The Ultimate Technique - Chapter 4 - Kasumi

By Mike Breslau

Disclaimer: Better folks than I
own most of the characters that appear in this scribbling.

The next morning Kasumi awoke feeling unusually relaxed. As she
stretched she became aware of a tantalizing aroma - someone was making
breakfast? Oh my! She quickly dressed, without hurrying, and went
downstairs to investigate. She found Ranma in *her* kitchen efficiently
preparing the morning meal, and looking very graceful as he did it.
After a moment she realized that he was following her choreography -
using the same moves she had developed for maximum efficiency. Somehow,
"Oh My!" just didn't cut it.

Ranma smiled at her and kept working without a pause. "I thought I'd let
you sleep in for a change, as a sort of thank you. You take such good
care of us all, and nobody expresses their appreciation..."

Kasumi flushed. "That's very considerate of you, Ranma, but you needn't
have bothered. This is my job, after all."

"I'm trying to learn a bit of your Art, Kasumi. This is just like a new
kata to me - martial arts breakfast making."

"I'm not a martial artist," objected Kasumi.

Ranma paused and grinned. "My pop says everything is martial arts - and
for once, he's right. The Art is not really about fighting, it's about
being aware, focused, in control, and in the moment. A kitchen kata
could fit in 'anything goes.' You'll never be a fighter, but you're
already an artist." He resumed cooking.

"Oh my," mumbled Kasumi reflexively.

"Go take a bath," suggested Ranma, "I've already filled the tub for
you."

Kasumi was not used to anyone being nice to her. The break in her
morning routine was disconcerting, but nice. "I never knew Ranma could
be such a gentleman," she thought, "maybe I was hasty in rejecting
him..." She thanked Ranma and left for the bathroom.

A little later as the Tendos gathered for breakfast they found Kasumi
seated at the table and Ranma serving food from the kitchen.

"This is quite good," remarked Nabiki, "Did you make it yourself,
Ranma?"

Ranma looked pleased and answered in the affirmative.

"That's women's work," Soun grumped.

Ranma looked at him coldly. "I could try sending you back to medieval
times if you insist on living in the past." He was bluffing - Ranma
didn't think he could manage time travel, at least not yet.

Soun paled. "That's quite all right son." Soun couldn't be sure what
Ranma was capable of.

"Thanks, Ranma, he needed that," said Nabiki. She had no intention of
living by Soun's idea of "women's work."

Akane sulked. Ranma had done something else way better than she could,
and it was making her feel inferior again.

Later that morning Kuno was waiting in the middle of the
schoolyard, boken brandished majestically as usual, so Ranma could
humiliate him again. However, today was not to be business as usual.

When Ranma appeared Kuno proclaimed, "Vile varlet, your villainy shall
be vanquished at last. Verily, I shall be victorious today." Kuno
charged, having run out of v-words, only to falter as a profound sense
of serenity came over him.

Ranma held up his hand in a 'stop' gesture. "Mighty and majestic
Tatewaki, today I shall submit to your glory. Yea, today your fondest
wish shall come true."

Kuno was taken aback at this turnabout behavior. "What sayest thou?"

Ranma approached the True Blunder. "Name the damsels nearest to thine
heart, and you shall have them forever."

Akane panicked. "No, Ranma, you mustn't!"

Ranma waved her off.

Tatewaki was ecstatic at this turn of events. "Ah, the fierce Akane
Tendo and the fiery Osage No Onna, I must have them both!"

Ranma replied, "Very well, you shall have them both." A bucket of water
appeared over Kuno's head and spilled, dousing the swordsman. The bucket
disappeared.

"Oh my," said Kasumi's sister.

Kuno was now a near-duplicate of Akane except she had Ranko's hair color
and hairstyle. Her soggy clothing was too large in places and too tight
in other places. After a moment of disorientation Tatewaki looked down
at her body, clutched her breasts, screamed girlishly, and fainted.

"Welcome to the Jusenkyo club," Ranma told the unconscious Kuno. "Never
fear, hot water restores you to normal."

"That's amazing," Akane observed, "Kuno has never been 'normal' in his
life."

"Hey, I'm only a novice magician," protested Ranma, "I don't know any
'get a clue' or 'boost IQ' spells yet."

Ranma and Akane laughed and proceeded into the school.

After school it was relatively quiet in the Tendo home. Soun and Genma
were visiting a bar, plotting yet again to get their rebellious
offspring hitched. Akane was in a meeting of the drama club; Nabiki was
meeting with her factors.

Ranma approached Kasumi, who was reading a magazine on the couch.
"Kas-chan, I made some observations this morning while preparing
breakfast. I'd like your help to conduct a simple experiment, if you
don't mind."

"Of course, Ranma, What would you like me to do?" Kasumi felt she owed
him a favor.

"Close your eyes and keep them closed, then follow me into the kitchen."

Kasumi was puzzled, but she complied with this odd request. Ranma
observed that she walked confidently and surely, without bumping into
him or anything else. Good!

"Kasumi, when you pay attention to something, you become sensitized to
it and more aware of it than normal. If you continue to pay attention,
then you become 'linked' to it, as if it were a part of you."

Kasumi couldn't see where this was leading, and she said so.

Ranma continued, "This kitchen is a part of you - it's imbued with your
ki. You should be able to sense every part of it, even with your eyes
closed."

Kasumi thought that was obvious, at least to her.

"I have moved two things in here out of their normal positions. Can you
identify what's out of place?"

Kasumi kept her eyes closed and felt the "wa" of the kitchen. "The large
frying pan is on the counter...and the lower left cabinet door is open."
That was easy!

Ranma smiled, not that she could see it. "Very good. Now comes the
interesting part. The kitchen is so much a part of you that you should
be able to control it with your will. I want you to close the open
cabinet door without touching it."

Kasumi was startled. "Can I do that?"

"I believe you can. Stop worrying about it and just do it."

Yoda once said, "There is no try - either do or do not." Kasumi tried
visualizing the cabinet door swinging shut. Nothing happened. She tried
'asking' the door to close itself. Again, nothing. "I don't think I can
do this..."

Ranma was undeterred. "I think you can. Your trouble is trying too hard.
You don't wonder how to move your fingers, you just do it. Don't wonder
about how to close the door - forget your doubts, clear your mind, and
just do it."

A minute later the cabinet door closed itself with an audible thunk.

"Yatta!" exclaimed Ranma.

"Oh my! Did you do that or did I?"

Ranma quoted "My Fair Lady" - "By George, I think she's got it!" He
continued, "You did that yourself, Kasumi. I was sure you could. You can
open your eyes now."

Kasumi felt giddy. She looked around the room as if seeing it for the
first time. "Oh my!"

"Now hang up the frying pan on its hook," Ranma ordered. "Without using
your hands" was understood.

"Isn't that too heavy to go flying around by itself?" Kasumi wondered.

"It is if you think it is..."

Kasumi looked at the frying pan, then at the hook it belonged on. She
extended her senses and "felt" for the pan and the hook. After a moment
the frying pad wobbled a bit, tipped upwards, and fell on the floor with
a loud clank.

"Oh my," said Kasumi yet again. Ranma merely looked at her expectantly.
The frying pan twitched, wobbled, and then rose smoothly into the air
and hung itself upon the hook. Kasumi felt ecstatic.

"I was right - of all the Tendos you are the most likely to master the
ultimate technique quickly," explained Ranma. "Your sisters think you
are oblivious, but you are actually seeing much deeper than they can."

"But I'm not a martial artist," Kasumi objected.

"You'll never be a fighter, Kas-chan, but you have perfected your own
Art - Martial Arts Housekeeping. The ultimate technique is not limited
to martial arts, it opens up possibilities and allows you to become
better at whatever you are destined to become."

"Oh. So each person would respond differently if they learned it..."

Ranma responded, "I expect you would develop your healing potential as
well as your domestic skills. Nabiki would become more observant and
better at manipulating people..." His voice trailed off.

"I'm not sure that would be a good idea. What about Akane?"

Ranma's voice carried a touch of sorrow. "She'll never be able to learn
the technique until she gets her temper under control."

"That would be very difficult, I'm afraid," Kasumi concluded.

"Now the bad news. Just as you have become the mistress of the Tendo-ke,
the house now owns you too. The two of you are inseparable. If you are
away from home you feel weakened, as if a part of you is missing."

"That's true," Kasumi realized, "Is that bad?"

"What happens when you want to get married, or have a career, or leave
home for any reason?"

"Oh my! So I'm a prisoner of my own home?"

Ranma nodded.

Let it be noted that by evening the Tendo home was cleaner and neater
than it had ever been before.

The Kuno house is a large, dark, and foreboding mansion, surrounded by a
high stone fence and numerous novel "security measures." Evening was
approaching as a damp and disheveled figure approached the ornate
wrought-iron gate. "Let me in, Sasuke," she said into the intercom.

The diminutive ninja looked at the video monitor and did not recognize
the person at the gate. He pressed the "talk" button and asked, "Whom
shall I say is calling?"

"It is I, Tatewaki Kuno, your master," insisted the visitor.

"Not likely, Tatewaki is a man and you are clearly a girl. Go away."

"That demon Saotome has ensorceled me and stripped me of my manhood. Oh
the shame of it! Let me in, Sasuke."

The little ninja went out into the darkening drizzle and approached the
gate. "Prove to me that you are Tatewaki, or I shall call security and
have you removed."

Outside the gate the figure brandished her boken and proclaimed, "I am
Tatewaki Kuno, the rising star and Blue Thunder of Furinkan High
School." It didn't sound quite as impressive in a girl's high voice.
Thunder rumbled in the distance.

"Impressive," Sasuke conceded, "but you'll have to do better than that."

"You leave me no choice. Let me in or I'll tell my twisted sister about
the incident involving you, a goldfish, and the cream cheese..."

"That's enough," interrupted the ninja, "I'll let you in, master."

The gate opened, and they entered the relative comfort of the mansion.
Sasuke immediately began to heat some water.

"Why are you doing that?" inquired Kuno.

"I wanted to see if you have the same curse as Saotome himself,"
answered the ninja servant.

"Do you believe that vile rumor that Ranma turns into a girl with cold
water and back to a boy with hot water? What a preposterous lie."

"Only one way to find out," observed Sasuke, as he poured the now-hot
water over Kuno.

Tatewaki changed back into his accustomed form. He examined himself, and
finding that all his parts were back in place exclaimed, "I'm cured!"

"Only until the next time you meet with cold water," said the ninja. He
splashed Kuno with cold water.

Instead of his previous female form, Tatewaki now resembled Ranko, but
with the hair of Akane. Experimentation showed that hot water always
returned Tatewaki to his birth form, but cold water alternately changed
him to his Ranko form or his Akane form.

Kuno wept. "That demon said I would possess both my true loves forever,
but now it seems that they possess me. Oh the tragedy! Yet, why would he
make the likenesses of my loves so accurate but with their hair
exchanged?"

"Who can know the devious mind of a demon?" offered Sasuke, "But would
not confusion result if you were standing near your true loves and you
got splashed with cold water?"

"You are wise, my faithful servant." Kuno reached for the kettle and
found it empty. "Is it possible that the pig-tailed goddess and the vile
sorcerer Saotome are one and the same? If so our love could never be. I
must retire to my chambers and think upon this."

With a sly smile Sasuke asked, "Shall I bring you some cream cheese,
master?"

It was after hours and Tofu Ono was finishing up some paperwork before
going out for dinner. There was a knock at the door. "I wonder who that
could be at this hour," he thought, "I hope it's not an emergency." He
went to open the door and blinked in surprise. "Ranma my boy! What an
unexpected pleasure - please come in." Tofu quickly scanned his visitor.
"You seem healthy enough - perhaps healthier than ever. What brings you
to Osaka?"

Ranma entered and said, "Actually, I came to see you, Sensei. We have
much to catch up on. Would you like to have dinner with me?"

"If you don't mind eating here, I accept."

Ranma directed Tofu to clear a suitable space on his desk. With a
flourish a hot dinner appeared, complete with utensils and napkins.

Ono was startled. "You're a magician now?"

"I'm just learning magic, among other things." Ranma gave a condensed
summary of his life from the battle with Saffron through the ultimate
technique. "When I flew here from Nerima I didn't use an airplane."

"That's quite a story, Ranma. If it were anyone but you I'd have trouble
believing it." Tofu wiped his lips on his napkin. "Clearly you don't
need medical attention."

Ranma caused the remains of dinner to disappear. "No, but there are
things I can only discuss with you personally. If you don't mind, why
did you leave Nerima so abruptly?"

Tofu stammered, "I had to get away. My problems with you-know-who were
ruining my professional life and my personal life."

Ranma released his soothing aura. "Doc, how do you really feel about
her?"

"I'm crazy about her, of course. Yet I'm terrified that she does not
love me as I love her. I'm ashamed that I lose control of myself
whenever her name is mentioned." Tofu paused briefly. "Thank you for
calming my jitters, Ranma, that's a neat trick."

"Doc, if you want to woo Kasumi I can keep you calm until you get used
to it and don't need help anymore."

"That's a generous offer, but I'll feel self-conscious with someone
observing my courting."

"Oh, I can be very discreet," said Ranma as he faded from view. "And I
don't need to be too near you," said the empty air.

Doctor Tofu probed with his martial-arts senses. The only trace of
Ranma's presence was his serene aura. "Remarkable," he muttered. Louder,
he added, "Okay, I'll consider your offer. You can reappear now."

Ranma faded in. Tofu shook his head and chuckled.

"It's never boring with you around, is it?" mused Tofu.

"I can't do boring, Doc; I can't do normal. I'm learning lots of stuff, but
those two..." Ranma shrugged.

Thinking that turnabout is fair play, Ono asked, "What about your love
life, son? Have you chosen a mate yet?"

Ranma slumped. "I can't. I'm trapped - if I chose any of them the others
will respond with violence. Remember the aborted wedding? Bombs
everywhere! I can't make any of them happy; heck, I can't even make
myself happy."

"I'm sorry to hear that. Not even yourself? Don't you love any of them?"

"Doctor, I've realized that I don't even know what love is! Can you
think of any happily married couple that I might learn from? I don't
know anybody who has a healthy loving relationship." Ranma paused. "I
used to think I loved Akane; I liked her a lot. Do you know why? Because
she hit me and insulted me! For all my life my father hit me and
insulted me - it was the only attention I ever got. Every time I tried
to make friends with anyone he would pull me away. When Akane abused me
I thought it was a sign of affection. What a miserable way to live..."

Tofu realized that Ranma's parents were hardly a normal, happily married
couple, and Akane's parents were parted long ago.

Ranma continued, "I've tried to terminate all the engagements; it didn't
help at all. I've tried to find replacement suitors for my fiancees.
Thanks but no thanks. I've already moved out of the Tendo's house - I
don't need a residence, or money (Nabiki would be appalled at that), or
even property. I can create the few things I need, and the weather can't
reach me if I sleep inside a solid boulder."

Tofu raised an eyebrow Spock-like.

Ranma sank into the floor and soon descended from the ceiling. "I still
hang out a lot at the Tendo's so people know where to find me, but
that's going to end soon when I graduate from school. My only viable
option seems to be to remain single until they all grow old or give up.
I don't want to live like that, but it seems to be my best choice."
Ranma looked depressed.

"I'm sorry I can't help you there," said Ono.

Ranma brightened up. "Maybe you can, doc. Can I stay with you for a few
years?"

"Will running away solve anything? Won't they hunt you down and bring
mayhem to my door?"

Ranma morphed into a tall brown-haired woman of perhaps 21 years old
wearing an embroidered kimono. "Meet Sakura Tanaka, doc. I doubt anyone
will be able to find me."

Ono was stunned. "I see. Is there a reason you'd like to stay here
instead of anywhere else?"

Ranma smiled. "I thought I'd like to try learning the healing arts. I
think I could be pretty good at it."

Tofu was surprised. "Healing? That's quite a change, isn't it? Why
healing?"

"All my life all I wanted, or rather all I was forced to want, was to be
the best martial artist. Well now I am the very best who ever lived. And
then it hit me - so what? I've lost my only goal in life, and now I need
to find another. I don't think I want to try teaching the typical
martial artist wannabes; I don't want to enter professional bouts
(wouldn't be fair). I'm almost an adult now, and it's time I started
acting like one. As a healer I can make a contribution to society, I can
feel good about my job, and I can keep up my martial skills too."

Ono nodded. "You have grown up, Ranma. Once again, I'm impressed. Okay,
I'll take you on after you graduate."

"Thanks, doc. You're a true friend."

===
To be continued...

"When you pay attention to
something, you become sensitized to it and more aware of it than normal.
If you continue to pay attention, then you become 'linked' to it, as if
it were a part of you." This section is based on my real life
experiences. I know a woman who is so sensitive to coins lying on the
ground that she is exceptionally good at finding them. In fact, she
claims that they call out to her - and I've seen it happen! I know a man
who observed the clouds for a minute twice a day - and the clouds became
his friends. I've seen him modify the weather by making polite requests.
He doesn't do that any more - he used to go about without a raincoat and
never got wet, but that caused a drought! He says, "It's not my weather,
it's everyone's weather."

A credo among writers is "write what you know." With a real life like
mine, I'm obliged to write fantasy...

Mike