I really have no excuse for how late this is. In fact, most of this chapter was written some time ago. I just wasn't satisfied with the ending and I kind of wanted to make it longer. Ah well. It's still something I suppose.
The jog was nothing short of exhausting.
'I need to get back into shape,' I think to myself as I collapse in front of the compound.
Akane, on the other hand, isn't even out of breath. She looks down at me with mild amusement twinkling in her eyes.
"You might want to lay down for a little while, Nabiki. Take it easy for the rest of the day. The jog will be longer tomorrow," She says, smiling down at me with a grin that I swear is filled with malice.
"Sadist," I mutter under my breath.
As I start getting up I make a mental note never to give Akane any modicum of power ever again.
Just then Kasumi bolts into the entryway startling the both of us.
"What's wrong?" Akane asks, nervously. It's unsettling to see Kasumi panicking and I can tell that Akane isn't sure what to make of it.
"Ranma ran into a cat a little while ago!" She says.
"Did he go into the Neko-ken?" I ask, worried.
"Y-yes," Kasumi stammers. She isn't usually involved in the chaos of Nerima, so she's understandably at a loss for what to do.
"Did he hurt you?" Akane asks, now Kasumi over for any injuries.
"N-no," She says, "He was friendly enough, and I tried to get him to come inside, but he ran off."
"I'll go find him," Akane says "He's dangerous as he is now and I'm the only one who can calm him down."
"I'm going too," I say before immediately regretting my decision.
"Why do you care what happens to Ranma?" Akane asks, obviously suspicious of me.
For a second I'm at a loss for what to do. I need to be able to look for Ranma without letting Akane know that I'm his friend.
"I don't care about Ranma, " I comment coldly, having recovered from my slip-up and immersing myself in my Ice Queen persona, "I care about my most profitable cash-cow, so let's get to looking."
Akane seems to buy this and Kasumi shoots me a look that says 'nice save, but be careful ' and we both head out.
"Any ideas on how we can find him?" I ask Akane. I haven't had to deal with the neko-ken much and I know Akane has been able to bring Ranma out of that state in the past, so I have every intention of following her lead. I am, honestly, terrified of dealing with Ranma in this state. I've seen what he can do, and the fact that he could peel the bark from trees with his hands or ki claws or whatever is scary as hell.
'Ranma the person might like me, but that doesn't mean that he will in the neko-ken state, he gets along with Akane after all,' I think to myself.
"We're going to do what Mr. Saotome did the first time we saw Ranma went into the Neko-ken, and lure him out with catnip. There's a park nearby that we can use," Akane says confidently.
"Aren't there going to be people there?" I ask nervously as I imagine what neko-ken Ranma could do to people. He could tear through a tree with his bare hands after all.
"There's nobody there," Akane says, "Ranma and Ryoga had a fight about a week ago and the Bakusai Tenketsu did a number on the place. None of it has been fixed yet."
"Fine. Where are we getting the catnip?"
Akane just flashes me a smile.
"There's a pet shop nearby and the owner owes me a favor."
"For what?" I ask.
"There were some dumb boys hanging out in front of the shop and scaring customers away. I took care of them," She replies with a smirk.
I let of a mental sigh. That's my sister; always happy to show off her martial arts skills, especially when they're directed towards the opposite gender.
Shaking my head I push those thoughts aside and focus on keeping up with Akane.
I'm already winded from our jog earlier and she's getting further and further ahead of me. I briefly consider yelling for her to slow down before deciding that the sooner she gets the catnip the better.
Eventually I catch up to Akane at the pet store, where the owner has loaded her up with two large bags of catnip.
"You ready for this?" She asks, hefting both of the bags onto her shoulders.
"Ready to deal with a feral Ranma who could effortlessly tear us limb from limb if he wanted to? Of course I am," I deadpan as I follow Akane who has begun sprinting off in the direction of the park.
Akane of course, races ahead of me and gets out of my sight before the first mile as I curse myself, not for the first time, for not keeping in shape shape.
Upon reaching the park I find that Akane has already poured the catnip out of the bag and begun spreading it around on the ground in the center of the park.
"Are you sure this will work, Akane? I mean, how is Ranma supposed to know about this?"
"His sense of smell is really good when he's like this. The last time this happened we found him blocks away pawing at the window of a seafood store. I would've checked there first but the owner moved out of Nerima. Last time I saw him he said something about being too old to keep up with everything that happens around here," Akane explained as she finished spreading the rest of the catnip around.
I only nod. Can't exactly blame people for not wanting to stick a round when the locals have been referring to the local martial artists as the town's wrecking crew.
We wait for what must have been a few minutes, though it felt like much longer.
I'm not used to being in the thick of Nerima's chaos. Usually I'm off to the side trying to make a profit from whatever's happening, but now I'm waiting for it to come to me. It's unnerving.
Suddenly I hear a rustling from one of the nearby bushes.
"Is that him?" I ask, scared. The reality of the situation dawns on me. I could potentially die horribly, ripped apart by my secret best friend.
"It might be. Get behind me," Akane says grabbing my arm and pulling me behind her.
Just then Ranma comes out of the bushes. He's on all fours, in the same position that I see an agitated cat in. He moves forward cautiously, obviously surveying the situation as best he can. He is staring at his, his pupils narrowing into slits.
"A-Akane, he's not stopping for the catnip. What to we do?"
"It's fine, he likes me," She says, but her voice doesn't hold half as much confidence as I want it to.
She tightens her grip on my arm.
"Do something!" I whisper, my nerves getting the better of me.
"Hey, Ranma! It's me," she says, letting go of my arm and kneeling down before beckoning him over.
He pays her no mind though; his eyes are focused on me now.
Akane notices this and moves into his line of vision, getting him to look at her instead. For a moment Ranma stops and lets out a low, guttural yowl.
I start to back away, worried that me might be unhappy because I'm next to his favorite person.
Just as I begin to do this he lunges straight past Akane and towards me.
He's on me before either of us can blink, and I'm knocked to the ground. Akane immediately gets up, rushing towards Ranma before he can hurt me, but just as she reaches for him, three red lines appear on her arm. I don't realize that they're cuts until Akane yelps and pulls her arm back. She cradles her arm, which is fortunately still attached, as she lets off a string of curses at Ranma, who turns his attention towards back towards me. A shiver goes down my spine as he runs up to me. I close my eyes, expecting the sharp pain of claws or rake across me, but it doesn't come. Instead I feel hair rubbing across my arm. Cautiously I open my eyes to find him head-butting me affectionately.
I sit there, momentarily stunned, as Ranma continues to show me affection before seemingly realizing that he's surrounded by catnip and flopping down lazily on the ground.
It takes me a few moments to work up the courage to take my eyes off of him, I did think he was going to end my life mere moments ago, after all.
Finally I shoot Akane a questioning glance. She's still cradling her arm protectively, but the look on her face is telling me that her rage is about to boil over.
"Stop!" I command softly as she takes a step towards Ranma, clearly ready to attack him.
She looks at me like I'm insane before looking at her arm and then back to me again. I can tell what's going through her head.
'Look at what he did to me! Why are you defending him?'
"Akane," I speak, softly so as not to disturb the still potentially volatile Ranma lying beside me, "Neko-ken Ranma has gone toe-to-toe with Cologne. He might usually like you, but cats are mercurial and he was willing to attack you already. You can't fight him."
Akane grimaces. She doesn't like being told that she can't beat somebody. I know that it hurts her pride, but I have no choice but to be blunt here. If she attacks Ranma now, she'll end up with a lot worse than a few scratches.
"Just get to the clinic and get your arm bandaged. I'll take care of Ranma," I tell her. Carefully letting my hand down for Ranma to sniff at it.
He bats at my hand playfully, fortunately having put away his ki claws.
"Fine," She says, albeit a little begrudgingly, "I'll see back at home."
I nod and watch her as she runs out of sight.
Just then a though occurs to me.
"Wait, Akane! What do I do with him when he's like this?!" I yell, but it's too late. She's either too far away to hear me or too mad at Ranma to come back and tell me what to do.
"Looks like it's just me and you," I sigh, looking over at Neko-Ranma.
He lets off a purr before nudging me again, clearly seeking attention.
I relent and begin scratching him behind his ear.
"Just don't kiss me on the mouth like you did with Akane," I say jokingly as he melts bonelessly into my lap.
After a few minutes I turn to my thoughts.
'Man my life got weird. My best, and only, friend currently has the mind of a cat and is laying in my lap, not to mention that this friendship is secret because, if it weren't, his multiple fiancés would try to kill and or drug me.'
I am torn from my thoughts, though, as I feel something wet move across my hand. The feeling sends shivers down my spine.
I whip my head down only to find that Ranma has decided to lick me.
I immediately go full Ice Queen, shooting a downright chilling gaze at neko-Ranma, who looks at me uncaringly.
"Right, you're a cat," I mutter to myself as I realize that my perfectly terrifying glare has been wasted on him.
He licks me again.
This time a yank my hand away from him before trying to shake some of the slobber off.
"You might act cute but you can be pretty disgusting sometimes," I say, as I begin to wipe my hand off on his shirt.
He just looks at me blankly, as if he's trying to understand what I'm saying, before nudging me with his head.
"On the bright side, once you're back to normal I'll have something that I'll never let you live down," I say, smiling smugly.
'Oh, this will be fun,' I think to myself.
As I open my eyes the first thing I realize is that I'm staring at the sky. The sun is bright, and I squint trying to remember why I'm outside.
'Did I fall asleep on the roof again?' I wonder, as I turn my head on my pillow.
As I'm about to close my eyes again, a thought crosses my mind.
'Wait. If I'm on the roof why would I have a pillow?'
Suddenly the memory of the cat in the backyard floods back to me. I bolt up, looking over myself. There's only a tiny bit of blood on my hand. I breathe a sigh of relief. It's such a small amount that I doubt I've killed anything. The only thing I remember from first time waking up after the neko-ken is an image of horror: I was drenched in blood with the bodies of several cats strewn about around me. It's an image I dread waking up to every time I realize that I've fallen into the neko ken.
"Have a good catnap?" A familiar voice says.
I turn my head fast enough to give any normal person whiplash only to find Nabiki behind me.
"That'll be 10,000 yen by the way," She says, her Ice Queen smirk plastered on her face as she holds out her hand.
I sigh and pull out my wallet to pay her.
Every time we wish she could do something to help me out as a friend in public she reminds me that she'd have to charge me. It's become something of a joke between us, albeit a pretty miserable one as it just serves to remind us of how powerless we are. Besides, I know I'm not getting anywhere until she gets her money. Even if it's an act between us it's one that has to carry through until the end.
After I hand her the money she begins counting it.
After a long and uncomfortable silence I finally ask, "Are you going to tell me what happened?"
"That'll be another five-hundred."
"Nabiki," I grind out. I know she's joking, but waking up from the neko ken and being unable to remember what I've done always puts me on edge.
"Okay! Okay! I'll tell you! We're in a park and I 'm just trying to keep up the act," she says, muttering the last part so quietly that I can barely hear it.
"Just tell me," I sigh, my initial anger dissipating in an instant as I realize that we are in a public place, albeit a seemingly uninhabited one.
"Alright, let's head home though. I 'll fill you in on the way," She says, walking off in the direction of the compound.
I sigh and follow her, eager to know just what happened.
"So where shall I start?" She asks herself nonchalantly. If the Ice Queen is good at anything, it's making her prey squirm.
"What or whose blood is on me?" I ask, ignoring the fact that her question is rhetorical.
"Oh, that would be Akane's," She says, "She tried touching you and, well, cats like to be touched on their own terms. The cuts were pretty shallow so it shouldn't be a huge deal".
"Tell that to Akane and our dads when we get home," I scoff.
"That'd be another thousand yen," She says, a smirk on her face.
This time, I can't help but chuckle a bit.
There you have it folks! Drop a review if you want, even if it's just chewing me out for getting this out so late. I'll try to get the next one out sooner, but I make no promises.