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A.D.V. Curses and Demons Chapter 12

All Ranma characters are property of Rumiko Takahashi, first published by Shogakugan in Japan and brought over to North America by Viz Communications.
 

        A Different Viewpoint: Curses and Demons:  Chapter 12

    Ranma sneezed as he walked back into the temporary camp.  < Somebody must be talking about me.>  He looked around at the nearly empty camp. "Hey Johnathon, where is everybody?"

    Johnathon Tendo pointed causally downstream.  "Ranko found a nice little lake not far that way.  The girls all went to take a swim before lunch."  He gave the stew an experimental sniff.  "Which should be in another half hour or so, unless I turn up the heat some more."

    Ranma blinked.  "Oh, OK, sounds good, I'll...."

    Johnathon held up a hand.  "Wait here until they get back, unless you want Akane to hit you with the nearest convenient boulder."

    Ranma blinked again, then blushed slightly.  "Oh."

    Johnathon nodded.  "Mm hmm."

    Ranma looked around.  "Wait a second.  Where's Ranko?"

    Johnathon shrugged.  "Apparently it's alright, seeing as she's stuck as a girl right now."

    Ranma regarded Johnathon in faint surprise.  "You don't mind?  With Kasumi...?"

    Johnathon shook his head.  "Nah.  Kasumi knows what she's doing, and I trust her... and Ranko."

    Ranma nodded and sat down.  "Makes sense."  He sniffed at the stew. "Half an hour?"

    Johnathon shrugged.  "You hungry now?"

    Ranma looked at him as if he was insane, then laughed.  "When am I not hungry?"  He and Johnathon chuckled together until they both spotted Misty coming out of the woods.

    Johnathon called out to her.  "Misty-chan, enjoy your walk?"  The little black cat nodded and meowed affirmatively.  He glanced in the direction of the lake.  "Could you do us a favor and check on the girls?"  Misty nodded again and immediately slipped off downstream.

    Misty made her way through the trees to the lake and stopped, blinking.  All four girls she had been sent to find were on the shore of the lake, but not one of them was wearing a stitch of clothing, and none of them looked like they were about to go back to swimming.  She walked up, meowing to get their attention, and all four girls turned toward her quickly, as if they were on their guard.
 
    Kasumi sighed as she spotted her feline half.  "Oh, Misty-chan, it's you."  She blushed slightly, glancing momentarily around at the others. "Our clothing appears to have been stolen, Misty.  Have you seen anyone around in the woods?"  Misty shook her head after a moment's hesitation.  Kasumi wrinkled her nose.  "Oh dear, what should we do?"

    Ukyo spoke up.  "Hey, Misty, could you please head over to our packs and grab a tee shirt or something?  That way one of us could go into camp and get everyone else's pack...."  She blushed.  "Er... without giving Johnathon and Ranma a free show that is."  Misty hesitated again in thought, then nodded again and turned to go back.

    Kasumi spoke up helpfully.  "There is a fresh tee shirt at the top of Johnathon's pack, Misty-chan!"

    Misty headed back to the camp quickly and went over to all the packs, which were lined up near the trees.  She stopped almost immediately when she noticed something else was wrong.  All five
backpacks appeared to have been opened, and they sat a little too flat too still be carrying all the gear they had been.  She meowed loudly to get Johnathon and Ranma's attention, and they both glanced over at her. She ran up to the packs and pushed her head inside the top flap, checking it's contents, and the two young men stood up and started coming her way.

    Ranma spoke first.  "Hey!  What happened to the packs?"

    Johnathon shook his head.  "I don't know... I was right here, nothing should have happened...."  His eyes belayed his words as he approached them, however.  "What in the world...?  They're empty?"

    Ranma ran over to his open pack and flung the top flap open, digging into it.  "Pretty much."  He answered flatly, coming out with a package of instant Ramen.  "Everything but the food in my pack."

    Johnathon went to the other packs, looking through them one by one. "It's the same with all of these too."  He announced unnecessarily. Johnathon shook his head in self denial.  "How in the world did someone manage to rob us so thoroughly without me hearing them?"  He turned to Ranma.  "I just don't get it!"

    Ranma looked unconvinced.  "Were you really here the whole time? You sure you didn't wander off for a second?"

    Johnathon shook his head.  "I was here.  I was cooking, but I still should have heard someone doing this...."

    Ranma frowned.  "OK then, whoever it was had to be pretty good then."  He shrugged.  "I could have done it... so could my old man."

    Johnathon looked down at Misty, who had been following the conversation with growing concern.  "I'm sorry, I guess I should have been paying more attention."  Misty shook her head and meowed, then pointed in the direction of the lake.

    Johnathon blinked.  "What is it?  Did something happen to the girls?"  Misty nodded quickly, then meowed loudly for attention before Johnathon and Ranma could run off.  Johnathon halted and glanced back at Misty, who firmly made a 'come here' motion at him.  He shouted quickly over his shoulder.  "Wait up a second, Ranma.  Misty wants us to wait."
 
    Ranma hesitated and turned around.  "What is it, Misty?  Shouldn't we go check on them?"  Misty shook her head firmly and Ranma looked confused.  "Why not?"  Misty sniffed once, thinking, then sat back on her haunches, and lifted her forepaws in the air.  Balancing on her hind legs, Misty tried to wrap her front paws around her chest.  Ranma picked up the clue immediately.  "Oh!  They're still not dressed?"  Misty sat back down and nodded.  Ranma blinked.  "Er... so what happened?"

    Johnathon spoke up, partially talking to himself.  "So, you went to check on the girls, and came running back here because something happened, but we can't go help because they're still not dressed?" Misty nodded and Johnathon frowned thoughtfully.  "Hmm, OK, can you tell us why they haven't gotten dressed yet?"  Misty nodded and pointed at the backpacks.  Johnathon hazarded a guess.  "The girls got robbed too?"  Misty tapped her nose with one paw and he sniffed.  "On the nose, eh?  So our mysterious thief took off with the girls' clothes, as well as all our gear."

    Ranma blinked in understanding, then blushed.  "You mean they ain't got nothing to wear?"  Misty nodded and meowed unhappily.  Ranma started going through all the packs again.  "Ah man... whoever it was, they didn't leave us nothin for them to wear.  What in the heck are we supposed to do now?"

    Ranko's voice came through the trees from several yards away.  "Hey, Ranma, Johnathon-san!  What's going on?  Is Misty with you?"

    Johnathon straightened up and called back to her.  "She's right here, Ranko.  Your clothes were stolen?"

    There was a slight pause before Ranko reluctantly answered. "Yeah... none of us saw the pervert either, damn it."  Her voice turned slightly suspicious.  "Ranma, you better not have had anything to do
with this."

    Ranma protested immediately.  "Hey, you know me better than that!"

    Ranko sighed to herself and answered.  "Yeah, I thought I did.  I didn't really think it was you, except whoever it was, was damn good at moving quiet, and not letting off any signs of their presence."  She cleared her throat.  "So... toss me a shirt or somethin.  I've got to grab some clothes for everybody."

    Johnathon cleared his throat.  "Actually, Ranko, our thief did not restrict his or herself to stealing from you alone.  The packs are all empty."

    Ranko came out into sight and started heading their way, her eyes wide.  "You're kidding!  Tell me you're kidding!"

    Johnathon turned his eyes away from the petite red head politely. "Sorry, Ranko, whoever it was stole everything but the food, the canteens, and most of the cooking gear, which I happened to be using, fortunately."  He whirled around to check, suddenly paranoid, but everything was still as he had left it around the portable stove.  He sighed in relief, then grabbed up one of the packs.  "Somehow I would feel better if we kept an eye on the rest of our stuff."

    Ranko got to the packs and went through them herself, tossing the last one down in disgust as she confirmed what she had been told.  "Damn it.  If I find out who did this, I'll give them a free trip into
orbit!"  She noted Ranma purposefully staring to the side, and Johnathon keeping her to his back, and glanced down at herself self-consciously. "Er... could I borrow one of your shirts, guys?"  Johnathon and Ranma both took off their shirts at the same time, and handed them to Ranko without quite looking at her.  She quickly put on the sleeveless red tang Ranma had been wearing and folded Johnathon's black tee shirt (with a picture of some obscure German castle on the front) over her arm.

    Ranko glanced at the two guys and frowned.  "Ah man... there isn't nearly enough to go around."  She waved her hand.  "Come on, give me the rest of your clothes, guys."

    A couple minutes later, Ranko came jogged back into sight of the lake, carrying a small bundle of clothing.  Akane, Kasumi and Ukyo approached her and looked dubiously at what she was carrying.

    Ranko shrugged helplessly.  "This was all I could get, honest! Whoever robbed us, took everything out of the packs as well.  I got Ranma and Johnathon to give me these...."  The other girls all grabbed a piece of clothing at random to see what she had.

    Kasumi pulled Johnathon's tee shirt out and tried it on.  "Oh my." It came down only eight inches or so past her waist, and she pushed it down in the front with her hands.  "I don't think this is quite long
enough."

    Akane held Ranma's pants out in front of her, blushing.  "Weren't there any more shirts?"

    Ukyo sighed and stepped into Johnathon's shorts.  "It doesn't look like it, Sugar."  She zipped them up and tugged at one side as they slipped down to the rise of her hips.  "Do you have a belt for these,
Ranchan?"
 
    Ranko produced Johnathon's belt and handed it to Ukyo.  "I'm sorry, this was all they had on."  She shrugged helplessly.  "Well, at least it's warm out...."

    Akane grimaced.  "Oh yeah, that's really going to make us feel better.  At least if it was a little colder, we'd have more clothing to go around!"  She held out the pants dubiously.  "I guess they're better than nothing."  She and Ukyo both glanced up at Ranko, or more specifically the red tang she was wearing as a very short dress.  "Oh, Ranko... do you think you might see your way to trading?"  Akane held up the pants with a hopeful smile.

    Ukyo protested.  "Hey!  Ranko is my fiancee."  She looked at the red head winningly.  "If she's going to give anyone that shirt, it should be me."

    Akane frowned and she gave the chef a once over.  "I think it would be a little short for you, Ukyo."

    Ukyo stepped closer to Ranko and measured the red shirt visually. "Yeah, I guess that would be pushing it a bit."  She glanced at Akane. "Ranko's the shortest one of us, maybe she should just keep it."

    Ranko glanced at Akane, then started unbuttoning her shirt.  "Nah, Akane will fit.  She's worn my shirts before, and it's not too bad." She shrugged out of the shirt, handed it to Akane, and took Ranma's blue pants from her.  "If anyone's gonna go topless, it might as well be me."  Ranko pulled the pants on and cinched the waistband.  "It's not like I'm gonna get embarrassed if somebody sees my chest."

    Ukyo covered her own breasts with her arms, blushing.  "Oh gods...."

    Kasumi looked sympathetically at Ukyo, then started pulling the tee-shirt she was wearing over her head.  "Ukyo, take this.  It really isn't long enough to work as a dress, so one of us might as well be
fully dressed."

    Ukyo looked shocked, not taking the shirt as Kasumi held it out to her.  "Kasumi... I couldn't... it wouldn't be right...."

    Kasumi shook her head quickly.  "It's fine Ukyo.  I know how uncomfortable you feel about walking around naked in front of Ranma and Johnathon."  She smiled bravely.  "I'll be fine.  Johnathon is my husband, and Ranma-kun is my dear brother in law.  You take the shirt." She put on her calmest expression.  "I've gotten used to doing without clothing, thanks to all the time I spent as a cat."  She attempted to smile reassuringly.  "Besides, almost everyone I know has seen me without my clothes on by now."

    Ukyo chewed on her lip, unconvinced.  "Well...."  Finally she took the shirt, then started taking off the shorts.  "At least take these. I'm not as tall as you, the tee shirt will be enough."  Ukyo dropped the shorts and pulled the tee shirt over her head.  It was a bit better on her than on Kasumi, although she still had to pull it down a bit in front.  She smiled wanly.  "Thanks, Kasumi.  I'm really not very
comfortable with the idea of going around in the all together while the guys can see me."  She handed Kasumi the pair of shorts.  "Are you really sure about this?"

    Kasumi took the shorts and put them on.  "Of course.  Besides, Johnathon likes my breasts.  I doubt he'll complain if he has to see more of them."

    Ranko snorted.  "Any guy would like em, Kasumi.  They're almost as big as mine!"

    Kasumi smiled brightly at Ranko.  "Why thank you, Ranko.  I think your breasts are very nice too!"

    Ranko looked like she wasn't sure whether she should be pleased or depressed at the complement.  "Er... thanks, Kasumi.  I guess we'd better get back.  No sense putting this off any longer."

    Akane and Ukyo glanced at Ranko and Kasumi, exchanged doubtful glances, and sighed simultaneously, sharing the same thought.  < I bet the guys aren't going to complain any.>

    As they walked into sight, Ranma turned away in embarrassment. Johnathon looked Ranko in the eyes, shrugged, and didn't bother turning around.

    Ranko blinked, then thought.  < It's not like I've got anything John-san hasn't seen, and he sure isn't going to go hitting on me.>  She shrugged back, trying to act casual.  < It's no big deal to me.> Ranko carefully explained to herself.  Johnathon glanced at his wife and shrugged again, his raised eyebrow showing the extent of his outward reaction to the sight of her wearing only his borrowed shorts.  Akane and Ukyo were blushing the most, both of them checking out the two men in their boxers unabashedly while trying not to think about how little they themselves were wearing.

    As the girls walked their temporary camp, Kasumi was limping slightly, gingerly picking the softest ground to walk on.  "Oh my."  She fretted.  "I don't know how far I'll get without any shoes...."

    Johnathon glanced down at his tennis shoes, then sighed to himself and started taking them off.  "I guess I can just change forms...."

    Ranma picked his own shoes off the ground where he had left them after undressing, and held them behind his back in Kasumi's direction, carefully not looking.  "You can wear these, Kasumi... I think they might fit OK."

    Kasumi glanced at her husband's size tens, then at Ranma's smaller slippers.  "Thank you both, but I think Ranma is closer to my size." She took Ranma's slippers and tried them on.  "This will be fine."  She announced, kicking the heels experimentally.  "They are very close to my size."

    Ranma glanced back to see for himself, then blushed and faced away again quickly.  "Oops... sorry, Kasumi."

    Kasumi blushed slightly.  "Please don't concern yourself, brother in law.  You've already seen me... unclothed.  At this point, there seems to be little we can do to avoid it, so there is no reason to feel
embarrassed."

    Johnathon cleared his throat.  "Well then... since there doesn't seem to be any alternative, we'll just have to live with this for awhile.  He went over to the portable stove and bent over to check on the stew (not to mention conceal his growing reaction to the four nearly naked women around him.)  "It smells like lunch is ready.  We might as well eat."

    There was a unanimous agreement, and everyone took a place around the stove to get some stew.  Out of silent consensus, the group sat down in a circle around the stove facing each other, although Ranma kept his eyes firmly on the food.  Johnathon served, and everyone got to the business of eating.  An uncomfortable silence grew as everyone tried not to stare too hard at the people around them.

    Ukyo couldn't stand it.  "This is silly."  She announced finally. "We're all adults, married, or practically married adults.  We shouldn't be this uncomfortable with each other, just because of this."  She turned to Johnathon with a frank look.  "Right, Sensei?"

    Johnathon shrugged.  "It does seem a bit silly to be embarrassed, but it's not easy getting past our hang ups just like that."

    Ukyo nodded.  "I guess you're right."  She frowned.  "I'm worried, honestly.  Whoever robbed us is likely still out there, and they're good, whoever they are."

    Ranko frowned as well.  "Good enough to hide all sense of their presence...."  She shrugged helplessly.  "Although I admit my mind wasn't really on watching out for perverts."

    Akane shook her head.  "I don't think any of us expected something like this to happen."

    Johnathon shook his head.  "No, but even so, Ukyo's right, whoever did this is good, very good."

    Ranma nodded.  "We should keep on our guard."

    Akane blushed.  "You don't... you don't think he's watching us right now, do you?"  Ranma and Ranko exchanged glances, then scanned the woods around them closely.

    Ranko answered her first.  "I don't sense anything, but it is possible.  Like Ranma said, we gotta keep alert."

    Ukyo nodded.  "I agree with you two, but you're going to miss stuff if you're distracted."  She looked directly at Ranma.  "If you're looking at the ground all the time you're not going to be of much use, Ranma.  She glanced meaningfully at Akane.

    Akane blinked, then picked up her cue from Ukyo.  "It's OK if you look, Ranma.  Just don't stare.  I'm not going to get mad."

    Ranma hesitated, then glanced at his wife.  "You sure?"

    Akane nodded, grimacing.  "Yes....  I don't really like it, but yes I'm sure.  I don't want you to get blind sided just because you can't look around without closing your eyes."

    Ranma let his eyes wander over to Ranko.  < Nothing new there.>  He thought, moving on with deliberate casualness to Kasumi, who took in a small breath as he glanced at her but otherwise didn't react.  < Alright....>  Ranma took one good look then forced his eyes up to meet Kasumi's without flinching.  She smiled reassuringly, so he then let himself look back at Akane, checking his wife's  reaction.

    Akane looked like she was trying to keep from yelling at him or hitting him, but with an effort she calmed down and nodded.  "See?"  She forced out.  "Nothing to it."

    Ukyo broke the tension.  "Sooo, Johnathon-sensei... nice boxers.  Do you own everything in black?"

    Johnathon grinned cheerily.  "Not everything, certainly.  Actually, these were a present from Kasumi."

    Kasumi nodded, smiling.  "They are a perfect match for his fur, too!"  Ranko began to choke and Kasumi looked over in concern.  "Are you alright?  Do you need a pat on the back?"

    Ranko finished choking and swallowed.  "Ach.  No, thanks Kasumi, I'm OK."  She glanced at Johnathon's boxers out of sudden curiosity, and noted that they would indeed match the shade of his fur.  "Silk, huh?" She commented blithely.  "Nice."  Before long, everyone had finished eating.

    Ranma sat back, glancing once around at everyone before settling on Akane.  "So... what now?  Do we go back, or try and continue?"

    Johnathon frowned.  "I'm afraid I left my wallet in my pack.  It's gone, along with all my money.  If we did go back, we'd might have some problems getting more supplies, especially if the phone lines are still down."

    Ukyo shrugged.  "We could try to earn some money in town.  I'm sure someone would lend us some spare clothing."

    Akane grimaced.  "If we didn't get arrested for indecent exposure first."

    Ranko shivered.  "I don't have any desire to see the inside of the Chinese lock up any time soon."

    Kasumi frowned slightly.  "That doesn't sound very nice."

    Ranma gestured toward the trail.  "We could keep going.  It's pretty warm this time of year, and the guide will lend us some clothes.  He owes us a favor or two."

    Akane looked doubtful.  "That's at least five days from here!  Are you saying we walk for the next five days half naked?"

    Ranma shook his head.  "Hey, at least they won't be lookin at ya...."

    Akane glared at him.  "What do you mean by that?"

    "I mean they'll be starin at Sis and Kasumi."  Ranma said blithely. "What did you think I meant?"

    Akane smacked Ranma in the back of the head.  "That's what I thought you meant!"  She growled under her breath.  "Baka."

    Ranko smirked and gestured broadly to her 'attributes'.  "Yeah, Akane, with this figure, people won't give ya a second glance!"

    Akane raised her fist, and Ukyo put up a hand to stop her.  "Please Akane, that's not necessary."

    Ranko nodded firmly.  "Yeah."

    Ukyo smashed her fiancee into the ground.  "I get to hit her!"

    After the two Ranmas had recovered, they got back to the discussion.

    "So... we have two choices."  Akane stated.  "Either to go on, or go back."

    Ukyo wrinkled her nose.  "I don't really like either choice, but I'm willing either way."

    Kasumi spoke up.  "If we turn back, we'll probably have to stay in that village for some time until we can afford new clothing and supplies, even if we can all find jobs."  She sighed.  "You'll miss
weeks and weeks of school...."

    Akane sighed.  "And Johnathon will probably get fired if he stays away that long.  At least the last time he left he gave them plenty of notice first."

    Johnathon shrugged.  "I can find another job, and maybe we can wire for money from Nabiki?"

    Ranko shook her head.  "How far is it to a working phone?  Unless we sneak onto the bus or steal a car, it would be at least four more days to the next major town."

    Akane glanced down at Misty, who had followed the conversation attentively.  "What do you think, Misty?"  Misty shook her head quickly, but Akane persisted.  "I know that you'd like to get to Jusenkyo as soon as possible, right?"  Misty hesitated, but finally nodded.  Akane sighed.  "At least there aren't a lot of people up here."  She looked at Ranma.  "What are the chances that we'll run into anyone we know up here?"

    Ranma rolled his eyes.  "Just about as good as the chances of meeting anyone at all."  He shook his head.  "Not high, really.  Me and Pop barely saw anyone up here, and this trail ain't used much."  He
shook his head.  "Heck, given our luck, we'll run into a group of Chinese Amazons or something... not that they'll care what we're wearing or not."

    Akane put her head in her hands.  "I can't believe I'm saying this, but I think we should keep going.  I'm not ready to turn back just yet, and I'm not willing to admit that some crummy thief stopped us."

    Ukyo glanced at her and raised an eyebrow.  < Why not?  This might even present an opportunity, if I play my cards right.>  She spoke up. "I'm in.  If I have to walk around half naked, at least I'm not alone."

    Kasumi nodded.  "Lets go.  I don't want Misty or Ranko to have to wait any longer than they have too."

    Ranko shrugged.  "Don't do this on my account, but yeah, lets go. It can't be fun not being able to talk or nothin, Misty."

    Johnathon nodded.  "Then I suppose we're moving on.  Lets get going, daylight is wasting."

    Ukyo stood up and inadvertently flashed everyone.  She blushed crimson and pulled the tee shirt down in front again.  No one said a word, although Ranma had a stunned expression on his face for the next ten minutes.  It took almost no time to pack up the cooking supplies. Everyone save Kasumi, who didn't have one, shouldered their packs, despite their being practically empty.  Ranma led the group back out onto the trail, where he wouldn't be distracted, and Ukyo trailed behind, as holding down her tee shirt in the front caused it to rise up in the back, and she wasn't all that willing to continually moon the group.  Ranma took the lead with Akane.

    As they walked, he tried to reassure her.  "Ya know, if you were topless, everyone'd stare at you just as much as Kasumi and Ranko." Akane started to glow red as he fumbled on.  "Not that there's anybody around to see ya or nothin, but..."  Akane slipped off her back pack and prepared to drive him into the ground like a tent pole.  "... since you're the cutest one here...  I just figured..."  Akane blinked and started to lower her weapon.  "... I mean, your breasts are gettin a lot bigger and all...." Akane raised the pack again, lowered it, looked confused, then blushed, before putting the pack back on.

    Ranma walked on, obvious to his near escape.  "I like em anyway...."

    Akane swatted the back of his head lightly.  "Baka."  She said affectionately.  "Just shut up.  How long are you planning on talking about my breasts?  You'd think you missed your own pair."  Ranma shut up and blushed himself.  From a few feet back, Johnathon and Kasumi glanced at each other, sharing an amused look.

    They made good time for awhile.  With little to nothing to carry, and plenty of reason to want their journey over with as soon as possible, the group sped along at Kasumi's fastest pace for the first
few hours.  A few hours before dark, however, Ukyo started to lag behind.

    Akane noticed Ukyo falling back from behind her and turned around. "Ukyo?"  The Okonomiyaki chef was limping a bit but struggle along gamely.  Akane noticed that she had given up the struggle to keep her lower half covered, but decided not to comment on it.  "Are you alright?"

    Ukyo shrugged slightly.  "I guess I don't have the calluses that you guys have... my feet aren't up to this I'm afraid."

    Akane glanced around and noticed that the rest of the group had stopped a dozen yards ahead.  "Wait here, lets see if we can come up with something."  She walked to the rest of the group. "Ukyo's having some trouble."

    Johnathon nodded.  "We heard.  I can let her use my shoes."  He shrugged.  "My calluses aren't all that much better, but if I transform I'll be fine."  He took off his shoes and socks and walked back to
Ukyo.  "Here, the shoes are a bit big, but if we stuff them with something and you wear my socks, it shouldn't be too bad."  He forced his eyes quickly up past her waist as he noticed that Ukyo had neglected to keep pushing her shirt down.

    Ukyo glanced down, belatedly covering up again and blushing crimson.  "Oh... er... OK then... um...."  She swallowed quickly.  "But what can I stuff into them?  You aren't carrying any extra socks around, are you?"

    Kasumi came back, eying Ukyo critically.  "Hmm."  Ukyo blushed deeper red, thinking that Kasumi had caught her inadvertent show, but Kasumi simply nodded to herself.  "I think we can work something out, Ukyo."  She turned to her husband.  "Could you transform now, Johnathon-dear?  I have a use for your claws, if you wouldn't mind."

    Johnathon got out his canteen and poured water over his head until he felt the change start.  "Alright, Kasumi.  What did you have in mind?"

    Kasumi twirled her finger.  "Turn around for a moment, dear."  She turned to Ukyo.  "Let me have your shirt for a minute, Ukyo-chan.  I'm going to make a few alterations."  Ukyo blinked but wordlessly dropped her pack and pulled the tee shirt off over her head.  Kasumi took it and

brought it around in front of Johnathon.  "Alright, Johnathon, could you carefully cut the shirt in half here in the middle?"  She pointed helpfully.  "All the way around, evenly, dear."

    Johnathon nodded slowly.  "OK, I think I see what you have in mind."  He took the tee shirt and laid it out on the ground, then carefully started cutting it in two about a foot below the collar, all the way around.
 
    When he had finished, Kasumi pointed again.  "And take the sleeves off at the shoulders, we can use them to improvise an extra pair of socks for Ukyo."  Johnathon nodded in approval and quickly did as instructed.  Kasumi picked up the pieces and brought them back to Ukyo. "Here you go."  Kasumi said with a cheerful smile.  "The bottom half should serve as a skirt if you tie it off at the waist, and you can use the sleeves for stuffing material in Johnathon's shoes."

    Ukyo smiled gratefully and started dressing.  "That's great, Kasumi."  She surveyed her new skirt and halter top and nodded.  "These are perfect...."  She glanced up at Kasumi, still topless, wearing only a pair of shorts and glanced down at her own makeshift clothing.  "Maybe you could cut another strip out of this and use it as a bikini top or something...."

    Kasumi eyed Ukyo's shortened top, where the bottoms of her breasts just barely peeked out.  "I don't think there's quite enough material here...."  She noted, then glanced at the skirt appraisingly.  "I don't think the skirt either, Ukyo.  As it is it makes an acceptable mini, but six inches shorter would be a bit too short."

    Ukyo glanced down and nodded.  "I guess so...."

    Akane came up, dragging Ranko by the arm.  "Hey, Kasumi, I have an idea!"  She gestured at the red head's oversized blue cotton pants. "Ranko's pants are way too long for her anyway.  Why not take some material from them?"

    Kasumi nodded thoughtfully.  "That is an excellent suggestion, Akane!"  She looked at Ranko.  "That is, if you don't mind, Ranko."

    Ranko shook her head.  "Heck no, go ahead.  I'm swimming in these things anyway."

    Kasumi nodded, smiling.  "Alright, Ranko, could you please take them off?"  Ranko quickly pulled the pants down and stepped out of them, while Johnathon turned his back again.

    Ranko eyed the half cat as Kasumi brought the pants around to him and decided to tease him a bit.  "You know what, Johnathon?"  She snickered.  "Those boxers really do match your fur.  I can hardly tell you've got em on!"  The half cat's tail thrashed in reaction and his spine went straight, but he took the pants from Kasumi without speaking.

    Kasumi pointed helpfully.  "Just cut off the pant legs here. They'll do fine as cut-offs."  Johnathon nodded and quickly did so. Kasumi drew an imaginary line along the length of one of the pant legs.
"Now cut it length wise, so instead of a tube, we have one piece of cloth."

    Johnathon did so, nodding.  "Alright, do that for both of them?"

    Kasumi nodded, smiling.  "Yes, that will do nicely."  She appraised the two lengths of cloth and picked one up, wrapping it around her chest and holding the free ends behind her back.  She faced the group.  "A tube top, see?"

    Akane clapped in appreciation.  "You're good at this, Kasumi!"

    Ranko nodded.  "Master of Anything Goes fashion design!"

    Kasumi blushed modestly and Johnathon moved behind her taking the ends from her hands.  "I'll tie it off for you."  He tied the two ends of the material into a large bow and stood back.  Kasumi twirled once, getting more applause from Akane, then picked up the other pant leg to repeat the process on Ranko.

    Kasumi nodded happily once she had finished.  "There, that's much better."

    Ukyo walked up in Johnathon's shoes, having wrapped her feet in her torn off sleeves and John's socks, and pulled the laces tight.  "These feel fine.  I shouldn't have any problems keeping up now."

    Johnathon nodded.  "Excellent.  Then lets get moving again, shall we?  I'd like to find a nice place to camp before dark."  He led the way up the trail and moved past Ranma to take the lead.  Behind them, Ukyo and Akane shared a giggle as they watched the half cat stride away.

    "I can hardly tell they're there."  Akane quipped, eyeing the half cat's rear end and blushing slightly.

    "He is sooo cute like that."  Ukyo whispered back.

    Kasumi winked at the two girls.  "I know, why do you think I bought them?  I finally had to take a sample of his fur down to the men's lingerie store.  You know, he's not quite matte black, more a shiny black, with a hint of brown...."

    Thanks to his enhanced hearing Johnathon heard every word and was quite grateful that his fur kept his embarrassed blush from showing. The group followed after him in a much better mood then before.

        ***********************

    The bus got to their hotel well before midday, and Nabiki nodded in satisfaction.  Despite herself, she was mildly impressed.  "Wow, what a view.  A swimming pool, hot spring... and these rooms are nice too." She frowned.  "What's the catch, I wonder?"

    Dr. Tofu looked about the mid sized room, at the two small beds. "You did get two rooms, right, Nabiki?"

    She waved at him dismisively.  "Yeah, you and Ryoga are right next door.  This room is mine and Shampoo's"

    Shampoo  frowned cutely at Tofu.  "But I want to share a room with you."

    The Doctor blanched and coughed before answering.  "I told you, Shampoo, not before you're eighteen."

    Shampoo sighed.  "I not want to wait another year.  I ready now."

    Tofu corrected.  "I don't want to wait...."

    Shampoo glomped him, giggling.  "Tofu-chan not have to wait!  I so happy!"

    Nabiki smirked.  "Well, I think we'll just leave you two alone. Coming, Ryoga?"  Nabiki pulled the unresisting lost boy out of the room while Dr. Tofu wrestled with his over-enthusiastic amazon bride.

    Three girls and two cats arrived at the hotel on the next bus.  For convenience's sake, Mars and Jupiter were staying in Senshi form.

    Usagi was reluctant to give up her business lady disguise.  "Aw." She moaned.  "I was just getting used to it.  Nabiki'd never recognize me."

    Luna  shook her head at her charge's expression.  "That may be, Usagi, but Artemis or I might need the disguise pen, especially if one of us is splashed in public.  I doubt anyone here will recognize Sailor Moon anyway."

    Artemis was nodding.  "Yeah, if I get changed here, I might never get out of the Chinese lockup." Usagi sighed.  The conversation was going on in one of the two cheap adjoining rooms Nabiki had reserved for them.

    Usagi finally gave into the inevitable and put the pen down on the bed.  "Alright, I'll change."  Her business suit vanished to reveal the much younger looking Usagi in her flower print dress.  She grabbed her amulet.

    "Wait a minute Usagi, "  Rei said.  "What are you planing on wearing today?"

    Usagi blinked, confused.  "This of course."  she gestured to what she had on.

    Rei muttered something under her breath, then, "Odango head, that outfit will vanish when you transform."
 
    The moon princess blinked again.  "Oh yeah. Well I guess I'll wear tomorrow's outfit then."  This weighty matter decided she raised her amulet again.  "Moon Crystal Make Up!"

    Rei and Makoto watched interested.  "Your transformation is a lot different than mine, Usagi." Makoto noted.  "Almost looks like it destroys the outfit you're wearing."

    Rei commented, "Looks like you've put on a few pounds... in all the right places."

    Sailor Moon closed her mouth from being about to yell at Rei.

    Rei blinked.  < Did I say that?>

    Makoto tried to break up the quick silence.  "Uh, yeah, Usagi.  I bet your Mamo-chan likes how you've filled out this year."

    Rei changed the subject.  "Hey, get changed, Usagi.  I want to get to that hot spring."

    "Yeah, me too."  Makoto said.  "Who've thought that they would have a hot spring here?"

    Sailor Moon nodded.  "All right, help me get out of this.  How'd you do it anyway?"

    Rei moved over.  "Here, let me help." She pointed.  "There should be a seam about here, just think about opening it... ah, there we go."

    Makoto helped Usagi with her boots.  "Gosh, I never noticed how much more... complicated your costume was, Usagi."

    Usagi giggled.  "Yeah it's cause I'm the princess I think."

    Luna spoke up.  "Remember, originally there was no Sailor Moon. Serenity was the princess.  When I told Usagi to become Sailor Moon, she must have created her costume unconsciously from her memories of the other Senshi.  Since then, each time she's gained a new level of power she's changed the costume again, probably to fit her new image of herself."

    Usagi wasn't paying much attention, having changed into the yukata supplied by the hotel.  "Um, is that a way of saying I like to look cool as Sailor Moon?"

    Luna sighed.  "Oh forget it."

    As everyone prepared to go, Artemis joined them.  "Hey, where do you think you're going?"  Luna asked him suddenly as he started following the others out of the hotel room.

    "To the hot spring?"  Artemis said with a blink.

    Makoto blanched suddenly remembering Mina and Artemis's revelation. < He's not just a cat, is he.>

    Rei headed out into the hall, while Usagi peered at her guardian. "Luna, what's wrong? He's just a cat you know.  It's not like he was a peeping tom."

    Luna's expression underwent a sudden change as she realized, < Oh no... Usagi doesn't know... or Rei either I'll bet.> She glanced at Makoto, who glanced back.  < Ah hah, she knows.>

    Slowly, Makoto shrugged and followed Rei.  Artemis stood in the doorway, as if waiting for Luna's approval.  Usagi shook her head.  "I don't know why you're being so mean to Artemis, Luna, but I think it's about time you two made up."

    Artemis nodded and looked at Luna hopefully.  "Hmmph."  Luna said. "We'll see."  She then followed the girls out the doorway.

    Usagi shrugged helplessly at Artemis.  "I'm sorry, Artemis.  I don't know what's gotten into her.  Are you coming?"

    Artemis sighed looking longingly after the departing girls.  "Ah... no.  Don't want her getting any more upset.  I'll see you guys later." Usagi nodded and closed the door.  < Oh well, if that's what it takes to patch things up with Luna... guess I'll go swimming!>  It was a beautiful day outside, and he expected a fine visual feast of tanning female flesh by the outdoor pool.  He'd spotted a few bathers going that way when they'd checked in.  "And I've got the perfect disguise!" He quickly hopped up on the bathroom sink and turned on the cold water. Shortly, he, (now a she), was opening the small satchel of clothes Minako had lent him for the trip.  Artemis pulled out a fairly modest green two piece swimsuit, and looked for the finishing touch.

    < So, which wig?>  Artemis pondered.  < Nabiki would recognize me in the black one.>  She held up a blond wig speculatively.   "Hmm, it really doesn't go with this swimsuit."  Artemis murmured.      < Which is probably why Mina let me borrow it... it guess I'll wear the red wig.> That decided, she grabbed one of the hotel towels and headed for the pool.  In the hallway she paused, shivering slightly from some vague apprehension.  She looked around quickly, but saw no one.  < Must just be my nerves.>  She entered the elevator and headed downstairs.

    In the air vent above the hallway, a small, wrinkled, and lecherous old martial arts master wondered.  < That looked like dear little Ranko... but of course that couldn't be, could it?  But, who else could sense my presence?  I wonder how they got here so quickly? Well, since the boy left that room, perhaps I can find dear Akane's panties, or maybe Ukyo's or Kasumi's!> He paused to wipe a bit of drool off his chin.  < If I'm to stop the senshi as the master says, I had better 'recharge' first, or I won't have the energy to do it.>  He smirked at the thought of the fun to come.  < And what better way is there?> Decision made, Happosai was soon inside the room in question.  He quickly started filling his pack, fondling each silky garment.

    "Oh what a haul.  What a haul!  What?"  Happosai paused to examine the strange leotard like garment he was holding. "What's this?  I don't think I recognize this texture... quite durable, and I do think I've seen it somewhere before..."  He rummaged through the rest of the bag's contents.  "Well, well, well.  The Sailor Senshi ARE here!  Just as the master said!"  He smiled lecherously.  "Now this promises to be loads of fun!"  Several minutes, and several rooms later, his lust for lingerie at least partially sated, he rubbed his hands gleefully together.  "Time to head for the hot spring!"

    The hot spring in question wasn't too busy.  Except for the girls from Juuban, there were just a few regulars on the women's side.  Luna was perched fairly high up on the rocks.  Feeling lazy in the warm sunlight, she had half an eye open watching her charges.  Makoto was relaxing in the deeper section of the spring, Rei and Usagi were having a 'heated' discussion near the middle.

    Luna wasn't paying much attention, something about hot springs vs. hotheads.  < Typical.>  She thought with an internal sigh.  < Last chance we'll probably get to relax, and those two are arguing again.> She stretched idly.  < And Artemis... darn him, I know he just wanted to come so he could peep on the girls.  He's almost as bad as that ancient pervert... what was his name?>  She yawned sleepily, the warm sun and steam relaxing her.  < Happy... Harpo, Harposai?>

    "Happosai!"

    < That's it.>  She thought idly, then sat bolt upright as she recognized Shampoo's cry of rage, not to mention the rapidly enlarging shadow of a certain demented martial arts master.  "Oh no."  Luna
sighed.  "Not now...."

            End Chapter 12

 

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