Thursday, July 28, 2005
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 and 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 mid 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 spared 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 sparing continued.
"Kasumi have you seen Ranko? It has been a couple hours since I came home and she wasn’t anywhere to be found."
"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." Kasumi said continuing to clean the immaculate kitchen.
"He is in the dojo sparing with Mr. Saotome."
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 sparing, 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 yellow 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 through 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.