Subject: [PMFFML] [FFML-R] [repost][Ranma][Fanfic] Three Souls, One Heart chapter 5-6
From: "David A. Tatum" <desaix@sysnet.net>
Date: 2/4/2001, 12:38 PM
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Well, as promised, here are chapter 5-6 (a little later than MORNING, but
close...)
To those of you who have been giving me c&c, thank you.  I haven't had time
to go over it all, yet, but I promise to get back to you before too long. 
Again, thank you.
On with the fic.  Enjoy.

Chapter 5:

Akane shifted uncomfortably.  She wasn't entirely sure how Ranma would take
this.

"Okay, the deal is this.  If you and I remove a curse that was placed on
the Oni, it will agree to leave me forever and never do anything which
would harm you, me, or my family without our freely given consent."

Ranma raised an eyebrow.  "We haven't exactly been able to lift very many
curses in this town- how many Jusenkyo victims wander the streets of Nerima
on a regular basis?"  He thought about it for a little longer.  "In fact,
that whole story sounds funny- how can an Oni get cursed?  Don't curses
generally serve evil spirits?"

"Well..." Akane began, smiling slightly.  "I seem to remember we found that
the evil in Happosai overwhelmed the evil in the Oni last time it was here.
 And Happosai was the person who cursed it, so...."

"It's serving the greater evil," Ranma finished.  "All right, doesn't sound
too bad- what do we need to do to lift a curse from a demon?  As long as it
doesn't involve too much travel or something like human sacrifice, I'll
probably be willing to help it out, if it really will get the oni out of
you without forcing me to hit you."

"No, no HUMAN sacrifice," Akane blushed.  "Just... I have to give up my...
er, WE have to...."  Akane couldn't find her voice to continue.

"What?" Ranma asked.

"You and I have to have sex together!" she blurted out, her face flaming an
even deeper red.

Ranma was silent for a minute, almost in shock.  "Are you really Akane, or
the Oni?" he asked, speaking very slowly.  This couldn't be Akane- it just
couldn't.  Though if it was, he'd probably be getting hysterical right now,
but it wasn't.  In fact, he'd make whoever it was controlling Akane admit
it.  "Swear an oath that it was Akane who agreed to something like that,
and I might keep talking."

Akane looked at him for a moment, then sighed.  "I suppose this possession
thing does make it pretty hard to trust what I'm saying, and I need you to
trust me... hold on."

The life in her eyes once again faded.

Seeing it, Ranma could not help but be concerned.  'That looks bad...  I
hope I'm doing the right thing in giving her this chance.'  Worriedly, he
looked at his hand, just to make sure he was still holding the ward.

*	*	*	*	*

"Hey, you guys still around here?" Akane called out, looking through the
dark recesses of her own mind.  Somehow, she'd gotten used to walking
around here, but she wasn't exactly sure how she was able to just pop in
here like she did.

"Yes?" the Oni said, appearing out of nowhere.  "What is it?"

"Is something wrong, Akane?" Iria asked, showing up seconds later.

"I need to explain things to Ranma, and I need him to trust me completely. 
He won't believe me while you're here, so...."

*	*	*	*	*

Akane's eyes snapped back to life a second after Ranma finished his glance
at the ward in his hand.  "Okay, I... 'talked' to the Oni.  It's willing to
leave me long enough for us to talk about all of this, and not make any
other aggressive moves.  Only if you promise not to attack it, however."

Ranma blinked.  "Why is all this necessary?  Why shouldn't I just use the
ward on you now?"

"I've already said- you'll harm not just the Oni but someone else close to
me."

Ranma frowned.  "You'd better explain that better- but I want to talk to
Akane about this, and I'm not sure I'm doing that right now.  Okay, I
promise."

Akane nodded.  "Thank you, Ranma," she said, moments before she closed her
eyes and fell to her knees.  Ranma rushed forwards to help, but she waved
him off.  Ranma was almost sickened as he saw the Oni emerge from the back
of her neck, and float back into a corner of the room.  When the Oni had
completely left her, Ranma steadied her and helped her to her feet.

"Are you okay?" he asked.  He shot a furious glance at the Oni, a little
surprised it still looked like a beachball after having possessed Alejandro
Perez and Akane for so long.

"Fine... that just felt REAL weird.  Like a part of me was being torn
away," Akane gasped.  "Ranma, I can't let you use that ward, if it's at ALL
possible.  It'll kill someone very close to me."

Ranma nodded.  "Uh-huh.  You said that.  I just don't understand it- who
would be hurt, and how?"

Akane looked thoughtful for a moment.  "Ranma, you and I have had a lot of
adventures since you arrived here, wouldn't you say?"

He shrugged, uncertain of where this was going.  "I suppose, yeah."

"Suppose I were to say that, on one of those adventures, we rescued a
spirit... and that spirit had nowhere to go but inside me.  Suppose that
spirit has since become a sort of... advisor for me.  That ward would
merely chase the Oni away, but it would destroy her."

"And how would I know that this supposed spirit wasn't controlling you?"
Ranma asked.

Akane's mouth opened and closed a few times.  She had no answer for that
one.

She felt the buzzing in the back of her head that indicated Iria wanted to
talk to her, and sighed.  "Hold on, Ranma."

'Akane?  You there?'

'Yes, Iria, I hear you,' Akane answered.  'What do you want?  I'm trying to
have an important talk with Ranma right now, and DON'T particularly want
you interrupting.'

'You think I don't know that?' Iria asked, exasperated.  'Look, I know
you're stressed out about this, but I think you need to know that I've
NEVER taken over your body without you being aware of it.  I'm not powerful
enough to any more, even if I wanted to.'

'That's fine, and I believe you, but how do I prove that to Ranma?'

'I don't know,' the spirit admitted.  'You can tell Ranma the entire story-
everything I told you, and everything you remember yourself- but, while he
might believe you, that wouldn't tell him that I wasn't controlling you. 
You could swear that you were in control, but he wouldn't necessarily take
you at your word- after all, you're possessed by me, so why would I let you
tell him the truth- or at least that's what he feels about the situation.'

'Might he believe me if you're not in my body?  If you possess him?'

'He might, if I could do it,' Iria answered.  'I severely weakened myself
when I returned you to this body.  I wasn't prepared to do it, and burned
myself out to the point where I can no longer go to another body. 
However....'

'However?'

'That gives me an idea.  There might be a way for him and you to talk
spiritually, using me as a conductor.  It wouldn't be TOO great a drain on
me to do that, I think....'

'But then who would watch the Oni?' Akane asked.

'Actually....' Iria paused for a moment.  'We could let the Oni return, and
ask HIM to be the bridge.  That way, Ranma can keep an eye on him, you two
can talk with even greater privacy than before, and I won't be harming
myself.'

'But couldn't the Oni take over Ranma that way?'

'The Oni isn't going to take Ranma over while he's in his male form-
remember, when he's possessing a male he has to run in fear from any
females.  But if you want reassurances, he can use the ward...'

Akane blinked a few seconds later as she ended her conversation, and noted
Ranma's concerned face before her.  "Are you all right?" he asked.

"Yeah, I was just talking to that spiritual advisor I mentioned, trying to
think of a way to get you to trust me.  Ranma, wrap the ward around your
wrist- I'm going to call the Oni back, and then I want you to hold my hand
so we can talk without interference.  The ward will keep the Oni from
possessing you."

Ranma blinked.  "I'm not sure I understand, but okay...."  He folded the
piece of paper into a loop around his wrist, tucking the ends together so
that it would not fall off.

The Oni, realizing what was going on, returned to Akane, and then the newly
repossessed girl held out her hand.  Ranma took it, and seconds later
everything went black for both of them.

*	*	*	*	*

"Akane!" Ranma cried through the darkness.  He couldn't see where he was,
he couldn't see Akane, and worst of all, he couldn't see himself.

"Ranma, over here!" her voice called to him.

The moment Akane started speaking, he was able to see the scaly exterior of
the Oni's more powerful form.  There were two other people in the room,
however.

"Akane?  There are two of you!" he exclaimed.  The other two people in the
room looked exactly alike, except for their eyes and their clothes.  One
had very seductive eyes- familiar to him, but he couldn't place them.  That
Akane was wearing a stylized robe that he remembered she bought at some
resort they had gone to.  The other Akane- which had the eyes Ranma was
used to- was wearing nothing.  Well, it sometimes wore nothing- sometimes
the blue school dress she wore seemed to materialize over her body, staying
on for a split second before disappearing again.

"Huh?" one of the Akane's- the naked one- asked, astonished.  She looked
around.  "What are you talking about?  I'm here, the Oni's here, and my
spirit guide is here- no one else.  And why aren't you wearing a shirt?" 
Ranma was wearing the same drawstring pants he always wore, but his shirt
was off, and his body was steaming and glistening with moisture like he
just walked out of the bath.  Kind of like he appeared in some of her
fantasies- not that she would admit it.

"Perhaps I can explain," the other Akane intervened.  "Ranma, I am Akane's
'spiritual advisor,' as she called me.  My name is Iria.  This world we are
in... well, it is your subconscious and Akane's subconscious linked, but it
is also the spirit plane.  In this world, you see other people as you best
remember them looking."  Both Ranma and Akane blinked, but Akane was the
most surprised- she never realized she thought of him like that so much. 
"Akane probably sees me through a cloud of mist, because it was almost
impossible to see me as anything more than a vaguely female figure when she
first knew me.  You probably see me as Akane, because I had possessed Akane
when you and I knew each other, Ranma- I'd taken over her body to kill
you."

Ranma's eyes widened.  "You're the vengeful spirit doll?!" he cried
incredulously.

"I was," she admitted.  "I used to be a demon- a succubus, a being whose
sole purpose was to make men fall in love with me, and turn that love into
a weapon with which I could deliver them to Jigoku.  I betrayed my position
when I fell in love with one of my assignments, and as punishment was
stripped of many of my powers and stuck as the power behind the curse of
the vengeful spirit doll.  Your attempt to sacrifice yourself to protect
Akane released me, but in order to save Akane's soul I had to burn out most
of my energies.  I am now a 'free agent,' if you will- a spirit that is
neither an angel or a demon.  I consider myself to be Akane's guardian
now."

Ranma frowned.  "Her guardian?  I doubt it- I've never seen you do anything
for her."

"Well, I helped sustain her when she was turned into a doll during the
Jusendo incident.  I've given her a lot of advice- some of which has
improved your relationship with her.  I warned her that the Oni was about
to attack when we were on Toma's island, and tried to warn her before she
was possessed.  I might have succeeded, too, if your date hadn't gone as
well as it did."

Ranma looked to the other Akane to see if there were any indications that
Iria was lying, but didn't.  "Fine... I guess I believe you.  But why does
my view of Akane herself keep... flickering."

Akane, Iria, and the Oni all blinked.  "Flickering?" Iria asked.  "Well, if
two pictures of her show up in your memories of her equally, I suppose your
mind could interpret it as flickering between the two pictures."

Ranma flushed a bit, but not too much.  He didn't want Akane to know that
he thought of her that way as much as he did.  He looked away.  "I see."

"Anyway, I think you and Akane have a lot to talk about, so the Oni and I
will leave you alone for a while.  Akane, the ward on his wrist won't let
you show him pictures like we were able to, but that doesn't mean you can't
share some thoughts will him- if you really want, you can communicate your
emotions to him."

"Um... okay," Akane nodded, and Iria dragged the beach-ball off, leaving
her alone with the half-naked Ranma.  Realizing her situation, she got a
little nervous.  Thankfully, Ranma wasn't looking at her, so couldn't see
her blush.

"So... um, you made a deal with the Oni?" Ranma finally said, breaking the
silence that had descended upon them.

"Yeah, I did," Akane replied.  "Didn't you ask me this already?"

"Well, I wasn't sure that it was you I was talking to," he answered.  "The
deal was for you to help lift its curse.  That, I'll believe- it sure
seemed to be weaker than it should have been, considering how long it was
inside... what's his name, that Perez guy.  That it was Happosai that
cursed it, I'll also believe.  I'll even believe that one of the ways to
end the curse is for us to... um, you know."  His blush grew to the point
that Akane could see it, despite the darkness of their surroundings. 
"After all, that sounds like the sort of thing Happosai would set as a
condition for a curse- though I'm surprised underwear isn't involved, too."
 That was able to bring a slight chuckle out of Akane.  "But I can't
believe you would agree to curing the Oni THAT way."

"I didn't think I would, either," Akane smiled slightly.  "When they told
me what I needed to do, I shouted 'What!?  Me have sex with that pervert!?'
 And so, they made another deal with me.  If they could prove to me that
you weren't the pervert I thought you were, I would agree to... well, to
seduce you.  After taking some time- at most a week- to build myself up to
it, of course."

"How were they able to do that?" Ranma said, his voice breaking.  He
couldn't imagine someone being able to do that, especially considering what
he saw when he looked at her.

"They told me some things I didn't know.  About your past.  About Kasumi. 
And... about the connection between Ryouga and P-Chan."

"I- I can explain!" Ranma cried, panicked.  "I knocked him in, and then I
promised to-"

"Ranma, I know why you kept this a secret from me," Akane interrupted
sternly.  "And I'm not happy about it.  But I understand why you did it-
which is much more than I can say for Ryouga."

Ranma was uncertain what to say for a second, but then remembered the
conversation they'd had in the hospital, and decided to try and defend the
lost boy.  "He thought he was in love with you, and he hasn't done it in a
long time, so don't be too hard on him when you see him next, okay?"

"Well... I'll think about it," Akane growled.

"At least leave him intact for Akari's sake," Ranma bargained.

"Hmm... that might be the perfect punishment," Akane considered with a
glint in her eye.  "Let Akari know all about her precious pig of a man."

"Anyway," Ranma began, trying to change the subject.  "What did you learn
about my past?  And what in the world would you learn about Kasumi that
would make me less of a pervert in your eyes?"

"Well, I learned that you lived with Ukyou's family for several months when
you first met her.  And I learned HOW you first met her."

"Oh, really?"  Ranma couldn't really remember how he first met Ukyou
himself, and might have asked, but he also wanted to know what it was
Kasumi had to do with him being a pervert.

"Uh-huh.  And then I learned that Kasumi was... well, at least partly
responsible for all the times we've bumped into each other naked in the
bath."

Ranma blinked.  "No way- Kasumi?!  The girl who worked you up so much about
how improper my possibly seducing you was that you tried to turn me into a
pin cushion when those hypnosis mushrooms started making me hug you?"

"I have a hard time believing it myself, but... well, it seems like it
might make sense.  She's the one who's always filling up the bath and
getting it ready for us, so she'd know when we were in there better than
anyone.  And she's frequently the one who suggests we take a bath when the
other's in the tub...."

"That makes sense, but... why?" Ranma asked uncertainly.

"To make me feel less... shy, I think."  Akane frowned.  "Though why she
felt it would make me less shy, I don't know...."  She looked at Ranma,
noted the 'freshly-bathed' look she was seeing, and couldn't help but
imagine that was the reason.

"I don't know why she would, either," Ranma nodded.  He couldn't help but
glance at her occasionally naked form and wonder if Kasumi had planned it
so that he would remember Akane that way.  "So, you no longer think I'm
such a pervert.  Does that really mean you're going to try to seduce me?"
he said, desperately searching for a way to change the subject again.  He
couldn't help but wince when he realized what he changed it to.

"Well... not until I'm ready to.  But I'm going to have to get ready to
within a week.  I was given a challenge, and I made a vow, so...."

Ranma shook his head.  "I don't have to agree.  I've been able to resist
Shampoo, Ukyou, and Kodachi's attempts to seduce me, I think I can resist
yours."

"What, you think I can't do it?" Akane growled.  It almost sounded to her
as if he was saying the others all had a better chance than she did.

"I don't think anyone could do it if I didn't want them to," Ranma shot
back.  "So right now, I'm going to ask you something.  Something
important."

"What is it?" Akane asked.

"How do you feel about me?" Ranma asked, his eyes staring straight into
hers.

"You mean... do I l... love you?"  Akane watched Ranma nod before
continuing.  "Well, I... I... I..."  Akane sighed- she couldn't say the
words, how would she let him know?  She tried to think of some way, and
almost gave up when she remembered what Iria told her right before she'd
left.  "You want to know how I feel about you?  Here- let me show you!"

Ranma was almost assaulted with a wave of emotions Akane sent into him.  He
staggered, unable to sort them all out while they were hitting him, and it
took him almost a full minute to start recovering.  Akane watched over him,
concern in her eyes, wondering if she'd hurt him.  Finally, however, he
stood back up and smiled, tears in his eyes.  "I'm just as confused as you
are, sometimes, Akane.  It's hard to sort it all out, sometimes... but... 
Akane, that felt a lot like how I feel about you."  With that, he sent back
to her his own emotions.

Akane was buffeted by Ranma's own emotions.  Akane was very happy- and very
surprised, when after she was able to sort them all out, she found they
were similar to how she felt about him.  But that did not answer her
question- one she did not want to ask, especially having shared such
intimate feelings with him.  She needed to, anyway.  "So, are you going
to... to let me..."

"Am I going to let you seduce me?  I don't know, Akane.  If you didn't love
me, I sure as hell wouldn't.  Do you really want to do this?"

"I think I do... want it to happen.  Some day.  If it weren't for the Oni,
that day probably wouldn't be for several months- or even years- but...
some day, I do want it to happen."

"Then I guess... if you want it to happen, I'll let it happen.  If you
hadn't been willing to... well, I'd feel sorry for Iria, but I couldn't let
you do something you didn't want to."

They were both quiet for a few minutes, before Akane broke the silence. 
"I'm not going to be able to do it right away, you know."

"I expected that," Ranma nodded.  "I'm not ready for it, either- after all,
we only had our first kiss... what, a few minutes ago?  We're going to have
to do some things to build ourselves up to it."  With that, they started
discussing plans to bring themselves that much closer in a week's time.

Iria appeared a few minutes later.  "Hi, you two.  The Oni sent me to warn
you guys that he's going to have to break the connection shortly, so finish
up soon."

Akane and Ranma looked at each other and nodded.  "I think we're done,"
Akane said.

"Good," Iria nodded.  "Oh, Ranma- if you want to know who is in control of
Akane's body...."

"Yes?"

"Look at the eyes.  You know what I mean."  

Ranma nodded.  "Thanks."

"So, what did you guys decide, anyway?" Iria's voice faded away.

*	*	*	*	*

Ranma blinked.  There he was, back in Akane's room, holding her hand.  A
few seconds later, she blinked, and he looked into her eyes.  Akane was
there.

"Well... now what?" Akane asked, nervously.

Chapter 6:

"Ready, Akane?" Ranma asked.  During their all-too-brief planning session
in Akane's mind, they had decided to do three things: get used to touching
each other, get go out on a few dates together, and get everyone they could
to leave them alone for the next week or so.  Their first target for that
last one was a certain annoying group of relatives.

With a deep intake of breath, Akane nodded.  It was time for all of the
people interfering in their lives to go away, anyway, and this situation
with the Oni was perhaps just the motivation they needed to get started. 
'In a way,' she thought idly, 'This whole mess is a good thing for us... IF
it doesn't rush us too much.'

"Akane?" Ranma asked, looking into her eyes to make sure he was speaking to
the right individual.

"Huh?  Oh, yeah... time to face the music."

They stepped through the doors to where Nodoka had gathered the family. 
After Nabiki had been dragged off by Kasumi, Nodoka stationed herself at
the doorway to Akane's room, just to make sure no-one interrupted them- and
to make sure Ranma had someone to back him up in case there was trouble. 
She was rather surprised when she was asked to assemble the families
(conscious, if possible- which meant she had to wake her husband and Soun
from their drunken slumber) in the dojo so they could announce what was
going on.  She was also disturbed by seeing the horns of the Oni still
stuck on Akane's head.

Ranma grasped Akane's hand gently and led her inside.  Akane found herself
forced to ignore the shock of his sudden tender touch, and blushed as she
realized she'd have to get used to MUCH more than that before the end of
the week.  The thought nearly made her despair- why did she have to agree
to rush things?  Why couldn't she and Ranma ever have a NORMAL
relationship?  It had finally looked like they were going to have one, and
then this whole situation with the Oni happened...  Akane felt like she
needed a release, but controlled herself.  Right now, she was standing in
front of her family, holding hands with her fiancee and future lover, and
she needed to stay strong for the next few minutes.  When she was alone and
this mess was over, then she could cry, but not until then.

Ranma could almost feel Akane's distress, and vaguely wondered if that
could be a side effect of the link they'd shared.  Deciding not to question
whatever it was that was allowing him to discern her mood, he gave her hand
an extra reassuring squeeze before releasing it and facing their family. 
Everyone in the room was too distracted by the horns still on Akane's head
to notice that they'd ever been touching- which was fortunate, since it
would have probably resulted in the two fathers wrecking the meeting with
cries of joy at the future union of their two families.  Not that they
wouldn't have been justified, for once.

"So, Ranma," Nabiki growled, displeased at being knocked out, and even more
displeased at the results of their little chat where he'd accused her of
hating both him and her own sister.  Whether that was because it was
untrue, or because it hit too close to home, Nabiki herself didn't know. 
"Why haven't you freed my sister yet?"

"Because I can't yet," Ranma answered.

Soun, suffering a hangover, was not willing to shout at Ranma, but
nonetheless found a way to express his displeasure.  With a barely
controlled growl of anger, Soun said, "Would you mind explaining that,
son?"

"I can't use a ward to free her- it would harm another spirit which has
latched itself onto her as her protector."  He glared at everyone in front
of him.  "And I will NOT hit her or let her be hit by anyone else, if I can
help it."

Akane's father raised an eyebrow and nodded approvingly at that last point.
 He wouldn't let anyone hit his daughters if he could help it, either. 
Perhaps it was a good sign that Ranma was finally standing up for his
fiance.

"Then how are we going to return Akane to normal?" Nodoka asked, trying to
get to the heart of the matter.

Ranma and Akane looked at each other one time.  Akane nodded, and he
returned his attention to the families.  "We've made a deal with the Oni. 
It will release Akane forever and never harm any of us, but in return Akane
and I have to remove a curse Happosai placed on it."

Genma blinked.  "How do you remove a curse from an Oni?  For that matter,
how do you PLACE a curse on an Oni?"

Akane smiled slightly.  "Ranma asked almost exactly the same thing.  The
curse is serving the greater evil...."

"And the Master is more evil than the Oni," Genma finished, nodding.  Then
he looked curiously at Akane.  "Or should I say, the Master is more evil
than YOU?  I don't know if your kind likes being referred to in the third
person or not."

Akane was momentarily confused, but soon figured out what Genma was talking
about.  "Uh, you should just call me Akane.  The Oni isn't in control right
now- Ranma knows how to tell if it's me or not, so just ask him if you're
unsure."

They all looked at Ranma, who nodded.  "The trick is to look into her
eyes," he explained.

"'Eyes are the windows to the soul,'" Nodoka quoted.  "But that still
leaves half the question unanswered.  How do you remove a curse on an Oni?"

"Well, um," Akane began, looking at Ranma desperately.  "You fulfill the
conditions of the curse."

"And those conditions are?" Nabiki asked, making it plainly obvious Akane
would not get away with hiding anything.

Ranma looked back at Akane, who nodded in return.  Sighing, he looked at
the families.  "If anyone says anything about how good a thing this is,
expect an extended trip to the hospital," he warned.  That drew confused
looks from everyone.

"Why would we say this is a GOOD thing?" Soun asked.

"Because..." Ranma began.  "The cure to the Oni's curse is to be in the
body of someone while they have sssss... sssss..."

"Sssss?" Nabiki parodied.

"While they have sex," Akane finished.  "I agreed to seduce Ranma for the
Oni."

Kasumi, who had (as usual) been standing quietly in the background,
blinked.  "Oh... my."

Soun and Genma gasped, and almost expressed their joy at Akane's
pronouncement until they saw Ranma's face, and wisely kept their mouths
shut.  Nodoka merely smiled proudly at her son.  Truly, he was a manly man-
or if he wasn't, he was about to become one.  Akane would see to that.

Nabiki needed a few seconds to recover, and looked at Ranma angrily.  "Then
we have no choice, do we?" she said... and, for the second time that day,
threw a punch at her younger sister.

Ranma was taken by surprise, but Akane wasn't.  She caught the fist before
it hit- more out of instinct than anything else.  Nabiki's other hand came
around... and Akane saw another ward in it.

Ranma was not taken by surprise, that time.  Faster than anyone could
blink, he deflected the path of Nabiki's arm and tore the ward out of her
hand.

Nabiki backed off and narrowed her eyes at Ranma.  "I knew it- the ward
would have fixed the whole problem, but you don't care, do you?  I bet you
knew what the Oni would ask her to do- that's why you didn't let us get rid
of it before, and that's why you don't want us to get rid of it now- you
just want to get inside my little sister's panties!" she screamed.

"You think I WHAT?!" Ranma cried in shock.  "What are you talking about? 
You heard us say the reason we couldn't use the ward would be because it
would destroy a friend of hers- a guardian spirit!  And I am in NO rush to
get into her panties!"

Akane looked at Ranma, a little hurt.  That almost felt like one of his old
insulting reactions to the allegations his friends made about him and Akane
sleeping together before.

Nabiki, on the other hand, didn't believe him one bit.  "Oh, come on-
you've wanted her from the moment you first saw her!  I don't care one damn
about that spirit you keep talking about, and I don't believe my little
sister would, either!"

"Nabiki!" Soun cried, having recovered enough from his shock to finally
speak.  "You're being irrational!"

"If it weren't for that spirit," Ranma growled, "You wouldn't have a
younger sister to disbelieve right now!  She would have died at Jusendou."

"Oh come on!" Nabiki snorted, turning to appeal to her family.  "Don't you
people see it?  Where did this Oni come from?  Why did Ranma make that
mistake on those wards the first time it showed up, anyway?  How come Ranma
listened to a POSSESSED Akane in the first place!?"

"Nabiki..." Kasumi began.  "While I think that Ranma and Akane doing this
is... improper... I believe you're letting your hatred of Ranma cloud your
judgment.  Ranma cannot control evil spirits or curses, and you're acting
like he does."

Nabiki glared at her older sister, and turned to her father.  Ranma started
whispering something in Akane's ear as Nabiki said, "Am I the only one who
sees what's going on around here?"

Soun just shook his head sadly at her outburst.  What was wrong with his
two older daughters?  Could they not see how good this would be for the
family?

Nabiki squawked as she felt her wrist firmly grasped and something wrapped
around it.  Looking in the direction of her attacker, she saw Ranma
wrapping the ward he had taken from her on her wrist... much like the one
she just noticed which was on HIS wrist.  When he was done, Akane came
forward and took her hand, and in a moment, the world around her faded
away.

*	*	*	*	*

"Where am I?!" Nabiki screamed.  "What's going on?"

"Hi, sis."  Akane's voice caught her attention.  Nabiki looked in her
direction, and saw a beachball with arms she recognized as the Oni, Akane
with her long hair in her school dress, and a small doll she couldn't
place.  "Ranma thought you might want to talk to me alone.  You know, he
was initially even more reluctant to let me stay possessed than you were,
but he was patient enough to give me a chance to explain- something I was
sure you would have been.  I guess I don't know you as well as I thought."

"Akane?" Nabiki blinked, confused.  "Where are we?  What are you talking
about?"

"Let me tell you about the discussion he and I had when you left...."

*	*	*	*	*

"Oh, my!" Kasumi exclaimed.  Everyone was a little unnerved by how Nabiki
and Akane had suddenly slumped to their knees while their eyes glazed over.

"What's going on?" Nodoka asked her son, seeing how he seemed to be the
least concerned of them all.

"MY POOR CHILDREN!" Soun cried, restrained from rushing to his two younger
daughters by Genma.

"Relax, everyone," Ranma soothed.  "The multiple possessions gave Akane an
extra ability or two, and one of them is to talk to other people in their
heads.  I admit it is a little... disturbing... to see it out here like
this, but it'll be over in a moment.  Oh, and the ward is to keep anyone
from manipulating Nabiki's mind."

"Ranma," Kasumi began.  "About what Nabiki was saying-"

"Wait," Ranma said- almost ordered.  "Akane and Nabiki will snap out of
this any second now- you can talk for hours like this and it will only take
a minute or two."

"Ranma," Nodoka asked slowly.  "How do you know the Oni will keep its word
and leave Akane after she seduces you?"

Ranma grinned.  "You don't live my life without learning a few things about
spirits.  One time, when I was going through some books Dr. Tofu lent me
trying to find a cure for my curse, I discovered that even evil spirits
have to keep oaths they make- they can twist those oaths, and find
loopholes, but they can't break them."

Nodoka blinked.  "Who is Dr. Tofu?"

"Oh, that's right," Ranma realized.  "You've never met him.  He was the
Tendou family doctor for a while... to tell you the truth, I don't know
what happened to him.  Do you, Kasumi?"

The only Tendou sister still conscious shook her head.  "I'm sorry, Ranma-
no, I don't.  I wish I did, because I've still got a few books I borrowed
from him, but he closed his clinic a few months ago and I haven't seen him
since."

Ranma blinked.  "Not even a note on the door?"  Kasumi shook her head. 
"That's odd...."  Still wondering, he turned his attention back to the
other sisters, and waited.

*	*	*	*	*

Nabiki frowned.  Akane had just spent hours explaining everything, but some
of the details still bugged her.  "Okay, I understand now why you don't
want to let us use the wards, and I understand that you... THINK... you
love Ranma enough to be able to stand sleeping with him, if there is no
other choice-"

"I don't THINK I love him, Nabiki.  I showed you how I felt about him- you
should know that."

"Well, maybe," she answered nervously.  The truth was Nabiki had been
overwhelmed by the emotions even more than Ranma had- she'd never
experienced feelings that intense before, and to have them dumped on her
like that....  "But, anyway, I still don't understand why you won't let us
try just knocking the Oni out of you."

Akane sighed.  "You couldn't if you tried.  The Oni and Iria have enhanced
my speed and skills a lot- more than even Dougi-sama did, and they'll keep
me from letting you hit me.  The Oni, because that would disrupt its plans,
and Iria, because she WANTS me to do this."  Nabiki grimaced- she didn't
exactly like how much her little sister still trusted this former succubus,
and Iria's desire to see Akane sleep with RANMA, of all people, made her
even more uncomfortable about it.  "The only person who could, and who I
trust to do so, would never be able to bring himself to hit me."

"You mean Ranma," Nabiki commented.  After waiting for Akane to nod, she
continued, "I still don't see why you think he wouldn't, if you asked him
to.  After all, didn't he get into a fight with you in order to stop that
very same Dougi you mentioned?  And you didn't even want him to, then!"

Akane nodded.  "Yes, but you weren't fighting him, were you?  He was
SERIOUSLY limiting himself in that fight- he was only going for that
yin-yang symbol, and I could tell he was pulling his punches so they were
feather-light.  They wouldn't be hard enough to effect the Oni."

"I still don't buy it," Nabiki frowned.  "He MUST know it will hurt you
more to be forced like this than it would to be hit ONCE.  I mean, you
could explain it to him- how this is almost like rape-"

"IT ISN'T LIKE RAPE!" Akane hissed.  "If I wasn't willing to do this with
him at some point, it might be like rape, but I have... wanted to... for a
while now.  I don't think we're ready, but-"

"That's just it!" Nabiki shouted.  "You AREN'T ready- and he should know
this.  YOU know it will hurt more in the long run...."

"Well," Akane hesitated, trying to say something she didn't want to admit. 
"No, I don't.  I think... I mean, this will... I mean, this might have
several advantages to waiting."

Nabiki blinked.  "What?"

"It would mean he was MINE!" Akane exclaimed.  "I mean... if he and I were
to... then the other fiancees couldn't take him from me.  This is just
an... excuse for rushing things."

"Akane, you know it would be safer not to let this happen- who knows what
strings are attached to deals with Oni!" Nabiki bargained desperately.

"Nabiki...." Akane hesitated.  How to explain what she wanted?  "I love
Ranma.  A lot.  I can't really say it out loud yet, so when you and I break
this connection I probably wouldn't admit it if you were to ask me
directly, but I do.  I wish we weren't forced into this, but... I want it
to happen.  I don't want to rush things, but I also worry what would happen
if I don't."  She sighed.  "Ranma loves me.  A lot.  He doesn't like
hitting me if there is any choice that he can see... but he would if I told
him it hurt me more to not be hit by him.  But I'm not going to do that,
because I WANT this to happen, if as nothing more than an excuse to do
something I WANT to do."

"Akane," Nabiki started slowly.  "You're babbling- and you still haven't
said anything about the possible strings attached.  Tell you what- if you
want, I'll get rid of the other fiancees.  No charge, even.  Don't let the
Oni stay in you, just get Ranma to punch it out.  We'll catch it, send it
on its way, and I'll let you and Ranma build yourselves up to this at a
more normal pace, and have... well, I don't think I'll have any
complaints."

Akane shook her head.  "I want to make up for the lost time the other
fiancees have taken from us, and I'm willing to take the risks.  I WANT a
normal relationship with Ranma, but no-one would ever let us have that- you
hate him, our parents keep trying to force us together, all the girls keep
trying to steal Ranma from me and all the guys keep trying to steal me from
Ranma, we're always getting involved in these dangerous problems involving
people like Happosai, Tarou, Saffron, Toma....  No, there's no way Ranma
and I can have a normal relationship.  His curse alone presents problems- I
don't want to be thought of as in love with a girl!  But... I'm in love
with him, so doesn't that mean his girl side goes along with that?"

"Akane-"

"No- let me finish!" Akane breathed.  "We can't have a normal relationship.
 We can't even have a somewhat normal relationship.  For that reason,
whatever the risks, I'll take anything I can get that can give us a BETTER
relationship."

"Akane...." Nabiki hesitated.  "I can see that you aren't going to believe
me when I say this is a terrible idea.  I don't trust the Oni, I don't
trust Iria, and I don't trust Ranma- and so I don't want this to happen. 
But if you want... there's nothing I can do to stop you."

"Thank you, Nabiki... you won't tell Ranma about anything we've talked
about here, right?  He doesn't know why I didn't ask him to just knock it
out of me, and I'd like it to stay that way."

Nabiki looked at her younger sister and shrugged.  Trying to break the
tension, she answered, "Five thousand yen."

Akane grinned lopsidedly.  "Ranma's my fiancee, and he's supposed to turn
over control of his money to me when we're married, right?  Well, take it
out of his account, will you?"

Nabiki laughed.  "My pleasure.  Now, let's get back to the real world,
okay?"

*	*	*	*	*

Nabiki and Akane blinked and stood up, releasing their hands.  Grinning
slightly, the elder of the two turned to Ranma.  "Five thousand yen."

"Huh?"

"Hush money," Nabiki explained, turning to wink at Akane.  "Five thousand
yen.  I've accepted that there's no other way for you two to do this, but
if you don't want me telling the world about what I learned, you'd better
pay up.


Ranma, not sure WHAT, exactly, he was hushing up, nodded nervously.  "Take
it from my account."

"Wait," Kasumi interrupted.  "I don't agree with this.  It isn't proper for
Ranma and Akane to... do that before they're married-"

"Oh, stow it, Kasumi," Ranma countered, annoyed at Kasumi for perhaps the
first time in his life.  "Akane and I KNOW that you arranged for us to walk
into the bathroom on each other."

Kasumi blushed.  "Well, you can look, but you shouldn't touch...."

Soun looked at his oldest daughter in shock as she basically admitted to
Ranma's accusation.  He'd never heard of her doing such a thing before, and
he couldn't picture his sweet and innocent Kasumi doing that.

"Something I don't understand," Genma began.  "Why did you two feel the
need to get us all together and tell us?  You didn't need to.  You could
have just done the deed without any of us the wiser.  You don't want to get
married first, do you?"

"No, we don't- not yet.  And no, we couldn't just 'do the deed,'" Ranma
replied.  "We weren't ready for it- we still aren't.  We're going to need
to build ourselves up to it- and we aren't going to be able to for a
while."

"Part of building ourselves up to it," Akane continued for him, "Is dealing
with some of the problems in our relationship.  And, frankly, you people
have been one major problem."

Kasumi and Genma looked confused, Soun started crying, and Nodoka... looked
on curiously.  Nabiki was not surprised at all- she knew that everyone in
the families had been a problem for their relationship, but since she
hadn't approved of that relationship she never did anything about it.

"My youngest daughter hates me," Soun sobbed while being patted on the back
sympathetically by Ranma's father.

"Relax, dad, I don't hate you- we don't hate any of you.  But you are...
annoying," Akane explained.

"Every time you saw the slightest hint of an attraction between us, you
people blew it out of proportion, videotaping it, and basically getting in
the way and breaking it up," Ranma continued for Akane, returning the
favor.  "I figure getting you to promise to leave us alone won't be enough.
 I also figure it's too dangerous for Akane and I to, say, go out and have
a training trip alone, because... well, quite frankly, we're still not sure
what the Oni can or will do.  If it causes trouble, it better be here in
Nerima where there are a number of people who can come and help contain
it."

"So you want us to leave," Nabiki deduced.

"Yes and no," Ranma answered.  "We want most of you to leave.  Not
everyone- mom, you can stay.  We need someone who can cook, so we don't get
into a fight over Akane's cooking, and Kasumi is too against this...
solution... for our comfort."

"But I-" The oldest sister began, looking stricken.

"Kasumi," Akane began.  "I'm not certain why you acted like you did- when
you get back, I'm going to want a full answer.  But don't think we're mad
at you- we just don't trust you for this."

Soun couldn't believe how harsh the two of them were being to Kasumi- no
one EVER spoke to her that way before, and to think that Ranma and Akane
were doing so now....

"We made arrangements before this meeting," Ranma continued.  "With a
friend of Akane's whose family has a home in Kanazawa.  This house is
currently unoccupied because it is undergoing renovations, but there is
habitable room for four, and working water, gas, and electricity.  We want
the four of you to go to that house, and stay there for a week while Akane
and I get ready to... remove this curse."

"What about school?" Nodoka asked.

Ranma's eyes widened.  He'd forgotten that classes started up again before
their preparatory week would be over.  "Well... I guess Akane and I will
have to miss it."

His mother frowned.  "But it's the first week.  If you miss it, you'll miss
so much!"

"Yes, well," Ranma began, looking at Akane's horns.  "It might not be a
good idea considering how our rivals seem to act."

"Your rivals will find you whether you stay home or go to school," Soun
answered, assuming his fatherly pose.  "Ranma, you may not care about your
own, but what about Akane's education?"

Nabiki smiled- Ranma and Akane had never even considered this one.  Perhaps
there was a chance this deal with the Oni would be ruined, after all....

Ranma sighed, not sure how to deal with this.  In desperation, he looked
over at Akane.  "Do you want to go... as you are?"

"As I am?" Akane asked, looking over at Ranma suspiciously.

"Well, those Oni horns are kinda hard to miss."

Akane felt her head, as if realizing for the first time the demon in her
showed.  "I'd completely forgotten about them... oh, no."

"You could always wear a hat," Kasumi suggested helpfully.

"Hats aren't part of the school uniform," Nabiki answered for her younger
sister.

"Oh, how many people have gotten into trouble for not wearing the uniform,
anyway?" Akane replied after a minute.  "Kunou, Ukyou, and Ranma never
have.  A hat it is."

Ranma sighed- he was worried Akane would decide to go, and it looked like
he was right.  "Akane, you know this is going to cause problems.  Shampoo
will glomp me on the way to school, like she almost always does.  Kunou
will try and fight both of us for a date.  Ukyou will-"

"Yes, Ranma, I know it will cause problems," Akane said, dismissing them
with a hand.  "We'll have just as many problems when those same people come
by the home to find out why we weren't in school, and we'll have Ms. Hinako
on our backs as well."

Ranma grit his teeth, annoyed that she wasn't seeing things his way, but
gave up.  He never could get Akane to do what was good for her- that was
probably one of the reasons he cared about her so much.  "Fine.  School it
is.  But if it looks like it'll be more problems than it's worth, we're
going to stop going, got it?"

Akane nodded.  "Deal."  A car horn was heard beeping out front.  "Wow- it's
here already.  I think that's the taxi we ordered for you guys.  Hurry up
and get out of here- we'll talk more when you get back."

"Taxi?" Genma asked, confused.

"To take you to Kanazawa- hurry up!  We don't want the taxi to leave
thinking it has the wrong house, do we?"

*	*	*	*	*

After a quick explanation to the driver of the taxi, Nabiki, Kasumi, and
the two fathers packed up in a hurry and boarded the van.  In less than an
hour, only Akane, Ranma, and Nodoka were left in the Tendou estate.

"Well, time to go to bed," Nodoka said.  "I'll see you in the morning. 
Good night."

"Good night," the two fiancees chorused.  Slowly, they trudged up the
stairs.  Ranma started to break off in the direction of his room before
being caught by the back of the shirt by Akane.

"Where do you think YOU'RE going?" she asked.

"To my bed- to sleep!" he answered, not understanding her problem.

Akane sighed.  She knew Ranma sometimes let things slip from his mind, and
decided to forgive him- this time.  "Remember the plan?  To get accustomed
to touching each other and being near each other?"

"Oh... yeah," Ranma answered nervously, and followed her to a familiar
doorway with a duck-shaped plaque on it.  "Phase one then, huh?"

Akane nodded, opening the door.  "Phase one."  She lead Ranma into her
room, closed the door behind them, and looked at her bed.  "Phase one is
easy, remember?  We just... slip under the covers, and go to sleep."

Ranma looked at her.  "You aren't in your nightclothes," he noted.

"Oh, right," she giggled nervously.  "Um, step outside for a minute...
remember, we don't start... showing each other things... until tomorrow. 
Um, you get ready for bed, too, and I'll open the door a crack when I'm
ready."

"Okay...."  He started to head to the door when he remembered something. 
"You know I normally sleep in my underwear, right?"

Akane's eyes widened.  "Oh... right.  I forgot about that... well, can't be
helped.  I want you to be comfortable, so... go ahead and get ready to
sleep as you usually do.  I think I can deal with it."

Ranma nodded and left the room.  Akane looked at her pajamas, and nearly
selected the set with the cartoon cats decorating them before she realized
she needed to consider Ranma's phobia.  "Well, guess I won't be using those
again for some time," she said to herself as she pulled out another set
with little pigs on them- and frowned realizing they reminded her too much
of the whole P-Chan thing.  Finally, she took out the last piece of
nightclothes she had- a little yellow nightgown that she had almost
outgrown.  'Well,' she thought, considering the hem line it showed.  'If
he's in his underwear, I might as well be in this thing.  That way, he
won't have an unfair advantage.

Finished changing, she opened the door a crack.  Ranma had been waiting for
her, and finished opening the door before she could retreat to her covers.

Akane couldn't help but notice how well Ranma's undershirt showed off his
muscular chest, and Ranma likewise couldn't resist a brief glance at
Akane's long legs, but they both passed it off with a mere blush, trying
desperately to not say something the other would think was perverted. 
Akane led him inside, closing the door behind him again, and took him to
the bed.  They stared at the bed for several minutes, saying and doing
nothing.

"Well... we'd better get to bed, or we'll have trouble waking up in the
morning," Akane finally said.

"Um, yeah, I guess," Ranma acknowledged intelligently.  They both continued
to stare at the bed.

"Oh, this is stupid," Akane spat, flipping up the covers and crawling into
the bed.  "Come on in- I don't plan on biting."

"Uh...."  By this point, Ranma's brain had almost completely shut off, but
what remained of it followed Akane's orders and slipped him under the
sheets next to her.

"Um... could you reach over and turn off the lamp?" Akane asked.  Again,
not really thinking about what he was doing, Ranma reached over and pulled
the cord, shutting off the lights.  Akane adjusted the sheets so they were
both well covered, and turned her face towards him.  "Good night, Ranma,"
she said sweetly.

"Good night," he answered automatically.  He was still unable to comprehend
what he was doing... and because of that, he fell asleep in only a matter
of minutes.

Akane listened to his steady breathing for a few minutes before smiling and
leaning over towards him.  "Thank you for doing things the way I wanted you
to," she whispered, kissing him on the cheek.  Shortly thereafter, she too
was asleep.

Sometime after she fell asleep, her arm reached over and pulled him closer.
 For some reason, Ranma, whose dreams were starting to turn into a
nightmare about dangling from a bridge holding onto nothing but a thin red
string wrapped around his fingers, suddenly was soothed into a deeper and
much more pleasant sleep.

	
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