Thursday, July 28, 2005
Timing is Everything
“What to do?”
The young girl slowly began to shed her baggy black pants followed by her silk Chinese shirt. She was left wearing only men’s bowers and a perplexed look on her face. After discarding her last article of clothing she flipped her red braid from her shoulder while opening the door past the laundry room. She sat down on a wooden stool and began to fill a bucket with water. She turned the faucet the coursing water slowed to a steady drip. Letting the noise fill her mind, she drifted back to the conversation she held with her father just hours ago.
“Come on Ranma my boy. It’s just till we can find a cure.” The middle aged man stood above the young girl.
“Why can’t we just find the cure first and then we wouldn’t have to go through any of this!” She shook her head angrily, ringing out her shirt.
“We agreed to meet Soun and your fiancée today and it is not honorable to break ones word.”
“But it IS honorable to lie?!”
“To protect one’s honor it is honorable to lie. Let’s go boy.”
“No way. I don’t wanna have any part in this. You can go alone old man.” She proceeded to kick him out from under the umbrella and into the rain as she ran off in the opposite direction.
“Aaaa! Cold!” The young girl’s teeth chattered goose bumps forming on her skin. She rose to her feet and walked toward the tub.
“Stupid idea, I mean they are bound to find out.”
Just as her foot rose to the top of the porcelain the sliding door to the laundry room opened. The red haired girl stood stunned gawking at the naked girl in front of her.
“Didn’t you hear me in the laundry room?” She smiled at the red head sweetly not noticing her face matched the color of her hair. “We can bath together.”
Ranma spun around as Akane closed the door behind her.
“Are you ok Ranma?” She walked over to the stool and sat down, filling the same bucket Ranma had just used.
“Um well . . .” Ranma started to fiddle with her fingers her face still flushed keeping her back to the other naked girl.
“I am so relieved that you are a girl. I wasn’t really looking forward to getting married. Eeeeee! Cold!” Ranma looked back to see the girl dousing herself with cold water. Her long dark hair and smooth skin dripping onto the floor. Ranma returned to her contemplation of the porcelain. “It is really going to be nice having another girl around who practices martial arts. My sisters think I’m a little strange.”
She rose from the stool and walked over to Ranma. “Are you getting in?”
Akane stepped in front of her and lowered herself into the tub.
“Look Akane I can’t lie to you.” Ranma walked over to the faucets and stared at each for a moment before filling the bucket again. She turned around and held the bucket over her head and then let it spill over her head and down her body.
“Oh!” Akane straightened in the tub staring at the site in front of her.
“I don’t like hot baths. Hate them in fact.” Ranma said through chattering teeth. “I have to tell you something else my name isn’t Ranma, it’s Ranko. I hate to disappoint you Akane, but it was my pop’s idea that I come here and pretend to be my brother Ranma. He is on a training trip and couldn’t make it and since I look so much like him Pop thought . . .”
“Hahahaha!” Akane burst into a fit of laughter interrupting her speech. “Sounds just like a friend of dad’s. Don’t worry about it, it was still nice to meet you. We are still friends aren’t we?”
Akane leaned against the edge of the tub her arms crossed hanging over the porcelain. A much less revealing position, which made Ranma more relaxed.
“Of course we are.” The tension drained from Ranma’s body and a smile danced across her lovely face. “Hey Pop might already be here.”
The red head sprung through the sliding door, threw her clothes on, and raced down the hallway. ‘Friends. And maybe a real home, if only I don’t let ‘em know my secret.’
Soun and Genma sat together cross-legged looking into the night solemnly. Genma settled himself for a long discussion with his oldest friend when a deceivingly dainty foot kicked him upside the head sending him into the hedges.
“No reason to come up with anymore lies Pop. They already know I’m not Ranma.” Genma looked up at her, his expression changing from bewilderment to comprehension in a matter of seconds.
“So you have told them who you really are, RANKO?”
“Really Mr. Saotome trying to pass off your daughter as her brother. I’m sure they may look alike but Ranko is most definitely a girl.” Akane interrupted entering the room in a yellow skirt and a white cotton shirt.
“Oh yes, I guess it really wasn’t a very good idea.”
“Mr. Saotome, we understand that Ranma couldn’t make it we can meet him another time. Until then you and Ranko are welcome to stay with us, right dad?”
“Of course Saotome is my oldest friend. Funny though Saotome, I don’t remember you telling me your wife had twins.”
“Why would I ever tell you about this lowly daughter of mine, she is of no use to me whatsoever.”
“Say again Pop?” Ranma loomed above her father threateningly. Akane came up behind her and put her hand on her shoulder. She smiled down at the girl her head tilted slightly.
“It must have been hard living on the road, never having much of a home. We’ll being going to school together.”
“Of course Ranko, nice young ladies need to go to school.” Kasumi said walking into the room with dinner.
“Oh yeah, nice young lady, sure.”
“Saotome when will we meet Ranma?” Soun turned to his friend.
“Oh soon, very soon?”
“I’d hate to think you are going to go back on your word.”
“Never Tendo. He will marry one of your daughters.”
“Naturally he should marry Akane.” Nabiki added sitting down at the table.
“Huh? Why me?”
“You have so much in common.”
“And you are the same age.” Added Kasumi.
“What does that have to do with anything and how do you know we have a lot in common?!” Akane said furious.
“Well you both are martial arts freaks aren’t you, who else should take over the dojo. I certainly had bigger things in mind and you don’t expect Kasumi to learn how to fight.”
“So there you have it Akane and Ranma should be engaged.”
“Hmph, I haven’t even met him yet and you’re already marring me off.”
“If he is half as cute as Ranko then you have it made Akane.” Akane turned around in a huff and went upstairs without eating dinner. Ranma stood stunned her whole future planned out and she couldn’t even protest because it wasn’t HER future. She sat down on the steps leading out to the yard her cheek resting on her hand.
“Well boy everything is working out perfectly.” He whispered to her.
“Yeah just great. I dunno how I let you talk me into this.”
“Come on Ranko, get up!”
“Wh-what?” Ranma yawned, her eyes opening groggily. The young girl stood above her hands on her hips. She was dressed in a blue and white frock her hair pulled back loosely in a bow.
“Yo Akane. What’s up?”
“It’s time for school Ranko, you better get ready.” Akane looked down at the red head. She still lay sprawled out on the mat she slept on wearing a pair of blue boy’s boxers and a white T-shirt. Akane bent down and yanked the girl off the floor.
“Do you want to wear one of my or Nabiki’s uniforms?”
“OK, well I’ll be downstairs. You do want to eat don’t you?” Ranma sprang to life tearing down the hallway getting ready on the way. Kasumi’s cooking was the best she’d eaten since before she could remember. After devouring breakfast Ranma and Akane headed off to school slightly behind schedule.
“You are quite agile,” Akane said admiring Ranma walk perfectly balanced on the fence. “I guess the three of you studied pretty diligently huh?”
“Three? Oh yeah been training with Pop just about every minute of my life.”
“So I guess Ranma is just as good you?”
“Better.” Ranma stopped and looked down at Akane.
“Does he want to be engaged?”
“Did he send you cause he doesn’t want to be engaged?”
“No not really. I mean he’s sixteen and pretty wrapped up in his training, doesn’t have much time for fiancées. Besides didn’t you say you didn’t want to be engaged.”
“Hmph. No way I have enough problems with boys.” Akane walked on and Ranma looked after her. “Oh jeez we’re late!”
Both darted toward the school side by side. As the distance between them and the school lessened Ranma noticed an unusual amount of male students standing outside the school.
“Don’t worry I can handle this, just stay back!” Akane dashed forward and was immediately accosted on all sides by an assortment of boys welding baseball bats, hockey sticks, kendo swords, etc. She took all of them out in a matter of minutes. Ranma watched from above, perched on the stone wall surrounding the school, a slow smile crept across her face.
At last the final boy fell to the ground minus a few less teeth, Akane adjusted her hair mildly out of breath. “When will they learn.”
From beyond the trees an older boy dressed like a samurai emerged holding a single rose. He threw the rose to Akane catching her attention. He started spouting some poetry of how much he loved her and Ranma’s stomach started to churn.
“Jeez Akane you sure are popular with the guys.” Ranma said jumping down next to her.
“Stand back you might get hurt.”
“Huh?” The boy was suddenly at her side holding another rose.
“Oh what red haired beauty is brought to mine eyes? This flower can not compare to your beauty. Come let us date!” He grabbed her hands in his own.
“Hey jerk what do you think you’re doing.” Ranma’s face twisted in disgust. She pivoted on her heal and kicked him in the chest sending him flying through the air. He was on his feet immediately recovered holding his bokken high in the air as he looked down at her.
“‘Tis the Blue Thunder of Furinkan High that stands before you, Tatewati Kuno, age 17. If you beat me in combat I will allow you to date with me.”
“Who says I want a date with you.” She said as she nimbly avoided each of his blows.
“You are as graceful as a gazelle my dear.” He whipped up behind her and lifted her off her feet in a hug. Ranma’s eyes bugged out of her head, she thought she might be ill.
“Hands off sicko!” She brought up her leg in an incredible display of flexibility and kicked him in the face. She picked up his sword tossing it in the air with her foot catching it in flight, as he fell backwards she hit him in several vital areas. She stood over him out of breath and completely revolted.
“When my brother comes to town he will have several words for you buddy.”
“My love, if I can get permission from your brother will you date with me?” Like a springboard he was on his feet holding her hand.
“Yeah sure if my brother Ranma says that I can date you I definitely will.” She nodded her head and wrenched her hand free.
“Then I must prepare. My dear Akane please don’t hold a grudge I have not forgotten you.”
“I wasn’t worried.”
“I shall date you both!” He charged at Akane and she sent him soaring through the air with an uppercut.
“Damn we’re late come on Ranko.” She grabbed the red head’s hand and ran into the building.
“Hey so what is with that guy and the rest of the boys attacking you?”
“Oh that’s Kuno the school’s kendo captain. At the beginning of the school year he told the student body that any guy that wanted to date me had to best me in combat.”
“Wow so you fight ALL those guys every morning!” They ran up the stairs of the school.
“Yup and I ALWAYS win. I hate them all!” She dragged Ranma down the hall to the last classroom. “Hey why did you agree to date Kuno if Ranma says yes.”
“Ha! I’m sure he’ll say no.” Akane shrugged and they both walked into the classroom, late. ‘I think this would be a perfect time for Ranma to make his appearance.’
Making an Entrance
“Akane Tendo I strike only out of love!” The teenage soccer player swung his fist at the attractive young girl only to have his arm wrenched forward in her grasp. Using his momentum Akane pulled him off balance then swiftly kicked him in the stomach knocking the wind out of him.
“Ranko Saotome I must have you!”
“I think not Pal!” Ranma bobbed and weaved avoiding all the boys’ sloppy attacks. Ranma ran backwards leading the boy with her, deftly moving out of his path mere millimeters from the stone wall. The boy made a low groan then slid down to the grass unconscious.
“I wish Kuno hadn’t included me in on his stupid decree.” Ranma joined Akane’s side as she twisted one boy’s arm pinning it behind him and pushed him face first into the ground. A small smile crept across the red head’s face as she watched Akane work the boy over with ease.
“Well at least its good exercise.” Akane smiled as Ranma flipped the last boy over her shoulder.
“Hahaha, very funny.” Ranma said not feeling amused. He stomach started to turn ‘I shoulda hit them more, perverts.’
“Come on Ranko we are going to be late.” Akane grabbed the red head by the hand dragging her into the building.
“What else is new. Hey where the heck was Kuno today anyway?”
Slowly Kuno emerged from behind a tree where he observed the two girls’ battle. ‘Oh my beloved’s fighting as one to win my heart. I shall have them both.”
The group of girls walked down the hallway giggling as they talked. Ranma walked close to Akane’s side watching the girls laugh and talk. Akane smiled and joked, but was not as nearly giddy as her companions. Ranma just kept quiet while she watched and listened.
“So when are we going to meet your brother Ranko?”
“I still can’t believe you’re engaged Akane.” The girl with the ash blonde hair said.
“Shh. I really haven’t told too many people. I mean I’ve never met him.”
“Which brings me back to my original question when are we going to meet your brother Ranko?” All the girls turned to her. Ranma couldn’t read Akane’s look she seemed almost apprehensive.
“Soon, he should be passing through in a couple days on his trip.”
“He must be real strong if he is constantly in training.”
“Yup sure is.” Ranma said rocking back and forth on her heels smiling proudly.
“Sounds like you are a lucky girl Akane.” The blonde girl said nudging her with her elbow.
“How can you say that, I don’t even know him! He may turn out to be a wife beater or something.” Akane shouted angrily, she turned to Ranma and her expression softened. “Sorry Ranko I…”
Ranma just shrugged in return looking away. The girls stopped walking and started to enter a room filled with lockers and benches. Ranma stared at the sign on the door in horror - Girls Locker Room.
“Come on Ranko it’s time for gym.”
“Y-yeah I’ll be right there.”
‘I can do this-I’m a girl.’ Akane and the rest of the girls started to undo the straps of their jumpers. Her knees started to shake. Ranma abruptly turned to the locker and stared forward undoing the ties of her shirt. Ranma placed the top to her gym outfit over her shoulders and examined the tiny red shorts. ‘These are more like underpants then shorts, this is so humiliating.’ Ranma removed the rest of her clothing quickly and slid on the red gym shorts. ‘If Pop sees me like this I’ll never live it down.’
“Gee that was fast are you ready Ranko?” Ranma turned to see Akane pulling her shirt from the middle of her stomach down to the elastic waistband of her shorts.
“Ah yeah I’m rearing to go.” Akane smiled and Ranma couldn’t help but study the beautiful lines of her face. She was especially pleasing to look at when she smiled. Ranma held the image of Akane’s face in her mind even as they played baseball. Ranma stood at third base, Akane at the pitcher’s mound waiting for the sign for the catcher. Ranma had to admit she was very athletic, for a girl, and she even looked kind of cute in her gym outfit, for a tomboy. A cry from home base brought Ranma out of her reverie. She turned and caught the baseball right between the eyes.
“Oh Ranko are you ok?” Akane ran to her side along with the rest of the players. Ranma fought the blackness that invaded her vision, but soon fell into unconsciousness.
“Ranko. Ranko?” Ranma heard Akane’s voice at the edge of her mind. Her senses started to come around, she felt herself sprawled out on the field her head propped up and an immense pounding in her skull.
“Ow, w-what happened?” Ranma opened her eyes forcing them to focus. Akane’s face slowly came into focus; she was looking down at the red head her brow crinkling with worry.
“You got hit with a ball, when you weren’t paying attention. Are you ok?” Ranma’s head rested on Akane’s lap her hand cradling her chin. Ranma’s cheeks flushed and she sat up.
“Oh I’m fine, nothing to worry about.” The throbbing in her head disagreed and the look on Akane’s face said she didn’t believe her. “Pop’s hit me with harder stuff then that while sparring.”
Ranma jumped to her feet, the girls around her owed in amazement. The gym teacher came over to inspect the bruise on Ranma’s face. Ranma absolutely refused to go to the infirmary. The bell rang signaling them to head back into the building to change. Ranma and the rest of the girls started the jog back into the locker room. Ranma noticed all the boys were eyeing the girls throughout gym, but at this moment it seemed that every one of them was staring at her.
“What are they looking at?”
“Well maybe you should start wearing a bra, I mean it wouldn’t be so bad if you weren’t so…” Akane said moving her gaze downward.
“Oh.” Ranma said thinking to herself ‘there is no way. I’m a GUY!’
From the distance Nabiki stood watching the events unfold, she opened the envelope in her hand and started toward the crowd of boys.
“Boys do I have a deal for you.” She said in her best business tone.
“Hey Akane watcha got there?”
“Hm? Oh it’s a book Kasumi wanted me to return for her.”
“Pressure Points for Beginners. Doesn’t sound too thrilling.” Akane chuckled and Ranma smiled walking next to her.
“Here we are, Dr. Tofu’s clinic.” Ranma studied the outside of the building reading the signs. ‘Moxibustion.’ Ranma followed Akane in.
“Hello, Dr. Tofu?” Akane looked around the clinic impatiently.
“Yes may I help you? Oh Akane its you. You didn’t get into another fight did you?” The young doctor looked at the two girls pleasantly. Akane blushed furiously, Ranma raised an eyebrow examining her.
“N-no sir. I haven’t been in a fight for awhile now doctor.”
“What about this morn-” Ranma was abruptly cut off by an elbow in her gut.
“My Akane I think you friend has been injured.”
“Oh she’ll be fine.”
“That’s a nasty bruise on your face young lady, let me take a look.”
“A fiancé, but you are still so young Akane.” The doctor tended to Ranma’s wound while Akane seemed to be saddened.
“I haven’t even met him yet.”
“Well I’m sure everything will work out just fine. You’ll have plenty of time to get to know each other.” Ranma watched Akane closely she seemed to be getting more and more depressed. When they left the clinic she didn’t say a word. ‘What is she thinking?”
“So have you known the doc a long time, he seemed to know you very well.”
“My whole life he has always been there for me whenever I had problems.” Akane got this sad glossy eyed look on her face and it finally occurred to her. ‘She loves him.’
“So does he feel the same way about you?” Ranma jumped down from the fence she was walking on landing at Akane’s side.
“What?” Akane’s face reddened while she examined the sidewalk under her feet.
“Come on its SO obvious. Does he like you too?” Akane just turned her face away. Ranma craned her head this way and that trying to see her face.
“He already loves someone else.” She said quietly never turning toward her.
“Don’t worry. I’ve gotten used to it.” ‘It still hasn’t stopped me from trying though.’ She thought to herself sadly. Akane suddenly turned to Ranma with a curious expression.
“Was it true what you said about Ranma today?”
“That he’s strong and handsome, sure.” Ranma said boastfully her hands behind her head.
“No stupid. He is going to be in town soon?”
“Sure is.” Ranma studied her expression. “Are you excited?”
“Please, no way! I’m just…I dunno.”
“I’m not sure. Nervous maybe, but I’m not really sure why. How long is he going to stay?”
“I’m not sure maybe only a day or two.”
“He sure is dedicated.” They reached the gates to the Tendo home and proceeded inside.
“That’s my bro.”
“Mr. Saotome are you excited that Ranma is coming?”
“Ranma is coming?” Soun jumped up from the shoji game excitedly.
“You mean nobody else knew.”
“Kasumi what are we going to do?” Soun ran around the house like a mad man.
“Ranma coming here?” Genma looked at his daughter questioningly. “Are you sure that is such a good idea boy?” He said under his breath.
“I have my reasons.”
High atop a hill looking down at the city a weary traveler made a silent prayer to the gods in heaven. ‘Finally after months in the jungle I have found it, Tokyo. Soon Ranma I shall have my revenge. The boy adjusted his backpack and turned heading back the way he came.
“I can’t believe your father is going to so much trouble for m-Ranma.” Ranma sat cross-legged on Akane’s bed as she went through all the dresses in her closet.
“He is proud to have someone of your brother’s caliber taking over the dojo.” Ranma beamed with pride. “At least that is what your father said.”
Ranma’s shoulders slumped forward in disappointment as Nabiki came bursting through the door. She walked over to her sister’s closet and shook her head in disapproval.
“Come, come Akane if you are going to make an impression on your fiancé you can’t wear any of this. Daddy is taking us out to a nice restaurant so of course we’ll be needing new outfits.”
“Don’t call him my fiancé, I don’t even know him!”
“Daddy already gave me his credit card. He said I should look nice in case Ranma doesn’t like you.” Akane was appalled.
“Alright fine we’ll go.” Nabiki merrily left the room and Akane spun on heal staring at Ranma. “You are coming with me Ranko, left to Nabiki I’ll end up dressed in a ball gown.”
“Huh?” Ranma stared at Akane’s frazzled face.
“Come on please we’ll buy some stuff for you as well, it’ll be fun.” Akane smiled down at the red head causing her to loose all resolve. ‘Great I get to buy girls clothes.’
It was more boring then anything else. Ranma followed the two Tendo girls around as they examined different dresses running off every once and awhile to try something on. Ranma’s favorite part was when they stopped for ice cream she had three hot fudge sundaes to Nabiki and Akane’s astonishment. She had nearly fallen asleep in the chair next to the dressing room when Akane emerged in a radiant blue dress. It was a simple, fitted knee length dress with short sleeves that fit perfectly enhancing her shape. The dark shade of blue made the highlights in long her hair gleam and her eyes sparkle. She fidgeted with the buttons that ran the length of the dress looking down at herself.
“What do you think? This one seems to be the nicest. Though…I have to admit I never look very good in dresses.”
“You look great, amazing.” Ranma stuttered and Akane immediately smiled feeling relieved. Ranma stood up and walked to her.
“Why thank you.” She curtseyed giggling.
“Some black thigh highs and some matching underwear and you’ll be all set.” Nabiki said coming up behind Akane flipping up the hem of her dress showing her poka-dotted panties. Ranma felt her face turn very hot she turned away trying not too look suspicious.
“What do I need that for?” Akane said holding down the skirt to her dress.
“Trust me it will make you feel more attractive. Now we’ve got to get something for Ranko here.”
“Huh? Me?” Ranma backed away frightened.
“We’ll make it so your brother won’t even recognize you.”
“I already got something for her at the last store.”
“You did?” Ranma said sagging over. Akane pulled open a bag from the dressing room to reveal a red Chinese outfit with yellow flowers. It was feminine but not a dress. She handed it to Ranma who just looked up at her surprised.
“I hope you like it. I bought a larger shirt and smaller pants, but you should probably try it on when we get home.”
“Thank you, it’s just what I’d have picked.” ‘If I were forced to wear girl’s clothes. I even like the color.’
“Okay ladies let’s head over to the unmentionables.”
“Come on Ranko, the boys are never going to leave you alone if you continue to give them a free show.”
“What do I care if they look, as long as they don’t touch.”
“Ranko! You really haven’t had any female influence have you?”
“How about this Akane?” Nabiki held up a black see through bodysuit that made both Akane and Ranma flush. “Look it has snaps.”
“I am not having sex with him I am just meeting him.”
“You can never be too prepared.” Nabiki scolded.
“I assure you I don’t need to be that prepared!” Akane stared furious at Nabiki who just shrugged putting the lingerie down. Ranma thanked her luck that she was not going to be engaged to Nabiki. Akane picked out a modest set of black undergarments and Ranma agreed to buy two athletic supporters for gym and that was it. After the shopping was done they went straight home where the rest of the family was furiously cleaning.
“Jeez its just m-Ranma!” She yelled. Akane shrugged her shoulders trying to hide her nervousness. Ranma retreated to her room. ‘Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea after all. I wish they didn’t make such a big deal outta this.’ A vision of Akane standing in the short sleeved blue dress smiling at her flashed through her mind as she sprawled out on her futon. ‘Still, I guess it won’t be so bad them makin’ a fuss.’ She stared up at the ceiling slowly letting sleep invade her body.
“Come on Ranko, get up.”
“Hmm, not yet Akane give me a couple more minutes.”
“Ranko we’re going to late for school again.” Ranma sat up straight startling Akane. ‘Right I wanted to get out early today so I could change.’
“What’s wrong are you ok?” Akane sat down next to the red head concerned. Ranma held her stomach leaning over moaning. Akane placed her hand on the girl’s forehead. “You don’t have a fever.”
“Oooooh, I think I’m gonna be sick. Must have been those ice cream sundaes I had last night.”
“I told you not to have the third one.”
“I don’t think I can make it to school today.”
“OK, I hope you feel better.” Ranma continued to moan until Akane left. She sprung from her futon and rummaged through her clothes until she found her favorite red shirt. ‘I can get some hot water from Dr. Tofu’s on the way.’
Ranma was giddy with anticipation. ‘I have been stuck in this body for WAY too long.’ After dressing she shimmied out her window onto the roof. ‘Can’t risk running into Akane on the way, better take the high road.’ With ease Ranma jumped from roof to roof making her way across town. It wasn’t long before she caught sight of the clinic and took to the ground. While making her descent Ranma felt her foot slam into a hard unstable object. Ranma looked down to find her foot had intercepted the head of a young man wandering by. After using his head for leverage she found her footing on the sidewalk as the boy was flattened on his back.
“Jeez sorry about that man, I didn’t see yah there. You ok?” She squatted down next to him.
“I’m fine, got a thick head.” He recovered quickly and was sitting up rubbing his head. She noticed a map lying next to him.
“Here you go, you dropped it.” She handed him the worn piece of paper and they both rose to their feet.
“Thanks.” The boy wore a yellow and black bandana and was looking her over closely. “Have I met you somewhere before?”
She frowned thinking to herself ‘he better not be trying to pick me up or something.’
“I mean its just cause you look so familiar.” The boy said a goofy smile on his face and a hand behind his head, obviously realizing how he must have sounded. Ranma looked him over and thought to herself that there was definitely something familiar about this boy.
“Oh jeez sorry but I’m going to be late if I don’t get going.” Ranma ran off around the corner.
“Hey!” The boy shrugged his shoulders. “I should have asked her if she knew where Furinkan High was.”
“What was that, Furinkan High?” The boy quickly turned around to find an attractive girl with long black hair looking at him.
Akane smiled pleasantly at the boy. ‘I’m sure I just saw him talking to Ranko.’
“Oh yes I am looking for Ranma Saotome. Can you direct me to Furinkan High?”
“Sure I’m on my way there now. What do you want with Ranma?”
“I’m going to beat him to a pulp.” The boy said matter-of-factly. ‘So he is here to challenge Ranma and he was just talking to Ranko. Why that little sneak, she had a boyfriend and she didn’t even tell me.’
‘Today really is going to be perfect. I’m on my way to kill Ranma once and for all and a beautiful girl is guiding me to his demise. Today I will assuredly prevail.’
“Oh jeez I beat her here.” Ranma walked through the school gates perusing the horde of boys waiting for his female self and Akane to arrive. ‘Jerks what the hell are they looking at.’ After all the morning fights Ranma couldn’t help but loathe them.
“You there, new boy, have you come to challenge Akane Tendo or the pig-tailed goddess, Ranko?’ Kuno said standing under a tree in the distance.
“Now why would I want to challenge my own sister?” Ranma stood arrogantly looking at the shocked faces of the boys in the schoolyard.
“You’re-?” The boys looked back and forth from one another exchanging acknowledgements. “Didn’t Nabiki say that any guy that defeats him in battle can date Ranko?”
Ranma’s raised an eyebrow at the comment and watched the crowd continue to stir.
“That means if we beat you we can date Ranko! Charge!”
All the boys except Kuno ran at Ranma using various weapons. He dispatched them all quickly weaving in the air to avoid all the attacks sending them flying with a single kick or punch. When the last boy hit the ground Ranma jumped a top the stone wall and surveyed the unconscious remains of all his attackers. He stretched reveling in his male form, feeling more and more comfortable. He smiled smugly at his handy work when he spied two figures standing at the gates below him.
Akane stared up at him as their eyes met. The wind swirled across the schoolyard running through her long dark hair and rustling her dress. Ranma felt his own hair graze across his cheek, his pigtail blowing in the breeze.
He jumped down in front of her, smirking inwardly. “You must be Akane.”
“Ranma?” They continued to look at each other when he heard his name yelled at him from either side.
“Ranma Saotome!” Ranma harshly pushed Akane out of the way as the two boys attacked him from both sides. The sword and the umbrella met in the space he recently occupied, Ranma stood back and surveyed his opponents.
Hell and Back Again
Ranma smiled as he looked at each of his attackers in turn ‘Kuno and…that guy. Now I’m sure I know him from somewhere.’ The two boys suddenly looked at each other.
“Nave who be you that would fight for my beloved.”
“Wait is it not customary to give one’s own name first?”
“Fine, mine I shall give-” Ryoga stood dumbfounded as Kuno reeled off his usual spiel of ‘Blue Thunder.’ Ranma crossed his arms over his chest and waited for the inevitable lightening strike.
“Who are you that might challenge for my goddess’ hand?”
“Hey I’m just here to kill Ranma Saotome!”
“Well if we are going to fight then let’s stop the chit chat.” Ranma interrupted.
“Right you are well past the time for reprieve Saotome!” And with that Ryoga charged his umbrella extended like a blade. Ranma twisted out of Ryoga’s reach then lunged forward avoiding the kendo sword slicing the through the air behind him nearly chopping off his pigtail.
“Hey man, watch the hair!”
“I shall not allow this cretin to beat you for my true love’s hand, that privilege I will take myself.” Kuno swung his sword toward Ranma’s midsection as Ranma leapt backwards dancing through a folly of Ryoga’s bandana’s leaving his shirt marred and his bare skin exposed.
‘This can’t be good for him. Two against one, no matter how good Mr. Saotome and Ranko say he is, I have to help him.’ Akane thought to herself watching from the sidelines.
“Who are you calling a cretin and Ranma stop talking like a girl!”
Ranma growled narrowing his eyes at the boy with the bandana. “Who are you calling a girl!”
He pivoted and sent Kuno flying into a tree with a single kick, then lunged at Ryoga fists flying. Ryoga staggered backwards absorbing all the punches managing to avoid only a precious few.
“Who are you anyway?” Ranma shouted.
“You mean you really don’t remember me?” Ryoga huffed trying to regain his breath sounding almost hurt or let down by Ranma’s question. Then his face hardened with a new determination. “After the hell you’ve put me through!”
Ryoga slammed his umbrella into Ranma’s stomach sending him flying. Uneasily Ranma flipped in the air landing on his feet feeling the pain sting his stomach.
“Hey didn’t we go to junior high together?”
“Then you do remember?” Ryoga held his position in anticipation.
“Um…wait,” Ranma brought his hand to his cheek a thoughtful expression on his face.
“Tally not with this simpleton.” Kuno flung Ryoga out of the way with a rough shove from the side and ran at Ranma his wooden sword held firm. “All though I must destroy you, it gives me no pleasure to hurt a future family member.”
“Oh give it a rest Kuno.” Ranma moved from side to side dodging Kuno’s strikes. Again Kuno was kicked aside. Slowly he forced himself to his feet using his bokken for support. He stared at Ranma feeling the strain of battle when suddenly before him stood Akane.
“Akane Tendo my love there is no reason for you to be jealous. My love for thee is still as infinite as time itself.”
“Gimme a break. Two against one isn’t fair. Fight me instead!” Akane raised her arms in defense the wind blowing her loosely tied hair over her shoulder.
Ranma looked over his shoulder while dodging Ryoga’s punches and was disturbed to find Akane squaring off against Kuno. ‘What the heck does she think she is doing.’ He thought to himself springing into the air to avoid the umbrella jetting toward him. Letting it sail underneath him and ricochet off a tree toward the kendoist and young girl.
“Oh no Akane!” Ranma propelled Ryoga into the air with an uppercut and ran off in her direction.
“Huh?” Akane turned her attention from Kuno at the sound of her name.
“Look out stupid.” Kuno lowered his sword as Ranma grabbed Akane around the waist sending Kuno flying with a foot to the stomach. Akane was whipped through the air the skirt of her school uniform shredded by Ryoga’s buzzsaw umbrella. Her head spun as she felt herself gliding through space, her head buried in Ranma’s chest, all the while holding her breath until they finally came to a stop.
“Were you cut?” Ranma asked concerned looking down into her face his arms still encircling her waist.
“I…I don’t think so.” She said disoriented. They stood behind a tree away from the downed combatants. Ranma backed away pressing his back against the bark of the tree. Looking down he examined the shredded remains of her dress making it into a tattered miniskirt.
“You look ok.” A grin quickly passed across his face, a brief pause in his otherwise serious expression. “Nice legs.”
“Oh!” She scrambled to conceal more of herself than her clothing could cover. She looked up at him glaring. Ranma peered around the side of the tree.
“The nerve of that guy horning in on my fiancée.” Kuno was slowly picking himself up off the ground while Ryoga wandered around the schoolyard shouting about where he might be. Akane’s face softened looking up at him he turned to meet her gaze feeling a little unnerved. “Not that I’m planning on marring you or nothing.” He stammered.
Akane immediately regained her scowl. “And who said I wanted to marry a stupid pervert like you anyway!”
“Who you calling a pervert!”
“You were staring at my legs! And what about all of them?” She asked making a display of the unconscious students littering the high school lawn. “I don’t need you to fight my fights for me!”
“Listen you, they attacked me and what the heck were you doing butting in on MY fight for anyway!”
“They were double teaming you, I was just trying to help!” She shouted getting out of breath. Ranma seemed to reflect on her statement for a moment then looked at her seriously.
“A man to man fight is no place for a girl. Even a muscle bound girl like you.” Akane began to protest when a noise from behind the tree interrupted.
“Running away Saotome!”
“Wo duck!” Ranma covered Akane dragging her down with him as the kendo sword cut the tree in half. He pulled her to the side out of the way of the falling tree protecting her with his body.
“What’s this? Fondling the pure Akane Tendo whilest thou hide from a fight.” Kuno stood stunned. Ranma rolled to his side bringing himself up on one knee.
“Hey, she is MY fiancée I can fondle her when I like!” Ranma cringed to himself ‘That was SO not what I meant.’ “Anyway I wasn’t running away let’s fight!”
An elbow to the top of his head held him down. “Who are you fondling whenever you like!”
The glare of Kuno’s red aura caused them both to turn their attention back to the kendoist.
“Huh?” They said in unison.
“F-Fiancée? FIANCÉE!” Kuno began to shake with fury. “I will not allow it!”
“Look this is my fight now just STAY here.” Ranma said never taking his eyes off the approaching kendoist.
“O-ok.” Akane stammered.
Kuno flew at him with renewed speed Ranma backpedaled dodging every blow by twisting and contorting his body out of the way. Ranma felt a sharp pain in his torso as an umbrella sliced through his shirt between Ranma and Kuno. The long cut to his midsection was followed by a gash to his cheek from the wooden blade catching him off guard.
“Oh no!” Akane held her breath. ‘I know I said I wouldn’t interfere anymore, but what if he gets hurt? What would I tell Ranko?’
Ranma staggered backwards nursing his stomach stepping to the side he connected his foot to the side of Kuno’s face making him topple into Ryoga.
‘There is no use in trying to discuss things with Kuno and I don’t think I am much of a match for this other guy. Maybe…’
Ryoga stumbled to his feet his attention directed solely on Kuno and Ranma battling. ‘Ha! Now I have him, he was injured.’ Ryoga started toward them when a hand fell upon his shoulder. He grabbed the hand whipping the girl in front of him with a fierce tug. Her beautiful brown eyes looked up at him opening wide with fright.
“Oh…it’s you. You could get hurt out here.”
“You seem like a reasonable enough guy.”
She looked up at him seriously never noticing that he still held her hand in his. “Is this anyway to impress a girl? Doubling up on him, it’s just not fair.”
“Well I guess I never thought about it that way.” He looked down his eyes bugging out of his head heat burning his cheeks. ‘We’re holding hands! If that other guy is fighting for this girl, there is no reason I can’t. Maybe she even wants me to.’
“Alright I’ll do it!”
“Ah…” He pulled her hand to his chest enthusiastically.
“Huh?” Ranma frowned looking over at the two. ‘What does she think she is doing now?’
“Fool, you would dare ignore Blue Thunder!” Kuno charged and Ranma looked up at him coldly coddling his stomach.
“I am done playing around.” Ranma ran into Kuno’s attack punching his face and midsection with remarkable speed.
“I have not yet begun to fight…” Kuno grunted then collapsed to the ground unconscious. Ranma stood hunched over catching his breath the sharp pain from his torso increasing tenfold. He looked over to see a frazzled Akane still being held to Ryoga.
“RYOGA!” He ignored the pain and rushed toward them.
“Huh?” Akane looked over her shoulder to the blur that was heading toward them.
“So now you remember!” Ryoga pulled out his umbrella, stretching his arm out in front of Akane protectively and released the umbrella at Ranma. The heavy bamboo umbrella raced across the ground toward him creating large gauges in the concrete. Ranma leapt high in the air baring down on Ryoga.
Swinging Akane over his shoulder Ryoga jumped backwards away from Ranma.
“Wha-what are you doing?”
“I’m sorry this isn’t very dignified,” Ryoga said holding her legs to his chest as she talked to him from over his shoulder “but I don’t want you getting hurt.”
“Hey man PUT her DOWN!” Ranma yelled in close pursuit. Meanwhile Ryoga had torn off several bandanas and started launching them at Ranma. Ranma danced around the cloth shurikens and stealthily kept up with his prey. Ryoga took to the tree branches and Ranma followed from below.
“Where do you think YOU'RE going!”
High above the ground Ryoga finally let Akane down onto a branch. “Now stay here where it is safe while I take care of Ranma and I’ll be back for you.”
“Huh, wait!” Akane shouted as Ryoga leap to the ground below. She sighed to herself as she looked down the forty or so feet to the concrete below. “Great, just great.”
“There you are let’s finish this.”
“I agree no more distractions. Now Saotome you pay!”
Akane watched from above as the boys fought fiercely exchanging blows neither gaining any ground over the other. Ranma ignored the pain from his midsection, but it was slowing him down. He ran backwards dodging and parrying Ryoga’s attacks when the familiar feeling of cold water hit. Ryoga had stopped just short off being drenched. The change started, out of the corner of Ranma’s eye he saw Akane inching down branches trying her best to conceal herself with what was left of her school uniform. He could feel his body shrinking and with lightening speed turned on his heal and darted across the lawn. He felt his body lightened in weight but his legs lost the reach they once held.
Ryoga stood stunned shocked at how close he had come to the sprinkler. ‘Saved from disaster by mere inches.’
“Hey Ranma where are you going?!” He snapped out of his stupor and sprung into pursuit never letting Ranma out of his sight for fear of loosing him. ‘You’re not getting away not when I’m so close.’ “Ranma you coward get back here!”
‘Is it me or does Ranma’s hair look red - it most be the sun.’
‘Damn it. I hate running away but I can’t let Akane see me like this.’ Ranma cleared the woods behind the school and made her way down the street and into the Nerima park. Ryoga was quickly catching up, he reached out his hand on Ranma’s shoulder.
Ranma grabbed Ryoga’s hand and flung him off her shoulder. He came crashing down onto the concrete meeting the young girl eye to eye.
“You?” They stared at each silently Ryoga sprawled out on the ground in front of her. “You’re that girl, but-but you’re R-Ranma…”
Ranma’s shoulders hunched over as she closed her eyes. “Look Ryoga I don’t know why you’ve come after me, but as you can see I have enough problems.” She said in a low voice never meeting his gaze. Ryoga rolled forward turning just his head to look over his shoulder at her his vacant expression turning to disdain.
“Ha! You have no idea what REAL problems are!” Ranma watched him rise to his feet bewildered by his comment.
“Ranma for the hell you put me through I AM GOING TO KILL YOU!” He lunged forward tackling the girl. They grappled together rolling around on the ground. People walking past steered clear of the two making comments about the strange couple. Ranma pulled Ryoga on top of her and rose both her legs launching him up into the air.
He sailed behind her and into the lake in the middle of the park. Slowly she rose to her feet clutching her stomach in pain. A young couple rowed by in a small boat, the girl giggled bashfully as the boy moved the ores leaning forward toward her. Ranma looked all around but Ryoga was nowhere to be found.
“Where the heck did that idiot go?” She turned on her heal and started to walk away, from behind a small black piglet pulled itself from the water shaking the water from its flanks. “Oh well, I’m sure I’ll be seeing him again.”
Ranma made it back to the house, sneaking around the back she entered the house unseen. She walked into the kitchen and poured herself a glass of water. Looking down at her tattered clothes she sighed with frustration. ‘That fight didn’t go well at all. Too many distractions.’
“They were double teaming you. I was just trying to help!” Her mind replayed the scene with Akane sighing once again. The front door opened and closed loudly. “Kasumi I’m home.”
Akane strolled through the hall and into the kitchen expecting to find Kasumi standing at the sink with the water running instead of her fiancé dripping wet. “Oh hello. I-I was looking for you.”
“I, um, just got here. I needed a bit of fixing up.” She looked him over and discovered the long gash across his torso.
“Oh gee let me get the first aid kit.” Akane scrambled around the room then dragged Ranma out to the porch.
“I’m all right really, they look worse then they feel.” He placed his hand behind his head sitting in front of her Indian style.
“Don’t worry I have experience with this kind of thing. Now take your shirt off.” She pulled out a bottle of antiseptic along with various ointments, cotton balls and some gauze. Ranma started to undo the ties to his favorite red shirt, now ruined. She turned back and found him sitting across from her bare chested a rosy color filled her face, she cleared her throat and got down to business. He had several minor scratches on his arms, a laceration to his cheek and the long gash in his otherwise perfect abdomen. Gently she used a cotton ball to apply the antiseptic. He flinched slightly as it stung, their eyes met.
“Sorry I should have warned you that it might sting a bit.” She whispered.
“S’ok.” He said a slight waver in his voice. She continued to run her fingers tenderly over his arms. Cringing slightly she started on the cut to his torso. His cheeks burned. ‘This is ridiculous its not like she has never touched me before. I just wasn’t a guy at the time.’
Ranma took a deep breath and relaxed, Akane raised her head examining him.
“Are you ok?”
“Oh yeah, fine.” He forced a smile. Examining the cut to his cheek Akane ran a piece of soft cotton across the wound. She inched closer from her kneeling position her body only inches from his. She looked into his eyes and sat back on her legs thoughtfully.
“You know, you and Ranko do look a lot a like.” Ranma gave a nervous laugh his mind racing to change the subject.
“Are you sure you weren’t cut by that umbrella?” She looked down at her battered uniform that she forgot she was still wearing.
“Oh no. I’m just fine.” She adjusted the tattered threads trying to keep a modicum of modesty. Digging back into the first aid kit she pulled out a band-aid and placed it on Ranma’s cheek “I should really wrap some gauze around that cut.”
“It doesn’t look so bad since you cleaned it up.” Akane started to wrap the gauze around his midsection her hair caressing his chest as she bent her head down. Ranma swallowed loudly the sweet smell filling his nostrils. ‘I’m being stupid. This is Akane we have been friends for weeks now.’ Her arms encircled his waist passing the roll of gauze from one hand to the other behind his back. His breath lingered in his lungs ‘I mean jeez, I’ve even seen her naked.’ Another large gulp. ‘That was absolutely the wrong thing to think about.’
Bending to the side to once again bring the gauze around his back Ranma saw a trace of red staining her perfect white skin. “So you were cut after all.” Ranma said placing a hand on her thigh ignoring the pain he felt bending toward her.
A gasp escaped her lips. “Sorry, does it hurt?”
“No it must be just a scratch I didn’t even feel it.”
“My turn to administer first aid.”
“Don’t bother, its fine. Aieeeeeeeee!”
“Sorry, I’ll try being more gentle.”
“I-Its ok. Just stings.”
“Playing doctor are we?” The two turned stunned to find Nabiki and the rest of the family looking down at them. Akane’s leg extended to Ranma’s side while she twisted to the side both his hands grasping her leg. They flushed fiercely and separated.
“Oh Akane what happened?” Kasumi asked looking at the cut on her leg and the torn remains of her school uniform.
“I’m fine Kasumi.”
“Ranma my boy good to see you. Getting along well with you fiancée?”
“Ahh…” Ranma stuttered. Across from him Akane rose to her feet, looking up at her he soon followed.
“Ranma this is my family. My dad, Soun Tendo.”
“A pleasure to meet you son.” Soun shook his hand firmly.
“My sister Kasumi.”
“Hello.” She smiled brightly.
“My sister Nabiki.”
“Well you ARE cute.”
“Ahh . . .” Ranma stuttered again. “Nice to meet you all.”
“Tell me Ranma what happened, you didn’t get into a fight you’re FIRST day meeting the Tendos now did you?” Genma stared at his son sternly.
“I didn’t start nothin’. I was just going to see Akane, a-and Ranko, at school when I was attacked.”
“How awful.” Kasumi gasped bringing her hand to her cheek.
“Nothing I couldn’t handle.” Ranma boasted.
“That’s why you got so beat up.” Akane interjected.
“I would have been fine if you hadn’t kept distracting me by getting in the middle of it.” Ranma turned to her furious.
“Excuse me for trying to help you. They were ganging up on you.”
“Neither of them could have touched me if you hadn’t been around!” They faced each their nose's only inches apart.
“Well fine don’t worry I won’t be anywhere that you are!” She turned whipping him in the face with her hair leaving them to watch after her.
“Welcome to the family son!” Soun crushed the boy in a hug.
“I can’t believe him, who does he think he is anyway!” Akane stomped down the hallway heading toward Ranma’s room wrapping loudly on the door she waited for a response.
“Ranko? Ranko are you in there?” She slid open the door and poked her head into the empty room. ‘I guess she hasn’t come back yet.’ She walked back down the hallway and into her own room. ‘Maybe she is out with that Ryoga guy, Ranma never even said how it ended and I was too busy fixing him up to ask.’
“So boy, did you keep your cover, Akane doesn’t suspect anything does she?” Genma whispered to his son as they sparred in the dojo.
“Listen old man, this isn’t some spy movie this is my life! I should just tell her and get it over with before it gets worse, I was nearly discovered today.” Ranma dodged blows left and right.
“Do you want them to know you are only half a man?”
“Hey! I am ALWAYS a guy! I just have the body of a girl sometimes, more often then I would like to think about recently. All the more reason for me to tell them so I can go back to being a guy most of the time.” Infuriated Ranma doubled his efforts to attack the older man.
“Keep your voice down, you really think Akane will except a girl as a fiancé?”
“What do I care that was your idea to begin with not mine.” Ranma flung himself forward with a punch and Genma slyly ducked under it still peering up at his son.
“So you think she’ll be ok with the fact that you have been pretending to be a girl?”
“Huh?” A picture of Akane walking into the bathroom naked flashed into his mind and he stood frozen in his swing.
“You two must have become CLOSE girlfriends, she doesn’t do ANYTHING without her good FRIEND Ranko.” ‘How did the old man know?’
“She’d kill me.” Ranma whispered to himself completely dropping his defenses leaving himself open to the punch that slammed right into his face and sent him hurtling through the air and into the dojo wall.
“I knew you would see it my way boy.”
“Why you!” Ranma leapt to his feet with a punch to his father’s gut and the sparring continued.
“Kasumi have you seen Ranko? It has been a couple hours since I came home and she isn’t anywhere around.”
“No Akane I haven’t seen her.”
“Wasn’t she sick this morning?” Nabiki interrupted.
“I don’t think so, she met up with that guy that was fighting with Ranma and Kuno. I think they are dating.”
“Well isn’t she a sly dog, I didn’t think she had it in her.” Nabiki said slightly surprised never loosing her sarcastic tone.
“Me neither, but I figure he was fighting Ranma to get his permission.” Again Nabiki looked surprised. ‘And here I thought I made up that rumor to sell more information about the Saotomes.’
“Really I thought she hated boys, more than you do.” Akane frowned a little then agreed.
“Well why don’t you go ask Ranma if he knows where she is they are brother and sister. He is in the dojo sparring with Mr. Saotome.” Kasumi said continuing to clean the immaculate kitchen.
Akane left the house and crossed the grass over to the dojo stopping in the doorway to watch the master and student practice their art. Ranma was loose and quick while his father was strong and surprisingly agile for a hefty man. The two were amazing, fighting with his father truly brought out all of Ranma’s skill. They danced around each other seeming like caged birds inside the dojo. Akane felt a twinge of jealousy, but watched on quietly.
Out of the corner of his eye he saw her. Standing in the doorway, the light gleaming off her dark hair that hung loose over her shoulders. A second was all it took.
“Opening!” The old man shouted kicking his son in the stomach sending him flying once again into the wall of the dojo. Ranma landed in a heap on the floor clutching the wound to his stomach tasting the bile in his mouth. Then her face appeared before him, all noise was blocked from his ears. Her worried face mouthed a question as she kneeled beside him on the floor. Subconsciously moving her hand to brush her hair out of her face to behind her ear. Again her mouth moved slowly and he could tell she was saying his name.
“Ranma?” Akane said gently.
“Unh. Hey Akane.” The girl seemed to be relieved but then turned to the older man furious.
“You were supposed to be just sparring, no fair hitting him in his weak spot.” Genma smiled but quickly put a serious face on and bowed to her.
“Of course, how thoughtless of me.”
“Ah jeez, I’m fine!” Ranma had been touched by her presence until she said the word weak. “Nobody’s gonna go easy on me in a real fight. You wouldn’t understand being a girl.”
“Excuse me?” She glared up at him as he dragged himself up from the floor.
“Well guys are always easy on you because you are a girl.”
“Are you saying that the only reason I win any fights is because I am a girl!” She jumped up to her feet getting between him and the door.
“What kind of guy beats up girls?”
“Ok that’s it fight me right now!” Akane took an aggressive stance. Ranma looked her up and down, she had changed into a pair of yellow shorts and a white T-shirt with a bouquet of wild flowers on the front. The expression on her face was fierce and her stance was firm, but she looked like a little girl.
“I don’t fight girls, not even macho ones like you.” He crossed his arms over his chest turning his look from her to the side. In a millisecond he was plastered against the hard wooden floor underneath a gigantic mallet.
“What about his injuries?” Genma stuttered from the other side of the dojo. Akane hefted the mighty mallet over her shoulder and walked out.
“Screw his injuries.”
“I think she really likes you, boy.” Genma said looking back at his son who rubbed the back of his head in pain.
“Who the heck are you talking about, she hates me.” He shouted shutting the door to the guestroom the two men occupied. Ranma walked over to the closet and took out the red outfit Akane bought.
“She worries about you that means something doesn’t it?”
“Nah that’s just the kind of person she is. A sap.”
“I think you are wrong boy.” Genma threw a black Chinese shirt with gold ties to him. “She definitely likes you.”
Ranma held up both outfits one intended for a broad chested male and the other a diminutive yet busty female. Heavily weighing the decision in his mind he looked from one to the other before dropping the black shirt on the floor and picking up a towel as he walked past his father into the hallway.
“Yeah she likes me…but only when I’m a short red head.” Genma shook his head and let his son go.
The red head examined her reflection, titling her head to the side. The cut on her cheek was a red blemish on her otherwise perfect pink skin.
“Damn that Kuno, he had to get my face.” She opened the medicine cabinet and found a bottle of flesh toned liquid. Lightly using her fingertips she worked the makeup into her skin until the red gash was barely visible. ‘God I’m even wearing makeup, how pathetic can I get.’
After donning her feminine articles of clothing, Ranma walked down the Tendo hallway toward Akane’s room. ‘I’ll just tell her I went out on another training trip, I doubt she’ll be upset that I didn’t say good bye.’ She thought to herself raising her hand to knock, when without warning the door was flung open and she was yanked into the room by her extended arm.
“What the-?” Ranma swiveled around a bit off balance to find the young girl standing in front of her wearing only a plain, loose fitting, black slip that stopped just above her knees and a pair of tan nylons. She quickly faced the opposite direction blushing. “Akane what are you doing?”
“What am I doing, where have you been?” Akane held her hands on her hips burning holes through the red head’s back.
“Wh-what do you mean? I was here sick all day.” Ranma twiddled her fingers staring downward.
“Come on, don’t lie I thought we were friends.” She spun the girl around to face her. “I saw you with him and I know you weren’t up in your room.”
“…” Ranma stood panicked.
“You should have just told me. I would have understood.” This time it was Akane to turn her back on Ranma, whose eyes were bugging out of her head. ‘She knows!’
“I-I wanted to tell you, but things got so complicated…” Ranma fidgeted frantically unable to move from her spot staring at Akane’s back, like a dear in headlights. “I thought you would think badly of me.”
Ranma finally hung her head in despair. Akane stood unmoving for a few moments before spinning around and crushing the red head in a hug.
“Oh I could never think badly of you! You’re-you’re the BEST friend I ever had.” Ranma was stunned for a moment, but soon returned the taller girl’s embrace.
“Akane…” She whispered, burying her head in the girl’s shoulder and a soft mass of freshly washed hair.
“Ever since you came I finally thought I found someone that understood me and has so much in common.”
“I promise I’ll never keep anything from you again.” The weight on Ranma’s shoulders seemed to lift away as she gently rubbed her face in Akane’s hair, and reluctantly let Akane pull away putting a few inches between their arms still around each other.
“OK now spill it, where did you two meet?” Ranma’s brow furrowed with confusion.
“Where did we meet?”
“You and Ryoga.” Akane slipped away from the petite girl and plopped down on the bed, Ranma slowly following her down.
“Oh, um, we met in Jr. High.”
“Really, wow you must have been dating for awhile now.”
“Oh sorry, I guess you could have been friends first. Wait, have you even gotten to date yet since he hasn’t beat Ranma yet?”
‘Woe, woe, woe!’ Ranma’s mind shouted trying to catch up with the girl across from her still dressed in only her black slip. ‘I don’t know what she is talking about, but she definitely doesn’t know about my curse.’
“Ryoga definitely hasn’t beat Ranma, he takes that kind of thing seriously.” ‘Stick to the stuff you know.’ She thought to herself fidgeting between words. “Sooo, what did you think about my bro?” Ranma asked tentatively.
“I don’t know, he was all right, when he wasn’t being a sexist jerk. He’s good, I’ll give him that, but I don’t need him fighting my battles for me. How can he say that the only reason I ever win is because I’m a girl? You don’t agree do you?”
“Uhh well, you know a lot of guys hold back when they fight a girl.” Ranma said a little nervously.
“Doesn’t that infuriate you? Do you want them to think you are some china doll that’ll break at the slightest touch?” Akane said getting closer and closer to the red head.
“No way!” Ranma shouted getting into it, then cocked her head at her own response. “Maybe he just didn’t want to hurt you.”
Akane was stunned for a moment and walked to her mirror examining her own thoughtful expression. “I won’t break.” She said softly.
“Did you find Ryoga?” Akane fidgeted with her hair trying to decide which style she preferred.
“No, he gets lost, a lot.” Ranma folded her legs in front of her.
“Have you talked to Ranma?” Akane turned her eyes from the mirror to the young girl on her bed.
“Ah, not really.”
“So you didn’t hear about the fight?!” Akane jumped unto the bed in front of Ranma.
“Between Ranma and Ryoga?” Akane nodded excitedly. “I guess not.”
Akane went on to describe the fight blow by blow. Ranma was surprised by Akane’s description of the fight her male self had just hours before. She was obviously impressed by his skill, describing him in a good light throughout the whole fight, except where she thought he was being sexist. Ranma felt her immense ego return as Akane’s story continued and the gleam in her eyes shown. Subconsciously, Ranma had stopped listening to Akane’s critical analysis of Ranma’s style of Anything-Goes and just smiled listening to her speak, watching her lips move from words to smile to various expressions.
“Ranko, are you even listening to me?”
“Sure, I was just thinking I’ve never met a girl like you before. I mean a girl that is so into martial arts.”
“You mean except for you?”
“Same here.” Akane sprung from the bed and headed over to the mirror again. “Not to be too girly, but what do you think of my hair like this?”
Akane held her hair up in a twist letting her bangs frame around her face. “It looks nice, I like your hair back.” Inwardly Ranma had to laugh at herself, considering how that statement might have sounded from a guy. ‘Definitely not manly.’
“I used to have short hair, I think it suited me better.”
“Then why did you grow it?”
“I dunno.” She dropped her hair, but kept her eyes on her reflection. “I guess I thought it would make me look older, more feminine, more like…Kasumi.”
“Huh?” Ranma asked puzzled.
“Dr. Tofu has had a crush on Kasumi for as long as I can remember.” Akane said with little emotion.
“Oh…sorry.” Ranma’s voice dropped.
“Don’t worry about it, I don’t. I think it is kind of silly now, trying to be someone I’m not. I mean if someone is going to love you they have to see who you really are sometime, right?”
“Right.” Ranma slumped down even further.
“Hey?” Akane was suddenly in front of Ranma looking at her face closely. Ranma became frantic fearing that she noticed the mark on her face. “Are you wearing makeup?”
“Huh? Just a little.” Her face flushed with mixture of embarrassment and shame.
“Are you planning on skipping dinner and going out with Ryoga?” Akane smiled down at her and Ranma’s first instinct was to violently reply no but she was left stuttering. “I can cover for you, I’ll tell them you’re not feeling well.”
“Th-thanks Akane.” ‘I think.’
“Don’t have too much fun.” Akane giggled as Ranma burst from the room down the hall. Ranma quickly changed into her black pants and the black shirt with the gold ties that Genma had given her earlier. Embroidered on the shirt, also in gold, was a dragon. The head rested on her chest while the rest of the body stretched around her torso to the back. Stealthily she slipped out of her window and into the empty bathroom below. After splashing himself with hot water he emerged from the bathroom into the hall as if he had just finished his bath. ‘Well since she doesn’t totally hate me this way, it will be nice to spend some time as a guy for a while.’
Ranma proceeded to walk down the hall from the top of the stairs toward the guestroom. A dark blue blur flew past him spinning him around on his heel just as he reached the door.
“Um what are you doing?” Regaining his balance Ranma looked down at the feminine figure before him. Akane stood before him again in the radiant blue dress looking up at him smiling awkwardly.
“Um ready to go?”
“I-I guess.” They started to walk away when a devilish plan popped into Ranma’s head. “I just wanted to say hi to Ranko.”
Ranma swirled around, but Akane was already in front of the door. “Oh no, Ranko is resting. She stayed home from school today.”
“Well, I’ll be quick then.” He tried to place his hand on the door, but Akane moved into his way.
“She’s sleeping right now.”
“I don’t think she’ll mind, we haven’t seen each other for awhile.”
“She was really sick, you don’t want her to get worse do you?” Ranma shook his head stifling back a smirk. “Let’s go to dinner then you can see her when we get back.”
They both turned and started toward the stairs. Before they could make it to the top stair Ranma whipped around heading for the door a smile plastered on his face. “Really I’ll just be a second.”
‘Damn!’ Akane flew towards him throwing herself at him hoping to pull it of as an accident. At the last second Ranma pivoted and caught her before she could tackle him to the floor. ‘Not that it wouldn’t have been fun, but if she crinkled her dress I’d be here for the next century waiting for her to change. Girls!’ Ranma thought.
“Are you ok?” Akane looked up from his chest to see Ranma’s confused face starring down at her. Things had not gone as she had expected.
“Yes, I…I think I hurt my ankle this morning, that’s all.”
“Oh, well then I better carry you.” Ranma swiftly lifted her off her feet and into his arms. Akane was a little flustered and didn’t notice that they were suddenly standing in the foyer facing the living/dining area of the house with the rest of the inhabitants watching them.
“Well already carry her over the threshold.” Nabiki said raising an eyebrow. Akane jumped from his arms putting a good three feet between them.
“Fast recovery.” Ranma said still a little red from his embarrassment.
“I heal quickly.” She smiled weakly at him also shinning with a bright pink glow.
The entire family was soon on their way to the restaurant after some minor blubbering from Soun and Genma as to what a nice couple Ranma and Akane made. The two were forced together most of the night, but once they started to eat the mood seemed to lighten. Ranma described some the travels they made across Japan and China while training, throwing in bits about Ranko on the way just for show. Much to his delight Akane hung on his every word especially when he described some of the techniques he learned.
“Well aren’t you the lucky one Akane.” Nabiki said removing her shoes looking slyly at her younger sister out of the corner of her eye.
“What?! W-what are you talking about?”
“Oh come on Akane you were practically drooling at dinner and it wasn’t from the fine French cuisine.” Akane’s eyes bugged out as she shifted her body to see the rest of the family slowly walking up the stone path to the front door. Kasumi was helping her slightly inebriated father while Ranma dragged his father behind him by the collar. Akane quickly closed the front door and shot her sister a scolding look.
“I was NOT!”
“Really Akane I understand, he’s cute, in incredible shape, sure he is a little rough around the edges, but that just makes him a better match for you.”
“How can you say that we just met?”
“And before it was ‘I don’t even know him.’ Really Akane you are going to run out of excuses soon.” Akane was left gawking after her sister when the door behind her was wrenched open and an overweight martial artist was thrown past her.
“Sober up yah lush! Oh, sorry Akane.” Ranma gave her an awkward smile then walked past her to his father’s prone form.
‘I was definitely not drooling.’
Throwing his father over his shoulder Ranma trudged upstairs dropping him onto one of the mats in the guest room they shared. The old man grumbled drunkenly rolling over onto his stomach.
“Some parent you turned out to be.” Ranma huffed. However, his annoyance was short lived as he felt another presence in the room with him. His eyes fell upon the shadows in the corner of the room. Keeping his eyes locked on the darkness not seeing, but knowing the interloper’s position. In a second the darkness seemed to take form lunging at Ranma tackling him around the waist sending them both crashing out the still open door into the hall where they rolled around somehow making it into Akane’s room and out the window into the moist night air.
Akane’s view of the stars above was quickly obscured by two boys flying overhead. Trying to shield herself from the glass she ducked her head and covered herself with her arms. Looking back over his shoulder, Ranma notice that their trajectory was taking them straight into the koi pond right in front of Akane’s eyes. Exuding an incredible amount of skill he twisted them both in the air causing Ryoga to take the brunt of the fall just beside the pond, Ranma landed on him his knee slamming into his stomach.
“So we are at it again eh Ryoga, you never even told me what you are so mad about.” Ranma stood up looking down at the boy before him feeling the sting of daggers being bored into him. Ryoga pulled himself up continuing to give Ranma his fierce glare when he spotted Akane on the steps leading to the house. ‘That same sweet girl, so the bastard took her as his prize already.’
“Ranma, because of you I can never be a whole man.” Ryoga started throwing punches and kicks that Ranma weaved around.
“Huh?” A crash of thunder stopped Ranma’s investigation from going any further. “Look man you can’t attack me here this ain’t my place, I’m a guest here.”
“Stop trying to distract me!” Ryoga sent a kick toward Ranma’s torso that he used to vault over Ryoga’s head to land easily atop the stone wall surrounding the yard.
“Let’s take this to somewhere we’ll cause less damage.” With that Ranma leapt down to the street sprinting away from the house.
“Running away again. Ranma!” Ryoga was over the wall and in close pursuit.
Akane sat stunned dusting the glass from her hair. “Wow, th-they’re incredible.”
“Very virile aren’t they.” Akane turned to see Nabiki in her pajamas standing behind her with a glass of water in her hand. “Still Akane, do you think you can ask your future husband to limit these things to during the daylight hours.”
“Don’t call him that!” Akane yelled to Nabiki’s back as she walked out the doorway into the hall. Lightening flashed through the sky lighting up the night. “They are going to get soaked.”
Deflecting Ryoga’s fist with his forearm Ranma looked up into the sky smelling the scent of the coming rain fill the air all around them. Snapping back to the fight he thrust his leg at Ryoga’s chest, but met only his umbrella.
“Look Ryoga, if this is about that whole bread thing, I’ll buy yah all the bread you want. Let’s just get in before it rains.”
“This goes a lot further than some measly bread. This is about you ruining my life!” A second before the downpour started he flipped open his umbrella and shielded himself. Before his eyes he watched Ranma transform into a smaller, bustier version of himself with flaming red hair.
“And how did I do that?” The young girl said folding her arms over her chest. “The last I remember is me waiting three days for you to show up to our fight, then Pop dragged me off again.”
“Right and when I showed up for the fourth day you had turned tail and ran.”
“Hey man, why the heck were you four days late?!”
“I certainly wasn’t on vacation! I searched all over Japan for that cursed lot and when I saw that you left I followed to finish our fight. It seemed like I was following you for ages, I even made it all the way to China, and that’s, and that’s when my life as a man ended!”
“Oh Ryoga,” she said stunned, lowering her stance “you don’t mean that you change…”
“Shut up and fight!” He said throwing himself at her. Ranma brought her leg up to send him flying inadvertently knocking his umbrella from his hand. Ryoga felt the cool droplets hit his forehead and wasted no time whipping his backpack off and roughly slamming it into Ranma’s face. When she recovered he was gone, his pack and umbrella was all that remained. Her suspicions were confirmed when she found his clothes in a pile around the corner.
She made it back to the dojo with all his things using the rooftop to avoid being seen in ‘Ranma’s’ clothes. She swung in through the guestroom’s window depositing Ryoga’s things and changed into her more feminine red Chinese outfit. Heading back out into the rain and the roof she made her way to the front of the house and dropped down to the front door. ‘Ok first Ranko returns home then when she is in bed Ranma will return with an umbrella.’
Casually she walked in through the front door removing her shoes at the door and shaking the rain from her clothes.
“Ranma?!” Akane came bursting into the front hall looking slightly disappointed to see Ranko instead of her brother. “Oh Ranko its you, shouldn’t you have snuck in so nobody saw you?”
“Haha, never thought of that.” Ranma said placing her hand behind her head in embarrassment. “Hey Akane where’d you get the weird little pig?”
Akane looked down remembering the cute little bundle in her arms. “Oh I found him wondering around the backyard, I think he’s lost. Isn’t he cute, I’m gonna call him P-chan.”
She emphasized her point by smothering the animal against her bosom while it blushed furiously.
“Perverted little pig. I’m gonna go take a bath then I’m gonna head off to bed, see you in the morning.”
“Can you take him with you?” The pig sneezed pitifully.
“Yeah I guess. Come on pig.” The animal squirmed and squealed in her hands as she made her way down the hall to the Tendos bathroom. “Look this isn’t fun for me either pig, I prefer to bathe alone.”
Tossing her clothes into the hamper she restrained the pig and brought it over to the furo and they both submerged inside. The water level quickly rose as the two boys emerged from the water staring at each other.
“R-a-n-m-a.” Ryoga said in a low growl.
“Ryoga…you…the pig.” Ryoga’s only response was to throw his hands around Ranma’s throat and start choking him.
“You did THIS to me!”
“Ranko I thought you’d be warmer in a pair of pajamas instead of those boxers…” Both boys looked with surprise to find Akane standing in her pajamas at the bathroom door. They both turned a bright crimson and sank low into the water. Akane turned her back on them immediately, her cheeks flushing a rosy red.
“I-I thought Ranko was taking her bath with P-chan.”
“She, uh just left.” Ranma stuttered.
“Funny, I didn’t pass her in the hall or the stairs.” Akane turned her head to see them out of the corner of her eye.
“Oh well she said something about getting a glass of water.” Ryoga added and Ranma nodded.
“I’m sorry, I’ll leave you to…your bath.” She closed the door behind her and quickly left the changing room still feeling the burning sensation in her cheeks.
“Man we gotta get outta here and upstairs right away.” Ryoga agreed without a word and both were out of the tub splashing themselves with cold water. Ranma threw on a pair of boxers and a t-shirt then scurried out the bathroom window with P-chan under one arm. Trying her best not to get wet she made it to the guest room and toweled off.
“Ha made it.” The pig squealed its agreement and they both exited the room into the hall coming face to face with Kasumi.
“Feeling better, Ranko?”
“Oh yes.” She closed the door behind her guarding it from entry with her body.
“Is Ranma already in bed.”
“Yup sure is, fell asleep as soon as his head hit the pillow, better not to disturb him.”
“Good then you’ll be staying in Akane’s room.”
“Huh?” The little pigs eyes bugged out of his head.
“Well the guest room isn’t big to start with, three would definitely be uncomfortable. Plus you and Ranma are too old to be sleeping in the same room.”
“So since you are a girl you can stay with Akane. I already put a sleeping roll in there for you. Have a good night.” She smiled sweetly as she walked off to her own room.
Ranma’s shoulders slump forward as she walked down the hall toward the room with the carved wooden duck hanging on the door. Again the pig squirmed and squealed in her arms. “Look I ain’t happy about this either so settle down.”
“Come on in Ranko.” Ranma poked her head inside the room and found Akane straightening the blanket covering a mat beside her bed on the floor.
“Don’t worry about knocking, this is your room too while Ranma is here.”
“Hehe yeah.” Ranma scratched the back of her head and Ryoga took the opportunity to jump from her arm and bound over to Akane.
“P-chan! Are you all nice and clean baby?” Akane said in a baby voice while Ranma watched in disgust.
“We better get some sleep huh Akane?”
“Oh yeah, come on P-chan you can sleep with me.”
“What!” Ryoga’s eyes doubled in size as Akane climbed into bed hugging him to her chest. ‘Why that little-’ Ranma never took his eyes off the little black pig as she lay down on the mat getting underneath the blankets.
“Night Ranko pleasant dreams.” Akane leaned over and turned off her desk lamp. After a few minutes Akane stopped moving in her bed her breathing slow and steady. Ranma climbed out of bed and glanced down at the gleeful looking pig.
“You dirty pig Ryoga.” She whispered. The pig’s eyes snapped open and immediately clamped down on her hand with his teeth. Ranma growled in response pulling against Akane’s grip. Akane surprised her by pulling back and taking Ranma down onto the bed with her.
“Hm Ranko?” Her eyes slowly fluttered open her voice soft and sleepy. Ranma and Ryoga froze with shock.
“Were you cold?” Ranma nodded mutely.
“You can slip under the covers with me if you like.” Akane pulled back the blankets revealing her pajama-clad body underneath. Shaking slightly Ranma climbed into Akane’s bed beside her their bodies almost touching. Ryoga squealed in disapproval so Akane released him from her chest and set him down above her head on the pillow.
“Don’t want you to get squished sweetie.” Ranma smirked up at the pig while its eyes filled up with tears of disbelief. “It’s not a very big bed you may get a bit cramped, but you’ll stay nice and warm.”
Akane’s smile was so warm and sweet Ranma no longer felt uncomfortable, feeling the heaviness of her eyelids she slowly melted into sleep the events of the day finally taking their toll.
Akane soon followed while Ryoga sat watching over the two until he too succumbed to his own weariness.
“Ranko its time to get up we have to get ready for school.”
“Mmm, just a few more minutes Akane.” Ranma said wearily hugging herself against her pillow, which made a soft giggle. Breathing in deeply the light smell of flowers and soap filled her nostrils, for some reason she couldn’t describe this aroma made the muscles in her stomach tense reflexively. Apprehensively she slowly opened her eyes, all she saw were bed sheets slowly rising and falling. She raised her head to find Akane’s smiling face next to her own. The pillow she thought she was holding was actually Akane’s waist her head buried in her shoulder.
“Ah jeez-sorry.” Ranma scurried away from Akane off the edge of the bed in a tangle of sheets. Akane just giggled looking down at her on the floor. Ranma forced a weak smile.
“What’s the matter did you think I was going to hit you or something?”
“Haha, no of course not. W-we’re both girls right. I was wondering why my pillow started laughing.”
Akane giggled and stepped over Ranma on her way over to her dresser taking out some new undergarments another school uniform hanging on the back of the closet door.
“Did you bring clothes with you to change for school?”
“Oh, no-” She rose to leave at the sight of Akane reaching for the bottom of her pajama top, but was stopped by a projectile pig slamming into her face knocking her to the ground. Ranma cursed as she struggled with the berserker pig.
“P-chan, boy are you grouchy in the morning.” Akane giggled as she held him by the back of his bandana. She smothered the pig in a hug crushing him in her breasts. “Be a good boy.”
Ranma felt a little light headed looking up at Akane only wearing her white bra and panties. Ryoga’s nose nearly exploded with blood and Ranma grabbed him when Akane squealed in surprise.
“I’ll make sure he’s ok.” Ranma bolted out the door closing it behind her. “Jeez, you are pathetic man. I would have been out of there if you hadn’t stopped me.”
The pig snorted in response as Ranma placed him down in her room as she started to change into a new set of clothes. Walking downstairs to the bathroom the girl dropped the pig into the bath and watched as a full-grown boy emerged displacing the water around him.
“Yeah right Ranma, you were loving every minute of it. Making that poor innocent girl believe you’re a real girl to get into her bed.”
“Look who’s talking P-chan!” Ranma gritted her teeth glaring at Ryoga.
“Ranko are you in here giving P-chan a bath AGAIN?” Akane, now dressed in her school uniform, stopped when she saw the girl and boy in the bathing area. Ranma quickly zipped around behind Ryoga and started to lather up his back. “Oh sorry, I didn’t mean to interrupt.”
“No problem Akane.” Both of them said with wide smiles on their faces and sweat drops on their brows. Akane left them alone a bright red blush across her face. ‘I definitely have to start knocking, you never know what is going to be happening in the bath now a days.’ The two sighed heavily, then continued to glare at each other.
“Ok Ryoga, we’re agreed neither of us would be very happy if Akane found out about our secret.”
“She’d hate us for sure.” Ryoga agreed his heart trembling at the thought. “But I’m not you’re damn boyfriend you pervert.”
“Oh Ryoga, you’re breakin’ my heart.” Ranma said with mock sweetness, batting her eyes.
“Cut it out Saotome, you’re given me the creeps.” Ryoga got up out of the furo and started to get dressed. “I still plan on killing you, yah know.”
“Of course.” Ranma said, absently straightening out her shirt.
Ranma left Ryoga to wonder around in the bathroom and joined Akane and the rest of her family at breakfast. Akane kept her eyes glued on her food pushing the rice around her bowl, her cheeks still holding the rosy glow of embarrassment.
“Well I think we better get to school don’t you Ranko?” Akane quickly rose from the table and yanked Ranma by her pigtail out the door.
“But I’m not done my breakfast.” The red head protested, chopsticks still in her mouth. Abruptly, Akane stopped around the corner from the dojo. “What gives Akane, we still had ten minutes before we had to leave.”
“I had no idea you and Ryoga were so close. You made it sound like you were only friends.” Akane stared at the shorter girl her arms on her hips waiting for a response.
“What the bathroom, that was nothing.” Ranma shrugged the incident off and started to walk toward school at a relaxed pace, Akane following.
“That was NOTHING? I tell you I certainly couldn’t do something like that with a boy and call it nothing.”
“We’ve known each other for a long time it’s really no big deal.” She shrugged her shoulders holding her hands behind the back of her head. Akane walked beside her friend marveling at her nonchalant attitude. From around the corner a small black piglet walked by them grumbling. Akane squealed in delight and picked the pig up cuddling him in her arms. Ranma stared at the pig in loathing.
Akane carried P-chan around with her all day and let her friends play with him during lunch. Each of the girls smothered the pig with affection, giggling happily while Ranma watched disgusted.
“So Ranko, tell us about this boyfriend Akane’s been telling us about.”
“Huh? Oh, Ryoga.”
“He looks so strong and cute.” One of Akane’s friends commented.
“Ah yeah, I guess.”
“Oh he looks like such a sweetie.” Another girl said and all the girls started to giggle.
“Sweetie, ha!” All of them turned at Ranma’s outburst as she stared daggers at the pig cuddled happily between Akane’s breasts. “He’s a pig.”
“Really?” All the girls listened intently.
“Ahh, he never remembers my birthday.” She started lamely, trying to remember all the mushy stuff the girls talked about while she tried to look like she was paying attention. “He never gives me flowers, only ever takes me to movies that he wants to see, and, and…”
She racked her brain while all the girls leaned toward her dying in anticipation. “And?”
“And, he’s very forceful when it comes to, um, romantic issues.” All the girls gasped including Akane, and the little pig growled from his place in her arms.
“You don’t mean he forces himself on you?” The first girl asked shocked and Ranma nodded solemnly, smirking happily on the inside. ‘That’ll teach yah pig.’
“The nerve!” The girls traded angry retorts about the boy while Akane sat flabbergasted.
“Gee and he seemed so nice the other day…when he wasn’t try to beat up Ranma.” Akane said. At that the pig burst from her arms and smacked into Ranma’s face knocking her back then ran off Ranma followed cursing at the pig loosing it behind one of the hedges. The school bell rang signaling the end of lunch, but Ranma refused to give up the pursuit heading toward the athletic field. As she rounded the athletic shed an arm shot out from the door and she was pulled in, nose to nose with a very wet, very human, and very pissed Ryoga. After a quick dose of hot water, Ranma’s manhood was also restored.
“What’s up pork butt?”
“Ranma you bastard. Sabotaging any chance with Akane like that. I’ll kill you.”
“Hey man, as long as I’m around you ain’t got no chance with her.”
“That’s what you think!” Ryoga yelled clenching his hands around Ranma’s throat and sending them both crashing through the wall of the shed.
Loud shouts could be heard from outside the window of the third story classroom. Several students were drawn to the window to view the sight below. “Hey Akane, isn’t that your fiancé?”
“Ranma?” Akane had been sitting at her desk wondering where Ranko had run off with her pet P-chan. She rushed to the window to see that it was in fact her fiancé fighting with the boy she met only yesterday. “Fighting again?”
Akane bolted from the room various students following her out to the athletic field to watch the two martial artists that seemed so evenly matched. Ranma and Ryoga traded blow for blow neither seeming to give or gain any ground. Ranma smiled to himself inwardly, Ryoga at least deserved a fighting chance even after all the trouble had caused.
“What are you smirking at?!” Ryoga coming close to grabbing Ranma’s neck in his vise grip only to meet air as Ranma effortlessly dodged out of the way.
From behind the chain link fence Akane watched the two fight, her hands desperately clutching the metal wires between her fingers turning her knuckles white.
Ryoga sent his umbrella hurtling toward Ranma like a buzz saw slicing up the ground between them. Swiftly moving to the side, Ranma avoided the umbrella and deflected the kick that was meant for his head with his forearm.
“Trying to distract me, Ryoga?” The lost boy looked stunned for the moment and felt a blow to his chest that sent him flying a few yards away from Ranma who stood with his arm still extended, palm out. ‘Wow, I didn’t even see him move.’ Akane thought anxiously fidgeting from the sidelines.
Ryoga rolled up onto his elbow wiping a bit of blood from the corner of his mouth with his other hand. Jumping up, he ran and grabbed his umbrella and bolted toward the fence hoping to gain some advantage over Ranma in the chase. Ranma followed and both took flight over the fence and over Akane’s head. She followed them with her eyes up and over, turning her back on the fence to watch their decent a few feet from where she stood. Exchanging a few more blows they made their way off school grounds. Akane stayed pressed against the fence for a few moments as if a great force held her there. Never in her life had she seen such great martial artists. She smiled to herself then ran off to follow them and the trail of destruction they left in their wake.
She finally found them in the middle of the Nerima Zoo. Ryoga was staggering to his feet Ranma leg still extended in the kick.
“Have yah had enough, Ryoga?” Ranma said crossing his arms over his chest. Breathing heavily, Ryoga just grunted in reply and lunged at Ranma’s midsection. Ranma twisted out of the way using Ryoga’s forward momentum to send him crashing through a stonewall then pulled him out again slamming his body to the ground finally sending him into unconsciousness. Breathing heavily himself, Ranma stared down at his rival with a less then pleased expression.
“Jeez Ryoga, why do we have to come to this. Come on.” Ranma dragged the boy to his feet, slung one of Ryoga’s arms over his shoulder and gabbed hold around his waist and dragged him off into the distance.
Akane stayed where she was leaving the two boys to there own devices then walked off in an opposite direction with no desire to return to school.
After dropping Ryoga off at Dr. Tofu’s and making sure he would be ok, Ranma started his walk back to the Tendo Dojo. ‘Should have known that Ryoga’s thick head would be just fine.’ Turning the corner, he jumped up onto the fence above the drainage canal feeling a little down from the afternoon’s events. ‘Back to life as a girl.’ A pang of regret hit him straight in his heart, he solemnly kept his eyes on his shoes as they maintained his balance on the fence below.
“You, that fight, it was great.” A familiar female voice called out to him. He smiled before turning ‘Akane.’ He pivoted on the fence crouching down to look at her, but the person he was looking at was not the fiancée he was expecting.
“Oh, sorry Miss, I thought you were someone else.” He straightened and the girl before him giggled.
“Who DID you think it was?” She said a bright smile on her face, an unmistakable smile.
“Akane? Is that you?” He jumped down next to her to get a closer look. The laugh and the smile were hers, but the features of her face seemed enhanced by the short hair that framed it. Her face had matured and somehow he felt like a child standing in her light.
“It’s different, huh? So what do you think, is it ok?” She smiled less broadly as if she held a secret.
“Uh-ah.” Ranma nodded his head numbly. “Its cute, I mean you’re cute, that is in a macho tomboy sort of way.”
He found himself sweating profusely while he stuttered before her. The same enigmatic smile returned.
“I’ll let that go just this once.” She said tapping him on the nose with her finger and giving him a stern look.
“So why the new look?” Ranma cringed as his voice rose a little higher than he had intended.
“I guess I just needed a change and it seemed like the perfect time.” She smiled wistfully walking on ahead of him. “You’re leaving now aren’t you?”
Her voice seemed to cloud over and Ranma became slightly nervous. “Um, yeah. I have to get back to training, but I’ll be back to visit soon.” He held a hand behind his head a goofy smile on his face.
“I mean, I’ll only be training in the mountains near here so I’ll never be too far.”
“So when do you start off?”
“Soon.” Ranma said turning away. “But I can at least walk you home.”
“And say goodbye to Ranko.”
Ranma waved goodbye to the Tendos as he made his way outside the gate. Kasumi had been nice enough to give him a care package for the road, of course Akane had added some homemade cookies. Having experience with the toxic waste Akane called cooking Ranma conveniently dropped them in the drainage canal. Soun had cried at his departure and even Nabiki seemed unhappy to see him leaving. She probably loss some money not having anymore fights to bet on.
He hopped up on the fence, wandering around town so it wouldn’t be too suspicious when he came back. He had to thank Ryoga, as gross as it was, saying he was out on a date with Ryoga was perfect. He smiled when he thought back to Akane’s reaction to his leaving, she seemed angry at ‘Ranko’ for not being there to say goodbye to her brother. It was hard to decide which way he liked her better as a friend or as a girl to his male side.
It was nice both ways, just different. Although she was more confusing now then she had been as just a friend.
Having made his rounds Ranma leapt into his bedroom window. Throwing his pack into the back of his closet Ranma pulled out a thermos of water long since grown cold and poured it over his head. After a quick change of clothes she jumped out of her window, and a walk round to the back door where the family was cleaning up after dinner.
“Oh Ranko, I’ve kept some dinner on the stove for you.”
“Where have you been?” Akane demanded.
“Yeah you missed Ranma’s mushy departure. Akane was almost in tears.” Nabiki chided.
“I was not!” Akane’s face flushed slightly.
“Yup, I think she’s in love.” Nabiki continued and Ranma looked at Akane with a wide-eyed innocence.
“I am NOT!” Akane turned and started toward the stairs. “He’s…all right.”
Once Akane was out of the room Nabiki turned to Ranma a smirk on her face. “It must be love, Akane, the self proclaimed manhater, admitting that some man is ‘all right.’ But let’s discuss this boyfriend and brother of yours further.”
“Well, ah…” Nabiki through her arm around the smaller girl’s shoulder as she stuttered incoherently.