“Ah, Hi, I’m Ranma Saotome, of the Saotome School of Anything Goes Martial Arts.”
The nervousness in his voice was obvious as the classroom of students stared at the new comer introducing himself. For his part, Ranma was more wary of the mooning eyes of most of the girls in the class.
“I’m Akane Tendo’s fiancée, our fathers…” His voice trailed off as most of the class turned to the embarrassed girl in her seat by the windows, most of the girls now glaring. Ranma could almost see the anger that had led to many rumors about him in the past.
“Hey, listen up. Lots of weird stuff has happened to me in the past, and you’re probably gonna hear stuff eventually, and some people will just make stuff up too. Now I don’t care what you say about me, or my Pop, but Akane, my Mom, or any other girls around me, say anything dishonorable about ‘em, that’s crossing the line.”
At the back of the class, a tall blond haired young man stood up, smiling with white teeth. “So can’t we ask what preferences the two of you share when watching pornography?”
“Mister Sanzenin, sit down!” Miss Hinako demanded quickly, glaring at the oft-delinquent student. Not that he cared as he stared off with Saotome. Especially with the shiner she had failed to cover up with makeup.
“I still owe you and your fiancée for that,” Ranma warned, recalling the humiliating incident up in the mountains.
“You challenging me?” Mikado smirked.
“No, he isn’t,” Akane stated, cutting off Ranma. Ignoring the glare from her bristling fiancé, she glared at Mikado. “You just want him to challenge you so you can demand he fight you on ice-skates.”
Mikado shrugged, affecting a bored attitude at the accusation, internally embarrassed at being so obvious.
Akane glanced to her fiancé, then back to the blond boy. “You’re on. Ranma and I, verses you and Kodachi, Martial Arts Ice Skating. Saturday after next.”
“You want to challenge us to a pairs match? Against Black Gold?”
“You got it Golden boy,” Ranma stated.
“That’s Golden Star to you,” the blond young man stated, pointing at Ranma. “I accept, you are…”
A tug on Mikado made him looked down at the short, black clad, ninja suddenly standing there. Squatting down, the pair had a hushed whisper, the manservant of the Kuno family holding an open diary they referred to, going back and forth.
Standing once more, Mikado glared at the pair. “We shall meet on the ice on the first Saturday of January. Kodachi and I are going away for a major meet in two weeks.”
Hinako nodded, “And that would be after the School Christmas dance.”
Ranma looked nervously at the teacher, then glanced at Mikado. “You’re on.”
Turning back to Hinako, Ranma frowned, “Ah, this dance isn’t compulsory is it?”
“Ranma!” Akane cried, hurt by his apparent reluctance.
Rather than answer, the student’s teacher smiled gently. “I’m sure you two will have fun,” she stated, her eyes distant as she imagined herself dancing with Soun on Christmas eve. She just had to convince him to be a chaperon with her of course. Christmas eve in Japan after all is one of romance. She’d just have to make sure Soun went a little Western so she could unwrap the present she wanted.
The ringing of the first bell signaled the end of first period and English, a short break occurring before the bell for second period would commence while the teachers moved to the next class they would be teaching. Normally this movement was accompanied by some students rushing for a quick bathroom break or other errand, but the first students to move were not going for the door, several of the girls converging on Akane.
Akane looked at the group moving up, amused as they stopped unsure with her new fiancé sitting right in front of her, but since her friends Yuka and Sayuri were leading them she didn’t think she’d be able to avoid them for long. Better they get a couple minutes now, rather than she lose all of recess or lunch with Ranma.
“Back in a second,” she said to Ranma who idly nodded.
Glancing at the resigned expression on Akane’s face as she was cut off from view by a circle of girls, Ranma figured it was typical girls after new gossip, part of him taking a little pride that more girls couldn’t wait to get the scoop on him.
“Dish,” Sayuri stated flatly, her penetrating eyes on her old friend. Said friend had returned to Nerima only two weeks ago not sharing the full story of where she had been. Worst the first week back she had been angry, then a week of moping, and now Akane was practically glowing, not just a hunky boyfriend, but engaged as well.
Unable to keep the smug smirk off her lips, Akane shrugged at the staring girls. “I told you about how I was off training with Ranma. Well that’s him. That’s all I thought it was, but it was actually a set up by his mother to let us get to know each other. I got a crush on him, he fell for me, then yesterday we found out his family was the one my father made an arranged marriage with before we were born.”
“And he said he loves me,” she sighed out with a pink glow and toothy smile, looking to see the young man in question.
Several of the girls smiled, looking to Ranma, but Yuka looked at Akane confused. “So why did you hit him after he beat Kuno?”
As two of the girls heads looked back on her with glaring eyes, Akane was almost worried that they got whiplash. Holding up her hand, she struggled with her words, “That’s, ah, hard to explain.”
“Try,” Yuka urged with a smirk.
“It’s a long story.”
“Give us the abridged version,” one of the other girls stated.
Sayuri gasped suddenly, “Oh kami, Akane no. Tell me it isn’t…”
Panic shot up into Akane’s throat as Sayuri jumped to a conclusion that could be embarrassingly right.
“You really are a sadist and he’s a masochist!?”
Akane and the other girls picked themselves up off the floor, the young Tendo shaking her head. “No! It’s nothing like that!”
Looking for help, she glanced to Ranma, but he was hidden from view by the boys of the class talking to him.
With Akane moving with the girls towards the back of the class, Ranma saw two male students moving towards him. He held less hope in making friends of boys who were looking for gossip, but he had been idly hopping to make some decent guy friends with a fresh start at a new school. Although something in the way these two walked reminded him of a couple guys who made like friends to him to get closer to Sakura or Shampoo and make a pass at them. “Hey,” he stated as they approached.
Rather than stand over him in his seat, the pair squatted to eye level, smirking. “I’m Hiroshi.”
“And I’m Daisuke”
Before Ranma could say his own name, the blond Hiroshi continued. “So if you're engaged to Akane, and you were the guy that we saw beat Kuno over in Juban two months ago…”
“And the guy who won the Juban open martial arts tournament on TV,” Daisuke added.
“So aren’t you engaged to Sakura Shishimi?”
Ranma stopped suddenly, glancing to the circle of girls across the room, squirming at how to answer the awkward question. Instead, Mikado answered for him.
“And on the ski trip Akane said Sakura wasn’t his only fiancée either.”
Glaring at the blond classmate, Ranma shrugged. “Okay, technically I have more than one fiancée, all of them arranged marriages.”
“You have three fiancées?” Hiroshi asked.
Wincing, he shrugged. “Actually five, but I ain’t met the last one yet. In January we have a meeting to decide who I actually will marry. I didn’t know Akane was one as well till yesterday, but the promise between our families is the oldest, and I want her to be the one.”
“Are they all as hot as Akane and Sakura?” Daisuke asked, his eyes unfocused as he imagined some vista of five hot girls, Ranma snapping his fingers to get his attention off the imagined Akane.
“Hey, of the ones I know, they’re all cute except for Sakura, I’ll guarantee she won’t be my wife.”
“Why? Her calendar is hot! Did she dump you? Is she single?” Hiroshi asked in overly hopeful voice.
“If you want I’ll introduce you,” Ranma said, noticing one girl moving from a seat near them towards the group of girls. Like watching a car crash, the girl weaved through the group to Akane in their center.
“He said what?!” Akane’s voice cried out.
The ringing of the class bell ended any further denials, the girls all-moving to their chairs as Mr Unzari came in to teach geography.
Groaning as he got to his feet, Genma Saotome frowned, looking at his body. He wondered why he felt so sore, having obviously slept well into the morning. He knew he and Soun had been drinking, celebrating the joining of the schools, but after that was a little hazy. He certainly didn’t recall getting in a fight.
Moaning at the effort of sitting up, he finally struggled to his feet. Opening his pajama top, he looked at the bruises on his chest and stomach. “If that ungrateful boy took a cheap shot at me…” he grumbled assigning blame to make himself seem better.
Shuffling through the house, he finally reached the bathroom, seeing the sign on the furo door saying occupied. “Soun, that you in there?”
His wife’s voice called out from within. “I am, Husband.”
A slight smirk on his face, Genma straightened up and knocked on the door to the bath. “Are you alone? I could join you dear?”
“No Husband, I’m not alone in here.” Smirking at the image of Soun’s fine daughters inside as well, he toyed with opening the door, hearing the water splash as someone emerged from the furo within.
“So who is in there with you?”
“An old friend actually. One moment.” A minute passed as Nodoka dried herself, before reaching for her companion waiting away from the water. A flash of light through the thin door made Genma furrow his brow, but then the door slid open, revealing his wife drying her hair with a towel while wearing the magic dogi.
“Good morning Husband, did you sleep well?” Nodoka asked with faux cheer at the shocked look on his face.
Sputtering with shock, Genma backed away from the suit. “I thought it was destroyed!” he cried, recalling the last time he had seen this suit and the battle it had taken to get it off his wife. It had been a miserable three months of his life, and equally miserable for his Master Happosai. Finally during another fight he had used a low blow, well a series of them, to leave her open for him to hit the yin-yang buckle in the uniform’s belt for what he thought was final victory.
“After you defeated me last time and it fell apart. I decided to repair it to return it to the monastery but found it came to life once again. I disabled it and left it packed in the attic, expecting one day to need it again to remind my husband to think before he acts.”
Mulling over that insult, Genma missed Nodoka walking out, leaving him now knowing what caused the bruises he was feeling, and knowing there were more to come.
“Why did you tell the boys your harem are all cute and hot?” Akane accused.
Ranma was more than surprised because the ring of the bell for the morning break just rang when Akane turned on him. For one instant he though her head just rotated backwards on her shoulders like a demon.
“Hey, I didn’t say nothing about hot, but they knew about Sakura and Mikado spilled some more so I had to tell some of the truth. And it ain’t like I’m blackening my honor with this mess without going around saying Sakura is a bitch.”
“So you just said they’re all hotter than me?”
“I never said hotter!” Ranma said loudly, both freezing as all eyes of the emptying classroom turned to them.
Both stiffly stood up to exit the room, but it was just as Akane reached the door, that Ranma bumped close to his angry fiancée, taking the chance to whisper in her ear under the noise of the other students. “You know more than anyone which fiancée I find cutest.”
Blushing hotly, Akane moved down the hall ahead of him, imagining his eyes on her while she struggled to control her face.
Ranma smirked at the embarrassed Akane as they walked from class towards the school doors, resisting the urge to tuck back a curl of dark blue hair near her ear, hoping she’d look to him rather than around the area.
For her part, Akane was certain a trap was building, a bunch of girls all watching the pair approaching their shoe lockers to change to outdoor shoes. With a certain trepidation, Akane opened her locker with a quick action, sighing at finding nothing.
Ranma’s cry made Akane spin around, looking at the letters flooding out of his shoe locker. Her heart started to sink as the watching girls all began to rush for the door, leaving in a quiet struggling race.
“What are these?”
“Challenge letters,” Nabiki said, walking up with another stack in her hand to give him.
“Challenge letters?” he asked in a disbelieving voice. A smirk started to grow on his lips as he collected them up like a child with presents, bright eyes looking to Akane. “This school is awesome.”
Nabiki grinned widely, “Yes, love letters have become a popular way to issue challenges from the girls.”
“Girls?” Ranma asked as his face fell.
“Nabiki! Ranma is my fiancé, we are a couple. He can’t be challenged!” Akane stated angrily.
“I know Sis, and I wish I could do something about that, but it seems that you aren’t able to register your relationship at the moment,” she replied smirking. “Remember that technicality? And after what Ranma said to Kuno and your reaction, most girls think they can win him from you.”
“But I don’t fight girls.” Ranma stated dumbly.
“I do,” Akane stated, venting her anger off her deserving sister to the challengers to her man.
Stepping onto the Love Dome floor, Ranma and Akane saw a great many of the girls, some from their own class, and even a few from in the uniforms of other schools arrayed in the queue on the other side. Many had changed from school uniforms, a few to martial arts gi’s, a few in sporting out fits down to the girls in summer tennis skirts. More had gone for pretty casual wear, though one of the more forward and developed seniors had gone with a bikini, and the girl beside her in a trench coat and a blush made Akane even more nervous.
Akane glared again at the troublesome young man who she was about to champion, growling at the attention he was getting. “Okay, who’s first?”
One girl, a senior from the track team by the look of the sports outfit and runners, looked at Akane with shock. “I challenged him.”
“And I’m his fiancée, and I’m his champion.”
The brunet looked to Ranma with a hopeful smile. “Ah, are you sure?”
Ranma shook his head trying to be firm. “Akane is my fiancée.”
Her head falling, the girl walked up to the ring as Akane entered a little too happy as she cracked her knuckles. She nodded to the senior in the black and white umpires shirt.
Even before the referee finished calling begin and dropping her hand, the girl had jumped out of the ring before Akane could get her.
Frowning at the embarrassed girl leaving her in victory, Akane waved to the next head of the queue, several of which had moved backwards in order letting others cut in front.
Dressed in a gymnastics leotard, the captain of the Furinkan Girls Gymnastic team stepped up, eyes warily on Akane but didn’t step into the ring. “Ranma-san, are you sure you don’t want to fight yourself?”
Akane’s glare told him the answer he was already planning to give. He gave a shake of his head. “Sorry, I don’t like fighting girls so it’s up to her.”
Nodding at his response, Akane took a ready stance in the ring.
“And I get to fight the guys who challenge her,” Ranma added.
“Excuse me?” Akane said, turning on Ranma, “I never agreed to that.”
“It’s only fair.”
“So? You don’t fight girls. I do fight boys. I let you fight Kuno.”
“He challenged me over you. That’s different.”
Years of losing to Kodachi Kuno at Rhythmic Gymnastics Martial Arts had been a bad influence on Akane’s challenger, slinking in the ring she signaled silently for the referee to being the match. Rushing at Akane’s turned back as the referee called ‘Begin!’, she nearly reached the dark haired girl to push her out of the ring.
“Well you still aren’t championing for me on fights I want to fight,” Akane said continuing the argument, even as she side stepped her attacker, grabbed her arm and flung her onwards out the ring and to the floor.
“But I’m your fiancé!”
“And I’m your student. I need the practice more.”
Smirking as Ranma’s face showed he was trying to come up with a better argument, Akane turned her back on him and waved on the next opponent.
This time it was a petite freshman in a neat clean school uniform that stepped up, nervous but holding her head high. “Ah, before you decide to allow Akane-san to be declare herself your champion, I just wanted to say I get A's in Home Economics and I’m an only child, my Father owns a modest but profitable company that makes…”
Akane’s eyes were wide as the shorter young girl tried to sell herself to her fiancé, only to be cut off by shouts from others in the queue of challengers.
“My father is CEO of a major company!”
“My family owns a brewery!”
“I have a trust fund!”
Nabiki was busily writing down details as the girls shouted them, just for future record, her smirk growing as she heard Ranma mumbling while closing his eyes and sticking his fingers in his ears. “Gods I hope they don’t go talk to Pops.”
Seeing Ranma trying to make himself insensate, Akane tried to control her temper as she walked to the edge of the ring and dragged the short freshman into the ring by her hair.
“My twin sister and I share everything!”
Seeing Akane’s face as she stumbled hearing that comment from the other challengers, the referee quickly called ‘Begin’ and dropped her arm to start the match, ignoring the struggles and cries of the victim in the champion’s hands.
“I have no gag refl…”
“THAT’S IT!” Akane cried, her head blowing out and turning demonic as she glared at the challengers, idly swinging her current opponent around by her legs, threatening the rest with the girl, like she was a weapon. “WHO WANTS TO TRY AND TAKE MY FIANCE!”
Ranma smirked as he watched Akane race up to her room. She had not be pleased with the attention he had gotten from the girls of Furinkan High and even other schools who had come to Love Dome after school. His thoughts were of amusement as her anger wasn’t focused at him, and how she should be pretty happy she has got such a stud, conveniently ignoring the jealousy he felt earlier at her being challenged by the boys of the school.
“Boy, it’s time to train.”
Genma’s gruff voice got his attention, not so much for the words, but because if it was really training he would have ambushed him. “So you who gonna spar with Pop? You found some twelve year old who you can beat since I left you in the dust?”
“Get outside, Boy, in the dojo.”
With a shrug to cover any curiosity in the Old Man’s tone and what he might say, Ranma followed the older man through the house, across the path and into the dojo.
Turning slowly, Genma glared at his son. “Why the hell is your mother back in that accursed dogi?”
Smirking, Ranma relaxed. “Geez Pop, you can’t figure it out?”
“You said you had gotten rid of the scraps after I got her out of it last time?”
Blushing red recalling how Genma and Nodoka had been making out after that battle, he found his mind automatically drifting to ‘celebrating’ with Akane some time in the future. Shaking it off, he looked back at the old man. “I binned them, but Mom went and got 'em again. She had em up in the roof till she said we were comin’ here, she wanted to beat up on Happi and probably you.”
“Me,” Genma whined, “Why me? I haven’t done anything wrong.”
Ranma looked at his father almost disappointed. “Your kidding right Pop? You didn’t listen ta her about setting me and Akane up, but then you ogle up Akane’s teacher last night? And your surprised she is laying blows in ta ya? Come on.”
“Watch your tongue, Boy,” the older man growled, taking a swipe with his fist to test Ranma’s defenses.
Leaning out of range, Ranma smirked back. “I just figured a slow old man like you had some clue to how women think by now.”
Genma charged, ready to counter an expected kick to his belly, only to find Ranma dropping low sliding in.
Sliding on the wood floor, Ranma struck fast, scissoring his legs to kick his father’s stance apart. Lashing up with is foot, he kicked Genma up, catching him on the souls of his feet to launching the older man out the dojo door into the yard.
Following his father out of the dojo at a slow pace, Ranma saw Akane and his mother sipping tea on the edge of the engawa, Akane hanging her legs off the veranda while his mother sat on her shins. Giving the pair a smile and wave, he waited, letting Genma get back to his feet before moving in to show off for his audience.
Nodoka’s brown eyes ignored the brutality of her husband and son practicing with each other in the Tendo yard, instead looking over the profile of the young woman soon to become her daughter. As the cute pout of the girl became more of a frown, Nodoka’s eyes glanced to the fighters in concern. “What is it?”
“He’s hitting his father hard.”
“Well don’t think of it being disrespectful Akane-chan, it’s just…”
“Oh I don’t. It’s just that Ranma won’t hit me like that. He’s holding back but I can take it.”
Tilting her head, keeping in mind Akane was her choice for her son regardless of little quirks, Nodoka chose her words carefully. “I would like to think Ranma always has a gentle hand with someone he cares about like you.” The sudden blush on Akane’s cheeks as the young woman looked at her hands in her lap reminded the older woman of when she thought fondly of the her husband like that.
Controlling her thoughts, Akane focused on being upset with Ranma and put it into words. “How can I ever be my best if he is holding back when I can take it? He trains me in all sorts of wonderful styles and forms but holds back because he thinks I can’t take it. It’s insulting. I’m a martial artist too.”
“Yes you are, and he does respect that. I think it really matters to him.”
“It’s more than that though. If he doesn’t make me as tough as I can be, I might get hit hard and even if not injured I could lose my temper, like I did when I was a child.”
Nodoka gave her an odd look. “Is that really a concern, Akane-chan? I would think your temper was so much better than when you were younger. You let Ranma get to you too much but his years on the road, he is just growing out of teasing you because he likes you. A lot of that growth is because of you of course.”
Akane nodded, still concerned, thinking about losing her temper in Love Dome today, shifting how she sat on the wood of the veranda.
A loud splash got both women’s attention as Ranma smirked in victory over the now Panda occupying the garden koi pond. “Too easy?” he asked them cockily.
“Come on Pop, Akane gives me a better workout than this.”
Had Genma been less angry and more observant, he might have noticed the two blushes the newly engaged couple shared at Ranma’s choice of words.
Dragging Ranma by the hand, Akane ran. From the moment the end of day bell rang Akane had ran them out of school and not stopped. After two days of not getting away from school before after winter sunset because of stupid love dome challenges, when Akane had the chance she fled before any other idiot challenged her or her fiancé.
Finally slowing, her breath puffing slightly, she turned to look at her man, his breathing normal not even phased by the run as he looked around the street.
With a huff, she pointed up the street. “Come on, this is the first day we have a chance to get to the ice rink and practice our skating for fighting Kodachi and Mikado next month. We have to get there before either of us is challenged again.”
Shrugging, Ranma let her keep holding his hand as she pulled along on the cool but sunny day.
“I thought you wanted to show me around when we finally got off early like this.”
Glaring at him, Akane yanked on his arm to bring him up beside her. “Fine, there is a yakitori shop, over there a women only bath. Down that street is where Yuka lives.”
The bemused smirk on Ranma’s lips didn’t improve Akane’s mood. “You want more. There is a laundry mat, over there the train station, and that’s a love hotel…”
Wincing as the blood rushed to her face at loudly pointing out such a building in public while dragging a boy behind her, Akane started leading the way again.
Wisely keeping his mouth shut, Ranma wondered how long it would take the rivals and others from storming in if he and Akane did go inside such a place. Looking around the path ahead, he saw a large shrine entrance.
“Nice Shrine,” Ranma stated, if only to make conversation.
“Oh crap,” Akane muttered to herself, tilting her head down and pulling Ranma along faster. It was in vain as a tall priest walked out of the shrine’s gate, in traditional garb with the tall hat and white robes, and a gong held lightly in his hand. The moment the priest with his heavy makeup saw Akane he burst with a joyous smile.
“Hail! Hail the Demonslayer!”
Akane was getting really annoyed with the embarrassment life was heaping on her of late. She tried to speed up further but Ranma held her hand as he slowed.
“Good fellow,” the priest proclaimed. “You have the honor of holding hand with a mighty demon slayer who ended a grave threat to this world.”
“For while our shrine did its duty, holding the demon in its prison as was made by the Priest who was also a Monkey, it was this innocent, pure and holy girl who vanquished the monster for all time.”
“Be sure to treat her right and never visit such a defiling place as that,” he stated, his hand with the gong beater pointing at the purple lights on the love hotel. “For heaven will punish one who mistreats this child before marriage.”
Ranma grinned, impressed that Akane had done such, amused at her embarrassment at the priests antics.
“Well I’m her fiancé, and we’re going that way, not to the hotel. So bye.”
Ranma had barely said it when Akane said “Bye” and raced down the street, dragging him away from the kooky priest.
Tired, Ryoga Hibiki let out a sigh at the sign for Furinkan High School. He had finally found it again.
As a pair of girls exited in the blue uniform he remembered, he stood up straight, touching his striped bandanna as if to straighten it, smiling shyly in case it was Akane Tendo. When it wasn’t her, he sighed again.
The voice behind Ryoga startled him, turning him suddenly to find a blond guy looking at him, wearing the blue Furinkan uniform.
Mikado Sanzenin eyed the young man before him, frowning at the dirty dusty clothes and the wilted flowers he held. “Aren’t you the guy who had a date with Akane Tendo?”
Ryoga almost reeled at someone else saying what he hardly believed was happening to him, but managed to straighten. “Ah, yeah, I’m Ryoga Hibiki. Do you know where Tendo-san is? I’ve got to apologize for…”
“Fortunately for you,” the blond said, cutting him off with a white smile, “Akane couldn’t make that date either, so you still have to go out with her.”
“Really?” Ryoga squeaked happily, then frowned. “Wait, you know about that date?”
Mikado smirked, looking forward to playing with that cocky Ranma’s mind, and setting up Akane to be a little vulnerable. “I’m Mikado Sanzenin, and Akane is a friend of mine.”
Gesturing at the setting sun, Mikado shook his head. “I saw Akane leaving earlier. It’s up to you, but I think Akane would be happier meeting you once you’ve cleaned up. Would you like to bath and prepare at my fiancée’s place?”
Smiling widely, Ryoga nodded eagerly, things were really looking up.
Ryoga Hibiki frowned, wiping his face with his spotted bandanna.
A week after taking a beating from that wannabe swordsman when he had turned on Jiro and himself, and a week of living in the back room of the small house in Bokuto, Ryoga Hibiki had thought the day was looking up when Ukyo-chan replied to the love letter he had sent her earlier in the week.
The fact that when he opened the envelope, her reply exploded in his face, was not promising.
She was such a passionate girl.
Toko frowned, looking at the mess made around his Mom’s kitchen, “She’s your girlfriend, you’re cleaning this up.”
Ryoga slumped at the table moaning at how bad his life was.
Walking sedately towards the ice rink building, Akane’s face was still red, waiting for Ranma to ask the inevitable question.
“So you killed a demon. That’s cool.”
“We didn’t kill it. Happosai sealed it, we told them we killed it because it can’t escape from its prison this time and will die, but we didn’t want them hanging around guarding it like they had for hundreds of years.”
Shrugging, surprised that Akane was so embarrassed about lying to a priest, Ranma tilted his head. “So where did Happosai seal it? Please don’t tell me it’s in a pair of panties.”
Akane looked at Ranma, trying to be mindful of Ranma and his anger for her other teacher, Happosai. “Happosai saved my life when he sealed it. I lost control and it possessed me more than it did anyone else. If he hadn’t saved me, I still would be possessed.”
Chilled by the seriousness of how she reacted, still dealing with the evil and selfish master martial artist saving someone else, Ranma looked directly at her. “Where is it?”
A passing truck driving through a puddle of water splashed up on Ranma, missing Akane completely.
The redheaded girl in the Furinkan boy’s uniform looked up with a frown.
Akane was sympathetic, “They have hot water inside.”
“So how do you plan to kiss Akane Tendo?”
Ryoga went so red at the question, Mikado wondered if he might keel over dead on the spot.
“I, that is, it’s just a first date, and from a fight, maybe on a fourth or fifth…”
Mikado’s voice cut through Ryoga’s embarrassed babbling.
“Rule number one, everything comes down to the kiss.”
Ryoga looked up at the words.
“Where you take her, what you talk about, what you give her, what you eat, how you dance,” Mikado stated with a vaguely wistful expression. “You do it all to set up the kiss.”
Swallowing and slightly in awe of the seriousness this guy spoke of the subject, Ryoga nodded slowly. “Um, so at the end of the date?”
“Wrong again. That's a beginners mistake,” Mikado said, smiling to himself as he lifted a biscuit from the tray Sasuke had put out for the two of them in the atrium. “Never ever wait to kiss at the end of the date. If you are kissing her only at her door, it is a kiss goodbye. You failed. Game over.”
Casually leaning back, Mikado nodded to himself. “The so called ‘experts’ claim that it is all about communication. The truth is that everything that the girl wants from you, you tell her in the first kiss, so the sooner the kiss, the better for both of you.”
Looking over at his nodding student, Mikado grinned with white teeth. “What do you think I mean by that?”
Ryoga shook upright at the question, his brain still processing the concepts he had never really thought about that the young man was putting forward. “Ah…”
“It means that you need to know what the girl wants when you kiss her. You need to let her know you are the best thing that ever happened to her, that she’ll never want another man after you.”
Swallowing his dry throat, Ryoga made no move to reply to this.
Mikado gave him another look over. “You also have o be confident in yourself. How about you go use the bath and clean up before we move onto more practical training?”
Akane gave up sympathy, laughing as Ranma fell on his back for the fifth time. He could stand on a person’s head, he could walk around the house on his hands, and she had even seen him run along a power line. But skates were some new weakness for him.
“It isn’t that hard Ranma,” she stated, gliding around him on the ice as the music played gently for the skaters. “Don’t try to force it. Go with it.”
The set of Ranma’s face almost made her groan, he was going to try and power his way through this again.
Scanning over the rink, populated with many students around their age and younger, he saw a break in the circling groups. Kicking up to his feet, Ranma dug in with his skates, driving forward at a run to get the speed to stay upright.
“Yes!” he cried with a punch to the air.
“Ranma!” Akane cried after him, glad he was happy but seeing a problem with his plan. “Slow down and turn!”
Crossing the ring quickly, Ranma had already seen the need to do as Akane warned. The problem was he had no idea how.
Shooting across the gap in the circling skaters he had aimed for in case he lost control, he leaped at the last minute, pushing off the plastic siding boards to change his momentum and send him more on the right track.
Or at least he would be on the right track if the pursuing Akane wasn’t in the way.
With a crash the pair impacted and fell to the ice.
The music cut off with a quick ripping sound as the public address system boomed out a voice. “The acrobat and his girlfriend, leave the ice, you’re banned for thirty minutes.”
Center of attention once again, an embarrassed Akane dragged Ranma towards an exit from the ice, her fiancé focused on reviewing his speed attempt and watching the technique of other skaters. Akane’s embarrassment rose seeing Yuka, Sayuri, and some of the others from her class at the exit gently applauding them getting in trouble.
Enjoying the luxurious bathroom, Ryoga scrubbed at his skin, cleaning the travel grime off with fast efficiency. This was nicer than any bathhouse he had been in and it was in this guy’s house. Well, his fiancée's house anyway.
Looking around the chamber in wonder at the artistic trimming and furnishings, his eyes flowed over the detail, right down to the lion head porcelain faucet, hot water pouring from its mouth into the furo. Distracted, he didn’t realize how cool the water in the wash bucket had become before he felt his body change under the rinsing water. Still, the piglet in the tiger print bandanna didn’t it get him down, there was all that hot water in the furo if he could just find it.
Humming to herself after a successful training day in Rhythmic Gymnastics after school, Kodachi Kuno opened the door to the bathroom, peeking in to make sure her foolish brother was not inside, slightly disappointed that Mikado wasn’t.
Entering fully, she looked at the unoccupied chamber, frowning at the soapy sitting stool and wash things left beside an overturned bucket. Obviously her brother had left them for the help to clean up, she consider with a frown before reaching to the shoulder straps of her leotard.
The little black pig in the corner away from the steaming bath, still looking for hot water, stared bug eyed at the black haired girl. Ryoga wasn’t one for a lot of forethought, but as the woman stripped off a leotard down to her underwear, he had a terrifying vision of Mikado’s angry face as he told Akane what a pervert he was.
Kodachi stopped her actions at the sound, surprised to see a black piglet running around her family’s bathroom. Thoughts of a free meal for her pet, ‘Mr Green Turtle’, had barely formed when the animal jumped into the hot water of the furo, the water surging as it was displaced by a lot more mass.
Expecting the pig to start panicking and drowning, Kodachi was caught off guard as the bare young man rose from the water, his hands over his eyes, “Please stay dressed. Don’t undress yet.”
A vague feeling of insult at not wanting to peek at her made Kodachi angrier than his sudden appearance, though the muscled chest gleaming wet and clean caught her breath. “Might I have the name of the stranger in my bath?”
“Sorry, I was bathing, ah, I’m Ryoga Hibiki. Sanzenin-san said I could use your bath.”
Relaxing at his excuse, Kodachi smiled for her fiancé’s new friend, though it was slightly surprising that Mikado had a friend who wasn’t lecherous enough to peek on her. “I’ll leave you to finish up then.”
With a final glance at the waterline doing a poor job of hiding the embarrassed boy, she turned for the door, about to close it when another thought occurred to the Kuno heiress. Grabbing a towel to wrap around her body, she turned back to the naked young man.
“Ryoga-kun? You wouldn’t know a Ranma Saotome would you?”
“That jerk? Because of him I have seen hell.”
Not expecting the slight smirk on the woman’s lips, Ryoga was confused as she shut the door and leaned on it, looking back at him as he tried to cover up in the large bath. “So how does this change thing you and Ranma do work?”
“Man, if I had a girl glaring at me like that, I’d be sure I was dumped.”
Ranma shrugged at Hiroshi’s words, glancing to Akane as he drank from a soda can. “It’s cool. Akane’s had a pretty stressful week is all. This is her home so its far more pressure on her, and being engaged ta me has its own difficulties.”
“Like what? The four other girls who want you?”
“They are part of it. I ain't no expert but I don't know any girl who likes to share. Akane especially.”
“Do the other girls at least not yell at you or hit you?”
“If you get a girl who wants to marry you who never gets angry with you, she ain’t being honest.” Taking another drink, Ranma smirked. “Besides, not knowing if she wants to hug me or grapple me keeps me on my toes. It’s good practice.”
A flashing of light and movement caught Ranma’s attention, glaring brightly out of a doorway, a small area of the building for arcade games. Among the flickering lights and arcade sounds, a young teenager was erratically moving his legs around on the platform before one game.
Standing up and nodding to the two guys with him to follow, he moved over to look at what the boy was doing. “What’s that?”
Daisuke glanced in the door. “Dance Dance Revolution? It’s a dance game. You know, it shows you on the screen how to make you move your legs to dance to the moves. A lot of people like it.”
Ranma grinned as he recalled the teacher’s words of the upcoming school Christmas dance, a dance Akane definitely wanted to attend. Fishing in his pockets, he pulled out some coins.
“Keep an eye out for Akane, I don’t want her to see me on this.”
Hiroshi glanced to the girls talking puzzled. “Why not? It’s just an arcade game.”
“Just trust me.”
Ryoga followed Mikado through the massive house, down stairs several levels to the indoor dojo of the estate. Trophies lined one wall, broken up by suits of vintage samurai armor and weapons, another wall was of kendo armor and tools, and a third was a long series of large panel mirrors. Finally training dummies lined the far wall. Several were destroyed, cut down to the stump, tattered remnants yet to be cleaned, and the eyes of the boy in the tiger print bandanna narrowed on the red tatters, the color reminding him of the silly Chinese shirts Ranma always wore.
One on the end was different that then rest, intact and well made, more of a manikin, and certainly similar in appearance to Akane Tendo.
“You have a training dummy that looks like Akane?”
Mikado shook his head causally, “No, my future brother-in-law has a thing for a girl who looks much like Akane,” he lied outright.
“He has a thing for a girl and likes to hit a training dummy of her?”
“You’ve never had a girlfriend have you?” The blond young man smirked. Shaking his head Mikado turned more serious and a little disgusted. “Neither has he. Worse still, ever since he saw that Mask of Zorro film, he likes to dress her up before he practices.”
“Okay…” Ryoga said at length, having no idea what that meant. His lack of understanding became a non issue as Mikado used a handkerchief to wipe at the lips of the Akane inspired dummy.
“Ready to learn to kiss, student? Step on up.”
Walking out of class, Ranma’s eyes narrowed as he kept Mikado Sanzenin within view. He had caught the blond young man glancing at Akane often through the morning.
“Ranma, are you coming?”
Glancing to his fiancée, Ranma nodded, passing her the bento his mother made this morning. “I’ll be with you in just a minute. I gotta check something.”
“I’ll tell ya when I know,” he said flippantly with a grin, before heading off in pursuit of the blond figure.
Moving around the back of the building, Ranma caught sight of Mikado ahead talking to Sasuke, the diminutive ninja nodding as he accepted a slip of paper. He closed enough to just to hear the end of instructions being given.
“…make him memorize this, then get him in position after school.”
With a nod, the Kuno manservant ran off, quickly vanishing on his mission as Mikado smirked.
A cascade of water caught Ranma unaware, making him curse and glance up to the empty window, imagining some jerk up their pouring out some errant punishment bucket without looking.
Suddenly realizing Mikado was coming back towards him, the redhead in the Furinkan boys uniform leaped into the garden behind a small bush to hide, hoping no one else saw him.
Leaning against the tree, Kodachi Kuno gave a delicious smile as she watched the unfortunate ‘accident’ befall the dark haired young man. The red hair, and the obvious change in height and proportion, it was definitely a Jusenkyo curse, just like Mikado’s little friend had said.
Kodachi kept watching as the red head jumped behind a bush to hide from Mikado and the emerging school population. Keeping her eyes on her target, Kodachi didn't even glance away when her ‘friend’ from her gymnastics team arrived.
“Captain Kuno, you needed something? I’m sorry I’m late?” Sachi Iroppoi said cheerfully, happy to be asked for a job by the team captain.
Ever since her chest had started growing faster than other girls at school, Sachi had accepted that some women would dislike her because of how the Kami invested her with larger assets than many women twice her age. But she always hoped a smart woman like Kodachi would see she could do so much more to help the team. Okay, sometime her chest overbalanced her and she wasn’t the most athletic girls, or the smartest. But she had a lot of friends. All the guys asked her out.
Kodachi moved her dark eyes to her teammate, nodding appreciatively at her build. “You’re right on time dear, please take off your uniform.”
Turning red, Sachi glanced nervously around the school grounds full of Furinkan students. “Oh, was I supposed to wear my leotard? I kind of forgot.”
“Sachi dear, I thought you wanted to do your part for the gymnastics team? I need your uniform please?”
Kodachi’s tone made Sachi whimper as she moved behind a tree to slip off her skirt and blouse. “Can I keep my jacket?”
Kodachi toyed with the idea but decided she was running out of time. “That’s fine Sachi,” she said, snatching away the girl’s clothes leaving her in a jacket and underwear.
Watching Kodachi walk away, Sachi shivered, wondering if she was to remain here or leave. The thought of crossing town back to St Heberekes like this was daunting but she didn’t want to get caught up near Love Dome dressed like this either. Not after Mikado charged her for being her champion last time, she thought with tingling lips.
Turning to leave she froze as two Furinkan students were standing there all but drooling.
“I challenge you!” both said in stereo, before glaring at each other.
Eyes narrowing on his friend, Hiroshi held up his fist, smirking as Daisuke did the same.
“One, Two, Three… Ha! Paper wraps rock!”
Ranma was not pleased as the cold water seeped into his shirt, his body in its girl form shivering in the cold as he edged closer to the door. He needed to dart in fast, regretting for an instant sealing his father’s sneaking thief techniques, before somberly recalling why he had done so.
He was just readying to jump for the door back inside when suddenly an arm appear, holding out a skirt and girls blouse.
“Ranma-kun, it might be better for Akane if your curse isn’t exposed till everyone gets to know you like I do.”
Of all the people Ranma expected to give him aid, Kodachi Kuno was not among his guesses, but he wasn’t going to look a gift horse in the mouth. A quick change, and a second young woman in St Hebereke uniform stepped out of the brush.
“Ah, thanks Kodachi. How did you know?”
The dark haired young woman glowed in pleasure. “I did my research. Jusenkyo is not easy to track down information on. I just arrived to meet Mikado when I saw your accident. I had a spare uniform in my fiancés locker. Ancient Chinese curse, if it were not so tragic it would be magical.”
“Heh, you got that right.”
The smiles the pair shared were interrupted as Akane stormed up trailing several other students. “What’s going on here?”
“Oh, hey Akane, sorry about this.” Ranma said, his feminine hand going behind his head uncomfortably, not attentive to the way it moved his unbound chest in the thin blouse, in profile to the male students taking an interest. “I guess I, Ranko Saotome, am visiting from…”
Kodachi smiled as the red head gestured to her uniform, “St Hebereke, dear.”
Akane glared in suspicion at Kodachi and her involvement here. “So you’re here visiting your ‘brother’ and me, what is she doing here?”
“I was just showing Ranko-chan the way, Akane-chan. Our next stop was some hot tea if you care to join us? I'm sure your fiancé will return at the hint of a hot beverage. ”
Akane’s eyes widened realizing Kodachi’s implication and tone meant she knew about the curse.
Ignoring the byplay between the two young women, Yuka stepped closer, eyeing the red head. “I know you…”
Everyone turned to the brown haired girl, for once not the shortest girl in the group, slightly taller than Ranko. “You were the girl who was there when the girl’s change room blew up!”
Shaking his head, Ranma had no idea what he was accused of, not recalling blowing up any girls change room.
Still pointing at Ranko, Yuka looked to Akane. “Remember when ‘Grandfather’ used to spy on us, and we set those traps. Then there was a red haired girl changing with us and while we were doing PE the water main under blew up! That was her, I’m sure of it!”
Ranma’s feminine blue eyes looked at the girl’s change room then turned to look across the grounds to a fox statue on a pedestal, her face falling as she remembered.
“Ah, I, I didn’t do it,” Ranko said to those assembled, grabbing Akane and pulling her away to whisper to her.
“Ryoga Hibiki had a map to a Japanese Nanniichuan, a spring of drown man, we followed it here to get cured. I didn’t even realise it was the same school. I only went in there to scout it out, not to spy on anyone. Ryoga actually broke the water main trying to find the spring that had been closed long before.”
Akane glared at her female fiancé, trying to recall the redhead and what she might have seen. But whatever he saw of her back then he knew much better now.
“You’re an…” Akane began backing from the red head, suddenly recalling who was around her. “You’re as big an idiot as your brother.”
Turning to Yuka, Akane shook her head. “She was there, but she didn’t blow it up.”
Yuka glared at the red head but Ranma was more worried about the guys moving up behind her and around those talking.
“Um, are you single?” one of the taller senior boys asked towards Ranko’s chest.
Ranko looked to Akane for help, the younger Tendo immediately visualising a smiling Nabiki, wondering how she would best profit from this, but before she could work out how best to deal with this before a mess of challenges happened, Ranko grinned.
“Wait, if I’m available you can all challenge me for a date, right?”
Many nodding heads answered, Akane’s head falling at the happiness in the red head’s blue eyes.
“Taking all challengers?” Ranko said, cracking her fingers.
Like watching a train wreck about to cause catastrophic damage, Akane followed behind her egotistical fiancée in his cursed form, wearing the uniform of the school of her former rival and upcoming opponent, Kodachi Kuno.
The blue-eyed young woman with the red hair moved into the now familiar structure known as ‘Love Dome’, nearly bouncing with every step. She hadn’t been happy watching Akane fight off challengers to herself and her fiancé, but now the males were lining up to give him a work out.
The idea he could lose didn’t enter Ranma’s mind, but his eyes narrowed on the lit fighting circle as the blond Mikado Sanzenin threw his classmate Hiroshi out of the ring with casual grace.
“Mikado Sanzenin, champion for Sachi Iroppoi, wins,” declared the senior in a black and white striped shirt.
Mikado turned and gave a flourishing bow to the St Hebereke student trying to hide her bare legs under her winter jacket. It must have been her nervous eyes looking at Kodachi and the crowd of boys following the unfamiliar redheaded student into the arena that made Mikado turn around, but when he did, he couldn’t have gotten over to them faster without sprinting.
“Mikado Sanzenin,” the blond young man said by introduction to the short newcomer. “I believe we met very briefly up in the mountains at the beginning of the month?”
“Mikado sweetums, I’d like to introduce you to my friend Ranko,” Kodachi purred. “Ranko Saotome, Ranma’s sister.”
Mikado’s eyes and mouth opened appreciatively while looking at the familiar blue eyes of his new classmate in the gorgeous face of the young woman before him. Ranma almost shivered at the salivating boy, while Akane looked suspiciously at Kodachi as she obviously lied to her fiancé.
“A true pleasure, my dear,” he said, reaching for her hand, only for Ranko to hold it back from him. Smiling at the innocent shyness before him, Mikado looked to his fiancée. “And you fibbed when you told me you didn’t know who she was.”
“She’s a new student dear, but we’re already becoming fast friends and sharing all sorts of secrets.”
Feeling dirty with every look Mikado gave her, Ranko put it out of mind to step up to the ring. “Who challenged me first?” she called, surprised to see Daisuke across the way at the head of the challenger queue.
Behind Ranko, Mikado enjoyed her rear profile for a moment before stepping up, “Surely by now Ranko-chan, my beloved Kodachi told you I am the designated champion for any St Hebereke student challenged. Please allow me the honor of being your champion?”
Smirking, Ranko looked up at the blond gentleman’s offer. “But I’m much better than you. I don’t want to lose.”
Having his masculinity and skill thrown in his face didn’t amuse Mikado Sanzenin, his annoyance becoming anger with the uppity red head spiking as his fiancée and other women behind him giggled at the rebuttal.
Waving Mikado off as a non-event, Ranma strode into the fighting ring, looking down at Daisuke. “Who’s first?”
The dark haired classmate of Ranma and Akane was tempted but pointed to the busty girl trying to be invisible in just a jacket at the back of the arena. “Ah, I challenged Shika-chan first, but can I challenge you next?”
Even as those behind Daisuke complained about him trying to queue jump his challenge on the red head, a new figure barged his way through.
“Nay! It is my right to first challenge in my arena!”
Ranma flicked a little thumb across his feminine nose, taking a relaxed stance as he watched Kuno approach, heart beat thumping and his bosom heaving as his female body prepared for a big fight. Her little smile didn’t falter realizing she couldn’t use her love blast without giving away her identity, nor at the idea of going on a date with the egotistical bully before her.
“Verily I knew that you could stay not away from my magnificence,” Tatewaki Kuno declared, sweeping back his brown hair with one hand, the other loosely holding his wooden blade. In his hakama pants and kimono jacket like an ancient noble, he imperiously looked at his second love. “And now as was destined by the gods we battle so that I might show you my skill and claim your heart, my red haired goddess.”
“Oi, I ain’t anyone’s goddess, my name is Ranko Saotome.”
Kuno looked affronted, “The vile miscreant who enspells my pure tigress Akane has forced his name upon you?”
Seeing Kuno look at her fingers, Ranko held up her hands showing no ring. “Idiot, we’re family. And he hasn’t done magic on Akane.”
His eyes closing affecting shame, Kuno wiped his eyes of the tears he felt for his two deceived loves. “His spells twist both your minds, his magicks so obvious to I, for it is the only way he can beat me, shaming me by stealing your precious gifts.”
Ranko’s eyes crossed trying to recall any gifts given or taken, her hand reaching for the empty space of her missing pigtail recalling with anger as the swordsman took it from her cursed form in the shops of Ginza. As a male he had taken back the red braid back in their first true fight. And they had claimed back the black blue one Kuno had taken from Akane before she had come into his life. [my gender usage is fucked up]
“Kuno-chan, Ranma doesn’t know any magic, and all he has ever done to me is this,” she said with a smile. Pulling her arms in to force her chest out tightening her blouse, she bent to lean forward, taking the hem of her skirt and dragging it up her right thigh, careful to pull up the leg of the boxers she wore, to expose a lot of creamy thigh.
“Do you see, Kuno-chan?” she asked sweetly, pointing to a non-existent spot.
Tatewaki Kuno leaned in to look.
Ranko’s right hook caught his chin hard enough to swing his body one hundred and eighty degrees, a follow up kick sending him crashing from the ring.
The redhead glared at the referee on his podium so hard he flinched, raising his hand. “Challenge winner, Ranko Saotome.”
Grinning, the red head bounced gratuitously from foot to foot, and waved to Daisuke.
The brown haired student looked at the fallen samurai at his feet, and immediately pointed at Shika in her jacket and bare legs again. “I challenged her next?”
With a shrug the redhead looked to the half naked St Hebereke student. “Can I be your champion?”
When Shika nodded back, Ranko looked back to Daisuke, “Let’s see what ya got?”
All the students looked up as the bell rang ending lunch, many in the queue moving to write down their name in the ledger to keep their place after school.
“Aw come on!”
The youngest Tendo daughter watched as Ranko continued to fight in the ring, wasting their time after school as she took challenges and offered to champion for other girls. There were times he, even as a she, was like an little boy, only martial arts fighting was his favorite game. Her fiancé was never as brutal as he had been with Kuno, always letting those against the red head strike first to see if they had anything he hadn’t seen, prodding for more action, before tricking, pulling, pushing, or throwing the opponent out of the circle once he though he had seen all they had.
Akane smirked knowing Nabiki wouldn’t be impressed that the cursed boy was giving away championing services for free, services that most except the St Hebereke girl’s came to her to arrange.
A tap on Akane’s shoulder made her look up at a St Hebereke girl, who pointed back out the exit, “There’s a cute guy outside who wants to talk to you.”
Huffing, Akane turned and walked out, looking for whatever idiot wanted to challenge her next. To her surprise, Ryoga Hibiki was waiting for her. Akane winced as she saw he had cleaned up since last time she saw him nearly a fortnight before, carrying flowers and a box as he tried to meet her eyes.
“Um, that is hi, I’m not sure if you remember me, I’m…”
“I remember you Ryoga,” Akane said quickly, finding his shyness adorable if embarrassing.
“Uh, good. I remember you too. Ah,” he stumbled out, his eyes dipping to her pink lips before he set his shoulders. “I traveled for miles, to see your visage again, forgive my failure.”
As much as Akane liked the idea that Kuno had rendered her immune to poetry, the haiku and the nervous look waiting for approval from the boy struck her enough to blush and look down shyly. The idea of Ranma doing that made her sigh, as she looked at the young man in the tiger stripped bandanna. “That Haiku was very sweet Ryoga-kun, and I’m glad you came so we can talk.”
Ryoga could almost hear the coming ‘but’ making his chest hurt.
“But I, well I know it sounds sudden but last weekend I got engaged.”
Ryoga looked up hopefully, “To Ranma Saotome right? I heard about that. But he has other girl’s, four them. He can’t keep you from seeing something better while he is out cheating on you?”
The chill look on her face made Ryoga pretty sure he had said that wrong. His hands held out the bouquet of flowers and box of dark chocolate hoping to get her back to smiling.
Ignoring the proffered out of season Wild Orchid flowers and chocolates, Akane glared at the built young man. “I’ve heard how you’ve treated women too Ryoga Hibiki. From Ukyo, from Sakura, and from Aunty Saotome.”
Wincing, Ryoga wasn’t sure who the first name was, Amazon shampoo and tsubo still sealing his memory of the Okonomiyaki chef, but the other two he knew well thought him a pervert and worse. Akane let her voice up, “Only one person didn’t think you were a pervert or lied to hurt those women. Was he wrong?”
“No!” he said, shaking his head vigorously. “I swear.”
“Then why are you calling Ranma, the only person to defend you, a cheat?”
Shocked that Ranma had told her such, Ryoga was less sure confident. “He… he has all these girls, and turns into one, and got me cursed…”
“Ryoga, I know I owe you a date because of what happened in Love Dome, but…” Akane’s voice trailed off as she lamented not being able to truly date her own fiancé without her rivals demanding similar opportunity. And even if they didn’t find out about it before Christmas if they heard about it and demanded it from Nodoka she might have to grant it like she did with the kiss when she first met Ukyo.
Flushing as she recalled Ranma kissing her just after meeting her in a new light, Akane wondered if Ranma’s mother would even allow them to go to this date considering the situation with honor and the engagement. That’s when she recalled Nodoka and Nabiki tricking Ranma and her into chaperoning Kasumi and Doctor Tofu.
“Ryoga-kun, your Jusenkyo curse, it’s a pig right?”
Nodding cautiously, Ryoga added, “That’s the spring Ranma knocked me into. Is that why you don’t want to date me?”
Her brown eyes flashed with impatience for his continued focus on her fiancé as wronging him, but softened at the question after. “No, of course not. And I know a friend who would like you more for it. How about on Christmas eve, there is a dance going to be held here at this school. Now with the engagement it’s awkward, but would you like to double date so everything looks proper?”
Not sure what that is, Ryoga nodded anyway. It sounded like she did want to have this date. “Uh, okay.”
“Great, you’ll like my friend, and everything will seem straight with the engagement problems.”
Ryoga liked the sound of that.
Akane smiled brightly, glad to have justified her romantic Christmas eve date and maybe help Ranma and his friend reconcile.
For a brief moment Ryoga’s eyes dipped to Akane’s lips, wondering if now was the time, like Mikado said you had to strike early if she was positive and smiling. Taking a step forward, he froze as he realized he would crush the flowers in her hand between them if he tried. The moment passed, and blushing he stepped back.
Picking up the phone receiver, Akane carefully checked around to see who might be observing or watching. Her brow furrowed as she wondered if Ranma ‘going for a walk’ really was just a plot to spy on her or if he was off meeting someone else. His good cheer from his Love Dome dominance had ended the moment they started walking home, showing a little jealousy at the bunch of flowers someone had given her, now held idly in her hand.
Hopefully the fang toothed martial artist would bring something as thoughtful for his new date, but since he would be meeting his her blind he’d have no idea what her favorite type of flower would be. Akane frowned wondering how he knew wild orchids were her favorite, puzzling where he could have learned that about her as she dialed the number recorded in her diary.
The ringing ended quickly with a somber, “Moshi Moshi, Unryuu residence.”
“Hey you,” Akane said cheerfully at her friend’s voice. “It’s Akane, how have you been.”
Akane had met Akari Unryuu when she had been passing through Nerima on her prize sumo pig, Katsunishiki. In a rather Nerima appropriate method of finding a boyfriend, Akari would have her great beast attack cute boys ever searching for one who could best her champion pet. Katsunishiki, a renowned champion of the esoteric sport, at over six feet high at the shoulder and weighing over at least a ton, few boys didn’t run in fear of the charging beast.
Unfortunately she did find one who bested Katsunishiki, a tall slender senior with a wooden blade, Tatewaki Kuno. Believing he was her destined love, Akari was rightly hurt when he gave her no more than a passing glance, more interested in trying to put Katsunishiki’s head on a plaque as a trophy. Had it not been for the timely intervention of Akane…
Making fast friends with the farmer girl with pink stripes in her wavy hair, Akane still took nearly a week to prove to Akari that Kuno was not the type of man she wanted him to be, and that all his strength and skill came from a magic wish.
Akari had continued on her way, but the pair still spoke as friends.
“Akane? It’s been months. Kasumi-chan said you’d moved in with an Aunty for a time.”
Smiling at hearing her friend’s voice, Akane nodded, not that Akari could see the action. “Yeah, it got a little hectic around here, but I’m back, and I’ve got a fiancé.”
Akari’s squeals came down the line, followed by several questions. “Is he handsome? Is he sweet? How did you meet? Does he remember your name?”
Eyes crossing at the last question, Akane ignored it, “I was kind of hoping you were free on Christmas Eve to meet him?”
“But Christmas is for love, you should be alone with him on Christmas.”
’I wish,’ Akane thought to herself, but kept to her plan. “I was hoping you could come up and come to a dance with us and his cute friend?”
The groan down the line wasn’t promising for Akane, but she let Akari find the words. “I’m not sure. I, I was nearly engaged and I broke it off last week.”
“Really? To who? Why? Was he a pervert?” Akane asked.
“Oh he was sweet, and cute. His grandfather and mine tried to arrange it. He was strong, good with animals, he could even beat Katsunishiki with his broom. But he kept forgetting my name, even after five dates,” Akari explained with a sigh.
“Did he just keep calling you ‘you’ or something?”
Slightly annoyed, Akari’s voice showed it. “He kept calling me 'Akane'.”
Flushing red, Akane shifted the receiver to her other ear. “It’s not my fault you know?” she complained back at the near accusation.
“I know. But you can see, I’m just not sure I want to meet a new guy yet.”
“Cute. Shy. Strong. Skilled. Sweet. And shoulders so broad you could sit on them side saddle.”
Silence reigned on the phone line for a long moment.
“And he’s as close to being part pig as any guy you will ever meet,” Akane added.
“Can I get changed at your place before the dance?” Akari asked.
Smirking, Akane finished with exchanging details and a quick chat about dress plans before saying goodbye and hanging up.
Smile still on her face, she turned only to freeze before bumping into Nabiki.
The middle Tendo daughter looked inquisitively at her younger sister. “I’m confused. 'A' you have a fiancé. And 'B' you are seen taking gifts from and talking to the guy you owe an obligatory date with, him seen leaving in a state of happiness. Now it sounds like you’re playing matchmaker? Care to tell me your plans so I can tell you your punishment?”
Akane didn’t back down from her sister’s amused eyes, “That depends, are you asking as my sister? Or as an official of Love Dome?”
“Let me guess, I learn more as your sister but that isn’t public knowledge that I can use with the Love Dome rules against you?”
“You’re learning Sis,” Nabiki said, waving her hand to have Akane begin.
“Which of you am I telling?”
“Can’t blame a girl for trying. Sister then, I want the story more than keeping you and your transsexual fiancé dominating my playground.”
Akane smiled and nodded, “Well, I'll tell Aunty how Ranma and I are chaperoning Akari and Ryoga to the dance. It’s no more real a date than the one you all set Ranma and I up on so it isn’t dishonoring the other fiancées and they can’t ask for their own date. As far as Love Dome is concerned, it is a double date of the four of us forfilling the date with Ryoga, so I can finally register Ranma as my fiancé and stop being challenged.”
With a grin, Nabiki nodded and gave a small golf clap. “Nicely played. You’re safe from the Love Dome rules.”
Moving away from the small telephone table in the hall, Nabiki left Akane to start going up the stairs before looking back and whispering, “Is that the type of logic you used to justify your special training while camping?”
With a shriek Nabiki fled up the stairs, her red faced little sister in pursuit with arms reaching for her.
“No, like this, see? You have it backwards again.”
Ignoring the smell of her fiancé in the chair beside her, Akane focused on the physics project in front of her. She was slightly put out that the idiot who fell asleep in class and was getting poor grades everywhere, especially in math, was pretty gifted in abstract magnitude use in physics class and getting it faster than she was.
Of course he had grown up learning from training scrolls describing actions or with two-dimensional drawings and putting them into actual movement. Still it was irritating to have him suddenly be showing her things, like she did for him on all the other subjects, only he was using the voice he normally saved for when teaching her some of the art.
Beside her, Ranma smirked, glad to be able to throw that smug ‘know it all’ tone back in her face. His eyes glanced at her profile as she worked, firm and resolved, more like when she was training and learning in the art. He briefly recalled her smiles, from the brilliant happy one to the small one she got when full sparring. Recalling another look on her pretty face, Ranma blushed and looked back to his homework, forcing away the memory of the incident on the training trip, but as he began to write, his pencil broke.
Glancing up, Akane sighed and passed Ranma her pencil sharpener.
Looking at the block Akane handed him, Ranma frowned not seeing any crank or way to work it.
“It’s battery powered, idiot, just stick it in.”
Blushing again at Akane’s choice of words making him think inappropriate things, Ranma obeyed, pushing his pencil in and letting the electric motor do its work. Glancing at the satisfactorily sharpened tip, he handed the sharpener back, but didn’t take his eyes off it for a moment.
“Was that a present?”
Glancing up with a frown, Akane shook her head. “No, it used to belong to Kasumi when she was in school. Why?”
“Just a bit weird. I mean it’s gotta cost more than a normal sharpener, seems a waste. I mean paying more to not have to move one hand…”
Shrugging at his answer, knowing how spendthrift his father was raising him on the road, she moved back to her homework.
“Do you have any other battery powered devices you d…”
Akane’s backhand knocked him away from her desk, making him roll backwards on the wheeled chair he was using. Catching up, Ranma stood. “What was that for?”
Turning to stand up, not matching his height but glaring at him like she was the taller. “For being a pervert. Want another?”
“I ain’t a pervert.”
The heat of his words on her face make Akane tempted to shiver, eyes locked on his lips, part of her wondering how she felt anything for her previous and only boyfriend when this pervert could make her feel this way...
Turning away to control her breathing she moved for her desk. Without looking back she took her place. “Ranma, it isn’t fair that if we can’t even kiss because of your promise, you can’t tease me like that.”
Wondering if maybe there was something perverted to what he said, Ranma nodded, part of him elated that she was having as hard a time with all this mess as he was.
Taking his books, he didn’t sit down. “Ah, maybe I should sit over here,” he suggested diplomatically.
Glancing at him as Ranma sat on her bed, Akane snapped back to facing away from him as her libido suggested many inappropriate things.
Calming herself, Akane reached for her pencil when Ranma chuckled followed by a squeaking sound. Glancing at him, she was surprised to see her fiancé bouncing firmly on the edge of her bed.
“This is much softer than my bed back home or a futon, Akane,” he said chuckling as the bed squeaked back and forth.
Blushing at the sound and image, Akane stood up, but before she could tell him to stop, the door burst open.
Breathing heavily from running up the stairs, Kasumi glared at the scene, softening seeing her baby sister and her fiancé, several feet away from each other.
Akane blushed further wondering if she looked like that when she burst in on her older sister and Taro when Kasumi had been possessed...
Puffing on his pipe, Happosai, Grandmaster of the Anything Goes School of Martial Arts, looked down on the punk kid in the street below. He was surprised to see the brat so soon really, but it was typical that he’d interrupt his liberating of pretties.
“What are you doing back here Taro. You want something?”
The Chinese young man looked up at the shriveled old bane of his life on the balcony of the apartment above the street he was on, a sack of underwear on his shoulder recently added to from the empty underwear hanger nearby.
“You know what I want, here is what I am offering.”
Looking down at his hand, Happi’s breath caught at the beautiful rainbow colors of the butterfly brocade, and even more intoxicating, the sheaf of breast prints made from the wondrous colors.
“My friend Lukki wouldn’t give up his prizes lightly,” Happi said referring to his friend from his youth who created the brocade.
“He didn’t, but he doesn’t know me to come looking for them here. I made out I was an angry boyfriend from Hong Kong.”
Grinning darkly, Happosai buffed twice, then shook his head. “No deal.”
Growling, Taro barely kept his composure. “What will it take old man?”
“Those are a good start, my boy, but I need one extra favor.”
“Sweet Akane-chan,” Happi began, smirking as the boy growled again. “Her worthless father engaged her to a loser. She’s even beginning to think of you in a fond light after this ass. Go drive him off. That and your presents, and you might be able to have a name of your choice.”
Smiling darkly, Taro pulled his hands back, hiding the treasures. “You can have these after you change my name, but firstly I’ll go say hello to Akane and remind her of what a real man is like. Old man, if you’re yanking my chain on this, you’ll regret it.”
“All I’m regretting is you stopping me from my work,” the old man stated back, jumping to the next balcony and the set of silky darlings on a hanger there.
To be continued.
Finally all my little foreshadowings are becoming plots and being resolved.