Soun Tendo quietly folded up his daily paper and set it on his lap as he stared his eldest daughter in the eyes. "I'm sorry, could you repeat that?" he asked her quietly. "I fear my hearing must be going, because I could have sworn that you said that you wanted to take a trip somewhere."

Kasumi sighed and shook her head slightly. Was it truly so surprising that she desired to go places other than to the market and back? "I said father, that I would like to go with Ranma this weekend to visit some old friends of his. I was wanting to know if you would be alright on your own for the rest of today, tomorrow, and most of Sunday."

Her father opened his mouth to offer the first response that came to mind, only to shut it before uttering a sound as he was fixed by a flat, emotionless stare that screamed violence if his words weren't well thought out. It was a look he had been very used to receiving from his wife when he was about to do something incredibly stupid, which usually meant anything to do with Genma or the Master, may he suffer for eternity in Yomi-no-Kuni.

"I," he coughed nervously, "I suppose that would be alright. It couldn't hurt to take a bit of time off, since you've been working so hard." His eyes widened in fear and panic as he suddenly reached forwards and grabbed Kasumi by her shoulders. "Please, please tell me that there is dinner and breakfast already made, please!"

Kasumi frowned, causing her father to freeze as she casually slipped out from his grasp. "There is dinner prepared, but you will have to sort out breakfast yourself. Akane will not be allowed in my kitchen father, so you will have to order take out or save food from dinner. I refuse to be forced to replace all of my ingredients and utensils again. Understood? If I find so much as a scratch on one of my pans it will be you who is responsible."

"V-very w-well dear." Soun said calmly. He didn't stutter, as that would infer that he was in some frightened by his daughter and her words; and there was no possible way a pure as freshly fallen snow Saint like his eldest could in any way, shape, or form be intimidating. No sir, his daughter was an Angel come to Earth, no doubt about that. Not even the darkening aura of dread tinting the edge of his vision did anything to blacken her pristine state. Although the way she smiled as she turned and walked away certainly didn't do anything to help his desperate attempts at self-assurance.

The moment his daughter was out of sight Soun let out a breath he hadn't even aware he had been holding, his body slumping in relief as the air rushed out his lungs. He wondered if he might not have made the correct choices in his life; in taking on Akane as his heir, in letting his eldest be married off against her apparent wishes, or in letting himself forget just how driven his wonderful wife could be when there was something she wanted, a trait that had evidently been carried on along with most of her essence within her eldest daughter.

If he could describe his daughters, then they would be the living reminders of their mother; each daughter seemed to possess traits that echoed strongly of the wonderful woman Soun had fallen in love with. It hurt him sometimes though, to realize that of the three only the eldest had seemed to do more than just carry the pieces, but rather she had assembled herself into something new. Akane had her mother's furious temper, but she lacked the self-control and difficulty to bring said temper to bear. She possessed her mother's vindictiveness against those who she deemed threats or trash, yet lacked the proper judgement and insight necessary to make the right choices. Nabiki was a genius with numbers, but she seemed to only care for her own needs, the financial support she gave the family due more to the fact that she didn't want to be forced to find somewhere else to live over a sense of familial responsibility, though Soun had a sense that she had slowly been growing and maturing out of that phase of her life.

And Kasumi, his dear sweet, sweet Kasumi. There were days — most when he was less than sober, but not all — when she would walk into the room and it would be as if his darling wife had returned to life, his legs begging him to start running and to never stop chasing her, his arms begging him to hug her and never let her go, his heart aching for him to kiss her and tell her how much he missed her; only for him to remember that his wife was dead, and that all he was looking at was her living ghost. Everything about her, from her mannerisms, to how she looked as she practiced her mother's techniques in the dojo, it hurt. It hurt him so much to know that he had pushed so much on her, and so soon after her mother's death; it was almost a miracle to see that she had managed to grow up so strongly despite that, and he couldn't help but feel fear at what his wife would do to him if she had seen what had happened him and her family.

He sighed and looked up into the sky, his eyes searching for answers his heart knew he would never find.

The Nerima General Emergency Hospital was, for such a relatively small ward of Tokyo, rather large and advanced. Of course, it had to be, considering it dealt with cases that most mainstream hospitals would have no idea how to handle; from victims of youma attacks, to martial artists suffering injuries that would permanently cripple a normal person, they were used to the strange. How they handled it varied from doctor to doctor, and nurse to nurse, but overall the atmosphere was strict and thorough, if a bit dark and gloomy at times.

Ryoga Hibiki was one such case, as he had been immediately taken to NGEH after the ambulance crew had seen the extent of his visible injuries. If he had been injured by any other martial artist he would have likely been taken to one of the hospitals outside of the ward, even if that might have taken longer to get there. But, unfortunately for him, he had the bad sense to pick a fight with one of the most dangerous individuals in Nerima.

His return to consciousness was by no means a quick and painless journey, in fact it was quite the opposite. He regained feeling slowly, and from the beginning he suffered from a barrage of agony as his advanced metabolism had worked through the anesthetics the hospital had supplied to keep him from feeling the effects of the beating he had taken.

If he had been able to, he would have screamed his throat raw hours ago, but thanks to the lasting effects of having a blade of energy slice into and through him had left him unable to move anything beyond his eyes. Outside of his room, the director of the hospital watched with interest.

"Curious," he wondered aloud as the dim lighting glinted off his orange-tinted glasses. "I wonder why seeing this boy suffer amuses me so." He stared for a moment more before shrugging and returning to his rounds. It wasn't the first time he had felt the inexplicable urge to cause certain patients pain, though it was usually reserved solely for that boy who came in dressed in his Kendo uniform, and he was pretty sure it wouldn't be the last. After all, the world truly was a dark and terrible place.

Ranma sighed as he silently observed the clouds passing overhead from his spot on the roof. It was peaceful, and he often took the time to simply come up here just so that he could relax and bleed off some stress. His thoughts drifted towards his last challenger, and he absently fingered the small letter in his pocket.

In all honesty he had let his temper get the better of him, much to his displeasure and Ryoga's misfortune. He had been doubly surprised when the police had arrived to ask him some questions about the altercation between the two martial artist first by the fact that Nerima actually had police, and secondly by the fact that they were worried about him because Ryoga had needed immediate surgery upon arrival to keep his heart from shutting down.

He snorted. It was no surprise that they were worried about him. He had already established that he was not one to mess with at school, and his latest display had firmly pointed out that he was capable of dealing with even surprise challengers with ruthless and brutal efficiency. One of the officers interviewing him had pointed out that he would have been impressed if he wasn't so absolutely terrified of being in the same room with him. A quick interview later — though it was much more along the lines of an interrogation — and Ranma was free to go with a warning to try and keep his opponents from getting sent to the morgue, or at the very least to keep that as a last resort. They didn't bother telling him to keep them out of the hospital, considering that to be a reasonable compromise.

It was almost flattering to think that the government considered him strong enough that they had relocated a squad from their Attacked Mystification Police, a special division that existed separate from both the normal police and the JSDF, to Nerima with orders to keep Ranma from going on a killing spree. Of course, the fact that they thought he would do something like that didn't endear him to the idea anymore than the thought of having a team of specialized supernatural and military experts charged with his death had done so already. But there were limits to what he could do, and he realized that fighting the government was one he would surely lose. Oh, he'd win a battle or two, or more, but in the end he'd be dead or the country in ruins, and he had no desire to see such a future come to pass.

He sighed again as he wondered just when his thoughts became so morbid. He was tempted to blame it on Amaya's influence, but thus far that had been limited to simply becoming inured to the oddness of his female body's abilities and a bit of dampening to his some of his more bothersome traits, according to her, such as his apparently rather large ego. No, his thoughts were his own, and didn't that just make things wonderful.

Ranma gave his head a shake as he forcibly redirected his thoughts back to their original path before he had gotten sidetracked.

He had arrived back at the Tendo household about an hour after Akane had arrived, as he had been delayed first by Ryoga and subsequently the police when they had arrived to get statements from the crowd who had witnessed the fight. Surprisingly enough, the youngest Tendo had not made it directly home either, having been forced to take a detour from the crowd that had choked her normal route she had ended up taking a longer and more roundabout way home. One of the consequences of this was the fact that she had completely bypassed Ranma's one-sided slaughter of his opponent, something that most likely would have caused the girl to have a jealous fit if she had been witness to it, as well as any of the crowd who had watched Ranma dismantle and summarily crush his opponent; thus leading to Nabiki taking advantage of her ignorance and confusion as to the source of the crowd near the school.

That had led to no small argument between Ranma and the rather hot-headed Tendo as she burst in on his practice in the dojo with accusations of picking fights with those weaker than him and purposefully causing his opponent needless pain. Of course, he wasn't going to tell her that she was correct for the most part, aside from the fact that Ryoga had been the one to challenge him, but he had let her vent — loudly and at length — for a few minutes before kicking her out of the dojo — though not literally, no matter how much he may have enjoyed it — before attempting to resume his practice, but by then it was too late and the peace of mind he had almost reached slipped away from his grasp.

Instead, he had carefully sneaked past the fathers, which wasn't an incredibly difficult feat to accomplish considering how absorbed they were with their never-ending game of Shogi, as well as Nabiki and Akane, and into the kitchen. Kasumi had been so focused on preparing dinner that she hadn't even registered his presence until he tapped her on the back of her shoulder. He would never admit it, but he hadn't even seen her move before he found his head facing the hall, as well as a growing palm shaped mark on his cheek.

He had barely heard her rapid stream of apologies over the sound of Amaya's uproarious laughter filling his head. It had taken several minutes, as well as a hasty reminder that there was food cooking, to get Kasumi to accept that; yes, it was an accident, and no, he did not need medical attention or anything else. As entertaining as it was for Amaya, the whole event had given Ranma the opportunity and incentive to offer his idea of taking a small vacation to Kasumi.

He quietly laid out his plan to her and the pair of teens silently finished cooking while they let their thoughts consume the rest of their focus. Ranma actually found the silence that had existed between them to be comforting, as it meant that Kasumi was giving his idea serious consideration instead of outright refusal like he had expected. She did have all of her familial obligations, including more than a few extra ones he did admit were his father's and his fault, and he was fully prepared for her to tell him that she simply couldn't leave her family on their own without her — the kamis alone knew Ranma wouldn't trust his own father for more than an hour out his sight, lest he gain further engagements that he would have to deal with, let alone the entire Tendo family. It truly was a wonder that Kasumi had done as good a job in keeping herself together as she had.

The decision would have to wait as the meal was finished being prepared before Kasumi could come up with an answer. Dinner had been an equally somber affair, the atmosphere tense underneath the weight of Akane's furious glare and Kasumi's quiet pondering. Even Genma seemed to notice something was different at the normally rowdy table, at least when he wasn't distracted by his food. For once Nabiki stayed silent instead of discussing the day's rumours and profits, while Soun reread the morning newspaper.

After the everyone was finished, Genma of course taking seconds and thirds, Ranma joined Kasumi in the kitchen to help her finish washing the dishes. Not wanting to trigger his curse, Ranma took over the drying and putting away of the cleaned dishes while Kasumi rinsed and scrubbed them clean. They hadn't even made it more than a couple of items in before a plate slipped through Kasumi's hands and into the sink, causing a predictable splash of water that resulted in Ranma abruptly losing a few inches of height, inches that made their way to other parts of his — now her — body.

The two teens were silent for a moment, both of them surprised by the sudden transformation, a mischievous grin slowly creeping across Ranma's face as she used one of her tails to grab one of the scrubbed dishes, while another wiped it dry. The other tails joined the first two, pairing off until only one was left, while Kasumi watched on with a blank expression. Ranma's eyes slid over to face her nominal fiancee, and sole trusted friend, and her remaining tail snaked along the ground behind Kasumi. With the eldest Tendo daughter's attention firmly, and somewhat disapprovingly — though Ranma could see her lip's twitching occasionally — fixed upon the tails being used to clean the dishes, she was completely unprepared for the cold water that splashed down the back of her neck.

"Eeeee!" She squeaked as she leapt upwards, her eyes wide from the surprise. Returning to the ground she stared silently at Ranma, who was grinning widely, his eyes all but twinkling with amusement. Then, faster than even Ranma could see, she spun around and grabbed a ladle, which had been used to dish out the soup with dinner, and in the same motion unleashed its contents on a very surprised redhead.

They stood there for a moment, silent save for the sounds of breathing and the slow drip-drop of water landing on the floor. Then, at some signal only they could see, they launched into motion. Ranma held the immediate advantage of having the sink directly by her side, providing her with a plentiful supply of ammunition, but Kasumi more than made up for it with mobility; Ranma was forced to stay near the sink lest she lose her advantage while Kasumi was free to move about the room, weaving through the projectiles hastily thrown her way courtesy of Ranma's tails.

So focused on defeating their respective opponent, neither one noticed the observer they had gained, curious as to the reason behind Kasumi's earlier surprised outcry. Whatever she had been expecting, and there were many possible situations she was anticipating walking in on, when she had stepped into the kitchen, the sight of her sister engaging in a water fight with someone that looked like they had stepped out of the pages of mythology — or one of her mangas — who bore a startling resemblance to her sister's fiance, certainly wasn't one of them.

"What. The. Fuck?"

Before she even realized it, Kasumi's head snapped around to pinpoint the source of the foul word that assaulted her ears. Over a decade of repetition made her frown and respond instinctively before she could even register that someone had been watching her and Ranma. Ranma herself blinked in surprise, her tails freezing midair as she realized that she had been caught, again.

"Nabiki! What have I told you about using that kind of language? And in front of a guest no less. Those kind of words are simply not acceptable for a young, respectable woman to be using."

Nabiki flinched backwards as she noticed the slight darkening at the edges of her vision, almost as if someone was slowly dimming the lights. She backpedaled frantically in the hopes of escaping the kitchen before it became fully manifest, but was brought up short as her back came into contact with the wall next to the door. Their mother's version had been bad enough, but Kasumi's was terrifying on a whole other level. In fact, she could already see the tunnel forming over her sister's shoulder, the boulder that covered the entrance being shoved aside by a too pale hand, the fingers dripping with rot and darkness.

"Nonononononono, " she didn't even realize she had started babbling, a trait she had been thus far able to keep anyone else aside from Kasumi from knowing about, as the Ranma watched on with curious eyes. Had Nabiki even partial control of herself she would have likely bit her lip to the point of drawing blood to keep herself from speaking. "Don't let it get me, I've been good, don't let it get me," her voice crawled higher and higher as she quickly became more and more panicked, to the point of borderline hysteria. "I don't want to see it, no more rot, I'm sorry,sorry, so sorry, stop, no more, please don't let it get me mama."

And just like that Kasumi dropped what she was doing, the darkness and cave with its horrific occupant vanishing as if they had never been, and was at her sister's side, cradling her head gently to her chest as she broke down into deep sobs. Ranma winced and looked away from the incredibly personal scene, focusing her mind instead on what Kasumi had done over what it had done to the heretofore stoic Nabiki. She had only been able to catch a part of it, standing off to the side and out the main line of effect as she was, but she had seen enough to know that she didn't want to know what lurked within that cave.

"Oh dear, I went and overdid it again didn't I." Kasumi murmured quietly as she gently stroked her sister's hair. "I forget how much that affects you sometimes." She sighed and gave Ranma an apologetic look. "Ranma, why don't you go take a bath and get changed for bed, I don't think I'll be going anywhere for a little while yet."

The redhead nodded and began to leave, stepping past Kasumi and a still tearful Nabiki, only to stop as the eldest Tendo's voice called out to her. "Ranma, before you go I think you might want to make sure everything is put away in its proper place." Ranma blinked at the odd statement and as she turned to ask what Kasumi had meant, she caught sight of her tails floating behind her. Blushing in embarrassment, she quickly hid her more startling features before anyone else could see them.

Cheeks dusted with red, Ranma chuckled quietly as she ducked out of the kitchen and headed towards the stairs, calling over her shoulder to Kasumi, "Thanks Kas-chan, I don't know what I'd do without ya." And to her surprise, Ranma meant that entirely. She had no idea what might have happened if she wasn't 'engaged' to Kasumi. Amaya knew, of course, but she wasn't willing to share that much with Ranma.

The eldest Tendo simply shook her head with a wry grin that faded as she turned back to her sister, the tears having stopped and been replaced by a pair of reddened eyes that nervously searched her face for any sign of a possible return of it. Kasumi let out an irritated sigh. "Now, what to do with you? I can't let you tell anyone about Ranma's curse, but I don't want to resort to such harsh measures against you... " her voice trailed off as she lost herself in her thoughts.

Somehow, Nabiki was sure that she might have been better off facing the cave again.

Ranma sighed and shook his head. He'd never admit it aloud, but sometimes he couldn't help but wonder at what his life might have been like had he not fallen into the spring he had; he knew his father would have still tried to force him to fulfill the pact between him and Soun, he had gathered that much from the rather limited access he had been given to his previous life's memories, but he wondered about the specifics, and how different they might have been.

He certainly wouldn't have bothered trying nearly as hard as he did at school if he didn't have Amaya offering her tantalizing new techniques and ki tricks, and he had no idea just how he would have handled Kuno and that other boy, whose name he couldn't remember. He tried to recall it, but gave up after a couple minutes in order to think of more important things.

Like how he was supposed to take Kasumi with him all the way to Chiba and back. If he had been going on his own he could have easily gone on foot, but he doubted that Kasumi possessed the same stamina and physical endurance that he did. And if they were going to be staying for the weekend then they would need to bring clothes as well. Not to mention they'd need to bring food unless they stopped somewhere to eat.

Closing his eyes, Ranma let his head fall back and rest against the cool tiles. It wasn't like he could simply conjure up a car for them to use, even ignoring that fact that he had no idea how to handle anything that didn't have two wheels on it. His cheeks twitched upwards as he focused on his last thought. It was a shame that his father had never let him go out and get his license, otherwise he'd have been able to take...

The pigtailed martial artist shot upwards as an idea occurred to him. He wasn't sure if the number he had was still good, but if it was...

Jumping off the roof, his legs compressing under him to soften his landing, he quickly darted inside past the fathers and grabbed the phone. He paused a moment to remember the exact number before dialing. There was a moment of silence before a dial tone came on, ringing twice before it was picked up on the other end.

"Yeah, Takahashi here, who is this?" snapped the voice on the other end of the line. Ranma smirked, it certainly sounded like he had gotten the right number. The fathers had turned and watched Ranma from the moment he had rushed inside and were joined by the youngest Tendo as they watched Ranma converse with his mysterious friend.

"Hey Keisuke, it's Ranma. I know, I know, it's been a while. Hey, it's not like I really had a chance to find a phone out in the middle of nowhere in China, alright? Anyway, listen, about that favour you owe me..."

"So Saotome, when's this friend of yours going to get here?"

Ranma rolled his neck away from the tv, wincing slightly as it popped and cracked from stiffness, and towards the hallway where Nabiki stood. The sun had set a couple of hours earlier, and the pair of teens were alone for the moment. The father's had retired to the yard and their Shogi board, Akane had headed up to her room for bed, and Kasumi was taking a relaxing soak in the furo. Nabiki appeared to have recovered from whatever the hell Kasumi had done, though her eyes did flick nervously towards the stairs every once in a while, her voice wavering only slightly. He stared at her silently for a minute before answering.

"I dunno, it depends when his race in Nakano is finished."

Nabiki gave him a surprised look. "Race? Is he doing some kind of marathon? No wait," she raised a hand as Ranma opened his mouth to correct her, "knowing your father and your alleged 'friend' you met earlier, he's probably some kind of martial artist too, isn't he?"

"No, not at all." The middle Tendo daughter blinked as she was once again thrown for a loop by his answer.

"Is he a cyclist or something then?"


"Sprinter then? A swimmer? Rollerblader?"

Ranma simply smirked at her - which irked her to no end considering it was an almost exact copy of the expression she used when she was dealing out information - and shook his head.

"None of those either. Actually he's a-" the roar of an engine caused Ranma to cut himself off and stand up, a bemused expression on his face. "Huh, whaddya know, he's here."

"Hey, where do you think you're going?" Nabiki asked as Ranma ignored her and headed towards the door. If there was anything that irritated her more than being ignored, she didn't know of it. She grit her teeth and gave the stairs one last look before following the pig-tailed teen.

"I was talking to you Saotome, you can't simply walk away like that. Are you even listening to - oh my."

There were very few things that could make Nabiki speechless. Her sister's technique, the first time she met Tatewaki Kuno, certain horror movies, and money. And while Nabiki might not have been an expert on cars, she could still recognize the fact that someone had spent not only a large amount of time in customizing the car, but a great deal of money as well. The car itself would have cost close to three and a half million yen (1), and all the additional custom parts would have only added onto that.

On the back was a large and oddly shaped object covered in a tarp and attached to the car via several cables. The engine rumbled loudly as it idled for a few moments before it was shut off. Ranma's face lit up with a wide grin as a head of blonde spiked hair popped out of the door. Nabiki felt her jaw drop as she recognized the man that stepped out of the car.

"'Suke, how ya been man? Your brother doin' alright?" Ranma asked warmly as he grabbed the tall and thin blonde in a rib-crushing hug.

Keisuke chuckled and gave Ranma a pat on the back. "I've done pretty well, though I'd be better if you weren't crushing my lungs," he responed wryly. Ranma's smile turned sheepish as he let go and took a step back. The blonde shook his head in amusement. "Still don't know your strength huh? And Ryosuke is doin' fine. He's already through his first two years of medical school, and with the way he's going I wouldn't be surprised if he managed to finish a year early."

Ranma leaned back and gave a low whistle. He had known the elder Takahashi sibling was smart, but he hadn't been quite aware just how smart. His eyes tracked over to the car and the shrouded object tied to the back. He couldn't help but grin madly at the thought of what was hidden underneath the tarp.

"So, " he nodded his head towards the car, "is that what I think it is?"

"Well, why don't you take a look and see for yourself. "Keisuke smiled and lead him over to his car, quickly untying a few of the cables before moving out of the way so Ranma could see underneath the tarp. The pig-tailed martial artist let out a low whistle, shaking his head as he leaned back. The taller blonde chuckled as he gave Ranma a pat on the back.

"You still as strong as I remember?"

Ranma blinked before turning and leaning against the car, a smug grin on his face. "Heh, even stronger."

"Good, then you shouldn't need my help unloading that beast." Ranma's grin was replaced by a dropped jaw as he stared at Keisuke.

"Are you kiddin' me? That thing's gotta weigh at least six-hundred pounds!"

"Actually, it's a little over seven-hundred." The blonde shrugged. "But who's counting anyway. You wanted it, you can probably handle it, so you have to take it yourself, I'm just a delivery man."

Ranma turned and gave him a half-lidded stare. "Right, just because your ass kept gettin' beat by tofu delivery kid doesn't mean you should try to imitate him."

"Low blow man, low blow."

"You want a low blow? I can give you a low, blow." Ranma said meaningfully as he shook a fist in the general direction of Keisuke's groin. The blonde held his hands up in supplication as he walked over and grabbed the object under the tarp. Ranma smirked at him as he grabbed the other end. "That's what I thought. Now, on three. One, two, three!"

With a heave from Keisuke, and barely any effort from Ranma — the blonde hadn't been too far off on his estimation of the part-time Kitsune's strength — the pair lifted the shrouded bulk off the car before setting it down on the street. Nabiki, having grown tired of being ignored, quickly joined the two.

"So," she began as she leaned towards the blonde, "who are you?"

The blonde seemed surprised by her question, glancing over at Ranma with some confusion, before shrugging. "I'm surprised Ranma hadn't mentioned me. Name's Takahashi Keisuke, professional street racer, and you?"

"Nabiki Tendo," she replied with a frown. While his name seemed familiar, as did his chosen profession, she still had no idea who he was, nor how he knew Ranma. "Not to pry, but how did you meet Ranma? Because, no offense, but he doesn't seem like the kind of guy you'd find involved with car racing. "

"Eh, he helped me out a scrape when a couple of old pals of mine decided they wanted a piece of me." Keisuke shrugged and gave Ranma a wry smile. "No big deal."

"No big deal he says," Ranma remarked. "What he forgets to mention is that those 'old pals of his'? They were Yakuza who used to be members of the bōsōzoku gang he led. And there were at least a dozen of them."

"Yeah, and you scared off half of them when you threatened to call the police, and then ran off the other half when you started chucking rocks at them." Keisuke gave Ranma one last grin before pulling away the tarp and folding it into a tight bundle. While Nabiki stared in surprise, the blonde gave Ranma's hand a quick shake before opening his car door.

"I'd love to stick around longer and relax with you, but I promised Ryosuke I'd be back before sunset, so I figure I got about an hour to make it home. Make sure you treat her right, okay?"

Ranma grinned and gave his friend a nod as the blonde got in his car and drove off. Still grinning, Ranma leaned down and picked up the motorcycle Keisuke had bought him after saving his life. The pig-tailed martial artist gave Nabiki a brief glance — the middle Tendo lost in dreams of piles of money and new blackmail targets — before wheeling the bike into the yard.

He had to admit, when Keisuke had said he'd get him a ride of his own, he had been expecting a scooter at worst and a relatively cheap motorcycle at best. Instead, the younger Takahashi had gone and spent over half of what his own car had originally cost in purchasing and customizing Ranma's bike, and he had taken the original motorcycle and transformed it into something that seemed more like it belonged in an anime than real life.

The chassis was still obviously a Yamaha V-Max, but the engine had upgraded to a larger capacity, a supercharger had been attached, and the body had been replaced as well. It was more of a monster than a motorcycle, and if Ranma had cared more for vehicles of any sort he would have probably been a lot more impressed.

He still had to admit it was pretty intimidating bike, but it wasn't anything he'd use often. Tracing the lines of the bike slowly, he made a note to see if Furinkan had an automotive club, because he had no clue how to take care of a motorcycle. He gave the seat a pat before turning and heading into the house. He couldn't wait to leave, and all that was left now was to make sure he and Kasumi were packed. Even so, he couldn't help but think he was forgetting something as he closed the door to the house.

Outside, Nabiki began to twitch as a thin line of drool began to leak from the corner of her mouth.

As dusk overtook the Land of the Rising Sun the sound of gentle and calming laughter filled the air, piercing past the sounds of modern life and through the roar of engines as a blur wove through a web of glowing red taillights.

Ranma grinned widely as he gunned the motorcycle and shot past a cargo truck. The feeling of Kasumi's arms wrapped around his chest made his face feel warm and he was all too glad for the obscuring bike helmet he wore. Kasumi herself was having the time of her life, her hair free from it's usual ribbon and fanning out behind her as the wind blew past.

The arms wrapped around him gave a brief squeeze and Ranma edged the needle on the speedometer up further. The cars and faces of the drivers the pair passed had long ago turned into nothing more than blurs, barely visible in the artificial lights of the cars and streetlamps. Even the buildings along the road seemed to become smaller, the gaps between them letting through quick snapshots of Tokyo Bay as they passed them by.

Even with the occasional stop for a red light, the entire journey from Nerima to Chiba took just over and hour and a half. At another stop Ranma pulled out a small sheet of paper and checked it quickly before turning off down a side street. Following the directions lead them down several mostly empty streets, as well as past the Nekomi Institute of Technology campus, before finally arriving at the address Ranma had been given.

Pulling up in front of the gate, Ranma flicked off the engine and set down the kickstand as he removed his helmet. Behind him Kasumi removed her own helmet to give the residence a surprised glance.

"Oh my, I didn't know your friend was priest Ranma-kun," she said quietly as she studied the temple. Ranma simply shrugged and dismounted from his bike before reaching out to offer a hand to Kasumi, who smiled warmly at him before ignoring the offer and easily getting off on her own. Shaking his head, Ranma grabbed their bags and slung them over his shoulder before walking over to the gate.

Stepping over the threshold, he felt a moment of discomfort, almost as if someone had draped a blanket across his senses. Kasumi stopped next to him and looked around in confusion, evidently feeling the same sensation he was. They both suddenly blinked, and the strange feeling vanished. Sharing curious looks, the two of them more cautiously stepped up to the door.

Ranma considered it for a moment before reaching and rapping against it twice with his knuckles. Stepping back, he heard a muffled shout and the sound of movement before the door opened up. Out stepped a familiar, if somewhat confused face, causing Ranma's face to almost split with the size of his smile.

"Can I help yo—" the woman began, her voice startling Kasumi with it's similarity to her own, before she recognized who was standing in front of the door. Her own face brightened as she raised a hand to her mouth in shock. "Ranma-kun!"

"Hey Bell-chan, how are you?"

Oh look, an update. Sorry for being so long, but between my original novel, college, and various family matters, fanfiction took a back seat for me for a long while. I'm trying to get back into the swing of things, but I've still got a month left for this semester of college, so no promises on when I'll be back.

A bit filler-ish I know, but I don't want to rehash canon, and I know none of you want to read the same old stuff either, hence why I need to properly set up everything else so that you can see why things have happened and where there going to go.

(1) Okay, this may seem overly exaggerated, but with the current exchange rate, that puts the car at about 35000 dollars. It just seems really big. But hey, considering it, if you really, really want to be a millionaire, all you have to do is earn up about ten grand and convert it into yen.

Bonus points for those of you who are able to identify the source of the Police force assigned to Nerima, without having to look it up first. Same for the hospital and its director, and Keisuke Takahashi, though those two should be the easy ones.

Additional Ahri/Amaya/Ranma images will be added to my profile (eventually). Check them out there for anyone interested.