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A Ranma ½ Fanfic
By Donald McElreath

Disclaimer: These characters have stepped from the imagination of Rumiko Takahashi. They are her children, I'm just baby-sitting.

Chapter 4
Lost Boy Cometh

Genma Saotome watched his son train with Akane, as he waited for his fur to dry enough to be allowed back in the house. It really wasn't fair… It wasn't his fault that panda fur held so much water. The boy totally ignored every method Genma had used training him. Why, Ranma was practically coddling the girl. She'd never improve with such worthless training. However, when he'd tried to point out the errors the boy was making, as the good and responsible father and sensei that he was, he'd found himself thrown into the dojo wall for his trouble.

Well, fine. The boy would just have to learn from his mistakes. Then, when his son realized the enormity of his error, he would have to come and beg his father for his hard-earned wisdom!

Now, if he could only find that something that would push the two together, so that they wouldn't resist his and Soun's noble and honorable desire to get them to the altar as soon as possible and join the Schools. Once he got Ranma married, he could stop worrying about several problems that might come up, simply because they would no longer be problems. He hoped.

He checked his fur and held up a sign to Kasumi. [Can I come in now?]

"Of course, Mr. Saotome," she answered, with the pleasant smile that always made him nervous for some reason. It had to be his overactive imagination, this was Kasumi, after all. She was harmless, right? "Come in and change. Breakfast will be ready in a few minutes."

Genma pulled himself up and walked into the house. <Today I'll find a way to get that ungrateful son of mine to marry Akane and secure the School's future… and my retirement.>

Ranma was teaching Akane a few new signs as they walked home after school. She was getting the hang of the language pretty fast, at least once Ranma had the idea to get her to think of it as learning a kata. Her speed training wasn't meeting with as much success, though. Akane seemed to always put all of her power into every punch or kick she threw, which was fine when they connected. The problem was that it slowed her down. He was trying to her to go through the techniques as fast as she could, without putting any real power behind them, then, when her speed was up, they'd worry about adding in the power.

A truck hit a puddle near the curb just then, sending water flying in a sheet towards the two. Ranma was totally covered, while Akane somehow remained dry.

Akane couldn't help but laugh as her now redheaded fiancé scowled at the departing trunk, then at the puddle. "You really are a water magnet."

Ranma turned her scowl on Akane for a moment before giving a snort and heading off.

"Oh come on, Ranma," Akane said as she followed her. "You know I'm right."

"Excuse me, miss."

The two girls turned to see a boy about their age wearing a dark yellow shirt, black pants with leg bindings around his calves, and a black and yellow bandanna come towards them. There was a large pack with a large red bamboo umbrella strapped to the top on his back.

"You said Ranma?" He glanced at the redhead. "That wouldn't be Ranma Saotome?"

"Yeah," Akane answered without thinking.

The boy walked up and closely looked Ranma over. <Red hair? The coward could have dyed it. Shorter than I remember. It has been a while.> His eyes drifted down to Ranma's wet silk shirt. <Nice breasts. Breasts!!> With a blush, his eyes jumped back to the girl's face. <Ranma's a boy! Boys don't have breasts! But that other girl called her Ranma. How could this be Ranma? Ranma's a boy. She must just have the same name.> Then he got a look at her eyes and something clicked. <Jusenkyo!!>

"Prepare to die, Ranma!!" With that he pulled the umbrella from his pack and swung down at the surprised redhead.

Ranma had been trying to remember where she'd seen this boy before, he just seemed so familiar. The sudden attack caught her off guard and she was only just able the dodge out of the way. She leapt away to avoid the follow up attack and give herself some distance.

"Still running away, Ranma?! It won't save you this time!" The boy charged.

Ranma spun around her opponent, who then tried to connect with a back-fist that forced her to jump away once more. This time, she managed to get enough distance and time to get rid of the shock and center herself again. Now she was ready.

But then something, or rather someone, interrupted. Charging from the side Akane caught the boy in the jaw with a punch that sent him staggering.

Akane put herself between Ranma and the boy before starting to yell at her fiancé's attacker. "Who are you?! Why are you attacking Ranma?!"

The boy glared at Ranma over Akane's shoulder before turning his gaze on the youngest Tendo. "I'm Ryoga Hibiki, and because of him I've seen Hell! I'll destroy his happiness and have my revenge!"

With that, he charged, umbrella held like a battering ram. Ranma jumped forward, grabbed Akane, twisted so they were side on to the charge, and shoved them violently apart. Ryoga passed between them, just missing both and crashing through the wall around someone's yard.

"Ranma! Where are you, you coward?!" Ryoga looked around in every direction except the one in which Ranma lay, then charged off in a random tangent. "You won't escape, Ranma! Come back here and fight like a man!"

Akane listened as the boy's voice moved away, wondering how he could have seemingly gotten lost so easily. After a moment she turned to see Ranma stalking off down the street.


A confused and angry Akane watched as her still-female fiancé stalked off to the dojo as soon as they made it through the gate. During the walk back to the dojo Ranma had ignored her and now had headed off to the dojo without even bothering to become male first. Akane noted Ranma's posture just as she disappeared from view. Arms stiff at her side, fists clenched, even her pigtail seemed to have stiffened and was pointing down along her spine like an iron rod.

<What is his problem?! What's he got to be so angry about?!> Akane asked herself as she entered the house and started to remove her shoes. <Sure, that guy Ryoga attacked him, but he seemed more confused by that than angry. He's acting like he's angry at me. I helped him out! What gives him the right to be angry with me?! The ungrateful jerk!> She sighed, her anger deflating some. <I need to talk to someone, but who? Nabiki?> She snorted. <If I want to be teased and have this whole thing sold around the school. Dad? Yeah, right. Not a good idea. Kasumi? Yeah, Kasumi.>

Ranma entered the dojo, threw her school bag against the wall and launched into one of her more difficult kata. Her agitation was obvious in every line of her body as punches and kicks smashed through the air with almost savage intensity. She pushed herself harder and faster through the exercise. Growing up on the road hadn't given her any way to deal with what she was feeling, so she fell back on the only thing she did know. Martial Arts. Sweat started glistening on her body as she continued to push herself to her limits.

The feelings rampaging through her mind were centered on her fiancée. Or rather what she had done.

<How could she do that?! I didn't need her help! I never need ANYBODY'S help in a fight! She had no right to but in like that! I thought she was my friend! Then why'd she do that?! Like I need protectin' like some cripple! I'm not! So what if I can't talk?! I don't need nobody helpin' me fight!>

Kasumi was making the first preparations for dinner when she noticed her youngest sister enter the kitchen, a combination of anger, confusion, and sadness showing on her face. The young homemaker sighed. <She and Ranma were getting along so well. I wonder what happened?>

"Need to talk, imoutochan?"

Akane nodded and sat down at the kitchen table.

Gathering up the teakettle and a couple of cups, Kasumi joined her sister. She poured each of them a cup and waited. Akane, slowly at first, started to describe her and Ranma's encounter with Ryoga Hibiki. Kasumi listened quietly, never interrupting. Already she could see what the likely problem was.

"But why's he mad at me?!" Akane asked after she'd finished. "I was helping him, for Kami's sake! I didn't do anything for him to get mad at!"

Kasumi took a sip of her tea and set her cup down. "Akane, if you were in a fight and Ranma jumped in to help you, how would you feel?"

Akane thought about that for a second "I'd be angry." <What's she asking me this for? What does this have to do with what happened with Ranma?> But a little voice was starting to nag at the back of her mind.

"And why would you be angry?" Kasumi continued with a smile.

"Because I can take care of myself. I'm a martial artist and I don't need anyone to fight my fights for me." <She can't mean…>

<Yes, she can, and she does,> answered her conscience.

Kasumi sighed just a bit. Her little sister really did need to learn to see things from other people's points of view. "How is that different from you jumping into Ranma's fight?"

Akane opened her mouth to answer but nothing came out. <It's different. It has to be. It… it… isn't?>

Kasumi smiled again as she saw comprehension start dawn on Akane's face. "You must remember that Ranma is used to relying on himself. And due to his… condition, he is likely to be very sensitive to anything that could be seen as pity coming from someone he trusts." She didn't want to say the next part, it would hurt Akane, but she did feel it needed to be said. "In fact, if it were to come from someone he had started to care for, I believe he would feel as if he'd been betrayed."

Akane flinched at that. Betrayed. <Would he see it that way? Would he think I helped him out of pity? That I didn't think he could defend himself? I was just worried about him. But…. Kasumi's right. He probably would see things that way, considering. I've got to talk to him. Apologize, tell him I didn't mean it that way.> Then she remembered something Ranma had said his first day of school. 'If he attacks me, I am going to pound him. If he attacks you, he is all yours. Deal?'

HE seemed willing to let her fight her own battles. Why couldn't SHE do the same for him? <I really am an idiot.>

Kasumi lay her hand on Akane's. "Go talk to him, imoutochan."

"Right. Thanks, oneechan."

Kasumi picked up her cup to finish her tea before starting again on dinner. <I really hope those two don't get like this too often.>

When Akane got to the dojo, Ranma was still going through her kata at full force. Akane gulped, realizing just how pissed the redhead was. This wasn't going to be easy.

"Ranma," she said quietly. Ranma gave no sign of hearing her.

"Ranma." A little louder this time. Again she got no reaction.

"Ranma, please. I want to talk." Akane was starting to get worried, and a little angry, as Ranma still didn't give any sign she knew she was no longer alone.

"Damn it, Ranma! I'm trying to apologize!"

This time, there was a reaction. Ranma stopped her kata suddenly, and stood in a ready stance, sweat matting her hair, rolling down her face and soaking her clothes. She still gave no indication that she had noticed Akane, just stood there as if waiting.

"Ranma…" Akane took a deep breath and began again. "Ranma, I'm sorry. It just looked like you were going to get hurt and I HAD to do something an…" Akane stopped as Ranma turned a burning glare at her. She felt herself go cold at the anger in those blue eyes.

Ranma turned away and stalked other to her bag and pulled out the pad and pen. After angrily writing a note she stalked back to Akane and thrust a piece of paper at her.

'I was not going to get hurt! You did not have to do anything!'

"But-" Akane had another note shoved in her face.

'I am not a weakling or a cripple. I am a better fighter than you and I don't need or want your pity.'

"Ranma I-" Again she was interrupted by a note shoved at her by Ranma.

'Were you ever even my friend?'

Akane looked up and found she couldn't meet the pain she saw in Ranma's eyes. She bowed her head. "You're not weak or a cripple, Ranma. I know I shouldn't have butted in on your fight. It disrespected you as my friend and my sensei. I'm sorry. I am your friend, I always have been. I hope you'll always let me be your friend."

She raised her eyes to Ranma's face, seeing emotions there she couldn't identify. "I worry about you sometimes. It scares me that you might get hurt and…" She stopped, no longer sure of her own feelings.

Ranma raised her hands and slowly signed. *Don't do it again.*

Akane nodded. "I won't, not unless you ask me to."

Ranma scowled. Then she reluctantly nodded. <I guess that sounds OK.>

Sighing in relief, Akane opened her mouth to ask if Ranma wanted to spar, something that he had yet to do with her for some reason, when Nabiki came into the dojo.

"What's this I hear about you two being in a fight?" Nabiki looked the two of them over, but couldn't see any signs that either was hurt. Unfortunately, Kasumi had become rather close-mouthed when it came to Ranma and Akane. Her statement that the engaged pair had been involved in a fight and that they were both in the dojo hadn't been very informative. She needed more data before she could determine if and where to direct vengeance, and had decided to ask the source. <If you've hurt my baby sister, Saotome, you are going to pay.>

"Some boy attacked Ranma on the way home," Akane supplied, then turned to Ranma. "Who was that, anyway? He seemed to know you even with your curse."

Ranma frowned slightly to herself, then signed slowly, using gestures Akane had already learned. *Bath first. Then talk.*

A short time later a now male Ranma knelt at the table with the two younger Tendos. There was a small stack to note paper on the table between them.

"Let me see if I've got this right," Nabiki said after having heard the story via Ranma's written notes. "You and this Ryoga Hibiki went to the same all boys' school before your little trip the China. The school was really competitive so lunch was something of a war zone and you always beat this Ryoga to the last of the lunch bread. He got angry about it and challenged you to a duel, which he never showed for. You waited three *days* for him before leaving? Wait, before your father dragged you off?" <He was willing to wait longer?>

Ranma nodded.

"Okay. Where was this duel going to take place, anyway?"

'A lot about 200 meters from his house,' said Ranma's note.

"Right." <Could anybody get lost that easily?> "He shows up this afternoon, somehow recognizes you in your cursed form, starts yelling about killing you and destroying your happiness. He crashes through a wall trying to attack you, then runs off screaming like he's chasing you?"

Ranma nodded.

"Maybe he hurt his head when he went through that wall," Akane offered.

Ranma quickly wrote out a note. 'Ryoga could get lost in a room with one door and no windows.'

Akane looked skeptical. Nabiki, however, looked thoughtful. <I doubt Ranma's exaggerating about this Ryoga's sense of direction, at least not by much. Which means he could show up just about anytime anywhere. Have to see what kind of safety measures I can take.> Her eyes narrowed ever so slightly at Ranma. <What have you brought down on my family, Saotome?>

"By the way, how did this Ryoga recognize you as a girl?"

Ranma shrugged, having no idea.

"I don't have any idea, Nabiki," Akane answered when her sister's gaze turned her way. "He looked Ranma over, then just started swinging."

"Hmmm." <Either this Ryoga Hibiki is a lot brighter than he seems, he's deranged and just happened to pick the right target, or he's damn lucky. Better keep my eyes and ears open.>

Akane sat at the edge of one of Furinkan's fields a little over a week since Ryoga first appeared. They had received a challenge letter for a duel with Ranma from the lost boy a couple of days after that incident. Only he'd scheduled the duel for the day before the letter had arrived. Still, Ranma had insisted on waiting each day at the assigned place for several hours.

<At least he finally showed up. I can't believe it took him a week to find his way back here.>

Out in the field Ranma and Ryoga faced each other. Ryoga, still wearing his pack, and Ranma with a bag at his side.

"So Ranma… You finally had the guts to show up!" Ryoga challenged.

With a slight shake of his head, Ranma reached into his bag and threw something at Ryoga.

Looking down at the object he'd instinctively caught, Ryoga became confused. "Curry bread? What IS this?"

Ranma had a hopeful look on his face and gestured at the bread.

"What?! Is this a joke?!"

Ranma shrugged and began throwing item after item from his bag at the wanderer. They were all easily caught.

"Chow mien bread? Melon bread? Cutlet sandwich. Meat bread! Seaweed bread!! What are you trying to pull?!"

Ranma blink-blinked.

"You think BREAD is going to solve this?!" Ryoga flipped his pack off his back and unlimbered his umbrella. "This is about revenge!"

With a snarl, Ryoga charged forward a fired a series of jabs at Ranma with the umbrella. Ranma slid back out of range and then leapt into the air. Ryoga followed.

"Thanks to you I have seen hell!!"

The umbrella stabbed forward and Ranma managed to evade with a flip.

From where she sat Akane could tell that Ranma was still confused by the other boy's behavior. She could also tell that he was getting more than a little frustrated by his inability to speak. As Ryoga opened his umbrella and sent it at Ranma like some demented top, Akane saw the confusion be replaced by more frustration and not a little anger.

Following his weapon in, Ryoga pulled a bandanna from his head, revealing another underneath. Snapping the piece of cloth out, he wrapped it securely around the evading Ranma's wrist.

"This'll keep you from running away again!"

Ranma slipped a punch to the head, deflected a high kick with one of his own, and snapped out a jab to the Lost Boy's head that was barely ducked. Things began to slowly escalate with Ryoga still doing most of the attacking.

On the sidelines Nabiki watched the battle with interest. If Ranma lost she stood to make quite a lot of money from all the students that had bet on him. If he won she'd only just break even thanks to the few sizable bets that had been placed on Hibiki. A small part of her actually hoped Ranma would lose. She knew Akane would be upset if Ranma got beaten, but this was business and nothing personal. A commotion over to the to side drew her attention.

"Yow! What's with this umbrella?!"

She saw one of Akane's classmates, Hiroshi, trying to move the item in question. He wasn't having much success. Akane came over and tried, but was only able to lift the handle about six inches or so.

<Damn. If my sis can barely move that thing, then this Ryoga must be a monster.>

Akane apparently agreed.

"Ranma!! Get away from him!! He's got the strength of a monster!!"

Ranma, distracted by Akane's yell, was a little slow in dodging a punch. Ryoga's thumbnail caught his cheek opening a small cut.

"Heh." Ryoga grinned evilly. "Looks like you found out…" He launched another punch at Ranma's head. "… a little too…"

Ranma dropped down and slipped between his opponent's legs. Using their linked arms as a pivot he swung both legs up and into the back of Ryoga's head. Riding the momentum through, Ranma forced Ryoga to the ground on his knees and forehead with one arm pulled back between his legs. He landed sitting on the other boy's back fist raised ready to strike at those vital points he could reach from his position.

"You dare," the wanderer growled as he strained with his free arm to push himself into a handstand with Ranma still on his back, "try to push me to my knees?!"

With a mighty heave he launched both of them into the air. The spectators gaped. This guy had just jumped ten feet in the air using only one arm.

Ryoga kicked at the repositioned Ranma in mid-air. Ranma however seemed to have had enough. Twisting out of the path of the kick he managed to reach the ground first where he braced his free hand and kicked out with both feet. The power of the blow forced Ryoga to let go his end of the bandanna and sent him flying.

The wanderer came crashing down near Akane. He looked up to see Ranma descending and desperately threw a kick that caused the pig-tailed boy's own to miss. He threw himself across the ground, grabbed his weapon and spun to his feet in time to lunge at the charging Ranma. The attack was cleanly avoided as an answering kick connected with Ryoga's jaw.

The two fighters backed off and considered each other.

<Seems Ranma's got this Ryoga,> Nabiki thought. She had been around martial artists her entire life and considered herself a good judge when it came to comparing fighters. So far Ranma was the only one to have landed a solid hit. Hibiki was going to have to pull something big to win this. Then she heard him make a mistake. <Baka.>

"You still fight like a girl, Ranma!"

Ranma growled and sent a vicious flying kick at Ryoga causing him to jump away. Ranma was right behind him as they leapt over the school fence.

Nabiki gave an internal sigh as she watched the spectators chase after the pair with her little sister well in the lead. <They would take this thing on the road. Should have known nothing goes the way it's supposed to when it comes to Ranma.>

What seemed to be a geyser rose into the air ahead of Akane as she tried to catch up with Ranma and Ryoga. She'd managed to far outrun the others.

<Uh oh… They must have destroyed the fountain.>

She arrived to see a soaking wet and female Ranma attacking a wildly defending Ryoga near the remains of the shattered fountain.

"Ranma!" <He looks so angry.>

The two fighters leapt apart, taking a small breather. This allowed Ryoga to consider that calling Ranma a girl had NOT been a good idea. It also gave Ranma a chance to notice that she wasn't a he anymore. Akane watched her look down at her chest then pull her bangs down as if to check that her hair had indeed turned red.

<He's been fighting without even noticing that he'd gone female again? Has he gotten that used to the curse?>

Movement to the side caused Akane to turn her attention to her fiancé's opponent as Ryoga pulled several bandannas from his head and began whirling them around his fingers.

"You will pay, Ranma!"

With that he launched the strips of cloth on chaotic trajectories at his opponent. Unfortunately, Akane had moved forward and was standing just behind her fiancé.

Akane was aware of shouts behind her as several errant bandannas buzzed the arriving students, but she ignored them. <Ranma has less reach and strength as a girl. I've got to get him some hot water.> "I'll get some hot water!"

She turned and ran back towards the school. After only a few steps she felt something slam her off her feet as she felt something fly through the space she'd just occupied. A weight pressed her briefly to the ground before lifting. She rolled over to see Ranma starting to stand, one sleeve of her shirt slashed by the bandanna that had missed her.

<I didn't even see it coming. That thing would have hit me if he hadn't…>

Ranma might have been a little mad with Ryoga before. Now she was downright pissed off. Endangering a bystander in their fight. That it was Akane only made it worse. She was going to make sure Lost Boy knew just how much he had screwed up.

"An opening!"

Ranma turned back to Ryoga in time to see him throw his umbrella at them and start whirling a handful of bandannas.

"It's over! Even if you dodge my umbrella my bandannas will strike you from every direction!"

As she watched Ryoga launch his bandannas Ranma kept her eyes on the umbrella. She had no intention of dodging after all. With a snap kick she flipped the umbrella in its flight and caught the handle. Grabbing Akane to her, she popped it open and used it to deflect the bandannas, leaping into the air. She used her borrowed weapon as a make-shift parachute, landed and leapt away again, still holding Akane.

"Running away, coward?!" Ryoga roared after the departing pair.

They landed on the roof of a near by bicycle shelter still clutching to each other. The sudden shock of being grabbed up and carried into the air had Akane's heart racing. That combined with the fear from what she knew were two close calls had her holding on to Ranma tightly for comfort. She felt a sigh of breath against her neck and suddenly became aware of just how close she was holding Ranma and that he was not a he at the moment, but a she.

Quickly pulling away, Akane peeked at Ranma form behind her bangs. The fact the sometimes girl was blushed almost as red as her hair did nothing for Akane's composure.

"Um…." <Well, that was real intelligent, Akane.>

Before she could get her mouth and brain working together again Ranma spun to her feet still holding the umbrella. The umbrella. She'd forgotten about Ryoga.

She heard a swishing sound and suddenly their perch collapsed out from under them. Ranma grabbed her again as they plunged towards the ground. She saw out of the corner of her eye as what looked like Ryoga's belt cut the umbrella in half as Ranma used it to block. Then they were standing on the wreckage of the shelter, and she was being pushed behind Ranma as Ryoga charged forward again, swinging his stiffened belt like a sword. Akane tried to get out of the way as she saw Ranma dodge, while reaching a hand back to push her out of the way. She would have made it if the unstable remains of the shelter hadn't shifted under her feet. She let out a shriek as the weapon passed in front of her face and sliced off a portion of her skirt. Landing on her rear, Akane just stared, her eyes wide with fright.

Nabiki had managed to catch up with the fight in time to see Ryoga throw out his bandannas the first time. She been only slightly annoyed then. When he launched his second barrage at Ranma while ignoring her sister behind the redhead, her annoyance went up a few degrees to miffed. Watching him cut the shelter's supports out from under Akane just to get at Ranma raised it to angry. Akane's shriek as the lost idiot's belt-sword narrowly missed her pushed Nabiki to a point that no one had managed in quite some time. She was MAD.

"What do you think you're doing, you IDIOT?!"

Ranma, who'd turned from starting to check on Akane, stared at her. Ryoga froze in the recovery from his swing to stare at her. Akane, from her position on the ground, blinkingly stared at her.

The middle Tendo ignored them all as she stalked towards her target.

"Are you blind, or just stupid?!" she yelled, getting into Ryoga's face. "That's my baby sister you almost cut in half! What kind of martial artist are you that doesn't watch out for innocent bystanders?!"

Ryoga tried to back away from the angry girl who was screaming in his face, but she just followed him. He glance behind Ranma and noticed Akane as if for the first time. <Where did she come from? Was she there the whole time?> Guilt started to set in as he realized that he'd just let his quest for vengeance endanger an innocent.

Nabiki wasn't through, however. After pinning Ryoga with a glare that promised suffering if he moved, she spun on her sister. "And what did you think you were doing getting in the middle of someone else's fight?!"

Akane cringed slightly. She hadn't seen Nabiki this mad since they were little.

"And you!" Ranma was her next target. "Why didn't you protect her?! I actually thought you cared about her!"

Ranma could just stare. Where had this Nabiki come from?

"Where do you think you're going?!"

Ryoga, having decided it would be better to continue the fight some other time, and that it would be a good idea to leave, froze in his tracks. He pointed a finger at his chest in the classic 'Who me?' gesture.

Nabiki's eyes narrowed, her voice dropping to arctic levels. "If you ever hurt my sister again, I will destroy you. Understand?"

The lost one understood that this was a statement rather than a question and nodded vigorously.


With that Nabiki Tendo strode from the area leaving the entire student body to stare after her.


End Chapter 4.

Chapter 5
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