Matchmaking (and Moneymaking)

The Errands (Day 4)

"Ranma, where are you going?" Akane cried after the retreating redhead. It was Friday, the day after Ryoga's birthday, and class had just let out for the weekend.

"I gotta go see Dr. Tofu 'bout something," Ranma called over her shoulder. Remembering that Nabiki wanted her to keep the Lost Boy in town, she added. "Make sure Ryoga doesn't wander off, will ya?"

"Dammit, Saotome, I'm not that bad." Ryoga growled as his rival jumped over the wall surrounding the school. 'I know I have trouble finding places, but why does Saotome always have to rub it in!?' He thought angrily.

"Ignore him," Akane said. "Let's just head back to the dojo, and-"

"Halt, cur!" Kuno called out as he exited the school behind them.

Glancing over his shoulder, Ryoga saw the swordsman staring straight at him, and realized he was the one being addressed. Turning around with a scowl, Ryoga asked, "What do you want now, Kuno?"

"It appears that whilst I fended off the foe before me, I overlooked the viper in the grass." The kendoist said with a superior tone. "Is it not enough that I must work tirelessly to defeat the Sorcerer Saotome, but that you must attempt to worm your way into the hearts of the Pigtailed Girl and Akane Tendo as well!?"

"...what?" Ryoga said dumbly, completely caught off guard by Kuno's accusation.

"Do not deny it, Lout!" Kuno went on. "First, you attempted to humiliate me in front of the beautiful Pigtailed Girl, and now I find you attempting to ensnare the fair Akane. I, the great Tatewaki Kuno, shall not allow it!"

"Don't be ridiculous! Besides, Ryoga and I are just friends." Akane objected, not noticing the way Ryoga's shoulders slumped at her words.

"Yeah, that's right..." Ryoga backed her up half-heartedly.

"No doubt this dastardly deceiver has clouded your mind with his cunning lies, Akane, but do not let your heart be swayed! Divine justice shall be wrought upon him by my hand!" Drawing his bokken, Kuno charged forward and cried, "Have at thee!"

Drawing his newly repaired umbrella, Ryoga met the kendoist's charge, determined to end this encounter with Kuno faster than the last. As he fought, Ryoga thought to himself, 'What did I ever do to deserve this?'

Ranma frowned as she jumped down from the rooftops to land in front of Doctor Tofu's clinic. Hoping that Tufo was not with a patient, (or even worse, Kasumi,) Ranma entered the building. Seeing Tofu approaching the door, Ranma asked, "Hey, Doc, do ya have a minute, or should I come back later?"

Tofu smiled and said, "Of course, I can always make time for my favorite patients. Besides, I was just going to go for a walk since the weather was so nice, anyway." Leading Ranma to his examination room, Dr. Tofu asked, "Well, I don't see any obvious injuries, so what seems to be the problem, Ranma?"

"Well, my back's been hurting the last couple of days, and I just wanna make sure nothing's wrong," Ranma replied.

The doctor nodded his head. After all, it made sense that a martial artist would want to keep their body in peak condition. Out loud, he said, "All right. Take off your shirt and lie face down on the bed, and I'll see if I can figure out what's wrong."

Ranma did as he asked, and soon felt his hands working along the muscles of her back. After a few moments, Dr. Tofu spoke up. "From the way your muscles are knotted up, I have an idea what the problem is. Or possibly 'problems', as the case may be. Here, tell me see if this helps."

Tofu's hands started to move faster for several moments, swiftly bringing relief to the redhead's back. As his hands stopped, Ranma smiled and said, "Thanks, Doc! I feel just fine now."

As Ranma sat up and put her shirt back on, Tofu spoke once more. "Ranma, have you been carrying anything unusually heavy lately? Most of the stress to your back is consistent with that type of strain."

Ranma nodded as she responded. "Yeah, I had ta carry Ryoga's umbrella across the ward a couple of times, and it was a little tough ta do in my girl form." Normally, Ranma hated admitting weakness to others, but she had long since learned not mislead doctors. At least, as long as there was no one else around.

"As I said, that was probably the main cause of the problem. Remember, Ranma, you may be stronger than most people, but even you have your limits." Tofu adjusted his glances before continuing. "That brings to another question, though. Have you been spending more time than usual in your cursed form?"

Ranma was surprised by the question, but answered honestly. "Uh, yeah. It's been a couple days since I changed back actually."

"Did your curse get locked again?" Tofu asked worriedly.

"Nah, it's a bit more complicated than that," Ranma said, rubbing the back of her neck awkwardly. Trying to deflect from the issue, she asked. "What does that have ta do with my back, though?"

Tofu could tell Ranma was avoiding giving him a straight answer, but he let it go. Instead, he answered her question. "From what I could tell, the stress to your back was from a recent, more intense strain, compounded on an older, less intense one." Seeing that he had lost Ranma, Dr. Tofu tried again. "In other words, carrying your rival's umbrella wasn't the start of the problem, it just made an existing issue bad enough for you to notice." Seeing that he had Ranma's attention, he continued. "As I'm sure you know, Ranma, male and female forms have different centers of balance, due to the shape of the body."

Ranma nodded. "Yeah, it was a real pain getting used to that when I first got cursed."

Glad that Ranma was following him, Tofu went on. "Well, due to their breasts, women tend to have a center of balance above and slightly forward of most men, and especially so for well-endowed women." Tofu took a deep breath, as he knew Ranma was not going to like what he had to say next. "Because of that, many women will suffer back pain, unless they use the proper support. That is why, especially for 'gifted' females like your cursed form, it is important to wear a bra in order to avoid back problems."

The room was in silence for a few seconds, before Ranma realized what he was saying. Crossing her arms in front of her, Ranma cried out, "Oh, HELL NO! There's no way I'm wearing a bra!" Looking for an argument to back up her case, Ranma continued. "Besides, I've never had a problem with it before!"

The doctor held up his hand a placating manner, and calmly explained. "With your training, Ranma, it is likely that you subconsciously suppressed any feelings of discomfort, and it was only once it got worse that you noticed. That's actually worse in the long run, as ignoring back problems can lead to issues later in your life, or even impair your martial arts in the short term. Changing back to your male form likely gives you some relief, and that's why it hasn't been an issue before now."

"But... but I've had my curse locked for longer than this before." Ranma protested.

"Yes, but I believe that those times you were so focused on getting the cure that you wouldn't have noticed. On top of that, well... your cursed form has matured as time has passed, and the strain is greater now than it was then." Tofu said.

Ranma looked down at her chest with a frown. There was no denying that her breasts had gotten bigger since she had first gotten cursed, and it had been a while since the last time her curse was locked. "But still... I'm a guy!" Ranma said, unwilling to give in.

Tofu shook his head. "I'm not saying you have to wear a bra, Ranma. Just try to spend more time in male form, and you should be fine. That said, you should get some in case your curse gets locked again, or if you plan to spend extended time in that form."

Standing up with a sigh, Ranma said, "Thanks, Doc. I'll think about what ya said..."

Tofu gave a friendly smile as he led Ranma out of the clinic. "Sorry I couldn't tell you what you wanted to hear, Ranma, but sometimes what you want to hear, and what you need to hear are two different things."

Ranma chuckled at that, saying, "I suppose ya got a point there. See ya later!"

As she leapt to the rooftops, Ranma groaned and thought to herself, 'What did I ever do to deserve this?'

Ryoga was in a great mood as he arrived back at the Tendo Dojo with Akane. Today, it was Kuno's weapon that had been broken, allowing him to end his fight with the swordsman quickly.

When they entered the building, they found Nabiki watching the television in the living room. Looking up from where she was sitting as they walked in, Nabiki spoke up. "Just you two? Did Saotome get delayed by Kuno again?"

"He mentioned going to see Dr. Tofu." Akane explained. "Kuno did show up, but he went after Ryoga, not Ranma."

The conversation was interrupted when Kasumi emerged from the kitchen. Seeing her youngest sister and their guest were home, she said, "Welcome back, Akane, Ryoga. Akane, I was just about to go get some groceries. Would you mind coming along to help me carry them?"

"Sure, Kasumi." Akane said.

As they were speaking, Nabiki's mind was working. 'Damn, there go my plans for Ranma this afternoon. I guess I have no choice but to wait for tomorrow. Still, I'm surprised Kuno-baby is going after Ryoga already. I figured it would take at least a couple more days. I don't want Ryoga wandering off while Ranma is gone, though. So...' Out loud, she said, "Hibiki, why don't you go with them? Since you've been eating with us, I'm sure there will be more than normal to carry."

Rubbing the back of his neck sheepishly, Ryoga said, "Yeah, that's probably a good idea."

"Well then, shall we go?" Kasumi asked with a smile. Leaving their schoolbags in the living room, Ryoga and Akane followed her out the door.

As she watched them leave, Nabiki thought, 'Well, my plans for today got pushed back. Hmm, I guess my best bet for today would be to talk to Mousse, and see if he's made any progress on what I asked of him the other night.'

With that, Nabiki turned off the television, and left the house as well.

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