loud crash derailed Kasumi's train of thought. "Now what
on Earth-?"

She left the pot where it sat soaking and picked up a
teatowel to dry her hands as she wandered out into the living
room where Soun sat having his after-dinner smoke. Akane, in a
remarkable display of filial piety, was massaging his shoulders.

"Father, did you hear that noise?"

Soun nodded, a small smile curling the sides of his mouth.
"Nothing to worry about, Kasumi dear. It's just Ranma and
Saotome-kun doing their evening workout in the dojo-"

"I see-" Kasumi said, worriedly. Whatever it was, it sounded
messy...

"Akane and I were thinking of taking a look ourselves. Would
you like to come along, daughter?"

"I- " Kasumi thought about what awaited her in the kitchen.
"-well, why not?"


**********************

"Hah! You're getting' slow, old man," Ranma taunted his
father as he leapt over the burly man's head to alight in a
defensive stance behind him. "Ain't'cha got nothin' up your
sleeve tonight? I ain't even workin' up a sweat!"

Genma growled and spun, unloading a flurry of blows at his
son, who dodged and blocked them with ease, before catching a
glimpse of Soun, Kasumi and Akane out of the corner of his eye.

"Don't look now, boy," Genma hissed to Ranma, "But the big,
bad tomboy is back-"

Ranma glanced up and turned white. Genma sucker-punched him
in the gut. Kasumi gasped, bringing a hand to her mouth in alarm,
while Soun and Akane shook their heads, tsking.

"Foolish boy, I told you not to look-" Genma said sadly as
he watched Ranma fold like a cheap suit.

"Auuuugh-" Ranma swallowed hard, barely able to keep from
puking. Picking himself up, he tried to regain his feet,
assuming a wobbly, weak-kneed stance.

Genma chortled. "Looks like I'll have to retrain you from
the beginning! Look at you. Weak as a kitten from a single blow!"

On the sidelines, Scarlet smiled wickedly. She recognized
that stance, even if Genma and her father missed it. The old
panda-fool was in for a surprise-

Five seconds later, it was Genma's turn to groan and suck
air while he pried himself off the dojo floor. The three Tendous
applauded.

"Well done son!" Soun laughed. "Anything-Goes School secret
attack, Drunk-fu! Why, I haven't seen that used for ages."

Ranma smirked. "Yeah, well... Picked it up from Pop after I
fished him outta the drunk tank in Kuala Lumpur one time... No
surprise he don't remember teachin' it ta me."

"Still very impressive, young man. If you and Saotome-kun
are finished, Akane would like to have a few words with you."

"Hanh?" Ranma blanched again, turning to Kasumi in search of
a lifeline. Kasumi glanced over at Akane, who was looking at her
pleadingly. With a hesitant smile, Kasumi nodded back at Ranma.

Ranma swallowed hard. "Uh, sure! No problem..."

"It'll only take a moment, Ranma..." Akane said sweetly.

Ranma swallowed again.

****************

Ranma walked into Akane's room, glancing around nervously.
Two points of potential escape, easily reached. He relaxed
somewhat. "So, uh... What didja wanna talk about?" Akane had been
alarmingly quiet as they walked up together, keeping her eyes on
the floor in front of her.

Wordlessly, Akane gestured for Ranma to sit on the bed. He
complied, still not sure where this was going. If it wasn't for
the fact that it was broad daylight, he'd have suspected she was
going to try to jump his bones again.

Akane got down on her hands and knees on the floor, facing
him. Oh kamisama! He thought. She IS gonna try again! To heck
with this! He was halfway out the door when her voice stopped him
in his tracks.

"Gomenasai, Saotome-san," Akane said, and bowed low,
pressing her forehead to the floor.

"Hunh?" Ranma blinked, his head ratcheting around to look
over his shoulder at the girl.

"I'm sorry, Saotome-san. Both for inadvertently hurting you
and for embarrassing you at school." She looked up at him, her
eyes brimming with tears. "I acted in haste, presuming upon a
relationship that did not exist. Please forgive me..."

Ranma Saotome was a finely-tuned fighting machine, capable
of dodging bullets, catching arrows and deflecting steel
shuriken. His pain threshold was astronomically high; he could
withstand impacting into solid concrete from a height of fifty
stories. He was as close to invulnerable as a human being can
get, due to a lifetime of grueling martial arts training under
one of the strictest teachers on the planet.

The tears were what got him.

Ranma never knew what to do about tears. They could throw
him, every time. People who cried were, according to the logic
his father had instilled, weak. Martial artists didn't hit those
weaker than themselves, therefore his primary means of conflict
resolution was null and void. The tactical computer in his
brain, (which ran with an efficiency, speed and power equivalent
to that of a Cray supercomputer) was caught in a logic loop, and
proceeded to melt down into slag, leaving him armed with the
admittedly inadequate Commodore VIC-20 computer that looked after
his interpersonal skills. It booted up, went through a
self-diagnostic (noticed some rather alarming gaps in
programming, but went on with the bootup anyway) and supplied a
response.

"Hunh?" Ranma repeated.

Scarlet took a deep breath and continued, determined to
finish what she had started. "My use of an obscure technique on
your person during our sparring match was meant as a compliment
to your skills; I had feared that without it, I would have lost
to your overwhelming ability. Truly, I expected you to avoid the
strike, or turn it aside as you had all my other blows. Again,
you have my humblest apologies."

"Ah... Er... " Ranma thought hard. As far back as he could
remember, he'd never had anyone apologize to him. He
double-checked the memory banks. Nope, not once. Desperate for
some kind of answer to give the abjectly groveling girl before
him, he improvised. "Er... S'alright, I guess. Forget about it...
Can I go now?"

Akane rose from her bow and wiped her eyes. "Only if you
want to..."

"Well, I, er..." He looked confused. "Was there somethin'
else?"

Akane essayed a soft smile. "I was hoping we could talk
about the engagement between yourself and my sister,
Saotome-san."

Ranma began to sweat. From one uncomfortable topic to
another. Personally, he thought, I'd rather be back in the dojo
bein' pounded by the old man. Unfortunately, some small,
atrophied piece of Japanese manners within him wouldn't let him
go, especially after this girl had made such a formal apology.
"Ah, um... Okay, I guess... What _about_ the engagement?"

Akane blushed demurely. "I was hoping... That is, if you
wanted to..." Her breath seemed to catch in her throat. "I've
spoken to Kasumi and Father... It's really your decision
Saotome-san..."

"What's my decision? An' can you please not call me
Saotome-san?" He grimaced. "Ranma's fine, really."

Akane looked up at him, eyes shining. "Ranma, I... I'm very
attracted to you."

"Yeah, no kiddin'?" Ranma said sarcastically. "I never
woulda figured that out after you climbed into my bed wearin'
nothin' but a smile..."

Akane frowned, her veneer of uber-politeness slipping.
"Sshh! Baka! The walls have ears!"

"Sorry." Ranma winced. He didn't think he'd said that very
loud, but you never know with these thin walls. "You were
sayin'?"

"I was _saying_ that I think I've fallen in love with
you..."

Another meltdown. "Hunh?"

"You're everything I've ever wanted in a man. You're
handsome, and brave, and strong, and a GREAT martial artist..."

Ranma puffed himself up a little. "Well, yeah, there ain't
no arguin' THAT kinda logic..."

"And the thought that I might miss out on a chance to have a
wonderful man like you in my life because of some silly
misunderstanding... Well, I just want you to reconsider your
engagement to Kasumi."

"What? Now look here! I ain't marryin' nobody, okay? I'm
just goin' along with this until our Pops' come to their senses."

"I know that, and I understand, but hear me out. Suppose,
just SUPPOSE, for the sake of argument, that you do end up
marrying a Tendou."

"Ain't gonna happen."

"For the sake of ARGUMENT, okay?"

"...grumble..."

"If you DO end up marrying a Tendou, would you rather spend
the rest of your life with a woman who will marry you because
it's her DUTY, or a woman who's madly in love with you?

"..."

Akane smiled as her point struck home. "Just think about it,
okay? Nothing's set in stone. My father has agreed to go along
with whatever decision you make, so long as you marry a Tendou."

"Look, I AIN'T-"

"'You ain't gonna marry nobody', I get the idea. Just think
about it, will you? No one's saying you have to pick me, although
I'd be overjoyed, but you're going to have to pick one of us. You
may as well get used to it."

Ranma grumbled something incoherent.

Akane leaned forward. "At least give me a chance, won't you?
Let me try to make you happy?"

Ranma crumbled. She was right, it's not as if it would hurt
anyone to play along. After all, this was only until Pop 'n Mr.
Tendou wised up, right? "Okay, look. If we're gonna try this
thing, me bein' engaged to all three of you, there's gonna be
some conditions and, er, whatchamacallits, provisos. First, no
more sneakin' inta bed with me. It makes me, well... nervous. It
ain't right."

Akane nodded. She'd given up on that plan already, anyway.

"Second, you don't swing at my friends no more. You do that
again, and the whole deal's off."

"Ranma, I can't beGIN to tell you how sorry I am for that. I
feel AWful about it-"

"It ain't me you gotta apologize to 'bout that, it's Nabiki
an' Hiroe. You scared 'em, real bad. Don't you know nothin'?
Martial artists don't pick on people weaker'n they are. It's the
Code. Even I know that..."

"...' He was patronizing her! Suck it up Scarlet, she
thought furiously. You cooked the crow, now buck up and eat it...

'Third... I ain't promisin' nothin'. I ain't the smartest guy
in the world, but I know this ain't the best way to start a...
a... whatever it is we're gonna start. Just... Gimme some
breathin' room, will ya? It don't look like I'm goin' noplace..."

Akane nodded. It was better than him hating her, right?
Anything was better than that. Even half an oaf is better than
none…

********************


Just before the family sat down to dinner, Ranma drew Nabiki
aside into the hallway. "I just had the weirdest conversation
with Akane..."

Nabiki narrowed her eyes. "No kidding. I heard."

"You HEARD?! AW-Sh-"

Nabiki quickly covered his mouth with a hand. "Quiet! Just
listen up! Don't get any funny ideas, mister. I am not your
fiancee, no matter what Daddy says. Got it?" Ranma nodded,
rolling his eyes in a no-kidding! expression. "Good. Now just
remember that, and I won't ever need to ask what my sister was
doing in your bed last night. Capisce?" Sweating now, Ranma
nodded furiously beneath her hand. "Terrific. You catch on quick,
Ranma-baby. I like you, better than I thought I would... But I'm
not looking for a fiance right now, so let's just keep this whole
multiple-engagement thing on the Q.T., all right?" She removed
the hand.

"Yeah, gotcha..." Ranma whispered. "Lissen, 'bout Akane 'n
me last night, I didn't-"

"Just quit while you're ahead of the game, Casanova," Nabiki
smirked, eyes twinkling. Leaning forward, she pecked him chastely
on the cheek. "_That_ was for sticking up for Hiroe. She's had a
tough time of things lately; I'm glad you did." Ranma blushed,
rubbing the warm spot on his cheek Nabiki had just kissed.

Distracted as he was, he was completely unprepared for the
feeling of those same warm lips pressed against his own. Nabiki
pulled away, still smiling her crooked smile. "_That_ one was for
sticking up for me." She waggled her eyebrows, spun, and went
into the dining room, leaving a very stunned Ranma in her wake.

*****************

A few days later, Kasumi hummed absently to herself as she
walked to Tofu-Sensei's office. It was a habit she'd fallen into
whenever she was thinking deep thoughts. Tonight's dinner had
gone surprisingly well. Ranma and his father had eaten robustly,
battling each other with chopsticks over the last scraps of food.
Nabiki had scowled, called their behavior undignified, but
Kasumi preferred to think of it as a compliment to her cooking
skills. Father had made pleasant conversation with his daughters
and guests, and even Akane had joined in, despite the awkwardness
between her and her sisters.

Kasumi sighed happily. It was so much nicer when everyone
got along... Akane had apparently apologized to Ranma, and he was
being hesitantly polite. Not openly friendly yet, but a far cry
from the spooked young man he had been after that... incident in
the dojo. Nabiki was a different matter, all false cheer and
quick subject changes. She seemed rattled by Akane, but seemed to
be trying to get over it. Whatever had happened between the two
sisters, it was as bad as the time Akane had stolen Nabiki's
favorite teddy bear when they were little. Nabiki had seemed to
forgive her sibling, but her eventual revenge (involving Akane's
hand, a pail of warm water, bedding hung up to dry, a camera and
Akane's eighth birthday party invitations) had been great and
terrible to behold.

The real tension in the air was due to Father's announcement
the other day that he was giving Ranma a chance to pick his own
bride; he was to be engaged to all three Tendou sisters, pending
a formal proposal to one of them. Nabiki had seemed unsurprised,
as usual, but Akane was deliriously happy. Kasumi wasn't
surprised at that, considering what her baby sister had confessed
the other day.

What truly confused her was her own feelings in the matter.
On one hand, it took a great deal of the pressure off her. On the
other, she couldn't help but feel a little jilted. Still, Ranma
hadn't rejected her outright, and continued to be sweet to her;
it was her own fault, really, for agreeing to Akane's scheme. She
settled her mind by telling herself that Ranma was probably
better served by someone close to his own age, and it freed her
up for dates...

The question, of course, remained. Who to date?

She was also concerned with the discussion she and Akane had
had that day, where Akane had come out of the closet to her big
sister. Kasumi really had no idea how to react to this
information. She'd known one or two girls in high school who
were... that way. One had even been a friend of hers, a girl
named Mariko. It had rattled her when Mariko had revealed that
aspect of herself, especially under the circumstances at the
time, a sleepover at a mutual friend's house. She and Mariko had
never really been that close after that. She could never quite
figure out from then on whether Mariko's friendship had been
sincere, or just a come on. It had really hurt Mariko's feelings
when she had quietly dropped her from the circle of friends she
hung around with, and Kasumi had always felt guilty about that.
Not guilty enough to attempt to rekindle their friendship,
though....

She blushed, embarrassed in hindsight at her actions. She'd
been very petty and scared, and had lost a good friend because of
it. She mustn't lose her baby sister the same way, she resolved.
Even if things didn't work out between Akane and Ranma, she would
be there for Akane, even if the thought of her doing... those
things with other girls made her extremely uncomfortable.

Kasumi walked up the steps to Tofu-Sensei's clinic, and
watched pleasantly as several people walked out, apparently
feeling much better. Tofu-Sensei could certainly work wonders.
She was sure that he'd be able to help with whatever was
troubling Akane.

Hiramake-san, the nice old woman that booked appointments
for Tofu-Sensei waved her ahead.

"How nice to see you again, Kasumi dear. The doctor is in
the examination room. Go right on back, we've had a rash of
cancellations just now."

"Thank you, Hiramake-san. And how is your son?"

"He's doing quite well," she said proudly. "He's the top of
his class at Fujitake Business College. He sends his best, as
always. Oh, I've been meaning to congratulate you dear, on that
nice young man of yours. Such an energetic lad, and quite
handsome..." she added with a sly wink. Kasumi blushed. "He was
here yesterday talking to the doctor. The two of them spent hours
in the lot behind the clinic sparring. It's so nice to see young
Tofu taking an interest in him..."

"Oh, really? Well, that's wonderful!" Kasumi cheered up.
Ranma was making friends!

Kasumi nodded cheerily and walked into the examination room,
where Tofu was apparently doing some sort of inventory check of
his acupuncture needles.

"Konbanwa, Tofu-Sensei!" Kasumi said cheerfully. Tofu
started, sending the needles flying out of his hands into the
ceiling, forming a strange pattern. "Oh, my! I'm terribly sorry,
Sensei, allow me to help you pick those out..." She leaned in to
get a closer look at the needles. It was almost as though they
spelled out kanji...

"No, no that's quite all right, Kasumi-chan," He said,
taking her hand gently and guiding her away from the needles.
"I'll get them in a moment. Now, what can I help you with today?
Feeling well, I hope?" She sat down demurely on the examination
table and looked down at her hands in her lap. His heart did
somersaults in his chest. Thank the gods for whatever miracle was
allowing him to hold himself together... He might actually be
able to ask her out...

Kasumi smiled pleasantly. "Oh my, yes. Actually, I wanted to
talk to you about Akane..."

"Akane?"

"Yes, I'm very worried about her." Kasumi frowned. Tofu was
alarmed. Whatever it was, it must be bothering Kasumi deeply. He
didn't recall ever seeing his goddess frown before… "Her
behavior seems... Oh, I don't know, a little... extreme...
lately."

"How do you mean? Is it... forgive me, Kasumi. Is it like
your Father's behavior?"

"No, no... At least, I don't think so... She's been so...
aggressive."

Tofu chuckled. Oh, was THAT it... " Kasumi, you must
understand that Akane is an energetic girl. Tomboyishness is
perfectly normal for a girl her age. She'll grow out of it
eventually. Weren't you a rough and tumble girl yourself not so
many years ago?"

Kasumi blushed, making her all the more radiant in Tofu's
eyes. "Oh, Tofu-Sensei, don't tease me. I wasn't THAT bad..."
Inwardly she winced. Did that mean she was like Akane? One of...
them?

"Kasumi, let me tell you a secret. When I took over this
practice from Omara-Sensei five years ago, he warned me to watch
out for, and here I quote: 'The Terrible Tendous.'" Kasumi
blushed a deep scarlet. "He warned me that he'd never SEEN girls
who got up to so much mischief. I can still hear him now." Tofu's
mild voice dropped an octave, becoming gruff and bear-like. "'If
it isn't the middle girl falling out of trees because she's been
nosing around in other people's business, it's the oldest girl
with another sports injury, or the youngest with a split lip or
bruised knuckles from fighting. I tell you Ono, they're
terrors!'" Tofu chuckled warmly. "Imagine my surprise to find
that these fabled hellions were simply bright, good-hearted girls
with active, healthy lifestyles, hmm?"

Despite her embarrassment, Kasumi smiled. It was nice that
Tofu-Sensei didn't think badly of them. Kasumi had been the
captain of the girl's softball team at Furinkan, and had always
enjoyed playing sports, even though she felt guilty about being
such a tomboy. Nabiki teased her that she overcompensated by
acting like the perfect homemaker now that she had graduated, but
she couldn't help it. Her mother had BEEN the perfect homemaker,
and Kasumi had always had the sneaking suspicion that folks in
the neighborhood had looked down on her for not living up to her
mother's example...

"Of course, Akane takes things a little further than you
did, but she's a martial artist, and you were an athlete. It's
simply a matter of different intensities... Now, is that all you
came to see me about?"

"Well, I..." Kasumi shook herself, trying to regain her
composure. "I'm afraid it's more than her usual tomboyishness,
Sensei. She's been very quick-tempered and almost struck...
another girl in anger. This isn't normal for her..." Her voice
trailed off, concerned. Tofu tapped a finger along his jawline
pensively.

"Well, I haven't actually seen her for a while, except for a
brief visit a few days ago. Maybe we could make an appointment
for her to come in for a check-up. I'm no behavioral
psychologist, but maybe I'll be able to help..."

"Oh, Tofu-Sensei, that would be wonderful! Thank you so
much, I've been very worried..."

"Nonsense, just doing my job... However, I would like to ask
_you_ something..."

"Yes?" Kasumi said, smiling pleasantly.

Tofu swallowed hard, forcing the well-rehearsed lines to his
mouth. "Kasumi, would you do me the honor of allowing me to
take you to dinner sometime this week? Saturday, perhaps?"

Kasumi was stunned speechless. Tofu-Sensei was asking her
out? On a DATE? Has the world gone mad?

Tofu saw the look of confusion in Kasumi's eyes and his
heart sunk. She's going to say no, I know it, I do...

"I... Tofu-Sensei, I don't quite know what to say..." She'd
never really taken notice of Tofu-Sensei as a romantic
prospect... She'd always said she did prefer older men, and he
was educated, and had a terrific sense of humor... And now that
his glasses weren't all fogged up, she could see he had very nice
eyes… Oh, but what about Ranma, er, the family honor?

Tofu's heart screamed "SAY YES!! SAY YES!!!!" while his
cowardly mouth said "Oh, that's all right, Kasumi, forget I said
anything..."

"Oh..." Kasumi said softly, her head a whirlwind of
conflicting emotions. "I see..."

"Foolish of me, really." He muttered. You are, after all,
engaged..."

Kasumi looked up, finally understanding the pattern in the
needles on the ceiling. They spelt out "I love Kasumi"... She
gasped.

Tofu continued to ramble, not looking her in the face.
"...And not to mention terribly irresponsible, an abuse of my
position. I am, after all, your physician, and it would be
inappropriate for me to..."

"Yes." Kasumi said impulsively. Her eyes widened as she
heard herself speak the words. Where had _that_ come from?

"I beg your pardon?"

"Yes. I would be honored to have dinner with you,
Tofu-Sensei. Providing my father and my iinazuke do not
object..."

Tofu's eyes lit up. He knew Ranma wouldn't object, after
all, the lad wasn't engaged to Kasumi by choice, he'd said as
much. And surely Tendou-san could be convinced...

"You will? Really? With me? Oh Kasumi! You've made me so
very happy!" He leapt to his feet, sweeping Betty-chan's
replacement off her hook and began to dance around the room.

**********************************

Back at the Tendou home, Ranma was being stalked like a
wounded animal. No matter where he ran, no matter where he hid,
his pursuers were there, waiting for him. He'd had to pound Kunou
repeatedly throughout the day, then topped off by afterschool
training with Tofu. His muscles, though toughened by years on the
road, were beginning to tire. Desperate, he practically dove down
the stairs, pausing a moment to glance back over his shoulder in
terror. In that instant of inattention, his big toe found the
slightly loose board on the second-last step and he tumbled
forward, barely managing to catch himself on his hands and
turning the faceplant into a tuck-and-roll combination that
deposited him up against the back wall.

In a twinkling, they were upon him, implements of torture in
their hands and preparing to pounce.

"Gotcha now, Ranma-baby," Nabiki purred, brandishing the
black suit she held in her hands. "Go get dressed."

"Nuh-uh. No way. Not gonna happen..." Ranma muttered,
looking around for a means of escape. Too late, he was
surrounded. Akane advanced on him with a hairbrush and a bottle
of cologne.

"Aw, c'mon Ranma, it'll be fun..."

"Nope. Ain't NO way I'm goin' dancin' with NObody. Dancin's
for girls, anyway."


"Fine." Nabiki splashed him with a glass of cold water.
"Problem solved." She said smugly. "Now go get dressed."

"Don' wanna…"

"Come ON, Ranma-baby," Nabiki teased. "I've got a few
dresses that'd look terrific on you-" She stared for a moment at
Ranma-chan's impressive chest, then glanced down at her own more
modest endowments. "Uh, well, with a few alterations..."

"NO WAY!! I-AM-A-GUY!!! Guys do NOT wear dresses, and
before you get any smart ideas, we do NOT wear skirts, either!"
She paused for a moment, remembering that Stewart guy Pop had
introduced her to when they were on their training trip. As he
recalled, Stewart's school of the Art had been "Phuk Yu" and had
involved a lot of head-butting and kicking folks while they were
down… "Well, unless they're from Scotland, and I ain't Scottish!"

"Are you sure, Ranma-baby?" Nabiki purred. "'Cause you DO
have red hair..."

"AAAUUGGGHH!!! There will be NO dress, NO skirt, and NO
Ranma goin' dancin' if you two keep this up..." She sputtered
angrily.

"Does that mean you'll go?" Akane chirped happily. "Oh,
that's great!"

"No, that ain't what I meant, I-"

"Face it, Ranma-baby…" Nabiki said with a smile. "You're
coming with us. Cheer up! I'm sure Kasumi'll want to come too..."
Akane frowned at that, but covered it well.

"Aw, but..." He thought about that for a moment, remembering
how Kasumi had looked the other night in her nightgown. Man, she
IS pretty. Bet she's a really good dancer, too... "Okay, okay...
I'll come. But I ain't wearin' no dress!!"

The bantering continued unabated, as the debate shifted to
the topic of which club to hit. Unbeknownst to the trio, they
were being silently observed. A small figure lurked underneath
the tatami flooring, a stethoscope held to the pressed bamboo
floormats.

"Ah ha! So Ranma Saotome will be out dancing tonight! Master
Kunou will be terribly pleased to hear THIS!!!" The little ninja
barely stopped himself from cackling with glee. He'd been hanging
around the Mistress too long...


Kasumi called out a cheery "Tadaima!" as she came in the
door and stepped into her house slippers. Nabiki sauntered over,
wearing her best "No, I'm not up to something, why do you ask?"
look. Kasumi pretended not to notice, but put herself on guard.

"Hey, Oneechan. You want to come out dancing with me and
Akane?"

"Dancing? Oh, my, no. I couldn't possibly! And neither
should you two, it's a school night..."

"C'mon, Kasumi. Don't be such a stick-in-the-mud. Our
iinazuke is coming..."

"Ranma? Oh..." Her conscience took that as its cue to turn
on the guilt switch. "Where is Ranma, by the way? I need to talk
to him..."

"_She's_ upstairs, getting dressed. C'mon, Kasumi, please
come… You two can talk on the way..."

"Oh, I don't know, Nabiki. What if Father and Mr. Saotome
need me here? I can't very well just-"

"Daddy!" Nabiki yelled. "Kasumi wants to know if she can go
out on a date with Ranma tonight..."

Soun and Genma appeared as if from nowhere, jubilant tears
streaming down their faces.

"Is this true, Kasumi?!" Not waiting for an answer, Soun
bulled on ahead. "Oh, happy day! Yes, of course you can! By all
means!"

"Father, I don't think-"

"Tut-tut, daughter. There's no need to apologize for wanting
to spend time with your iinazuke. Now you two have fun, but not
too much fun, if you catch my meaning..."

Kasumi blushed fiercely. "Oh dear..."

Ranma picked that moment to come down the stairs. She was
dressed in her sleeveless white Chinese top and black pants.

"Hey, what's goin' on? Why's everybody shoutin'?"

Genma lunged forward to embrace his son/daughter.

"Boy, you make your father proud!" He said as he clung,
weeping tears of joy, to Ranma's legs.

"Hey, get offa me!" Ranma cried as she crowbarred Genma off
her legs. "What the heck are you talkin' about?"

"Your date with my daughters!" Soun bawled cheerfully from
his position in the hall. "Such initiative! You are truly your
father's son!"

Genma rubbed the back of his head modestly. "Well, now,
Tendou-kun, I was quite a hit with the ladies in my younger days,
wasn't I?" He chortled lustily, remembering. "But not as smooth
as you, Tendou!"

"Ah, those were the days, weren't they, Saotome?" Soun
reminisced wistfully.

"They certainly were, Tendou..." Genma agreed.

Ranma slunk past the twosome, lost as they were in
nostalgia. She approached Kasumi apologetically.

"Uh, sorry... I didn't... That is, this ain't supposed to be
no date..." Nabiki elbowed Ranma hard in the ribs. "OW! Uh, not
that I wouldn't want to go out on a date with you or nothin'..."
She blushed. Kasumi smiled understandingly.

"That's all right, Ranma-kun, you didn't hurt my feelings.
Father tends to overreact, and it's really Nabiki who said it was
a date..." She spared Nabiki a rare frown. "As it happens, I
think a night out would be fine."

Ranma gave a hesitant smile, but quickly covered it with a
laugh. "'Course, since I'm goin' as a girl, it can't be a date,
now can it? Hahahahaha..." She rubbed the back of her head in
embarrassment.

Kasumi gave another one of her patented indulgent smiles,
stifling the image of Akane and onna-Ranma holding hands and
laughing together. "Certainly... Oh my!" A look of alarm crossed
her face. "What am I going to wear?"

"Leave it to me, sis." Nabiki said, taking Kasumi by the
arm. "I'm sure we can find you some old rags..." And with that,
she dragged Kasumi upstairs, leaving Ranma alone with the
fathers.

Soun leaned over and pressed a large wad of bills into
Ranma's hand. "Now, you be sure to show my daughters a good time,
understand? And don't worry about school in the morning.
Saotome-kun and I can take care of letters to your principal." He
looked like he was about ready to burst out in another crying
jag. "All three of my daughters, engaged to be wed! Oh, happy
day!!!" Streamers of tears issued forth. Embarrassed beyond
belief, Ranma slunk away while the fathers consoled one another.

**********************

Ranma and the Tendou sisters stood behind the velvet rope,
glancing around nervously. Club Gojuushii was the hottest club in
Shinjuku, arguably the hottest club in Tokyo. All around them
were the best and brightest lights of the Tokyo glitterati, all
jockeying for position; both in line, and for the cameras that
flashed and popped like so many fireworks. Of the four girls,
only Nabiki seemed to be at ease.

"Relax, ladies. We're gonna get in, I promise."

Kasumi glanced nervously at her younger sister. "Are you
sure? Maybe this place is a little too upscale for us. I'm sure
there are lots of nice places we could go closer to home..."
Ranma and Akane nodded, a little nervous at all the spectacle.

"And what if they card us?" Ranma whispered.

"Don't worry about it. Witness the joy of being a pretty
girl; you get in places for free, and they never card you."
Nabiki assured her calmly. "Look at us; how could they not let
four gorgeous women like us in?"


Ranma looked at her companions. It was true; the girls did
look spectacular. Nabiki was wearing an off-the-shoulder emerald
sheath that hugged her curves, ending several centimeters above
the knee, showing her coltish legs to good advantage. Kasumi wore
a light blue dress, flared at the hips with a high neckline. Much
more modest, yet it still couldn't hide her figure. Nabiki had
managed to convince the older girl to let her hair out of her
everyday white bow, and the chestnut locks hung loose and lush
down to the small of her back. A little make-up and some
glitter-paint, strategically applied, made Kasumi's
already-pretty face stunning. Akane too had let her hair down,
the midnight-black strands glossy in the reflected neon of the
Shinjuku streetscape. Most surprising of all was her dress; some
sort of shiny, satin-like material of a deep, incarnadine red
color to her figure like it had been sprayed on, leaving her
muscled yet still-feminine shoulders, arms and back bare, while
covering her chest completely. The hemline was almost indecently
short; if she bent at the waist, her panties would have been
visible to the world. Although, Ranma noted that since she
couldn't see any panty lines there (not that she'd been looking,
well, not much) she was taking the existence of said panties on
faith... Cunningly-applied make-up lent her deep brown eyes a
seductive look that, combined with the easy confidence in her
posture, gave the youngest Tendou an air of sexiness and
sophistication far beyond her years.

Ranma, for his part, was simply amazed that he was out with
such stunning beauties. kamisama knew that his perverted friends
Hiroshi and Daisuke would have killed to be in this situation;
three gorgeous girls, at least one of which had already made her
desire for more... intimate relations more than clear. If only he
wasn't suffering from the feeling he was somehow being
railroaded, Ranma might have been enjoying himself. The entire
situation was almost terrifying for the cursed boy. He had
absolutely no idea what to do. In the space of a month, he'd gone
from having absolutely no female companionship (and frankly,
little interest in girls at all) to an embarrassment of riches.
Of course, the ol' Saotome luck was holding true; the one who had
practically thrown herself at him was the one who scared the holy
hell out of him. He wasn't sure what to make of Akane; good
old-fashioned teenage lust was all twisted up with fear and
resentment and other ugly feelings whenever he looked at her. The
only other time he'd felt anything like this was with Shampoo.
The frankly stunning Amazon had kissed him, (which had been nice;
okay, better than nice. Really, really cool) then tried to kill
him. It was a good thing they'd lost her back in mainland China.
One unpredictably violent girl was enough, thank you very much.
The only thing that kept him from bolting was the relative safety
afforded by his girl-form.

A girl form that was drawing a fair amount of attention on
its own, he was annoyed to note. No less than five itinerant
photogs had snapped her picture and handed off business cards. He
supposed that if he had to turn into a girl, he was glad that it
was at least a cute girl, although that caused complications all
on its own...

He'd dressed in a white version of his usual Chinese tang,
figuring the loose clothes would allow him to downplay his
girl-side's prominent assets and attract less unwanted male
attention. He hadn't reckoned on the vagaries of fashion, though.
In a lineup filled with pretty girls in skimpy dresses, she stood
out, drawing eyes she'd hoped to avoid. She was beginning to
consider the merits of just changing back to a boy when Nabiki
caught her attention.

"Hey Ranma-baby" I think I figured out how you can make a
little more money to help out around the house..."

"Oh yeah?"

"Uh huh. I couldn't help noticing all those photographers.
You ever consider doing some modeling work?"

Ranma scowled. "Ain't it enough that I'm workin' for the
Doc?"

Kasumi started guiltily at the mention of Tofu, but said
nothing.

"Well, sure, but modeling pays a lot more than being a
man-Friday."

"It ain't just the money that makes me wanna work for the
Doc, y'know? He's teachin' me all kinds o' special moves 'n
stuff. What'm I gonna learn posin' for some stoopid pictures,
photo-fu?"

"Well, just think about it, will you? I know some people, I
could maybe broker you a better deal. Most of the photographers
who work places like this'd just end up selling your picture to
pink-bill printers, and wouldn't that just be peachy?"

Ranma shuddered. "Yeah, well, I'll think about it, alright?
Anyway, we ever gonna get into this stoopid club? Standin' around
all night ain't exactly my idea of a good time, y'know..."

"Mine neither," Akane interjected. "I wanna dance, don't
you?" she smiled flirtatiously at Ranma, wiggling her hips
cutely. Ranma blushed. Nabiki frowned at her baby sister's
uncharacteristically coquettish behavior.

"Look, I've got good connections, sure. But they're not that
good. You've gotta be famous or rich to get on the list. We're
not on the list, so we wait in line; that's the way it works."
She brightened slightly. "Places like this always let girls in
first, though, so we'll be in soon, don't worry."

As if in response, the major-domo stepped out the door,
peering over the shoulder of the bouncers. He glanced
appraisingly over the Tendous-plus-one and waved them forward, a
lecherous smile on his weaselly features.

"You four, go on in. Now, I got room for three more..."

The crowd began to jump up and down, trying to get the
major-domo's attention as the foursome were escorted in by the
two hulking bouncers.

When their eyes had adjusted to the change in lighting, they
were frankly amazed. The club was huge, easily the size of a
warehouse. Staircases led up to a second floor that overhung the
dancefloor, so that patrons could see and be seen. A deejay
booth was inset in the far wall over the bar, strobes and laser
lights pulsed out onto the smoky floor, lending the entire place
a surreal atmosphere. In short, it was the sort of nightclub you
saw in movies and T.V. shows, never in real life.

"Oh my..." Kasumi breathed, taking in the scantily-clad
couples writhing around in cages suspended from the ceiling.

"Wow..." Nabiki sighed as she mentally tallied the costs of
various other patrons' wardrobes.

"Ho-lee..." Ranma gaped at the sheer amount of people
crammed onto the dance floor.

"Damn..." Akane swore under her breath as she took the
opportunity to do a little sight-seeing. They don't call them the
beautiful people for nothing, now do they?


****************************


-/ Aramar, the 7th Age, Magekeep\_

Akane broke the kiss with a solid shove, sending the regal
figure sprawling.

"Y-you... Pervert! Keep your slimy paws to yourSELF!!" Her
sword was in her hands as she stepped forward, brandishing the
weapon menacingly.

*What are you doing, child?* Baron sent telepathically, his
mental voice frantic. *Surely you don't mean to-*

*Back off, Baron. This hentai freak is gonna pay!* Akane
sent back, a snarl twisting her features.

The Magus crabcrawled backward, a look of astonishment on
his face. "N-now, Scarlet, love, I know we didn't part on the
best of terms, but really, I-" His eyes widened as she swung the
deadly blade. With a flick of his wrist, a glowing barrier
appeared between them, blocking the hammer-like blow. "I thought
you were fine with this, Scarlet! You said we could both see
other people..." The sword struck once more, bouncing off the
magical shield. "Very well, that's enough of that..." He gestured
once with his right hand. "_Freeze_."

*Oh dear...*

Akane froze, angry snarl still in place, sword held high
for another stroke. A bluish glow suffused her as the spell
paralyzed her. The Magus picked himself up and dusted himself
off.

"Whew... " He walked up to Akane's prone form. "If I release
you, will you promise to settle down and discuss this like an
adult?" Akane said nothing, The Magus blinked. "Oh yes, very
well, you may speak..." The glow slid downward, freeing Akane's
frozen vocal chords.

"No WAY! Nobody does that to me and lives!" Akane snarled.
She would have bit him, if she could reach. The Magus sighed.

"Oh, buggery, I was just being friendly..."

*Ahem. Lord Magus?*

"Baron? Is that you, friend?" The Magus said aloud.
"Whatever's the matter with Scarlet?"

*That is not Scarlet, Magus. It is her temporal analogue's
mind in Scarlet's body.*

Comprehension dawned on the Magus' face. "Oh HO. Well, that
explains much..." He approached the frozen Akane once more.
"Miss, forgive me. Your analogue and I were... Close... for a
time. I mistook you for her. Please be assured that I wouldn't
dream of taking liberties with a woman without her permission."
He bowed deeply. "Please accept my humblest apologies..."

Instinct (Akane smash pervert!) warred against reason in
Akane's mind. The red haze faded from her vision as she thought
the matter through. Honest mistake? Possibly...

*He speaks the truth Akane. Please, put down your weapon
before you do something you'll regret...* Baron sent earnestly.

The anger slowly left Akane's face, to be replaced with a
wary look, the sword falling from loosening hands to land in the
thick carpet. "All right... But keep your hands to yourself,
buster! I've got my eye on you..."

The Magus smiled with relief, and snapped his fingers to end
the spell. Akane stumbled forward for a moment then regained her
balance, sending the dark-skinned wizard a rueful glance as she
sheathed her blade.

At that moment, Baron forced his huge reptilian head through
the doorframe and extended his neck into the room, ready to
defuse any more conflicts with a puff or two of flame.

"Good to see you, old wyrm." The Magus said welcomingly. "I
take it the young lady there is the reason for your unexpected
visit?"

*Yes, yes indeed. We seem to have had a slight mishap with a
wish spell...*

"Tsk-tsk... Scarlet was never very good at those, was she?"

*No, I'm afraid she wasn't...*

Akane cleared her throat. "Can we please stop talking about
me like I'm not here?"

Baron had the good grace to look mildly embarrassed. *Ah,
forgive me. Magus, meet Akane Tendou, late of the Nerima ward of
Tokyo, Japan. Akane, this is the Western Magus, and these are his
demesnes.*

"A pleasure my dear. Your reputation precedes you." The
Magus bowed with a flourish, almost kissing Akane's hand before
apparently thinking better of it. Akane smiled half-heartedly and
bowed politely, never taking her eyes off the flamboyant figure
in front of her. His flowery speech reminded her a bit too much
of Kunou, but for some reason it seemed more natural coming from
the Ardrow. Maybe it was the exotic surroundings...

"Thanks, I guess," Akane mumbled.

"So, how in the names of the Nine Gods did you come to be
switched with our dear Scarlet?" The Magus took a seat, gesturing
for Akane to do the same. Baron lay his vast head in front of the
hearth, smiling reassuringly.

"Er, I... It was all her fault! She cast some kind of stupid
time travel spell, only she ended up stealing my body! And I
ended up..." she gestured vaguely, "Here..."

"Ah." The Magus nodded, glancing over at Baron. "This was
the spell she sought for so long, eh? She finally found a way
home…" He steepled his fingertips pensively. "But once again,
things go astray... The great Curse of Murphy strikes once
more..."

Akane blinked, a little confused. "Ah, yeah, I suppose...
But what about me? Baron said that you might be able to switch us
back. Can you?"

The Magus chuckled softly. "I'm not sure. It depends. I
might be able to, if the Rules haven't taken hold of you yet. If
they have..."

"Rules?" Akane asked. "What rules?"

"It's fairly hard to explain, Scar- er, Miss Tendou. The
Rules are what resulted in Scarlet being trapped here for so
long. If she hadn't fallen prey to them so quickly, a competent
planewalking Mage could have easily sent her home. Look, I'll try
to put it to you as simply as possible. When people from Outside
enter Aramar, they become subject to certain Rules, like the
local laws of physics. For instance, Magic is very powerful here,
whereas I'm given to understand that it is rare indeed in your
world. The Rules are like magical laws of Nature, or rather,
human nature. When Scarlet first came to Aramar, her actions led
her down a path that she perhaps did not want to follow, shaping
her into a warrior and assassin."

Akane paled visibly. "I was a killer? How- why?"

The Magus sighed. "Scarlet's first actions in this world
were ones of violence. She always maintained that she took those
actions in self-defense, and that may well be true. I do not
know, I wasn't there. However, the violence eventually consumed
her, limited her, caused her to become a _creature_ of violence.
This is not to say that she was truly an evil woman. Indeed, she
was capable of moments of great compassion and solicitude, but at
her core, she was a killer, and a very capable one. We have an
expression in Aramar: As without, so within. In this place, a
person's behavior determines their fate."

Akane raised an eyebrow. "Isn't that the case anywhere?"

"Not to this extent. Had you succeeded in harming me
earlier, you might well have doomed yourself to walk the same
path as your analogue. Have you done anything since you've been
here that would predispose you towards this fate?"

"I don't think so..." Akane looked up, a little worried.
"Baron?"

*Well, you HAVE been whining a lot...* Baron sent, his
telepathic voice dry.

"I don't whine!" Akane whined. "Er... Well, I try not to..."

The Magus chuckled. "Well, I honestly can't see how
dangerous that would be. But perhaps you should make an effort to
be on your best behavior from now on."

Akane nodded, swallowing hard. She would permanently become
whatever she acted like? That's not good, not good at all... "But
you said you might be able to send me back, providing these Rules
haven't affected me much... So can you?"

"I can try, Akane... I just don't relish facing Scarlet if I
succeed... She won't be very happy with me..."

A bell-like chime sounded, causing the trio to look up.

"Ah, I see my lady has noticed my absence. Servitor?" The
Magus stood, speaking into the air.

A disembodied voice answered. "The Mistress asks to be
admitted, Master. Is this acceptable?"

"Yes, show her in... Warn her that we have guests, and see
that she is appropriately clothed, hmm?"

"At once, Master."

"Baron, Akane, I have the immense pleasure of introducing
the Lady Kiira, my apprentice. Come in, my dear..."

A feminine form shimmered into existence in front of one of
the tapestries, She was shorter than Akane, but finely dressed in
a set of silk robes that hugged her curves, displaying them to
best advantage. She was perhaps as attractive as the Magus, but
in a sensual, animalistic way. Her long russet hair was held back
in a braided ponytail that hung over her shoulder to the small of
her back, while curling tufts concealed the delicate points of
her ears. Her skin seemed tawny, almost golden, and it shimmered
oddly in the firelight. As she drew closer, Akane realized that
this was because a fine layer of soft golden fur covered
Kiira's skin, decorated along the hairline and across the tops
of her breasts with delicate rosettes of dark fur. Akane realized
with a start that this woman wasn't human, or an Ardrow. She
glanced over at Baron, seeking help, but the Dragon merely looked
startled, as though he knew this woman. Kiira's eyes grew wide as
she took in the two guests, her pointed irises widening in the
firelight.

She stepped hesitantly towards Akane, a look of surprise on
her face.

"Momma?"

Akane went white. "WHA-AAT?!"

The felinoid rushed forward and tackle-hugged Akane,
knocking her to the floor.

"Oh Momma! You said you were going away! I'm so glad you
came back, I missed you! Did you find Ranma? Is he here? Can I
meet him? Don't be mad at me, I KNOW you don't like magic, but
Issok SAYS I've got an aptitude for it, and I never WAS as good a
fighter as you were..." Kiira's voice petered out as she realized
her affectionate hug was not being returned. "What's the matter,
Momma? Are you THAT mad at me?"

"I-er... Huh?" Akane said intelligently. "Who..? MOMMA?" She
stood up forcefully, spilling the felinoid onto the floor as she
rounded on Baron and the Magus. "WHAT IN KAMISAMA'S NAME IS GOING
ON HERE?!"

The Magus looked as shocked as Akane. "You two... Momma?
'Prentice, what is the meaning of this?" Baron sighed, rolling
his golden eyes skyward. Kiira merely looked confused.

"Momma? What's wrong? Don't you recognize me? It's Kiira!"
The young woman was almost in tears. "Uncle Baron? What's wrong
with Momma?"

"Would SOMEBODY kindly TELL me what's going ON here?!" The
Magus sputtered, looking from Akane to Baron to Kiira like a
spectator at some demented three-way tennis match.

"Sorry, Issok." Kiira said softly. "This is my Momma! I
didn't know you knew her..."

"Knew her? KNEW HER?" The Magus fumed. "By the Nine Gods,
why didn't you TELL me she was your mother?" He rubbed his
temples furiously. "'Prentice, I... Ye GODS, what a mess..."

"Umm..." Akane attempted to interject.

"It's not my FAULT, Issok! You never ASKED!!!"

"Err..." Akane tried valiantly once again.

*Honestly, Kiira! You KNOW how Scarlet feels about magic!
How could you go against her wishes like this?* Baron scolded.

"Excuse me..." Akane held up her hand plaintively.

"...Her DAUGHTER! I can't BELIEVE it! She'll KILL me..."

"ENOUGH ALREADY!!!!!" Akane bellowed, stopping the trio in
their tracks. With an audible creak, all three craned their necks
around to look at her. "THANK you!" She took a deep breath,
closed her eyes, and counted to ten. Remember the Rules, she
thought furiously. Don't lose your temper... "Now, if we can just
sit down and discuss his like rational people..."

The other three complied, eyes wide.

Akane opened her eyes and exhaled. "Now, miss, I'm gonna
make this clear from the start. I'm not your mother."

"I know THAT..." Kiira said, laughing. "You're my
foster-momma, have been since I was a kitling. You took care of
me after my mother died."

Akane sighed in relief, a sound echoed by the Magus. "I"m
glad that's settled. Now, Kiira, right? Kiira, I need you to
understand that I'm not the same person you think I am. My name
is Akane Tendou. NOT the same Akane Tendou you know. I'm stuck in
your 'momma's' body, and she's stuck in mine."

"Total etheric transference?" Kiira said, her eyes widening.
"But that would require a spell of extraordinary power! Are you a
temporal or dimensional analogue? How do you account for the
disruption caused by the Artichoke Effect?"

Akane blinked hard, understanding maybe one word in three.
"Hanh?"

The Magus beamed proudly. "See? I TOLD you she has an
aptitude..."

Akane shook her head. "Never mind all that now. I just want
to go home as soon as possible!"

"Go home?" Kiira asked. "But you just got here! I can't WAIT
to show you around!" She beamed, displaying impressive yet still
dainty fangs. "This is terrific! I thought I'd never see you, er
Momma, again, since she went back to find Ranma..." Kiira paused
as she saw Akane's mouth harden. "Oh, right, you probably want to
go home to YOUR Ranma, right?"

"Who IS this Ranma guy, anyway?" Akane spat. "I've never
even heard of him, but I already hate him. It's all his fault
that other me stuck me here in this godforsaken-"

*Akane...* Baron cautioned. *Temper...*

Akane visibly tensed, trembling. "Right," she said tersely.
"Calming down..."

"You don't have a Ranma?" Kiira said sympathetically. "Oh,
that's too bad. Momma said he was the great Love of her Life..."

"Really?" Akane said, interested despite herself. Her
analogue had spent her whole life trying to get back to this
person...

"Oh yeah, definitely. She said he was handsome, and brave,
and kind..."

"How did she meet him?"

"She said her Dad engaged them."

"An arranged marriage? Daddy did THAT?! That's stupid!
That's idiotic! That's... " She sighed. "Okay, I can see Daddy
doing that. And she LOVED him? I HATE boys... What? Why are you
laughing?"

"I'm sorry..." Kiira said, stifling her giggles. "It's just
that Momma always said she... How did she put it? She said she
was in serious denial thanks to someone called Upperclasshole
Kunou and the Horde of Hentai..."

"Upperclass..." Akane giggled. "Oh, that works... I mean,
NO! I'm not in denial! Boys are stupid perverts!"

"Uh huh, sure thing. Momma also used to talk about a
Tofu-Sensei. That ring any bells?"

"That's different!" Akane shouted, blushing. "He's a man!
Boys are boys and men are men! They're practically two different
species!"

"Oh, well then." Kiira said in a teasing voice. "That
explains EVERYthing..."

Akane growled something unintelligible.

"Do you mind if I ask you something?"

"What?" Akane snapped.

"How old are you? I mean, how old are YOU?"

"Sixteen."

Kiira's eyes went wide, then she started to giggle again.

"What?! Dammit, why are you laughing THIS time?"

"I'm older than my Momma! Woo-hoo! Oh, this is hilarious!"
She managed to collect herself, wiping her eyes. "Okay, well, you
gotta understand something. TRUST me, boys AND men are both a lot
of fun. Just because the ones you've met so far are idiots,
doesn't mean that they ALL are. Momma always said that Ranma was
the most manly boy she ever knew..."

"I'll bet..."

"Well, if you're so stuck on hating boys, you're in luck!
Ranma tuns into a girl!"

"WHA-AAT?"

"Momma said he got cursed to turn into a girl when he got
hit with cold water, and to turn back when he hit was hit by hot
water. Some kind of were-wench, Issok always said, even though he
and I BOTH know it could only have been a high-level
transmogrification spell with a variable trigger, the type that
you generally find around Wild Magic areas and other class three
subdimensonal-" She noticed Akane's blank expression. "What? Am I
getting too technical?"

"I think my brain has finally melted down." Akane mumbled.
"I could have SWORN you said that Ranma turns into a girl."

Kiira nodded.

"Cross dresser?"

Kiira shook her head. "Nope, like I said, magical curse. It
wasn't his fault, you know..."

"And I... She... was in LOVE with this guy?"

"Oh yes, very much so."

Akane swallowed hard. Could it be true? Was she destined to
fall in love with a... a... freak?

"This is... A little too weird for me to take in right
now..." Akane whispered. "What am I saying? This whole WORLD is
too weird for me to take in! I want to go HOME!!!!"



******************************************

Well, that's it for part five. Tune in next time, as Scarlet
and Ranma cut a rug, and Akane begins the long voyage home in a
story I had to call "Shall we Dance?" or "Buckaroo Tendou Across
the Eighth Dimension!" Well no, I didn't HAVE to call it that,
but I felt like it. Ja!


Dave Menard
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Fanfiction page:
http://spghome.tripod.com/