"What do you mean, he's gone!" Ukyou snapped,
glaring around the room as if he could _make_ Genma appear.
"He got a phone call about half an hour ago," Soun
explained, uncomfortable in the presence of this intensely
angry young man. "and left suddenly." Soun sounded very
unhappy at that. He was also unhappy that this Kuonji person
had stormed into his house insisting that no person of honor
would have anything to do with a Saotome. Genma was
occasionally . . .inconsistent . . .but he never meant any harm.
"I don't believe you," Ukyou leaned forward,
threateningly. "You're hiding that thieving bastard
Now, Soun _knew_ that was a falsehood. He'd met
Gemnma's parents and they were lovely people. And he was
sure he'd get his wallet back someday.
"And when I find him," Ukyou ground out, "I'm
gonna skin him and salt the hide----"
"That's not a friendly thing to say," Akane remarked
mildly, giving no indication that she disagreed ( in principle)
with the thought.
Ukyou flinched, unconsciously flexing her mangled
fingers, but didn't back down.
"It's _very_ convenient that he would get called away,
so soon after he arrived in Nerima." Ukyou pressed. "And
before I could get here."
"It certainly was convenient for Genma," Nabiki
observed. "Almost as if he knew you were coming."
"Oh my," Kasumi freshened Ukyou's cup of tea, "I
suppose if you hurried you might catch . . .Uncle Genma," she
was moderately proud that she managed the appellation
without gagging, "at the train station. He mentioned
something about Hokkaido." She blinked as Ukyou seemed to
teleport out the door. "Such an energetic young man," She
smiled beatifically at the room, "I'm sure it will be nice for
Uncle Genma to have company on his trip."
"You are an _evil_ woman, Kasumi." Nabiki grinned
at her sister.
"You can come in now, Ranma," Kasumi addressed
empty air and was unsurprised when Ranma swung off the
roof and into the room.
"I wish you hadn't told him about pop," he fidgeted a
little under Kasumi's steady gaze. "I better get down to the
train station and warn him."
"Wouldn't you like to eat before you go?" Kasumi
asked, clearing away the tea things.
"No time. I gotta get there before the Hokkaido train
"This isn't the best time of year for Hokkaido," Nabiki
offered, rubbing her chin thoughtfully. "too many tourists for
"I ain't goin' there for sightseein'," Ranma explained,
somewhat impatiently. "I gotta get to my pop before Ukyou
"Well, I doubt you'll find him in Hokkaido," Akane
said, rising from the table. "That was wonderful tea, Kasumi."
"Huh?" Ranma's puzzled look covered a sudden
feeling of apprehension.
" I don't know your father very well," Akane looked
blandly at Ranma, "but I know how he taught you to fight."
She grinned suddenly. "if he mentioned Hokkaido, I'd expect
him to head anyplace _but_ there."
Ranma didn't like the direction this conversation was
taking. First Kasumi sensed him on the roof. Now this. If
_Akane_ could figure out that he had set Kasumi up to decoy
Ukyou away from pop . . .
"Ukyou doesn't know how sneaky you are," Akane
seemed to read Ranma's mind. "he hasn't seen you do that
snazzy leg-sweep." She cocked her head, looking at him.
"Would you mind showing that to me, after dinner?"
"Uhhhh . . .yeah . . .OK." This really was a crazy
family. Especially Akane. But, then again, what did _he_
know about families?
"Great!" Akane smiled blindingly. "I'll start dinner
"Ummm . . .why don't I cook tonight?" Kasumi
"But I was going to try my new eggplant-tuna-kiwi
surprise. And a nice carob-tofu-curry custard for desert."
Nabiki went a little green. If she _ever_ found the
psychopathic deviant who taught her innocent baby sister
about "health food", she was going to audit them with a blow-
"T . . .that's alright," Kasumi said a little unsteadily,
her stomach roiling as Akane went over her planned menu.
"you should concentrate on your marital arts. You need to
keep in training for the All Japan Tournament."
"Sometimes I think you don't like my cooking,"
"That's just silly," Soun replied, crossing his fingers
behind his back. "we _loved_ your bean-sprout-banana
Dinner had been good, if a little strange, Ranma
thought as he made his way through the gathering darkness to
the doujou. Or maybe it was only strange because it was so
normal . . .he could be himself and not have to wonder if he
was staying in character (and trying to remember what that
character was supposed to be). Didn't have to fight pop for
every bite (or worse, have to search through every dive and
gin-joint in town, wondering all the while if Genma'd finally
gotten his throat cut, only to finally find him, jacked of their
last coin, slizzered on cheap wine, in a gutter half filled with
This had been boring by comparison and . . .kinda
Lost in his musings Ranma slid back the doujou door,
blinking in the light that spilled out into the dusk covered
"Hi," Akane called from the far side of the doujou.
"Be with you in a minute."
"There's no----" his eyes adapted to the light, "hurry,"
he squeaked, as he got a good look at Akane.
*She's _naked_* a tiny voice shrilled in his mind,
*it's a trap!* growled another voice. *she's settin' us
up for somethin'*
*nice glutes* sighed a final voice.
"Sorry to keep you waiting," Ranma opened one
tightly-closed eye the merest fraction. "But it takes me a while
to warm up with this bum knee," Akane slapped her brace
lightly and Ranma relaxed as he realized she was actually
wearing a body-suit.
*a really thin, skin tight body-suit*
"OK, take off your clothes."
"Whaaaa," Ranma choked and Akane pounded him on
the back, looking concerned.
"Are you alright?"
"T . . .take off my . . ."
"Yeah, I can't get decent pictures, otherwise," she
waved a hand toward a collection of video and still cameras,
and electronic gadgets that reminded him of a monster movie
he'd once seen in Hong Kong (he and pop had been hiding
from the Triads over a little misunderstanding involving three
hundred kilos of non-existent cocain.)
"Pic . . .pictures?"
"Yeah," she started undoing the ties on his shirt, and
he jerked away, startled.
"Resistance is futile," Nabiki intoned robotically, from
where she was fiddling with a roll of printer-paper. "You will
"Huh!" Ranma jerked around, toward the sound of her
voice, and he felt goose-bumps cover his chest as the
movement left his shirt in Akane's hands.
"I am _not_ a Borg," Akane grumbled as she tugged
at Ranma's belt."
"I dunno," Nabiki commented, "obsessive, single-
minded," she bounced a tiny origami-bird off Akane's knee-
brace, "cybernetic-enhancements . . ."
"Ha-ha, very funny. . . .lift your arms up." Akane
started pressing a series of silver discs along the inside of his
"What th' heck are you doin'!" Ranma jerked his arm
from Akane's grasp, glaring at the little dots stuck to his limb.
"You need those to give the laser a good target."
Akane explained, pointing to similar silver dots that ran along
her arms, legs and torso.
"Kasumi borrowed this stuff from the university,"
Nabiki added, tapping commands into a computer. "to help
Akane with her training."
"The lasers," Akane pointed at orange boxes placed at
intervals around the room, "reflect off the targets," she tapped
a silver disc glued to her elbow, "and the computer maps my
movements and then ties it to the digital pictures." she waved a
hand at several cameras, "I can put all of my moves into the
computer and analyze what I'm doing wrong," she tugged at
Ranma's pants, which were firmly clenched in his hands. "or
right. I want to put you into the computer----" she glared at
him in exasperation, "would you take off your pants, please?"
Nabiki smirked as Ranma's trousers went to half-mast
under Akane's determined urging. "Nice shorts."
"These are too baggy," Akane worried. "They'll mess
up the digitizing."
"Way ahead of you little-sister," Nabiki reached into a
bag sitting beside the computer and came out with a scrap of
blue spandex. "here ya go, beautiful."
Ranma snagged the scrap from the air and looked at it
"That's a _very_ expensive Speedo Predator, treat it
"What am I supposed to----" He looked at Nabiki and
Akane. "Oh no! I'm not puttin' this thing on."
"Why not?" Akane asked, reasonably, holding a pack
of sticky-backed laser targets in one hand.
"I ain't gonna get undressed around a buncha girls!"
"Just close your eyes." Nabiki suggested.
"Oh, OK," Ranma nodded and actually started to pull
down his shorts. "HEY!" He looked indignantly at Nabiki.
"Well, it was worth a try." She motioned Akane to her
side of the doujou and both girls turned their backs.
"Just hurry it up," Nabiki ordered, discretely
triggering the cameras. Why should Kasumi have all the fun?
"Are you through yet?" Ranma was bored, watching
Akane and Nabiki hunched over a computer screen.
"Huh?" Akane looked absently over her shoulder.
"Oh, are you still here?"
Ranma clamped down on a sudden surge of anger.
Akane had made him repeat the arrastao from different
positions, at different speeds---- against a target dummy and
then against her, while she tried different counters. He'd done
the stupid move until his arms were one massive cramp and
his legs felt like dead sticks. And all she had to say was . . .
"Interesting scars," Nabiki had come up behind him
while he was glaring at Akane, who was oblivious to his
anger. "What happened? You wrestle with a barbed-wire
fence?" She traced the hundreds of faint scars with her eyes.
"No!" He answered shortly, a cold shudder running
through his body.
"Well it certainly _looks_ like you got dragged
through----" She reached out to touch a parallel row of
puckered scars that ran from his collar-bone around to his hip,
only to have her hand seized in an iron grip.
"Leave it alone," he grated, face cold with anger and
perhaps some fear.
"Geeez," Nabiki backed away, a little miffed. "I'm
just curious. You're almost family," Akane rolled her eyes at
that, "and I _could_ be your bride," she smiled cutely at him,
"so I'd like to know what I'm getting."
"It's training, alright?" He pulled away from her,
reaching down for his shirt. "I got 'em from training."
Nabiki finally understand just what "form fitting"
meant as Ranma dragged trousers on over his Speedo's. He
_did_ have dimples, she thought, grinning.
"Training!" Akane's eyes lit up with eager interest.
She has _no_ appreciation for the finer things in life, Nabiki
thought sadly as Ranma finished tucking in his shirt.
"What kind of training? Speed, endurance? Is it a
Chinese style? Or that Capoeira stuff or----"
"None of your business," Ranma had, had enough and
headed for the door.
"What do you mean, none of my business?" Akane
stormed after him. "You can't just----"
"He has every right to keep his training secrets,
daughter." Soun corrected from where'd he'd been sitting with
Kasumi for the last hour, watching Akane and Ranma work.
"Once you are married----"
"_If_ you were to be married . . ." Kasumi corrected,
"Ummm . . .yes, of course," Soun backpedaled hastily,
"If you were to be married . . .if the schools were joined, there
would be no secrets, of course." He started to enumerate more
advantages of the wedded state, but Kasumi nudged him,
gently, in the ribs.
Akane bit her lip, emotions warring between revulsion
at the thought of a forced marriage and nearly unbearable
curiosity about Ranma's secret training. Revulsion at being
forced to do anything, won, finally.
"I'm _not_ going to get married just to learn some
stupid training secrets." She turned and stomped off, stopping
only to shut down the computers and cameras.
"Akane!" Soun rose to his feet in a panic as she
stomped out of the doujou, following in Ranma's wake.
"Wait, you must----" Kasumi put a calming hand on his
"It's getting late father," she remarked calmly, "I think
we'll all feel better after a good nights rest."
"But . . .Akane . . ."
"Will still be here in the morning."