A Ranma ½ story
by DB Sommer
Any and all C&C is appreciated. You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Disclaimer: Ranma ½ and its characters and settings belong to Rumiko Takahashi, Shogakukan, Kitty, and Viz Video.
Last revision: August 6, 2002
Preface: There are some endnotes that might allay some concerns you might have after reading this chapter.
What's happened before: Akane got her hands on a wish and used it to wish her mother had never been in a car accident and was alive in the present. Well, her mother wasn't in an accident, and is with them in the present, there's only the slight complications that she's there at the ripe old age of seventeen…
The muscles in Akane's back woke up in protest. Their complaints lessened only slightly as she sat up and attempted to massage them from their uncomfortable slumber. It had been too long since she had slept on the floor, even with the tatami mat underneath her. It was beyond her how Ranma could have lived on the road for so long and subjected himself to sleeping in that kind of discomfort. The next time Akane went shopping, she would have to purchase some additional padding for the mat he used on the floor.
Now fully awake, Akane took in her surroundings. She was in Kasumi's room. Now that she thought about it, she had never slept in it before. The handful of times they had guests, or Akane's room had been rendered uninhabitable due to everything from leaks to termite infestation, she had slept in Nabiki's room rather than Kasumi's. It was probably because they were closest to one another in age. Of course, the last time had been over four years ago, and Nabiki had changed enough since then that Akane felt more comfortable staying in Kasumi's bedroom. Sleeping in the same room with someone who had a bad tendency to sell compromising pictures of their sister for pocket change was never a good idea.
But the feel to Kasumi's room, as pleasant as it was, still made Akane uncomfortable. It was different enough that it bothered her. What Akane really wanted to do was sleep in her own room, with its own feel, in her own bed. Of course, concessions had to be made with her mother returned to them, and because it was Akane's wish that had set the events in motion (although now that she thought about it, Kasumi bore some responsibility in the matter since it had been her suggestion to wish for their mother back), it only made sense she had to give up her room, but it didn't make her sore back feel any better.
"Why can't she just get back together with Dad the way she was before she died?" Akane grumbled. As it was, her mother was causing far more trouble than even the usual visitors to the Tendou household, which was doubly vexing since her presence should have made everything better instead of worse.
But there was no way around it. Kachiko Tendou had returned, all of one year older than Akane, and there was simply going to have to be a period of adjustment. Oh, but what an adjustment they were undergoing. Akane just hoped Kachiko returned to normal soon. She had wished for her mother back, a second parent figure that she barely remembered, not someone that wanted to 'hang' with her.
Shooting a glance at the alarm clock on the nightstand, Akane made note of the time. It was getting late, and she had to get going. Throwing an extra bathrobe of Kasumi's over her nightgown, Akane headed toward the bath. Living in a house with two sisters and three other men meant making a sort of unofficial schedule for when people could make use of the bath in the mornings. Kasumi was always the first up and finished with it before anyone, so that was never a problem. Nabiki was second, with Akane third, and the men in some other order. Right about now Nabiki should be finishing up and Akane would have free reign for half an hour.
Upon opening the door to the bath, Akane learned otherwise.
"No, you move over. I was here first."
"No, I was here first. It's my house, and you're my child, so you need to learn to behave and mind your place. Mommies go first."
"Oh, please. You might get Daddy and the others to roll over for you, but that's not going to work on me."
"Go use the furo and let me brush."
"I always brush my teeth first, then use the furo."
Akane sighed. It was quite the scene. Nabiki stood clad only in a towel, and their mutual mother wore only a sleeveless halter-top that ended nowhere near her waist, and a pair of pink panties. Both were armed with toothbrushes and jostling for position next to the sink. "Can't you two just share it?"
"I was here first and want to brush my teeth in peace," Nabiki said.
"I'd do it, but there isn't enough room since her hips are nearly as wide as yours."
"They are not."
"The heck they aren't. All of the clothing you loaned me was just as loose as Akane's, Hippy." Kachiko used her own hips to push Nabiki to the side slightly.
Nabiki forced her way back to where her previous spot, though her attempt to bump her mother away proved futile. "And speaking of renting things, exactly where did you get the money to not only pay for that, but for your new wardrobe?"
"I have my sources."
"Those sources wouldn't happen to be my pockets, would they?"
"Oh ho! As though someone who would rent clothing to her destitute mother has the right to accuse her of stealing as well. And by the way, you don't have a job, so what's your source of income, besides shaking down time-traveling parents, hmm? Maybe I should be the one accusing you of doing something wrong."
"I have my sources," Nabiki stated every bit as firmly as her mother had before.
Akane was chilled by just how alike the two girls were, shooting cold glares at one another. Quickly inserting herself into the fray, before the duo really started tearing into one another, Akane walked up and said, "Come on, guys. We can all get along. We're just under a little pressure from all the changes we've undergone over the last few days. We have to make concessions until we can learn to live under the same roof." She turned to Nabiki. "Why don't you let Mom have the sink first, just like you would a guest? Later on we'll discuss who should get the bath second tomorrow and everything will run a lot more smoothly."
Kachiko gave a hard, affectionate slap to Akane's back. "Yeah, listen to your younger, and far more respectful, sister. She knows the proper way to treat houseguests. I can tell who my favorite child is going to be."
Akane shifted uncomfortably under the grip. Even coming from someone that was only seventeen, the words had an odd, almost pleasing, effect on her. Still, the situation was too odd to truly relax in, so Akane tried moving away. "Mom, cut it out."
The words seemed to stir Kachiko in some way as well, and she hurriedly removed her hand from Akane's shoulder. Turning back to Nabiki, she said, "All I need to do is finish brushing anyway and then you can have the sink. In fact, I'll show you my Ultra-Quick Brushing Style."
Nabiki said, "No thanks. I don't need to learn how to brush my teeth from you yet again."
"But this is the quick way. Give me your brush." Without waiting for a response, Kachiko snatched Nabiki's out of her hand before she could react.
"Hey! Give me that back. I don't want your germs all over it."
"Relax. I've only got one cold sore, so there's nothing to worry about." Kachiko brandished the toothbrushes in hand, as though there were stubby daggers of death rather than bristly tools of oral hygiene. "Once, during the long and difficult journeys of my youth, I discovered a lost temple in the Himalayas. It was there that I conquered its ancient guardian and discovered this ancient Indian technique of the obscure, and dangerous art known as Brush Fu."
"You made that up," Nabiki said.
"I did not!" Kachiko insisted. And it was the truth. Of course, she had been in India because of a school field trip, rather than some exotic training journey. And she hadn't exactly found the temple on her own. It was on a map Wakaba had given her that listed the temple as being in the deepest, highest part of the Himalayas. Although for some reason the map failed to mention that the path was prone to avalanches, the constant temperatures were well below zero, the freak snowstorms were bad enough to cause even the Sherpas to shun it, and that numerous tribes of carnivorous Yetis frequented the area. And the course on the map actually led to a bottomless pit rather than a temple, but it wasn't Wakaba's fault the map was slightly off. It turned out the temple was close by, and it had an ancient guardian too; ancient in the sense that he was a ninety-year old man who was suffering from arthritis. But in his prime he had probably been tough. It ended up with the master of the temple consenting to teach Kachiko the ancient technique of Brush Fu in return for leaving him alone. When Kachiko returned, Wakaba had been so relieved that she broke down and cried hard enough that she had to be sedated.
But there was no need to bother the girls with such minor details.
"Observe the pinnacle of what one thousand years of training in the art of brushing can achieve!" Kachiko loaded up the brushes with toothpaste until it was falling off the sides, then brought them up to her teeth. She smiled once for the girls, then went to work.
Her hands were two blurs that could have rivaled Ranma's Amaguriken on a good day. The air was alive with electricity and a hum that made the very air itself vibrate. The smell of fluoride filled the air, and even Nabiki raised an eyebrow at the amount of white foam that began to drip for Kachiko's mouth.
And as suddenly as it started, the brushing stopped.
Akane whistled in appreciation. "I can see where that could be useful. That took less than three seconds, and you had to have gotten every spot with how vigorously your hands were moving. I can see where it might be… Mom, why are you making gagging noises while your eyes are bulging?"
"I think she's choking on one of the brushes," Nabiki said casually.
Thinking quickly, Akane grabbed the struggling Kachiko from behind and gave her a Heimlich maneuver. The toothbrush went flying across the room.
"You owe me a new toothbrush." Nabiki decided she would skip the brushing today and started to clean herself off before heading for the furo.
"What kind of a stupid technique was that?" Akane said.
"Told you… It was… Dangerous. Only a true… Master… Can use such techniques… Safely," Kachiko gasped out.
"I have enough dangerous things going on in my life without adding brushing to it," Akane said firmly.
"A true martial artist… Fears nothing," Kachiko rasped out, along with a good quantity of foam. She wiped her mouth off with a towel, leaving a huge quantity of foam on it, and headed for the door to the bathroom.
"Mom," Akane protested.
Akane pointed to her skimpy outerwear. "You shouldn't be walking around the house dressed like that."
Kachiko reexamined her garments. "I suppose you're right. I'm not used to other guys being around. Dad used to be the only other man here, and I liked prancing around in my underwear because he thought it was so improper. He was so uptight it was really annoying. He never let me do anything that wasn't absolutely 'proper' for a woman. Be happy your old man isn't that strict. Of course, he's way more perverted than my father is; still, I think you've got the better end of the deal." Kachiko exited the room.
A moment later, the girls heard a gasp that could only be their father's. It was followed by an, "Eek! You pervert! Don't look at me like that!" and the sound of a fist meeting flesh.
"Yep, some adjustments definitely need to be made, oh sister of mine," Nabiki said idly to the cringing Akane as she relaxed in the furo.
"Today's shaping up to be a wonderful day."
"You need to be more upbeat," Akane told Nabiki. It had taken them longer than usual to finish in the bathroom, put on their clothing and make up, and finally head downstairs to the dining room for breakfast.
Akane entered and saw everyone but Kachiko was already present at the table. She smiled at Ranma and walked over to take her usual position between him and his father. As she sat down, she found the floor unexpectedly lumpy and warm.
"Damn it, you're too big for my lap! Get off!"
Akane nearly jumped in the air. She turned to see her mother had somehow been quick and agile enough to contort herself into the position between Ranma and Genma even as Akane had been in the process of sitting down. A low growl issued from Akane at what had just happened.
Kasumi cleared her throat. She said to Kachiko, "There's a space next to Father."
"Good." Kachiko responded, then said to Akane. "There you go. Plenty of room over there."
Akane relented and accepted the seat, decidedly displeased that her mother was sitting next to Ranma and smiling at him in a way Akane most definitely did not like. Not that Ranma was doing anything about it either.
As breakfast was served, everyone directed their attention to the newcomer at the table, who seemed oblivious to it for the most part as she accepted some food.
"I'm not sure you attending school is such a good idea," Soun said, staring longingly at Kachiko.
"I need to further my education and get a college degree, since all the martial arts instructors are getting them. Besides, I want to hang around people my own age and do the same things they do. And it's where I belong." Kachiko accepted a bowl of rice offered by Kasumi.
"But Mother, instead of spending time in school, you could stay here and get to know Father better," Kasumi offered.
"All the more reason to go," Kachiko said icily. "Look, we'll just say I'm your cousin who's a transfer student. And for God's sake, don't call me 'Mom'. I don't want people to think I'm some sort of weirdo."
"People won't think you're a weirdo because we call you Mom," Nabiki provided.
"It'll be for other reasons."
Kachiko shot Nabiki another glare. She placed her chopsticks into her bowl and met nothing but the bottom. She looked down to discover it empty. She stared at it curiously before asking Kasumi for seconds. "Actually, I want all of you to start calling me Kachi from now on, even when we're outside of school. This whole 'Mom' thing is really starting to freak me out. It's like you're my kids or something."
"All right, Kachi," Soun said happily.
"You can call me Miss Tendou," she started coldly.
Soun's moment of happiness passed and he stared depressingly back into the table.
Kachiko said, "It's just I want my life to be restored to some semblance of normalcy."
Nabiki said, "I doubt if your life held any semblance of that. On the other hand, I think you'll fit right in, Kachi."
"Thanks, I guess," Kachiko said reluctantly. She went to take a bite, and discovered her bowl empty once again. She hadn't realized she was that distracted if she finished two bowls of food and not realized it. She got a third helping, narrow waistline be damned.
"How are we going to get you admitted?" Ranma asked as he continued shoveling his own food in his mouth.
"We'll just say my transfer information must have gotten lost in the mail. Then we can slip in later and alter my old high school files and make them into new ones or something," Kachiko said as though breaking and entering and falsifying records was as natural as walking down the street.
"I guess that can work," Ranma finished swallowing the last of his rice.
Kachiko said, "Oops. You have some food on your cheek."
*You're such a sloppy eater, Boy,* Genma signed as he continued helping himself yet again to Kachiko's bowl of rice while her attention was elsewhere.
Ranma rubbed his left cheek with his arm.
"It's on the other side. I'll get it." She grabbed Ranma by the head and licked the offending grain of rice from his cheek running her tongue far below where it lay and continuing long after removing it.
Akane made a strangling noise. She was about to shout in outrage when a booming voice at the head of the table bellowed, "RANMA! HOW DARE YOU SIT BEFORE ME AND SEDUCE MY WIFE!"
A demon head three times larger and radiating an aura or naked rage greater than any had seen before emitted from Soun. All save Kasumi cringed away from the aura of raw terror he projected.
So great was the fear that even Ranma found his hair standing on end and his legs involuntarily moving him to a far corner of the room. His mouth ran on automatic as he got out, "Its-not-my-fault-she-did-it-Ill-be-less-sloppy-from-now-on!"
The demon head shrank down. "You'd better watch your step, boy. I'm not putting up with your usual shenanigans," Soun warned. He was going to say more, but felt the table tremble under his palm.
Akane felt the same thing and looked under it. "Mom… I mean, Kachi… what are you doing there?"
Eyes wide with fear, Kachiko said, "I'm hiding from that scary thing. It had a huge demon head, and looked evil and had a long snakelike tongue. Didn't you see it? It was a monster."
Nabiki looked under it as well and smirked at the sight. "I thought you said true martial artists weren't afraid of anything."
"You've got to draw the line somewhere, and terrifying demon headed things are over the line. So are tentacle demons." Kachiko shuddered.
Soun finally stuck his own head under the table. "I'm sorry, Kachi-chan. I just—"
"Keep away!" she screeched and scurried out from under the table and behind Ranma. "Protect me!" she shoved him forward.
"I'm the one he's angry at! He likes you! You protect me!" he switched around so that he was behind her and shoved her forward.
"Be a man!" she grabbed him by the shoulders and thrust him forward again.
He switched them again. "You be a man."
"I don't have a gender curse, so I can't be." She ducked behind Ranma.
Soun burst into tears. "My own wife is afraid of me."
Kasumi tried consoling her father. "Now, now. I'm sure it'll be all right." she turned to Kachiko as she and Ranma continued jockeying for cover behind the other. "Mother, Father promises not to do that again in your presence."
Kachiko relaxed slightly, now regarding Soun in a more cautious light. "Well, just so long as he doesn't. That was way too creepy. My hand's still trembling." She held it up to show them.
"Well, it's not completely uncalled for," Nabiki said, with a sly smile. "After all, you did go over the line there. I mean, do you really think it's proper to lick the face of your daughter's fiancé?"
It took a moment for what Nabiki said to register with Kachiko. "What's that supposed to mean?"
With obvious pleasure, Nabiki said, "Oh, that's right. In all the confusion, no one thought to mention it to you. Ranma's engaged to Akane."
A pall that eradicated any lingering vestiges of Soun's aura suddenly seemed to hover all over the room. The air around Kachiko distorted slightly, and her eyes narrowed as she was surrounded by an aura of her own rage. And then, even more suddenly than it formed, the storm broke loose.
"That's insane!" Kachiko wailed in dramatic fashion as she pleaded to the skies. "Sixteen is too young to be engaged! You have your whole life ahead of you! No one should be issued a death sentence when they have so much potential awaiting them! You haven't learned anything yet about the way life really works. You're still changing and growing into the person you'll go on to become. It's always a mistake to marry at such a young age. Given the way marriages during or right after high school turn out, especially with such a high divorce rate, it'll practically guarantee things will end up doomed. It'll lead to nothing but misery and woe. I absolutely forbid this travesty to take place." She slammed her hand down hard enough to nearly crack the table in half, the look in her eyes an open challenge to those that would oppose her will.
Akane, openly moved by her mother's concern, stepped forward and spoke. "Mom. It's okay with me." She blushed slightly. "I mean, it's not like I'm being forced—"
"Who said anything about you? I'm concerned about poor Ranma. There's no way I'll allow him to throw his life away by marrying now."
"Um… I…" Ranma started to say.
Kachiko gave Ranma a tearful glance. "You don't want to settle down before you're ready, right?"
"Umm… well… of course I don't want to before I'm ready. But—"
Before he could continue, Genma ran up behind his son in order to give him words of encouragement, as well as a shove in Akane's direction. "But you have to get married, boy."
Soun joined his friend and helped push Ranma from the other side. He nodded solemnly. "That's right. I'm sorry, Kachi-chan. But Genma and I swore an oath that our families will be united through marriage. It's a matter of honor."
Kachiko stomped her foot like a petulant child. "No! I forbid it. I'm the mother here, and I have some say in the matter."
Soun appeared on the verge of tears from the heated argument with his beloved. However, the weight of the promise in his heart enabled his resolve to remain firm. "It is not negotiable. The Tendou and Saotome schools must be united."
"NOOOOO!" Kachiko shouted at the top of her lungs. "I forbid… Wait a second. The schools need to be united. You mean it's not an arrangement specifically for Ranma to wed Akane?"
"Now you've gone and done it," Nabiki said in a tired voice.
Hesitantly, Genma said, "Err, well, not exactly. Tendou and I agreed to unite the families so the schools would be joined. He had three girls at the time, so it seemed unwise to make the agreement specifically to any one of them. We wanted to keep our options open."
"Options open?" Kachiko said pensively. "Options open. Yes. Options open."
Everyone in the room could practically hear the gears of Kachiko's mind turning.
Finally, Kachiko came out of her thoughtful pose. Now she bore an expression brimming with confidence and understanding. "Here's a solution that will satisfy everyone. I have no argument against the agreement. In fact, I think it would be a good idea and it has my blessing."
Soun breathed a sigh of relief.
"Wait for it, Daddy," Nabiki warned.
Kachiko followed up with, "However, there are some stipulations."
"Oh?" Soun said as everyone but Nabiki tensed up.
"The first is that Ranma is allowed to marry whichever girl he chooses."
No one found they could argue with that. If anything, the room seemed to take on an air of relief at the reasonable suggestion.
Kachiko smiled beatifically. "And the second is that no marriage will take place before both participants graduate high school."
That roused Genma and Soun from the air of lassitude that had begun to surround them. Together, they got out, "But it would be better if it was sooner."
The cold glare Kachiko shot both men managed to silence even Genma. "No. It would be better if we wait a couple of years and see what happens. There's no need to rush into something as serious as marriage. It's not like there's a time limit or anything. I don't think anyone's ready to be parent here?" She turned her gaze to the three girls and Ranma.
Kasumi looked uncomfortable. Nabiki scoffed. Akane blushed furiously and said, "No way!" Ranma looked as though Ryouga had just punched him between the eyes as he tried to conceive little versions of him running around shouting, "Daddy!" His body convulsed once.
Kachiko appeared satisfied at the results. "I'd say all the participants are in agreement. Oh yes, one last thing. It's a minor matter, really. Since I'm a Tendou, I'm qualified to fulfill the promise as well."
Soun nodded. "That's understandable and makes sense… What? No! You can't!
Kachiko openly scoffed at the statement. "Of course I can. I'm a female of the species. Single. Heterosexual. Obviously capable of bearing children." She ruffled Kasumi's hair.
"But you're married to me!" Crying full bore, Soun latched onto Kachiko's leg like a drowning man thrown a life preserver, which he would actually soon need with the amount of water his eyes were generating. Kachiko responded by pounding him on the head, trying to pry him off, shouting that 'she wasn't a paleontologist, so she had no interest in 'Old Fossils', and that he should release his death grip on her leg before she really let him have it'.
That signaled an end to breakfast. Everyone else left the room as Kachiko was forced to drag the sobbing Soun attached to her leg.
Akane and Ranma left together. As they made their way through the house, Akane asked, "So, do you think Mom's going to get her way this time?"
"Probably. Although, now that I think about it, it's probably not such a bad thing. I think maybe she's right." Ranma stopped and became lost in thought as he tried to find the right words. He closed his eyes, and tried visualizing everything as he said it. "I mean, I have to admit, I've always felt kind of trapped or forced into doing things with my Dad and yours always pressuring us to get married. But the idea of waiting a while really appeals to me. It's like no one's trying to force me into something, and I can just take it easy since there ain't a hurry. Don't you think so…?" Ranma trailed off, finding Akane nowhere in sight.
A miasma of anger mixed with disappointment shrouded Akane. She had left Ranma's side after he said the postponement was a good thing. Not that she was in a hurry to be married or have kids either, Kachiko was right about that, but he could have at least had the decency to put up a token protest about the ultimatum. Instead, he was his usual carefree self without considering how other people might feel about the matter. Even if said people were not entirely certain about how they felt.
He could be such a jerk sometimes.
Ranma walked along the top of the fence, fully aware of the wall of silence that had somehow risen between him and Akane as the two of them and Kachiko made their way to school. Evidently Akane didn't feel the same way about the delay that he did. Sure, she had been willing to marry him once, but one of the reasons he had not pressed the issue about marriage even after the wedding was disrupted was because somewhere deep down inside he felt the timing was off. Kachiko had been right on the money when she said marriage at sixteen was too soon. There was plenty of time for that sort of thing later in life, when he didn't have school, constant training, people harassing him left and right, and the rest of the chaos his life held to distract him from the importance of family life.
Regardless of how his father had raised him and how well he had turned out, Ranma wasn't going to do things the same way. Settling down in marriage and having children was important and all-consuming, and if he was going to be married, it wasn't so he could run off with his child for a decade or so and leave everything else behind. On the other hand, maybe if he married now, in five or ten years he would want to run away, like his father had, and live on his own with only a child in tow. There were times during the very worst of moments when he felt sort of trapped in his situation with all the other girls and rivals hounding him. Those times usually passed quickly, since in his eyes things being boring would have been far worse to deal with, but his mind could grasp the edges of the concept of what being married and settling down in one spot for the rest of his life right now would be like. He thought he just might be able to empathize, however slightly, with how his father felt being married and tied down and why he would have left the woman he loved for so long. And the idea that Ranma might feel the same way at any point in his life disturbed him. So with unusual seriousness, he considered the matter and felt it would be best to hold things off until he was certain he was ready to settle down for good. He didn't need any further complications like that now. In a few years, who knew?
Akane was just going to have to deal with it. He would have discussed it with her, but he had no idea where to begin, wasn't comfortable with sharing the serious feelings (with her or anyone), and knew she wouldn't take it well no matter how reasonable it was. So he let the matter alone, confident things would return to normal, like they always did.
It was ironic that someone who had otherwise caused him nothing but grief since her arrival had finally done something in his favor, even if Kachiko's motives were stemming from her own interests rather than his, regardless of what she claimed. What made her worse in some ways was that he couldn't deal with her they way he could others because of the connection to the Tendou family, as well as the fact that until a couple of days ago she was dead. Even he could sympathize with being given a second chance under those conditions. It was just a pity she wasn't directing her attention to Mr. Tendou instead of himself.
Still, with Kachiko actually helping him for a change, maybe it was a sign of things to come, and that she wouldn't be causing him any more problems.
"Ranma, why are you walking on the top of the fence?" Kachiko asked.
"Oh." she said, then lashed out with her right, striking one of the fence's supports just as Ranma put his full weight on it. The blow was enough to bend the metal forty-five degrees. Gravity took over from that point, and dumped Ranma into the water of the canal running alongside.
"It's not working very well," Kachiko said in all earnestness.
Ranma dragged her drenched person out of the canal, spitting water out along the way. She raised her fist in Kachiko's direction. "What'd you do that for?!"
"Testing your balance." She walked ahead past the damaged section of the chain-link fence, and nimbly jumped up to the top. She proceeded to walk backward effortlessly along it. "You failed, by the way."
Ranma jumped over the fence and onto the street next to Akane. Now his fiancée's ire was replaced with some measure of sympathy, and she handed Ranma a handkerchief. The cursed-girl used it to dab at her face.
"So what's the school like nowadays?" Kachiko asked as she continued walking backward.
Ranma shrugged. "It's school. They teach boring things. You talk with friends. Your enemies harass you. The usual. Oh, the principal's a major nutcase. He's got a Hawaiian fetish, makes up stupid rules, and is always trying to cut your hair short. Worse, he's a Kunou."
That perked Kachiko's interest. "The principal's name is Kunou? You mean they finally got rid of Principal Faust?"
Akane and Ranma looked at each other. Akane shrugged. "I've never heard of a Principal Faust. Principal Kunou has been in charge since Kasumi was there. I don't know who was there before."
Kachiko seemed surprised, then visibly brightened at the statement. "Wow. I didn't think they'd ever get rid of Principal Faust."
Seeing her distracted, Ranma at last acted on her plan. The redhead pointed directly behind Kachiko and shouted, "Look! It's Haley's Comet!" Then hit the support Kachiko had been standing on.
Akane rolled her eyes. "Honestly, Ranma, no one is stupid enough to fall for that—"
The two looked at the disturbance in the canal where Kachiko's body had hit.
"All right, maybe Mom — I mean, Kachi — is stupid enough to fall for it."
The two waited for Kachiko to surface and begin cursing at Ranma. Fifteen seconds passed, and the last of the ripples had disappeared when the pair realized something was wrong.
"Looks like we know who you inherited your buoyancy from," Ranma said as she leaped over the newly ruined section of fence and into the water.
Akane had reached the shore of the canal by the time Ranma surfaced with Kachiko tucked firmly under her arm. She made it the rest of the way, Akane helping with the burden and placing Kachiko's limp body on shore.
Ranma looked down at the motionless girl. "Umm. she might need mouth-to-mouth. I think it would be a really bad idea if I—"
"Yes, it would be," Akane confirmed. She went to her knees next to Kachiko's head and bent over.
It was at that moment that Kachiko sat up lightning quick, shouting "But I'm not a lesbian!" Her head impacted with Akane's hard enough to knock the bent over girl backwards and onto her bottom.
Seeing Akane was only momentarily dazed, Ranma turned her attention to Kachiko, who was obviously out of sorts as well. "Are you all right?"
It took several blinks for Kachiko to focus on Ranma. "Yes. That was strange. One second everything was fine, then all of a sudden the world seemed to lose focus and I got dizzy. The next thing I knew you were fishing me out of the water."
"What was that bit about not being a lesbian?" Akane asked, her sensibilities returned.
Kachiko made a face that promised violence for someone. Through gritted teeth. "I was remembering this Grade-A bull-dyke named Yumi that used to go to school. She was pure evil, always trying to come up with ways to trick girls into kissing her and making them as perverted as she was. She was always causing trouble. She hit on me constantly."
"Well, we don't have anyone like that," Ranma assured her. "Plenty of jerks at school, and energy draining teachers, but no lesbians trying to trick girls into kissing them."
"I can deal with anything, as long as I don't have to fend of the advances of women." Kachiko said. "By the way, how did I end up in the water?"
"You, ah, fell in," Ranma said.
Kachiko looked at the fence she had been standing on right before everything went dizzy. "No doubt because the defective metal the post I was standing on just happened to give out as I crossed it, right Ranma?"
"Sounds good to me." Ranma put on her best poker face.
Kachiko punched her in it. She then whipped out a small notebook and spoke aloud as she scribbled in pencil, "Can't lie worth a damn." And replaced it within her blouse.
"Hey, you knocked me into the water first!" Ranma protested.
"He's right, Mom. I mean Kachi."
"It's different when a girl knocks a guy in the water than when a guy knocks a girl in the water. Everyone knows that."
"Oh, good point," Akane said.
"It is not!" Ranma shouted.
Kachiko gave a laugh, one that was reserved for people watching small dogs try to chase cars in vain. "Of course it is."
Akane nodded in solemn agreement. "Ask anyone. They'll tell you."
"It's not the same thing!" Ranma insisted, but it was to no avail as the girls, confident in having made an unarguable point, continued on to school.
"I'll prove it!" she shouted at their ever-dwindling forms. Ranma looked around until she spotted someone that could answer the question. "Hey, you!"
"No time to talk. Little Azusa is late for school." Azusa speeded along
Thinking quickly, Ranma dug around her pocket until she came up with what she had been searching for. She held it high above her head for Azusa to see. "I'll trade you this really, really cute thing if you'll answer a question."
Azusa turned on a dime, picked it up, named it Marcelle, and skated up to Ranma. She looked at the item he held. "It's just a bottle cap."
That was unexpected. "Err, it's a cute bottle cap."
"It's rusty. Rusty isn't cute. I'm going to school."
"Aw come on. I'll give you something else cute if you answer a question for me."
Azusa made a circle around Ranma, looking over her the way a vulture might examine a man lost in a desert and fifty miles from the nearest oasis. She said, "Okay. If Azusa can have Louis, she'll answer your question."
Ranma nodded, happy to finally win by making her answer the question. "Is a girl knocking a guy in the water the same thing as a guy knocking a girl in the water?"
"Don't be silly. Of course not. Everyone knows that. Come along, Louis."
"But it is the same thing! They aren't different in— Hey! Give me back the drawstring on my pants!"
"You said Little Azusa could have Louis, and now she does. Bye-bye."
Ranma lunged at the diminutive skater, but she darted into the busy street to avoid the clutching grasp. Ranma tried to pursue, but her pants fell to her ankles and she tripped over them, falling face-first into a pile of gooey mud. She remained motionless.
"This just ain't my day," she complained to the ground.
There was the sound of two vehicles colliding. A moment later a voice shouted, "Oh no! That container full of deadly snakes just broke open."
Ranma found the energy to pull her face out of the mud. Sure enough, a small army of serpents was heading right for her at eye level. "Nope, not my day at all."
"And there's no concertina wire along the top of the wall either."
"No, M… I mean Kachi."
"Highly trained, genetically enhanced, intelligent guard dogs?"
"None of those either."
"Lasers to fry anyone trying to escape the school grounds?"
"Things sure have changed around here."
While Kachiko stood in the middle of the schoolyard, taking in all of the changes since her days of attending Furinkan, Akane turned to see Ranma, now male, had finally rejoined them. "What kept you?"
"You know, the usual," Ranma said casually.
Kachiko turned as well. "Hey, I like the belt and vest, but I'm not so sure about the boots. Are those snakeskin?"
Akane said, "Um, Ranma, you look a little puffy."
"It's just the snake venom. Don't worry. It'll pass."
Just as Akane was about to say more, the familiar form of the Principal popped up before the trio. "Aloha, everybody."
"Aloha," Kachiko said merrily. "I didn't know they had cruise directors at the school."
"That's the principal," Ranma said dryly to Kachiko.
Kachiko considered that. "It's still an improvement over fascist dictators."
The Principal turned his full attention to Ranma. "I be given ya da good news first, my little keiki."
"If you're bothering me with it first, that means it's something extraordinarily bad," Ranma retorted.
"Be showing a little more faith, Mr. Saotome. I be getting de great inspiration on how to raise de school spirit and showing support for Furinkan."
"And just how's that?"
The Principal whipped out a needle and some jars of dye. "We be giving all the little keiki tattoos to be showing their loyalty to de school. Here's what they be looking like when they're done." The principal rolled up his sleeve and showed them the tattoo on his bicep. It showed a picture of the Principal's smiling face with the letters 'Furinkan Forever' directly above it.
Akane backed behind Ranma as he recoiled in horror at the image. "No way am I getting that hideous thing put on my arm!"
The Principal brandished his tools like they were hair clippers. "Don't be so reluctant. All de keiki be getting de ink done nowadays."
Ranma met the Principal's lunge with a boot to the face. Showing more resolve than usual, the Principal continued to press the issue, trying to put the tattoo anywhere on Ranma's body.
As the fight began in earnest, Kachiko backed away and assessed things with a critical eye. The Principal might have appeared the buffoon, but he had some measure of skill. Ranma was the real object of her attention, though. She could practically feel the power within him, and there was no doubt he was holding back, most likely for the Principal's sake. She hadn't realized he was that good. That made her a bit wary. She was used to being the top dog around school, and very much liked that position. She had automatically assumed that would be the case here as well. The idea that Ranma might be stronger irked her, even if she did like him. Martial arts and romance were two different things. Still, strength was different from skill, and she had encountered people with more raw power than her. It was tactical skills, adaptability, deception, and ruthlessness that were the keys to victory, especially when it came to powerful opponents. She'd just have to come up with something to counter Ranma's superior power when the time came for that rematch he'd been harassing her for.
Kachiko's attention was so totally focused on studying Ranma's style that she failed to notice the man approaching until he was next to her. Suddenly she found her vision blocked by a taller, intruding form.
"Can it be?" he said
Caught off guard, Kachiko looked around to see if he might actually be asking someone else, but she was the only one present. "Can what be what?"
"Can it be that I have suffered a blow to the head and am seeing double, or is it that I have been blessed with not one, but two Akane Tendous?"
"Oh, that," Kachiko said. "Actually, my name is Kachiko, but you can call me Kachi. The strong resemblance I have to Akane is because I am her cousin, and definitely not because I'm her mother who traveled through time and ended up stuck here because of a wish."
Ranma heard Akane gasp. Since something potentially important might have come up, he finished off the Principal, and turned to see what had caught her attention. "Oh, crap. We should have seen this coming."
"Ranma, make him go away. We shouldn't be letting Kunou harass Mo… Kachi."
"Aw, come on. She can handle him."
"But I don't want her thinking everyone in the school is as much an idiot as him."
"Don't worry about it. There's only one Kunou, thankfully. And besides, if he's bothering her, that means he's not bothering you."
"Well, there is that," Akane admitted.
Unaware of the conversation, Kunou continued gazing down at Kachiko. "Of course, no fair maiden such as yourself could be the mother of any child. Pristine and pure, you are like the driven snow, untouched and unsullied." He latched onto her hand, holding it up to his chest. "Can you feel it? My heart racing like the gentle beat of the birds as my eyes bask upon your beauteous form?"
Kachiko stood motionless, her mouth agape.
Kunou went from holding her hand to his chest, to clasping it in both his. He looked down at her, his eyes tearing as he said, "A fierce lioness of passion such as yourself is almost too much for my countenance to bear. Were I to be struck blind at this moment, I would be grateful, for it would mean the last sight I beheld on this earth would be you."
He backed off, and looked forlorn at the sky. "Your Beauty. The Winds. The Oceans. My Passion. All the same: Relentless."
"Was that poetry?" Kachiko asked as she stared at the youth in disbelief.
"Nay, for there are no words that can do your beauty justice. All they might do is describe its effect upon me." He raised his bokken to the heavens. "I woke this morn without hope, but now I see that it was but the first day of the rest of my life, one to be filled with joyous rapture for all of my existence!" He grasped Kachiko firmly by the shoulders. "What say you to this, oh Angel of Elegance? Would you bless myself with your presence for eternity?"
Ranma and Akane winced slightly as Kachiko drew back and said…
"Oh, wow! That's so cool. No one's ever made up poetry about me before. Oh sure, some guys try it, but all they manage to do is stumble over themselves and only get out 'You're cute' or something else that anyone can say. But you do it so well, it's really sexy. And you're good-looking too. Do you have a girlfriend?"
The reaction stunned Ranma and Akane as well as making them recoil in horror.
"This can't be happening," Ranma said.
"I refuse to believe it," Akane seconded.
"She's setting him up to kick him in the balls or something."
"No member of my family, especially not my mother, can possible think Kunou is anything but an idiot."
"She can't think he's cute. She said she thought I was cute!" Ranma protested.
Akane punched him in the head. "You're missing the point here! My mom thinks that idiot among idiots is attractive and datable material."
"And she said she thinks I'm cute. Which means in her eyes Kunou is equal to me. Or worse, since she met him after me, that he's even cuter than me. I refuse to stand for that kind of insult!"
That earned him another smack. "That's not what I'm saying, though I admit I can't understand it either. Think of it this way. Worst-case scenario. Horror story stuff. Let's say they hit it off really well and things result in her… I can't believe I'm actually saying this, marrying him."
Ranma shuddered. "That is horrible. Three Kunous in the world is more than enough."
"It gets worse. And then you marry into our family. Three words for you: Father-in-law."
Ranma held his hands to his head screamed at the top of his lungs.
Akane trembled in rage. "Mom doesn't understand the situation. She's still disoriented from her time-travel. I can't let this atrocity happen. Not at any cost." Akane rushed forward to put a stop to things.
Events between the two had gone far enough for Kunou to be gazing deep into Kachiko's eyes and saying, "I would date with you."
Kachiko turned her head shyly away. "I'm not sure if I have any openings in my busy schedule. Let me—" She found her hand ripped out of Kunou's. "What are you doing?"
"I can't let this farce go on anymore." Akane inserted herself between Kunou and the object of his ardor. "You stay away from her, Kunou, or so help me, you'll answer to me."
Kunou brushed his hair back dramatically. "I see, fair Akane Tendou. You are jealous of the attentions I am lavishing upon your cousin, who is clearly not your mother. Fear not. There is room in my heart for you as well. I would date you both!"
Akane gave him an uppercut that prevented him from embracing her.
Kachiko looked at Akane curiously. "So, you're dating Kunou-chan too?"
"Then I can have him?"
"My, you're a greedy little thing, aren't you?"
"I am not! I'm trying to save you from making a mistake."
"What do you mean? Does he have some kind of communicable disease?"
"No, at least, I don't think so. Stupidity isn't contagious. But you don't know him like I do. He's completely deluded."
"Not that deluded. He thinks I'm attractive."
"I like men that are a self-assured. It's the soft-spoken basket-cases that bore me. Give me someone who's confident in himself any day of the week."
"He won't take no for an answer."
"I like persistent men. It means they're really interested in you instead of just passing the time away."
"He's completely insincere. Sure, he says he likes you, but in the same breath he'll say he likes me and someone else. You heard him just now."
"So he likes playing the field. I can respect that. There's no reason you can't date more than one person at the same time, unless you're serious about someone. Have you been on a date with him?"
"Of course not!"
"Then why would you expect him to chase only after you if you keep rejecting him?"
"I don't want him to chase after me!"
"Then why are you concerned about who he says he likes besides you?"
"It's the principle involved."
A man wearing a loud Hawaiian shirt and a palm tree on top of his head popped up between the girls. "Dat's right. I be involved, since it be my Little Tachi we be talking about. Now, either of you little wahine want a tattoo?"
Akane punted him far away. "Now is not the time for stupid puns."
The other member of the Kunou family that was present quickly took his father's place. "Akane Tendou, there is no need for this jealousy. Your cousin, who is not your mother, is clearly not at fault, and it would pain me to be the cause of a rift between such close members of a family. As I said, I would be more than happy to date you both."
His attempt to embrace them was interrupted as Ranma booted him in the head. "Knock it off, you jerk."
Kachiko swooned. "Oh, now Ranma is acting jealous. I haven't been here a week, and already I'm involved in a love triangle."
"I am not jealous and there is no triangle!" Ranma protested.
Kunou reappeared, brandishing his bokken. "Saotome, foul sorcerer. How dare you ensnare yet another woman in your fiendish grasp? Bad enough you have captured both Akane Tendou and the pigtailed girl, but now you have the audacity to hold yet another who has been here but a handful of days. I will dispatch you and free all of them from your clutches."
"Wow! Now they're fighting over us," Kachiko said in delight.
"Not for long." Akane watched Kunou take a third hit in as many seconds.
"I didn't say it was an even fight. It's the principle of the thing."
The Principal appeared again. "You called."
"Enough!" Both Akane and Kachiko bludgeoned him this time.
It was between classes that Nabiki Tendou made her way through the school hallways, looking for one person in particular. Ordinarily, she could have taken her time with things, but after the events of the morning, the predictable misinterpretation of what had happened led nearly everyone to conclude that Ranma was not only involved with Akane, but Kachiko as well. Nabiki wondered how Ukyou took the news. Not that her interest was anything other than idle curiosity, but it might have made Ranma a touch more irritable than he was this morning. That would be good. Part of her plan involved Ranma reacting in his typical unthinking manner.
Finally arriving at her destination, Nabiki knocked on the door and waited for the appropriate, "Come on in," before entering.
Miss Hinako, in her younger form, was sitting in her chair. Chocolate marred her impish features as she put the candy bar she had been in the middle of ravenously devouring down. "What can I do for you, Miss Tendou?"
Nabiki noted among the debris of the garbage can next to the desk a number of empty packages of Pocky. A sugar high would make things ever easier. She made a show of appearing surprised. "I have to say, Miss Hinako, you're taking the news rather well."
Hinako blinked. "News? What news?"
Nabiki's 'surprise' doubled. "You mean you didn't hear?"
That made Hinako rise to her feet. "Didn't hear what? Is it about a delinquent?" A coin suddenly appeared in Hinako's hand. She began adroitly flipping it between the fingers of one hand with a skill that belied her apparent age.
"Ah, sort of." Nabiki shifted the conversation back on track. "I'm not sure if I should tell you this. It's not my place."
"I'm a teacher. You can tell me anything. Are you pregnant? Does your father know?"
"No!" Nabiki snapped. "It's about Daddy."
Hinako's interest instantly doubled. "Soun-chan. What about Soun-chan?"
Hearing Hinako speak her father's name in such a familiar way made even the usually stoic Nabiki wince. "Maybe it would be best if someone else told you."
Hinako began tugging insistently on Nabiki's skirt. "Tell me! Tell me what's wrong with Soun-chan."
With a hesitation that was reluctant only in the sense that she wanted to say it faster, Nabiki said, "Well, you know that new girl that transferred into my class today?"
"She's your cousin, right?"
"Well, this is sort of embarrassing to admit, but that's not entirely accurate. Actually, she's Daddy's wife."
Hinako's coin fell from limp fingers. "Wife?"
"Afraid so. If you ask him, he'd tell you he's married to her."
"But, it can't be. He's still mourning your mother."
"He's not the only one in mourning about her," Nabiki said acidly. She cleared her throat and regained control. "It appears Daddy likes them even younger than I guessed."
"No! I refuse to believe Soun-chan would marry someone like that!"
"After learning her personality firsthand, I'd like to refuse to believe it too, but it's the truth." Nabiki said. "You can check with Ranma for confirmation."
Hinako decided to do just that as she picked up her coin and raced out of the room.
Nabiki followed, a smirk on her features.
Ranma was standing in the hall, trying desperately to figure out how to explain to everyone that he most assuredly was not engaged to Kachiko and that he was not monopolizing every girl that came to town, when a yellow blur appeared next to him.
"Ah." He instinctively leaped up to a nearby light fixture. It took a moment for him to only calm semi-down, since it had been Hinako who had appeared, and that when she accosted him, it usually meant trouble. "What didn't I do, that you think I did do, and why did it make you want to try and drain me?"
Hinako placed her hands on her oversized dress and pouted as only an eight-year old could. "This isn't about you and your delinquent ways, Mr. Saotome."
"Is it true that Kachiko girl is Soun-chan's wife?"
Ranma paled. Reflexively he said, "How did you find out about that? It's supposed to be a secret."
Hinako began bawling her eyes out. "Waaah! It is true! It's not fair! I was only standing out of the way because Soun-chan was still mourning his wife! I was waiting for him to be ready to romance! But now some little delinquent got there first!"
"Err, it's not exactly simple."
Hinako was beyond hearing. She boldly proclaimed, "I will not stand for this!" and zoomed off as quickly as she appeared.
"This is really bad," Ranma lamented.
"Want a tattoo to make it better?"
"Would you go away?!" Ranma booted the Principal out the nearest window.
Kachiko was busy answering the questions of her fellow students. The reactions weren't a surprise. They were pretty much the same thing in her day when a new girl came to school. All the other girls would feel her out for possible friendship or rivalry, and the guys would ask questions to see if she was acceptable dating material. It was nice to know that no matter how much things changed, human nature remained the same. That Kachiko was 'related' to Akane, who was fairly popular to begin with, only helped matters and made people inclined to like her.
Of course it was lonely at the same time to be in such relatively familiar environs, and yet none of her old friends and acquaintances were there. In some ways it was like her home; a place where everyone she knew had been exchanged for a pack of strangers. It was times like this she really wished she could tell Sakura the truth. But it wouldn't be fair. Her best friend had made her peace with Kachiko's 'death'. Bringing up the old memories — especially when Sakura had her own life full of concerns — wouldn't be right. And in some ways, it would remind Kachiko of what she had lost as a result of the time trip. No, far better to abandon the hopes and plans of an out-of-reach past and go on to forge a new future with the material she had been dealt.
And now there were so many more possibilities with the interesting Kunou, as well as Ranma, now vying for her attention. So much potential, and this was just the tip of the iceberg. It brought a smile to her face.
"How dare you sit there and smile so smugly, you delinquent!"
Kachiko turned to locate the speaker of such a high-pitched voice. She noticed all of the people that had been crowding around her had chosen to back away both from her and the person that had uttered the insult. "What's your problem, little girl?"
"Ha! You call me a little girl, but I say it's you who's really little. I won't let you get away with this."
Kachiko shifted uncomfortably at the vague insinuation. "Um, get away with what?"
Hinako leveled an accusatory finger at Kachiko. "How dare you steal my man away, you delinquent? I had prior claim on him, and was only holding back because I knew if I tried to pressure him into something, it would've hurt him because he wasn't ready for a relationship, even if it is unhealthy to mourn for that long. And then I find out that you sneaked in and tried to take him out from under my nose. But I'll be generous today. I'll give you one chance to back off, or else you'll be sorry."
Now Kachiko understood. It must have been some elementary school student that had a crush on Kunou. How sweet, in that annoying way only verminous little kids could muster. Snotty little loud-mouthed brats like this were exactly why Kachiko was not enthusiastic at the idea of having children. Still, she forced herself to be civil and reached forward to pat the girl on the head. "Now, now, little one. I think he's just a wee bit old for you. Why don't you run along and find some preschooler that's closer to your age?"
Turning a deep shade of red, Hinako said, "So you openly admit you seduced him?"
Kachiko primped her hair. "If you got it, flaunt it. Although I haven't settled on him. I might be interested in someone else instead. I'm a young gal, you know. I want to keep my options open."
A strangling sound came from Hinako. "You… you're worse than a delinquent! You're a faithless slut!"
Kachiko's temper snapped in an instant. "Excuse me, you sawed-off runt. I am not some tramp that puts out unless I'm firmly convinced I have met Mr. Right! And where do you get off trying to tell me who to date, you annoying little brat? Why don't you go get some Silly Putty, roll yourself into a ball, and scram?"
A murmur of, "Was that supposed to be a humorous insult?" and "It wasn't funny," rumbled through the crowd.
Now absolutely livid, Hinako pulled out a coin and softly intoned, "For not only being an unrepentant delinquent, as well as a slut that seduces older men away from women who are much better suited for them, but for that awful joke, you will face divine retribution!"
Kachiko smirked and kicked back on her heels. "Look, kid, if you're trying to buy me off, it won't work. I'm not some—"
Instantly Kachiko felt every ounce of energy sucked out of her body. Her flesh withered and muscles gave out as she was drained dry. All she could do was lay on the ground in a motionless heap, unable to do more than wonder exactly what just happened.
At the same time, Hinako grew to her older form, filling out her now too short dress in every way. Now much taller than her 'rival',' she stood over the sack of emaciated flesh and stomped her heel on it, twisting her foot around. "I'm afraid you're that one that's bitten off more than she can chew, 'Little Girl'. If you think you can go around seducing men, marrying them, then toying with their hearts by seeking other men, you can think again. I'll steal him away from you, and show him what true love is all about. And if you try to get in the way, I'll drain you until all that's left is dust."
Hinako turned once more on her heel — the one embedded in Kachiko — and stomped off.
"Okay, that's a new one," the withered Kachiko weakly moaned.
Nabiki came into Kachiko's view, bent low enough so that her face was less than half a foot away, and said in a voice dripping with delight, "That was your new English Teacher. She seems to think you're a rival for Daddy's affections. She doesn't respond well to rivals. Welcome to your first day at Furinkan High School. Hope you enjoy your stay."
Kachiko merely lay there, concentrating on difficult things that took a lot of her remaining energy, like breathing. It was beginning to look like being run over by a car and settling down might not be such a bad thing after all.
To be continued.
In case anyone was wondering, no, Kachi getting a harder time this chapter was not the result of people complaining about ANC syndrome. It was always going to turn out this way. It's whatever has the most humor potential at any given time, and the Hinako-Kachiko-Soun thing was planned from the beginning.
Special thanks, as always, to:
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