Selling the Fantasy

A Ranma, fic thingy.

By Sunshine Temple

 

Naturally, I do not Ranma So here's the disclaimer:

 

Ranma 1/2 and its characters and settings belong to Rumiko Takahashi, Shogakukan, Kitty, and Viz Video

 

 

Previous chapters and other works can be found at my fanfiction website.

http://jtemple.florestica.com/

 

Temporary Backup Site.

http://www.fukufics.com/fic/

 

 Other website Temple of Ranma's Senshi Seifuku

http://fukufics.com

 

C&C as always is wanted.

 

 

Chapter 2: Magical Opportunities

 

 

 

"What is Ukyou's problem?" Akane asked as she and Ranma walked down the street. It was early evening and the sun was inching towards the horizon.

 

Ranma paused. "Are you asking me as her childhood friend or her fiance?"

 

Akane took his hand. "I'm asking as your fiancee."

 

"Ah," The martial artist chuckled. "At least you waited until after our date to start fighting."

 

Akane glowered.

 

"Sorry!" Ranma waved his hands before going back to holding Akane's hand. "That was... that was rude of me."

 

The Tendo girl blinked. "You admit it?"

 

Ranma laughed. "I'm a Saotome man, being rude is something we do. The least I could do is admit it."

 

"I'm surprised you didn't cheat out of our bill," Akane lightly said as they resumed walking.

 

"Nah," He shook his head. "I'd never do that to someone in the business."

 

Akane eyed him. His light blue eyes were teasing, but at least he had dressed up somewhat. His slacks were neat and he was even wearing a good shirt, and not that horrible yellow thing with the red bow tie. "You mean like Shampoo. Or Ukyou?" she pointedly asked.

 

"I mean that Pops has scammed a lot of restaurants and skipped out of a lot of bills.  I ain't gonna be like that."

 

"Ah."

 

Ranma bowed his head. "Okay, what'da ya want to know?" he assented with a smile.

 

Akane eyed him. It was odd for Ranma to be... agreeable. If he hadn't still been thoughtless and clueless she'd be suspicious. Getting cured, or half cured, seemed to do him some good. "She's just weird."

 

"Weird? Do tell?" he asked with a smirk.

 

Akane grumbled. There was a bit of that Ranma-ness, though it was less biting.

 

"I had thought bombing a wedding was normal behavior. My mistake."


Sighing Akane tried to hold her ire.  The mess of a wedding ceremony still stung.  Not just because of the actions of their parents but from the actions of Ranma's other fiancess.


"Well, I mean sometimes she acts like my friend. You know just one of the girls?" Akane asked. "Other times..."

 

Ranma nodded.  "Flour bombs."

"Yeah, other times she's a bitter rival. And it's so sudden."

 

"Ah..." Ranma looked out into the canal they were passing. He squeezed her hand. "That's... Ukyou."

 

"What do you mean?"

"Remember when she came here? What she was after?"

 

"Yeah she wanted revenge on Mr. Saotome, because he stole her family's cart and ditched her."

"She also wanted revenge on me," Ranma reminded.

 

"Yeah... but that fight ended with her wanting to marry you," Akane eyed him.

 

"Exactly. And remember what it took to get her to change from kill to wed?"

 

Akane frowned.

 

"I called her cute."

 

"You called her cute," Akane repeated.

 

Ranma spread his free hand. "That's all. One little sentence. Not even that I loved her. Not even that she was beautiful. Just that she was cute. And like that-" he snapped a finger. "She flipped."

 

"Oh." Akane was silent for a while as they continued walking. "She still calls herself the 'cute fiancee'."

 

"Yes, she does," Ranma readily agreed.

 

"Oh," Akane repeated. Glancing over she saw concern on his face. Not for her, but for someone else, some who might not be so stable.

 

Ranma patted her shoulder. "Yeah, she's my friend but..."

 

"She's nuts?"

 

"It's a sliding scale ain't it?' Ranma quirked an eyebrow as they passed a storefront.

 

Akane laughed. That was a very Nabiki expression Ranma had just given. Well, Ranma had been spending time with Nabiki trying to work the bugs out of that cure.

 

"Oh so, she's saner than Kodachi and Shampoo then?"

 

"Puts her in the upper half but not the top spot," Ranma drew Akane a bit closer.

 

She looked up at him. "Calling me your sanest fiancee isn't as flattering as you might think," she teased with mock anger.

 

Ranma gave a nervous smile. "Indirectly, calling you the sanest."

 

"That's much better-" Akane started before there was a shriek.

 

Ranma spun the both of them and an arc of water splashed over his back.

 

"Sorry!" A shopkeeper awkwardly said, holding a large pail.

 

"It's fine," Ranma sighed as he shook the back of his dark shirt.

 

Akane blinked up at him. "You okay?"

 

"I'm still a guy, right?" Ranma asked with a smile as they resumed walking. "I may have to change my shirt," he shrugged.

 

"Yes, you are," Akane smiled as she took his hand again. Ranma did seem better with the curse lifted... more at ease

 

"Glad you appreciate it too," Ranma laughed.

 

"Oh no, it's not like that."

 

"You don't mind my girlform then?" Ranma teased.

 

"Not like that." Akane hit him on the chest. "What I mean is that you seem more mellow. As if...."

 

"As if I'm not at risk of suddenly turning into someone else?" Ranma lightly asked.

 

Akane nodded, but she could almost see something deeper in his eyes.

 

Then a shrill ringing came from Ranma's pants.

 

"Sorry about that," Ranma pulled out the phone and frowned at the display. "Oh, it's Nabiki."

 

"You can answer it, I don't mind."

 

"But do I have to?" Ranma asked. "You know she just wants me for some scheme."

 

"That's the price you pay for taking her cure."

 

Chuckling, Ranma answered. "Yeah?"

 

"There you are Saotome." Nabiki stated. "It rang for a while. Are you alone?"

 

"No, I'm still out with Akane. What do ya want?"

 

Akane laughed as Ranma rolled his eyes.

 

"Am I on speaker?"

 

"Nope. No... what's this about Ryoga?" Ranma asked.

 

"Ryoga?" Nabiki paused. "Ah I see. No it's about the club."


"Ah," Ranma nodded. "Well I haven't seen Ryoga. What's the big deal?"

 

"Turns out Mrs. Akamatsu is coming in tonight. And she expressed interest in you. I know you're off tonight but..." A bit of jealousy crept into Nabiki's voice. "Obviously, I can do it, but..."

 

Ranma looked to Akane. "No, he's not going to ruin our date. Why? Well for one I haven't seen him. And two I'm walking Akane home right now."

 

"So, are you free?"

 

Ranma laughed. "You want me to clean up your mess? You think I can even find him in time?"

 

Reading between the lines, Nabiki exhaled. "Yeah, if you hurry you can make it up here before she arrives."

 

The martial artist looked thoughtful. "Really?"

 

"What's going on?" Akane asked.

 

Ranma put his hand over the phone. "Nabiki was demonstrating one of her 'fake cures' and Ryoga wandered off. Now she can't find him."

 

"And she wants you to go look for him?"

 

"Yeah," Ranma nodded.

 

"Sounds like it's her problem."


"Well... it sounds like he's.... confused," Ranma went back to the phone. "Are there side effects? What did you even do?"

"Stop spinning up the cover story," Nabiki admonished. "Keep it simple."


"Oh... you mean it's not an emergency?" Ranma then sighed to Akane.

"My sister's exaggerating?" Akane asked with a scoff.

 

"She really wants me to help find him."

 

"This is the price you pay for getting roped into her cure scams."

As they resumed walking, Ranma eyed the phone. "Yeah, but it worked for me."

 

"Which she's using to fleece the others." Akane leaned on him. "You need to be careful with her."


"What? I'm not going," Ranma laughed.


"We're almost home, you can go out and play with Ryoga if you want."


"Or I can go out and train," Ranma mused.

"It's not like you haven't been helping Nabiki with her schemes," Akane sighed.

 

"Cure." Ranma stated. One nice thing about graduating to "solo" work after two weeks was that "Naoko" and "Raiko" didn't have to be working the same nights. That allowed a bit more flexibility for their cover stories.  It did require more work to coordinate with the medallion, as Ranma has to be in girl-form to work, but that could be setup ahead of time.


"I know," Akane sighed. "Take me home and then you can go try to fix the damage of Nabiki's latest scheme."

 

"As you wish." Smiling, Ranma returned to the phone. "Yeah Nabiki, I'll drop Akane off at home and meet up with you. Let me know if you find Ryoga before then."

 

"Understood Saotome," Nabiki said picking up on the code. If Akamatsu canceled or arrived early she'd call Ranma back.

 

 

************************************************************

 

 

 

A smiling woman with a golden pageboy, led a suited man across the lobby. She wore a green dress with gold trim. Knee-length, it reached her knees but a slit up the side exposed the plenty of her stockings.

 

Emerald manicured nails beckoned the man forward as she nimbly sashayed on dark green heels. Wide black bracelets with jade accents and a matching jade necklace added more splashes of color. Blue-green eyeshadow tied the jewelry and dress with the blonde's bright azure eyes.

 

"I am soo sorry that you have to leave, Chino-san," the blonde said in a breathy pout as she slipped to the gangly man's side.

 

"Well, maybe next time we can rent the smoking lounge. Then we could have some fun," the man said with a greasy smile that matched his slicked back hair.

 

The blonde's glossy lips quirked. "That's a lovely idea, but alas," she sighed and gave a warm smile. "Alas it's time to go," she looked over and saw the woman behind the counter and one of the guards by the door stiffen slightly.

 

Chino gave a goofy grin and his hand snaked out. Blonde tresses brushed past his fingers as she playfully stepped aside and let him lurch towards the counter.

 

One of the guards at the door raised an eyebrow to her while the other shifted his stance as a hand disappeared in a coat pocket.

 

Her face turning serious, the faux blonde shook her head. Thankful for the help, she plastered on a big smile and waved to Chino as Mistress Yamato settled his account. Sure, the blonde didn't need any help dealing with potential riff-raff, but not everyone was up to her caliber.

 

Once the man slipped outside and the door closed, the blonde stopped waving and let her grin fade. She still had a slight smile, but that was her default expression. Nabiki and the other girls had taught her that it was more natural looking to go from a little smile to a big smile than it was to go from a flat expression to a big smile. Getting into the habit of smiling also ensured that one's eyes also "smiled".


The blonde checked to make sure there were no clients talking with Mistress Yamato before she walked over. Concentrating on her poise and walk, she wanted to give the boss a good impression.

 

Yamato looked up. In her late 40's the woman wore an elegant white dress with blue trim. Wavy chestnut hair tumbled down her shoulders and she had a warm, friendly smile. Despite knowing exactly how deceiving appearances could be, the blonde still felt that her boss reminded her a bit of Kasumi.

 

"Yes, Raiko-chan?" Yamato paused. "Oh, is something wrong, Dearie?" she asked in a quieter, more intimate, voice.

 

Ranma gave a slight glance to make sure there were no clients within earshot. "Yes Mistress Yamato... I was..." she paused and shifted her head. Her wig was a bit loose. "If it wouldn't be too much trouble could Chino-san be..." she swallowed. "Removed from my list?" she asked affecting a meek, respectful tone. 

 

"I see." Yamato raised an eyebrow. Her face turned stern. "Did he do anything to you?" she asked with genuine concern.

 

Ranma blinked.

 

"There's no need to be ashamed. If he tried... well I'd prefer it if you told me before he got out but I understand getting away from him." the older woman gave a little sigh and looked to one of the guards. "I can have my boys take care of him."

 

"No, no," Ranma said, barely remembering to keep her voice low. "No, other than a bit grabby when he got a bit sloshed, he didn't do anything," she calmly almost demurely explained.  Even if none of the clients could hear what she was saying appearances were important.

 

"But?" Yamato's tone was light, but Ranma could feel there was a barb behind it.

 

"It was a feeling, you know? Sure he was behaved, barely, but... next time," Ranma shook her head.

 

Yamato looked into the blonde's light blue eyes. "Do you want him blacklisted from the club?"

 

Ranma stared, unused to unquestioned support. "Just like that?"

 

"You girls are the most valuable resource here. And the most exposed. We have a reputation to build. Besides, there's plenty of men with more money than sense."

 

"And?" Over a month working here had made Ranma just a bit more cynical.

 

"You're not the only girl to pick up bad vibes from him. Also this club is strictly no touching," Yamato assured as she patted Ranma on the wrist. "It's a bad sign when a client can't obey the rules."

 

"Yes, Mistress." Ranma bowed her head slightly.


"I mean it's not like there aren't other clubs or even love hotels," the older woman shook her head. "Anyway, you did good Raiko," she made a note in her ledger. "Was that the end of your shift?"

 

Ranma shook her head. "I've still got a couple hours, but no appointments."

 

Yamato nodded. "I'll see about sending someone with a bit more... decorum for you." She looked at the ledger. "At least you managed to get a good profit margin out of Chino."


The blonde smiled. "He had a weakness for fatty tuna and bourbon."

 

Yamato gave a little ladylike laugh. "That's my girl. Good work"

 

Smiling, Ranma bowed again and strode across the club and towards the double doors that led to the employees only area. She nodded to the guard on duty and he opened the door for her.

 

Chino was a creep, but she did manage to make a few thousand yen off of him. Besides compared to Nerima, a half-dunk salaryman was peace and quiet.

 

Entering the break-room, Ranma found it mostly empty. With a mischievous smile, she backed her hip and tried to bump the door closed.  Smacking the edge, the door shuddered and slammed shut with a heavy thud.

 

"Trying something fancy, new girl?" Anya asked from the couch. "Just a month and you're putting on moves? What, you don't think you're pretty enough?"

 

For a second Ranma blushed. Then she regained her composure and slinked closer to the other woman. She added a bit more swish to her hips and slowly sat down. One leg sensually crossed over the other. "Oh? You think I'm pretty?" she asked in a breathy voice and fluttered her eyelashes.

 

Anya smirked. "Too much, new girl. This club isn't that overt."

 

"I'm just practicing," Ranma teased as she fluffed a golden bang.

 

"You are a natural," Anya shifted and adjusted her long dress.

 

"How long have you been working here?" Ranma asked. Anya was older than her, but how much was an open question. She would guess late 20's but Anya also would act younger for some clients. Or was she acting older for other clients. It didn't help that Ranma's "Raiko" persona was also older.

 

Anya crossed her legs. She took out blue packet of cigarettes and offered one to Ranma. The ersatz blonde politely declined. "Going on five years," she said lighting up.

"Do you like it?"

 

Anya gave a sultry smile. "Well, we do meet such interesting people," she purred.

 

Ranma bit down any irritation. "Awww, and I was so hoping for a straight answer," she said with a pout. "Please?" the blonde softly asked bending forward clasping her hands before her.

 

Puffing, Anya gave an appreciable nod at the display. "You have the talent and the talents new girl. Or at least a good start at both." She then moved her cigarette to keep any ash from spilling on her long dress.

 

"Jealous?" Ranma teased.

 

Anya laughed. "If I were jealous I'd see one of Yamato's doc's and get that fixed up."

 

Ranma blinked but didn't want to come off as confused. "I'll tell you a secret," she offered.

The older hostess nodded.

 

"I'm... I'm a bit jealous that I'm not wearing the more 'elegant' clothes," she said gesturing to Anya's lacy eveningwear.  "Or maybe ones that aren't quite as revealing."

 

"Oh? What's stopping you. Buy a gown and get to work. You'll get clients," Anya took a contemplative drag.

 

Ranma gave an effeminate shrug. "Yes, but then I'd be wearing those dresses."

 

"They are a bit restrictive," Anya laughed.

 

The blonde nodded.

 

"Or are you carving out the blue-eyed blonde fresh from the beach look? Though then you should have a bit of a tan. And some deeper eyes would really draw them in."

 

Ranma frowned. "Dunno about the tan," she then caught herself. "But my dear friend Naoko did mention colored contacts."

 

"I know a supplier," Anya offered.

 

"Oh?" Ranma pondered. Her eyes were very recognizable.

 

The door opened and Mistress Yamato glided in.

 

"Boss," Anya nodded, while Ranma bowed her head.

 

"Girls," Yamato smiled. She inspected the pair. The dark haired Anya in her evening wear elegantly smoking a cigarette, the blonde buxom "Raiko" with a sultry smile sitting straight up with her legs crossed.


"My you're fitting in nicely, Dearie. And it's good that you have someone with plenty of experience to learn from," she nodded to Anya. "You can do worse than learn from her."

 

Anya affected a blush but Ranma suspected that it was at least partially sincere.

 

"Is this about Chino-san?" Ranma asked.

 

"No, no, Miss Kuga," Yamato said, using the surname to Ranma's "Raiko" alias. "We've closed the book on that former client."

 

Anya arched an eyebrow but held her tongue.

 

Yamato took another chair and demurely sat down in a swishing of silk skirts. She inspected the blonde for a moment.

 

"Can I offer Mistress any refreshments?" Ranma asked with a shy smile.

 

"Lovely girl," Yamato laughed. "You are a natural."

 

"That's what I was telling her," Anya added.

 

Ranma blushed, mostly out of embarrassment but she decided to make use of it. "Naoko-chan thinks so too," she added in a shy voice.

 

"Such a delightful little liar," Yamato said.

 

"Isn't she?" Anya asked before offering a cigarette, which Yamato graciously took.

 

Ranma blinked.

 

"Remember girl, I've been doing this since before you were born," Yamato said as she lit up her cigarette.

 

She gave a little sigh and watched the smoke plume up. "Most new girls can't separate their work self from their real self. They get too emotionally invested in how the customer is acting. They think it's about them. Not you."

 

The older brunette appraised Ranma. "You were clinical. You analyzed the threat he posed, and took steps to deal with him. But it's more than that you act like it's not even your real body they're looking at."

 

Ranma looked down and at a loss for what to do decided to go with a shy smile and a little blush.

 

Yamato exhaled a little bit of smoke. "Very good, but that tiny pause is your tell. It's like the gap between when a jukebox picks a record and when the song starts to play."

 

Ranma blinked.

 

"Before your time," Yamato waved off. "What I mean is you have great potential. A bit more polish and you'll be shifting roles automatically."

 

"Which will help make more money," Ranma stated, deciding to abandon pretense.

 

"For both of us." Yamato smiled at the faux-blonde's light blue eyes. 'I'm not sure exactly what hold your 'dear friend' 'Naoko-chan' has on you, but.... I look forward to watching your future development and will keep an eye out for... future opportunities."

 

"Such as?" Ranma asked, taking a confident almost cocky tone.

 

"We can do things to help with your finances," Yamato offered.

 

"That's a lovely offered, but I must respectfully decline," Ranma bowed her head. "Accept my apologies but my loan needs are more than sufficiently met at the moment."

 

Yamato gave an approving nod. "Understood. Perhaps we can help in other ways. And if you wish to... refinance your loan perhaps you could consider us."


"I will keep your generosity in mind," Ranma smoothly said.

 

"She was thinking about some more expensive dresses," Anya nodded.

 

Yamato brightened. "That we can help with. There are several clothing stores, salons, and other shops that offer good discounts to club employees."

 

"Yeah, Naoko took me to one."

 

"Only one?" Yamato shook her head. "That poor girl. Perhaps I'll give you the complete list of our... affiliate stores."

 

"Does that include a place that supplies contact lenses?" Ranma asked.


"Whatever would you?" Yamato then looked over the blonde's face. "Ah, thinking of a new shade?"

"Maybe a bit darker," the faux blonde offered. Her eyes were very striking. For good and ill, but if they weren't quite so "Ranma", then that would make her look different but retain the exotic aspect..

 

Yamato nodded approvingly. "Darker is easier for colored lenses, and a deeper blue would suit you."


"Thank you, Mistress Yamato," Ranma bowed.

 

"Will you include the docs on that list?" Anya asked.

 

Ranma frowned. "Pardon? You mentioned a doctor before, Anya-chan."

 

Yamato gave a warm laugh. "I hardly think our Raiko-chan needs the good doctor Gensai's help."

"Sure, but what about doctor Hotta?" Anya asked.

 

"Pardon?" Ranma interjected.

 

"Oh, sometimes a girl need a bit of help; the good doctors can offer that help," Yamato gave a warm Kasumi-like smile and patted Ranma on the knee. "But I'm not sure you need to worry about that, Dearie."

 

Ranma blinked. The girls at the club were rather... pert. She hadn't put too much thought into it. This seemed to be a job that would attract beautiful woman, and besides she knew at least three of her co-workers stuffed their bras.

 

Still, it was a bit disconcerting to realize that not only did the club approve of such measures, but they had contacts that could setup such procedures. She glanced over at Anya. "You seem rather informed about this?"

 

"I do?" Anya glanced down at her torso and gave a playful smirk. "Whatever do you mean, Raiko?" she innocently asked.

 

Mistress Yamato gave a soft laugh. "Well, if you have any questions, don't hesitate to as me," she put out her cigarette and left the room in a swishing of blue silk skirts.

 

Before the door could close, Nabiki stepped into the break room. She had a violet lacy hair band nestled into her black wig and she wore a poofy purple dress with black accents.

 

"What was the boss doing in here?" Nabiki asked closing the door behind her.

 

"Just blowing smoke up Goldie's skirt," Anya said with a little smile as she lit another cigarette. "She thinks your new girl is a real natural."

 

Nabiki gave a little giggle as she took the seat Yamato had vacated. "Well, good."

 

"How was your night?" Ranma asked as she waved a bit of Anya's smoke away from her face.

 

"A regular then two new clients. One only had a couple drinks, but the other shows promise," Naibki shrugged.

 

"Don't discount the lightweights," Anya said. "Especially on a first night. Sometimes they hold back to see how a hostess will treat them."

 

"Really?" Ranma nodded. "Tricky."

 

Anya leaned back. "Well can you blame the poor gentlemen?"

 

"They know what they're getting when they come here," Nabiki said.

 

Ranma gave a tiny frown. The subject was.... a bit uncomfortable to her. However...

 

"Sure they do, which is why we need every edge we can get," Anya explained.

 

However, Ranma did want to get out from under Nabiki's debt as quick as possible, and if making more money as a hostess was what was required...

 

With some gentle prodding Ranma got Anya to reveal a few more tricks. The one about encouraging a client to try new drinks in a "flight" of samples was particularly crafty. Selling five tiny glasses of very expensive whiskeys seemed cheaper than one larger mid-range drink, but it had a far higher profit margin.

 

After a few more minutes of advice, Anya's phone buzzed. She read the message. A bit of irritation flashed across her face. "Sorry girls looks like my 9 o'clock is early," She scrolled down. "And looks like Goldie has a new client too."

 

"Oh?" Ranma let her grin grow as she and Anya used a mirror by the door to check on their hair and makeup before exiting the break-room. The blonde took a moment to admire the older hostess's figure. Which was easy given her evening gown was quite form-fitting especially in the back.

 

Despite her better judgment, Ranma asked Anya where she bought the dress as they went down the hallway. Shortly after that, they put their game faces on and stepped through the double doors.

 

Anya went to an alcove where her regular was waiting while Ranma sauntered to the lobby and met a distinguished older attorney who smoothly introduced himself. Yamato looked up from her ledger and gave the blond a smile and a nod.

 

Meeting the Mistress's eye, Ranma took the man's arm and led him towards the bar. After chatting with him and learning about his office politics she managed to get him to try Anya's "flight idea". She was starting to find law firms to be dreadfully dull, second only to investment and insurance companies, so the distraction of going over the pros and cons of the sake offerings provided a nice distraction.

 

He was also nice enough to buy her a cocktail, which the bartender secretly made how the blonde liked it: plenty of ice and plenty of club soda. However, after the blonde's companion ordered his third sampling of sakes, she did allow herself a glass of white wine.

 

This time when she escorted her client to the lobby her smile was far more genuine, as was the warm wave she gave as she left. Humming she slipped back to the break room and once others returned resumed talking with Nabiki and Anya as if nothing happened.

 

"Boss-lady does like you," Anya noted.

 

"She is sweet on the new girls," Nabiki noted with a hit of jealousy.

 

Ranma waved them off. "She was just making up for an uncomfortable client. I mean I did get some guy blacklisted here." The blonde glanced at the clock.

 

Anya followed her gaze. "Yeah, last call..."

 

As the trio conversed a few more hostesses trickled in. And then as the timing got closer to the end of their shift they started to drift out of the break-room and towards the dressing room.

 

Ranma waited with Nabiki. She had gotten used to her coworkers though wasn't close to too many of them. Other than Anya and Nabiki.

 

"I guess we should get going too," Nabiki stood up and rolled her shoulders. "How you make out?"


"Before or after your cut?" Ranma lightly asked as they went to the dressing-room. As one rookie and one relatively new girl, they were pretty low when it came to space in the vanities and showers.

 

Both waited for the rush to pass. It also gave better odds that the shuttle would be available for them. This also gave them some privacy. Until the late shift girls arrived.

 

"Though I will be spending some extra," Ranma said.


"Oh?" Nabiki asked.

 

"Boss gave me a colored contact supplier, gonna see what they have to offer," Ranma said as she sat down in front of the mirror.

 

Nodding, Nabiki pulled off her wig. "Good plan, that'll make you that much harder to recognize. Green?"


"Nah, I was thinking a darker blue," the blonde looked into her azure eyes. "Can you turn off the medallion?"

 

"Oh?" Nabiki was next to her stripping out of her dress. "You gonna change back on the way home?"


"It'd be easier, no?"

 

Nabiki shrugged and tapped the Musk medallion that hung around her neck and said an incantation.

 

As she felt the tingle of the magic retreating, Ranma pulled off her wig. Seeing herself change back never lost its novelty. One second there was a playful blonde with mature makeup, the next.... a bashful redhead with....

 

She blinked. The redhead fluttered her eyes. Then she put her lips into a pout.

 

'Huh," she frowned. "Hey look at this."

 

"What?" Taking off her wig, Nabiki peered into the reflection. "I don't see anything."

 

"Yeah, note my makeup."

 

"You're not wearing any makeup," Nabiki frowned. "Getting pretty quick at removing that."

 

"No..." Ranma shook her head. "Turn the medallion back on."

Nabiki redid the incantation.

 

Eyeshadow, foundation, and lipstick popped back into existence.

 

"Huh, I didn't think the second spell would do that," Nabiki frowned.

Ranma arched a newly styled eyebrow. "Do what?"

"I shouldn't matter."

 

"I'm seeing some magic makeup stuff here," Ranma said. "You said this thing was just a water repellant."

 

"I said that's the only feature I was using," Nabiki repeated the incantation.

Ranma watched the makeup vanish. She then crossed her arms and looked around the empty dressing room in irritation. "Well? I'm sitting here because you gave me a cure, and now we're getting side effects."

 

Sighing, Nabiki went to her locker and pulled out her pack. She then dug in and pulled out a slim leather book. "Look, the medallion has a second mode but I never used it. There's be no point."  She paged though the little book until she found the right incantation.

 

"Do tell?" Ranma sweetly asked. The effect a bit marred by her lack of cosmetics and tomboyish hair.

 

"It's not like you're gonna be pregnant no?"

 

The redhead stared. "What?"


"It's a Musk artifact," Nabiki explained. "Designed to keep the curse from triggering."

"And the musk turn powerful animals into...."

 

"Brides," Nabiki shrugged. "I told you this was a backup for their locking ladle."

 

"What does that have to do with my magic makeup?"

 

"Well... it's not a prefect lock is it Saotome?"

 

"Oh.... it's a backup?" Ranma asked. "You know in case a pregnant lady gets splashed?"

 

Nabiki was flipping through the brittle pages of the pamphlet. She then pulled up some printed translations she had made. "Yeah, the medallion would retain the previous form. They intended it as a way to save the baby in case a cursed mother changed."


"But I'm not being hit with water," Ranma patiently said.

"Yeah well you're not pregnant either."

 

Ranma studied her face. "Huh," She looked down at her blonde wig then back at her face.

 

"What are you thinking?" Nabiki closed the book and peered over Ranma's shoulder.

"Well... what if it's not just makeup?" Ranma asked looking up.

 

"I think we should be careful."


"Oh, I am," Ranma assured. She started routing around the vanity looking for some water soluble dye.

 

"Raiko...."

 

"This is the fourth time I almost lost that thing," Ranma eyed her wig as she pulled out a little tube of dye. "What if I didn't have to worry about my wig coming off? What if my disguise was that much better?"

 

************************************************************

 

Ranma walked down the street, grumbling.

 

The martial artist wore a nice set of black slacks, dark silk shirt, and had matching slippers. It would have been a complementary outfit, if it had fit. As it was Ranma was in girl-form, and the redhead practically swam in clothes sized for her guy-form

 

As she walked she sighed. One downside to her "cure" was that if he got wet enough to trigger the curse.... Well, she would be forced to go hunt down Nabiki to turn off the medallion.

 

That was because, the same water repelling magic worked equally well on hot water as it did on cold. And Ranma did not want to boil herself just to become a guy

 

A slight upside was that after getting soaked, the water-repelling magic did dry her clothes out nice and quick.

However, it still left her with ill-fitting clothes. Something she had found more annoying as of late.

 

Her musings were interrupted when she spotted a young man in traveling clothes with building backpack. Spotting the black and yellow bandana she smiled and ran down the street.

 

"Hey Ryoga!" Ranma waved, once she caught up to him.


"Ranma how dare you!" Ryoga bellowed.

 

"What did I do now?" she innocently asked looking up. She suppressed a sigh. It was easy to forget just how short her girl-form was... given that most of her girl time was now spent at the club, wearing high heels.  In three inch high heels she was suddenly average height.

 

"You betrayed Akane!"

"Did I?" she playfully asked.

 

"I've heard your nefarious schemes, the harem you're building. First you ensnare Akane then you grab the others you've been stringing along!" Ryoga declared as he stalked towards the redhead.

 

"Funny, I thought things were going well," Ranma stated as she nimbly stepped back.

 

"All part of you plan."

 

"You been talkin' to Kuno pork loin?" The redhead kept her bemused smile, but part of her did wonder how much of her improved relationship with Akane was due to the skills "Raiko" had learned at work.

 

"No. I've just been seeing you taking advantage of the gentle Akane!"

 

The redhead smile grew. "Jealousy again?" she asked, azure eyes sparkling.

 

Ryoga threw a punch. Ranma dodged to the side. "You wanna know my secret? I started listening to her."

 

"That's not all you've been doing!" Ryoga assured.

 

Keeping her expression light and amused, Ranma watched him. "Oh, what sinister plot am I up to now?"

 

"The one with Nabiki!"

 

The redhead's blood chilled, but she kept her cocky smile. "Ryoga... Nabiki's the one scamming me," she said, feigning irritation. If Ryoga knew about the Club then that was that, she'd have to come up with some other way to pay Nabiki back.

 

"Don't give me that!" Ryoga snorted. "You've been helping her sell her faulty cures. All in exchange for your own cure."

 

Ranma chuckled. She wished that was the deal Nabiki had forced on her. Instead she looked down at her chest. "Cure? I'm not seeing much of a cure."

 

Ryoga glared. "You don't even realize how lucky you are. You have all the girls. You have the better curse. And you've got it basically cured.

 

Ranma tilted her head. "Lucky? I've had this cure for over two months and look at me. I'm still a girl."

 

Ryoga clenched his fists.

 

Ranma slipped into a stance. "Posturing over? We gonna fight now?" she asked, adding a smirk. Part of her relished the idea of fighting him. Another part wanted to just go back to the dojo

 

Another, smaller, part was simply frustrated as her new "tools" for managing men weren't applicable with Ryoga. Though, the first part of her thought that was really for the best.

The redhead's introspection was cut away when Ryoga dropped his pack and flung himself at her.

 

Grinning, Ranma dodged the larger teens' blows and flipped the charging martial artist. Doubts about her job, concerns for her curse, worries about her debt to Nabiki, fears about her relationship with Akane all faded as Ranma concentrated on the fight.

 

Though a lingering part of her did tingle at bit when Ryoga first brushed her. She pushed that aside and focused on the fight. Ryoga was larger and stronger, especially when she was in girl-form. Her natural instinct was to play to her increased speed and superior aerial maneuvering.

 

And much of the opening of the fight consisted of Ranma dodging Ryoga while giving him blows when the Lost-Boy overextended himself. After the first few exchanges, she shifted gears and started to use the match as training.

 

She pushed herself against him, focusing on blocking and redirecting his blows. It was more challenging, and risky, but without challenge she wouldn't hone her skills.

 

Ryoga's frustration grew as his inability to land a solid blow compounded. However, his concentration didn't slip, which meant his skills didn't decay. For her part, Ranma decided to keep her cocky little smile as she worked to use Ryoga's own strength against him.

 

The Lost-Boy was too skilled to let her grapples and apply a joint lock or other bit of nasty move, but it did keep him frustrated.

 

As Ranma slipped past Ryoga and knocked his footing out from under him she noticed the time on a bank clock. The redhead gave a little sigh. Flipping away from Ryoga she landed atop a fence pole.


"Sorry Ryoga, but I've gotta cut our date short." Smirking, she blew him a kiss.

 

"Damn it Ranma! Come back and fight me like a man!" Ryoga charged after her, but Ranma had flipped off the post.

 

Ranma landed on the side of a canal and bounded across the waterway. there she jumped dup onto another sidewalk and slipped into a convenience store. Buying a hat and sunglasses, she exited another entrance of the store and ran to another street.

 

After taking a few twists and turns she checked to see if she was being followed and put on her makeshift disguise and slipped onto a crowded sidewalk.

 

Sighing, she meandered roughly in the direction of a subway station. She had indulged herself too much, too much time had passed, and now she was unable to stop by the dojo before going to work.

 

As she neared the station she took out her phone. Relieved both in that she had kept it in an inside pocket and once again realizing that, despite the expense, a waterproof model was a necessity.

 

She boarded the train and began the now-familiar route to get to the Club. One upside of the job was that she was getting plenty of practice on her pursuit and evasion skills. Deciding time was too short, she skipped calling the shuttle and simply ran from the station to the club.


Though she did slow down and watch for tails and for anyone lurking when she got near the Golden Oak. It would be horrifically ironic if Ryoga had managed to track her down, today of all days.

 

But things seemed clear, shaking her head, she approached the building and with a nod to the guard slipped through the employee entrance.

 

Once the door closed, she felt a bit of tension lift. Outside she had to lie, she had to keep this job secret. But inside.... well, she still had to lie, but the lies were hers.

 

Still bearing her little smirk, Ranma strode into the dressing room. There was the usual bustle of women turning into hostesses.

 

"Cutting it pretty close, Raiko," Nabiki said from her locker where she was digging out a pair of low heels. "I was worried I'd have to call you," she explained.

 

Ranma nodded. Normally Nabiki would use the medallion to make sure Ranma was  the proper gender before either got to the club, but with the impromptu sparing match...

 

"Ran into Ryoga," Ranma said as she undid her pigtail. "He kept me from gettin' back to the dojo."

 

Nabiki gave the redhead a look.

 

"I ditched him back in Nerima. I made sure I wasn't followed. Several times."

 

Nabiki exhaled. She then nodded. "Good. We're getting into the groove here; we can't have those idiots wreck things."

 

"Of course," Ranma smiled. "I'm gonna hop in the shower can you..." the redhead gestured to where Nabiki had the medallion hidden under the front of her white dress.

 

"Sure,"  Nabiki pulled out the slim book.  She hadn't quite memorized the second incantation and it could be bad if she screwed it up.

 

Ranma nodded and pulled off her ill-fitting top and shorts right in front of Nabiki and the other girls. A few of the hostesses clapped when it was revealed that the redhead was wearing boxers and no bra.

 

Grabbing a set of black panties and a matching bra out of her locker, Ranma gave a bow, took a towel and pointedly pulled a bottle of blonde hair dye from a counter.  She then ran to the open of the two showers in the room.  The bottle was a prop, but one that might answer any hair color questions.

 

Making sure the water was on cold, she removed her boxers and stepped in under the stream. Waiter bounced all over the shower stall as the magic pushed it away. However, some of it still managed to get on the redhead. There was a tingle as the medallion's magic flipped off. The redhead shivered and began cleaning herself.

 

Loose damp red tresses fell around Ranma's head. After a couple minutes there was another shiver as the medallion activated anew, this time it was... different.

 

The incantation was different, the cured body was... different. The marital artist blinked and her hair went from red to blonde.

 

Turning off the water, she wrapped herself in a towel and began patting herself dry. Fortunately, the Musk magic helped in that task. Soon, she'd slipped on her underwear, picked up her dress for the night and taken the vanity spot Nabiki had been using.

 

Taking a brush, Ranma began fluffing up her gold-blonde tresses. She parted her hair down the center and use some hairspray to add a bit more volume. She then opened a little contact lens case and, tilting her head back, slipped the pair of lenses on her eyes.

 

"I still say you should have cut it down to a pageboy," Nabiki said as she put the finishing touches on her glossy black wig.

 

As she began putting on her makeup, Ranma studied the blonde in the mirror. Her eyes were a deep ultramarine shade of blue that threatened to draw her in.

 

 Truth be told, she had considered cutting her hair to match her old wig, but her "dye magic" was risky enough, she didn't want to be stuck with a Nabiki-haircut for real.

 

"I can always cut it later," the blonde explained as she continued to work to work on her face. Every time she switched cosmetics, she could glance at her dress to make sure she had the right complementary shade. It didn't help that she was still getting used to dealing with darker eyes.

 

Nabiki shrugged "What about a tan?"

 

"What about one?" Ranma asked transited but the sensual blonde young woman maturing before her very eyes.

 

"It would go with the blonde look," she reminded, leaning closer to Ranma's fluffed up hair.

 

The blonde swallowed. "Anya-chan did suggest much the same," she admitted.

 

"And more exotic women get more tips," Nabiki added.

 

"Oh? Is that a hint of jealousy I hear?" Ranma coyly asked as she started to roll on her stockings.

 

Nabiki gave a haughty sniff. "Hardly."

 

Ranma put a delicate-seeming hand to her made-up cheek. "Dear Naoko-chan, remember you've repeatedly admitted that I have more luck with our gentleman callers."

 

Nabiki's smile became a bit strained.

 

"Though you have been coming in more frequently," the blonde turned wistful as she started pulling on her red dress. "Why I remember when you only worked once a week. Zip me up please?"

 

"Very funny," Nabiki said as she zipped up the back to Ranma's eveningwear.

 

"Thank you," Ranma bowed her head before going to the mirror. Ruby lips smiled as she studied the scarlet dress. It was long but tight around her hips and cut low in the front with just enough ruffles to make her cleavage look wanton.

 

"That's a good shade," Nabiki noted.

 

"Thanks," Ranma allowed a shy blush to form. In the past she had been worried about wearing red, having it not contrast with her hair, but "Raiko" wasn't a redhead anymore.

 

"Tight around the tights," the blonde noted as she began snapping on some thin golden bracelets and clipping on some matching earrings.

 

"Gives you more practice for your walk," Nabiki said as she gave her companion's hip a gentle whap.

 

"Do tell?" Ranma teased as she pulled out a pair of glossy red three and a half inch stilettos. After slipping them on she, minced towards Nabiki.

 

The older hostess found the blonde was almost seeing her eye to eye, and if one included hair, then "Raiko's" fluffy blonde locks made her look taller than "Naoko" with her glossy slicked back ebony tresses.

 

"Practicing your walk?" Nabiki asked.

 

"Always practicing, Hun," Ranma teased as she took the other girls' arm.

 

Eying the blonde, Nabiki chuckled. "I still say a tan could help the bottom line."

 

Ranma squeezed Nabiki's arm. "We can talk about that after work."

 

"It'd improve your disguise."

 

That made the blonde pause. "Oh, I suppose that's true."

 

"Ask the boss; I'm sure she'd approve. I mean if you'd make the club more money..."

 

The blonde made a point of looking thoughtful. "Is Mistress Yamato in tonight?"

 

"Well... no.... she's out at the other hostess club she owns. But she'll be back on Thursday."

 

"My you'll wait for my next shift?" Ranma practically swooned. "How generous of you."

 

"Very funny."


"I'm so honored to have a friend so dedicated to my well-being," Ranma purred, laying it on thick.

 

Nabiki took the blonde in her arms. She leaned in. "But the more you earn the more I earn."

Meeting Tendo's gaze the blonde's dark blue eyes sparkled. "Until I get enough to quit," she said smiling sweetly.

 

"But that's so far away."

 

Wriggling in the other woman's arms Ranma demurely smiled. "Is it?" She leaned in. "Give me a couple more weeks and I'll have made you a million yen," the blonde whispered in Nabiki's ear.

 

Nabiki blushed. "You're keeping track."

 

"Like you're not," Ranma coyly teased. "I know you're having fun with all that money."

 

Glancing at her companion's jewelry, Nabiki returned the sweet smile. "So, are you."

 

The blonde blushed. "Should we get into character before we go to work?" she softly asked.

 

Nabiki squeezed her arms around the slighter young woman. "You mean we're not?" She sighed and broke the embrace.

 

"Pity no?" Ranma gave a giggle as she took Nabiki's hand and tugged her towards the door.

 

 

************************************************************

 

Nabiki leaned back in her bed nibbling on a chocolate truffle. The imported box was an expensive indulgence, but one she could easily afford. It was also one her dear friend "Raiko" also seemed to enjoy. She knew Saotome had a sweet tooth, especially in girl-form, and Nabiki found it oddly gratifying to see Ranma indulge herself.  It was something she planed to encourage in the younger Saotome.

 

The middle Tendo closed her ledger and took a moment to revel in her success. It had been a risky plan, but "Raiko's" performance at the Club was exceeding Nabiki's projections. Ranma was motivated, and thus "Raiko" was earning.

 

Still, Nabiki worried about how fragile this all was. Discovery could bring attention. And attention could bring conflict. And conflict would get them fired. And without a revenue stream for Ranma, Nabiki wouldn't get her money back, let alone profit off of this venture.

 

She put the box down locked away her ledger and got up. The entries were encoded, but that was no reason to leave it out and about. The Tendo household had plenty of unscrupulous visitors, not to mention houseguests like Ranma's father. As Nabiki left the room, she pondered the awkwardness of the logistics.

 

Both herself and Ranma had limited space at the club, and while Nabiki had no problem keeping their clothes in her room There was still the risk of the pair of them constantly going out with extra sets of clothes. The risk of being discovered with a closet full of Ranma-sized dresses was far lower.

 

Nabiki had done photo-shoots of the redhead before. Going down the hallway, Nabiki made a mental note. She hadn't done one of those since Ranma had started her new job. Maybe a new batch of photos was due.

 

As she entered the kitchen she was distracted by weighing the pros and cons of having a fresh set of racy photos of Ranma floating around. On the one hand, with the right clothing, makeup, and irritated or cocksure expression the redheaded Ranma would look distinct from the blonde "Raiko". On the other hand, both still had the same face.

 

"Lunch will be ready in ten minutes," Kasumi said.

 

"Sounds great, Nabiki nodded to her older sister and returned back to pondering another photo-shoot.

 

Her musings were interrupted again. "They're at it again," Kasumi sighed looking out the back windows.

 

Turning, Nabiki saw Akane and Ranma fighting. Her little sister's face was not as red, but the young woman's emotions were clearly up. Ranma for his part looked detached and a bit amused. Nabiki frowned, she had planned on spending the afternoon with Ranma, hopefully this wouldn't wreck things.

 

Nabiki added in her own sigh. And the two had been doing better lately. Which not only increased household harmony, lessening stress, but Ranma taking Akane out on dates gave him another set of expenses to wrangle.

 

Grumbling, Nabiki marched out of the house and across the backyard.

 

"Stop being so slippery!" Akane yelled as she lunged at her fiance. Ranma, for his part, bounded off with an almost approving grin.

 

"What's wrong with you two?" Nabiki demanded. "did you decide that you're only happy when you're at each other's throats?"

 

"Oh, nothing, the tomboy's just being her normal self," Ranma said as he dodged a blow.

 

"Very funny," Akane growled, but there was amusement on her face. "I managed to tag you last time!'

 

Nabiki blinked.

 

Spotting her confusion, Ranma laughed. "Relax, we're just sparing."

 

Akane halted her attack. Yeah, the jerk finally admitted he'd actually train me seriously. Well, I had to knock some sense into him first," she said with a bit of pride.

Nabiki raised an eyebrow. She wondered if Akane had really beaten Ranma or if the pig-tailed martial artist had swallowed his pride and...


"As long as you're a serious student," Ranma said, interrupting the middle-sister's thoughts.

 

"Which I am," Akane said, bristling slightly. She looked to Nabiki. "No need for you to be worried, Sis." Akane gave a little frown. "Why are you worried?"

 

"I can't care about my sister's well-being?" Nabiki asked.

 

Ranma gave a little smirk at that.

 

"Right," Akane suspiciously said. She then went back to Ranma.

 

Ranma crossed his arms. "Eh? I thought you were over that jealousy thing. I mean I'm not stringing along the other fiances."

 

Akane huffed. "No, you're helping my sister string along Ryoga, Moose, Shampoo, even your father with her little scams."

 

Nabiki tried to look innocent. She would rather have Akane focus her attention on the little trinket business she was running than the far more profitable hostess club. This also would make today's events a bit more complicated.

 

"I'm trying to cure my curse. It ain't my fault Naibki's the one that finally found the thing that's come closest to working."

 

"It's been a couple months," Akane eyed her sister.

"Yeah, and I was cursed for nearly two years," Ranma countered. "I don't like owing Nabiki, but it's better than owing the Old Ghoul and the Amazons or Kuno or the Old Letch."

 

Akane frowned but had to agree with that.

 

"I didn't know you cared, Saotome," Nabiki teased.

 

Ranma rolled his eyes.

 

Akane looked between the two. There was something… well-trod about their banter. It was as if they'd had this argument many times before and were going through familiar motions. Which she supposed was true enough.

 

Ranma shrugged that off and turned from Nabiki to put all his attention on Aakne. "Anyway, now that you're being serious, I would like to discuss a training regimen for you."

 

"Really now?" Akane asked

 

Nabiki used the opportunity to slip away, back towards the house.

 

He stepped closer to Akane with a smile. "Oh yes, your strength and endurance training is good. But your flexibility could use some work."

 

"My, that almost sounds perverted," Akane teased.

 

Ranma held his tongue but allowed his grin to expand.

 

Further comment on Akane's part was interrupted by Kasumi calling out that lunch was ready.

 

Ranma made a disappointed little noise. "Maybe after lunch we can change and go to the dojo for some formal lessons?" he asked. He knew Nabiki had plans for the afternoon, but he should still have time and if he didn't, well Nabiki could wait.

 

Akane ran a hand over Ranma's smooth slate-grey shirt. "Oh? So you didn't want to mess up your fancy clothes?" She laughed and started walking towards the house.

 

"Hey, it's a new shirt!" Ranma said as he followed her inside.

 

************************************************************

 

Nabiki waited at an upscale cafe. As she sipped her tea she felt a bit underdressed. The thought amused her slightly as she was more than capable of dressing elegantly enough to fit in. However, her relatively casual shorts and blue top were the only faux pas on her part.

 

She was perfectly polite with proper decorum, and most importantly she could easily afford such an establishment. Thus she didn't worry too much as she waited and watched the people pass on the street. It was a lovely early afternoon.


Her smile grew when she spotted her companion. Internally, she was a bit frustrated at having to wait for him, but on the upside this did keep her and Ranma from leaving the house at the same time.

 

"I was worried you'd be late," Nabiki said as she offered him a seat.


"Nah, I knew you had plans. Besides we have to pad our appointments to account for all this secret sneaking around," Ranma said as he placed two bulging backpacks in front of Nabiki and took a seat.

 

"Is everything there?" Nabiki asked before taking a sip.


Ranma discretely looked around as he overtly studied the menu. "Yeah, I stashed them on a roof where no one else would get 'em. Not like they're worth stealing."


Nabiki had to use her training to keep from choking on her drink. "Designer shoes and dresses and jewelry aren't worth stealing?"


Ranma shrugged "Still, there's gotta be a better way than going through all these hidden caches and secret spy stuff."

Nabiki sighed. It was a legitimate worry; their very efforts to keep their secret were, on their own, suspicious.   Not to mention fancy dresses had to be packed and folded with care. Otherwise they would look wrinkled and bedraggled.  Though some materials, like leather and faux leather did store a bit easier.

 

"I am looking into a better solution. Maybe renting some storage space near the club. I'd use the train station lockers more, but they get too expensive long-term."

Ranma nodded. "Could get a health club or gym membership," he said after chatting with the waitress and ordering a water.

Nabiki raised an eyebrow.

 

"Lotta people going in and out or a health club," Ranma explained. "Storage space, showers, place to change. Raiko comes in, Ranma comes out."


Nabiki took a sip, considering it. "But not much storage space."

 

"True," Ranma admitted. He then smiled and thanked the waitress who returned with his water.

 

"You're being awfully nice," Nabiki noted.

 

"With our job, how could I not be?" Ranma drank from his glass.

 

Nabiki shrugged. He had a point. When you stripped the pretense away, the girls at the Golden Oak were glorified waitresses. They were well-compensated waitress that sold food and drink at a laughable markup but they were still waitresses.

 

"How's Akane coming along?" Nabiki asked.

 

Ranma took another drink. "Better, but she needs to watch her footwork more. And she needs to get more limber. But at least she's starting to challenge herself." He then glanced at his phone. "It's 2 PM."

 

Nodding, Nabiki flagged down the waitress and settled the bill.

 

Ranma gave the young woman a friendly smile, azure eyes warm as he helped Nabiki up. "So, where are we going?" he asked as they walked towards a nearby train station.

 

After a brief wait Ranma and Nabiki boarded one train. Then after some traveling, changing trains, pausing to see if they were being followed and a quick-change routine that used another station's bathrooms the pair rented a couple lockers and boarded their final train. After traveling only a couple of stops, and invoking the correct incantations, "Raiko" and "Naoko" disembarked and exited the station to go shopping.

 

The slightly taller woman wore a prim grey dress, silver heels and matching band that pulled back her long glossy black hair. The other wore a short black leather skit with gold trim, yellow blouse, and light black leather coat.

 

Her center-parted blonde hair was fluffed up and bounced with every flitting step. Gold bracelets, earrings, and pendants adorned her light skin. Light makeup accented her deep ultramarine-colored eyes and smiling lips. However, her blusher was a bit more forceful almost darkening her cheeks.

 

Drumming her clear, shiny nails against a little gold purse, she strolled next to Nabiki; a smile on her glossy lips.

 

"You're cheerful," Nabiki observed.

 

"You're smiling too," Ranma laughed.

 

"Yeah, but that's my standard 'happy hostess resting face', yours looks more natural."

 

"Oh, why thank you," the blonde bashfully replied.


"Knock, it off, you're sincerely happy."

 

"Well, Akane's finally showing some progress."

 

"In martial arts?"

 

"Among other things," Ranma purred, her dark ultramarine eyes sparkling

 

Halting, Nabiki sputtered.

"Too easy!" the blonde laughed as she continued her rolling stride. She looked back over her shoulder. "A slipup like that would kill you at work."

 

"Well, we're not at work," Nabiki said as she caught up to her waiting companion.


"And that's another reason why I'm happy," the blonde looked around the busy street. "No martial arts duties. No clients to please. No school to pretend to care about. No family aggravations."

 

"You're dressed up as a fancy fashion-plate," Nabiki pointed.

 

"As are you," the blonde laughed. "I'm not the only one having an escape this afternoon."

 

Nabiki allowed herself to grin. If Ranma was this happy now, she would probably be receptive to the surprise Nabiki had arranged for later on.

 

"True, but hits is still for work," Nabiki said as they approached a storefront

 

"Shopping for clothes and cosmetics, such as chore," Ranma took Nabiki's arm and pulled her towards the shoe store.

 

Nabiki watched the blonde's expression. There was no girlish glee on her face, but there was also no bored indifference. Ranma swished through the store with a contemplative, appraising expression. The store was large and had a wide selection, which was why it employees of the club patronized it.

 

"Can I help you two, ladies?" a salesman said walking up to them. He wore a crisp lavender suit and had long ash-colored hair in a loose ponytail.

 

"Oh yes, I believe you can," Ranma gave a glowing smile. She flipped open her purse and pulled out a piece of paper. "I was thinking of heels in the following colors. What do you have in a green ankle-strap?"

She turned to Nabiki "Or should I get a sling-back?"

 

The salesman glanced over the list. "Perhaps we can start with your size?" he asked poorly concealing his interest.

 

"Lovely idea," Ranma put her hand on his as they went deeper into the store. "I'm 20 cm. But I'm sure you have plenty of imports yes?"


"Naturally," the man said, looking vaguely affronted. He made a show of looking at the shoes she was currently wearing, and then gave an approving nod.

 

Ranma gave a reassuring smile. "Well if I recall, I'm a size 33 and a half European and a size 4 American."

 

"A difficult find Madam, but you're not our only dainty customer. Let's get you measured just to be sure," the salesman said as the blonde took his hand and slowly sat down at the bench.

 

Bemused, Nabiki watched as she slowly removed her heels, and let the clerk measure her feet. Nabiki had to keep from rolling her eyes; of course Ranma knew her measurements. Still, she understood the dance.

 

She watched the two discuss styles and soon enough the clerk started collecting boxes. He had to dig into the back to get ones that would fit her, but the shop prided itself on vast selection. Giving the blonde a playful smirk, Nabiki stared steering them towards more leather and suede designer shoes. Upping both the heel and the price.

 

"Are you sure?" Ranma said as she inspected pair of shinny peep toe platform heels. A mirror-gloss deep violet leather the pair fit her feet perfectly and cost nearly fifty thousand yen.

 

"It's a good investment, you'll make the cost of those heels back in one night." Nabiki soothingly said.

 

"Before your cut," the blonde retorted.

 

"Given their nearly bespoke nature, and that they are Italian the price is most reasonable, especially given your requirements," the salesman reminded, tactfully avoiding mentioning exactly what their jobs were.

 

The blonde sighed and bit her lip.

 

Nabiki leaned in, "Come on, you can splurge. You know you'll enjoy them. Besides, you can get a good matching dress."

Ranma looked up at her and laughed. "I know what you're doing, Naoko-chan."

 

"Well, when we go dress shopping you can turn the tables," Nabiki promised.

 

"We are running a special for... discriminating customers, if Madam were to get five different pairs, an arrangement could be made."

 

The blonde laughed and decided to take the plunge. "Well sir, I'm at one pair. What next? And keep in mind I have to work with these shoes."

 

Nabiki allowed herself to smile as the lavender-suited salesman consulted Ranma's list.

 

The Tendo girl's promise turned out to be true. At the clothing stores she had tried to get Ranma to be more spendthrift and had mostly succeeded, especially with a purple-trimmed black silk dress that nicely hugged her body.

 

However, Ranma had gotten her revenge with the stocking and garter set that did exquisitely compliment her body. And then the blonde found a lace-trimmed teal evening gown with white accents that was just "Naoko's" style.

 

Nabiki shook her head at the costs. The main expenses of their job were the "costumes". And she had been doing a fair job avoiding splurging, until today. Still, she found herself enjoying shopping with Ranma.

 

When you looked past her honeyed comments, the blonde could be a cynical little thing. Not to mention greedy in trying to cut deals with salesmen, even at the cost of a bit of sweet-girl flirting.

 

As they went towards the salon, Nabiki chuckled. Maybe it was narcissism but she found the blonde more than a bit like herself. However, Nabiki did wonder how much of that was Ranma following her training and treating Nabiki like a client.

 

Ranma shifted her collection of shopping bags. "Makeup's the last stop right?" she asked gazing at the gleaming glass building.  As beauty salons went it was rather large, with a dozen stations and a full perfume counter, cosmetics boutique, and attached spa.   It was also where Ranma went to get her hair dyed.

 

Nabiki gave a little smile. "Yes, this is our last stop."


"Good, because we're got more than enough stuff already." She lifted an arm. "I think I'm gonna to back to the club and stash most of this stuff in my locker."

 

Nabiki gave a little nod. Their storage problem was only going to get worse. "You can rent more space at the club."

 

The blonde let her eyes roll. "Yeah for a high cost."

 

"Might be worth it. Even a good disguise is weakest when you're changing into it."

 

"Then it's better that we change before going to the club. Why I suggested the health club idea, or a storage unit, something," Ranma said as they entered the salon.

 

Nabiki had to agree with that. "Fine, but that's no reason your disguise can't be improved?"

The blonde arched an eyebrow. "Oh?"


"Under the bouncy hairdo and deep eyes you still look like a certain redhead."

 

Before Ranma could reply a beautician flounced up to them, her long chocolate curls bouncing with every step. "Naoko! Raiko! How wonderful to see you two!" she said in a chirpy, bubbling voice.

 

"Hi Umeko! How are you doing?" Ranma asked with a big, plastered smile.

 

"Great! Are you ready for your deluxe tanning package?" Umeko cheerfully asked.

 

Ranma gave a slow blink. "I'm sorry? I was just here for some lipstick and maybe some eyeliner. I didn't ask for a tan."

 

"And perhaps some eyeshadow and blush," Nabiki completed while shooting a glare at the bubbly beautician.

 

"I have plenty of blush," Ranma primly stated. "But I didn't know I was going for a tan."

 

Umeko ran her manicured hands over her pink uniform. "Oh? Did I spoil a surprise?"

 

Nabiki put on a smile. "It's okay, I was going to tell her now."

 

"Ah, you went behind my back to get me a present. How lovely, Naoko-chan," Ranma said in a voice dripping with sugary sweetness.

 

"My yes, whatever made me think you might want a tan?" Nabiki put a hand to her cheek. "I mean there was you asking Mistress Yamato if she'd be okay with you getting a tan."

 

Ranma exhaled. "I that was just hypothetical! I wanted to know if she would let me."

 

Nabiki gave a little shake of her head. "No Raiko, part of you wanted it, but you were scared.  And you hoping she'd tell you no to settle the issue. The choice wouldn't be on your shoulders, it wouldn't be tempting you if the boss wouldn't allow it."

 

Ranma frowned.

 

Umeko's eyes darted between the two. "So, is everything okay? Should I start setting up the booth?

 

Nabiki leaned in, her voice soothing. "I know you've been talking with Anya about it, I also know your foundation has been getting more... dusky."

 

Ranma blushed.

 

"Anya makes a good point. It would help you look more exotic."

 

"And I'd look less like..." the blonde's eyes darted to the ground. "You know."

 

"More money, more security," Nabiki smiled. "What's not to like?

 

"Well... how would my regulars would take it, would I have to get new clientele?" Ranma quietly asked.

 

"I think you'd look fabulous with a tan!" Umeko happily added.

 

"See, that's a professional endorsement," Nabiki said. "Now I had planned the rest of the afternoon for this…"

 

The blonde blinked. "It takes that long?"

 

"Oh yes, the deluxe is quite involved," Umeko said, her mood brightening as she got on comfortable ground. "With someone as delicately toned as you, we'd have to go with a three step process. First we give you a base tan in the booth on low. Next we go for a primer coloring. A second time in the booth sets the color."

 

"A second time?" Ranma asked.  She didn't know enough about tanning booths to know if this was legitimate, but it sounded involved.

 

"Naturally." Nodding, Umeko continued her perky lecture.. "Then we apply a finishing bronzer and touchup any areas on your skin that we missed, and finally set the whole thing with one last session in the booth on medium. And of course afterwards we have a special herbal bath for you to luxuriate in to lock it all in."

 

"Hun, that sounds very... involved," Ranma said.

 

"Oh yes, but look at the results," Umeko said as she pulled out a photo album full of before and after pictures.

 

The blonde paused. The tans were natural hues and if there was any fault it was that they were too evenly colored to come about naturally. "Oh. They actually look pretty good," she admitted

 

"For seventy thousand yen it should be," Nabiki said.

 

Before Ranma could spend much time processing the expense, Nabiki patted her on the shoulder.


"But don't worry, it's my surprise and my gift to you."


"A gift?" Ranma looked at her skeptically.


Nabiki chuckled. "Fine, call it an investment."

The blonde shook her head.

 

"You did spend more than that on shoes today."


"Oh really?" Umeko asked with a little gasp.

 

Ranma blushed. "Yeah... well... " she glanced at the open photo album. "Yeah... let's do it."

 

"Excellent!" Umeko bounced up and down on her heels. "You'll love it"

 

 

************************************************************

 

 

In the middle of browsing at cameras, Nabiki's work phone beeped. She looked at the message and smiled. "Raiko" was done "cooking". Giving the wall of cameras a shrug, Nabiki made her way out of the electronics store.

 

She had enough skill with photography to actually be able to use a camera more complicated than the ones on her phones, but a new one seemed to be a... needless expense.

 

Nabiki looked down at the bags she carried and laughed. Well maybe "needless" was the wrong word. The truth of it was that she made far more money via the Golden Oak Club than she ever did selling photos.

 

She made her way down the sidewalk and looked for an opening where she could cross. It did seem that without the blonde to egg her on, Nabiki's window-shopping resulted in far fewer purchases.

 

Stepping into the salon, the Tendo girl gave a little gasp.

 

Waiting for her was an enchanting young woman tight black silk dress that seemed to be poured over shapely caramel-colored legs. Cleavage the same tanned hue peeked out of violet lace trim.

 

Sculpted, tanned arms were tipped in vivid violet nails. Fluffy golden tresses contrasted with her caramel colored face and complemented deep ultramarine blue eyes. Expertly applied makeup enhanced her glistening lips and drew attention to those deep eyes.

 

Swishing on those Italian purple heels, the tanned woman came forward with utter poise and effortless sensuality.

 

She may have had the same figure, the same measurements as the cute, tomboyish redheaded Ranma Saotome, but the blonde Raiko Kuga moved her body in a completely different way.

 

Right next to Nabiki, the tanned woman put a hand to Nabiki's chest. "My, you were right to suggest this." The blonde leaned back and gave a happy sigh as her shoulders relaxed. "I feel like a new woman."

 

Nabiki looked into those playful dark blue eyes. "Laying it on a bit thick are we?"

 

"Oh no," Umeko assured. "We made sure to keep the color from clumping."

 

"That's not what she meant, Hun," the blonde assured the beautician.

 

Nabiki chuckled.

 

Cocking her hip, relishing the way her dress restricted her, Ranma looked down at herself and smiled. "I can see the advantage here. But..."

 

"Yes?" Nabiki asked.

 

"But I'll have to buy all new makeup to match this new complexion."

"We can help you with that!" Umeko added with a big smile.

 

"Yes you can," Ranma bowed her head then turned to Nabiki. "You know Naoko. Since we're going back to the club anyway.... maybe I should can see if the boss will let me take an extra shift tonight?"

 

"Sounds fun!" Umeko gleefully said. "Now Miss Kuga would you like to submit to some pictures for our album?" the bubbly brunette frowned. "But we didn't get any before photos.

 

"Oh, I couldn't be that vain," Ranma assured.

Nabiki had to keep a straight face. "It also may dampen the illusion our boss likes us to present. It's be like having a picture of Raiko-chan with her natural hair color"

"Or like you without your wig," Umeko helpfully added.

 

Nabiki strained to kept her smile. "Yes, like that,"

 

"You did do a wonderful job," Ranma assured the beautician before giving her a hug. "I'll definitely be back."

 

The tanned blonde picked up her bags and sashayed out of the salon.

 

Nabiki skipped to catch up to her.

 

"Now, I'll need the medallion tonight," Ranma said "Since I'll be working alone."

 

"I could change you back when you get home..." Nabiki trialed off.

 

The blonde raised an eyebrow.

"Yeah, bad idea," Nabiki looked bashful. "We don't want the beach blonde Raiko-chan anywhere near the dojo."

 

"Indeed," Ranma airily said. "There's also..." she looked a bit embarrassed. "We're not certain this tan will go away, when you flip the medallion."

 

"It's been swapping your hair color for weeks," Nabiki said.

 

The tanned woman shrugged. "It's still a magical artifact. Sure it works, but you can't say it hasn't done unexpected things."

 

Nabiki allowed a little nod. "Fine." She had loaned the medallion to the blonde before, but it made her nervous, and more than in an avaricious manner.

 

 "I suppose there's another solution." Dark blue eyes met Nabiki's gaze. "You can work a shift too.

 

"Well, I could use a bit more money," Nabiki gave a casual shrug. "But I'll have to come up with an excuse why I missed dinner."

"See, I told Akane I'd be off training all afternoon and evening." The blonde gave a throaty chuckle. "That way if our errands ended early I could surprise her."

 

"I'll think of something." Nabiki waved the concern off. "Sure, I'll work tonight."

 

"Excellent!" Ranma flashed a brilliant smile. "We've got some time before shift. How about some dinner?"

 

"What do you have in mind?"

 

"One of my clients mentioned a little sushi place," the blonde looked at a nearby subway station and nodded. "And it should be between here and the club."

 

"Sounds fine," Nabiki shrugged and followed. She had expected a little hole-in-the wall place. Somewhere that served basic nigiri and had the bar almost out on the street. A place to get a quick nosh.

 

Instead... Nabiki would have gawked at the interior of the restaurant, but she had been working her job far too long to make that kind of mistake. It was a small restaurant, but intimate was a better description towards it. It was expensive but in that understated way where the opulence was restrained.

 

Nabiki would have wondered how Ranma had expected to get seated here as a walk-in, but the recognized a couple of "Raiko's" clients, and then one of her own.

 

"What a lovely surprise," Ranma smiled as she drew Nabiki towards the bar.

 

Glancing at a price list, Nabiki made a tiny surprised noise. The markup wasn't at the level of their club, but the prices were still breathtaking. Glancing into the glass cooling cases in the bar did show the quality of fish at least justified the prices.

 

Ranma leaned towards Nabiki. "Oh don't worry, I'll take care of the bill," the blonde whispered.

 

"If you insist," Nabiki said as a waitress led them towards a pair of open seat to one side of the bar. As she sat down, Nabiki gave a shy smile to her client, and saw Ranma do the same.

 

Amused, Nabiki watched Ranma flirt and explain away her tan to the silver-haired man sitting next to her. The Tendo girl couldn't recall his name, but knew he owned a chain of bakeries, noodle shops, or something like that and that "Raiko" had entertained him a few times.

 

Making a note to engage her client in small talk, Nabiki perused the list of available fish and settled in to enjoy a fancy meal with the blonde like the well-appointed young ladies they were.

 

After the meal, both hostesses collected their bags and made their way to the door. Ranma had to politely deflect offers to have someone else carry them.

 

Outside, Nabiki glanced at her phone. "You know, when you said you'd take care of the bill...."

The blonde ran a hand through her golden tresses. "I'm certainly not going to pay, not when Araki-san is there."

 

"I see you're learning," Nabiki chuckled as they got to the subway platform


"I did have a good teacher," Ranma coyly replied. "You calling the shuttle?"

Nabiki looked at the bags that they both were carrying. "Yeah, good idea," she said as they boarded the train.

 

When the pair exited the station, a silver van was waiting for them. After the muscular guard helped them load their packages in the back, they then waited for two more hostesses to arrive.

 

One of whom was Anya. Upon seeing Ranma the older, short-haired, hostess' green eyes lit up. "Oh my, very impressive Goldie," she purred climbing into the van.

 

Ranma gave a demure smile. "Naoko-chan had a surprise."


"Some surprise," Anya smiled.

 

"Isn't she thoughtful?" Ranma cooed before giving Nabiki a sly smile.

 

"Well, Anya-san suggested it first," Nabiki offered.

 

"Flatterer," Anya laughed.

 

That was when the fourth hostess arrived. She was a few years older than Nabiki but wore her brown hair in twin ponytails and had a black dress with maroon bows that looked a bit like a school uniform. She gave Ranma an appraising look. "Bold move on the new girl."

 

"Why thank you Kaori-chan," Ranma bowed her head.

 

"Good to see you're making an investment." Kaori sat down.

 

"It was Anya's idea and Naoko set it up," the blonde said as the guard put the van in gear

 

"Ah." Kaori's cynical appraising expression was at odds with her youthful seeming appearance. "Still it should help your bottom line." She gave Nabiki a frosty smile. "If only some of your friends were willing to go so far."

 

"Jealousy doesn't suit you Kaori," Nabiki said, her tone sweet.


"Jealous?" The innocent-looking girl giggled. "You wish you could compete with me." She gave a languid smile. "Fortunately, there's plenty of cliental into sugar and spice

 

"Yes, it would be demeaning to fight over your leftovers," Nabiki said, her tone perky.

 

"It would help if you did something about that nose," Kaori said. "Doctor Hotta has very reasonable rates."

 

"I do fine as I am," Nabiki said.

Kaori gave a patronizing smile. "Yes, 'fine' describes you." Her attention turned to the blonde. "Now you, dear, dear Raiko-chan. You seem more willing."

 

"It's just a tan," Ranma lightly said.

 

"Oh," Kaori made a show of looking disappointed. "Then you're not going to do something about those lips?" she asked as the van stopped.

 

The guard opened the door and waving over one of the other black-suited men, started to unload Ranma and Nabiki's clothing.

Ranma frowned. It was bad practice to have security with their arms full. She took some reassurance in that there was still one guard by the employee entrance to the club on alert.

 

Still, she made a show of smiling and thanking the men for helping move the boxes of clothes, shoes, and cosmetics.

 

"Wait? What's wrong with my lips?" Ranma asked.

 

Anya and Kaori had been watching the offloading with well-concealed interest. Kaori turned to the blonde. "Oh nothing. They're fine. But they could be fuller."

 

"I suppose they could," Ranma politely allowed as the four girls entered the dressing room.

 

There were just a couple of hostesses getting ready, but upon seeing "Raiko's" new look both gave appreciative nods. Since Ranma and Nabiki were already dressed to the nines their attention was focused on finding a way to pack all of all their purchases into their lockers.

 

Once that exercise in careful packing was done, Ranma slipped in front of an open vanity to freshen her hair and makeup. Rapt by her new look, the blonde spent a bit longer than expected, and it took Nabiki clearing her throat to get her to stand up.

 

Giving a little blush, Ranma stood and made her way out of the dressing room. She then cut across the club and went to the lobby. If her memory served the boss would be working at the Gold Oak tonight.

 

Waiting at the edge of the lobby, she waited until her boss had a moment alone.

 

Looking up from her ledger, Mistress Yamato gave a warm smile. "Why Miss Kuga don't you look simply lovely tonight."

 

Ranma bowed her head and allowed herself to blush. "Thank you Mistress," she shyly said. Despite herself, she felt a bit of pride bloom within her at her boss' approval.

 

"How nice of you to come in and show off." Yamato made a show of looking at her ledger. "I don't see you scheduled for tonight."

 

The blonde clasped her hands before her. "I was wondering if I could work extra, tonight."

"Were you?" Yamato playfully asked, her eyes looking warm.

 

"Well, myself and Naoko too. She did arrange for my... improvements," a tanned hand gestured over the blonde's form.

 

"You two are thick as thieves." Yamato's laugh was musical. "Okay, Raiko-chan, I'll let you and your friend work tonight."

 

"Thank you, Mistress!" Ranma said adding just the right level of glee before bowing.

 

"Now you, realize that since this isn't one of your scheduled nights none of your regulars know you're here."

 

Ranma gave a little blush.

 

Yamato laughed again. "Perhaps that's your intention: get used to your new look before showing off to your normal clients."

 

The blonde blushed. "That was my intent, but if I'm being totally honest, at least one of my clients is aware that I might be available tonight."

 

For an instant Yamato's well-maintained warm matronly façade slipped. "Oh?" she asked, a dangerous edge slipping into the word.


"When having dinner, Naoko and myself happened to run into Araki-san. I may have informed him of my possible availability."

 

The older woman's expression turned calculating before she shifted into a more open, friendly expression. "My, you are a devious little thing," she said in a conspiratorial whisper.

 

The blonde gave a tiny bow with her head.

 

"I'll let it slide this time, Miss Kuga. But I should warn you, the girls of this club are not expected to meet their clients outside the premises, and if they do accidently run into a client they are to express the upmost discretion. Do you understand?"

Ranma nodded. "In such a situation I would be seen as a member of the Golden Oak Club and thus my actions reflect upon the club."

 

"Good, I'm glad we're in agreement," Yamato then playfully waved the blonde away. "Go on, I'll let you know if someone picks you out of the order book, and if Mr. Araki shows up."

 

Ranma bowed again and made to leave.

"Wait," Yamato shook her head. "Silly me. You'll need to update your photo in the order book."

 

The blonde nodded. "I'll ask Naoko to take my picture."

 

"I'd be surprised if she hasn't already," Yamato eyed the blonde. "Now, you can go."

 

Ranma went to the break-room where she found Anya and Nabiki. Smoothing her tight dress, the blonde explained the photo requirement to Nabiki, and the Tendo girl ran to her locker to get a camera.

 

A brief photo-session later, Nabiki had taken some pictures on a fresh memory card which she handed to one of the guards so he could run off to a nearby copy shop and print out a set of glossy pictures.

 

Lilting up a cigarette, Anya watched the proceedings with some amusement. She also chuckled when Nabiki covetously kept some of the pictures for herself before bringing a selection to Yamato.

 

"Keeping the new look then?" Anya asked once Nabiki had left.

 

"It's not like I can magically turn off a tan," the blonde smiled while internally she sincerely hoped she could. She shrugged. "I'll see how my clients react to it. If it doesn't help I'll let if fade."

 

Anya took a puff. "I'm certain it will; you look like a million yen."

 

"Only a million? I was hoping for five, plus interest," Ranma pouted.

 

The older hostess gave a little laugh. "Oh, you don't quite have the figure for that much. Almost but not quite."

 

The blonde made a show of increasing her pout.

 

Still, it didn't take her long to find out that Anya's prediction was correct. Not long after Nabiki had handed over the new photos, "Raiko" was called up to serve a walk-in client.

 

Putting on her coy smile, she sauntered to the lobby. Relishing the way her new constricting new dress felt and the click of her new heels. Her new client's reaction on seeing her tanned form, bouncing blonde tresses, and deep ultramarine eyes was also priceless.

 

Leading him to an alcove she listened to the young man explain himself. A slightly nervous second son to a foundry owner with a taste for bourbon. She reminded him of a girl he saw when he was at spring-break at university in California.

 

Increasing her smile, Ranma internally bemoaned her poor English skills. After having a few rounds with the slightly stout twenty-something, she knew that if she could take on the right accent she could have milked him even further.

 

As it was she had to be satisfied with making enough to pay for the pair of shoes she had bought. At least if she ignored Nabiki's cut for the night. Either way, that left several more pairs of heels to pay off.

 

However, Araki-san's arrival did much to balance the books. As the silver-haired man was as enthused to see her as the blonde pretended to be enthused at seeing him.

 

After him came a few more new clients. One of which required some deft handling to keep him from being too fresh. Still, a side step, a bit of leverage, and the man flipped back off the barstool.

 

And while the slick-haired punk was still dazed, Ranma discretely flagged down security with the right hand signal. Striding over, the muscular buzz-cut suited guard helped the "tipsy" man to his feet and escorted him towards the lobby. All the while, Ranma flitted in their wake profusely apologizing and wishing the grabby man all the best.

 

Mistress Yamato settled his account and nodded to the blonde. Ranma quietly thanked the guard and that bit of perfidy concluded, she made it to the break room.

 

After about ten minutes, Nabiki entered. Ranma noticed the Tendo girl idly straighten her long glossy black wig. The blonde was glad she had been able to switch to dying her hair. There had been too many close calls with her old wig.

 

"Good night?" Nabiki sat down. She looked at the bills her companion was counting out.

 

Ranma noticed only the barest hint of greed in the eyes of the ebony-haired hostess. Nabiki was getting better with practice. "Phenomenal," she admitted.

 

"I told you it'd help," Nabiki smugly said.

 

"Yes, yes," Ranma chuckled. "I know Araki-san prefers this look, but I'll have to see how the other regulars react." She held up an arm. "This tone isn't very traditional."

"You're already a blue-eyed blonde," Nabiki countered as she got up and removed a bottle of water out of the fridge. "Your clientele don't want traditional." She took a drink.

 

"True," Ranma looked up at the clock on the wall. "You clocked out?"

Nabiki nodded. "Just told the boss before coming over here. You?"

 

"I've still got five minutes, on Last Call," the blonde frowned at the clock. On the one hand Last Call prices were a bit higher. On the other she did want to get home, or at least out of these heels.

 

The time passed without event and Ranma and Nabiki slipped into the dressing-room. There was a bit less of the expected post-shift rush.

 

Still, they had worked out a system. Each stripped off their jewelry and most of their makeup and then changed into plainer clothing. Nabiki wore sleek pants, a shiny pink blouse, and matching sneakers. Removing her nail extensions, Ranma changed into a ruffled back dress with low heels. They waited for a shuttle to whisk them to the subway station.

 

In between changing trains they retrieved their bags from the lockers they had rented earlier in the afternoon and slipped into a station bathroom. In one stall, Nabiki pulled off her wig and swapped shoes and blouse. She then withdrew the Musk medallion and said the magic incantation.

 

In her stall, Ranma intently watched as hair shimmered and deepened in color. Much to her relief her skin went the opposite direction. Creamy caramel skin faded to a pale, nearly alabaster, tone.

 

Shrugging, she redid her pigtail, removed her contacts, wiped off the remaining makeup, and stripped out of the dress. She had picked it for how easy it was to remove.

 

After changing her underwear she put on black pants and red shirt to complete the change. The redhead stepped out of the stall and looked at her reflection. She was back to normal.

 

Azure eyes blinked. Somehow, Ranma felt almost... disappointed with being normal. Her disquiet continued as she and Nabiki left the bathroom. She also didn't let it interfere with her vigilance in making sure they weren't followed.

 

At the final train station, Nabiki once again used the medallion and this time the redhead went off alone to change. A minute later the black-haired martial artist took both bags and he escorted Nabiki to the Tendo dojo.

 

Too busy with making sure she could slip into the house undetected, and thinking about the increased profitability of "Raiko" Nabiki didn't really notice her partner's disquiet. "You coming in?" she asked in a whisper.


"And have us be spotted together?" Ranma shook his head. "Nah, I'll go off and train and come back later," he assured with a bright smile.

 

Nabiki frowned as the martial artist bounded off.

 

End ch2

 

I'd like to thank the prereaders for their help in this project: Milanda Anza, Mahou Sensou, J St C Patrick, DCG, Kevin Hammel, and Ellf

A bit of a caution.   I decided to release some chapters of this story early.

So it has not gone through the full checking process and may be a bit rougher than normal.