He had dropped her. Idiot! he thought. How could he have done that? First the Tosakas, now this?
Ryouga choked back a sob as he hung from the fire escape rail. Had he been in a better position, he would have punched a hole through the wall. As it was now, however--
Ryouga paused. Now he was hearing things. It must have been Ukyou's ghost, ready to take her revenge on him.
"I'm SORRY, Ukyou!" he exclaimed, calling out to nowhere in particular. "I didn't mean to kill you!"
There were a few moments of silence before the reply came. "Kill me?! Ryouga, you dope! I'm fine! Look down, you jackass!"
Ryouga blinked. "Fine?" he asked, then cast his gaze downward. Ukyou was sitting on a fire escape platform about five stories down, looking back up at him.
"Ukyou!" he cried. "You're all right!"
"Hold on," he said, hoisting himself up on to the platform. "I'll be right there!"
"Are you sure it's only a drill?" Miki asked, allowing Yuu, her boyfriend, to her her neck. Repeatedly.
"Of course," he said. "They're always doing these thing unannounced."
Miki took Yuu's hand and pressed it against her face. "All right," she said. "Let me go... get ready." She smiled.
Yuu smiled in return, and then leaned back on the bed, waiting for Miki to disappear into the bathroom.
Miki looked back over her shoulder and draped the robe she was wearing back over her shoulders, pouting her lips at Yuu and--
The side window slid open and distracted both of them.
"I can't believe you thought you killed me," said a strange woman carrying... a giant spatula?!
"Well, all I know is that you fell. How was I supposed to know. You DID fall five stories, right?" another man said from behind her as they both stepped into the apartment.
Both of the paused upon seeing the situation they had just walked in on. A half-naked man sitting on the bed, coupled with a woman wearing only a bathrobe-- which was already down below her waistline.
"Err," the man said, boggling. "Excuse us."
The woman blushed furiously. "You know, there IS a fire alarm going off!" she shouted.
"Uhh... Don't mind her," the man said, grabbing on to her sleeve. "Let's go Ukyou." He started pulling her towards the door.
Ukyou didn't say another word as she allowed the man to pull her out of the apartment.
After they left, Yuu sat in wonder of the happenings of the past few moments.
"Yuu?" Miki asked.
"Are my breasts showing?"
"Err... Yes," Yuu replied.
"Oh. That's what I thought," she said, and promptly fainted.
Ukyou and Ryouga made their way up the stairwell and met up with the others soon after.
"Hey, you guys made it!" Ranma exclaimed in half-step.
"Where is he?" Ryouga seethed.
Shuji pointed his finger upwards. "My bet is on the roof."
"Well, what the hell can he do on the roof? Ain't that a bit stupid, considering he just set off a bomb?" Ranma asked.
"Hell, I think it's stupid enough that we're going up. The structural support of this building can't stand up to much more damage," Mousse mentioned.
"There's that hotel across the street," Ranma said. "I think it's around the same height as this building. We'll just hop across. Besides, even when we DO go down, the place will be packed with cops and fire department guys anyway."
Shuji blinked. "Err, that's all fine and good for you, but I'll take the old fashioned way down. Besides, my car IS in the parking lot."
Ranma shook his head. "If the cops decide they wanna search you and find the gun, then you're in for it. We can always get your car later, I think it'd be better if you came along."
"I can't jump like that," Shuji said, quietly.
"That's okay," Mousse said from below. "We'll throw you."
Shuji silently eeped.
The door to the roof was unlocked, meaning someone had just recently passed through the door, as it was usually meant to be locked. The sign on the door confirmed that.
But when they burst through the door and spread across the roof, they found... nothing.
"Where... where the hell is he?" Ryouga asked.
Shuji swore quietly. "He must have gone down," he said. "In the elevator. Maybe we were looking straight at him, since the only people who can recognize him are Ryouga and Ranma."
Akane blinked. Several people DID get on the elevator while she was in it... including the one man who had felt her up. She clenched a fist at the memory of that.
"What about the helicopter?" Mousse asked, pointing towards a shape about half a kilometer away.
Ranma looked over towards it. "There's no way to know if that came from here, or just flew over."
"Yes there is," Shuji said, narrowing his eyes. "It'd be higher up if it just flew over." He squinted, trying to make out the words on the side. "Damn, I wish I brought a pair of binoculars."
"I think I have one," Mousse said, scrounging around inside of his robes. A moment later, he pulled out a nice looking pair of long range binoculars. He pointed it in the direction of the helicopter.
"It says," he paused. "Microsoft?! What the?"
"Microsoft?!" Ryouga exclaimed. "You mean... Yamagami is a western billionaire?!"
"No, wait... Microwave? Microprose? Micro Machines?"
"Give me those!" Ranma shot out and grabbed the binoculars away from Mousse. He soon trained them in the right direction, adjusted the focus, and--
"Mikeroto Production lines."
"Mikeroto?" Akane asked. "Could that be one of Mazuhara's shell companies?"
Ranma shrugged. "Hard to say," he said, then looked over towards Shuji. "How 'bout you, Mr. Yakuza? Care to check on your contacts again?"
"Well, my first contact was the phone book," he said.
Everyone but Mousse nearly fell over. "The PHONE book?!" they chorused.
"Why not?" he muttered, shrugging. "It worked, didn't it?"
"Well, checking the phone book for Mikeroto Production lines shouldn't prove to be too difficult, then," Mousse said, a wan smile on his face.
"Well," Ukyou said, looking over the edge of the building. "The police are here. Time to jump, I guess."
"Right," Ranma said, looking across to the other building. "Boy, they pack these buildings close together, don't they. That's only a twenty foot jump."
"Only?!" Shuji exclaimed.
"What's the matter?" Ryouga asked. "Fear of heights?"
"Fear of falling," he retorted.
"I'll throw you across. Don't worry. Ranma'll catch you," Mousse said.
Ranma promptly jumped across and called back. "Yeah, sure thing."
Once again, Shuji eeped.
Once across to the other building, they made their way back to the ground. Shuji promptly got down onto his stomach and kissed the asphalt, professing his love for it, and how he'd never leave it again.
"Jeez, and he's supposed to be Yak?" Ukyou muttered.
"Well, I guess I can see where he's coming from," Akane shrugged.
"I wonder if I shouldn't have just made a bridge across the buildings..." Mousse wondered aloud.
"You could have made a BRIDGE?!" Shuji exclaimed. "Why didn't you?"
"Are you good at tightrope walking?" he asked.
"Anyway," Ranma said, lifting Shuji back to a standing position. "You gonna look up Mikeroto?"
Shuji nodded and flipped his phone open, dialing a number.
"Hey, Ruri," he greeted. "Look, I need another look-up."
Everyone watched in mute fascination as Shuji gathered the needed information.
"Mikeroto Production Lines. Probably one of the larger companies, they've got a private helicopter."
A lengthy pause pushed all of them into silence as they found their way to the underground parking lot, the one place the police weren't hanging all over.
Shuji's facial expression twisted into one of confusion. "Are you sure?"
Another short pause.
"All right," he said. "Thanks, Ruri." He flipped the phone shut and looked up at the others.
"Well?" Ranma asked.
"Mikeroto Production Lines went bankrupt last autumn. They sold all of their assets, including that helicopter at a public auction."
"Does she know who bought it? Their address?"
"The auction was public. The buyers, however, were promised confidentiality. The only person who could tell you who bought it would have to be someone who was there."
"Well, is there a list of people who attended?" Akane asked.
"Well, that was also part of the confidentiality," Shuji replied. "No public lists. One thing I can tell you, though, is that it would have attracted a lot of attention."
"Oh great," Ranma muttered. "So we're at a dead end?"
"Until we can find out who owns that helicopter," Shuji said, sighing. "Yes."
"So we're supposed to sit back and wait for Yamagami to drop into our laps? Is that it? Let him... keep doing whatever it is he's doing to Rin?" Ryouga seethed. "Are we--"
"Ryouga, you're attracting attention," Ranma warned. "There's nothing we can do right now." He looked towards Shuji. "Let us know if you find anything," he said.
Shuji nodded. "I'll give you a ride back to the restaurant," he said. "From there... Well, I'll call you tomorrow and we can pick up on the trail if we can."
"It's too bad he burned up his apartment," Ukyou said. "Might have been something in there we could have used."
"Doubtful," Ranma said, climbing into the back seat of the car. "If anything, Yamagami is smart. He won't have anything linked up between home and business lives."
As the rest of them piled into the car, Akane sighed. "We were so close, but... That helicopter..."
"It was a public auction," Shuji said. "Chances are, we'll know someone who was there. It's just a matter of finding and getting the information from them."
"Fine," Ranma said. "You come get us when it's gathered. You know where we'll be."
"I don't like it," Ryouga said, dropping into the first chair he could find, which happened to be at the rear of the restaurant. "It's too easy for him. After that whole... whatever it was that we did over there, we come up with NOTHING."
"We do have something, Sugar. Mikeroto."
"Which went out of business last fall!" Ryouga shot back.
"Hi, Daddy," Akane greeted over the phone, then immediately winced. "Yes, I'm fine... No, I didn't. Yes, I did. No. Yes. I--... Dad--... DAD!"
Ranma chuckled. "Lemme guess," he said, then put on his best Soun impression. "Oh! My beautiful daughter has gone to the wrong side of the law! Oh, she's mixed up with the Yakuza! Oh, she's been bombing apartment buildings! Oh! Oh! Oh!"
Akane blushed a little and then poked a finger in Ranma's direction, then touched her nose.
"Daddy," Akane continued. "I need to speak with Nabiki."
"Hey," Ranma exclaimed, snapping his fingers. "Nabiki! Of course! If anyone would know, she would!"
Mousse continued wiping the counters down with a cloth rag.
"Nabiki?" Akane began. "What do you know about Mikeroto Production Lines?"
Slowly, but surely, Akane's expression turned to awe, with a touch of wonder, and finally, a wide smile appeared on her face.
"Great! Look, we need to know who bought the helicopter. Did you happen to catch that?"
A few moments later, Akane's smile grew even wider, if such a thing was possible. "That's GREAT, Nabiki! I owe you!" she exclaimed. A few moments later, she winced, but her smile was still sitting on her face. "All right. Tell Kasumi I love her, and tell Daddy... Well, tell him whatever you want."
She hung up the phone and looked towards the others. "Get this," she said. "Nabiki not only heard of the company, but she was AT the auction. She even bid on the helicopter itself."
"Nabiki has the money for that?" Ryouga raised an eyebrow.
"Who knows? It was more than likely she was just having fun by raising the price. She tends to do that at auctions," she said, her fingering lingering on her lip. "But anyway, that's beside the point. She knows who bought the helicopter!"
Ranma ran over to Akane and put his hands on her shoulders. "Who?"
Akane looked into Ranma's eyes. "A private company called Yoshoto Enterprises. They own a small factory on the other side of the bay."
Ranma's eyes popped open. "That's quite a trip," he said. "We'd be better off taking the train."
"Yeah, but hon... In case you haven't noticed, the police ARE after you," Ukyou said.
"Easily fixed!" Ranma said, then doused himself with a glass of water. "Now, are we ready?"
"What about Ryouga?" Akane asked. "I mean, he can't just splash himself with a glass of water and hide from the police like you, Ranma."
Unnoticed by Akane, Ryouga immediately tensed up.
"Well," Ranma began, looking towards Ryouga appraisingly. "If we can't turn him into a girl with water..."
Ryouga suddenly resemble a deer trapped in the headlights of an oncoming semi.
"...Whaddaya say, Ryouga? You DID make a cute nurse."
Ryouga promptly facefaulted.
Ukyou leaned against the balance pole of the train doing nothing more than trying to hide her smirk.
Unfortunately, she wasn't doing too well.
Truthfully, neither were Mousse and Ranma.
"Please," Akane said, frowning. "Why did it have to be me?"
"You were the closest fit, Hon," Ukyou said, smiling. "There's no way he would have fit into my clothes. And besides..." She flashed a smile towards Ryouga. "You've gotta admit he looks cute."
Ryouga replied by silently fuming.
Akane replied by tugging at the loose tunic she wore.
Apparently, everyone other than Ryouga and Akane had decided that the situation would have been better suited by their switching clothes, so Ryouga was forced into wearing Akane's skirt and blouse (after a brief trip upstairs to shave wax legs) while Akane wore his usual tunic and bandanna. The end result was...
...well. Truthfully, Akane was wearing clothes that were at least three sizes too big, and Ryouga had a rather large gob of tissue paper in his chest, while the rest of the outfit hugged his proportions a little too tightly for comfort.
Well, at least he was allowed to wear his own underwear. But Mousse's extra pair of glasses were just plain messing up his point of view.
Ranma was busily sitting with her legs crossed against one of the seats parallel to the car walls. Needless to say, she too was trying not to laugh.
"Oh, please," Akane muttered. "It's hard to stay undercover when you're all laughing at us."
"Maybe," Ranma smirked. "But it's so much damn FUN!"
Ryouga never said a word during the entire trip. When the train stopped, however, he got up and stepped out, muttering about how his legs itched.
"This is Yoshoto Industries?" Ryouga asked, raising his eyebrow.
"That's what it says," Ranma said, gesturing toward the nearby sign.
"So... Why a house?" Akane asked.
"Sugar, this ain't no house. That there is a mansion," Ukyou stated.
And indeed it was. The outer grounds were covered by a chain link fence with concertina razor wire attached to the top, making anyone who planned to climb it think twice.
However, it was hardly challenging for some of the best martial artists ever to have graced the face of the planet.
But Akane and Ukyou, who couldn't jump as high as the others were left to ponder at what could be inside of the nearby mansion.
It was late, about two o'clock in the morning, which meant the outer perimeter was patrolled every twenty minutes or so by a security guard. Which gave them about that much time to slip in, find Yamagami, and take care of business without the police arriving.
And Ranma was positive that Yamagami was inside. The helicopter from Mikeroto was perched on a concrete platform in the middle of the Yoshoto yard, and the house-- if it could be called as such, had several lights on inside, illuminating some of the yard.
"I'd rather not go in like this," Ryouga said, tugging at the skirt he wore.
"Ahh, but Ryouga-chan," Ranma said, smirking. "You look so cuuute."
Ryouga clenched his teeth and tightened his fist. "Ranma," he began. "You take that BACK!"
"QUIET!" Mousse ordered. "Someone could hear us!"
Ryouga sighed. "Fine," he said. "But how are we supposed to get in?"
"Well," Ukyou began, readying her spatula. "I say we all jump in at once."
"Wait," Mousse said, barring her path with an arm. "At least one of us should stay out here. In case something goes wrong."
"Right," Ranma said, nodding. "Akane, you know what to do."
"What? Why do _I_ have to stay out here?"
"Do I need to remind you about what happened LAST time? Yamagami isn't just playing around like Mazuhara is, Akane."
Akane growled to herself and leaned against a light post, once again pulling on Ryouga's tunic.
"I'll stay with her," Ukyou suggested. "No sense in endangering any of us unless it's necessary, right?"
Ranma nodded, then looked toward Ryouga and Mousse. "Okay, we ready?"
With a nod, the three of them cleared the fence as if it were a small hurdle. They hit the ground on the other side, and silently made their way up to the house.
Ranma peered around the corner quickly, and turned back toward Ryouga and Mousse.
"Okay," he began. "One guard, he's sitting at the desk. Remember. He's a non-combatant until he sees us."
Mousse nodded. "And if he sees us?"
"Take him out, but mercifully. He's only doing his job... I hope. Just knock him out, even if he is one of Yamagami's crew, he won't be able to do anything if he's out of commission."
Ryouga cracked his knuckles. "How do we get by?"
"Mousse and I can keep to the ceiling," he said. "We can hop in through a window and keep things quiet... How well can you keep to ceilings, Ryouga?"
"Right. We'll distract the guard, then. Wait for our signal, all right?"
Ryouga nodded as the two of them hopped in the window, and... as they said, kept to the ceiling.
The guard below them seemed to be keeping a fair vigil upon the surveillance monitors, tapping each one of them.
Ranma tapped Mousse on the shoulder and pointed down the hall. If they were going to distract the guard, they needed to do it quickly.
Mousse, getting the idea, nodded, and made his way through the hall, turning a corner here and there.
A moment later, one of the monitors on the guard's console went offline.
"What the?" the guard began. He tapped the monitor. "Dammit. Friggin' maintenance guys." He stood up and looked down the hallway. "Would figure they'd do a half-assed job."
A moment later, he walked off in the direction of the failed camera.
Ranma dropped to the floor and ran to the window. He yanked on Ryouga's... err... dress, and pulled him into the room.
"Come on," Ranma said. "Mousse is keeping the guard busy. We've got to find Yamagami and have this taken care of."
Ryouga nodded and ran down the hallway, keeping his eyes peeled.
"Do you suppose they're doing all right?" Akane asked.
Ukyou nodded. "It's quiet. With those three, noise is a BAD thing. Besides, Ranch-- er.. Ranma isn't done in that easily."
Akane sighed and nodded. "You know," she began. "What if we... get Yamagami, and there's another one?"
"I mean... We beat Mazuhara, and now it's Yamagami... What if there's someone else?"
"You're worrying about having to fight against these freaks for the rest of your life?" Ukyou asked.
Akane nodded. "I mean... When Mazuhara died, it was... partially by Ranma's hand, and partially by his own. So Ranma can't feel guilty for having killed him... But what if we're forced to kill Yamagami?"
"Then we are," Ukyou said, looking toward the ground. "People like Yamagami... Well, they deserve to get back what they put out."
"I wish the world worked like that."
"So do I, sugar. But... ya know, I believe in Ranma and the others. If anyone can take care of this, it's them."
Akane nodded. "I know."
"Why are we so glum?"
Akane smirked. "Want me to make a list?"
"No, seriously. I mean, Yamagami doesn't know we're here. I betcha this'll all be over with tonight. In mere minutes, even."
"Still... something doesn't seem right. Someone like Yamagami should have more... protection."
"Well, I guess he just didn't need to--"
Ukyou's words were interrupted by an unlikely source. A sharp, loud noise that was easily identified as an explosion rocked their ears, and sent them sprawling to the ground.
Before the two of them could get up, they saw the source.
The entire west wall of the... mansion had erupted in a haze of fire and smoke.
"Well," Ukyou said. "I think we know what that means..."
There it was.
Eichi Yamagami, the nameplate read.
"Well, at least he advertises," Ranma quipped.
"Should we go in?"
"We should wait for Mousse," Ranma suggested.
"Why wait for me?" Mousse asked from behind him.
Ranma nearly jumped out of his skin before he noted the tall boy behind him. "How did you--?"
"Just got here," he said.
"Interesting place to have an office," Ryouga said, looking down the hallway. It was directly at the end of a long hallway. Like... a king's throne.
"You think he's inside?"
Ryouga nodded. "Where else could he be?"
Ranma sighed. "Okay... You ready?"
Ranma leaned forward, and slowly turned the knob.
Of course, Mousse was the first to react. The silent clicking noise he had heard was far from normal. Mousse grabbed a surprised Ranma and Ryouga by the collars and pushed against the door frame with his legs just enough to fly clear of the doorway.
No sooner had he done that, the door came flying off of its hinges and almost missed the three of them as they flew for cover. The explosion rocked the entire mansion, and probably alerted everyone in it to their presences.
"BOMBS!" Ranma screamed. "What the HELL is it with BOMBS?!"
Mousse jerked his head upward. "Someone's coming," he said.
"Gee, ya think?! We only just made a noise loud enough to wake up Nobunaga himself!" Ranma exclaimed.
A moment later, the security guard turned the corner, tearing his hair out from his skull. "GAH!" he screamed, then pointed a finger at the three intruders. "What the HELL are you doing?!"
Ranma dropped into a defensive stance. "Where's Yamagami?!"
"You BLEW UP my workplace!"
"Where IS he?!"
"Mr. Yamagami isn't here!" he exclaimed. "He left for his ship HOURS ago!"
"Ship? Where?" Ryouga asked, his eyes narrowed.
"I don't know!... You!! Why did you do this?"
"Hey, we're asking questions here!" Ranma screamed.
"And you expect me to answer?! I'm going to get FIRED! I'll never work as a security guard again because of this!"
"He's a non-combatant," Ranma said. "Look, just tell them we knocked you out or something."
"No! I was told to WATCH for you!... Where are the other two, anyway?"
"You were told to watch for us?"
"YES!" the guard exclaimed. "Mr. Yamagami left me a message to give to you! You WEREN'T suppose to BLOW UP his office!"
Ranma began to sweat visibly. "Uhh, message?" he asked, trying to make light of the situation.
"Here," the guard said, pulling an envelope from his pocket. He tossed it at the others. "Look what you did!"
Ranma picked up the envelope and examined it. It didn't appear to be a letter bomb, but then... He'd never seen one. Slowly, he began to tear it open.
A piece of paper fell out, followed by a Polaroid photograph.
Ranma picked up the paper, while Ryouga grabbed the picture.
Ryouga's aura began to glow a deep green. "Yamagami you BASTARD!" he exclaimed. He threw the picture to Ranma.
It was Rin. Tied up in the corner, with a gag covering her mouth. The caption on the bottom read, 'She's safe... for now...'
Ranma growled and began to read the letter aloud. "Saotome and Hibiki... Gather your little troupe and meet me tomorrow at sunset where it all began."
Ranma crushed the note in his hands and began to walk away. Ryouga and Mousse followed, leaving the security guard who was frantically trying to put out the fire with a small extinguisher behind.