Ah My Goddess Fan Fiction / Ranma 1/2 Fan Fiction / Sailor Moon Fan Fiction ❯ A Tale of Two Wallets ❯ Of Spas and Perverts ( Chapter 62 )
A Tale of Two Wallets
(An Altered Destiny)
Written by Jim Robert Bader
Proofread by Shiva Barnwell
Nabiki's Journal Resumes:
The wind whipped past us at more than ninety kilometers per hour as Shampoo gunned the engine and briefly popped a wheelie before stabilizing this monstrosity that she called a bike, which I had been ever so foolish enough to climb onto the back of, and now was holding onto Shampoo for dear life! This wasn't my usual means of getting to class on time in the morning, and it was beginning to appear to me that hitching a ride via Ranma Express was a definitely safer and less life-threatening way to travel! It's not that I'm saying that Shampoo is a bad motorcyclist, of course, it's just that she seems to be under the distinct impression that traffic laws are something that happens to other people!
Oh, granted we made excellent time, and we were running a bit late, what with oversleeping and all the assorted problems you usually wake up with after spending half the night in orgiastic lovemaking. Of course it wasn't just having sex with my two iinazuke that had been giving me fits all night, it was that less-than-fortunate encounter that I had in the middle of the night with Kasumi over the issue of Kodachi!
But as for arriving at Furinkan High School with my sense of dignity intact, that truly was a lost cause. Those were two of the longest minutes of my life that I suffered through on account of my poor judgement, witnessing first hand how Shampoo could literally turn the laws of physics upside down and ride that scary thing right up the side of a building, along fences and vaulting over drainage ditches like a purpled haired daredevil, her cat-like reflexes and sense of balance allowing her to compensate for the shift in my balance that came whenever she made a sharp turn at corners (mercifully few of those since Shampoo prefer to go THROUGH obstacles rather than around them!). I mean, viewed objectively it was a pretty amazing display of two-wheeled prowess, and had I been a less interested observer I'm sure I would have appreciated it more. As it was the only positive thing that the experience gave me was healthy appreciation for the virtues of walking-that and the chance to put my hands on that part of Shampoo's anatomy to which anyone other than her airen were totally forbidden! Shampoo didn't even seem to mind my holding her there, and if anything it encouraged her to do things even more daring just to trigger in me an instinctive squeezing reaction!
Heh! Re-reading that section I'm struck at how much like a guy I must sound like making sexist comments like that about Shampoo. I mean, just because I sleep with her in my bed (if "sleep" is the right word to apply here) does that give me the right to make rude comments about parts of her anatomy that are my business (and Ranma's) but nobody else's? I just know I'd have had a field day making wry, sarcastic comments about anyone else besides me who talked that way about Sham-chan. On the other hand this is a private diary that I'm encrypting on my computer, so who's going to know what I said, other than Sham-chan?
Anyway, we got to school in one piece, which was no minor miracle from where I'm sitting! My heart was beating like a staccato trip hammer and I felt too weak in the knees to trust putting weight on my feet when at last Shampoo pulled into a screeching halt in the school parking area. My Amazon bride (if I may be indulged in calling her that) was her usual perky self as she flashed a smile at various onlooking students, whose expression of amazement showed that they weren't completely inured to surprise, even given that astonishing sights are an almost daily occurrence on our campus. It was only after Shampoo turned to me and urged me to remove my helmet that the other kids got a good look at her kamikaze passenger, namely yours truly, and I'm almost swear that my hair was standing on end, even though I was the one who had worn the helmet!
I must have seemed like one of those shell-shocked war refugees that you see in school films about stress who need to be led by the hand and taken care of when they're minds are in full shut-down mode and they barely operate on an autonomic level. Shampoo waved a hand over my face several times before urging me to get off of her bike, then she fetched my school supplies from the holding compartment and handed to me with a cheerful smile, as if nothing were the matter. Taking me by the hand she encouraged me to start moving forward, and it was the act of moving my legs that started to shake me out of my daze as the realization that I was not facing an eminent threat to my personal welfare and existence any more, and it was about this point when I began to acknowledge the voice of Ryonami.
My trusted aide and specialist in the field of bet taking came rushing up waving her hand and crying out to me, "Senpai! Senpai!"
"Eh?" I replied as my thoughts regained at least a tentative normality as my mental hardware finished doing their version of a self-diagnostic routine and finished completing the restart, "Ryo-chan? What's up?"
"Senpai," Ryonami was faintly out of breath as she caught up with us, taking a moment to rest with hands on her knees before she looked up at us with distress written plainly on her features, "Come quickly! Something's happened that you've got to see, and Shampoo with you!"
"Aiyaa?" Shampoo replied, surprised to be included in the summons.
My curiosity was naturally piqued, and we had a few minutes before classes would begin, so we followed Ryonami as she led the way around the building out to the front entrance, where we came upon a scene that was altogether a familiar only a few months prior to this, before Ranma had come to Nerima as a matter of fact, but which I would have given odds had become a thing of the past since Ryoga had first expressed an interest in Akane. Bodies were lying on the ground in all sorts of prone positions, the bodies of male students representing the various athletic clubs of our school, out cold and looking like a hurricane had worked them over.
To my considerable surprise-and the dismay of Shampoo, who gave a hearty, "Hiyaa!" beside me-said hurricane turned out to be a pair of underaged girls who by rights should have been in middle school but were instead confronting a group of female students with weapons drawn in full combat threat mode.
"They just showed up out of no where and started challenging all the guys to a fight, the way they used to do with Akane every morning," Ryonami said by way of hasty explanation, "I thought they might be Amazons from the way they dressed like you, Shampoo-san, but the laid all the guys out like they meant serious business!"
"Is serious all right," Shampoo affirmed, "Those Shampoo's sisters, Ling-Ling and Lung-Lung, but what they do with funny dressed Japanese girls?"
"Oh, you mean the Combat Cheerleader Squad," I remarked, not taking my eyes of the tableau as he addressed Ryonami, "That's a good question, Ryochan, what are they doing?"
"Oh," I noticed a slight hesitation in my subordinate's voice and risked glancing to see her staring nervously at the ground with an odd blush on her face as she said, "Well…that's because Captain Ai got mad at seeing the boys get humiliated that way. She ordered Mariko-san and the others to join her in making their own challenge against those girls. You know how she gets about school pride and all of that…"
I nodded understanding. That did sound in-character for Konjo Ai, blonde dynamo and one of the worst female rakes in all of the Furinkan student body. Ai had dated many of the top-notch jocks (of either gender) in our school and no doubt considered it within her proprietary interest to look out for their welfare (if only to insure that a few would remain serviceable for the purposes she wanted). She was a skilled and capable fighter who had somehow found a way to turn Cheerleading into a full contact sport (rather like Kodachi and Gymnastics when you think about it) and not someone to be crossed lightly. By herself she was easily as formidable as Akane, but when backed by her full team they were an almost unstoppable force, and currently they were grouped into one of their fancy combination-posed stances that hid their martial readiness behind the artful grace of motions normally thought to be exclusively associated with a Pep rally.
"This no good," Shampoo said aloud as she studied the potential combatants, "If sisters win they maybe hurt Japanese students, but if funny dressed girls win fight…"
"Right," I said, deciding that it was worth the risk to intervene, so I clapped my hands while we approached this group and called out, "Ladies! Your attention please! This is no way to go about making formal introductions!"
Both sets of combatants swiveled their eyes to look in our direction, and then the cherry pink haired Ling-Ling and green haired Lung-Lung lost their hostile demeanor and cracked broad smiles as their focus went to Shampoo, all thoughts of their impending brawl forgotten.
"Big sister Shampoo!" the each cried out as she rushed up to embrace her.
"Aiyaa," Shampoo remarked as she returned their embraces, "What you do here at Shampoo school, Ling-Ling, Lung-Lung?"
"We come to test out boys to see if strong fighters like Shampoo airen," replied Ling-Ling.
"We see fight with Shampoo father-in-law and Aunt Silk," Lung-Lung added, "Think maybe there other strong fighter in Japan who no married!"
"But these no better than boys we fight back in China," the pink-haired girl said with obvious disgust, glancing at their handiwork as if accusing them of being lazy.
"Wait a minute," I said, "You mean you two showed up here looking for dates?"
"Is Amazon way," Shampoo said to me off-handedly, as if that was sufficient explanation. But then her tone grew sterner as she said, "This Japan, no China. No can say hello this way. Shampoo sisters need study prey better before issue challenge."
"We're sorry," both girls said together, lowering their expressions and looking altogether contrite.
The stern act didn't last long as my purple haired companion smiled and hugged her sisters, saying, "Next time ask Shampoo advice. Shampoo spend much time in Japan, know where to go to fight strong fighters."
Both of the twins made delighted sounds and hugged their big sister with even more enthusiasm than before. I caught a look of genuine pleasure in Shampoo's eyes as she returned their hugs, and I suddenly flashed on the fact that she had not spent that much time around her own family and must have missed a sense of intimacy with her own blood kin that I took for granted around Kasumi and Akane. Of course the momentary reflection only lasted for an instant before the sound of someone clearing their throat intruded on our private conversation.
"Excuse me?" as Konjo Ai from where she was standing, only a few paces from our position, "Not that I want to break up this happy family scene and all, but we do have some unfinished business here, in case you all have forgotten."
"Shampoo no know what yellow hair mean," Shampoo growled in clear irritation, "Shampoo sisters visiting Japan, no know how is done here. If you have quarrel, then you take it up with Shampoo, hai?"
The twins gasped in surprise at hearing their older sister defend them in this manner, but Ai was less than suitably impressed and said, "You think I'm afraid of you Amazons and your reputation? This is our school and your hooligans just ruffed up a number of our classmates. If you think we girls are going to take that lying down then you are most sadly mistaken!"
"Knock it off, Ai," I said as I moved around to interpose myself between Shampoo and the prospective cat-fight, "The do things differently in their part of China, so take it as a compliment that they thought maybe at least one guy here could stand up to their challenge," I gave a contemptuous toss of my head to indicate my sister's former playmates, "You've no quarrel with my sister-in-laws, okay? So back off before you wind up getting over your pretty head or something. Believe me, you don't take an Amazon challenge all that lightly."
"Sisters-in-law?" Ai asked with obvious confusion.
"Ah," I belatedly kicked myself in my metaphorical hinny for the verbal gaff, realizing that an explanation here would make hash of what was left of my "Ice Queen" reputation. I lamely cooked up a half-baked excuse by saying, "Oh, that's right…I haven't had time to tell anybody, but one of my sisters from China showed up the other day and got married. Nobody you'd know, of course, since she's too old to be in high school, but that's really not important. Let's just say these two are family and leave it at that, all right?"
Ai blinked her eyes and for a moment lost some of her aggressive stance before shrugging her shoulders and saying, "Whatever…that's your business, not mine, Tendo-san, but I'll be willing to overlook this whole incident if these two offer an immediate apology for their rude conduct…"
"Apology?" both Shampoo and her two sisters said in unison, but I raised a hand to stifle further protest from her corner.
"I don't see why any apology is necessary," I replied, "Those boys were offered a fair challenge and failed to measure up, correct?"
"Well, yes…" Ai reluctantly conceded.
"So they took their lumps like young men who haven't trained as hard as they should have for such an encounter," I continued, "So now they have to live with the humiliation of losing to a pair of little girls, which ought to serve as a strong motivator to redouble their training, so in a way these two have actually done Furinkan a service, correct?"
"Well…" I could see Ai struggling to find a flaw in my reasoning, but I wasn't about to afford her the opportunity.
"It's all well and good that you care enough about our menfolk to look after their welfare, Ai," I gave her my most sardonic smile as I added, "But taking the responsibility of defending all of Furinkan on your shoulders and that of your team is a bit much, don't you think? Besides, it's not like you have any proprietary investment in all of these boys, right? I mean, even you couldn't date that many."
She scowled at me for my playful little dig, but I let her know I was only being half-facetious by my expression as the last thing I'd want to do is have someone like her for a mortal enemy. Hey, I personally like Ai, whatever her eccentricities and personal foibles. I've made a lot of money betting on her squad to triumph over other schools in the past, and I'd have to be blind not to notice that Ai has a great body, if not quite as luscious as Shampoo herself. In spite of her reputation as the campus "slut," she's really not all that bad a person, and she's very loyal to the other members of her team. I know this from long and careful observation not to let her "butch" side be taken at face value, and I'd much rather have someone like her remain a potential ally than to underrate her intelligence or truly alienate her.
"Very well," she said, "We'll let this go for now, but I'm warning you, if they show up again looking to cause trouble they're going to find us standing ready to issue challenge."
"You funeral if you think Shampoo sisters weaklings," Shampoo gave Ai a cat-like smile and added, "Is very big mistake underestimate womans from Amazon tribe."
"We'll see about that," Ai replied, pivoting on one heal and signaling to her team to fall in step as they headed for the athletic side of the main building.
"Wow," I heard Ryonami exclaim, "You sure handled her like a pro, Senpai."
"Good," I said, then added at the level of a low whisper, "Then maybe my knees will stop knocking and we can get on with classes…"
"Yo!" Ranma called out to us as he approached at a loping stride, instantly banishing all of my cares and worries as I turned to greet him with a genuine smile of pleasure.
"About time Ranma catch up with Shampoo," our Amazon wife greeted him with a teasing expression, "Is sorry now you say bike no way to travel?"
"Hey, I never said it wasn't fast or nothing," Ranma waved his eyes in an appeasing manner, "I just think traveling by rooftops is better for training."
"Oh, you've no idea what training's like on the back of a bike, Ranma-kun," I chuckled nervously, trying not to think about the rush of images that were still fresh within my brain, "It's definitely an experience you should try, at least once."
"I guess," Ranma shrugged, "Well, did I miss anything? What's with all the guys taking naps? Did somebody insult Akane's weight again?"
"Well," I drawled, "Actually…"
"Hey, what are you two doing here?" he asked of Ling-Ling and Lung-Lung, "Shouldn't you guys be in middle school or something?"
"Is big brother Ranma try to be funny?" Ling-Ling responded.
"No go to Japanese school like Big Sister," Lung-Lung added, "Spend whole time training to be as good as big sister Shampoo."
"That way we find husband like big brother Ranma," Ling-Ling continued with a smile that made Ranma instantly look nervous.
"Ah…what?" he blinked his eyes and looked from Shampoo to me for explanation.
"One side," a voice urged calmly as yet another male figure advanced upon us, none other than Kuno! "So, someone has impudently issued a challenge to the men of our school without considering me in the bargain. I should feel insulted, but as you are guests from out of town I will forgive your oversight."
"What do you want, Kuno?" Ranma asked in a tired tone of voice that as much as conveyed a "Let's get this over with" subtext.
"Obviously not to banter words with you, Saotome," Kuno replied without his usual wrathful malevolence or exaggerated flourish, "But I would offer you a formal apology that time does not permit me to explain myself in detail."
Alarms went off in my head as Shampoo and Ranma exchanged looks with me before turning to stare in disbelief at Kuno, wondering if we had actually heard the word "apology" cross his lips for even an instant!
Ling-Ling and Lung-Lung stepped forward and held their weapons at the read, one holding a short quarter staff, the other a trident, as Ling-Ling began, "Is you strong fighter what goes to school with other boys like Shampoo Airen?"
"I am a student of this school," Kuno replied, "Kuno Tatewaki, Captain of the Kendo League and your humble servant."
"Is good tall boy have such nice manners," Lung-Lung noted, "We fight?"
"Alas no," Kuno replied with a slow shake of his head, "It would not be manly."
I think about that point all three of us regulars who knew about Kuno from prior experience were about ready to fall flat on our faces or suspect that this Kuno was one of the Pod People, because the Kuno we knew would never have refused a challenge from two pretty girls, regardless of their ages. I could all but feel the confusion in the twins as they looked up at him, then Ling-Ling gasped, "No manly? What is stupid talk? We Amazon warriors, no weak Japanese girls you take for granted!"
"This may be so," Kuno said calmly, "And I doubt not that you have the fierceness of the Goddess Artemu, but to accept challenge from you would humble me, for I am most unworthy of your attention."
"You is saying you no good enough to fight with Amazon?" Lung-Lung asked, sharing but not matching our astonishment at such a concession.
"I would not know how I might fare against you," Kuno said with another slow shake of his head, "It might prove a worthy challenge to both of our prowess, but alas, I must decline for to accept would be a grave insult to the both of you as guests within our country."
"Is no insult to fight with womans of Amazon village," Ling-Ling argued, arching her tones as she added, "Unless you think we too weak to beat you."
"I assure you maidens that such was the furthest idea from my thoughts," Kuno replied with continuing humility, "Indeed, proud warriors the both of you must be to humble so many of our bravest fighters by yourselves, and I confess to being in awe at the efficiency of your dispatch. Alas, the honor you would bestow me is too great for me to accept as I would risk shaming myself before my peers and fellow classmates. They would think me a cad for even attempt to mar the beauty of two such ravishing flowers are yourselves, so please, pray forgive my cravenness that I stand humbled before you, half blinded by your radiance and unable to stand within such sight as it would be like gazing upon the sun for too long a time. You master me by merely allowing me to bask within your presence."
I could swear that there was an almost audible sound of two sets of eyes blinking in unison, and I saw Shampoo's sisters lower their weapons by a noticeable fraction as if they did not know what to make of Kuno and his lyrical flourish. I had always known that he was gifted with a sense of the poetic, but I'd never seen him banter with such art and daring, verbally running rings around the less sophisticated Amazons, who-like Shampoo-are simple hicks from the country.
"You…you think we is pretty?" Ling-Ling finally translated.
"Pretty is to pale a word to describe your beauty," Kuno replied, "To call you less than ravishing would do a grave injustice to my country's language."
"You think we strong warriors," Lung-Lung added, "Better than tall boy?"
"Indeed, I would not dare to come against you for it would unman me," Kuno bowed his head, "Forgive me, I am not worthy to fight with you. You must allow that I am a weak, humble man who must abide himself with women who are not as formidable as the pair of you are together. Now please pardon and excuse that I must be away to my classes for I have an important meeting today with my teacher."
"Is Elder business?" Ling-Ling asked.
"Is very important?" Lung-Lung seconded.
"Far too important to be ignored," Kuno replied, "Perhaps we shall meet again, gentle maidens, when I am a better man who can abide to be in your most worthy presence."
So saying the boy who looked remarkably like Kuno Tatewaki walked on back and into the main building while the rest of us stood where we were trying to make sense of the incomprehensible. It was a full two minutes at least before Ranma was able to turn to me and voice the question we were all asking, "Okay, who was that and what has he done with the real Kuno?"
"Is nice boy," Ling-Ling smiled foolishly.
"Is true," Lung-Lung nodded, then a half second later reality came dawning on both twins and they exchanged dismayed looks before crying, "We let him get away???"
"Obviously the pair of you need a serious education in the male sex."
"Nani?" I said, taking a moment to try and recognize the person who had just spoken those words. The haircolor and style should have been dead giveaways, but the fact that this person in question was wearing a school uniform like a regular teenaged girl threw me for about fifteen seconds.
Not so Shampoo, who stared at the newcomer and said, "Great Grandmother?"
"Old ghoul?" Ranma said the words pro-forma, but from the way his eyes were roving up and down it was plain enough his heart was not into the insult. In fact, if he had been any more reactive I would have decked him on the spot.
"Don't laugh," Cologne eyed us all with a glare that would have wilted the paint off of a building, "This wasn't my idea, I assure you."
"Um…excuse me," Ryonami spoke up, seeing only a girl our age who slightly resembled Shampoo but for her dark blue haircolor, "Did you just call her your…grandmother?"
"Long story," I told my assistant before turning a suspicious glance in Cologne's direction, "If you don't mind my asking, Matriarch…"
"Blame it on my granddaughter and her alleged sense of irony," Cologne growled as if every word had a peculiar distaste, "Or her warped sense of humor by suggesting to me that I should visit with you young people today after she enrolled me in classes without my knowledge."
"Kind of a fast enrollment don't you think?" said Ranma as he once again anticipated my next question.
"What can I say?" Cologne shrugged, "I taught my granddaughter well to use what connections she has, and I have a special purpose for being with you here today. You see…there is someone else about whom you should be warned, Son-in-law, and you as well, great granddaughter."
"Shampoo no interested," Shampoo said as she turned her nose up and away from her nominal elder.
"Not even if I tell you that it is one of Happosai's protégés who will be coming for the both of you very shortly?" Cologne asked with a shrewd expression.
"The old freak?" Ranma growled, "What's he got to do with anything, and what's his about a protégé? What the heck is that?"
"She means a student, like our fathers," I explained, frowning, "Maybe you'd better tell us all about it, from the top, starting with why you're so worried about Shampoo and Ranma?"
"My concern for them, apart from my standing as both Elder and their teacher-former or otherwise-is based on the likelihood that they will be targeted by the one who learned a forbidden Amazon technique from Happosai," Cologne responded, "You see, Happosai learned much during his time with us, far more than ever I suspected, and among those secrets that he took with him in his travels was one that I saw displayed yesterday evening while on my way back to the Nekohanten…"
"Come back here you thief!" a shrill voice cried out, followed by dozens more angry voices raised in protest as a virtual stampede of female students came running around the corner, Konjo Ai and her band of Cheerleading misfits chief among them. Ahead of the pact by at least a half dozen paces was a familiar blonde figure running fleet-footed with an incriminating sack slung over one shoulder. Where he got the school uniform from I don't even want to speculate, save that it was not a very good fitting and he tended to wear it with the tail out in Chinese fashion.
"Oh great." Ranma growled, "What's he doing here?"
"Shampoo think him up to old tricks in new disguise," Shampoo supplied helpfully, "Maybe him think we stupid enough think he student so he get closer to objects for groping."
"Yeah, but in that form he's more vulnerable than as an old guy," I surmised, wondering as I said this about the irony of that statement.
"Indeed," Cologne mused, "Then perhaps I should take a hand in this. After all, if I'm stuck playing the part of an adolescent, then it's only fair that he does likewise."
She vaulted away, moving as swiftly as she ever did doing "pogo-stick" maneuvers, and I sudden gleaned on how foolish we'd all been to take appearances at face value around the Matriarch. In two quick strides she was in his path, and before Happosai could register this fact-let alone veer away from the impending collision, Cologne was in his face, striking hard and fast to sent the de-aged pervert sprawling.
"Wow!" the girls cried as they all flocked to a halt to admire the "new student," one girl stating the facts for everyone, "You sure took that creep out like he was yesterday's news!"
"Oh, it was nothing, really," Cologne replied with false modesty, "I just get a charge out of messing up his schemes, fair payback for all the problems he's given me in the past…"
"Oh," one of the other girls said, "Ex-boyfriend, huh?"
I saw Cologne stiffen, and with great deliberation she said, "He is NOT my boyfriend!"
"Uh-huh," the rest of the girls replied, as if buying that line as much as I did.
"Say," Ai noted as she pushed her way to the front ranks, "You're new around here, aren't you? Just transfer here from your old school?"
"Ah…something like that," Cologne said evasively, which is about the point where she had a timely rescue in the form of what I took to be a nine-year old kid who angrily declared, "Ahah! I've found you at last, Delinquent!"
"Oh bugger," Cologne said as she turned slowly around to confront a little brown haired girl in a yellow dress who was scowling up at her with a look of accusation.
"You've been causing trouble again, haven't you?" the little girl said, pulling out a small object that she held between her fingers, which I would later determine was a five-yen coin, as if the thing were some kind of deadly weapon, "You won't escape me again! Anything Goes Happo Five-Yen Satsu!" and then she called out a bunch of words that sounded like "Pain" and "Madness," and all at once the hairs on my head start to stand on end as I feel a wave of cold pass over me, and some kind of negative glow surrounded the little girl, who started to transform into a full grown woman!
Of course by this point Cologne had taken a powder, but the unfortunately mob of still-angry girls was caught in the wave of absorption that overtook their ranks as the spell leached energy from them and caused the brown haired girl to grow noticeably taller.
"Whoah!" Ranma exclaimed as he and Shampoo took defensive stances, "Did you see that?"
"She suck battle energy from students," Shampoo agreed, "She now look tall like Shampoo mother!"
"That was what I was trying to warn you about," Cologne said as she suddenly appeared beside us, "The technique she uses drains battle aura, so whatever you do you must not allow yourselves to get angry."
"Happosai taught her to do that?" I asked, noticing that the pervert in question had also removed himself from the area of absorption. Unfortunately our fellow students did not fare as well as they fell to the ground like dried up wheat-chaff, including Ai and her group, who did not appear to be as chipper as I could ever remember.
"Hey, it wasn't like I ever thought she'd use the coin trick on me," Happosai said as he took flanking position on our left, "I guess Hinako-chan's forgotten all about me over the years. She was only a little thing when last I saw her."
"When was that?" Ranma asked, "In an incubator?"
"Smart aleck," Happosai retorted, "In point of fact I was going to look you up to give you fair warning about the technique, but I…kinda got distracted…"
"Uh huh," I mused, "My guess is a bath house," and I was rewarded by seeing the formerly old man shoot a look of surprise in my direction.
"How did you…?" he began, when the now adult Hinako whirled about and cried, "You there! Who are you and why are you standing with these delinquents?"
"Who…me?" Ranma asked as he discovered that he was the focus of Hinako's glare, "Uh…I'm Saotome Ranma. Why do you want to know?"
"Hmph," Hinako smiled in a way that I most certainly did not like, eyeing our iinazuke with a coy look that made even Shampoo bristle as this woman was radiating sensuality like red light district, "So you're the famous delinquent that I've been hearing so much about. I understand you and your companions were responsible for humiliating the teaching staff yesterday, including Principal Kuno."
"Yeah? What of it?" Ranma asked, "And who the heck are you, lady?"
The woman raised a hand and flashed the yen coin as she replied, "The name is Ninamiya Hinako, and I happen to be your new Homeroom teacher, so be respectful of my authority or you'll suffer the fate of these others."
"You're…a teacher?" I gasped, wondering when the teaching staff had started hiring people who looked like THAT and could behave so scary!
"A discipline specialist," she replied, "Hired to bring you delinquents in line after you so recklessly humiliated your last homeroom teacher, Godai-sensei."
"But we were attacked first!" Ranma protested, "We weren't the ones who started it! The principal was trying to force us to get back haircuts!"
"It is the duty of the school administration to set policy for dress code, of which you kids are in violation," Hinako-sensei responded, "Those aren't school uniforms you two are wearing and your hair is most definitely not regulation! Pigtailed braids and dying one's hair that odd purple color…"
"Aiyaa," Shampoo protested, "For last time, Shampoo no dye hair! Is natural color!"
"Whatever," Hinako-sensei said, already beginning her coin maneuver, "You need to be made into an example for the benefit of the other students!"
"Hinako-chan!" Happosai suddenly moved forward, "Don't misuse your talents like this! I didn't teach you the Good Girl maneuver so you could abuse it on people who never did anything to hurt you!"
"W-What?' Hinako froze in the act of completing her pentagon-like arm motion, "What are you saying, who are you?"
"Don't you recognize me, Hinako-chan?" Happosai asked, "I'm your Master, Happy!"
"Happy?" Hinako frowned, "Too happy from the looks of things, and don't you know it's bad to steal underwear from your fellow students?"
"Ah, you never used to mind that," Happosai drawled, "In fact in the old days you even helped me out on occasion."
"I…did…?" Hinako blinked in growing confusion.
"My," Happosai allowed himself to leer as he looked the well-stacked teacher over, "You sure grew up to become a fine figure of womanhood. Glad to see that coin trick I taught you was good for something."
"You…?" Hinako frowned, "I don't know what you're talking about! Who are you, Delinquent?"
"Delinquent?" Happosai snorted, "I like that!"
"Haven't you forgotten something yourself, Happy-san?" Cologne remarked in what sounded like a frosty tone of voice.
"Like what, old woman?" Happosai responded.
"You don't quite look like yourself these days," she pointed out with a patently false smile on her expression.
"Huh?" the blonde pervert blinked as if just realizing the truth behind that statement, "I-uh oh…"
"Happo Five Yen Satsu!" Hinako cried, once again, and with Happosai standing at point-blank range there was no way that he could avoid taking the brunt of the spell's impact. Of course the rest of us were also in the line of fire this time, and I could feel the energy leaching from me as I raised my hands in a feeble attempt to block it.
"Don't manifest a battle aura!" Cologne called out, "Remain calm and you will not be affected!"
"Easy for you to say!" Ranma cried as he, too, made a warding motion while backing away as if some part of him was being sucked into the vortex.
"Aiyaa!" Shampoo also cried, "Is very strong pull! Very hard to resist it!"
"That's because I'm using a larger coin this time," Hinako-sensei smiled, "I anticipated you figuring out the counter-maneuver…eh?"
All at once the stream of energy pouring out of us was cut off by a staff and a trident being crossed together to form some sort of energy barrier with Shampoo's sisters maintaining it between them.
"Don't worry Big Sister Shampoo!" Ling-Ling called out, "We protect you!"
"Is basic defense taught by Mother to counter strong energy attacks," Lung-Lung added, "Form Barrier Satsu, is used to protect warrior against attack by demons!"
"Very good, children," Cologne remarked, "You are holding her at bay, but might I suggest a strategic withdrawal might be in order?"
"You don't have to tell me twice," Ranma said, and suddenly he had me in his arms before I could even blink and we were vaulting to the safety of the nearby school building, where we found Akane and Ryoga already waiting to greet us.
"Hey," Akane said, "What was that all about? Who was that lady?"
"She said she was our new homeroom teacher," Ranma turned to my sister and asked, "You guys know anything about that?"
"No," Ryoga replied, "All we know is that Godai-sensei called in sick…something about a domestic situation that needed clearing up…"
"You ask me," said a familiar-sounding male voice, "It sounds like the guy is really hen-pecked."
I did a double-take as I belatedly recognized Kuonji Ukyo in her new mail form, and let me tell you standing up close to her when she's male that is like getting hit in the chest with about a thousand volts of pure hormonal reaction, especially when you are as unprepared for it as I was.
"Aiyaa…" I heard Shampoo beside me express in obvious appreciation, "What you doing here in same high school as Airen?"
"Huh?" Ranma blinked, "Ucchan?"
"Ah…well," Ukyo said, "I thought I'd check the place out since I've already enrolled, though I won't official begin here for a couple more days…"
All of a sudden Shampoo's sisters were there acting like giddy teenaged idol-otaku, clutching hands together as they gushed their eager appreciation of Kuonji's bishonen good looks while conveniently forgetting the fact that they supposedly knew her real gender.
"Aiyaa, this boy in Big Sister Shampoo's class who no have girlfriend?" asked Ling-Ling.
"You strong fighter, yes?" added Lung-Lung, "Maybe we fight and get to know one another?"
"Back off girls," Akane growled, "This is no time for this nonsense!'
"Is nonsense for you," Ling-Ling said eagerly as she took Kuonji by one arm.
"Is Amazon way for us," added Lung-Lung, who took Kuonji's other arm, much to her obvious discomfort.
"Ah…Ranchan," Kuonji smiled weakly, "Shampoo-san…could you kind of like call them off…?"
"It ain't that easy," Ranma noted.
"Shampoo think Spatula girl look good flank by Amazons who want strong Airen," Shampoo added with straight-faced sarcasm.
"But if you've got a moment," Ranma pulled something out form his sash that I recognized as the challenge scroll from the day before, "I got something I wanted to talk with you last night, only I kinda forgot about it in all the excitement. You know anything about this?"
Ranma unrolled the scroll and held it up where Ukyo could see it. She-I mean HE paled and said, "Say what? That's Pop's law firm! What does he want…?" He blinked his eyes then growled, "That JACKASS!!! I told him that I was going to settle this thing by myself!"
"It seems your father did not quite get the message," I said drolly, "I think we need to talk some more about this, don't you?"
Ukyo started to nod when Hinako-sensei appeared and said, "No loitering in the hallways. Either you students find your way to class or I'll perform another Satsu."
Ranma and Shampoo immediately flanked me while Cologne assumed a neutral stance, while behind us the others looked on in confusion. Hinako did not make an overt move to raise her coin, but instead she lifted something that looked a little like a blond haired kid who had been left out in the sun for too long. Even Gosunkugi has looked better than that on his off-days!
"This is what will become of anyone who doubts my authority as a teacher," she said simply, "I trust that I will not have to repeat myself on this?"
There was a mutual exchange of glances, and then Cologne signed and turned around, which prompted the rest of us to do likewise as none of us felt much like making it into an issue. It would not be until much later that I would hear the full story of Ninamiya Hinako, renegade protégé of Happosai turned self-anointed enemy of juvenile delinquents (meaning us). All I knew at the time that-for the first time that I can remember-I felt very glad not to have to share my homeroom class with Ranma and the others…
"Ah, now this is the life!" Atsuko sighed as she eased into the steaming waters of the outdoor bathing pool that had been unveiled to the others, "Our very own personal hotsprings!"
"Oh my," mused Nodoka, sharing a space near to the half-Oni, and likewise naked, "You say you and Comb built all of this by yourselves? It's quite a remarkable building project."
"Well, Silk helped a little," Comb shrugged, "Atsuko's illusion power coupled with Silk's Lore Mastery created the right environment for me to cast the spell we needed to summon the fire Elementals that actually heat the water."
"I see," Soun remarked from where he sat at the far end of the pool, trying not to glance towards the other women as his central focus was on the lady beside him, "So you're saying that this is actually in part some kind of illusion?"
"More or less," Silk mused, clearly delighted at the proximity between her and the only man present, "Only it's not an illusion in the sense of something that isn't really there. It's more like a bending of the laws of time and space over this localized area. We noticed that there was a part of your yard that wasn't being used for anything important and I thought it would make a great place to add a recreational facility. After all, your students and family work very hard, and they can't all make use of the furo to refresh themselves."
"Oh my," mused Kasumi, glancing around at the ambiance of the place, "It looks so much larger than our yard itself. How much of it is real?"
"Might be worth exploring that question sometime," Silk said indulgently at the younger girl, "Too bad your friend Kodachi had to hurry on to class, I'm sure she'd be happy to do some exploring with you."
"Oh, that's all right," Kasumi replied, "We did that last night after we finished cleaning up the house…"
"You what?" Soun sat more upright.
"Oh relax," Silk chided him, "They're young, they deserve to have fun. Speaking of which, you two did a pretty nice job laying out the basic construction. I'm sure Nabiki and her airen will be happy to try this out themselves when they get home from classes."
"That was the idea," Comb noted before turning a grudging look towards Atsuko, "Odd the two of us working on anything constructive…"
"Let's just not make it a habit, okay?" Atsuko sniffed, "I don't think my stomach could take it."
"I think the two of you should be congratulated," Nodoka said, glancing around before adding, "By the way, where is Genma and your husband, Comb-san? I would have thought my husband would enjoy this sort of thing, what with the problem his curse brings him."
"I don't know about Genma," Comb replied, "But my husband elected to stay at the Nekohanten and prepare it for business. He's decided to help Grandmother out by running the place when she's…not available," her smile had an impish quality as if she were savoring some private humor.
"Oh, Gemi-chan said he had to go to the store to get something," Atsuko spoke up, "It's his day off from working at the clinic for that nice Doctor Tofu, and I was kind of hoping he'd hang around so we could…ah…talk and get better acquainted."
"Just talk huh?" Comb growled suspiciously, "Nothing else? I'm surprised you didn't volunteer to go with him…"
"Oh, I wanted to," Atsuko glanced down and reluctantly added, "But he was so insistent that he had to go alone, and I didn't think it would be a good idea to try and follow him…ah…because…"
"Because you might wind up in Hokkaido?" Silk asked, "Correct me if I'm wrong but that is your home island, correct?"
"Not that I ever go back there these days," Atsuko sighed, almost barely murmuring the words, "On account of Momma…"
"Your mother?" Kasumi asked, "Oh my…is there some problem between you?"
"You could say that," Atsuko said weakly, running a hand to the back of her head before adopting a goofy smile and saying, "But it's nothing I wanna talk about right now, okay? This is our time to just soak and relax while the kids are away and it's just us grown ups."
"I agree," Nodoka nodded, "It's a wonderful feeling to let all your cares and troubles melt away while you soak in such luxurious mineral water. I haven't felt this alive and at peace for over ten years, though I'm happy to say that my husband has lost none of his vigor during his long absence."
She seemed to take no notice of the fact that Atsuko and Comb were giving her dagger-eyed glares, and a less serene woman might have noticed a pair of battle auras briefly flare to life, to be replaced mere moments later by equally chagrined expressions as the Oni and Healer looked away with matching crestfallen expressions.
They also failed to notice a pair of eyes gazing down at them from a shadowy place nestled between the branches of a nearby tree. Those slitted eyes regarded the reality-warped folding of space and detected a familiar pattern to the illusion, and then a soft voice chuckle as a woman's voice said, "At last I have found you, Daughter, and this time you won't escape me…"
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