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A Ranma ˝ story
by Wun Wong

Disclaimer:  I certainly do not own Ranma ½ or its characters. They belong to Rumiko Takahashi and Shogakukan in Japan, Viz Video in the USA.  I do not, and will not profit monetarily from this work.  Thank you.

Thanks to my pre-reader, Cannibal Who Snacks.

Author’s notes:  Martial arts are generally referred to as Wu Shu in China.  For the readers' convenience, the characters in the story will refer to them as "the Art".

Chapter 4:  Escape from Nerima

"Wen Mei, hurry up or we will be late."  Huffing and puffing, Wen Mei leaped from tree branch to tree branch, following the slightly irritated voice of her sifu.

"I am… trying… my best… Sifu!"  Despite her efforts, Wen Mei was no closer to catching up with her sifu.  Part of the reason was the heavy pack she was carrying; the other reason was her deficiency in the 'Light Arts', or movement techniques.  Most of the advanced schools of martial arts taught their students various skills.  Often they were divided into the Outer Arts (techniques and physical skills), Inner Arts (harnessing and using chi), and Light Arts (mastery of mobility).  Wen Mei was generally too focused on learning the first two to practice the third, although she regretted that at the moment.  The older woman appeared in her vision suddenly, standing still on a branch by the edge of the forest.  Wen Mei managed to control her forward momentum, dispersing it around her in waves of wind as she stopped on branch next to her sifu.  "Have we arrived?"  Wen Mei gazed at the clearing before her, shrouded in a light mist, with a shallow river and the mountains of the Payenk'ala in the background.

"I believe this is the place we were told to meet."  Wen Mei took the opportunity to shift her pack position as her sifu talked.  "The Shaolin representative should be here soon.  They claimed to have prepared a suitable meeting place."

"Why are we meeting with the monks, Sifu?"   Though the different practitioners of Enlightenment usually had amicable relationships, it wasn’t often that those of different faiths held secret meetings deep in the hills.  Wen Mei began to fear that they were involved in something far from ordinary.  "Does it have anything to do with the scrolls?"

"Child, those scrolls within your pack are indeed the reason.  It is a matter of the Art, rather than faith, that we are about today."  Before the older woman could further elaborate, her eyes narrowed at the arrival of a Shaolin Monk.  Even Wen Mei was able to recognize that fact, as he crossed the river with agility unmatched by any she had ever seen.  His fluid movements triggered the image of a gliding bird in her mind; so graceful were his steps that it seemed as though he were merely walking.  More importantly, he was young, still with dark eyebrows.  To master even one aspect of the Art at such a young age was unheard of anywhere outside of Shaolin.  It was said that no school of martial arts could match the Shaolin, and here stood the proof.

"Well met."  He bowed ever so slightly, his left hand clenching his right fist.  "Would you be Mistress Tung, and her student Wen Mei?"  Wen Mei followed her sifu's example, and mirrored the monk's gesture.

"We are indeed.  It had been a long time, Mun Sum.  I expected you to be here."  Wen Mei was startled by her sifu' recognition of the monk.  In all thirteen years of her studies at the nunnery, her sifu had never received a single male visitor.  "Please, lead us to Master Mo Ji."

"I do recall you, Mistress Tung, from a gathering that discussed the use of the Art.  I am gratified that you would honor me with remembrance.  Please follow me."  With that said, he was off.  This time, he moved at a much slower pace than his approach, somehow managing to set a pace that taxed Wen Mei's limits without exceeding them.  Before long, they arrived at a cave opening, partially covered with vines and other vegetation.  Mun Sum pushed past the curtain of plants and gestured for them to follow.  They descended into a torch lit cave, with a passage leading to a chamber at the end.

Wen Mei almost gasped out loud when she stepped through into the chamber.  It was filled with practitioners of the Art from all walks of life. The chamber was well illuminated with lamps, allowing Wen Mei to survey the four dozen or so martial artists who were standing within.   She recognized several different Taoist sects from their dress, a few mercenaries from the designs on their shirts, and even a member of the Beggar’s sect.  There were also several monks, though two caught her attention due to their unusual appearance.  The first was an ancient monk, tall and imposing, whose beard and mustache were long and silver, wearing a demeanor that was stern, yet benevolent.  The other was opposite to the first in every way.  Incredibly short, with shrunken limbs and an overly self-conscious expression, this young monk fidgeted in his seat next to the ancient monk.

Wen Mei followed her sifu as she strode toward the monks.  After an exchange of greetings, she learned that the elder monk was Master Mo Ji, a senior monk of Shaolin, and that the short monk was called Hap Sai, Mo Ji's student.  While her sifu exchanged greetings with various martial artists, Wen Mei struggled to ignore the diminutive monk.  Every time she looked, he was stealing glances at her.  To her embarrassment, he seemed to be staring at her breasts. Unable to stand the scrutiny, yet unwilling to call her sifu's attention to something so… trivial… Wen Mei excused herself and moved to the opposite corner of the room in an attempt to escape his gaze.  She was so focused on avoiding his gaze that she walked into someone.

"Well, now. What beauty hath graced my humble vision this day?"  She was held gently in a pair of strong arms, clothed in expensive silks kept pristine white and trimmed in silver.  She looked up, and saw the clearest eyes she had ever seen, framed by a well-defined, yet gentle face.  Before she could stammer an apology, she heard harsh laughter, and a brash voice saying: "That'll teach you, Pops!"


Kasumi woke from her dream with a light moan, disoriented for a moment as she tried to tell Ranma how sorry she was to bump into him.  Gaining control of her thoughts, Kasumi shook off her drowsiness, and began to dress herself.  'What's happening to me?  I’m dreaming someone else's dream… about Ranma, no less.  Could it be that jade?  Has it influenced my mind that much?'  She stared into her mirror, trying to find some sort of answer there. Yet she could find nothing extraordinary about her own reflection, so much like every other morning.  'Perhaps the influence is wearing off.  I hope whatever it did to me is wearing off too.'  Unable to come with an answer, Kasumi resigned herself to ignorance, and left to cook one last breakfast for her family.

Ranma rubbed his shoulders as he stepped downstairs to the living room.  He was tired and stiff after spending most of the night fighting with his father.  While the rest of the household slept, he was waging a difficult battle against a panda determined to tie him up with duct tape.  Fortunately, he’d managed to wiggle out of his father's surprise Hell's Cradle attack, and jumped outside, where they battled till dawn.  It was a brutal contest of skill and endurance, where no quarter was given and no insults were hurled.  Not because they didn't want to; but because they got duct tape covering half of their faces during the initial round of melee.  Thus the Tendos-- and the rest of Nerima-- slept through the night undisturbed by the usual interplay of Anything Goes Martial Arts Provocation.  The final result was one tied up, beaten up panda unconscious in Ranma's room, and one very sleepy Ranma, who stayed awake with the aid of residual adrenalin and hunger.  That, and the stinging sensation that only the combination of walking into a lamppost the night before and tearing duct tape off one's face and mouth can provide.  'Stupid old man! Couldn't he just use rope?' Ranma thought to himself as he rubbed his cheeks.

Ranma peered into the living room, and noted that no one else seemed to be up.  It was not surprising, since he generally woke with the dawn to spar with his father.  Only Kasumi woke up earlier than they, but not always. 

"Good morning, Ranma-kun."  Ranma turned around to see Kasumi walking down the stairs. "My, you finished early today.  Is Mr. Saotome feeling unwell?"  Kasumi smiled, with the usual air of gentleness and warmth, but a hint of worry as well.

"Pops is a little… uh… sick, yeah."  Ranma scratched his head, not quite sure if he should tell Kasumi that the panda was tied up and gagged with duct tape, and buried under both futons.  Kasumi just might untie him.

"That's too bad.  I was planning to make a extra large breakfast for everyone before we go."  Kasumi strode to the kitchen door, and took her apron off its hook on the wall. She put it on with practiced hands, then entered the kitchen.  Pausing at the doorway, she turned and asked Ranma, "Would you like to help?"  With nothing better to do, as well as being plagued by hunger, Ranma decided to help out.  He, too, grabbed a apron off the wall, and moved to get a glass of cool water.

Sasuke cried tears of bitter torment as the last of his punishment was unleashed upon him; the recording of Tatewaki Kuno's greatest poetry 'hits'.  Squirming in his seat, he steeled himself to withstand the onslaught of sheer idiocy and bad taste the best that he could.  When the sound of his master's voice finally died down, he slumped forward, exhausted by his ordeal.  In a way, he would have preferred it if Kodachi's torture chamber was still intact.  He was almost immune to whips by now, and a couple of hours on the rack would have done wonders for his spine.  Unfortunately, Kodachi was sleepy from her earlier exertions, and had ordered him to listen to the 'punishment' track she had developed.  Unable to disobey his mistress, Sasuke forced himself to listen to all 300 minutes of pure agony, starting with the worst of Japanese Alternative-Rock Michael Bolton imitators, to the collection of sounds of mating animals set to techno.  They were all horribly disturbing, though few were as soul rending as his young master's creations.  Finally freed from punishment, Sasuke crawled to a whiteboard on the floor, where he wrote down his list of chores.  Still trembling slightly from the effect of Kuno's Introspection On The Nature of Daffodils, Sasuke scanned his list of tasks for the day.  With a groan, he stood up, and heads off to the Tendo dojo to 'gather intelligence' once more. 

Ryoga stirred his pot of stew carefully, knowing that he won't get another chance to replenish his supplies until he reached civilization again.  Determined to make this meal last, he added some edible bark and roots to thicken the stew.  The whole time he lamented on his misfortunate: the accident in that strange place of flashing lights and dancers.  'If only I could avoid tripping.  I would be at the Tendo Dojo by now, having breakfast with Akane, not cooking the last of my rations here in this wilderness.’  He’d woken up that morning to a policeman trying to arrest him for vagrancy.  Deciding to avoid a criminal record, he had high-tailed it out of the city, straight into this impenetrable maze of trees and shrubs. Refreshed from a night of sleep, but hungry, Ryoga decided that ghost or no ghost, he would at least have a proper meal before his soul was taken. Thus the campsite and the small pot of stew.  When the aroma of the stew declared it ready for consumption, Ryoga turned off his portable stove and started to eat.  Before he could get halfway through the pot, he heard a voice behind him.

"Mommy?  Why is that funny man cooking in the middle of the park?" a little girl with a ponytail asked her mother.

"Stay away, honey.  You don't know where he's been."

It took Ryoga a moment to register what they said.  Moving at a speed only an experienced martial artist could attain, he dashed in front of the mother and child.

"Please!  Can you lead me out of this maze?  I have been stuck here for hours!"  The surprised mother reluctantly agreed, wondering what kind of things they taught to high school kids these days if they couldn't find their way out of a park.

At the Nekohanten, things were a great deal less hectic than usual.  The furniture, cooking utensils, and various supplies were put away, and the restaurant area was completely empty except for the Amazons, who were carefully inscribing a circle on the floor using charcoal and duck grease.

"Use more strength on that stroke, Mousse."  Cologne directed the younger Amazons as they worked, correcting their errors when needed.  The portal magic required precision, and Cologne was experienced enough to know that a careless mistake could send them tens of miles off course… if they were lucky.  Fortunately, some of the casting process was designed to adjust the spell based on the portal runes, allowing for some level of imprecision before that would happen.  Otherwise, days instead of hours would have been spent drawing and checking the runes.  Using her magic mirror, Cologne had contacted the Amazon village, charging the villagers to clear a space for their arrival, as will as draw a rune that would, hopefully, decrease the chance of failure.  Now all she had to do was to get this end of the portal properly drawn, then get her son-in-law and his other companions to arrive without incident.

Noting that Shampoo, Linfa, and Mousse all had gotten their strokes done properly, she left them to relax a bit on the side.  Lighting a pipe filled with her favorite blend of leaf, Cologne took a deep draw, and tried to release all tension from her body.  It would not do to be too tense for the casting.

Mousse carefully marked the runes, knowing that it might be his only chance at winning Shampoo.  Once they stepped through the portal, the Kiss of Marriage would be officially cancelled.  That would mean that Shampoo would no longer fling herself at Ranma.  After all, as the Matriarch's heir, she couldn't be seen making a fool out of herself over some male who was not her husband.  Busy learning about a matriarch’s duties, she would have little if any chance to meet with Ranma; and she would be his.  He could see the wedding now…

Shampoo shook her head at Mousse, wondering why he was drawing a heart with the duck grease.  But as long as he wasn't messing with the rune itself, she had no valid complaint.  After a few inane giggles that set her on edge, Shampoo revised her opinion and smacked him over the head. 

Happosai grumbled to himself as he carefully draw a circle in the dojo floor with the ashes of panties and bras.  'Stupid demon!  Why do they always demand our most precious things?'  Following the instructions from his scroll haphazardly, Happosai eventually managed to get the circle prepared.   'Let's see… chant the following phrase while making the symbol of…’ As his old and raspy voice produced the required sounds for the summoning, Happosai began to wave his left hand downward in a half-circle, then back.  After close to ten minutes of casting, the circle began to glow dimly with a greenish-brown light.  Happosai stopped, and waited eagerly for the demon's arrival.  However, when nothing happened after a minute, Happosai looked to his scroll.  'The demon will appear after the sun begins its descent, for it is the waning of the light that bring forth its power.  The demon has many forms… No!  I will have to wait for sunset?  This isn't fair!'  Happosai proceed to throw a temper tantrum, ripping up the scroll in the process.  He didn't notice the circle's glow changing when a fragment of the scroll landed on it.

Soun Tendo arrived at the dining table somewhat despondent.  After all, it would be the last meal cooked by Kasumi for months to come.  Genma had promised to do something about the situation the night before, but he seemed to have disappeared.  Despite the dire circumstances, Soun strove to maintain some level of dignity, and so he sat at the dining table with his back erect and his eyes clear.  He was joined at the table by Nabiki soon after.  Immediately Soun turned to his middle daughter with pleading in his eyes.

"Please, Nabiki.  Tell me you found a way!"  Nabiki rolled her eyes at the sight of her father gripping her skirt, tears threatening to leak out and drown them all.  She made futile brushing motions at his hands, while doing her best to ignore his pleas.

"Daddy, it's just not in the cards, I’m afraid.  There's not much we can do except try to get a better deal from the takeout people."  Soun burst into tears at her answer.  "Sorry, Daddy.  The fact is, there wasn't much we could do once Aunty Saotome said yes."

"At least help me avoid Akane's food!  My little girl can't cook to save her life, and I’ll die from food poisoning!  Waaah!"

"Sorry.  My usual haunts aren't appropriate eateries for someone your age.  Besides, how would you explain to Akane your lack of… confidence… in her cooking?"  Nabiki was saved from further discussion by the arrival of her youngest sister.  Akane seemed her usual self, though Nabiki could tell she was slightly depressed.  Akane sat down without a word, silently brooding while they waited for the food to be brought. Nabiki was about to console Akane, when Nodoka's voice reached them.

"Genma!  Where are you!"  Looking very cross, Nodoka strode into the dining room, her katana wrapped and in its usual place in her arms.  "The least you can do is see me off, Husband!  Show your face!"  She waited impatiently by the dining table, knowing that her husband wouldn't miss a meal for anything.

"Sorry, Mom, but I got him tied up in my room."  Nodoka turned to see Ranma walking out of the kitchen, a tray of steaming miso soup in his hands.  Everyone was surprised to see Ranma willingly dressed in an apron, even if in female form.  Kasumi arrived soon after with the rest of the breakfast, and the family sat down for their morning meal.  After placing the soup, Ranma wasted no time to take off his apron and douse himself with a little bit of hot water.  'No need to make Mom think I may be less manly, even now,' he thought to himself as he took his place, noting the slight, approving nod from his mother.  Akane seemed to be ignoring him, so he did his best to ignore her as well, though he was a little uneasy about doing so.

"Son, why did you tie your father up?  And what is that on your face?"

"The old man was trying to tie me up with duct tape last night.  I figured he could use a rest after the beating I gave him."  Ranma dug into the food, making an effort to avoiding looking at Akane.  Finished with his bowl in a flash, he sat it down, and pointed to his redden cheeks.  "This mark here is from the old man's stupid duct tape."

"Pretty strange, Ranma.  Usually you heal from little scrapes like that within hours.  Perhaps there was some other reason why it's still red?"  Nabiki smirked at Ranma.

For once not rising to her bait, Ranma took his refilled bowl of rice (courtesy of Kasumi) and began eating again. Nabiki hid her disappointment by turning to Akane, and made a great show of examining the two teenagers attempts to ignore each other.  After a few turns of her head, she draped herself on Ranma's left arm.  "Hmm, I always thought you ignored Akane because you like her.  But now you’re ignoring me, too.  I wonder if you like me as well, Ranma-kun."  Nimbly she dodged Ranma's spray of food, which landed on Soun instead.  'I’ve still got it!  Can't let Ranma leave thinking that he can get even one round over me.'  Nabiki smiled apologetically at Ranma while he glared daggers at her.

"Oh my, look at the time!  We will have to leave in half an hour if we want to get there on time, Aunty."  Kasumi started putting away some of the empty dishes, leaving the rice cooker next to Ranma so he could refill on his own.   Nodoka paused in her meal, and proceeded to get up.

"Where you going, Mom?"  Ranma finished another bowl, and started refilling.  Nodoka picked up her sword, and moved toward the stairs.

"I need to talk to your father.  Get ready to go, Ranma."  As Nodoka ascended the stairs, Nabiki took another look at her younger sister, trying to divine the unusual display of self-restraint.  She should have been hitting Ranma by now, not brooding.  Nabiki had suspicions about Akane's silence, but couldn't quite make out what Akane is up to.

Ukyo and Konatsu moved with exaggerated care as they placed the crossbows on top of the grocery store roof.  Directly in front of the building they stood on was the Nekohanten.  Carefully aiming the crossbow, they loaded it with a bolt with a superglue-filled bulb instead of a normal arrowhead.

"Now, Konatsu.  You have to make sure you don't hit Akane.  You can even hit Ranchan, but make sure you get Shampoo and Cologne, okay?"


"Yes, Ukyo-sama."  Konatsu readied the last crossbow, and assumed a waiting position.

"And if that crazy gymnast shows up, you use this!!"  Ukyo brandished an extra large crossbow, loaded with a bolt with a bulb of hot tar at the end.

The winds blew across Nerima gently, as the sun ascended further toward the apex of its path.  Ranma, Nodoka, and the Tendos were walking toward the Nekohanten.  Ranma was carrying the luggage of Kasumi and his mother, along with his own much smaller pack.   With trepidation, Ranma snuck another glance at Akane. He had endured her silence for almost an hour, and was getting more nervous as time passed.  To his discomfort, she again failed to acknowledge his presence, setting his teeth on edge.  'I don't want to go with out talking things out with her first!  But how can I, if she won't talk to me?'  Ranma could only wait for an opportunity to break the silence, hoping that he could get a chance to speak with her before his departure.

Busy with his own internal struggle, Ranma didn't notice Kasumi's anxiety.  Instead of walking with her family, Kasumi had opted to walk next to Ranma about a minute into their travel.  Originally she had wished to spend the last moments of her time in Nerima chatting with her sisters and her father, but instead Kasumi found herself thinking about the jade piece more and more as she got closer to the Nekohanten.  The previous desire for its presence had returned, growing stronger as they neared their destination.  Kasumi walked apart from her family because she didn't want them to know of her mental condition.  They might worry about her, or worse, prevent her from going.  She simply couldn't pass up the chance to hold that jade again, no matter what.

Walking on the other side of Ranma, Nodoka was lost in thought as well.  Her discussion with Genma had not gone well.  He still held to the belief that Ranma should be kept there and forced to marry Akane.  Regardless of Nodoka’s protest that the relationship seemed to be getting worse, not better, Genma had held to his position.  Worse yet, he refused to tell her what he had done to displease Dr. Miasaki.  Nodoka had a suspicion he might have 'sold' Ranma yet again, but since Dr. Miasaki had never mentioned anything, she couldn't be sure.  Exasperated by his behavior, Nodoka had left him duct taped in the Tendo home.  Now she wondered if she shouldn’t call Miasaki to clear up that particular mystery before she departed.

"Evil Sorcerer!  I will stop you!"  Ranma leapt backwards as a bokken descended from above.  Attached to the bokken was Kuno, in his usual kendo uniform.  Trying not to drop his burden, Ranma leapt to the side as soon as he made contact with the ground again.  "Your evil plot to kidnap Akane Tendo and the Pigtailed Girl by transporting them to China will be foiled!"  Kuno's second strike missed by mere millimeters, nearly ripping apart Nodoka's suitcase.  Ranma continued to dodge just a step ahead of the kendoist, as he hopped and skipped in a seemingly random pattern, waiting for the proper moment to counterstrike.  When Kuno extended a thrust too far, Ranma seized the opportunity and sent a kick upwards into Kuno's wrist.  With a pop, Kuno's bokken flew into the air.  As Kuno leapt toward his weapon, Ranma dropped his burden on Soun Tendo.

"Mr. Tendo, could you hold on to our stuff?  I got to settle this with Idiot Stick here!"  Turning without waiting for a reply, Ranma leaped toward Kuno, foot extended in a flying sidekick.  Before he could connect with Kuno, he was forced to twist in midair, as a familiar bamboo umbrella was thrust toward him from the side.

"Ranma!  For two days of constant fleeing from ghosts, YOU WILL PAY!"  Ranma landed on the outer wall of a Nerima residence, where he glared at Ryoga and Kuno.  Kuno had recovered his bokken by this time, and Ryoga had landed next to Kuno.

"Great. Now Pig Boy joins the fun.  Tell you what, I’ll give you clowns one last beating, and you leave me alone for the rest of the year or something, okay?"  Ranma smirked at his opponents, knowing that he wouldn't have a chance to play with them once he was in China.  'Once more for old time's sake, eh?'  Ranma leapt to meet his enraged opponents as they rushed forward.

"Baka!  We’ll be late if you don't hurry up!  And stop picking on Ryoga!" Akane's shouts went unnoticed by Ranma, who was too focused on the battle.  Feeling the soft squeeze of a hand on her shoulder, Akane turned to see Kasumi's calm gaze.

"I’m sure Ranma will be fine.  Once he's done with his friends, he’ll rejoin us.  Why don't we go on ahead?"  Kasumi's voice did its usual magic, draining the rising anger out of Akane's system.  With that, the group resumed their journey to the Nekohanten, unaware of the many obstacles that will soon befall the pig-tailed martial artist.

Ryoga couldn’t understand it.  No matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t touch Ranma, even with the help of Kuno.  Sure, it had always been difficult to land solid strikes on Ranma, but Ryoga used to be able to force Ranma to block once in a while.  Now, he couldn’t even scratch his shirt.  Ranma seemed to be as insubstantial as fog, as far as Ryoga could tell.  Ducking a strike form Kuno, Ryoga launched a sweeping kick at Ranma that missed by a hair’s breath.  Growling in frustration, he exploded the ground with his breaking point technique, sending shards of cement upwards in hopes of scoring something against his opponent.  At the same time, Kuno tried to use his rapid-thrusting technique to pin Ranma down.

This high-low combination of attacks might have had a chance at success a few months back, but fail miserably now, after Ranma’s training with Cologne.  Having analyzed the style of his opponents, as well as drilling in proper maneuvers to counter them with Cologne, Ranma had turned his familiarity with his opponents into an immense advantage.  While his opponents had adapted to his fighting style previously, they’d never studied it well enough to defeat him; only enough to gain a slight reduction between their skill levels, or temporary advantages in a couple of battles.  Their style hadn’t changed significantly over time.  As a result, they were completely predictable to Ranma.

Fighting both Kuno and Ryoga at once did have its interesting points, as both of them were more focused on power than speed or accuracy.  As a result they tended to get in each other’s way and had to dodge each other’s attacks.  But since they were both fairly formidable martial artists, they adapted to each other’s battle rhythm well enough after a few dozen seconds, producing a tight pattern of attacks that forced Ranma to avoid direct confrontation.  Fortunately, his agility was such that he could weave through most of their strikes without too much effort.

After about five minutes of dodging, he started retaliating with quick blows to send them off balance and into each other’s paths again.  This time they were not as lucky, and started to collect bruises from each other’s attacks.  Five minutes later, a solid blow from one of Ryoga’s kicks had knocked out Kuno, and Ranma had perched on top of Ryoga’s extended foot.

“Man, you guys have got to work on your balance more.”  Ranma remarked before Ryoga could retract his foot.  Ducking an angry fist from Ryoga, Ranma moved beneath Ryoga’s arm and struck with a spinning sweep kick at the same time, sending Ryoga to the ground.  Not really injured from the fall, Ryoga quickly rolled into a kneeling position several feet away in an effort to dodge any follow up strikes from Ranma.  However, he’d miscalculated badly, because Ranma was nowhere in sight.  Before he could scream in outrage at Ranma’s cowardice, Ryoga felt multiple blows on the back of his neck, which sent him into unconsciousness.

Nabiki didn’t know if she was worried more about Kasumi or Akane, since both were acting strangely.  Kasumi was walking apart from her family, with an unusually pensive expression on her face.  Akane was… quiet.  Nabiki kept her own counsel as usual, however, simply because she didn’t quite know how to approach them in such a state.  Her thoughts on the matter were scattered by Nodoka’s voice, as they arrived at their destination.

“We’re here.”

Nabiki turned to glance at the Saotome matriarch, noting that she was scrutinizing the Nekohanten’s exterior decoration keenly.  More than likely, Nodoka was considering Shampoo as an option for grandchildren, and was trying to garner some insight on her by examining the display of Amazon culture.

Nabiki’s attention was diverted from Nodoka when Kasumi quickly walked-- almost rushing-- through the front door.  The rest of the party followed immediately after, and was treated to the sight of a huge mystic circle drawn on the floor.  Nabiki was startled further by the raspy voice of Cologne greeting them from her left, scant inches away from her.  Fortunately, she managed to keep her expression indifferent, preventing her surprise from showing.  ‘Damn that dried-up old monkey!  She’s being extra quiet just to get a rise out of me, I bet, but I won’t let her have the satisfaction.  I might still get some concessions out of her in this affair.’  Nabiki turned her head toward the ancient woman, and prepared to start the second round of their contest.

Akane looked at the inscriptions on the floor with worry in her heart.  Her preparations were against a more mundane sort of transportation.  ‘Maybe there’s a way for me to get a signal out to Ukyo…’ Her thoughts were rudely interrupted when a crashing noise signaled the start of another Nerima rumble.

Striding through the front door (the rubble of it, anyway) was the largest set of ambulatory women’s undergarments anyone had ever seen.  It was at least twenty feet tall, with a brassier and panty as its main body; a garter belt connecting to a pair of giant pantyhose allowed it to walk-- as well as kick down the front of the Nekohanten.  It stood proudly upright, as though some invisible giant maiden with a very womanly shape was inside of it.  The people inside the restaurant stood frozen with incredulous gazes at the sight it for a moment, then collectively slapped their foreheads and muttered, “Happosai.”  A split second later they were in action.  Those with martial arts training immediately took up battle stances to resist any action this latest creation of lechery might take.  Kasumi and Nabiki immediately ducked behind some overturned tables and Amazon luggage for cover.  This proved to be a wise decision, as the silken ‘feet’ of the undergarment monster snapped forward with a kick that scattered the martial artists.

Kodachi Kuno was late.  She had hoped to intercept the Tendos and Saotomes before they arrived at the Nekohanten.  However, she was loath to meet her Ranma-sama while still short on eyebrows and hair.  In an effort to hide the results of her recent ‘adventure’, Kodachi had spent most of the night and part of the morning trying on wigs and other tools of disguise.

Finally satisfied with her appearance, Kodachi had bounded across the rooftops in her leotard, ribbon and vials of interesting chemicals in hand.  Finding the Tendo home empty, she had quickly changed course toward the Nekohanten.

By the time she arrived, the battle against the giant animated undergarments was already underway.  Kodachi spied the top of the giant brassier, and decided that it must somehow be a plot to keep her from her husband-to-be.  Determined to save her beloved from being smothered in low-quality lingerie, Kodachi rushed forward to battle.  However, before she could even get within range of the human-sized defenders of the Nekohanten, she was struck down by the impact of a tar-filled bulb.  Kodachi screamed in outrage as she surveyed the damage done to her, and heard the laughter of one of her enemies.  Kodachi turned and faced Ukyo Kuonji.  For a moment there was silence, and then another mad melee began.

Pantyhose Tarou strode through the streets of Nerima, intent on his latest scheme.  A piece of phoenix shell lay nestled between his hands.  He had found it in the wilderness awhile back in China, when he was imprisoned for a bit by some strange bird-people.  They had captured him one night while he was asleep, and would have sentenced him to hard labor for ‘trespassing’ on their rather obscure and remote territory.  Fortunately, he had gotten hold of some cold water and made his escape.

Normally, he would have torn the place apart with his monstrous form, but in that case the winged people’s abilities in the air had convinced him otherwise.  On the way out, he had picked up a few random souvenirs, most of which he’d sold.  The owner of the Ye Old Mystery Curse Pawnshop had recognized this particular item.  It was said that it could be used to make slaves out of anyone, forcing them to do the owner’s bidding.  Even without the precise knowledge of how to use it, Tarou had wandered back to Nerima, determined to try it against Happosai.

He was, at that moment, thinking fiercely about how best to deploy this latest tool, and thus his danger sense was being ignored by his conscious mind.  Indeed, he would eventually have formed some plan to use it… if a tar-covered woman in a leotard hadn’t landed on him, sending his shell flying into the nearest sewer drain.  To add insult to injury, the woman had jumped off his head to dodge a giant spatula, which whapped him into the side of another building.  The water bottle by his side broke on impact with the wall, and a new participant in the general melee roared in rage and took off into the air to deal out some whoop-ass.

Ranma skipped over the rooftops with a bounce that was almost cheerful.  The battle had demonstrated that his recent training had paid off nicely, putting him in a good mood.  However, the sounds of battle soon caused his pace to quicken.  As he feared, no amount of training could alter his luck.  This day would be as crazy as every other day…

Happosai cried as he hopped toward the Nekohanten.  Earlier, due to his errors in creating the magic circle, he had managed to summon a demon early.  Unfortunately for Happosai, it was a Rent-a-Demon who refused to stay in the mortal plane for more than five minutes, and possessed only limited power.  However, he had granted Happosai’s wish to make Ranma sorry.  The demon proceeded to create a monster made of panties and bras and other women’s undergarments.  Happosai watched with fascination and admiration until the monster was sent off to fulfill the wish.  Only then had he realized that the source of material to construct the monster was his own stash!!  Some of the most priceless items in his collection were gone!  Crying tears of grief, Happosai swore that Ranma would pay twofold for his losses.


To be continued.

Author's notes: (12/12/01) Sorry for taking so long with new chapters!!!  I’ve been very busy trying to pass my graduate courses, so I have much less time to write than I thought.  I hope you enjoy this chapter and the ones before.  Please send me email with whatever comments you may have!!

Chapter 5
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