[FFML] Quantum Destinies - Chapter 25
qd.author at gmail.com
Sat Mar 24 19:35:46 PDT 2012
*** Earth 0.000, 0.000
Mousse settled himself on the cliff and listened for patrols. It had been a
long night. He had been fortunate in being able to retrieve his pack from
where it had fallen, and it rested in a crack in the rocks near him while
he took a break. Fortunately, his grandmother had told him stories of
Jusenkyo’s magic when he was young, so he knew that hot water would restore
his human form.
One of the soldiers he’d left unconscious had carried a thermos of hot
water for tea. Luckily, the squad hadn’t been expecting something like his
cursed form, so the battle had been quick and much less brutal then it
could have been. Killing them would have likely roused the hunters up even
more, so he was glad it hadn’t been necessary.
A shiver ran up his spine at the thought of what had happened to him, that
a simple splash of cold water would now turn him into something other than
human. Unfortunately, with so many soldiers now guarding the pools after
hearing the end of his battle with the squad, he would have to find a cure
for his condition elsewhere. He was only half a man now, and he laid the
blame for delaying his cure on the Empire. An intense hatred for all
Japanese simmered within him now.
However, after several moments, he turned his thoughts to his true goal.
Not even an army of soldiers would keep him from that one, the only thing
that mattered to him: Shampoo. Once he returned to the village, he would
win her for himself. He chafed at the present delay.
He had been dodging the clumsy soldiers stomping around the terrain for
hours now, apparently looking for something other than him. Not wanting to
bring any suspicion upon the village of Joketsuzoku, he had held off
returning to it immediately, waiting until the Empire’s search efforts
cooled. It wasn’t so difficult to stay hidden from them, but he did have to
keep moving. Still, there was one benefit to the experience; being hunted
was proving to be good training for his stealth skills.
He decided it was time for a quick nap. There had been no sign of any
pursuit for a while, so perhaps the soldiers had found their targets.
Either way, it was no concern of his. His only reason for being right now
was to return to the village and face Shampoo, to face his destiny. But it
was so hard to wait, knowing how close she was. It had been far too long
since he had last seen his beloved.
Mousse closed his eyes to sleep, and his dreams were of Shampoo, of finally
becoming her husband. That strange woman had told him what he must do to
claim her, the path he must walk, and now, years later, it was time for him
to return and fight for what was rightfully his.
A Ranma 1/2 Fanfic
By S. Thesken (qd_author at hotmail.com)
Ranma 1/2 and its characters are owned by Rumiko Takahashi. This story is
inspired by her works and the stories from some of my fellow fanfic
authors. Among these are D.B. Sommer's “Shampoo 1/2”, Jim Bader's “A Very
Scary Thought -aka- Nabiki 1/2”, and John Biles' Elseworlds series. All C&C
The list of worlds reoccurring in this chapter:
Earth 0.000, 0.000 - The world of Scholar Ranma (Baseline cluster)
Earth +4.612, +4.509 - The world of Shampoo 1/2 (Shampoo 1/2 cluster)
What has gone before in this story (or at least what will help you
understand what is going on):
On a parallel Earth that diverged from the standard Ranma timeline over
five hundred years ago, the Empire of Japan rules almost half the world and
has done so for almost a century. Theorizing that one could travel to
alternate timelines by possessing counterparts in them, a young scientist
named Ranma Saotome, through use of a device of his own invention,
accidentally obtained the skills and memories of a martial artist version
of himself. Mousse returned home but was delayed by a dip in one of
Jusenkyo’s pools. Touga’s efforts at seducing Nabiki took a step forward.
An alliance formed in the Arena between Mina Li and the new girl, Shenhua.
Happosai tracked down Genma on the Shampoo 1/2 Earth, and construction of
the beacon continued. The Church introduced some of its teenaged members to
Kodachi. Ranma went skating, learned how to dance, went on a date and paid
a visit to Hinako Ninomiya.
Chapter 25 – A Taste Of Things To Come
There are no great men, just great circumstances, and how they
handle those circumstances will determine the outcome of history.
- Admiral William "Bull" Halsey
The crowds of cadets jostled at each other for better vantage points as
they watched the brutal fight currently taking place in the middle of the
main courtyard, even as it intensified further. Kyosuke found himself
shoved about as he tried to get clear of the pack of excited, screaming
girls all around him, many of them waving signs and holding up banners
showing their support for Ukyo. It seemed that every female cadet within
sight was yelling at the object of their collective affection.
“I love you, Kuonji-kun!” shouted one female cadet in a blue uniform.
“Date me!” screamed a girl in a gray one, so passionately she looked to be
“I want to have your baby!” yelled Yuka, just to his right. “He's so
dreamy,” she stated more softly, nearly swooning.
“I've got a thousand yen on you, Kuonji!” shouted Sayuri through cupped
hands nearby. “You'd better not lose!”
Finally getting free of the press of bodies, he bumped into Minami, who had
been caught up in another group, and the two of them stayed close together
as he tried to figure out what was going on. Kyosuke did his best to
protect her as they were pushed about by the excited mob. It was like a
feeding frenzy, the crowd's excitement feeding off the intensity being
thrown off by the two struggling combatants. An elbow caught him in the
side when he wasn't expecting it, knocking the wind from him.
“Kasuga-senpai!” Minami bent down to help him up.
Knots of male cadets were all around as well, some of them eyeing the girls
and scowling, and others watching the fight. It was clear to Kyosuke that
Ukyo was not well liked for his popularity with the female cadets, and they
were backing the challenger. They didn't wave signs or carry banners, but
their sentiments were clear.
“Bust him up!” shouted one pimply-faced boy, waving his fist.
“Break that pretty face of his!” yelled Hiroshi, his eyes glittering with
malice as he watched the fight.
“Put him down hard!” screamed a thin boy nearby.
“I've got a thousand yen on you, Hibiki!” shouted Daisuke.
Where was Nabiki? Or Ranma? Either one of them was strong enough to put a
stop to this before someone got badly hurt. But Kyosuke could not see them
in the crowd, or any of the instructors.
Just then, after a particularly savage exchange between the two at the
center of all this, Ukyo took a solid hit to the shoulder from the umbrella
being wielded by the boy wearing the bandana and went down on one knee, his
shoulder possibly dislocated. The crowd became even more emphatic in their
shouts and screams as the tide of battle seemed to be turning against Ukyo.
When the ninja came back up from the ground with a grimace and unleashed a
powerful two-handed smashing strike with his polearm weapon across Ryoga's
face, there were cheers and whistles from the girls. However, despite
having the support of pretty much every female in the crowd, Ukyo had been
taking the worst of the fierce brawl, his entire jaw purpling from a blow
earlier on that might have broken it and looking like he was trying to
protect injured ribs.
The other combatant didn't look much better, and Kyosuke could see him
bleeding freely from a cut over one eye. Ukyo's last strike with the flat
of his spatula weapon had bruised and blackened a good portion of Ryoga's
face, and the eye on that side of his head was now swollen almost
completely shut. But their injuries only seemed to inflame the fury of both
fighters, and they leaped at each other once again, blood and sweat flying
as grunts of effort could be heard from them both.
There was a sudden explosion of white from a flour bomb Ukyo pulled out,
detonating it by dashing it against the ground. The two fighters were
quickly lost in the midst of the smoke, and the bystanders began coughing
as it swept over the crowd. Only dim shadows could be seen within as a
clash of weapons could be heard. Then a sound like a sledgehammer hitting a
side of beef sounded and a badly battered Ukyo suddenly flew out of the
smoke to slam up against the outer wall of the grounds.
Ryoga emerged slowly from the fading cloud with grim purpose filling his
gaze, even as Ukyo somehow managed to rise shakily to his feet, clutching
at his side and coughing up a gobbet of blood. Kyosuke could not seem to
tear his eyes away from the sight as Ryoga stopped in front of the helpless
Ukyo and began battering him back and forth with blow after mighty blow
from his umbrella. Ukyo's guard was already broken, unable to keep up with
Ryoga's awesome fury. He lost his grip on his spatula, and the other boy
almost contemptuously knocked it aside with a sweep of his weapon. Slowly,
even while Ukyo struggled to remain conscious and standing, Ryoga pulled
off the cloth belt from his waist and snapped it out straight like a sword.
“No more tricks, and no more lies,” Ryoga growled, as the crowd went still,
waiting for what was about to happen. “This is the end!”
Ryoga slashed the cloth blade down across Ukyo's front in a killing blow-
-and Kyosuke came awake with a gasp.
He found himself tangled up in his blankets, his head somewhere near the
foot of his bed as he lay sprawled out across it. Bolting upright, he felt
his heart beating like a trip-hammer, the blood thundering in his ears. A
cold sweat coated his body, and his sleeping clothes were clammy on him as
he sat there, his eyes wide.
“W-what? W-what was that?” He took deep breaths to calm himself.
Having finally struggled free of his blankets, Kyosuke rolled over and sat
at the edge of his bed, and then he almost leaped out of his skin when his
alarm clock suddenly rang. He slapped a hand down on it, feeling his heart
stutter back to life again. He dropped his face into his hands and tried to
regain control of himself, feeling himself tremble. He had just watched his
new friend Ukyo die.
Had the Power given him a glimpse of the future? Could he change it?
Godai awoke when an arm suddenly flopped across his chest, uncertain where
he was at first, an unfamiliar ceiling above him. A warm body was lying
snuggled up against him, and he felt breath gusting lightly against his
shoulder. He gazed up at the ceiling, taking a moment to finally recognize
it as his room in the Tendos’ house. The last thing he remembered, he had
been out drinking with an old school friend of his, Keiichi Morisato,
listening to the other man fret about the state of his relationship with
his new girlfriend, Yui Ikari. His former neighbor, Akemi Roppongi, was
their server. She worked two jobs as a waitress to make ends meet, he
He vaguely recollected a group of women around their age arriving at the
bar while he had been sitting at a table with Morisato: a pair of off-duty
peaceforcers, two Security Directorate agents in uniform and Ayaka
Kisaragi. The five of them were already a little drunk and had come
staggering in, Ayaka and one of the Security Directorate agents singing a
bawdy song at the tops of their lungs as they held each other up,
apparently the best of friends. Yui and Ayaka had spotted Keiichi and him
and steered their drinking posse towards them, and that was the last thing
That must be it, he realized. Kisaragi-san must have helped him get back
home while he was drunk. He turned to look at his unexpected bedmate as he
began moving away from her. He was still wearing his pants, so nothing too
risqué could have happened. He froze when he saw who it was.
Kasumi Ono, formerly Kasumi Tendo.
Godai blinked several times. This was bad. This was _really_ bad. Her
father would not only kill him, but the scattered pieces of his body would
likely never be found again.
He tried to pull away from the sleeping woman, and she latched on to his
arm and snuggled against him, murmuring softly. He laid back down and tried
to think of a way out of this, short of gnawing off his own arm. He was
sleeping with a married woman in her father’s house. It didn’t get much
more awkward than that.
He felt Kasumi move a bit, suddenly reaching up to hold his head. He turned
to look at her. Her lips suddenly made contact with his, and his eyes went
very wide as she pressed her lips to his. He was kissing a married woman!
Her father _and_ her husband were both going to kill him, the only question
being who would get to him first. He made the mistake of opening his mouth
to try and speak, but that only ended up deepening the kiss between them.
Godai felt his brain going into a fugue state at the feel of her tongue in
Kasumi sighed with enjoyment as she dreamed about being with Lt. Godai. The
two of them were on a cliff somewhere, embracing, with romantic music
playing in the background. She tilted her face upwards and felt him kiss
her. She knew she was in exactly the right place she should be in the
universe. She opened her mouth joyfully and deepened the kiss. It was a
Godai’s alarm clock suddenly went off. Kasumi’s eyes opened, and she
quickly realized that her dream was all too real. Godai waited for the
inevitable explosion, for her to respond with anger and rage like other
women would in such a situation and scream or slap him for being a pervert.
He saw her sit up, her gaze oddly calm.
“Oh my,” she said and then put one hand over her mouth in shock.
Ayaka Kisaragi was having a wonderful dream. In it, Godai-kun had come back
to her apartment with her for some fun. They had slow danced for a time,
drank some more and then collapsed into bed together. As soon as they had a
little rest to cleanse the alcohol from their bodies a bit, she was going
to rock his world.
When she awoke, she could feel a mouth pressed warmly against hers, and she
opened hers to accept the kiss more fully, feeling his tongue move
pleasantly against hers. She dreamily opened her eyes expecting to see her
beloved Godai-kun. Her eyes went wide when she realized who was kissing her.
Yui Ikari’s eyes went wide as well when she realized she wasn’t in bed with
her boyfriend, Keiichi. She was kissing Ayaka, open-mouthed and passionate.
The two of them blasted apart, Yui rolling out of the futon to land on the
floor and Ayaka ending up against the wall, the two of them eyeing each
“We shall never speak of this again,” said Ayaka after a moment.
“Agreed,” Yui quickly replied.
“Coffee?” Ayaka asked after another moment.
“Yes!” Yui snapped out, grateful at the change in subject.
Luckily, sneaking Kasumi out of his room proved to be less challenging for
the two of them to accomplish than Godai feared it would be.
After groveling for a minute or two at her feet and asking her for
forgiveness at his dishonoring her, she had listened to him briefly and
then bent down and helped him back up with an amused look on her face. Her
soothing words quickly calmed him down. Then she had calmly dressed in her
scattered items of clothing, her face thoughtful. Godai had occupied
himself looking away from her and listening for activity in the hall,
certain that she hated him now. All the women he had ever been closely
involved with were reactionary, tsundere sorts, even his mother and sister,
so he thought all women were like that, some just more openly.
Kasumi opened the door to his room slightly, eyeing the hallway for a
moment. It was still early, so the only sounds she heard were those of
Kyoko, the housekeeper, in the kitchen preparing breakfast. She turned back
to face him.
“It’s all right, Godai-san,” she said softly. “I know this house well.
It’ll be fine.”
“I’m really sorry about this, Ono-san,” he said sincerely. “I don’t
normally drink like that.”
“Neither do I.” Kasumi looked at him, her natural empathy affirming her
original opinion of him that he was a good and honest man. She felt a
sudden impulse take hold of her, reminding her she still needed to thank
him for inspiring her return to active duty in the Directorate. “Have
dinner with me Wednesday night. We can talk and clear the air about this
situation.” Her husband would be working late that night, so it was an
ideal time for her to spend a night with a new friend.
“What?” Godai replied in surprise. “I-I couldn’t do that.”
“I’m not proposing we start an affair, Godai-san.” Kasumi smiled at him in
amusement. “However, we keep running into each other, so I thought we
should try and be friends. It might make things less awkward between us,
and I don’t have many friends.”
“I-I guess that would be okay then,” he answered, feeling more at ease. “We
should probably eat somewhere downtown. Have you ever been to a place
called the ABCB? They have good steaks and tea, I’ve heard.”
“That would be nice, Godai-san. I will see you at Furinkan after classes
are over on Wednesday.” She bowed to him. He returned the bow.
She then slipped out the door and was gone like a phantom.
P-chan blinked his eyes open, feeling refreshed from his sleep, as one of
the servants came in to open the shades. He wriggled free of the loose grip
Kodachi had on him and walked across the pillow to sit and gaze in wonder
at her sleeping form. Unlike other, lesser girls, she appeared to his
captivated eye just as radiant and beautiful as any of the finest ladies to
ever grace the noble courts of the Empire.
The tie across the chest area of her negligee had parted during the night,
and he felt his breath come a little heavier as she stirred a little, the
cloth slipping to almost uncover one nipple. He groaned softly at the sight
and then her eyes opened. She smiled at him, and it was as if the sun had
come out to warm him with its glow.
“G'mornin', P-chan,” she murmured sleepily to him, before reaching out to
give him a gentle pat on the head and scratch behind his ears. “I hope you
Oh, that was ecstasy, the feel of her hand there, and he reveled in the
pleasant sensations. There was nothing sexual in her touch, but he was
oddly contented by it, her gentle fingers moving over the soft fuzz of his
fur. He closed his eyes, wriggling and giving off little grunts of
enjoyment as her hand caressed him. When she pulled it away, he gazed at
her and gave a few pleased-sounding snorts.
“What do you say to me taking you to school with me today, P-chan?” she
asked as she sat up, the silk cloth of her nightgown shifting around again.
“Would you like that?”
P-chan nodded his head as he sat there on his haunches, grinning like an
idiot. He would have to change back and make a few quick telephone calls to
explain his absence from classes today, but that would not be difficult.
Whitehall and its sister academy, Blackhall, were loose in their attendance
requirements, not that the instructors ever dared to comment. His grin grew
broader as Kodachi slipped out of bed and pulled off her negligee, leaving
her standing gloriously naked in front of him for a few moments before
putting on her robe and sitting down at her vanity table. She began
brushing her long hair with slow, measured strokes through their silken
He sighed, feeling a contentment within himself that was even better than
the afterglow from an intense bout of sex.
Well, almost, he quickly amended. Still, life was pretty good right now.
"May I refill your bowl, Godai-san?"
Godai looked up from reviewing his lesson notebook resting on the dining
room table and realized his rice bowl was empty. He saw Kyoko giving him an
innocent smile. Off to one side, Akane and Nabiki were consuming their food
with vigor, especially Nabiki. With a slight bow, he handed it to Kyoko and
accepted it back after she refilled it and held it out to him with both
hands. He then made to reach for the last fried egg on the serving dish,
but it was already gone. He blinked, wondering where it had gone.
Nabiki swallowed her food, relishing the taste of the fried egg and steamed
rice mixed together. She then went back to emptying her bowl for the third
time. Kyoko's cooking wasn't quite as good as Kasumi's was in that other
world of her martial artist counterpart, but it was almost as tasty. When
she was finished, she set down her bowl and got up from the table.
"Thank you for the food," Nabiki said, and then she headed out of the room
to get her bookbag, jacket and shoes. "I'm off to school."
Sipping briefly at her bowl of miso soup, Akane watched irritably as Nabiki
left. Her sister used to have such elegant manners at the table, almost as
proper as Kasumi's, but lately she had been eating like a starving
barbarian at mealtimes. Ordinarily, Akane would not have cared at all, but
Nabiki's theft of Ranma from under her nose had put her in a sour mood in
regards to anything her sister did anymore. And even though she was not
training for the Security Directorate anymore, she had been noticing an odd
pattern of changes in Nabiki, ever since her sister had gone to investigate
Ranma's lab space all those weeks ago. What could have happened that night?
It didn't matter to Akane at this point. Her sister had betrayed her,
stolen from her, and such an act of treachery could not go unpunished.
Akane's hand curled into a fist at her side, but she forced herself to
relax it again a moment later. She wasn't quite ready to take on her older
sister, not yet, but her training was going well. With her new friend
Sakura Kasugano's help, she was getting closer to mastering the Cherry
Blossom Fist, and with it she would crush Nabiki, not letting up until her
sister went down. It was only a matter of time and then she could go back
to working on becoming a member of Furinkan's Combat Club, maybe even
testing her new strength against Sakura again. She picked up her tea and
drank deeply, her gaze fierce.
Maybe after dealing with Nabiki, she would show Ranma her new strength too,
she mused, her gaze softening at the thought of him. It had been so much
fun at the skating rink, and it had felt so good fighting at his side, like
it was where she was supposed to be. And combining figure skating and
martial arts was such a clever idea. She wondered what had prompted him to
come up with it.
Kyoko glanced up at the clock on the wall, and the gentle expression on her
face hardened slightly. At that moment, the doorbell rang. With a slight
bow to Godai, she got up and went to answer it.
Standing there on the front porch when Kyoko opened the door was Ayaka
Kisaragi. She smiled at the Tendo's housekeeper and bowed slightly in
greeting. "Good morning, Otonashi-san. Is Godai-kun ready to go?"
"Godai-san is finishing his breakfast," Kyoko replied a bit primly, eyeing
the other woman coolly. Ever since his arrival at the house, Ayaka had been
giving Godai rides to Furinkan Academy, even though it was in almost the
exact opposite direction from the Tendo household's location to the
Imperial Academy. Perhaps she was simply checking up on him after whatever
ordeal he had endured, but Kyoko's women's intuition was suspicious of the
redhead's motives, especially since it was not appropriate for Ayaka to be
calling him by so familiar a manner after so short a time knowing him. She
bowed back and stood aside. "You may come in and wait."
"Great." Ayaka stepped inside and slipped off her shoes. She undid the
front of her long overcoat before fluffing out her hair a bit.
Kyoko suddenly felt rather plain and ordinary next to the far more
glamorous redhead and a gentle sigh escaped her lips. Dressed in admittedly
somewhat frumpy clothes for her work around the household, it was no wonder
that Godai did not seem to notice her, not when the likes of Ayaka Kisaragi
and the eldest Tendo daughter were around. Both of them dressed so nicely,
Kyoko felt like she was a peasant drudge in comparison.
"Your ride's here, Godai-sensei," said Akane as she set down her bowl,
having heard Ayaka's voice in the hall.
Godai glanced up, suddenly noticing the time. His class lessons were coming
up on an exciting segment of Imperial history, the end of the conquest of
China by the Empire's armies under the command of General Shishio Makoto,
possibly the greatest military tactician and strategist the world had ever
known, as well as a brilliant swordfighter. It was said that only Kenshin
Himura, the Emperor's personal bodyguard during that same era, might have
been his match with a blade. He closed his notes. He had been putting extra
effort into these lessons, to better obey Col. Rokubungi's orders to
inspire the students in his classes.
On the night that Belldandy had appeared to him and claimed to have granted
him his wish, he had gotten caught up in a fierce battle between the
goddess, several members of the Mobius Institute and some other
supernatural entity. Along with incinerating his apartment and most of his
things during the exchange, his poor car had also been caught dead center
with some kind of blast and utterly totaled, and he still had forty-two
payments to make on it. He was still sorting out his claim with the
insurance company's adjuster. Luckily, the Mobius Institute was assisting
in the matter.
He still had no girlfriend. When they had arrived at the Tendo home, he had
at first thought Kasumi had been the answer to his wish, but he later
learned she was married and to a doctor. So there was no way she could be
the one for him. Even so, she was so much like Belldandy though, so sweet
and charming. It hurt to think about, but his hoped for love life was still
nonexistent. Nothing had really changed for him at all when it came to
having a girlfriend, and especially not for the better.
However, the day after his arrival at the Tendos’, Ayaka had suddenly shown
up and offered him a ride to work in her car, and he wondered if it was
because she somehow felt responsible for the destruction of his apartment
and car. He was grateful to her, especially with all the rain there had
been recently. They had even somehow become friends of sorts during that
brief time, and Godai wasn't quite sure what to make of it.
She was gorgeous, glamorous and self-confident, as well as an agent of the
mysterious Mobius Institute, although she was currently a teacher at the
Imperial Academy. But he was just plain Lt. Yusaku Godai, a rather ordinary
man who taught history to military cadets at Furinkan Academy. Kyoko, the
Tendos’ rather pretty housekeeper, seemed more his speed, not Ayaka.
Before he could consider the matter further, the redhead came sweeping into
the main room, dressed in a stylish black leather overcoat loosely belted
at the waist, the upper region open, showing her white silk blouse and the
swell of her bosom underneath. "Hey there, Godai-kun." She smiled at him
and gestured with one thumb back towards the general direction of the front
door. "We'd better get going, or we're both going to be late for our
morning meetings." She glanced over briefly at Akane, who had just finished
eating. "Would you care for a ride with us to Furinkan, Tendo-san?"
"No, I prefer to walk," Akane replied, standing up and bowing briefly. "I'd
better get going. My friend Sakura is probably waiting for me to walk with
her to school." She left the room.
As Godai got up and went to get his coat and briefcase, Ayaka trailed after
him. Kyoko passed the couple in the hall, her expression looking a little
stiff, but the redhead didn't notice. When Kyoko was gone, Ayaka thrust her
hands deep in her coat pockets, looking uncomfortable.
"Um, Godai-kun," Ayaka began a bit awkwardly. "Saturday’s a half-day for us
at the Imperial Academy. What are your plans for after work that day?"
Inwardly, she cursed herself, wondering again why she felt so weird around
Godai. She had come to know him a little bit since their first meeting, but
he was so different than the men she normally spent any time with, timid
rather than aggressive. She didn't really know how to act around him, let
alone why it even mattered so much to her.
"Hmmm?" Godai looked up from putting his notebook in his briefcase. He
looked thoughtful, considering the question for a moment. "I guess I don't
really have any kind of plans. I've just been sort of getting through each
day as they come. I'll probably just be working on my lesson plans for next
week." He then went back to getting his briefcase ready for the brief trip.
"Why do you ask?"
"Oh, no reason," Ayaka replied quickly. "I just thought if you weren't
doing anything, we could grab some dinner, maybe hit a bar or two and
unwind together after work. I thought it might be nice to get to know each
other better, become friends." She chuckled. "I don’t really have any male
Godai paused, surprised at the offer, one sounding oddly similar to
Kasumi’s comment about lacking friends. Was she asking him out on a date?
No, he realized, mentally shaking his head quickly. That was totally
ridiculous. She was just being friendly. He shouldn't read anything else
into it at all. Besides, a woman as gorgeous as her probably had a
boyfriend anyway. His imagination quickly filled in the other guy's
appearance, using his fellow Furinkan instructor as the model, Captain Shun
Mitaka. The man had been cycled in recently to teach small-unit tactics at
Furinkan, after completing a tour of duty in Australia, battling against
insurgents opposed to the Empire.
Still, he could use some relaxation. Even though he wasn't much of a
drinker, it might be fun, and maybe one of Ayaka's friends from last night
would be interested in him if he spent more time with her, like one of the
two peaceforcers. He just needed to watch his intake when they went
drinking, or a repeat of this morning might happen, only with Ayaka. That
would be awkward. He nodded. "Sure, I don't see why not."
"Great. We'll get together Saturday after work then." She smiled at him,
already looking forward to it. “It’ll be fun.”
Around the corner, Kyoko felt her heart seem to shrink a bit in her chest.
She quietly padded away.
"Otonashi-san?" came a sudden voice behind her after she reached the
"Yes?" she squeaked in startlement. She turned around to see Godai standing
there, his overcoat open at the front showing some of his uniform
underneath, and his briefcase in hand. She noticed that his tie was a
"I'm sorry," he said quickly. "I didn't mean to surprise you. I just wanted
to let you know that I won't be here for dinner on Wednesday or Saturday.
And I might be out late on Saturday."
"Th-that's fine," she said, feeling her heart skip back to its normal
rhythm. She stepped closer as he was about to turn away. "A moment."
"What?" He turned back, looking puzzled.
Kyoko smiled. "Your tie is crooked." She stepped near him and began
straightening it for him gently. Her hands were deft as they worked.
Godai, standing so close to her, suddenly felt odd, and a light blush
appeared on his cheeks. A brief fantasy drifted across his mind, about how
much like a wife the Tendos’ housekeeper was acting towards him, but then
he realized quickly that she must have done the same thing for her departed
First a married woman and now a widow, he wasn't sure what to make of his
feelings lately. An image of Kasumi lingered in his mind, and the way she
smiled. As he stood there, lost in wistful thought, he heard a throat
suddenly being cleared behind him.
Kyoko suddenly stepped back and bowed to him, her face burning a bit with
embarrassment. "Uh, it's all straight now. Have a good day."
"Godai-kun, you're going to make me late," said Ayaka and then she took him
by the arm and half-dragged him away from Kyoko. She spared the other woman
a glance, unable to forget the unspoken exchange that had just happened
between Godai and Kyoko. Why did she even care?
When Tofu got up that morning, he realized that Kasumi had never come home
last night. It was possible she had become involved in some kind of case
work at the Directorate as part of her new position in special
investigations. He shrugged. Mornings had become a somewhat awkward thing
between them lately, so her absence was a bit of a relief.
It was actually a fortunate thing for him that she was on active duty once
more. Between spending time away from the house and not yet being pregnant
after a year of time since they were married, his grounds for annulling
their marriage became sounder. He didn’t want either of them to be
dishonored, but he didn’t want to stay married to Kasumi any more either.
He still cared about her, but he didn’t love her and wanted children,
children that Kasumi couldn’t provide him.
Her return to active duty was still too new though to be brought up as a
reason. No, he would have to continue for a time as her husband. He would
have a chat with her new supervisor soon, to show proper interest in her
new career path. Maybe he would make some time to do so this week.
Genma was reading the morning newspaper and enjoying a leisurely breakfast.
Ranma had already left for classes for the day, and his teaching schedule
was light on Mondays, not requiring him to be in until the afternoon. He
turned to the sports pages. The Empire had something called the Arena that
had grown to fascinate him ever since he first learned about it. He thought
it was a marvelous concept, and it was extremely popular, with hundreds of
millions of viewers tuning in each week or attending one of the many arenas
around the Empire. It was much better than the boxing matches and martial
arts competitions back on his old world.
As usual, the article on the front page was talking about the latest new
arrivals. One of them had a last name he was familiar with: Kumon. It
wasn’t common for a citizen to become a combatant. He read through the
brief article on the boy, and he became excited.
As he perused the boy’s article about the Amazon Challenge matches held
each week, he saw a recent picture of this world’s Shampoo and read about
how popular she was. Her official fan club had recently passed a hundred
thousand members active members. A grin spread across his face. The boy was
probably good enough to beat her and winning would elevate the Saotome
School of Anything-Goes Martial Arts into an overnight sensation across the
Empire. He tore the article out and tossed the rest of the newspaper into
the recycling bin. He had a busy morning ahead of him.
Even if the boy lost, six months spent fighting in the Arena would hone
this version of his son into a much better fighter. It was a win-win
situation as far as Genma was concerned. The future success of the
Anything-Goes School of Martial Arts was looking assured.
There was a panda camped out in the vacant lot next to her house.
Nabiki paused in her walking, studying the scene, startled at the sight.
First she had run into Cherry yesterday in a similar-looking lot a couple
of blocks away and now this. She watched the creature go about its morning
business for a little bit, lighting a fire and apparently preparing to cook
breakfast. She sidled over to where it sat with its back to her.
“Um, excuse me?” she said to the panda's back, feeling very odd about the
whole experience. This was obviously no ordinary panda.
“Growf?” Ryoga turned around, seeing a rather pretty girl staring at him.
He stared back, feeling sweat suddenly bead in his fur, uncertain what to
do. She wasn't running from him in stark terror, but her calm regard of him
was a little unnerving. How often did people see pandas walking around free
in the Nerima area, anyway?
“I didn't mean to interrupt, but it's just not every day I see a panda
camping out near my house.” She eyed the creature, the bandana it wore
around its head looking familiar. She blinked, suddenly recognizing it from
another world, her eyes widening in shock. “Ryoga? Ryoga Hibiki?”
She knew! She knew who he really was! Tears of joy appeared in his eyes.
Hastily, he nodded his head.
“You poor guy,” Nabiki said sympathetically. She studied his fire. He must
have been caught in the rainstorm last night. “Were you about to heat some
water to change back?”
Change back? Hot water could change him back to normal? He turned and
hastily set a pot of water over the fire to heat. He then looked at Nabiki,
the beautiful maiden who had appeared to him in his darkest hour, like an
angel of mercy. He gazed at her with gratitude, seeing her smiling again at
“When did you go to Jusenkyo?” Nabiki sat down on a nearby chunk of
concrete half-buried in the ground.
“Growf?” Jusenkyo? Where was Jusenkyo? Ryoga cocked his head to one side
and looked at Nabiki with an uncomprehending expression on his face.
“Change back first, and then we can talk.” She gave him another smile. “I'm
Nabiki Tendo, by the way,” she said, feeling strange to introduce herself
to someone she felt like she already knew. He didn't seem to understand
what had happened to him and looked scared. She could relate to that. But
where had he come across Jusenkyo water? Had he been to China? “While we're
waiting, I'll tell you what I know about the curse you have. It should help
you understand what's happened to you.”
Ryoga nodded and listened as Nabiki explained about Jusenkyo, some sort of
cursed training ground far away in China with pools of enchanted water. She
told him how cold water activated the curse and how hot water deactivated
it but did not cure it. Through it all, he listened, the darkness of his
rage held back by her soothing presence and the cadence of her voice. She
was being so kind to him, so compassionate, as if they were already old
A few minutes later, Nabiki watched as Ryoga poured hot water over himself
from a pot, and she could not at first avert her gaze when he became human,
his muscular body suddenly standing displayed before her, naked. She felt
an almost intoxicating tingling sensation suddenly seem to wash through her
when his transformation was complete, much like what she felt whenever she
was around Ranma or Touga, and around Kuno or Mikado to a lesser degree,
like a kind of resonance.
Her gaze roved over his body idly, seemingly of its own accord, pausing
briefly at his manhood, comparing it to the endowment her analog's male
form possessed. Startled to suddenly realize she had been quite openly
staring at Ryoga, and where, she took a step away and hastily averted her
eyes, blushing intensely. She was taken aback at experiencing such
unexpected feelings towards the Hibiki boy. The other version of him that
her analog knew saw him as a good friend, but that was all she felt towards
“I'm sorry!” Ryoga blurted out, not quite succeeding as he awkwardly
attempted to cover himself with his hands. He hastily began putting on the
clothes she held out to him while still looking away, and he saw her
blushing. Shame burned within him, at being naked around a strange girl and
embarrassing her like that. He felt like such a pervert.
“I-it's okay, Hibiki-kun,” she said, trying to be casual, feeling her blush
fading as she quickly exercised her self-control and regained her
composure, the sensations fading from her awareness as she managed to
relegate them to background noise, like she did whenever she was around
Ranma. Her Jusenkyo-cursed analog had never really noticed Ryoga the way
she was noticing him now, and it was as if she was seeing him for the first
time. He was actually quite handsome, she realized absently, her memory
briefly replaying the sight of him, with pleasingly broad shoulders and a
solid build. He was about Ranma's height but shorter than Touga or her
analog’s male form. She very hastily banished such thoughts, startled to
find she was comparing their physiques like this, feeling embarrassment
flare up within her again.
Ryoga froze at her words. Had she just called him Hibiki-kun? A wistful
smile appeared on his face at the thought. Such a kind, sweet girl this
Nabiki Tendo was. He wondered briefly if she might like him, but then his
mood darkened when he realized how unsuitable for her he was. After all,
not only did he turn into a mute animal when hit with cold water now, there
was still the matter of his unwanted attraction towards Ukyo, towards
another boy, to deal with. But Nabiki's presence awoke a pleasant sort of
tension inside him, further confusing him, much like how he had felt around
that Akane girl he had run into recently, the aggressive one who had seemed
to want to fight him.
He felt depression taking a deeper hold upon him. What girl would ever want
him when he was like this? For that matter, how would he explain any of
this to Ryoko, if he ever saw her again? Suddenly remembering his traveling
companion and the feelings he had begun having for her, he felt horribly
guilty for his fickleness. He had been raised by his mother to believe that
a real man was faithful to one girl, and only the lowest form of womanizing
scum did otherwise. Not that he was Ryoko's boyfriend, he quickly amended.
But he never realized he could be so easily unfaithful with his feelings,
which only increased his anxiousness and awkwardness inside even more as he
stood near Nabiki.
“Th-thank you for helping me,” he finally stuttered out, and he almost
fainted when she reached over and patted him on the arm. Her mere touch
seemed to lift his spirits to a state of near bliss.
“No problem, Hibiki-kun.” The germ of an idea was forming in the back of
her mind. Ryoga could prove to be very useful to have around for a while,
she mused. With a grin, she leaned in close in a friendly manner, absently
enjoying the pleasant sensations caused by his nearness. “I think you and I
could be good friends. What do you think?”
“G-good f-friends?” Ryoga stuttered, feeling lightheaded again. After what
he had felt around that Akane girl and now Nabiki, he dared to hope that he
really was attracted to girls after all, not other boys. He put his free
hand behind his head and chuckled with nervousness as he looked at the sky.
“S-sure.” He then squeezed his eyes tightly shut, thanking the heavens for
their kindness, for letting him meet such a wonderful, beautiful girl as
this. He would do anything for her.
“Great!” Nabiki grinned more broadly and stood up straight. “Since friends
help each other out, I'm going to help you find Ukyo. You'd like that,
Ukyo! Hearing that despised name spoken aloud dragged Ryoga's feelings from
the heights of unfamiliar bliss he had found himself in down to the depths
of his usual anguish. He hastily nodded.
“Yes,” he said with a dark look. “Yes, I'd like that very, very much.”
Nabiki grinned, catlike. She wasn't sure what Ukyo might have done to anger
Ryoga, to make him feel like he didn't like girls, since the Ryoga she knew
from her analog's life was quite attracted to girls despite being painfully
shy. His plight awoke an urge in her to help him, since he seemed so much
like the boy she was familiar with.
Since she had found him camping out, he probably didn't have a place to
stay in town. After she led him to Ukyo and let him work out his rage
issues on the cross-dressing ninja bimbo for a bit, she would bring him
home with her and ask the fake Soun who was pretending to be her father to
let Ryoga stay with them for a while. After all, Touga was not really
someone she could control as easily as Ryoga to make Ranma jealous, she
mused. The Hibiki boy might also make a good distraction for Akane, as he
was almost certainly a strong enough fighter to hold her little sister's
One rival for her fiancé was about to go down, and her own hands would be
clean. After all, could she help it if Ryoga followed her to school?
“Why that two-timing little tramp,” Ryoko muttered, watching Nabiki
practically pawing at poor, innocent Ryoga, the boy clearly too blinded by
her seductive wiles to realize what the treacherous Tendo girl was up to.
She was also disappointed that she had been too far away to see him clearly
when he transformed back. So that was what had happened to him after that
little redheaded wench had flashed her breasts and then hit him while he
was distracted by her body.
Her back teeth ground together in a building rage as she stared at the
scene in front of her. Nabiki's sordid involvement with Ranma was
apparently not enough, so she was looking to add other boys to her web of
seduction, like poor, sweet Ryoga. Who knew how many others had already
fallen prey to her heartless guile?
Well, she would save both Ranma and Ryoga from the evil, two-timing vixen
in a single stroke, and gain her own revenge on the other girl at the same
time, for calling her such mean things the last time they met. Ryoko
started stalking down the street, her eyes fixated tightly on Nabiki, a red
haze of rage seeming to color her vision as she glared at the other girl,
and a vein pulsed in her forehead as her emotions frothed within her. Her
hands clenched into fists held at her sides, the muscles in her forearms
bunching tightly, and she almost ached inside to pound the middle Tendo
daughter into so much jelly.
Just then, a full ladle of water cast by a neighborhood woman caught her in
mid-stride. In an instant, she transformed into a cat and fell to the
sidewalk, her clothes collapsing all around her. By the time she managed to
struggle free of them, both Ryoga and Nabiki were gone.
She yowled her frustration.
Godai sat next to Captain Shun Mitaka as the morning meeting took place,
the other man not seeming to have so much as a single hair out of place,
and his uniform was spotless. Ever since the young combat veteran had
arrived on campus, he had captured many female hearts among the cadets and
faculty. He made Godai feel pretty wimpish and not very interesting to
women in comparison.
“Godai-san,” Mitaka suddenly said, leaning next to him as they sat in the
audience and listened to Colonel Rokubungi delivering the Monday morning
speech to the faculty. The colonel had one hand bandaged and looked like he
was nursing bruised ribs from the way he moved.
“Mitaka-san,” Godai stage whispered back.
“I couldn’t help but notice that woman who’s been dropping you off each
morning for a while now. Who is she? Your sister perhaps?”
Godai inwardly bristled at the unspoken slight in the other man’s
statement, that a woman as pretty as Ayaka could only be a relative. “She’s
a friend of mine. Her name’s Ayaka Kisaragi.”
Mitaka simply nodded and sat back in his seat to listen to the rest of the
colonel’s presentation, apparently filing that information away.
Genma sat in the waiting room to see the Arena’s Director, perusing a
magazine. There were quite a few publications on the table, most of them
related to the Arena in one way or another. He had been spending most of
his time reading about the under twenty-one age division that Ranma would
be participating in, if he lost his match against the Amazon.
There were a pleasing number of high-level fighters this year in the Tokyo
Battledome from what he could see. The boy would have plenty of challenging
opponents to deal with, such as the Chinese lad he was currently reading
about: Tarou. He could see that one was very strong, currently an
undefeated contender with well over a hundred bouts under his belt.
Mai Shiranui heard a buzz on the intercom and listened for a moment on her
earpiece. She stood and smiled at Genma, bowing slightly. “The Director
will see you now, Saotome-san.”
Genma stood up and straightened his suit. He had been a bit surprised to be
called up here after putting his mark on the form and handing it in for
processing. He had been almost out of the building when one of the security
details had approached and informed him that the Arena Director wished to
speak with him personally.
Entering the room, Genma was struck by the sense of wealth and power
contained in this one modest chamber. Elegant furnishings of wood and fine
cloth, classical music playing softly from an expensive stereo system, a
well-stocked bar in one corner and a magnificent view of the vast
Battledome through one window and the Tokyo skyline through the other. In
the distance, he could see the spire of Genom’s famous tower to one side of
the city and the Imperial Palace even further away. He wanted an office
like this someday.
Two of Genom’s products stood in the room, examples of the vastly popular
Puma series. The two uniformed catgirls were eyeing him very casually as
Mai escorted him into the room and shut the door behind him. Their ears
flicked in his direction as he stood there, taking it all in.
The Director looked up from his desk at Genma’s entry, and he smiled. The
man was a Westerner, Genma noted, a little surprised to see someone
non-Japanese in such a position of authority and prestige as heading up
Tokyo’s Arena. Blond hair worn straight framed a face of pale skin. The
face was familiar to him, but he couldn’t quite place it.
“Saotome-san, thank you for coming,” said the Director as he stood up from
behind his desk. His two Puma aides moved aside from him and took up
station to watch at a respectful distance. He set down a form with Ranma’s
name on it, the application that Genma submitted a short time ago. “There
were just a few questions I had before approving your son’s paperwork.”
Genma nodded. “I understand. I trust it isn’t anything too serious.”
“Not at all,” said the Director, moving to seat himself once again. He
indicated one of the chairs in front of his desk with a hand. “Please, sit
down. This shouldn’t take too long.”
Genma sat down, feeling himself settle into the luxurious chair. Yes, he
wanted an office like this someday.
“I saw on the application that you listed your son’s current master as Jun
Fan Lee? I wasn’t aware that Lee-sensei was taking on students anymore.” He
glanced down at the form. “How long has Ranma been with him?”
“Only since last week,” Genma replied. “The boy studies at the Imperial
Academy. Lee-sensei visited, saw the boy’s potential and took him on as a
The Director smiled and made a note on the form. “And you are aware that if
the boy loses, he will be required by law to remain as our guest for six
months? During that time, he will be in the rotation for matches and
treated much like any other fighter in competition. He does have the option
for a rematch against Shampoo within a month after the initial bout, but
then the penalties rise even higher.”
“I am aware of the penalties,” Genma replied, feeling more at ease. The
questions weren’t overly difficult for him to contend with.
The Director nodded. “One last question, and then we’re done here. Were you
and your son in Monaco about six years ago?”
“Yes, we were,” Genma replied without thinking too much about it. “The boy
was studying probability theory at the time. He spent a few weeks visiting
Monte Carlo and watching the games to get a sense for how it worked in the
real world. I recall he even wrote a paper on it. Why?”
“I read that paper and wanted to see if it was the same young man.” The
Director smiled pleasantly, but there was a faint glint of something
spiteful in his gaze. “I’m looking forward to meeting your son. There is
normally a long waiting list to face Shampoo, but I’m going to bump him to
the front of the line. How does next week sound for a match?”
Genma couldn’t believe his good fortune. “Next week will be just fine.
“Think nothing of it,” the Director replied with a smile. “Ana, please show
Saotome-san out now.” He turned to face Genma. “Have a good day,
Ana approached and waited a moment as Genma stood and bowed. He followed
the Puma to the door and left, already counting in his head the tax-free
cash prize Ranma would earn, as well as the fame for the Anything-Goes
When Genma was gone, the Director went back behind his desk and spun his
chair about to gaze outside. He steepled his fingers together and pondered.
Ana and Uni waited quietly while he brooded.
Six years, the Director mused. Six years since I last had the miserable
misfortune of meeting Ranma Saotome. The boy had apparently never told his
father the full tale of what he had done in Monte Carlo during those weeks
of ‘watching the games’ in the casino to get a sense for how probability
theory worked in the real world. No, the boy had done far more than that.
Ranma Saotome had almost broken the bank of Monte Carlo.
The Director could still recall the galling experience, watching as a
ten-year old boy sat across from him holding five cards, a mountain of
chips between them. A marker for what couldn’t be covered by the casino
against the boy’s wager had sat there as well. He could still recall the
insufferably relaxed posture the boy had, as if he didn’t care if he won or
lost. The Director had taken one card, filling four of a kind, all kings,
and the boy had taken three cards. The tension had been incredible.
After glancing at his hand, Ranma had set his cards down and smiled at him.
“This was fun,” the boy had said and bowed to him. “Thank you for the
experience. It was very educational.” And then he walked away from the
The boy had folded, and he could still remember the feeling of relief. He
was still the Gambler King, still undefeated. Shadowlaw would have taken
him out executed him in a horrific fashion for such a loss.
Afterwards, for his own curiosity, he had picked up the boy’s cards and
then stared at them.
It was a queen-high straight flush. The boy would have won, should have
won. A ten-year old boy named Ranma Saotome.
He had quickly shuffled the cards away, and no one had ever known what the
boy had for a hand but him. But he had never forgotten. He had never
forgotten that boy, never forgotten that smug look, as if he was smarter
than the Gambler King.
Now that boy was going to pay. He would see to it that Ranma Saotome lost
to Shampoo in his match and then he would turn loose on the boy the worst
villains that now fought in the Arena. The boy was going to die, slowly,
inches at a time.
The Director picked up the telephone and dialed a certain number. It rang
twice before being picked up.
“Speak,” said a male voice on the other end.
“Golgo?” said the Director. “I have a job for you.”
Kyosuke paused outside the doorway to Ukyo and Ranma's classroom and looked
in. Everything seemed normal. The two were sitting together, chatting with
each other about something. He was starting to wonder about his dream. He
had checked with his uncle, and the Magi were still not getting much from
Precognition was an extremely rare ability in the Empire, most espers like
himself could only see the near future, and only haphazardly at best. The
Mobius Institute had three individuals who could see farther and wider into
the future fairly reliably. They were known as the Magi, their code names
being Caspar, Melchior and Balthazar, although one was a woman.
He had once spoken about it with Caspar, and she had told him that the
future was like a constantly shifting landscape that grew vaguer as one
looked further ahead. Setsuna Meioh was also a precognitive with a similar
range to the Magi. She was his grandfather's pet project, officially
designated 'The Artist' on the Institute's rolls, which they often did when
abilities were unique. Kyosuke was familiar with others who worked for the
Institute that had odd-sounding codenames, like 'The Paper', 'Miss Deep',
or 'Sailor V'.
Since Setsuna's mind was so chaotic within, telepathic linking with others
was deemed too risky. The Institute had the Magi always working together as
a check on each other, and usually they would deliver the same vision. When
one differed from the others, it was designated the ‘minority report’ and
discarded as a false image, a future history that would never come to be
for one reason or another. Their abilities had proven to be invaluable in
skirmishes around the globe, predicting enemy troop movements and other
such tactical data, and would be relied upon again if the Empire should
fight another one in their lifetimes, which seemed likely. But lately, a
form of 'static' had settled across the future, and nothing much of value
had been received for a couple of years. Nobody knew what that might mean.
Perhaps Kyosuke's foreboding dream had just been something like that: the
“Oh, he's so cute. Can I hold him?”
Kodachi smiled up at Ami Mizuno, who had wandered over to her desk when
P-chan had poked his snout from her bookbag and sniffed at the air. Soon
there was a small crowd of girls around her. She let the other girl take
P-chan in her arms and cuddle with him.
“What's his name?” asked Nanami Jinnai. “It is a male, right?”
“Yes, he's a boy,” said Kodachi, blushing innocently at the question. “His
name is P-chan.”
“Oh, that's such an adorable name. I want to hold him next.”
P-chan basked in all the attention. There were quite a number of cute girls
in Kodachi's class, and they all wanted to hold him. Despite the obvious
downside to the experience, being a pet pig was proving to have some rather
“Here, let's see how he looks in this,” said Ami, pulling out a cotton
scarf and tying it around P-chan's neck. It looked familiar to Kodachi for
some reason, but she could not seem to recall from where exactly. Ami
smiled when she finished tying it around the pig's neck. “Hey, that looks
pretty good on him.”
All the girls nodded. P-chan looked it over himself, craning his neck and
studying his new adornment as best he could. When Kodachi smiled at him
when he looked back, that was the clincher to the matter for him. He would
“Hey, Kodachi, could I talk to you?” Ranma said, coming into their
classroom. He had been considering how best to smooth things over with her,
but the direct approach was the only method he could come up with. So he
had screwed up his courage and walked down to her classroom. But when he
spotted P-chan being cradled in Nanami's arms, a look of consternation
crossed his face. The first thing that came to mind for him to say was,
“Uh, that's a funny-looking pig you've got there, Jinnai-san.”
Kodachi took her pet back and glared at Ranma crossly. “P-chan is most
certainly not 'funny-looking' at all, Saotome-kun.” She held him up and
gave him a gentle kiss on his snout. “Don't listen to him, my dear little
Ranma blinked and felt his gorge rise. So that was what had happened to
Ryoga. His memories of that sequence of events were vague, perhaps due to
the heightened emotional state he had been in. He thought he had heard a
pig's cry before falling into the vat, but now he wasn't sure. He eyed the
tiny animal and was startled when it suddenly stuck its tongue out at him.
He glared at P-chan and then he poked his snout with a forefinger.
“Where'd you get him?” asked Ranma, taking his eyes off the pig for a
moment, just before P-chan clamped down on his finger with his teeth, hard.
He yanked his finger back and glared at his attacker. “Yowch! The little
porker bit me!”
“Well, you're scaring him, so it's no wonder.” Kodachi cuddled a now much
more docile P-chan, turning him away from Ranma in a protective sort of
stance. “And to answer your question, I found him wandering in the streets
and brought him home. Now, what did you want to talk with me about,
“Nothin’,” Ranma muttered absently, eyeing P-chan darkly. “It wasn’t
anything really important. I'll talk to you after classes, I guess.” He
hastily left the room.
“What was that all about?” Ami wondered. “Was he jealous of your pet pig?”
Kodachi looked startled. “Jealous? Of P-chan?” She gazed at the empty
doorway where Ranma had departed. “Now why would he be jealous?” She held
him up and smiled at the little pig. “He's just being silly, isn't he,
P-chan nodded and grunted an assent.
Ranma was in a foul mood as he walked alongside Ukyo as they left the
Academy for the day. He had been mulling over the sight of the little pig
in Kodachi's arms all morning. Apparently, the Ryoga of this world was
playing the same game another one had, only with Kodachi this time, the
jerk. He was going to have to have a little 'talk' with the Hibiki boy and
straighten a few things out, hopefully without him upsetting Kodachi
further in the process.
“What's the matter, Ranchan? You seem a bit out of it.” Ukyo poked him
playfully when he didn't immediately respond, stepping in front of him and
walking backwards. “If you're worried I'm mad at you for what happened over
the weekend, I'm not. I told you I wasn't this morning.” She gave him a
grin. “I hope I can introduce you to my two cousins sometime. I think you'd
Distracted from his concerns, Ranma looked at Ukyo and was about to speak
when his gaze caught sight of movement just above them both, seeming to
come from right out of the sun. His eyes abruptly widened.
“UKYO KUONJI! PREPARE TO DIE!”
It was Ukyo's turn to have her eyes widen when she heard that, and both of
them sprang clear just as Ryoga landed right where they had been standing,
his umbrella slamming down hard into the pavement, point first. The impact
created an explosion of cement dust and small chunks of debris that
obscured him for several moments. As it began to clear, Ranma and Ukyo
coughed from the clouds of dust, which dissipated to reveal Ryoga kneeling
with his umbrella driven several centimeters into the bottom of a new
crater in the main courtyard of the campus.
“I've found you again at last, Ukyo Kuonji,” Ryoga said ominously, his gaze
dark and menacing as he glared at the ninja. His attention then shifted to
Ranma briefly. “And it seems I picked up a bonus this time around.” He
pointed at Ranma with his umbrella. “As soon as I deal with Ukyo, you're
Nabiki bounced down from her classroom's window and landed by the front
steps, watching the impending battle with a grin. Getting Ryoga to wait
until classes were over for the day had been a personal triumph for her
skills at persuasion, and the results were going to be well worth it. Ukyo
was going to get beaten into the ground like a tent peg. Even better, her
hands would be clean. And she managed to get a front row seat for the whole
She turned around and addressed the cadets milling around her. “Well, it
looks like we have a fight situation brewing here. Place your bets on the
grudge match about to start across the quad: Ryoga Hibiki versus Ukyo
Kuonji. Who's up for it?”
Cadets began to crowd around her and shout out bets, waving money at her
which she took with glee.
“Gotcha covered,” she crowed, quickly making notations in her little
booklet. Seeing their boss in the midst of a growing sea of people wanting
to bet, Yuka and Sayuri hastily moved to join her, whipping out their
betting books, too.
One of the instructors came running into Fuyutsuki's office. He saw the man
standing at the window, looking down at the scene below.
“Sir, shall I have the instructors stop the fight?”
Dean Fuyutsuki raised a hand without turning around. “No, not at all. I'm
interested in seeing how this proceeds. Activate the cameras and focus them
on the front quad. I'll want to do an analysis of their fighting
capabilities later on.”
Yes, sir.” The man hurried off, closing the door behind him, leaving
“Ryoga? What do you want this time?” Ranma eyed the other boy as he moved
to stand protectively in front of Ukyo. Was Kodachi in on this somehow? If
not, how had he changed back so quickly without getting lost in the
process? Or was this version of Ryoga not subject to the direction dyslexia
of the other analogs Ranma was familiar with? A multitude of such questions
whirled through his brain.
“Shut up, you!” roared Ryoga, glaring at the pigtailed boy. “I'll take care
of you in a minute, Saotome, just as soon as I finish dealing with him.” He
pointed with his umbrella at Ukyo, now standing just behind Ranma's left
Him? Ranma looked back in confusion at Ukyo and then it suddenly dawned on
him what was going on. He started laughing.
Ryoga's gaze shifted back again to the next target he had on his list.
“What the hell's so damn funny, Saotome?”
“You, you moron!” Ranma snapped, his laughter cutting off abruptly. “I
can't believe that you don't know Ukyo's a-”
“Ranma!” Ukyo suddenly barked. “Shut up!”
The pigtailed boy blinked at her in surprise.
“I know exactly what he is,” Ryoga said grimly. He pointed at her. “I
challenge you, Ukyo Kuonji. Fight me, here and now.”
“I accept.” Ukyo unlimbered her battle spatula and stepped past Ranma, her
gaze locked fiercely with Ryoga's. “One thing. If you win, I want your
promise that you won't hurt Ranchan. He's got nothing to do with this. This
is just between you and me, Ryoga.”
“Ukyo,” Ranma said suddenly. “This is ridiculous. Why don't you just tell
him that you're really-mmph!” His mouth was suddenly filled with sticky
okonomiyaki dough, mixed with some kind of rubber cement. He tried to spit
it out and even tugged at it with a hand, his eyes widening when it didn't
come free. “MMPH!”
Ukyo twirled her battle spatula briefly and then raised it in a salute, her
eyes glittering with anticipation. “Ready when you are, Ryo-chan.” She
made a come hither gesture with her free hand. “I'm waiting.”
“Damn you!” Ryoga snarled. “Today we finish this!” He charged.
As the two combatants began fighting, Ranma was still trying to pull out
the pasty gunk Ukyo had shoved into his mouth, giving a rather comical
performance as his eyes bugged out a little from his efforts. Luckily, the
ninja had been very accurate in its placement, leaving his nose uncovered.
He ran for the side of the main building, hoping he could use water to wash
it out quickly and get back before something bad happened between those two.
Tatewaki Kuno strode onto the grounds of the Imperial Academy like a
conquering hero, his chin up as his stride carried him past a couple of the
baseborn commoners currently dueling with each other. Their battle appeared
to still be in its opening stages, but he had little interest in the
activities of the less gently born. True duels were between those with
noble blood within them, no matter how slight. Commoners could only ape the
warrior grace of their social betters.
He was here on a mission. There was only one person he sought, almost
hungered for. He had waited the promised time, prepared himself for their
next encounter and now his gaze swept the crowds, searching for her. Where
was his beloved?
Nabiki caught sight of Kuno before he saw her, and she sighed. The day had
been going so well and then a certain rich idiot had to show up and ruin
it. She sighed again and decided to get things over with quickly. It was
only Kuno, so a fight with him would not take very long. Then she could go
back to watching Ukyo get beaten into the ground.
The two met towards the back of the crowd, which had begun yelling at both
fighters. Banners and signs had appeared as well, showing support for Ukyo.
Nabiki found it irksome. At least the boys seemed to be against the ninja.
“I have anticipated this moment, Nabiki Tendo,” Kuno said, his gaze on her
face. “In the interim, the heavens themselves have wept in sorrow at our
being apart, knowing that we are meant to be together, and our fated
romance undeniable. I feel as if I have awaited our inevitable reunion for
millennia. Nay, for ten-score millennia.”
Nabiki rolled her eyes. “Yeah, whatever.” She gestured with a thumb over
her shoulder. “Let's go over there and take care of this fast.” Without
waiting for a reply, she strolled off around a corner of the main building,
the opposite way Ranma had gone.
“But where is thy younger sister?” Kuno asked as he followed. “’Twould be
unseemly for me to pay a call on the elder of my two loves and not offer
myself to the younger as well. After all, both of you have equal claim upon
my heart and the passions that dwell within it. Truly our first meeting was
that of divine providence.”
“She's attending Furinkan now, Kuno-kun.” Nabiki made her way past those
still heading to watch the fight. She hated the thought that she might miss
seeing Ukyo fall. He continued to spout courtly phrases at her as she kept
walking, the young nobleman walking right at her side.
“Damn,” Ranma muttered, seeing a sudden foaming of soap on his skin after
having finally gotten the sticky gunk out with jets of water from the hose
he held. It had taken much longer than expected, and he had apparently used
up his time limit for exposure. He tried to shut it off before more cold
water could cause the change, but he lost his grip on the hose from the
soap foam coating his fingers. The transformation took only a moment.
Ranma-chan looked down at herself and her wet uniform in dismay, before
pulling it free from sticking to her skin, groaning. Luckily, nobody had
been around to see, since she had been concealed by trees. She hastily got
undressed and put on the okonomiyaki seller's outfit she had been carrying
around in her bookbag. It looked like 'Ranko' was going to have to save the
day she mused as she started pulling on her other clothes.
Nabiki stopped when she felt they had reached a good spot to settle the
matter in private. She turned to face him. “Here's fine.”
“At last, I can show you the fruits of my training.” Kuno raised his
weapon, taking up a pose. “And afterwards, I would date with you.”
“KACHU TENSHIN AMAGURIKEN!”
Kuno fell to his knees, a startled look on his face, having taken two
hundred or so blows to his face and body. He managed to mutter out, “I-
fight- on-” as he struggled to rise to his feet again, propping himself up
with his weapon. But a few moments later his eyes rolled up in their
sockets. He fell backwards and passed out.
“Good night, sweet prince,” Nabiki said with a grin before briefly pressing
the tips of her fingers against her lips and then blowing his fallen form a
kiss. She felt a little guilty about the whole thing, using such a powerful
technique on an idiot like Kuno right at the outset, but she was in a
hurry. Hopefully, it would be a while before she had to deal with him
again. While he was wealthy and handsome, he wasn't nearly as interesting
to her as Touga Kiryuu was proving to be, let alone Ranma. She hurried back
to watch the fight.
After hiding her bookbag, Ranma-chan ran around the building, intending to
arrive at the scene of the fight from a different direction. She could
still hear sounds of the battle going on between Ryoga and Ukyo as she
hustled as fast as she could run, and a sort of roar from the crowd of
cadets. She was quite proud of herself for this bit of trickery. She
grinned. Nobody would suspect that Ranma Saotome and Ranko Kuonji were the
very same person, ignoring for the moment the differences in height, weight
That was when she came across the unconscious Kuno. She came to a
screeching halt and goggled at the sight a bit. What the hell was Kuno
doing here? She looked around hastily. Judging from his body's position, he
had just been in a fight and lost, but there was no one else around.
She shrugged. It wasn't any business of hers. She took off running again.
Kuno's head was tipped back from his fall. A mild breeze was blowing past
him, the cool air helping him wake up. He was in the process of regaining
consciousness when he heard someone run up, pause near him and then pass
into his line of vision, heading away. He blinked and then his eyes snapped
open at what he saw.
“P-pigtailed girl,” he muttered out weakly.
Ranma-chan heard the voice when she was three steps away and turned back in
surprise, looking over her shoulder a moment.
Kuno saw that face even as he scented a delicate perfume coming to him on
the breeze, and it was like a choir of angels erupted into song all around
him. He would never forget that face, inscribing it upon his very soul
forever. His eyes fell closed, and he passed out again.
“Must've been my imagination,” Ranma-chan mused, seeing Kuno still lying
there, although she might have seen his eyelids flutter. She shrugged.
“That was weird.” She took off running again.
Kyosuke was talking with Yohko when someone shouted that a fight was taking
place outside. He had been keeping an eye on Ukyo as best he could all day,
but Yohko had cornered him as he was leaving class to follow Ukyo home. She
had been talking to him about what sort of evening she expected from him,
since he had just received his weekly allowance, holding her hands behind
her back demurely which had the side effect of bringing her chest up. All
he could really remember of his side of the conversation had been glancing
down at the swell of her breasts under her uniform and nodding now and then.
“Uh, I've got to go see this,” he said suddenly, gathering the Power
quickly and then vanishing in a brief implosion of air.
Yohko put her hands on her hips and glared frostily at the empty space
where her boyfriend had just been standing, her nostrils flaring slightly.
How dare he just up and leave her, just because a couple of morons got into
a fight. And here she had been about to invite him over to her house
tonight to watch movies while her grandmother was away for the week, and
maybe the two of them having some fun together on the couch.
“Kasuga-kun, you jerk,” she muttered, feeling a bit frustrated.
Now that he found himself at the moment of truth, a moment anticipated for
all those days and nights, through all the trials it had taken him to get
here, Ryoga wanted to savor his revenge, to prolong it for as long as
humanly possible. He ducked under a swipe from Ukyo's spatula and riposted
with his own weapon. His rage empowered him, mixed with feelings of
attraction and a sense of betrayal and abandonment that only seemed to
infuriate him even more. The ninja would fall to him, but his vengeance
would not end there. No, he intended to smash Ukyo's remains flat and then
salt the earth where they lay.
As they dueled, Ryoga noticed the graceful way Ukyo flowed around his
somewhat slower frame, almost like a girl, forming a counterpoint of
agility to his heavier hitting moves, and his breath seemed to catch at the
sight. His familiar foe was several centimeters shorter than he was and
built from whipcord rather than bulk, but Ukyo had a solid frame and strong
shoulders that even his gray Academy uniform couldn't hide. He was
definitely handsome, though in an effeminate sort of way. The tingling
Ryoga felt within himself at the other boy's nearness only served to remind
him what the ninja represented, and the dark shame such feelings caused him.
It was as if years of pent up frustration suddenly flooded through him, an
almost white-hot rage that drowned out the pleasant memories of their past
together, and the attraction he had long suppressed within himself. This
was the moment of truth, where Ukyo paid for humiliating him, for
abandoning him without a second thought to come here to Tokyo. He felt the
fury within him surging ever higher, since Ukyo's presence was evoking an
odd desire within him to hold back, to not bash the other boy's head in.
But that desire to give mercy lasted for only a heartbeat before the
building rage drowned it out once again.
Off to one side, Tsubasa watched the fight with interest, wondering at the
reasons. The Kuonji boy had been worrisome enough on his own, but to have a
Hibiki show up on campus was nightmare-inducing to the young Goju. If they
killed each other, that would be okay with Tsubasa.
Ukyo circled around Ryoga, ducking aside now and then as the Hibiki boy
unleashed powerful blows, and she returned each one with a speed and
strength born of long years spent training, their weapons clashing. How had
it turned out like this? Ryoga was her friend, the best friend she had ever
had, although Ranma was quickly becoming a close second. They had grown up
together. What had she done to make Ryoga hate girls? To hate her? Was he
angry because she had edged out ahead of him in skill? Was that what this
was all about? Stupid male pride?
When they were children, Ryoga had often defeated her, his superior
strength enabling him to win against her each time. So for years she had
trained herself to become faster and better at her fighting skills,
striving to someday surpass him in ability. She had already been dressing
as a boy and pretending to be one when they first met, a fun disguise for
her that Ryoga had always been nice enough to feign not being able to see
through. Even as they were growing up, he always acted as if she was really
a boy, and her grandfather had made her promise to never tell him. After a
while, she stopped thinking about it. With all the time they spent
together, he had to know she was really a girl, right?
As she grew up from being a child into a young woman, her grandfather made
her practice until she dropped, day after day. Even when they spent their
summers at the beach, she had battled against the raging sea itself,
although it didn't make for much of a sparring partner. With Ryoga, it was
a lot more fun. That was why his visits were always like a breath of fresh
air to her, a time when they could show each other how their training was
going and then goof off together for a while before he had to go back home.
She enjoyed the challenge of it all, of putting her skills to the test
against an adversary, no, a friend, someone she respected and cared for.
However, one day she had started to win more often than lose and then she
had started to win all the time. It was a gratifying experience after so
many years of grueling training, but it seemed to change her relationship
with Ryoga somehow. They seemed to talk less and their encounters gradually
became harsher, more brutal, more like real duels between bitter enemies
rather than two old friends sparring. Maybe he wasn't her friend anymore
and somehow she had just missed seeing it until this moment, until she saw
the hatred he seemed to hold for her in his eyes. But why did he hate her
so much? When did it stop being a game?
Ukyo ducked underneath a punch, flourishing her spatula briefly to distract
him before leaping over Ryoga's head and tightly twisting her body around
in midair. She unleashed an aerial roundhouse kick that cracked across his
jaw, rocking him back on his heels. She landed on her feet agilely, and
several girls in the crowd behind her sighed loud enough for her to hear.
“What a man,” one of the girls moaned. “He's such a stud.”
Hearing that, Ukyo paused and shook her head briefly. “We can call this off
and talk about it, Ryoga. I don't want to have to hurt you. You're my
friend.” She smiled at him.
“Hah!” Ryoga charged to the attack. “You're just trying to trick me,
Kuonji! You know I'm going to beat you this time. How dare you try
something like that! Coming on to me like that! It's not going to work! What
feelings I had for you don't matter anymore. You're going to pay for what
you did to me!” Before Ukyo could respond, Ryoga suddenly pushed into her
guard and the two began a fierce exchange of blocks and blows, equal parts
armed and unarmed.
Yuka, standing nearby in the crowd taking bets, widened her eyes at the
reference to 'feelings' and the manner in which they were spoken. She
looked at Ukyo and shouted, “Feelings he had for you? Just what kind of
sordid relationship did you have with this boy, Kuonji?” Several other
girls echoed those sentiments, yaoi imagery of the two filling their minds.
Ukyo was currently locked weapon to weapon with Ryoga. Picking up on the
girl's implication instantly, she shouted back, “It wasn't anything like
you're thinking! We were friends!” She turned to face him, and her voice
softened. “We're still friends, right?”
Shifting his weight, Ryoga took advantage of her sudden uncertainty,
breaking the deadlock and driving his knee up into Ukyo's ribcage. He tried
to press his advantage, but the ninja was too quick to recover, forcing him
back with a whirlwind of strikes with her weapon. He was compelled to block
and give ground as Ukyo threw up a savage offensive.
Girls in the crowd had been listening closely to the whole exchange. A few
of them formed into huddles and discussed the matter.
“No way! I've seen how he looks at me. You know, the way guys look at
girls. He's definitely a guy through and through. There's just no mistaking
that look of lust. Every straight guy has it.”
“But it would explain why he avoids dating us.”
“And also why he hangs out with a hunk like Ranma.”
“Ewww! You don't think Saotome prefers guys, do you?”
“That's impossible. Saotome-san's got Tendo-senpai and that rich Kuno girl
practically panting after him like they're in heat, not to mention that
bunch that tries to beat him up every day for a date.”
“We need some way to prove Ranma's not gay.”
“What about Ukyo?”
“Ranma's the one I'm worried about now. Ukyo could be leading him on.”
“Where is Saotome, anyway? He's usually not far from Kuonji, except when
he's training with Lee-sensei.”
“Let's find him and have a guy try to kiss him. If Ranma decks him, then
he's definitely not interested in men.”
“But what about Ukyo?”
“We can try the same thing. I know someone that swings that way.” The
speaker looked around for a moment, quickly spotting the one she wanted.
“Hey, Oritsuki! We want you to try and kiss Kuonji!”
Oritsuki sniffed. “I don't think so. Unlike some girls here I could name,
I'm not that desperate. Besides, I just don't go for the martial artist
type. Too macho. And that Ukyo's as bad as any of them.”
The person in question, currently trying to keep Ryoga from killing her,
happened to be near enough to hear that particular exchange. She didn't
know whether to be offended at being unkissable to the boy, or grateful
that her acting job was so good. Her grandfather would be proud.
Yuka stepped up to the front, her hands clasped together. “I guess there's
only one other option we can try. We'll have to have a girl kiss Kuonji-kun
and prove that he's straight.”
“Wait a second. Who's going to do that?” Sayuri asked suspiciously.
“I fear this heavy burden must fall upon my shoulders,” Yuka declared
solemnly, swiftly beating back a fair number of other girls that wanted to
share her 'burden' in proving Ukyo’s manliness, including Sayuri. She went
over to where Ukyo and Ryoga were currently locked together in another
weapon bind, both straining mightily. “Well, Kuonji-kun, here's a chance to
prove your manliness to everyone in sight.” Yuka closed her eyes and
Ukyo did a double-take, glancing back and forth between a growling, furious
Ryoga in front of her and the overly amorous girl to her rear. She
shrugged, suddenly flipped Ryoga over her shoulder and then she turned
around and brought the flat of her weapon straight across Yuka's body,
launching the girl back into the crowd.
“Oh, Kuonji-kun...” Yuka was heard to murmur before passing out.
As a few cadets picked up Yuka's unconscious form to carry her off to the
infirmary, wails of anguish began to come from the girls, and tears flowed.
Meanwhile, the boys cheered as both Ranma and Ukyo's sexual orientation
suddenly came into question.
Ranma-chan could not believe what she was hearing as she worked her way
through the crowd. From sparring over the weekend, she already knew that
this Ukyo fought at a level of talent well above that of her counterparts
the cursed boy was familiar with, but this whole situation was seeming way
too familiar, a powerful sense of déjà vu coming over her. What made it all
worse, everyone was ready to brand her male side a homosexual and Ukyo too.
But what could she do?
“Kami-sama! There she is!” Hiroshi said excitedly, spotting Ranma-chan
moving through the crowd, only occasionally visible due to her height. He
quickly tugged on the arm of his companion. “Look!”
“Where?” Daisuke looked around, trying to see who Hiroshi was looking at.
Hiroshi pointed. “Right over there! It's that girl I saw working at the
Yu-chan last night, the total babe I told you about.”
“Where? I don't see her.” Daisuke swept his gaze through the crowd, trying
to spot Hiroshi's mystery girl. When he finally saw her, he thought his
heart had just stopped. “Whoa! She's gorgeous!”
“What did I tell you? Short, cute and with an incredible set on her chest,
just the way I like 'em.”
“I see what you mean, my friend. But look at how she's dressed and how she
carries herself. That's no ordinary girl. She's a fighter type. My guess is
she's a pretty tough one, too. I'll bet you money on it.”
“No way!” Hiroshi tried to get a better look and then turned back to face
his friend. “You really think so?”
“Oh, yeah.” Daisuke nodded. “She's probably Kuonji's girlfriend or
something, what with them working together. Women all seem to go for those
martial artist types, you know, and a guy with his looks must score with
lots of girls. Although one built like that would be enough for any guy. I
mean, just look at all the hot action Saotome must be getting nowadays. Not
only does he have that gorgeous little number, Kodachi Kuno, almost panting
after him, but the Iron Bitch as well. Oh, she tries playing it all cool,
but she wants him bad, real bad. You can see it in her eyes, how she looks
at him when she thinks no one else is watching.”
Girls around them started discussing this new information and they gave
Ranma-chan grim looks. The same thought seemed to be shared by most. How
dare that little bimbo steal away the heart of Kuonji-kun before I have a
chance with him?
Daisuke shook his head. “Hell, Ranma's literally fighting off a bunch of
girls every day. What's up with that? He used to be so geeky and quiet,
sticking to himself all the time while the girls ignored him, but now he's
probably getting to bed a different one every night of the week. And that
was _before_ Lee-sensei ever showed up and started training him. Who knows
how popular he'll be now? Man, what I wouldn't give to spend a day or two
in his shoes. The way I hear it, even that psycho bitch Akane Tendo is
still hot for him, and she hates all guys. I mean, you remember what she
did to Kashi when he stood up to her, don't you?”
Hiroshi shuddered at the thought of Akane and then his voice lowered as he
shook his head. “It sucks having both Kuonji and Saotome around. Ordinary
guys like us just can't seem to catch a break now, so I hope that Hibiki
guy flattens Kuonji.” He watched a few cadets carrying Yuka past them.
“Still, it makes sense why he doesn't pay any attention to the girls around
here, not with a hot babe like that hanging around him. If I was her
boyfriend, I'd be doing her every night.”
“Yeah, she's probably a wildcat in bed, too,” Daisuke agreed sagely. “I've
heard redheads usually are. I mean, look at Kisaragi-sensei. She sure
doesn't look like the kind of woman to just lie there quietly. And then
there's that Minami girl that hangs around Kuonji and that creepy Gosunkugi
guy. For a girl who wears glasses, she's definitely built for hot action
and lots of it. I know I'd like to show her a trick or two with my magic
wand, if you know what I mean.” He chuckled.
“You guys are disgusting,” said a girl on Hiroshi's right in annoyance. A
few other girls within earshot agreed. “It's no wonder you can't get a
date. But I think that girl you're lusting after is probably Ukyo's sister.
Her name is Kuonji, too. Ranko Kuonji. She came to our class with Ami
Mizuno yesterday. She might be a new transfer student.”
Hiroshi and Daisuke looked at each other. “His sister, eh?” said one.
“That means she's available,” said the other.
Hiroshi looked thoughtful. “Unless Ukyo is doing her anyway. I mean, if
that was my sister....” His voice trailed off as his face acquired a
“Ewww!” said the girl who had first spoken. “You guys really _are_
Another girl spoke up. “Well, I'd do Ranma in a heartbeat, even if he was
my brother. Ukyo, too, for that matter.” Several girls nodded.
“Hey, everyone! They're going at it again!” With that, all eyes turned to
watch the fight again.
Kyosuke was starting to panic. Everything seemed to be heading in the same
direction as his dream had taken last night. While neither fighter had
taken as much abuse as they had in his dream, at least not yet, things were
definitely getting more serious. He could feel the skeins of events coming
together as the crowd became more agitated and the fight between Ukyo and
Ryoga continued and intensified.
Why weren't any of the instructors around? Where were Ranma and Nabiki? He
had to find them.
“How dare you blatantly tease and seduce all of these girls while we're in
the middle of having a fight!” Ryoga roared. “What kind of a man are you?”
After quickly picking herself up, she glared at Ryoga. How proud you'd be,
Grandfather, she growled inwardly with a shake of her head. She hefted her
spatula in both her hands, taking a much firmer grip and glowering at him.
He wanted a fight? Fine. She'd give him a fight.
“You started this, Hibiki. Now I'm going to finish it.” She charged.
The two met in the middle of the circle of spectators. Weapons clashed and
rang off each other, Ukyo's spatula practically singing in her hands as she
unleashed all of her skill with it. The polearm-like weapon spun and
slashed as it seemed to turn into a blur in her hands.
For several minutes, all that was heard was the impact of one weapon
against another and loud gasps from the crowd as one opponent would nearly
hit the other, only to have a flurry of counterstrikes drive them back and
prevent them from taking the advantage. Power clashed with speed and
agility opposed strength. Ryoga connected a bit weakly with a blow that hit
Ukyo's stomach, and the ninja returned the strike with one that slammed her
spatula hard against his chest.
Kyosuke's frantic searching finally led him to Nabiki. Events were starting
to accelerate towards conclusion. He pushed his way through the crowd to
reach her. “Tendo-san! Nabiki! You've got to stop it!”
“Stop what?” Nabiki looked at Kyosuke in disbelief when he finally got next
to her. “Stop that? Don't be ridiculous. This is great. Look at this
crowd.” She held up a roll of bills. “Look at all this money. Why would I
want to stop it?” Her mood was jubilant as she turned her gaze from the
panting esper boy and watched the fight some more.
“Because he's going to kill Kuonji!” Kyosuke yelled at her. “I saw it! It's
happening just like I saw in my foreboding dream! Please! You've got to
stop it!” He glanced over his shoulder and then back. “Before it's too
Ranma-chan finally elbowed her way to the front of the crowd. Talk about
Ukyo's and her male form's sexual preferences had finally ended. Now
everyone's attention was riveted on the fight taking place in the opening
within the crowd, where another furious melee had just begun.
Ukyo back-flipped away from Ryoga, launching a double kick in the process
that caught him under the jaw. She continued the motion as Ryoga stumbled
back a step, flipping heels over head several times and gaining some room
to maneuver. She then unleashed a quick volley of throwing spatulas in his
direction on her last flip, launching them while she was still upside down
and in midair. Several struck Ryoga in the chest and shoulders, but the
damage did not appear to be great as he just slapped them away.
“Damn, he's just not giving up,” she muttered, seeing him charge her again.
She continued to keep her distance, flipping and cartwheeling away, each
time launching more quick volleys of throwing spatulas. But they only
seemed to be making him angrier.
Ryoga could feel it. He was going to win this time. Ukyo was going down,
and he was going to be the one to send him to hell. Then it was going to be
that little redhead's turn next. Then if he was still not feeling
satisfied, maybe he'd pound on that Saotome guy as well.
Nabiki looked at the fight, then down to the roll of yen notes in her hand
and then back to the fight.
“Damn, I just know I'm going to regret this,” she finally muttered out,
before stuffing the yen notes into Kyosuke's hands. “Here. Hang onto this.
I'll be back for it.”
With a powerful spring of her legs, she launched herself over the heads of
Ryoga charged in and landed a solid punch across Ukyo's jaw, putting his
whole shoulder behind it. He felt his fist hit cleanly, and the ninja's
face was abruptly blasted back to one side. They were coming up on endgame.
He could tell. It was only a matter of time now.
Witnessing the severity of the blow, Ranma-chan cried out, “Uchan!” She
ached to leap into the midst of it, but this was a duel between martial
artists, a one-on-one fight. She raged inwardly at the code of honor
imprinted within her, feeling it holding her back.
“Uhngh!” Ukyo grunted as her head snapped to the side, her world going
vague for several moments as she stumbled back from Ryoga's last punch. If
she hadn't rolled with it at the last possible instant, she would have been
taking her meals through a tube. She managed to fend him off with a
slashing swipe of her spatula and kept him at a distance with more sweeps
while she recovered her bearings.
For some reason, memories of the past briefly washed over her.
Five-year old Ukyo peeked out past her grandfather's leg at the strange
boy, who was sitting on a log crying about something.
“Why's he crying, Gra'pa?” she said, looking up at the old man towering
over her. She wondered if she would ever be that tall.
Her grandfather sighed. “He's a Hibiki, Ukyo. He's lost.” He nudged her out
from behind him. “Why don't you go over and talk to him? There's a good
Ukyo grinned at that. Boys played fun games and wrestled with each other,
while girls all seemed to play stupid games with dolls or acted all frilly
and feminine, hating to get dirty. She knew inside how she preferred to be.
She sidled up behind the boy, walking quietly.
“Hey,” she said. “My Gra'pa says you're a 'Biki and you're lost. Is that
The boy jumped, startled and then he turned to her, glowering and
sniffling. “H-hullo. I-I took a d-dare and walked to the edge of the valley
where I l-live, past the end of the guide ropes. N-now I don't know where I
am. Anyway, what's it to you?” He looked scared behind all the bravado.
“Well, you're not lost anymore,” Ukyo told him with a grin. “My Gra'pa and
I found you. We'll help you find your way back.”
“Th-thanks.” He wiped at his eyes with his sleeve. “My name's Ryoga. Ryoga
She gestured at herself with a thumb and said proudly. “I'm Ukyo Kuonji.
Hey, you wanna be friends?”
“Sure,” Ryoga said, brightening. He grinned back, no longer crying.
“So which do you like better, Ryoga?” Ukyo heard her grandfather ask the
boy one day, as she was coming back from getting some water from the
stream. “Ukyo or okonomiyaki?”
Six-year old Ukyo held her breath as she hid behind a tree. If the dummy
answered wrong, she was going to brain him with the bucket full of water
she was lugging.
Ryoga looked thoughtful as he munched on an okonomiyaki the elderly man had
fixed for him, a prize for winning against Ukyo in their latest sparring
match. Then he grinned. “I like Uk-chan!”
“You're a good boy, Ryoga,” her grandfather had said, smiling as he patted
her friend on the head. “Here, have another okonomiyaki.”
Ukyo spent the rest of that day smiling, and she wasn't sure why.
“Hah! Take that!”
Nine-year old Ukyo splashed headlong into the pond out behind her
grandfather's house, thrown there by a grinning Ryoga.
Sputtering and soaked to the skin, she snarled, “Hey! No fair! I wasn't
ready, Ryo-chan. You cheated!”
“Come and get me then, Uk-chan,” said a grinning Ryoga.
Ukyo charged back up the slope, intent on dealing out a little payback.
Weapons rang as her eleven-year old self and Ryoga sparred fiercely. Her
grandfather was seated off to one side, watching them closely and offering
some occasional coaching, so Ukyo was determined to give her all in this
Ryoga was just a fraction of a second too slow on one exchange, and her
spatula caught him on the shoulder, spinning him off balance to one side.
There was a sudden loud clang heard after his guard dropped, the flat of
her weapon having hit him squarely on the skull in her reverse swing. He
went down like a felled ox.
“Ohmigosh! I just killed Ryo-chan!” Ukyo shouted, dropping her spatula and
Her grandfather came over quickly and peeled back one of the fallen Hibiki
boy's eyelids. He looked back towards her. “He'll be fine. If there's
anything true in this world, it's that Hibikis all have heads like solid
“You've got a girlfriend?” The thirteen-year old Ryoga looked at her
wide-eyed, the blade of grass he had been chewing on falling free from his
Ukyo shrugged, leaning back against the tree they were sitting on some
larger branches of. “I guess. Kinda. Guys in my class were hassling Konatsu
for not having a boyfriend, so I took her to the movies last weekend.” She
shrugged again. “She gave me a hug and called me her boyfriend.”
“I wish I could do something like that,” he muttered, looking away.
“What was that?” When he didn't reply, she grinned and tipped him out of
the tree, watching as he plunged into the pond. She tossed him his umbrella
when he came slogging back up the slope, murder in his gaze. “Too slow,
“Damn you, Uk-chan! I'll get you for that!”
Ukyo shook away the flashes of memory. She flipped her spatula around in
another flourish. His last blow had loosened a couple of her teeth she
realized, feeling around in her mouth with her tongue. It wasn't the first
time that had happened. At least she hadn't had any knocked out this time,
like Ryoga had once done when they were little kids.
“Today's the day, Ukyo! Today I beat you!”
“Yeah, yeah,” she muttered, grinning at him as she took up a stance. She
held out her hand and flipped her fingers in another come hither gesture.
“You just got lucky. I can take you with one arm tied behind my back any
day of the week.”
Ryoga bellowed his rage and charged.
Even as Nabiki raced to get to the center of the crowd, Kyosuke started to
push his way through. Was Nabiki going to be in time? He felt a chill run
through him as events took on a familiar shape.
“I love you, Kuonji-kun!” shouted one female cadet in a blue uniform.
“Date me!” screamed a girl in a gray one, so passionately she looked to be
“I want to have your baby!” yelled a recovering Yuka as she was carried
away. “He's so dreamy,” she stated more softly, before passing out.
“I've got a thousand yen on you, Kuonji!” shouted Sayuri through cupped
hands nearby. “You'd better not lose!”
Finally getting free of a tight knot of bodies, he bumped into Minami, who
had been forced away from the center and then caught up in another group,
and the two of them stayed close together. Kyosuke did his best to try and
protect her as they were pushed about by the excited mob, even as he
struggled to get to the middle. He felt the Power within him building, but
he dared not use it in his current emotional state. The crowd was going
into mob frenzy, feeding off the intensity being thrown off by the two
struggling combatants. An elbow caught him in the side, knocking the wind
“Kasuga-senpai!” Minami bent down to help him up.
As he struggled back to his feet, knots of male cadets were all around them
as well, some of them eyeing the girls and scowling and many others
watching the fight. Another chill ran through him as their sentiments were
“Bust him up!” shouted one pimply-faced boy, waving his fist.
“Break that pretty face of his!” yelled Hiroshi, his eyes glittering with
malice as he watched the fight.
“Put him down hard!” screamed a thin boy nearby.
“I've got a thousand yen on you, Hibiki!” shouted Daisuke.
It was happening! It was happening right in front of him again! He felt the
Power surging within him, yearning to be unleashed. He'd give Nabiki
another precious few seconds, seeing her reach the front of the crowd and
then he was going to have to take action on his own, no matter what the
cost. He was not going to let any friend of his die, not if he could ever
help it, not on his watch.
Ranma-chan suddenly slammed down hard to the pavement as Nabiki used her
shoulders for a springboard. It took her a few moments to gather herself
“Stop fighting!” Nabiki cried, so focused on her goal that she had not even
seen Ranma-chan as she landed in the middle between Ukyo and Ryoga. She
shoved both of them back. “Stop!”
“Get out of my way, Tendo,” Ukyo growled. “I'm going to rip him a new one!”
Ryoga started to push his way past Nabiki. “Bring it on, Kuonji!” he
snarled. Then, more gently, he said, “Please stand aside, Tendo-san. If
this jerk wants to die, I'm willing to oblige him.”
Nabiki glared back at Ukyo, but something Ryoga said rang against her
awareness. Him? Ryoga thought Ukyo was a guy?
“Back off, Ukyo!” she commanded the ninja. An idea how to stop this
suddenly occurred to her. Her gaze swept back and pierced Ryoga, who froze
at the look on her face. “You too, Hibiki-kun. I want you to watch closely
Using her foot, Nabiki flicked one of the fallen throwing spatulas up into
the air. Just as it reached eye level, she released her hold on Ukyo and
snatched the weapon out of midair, taking a half-step back.
Ranma-chan's eyes went wide, suddenly recognizing what was about to happen.
She had seen almost the exact same scene before. “No! Wait!”
The audience's eyes widened and there was a collective gasp as Nabiki
brought the weapon down in a quick, sweeping arc, right in front of Ukyo.
Cries of both dismay and relief started to circulate among the crowd when
everyone finally saw that Nabiki had only cut the front of Ukyo's uniform.
Then the bindings beneath her uniform that kept her bosom held down parted,
promptly falling open and revealing what lay beneath.
Ryoga immediately gaped at the sight of the very feminine breasts Ukyo had,
and his mind went right into a fugue state as it tried to process this
unexpected new information. His brain promptly seized up, his paradigm
concerning Ukyo apparently trying to shift without a clutch. He shook his
head slowly from side to side, but his gaze seemed locked on Ukyo's chest
as a trickle of blood started to escape his nose.
Yuka took one look at the 'man' she had been pining for and promptly
fainted, collapsing back heavily into Hiroshi's arms. The boy was almost
too startled by the revelation of Ukyo’s true gender to cop a feel of the
girl he was holding. He grinned lecherously.
Tsubasa saw what was revealed and was shocked. Ukyo Kuonji was female?
Every girl within sight that had been shouting their vigorous support for
Ukyo suddenly went deathly still. And the boys that had just been howling
for Ukyo’s blood did so as well. A vast silence seemed to quickly spread
out from the scene taking place in the center of the crowd.
Standing a few feet away, Ranma-chan slapped her hand over her eyes and
drew it slowly down her face in dismay, disbelieving what had just
happened. She stared at the three who were still standing there in the
middle of the crowd, frozen as if in tableau. Then Nabiki stood back up and
A moment or two passed for Ukyo before she seemed to realize what had
happened, the cloth of her jacket and chest bindings flapping lightly in
the mild breeze as she felt cool air on her chest. Her gaze dropped down
slowly to her exposed breasts, as if hoping it wasn't true. Then shock
visibly filled her, seeing herself bared like this. She hastily pulled her
jacket shut, and the tear-filled, angry glare she bestowed upon Nabiki made
any of Ryoga's earlier looks seem like a baby's smile.
“You bitch!” Before Nabiki could react, Ukyo's fist slammed straight into
the Tendo girl's face with every ounce of strength behind it she could
muster, knocking Nabiki flat on her back. With a sob, she then turned and
fled, bawling, leaping over the crowd in a single bound and continuing on
away from the Academy at maximum speed. Tears streamed from her eyes the
Ranma-chan paused only a moment to see Nabiki stand up shakily and raise a
hand to her jaw, and then Ryoga chose that moment to run away as well, in
the exact opposite direction. She shook her head at the scene and then
charged off after Ukyo. The okonomiyaki chef was almost out of sight
“Ukyo was really a girl?” Hiroshi said stupidly, still unable to believe
what he had just seen. A red slap mark was on his face.
“Then maybe Ranko's really a guy?”
Hiroshi looked at him in disbelief and then shook his head. “No way that
Ranko's a guy, not the way she looks and moves. If there's one thing I'm
sure of, she's all girl.”
“Yeah, you're right,” Daisuke chuckled. “What was I thinking?”
Dean Fuyutsuki looked down from his office window as the instructors
suddenly appeared and began to disperse the crowd, per his orders. Not
surprisingly, the Tendo girl had been the one to step in and resolve the
matter, since she had become the Alpha of this Project subgroup. He felt a
little disappointed by that, having harbored a secret hope that Ranma would
emerge as the dominant leader in this subgroup's social hierarchy,
especially after his impressive showing against Utena. But the matter was
not yet settled. Despite her defeat of him the other day, with Master Lee
as his teacher now, the Saotome boy would only grow stronger and then he
would certainly challenge Nabiki again for the top slot. The struggle
between them was proving quite interesting.
He eyed the crater in the concrete below his window with wonder, one caused
by a boy wielding a mere umbrella. The power level to do such a feat was
almost inhuman. Still, watching Ukyo and the unknown boy fighting had been
quite enlightening as to how good the girl's skills were, and she was
proving to be a strong addition to the group. It was unfortunate that he
hadn't been able to capture a good picture of the lad's face, as he was
curious as to his identify and if he was possibly an Adam from the Project.
If he was, then adding him to the mix of the subgroup would help rebalance
things closer to even, gender-wise, since Ranma was currently the only male
he had. He seemed to have some sort of connection to Ukyo though. An old
However, the abilities that individuals were manifesting on campus were
beginning to cause him some concern, abilities that were normally seen only
in the highest levels of Arena fights. While he didn't believe that either
Nabiki or Ranma were potential cases for delinquency, it had happened with
others in the current testing group. In fact, a modest percentage had
already gone delinquent to one degree or another, unable to resist using
their superior physical and intellectual gifts to dominate not only those
around them their own age, but teachers and even other adults as well. Most
of it was petty bullying or the like, but there had been several much more
serious occurrences as well.
Today was another warning that not even the Imperial Academy's vaunted
student body was immune to such troubles. The Saotome boy had already been
involved in several serious situations, such as his run-ins with the
so-called 'Wolf Pack' that had been transferred to one of the reformatory
schools in the region. He also had a report on his desk about Ranma and
Nabiki being involved in some sort of after-hours fight in the old
dormitory building recently. There were no witnesses, but some blood had
been found on the scene, later matched as being theirs, using Project
genetic records. Blood from several other sources were as yet unidentified.
It was possible that some sort of gang activity involving the two had
occurred and that might also explain the sudden transfer of Kinnosuke
Kashuoh last week.
While shattered concrete slabs could be fixed easily enough, and no one had
been seriously hurt, there was cause for concern. If either Nabiki or Ranma
(or, Heaven forbid, both) ever turned delinquent on him, he didn't really
have anyone capable enough to physically control them at that point. Jun
Fan Lee could possibly be asked to assist, but the man was not a
disciplinarian. He was here as a favor simply to act as an instructor.
Maintaining order over a few unruly teenagers was not his function.
As the Imperial Academy was under the shared direct control of the two
Ministries of Science and Security (the latter one more commonly known as
the Security Directorate) rather than the Ministry of Education, any
appeals for such assistance would have to go through one of them. The
Ministry of Security was perhaps his better option to approach for finding
someone to act as a disciplinarian, but that was going to take a while now
that the current Director had chosen to retire. He made a mental note to
compose a letter requesting someone who could perform that function, the
stronger the better. After all, prevention was preferable to correction.
That matter decided, he moved on to another concern.
Where had Ranma disappeared to? Cameras had tracked him going into a small
copse of woods near the side of the Academy's main building, but a strange
redhead dressed in the garb of an okonomiyaki seller had later emerged. The
Saotome boy had somehow vanished.
He turned to his computer and pulled up the one clear picture he had
managed to get of the girl's face, running it through the Security
Directorate's archives, hoping to find her in its library of ID photos. He
got lucky. After only a few minutes, a positive match came back: Ranko
Kuonji, who, as a point of mild note, had just celebrated her sixteenth
birthday recently. His gaze focused on the information with interest as he
examined the datafile. The girl's mother was someone he was casually
familiar with, Ukyo's aunt, Yumi Kuonji. There was no father listed, and
the only other close relative was a brother a couple of years older, who
also had no father listed.
It all made sense now. As the Kuonjis were reputed to be ninja of legendary
skill, the girl must have been watching from the shadows in the woods and
then spirited Ranma away somehow, possibly at her cousin Ukyo's request to
keep him safe from potential harm. But to evade the Academy's security
cameras with someone in tow like that was a rather impressive feat. He made
a note to speak with Yumi about having Ranko take the Academy's placement
tests. The Security Directorate could always use more people like her. If
she somehow managed to score well enough on the exams, he might even make a
special exception and offer her a slot with the current first-year cadet
Asking about Ranko would also be a good excuse for him to speak with Yumi
again and perhaps even ask her out on a date. That she had two almost grown
children did not bother him that much. The fact that she had raised the
pair on her own spoke well of her innate character and self-reliance. She
had seemed to be a woman who took life on her own terms, and such
confidence was rather attractive. Also, while he wasn't positive, she
seemed like she might be interested in him. That was becoming a pretty rare
thing for a man of his advancing years, so he had been slowly working up
his courage on the matter, unsure if he should take her friendliness to him
in that way.
Perhaps he would take his dinner again at the Yu-chan this week, he mused
with a slight smile.
Ranma-chan came bursting into the Yu-chan just in time to see Ukyo flee up
the stairs, her passage followed by the eyes of Yumi and the few patrons in
the restaurant. She ran into her room and promptly slammed the door. As the
cursed boy made to pursue, Yumi stepped in front of her at the base of the
stairs and blocked her way.
“Ranm- Ranko, what happened?”
After quickly catching her breath a bit after the rapid run across the
rooftops chasing Ukyo, Ranko spoke. “This guy named Ryoga Hibiki showed up,
and he and Ucch- Ukyo had a fight. The moron thought she was really a guy,
not a girl. Anyway, towards the end, this girl we know, Nabiki Tendo,
stepped in and stopped it. But then she cut open Ukyo's jacket and bindings
in front of the entire Academy, and Ryoga just froze. Ukyo ran away, and
I've been chasing her all this way.” She bent over and gasped a bit, still
catching her breath.
“Didn't you use the soap this morning?” she asked, noting Ranma-chan's
The pigtailed girl grimaced as she stood back up straight. “Yeah, I did.
But Ukyo shoved this gunk in my mouth. I had to use water to wash it out, a
lot of water.”
“I see.” Seeing the patron's watching, she pulled Ranma-chan into the back
for a few moments. “I'll have a talk with Ukyo later, Ranko. She probably
needs a little time alone right now.”
“But-” Ranma-chan was promptly shushed by Yumi's fingertips placed on her
“Hush. I'm sure it will be all right, Ranko. Ukyo's tough.” She pulled out
a debit card and handed it to Ranma-chan. “Here. This is for you.”
“Well, I took the liberty of getting you a bank account once I had the
matter of your ID settled. Did it change when you went back to being male?”
Ranma-chan nodded, pulling out her ID card. That morning, it had been
identical to her male form’s ID card. Now it displayed her female form's
picture there, along with the kanji for 'Ranko Kuonji' next to it and some
other information. She still found it mildly amusing that Yumi had set the
day she fell into the vat as her date of birth.
“Don’t forget to dispose of your other ID card when you have a chance. You
won't need it anymore. This one will cover both your forms.”
“I already did.”
Yumi nodded. “That’s a good girl.”
“You opened up a bank account for me?”
Yumi smiled. “I started you out with fifty thousand yen. Consider it a
loan. If you don't mind working here, I'll just take a little out of your
pay each week, otherwise you can pay me back when you can. When you have
time I want you to go out and buy yourself some clothes with that money,
since you're going to need a wardrobe for yourself. You can't keep just
wearing that one outfit, you know.” She paused and fished around in a
“Oh, there's one more thing. Here.” She handed a key to the cursed boy.
“This is a key to the restaurant and apartment area. You can store your
clothes here, but I’m not doing your laundry.” She grinned.
“Thanks.” Ranma-chan pocketed the items.
“No problem.” Yumi put her hands behind Ranma-chan's shoulders and urged
her to the door. “Go take a hot shower and use some of the soap. I'll take
care of Ukyo.”
Ranma-chan nodded and headed off to change back. Classes were over for the
day, but she still had more dance classes to attend before the formal at
Ryoga ran through the sunlit streets of Nerima. After a time, he came to a
halt and leaned against a wall, resting his hand there, absently digging
his fingers into the solid rock like it was sand. A laugh seemed to make
its way up from his throat, but it was as much a sob.
“A girl,” he muttered. “Ukyo's a girl. Ukyo Kuonji is really a girl.” Even
as he said those words aloud, he still could not quite believe them. But
the horrible heaviness that had weighed on his heart seemed to be lifting,
and he felt a bit giddy.
He had to find her. He had to find Ukyo. He owed her an apology, at the
very least. He would tell her he lo- lo- liked her. A lot. But he looked
around at his surroundings, and the familiar weight of his anguish closed
around him once more.
“Where the hell am I now?!” he cried out in dismay, startling a couple of
pigeons into flight nearby. He immediately picked a direction and headed
off at a run again.
“Just you wait, Ukyo Kuonji,” he murmured like a mantra. “Just you wait.”
The room was dark as Ukyo sat on her bed and hugged a pillow up against her
body. Her injuries had been treated and no longer seemed to pain her much.
If only her feelings were as easy to soothe. It had been several hours
since she returned home, and all she could still seem to do was relive that
moment in her mind. And every time she did so, she just felt angry.
No, not merely angry. Furious. She was furious at Nabiki Tendo for utterly
humiliating her like that.
Ukyo hugged her pillow tighter and felt a burning in her eyes as she rocked
slightly on her bed, but she refused to cry. Tears were not going to be
enough to empty her of this feeling, this raw rage she felt. Besides, they
weren't manly, and she had been raised to be so. She was angry with herself
for losing control of herself like that, for crying like some weak girl.
She wanted to hit someone, hard, not just once but many, many times. And
that someone was named Nabiki Tendo.
A growl escaped her. For as long as she could remember, she had acted the
part of a boy, hiding her femininity at her grandfather’s request. After a
few years, it just became second nature. She had been tough and manly,
getting into the occasional fights with guys and winning and swaggering
around like any boy with her fighting skills would. She had even had a
girlfriend at one time, her good friend Konatsu taking on the role, just to
fit in more with the guys at her school and get her grandfather off her
back. And she had apparently been so good at her act that the boy she had
known for over ten years had thought she really was male as well.
How could someone know another person that long and not know their true
gender? She knew Ryoga was a boy and Konatsu was a girl, after all. Just
how stupid was Ryoga Hibiki? Why couldn’t he see through the disguise of
someone he had spent so much time with?
The guise had worked until a certain someone had exposed the truth, utterly
humiliating her in the process. Ukyo felt her teeth grinding. She could
never have imagined hating someone so much like she had come to hate Nabiki
for what the other girl had done. But, then again, no one had ever offended
her before like the Tendo girl had.
Her grandfather had once told her that revenge was a dish best served cold.
She had thought it an odd way to say such a thing at the time, but it also
suited their clan’s teachings, being that they were all okonomiyaki chefs
of the highest caliber as well as being ninja. So she had been mulling over
She would feign forgiveness of the Tendo girl and perhaps even pretend to
be her friend for a while, for as long as it took to lull her into a
complacent state. Meanwhile, she would carefully study the other girl and
learn her weaknesses, waiting for the proper moment. Then, and only then,
would Ukyo unleash her vengeance upon Nabiki, when it would have its most
The Tendo girl would learn what it meant to anger a Kuonji, to earn the
fury of a ninja, when Ukyo served her that cold dish of revenge and crammed
it down Nabiki’s throat. And while it was going to be a most bitter one for
the older girl to swallow, Ukyo was certain it would be sweet and succulent
to her own palate. She grinned wolfishly into her pillow at that.
Standing quietly in the shadows by the open window, Tsubasa could only seem
to gaze in wonder at Ukyo. A female Kuonji ninja, one good enough at
disguise and faking masculine mannerisms to fool even a Goju. A warm
feeling was in the young Goju’s chest.
Tsubasa had fallen in love.
Juri Arisugawa sat in the back of the limousine and tried without much
success to tune out her mother's prattling. Her father was doing the same
thing, and his gentle snores reached her ears. She looked out the window at
the passing scenery, feeling uncomfortable in a formal yukata and obi, her
hair done up in a traditional style, like a doll taken out to be put on
display, to be looked at but never touched.
"Now, I expect you to be on your best behavior tonight, Juri-chan," Lady
Arisugawa said primly. "I don't want to see a repeat of the last omiai we
took you on. Do I have your sincere and solemn promise that you will
behave?" The older woman twisted a handkerchief she held, the cloth fraying
from the pressure she was applying. "We need this, for our family's sake."
The Kunos were an old family of nobility and quite wealthy. While the
Arisugawas could match them in terms of nobility and time amidst the
peerage of the Empire, the matter of their wealth was another story
entirely. A series of poor business choices had left them hovering on the
verge of bankruptcy, but the pretense of wealth still had to be maintained
at all costs, for the sake of face. A marriage of her willful daughter with
the Kuno boy would be the salvation of their financial woes, if only the
girl didn't act her usual self and run the boy off.
Juri snorted delicately and turned her gaze to her mother. "I will act in
accordance with how I am treated," she said calmly. The last boy had been a
chinless weakling, without a drop of true warrior spirit in him. He had
made the grave error of looking at her lustfully, an act grossly offending
her honor. The resulting duel had been quick, despite his condescending
attitudes towards her at the outset, as if a woman was not meant to pick up
a sword and fight as well as any man.
"Oh dear," Lady Arisugawa said nervously, not liking the sound of that at
all. She hoped the Kuno boy was well-mannered. Juri could be quite touchy
when it came to her personal sense of honor, and she had fought a large
number of duels to prove that point, leaving a trail of broken bodies
behind her from her skill. The older woman twisted her handkerchief some
more and dreaded the possible outcomes of this evening.
Lord Kuno entered his son's chambers unannounced to find his only son
composing poetry. He sighed. He cleared his throat.
"Son, they're on their way up the drive," he said with a touch of annoyance
at the boy's reticence. "You should greet the girl and her family. Don't
tell me you're still mooning over those Tendo girls."
Tatewaki Kuno set down his brush and closed the cover on the ink pot,
turning to face his sire and standing. "I was composing an ode to their
beauty and warrior spirit, Father. 'Tis one of my best works yet. I believe
I have captured the very essence of Nabiki Tendo in it." He walked over,
dressed in a formal kimono, feeling his blood burning within him at the
thought of the middle Tendo daughter.
"Try and focus here, Tatewaki," said Lord Kuno seriously. "Your mother is
most eager for you to become engaged to this girl, since they have the ear
of the Emperor. While I personally find Lord Arisugawa to be a boorish
twit, and his wife to be sycophantic to the extreme, at least the daughter
seems relatively normal. So you will put forward your best face towards
this. I expect you to be on your best behavior."
Tatewaki nodded. "Yes, Father, though my heart be not in this. It is
impossible that the Arisugawa girl, though I find her quite comely of face,
could compare in the least to Nabiki Tendo, her younger sister, or even to
the pigtailed girl I have seen recently."
"Pigtailed girl?" he said as they walked towards the main stairs. "What
The Kuno heir's face took on a rapturous look. "I only caught a glimpse of
her whilst I was resting after my recent bout with Nabiki Tendo, but her
image is engraven upon my heart forever. Truly she is one of the most
demure and feminine creatures I have ever seen, a most suitable
accompaniment to the clever Nabiki Tendo and her fiercely beautiful young
sister, Akane. I would be a man most contented to have them, all of them."
He waved a hand. "This Juri Arisugawa cannot compare."
"Regardless of that," Lord Kuno said a bit dryly. "Your mother and I expect
you to be courteous. Under no circumstances will you mention any other
women to the girl, no matter how you feel. Marriage is not about love,
Tatewaki, but duty to the family and honor. Although I love your mother
deeply now, it was not always the case."
Tatewaki was shocked to hear that.
Lord Kuno smiled. "We were not each other's first choice for a mate,
Tatewaki, but the years have allowed us a measure of passion and even
comfort with our marriage. I'm sure you will find it the same."
"But Father," Tatewaki grumbled. "What if she is a shrew?"
Lord Kuno shrugged. "Then you tame the shrew. I did it with your mother."
Seeing her husband and son approaching her and Kodachi, Kenseiko nodded to
him. "And what are you telling your son, Husband?"
"Just some fatherly advice to a son about marriage." He came over to stand
next to her and gave her a light kiss on the cheek. "You look lovely
She smiled and nodded. "You are most kind, My Lord."
"You are looking well tonight, brother dear," said Kodachi, snapping closed
the fan she held and smiling at him, her eyes glittering. "Are you prepared
to be an offering to the gods of political expediency?"
Tatewaki blinked. "You seem unusually merry tonight, my dear sister."
She hid her mouth demurely behind the fan, Sukeban-Kodachi ascendant in her
manner tonight. "Why, my dear brother, I am simply pleased at your good
fortune. I have heard this Juri Arisugawa is your type of woman, filled to
brimming with a warrior's spirit. I will enjoy meeting her. When I
accompanied Saotome-kun to Ohtori, she and I did not have a chance to talk."
Mention of Ranma caused him to frown. "It is most unseemly of you to be
speaking so familiarly of him, even if he is-" He paused, unable to get the
words out, he found them so distasteful. "Your fiancé."
"You are so serious, brother dear." She grinned. "I find it pleasing to
say Saotome-kun, even as I find it pleasing to say Kaoru-kun."
"I recall the name from somewhere. A childhood friend of yours was he not?"
“He was and still is,” Kodachi said with a warm smile. “He invited me to
attend a dance at Ohtori. I am finding it pleasant rekindling our
friendship of long ago. Perhaps if things don’t go poorly tonight, you
could escort the Arisugawa girl to it. That way you can keep an eye on me,
as you seem wont to do.”
Kuno appeared to consider the manner.
Lord Kuno heard and nodded. “That is a fine idea, daughter! Excellent
suggestion.” Beside him, Kenseiko nodded.
“Very well, I shall escort the girl to the function at Ohtori, Father,”
Kuno said after another moment. “I pray she is not a shrew.”
Yumi-kun, dressed in a nice shirt and pants to go out for the evening,
poked his head into Ukyo's room, thinking at first that the girl was
asleep. After a moment, his eyes adjusted to the dimness, and he saw Ukyo
sitting there on her bed. He glanced at one corner by the open window
briefly as if sensing something and then gazed more intently at a
particular area of shadow.
The shadow seemed to form a sweatdrop as the cursed ninja stared at it
intently with a narrowed gaze. Yumi-kun made a subtle gesture with a
finger, pointing to the floor. He sensed the shadow quickly leave out the
window and head downstairs.
“Hey, Kiddo,” he said with a concerned look, turning back to face Ukyo.
“How's it going?”
Yumi-kun switched on the light. “Mother and I are going out tonight, so
we've closed the restaurant. She doesn't want you to open it. Just get some
The woman turned teenaged boy looked at his niece, then went over and sat
on the bed. “You wanna talk about it?”
“Okay.” Yumi-kun wasn't sure what else to say at that point. Ukyo was being
a moody, close-mouthed teenager right now, and dealing with that was not
something he had any experience in, even though he looked like a teenager
now. He gave the girl a warm hug, feeling Ukyo resist at first then relax
into it. “Things will turn out okay. Just get some sleep. Tomorrow is
Ukyo nodded, feeling grateful at her cousin's caring. “I know. You have a
good time tonight. Is it a date?”
“Yeah, I’m going to the movies with an old friend,” he said with a smile,
ruffling Ukyo's hair. “Don’t stay up too late.” He got up from the bed and
moved to the door.
Ukyo chuckled. “G'night, Yu-kun.”
“My mother said she’ll be back later,” Yumi-kun replied, smiling. “Good
night.” He then left, closing the door behind him.
Ukyo started undressing, tossing her clothes about the room. Then she
turned off the light and lay down. She went right to sleep.
Downstairs, Yumi-kun sat down on a chair and waited. “I don’t have all
night, Tsubasa-kun,” he said after a minute.
Out of the shadows in one corner stepped the young Goju, still shifted into
female form. “How do you always know I’m around, Yu?” she asked.
“I’ve just always been able to sense the presence of Goju,” replied the
cursed ninja, shrugging his shoulders. “What are you doing, lurking around
Ukyo like that? I promised your folks I wouldn’t bother them or you, if
they didn’t bother me.”
“I-I-” stuttered Tsubasa, uncertain what to say.
Yumi-kun sighed and then said, “You like her.”
The young Goju nodded, looking shyly at the floor.
“She’s engaged, Tsubasa-kun. To a guy named Ranma Saotome. He goes to your
“Oh.” Tsubasa was very quiet. “I see.”
“Ukyo could use more friends,” Yumi-kun suggested. “What do you think about
Tsubasa looked up, suddenly looking hopeful. “You’d be okay with that?”
“You promise you won’t attack her? You promise you’ll admit what you are
and explain about the Untainted, if she figures it out?”
“Of course!” The young Goju sounded offended.
Yumi-kun grinned. “Then I’m okay with you being her friend.”
Tsubasa smiled. The Goju boy had no intentions of harming Ukyo. None at
all. But Ranma Saotome was another situation entirely. Tsubasa’s irises
took on a darker cast at the thought, swirls of shadow moving within the
If the pigtailed boy was out of the picture, Ukyo would be available again.
Sneaking out of Joketsuzoku Village wasn’t hard for one of Perfume’s
skills, especially for one with her abilities at persuasion. Claiming she
was going to the nearby mountains for some private training time had been a
sufficient excuse for the guards. It also easily explained why she was
carrying her weapons and a travel pack with sufficient supplies for a long
time away from the village.
Once she was out of sight of the last guard outpost, she left the road and
began making her way overland. It was while she was doing so that she
encountered Mousse, making his way the final length on his journey. She
stopped and stared at him in surprise, her hands on her hips.
“<Mu Tse,>” she said calmly. “<So, you’ve finally returned.>”
“<Peh Fum,>” he answered back as he adjusted his glasses. “<What are you
doing out here?>”
The young Amazon thought about it. She couldn’t have Mousse going back to
the village and telling anyone he had seen her. Killing him was an option,
but she preferred not to. Even though he was a stupid, almost useless male
of very weak fighting skills with an insane devotion to her rival Shampoo,
he did speak Japanese very well and could possibly be of some minimal use
to her in her quest.
“<I’m going to visit Shan Pu,>” she finally said.
Mousse looked surprised. “<She’s not at the village? Where is she?>”
“<Japan,>” Perfume answered simply. “<She’s fighting for the amusement of
the Japanese in Tokyo.>”
“<WHAT?!>” Mousse looked almost apoplectic. Visions of his proud, beloved
Shampoo weighted down in chains and being forced to undergo savage ordeals
to entertain their foreign overlords filled his mind. He could only think
of how much she must be suffering. He would save her.
“<It’s a long journey,>” Perfume said casually. “<I suppose you could come
“<I will.>” Mousse turned around and followed Perfume. “<We’ll need to head
south. There are smugglers there who could get us to Japan and avoid the
patrols. We’ll need money though.>”
Perfume nodded. She had expected that. In her pack and about her person was
a small fortune of gold and jewels, most acquired on her journeys, but a
few trinkets she had liberated from the treasury of Joketsuzoku because she
thought they might be useful to her.
“<Time is of the essence,>” Mousse declared, his thoughts still filled with
the horrible fates that Shampoo must be suffering at the hands of the
villainous Japanese. “<We’ll need to get to a coastal city as soon as
possible. We’ll also need to obtain travel papers to enter Japan.>”
“<I already have it planned out,>” Perfume replied. “<We’ll be able to
catch a train a few miles south of here that will take us to a place I
learned of in my training journeys. It’s only a week or so away, and we’ll
be able to buy anything we need there, both papers and passage.>”
“<Where?>” Mousse looked at her in puzzlement. “<Hong Kong?>”
“<Further south,>” Perfume replied. “<It’s a horrible place the Empire
leaves to fester, or so I’ve heard. It’s a wretched hive of scum and
Mousse suddenly nodded. Yes, he’d heard of the place. He knew where she was
talking about. There was only one city it could be.
Things seemed to get back to a state of relative normalcy for Ranma as the
time remaining before the dance at Ohtori started going by. He spent his
days working his body hard in his training sessions with Master Lee, his
instruction by the man finally beginning. His fan club continued to attack
him daily, which he was finding to be quite good training for dealing with
large groups of foes. Kodachi and Nabiki both seemed distracted by their
individual concerns, so he didn't talk much with them as the days passed.
His dance classes with Madoka went well, and he found he really enjoyed
ballroom dancing with her. It was nice to make a new friend he could have
fun like that with, without an engagement or romantic tension looming over
the relationship. As the basics had quickly come to him for some reason,
maybe due to a stray memory download he previously hadn’t been aware of,
they were working on advanced maneuvers.
He knew he wanted to show up that Miki Kaoru guy for trying to muscle in on
Kodachi, since beating the guy up would probably not be his best course of
action. At least Nabiki wasn’t going to be anywhere near the dance. Having
to explain why he was there with Utena would be awkward.
He spent a couple of hours every day in the private lab space he had at the
Kuno's mansion, recreating Ranko's quantum tunneling device and
incorporating the paratransponder signal sensor he had devised. He ran
numerous tests on its functions. Its ability to scan for paratemporal
equipotential flux energies to determine the time until a new window could
be opened was a work of sheer genius, and he had to congratulate Ranko on
its construction. He also put together a paratransponder unit, hiding it
near his house towards the end of the week.
However, most of his nights were spent on a special training assignment he
had imposed upon himself: mastering the Amaguriken. For that he chose to be
in female form and begged off waitressing at the Yu-chan for a while. Yumi
had seemed to understand when he phrased it as a need to do some private
training. Part of the reason why he was doing it was to give his curse the
time it demanded to keep the soap's protective abilities at maximum
effectiveness. It was apparently working, since there were no accidental
changes that week.
And so the days passed, and the dance at Ohtori drew inevitably closer.
To be continued next chapter...
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