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Obligations: Chapter 2

 

"Miyuki – it's time for me and Ranma to practice. Would you like to join us?" Akane hovered in Nabiki's door.

Looking up from the book she was reading, Miyuki appeared interested.

"Martial Arts," Akane explained.

Nabiki put down her pen and turned in her chair, "Sis – Miyuki's shoulder."

"Oh!" Akane put a hand to her mouth, looking for all the world like Kasumi as she did so. "I totally forgot! I'm sorry."

Miyuki laughed, "If one doesn't p'practice when one is inj—hurt, then when bandit'ts attack, one will n'not know how to fight."

"Very true," Nabiki agreed, and picked up her pen again, turning the page in her history book. Miyuki put the book she'd been reading back on Nabiki's shelf and followed Akane out.

 

"You'r're g'g'ood!" Miyuki exclaimed admiringly, her eyes bright.

Akane wiped her brow and grinned, "Would you like to spar for a bit?"

Ranma came out of his corner, "Akane, Miyuki's shoulder…"

Miyuki treated him with the same speech she'd given Akane earlier, adding, "I know how f'far to g'g'g… my limits. But one m'must prac'ctice. I'm not't a nat'tural like you t'two. I only figh't't 'cause it's not safe to be alone."

Both the Martial Artists gave that statement its due in respect and truth. Miyuki walked out on the mat and bowed to Akane, who blinked in surprise, then she grinned, "We're not much on formality, here." Miyuki shrugged very slightly, conveying, 'true, but one keeps up the forms when one is a visitor'.

Ranma moved out to the spectator spot by the door to watch them. Sitting down, he decided that Miyuki had been accurate on her evaluation – she wasn't a natural, but she knew all the right tricks for defense. Her attack was much weaker, but Ranma also remembered her staff (which wasn't with her at the time) and figured that she did better with it than without. What really surprised Ranma, though, was Akane. He'd always known she was a Martial Artist, and well-worthy to inherit the Tendo Dojo, but… somehow he'd lost sight of it. He had gotten used to sparring with her, or seeing her with Shampoo, and he forgot that he and Shampoo were really the best. Akane wasn't up to their standards, but that didn't make her incompetent. Not in the least. Watching her now, Ranma was reminded of the first time he'd met her – that first day of class, when Akane had fought her way through thirty-four ardent suitors, and how she did that every day – and then would defeat Kuno as well. At the time, he'd thought Kuno might have let her win. Now, though, he didn't think so. She was, as Miyuki had said, 'good'. And as regards to teaching, better than himself. Ranma noted the way Akane adapted her punches and kicks to what Miyuki could handle. How she contained her strength and fire to what Miyuki would match. How very, very cute she was…

"Bweee."

Ranma blinked, then looked over, "Oh, hi, Mr. P. I don't know if your timing is good or bad." The small black pig turned to him, obviously puzzled. "Never mind, Mr. P."

Akane broke off the spar, "P-chan! You've been gone for weeks!" She approached the pig and held out her arms. The pig jumped into them and Akane hugged him.

Miyuki's eyebrows were about climbing off of her head as she watched this. She looked to Ranma, who explained, "That's Akane's pet, P-chan. He comes and goes around here. Shows up when you least expect him, then takes off just as abruptly."

P-chan glared at him.

Miyuki grinned, "J'jjust like a cat."

"Hell, no! Not like a cat!" Ranma shouted, shuddering in revulsion.

Akane and P-chan stepped back in surprise. Miyuki tilted her head to one side, studying Ranma, "Phobia?"

Taken aback, Ranma sputtered for a moment before asking, "Is it that obvious?"

Miyuki shook her head, grinning at him. Interpreted, it meant, 'only to me.' Ranma sighed in relief.

Putting the pig down and then standing back up, Akane spoke to P-chan, "We haven't finished our practice yet, so you be a good boy and stay here with Ranma." The black pig sat down on his haunches, nodding and looking up at Akane with adoring eyes. She turned to Miyuki, "Ready?"

"Umm…" Miyuki hesitated, "D'do you k'know a ttttt'tech—" she stopped and grimaced.

"Technique?" Ranma put in.

She nodded and continued, "Call'lled 'Three Blind Mice'?"

Akane shook her head, "It doesn't sound familiar…"

"Where the hell did you learn that?" Ranma was standing as soon as he heard the name.

"Ranma, watch your language!"

But Ranma ignored Akane, waiting for Miyuki's reply. She obliged him, "An old man told mmmme about it. Said it't was all the r'r'rage among young r'ruffians."

Grimacing, Ranma walked out to them, "It is." He gestured to Akane, "Scenario." Obediently, Miyuki moved to where P-chan was still sitting, and Akane stayed where she was.

Ranma sauntered towards Akane, "Hey, there. What's happening?"

"Wouldn't you like to know!" Akane dropped into a fighting stance.

Ranma stopped and frowned, "You're suppose to act normal."

Akane straightened, "That was normal!"

Looking up to the ceiling, Ranma said, "Oh yeah. Okay, then react as Nabi… Uh, Kasum… uh… Fine then. React as Yuka would." He named Akane's friend from school.

"Okay," Akane took a moment to think, then said, "Excuse me, sir? I think you've mistaken me."

Ranma continued towards her, and Akane backed off slightly, but not much. As soon as he got within arms reach, his left hand shot out in a blur to touch Akane's throat lightly, while his right grazed her hand as he spun to the side and suddenly was standing behind her.

Akane touched her throat lightly, then turned to face him, "What the hell was that?"

"That was the 'Three Blind Mice'. It's not a Martial Arts Technique – it's a…" he glanced at Miyuki, "young ruffian's guide for stealing necklaces and rings."

Miyuki touched the medallion at her throat and laughed in private amusement.

Akane only spared her one puzzled glance, "Where on earth did you learn it, Ranma?"

"I knew someone who fell for it. I learned it to teach her how to avoid it."

"Which is?"

"Best way is to avoid the situation."

"Oh, thank you very much, Ranma."

He shrugged, "Well, it is. Don't let yourself be approached by strange guys. Walk in lighted areas. When approaching a corner or car, check all the hidden spots and don't walk over blind – leave yourself room to move. If alone, stay in a crowd. Always keep one hand on your purse or pack. Check the inside of the car before getting in, especially the back seat. – All those do much more to keep a person safe than any fancy technique."

Akane blinked. Miyuki and P-chan nodded in agreement.

"But if you want something fancy…" Ranma and Akane started to spar in good earnest, mostly going over defense moves.

Miyuki sat down next to P-chan, and absently held out her hand for him to sniff while she watched Ranma and Akane. P-chan regarded her suspiciously for a long moment, then decided to act like a pig and go ahead. He kept a wary eye on her as he did so. Miyuki grinned without looking down, and slowly moved her hand until she was scratching him behind the ears. P-chan gave a startled blink, not knowing whether to run or to stay. But she had the spot exactly right, and such nice, gentle hands… P-chan leaned into her, demanding that she switch to the other ear. Still without looking down, Miyuki did so.

After a while, with no let up on Akane and Ranma's part, Miyuki left off petting P-chan to stretch out. She loosened the wrap holding her right arm tight and experimentally moved her shoulder. Apparently satisfied, she left off the wrap. Then she reached back down for P-chan, looking at him with all of her attention for the first time.

Expecting another nice ear-rub, P-chan let out a protesting squeal as he was grabbed up, not roughly but firmly, and held in a tight one-handed grip. He kicked out and raised his eyes to see what the girl was doing. But she wasn't looking at him… exactly… Her eyes were riveted on his yellow and black bandanna, and the hand that wasn't gripping him was gently touching the cloth. His eyes darted to Akane in fright. She and Ranma had stopped their spar and were watching them in amazement. P-chan squealed again in embarrassment and anger. He kicked again, trying to loosen the hold on him. But the girl didn't even seem to notice his struggles, her mouth curved up in a strange smile as she studied the bandanna.

Akane walked forward, more puzzled than anything. Miyuki noticed her approach and suddenly realized what she was doing. "Oh!" She carefully set P-chan down on the ground, who took off at a dead run for Akane, who automatically held out her hands for him to jump into. Tears were streaming down the pig's cheeks. Miyuki blushed red, "I'm sorr'r'ry. Didn't mean to f'f'frig't upset the pig." She stood up and regarded P-chan with not a little bafflement obvious in her eyes. She reached out a hand to gently touch the bandanna again. P-chan noticed and burrowed deeper into Akane's embrace, burying his head in her chest.

"Oh, honestly, Mr. P." Ranma reached out and plucked P-chan from Akane, holding him loosely by the neck. P-chan instantly snarled and swung around to try and bite his hand. Wise to this maneuver, Ranma didn't let him.

Akane hastily said, "I think we're done with practice for the night. Ranma, you might as well keep P-chan with you – Miyuki is staying in my room tonight, so he can't sleep there."

Miyuki's already wide and puzzled eyes switched focus at this statement, silently saying 'why can't a pig sleep with us'?

"Right, then," Ranma spoke hastily to distract Miyuki, absently swinging the pig, "Then I'm off to the bath. See you tomorrow morning."

"Who said you could have first bath!" Akane stood with her hands on her hips. "Honestly! Men!" She glanced to Miyuki, "Oh well. It won't be worth taking after he uses it."

Miyuki's mouth twitched up in a grin. The two girls laughed, and then they headed into the house to get ready to sleep.

 

"What the hell was that all about, Ryoga?" Ranma tossed the pig in the hot bath, while he gathered up the soap to scrub himself off. "Oh, that's cold!" He shivered in his girl-form as he turned on the shower. There was no way to confirm it, of course, but he was privately sure that he'd never been as sensitive to cold when he was a guy all the time.

Ryoga rested his arms on the edge of the tub, "I have no idea – who was that?"

"A girl I met today – her name's Miyuki, and she comes from a small village in ----. She's a nice kid – a Healer. But she sure seemed interested in your bandanna."

Guiltily, Ryoga ran a hand over his headband. Then he put it down, "Don't change the subject, Ranma! A girl you met today… Hah! I saw the way you two looked at each other!"

"Oh for…" Ranma stepped over the edge of the tub and ducked under the water, coming back up as a guy again. Ryoga moved out of the tub and started scrubbing with the abandoned soap. Ranma leaned back, resting his head against the wall, "I was carrying home a plant for Kasumi from Dr. Tofu—"

Half-way through the recital, Ranma had to lean out of the tub to turn off the cold water from the shower. The pig shook itself, then hopped back into the bath.

"So you're saying you never met her before?"

Ranma rolled his eyes, "Considering the way she reacted to your bandanna, shouldn't that be my question? Where have you been, anyhow?"

Ryoga leaned back, "Well, the first half, I was in Kofukuji."

"That's the place with all the Buddas, isn't it? I thought you were Zen."

A shrug conveyed indifference. Then Ryoga quoted, "Autumn's colors dropping from branches in masses of falling leaves, / Cold clouds bringing rain into the crannies of the mountains: / Everyone was born with the same sort of eyes-- / Why do mine keep seeing things as Zen koans?" He cleared his throat, "I'm not anything – I just like Zen poetry." He thought a moment, "Flowers falling even as we turn our admiring gaze, / While weeds keep springing up despite our chagrin."

"No – you just like depressing poetry!"

Ryoga chuckled, Ranma having hit the point on the nose.

"And the second?"

"Huh?"

"Where were you after Kofukuji?"

Ryoga grimaced, "Swarms of mosquitoes-- / but without them, / it's a little lonely. I'm not actually sure where I was. I think it was one of the smaller islands. There were rivers and streams and lakes… I spent most of my time as a pig, and the rest trying to find hot water!"

Smothering a laugh before it even got to his eyes, Ranma squeezed out the towel and put it back over his head. Conversation lapsed as they relaxed in the steam from the hot water. Eventually, Ranma stood up, "Ah, well. Have school tomorrow, better get to bed." He dried himself off and looked at Ryoga who was still in the tub. "Did you want to spend the night with us as yourself? There's an extra pallet in the room Pop and I are using."

Ryoga shook his head, "I better not with a guest around." He sighed and also got out, turning on the shower. The hand-held facet dropped to the ground, spraying the room.

"Hey!" Ranma grabbed it and turned off the water, looking down at his girl-form in disgust. "Thanks a lot, Ryoga!" He stepped back into the tub and out again. The small black pig laughed at him as Ranma picked up the towel again.


 

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