Damn. Just damn. I didn't realize until the devian and others pointed it out to me that my formatting hadn't carried over into the online chapter, which is really weird because it was all there after I cut and pasted it in. So here is the story with format changes. Special thanks also the devian and Vandenbz for showing me some of my writing mistakes. Does anyone know why indenting doesn't work? It makes the story look a little strange.

"speech" Thoughts, - scene change time change perception change

Lion of Light


Ranma was flying through the air via Air-Akane once again. As he passed a startled pigeon, he sighed in such a depressed manner anyone who knew him would have blinked in shock. The fact that this was an unpaid ticket, i.e. one that he had not earned via the famous Saotome foot in mouth attack, was only one of the myriad things that had depressed the usually cheerful youth.

It had been a month since the Wedding Fiasco (it truly deserved the capital letters, even in his own mind), and things had gone rapidly downhill from their normal chaotic routine. First Akane had become even more violent and untrusting towards him, always screaming at him for any little thing and if he left her side for even a moment accused him of going out with 'his whores' as she called Ukyo and Shampoo.

Ranma shivered and looked around him, yep, still gaining altitude. It wasn't as if her hits actually hurt, thanks to the Bakusai Tenketsu training he had recreated they barely bothered him at all but they somehow were sending him higher and farther each time, an odd combination. Makes for good mid-air combat practice though.

It's the untrusting aspect that really hurts. She was so nice when I arrived, and then just turned around and hated my guts when I turn out to be a guy. No matter whose fault it was she called him a pervert and hit him. He had tried to be friends, had tried to get her to trust him but nothing worked. What love he had felt for her had died by inches. It had sometimes been fed by brief moments of kindness and concern but he had realized in the past month or so that this was not enough to keep his hope for more alive.

Not that it matters a damn: I'm still engaged to her. The old sacks of crap that we call fathers are still harping on about how the schools must be joined, despite the decision to put off an actual wedding. Ranma had no idea if they were both that blind and stupid, or simply had fallen into a mental rut, and at this point didn't care. As for the others…

Cologne and Shampoo were both still after him to marry the Amazon girl, only now they were using underhanded and dirty tricks every chance they got. They had not let up at all after the wedding, and it was becoming dangerous to eat anything that he did not actually help Kasumi make. It's gettin' so bad I can't even trust any of the ice cream shops around here. Passion spice in my chocolate ice cream, yeesh! At least all the trouble with magic items and shit seems to have convinced 'em that magic ain't the answer.

Ukyo was also still after him, though she at least had given him a week to get over his rage at her interference at the wedding. He had nearly put Shampoo in traction when she showed up, instead taking his rage out on a handy Kuno, who had shown up just in time to attack the 'foul sorcerer.' Kuno had been hospitalized since then, pushing three weeks today. Ukyo was also not coming after him as aggressively, appearing to take up a waiting attitude, and perhaps reconsidering the idea they could have a future together. He was thankful for it, but still wary of her. She had used his confidences and his honor against him in the past too often. I hope my peace offering will get her to quit altogether, but I'm not going to hold my breath.

His parents were completely insane, seeing the world in a way that only conformed to their own desires. Mom's the one I'm most disappointed in. I've always known panda-man for an idiotic, lyin', cheatin', child-abusin' son of a bitch, but I hoped mom'd be different. Different had proven to simply be worse She's always harping on about manliness, without actually explaining it, and trying to run my life, just like the old man, only through words and terror rather than brute force and bitching about honor. Her ideas of manliness changes every time I talk to her, and she still carries that damn katana around…

Suon was even worse in a way. His sheer spinelessness and laziness toward anything but the joining of the two houses was disgusting. The man barely resembled a human being, let alone a father figure or a head of a household.

His rivals were also in the mix, though the mix had changed slightly in composition. The principal was still insane, and each school day Ranma was forced to diffuse a new attack or scheme of his, and the less said about Kuno the younger the better. At least Kodachi hasn't been around since the school year started.

His rivalry with Mousse on the other hand had changed drastically. A week after the wedding the two of them had met up while Ranma was mediating at a Shinto temple, a place he knew none of the others would think to find him near (Mousse was there to deliver a takeout order to the monks). Mousse had decided after the Saffron battle never to challenge Ranma one on one again. He was more than a little afraid of the boy who had killed a god.

Instead, the two of them had talked. Ranma for some reason poured his heart and frustrations out, possibly because of the meditation he had been doing. His lack of control over his own life, the fact that he had fallen out of love with Akane, his rage at everyone pulling at him in different directions all came out to the bespectacled Amazon male.

Mousse in turn vented his own frustrations, surprising Ranma. Mousse, despite his continual chasing of Shampoo, had changed in his time in Nerima. He no longer wanted to go back to being a mere male in a female dominated society, but did not want to give up on his quest for Shampoo. Her actions at the wedding though had severely tarnished her image in his eyes. The two had left the temple agreeing not to fight any longer, but had no clue how to take control of their lives at this point. One was trapped by culture, past and desire, the other by his own honor, family and conflicting responsibilities, none of which were of his own making.

Ryoga, his main rival for so long, still kept coming around, using his pig form to drive a wedge between himself and Akane, though Ranma had stopped caring about that so much. What bothers me is that I know Ryoga's in a relationship with Akari, he's bragged about it a few times after all, and he's still going after Akane. He simply blames it on me, saying that he'll never rest until he has his 'revenge' on me and ignores his own dishonorable actions. He keeps on comin' up with new techniques, but none of them are really any good for anythin' but surprise. Pork-butt just ain't in my league anymore. Since his battle with Saffron Ranma's ki reserves had grown so much that he was simply beyond Ryoga in any way, which was part of another problem growing in Ranma's mind. Ryoga was getting more and more desperate every fight though, and seemed to have completely stopped caring about who got in his way. Twice Ranma had saved normal bystanders from his breaking point shrapnel, as well as his iron cloth bandanas.

The only bright spot in Ranma's life right now was his relationship with the two older Tendo daughters.

He had always been friendly with Kasumi, but their relationship had become much closer after his mother showed up. Kasumi was the one to be there for him and listen to his problems with his parents and sometimes give him advice. She was also the one who helped him through the hardest time in his life: finding out that his girl form was fully functional.

The time he spent in girl form had finally added up, and he had gotten his first period. He was able to change forms back, but the problem merely waited for him to change back. He'd come out of his morning fight with the panda, nauseous, feeling like he was going to die and panicking because he was bleeding down there. Kasumi calmed him down, explained what was going on, and even how to use certain feminine products before Akane had gotten back from her run and beaten him for hanging out with her sister. I still ain't happy about it, but I can't really complain, not after all the times my girl-form has helped me out. And it's great for scoring free eats, or was anyway. My ice cream…

Their relationship had changed again when Kasumi had mentioned offhand that Ranma's speech was like his father's. This was something he hated, and she had offered to help him correct it. Ranma no longer sounded like an uneducated and boorish jock, at least most of the time. Everyone but his father, Suon and Akane had praised him on it. Suon never noticed, Akane didn't care, and his father felt he was wasting time he could be spending on training. As if the old man was in shouting distance of me now without ambushing me in my sleep.

He in turn helped her out around the house and in the kitchen. Working together with her cooking became one of his favorite things to do outside of practicing his art. Moving around one another, flowing together seamlessly toward a goal with another person is a tremendous feeling, something I've never felt before. He also found he liked her secretive, subtle sense of humor, as well as the willpower that Kasumi so carefully hid under her normal oblivious act. She controlled the family not with an iron first, but a grip of silk, which was far harder to escape.

Of course, that only gave Akane another reason to be mad at me: spending time with her sister (obviously flirting) and my cooking skills are already better than hers and gettin' better. He thought about the poundings he endured from Akane, than Kasumi's gently smiling face and bright brown eyes, the sheer joy he felt around her. Feh, worth it.

An' then there's Nabiki... His relationship with the middle Tendo was rocky at best, and with far more downs than ups. That had changed over the summer before the Saffron Incident, when he had learned that he was in danger of being held back an additional year at Furinkan. He had asked Nabiki for tutoring in school, much as Kasumi was doing for him in manners and etiquette. The two had spent time together, and despite his having to pay her for the privilege, had become closer. Though again his father accused him of getting soft, despite Ranma's ability to play with him like a giant tennis ball.

Ranma had realized that the money she was getting from her various dealings did not go towards her but to keeping the family afloat. Nabiki had a desk, a small manga collection (which were confiscated from bad debts, presents or Akane), a bed and a dresser half full of clothes, most of which were hand me downs or 'borrowed' from Akane. When he compared this to the luxury and number of outfits Akane had in her room it was obvious.

It had never occurred to him that Suon's 'job' on the city council did not bring in enough money to pay for everything but Nabiki had shown him her ledger. It shocked him how much money went to feed his father and himself and to repair the dojo after fights with his various opponents.

After that, he had become a willing aid in her efforts to rake in money via betting and pictures. He posed in both forms for the one (tastefully, no more soft porn shots of either form), and went out of his way to make the fighting more interesting so that the payoff for her was bigger. Ranma also made an effort to keep fights away from the dojo, which worked until the wedding fiasco.

Given their friendship, he had listened to her explanation about her actions at the wedding.


Ranma waited in the tree outside Nabiki's room, his ruined wedding shirt over one arm, chest bared to the wind, as he waited in the dark for everyone to go to sleep. Nabiki had gone out earlier, and he had attempted to talk to Akane, only to take her mallet to his head so many times it was a wonder he wasn't a pancake. He had helped Kasumi clean up the dojo and the house, while his mother had dragged the old men over the coals for how they had been acting during the wedding fiasco itself. His parents had left to go back to his mother's new apartment (her old house was demolished by the Nerima Wrecking Crew) and Soun had sobbed himself to sleep over several bottles of sake.

Ranma looked up and finally saw his target entering her room. She put some money on her plain wooden desk before sitting down in her chair before finally letting her self control slip. For a moment, her look of exhaustion and sorrow almost made him rethink confronting her, but he steeled himself and moved forward lightly.

Nabiki laid her head down on the table, wondering how the day had gone so very wrong. The fact that she had no small hand in it was merely the icing on the poisoned cake. I know I had to stop it, but was that really the best way?

She jerked upright at the sound of her window opening. She turned and stared as Ranma slid in, standing there in her room, still wearing the tattered remnants of his tuxedo. It took all of Nabiki's vaunted willpower not to drool at the sight of his ripped chest and washboard abs. Washboard, hell, they look like skin-covered steel. Fuck, the guy really is too hot for words! The fact that he was looking angry and expectant did nothing to help her libido, a part of her she had suppressed through sheer strength of will for years.

She mentally shook herself and forced her eyes to remain on his face, though again his sapphire eyes did not help matters. "I presume you want an explanation Soatome." The words came out as a statement not a question.

Ranma nodded his head sharply. "I'm waiting for one because I think we're friends Nabiki. Now would you like to tell me why my friend decided to stab me in the back like this?" The words came out harder than he intended but nearly being blown to pieces and losing a chance for a cure would be enough to make anyone angry.

Nabiki smiled a little sadly. I really do consider Ranma a friend, the first real friend I've had for a long time. I need to say the right things here. "Let me ask you a question Saotome were you ready to be married? I can tell you Akane wasn't. Well, she was, but for all the wrong reasons, and I think you know it."

Ranma's eye narrowed, but he was forced to concede the point. Akane's words to him earlier and before the wedding disaster confirmed that she had not been in love with him, which had been his own faint hope. Instead, she thought marrying him was a fantastic way to prove once and for all that she was better than the other women around him. She wants to be a 'better woman and martial artist' without actually puttin' in the work and that pisses me off. It's like she saw marrying me as some kinda short cut. What the hell is with these people and treating me like a prize in an arcade game?

Nabiki took his silence as a cue to go on. "Kasumi and I weren't involved in the planning process of the wedding until this morning Ranma. It was too late for either of us to stop it at that point. I did deliver the invitations to everyone, I admit to that, but I really didn't expect them to start a massive brawl. I never thought they were that crazy." She indicated the money on her desk. "This is money to pay for the damages caused. I was only able to get the Kuno's to agree to pay though. The rest of the damages will have to come out of the family budget."

Her eyes hardened perceptibly. "Don't think for one second I'd plan something like this and then be forced to pay for it out of my own hard earned cash. The chaos and destruction were not in my plans."

Ranma nodded sadly, shivering slightly at her ice-cold stare. It was true; Nabiki would never have planned something like this without some way to profit from it. It ain't like the local insurance company will have anything to do with the Tendo home any more. She also ain't a fighter, she always wants to talk or deal. My rivals and so called fiancées however ain't exactly rational most of the time. "I'll try ta get the others ta pay up if that helps Nabs. But why in Buddha's name did Ryoga and the old man show up? I can't believe they'd have been invited."

Nabiki leaned back herself rubbing her temples briefly, unconsciously thrusting her chest out at Ranma, who blushed and looked away for a moment, though a small almost forgotten part of him enjoyed the view. "Pure coincidence, there were no invitations and none of us know how to get in contact with either of them anyway."

She looked at his slumped form for a moment, before going over and giving him a friendly hug. Her nipples hardened even through her shirt at the contact with his bare muscled chest, but she pointedly ignored her churning insides as she comforted him. "I'm sorry you lost your cure Ranma, I hadn't heard about it until Ryoga and Mousse showed up demanding some. If I had I would've tried to get it somewhere safe."

Surprisingly, Ranma believed her. It would be just like pops and Suon to screw up that way, keep it a secret from us and then blab at the worst possible moment. I'll just have to continue to deal with the curse as is. Ranma slowly put his arms around Nabiki, hugging the shorthaired girl back, anger slowly dissipating, replaced by a growing sense of something he could not name, but which bothered the heck out of him.

End Flashback

The two of them had grown closer since then, relying and trusting in one another more than they could let on to anyone else. Nabiki had also helped him take minor revenge on his old man, the Amazons and Suon. She proved to be a master prankster, and for two weeks after the event, she and Ranma came up with small and irritating ways to make their lives hell.

She nearly got the Nekohanten closed down due to a spontaneous safety inspection. Shampoo found all her makeup and beauty supplies stolen. Genma found dead rats in his backpack and no hot water to change back for meal times. Suon's sake supply was replaced by water. The Kuno's had to deal with safety inspectors at their house, and mysterious smells in their clothing. The principal found superglue coating his sheers.

With Nabiki to think up schemes and Ranma and his umi-sen-ken to perform them, the prankster duo terrorized everyone on their list until Kasumi put her foot down. She was all for a little revenge, but the continual pranks began to affect the wa of the house (naturally the pranks against those people outside the family continued. Pranks, Ranma found were an amazing way to relieve stress). Also, the sight of Nabiki and Ranma chuckling and giggling to one another had given Akane even more reason to be angry with him, causing more property damage. Ranma thought of the beatings she gave him, then Nabiki's rare smile, how it lit up her eyes as she tried to hide her giggles behind her hand. Feh, worth it.

Ranma also respected Nabiki's iron will. She's got more self control than anyone else I know 'cept her older sister, but unlike Kasumi Nabs don't hide it. It's there for all to see in her emotional control, in her business dealings and her determination to help her family as much as she can.

Kasumi and Nabiki had both become family to him, far more than his own flesh and blood parents had. If not for them, he really would have run away by now, especially with how violent Akane had become after the wedding.

It ain't like I'm pissing her off more or anything. With Kasumi's help, he had curbed his talk first attitude, and tried to patch things up, but nothing seemed to work. She's hitting me harder and more often for less reason every week that goes by. It's as if she's turning into a masochist, enjoying my pain.

The other aspect of his current depression was very hard to understand given all the personal and emotional problems he still had to deal with on a daily basis.

Christ I'm bored!

His whole life was dedicated to martial arts. He lived, breathed for one thing: to push himself in the art as hard, as far as he could. He wasn't like Akane, Kuno or even the old men and Happosai, who had reached a point in their art and declared it the highest level, refusing to learn further and ignoring all evidence to the contrary. There's always more to learn, and I ain't learning any more staying here, especially with all the crap still going on getting in the way of my training.

Ever since his fight with Saffron he had been falling into a rut, with only one thing changing since the phoenix god's death: Ranma could no longer use the soul of ice technique. Whenever he tried, he failed, and so he had been forced to give it up. He had developed a fire aura since dealing with the phoenix god, something he put down to accidentally taking in some of the phoenix's ki during their battle, and it impaired his ability to form the necessary coldness and emotional control. He had experimented with at night, the only time no one bothered him, and came up with his own technique, which he name the Soul of Fire. With it, he imbued his muscles and body with the power of flame, enhancing his speed, strength and endurance much like he could already do with ki but even more so. It did not help with his emotions or self-control like the soul of Ice. If anything, it made his emotions more out of control than before, but he could keep it up longer and was now faster and stronger than ever before. And because of his exercises with it, his ki reserves had also grown exponentially. Bet I could give Herb a run for his money in that department. Now if he turned up it'd liven things up a bit.

As it is, none of my rivals or fiancées can touch me except in large groups. Cologne's no match for me, she ain't been since before Saffron. Now I'm so much better than her it ain't even funny, and the old ghoul is either blind to it, or wants ta possess me even more 'cause of it. Happosai had not been seen since the wedding, so Ranma did not yet know how he would fare against the ancient grandmaster, but he thought he'd fare just as well against him as against Cologne.

What Ranma truly craved deep in his heart was to have a supportive family to come home to and adventures that would push him to grow greater in the Art. He was not getting either of those things anymore here, if in fact he had ever had them in the first place. His abusive home life and lack of freedom was slowly gnawing into his self control to the point where even he was starting to notice it.

Something had to give soon, he just wished he could figure out what. With a sigh the martial arts prodigy turned in mid air, feeling his now down ward momentum, cancelling and channeling it in bursts, making his way towards his target, a park on the outskirts of Nerima.

Nabiki looked up from her morning soak in the bath, her dreams of hard muscles, sapphire eyes and laughter giving way to a wave of annoyance at Akane's cry of "pervert!"

She sighed wistfully as she levered herself out of the bath. It's not like I've seen enough to take it past the making out stage. I have to 'accidentally' walk in on him in the bath one of these days like my 'dear' little sister. But maybe Akane has gotten fed up with him again...

Her thought was reflective but heartfelt: that her sister would at last do the unthinkable again and pass her fiancée off to Nabiki, as she had nearly a year ago. Only this time, I won't be so afraid of the other girls and commitment. No way am I going to let Ranma go again.

The thought was only half true and she knew it. At the time, Nabiki had yet to get to know Ranma the man, rather than Ranma the dependent. Sure he had been good looking but what did that matter? That was a long time ago though, and she, at least had learned to see the good in Ranma: he was kind, gentle, honorable in a quirky fashion despite the ruin his father had made of his life and family honor, intelligent and driven to excel at anything, once he saw the point in doing so. She figured this out when he came to her for tutoring sessions: he admitted to having only been in school for a few months his entire life before coming to Nerima, yet he was still passing (though barely) all of his classes. That both shocked and impressed her.

Ranma also has a decent sense of humor, and is a good listener. They had stayed up dozens of times after tutoring sessions and just talked, sharing their lives with one another. Nabiki had introduced him to fantasy novels, mangas and music, all of which were things his father never allowed him to have on the road.

He's also the most exciting thing that ever happened to me. Despite the turmoil, she had enjoyed most of his time in their house, save his constant arguments with Akane, and the added strain of managing the family budget which was mostly caused by the constant repair work on the house and dojo, as well as his father's appetite for food. The fact that father and the fat panda also drink their weight in sake every night also hurts our budget.

After getting dressed into her school uniform, she walked out to breakfast, finding her younger sibling, still clutching her mallet and nearly incandescent with fury. She looked up and noticed the large hole in the porches cupola. Quickly adding the cost of repair up in her mind, she glared at Akane. "That's a good 10,000 yen you owe me little sister. I will remind you again to reign in your temper around the house."

Akane glared back at her. "Blame Ranma for it Nabiki, it's his fault for not eating my cooking."

Nabiki had been trying to avoid looking at the table. Plates of brown, steaming something and unidentifiable vegetable products were sitting there, along with what looked to be Kasumi-made rice balls. She reached down and plucked one of the rice balls, leaning back quickly. I swear that brown gunk moved for a second!

Nabiki glanced into the kitchen to see Kasumi already hard at work cleaning up the mess the youngest Tendo had once again made of her kingdom. Kasumi looked up and sighed sadly at Nabiki, who nodded in turn. She could feel the sadness in the air of the house, the wa responding to its mistresses distress.

She looked around noticing that the two supposed men of the house had vacated the premises already, before turning back to Akane. "I don't doubt for a moment he didn't want to eat your meal, but that's no reason to belt him one and certainly no reason to cause more damage to our home. We're still paying off the bill for the dojo's rebuilding and you still haven't paid for the last five holes you made."

Akane blanched visibly at the Ice Queen's glare, but she shook it off. "it's Ranma's fault. If he wasn't such a pervert I wouldn't have to correct him all the time."

Nabiki sighed, suddenly weary. Ancestors, I need more coffee and patience to deal with Akane than with the yakuza. Of course, I had Ranma backing me up then… "That's just it Akane, you never think, you never stop, and you never listen! He's tried to have better manners, he's tried to be nicer to you and not argue with you, and he's even tried to solve his problems with the other fiancées. He has been trying constantly for the last month." Without much success admittedly, except possibly in Ukyo's case, though he did make peace with Mousse, that's a plus. "And I've yet to see you put forth even the tiniest bit of effort to get along with him!"

Akane's aura flared up again, filling the room with a red flickering light. "Why the hell should I help that pervert when he won't even eat my meals! I bet he's off right now somewhere with one of those hussies! The perverted freak, I can't trust him for a minute! And if you're so determined to defend him then"

Nabiki's voice was as cold as an icicle as she cut off her sisters rambling. "Alright." Akane stopped, her aura guttering out in the face of Nabiki's icy tone. "You were just about to give him away again weren't you? I'll take him Akane, if that's what you want." It actually hurt to think of Ranma as something that could be passed back and forth like that these days, but she stifled that feeling and glared at Akane who backed away shaking her head. "But understand me Akane. If you give Ranma to me again, you won't get him back this time." With that Nabiki walked out the door on her way to school, leaving behind a very confused and suddenly shell-shocked sibling.

Kasumi smiled to herself in her ruined kitchen, having heard the entire exchange. She could not bring herself to join in, but had been grateful that at least Nabiki had learned that Ranma had many good points. She herself had long ago realized she was falling in love with him.

Initially Kasumi had judged the cursed boy by his age and seeming immaturity. But as time went on and she learned more about him, she realized most of his immaturity was caused by his father, a man who, she felt, deserved a special place in hell for the tortures he had put Ranma through.

She at first had considered him something between a project (how to civilize the Wild Horse) and a little brother. That feeling had morphed when she allowed herself to see him as a young man, and not a boy. After all, she thought now, Boys are feckless, lazy, hormonally obsessed and oftentimes egotistical. Ranma is kind, selfless, and above all driven in a way very few men are, even if he has an ego in his chosen field. He has a goal, to be the best martial artist he can personally be, and has dedicated his life to it. He is also inherently honorable and selfless to a fault. Yet all most people see is a tool or a prize, not the man he has become since arriving here. It gave Kasumi a warm fuzzy feeling inside to think that she had played a part in that growth.

Alas, with Ranma engaged to her younger sister, she was in no position to act on her feelings. Yet she was becoming increasingly concerned, remembering the morning's incident. Ranma is becoming closer and closer to the edge of his patience with Akane and the other fiancées, I can see it in his eye, in how he stands and holds himself, feel it in the wa when he is at home, and that worries me. She knew for a fact he was many times stronger than any of them or his rivals, and the thought of a berserk Ranma was a frightening one. Thankfully, he has not entered the neko-ken in the past few months. I hope my teachings help him control himself. While I have lost all respect for Akane and father, they are still family and I would not like to see them or anyone else hurt or worse.

She sighed aloud as she heard the door slam again after Akane's departure. Perhaps she should take a bath now. Hopefully, Akane's meal will have evolved legs and escaped by the time I'm done...

Half a world away, Brianna Diggers, clone copy of Brittany and Gina Diggers was trying to sneak herself and her best friend Genn past Gina's lab to the teleporter. They had found out yesterday that Stripe had finally bit the bullet and proposed to Brittany while the family was in Eden for a picnic.

Brianna was devastated, but had hid it well, knowing deep down that her crush on Stripe was nothing but the remnants of Brittany's personality amalgamated with her own. Still, she really needed to blow off some steam, and had convinced (threatened him with a 96- hour sex-marathon) Genn to come with her to the Dragon Palace, where she could shoot super powered baddies to her heart's content.

Her attempt was futile as Gina exited her lab just in time to catch the two of them heading out. "Brianna perfect timing. I need someone to head to Japan and pick up some specialized parts for me I ordered. They refuse to ship them because of the added expense (and several international laws heh), and I can't get away from my work just now. My new time-lapse research is at a crucial stage. Can you go please? Please? Pretty please?"

Brianna groaned as her sister used the whiny voice and puppy face on her. Just once I wish I could do that, but noooo, my face has to have just enough cat to it that I can't pull off the puppy face. She still tried to get away, but her resistance was futile. After ten minutes of concentrated whining, she gave up. "Alright already I'll go on your stupid errand." After all, I can just buy the parts, and then head from Japan to the dragon tower.

Behind Brianna, Genn heaved a sigh of relief. He was still not sanguine about the original target of their jaunt. He knew Brianna had not given up on it, but at least this would postpone it, giving him more time to talk to her about what was really bothering her. Brianna and Genn moved to stand in the teleporter, and with the sound of the Star Trek teleporter ringing in their ears (not from the actual device but from a special speaker set into the ceiling) found themselves standing in one of Gina's labs, located in Tokyo Japan.

Ranma jumped over the Tendo dojo's wall, body incased in his own version of the umi-ken-sen. He breathed a sigh of relief and released the technique as his senses told him panda man™, waterworks factory™ and angry tomboy(patent pending) were no longer on the premises. He moved into the dining room and sighed at the mess. He listened for a moment and could hear humming coming from the furo. He nodded. I would have wanted a bath before tackling this mess myself, that is if I didn't have my katchu tenshin Amaguriken, Heh. He moved swiftly, using his Amuguriken technique to speedily clean up the dining room, dispose of Akane's science experiment (no way was he going to call that cooking, not in a house Kasumi cooked in) and clean up the kitchen. After a final second of looking around to make certain he had cleaned everything he reached into his pocket.

Ranma and Mousse had fought so often that he had been able to copy the hidden weapons technique. He did not use it in battle, as he didn't like weapons, but to carry stuff it was very useful. Reaching into his ki pocket he pulled out a full set of pots and pans he had purchased a week ago. Ranma had planned to give it to Kasumi for a birthday present (nice, useful unromantic and safe, which amounted to the same thing) but looking at the destroyed remnants of the kitchens set, realized they would be needed now.

Ranma wrote up a note and put it on the dining table before racing up and grabbing a towel out of the closet. Using his new heart of fire technique, he warmed it slightly, so that it felt as if it had just come out of the dryer. He stealthily placed it on top of the towels already in the changing room, and then left as quietly as he had arrived, heading to school. He knew from experience that if he didn't show up at some point Akane was going to beat him down even harder that evening.

He arrived just in time to be late for second period. Thank god Hinako sensei is home with a cold, no ki-draining vampire today!

Kasumi felt someone enter her house. Her control of the wa allowed her much of the same sensitivity in her own domain that Ranma's ki senses gave him. She identified the newcomer as Ranma, but allowed herself to enjoy her bath. After ten more minutes, she exited the furo. She reached for a towel and smiled in simple pleasure at its warmth. Wrapping it around herself, she exited the changing area, knowing that no one was home. Even if someone were to come home, the house itself would warn her and keep them away long enough for her to get changed.

Kasumi came downstairs from changing and looked around lips forming a mischievous smile. She remembered how hard Ranma had trained to use the Amazon speed technique, and the idea of him using it to clean tickled her fancy. She looked in the kitchen and was surprised to see a new set of pans and knives already in place. Ranma must have bought them with his own money, She thought wonderingly. It was things like this, when his innate kindness came out, that had made her fall for him. And the fact that he is one of the hottest men you've ever met or even seen doesn't hurt, now does it?

Kasumi smirked in a way Nabiki would have recognized immediately at that thought as she picked up the small note from the table.

Kasumi, sorry about the hole in the awning. I'da tried her food, but Akane didn't even wait for me ta speak before hitting me into orbit. I cleaned up as best I could. Sorry if it's not up to your standards. I replaced the pans 'n stuff. Hope you like them. If you want, I can help you use 'em to make dinner tonight. See ya,


Kasumi sighed aloud, holding the card to her chest as her smirk widened to a full smile. She realized that she was looking forward to making dinner together with Ranma. Kasumi knew it was wrong to have these feelings for her youngest sisters fiancée, but could no longer stop herself. Oh, Ranma, whatever are we going to do?

Ranma cursed from his perch on Kuno's head. The idiot had thought that just by slashing a sword around, he could overcome his huge disadvantage in skill. It had not worked today, or ever, but Kuno kept on attacking every morning and at lunch, like now.

Still Ranma had made the fight last a bit, a note from Nabiki having informed him what amount of time would give her the most money. After this morning, he knew the money would be needed to fix up after Air-Akane again. The regular lunchtime battle would do for a start.

What had caused Ranma's curse was the sight of Ryoga barreling toward him, umbrella first. He could also see the principal making his way from the main building. Behind him he sensed Shampoo, Mousse and Cologne's aura's entering the schools ground. Looks like its going to be one of those days.

"Ranma, for the discourtesy you have shown Akane, prepare to die!" Ryoga thrust forward, and Ranma jumped over the umbrella, only to almost be hit by Ryoga's new weapon, a large metal mace. Ryoga swiftly dropped his umbrella and took out another, and started swinging them in a complicated ark.

Ranma dodged, analyzing Ryoga's new style. Same as normal, all power, no finesse. The new weapons'll make this more fun than usual but no real threat, he's still too slow and uncoordinated. His musings were interrupted as a coconut bomb went off next to him. He used the thermal blowback to launch himself into the air and away from Ryoga's mad charge. And here comes Kuno 2, today is just going great! He thought sarcastically.

He flipped himself in midair, landing and facing all his opponents and the newly arrived Amazons. Ranma charged forward, getting in under Ryoga's guard and slamming his palms into both his arms, numbing his hands. Ryoga was forced to let go of his new maces, but instead of retreating Ryoga pulled out something from his pocket and looped it around Ranma's outstretched hand where he had planted it on the ground.

Mission accomplished Ryoga jumped back with a wide grin on his face and seemed to wait for something. The principal rushed in slashing away at Ranma with his clippers as he pushed off from the ground one handed, looking at the thing Ryoga had looped around his wrist.

The amulet glinted in the sun, two rubies inset into a silver dragon, the bracelet made to look like the dragons body, with the catch where the tail met the mouth. Looking at it, Ranma groaned. Every time he dealt with anything associated with dragons it meant he was in deep shit.

Behind him, Kuno regained consciousness and immediately rushed to join the fight, attacking both Ranma and his father indiscriminately. Ranma kept dodging still looking at the bracelet.

Ryoga looked on in frustration for a moment before rushing forwards to rejoin the fight. The old ghoul said that this bracelet could defeat anybody, but it's not working. I'll just have to kill Ranma the old-fashioned way. Ryoga sighed, depressed, beginning to work up to his ki attack, the Shi Shi Hokodan.

Cologne scowled from her vantage point. Ryoga was brimming with depressive ki and she cursed as she noticed the dragon bracelet on Ranma's wrist. The fool male had been hiding in pig form in the Nekohanten when Mousse had clumsily knocked the box containing the Vow to the floor. Shampoo had been curious and Cologne told her about the Vows ability to defeat any opponent. The fool boy had taken that to mean that it must be placed on the opponent rather than what it truly meant. "Damn the idiot. That is not how the Dragon's Vow is used. Shampoo, Mousse, try to get the bracelet off son-in-law, knock him out first if you have to. Do not allow any of these outsiders to realize what is going on. We must retrieve the Vow as quickly as possible."

Shampoo grinned and pulled out her bonbori's immediately, rushing forward. Fighting her Airen always gave the Amazon a thrill.

Mousse did not follow and Cologne looked at him in anger. "Get going male!"

Mousse shook his head and sat down. "I think I'll wait until the battle is over old one. After all, once Ranma realizes Ryoga stole the bracelet from us in the first place, he'll return it to us."

Cologne scowled. Mousse had been acting more and more independent of late, and it did not sit well with her, but she had no time to argue with him. I have to get the Vow back before it starts to respond to Ranma. Who knows what will happen then with son-in-laws chaotic effect on magic? Grimly she moved forward joining the fight. The thought of simply asking Ranma to return the vow as Mousse suggested never occurred to her.

None of the fighters or even the bystanders noticed a single figure on top of the school's roof. Hikaru Gosunkugi smiled and waved the neko-rod. The rod, based off necromantic magic, stored ghosts of the animal it represented inside it, putting them under the control of its creator. It had taken him months to create, let alone gather the necessary ingredients. Now he swung it into the air, his stick thin arms quivering as he sent the cat ghosts he had enslaved after Ranma.

Ranma staggered, barely dodging Kuno's sword and twisted his body to avoid Cologne's staff. He had no idea why the old bitch had decided to involve herself, and didn't really care. He was slowing down and he knew it even if his enemies had yet to figure it out. This damn bracelet is draining my ki reserves. Still, it makes this fight harder, and at least I'm not bored anymore. (Sometimes his ability to look on the bright side was a bit scary.)

Ranma kicked the principal into Cologne's path and backed away for a second. For one brief instant, he looked toward the school, and saw the wave of cats coming toward him. Only the fact that he could also see right through them kept him from panicking and running in terror. Oh shit! WTF!?

The ghost cats entered the growing melee, and suddenly what had been a decent fight was rapidly becoming a fight for not only his limbs and life, but his very sanity.

On the edge of the track field Nabiki and the rest of the school looked on with mixed emotions. Some were rooting for Ranma (most of the girls, who all thought he was the hottest boy in the school) while others were hoping that today would be the day Ranma lost (all the boys in the former 'beat/date Akane' mob).

Nabiki herself was very worried and not about money at this point. She had just enough ki sense to realize something had just entered the fight and it was targeting Ranma. Colgone's involvement and her viciousness was also a surprise. The old Amazon is clearly trying her best to at least incapacitate Ranma, but why?

Nabiki feared this was a sign of heightened aggression on the part of the Amazons. Maybe they've decided to use brute force where persuasion and underhanded tricks have failed. Though if what little Ranma told me about what happened at Jusendo is true, they must be insane to think it will work.

She began to make her way around the field to where she saw Mousse sitting down and watching the action, glad he was not involved in the scuffle. I need some answers, and Duck-boy will supply them for me or else!

Halfway there she looked on in shock to see her little sister marching towards the fight determinedly. She was about to charge forward to grab her sister and get her out of there, but she saw Ukyo already making a beeline for her. Nabiki weighed up her own ability to convince her sister to leave against the danger of moving herself that close to the melee and turned away, moving again through the crowd around the edge of the field.

Ukyo grabbed Akane's arm, dragging the other girl to a halt. "What the hell do you think you're doing, sugar?" She looked at the melee and was stunned anew at the speeds Cologne and Ryoga were moving, much less Ranma. They are so out of my league it's scary. Shampoo's outclassed as well, though she doesn't seem to realize it, same as Akane if she thinks she can make a difference in this fight.

Akane ripped her arm out of the cook's grip. "What do you think? I'm going to either stop them fighting or hammer Ranma into the ground for them. How can you stand watching him flirt with that Amazon hussy or pick on poor Ryoga?"

Ukyo stared in disbelief. Nabiki told me Akane's been getting worse since the wedding, but I didn't really believe it, now I do. Before she could try to explain reality to Akane, Ranma landed right in front of them.

He was gasping for air and barely had time to shake his head, not even noticing the two girls were behind him. "Crap, this fight's harder than eatin' Akane's cookin'." Ukyo gulped at the huge rage aura that flared up from the girl she had tried to save.

Akane's voice rose into a scream as her ki-mallet appeared, black and ugly with hate and rage. "Why don't you just die pervert!" She smashed forward hammering her mallet into Ranma's back.

Before Ranma could even blink the force of the sudden blow sent him right into Kuno's outstretched blade. The blade slid into his stomach and out his back as he was propelled onto it via Akane's mallet. Blood spurted out his back and onto Akane's face and clothing.

The other fighters stopped, appalled. Ryoga was shocked at what he had seen. He was besotted with Akane, but seeing her attack from behind an opponent already engaged in a life or death struggle so viscously tore his illusions away, however momentarily. Some part of his mind tried to blame it on Ranma, but for now could not override the evidence in front of his eyes.

Shampoo covered her mouth in horror, her weapons dropping to the ground as she backed away, tears forming as she watched the death of her husband.

From his vantage point, Mousse gasped in horror and moved forward, but he too knew he would be too late to save his friend.

Cologne looked up from where a blow from Ranma had planted her. One look told her she would never be able to save son-in-laws life. She had seen wounds like that before, and knew Ranma was dying as he stood there. His stomach and gut are pierced through, no amount of healing or medicine can help him now.

Principal Kuno blanched. He had never seen so much blood before and he backed off, his sheers falling to the ground as he shook his head, trying to escape the image in front of him.

His son on the other hand simply grinned and stood back, staring at his opponent with maddened eyes. At last, the foul sorcerer has fallen to my blade! He exulted, and it was with the aid of the virtuous Akane, what could be sweeter?

As for Akane, she looked at the blood covering her and the inch of steel protruding from Ranma's back in shock. Beside her Ukyo did the same, but deep down a rage began to boil as her eyes flicked from the tableau of Ranma still standing there and Akane, her mallet slowly falling to the ground from her now powerless hand.

The audience too was in shock, some screaming, fainting, others yelling and shouting while most simply seemed frozen. Nabiki had frozen too, barely halfway around the track, only her supreme self-control keeping her from screaming in loss and sorrow.

For his part, Ranma stood stunned for a moment, more pain than he had felt since the neko-ken training running through him. He spared a brief look of shock at Kuno and then Akane, whose face had slipped from a rictus of rage and hate to one of shock.

Damn it Akane, can't you ever look before swinging? No time. Ranma's mind was moving like quicksilver, even as his life and ki continued to drain out of him and the ghost cats moved in for the kill. He closed his eyes, breathing deeply as he sent his consciousness deep inside himself, searching. Ranma Saotome don't lose.

To the astonishment of the onlookers he began to glow orange and red, mixed with his usual blue aura. The aura became larger and larger, literally pushing everyone around him away like a giant moving wall. Suddenly he burst into flames!

Nabiki and the others looked on in horrified awe as they watched him burn.

Ranma didn't know what the bracelet was doing and at the moment, he didn't care. He reached into it too, pulling what ki he could back out of it, not realizing that the type of ki had changed, knowing it might not be enough.

The flames burned brighter, hotter than the sun, as he tried to copy a technique he had seen only once. Ranma don't lose, I ain't done, not yet, no how.

His eyes glowed with life energy, more power than any normal human could ever have controlled as he turned his gaze to the heavens, shouting, "Phoenix Pyre!"

The flames arched out burning and consuming the ghost cats, pulling them in to feed itself. The bracelet glowed with power adding to the conflagration as everyone was forced to turn aside from the glare.

No one not even Cologne had any idea of what was happening. The conflagration continued for a few minutes before slowly dying away. She looked on fearfully to see what had happened, expecting to see a large pile of ash where son-in-law had been. Everyone else simply expected to see a crispy corpse. A few were even looking forward to it.

What they saw shocked all of them. Ranma was gone and something new stood there, the sword Kuno had been using melted away to a puddle of metal at his feet. It was wearing the remnants of Ranma's shirt and pants, which had been stretched and torn by the transformation. A long curling tail reached the ground. White fur with covered his body, interspersed with red highlights under the eyes, at the knees and on the back of his palms. A mane of black hair crowned the image of what could only be called a cat man. Everyone who looked at him saw a cross between man and lion, a thought emphasized by the lithe way the being moved, stretching and opening his mouth. "Meow?"

Prologue end