Wild Destiny

Chapter Three: A Friend in Need

          The next morning at the Tendou Doujou, it was the start of another school day for Akane and Nabiki as they ate breakfast with their family.  Everyone except for the panda had noticed Ranma was not there.  Soun looked at the animal, "Where's Ranma?"
          The panda stopped eating and took out a wooden sign that read, 'Don't know.'  Nabiki was surprised while Kasumi looked worried and Akane didn't even care.  "You mean, he didn't come home last night?" Nabiki asked.  That caught Akane's attention.  Was it her fault he left?  He could have left a message or something.  She felt bad that she was to blame for his departure, but it was better that way.  She wondered where he could have gone to though.
          Kasumi scooped a bowl of rice for the panda and handed it to him.  She stared at him for a few seconds and then asked, curiously, "Saotome-san, shouldn't you change back to normal?"  Having a cute panda in the house was nice, but she considered that being human would be more convenient for breakfast.  The creature paused in his meal and flipped his sign to the opposite side, 'I am normal.'  Nabiki smiled musingly, thinking how much money she could make using Genma as a circus attraction.
          Not knowing about what happened last night, Soun was about to ask, but they heard footsteps coming from the hallway.  All five heads poked out from the room and saw Ranma walking up to them.  Soun immediately hugged Ranma, weeping like a baby, "Ranma, you're home at last!  Now you can try on this tuxedo and marry Akane!"  The panda snickered while he and Soun displayed the suit to everyone.
          "WHAT?!" Ranma and Akane shouted.  Their fathers were going overboard if they expected the two to get married immediately.  Nabiki was already making expense notes in the family's financial notebook while Kasumi was admiring the fine-tailored tuxedo.
          "I don't wanna marry a pervert like him!" Akane declared.  She couldn't forget what he had done last night.  He probably enjoyed being a girl so he could do whatever he pleased.
          Ranma yelled back, "Stop calling me that!  And you think I want a tomboy like YOU?!"
          Nabiki calmly broke the two apart, saying, "You two make a fine couple, but for now we'll be late for school if you don't hurry."
          "School?"  The new subject had caught the pigtailed boy's attention.  He had nothing against school even if he was never a good student, slacking off, but he always managed to pull through in the end.
          "Well, we ARE going to be staying awhile," his father said, holding a kettle of hot water over his head.  He handed the empty kettle to Kasumi, who kindly placed it aside.
          Done with her breakfast, Nabiki stood up, ready to leave.  "It's the same school Akane and I go to, so we'll see you there."  She grabbed her schoolbag and headed to the foyer.
          Not wanting to be left behind with Ranma, Akane was forced to quickly finish her bowl.  "Nabiki, wait up!" she called, getting up.  "I'll go with you!"
          Her sister shouted back, "You're Ranma's fiancee, remember?  YOU should walk him to school!"  Akane stopped in the doorway and looked over her shoulder at Ranma.  She had felt guilty when she thought Ranma had left, but now that he had returned and didn't look like he was going to apologize, she felt rage surging through her body.  Neither said a word but just silently glared at each other.

          Akane grumply walked ahead of Ranma, who was quietly strolling on the high fence.  She wouldn't have been stuck with him if her father had not held onto her leg and embarrassingly cried to her about keeping their family honor.  She of course couldn't say 'no' to him, but she still wasn't going through with the engagement.  Ranma wasn't happy with it either, so maybe they could strike some deal.
          Ranma was looking away towards the water below him, recalling what happened last evening after he recovered from Akane's brutal assault.  He didn't know the girl had it in her, but the family did own a dojo so it was expected.  In the future, he would have to be more careful.
          When he left the Tendou's place last night, he thought he would cool himself down with a walk around the neighborhood, but as thoughts of his father, his training trip, his wretched curse, and his engagement twirled in his head, he had lost track of time and place.
          He eventually came to a main street and immediately recognized it as the one he had been to before with Usagi.  He scratched his head, wondering how he could've strayed away from Nerima like that.  He stood there for a moment, not sure of what to do, while knowing that Usagi was nearby.  "She sure is nicer than that Akane," he said aloud to no one in particular and leapt to the rooftops.
          When Ranma stopped on top of a residential roof, he scanned the area, hoping he had made it to the right neighborhood.  Lights were still on in a few nearby houses.  As he examined each one, he finally spotted flowing, golden hair and knew it had to be her.  He made some final leaps over to his destination, which was certainly the one since he recalled her house was the only one with a balcony.  He quietly landed on the roof and poked his head over the side to see what was going on.
          Usagi was wearing her pink pajamas with white bunnies again.  He smirked at how childish it was, but it really did look cute on her.  He was about to tap on the window when he heard Usagi's mother's voice echoing from behind the closed bedroom door.  He smiled, thinking how that voice could definitely wake Usagi up.  Seeing that she was still awake, all tucked in her bed, he lightly knocked on the window.  He made a puzzled face when she rolled away from the window and pulled the covers over her shoulders.
          Ranma was about to try again, but he stopped his hand and drew it back.  Even at the late hour, he wondered if he should be bothering her at all.  She was the only friend he had so far, and being the nice girl she was, she would forgive him.  He hoped so and gently tapped the glass pane again.  This time, she noticed and turned towards his direction.  The expression on her face was priceless, causing him to smile.  He realized he was still hanging upside-down from the roof, so he held onto the edge and swung his body over the side, landing perfectly on the balcony.
          Usagi opened the window and asked, "Ranma, what are you doing here?"
          He rubbed the back of his neck, looking shyly away.  How was he going to phrase the answer?  Before he could do any thinking, his mouth opened, "Umm, Usagi.  Can I talk to you?"  He looked at her, observing her expressions.
          She blinked and replied, "Sure."  He was surprised at her simple answer and her gesture as she moved to the side, letting him into her room.  "Make yourself comfy," she said as she closed the window.  They sat at the table that was now closer to her bed than the night Ranko stayed over.  Usagi noticed the troubled face Ranma had and smiled, trying to ease him, "It's such a coincidence.  I was just thinking about you, Ranma."
          "Huh?" was the idiotic word--if one could call it a word--that left his mouth.  Having her think about him was the last thing on his mind.  "Really?"
          She nodded.  "Yeah, like how you were doing, adjusting to the whole situation and all.  I'd go bonkers for sure if that had happened to me."  She paused, looking at him.  He smiled nervously.  "Is everything okay, Ranma?"  Stupid Usagi, from all his problems, how could everything be okay for him.  Ranma told her about the incidents before he came to see her, which amused her quite a bit.  Usagi was leaning over the table and  still giggling about the bathroom part.
          "Hey, hey.  I was the victim here," Ranma pointed out.  He turned away slightly, offended from her carefree reaction.
          Usagi calmed down and apologized, "I'm sorry, Ranma, but it really is funny.  I guess you'd just have to be an outsider to see the humor."  She propped her elbows on the table and tucked her hands underneath her chin, looking adorable.  "But you were a girl, so it's okay, right?"
          He blinked at her, sensing deja vu.  "Man, you sound just like Nabiki."
          She smiled.  "Anyway I think that reaction is pretty normal.  I mean, imagine yourself in her situation.  Wouldn't you be upset if a girl who was really a guy walked in on you?"
          Ranma held his hands up, admitting defeat.  "Okay, you got me there, but what about the table?"
          "Akane was wrong there."  She tried to picture Ranma getting clobbered by an airborne table and giggled to herself.  Being a martial artist sounded very interesting.  Ranma seemed satisfied that someone was sticking up for him until Usagi cut him off, "But you also went over the line for insulting her like that."  He slightly slumped over the table, which made Usagi feel bad for adding those words.  She crawled over to the dresser near the head of her bed and pulled out a box from beneath the clothes.  Ranma watched, wondering what she was doing.
          She came back to the table with a tin box and opened it with a smile.  "Have some cookies, Ranma."  She let him choose from the container, which he took quite a few--probably even half--and then grabbed two with each of her hands.  "I always have a secret stash for late night emergencies," she chuckled but then warned him, "But don't tell mom, or else I'll never speak to you again."
          He laughed, "Sure, but I gotta have the rest of the evidence."  He reached for a few more as Usagi did the same.  Ranma smiled as he reminisced the fight over the cookies though he ended up eating most of it.  Suddenly an image of Usagi whacking his head appeared in his mind, but somehow he felt the blow that very moment, forcing him forward.  He snapped out of his flashback and glared at the culprit, "POP!  WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT FOR?!!"
          Akane stood a bit behind the duo, fuming with fists clenched tightly to her schoolbag.  She tried to talk to Ranma, but it had been so pointless the past few minutes.  He had appeared to be in another world or something.  Either that or he was doing his best to ignore her, but she didn't like it when people did that to her.  What surprised her more was Genma showing up to punish his son.  If he hadn't, she would have done something herself.
          "You shouldn't be so insensitive towards your fiancee!  She's trying to get to know you better!" Genma yelled, standing next to Ranma on the fence.  Darkness loomed over Akane when she heard those words.  Getting to know Ranma was the last thing she needed to ruin her life.  "Listen, Ranma," the man continued, "I'll tell you only ONCE--"  He was cut off abruptly by Ranma, who swept his feet towards his father, tripping him into the water below.
          The panda bobbed to the surface with fearsome look at the boy.  Ranma grinned, asking, "What's wrong, pop?  You were just about to tell me something."  The creature leapt out of the water towards Ranma, who quickly left the fence and planted his feet on the ground.  Akane knew it was going to get ugly, so she had already stepped away from the two.
          The panda rushed forward, swinging his paw at Ranma, but the latter flipped away, successfully avoiding the punch.  "Ha!  You're getting slow, old man!"  What Ranma should have been worried about was not his father but the old woman nearby, who had just accidentally splashed water onto him.
          Akane tiresomely stared at the wet Ranma, thinking he was such an idiot.  "Something wrong, baka?" she inquired, just to muse herself.  Of course, being in the position she was in, Ranko couldn't say anything.

          "USAGIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII!"  Ikuko's voice rang through the household and perhaps the neighborhood as well, who would've been used to it by now.  The girl sprang from her comfortable bed, screaming.  She was in such a wonderful dream when she suddenly saw her mother demanding her to get up, which was what was happening at that moment.  "Usagi!  Get up or you'll be late for school again!" Ikuko scolded as she shook her head and left the room.
          Ten minutes later, Usagi managed to get downstairs even if tumbling down was a painful way.  She ran into the kitchen and grabbed her schoolbag and lunch.  "EEEK!" she squealed as she realized she only had minutes to get to school.  She quickly kissed her mother good-bye and rushed to get her shoes.
          Ikuko was left to sigh after her daughter, "When will she ever learn?"

          Usagi was trotting down the street, half awake and yawning every forty-seven seconds.  She should be running to school, but she was too tired to do so.  Because of Ranma's little visit last night, she went to bed very late.  Thinking about Ranma, he must've left early that morning since she was lucky her mother didn't catch him in her room.  She did have a nice time with him.  It seemed like every time she was with Ranma, it felt like an exciting adventure.
          After they finished Usagi's emergency stash of cookies, they were still hungry--very hungry.  Usagi sat upright, leaving Ranma laying on the floor, "Just watching you eat made me want to pig out more."
          "You can't blame me.  I missed dinner."
          "I know we still have leftovers since mom made enough for everyone, including you."
          "Me?" he questioned, sitting up.  "Why'd she do that?"
          "All right.  Not you, but Ranko-chan.  She thought Ranko was coming over again."
          Ranma smiled, "Well. . . if I'm gonna eat good food like that, I'll come over as Ranko every night!"  Usagi laughed, standing up.  She walked to her closed door and quietly opened it a bit.  Ranma followed her, wondering what she was planning.  She put a finger to her lips, hushing her friend.  "It's a good thing my room's near the stairs.  Let's go to the kitchen."  He nodded with eagerness in his eyes.
          Usagi nodded towards her bright lamp by her bed.  Ranma understood and went to turn it off.  Then the two tiptoed out of her room as slowly and quietly as they could.  They were about to pass the bathroom when they heard the sound of a door opening.  The two froze in their places as Usagi glanced over her shoulder and saw Shingo rubbing his eyes.  Usagi immediately pushed Ranma into the bathroom.  She just couldn't have her little brother blackmailing her.
          Shingo heard the slam and looked up.  "Usagi?  What are you doing up?"
          "Heh heh, I have to use the bathroom."  She rubbed the back of her neck, sweating.  "How 'bout you?"
          "Just getting a drink of water."  He started to walk towards the stairs.
          "Okay."  She musingly waved him off.  "Well I'll just take my time in the bathroom."  After Shingo disappeared from her sight, she joined Ranma in the bathroom.  "That was so close," she sighed.  She saw Ranma leaning against the sink, breathing heavily.  "Ranma?"
          He looked at her with a frightening expression, "I didn't know girls could be SO scary.  First Akane, and now you."  Usagi was confused at what he said and a little hurt that he'd compare her with Akane.  They heard footsteps walk by and seconds later a door closed.  Ranma straightened up and placed his hands on her shoulders.  "Usagi," he began, being very serious.  She wondered what he was going to say with such a grave expression.  She felt like she was in a romantic movie where the couple was at the climax of their relationship.  "Let's hurry and get the food."  Usagi facefaulted.  "Man, I'm starvin'."
          Usagi jumped into the air as she heard the school bell rang.  "Omigod, WhyAmIDaydreamingAtATimeLikeThis?!  IAmWayPassLateAndHaruna-sensei'llKillMeForSure!"  She eventually  made it to Juuban Junior High School, being seven minutes and twenty-three seconds late to class.  She didn't break her earliest record yet, but on a worser note, she was sent to stand in the halls as usual.

          "This is all YOUR fault, Ranma!" Akane shouted as the two ran for their school.
          Ranma was a guy again thanks to a little stop at an acquaintance of Akane's, but after that outburst, there was no way he was thanking her.  He was running on top of a brick wall while Akane's making her way on the pavement.  "You're just blamin' me 'cause I'm a guy!"
          "So?!"
          "Just what's the deal with that?!"
          Akane didn't answer him yet but kept her concentration ahead of her as she frowned.  Soon the front gates of the school came into view.  When they came nearer to the campus, a horde of male students charged out at them, shouting, "Akane-kun's here!"
          Ranma was slightly surprised and wondered if they were the welcoming party for new students.  He noticed Akane getting angrier--even more from the day before.  "I. . . DESPISE MEEEEEEEEEEEEN!" she screamed as she pushed forward.  She jumped into the air and started to beat every single guy advancing towards her.  Ranma jumped onto the wall and sat there, watching Akane the boy-beating machine at work.  She was like a wild animal on the loose, attacking every guy she saw, but he still didn't know why she had such a grudge against the opposite sex.
          Usagi's angelic voice echoed from last night, "I'm sure Akane's a nice girl beneath that tough image of hers."  They chatted while snacking in the kithchen.  They didn't risk turning on the main lighting in the room so the refrigerator was opened every now and then.  "Besides that, you two have just met."
          "Yeah, she wanted to kill me," he said and then continued to munch on a dumpling.
          "If you'd just get to know her better."  Usagi opened the refrigerator door to get a drink.  She took a can and handed it to Ranma and then got another for herself.  She left the door opened to decide what else was good to eat while Ranma drank his soda.  "I wonder what this is."  She lifted up the tin foil from the plate and made a disgusting face at the food.  "Geeze, who made this?"  A sweatdrop grew on her head as she remembered she was the one who created the dish two days ago.  She frowned that no one was nice enough to eat it.
          Ranma was thinking about what Usagi had said and admitted she was right.  He glanced over to her, just noticing the light shining on her profile.  "I almost forgot about this," she smiled as she brought out another plate of goodies and placed it in between them.  "I made this today with mom's help."  He watched her unwrap the dish, apparently having forgotten what they were talking about before.  "Well, Ranma," she said, looking up at him with a warm smile, "give it a try."
          He suddenly snapped out of his thoughts when he heard Nabiki calling him, "RANMA!  Get in this school now!"  He pointed to Akane, opening his mouth to say something, but she interrupted him, "Don't worry about Akane!  She's used to it!"  Ranma looked at Akane, who was finished with the crowd.  He hopped down and joined her as she scanned the area.
          "Don't tell me there's more in your fanclub," Ranma said, wondering if she was expecting someone.
          Akane glared at him. "That's why," she replied, referring to his last question as to why she hated boys.  Ranma blinked at her, having forgotten his question.  The school bell rang, and the two immediately raced to their first class.  As a result of their tardiness to class even if Ranma came from China, he and Akane stood in the hallway, holding buckets of water.  "This is YOUR fault," she stated.
          Ranma frowned, "How can everything be MY fault when that was YOUR fight?!"  It seemed she was being unreasonable now, he thought.
          "I always finish MY fights before school starts!  If it weren't for you and your curse, we would've been here on time!"  First he didn't even apologize to her and now he wouldn't even admit his own fault.  She really had to talk to her father about the engagement then.  Ranma was not even close to the man she wanted to marry.
          "Yeah, just blame it on the curse," he grumbled, turning away.  They were both quiet as he leaned against the window.  "Anyway what was that all about?" he asked, curiously.
          She sighed, knowing he was going to ask her about the daily ritual.  "Well, it's because of Kunou."
          "Kunou?" he repeated with a puzzled expression.

          It was already mid-morning in Tokyo, and Usagi was just on her break in between her classes.  She leaned on her desk, yawning and hoping to catch some winks before her math class started.  "Usagi!" a voice called.  She looked up and saw a girl with short, red hair running up to her.  Following behind the girl was a boy, wearing glasses.
          Usagi smiled, seeing her friends.  "Hi, Naru-chan!  Umino."
          The two stood by the sleepy girl's desk, staring at her.  "You look terrible, Usagi!" Naru exclaimed.  "Worse than usual."  She tried to prop the blonde up in her chair, but Usagi just fell forward on top of her desk.
          "Didn't you get any sleep last night, Usagi-kun?" Umino asked.
          She yawned and then answered, "Not really."  Before the others could get in another question, there was a loud commotion coming from outside.  Students standing by the windows began conversing among themselves about the guests at their school.  "Hmm?"  Usagi sat up, trying to understand the conversation.  "What's this about?"  She looked at her two companions.  "Did I miss something?"
          "You didn't know, Usagi-kun."  Umino took out his notepad and started to tell her, "Today is the kendou performance by Furinkan High.  They've been invited to display their talents here today, and the whole school is going crazy over it."  Usagi was amazed.  "I heard the captain of the Furinkan's kendou club is unbeatable!"
          "Really?!  Is he cute?!" Usagi chirped, looking quite awake now.  Naru joined her, waiting for an answer from him.
          Umino adjusted his glasses, pouting, as he carefully looked at his notes.  He was about to speak when a student said, loudly, "Isn't that Furinkan's captain?"  That made Usagi and Naru rush to the window.  Outside, they saw a young man surrounded by lots of admiring girls.  He was tall and had dark-brown hair.  He wore a dark outfit, carrying a bokken over his shoulder.  He seemed to enjoy the attention on him, which was boosting his ego beyond a normal person's limit.
          Usagi and Naru melted at the sight of him, "Aah, he's SO handsome!"  Their eyes glazed over with pink hearts.  Umino stood behind them and peered over, still pouting.  He didn't see why they were all making a fuss over him.  The girls absentmindedly grabbed Umino by his shirt, "Umino, What'sHisName?!"
          He quickly looked at his notepad and said, "Uuh, Kunou.  Kunou Tatewaki.  Second year--"  Tuning the rest of Umino's information out, Usagi gazed at the handsome captain again.  She then made a dash for the exit, hoping to catch him outside.  Naru ran after her, understanding her friend's intent, and planning to outsmart her by another way.
          Usagi didn't get to far when she bumped into another student, making her books fall to the floor.  "I'm so sorry!" she apologized and helped the girl collect the books.  She handed them back to her.  "I didn't mean to.  I was just in a hurry."
          The blue-haired girl smiled, faintly, "It's all right."  She looked about Usagi's age, but in her blue eyes, Usagi could see there was great knowledge.  There was more in her eyes than that, Usagi thought.  She seemed lonely.  "Is there something wrong?"  
          "Huh?  Oh no," Usagi replied, laughing nervously.  "I tend to space out like that.  By the way, I'm Tsukino Usagi.  I haven't seen you before.  Are you new here?"
          "It's a pleasure to meet you, Tsukino-kun.  My name is Mizuno Ami."  She bowed, which caused a surprised Usagi to do the same.  "Yes, I just arrived here today."  Things were quiet as the two realized the students in the hallway staring at them.
          Usagi had already forgotten about the reason she ran out of the classroom but instead wondered why everyone was acting unfriendly.  She noticed Ami looking uncomfortable, pulling the books close to her chest.  She didn't understand what was going on, but it wasn't right to make people feel left out.  Usagi placed a hand on her shoulder, smiling warmly, "Say Ami-chan, do you want to join me and my friends for lunch?"
          Ami looked at her, surprised and unsure if she should.  This was the first time anyone has spoken to her and in a friendly manner at that.  Something about Usagi made her relax and feel welcomed.  "My friends'll be pleased to meet you, so don't worry about it," Usagi tried to reassure her.  Ami's eyes softened at the kindness, and she nodded.

          Usagi trotted out of her last class, looking depressed.  She was now dreading what would happen after school.  She just couldn't believe it--actually, she could believe she failed her math test. . . again.  Her mother would not be pleased.  On her way to lunch, she didn't notice Ami, so the latter called out to her, "Tsukino-kun!"
          "Hmm?"  She looked up and saw Ami walking towards her and smiled.  "Hi, Ami-chan."
          Ami had seen the sad expression on her face and asked, "What's wrong, Tsukino-kun?"
          "Just call me Usagi."  Ami nodded.  Usagi took her math test from her schoolbag and gave it to Ami.  "Mom's gonna kill me."  With thirty points, most parents would get upset.  "She'll probably ground me for a month without any allowance or TV or maybe studying all day under her watchful eye."  She groaned, dreading up all the horrible punishments her mother could do.
          Ami giggled at what she thought were exaggerations.  "Usagi-kun, if you want me to help you study, I would be happy to do it."
          Usagi's eyes sparkled as she admired Ami.  "Really, you'd help me?!"  Ami nodded, smiling at a happy Usagi jumping up and down.  "I'm saved!"  Her stomach started to growl, and the two of them laughed.  "Guess I'm hungry too."  They proceeded outside for lunch when they encountered Kunou and the Furinkan High Kendou Club.  "Kunou-senpai!" Usagi blurted out, waving her hand at him.  Ami watched as Kunou glanced in their direction and then continued as if nothing happened.  The blonde girl looked disappointed, "Maybe he didn't see me."
          Ami asked, "Who is he?  He looks like a high school student."
          "Did you hear about the kendou performance today?"
          "Oh, so he's in that."
          Naru ran up to Usagi, almost out of breath.  "Usagi, let's hurry to the gym!"  Usagi was about to ask why, but Naru continued, "Afternoon classes have been cancelled, so we can see the kendou performance!"
          "REALLY?!"  She looked over to Ami, "This is great, Ami-chan!  Let's go see it, kay?!"  Ami nodded, and the three made their way to the gym.

          That afternoon, Minako was leaning against the wall in the gym, watching her classmates warm up.  She periodically glanced at the entrance as she waited eagerly to play a game of volleyball, but she was also waiting for Artemis to show up with some information.  She then caught a glimpse of a white form, but at the same time a classmate called her, "Minako-chan, let's play!"
          "Start without me," she shouted back as she headed towards the doors, "I'll be back soon!"  She ran outside after Artemis, who took towards the bushes by the side of the gym.  "Where's Luna?"
          "She's still back at headquarters."  He sat down just as Minako squatted down next to him.
          "You know, Artemis," she began, "I find it hard to believe a girl like that could be an enemy from the Dark Kingdom."
          He shook his head, "You never know."  He looked at her.  "There have been incidents of students becoming sick from attending that new computer course at the Crystal Seminar building.  It's very suspicious, so we'll check it out after school."
          "Right, and this Mizuno girl is their best student?"  The name sounded very familiar to her.  "Hmm, Mizuno.  That's right, Mizuno was top student in the district!"  Minako began daydreaming about being that popular and famous.  Artemis swung his arms in front of her face, trying to snap her out of it.

          When school ended, Usagi immediately rushed out and met Ami at the school gates.  She noticed Ami was putting a diskette into her schoolbag as she came up to her.  "After watching Kunou-senpai, I just wanna learn kendou!  Ne, Ami-chan?"
          She smiled, "Oh, I don't think I could do that.  It wouldn't be me."  Usagi nodded, trying to picture Ami dressed as a samurai.  She couldn't even imagine herself as one.  Ami figured out what Usagi was doing from the puzzled face and giggled.  She looked at her watche and apologized to Usagi, "I have a computer class to attend, Usagi-kun."
          "Computer class?!  You mean, you've got more schooling to do?!"  Ami nodded while sweating.  Usagi fell into a thinking pose, "Hmm, with you tutoring, Ami-chan, then mom'll have to reward me for improving my grades!"
          Ami laughed, "I'm glad to have met you, Usagi-chan.  I mean--"  She realized her mistake and tried to correct, but Usagi stopped her.
          "Usagi-chan is perfect.  Don't be a stranger with me, Ami-chan."  She smiled, "I'll just see tomorrow at school then!"  She waved Ami farewell and then headed towards her own destintion.  Since her destination at the moment was home, she slowed her walking pace down.  As she walked, she took out her math test and looked at it.  It was horrible.  Her mother was going to punish her for sure.  Maybe she shouldn't even go home, but then that would make them worry, and she'd be in more trouble.  She wished the test would just disappear.  With that, she balled it up and threw it over her shoulder.
          Unfortunately, the wad of paper struck a young man in the face.  "Excuse me, but do I look like a trashcan?"  Usagi turned around just as he straightened out the piece of paper.  She panicked as he read her score aloud, "A thirty?!"  She quickly grabbed her test back, fuming at him.  "You should really study, Odango Atama."
          She stuck her tongue out at him.  "That's none of your business!"  She pouted and stomped away, glancing over her shoulder once more to see who the jerk was.  He was tall and had short, black hair.  He would've been cute if he hadn't called her 'Odango Atama.'  She wondered why he was wearing a tuxedo in the middle of the day anyway.  Was he going to a party or what?
          When she thought about it more, the man kind of reminded her of Ranma.  Though Ranma was a bit shorter and had a pigtail too.  Too bad the jerk was wearing sunglasses, so she couldn't really compare their faces.  Ranma had pretty, blue eyes though.  She giggled.
          About twenty minutes later, Usagi arrived at the front door of her house.  She stood there hesitantly, not wanting to enter.  She didn't stand there too long when Shingo strolled up next to her.  "Yes, Usagi, this IS our house."  She glared at him as he opened the door and announced that they were home.
          Ikuko came out from the kitchen, wearing her apron, and welcomed them home.  "Aah, Usagi!  I just talked to Umino.  He told me you got your tests back today."  Usagi tensed upon hearing that.  "He did very well with a 95."  The eager smile on her mother's face didn't help Usagi at all.  Shingo stood by, smiling, knowing very well how his sister did in school.  "So how did you do, Usagi?"
          "Umm. . ."  How was she going to get out of this one?  "I. . . I have it right here.  Let me get it."  She slowly went for the test in her schoolbag while her mother and Shingo waited impatiently.  "Okay."  She inhaled deeply as she hesitated in handing the test over to her mother.  "I'mHeadingOverToRanko-chan'sPlaceCauseIPromisedHerIWould, ButI'llBeHomeSoon!  ByeMom!"  Usagi was out the door before her mother screamed her name loud enough for the whole neighborhood to hear.

          Akane sat at her desk, trying to concentrate on her homework, but not much could be done since Nabiki's presence distracted things.  After doing some leg exercises, Nabiki stood up and walked over to the window near Akane.  "Oh look.  Ranma's practicing with his father."  Her eyes glanced at Akane, who ignored her.  Nabiki grinned as she opened the window, shouting, "Hello, Ranma!  Keeping fit I see."
          Ranma looked up, waving at her.  "You bet!"  He moved aside just as his father was flying towards him with a kick and landed in the pond.  He turned to the panda getting out of the water.  "Guess that's it for the day, huh pops?"  The panda grumbled as he headed into the house for a warm bath.  Ranma looked up at Akane's window again and saw Nabiki was still there.  "Yo, Nabiki!"
          She turned to him, "What is it, Ranma?"
          "Could ja tell me what time it is?"
          "Sure."  She picked up Akane's desk clock and then told him, "It's twenty pass four."  She wondered why he had asked.  He thanked her and started to walk around the house to the front yard.  She could sense he was up to something.  She noticed Akane had stopped writing but pretending to read her textbook since she had be looking at the same page for over ten minutes.  "Akane, did you ever find out where he went to last night?"
          She frowned.  "How should I know?!"
          Nabiki smiled, "Ninety-five percent chance he was at a girl's house."  The pencil between Akane's fingers broke in half after she heard that.
          "Why would I care if he stayed there?!!"  She glared at her sister, "And just who would this girl be?!"
          "Oh, I didn't think that would get you upset, Akane.  After all, you said you didn't like Ranma."  She smirked, "But really though, I was just taking a wild guess."  Akane blinked, not sure of what to say about that.  Nabiki wanted to see what her little sister's reaction to the situation was, but she had already deduced where Ranma could have gone to.  She thought Ranma might not want everyone to know about it, so she would have to put that in the back of her mind for emergencies only.
          Nabiki started to leave the room, "Well I'll leave you to do your homework in peace.  Ja."

          Ranma was in the front yard, sitting down on the steps.  He saw Kasumi coming up from the side of the house, watering the flowers.  She spotted him and smiled, "Hello, Ranma.  Are you waiting for someone?"
          He hesitated to answer.  "Umm, yeah."
          "Oh, it's so wonderful that you've made friends already!" she said, clasping her hands together joyfully.  "I hope you and Akane are getting along as well.  I'm really looking forward to have you as a brother-in-law, Ranma!"  With a kind smile, she continued to water the flowers as she hummed a little tune.  Ranma didn't have the heart to argue with her.  Unlike Akane, Kasumi was a nice, down-to-earth girl.  She was a lot like Usagi, but more mature and way less clumsy, if not at all.
          Ranma looked up as he heard footsteps running down the street.  He saw a streak of blonde run pass the front gates and knew it had to be Usagi.  Sure enough, the girl came truding back up to the Tendou Dojo.  He walked up to her with Kasumi following, "Oh my.  Usagi-kun, are you all right?"  Ranma chuckled as Usagi waved her hand up to them, trying to catch her breath.  "I'll get you a drink," Kasumi said and left the two.
          After a few minutes, Usagi stood up and stretched.  "Hi, Ranma!  How was your day?!" she smiled.
          He shrugged, "It was pretty normal 'cept for watchin' Akane beat up the male student body at her school."  Usagi blinked.  "Yeah, I started school today.  At Furinkan High."  That made her blink again.
          "REALLY?!" she yelped, leaning closer to Ranma which surprised him.  Before Usagi could say anything else, Kasumi returned, carrying a tray with a teapot and some teacups.  Not only that, Akane and Nabiki curiously tagged along.  Usagi waved to them, "Hi, everyone!"
          Being courteous, Akane smiled, "Hi, Usagi.  What brings you to our dojo?"  Nabiki's face seemed to light up, mysteriously, seeing Ranma and Usagi together.
          "Ranma promised to teach me some martial arts, so I came!" she said, excitedly.  Akane was surprised by her enthusiasm, but why did she choose Ranma.  All the times that she saw him fight, usually with his father, he didn't seem impressive to her.
          Kasumi poured tea into a cup and handed it to Usagi, who accepted it appreciatively.  "That's so kind of you, Ranma!  Don't you think so, Akane?"  Akane didn't answer as Usagi gave the empty cup back to Kasumi.  "I hope you'll be joining us for dinner, Usagi.  It's wonderful to have guests over."
          "Oh, I really don't want to bother you," Usagi started, but Kasumi insisted.
          "Kasumi loves to cook," Akane added with a smile, "I'm sure our father won't mind either."  Usagi could only nod.  Kasumi left, leaving the four to stand around uncomfortably.  Akane said to Ranma, "Well if you're gonna train then shouldn't you head to the training hall?"
          "Huh?  Oh yeah.  Since it was your family's place, I didn't think I was gonna use it," he said.
          Before Akane could speak, Nabiki said, holding up her index finger to them, "A thousand yen for each hour you use the dojo, but since you're just starting, I'll make it nine hundred."  The three were baffled, staring at her with their jaws practically dropped to the ground.
          "NABIKI!" Akane shouted, "That's so rude!  Not everything has to deal with money!"  She turned to Usagi and apologized, "Please ignore Nabiki, and feel free to use the dojo, you two."  Akane spun around to leave, dragging her unwilling sister along as well.  Ranma was quite shock from Akane's behaviors.  She was actually nice.  And when she was nice, she did look likable.  Maybe Usagi was right about her.  All he had to do was give her a chance and get to know her better.
          Usagi watched them leave.  "They are a strange family."  She glanced over at Ranma and noticed him staring after the sisters.  She smiled, "So did you get along with Akane today?"
          "Uuh. . ."  He turned away and headed to the training hall, "Let's get started.  I don't wanna miss dinner this time."  Usagi cheered and then happily skipped after him.

          Late that afternoon, Minako and Artemis ran as fast as they could to the Crystal Seminar building.  Unfortunately for her, she had to skip volleyball practice, but that wasn't a major loss.  It would be if they didn't get to Luna on time.  The last time they heard from her was when she had infiltrated the building, searching for the source of dark power.
          When the building came into sight, they could see the negative aura increasing around the area.  Minako ducked into an alley with Artemis.  She took out a golden, crescent moon and held it in the air, "MOON POWER!  Turn me into a cute doctor!"  She was suddenly engulfed in a bright light.  When the light faded away, Minako appeared in a doctor's uniform with her blonde hair braided back.
          "Let's hurry!" Artemis demanded, and the two ran into the building.
          In the lobby, they saw people sprawled all over the floor.  Dark energy was floating around them.  Minako realized she didn't need to disguise herself after all, but she did look cool.  They carefully examined the area but couldn't find Luna, so they hurried upstairs.

          In one of the computer classrooms, Ami was sitting in front of her computer, feeling a slight headache and weak.  She couldn't understand why, but she felt like that ever since she loaded her diskette into the computer.  She tried to stand up and head towards the exit but fell onto the floor instead.  She looked back at her classmates, her eyes blurring a bit, but she could see everyone in her class had fainted.  "Wh-What's going on?!"  Someone stepped in front of her, and she looked up.  She recognized the woman to be the instructor.  "Sensei, everyone's collapsed!  Please call for help!"
          The woman smiled evilly, displaying her sharp fangs.  "You'll join them soon."  Ami gasped as the woman turned into a demon.  She tried to get away before the demon could strike at her.  The demon's claws was about to hit Ami, but Luna jumped for the monster's arm, sinking her feline teeth into its skin.  It screamed in pain as it slammed Luna into the wall.
          Minako and Artemis appeared at the scene to see Luna trying to get up.  "Minako, transform now!" Artemis commanded.
          This time, she took out a pen and raised it in the air, shouting, "VENUS POWER, MAKE UP!"  In a shower of golden stars, Minako transformed from her doctor disguise to the mysterious soldier of love and justice--code name, Sailor V.  She smiled as she finished changing and fell into a dramatic pose.  Her sailor suit was different than before.  Instead of the various blue and red throughout her old outfit, she wore an orange skirt with dark-blue bows.  Her face was decorated with her old mask, which she took off, showing her sky-blue eyes and the orange gem tiara on her forehead, "I'm back in town."
          "Sailor V?!" the demon gasped, unbelievingly.
          "This time, it's Sailor Venus."
          "I don't care who you are!" the demon bellowed, "But I'll kill YOU!"  A tornado of paper was blown directly at Sailor Venus, who threw her mask in the path of the attack, slicing up some of the papers.  Artemis raced to Luna to see if she was all right.
          Luna was able to stand up on her own, "I-I'm fine, Artemis.  Don't worry."  They watched Sailor Venus continue dodging the demon's attack as she tried to close in on it.  Ami propped herself up from the floor and saw the fight between the young girl and monster.  She gasped at recognizing the girl as the famous heroine of Tokyo.
          "CRECENT BEAM!" the blonde girl shouted.  Her golden beam blasted through the hurling papers, burning them to ashes.  Ami saw that there was no way Sailor Venus could hit her through all her paper attacks.  She couldn't get close to the monster either.  There was a chance if the demon was blinded, but by what?  All Ami could do was watch, but in her heart, she wanted to help.  She wanted to destroy the monster who would hurt innocent people.  She wanted to protect them.  She closed her eyes, feeling warmth rising in her body.
          A blue glow radiated from Ami as Luna and Artemis gasped.  They saw the symbol of the planet Mercury on her forehead.  "She's one of them!" Luna cried.  She immediately flipped into the air, summoning a transformation pen similiar to Sailor Venus's.  As it landed, Artemis quickly kicked it towards Ami, who was opening her eyes, confused at the strange, wonderful feeling.  The pen bumped into her, and she picked it up.  Luna shouted to her, "Transform!  You have to help Sailor Venus!"
          Ami was surprised to see the black cat talk, but it wasn't the time to ask questions.  She had to get rid of the demon now.  She held the pen into the air, instinctively, and shouted, "MERCURY POWER, MAKE UP!"  The same feeling returned again, surrounding her body, as she changed into a sailor suit like Sailor Venus, but everything was blue.
          When she came out of her transformation, she still felt weak, but what she was about to do was enough help.  She held her hands out in front of her as the words surfaced from her unconsciousness, "SHABON SPRAY!"  From her hands, a huge wave of ice particles spreaded throughout the room, making it difficult to see.
          "Where is she?!" the demon said, ceasing her attack from the blanket of mist.  She began to roam the room, swinging her claws around, hoping to kill her obstacle.
          Sailor Venus jumped towards the wall to be safe since she couldn't see the monster either.  Then in the distance, she could see two sparkling dots.  "That has to be her," she concluded.  She raised her hand into the air, summoning her power.  "CRESCENT," her finger came down, pointing towards the sparkles, "BEAM!"  It was too late when the demon turned around at the shout.  The beam shot through its chest, disintegrating its body.
          The mist soon dissipated, and the fainted people were slowly waking up.  They were still alive but very weak due to the energy drainage from their bodies.  Sailor Venus smiled, glancing at the two cats and then at the new soldier in blue, "Welcome, Sailor Mercury."  The blue-haired girl looked at herself and couldn't believe who she was or what she did.  It was all amazing to her and would probably take some time to get used to.  She looked at Sailor Venus and nodded.
          Mizuno Ami had accepted her fate as a Sailor Senshi.

          At the Tendou's place that evening, Usagi was bidding the sisters and Ranma farewell.  She had enjoyed the meal immensely.  Kasumi's cooking was up there with her mother's, if not higher.  "Thank you so much for having me over, everyone!"
          Kasumi smiled, "It was our pleasure."
          "Please come by more often, Usagi-chan," Akane added.  She was happy to have known Usagi a little more.  The girl was like a little sister she had always wanted, always cute and cheerful.  They got along very well during Usagi's training, which disappointed Ranma since there was hardly any training being done when the two girls talked most of the time.  Ranma had to face the situation: he was training Usagi, the girl whose bubbly personality could brighten anyone's day.  What amazed him more was seeing another side to Akane--the sweet, cute side, which he thought was impossible for her.  Usagi really brought that part of Akane out, he thought.
          Before Usagi left, Ranma warned her, "Hey, we're definitely training tomorrow."
          Usagi sweated, realizing she couldn't avoid all the hard physical work.  "Okay, okay!"
          "And try not to be late too."
          She pouted, "That's not a promise though!"  She skipped through the front gates and stopped.  She looked back and smiled, seeing Ranma and Akane standing next to each other.  "Be nice, you two!"  They blinked, looking at one another, and then turned their backs against each other with frowns.  Usagi giggled and then headed for home.
          On her way home, Usagi began to think how lucky Akane was to have a fiance like Ranma.  She wondered when she was going to meet her prince and live happily ever after with him.  She stopped and gazed up at the evening sky.  Some of the stars were beginning to be visible.
          It was under that same sky hours later that Ranma was punted out the window from the second floor and into the pond below.  Ranko climbed out of the water, grumbling to herself, "No way is she cute!"  She began to wonder if Akane had personality defects or something.  She was all nice when Usagi was here, but now that their blonde friend was gone, she was mean again.  Maybe she was mean was due to the fact that Ranma had walked in on her in the bath again but this time he was a guy.  That was wrong on his part, but she wouldn't even let him explain as to why that happened.  It really wasn't his fault.  It was HER fault.  "NABIKIIIIIIIIIIIIII!" she screamed into the night.

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