At the end of a rather uneventful school day, Ranma, Nabiki, and Akane stood at the gate to Furinkan High, the Tendou sisters in their school uniforms and Ranma in her typical Chinese silks.
"I dunno 'bout you girls but I'd better run," the redhead started as she adjusted her shirt and tapped her feet to the ground. "Got some things to do, places to be."
Nabiki fussed over a clasp that her girlfriend had missed. "We'll see you later at Shampoo's restaurant, right?"
"Of course. Will Ryouga be there?"
"I don't think so. He left last night."
"Yeah, he won't be back until next week at least."
"Poor Shampoo," Akane interjected, her words laced in mild disapproval.
"Eh, she'll be okay. See ya there!" Ranma dismissed and shot off, jumping onto the first house across the street, intent on taking the shortest path to where she needed to be. On ground level, the Tendou sisters walked at a much more placid pace and with several more turns. They wouldn't have acknowledged Tatewaki Kuno when he walked by if it weren't for him stopping Akane, but Nabiki (much to the surprise of everyone present) bought him off with a single photograph. The much taller young man left them with a lewd image burning a hole in his shirt pocket, soon disappearing behind a corner.
"What did you even give him?" Akane asked. "What was that photograph?"
"Just a picture of Ranma-honey from the reject pile."
"You have a reject pile?"
"Yeah I do. That one just barely didn't make it through quality control. I figure if it got him off your back he could have that one for free."
Akane stared at her big sister with an eyebrow raised in disbelief. "Sis... nothing is free with you."
"You're absolutely right, sis. I plan to have a lot of fun with Kuno-baby later on."
Meanwhile, maybe a little before all that, Ranma jumped from rooftop to rooftop as she did so often. But even when you do something basically all the time, there's always the risk of failure. Indeed, sequestered in his proverbial control room, Murphy flashed a wicked grin and pressed a button. Ranma landed on a loose roof shingle, which slipped out from underneath her foot, and she fell down.
Were she in her catgirl form, she would've had the instincts to turn around and land in a way that would minimize the damage, if not neutralize it. But she was human, and hit the ground head first. Fortunately, she was still Ranma Saotome -- it would take more than landing on her head to take her out.
...is what she would've said. The blow was still hard enough to put her down for a good few minutes.
To make matters worse, who else would pass the alley she'd landed in but the Blue Thunder of Furinkan High, Tatewaki Kuno, 17 years old?
"Ah, but how it pains my very soul to think I would let that shrew Nabiki distract me from my one love with the image of my other. Verily, I should seek to meditate on them both--"
A groan from the alley interrupted the swordsman's thoughts.
"Forsooth, a cry of help from yon alley?"
Brushing his ruminations of his red-haired tigress and the fair Akane Tendou aside, Kuno dashed into the alleyway to find one of the two on the ground, with her head at an uncomfortable angle.
"By my family's honor. The red-haired tigress Saotome lays here, the very concept of the sleeping beauty made flesh. Verily, she ought be awoken by a fair prince's kiss of true love. Alas, a noble samurai needs suffice."
When Ranma stirred, carefully and still somewhat painfully opening her eyes, the first thing she saw was Kuno's face way too close to her own, his lips puckered as if...
The candy lake bubbled. A pair of shining golden eyes shone from the darkness at the bottom.
Kuno was almost upon Ranma's lips. Her eyes were wide open, but her body was in an awkward position, with her blood all sunk into her head. She was too disoriented and frankly shocked to react.
A familiar figure erupted from the boiling candy, yowling as she broke the surface.
The sisters had just caught up and just approached a particular alley when suddenly a familiar swordsman was bodily flung out and landed in front of them a mangled mess. Kuno's shirt was completely wasted, and there were several nasty-looking claw marks all over his chest and face.
"Holy shit, Kuno-baby? What happened to--"
"That came from the alley," Akane realized. "Kinda sounded like..."
"Ranma-honey doesn't meow, sis. It's probably just an angry cat. Here, I'll show ya."
"Are you sure?" Akane asked as her sister turned towards the alley. "I mean, that cat did just tear up Kuno-sempai."
"Yes, but he's Kuno."
"Okay fair point. So what do we have--"
"Oh," the sisters simultaneously spoke as they saw what had ruined Kuno.
Ranma Saotome, sitting in a very cat-like pose despite appearing completely human, trying to wash herself but being confounded by her silken clothes. When she noticed the newcomers, she yowled again and lunged. The sisters both screamed, Akane slightly more so, as Ranma pounced upon Akane and pushed her down on the floor, butt first.
When they stopped screaming, they noticed one very important and (to them) surprising thing: instead of tearing Akane to shreds, Ranma had forced herself onto Akane's lap, contently purring and lightly massaging the girl's well-developed thighs.
Nabiki, feeling somewhat safe once more, glanced streetward and found Kuno missing. She quickly decided he must've recovered and slunk off.
"Well, this is a new level of fuckiness right here."
"Nabiki, mind your language."
Nabiki scoffed and carefully reached out her hand. "You're one to talk, sis. But we might as well bring Ranmya to the restaurant with us like this. The elder 'll know what's up."
She carefully petted Ranma just behind where her ears would be if she were in catgirl form, quite familiar with her girlfriend's body.
"C'mon Tiger, let's go visit Shampoo and those other friendly Chinese folks Ryouga lured in."
"Mrew!" Ranma happily replied as she hopped off Akane's lap and rubbed her head against Nabiki's leg.
"Wait up," Akane said. "What did you call her?"
"No you didn't. You said 'Ranmya'."
"Slip of the tongue. Let's just go."
Akane stopped and looked at the redhead rubbing up against her sister. "With her like that?"
Nabiki shrugged. "I don't see why not. Life is strange enough already here in the Furinkan neighborhood, even before the Saotome family came. Also, I'm getting hungry."
Indeed, only a few passersby seemed to take notice of Ranma's odd quadrupedal gait as she walked with her mate. Most only turned their heads in mild surprise, some stopped for a moment, some audibly questioned what they say. One small child wanted to "pet the big kitty."
"See, sis? Nothing to worry about," Nabiki proclaimed with her typical smirk. Akane shrugged in acceptance, and Ranma meowed.
Soon enough, the girls reached Shampoo's restaurant, and had to stop and goggle at its name. Neko Hanten. Akane wondered to herself, was this elder Cologne's idea and if so why, or did Shampoo have a say in it, in which case was she inspired by Ranma or Ryouga?
When they entered, Shampoo was right there to show them to a seat in an otherwise empty restaurant, save for Cologne and Candy working in the kitchen area.
"Jinlai, jinlai, Shanpu sisters," Shampoo said invitingly. "Please, have seat. Be right back to bring menu." The warrior girl, now clad in a deep pink Chinese-style blouse and pants and a lighter apron. With different colors, it could've been something Ranma would wear any day. Shampoo almost turned to fetch the promised menu when she realized something was off, and she knew it wasn't Ryouga's absence. "Ranma not here?"
Shampoo blanched a little at the sound and looked down to find Ranma crouching on the floor, pawing at Shampoo's legs.
"Aiyah! What happen to Ranma? Thought Ranma try not act like cat? Is not even in curse form!"
"Beats me," Nabiki admitted as she sat down. Akane took a seat clockwise from her and beckoned Ranma over, who mewed happily and hopped onto a third chair counter-clockwise from Nabiki, to Akane's mild chagrin. "We just found her like this in an alley after she cut Kuno-baby to shreds."
"Ah. Is idiot sword man okay?"
"No idea, but when I looked over he was already gone so I figure he'll live. Probably gonna see him in bandages tomorrow at school though. Those cuts looked deep."
"I'll have the shrimp noodles, please," Akane interrupted.
Nabiki shrugged. "Make that two."
Nabiki looked at Ranma as she tried to wash her face, one loose-fisted hand held in front of her mouth as she licked the back, then rubbing it on her hair and repeating the process.
"Hold up. Akane, do you see that?"
"I see Ranma grooming, why? What should I see?" Akane countered.
"Look closely," Nabiki urged as she leaned over to do so. Akane followed, intently tracking Ranma's hand. "Trimmed nails."
"But... she cut Kuno," Akane confirmed. "Those were claw marks."
"I can't help but notice you found the mystery element," Cologne piped up. The girls cried out in surprise. "Ohohoh, the small pleasures in an old woman's life."
"You know what's wrong with Ranma then, Elder?" Nabiki guessed.
"Sure do, child. The girl positively reeks of the Cat Fist. From what Shampoo told me, apparently that fool Genma wanted to try all sorts of questionable training methods on the girl..."
"Yeah," Akane confirmed. "Mrs Saotome told us about that, and when Shampoo wanted to know why they would visit Jusenkyou we told her in turn."
"Right, so the Cat Fist is one of those things that the lady wouldn't allow. In fact, it wouldn't surprise me if she killed the old fool on the spot if he did manage to put Ranma through it."
"Is it that bad?" Nabiki pensively asked, nodding to Shampoo as she put down two steaming bowls of noodles and a plate of lightly grilled fish.
"Oh, just thinking about it gives me chills," Cologne replied, "If the old fool'd done it, he ought to be in prison for it. But considering the facts of the girl's curse, she clearly hasn't been through the Cat Fist training. Still, the way she acts now is certainly very much like it."
"How's that?" Nabiki asked, watching Ranma devour her fishy treats between listening to Cologne and eating her noodles.
"From what I know of it, those who survive the training end up acting like the cats they've come to fear. Of course, the girl fears no cat..."
"She fears becoming more like one, though," Nabiki interjected. "Or rather, feared to? She told me a little about a dream she had during breakfast, said she'd tell me more while we were here. Something about getting over it." She paused to pat her girlfriend on the head. "Didn't you, Tiger?"
Akane shifted in her seat and muttered through a mouthful of noodles. "I want head pats too, dammit."
"So what's the deal with the claws, Elder?"
"Simple, child. Those were a form of qi attack," Cologne stated plainly. "Only confirms that this is closely related to the Cat Fist though."
"Ki attack?" Akane spoke up, forgetting her meal. "Like the whole energy projectiles thing, flaring auras and all that?"
Cologne cackled a little. "Child, you've been reading too many comic books."
"Of course I meant energy projectiles and flaring auras."
Nabiki, to her credit, didn't even drop her chopsticks. "And all that?"
"Hmm-hmm. The girl projected her qi out her fingertips to enhance and compensate, and the blustering wannabe took it full force."
"Is that something she could learn to do while... not like this?"
"Why shouldn't she, child?"
"Could I?" Akane asked with her eyes full of hope.
"Sure. I think it'd be quite a challenge, though. For you and the girl... though maybe not quite as much for her?"
Akane knew in her heart that the insult was only as she perceived it to be, but it still stung to hear. Still, one of the precepts of her father's and Mr. Saotome's schools was to take any challenge presented. She cracked her knuckles and smirked. "Challenge accepted, Elder."
Much to the sisters' surprise, Ranma growled in a very similar tone, her serious expression only marred by the remains of a fish sticking out of her mouth.
Holy crap, Nabiki thought. I thought she only meowed like that because of the pats but I'm starting to believe she might actually still understand us.
Woah there we go! That dream chapter wasn't just a big-lipped alligator moment after all! It was a setup! And would you look at that, I broke my chapter size record.
You might've noticed that I've been extending the earlier chapters a bit. So far I got the first two. I'll keep you posted.
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