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A Ranma ½ fan fiction story
by Beer-monster

Disclaimer: Ranma 1/2 characters property of Rumiko Takahashi, Shogakukan, Kitty, and Viz Video.


Book I: The Mantis Saga

Chapter Two: Fallen Master


With a full stomach, Ranma made his way back to the dojo via the Tokyo rooftops, bounding effortlessly from house to house. The sun had long since set, and the lights of the city sparkled and shimmered in ways that rivalled the stars above. The moon cast it silvery glow on the city, straining through the ambiently lit sky, to glimmer across the satin of Ranma's shirt as he flipped off the top of a building. Swinging from a lamp post to slow his descent, he dropped nimbly to the pavement.

He had landed in the alley behind the dojo. Stretching lethargically, he dusted himself off and began walking around to the street, whistling tunelessly to himself. Then he heard a sound that send shivers down his spine, and cold sweat began to bead on his forehead.

Mreow!

Slowly, with frightened, jarring movements he turned his head to the source of the sound.

In the shadows between the trashcans, a pair of yellow eyes shone. The two slit, vertical pupils filled Ranma with a cold, clinging dread, which only swelled as the feline approached him on dark paws.

" C… c… CAT!" he screamed, flailing his arms in terror.

"Mew?" the cat said, shocked by his reaction.

"GAAAAH! He turned and fled, leaping in a panicked jump over the fence before him. Landing in a roll in the Tendo garden, he dashed towards the shogi doors. His ailurophobia increased one thousand-fold, driving his heart rate skyrocketing as a small, wiry body shot from the shadows and grasped onto him, hanging from his shirt.

" YAAAH! GERROFFAME!" he yelped, beating the form from him. He spun and began to resume his bolt for the house.

"R… Ranma?" It was a small voice, weak and rasping.

Cautiously Ranma looked down, and in the light of the moon he could see a gnarled hand groping out of the shadows. Relieved that it was not a cat, he knelt, squinting to view the figure in the darkness. Then the voice spoke again in laboured pants.

"Ranma, my boy… is that you?"

"Old Freak?" the boy asked tentatively.

As his eyes grew used to the darkness, more of Happosai's face was revealed. His profile was swollen and covered in lumps, and his skin seemed charred. There were stains of dirt and dried blood caked in his moustache and wisps of grey hair.

"Ranma. I can't move… Help me."

Ranma watched as the crooked, old man stretched out a hand towards him, probing the darkness for the youth. He knew that he should just let the old pervert lie there and let him rot. He would be doing himself and all of Nerima a favour. No more groping, no more early morning bucket of water, no more being chased by stampeding mobs of angry girls chasing him after Happosai threw him a bag of gym shorts.

But another part of him knew that was wrong. Ironically this part took the form of a handsome, middle-aged woman with a warm smile and a long bundle on her back. The woman spoke of honour, and his heart swelled. There were some things a warrior just had to do.

Gently, almost hesitantly, he gathered the diminutive figure in his arms, lifting him up and cradling him to his chest as he stood.

"Don’t worry, old freak, I'll get you inside," he whispered gently and made his way into the house.

"Ranma. Welcome back," Kasumi greeted warmly. "What’s that you're carryi…? Oh my!"

Ranma reflexively looked down at the bundle he was carrying, and was shocked breathless himself. In the light, Happosai's form was fully visible. His face was covered in bruises. Blue and purple lumps swirled over his cheeks and swollen lips. Dried blood made ugly, red-brown smears around cuts where his skin seemed to have been scraped off. His clothes were torn and burnt. His breath was laboured, and his lungs rasped as he sucked in air.

"I found him like this in the garden," he said slowly, stupidly.

"Tell me later, Ranma," Kasumi ordered. It was in her same, sweet voice, but it was still an order. "Quickly. Get him into the living room, on the couch." She then left, sliding open the door and gliding into the next room.

Ranma nodded, and followed her, carrying him through the dining room and into the lounge where the family sat watching some corny soap opera.

"Akane, could you please get off the couch?" Kasumi asked.

The shorthaired girl glanced up at her sister bemused, then to Ranma, at whom she scowled.

"Why should I move for that womanising jerk?" she spat.

"It’s not for Ranma. Now please move."

"Not for Ranma?" It was then that Akane noticed the small man nestled in Ranma arms. Her eyes widened as she leapt from her seat.

"Happosai!' she yelped.

The room's other three occupants simultaneously spun their heads to face Ranma and his burden. Soun and Genma both jumped to their feet. The elder Saotome's face was twisted in a mix of shock and anger. Soun predictably burst in to tears.

"Master!" he cried.

"What did you do to the Master, boy?" Genma yelled.

"I haven’t done anything," Ranma shouted in reply, as he laid the ancient pervert on the now-vacant couch.

"He looks terrible," Akane said, stating the obvious.

"Who could do this to Happosai?" Nabiki wondered aloud in a calculating tone.

Good question, he agreed silently. He knelt by the old man, grabbing pillows from the tatami-covered floor and piling them beneath Happosai's bald head. He had received and inflicted enough bruises to know that fists had inflicted the ones that now covered the depraved master’s face. Fists that were used with the precise timing, power and placement of a great martial artist.

But who could have done it? Ranma contemplated. Even I can't touch the old git, so how could anyone do this?

From some unknown place, Soun had pulled out a large chest, made from shining steel with its perimeter locked by large rivets. A rattling sound also brought his attention back to the couch, where his father was binding the beaten, old man in iron chains from which lead weights and giant padlocks hung. He then attempted to load the old man into the metal box, which Ranma now noticed was labelled, the words "To Tierra Del Fuego" written in hastily-scrawled romanji.

Grunting in disgust, Ranma shoved his foot into Genma's face, and extracted Happosai from his chains, returning him to the sofa gently.

"How dare you, boy?" the elder Saotome shouted at the younger.

"Shove it, old man," the boy replied before dousing his father with the contents of a nearby bucket.

[Happosai is a menace] was written on a sign in the fat panda's hand. [We must rid the world of his evil]

"Your father is right, Ranma," Soun said in a sage voice. "To deal with monsters such as him is a martial artist’s sworn duty."

"Is that so?" Ranma asked with a quirked eyebrow. "Well, perhaps the rules were changed and nobody told me, because I'm certain it is also a martial artist’s duty to give aid to those who need it." His voice was bone dry.

[We must get rid of the Master and his foul ways] Genma flipped his sign over. [Honour demands it]

"Honour demands we beat up and express mail a bruised and crippled old man?"

"But, Ranma…"

"…Soun…" the whispered and straggled sound of his own name interrupted Tendo's argument.

"…Genma…?"

Soun moved closer and knelt at Happosai's side, leaning closer to his master. Genma lumbered nearer as well.

"We are here, Master," the moustached man said.

[Yes. We are here] the panda signed.

"Come… COUGH… closer, my students. I… I have one… PANT… last task for you."

"Yes, Master."

The two men leaned closer, Genma's bulk casting a great shadow over his teacher’s frail and wrinkled body. Ranma could see Happosai's thin, cracked lips move but could not hear what was said. Finally the two men pulled back.

"Yes, Master."

[Of course, Master]

The pair looked at each and nodded. Then suddenly, and with a speed that belied his fat and furry body, Genma leaped forward. Swerving around his son to grasp his arms, and hold them fast behind his back. Ranma’s jaw dropped, too stunned at the sudden action to struggle as Soun spun and threw a wave of cold water on him.

His body shifted, becoming smaller, curvier, his hair brightening from jet black to fiery red. His muscles shrank, the hard flesh fading to be replaced with sculpted softness. The bones warped inside his body, his arms and legs shortening, the shoulders become less broad as his hips swelled into womanly curves.

"What the hell are you doing?!" she screeched, the pitch of her voice rising even as she spoke.

With a burst of renewed vigour, Happosai bolted gleefully from his prone position, and latched on to Ranma's newly-endowed chest. His tiny hands worked as he squeezed the soft flesh and nuzzled into her cleavage.

"Aargh! Get off me you perverted troll!" she yelped. Wrenching her arms free of her father’s grip and hammering her fist onto Happosai’s bald skull, she knocked him from her breasts and to the floor.

"How dare you do that?" she raged. "After I dragged your pulverised carcass out of the cold night, you repay me with a grope?"

She raised her fist above her head, ready to deal another blow, but stopped dumbly as Happosai dropped to his knees and brought his head to the floor, bowing deeply to the dripping girl. Ranma's anger evaporated in the face of shock.

"I’m sorry, Ranma. Please forgive me," the kneeling old man said humbly.

Ranma let his hand drop unused back to her side as her eyes widened. Had she really just heard Happosai apologize? He must be planning something. She wanted to reach out and grab the filthy, martial artist’s shirt and question him…

"What?" was all he could manage.

"I’m sorry," Happosai repeated. "I needed to do that to recover enough strength to tell you my story."

"What story?" Akane asked. "And who did this to you?"

"That will be explained in the story, Akane, my sweet."

Akane grimaced at being called that by the pervert.

"If we’re going to hear this tale, perhaps I should make some tea?" Kasumi said with a smile, the usual sweetness empty from it. "Would you like some tea, Master Happosai?"

The old man smiled and nodded. Kasumi offered it to the others, who all accepted except Nabiki and Akane, who had not yet stopped staring at Happosai, both suspicious about this sudden change in behaviour, as was Ranma. Kasumi prepared the tea, swiftly bringing in a kettle as well as the tray of cups and teapots, which she gave to Ranma, who upended the steaming contents upon herself, her body morphing back to his male form. Happosai pouted at seeing this, but hid it at a vicious glare from Akane.

"So," Ranma said to the now sitting dwarf-man. "Talk."

"My tale begins at the docks."

"The docks?" Nabiki repeated incredulously.

"That’s what I said. This all happened while you young whippersnappers were off gallivanting in China. I had just been off doing the noble work of liberating panties for my collection, and was being chased by their owners, who seemed rather angry. Finding myself at the docks, I took shelter in the hold of a small freighter. It must have been a gift from the gods, as the hold was filled with sake and wine. After sampling the wares, I wisely decided to nap, to conserve my strength."

"Nap? You mean you got drunk and passed out." Akane's voice dripped with contempt.

"Akane, sweety," the old man said as he turned to the girl with big, shiny eyes. "Please don't interrupt Grampa Happi while he's telling a story." His voice was sickly sweet, enough to cause a cavity. Akane started in shock and grimaced, her lips twisting as if her mouth was full of a vile taste.

"Now then, where was I?" Happosai continued. "So I had fallen asleep in the hold. Unfortunately, as I slumbered, the crew sealed the hold and set sail. When I awoke and managed to break out of the hold, we were in China."

"China?" everyone asked at once.

"Yes, I ended up in a small Cantonese port. Well, I thought to myself, since I was there, I'd do some sightseeing, get some souvenirs. But alas, for me the Chinese are so boring. Despite all the silk in the country, there was not a single pair of silky panties, not a single thong or teddy. It was hell."

"Wait a minute," Nabiki broke in. "I don't buy that an instant. I mean, Shampoo's Chinese, and I bet she has a frilly little number or two."

"Actually, Shampoo doesn't wear panties," Ranma said absently, his mind too busy wondering when Happosai would get to the point to realise what he was saying.

Open mouth, insert foot.

"YOU’VE BEEN LOOKING UP SHAMPOO'S SKIRT?" Akane screamed, whipping out her mallet. "RANMA, YOU PERVERT!"

WHAM! WHAM! WHAM! SPLAT!

Akane put away her giant hammer and angrily turned away from her fiancé, folding her arms and turning up her nose. Ranma groaned from his position as a pulverised smear on the floor. His arms and legs protruded at awkward angles.

Happosai cleared his throat loudly. "Now perhaps I can continue my story, if there are no more interruptions.” Silence was his reply other than a muffled moan from Ranma.

"During my travels, I came to a small town, nestled in the forests of Fujian province. In this town was a small Buddhist temple. I figured while I was there, I could do with a bit of praying. You know, repent my sins."

"You pray? And I'm the pope," Ranma said dryly.

"You doubt my word, Ranma? I am actually a rather pious man," the old man replied stuffily.

"Yeah, to the god of panties."

"That’s not the point. Now, do you want to hear the rest of this story or not?"

Ranma remained silent, and motioned for Happosai to continue with a slight nod.

"As I was saying… I entered the temple and began to search for the abbot, to hear my sins. However, I found no one… but I did come across a table laden with fruits, nuts and pieces of meat. I figured that it was alms, to feed the poor of the town. Well, after wandering through China, I was a very poor sight, and rather hungry; so I tucked in."

"Why does that seem like a bad idea?" Akane asked dryly.

"Well, no sooner had I began eating when I was attacked by some young rapscallion. He claimed to be the Master of the temple’s own sacred martial arts, and accused me of stealing from the temple. I tried to explain my innocence, but the cad would have none of it. He kept on attacking me and I was forced to flee, so as not to damage the temple and incur bad luck. But the scoundrel followed me; he chased me through China and then followed me back to Japan."

"I lay low for a while, hiding in a loft above the girl’s locker room at Furinkan. Fo…"

"WHAT?" Akane interrupted with angry scream. "YOU MEAN YOU'VE BEEN HIDING OUT AND SPYING ON US GIRLS FOR WHO KNOWS HOW LONG?"

"That really isn't nice, Happi," Kasumi chided. "But it would explain why we haven't seen you around for a while."

"Yes," Ranma agreed, while trying to restrain Akane from pounding the beaten old pervert.

"Anyway," Happosai continued. "After a few days I relaxed and thought I'd lost him. But it turns out he was simply biding his time, waiting for me to emerge. He caught me at an abandoned parking lot not far from here. And then… and then…"

Happosai's voice trembled, and his eyes dropped as he shivered. Ranma thought he saw tears start to fall from the master's withered eyes. His hands wringed at each other nervously as he shuddered, his lip trembling as he slowly drew breath.

"What did he do?" Ranma asked, leaning closer to the old man, curious as to what horrors this warrior put him through.

"He… he…" Happosai stuttered.

"Yes?"

"He… he… burnt my panties."

If Ranma's eyes could pop from their sockets, they would have. Instead, they widened as his brows shot up. His jaw hung loose and worked soundlessly. His panties? He snapped from his frozen, shocked state and lunged across the floor to seize the ancient pervert’s torn gi.

"Panties?" he yelled into the bruised, wrinkled face as he yanked it closer.

"My entire collection… SNIFF… silky ones, cotton ones. My bras and pantyhose, too." Happosai collapsed into a fresh storm of weeping, and Ranma let go of the old man's gi and let the diminutive master drop to the floor.

"You’re pathetic," Ranma said coldly.

"But my pretties," Happosai whined weakly.

"Now, Happosai, calm down and tell us what happened next," Kasumi said calmly.

"Okay," he said, choking down a few last sobs. "Well, as I watched my silky darlings burn, I was overcome with a violent rage. I had to have my vengeance. So I challenged him to a duel there and then, determined to make him suffer." His voice had taken on a harsh, angry tone.

"You lost," Ranma said. It was not a question, just a statement.

Happosai dropped his withered eyes and hung his head, still possessing enough of a martial artist's pride to feel ashamed at his defeat. "Yes," he said after awhile, a hesitant word.

[But you are the master of Anything-Goes!] Genma protested with his signs. [How could you lose?]

That's what I'd like to know, Ranma thought glumly.

"He used some sort of technique, very sneaky but powerful, almost like some sort of witchcraft."

"Of course," Soun exclaimed. "It has to be magic; that is the only way that you could have lost." He almost sounded convinced.

"Magic," Akane snorted. "Blaming your defeat on sorcery. You sound like Kuno."

"Be that as it may," Happosai said. "It does not matter what technique he used. It is up to you, Ranma, to fight him."

"May I ask why?" Ranma spat.

"For the School, boy. You are still the heir to the Anything-Goes School of Martial Arts," Happosai responded sagely.

"This has to do with your panties, old man, not the School," Ranma said dismissively, waving the issue as side with an offhanded gesture.

 "It does, boy. A great deal." Happosai smiled darkly, it looked even more sinister on his bruised and swollen lips and with the way his wrinkled skin folded over his gaunt cheeks. Ranma's eyes narrowed at the pervert's face, but he motioned for him to continue.

"After he had beaten me, as I lay amongst the broken tarmac and melted gravel, he spoke to me… taunted me. He smirked at down at me as he spoke his insults. He said that the Anything-Goes School was a mockery of martial arts, nothing but a pathetic collection of tricks and craven techniques."

The Tendo girls gasped, and Akane squeezed her eyes shut as if to hide from the shame. To insult a school was a grievous dishonour, worse than the loss of the battle.

"Pathetic techniques!" Akane heard someone growl, the voice was so soft, like the whisper of a sword drawn from its scabbard. So cold was that voice, that it took Akane a moment to realise that it had been Ranma who spoke. Opening her eyes she turned to her fiancé.

The room had grown silent, shrouded in harsh, moving shadows cast by the blue light that now rippled and swarmed around Ranma. His aura had ignited about him in rage, and his eyes echoed its fire with an icy, frozen glimmer. His hands balled into white-knuckled fists, nails plunging into his own flesh unfelt. His lips drew back as he growled, teeth grinding.

Akane had only once seen Ranma so consumed with fury; when he fought Saffron, when the blue fires in his eyes had rivalled those summoned by the phoenix prince. But why now, there was no life in danger, no one to defend.

"Happosai." The pervert seemed surprised by the sound of his own name, and withdrew slightly from Ranma's cold glare. "Is this man still in Tokyo?" Ranma asked.

"I… I'm not sure. Maybe."

Ranma nodded and rose. "If he is, I'll find him."

The shadows faded from the room as Ranma slid out through the shogi doors, walking with a tense grace like a prowling lion.

"Oh my," Kasumi said hand fluttering to her mouth. "Is Ranma going to fight?"

"Looks like it," Nabiki responded. "Maybe I should get a betting pool going."

"I would save your time, Nabiki, and pray for luck," Happosai whispered. "He’ll need it"

Akane looked back at the old man. Once again she regarded the bruises and cuts which covered his gnarled features, and the tears and burns in his clothes. She then rose and went slowly followed her fiancé.

She found him in the small room he shared with his father, sitting on the sill by the open window and staring out into the night. The fiery aura had vanished, but the tension remained, his posture taught and quivering like the string of a bow. She moved beside him, standing by his side and watching him. Moonlight poured in from window, and bathed a face devoid of confidence or cockiness, but pure in its spirit, with silvery light.

Akane's breath caught in her throat, and thought melted from her mind. She could hear her own heart, pounding like a drum as she gazed at him. Butterflies flogged her stomach and her palms felt clammy. Ranma, her mind whispered in awe.

A lonely dog howled at the moon.

"You’ve come to try and stop me, haven't you?" Ranma asked. He did not look at her, but continued staring into the night.

"Ranma… I… You…"

"I have to fight, Akane," he said interrupting her fumble for words.

"Why?"

"I am the heir," he said it as if the most simple thing in the world, like he was telling someone that the sky was blue.

"This is the old freak's fight, not yours," she countered.

Ranma sighed. "As much as I hate it, the 'old freak' is still the Grandmaster of Anything-Goes. As a member of the School, I must reclaim our honour."

Akane sniffed pointedly. "Hiding behind honour? You sound like your father.”

Ranma finally turned to her, hurt and anger dancing in his eyes.

"I am nothing like my father," he spat. "I know what honour is."

"This is about what Happosai said. About the fighter insulting the School."

"He called it pathetic," Ranma growled.

"So?"

Ranma's eyes widened and he looked at her as if he had never seen her before.

"Akane…?" he whispered, as if unsure that it was her. "You are as much a part of the School as I am. Does it not make you mad that he insulted us, insulted our Art?"

"Yes, it does," she admitted. "But I know they are just words."

"Words are like swords," he quoted. "They wound."

Akane's face softened, she put a hand on his shoulder squeezing the tense muscle comfortingly.

"The School is everything to me, Akane, and he insulted it. I spent my life training in the Anything-Goes Style, mastering it and improving it. To insult the style is to say that everything I have done and was taught to believe in is bullshit… to say my life is a waste of time, time that could have been spent with my mother." Ranma's voice had trailed away to a whisper and his head hung low, black bangs hiding his eyes.

"Oh, Ranma," Akane breathed, a catch in her voice. "I didn't know."

"No, you didn't," he said coldly. "You never ask, you never know. All you do is judge me, but you have never understood me."

Turning is back on her, he swung out of the window, onto the roof.

Finding herself standing dumbly alone in his room, she turned as walked to her own. Collapsing onto her plush bed, her raven hair spread on the pillow.

You have never understood me, Ranma's voice accused her again.

She never noticed her eyes begin to water, as her attention was fixed on the pain in her heart.


Ranma shifted and squirmed on the roof, easing the sharpness of the roof tiles that were digging between his shoulder blades.

Perhaps I shouldn't have said that to Akane, he mused, and not for the first time since he had come to know the shorthaired girl.

He had hurt her again. The pain that he had seen in her eyes and the pangs of guilt in his chest told him that. He was always hurting her, and this was worse than a casual insult about her tomboy nature or her bust size. Words are like swords, he thought. That was what he had said to her, and he had chosen the wrong words. Always choosing the wrong words, especially where Akane was concerned. He didn't want to hurt her… not her.

Akane cared for him, and he knew that. She called him a pervert, a jerk, but he could see through that. It was in her eyes; everything a person hid was written in their eyes. He cared for her, too, so much that it scared him. He could no longer hide that either, not after Jusendo. He felt something for her, something deep that made him want to protect her. That was why he fought for her, why he strived and took on Saffron tooth and nail. Whether this feeling was love, friendship, or something else, he did not know.

And there were the others.

Ukyo, Shampoo, Kodachi. He shivered involuntarily at the thought of the crazed gymnast; the less he thought about her the better. The other two were a more complex matter.

He cared for them, too. He could not bear it if he lost the light they brought to his life.

Even when he was with Akane, laughing with her his mind would often wander to thoughts of Ukyo and Shampoo. Shampoo with her breathtaking beauty, and Ukyo's humour and friendship.

He could not have all three, but he could not choose one either.

When did life get so confusing? he thought bitterly, gathering himself up to leave the roof.

 

To be continued.


Author’s notes: As I said before, this is not a romance fic… but I do believe Ranma feels something for Akane, so I couldn’t just ignore it. Whether it is love or friendship, or whether it will work out for them…? Well, I'm not saying, ha ha ha ha.

Please tell me what you think: C&C is always welcome.

Chapter 3
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