In the dojo, the fight between Akane and Ranma went about as expected. As they stood there laughing at each other, Akane wiped away some sweat. "Y'know, I'm glad."
"Oh? Why's that?"
"If I'd been beaten by a boy..."
"I am a boy," Ranma snapped.
"Right, sorry. It's actually pretty hard to get the idea down," Akane replied, looking away with a fair bit of shame clear on her face. Ranma crossed her arms in front of her and gave Akane a serious, inquisitive look, but only managed to look more like an angry little sister.
"Exactly that!" Akane blurted out.
"You're like an angry little sister, looking at me like that!"
Ranma blanched. "Seriously?!"
"Trust me, I am an angry little sister. I think you're overcompensating, Ranma. If you're even half the man you were before all this happened, just act like yourself."
Ranma stood in consideration, then relaxed her body and fell into a much more comfortable posture that reeked of confidence. If she still had her original height it would've been even more effective. She still held her arms crossed, but to completely different effect.
"You're gonna have to explain that thing about being beaten by a boy, though," she said in her normal speaking voice, hitherto only heard when she was too fired up to consciously lower.
It was at that point that Nabiki came in. "You two lovebirds about done? You might wanna catch a quick bath before dinner."
"Dammit, sis! I'm not a--"
"Sure you're not. Just go so you don't stink up the dinner table."
"Look, I just don't see why we gotta share a bath," Ranma argued as Akane pulled her into the laundry room.
"Honestly? It's like Nabiki said. I have boy problems I need to work out and discussing them with you might not be such a bad way to go, you have your own issues to face and this is just facing them head-on. Isn't that one of the things a proper martial artist should do, facing your problems?"
"I guess," Ranma conceded, trying not to look as Akane took her gi off. Akane, unfortunately, noticed, even if it was just because Ranma clearly wasn't getting ready for the bath.
"Relax, Ranma. It's nothing you haven't seen before, right?"
To Ranma, that almost sounded like something she would say. She sighed and unbuttoned her shirt. When her pants went off, Akane couldn't help but notice.
"Hey, ain't like I had anything else when this all happened."
Though Ranma looked distinctly uncomfortable in the bathtub, it clearly wasn't the temperature. "So... what's this about boy problems?" she asked, still trying not to look directly at the dark-haired Tendou sitting on the opposite side.
"Eeeeugh. Where do I even begin? Okay, so this guy in my school, Upperclassman Kuno, held this speech some time back. He... desires me, let's just say. So the jackass proclaimed that if any student wanted to date me, they'd have to defeat me first."
"So now every morning before school starts, it's the same old bullshit. I guess you'll see soon enough," Akane sighed. "You can see, then, that I've had my fill of boys."
"Guess I can. Y'ever have any, y'know, legit feelings for a guy, though?"
"Why do you ask?"
"Well, between what this Kuno guy pulled off and y'r sister's teasin', I'd be tempted to think y'r a lesbian."
Akane sat in silent thought. "What about you though, Mister Unique Position?"
"I like girls," Ranma answered quickly. "Always have, can't see that changin'."
"Takes one to know one," Ranma laughed, with Akane quickly joining in.
Kasumi brought in dinner just when Akane and a still slightly damp Ranma arrived.
"Ranma-chan," the eldest Tendou started innocently, "did you know your kitty can talk?"
Genma jumped up in shock. "Shampoo can still talk!?"
Ranma was considerably less surprised. "Yeah, I knew. We just decided to not let the old man know. After all, Shampoo's my responsibility ‘n all. Her granny would have my head if I let Pops run off with a magical talking cat!"
"Oh, to have your only son not trust you like that," Genma sobbed. "It's more than a father can bear."
"Shut up," Shampoo admonished, then jumped into Ranma's lap.
"But you know, Saotome old friend," Soun started, "Akane and Ranma do seem to get along pretty well."
"I suppose they do, Tendou-kun. I can't help but notice the boy carries himself more like before."
Ranma smirked. "Well, a little bathroom confrontation never hurt nobody. I can learn to appreciate this form. I mean, compared to Akane, at least I know I'm better built."
She still laughed as Akane kicked her in the face.
"So tell me again why you're bringing Shampoo to school with you?"
Ranma ran on top of a fence as she and Akane made their way to school, as a Ranma is wont to do. She still had her regular outfit, as also expected, but apparently had Shampoo stuffed in her school bag. Only her head stuck out, looking in awe at the passing architecture.
"She needs to learn too, duh."
"Can she even read Japanese?"
"I can!" the kitty argued.
"Yeah, you can," Ranma agreed. "But remember the deal, right?"
"No ta'king in public."
As they approached the gates of Furinkan High, Akane noticeably shifted. "You wanted to know about my boy problems? Well, there they are! These assholes are why..."
Ranma stood back at the sight of almost fifty boys, all dressed in various sports outfits.
As Akane ran into the yard, the boys started to move.
It was an utter massacre. Ranma was nothing if not impressed at how ruthless Akane was in dispatching the horde. None of them were particularly grievously injured, and there was hardly any blood, but they certainly weren't going to get up in the next five minutes. Picking up her bag, Ranma walked up to Akane.
"I think I can see your point."
"Yeah, that just leaves him," Akane said, loosely pointing at a figure stood behind a tree at the far end of the yard.
"Truly... such a boorish lot," the figure recited as he stepped away from the shade of the tree. "Each of them intends to ask you out, fair Akane, but it is not to be. Not for these wretched souls."
"Good morning, Upperclassman Kuno," Akane deadpanned.
"And now, Akane Tendou... might you fight with me?" Kuno finished as he drew his training blade.
"Geez, you are a popular one ain'tcha ‘Kane?" Ranma joked with an easy smirk.
"You there," Kuno interrupted, pointing his blade at Ranma. "You are being quite familiar with Akane. Who are you, dainty fellow?"
"Mine ears have heard many a rumor about the fair Akane, that she would consort with those who would lay with those of equal sex, but to see her consort with one such as you..."
Akane took a sneaky look at the girl next to her. Between the relaxed posture and somewhat oversized clothes, it was hard to tell there were boobs in there. "Ranma, I think he's trying to call you a faggot," she helpfully translated in a whisper.
"The hell," Ranma replied, then turned to Kuno. "Hey, Upperclassman Jackass! Who ya callin' faggy?"
"Why, you of course. This is no place for one such as you. Furinkan is a noble institute of learning, and there is no place here for your kind."
Two stories up, one of the boys not involved in the earlier brawl, looking at the proceedings below, gasped in shock. His boyfriend was already there with a comforting shoulder.
Feeling up for a challenge, Ranma assumed one of her favorite fighting stances. "Yeah? Why don't you come here and remove me from the premises, then?" she offered, tauntingly beckoning Kuno. When the crazed swordsman struck, Ranma nimbly backflipped. Every time, Kuno would try to hit her, and she would cartwheel, backflip, or simply duck, waiting for a good time and position to strike back. During one backflip, Ranma noticed they were approaching the school's swimming pool and formed an alternate plan.
As Kuno struck once more, Ranma dropped onto her back and kicked Kuno in the stomach, pulling him up and over into the pool. She laid there, recovering from the acrobatics and listening to the bubbles behind her, when Kuno resurfaced way too close for comfort.
"I FIGHT ON!" he cried as he blindly grabbed Ranma and pulled her into the pool. For his effort, he was kicked into the bottom of the pool and used as a springboard for Ranma to get back out.
The bell rang just when Ranma got back to the front entrance of the school, still sopping wet.
Kuno, meanwhile, leaned on the edge of the pool, considering the most recent events.
"Breasts... those were certainly breasts these hands have felt. Which means..."
"Not to mention you are dripping pool water all over the halls. I suppose I could let all that slide, knowing of Mr. Kuno's shenanigans, but I must ask you to change. Go see the nurse's office, perhaps they can help you get a spare uniform."
"Thank you, teacher," Ranma said with a little bow, inadvertently baptizing some of her new classmates.
Shampoo sat on Akane's desk, in a little cat-sized Furinkan girl's uniform courtesy of Kasumi, slowly shook her head, and went back to silently reading along.
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