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Chapter 3: Caught By Surprise

A Ranma ½ story
by Adrian D. Moten

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


Dr. Tofu sat in his office, a small overhead lamp shining down upon him and a spread of papers on his desk. Over and over, he leafed through the papers, his eyes comparing one document with another. The papers continued to rustle as he examined one lone form lying at the corner of his desk.

"Argh!" He put a hand to his forehead, pushing back strands of his hair from his forehead. "There has to be something they've missed, some dumb mistake I've been skipping over… But what is it?"

Tofu began to read the forms over, one by one. "I still can't believe that Kasumi is… pregnant." He sighed heavily. "How could this happen? She never had a boyfriend in the last few years, Nabiki commented before. How on earth could she let herself become—" His brows furrowed upon reading more of the documents, and he did not finish the comment.


Kasumi slipped out of the bathroom and headed towards the stairs that lead to her room. She heard Akane and Ranma getting into another fight in the kitchen, but her nature to quell arguments was already busy with another battle. Mind versus heart, the need to do what is considered to be right versus the need to do what is desired. If she weren’t pregnant, the choice would have almost been clear-cut, but now…

Oh, my… no matter what choice is made, things will never be the same again.


"Get out of the way, Ranma. I'm going to see Kasumi."

"Dammit, Akane, I just told you Kasumi doesn't want to see anyone right now—"

"And you haven't told me why! Unless you're lying and keeping one of your other 'fiancées' up there-"

"I just told you no one else is here but Kasumi! Don't you trust me?"

"Why the hell would I trust a pervert like you for?!"

Ranma reeled back as if she struck him hard. She doesn't trust me? The gravity of her words stuck fast to him. She doesn't trust me… She really doesn't… trust… His head fell a little, images and thoughts from the vacation coming back to him…


"Really, Shiru, it wasn't necessary to come all the way from Tokyo and pick us up. Tou Ouizumi is a good distance out of the way and-"

"Oh, Kasumi, relax!" Shiru Naresome, the girl with waist-long, raven-black hair, replied, waving a dismissive hand. "It's all perfectly fine, and I like to drive. 'Sides, trains take too long, and getting a ride here in any other way would be costing you a ton."

Kasumi nodded as she stuffed away some of her clothes into the dresser. "I just don't want us to be inconveniencing you as it is."

"You? An inconvenience? Don't be silly! You're my friend, my best friend at that. I'm only too glad to do favors for you." She then gave Kasumi a sly smile. "And I bet the next two weeks with cutie pie, he'll be doing a lot of 'favors' for you…" she said, almost purring.

"Shiru!" The eldest Tendo stared wide-eyed at her friend. "Ranma is Akane's fiancé, and I would never even think of betraying her!"

"Uh huh… sure you wouldn’t…" The sly grin did not disappear.

"Honestly, they are in love with each other."

"Which explains why she smashed him flat into the ground with that hammer before we left." Before Kasumi could defend her younger sister's actions, she was cut off. "Look, you already told me about them being engaged by giri. It's so sweet, noble… and much too traditional for today's life. They don't love each other in that way, no matter what they think. I'm telling you, it's just not there."

"But—"

"Why do I say that? Because they don't trust each other. Not one whit of it, as far as I can see."

"Well, Akane is the jealous type."

"Not to mention possessive, attention-starved, stubborn, and— what's the word?— controlling."

"She isn't as bad as you make her out to be," Kasumi protested.

"Oh, no?" She got that little smirk in the corner of her mouth, which Kasumi recognized as one of two things: either she was going to do something very mischievous, or she was going to make a hard point. Either way, it wasn't a good sign for her; they may have been friends for years, but that was one aspect of Shiru's personality she could live without. "She steadfastly says she doesn't want to be engaged to him, then turns around and smacks him around whenever he is just in the presence of another female." One of her eyebrows arched upward. "If that's not the signs of a possessive, attention-starved, stubborn, controlling girl, I'll eat my pillow."

Kasumi surrendered on that point. There was a ring of truth to her words, even if she didn't completely agree with every negative statement.

"My opinion says she resents both him and his little curse. She was forced into this engagement, rather than letting Ranma get to know his potential fiancées, and the only reason she is still engaged to him is because she doesn't want to disappoint her dad."

"Shiru! How can you say all of that?"

"Number one matchmaker when we were in school, remember? My instincts tell me." Then she paused. "Well, your letters and the few psychology classes I've taken in college helps."


Unknown to Kasumi and Shiru, Ranma was just outside the room Kasumi would be occupying for the next two weeks. He was intent on asking Shiru about using the backyard for his morning practices, but he heard them talking through the closed door. He hadn't meant to eavesdrop, but the intensity, and the subject, of the conversation was beginning to get to him. So Ranma pushed his senses a little farther and listened with an attentive ear. What he heard shocked him to the core. She spoke so harshly of Akane, and yet… He dismissed her talk after a moment. 'That's crazy. I know my feelings about Akane. What does she know about us anyways? And giri has nothing to do with it.' He started to leave; however, on a deeper level, Shiru's words left him feeling a little ill at ease, though he wouldn't admit it to himself. Curiosity, as well as rooting about for a way to soothe his inner doubts, he listened on.


Kasumi remembered the how Shiru stumbled into Ranma— literally!— with a glass of cold water. As expected, the transformation occurred, pressing a pair of large, full breasts into her face where there was once a strong, male chest. She passed out from the shock. What was running through her friend's mind when she came to, she had no idea, but not only had she recovered from her initial shock, she was even more lively that before and spent a lot of time talking with Ranma, prying out of him a fair amount of history, particularly about him and Akane.

Somewhere inside of Kasumi, she envied Shiru's acceptance of the entire situation with so much calm and open friendliness to Ranma. She cursed herself for not being like that when she first found out about his curse. Maybe things would have been much more different if she had…

She forced herself to stop that line of thought. She was here to get rid of those thoughts once again, not to feed them. However, Shiru was making it a daunting task at the moment.

"Ooh… is that a blush on your cheeks?"

"What?" Kasumi blinked hard, instinctively feeling her cheek.

"You are blushing! With thoughts of Ranma on your mind, no doubt!"

She started to deny, but just sighed and unfolded her dresses. "Yes. I wish Father had not insisted on Ranma accompanying me."

"Oh? Why do you say that?"

Stopping the unfurling of her remaining dresses, Kasumi sat down on the bed. Shiru grabbed the chair at the study desk and made herself comfortable as well. The oldest Tendo cleared her throat, then began her tale. She brought to life the story about the oni that had broken free from a thousand-year-old ward and began to possess Genma, Kuno, Ryouga, and the Shinto priest before Ranma captured it in its box. Unfortunately, the priest applied the wrong ward to the box and the family soon discovered that it had possessed Kasumi. Since no one had the heart to strike her (thanks to Soun's "persuasiveness"), they had to endure the evils that she was capable of all night (Shiru dared not to think what evils Kasumi was capable of, as she would have probably fell out of her chair laughing). The next day, the now-miserable household found out that the oni would leave Kasumi…after it had drained her dry. Quickly, Soun offered himself to the oni in exchange for Kasumi's safety, but that never came to fruition; however, after a serious persuasion, the priest banished the oni from Kasumi with a ward. Ranma (with help from Ryouga) attacked the oni with the proper prayer ribbons, but after watching them get shredded, Kasumi caught one of the falling prayer ribbons and noticed that the kanji was missing a brushstroke. The oni possessed Happousai, but it found that two evils certainly do not mix, allowing Ranma to recapture it (and the perverted Master) and reseal the box with the ward that the oldest Tendo had corrected.

"Well…" Shiru stretched out her legs. "You do lead an interesting life after all. But what exactly does an oni has to do with you having the hots for Ranma?"

She blushed slightly at her friend's term. "Remember the part where it was inside of my head all night?" Her friend nodded. "Well, it rooted through every little part of my mind, discovering everything about me, secrets, wishes, dreams…" Kasumi paused. "…Desires…"

"Oh…"

"Yes. Exorcising it out of my mind did nothing for the mess of emotions that ran amok. I spent a couple of days trying to put everything back into its place as before. It almost worked, too…"

"…but your feelings towards Ranma won't go back into hiding, ne?" A meek "yes" was her answer.

Shiru pushed her advantage. "So, do you love him? And I don't mean like family and friends."

For a few moments, silence spoke in volumes. Then slowly Kasumi began to speak. "Well, I…” She took in a sharp breath and spoke. "Y-yes. I… I suppose you could say I… I am… I do love him…" Her head fell forward. "Oh, my… this wasn't suppose to be happening…"


Ranma could have sworn everyone in a five-kilometer radius heard him blink. Kasumi? In love with me? Suddenly, his life became a whole lot more complicated. Gods, I'm going to have—

"But it's much too late for things to change. He is already Akane's…"

He was drawn out of his stupor by that statement. Huh? She loves me, yet Kasumi isn't going to chase after me or anything? No tricks or schemes? She's just going to let Akane have me? His brow furrowed as he tried to figure out just why he felt disappointed.


"Oh, come on, Kasumi. You're always giving up way too easily—"

"But he already has three other fiancées besides Akane—"

"Three others?" Shiru whistled. "Better snatch him up while you got him all to yourself."

Kasumi's cheeks turned a light shade of red.

She chuckled, which caused her nose to twitch slightly. "Control yourself girl; I'm just kidding… maybe.”

Ever so slightly, her cheeks darkened with embarrassment.

“In your letters, you mentioned Shampoo, the Amazon that's virtually married to Ranma; Kuno Kodachi, the flower girl from St. Hebereke Girl's School that's out to marry him;" (he couldn't help but shudder at the thought) "and Kuonji Ukyou, the okonomiyaki chef that was engaged to him when they were six years old." There was a clicking sound made, the kind of sound made with the tongue and the roof of the mouth, then after a moment's pause, Shiru resumed talking.

"From the way I see things, Shampoo's a bit too pushy. She doesn't quite love him as much as she would like to think she does, or else she wouldn't be slipping him potions to gain his heart." Outside, Ranma slowly nodded in agreement. Shampoo had tried to win his love with a few potions and pills, and god knew Cologne had tried on more than one occasion to entrap him into a wedding with her great-granddaughter.

"Kodachi… Well, just from listening how Ranma described her, I think the girl’s completely off her rocker. Either that, or she has way too much money on her hands.”

On the other side of the door, Ranma pumped his fist in agreement.

“Well, she is certainly… unique.”

Shiru perked a brow at her friend. “You know, you’re too nice for your own good, sometimes. Always looking for the silver lining.”

“Is that so wrong?”

“Not really, but it gets annoying at times. At least get angry once in a while; it really creeps me out to see you always so happy-looking.”

She made a face. “There is nothing wrong with being content with life.”

“No, but at the rate you’re going, I’m going to start wondering if you’re secretly getting stoned on the weekends.”

“Shiru!” Kasumi exclaimed, scandalized.

She simply smirked, her nose twitching slightly. “Just kidding….”

Kasumi sighed. “Remind me again why you’re my best friend?”

“Oh, you wound me!” After a dramatic clasp of hands over her heart, Shiru laughed. Kasumi joined her, unable to stay… disappointed with her friend for long.


Ranma, on the other hand started to leave again. If I wanted to hear all of that, I could’ve stayed home and listen to Akane and her friends at lunch. Curiosity played at his senses, though; he really wanted to know what she thought about Ukyou, so girding his resolve, he remained where he was.


"As for Ukyou,” she said once the laughter ceased. “I don’t think he’ll ever get use to the idea she’s really a girl.”

“What makes you say that?” Kasumi asked.

“Because he still treats her like one of the guys.”

“He does?” Kasumi spoke aloud.

I do? Ranma thought to himself.

“Even listen to how he talks about her? All buddy this, and buddy that, and good old Ucchan…. If she’s taking their engagement seriously, it’s certainly a one-sided affair. He pretty much doesn’t consider her a viable choice if he isn’t consciously thinking about the matter.”

“Oh my. I never really thought about that.”


Ranma did not have a thought to respond with. Instead he tiptoed away from the room, deciding to ask Shiru about using her backyard later. For the moment, he had much thinking to do.

Somewhere within Ranma, the uneasiness he had felt earlier began to intensify ever so slightly.


Kasumi sighed a little, lying back on the bed. "You make it sound so simple, but—"

"You can. After all, Ranma was engaged to Nabiki, ne?"

"Yes… but she was only using him for her own ends. Admittedly, her scheming have kept us afloat since Mother died and Father stopped teaching, but still, I wish she didn't abuse Ranma's trust like so. It's so… not nice."

"Hmm… So why haven't you made your claim to him yet?"

She blinked at the bold question, then thought about it briefly. "Shiru, I-I don't want him resenting me; after all, I helped push the engagement onto Akane, when I should have accepted it in the beginning without question. I was scared… he changed into a girl… and that— Oh my."

"Yeah, I hear you. It was pretty freaky; feeling a solid chest under your cheek, then suddenly out pops a pair of breasts." She shrugged a little. "Just have to take the bad with the good, is all. We all have our little quirks. And it's not like the person inside changed any now, is it?"

“Well, no, he hasn’t really, but still…” She turned her eyes to Shiru. “How were you able to cope with it so well?”

“Like I said, take the bad with the good.” She paused, then swiveled off her chair and flopped down beside Kasumi. “Of course, being bisexual doesn’t hurt, either.”

She blinked. Twice. “Excuse me?” she said, once she found her voice.

“You know, bisexual. Liking men and women.” She gave her a serious look. “Didn’t I ever tell you that?”

“Um… no…”

“Oh. Well, now you know. Does that little revelation change your opinion about me?” She snuggled a little closer to her friend.

Kasumi willed herself not to suddenly throw herself away. “N-no… I-it doesn’t change you who are inside. Y-you’re still Shiru.”

She turned her attention away from her, choosing to look out before her. “Well, that’s all well and good. But, you know something?”

“That you just made another clever point by pretending to be bisexual?”

Shiru blinked once. “Hey, how did you guess?” she asked, turning her head to look at her best friend.

“You had to turn away from me to hide your smirk.”

“Oh… ” She sighed. “Well, there goes the dramatic suspense I was building up.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be. At least that proves you aren’t getting stoned on weekends.”

“Shiru…”

“You did see what I was driving at, though, right?”

The Tendo daughter took a breath, and nodded. “I did.” She turned away and stared at the far wall, sucking her lower lip briefly. "It is a little tempting… but I still don't want to betray Akane…"

"No one's asking you to betray anyone, and I'm certainly not suggesting you seduce him and screw his brains out and make him yours." She chuckled at her own words, which earned her a strangely considerate look from her friend. "However, I don't want you to betray yourself on this. You really got it bad for him, and not once have you brought up your stately principals about younger men."

She blinked at that. She's right, I haven't. Oh, my…

"Kasumi."

"Yes?"

"Just consider being straight up with him about this. No sense in missing out on what could have been, and if he doesn't feel the same, hey, nothing lost, ne?"

"I… I suppose you're right, but something bad may become of this."

"Oh, don't be such a worry-wart, okay?"

"Okay…" Kasumi said. A smile crept across her face.


It had been four days since Shiru waved good-bye to her and Ranma at the Tokyo International Airport terminal. Since then, she busied herself with cleaning and cooking, though she had to restrain herself a little on the latter as there were only two people living at the residence. Ranma practiced the Art in Shiru's backyard; when that wasn't enough, he lounged around the living room bored out of his mind.

At least Kasumi thought he was bored, until she noticed how he seemed to be thinking about something. Also, he hadn't spoken many times with her when she was in the same room with him. Something wasn't right, but what?


"Ranma, can we talk?"

He brought a close to his kata, then straightened out. He looked at the backyard steps, where Kasumi was standing at in wait. At least she's starting the conversation. One less thing to worry about. "What'cha want, Kasumi?"

She walked down the steps and stood in front of him. Looking him directly into his eyes, she asked. "Tell me, are you angry with me?"

He blinked. "A-a-angry? with you? Wh-wh-why would I be angry? It's just so… so sudden, that's all." He hastily looked away from her face. She knew? But how…?

Looking away herself, she sighed softly. "You are angry with me… I'm sorry; I shouldn't have forced you into this."

"No! No, it's all right, you know!" he automatically spoke up. "In fact, I think it's probably the best thing that could have happened, actually." He chuckled a bit too nervous, his hand scratching the back of his head, as he wondered what exactly possessed him to say that.

"Really?"

"Um, yeah, I suppose…" He felt terrible about making Kasumi feel so bad. Even when she said she wasn't going to pursue after Ranma as had Shampoo, Ukyou, and Kodachi a few nights ago… "Er, Kasumi?"

She met his gaze again. "Yes, Ranma?"

Now, how could he make this up to her? What makes Akane feel better? "Um, how… how about we go get something to eat later on?" Okay, so I'm thinking what makes me feel better.

Kasumi blinked. Twice. Did he just ask me out?

So caught up in his own thoughts, Ranma didn't notice the change in her face. "Ah, I was kind of thinking we go to that foreign restaurant, I think it was called… the New York Grill? Sounds pretty interesting, I think."

Not doubt, she was stunned beyond words, but she managed to squeeze out something Kasumi-ish. "Ah, yes, yes, that sounds wonderful. I'd be delighted to." She smiled, if not a little nervous.

He smiled back. "Great. We can call a cab and go, oh, about six or so. That's okay with you?"

"O… okay, Ranma."

"All right, then. I better go ahead and finish up practicing then. See you in a little bit, okay?"

"Um, sure." Kasumi walked up the stairs and into the house, closing the door behind her. That was certainly strange. Ranma usually is trapped into dates with Akane, yet he just asked me so effortlessly. She allowed herself a smile. Well, in his own way, of course.


Meanwhile, Ranma returned to his kata. A minute into it, something dawned on him as he sprang into mid air. Did I just ask Kasumi out on a date? He froze in mid leap, landing uncharacteristically clumsily into a small pond that he had never noticed before. Out surfaced Onna-Ranma. "I just asked Kasumi out? Oh, gods, Akane's going to kill me when she finds out!"


The date (though Ranma would deny that it was just that) had started out quietly, with Kasumi making small talk, though Ranma wasn't a very big talker to begin with. Also, he was rather nervous about what could go possibly go wrong; every time he went somewhere with Akane, he would be ambushed by some or all of his fiancées, attacked by Mousse, Kuno, or Ryouga, or get caught up in some trick to be wedded off. As they arrived to the New York Grill, Ranma loosened up, though it was mostly in anticipation of the food. Walking into the restaurant, he felt kind of proud of himself; he managed to save up a proper amount of money without Nabiki's schemes eating it away (some of it was from the failed dates when Oyaji and Mr. Tendo had set him up with Akane). The two ordered their food, then engaged in some idle conversation. Their meals arrived and they ate up; Ranma even restrained himself from his normal eating methods (as Oyaji wasn't around trying to steal off his plate). Afterwards, Kasumi wanted to take a walk in the park. He agreed after a moment of hesitation.

As they walked, Kasumi glanced at him from time to time without making it too obvious, secretly thankful that they were near the same height. Ranma is a lot easier to talk to now, Kasumi thought. I wonder why he is so nervous, though.

"That was delicious, ne, Kasumi?" Ranma said, patting his stomach lightly. He had chosen a dark blue, long-sleeved Chinese shirt with contrasting wooden white ties and white cuffs, coal black pants, and shoes of the same color. As usual, his black hair was pulled back in a pigtail and tied with red rope.

"Yes. They seem to take exceptional care in their cooking." Kasumi, who was just behind him, wore a green sweater, a tan dress, off-white, low heel shoes, and carried a similar colored purse. Her soft brown hair, wound tightly and tied with a white ribbon, lay still on her right shoulder.

He drank in the scene around him. "Still, it's no match to your cooking," he said absently.

Kasumi blushed slightly at his comment and was thankful he wasn't looking in her direction.

He exhaled. "Haven't felt this relaxed in a long time. I wish this moment could last forever."

I wish this could last forever, too.

"But with my luck, something's bound to happen any time now."

Her daydream broken, Kasumi looked at him. "Oh, Ranma, don't look for the bad side of everything."

He snorted a little. "Honestly, Kasumi. I can't even remember the last time I've went somewhere in another girl's company without one of my fiancées finding us, or having to deal with a jealous rival wanting to kill me because I've been engaged to someone they like. It's so frustrating having to always stay on my toes, trying to figure out how to fix things without hurting or dishonoring everyone else.

"As far as I'm aware of, I have Akane and Ukyou as my legitimate fiancées, no thanks to Oyaji. I'm also linked with Shampoo based on some stupid Amazon law. Kodachi wants to make me her husband.

"I have way too many problems due to these fiancées and this curse. Kuno continually rants about me being an evil sorcerer who has bewitched Akane and his 'pig-tailed girl’, Ryouga's always picking a fight for some 'injustice' I've caused Akane, Mousse thinks I've bewitched Shampoo into loving me instead of him…" He stopped walking and turned to look behind him, letting his words trail off. "I'm sorry, Kasumi. Didn't mean to drop all that on you."

"No, Ranma, it's quite all right, actually."

"Really?"

She smiled at him. "Yes, it is. It helps to talk about the things that bother us the most."

Ranma seemed to consider her words for a moment. "I… I think you may be right. Feel a little better, you know, just getting all that off my chest…" He seemed to want to say something, but the words were not coming for several minutes.

Gently, she touched his shoulder. "Perhaps, we should return home, Ranma."

He blinked at her, then awareness came to him. "Y-yeah, I… guess we better." Together, they started walking back to the park's entrance. From there, they would hail a taxi and return to Shiru's home.

Kasumi was walking beside Ranma. Perhaps I should just tell him… perhaps… A glance towards Ranma told her that he was lost in thought. Perhaps I shouldn't complicate his life any more than it is… perhaps…

As she debated with herself, Ranma's hand accidentally brushed hers. Kasumi went rigid. The rippling sensation from the brief contact left her feeling very much as she had felt after asking her father's permission to take this trip; a racing heartbeat, a dryness in her mouth, trouble breathing, a sensitive bosom, an uncomfortably warm and slick feeling beneath her dress, and a gaggle of feelings and sensations, the most pronounced ones now being ecstasy, fulfillment, fear and devotion. She felt very warm and fuzzy and whole for a brief moment, the loneliness and emptiness she once felt had vanished…

…then it returned like unwanted relatives quickly.

No matter if it's right or wrong, I must… She cleared her throat, and wrung her hands in front of her. "Ranma?"

He looked in her direction. "Yes, Kasumi?"

"Well, you see… something has been… bothering me. For some time now." The advice sounds so good, when you're not forced to take it yourself, that is.

"Oh?"

"Yes." So far, so good.

"Ka-Kasumi…?"

"…I… I… Ranma-" Can't be nervous now. I've already started; I must finish it. "Well, you see, Ranma, I… I have to tell you something—"

"MEOW"

"…Oh, my…"


Man, I could get use to this. No stupid Oyaji, no pressure, no rivals, no fiancée problems… His gaze slipped up to the eldest Tendo daughter as he took in the scene around him. Inwardly, he sighed. Though I really have no idea what to do about Kasumi. She's the only one who has ever been nice to me, for as long as I can remember. Never hits me for some stupid mistake. Always willing to listen. Such beautiful eyes. A wonderful cook. A kind— Gah! What was I saying? I don't want another fiancée!

The conversation he overheard had been weighing on his mind for the last few days. For the first time in a long while, he’d had time to actually think about things like the engagement. In the past, he sometimes felt that he really wanted the engagement to Akane, no matter how much he would deny it. She had wanted to be friends when he first arrived at the Tendo home. Her smile made him feel good, and she was cute whenever she did smile at him. She was always quick to help him out, even when he didn't want it. Of course, Akane had her bad points, too. She was violent, always hitting him with an array of objects (mallets seemed to be her tool of choice, though he still had no idea where they came from). Sometimes, he conceded that he deserved an occasional lump for being a little too honest in his speech, but most of the poundings he had to endure were not his fault. He didn't have much control over his fiancées, or Kodachi. He certainly couldn't control Akane's inability to put two and two together and figure out that P-Chan, her pet pig whom she took to bed with her every night whenever she found him wandering about, was really the Eternally Lost Boy Ryouga with a Jusenkyou curse. And he sure didn't have any control over the poison Akane called her cooking (the curry she made was decent, but everything else was unfit for consumption). If she only tasted what she made, she would understand just how awful it was and why he refused to eat it.

Why exactly do I put up with Akane and her temper to begin with?

It wasn't the first time he asked himself that question. I don't know. I guess it's because I really needed the friendship after getting cursed… even if I had to go through hell for it. Nabiki just sees me as a source of income. Always has, always will. Kasumi, I thought it was because I was too young for her taste. But now… now…

He felt her hand lay on his shoulder, and a tingling sensation ran through his arm and chest. Then her soft, sweet voice began to speak. "Perhaps we should return home, Ranma."

He blinked. K-Kasumi? Being this forward? I-I-I… What do I— Panic was beginning to take hold until he realized where he was. After the panic quickly subsided, he replied, "Y-yeah, I… guess we better." They began walking back to the entrance of the park.

Man, I thought I just said I don't want another fiancée. What's wrong with you, Ranma? Get yourself together. Don't try to think about it, all right? That's just it; don't try to think about it. It's probably just a silly crush anyways…

Mmm, that's strange. I just feel good about her all of a sudden… ARGH! Why me?

He was so preoccupied with his thoughts, he failed to register that his hand touched Kasumi's when he made to put it into his pocket.

"Ranma?"

He looked in her direction. "Yes, Kasumi?"

"Well, you see… something has been… bothering me. For some time now."

Uh, oh… is this…? "Oh?"

"Yes."

"Ka-Kasumi…?" His mind was growing blank.

"…I… I… Ranma, I have to tell you something-"

"MEOW"


Ranma froze. Solid. He didn't see or hear anything other than the nightmare re-enacting itself. Again. Frantically, he looked around, gibbering "C-c-c-c-ca-ca-cat…! W-w-where…?"

Almost on command, a small, cream-colored kitten rubbed against Kasumi's leg, purring as if trying to convince her to take it home and feed it milk and fish. Had she been a little bit younger, or if she was Akane, she might have obliged it just that. Under any other circumstances, she would have at least fed it something, instead of trying to shoo it away as fast and best as she could before Ranma reached nekoken stage.

As soon as the cat was in Ranma's sight, he sped far away from his fear-given-tangible-form. Disbelief written on her face, Kasumi observed the dust trail he had kicked up in his run. Then her attention returned to the little kitten.

"Stupid cat," she spoke with quiet venom under her breath. Immediately, she felt guilty. "I'm sorry, little kitten; I shouldn't be angry with you. It isn't as if you knew Ranma's an ailurophobe." She looked down the lane where the dust was settling back to the ground. Ranma…

She walked down the path, hoping that Ranma hadn't gone farther than the entrance of the park… or ran into any more cats. Akane had been the only one who could coax him without worry when he was in the nekoken mode, and… Kasumi bit her lower lip. An idea formed, but she hastily put it out of mind; she was too afraid of getting an answer from Ranma that way. A no-doubt confirmation might be more than she could bear.

Sometimes, I wish I wasn't so passive… she thought morosely as she could make Ranma's silhouette near the entrance to the park. A cab was coming into view as well, apparently slowing down to pick her and Ranma up. Kasumi sighed softly, then picked up her pace.

 

To be continued…

Chapter 3
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