Comes the Cold Dragon

Don Granberry

Chapter 17d

Copyright

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.


The weather worsened while they were at the market. Ranma bought them an oversized umbrella and they took the bus back rather than walking all the way home from the shopping district. Akane cuddled up against him when they sat down, and he put his arm around her again. It would have been nice to have her running beside me as we cut across the rooftops, he thought, but this might be even better. There'll be lots of other days for us to run and jump.

Their ride on the bus was relatively short, and it saved them a long walk or run through the cold rain, but still left them with enough of a walk for both of them to get wet feet and shivering cold. Tendo-ke was a welcome sight, even though it was cold and unlit when they arrived.

Akane got her shoes off first and wrapped herself around Ranma while he was still standing on one foot. She kissed him long and hard.

"I'll go light up the kotatsu and heat up the furo," she whispered into his ear after breaking their kiss. "Will you promise me something?"

"What's that?" Ranma asked, surprising himself with the gentleness in his voice. It did not sound too terribly manly in his ears. Mentally, he shrugged it off. He was talking to Akane, after all, and they were not training.

"Get the kitchen ready, but don't start cooking until I can watch, okay?"

Ranma chuckled. Chuckling was a unique experience for him. It had never seemed stern and manly enough for him in the past, but now he really and truly did not care. I don't need Mom to tell me if I am a man or not, he thought. The way Akane feels about me is proof enough of what I am.

"Sure thing, Tomboy. I'll lay everything out and cut up the vegetables. The tricky part you need to see is how to peel and prepare the shrimp."

Akane gave him a huge smile followed by another quick kiss, then literally skipped down the hall toward the furoba. Ranma looked after her and shook his head in wonder.

"Geez, you'd think she's twelve years old when she's really happy."

He put their new umbrella in the stand and gathered up the bags of groceries.

"She sure has a nice ass for a twelve-year old, though," he muttered. "How come I never really noticed before?"

Ranma walked into the kitchen and set the groceries bags down on the counter before rummaging around for the cutting board and knives.

"How is it I fell in love with her without realizing just how sexy she is?"

The knife he needed had a curled edge. He pulled out the steel and began absently stroking it with the blade. His jaw clenched involuntarily as he did so.

"Geez! I want her so bad my goddamned teeth ache! What's happenin' to me?"

A strange thrill shot through his groin, the kind a man gets when he stands on a ledge far above the ground. Chills ran up his spine and his hands began to shake. He had to put the knife and steel down on the cutting board. He grasped the edge of the counter with both hands and squeezed the unyielding wood until his knuckles turned white and his fingertips bright red. This helped out quite a bit--until his knees began to quiver.

It took every ounce of discipline he had learned in his long years as a martial artist to stop himself from tearing into the furoba like some wild beast and artlessly taking what he wanted. The effort left him gasping.

"She'd never forgive me!" he exclaimed as he picked up the knife and steel. "She'd just never forgive me."

Knowing that he needed to get the timing right, Ranma decided to distract himself by making a simple job a bit more challenging. He decided to dress the knife at his "amagurikin" speed. The knife was not one of Kasumi's. He realized as much as soon as he began sliding it over the steel. It was a knife that his father had forged for his mother. Its metal was exceptionally good and it made a sound eerily like an aria sung by a mezzo-soprano. The noise amused him, helping him get better control of his urges.

"That was neat!" Ranma exclaimed as he put the steel away. He threw a sizeable number of chestnuts into the steamer before preparing the rest of the vegetables. Even at his best speeds, it took him another fifteen minutes to get it all done. By then, the chestnuts were ready to be peeled and sliced. Even a light meal for just him and Akane would make most people stare in wonder, but then most people did not burn calories or use up protein the way he and Akane did.

He was throwing away the chestnut hulls and other trimmings when he felt the soft warmth of Akane pressed against his back and the feathery touch of her breath on the nape of his neck.

"Have you done the shrimp yet?" she asked in a soft whisper. He could tell by the sound of her voice that she was smiling the way she did whenever she was relaxed and happy. The heat from her body spoke volumes about more happiness to come.

"No," he answered in a gentle voice. "I wanted to leave them on the ice until just before cooking them."

"Good. I wanted to watch you peel them," Akane said as she loosened her hug, allowing Ranma to turn around and face her.

She was wearing a modestly arranged terry-cloth bathrobe. She looked up at him, giving him her best little-girl smile. Ranma put his arms around her and held her close. She snuggled up to him and he was momentarily stunned by the softness of her and how very much alive she felt. It made him feel proud and privileged. He knew of no other man she would do such a thing for. Scores of young men attending Furinkan could and would readily attest to her cold fury and steely physique.

"The furo is ready," Akane whispered into his chest and then leaned back and tilted her head before adding, "and so am I."

Ranma shivered.

"Let's get you cleaned up and let you get in a nice warm soak before we cook dinner, Ranma. You're cold."

"Sounds like a plan to me, Akane," Ranma said. His voice sounded strange in his ears, as if it belonged to someone else. It sounded--well--adult.

Akane took him by the hand and led him out of the kitchen. He followed without resistance, but his mind wondered. How did I grow up without noticing? he asked himself. When did it happen?

After they entered the changing room, Akane kept her back to him as she removed her bathrobe. She wrapped a towel around her waist and tied it off.

"I scrubbed while you were in the kitchen," she said, giving Ranma a sultry look. "I wanted to be able to concentrate on you."

Ranma froze in the act of pulling his shirttail out of his pants and stared back at her in wonder. She giggled at him as she began unbuttoning his shirt.

"Surprised?"

"I...well...no...it...I knew you...but..."

Akane cut him off with a quick peck on the lips. She slid her arms inside his open shirt and hugged him, pressing her bare breasts to his chest. Ranma felt his manhood become completely stiff all at once.

"Let's get you out of these clothes. You really need to bathe and warm up."

She tugged at the knot in the strip of heavy cloth he used for a belt and Ranma felt his waistband go slack. His pants fell down around his ankles as soon as she undid the top button of his fly. He had trapped his long manhood in one leg of his boxer shorts. His size had always been both a source of pride and anguish for him. He often worried that Akane might not like it.

Akane looked down and took in a deep breath before looking back up at his face. She gently caressed him as she stepped in closer and kissed him on the chest, then his neck and then his lips. Ranma moaned. Akane cupped his heavy testicles in her hand and gave them a gentle squeeze, causing him to shiver. She stepped back a little and slipped her fingers beneath the elastic band of his boxers. She knelt down as she slid his shorts downwards releasing his manhood from its prison. It sprang upwards brushing her cheek in passing. Akane let go of his boxers and they settled around his ankles. She started to rise, but paused on the way to kiss the side of his dick.

Ranma put his arms around her and slid his hands up and down the soft skin of her back, taking huge delight in the feel of her powerful muscles. He slid his hands down to the cheeks of her ass and pressed her lower body against his. This time, Akane moaned and he could feel the incredible strength of her hips as she tightened the muscles beneath the velvety skin of her ass. Akane looked up at him with shining eyes and he gave her a deep kiss that seemed to last an eternity.

"Let's get bathed and eat first, Ranma," she whispered. "I want you right now, but I'm cold and hungry and I want tonight to be perfect."

"As you wish, Princess," Ranma said to her in an amused voice. S he motioned for him to sit down on one of the stools and picked up the showerhead. She had the flow and temperature of the water adjusted before Ranma could reach out for it. He watched her in silence and then gasped with surprise when she sprayed him down with warm water. It felt hot against his cold skin.

Akane pulled up another stool close behind Ranma's and sat down on it. While soaping up a sponge until it was rich with lather, she cuddled up to his back. Ranma could feel the stiffness of her nipples against his skin. She scrubbed his chest and stomach before moving lower down and lathering up his pubic hair. She dropped the sponge and stroked his soap-slick manhood with her bare hand. Ranma gasped and held his breath listening to his inner voice brag and chortle. She wants me! She thinks I'm a real man! She really wants me!

"I'm going to do things to you later that you'll never forget, Ranma," Akane breathed into his ear.

"Be careful, Akane," Ranma answered in a voice laden with heat, "I might just strip that towel off ya and take you right here on the tiles."

Akane gave his throbbing penis a hard squeeze and whispered, "I'm game if you are, Ranma."

Ranma gave the idea serious consideration, but decided that it would be much better after they were fed and cuddled up under the covers.

"Let's get warmed up and eat first," he said. "You're gonna hafta be completely relaxed to deal with me tonight."

Akane stroked him hard as she kissed him on the neck.

"Are you sure?" she asked in a hoarse whisper. "I wouldn't mind it at all if you filled me up right now."

Ranma shuddered from head to toe. Akane laughed and scooted her stool back a little. He was still quivering when she began scrubbing his back.

"Undo your hair, Ranma. It needs washing."

"Okay."

Ranma flipped his queue around so that he could more easily reach the end of it and tried to untie the end with shaking hands. Akane quickly saw that he was having trouble and slipped her dainty hand beneath his and took over for him. She worked the braids out of his queue and began brushing it. Ranma picked up the showerhead and rinsed off his body while she brushed out his hair. He made her let him turn around so that he could rinse her body as well, warming her up with the water and his hands.

Akane spent the next twenty minutes giving his hair the full treatment it needed. They shared several long lingering kisses while waiting for the cream rinse to work its will on Ranma's unruly mop. Their bath ended with the two of them comfortably cuddling and kissing in the furo. Akane had not removed the towel she had put on earlier, and when Ranma tried to slide his hand up along her inner thigh, she stopped him, placing it on her right breast instead.

"Save that for later, Pervert," she ordered as she gently caressed his stiff manhood with her fingers.

"No fair!" Ranma exclaimed with a note of mock complaint in his voice.

"Since when has life ever been fair with us?"

"Ya got a point there, Akane. I don't guess we've ever had it easy until just a few weeks ago."

"Easy? You call the last two months easy?"

"Well, okay, a lot more fun than usual."

"I think I'm warm enough that I could actually enjoy a meal now."

"Yeah, me too. Shall we?"

Akane nodded her head before giving Ranma another kiss. They got out of the furo and quickly dried each other off to avoid getting cold again.

"Aw man!" Ranma exclaimed. "I didn't bring any clothes down here."

Akane grinned and pointed toward the changing room. Ranma looked around and discovered that she had laid out fresh clothing for him. He found a pair of pants and a sweatshirt, but no boxers. When he began looking for them she giggled at him.

"I didn't bring you any underwear, Ranma," she said. "They seemed superfluous somehow."

Ranma found this disturbing for a moment, but then realized that she was right. Boxers did not make him a man. What they covered made him a man. After he had his trousers on, he found the absence of underwear to be rather exciting. It served to remind him of things to come. He eagerly turned around only to find that Akane had put her bathrobe back on while he was pulling on the sweatshirt.

"Why don't you go ahead and get started with dinner," Akane said. "I've got to run up to my room. I won't be a minute."

"Sure," Ranma said, wondering what she was really up to. He decided that he would probably like it, no matter what it was. They left the changing room and Akane seemed to float up the stairs. Ranma went back into the kitchen and set a large wok on one of the burners to heat up while he began peeling the shrimp.

Akane appeared in the kitchen while he was still peeling the shrimp. She was wearing a solid white yukata that he had never seen before. It was made of very thin, but very high quality cotton and fit Akane's body like a second skin. Ranma paused to stare at her for a moment.

"This isn't going to take very long to cook, is it?" Akane asked. Something about the way she stood while she looked up at him made Ranma want to scoop her up into his arms and carry her upstairs. He fought down the urge with difficulty.

"No," he said after a lengthy pause, "shrimp cook pretty fast. The vegetables will be nearly ready in another five minutes, that's when I'll throw the shrimp in. We eat in about ten minutes, maybe a little less."

"Okay. I'll set the table."

Ranma was shocked to discover that Akane had done a marvelous job of setting the table when he brought out their food. Ordinary protocol would have had them seated on opposite sides of the table, but Akane had ignored that rule. Their place settings were side by side on one of the long edges of the table. She had placed a collection of scented candles in a crescent shaped pattern around their plates, leaving Ranma a place to set the serving bowl in the center of the table. She had made tea and was already seated, eagerly waiting for him to arrive.

Ranma happily sat down beside her. Their shoulders came into warm contact as he ladled out a healthy portion of black pepper shrimp onto her plate. Akane poured him a cup of tea. They happily dug into the meal saying very little to one another. Both were hungry and Ranma found their silence comforting and companionable. They were saying as much as they needed to with body language and the occasional caress or kiss. Even the act of pouring tea for her seemed an act of worship to him.

It took them a while, but they did eventually get tired of eating. They did not simply stop eating; it was just that they slowly got more interested in each other than they were in the food. It started with them feeding each other tidbits by hand, but that soon led to kissing and caressing. It was not long before the two of them were stretched out on the floor with Akane's head resting on Ranma's forearm while he held himself up on his elbow and kissed his treasured woman.

"What will we name the first one?" Akane asked when Ranma slid the palm of his hand across her flat stomach.

Ranma surprised himself by not flinching or stuttering.

"I figured that I'd better let you decide on that one, Akane."

"You mean you haven't thought of any names at all?"

Ranma stopped himself from speaking and thought for a moment.

"Well, it all depends on whether it's a boy or girl, right? We might hafta pick a name that'll work for either one."

Akane giggled nervously. "That's been worrying me, too."

"Would it make ya mad?"

"No, but it does worry me. How do you raise a child that has no fixed sex?"

"Especially with a pervert like me for a father, right?" Ranma asked in a joking voice. "If the kid turns out to be as good looking as you are, it would make for no end of trouble."

Akane reached behind Ranma's head and pulled it down for another kiss. Ranma tried to slide his hand up her thigh, but she stopped him again.

"Let's go upstairs," she whispered. "I have a little surprise for you."

"A surprise?"

Giggling, Akane nodded her head.

"Okay, it's kinda cold down here anyway and this floor is a little too hard for comfort."

Before Akane could gain her feet, Ranma scooped her up into his arms and carried her up the stairs. He set her on her feet outside her door. Akane giggled again before opening it. Ranma gasped at what he saw inside. For the entire time he had known her, Akane's room had always been furnished in the Occidental style, but now the floor was covered with tatami and her bed had been replaced with an oversized futon. Where once there had been a desk and chair, there was now a low writing table and cushions. It was all completely traditional, right down to the paper lantern lighting the room with a soft warm glow.

"Do you like it?" Akane asked.

"Well, yeah, but why didja do it?"

"Because I'm going to marry a very traditional pervert," she said. She gave him a sultry grin and added, "Besides, futons don't make squeaking noises or bang the wall."

Ranma wrapped Akane in his arms from behind, placing the palms of his hands on her stomach. Akane slid them up until they were cupping her breasts. He kissed her on the neck. Akane pulled his hands away, breaking free of his hug. She walked into the room and stood by the futon before turning to face him. She placed one of the cushions near the bed.

"Come in here and take your clothes off, Ranma," she said. Her voice was soft, but she was making a demand, not a request.

Ranma felt a sudden rush of heat flood his entire being. He walked through the door and closed it behind him before peeling off his shirt. He dropped his shirt to the floor and paused to stare at Akane for a moment, letting the muscles in his chest stand out in the soft dim light of the newly appointed room. Akane knelt down, placing her knees on the cushion. Naked desire burned in her eyes as she let her gaze wander the length of his body.

She never looks at guys like that, Ranma thought as he loosened his waistband and let his pants fall to the floor. Mustering what little control he had left, he calmly stepped out of them and stood completely naked in front of Akane so that she could just sit and stare at him. It was just embarrassing enough to stop him from becoming fully erect, but more thrilling than anything else he had ever done.

Akane sat motionless, greedily drinking in the sight of him. Ranma cursed himself for the cocky grin he felt growing on his face, but he could not stop it. He turned around slowly, partly so that she could look at his ass, but mostly because he wanted to hide his face. Why do I know girls like to look at a guy's buns, anyway? he wondered. Oh, yeah. I'm a girl about half the time. It turns the guys' locker room into an embarrassin' experience. His member went completely limp.

As he turned back around, he saw that the fire in Akane's eyes was roaring out of control. Her breath was coming short and her cheeks were starting to turn light pink. The sight of her naked lust for him took his own breath away. He began to stiffen yet again.

Akane gave him a knowing smile as she openly stared at his manhood. Without taking her eyes off of Ranma's now throbbing dick, she reached behind her lower back and tugged at her obi. It fell away and the top of her yukata fell open. Ranma never dreamed that he could become any stiffer, but he did. She smiled at his visible surge of interest as she slipped the yukata off of her left shoulder, baring her left breast. Her nipples, always pert, were now standing up tall and proud. The left one was now bare, but the right was easily making its presence known through the thin cloth of her yukata.

Ranma wanted to drop to his knees and kiss Akane's bare breast, but took a deep breath and held it instead. He did not want to interrupt her. She was enjoying the process of arousing him and so was he. Akane rose slowly to her feet, allowing her gaze to lazily wander up the length of Ranma's body as she did so. She stared into his eyes as she slipped off the yukata and let it fall to the floor.

Ranma's eyes followed the fall of the garment and gasped. Not only was she naked, her sex was nude--shaven clean. Ranma released the breath he had been holding with an audible grunt.

"Like what you see, Ranma?" Akane asked as she put one finger to her mouth and gave him a sexy pout.

Ranma rushed forward and took her into his arms. His manhood slid between her thighs as he did so and he could feel the warmth of her naked labia as it rubbed against them. He kissed her deeply. She leaned back as hard as she could, letting him know that she was ready to lie down. Ranma bent his knees in response and the two of them settled gently onto the futon without ever breaking their kiss. Ranma unexpectedly found himself sliding into Akane's warm wet depths and she broke their kiss to gasp aloud. Ranma shuddered uncontrollably.

"Oh, you feel so good, Ranma," Akane whispered into his ear. "Go slow. Go very slow."

He fought off the urge to let himself go, but he was completely mad with lust and pressed himself into her until he could feel his pubic arch pressed against hers. She cried out as if in pain.

"Are you okay?"

"YES!" Akane answered as she wrapped her legs around him and squeezed. "I've been aching for this! I love you so much, Ranma."

He kissed her while holding himself perfectly motionless. Akane kissed back and held him tight with both her arms and her legs. It was heavenly. He lay very still for a long time and enjoyed the feel of his manhood throbbing in her velvety depths. Akane flexed internally and wriggled her hips, and he felt a great surge of fluid race up into his manhood. He groaned.

"I love you, Ranma," she whispered. "With all my heart I love you."

Ranma felt tears run down his cheeks. He slid his arms beneath her and pressed her tightly to his chest.

"And I love you, Akane Tendou," he whispered back. "No power in heaven or earth will ever change that. You own me--body and soul."

They lay unmoving for perhaps fifteen minutes, or maybe an eternity, Ranma could not say for sure. He had a much more important event on his mind. A flow of ki had begun to build up between them. He could feel his ki flowing out of his manhood and into Akane and hers was flowing back into him by the same route. It was sweet and loving and nearly unbearable, but all he wanted was for it to continue, even if it killed them both.

Akane cupped his face with her hands and gave him yet another long deep kiss.

"Are you going to make me pregnant now, Ranma?" Akane asked. "I'm ready if you are."

"I am ready," Ranma said, surprising himself with his answer, "but we have too many other things to do first."

Akane released her hold on him and he slowly, reluctantly, withdrew from her warm depths and sat up. Akane giggled upon seeing his dick. It was pulsing and throbbing. It jerked upward with each beat of his heart. She produced a condom and gently rolled it onto him. That done, she lay back down and reached between her legs with both hands, holding her naked sex open for him. Ranma stared in shock at her wanton display of sexuality.

I can't believe she'd do something like that! he thought, but she is, and she's doing it for me. A fire broke out in Ranma's soul, instantly consuming the whole of his being. He felt his face grow hot as he began trembling with anticipation.

"Take me, Ranma," Akane said in a demanding voice. "Make me scream."

He plunged into her, but stayed in control of himself--and her. He took his time, slowly letting the rhythm of their lovemaking increase with the flow of ki between them. He found himself urging Akane to slow down more than once by simply pinning her down and pushing into her as hard and as deep as he could. After ten minutes or so, he carefully gathered Akane in his arms and stood up without withdrawing from her body.

Akane started having one orgasm after another in quick succession. She rocked her hips causing his hardness to plunge farther into her than he thought possible. She moaned and gave out little whimpering cries as each wave of pleasure overwhelmed her self-control. Ranma felt his love and lust roar to new heights. He burned with desire, as if he had become a living flame, while she writhed in his arms and slid her wet sex up and down the length of his throbbing prick. Realizing that the ache in his loins would soon be uncontainable, he gently lowered her to the futon and plunged into her as far as he could go before erupting. Akane screamed and he erupted again.

He withdrew from her slowly, intending to remove the sheath that was now so laden with his essence, but Akane sat up and removed it for him. She lapped at the head of his now naked penis. The sight and sensation of it caused him to whimper. She paused and looked up at him. An evil little smile briefly played across her lips just before she took the whole of his glans in her mouth. Ranma's hips involuntarily rocked forward. Akane swallowed him down her throat. She seized the cheeks of his ass with both hands and held him still while she tongued the base of his dick. He felt himself getting larger and harder, amazed that she would do such a thing, even though he knew how much she loved him.

Just as Ranma began to worry that he was going to faint, Akane stopped. She looked up at him and said, "Now we can go bareback for a little while, can't we?"

Ranma spent all of thirty milliseconds thinking the matter through. He scooped her up into his lap and she cooperated. He glided into her with only a minimum of fumbling about. Akane groaned and pressed herself against his chest.

"Let's just take our time, Akane," Ranma whispered. "We were building up to something great and I want us to reach it this time."

Akane settled down, letting his stiff manhood slide into her as far as it would go. She moaned as she kissed the base of his neck. Ranma tilted her chin up with one hand and gave her a deep kiss. Ki began to flow between them again, this time from every contact between their bodies. It was not so much a flow as it was a tidal surge. Both of them trembled and held one another close.

They made love that way until just before the sun rose on Saturday morning. When Ranma finally had a full orgasm, he became confused. It seemed as if he had an orgasm in both of his bodies at the same time, or perhaps he was feeling the same things Akane was, he could not be sure. He worried briefly that he might have gotten her pregnant before falling into a deep sleep.


Akane woke up just before noon on Saturday to the delightful aroma of cooking food and freshly brewed coffee. She lay still for a moment, delighting in the feel of her body. I don't remember ever feeling this relaxed, she thought, or ever so...so complete. It's almost as if the world became perfect overnight.

She found herself on her feet and slipping on a robe without ever actually thinking about getting up. It was a strange feeling. It was as if she had thought about the time and then instantaneously began putting on her robe, with no orders given to her limbs, as if the mere thought itself were more than enough to invoke an action. She stepped into her warmest, fuzziest pair of house slippers and made her way downstairs.

Onna-Ranma came out of the kitchen just as Akane stepped into the great room of Tendou-ke. He was wearing a brown pleated skirt and white blouse. He was not wearing his hair tied back in a braided queue, but instead had brushed it out and let it hang down around his shoulders. Akane shook her head and looked closely. He was even wearing a brassiere.

"Good morning, Akane-chan," Onna-Ranma said in a cheery voice as he poured fresh coffee into a large mug.

"Good morning, Ranma," Akane answered. "Or should I say, Good morning, Ranko?"

"No, Ranma's fine. We really are the same person, you know."

Akane stared at him for a moment, her heart filling with an indescribable mixture of love and lust. He's as girlish right now as I could ever be, but I want him as much now as I did last night, Akane thought. I really am in love with him--all of him.

"Here, drink your coffee and go freshen up," Onna-Ranma said. "Breakfast will be ready in a few minutes. We're going to work on your speed today."

Akane gave him a peck on the cheek and sat down at the table. Onna-Ranma disappeared into the kitchen. The morning paper was sitting next to her plate. It was the Yomiuri Shinbun, of course, the only paper her father would allow in the house. Akane picked up the paper with a grin and unfolded it.

"Ranma?" Akane called out. "Would you stop loving me if I grew a mustache?"

"No, but I'd rather you didn't," Onna-Ranma called back from the kitchen. "You'd look too much like your dad."

Akane giggled at his answer.

"Do you have any idea how much you look like Kasumi this morning?"

"Do I really?" Onna-Ranma asked sounding pleased.

"Yes, you do!" Akane answered in as deep a voice as she could muster. "It's very sexy."

"Oh, my!" Onna-Ranma exclaimed, obviously feigning shock. "Isn't it just a bit early for that sort of thing?"

Akane sipped at her coffee. She did not drink coffee very often, but Ranma had somehow discerned how she liked it. It was just the right strength with just a bare hint of sugar in it.

"The coffee's perfect!" Akane called out. "How did you do it?"

"Oh, that's easy," Onna-Ranma answered. "I just remembered how yours smelled from those times we were at the coffee shop."

"You use your nose when cooking?" Akane asked in surprise.

"Of course!" Onna-Ranma answered as he stuck his head out of the kitchen doorway. "Finish your coffee and freshen up. Breakfast will be ready soon."

Akane giggled. "Yes, dear!"

She took another sip of her coffee and thought for a moment. That skirt he's wearing is one that Kasumi wore when she was still going to school. Maybe I should take him shopping for clothes.

"Ranma, why don't we squeeze in some time for shopping this weekend?"

"For clothes, you mean?" Onna-Ranma called back from the kitchen.

"Yes."

"Not this weekend, Akane," Onna-Ranma said as he emerged from the kitchen. "I want us to go do that somewhere other than Nerima."

"Why?" Akane asked.

"I can't be all of me, here, Akane," Onna-Ranma answered. "Too many people know me and they'd freak out."

Akane understood immediately and nodded her head in agreement. "Maybe next weekend we'll go on a little training trip."

"Sounds like a plan to me."

"I'll go freshen up."

"Don't be too long," Onna-Ranma cautioned. "You know how much you hate eating cold eggs."

Akane did not take long in the furo and returned to find a table equal to one of Kasumi's better efforts. She and Onna-Ranma dug in with zest, making short work of the meal. Once they were through eating, Akane helped to carry the dishes back into the kitchen and found that she could no longer resist the temptation to pat Onna-Ranma's heart-shaped little bottom. She reached down slid her hand upwards beneath the hem of Onna-Ranma' rather conservative skirt.

"Ranma, you naughty girl!" Akane exclaimed. "You aren't wearing any panties."

"Blame it on Happousai," Onna-Ranma answered, feigning hurt and outrage. "He must have raided the house just before he left."

Akane continued to play around beneath his skirt and made another discovery.

"You shaved!" Akane exclaimed. "I can't wait to see it!"

Onna-Ranma said nothing, giving Akane a lewd grin for a reply. Akane scooped him up into her arms and started walking out of the kitchen.

"What about the dishes?" Onna-Ranma asked in a plaintive voice.

"They'll keep!" Akane snapped. "I want a good long taste of you and I want it right now!"

"Be gentle with me?" Onna-Ranma pleaded. "It's been so-o-o long."

"On, don't worry, Ranma," Akane said in a husky voice. "I know how to be gentle in all the right places."

Onna-Ranma whimpered with anticipation.

It was late in the afternoon before they finally put on their dougi and went out into the backyard. Akane had insisted on spending an hour brushing Onna-Ranma's hair. It had responded well, taking on a sheen it had previously lacked. He was wearing it tied back into a simple ponytail now, and it looked good on his female form.

"What's the bell for, Ranma?" Akane asked.

He was standing in front of a newly made post set into the ground. The yard had seen many such posts over the years. They were always thicker at the bottom than at the top. The taper let them spring when punched or kicked. The upper ten sun of the posts was always carefully wrapped with hemp twine to protect the practitioner's knuckles. Akane's father had set many such posts in the yard.

She smiled at the memory of the first ones. He had set three of them out in the yard, each one sized for his three girls. Akane's, of course, had been the smallest one. She had broken it on her second day of practice and Soun had replaced it with one that was just as tall, but thicker. After a month had gone by, he had given up and planted a tree in the yard for her. It was still there. Now more than a shaku thick, the trunk had a sharp bend in it from all the practice punches and kicks she had delivered to it. She could still kick that tree hard enough to shake its uppermost limbs.

This new post was not much different from the others, save that it had a second post set behind and to one side of it. A cross arm on this second post held a bronze bell near the back of the practice post. Onna-Ranma punched the practice post. It sprang back and struck the bell, causing it to give forth a melodious note, not at all unlike what you would expect to hear in a temple.

"See?" Onna-Ranma asked.

"I can see what happens, Ranma, I just don't see why you did this."

"Okay, watch."

He began punching the practice post repeatedly, steadily bringing up the speed. The bell sounded in time with his punches until he reached his full speed. At that point, one ring of the bell did not have a chance to fade before the bell was called upon to ring again. It became a solid wall of sound, almost a wail, sounding more like a siren than a bell. Akane had to put her hands to her ears.

"See what I mean?" Onna-Ranma asked after he had stopped throwing punches and the sound of the bell began to fade.

"You're giving me a challenge to meet," Akane answered.

"That's right," Ranma answered, "a challenge that won't burn your hands to a crisp or get you bitten. All you have to do is throw good punches and learn to throw them fast."

Akane immediately understood that he had not given her a minor challenge. She could still very easily hurt herself punching that post, especially when trying to hit it hard and fast. All it would take was one little flaw in her form while trying to improve her speed and she would have an injured hand or even an injured arm. She had seen more than one student break bones in his hand as well as damaging a wrist and elbow while working on a practice post. She would have to be patient with herself and not become too eager.

"I'm ready," Akane said.

"Don't try to go fast at first," Onna-Ranma cautioned. "Start off slow."

"I will," Akane said.

The sound of the bell surprised her on the first punch, even though she expected it. The sound was much louder than she anticipated. She looked to her left at Onna-Ranma. He grinned and waved her on. She turned back to the post and threw a combination at it. The bell rang twice in quick succession. She continued to bang away at the post, bringing her speed up until she was certain that she was throwing punches faster than she ever had before in her entire life. She pushed herself a little harder, but it still was not enough to make the bell sing out with one solid note the way Onna-Ranma had made it sing a few minutes before.

Soon, sweat soaked through the back of her gi, but she did not slow her pace. She had managed to get the bell to run two notes together once, and she wanted to do that again in this session, but it was not to be.

"Whoa, Akane!" Onna-Ranma called out. "That's plenty for a day."

Akane stopped punching the post and turned to face her sensei and lover. She was wee bit annoyed with him for not letting her continue.

"Why such a short workout, Ranma?" she asked unable to keep all the annoyance and disappointment out of her voice.

"Look at your hands, Akane."

Akane looked and was horrified by what she saw. Her knuckles were red, raw and swollen.

"I didn't even notice!" Akane cried out. "This will take a week to heal!"

"I doubt it, Akane," Onna-Ranma answered. "You've come a long way. You'll find that you heal faster now than you ever have before."

"Why?"

"Your ki is nearly twice as strong as it was a month ago."

"How can you tell?"

Onna-Ranma merely grinned and shook his head.

"Come on, let's go put something on those knuckles. You and I still have some work to do in the dojou."

Akane gave out a sigh or frustration and followed him into the house. Once inside, she learned that he had already prepared a poultice for her.

"When did you make this?"

"This morning while I was fixing breakfast."

"You knew I'd need it."

"Yeah, I did," Onna-Ranma answered. "Actually, I started putting this together a week ago. That was when I had this idea about the bell."

"A week ago?"

"Sure! You don't think I wait until the morning we work out to have you do something, do you?"

"Isn't that what your dad does?"

"Pop? Hell no! He always has half-a-dozen things planned in advance. That way, if it turns out we can't to one thing, he can have us do another. The old man is a lot smarter than he lets anyone believe."

"You sound as if you admire him a little, Ranma."

"Hah! So do you, unless I'm mistaken. There aren't too many as sharp as the old man when it comes to The Art. He ain't much use for anything else, but when it comes to the Art, there aren't too many that can match him."

"Ko Lon?"

"That's kinda like comparin' apples to oranges, but yeah, if the old man wanted to, he could give the old ghoul a run for her money."

"Happousai?"

"Him too."

"What about you?"

Onna-Ranma shuddered before answering, "I don't want to think about a serious fight between me and the old man. I'd have better chances against Haabu."

"I had no idea," Akane said. "The way you two act all the time, I would never have believed you had that much respect for him."

"Who said anything about respect?" Onna-Ranma asked. "I'm scared spit-less of him."

"You're kidding me, right?"

"No, I'm not, Akane," Onna-Ranma answered in very sober voice. "It's not just the old man's skill, it's his experience and cunning. He knows every dirty trick in the book and I sometimes think he might have written about half of 'em. He makes up new ones every day."

Akane laughed out loud. "I can believe that about him."

"Your dad ain't no slouch, either," Onna-Ranma added. "He and the old man act a lot more timid than either one of 'em really is."

"Ow!" Akane cried out as Ranma wrapped her right hand with a bandage containing the poultice he had made for her. "It stings."

"You hit a little harder with your right," Onna-Ranma said in a mildly reproving tone. "We'll hafta fix that."

"How?"

Onna-Ranma gave Akane an evil grin. "You'll see soon enough. For now, let's go out to the dojou. I"ve got a few things I want to show you about kata."

Akane gave out a sigh of resignation as she followed him out to the dojou. There was no point in arguing with him, she knew, but she was getting very tired of doing the same kata over and over and over.

"Think you can do the second kata?" Onna-Ranma asked as they finished bowing to the kamidana.

Akane felt a huge smile grow on her face as she answered, "You bet!"

"Good!" Onna-Ranma exclaimed as he took Akane by the hand and led her out into the middle of the floor. "Take the ready position here. I'm going to do the first kata, you answer my moves with the second. That means I'll be attacking and you'll be defending. Think you can handle it?"

Akane gave him a fierce grin and said, "Try me."

"Oh, you're gonna get tried, all right," Onna-Ranma replied in an ominous tone. "Believe me. Today you're gonna find out if you really know your stuff."

"With all due respect, Sensei," Akane said, "I have done the first kata so many times that I am sick of it and you have worked with me doing the second kata many times."

Onna-Ranma's face became coldly serious as he assumed the ready position a meter away. "There are a few secrets hidden in them that you are going to start learning today, Akane. Ready? Begin!"

Akane gasped when her first block nearly missed. Her near miss was not caused by Onna-Ranma using his superior speed. She had never practiced these two kata with him while he was in his female form. It was the angle of his incoming punch that had thrown her off. The angle was different because of the difference in his height and reach. He did not pull anything fancy or sneaky, yet she found that she needed to concentrate intensely to do the kata and not get hit. They finished the form to near perfection, coming to a halt within a fraction of a sun of where they had started.

"Not bad, Akane," Onna-Ranma said, giving her a fierce grin. "Not bad at all. Want to do it again?"

Akane gulped before nodding her head.

"Begin!"

This time it was different. They were indeed practicing the same forms, but Onna-Ranma was throwing sand into the delicate mechanism of these two carefully matched kata. He shifted the timing a little here, changed the angle of the prescribed attack there, and whenever Akane faltered, he sped up. It was unnerving. Onna-Ranma was constantly inside her guard and would sometimes slip one of her punches or kicks where the kata called for him to block. She was relieved when it finally ended.

"Learn anything?"

"I...I don't know, Sensei."

"Okay, we'll do it again," Onna-Ranma said with a nasty smile. "Ready? Begin!"

Akane did begin to learn things this time, because Onna-Ranma did exactly the same things he had done the last time. How the hell can he remember all those variations after doing them only once? she asked herself. I really have got a long way to go!

"Get it that time?"

"Show me again, Sensei."

"Ready? Begin!"

And so it went for several more rounds; Akane lost count. She was getting truly tired when Onna-Ranma finally called a halt.

"That's enough for one day, I think," he said, giving Akane a lewd stare. "You're going to need the strength you have left to deal with dessert."

"I could use a long soak before dinner," Akane said, returning his smile. "Will you join me?"

"Oh, yeah!"

It did not take them long to scrub down and settle into the steaming waters of the furo. They sat side by side and Onna-Ranma was in the mood to be cuddled. Akane happily let him do so.

"Ranma?"

"Mmm?"

"Why did you go girl today?"

"There's just you and me here today so I decided to take advantage of it."

"What do you mean?"

"How many times have you seen me dress and act the way I have today?"

Akane quickly ran through her memories. Ranma never dressed the way he had this morning unless he needed to disguise himself for some reason. She could not recall him ever voluntarily letting his hair down, or wearing a bra.

"Am I talking to Ranma or Ranko?"

"Ranma, Akane," he answered. "Ranko is kind of like one of those imaginary friends little kids dream up for themselves. She's really me and I'm really her."

"So you decided to be your girlish self today because no one would be around to disapprove, right?"

"Yes, that's exactly right," he answered. "You don't mind it too much do you?"

Akane hugged him a little tighter as she answered, "Of course not."

"But you really like my guy-side better, don't you?"

Akane hesitated. There did not seem to be a good answer to that question.

"I love you in both forms, Ranma. It's just that I don't think I can do what your girl-side really needs me to do, even when I try."

"Oh, I definitely noticed how hard you try, Akane!" Onna-Ranma exclaimed and then giggled. "You don't do half-bad at it, either."

"But its not everything you need in this form, is it?"

Onna-Ranma snuggled a little closer and kissed Akane's breast before answering, "It's as much as I could ever hope for. It's not like I could ever turn to some other guy for what this part of me needs, you know."

"I wouldn't like it if you did," Akane told him.

"Jealous?"

"Damned right!"

Onna-Ranma giggled and snuggled closer. Akane reached down into his lap and slid a finger into his slot.

"This belongs to me," Akane said in stern voice. "Don't you ever forget it!"

Onna-Ranma placed the palm of his hand on Akane's stomach and answered, "Don't worry. I won't."

Akane looked him in the eye while sliding her fingers deeper inside his body, seeking that little spot she knew he had just behind his pubic arch. The one she knew that she herself had--the one that he could stimulate so nicely with his hard manhood. Onna-Ranma moaned.

"I feel like a late dinner, Ranma," Akane whispered. "How about you?


Nabiki Tendou woke up when the bullet train began to decelerate. She had fallen asleep watching the countryside pass by. The train was so fast that she had to focus her attention well out away from the track. Everything near the track was a continuous blur. She could tell just by looking at the city that the air outside the train was much colder than it had been in Shikoku. Even though Tokyo was cold this time of year and the new trains, especially the bullet trains, were comfortable, Nabiki was happy to be getting home. She had seen entirely too much of trains and buses for the last two days.

Still, it had been a good trip. Shikoku had always been a pleasant place to visit. They had taken the bullet train from Tokyo to Hiroshima, a pleasant ride in and of itself, and from there had caught the hydrofoil that ran across the calm waters of the Inland Sea between Hiroshima and Matsuyama on the northwestern coast of Shikoku.

Matsuyama could be called the perfect town for anyone who liked city life but hated the frenetic pace usually associated with urban living. Tokyo roared from dawn to dusk. Matsuyama, with a population of about 400,000 people, just barely managed to bustle, and then only twice a day. Even so, Nabiki and Kiima had both agreed that Matsuyama was not the place to try settling the soon-to-be incoming members of the Three Tribes. Matsuyama was too small for them to remain anonymous and not far enough out of the way to avoid unwanted attention.

While staying at Matsuyama's famous Dogo Onsen, Japan's oldest and most famous, she and Kiima decided to find a place within an hour's travel time of Matsuyama as a base of operations. This, much to Nodoka Saotome's delight, led to them paying a visit to the little coastal town of Uwajima.

Nabiki found that she loved this little town, despite her love of big city conveniences. It was quiet, picturesque, had several excellent restaurants and there was a lot of money in the town. More importantly, it was money made from the quiet vocation of pearl culture rather than heavy industry. Life in Uwajima could be very good and, as far as both Nabiki and Kiima were concerned, it would make a perfect base of operations.

All of these features appealed to Nodoka, of course, but her real excitement arose from the opportunity to visit the Taga Jinja. Nabiki had not wanted to spend any time visiting the shrine, but gave in and went anyway for the sake of family harmony. She would always be grateful that she had.

The Taga Jinja, or Taga-ji, was long ago devoted to fertility, human fertility in particular. She had never seen such a collection of erotica in any one place before in her entire life. What made the trip worthwhile though, were the embarrassed reactions of her father and Genma Saotome to Nodoka's unabashed delight in the place. Nabiki had never seen her father get so red in the face before.

Genma tried at least a dozen times to get splashed with cold water, failing every time. Aunt Nodoka's reflexes, it seemed, were more than a little quick when the occasion demanded it of her.

"While we visit this place, Husband," Nodoka had said in her sharp steely voice, " you _shall_ remain a man for me. Do try to save some your beastliness for this evening, if you would, darling."

It was especially funny when they came upon the phallus carved from a log ten meters long and the matching stone vulva it pointed at. Kiima took one look at the display and fell over laughing, which was a very strange experience for Nabiki, given that Kiima looked and sounded exactly like Akane at the time.

Upon returning to the hotel, she and Kiima left the older adults to their own devices, and found a local realtor. With the help of this enterprising Obata-san, they set out looking for suitable land in the area. The realtor had proven to be quite the hustler and seemed to understand that Nabiki and Kiima were serious about their search. She carried them to many of the places they needed to examine in her personal car. On several occasions, the realtor had carried them well inland to look at a property. In other cases though, Kiima and Nabiki had been obliged to ride a bus to some remote little village and then hike along dirt roads to check things out. She and Kiima had even gone flying a couple of times.

Though Nabiki did her best to stop it, her mind recalled the first takeoff they had made that second day. Kiima had donned a harness, then helped Nabiki put on another, very similar harness. Before Nabiki could quite come to grips with the idea of being strapped to Kiima's bosom, she had found herself being pitched headlong from a high cliff towards the surf that pounded the barnacle encrusted rocks far below.

"Kuso!" Nabiki remembered screaming. Kiima's answering laugh was still loud in her ears. Enduring the takeoff had quickly proven its worth, though. Nabiki gained far better knowledge of the land surrounding Uwajima than she could have gotten by any other means. She had taken many, many pictures. All said and done, the trip had proven to be a worthwhile adventure.

But now, Nabiki was returning home with sore feet, worn out shoes, a camera bag full to overflowing with exposed film, and a raging libido. She blamed this last problem on Nodoka, inferring that Ranma's mother had probably thrown in a quick prayer for her while praying for Ranma and Akane to soon have a baby. She briefly considered asking Nodoka about it, but decided that it would be better if she never found out if Nodoka had.

As they came out of the baggage claim area, a man Nabiki had never seen before walked up to her. He was as tall as her father, but as broad as Genma Saotome, and he carried a heavy leather satchel in his left hand.

"Excuse me, Miss," the man said as he gave her a polite bow, "but are you Tendou Nabiki?"

"Yes, I am," Nabiki politely answered as she returned his bow.

"I am Ka Yen," the man said.

Nabiki could not keep the surprise out of her face. He looked to be a native Japanese and spoke with a Kansai accent, yet he had a Musk name. She looked at him closely and realized that he must be blood kin to Haabu.

"You are of the Dragon Clan?" Nabiki asked.

"Remotely," the man answered. "My family settled in Japan at the beginning of the Meiji restoration. We were a cadet branch of the royal line and became traders."

"I see," Nabiki answered.

"I have been asked to entrust these messages from the late Revered Grandmother to the Cold Dragon of Nerima to you. Will you deliver them?"

Nabiki's mind raced ahead with alarm. It meant that the hand-off to Ko Lon was not going to go as expected. It would complicate things enormously.

"What happened?"

"I am told that she died on the way here," Ka Yen said with a shrug of his shoulders. "She was old and frail, the journey long and arduous. From what I could gather, no one was terribly surprised, not even the Revered Grandmother herself. She wrote these letters as she lay dying in a camp north of Chung King."

"I will deliver them."

"They must remain sealed," the Ka Yen said. "They are for the Cold Dragon alone."

"I understand," Nabiki said. "Kiima?"

"Yes, Tendou-san!" Kiima answered as she stepped forward to accept the satchel.

"This is Captain Kiima, currently in the service of my betrothed, Prince Haabu," Nabiki said to Ka Yen. "I trust her with my life."

The man bowed to Nabiki first, then bowed to Kiima and handed over the satchel.

"Lord Haabu sends his greetings to you, Tendou no Mae, and asked that I tell you that he is looking forward to seeing you again soon."

"Thank you for your help and kindness, Ka Yen of the Musk," Nabiki said, giving the man a polite bow. "If ever I can return the favor?"

"I'm sure we will see one another again, Tendou-dono," the man said with a smile. "Much work remains to be done."

Nabiki sighed. "Far more than I like to think about."

She watched Ka Yen's departing back as he disappeared into the crowd. She thought all the things that were about to happen, and then of Ranma and Akane.

"I hope you guys enjoyed your weekend," Nabiki muttered under her breath. "You won't have another one like it for a long time to come."


Ranma found several scrolls in the satchel that Kiima carried home for Nabiki. She had brought it to him in the dojou. Akane looked him in the face and gave him a warm hug before leaving him alone. He was surprised by this at first, but then realized that they had been reading each other that way for the better part of a year without really thinking about it.

He sat stock still for a long time, just staring into the heavy leather bag. The whole thing saddened him. It was not the passing of the Revered Grandmother that bothered him so much, even though the death of anyone invariably caused him sadness. What bothered him was that the contents of the bag told him that he was no longer a boy, but a man, and that he was no ordinary man, either. His carefree days of youth were over.

(Why so glum, Saotome?)

(It's over. Nothing will ever be the same ever again.)

(I got news for you, Saotome, it ended that day in Jusendou. There was no going back the day we killed Safuron.)

(Yeah, I know, but I hoped we could...could...)

(Keep being kids for a little while longer?)

(Yeah.)

(We had to grow up for Akane, you know. She's going to be ready for babies soon.)

(I guess I had better start reading then, huh?)

(Looks like it to me.)

(Where in the hell have you been, anyway?)

(Hey! You didn't need me. You were handling both sides of the equation just fine all weekend so I stayed buried inside you.)

(Oh.)

(There! That one, Saotome. It looks as if that's the one addressed directly to the Cold Dragon.)

(Yeah, this really thick one is for Ko Lon.)

(That figures. What are the others?)

(I dunno. Let's read this one first.)

(Ooh, I like the style! Read it aloud, Saotome.)

"To the Illustrious Cold Dragon of Nerima, the Land of the Wa, Protector of the Archives and Defender of the Three Tribes, from the Revered Grandmother of the Joketsuzoku, Keeper of Knowledge and Defender of the True Path.

"Greetings,

"Please be advised that my health is failing fast and it is unreasonable of me to expect to live long enough to formally hand over my duties to my chosen successor, the Elder Ko Lon of the Joketsuzoku. It is my fondest hope that you will find in her a suitable replacement for me. If not, a list of other potential candidates is appended to the end of this missive. It pleases me to inform you that the Elder Ko Lon has the explicit approval of the Joketsuzoku Council of Elders and the Special Council of the Hououzanjin, as well as the approval of your loyal lieutenant, Prince Haabu, Lord of the Musk. Their sealed statements of affirmation should be in the satchel bearing this missive. Please also find, enclosed, a scroll for the Elder Ko Lon. I had hoped to deliver this to her in person, but this will not be possible as I will already be dead by the time you read this. I entrust it to you for safekeeping and delivery."

(Never mind the list of alternates, Saotome.)

(Yeah, better the evil we know.)

(Oh, come on!)

(Yeah, okay. She ain't really evil.)

(Just a pain in the neck sometimes.)

(And a good friend and teacher, too, I guess.)

(So what do we do next?)

(We go see the Old Ghoul and hope that our karma lets us have a little peace and quiet with Akane once or twice a year, Red. What else is there to hope for?)

(Akane's cooking on Friday nights, dummy!)

(Ya gotta point there, Red. I am beginnin' to like her cookin' a lot.)

(You ain't the only one, Stud-muffin.)

(Ready?)

(Steady!)

(Let's go!)


End of Chapter 17 Part d
Copyright © Don Granberry