“And so now she's mad at me, saying I sold out her Mom.”
“You're an idiot and you did and it was my mother too, Ranma,” Nabiki put in from where she leaned against the building wall during lunch.
“Hey, how could I negotiate for Hinako to play by the rules but not go after your Dad outside of school? You said I had to give and take, she likes him and isn't going to give up for noting. And she's a tough opponent for Akane and your Mom to deal with.” Ranma stated glumly, picking at the remaining rice in his nearly licked cleaned lunch bento.
Nabiki looked at her sister fiancé with pursed lips. “Do you really believe that? No doubts?” For a moment she considered asking if he had been happy to let someone else handle his problem teacher, but realized the moment she thought it that in his simple little brain he didn't see problems like that, everything was training.
“No, why?” Returned quickly.
“Because that is your answer to calming my sister down.”
Nabiki pointed at movement in the school ground as Akane and Ukyo were face to face, their aggressive body language telling all they were close to blows, people backing out of range of being involved, joining others moving in to watch. The young girl form of the school disciplinarian among the students, handling a coin in each hand at the ready.
“If you want it to be clear that you think your student can take that ki vampire, then you better make sure she doesn't get beat down by her.”
“Why do you think he came to my restaurant to tell me?” Ukyo shouted in Akane's face.
“Oh yes, the next day after he had spent time in the pond in our yard, he came straight to show you!” Akane returned sarcastically, standing up to her rival and sometimes friend.
Ukyo's eyes narrowed, “You always said you never wanted to marry him, now you don't have to if your Mom is in a Saotome body and marries your father.”
“Even if I did, you think he'll suddenly want to get married to someone who hated him for ten years then changed cause he said one word. With his mouth who knows when he'll say the wrong thing and make you out to kill him again.”
“Just because you abuse him every day doesn't mean I will!” Ukyo defended angrily. “I at least can cook for him.”
“You care more about your cooking than him,” Akane accused.
“At least I care about him, and can cook,” Ukyo stated angrily. “Or were you going to rely on your mother to cook for you for the rest of your life?”
Ranma ran up quickly, leaping over the growing line of students around frowning at the arguing words. Hinako was going to drain the second this fight came to blows, and he needed to be ready to act the second she did. Akane was scared of ghosts but he didn't have one right now nor anything to try to pretend. But then that wasn't all that scared her.
Ready to aid Akane against their fighting spirit draining school disciplinarian, Ranma decided to escalate things. “Actually Kasumi still cooks better than Mrs Tendo.”
Ukyo smirked at the apparent support of her fiancé as her rival turned on the cocky young man. “Maybe Kasumi is a good cook because she was adopted?”
Though she was ready for Akane to lash out but the slap across her cheek echoed around the school, dazing her for an instant before with a growl she raised her battle spatula and moved to fight.
“Happo Go-en Satsu!” the voice of the little girl form of Hinako Ninomiya rang out.
Ranma's hands lashed out with amagurikan speed but his palms open, sending gusts of wind at Akane's feet much like but far weaker than Herb, Prince of the Musk.
Focused on her opponent Akane ignored her teachers shout, but when her skirt flipped up, completely exposing her underwear to the many watching students, she grabbed with panicked hands to pull it down. “Eek!”
Idly noting Ukyo crumpling before her, Akane turned on her smirking fiancé, unaware in her fright of exposure her battleaura had withdrawn inside her, her anger now making it flare out and torn straight from her to the now full figured woman teacher.
Weak and empty, Akane felt light as she hit the ground, rolling to see Ranma looking down at her quizzically. Suddenly she realized she resisted longer than Ukyo and why, she had withheld her battle aura in fear.
She weakly winked at him before drifting off, seeing what he was trying to teach her in his stupid way. But she weakly promised herself that he was still a dead man when she was strong enough to get him for exposing her blue panties to the school.
The goddess Belldandy smiled gently and nodded at Kasumi's words as they talked over tea. In truth Kasumi had been doing all the talking, the young mortal woman bubbling over with anecdotes and events from a year and a half of craziness she had little ability to share out before. After taking the role of running the house from her deceased mother while only ten, she had now lost that position from the most recent twist in the life of those of the Tendo family, the magical return of their mother to life. “I just don't know what to do now,” Kasumi lamented getting to part of the problem she had with this situation.
Tilting her head, Belldandy smiled gently. “Change can be scary, but arn't you at least excited by how much freedom you have now you don't have to be responsible for your family like that anymore?”
Kasumi squirmed in her chair before the polite foreign woman. Her eyes dipped to the small kitten the woman held in the crook of one arm as it yawned silently. “I guess so.”
“Perhaps it isn't the change of your situation you should be afraid of, but the limitless choices of what to do with your life now. So many possibilities you can't see one that you feel is best and grab onto confidently.”
Kasumi smiled ruefully. “I'm not sure what I want to do. I've been so happy caring for my family.”
“Don't worry about not knowing your direction yet, a way will open to you in time. I am thinking though that your life is more than what you do, Kasumi-chan. Perhaps if you change some little things that are easy to control, you will find seeing the world differently will open up choices you never considered.”
“I could suggest, but then it wouldn't have the same meaning for you.”
Kasumi nodded at the brown haired pale womans words. Her hand reached to her own long brown hair, some pride and vanity in the luxurious mane she had grown out over the years. Tilting her head she looked coffee shop glass, the play of light letting her see her reflection clearly, pursing her lips at the demure woman in a loose yellow shirt and blue skirt, at best it was plain, at worst it made her look frumpy. Pert of her refused to see anything more than the ordinary woman in the reflection, but something from Belldandy's calm words demanded some change to start here.
Her lips twitched imagining herself with a short haircut like her outlandish sister Nabiki, or the active cut Akane got after her long hair got cut. She tilted her head at the image of the whirlwind of change that was her sister's fiancé.
“I could maybe braid my hair? I have worn it like this for a long time.”
Belldandy brightened, “May I?”
Frozen with nerves as her choice was enacted, she watched as Belldandy put the little kitten on her chair as she moved behind Kasumi, the eldest Tendo daughter watching in the glass reflection as her new friend took the bow from her hair and starting to pull her hair out and make strands.
“You take good care of your hair, it's beautiful,” Belldandy said as she parted and weaved Kasumi's hair. She didn't take offense as the wide eyed girl stayed silent as she watched in the reflection in the glass as her hair was quickly and rapidly weaved into a tight braid down her back.
A touch of magic took her normal material of her bow and broke off a piece that hemmed itself, the shorter length perfect for knotting off the base of the braid.
“How is that?”
Nervously Kasumi swallowed, the new look tight and sleek, trying to not be shocked at the change as it highlighted her cheekbones and lips more by the absence of the brown she normally had. Straightening her shoulders, she felt somewhat... efficient, empowered, stronger. Standing quickly she hugged Belldandy.
“I love it. Thank you, I don't know how I can repay you for this and listening to me.”
“It was my pleasure Kasumi-chan,” Belldandy replied, joyous for the happiness she gave her new friend. “And there is something I could ask?”
“Anything?” Kasumi urged.
“I don't want to limit your new freedom, but I am not sure I'll be able to take Mr Snuggles home with me when I leave Japan. Perhaps you could give him a good home? He does like you?”
Turning to glance down at the kitten looking up at her, Kasumi was aware of the braid of her hair gently swinging like a tail across her back. Wincing she closed her eyes and shook her head. “I wish I could, but my sister's fiancé, he fears cats. I couldn't bring one into the house without traumatizing him.”
With a yowl, Mr Snuggles the kitten jumped off Belldandy's chair and ran down the street. Kasumi moved to follow only for Belldandy to stop her. “It's okay. He'll turn up. Perhaps then you could arrange for me to meet your sister. I'd like to ask her a question about that wish she made?”
Kasumi was still looking off after the vanished kitten. “Of course. But we won't be home till later tonight, perhaps after school tomorrow you could come by the dojo and I'll introduce you?” she said half paying attention.
“That would be perfect,” Belldandy smiled.
Akane could have growled as her fiancé shadowed her out the classroom door. After having him watching her as she struggled to stay awake in class as she recovered from the ki draining by their teacher at lunch. She was fine but no he had to follow her like she was made of china.
Getting to the front lockers, she put her bookbag down to change her shoes from the school slippers, she was struggling to finish when Ranma finished and grabbed her book bag.
Snatching it back she glared at her fiancé. “I can carry it, I'm fine.”
Immediately standing, she tripped and stumbled forward before Ranma's hand grabbed her arm.
“Sister, are you planning to carry that bag shopping or do you want to leave it here in your locker tonight?”
Akane frowned at Nabiki as her older sister stepped up. “Oh yeah, Mom's meeting us.”
Bags left in lockers, the trio moved out quickly to get to the front gate of the school to see the procession of whispering students staring at the pair of women waiting there.
While many of the students were bug eyed staring at the red head they thought was Ranma's cursed form with her short hair and pleasant skirt and blouse, and less of a stare for Kasumi at her side. For Nabiki, Akane, and Ranma, the new haircut on the stable and demure older sister left the two girls stunned for a second time this week and Ranma wondering if this was some new martial arts technique.
“Kasumi, your hair?” Akane asked shocked.
Shyly putting a hand to the back of her head, Kasumi flushed at the attention, half expecting the reaction.
“Oh,” Kimiko said, not realising this new hair was not something her eldest did periodically after not being in her life for ten years. “Is this new?”
“It's amazing,” Nabiki stated nodding, “I like it, sort of dangerous look for you sis.”
Akane's frown didn't agree with Nabiki's assessment, but she glared at Ranma when gave an affirmative grunt.
“You'll have to tell us what brought this on tonight though, Ranma and I have a train to catch.” Grabbing his arm, Nabiki yanked him in line with her making Akane's glare shift to her becoming more cautious.
“Don't forget to find a swim wear shop,” Kimiko said as Nabiki started leading the way towards the station.
Nabiki smirked back as Ranma shot a helpless confused look at Akane. “Or your rule Mommy. We'll be back as fast as we can.”
“What swim wear?” Akane asked her sister moving off.
“Just buying a very little something,” Nabiki shot back.
Kimiko picked up a red bikini, pursing her lips as her youngest daughter again asked why they needed new swim wear. “Akane-chan, how much will you sacrifice to learn mother's school of Martial Arts Bellydancing?”
Blinking, Akane took a half-step back at the question. “I'll work really hard. I know it won't be easy but I'm not scared.”
A slight smile lit across Kimiko's lips. “If I asked you to bellydance for Ranma tonight because it would help train you, could you?”
Squirming and red faced, Akane winced before nodding. “I'm not scared.”
“What about for that Kuno boy who I slapped the other day? Could you dance for him in your underwear if I asked you to?”
Swallowing, Akane stood stiffly. “Uh, how would that help me learn?”
Serious blue eyes looked at her. “Because both of those boys like what they see when they look at you dressed, let alone dancing or undressed. To truly master the power of Martial Arts Bellydance you will have to dance for someone who will scare you much more than dancing for either of those boys. Someone who knows every doubt you have. Who will look at every flaw. Every mistake not only that you make in the dance but in all of your life so far. You have to appease a woman who will not accept excuses.”
Akane didn't move, looking confused.
“Daughter, to truly master Martial Arts Bellydance, you must dance the Dance of Seven Veils. No secrets or lies, you will be alone with your heart and your own self judgement.”
“I have to dance for myself?” Akane said looking even more confused.
Nodding Kimiko put her hand on her daughter's shoulder, “I defeated that shriveled up evil Happosai many times, only because of the confidence and power of the Dance of Seven Veils. Do you feel confident that you can reliably defeat not just him but that obnoxious Chinese girl after him?”
“Akane-chan, even Ranma hasn't been able to defeat him often.” Kasumi's nervous voice put in as she stepped up holding a silver one-piece in her hands.
Akane frowned but set her stance determinedly. “Okay, so I master this dance and beat them for this silly jewel. How does a new swimsuit help that?”
Smirking, Kimiko looked at the silver swimsuit in her eldest daughter's hands, “Because part of mastering the final move of mother's school is accepting yourself, including your body as it is. I know I always feel at my best about my body with some vitamin D and a little color to my skin. So we're going to the beach this Sunday.”
Akane shrugged, not seeing the point but assuming it was part of the training for this super move dance thing.
“Sorry Kasumi-chan, I like the color, but since Akane will be in a two-piece, she'll be more confident if we all are. Maybe something in string bikini?”
Akane flushed, terrified at what piece of dental floss her mother would have in mind for her. Suddenly another image came to mind. “You told Nabiki to take Ranma shopping for a bikini for her?”
“Of course, I guess I am so used to having three little girls that if one of you get something new you all should. And Nodoka-chan said that Ranma only had girls swim-wear which I inherited so I asked her to buy him some new trunks.”
Seeing the dark look on Akane's face, Kimiko shook her head. “Daughter have a little faith in your mother. I made her promise she couldn't model any for him or flirt with him.”
“So, what do you think?” Nabiki asked smirking.
The faces of the two drooling shop assistants looking at the oblivious Ranma posing in black speedos before a mirror.
Nabiki smirked, “Any chance of using your employee discount for an advertising photo?”
The first shop assistant pulled out her mobile phone camera and took a snap. “Stuff advertising, you can use mine.”
Smirking, Nabiki thanked the girls and stepped up to her model. “I'll have to bring some bandages to the beach. When Akane sees you in that she will hit you for making her drool.”
Ranma grinned and posed in the mirror a little more. “So I get these instead of the trunks I tried on first?”
“Oh no we get the trunks, you just take them off when you go in the water.”
“So I get both?”
Nabiki smirked at the young man in the black speedos. “Nah, I like those Ranma but Akane may like these even more?” She held up a light blue swimsuit similar to his speedos, only Ranma could tell with a nervous glance they were at least two sizes smaller and had a thin strip instead of a seat to the back.
“I'm not wearing a thong.”
“Convince me not to order you to wear these instead, student?”
Ranma locked his eyes then considered his words. “I have to guess what my opponent, in this case you, wants, and how to make you not want that anymore.”
“Crude but generally accurate,” Nabiki said staring back at him.
“You're gonna photo me, wouldn't photos sell better if something is left to the imagination?”
“Skin sells Ranma.”
Ranma smirked. “How about if I have to wear that, I'll be forced to watch your back all day. After all on a public beach I wouldn't want your suit to fall off.”
Clapping her fingers into her other palm, Nabiki congratulated her student. “The Yakuza would be proud by the implication.”
Grinning in success, Ranma disappeared back into the change room.
(Should this whole scene have the girls wearing underwear under swimwear for hygiene reasons?)
Akane came out of the change room in a red suit with black trim around the waist and hanging from the top. Blushing lightly at the image in the mirror, she hated how it looked too much like lingerie but at least having more than a piece of string protecting her hips.
Kimiko came out of a change booth, wearing a floral printed bikini, and looked at her daughter. “Try the other red one. That one would leave tan lines where your belly dancer outfit won't cover, Daughter.”
Blushing at the image she had been purposefully ignoring that she'd end up looking like some genie from an old Arabian nights story. Whimpering Akane turned and re-entered the change room.
Kasumi walked out of a change booth in a silver string bikini, modeling it beside her returned red headed mother.
Nodding in approval, Kimiko smiled, “Thats great. I would try it myself only I don't have your height in this new body.”
Smiling for her mother, she watched the redhead disappear back into the change room.
“Excuse me miss?” Turning around, Kasumi nearly jumped back away from two bespectacled twenty-something men, one in casual clothes was looking directly at her while a second in a loose fitting rumpled business suit kept glancing towards her while scouring through a nearby sunglasses rack.
“No, please, we just...” the man began before interrupted by the other.
“Found them!” The other cried out, bringing forth a pair of sunglasses and holding them out to Kasumi like some offering.
Still nervous about being in front of the two men in the skimpiest swim-wear she had ever worn, Kasumi took the sunglasses proffer and at their urging put them on.
The two otaku looked at the girl in the braid and silver bikini in almost awe. “Lara Croft!” They cried suddenly, pulling camera phones out to photo her.
Kimiko stuck her head out of the curtain to her change booth in the back of the swim-wear shop, wondering what a 'Lara Croft' was but didn't like her daughter showing off for strange salary men with fancy camera things.
When an arm yanked “Lara Croft” off into a changeroom, the two confused men watched unsure what to do before the words of berating from one female voice rose out from within about showing off for strange men. When 'Lara's' voice came out with the line “But Mother I was...”
The two men were out of the store like lightning before the angry mother of the girl turned on them.
Coming out of the changing room at the back of the store, redressed in his common black pants and red Chinese shirt.
“So what are you getting?”
Nabiki patted him on the shoulder. “Sorry, no flesh show for you. I'm not allowed to model these.”
Stepping back from the accusation he wanted to peek at her, Ranma was shaking his head but Nabiki spoke first. “Now I can't model them for you, but which one is sexier?”
Holding up a thin black bikini on a weird hanger that held them like worn on a body, she held it in front of her body in her school dress. Embarrassed more by the word than the idea, Ranma imagining it on Akane with her similar body type to Nabiki's. “Kind of.”
“Or this?” Nabiuki asked, enjoying watching his eyes as he tried to figure out how the three yellow triangles were held on the holder before spotting the clear plastic straps instead of strings for support.
Reaching out, Ranma turned it over to show the back which amounted to a thin strip of yellow up to a clear strap 'T' junction. “You have to be kidding.”
“Ranma, I never kid about sexy. So which one would you rather see Akane wear?”
“The black. If she wore the other I'd think she had been possessed by Shampoo.”
“Good enough,” Nabiki smirked. Turning Nabiki led Ranma to the counter. “Two bikini's, the trunks, and the speedos,” Nabiki said with a wink to the counter girl who got out her employee discount card while still looking at Ranma.
“You're getting both,” Ranma asked surprised.
“Black one for me, and yellow for Akane.”
“Good luck getting her to wear that,” he quipped.
“Not my problem,” Nabiki returned. “It's a job for my student to convince her to wear it sunday.”
“Woah, wait, what?”
Akane was still blushing as the trio of young women left the swim-wear shop and moved out of the mall to the surrounding streets.
“Just one more thing to get,” Kimiko stated firmly, “You can join us Kasumi-chan if you desire but I'd understand if you don't want to yet.”
“So now what, Mom,” Akane said with some dread. “Belly-dancer outfits?”
Shaking her head, Kimiko smiled for her nervous daughter and student. “No you have to make your own belly-dancer outfit when you are ready.”
Kasumi put her hand across her face to cover an amused smirk imagining an attempt by her baby sister's sewing of Harem pants made of patchworks of gauze and canvas, wool thread and staples.
Feeling ill confident in her skill on sewing, Akane's eyes widened as Kimiko led to the door of a tattoo parlor. The red head looked at Akane, “We're getting bellybutton piercings.”
The sound of a slap came as Akane covered her clothed stomach in defense with her hand. “What? Why?”
“Because the strongest moves Mother developed for the school came from funneling our ki through a jewel. Powerful hypnotic attacks that could distract and put an opponent off guard, to even putting susceptible opponents in deep trances.”
Frowning, Akane looked suspect. “Can't we use glue, I don't want to look like a...”
“Like a...?” Kimiko asked a little too dangerously.
“I get enough of everyone asking if Ranma sneaks in my bedroom enough already. Can't I just glue a jewel in my belly when I need it.”
Kimiko placed her hand on Akane's shoulder. “It doesn't work and could fall loose. You need a solid connection between your ki and the stones mount.”
“But I don't want to look like a slut?”
From the doorway of the tattoo parlor, a new voice rang out. “Are you calling me a slut?”
A slender young woman in her early twenties looked out the doorway at the trio. Wearing a loose black tanktop with the parlor's logo on the front, tattoos of roses on thorny stems twisted down both arms to her wists. Tight black leather pants went down to mid calf, exposing her ankles, each with matching tattoos of unicorns on the outside and handcuffs on the inside, above strappy black pumps that lifted her heal four inches. Each of her ears had several studs and piercings, as was one in her right eyebrow, left nostril, and lower lip. A black and white panda was tattooed on her long neck.
Akane looked shocked at the woman, saying “No,” automatically but her eyes were a little too judgmental.
Brushing back her pink stripped black hiar, the young woman glared for Akane, “Do you think I have ten boyfriends? That I am engaged because I'm pregnant?” The stranger asked holding up her hand and the silver ring on her finger.
Kasumi smiled lightly. “It wasn't like you brought boyfriends over when you babysat Akane and Nabiki when Daddy was out and I was stuck in after class clubs at school, Michiko-chan.”
Kimiko, Akane, and Michiko all looked surprised at Kasumi, before Michiko's eye's went wide. “Kasumi?! Wow, it's been over a year since we last spoke. Love the hair.”
Stunned, Akane was still wide eyed looking at the woman she vaguely recalled babysitting her and Nabiki a few times some five or six years ago as the tattooed girl hugged her older sister.
“Michiko, I'd like to reintroduce you to my sister Akane, and to our mother brought back from the dead by magic in a new body.”
Michiko looked at Kimko for a long moment, then shrugged figuring the story there was probably longer than how her panda tattoo had climbed on her neck back when she was thirteen.
“Come on in, I'm Michiko Chikubiwa and this is my shop,” Michiko said, waving them inside.
“Is this really Martial Arts Body Art?” Akane asked nervously, looking around the parlor, expecting the chairs and work table, tattooing ink and piercing guns on neat racks, art on the walls of various tattoos and piercing studs and barbells. Mixed with these were pressure point charts, position diagrams, and a small corner with practice dummies and punching bags.
“Sure is,” Michiko stated with a smile. She held out her hands, “See these roses?”
The three women looked but Kasumi spoke up, “Not the roses, the thorns, they match the pressure points on the arms, the ink is somehow linking them for ki, isn't it?”
“Good eye,” Michiko said impressed at her old school friends unexpected knowledge. I am twice as strong as I was before I designed these, and building muscle is easier.”
“So it's like Martial Arts Calligraphy?” Akane asked, recalling Ranma explaining the strange smiley face Ryoga had drawn on P-chan and himself that time.
“It's related, but a little more durable and less drawbacks than that school,” Michiko said, recalling that school with distaste. Perking up with a smile, she went back to selling her livelihood. “I have a four thirty tattoo appointment, but are you just looking or after something small?”
Kimiko nodded, looking away from the case of piercings. “My youngest and I need a small but deep connection bellybutton piercing, pure silver plate over pure iron? Perferably magnetized, with a single end screw.”
“Nothing like a woman who knows what she wants,” Michiko said with a wink. “But magnetized iron core, you must really want to funnel some power through this piercing.”
“All the power of the universe,” Kimiko said enigmatically.
“Cool,” Michiko said. “Whoever's first, butt in the chair, turn away from the windows and pull your shirt up.”
Akane looked nervously as her mother pushed her towards the chair, the red head following Kasumi's tattooed school friend to a glass cabinet and looking through the selection of little barbels.
Finally they turned back, Michiko sitting on a wheeled stool and rolling forward right up on Akane's legs, going so far as to straddle the youngest Tendo's legs and lock her ankles under them, handcuff tattoos on ankles touching.
With a delicate efficiency, the artists swabbed Akane's bellybutton with alcohol and brought out a wicked little gun like a single biting tooth. “Okay you need to tense up your muscles and focus all your strength and power to your stomach. I need you to flood your pressure points with all the power you got so I find right where we can link this piercing most directly to your Lower Dan Dien to give the most direct access to your power.”
Kimiko took her daughter's hand. “Feel your power like when we practice our dancing. Roll it in your center and let circulate out with power and motion.”
“Nice, that's good,” Michiko said as Akane obeyed the instruction nervously, moving her center like rolling water in a cup.
Kasumi looked over them carefully. “Is that it, just off a tiny bit to the right of the top of the bellybutton.”
Michiko nodded but didn't look up lest she lose sight of the point her training let her see, putting the piercing gun in position. “It looks worse than it feels but this will be a big prick.”
With a click the gun pierced Akane's skin. “Ranma!” Akane cursed vehemently before turning red.
Michiko bit her lip not to laugh as she put the piercing in pace and and put a pad in place over the blood. Finally done, she released her leg lock on the girl and stood up. “This Ranma another little prick you know Akane-chan?”
“Her fiancé,” Kimiko explained as her daughter hid her face at using her fiancé's name like a curse.
“Well he might be nicer once he sees that, but you better take care of it so it doesn't get inflamed while it heals. These are cleaning solutions and disinfectants.”
Kimiko nodded, “I'll take Akane through how to use them while you prepare to pierce me?”
Nodding, Michiko moved to disinfect her tools and prepare to go again, Kasumi watching her work with interest.
“Your good with pressure points. Where did you learn that stuff?”
“I used to borrow books from Doctor Tofu.”
“Oh yeah, I forgot about him. I kind of thought you were a sure thing the way he was like a schoolboy around you.”
“No, he moved away last year.”
“Ouch,” Michiko said reading more into it. “You want a piercing today too?”
“Oh no, bit too much for me. I just found my life wide open and that might be a bit too soon too fast.”
Michiko tilted her head as she glanced at Kasumi recalling the proper young lady her old school friend always had been. “The actual piercing is free for employees.”
“Well you just said your wide open, and the hardest part of running this store is finding any employees who have any aptitude. You already know the hardest part of doing Martial Arts Body Art, knowing and seeing active pressure points. And I recall you did good in school art class too.”
Kasumi smiled unsure. “Can I think about it?”
Nabiki grabbed Ranma's hand to drag him along as she rushed for the elevator in the city skyscraper. Automatically she selected the thirty fourth floor, labeled as the Tokyo offices of an international firm, Crane, Poole, and Schmitt.
Watching the doors close, Nabiki quickly pulled out her lipstick, using the mirrored rear of the elevator to touch up her lips.
“You gonna tell me why you dragged me here, Nabiki? Is this part of my training?” He glanced nervously at the bag containing their swimsuits still off balance by his upcoming training exercise.
Nabiki smirked as she dropped her lipstick back into her purse and hiked her school skirt up a little higher and ruffling the material up.
“We are pulling what you would call a con, Ranma,” she admitted as she reached for her purse again and pulled out a jewelry box. “But this comes back to the problem with all con jobs, so while it is a great lesson for your new techniques, we are here to clean up your mess.”
“My mess?” Ranma asked surprised.
Nabiki nodded, frowned, then reached over and pushed the emergency stop button on the lift, suddenly stopping the elevator car with a jolt. “We need more time than I gave myself,” she explained to a further confused Ranma.
“Last week you came to me with a problem and I said I'd handle it, yes?”
Frowning, Ranma tried to recall what it had been, then nodded, “With Ukyo and Shampoo saying if ya Mom and Dad got married, Akane and I wouldn't be engaged.”
“Exactly, and you know with Mom back, Dad still in hiding, training in the art with you and Mom, helping you with your training, and this my final high school year, I am very busy right.”
Ranma nodded, surprised she had enough hours in the day for all that.
“We'll I took a shortcut and it backfired. Actually it worked perfectly and still can, just the mess with Akane and Happosai and the Amazons could blow it for you, and so we need to protect Akane.”
“With that jewel of Chuck-e-cheese?”
“The Flame of Chung-ma, yes,” Nabiki corrected, taking his hand and sliding a simple silver band on his ring finger.
“But Akane don't have to fight Happi and Shampoo for that till she gets it back when she is married.”
Smirking, Nabiki put a white gold ring with a moderate diamond on her ring finger, admiring the clarity as she moved closer to Ranma. “Exactly right,” she replied, before grabbing his head and kissing him thoroughly.
Breaking off the kiss, Ranma jumped back from Nabiki. For her part, she looked to the mirror.
“You could have at least tried to muss up my hair,” she said idly as she used her fingers to dishevel her hair. Seeing Ranma trying to understand she turned back before he could jump to conclusions.
“For this con, I will be playing the part of Akane Saotome, your wife, just married. I'll do all the talking, you just need to look stunned like that for a while.”
“Wife? Akane Saotome?” Ranma nervously asked. “But we're not married? Nobody is married!”
“No of course not. At some point you and Akane will have a priest do a ceremony and be all married. In the mean time, the government and law thinks you already are. Now we need to collect the jewel before they deliver it to Akane who is far from ready to face Happosai.”
Blinking, Ranma jumped up, wedding himself in a corner of the roof in fear of the woman who just killed him and calling herself his wife and her sister.
“Get down here idiot. If Akane loses this treasure of Mom's to Happosai or worse Shampoo, she will be mopey forever. She might even disclaim this marriage as fake and annul it and good luck convincing Ukyo and Shampoo you're still engaged to Akane then.”
“Akane and I are married?”
Nabiki shook her head, regretting explaining this, “No, not until your have a ceremony. That hasn't changed.”
“Then why do the government think we are? Not you and me, Akane and me,” he asked and clarified cautiously.
“Cause they have a marriage certificate saying you are married. That means as long as you two don't claim it is a forgery, Ukyo and Shampoo can never put themselves between you and Akane. Our fathers had the paperwork just waiting for the next attempted wedding. It was the most efficient method of doing exactly what you asked of me.”
“I didn't ask you to marry us!”
“You asked me to help, and free of charge, I did. In fact it cost me time and yen. If not for this stupid jewel you and Akane would go on in complete ignorance and get married when you two are ready. Nothing has changed.”
“I'm married to Akane!”
“You didn't want this? You can honestly on your honor say 'Nabiki, I am not in love with your sister'?”
Swallowing at the confrontation, Ranma finally nodded, but when he moved to speak Nabiki's fingers touched his lips.
“Tell her how you feel.”
Swallowing at her words, Ranma nodded again.
“In the mean time, just remember you can't tell her your married or let marriage come up till Mom gets her good enough to beat Happosai and you make her strong enough to beat Shampoo. So no more than kissing before she can fight him, no matter how much my baby sister wants more.”
Smirking at the dazed look in his eyes, Nabiki hit the emergency stop button again and the lift shifted upwards again till they reached floor thirty four.
Dragging her dazed partner with her, Nabiki giddily bounced to the front desk and the pretty secretary there.
“Hi, I'm Akane Ten... oops, Akane Saotome, and this is my husband Ranma. Oh I love saying that,” she said shivering against Ranma's side. “My husband Ranma Saotome. We have an appointment with Mr Kure-n about an inheritance?”
To be continued