­Hgeocities.com/Tokyo/Dojo/1449/advav7.htmlgeocities.com/Tokyo/Dojo/1449/advav7.htmldelayedx─╝НJ                    ╚агэ─ЕOKtext/html`фџ &─Е    bЅ.HMon, 16 Aug 1999 02:14:45 GMT3Mozilla/4.5 (compatible; HTTrack 3.0x; Windows 98)en, *┬╝НJ─Е A.D.V. American Vacation Chapter 7

A.D.V. American Vacation Chapter 7

All Ranma characters are property of Rumiko Takahashi, first published by Shogakugan in Japan and brought over to North America by Viz Communications. And the Kung Fu characters aren't mine either.

              A Different Viewpoint: American Vacation pt 7

    Captain Simms nodded decisively to her team.  "We shadow them, by the book.  Peter, you go for your car, Kermit and I will take turns in pursuit and keep you informed.  Call the precinct and get us a couple cars on stand-by for backup.  We'll keep in touch by radio."  She tapped the miniature radio hidden in her collar.  "Now get going."

    Kermit started off.  "I've got lead."

    Peter nodded.  "Be careful.  Lon Phat's not going to be playing around with those two."

    Kermit snorted.  "Careful is my middle name."  The ex mercenary headed after the man in black and the red haired girl, being careful to stay far enough back as not to cause suspicion.

    Captain Simms followed after, making sure she didn't appear to be walking with Kermit.  Peter got to his car to find Skalany waiting for him.  She was using the radio, talking to the Captain.  "Why don't we just pull those two in?  Lon Phat might just kill them!"

    Peter listened to the Captain's answer.  "We couldn't really inform them in there without alerting Phat that we're after him, and what can we tell them now?  A gang boss may or may not be about to attack them for winning a martial arts tournament? We'd need a charge to bring them in, and I don't think they'd just come with us without one."  There was a pause.  "No, we do this carefully, or Lon Phat will disappear.  Especially if we just show up and pull them off the street."

    Kermit broke in seconds later over the radio.  "Speaking about those on the street, it looks like they're planning on walking back to the wharf.  They're moving pretty quickly, too."  He informed everyone of the pair's heading and course, and signed off.

    Captain Simms sighed.  "I'd better get moving myself if I'm going to change with Kermit in a few blocks."

    Kermit followed the pair to the edge of Chinatown, and Captain Simms joined him momentarily before taking up the pursuit.  Just outside of Chinatown, Kermit and Captain Simms watched Ranma and Johnathon go into a McDonald's.  They waited outside impatiently, but when the tall man in black exited, he was with a medium sized young man with black hair. The young man resembled the red haired girl greatly, his hairstyle, pigtail, and even his clothing was the same.  He was, however, quite a bit taller, and almost certainly not a girl.

    The Captain swore under her breath.  "Damn it.  Kermit, you go look for that girl.  I'm on the man."

    Kermit looked to one side.  "Be careful."  He pointedly glanced at a black sedan that started up and drove slowly after the two subjects leaving the McDonald's.  "We're not the only one's following them."

    Karen Simms nodded and started away.  "You be careful too. Something is definitely up."

    Kermit noted two of Lon Phat's men as he casually strolled into the Mc Donald's.  < They've got us outnumbered.  I'll let them make the first move.>

    The two men, which Kermit tagged as typical 'thugs', moved quickly through the restaurant, heading for the bathrooms.  They reached the back and opened the bathroom door.  Kermit's hand tensed reflexively, but the two thugs turned away from the bathroom swearing.  They moved into the kitchen and went through it quickly, ignoring the protests of the workers.  Kermit walked up slowly, trying to stay invisible.  The two men passed through the restaurant's back rooms and came back forward after a few moments of searching.

    Kermit faded into the background and watched them leave with angry expressions.  < Now where did that girl go?  She can't have been that guy in disguise, could she?>

    Several blocks away, Captain Simms followed Ranma and Johnathon from half a block back.  The two martial artists had turned into a relatively deserted street and her common sense was telling her that Lon Phat's men would act now.

    Captain Simms tapped her radio's send button.  "Peter, get everyone ready to move in on my position."  She started to silently swear as the black sedan started to speed up.  She started to run forward, using parked cars for cover.  "Now!  Get here now!"

    Back at the McDonald's, Kermit started to sprint.  Peter Caine switched gears in his car and sped up, but they were both still a long distance away.  The black sedan sped directly for the two martial
artists.

    The tall man in black started to turn as the sedan came up on the sidewalk.  The shorter man in red and blue spun around an instant later.  As the sedan was about to reach them, Ranma shoved Johnathon to the left and jumped.  The sedan passed underneath him and Ranma landed easily, facing it.  Johnathon rolled to his feet in the middle of the street and started heading for Ranma.  The black sedan spun around and headed back towards them both.

    Johnathon blinked.  "They're trying to kill us?"

    Ranma's eyes narrowed, and he dropped into a combat stance, his hands coming together, he only had time to say two words  "Moko Takabishi!"

    Captain Simms, running forward, blinked in confusion as she sensed something strange going on.  The air felt heavy all of a sudden, and time seemed to slow.  The young man with the pigtail had cupped his hands, and from yards away, Karen Simms could almost see something there.  With a shout, the young man thrust his hands at the black sedan.  There was a flash of light, and a strange sounding explosion, then the black sedan's engine blew up, it's hood flying up in front of the windshield and smoke pouring out.

    The driver of the sedan, unable to see, hit the brakes, causing the vehicle to skid to the left, going out of control.  Ranma and Johnathon jumped out of the way and the vehicle went up on the sidewalk again, crashing into a fire hydrant.  Even as the two martial artists landed, a fountain of water sprang up, deluging the entire nearby area with a liberal dose of water.  Captain Simms started to pull her gun as four men started to shakily get out of the car.

    The police Captain strode confidently forward, presenting her gun and badge.  "Freeze!  101st precinct.  You four are under arrest!"

    Instead of focusing on her, as she would have expected, the four men were staring incredulously at the two martial artists they had just tried to kill.  Simms stole a glance for herself, making sure to keep her gun trained on the four men.  Her eyes flashed over and back to her four suspects, then back to the two martial artists for a second look.

    "What?"  Captain Karen Simms stared.  Despite the pouring water that obscured her view, it was obvious something was seriously strange.

    The red haired girl was back, still wearing the outfit she apparently shared with the pig tailed young man that had been in her place seconds before.  Her tall friend in black had been replaced by something that didn't even appear to be human.  The creature's head and hands were as black as it's clothing, it's legs were bent strangely near the bottom, and a three foot long furry tail was sticking out from it's pants.  It's head was the most inhuman, covered in fur, with large ears... cat's ears on either side of it's head.  It's mouth jutted forward slightly, giving it a definite cat-like appearance.

    Captain Simms' gun wavered uncertainly as her attention focused on the cat like monster.  One of the men standing just out of the black sedan recovered his wits, and began drawing his gun while Simms was distracted.

    When the water had hit them, Ranma and Johnathon had both groaned, glancing first at each other, then at the men coming out of the black sedan.  Neither one of them were quite sure what to do.  They were both torn between running to preserve their 'secret identities' and subduing the men getting out of the black sedan.  The sudden shout by the police woman had made them hesitate further.  Slowly they turned toward the woman holding gun and badge.  Her eyes were wide, and Johnathon noted immediately that the gun was beginning to waver in his direction.

    Ranma also noted this and protested loudly in English.  "Point gun at bad guys!"  The red head pointed at the black sedan.  Then, waving her hands in front of her, she stepped between the police woman and Johnathon.  "This not monster, he is good guy!"

    At this point, Lon Phat's thugs all started to react.  The first one aimed at Captain Simms while the rest crouched down and brought out their own guns.  The Captain noticed the sudden movement first and started to turn back toward the men.  As the first thug squeezed the trigger, having aimed at the Captain's head, he was hit from behind, which threw off his aim.  The shot went wild, but alerted Johnathon and Ranma that something was up.

    Kwai Chang Caine grabbed the man he had just struck and spun him into the pavement with stunning force.  Captain Simms ducked and fired as the remaining three men started to move and fire.  Ranma and Johnathon both leapt for the gunmen as their attention was drawn away from them.  An instant later, the three final men dropped.  One shot in the leg by the Captain, one smashed into a car door by a jump kick from Ranma, and the third smashed into the pavement by Johnathon's straightforward pounce.

    Ranma followed up her kick with a dozen incredibly fast jabs to the chest and face.  Johnathon held his man down by the neck, his claws out and sticking slightly into the man's throat for emphasis, while his other hand raked the man's gun hand once, tearing the weapon free, and incidentally cutting the man's hand badly.

    The man Captain Simms had shot struggled up on one leg and started to again take aim, but Caine had gotten around the car and knocked him to the ground again with an open palm strike, causing the gun to fly out of the wounded thug's hand in the process.

    The Captain rose unsteadily to her feet, still pointing her gun in the direction of the black sedan. "Alright..."  She started to say. "Everyone hold it... right...."  Karen Simms teetered on her feet and nearly fell.  She reached shakily up to her scalp with her free hand and touched it.  Her fingers came away sticky.  "Damn."  She slurred drunkenly.  "Ducked too slow...."  Karen started to fall to the side. Ranma and Kwai Chang Caine jumped toward her together.  The red head was closer, and caught the Captain before she hit the ground.  The man Ranma had been punching slumped bonelessly to the ground behind her, unnoticed.

    The squeal of tires from a car rounding the corner and heading their way was also barely noted as Ranma held the unconscious police captain in her arms.  "Is OK?  Is OK?"  Ranma shouted anxiously as she peered at the Captain's face.

    Kwai Chang Caine quickly examined Captain Simms' head and nodded in relief.  "She will be fine.  The bullet just grazed her skull."

    Slamming car doors and running feet warned Johnathon, Ranma and Caine that they were about to have company.  Johnathon, assured that the woman wasn't seriously injured, quickly checked on the four men he, Ranma, Caine and the Captain had subdued.  It appeared the only man still conscious was the one he was holding down with his claws. Johnathon blinked, realizing suddenly the extent of the damage he had done to the man's hand.  He grimaced in faint sympathy at the man's obvious pain, then brought his hand across quickly, knocking the man unconscious.

    "Sorry."  The half cat whispered.  "I was a bit rushed."  He glanced left and right, noting people running his way from both directions."Ranma!"  Johnathon hissed urgently.  "I've go to get out of here!"

    Ranma nodded quickly.  "Go, I'll stall em for ya."

    Caine glanced from Ranma to the half cat.  His brow furrowed in concentration, but he said nothing.  Johnathon sprinted for a nearby alley, ignoring Peter Caine's yell to stop.  The detective reached the alley to see Johnathon turning the next corner, half a block away already.

    Peter Caine whistled in amazement and frustration.  "Fast."

    Kermit and Skalany had gone to the Captain immediately.

    Caine repeated his diagnosis of the Captain's condition and he and Ranma gently lowered her to the ground, just outside the area of ground slowly being flooded by the still gushing fire hydrant.  "Captain Simms' wound is minor, her skull has been grazed by a bullet."

    Kermit nodded, whipping out his radio.  "I'll call for an ambulance... or two.  It looks like you really did a number on those guys, Kwai Chang."

    Caine looked at Ranma.  "I was not alone."

    Skalany had gone over to the black sedan, shielding her eyes from the cascading water with one arm.  "Geeze, this guy is going to need some stitches.  That hand doesn't look good."  She turned back toward Peter, who was coming over, having lost Johnathon completely.  "What was that....?  What WAS that?  It didn't look human!"  She bent down, pulling out a handkerchief to bandage the man's hand.  "This hand looks like something clawed it.  There are some small puncture wounds on his neck too.  But that wasn't some animal, it ran upright... mostly."

    Peter Caine shook his head.  "Some guy in a costume?  He had a tail, and a weird mask....  Pop, what did you see?"

    Kwai Chang Caine hesitated, then glanced at Ranma.  The short red head chewed on her lip pensively, her eyes concerned and pleading.

    The Shaolin priest turned to his son after several seconds and spoke with honesty.  "I do not know."

    Peter rolled his eyes and shook his head.  "Why did I know you were going to say that?"  He looked at Ranma.  "So, can you explain your furry friend to me?"

    Ranma blinked her eyes cutely, looking innocent.   "Who furry?  What
explain?"

    Peter growled in frustration.  "The guy... or whatever that was that just sprinted off at thirty miles an hour. Care to explain?"

    Ranma shrugged helplessly.  "No can explain.  Must go, very late...."

    Peter shook his head.  "You can't just leave."  He waved a hand at the black sedan.  "The men that attacked you....  You have to stay, press charges.  Besides, there might be more of them.  We can protect you."

    Ranma blinked, then glanced at Kermit and Skalany who were talking on their radios.  "We?  You police?"

    Peter nodded.  "I'm a detective with the 101st precinct, Chinatown. A powerful gang boss, Lon Phat, was running an illegal gambling operation amidst that tournament.  You and your friend interfered by winning the tournament, and he sent those men after you to get his revenge."

    Ranma waved her hand disarmingly.  "No problem, those guys.  I go now, Akane, fiancee, angry if late."  She winced as in anticipation of a blow.

    Peter's eyes narrowed at that.  "Your fiancee would be angry?  Why? You've done good here."

    Ranma shrugged.  "Never mind, I must go."

    Skalany came up.  "Fiancee?  Aren't you a bit young?"

    Ranma shrugged again, trying not to look trapped.  "Parents arrange, not our idea."

    Peter frowned.  "An arraigned marriage?"  He pictured the cute little red head in front of him, married to some rich older man by her poor parents.  < Her fiancee would be angry, huh?>  "Does this Akane hit you when he's angry?"

    Ranma winced a bit at that.  "Boy, does she... he, ever!"  She shrugged.  "Akane not hit me in while though, she's, he's gotten lot better."  Ranma winced again, thinking of Akane's reaction to today's events.  "I have to go now.  No can wait, very sorry!"  Ranma ducked away then ran up the alley Johnathon had gone down.

    Peter went after her.  "Wait!"  The detective stopped in amazement as Ranma executed a gravity defying twenty foot vertical leap onto a fire escape, then proceeded up the fire escape to the roof.  He shook his head.  "How can I just... let her go?  She's in danger!  Lon Phat's not going to be satisfied until he gets her, and it sounds like she's got an abusive fiancee.  I can't understand why she'd let some guy beat her... I mean, could her fiancee actually be a better martial artist than her?"

    Kwai Chang Caine shrugged, having walked up next to his son.  "That is... unlikely."

    Peter nodded.  "Right, so why?"

    Caine shrugged again.  "Love can be a very strange thing."

    The sound of approaching sirens caused Peter Caine to start heading back toward the crime scene.  "Love, huh?  I don't think so."  He frowned.  "This whole thing smells rotten.  What was with the guy in the cat suit?  He ran like an Olympic sprinter on steroids, and it looked like he clawed that guy... with real claws!  Pop, you were there.  What did you see?"

    Caine shrugged once more.  "I do not know."

    Peter groaned.  "I knew you were going to say that."

    Kwai Chang looked puzzled.  "If you knew, why then did you ask?"

    Peter sighed, then stopped walking, quirked his head and headed into the shower of water from the fire hydrant.  "Here's something."  He went in and squatted down over a pair of shoes.  After taking a good look, he picked them up and carried them out to Kermit and Skalany, who were waving an ambulance over to Captain Simms.  "Take a look at this."

    Kermit looked away from the Captain momentarily.  "Hmm?  Shoes?"

    Peter nodded.  "Solid black, walking shoes.  Not a brand name, but expensive, the kind you get from a catalogue."  He took one and examined it further.  "It's been well used, soles are worn... hmm?  What's this?"

    Kermit pulled out a pen and fished in the shoes with it.  "Part of a sock?"  He brought out a piece of black cloth, torn, with a pattern of lines on part of it.  "Yes, a torn up sock, there're other pieces in the bottom of the shoe."

    Peter nodded.  "The other shoe's the same."

    Kermit shook his head.  "I have no idea what this means, but I'm betting it means something."

    Up on the rooftops nearby, Johnathon looked down at the street and sighed.  "Damn, there goes my eighty dollar walking shoes.  They've even got a warranty, if I wear them out.  I'm never going to get them now."

    Ranma walked up behind him and nodded sympathetically.  "That's too bad, but at least we got away, right?"

    Johnathon shrugged.  "I guess... you say that guy you fought in the tournament, Peter.  He was a cop?"  Ranma nodded.  Johnathon frowned. "Well, we only gave them our first names, so they might not be able to identify us... right away.  I hope.  At least the ambulance has arrived.  I hope that lady cop is OK."

    Ranma nodded.  "Master Caine said she'd be fine.  Come on.  I'll get you some hot water, and we can go.  Akane's going to be mad if we're late."

    Johnathon sighed and came away from the ledge.  "She'll be fine, she's mellowed out a lot recently, hasn't she?"

    Ranma nodded slowly, thinking back.  "Yeah...."  The red head smiled.  "Yeah, it's been nice.  Come on, lets get back and meet your folks at the restaurant."

    Johnathon sniffed worriedly to himself but nodded.  "Right, but we need to stop at a shoe store on the way as well."  He frowned to himself.  < Why don't I think this is over?>

        ********************************

    Earlier that day, across town at the aquarium, Kasumi, Akane, and Johnathon's parents were enjoying themselves, walking and chatting amicably.  Akane had been on edge, keeping a sharp eye out for water hazards, but nothing serious that threatened.  The tanks seemed safe enough, and Kasumi had simply kept far away from any open water.  Clara and Paul had done most of the talking, telling stories about Johnathon's youth, and apparently unaware of anything amiss with their guests.  They had just about seen the whole aquarium, and were headed for the front lobby.

    Kasumi noticed the gift shop near the exit and smiled.  "Akane, why don't we pick up a souvenir for Nabiki?"

    Akane hesitated, then nodded.  "Sure, one more can't hurt."  The youngest Tendo peered cautiously into the store, and spotted nothing that looked like it might spill water on her older sister.

    Paul nodded down at a small restaurant next to the gift shop. "Clara and I will be in there when you are done."

    Clara nodded and followed her husband, mildly scolding.  "Let's not ruin dinner now...."

    Kasumi and Akane entered the gift shop and began looking around. Akane soon got bored of the aquatic knickknacks and announced she would be joining Johnathon's parents.

    Kasumi nodded.  "I'll be just a minute or two."

    Akane walked off while Kasumi continued to browse.  Nearby, a small group of children escorted by their parents, played with the toys they had just gotten from the gift shop.  Two boys, about nine and ten, pointed their newly acquired water pistols at each other and ran around shouting noisily, pretending to shoot one another.

    Soon, the older boy got an idea.  "Hey, follow me!"  He went to a nearby water fountain and started filling his pistol.

    A minute later the fight continued, this time with loaded pistols. The two boys ran into the store at high speed, dodging around and shooting at each other.  They raced behind the racks and nearly ran into Kasumi.  She screeched softly as streams of water nearly hit her dress. The two boys continued to race around, using her for cover.

    Kasumi twirled about, trying to avoid the water fight.  "Boys... boys...."  She began politely.  "You shouldn't be using those in here." Kasumi felt a sudden, unaccustomed anger at the two rascals as they continued to race around.  "Boys."  She repeated more firmly, as she felt a stream of water strike the side of her face.  "Please stop...." Kasumi began to panic as the two youths continued to duck, dodge and fire at each other.  More and more stray shots hit her hands and face. "Boys!  Stop this immediately!"  Kasumi blinked and covered her mouth. < Did I say that?>

    The two youths turned to face her.  "You're not our mother!"  One proclaimed.  "Let's get her!"  Yelled the other, and the both aimed at her.

    Kasumi whitened.  "Oh my."  With a frightened screech, she ran for her life.

    The two boys followed, merrily firing their water pistols at her back.  They chased her around the back of the store and around it again before the boy's mother caught up to the two hooligans.

    She grabbed them both.  "You two monsters!  What do you think you are doing!  Apologize this instant!"  The boy's mother looked up to find the woman her son's had been chasing, but no one was there.  She blinked, then dragged her sons away before they could further embarrass her in public.

    Kasumi crawled out of her dress and looked around, cringing.  < That's it, my secret is out!>  She blinked.  The woman and her two sons were already halfway out of the store.

    One of the boys was trying to tell his mother about the wicked witch.  "Just like in the wizard of OZ!"

    His mother simply continued to pull him along.  "Be quiet!  You've embarrassed me enough already."

    Kasumi looked around carefully, but there didn't appear to be anyone else in sight.  < I'm safe?>  She breathed a sigh of relief.  < Only the little boy's saw me.  I'd better find some hot water before anything else can go wrong.>  Kasumi considered her options.  < I could try to find Akane, but she'd get in trouble for bringing a pet into the aquairium.>  Kasumi nodded to herself.  < I distinctly remember the no pets sign by the front door.  I can deal with this myself.  I just have to find some hot water.>  Kasumi heard footsteps coming and ran around the corner of the aisle to hide.

    A woman's voice murmured.  "A dress.  It must have fallen out of someone's bag.  Hmm, I'd better take this to the lost and found." There was a pause, then.  "What's all this?  A purse, and shoes, and... oh my.  What in the world is all this doing here?"  There was a slight sound of fabric on carpet, and then of the woman going away.

    Kasumi sighed and lowered her head.  < Now what?  I can't go to meet Johnathon's parents naked!  Maybe I should just find Akane.>

    Kasumi slipped toward the back of the gift shop trying to avoid several people coming into the small store.  She noticed a door slightly ajar in back and slipped quietly through.  It appeared to be some sort of storage room, souvenir's and knickknacks filled one side, while several scuba tanks lined one wall.  There was a sink near the tanks and Kasumi went right too it, leaping up on to the edge.  She looked around quickly to see if she could spot anything to wear.  An open box of tee-shirts was up against one wall, and on a hook hung a plastic bag with what appeared to be a sequined dress in it.

    Kasumi nodded to herself and examined the sink.  < The lever on the left should be hot.>  She decided, and grabbed it in her teeth.  < I've just got to... umph... turn it... umph... half way....>  Kasumi got a respectable stream going and waited for it to get warm.  As she waited she glanced at the other entrances to the room.  A door opposite the one she had come in was closed.  Kasumi noted that the air tanks were next to it and decided it must go to the back part of the aquarium.  A third door was to the rear of the room.  It was halfway open and appeared to lead to a toilet.  Kasumi nodded.  < I can change in there easily.>

    The small black cat checked the water, and deciding that it was warm enough, ducked her head under it.  An instant later Kasumi found herself draped over the sink.  She backed out carefully to avoid banging her head on the faucet and shut off the water.

    Kasumi shook out her hair with a sigh of relief.  "Oh my, that was quite an adventure."  Kasumi walked quickly over to the dress in the plastic bag and took it.  "I'll just return this after I've gotten my own clothing back.  Kasumi suddenly heard footsteps coming from the direction of the store.  She slipped into the tiny bathroom and closed the door.  Kasumi quickly started fumbling with the bag, pulling it off over the hanger.  She blinked at the short dress.  Hung over it was a pair of shells attached together by thin straps.  Kasumi pulled the dress off the hanger and took a good look.  She sighed as the shape of it became clear.    < It's not a dress.  It's a tail, a mermaid's tail.>  Kasumi glanced at the shells.  < And a shell bikini.>

    Kasumi couldn't help but picture how she'd look in it.  < How cute. Johnathon would like it.>  She controlled her giggle and shook her head.    < I'm afraid this won't do.  I suppose I should grab one of those tee-shirts.>  Kasumi heard the footsteps outside go away and looked out.  The box of tee shirts was now missing.  Kasumi sighed and closed the door again.  < Oh well, beggars can't be chosers.>  Kasumi examined the mermaid's tail and shrugged.  < It looks like it will fit, at least.>  She laid it out and began to get dressed.

    A minute later, Kasumi finished putting on the shell bikini top and carefully stood.  Balancing carefully, she opened the bathroom door.

    Kasumi hopped forward awkwardly, her legs held together by the mermaid's tail.  "Oh my.  This certainly wasn't meant to walk in."

    Just then, the far door opened, opposite the gift shop.  A medium sized woman and a large man came in.  They spotted Kasumi almost immediately.  The woman blinked once while the man stared incredulously.

    Suddenly the woman nodded in understanding.  "Good!  You're just in time.  The children's show starts in just a few minutes.  Have you talked to Jane?"

    Kasumi blinked in confusion, switching her thoughts over to English.  "Um... I...."

    The woman looked curious.  "Jane did send you, right?  She said she'd find a replacement since she had to go to the dentist today."

    Kasumi hesitated.  "Um..."  < Oh my, what do I tell them?  I just borrowed this outfit because I happened to be walking around naked?> Kasumi hesitated a bit more, then sighed.  "Excuse me... I'm afraid 'Jane' never really explained to me...."

    The woman sighed.  "Oh no.  OK, we've got a few minutes, let me go over it for you."

    Kasumi listened intently to the woman, idly fingering her hair.  She winced slightly as her hand brushed her neck and her eyes went slightly wide.  The light was poor in this room, and due to her outfit, her neck wasn't the first thing they had looked at, but they were bound to notice the bruises on her neck in a minute.  Kasumi self consciously draped her hair over her shoulders in an attempt to conceal the bruise and crossed her fingers.

        *****************

    In the aquarium restaurant, Akane checked the clock for the fourth time.

    Clara looked at her curiously.  "Kasumi said she would be done in a few minutes?"

    Akane nodded, concealing her worry.  "Yes, I'm sure she's just lost track of time.  I'll go get her."  Akane excused herself and left the restaurant.  < Where can she be?  It's not like Kasumi to be late.> Akane started to systematically search the aquarium, starting with the gift shop.  Several minutes later, Akane passed a large group of children who were gathered around a pond that Akane remembered held a local common variety of fish.  They were listening to a woman in a mermaid costume tell them about the story of the little mermaid.

    Akane stopped.  < That voice sounds very familar.>  She looked. "Kasumi?"  Akane's older sister was perched on a large rock in the center of the shallow pool, talking animatedly to a group of children, who were paying rapt attention to her.  Akane just stared.  < How did she get out on that rock?  What could have possibly happened?>  If it had been almost anyone else, Akane would have stomped out there immediately and demanded an explanation, but she couldn't find it in her to be annoyed with Kasumi.

    Akane sighed and waited patiently for Kasumi to finish the story. After several minutes Kasumi wrapped up the tale and the children clapped happily before they were escorted away.

    Kasumi sighed in relief as the crowd dispersed.  < I'm lucky that after Ranma showed up I decided to brush up on my mythology.  I never thought I would end up using that knowledge to entertain children.>  She smiled to herself.  < Although they did appear to enjoy my story.  I'm so glad I've been working on my english so hard.>  She spotted Akane and waved.  "Hello Akane.  I'm sorry I was late."

    Akane walked over, looking incredulous.  "What happened?  How did you get out there?  Why are you dressed as a mermaid?..."  Akane trailed off, having more questions than she could articulate.

    Kasumi looked slightly embarrassed.  "Allen carried me out here, since I can't really walk in this thing.  Such a nice man.  I'm afraid I was transformed by some boys with water pistols, right after you left. I managed to find some hot water, and this was the only thing around to wear."  She looked to the right and left.  "The nice people here apparently thought I was here to do this show.  I really didn't know what to tell them...."

    Akane sighed.  "Well, the Dwire's have got to be starting to wonder by now....  Where are your clothes?"

    Kasumi answered quickly.  "The lost and found.  Akane, there is another show in half an hour, perhaps you could get me out of here before then?"

    Akane cracked her knuckles.  "OK, one rescue coming up."  Akane looked either way.  She noted a few people coming their way and hesitated.

    Kasumi frowned slightly. "I do hate to leave the nice aquarium people in the lurch.  I really should tell them I have to leave."

    Akane blinked.  "Oh, I was thinking more along the lines of jumping out there and carrying you off before they could catch us."

    Kasumi giggled.  "How very heroic, Akane!  No, that's alright.  I'll talk to the aquarium people.  If you could just get my clothing from the gift shop, I'd appreciate it."

    Akane blinked again.  "Alright, Kasumi, if you say so."

    Akane started to turn away and Kasumi spoke again.  "Oh, Akane, I saw some of those disposable cameras in the gift shop.  Could you get one?  I think Johnathon would appreciate a photo of this."

    Akane turned back, looked, and giggled.  "I'll say.  That outfit is really cute!"

    Kasumi giggled back shyly, blushing s bit.  "It is a bit daring, isn't it?"

    Akane nodded.  "He'll love it.  I'll be right back."

    Minutes later Akane came back with Kasumi's clothing and purse in a bundle, and a disposable camera.  Kasumi was talking to a large young man and a medium sized woman.

    Kasumi gestured to her younger sister.  "Here, my sister has come back to get me.  I'm sorry I have to leave so soon."

    The woman sighed.  "And you were so good with the children."

    Kasumi smiled sadly.  "I enjoyed it.  I'm sorry I have to go."  She glanced at her younger sister.  "Ready?"

    Akane nodded, getting out the little camera.  "Time for one picture, I think."

    Kasumi posed coyly and Akane focused like Nabiki had taught her, several years ago, before Akane had figured out the reason for Nabiki's fascination with cameras.  She took the photo, then a second for good measure.

    Kasumi smiled.  "Thank you, Akane.  Now, you'll help me to the bathroom, won't you?"

    The large young man stepped into the pool.  He was wearing shorts and no shoes, and the water only came only halfway up his thighs.

    Kasumi allowed him to scoop her up in his arms and carry her across the water.  "Thank you, Allen."  She said sweetly.  "But Akane can take me the rest of the way."

    Allen shrugged.  "OK, if you say so, miss."

    A few minutes later, Kasumi, now dressed in her own clothing again, hung the mermaid costume up where she had found it.  "I suppose we should hurry back to the Dwires.  I hope they aren't too worried."

    Akane sighed.  "What are we going to tell them?"

    Kasumi chewed on her lip.  "I don't really know.  Johnathon doesn't wish for them to know of our curses, but I dislike lying."

    Akane shook her head.  "Me too.  I hope they aren't too suspicious."

    The two girls walked quickly to the small restaurant next to the gift shop.  Johnathon's parents were waiting for them, obviously keeping an eye out for their return.

    Kasumi immediately apologized.  "I am very sorry to make you wait, Clara-san, Paul-san."  The Dwire's looked at each other, then at her.

    Paul smiled forgivingly.  "That's alright, Kasumi.  Are you ready to go now?"  Kasumi and Akane nodded together.  Paul nodded back.  "Very good.  Well, it's almost time to get going to the restaurant for dinner.  Shall we?"

    Kasumi and Akane shared a look of relief and turned together to smile at Paul Dwire.  "Lets go!"  They announced together cheerfully.

    Akane grinned to herself.  < I'm glad they're taking Kasumi's brief disappearance well.  I hope nothing else goes wrong today.>

        ******************

    Half an hour later they arrived at the restaurant overlooking the wharf and started looking around for Johnathon and Ranma.

    Paul looked at his watch.  "They should be here any minute.  Why don't you all go inside and get us a table, and I'll wait out here for them."

    Akane chewed on her lip.  "Oh no, Mr. Dwire.  Kasumi and I will wait for our...."  Akane paused and blushed.  "I mean, for Johnathon and Ranma.  I'm sure you'll be able to get us a good table."

    Paul inclined his head.  "I'll do my best.  Something looking out on the bay perhaps?"

    Kasumi smiled brightly.  "Oh yes, that sounds lovely!"

    The Dwires went into the restaurant together, leaving the two sisters outside to wait for their men.
 

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