Chapter: 8


"Son," Genma spoke jovially into the phone's
mouthpiece. "How's your first day at school going?"

"I got splashed by cold water pop . . .an' I'm wearin' a
dress. How do you think it's goin'?"

"Ahhh . . .well, that's fine," Genma's hand tightened
on the phone. "Ummm . . .how did _she_ take it?"

"She don't know pop. No one knows, and that's how
it's gonna stay.

"Well . . .that's fine then,"Genma wiped his head with
his kerchief. "How are you getting along with Akane-chan
otherwise?"

"She's a psycho pop . . .an animal!"

"Son," Genma barked, seeing all his plans (and all that
lovely money) slip away. "That's no way to talk about----" he
recalled where he was and went on in a lower tone. "It can't be
_that_ bad."

"She _ate_ a can o' pepper spray."

"Ahhhh . . . .well . . ." Genma grinned nervously at
Soun who was sitting at the shougi board. "That's just
fine . . ."

"By the way pop . . .do ya remember a guy named
Kuonji?"

Soun watched in concern as all the blood seemed to
drain from his friends body.

"Well," Ranma continued, "his son Ukyo just
registered at Fuurinkan and-----Pop? Pop, are ya listenin'?"

"Genma, my friend?" Soun bent over Genma's
unconscious form. "Are you alright?"


******************************************************


Onna-Ranma waited outside _her_ home room, trying
not to fidget as he waited for Yumi-sensei to call for him. This
wasn't any harder than the time they'd pulled a variation of
the "Russian Duke Con" on an Afghani warlord, involving
some counterfeit travelers checks, some _real_ gold bullion
and a few hundred non-existent Stinger-missiles. He just had
to convince people he was someone he wasn't. Of course, he
hadn't been wearing a bra then, he thought, snapping the
elastic with a grimace of disgust.


"We have another transfer student," Yumi Junko said,
going to the door. "And I would like a big Fuurinkan welcome
for her." She motioned Ranma to come in. "Please tell us
about yourself."

Ranma pasted a shy smile on her face, trying mentally
to get and _stay_ in character. "Hello. My name is Saotome
Ranma." She could see Akane stiffen at the name and hurried
a bit with the story she'd come up with. "My father wanted a
boy, but as you can see . . ." she spread her skirts a bit, then
waited for the laughter to die down. "My hobbies are singing,
swimming and reading manga." Another short burst of
laughter. "I have a cousin, also Saotome Ranma, who may be
attending Fuurinkan High School. He is the boy my father
wanted," a few more chuckles and Ranma knew he was on a
roll, "he is a martial artist, but is a little shy and spends a lot of
time caring for his father who has been very ill." Some looks
of sympathy, even from Akane, (who had a pretty good idea
that Genma's illness was poured from a sake bottle) and he
knew that he'd "sold" them. Another successful con. "So you
don't confuse me with a boy," much laughter at this,
especially from the boys in class, "you can call me Ranko. I
hope we will all be good friends."

She headed for the seat Yumi-sensei pointed out. That
hadn't been too hard. Watching what the other transfer
students had done and imitating them had made it a breeze.

"Saotome?" A strong calloused hand came down hard
on her shoulder. "Saotome . . .Ranma!" She was spun around
to find herself face-to-face with Kuonji Ukyo, his face
suffused with rage. "You're not Ranma----but if you're a
Saotome----" his fist drew back.

"Kuonji-kun,"Yumi-sensei ordered. "Take your seat at
once!"

"Be quiet." Ukyo grated. "This is none of your
concern."

"If you don't take your seat, you'll have to stand in the
hall."

Ignoring this horrific threat Ukyo turned his attention
back to onna-Ranma. "I'm gonna pound you until you tell me
where to find 'Gen-ma'," he turned the name into a curse.
"Then I'm gonna pound you until you tell me where to find
his son 'Ran-ma'," his fist twisted in onna-Ranma's blouse,
lifting the small girl off the floor.

Ranma had _hoped_ to keep a low profile. And having
an onna-Ranma who _didn't_ do martial arts had seemed like
a good start. If he was going to have a stupid curse, he might
as well get some use out of it.

"Then----- I'm gonna pound you just for being a
Saotome."

Unfortunately, with Ukyo, the concept of 'low
profile' seemed to mean a broken nose. Onna-Ranma quickly
ran through her options, as Ukyo's fist drew back. She
decided on a variation of "Drunken Man Wushu". A
supremely skilled master of martial arts (which perfectly, if
modestly, described him, he thought) could fight an opponent
yet make it seem entirely accidental. She let her body go limp,
as if in fright, preparing to execute a Six-Beer-Stagger take-
down.

"Hi, my name's Akane," Ukyo's forward moving fist
was caught----and held! "do you want to be friends?"

"No!" he snarled, struggling to free his hand. "I don't
want to be friends." He glared at the girl who held his hand as
if it were embedded in concrete. "I _want_ to pound a
Saotome. And I'll pound you if I have to." He released his
hold on Onna-Ranma, who promptly slid to the floor, and
struck at Akane with his free hand.

"Do you want to be . . .friends?" With a slight grunt of
effort, Akane snagged his other hand.

"Why you----"

Akane turned slightly, to catch a savage snap-kick on
her hip, rather than in her kidney.

"Do you want to be----friends?" Akane tightened her
grip and Ukyo's face whitened, while Ranma winced in
sympathy as she heard the bones in Ukyo's hand grind
against each other.

"You----" Sweat broke out on Ukyo's face and the
muscles in his arm bunched as he tried to out-muscle Akane.
"Bitch . . ." A trickle of blood ran down his chin as he bit
through his lip. "I'll . . .kill . . ." he could feel the blood
thundering in his ears as he put forth all his strength.

"Do you want to be friends . . ."

Ukyo met Akane's steady gaze, and saw something
flicker, deep inside her eyes, then vanish. She shook off a
sudden feeling of unease and hit her with another savage kick.
Akane didn't even flinch, as if she were made of stone.

"I . . .I'll never give . . .up," Ukyo panted, pain
shooting up his arms, like bolts of fire. "Sao . . .tome . . . blood
feud . . ." Black dots danced in front of his eyes and he tried to
break Akane's hold with a series of kicks to her right arm.
Akane merely twisted slightly, to take the blows on her
forearm and his toes went numb, as if he'd just kicked an iron
bar.

"Never . . .give up . . .stole . . .from us. Ge . . .Genma.
Ranma. I'll . . ."

"I only asked if you wanted to be friends." Akane
repeated mildly, loosening her grip slightly, seeming not to
notice Ukyo's barely repressed gasp of relief. "A friend
wouldn't disrupt class with a fight. A friend would discuss
things calmly, during a break."

"W . . .what . . What about Saotome?," Ukyo resisted
an urge to cry as his arms blazed with pins-and-needles
feeling.

" I've got to tell you right now----they're both guests.
So _no_ fighting at our house. Or at school, either." She
watched Ukyo massage feeling back into his hands. "And,
one more thing, Ranma is my iinazuke," there were stunned
gasps from the room, not the smallest from Onna-Ranma,
"so . . .unless my father agrees your grievance is just and
honorable, your fight will be with the Tendo family as well."

"I . . .iinazuke!" To say Ukyo was stunned was an
understatement, on the order of saying Miyamoto was pretty
good with a sword.

"It's an arranged thing," Akane dismissed, "but my
father takes it very seriously. And . . .and I have to as well.
Honor and family are the heart of or our ryuu,"a hint of steel
entered her voice. "So . . .as long as the engagement holds, a
fight with Saotome is a fight with Tendo If you want to
fight Ranma----"

"What about Genma?"

Akane grimaced. "I . . .I . . .he _is_ a Saotome, and he
_is_ a guest . . ." her voice trailed off unhappily. "So they both
are under our protection. Unless you can find a reason for
father to decide otherwise."

"Oh I think I can find _a_ reason. I think I can find
_lots_ of reasons." Ukyo replied grimly.

******************************************************

"Pop! Dammit pop, get up!" Onna-Ranma hissed,
clambering through the window, awkward because of the long
Fuurinkan skirt. She moved quickly and quietly toward the
blanket covered lump on the futons.

"Boy," Genma's hoarse whisper came from behind
and above him. "Are you alone?"

Onna-Ranma kicked at the improvised dummy and
looked over her shoulder at Genma, splayed against the upper
corner of the room like some bloated spider.

"Pop, get down here," She ordered, exasperated. "I cut
out of school early, but they're gonna be right behind me."

"Who?" Genma wiped the sweat off his brow,
remaining firmly wedged in his refuge, even without the use of
one arm.

"Akane and Ukyo . . .Kounji Ukyo" Ranma
grimaced as Genma squeaked in fright, "are gonna be right
behind me."

"You've got to protect me son," Genma wailed. "It's
your duty to me as your father, and as your sensei!"

"Geeez pop, get a grip. An' what do ya expect _me_ to
do?"

"You engage him in combat, while I make a run for
it!"

"He's not after _me_" Onna-Ranma pointed out,
pointing a dainty and newly tinted thumb at her chest, "he's
after some _guy_ named Ranma, and his pop, Genma."

"I'll take you down with me, boy," Genma warned.
"I'll expose you in front of everyone. Then they'll know what
a freak you are."

Ranma's face tightened, but that was the extent of
showing what she felt. It was enough for Genma.

"I . . .I'm sorry boy, I didn't mean it." But they both
knew he did.

"It's alright, pop." Ranma sighed, knowing his father
from long experience. "What th' heck did you _do_ to Kuonji,
anyway? I think I remember the name, but it's been . . ." he
thought a moment. "Ten years, but Ukyo acts like it was
yesterday. He's _really_ pissed."

"We don't have time to go into that----"

"I've got a better chance of knowing what to do, if I
know what you _did_", Ranma explained patiently, knowing
it wouldn't do any good. He never knew what his father had
done, until well after the fact, and sometimes he never _really_
knew what Genma had done. He just had to try and clean up
after him. And, he wouldn't mind that so much, if Genma just
wouldn't lie to _him_, just like _he_ was a mark, too.

"Never mind, pop . . .I've already got a plan."

"That's my good boy." He jumped down from his
hiding place and hugged his transformed son. Ranma resisted
briefly, then returned the hug, pretending for a moment that his
father would love him, even if he didn't have a plan.


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