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Divinity/2

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Chapter Two: Settling InEdit

"Hey, Aizie!" Ranko called.

An image started to appear before her. Ranko had to squint in order to get a clearer view. She gasped as she realized what it was.

It was Aizen Myoo. In a bath tub. Naked.

"What the HELL are you doing?"

The figure in front of her scrambled around quickly to face her. "What are you doing here?"

"I called you, you dope! What the hell are you doing?"

Aizen Myoo suddenly realized his situation. Scurrying to cover himself, he asked, "You wanna knock next time?"

"Knock on what?" Ranko looked around. "Do you see a door?"

Aizen Myoo winced. "I guess not. So, what do you want? Get on with it."

"I need some things."

"What do I look like, the Salvation Army?"

"You LOOK like a washed up god who's about to get his face bashed in unless he gives me a hand!"

"All right, all right. No violence. Sheesh." Aizen Myoo shook his head. "Fine, what do you need?"

"A few things. First of all, I've enrolled in the school."

"Oh, so you need to get into the school, no prob--"

"Listen to me! I'm already IN the school!"

Aizen Myoo paused. "But you just--"

Ranko put her hand up. "I need some money and a few changes of clothes."

He blinked. "Is that all?"

"For now. I might need you again later."

Aizen Myoo smiled, he brought his hand up and--

"WAIT!"

"What now?"

"One more thing. I don't want ANY dresses in there. Understood?"

Aizen Myoo sighed. "Fine." He snapped his fingers. A suitcase appeared in front of Ranko, and a purse appeared around her shoulder.

"What the hell is THIS?!" Ranko yelled, holding the purse in front of her.

"What? Did you expect the money to be in the suitcase? I could put it there if you want me too, but where would the clothes go? I could put them in your purse, but it may be a bit of a tight fit."

"That's not what I meant! Why a purse?"

"Well, it's only natural."

Ranko growled. "I'm a guy, dammit."

"Not right now, you're not."

Ranko glared at him.

"Fine, fine. Whatever..." He sighed again.

Ranko took the contents out of the purse, put them in her pocket, and threw the purse away. She looked up at the god, who was still covering himself bashfully.

"What's with you, anyway? I thought gods didn't hafta take baths."

Aizen Myoo shook his head. "Hey, us gods get BO too! It's even worse than some of the stuff you guys get! Besides," he added, "I've got a date with Anuket."

"Who?"

"Egyptian goddess... Hangs around the Nile a lot. You wouldn't know her."

"I thought you were trying to ask Athena out?"

"Bah! That's the problem with virgin goddess'... They're cold fish when it comes to the dating scene. Plus, I thought about it, and seeing as she grew up in her fathers stomach... well, it just kinda turns you off."

"So you asked this... Anuket out?"

"Yeah... she may be a gazelle and all, but she's a pretty hot one!"

"She's a gazelle."

Aizen Myoo sighed. "Listen, YOU try out the dating scene in the Kami realm, and see how far YOU get."

Ranko shook her head. "Like I'd try," she said sarcastically.

"Just stay away from the Greek and Roman gods. They've got this thing for mortals. Makes me gag."

"Look, thanks for the money and clothes and all, but I'd better get going now."

Aizen nodded. "Sure thing. If you need any more help, as long as it's reasonable, don't hesitate to call me!"

Ranko laughed. "Sure."

"See ya!" He waved momentarily, then quickly went back to cover himself as he faded from site.

Ranko stood for a moment, wishing she hadn't seen what she just had. She soon shook it off and picked up the suitcase in front of her.

It was pretty heavy. She'd have to see what Aizen Myoo had packed for her once she got settled in.

"So, where to?" Ryouga asked as Ranma walked out of the door to the arcade.

"I dunno. Where do you want to go?"

Ryouga thought for a minute. "Wanna catch a movie?"

Ranma yawned. "Nothing good playing."

"Hey, what about going over to the school and--"

"Let them kill me?" Ranma laughed. "No such luck, Ryouga."

"Well, you're out of quarters and we don't exactly have anything planned."

"How about we follow that Ranko girl around, see where she goes? Do our research on her?"

Ryouga blinked. "Sounds good, but it'll take us a million years to find her. She could be anywhere."

"Wanna bet?"

Ryouga thought for a moment. "Sure. I bet you 100 yen that you couldn't find her."

"Only 100? Why not make it interesting?"

"Like what?"

"Like... You have to pay for my date with her."

"Ha! Like you'd win."

"So, you're afraid?"

"No... Fine. You're on."

Ranma shook Ryouga's hand.

"So, what now?" Ryouga asked.

"Now that you've agreed to pay for our date, we--"

"Hey! I only agreed if you could find her!"

"I did. Look to your left."

Ryouga blinked, then turned to his right and smacked his face into a telephone pole.

"Why you little--"

"Over there, you directionally challenged twit!" Ranma pointed to Ryouga's left."

Ryouga looked, and then let his jaw drop.

Ranma could only smile.

After Ryouga regained his posture, he turned to his friend. "Where's she heading?"

Ranma shrugged. "I dunno. She seems to be heading towards my place."

"I thought your place was over there," he said, pointing in the opposite direction.

Ranma paused to turn to his friend. "Ryouga, which way is the game shop?"

Ryouga pointed towards Ranko.

"I rest my case."

Ranko exhaled. When were those two idiots going to stop following her around? She had known they were following her for a while now, but hadn't done anything about it.

It really wasn't like her to call herself an idiot, but with the way the other Ranma was acting, how could she not? Back in the game shop, she could feel him looking at her breasts when she wasn't looking. Same with Ryouga.

The only reason she didn't punch their faces in was because of the obvious. She couldn't very well beat herself up, and as for Ryouga, there was no way the other Ranma would sit idly by while he beat up his... friend.

She scoffed. It wasn't as if he could do anything, but there was still the factor of Ryouga versus Kuno. If Ryouga couldn't beat him, or just barely win, then either way, it wasn't possible for him to be nearly as skilled as the Ryouga she knew from her home reality.

She turned the corner and walked a little faster.

"Hey," Ryouga said, "she's moving faster."

"Who cares? She's getting a little too close to my place. I don't think we should go any further."

Ryouga shrugged. "If we run into your parents, just make something up. Say you got sick."

"And you?"

"I came along to help you home."

"Look, my mom may believe any word I say, but my pop will know something is up."

Ryouga chuckled. "It's up to you, Ranma."

Ranma sighed. He looked up ahead. "Should we catch up with her? My house is only down... that corner..."

"Which corner?"

"The one she just turned down."

"Come on, let's catch up."

"Ryouga?"

"Yeah?"

"Look to your right."

Ryouga looked to his left and smacked his face into a stone wall.

"Why you conniving little--"

"Ryouga."

"What?"

"Your other right."

Ryouga looked to his right, staring at the back yard of a house. "What am I supposed to be looking for?"

"Ryouga?"

"Yeah?"

"Ranko just went into that house."

"Cool! Then that must be where she lives!"

Ranma sighed again. "Ryouga?"

"Yeah?"

"That's my house."

"Oh, Ranko. Welcome back!" Nodoka greeted her at the front door. "I didn't expect you so soon!"

Ranko smiled. "Yeah, I... I just had to pick up my stuff from a couple blocks from here."

"Really? Well, Ranko. You're in luck. I've already made the guest room up, and you may move in any time you're ready!"

"Well, I'm ready now if you don't mind." Ranko smiled.

"Of course dear, just go down that hall, second door on your left. Right next to Ranma's room." Nodoka directed her.

Ranko smiled, and then walked to the room. Closing the door behind her, she took a look around.

The room wasn't that bad, enough room for her to practice her morning kata, then there was the back yard.

Even better, the walls were an eye-pleasing white. She thanked whoever there was to thank that her mother hadn't gone through the process of painting the room pink, or some other girls colour.

Then again, Ranko didn't give Nodoka much time either.

Standing above her futon, she dropped the suitcase she was carrying and stretched. She hadn't really had time to relax all day, and she was beginning to feel the effects of it. She brought herself to a sitting position on her futon pulled her suitcase closer.

She decided she had better find out what Aizen Myoo had packed for her.

Upon opening it, she began to pull out pieces of clothing.

The first one wasn't bad. A Chinese style shirt much like the one she was wearing, except it was yellow and long sleeve. Yellow wasn't her colour, but they weren't girls clothes, so she wasn't going to complain.

The next to be pulled out of the suitcase was a pair of pants. Exactly the same as she wore at that moment. She put it to the side and continued digging through her suitcase.

She pulled out another article. It was a small piece of cloth that she didn't recognize at first, but then it hit her.

It was a pair of girls underwear.

Tossing it to the side with a frown, she continued. And then pulled out a bra.

"What the hell is this?" she said to nobody in particular.

She undid the zipper the whole way and opened the suitcase, exposing what it held inside to her eyes.

Ranko was not amused.

Skirts. Blouses. Frilly aprons. Another Chinese style shirt, short-sleeved, but pink. Lacy bras. There was even a pair of see-through underwear.

Ranko narrowed her eyes. "I... I'm going to kill him!" she stood up.

Walking towards the window, she called his name. "Aizen, you get your godly butt down here... NOW!"

"I'm busy," came the answer from mid-air.

"Like I care. What the hell is this?"

"Look, Saotome, I'm in the middle of dinner with Anuket, here!"

"I DON'T CARE! I SAID NO DRESSES!"

A sigh came, and then a head popped up in front of him, floating in mid-air. "I didn't give you any dresses!"

"Then what the hell is this?!" She held up a skirt.

"Not a dress."

"I don't care. When I said 'no dresses', it usually means no girl clothes at all!"

"Ahh, but you didn't say 'no girl clothes'," he replied as Ranko heard a frantic 'baaing from behind him. "Just a second Anuket, just taking care of a little business."

"Can't she talk?"

"Talk? Hell no, I said she was a gazelle."

"Then how did you ask her out?"

Aizen Myoo shrugged. "Sure, the language barrier is a little problem, but it's something that can be overcome."

"What about the species barrier?"

Aizen Myoo smiled. "Ahh, but that's the best part! All I have to do is order her some a salad, and she'll be all over me!"

"Either that, or she'll eat your tux."

Aizen Myoo narrowed his eyes for a second. "Eat my... Tux?" His head popped out of Ranko's view for a moment.

"Bad Anuket! My tux is not for eating!" His voice yelled. "Go back to--hey... Watch where you stick those horns! Come on! This is rented!"

Ranko shook her head sadly. "Look, just forget it. I'll buy myself some new clothes tomorrow."

"Anuket... Come on, baby... Take it easy... You really don't want to stick those horns there... hey... hey... stay back, Anuket... please? NO! I MIGHT NEED THAT LATER ON! LOOK AT THIS NICE SALAD HERE...NO MILK FOR YOU TONIGHT! WAIT, I DIDN'T MEAN THA--AGH!"

Ranko shut her window and walked back to her futon. She picked up all the clothes and put it on top of a small dresser that looked like it had just been placed there.

She began to move.

It was something she often did to help clear her mind. Her kata was a series of complex movements that had been burned into her mind from as far back as she could remember.

Left arm out, right leg up.

Right arm parallel to left, right leg in crescent motion.

Left arm arched over head, right leg down. Left leg bent partially, right arm punch.

Since her arrival earlier that morning, she had done nearly nothing but think. And even then, it wasn't all that successful. She tried her best not to make any errors.

Right leg stretched outwards, spin around, punch.

Her kata was giving her valuable time to think. Not only that, but it kept her in practice. She scoffed. As if she could ever be out of practice.

Right arm defensive, left arm ready for punch, right leg swing upwards, kick.

She had to think if she was going to get back to her home reality. Stupid god. Just had to pick her, of all people. Why couldn't he have picked Akane or Ryouga? Save her the trouble.

Punch.

Something clicked. She had to get the alternate Ranma and the Alternate Akane together. How was she going to do it from Ranma's side? She had to move into deeper territory. She would have to meet with Akane.

She looked down at herself and sighed. First, she would have to find some hot water.

"Well, what now?" Ryouga asked. "We can't very well go to your place."

"Duh. I just hope she kept her mouth shut to my parents."

"Well, Hiro and Dai should be getting out of school soon."

"What about Hikaru?" Ranma asked.

Ryouga shrugged. "He's probably trying to find some other way to get Akane Tendo to fall in love with him."

Ranma laughed. "Hopeless, isn't he?"

"Yeah. I don't know what he sees in her. I think she's just a super macho chick." He smiled. "And you know how I feel about tomboys."

Ranma laughed. "What about other girls? Remember what happened last month?"

Ryouga put his hand up. "Don't bring that up."

"Oh come on, Ryouga. It was hilarious!"

"I'd rather not talk about it."

"I'm not blaming you, she was kinda cute. What was her name? Akari?"

"Yeah, but telling me I had to challenge her PIG in order to go out with her? Good freakin' luck!"

"Oh come on, it was only a pig..."

"A pig the size of the Tokyo Tower! Let's see you take it on!"

Ranma couldn't help but continue to laugh. "Fine, fine. But the look on your face was priceless."

"School should be letting out soon," Ryouga said, changing the subject. "You wanna go meet the guys?"

Ranma sighed. "Might as well, we're only a block away."

Ryouga looked up and blinked. "Really?"

Ranma simply shook his head sadly.

"Hey Akane, did you hear?" Sayuri asked, running up to Akane.

Akane blinked. "No, what?"

"We're getting a new student tomorrow!" Yuka answered.

Sayuri nodded. "Yeah, apparently they found her enrolment papers in the office today, but they don't know who sent them there."

"Really?"

"Yeah. They weren't sure what to make of it, but Nabiki showed up and said she knew the person who was being enrolled."

"Nabiki?" Akane asked. "Who is she?"

"Nobody knows. Nabiki says her name is Ranko Satohara. She'll be in our class tomorrow!"

Akane smiled. "Good. I hope she's nice."

"Well, Nabiki didn't say much more than that."

"Well, I guess we should greet her tomorrow. It's tough going to a new school." She looked up. "I wonder how Nabiki knows her."

"Probably through a business arrangement," Yuka joked.

Akane laughed.

"Hey guys," Ranma greeted. "Where's Hikaru?"

"He went out the back way to avoid the idiot patrol," Daisuke replied.

Ryouga sighed. "Should've just told him to come this way. I could take care of them."

"Well, he went the back way." Daisuke turned to Ranma. "There's a problem, dude."

"What's that?"

"Hiro and I covered for you in class, but this chick came in looking for you."

Ranma winced. "She told Ms. Hinako, didn't she?"

"Yeah. Just wanted to let you know it's not our fault."

"She better not have told my parents." Ranma sighed.

"Your parents? Why would she tell them?" Hiroshi asked.

"Because that same girl is at my place right now."

"You KNOW her?"

"Kinda. She says her grandfather knew my pop or something."

"She's pretty cute, you gonna make a move on her?" Daisuke asked.

"HA!" Ryouga proclaimed. "He couldn't make a move on her if his life depended on it."

"Oh, and you'd do any better?" Ranma retorted.

Hiroshi and Daisuke looked at each other.

"Bet," they chorused.

"Oh, come on guys," Ranma said. "It's just a friendly bet."

"Just like every other bet?" Hiroshi asked.

"Just like the bet on whether or not you could keep your balance the longest on the chain link fence by the canal? We had to call the police to fish you out of there!"

"Hey, I won that one!" Ryouga called.

Hiroshi laughed. "Ryouga, you won TEN yen!"

Ryouga shrugged. "I still won."

"Then there was the time Ryouga swore he could throw a ki-ball like Ryu in street fighter."

"Hey! I was telling the truth!"

"You lost."

"Yeah, but I only lost cuz I wasn't depressed!"

"Oh, so it all depends on your mood?"

"Yeah! I hafta be depressed for it to work!"

Ranma sighed. "Ryouga, you've never even seen a ki-ball before."

Ryouga snorted. "No, but I could throw one if I really wanted to!"

"You've never thrown one before, and you'll never throw one, Ryouga. They don't exist."

Ryouga sighed. "Whatever. I could if I really wanted to!"

"Prove it!"

"Can't right now. Not depressed enough."

"You're an idiot," Hiroshi said.

"You suck!" Daisuke added.

"You have no sense of direction whatsoever!" Ranma continued.

"You--"

"Enough!" Ryouga called. "It ain't workin', don't worry about it."

Ranma laughed.

Ranma inhaled. It felt good to take a breath as a man again. He knew he couldn't remain male for as long as he stayed in that house. At least not without serious consequences that he didn't want to face, but it felt good nonetheless.

He had already planned out his evening. When the other Ranma returned to his home, he would stick around long enough so as not to create too much confusion. After that, he would run over to the Tendo Dojo in male form, and enrol for a class. His male form was different enough from the Ranma of this reality so that he could walk about without being recognized as Ranma Saotome.

At least, he hoped.

He would also need a name. Satohara was good enough for a last name, but he wouldn't be able to use Ranma without it casting much suspicion.

Names were easy enough to figure out. Takao. That one was good enough. Takao Satohara. Ranma smiled. Making up names wasn't as hard as he had thought.

He sighed as he stood looking in the mirror of the bathroom.

A moment later, the door behind him opened. Ranma froze up.

"Sorry, boy. I didn't know you were in here," Genma said, then walked out of the bathroom and closed the door.

Ranma scrambled to splash himself with cold water just as he heard the door open again, more forcefully than it was originally opened.

"Ranma! What are you doing home! You're supposed to be at school!"

Ranko turned around. "Hiya, Mr. Saotome!"

Genma blinked. "Oh... I'm... I'm sorry, Ranko. I thought you were my son for a moment." He laughed. "Must be the hair!"

Ranko motioned towards the clock. "School supposed to be over around now anyway. He should be on his way home."

Genma looked at the clock which hung on the bathroom wall. "So it is." He smiled. A moment later, he realized where he was. "Oh! I'm sorry, Ranko... I... I uhh, didn't mean to... uhh."

"Don't worry, Mr. Saotome. I was just about to get out anyway."

Genma nodded. "All right, then."

Ranko walked past Genma and out the door. As she walked back down the hallway towards the guest room, Genma spoke up.

"One more thing, Ranko."

Ranko turned around. "What's that?"

"Why are you all wet?"

"Mom!" Ranma called, "I'm home!"

"Ranma!" A call came from the other room. "Come in here for a moment, please!"

Ranma froze. Her voice didn't sound threatening. Maybe everything would turn out okay. Maybe Ranko didn't tell.

He turned the corner into the main family room and paused.

"Ranma, this is Ranko," his mother said, motioning towards the girl seated at the table.

"We've met," Ranko announced.

Nodoka blinked. "Oh, that's right. You met him at school today!"

Ranma felt the weight leave him almost immediately. "Thank god," he said out loud.

Nodoka blinked. "For what?"

"Huh?"

"You said 'thank god'... For what?"

"Uhh... For... uhhh..."

"Probably for me finding the place okay," Ranko said.

"Oh?"

Ranma nodded. "Yeah, that's it."

Nodoka shrugged. "Anyhow, Ranko will be staying with us for a while, Ranma. Isn't that great?"

"Staying with us?" Ranma said. Score!

"Yeah, I'll be staying around. I'll help in any way I can." Ranko smiled.

"Well, I won't bother you with anything tonight," Nodoka said, "After all, you've had a big day."

Ranko nodded. "Yeah, and there's one more thing I've got to do tonight."

Ranma blinked. Something she had to do?

Ranko turned towards Nodoka. "Do you have a thermos I could borrow?"

Nodoka looked at her for a second. "Why... Yes, I think I do. May I ask why?"

Ranko blinked. "I... uhh... I just hafta carry hot water with me a lot. It's a family thing."

Nodoka waved her hand. "Of course, dear. That won't be a problem."

Ranko smiled. "Thanks, Mo---isses Saotome."

Ranko sighed. She barely got out of that one. She noticed Ranma giving her a strange look, but her mother didn't seem to notice her slip.

But now that was over. Nothing she really had to worry about. She was almost to the Dojo, and would have to change her form in a minute.

She stopped. Why wait? She unscrewed the thermos and poured its contents over her head.

Takao looked at what was before him.

He felt a shiver run up his spine. Referring to himself as Takao felt strange, but he had to get used to it if he was going to keep his cover. He strapped the thermos back to his side and continued to run.

Two blocks later, he was at the Dojo. He had practiced exactly what he was going to do. He pulled the gate bell.

If things went as planned, Kasumi would answer the door, he would request training at the Dojo. Feeling the wad of bills in his pocket, he knew he could pay up front.

Soun would train him, and he would probably be able to spar with Akane. He would start talking about his 'friend', Ranma, and Akane would start becoming interested in him. The other Ranma, that is. It was a perfect plan! Foolproof!

The front gate swung open slowly, revealing...

Kasumi. The first part of the plan went without a hitch.

"Can I help you?" Kasumi asked.

Ranma smiled. "This is the Tendo Dojo, right?"

Kasumi nodded. "Yes."

"I would like to sign up for a class."

Kasumi paused for a moment. "Oh my, Father hasn't been taking students for years now."

Ranma's eyes bugged. "Excuse me?"

"Father hasn't been taking students since Mother died," she said, looking towards the ground.

"Well, I... uhh... I can pay!" Ranma said, pulling a wad of bills out of his pocket.

Kasumi gasped. "Oh my. That is a lot of money."

Ranma smiled. "Yep!"

"I suppose I could let you in to talk to my father about it, but there won't be any guarantees."

Ranma nodded. "That would be fine."

Kasumi moved away from the gate and allowed Ranma entry, when he walked in, he took a look around.

It wasn't as if he didn't know his way around the place, on the contrary. He knew his way around the Dojo as well as he knew his way around Furinkan, if not more.

But the place didn't feel right to him. He knew it wasn't his reality, but he could swear there was something different.

He looked around. The Dojo stood there, with new wood mixed with old, obvious evidence that there had been a fight there.

The Koi pond was visible even from the front entrance, nothing unusual there.

Nabiki watched him with mild interest from her room on the second floor, and he could see Akane's silhouette in her window. He wasn't sure, but it appeared as though she was wearing her gi.

From inside, he could hear an old man cackling. Obviously Happosai. At least some things stayed the same.

Hinako Ninomiya sat on one of the front steps in child form, looking at Ranma, and--

Hinako Ninomiya?

He stared at her for a moment. What was she doing there?

His mind reeled back to the time she had stayed at the Tendo home in excess of a week, and then remembered what drove her to leave.

The intervention of Ranma, and the Tendo girls.

Ranma wasn't there to intervene this time. Which meant she must have landed Mr. Tendo.

Ranma shook his head sadly. Not good.

"Kasumi!" Hinako called as she got up, "I'm going out to meet Yoshi, all right?"

"All right, Hinako! See you after your date!"

Ranma sighed. Then again.

"So, son. I hear you want to learn Anything-Goes style, do you?"

Takao nodded. "Yes sir."

"Well, I haven't taken on students for a few years now. I suppose it would help to get me back into practice."

Takao smiled. "Great!"

"What did you say your name was?"

"Takao. Takao Satohara."

"Well, Takao, my boy. I suppose we should test your skills right now. You say you've trained before?"

Takao nodded. "Yeah, my father trained me on and off for the past ten years."

"So I'll assume you already know how to fall, then."

Takao scoffed. "Yeah, we covered that."

"Well, then." He stood up and took a defensive position. "I suppose we should start!"

Takao rose to meet Soun. "Sounds good."

"I'll pull my punches for now, boy. When we get a little bit more advanced in your training, expect me to use full force."

Takao nodded. He knew he could beat Mr. Tendo right there and now if he wanted to, but for reasons only he would be able to understand, he would have to play dumb.

Soun started with an experimental punch in Ranma's direction. It was easily avoided, even for a beginner, but Takao held out just long enough that it would miss him my mere millimetres.

He then did a back-kick. Takao did a small jump, but not high enough that it would miss him. The kick managed to sweep his legs, and Takao fell to the floor.

"Sorry about that, son." Soun reached over to help him up.

"That's all right, Mr. Tendo. I know how these things happen."

Soun smiled. "You are quite skilled, son. The reflexes are there, but you need to learn to act more quickly."

Takao nodded. If only he knew. "Yes sir."

"Soun?" a voice called from the entrance.

Mr. Tendo tensed up. He turned to face the doorway. "M...Master?"

"I'd like a chance to see his skill, if you don't mind," Happosai announced.

"But Master, I--"

"Now, Soun. In private too, if you please." Happosai glared at Takao.

Takao knew something was wrong. As Soun walked out of the door, Takao narrowed his eyes.

"Don't think I don't know, boy," Happosai said.

Takao decided the best course of action would be to play dumb. "Huh?"

"Those eyes. I could never forget them."

Takao blinked. His eyes? "What are you talking about?"

"Takao Satohara, formerly Saotome!"

Takao swallowed. "I don't know what you're talking about."

"As if you don't, boy. You're Genma's boy!"

Takao froze. "Genma who?"

"Don't play dumb!"

Takao turned to face him. "Look, you old freak--"

Happosai passed the distance between the two of them in a microsecond. He placed his pipe at Ranma's chin. "If only Soun knew."

Takao backed up quickly. "Knew what?"

"That that cheating fool Genma's boy was trying to worm his way into his family Dojo."

Takao swallowed again. "What did he do?"

Happosai smiled. "So you are Genma's boy after all."

Ranma winced. "Yeah, so what?" He didn't want to lose his chance. Why did this have to be harder than it already was?

"After what he did to Tendo and I, he should be lucky he's still alive."

"What did he do?"

"As if you didn't know."

Takao shook his head. "I don't."

"Ha!"

Takao just stared.

Happosai lowered his pipe from Takao's chin and looked into his eyes. "You... You really don't know, do you?"

Takao shook his head.

"He locked me in a cave for ten years!"

Takao nodded. "I knew that, but what about Mr. Tendo?"

Happosai's jaw dropped. "He was knocked out when it happened! Genma drugged Soun's food and then took off!"

Takao narrowed his eyes. "That does sound like pop."

"Now, what are you doing here, boy?"

Takao sighed. There was no way out of this without losing face. He sat down, and began to explain.

Happosai listened, and scoffed a few times during certain key elements of the story. Takao thoughtfully left out the parts pertaining to his Jusenkyo curse. At the end of it, Happosai was still not convinced.

"You expect me to believe that? It's nonsense!"

"Want proof?"

"There's no proof you can give me that--"

"You still love Cologne?"

"--would.... WHAT?!"

Takao smirked. "You heard me."

Happosai narrowed his eyes. "What do you know about that?"

"I know because Cologne and yourself told me. Back in my reality."

Happosai narrowed his eyes.

"And I know about some of your other 'conquests'."

"Such as?"

"Pantyhose Tarou."

Happosai's eyes widened. "The boy I helped give birth to? I've told nobody about that!"

Takao blinked. "You mean... He hasn't come here yet?"

"Come here? For what?"

Takao sighed. "Never mind. Do you believe me now?"

"If you expect me to take it on word alone, no." Happosai looked up at him. "But I'll keep your secret, for a price."

Takao sighed. "Let me guess... Underwear?"

Happosai smiled. "You DO know me!"

"What do you want, old freak?"

"Starting tomorrow night, you will accompany me on raids. Every night for the duration of your stay. Don't be late!"

Takao shook his head. He knew this would cost him. At least it cost him what he was expecting, and no more.

"Fine, but you utter a word of any of this to the Tendo's, I'll put you into the ground, got it?"

"As if you could." Happosai scoffed.

Takao smirked. If only he knew his real skill level. Happosai may be able to beat him, but Takao's also got the element of surprise, and a weakness to exploit.

Nabiki walked into the tea room, smiling.

"What are you smiling at, Nabiki?" Akane asked, walking towards the Dojo.

She shook her head. "Nothing, just got some useful information."

Akane shrugged and left the room for the Dojo.

As she left, Nabiki smiled to herself. "Looks like you and I need to have a little chat, Takao Satohara."

As she sat down at the tea room table, she looked up. Why did 'Satohara' sound so familiar?

"Nabiki?" Kasumi asked.

"Yeah?"

"I just spilled a bowlful of curry on the floor."

"You want help cleaning it?"

"Goodness, no."

Nabiki blinked. "Then why did you tell me?"

"Because you're sitting in it."

Nabiki stood up quickly. "Oh crap!"

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