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 3: Building Confidence

 

 

 

A pair of well-dressed young women relaxed in a cafe's outdoor patio.  One had long black hair wore a lacy cream dress with red accents.  The other had a bouncy blonde hairdo with dark blue eyes wore a black knee length dress. The leather garment had a slit up the side and low cut top which exposed far more tanned skin than her companion's more demure dress.

 

The darker-skinned blonde wore polished black leather Slingback pumps  with gold  heels and toe accents and the other woman wore no less expensive-looking, if lower in heel, scarlet stilettos. Both wore a fair amount of artfully applied makeup.  However, while the black-haired woman wore little garnet earrings and matching pendant, the blond has multiple pairs of dangling gold earrings,  gold bracelets, and a heavy necklace.

 

The blonde looked at the glossy brochures scattered before her and sighed. "I knew housing was expensive but this..."  she shook her head and took a sip of her tea.

 

The black-haired woman gave a little smile. "We work in Ginza, it is a rather trendy location."

 

"Yeah, which is why we're not looking too close,"  the blonde grumbled.


"Careful Raiko, mind your tone"  Nabiki gently corrected using Ranma's working name.

Ranma let her expression shift as her glossy lips formed a gentle smile. "Thank you."  She picked up a brochure.  It was covered in her looping handwritten notes.  "I suppose it's good that we're not looking for a place to actually live in."

 

"Yes, even a tiny studio apartment will eat into our earnings,"  Nabiki frowned.

 

The blonde nodded. "Is it worth it?" she asked.

 

Nabiki looked into her drink and pondered. "Well, it would save a time on us getting ready.  You can change your hair and tan in peace."

 

"That is when I'm most vulnerable of being discovered." She looked down at her caramel colored hands tipped in polished nails dusted with a hint of golden glitter.

 

"But we'll have to deal with Raiko and Ranma coming and going from the same building."

 

"Nabiki and Naoko too." Ranma nodded. "But it gives more storage for us." The blonde was amazed at how much junk she could accumulate in only a few months.

 

"There's also it'll give us privacy."

"Oh my.  I didn't know you felt that way Naoko-chan,"  the blonde fluttered her eyelashes.  "Is that why you're a favorite of Mrs. Akamaratsu?"

 

Nabiki allowed a blush. "I didn't mean it that way, but tell me you don't yearn for a little place of your own?  Some place you can be... yourself."

 

Ranma glanced down at her tanned and coiffed form. "That would be a novelty," she dryly noted.

 

Nabiki tracked where the blonde's eyes had fallen. "You can also test your new bras."

 

That caused Ranma to blush.

 

"And how are they fitting?" the black-haired girl asked, giving her companion's torso a critical glance.

 

"Fine,"  Ranna smoothly assured, regaining her composure.  "I think they'll be far more comfortable."

 

"Yes comfortable," Nabiki noted, smirking at the blonde's vanity.

 

"But do you really think we should spend this much money? Rent will eat into  your bottom line."

 

"You don't want to work any longer at this job?"  Nabiki asked.

 

Crossing her legs, the blonde leaned back, and elegantly gestured a manicured hand to encompass her form. "Do I look like I want to work any longer than I have to?

Nabiki held her tongue.

 

The blonde sipped her tea.  "I'm not sure.  We've managed this scheme for over three months.  But not without close calls, and not without running ragged."

 

"Akane is wondering why you don't take her for your evening training sessions,"  Nabiki nodded.


"Part of me regrets agreeing to start training her,"  Ranma sighed. "If I hadn't done that she wouldn't care about my training regimen. At least she thinks you're just up to your old tricks."

 

Nabiki shrugged. "Perhaps."

 

The blonde shook her head. "I still have three-quarters to go before I'm free.  I don't want to make it longer but..."

 

Again Nabiki held her tongue but gave her companion a sympathetic pat of the hand.  She knew how much the blonde spent on "costumes" and accessories for their job. It was an amount that had spiked in the two weeks since the bottle-blonde had gotten her tan. Frankly, Nabiki was amazed Ranma was still on track to paying off her debt in a year, but that spoke more towards the blonde's increased earnings than any savings plan.

 

 The blonde nibbled her lip. "But perhaps a spending a bit more on a secure place is worth it."

 

"It would be a home base,  we'd be more organized," Nabiki rolled her shoulders. "No more hiding backpacks of clothes on roofs or quick changes in train station bathrooms. "

 

"That is a plus," Ranma admitted.

 

"And there'd be less incriminating stuff of yours in my closet."

 

Ranma blushed. She couldn't store very many dresses and the like in her own room at the Tendo dojo. That would raise too many questions.  "Yes, but a home-base like that can be discovered."

 

"It's a risk." Nabiki nodded.  "How much time do we have before our shift?

 

"We should be getting ready to go," the blonde said after glancing at her watch.

 

Nabiki kept herself from rolling her eyes at the delicate silver faced time-piece with its slim black leather band. It was also a gift from a client, the black-haired woman noted with a bit of jealousy.

 

"I guess we could have had dinner later,"  Ranma sipped her tea.  "Not that I mind enjoying a nice evening in a cafe," the blonde added with a bright smile.

 

Nabiki gave a gentle laugh. "We were hungry after apartment hunting. If you'll pardon me," she said standing up.

 

As the black-haired woman took a step away from the table,  the blonde's eyes widened.

A young man with brown hair and a yellow spotted bandana lumbered down the sidewalk with an unfolded map.

 

"Oh,"  the tanned-woman quietly said as the young man's green eyes lifted from the map and he scanned his surroundings.  "Fancy seeing you here," she added in a breathy voice.


Hearing the signal, Nabiki glanced back.  She gave a sharp exhale.

 

"Yes, he might have spotted us," Ranma hissed.  Despite her outward placidity her heart began to race.  She swallowed and put her hands around her tea cup.   "Keep going Naoko.   You just standing there, or worse sitting back down, will add more suspicious," she quietly said after brining the cup up to cover her lips.

 

Without a nod, the black haired woman walked off towards the bathrooms.

 

Ranma put down her cup. She didn't want to risk talking to him but...  she squared her shoulders.   Letting him go off and not knowing if he saw through her disguise would work.

 

Putting on her most glowing smile she waited until the lost man scanned the street again.   Her gaze went up and for a brief moment ultramarine blue eyes met forest green.  Once she knew she had his attention, she blushed, the nervousness helped,  and shyly turned her head.

 

Drawn in, the muscular young man walked down the sidewalk towards the cafe patio.

"Hi, you seem lost.  Need some directions?"  Ranma nearly purred, her honeyed words dripping with concern.

 

 

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

 

Ryoga shuffled down the street.   He looked at his map.   He took a few steps.  He looked around,  then with a familiar sense of dread looked back down at his map.    It was all wrong.

 

He sighed.  Well, it wasn't all wrong.   The signs around him were still in Japanese. which did narrow things down.

 

Stopping his walk, he scanned around, looking for restaurants.  They were a bit easier to remember.  He noted a cafe with a wide patio. Then  he saw her.

 

A striking blonde woman sat at a table delicately sipping her tea.  Her companion, a willowy woman with black hair and a beige dress had sauntered off.

 

Deep, dark blue eyes met his and the tanned woman gave a coy smile before demurely turning away.

 

As he stepped closer more details became apparent.   Her dusky features were starkly beautiful with sharp cheekbones and a narrow chin.   He put her at mid twenties in age,  especially going by her eyes which had a playful but almost weary confidence to them.

 

Dripping in golden jewelry, she primly sat in a tight black leather dress that revealed plenty of cleavage and limply waived with a hand adorned with has sparkling gold nails

 

"Hi, you seem lost.  Need some directions?"  the woman asked in a throaty almost smoky voice.  Her glossy lips were put into a concerned pout

 

"Uh...  yeah?"  Ryoga said walking up to her table.  The map crinkling in his hands.

 

"Maybe I can help, I live around here,"  the blonde said as she nimbly sorted some brochures and slipped them into a little golden purse.  Smoothly, she looked back up towards him and gave a bright smile. "Please?"

 

"Su- sure..."  Ryoga said.

 

"But how forward of me." Holding a hand to her lips the blonde gave a light giggle. "I didn't introduce myself.  You may call me Kuga Raiko,"  she said bowing her head and torso.

 

In addition to the blonde leaning forward, Ryoga was standing, which gave him an excellent view of the older woman's chest.  Sputtering, he put a spare bandanna to his nose.

 

Quirking a lip, the blonde studied his face. "Dear me, are you okay?"   In a gracefully elegant motion she swept up to her feet and put a little hand on his arm. "My, my,  please sit, you."

 

"I'm fine, I'm fine," he assured eying her.   The blonde lady was a little bit taller than he expected.

 

"Oh good, but please do sit," she invited a bit of worry still on her face.

 

Shrugging of his pack, he took the offered seat.  The blonde had flagged down a waitress and got him to agree to a cup of tea and a bottle of barely water.

 

He studied the blonde's tanned form.   She was short, and well... buxom.   He knew of only one "woman" with a similar height and bustling.   However  the woman before him was at least a few centimeters taller than Ranma, and was obviously more endowed.

 

Blushing he realized he was staring at her.   He then noticed that the woman's dark blue eyes were studying him with a... hungry intent and his blush grew.

 

"I told you my name," she playfully said before gingerly sipping her tea.

 

"Hibiki,  Ryoga,"  he stammered.

 

There was an almost triumphant flash in those deep eyes. "Such a strong name for such a strong young man,"  she purred.

 

"Uh,  thank you Kuga-san."

 

A thin eyebrow arched. "Such a polite young man."  She took a sip. "But I'm not that old."

 

"Of course,"  Ryoga said, blush continuing.

 

"Perhaps Miss Kuga?"  She leaned forward and trailed her fingers over his arm. "I would consider it a personal favor."

 

"Of course, Miss Kuga," Ryoga repeated, putting his bandana to his nose.

 

The waitress returned and placed the two drinks before Ryoga while the blonde waited with her hands primly folded before her.

 

"Now drink the barely water first.  It'll help restore your spiritual balance,"  she promised, figuring that a bit of "spiritualism" would help make "Raiko" distinct from "Ranma" in Ryoga's eye.

 

Ryoga nodded and sipped a bit of the thick drink.

 

Meanwhile the blonde had taken his map and smoothed it out on the table.  "Now,  Hibiki-kun, where were you going?"

 

"Nerima,  to the Tendo Dojo."

 

The blonde nodded her fluffed hair bouncing. "I know the ward," she explained folding the map. "But where is this dojo?"

 

Ryoga gave a street address.

 

The blonde's glossy lips formed a pout as a long nail traced over the map.  "Aha!  Here it is."  She frowned.  "Well, that's not so far.  I do recommend taking the subway."

 

Ryoga nodded. "Uh which lines?"

 

The blonde gave a patient smile. "You poor dear.  Do you have notepaper?" she asked taking a gleaming pen out of her purse.

 

Keeping his embarrassment down, Ryoga let her explain the route for the second time.   The blonde was polite the whole time and seemed to get only the slightest bit... disappointed in his forgetfulness.

 

"It's these two transfers then two more stops.   Then take this street and this one," she said, using her pen to point.   The tanned woman had moved her seat so that she sat next to him, to better explain the directions.

 

Finishing his tea, Ryoga nodded and inspected the notes and the marks on his map.  "I'll be sure to find her now! Thank you so much!"

The blonde blushed. "Oh it was nothing,  now are there any other refreshments you'd care for? This cafe makes some delightful sweet buns."

 

"No, no, I can't be too late."

 

That tiny disappointed look returned to her face and somehow guilt filled Ryoga.  "And what can you not bear to be late for?" she innocently asked.


"True love!" Ryoga declared.

 

"Oh how romantic,"  the blonde smiled. "Who, may I ask, is the lucky girl?"

 

"Tendo Akane!"  Ryoga said just as surely.

 

"Lovely name," she said holding the smile.  Part of her wondered what had happened to break Ryoga and Akari apart.  Though she couldn't ask about that right now.

 

"Well, don't let me detain you," she graciously said, once more leaning forward to put her hand on his arm.

 

"Yes, I have get to her warn her and break her free of the cad's sinister clutches!" Ryoga declared dramatically.

 

"Oh?  Sounds scandalous!" The blonde cooed  allowing her lip to quirk. She wanted him to leave but... while Ryoga might not recognize her, that didn't mean he hadn't figured out some part of her and Nabiki's scheme.

 

"It is!  The fair Akane is engaged to a jerk and lout."  Ryoga pounded the table.

 

The tanned woman made a point of pulling back from him with surprised shock.   Given this and the behavior the last time she'd seen Ryoga she was seriously wondering if he was spending time with Kuno.

 

"A jerk, lout, and cad?"  she declared putting a hand to her powdered cheek.

 

"Oh yes Miss Kuga, the fiend is engaged to multiple woman, and toys with them all."

 

"And he's ensnared your Tendo-chan as well?"  she asked dark blue eyes wide.

 

Ryoga grimly nodded. "Saotome has many advantages, but I will defeat him."

 

"She's lucky to have someone like you looking out for her"  the blonde gave a swooning sigh.

 

Ryoga's face clouded and he stared down at his tea.

 

For a moment Ranma worried if she was laying it on a bit thick.  This wasn't the first time she had girled herself up and scammed Ryoga.  It wasn't even the second.

 

Instead Ryoga gave a resigned sigh. "It's just not fair.  Ranma lives with Akane, and I can't even find her house."

 

The blonde leaned forward and flashed a smile. "Then it's been my delight to help you in some small way," she promised trailing her fingers over his arm.

 

The muscular young man's gloom persisted. "And even if I can get there... Saotome can somehow take her on dates to fancy restaurants, meanwhile I'd have to ration my money, if I can even get to the restaurant in time."

 

"Don't lose hope," she sweetly reassured him  sliding a hand up his leg. The blonde's lips parted slightly as she felt a warm flash race over her body.

 

"I...  I wo-  won't," he stammered.

 

Relishing his embarrassment and the firmness of his muscles, the blonde looked up

 

Their eyes met.

 

Exhaling slowly, a tiny tremor shivered through her body.  The tanned woman licked her lips, and staring into his green eyes her imagination, briefly, went wild. The fantasy slammed shut when she remembered that she'd already tried pretending to be his fiancee...

 

Blushing Ryoga looked down. His bashful face almost ashamed.  "Miss Kuga..."  he said holding his bandana to his nose.

 

"Oh hush,"  the blonde assured, removing her hand.  "Now you go find your love," she ordered before giving him a kiss on the cheek.

 

Blush deepening, a drop of blood spilled onto the map, despite the bandana's presence.  Avoiding her dark blue eyes,  he folded up the map, took her notes, dropped some money on the table, shouldered his pack, and shuffled off. "Thanks for your help, Miss Kuga," he said, not quite able to meet her gaze.

 

Standing to see him off,  the blonde gave a happy wave as he wandered away.   In the wrong direction,  Ranma idly noted.

 

Despite the warm expression she was affecting, Internally, she had to keep herself from shaking.  The whole experience was... disconcerting.  On the knife edge of discovery,  having to delve into her work persona...

 

And then the feelings...  For a part of her it almost didn't feel like an act.

 

Once Ryoga had disappeared from view,  Nabiki returned from the table she had snagged.

 

"Good acting. I think he bought it,"  Nabiki complimented her.

 

"He better,"  Ranma glanced at her watch. "He took up enough time." The blonde flagging down the waitress.

 

"Oh, is that why you're anxious?" the black-haired woman teased.

 

"I've pretended to be his sister and his fiancee in the past, I had to try something different this time," Ranma said after examining the bill she had been handed.. 

 

"It worked," Nabiki noted.

 

"Thanks goodness.  That was close,"  Ranma said as she counted  the bills Ryoga had left. "Oh, and looks like he paid enough for our drinks as well, with a bit extra."

 

Nabiki laughed as the blonde slipped the extra yen into her purse. "I guess that makes him a client of yours."

 

"Not that much out of it," the tanned blonde smirked as she stood. "Hardly worth my time."

 

Nabiki put a mock sympathetic hand on her companion's shoulder as they sauntered down the sidewalk.  "He did complain about not having enough money."

 

"I'm just glad he didn't recognize my face.  Stupid makeup worked."

 

Nabiki laughed.  "He hardly looked, most of his attention was on your chest."

 

"Gee I maybe should disguise that then,"  Ranma flatly noted as they waited at a crosswalk.

 

Nabiki made a point to look over the top of the blonde's dress. "Aren't you already doing that?  Or are you not stuffing your bra?"

 

"I am not!" Ranma stamped a foot as the light changed.

 

Nabiki just grinned. "Oh, it that due to the bra itself then?"

 

"No it's just helping... lift a bit," the blonde said as they approached the train station.

 

"Do you really need help?" the black-haired girl asked.

 

The blonde gave a sultry smile. "Nao-chan, I'll take whatever edge I can get."

 

 

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

 

 

Akane shifted a bit in her seat.   Looking around the well-appointed restaurant, she  took a moment to discreetly adjust the hem of her crimson dress.

 

"That is a good color on you,"  Ranma said as he sipped his glass of wine.

 

"Because it matches your suit?"

Ranma glanced down "Sport coat and slacks," he mildly corrected. "And this is a more dark maroon  color."

 

"You do look good,"  Akane gave a smirk as she looked around the room.  There was a fair bit of polished wood,  and a set of doors were open to a patio which overlooked a part. "Who dressed you?" she playfully asked.

 

Flushing a bit, Ranma mumbled something into his glass.

 

"Pardon?"

 

"Your sisters."

 

Akane blinked at the sport coat and silver button down shirt Ranma wore. They suited him well, or at least they were less stifling than she expected. "Really?"

 

"Well..."  Ranma put his glass down and started cutting his appetizer. "Kasumi insisted I wear a tie."   He sighed and popped the dumpling into his mouth.

 

"And Nabiki?"  Akane asked with a bit more edge than she expected.

 

"Nabiki cared more about my shoes."  He chuckled.  "I do not understand the fascination."

 

"Tell me about it," Akane laughed. "Do you know how long Nabiki spent trying to get the right shoes for this dress?"

 

"Longer than you did getting the dress?"  Ranma slyly asked.

 

"I know!"  Akane agreed.

 

"Women,"  Ranma sighed.

 

Akane gave him an arch look.

"What?"  Ranma flushed and spurted. "I er....  I didn't mean to say you..."

 

Akane put  her hand on his. "Oh, calm down."   She then leaned back and took a sip of her own drink. "I suppose I should accept that even on a nice date you'll still be... you."

 

Ranma blinked. "Uh, thanks?" 

 

Akane laughed. "And here I was worried that you'd  wanted to go out with no reason other than 'a fancy date would be nice'."

 

"Worried?"  Ranma frowned.

 

"Given my sisters put you up to this..."  Akane started cutting into what was on her own plate.

 

"I think they're happy for us," Ranma said, taking Akane's hand.

 

"I guess that's some good to come out of you helping Nabiki."  Despite the ire in Akane's voice she did squeeze Ranma's hand back.

 

"It's nothing like that, we're working on a getting the cure better and well... it's not perfect but..."

 

Akane eyed him. "It just seems like it's taking a long time.  You've been working for half a year."

Ranma shook his head. "Only 5 months," he firmly stated.   "And it took her longer to even find the cure in the first place."

 

"And what's her interest?"  Akane said savoring the scent of the pork dumplings.

 

Ranma stated counting off with his fingers "Pops, Ryoga, Moose, Shampoo."

 

"She wants to cure all of you?"

"It's what she's been trying," Ranma shrugged. "I dunno how she thinks she'll make money off of 'em, but that's not really my thing."

 

"It's more than that," Akane stated.

 

"Do tell?"  Ranma asked before sipping more of his wine.

 

"It's not just you she's dragging around.  There's all those nights  she's going out a with these new friends. Hitting clubs I bet. She's doing some other new scam. I worry about her."

 

"Me too," Ranma admitted. "I'm getting sick of being her guinea pig," he said smoothly refilling his glass.   Internally he was pretty thankful he and Nabiki had bitten the bullet and gotten that apartment. 

 

He then looked embarrassed. "I'm sorry, would you like some too?" he asked.

 

Akane shook her head.  "No thanks. It's good though."  She frowned a bit.  Ranma wasn't drinking much,  this was barely his second glass, but still  his tolerance was really low.  Or at least it had been.

 

"Yes,  nice to indulge a bit,  but we can't lose sight of training,"  he  laughed gently placing the bottle back down. "And I must say you have been impressive with your work."

 

"Maybe it's because some pig-headed jerk finally admitted I was worthy of teaching," Akane teased.

 

Ranma looked guilty. "I'll admit it.  You were right.   But it did take you some time to get serious, and there's still more you can do."

 

"Like those late night meditation sessions?"  Akane scoffed.

 

"Focus is important,"  Ranma mildly said.

 

"Sitting on a rooftop staring into the night for a few hours?"  Akane glanced at the front door and sighed.   She knew there was a lot of tedium to marital arts, but sometimes Ranma went a bit too far.

 

"If you'd rather train than sleep.  Besides you were good at it a week ago when you came with."

 

Akane blinked at him. "I fell asleep, and almost fell out of a tree

 

"Ah bit you didn't fall,  much better than the time before that.  Think what you can do with more practice."

 

Akane shook her head. "This is weirder than fence-walking."

 

"Nonsense,  balance and focus are both important."

 

"At least I got you away from it tonight," Akane smiled.

 

Ranma coughed.  "Well there are more important things, than balance and focus."

"Aww," Akane smirked. "You're trying to flatter me."

 

"Is it working?"

 

"Clumsily," Akane admitted

 

"I aim to please," Ranma laughed.

 

After laughing with him, Akane looked pensive for a moment.

 

"Something wrong?"

 

"Oh, just thinking about the future,"

 

Ranma put down his glass.

 

"What'll we do after graduation?  I mean you don't seem to care much about the exams."

 

Ranma ran his finger over the rim of the glass. "To be honest... I kinda feel my future's pretty set ya know?"

 

"What teach marital arts?   Bum around like your father?"

 

"Well there is a certain dojo I might be marrying into,"  Ranma leaned forward.  "What about you?  What do you think I should do?  What do you want?  What are your plans?"

 

Akane flushed a bit. "Well...  I've got the same questions about my future.  Though I do think university is important."

 

Ranma allowed a nod

 

"I'm a bit surprised you're interested,"  Akane noted.

 

Ranma smiled. "As you said, we do have graduation coming next year.  We can see what it's doing to Nabiki now.  But we've got a future,"

 

Akane's lips quirked.  She was about to follow up when she saw Ranma glancing over towards the door.  The martial artist gave a tiny frown

 

He sighed.

 

"What's wrong?" Akane asked.

 

"By the hostess station,   careful look out of the corner of your eye. They'll notice you if you stare."

 

Akane did as instructed.  She saw Ukyou and Ryoga trying to chat with the hostess.   Ukyou seemed to be more forceful and strangely enough Ryoga was the one trying to keep her calm. "Oh...  think they mean trouble?" 

 

"You tell me," Ranma reached for his glass and decided not to. "Consider it a training exercise."

 

"Well...  they're looking suspicious but that doesn't mean much. They're arguing with the hostess."  Akane frowned. "Hrm...  neither is up to the dress code here.  Ryoga's understandable, but Ukyou should know better."

 

"Yes, she should."

 

Akane could detect a bit of disappointment in Ranma's tone.  "They're after us?"

 

Taking a slim notepad out of his sport coat, Ranma nodded. "I know Ukyou's been jealous."

 

"And Ryoga's acting weird.  Weirder than normal. What now?"

Pulling out a pen, Ranma leaned in. "You tell me, though I'd like to avoid a fight in the restaurant if at all possible," he said writing out a brief note.

 

"Oh?"

 

"No need to make the wait staff's life more difficult."

 

"Right," Akane discreetly suited the room "Then we need to get out of here, without them seeing us, or at least not until we can get some distance. "

 

"Where are the exits?"  Ranma asked slipping a few bills under the note he had just finished writing.

 

"Front by the hostess station.  Fire exit behind you, probably alarmed.  Kitchen door behind me.  And patio down to the side."  Akane glanced down.  "What are you writing?"

 

"A note to our waiter that we had to suddenly leave, family emergency, much apologies, no slight on the service," Ranma placed a salt cellar atop the note to hold it in.

 

 

"Uh right,"  Akane glanced around the restaurant. "Looks like Ukyou's getting sick of the run-around."

 

Nodding Ranma took one last sip of his wine. "What's next?"

 

"Next?"

He smiled. "Today's lesson: how to evade a two-man search."

 

Akane sighed. "But we're dressed up!"

 

The martial artist's face was impassive for a second, but then a smirk reappeared.


"Insufferable," she hissed.  "Fine the patio.  Let's go."

 

Ranma stood and took her by the arm. "Walk confidently, but not briskly.  You don't want to look like you're fleeing.  Oh and smile,"  he added before giving a mirthful laugh.

 

"Uh yes..."  Akane said as they slipped onto the patio.  She looked over the stone railing.  There was a garden fifteen feet below the patio.   At least it wouldn't be a hard jump.

 

Akane looked back and saw Ukyou and Ryoga were now prowling through the dining area.

 

"Get out of sight before you jump,"  Ranma quietly stated  as he led her down the far side of the patio as it wrapped around the building.

 

"And if they find us?" Akane asked.

 

Happily nodding to people at the outside tables, Ranma glanced over the edge of the patio. "If you have to fight in high heels, remember to put more weight on your toes."

 

Akane frowned.  Of course Ranma knew how to fight in heels,  Akane had seen the redhead do it before.  Ranma also knew how to fight in a bunny-outfit. Akane stopped and grumbled; this side of the patio dead ended in a leafy trellis. "I suppose we should jump," she sighed, looking at her dress.

 

"Allow me," Ranma said as he hopped the railing and deftly landed.

 

Some of the diners had noticed the young man's leap.  Akane gave a bashful smile. "Jealous ex-girlfirend," she mumbled before glancing over the side.   Ranma was already in position to catch her.

 

Sighing, Akane jumped.   As dates went, this was still in the upper half..

 

 

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

 

 

A poised blonde in a strapless white PVC dress sashayed up to the Golden Oak Club's bar.  Contended glossy lips complimented her deep blue eyes. Rich mocha colored skin practically glowed as she stopped before the bar.

 

Her thick golden tresses shone in the club's lighting and reached the middle of her back in a fluffed wave.  Tight and low cut, the dress exposed plenty of cleavage and the blonde found she had to sit with extra care given how it constricted around her thighs.

 

Smiling at the woman behind the bar, the blonde gently placed a blue pack of cigarettes onto the polished surface.  Her bracelet  made a metallic noise as it brushed against the edge of the bar.

 

Anya looked up at the blonde woman she was dripping in golden jewelry.  Her white dress had matching gold trim and even her spike heels had golden accents.  Anya herself was in a backless black cocktail dress with silver accents and a long skirt that was even tighter than the blonde's.

 

"Looking lovely, Goldie,"  Anya smiled.  "That dress is totally you."

 

"I know!" The blonde increased her grin to incandescent.  "Well, if you insist on giving me such a nickname," she purred.

 

"I'm sure your clients love it," Anya teased.

 

"Oh some, but many prefer plain-old  Raiko Kuga,"  the blonde demurely said.

 

Anya laughed. "And how is Fuwa-san?"

 

"Intrigued by new cigars. Why he's dying to try one of our Monte Cristos," the blonde said letting her tone become a bit triumphant.

 

"Good work Raiko-chan." Anya said while the blonde blushed. 

 

However the blush was easy to miss given all the cosmetics she wore to accent her appearance.

 

 "I'll get the sampler humidor,"  Anya bent down to take out a dark cedar box with a glass panel inset in the top.  "I guess the new... dress paid off,"  the brunette said with a meaningful pause, her gaze t the blonde's chest.

 

Ranma allowed her grin to slip a tiny big. "Oh?  Maybe it did," she allowed picking the humidor up with her ivory-tipped nails.

 

"You left your cigarettes,"   Anya said.

 

"Oh I don't smoke,"  the blonde gave a warm smile.

 

Anya raised an eyebrow and looked at the pack.  "Those are Blue Dahlias."

"Yes, most generous of Fuwa-san to purchase them."

 

"Well, if you insist,"  Anaya said as she smoothly slipped the pack off the top of the bar.  She noticed there was a thick little envelope banded to the side of the packet. "Are you sure?"

 

"Of course, they would be wasted on me. Better to give them to someone that can appreciate them." 

 

Anya bowed slightly.

 

"However," the blonde's eyes flashed. "I would appreciate a small favor."


"Of course."


"As you know I'm splitting rent with my good friend Naoko."

 

Anya nodded.  She knew those two shared an apartment.   She also surmised that Naoko had Raiko in a fair bit of debt.  Given Raiko had been working at the club for a bit over six months and was still in debt it had to be some serious money.

 

"I'm saving up for a surprise for her, and would appreciate a place to store the gift fund, away from prying eyes,"  the blonde said in an utterly sincere voice.


"Oh yes, I can make arrangements,"  Anya assured.  She could understand the debt being a sore spot for the blonde.    She didn't know how much  Naoko was siphoning off, but it had to be hurting the blonde's bottom line.

 

"You are a dear friend."  Ranma's smile seemed a bit more genuine to Anya's eye

 

"I'll keep your help in mind.  Whenever I can return some small favor. For a start I'll be sure to get another pack from Fuwa-san"

 

Anya bowed her head.  "And how are you handling the smoking lounge?"

 

The barest flicker of distaste crossed Ranma's elegantly, if a bit overly, made up face.  "I'm very thankful for your lessons."

 

"It's my pleasure," Anya assured.   Learning how to "smoke without smoking" was an important skill,  much like learning how to "drink without drinking".

 

As such both techniques shared many of the same tricks.  There was letting the cigarette hang on ones finger,  puffing on it only to keep it burning,  avoiding inhaling,  letting smoke drift out of the mouth.  And, of course, lighting a new cigarette before the old one finished.

 

There was also simply leaving it on the ashtray and doing something else that required one's hands: faking a drink was a classic way to double up.  Of course, Anya took the simple approach of actually being a smoker.

 

"You're right it is easy,"  Ranma gave a light laugh.  "Though I found I didn't even need to do that stuff,  as long as I focused on of Fuwa-san's cigar he hardly knew what I was doing."

 

Anya's lips quirked. "Oh?"

 

The blonde looked smug and tapped the humidor. " The way I leaned over to light his cigar, I could be smoking a bubble pipe and he wouldn't have noticed."

 

"That's how you do it, Goldie," Anya cheered.

 

Smug,  Ranma went back to the smokers lounge, letting her heels click and her hips sway.  "Pardon my delay,"  she breathily said as she slipped into the room.

 

A stout-bearish looking man Fuwa-san looked up from his paperwork. His grey eyes brightened.  "No apologies necessary,  what did you bring me, my dear?"

 

Mindful of the restrictions of her dress, the blonde carefully sat down.  "A selection that I'm sure you'll find something... enticing," she said with a soft slightly downcast gaze as she shifted her legs to press her knees together.

 

 

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

 

 

 

With the softest of creaks  from her white dress,  Ranma slipped into the dressing room chair. Pulling off her spike heels, she gave a long sigh and let her face relax.  Her lips were still in a slight smile, but it was no longer the radiant, dazzling expression she normally wore.

 

Sitting next to her was a young-looking woman in a lavender elegant gothic lolita dress.   All wide hazel eyes, sparkling bows and ruffles, and curled chocolaty brown hair  Kaori looked like a sweet, innocent princess. "How was your night, Raiko-chan?" she asked in a chipper, saccharine voice.

 

"Well, enough," Ranma said as she started pulling of her bracelets and necklaces. "Mr. Araki is solid  and Mrs. Akamaratsu is always a pleasure to talk with."

 

Kaori gave a light giggle as she stared removing her makeup. "Don't forget Mr. Fuwa in the smoking lounge."

 

"What about him?"  Ranma haughtily asked, cutting through the other girl's innocent act.

 

"He is handsome, no?"  Kaori teased.

 

The blonde paused and looked into her reflection.   The tanned woman in the mirror gave a sultry, almost hungry smile.  "If you like a big bulky brutes of a man," she breathily said.

 

"And to you?" the curly-haired woman asked.


"Why? Do you?" Ranma forced a dismissive shrug.  "I could see our more... muscular clients liking what you have to offer. Oh, my mistake, this is a no-touching club.  Shame no one can punish you."

 

Kaori gave a rich laugh that almost seemed genuine. "My Goldie,  it took you long enough."

 

The blonde simply arched her eyebrow and gave a smug smile.  She went back to her reflection and started brushing down her hair.

 

"It's just nice to see you... adapting,"  Kaori noted as she inspected her face.

 

"Oh?"

 

"Well when you started you didn't want to go into the smoker's lounge."

 

"I was worried about the smell getting into my hair,"  the blonde said.

 

"Of course," Kaori sweetly agreed.  "What changed?"

 

"I've been here six months."

 

"Yes, you're no longer the new girl."

 

"Oh, it's not that."

 

"Ah,"  Kaori nodded as she stood up. "You thought this was a temporary job.  Something to make ends meet and yet..."  Hazel eyes scanned the jewelry and shoes and makeup that had collected in front of the blonde.

 

"Would you mind unzipping?"  Kaori asked.

 

"Of course." Ranma stood and helped undo the back of the brunette's frilly dress.

 

"And how is your new apartment doing?"  Kaori asked, oh so innocently, as she stepped out of the garment and hung it from a padded hanger. "You share it with Naoko right?"

 

The blonde returned the smile. "Well, you know how expenses can get ahead of you.  Can you do me?" she asked turning around.

 

"Certainly,"  Kaori unzipped the blonde's skimpy white dress.

 

"I'm guessing you had a goal at six months, and you...  have difficulties?"  Kaori asked as she put on a pleated black skirt.

 

"I shouldn't say,"  Ranma said as she hung her own dress. As it was strapless and sleeveless that proved to be a bit complicated.   She ran a manicured hand over it.   Finding the dress had been...  fun.  It reminded her of the bunny-suit she wore to compete against Ukyou, but this was shinier, tighter, and came with a miniskirt.

 

Still happy, she then unclipped the lacy white bra she wore and  put it onto the counter and replaced it with a plainer, and smaller, grey one.

 

"And that's why you're now willing to wok in the smoking lounge, and why you're.." Kaori  glanced down at the 'helpers' nestled in the bra the blonde had just removed.

 

Ranma put on a grateful expression.  "Well yes this is a lovely job with wonderful coworkers, but I do have dreams that lay beyond here," she said, clasping her hands before her.

 

Kaori giggled.  "Putting it on a bit thick, Goldie?"

 

The blonde chuckled. "Please,  I play the beach blonde and you play the sweet schoolgirl.  We both do it a bit thick."  She pulled on a pair  of black tights and a long  silvery sweater dress.

 

"I don't know what you mean,"  Kaori faux protested as she finished putting on her street clothes.

 

Ranma sat back down before the mirror and started removing her eye makeup.   She then pouted and frowned as she wiped of the lipstick.  "Maybe you're right," the blonde admitted.

 

"Oh?"  Kaori asked as she adjusted and straightened her fancy dress and got it ready for bagging.

 

"Maybe my lips could use some work."

 

Kaori raised an eyebrow. "It would tie in the rest of your face, Goldie."

 

The blonde's pout grew. "Yeah, it would, but it'd be another expense.  I suppose I'd make it back but..."

 

"Well, there is another option,"  Kaori shrugged as she zipped the vinyl bag around her hanging dress.

 

"The other club Mistress Yamato runs?"

 

The brunette shrugged.  "Depends on what you really want.  At that club you'd make more money, but the work is harder and more....  well the hours are more demanding."

 

"More shifts?"

 

"It's a smaller more exclusive club.  There's a membership fee. Now that's split with the girls, but it means a client can reserve a time for you and the Boss will expect you to show up.  Even if it's not your night."

 

"Oh?" The blonde glanced back at Karoi  "But it pays more?" she asked applying a bit of light eyeliner and lipstick.

 

 

"Very much,  there's more expensive refreshments."  Kaori leaned in. "Even a little gift shop so the clients can buy perfume and order shoes and jewelry."

 

"And the catch?"  Ranma asked.  

 

"Well, know how we have a firm 'no touching' rule  here?"

 

"Ah,"  the blonde then shook her head.  "I thought Yamato-san didn't like love hotels."

 

"Hardly," Kaori giggled. "there's nothing like that going on.  Just if the client needs some hand holding... the girl can offer it.  

 

"Oh, I see," the blonde nodded, playing alone.

 

"But without the 'no touching' rule you may have to handle a client yourself,"  Kaori teased

 

Ranma had to keep from rolling her eyes. "I can handle that."

 

Kaori shrugged. "Sure, but you don't quite have the build.  Well...  maybe if you got some work on your lips, cheeks, and chin."

 

The blonde gave a light laugh. "Well your face is perfect.  So why don't you work there?"

Kaori leaned a bit closer. "Because I've already worked at the Silver Oak," she whispered into the blonde's ear. "I just stepped down because I didn't like the restrictive hours."

 

"Oh?"  Ranma  bowed her head. "Well thank you for the advice Kaori-chan."

 

"My pleasure,"   Kaori said as she shouldered her bagged dress. After boxing up the rest of her gear and cleaning the dressing room station, she gave a dimpled grin. "If do want to transfer and need someone to vouch for you to the boss I'll be happy to recommend you."

 

"How gracious."

 

"That is....  if you do something about those lips!'  Kaori teased and blew a kiss before flouncing out of the dressing room.

 

Nabiki entered just after the curly-haired woman left.  She wore a dark  evening gown with a blue silk sash and blue ornaments in her long glossy black wig.

 

"What was that about?"  she asked taking the dressing room seat Kaori had vacated.

 

"Recruiting,"  Ranma shrugged as she looked into her reflection.  The deep blue eyed blonde hungrily grinned back at her.  Frowning,  The blonde put down the lipstick tube and  slipped it into her purse.

 

"How much did you make?"  Nabiki asked as she took off her makeup.

 

"Oh enough," Ranma shrugged as she cleaned up her clothes, makeup and accessories to free up a vanity station for another girl.

 

"Cagy, I like that,"  Nabiki smiled as she finished clearing her face.

 

"I do learn, slowly but surely," Ranma said as she returned to help Nabiki out of her dress.

 

"After that double date a couple weeks back, I'd bet." Nabiki said as she finished changing.

 

"It wasn't a double date two loons crashed it,"  the blonde sighed.  It was funny,  Ryoga was easier for her to manage as Raiko than as Ranma.  Her hungry little smile returned.

 

"Still, they're getting antsy,"  Nabiki said as she slipped on a pair of shorts and a green blouse.   She then adjusted her wig and removed the ornaments.

 

"They've been quiet since then,"  Ranma said before slipping to her locker to put away a few items.  She slipped a grey purse over a shoulder and checked its contents.

 

"What about Kuno?"  Nabiki said after she caught up to the blonde.

 

"Kuno doesn't count," Ranma said as she looked at her face with a makeup compact.

 

Nabiki laughed.   "Feeling extra vain Raiko-chan?" she asked, noting the blonde's inspection. "Or did a contact slip."


"No everything's fine.  I'm just... never-mind." With a pout she closed the compact.

 

"What was Kaori recruiting for?" Nabiki asked as they exited the dressing room.

 

"Oh just another club,  but really she was..."

 

"She was criticizing your lips again?"  Nabiki laughed.


The blonde pouted.  "She may be right."

 

"You're being silly,"  Nabiki laughed as they walked to the rear exit.

 

"Tell me hers aren't better"

 

"Well yeah, they are. But so what?"  Nabiki shook her head and started chatting with the security guards on station.  She turned back to the blonde.  "Hey, Raiko-chan,  Ken says he'd be able to drive us back home in ten minutes."

 

"That'd be lovely,"  Ranma said giving a bright smile.


Soon they were joined by Hitomi, a tall woman with bright green eyes and silvery dyed hair and Noriko, a brunette with a pixie cut  and dark slate-grey eyes.  Both were in street clothes similar to Ranma and Nabiki's

 

The four lightly chatted before one of the gauds came and helped them into the waiting silver van.

 

"Noriko what do you use for foundation?"  Ranma asked as the van pulled away from the club.

 

The somewhat pale young woman laughed. "I'm not sure my color suits your complexion."

 

The blonde shook her head. "It's not that exactly that.   I'm looking for, let's call it, inspiration."

 

Noriko blinked. "You want makeup tips?"

 

Nabiki allowed herself to smirk at that.

 

"Goldie wants to make herself look older,"  Hitomi said, her green eyes flashing with mirth.

 

"Don't be so crass,"  the blonde huffed. "Is there anything wrong with looking more mature?"

 

Noriko made a study of the blonde's face. "Given how cute and innocent you look like without any makeup,  you do need the all help you can get."

 

The blonde put on a smile. "Kaori-chan's style is not for everyone."

 

Hitomi gave a little laugh. "Subtly put Raiko-chan. I suppose you were wise enough to not ask for her advice?" Twisting in her seat, she returned to studying the blonde's face.  "I'll have to think about it, but given what I've seen you do at the club I think you're doing everything I would."

 

Ranma pouted a bit.

 

"Be happy, Goldie,"  Nabiki grinned. "You just got complimented on your cosmetological skills."

 

Ranma bowed her head.  "I have learned from the best."

 

As the van slowed, Hitomi laughed.

 

"We're here,"  the guard said as he pulled in front of a hotel lobby.

 

Noriko raised an eyebrow as the two other girls got up.

"We live just around the block, and this road's on the way to the train station,"  Nabiki smoothly explained.

 

Noriko nodded.  She understood that some of her coworkers preferred... discretion going to and from work

 

The blonde and the ebony haired woman hopped out of the van and after pausing to causally check to see if they were followed strode right into the hotel lobby.

 

"Hitomi's right.  Taking Kaori's advice is a bad idea,"  Nabiki said as they crossed a long corridor  and went down a perpendicular hallway. 

 

"Oh yes,  Kaori is poison," Ranma readily agreed as she nodded to the doorman as they exited a secondary, smaller hotel lobby. This one opened to a different street.

 

The pair did another sweep and went down the  street.   Ranma casually looked a bit down the road,  the concrete and glass of their apartment building was just a bit further down and across the street.  "I'm a bit surprised she tried to appeal to money."

 

"Oh?"

 

Ranma nodded. "She'd have better time dangling that lure in front of you, Nao-chan."

 

Nabiki almost snorted as they crossed the road.  "Don't think she hasn't"

 

"My, my,"  the blonde shook her head as she entered the  polished tile and steel lobby of the apartment building.   The room was cold and bare.   Little more than an antechamber it had mail slots and a place to get out of the rain.  There was also a buzzer system on the far wall and a security keypad between the two pairs of elevator doors.


Glancing up at the camera in the ceiling, Ranma entered in their apartment number and her pin code.

 

"What are you thinking?"  Nabiki asked.

 

"That maybe your idea of sweet-talking building security isn't a bad idea," the blonde said as the keypad gave a happy chime and turned green.

 

"That's how you got the back door codes. Maybe we could put in our own cameras to watch our door but..."


"Yeah, yeah that costs more. So many expenses,"  Ranma sighed as the elevator chimed and opened.

 

"It wouldn't be that expensive,"  Nabiki assured.

 

The blonde was silent as they rode up to near the top of the building.   Getting off at the twentieth floor they went down a corridor dense with doors.    The carpeting and paint was well-maintained but the sterile feeling continued.    The building was less a place for living and more a place for storage and sleeping.

 

Nabiki took out a key and opened the door to a tiny studio apartment. Giving one final check of the corridor, Ranma closed it behind them and finally let her little smile slip away.

 

Across from the door was  kitchenette against one wall with a tiny balcony next to that.   The door to said balcony provided only one of two windows in the apartment.   The other was over the little kitchen sink.   An opposite corner was taken up by a compact bathroom.  Storage shelves lined the walls and clothing hung from racks.

 

There was a television hung on one wall and on either side of that were two plain mirrors with little plastic rolling dressers full of cosmetics.    It looked like the apartment two young women in the hospitality, service, or theater industry would split.


Ranma chuckled as she went to the kitchen to pour herself a glass of water.  It was an honest assessment.  That is what she and Nabiki were...   

 

Taking a sip she looked out the window.

 

"What's wrong?"  Nabiki asked as she pulled off her wig.

 

Ranma waved towards her blonde hair and tanned skin.

 

Nabiki gave her a look.  "You want to change back?"

 

"In a bit."

 

"And that's not what has you pensive is it?"

 

The blonde sighed.  "I was just thinking.  We've done so much...  these expenses are pushing back our timetable. I mean look at this place."

 

"This is as cheap as we could go, while..."

"Yes, while still being secure,"  Ranma put her glass down.  "I do like having a place to put everything, but... how long as we going to do this?"

 

Nabiki hung her wig on its stand. "That is a risk.  The longer we do this the more the odds are we'll be found out."

 

The blonde snorted. "Well, I'll be found out.  Not to be cold Nabiki, but no one would be that shocked if you were found out to be a hostess girl."

 

"I recall you were surprised," Nabiki smirked as she brushed her brown hair out.  It was a bit longer and could only generously be called a pageboy.

 

"I also laughed at you." Ranma shook her head. "No,  I'm thinking I need to make more money."

 

"You're not taking Kaori's suggestion are you?"

 

"Hardly,"  Ranma said as she rummaged in the cupboard for some biscuits to munch on.  "That second club sounds too good to be true,  but what if I could make more money and improve my disguise..."

 

Nabiki made a show of biting her lip.  Depending on what her... partner wanted, this could actually be used to draw Ranma in deeper, and thus give Nabiki more time to make money off of the blonde.  "But You've already got new eyes, hair and skin color. And...

 

Nabiki glanced at Ranma's chest.

 

Ranma blushed. "Yes, yes I've started taking some help down there. What of it?  I'm surprised more of us girls don't do it at the club."

 

"Not every client is into larger breasts,"  Nabiki shrugged. "But...   well, I'm not sure what more you can do."

 

Ranma ate a couple biscuits.  "Well..."

 

"And don't tell me Kaori suggested something."

 

Ranma pouted. "Well,  Anya suggested it too."

 

"Oh well, Anya's not a terrible influence a all." Nabiki laughed.  "I mean she taught you how to smoke."

"Fake smoke." Leaning on the counter Ranma crossed her arms. "And didn't she teach you too?"

 

Nabiki nodded.  "Fair enough."

 

Ranma glanced her watch.

 

"Now do you want to go back?" Nabiki asked.

 

"If you can."

 

Nabiki pulled out the little medallion and said the incantation.

 

The blonde's form shimmered and her skin paled as her hair deepened and turned bright red.    Going to her mirror, the newly minted redhead removed the last of her makeup and the contact lenses that darkened her azure eyes.  She pulled off the last of her jewelry and cleared off her nails.

 

"You're not staying the night?"

 

"I was thinking of getting some training in,"  Ranma said as she stripped out of her tights and sweater dress.   Both were hung up and she took out a loose fitting Chinese top and matching black pants.

 

"You're actually doing that late night meditation stuff?"

 

"Hey it's good practice," the redhead stated.

 

Nabiki rolled her eyes.  "You want the medallion on or off?"

 

"Leave it off for now," Ranma said as she pulled her hair back in a rough ponytail and slipped on a black ball cap.  "I'm gonna leave here in girl form and I wanna be able to change back."

 

Nabiki nodded.

 

"You want me to tell Akane or Kasumi anything, in case they ask where you went?" Ranma asked.

 

Nabiki pulled out a futon.  "Nah, I told them I was spending the night with a friend."

 

Standing by the door, the redhead laughed. "You sure Umeko will lie for you?"

 

"With the amount you spend on your hair and tan?"

 

"True,  that shade of gold doesn't come cheap. Night," she said before slipping out of the apartment.  Knowing the codes to the maintenance corridors and service entrances, it was easy for the redhead to slip out of the building.

 

She wasn't lying when she told Nabiki she was going to do some training before heading home. Ranma simply avoided mentioning that she was going to concentrate on meditating on a solution to this situation.  She had a few ideas; she was just... unsure of the risk.

 

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

 

Ranma nodded slightly as the teacher droned on.  He occasionally made a note on a piece of paper and flipped to a new page in the study book as required.

 

It was another "mixed blessing" that came from working at the Golden Oak.  After over half a year Ranma was quite capable at pretending to be engaged. Feigning interest came with the job. And a teacher was easier to fool than a client willing to spent plenty of yen.

 

On the upside, it meant that Ranma could easily look like he was paying attention in class, but it meant he couldn't do that and take a quick nap.

 

He exhaled and scanned the board.  It was a shame as he found most schoolwork horrifically tedious. Getting out from Nabiki's debt was not the only thing he was counting the days until it was over.

 

Sure, English had some utility, or might add another skill to use at work.

But that was slow going as Hinako Ninomiya was crazy, even by Furinkan High standards.  Not that she had even been in for the last week.

 

Though Ranma felt a bit of sympathy for her missing teacher.  Hinako had a chi imbalance that caused her to shift between two forms.  One was a tall, shapely somewhat vain woman.  The other... was a little girl, and a bit of a brat at that.

 

Ranma did wonder which was the "real" Hinako, especially since the teacher was more than willing to use her sensuality to manipulate males.  It helped her keep delinquent students in line.

 

All in all, it was something Ranma was now... familiar with.

 

Running almost on auto-pilot, Ranma let the class run out.  It was time he could have been spend training or even out with Akane.  Not that she was terribly inclined to skip school.

 

The bell rang and the teacher laboriously dismissed the class.

 

After collecting his things, Ranma stood up.

 

Clasping her briefcase closed, Akane walked over from her desk.  "I'm not even going to ask if you're worried about tomorrow."

 

"Our date's day after tomorrow," Ranma rubbed his chin. "What's to worry about that?" he asked catching Ukyou getting up from her seat.

 

"The test!" Akane cried.

 

"Ah that," Ranma playfully bowed his head.

 

"You should be worried about your grades."

 

Ranma shrugged. "I'm doing better." 

 

Akane sighed.  "Only compared to how horrible you were last year. It's still a big deal"

 

He shifted his footing slightly. "I suppose."  Truth be told,  feigned interest did produce

better results than disinterest.

 

"I just worry," Akane said. "You need to take it seriously."

 

"Fair point," Ranma nodded. "I mean you're taking school and  your training seriously.

Maybe I should put equal effort into both too."

 

Akane shook her head. "Please, I know you wouldn't do that."

 

"Just be glad Ranma comes into school every day," Ukyou said as she walked over.

 

"Hey Ucchan," Ranma smiled.

 

"You are pretty obsessive Ranchan," Ukyou said.

 

Ranma kept a straight face. "Well, it is important."

 

Akane did not. "What?  You're one to talk."

 

Ukyou flashed the Tendo girl a glare.

 

Ranma put up his hands and flashed Ukyou a grin. "I dunno,  you do seem pretty focused on okonomiyaki."

 

Ukyou's expression softened.

 

"You might even say it's your life's work."

 

"Well, I am the best at cooking... better than some can say," Ukyou sniffed at Akane before walking off.  "And some of us have jobs to get too," she added looking over her shoulder.

 

Akane shook her head. "What was that about?"

 

"I was trying to keep her from starting a fight."

 

Akane chewed her lip. "Well... okay."

 

"Besides, she really is obsessed with the stuff."

 

"It is her job," Akane allowed.

 

"I'm guessing you don't want to go there for our date?" Ranma teased

 

Akane playfully hit him on the shoulder.

 

"Lunch then?"

 

She hit him again.

 

"Okay, okay," Ranma laughed.

 

"Besides it's not like we can skip class to have a long lunch."

 

"Oh?"

 

"We've got a substitute teacher for English today. I guess the principal finally realized Hinako-san has been absent."

 

"No more free period after lunch?  Dang" Ranma sighed.  "But speaking of lunch..."

 

"Oh, I'll be eating with Yuka and Sayuri,  but thanks for the invitation."

 

Ranma chuckled. "Well, I technically didn't ask you..."

 

"Just take the compliment," Akane said with faux exasperation.

 

"So, I'll have to eat alone!  Oh the horrors,' Ranma sighed.

 

Akane rolled her eyes. "You're a bad actor."

 

"You should know, being the theater buff and all,"  he agreed.

 

"Later!"  Akane said as she went off to find her friends.

 

Ranma waved until she was out of sight.  Shrugging, he slipped out of the classroom and looked for a quiet spot where he wouldn't be disturbed. The back of the library might work.

 

 

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

 

"Class, I'll be your new teacher,"  a woman confidently said as she strode into the classroom, her heels clicking on the floor.   She wore a charcoal skirt with bronze pinstripes, a bronze silk  blouse and a dark jacket with matching accents.

 

She adjusted her gold-framed glasses giving a teasing smile. "Miss Ninomiya told me so much about you.  I hope I can fill in her place," she purred striding to the desk.

 

Akane nearly gasped at the substitute teacher her skirt was even shorter than Hinako's and her blouse was scandalously tight.  Worse the blonde hussy was wearing high heels: shoes inside the classroom.

 

Leaning on the front of the desk, the woman crossed her  ankles, showing off long tanned legs.  Glossy lips pulled into a bright smile as she leaned forward.  "My name is Raiko Kuga, but you can call me Miss Kuga," she promised her dark, deep blue eyes sparkling behind her glasses.

 

"Yes, Miss Kuga," the class repeated.

 

Feigning disappointment, the blonde shook her head. "Your accents could be better.  I see many of you will need some personal, tutoring. Starting with..."  she lazily reached out and pointed a manicured finger at one of the students.

 

Looking down the glossy talon Akane froze, and stared into the blonde's deep eyes.

 

As the woman prowled forward the other students and desks faded until it was only the two of them.

 

Placing her hands on the desk, Miss Kuga leaned forward looming over Akane. "Now, Miss Ninomiya said I might have to give delinquent students... special attention," she said as she pulled off her glasses.

 

Looking into the blonde's ultramarine-blue eyes the Tendo girls' breath stopped.

 

Miss Kuga lowered her head and kissed the girl.   Their lips met, parted and Kuga let her tongue slip out. After the embrace she twisted and sat down on the desk, crossing her tanned thighs in front of  Akane's gaze.

 

"Well,"  Miss Kuga gave a breathy sigh. "I suppose that's a good first lesson."

 

Licking her lips, Akane gazed up at the tanned blonde. "One question sensei."

 

"Go on," Miss Kuga smiled indulgently.

 

"Why are you dressed up, Ranma?"

 

The blonde gave a soft laugh.  "I'm not Ranma," she said with utter confidence.

 

Akane smirked.  "Really? You think you can just put on a wig and some lipstick and no one would figure it out?"

 

The tanned woman huffed.  "It's not a wig, and..."

 

"And what? It worked on Ryoga?" Akane laughed. "I'm not an idiot." She ran a hand up the blonde's thigh until she tugged at the end of hers skirt. "But I'm not dressed up as some kind of pervert."

 

The blonde's smile slipped.

 

Keeping her smirk, Akane leaned back and crossed her arms. "What happened to you Saotome?"

 

"I..."  The woman blinked.  Her lies and methods boiled away under Akane's glare.

 

Everything went black and Ranma jerked up with a start.  He winced a bit and stretched at the library table.  Catching his breath he paused,   he was seated in the far end of the school library's stacks, in a somewhat private section.

 

As he listened to see if his awakening drew anyone's attention he frowned.   It wasn't quite the most disturbing "girl dream" he'd ever had.   The ones involving multiple Kunos swimming around his girl form when he first moved to Nerima still toped that list.

 

But having Akane find out about Raiko Kuga as a nightmare.   Shaking his head, Ranma checked the time using his phone, sighed, and got up.  It looked like his lunch break was over.

 

End ch3

 

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.