Nabiki was not the first to react to the news from Kasumi, but Akane's reaction was merely a protective glowering.
"What do you mean, 'unwanted suitor', sis?"
"I mean that this person is quite persistent, and to be entirely honest... he doesn't look particularly good," Kasumi started to explain.
"Never took you one as one to judge on appearances," Nabiki jokingly interrupted.
"Nabiki, please. From what I've seen, his actions are at least as repulsive. I think the poor guy must be getting desperate. But regardless, I do not feel the same way about him."
"So... did you tell him?"
"Of course. That didn't help much. So I told him I already had a boyfriend," Kasumi admitted. "Which might not have been the best idea in hindsight."
"Ah yes. You and Doctor Tofu," Nabiki recognized. Behind her, Akane tensed up and swallowed her thoughts. After all, she too had had her eyes on the family doctor for a while now. She quickly buried those thoughts and settled on glaring at Ranma.
Kasumi sighed. "It's such a shame, really. He's nice, but every time we meet he's..."
"Yeah, it's clear he'd return the feelings on a dime if he could keep his head together. Guess you're just too beautiful for his senses, sis~"
"But that does leave me with a problem," Kasumi resumed. "This man... he wants proof. He said he'd only accept that I have a boyfriend if I could prove it was serious. He had this whole test figured out already. I am to go on a date with my boyfriend, and he'll have spies around to confirm that things are... legitimate."
"What an asshole," Ranma called out. "You can't just force such a thing on someone you claim to love! Can you?"
"No Tiger, you can't," Nabiki confirmed. "Sis, you don't know any boys besides Doc Tofu who'd be willing to go on a... fake date, don't you?"
"A fake... no, I know a few boys who would be happy to try. Only, they'd either make a mess of it or think it's serious, that I'd only call it a fake date because I'm shy or something."
"You're not shy," Akane interrupted. "You're demure."
"Akane dear, that's almost a synonym."
Cologne suddenly appeared in front of Kasumi, balancing on her staff as always. "I might know a way to help, Miss Tendou."
"Oh my. What is it?"
"I'm pretty sure our darling Ranma wouldn't mistake such a date for real, and I'm guessing the challenge of, how'd you say it, 'not making a mess of it', would be as welcome as the chance to beat up this unwanted suitor."
"Hell yeah, I'd give Kas the best damn date-- wait hold on, I'm a girl. I can't date Kas!"
Cologne cackled for a good ten seconds, basking in the confusion of her audience. "Indeed you are, girl. But when has that sort of thing ever stopped a warrior from my village anyway? We don't live practically right next door to Jusenkyou for nothing!"
Shampoo snuck off, unnoticed.
"You're not suggesting to gimme a third curse, are ya?"
"Of course not, girl. You already know what happens when you mix two. Why would anyone even consider throwing the nanniquan on top of all that?"
"Then what are ya planning?"
"Great-grandmother, I bring bucket and powder mix," Shampoo reported, having returned holding the items.
"Excellent, Shanpu. I hadn't even told you to do so."
"Shanpu know. Thought that was what you planning."
"You might as well prepare it then, while I explain."
"Yeah, granny. What's with this 'powder mix'?" Ranma asked, indicating the bucket of water that Shampoo was pouring a powder into.
"It's a product that's produced for and sold to those who know of Jusenkyou and want to experience what the curses are like in a safer manner. Until the user is splashed again, they'll effectively have a specific curse. They're known to completely override existing curses, too."
"So the plan is to..."
"To turn you temporarily into a man, yes. So you can go on a convincing but fake date with the lovely Ms. Tendou. I see Shanpu is almost done -- Shanpu, hunhe hao!"
"Dangran, zengzumu," Shampoo replied, giving the slightly iridescent water another firm stir.
"Girl, you might want to take your top off," Cologne suggested, much to the surprise of the Tendou sisters and Ranma alike. "You wouldn't want to ruin a perfectly good bra."
"Ah, I see your point," Ranma conceded as she took off her faded CoCo T-shirt, revealing exactly no bra. She pointedly ignored the quiet "oh my" from Kasumi. "But, can't ruin a perfectly good bra if you don't wear one!"
"You really should consider, Ranma," Kasumi opined, pointedly looking Ranma in the eyes. "When this is over, you're going shopping with me."
Nabiki smirked. "Another date so soon after? I didn't know you had it in you, sis!"
Y'know, I think Tiger's loosening up a bit. She's getting bolder in her human form.
"Whatever. Can we just get this show on the road?"
At her great grandmother's command, Shampoo took the bucket and overturned it above Ranma's head. For a split second, her cat features seemed to come into existence, only to flicker away again as Ranma quickly grew a good head taller and proportionally more muscular. The knot in the loose strip of cloth that she used as a stylish belt around her pants pulled taut.
When the water flow passed, Ranma was physically speaking a girl no longer. In her place stood an undeniably handsome young man, with long black hair tied back into a pigtail.
"You realize of course that if this is permanent, I'll have to kill you," Ranma half-jokingly threatened, then grabbed for "his" throat in mild surprise at the Sound of "his" voice.
Nabiki stepped up and appreciatively inspected Ranma's chiseled abs with a finger. "Of course, if our opponent knows Kasumi well enough, he'll know about Ti-- Ranma. You're gonna need to do something about your hair, and maybe not react to the name 'Ranma'..."
"I like 'Ataru'," Kasumi helpfully suggested.
"I dunno, sis," Akane disagreed. "He strikes me as more of a Ryuunosuke."
"'Ataru' will do," Ranma decided as she took back her shirts. "I'm gonna get changed. Kas... Kasumi, is informal okay?"
As "Ataru" quickly made "his" way back to the dojo, Nabiki teasingly punched Akane in the shoulder (this hurt her more than it hurt Akane). "Thousand yen say this date's gonna be just fine."
"I sincerely doubt that. She... he?"
"She's a pervert and there's no way she can play the gentleman well or long enough. You're on."
The date, fake as it was, was in fact "just fine". Akane, Nabiki, and even Shampoo had wanted to trail Kasumi and "Ataru", Nabiki eventually being chosen to follow them to dinner as having all three or even just two of them in a restaurant seemed a Very Bad Idea, and she happily reported that things had gone perfectly well. A drunk patron had at one point tried to steal Kasumi away, but instead of getting in a fight Ranma had firmly but gently told the drunk off, with at worst a mild push as opposed to the violent shove Akane hoped for. Nabiki reported "Ataru" had never raised "his" voice, or spoke in an impolite manner (false; the rough speak was severely limited in volume) and indeed by all accounts, Ranma had in fact acted the perfect gentleman.
"Oh, Mercenary Girl!" Shampoo interjected. "Almost forget, Shanpu have something to sell!"
"Whatcha got?" Nabiki asked, smirking. Normally she was the one selling, so this was a welcome change to her.
Shampoo whipped out a fair handful of Jusenkyou mix packets. "Good price for each. Have six man, one duck, some piglet, two panda, and dozen cat. Can get more, but not easy."
"Does your great grandmother know about this?" Nabiki asked slyly as she picked out the cat packets and stuffed them in her shirt much like how Shampoo had taken them out of her own, then pulled out a small stack of bills.
"Couple kiss at end of date, yes?" Shampoo dodged. "Did they?"
"Yeah," Nabiki answered. "They totally kissed. On the mouth."
"That perverted slut, kissing Kasumi like that when she's with you!" Akane cried as she stood up, ready to find and pummel the wrongfully accused.
"Sit your ass down, sis. The kiss is all part of the act, and I'm pretty damn sure there was no ill intent behind it, on Tiger's part or Kasumi's. More importantly, the moment they broke contact, this scrawny little guy dropped out of a tree and said something about being convinced and that he'd report it. So I guess that's that."
Suddenly, the door was slammed open, revealing a still very male and slightly annoyed Ranma.
"I knew you girls were tailin' me!"
"My my, Ataru dahling, you know we meant no harm by it~" Nabiki chirped.
"Yah, sure. I'm gonna take a bath, get the right parts back. Or kill a senior citizen, we'll see."
Much to the relief of a certain white-haired gnome on a stick, the next Sound the girls heard from the bathroom was a happy and very female-Sounding whoop.
I know, the actual date part could've been longer, but I'll admit I kinda ran out of inspiration and/or steam near then and it got about my average chapter length anyway. And yes, Nabiki buying a dozen instant-cat packets is important.
Fun fact: this chapter was written before the previous one.
Thanks to Beedok for prereading this chapter. Much appreciated!
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