Faster Kasumi! Cook! Clean!
A Ranma ½ crossover
By Kim Smuga-Otto


(Note: Characters are used without permission of creators. All references to public figures is legal as this is a parody.)


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Studio Apartment Kitchen Makeovers - How to make space for all your appliances (including that rice cooker) and still have room to prepare meals. Japanese Living (August issue)

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Akane and Ranma had returned home from shopping. Kasumi could tell from the sounds of the argument and the splash of water from the fishpond. She sighed contentedly as she finished drying the last of the lunch dishes.

"I got most of the stuff on your list," said Akane as she entered the kitchen. "Except they were out of whole wheat udon noodles, so I got the egg ones. That's okay, isn't it?"

"She clearly wrote out 'whole wheat,' Akane," shouted a wet and very female Ranma from outside. "I'm sure she had a reason for it!"

"Shut up!"

"It will work out just fine," said Kasumi, hoping to cut off the argument, "The recipe's actually quite flexible. See, Akane, you just decrease the cooking time, because . . ." But her sister was already stomping out the door, mallet in hand. "Well, maybe later, then, you can help me with the salad," Kasumi called after her, ever hopeful that someday Akane would take an interest in domestic matters.

"Hey, Sis." Kasumi turned to see Nabiki rummaging through the refrigerator, "You got any more of that tempura from last night?"

"Sorry, Saotome-no-ojisama finished it off for breakfast. I do have some of the grilled unagi, if you'd like . . ."

"Naw. I just had a craving for something fried."

"Well, I can certainly make more for dinner. There are so many fresh vegetables this time of year and-"

"Sure, whatever. Hey, what's this?"

"Oh, well Ranma-kun and Akane just got back from shopping. I had them pick up three watermelons for -"`

"No," her sister cut in, "this." She waved a glossy magazine over her head, then started to page through it. "Complimentary copy, it says. Obviously some heavy promotional campaign, you know how much this kind of paper and ink costs. Oh," the excitement in Nabiki's voice vanished, "it's a housekeeping magazine. Here, Kasumi, looks like it's right up your alley, even though it is written by an American. Enjoy." She grabbed a soda and left.

Kasumi picked up the discarded magazine and began to page through it absently. It was still three hours till dinner, plenty of time to read an article or two.

She turned to the table of contents, her eyes widening slightly. Nabiki was wrong, the magazine covered quite a bit more than just housekeeping; low fat sushi, care of tatami mats, how to make paper lanterns, strategic placement of flower arrangements to liven up a room, sand raking tips from Zen masters, and that was only the first page. Curious, she turned to the editorial section where the image of a middle-aged, blond, foreign woman greeted her with a lopsided smile.

"For years," the kanji under the photo read, "Americans have turned to me and my numerous publications for help with food preparation, home care, entertaining, shopping, and much more. With the launch of Japanese Living, I want to reach out to this nation's homemakers with the same helpful and straight forward advice, but with the Japanese perspective and sensibilities in mind. Let me introduce myself, I'm Stewart Martha."

"Stewart Martha," Kasumi repeated to herself.



Dinner was twenty minutes late. Not that anyone noticed, thanks to to Ranma's showdown with the secret Kodo ninja society. It was not the most impressive show of martial arts, neighbors agreed later, but certainly the loudest. As the last drum rolled forlornly down the street, the family sat down to eat.

"Kasumi, my daughter," said her father, "you have outdone yourself. This fish is spectacular."

"Well, I used a different marinade sauce, and partially grilled the horse mackerel before frying to bring out the mitsuba's full aroma."

"It is very good, Kasumi," said Akane. She elbowed Ranma and said in a very audible whisper, "You should compliment her too, instead of just stuffing your face."

"I'm sure she can tell I like it by the way I'm eating it. Maybe you're just trying to distract me so you can get thirds first."

"I'm not a pig like you, Ranma!"

"Hey, and here I thought you liked pigs. Perfect pet for a tom . . ."

Kasumi paid little attention to the dinnertime conversation; her mind was on other things. The watermelon was supposed to sit out for fifteen minutes before serving and she was calculating how much longer dinner would take, factoring in the length of the upcoming, inevitable Akane/Ranma match. She hoped they'd be done before 7:00. She had some gardening do that night, and afterwards, she wanted to try some of Martha-sensei's tips for removing pet hair from bathtub tiles.


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"Ikebana 101 - Learn everything you need to started." Japanese Living (September issue)

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"Here you go. The last of the chrysanthemum leaves." The lady at the grocery handed Kasumi the greens. "Making vegetarian sukiyaki tonight?"

"Why yes." said Kasumi, "How did you know?"

"You're not the only one purchasing that magazine," The grocer said, nodding to Kasumi's basket. "I can barely keep it in stock."

"Really? I hadn't realized it was so trendy."

"I hear they'll be publishing some of her other magazines. You want me to hold a copy of Stewart Martha Weddings when it comes in?" Kasumi couldn't hide her blush. "No, I don't think I need that just yet."

The grocer shook her head, "Such a pretty girl like you. You know, I've got a nephew who's single. You just say the word . . ."

"That's very kind of you, but I don't think so. Goodbye." Kasumi would have liked to stay longer, but the floor varnishing she had planned for today would take at least three hours, during which the homemade soba noodles could be rising, but first she needed to finish her shopping. It was amazing how large Nerima could seem, what with so many stores being on opposites sides of the district from each other. Kasumi supposed she could ask Akane for help, but last time she had done so, Akane had purchased shiitake mushrooms instead of the enoki ones Kasumi had requested and she ended up running out at the last minute anyway. Sending Ranma was plain pointless as he'd just end up in a fight or fleeing from some fiancée, which inevitably led to extra mouths at the table. Not that Kasumi minded, but it made meal planning more difficult.

Well, soon enough the food dehydrator she'd ordered would be here and she could start a proper pantry. Good thing, too; the nematodes sown in the garden as a living, environmentally friendly pest control system had more than done their job, and there was a limit on how much zucchini you could give away.

She stopped dead in the middle of the street. Zucchini. She needed two small, coated, stainless steel pans for the zucchini dessert bread she would be cooking tonight after supper. Nothing to do but go back to the kitchen shop; she couldn't risk the vegetable's passing their freshness peak. Kasumi sighed. At this rate, she'd have to wait until the next day to read her the latest issue of her magazine, and she'd been so excited about the article describing how to optimize the ecosystem of the fishpond.


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"Pet Food Basics - Learn how to enforce good diet and good manners" Japanese Living (October Issue)

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"Is it good?" Kasumi asked as Saotome sipped the freshly steeped tea.

"I decreased the amount of tea leaves and increased the brewing time by three minutes. Most people can't tell the difference, but the article didn't say anything about a panda's taste buds and I didn't even consider it until I brought it out."

The panda held up a sign saying. "Good tea. Want more cookies."

"Of course. Ranma, would you like some more?"

Ranma looked up from Kuno's latest challenge/love letter and Kasumi made a mental note to sand down and spackle the post where the arrow had hit. "Uh, no I don't think so. They're kinda taste odd."

"Really? But you liked the anise when I used it in the stew last week."

"Yeah," said Ranma, rubbing his head and trying to avoid the scowl that Akane was giving him, "I guess I liked it better with meat."

"Just ignore him, Kasum,." said Akane. "Your cookies are always great. I especially like the black sandwich ones with the white frosting in the middle."

"Me too." said Nabiki. "Those go great with milk. Can we have them next time?"

"Well, I suppose but-"

She was interrupted by a loud 'thwock' sound from outside.

"What the?" said Ranma as he stood up and walked outside. "This is the eighth one today and it's not even dinner time. Why can't he just get a life?"

The others followed him, leaving Kasumi alone at the table.

Okay, she was thinking. No more anise with sweets, probably best not to use any licorice products. That was fine. When you experiment with new dishes they won't always be to everyone's taste. There were over five hundred recipes in the Cookie Bible she'd ordered, plenty to choose from. And she didn't even have to make cookies. She was quite good at cakes and pies and traditional desserts. Why, even a simple platter of fresh fruit could be a delicious accompaniment to tea, according to Martha-sensei. Nothing to be upset about. She'd just do better next time. Next time.

Dinner! Kasumi practically leaped up. What was she doing sitting around like this? There was dinner to start. And the place-setting decorations. She'd been planning a special celebration tonight. After all, it was over a month since the most recent fiancée had shown up. And if that wasn't a cause for celebration, then what was?


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"All About Kaiseki - choose just the right small bites" Japanese Living (November issue)

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"I'm sorry, Kasumi, I really am. But we just can't afford it," said Nabiki.

"But it would pay for itself in the long run. Remodeling the main room as a shoji screen porch would mean faster and cheaper repair whenever Ranma, or one of his friends, charges through a wall. And in the summer we could expand the screens, allowing the garden space and living space to intertwine, increasing our awareness of the seasons."

"And in the winter we'd spend a fortune heating it. And during monsoon season?" her sister asked.

"Temporary board structures." Kasumi replied, flipping through her latest home furnishing catalog. "They only take a day or two to set up and varnish. It would be no problem for me at all."

Nabiki shook her head. "The walls are structural supports for the house, Kasumi. It's just not going to work."

"But, but-"

"No, I'm sorry." Nabiki gave her sister a measured look. "You're not angry, are you?"

"Angry?" Kasumi blinked, willing her eyes to stay dry. "Why would I be angry? It was just a silly idea of mine. Don't give it another thought."

"You sure? Listen, Kasumi. I've been thinking, maybe you've been taking a bit too much on yourself. I mean all the gardening and decorating. You don't have to do that kind of thing."

"But I like doing it. And I thought you enjoyed the results."

"Well, yes," Nabiki admitted, "But it's not necessary. If you want to take a break and just do the cooking and cleaning like you used to, no one would complain."

"Excuse me, I think the laundry's just about done. I need to take care of it." Kasumi quickly left the room, her mind firmly on the fresh sprigs of lavender that she was going to place in the girls' lingerie drawers. Nabiki would certainly appreciate that.


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"Celebrating New Year's - Commemorate the Holidays with traditional food and games." Japanese Living (December Issue)

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Beechnut cream. Kasumi read it again, willing the words to be otherwise. How could the new color for winter be beechnut cream, when she'd just bought almost ten thousand yen worth of pale forest green interior accessories? She stopped her walk along the canal in order to give full attention to the article. "In order to accentuate traditional ikebana floral arrangements," it stated, "you need a color that harmonizes with the reds and blues of the flowers." When she'd come up with the idea of decorating the house with ferns and pine tree clippings, she'd completely forgotten about ikebana floral arrangements. What had she been thinking? And what would she do in six to eight shipping days when the vases and floor mats and seat covers she'd ordered arrived, and not a single one of them beechnut cream, not a single one.

She felt a gentle hand on her shoulder.

"You don't have to, you know."

It was spoken in perfect Japanese, but when Kasumi turned around she saw a lovely foreigner about her age with a blue mark painted on her forehead.

"Don't have to what?" asked a bewildered Kasumi.

"Do what that magazine tells you to." The foreigner leaned over to peer at the article Kasumi had been reading. "You can decorate your house in whatever manner you wish."

"But-" Kasumi was at a loss, "Beechnut cream. Won't match. It-"

"Think back," the woman said, her voice calm yet powerful, "Think back to before the magazines, before the TV and radio specials, before the special-discounts-for-members, Martha-endorsed catalogs. You did just fine back then, didn't you?"

"I . . . I . . ." Kasumi tried to think back to how she'd run the household before. Was it only a few months ago? "I was disorganized, environmentally unfriendly, and struck in a rut-"

"No, no," the foreigner assured her, "you were unique and true to your own ideas and goals. You were happy and content, weren't you?"

Was I? thought Kasumi. Yes, I was! It was like someone had just opened the shutters of a window lighting up previously dark room. Kasumi found herself crying tears of joy from the happiness a seeing the sun, but also tears of grief from the heartache of being so long in the gloom.

"It's okay. It's going to be okay." The stranger was hugging Kasumi, comforting her. "I understand."

Kasumi couldn't believe it. "You? You followed the magazine too?"

The woman smiled. "I was only 18 purchase points away from the Morning Sunrise Silk Yukata, valued at over twenty-five thousand yen. I thought that if I just planned and executed the perfect menus, just remembered each of the holidays in a way that was both unique and meaningful, just accented the interiors with intelligence and economy, that somehow those around me would understand and appreciate me more. I thought that my sisters would admire me, even though I'm not as resourceful or outgoing as they are. And I thought that someone, someone special to me, might understand that all my homemaking was my way of telling him how much I cared." Her face took on a distant look. "What I didn't see was that they already knew and admired me. And all the pains I took, all the extra shopping and nutrient balanced meals, only prevented me from understanding how they felt. And," she added, "I think I may have been scaring them with my efficiency."

Kasumi looked down at the magazine she still had clutched in her hand, at the tastefully arranged corner alcove, everything but the black calligraphy on the wall, a shade unobtrusive beechnut cream. The glossy sheen of the paper called seductively, tempting her with its promises of domestic harmony. She could hear it, calling out to her:

Mix one part lemon juice to two parts distilled water to clean those yellowed shoji screens. Kasumi gritted her teeth. Add freshly grated ginger to white miso soup just before serving to liven up an everyday dish. Kasumi balled her fist, creasing the magazine's expensive pages. Order Martha Steward's Weekly Planner for just 3400 Yen, complete with instructions for keeping track of all those little things using the Martha Steward Method TM. Kasumi could feel a small growl emanating from her throat. With relish, she tore the home journal in half, then fourths, crumpled the free pages and stuffed them into her shopping bag. Even in a rage, Kasumi would never do something as irresponsible as litter in a public area.

The foreign woman nodded with approval.

"Feel better?"

"A bit," Kasumi answered. "I still have several more of these at home, as well as the catalogs and the complimentary copy of Ramen Soup for the Homemaker's Soul. And . . ." she let her voice trail off.

"And?" the woman prompted, an eager look on her face.

"Well, it's not enough that I can now see through it. There have to be others, like me, like you, who are trapped. It isn't right. We have to do something to help them, don't you think?"

"Absolutely. I had a hunch about you. I think you'll make a wonderful addition to the organization."

"Organization?"

"We call ourselves HOJ, Homemakers of Japan, and we're dedicated to rescuing our sisters who have been ensnared by that woman's promises and lifestyle goals."

"Like what you did just now, reaching out to me and helping me when I was about to despair?"

"Well, we usually work on a slightly grander scale than that. Our leader says it's more efficient to start by taking out the serpent's nest, and then hunting down the escaped snakes."

"But how?"

"Come with me, I'll show you."

"But I don't even know your name," protested Kasumi, weakly. She felt as if her whole world had shifted in the past few moments. She was still Kasumi, protector and nurturer of the Tendo household. But there was more to that role than simple meal preparation and laundry, more even than seasonal decoration and color coordination. What exactly this new duty was, she wasn't sure.

Maybe this HOJ would hold the answers. Kasumi was certainly willing to give it a chance; after all, she'd already waxed the floors today, and it was at least four hours before she needed to start dinner.

"You can call me Be," the woman said. "It's not my real name of course, but in HOJ we all use codenames."

"Oh," said Kasumi, "Well, you can call me . . ." she decided to keep it simple, "Ka."

This met with silent approval, and before she knew it, Kasumi was being led down the warern of Nerima's side alleys, to where, she wasn't sure.

Along the way, Be explained more of the group's philosophy.

"It's not just Martha; she'd only a figurehead for the commercial-industrial complex, and they're in turn only the latest incarnation of the patrimony that's been oppressing us from the beginning of civilization."

"Us?" Kasumi asked, but Be didn't seem to hear her.

"It started when they overthrew the All-Powerful-Mother-Earth-Deities, relegating us to mere muses and hearth/child-bearing goddesses, roles they thought small and without real power. Of course they underestimated the importance of the home, didn't even consider the central role it played in mortals' lives, until we females had truly made it our domain."

"You mean homemakers?" Maybe referring to yourself as a goddess was a type of empowerment, thought Kasumi.

"Yes, homemakers, exactly. Only now, they're trying to take that away from us too. These consumer-marketed magazines and TV shows are all a clever ploy to steal our autonomy, enslaving us to fashions dictated at a whim and undermining our confidence in our own abilities. You understand, don't you, Ka?"

"A bit," Kasumi said. This last bit had almost made sense. Martha-sensei had stolen something from her. Not power, or position, that wasn't quite it. Whatever it was, it made her angry. She'd almost got it, but was then distracted by an odd glowing star-shaped patch at the end of the alleyway.

"It's only scary the first time you use it," Be assured her, "It's really a marvelous device, absolutely essential to some of our more covert activities. Our second in command procured it for us. You'll meet her on the other side, only . . ." her smile wavered for a mere second, "Well, Sa's utterly lovely, and truly dedicated to the cause, but she has some odd ideas concerning what it's all about. You'll see."


The star shimmered and went black inside. With extreme reluctance, Kasumi stepped though. Her jaw dropped. The room was enormous, and everywhere she looked there were women. All ages and manner of dress, each going about some business, but not so focused that they couldn't smile or even chat pleasantly with one another. She contemplated only briefly what all their combined energies might be focused on, before her attention was drawn to the girl before her.

There were a number of cute kids in her neighborhood, especially on Children's Day, but this girl topped them all. She had long, spiky, sky-blue hair, pulled into two slim ponytails and enormous but lovely pink eyes. Like Be, she had an odd mark on her forehead, Kasumi wondered if they were required. Most enchanting was the girl's air of serenity, suggesting wisdom far beyond her years.

"Welcome." Her voice was so sweet, like an angel's. "My codename's Sa. Are you hungry? I just made some carrot cake."

"No, thank you," said Kasumi, marveling that this child was the second-in-command for such an organization. "I'm Ka."

"Great codename. I'm so glad you decided to join. We've got a lot of work to do, and we need all the Japanese homemakers we can get. Things are really coming together right now, which is why everyone's working so hard. If you'll just follow me, I'll take you to meet our commander-in-chief."

"How's everything coming along?" asked Be, who had just emerged from the star portal and walked along with them.

"Just excellent. Really, truly super. Agent Ichi got her hands on a bottle of sake, again, but other then that, everyone's putting their hearts into it. We'll be more then ready for tonight's operation."

"What's happening tonight?" Kasumi ventured.

"I'm not allowed to tell you just yet, not till after your meeting with the chief," said Sa, "but I bet you'll like it. So, has Be been telling you about our mission statement?"

"A bit," said Kasumi, hoping she wouldn't be quizzed, but she needn't have worried because Sa almost immediately started on her own little spiel:

"Basically, it's all about selling technology on the assumption that it will automatically improve a person's life. No one's going to complain about the ease and time-saving aspects of a rice cooker. But then there's the whole promise that goes with it, dump in the rice and water, push a few buttons, leave it for forty-five minutes and voila, perfect rice. We all know there's more to it than that."

Kasumi nodded, stifling a shudder as she remembered Akane's attempts to make o-nigiri.

"But the corporations don't want us to realize that. They want to convince us that the shortcuts don't make a difference. That soaking the rice for an hour isn't necessary, that canned vegetables can take the place fresh ones, that instant ramen tastes pretty close the homemade version."

Sa's voice underscored these last points with such gusto that Kasumi was convinced she was either a natural orator, or had given this speech more than once. Be gave her a quick smile, as if agreeing with Kasumi's assessment. By now, they'd come to a side door, which Sa pushed open and proceeded to lead them down a long corridor.

"The thing is," she continued, "good homemakers know the difference between homemade and instant ramen, and they aren't going to give up quality to save a few hours. So corporate Japan has turned to Martha Steward and her magazine. Japanese Living confuses homemakers with so many new things to do, so many important details to be taken care of that they need time saving devices, lots of them, just to get everything done. And sometimes, those moneygrubbers are even more clever, inventing devices designed to take more time than the simple ways we had before ?"

"And devaluing our self-worth," cut in Be, "because now we need this new device and become reliant on the patriarchy to run the businesses necessary to provide it."

"Gender has nothing to do with it, Be," said Sa, her voice slightly sharp, perhaps from being interrupted. "Their goal is to enslave us to machines, and to get us to pay them for the privilege." They reached a door at the end of the hallway, and Sa rapped a pattern on it.

"But you can't deny they're a group of primarily males, targeting a group made up primarily of women," insisted Be.

"And you can't deny that Japan has never been controlled by a religion with a single, omnipotent male deity, thus making comparison to Eur-"

"Ladies!" came a low and sultry voice from behind the door, "Don't you have work to do?"

Sa and Be both went slightly red, and each took a step back.

"You will be called when we're done, now off with you two."

Be and Sa bowed quickly to Kasumi and hurried off.

"Wiccan." muttered Sa under her breath, to which Be replied: "Luddite."


"Enter," boomed the voice from inside, and the door creaked open. Upon entering, Kasumi saw a woman dressed in a formal kimono, with normal brown hair, not a hint of face paint, and-

Kasumi knew it was bad manners to stare, so she fixed her eyes firmly on the woman's face, not daring to look higher then the leader's brow.

"Come now, and shut the door behind you. Now, what shall I call you?"

"Ka," Kasumi said simply, feeling quite nervous. This woman was different than Be and Sa; she was less like a homemaker, more like a general.

"Good choice, we don't have a Ka. My codename is," here she drew herself up slightly, all the while, keeping her head perfectly level,

"Mata Hari Nikita Nightingale of Arc. But you may call me Boss."

Despite herself, Kasumi twitched.

"Yes, yes. I know, it's overkill. But I just couldn't make up my mind. So, sit down, Ka, and tell me why you want to join HOJ."

"Well, to help other women who've been taken in by Martha-sensei," Kasumi answered promptly.

Mata-Hari . . . Boss, looked unimpressed.

"And?"

"And?" repeated Kasumi, slightly surprised.

Up until this point everyone had been so pleased to see her, so happy to have her on board. She hadn't expected to be quizzed on her motives. Kasumi was tempted to try her sweet yet clueless routine that always worked so well on her family, but one look at Boss's humorless brown eyes told her that wouldn't work here.

"There's the stuff that Be and Sa were talking about."

"And what did you think of that?"

"Umm," Kasumi decided to go with honesty, "Frankly I didn't understand much about the female empowerment stuff, and I think I'm too Japanese to go for non-commercialism. But, I do know that Martha-sensei, and the people who support her must be stopped!"

"Why?"

"Because," Kasumi began, her mind a blank. And then, suddenly, she had the answer; it had been flitting about her subconscious all day.

"Because," she repeated, sure of her answer's correctness, "you can't teach someone how to be a homemaker. At least not the way she does with her step-by-step guides and helpful tips and easy-to-organize strategies. It's too stifling: a single correct answer for every question, a helpful tip for every encountered problem, an appropriate decorating scheme every occasion. Homemaking should be creative, an expression of the very soul of the individual. Otherwise it's just cleaning and meal planning."

"Very well put," said Boss.

Kasumi thrilled at the compliment. "Then that's how you see it too?"

"No. Every one of us in HOJ has their own reasons for joining. Some of them just like wreaking havoc. But it's better when you can justify it to others, makes it more respectable."

"Oh," said a slightly disappointed Kasumi. She'd been so very proud of her answer. "Do you have a justification?"

"I have the most righteous of justifications." The Boss said, "Stewart claims to be writing with Japanese sensibilities, but not once in all the issues did she have a single article fashioned for my tastes. Not one article about incorporating seasonal dioramas into your hairstyles, no side note about housebreaking squirrel, and even in her American magazines, no tips for removing tire skids from wood floors. Don't even get me started about the total absence of bungee cord cleaners in her catalogs."

This time, Kasumi face-faulted.


To say the Tendo/Saotome household was trembling with fear before Akane's dinner would be a slight overstatement. Soun and Genma each had their own take on reality which only allowed true terror when it came in the form of former teachers or returning wives. Nabiki knew that Akane was only interested in Ranma's reaction, and was just biding her time until she could raid the fridge. P-chan was doing his best to act the part of innocent pet, which was difficult, as he was so looking forward to the pounding Akane was going to give Ranma, just as soon as he took the first bite.

The bite in question happened to be an oddly colored lump, meat or possibly vegetable, held in chopsticks just centimeters from Ranma's mouth. Rather like cherry blossoms, thought the pig, beautiful in its transient state.

"Stop making faces," Akane hissed. "I didn't ask for Kasumi to take off at the last minute to go nurse some sick friend. If it makes you worry any less, she left complete instructions to follow. And I read them before I accidentally set them on fire. I've a good memory for these things, except the tablespoons/teaspoons business, and maybe. . ." Ranma was losing his nerve even as she spoke. So before she could give him more good reason not to, he popped the morsel in his mouth. He regretted it, as he knew he would, and his regret showed on his face, which in turn had the expected effect on Akane.

She let out a low growl and reached behind her. Ranma closed his eyes and gritted his teeth.

"Huh?" He heard her say, and he opened one eye to see a confused Akane rummaging around the room.

"What?" asked Nabiki.

"I can't find my mallet."


The morning news show on the television featured a man dressed as a giant tuna roll, but only one person in the household was paying attention.

There had been a report about some Greenperson, probably American, who'd had a stroke, at which point Nabiki had gone completely white and appeared to go into a state of shock, her toothbrush dangling out of her mouth.

Ranma and Akane were arguing. This time about some live-action Rival Schools game involving Furinkan and a private academy named Ohtori.

"Fine, don't listen to me. I'm just a stupid tomboy after all. But I'm telling you, I have a bad feeling about all this. And besides, you don't even know how to fight with a sword," Akane was lecturing.

Genma and Soun were laughing noisily, hoping someone would inquire why so that they could publicly allude to their latest and most foolproof plan to unite the two families. As usual, everyone was ignoring them.

In the kitchen, fashioning pickled cucumbers in the shape of baby squid for today's school lunch boxes, Kasumi listened intently to the latest report.

"Naturally, the American corporations which suffered damage have called for Japan's Prime Minister to take a tough stance against what they are referring to as blatant terrorism. But for now, at least, public opinion has not supported such strong action, perhaps because there had been no loss of life. People are more curious as to how the block of warehouses was so utterly destroyed, while the other blocks around it remain completely undamaged. Also, the lack of eyewitnesses has police completely confused . . ."

Kasumi allowed herself a quick smile, and continued with her work. Nothing too strenuous today, her arms still hurt from the previous night. But the warehouse had just gotten its shipment of Beechnut Cream vases, and she'd gotten a bit carried away. Still, it was good exercise.

It had been only one warehouse, only one distribution center, but it was a start. Kasumi found herself longing for Friday, the date of her next HOJ meeting.

Until then, there was plenty to keep her busy. She was going to get serious about this personal expression business. First she had to get to the local library and research some traditional recipes to use on all her winter root vegetables. Also, the shoji screens needed changing and she was not going to buy the rice paper from a department store this year. It might take some searching, but she was certain she could find a store that specialized in that sort of thing. And then there were the personal projects she'd always meant to get around to, like organizing the photo album; Nabiki was always taking photographs. And then there was tomorrow to plan for.


Boss = Sana-chan's mother from Kodomo No Omocha (Child's Toy)
Agent Ichi = Ichinose from Madison Ikkoku
Be = Belldandy from Oh! My Goddess
Sa = Sasami from Tenchi Muyo