The two Tendou sisters and Cologne sat and finished their noodles, Nabiki carefully watching Ranma lick the plate clean.
"As much fun as it is to watch the girl make a fool of herself, it's about time she woke up. Shanpu," Cologne called out, "fetch a glass of water, if you would."
"Yes, great grandmother!" Shampoo acknowledged from her spot behind the counter. She quickly turned around and turned up the "cold" tap, then returned to the table with the glass in hand.
"Kindly pour it out over the girl's head, child."
As Cologne hoped would happen, the shock of transforming snapped Ranma out of her altered state, exchanging acting like a cat for merely looking like one. For a few seconds, she sat there and blinked in confusion.
"...What happened? How'd I get here?"
"What's the last thing you remember, girl?" asked the elder.
Ranma twitched an ear in thought. "I fell off a roof, musta fallen bad cos I think I knocked myself out. Then I found Kuno hoverin' over me all kissy-like... then it's all blank," she recalled with a violent shudder at the end.
"What happened next, girl, was something we'll consider your survival instincts taking over. You were in a mental state not unlike what the Cat Fist would induce in those who lived through its training."
"Ah yeah, that. Never expected Mom to kick Pops' ass like that..."
Nabiki and Akane exchanged a fearful glance. Uncle Genma actually proposed the Cat Fist training?!
"Anyway girl," Cologne dismissed, "I have a proposal for you. Your cat-like state has revealed a potential for the ability to perform qì techniques."
Ranma perked up, sufficiently distracted from the fact that she had a small plate in front of her and the others had big bowls.
"You mean like energy projectiles, flaring auras and all that?"
Cologne most certainly did not cackle. The sisters on the other hand didn't hold back on expressing their shared amusement much at all.
"...Yes, girl. But it'll be a long time still before we get you to that point. There are many other things you should master before you get to such feats."
"But don't worry. I'll be happy to get you there," Cologne affirmed. "Honestly, I'd be even happier if Ryouga were here to join you in your upcoming lessons, but what can you do with that boy?"
Leaving Candy behind to watch for customers, the others went out to the back yard.
"Now then. Ranma my girl, I'll want to see your speed first," Cologne started off. She dismounted her staff and took a locket from her robe. "I may have an interesting technique for you to start off with. If you can master it, and use it to take this locket from me, we'll move on to the next technique."
"Piece o' cake, oldtimer."
"I wouldn't be so sure of that, girl," Cologne retorted. "You're up against hundreds of years of Chinese martial arts techniques."
"Elder Cologne?" Akane interrupted. "What can I do?"
Cologne disregarded the cocky catgirl to study Akane for a minute. "Hm... You have potential, but you need more discipline." She turned to Shampoo. "Shanpu, guide her through some of your kata. That'll put young Tendou on track."
"Akane come with Shanpu to other side of yard, train you," Shampoo said to Akane, who duly followed the warrior. Nabiki was content to stay near the back entrance to the restaurant, watching the proceedings.
"Are you ready, girl?" Cologne challenged. "Come and take it!"
With a fierce cry, Ranma closed the distance between her and the diminutive elder, quickly grabbing at the locket hanging from the elder's neck. She wasn't very surprised that the old woman would fight back, if at all -- she was more surprised at the speed with which her grabby hands were deflected. Within seconds, Ranma was at her limit. She couldn't move her arms any faster. Her hop away from the target signaled as much.
"Not bad, girl. Not bad at all... to start with. Let's take a quick break and I'll show you how it's done."
Ranma rubbed her arms as she and Cologne watched Akane and Shampoo run through a routine. It was, to Ranma's eyes, much more graceful than Akane's usual -- a fact readily apparent from the regular little mistakes and jerks in her movements. Akane's usual kata were fiercer than this, putting out more power. A style that worked fine against a few dozen lower-level foes. Against a hundred, she'd be pushing it. Against trained foes moreso.
Every so often, if the mistake was particularly bad, Shampoo would interrupt and correct the mistake, to the best of her linguistic ability.
"That's impressive, now that I take the time to look," Ranma admitted.
"She's not the village champion for nothing."
"I was talkin' 'bout Akane."
"Oh. Would you like to see how to get through my defenses and grab that locket?"
Ranma nodded. "Hm-hm."
"Alright then. Watch this," the elder said as she whipped up a small campfire, right in the middle of the yard. "This is a rather ancient method, that the technique it'll teach you is named after."
Ranma watched with rapt attention as Cologne produced a bag of chestnuts and threw them into the flames.
Shampoo and Akane stopped their practice to watch, with Shampoo especially looking forward as she knew what was coming.
"We gonna be roastin' chestnuts now?"
"Not quite, girl. Watch very carefully," Cologne repeated. After but a second delay, her little old lady arms became all but a blur as she extracted every single chestnut from the campfire. After but a few scant seconds, she had all of them in her hands, with not a single burn on her skin, not a thread of her robe's sleeves singed. "Care to try it?"
"Ah, is legendary technique, huo zhong tianjin ganlì quan," Shampoo reverently spoke.
"What's that mean?" Akane asked.
"Umm... 'Heavenly Chestnut Fist'?" Shampoo offered.
"Heavenly Chestnut Fist, huh?" Ranma confirmed as she tossed the half-baked chestnuts back in the flames and took off her Chinese overshirt. "Well, that locket's as good as snatched."
Before Ranma could begin to even try, the group was interrupted by Candy's appearance. "Elder, is visitor here for Ranma and sisters."
"Well, let them through," Cologne ordered. "Let's see what this visitor needs."
Candy returned a moment later, bringing Kasumi with her to the yard.
"Sis," Nabiki was first to react. "Why are you here?"
Kasumi fidgeted with her skirt. "I have a problem that I need your help with, involving an... umm... unwanted suitor, let's call them that."
Oh there it is now, the first of many super special techniques! And we don't even need the Full-Body Cat's Tongue to get there. Too bad its training has to be put on hold for a little bit...
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