“We're late, Akane!”
Nodoka smiled as Ranma finally got out the door towards school. Akane and Nabiki, one as normal dragging him out and the latter normally departing much earlier, chasing behind.
Closing the door behind them, the dark haired woman sedately returned to the main room, reaching for empty breakfast plates that now adorned the table.
“Oh I just got through telling Kasumi to leave that to me, Nodoka, please?” The red haired Kimiko said exasperatedly.
The older woman shook her head, “I'm sorry Kimiko but I missed doing this for ten years for my son and husband, I need to do it as much as you do. You could always go and find your husband if you let Kasumi and I handle the chores.”
The mischievous smile reached Kimiko's blue eyes. “I never could catch him in a race. He'll come home and I'll catch him then. And I enjoy taking care of my family too.”
Around the corner, in the hall, Kasumi sighed at the light banter, wondering what she was going to do with her day.
The running girl looked back over her shoulder at Nabiki and Ranma lagging behind, as they approached the school gates with but minutes to spare. “Come on slow pokes,” she called with a slight smile, amused that Ranma had gotten splashed by the little old lady with the ladle that wet down out the front of her house each morning. There was something nice in that some things hadn’t changed despite the fact that he was still male, no longer cursed to change his gender.
Nabiki glared at her sister, and Ranma didn't even bother with that. Even as he flapped his shirt to get it dry, he still looked tired from when he had arrived home last night and helped the middle sister crush, grind, and burn a tall stack of pictures he had re-appropriated. When asked how it went he said in an exhausted voice something about Ryoga, Crocodiles, and feather-light women and then seemed on the verge of exhaustion till they were done.
His blue eyes barely held open, Ranma ran with his bag in one hand and Nabiki's in the other as they reached the school, but he straightened and slowed as he saw Kuno standing in the way looking furious, weapon at the ready. He didn't even try to catch up when Akane took the lead towards the kendoist.
“Kuno-sempai, please get out of our way? We don't have time for your interfering!” she cried as she led with a kick but was caught off guard as the boy didn't block or take the blow, but stepped aside, his eyes on Ranma.
“Silence Akane-chan, for though it is soothing to hear your words of love, I must punish this foul miscreant for far harsher crimes!” He stabbed his wooden blade at the pigtailed boy, “Saotome! Your dishonorable cavorting with my incorrigible sister in my own domicile warrants a wrath of destruction upon you, but know this! I am aware of your heinous plot to give the irrepressible pig-tailed girl to the father of the fiery Akane, and I will not tolerate it! The sweet Akane will be freed of your vile clutches, as will the pig tailed-girl and your twisted damage to her full red tresses will become a memory when both are safe in my embrace!”
He charged forth to slay his nemesis, bokken held high.
Wearily Ranma dodged the first swing and kicked, holding himself on one leg as he held his other foot against Kuno's stunned face. He handed Nabiki her bag and tossed his to Akane, before pulling back and letting the kendoist stumble past. “Look man, give it up, I'm tired. I didn't do nothing to your sister, I don't want ya sister. As for Akane and ...” he yawned heavily, distorting several words nonsensically.
Steading himself, Kuno readied to attack again, but Nabiki came between the young men. “Kuno-baby, what Ranma is trying to say is that he has lost control of the pigtailed girl. In fact all of Ranma's black magic that he got in China is gone. She broke free of him and is now a whole new woman, but she is in love with my father. In fact, my father asked her to marry him and she accepted. Right Ranma?”
“Yeah,” he chirped, amazed how she twisted Kuno speak and past events out of context to lead the upperclassman to what she wanted to do.
Shaking with rage, Kuno's eyes lost focus as he tried to comprehend it all. Finally he looked back at Akane and then at Nabiki, “Saotome has lost all his dark sorcery? He is powerless?”
“No more Chinese magic, anyway.”
He dove towards Akane, “You are free, come to my arms!”
And got hooked back at the neck by a straight arm from Ranma.
Nabiki moved to Kuno and looked down at him before he could get up, “Kuno, Akane isn't under Ranma's control anymore, in fact, she controls him and makes him stand in your way. Do you think she could ever accept a date with you if you can't beat Ranma in a formal challenge? Right Akane?”
Akane frowned at first, looking around to who was watching, but then nodded and went with it, looking to Ranma then back at Kuno, “That's right, a formal and honorable challenge.”
Kuno's eyes showed he understood, what he understood really was anyone’s guess but that was another matter. He turned to the tired Ranma, “You do what the sweet Akane says and have no power of your own over her?”
The refute was in Ranma's eyes but held from his mouth by yet another emerging yawn. When he saw Nabiki behind Kuno gesturing towards Akane he looked to the shorter girl, who smiled slyly.
“You may answer Kuno-sempai, Ranma-kun.”
Rolling his eyes, it was the nodding of Nabiki that finally convinced him to just go with it. “Yeah, whatever, she can boss me around.”
The ringing of the school bell stopped any replies from Kuno as the students ran for their class rooms, eager not to be last.
In his lethargy, Ranma was still the last to class but followed Akane and others in and to their seats, the child form of their home room teacher, Hinako Ninomiya, was writing on the board, her back to the students.
Akane's face was still red from a comment by Sayuri as they walked to class about 'what she ordered Ranma to do at night?' That was exactly what she wanted to avoid people thinking about between her and him. Akane didn't even notice the teacher's bright smile when she turned around to face the class, her face made up more than usual. She even missed the strange perkiness in the child's voice of the woman as she addressed the class.
“Good morning class.”
“Good morning Ms Hinako.”
“Mr Saotome, please come to the front of the class?”
Yawning, the boy in question pushed up from his chair and moved to the front of the class. “What's up teach?”
The teacher's bright smile twisted darkly. “You were late, stand in the hall with the buckets.”
“Huh, I wasn't the only...”
“Happo gohen satsu!” The teacher cried, her form expanding as the tired boy tried to react, pulling his battle aura in tight even as it was stripped towards the coin his teacher held.
Akane and several others got to their feat as Ranma shifted, trying to withhold his battle aura from her attack, her other arm shifting up with the larger fifty yen coin. “Ms Hinako! What are you doing?” the youngest Tendo shouted.
The now older woman looked to Akane, her long hair shifting back gracefully at the movement, as she gently smiled. “Just punishing a delinquent, Daughter. Ranma-chan needs to learn a lesson.”
Several students raised eyebrows at the change in address, other students noticing the subtle changes that were less obvious on the child form of the statuesque beauty, namely her neat makeup, the comb delicately holding back her hair, the new dress, that while just as tight, the beautiful material cut to better enhance her natural beauty. A few of the male students noted the touches of black lace around her neckline and the top of her stockings.
Turning back, Hinako Ninomiya noticed the target of her attack had vanished, charging to the door to yank it open and pursue the pigtailed boy, abandoning her class.
The pale foreign girl in the blue dress was still wandering when she caught half a Chinese curse, enough to make her blush, but to Belldandy’s surprise, the male voice she had heard was replaced by the quacking of a duck.
Turning, she saw said duck, a rather beautiful white fowl, struggling out of a set of white robes. Finally the animal’s head appeared, rather oddly wearing glasses, the animal throwing a definite glare at the little old lady in a nearby gateway.
Though the little old lady faced away, ignoring the animal as it began to drag its robes away, showing no sign of noticing what had happened to the eyes of a mortal, but to the goddess, the amusement rolling off the elderly woman in the kimono was shining bright.
Stepping up, Belldandy’s clothes rippled with power, the little old lady with the ladle suddenly aware of her presence, a small triangle between her eyes glowing to the goddesses vision, while the three marks shining on Belldandy’s face made the old woman pale.
Kasumi frowned as her red haired and younger looking mother entered another fabrics and crafts store.
The brown haired girl was slightly annoyed that Nabiki had apparently opened up the house budget to their returned mother. She did have to replenish her wardrobe, but either Nabiki had been shaving the budget tighter than needed, or she was giving mother money out of her college savings. Then again with how close Akane and Nabiki were now to mother she doubted either girl would be applying for higher education outside of the Tokyo area.
With a sigh, she stayed outside with the bags from previous shops, her thoughts a jumble still, using the excuse of the small size of the store, with a few shoppers already crowded in, looking at bolts of rather pricey silks and cloth.
Giving another sigh, Kasumi leaned against the wall, trying to understand what her mother was buying. So far she had thought it was to make her own outfit, but she had bought several already, and also some pieces of jewelery. It was the jewelery that worried her most about the budget. The golden anklet with tiny bells was cute, but why she had to buy four of them from the Middle Eastern store to replace hers made no sense. Her lips pursed as she wondered about how quiet the ankle bells were while the redhead walked.
“Excuse me miss? Does this bus go past any love hotels?”
Kasumi couldn’t help but blush at the sudden question as a greasy haired young man, muscles bulging from a tight sleeveless shirt tucked into blue jeans. She only started to shake her head as he touched her cheek, trying to keep her gaze with his rather ordinary brown orbs.
“Come on cutie, you dress all trim and proper, but let 'The Tak' show you how to bring out…”
Stepping out of the store, Kimiko nearly missed seeing her daughter, hidden by the large man standing over the demure young woman.
Tak stepped back, eyes dragging over the red head with a smirk. “Hey there, we were just talking about hitting someplace more private. If you two are close there is enough 'Tak' to go round,” the greasy man said, referring to himself in the third person, with a jerk of his thumbs back at his broad chest.
“Kasumi, do you know this man?”
Red faced, the twenty year old shook her head feeling like she was a child again, “No mother.”
Sleazy eyes looked between one and the other, “If you’re claiming you're her mother Red, you are one Milf I gotta hit.”
Kimiko had no idea what that label meant and was sure she didn’t want to. Waiting for the sound of passing bus on the road to fade, she glared at the insolent punk as he approached her, now ignoring her daughter. “If my husband heard you talk like that, you’d already be begging forgiveness.”
Tak smirked, wiggling his fingers, “I don’t see no ring baby, your husband not satisfying enough for you to be proud to wear it?”
With a crack, Kimiko’s hand gripped one of his, squeezing force making him take a knee in pain.
A whipping of the tiny legs of a little old man sent a kick into the head of Tak, flipping him away from the red head as Happosai landed before her. “Take a hike punk, I know how this little girl likes to be handled.”
Ignoring the horrified look on Ranma-chan’s face, the aged master and founder of Anything Goes Martial Arts wiggled his fingers like ‘The Tak’ had moments before, this time a lacy pink bra hanging between them. “Nice change in style Ranma-chan, but it is time your Master taught you there is more to being a girl that a blouse and skirt.”
“Happosai! You, you’re alive!”
“Oh please student, I’m not going to die before I see you in a bra!” the ancient gnome cackled, diving forward, his lecherous grin not fading as the red head swayed aside rather than defending harder, his fast fingers deposited the pink lace bra in the girls hands even as he stole from her, the old man landing with the blouse the girl had been wearing.
“Better cover up R… oh my god, Ranma you do love your master!”
The pristine white bra, back strap evenly across the back, nipple line held comfortably directly between shoulder and elbow, shoulder straps not digging into her creamy flesh… the old man openly wept at the beauty of his Ranma-chan wearing a properly fitted bra.
“Soun said you were dead and buried?” Kimiko demanded, tossing the pink bra to her daughter, even as her hand dived into one of the bags before dropping it, yanking out a length of purple silk longer than she was tall.
His eyes on the bra, Happi was beyond words as he drooled out a, “Hotcha!” and sprang forwards.
Flicking the silk wrap at her attacker, Kimiko, ignored the growing crowd of onlookers to swing her body down and around, her leg flicking up to catch the old man in the side of the head, ankle bells ringing loudly with the blow. “Eight Bells Sing, they toll for you!” she cried her attack.
Happi shook his head trying to clear it of the ringing of the blow and bells, looking back at the red head on the curb with narrowed eyes, her actions too sure to be a new technique the boy learned. Her arms weaved, the bra still visible even as the silk length became a wrap around her chest and upper arms, stomach exposed even as her hips rolled in a unique ready stance he hadn’t seen in over a decade. The glinting of light off the silent bells on the anklet made him look deeper at the ki of the woman, not believing what he was seeing. “Kimiko!”
It was about then that standing on the road became an issue as a bus hit the old freak.
The danger gone, and most of the gawkers looking away when she stared back at them, Kimiko quickly picked up her discarded bag and blouse, Kasumi doing the same, still surprised at her mothers actions.
“Come along Kasumi-chan, I need to speak with your father,” the red head said in a quiet cold voice.
Breathing hard, Akane bent forward with her hands on her knees after running from the school, or more specifically leading her fiancé away from their dangerous home room teacher.
The battle aura draining beauty had searched the school after the delinquent Saotome, who was only a delinquent today because he fled class when attacked. All had been quiet till lunch when she had found him again, a running battle with extreme property damage, including the destruction of the rear wall of the boy’s gym showers, much to the embarrassment of the senior boys class using it at the time. As much as she appreciated Yuka and Sayuri’s enjoyment of the view, she didn’t ever want to see that much of Upperclassman Kuno.
“Wow, she is upset with me today,” Ranma complained, rolling his shoulder, stretching his back, his shirt dirty and ripped in places. “Running away is a much better idea than getting between her an' me, but why did ya drag me all the way out here?”
Still taking deep breaths, Akane frowned as he blushed badly, but she shook off wondering what stupid idea was in that lump he called a brain. “Weren’t you listening when I interfered, she called me daughter again. She said she ‘had Daddy’. Come on.”
Ranma looked disappointedly at the love hotel they had stopped in front of as Akane led them away from it.
“He must be tied up at her apartment,” she said with a trace of anger.
Clad in a pink dressing gown, Soun Tendo watched the television from his seat, unable to change the channel. His eyes scanned the room again while waiting for the advertisements to finish and start the next show, looking at the mess littering the room, even after his host had done a cursory clean up.
He idly scratched his nose, wondering if he should get up and clean some and maybe find the remote to the TV so he could look for other channels, but it wouldn’t do to move things from where the owner, that sweet teacher of Akane and Ranma’s, from where she left them in her home, he contemporized. He idly considered calling Kasumi to come over, but if his daughter’s fiancé’s cursed body answered it would be weird and awkward.
“Jerry, Jerry, Jerry, Jerry…”
The repeating chanting of the name over sub par opening credit graphics heralded the beginning of another subtitled American television show. The title meant nothing to him, nor did the cry of the crowd from chanting one silly sounding foreigner name to a single cry of another, “Steve!” as a bald man came on stage.
But despite the odd appearance, the entrance on the screen of a short haired girl with too many piercings, as the host, Jerry, asked her of the problems she had come on the show with. The girl spoke of her boyfriend, who had proposed to her, and because of her interfering parents, almost married but the ceremony had been interrupted and stopped.
He missed some of the story trying to figure out why the young woman was upset with their parents pushing them to marry, whatever ‘living in sin’ meant, but he caught up, sitting forward with interest when Jerry introduced one of the other girls who interrupted the wedding.
A pretty dark skinned girl with blond hair in tight rows and braids, came in claiming the young man was hers, the fast speaking of English made for equally fast and confusing strings of kanji across the bottom of the screen trying to keep up with people talking over each other or the audience chants, the girls trying to fight, neither with skill though the short-haired girl got a good right cross in, the black shirted security weakly keeping the pair apart, clothes of the girls stretched or raised in the action but any titillation covered by pixelization.
The introduction of a second girl made Soun lean in further, this one long haired, who claimed the boy at the center of this mess had proposed to her first, was met by more censored beeps, yelling at each other, and poor fighting. The next addition of the boy in question, a heavy built young man with blue eyes and numerous tattoos, lead to more fighting, both latter girls trying to get past the bouncers as the short-haired one kissed him, actually climbing on him to the jeers of the crowd. Unable to reach their man both rivals then turning on each other for more fighting.
With an open mouth, Soun watched as Jerry moved among the guests and security, questioning them about why they have done this or that, and why they pursued the boy when he declared he wanted only the one of them.
Finally Jerry turned to the couple, both with defiant eyes Soun found so familiar, asking them how they thought they could resolve things.
With a flash the TV turned off.
Soun slid off the edge of his seat to the floor, before rushing to bang it on the top of the set, desperate to make it work, not realizing the sound of the fridge and air-conditioner had stopped too.
With a click, the apartment door swung open.
“…and without power, the alarm doesn’t trigger.”
“Ranma, I don’t want to know how you learned about security alarms,” Akane said, rushing into the apartment, focused on rescuing her father and not her fiancé’s unsavory upbringing.
Tragically, she had hoped to find her father in more need that wearing a pink dressing gown while crying on the floor.
Ranma stepped back, knowing the blue aura coming off his fiancé was anger, and even if not focused on him, it was best to be out of reach.
“Get dressed Daddy, you’re coming home.”
Sipping at the delicious tea, Belldandy controlled herself at the surprise. “There are several of these Jusenkyo victims in this area?”
Conversing with the retired Monsoon spirit, first class, was certainly enlightening. The little old lady had retired when her granddaughter had taken over the seasonal heavy rains, modern weather spirits a different breed in having to deal with the evolving mankind anyway, but she had been asked by Heaven to stay around Asia in case needed in the future.
From what she said the Tendo dojo sure seemed to be the center of chaos in this suburban area.
“Oh yes,” the retired monsoon spirit cackled. “Ah, the duck, a cat, a panda bear, a pig, those are regulars. My favorite though, the boy who turned into a girl. Today the curse was gone in him. I splashed him anyway, but I’m going to miss him, the other’s hated it, the panda never cared, but that boy, even if he was angry when it happened, never an angry word, or threat. Very polite. A good kid. A spirit like that is who my grand daughter should be seeing.”
Belldandy nodded, then recalled last night. “A young man with dark hair, braided in the back?”
“That’s the one.”
It was the fourth ‘But Akane’, interspersed through a larger number of combined ‘But Daughter’, ‘But Son’, But Ranma’ and ‘But Children’, followed by at best gibberish from the crying man about why he couldn’t go home yet. All of which failed to make Ranma undo the binding ropes around the Tendo patriarch, currently slung over Akane’s fiancé's shoulder as they walked in the afternoon sun.
Rolling her eyes again at her father's silly behavior, Akane opened the gate to the Tendo home, holding it for Ranma and his cargo to pass before closing it behind them. Her brown eyes looked over her fiancés broad shoulders easily lifting her father’s weight, imagining from memory the muscles under the material….
Shaking her head of such thoughts, she moved to follow her fiancé when both heard the distinctive ki shout followed by the crash of breaking bricks in the dojo. Ranma turned, his blue eyes and her fathers both looking at her, then back at the dojo.
“Think that’s ya Mom? Sounds like you do,” he said idly, before moving off the path and onto the grass around the side of the house towards the dojo entrance.
“I…I don’t remember if Mom did break bricks,” she whispered, feeling a pang of loss for something she felt she should remember. Both teens progressed, ignoring the struggling man Ranma carried, babbling as he found another echo of his lost wife shoved in his face.
The young red head looked up from the large pile of shattered blocks with an angry scowl, lessoning for the sight of her youngest daughter and the young man she needed to talk to about the art. But the sight of her terrified husband bound on his shoulder made her lips smile even as her face turned rather ugly.
“Husband, remind again how you buried your late Master?” she asked huskily.
Soun’s face ran through his cascading emotions, panic at the person claiming to be his wife, confusion over her strange question, defeat as he knew the only master he knew to be buried had crawled his evil way back into his life and house, the happiness of the memory of his smiling wife when he told her he had buried Happosai… and panic if his wife found out Happosai was still alive and living in their home.
A breeze gusted by the three teenagers in the dojo door as the ropes fell empty, a blur crawling across the yard and over the wall in a flash. The two girls gave a sigh, Ranma a more manly huff.
“I just brought him back here.”
“We, Ranma, we just brought him back.”
Rolling her blue eyes, Kimiko turned to the pair, eying Akane’s school uniform and Ranma’s Chinese style shirt and slacks. “Soun-chan can wait, maybe this will scare some sense into him and he will come back and face me. But that is for later, right now, Ranma, may I ask you a favor?”
His hand pretty quickly found the back of his head, rubbing it awkwardly. “Ah, sure?”
A smile tugged at the short red heads lips as her eyes darted away from the cute teen, flicking to her daughter, then back to Ranma, her hands tugging her training gi top down with her own nervous energy. “Ranma Saotome, I would like you to train me in your style of the art.”
“Er, my style? I’m only really a student still…”
Akane’s mouth fell open as her fiancé was considering training this girl when he didn’t even help train her! It was only the clash between the ideas of ‘new Ranma-chan’ and ‘Mother’ that kept her from ranting or hitting the pigtailed boy.
“From what I have heard from my daughters, you’re better than both my husband and your father in the art, and the simple fact is that this body has brought with it your speed and strength. I don’t even know how strong I am right now when I punch, and I certainly don’t want to let your fitness go to waste by not keeping up myself.”
“Heh, I am pretty good. But I haven’t really done a lot of training of others myself, and most of the way my Pop’s teaches I wouldn’t inflict on anyone.”
Blinking her blue eyes in surprise, Kimiko frowned, “Oh? Nabiki said you sparred with Akane, I assumed… Daughter, is something wrong?”
Akane’s blue aura and grinding teeth made Ranma step back, trying to be just a hair back from her reach with a hammer, but the girl in question didn’t take her eyes of him as she spoke through bared teeth to her mother. “Ranma, has never trained me, never even offered to, only ever teasing me…”
Raising one eyebrow, Kimiko looked at her daughter, “Did you ever ask Ranma to train you?”
Her aura snapping off, Akane looked between her returned mother and fiancé, who was wisely looking at anything else but her. Her lips pouted. “Well… he… no.” And it only took one look from her mother to finish the job. “Ah, Ranma, would you train me, too… please.”
Ranma winced at the please, taking a long moment to nod. “Yeah, sure. Okay.”
“Now that that’s settled,” Kimiko interrupted the two teens who wouldn’t look at each other, “Why don’t you two get changed and we can do some training before dinner?”
Akane dashed off inside, any excuse to escape the embarrassment of the situation.
“Pops always says to train in what you wear cause you never know when you gotta fight.”
Panting, Soun looked back, visualizing the wall of his home, a mile away. Standing upright with a frown and stretching out his arms, he tried to think of another place to stay while whatever silly magic his future son in law brought home that made his cursed form think it was his wife, wore off.
His lip made his mustache ruffle as he considered returning to Akane’s teachers domicile, but even if the young woman was a little forward, he didn’t want to be seen coming and going, ruining her reputation with false allegations.
When the sudden panda paw landed lightly on his shoulder, the scared elder nearly jumped up a tree, but calmed down, reading the sign held by his oldest, dearest, most freeloading friend, he began to smile.
To be continued...