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Chapter 5: Secrets No More

A Ranma ½ story
by Adrian D. Moten

Disclaimer: Ranma ½ and its characters and settings belong to Rumiko Takahashi, Shogakukan, Kitty, and Viz Video.


Morning returned to Nerima. A near-typical day it appeared to be, sans the Tendo and Saotome patriarchs. Kasumi was cleaning up the dishes from breakfast. Nabiki was heading towards the front door, with Akane and Ranma in tow. Akane whacked Ranma for making a stupid comment about her pet P-Chan. All was right with the world, it seemed.

Then Ranma had to destroy the odd sense of harmony.

"Um… Akane?"

Akane sighed, then turned around to face him. "What is it, Ranma?"

He suddenly found it hard to talk. "Um, well, you see… I have something to tell you…"

"Ranma, can't it wait? We're going to be late for school."

He laughed nervously. "Funny, I was thinking the same thing…"

She put a hand to her head. "Jeez, Ranma, just come on!"

The pigtailed martial artist sighed and was about to resign himself to his fate.

"Ranma."

That one soft voice stopped him from just walking out the front door. He turned to face the owner of the voice. Kasumi was wiping her hands on her apron, seeming the image of quiet and calm and happiness. Her eyes, however, told a different story, a story Ranma knew intimately. He sighed, but nodded, then turned around to Akane and Nabiki.

"Akane, wait."

Her patience frayed a bit more. "What is it, Ranma? We're going to be late!"

"I… I have something to tell you."

"I thought you were going to tell me after school!"

"I'm sorry, but I gotta tell you now. Please? It's kinda important."

"Let's hear it then, Ranma."

He quirked an eyebrow. "Nabiki…?"

"You know that I'm going to find out about it anyway, so just save yourself the trouble."

He wanted to retort, but shut his mouth, knowing that it would be pointless, especially since she was right. "All right," he said, motioning them back into the house, then closed the door. Ranma walked in front of Akane, bolstering his courage up before he could have a chance to lose his nerve. Facing her, he started. "Akane… I… I…" He squeezed his eyes shut, then snapped them open. Now or never. "Akane, I-cant-marry-you-cause-kasumis-carrying-my-kid!" He breathed deeply; that was a lot harder that he thought, but now that it was done, he felt as though a great weight was lifted from his shoulders.

Akane blinked. "What did he say?"

"Well, if I didn't know any better, I'd think he just dumped you for Kasumi because they messed around and he knocked her up."

"Um, that's what I said… kinda…"

Nabiki gave Ranma a careful once over with a scrutinizing eye. After a few moments, she fell over laughing. "Oh, God, did you ever have me going! For a moment, I thought you might have been serious!"

"But I am—!" the martial artist cried out in desperation. Nabiki only laughed harder in response.

Akane, however, looked at Ranma, considering. After a moment, she shook her head. He couldn't have been serious, could he? No, it was a joke, of course. A stupid joke that had pretty much made them late for school. She felt her anger welling up inside of her. Just a stupid, cruel joke…

"He's right, Nabiki."

Nabiki stopped cold, looking up to Kasumi. "You've got to be kidding me! You and Ranma?!"

She hung her head. "Yes. Tofu-sensei told me yesterday that I'm pregnant, and Ranma and I… We made love while we were house-sitting at Mariko's house two months ago." She couldn't help but blush. Talking about such intimate, private matters was still embarrassing, no matter what.

"Kasumi…?" Akane looked up at her oldest sister. Was she playing along with the stupid joke as well? The youngest Tendo daughter's face took on a pained expression as Kasumi couldn't face her, choosing to avert her eyes elsewhere.

The pain stretched into her voice. "Ranma…?" He chose to not look directly at Akane, either. The joke wasn't very funny anymore, and she pleaded to herself someone would just end it now.

"I… I…" It was then that she noticed Kasumi and Ranma's hands. Somehow, she had just appeared at his side and took his hand into hers. Their fingers interwove and seemed to…to… "Oh, God…" Akane whispered to herself as her world cracked, then shattered like glass.

"I'm sorry, Akane…we never meant for this to happen."

"I didn't want you gettin' hurt, but it…it just happened, you know. I gotta take care of Kasumi and the kid now."

Tears fell from her eyes as the youngest Tendo sank to her knees. Akane tried stifling her anguish, but she couldn't. Her sobs reached out and wrenched Ranma's heart even more. He approached her, his mind searching for the right words to say just this once.

"I-I'm sorry, Akane… I really am… I didn't… you know… I didn't mean for none of this to—"

"I hate you."

It was said so soft, Ranma missed the words completely. "—to happen, and, um, well, I—"

Akane jerked her head up sharply, the betrayal in her eyes cutting off the apology. Anger scored into her features as well as sadness, grief and tears. "I hate you." Tiny tendrils of blackness began encircling her as she spoke those words again.

Ranma blinked, involuntarily taking a step back. "W-what?"

Her voice, cold and tightly controlled, tore into him again with the same three words. "I hate you." The tendrils grew in mass and numbers, seeping into the young girl's body as she focused upon the target of her malevolence. She glowed an ebony light as her eyes narrowed, her tears still coming.

"My… my gods…." Ranma was growing very afraid of what he was seeing. "Akane—"

"I HATE YOU!!" she shouted at him, her body devoured by the obsidian tendrils.

He cringed from her anger, her grief, her hatred of what he had done, all of those emotions and feelings given almost tangible form. Dark energy swirled and condensed into a form of a fist, then it rocketed outward. Battle instincts kicked in for Ranma, and he swayed to one side; however, the dark fist still connected, smashing across Ranma's jaw. He careened into the kitchen, slamming against the cupboards. He managed to land on his feet, but already, the black monster was upon him with inhuman speed. No time to dodge, he barely erected a defense before the dark fury relentlessly pounded away upon his person. Every blow ached, and his forearms were quickly becoming numb. Soon, he felt the bones in his arms give way and his defense reduced to nothing. Then the grim form of Akane poured on even more punishment upon the now-helpless Saotome, the first waves of the furious assault toppling him. Muscles ached, flesh blackened, and bones cracked under her torturous assault. Ranma could not even scream; his jaw had been dislocated from a fierce blow. The darkening shadow, however, howled in rage as it raised a fist that appeared to a half swollen eye to quadruple in mass. Then it descended upon him.

"RANMA!!" His ears heard a female voice cry out. Kasumi? Nabiki? Akane? He couldn't ponder upon that point any longer; as a blinding light flashed into existence between him and the deadly fist. Darkness crashed into light, and from that point, Ranma's entire world exploded in a splatter of red, white, and black, flecked with grays.

Ranma jerked awake. Cold sweat poured off of his face and down his chest as his eyes wildly scanned the entire room. His breaths came in laborious gulps while his mind frantically tried to reorient itself. Once his senses and thoughts settled into a semblance of order, he allowed himself the liberty of relaxation and exhaled deeply. "It was only a dream…."

"What's wrong?"

He nearly jumped out of his skin before his brain dully clicked into gear. "Oh, it's just you, Kasumi…." He turned around to face the eldest Tendo daughter.

Her long, brown hair, free of its normal white ribbon, was mussed up, a few strands sticking to her forehead. Her grayish eyes blinked away a most restful slumber and focused in on the pigtailed martial artist. Placing one slender hand upon his shoulder had gathered his undivided attention.

Well, not in the way she envisioned it. At the same instant her arm moved away, Ranma was granted an unrestricted view of Kasumi's breasts. His entire body went rigid, and his frozen mind repeatedly ran one thought in an endless loop. "ohmygodakanesgonnakillmeohmygodakanesgonnakillme…"

"Ranma? Ranma?" Kasumi grew worried as she watched Ranma's lips quivered a phrase too garbled to understand. "Dear…"

He blinked his eyes. "Wha…?" The events of yesterday and last night choose that moment to surge forth in a deluge of memories. Sighing to himself, Ranma pressed the base of his palms against his forehead. "Oh, man, this is gonna take some gettin' use to…"

"It's all right." Kasumi gently rubbed the martial artist's shoulder. "What's wrong?"

"Oh…um, it's nothin' to get worried about, so…um…"

"Was it a bad dream?"

Ranma sighed. "Yeah…"

"Was it about…" She noticeably swallowed. "Akane?"

He nodded mutely.

"What did she say in your dream?"

"…" Ranma fidgeted in place, then looked down into his upturned palms resting on his lap. "She…she hates me." A shadow of the dream touched his spine before fading away, and he shivered.

A pair of slender arms entwined beneath his own, pressing a pair of cool, firm mounds into his back. Ranma tensed up at first, but he soon relaxed. He could feel Kasumi's cheek lying against his shoulder, her regular, steady breathing warm on his skin and flowing down his upper arm.

"We don't have to go through with this…we could just forget everything and let things go back to the way…they were before." Her arms flexed tighter around his waist as she spoke those words.

"…It would be so easy to…"

She nodded silently, her eyes held closed. "I'm sorry to have done this to you."

"No."

She looked at him in surprise. "But—"

"You ain't done nothin’ wrong; this is my fault. I gotta make right for it…somehow…" He sat there quietly for a few moments. "…Just wish it didn't have to be tomorrow…"

Sighing a little in relief, Kasumi laid her head back down on Ranma. "Well, we could wait until Father and Saotome-san returns from their training trip. They shouldn't be back for a few more days, so it should give us more time…"

"Sounds like a great idea. I could use some time tryin' to figure out what to say. I don't wanna hurt anyone more than I gotta, you know…"

Kasumi nodded, rubbing her cheek against his strong shoulder. "I do…" She held her breath for a second, then asked, "What time is it?"

Ranma spared a glance over to the alarm clock sitting on Kasumi's nightstand. "Um, it's 2:24. Why you wanna know?"

A soft, hesitant kiss placed just along the side of his neck answered his question. "…Oh," he half whispered, half moaned. "I…I don't know if—"

She whispered into his ear. "I… I know this is an improper time, with your dream and all, but… please…?" Laying a trail of light, suckling kisses from his earlobe to his shoulder, Kasumi drew herself tightly against him even more, her lithe fingers dancing over his toned muscles and sliding along his powerful arms until they found his hand. One of her hands encircled his own and gave it a gentle squeeze. The other slender hand dipped beneath the bed covers and began teasing ministrations upon his now-stirring member.

"…Kasumi-chan." Ranma succumbed to her feathery touches, turning his head around to catch the eldest sister's lips. 'Up all night… I'm gonna to regret it in the morning…' he thought to himself briefly, but the words sank into the forgotten recesses of his mind as the martial artist lost himself within the addictive, hypnotic rhythm of physical love.

Morning came to Nerima. The sun's golden fingers stirred to life the sleepy members of the ward. Those whom the beams could not reach, alarm clocks helped awaken.

Akane Tendo was in the latter category. Her wind-up alarm clock brazenly rang out, breaking the youngest Tendo out of a deep slumber. She stretched out, yawning, then pulled herself out of her warm bed and made her way to the bath. After a cold rinse, she dried off, then dressed in her morning jogging attire.

On her way out the door, Akane saw Kasumi dressed and humming a tune to herself in the kitchen. It was her usual habit; anyone who knew the eldest Tendo girl would say so. However, on closer inspection, the tune she hummed today seemed…off, for the lack of a better word. "Morning, Kasumi," she called out. "I hope you're feeling better."

Kasumi turned to face her. "Good morning, little sister. I'm feeling much better, thank you." She yawned suddenly and politely covered her mouth. "Oh, my. Excuse me."

"Uh, it's all right, Kasumi. I'm heading out for a jog now."

"All right. Be back in time for breakfast." Suddenly, her hand covered her mouth again. "Excuse me," she spoke in a muffled voice, quickly leaving the kitchen.

"Okay." Puzzled by her older sister's sudden motion of urgency, Akane hopped out the door and on her way down the familiar path.

On the rooftop of the Tendo home, Ranma sat, watching his fiancée…correction; soon-to-be ex-fiancée take off on her daily run, and sighed heavily. "She's gonna be so pissed off…."

His eyes lingered upon her as Akane did some stretching for a minute or two before making her way down the sidewalk. Turning right around a corner, she disappeared from his sight altogether.

"I'm sorry…" he whispered to the winds. "I can't be like Oyaji…though, it would be so easy to… to…"

Unable to finish his words, the pigtailed martial artist rose from his place on the roof and hopped down to the green earth below.

"Kasumi?" he called out, though not too loudly.

The subject in question stepped out of the bathroom, wiping her hands on her apron. "Yes, Ranma?"

He said nothing, but his head was held low. Even so, he approached her without trouble. Kasumi stood still as he neared her, until he was scant inches away. He stopped moving altogether and stood there as still as stone.

"Ranma?"

"Is Nabiki up yet?" he asked without looking up.

"No; she won't be up for another ten minutes or so. But—"

Without warning, his head found her shoulder and leaned into it, his arms about her waist very loosely. The Tendo daughter responded, drawing her arms around him tightly. He then sagged against her like a rag doll. A few moments elapsed, and Kasumi could feel a dampness seeping through her blouse. She only held him tighter.

"Why?" was all he said.

"Ranma…” She brought her cheek to nestle against the youth's head as they held onto each other.

Breakfast was…odd, Nabiki idly noticed as she finished up her bowl of miso soup. The table was very quiet, sounds of chopsticks clacking against porcelain aside. That, in itself was a puzzlement, as Akane had brought down P-Chan to eat at the table. Ranma, who usually acted jealous whenever her younger sister coddled the piglet, merely acknowledged the porcine pet with a "Hey," then when about eating as normal. Not once did he react in any way when Akane was feeding her pet.

Nabiki sighed inwardly and took a slow sip of tea. "Another mystery to solve…" she murmured to herself. Her eyes turned towards her older sister Kasumi. The middle Tendo daughter came home late last night. On her way to bed, she paused long enough to check in on her sister, surprised that she wasn't downstairs waiting for her as usual. That moment proved to be the single most shocking revelation in Nabiki's existence. Kasumi was having sex! The sister most likely to be a virgin at age thirty was riding up and down upon a man—a real live man! —having the time of her life! Dazed, Nabiki had silently left the two to their own devices and went to bed, promising herself to get up early enough in the morning to catch a glimpse of the identity of Kasumi's mysterious lover.

She cursed herself for forgetting to set her alarm clock at an earlier time.

"Hey, Ranchan!"

Ranma looked down to the sidewalk as he strolled on top of the fence. "Ucchan? What are you doing here?"

"Oh, nothing, really. Just woke up early, feeling really refreshed. Had good dreams, you know." She smiled at him.

"Glad to know someone had good dreams…" he mused under his breath.

Unfettered, she went on. "Since it was so early, I figured I'd come over to your place, and walk with y'all to school."

"Oh." He turned his gaze forward again.

Ukyou observed her fiancé for a few moments, before she leaned over to Akane. "Hey, what's up with Ranchan?"

Akane shrugged a little. "He's been like that all morning. I tried to talk to him about a problem last night, but he just told me that it was all right."

The okonomiyaki chef stole a look up to the youth on the fence. "Don't look all right to me. Looks pretty sad about something, in fact."

Akane made a noncommittal sound, but she gazed at her fiancé, concern and worry evident in her eyes.

'So much is happening so fast…' Kasumi thought as she cleaned up the house. 'Finding out that I'm pregnant, Ranma deciding to end his engagement with Akane… he must be hurting deeply, but he's making himself go through with this. I wish—

The front doorbell rang, and Kasumi ended any further thoughts. She put down a feather duster and went to the door. A giant panda greeted her no soon than when she opened it. "Oh, Saotome-san! What brings you here so soon?"

"Kasumi, my daughter!"

She blinked. "Father?" She found herself swept into a crushing hug by the mustached Tendo patriarch. "Oh, my!"

"Oh, Kasumi," Soun said, letting go of his firstborn. "It's so good to be home again!"

"Father," Kasumi started, smoothing out her dress. "What brings you home so early? I thought you weren't due home for another few days."

He chuckled as the giant panda sauntered off. "Well, we decided to cut our trip short to check in on our two heirs, see how they were getting along. So how are they doing?"

She was caught off guard by his inquiry and had to spare herself a few moments to think of a response. 'I don't want to lie to father…'

Soun frowned. "Have they had a fight recently?"

"Yes, Father. Last night, but," she hurried her explanation. "They made up this morning." 'Sort of,' she added to herself.

The older man beamed. "That's great! Hear that, Saotome-kun?" He turned around, only to be greeted by empty space. "Saotome-kun?"

"I think he went to get some hot water," Kasumi helpfully supplied.

"Ah, I see. Come with me then," he said, pulling his daughter with him. "We'll wait for him to come to the engawa, then you can tell us all about what happened while we were away."

'Oh, my,' she thought as she was guided by her father. 'This doesn't bode very well at all.'

"So what's eating Ranchan, Sugar?"

"Honestly, I don't know," Akane admitted on the walk home. Ranma was taking his usual route atop of the chain-linked fences and brick walls again, but he had barely spoken to anyone all day long. "We had a fight yesterday, but outside of that…he's been acting strange."

"Tell me about it. Half the time when I catch him looking at you or me he kinda shrinks back on himself. Like he's afraid of us or something."

"Afraid?" Akane stopped walking, as well as did Ukyou; Ranma, on the other hand, continued going, not looking back once. "Afraid of what?"

The okonomiyaki chef shrugged. "Got me. Maybe…” She burst into a sharp laugh. "Nah, that wouldn't be it."

"Wouldn't be what?"

"Oh, nothing. For a moment, I almost thought he finally chose, but that can't be right."

Akane blinked. "What do you mean by that?"

"Cause, when he finally chooses me, he wouldn't be afraid of looking at me." Ukyou flashed her a smile. "After all, I'm the cute fiancée!"

The Tendo girl balked. "Wh-wh-what?!"

"Whoops! Time to open up shop again. Catch ya later, Akane. Bye!" Ukyou raced off to her shop laughing, while leaving her companion behind sputtering a denial shortly before she realized she was all alone.

"I'm home," Ranma said without much energy as he walked into the Tendo house.

"In here, Son!"

The youth blinked in surprise. "Oyaji?” he said aloud. “What's he doing home? Shouldn't be back for another few days."

"We've heard the news, Ranma, my boy!"

'Tendo-san is here, too?' Then he turned chalk white. 'They know?!' came the frantic thought. His heart already in overdrive, he burst through the family room and onto the engawa, or back porch. "I can explain!"

Soun chuckled as he stood up. "No need to, Ranma. Kasumi told us the whole story."

"Sh-she did?" The pigtailed boy audibly gulped.

"I must say, I'm proud of you, son!" Genma joined Soun and gave his son a hearty slap on the back.

"Y-Y-You are?" the Saotome boy said, confused.

"Why, yes, Ranma. We both are! We knew you'd finally see the error of your ways and start behaving like a real fiancé!"

Ranma blinked rapidly. "Y-You mean, that's a normal thing to do?" His brain tried its best to make sense of that; surely it wasn't normal to sleep with the sister of a prospective fiancée.

"Of course, Son!" The older Saotome gave his son another hearty slap on the back.

The Tendo patriarch shoved a few thousand yen bills into the baffled youth's hands. "In fact, keep up the good work, and take her out tonight. On me."

"Um, thanks, I think…"

"Think nothing of it. Just be sure to show her a good time."

"Um, yeah…” Bewildered, Ranma slipped away from the back porch, leaving behind a happy pair of parents. He wound his way to the kitchen to see if Kasumi was there. He found her standing in front of the refrigerator, apparently looking for something to prepare for dinner. "Ah, Kasumi?"

"Yes, Ranma?" she responded, turning around to face him.

"Ah…what did you tell our folks?"

"I told them about you and Akane last night. Why do you ask?"

"Um…did you happen to mention anythin' about… um… um… you know…"

"About…” She touched her belly lightly and glanced up to him. He nodded a little at that. Her hand slipped away to her side. "No, I haven't. Why?"

Ranma sighed in relief, then gave her the short version of the incident with the patriarchs. It took a lot of effort for Kasumi to not laugh out loud.

"It's not funny…" The youth muttered, blushing in embarrassment.

"I know…" Kasumi said slowly, letting the mirth ebb away. "…But the very idea of Father actually approving of what we did…” She had to prevent another chuckle from passing her lips.

The pigtailed boy tried to be annoyed, but found himself chuckling in spite of himself. Once he started, the Tendo daughter couldn't help but to join in. It helped to keep the grimness of the situation at bay.

The laughter died down, and the atmosphere took on a more subdued effect. Neither party made a motion to talk at first. After long minutes of deafening silence, Kasumi spoke softly. "So, we tell then tonight?"

"Yeah," he said without much energy. "I guess like we talked about last night. Umm…” He fidgeted in place, clearly uncomfortable with the conversation, but he struggled onward. "…So… what time do we tell 'em all?"

"I… I don't know. Before dinner, perhaps?"

"…Can’t think of a better time."

"Well, we don't really need to do it tonight…"

"No, we better do it tonight. If we don't…” He let his words trail off, unsure of how to address his thoughts.

Glancing towards every entry point, Kasumi reached out and took his hand into her own. "Don't worry about it too much, okay?"

He sighed, feeling the weight of the world on his shoulders. "That's easy to say…"

She slipped Ranma a soft smile. "It is. I'm pretty nervous, too, but we can do it." Another scan of the kitchen area, and she leaned in, giving him a quick kiss on his lips. "I know it." She squeezed the martial artist's hand for emphasis.

Ranma offered her a smile, if a little on the weak side. "Yeah, we can, ne?" The weight, however, kept its unmoving perch on his shoulders.

They stood quietly for a short time, before the pigtailed boy broke the growing silence. "Um, Kasumi?"

"Yes?"

He took her hand into his, then placed the wad of yen Soun had just given the youth in her palm. "Here."

The Tendo daughter looked at the crumpled bills. "What is this for?"

He scratched the back of his head absently. "Well, I won't be needin' it after tonight, since me and Akane ain't goin' anywhere tonight, and I figure you'd have some better purpose for it, you know."

"Oh, Ranma…I couldn't—"

"Hey, I figure it's mine now, and I want you to have it, you know. So, just keep it and use it for whatever you need, okay?"

"All… all right then, dear." She smiled a bit at him.

He smiled back a little more confident than earlier. Still the weight on his shoulders did not budge one iota. It became heavier, if anything.

If there was one thing Nabiki did not like, it was a mystery. She hated to be out of the loop in most incidents and affairs that may well concern her; Kasumi's mysterious lover certainly qualified as such. So who was he?

Time for the usual suspects.

Nabiki mentally went over a list she made during her free time. Ono Tofu… Saotome Ranma… Kuno Tatewaki… Hibiki Ryouga… Tarou Pantyhose… Kashuoh Kinnosuke…

She sighed, realizing just how far she was reaching out to put Kinnosuke on the list. Then again, he did happen to be in the neighborhood within the two and a half month time frame Nabiki had figured out based on her first discovery of her older sister's naughty behavior. Knowing Kasumi, or at least the brunette hoped she knew her, she hadn't been touching herself very often, if at all, before she was accidentally found out by Nabiki.

Smirking to herself, Nabiki crossed out Kinnosuke's name. The only thing he cared about was the money and swindling people out of every yen he could muster. A ruthless bastard he was, and he certainly didn't fit Kasumi's type.

Working her way up the list, the middle Tendo daughter came upon Pantyhose. Thinking about what she had seen and heard, he was unlikely as well. A powerful martial artist, his age was estimated to be at least twenty. A favorable advantage, but he had some quirks, such as having that extremely bizarre Jusenkyou curse. It didn't help that he had a world-dominating mindset, and an ego that was bigger than Ranma's himself. With the negative aspects outweighing the positive, he crossed out Tarou's name.

Next up was Ryouga. Yeah, right. The lost boy and sex went together like oil and water. Kasumi would still be mopping up the blood from that nosebleed. Besides, he still has the hots for her younger sister, as well as the new girl, Unryuu Akari, Nabiki believed. Off goes Hibiki.

Next on the list…the middle daughter hurriedly slashed out Kuno's name. No odes, or roses by the truckload arriving for Kasumi. She fervently hoped that her older sister had better taste than that.

Now, it was Ranma's turn. The young woman shook her head absently. Why did she even bother putting him on the list? Curses aside, the boy draws problems like flies to honey. Four women already claimed him: two legitimate fiancées, one Amazon would-be wife, and one psychotic nut case. He was still arrogant, immature, young, thoughtless, unromantic, conniving… Nabiki could write out entire scrolls detailing all of the resident martial artist's faults. And on top of that, he was engaged to Akane!

So, why did she put him on the list?

Well, there was the vacation Kasumi took, with her father sending Ranma along to watch out for his firstborn. They were alone for two weeks. Two whole weeks. Could it be possible? Ranma and Kasumi sleeping together…?

Nabiki broke out in harsh laughter. Yeah, right, as if that would ever happen; he didn't have the balls to make such a bold move. Tick! Off goes Ranma's name.

Well, that leaves only one choice left. The most likely one there was, though it was theoretically possible that Kasumi's lover was a total stranger to the rest of the family. He was madly in love with her older sister, no doubt about it; her feelings were never very clear, but some thought that she felt similarly about him. If he just relaxed around Kasumi…

She grinned as she solved the mystery. It was an obvious conclusion, one she should have thought of first and not wasted her time making a list. Kasumi and Tofu-sensei were sleeping together!

Stuck as P-Chan for a while, Ryouga dared not to move from the place where Akane had left him in her room before she left for school. The main reason was because he might never find his way back to the Tendo home for days, at the least. Another reason was that he was thinking about Ranma.

He was certainly acting strange at the breakfast table. Normally, whenever his dearest Akane would feed him, or show affection to his cursed porcine form, Ranma would get jealous, even going so far as to hit him, which would inevitably spark Akane into action to defend her precious pet pig. Today, nothing. No reaction. No insults. All that the pigtailed boy did was acknowledge the P-Chan's existence, then ate breakfast as if no one else was in the room.

Why?

The question had stewed in Ryouga's mind for hours now. What was going on with Ranma? He seemed so… detached at the table. Akane had tried to apologize to him afterwards about something, but he appeared to not pay her much mind. That made the little black piglet's blood boil; ignoring her, of all things! Of course, he deflated when Ranma said that everything was cool, that there was no need to apologize about it.

What was going on? The lost pig didn't have an answer to the question, but he swore that he would get to the bottom of the mystery.

Akane grumbled as she changed out of her school uniform and into some nice, casual clothes. "Black skirt and red blouse," she thought aloud. Then she turned to her pet pig, who was sitting on the dresser at the head of her bed. "What do you think, P-Chan?"

The little black animal, whose front hooves were covering over closed eyes, took a quick peek at his owner. Seeing that she held the proffered clothing in question in front of her scantily-clad body, he opened both eyes, then gave her a grunt of approval. After that, he closed his eyes and put both hooves over them again.

With a nod, she chose the outfit. What difference did it really make? It wasn't as if she knew what her father was thinking as he rushed her upstairs to change clothes as soon as she had gotten home, blubbering something about a surprise.

=KNOCK KNOCK=

The Tendo daughter glanced to her room door as she slipped the blouse on and buttoned it up. "Who is it?"

"Your charming older sister, who else?"

Nabiki. Akane sighed. "What is it?"

Taking that as a welcoming, the middle daughter pushed the door open and closed it back, clicking the lock into place. Turning to face her younger sister, Nabiki made a hand gesture for her to join her at the bed. Akane perked an eyebrow in confusion, but did as indicated. Once seated, the brunette spoke in a low whisper. "Akane, you'll never guess what I've discovered."

Akane knew what that usually meant. "How much is this going to cost me?"

"Not a yen."

Both eyebrows shot up. "Free info?!"

"Shh! Keep your voice down."

She did as she was told. There was no sense in wasting this golden goose of an opportunity. "Okay, okay. So, what is it?"

"Tell me. Have you noticed anything strange about Kasumi lately?"

Akane thought briefly. "Well, she was acting a bit funny this morning. She looked tired and…a little sick, I think, before I took off on my morning jog."

This time, both of Nabiki's brows shot up. "Sick?" She began to ponder on something.

Akane nodded. "Think she's getting a cold?"

Shaking herself out of her thoughts, she replied, "No, not a cold, but we'll get back to that later. Anyway, I want you to guess what I saw last night."

"Umm… 'What Becomes of the Broken Hearted?' Didn't you and that Akira guy go see that movie last night?"

"That foreign movie? Please. Besides, we didn't go to the movies. I didn't like him at all to begin with."

"Another extortion scheme?"

"Enough about that. We're getting off-subject."

"Okay, okay. So what did you see?"

"Kasumi and Tofu-sensei having sex."

The information overwhelmed Akane so much that she fell off her bed like a stone. Her knee thumped into the dresser as she tipped over, which sent P-Chan tumbling after her as well. The pig gave an indignant squeal of protest as he landed on his head.

"What?!" she cried out after recovering.

"Quiet! I don't think Daddy knows at all."

"But… but… are you sure? Are you sure about that?"

"What's wrong? Still got the hots for Tofu-sensei?"

"No, it's not that, just…" Akane shrugged. "It's nothing important."

Nabiki gave her an "I don't buy that" look, but decided to not press the issue now. "I'm sure it was the good old doc. It was pretty late at night, and I discovered them in her room. A secret meeting."

The youngest's head was still swimming in a sea of disbelief. "Are you sure?"

"Of course. Who else could it be; Ranma?"

At that, Akane's pet pig growled.

She jumped. "NO! Don't be silly! Th-that's ridiculous!"

"I thought so, too."

=KNOCK KNOCK=

"Who is it?" Akane asked.

"It's Kasumi."

"Well, speak of the devil…" Nabiki commented in a whisper.

"Father wants you and Nabiki downstairs for a family meeting."

Akane sighed. "Okay, we'll be down in a minute." One hand unerringly scooped up P-Chan and held him just below her breasts. "Any idea what's the family meeting about, Nabiki?"

"No idea. None at all."

"Shampoo, I'll be out for a while. Take care of the restaurant."

The girl in question looked at her great-grandmother. "Is almost dinner rush. Why go now?"

"Because," Cologne began. "I have a bad feeling. The omen of last night is something to be concerned with."

"Shampoo think so, too. Going to see Airen?"

"That I will be doing, Great-Granddaughter. Make sure the restaurant is cleaned up and running well in my absence."

"Shampoo do so. Bye-bye, Great-Grandmother. Take care."

"I will." With that, Cologne pogoed out of the Nekohanten using her gnarled, wooden staff. Her destination: the Tendo Dojo.

"So what's up, Oyaji?" Ranma asked casually. He, too, was made to change into something nice, so he donned on his dark blue Chinese silk shirt with the sleeves rolled up halfway up his forearm and another set of black pants tied at the ankles with crimson ribbons. Absently, he tugged at his pigtail; something did not feel right for some reason.

Writing off the odd feeling as nervousness for what he and Kasumi were going to do before dinner tonight, he glanced around the family room, studying each person briefly. Akane looked a little annoyed, while she held her pet in her lap, though every now and then she would look to her right to Kasumi Nabiki had boredom inscribed on her face as she sat cross-legged, wearing cutoff jean shorts and a loose-fitting tee shirt. Kasumi did not have much of a readable expression, as she intensely studies something on the floor by the hem of her long, tan dress. The martial artist assumed that she must have been feeling the same thing as well. Willfully breaking off the engagement was going to require all the strength they could muster.

Now the gleeful expressions that both Soun and his father concern him greatly. Usually such a look only meant trouble for him. Ranma betted that it was another "brilliant" idea of theirs

The stocky, bald man in a dingy white gi adjusted his glasses on his nose, clearing his throat to address his offspring. "Son, you have made us proud."

Ranma blinked along with the girls. "Huh? What are you talking about?"

"Taking out Akane tonight, of course," Soun explained. "You truly are becoming a real fiancé to her." The mustached man smiled broadly, though he looked as though he was ready to break out into tears of joy.

The pigtailed boy looked as though he had swallowed poison. Akane had a deer-in-headlights look, openly gaping at that statement. "He's doing WHAT?!" shouted Akane in a higher-than-usual voice.

Nabiki chuckled. "Trying to weasel his way out of yet another date with my sis…" she said to herself, shaking her head a little.

Kasumi, however, blinked at the fathers' declaration. After a moment's hesitation, she opened her mouth. "Father, I don't think—"

"No way, Tendo-san. I ain't doin' it."

The older man nearly choked. "What? Why not?!"

"Because I can't do it." Ranma looked away to his side.

"What are you saying, boy?!" Genma turned to him, a mask of displeasure adhered to his facial features. "Are you backing down from your obligations to marry Akane?"

"I ain't marrying her!" he shouted at his father.

That snapped Akane out of her trance. She shifted gears to anger. "Like who's stupid enough to want to marry you, you jerk?"

Kasumi sneezed.

"Bless you," Nabiki said offhandedly, handing her older sister a tissue.

"Ranma, my boy. You must marry Akane and carry on tradition!"

"That's right, boy. It is your duty to uphold giri."

Ranma snorted. "Like that ever mattered to you, Oyaji. Look, I can't marry Akane."

"Of course you can." To emphasize their point, the fathers slid Ranma and Akane shoulder to shoulder. "See, now? You two are perfect for each other."

"Will you cut that out already?! I already said I ain't marrying her!"

"I feel the same way," Akane declared, backing up his decision. The blush suffusing with the bridge of her nose was ruining the effect, though.

"Father, I really must say—"

"I think Ranma-kun wants to marry someone else." Kasumi gaped at Nabiki in morbid horror as the smirking middle Tendo daughter threw more gasoline into the flames of argument. As expected, the fires exploded into a raging inferno.

"What?!" Soun towered over Ranma in anger. "You dare to throw away my daughter for someone else?!"

Genma wailed. "Oh, what an ungrateful son I have raised! Being unfaithful to his own fiancée already!"

The Saotome heir flinched as if physically struck. So did Kasumi, though no one noticed it. "It ain't like that! I—"

"Ranma, you jerk!" Wildly, he spun around, coming face to face with Akane, her sometimes-cute face marred with hot anger. In her lap, P-Chan bristled and growled at him, struggling to get free of Akane's firm grip so he could bite his enemy.

The pigtailed boy started to back up at the sight. "A-Akane…"

He lost what thoughts he was having as Soun firmly placed his hands on Ranma's shoulders. "Son, you will marry Akane. That is your duty. You don't have a choice."

Angrily, Ranma slapped away Soun's hands, which threw everyone for a loop. "Like hell I don't!" His fingers curled into a fist that shook visibly as he sought for control over himself. "I can't marry Akane," he said through tightly gritted teeth.

The older man recovered from his surprise and retorted. "You've been saying that since I made the announcement, yet you haven't explained why. Why are you being so stubborn?"

"Because… because…” The young man faltered, unable to get his brain working properly. Being cornered without many options to work with wasn't his style. He was also afraid. Seeing Akane brimming with anger nearly sapped all of his artificial bravado. 'I don't know if I can do this…'

"Because he is going to marry me," came the quiet answer.

Immediately, the household fell into a deathly silence. All eyes pivoted from Ranma to Kasumi's sitting position. Her eyes were averted, unable to face anyone. "What was that, daughter?" Soun asked, unable to believe that he heard correctly.

"I can't marry Akane anymore," Ranma spoke softly, the pressure drawn away from him. "Because…I'm marryin' Kasumi."

Heads twisted about, bringing the Saotome heir back into focus. Wordlessly, they studied him, then the eldest Tendo daughter and back again. Moments passed by before someone decided to break the peace.

"Yeah, right."

Kasumi and Ranma blinked at Nabiki who had a cool, smug expression on her face. "Nabiki…" Kasumi started to say, but was cut off by one hand from the person in question.

"Look, Kasumi, I know you're kind of new to this, but let's not play any jokes right now." She gave her older sister a hard look in the eye. "Besides, there's a little matter of a certain Tofu-sensei you probably should be bringing out about now before Daddy takes you seriously."

The virtual matriarch was confused. "What does Tofu-sensei have to do with anything?"

"Would someone care to tell me what's going on?" Soun asked, having gotten lost in the new conversation already.

"Time to come clean, sis. Tell Daddy about you and Tofu-sensei…and the baby."

Kasumi paled significantly. "H-how…?" Had the household's attentions not been riveted to the daughter's reaction, someone would have seen Ranma mouthing the same question while twitching on his side.

"Well, it took a few minutes, but I put two and two together and got you to answer it for me." Passing off a trademark smirk, she went on. "Akane noticed that you looked sick this morning. Wouldn't have caused any great alarm had I not seen you and Tofu-sensei having sex in your room last night. Therefore, you would have to be carrying his child, right?"

"What the hell do you mean Kasumi and Tofu-sensei were having sex last night?!"

Startled, Nabiki, as well as everyone else, spun around to face a glowering Ranma. "That was me, you idiot! And that's my kid she got, okay?!" A second after, his words registered with himself, and his face fell in abject fear. "Oh, shit…” His head snapped around to face Akane. "Akane, I—” He gasped when his blue eyes lighted upon her.

For an unyielding second, the whole surreal scene was frozen in time. Akane sat stock still in place, not making a sound, but tears had begun to stream down her cheeks. Her hands clutched P-Chan to her chest tightly, though the little black pig didn't notice because his own eyes were wide as saucers. The reactions varied: Kasumi had her hand to her mouth, her stony eyes wide with sad regret; Nabiki blinked, a look of ill comprehension noticeably drawn over her features; Soun's face was blank as paper; Genma scratched his head, looking at his son curiously; Ranma…he was frightened beyond anything else. Time lost its grip on the moment, and everything resumed as normal.

"No…" Akane whispered, more tears running fast down her cheeks. "It… it can't be…no…"

"A…Akane…I…I…” Ranma desperately fished for more words, but none came forward. Very reluctantly, he settled back down, trying to disappear into himself.

"I'm sorry, little sister," Kasumi whispered, letting loose her own set of tears. "I'm so sorry…"

The gloomy, somber atmosphere was broken by the heavy sounds of two hands clapping four times. As if on automatic, all eyes turned to face the person clapping. In this instance, it was Genma.

Pushing his glassed up the bridge of his nose, the stocky man cleared his throat. "Now, everyone, this is not the time for sadness. Rather, we should be rejoicing." He clapped his son heartily on the back. "My son and Kasumi are fulfilling giri. That's a wonderful thing to celebrate, right, Tendo-kun?"

The Tendo father shook his head, the situation forgotten. Smiling a bit, he responded. "Well, yes, it is."

"Wh-what…?" came Akane's choked reply. She looked as if she would break into thousands of pieces at that moment. "Dad…no… That can't be…"

Genma ignored her. "So we should be celebrating the imminent union of our houses, Tendo-kun, not cry about what's happened in the past." He put an arm around his friend and gave his shoulders a brotherly squeeze. "Let's focus on the future of our schools; that's the most important part."

Soun, caught up in the moment, grinned. "Yes, yes it is. The union of our schools comes first."

Shock overcame Kasumi and Nabiki, even though the former was expecting such a reaction. Ranma merely snorted. "It figures," he mumbled under his breath.

Akane's reaction was completely unlike the others. She felt numb all over, her mind a total blank. Her father, her own father, had just effectively said her feeling didn't matter, only giri and the continuation of the Tendo Saotome schools. It was like a slap in the face; only it hurt far worse than anything she could think of. The pain tore into the core of her being, and it caused her blood to run cold.

"This isn't happening," the shorthaired girl whispered, her voice slowly rising. "This isn't happening, this isn't happening, this isn't happening—!" She shot up ramrod straight, killing the budding celebration Genma was attempting to stir up.

Soun stared at his daughter. "Akane…"

"I don't believe you, dad!" she spat out. Ranma cringed from the force of her outburst, a horrifying sense of deja vu embracing his thoughts. "What about me? Don't I have some say in this?!"

The patriarch faltered for words. "A-Akane, listen—"

Hot tears spilled down her face as she violently shook all over. "I don't care! It's not like your fiancé betrayed you and had gotten your own sister pregnant!!"

The eldest daughter reeled back from the verbal blow. Her face now wet, she stole a look to her enraged sister. "Akane, I—"

Akane whirled around on her so fast, Kasumi thought with a great amount of certainty that she was going to be on the receiving end of her fist. "Why, sister?" she whimpered. "Why?" The young girl's face was scrunched up in agony as she forced out the question. "Why did you sleep with him?"

Her heart wrenched at the sight of her youngest sister suffering so much. However, she couldn't bring herself to look at her directly in the eye and speak, so she chose to gaze sightlessly at the floor. "I never meant to hurt you, little sister. I didn't mean for things to go so far. I…” She sighed heavily, letting teardrops splatter onto her skirt and soaking into the fabric. "I have no excuse," she finally said, pressing her palms on the floor and bowing down until her forehead touched the surface.

Akane's breath came in shuddering gasps as she looked down on her prostrated oldest sister. Sister. Friend. Mother. Someone she could trust.

All of those images she had of Kasumi went up in a blaze of fire. She had hurt her, did something so unthinkable, then tried to hide it. Mocking her. Sleeping with him; last night, in fact. Hurting her beyond anything and everything. The young girl wanted to strike back. She wanted to hurt her sister like she had been hurt herself. Her anger and grief boiled up, creating a haze that clouded her thinking, and her hand balled into a fist, absently elevating over her head.

Hurt her. Hurt her. She isn't your sister. Hurt her! Hurt her! She betrayed you. Hurt her!! Hurt her!! Hurt her!!

The hammer fell, racing down to its intended target. Suddenly it was jerked away. Furious that revenge hadn't been sated, she snarled at whoever interjected. A pair of intense, cool, blue eyes flashed back in anger.

"Cut it out, Akane! What the hell do you think you're doing?!"

The voice shocked her completely out of her trance and plunged her into something much more chaotic. "Ranma…" she breathed. Instantly, the fires of her anger flared to roaring life.

How much she wanted to KILL him. Betraying her, lying to her, sleeping with her sister, that jerk was going to die. Die! Die!! How dare he stand up and defend Kasumi from her—!

It hit her just then. Ranma had just defended Kasumi. He just protected her. He saved her.

'From me…' she unconsciously thought. 'Does that mean that he… that he…?

Tears that wanted so much to flush down her face refused to come. What she felt when she thought about what her sister had done to her paled in comparison to what she felt once she really thought about what the pigtailed martial artist had done to her. Her broken heart was numbed, as if she could no longer feel pain. That, in itself was the worst sensation she never wanted to experience.

"I hate you," she whispered in a broken sob, her mind and emotions taxed to their limits. "I hate you…” Without looking back, she turned on her heels and ran out of the family room as fast as her legs would take her.

"Ranma? Are you all right?"

Concerned, Kasumi reached up and shook the pigtailed youth lightly. At first, he didn't respond in any form, only stared where Akane once was standing. After two more insistent shakings, his eyes automatically opened and closed painstakingly. Next was a minute tremor, so small one would have to be looking for it very closely. Finally, his lips moved, though no sound passed them. The Tendo daughter didn't need to hear his voice, however, as she could guess what he was saying.

"She hates me…"

His legs suddenly gave out, and he slumped to the floor bonelessly. Immediately, Kasumi looped both arms around his shoulders. "Ranma…"

Soun Tendo.

Some may think of him as a spineless wimp, a person that cries far too easily at the most passive of situations. He would agree to a point. He did tend to let him emotions get the better of him, but usually, it was only when his daughters' welfare was concerned. After all, he was a father and he wanted the best for them. By engaging one of them to the son of his best friend, not only was he assuring the continuation of the Anything Goes School of Martial Arts, but he was also going to be able to rest easier knowing that girl would be in capable, safe hands.

Speaking of which, that brings about another opinion people have of Soun Tendo. Many believe he doesn't give a damn about his daughters' feelings when the arranged marriage was the subject matter. True, he does get overzealous when giri is being mixed in, but he was still a father at heart. If the arrangement were truly making the chosen one miserable, then steps would have to be taken to correct that. He would even go so far as to break the engagement off completely, though Soun would admit that such a powerful measurement would be a last-ditch effort. Still, it was all for his precious girls.

At the now, he was stuck with a definite problem. As it stood, Ranma and Kasumi are going to get married, plus his firstborn was carrying the younger Saotome's seed in her womb. He felt ecstatic at first. Before their arrival, he had considered giving the engagement to the oldest daughter, since it seemed that she would be the one that would need his strength the most; after all, Akane could take care of herself quite handily, and Nabiki could do well on her own, too, even if she was a bit flippant at times. Of course, the marriage issue was thrust upon his youngest, and he did think that maybe it would be better to engage the ones that would be carrying the pride of Anything Goes into the next generation.

Of course, there was the obvious fact that what Kasumi and Ranma did hurt his baby deeply. Soun felt a bit shamefaced as well. Was it not for Genma's eagerness to celebrate the now-certain union of families, he wouldn't have added to her already weighty baggage with his callous comment about giri being more important. It was a lie, a plain, bold-faced lie. Watching his baby girl run upstairs and to her room in tears drove that point home and hard.

Ranma, he broke her heart. That was unforgivable, giri be damned. As the patriarch of the Tendo household, steps had to be taken against him. Ranma must be punished. He must be—

"Tendo-kun, I've gotten out the special sake. Let's make a toast to the future bride and groom."

Stiffly, the mustached man turned around ever so slowly until his eyes locked with the heavyset man's.

Genma blinked, a sweatdrop forming at his temple. "Tendo-kun, you seem troubled," he noted aloud. "Have a seat, my old friend. Let's have a drink; it should clear up your mind."

The panda-cursed man never saw it coming. A right hook caught him flatfooted, smashing into his jaw and pitching him out of the house through the engawa slide door. The Saotome patriarch splashed down into the koi pond, overflooding it with his mass, now doubled while as a panda..

Needless to say, everyone present was completely stunned by this. Even Ranma snapped out of whatever stupor he was in.

"Tendo-san," he breathed.

Worry in her eyes, Kasumi held onto the Saotome youth tightly. "Father—"

"Move away, Daughter."

He saw her flinch involuntarily. That tone of voice, he hadn't employed against any of the girls in well over ten years. Apparently, it was just as frightening in the present as it was in the past. Still, she didn't let go. "Father, I—"

"I said move away. Now." His lips had drawn into a tight line, the rest of his face impassive as stone.

Indecision was inscribed all over her face. For a moment, it looked as though she wasn't going to leave the Saotome heir. Fortunately, the boy had touched her arm and made a shooing motion, muttering something to her. Words of reassurance, most likely.

"I take it you want me?" Ranma said, looking Soun in the eye.

He didn't have any real idea of what to say. Instead, he opened his mouth and let loose the first thing that came to mind. "You've hurt my little girl. You've gotten my firstborn pregnant out of wedlock, tarnishing her honor." The words were coming out easier, now that the ball was rolling. "You've broken a promise to watch out for my daughter while she was away house-sitting for a friend. You took advantage of her, of her sweet, innocent nature, didn't you? Didn't you!?" He unconsciously snarled the last part out.

Immediately, Kasumi spoke up. "Father, please-” He silenced her with an outstretched hand, palm out.

The pigtailed one had a blank expression on his face, as if he had no idea what to do. "Ah, Tendo-san—"

"Don't 'Tendo-san' me! I don't want to hear anymore lies!" With that he lashed out, this time with a fist. It almost connected, though Ranma had swayed away at the last possible second. Soun grunted and let fly several more knuckles, which the boy had some trouble in avoiding them.

"Tendo-san, please! I don't wanna fight you!"

"Too late!" The elder man poured on more speed and added in kicks into his attacks. However, the boy, his mind now locked into combat mode, easily bobbed and weaved around the blows like water, but never counterattacked. Soun's frustration grew as he went scoreless for many minutes. "Fight me!" he bellowed, his temper near breaking

"I ain't gonna fight you!"

"Then have a taste of this!" He fired off an extremely fast and heavy haymaker, one that was guaranteed to connect and put him down for a long time. He'd suffer a concussion at best; at worst…

=CRACK=

Paydirt! His fist was following through with the contact, giving his target every inch of his strength. That's when the unexpected happened.

Halfway through the motion, Soun's fist just…stopped, for lack of a better description. Then it was pushed back on the line of trajectory it was following with considerably more force than what he put into his attack. Shocked, the Tendo patriarch stumbled back.

"What the…" Soun started to ask when his eyes made an important discovery and promptly informed the brain. He gasped then. "Are you all right Ryouga?"

Minutes earlier.

Ryouga watched in great sadness as Akane absently chucked his porcine form somewhere and threw herself onto her bed. That was when she chose to cry without restriction. Her face was buried into her pillow, dampening the sounds of her wailing; the cursed boy, however, could hear her cries as clear as a bell.

'And it's all Ranma's fault, too!' he thought grimly. There was absolutely no way for him to wiggle out of responsibility; in fact, he even said so himself, he was the father of Kasumi's baby. Now Akane has been hurt in ways that were very appalling indeed. And it was all Ranma's fault. Throwing sweet Akane aside like a rag doll in trade for her oldest sister. What was the world coming to?!

Well, it didn't matter. He was going to go downstairs, get changed and put on some clothes, and then beat the hell out of the pigtailed boy. It turned heel and began to trot to the partially open door, an angry scowl dressing its cute looks.

"And to think I might have loved you, you idiot—!" came the room's only human's outburst.

Ryouga stopped in mid-stride feeling very chilled. 'Loved…him…? No, no I didn't hear—'

"…Have… loved you… Ranma…” Akane fell into incoherent blubbering after that.

Unfortunately, it was already too late, for Ryouga heard her clearly. 'She…loved…him…?' Cold gripped his heart and squeezed it for all its worth. 'She…loved him…’ A sickly green glow encased the black piglet as he wearily padded away from Akane's room.

'She loved him… She loved him…' The thought ran laps within the pig-sized mind, unable to escape the depression boring down on it. Instead, it started on a new track. 'He hurt her…'

That was enough to bring out another emotion within him. Anger welled up and bloomed again. How dare he hurt sweet Akane like so! How dare he betray her! How dare he break her heart—!

'She loved him…'

Depression set back in like an old friend. So she did, she really did…

'He hurt her…'

Anger came roaring back to life. Damn that Ranma! He's going to pay for that transgression. He's going to pay!

'She loved him…'

Again depression set it.

'He hurt her…'

Anger raged deep in his heart once more.

'She loved him…'

'He hurt her…'

'She loved him…'

'He hurt her…'

Depression and anger warred for dominance. Each faction battled against the other on the ego's battlefield where there was only one winner allowed. Then finally…

'She loved him… but he hurt her…'

A pact between his strongest emotions. Avenge her for the wrongs he had dealt to her, and punish him totally, utterly, and completely. He knew what he was to do, what he had to do.

Ryouga had made it all the way down to the main hallway and turned to the bathroom. Once there, he dipped himself into a predrawn bath, undoing the curse of Jusenkyou and becoming his former self. The fanged boy trudged out of the bath, found his clothes and put them on while still wet, then headed towards the family room. Amazingly, he never once lost his way all of this time.

No one in the room paid him any regard, mainly because the were too fixated on Ranma and Soun duking it out— or rather, Soun hitting nothing but air while the younger dodged all attacks launched at him. It didn't matter to Ryouga, though. All he cared about was Ranma. Walking up behind him, he was going to get the pigtailed boy's attention; however, that did not go over well. Ranma slipped out of the path of the Tendo patriarch's fist ripping through the air. The lost boy caught the blow right on the jaw, which jarred his head to one side. Instead of crumpling like a rag doll, though, he simply turned his head back around, shoving Soun back hard enough to make him stumble.

"Are you all right Ryouga?" the older man asked. "Are you hurt?"

"I did not feel that," he said in a flat monotone. Turning away from the flabbergasted father, he addressed Ranma who was already wary of the lost boy.

"Ryouga, I ain't got time to play with you right now…" the youth started to say.

"Don't worry, Ranma." Tendrils of black spider webbed about the lost boy, and his enemy could only gasp quietly at the sight presented before him. Cold eyes, mirthless and dead, seemingly bored holes into the Saotome heir's very soul even as Ryouga's body began crackling and humming with obsidian power.

"Oh no…" Kasumi clasped one hand into the other and pressed them both to her mouth.

"I don't believe it…" Nabiki said to herself. "I really don't believe this is happening…"

"Believe it." His gaze never wavered in the slightest from his visibly agitated foe. "Ranma dies tonight."

 

To be continued.

Chapter 6
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