A Ranma ½ story
by DB Sommer
Any and all C&C is appreciated. You can contact me at email@example.com
Disclaimer: Ranma ½ and its characters and settings belong to Rumiko Takahashi, Shogakukan, Kitty, and Viz Video.
Preface: What's happened before: Akane got her hands on a wish and used it to wish her mother had never been in a car accident and was alive in the present. Well, her mother wasn't in an accident, and is with them in the present. There's only a slight complication; Kachiko had been in two accidents, the first occurring when she was the ripe old age of seventeen.
"All I'm saying is I can get you that rematch you want with Mom if you give me the rematch I want."
"I already gave you the terms for a rematch with me."
"Fine. Two dates if you win."
"And only one if you win."
"Why don't we make it all or nothing?"
"No!" Kachiko slammed her fist down on the dining room table. "You have to agree to one date just to get the fight started, and I get a second if I win."
"Sounds to me like you're afraid of losing," Ranma taunted, unconcerned with his tone since he and Kachiko were alone in the room. Others in the household tended to become irritable when he was anything but courteous with the "newest" addition to the Tendou family.
"Yep. It's called, 'hedging your bet', something you never do since you seem to be under the impression that you never lose."
Ranma crossed his arms in disdain. "I don't."
"Yes, yes. You only suffer 'temporary setbacks'," Kachiko said drolly. "Let me tell you something about that." She began wagging her finger at Ranma, only to stop and clutch her back as she winced in pain.
Ranma's attitude switched from taunting to one of concern. "What's wrong?"
"Cramp in my back. I get them sometimes." Kachiko winced again, then turned her back to Ranma. "Could you massage me a bit, get the circulation flowing?"
"Sure. I get them sometimes, too. It hurts like the " Ranma trailed off as Kachiko raised the back of her shirt, revealing nothing but bared flesh, her bra absent.
Ranma rose to his feet, retreating toward the door toward the backyard. "I just remembered, I've got to fight Ryouga today. He gets lonely if he doesn't get angry with me at some point during the week. Bye." The moment he cleared the threshold, he bolted through the yard and over the wall.
Kachiko ran to the doorway and shouted out, "Tachi-chan would have had the guts to massage me!" She slammed the door hard enough to nearly shatter the frame. "I can't believe he'd pass up the opportunity to massage my back. I wonder if someone messed with a pressure point connected to his sex drive or something."
A voice from behind Kachiko said, "Don't you get tired to trying to force Ranma to date you? It's obvious he doesn't want to."
Slowly, a sly and not altogether comforting smile formed on Kachiko's face. She turned and met the steady gaze of her accuser: Akane.
"For your information, Ranma is something of a weenie-boy. I knew guys like him back in school, though I never went out with one. They're indecisive when it comes to girls, usually because they've never dated one before. They always need a little push to get them going. Once they learn how much fun hanging out with the opposite gender is, they loosen up and tend to act normal. So this is really for Ranma's own good." Kachiko smiled smugly.
"Oh, please. This is for your own good and no one else's, just like everyone else that bothers Ranma. He'll be happy if you leave him alone."
"No, I like him. I'm going to give him a chance to win me over. If he manages to, who knows what will happen?"
Akane began turning red with anger. "He's my fiancé!"
Kachiko's attitude went from sly and taunting to cold. "He'll be the fiancé of whoever he wants to be, including no one, if that's what he wants. I can't think of anything more terrible than being forced into a marriage you don't want. If anyone tries making him marry, including his parents or the creepy old guy, and Ranma doesn't want to, they'll have to go through me first."
"You're trying to force him to date you," Akane stated in just as chilling tones, the girls near mirror images of one another.
"It's not the same thing. I'm helping him broaden his horizons, which he's going to have to do eventually since he's way too afraid of dating for his own good. Besides, it's not like I'm forcing him to commit to anything. Actually, it's the opposite. I won't let him commit to me until we've dated a few times, and I decide if he's worth keeping around for a long term thing, which would be way in the future, since we're both so young."
"Back off from Ranma," Akane warned.
Rather than act intimidated, Kachiko laughed. "If you're so hot and bothered about controlling who he should and shouldn't date, why don't you ask him out? Get him wrapped around your finger and you won't have to worry about a thing. I've done it to lots of guys. Like like umm, like ."
A confused look passed over her features. She began scratching her head in puzzlement. The scratching turned into hair pulling. Just as it seemed the tufts would be coming out by their roots, Kachiko released her hold and turned to Akane and shouted, "If I had met any guy worth keeping around, I'd have wrapped him around my finger! I could do it! I could!" She stomped off, muttering under her breath about meeting nothing but an unending chain of losers.
Akane, anger not assuaged in the slightest, huffed to herself and headed for the front door. Mother or not, she'd show that darn Kachiko.
With it being dinnertime, and gut instinct telling him it would be best to not be at home for awhile, Ranma had opted to eat at the restaurant nearest to where he was: Ucchan's. As he had expected, the food was good and the service prompt as Ukyou reserved most of her attention for him. It made for a pleasing eating experience.
He was just about to devour his second okonomiyaki, Ukyou beaming in approval of his hearty appetite, when Akane stormed into the shop and stomped her way to him.
She grabbed Ranma by the back of the pigtail, and pulled him away from the counter. "Come on, Ranma, we're going out."
"See you later!" Ranma called out to Ukyou as he was pulled out of the restaurant, food left behind on the counter.
"Hey, you didn't pay yet!" Ukyou called out, slightly irritated, though not at the lack of payment. Why hadn't she thought of taking the direct approach to get him to go out with her?
Kachiko hummed merrily to herself as she skipped down the stairs, taking long strides that were closer to leaps. Her feet came into contact with the steps only three times before she landed lightly upon the wooden floor below.
Upon arriving at the bottom, she took a moment to reexamine her clothing. A better part of an hour had been spent painstakingly choosing an ensemble that would elicit a precise reaction from the male of the species. It was a newer style that she would never have been allowed to wear in her time, one that would have made her parents disown her on the spot if they saw her wearing it. She wore a white sleeveless top that was actually more of a front, since it lacked a back. Instead it was a collection of strings that tied around the back and neck to hold it in place. Likewise, she didn't bother wearing a bra. The shorts she wore were black, tight around her backside, and worn low, so the top string of the thong underneath peeked above the waistband, broadcasting to the world her choice in undergarments. Having a string riding through the crack of her bottom was a bit uncomfortable, but sacrifices were necessary if she was going to entice Ranma into acting like a normal guy. The clothing only accentuated her demure-yet-fit frame. It was the best she could come up with. If it didn't work, nothing would.
With a light step she danced across the floor and into the living room. "Oh Ranma, where are you?" she called out in a sing-song voice.
There was no answer. Disappointed that her prey failed to respond to her mating call, she headed toward the bath. Seeing no occupied sign up, Kachiko began considering her choices. The Saotome bedroom remained, but that would mean possibly running into Ranma's evil (and elderly) mother. There was no way he was in the girls' bedrooms; he wouldn't even massage her bare back when asked to do so. Maybe he was in the backyard, and on the way there, she could check out the kitchen as well.
As Kachiko strolled into the kitchen, she saw only Kasumi was present, wiping down some of the cutting boards.
Kasumi started to greet her mother when she saw what Kachiko was wearing. She drew back, aghast, then pulled the tablecloth from the table and ran toward Kachiko. "Mother, put some clothes on before someone sees you like that."
Kachiko fended off the attempts to be draped in the cover. "Knock it off! I'm dressed to go out and have a good time. Now, where's Ranma?"
"Akane called a little while ago and said she and Ranma wouldn't be back for dinner since they were out on a date."
"WHAT?!" Kachiko shrieked. "When I told her to ask him out on a date, I didn't mean she should actually ask him out! She was supposed to get angry at the implication she likes him and stomp off, growling she doesn't care about him, like people like her always do! Actually asking him out goes against everything Nabiki told me she's done before! I can't believe she outmaneuvered me like this!"
The earlier delight disappeared, replaced by a dark miasma of anger. "I'll show that idiot Ranma. I'll go out with Tachi-kun, and we'll have such a good time it'll make that dummy sorry. I might even enjoy Tachi-kun so much I'll just ignore Ranma from now on and rub his face in the fact Tachi-kun's so much cooler than him."
Kasumi interjected herself at that point. "I have a much better idea, Mother."
"It's Kachi, and what?"
"You could go out with Father instead of Mr. Kunou and make Ranma insanely jealous." Kasumi unleashed a satisfied smile at her ingenious plan.
Kachiko exited the kitchen. She returned a moment later with a bar of soap clenched in her grasp. She handed it to Kasumi.
Kasumi looked at it curiously. "Are you telling me to bathe?" She sniffed the air, seeking any telltale signs that she needed to use more deodorant.
Kachiko shook her head. "Didn't I teach you that when you say dirty things you're supposed to wash your mouth out with soap?"
Kasumi stared down at the bar of soap with distaste. Curiously, Kachiko was correct. Though she was a little child at the time, Kasumi did remember others commenting on her having a "potty mouth". It wasn't until her mother washed her mouth out with some lye that Kasumi became more mindful of her tongue. The taste was so wretched, and had lingered for so long, that she never spoke that way again. Even now, years later, she still refused to say bad things to anyone under any circumstances.
While Kasumi stared mournfully at the bar, Kachiko went to the phone and dialed Kunou's number. It was answered after only two rings. "Hello, is Tachi-kun there? Yes, I mean Tatewaki . He's not? He's having kendo practice? Why, that ingrate! I was going to ask him out tonight so he could have a good time and one-up Ranma, but since he's not going to wait by the phone for me to call, then he can have fun playing with his bokken!"
She slammed the receiver down in its cradle, causing the phone to rattle. She stomped her foot like a petulant child. "I wanted to go out tonight. Now what am I going to do? It's no fun going out on your own. Only losers do that."
Kachiko's eyes roamed the room, wondering what she should do. Nabiki, who was rapidly becoming semi-fun to hang out with, was visiting one of her friends until late tonight. There was no one in school Kachiko was close to. Outside of school, she didn't know anyone that wasn't twenty years older than her now.
That wasn't quite true. There was one alternative to going out alone. Literally only one.
Kasumi was about to place the bar of soap in her mouth when it was snatched out of her hand.
"Eating soap's bad for you. Only little kids do it," Kachiko told her.
"But you said—"
"Never mind what I said before. The only thing that matters is what I'm saying to you now. Where do you go to have fun?"
Kasumi pondered that one. She began counting the number of places one at a time. "Well, there's the grocer's. The fish market. Sometimes I go to Dr. Tofu — he's a local doctor — and borrow books from him. Oh yes, and on the far side of town, there's this Museum of Cookware—"
Kachiko slapped a hand across Kasumi's mouth. "Enough! I'm going to save you from yourself."
Kasumi smiled at her mother and the willingness she showed to go out of her way to help her oldest daughter, even if Kasumi was uncertain of what she needed "saving" from.
As though able to read her mind, Kachiko removed her hand from the mouth and placed both of them reassuringly on Kasumi's shoulders. "It's obvious the lack of a strong maternal figure in your life has caused an inability within you to determine right from wrong, as well as fun from boring. I will take it upon myself to teach you the error of your ways."
Kasumi smiled beatifically upon her mother. "Thank you. What shall I do?"
"Get changed for a night on the town. We're going out to a club where they have cheap drinks and cheaper guys."
"And do what?"
"Enjoy lots of both." Kachiko finally started to grow enthusiastic at the prospect of going out, even if it wasn't with her first or second choice of companion.
"I'm not sure that's such a good idea," Kasumi said hesitantly.
Not wanting to put a damper on the upcoming festivities, and determined to help out someone that had been prematurely turned into an old spinster, Kachiko enticed the girl by saying, "We'll do some mother and daughter bonding while we're there. What better time for it than going out together?"
That disposed of Kasumi's final reservations. "I'll get changed into something nice."
"Why don't we kick off the bonding by letting me help you choose the clothes?" Kachiko followed close behind Kasumi as they went upstairs to her room. When one went out clubbing, one dressed in something "Not Nice", which was part of the point in going out. It might take some work, but Kachiko had faith in her abilities to find something presentable for the poor, naive, boring girl. It was time for Kasumi to stop being someone else's mother and live it up a little.
Nodoka exited the bedroom she and her husband were using during their stay at the Tendou's. She would have felt she was imposing on their host's hospitality, save that there was someone else who was imposing far more than her and her family. Teach Kachiko to be a proper woman? She'd sooner be able to teach her manly son to prance about in a dress and make passes at men than teach the undisciplined girl anything beyond "Don't scratch yourself in public" — if that.
If only Ranma hadn't displayed such an unhealthy interest in the girl. Thankfully, no one else seemed to know he had slept with her on at least one occasion. And who knew what he did with her when they were alone and away from the house? It was chilling to the core. If only he would settle down with one of the other Tendou girls. Or even the okonomiyaki girl. Or the Chinese one. Or the rich girl that dropped by from time to time. She was a happy person, laughing in delight nearly every time Nodoka saw her. Ranma could marry her. It would get nothing but approval from her. Any girl would do, except for the annoying pestilence to humanity that traveled in the guise of Kachiko Tendou.
Nodoka pushed those frantic thoughts from her mind. There was no need to concern herself with the Kachiko issue tonight. It was time for Nodoka to help earn her keep and prepare dinner with the epitome of propriety, Kasumi. Now there was a girl that would make a wonderful wife for Ranma. While it was ultimately who her son loved that Nodoka wanted him to marry, she had her own personal favorites as to who she would choose to call daughter-in-law. Kasumi was near the top of the list.
Nodoka entered the kitchen. It was silent, though there was an assortment of food left lying about, obviously ready to be cooked. "Kasumi, are you here?"
"Behind you, Auntie."
Nodoka turned around to see a girl behind her, wearing a black shirt that was both too tight around her chest and too short; it barely reached halfway down her midriff. It was complemented by a black leather mini-skirt that showed a scandalous amount of leg.
It took a moment to register the identity of the girl. "Kasumi?!"
Kasumi nodded. "Yes, I meant to ask you, Auntie, could you finish dinner? I've already prepared the ingredients. You'll only have to make enough for you, Mr. Saotome, and Father, since no one else will be around. I'm going out with Mother. We're going to do some mother and daughter bonding. I'm really very excited."
Nodoka's hand trembled as she pointed at Kasumi. "Clothes?"
Kasumi fingered the top and blushed. "It's Mother's idea. She said nothing I owned would be appropriate for where we were going, so she insisted I wear some of her clothes. They're a bit small."
"And appropriate for a bordello," Nodoka said.
"It's to give the guys some eye candy, something you'd never be mistaken for with those cellulite-laden thighs of yours," Kachiko stated as she strolled down the stairs, still in the clothing she had been wearing earlier.
Nodoka stared in disapproval at the girl. "What you are wearing is shameless."
"It's a good thing I have no shame, then."
Nodoka pointed accusingly at the girl. "You are nothing more than an immoral tramp!"
"And you are an old frump that's forgotten what it means to cut loose and enjoy herself. Instead, you act like a retired geriatric who thinks everyone else should be the same way. Well I've got news for you, hag, I'm still young and got a new lease on life I ain't blowing. And I'm not letting you force me or this poor girl into the early spinsterhood you seem so fond of." Kachiko grabbed Kasumi by the arm and pulled her toward the front door.
Kasumi started, "But Auntie's not a spin—"
"Yes, yes she is. She might have known how to have fun a couple of decades ago, but she's long since forgotten. Come on."
Kasumi waved a final good-bye to Nodoka before being pulled out of sight.
Nodoka looked on in shock, unable to find her voice. Now the girl's corruption had spread to Kasumi. Oh, what tragedy had befallen the Tendou household. Perhaps it would be best to dispose of the arrangement to unite the families before Ranma was forced to marry the awful Kachiko girl.
Nodoka returned to her room in a huff. How dare that little brat call her an old spinster! She was not old, and she knew how to have fun. While it might have been true that she had been more active when she was younger, that didn't mean she didn't have fun now. She did. She had fun all the time.
Despite her mental reassurances, the incorrigible girl's words nagged at Nodoka, and she couldn't seem to dismiss them as easily as she should. Unable to ignore or forget them, that left only one solution to the problem.
Sliding the door to the bedroom open, she confronted her husband, who was lazing about in his panda form. "Genma, I still know how to have fun, don't I?"
Genma suddenly became furtive. He held up a sign. *Don't ask me. I'm just a panda.*
"Stop that this instant!" Nodoka ordered, making the animal wince. "I'm being serious. I need to know: am I boring and frumpy? And don't tell me what I want to hear. I demand you answer honestly."
The panda began sweating. Reluctantly, he held up another sign. *You're a mature, serious person that has a family to deal with. I approve of it wholeheartedly.*
Nodoka looked at him, crestfallen. "So you're saying the girl is right and I am frumpy?"
*Absolutely not!* he signed, then brought another one up. *Can I go now? I need to wax my head.*
Nodoka sniffled. "Go ahead. Run off and have fun, since it's obvious I don't know how to have any and would just drag you down."
The panda's shoulders sagged. Slowly, he shuffled his furry form over and placed one of his large arms around Nodoka. *Why don't we go out and do something fun?*
Nodoka darted out of his grasp, refusing to be comforted. "She's right. I'm not fun anymore. I used to like going out and doing things, especially when you were courting me. It was after we got married and I had Ranma so quickly that I became this tired old housewife." She held her arms out hopelessly.
The panda looked at his wife in sympathy. He brought a paw to his chin in thought. After several moments, he held up a sign.
Nodoka read it and blushed. "We can't do that! We're not young anymore. And what if we got caught? It would be scandalous, and we'd be arrested. Why, Ranma would probably leave the family rather than deal with the shame. I still can't believe you talked me into it in the first place."
*Hey! You were the one that suggest it to me,* the panda signed defensively.
"I did no such thing " Nodoka trailed off as the memory returned. "Actually, Achika was the one that suggested it to me. I happened to mention to her that I thought you were losing interest in me, and she suggested we do that. I admit, I thought if you liked the idea, you might show me more attention if we did it." And it had worked, as she recalled. Genma had been more than happy to entertain her for some considerable time afterwards.
Nodoka reconsidered the suggestion. "While we can't do that, why don't we do something similar, but with less risk involved?"
Genma held up another sign.
Nodoka's eyes bulged slightly. Then she turned suspicious. "That would be interesting. However, it doesn't seem like the sort of thing you'd come up with on the spur of the moment, though. It's a bit elaborate."
The panda shifted uncomfortably. *I overheard someone mention it once, and I thought it sounded like it might be fun to do with you.*
"Why didn't you ask before?"
Genma became nervous again.
"You thought I was too frumpy to want to do such a thing, didn't you?"
Now Genma looked like he wanted to escape.
That settled things in Nodoka's mind. "We'll go out and buy the necessary items, and then go to the part of town you suggested. But first, get some hot water. I have no intention of doing that sort of thing while you're a panda."
*One bucket of hot water coming right up!* Genma signed, then loped out of the room at top speed.
Nodoka smiled at his enthusiasm. It reminded her that Genma could act like a true husband, with the proper motivation. She'd have to remember that for future reference, in case she felt old and frumpy again.
Akane smiled at how wonderfully everything had gone. And to think, she had her interfering mother to thank for it.
In forcing the issue, Akane's asking Ranma out had resulted in the two of them having a wonderful time at the local amusement park. Riding side by side on the attractions, eating the various unhealthy foods offered at the park, and reveling in each other's company without the interference of others, had served to lighten Akane's mood more than any time in recent memory. Once she thought about it, she hadn't had Ranma truly to herself since her mother's return. While events had always been active in their lives before, things had turned frantic with Kachiko living under the same roof. Between the issues the various members of the family had with her, in connection with the girl's own outrageous behavior, there was rarely a moment of peace to be found.
Now an oasis in the chaos had been discovered. It was such a blessing to have Ranma all to herself, Akane mused. It would have been nicer if Ranma had been the one initiating things, but of late, it was hard to rely on him for anything. He accepted the postponement of the engagement rather than fighting for it. He wasn't paying attention to Akane the way he should have been. He didn't reject Kachiko's attentions with the vehemence he was supposed to. For that matter, he spent too much time with Kachiko period. Why couldn't he treat her the way he did Kodachi, or at least Ukyou? Instead he acted like the time-lost girl was being set upon by others, when all they were trying to do was make Kachiko act normal. Far too often he ended up taking her side when he should have been on the family's. But that was Ranma. He didn't think things through and tended to be insensitive. Akane knew that from the beginning. It's just things would have gone much more smoothly if he acted responsibly, thought about his treatment of others, and stated what he wanted.
Today he was acting perfectly fine. It was obvious he was enjoying himself, and subsequently Akane's presence. It would have helped if he'd do something more to indicate how much he liked her being around, like holding her hand or a similar gesture, but Akane was content to accept what was given to her. It made her realize just how nice it was to be with him during these quiet moments with only the two of them around and no one harassing them continuously. If only it could stretch on forever. She'd do just about anything to have Ranma to herself like this for the rest of her life.
The thought had taken hold of her mind. Akane decided to test the waters further. "Ranma, I was thinking about the engagement."
"Don't worry about it. It's on hold."
That wasn't the answer she was looking for. She also hadn't counted on being cut off so abruptly. Ranma's rudeness was showing again. Why couldn't he be more understanding to her wants and needs?
Before she could venture toward the subject again, Ranma pointed at a poster hanging next to a café in a more quiet area of the park. "What's that?"
Akane examined the item in question. "It says there's a hypnotist performing at the café."
Ranma shook his head at the poster. "Ah, that hypnotism stuff is a crock. Only people with weak wills and stuff fall for it. You wouldn't catch me acting stupid just because someone waves some shiny object in front of my eyes."
"Let's check it out." Akane always had a fascination with hypnotism. More importantly, it would give them a chance to sit there and enjoy each other's company even longer. Also, Ranma wouldn't find it so easy to run if he was sitting there stuffing his face.
Ranma shrugged. "Why not? I'm hungry anyway."
The two entered the café, which possessed a very cozy atmosphere despite being located in the middle of an amusement park. A waitress ushered them to a table near the stage. The hypnotist in question was already in the middle of his act. He wore a garish green-and-red ringmaster's type outfit with purple stars on the legs and arms. The worst part of the ensemble was the ridiculous circle stuck to the front of his top hat. It had concentric black and white rings around the surface, and would spin on its own, independent of his motions.
On the stage, sitting on a chair, was one of the café's patrons. There was a glassy look to his eyes, and he was acting as though he was driving an invisible car rather than sitting in front of group of strangers.
"See? It's silly. I'd never do something stupid like that. I'm impossible to hypnotize," Ranma stated as he took his chair and began watching the performance in spite of his stated disdain for it.
"I have to go to the restroom." Akane rose to her feet and headed off.
Ranma breathed a sigh of relief. The whole day had been weird. First there was the whole problem of Kachiko flirting with him, which had made him incredibly uncomfortable. While he had deftly avoided that situation, Akane came along and asked him to go to the amusement park with her. It seemed odd, since she had never shown that much of an interest in such places. He didn't want her to have to go alone, and amusement parks did tend to be kind of fun, so he agreed. It turned out to be the right choice. He and Akane had a great time on the rides and stuffing their faces on all the great food. It was nice to enjoy himself in a no-pressure situation where no one was making any demands of him.
The only minor problem was that bit about the engagement she had tried bringing up. He had avoided that easily enough by pointing out the first thing that had caught his eye. Thinking about something that pressured him like that was the exact opposite of what he wanted to do. Luckily, she had let the matter rest rather than trying to ruin his day by pestering him about something he didn't want to think about. With each day that passed, and the weight off his shoulders of being harassed about marriage, he realized that putting the engagement on hold was the right choice. He was only sorry he hadn't thought of it sooner. And to think, he had Kachiko to thank for it.
However, as much as he owed her for alleviating some of the stress in his life, he was grateful it wasn't Kachiko who had asked him along to the amusement park. She probably would have tried to make it into a date or something. At least Akane was reliable about not trying to make him do something like that. She was content to just hang around with him, with no expectations.
"Excuse me, sir?"
The statement shook Ranma out of his thoughts. Before him was the hypnotist. A quick look showed the person that had been on the stage had now returned to his seat, shifting uncomfortably at the attention he was receiving. Ranma felt he understood the man's situation, as the crowd's attention was now directed at him, thanks to the hypnotist.
"Yeah, what do you want?" Ranma asked.
With a flourish to the crowd, the man said, "I could not help overhearing your boast about being impossible to hypnotize."
That sounded vaguely like a challenge. Instincts rising to the fore, Ranma kicked back in his chair and put his feet on the table. "Yeah, that's right. That hypnotism stuff doesn't work on me. My mind's way too sharp to fall for something like that."
"I see. I see." The hypnotist sounded as though he was uncertain of the boast. "Well, perhaps you could help me with a little demonstration, my confident friend."
"What kind of demonstration?"
The hypnotist pulled a small gold chain from his breast pocket. A shiny gold coin was attached to the chain. He began waving it back and forth in front of Ranma's eyes. "Look into the pretty coin of gold, and you will do as you are told."
Akane stared at herself in the mirror. Everything had been going perfectly today. She had taken a chance by asking Ranma out on a date, and it had paid off big for her. Now it was time to go for broke. If she was successful, it would be over at last and the situation that had been plaguing her for so long finally resolved. And if she wasn't .
No! She would be successful. It was long past time something went her way. She was confident that things would work out. If Ranma wasn't interested in her, he would never have accepted going out on the date in the first place. She knew she was the one he was interested in. She knew it.
Hands trembling in a mix of anticipation and fear, Akane exited the restroom and headed for the table she and Ranma shared. There was no sense in waiting any longer. It was time to go for it.
Her attention was fixated on Ranma as she sat down in the seat next to him. Fearful of losing her nerve, she blurted out, "Ranma, I want to restart the engagement because I love you and want you to marry me."
In response, Ranma leaped upon the table and began hopping back and forth, uttering bestial sounds, like he was a monkey.
Akane looked on him in shock. Tearfully she cried out, "You don't have to make fun of me! All you had to do was say no!" She gave him a solid right, punching him clear of the table and onto the stage. Tears streaming from her eyes, she wailed in sorrow, not caring what anyone thought as she ran off deeper into the amusement park.
Everyone in the room was silent save for the hypnotist, who meekly said to Ranma, "Oops. Sorry about that. Usually people laugh when I hypnotize the person they're with into thinking they're a monkey. I'd have to say this is the worst case of timing in my life."
Ranma gave a loud "eep!" in agreement.
The Ferris wheel operator scratched his head as he watched the handyman examine the operating level carefully.
"I don't know what's wrong with it, but I'm sure it felt funny," the operator said.
The handyman nodded. "It looks like some of the gears are slipping and the wiring on the control panel's shot. It could go at any time. I keep telling them they need to sink more money into replacing some of the parts, but they won't listen to me."
"I know the feeling," the operator agreed. "Do I need to shut her down?"
"Yep, unless you like the idea of the whole thing going out of control."
"No thanks. I don't think I need the laws—oof!" the man grunted someone ran past, knocking him aside as though he wasn't there. The impact threw him into the handyman, who grasped out at anything to keep from falling over.
As he did so, his hand struck the panel, starting the Ferris wheel, before he found himself buried under the operator.
"Would you get off me?!" the handyman spluttered as he tried to rise to his feet.
"It wasn't my fault!" the operator insisted. "Someone knocked me over."
The handyman stared at the Ferris wheel. "You mean that girl that jumped into one of the cars right before the thing started up?"
The operator looked up to see that indeed, someone had run into the car. He tried stopping the wheel, but all that met him was the sound of gears giving out.
"I think we have a problem," the operator said.
"I'd say hers is worse than ours," the handyman said as he stared up at the wheel as the car continued moving toward the top.
Akane's eyes were blurry as she sat in the car of the Ferris wheel, finding privacy in a place where no one could disturb her. What she needed was solitude for her broken heart.
She hated Ranma, hated him more than anyone she had ever hated in her entire life. It was made all the worse by the fact she still loved him more than anyone else as well. Why couldn't he have accepted her heart? After all they had been through, all they had shared, why couldn't he just say he wanted to marry her the way she wanted to be with him? She was certain he had said he loved her when he thought she was going to die on Mount Phoenix. He couldn't have changed his mind. Not after that. It wasn't the way things worked. When you professed to love someone under those circumstances, it was forever. That was the reason she had consented to the surprise marriage directly afterwards. She knew they were meant for each other and it would last a lifetime.
It was that damned Kachiko's fault. That was it. She had put thoughts in Ranma's head about it being too young to marry and that it would be a mistake and that it should be postponed, if not nullified outright. She had run her mouth off about it repeatedly, and Ranma was gullible enough to believe the babble she spouted. Kachiko was wrong. There was such a thing as "true love" and destiny. She and Ranma had shared both. It was only thanks to Kachiko's interference that things had turned out otherwise.
There was no way Kachiko was her mother. Not really. No mother could ruin a daughter's life so thoroughly. She was an impostor that had no business being there. Akane was sorry she made the wish in the first place. If she had it do all over again, she would wish the girl wasn't around any more. She wished she was still dead and things could go back to the way they were.
But they wouldn't. Things were what they were, and Akane had nothing left. It was over.
The sounds of gears groaning and the car jerking back and forth finally drew Akane out of her sorrow-filled thoughts. She wiped her eyes, wondering what the men operating the wheel were doing.
Now at the highest point of the spin, Akane looked down at the ground and saw a large group of people gathered around the bottom, staring at the wheel. She wondered what was going on, then saw several of the gears shoot away from the center where the wheel was connected to the stand. Several of them headed toward the crowd, forcing them to scatter. They barely got out of the way before the parts struck the ground, hitting hard enough to break concrete.
The wheel shuddered, coming to a complete stop. Despite the lack of movement, Akane could feel the entire structure shake as internal forces, unable to be released, built up. This was bad. From this height, Akane would be badly injured in a fall, if not killed outright.
Her panic was momentarily sidetracked by a figure in red that streaked toward the wheel, opposite the direction that everyone else was heading. The figure got to the bottom of the wheel, then began climbing upward with an inhuman agility.
It took Akane only a moment to figure out who it was. It was the man who was always there to rescue her when she found herself in trouble. The one who was always there in her time of need.
Except the one time when she truly needed him.
"Go away, Ranma!" she cried out through the open window.
Ranma hesitated a moment. Then the wheel shifted dangerously again. That prodded him into motion and he continued scampering up the side of the wheel. Soon he was hanging from the bottom of Akane's car, swinging back and forth from one arm, unmindful of the open space between him and the ground. He began grunting at Akane again.
"I said leave me alone!" Akane shouted, wishing she had something to throw at him and drive him off. Seeing him was like being stabbed in the heart again and again.
Ranma swung up to the side of the car, making more noises at Akane.
She shouted, "Quit babbling like an idiot, you jerk! I don't want your help! I don't want to be saved by you! You already said you didn't love me!" It then occurred to her that he hadn't exactly said he wasn't interested as much as he acted like he wasn't, making fun of her with his babbling when she had bared her soul.
Except, he was still babbling inanely, not saying a word. And then there was his exceptional agility when scaling the wheel. While Ranma was as limber as a Chinese acrobat, he had come up the side of the wheel as though he was running across flat ground, if not faster. Even he had never displayed that kind of nimbleness. And then there was the bizarre grunting. It was almost as bad as when he was meowing in the nekoken. Except he wasn't acting like a cat. It was more like a monkey. No. It was exactly like a monkey.
"Oh Ranma, I'm so, so sorry!" Akane said as the truth of the situation dawned on her. His father must have tied a bunch of bananas around him and threw him in a pit of starving monkeys, and Ranma had been too ashamed to admit it. It was a monkey-ken, or some other idiotic move, probably to increase his agility. She was really going to give Genma a piece of her mind this time.
It was in the middle of the vow that the final bolts connecting the wheel to the center gave out. The wheel fell to the ground, remaining upright despite not being attached to anything. Despite not falling far, it made a loud crash as it hit the earth. It sat there for a moment, motionless. Then slowly, inexorably, the wheel began rolling, following the downhill grade it had rested upon.
"Oh my god!" Akane shrieked as she saw the cars touching the ground, cars whose bottoms extended beyond the circular structure of the wheel, crumple under the weight poised above them.
Ranma reached through the window, grabbing Akane and bearing her in his arms. As the wheel continued rolling, gaining momentum, he leapt up to the top of one of the pair of metal rails that made up the edge of the wheel's structure, and began running along it, just fast enough to stay at the top of the wheel as it continued rolling.
Akane clung tightly to Ranma, afraid to look down. Ordinarily she wasn't afraid of heights, but in this case, she was more than ready to make an exception.
"All we need to do is wait for the wheel to bump into something, like a building so it'll stop rolling," Akane told herself.
While the idea was good, Akane discovered one slight problem with it: there were no structures in the wheel's path. The only thing that threatened to stop their progress was the edge of a steep drop, since the amusement park was built on the top of an extended plateau. With nothing in the way, the wheel picked up speed as it drew ever closer to the edge.
Bystanders watched in horror as the wheel plummeted over the side. Within seconds, they heard the crash of metal and plastic as tons of amusement ride met the rocks below.
"Those poor people," someone said.
"They'll never survive that drop," another commented.
"Maybe they caught on to the side of the cliff," another said hopefully.
"Nah, the drop's sheer. You'd have to be a monkey to climb that thing."
It was at that moment Ranma finished climbing up over the edge, Akane holding on tightly around his neck.
A sound of disappointment filled the air.
"Shoot, no dead bodies to stare at. Let's go back to the Tilt O' Whirl and ride it until we throw up."
With nothing further of interest happening, the crowd dispersed.
"That was close," Akane said.
Ranma gave a loud "eep!" in agreement.
Kachiko stretched her head back, pouring the contents of the glass down her throat. It felt like drinking liquid fire as every inch of flesh that came into contact with it burned. Her eyes blurred in pain from the path the liquid took.
"'Prairie Fire' is aptly named, isn't it?" the bartender asked.
"Got that right." Kachiko wiped the tears from her eyes. Even her nose was running from the effect of the mixture of Tequila and Tabasco. "Let me try something else."
"How about sex on the beach?"
Kachiko reached across the bar and grabbed the man by the collar of his shirt. "That had better be a drink you're offering me instead of a proposition."
"It is," he assured her in a quavering voice.
The light of realization dawned in Kachiko's eyes, though the light was dim due to the amount of alcohol she had consumed. "In that case, gimme one."
"You should probably let go of me, first."
"That would help, wouldn't it?" Kachiko gave him a peck on the cheek in apology and released her hold on his collar.
The show of affection lightened the bartender's mood as he mixed the drink in question.
He had placed a shot glass in front of Kachiko when Kasumi staggered toward the bar, nearly stumbling into it.
Kachiko steadied her. "Whoa, there. Having some problems walking, huh?"
"Not really," Kasumi said blissfully, then spotted the shot glass. She pointed in its general direction. "Is that for me?"
"No," Kachiko said.
"Good." Kasumi picked up the glass and downed the contents in a quick gulp before Kachiko could stop her.
"That was mine." Kachiko stared mournfully at the empty vessel.
"Would you like it back?" Kasumi offered.
"No, that's all right. You keep it. I'm sure you'll put it to good use." She patted Kasumi on the head. "You know, I was afraid you'd be an angry drunk, like Wakaba, but you're actually pretty lively without being rude. You should drink more often."
"How about now?" Kasumi asked.
"No, it's probably best you not drink for a while. Drink any more, and you'll be floating away like a fish." Kachiko laughed hard at her own perceived joke.
Kasumi frowned. "You know, despite how much I've drunken, that still doesn't sound remotely funny."
"I bet if you had another drink it'd be funny."
Kasumi shook her head. "There's not enough alcohol in the world. I'm sorry, Mother."
"Kachi! Kachi!" the time lost girl insisted. "People will think we're in some kind of kinky relationship if you call me that."
Kasumi held up her hand, as though something had just occurred to her. "I almost forgot. I came over here for a reason."
"To steal my drinks?"
"If you'd like," Kasumi said.
"It wasn't an offer. It was an answer to the question. Now why did you come over here?"
It took Kasumi a moment to collect her thoughts. "Oh, yes. I've been spending time dancing with some men that are sweet enough to buy me drinks. As many as I want. However, when we've been dancing, some of them having been grabbing my bottom and grinding their crotches into me. While it's not an altogether unpleasant feeling, especially down in 'that place', I'm not sure this is appropriate behavior. I wanted your advice on what to do about it."
Kachiko accepted another Harvey Wallbanger from the bartender, drinking it in order to help her consider the matter. "My advice is, if you think they're hot, knee them in the groin. And if they're ugly, let 'em keep going as far as you want."
"Thanks. You're always full of wonderful advice." Kasumi headed back toward the men.
Within moments, high pitched wails of pain reached Kachiko's ears. She scratched her head in confusion. "I think there might have been something off in what I said just now. Nah." She decided it was probably for the best. Sleeping with someone while drunk was usually not a good idea. Unless it was the guy who was drunk and the girl wanted to sleep with them, in which case that was fine. It was too bad Ranma wasn't along. Kachiko wondered what he'd be like drunk. Probably a real goof that made everyone around him laugh. He seemed the type.
A voice from Kachiko's right said, "Turn the channel to something interesting," to the bartender.
Kachiko watched the bartender move to change the channel of the television that hung above the bar. Much to her shock, it showed a picture of Ranma and Akane. Kachiko scowled as the man of her dreams (well, one of the men of her dreams, along with Tatewaki) was hanging from Akane's neck while she supported him in her arms.
Kachiko slammed her glass down on the counter. "That !#$%! I can't believe he's hanging all over her, and on television!" She'd show that rotten jerk! She'd track down some hunky guy and do something with him. She wasn't sure what, since there was no way she'd let a guy get farther than second base on a first date, but she'd think of something that was sure to make Ranma a fountain of jealousy. Maybe introduce the hunk as the father of her child or something.
There was another cry of pain from the dance floor. Evidently Kasumi was having some luck. Kachiko rose from her bar stool, nearly falling over as the room swayed and the floor tried to dart out from under her, and made her way back to the daughter that was older than her. Wouldn't the guys get a kick out of that when she told them that story?
Soun heard the front door slam open as Ranma's voice reached his ears.
"And I'm telling you there's no way I was hypnotized into acting like a monkey. I'd have remembered it."
"But you were," Akane insisted.
"Look, I can prove it. I've been around a monkey during that stupid martial arts tea ceremony thing. If I didn't act like a monkey then, I'm not going to do it because some guy with a stupid hat tells me to."
"Let's just drop it," Akane said.
Soun ran toward the front door, looking hopeful. Upon seeing it was only Ranma and Akane, he immediately became crestfallen again.
Despite her depressed state, Akane picked up on her Father's anxiety. "What's wrong?"
He wrung his hands nervously. "I found a note from Kasumi saying she went out dancing with Kachi."
Ranma appeared mystified. "So what?"
Anxiety overcame Akane, giving her an uncanny resemblance to her father. "Oh no! We have to find them. There's no telling what trouble Mom will get Kasumi into."
Ranma turned to look in surprise at Akane's statement. "Come on. You're overreacting. Kachi's a big girl and knows what she's doing. She can handle any trouble that comes her way."
"You always take her side!" Akane snapped.
"What do you mean 'take her side'?"
"You " Akane trailed off as she saw the girl in question had suddenly appeared in the doorway, Kasumi humming merrily from her position draped across Kachiko's back. Akane caught a whiff of both women, and recoiled.
"We're home!" Kachiko announced, mostly to the girl behind her.
Kasumi stood unsteadily as Kachiko released her hold. She smiled even more blissfully than usual at everyone. "Hello." She added a wave to the greeting.
Hands on her hips, Akane stood directly in front of Kachiko and said in low, threatening tones, "Just what did you do to my sister?"
Kachiko sniffed disdainfully at the display. "Me and Kasumi were doing some mother and daughter bondage."
Kachiko watched everyone's reaction to that.
She shook her head clear of the cobwebs for a moment. "Bonding. I mean bonding. Not bondage. I'm not into that. I'd never do something like that. Except that one time with but that's not important right now. But there's nothing wrong with experimenting. It's healthy. It shows you have an open mind." She noticed everyone's reaction again. "I think I'd better quit while I'm behind."
While Kachiko tried figuring out where she had gone wrong, Kasumi had moved around her and Akane and walked up to Soun. She smiled and embraced him. "Good evening, Father."
Soun caught the scent surrounding her and sobbed, "My daughter's dressed like a slut and stinking drunk! I've failed in my duty as a father!"
Kasumi appeared put off, an almost unheard of condition for her. "I'll have you know I only had twelve or thirtyteen drinks this evening. I am barely feeling tipsy." She moved to Akane and hugged her as well.
Uncertain of how to react, Akane just accepted the display of affection. As Kasumi moved away, Akane noticed her own clothing had taken on a somewhat alcoholic scent. She didn't know how much one had to drink to cause that, only that Kachiko was to blame for her sister's condition.
"Good evening, Ranma." Kasumi moved to embrace him, then changed targets as she grabbed his head and forced his mouth to hers, kissing him.
Ranma's pig-tail shot out from behind his head as he felt a tongue that wasn't his force its way past his lips.
"Hey, hey, enough of that!" Kachiko shouted as Kasumi tried intertwining her body with Ranma's.
It took the combined efforts of Kachiko and Akane to pry Kasumi away from him.
Kasumi appeared satisfied at the results. "Kissing boys is fun. I'm going to do it lots more often now."
Ranma's reaction was to stand statue-still, his mind not quite able to process what just happened.
Mood decidedly cooler toward the daughter she had done "bondage" with, Kachiko took her by the shoulders and pointed her toward the interior of the house. "It's time for you to go to bed."
Kasumi giggled. "Ranma should come with me, then." She tried to grab onto his shirt.
Kachiko fended the hands away while continuing to push Kasumi toward the bedroom. "No, Ranma's going to be happy sleeping all by himself tonight. You need a good night's sleep as well."
"Okay, Mother," Kasumi said dreamily. "We should do more mother and daughter bonding tomorrow."
"Maybe the night after that instead. I'm feeling a touch on the woozy side myself," Kachiko reluctantly admitted. She called back, "Good night, everyone. See you tomorrow."
The trio remained motionless, looking at where the girls had departed in disbelief, as though it hadn't happened and the real Kachiko and Kasumi would appear any minute now.
They remained there for some time.
Kasumi awoke to the knowledge that she was dying. It was sad and tragic. She would have wondered how her family would deal with her loss, but it hurt too much to think. Instead she just lay there, waiting for death to visit and end her suffering.
For some odd reason, she didn't die. She just lay limply on her bed as pain receptors in her brain insisted on dancing the rumba. It was really quite mean of them. Perhaps they were making up for lost time, since she hadn't engaged in any behavior, aside from nicking herself with a kitchen knife, that would have given them cause to become active.
Kasumi waited until the receptors slowed down to a mellow waltz before dragging herself out of bed. As she rose, she noticed she was still dressed in the same clothing that her mother had insisted she wear the previous night. She fingered the clothing distastefully. It was so improper, not sleeping in an appropriate outfit. She was just glad no one was there to see her in such a sorry state.
Kasumi dared to push herself up from the bed and stand up. As she did so, the receptors in her head started with a new dance. In wooden clogs, if she was any judge of it. She also became aware of a terrible taste, as though someone had dipped something dead in mucus and then stuffed it in her mouth. For the first time in her life, Kasumi was sorry she wasn't going to die. It would make things so much easier
Deciding remaining motionless wasn't going to improve her condition, and she had already managed the arduous task of regaining a vertical base, Kasumi headed toward the bathroom. Within the medicine cabinet was aspirin, which would hopefully ease her suffering. If that didn't work, there were always knives in the kitchen that could be used to end the torment.
No longer caring about her appearance, Kasumi headed to the bath in the clothes she was already wearing. As she made it to the bottom of the stairs, only missing a couple of steps on the way, she spotted Ranma already up as he exited the bathroom.
"Morning, Ranma," was the best greeting Kasumi could manage in her current state.
She noted with surprise (and annoyance, she was amazed to discover) that Ranma's reaction was not to greet her in return, as he usually did. Instead he put the wall to his back and slowly backed away, as though she was a dangerous foe he dared not take his eyes from. He remained that way until he was out of sight, then she heard the sound of footfalls hurrying away from her.
That was peculiar. She hoped there was nothing terribly wrong with him. While he was uncouth and quite rude, he was a younger man, and that was to be expected. He lacked the calm bearing that older, more experienced men had. Though he was a decent kisser .
Wait. Where had that thought come from? Perhaps she had dreamed of kissing him, which is why she would think such a bizarre thought. It was peculiar, though. She had never regarded Ranma as particularly desirable due to being so much younger than her. Though now that she thought about it, he did have a nice, tight bottom .
There it was again! What was with these unusual thoughts regarding the young man who had been living under her roof all this time? Well, she knew what to do concerning such impure impulses. It was time for a very cold shower followed by a very cold bath. That would dispose of her unwanted ardor quickly enough, and she could return to normal.
Kasumi walked into the bath and headed to where the stool and bucket were stored. She set them up, trying very hard not to think that Ranma had been in there early, naked, and that if she had risen ten minutes earlier and not thought about looking for the occupied sign, she might have stumbled upon him the way Akane had the first day he was here .
"Cold water. I need cold water," Kasumi murmured to herself. Her impure impulses were much stronger and more frequent than usual. She had to take action fast. As she filled the bucket with cold water, she lamented the fact she hadn't found a good man, like her mother had, at her age. Then she could do something about those naughty thoughts. While technically her mother hadn't found a man yet, she would. Eventually. And it would be Father. Probably.
The splitting pain in Kasumi's skull increased. Pondering temporal mechanics under normal circumstances was bad enough; doing it in the middle of a hangover was impossible. Dance numbers started blending into one in a choreography that would have made Bob Fosse green with envy.
Bucket filled, Kasumi began removing her clothes. As she peeled the far too tight shirt over her head, she found herself scarcely believing her mother had talked her into wearing such risqué clothing. It displayed her ample bust far too clearly for her taste. Dressing like that always made men stare, and she was uncomfortable with such things. The attention usually made taking cold showers a necessity often enough that her skin sometimes felt it permanently had goosebumps.
Kasumi wondered what had happened last night. She didn't remember much after her mother handed her several glasses of alcohol, one right after another until they, and the events surrounding them, turned into a giant blur. She hoped they had done some wonderful emotional bonding, and that her mother would have a better time remembering them than her.
It was as Kasumi removed her bra that she glanced in the mirror. Instantly, she froze, staring at the image. Slowly, her hand came up to her breast, trying to prove that the thing in it was false, or the result of some twisted magic, like the one that had produced Ranma's separate female counterpart. But no, the actions of the person in the mirror followed their originator's exactly.
A scream pierced the tranquility of the house. In her room, Nabiki smothered her head under her pillow. Soun shot out of his bedroom in an instant, trying to locate the source of the disturbance. Kachiko ceased her search for more of the hair of the dog that bit her, and headed toward the bathroom. Ranma and Akane, who were already in the living room (an aura of tension coming from Akane and one of mystification around Ranma) became concerned as they too headed toward the scream.
Ranma, Akane, and Kachiko arrived at the same time, followed closely by Soun.
Seeing Kasumi in nothing but a pair of panties and a towel covering her bosom, Akane slapped her hands across Ranma's face an instant before he shut his eyes on his own.
Thoughts of propriety overruled concern as Soun was the first to utter, "What's wrong, Kasumi?"
Tearfully, she held the towel against her bosom with one hand while pointing at it, sobbing, "There's a thing there."
"A thing?" Soun asked.
Kasumi waved her free hand frantically. "You know, a thing."
"A towel?" Kachiko offered.
"A zit?" Kachiko asked.
"A nipple? Breasts tend to come with those, you know."
"No. I mean yes, but that's not what I mean."
"Quit keeping me in suspense. What is it?" Kachiko asked in a tired voice.
A single tear running down her face, Kasumi removed the towel.
"Kasumi!" Akane gasped.
"Daughter!" Soun said transfixed by what was there.
"What? I think the birdie tattoo looks neat," Kachiko said. "You're making a big deal out of nothing."
The casual dismissal of her concerns was too much for Kasumi to bear. For the first time in recent memory, she felt an anger consume her, one that she didn't even try to fight. Giving in to her impulse, she strode forward, moving so fast Kachiko didn't have time to react as Kasumi raised her hand and slapped her mother across the cheek with an open palm, hard enough to turn her face away from her daughter.
Kachiko remained motionless, holding her rapidly reddening cheek. Soun and Akane drew back. Ranma tensed at the sound of the slap, but decided it would be better to keep his eyes shut and hope for the best.
"I can't believe you did this to me!" Kasumi raged, her voice cracking as it was forced into a higher pitch than it had been in years. "You're an evil, irresponsible person! You're not my mother! My mother was nice and wonderful and the best person in the world, and you're nothing like her! You're just a selfish brat that's only concerned for what she wants and doesn't care about anyone around you! I hate you I hate you I hate you!!!"
As the last word left her lips, Kasumi seemed to realize what she said, and who they were directed to. Suddenly, the agony in her skull was dwarfed by the pain of comprehension of what she had just done. Horror filled her, and she wished with all her might she could take back what she said.
Sobbing worse than ever, she pleaded, "I'm sorry, Mother. I spoke out of turn. Please forgive me." Any punishment Kachiko leveled against her wouldn't make up for the terrible things Kasumi said about her. Just so long as her mother wasn't angry with her and reject her. That was something she couldn't bear.
Kachiko's look of disbelief at the litany of anger directed toward her vanished. Instead, she began snickering slightly. "You know, this is the first time since I've met you that I can honestly believe you might be a kid of mine." She patted Kasumi affectionately on the shoulder. "You're actually an all right girl. You just need to let it out a little more often. You'll be happier for it." Kachiko headed for the door.
Amazed at the lack of reaction from Kachiko, everyone simply stared at her, Kasumi the most shocked of them all. She was so certain her mother would have punished her endlessly for such disrespect, as she had other times since her return. Instead, she had condoned the behavior. Why? Why had she openly endorsed such a terrible and inappropriate thing?
Just as she was about to leave, Kachiko looked over her shoulder and said, "Oh, by the way, about the little mark on your breast. For your information, I didn't come up with the idea of getting the matching tattoos. You're the one that suggested it. You thought it'd be a neat thing for a mother and daughter to have." And with that she left the room.
All strength left Kasumi's body as she sank to her knees. With that revelation, some of the haze over her memories parted, and she remembered her behavior from the previous night. She had acted inappropriately, and not like a proper girl at all. She had drunk herself into a stupor and behaved scandalously with men. Many men. She even remembered the inspiration and talking a reluctant Kachiko into getting tattoos for themselves. It all came back to her in a rush, sending her mind reeling as she processed all the new information.
With the return of Kasumi's memories, one important fact came to the forefront, one that made the others that should have troubled her seem insignificant. Going out had been fun. More fun than she had experienced in years. She had worn a smile on her face for so long that her cheeks still felt tired from the overuse of her facial muscles. She had forgotten how enjoyable it was interacting with men, something she hadn't done since high school, when she had gotten more than her share of attention. Dancing had left her breathless and made more muscles ache, but in a good way. Even the drinking had produced a fairly pleasing effect, allowing her to cast aside her usual inhibitions and enjoy herself to the fullest without regard as to what others would think of her (though judging by the painful aftermath, she could live with a little less pleasure if it meant a little less pain).
Kasumi looked down again at the tattoo adorning her breast, as thought seeing it in a different light. It was small, and low enough that no one would know it was there, save under the most intimate of conditions or in a public bath. It really was very beautiful work, with details so intricate she could actually see the feathers. She had always liked blue jays, and having one pictured on her flesh, even there, wasn't very terrible in and of itself. While she would not want any others on her body, there wasn't anything truly bad with having a small one in such an out of the way place. And if others found its presence scandalous, well, perhaps they should mind their own business and not worry about how other people appeared to them.
There was one other important factor about the tattoo which assuaged her concerns. After the first couple of weeks since her mother's return, Kasumi had felt left out when compared to her sisters. Kachiko enjoyed matching wits with Nabiki, and she had an interest in martial arts similar to Akane (as well as an interest in Ranma), but there had been no common ground between Kasumi and her mother. All attempts at taking care of hearth and home were met with stiff resistance, and the few times when Kachiko relented and did so, it was done out of necessity rather than enjoyment. However, thanks to the tattoos, she now had something in common with her mother. It made Kasumi feel a touch of pride and joy at the knowledge that there was now an experience that was shared exclusively between the two of them.
Mood considerably brighter, Kasumi excused the others as she began removing her clothing once again and prepared to clean herself off, humming pleasantly as she stared at the new addition to her breast. Maybe it was good to be alive after all.
To be continued.
Author's notes: Yes, the hypnotist uses the same dialogue as the Ghost Clown from the "Foul Play in Funland" episode. What can I say? It was a classic line. ^_^]
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