Ah My Goddess Fan Fiction / Ranma 1/2 Fan Fiction / Sailor Moon Fan Fiction ❯ A Tale of Two Wallets ❯ Pressing Engagements ( Chapter 49 )

[ Y - Young Adult: Not suitable for readers under 16 ]

A Tale of Two Wallets

(An Altered Destiny)

Written by Jim Robert Bader

Proofread by Shiva Barnwell

It felt wonderful to be held within the arms of Kasumi, surpassing the joy Kodachi had yearned to experience in her dreams and idle fancies. The warmth of the other girl's body pressed up against her own made her wish for the experience to continue indefinitely, the simple joy of contact spreading a different kind of warmth throughout Kodachi's being. She leaned her head against Kasumi's chest and listened to the beating of the other girl's heart, whose rhythm became her own pulsebeat the longer they continued to hold each other in this manner.

So, the Black Rose thought to herself with unusual lucidity, this is what happiness feels like. It was a sensation she could grow accustomed to with very little difficulty. In Kasumi's arms the voices in her mind had fallen silent and all the pain and fears of a lifetime were banished, leaving in their place a sense of belonging…of rightness!

How…very odd, thought Kasumi to herself as she held onto the other girl, feeling the strength in Kodachi's lithe frame matched by the fragility of her soul and fighting spirit. Holding Kodachi made her feel oddly protective, yet not in the same way that she had always felt around her sisters. She had held Nabiki like this many times when they were very little, and still would do this with Akane as her youngest sister's pretence of strength would give way in uncertain moments to the little girl she was behind the façade of the tomboy. Those had been maternal moments when Kasumi had been assuming the role of their late, beloved mother. In some ways Kasumi had been forced to be strong in the place of their father as well, but this felt nothing like that. Kodachi needed her, needed her strength in a way that was very different, yet oddly no less satisfying.

It was more than a sense of need, though…it was a wholly different experience from anything that Kasumi could even relate to. Standing there embracing the other girl was calling up feelings into her awareness that she had never felt before, nor could they be easily identified. Kodachi's presence was like a tingling on the edge of her awareness, as if something instinctual within them was slowly coming to life, and for the first time ever Kasumi felt a very odd thrill pass down her spine, bringing with it a strange tingling sensation in her nether regions.

All of her life Kasumi had devoted herself to being a good girl, the kind her mother would approve of. It came so naturally to her, the cooking and cleaning, the keeping of house for a wild and rambunctious family that did not always seem to appreciate the effort it took to keep a place such as this neat and orderly. Yet Kasumi had never deemed it as a sacrifice on her part for she sincerely loved to cook, clean and keep house. It felt right to her, and she did it out of love for her family without thought of compensation. It was a role she was well suited for, and she did it so well that she knew her mother would smile down on her from heaven.

But for the first time in her memory Kasumi felt as if it were not enough to simply be a make-believe housewife. There was something new in her life, something that she wanted for herself, something she now had that had not been there before, and for the first time ever she felt a strong desire that was highly personal in nature. Kodachi had given her the answer, the only question was…did she lack the courage to take it?

On sudden impulse she gently pushed Kodachi away, still holding the confused younger girl in her arms as she tilted the Black Rose's chin so that Kodachi would meet her gaze, then Kasumi softly said, "Kodachi…?"

"Yes?" the Black Rose whispered, not daring to hope that the rest of her wishes were about to find fulfillment.

Kasumi could not put what she wanted into words, so instead she acted, still purely on gut-level instinct, and drew her mouth to Kodachi's. The kiss was very different from the first time, and it was Kodachi's turn to be surprised as the gentle press of lips commenced, then grew hungry and insistent. She hardly dared believe that Kasumi was actually compelling the kiss this time, yet she had no trouble at all in responding, once her initial surprise was done with.

Without words, and by mutual consent, they fell back upon the bed together, still embracing one another as instinct took over and reason was banished. Though Kasumi could not say from where the desire within her had originated, once it held her in its embrace it banished to the nether regions all the carnality and baseness of her brief possession by the Oni, and yet in its place grew a different kind of hunger no less physical, yet oddly spiritual in an intense, raw animalistic exchange between two fully consenting women…

"Kachu-chan?" Tofu glanced at his companion, seeing his new wife (or was that fiancée?) grow strangely silent with a hand to her breast and a most peculiar expression.

"I am…all right, husband," Kachu said as she recovered her bearings, "I just had the oddest sense of peace come over me just now…as if the raging fires that have tormented me since childhood have grown silent. I've never felt such…contentment as now…I do not understand the feeling…but I like it."

Seeing her smile gave Tofu a very odd sense of contentment, and he smiled as well as he replied, "There's nothing for you to be upset about, and everything is right with the world. Once we talk to your father and mother we can set the date and be properly married, and then…we can talk with Kasumi…" he coughed nervously and felt along the collar of the suit he was wearing in the place of his normal martial arts gi, "At least…I hope you can help me talk to her. You know I've…never been too comfortable with this, but she deserves to hear the truth from both of us."

"You are right, of course," Kachu still smiled, but her smile was tinged with knowing sadness, "I took you from her without even knowing she was my sister, and without knowing that she had desire for you as well. It is the least that I can do to try and make peace between us. I owe my sister that much."

"That makes two of us," Tofu nodded as he glanced back up the walkway to the Tendo house, his arm linked with Kachu's as they made their approach to the front porch in no great hurry.

Kachu's smile deepened as Tofu's hand squeeze hers gently, and in a voice heavy with emotion she said aloud, "I wonder…is this what it feels like to be happy?"

"I sure hope so," Tofu chuckled softly, "Or the real thing will probably kill me."

He was about to knock on the door when it opened of its own accord, and there smiling at him was the very image of Tendo Kimiko-no! Tofu mentally corrected himself-her name was Silk and she was Kachu's mother.

"Son-in-law," she smiled at him warmly, a smile that both deepened and became intensely quizzical as she looked upon her daughter, "Kachu-chan…oh my! Are you blushing, child? You look so radiant!"

Kachu steeled herself to endure the inevitable probing she knew that she was about to receive from the woman who had given her life, thinking to herself that there were some disadvantages that came with having a Lore Master for a parent. Still, in spite of this, she could not stop smiling, a feat that she half-feared would hurt her if she carried it on for too long, the muscles in her face not being quite so accustomed to the exercise. She would have to practice smiling more to train herself in the art, yet somehow that did not seem quite as daunting a challenge as it once might have been. Nonetheless she attempted to sober herself and gave her mother a very polite, "Nihao Mother. My husband and I would like to come in and speak with Father, if that is mete with your approval."

"Goodness sakes, child, why would I object?" Silk asked rhetorically as she stepped back to admit them, giving Tofu a rakish and approving glance as she thought of what a handsome couple they made, and what lovely grandchildren they were about to give her.

Kachu and Tofu shed their footwear, as was the custom in this land, which the Amazon Devil Hunter thought peculiar in an oddly civilized fashion. She was accustomed to going barefoot over rough terrain and so did not mind at all the feel of the smooth tile floor whose cool embrace felt good after the experiencing warmth of the sidewalk through the thin soles of her slippers.

"Your father is out in the dojo speaking with some guests," Silk revealed, "I suppose you could call it an informal family get-together. I'll go summon him if you wish to wait here."

"Thank you, but no, Mother," Silk replied, "I can find my way to this…dojo?"

"It means school," Tofu explained to his wife's questioning expression, "It's where they teach martial arts to the students of the Anything Goes tradition."

"Ah, a warrior's hall!" Kachu said brightly, "Then I must see this sacred place at once. You do know the way there, husband?"

"Of course," Tofu said with no small irony, "I've been there many times to treat injuries for the students, particularly your youngest sister, who used to be one of my most frequent patients."

"Well met indeed," Kachu said with eagerness, allowing Tofu to lead the way as he steered the two of them out to the back patio and towards the walk leading to the dojo…

Nabiki's Journal Resumes:

Strange as it is to think of this very strange day, the meeting with Ryoga's mother was far from the capper to events that were to happen. Looking back I should have seen all of the signs pointing to what was about to occur, but I was more than a little confused at all the information that I was still trying to process in my mind, so I suppose I might be excused if I missed the tell-tale clues of Shampoo's growing excitement.

To be fair, I knew she was growing impatient with me, as we both were with Ranma's flagrant inability to express himself in a sexual manner. So pardon me if I didn't have a clue as to what was in Shampoo's devious mind. She normally acts so kittenish that you can almost forget she has a very passionate and aggressive nature.

Okay, so winding up the business about Atsuko being Ryoga's mother, Uncle Genma was trying to piece it all together in his mind, and I could tell he was having difficulty getting the gears of his mind in working order, so I decided a little helpful observation on my part would help grease things nicely.

"You know," I said, "When Aunt Nodoka hears about this she's going to kill you."

"Urk!" my prospective father-in-law blanched, and I could see that he had finally worked it out for himself, which made me smile, though I wasn't really feeling all that humorous at the prospect.

"She won't have to," Ranma growled, "'Cause I'll do it for her!"

"Now calm down, boy!" Uncle Genma pleaded, "I didn't really know about Ryoga being your half brother…I uh…oh my…" he blanched when he realized to what he had just admitted.

"He's my father?" Ryoga asked dubiously, proving that Genma wasn't the only one whose gears were stuck in Neutral.

"That's right," Atsuko said brightly, "I would have told you before, but there was always a danger you'd go looking for him and attract the wrong sort of attention. That's why I wanted Shirokuro to always be with you to steer you out of danger, only when you got lost she got lost looking for you, and I think she wound up getting spotted by my mother."

"A Demoness," Akane said flatly, looking very dubious at the thought that Atsuko might one day be her mother-in-law, though even I have to admit that there was something charming about the scatter-brained half-Oni.

"That's right," Atsuko replied, "Hey, don't look at me like it's my fault! Not all demons are big and nasty creatures that want to hurt little girls like you. I like think I'm one of the nice ones, while Mom…ah…let's just say she can a real witch and leave it at that."

"Saotome?" Daddy asked of his old friend, "Are you acknowledging that Ryoga is your son?"

"Uh…do I have a choice, Tendo?" Uncle Genma swallowed, then added, "Nabiki's right…if Nodoka hears about this, I'm a dead man!"

"You are so right about that, Pop," Ranma glowered.

"Shut up Ranma," Ryoga snapped, "Don't talk like that about our father!"

"Huh?" my iinazuke blinked, "Excuse me? Since when are you defending him?"

"Since right now," Ryoga challenged, reaching for his umbrella until I cleared my throat and laid a meaningful hand on my nearby water bucket.

"Oh yeah, Porky?" Ranma challenged, "In case you've forgotten, I happen to be your older brother…"

"Actually," Atsuko said, "Ryoga's a few months older than you."

"What?" Ranma blinked again, "But you said…?"

"You may have been conceived first, but I had Ryo-chan first," Atsuko replied, "Time speeds up a bit in Mother's tree, and I spent the first three months there before I found out what she was planning to do with my kid. So in actual terms I had Ryo-chan in about five months, which means he was born first, which makes him your big brother."

"O-kay," I said dubiously, "So Ryoga's a Saotome, and in fact he's the eldest."

"That's right!" Daddy brightened, "Then if he marries my little girl, that will fulfill the vow we made to unite our families, Saotome!"

"You're right, Tendo-kun!" Uncle Genma beamed, "And if it doesn't work out between Ranma and Nabiki…"

"HEY!" I immediately protested, as did Ranma and Akane.

"Wait a second," Akane declared, "Don't I get a say in this?"

"You're right, of course," Daddy replied, "It's not obligatory that you marry Ryoga, but since you both seem to like each other I see nothing wrong with arranging a secondary engagement."

"Just one rice-plucking second here!" Ranma spoke up in outrage, "What do you mean if it doesn't work out between me and Nabiki? Who says it won't?"

"You're joking, right?" snorted Master Happosai, "You can't even look at one of these cuties without fainting. A fine job you did raising him to be like you, Genma, couldn't even instill in your own son a healthy appreciation of women!"

"So speaks the expert on the subject," Lotion pronounced gravely.

"I wasn't talking to you," Happosai turned a level stare at the old woman before adding, "Grand-niece."

"Nonetheless, not-so-revered ancestor," Lotion replied as I arched both of my eyebrows, "You have no right to challenge the boy on his inability to properly articulate his feelings. It is not his fault that Ranma has never learned proper social behavior between the genders. If anything I find him a bit too… provincial for his own good, though Comb here has generously volunteered to bring him up to date on the mysteries of female anatomy."

"Aiyaa," Shampoo smiled brightly, "If Ranma want explore female anatomy, Shampoo volunteer to help. Is okay with you, Airen?" she coyly added with a sultry look in my direction.

"Ahhh…hah?" I replied, or words to that effect, feeling suddenly very uncomfortable as if the air had gotten warm inside the dojo.

"Learning the mechanics is one thing," the diminutive pervert that was my father's teacher (though how Daddy avoided turning out anything like him is something I ascribe to an act of the kami), "But from what I've learned in the last two days the boy can't even bring himself to hold hands with one of these cuties. I'll bet he's never even kissed them!"

"Shampoo give Ranma kiss of life," our Amazon girlfriend spoke up, only to arch her tone as she added, "But Ranma never kiss Shampoo back. Perverted Demon Master have point, is big step no yet take with Airen."

"Then shall we make it into a challenge, then?" Comb brightened up, "If Ranma kisses one of these girls, either my daughter or Kimiko's child, then that will settle the matter and they can proceed without the burden of doubt haunting their marriage."

"Kiss…?" Ranma got very round-eyed and pale as both Shampoo and me turned quizzical looks in his direction. I met his blue-eyed gaze and saw him swallow in a pronounced manner. My own mouth suddenly felt quite dry and I wondered privately if he would have the guts to take up that challenge…and which of us he would kiss first…me or Sham-chan?

Of course, as has become the routine drill around here, just as we were about to put that challenge to the test, fate intervened once again as Doctor Tofu called out from the doorway, "Hello? Mind if we join you people?"

"Doctor Tofu?" Akane's happy expression faded when she saw the woman who was holding arms with Tofu was none other than our long-lost sister, Kachu.

"Come in by all means!" Daddy brightened as he stood up to greet them, "So good to see you again, Doctor…and Kachu…you are looking very well."

"Thank you…father," I noticed a slight hesitation in her voice, and for a moment I wondered if somebody were playing a joke on us and had dressed Kasumi up with Amazon odangos. She was actually smiling and acting extremely shy as she greeted our father, and I could almost swear that she was blushing! No way did she in any part resemble the whirling dervish who had attacked me and Ranma!

But then her expression changed as she glanced at the rest of us, and the face of the madwoman whom I remembered returned with full vengeance. Without warning she stretched out a hand and called her pole arm into existence, crying out, "DEMON!!!"

"Oh bloody hell," I heard Atsuko grumble as she snatched up her umbrella and prepared to defend herself as my angry big sister came charging in her direction.

Both Ranma and Ryoga leaped to their feet, as did Shampoo while Atsuko began fending off the Devil Hunter's C'hi-Chi as the two began a furious exchange that lasted several seconds and instantly proved the reverse of her fight with Comb. As before, Kachu fought like a possessed madwoman and had the half-Oni on the ropes within three passes. I could hear my Amazon sister begin to chant one of her spells when Ranma, Ryoga and Shampoo finally chose to intervene, throwing themselves into the space between combatants, joined in short order by Akane.

Of course I wanted to contribute my part, but since the only weapon I had on hand was a bucket of cold water I made a snap decision as I scooped it up and ready to use it. After all, I knew how dangerous Kachu was, and I wasn't about to see either Ranma or Shampoo hurt defending either Ryoga or his mother.

In retrospect I know it wasn't such a very good idea, but I was aiming at Atsuko, honestly! I thought if I splashed some cold water on her it would give her the chance to slip away in fox form, or if I doused cold water on my crazy half-sister it would achieve the same effect, only I wasn't that precise in my aim and I got all six of them in one shot, which isn't as easy to do as you'd think if I had been intending to do that deliberately, and as a consequence five of the six combatants all did their usual shapeshift.

Hey, it did the trick as far as bringing things to a halt, because Kachu stood there half-dripping wet looking down in confusion at four animals and a redhead who stood where people had been a few seconds before this.

"Hold it!" a voice cried with such authority that it took me a moment to realize that the one calling out was Daddy, "Kachu, put down your weapon this instant!"

Kachu wavered, uncertain of herself as she stood her ground with her weapon past the line of animals towards the Fox that she recognized as her quarry, "But…she's a demon…a Fox-spirit…!"

"Well, yes…technically," Daddy said, "But be that as it may, she is a guest within this house and is entitled to fair treatment…"

"Besides which," Uncle Genma stood up and approached Kachu, doing something so widely out of character that even Ranma blinked his eyes as he gripped the shaft of the C'hi-Chi with one hand and pressed the tip up to his breastbone, "If you want to get to her, you're going to have to go through me. This isn't your usual half-breed Oni we're dealing with her…she's a…friend of mine, and I won't let you hurt her."

The fox uttered a noise that sounded amazed at this totally unexpected gesture, which was joined by a quack, a squeal and a "Mew?" from the rest of the Jusenkyo barnyard critters.

"Genma?" I heard Comb gasp as Kachu wavered even more than before, and when Tofu laid a hand to her shoulder she finally lowered the tip to the floor, glancing at the Doctor before bowing her head in resignation.

"I…apologize," she said, sounding as if the word was not one with which she was too familiar, "I did not know that she was a guest. My senses perceived the presence of a demon and I…reacted according to my training."

"Understandable," Elder Lotion replied, "Don't let it happen again."

"Yes, Elder," Kachu replied, and somehow banished her C'hi-Chi.

"Pop?" Ranma-chan was looking at her father as if suspecting that Genma was the one who had just been taken over by an Oni.

The pig made a sound that shared unusual the same tone that Ranma used and no doubt was the porcine equivalent to "Father?"

"It's all right, Boy…" Genma paused a moment then added, "Boys. I knew what I was doing, and I wasn't going to let her hurt your mother…Ryoga."

The pig just squealed softly while I caught Akane giving him a duck-like expression.

"That was a very brave thing you did, Saotome," Daddy said almost proudly, "And also extremely foolish."

"I know, Tendo-kun," Genma nodded, "And if I ever do anything like this again…talk me out of it!"

I saw his knees sag as the old Genma that we were all familiar with resumed his place and the one who had stood there briefly took a powder. I had mixed feelings about that, but in a way it was almost comforting to have the old Genma back. That new one had been like a stranger, and while he was more appealing as a prospective father-in-law, it would have taken some getting used to.

"Now that we have that settled," Happosai sniffed, "How about asking the happy couple if they're going to make a big announcement."

"Uncle," Lotion said in a chiding tone of voice.

"As a matter of fact," Tofu spoke up, "That's exactly why we came looking for you, sir. I know Amazon rules make this somewhat academic, but I wondered if I could…ah…have the…uh…that is," he coughed and then blurted out, "Iwantyourpermissiontomarryyourdaughter."

"What?" Soun asked when Silk walked up and whispered something in his ear that was probably a slowed-down translation, for Daddy's eyes got wide and the tears started forming in his eyes, threatening another dam-burst, "Why…that's wonderful news! Of course I accept…if this is what you want for yourself…daughter?"

"Father," Kachu spoke the word more easily this time, clutching Tofu's arm as if seeking his support to find strength to say, "It would give me the greatest happiness to call this man my husband in your language. He already is my husband in all the other ways that matter, but I want this to be respected in your country as well as my homeland."

"Then you have my blessings," Daddy said as he took both Tofu and Kachu into his arms and hugged them tightly, causing them to look awkward as I saw their faces over Daddy's shoulders.

"Looks like three out of four of your daughters are getting married, Tendo," Uncle Genma said, "I almost envy you, though both of my boys are now engaged to two of your daughters."

Akane made a quacking noise that I suspect meant something like, "I didn't agree that I was going to go along with this! Ryoga hasn't even proposed yet!" because it earned a puzzled look from the pig that bordered on shock and amazement.

"Ah…" Kachu seemed to take notice of the animals again and seemed to be asking the question with her eyes, to which I helpfully supplied the name of Jusenkyo, which caused her to say, "Oh," as if that was all the required explanation that would be needed.

"Well, now that that's settled," Silk remarked, "I've got some boiled water in the house that I can fetch for those of you who need it. Have you two decided on a date yet?"

"Not yet," Tofu admitted, "We were also hoping, maybe, that we could talk with Kasumi. We'd like her to know about our decision."

"Kasumi?" Daddy looked puzzled.

"A long story, Daddy," I said, taking pity on my father, "Kasumi's in the house…at least I think she was…"

"I…ah…checked in on her a few moments ago," Silk informed us in what I thought was a suspiciously hasty manner, "She's all right, but she doesn't want to be disturbed right now. If you two wouldn't mind waiting for a bit I can go inform her that you'd like to talk with her…"

"Maybe I should do that," Daddy said, taking a step forward, only to find Silk had somehow contrived to be in his path no matter which way he turned.

"That…wouldn't be too good an idea just now," Silk replied, "She's feeling…not altogether like herself at the moment. In fact, she may be experiencing…ah…well, how should I put this…?"

"Silk?" Comb frowned, giving her friend a suspicious look that was the equal to my own thoughts.

"Of course," Lotion surprised us all by saying, "It must be her time. It would not be prudent to disturb her just yet, Tendo-san. You daughter is all right…and she will be feeling even better in a bit. Give her time and she will be down of her own accord…eventually."

"Huh?" I asked, wondering what I was missing here, and why this had the suspicious appearance of a conspiracy of silence.

"You see?" Silk replied, "Grandmother agrees with me. Now, if you'd be so kind as to come with me, Soun-chan, I could use your help in the kitchen…"

"But I…" Daddy weakly protested as he was led by the arm out of the dojo.

"Mother seems to be getting along with well father," I heard Kachu say before turning a questioning look at me, "Does this not meet with your approval, sister?"

"Who…me?" I asked, "Well…"

"You ask me, it's about bloody time!" Happosai snorted, "If it were left to him that Soun would be in mourning forever, and that's no way to honor Kimiko's memory! If she were here she'd kick him right into the koi pond and tell him to get on with his life."

"For once we are in complete agreement on that score," Lotion remarked, adding the word, "Uncle."

I leaned closer to her and said, "He's not really your uncle, is he?"

"In a manner of speaking," the old woman replied, turning to me as she said, "But you should learn not to let yourself be so easily distracted. You had an important issue to resolve, and there've been enough fateful interruptions for one day. Pray continue where you left off…" she waved her staff in the air and called forth a kettle of tea, which she passed along to Ranma, who wasted no time dousing himself with the contents.

"Mew?" Shampoo asked, but when Ranma tried to share some of the water he found the pot was empty, which produced sullen glares for three other Jusenkyo-cursed creatures.

"Ah…sorry guy's" Ranma said, running his fingers through the hairs at his name in a way that unconsciously mimicked Ryoga, "Guess you'll have to depend on the hot water in the kitchen."

"I made the pot specifically for you for a reason," Lotion informed us, "You have a decision to make, young man, and if you want to continue to court my apprentice you must put aside your fears and doubt and do that which is manly."

"Manly?" Ranma blinked, "Hey, I'm man enough!"

"Oh?" the old woman scoffed, "Prove it. Come along, everyone…and that includes you, too, Uncle."

"Ah, but I want to watch this!" Happosai protested, only to shy away from the glare he next received from the old woman.

"You too, great granddaughter," Lotion said as she herded the Jusenkyo beasts out of the dojo.

"Yes Elder," Kachu agreed, taking Tofu in hand and steering him back out into the yard.

Ranma and I suddenly found ourselves standing alone in the now-empty dojo, with clothing and discarded umbrellas littered about the floor in such a way that I could almost anticipate Kasumi's quiet disapproval. We stood facing each other that way for another full minute before Ranma swallowed and said, "Ah…I guess they want me to…um…ah…"

"Yeah," I felt myself suddenly grow unexpectedly shy and hesitant as we both looked at the floor for another full moment, then I looked up again and said, "Well? Are you gonna do it?"

"Do…what?" He asked, and I'd swear his voice squeaked a full two octaves above his normal pitch, making him almost sound like his female aspect.

"You know…" I hesitated again then forced the word out of my mouth, "Kiss me."

"Huh?" he squeaked again, now even tighter than ever.

"What's the matter," I asked, feeling increasingly uncomfortable as with both struggled to reach a mutual accommodation, "You too scared to kiss me? I am your iinazuke…"

"I know that!" Ranma almost snapped, then in gentler tones he added, "I just…I…I wanna…I mean…I do want to…"

"You do want to what?" I challenged, then added with more force, "I knew you didn't have the guts for it, Saotome."

"What?" he said in outrage, "Why you…now you've gone and done it! I'll show you!"

"Talk is cheap," I said, hoping I was pushing the right buttons with his fiercely competitive nature. He took two steps forward to close the distance between us, then reached out with a finger and touched me on my breastbone.

All at once I started tumbling backward, but he caught me in a swoon and held me above the floor while he leaned over me and said, "Okay…now I'm gonna do it, you hear…and it's not just because you challenge me…all right?"

"All right," I murmured, looking at him with very round eyes and wondering if I had pushed him too far, but once again I saw the old hesitation.

"Okay," he said again, "This time I mean it, so don't go acting surprised or nothin', and don't complain because you told me to do it…"

"So…what's holding you back?" I asked, finding my position in his arms to be both alarming and exciting, the sense of his raw animal magnetism easily making me forget that he was sopping wet from his double dousing.

"Don't rush me," he sounded just a tad shy of a panic attack, "I'm…I'm just getting myself ready, okay…" and suddenly he leaned in, bringing his face to within a few centimeters of my own, his eyes suddenly filling the whole of my world as everything else faded into the background, leaving only the two of us at the center of all existence.

We held that pose for the longest time, but in the end I thought he was going to chicken out on me at the last, when all at once he gave a start and his face moved forward. Out mouths made contact almost by accident, and then we held that pose through mutual shock and utter amazement. For one brief instant nothing moved, and even our hearts seemed to have stopped beating.

Then they started beating again, only stronger and louder than before, and with out lips still pressed together as Ranma's tension melted away, as did mine, and we started kissing in genuine earnest. It was our first real kiss, and just thinking about it now makes my head swoon (though more was to follow…a lot more than I'm going to say right here! Any hentai wanting the details had better be willing to pay up front because I'm locking my notes with a triple-guarded password!)

All I will say is that Ranma is a very nice kisser, once you get him started, and he definitely improved his technique with further practice! We probably stayed in the dojo for a good solid hour just holding each other and carrying on that way, two crazy kids who were discovering what love can really be all about, even if we chose by mutual consent to save the best parts for when we were in my room much later…for which we both have a certain winged pussy to thank, bless her furry hide for intervening…

Shampoo smiled a cat-grin in satisfaction as she watched her airen exchanging kisses with such wild abandon. It has not been easy sneaking up on her husband in this way, but as a cat she had certain advantages, and he was distracted by their wife's beauty, giving her the chance to intervene when she had seized the right moment.

Seeing the two of them embrace while yet holding back from commitment had been the last straw in her mind's eye, but she knew all that her husband needed was a little incentive to break the deadlock, which she had been all too happy to apply, she thought smugly while examining her cat-claws. One swipe at her husband's rear had been all that was needed to provide sufficient motivation, and then the kiss had been automatic, meaning the first hurdle between them had finally be surmounted.

But it was not enough in her opinion. Now that she had gotten them to open up about their feelings, she would have to steer them to the next level of mutual fulfillment, a moment she had long anticipated with the eagerness of any self-respecting predatory creature. It would not be easy to take them both to the next level, but a plan was already hatching in her crafty mind to get he wife alone so that she could start the ball rolling in the right direction. Once she had obtained Nabiki's full consent, she had no doubt at all that their husband would soon follow.

Swishing her tail as she folded her wings and giving her two beloveds a satisfied cat-smirk, she sauntered out of the dojo in search of some hot water, her thoughts already aflame with anticipation of her forthcoming conquest. The future was looking bright for her already, and when the last impediment to her marriage was removed then true happiness would finally be hers for the taking…

"So, how'd it go?" Ukyo asked as she saw Cologne's grim-faced expression. The Matriarch had just left the council chamber and was looking none-too-happy, though she tried to conceal it with her usual air of aloofness.

"It went…about as I'd expected," the old woman replied, "Be-Dea was unusually generous in her recommendations. It makes me wonder what she is up to. At the very least she has taken advantage of circumstances to increase her influence over the rest of the council."

"And that's bad?" Ukyo surprised.

"One of many old sayings we have," Cologne explained, "Is that when your enemy is gracious, then you should be very worried. At any rate it has no bearing on our own business. I take it you are ready to return to Japan?"

"Ah…yeah," Ukyo glanced to one side, "And so are they."

Cologne seemed to acknowledge the presence of the others for the first time and said, "Indeed? All three of you? This is not entirely unexpected, but…do you realize what your presence might mean to Shampoo and her marriage?"

"I know it will be awkward, Elder," Lo-Xion the younger replied, "But I have to see Shampoo to reassure her that I'm all right. I can't bear the thought that she thinks I'm dead, and besides…I have a right to be there, to wish her well in her marriage."

"And what is your part in this?" Cologne's gaze was almost a challenge at the pink haired warrior beside the blue-haired healer.

"Where she goes, I will follow and be her protector," Ambergris replied, indicating the brown haired Enforcer as she added, "And I think that holds true for Perfume here."

"Great granddaughter?" Cologne's tone was more like a hesitant question.

Perfume's expression gave nothing back, but there was clear anger and disapproval in her gaze as she replied, "<I will go with you, Elder. Shampoo is my cousin.>"

Cologne heaved a great sigh and said, "Let it be as you wish it. The bus arrives in another hour. I trust you all have packed such things as you will need on our way to the airport?"

"I got what we came here for," Ukyo fingered her backpack.

"Then it is settled," Cologne glared back over her shoulder at the large stone house that served as a Council chamber, "Let us be away from this place. It feels less like home these days, and I feel almost a stranger among my own people."

"Don't be too hard on them, Matriarch," Ambergris noted, "They are living in the past. You and I have seen the real world as it is beyond our borders. Be-Dea will make such plans as she thinks are best, but in the end it will not change the future."

"And you are that future?" Cologne asked with deep suspicion.

"In a manner of speaking," Ambergris replied, "For better or worse, with our without your approval, and as the fates rule, I will be the future for our people."

"So you say," Cologne sniffed, then picked up her pace and grumbled sourly, "Let us be on our way, then. The future notwisthstaning, I'm not getting any younger…"


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