Meeting Later Chapter 10
Disclaimer: These characters are not mine. They belong to the wonderful Rumiko Takahashi and her licensees (Viz Communications in North America). This work is strictly for the non-profit enjoyment of fans. No copyright infringement is intended.
This two-part arc is rated “Hotspring”, for adult situations and exploitative nudity.
Authors note: The beginning of this fic starts with a child’s game that is rare outside of English, but not unheard of from one source in Japan.
Akane was walking beside a young mother, Kozue, and her daughter, Mitchi, trying to seem as one of them amongst the flurry of travellers disembarking the train, rather than associated with the two boys on the other side.
“Nope!” Ranma replied to little Aiko, smirking as the eight year old giggled. Unfortunately this focus left him not paying nearly enough attention to Akane’s gloved hands, clenching into rock hard fists at her sides.
This game, not that Akane had found it fun, started when the victorious martial artists had met with a young mother and her two adorable kids, Aiko and his younger sister Mitchi, on the Bullet train up to the snow fields of Shiga Kogen. The scenery whipping by was very pretty, and the forward facing seats of the express train made the window side seats, somewhat desirable for the novice passenger, especially exciting to the young. Akane and Ranma had seats on the other side of the aisle to the young family, but when the children started to get loud while fighting over the window seat, embarrassing their mother, Akane had introduced herself and Ranma, offering up her own window seat to her son Aiko.
Like any trip, travel games had soon come up, ‘eye spy’ an easy one. It had been well too, until the stretch when the letter ‘B’ had been chosen by her for ‘Bag’. That was when a rather over endowed young lady had passed their view as she moved through their carriage. Aiko had pointed and cried ‘Breasts’.
Akane and Akio’s mother had the decency to look embarrassed as most of the carriage including the young lady, had looked around. Ranma had tried not to laugh as he smiled at the woman and gestured at the boy with a helpless shrug, explaining with a simple, ‘Eye spy. It was B but I don’t think he’s right.’ Then he had turned to her with, ‘Was it Akane?’
Unfortunately Aiko had added a helpful, ‘Akane doesn’t have breasts.’
Sinking into her chair, Akane had almost missed the warm smile and wink the young lady had thrown her companion, her anger impotent as she had sat embarrassed when a pair of businessmen in other seats, had leaned to try and see the truth of the boy’s statement. Unfortunately, having swapped her seat with Aiko in order to talk to Mitchi and the children’s mother, left her unable to choke Ranma and stop his reply about her being a girl and having breasts that were hidden by her jacket.
Then for the last half hour of the trip, the boys continued the game, Ranma picking a ‘B’ every time to which Aiko replied predictably, the pair giggled together, followed by more serious guesses.
Seeing the sign pointing through the busy station, towards bus platform B, where they would catch their ride up to the Ski lodge, Akane bowed and thanked Kozue and Mitchi, sneaking a look at the boys before quickly using a nearby soda machine as mother and daughter said goodbye to Ranma.
A grinning Ranma joined her as she handed him the first can of soft drink, freeing her hand so she could wave to the family vanishing into the crowd.
“Nice kids, huh?”
“You seemed to enjoy yourself,” she replied, smiling at the kids, even as her voice was as cold as the snow outside.
“Huh, you upset about something?” he asked, finger on the pull ring of the can.
She glared him again, turning away with a shrug, “I’ll get over it. Come on, platform B is this way.”
Ranma’s confusion lasted till he opened the can, getting a face full of cola for refreshment from the previously shaken up container.
“That was so uncute!” the suddenly female red head cried after her smirking companion.
“Whyfore, Sasuke, Whyfore! Why is it, that when I knoweth the destination, I knoweth the date, and I knoweth the gratitude my beloved will have for me in attending, yet you cannot do this one simple thing?”
The ranting words of his master shouted at his face ruffled the stringy moustache above the ends of his lips, as the diminutive ninja servant of the Kuno family stood to accept the frustrations of his master. That this weekend happened to be the first of the snow season on Mitsupurezentou Mountain, and that for the whole weekend the Koibito no Tansai Ski Lodge and Hot Springs was booked solid, and no amount of money, fame, or bluster could open up a room for the world’s greatest Kendo fighter.
Convincing said world’s greatest Kendo fighter of all this was even more difficult.
The sudden unexpected chime of the bell at the entrance to the Kuno family home, unexpected as the three family members in residence tended to have rather short lists of friends, gave Sasuke an excuse to escape. His taller master dismissed him, Kuno turning to the phone to assert his wrath on the clerk at the resort. Unfortunately, the tiny voiced operator he was ordering connect him with the insufferable retreat, was too terrified to actually help him, and so he was ranting down the line when the blond haired woman swept into the room.
“Master Kuno, Tatewaki Kuno? *The* boyfriend of Akane Tendo?”
Jaw hanging open at the glorious confirmation of his identity from the stunning young woman before him left him momentarily speechless, the handset sliding from his limp fingers as his eyes trailed over the visitor, his words stumbling as he tried to shift gears to this new interruption. “Koibito… Boyfriend… Yes…”
“Ah, Koibito no Tansai, yes, excellent,” Sakura gushed, as she stood in her tight black designer ski pants, her cleavage and medallion visible out of the golden tube top under the open jacket that matched her pants with a gold stripe off the shoulder and down the back. Her blonde plaits were coiled up on either side of her head, and pinned in tight buns, as she smiled her stunning white teeth to the young man before her, “I was told you had been attempting to get lodging there, which concerned me, as I had been told my own people had hand delivered your invite to you weeks ago.”
“My invite?” Kuno queeried with his eyes on Ms Shishimi’s medallion.
Not letting her irritation show, Sakura pushed on, “Why yes, to make sure that dear, sweet, *lonely* Akane-chan, isn’t left as a third wheel while my fiancé and I enjoy ourselves.”
“Akane… You… you were the girl who faced Akane in the final battle of that freestyle tournament, before my fierce tigress bested you?”
Sakura’s mouth opened to refute, but she bit her tongue, “It was a struggle but Akane was had the blessings of the day. Sakura Shishimi, but might we save further introductions? My family’s helicopter is ready to leave within the hour, the sooner we depart, the sooner you are reunited with your girlfriend. How quickly can you be ready…”
Her voice led off as Sasuke appeared with two cases, a set of skies, and his Master’s winter jacket and shoes.
“Sasuke, bring forth our family car,” the scion of the line of Kuno demanded, gesturing for his enigmatic new ally to follow towards the driveway.
“There is no need, my luggage is already in my family’s limousine, waiting out the front.”
Sasuke saw Kuno’s eyes looking for once at Sakura’s eyes, trying to judge if he had been one-upped, only to give up as if a woman could do so to his munificence.
Munificence proven again as the short ninja struggled to get the luggage aboard, then a discrete nod commanded him to join the bags, squeezing into the trunk space, closing it on himself.
The heir to the Saotome School of Anything Goes Martial Arts had a smirk imprinted on his face.
And his companion didn’t like it at all.
He had managed to at least appear to enjoy the view out the window as the small luxury bus climbed from the train station up to Koibito no Tansai Ski Lodge and Hot Springs. His black hair was still sticky from his friend’s soft drink prank, though a cup of hot water from the small tea service had gotten it off his face and returned him to his normal gender.
Taking in the view with her companion always in her side view, Akane tried to calm her nerves, convince herself that he hadn’t done anything and was just trying to freak her out with an empty grin. She couldn’t accuse him of doing ‘something’, and so sat squirming, waiting for his payback to reveal itself.
“Ug!” Ranma grunted, looking out with disgust as they came within view of the pink trimmed white building of the main resort. Like a long temple, it extended what he guessed was north to south on a rock shelf backing up to a cliff face, reaching high to the mountain’s sharp peak. Among the white of the snow, and the grey of uncovered stone, wafts of steam gently floated above the pink building.
“Ug Ranma? What did you expect of this place? Nabiki was laughing so hard she couldn’t talk straight on the phone, when she found out just the name, Sweethearts on Discover Gift Mountain. She said to watch out for any perverted businessmen,” Akane recalled with a faint blush and sickened expression. “They like to bring their new secretaries and assistants up here,”
“Ug is cause I was hoping not to have to deal with Sakura’s crap since her people arrange this prize. All those rooms look dark. I hope to Kami it isn’t going to be just us three.”
“Careful what you wish for Ranma,” Akane warned with a grin.
The vehicle slowed as it pulled up to the middle of the building, stopping in front of the main entrance. Ranma climbed out immediately as the driver opened the door, with an eye on the classical Japanese gate and entryway, one of the main doors before them opening as a young man in a formal kimono walked quickly down to assist the driver with the luggage. Making way for Akane, Ranma turned to offer her his hand, her eyes narrowing in suspicion, then distracted as the help stumbled on the stairs, red faced, eyes on the bus, then at her, then quickly at the ground as he focused on helping with the luggage.
Climbing out, Akane looked back at the bus, steeled herself for what he had done but still shocked when she saw a set of her underwear - bra, briefs, and pantyhose, all hanging from bus’s antenna. In the wind while driving, her unmentionables would have been like flags, and worse they were a racy black set that Aunty had purchased for her.
From standing, she leapt up to land on the bus’s roof with her knees, reaching out to yank the items down, quickly stuffing them into her jacket. Her eyes glared at her torturer, already safely at the entrance door with some of the bags. She was left to drop back down to follow the driver and red-faced young attendant in, unwilling to draw more attention to her embarrassment by taking her bag to put them away. ‘Actually I didn’t even pack these,’ she suddenly thought, her stomach sinking at what else she’d find in her bag if Aunty Nodoka had ‘helped’ her pack.
’Please no thongs,’ she mentally begged the heavens.
Opening the door, she had expected the dark haired boy to be smirking at her again, but instead he was raising his voice at the receptionist.
“Let me guess? Sakura Shishimi?”
“What’s going on Ranma?” Akane asked, approaching, wanting to know what had gotten under her friend’s skin now, only for all in the entrance foyer to look up at the roof as the fast paced chop of the helicopter rotor passed over the building.
“Mr Saotome, I believe that is Ms Shishimi arriving now. If we could wait…”
“Whatever, fine, get her in here,” Ranma said, shaking his head as he turned back to Akane. “She’s put you in the south wing while me and I imagine her are meant to be in the north. Do you believe this?”
“You don’t?” Akane replied with a shrug. “No use getting bent out of shape. If she insists, we’ll get a second futon and share one room, then you’ll have me to protect you from your scary fiancée.”
Matching her poked out tongue by pulling down his lower eyelid to give her the red eye, Ranma shook his head. “You go find a guy as scary as her to chase you, and then you can mock me.”
“I have Kuno, so I’ll mock you all I want.”
“Oh please, I would take ten Kuno’s if it meant ditching her for good.”
“You wouldn’t last with Kuno after you, or are you thinking about him as boyfriend material?”
Ranma’s eyes flashed as the subject of his curse came up, but didn’t take it as a low blow… yet. “Hey, compared to Sakura, Kuno’s a gentleman. He has kept his word didn’t he? How long has it been since we heard from him? Or maybe you just never really tried to turn him down before, just playing hard to get?”
“Excuse me?” she exclaimed, pulling up a fist, but his smirk pulled at the corners of her own mouth.
“Well if you make threats with your pantyhose hanging out your jacket, what do you expect?”
Blushing, Akane hurriedly pulled the foot of her hose fully back into her jacket. “I still owe you for that,” she warned, but he simply nodded.
“Just play fair and stay out of the kitchen. No use poisoning everyone, huh?”
The smile vanished from her face and she lashed out with a punch, Ranma retreating across the room as she advanced offensively.
The opening of the outside door let a blast of cold blow in, both turning in ready poses like threatened, guards tight, side by side.
Allowing her guest to act the gentleman and open the door for her, Sakura Shishimi smiled gently as she took off her furred cap, freeing her golden locks with a head wave. Stepping out of the freezing air her eyes locked on the pair before her. The defensive countenance of her handsome fiancé, his build hidden under the thick jacket, was immediately the fault of the short bitch beside him, matching his stance.
With a falsely sweet smile, Sakura moved in, "Ranma darling, I'm..." only to be cut off.
"Kuno!" the martial artists bellowed as they ignored the blonde girl for the figure posing in the open doorway, only for his dashing figure to be bumped forward as the released door shut on him.
"Verily, for while I doth honour my pledge, my love would not stop at any length to again reunite us, my fierce Tigress.” His hand moved to the hilt of his wooden blade like it was a true weapon befitting his samurai countenance, his eyes shifting from Akane to Ranma, from affection to glaring. “And I see the foul knave still pollutes your presence with his ugly visage, underhanded tricks, and uncouth mouth.”
“What are you doing here, Kuno?”
Akane shook her head at her companions demand, “Blame your fiancée, Ranma. I’ll bet she plans for you and her to be alone in the North wing while I’m pestered by him in the South.”
Sakura’s smile said she was right, happy that the girl realised her place, but a raised hand from the young uniformed woman standing behind the counter interrupted her, moving forward. “I’m terribly sorry to interrupt, Ms Shishimi, but perhaps there has been a miscommunication. Your guests for room two in the south wing have already checked in. Do…”
“Checked in? This is my guest here. Whom did you let in?” Sakura demanded.
The high, loud, laughter reverberated through the entrance foyer, Ranma turning to be on guard against the new arrivals, Akane moved into a full sideways roll to spring up with both the new couple and Sakura and Kuno in view.
“My dear Sakura, I must say I was surprised by your invite but I simply couldn’t say no.” Kodachi called out as she stepped into the hall, accepting the glare from her rival. “Oh my, please don’t tell me you didn’t receive our RSVP, I’d hate to have inconvenienced you.”
Behind her, amused at the glaring match with his lover’s former rival, Kodachi’s handsome blonde fiancé surveyed the others, Kuno’s wary look, Tendo’s annoyance at being ignored in the glaring match, and the dark haired strangers confusion. Mikado Sanzenin’s grin fell when he met the blue eyes of the man.
“You, you were the scoundrel who accosted my future wife in the change room at that shop in Ginza!” he accused.
Ranma started in surprise at the call, wondering how he was getting blamed for something he would never do. He could feel Sakura’s shock, and Akane’s wary glare, but as he looked again at the man’s future wife, he recalled the incident with the change room while running from Karumi and her sister came flooding back, some of it, like the black rose motif, in surprising detail. “Ah, wait, I wasn’t accosting no one, I was… I was just passing through, I didn’t peek. You remember Miss? I had my eyes closed, didn’t I?”
Rolling her eyes at his patheticness, Akane straightened up. “Her name is Kodachi Kuno, and he is Mikado Sanzenein. Kodachi, this is Ranma Saotome.”
“A pleasure to meet you once more,” the black haired young woman purred, flowing forward in a quality black jacket and tights ensemble, but her outstretched hand was taken by her fiancé even before Sakura also moved to reach her before she got to Ranma. Ignoring the others, she smiled her white teeth, “But perhaps you would better know of us as The Black Rose and The Golden Star of the premiere martial arts ice skating team, Black Gold?”
“Nope, sorry,” Ranma said a little too casually, Akane and Sakura smirking at the irritation on Kodachi’s face. A byplay missed by Ranma as he glancing back at Tatewaki. “But you related to him?”
“Indeed, she is my twisted sister and he, her lecherous partner,” the taller boy stated with contempt, “And whyfore little sister, doth thou seek to interfere in this joyous reunion of my glory with my love?”
Akane raised her hands again, ready to beat the predictable kendoist back as he tried to hug her, but he never reached her. Ranma’s quick feet kicked his discarded pack, sliding it across the floor to trip the upperclassman over.
Ignoring the men, Sakura glared at Kodachi. “Unfortunately, that invite was for your brother, I’m afraid there are no spare rooms for you to stay here as well.”
Kodachi grinned, “Except for every other room. If you wish to play games my dear, do tell the help what they can and cannot admit to. Pre match preparation was always your weak point.” A club raised in her hand as chopsticks snapped ready in the blonde’s fingers.
“Attacking your opponent from ambush was not preparation, you cheat…”
A strange grunt, low but unmistakable cut through all involved, eyes drawn to an elderly woman entering the hall. Her thick kimono around her plump form was pink with white branches and leaves snaking over it and bound with a white sash, the same colours as the outside of the building, and that of the uniform of the girl behind the counter. Her face was wrinkled under long dry white hair, with a roll of fat around her neck between collar and chin line. But her formidable dark gaze robbed all the young adults of any bluster and aggression.
“Honoured guests, dinner for six shall be ready in an hour. Extra rooms will be prepared. Drinks are available in the dining room while you wait.”
Akane and Sakura laughed loudly, shoulders shaking as the latter imagined the details supplied from the memory of the former, recalling Kodachi landing in a crowd of spectators, specifically on the lap of a fat, balding, older man.
Akane controlled herself with a sip of sake, her face red as she continued, more to Sakura than the others, “He had this cola drink and it went all up her, and then she clocked him clean past the jaw. Thing is, we found out later, he was the agent for the Tokyo regional gymnastic organisation.”
Cackling with glee, Sakura nodded, bouncing with excitement, “And that’s why she wasn’t at regionals that year?!”
Kodachi drank more of the complimentary sake, with a glare promising vengeance for the girls, even as the three young men with them tried to not laugh openly at the humiliation of the girl.
Ranma snagged some of the last of the teriyaki beef with his chopsticks, the dark-haired girl’s anger radiating in such a way, he did not want to risk getting as reckless as Akane and Sakura were on the sake, as each continued bouncing stories of victories over Kuno’s sister between them. That and he did not want to have an upset stomach tomorrow morning. His eyes drifted to the older woman near the door, the elder hostess watching silently with wide eyes, a couple bottles of sake, Sakura had started ordering earlier, sat on a warming tray beside her.
“I’ll have you know, that fat hog of a talent scout was too free with his hands,” the Kuno heiress defended waspishly, though Akane’s eyes rolling suggested she didn’t believe it. “Though perhaps if I too was forced to stuff my bra to hide a mannish figure, I might forget my gender and pursue the fairer sex. In fact, it was in public that you acted so aggressively, was it not? With that over endowed air headed teacher?”
Her laughter stopped, and her Akane’s lips now a thin line as Sakura continued to cackle, this time at her. “Just another opponent I have beaten who you can’t defeat Kodachi. Then again it is hardly fair to compare a gymnast to anyone trained in Anything Goes Martial Arts.” Taking another sip of sake if only to appear indifferent to the dark haired girl, she glanced at the others, seeing Kuno nodding sagely, not that he had ever defeated the schoolteacher, and Mikado leering with unfocused eyes. Ranma’s eyebrows had risen, and she quickly moved to stop him jumping to any conclusions.
“Hinako Ninomiya,” she said to remind him of a previous talk they had had. “My homeroom teacher at my school, I told you about her, Master Happosai trained her as a child.”
“Yes,” Kodachi interrupted but agreeing with her, “And like her Master and her father, Akane enjoys feeling her up.”
“My father might have been on a date with her, but he was a gentlemen,” Akane snapped back with a grimace at the age confused teacher who had been hitting on her father for many months now. The younger woman smirked as she locked eyes again with Kodachi, “Do you recall how you ended up after you took on Hinako during that sport match.”
Akane again purposefully turned from Kodachi to Ranma, “She got put down so hard she was powerless when the girl’s gymnastic team strung her up by her own ribbon on the scoreboard and drew in permanent marker on her face.”
Sakura burst with renewed laughter as the pair snipped each other, drawing Akane’s attention, “If you ever come to Furinkan High, Sakura, ask the sports department to see the photo, they have it framed.”
Ranma was tense, almost reaching to hold Akane back, expecting the glowering Kodachi to dive over the table at Akane, regardless of that evil looking old woman near the door ready to serve them as guests.
“Is there anything else we can get for anybody,” the white haired host asked from the doorway, obviously cutting into the loud and tightening atmosphere.
“Oh yeah,” Ranma spoke up, swallowing a half chewed snow pea, “Can Akane and I get a full breakfast in her room in the morning? Is that cool, Mama-san?”
Akane at least had the decency to flush red at the request, Sakura pale and horrified, Kuno little better, though Kodachi looked moderately impressed.
Mistaking the confusion on Akane’s face, Ranma shook his head. “You ain’t backing out of this. I’ve been waiting a month for this, Champ.”
“Oh,” Akane exclaimed, not completely relieved, but recalled that with tomorrow being the first of the month, and the title of Champion of Breakfast up again. She squared her shoulders to him, “Oh dream on, you aren’t even close to being on top.”
Kuno’s trembling and Sakura fumbling for her chopsticks made Akane realise the others hadn’t caught up. “It’s not what you think, perverts. It’s a breakfast battle. It is part of our school. And I am undefeated,” she added with a grin at Ranma.
“Yeah, but this time your sisters aren’t there to help, and you are out of tricks.”
Dressed in a heavy yukata robe, his hair brushed and straight, Ranma pushed open the door with a toe, and stepped into Akane’s room holding the long tray of breakfast foods.
He glanced away as he saw her rushing to put a robe of her own over her thick pyjamas, taking in the difference in her room to his next door. An end suite, it was only a little bigger than his, but dominated by a large window, its curtains open to the blue sky and views to the ski fields. Otherwise the décor was identical, if sedate. A low table, with a plastic flower array, some tasteful paintings on the wall, a decent sized television with video in a glass front cabinet.
“You ready for another loss?”
With a grin for Akane, Ranma put the tray on the table, and began to set out the plates between them, a large grilled fish in the centre.
“Got your crown on, Champ?”
“Huh?” Akane said from pouring two cups of steaming tea from the pot on the tray.
“Your hair is all over the place.”
“Eep!” With a blush, she jumped up, grabbing a comb.
“You’re pretty easy to shake up this morning. You ain’t giving up already are ya?”
Finally returning, she brought a glass of water for each of them, and took her place. “Dream on, jerk. I just don’t want to give Kuno any other excuse to think you’re in here improperly.”
“You care what he thinks?” Ranma asked as he took his seat.
“I care what rant I will be hearing every time he turns up for the next two days. I’m surprised he hasn’t burst in yet.”
“He was snoring as I walked past to get breakfast. That old Mama-san picked pretty accurately who shouldn’t be near each other when she rearranged the rooms, but we’re all in the same wing now.”
“And Sakura is right across the hall in the other end suite,” Akane complained.
“Yeah, but she was drinking pretty heavily last night after she thought I was making a move on you from what I said about breakfast.”
“Yeah, like you’d have the guts.”
Akane flushed at the accusation, wondering what she was thinking, while he blushed, his mouth opening but no rebuke coming out as his mind derailed with inappropriate thoughts. Finally he regained composure first, “Are we gonna do this or not? Ready?”
“For the title of champion of breakfast for November,” Akane stated in a passable impression of Aunty Nodoka, then grinned darkly. “The defending champion is ready.”
Hands flashed back and forth as food was inhaled, and Akane grinned getting an early edge.
So early that Akane fleetingly thought it might be a trap, she saw an opening, his hand tilted to let her pincer the back of his chopsticks with her own. It was a trap and as Akane struck, he was surprised at how slow it was, his mouth smiling around rice, but his brow furrowing as his hand was far too slow itself.
Swallowing, both locked eyes.
“What the hurrrr…” “What’s goringgg…”
Both sat paralysed, looking at each other over the mostly uneaten breakfast, when the door slid open, an amused pair entering in a surprisingly quiet entrance.
A grunt from Ranma attempted to ask who it was, his back to the entrance, but the dark haired Kodachi caught on. “Good morning, I hope we’re not interrupting?”
“It is rude of them not to answer you Ko-chan,” Mikado came in with a wide and white smile, “Oh good dear, it looks like they’re finished.”
“Oh dear, are you two having trouble digesting?” Kodachi stated with an indulgent smile for Akane, bending in a tight, form fitting, high quality snowsuit. As black as her hair, a dark purple rose emblem glittered with reflections from the window on her right breast, as she dragged her hands down Ranma’s chest from behind.
Mikado frowned but busied himself with the disk player under the television, slotting in a disk as Kodachi knelt to rest her chin on Ranma’s shoulder, her hands roaming his chest as she hugged his paralysed form. Her dark eyes locked onto Akane’s, “This is simply turn about my dear, after all I found your fun and games with the blonde bimbo rather unpalatable last night.”
With little effort, she lifted Ranma’s kneeling form up to place at the end of the table, facing the television. Akane grunting out an angry sound as Mikado did the same to her, and took a liberty as he did.
With a shrug, the blonde young man weathered his fiancées glare, looking meaningfully at the blue-eyed male. “Fair play and all, and you were the one who claimed she had been stuffing. Turns out she is a late bloomer.”
As Kodachi opened her mouth for a reply, she felt Ranma beside her leg tremble and grunt as he caught on to what Mikado had done out of his direct vision. “My my, be careful my future husband. You’ve angered this one rather more than myself or your late bloomer.”
“And here I thought Miss Tendo could fight her own battles, perhaps she is becoming a wall flower,” Mikado quipped, ignoring them as each grunted illegibly. “Come, let us enjoy the slopes, and maybe after some fun in the snow you can show me a true Japanese bloom.”
Kodachi giggled flirtatiously as she took up the remote control, “Of course, but let’s not leave these two with nothing to do.”
Both were forced to watch as the television came on, the screen showing a copyright disclaimer, as a bar appeared for the volume, which rose to its highest levels. “Enjoy, and say ‘Good morning’ to Sakura-chan when she awakens.” A lazy toss sent the remote to land on Akane’s lap.
Both paralysed martial artists looked confused at the screen as they heard the door close. On the screen, a simple home was shown on the screen, the camera zooming in on a fit looking man in a tight shirt, with a moustache, carrying pool cleaning supplies and a leaf net, came up the path and knocked on the door. The door opened, a woman in pink lingerie and too much makeup smiled, as cheesy muzak began to play.
“Hey, I’m here to clean the pool,” he said loudly.
Red faced, Yumiko, the Koibito no Tansai Ski Lodge’s youngest employee, rushed through the kitchen… till Gori’s leg kicked out, to block her from the laundry.
“What’s wrong with you?”
With a shy glance at the gruff old cook, Yumiko shook her head, but when his leg didn’t move, she slumped, “The couple who wanted the private breakfast, they’re… I heard them… doing it. Loudly.”
With a chuckle at her shyness, Gori brought his leg back and refocused on the stove. “Well good for them, and keep your mouth shut to your Grandmother. If they wake her fine, if you do, for something like this, she’ll grumble all day.”
“Mot dah mel dah ma meah Mow?! Pehbeht!”
“Muh? Mhow sis miss ma malt? Bid mou mow mou coumd mo mit lie matt?”
Akane tried to cross her eyes from the athletic erotic display on the television screen coming to a climax, fighting her muscles for movement that refused to work.
“Mih mussed muprid? Mid moo moh…”
Her loud grunt made Ranma nod and shut up, surprising him away from the limber action on the screen and back into moving, without much luck.
A shuffling of cloth made her refocus from her growing panic, catching Ranma swaying from the corner of her eye.
Further grunting by Akane was unintelligible but her inquisitive tone let him guess, “Mif my cam met mo mhe remome, my cam murn mit moff.” His eyes on his target, the remote on Akane’s lap.
Rather than try to explain it again, the dark haired young man tilted further, his heart dropping as he reached a precarious tilt to the wrong way, then shifted all he could, and with an internal cheer toppled over, banging his temple on Akane’s knee.
Worse than the pain, the fall had jarred the table, and tipped one glass over, its contents pouring to coldly soak into his robe.
Akane snorted in amusement at his groan, then a muffled hopeless chuckle emerged as his dark hair turned red against her leg.
Ranma shared the chuckle as she stretched her immobile form only enough to see the remote she hoped to reach, still inches away from her face on her friend’s lap.
Both gave a sudden sigh as they saw the love scene on the screen end and fade to black.
Both gave a moan as a new scene opened.
Uncaring for their uncomfortable situation, the screen this time portrayed school students, ending class, and going to after school clubs, a pair of girls in gi were practicing Judo alone when their practice turned to a far more intimate grappling, quickly coming to loud moaning.
“Mam mhats moumd.”
Akane would have nodded had she been able to, “Mits moming moo make Sekoora, man sme mill keel me!”
On cue, the door to the hall slid open.
“What goes on here?! Unhand my beloved you fiendish…”
Tatewaki Kuno’s eyes swept the room, quickly looking for his distressed future bride, initially missing the still pair in front of the TV because of their lack of movement. His mighty vengeance left without a target, he looked around the room again for the demonic trickster Saotome, only to suddenly realise the second occupant of the room was indeed the red haired beauty he had met while shopping.
Enacting sheathing his wooden blade as if a real weapon into a real scabbard, not just his belt. Raking fingers through his brown hair, he approached the two divine figures on this suddenly glorious morning.
“I hope there’s room for one more?”
Kuno stopped startled as a male voice intervened. For a brief second he worried it had been his own glorious mouth, but there on the TV his lovely companions watched, a young man in kendo garb was interrupting two underclad girls, leering as he joined in.
“Whyfore? What would you two virginal flowers be watching such?” Kuno asked in a confused voice, only for his mind to reach new conclusions, “Unless the fiend Saotome forces you to watch thus?”
He ignored a groan from the pair, who had yet to look up at him. “Ah, ney, I see it now, you seek freedom from the enslavement of the foul Saotome, but you cannot ask this of me, so you leave me a subtle hint!”
“Mell Nho!” Ranma-chan cried but was unheard as Akane gave a loud, toneless squeal of terror.
“Yes my dears, I understand!” Kuno cried, kneeling down beside Ranma, not that the red head needed to see him to feel his approach.
“Yes my dear, do not worry, I will be…”
“Mry mhe mish! Mhe mish! Mry mhe mish!”
The Kuno family heir blinked once, wondering what it was she was mumbling, his mind going through some naughty thoughts of what she might be asking till the smell of the fish, still on the table caught his attention.
“Ah, of course, I must have the energy for the two of you,” he stated wisely, picking up chopsticks and digging in quickly, “A delicious meal with… urk…mhaa?”
“Moh mhank mhe Kami.” Ranma grumbled.
“Mhy man gomma keel Komachi.”
Stretching out the last of the stiffness in his muscles, Ranma walked slowly towards the side room where their shoes were kept, content that Akane would be along shortly after finally getting ready for the slopes since they had already lost part of the day to the Black Rose’s poison. His eyes widened as he saw Akane’s boots were already missing from the rack, meaning he was the one running behind, and he rushed to put his on, along with his red waterproof jacket.
Opening the door, he just managed to do his zip up and close the flap over it when his vision flashed white and cold. Dropping low, he dodged the second snowball, but even as his hand grabbed up snow to return shots, Akane’s amused voice sang out from the doorway of the bus. “Hurry up slowpoke, daylights wasting.”
With a grumble, he dropped his handful of cold snow, trotting quickly towards the pink and cream mini-bus. As Ranma stepped into the vehicle, the driver, the same as yesterday, briefly asked if anyone else was behind him coming out, and when he said no, closed the door as Ranma sat across the aisle from Akane.
“Don’t you wear any other colours?” she asked in a teasing tone, eyeing the black pants and red jacket he wore, both purchased for use on the slopes.
“I look good in black and red,” he defended, then looked her over, only to stumble on his retort, “At least I can spot you easily on the slopes.”
Though she wore a similar set of black waterproof pants, they were tighter and had a false black skirt, trimmed in white going part way down her thighs. Her jacket was a bright pink, with a thick grey fur trim around the raised hood, and the smile she wore on her face told him she knew how cute he found it.
He rubbed the back of his head awkwardly, “You sure you’re bright enough? Mom was worried about getting snow-blindness but now I’m more worried about jacket-blindness.”
His hands raised as if to fend off glare from the girl’s attire, he missed her poking out her tongue, keeping his defensive position as her hand stretched out towards him.
“It’s a present dummy,” Akane said exasperatedly, holding out the glasses case.
Tentatively, he took the case, but didn’t open it as he watched Akane open an identical case and put on a pair of attractive sunglasses. “For what?”
Rolling her eyes, Akane shrugged, “If it has to be for something, for helping train me for the tournament. That good enough?”
Red faced, he nodded, and awkwardly began to open the case, “Thanks. I just, I mean with the crazies who attack me, I never have managed to keep a pair of sunglasses for long.”
“Then I won’t tell you what they cost, not that Nabiki paid full price to get them, but try to take care of them and they’ll protect you from jacket blindness. At least if you cover those blue eyes I won’t have to wonder why you don’t wear blue shirts more.”
Frowning at what Akane meant, he slipped them on, lounging back against the glass as the bus moved down the mountain. “If I get another girl chasing me because I look too cool, I’m blaming you.”
Akane giggled cutely, “I’ll fight her off for you with my blinding jacket.”
“Deal,” he returned with a smirk, before the awkward silence made them look out the window. The pair watched the sun shine off the white slopes, already dotted with skiers for a moment, as the bus continued down to the Shiga Kogen ski runs they had passes to from the resort.
Ranma’s eyes started to drift behind the dark lenses from the view to Akane, glad he couldn’t be caught, if she turned around, then he froze as she turned towards him. “I thought I heard Sakura knocking on your door before? I thought she’d try to follow us down on this bus run?”
Relaxing, he nodded, “You did, but she suggested that I let you go on the bus, and join her in the hot spring since it will be empty.”
“Kami, and I thought the girls on the porno were sluts,” she snapped, looking back out the window, her face flushed, missing his similar blush, as both recalled moments of the movie but with different faces on the participants.
“Well she shouldn’t find us for a while at least while we ski, though Kodachi and blonde boy are out there somewhere.”
Akane grinned slightly, then looked at Ranma unsure, “Were you that excited to do actual skiing? I kind of thought we might try something different. Something that would also mean we would be able to have fun away from Sakura for a while.”
“Put your feet in the bindings into the board, then lock them around your toe and ankle.”
Nodding at Akane’s instructions, pretty much repeated from the rental guys who had set himself as regular with a wider stance, Ranma sat on a log in the snow, working on the long, vaguely hourglass shaped board, to lock in the bindings around the thick boots he wore. “How many times have you done this, Akane?”
She grinned and shrugged, “Never. But I’m pretty good on a skateboard, and it’s supposed to be more fun than skiing. After we won the tournament I read up on it, and asked Nabiki to have them change our rental to these.”
Done with her own bindings, Akane sprang up to standing on the board, quickly finding her balance, then shifted her weight to slide down a gentle slope to a tree by the siding from the equipment rental store, watching while Ranma finished up.
Finally Ranma pulled his hands back and pushed up from the log to stand up, immediately falling straight on his face.
“Well that was pathetic.”
“You didn’t say they greased the bottoms of these dumb things,” Ranma complained, pushing up with one arm while wiping a gloved hand over his white dusted glasses.
Pouting cutely from her fur hood, Akane shook her head bewildered. “You can walk on fences, balance on people’s heads, how on earth can you not get this?”
Sticking out his tongue, Ranma pushed off hard to get to standing in one move, his legs shooting forward with the board, snow puffing up as he landed on the ground, butt first.
“Geez, Ranma,” Akane bemoaned, sliding slowly back and forth idly. “It’s like… it’s the reverse of your training for Sakura’s tournament ring. Instead of reacting to what the board is telling your feet, your feet tell the board what to do. Control it, don’t react to it.”
Frowning but nodding, Ranma pushed himself up again, this time tentatively almost up, squatting low at the knees, stock still on the board, his arms the final movement to rise up till they extended out over the front and back of the board like he was on a tightrope.
He was standing for all of three seconds before he began to smirk, but when the snowball hit him, he went straight onto his back again.
“You planning to stand wide open like a statue all day?”
Growling, Ranma glared at the smirking girl, who was juggling three snowballs while standing on her board, eyes hidden behind those dark sunglasses. He knew he would be a target the second he got up, but that just made him grimace knowing he wouldn’t look good returning fire while still on his behind. Still, you had to give as good as you take.
With a knuckled push off, he shot back up, going too high, firing his handfuls of snow just before coming to land and having to focus on balance. Only for the momentum of the thrown snowballs, he tilted to far, the board going forward first, then pulled back too far, and Ranma went down face first once more.
Akane ducked back from one super fast snowball, the other she punched from the air, the impact pushing her back, making her stop her juggling, nearly tipping her over. She smirked as she regained her casual stance before Ranma’s face managed to look back up and see he unbalanced her.
“Whenever you’re ready Ranma. Once you’re on the board, lead with your front foot, and lean into it, and swing your hips to turn.”
Frustrated at her teaching attitude, being aloof and moving ahead of the step the student hadn’t yet mastered, a favourite of his fathers, and one he had smugly used himself on occasion, Ranma pushed himself up enough to watch. Akane leaned down the path, letting herself build momentum before rotating her hips, pulling the back foot around, tilting her feet as she braked to stop facing Ranma again.
The smirk on Akane’s face let Ranma know the dark haired young woman had seen the snowball he still held behind his back as he again stood on the board. Focusing on his balance, he leant gently forward, snapping his feet back as the board moved, nearly overbalancing.
Shaking her head at his swaying antics, Akane twisted and leaned into the downhill, gaining enough momentum to swing back up to Ranma, sliding up in front of him. Dropping her own snowball, she held her gloved hands out to the dark haired young man. “Give me your hands and focus on staying upright.”
Frowning, Ranma put his hands over hers, resisting as she made for more control of the grip, but soon found himself more steady on the board with her to lean on. Then she yanked him forward.
With a yelp from Ranma, the pair flowed down the path, Akane wishing one of them had been a left footed, or what boarders called a goofy, setting on the board so they matched each other better as she held her balance and his while going backwards. After a few moments a near overbalance became a turn, forcing Ranma to go backwards, his poor coordination driving the nose down enough to start digging snow before she used her board to rise on his and drive it more level, idly hoping she didn’t damage the boards in the action.
His face showed his focus on his control, as he quickly mimicked her, learning more from his clumsy action backwards.
For a brief moment, Akane had the image of them dancing some slow waltz as she spun them around again, her hands on his as he grew in confidence.
“Okay, I think I got it,” he said cockily, pulling at her hands before she finally released him. Turning herself around him to observe and verbally assist him if needed, he swung around to follow her, and for a second she was sure he was going into the snow again, but he held upright.
“Not bad for a beginner,” Akane encouraged.
“At least I don’t look like some clumsy kid anymore,” he quipped, before turning down through a dip in the snow and up the other side, arms thrusting out for balance, before becoming a confident pose as he regained control again.
At this point a little boy and girl, about the same age as Aiko from the train, shot past them on junior boards, weaving between them and down around the bend in a flash.
“Aw, come on.”
Akane grinned as ahead of her Ranma wobbled back and forth on the worn trail, a rope pull dragging them up to the top from where they could pick and choose runs back down. This was probably better for his balance practice than their dance like leading of earlier. Though part of her felt that had been more fun.
As the strap tied to the rope dragged her up the mountain, her eyes drifted lower, frowning at the baggy snow pants Ranma wore, flushing at the memory of what they hid. An idle thought that his behind was tighter than Taro's passed, simultaneously amusing her and annoying her for thinking of that lying jerk.
Grinning at the admittedly minor achievement of reaching the top of the pull climb on the first try, Ranma glanced back to the frowning girl, "You okay?"
With a bright smile, she nodded, her annoyance forgotten as she refocused on the young man with her.
"So what now?"
"Now, we go down."
Akane blushed briefly to drag her mind out of the gutter, covering it with a glance to her bindings, but Ranma's voice cut in.
"That it? We just go up and down all day?"
"Is martial arts just punching all day idiot? Try and keep up and I'll show you how it’s done," she said cockily, straightening up as she turned to build momentum and headed for the nearest ski board run.
With trepidation, Ranma tailed her, at first trying to keep up, nearly losing at her first turn. She led him onto a fairly wide run, this one populated with other boarders, and steeper than the trails he had been learning on, but nothing he didn’t think he could handle.
His confidence dropped when Akane swung left ahead of him, rising up on a mound of packed snow and riding the side before dropping back down on the snow with eye catching grace.
Smirking back at her companion with a flash of white teeth, Akane turned into a low jump, letting her momentum lift her before posing with her tongue out for Ranma and coming down to land smoothly on the other side.
Veering into the down gradient to gain momentum, Akane moved towards a raised mound leading onto a rail, hitting it perfectly, but rolling her eyes as she saw her audience had fallen by the wayside.
Lifting up from the snow he had fallen into, too intent on watching Akane than paying attention to his footwork, Ranma frowned as he saw several other boarders approaching his pink coat wearing instructor.
Said girl was already looking towards the lead young man approaching of the small group of others her own age.
"Nice moves babe," he said behind his snow dusted goggles with a rakish white-toothed grin. "This your first time on Yukio’s run?"
"Yukio's run?" Akane asked at the guy’s odd inflection.
"I helped design it. When they wanted to make the best run on the mountain for boarders, they came to the best to lay it down. Yukio Toutaka, and you are?”
“It’s a nice enough run, for beginners.” Akane returned, ignoring his asking of her name, the tips of her lips going up as a couple of Yukio’s friends gave an ‘Ooh’ at her burn.
“You know this guy, Akane?” Ranma asked quickly, catching up. For a moment Akane was tempted to snap at him for trying to but into a situation she was handling but the sight of his wobbling approach made her hold back from pity.
“Akane huh? You like losers like this?” Yukio shot in, grabbing on her name, and the new target, “This your boyfriend? I’ve seen old men with balance than this.”
Ranma flushed as several of Yukio’s companions became a laugh track to his insult, but Akane beat him to speak next. “Please, he has been on that board for less than half an hour, while you seem to need to hang around a course you know as the only way to appear competent.”
She let him bristle and waited for his mouth to open before cutting him off to continue, “Give him a couple days practice and I know he could outperform you on this run.” Even as she said it, Akane felt the mistake. Ranma would never just shut up and go with that.
“Couple days? Hell I could keep up with him right now.”
All of Yukio’s companions burst out laughing at this, but Yukio laughed more at the glare Akane gave Ranma.
“Then let me show you how it’s done,” he stated, turning even as he put his goggles in place, taking off into the downhill.
Without thought, Ranma took off after him, acting his way rather than using actual skill, recklessly leaning forwards to try to keep up.
With a throw of his hips, Yukio twisted back, waving Ranma after him as he slid backwards up a mound, twisting forwards again to take off down the other side.
Behind him, Ranma managed to miss the entire mound, cutting around the side and into a divot left by the tractor which arranged the mound that morning, his hand dipping to flick up snow as he whipped forward, gaining more speed after the other young man.
Shaking his head, Yukio led the way onto a bench set into the snow, the board sliding across the length, twisting once to again wave his blue eyed opponent on before leaping off the end, legs raising the board as his hand gripped the side, releasing before hitting the ground again.
Following on, Ranma hit the bench, totally unprepared for the friction change, his upper body lunging forward, but his fast hands took control, doing a handstand cartwheel, the board coming back down again just after the end of the bench, his speed letting him gain a little on the pro ahead as he wobbled in pursuit.
Going low for speed, Yukio hit the U-shape of the main jump of the run, launching himself high in the air. His hand came forward even as his legs tilted up, letting him grab the nose of his board like he was surfing on air. Finally he dropped down, his hands out to the sides, dragging in the snow briefly as he stayed upright. A cheer from his friends trailing with Akane got him to wave back as he arrested his momentum against the run’s turn siding raising up before twisting down to look back at his challenger.
Ranma cursed as he caught the tail of Yukio’s jump, some kicked up snow on his sunglasses blinding him to how Yukio jumped, but he came in fast regardless, knowing he could go higher.
Months before he had defeated a martial artist from China, a warrior from a tribe of only men who used to use the springs of Jusenkyo to make women out of animals they defeated with the art to breed in their strength to their children. Prince Herb of the Musk Dynasty had claimed to be the descendant of dragons, and used a powerful series of ki blasts to fly over an opponent and attack. Ranma called invisible power from his core to his hands, and tried to emulate his foreign adversary from back then.
Akane frowned as Ranma lashed out with his hands as he leapt in the air, the jump below him exploding as he shot up, overshooting the turn of the run and vanishing into the trees.
Ignoring the shocked gasps and one bellowed laughed from her place in the audience, Akane took off down the run, her momentum taking her into the woods faster than Yukio could get over the siding in pursuit, but too quickly both found Ranma casually dusting himself off.
“You phenomenal idiot,” Akane shouted, resisting the urge to hit him or hug him as he rubbed the back of his head, grinning stupidly.
“Maybe I need a little more practice.”
“Dump the zero and come fly with the hero baby.”
Both heirs to the Anything Goes Martial Arts School glared at the interrupting young man.
With a dark smirk, Akane gestured back at the run. “The way I remember it, he out flew you. Maybe you’re too scared to fly as high as he does? He might have blown the landing, but he showed why heroes are known for their courage, not their skills.”
Hearing his approaching friends, Yukio waved her off, “Hey, when this fool kills himself, you’ll be begging for a guy with skills.”
The pair watched him take off through the trees back to the run, Ranma was going to shout something but Akane’s hand hit him in the chest, and would have knocked him down had he been on his board.
“Ignore him Ranma, you may be hopeless at school and this, but you have more skills than just martial arts, and he doesn’t even have that.”
With a shrug, Ranma hid his red face by moving to get his board and lock back into the bindings.
“But next time Ranma, check if I need your help first. That was sweet of you, but I can handle losers hitting on me. I don’t need you to be my hero. At least not if you’re going to blow it,” she teased, giving him a raspberry as she set off again leaving him to quickly strap his bindings on to follow.
Though they had passed it three times already on previous runs down the mountain, the two snowboarders cut across the main skiers easy run to reach a picnic area and kiosk. The idea of a hot sweet potato or the like was making Ranma's mouth water but Akane shook her head. "Look at the prices dummy," Akane said exasperatedly. "Remember Auntie’s warning?"
Hunger fuelled a frown on his face till he looked again at the price, for a moment thinking they had added a zero to the end by accident. With an incredulous look at Akane, he winced, "Isn't that ripping people off?"
"It's called a monopoly Ranma, don't you listen in economics class. They are the only ones selling on the mountain here so they don't have to compete for business," Akane stated with a pang of missing her sisters. Shrugging it off to get back into the moment of the holiday, she glanced over at the chair lifts carrying people over this stop and towards the top slopes. "We have some bentos down in the rental shop locker, and some vouchers from the resort for a lunch later. Here."
With a casual snap she tossed him a bottle of water, which he snagged with equal aplomb. "You know it's lunch time now."
"Which probably means Sakura and Kuno are waiting for us," she returned with a glare. "If we wait, we can get some more boarding in, have a late lunch, and hope they are looking for us on the slopes by then. Let’s just have a quick break now and get back into it."
Finding the effect of her glare less impressive from behind her dark sunglasses, Ranma shrugged, tearing his eyes off her pouty lips, only to catch on something else. "What do you want to do about them?"
Turning in the direction of his nod, Akane pouted out of her faux fur lined hood, spotting the black clad Kodachi Kuno, relishing in the attention she was getting from some of the boys at the tight, insulated suit she wore. Nearby, Mikado was posing like a peacock at the attention his fiancée got from the males, and the eyes of the girls on himself.
"I'll get him."
At Ranma's whisper Akane recalled the liberty the blonde man had taken with her earlier, and almost stopped him to get Mikado herself. "I'll start on Kodachi, then I'll get to Mikado later."
Mikado grinned as his future wife bullied her way to the front of the queue through the plebs, his eyes drifting to the legs and derrière of a short girl moving up behind her. Suddenly recognising Akane, he shouted warning, "Kodachi, behind you!"
Kodachi's head snapped up, her eye looking to her shouting fiancé, frowning as she saw Ranma behind him. The dark haired boy, his beautiful blue eyes covered by some cheap sunglasses, gave her a wave, then put a finger to his mouth for quiet, before squatting down behind Mikado, and pantsing him.
Before the entire crowd at the break spot, eyes drawn by Mikado's previous cry, the blonde young man’s tan snow pants were yanked down below his knees, exposing a leopard print thong that left little to the imagination, even in the cold.
Mikado's eyes went wide, before Ranma pushed him hard, upending him into a snowdrift, skis sticking up, still attached to his boots, bare cheeks pink in the cold air.
A protective surge snapped Kodachi into action at the assault on what was hers, only to feel a large amount of snow and ice, pour down her back, inside her suit.
With a glare for the laughing Akane behind her, who skipped back out of reach, Kodachi rushed around to the toilets at the side of the kiosk, cursing as she realised she had gone to the male side. Already she could feel the ice melting into the unprotected lining of the back of her suit, bypassing the protective layer that was guaranteed to keep her dry. With a second unladylike curse, she rushed around the back of the building, tearing open and down her top to let the snow back out.
"Hey baby, shake that body!"
"Stay right there and we'll come help you, baby!"
Kodachi spun towards the perverted calls, her hands covering her lacy bra, having to look up at the chairlift overhead, two teenage boys leering down at her. She briefly considered using her ribbon to pull them off the lift, but instead backed closer to the kiosk to get out of their sight.
Clearing the last of the snow from her suit and pulling it back up, she rushed around to find Mikado, red faced, was pulling snow from his pants, before being able to pull them back up.
"Where are they?" Kodachi demanded as her fiancé winced at the chilled material.
"They took off on snowboards. We can catch them."
Briefly considering pursuit, Kodachi grinned. "Why chase the prey when you know where it sleeps."
Watching Akane's actions as the rope system pulled them back toward the top of the runs, Ranma felt far more confident on the snowboard than when the day had begun. His eyes drifted to the shape of her legs, before he shook it off at the faint call of his name.
Akane turned back briefly, looking up at the nearby chair lift and the shouting figures upon it.
"Sakura and Kuno?"
"Yep, and their chairlift is faster than this."
"Hopefully we can lose ‘em in the crowd up top and make it to one of the snowboard runs."
Unfortunately as they crested the hilltop, Sakura and Kuno, the latter using two wooden boken for stocks, were already off the chairlift and skiing towards them.
"Break right," Ranma hissed, ducking the pair off to one side. Akane followed, frowning as the ‘snowboard only’ run started over on the left side of mountain from where they were. Her dismay turned to panic as Ranma led them past the sign for the Bobsled track ahead.
"Are you crazy, we can't go down the bobsled run!"
Ranma gave her a wink, and reached out to grab her arm, almost causing a crash. Akane kept him upright, only to regret it as he pulled her right suddenly. For a moment she thought they were going to hide in the bushes, only to pass a sign designating a ski run going down beside the bobsled track. Her eyes flared wide at the two black diamonds were marked on it.
"Ranma wait, this is only for..."
About then he dropped like a stone out of sight, releasing her hand as she followed him over the drop into the expert ski run.
Focusing on her balance, Akane landed and twisted, keeping control as she jagged down the hill. Ranma on the other hand had landed face first, flipping over and over, gathering snow as he went.
Suppressing a curse for idiots, she leant forward, picking up speed to catch the rolling ball her student had become, recklessly skipping down the slope.
Pulling alongside the yelling pile of out of control snowboarder, she reached out to grab a stray hand sticking out, tilting her feet to cut her board into the snow and slow down.
Feeling Akane's hand, Ranma pushed off, abandoning his board to try and burst free, leaping from the out of control snowball only to overbalance Akane.
With a thump the pair crashed out.
For a long moment, Ranma just held Akane, both breathing heavily, washing over each other’s lips, glasses hiding their emotions. Finally, Akane pushed up, blushing badly from lying on his body, sweating despite the cold. "Well that was stupid, it might have been safer to snowboard down the bobsled run."
"I didn't see you come up with a better plan," he snapped back, still breathing heavy. "Or would you rather spend the rest of the day with Sakura and Kuno?"
"What plan? Those two idiots will hear us and..." stopping suddenly, Akane shifted from shouting to a whisper, "Those two idiots will hear us and follow us down here any second, you jerk. Or did you just expect them to throw themselves down the bobsled track thinking we had gone that way?"
"Akane, I pursue..." was heard whipping by, accompanied by the sounds of skids on ice and Sakura's screams, as they shot past on the nearby bobsled track.
Akane punched the smirking young man in the arm.
"You think he has feelings for my daughter?"
"Oh, I'm sure of it Soun," Nodoka said with a nod, glancing at her grinning husband as he inhaled more food from the Tendo table. "Allowed to meet without the pressure of a forced engagement hanging over their heads has given them the opportunity to trust each other and let each other in. It is regrettable the deceit was needed, but the damage you and my husband caused in your original proclamation to Akane has been mitigated."
Soun sensed Genma's mouth opening, and worse could see Nodoka's eyes, just waiting for her husband to try and escape blame or give an excuse, and ready to chew him for it. With a deft move, he flicked a fish cake up from his plate, to arc in front of his heavy friend. Like a trained seal, Genma Saotome automatically bit it out of the air.
"You've done a wonderful job Nodoka, but does this mean we can prepare for a wedding before Christmas?"
"No," Nodoka snapped, not happy with either the question or her husband acting like an animal. "In no way can we force them together before they agree to anything, or else everything to date will fall apart. As it stands, the honour of the other girls must be considered in this as well or this fiasco will truly shame us all. We will have to let them have a say in all this at the engagement meeting in January."
"But surely you won't allow him to chose one of those others?" Soun asked nervously, only to be slapped on the back by his old training partner.
"Of course not Tendo, it's a sure thing. The boy loves your girl."
Nodoka glared at her husband, "It is not a sure thing. It is my wish, and as long as Ranma isn't forced I believe she will be his choice, but if we go into this expecting to just order the other girls away with nothing, then things will escalate out of our control. Again. They will be heard."
Controlling herself, she kept her husband silent with a glare, "At that time, we can start to discuss wedding choices."
"We could have a priest ready that afternoon?" Genma suggested.
Soun froze, half agreeing, but half terrified of the black cloud of Nodoka's deteriorating mood at her husband. He quickly filled his mouth with more of the lunch Nodoka had prepared for the two of them.
"It is my hope," she said quietly, "that they will agree to a March wedding on school break. That of course will never happen if either of you two suggests it to them. As it is, it is time for them to learn of the engagement. In a couple of weeks, we shall have a wedding meeting, here, and we... I shall explain all this to them. From then until January, Ranma will stay here and attend school with Akane, to get used to her as a fiancée away from the others. If either of you suggests anything about priests, weddings, or the like, I will..."
An urgent knocking at the door interrupted her threat, Nodoka turned to see a woman entering the room. Close to her own age, the attractive newcomer had long brown hair tied up in an intricate formal bun, held together with ornate hairpins. Her makeup sedated but present, she wore a beautiful, expensive kimono, her sash tied in a very traditional manner, but that of a single woman, not a married one.
The woman held a large bento box, wrapped in its furoshiki, and a traditional tea service with large back pot in the other. "Soun-chan, I'm so sorry I'm late."
"Miyakoji-san!" Soun stated with nervous surprise.
"When I heard Kasumi-chan had a lunch date with that lovely young doctor, I insisted to her I should come and prepare your lunch." Her eyes swept past the fat friend of Soun’s, who was greedily eyeing the prepared meal she had brought, across the already devoured lunch on the table, to the unknown woman.
Nodoka had seen such eyes before too often, though normally from much younger women interested in her son.
"Ah, Nodoka-san, please let me introduce Mrs Shika Miyakoji. Miyakoji-san, this is Genma's wife, Nodoka Saotome."
Like a switch, Nodoka saw the change in the woman’s face as she realised she wasn't competition for the moustachioed widower over the table from her. With a friendly smile, the woman sat beside Soun, quickly outlaying a tea ceremony set with graceful motions. "Nodoka-san, Soun speaks very highly of you, and how you've been helping get his youngest engaged to your son?"
"Yes," Nodoka returned politely, "Akane has always been a very sweet girl, and is already a good influence with my son."
"Oh yes I know what you mean. She helped my daughter Satsuki when she married Sentaro, of the Daimonji family.” The older woman’s eyes flicked with disappointment that the name of the prestigious elder Martial arts tea ceremony family didn’t spark recognition. “And if it wasn't for her I would never have met Soun-chan."
With deft motions, she served an aromatic tea, adding the food she had brought to the table and preparing a portion for Soun. As she worked, Nodoka leaned towards her husband. "Soun never mentioned this," she whispered.
"It wasn't an issue till you got his daughters talking marriage. Just pray the crazy school teacher doesn't show up."
The end is in sight. Just have to make it to March in the story…
Special thanks to those who have helped me, inspired me, pushed me, or proofed for me – Jamison, Hpackrat, Sakurabana, Paul Henkel, Mzephyr, Angela Jewel, YouROCKharder, Mesrure Onal, Rosedreams, My-name-is-foxglove, MWhaleK, Michael Ahlf, and probably a hundred more of you out there. And of course, Tom Wrensch, who started this story.
If you like this story, please tell me what you like and what you might like to see. I got a big old master plot, but many of my subplots are still only one line descriptions and I feed off inspirations.
Fanfiction dot net readers.
Please please please review all that you read.
Reviews nourish writer enthusiasm and make us think about what we are doing and learn from mistakes and grow and be better. If you got nothing constructive to say, keep it to yourself but if you liked something let us know.
Lets see if I can shamelessly buy your reviews, with the Anything Goes Review Challenge: Paragraph for paragraph!
Some of my favourite web comic authors sell prints and wallpapers for donations to their sites. Now I am a slow writer, mainly because I get distracted, by work, by other stories, by reading and such, but I will lay down the gauntlet. For each solid review I get, with something constructive (more than just 'I love it') or inspiring for me (ideas for subplots, characters, or fanservice?), I will write one solid paragraph (minimum two sentences & twenty words) within seven days of getting it. If it is a signed review or with an email addy, I will send you it giving a glimpse of an upcoming scene.
Now this chapter had 71 paragraphs that fit my requirement above, and chapter 11 is half written, as is chapter 12, so I only need a few more than my regular reviewers to motivate me and we could be seeing more chapters in just weeks rather than my yearly publishing schedule.
Will you please please help me by pushing me on this challenge?