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Chapter 2

A Ranma ½ story
by Larry F
Last update 10 Feb 98

Disclaimer: Ranma ½ and its characters and settings belong to Rumiko Takahashi, Shogakukan, Kitty, and Viz Video.

(Note:  Gyoza is an appetizer kind of like Won Tons.  They are made of a pasta skin filled with meat and/or vegetables, then lightly cooked in a wok.  They are also known as pot stickers or dumplings.  Now, on with the story.)

< Indicates thoughts
{ } indicates Chinese

Nabiki Tendo sat at the dining room table drumming her fingers impatiently.  The television was on, but she couldn't concentrate on the program.  No one had seen Ranma since he'd run away from his fight with Akane, and Nabiki was starting to worry about him.

    <If that idiot didn't deposit my money, I'll make him sorry he was born!>

    Akane walked in from the yard past her father and Genma Saotome, who were sitting on the verandah.  They were drinking beer and had already finished off three large party sized bottles, so despite the early hour, they were already totally blitzed.  They never noticed that Akane's clothing was stained with dirt, and that she had a leaf or two caught in her hair.  It was doubtful that they even noticed Akane herself, for that matter.  Akane paused next to Nabiki, and drew in a deep breath.

    "Hi, Nabiki-oneechan. Is Ranma home yet?"

    Nabiki looked up at Akane and gasped.  Akane was usually very careful about her appearance, and seeing her so untidy was a shock.  Even when she had been fighting the boys at school every morning, she had always come out of it looking like she'd just gotten dressed.

    "Akane!  What happened to you?"

    Akane ducked her head down a little, and blushed.

    "Um, I guess I poked my nose into something I shouldn't have.  I'd rather not talk about it right now."

    Nabiki wasn't one to be brushed off so easily, but just as she was about to dig for an answer, she a news flash on the TV caught her attention.  The office building her bank was located in was being shown.  She leaned forward on the dining room table to hear what the announcer was saying.

    "Our top story this evening is a crisis at the Mitsubishi Bank building. The initial report is that over 50 people are being held hostage."

    The TV camera's telephoto lens panned across the exterior window of the bank, getting a clear picture of men wearing ski masks and black military style clothing standing guard over a large group of people.  From the way everyone was seated in plain view, it was obvious that the hostages were being deliberately displayed for the TV camera.  As the camera scanned the group,  Nabiki and Akane simultaneously noticed the face of a girl with distinctive red hair.  Akane shouted:

    "Oh, my God, that's Ranma!"

    Genma and Soun leaned into the doorway from the verandah, blinking to try and focus their eyes.  The attempt was futile, but they devoted so much effort to it that neither one was able to stop leaning, and they wound up in a tangle on the floor.

    Kasumi heard Akane's cry and hurried into the room from the kitchen, wiping her hands on a dishtowel.

    "Akane-chan, what's wrong with Ranma?"

    Akane pointed at the TV screen as the camera panned back across the scene again.  Ranma was visible through the bank window, sitting next to a pregnant woman.

    "Oh, my!  Why would Ranma have been at that bank?"

    Nabiki answered Kasumi's question, wearing an outraged expression.

    "He was making a deposit for me.  DAMN!  All my money is in that bank!"

    She fell silent, clenching her teeth together.  While she stared at the TV,  the others listened quietly to the news reporter interviewing a police spokesman.

    "…So far, we have no information as to the identity of the men holding the bank customers hostage.  We assume that they entered the bank with the intention of robbing it, but were unprepared for the large number of people present.  Gaining control of the situation may have taken longer than they expected.  We were able to respond to a silent alarm within ten minutes, and move decisively in sealing off all possible escape routes from the building, trapping the suspects inside."

    "The men who have taken the bank customers and employees hostage are heavily armed with military type weaponry.  We have observed them with Russian made assault rifles and shotguns, and we are able to see that they have boobytrapped the windows and doors of the building with explosives.  At the moment, it is considered too dangerous to try a direct approach to freeing the hostages, so we are preparing to communicate with the suspects.  Our hostage negotiation team is connecting to the building telephone system, and will begin talking to the suspects sometime in the next twenty minutes.  We are hoping to bring this incident to a peaceful conclusion once we have learned their demands."

    Soun Tendo had by this time managed to sort out which arms and legs actually belonged to him, and made a valiant attempt to stand up, Genma joining him in a roughly vertical posture soon after.  Both were swaying like sailors on the deck of a ship in a hurricane.  After a moment of silence in which one could see the strain on Genma's face as he put his brain in gear, he told Soun:

    "Ten'o, we goshta do shumpin' 'bow dish.  Ish'a duty of all marshall artshish ta help doesh in dishtresh!"

    After a moment's reflection on this momentous declaration, Soun nodded in agreement.

    "Righ' ash ever, Shaotome!  We'll jush go and shet tingsh shtraigh'.  By'a time we finish, doesh guysh'll wish dey wash never born!"

    With that, they staggered out of the door and across the verandah… and over the edge as they failed to take into account the step down.  After landing with a dull thump on the hard, hard ground, it took a moment for either to get his breath back.

    "Uh, Ten'o, mebbe we should get a liddle resht firsh'…"

    "Righ' ash ever, Shaotome…"

    After staring blankly at the antics of the well-meaning but inept duo of Genma and her father, Nabiki rested her head in her hands and growled in frustration.  If there was one thing in all the world she truly hated, it was feeling helpless.  Her first taste of that had come with the death of her mother.  As young as she had been at the time, she had understood that her mother was slipping away from them and there was nothing anyone could do to stop it.  After the funeral, Nabiki had promised herself that she would never allow herself to be put in that position again.  So far she'd kept that promise to herself.  She'd been in total control of every situation that had come up since then.  If she'd acquired a reputation for being cold and manipulative as a result, it was a small price to pay for the feeling of satisfaction she got from knowing that her destiny was hers to choose.

    Everyone assumed that she lived for money.  That was far from the truth.  While the moneymaking process was fun, what really drove her was the sense of control she gained from her ability to turn a profit from the crazy world she lived in.  If she added to the craziness in the process, so what?  Her goal was to come out on top, no matter what happened.  If anyone had actually bothered to study her, they would have noticed that her clothing and possessions were really no better than those of her sisters.  She rarely spent money on herself; it was far more satisfying to be able to get boys to buy things for her.  Most of the money she… extorted… was usually contributed to the upkeep of the house.  While she did put some of it away 'for a rainy day', the money was not an end in itself; it was just a way for her to keep score.

    Now she was facing her worst nightmare again.  All of her own money, and the money she had put aside for family emergencies, was in that bank.  It looked like it might be stolen without her being able to do anything to prevent it, and that was making her crazy.

    <Dammit!  Damn it all to hell!  There must be something I can do!  If only it were something like we always have to deal with.  Princes from Ninja clans, giant magical monsters, shape shifting martial artists; those kind of things are routine around here.  I never once imagined we would have bank robbers with that kind of firepower showing up…>

    Nabiki tuned out the people around her as she settled down for some serious thinking.

     The Nekohanten was doing a brisk trade that afternoon, and Cologne, Mousse, and Shampoo had been busy serving customers for hours.  When business slowed down and they finally got a few minutes to relax, Shampoo went directly to the kitchen to make gyoza from special ingredients she had bought using a mail order catalog from home.

    <{Ranma loves me, I'm sure of it.  He just hasn't realized it yet; but I think I can finally fix that.  According to the catalog, these mushrooms have the power to let him share emotions with me for a short time.  When he knows in his heart how I feel about him, surely he'll have to admit that he loves me!}>

    As she fried the dumplings, she daydreamed about how she thought the meeting would go.  In her mind's eye, she saw herself sitting next to Ranma, hand feeding the gyoza to him as he smiled at her.  She then imagined the look of wonder that would cross his face as he began to feel her love for him, and how he would gather her into his arms, and then things would get VERY interesting…  Her fantasy ended in a triumphant return to her home in China, an adoring Ranma in tow and a golden ring on her finger.

    Soon, the gyoza were finished cooking, and she arranged them into a bowl which she covered and put it into her wooden carry box.

    <{Aiyah!  I had to make a lot more than I really need of these, but the ingredients were too expensive for me to just waste them. Maybe Ranma will be extra hungry.}>

    She picked up the carry box by the handle and walked through the dining room towards the front of the restaurant.  Cologne was sipping tea at one of the tables.  Shampoo stopped next to her and put a finger to her lips, pointing to the closed door of the restaurant living quarters.  She whispered:

    "{Grandmother, I need to go to see Ranma now.  I'm sure that this time I can convince him to marry me, but I can't afford to have Mousse blundering in at the wrong time.  Will you help me get him out of the way?}"

    Cologne nodded to Shampoo and picked up her staff from where it leaned against the wall.  Hopping onto a table near the door, she stood with the staff poised and waited.  Shampoo then called out loud:

    "OK, great grandmother!  I going now to visit Ranma!"

    This brought an immediate crashing from the other side of the door, which was violently opened from inside.  Mousse rushed out, crying:


    As he passed Cologne, she expertly tapped a spot near the base of his skull.  Mousse slid to the floor, instantly unconscious.  Shampoo picked up a nearby fire bucket and splashed some of the water onto Mousse's body, triggering his curse.  She picked the resulting white duck up by the neck, and took him into the kitchen where she locked him in a cage.

    <{Stupid, stupid Mousse.  How long will it take for you to realize that I am not for you?  I am the supreme fighter of my generation, and my husband can only be a warrior greater than I am.  I cannot settle for less; to do so would be a betrayal of everything the Joketsuzoku stand for.  You know that, Mousse.  Why can't you see that you are too weak to be my mate?  How many times must you be defeated before you realize that you are unworthy?}>

    She stood for a moment looking pensively at the unconscious duck.

    <{Ranma is the only man who has ever defeated me in combat.  I must marry him for the honor of the Amazons… and for my own sake.  I've never met another man who could beat me.  If he doesn't marry me, I won't have anyone!}>

    She hugged herself, trembling a little.

    <{I don't know what I would do if he doesn't return to China with me.  I don't want to be alone!}>

    Her expression brightened.

    <{Still, this time I won't fail.  There will be no deceptions this time, like there were before in my other plans.  Ranma can't deny his feelings for me when we both are sharing them!}>

    Picking up her carry box again, she headed out the front door of the restaurant, waving good bye to Cologne.

The Kuno family owned a large color TV set, but it was rarely used.  Tatewaki did not believe television had anything worthwhile to offer one of his class and station, and Kodachi was usually too busy with her hobbies to bother with it.  Sasuke did like television, but he had to content himself with a small black and white television in the kitchen.  The fact that there was a set there at all was due to Kuno's belief that it was a requirement in a well appointed home, not because he felt that Sasuke merited one.  Sasuke was always careful to keep the sound turned low, in case Kuno might become annoyed and forbid him to turn it on.

    He was sparing occasional glances at his favorite Samurai drama as he prepared dinner for his master, when the show was interrupted by the news bulletin.  After a moment, he saw the pictures of the Pig-tailed Girl being held hostage, and immediately rushed into the main room of the home to turn on the color TV.

    "Master Kuno!  Hurry!"

     Tatewaki Kuno came into the room a minute later, ready to rebuke his servant for interfering with his "meditation" on Akane and the Pig-tailed Girl, but when he saw the TV news report, the thought fled his mind (not something unusual.  Keeping a thought in his mind was something Kuno was not noted for).

    "What is this?  The beauteous Pig-tailed Girl held in durance vile by hoodlums?  A flower of delicate loveliness enduring crass handling by knavish cretins?"

    Tears flowed down his cheeks as he conjured a microphone out of thin air.

    "Oh, the shame, that foul villains should wander the streets and prey upon the tender flesh of maidens who cower in fear at their temerity!  As the cherry blossoms bloom in magnificent glory for a brief moment then fall and wither on the ground, so is the splendor of youth, which knows the bliss of innocence for but a short time before the specter of Death intrudes its dire shadows into the lives of its unsuspecting victims!  Does not the very earth itself cry out in tones as ringing as the bells of Kinkaku-Ji as she groans under the tread of those base rogues who wear their humanity as naught but a guise to conceal their true demonic nature?  Yea, such foulness oft pollutes the air in which beauty struggles for one sweet chance at breath!  Is it not the duty of all true warriors to face undaunted the slings and arrows of such outrageous fortune?  As does the spirit of honor summon forth the legions of the noble to answer its clarion call, so does the hapless plight of yon fair maiden call for one of heroic stature to smite in righteous anger these minions of evil!"

    Sasuke knelt at his Master's feet, weeping openly.

    "This travesty must not be permitted!  I, the Blue Thunder of Furinkan High School, shall see to my Pig-tailed Goddess' rescue at once!  Sasuke!  Ready yourself!  We depart at once on this holy crusade!"

    Before Sasuke could rise to his feet, a small packet landed on the floor between them, bursting into a cloud of fine dust.  Both men gasped in surprise… and a moment later sank to the floor snoring loudly.  Looking on in satisfaction from the doorway, Kodachi smiled to herself.

    "That horrid red haired witch is trapped and will not be free before morning? Alas, dear brother, your dream of gallant rescue will not see fulfillment today.  I cannot miss this perfect opportunity to pursue my true love!  Ranma-sama will be home with only that shrewish Tendo girl for company, and that pitiful excuse for a woman cannot possibly compete with one as beautiful as I am.  Ranma-sama will be mine at last!"

    Kodachi whisked her dress away, revealing the leotard she wore underneath it.  Producing several Rhythmic Gymnastics ribbons from somewhere unknown, she efficiently wrapped her brother and Sasuke until they resembled a two headed caterpillar weaving a cocoon.  After tying a last length of ribbon across her brother's mouth, she sprang to an open window and from there to the wall surrounding the Kuno home.  Soon she was racing across the rooftops towards the Tendo Dojo, trailing a blizzard of black rose petals behind her.

    Kodachi Kuno was a study in contrasts.  It was self evident that she was insane, but hers was a methodic madness.  She always had a goal in mind even at her worst, and her actions rarely involved anyone except her immediate target.  Growing up in a household with a father who had a fetish about shaved heads and strange haircuts was an experience guaranteed to warp the perceptions of even the most stable of personalities, and if you added his other peculiarities and the lack of a mother figure in the house, it was no mystery that the Kuno children never had a chance at being normal.  The true wonder was that they'd managed to direct their psychoses into relatively harmless channels the way they had.

    Kodachi had sublimated all her frustrations into Martial Arts Rhythmic Gymnastics, a discipline at which she excelled.  She was the best there was at it, and worked hard to maintain her position.  No one ever thought to ask what she had to do to be the best; they all seemed to assume that it came naturally to her.  No one ever saw her practicing long hours every afternoon in her private gym to hold to the edge that made her as good as she was.  The dirty tricks she played during combat, and the sabotage and ambushes before the event were more due to her upbringing than any need to eliminate a better opponent.  She could easily have won against every opponent she'd faced (until Ranma) without cheating.

    The one thing that Kodachi lacked was affection.  Her family life had no trace of it.  Her love for Ranma was genuine; he was the only person ever to show her any kindness at all, so it was only to be expected that she would fixate on him as the object of her repressed emotions.  She had grown up without anyone or anything that she could love wholeheartedly, but Ranma in a very real sense represented her chance at redemption.  If she could get him to love her, then maybe her life would be worthwhile after all.  For that reason, Ranma could have asked anything at all of her, and she would not have hesitated to obey.  She would gladly devote to him her life, soul, and body with only one word of encouragement.  Her share of the Kuno fortune was also his for the asking (at one point, when the Tendo family was short on food and money, she tried to give it to him).  More so than any of his legitimate fiancees, Kodachi was completely devoted to Ranma in every sense of the word.

    Which may have been why Ranma was so frightened of her.

    Ukyou Kuonji kept a TV up on a shelf for her customer's benefit, but she was too busy cooking to watch it herself.  Her first hint that something was wrong came when she heard one of the ladies in the room gasp, and everyone else talking to each other excitedly.  Ukyou was uncertain about what the problem was for a moment, then noticed that everyone was looking at the TV in between comments.  She stepped out from behind the counter to see the screen for herself, catching the tail end of the interview with the police spokesman.  As her customers reacted with various degrees of horror at the thought of armed men terrorizing their town, she watched in fascination as the TV camera swept over the scene.  It took a while for the camera to go back to a shot of the interior of the bank, but when it did, Ukyou's heart sank within her.  She would recognize that face in any crowd.  She drew a deep breath.

    "Sorry, folks, but something important just came up.  Ucchan's is closing now."

    After boxing up unfinished meals for her customers to take with them, she urged the last of them out of the restaurant.  Stepping outside the door after them to take down her sign, she paused a moment to think about what she should do.  It was all very well for her to just toss aside everything and run off to help her Ranma-honey, but it would be sheer stupidity to do so with no hope of doing any good.  The bank Ranma was being held in was the one she did her business banking in, so she knew the general layout of the bank itself, but she had never been in any other parts of the building.  There was no way she would be able to just walk in the front door of the bank like she normally would.

    <Dammit.  If there's one thing I've learned from trying to get Ranma-honey notice me, it's that I'm not very good at clever plans.  I gotta get some advice for this, and there's only one person I know who is good at that kind of thing.  She'll rob me blind for it, but if Nabiki Tendo can't come up with a way to get into that building, no one can… and God, do I ever hate the idea of having to crawl to HER!  She's worse than the Yakuza in some ways.  Every time I've listened to her, I've regretted it.  But what else can I do?>

    Ukyou was in an unenviable position.  Her love for Ranma was not something she could have explained to anyone.  She had first fallen for him when she was too young to even know what love really was, but it had endured through ten years of separation.  He had been the center of her life all that time, whether or not she cared to admit it.  All the time she spent in training in her martial arts style had been with Ranma foremost in her mind, and the time she had spent in pursuing him had been for a reunion that she had convinced herself was purely for revenge.  She had thought that she hated him for leaving her behind, but it only took one moment of kindness to show her otherwise.  Her love for him had reasserted itself in that one crashing moment, and there was no room in her heart for denying it.

    If Ranma could only have seen her as a potential girlfriend, it would have been perfect, but he couldn't.  He knew that she was a woman, and had even said she was pretty, but deep down in his mind he still thought of her as the little boy he'd believed her to be when they first met.  She had a special place in his heart, but it was as his best buddy.  The tragedy was that Ukyou knew it.  She had tried time and again to win him over, and been burned each time when he had unconsciously turned to Akane whenever he wanted approval for something.  Still, her pride and stubborn nature would not allow her to let him go, even though she often was hurt by his inability to think of her the way she wanted him to.  Her one enduring hope was the fact that of all the girls chasing him, he liked her cooking the best.  If the way to a man's heart was through his stomach, then she still had a chance.

    It took only a few minutes more for her to change out of her work clothes, pick up her battle spatula, and lock the door behind her as she started off to the Tendo Dojo.

    Ryouga Hibiki was trying to find his way home… again.  He was walking down yet another unfamiliar street in yet another strange town when his eye was drawn to an electronics store display featuring several sets that were all showing the same news report.  Seeing Ranma's face on the screen, he paused to listen to the Police spokesman.

    "…So far, we have no information as to the identity of the men holding the bank customers hostage."

    No one could ever fault Ryouga's powers of observation.  He rarely missed anything that was happening around him (and to Ranma's great frustration, he seemed to be around at the most inconvenient times). It was his interpretation of what he saw that usually lacked something.  This time, however, he immediately grasped the situation correctly.  Ranma was in danger.  Ranma could be hurt or killed.  He, Ryouga, could be cheated of his revenge.  To Ryouga, the thought of Ranma being harmed by anyone else was intolerable.  He stood for a moment, arm out to his side holding a lamppost for support, as he struggled to get his temper under control.

    <Damn!  I don't even know how to get to that bank!  What do I do now?>

    Suddenly inspiration hit him.  Akane would know where the bank was located!  A grim smile spread across his face.

    <Yes!  I'll find Akane, and she can tell me where the bank is!  Then I can get to Ranma before those guys can do anything to him!>

    That thought galvanized him, and leaving behind the lamppost, which now had a hand print sunk into its surface, he bolted down the street on his way to the Tendo Dojo.

    Passing a sign that read "KYOTO CITY LIMITS".

    In the Niwa home, Kazuko and her mother were watching the news program with a sense of dread.  For such a thing to happen in Nerima was unbelievable. Mrs. Niwa was wishing with all her heart that her husband was not so far away. It would be much easier to reassure Kazuko if her father were there.

    "Okasan, why are those men doing that to those people? Why don't they just take the money and let them go?"

    "I don't know, Kaze-chan.  I don't understand how anyone would do such a terrible thing, either.  I just pray that everyone there will be safe."

    She held her daughter close to her as she watched the unfolding drama. Because of her own negative experiences at school, Kazuko often had a hard time believing that things would work out for the best. If only there was someone to talk to Kazuko that she would believe in…

    Then she realized that there was a person Kazuko trusted.  Ranma would know how to cheer up Kazuko.  She resolutely turned off the television.

    "Come, Kaze-chan.  Get your coat.  We will go to visit Saotome-san."

      Shampoo leaped to the top of the wall surrounding the Dojo, leaving her bicycle propped against the home across from it.  She paused for a moment to see if anyone was looking.  The sliding doors of the verandah were open, and she could see that everyone was gathered around the dining table, apparently fascinated by something on the television she was hearing faintly.  This was perfect!  The only one missing from the group was Ranma, so she would be able to find him unhindered by his father or the Tendo family.  She dropped into the yard, careful not to make any noise.  A short dash across the lawn, and she was at the main entrance of the house, out of sight of the verandah.  She crept into the house, and made her way to the kitchen.

    Shampoo saw that Kasumi had been preparing dinner before becoming distracted by whatever it was on the television, but had moved the pots away from the burners of the stove so that it would not be ruined.  She had left  a variety of covered bowls sitting on the kitchen counter, and many of the bowls were similar to the one containing Shampoo's gyoza.  Shampoo had been concerned about how awkward it would be to try finding Ranma while lugging the carry box with her, but this was ideal.  She took the bowl of her special gyoza out of the box and placed it on the counter, behind the other bowls that were already there.  She was confidant that she could find Ranma and bring him down to the kitchen before the TV program ended, and no one was going to notice her bowl among all the others.

    The only question left was whether or not Ranma would eat any of the gyoza.  Shampoo took one out of her bowl and nibbled at it (demonstrating the major reason her cooking was better than Akane's.  Akane NEVER tasted her own food before she inflicted it on Ranma).  It tasted no different than gyoza made with normal ingredients, and there was also no difference in smell or appearance.  Ranma would have no reason to be suspicious of them, and she brought him free food often enough for him not to question her motives too closely.

    She silently slipped out of the kitchen and went upstairs to look for Ranma.

    Ukyou arrived at the Dojo and knocked at the gate.  When no one answered after a reasonable time, she opened it herself and went inside.  Walking to the side of the house to the verandah, she was greeted by the sight of Genma and Soun lying on the ground, snoring loudly.  Between that and the volume of the television, which was turned up high, she could understand why they had not heard her knock.  Stepping over the bodies, she went to the side entrance of the house and removed her shoes before tapping at the door frame.  Kasumi looked up and smiled at her.

    "Why, hello Kuonji-san.  Have you come to see Ranma?  I'm afraid that he's not home right now; he's being held hostage in a bank and we're not certain when he will be back."

    After a long moment in which the other girls stared at her with their mouths hanging open, Kasumi blinked.

    "Um, did I say something wrong?"

    Kasumi was the kind of person that it was easy to underestimate.  She often came across to people as being essentially brainless, when that was simply not true.  Kasumi had graduated from High School with honors.  She was also able to read and understand the medical textbooks she borrowed from Doctor Tofu.  Those same books would have had both of her sisters in a daze after only a few pages.  She was, however, so distracted by her own concerns that she often said the first thing that popped into her head, without considering how those around her might take it.

    When her mother died, Kasumi had buried her own grief deep inside, and stepped in to fill the role of mother not only for her sisters, but to some extent for her father as well.  She had so completely immersed herself in her duties that many considered her the archetype of what the perfect Japanese housewife should be.  Now, hardly anyone stopped to remember what Kasumi had been like before her mother died.  Fortunately, Kasumi was quite content to let it be that way; she had discovered within herself a strong maternal instinct, and for the most part was happy that her family depended on her.  It gave her a feeling of fulfillment to see to the daily needs of her family, and the inclusion of Ranma and Genma into her world was an easy step for her to take.  She was also determined to cope with all the absurdities that happened around her, and took pride in providing whatever was needed for any given situation at the drop of a hat, be it Panda food, hot water, or advanced emergency medical services.

    The downside to her loving nature was that she worried constantly about her extended family.  This made her seem absent-minded much of the time.  Just then, she was worried to distraction about Ranma.  She had come to love him as the brother she had never had, and it might even have bloomed into something more if only he had been able to talk to her at her level.  The day he had arrived, she had said, "younger men bore me", and she had meant it.  In her experience, only men several years older than she was had the discipline and emotional stability to interest her.  As it was, she still found the eligible men of her generation to be too immature for serious consideration as a potential husbands.  This did not bother her unduly, however.  She was happy enough with her current life, and the future would take care of itself.  After all, her father had found an acceptable fiancee for Akane, hadn't he?  Her attention at that moment had been on how best to distract her sisters from Ranma's predicament, and that was the reason for the Freudian slip.  Still, since her purpose had been to relieve the tension that everyone was under, if tripping over her own subconscious did the job, then she could be philosophical about it.

    Kodachi was the next to arrive at the Dojo.  She swung down from the roof to the window of the room Ranma shared with his father, which had been left open to catch the afternoon breeze.  She gracefully landed in a crouch on the floor of the room just as Shampoo walked in the door.  They both froze in shock for a moment, then Kodachi scowled at Shampoo.

    "You!  What are you doing in my Ranma-sama's room, you foreign hussy?"

    Shampoo's eyes narrowed in anger, and her hands twitched, reaching for weapons she did not have with her.

    "Crazy girl no ask question of Shampoo.  She get out of way, or Shampoo kill!"

    Kodachi rolled away from Shampoo, smoothly springing to her feet.  As she stood in a relaxed posture, ready for anything, she produced gymnastics clubs and one of her trademark ribbons.  She smiled a confidant, dangerous smile.

    "I don't think so."

    Shampoo took a ready stance of her own, as she wondered for the millionth time:

    <{Where does she keep that stuff, anyway?  That outfit is too skimpy to conceal a stick of gum, much less the things she carries with her.  One of these days, I'm going to have to beat the secret of hiding weapons that way out of Mousse.}>

    One thing was certain, taking on a loon like Kodachi without her bonbori was going to be interesting.

    Kazuko and Mrs. Niwa had to search for a while to find the Dojo.  Navigating around Tokyo was always a test of patience; with little in the way of street addresses, it was usually necessary to ask directions of policemen, local shop owners, and noodle delivery boys to find a place one had not been to before.  On the plus side, the Tendo home was infamous around Nerima, so there were no lack of people who knew how to direct them.  The disconcerting part was the inevitable commentary that came with the directions.

    "The Tendo Dojo?  Are you sure you want to go there?"
    "The Tendo place?  Isn't that kind of dangerous for your little girl?"

    The people Mrs. Niwa met also would congregate and gossip as she was walking away with Kazuko, and she could not help but hear some of the scandalous things they were saying.  She began to wonder why the Dojo had such a reputation among its neighbors, but she pressed on anyway.  If Ranma lived there, then the rumors had to be greatly exaggerated.

    As they walked up to the gate into the property, they noticed that it was already open.  Mrs. Niwa looked inside to see if anyone was in the yard.  When she saw no one, she tried the bell-pull next to the gate.  A few minutes later, an attractive young lady with light brown hair came around the corner of the house towards the gate.

    "Hello.  Welcome to the Dojo.  I'm Kasumi Tendo; what can we do for you?"

     Ryouga had run full tilt for miles before he noticed that the city he was in bore no resemblance to Tokyo at all.  He slowed to a stop at an intersection, then turned in a full circle to check out his surroundings.  That, as usual, was a grave mistake; afterwards, he had absolutely no idea which street he had come down to get where he was.  Ryouga swung his head from side to side, staring wildly at the confusion of shops and buildings around him.  All the streets looked exactly the same to him, a confusion of narrow lanes with buildings crowded together so closely that there was almost no room to see the sky.  Ryouga began to feel like he was a rat trapped in a maze.


    Despair, his all-too-familiar companion, settled into his heart for a nice long stay.  Ryouga began running again, not really caring which way he was going.  This was very unfortunate for the quiet neighborhood of Kyoto he was in, because he'd been facing a wall at the time, and in his blind panic he crashed right through it and all the buildings behind it.  A trail of destruction like the path of a tornado marked his progress through town.

    Local Insurance company claim centers soon began receiving the first of a seemingly endless string of telephone calls, and would forever afterward refer to that evening as "Black Friday".


To be continued.

Chapter 3
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