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Ranma Fanfiction: Meeting Later 18

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ML18


The sounds of Christmas music playing on the family stereo filtered up into Akane's room

"Hold still will you." Akane muttered to Ranma as he squirmed under her. "How am I supposed to tie this thing on you if you won't holds still?"

Admonished, the reluctant Ranma stopped resisting her tightening the tie on his black suit.

"Why do I gotta wear this dumb thing anyway Akane?" Ranma muttered. "I only get dressed up for important stuff, not silly things like this."

Ranma muttered, and received a sharp smack to the back of his head.

"Idiot. This Christmas IS 'important stuff'. Your mother wants to spoil you and I want a good date with you. Now hold STILL!" Akane said as she jerked Ranma closer by his tie even as she finished straightening it. "There, now stand up and turn around".

The suit was nice and formal, giving Ranma a striking air of sophistication that made Akane's breath shallow. She noticed his embarrassment as she looked over him, his hand scratching at the back of his neck uncomfortably.

With a final smile Akane nodded "Good, now get out."

"Huh?"

Akane gestured down at the long bathrobe she was wearing, "Ranma, if you can't touch, you don't get to see me getting ready."

"Oh right, sorry," he stammered, hastily making for the door.

As he shut the door, Akane rose and held it open, pinning him with a stare, "No fighting, no dirt, and no water." Her voice dropped warningly. "I am really looking forward to tonight Ranma, and if I come down stairs to find that suit ruined, or you as a girl, you will be in the hospital for Christmas!"

The door slammed shut, the little wooden duck on her door printed with the English characters for 'Akane' rattling. "I ain't ever gonna understand her," Ranma grumbled to himself looking at the duck before turning and heading for the stairs.

"She's very excited about tonight, she not actually angry with you. At least not yet, my son."

Ranma turned to see his mother coming down the hall dressed in a floral print Kimono & carrying a small red case in one hand. "It's just ..., I...".

"I can see you're excited too. Just remember your manners and be mindful of what you say, everything will turn out fine."

"Yes, Mom."

Her gaze turned proud of the young man is front of her. "You look very handsome, Ranma. Be a dear, go down stairs and make sure your father doesn't ruin his suit either."

"Yes, Mom," Ranma said before darting downstairs.

Continuing down to Akane's door she swapped hands on the make up case and gently knocked. "Akane-chan, it's Aunty, may I come in?"

Licking her lips against the cool dry winter air, Akari Unryuu rode down the street on her prize champion sumo pig, Katsunishiki. To say she was nervous was an understatement, but after Shinnosoku, a boy she met last month, maybe it was best to get back into the ring. Still Shinnosoku had been strong, defeating her sumo pig with a broom, she had really thought he was the one. If only he hadn't kept mistakingly calling her 'Akane'...

-Honk honk-

Glancing back, Akari waved apologetically to the large flatbed pickup truck behind Katsunishiki. At six foot high and six foot wide, the sumo pig didn't leave much room in the narrow streets of residential Japan for the truck.

Pushing in on her champion's sides with her heels and clicking her tongue to urge him to go faster, Akari sighed seeing there was no widening or turn offs coming up for several hundred meters, only closed gates to private properties.

Ignoring the annoying horn honking of the rude driver, Akari looked around shocked when he started yelling abuse as if it would hurry her or make her trespass into someone's property just to let him pass. With a grimace, she suppressed the urge to let this ruin her day or to turn Katsunishiki around and make her champion walk over the little man in his little truck.

Finally a side street gave enough room for her sumo pig to move aside, the truck brushing past in such a rush he scraped his mirror on the opposing wall, making Akari grin in vindication till she heard him shout an insult about her behind being as large as her pig's.

Shouting back a few choice country epithets, Akari ignored the driver speeding off, hand rudely signing at her out the window, when Akari saw the small child rush out of a gate ahead of the truck.

Her blood cold, she cried out in vain, the screeching of tires on the truck showing he had seen the child but obviously too late, when a figure jumped from the sky near the child, jabbing an old fashioned bamboo umbrella into the bonnet of the speeding truck.

With little apparent effort, the bandanna wearing martial artist flipped the truck up, over his head and that of the child, the vehicle spinning on the tip of the umbrella before slamming down on its wheels, turned around to face the pair it nearly ran down, the driver frozen wide eyed with white knuckles locked on the steering wheel, the vehicle rolling back slowly with the remaining momentum it previously had.

“Wow,” Akari breathed.

Sasuke berated himself for losing sight of the idiot friend of Mistress Kodachi's fiancé. Leaving Hibiki alone training in the yard was not his best move and now he had to find him so he could get the young man to this date with that Tendo girl. Failure would mean even more berating over an already bad weekend.

Looking around the diminutive ninja saw a truck rise, twisting through the air above the roofs of some houses before vanishing again.

“Couldn't be,” he muttered to himself before rushing ahead.

Panic subsiding, he indeed saw Ryoga Hibiki in his tiger print bandanna and training outfit with a small child near the now stopped truck. Landing, he quickly made his presence known. “Hibiki-san, perhaps we should return to the mansion. You still need to prepare for your dance this evening. That is what Mikado-san invited you to stay with us to do, was it not?”

Reminded of his obligation to honor Mikado for his help, Ryoga watched as the ninja manservant led the way over the houses and followed, leaving the child and truck behind.

Riding up on Katsunishiki, Akari watched in dismay as the heroic figure left with another short figure.

Moving up she saw the child, a little girl, holding a doll, looking at where her savior had vanished as quickly as he had appeared.

“Um, excuse me little girl, do you know who that was?” Akari asked cautiously.

“Mikado?” the little girl said unsure before skipping off through the gate back to her family home.

“Mikado,” Akari breathed the name.

Nudging Katsunishiki on, Akari knew she had to talk to Akane. She had to know who this Mikado was. Maybe she could even get out of this blind date and they could find him.

Nabiki slowly laid more tinsel around the wall of the main room while humming jingle bells in time to one of Kasumi's tapes. Her Father and Mr Saotome were placing more festive banners and decorations around the walls. She ignored their near inane giggling, her mind flitting through her own issues and plans, feigning interest in the preparations of her family for tonight all going off to a dance at her school.

Genma, in his own suit, and Soun, still in his brown gi, giggled again as they reached over the door to hammer in the leg of a lacy lady's stocking, the foot hanging into the doorway.

“Daddy, what's that about? It isn't very christmas-y,” Nabiki suggested, inventing a new word.

“It's a 'stocking-toe',” Genma explained like she was a small child. “In the west at Christmas, they hang these and if two people are below it, they have to kiss.”

“Right...” Nabiki drawled before tilting her head. “So aren't you two under the 'stocking-toe'? Don't you have to kiss?”

The two old best friends jumped away from each other like the other had cooties.

Smirking, Nabiki looked closer at at the fine stocking they had stuck up, passingly wondering if the fat friend of her father had been stupid enough to steal one of hers and put a nail through it. “So where did you get the stocking?”

“The master won't miss one,” Genma began when Ranma walked in through the doorway.

“Where is that old freak? I owe him for sending Taro to mess with Akane and me.”

“The master said he was going into the city for a few days,” Soun stated.

Nabiki's lips turned up mischievously. “Ranma-kun, they say in the west if two people stand under the 'stocking-toe' they have to kiss,” she purred moving to him under the stocking in the doorway.

“Huh? 'Stocking-toe'? No, I already had to... I thought it was Mistletoe ya have ta kiss under?” Ranma stated firmly, trying to keep from blushing and resisting the urge to point to the Christmas tree with the mistletoe there.

Eyes narrowing, Nabiki could almost smell his embarrassment over some kind of kissing incident, and the way he looked at the tree, whatever this mistletoe stuff was must be on there. Ignoring the disappointed looking fathers, Nabiki chose to butter Ranma up for a fall.

"Merry Christmas Ranma," stated as her eyes looked him over. "I must say I'm impressed, you clean up rather well. Akane must be pleased.”

At the mention of Akane liking how he looked brought a flush to his face and the hand to the back of his head. "I... ah..."

“You're pretty nervous for your second fake chaperoning date.”

"Hey, I...I ju-" Ranma stammered trying to explain.

Noticing the heads of the Fathers turned toward their conversation, Nabiki cut him off from going further. "Maybe you're more nervous about Akane's Christmas present?"

"Boy, what did you get your fiancé for Christmas?"

"Yes Son, It must be a worthy gift for my baby girl".

Looking up at the suddenly interested, Ranma shook his head. “Uh uh, I ain't tell'n you nothin'."

Smirking, Nabiki turned and headed to put a new decoration near the tree and look for this mistletoe, leaving Ranma to face the fathers.

"Come on Boy, what did you buy Akane?"

As the pair of fathers approached, the dark haired youth began backing in a circle around the room. "I told you I ain't saying".

Genma pushed his glasses up the bridge of his nose letting the light shine off them. "Don't worry Soun, Plan B." With that he darted in at the tree using astonishing speed to grab and examine each present for a name label. Soun, between him and his father cost Ranma the precious few moments for Genma to finish looting and find Akane's gift.

"Hey old man, give that back!"

"Here Tendo," Genma said passing the shoe-box sized red present like a rugby ball back towards Soun, twisting around the approaching Ranma to put his body between his son and friend. "Careful boy, what would your mother or Akane think if you ruined these suits".

"Get out of the way, old man".

Typically, Genma abused his new "invulnerability" against his son, while Soun fought with the yellow ribbon on the box.

"Moko Takabisha Revised!” Ranma yelled, his ego swelled into a ball of energy between his cupped palms. A gentle toss lobbed the energy towards his father sent his plan in motion. Genma should have guessed it was a distraction but the coward at heart still panicked at the advanced attack. The ball burst into a flare of light blinding both fathers long enough for Ranma to slip through and grab the nearly opened package.

The thumping of stomping feet down the stairs and corridor brought two raging women into the main room. One in bathrobe wielding a a drawn bow, the other in floral kimono wielding a katana, both breathing heavy with righteous wrath in there eyes. Pinned by the angry glares, Ranma stood paralyzed holding a box looking at them with wide eyes. Behind him, the two fathers were busily hanging decorations.

"I didn't ... they.....present,” Ranma stammered.

The Saotome family katana slowly lowered, followed more slowly by Akane's bow. Akane's eye were very nearly glued to the box sitting half out of it's wrapping in Ranma's hands, before he realized and hid it behind his back in a vain attempted to keep the surprise.

Akane smiled at him before vanishing back down the corridor and up the stairs to her room, while Nodoka turned to the fathers. "Soun, I think it may be about time to get into your suit. I believe Kasumi already laid it out in your room."

"What a good idea, I'll go now,” the Tendo patriarch said before he fled down the hall knowing the Tendo "look busy" technique would work as poorly on his best friend's wife as it did when he tried it on his wife... which made him begin a little cry over his late wife.

Ignoring the crying from the hall, Nodoka looked over her husband, still attempting the "look busy" technique. "Please Husband, this will be our first Christmas together in over a decade. Don't ruin it". Taking his fallen head as agreement she turned smiled at her son and returned upstairs.

Wearing a nice brown suit, Soun Tendo re-entered the family room of his home to see his best friend still working on decorations. Before he could ask, he saw Ranma reentering from the kitchen, a meticulously re-wrapping red parcel with the yellow ribbon in his hands. With one look at the Tendo patriarch, Ranma knew this little battle was far from over.

"Ah son, I only want to see that my baby is happy,” the older man said by way apology. “You understand?"

Genma came to beside his old friend, the light gleaming off his glasses. "Yes boy, let us use our years of experience to make sure Akane has a good Christmas."

"Give it a rest, this present is fine.”

"But son, we just want to help the path of love between the two of you".

Ranma was ready to yank out his hair out of frustration at the pair. "Then BUTT OUT!"

The two fathers stepped up into his face. "Look boy, there's no need to be embarrassed about the present."

Ranma's frustration just vanished into confusion, "Huh?"

But before Ranma could wonder where this strange statement came from, Soun shut the trap.

"Don't worry son, if it's not quite up there, we have just the thing." With lightning hands, Genma grabbed the parcel and Soun snatched the name tag off the parcel to put on the small wrapped package he produced with a flourish. The small square size could only be a ring box.

Eye boggling at the forwardness of these idiots, Ranma's hand blurred to snatch the parcel and tag back. "No dammit, I worked my ass off that now leave it be."

He slipped the tag under the white ribbon of his present for Akane.

"Fine" Genma's voice taking a wining tone as he backed away with his hands behind his back. "Be that way, ungrateful, petulant, mumblegrumble....."

"Your father is right, Ranma, you should be more respectful of his desire to help," Soun said as he backed off to one side.

"Look, the present is just fine. Leave it alone". He walked back to the tree to return the present, when a flicker of yellow from behind his father got his attention. His hands snapped the parcel in his hands over, realizing Genma had switched them on him, the identical red paper trimmed with a yellow ribbon and a name tag. 'To: Akane, From: Kasumi'. He gently tossed the present under the tree and turned on his father, his voice shouting, "Pop, give me back the present now!"

Again the rapid stomping of feet came down the stairs, the doorway filling this time with Akane still in her robe, and Kasumi in an off the shoulder red dress. The eldest Tendo daughter looking anything but plain in light makeup with her hair done up intricately for her date, her dress cinched to flatter her waist before opening in layered ruffles down to just below her knees. Soun immediately burst into tears.

"Wahh!!!" he charged in to crushingly hug his eldest daughter, blubbering between sobs, "My baby girl, you're so beautiful. Your mother would be so proud."

With pride in his eyes, Genma dashed to Akane and enveloped her small body in a big hug. "Oh my future daughter-in-law, you look so pretty." His head bowed over her shoulder.

Akane was happy for Daddy's reaction to Kasumi, hoping she got a similar reaction of emotion from her dope of a fiancé when she finished getting ready, but she had no idea what to do about Mr Saotomes' reaction. She was wondering if she should hug him back to get him to stop when she heard the sound of tearing paper behind her. Suddenly stepping back she tripped on the runner for the shogi and fell backwards.

Genma's training kept him upright as the young woman fell before him. He glanced quickly at the red wrapping paper in each of his hands before he heard the sound of breaking glass.

Akane fell on something in the small of her back, hearing the crack and tinkle of glass from it.

Ranma was purple with anger as he reached for his father.

"Ranma no, it might be okay,” Akane said quickly, the surprise spoiled by the fathers antics earlier, she pulled the paper off the crumpled box, recognizing the image of the cut glass crystal clock on the front. Months ago they had been shopping together at Ginza she had pointed it out to Ranma, saying how the glass temple with the clock in the door, looked just like her family dojo, at least without the glass temple gate in front of it.

Ranma's knuckles whitened as the tinkle of broken glass as Akane opened her Christmas present, drawing it out slowly, eyes locking on the broken gate, its crossbeam now through a panel on the side of the main building, while smaller pieces fell to the floor.

Swallowing Ranma rounded on his sheepish father when sudden arms grabbed him from behind.

“Thank you,” Akane whispered as she hugged him hard.

Ranma softened, glad she didn't seem to think it was all ruined but mentally noted he'd have to train with his Pop tomorrow. Maybe include Akane and her firecrackers.

The ringing of the doorbell took the last of the tension from the moment, Akane using the chance to drag Ranma from the room.

Pulled along by Akane's small warm hand, Ranma followed behind his fiancée in her bathrobe to the front door. Opening it, he looked at the young woman about Akane's age, her green hair down to her shoulders with cute pink stripes, wearing some country coveralls and a thick woolen sweater, she had a travel pack on her back and a dry cleaners bag in one hand.

Guessing it held this girl's dress for the dance, Ranma reached out to take the dry cleaners bag before it was crumpled as the two girls gave high pitched greetings and hugged excitedly.

“It's been so long. I'm so glad you came,” Akane said. She then gestured at Ranma, “This is my fiancé Ranma Saotome. Ranma this is Akari Unryuu.”

“Hey,” Ranma replied, looking at the giant Katsunishiki behind Akari. “That's a big pig.”

Akari nodded idly biting her lower lip. “Um, Akane-chan, please tell me this blind date is with a handsome boy called Mikado?”

Both Akane and Ranma's face fell. “No,” Akane said slowly.

Her shoulders falling, Akari huffed. “I'm sure this guy you wanted me to meet is really nice, but I just saw this guy called Mikado, save a little child from being run over. He was amazing,” she said dreamily.

“Mikado?” Akane asked, visualizing the blond skater, the only handsome Mikado she knew, skating in to rescue a child from traffic.

“Mikado?” Ranma repeated, imagining the tight wearing pretty boy flouncing in like a fairy to rescue a kid from some kind of slow moving car or cyclist.

“Mikado,” Akari repeated dreamily, recalling the mysterious hero flipping the truck.

“Um, just give Ryoga a try. He would save a child if one was in danger,” Akane offered weakly. “How about I take your dress up stairs. Ranma can show you where to bed Katsunishiki in the dojo, then you can have a bath and start to get ready?”

Happy to have an action to do, Ranma nodded and handed Akane the dress bag and moved out into the yard, Akari followed, her giant sumo pig following behind her.

“So do you know any one strong named Mikado?” the country girl asked.

“Well I know one, but I'm new to Nerima. The one I know is a womanizing jerk fiancé to a friend of mine. They are supposed to be out of town though.”

“Engaged?” Akari asked nearly hyperventilating. “Maybe this was a different Mikado.”

“Maybe. Was he blond and overdressed?”

Giving a relieved cheer, Akari shook her head. “No, brown hair, with a ba...”

“Not him then,” Ranma said cutting her off in his own relief at any girl interested in Golden boy. Not that the jerk shouldn't have a girl, but after having him looking at Ranma's cursed form's chest, he didn't think Mikado could resist temptation if offered, despite Kodachi.

Seeing the dojo, Ranma pointed it to the girl. “Akane said to put him in there.”

Akari nodded, “I've stayed over before.”

Ranma frowned. “Um, does he, you know, do it only outside?” he asked awkwardly, trying to get if the animal was house broken.

Smiling, Akari nodded. “He doesn't really know outside or inside, just to use the newspaper.” To make her point she pulled out some newspaper.

Ranma looked at the rump on the massive sumo pig and the three ply of newspaper. “Right...”

Sena Ono smiled as she brushed lint from her brothers suit.

“She asked you, Tofu. Yes, you have never faced Soun Tendo like he would be your father in law. But you haven't proposed yet so you don't have to ask his blessing tonight.”

Tofu winced at the very idea. “But what if... should I?”

With a snorted laugh Sena recalled the way Soun had had all but asked her to marry his daughter Kasumi and her brother off. “If you want, though do it after the dance not before.”

“Why?”

“He might just lock you in her bedroom rather than let you two go on this dance,” Sena quipped, grinning as her brother locked up stock still. “Relax brother, or I am getting the shinai out again.”

“Bathroom is this way,” Ranma said, pointing with the shoes in his hand to the corridor through the house as they returned from the dojo.

“Thanks, but I know the way. I won't be long,” Akari said cheerfully, handing him her riding boots, still thinking about this 'Mikado'.

Shrugging, Ranma moved to place his shoes and Akari's and the front entrance. Bending down to put them on the rack, he heard Akane's soft voice called his name from the stairs behind him.

Stepping down the stairs, Akane exulted at her fiancé's wide eyes, the formal yellow dress she had selected used diagonal creasing to give the soft color a striped look that made her seem taller. Caught at the waist with a built in belt-strap, Akane let her right leg slide out of the thigh high slit on that side to expose the top of her powder yellow stockings.

Reaching the end of the stairs, Akane smiled her glossed lips and shifted her head delicately to let her hair bounce, the ends tipped up through curlers for lift. Reaching half way down the stairs, she twirled in place to show the cross straps over her otherwise bare back.

She was tempted to ask how she looked but decided his blue eyes were giving her a better compliment than his mouth could.

Lightly stepping to the bottom of the stairs, Akane turned to Ranma, walking to him with slow steps to sway her hips. She opened her mouth as she got close to him, but instead of speaking let her pink tongue lick over her red lips.

His ragged breath was enough to make her smile and she turned and left him in the entrance hall.

Still smirking at Ranma's dazed eyes, Akane almost skipped into the kitchen.

“What's left to make?” she asked her older sister and Aunty Nodoka as they wore aprons over their outfits, finishing the Christmas dinner.

“Too many chefs in the kitchen can get in each others way, Akane-dear,” Nodoka said diplomatically.

“And we do need something watching Daddy and the men or you could end up losing your present completely,” Kasumi pointed out, her eyes looking at Akane's bare arms and the bottom of her dress, knowing the mess her sister used to make around her apron when cooking in the past.

Frowning and nodding pleasantly, Akane turned away, knowing what Kasumi was thinking.

“Besides we need someone to greet guests as they start to arrive,” Kasumi added, hammering the point home.

“Okay.”

Passing the front door, Akane saw Kasumi's evening purse on the table near the telephone. A dark smirk crossed her lips and she darted up stairs to get a little present for her older sister.

Ryoga Hibiki winced as he was sprayed again with cologne from the diminutive ninja manservant of the Kuno household. He briefly wondered if his curse twin was suffering such.

The the dark brown tailored suit he wore was possibly the finest clothes he had ever put on, and he was thankful to Mikado and Kodachi for it and all the help they have given him. Adjusting his tiger print bandanna, his hand moved to the tightened collar of the yellow tie Kodachi had picked out for him, his eyes looking to the wooden sign for the Tendo Dojo.

Sasuke nodded satisfied, “Good luck, Ryoga-kun.”

Holding a bouquet of wild orchids, neatly wrapped with dark brown paper and a yellow bow, he stepped through the Tendo gate and walked to the door. Smiling he knocked.

Ryoga's smile fell as the door opened, the blue eyes of his hated foe Saotome met his. The two young men looked over each others outfits, Ryoga smirking feeling he was for the first time overshadowing Ranma. “Where's Akane-san?”

“Merry Christmas to you too, Pig-boy.”

“At least she invited me, I'm not here because my father sold me food again.”

The two young men growled, and as much as Ranma would love to take his mood out on his rival, he was mindful of spoiling any more of Christmas for Akane or his Mother by getting his suit dirty in a fight. “Come on, the girls are getting ready. We're having a Christmas dinner here, then head to school for the dance.”

Shutting the door as Ryoga removed his dress shoes and put on guest slippers, Ranma led the way to the main room where the father's sat at the low table. “Mr Tendo, this is Ryoga Hibiki. Ryoga, this is Mr Tendo, Akane's old man.”

Soun looked up confused at Ranma's words. “Who?”

Ranma looked back, finding empty air behind him.

About then was when a girl's scream rang out from the bathroom.

Seeing Nodoka in her kimono moving ahead of him, Ranma stopped at the threshold of the bathroom, deciding to let his mother handle it in case Akari hadn't found a towel yet.

Ryoga was still dazed, recalling blinking while following Ranma, suddenly finding himself in a strange bathroom and when he opened the door to leave he saw a pretty girl in a towel. When he looked up at her face he was half relieved and half disappointed that it wasn't Akane.

Screaming in terror at the strange man entering the bathroom, Akari tossed her washing things still in the wash bucket at his head. With a clunk and a splash, the bucket bounced off his head and water coursed over Ryoga Hibiki's head.

Akari was surprised when near empty clothes fell to the ground.

A moment later a strange woman in a kimono stormed into the bathroom, eyes looking for what had attacked the girl. “What happened?”

“The suit,” Akari stated, holding her towel around her protectively, nodding at the clothes on the tiles in front of Nodoka. “It was a boy, but he vanished when I threw my bucket at him.”

If looks could kill, Nodoka's eyes would have made Ryoga's suit burst into flames.

Dazed and in his cursed form, the tiny black piglet with the tiger print collar that was Ryoga Hibiki squirmed out of the leg of his suit. Looking up, he froze in fright at the angry glare he was getting. He just darted clear before Nodoka's fist shattered the tiles on which he had been standing.

“Die, sex-fiend!” Nodoka cried.

Speeding towards the wash stool near the taps, Ryoga pulled up before being stomped by a foot that cracked the tiles he had been about to cross.

Rushing in the room, Akane glanced to her towel wearing friend, then saw Nodoka attacking the piglet. “Aunty wait, it's Ryoga.”

“Not for long!” Nodoka said, no one sure where she pulled the Saotome family blade from as she tried to carve the piglet up, his years of experience dodging grabbing hands or predators the only thing keeping Ryoga from being diced into pieces by the woman wearing the magical fighting dogi under her kimono.

For an instant Ryoga thought he had been sliced as his world went dark.

Nodoka pulled up as Akane slid in front of her in her stockinged feet on the tiles, her future daughter-in-law kicking a bucket from the wash rack over and slamming it upside down on the terrified piglet. “Aunty wait! Akari, get hot water!” Akari scrambled to the laundry room to cover up and look for hot water her friend in the yellow dress had called for.

Seeing Nodoka wasn't going to wait, Akane kicked out at the rack of wash buckets, knocking them upside down on the floor. Her hands blurred as she shuffled the buckets over the tiles like a shell game, moves her old master's had inflicted on her in instructing her, Bathroom-fu.

Stopping, Akane looked up at Nodoka hoping the multiple targets would slow Nodoka enough for her to get a handle on her temper for the young man.

Nodoka let Akane's hand stop, then even faster sliced all five buckets in half with blinding speed.

Frowning at the lack of pig, whole or in halves, Nodoka glared at Akane, the dogi automatically letting her know how she could knock her opponent over and see if she hid the pig behind her.

Reading the intent of an opponent in Nodoka's eyes, Akane shivered and raised her fists to defend.

The pair stopped for a moment, torn between fighting spirit, pride, and just a sliver of better judgment between them.

“He's a pervert Akane, he used that cursed form to sleep in my bed, and Ukyo's, and spied on others. Do you really think he is doing it again by accident?”

Akane briefly wondered if she should be protecting this pervert, but then recalled Ranma's words. If Ranma believed he wasn't a pervert despite these accidents, she had to trust him. “Even if he is, I invited him. Please lets not ruin Christmas?”

Nodoka frowned but stepped back, letting Akane toss the black piglet from behind her into the hot water of the furo even as Akari returned in a bathrobe, followed by Ranma with a kettle.

Breaking the surface of the water, the human Ryoga looked up red faced, hands covering his privates. “I swear, I was following Ranma, then I was at the door. I didn't even know it was a bathroom or anyone was in here.”

Ryoga looked at the green haired girl apologetically, but as her mouth became a big O and she turned red, he wasn't sure what to do other than sit lower in the bath.

“That's him! That's Mikado!” Akari said in near shock. She then glanced down at her disheveled robe and imagined how much of a mess she looked like and fled into the change room.

Akane and Nodoka followed her and her strange reaction out, leaving Ranma as he tossed Ryoga a towel.

“Akari, that's Ryoga Hibiki,” Akane said slowly. “That's the guy I wanted you to come to the dance with.”

“Oh my god, oh my god. Ryoga Hibiki,” She said dreamily. “That's the guy who saved the little girl from being hit by a truck this morning.”

Nodoka pursed her lips as Akane grinned happy that Akari hadn't turned on her date for the evening. “Akane-chan, will you take Akari up and get her dressed?” Nodoka said before turning back to the furo and collecting Ryoga's suit from the floor. She glanced at the young man standing in a towel beside her son. Despite her anger for him, if he saved a child...

“Ranma, will you entertain Akane's guest till the girls are ready. I'll dry and iron these and you can be dressed again for dinner shortly.”

Akari frowned as she looked in the mirror in Akane's bedroom. She wore a lovely pink bodice with a white ruffled gown. The lacy white was covered in cute little piglet images.

“What's the matter Akari?” Nabiki drawled from the bed looking bored in shirt and jeans.

The country girl tried to verbalize it but failed to find the words.

Looking up from paring some makeup, Akane frowned too. “The frills or the pigs?”

“I love the pigs but Ryoga, he was such a cute black piglet. These are pink.”

Getting up, the middle sister moved for the door. “Dress off, I'll get you a skirt.”

Akari looked nervously as the older girl left but pushed the layered dress down and stepped out of it. Finally Nabiki returned with a brown leather skirt, and a thick yellow blouse.

“Um, Nabiki-san, is there any more length to that?”

“You want Ryoga looking at your legs or Akane's back tonight? You have stockings so you won't be that cold.”

Akane was about to comment about modesty when Akari nodded and quickly pulled the short skirt up, and added the yellow blouse, a little too tight around the bust for her. The younger sister was slightly more annoyed when Akari looked to Nabiki rather than her for approval.

“Workable, and they're durable, just don't let him rip them off you, I like to wear the skirt.”

“She shouldn't rip it because it's my skirt, Nabiki,” Akane complained.

“I don't think I should be letting him get me out of either on the first date anyway,” Akari said, not entirely adamantly.

Soun Tendo smiled wistfully as he considered the sounds of the full house, with the Saotome family and Akane's friends in attendance. The hole left by his departed wife still hurt but time passed. He hoped she'd be as proud of their daughters as he was.

His thoughts turned to where his daughters were going, Nabiki preparing for university and work, Akane so close to her fiancé they were starting to prepare some thoughts for the wedding, and Kasumi...

As if on cue, Ranma led a stiff Tofu Ono into the living room.

“Ah, glad you could make it, son,” Soun stated, one hand grabbing the Doctors bicep with a firm squeeze in welcome.

Tofu tried to control his voice to an even level, “Thank you for allowing me to join you for Christmas.”

“Nothing doing, son. Kasumi-chan's very excited to have you here, maybe the start of a new tradition, having you here every year.”

Tofu stumbled at that implication, but brought up his other hand with a bottle in it, silently handing the gift of sake to the master of the house.

“Thank you son, I'm guessing Kasumi-chan must have told you this is my favorite premium brand,” Soun said with an impressed smile.

“My sister Sena most likely interrogated Kasumi for the brand. She suggested it,” Tofu said, the suggestion being shoved in his hand as he got in the taxi earlier.

Glutinous eyes on the bottle, Genma stepped in, “A shrewed one your sister is. Perhaps we should get it to heating and have it with dinner?”

The small hand of Nodoka slipped among the menfolk, plucking the bottle from Soun, her eyes glaring at her husbands. “You won't be getting drunk before this dance, nor sneaking off early to come back and drink it. You might, husband, be allowed to ask Soun for a cup should he want to open it after the dance. Am I clear?”

Where most men would have been shamed by their wife's brow beating, Genma Saotome was made of shallower stuff. The moment the bottle vanished into Nodoka's kimono, the bald older man turned back to the doctor.

“Doctor, I've been having a bit of trouble with my back,” the selfish martial arts master began before Soun put his arm around Tofu.

“It's not a day for work, Genma. Let the poor boy sit here and wait for Kasumi.”

Tofu was about to resist sitting, eager to help even Genma if it give him something to do in the awkward situation, when Kasumi walked in carrying first tray of various side dishes for Christmas dinner.

Even with an apron over her red dress, her hair pinned up elegantly, the sight of his date made Tofu's legs give out, landing on his behind with a thump.

“Oh Tofu, no one said you made it.”

“Um, I just got here,” he said with a nervous laugh, “Uh, Merry Christmas, Kasumi.”

“Merry Christmas, Tofu. I'm glad you made it.”

Taking in Kasumi's warm smile with a tight smile of his own, Tofu's right foot began to tap lightly as he tried to control his nerves.

“That curse must be awful,” Akari said awkwardly to Ryoga as the families and friends enjoyed Christmas dinner.

Of the Japanese that had come to believe through advertising campaigns that the west celebrated Christmas with fried chicken, Kasumi and Nodoka had gone to all lengths to get several large chickens done in a variety of styles, from a large bowel of karage, 'buffelo wings', deep fried, and crispy fried, to a bucket of chicken fried in eleven herbs and spices, mixed among plates of more traditional Japanese sides and rice. With so many crowded around the table the mountain of food was vanishing fast.

All but Nabiki were dressed up for the dance they would be going to after the meal, the table ranged from the intimate quiet corner of Tofu and Kasumi to the tension were Nodoka still glared at Ryoga as the lost boy sat between Akane and Akari, Ranma not happy either as when Ryoga did speak, it was far more often to Akane than Akari. Especially as his more unfortunate stories came up, making the girls gush in sympathy.

Akari was at least trying to sound sympathetic to him over the curse despite having brought up what a cute pig he was so many times already. “Well it sounds horrible to have so little control, but isn't being a pig much better than a cat or a monster.”

Ryoga swallowed some more chicken before replying. “At least being a cat would have claws. Everything tries to eat a piglet.”

Swallowing quickly, Ranma smirked finding a point he could refute. “Not everyone, eh Dorathée?”

Flushing red, Ryoga glared at his rival.

Sensing an inappropriate story Akane put her hand on Ranma's thigh, digging in her nails to reign him back, only for her eyes to meet Nabiki's, her older sister's face showing she clearly thought Akane's hand was going further than his thigh at the dinner table.

Nabiki grinned as Akane snatched her hand back. “Dorathée, Ranma?”

“This girl who was always on roller skates. Actually Akane, ya fought her in the Jubaan tournament?”

“Asuza Shiratori?” Akane asked surprised, recalling one half of the Golden Pair of Martial Arts Ice Skating who had been dumped by Mikado Sanzenin after she had defeated them despite Kuno being her partner.

“Yeah, her, she moved to Jubaan a while back and tried to catch 'Spats',” Ranma supplied using Ukyo's pet name for the pig before she found out it was Ryoga. “He was terrified of her, and she put this little heart collar with the name Dorathée on it. Still got it somewhere Ryoga?”

Growling, Ryoga glared back. “Are you going to tell them how she came to you looking to be her partner for ice skating only she didn't think you were handsome enough?”

Shrugging, not recalling the why she had come to the best Martial artist in his home suburbs, just how she had called him ugly after he resisted her attempts to recruit and restyle him for some pairs art, Ranma glared back. “Didn't see her wanting you for anything but for wearing tiny outfits to match her dress, Dorathée.”

“Ranma.” “Ryoga.”

Akane and Nodoka looked at each other suddenly, both blaming different boys for the escalating tension.

“Eat up everyone,” Kasumi said to break the moment. “We were to meet Miss Hinako and Mrs Miyakoji out the front on only ten more minutes.”

Opening the door, Daisuke climbed out of the car, carefully adjusting the suit he wore awkwardly. It was his nicest outfit but the seventeen year old had only gotten it for a great-aunts funeral nearly a year ago and it was already sitting a little short in the cuffs.

Climbing out of the drivers door, Daisuke's father looked his son over. “You look good boy,” the older man began, holding out a small gift box.

“Give this to Arisu's mother. They're fine chocolates, Mr Furyoku said this brand is her favorite. Be polite, be respectful, Mr Furyoku is very wealthy and very traditional. Don't talk about my business with him, or even with his daughter.”

“Yes Dad,” Daisuke replied, kind of annoyed at getting told this days ago, yesterday, today, in the car and again now. A blind date with a pretty girl was cool, but it wasn't worth this kind of hassle. Especially now that he had found Ranma was like a master oof understanding women and getting dates.

“I'll wait here,” Daisuke's father said interrupting his son's train of thought. “You go get Arisu-chan and then sit in the back seat with her on the way to your school.”

Nodding, Daisuke couldn't turn away from his father fast enough, opening the traditional gate and entering the large property. Walking along a path through a meticulously neat garden, he reached the door to the large but old styled home.

Nearly a minute after knocking, the door opened, a stern looking woman in a kimono, her graying hair looking him up and down with distaste.

Swallowing, Daisuke held out the gift his father had given him. “Good evening Mrs Furyoku, this is for you.”

Taking the offering, the older womans lips still pursed tightly, instead of opening it she put it on a side table. “My husband arranged this date without consulting me. There is no need for you to enter my house, Arisu will be ready shortly.”

With that, she shut the door on him.

Surprised at how things were increasing in awkwardness, Daisuke resisted the urge to try and loosen his uncomfortably tight collar.

A few moments later the door opened, Mrs Furyoku again glaring at him like he was a salesman, before stepping aside, letting Daisuke see Arisu standing behind her. Nearly a full head shorter than him, Arisu wore a traditional Kimono of dark blue with a white trailing pattern of a cherry tree across it. Her hair was a dark red, and done up nearly as severely as her mothers, though a pair of elegant dark wood hair pins held it in place. Her pale skin was delicately made up.

“Um, Arisu-kun, my name is Daisuke xxx, thank you for coming to this dance with me.”

Without speaking, Arisu bowed her head once in acknowledgement, her face unreadable.

Purposefully ignoring Daisuke, Mrs Furyoku, looked at her daughter. “You look beautiful Arisu, I am sorry your father insisted on this imposition. Please take this, for honors sake.”

Arisu calmly took the silk wrapped bundle, something slender and about a foot long. Daisuke couldn't guess what it might be as Arisu slipped it inside her kimono, but the warning glance from her mother made Daisuke swallow like he had his life threatened.

Hiroshi Oboko took a calming breath as he held a corsage in a plastic box for his date and knocked on her door. It might not be prom but dating his next door neighbour and crush had gone from an idle dream to reality and his heart and stomach seemed to be more nervous than had this been the next years senior prom.

Without a flourish the door swung open, and Hiroshi stared into a set of bare pierced breasts.

The smell of sweat and sake assailed him, as the overweight shirtless man before him sneered and blew cigar smoke down at his face. Hiroshi tried not to cough as he looked at the snake like oriental dragon inked on the older mans bloated belly.

“So your the runt who has my Michiko-chan getting' all gussied up?”

Hiroshi swallowed his heart as he nodded feebly.

The man reached to beside the doorframe and pulled out an large umbrella, swinging it idly with one hand like he was testing the weight of a baseball bat. “Did you bring any protection?”

“P-p-p-pardon, sir?”

“Did you bring condoms for your date?”

“No sir, I would never...” Hiroshi stammered, backing away, only to be caught by the hook like handle of the umbrella around his neck.

“Are you stupid? You think just cause its ya first time ya can't get pregnant?”

Hiroshi was trembling, unable to work out what to say now when Michiko's voice came from inside.

“Uncle, let him go, if he shits his pants I'll miss my date and if that happens I stick that umbrella up your...”

Turning, the older man grinned sheepishly, “I was only playing with the kid. He needs some toughening up, straighten his spine and get some lead in his pencil.”

“And how is his 'pencil' your business. It's our first date, it isn't even my business yet.”

“Oh bull, you look like youre mother at your age and she only had a second date with a guy if she liked his pencil on the first.”

“Uncle! Hiroshi, ignore him! My mother wasn't like that.”

The older man's voice mellowed as he nodded, “Yeah yeah, you still look just like her.”

Graciously accepting her uncle's words, Michiko stepped passed him and out to where Hiroshi was.

Uncle's teasing tone returned again, “Just like when I met her in that bordello!”

“She never sold her self!” Michiko screamed back.

“She was a client!”

“Argh!” Michiko cried frustrated and slammed the door behind her.

As she took deep breaths to calm herself against her maddening uncle, she turned to find her date's eyes locked just below her neck.

“Do you need more time to stare?”

Hiroshi blushed at being caught, his eyes sweeping over the rest of her before locking on her eyes.

Michiko wore a black corseted old European styled dress that cinched her waist and brought her normally average assets to the fore. Below the tightened waist it became black layers and folds down from her hips to the ground. Though the dress left her shoulders bare, she wore gossamer shawl of black that failed to hide her pale skin or the tattoo of a panda on her neck, and a pair of elbow length black gloves that failed to hide the tops of tattoos on her upper arms.

Her makeup while thick, accentuated the whites of her eyes and pale skin dangerously, her black hair streaked today with pink, she wore still an eyebrow ring, more ear piercings than Hiroshi could easily count, and a tiny diamond nose stud on her left nostril.

“Hiroshi-chan, I don't think it will rain.”

Blushing Hiroshi removed the umbrella hook from around the back of his neck and leaned the device against the door.

“Ah, sorry, you look... wow. Um, for you?”

Rolling her eyes, wondering why she was putting herself through this, Michiko reached for his trembling hands, pulling the corsage box he held with them to the side of her dress.

“If you can't act like a man and pin this on me without trembling, I am going back inside.”

Sayuri frowned as she saw she wasn't the first of those arriving out the front of the Tendo dojo, seeing the larger figure of Akio lit up by one of the street lights.

She had feared as she calmly walked to her friends house that she would be embarrassingly first, but she had never had much to do with Akio. They both went to the same school, though he was a senior in the year above, but she wasn't much for sports herself, and Akio was always bigger than the other boys, hence why he was captain of the school sumo wrestling team. To her he had always been intimidating.

“Hey,” Akio said as Sayuri approached, “Nice dress.”

Smiling despite feeling like his eyes were a little too lingering, Sayuri wished she wasn't so cold. Her glossy blue dress with a matching half jacket was really more for summer, the skirt above her knees and her pantyhose a little to thin for the cool weather, hopefully good enough to get Daisuke's attention.

“You look good too,” she lied, not liking the kimono he wore, the traditional outfit older and worn, she had seen him in it before when the school hosted competitions with other school sumo teams. Her nose crinkled at nearly ten feet as she could smell his liberal use of aftershave.

“I hope Yuka wears a dress like that. Be a shame to cover up her legs in a kimono, you got the right idea.”

Sayuri was tempted to try and go into the Tendo home and ask to use the bathroom to get away.

Lifting his face from the downward angle he was looking, Akio sniffed the air. “You smell that?”

Keeping her mouth shut to stop the thought, 'Old spice, how could I not, your drowned in it', Sayuri shook her head.

“Fried chicken, maybe Karage. Kasumi Tendo's cooking,” Akio stated. “Akane might be the hottie in that family but her older sister can really cook. Not sure why that Ranma guy wants a girl who cooks so horribly. At least Yuka gets good Home Ec marks. Yuka said your even better than her?”

“I do okay,” Sayuri said, irrationally feeling even dirtier at his interest in her cooking skills. The sudden imagined thought of him licking her skin made a shiver run up her spine.

“You cold? Here, stand by me,” Akio said offering one meaty arm up to go around her.

“No, I'm fine. And what would Yuka think?”

Akio shrugged, smirking and picking between his teeth with his fingernail. “She'd be cool with it. After all you two are close friends, right?”

“Merry Christmas,” Hinako Ninomiya's voice called as the the teacher approached the two teens, distracting Akio from Sayuri who was swallowing a little bile in her throat. Sayuri wasn't surprised as Akio ignored her, his eyes on the voluptuous teacher.

Hinako wore again her red Christmas jacket, trimmed in white, but rather than done up tight she left it open, displaying the red miniskirt with the white fur belt, a tight red and green bodice trimmed in white around her generous swell of cleavage. Her long brown hair was tied back with a piece of tinsel, atop her head a Santa hat of the same red as her outfit. Finally her hand held the fishbowl with the two fighting fish tussling within, a string of tinsel around its rim as she invisibly drew power from the round opening on top to stay in her adult form for pursuing the widower Soun Tendo.

“Merry Christmas, Miss Hinako,” Sayuri replied.

“Yeah,” Akio said like he was agreeing.

Ignoring the eyes of the young man she knew as a senior at her school, Hinako looked at the Tendo gate, then to Sayuri. “Has an old woman in a ratty kimono gone inside?”

Sayuri shook her head, but heard a new voice before she could answer.

“Merry Christmas to you too, Hinako-chan,” Shika's voice said as the dark haired older woman stepped into the light.

Sayuri found it distinctly weird to see her home room teacher glaring it out with the attractive middle aged woman in the beautiful dark winter kimono. She had heard Akane complaining about the love triangle around the single father, but it was still weird to see her teacher have emotions and a life outside of school.

For her part, Hinako looked at the small tea service Shika held comfortably in one hand, wondering if she had the advantage, when the tapping of shoes brought the late running Yuka, awkward in her heels as she ran on her toes. Yuka stopped dead seeing the glaring match.

“Wow, if looks could kill,” Yuka whispered to Sayuri who nodded.

Not taking her eyes off Shika's as if gunfighters of the 'Old West', Hinako gestured to her rivals other hand, a tube like box wrapped in festive paper held carefully. “Trying to bribe your way in with a cheap present for Soun? He's not that shallow you know.”

“It's not cheap, but I'm glad your finally seeing that Soun has better taste than cheap things like you.”

“At least I am not a second hand 'Christmas cake' who no one wants.”

Suddenly Hinako looked at the Tendo gate, both women then turning away just as the front door to the home within opened. Shortly after the gate opened, Nodoka Saotome stepping out, looking first to the two women, both now calmly smiling in greeting.

“Merry Christmas ladies,” she said pointedly, then looking to Sayuri, Yuka and finally Akio, “And you, young man.”

Introductions and well wishes continued as the Tendo's, Saotome's and Tofu excited out of the gate into the street, Akane and Akari joining Sayuri enviously discussing the fantastic silver heels she had gotten for the dance.

“Soun-chan, Merry Christmas,” Shika Miyakoji stated as the home owner closed the gate behind his guests.

“And from me, Soun-chan, “ Hinako added not to be out done.

“Oh, Merry Christmas, Shika, Hinako. It is a good night for the children, it's good to be helping them tonight,” Soun managed uncomfortable with the attention.

“Oh of course, thank you for inviting me,” Shika put in before offering Soun the gift in her hand, “A trifle Christmas gift.”

“Oh really, I couldn't accept this,” Soun stated, already opening the tube, it's wrapping separating to let the lid lift off to reveal another bottle of sake.

Shika smiled indulgently, “Please accept Soun-chan. It is in the spirit of the evening.”

“Thank you, Shika-chan,” Soun returned, even as Nodoka's hand moved in.

“I'll just keep this with the other bottle. We don't need to give the children a bad example after all.” Nodoka glared at Shika, then at her husband.

Nodding in agreement, Hinako was quick to get Soun's attention back to her. “You'd think a mother would know how to behave around impressionable children.”

“Perhaps we should head to the school?” Kasumi suggested to break the moment, taking Tofu's arm and pointing down the street.

With general agreements, Ranma took Akane's hand even as she looked to the other side, Ryoga's hand covering hers there. Ryoga glared at Ranma over Akane's head, turning away to look when he felt Akari's warm hand take his other hand.

Yuka took Akio's meaty hand, her date forced to look away from envious looks at Soun, who was immediately stuck between the affectionate school teacher and former beauty queen.

“Old man Tendo gets the chicks,” Akio whispered to his date. “Wonder what his secret is.”

“He pays attention to his dates and not to other peoples.” Sparing her poorly chosen date a glare, Yuka pulled to walk faster and get him ahead and out of looking at the older man and his dates.

Akio reached out to take Sayuri's hand but the dark haired girl smelled his aftershave coming closer. Giving Yuka a sympathetic glance, she stepped fast to get up to Ranma and take his free arm.

The chain of now five teens now filling the width of the small suburban street as they lead the way to school.

“Thou shalt not pass!” Kuno's voice thundered around the school courtyard, his eyes boring into the demon Saotome.

The fact that everyone in the party that left the Tendo Dojo was still down the street, nearly half a kilometer away, no one aside from Akane and Ranma were absolutely sure who the angry Kendoist was really referring to, or if it was all of them combined.

Akane shook her head then looked up at her teacher, Miss Hinako walking with her father and latched on to one arm. “Miss Hinako, Kuno already lost to Ranma and I in challenges this month, can he challenge us again?”

Brown eyes nervously glanced to Soun knowing she had school rules to enforce, and could not help her date's daughter. “I'm sorry, but by the rules of the schools love dome, he can lay challenge again. However if he fails again, he does go to the punishment chair.”

“The barbers chair?” Akane asked, recalling the normally covered seat that stood alone under spotlights behind the ring inside of Love Dome.

“Wait,” Ranma asked getting excited, his hand rubbing the back of his hair where his pigtailed once was. “If I beat him a second time, I get to shave his head?”

“Well technically Principal Kuno would get to chose the punishment hair cut.”

“Ug. His own Pop would never humiliate his son.,” Ranma understood, throwing a glare at Genma, a father who would and had humiliated his son.

“Oh no, Principal Kuno would shave him bald without a second thought.”

Looking up at Akane's words, Ranma grabbed her hand and sped down towards the school.

“Ranma!” Akane cried trying to run in high heels for the first time since Happosai's balance training regimen when he started training her. “He needs to make the challenge to you!”

Sayuri and Yuka cautiously looked into the school gymnasium, seeing some of the students from the organizing club waiting to greet arriving attendees. Slowly they looked to the tacky Santa's sleigh where an overly tanned Santa wore sunglasses, and had a palm tree standing behind his red capped head. He sat in the middle of the festive Christmas set near the entrance to 'Santa's cave'.

Resigning themselves to the not getting in reach of their psycho who ran the school, the pair of girls in nice dresses got close enough to yell.

“Principal Kuno,” Sayuri called.

“Ho-ho-ho,” Santa replied, “Der be no principal ere, wahini, only dem Big Santa.”

“Um, Principal Santa,” Yuka tried, “Miss Hinako wanted you to know that Tatewaki Kuno has challenged Ranma Saotome for a second time. If he loses they'll be using the punishment chair.”

“Mah boy? No brudda is shaving my sweet boy's head!” Santa cried, rushing for the door in his padded costume, clippers ready in head to ready to do any hair cutting today.

Stepping into the arena Akane smiled to Ranma, rushing back with a pair of pompoms to meet him before he entered the ring to face Kuno. Ignoring the crowd of family watching the preparations for the love dome challenge, Ms Hinako preparing to umpire from the podium, the youngest Tendo slipped off of the yellow heels she wore, reaching down her hand to grab the second, hiding it in her pompom as she prepared to cheer on her fiancé.

“Are the challengers ready?” Hinako asked formally, rolling a five-yen coin in her hand hoping the obnoxious Tatewaki Kuno would make a preemptive move she could drain him for.

Akane lamented that she had to do this in her nice dress, unable to do some proper acrobatics in it over a cheerleader outfit, but went on before Hinako could call a start to the match, stomping her feet to timed elbow strikes and claps in sharp precise dance moves, starting a rhythm then using the moves to punctuate her cheer with the moves.

“R. A. N-M-A, you can beat him all the way!”

More stomps, dance moves, and pompom waving continued.

“Jump High, block that stick. His head, it's there to kick!”

A twirl and lashed out arm changed to short punching jabs with the flourished pompoms.

“Break his nose, break his toes, when you win, I have Mistletoe!”

Ending tossing the pompoms in the air, she posed holding the mistletoe over her head.

Grinning at Ranma, her fiancé red faced never having had a genuine cheering cheer leader before, Akane's eyes drifted to her heel, tossed out of a pompom during the third verse. Learned from Happosai during her balance training, her sleazy former instructor had shown her how to use a good tall heel like a weapon, using its curve to bend back around like a boomerang, Kuno far to focused on his anger at Akane cheering his opponent to notice before the tossed shoe hit the back of his head.

Ranma wanted to frown as the hidden attack of the Martial arts cheer-leading struck a cheap blow before the fight on his opponent, but that was the point of that whole technique regime. Focusing on how her cheer affected him emotionally, and being impressed as the tossed show impacted off the taller senior's cranium to lazily bounce back to its owner, Ranma gathered his love for his fiancée and rolled it into his ki, forming a pink glow in his hands ready to strike at the Kendoist the heartbeat the teacher declared a start.

Kuno sneered, ignoring the pain off his head or betrayal of his obviously subverted and bewitched first love, he held his kendo blade at his left hip, ready to step forward and slash this cure before he could get off his underhanded technique.

Hinako took a breath, “Ready. Be-”

They began without her.

“Muteki Kurohyou Me-To!”

Kuno was fast, but Ranma was prepared and had the width of the love dome ring between him and Kuno to get off his 'Unyeilding Panther Mate' attack, the pink swirl of ki going straight through his defending blade, taking Kuno in the chest, launching him back out of the ring to crash to the floor.

Clapping among the family and friends observing, Genma leaned to his old friend. “Looks like our plan is all coming together, the boy and your daughter are a sure thing.”

Soun nodded proudly as he clapped, seeing Ranma and Akane looking at each other after the victory. “Perhaps we should hold back on your plans, we don't want to risk things going so well.”

“Why hold back? The worse case is we get the heir to our united schools,” Genma hissed back.

Not far from them, Akari gushed to Ryoga, “Oh wow, they're like a team.”

Beside her Ryoga growled coming to the same conclusion whena figure in red ran in the door.

“AYE! Ma boy!”

The cried voice with the heavy accent cut over the applause of the families heralded the arrival of a disheveled Santa, running in to the fallen warrior.

“Ma tiny boy!” The elder Kuno cried again as he picked up his son with tears in his eyes, carrying him with surprising gentleness over to the nearby barbers chair. Still crying, the tanned man pulled out his clippers.

Tatewaki's eyes snapped open as his father went for his hair, a boken suddenly appearing in his hand to knock the clippers from his father's hand. Two more slashes and the school principal was knocked back to slump against the wall.

Dressed in her own red Santa's helper jacket, school disciplinarian Hinako Ninomiya passed her glass bowl holding the fighting fish to Kasumi and raised a coin in her hand. “Mr Kuno, sit down and accept your punishment. Losing a second challenge to the same person in a month takes a punishment you knew well when you made the challenge.”

“Ney, none shall touch my mighty hair!”

Ranma smirked, eyes on the fallen clippers near the downed Santa Claus. “You can't beat me in here Kuno, lets face it I am gonna shave your head bald. Payback's finally come,” Ranma taunted, recalling Kuno taking his braid in a fight with his girl form months ago.

Kuno turned from the teacher to Ranma, drawing a second boken like he had in their fight in the mountains. “Inside that circle where I cannot move from your sorceress evil, you might have...”

“Happo Go-en Satsu!”

Apparently bored with waiting for the foolish student trying to provoke another fight to avoid the school rules, Hinako's attack dragged the fighting spirit out of the young man.

The instant Hinako lowered that deadly coin of hers, Ranma darted in, grabbing the husk like body of his opponent and putting him in the barbers chair, strapping his limp limbs in with the convenient straps on the arms and legs.

Picking up the clippers, Ranma smiled darkly before Akane laid a hand on his arm to stop him.

He frowned for all of a second before Akane handed him the electric clippers on a cord hanging on the back of the chair.

“These are faster,” she said simply, turning them on with a buzzing sound before leaving them in his hand.

“That is hotter than your sexy voice technique.”

Akane blushed and watched as Ranma dragged the electric cutters through Kuno's limp hair.

Nabiki looked up from her coffee mug at the knocking on the front door. Shuffling over in her bathrobe, pink bunny slippers, and beanie, to the front door, she quickly opened it.

“What did you forget?” she called to whoever was coming back after leaving not long ago for the dance. She cocked an eyebrow seeing Jiro Ohata looking at her with a frown.

“I take it you didn't get my message?” he said somewhat disappointed, looking at her in her choice of outfit.

“Oh, that was tonight?” Nabiki said embarrassed, eying him in his smart sweater and jeans combination. “Just give me a moment.”

Jiro frowned at the idea of paying for more of the taxi drivers time, having already wasted so long till after the Tendo's, Saotome's, and the gaggle of others had met up and left for some local event.

His annoyance dropped when less than fifteen seconds after Nabiki left, she returned.

Knowing he had been played, that under her robe she had already been wearing the white blouse with a denim halter that accented her chest, matching her blue jeans showing off her slender legs. Her hair immaculate from despite having been under the beanie, she smiled her glossed lips and strode past him to start putting on her tan heels from the rack beside the door, a matching clutch in her hand as she hung a cute denim half jacket over her shoulder. “Shall we?”

“Merry Christmas, Nabiki-san.”

Still smiling from the humiliation of the obnoxious blowhard Kuno, the spectators of the fight followed Akane and Ranma towards the school gymnasium doors, ready to follow the victorious couple inside, when Akane pulled Ranma aside and waved the others in. “We'll be right behind you,” she told Kasumi and the others, Ryoga and Genma about to stop before Nodoka herded both into the doors.

Licking her lips, Akane looked at her date. “Ranma, I really loved the present you got me.”

“If Pop's hadn't ruined it, sure,” he lamented.

“No, it's good. If anything it looks more like the dojo with the hole in the side. I swear, I love it,” Akane said quickly, things not going the way she wanted. “But I have your present here. It isn't much but I thought now was the right time to give it to you.”

Ranma turned pink as Akane held out a thin box, a formal pen box she was using for her gift to him. Opening the velvet box, Ranma was surprised to find two bracelets, red and dark blue threads in tight braids with simple silver clasps on the end.

“Yuka helped me make them, I thought they could symbolize us the two of us. Since they were made from the hair you took back from Kuno that first time you fought him, your red braid and the hair he cut from me over a year ago, I thought it was right time to give it to you now after you got him back for both of us just then.”

Struggling not to frown, never one for jewelery, what with how stuff got broken in fighting. Suddenly Ranma smiled, “I love it,” he said, all the time meaning 'you'.

Entering the decorated hall, Akane pointed out the decorations, her fingers lacing with Ranma's and locking hard enough to make Ranma glance at her as the proud young woman waved to friends and classmates with her prize of a boyfriend at her side.

Akari smiled and waved back, Ryoga missing their entrance as he was redirected by the a student from the dance club who was trying to stop him from coming to her side of the greeting table rather than continue into the main area.

Moving in, they started coming together near some tables and chairs put out against one side of the hall, finding several tables empty, one in the center occupied by Hiroshi and his date, the pink striped dark haired girl smirking at the reactions she was getting. Between the black corset and skirt that was lifting and gathering a shameless amount of cleavage, her many piercings and tattoos, few of the Japanese students were comfortable doing more than gawk at her from a distance.

Hiroshi stood up, waving the approaching Ranma and others over. “Ranma, this is Michiko.”

“Oh, hey, sorry bout yesterday,” Ranma said awkwardly with his hand behind his head. Seeing her dark eyes narrowing, Ranma quickly continued with introductions. “Um, this is my fiancée Akane.”

“What happened yesterday?” Akane asked immediately, her eyes

Michiko smirked back at Akane, then at Ranma. “Your fiancé gave my date some advice about asking me out.” Akane didn't miss the 'you owe me' look the girl gave Ranma. Ranma didn't miss the 'I won't drop' this look Akane gave him.

Giving a sigh, Ranma leaned in to whisper to Akane, explaining the incident with the poorly timed window incident. Seeing Akane's dislike, Ranma squirmed. “Come on, you think I'd go for her tats and stuff over that natural mark on your backside?”

Akane blushed, not wanting to go into how unnatural those two green and black swirls were, but Ryoga had moved close enough to hear the whisper. He poked Ranma in the chest to push him back from Akane. “You cad, talking so lowly to your fiancé. She deserves better than you.”

“Why don't you butt out bacon-breath,” Ryoga began before Akane's hand slapped lightly onto each young man's chest, her eyes on Akari, who was busy glaring at Michiko, the pair clearly not impressed that despite Akari having green hair and Michiko black, both had identical pink streaks.

Shika's eyes were narrowed as she looked at Michiko and Akari's stare off. Not about their hair but their attire.

“Children today,” she muttered, shaking her head.

Looking over, Hinako tilted her head, “Problem Shika?”

“Of course you wouldn't see a problem. You're as bad as them. At least some girls have put on nice dresses, when did mini skirts and blouse become acceptable formal wear, let alone a black corset. Why not just wear fishnets and advertise an hourly price?” Shika continued waspishly.

“Oh get over yourself and welcome to the present,” Hinako returned through a fake smile.

Nodoka glared at the pair of them. “Both of you can calm down. The times have changed, though pushing the bounds of good taste, they at least are showing some effort to get what they want in the attention of their dates. Little boys like to see a little skin, it isn't like they are dressing down for a mature man, nor showing nothing to inspire their date out of his shell.”

Both women glared at Nodoka as she put their issues with the widow Soun into their building bickering. Looking away disinterestedly from them, her eyes fell up on a shorter girl entering the hall with Daisuke. The blue and white kimono she wore was of such obvious quality, she felt slightly embarrassed at her own. A quick glance to Shika showed proved the former beauty queen was similarly impressed.

“It is nice to see some traditional values continue,” Nodoka added.

As Daisuke, introduced his date Arisu to everyone at the table, Ranma saw Hiroshi darting across the empty dance floor towards the small DJ set up at the end of the hall. The blue eyed young man watched as his relatively new friend had a discussion with the DJ, before finally turned and started back towards the group, clearly not very happy with what result had occurred.

Walking back, Hiroshi waved ahead to Ranma who tugged on Daisuke's sleeve so they could meet Hiroshi just out of earshot of the girls.

“We got a problem,” Hiroshi explained. “The guy only has one Michael Jackson song and it's a remix. He is gonna play it next, are we gonna do this dance?”

Feeling a little nervous, Ranma didn't let it show on his face, giving a cocky grin and a nod to the less confident faces of his two friends. “Chill guys, it isn't about really dancing well. We knew we'd look pretty dumb, but trust me, Akane will like that I am trying to dance, so will your dates.. Just look ya date in the eye so she knows ya doin this for her. If this is a mix song, just try to keep to the beat and do some of the moves we practiced for whatever song comes up. Just don't stop, look to me or each other for what to do next if ya get stuck, and if that fails, just do some kata till ya get a better idea.”

Relaxing and nodding in agreement of Ranma's words, both boys paled at the end. Before they could say they didn't know any Martial arts practice forms, the current song ended and the beat of the mix song started, fast off with a backing of low guitar making the pair take poses of air guitarists as Ranma spun to face Akane as his audience as the song opened with the oppressive English lyrics of “Beat It”

Akane laughed out loud seeing this new side of her fiancé, her hands clapping to the beat to encourage them as the crowd around her was forgotten to watching her Ranma play dance star.

Tossing his wrist with waves of his arm to the beat, Ranma tossed a smile to Akane as he started repeating the moves he had studied off Michael Jackson's music videos. Rolling his shoulders and shifting his hips in time, he threw himself into the act like any training, knowing going half way would look worse than committing himself. Behind him, he felt more than saw Hiroshi and Daisuke doing their best to keep in time and similar action, not copying the more flamboyant ones he used, reading his hands for the subtle cues they followed as they stepped left or right, kicking out, ore flicking their heels out and back, sliding on their soles.

Watching from her seat, Michiko smirked despite herself, her eyes tracing Hiroshi's moves as he danced. She normally hated pop music but watching as Hiroshi danced backup behind Ranma, she was glad at least he could move.

Daisuke found his date unreadable, the kimono clad Arisu sitting expressionless but watching him dance. At least trying to as Sayuri stepped partly in front of his younger date, smiling at him.

That smiling was distracting enough that Daisuke stumbled as with a final “Whose Bad?”, the music changed, turning slower and darker, electric tones rising with a background howl of a wolf as the three dancers movements became more subdued, doing a practiced shuffling walk on the spot to the start of 'Thriller'.

As the synthesizer crescendo began, Ranma gave a “Woo!” spinning in place before joining Daisuke and Hiroshi like a line of dancing ghouls, arms up to one side then the other as they moved forwards then back in a slow relentless march.

Akane couldn't stop laughing and clapping to the beat as Ranma broke ranks to attempt to pose and mime the lines of the deep voiced westerner speaking of the evil of the night and the irresistible power of the “Thriller.”

Tugging on Ryoga's shoulder Akari smiled and pointed in like her blind date would miss some of it, even as he studied his rivals movements, trying to work out why Akane was enjoying Ranma acting the fool like this.

The music again began to change, this time the beat staying but the tones far lighter, the high tone of Michal's singing in English of 'Keeping on with the force' and 'Don't stop till you get enough'.

Kasumi's eyes widened as her cheeks pinked as Ranma led his backup dancers into crotch grabbing and hip thrusting dancing to the piece. Edging around, she moved towards the DJ, trying to wave him to move on as school students and their parents watched her future brother in laws sexual dancing, her own sister giving a “whoop” of encouragement.

Soon enough the mix changed again, the synthetic tones joined by more guitar and drum as Michael's voice sang of racial division and issues between “Black or White”

Their moves stolen from music video, Hiroshi and Daisuke lined up behind Ranma, enacting dancing with most of it head turning till bowing out to let the man behind take their place in the dance.

Akane laughed as the boys failed to translate the meaning of multiculturalism behind the song, but kept clapping and encouraging the unexpected show, a glance to Sayuri not surprised to find her eyes on Daisuke, and to Yuka who was glaring at Akio as he raided the refreshments table ignoring the dancing.

Rolling his shoulders, Ranma smoothly transitioned into the next part of the song, one he hadn't seen the dance video for, but going with the flow, tossing the occasional punch or kick in before shifting both legs out to one side, clicking his figures to the beat before twisting his hips to snap his legs the other way, going up on his toes and bended knee, flicking back his jacket with a “Woo!” before as quickly having it back on.

Another shift in the harmonies shifted the song again, the mix now one the boys had translated as some kind of love song, about a girl called “Billy Jean.”

Ranma led the trio in moves from the music video, twisting his legs out, flinging out his arm with just enough ki to reflect off the ground and the wind flare his suit jacket behind him as he clapped his arms over his head.

Hearing the words of the song, Kasumi smiled for a moment, recalling an old favorite of her own, old memories freezing as she remembered the story behind the song, of a denied indiscretion, her jaw dropping seeing Ranma thrusting his hips at her baby sister.

Nodoka smiled as Akane laughed and encouraged the boys in their unexpected and ostentatious dancing act, when after a series of hip thrusts from her son at Akane, her eyes turned to find Kasumi lest she react poorly to the antics. She finally spotted the elder Tendo sister up talking to the DJ. More like talking 'at' the music supplier by the body language of the young woman, and the DJ shaking his head was not the right answer as Kasumi said something back and poked him in the forehead hard enough to make him stumble back,

Hitting his equipment with one hand as he stumbled back, the DJ's music shifted with a sound like ripping, the beat suddenly much much faster.

Hiroshi and Daisuke stumbled at the unexpected shift, Ranma smoothly moving into the new beat, seemingly uncaring at the speed as his feet started darting out, becoming more linear even as he went faster than any song on Dance Dance Revolution.

A moment later, the DJ got himself back and shifted to a new track, a slower track, Akane rushing onto the dance floor to her lightly sweating fiancé as he looked disappointed at the song being over so fast. He had little time to consider it as Akane hugged onto him firmly, breaking only after a minute to slow dance in his arms.

Ignoring the fact they were among the only couples actually dancing in the hall, Akane looked up at her fiancé, thrilled as she felt the heat off his body as she held him close in the slow dance. “Why on earth did you do that?”

“Didn't ya like it?”

“Of course I did idiot, I loved it. I just had no idea you were going to dance like that,” she said, giving another firm hug to her fiancé to prove her point.

Ranma shrugged. “You wanted to go to this dance so I figured I'd learn to dance.”

“I meant like this, but thanks for doing it. To Hiroshi and Daisuke too, I didn't know they could dance.”

“Neither did they,” Ranma quipped. “But it looks like Hiroshi got points with the Tattoo chick so it worked for him.”

Turning her head to see the other way, Akane smiled seeing Hiroshi and his date dancing together. Her eyes looked past the tattoos and piercings on the girl, idly wondering if she could get a little lift from a corset.

Taking control of their dance to turn Ranma and her to the side, Akane looked to see Daisuke hadn't had as much luck with his date, the girl in the kimono apparently unmoved. Akane winced slightly seeing Daisuke was trying to make some conversation with his date, only for Sayuri to be dominating the talking on Daisuke's other side.

“Dai's date reminds me of my Mom,” Ranma whispered.

“The proper posture and kimono?”

“That and the way she's giving her date the cold shoulder,” Ranma stated, before nodding towards Akari and Ryoga. “But at least she isn't staring at you rather than dancing or talking with his date.”

Akari bit her lower lip wondering how to ask Ryoga if he wanted to dance when one of Akane's friends sat heavily in the seat beside her.

“Pig,” Yuka huffed.

“Pardon me?” Akari asked.

Yuka shook her head, then nodded towards Akio still at the refreshment table. “Sorry, I picked a date who'd rather stuff his face than dance.”

“You called him a pig like it was a bad thing,” Akari pointed out, prompting an odd look from Ryoga.

“Well he's over there eating more than his share...”

“I'll have you know,” Akari interrupted. “Pig's are a very noble and generous animal.”

With her own huff, Akari stood and took Ryoga's hand. “Ryoga-kun, may we dance?”

“Would you like to dance, Arisu-san?” Daisuke asked nervously, gesturing to where the others were already on the floor.

“No thank you,” Arisu replied in a quiet voice. “Mother doesn't like this kind of music.”

Awkwardly, Daisuke sat beside his date, desperately wondering how to talk to her.

Sayuri watched the couple with narrowed eyes, setting herself as she took a step forward to ask Daisuke for a dance instead, and immediately faltered as Arisu's dark eyes glanced at her as if the shorter girl knew what she was going to ask.

Taking a seat, Sayuri watched other girls dancing with their dates, sighing often at the smiles on their faces through song after song.

Picking up two cups, Ranma started filling them with punch from the table, his grin leaving him as the frowning Ryoga matched his actions. There was a glint in his eye that made Ranma sure Ryoga intended to give the second cup he was pouring to Akane too.

Still, being a waitress on occasion, Ranma was the faster without spilling. Turning from Ryoga, Ranma found his path blocked by his father.

“You looked like a fool,” Genma said unhappily. “Even your fiancé was laughing at you.”

“Don't try me old man, not after Akane's present.”

“Between a silly clock and making a fool of yourself, you'll lose her.”

“Pops, look at Akane, she is smiling. My fiancé is happy. Look at Mom,” Ranma pointed to his mother who smiled to him, then glared at her husband with a frown. “Mom ain't going to get over that. Don't you see you're losing?”

Ignoring the glare from his wife, Genma glanced at his son. “Boy, she loves me, this is just one of her moods. I'm not losing by acting the fool.”

“Pop's, you're losing cause you're the fool. You think you've won and that's it. You've losing cause you stopped attacking. I'm on the offensive, that dancing might be lame but she sees me trying. You've quit the fight.”

Turning from his father, Ranma frowned seeing Ryoga handing a cup of punch to Akane.

Genma Saotome looked at the dance floor where a sporadic number of students were jumping around like fools to the music, a deep frown on his face.

His eyes drifted over to Nodoka, his wife, talking with Shika and some girl in a kimono. Not surprising really since the girl reminded him of his wife when they were younger.

A flash of light caught his eye, turning him to where a teacher was still setting up a camera before the Santa setting set up to one side of the hall.

With a shrug, Genma sucked his gut in and walked over to his wife.

Akane smiled as a hand offered her a cup of punch. Taking it, her smile turned awkward as she realized it was Ryoga and not Ranma.

Sparing a glance for Akari, Akane stammered out a thank you.

“You're welcome,” Ryoga said almost shyly, suddenly awkward because Ranma in delaying had left him with Akari as a third wheel and no drink for the green haired girl.

Akane glanced towards Ranma, held up talking to his father, her eye gravitating to the red and blue band clasped around his wrist as he held two cups of punch.

Ryoga blinked, recalling some of Mikado's words on dating. 'Occasionally show attention to another girl, girl's like to get jealous and she'll want to claim you.'

Smiling, he offered his cup of punch to Akari, his eyes turning from her to see Akane smiling at him.

“Oh thank you Ryoga-kun, you're so generous.”

Looking back at Akari, he smiled shyly at her words.

An annoyed Ranma finally arrived with his two cups of punch, Ryoga casually grabbing one. “Thanks.”

Ranma frowned, looking between Akane and Ryoga.

“It is simply gorgeous, Arisu-chan,” Shika gushed over the girl's kimono. “So much more appropriate than some.”

Nodoka nodded at the pointed words of one of Soun's dates, sharing her glare for the girl in the black western corset who was talking with Hinako, Soun's other date nearby. Her glare all too easily shifted to her approaching husband.

“Wife dear, I was thinking we might get a photo of us together,” Genma stated firmly, hooking a thumb at the school teacher setting up a camera. “We don't have many after all.”

Nodoka looked at her husband for a long moment, unable to see his eyes behind the glare off his glasses. Finally she offered her arm and Genma grinned in victory as he put his hand on hers and they walked towards the Christmas photo set.

“Can I open my eyes yet?” Nabiki complained as she was led up the stairs, Jiro's warm hand over her eyes as it had been for the last ten minutes in the taxi. The sounds of some of the crowd of others entering the same venue failed to give away the location, and Jiro hoped their noise might cover the sound of trademarked musical themes played from inside.

“Are you ready?” Jiro whispered gently in her ear.

“Show me?”

Uncovering his dates eyes, Jiro smiled as her eyes brightened taking in the huge sign for Tokyo Disneyland that many other couples were venturing into.

“Wow, thank you Jiro,” Nabiki said breathlessly before grabbing his hand and dragging him towards the doors. She had heard that many Japanese couples liked amusement parks like this at night, especially romantic nights like Christmas.

The fast moving queue quickly had the pair up to the sales booth and ready to enter, Nabiki passing Jiro a slip of paper.

“I've got it, you are my date,” Jiro defended with a casual smile.

“Oh I know, but my sister is great at collecting coupons, so I grabbed this one for half off a second ticket when I worked out where you were bringing me,” Nabiki returned with a smirk, offering the coupon again.

“You worked out the mouse in the box,” Jiro said slightly embarrassed at assuming he had gotten one over her. “You don't like to make this easy do you?”

Nabiki leaned in and kissed his cheek. “You'd never be satisfied if I was easy.”

Grinning back at her, Jiro realized he was going to have to lift his game.

Neither saw the shadow watching them leap the outer wall and enter without paying.

“Say Merry Christmas!”

“Merry Christmas!” Nodoka said through a forced smile.

-Flash-

Blinking away the flash, Nodoka kept the fake smile on her face, still suspicious of her husband being nice as the married couple stood up from the Santa sleigh set the photographer was in front of.

Confirming their name so they could pick up copies later in the week, Genma led Nodoka towards the dark entrance of 'Santa's cave', the mock up of the corridor dark from the well lit outside.

Raising his hand, Genma pointed to the sprig of plant over the entrance. “That's mistletoe dear, lovers are supposed to kiss under it.”

Raising her eyebrow, Nodoka reached out to her husband and firmly took his jaw with her slender fingers. Applying a little too much strength granted by the magic dogi she wore under her kimono, she tilted his head to the side before softly kissing his cheek.

“Come along husband.”

Leading into the darkness, the two adults were the first to cross into the dark corridor, inside the light at the end a faint haze in the romantic shadow.

A red light blinked on the wall.

-BUZZZZ-

With that single warning, metal arms reached from the roof and walls for their unwitting victim.

A moment later, Genma Saotome stumbled into the light, hands patting at his bald head, shreds of his bandanna falling away from his shiny dome head.

Buzzing and the sounds of swipes became a clatter of breaking metal before ssilence reigned in the cave.

Walking calmly out of the now lightly smoking mock cave, dropping a metal arm ending in electric clippers to the side, Nodoka Saotome glared at her husband.

“Thank you for your assistance, husband,” she said in a slow icy voice.

Without faking a smile, Nodoka looked at Akane and Ranma as they approached. “This would be the work of that hair fetishist principal of yours?”

Akane nodded embarrassed. “Um, Aunty...” with a single finger, Akane pointed to Nodoka's shoulder.

Looking, Nodoka's eyes widened at the red-brown strands of cut hair there.

Genma swallowed at the glare promising retribution his wife gave him before she stormed off towards the bathroom in hopes of finding a mirror to see how obvious the cut was.

Pinning part of her hair back with a hair pin, Nodoka examined her efforts in the school bathroom mirror.

“That's not bad Aunty, you can't even notice it like that,” Akane said, her tone overly up belying the truth and situation.

“Thank you Akane-chan, go back to dancing with Ranma, I need a moment before I face my... husband, again.”

Nodding, Akane quickly turned and opened the door, leaving the older woman in alone.

With slow deliberation, Nodoka put her hand in her kimono, pulling out the slender box within. While she had had time to hide the bottle she had taken from Soun, a gift from Tofu, while still at the Tendo home, this gift from Shika she had simply put in her kimono. The magic of the dogi let her hide it as she had seen her husband, son, and many other martial artists carry weapons on their person unnoticed in the folds of clothes or sleeves. It was an odd feeling, being aware of the item at her side but so completely comfortable its weight and position as one moved that there was no danger of it falling out or sticking in ones side.

With a quick pull the lid of the tube box came off, and she lifted the bottle within out. With a twist, the bottles lid followed suit and she raised the bottle to her lips.

A flash of light across the dance floor drew Akane's eyes to the photographer near the Santa's sleigh taking a photo of Hikaru Gosunkugi and his date, said date currently dragging him on to the darkened corridor of the mock Santa's cave none had braved since the Saotomes, even though Nodoka had broken the trap within.

Yuka noticed where she was looking. “I heard that Kaori girl already took 'Voodoo' to meet her parents. I just don't get the attraction.”

Nodding, Sayuri leaned in. “I heard Ms Hinako asked him who hit him when he showed up to class with his lips all puffy. Apparently Voodoo and Kaori were kissing for so long they puffed up like he'd been punched,” she said with a slightly envious sigh, also using the nickname Gosunkugi had in class.

Sayuri looked across the table to Daisuke just as the boys date stood, bowed politely and walked towards the bathrooms. Yuka caught the look and leaned in closer to Ranma.

“You know that debt you owed us? Here's your chance, go hit on Daisuke's date.”

“Woah,” Ranma said overly loudly, even as Akane glared and Akari and Ryoga looked on open mouthed. “What the hell?”

“Look,” Yuka said rolling her eyes like he was a child. “He isn't happy, you sweat talk her for a dance and when she will dance with you, then Sayuri can get him to dance with her. You do owe us.”

“How about I say no,” Akane growled at her friend.

With a nod to Akane, Ranma looked back to Yuka. “The last thing I need is to have another girl fall for me, not that I would be so low as to move on a friend's girl.”

Ryoga ignored the pang in his chest reminding himself Ranma was not his friend.

“It's just one dance,” Yuka said, stopping as Sayuri put her hand on Yuka's arm and shook her head.

With a shrug, Ranma nodded at Arisu's back as she entered the ladies bathroom. “Besides, she doesn't look very happy either, have you thought of asking her if she wants to be here and would mind if you danced with Daisuke?”

Blushing at being so forward, Sayuri looked at the couples around her and stood up, purposefully walking towards the toilets herself.

Akane leaned to Yuka, “Do you think she'll do it?”

“Nah.”

Opening the bathroom door, Sayuri bumped straight into Arisu coming back out.

“These stalls are filthy,” The shorter girl said simply before pushing gently past Sayuri and back outside.

Sayuri would have told Arisu that they were as clean as they normally were for a public school bathroom, only her head was too locked up with the feeling of the prominent bulge on the front of the 'girl' when she had bumped into 'her'.

“Look at that,” Shika said, pointing towards the dance floor where to a fast moving song, Michiko was near grinding her thigh between Hiroshi's legs as he tried to keep up with a red face. “Shouldn't you do something about that, you are supposed to be chaperoning this children. She's a bad influence.”

Nodding, Genma leaned towards Soun, “Remember what the master says about women with tattoos.”

Hinako looked at Shika, “It is a bit forward by modern standards. Of course if I were born as long ago as you Shika. I might also think it is going too far and isn't only dancing.”

Returning the scathing look, the mature beauty queen shook her head. “This is why I never wanted my daughter to come to this school.”

The brown eyes of Hinako lit up, “Soun-chan. Perhaps we should help Shika-chan see that the school two of your daughters attend is not the lowly disgusting place she implies.”

Smirking at Shika's wince at her words being twisted so, Hinako dragged Soun to his feet and towards the dance floor. “Um, Hinako-chan, I'm not really comfortable dancing,” Soun stammered out.

Batting her eyelids, Hinako put Soun's hands on her hips, and wrapped her arms around his neck. “Soun-chan, look at it this way, we dance for a few minutes and we not only show Shika-chan that you didn't send your school to a place teaching them bad lessons, but perhaps inspire your Akane to be more adventurous with her fiancé and help push them closer to getting married?”

“If you're sure...” Soun said, clearly unconvinced.

“Oh I'm sure. Just leave it to me and tell me if it makes you feel like being... a delinquent.”

Shika seethed as she watched her rival take her date out on the dance floor. It got much worse when the school teacher pressed her thigh between the eligible widows legs, swaying to the beat.

Looking around for aid to end this dry humping dancing, she instantly gave up on Genma who was already heading to see if there were any scraps left on the refreshments table, Nodoka was pulling her cup of punch from her kimono sleeve and drinking it with an oddly content smile, and Kasumi was too busy on the dance floor herself, slow dancing with her own boyfriend, too entranced to realize the song was too fast for slow dancing.

-Thunk-

At the heavy sound, the DJ looked to see a traditional wooden tea spoon burried three inches into the wall near his head.

Swallowing, he looked out over the room to see one chaperon, a yummy mummy if he ever saw one, less pretty now as she angrilly glared at him across the floor. She gestured to her kimono attire.

Quickly selecting the closest song he had to a traditional song, the DJ looked at the current track details, he saw it had two more minutes to run, and held up two fingers to signify...

-Thunk-

Another dart past between his digits and embedded in the wall.

He hit the fade out to the current song and fade in to the next.

-Thunk-

This third dart sprayed a light green powder on impact, the instant it touched his lips, his body froze looking out at the crowd. 'It's a paying gig. It's a paying gig,' he reminded himself as he saw the woman smiling and moving for the older man on the dance floor, cutting in on the hot teacher.

A cautious wave from Sayuri got Daisuke's attention as he sat in awkward silence with his pretty date.

“Excuse me Arisu,” he said, taking her bowing her head as acceptance, making his way over to his classmate. “What's up?”

Biting her lower lip, Sayuri squirmed where she stood. “Uh, are you sure your date... is a girl?”

“Huh?”

“I, ah, I bumped into her in the bathroom, she's... got a package!” Sayuri hissed embarrassed.

“No way,” Daisuke said, but still giving a glance to the girl in the chair nearby.

Swallowing, Sayuri shrugged awkwardly. “I'm not lying.”

A change on the dance floor, the new song an old traditional piece, of sharped plucked strings of a xxxx, interspersed with low wood taps. The dance floor quickly cleared, except for Soun Tendo and a woman who once guest taught Sayuri and Daisuke about tea ceremony at school.

To both teens surprised, Arisu stood gracefully and gestured for Daisuke to return and go with her to the dance floor.

Daisuke swallowed and did so, one eye looking to see if Arisu had an Adams apple.

It was Hinako's turn to seethe as she returned to the table, idly starting to drain the fighting fish in her bowl as Shika began a traditional dance.

Moving in slow, measured movements to the music, the attractive woman pinned her date with her eyes as she danced for him. Pulling out hand fan's to open them as she flowed from one movement to the next, she smiled without missing a beat as young Arisu brought her date also out on the floor and fell into step with Shika's actions like they had practiced for years.

Nodoka sighed as she watched the pair of dancers, feeling old as she pulled her punch cup from her sleeve, cheering up seeing it was again filled with clear liquid.

“She reminds me of me when I was younger” she said idly, recalling skill she never really had to the level of the two women dancing at the moment. “I used to dance like that... for my husband.”

Her brown eyes looked over to said husband. “Idiot,” she declared and drank down her cup.

Reaching the end of the song, Kasumi was the first to start clapping, making others join in around the hall, before the DJ equipment automatically continued the playlist, a much faster modern rock piece starting.

“That was lovely,” she said as she passed Shika, dragging the good doctor behind her to start dancing with him again.

“Thank you,” Shika replied, but her eyes drifting to Hinako, challenging her rival.

Across the table, Daisuke nervously escorted Shika back to the table, wincing as he purposefully cut across her as if to get to pull her chair out, one hand brushing to check Sayuri's claim.

The was a bulge.

“You pervert!” Arisu exclaimed. In a flash, her hand went to were she was just touched, yanking back with a tanto blade that flashed silver as she slashed her date.

Daisuke jumped back, eyes wide as the end of his tie fell loose to the floor. “It was an accident, I swear!”

Regaining control of herself, Arisu sheathed the knife and glared at Daisuke. “I want to go home now.”

“Ah, sure. Okay,” Daisuke said, gesturing the way as the couple quickly left, the young man always out of reach of the shorter girl.

As another fast song ended, Kasumi smiled breathlessly to Tofu, the pair returning to the table where her father sat with Shika and Hinako, and the sumo wrestler Akio, one arm around an uncomfortable Yuka, the other on the hand of the back of the chair of Sayuri as she looked bored as she played with part of Daisuke's tie.

“Are you all having fun,” the brunette asked the girls, hoping to provoke them into getting out and dancing rather than just sitting here.

“Um yeah,” Yuka said unconvincingly. She glanced darkly to her date, crinkling her nose before looking back to Kasumi. “Do you have a mint?”

Smiling, Kasumi nodded and reached for her purse. Beside her, Tofu gently touched her elbow. “If you have enough I could use one myself.”

“Of course,” Kasumi said undoing the latch on her clutch. Caught on the flap as Kasumi opened it, a foil wrapped condom was pulled out, more following as the strip spilled on the table.

Red faced, Kasumi froze in shock as Yuka and Sayuri gasped, her own father pale.

“Way to go Doctor Tofu,” Akio said.

With painful slowness, Kasumi turned to her date standing beside her.

Tofu kept staring between his date, the condoms and his date's father, moving one to the next with a slow deliberate action and almost clock like precision, over and over.

“What's up, Doc?” Ranma asked as he led a smiling Akane from the dance floor.

“Ranma?” Tofu said with a jittery voice, as if surprised to see him, “Oh yes, the dance!”

Grabbing Ranma's arms the Doctor sped out into the dance floor, swinging his male partner in a dangerous waltz. Kasumi scrambled to grab up the condoms before anyone else saw them, eyes looking lamentably at her date erratically dancing with the reluctant young man. Her eyes fell on her father and she was trying to find the words to explain how she never put these condoms, which she realized had been in the same as those she had found in Ranma's pack last week.

A pink cheeked Nodoka walked over with a slight wobble and smiled. “It's best that you remembered such dear, I'm afraid Tofu is so nervous he'd forget.”

White at Aunty thinking she had brought these, it was when she heard a snorted giggle, Kasumi's eyes fell on Akane with a glare.

Sheepishly, Akane kept her mouth covered, “It was a joke, I didn't think you'd pour them out of your purse. I just wanted to get you back for going on about Ranma and I in this engagement.”

Not laughing, Kasumi pointed at her date dancing with Akane's fiancé. “I spent months on him Akane. He was just starting to relax!” she said angrily, poking Akane in the forehead with her finger.

Turning Kasumi took up her purse and stepped out onto the dance floor.

Still struggling to get free of the crazy acting Doctor, Ranma was suddenly surprised to find himself dumped on the floor, Tofu diverted by Kasumi grabbing his ear, dragging him for the exit.

Akane grabbed Ranma's hand and led him back to the dance floor.

Dancing with Akari, Ryoga's eyes drifted over her shoulder, spying on Ranma and Akane as they danced. Akane was still red faced after whatever had just transpired between her and her sister and Doctor Tofu.

Turning with Akari, swaying to the music, Ryoga was too busy regretting it wasn't Akane to actually enjoy himself. Watching as Akane danced with Ranma steadily across the lightly filled dance floor of the dressed up school hall, reaching the little Santa set. The photographer there waving them to have a seat but Akane waving him off and dragging Ranma into the dark corridor turned mock cave. “Uh, want to go in Santa's cave?”

Akari blushed at the implication of her blind date becoming so forward suddenly, but found herself being dragged across the dance floor before she could weakly argue the point.

Like Akane and Ranma before them, Ryoga waved off the photographer and vanished into the dark.

Akari held onto Ryoga's arm as they entered the dark, licking her lips, waiting for him to make a move.

Finally he did, Ryoga turned away from her.

With a gulp of breath, Ryoga grabbed Akane from Ranma, pulling her to him, pressing his lips on hers. She tried to push him off, but the words of his teacher Mikado Sanzenin made him hold her firmly, deepening the kiss till she wilted in his arms, returning the kiss.

Stumbling in the dark, Akari tried to move sideways, hoping to find Ryoga by silhouette against the light at the end of the tunnel. She did, and her blind date in a bandanna was kissing another girl.

Akari saw red, and shoved the kissing pair hard, sending both stumbling into the light though Ryoga didn't let go, not breaking the kiss.

A few gasps came out as students around the converted hall stopped talking or some few dancing to look at the public display of affection.

Blinking against the light, Kaori xxx's eyes widened drastically, her strength returning as she shoved Ryoga off her. “Ryoga!”

“Kaori?” Ryoga shouted back in shock. Before the pair could say more Ryoga was shoved back.

“You lecherous pervert. I thought you were a good man. A hero. Generous. But you're not. Just some rutting boy.”

“Gross,” said Kaori, scrapping her tongue with her fingernails.

“I swear, I didn't even know Kaori went to this school. I was...” Ryoga defended weakly.

“That's even worse, you just randomly grabbed a woman like some pervert in the dark!” Akari accused with another shove.

“It wasn't perverted, I didn't want to kiss her,” Ryoga proffered.

Shaking her head, Kaori kept wiping at her lips. “I was grabbed in the dark. I have a boyfriend. He kissed me. Gross.”

Akari looked disgustedly at both. “You sure didn't let him go fast, you're nearly as bad as him.”

“He kissed me,” Kaori defended again.”He's my cousin!”

Freezing, Akari looked even more disgusted at Ryoga.

A light laugh drew attention from the arguing group, reminding them of those around them, especially the pink faced woman in the kimono. Nodoka walked forward confidently, shaking her head. “Ryoga Hibiki, only you could finally catch a girl who actually likes you back as desperately as Akari-chan does, and then blow it with your poor sense of direction grabbing the wrong girl.”

Swallowing, realizing that all these strangers thought she was in love with her blind date, Akari ran for the door.

Ryoga, still a little grossed out, watched her go, feeling a heel, his focus on Akane so deep he missed the obvious.

A slap to the back of the head made the young man stumble forward, Nodoka shaking her hand from the sting of hitting the thickheaded child. “If she gets out of sight, you'll never find her again.”

Ryoga looked at the woman he was so used to glaring at him, gave a single nod, turned and ran for the door, tripping after one step.

Looking up, Ryoga felt Nodoka lift him physically, turn him the other way and toss him through the crowd at the correct door.

“Where are we Akane?”

Smiling impishly at her date, Akane pulled Ranma along. Taking a side door behind a curtain from the mock Santa's cave, she hadn't asked if Ranma wanted to leave yet but it seems a lot easier to slip away after the embarrassing scene around the backfiring prank. Opening an outside door, the pair got out into the cool winter night air.

“We're outside. It was a bit embarrassing in there.”

“Okay, we going after Kasumi and the Doc?”

Giving Ranma a look, Akane shook her head, “No, they have to work that out themselves. It wasn't that bad really, she just got flustered.”

A quiet moment passed between the two as the walked towards the school gate, Akane still holding Ranma's hand firmly. Glancing up at her date, Akane giggled. “I loved your dancing.”

“You wanted this silly dance, so you got it. But you owe me for making me look like a fool.”

“I'll do anything you ask, Ranma,” she flirted breathlessly, her eyes becoming serious. “Anything.”

Taking a deep breath to control his hormones, Ranma let go of her hand before he broke his promise about intimacy. “Tease.”

Akane giggled before grabbing his hand and pulling him back to face her. “Ranma I mean it. Not just about the naughty stuff, but anything. You got me that clock, I got you these silly bracelets, you worked on that dance... I want to do things that make you happy like you make me.”

With a casual shrug, Ranma licked his lips. “You make me happy just fine.”

Pulling his arm so their shoulders brushed, Akane smiled.

Slipping off his jacket, Ranma put it around Akane's shoulders as the two walked the slow way home.

Smiling and shaking her head, Nodoka looked around the various students looking at her after tossing the Hibiki boy across the room.

“Please continue dancing,” she said, slightly more pink cheeked by their focus, and started walking back towards the table where Soun sat talking to her husband between Hinako and Shika.

She got half way there before she realized that few couples actually returned to dancing. Her eyes sweeping disappointed over the boys and girls around the edges of the room, then focused on Hiroshi and Michiko.

“This,” she said loudly and clearly. “A young couple having fun.”

The center of attention for confused students, even the other chaperons were looking at the woman now talking loudly to all. “He has a pretty girl because he is has asked her to dance with him. You are all young adults, it is time to grow up. Boys, girls like men with the confidence to ask to show an interest in them. If you can't show a spine just to ask for a dance, just minutes of fun in your life, do you think you look like a man? A simple dance that lets you show her you can be fun, you can be exciting, you can move your body like a lover...”

“Mrs Saotome!” Hinako Ninomiya shouted, face flaming as her invited chaperon led into subjects that would get her yelled at by the PTA.

“Oh you shut up,” Nodoka said turning on the voluptuous teacher. “You keep throwing yourself at that train wreck of man, no consideration for his wife, you use your body to fight a tug of war with Miss second run down the isle without realizing you have to win his heart, not beat your rivals. You're both no better than those girls after my son.”

“Now Nodoka-chan,” Soun began standing up to defend the shocked Hinako and Shika, only to become the target of the woman next.

“Don't try me, Soun-kun. You let your daughter get harrassed by the immature idiots like that Kuno boy and your vile old master. You should be strong for them, let alone wallow in your loss like you do, mooching these two for attention for your ego.” Shaking her head she snatched a cup from the table, without thinking pulling the bottle out and pouring another drink for herself. “Just grow a set and take the one you want home. Even my son...”

“I got that bottle for Soun for Christmas,” Shika accused.

Leaving her bowl with the fighting fish, Hinako moved around the table to the older woman. “Mrs Saotome, leave these school grounds immediately.”

Nodoka smiled prettily. “Or what?”

Swallowing, stood and Genma approached from the other side of the table. Nodoka always did get a little belligerent with some drink in her, just like thier wedding night, he recalled with a wincing smile. Combined with that infernal magic dogi she wore under her kimono who knows what damage she could do... or how vulnerable she might be.

“No-chan. Perhaps it is best if we head home.”

Spinning on her heel, Nodoka looked at her husband. “You. You who left me alone for twelve years. You took my son, and left me alone. Now where is he? He's not here. Somewhere off with Akane-chan. He was mine for so little and now he's going to be hers. Last year you sold him to be some store, and what happens, he got arrested! Now another Christmas without my son!”

“No-chan, calm down. I'm sure the boy and Soun's girl are already back at home. Let's go back and find out.”

Glaring at her husband, Nodoka then tuned a little wobbly and glared at Hinako, “You're lucky day.”

Taking his wife by the shoulder, Genma started to walk them out, his hand inching down to her behind, casually making a move, testing the dogi's defenses.

In a flash Genma was thrown out the doors, shattering them and letting in the cold winter air. Nodoka ran after him.

“The suit! You think you can beat the suit! I'll give you the suit you old fool!”

Silence reigned for a long moment before many students in the hall made for the other doors, a murmur of words among them,

"Akari-san, wait."

Ryoga's call make Akari's feet falter, nearly tripping herself as she slowed from running to look back in surprise through crying eyes. Recalling that this was the boy who got her humiliated and embarrased, she turned away and started walking again.

"I'm sorry."

Despite herself, Akari looked back at the boy running towards her. "Why? It was just some stupid blind date," she spat angrily.

Slowing, he stood before her awkwardly. "I got so worked up, I didn't think. I really was a pig."

With a sumo shove, the crying girl pushed him back and nearly over as he struggle to stay standing. "You are no pig. You might turn into a piglet, but you are scum."

Her hips twisted to turn her away, but stopped as she watched as he fell on his behind, her words impacting harder than her shove ever did.

"You're right, everything I do, I never do it right. The world is such a dark place," he murmured as he started to glow a sickly orange.

"You saved that child. Didn't even asked to be thanked. Akane said Ranma thought you were honorable when it mattered. Why can you be so much like a..."

"That is easy stuff, you see it, you do it," he interupted with, his voice still down, but his aura flickered and failed. "But everything I want, I... it never goes right."

Crouching in front of him, Akari used one small and lightly calloused hand to raise Ryoga's chin. "So what do you want?"

"I don't know." Unable to look away from her brown eyes and the runs in her makeup from tear, he swallowed. "I don't want you to be upset because I was an idiot."

"I..." Akari started, then shook her head with a light smile. "How about you start by walking me back to the Tendo dojo?"

Nodding, Ryoga quickly got to his feat and offered her his hand, only to wince and pull it back, pointing instead down the road. "This way."

"Ryoga-kun," Akari said, pointing the other way before taking his hand.

“... and so Saotome was stuck in school in girls bloomers before the whole class.”

Laughing at a story of humiliation for Saotome Jiro told her, Nabiki squeezing her date's hand as they rode on the double decker 'Omni bus' that toured most easily through the surprising crowds of couples still in the Tokyo Disneyland park.

Jiro pointed ahead to a kiosk and tables, “Would you like a drink or something hot?”

Catching herself before frowning, automatically disliking the costs these places gouged inside the monopoly of the the Park's walls, Nabiki nodded and let Jiro lead the way off the Omnibus at its next stop.

Stepping off the bus just in front of an actor in a large 'Minnie Mouse' costume, Nabiki let Jiro lead them towards the kiosk through the crowds, they were lucky to find a table right near the kiosk being left as they came. “Take the table and I'll get us some thing? Any personal favorite? Cotton Candy?”

Impressed as Jiro guessed or had found out a personal favorite, Nabiki shook her head and smiled, “Surprise me.”

Smirking as she watched Jiro turn away from her and join the short queue for the kiosk, she cast her eyes amused over the many couples, all standing so close but with limited public displays of affection, none more than that the holding of hands. Her eyes locked on the big round ears of Minnie Mousse as the large headed costumed actor moved around inside the kiosk, apparently helping the servers now. She could only imagine how the over blown head and bodysuit that would have been sweltering in the summer and no doubt all but attacked by children in the day, but on a cool Christmas eve in a park filled with adolescent and twenty something couples, it was likely warmer than Nabiki's denim.

Not that she didn't find the little red skirt a little cute on the giant mouse person the costume made the character out to be.

After a few minutes, Jiro finally returned, to Nabiki's surprise Minnie Mousse at his side, helpfully carrying a tray with two cups of soda as Jiro handed his date a corn dog, her eyebrow rising at any innuendo from her date. Taking her stick from him, she nodded as Minnie Mousse put down the drink tray which held two types of dips, the creamy Japanese mayonnaise, and a blackish tar she couldn't identify.

“Super hot Dismey special sauce, please enjoy,” Minnie said with a giggle and a bow.

The couple bowed their heads with a “Thank you,” and Minnie Mousse headed back to the Kiosk.

“She must be bored tonight, offering to carry our drinks would hardly be part of normal mascot duties,” Jiro stated.

Nabiki nodded, distrustful eyes on Minnie Mousse till the costumed figure left the kiosk seating area.

“Though the drink came free with this super hot sauce.”

Nabiki looked back to her date as he dipped the tip of his corn dog in the blackish tar sauce.

“You like things hot?” Nabiki drawled, dipping her own battered sausage on a stick in the mayonnaise and bringing it to her red lips. She kept her eyes on his, enjoying his smirk, encouraging her to gently dab her tongue on the end as she wrapped her lips around the end, before bitting the tip off.

Shaking his head, Jiro chuckled, “I like things that may get me burned.”

Smiling, Nabiki watched him bite his own dog, his face paling then going red.

“Hot! Hot! Hot!” and in one swift move Jiro snatched up the paper cup of his soda, sucking on the straw. Immediately he gaged and swallowed the liquid.

“Ug, there was something in that.”

“Hehehehe.”

The laughter of Minnie Mousse drew the attention of the pair and many others at the kiosk.

“Not to worry, was just noodle in straw,” Minnie said in a singsong voice, holding up a thin packet with Chinese writing on it. “'On Earth as is in Heaven noodle'. Teach coward not to play games with Amazons.”

A sudden grumble from Jiro's stomach made the young man's eyes open in terror, recalling the eating contest against Saotome, Hibiki, and Mousse he had participated in. All for a mystical noodle that purportedly gave one the strength of one hundred men. Between backstabbing, bribes, and bowl after bowl of foul cold summer noodles, Saotome had finally eaten the mystical Chinese noodle, and all watched in horror as his digestive track and only his digestive track gained the strength of one hundred men, forcing him to eat more and more of the Amazon's disgusting noodles.

With sudden clarity, Jiro now knew the hunger that Saotome felt, taking his corndog whole in his mouth and pulling only the stick out, then snatching Nabiki's and gobbling it down.

Pulling off the Minnie Mousse head, Shampoo shook out her beautiful long hair, smiling. “Power of a hundred man in gut. Too too enjoy meal.”

Darting to the next table, Jiro stole handfuls of hot fries, and half a hamburger, wolfing them down to sate his unending hunger.

Shampoo's slapped a photo down on table, Nabiki's eyes widening seeing the image of her sister and 'Ecchi-Baka Taro' kissing.

“Tell Coward he no trick Amazons, Boy Shorts girl engaged to Monster boy...” Shampoo's head tilted as she looked at the Japanese girl in recognition, “Shampoo know you?”

“Nope,” Nabiki replied, knowing it was considerably safer than saying 'Yes, my sister screwed your husband'.

Turning and striding away, stripping off the costume as she went, Shampoo left Nabiki to pick up the photo, wondering how the Amazon reached that conclusion, when Jiro dove over the counter into the kiosk after more food.

“Oy, idiot, that food costs a fortune!” Nabiki cried out to Jiro, even as the boy ate and cried, not at the accumulating cost but the impending need for a toilet after all this eating....

Opening the gate to the Tendo property, Ryoga let Akari pass through first then followed her. He let her pull him into the yard, by his hand but the pressure was all from her grip on his fingers.

“Ryoga-kun, I guess it could have been a better blind date, but thank you for not letting it end as the worst.”

A half smile moved over Hibiki's face at the smile on hers, broken by a light chuckle and shake of his head at some joke in his head.

“What?”Akari asked.

“I, a friend of mine, he is much better with girls and stuff than me, he's engaged. Well anyway, he once told me how if you get to the end of the date before you kiss the girl, you lost any chance with her. I was just thinking it didn't take me that long.”

Akari sighed. “Perhaps Ryoga-kun, part of what makes you make some of the choices you do, is that you are trying to copy what other people do rather than being you? The only chance you had for a real kiss tonight was because I saw the selfless, brave, and generous you.”

Smiling lightly as Ryoga considered her words, Akari stood on her toes to kiss him on the cheek.

That was when Ryoga was hit.

Akane smiled as Ranma opened the rear gate, the gate that led directly to the Tendo dojo, their walk taking them around the back streets to Akane's home.

Closing it after him, Ranma smiled to his date as she pulled on his hand to take him around the side, between the dojo and high stone wall of the property. Ranma rolled his eyes as Akane hand an iron grip on his fingers, dragging him like a pet, not that he could allow her to do more, no matter how much he wished he could.

A movement in the light ahead near the front gate drew his eyes, eyes narrowing on the couple talking close. Stopping made Akane look back at him, only to turn ahead when he silently nodded to them.

Gasping lightly, Akane covered Ranma's still silent mouth lest he interupt the pair, her smile reaching her ears as she saw the fruits of her matchmaking. Pushing herself against Ranma's side, she was almost jumping with giddiness when their view was blocked by the massive and dark form of the champion sumo-pig, Katsunishiki.

Ranma was about to cry warning when Akane pushed up on his lower jaw to keep him silent as with a snort, Katsunishiki charged.

Ryoga barely pushed Akari back and clear before the massive animals head slammed him back, leaving cracks in the finish on the old stone wall of the Tendo yard.

Unfazed, Ryoga rushed back to protect his date from her animal, Akari watching surprised, biting her lip in the moment as her champion tried to drive off Ryoga like he had done so many other boys, recalling her promise to her grandfather that she should only date a man who could beat the champion sumo-pig.

“Get away from it Akari!” Ryoga called as he rushed the beast that snorted and rushed back.

At the moment of impact, Ryoga twisted around it's head, fast despite his power, he grabbed around it's thick neck as best he could and set his feet, snorting himself as he lifted the pig off the ground to steal it's power, twisting with its own momentum to slam it over, partially against the same part of the Tendo wall behind him, knocked out cleanly.

Breathing out, Ryoga relaxed his stance as the threat was stopped. This was the type of weird occurance that happened around the Saotome home in Bokuto, it was kind of refreshing to have it happen elsewhere. With a frown, Ryoga looked at the arms of his suit jacket, the seams burst when he had flexed and lifted the beast.

“You beat my champion.”

Akari said simply, making Ryoga wince, his shouldes failing, unable to believe he had managed to blow it again with this girl. He turned back to her, “I swear, I...”

Tackled again, this time Ryoga went down on his back as Akari's lips pressed on his.

Akane smirked at Ranma as the pair were kissing on the grass, slightly miffed that all she could do was press her hand to her own fiancé's lips as she pulled him around the dojo and to the walkway. Reaching the back door to her home, Akane released Ranma's hand and lips.

The jubilant smile on Akane's face made Ranma more than a little nervous as she took off her left shoe, holding it by the heel as she fist pumped the air in success of her love matching efforts. Taking off her other shoe as Ranma did the same, they were inside with the door shut before she looked at him.

“Now he is a good guy right? Aunty isn't right about him?” Akane asked after shutting the door.

“Bit late for that now isn't it?” Ranma returned, before her glare made him nod. “He isn't cruel, or a pervert. Just an idiot.”

“That's a given for a boy,” Akane surmised out loud with a smirk, before turning and walked down the hall.

“Hey!” Ranma replied, but was ignored as his date reached the entranceway and bent over to put her shoes on the rack.

“Looks like Tofu is still here,” Akane said as she reached up to take his shoes and put them beside hers, noticing the doctors on the shoes on the rack near the door.

“Probably having some tea or something.”

Nodding idly, Akane began walking upstairs, her thoughts turning to the young man behind her, slowing as she felt his eyes on her legs.

Reaching the top she turned to smile at him as he blushed getting caught, and reached for the guest room door. With a smile she turned for the hall to her room when a sound from the other direction made her look at Kasumi's door.

Creeping closer, Akane lay her ear against the door, eyes going wide as a long moan rang out, “Oh Tofu, there.”

Flushing red, Akane turned around , finding Ranma there. Before he could speak her hand was over his mouth, and pushing him down the corridor and quickly out on the small upstairs balcony.

Fumbling for words, Akane tried the worst segue ever.

“See from here the dojo really does look like the glass clock...”

Ranma laughed, “I don't know whats up, but did you really like that clock? Even after Pop's busted it?”

“I liked it a lot more than you liked the bracelets,” she accused, giving him a nudge to the hip with hers.

“Yeah but I love who they came from,” he returned with a counter nudge. “And you can make it up to me in three weeks on my birthday by remembering that offer you made earlier.”

Blushing, Akane's smile didn't cover the slight wince of something hard in her side and the agonizing three week wait ahead. “Three weeks? I thought Ukyo said the engagement meeting was New Years?”

“Near New Year, on my eighteenth birthday.”

“That's over two weeks into January, I don't want to wait that long,” Akane complained in a small voice, hugging to Ranma's side, feeling him stiffen as his honor fought to not return the affection, while his heart fought to never reject her.

Wincing again, Akane reached into the pocket of Ranma's dark jacket she still wore. She pulled out the small ring box.

Biting her bottom lip, her fingers pulled open the lid.

Eyes on the silver band, she didn't see Ranma wince as his hands closed over the box.

Hating her hurt pout as she looked at him, Ranma shook his head. “I wish I could but if I give you this now, the other girl's will never give up and go away. The engagement meeting was to let everyone make their claim, if I've chosen you before hand, they'll never leave us in peace.”

Akane nodded but didn't lose the cute pout. Nor did her fingers release the box as he tried to pull it back. “At least let me look at it some more.”

Rolling his eyes, Ranma didn't release the box. Giving a sigh, he opened his mouth to speak when he looked at the red and dark blue braided bracelet on his wrist and smirked.

“Fine with me,” Ranma said, his fingers releasing the box to pluck the ring from inside. Unlocking the tiny silver clasp Yuka had used to make the ends, he pulled the bracelet off and threaded ring through it, then put it back on his wrist. Stepping behind Akane, he rested his elbows on her shoulders, clasping his hands inches in front of her face is a very loose hug. “Look whenever you want.”

Eyes crossing at the sight of her engagement ring hanging on the bracelet she had given him, made from their entwined hair, Akane elbowed back into his side and broke out of his arms. “You jerk.”

“Yeah but I like ya gift a lot more now.”

Blocking her punch, he held her wrist, pulling her against him to rob her of the leverage to attack.

Akane blushed, breathing heavy as she was held against him, looking up into his eyes.

“You are missing out on so much because of that stupid promise Baka.”

Kasumi sighed out again as Tofu's warm hands pushed on her naked back, working muscles that were relaxed. She smiled as his nervousness was had calmed down to a simple tapping of his left foot.

Her eyes swept up his body, lingering on parts, before reaching his face, eyes drifting up and down her as he massage her as his Christmas present to her. As his tongue licked his dry lip, Kasumi's eyes drifted down again, over his shoulders, chest, and lower. Blushing she turned her head away to ignore the surging feelings her baby sister had surrendered to.

“That feels heavenly Tofu.”

“M-m-m-merry Christmas, Kasumi-chan.”

End chapter 18

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