Comes the Cold Dragon

Don Granberry

Chapter 6b


Most of the characters in this piece and the setting for it, were conceived of by Rumiko Takahashi for her Ranma1/2 series of Manga. All such characters and the setting are the property of Takahashi-san and her licensees. All other characters in the piece are purely fictional and any resemblances to actual persons living or dead, are purely coincidental.


In the process of writing this piece, I discovered that I would have to make rather peculiar use of the Japanese word "ryuu" which means "dragon" in English. Fortunately, Japanese has a handy synonym for "ryuu." It is "tatsu." Unlike the English terms sometimes used in lieu of the word "dragon," such as "wyrm" ("worm" is also used on occasion) or occasionally, "leviathan," tatsu means dragon and nothing else. You will understand all of this as soon as you run across my usage of it in the story.

Also, prior to Japan's adoption of the metric system they used a number of units surprisingly similar to the English units. I will be using two of them in this part of the story. One unit is the "shaku," equal to 11.9" or 30.513 cm. Each shaku is divided up into ten units called "sun" (pronounced "soon.") These units of measure are still used for certain things, particularly when dealing with one's own "kamae" or "distancing" and when talking about the sizes of traditional weapons.

One of Ukyou's favorite epithets is "aho." Other characters use this as well, including Ranma, but Ukyou uses it more often than the rest. "Aho" is generally translated as stupid, but it carries some connotations that are rather stronger than "stupid." It falls more into the category of the English, "dumbass."

Pantyhose Tarou uses the word "okama" as an epithet for Ranma. I have seen this translated as "cross-dresser" and "fem-boy." Neither translation does this epithet justice. Rather than use a false translation, or commit the sin of political error, I have opted to simply use the Japanese word without explication, thus allowing readers to infer for themselves what the term means.

One final note. Unless you really can do the Kachuu Amaguri- ken, don't try any of this stuff at your local tavern. Such an experiment could have a singularly adverse effect on your health.

Ranma jogged, rather than sprinted towards the school. He wanted to arrive there well warmed up, not winded.

(We'll start with the Umisen-ken. I wanna get Nabiki out of the way before we whip his ass.)

(Okay, Saotome, but I want the first real pass at him!)

(Believe me, I would love to do it that way, but he's got a at least a two sun reach on our male half! He's gotta have at least three sun on our girl half, maybe four!)

(Yeah, but you know how he likes to stick his left out, then tries to surprise us with his right?)

(Oh, I see what you're up to! Then if we block his right fist with our elbow just below his knuckles...)

(He's big time hurt and it will slow him down a bunch.)

(Just be sure you use our elbow and not our head, okay? This guy can hit!)

(I know that, Saotome! But once we've got his arms good and sore, we can go to work on his legs.)

(Hey, don't pass up a shot at his nose if you get it. He's too good to play with, Red.)

(Okay. Then the first time I'm in under his guard, you be ready to take over and surprise him with the extra reach.)

(You got it! Sounds like enough plan for now to me, Red. We don't wanna get locked into any one thing.)


Ranma slowed as he neared the school, being careful to stay behind the walls. Once he was near the athletic field, he jumped up to get a brief peek over the wall.

(She doesn't look hurt, Saotome.)

(Yeah, I saw. So far, so good. Ready?)



Ranma performed all the "ingei", or hand motions necessary to invoke the Umisen-ken, then jumped over the wall.

"You're hurting my arm!" Nabiki shouted at Tarou.

"Aw shutup, witch! I haven't started hurting you, yet."

"You'd be well advised to let me go, you know."

"Yeah? What makes you say so?"

"The archers."

"Archers!" Tarou said, sounding alarmed. "Where?"

"You mean you haven't spotted them, yet? There are at least two of them on station by now, possibly as many as four."

Tarou scanned the crowd now gathering around the soccer field and spotted one of the archers Nabiki was talking about. The tall, lanky boy had an arrow nocked, but was not yet pointing it in his direction.

"Call 'em off, you witch!"

"I can't," Nabiki said.

"What do you mean, you can't? Call 'em off right now or I start breaking your fingers early!"

"Do that and you'll find yourself bristling like a porcupine!"

Tarou's answer was to twist Nabiki's arm up a little higher behind her back.

"Ow!" Nabiki screamed. "That hurts!"

Tarou's danger sense immediately informed him that Nabiki had not been lying. There had to be at least three archers within bow shot, probably four, all of them now aiming at him.

"So how come you can't call 'em off?" Tarou growled.

"They don't work for me!" Nabiki said, blinking back her tears. "There are people around here who have a vested interest in my well-being."

"So they'd risk hitting you just to get me, huh?" Tarou asked with a sneer. "What kind of idiot do you take me for?

"Don't be a fool! Ouch! There isn't much risk to me at this range. The poorest shot in the group is second dan Heki-ryu. You will die if you hurt me!"

Tarou looked around hoping to spot the hidden archers, then sensed a swift, unseen movement. Another half-second later he realized that he no longer held a hostage. Nabiki was gone and his right forearm was throbbing painfully. Thus preoccupied, it took him several more seconds to realize that he was also standing in the middle of Furinkan's soccer field without a single stitch of clothing on his body. The crowds gathered around the field began to cheer and laugh.

Sixty meters away, near the edge of the field, Ranma broke the Umisen-ken and thus became visible to everyone in the area. He unfurled the furoshike with an adroit flourish, and suddenly, Nabiki Tendo was standing in front of him. The crowd went wild with applause.

"You've been chasing Happosai around too much, Saotome!" Nabiki said with a growl.

"Oh...uh...Sorry, Nabiki," Ranma said as his face turned a little pink, "Would ya mind puttin' these on my tab? I don't think I'm gonna get back in good shape."

"I had an extra pair in my purse!" Nabiki said as she put her hands on her hips. "If you had just thought to ask!"

"Ah ... gee ... I ... "

"Haven't you still got some work to do, Saotome?" Nabiki asked.

"Yeah ... ah ... look ... I ..."

"Just don't tease me like that again unless you're going to please me, Ranma."

Ranma blanched, then turned and sprinted towards the fuming Pansuto Tarou. The air around him darkened as he went, causing a cloud of mist to form around him, then suddenly changed into his girl form. Nabiki, having had a great deal of practice watching ungodly fast martial artists engaged in furious combat, noticed that he changed forms well before the mist closed in around his male form. Chills ran up her back.

"I wonder if he even noticed?" Nabiki muttered aloud, not realizing that her cohorts and minions had just arrived at her side.

"Noticed what, Boss?"

"Are you all right, Boss?" another asked.

"What's it like being rescued by Ranma, Nabiki-san?"

"Not bad," Nabiki said with a cold smile, "It beats the living daylights out of being held hostage."

The girl watched as Nabiki's face reddened slightly and smiled to herself.

After what can only be described as an interminably long and sickening ride, the paddy wagon stopped, then backed up a few meters, then stopped again. The driver got out and banged on its side with his fist.

"Okay," the sergeant said in a loud voice, "We're here. Open both the back doors, Shirikawa."

Shirikawa unlocked, then swung both the heavily armored doors open, only to be greeted by the scene of a high school soccer field. Swarms of students and other local people were seated around the field's edge. In the middle of it, a deliciously cute redhead was squaring off for what looked like an impending fight with a tall, lanky, and very naked gaijin.

"Shouldn't we arrest that kid?" Ohga asked.

"You don't do nothin' you ain't told ta do, Ohga!" the sergeant shouted.

Shirikawa was so stupefied by all this that Ohga found it necessary to pull him out of the way of the armed officers as they slowly backed away from the old man wearing the heavy chains. All of them backed down out of the truck, taking great pains not to trip, or to let their sights stray away from the old man. The old man shuffled forward tiredly until the sergeant barked for him to freeze.

"Now don't make another move, old man!"

"I won't!" the old man responded, then gave the sergeant an evil grin. "What's the matter with you guys? I'm just a worn out old panty thief, not Hannibal Lecter!"

This last was greeted with a grim silence, as the uniformed officers made a show of carefully re-drawing their beads. The old man heaved a sigh of exasperation, then looked around.

"Sweeto! It's Ranma! And bless my soul, he's fightin' Pansuto Tarou!"

"Here, put some pants on!" Onna-Ranma said as he threw Nabiki's wadded up pantyhose at Tarou. The bundle of fine brown cloth hit the taller boy in the chest and he caught it without thinking.

"You look like a real jerk, standin' around naked in public!" Onna-Ranma added.

Tarou held the hosiery by the thumb and forefinger of his right hand, allowing it to unroll until one leg of it fell onto the wet grass.

"You are going to suffer for this one, Okama!" Tarou hissed through grinding teeth.

Onna-Ranma batted his eyelashes at Tarou and giggled.

"Where are my clothes, asshole!" Tarou shouted loud enough to create an echo.

"Here they are, Pansuto!" Onna-Ranma said in his cutest, girly-girl voice, then threw Tarou's clothes on the ground between them. "It's not like you have that much to cover up, you know."

"Oh, ha-ha!" Tarou said as he pulled on his pants. "I am gonna whip your ass, then I'm gonna hump you until you start likin' it!"

"With that little thing?" Onna-Ranma asked, striking one of his more infamous, fold-out poses.

"You are going to suffer, plenty, you little okama!" Tarou said angrily as he pulled on his shirt.

"If you can beat me, you can eat me, Tarou," Onna-Ranma said, then batted his baby blues at Tarou again. "I'll even lay down and spread my legs for you."

"Damn right you will!" Tarou bellowed as he launched a hard, left jab at Onna-Ranma's nose.

(Here comes the left, Red!)

(I see it!)

Onna-Ranma shifted her head slightly to the left allowing Tarou's jab go by, then used the chestnut fist on the inside of Tarou's left arm, just above the elbow. This meant of course that Onna-Ranma was spending valuable time in the path of Tarou's follow- up punch, a hard right-cross. Onna-Ranma had planned to block this second punch, which Tarou invariably threw in the opening of a fight, with her elbow by sticking it up just high enough for Tarou's fist to connect, but connect between the first and second knuckles of middle and ring fingers. Onna-Ranma's elbow was the perfect sized striking instrument for such a ploy.

(Ow! You promised me you'd use our elbow for that!)

(There wasn't time, Saotome! At least now no one can say we don't use our head!)

(We're still seein' stars!)

(Yeah, so what? Pansuto's hoppin' around holdin' his hand.)

(Well don't just stand somethin'! Do there!)

Onna-Ranma ran inside the distracted Tarou's guard and hammered his ribs just beneath his left armpit. He went down. Onna- Ranma danced back and waited.

(You want to stomp him while he's down, Saotome?)

(Nah! There's too many people watchin'!)


(Watch it! Here he comes!)

The now furious Tarou had tried to get in a wicked left-hook that was launched from near ground level. Because the punch failed to connect, it left the left side of his rib cage exposed to Onna- Ranma's tiny, steel-hard fists. He took about thirty blows before he could bring his left arm back for a block and follow up the hook with a right-cross. Onna-Ranma had gotten a little too fascinated with playing Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star (Mozart's 101 Variations on a Theme) on Tarou's ribs. The right-cross paid off nicely.

(Damn that hurt! Don't stop movin', Red!)

(I ain't, Saotome!)

(I think our right eye might swell shut in a minute.)


(Watch the heel sweep!)

Onna-Ranma went airborne, and got in a very solid side-kick to Tarou's forehead. Tarou went down flat on his back. Onna-Ranma danced back out of the much taller boy's reach again.

(We need some cold on this eye, Saotome! Think you can do it with ki?)

(We got nothin' to lose by tryin'!)

(Ooh, that feels good.)

(He's up again! Watch him, Red! He's gonna start usin' his feet more now.)

Tarou sprang to his feet and had his guard up before he had even settled into a solid stance. He threw a left-jab at Onna- Ranma's nose, followed by a truly wimpy right-cross hoping to lureOnna-Ranma into just the right spot. Onna-Ranma read this move and decided to spring the trap. Tarou used the momentum and turn of his body built up by throwing the ineffectual right-cross to bring his foot up into a wicked, whistling, roundhouse kick that would have torn Onna-Ranma's head off had he not ducked it. Onna-Ranma ducked, then twisted his upper torso to the left and hammered Tarou's thigh, just behind the knee. This added a fair amount of momentum to Tarou's kick, causing him to spin on the ball of his left foot. Onna-Ranma took the opportunity to give Tarou's lower spine a machine gun blast of blows just above Tarou's waistline, then danced back as the taller boy fell face forward into the wet grass.

(Damn, Saotome! We've been lucky. He should have changed by now!)

(With as much ki as he's puttin' out, the water's hot by the time it reaches his skin. It's gotta be colder than sweat to work, you know.)

(He's gotta be hurtin' bad by now, Saotome!)

(Yeah, but he's tough. He's gettin' up again.)

(This wet grass is givin' him fits. He can't use his favorite footwork. I think I'll move inside, be ready to change. Okay, Saotome?)

(Yeah, I'll be ready. Just don't lead with our chin!)

Onna-Ranma danced into Tarou's striking distance, deliberately making a target of himself. Tarou feinted with a left jab, then pulled his arm down in a slashing block, as his left foot came up in sidekick powerful enough to shatter reinforced concrete. Onna-Ranma had expected this move, assuming that Tarou's left leg was probably the limb hurting his opponent the least. He stepped back one full step as Tarou's foot came up to point, then dropped into akibadachi, and beat the center arch of Tarou's left foot like a rivet hammer.

"Yeeeeow! Holy shit!" Tarou bellowed as he went over backwards.

(Wait up, Red! Don't get too close!)

(I wanna be in close when he...)

(Riiiiinggggg! Buzzzzzz! Rinnnnnnnng!)

Tarou had sprung back from his fall with both hands and caught Onna-Ranma with a front snap kick under the chin.

(Shit, that hurts! I toldja not to get too close!)

(Riiinggggg! Buzzzzzzzz! Riiiingggggg!)


(Watch 'im, Red! Overhand right!)

Onna-Ranma ducked the overhand right, knowing full well that a hard left-hook had to be coming up from beneath. It was, and he just barely managed to slip the punch, losing plenty of skin between his larynx and chin. The trade-off was worth the lost hide. He was inside Tarou's guard again and could hammer away at the taller boy with the chestnut fist. He worked on Tarou's solar plexus, then dropped down to a point about two and one half centimeters above Tarou's pubic arch, then back up to his solar plexus. Tarou tried to answer this sudden agony by slamming the back of Onna-Ranma's head with his elbows. It was a fairly effective stratagem.

(Now, Saotome!)

Onna-Ranma powered up a hot flash of ki, hoping to heat the water on his skin enough to make the change back to his male form. It did not work as quickly as he had hoped, and he took some truly grievous punishment from Tarou's knees and elbows before changing suddenly to his taller, and longer-armed form. This took Tarou completely by surprise.

Ranma's much heavier fists changed targets from Tarou's solar plexus to his chin. Ranma hit Tarou hard with a left-hook, followed by a right-handed uppercut that erupted from the lower depths of hell. The taller boy started over backwards, but Ranma did not let him off the hook on that account. He followed the upper cut with a hard, roundhouse kick to the side of Tarou's upper thigh, midway between the knee and hip joint. Ranma could feel the ball of his left foot press through the muscles of Tarou's leg and meet up with bone.

"Aaaah! Damn!" Tarou screamed as he went down.

Ranma danced back out of striking range. He needed some rest and knew that Tarou was not going to get up very quickly.


(Yeah, Red?)

(I think he must have peeled our left ear right off of our head.)

(Yeah, that's got me worried too. I'd check it, but it hurts too much to touch.)

(How are the family jewels?)

(It's all I can do to stand up. That bastard is good with his knees.)

(Think it would help if we changed?)

(Think you can handle him some more today?)

(Better than you can if we're all bent over.)

(Okay, here goes.)

(Hey! We didn't get any cold water out of that and we changed anyway!)

(Hey, I'm just happy to lose about half the pain.)

(We got anything that's actually broken, Saotome?)

(No, but we ain't got nothin' that ain't bruised.)

(I hope that son-of-a-bitch pees blood for a week.)

(Oh, I think he will. That was a really nasty thing to do, Red.)

(He has it coming!)

The crowds began to murmur. To many it seemed the fight was over. Several people began walking out onto the field but were waved back by Akane and Ukyou. As the two of them returned to the sidelines they were greeted by Soun. He was accompanied by Ranma's parents.

"How's the boy doing?" Genma asked.

"Ran-chan's dishing out more than he's taking," Ukyou said, "but he has taken a pretty good wallopin' in the bargain."

"He changed forms without water," Akane said sounding very excited, "I think he's gotten control of the curse."

"What?" Genma and Soun chorused.

"It sure looked like it," Ukyou said.

"Ranma changed from his girl half to his guy half in the middle of the fight. It took Tarou by complete surprise," Akane added proudly.

The two older men grunted in appreciation of this news.

"What about his right eye, Saotome-kun?"

"Doesn't look good, Tendo-kun."

"I thought it was going to swell shut on him," Tofu chimed in, "but I think he must have chilled it using his ki."

This startled the two older men into wide-eyed shock. Nodoka beamed.

"Why is he in his girl form now?" Nodoka asked.

"Humiliation," the two girls chorused.

"Humiliation!" Nodoka exclaimed. "Why on earth would he want to humiliate himself?"

"He doesn't, Nodoka-san!" Ukyou answered.

"Ranma is humiliating Tarou by beating him in his girl form," Akane explained.

"Oh, my!" Kasumi said. "Is that wise?"

"Ungh!" Soun exclaimed. "I didn't think the boy would ever have a mean bone in his body."

"Finally, after all this time," Genma rumbled.

Soun nodded his head in approval.

Everyone else stared at Genma in outrage as it dawned upon them why Genma had never seemed satisfied with Ranma's training. Now they knew. He had been trying to make Ranma mean.

Ukyou got up into Genma's face.

"A-a-ho!" Ukyou bellowed.

"Oh, no! They're fighting again!" Kasumi exclaimed. Tofu gave her a reassuring hug.

"Don't worry, Kasumi. Ranma has been in charge of this fight from the beginning."

"He has?" Kasumi asked. "He doesn't look as though he has."

"It's been a very rough fight," Tofu said with a nod of his head, "but Ranma has given more than he has received so far."

Out on the field, Onna-Ranma was giving Tarou a verbal beating.

"Come on, Pansuto! You lay around there any longer and you'll get stiff," he said, then struck a provocative pose. "'Course you oughtta be stiff after bein' around me this long."

"I'm gonna kill you! You little okama!" Tarou growled.

"Hey! The offer still stands, Pansuto! If you can beat me, you can eat me!"

Tarou sprang quickly to his feet, then immediately yelped with pain when he put too much weight on his left foot. This gave Onna-Ranma an opening. He darted in close and began hammering the left side of Tarou's rib cage again. Tarou howled with rage at the pain as he stepped back and clipped the right side of Onna-Ranma's head with a reverse ridge hand. It was not a telling blow, but made Onna-Ranma's eyes water.

(Gotta quit stayin' in one place for so long, Red.)

(Aw, what the hell! I think he's about had it, Saotome!)

(He's hurt all right, but he's still puttin' out lot's of ki. He's got plenty of fight left in him.)

(Say, how 'bout a little Spinning the Top Fist,' Saotome?)

(You are one nasty little bitch, Red.)

(I'm glad you think so, Saotome!)

(Let's change. You watch our step, I'll keep monster-boy busy.)




Again, Tarou was surprised by the sudden change in Saotome's reach. Ranma banged Tarou's face with a couple of stinging blows. They were not enough to stagger the taller boy. They were just enough to make him angrier.

"What's the matter, Tarou? Disappointed?" Ranma asked scornfully as be backed away from the onrushing Tarou.

"I am going to kill you, Saotome!"

"If you can beat me, you can eat me, Pansuto!"

(A little more left, Saotome!)

"Don't call me that!"


(Yeah! Now a little more cold ki!)


(A little more.)


(Yeah, that'll work! Keep him coming!)

(We're only gonna get one shot at this stunt, Red! It'll rain right after.)

(I know, Saotome. We're doin' fine. A little more to the right.)

Many of the people in the crowds surrounding the soccer field realized what was about to happen. Whispers of "Hiryuushotenhaa" could be heard by everyone who did not have too much blood roaring in their ears. One or two of them however, were more than a little puzzled by what they were seeing.

"He's leading Tarou into the spiral step, Akane!" Ukyou exclaimed as she gripped Akane's arm.

"But he's releasing cold ki, already!" Akane said, sounding worried.

"Ummm," Soun said. "What do you think, Saotome?"

"I don't know, Tendo," Genma answered. "The boy is up to something new this time."

"Something wicked," Ukyou said.

"This way comes," Kasumi added with a smile.

Tofu chuckled first, then everyone else laughed.

The crowd began to softly count down from ten as Ranma continued to lead Tarou towards the center of the dreaded "rasen stepu" or spiral step. They got louder as the young titans approached the center of the pattern.


Tarou could barely hear the crowd and understood nothing of what was going on, other than it made him even angrier. His ki flared hot enough to be felt sixty meters away.



Tarou threw another series of combinations at Ranma, as he continued his headlong charge into the pigtailed boy's trap.


"One!" The crowd was roaring now.

"Spinning the Top Fist!" Ranma's voice boomed out across the soggy field, as he aimed a blast of frigid ki at the ground. His voice had notes in it that no one had ever heard him use before. They could feel it in their chests as much as hearing it, as though someone had just started the engines of a 747 in the middle of the field.

A shock ring of cold air ripped away from the center of the field, blasting moisture from the grass as it went. In a less than a second, the crowds were being stung by a cold, howling wind laced with fine particles of ice. It blew their hair back and nearly tore their clothes off as it passed. More than a few were bowled over by it. Then, without any warning, the wind reversed itself, rushing into the center of the field. Ranma had succeeded in igniting a convection cell, which spun parallel to the ground.

Tarou found himself spinning like a top as the mix of hot and cold air slammed into him from all sides. Onna-Ranma calmly walked out of the maelstrom, grinning as though he had just bought an ice- cream cone on a hot, Sunday afternoon. The whirlpool of enraged air immediately scooped up enough moisture from the wet ground to invoke Pansuto Tarou's curse. This made matters worse for him because his cursed form was much larger, giving the raging wind more to chew on. Soon it began to suck up tons of wet grass, small stones, bottle caps, bottles and other litter. It was like being entrapped within a mad garbage grinder.

"Enjoy the ride, Monster-boy!" Onna-Ranma shouted as he turned around to watch his handiwork. He made a show of sitting down and making himself comfortable, as though he were watching a television sitcom.

The howling maelstrom slowly formed a peak until it was about a hundred meters high. It spewed mud, grass, water and a howling monster, then dissipated suddenly, leaving Chimera-Tarou spinning in mid-air. Chimera-Tarou, unable to stop his spin, crossed his massive arms over his chest in frustration. His rate of spin accelerated dramatically until he became nothing more than a spindle shaped blur, far above the ground. After a long moment, there was no longer enough rising air to keep him aloft and he dropped like a stone into the now naked field, splattering everyone within sight with drops of sticky, red mud.

The crowd roared its approval.

"Aaaw riiight!"

"Way to go, Ranma!"

"Ranma-san! Ranma-san! Ranma-san ... " the crowd chanted.

Some of the girls actually waved their brassieres at Onna- Ranma in time with the chanting. This infuriated Akane, but Nodoka squealed with delight. Nodoka then did something she had never done in public before. She dropped her katana, wrapped her arms around Genma, forcing him to bend over backwards, then kissed him full on the lips. Ukyou became weak at the knees and unintentionally collapsed into the arms of Konatsu. Those near the paddy wagon could hear the frantic rattling of heavy chains and the clicking sounds of safeties being taken off.

Seeing his mother and father from the center of the field, Onna-Ranma laughed.

"Congratulations, Pop. Looks like we're finally free of the contract," he said aloud in a normal voice. "Finally free."

Chimera-Tarou stirred, then tried to get up, but failed.

"Well, almost free," Onna-Ranma said, even though no one could hear him. "Looks like we got a little more to do before we can call it a day."

(Yo, Saotome!)


(D'ya really think we got the freak's pipe trick figured out? We've only used it once before this.)

(Yeah. He uses his ki to redirect the energy of a strike. It's out of the Tai Chi Chuan.)

(We don't have a pipe.)

(Don't need it. We can just use our forearm.)

(You had better be right about this, Saotome!)

(Relax, will ya? I'm tellin' ya! We got it wired.)

"Better hope that wasn't your best shot, Okama, " Chimera- Tarou said in a rumbling voice as he slowly rose to his feet, "because you'll never be able to use it on me twice."

Onna-Ranma stared up at Chimera-Tarou and said nothing for a moment. Obviously, the monster-boy was still too dizzy to launch an attack. Onna-Ranma gathered legs beneath him into seiza, then put his hands behind his head and struck yet another, fold-out pose.

"The deal still stands, Pansuto!" Onna-Ranma said as though he was trying to sucker Tatewaki Kuno. "Beat me, eat me!" The ploy worked.

"YOU...MAKE...ME...SICK!" Chimera-Tarou said, then fell over backwards into the mud.

The crowds roared with laughter.

"Yeah, I know I did, Pansuto. Watcha gonna do about it?"

"I'm going to hammer you into the ground like a tack!" Chimera-Tarou said, as his ki began to flare. He struggled to get up again, but the dizziness and the slippery mud were too much for him. He fell with another spectacular splash.

"Hmmph! Damned near all of Japan has tried to do that already!" Onna-Ranma said with a smirk as he got to his feet. "It won't work."

"I'm...not...from...JAPAN!" Chimera-Tarou said as finally rose unsteadily to his full height.

Onna-Ranma pretended to yawn, then scanned the crowd on his left.

"Hi, Mom!" Onna-Ranma yelled and waved towards his mother.

(That did it, Red! He's big time cheesed now!)

(What's he doing!)

(Trying to get his balance! Whaddaya think? Keep wavin' to Mom.)

(Okay, but how are we gonna know when...)

(Just watch Mom's face!)

(I gotcha, Saotome. You really are a sneaky bastard.)

(Thanks, but I'm no match for Tofu.)

(It's not nice to do this to Mom, you know.)

(Ah, she'll love it!)

Nodoka smiled and waved back at Onna-Ranma, then her eyes widened with fright.

(Here it comes, Red.)

(I can see, Saotome!)

Nodoka's mouth dropped open as she began to gasp. A light sprinkling of rain began to fall. Genma quickly produced an umbrella and used it to shelter himself and Nodoka.

(Not yet, Red! Keep wavin!)

Nodoka's hands came up to either side of her face as she bent forwards a little. The rain became steady, but stayed soft.

(Steady, Red! Just another second or so. Smile)

Nodoka's eyes were now wide with horror, as she began to scream, but the real signal came from Genma's glare at Onna-Ranma.

(NOW, RED!!)

"YAATAAA! WE GOT HIM!" Onna-Ranma chortled as Chimera-Tarou sailed up into the rapidly lowering sky. The rain began to fall in bucket-loads.

(Hey! I thought you said we had this wired, Saotome?)

(We do, Red! We just threw Tarou on his ass.)

(We didn't throw him nearly as high as the old freak does!)

(So? We need a little practice. So what? Wave at Mom, will ya? She's about to wet her pants!)

"Don't get cocky, boy!" Genma bellowed.

Hearing Genma, the crowds roared with laughter, then broke into cheers as Chimera-Tarou slammed into the wet grass on the far end of he soccer field.

"I ain't cocky, Pop!" Onna-Ranma shouted back at his father as he stuffed his hands into his pockets and sauntered off towards the fallen Tarou. "I'm just good, that's all!"

Genma shook his head in disgust.

"My God, Saotome!" Soun exclaimed. "Is there anything this boy can't do?"

"Not much, Tendo. Including getting his ass whipped when he lets his head get too big."

Soun chuckled. Nodoka stared after her son, concern riding in her face. Akane watched him closely as well, but realized something the others did not. Onna-Ranma was just acting. Despite his casual air, he was being very alert.

(Well, that got Shit-daddy's goat, Saotome.)

(Yeah, but he's proud of us.)

(What we do now, Saotome?)

(Time to do it vertical, I think.)

(Guy type?)

(Yeah, I guess we better.)

(Ooh, I just love being well hung!)

(Will you not talk like that?)

(You are such a prude, Saotome!)

(He ain't gonna sucker for the spiral step, Red. We gotta improvise.)

(Gotcha, Saotome. I'll spot, you throw.)

(Rodger that, Red.)

(By the way, how are the jewels?)

(Well they ain't swellin' so I guess nothin's ruptured.)

(Damn, Saotome! We're startin' to get snacky.)

(Yeah, I could do with a great big steak about now.)

Onna-Ranma's aura flared electric blue, as bright and painful to the eyes as a welding arc, then he became Otoko-Ranma.

"D'ya think he's heatin' the rain with his ki when he does that Akane?" Ukyou asked.

"Can't be," Konatsu said confidently.

"There's no steam," Akane added.

Ukyou gasped. "Oh, that's right!"

Genma stared after his son with both pride and awe filling his heart. The boy had mastered Jusenkyo. No matter what else happened now, his son would live forever in the legends to come. At last, the Saotome would join the ranks of the Musashi and the Yagyu.

"_Kodomo tame ni_," Genma whispered to himself. "For the sake of the child."

Tofu Ono bit his lower lip as concern covered his face.

"What's wrong, Tou-chan?" Nabiki asked.

"Nothing that can be helped right now, Kasumi-chan," Tofu said softly, "I just hate to have Ranma-kun going through something like this so soon. He wasn't ready for it."

"I'm sure we can pull together and help him through it all," Kasumi said confidently.

"It will likely prove difficult, Kasumi-chan," Tofu said in a near whisper, "very difficult indeed."

On the field, Ranma stopped just short of Chimera- Tarou's effective reach, or kamae as it is referred to in professional circles, and taunted the monster-boy.

"Yo, Pansuto!" Ranma called out in mocking tones. "You 'bout ready for a real workout now?"

Chimera-Tarou's still bright battle aura flared even brighter, as he lurched up onto his massive hooves. His eel-tail thrashed ominously as he spoke.

"Well it took you long enough to get here, Okama! Are you nice and rested now?"

"My offer still stands, Pansuto."

"I am going to tear your head off and use your skull for a night-jar, Saotome!" Chimera-Tarou growled.

"What? You mean you know what a night-jar is? I thought you guys just used one corner of your bedrooms!"


Chimera-Tarou charged. Ranma used his newly refreshed Tai Chi Chuan skills to send him flying across the field. Chimera-Tarou landed hard.

At the far end of the field on one sideline, Soun Tendo shook his head and grimaced after Chimera-Tarou bounced off the field for a third time.

"Uh-oh, Saotome!" Soun Tendo said, his voice rising in alarm. "I've seen that look before!"

"Oh, my!" Kasumi said. "Ranma looks terribly hungry!"

"This ain't gonna be pretty, Tendo-kun!" Genma said in a grim, rumbling voice.

"No, it isn't!" Soun added.

Nodoka bit at her nails.

Tofu stared morosely after the two young men at the far end of the field in the pouring rain and shook his head. Neither of them was in particularly good shape, yet both were going after one another as though the fight had just started. He wondered if either of them would live over it.

The sharp intake of Akane's breath got Ukyou's attention.

"What is it, Akane?"

"Don't you see?"

"See what?"

"Tarou's ki!"

"The spiral!" Ukyou cried out with sudden realization. "Ran-chan isn't using the spiral step, but his throws are gathering Tarou's ki into a spiral!"

"And Ranma-san isn't trailing cold ki this time," Konatsu observed.

Across the field from the rest of her family, Nabiki had noticed the same thing.

"This is going to be the mother of all Hiryuushotenha!" Nabiki exclaimed to her cohorts, "Make sure the photographers are ready for it!"

"Yes, Boss!" several of them chorused as they sprinted off in several directions.

Out on the soccer field, Ranma was oblivious to any and everything save the task before him. All it would take was one little slip and Chimera-Tarou would have him. The monster-boy's frustration and rage had grown to the point that he was now mindlessly berserk.

(Where next, Red?)

(See that spot of water over there?)

(Got it! Ungh!)

(Nice shot, Saotome! One more throw and we'll have him, I think.)

The crowds had begun to count down again.


(Run left, Saotome!)


(Watch the hammer fist!)


Chimera-Tarou landed on his face this time, getting a yet another mouthful of muddy grass in the process. He rolled over just in time to see Ranma's triumphant face and stormy blue eyes, now wide with fierce exultation.

"Hiryuu ... " Ranma's voice boomed out again, rattling windows throughout all of Nerima this time.

"Shoten ... "

Akane and Ukyou clapped their hands over their ears and opened their mouths. Ranma's voice was so loud a person could not stand to put their teeth together.


A column of impenetrably black ki, over three meters wide, raced up into the glowering cloud deck. It immediately turned an opaque white as large, fluffy flakes of frozen water and carbon dioxide formed within it. Ranma had set up a terribly powerful convection cell. The wind began to howl, then it began to shriek. Chimera-Tarou had just regained his feet and thrown a right-cross at Ranma's head which was guaranteed fatal if it landed. Ranma never so as blinked. He stood stock-still and sneered as the terrible wind seized the monster-boy, sucking him up and out of range.

"S-A-O-T-O-O-M-E-E! Y-O-U PRICK!" Chimera-Tarou bellowed as he disappeared.

(Our legs are getting rubbery, Saotome.)

(Yeah, I know. We need somethin' to eat.)

The shrieking, snarling wind had begun to gouge out a crater around Ranma, but he simply stayed in place and watched, as though it were just a walk in a peaceful park.


(I know! We can't move! WE'VE BEEN PARALYZED!)

(What the hell's going on, Saotome?!)

(I don't know!)

(We are in deep shit, Saotome!)

(I know! Tarou's most likely gonna go for a diving head butt this time! We gotta be able ta duck!)

(Can we move anything at all, Saotome?)

(I'm tryin'! I'm tryin'!)

(Oh, shit!)


(Lighting! We're about to get hit by lightning, Saotome!)

(I'll try to soak it with cold ki!)

The crowds gasped en masse as great rivers of coruscating, blue fire cascaded down out of the weeping sky and blasted the base of Ranma's handmade tornado. The noise was deafening, much louder than that of the tornado itself. The air at the base of the tornado grew black as pitch. The lightning seemed to just disappear into it. Suddenly, the air around the base of the funnel turned white with snow, even as the lightning continued to pour into it.

"My son!" Nodoka and Genma chorused. Genma found himself using his free arm to hold Nodoka upright, even though he wanted fall on his knees himself.

"Oh, Ranma-kun!" Soun Tendo said softly as his tears mingled with the rain running down his face.

Kasumi closed her eyes and prayed to Marishiten, Goddess of the North Star in both the Taoist and Buddhist traditions, long considered the protectress of soldiers and warriors.

Ukyou closed her eyes, for a moment, opened them again, then passed out. Konatsu caught her.

Akane stood grim faced in the rain, staring hard at the incredible violence at the other end of the field. If there was anybody on earth capable of fending off the full fury of the heavens, it was Ranma Saotome. She would not believe anything bad had happened to him until she was holding his cold dead body in her arms. She stood. She gritted her teeth and she cried, but she neither fainted nor flinched away from the terrible sight before her. Only later would she realize that she had been silently performing the ingei of Marishiten with her hands.

Across the field, Nabiki struggled to keep her face impassive while the wind and tooth-rattling thunder lashed at her clothes and shook her bones. A cold lump of stone had settled into her stomach even as her heart had leapt into her throat. The pain behind her eyes became almost unbearable as hot, stinging tears worked their way down her cheeks, far more noticeable to her than the cold bite of the lashing rain. There is no way he lived through that, she thought. He's dead. Oh my God what will I do. He's dead.

The tip of the funnel suddenly lifted up into the sky, disappearing into the low-lying clouds. The terrible streamers of fire stopped shortly after it disappeared, leaving a silence that was almost as deafening as the shrieking wind and constant thunder of a few seconds before. The place where Ranma had last been seen, remained shrouded in swirling mist and fluttering snow. As one's hearing returned, all that could be heard was the quiet fall of rain and the occasional sob of an onlooker.

"Comes the Cold Dragon," Tofu Ono said in a voice so soft it was nearly lost in the rain as the snows settled and the mist drifted away on the far end of the field. The crowds gasped as the mists cleared. Where Ranma had once stood, there was now a gleaming, blue dragon with crystalline spines along its back, and sporting a coppery red beard.

"My son!" Genma whispered as he sank to his knees, still holding his unconscious wife.

"Oh, my!" Kasumi said, "He's done it again!"

"Is that Ranma?" Ukyou asked in a horrified voice.

Out on the field itself, Ranma Saotome was as shocked as the onlookers.

(We're still alive?)

(Looks that way, Saotome.)

Tatsu-Ranma looked down and saw his reflection in a puddle of water.

(What the hell happened to us?)

(Well, I think its safe to say we've changed.)

Chimera-Tarou slammed into the ground a few meters away, creating a huge splash of water, mud and dislodged grass.

(Ooh, look, Red! Surf 'n' Turf on the wing!)

(Is he still alive, Saotome?)

(Looks like it to me, Red. How long are we now?)

(Six and three-quarters sun, silly! You mean you don't remember from the last time we measured it?)

(I'm not talkin' about that! I'm talkin' about this new body!)

(Hmm, five meters I think.)

{{Fifteen shaku, six sun.}}

(Huh? Who said that, Red?)

(We did, Saotome.)

(That was weird.)

(Yeah, and I think we've already had enough weird for one day.)

(Man! I'm so hungry, I could eat a horse!)

{{And its rider.}}

(Bleah! Did we really say that, Saotome?)

(Try not to think about it, Red.)

(While we're THIS hungry? It actually sounded pretty good.)

(You know, Red? You really frighten me sometimes.)

(Hey, look! Tarou's coming around!)

(You thinkin' what I'm thinkin', Red?)


(I can't believe you said that, Red!)

(I didn't say it. WE said it!)

(Let's just end this fight so we can eat, okay?)

(See? I toldja it wasn't me!)

{{Eat, Drink, Man, Woman.}}

Chimera-Tarou struggled to his feet, then looked around for Onna-Ranma.

(He must think we're a statue or something, Saotome.)

(How many real dragons have you ever seen, Red?)


(He didn't look like we do at the moment.)

(Shall I give him the hard news now, Saotome?)

(Yeah. He's startin' to wonder around.)

"Yo, Pansuto!" Tatsu-Ranma said in Onna-Ranma's voice.

Chimera-Tarou snapped his head around to see where the voice came from, only to find himself staring at a grinning Tatsu-Ranma. His eyes bulged as his lower jaw dropped down to about the same level as his navel.

"My offer still stands, Tarou!" Tatsu-Ranma said, then wriggled from nose to tail. "If you can beat me, you can eat me."

Chimera-Tarou took a step backwards. Tatsu-Ranma followed.

"Dontcha still want a piece of my tail, Pansuto?" Tatsu-Ranma asked, then whipped his long hard tail around. The end of it slammed into Chimera-Tarou's ribs on the left side, knocking him down.

(The new tail works great, Red.)

(Our tail has always worked great, Saotome!)

(Will you please ... I know! I know! I'm a prude!)

"You know Tarou, its only fair," Tatsu-Ranma said in the deep, grinding voice that came naturally to his dragon form, "that if you were gonna get to eat me, that I should get to eat you."

Chimera-Tarou rolled over onto his back and let his tentacles do the walking while he made warding gestures with his hands. Tatsu- Ranma followed him along cautiously.

"Next time, come around and knock at the back gate, like you're supposed to do!" Tatsu-Ranma ground out angrily. "Not only is it wrong to pick on someone that can't defend themselves, it's insulting to me! All you gotta do ask me for fight if you want one, Aho!"

Chimera-Tarou began to shake his head no, while still making warding gestures with his hands. Tatsu-Ranma's smile grew larger and he stopped following the now rapidly retreating Chimera-Tarou.

"Feel like butting heads some more today, Pansuto?" Tatsu- Ranma asked. "Betcha my horns are sharper than yours."

Chimera-Tarou shook his head no again as he regained his hooves.

"Then go back to China!" Tatsu-Ranma bellowed, causing the onlooking crowds to wince almost as a single person. "I'll send what's left of the old freak to you once I'm done with him!"

Chimera-Tarou leapt into the air and took to his wings, flying westwards.

Tatsu-Ranma craned his long neck and watched until Chimera- Tarou disappeared into the rainy sky.

{{There went dinner.}}

(Red, will you NOT talk like that!)

(I didn't say that! WE said that! Always thinking with our stomach!)

(Hey! It's better than thinkin' with our...with our...)

(With our which, Saotome? You are such a hopeless prude!)

{{Must have stones!}}

(Red, why I am suddenly feeling the urge to swallow a rock?)

(You got me, Saotome! It's the weirdest goddamned thing I ever heard of! Are you sure we aren't just having a nightmare?)

(I wish!)

{{There! That will do nicely!}}

Tatsu-Ranma lumbered over to a statue of Principal Kuno and pushed it over, then he raked it with the five claws in his left forefoot. The hard, gray granite of the statue broke up into clean- edged pieces.

The on-looking crowds began cheering wildly.

{{Granite is good!}}


(We're not eatin' it! We're just swallowing pieces of it.)

(What's the difference?)

(I don't know! There just is!)

The cheering stopped as members of the crowd felt the sudden urge to get in out of the cold rain.

On the far end of the field, Doctor Tofu and Konatsu were the only ones left with fully functioning minds.

"I thought so!" Tofu said, as they all stared at Tatsu-Ranma consuming the broken statue.

"What's that, Tofu-sensei?" Konatsu asked.

"Dragons have gizzards."


"Their teeth are not made for chewing, so like birds and crocodilians, they have gizzards."

"Ah, I see," Konatsu said. "So Saotome-dono is just filling his crop?"


"You knew?" Nabiki asked.

"Oh, hello, Nabiki!" Tofu said nervously. "I didn't realize you were here."

"You knew this was happening to Ranma," Nabiki asked in an ominous voice, "and you didn't tell anyone?"

Tofu Ono suddenly found himself being stared at by several pairs of very hostile eyes.

"I can explain!" Tofu exclaimed, as he began flapping his arms and making warding gestures.

"I think that would be wise, Tou-chan," Kasumi said in her best, mother-disapproves-of-you voice.

"I wasn't sure that I believed it!" Tofu said, sounding frantic. "Even Ko Lon was having a hard time believing it. This hasn't happened to anyone that we know about in the last thousand years!"

"So what exactly HAS happened, Sensei?" Nabiki asked Tofu with a hard edge in her voice.

"In essence? It's a combination of Ranma's training, his talent, and the stress he's been under. The Joketsu call it the Gift of the Cold Dragon. He will be stuck in this form for only a few days."

Nodoka's hard stare left Tofu and focused upon Genma's face, while everyone else seem to relax a little. Genma suddenly realized that Nodoka was staring at him and flinched.

Nabiki glanced at Akane. She was shivering from the cold and crying, but her eyes had not left Ranma. Nabiki sighed then asked Tofu another question.

"So why didn't you say something about this before now?"

"I had only just found out about it," Tofu said with a grimace, "and I could not be certain that it was really going to happen. Ko Lon did not expect it to happen this quickly. I wasn't going to say anything until I had done some more tests and the scrolls Ko Lon had sent for arrived from China."

The faces staring at Tofu remained grim, but no longer looked as though their owners were thinking about rope and tree limbs. Tofu breathed a heartfelt sigh of relief.

Over at the paddy wagon, things were going a little better. Happosai had backed into his assigned corner of the truck without being told to do so. The armed officers followed him inside. Shirikawa and Ohga followed them, then locked the doors. Both men were shaking from the cold and from what they had seen.

"You guys could at least let me congratulate my student on his victory," Happosai said with an evil smirk.

Shirikawa's and Ohga's hair stood right straight up on end. They exchanged a quick glance at one another, then drew their handguns and joined the other officers in pointing their weapons at Happosai. The sergeant banged on the side of the truck. The driver started its engine and drove off. The ride back to Tokyo's central jail was long, silent and grim. Except that Happosai found Shirikawa's and Ohga's discomfiture highly amusing.

"So my son will be a dragon forever?" Nodoka asked Tofu.

"Yes, I am afraid so," Tofu said. "There will be no going back for Ranma after this, but he should be able to return to human form in a few days."

"But is he a human or a dragon?" Nodoka asked.

"Believe me, Saotome-san," Tofu said in a sad voice, "He is very much a human being. It's just that he is now a human on a much larger scale."

"He does not look very human at the moment!" Nodoka said, sounding as though she were in pain.

"Is he manly, Nodoka?" Genma asked his wife.

Nodoka looked across the field where Akane, Nabiki and Ukyou stood around Tatsu-Ranma, stroking his scales and tugging at his beard, then closed her eyes and shivered. The combination of shock and the cold, damp air was beginning to overwhelm her.

"He still attracts the ladies, doesn't he?" Nodoka said with a sigh.

"If we aren't going to go over and congratulate Ranma on his victory, why don't we get in out of this weather, Aunt Nodoka," Kasumi said with gentle steel in her voice.

Nodoka nodded her head.

As they left the school grounds, Mu Suu came running up to them. He was wearing all-weather gear and carrying an umbrella. He stopped and bowed to Nodoka, then to Kasumi, but ignored the men.

"The Honored Elder of the Joketsu asks if you would care to join her for an early supper, Honored Ladies."

Nodoka and Kasumi exchanged glances.

"We are greatly honored," Nodoka said to Mu Suu.

He ran around behind the two women, opened the umbrella so that both Nodoka and Kasumi were in its shelter, but was himself careful not to allow his head beneath it. This of course, was a way of showing respect to the two women. The three men glanced at one another, shrugged their shoulders and followed along behind.

"When in Rome," Tofu said.

"This isn't Rome!" Genma grumbled as he shared his own umbrella with Tofu. He obviously had not liked being crowded away from his wife by Mu Suu.

"Are you willing to try explaining that to Ko Lon, Saotome?" Soun asked, then caught Tofu's eye and winked.

"Well, I guess you have a point there, Tendo-kun," Genma said, "I hadn't looked at it from quite that perspective."

"Besides that," Tofu said enthusiastically, "she makes the best bowl of noodles in town."

Thus considerably cheered, the three men trooped along behind the odd looking trio in the lead, doing their best to ignore the cold rain running down their necks.

"The truck is on its way, Ranma," Nabiki said as she closed the cellular telephone. "Will a side of beef and a big tuna be enough to hold you?"

"I think so, Nabiki," Tatsu-Ranma rumbled, somehow managing to sound embarrassed.

Akane giggled.

"Now I know why you always ate like a horse, Ran-chan!" Ukyo said with a teasing smile.

"Please, Ukyou!" Tatsu-Ranma rumbled. "Don't say horse."


"It makes the hunger ... worse," Tatsu-Ranma said.

"You wouldn't really eat a horse, would you, Ran-chan?" Ukyo asked, her eyes growing large and misty.

"A horse and rider would just about make a good meal," Tatsu- Ranma said, then his stomach rumbled. "This body has odd tastes."

"The rider, too?" Ukyou nearly shrieked.

"Only if she were pretty," Nabiki said. "Right, Saotome?"

Tatsu-Ranma glanced at Akane. She put her hands on her hips.

"Well, Ranma?"

Tatsu-Ranma winced.

Nabiki grinned as Ukyou put her hand to her mouth in an effort to stifle a laugh. Akane was careful to hide her face from Ranma, but her shoulders shook.

"The more things change ... " Nabiki said softly with a shake of the head.

"You guys should get in out of this rain," Tatsu-Ranma said, sounding concerned.

"Hey! We aren't going anywhere without our Great Protector!" Nabiki said cheerfully. "Isn't that right, Akane?"

Akane was still having trouble saying anything and just nodded her head in agreement.

"Yeah!" Ukyou said, chiming in on the act. "You never know, we might be attacked by a slavering Kuno or something!"

Tatsu-Ranma snorted. The three girls laughed.

Konatsu appeared, seemingly from nowhere at all, bearing three umbrellas. The girls squealed with delight and quickly made use of them. Ukyou insisted that Konatsu share hers. It was at that moment that the delivery truck pulled up.

"Stay very still, Ranma," Akane cautioned. "We don't want to scare them away."

"Excuse me," the driver called out, then leered at the three girls, "but would any of you know where a Nabiki Tendo is?"

"That's me," Nabiki said.

"You ordered a side of beef and a large tuna, right?" the driver asked, making it very obvious he liked Nabiki's looks.

"Yes," Nabiki said.

"Where do you want them?"

"Right here," Nabiki said with a smirk. "They're for my pet dragon."

"You are going to sacrifice a hundred-thousand yen worth of beef and tuna to a statue?"

"He isn't a statue," Nabiki said, "and this is fodder, not a sacrifice."

"Oh, yeah?" the man asked, undressing Nabiki with his eyes. "Has he had his shots?"

"Yes," Nabiki said quite seriously, "he has. Are you going to unload my order?"

"Yeah, if this really is where you want my load, this where I'll give to ya," the driver said, wagging his eyebrows at Nabiki.

"It is," Nabiki told the man, remaining unruffled.

The driver and his helper brought out a side of beef, dropped it on the sidewalk, then fetched a large tuna from the back of the truck. Nabiki paid them in cash, then signed their bill of lading. The driver tried to sneak a peek down the front of Nabiki's blouse while she did so.

"You know, Tendo-san," the driver said with a smart-alec leer as he handed Nabiki her copy. "If you had told us this order was for a dragon, one of us could have ridden a horse over here for him."

"Not a good idea," Nabiki said coldly as she tucked the paperwork into her purse.

"Oh, yeah?" the driver asked. "Why not?"

"Because I never eat a horse without having the rider for dessert!" Tatsu-Ranma rumbled, then looked at the driver and smiled. The man did not try to run. He simply keeled over. His helper grabbed him by the collar and began dragging him towards the delivery truck.

"He's new around here, isn't he?" Tatsu-Ranma asked, then took a huge bite out of the one and a half meter long, blue fin tuna. His teeth made horrible crunching noises as they sliced through the scales and bones of the big fish.

The unconscious driver, his helper, and the truck left so fast they seemed to vanish into thin air.

"Whoa!" Ukyou exclaimed. "I didn't realize the butcher shop had a transporter beam."

Akane hit Ranma on the nose with her number four mallet.

"What was that for?" Tatsu-Ranma asked in a plaintive rumble.

Nabiki chuckled softly. Akane's mallet seemed to be effective whether it actually hurt Ranma or not.

"Don't be scaring the deliverymen, baka!" Akane said in a scolding voice.

"Why not?" Tatsu-Ranma asked in a hurt rumble. "He was bein' a jerk!"

"How long are you going to be like this, Ranma?" Akane asked.

"Um, I'm not sure." Tatsu-Ranma said, Onna-Ranma's voice.

"Then you are going to need something to eat tomorrow, right?" Akane asked.

"I'm sorry, Akane," Tatsu-Ranma said using his girlish voice again and sounding very contrite. "I'm new to the dragon business, okay?"

"Finish your supper, Ranma."

"Yes, dear," Tatsu-Ranma said in a very meek rumble, then gobbled up the rest of the tuna.

Ukyou and Nabiki collapsed in one another's arms in an effort to stay on their feet.

"He sounded just like his daddy!" Ukyou squealed.

"I know!" Nabiki said, gasping for breath.

"He eats like his daddy, too!" Akane said in disapproving tones, but she made sure Ranma could see her smile while she said it. Tatsu-Ranma went to work on the side of beef. The girls had to work at not showing any discomfiture, but they somehow managed.

End of Chapter 6 Part b
Copyright © Don Granberry