Chapter 1: Revelations
A Ranma ½ fan fiction story
C&C appreciated. Email me at email@example.com
Disclaimer: Ranma ½ and its characters and settings belong to Rumiko Takahashi, Shogakukan, Kitty, and Viz Video.
Slamming her hand against the table in front of her, Nodoka sighed as she stared at the various pieces of paper strewn all over. For the past half-hour she had meticulously gone through them, hoping to have found something which she may have missed earlier. Coming up empty-handed, she began to ponder over what this might mean.
Since the events of the failed wedding, everyone had agreed that there should be some sort of resolution with concern to the fiancée situation before Ranma was to make his choice, lest another such outburst should occur. Her son, being the man that he was, had four girls wanting to marry him. As his mother, she had the duty to make sure that they were right for him.
So she requested a search for information about the family background for three of the girls. Shampoo, because of her Chinese heritage, was out of the question as far as marriage went — though if her son did find the girl appealing, she would consider the possibility of her son having a mistress.
All this brought Nodoka back to her current situation. What lay before her were its results — at least, that's what it was supposed to be.
Everything she found out with concern to the Tendous and Kunous seemed good; no mark on either family which could come back to harm the Saotomes in any way. Her problem, though, dealt with the other family.
Out of all the information she had gathered, none of it dealt with the Kuonjis. It was as if the family never existed — or that someone wanted it to look that way.
There were numerous reasons why this happened, none of which could be proved unless she got sufficient information. The last thing Nodoka wanted to do was jump to conclusions, considering what they would imply and especially if her assumption ends up being false.
'Nothing will be achieved by sitting down and staring at some papers,' she thought, slouching against the chair with a defeated look, arms dangling in a tired manner by her sides. 'I've tried everything and still no result. Maybe…. This is probably going to show a bit of favoritism. Then again, it could show that Akane's sister is better than I've thought of her. And she does owe my son for that stunt she pulled in the wedding; even if he never told her that.'
Hand across her forehead, she sighed. "Everything would have been so much better had the wedding been successful. Then I could have done this at my own pace."
Nabiki listened to the familiar silence from the telephone and sighed. It had been close to two weeks since Nodoka had given her the job of finding out information regarding the Kuonjis; one that she intended to complete, no matter how long it took or how much it messed with the rest of her daily schedule. And at the moment it looked as if the period in which she had first expected to find out about Ukyou's family would have to be prolonged.
Resting on her bed, she thought back to when Mrs. Saotome had first discussed her intentions and asked for help. She immediately found out just how serious Nodoka could be, having initially, out of instinct, asked for monetary compensation in exchange for the time she would spend to complete this sort of task.
The flat, angry stare Nabiki got in return caused the girl to shiver in apprehension, momentarily imagining that she would be on the receiving end of the Saotome family katana because of that comment. "I was hoping that you would put your family ahead of any need for personal gain here," Nodoka added, which caused her to snap out of her temporary haze and right away retract what she had said, convincing Ranma's mother that it was only meant in jest along with her agreeing to help out because of the errand's importance for her family.
In a way Nabiki was telling the truth; her reasons were because of her family. More specifically, this was a way to possibly redeem herself in front of them.
After her actions during the recent wedding attempt, there was always a feeling of unease whenever she was around her father or either of her sisters. Though none of them said anything upfront to her, their displeasure over her role in what took place were expressed through other, more subtle means.
Akane had been the most 'vocal' of the three by not talking to her whenever they were in the same area, most of the time just leaving so as to avoid her sister. The behavior of both Kasumi and her father had hurt her the most as they would refer to her in conversations solely as 'Nabiki', not as 'sister' or 'daughter' and definitely without the usual warmth in their tone.
Things that she had barely noticed before, accepting them as an everyday aspect of life — those were what affected her the most.
To again have that feeling — of being one of the family and not an outcast who just happens to live in the same house — that's what kept Nabiki going, hopeful of finding out something sooner or later.
"Hello, Nabiki Tendou?"
"Speaking. So did you find anything? That is why you called, right?"
"Yeah. First of all, will I be paid well for this?"
"Yes, yes. Please get on with what you were saying."
"Okay, I was just making sure. It was extremely difficult to find this information; the Kuonjis had covered their tracks quite well. I ended up searching through various areas in the Kansai region without finding a single thing! Finally got a lead and wound up searching Osaka. Still nothing substantial; that is until I got lucky and by chance encountered someone who had information regarding the family of one Kintaro Kuonji. Well, I really shouldn't say I'm that surprised by it, considering where they're from, but—"
"I'm sure that's interesting. Just tell me what you got."
"Right, sorry about rambling there. Regarding the Kuonjis, you might want to write down what I'm going to tell you. I'll have to papers sent to you immediately."
Grabbing a pen and paper, Nabiki began to take note of what was being dictated over the phone. As she was writing, her eyes got wider and her hands began to tremble.
Handing out cups of tea to all those in the living room, which was everyone in the household other than Ranma, Kasumi looked at her younger sister, who had called the meeting. 'Maybe this has something to do with why Nabiki was so anxious the past few days.' She recalled her sister looking rather disheveled during that time period and was worried that she wasn't feeling well or was overexerting herself at school.
Still looking tense, though not as bad as before, Kasumi noted, Nabiki gave a polite cough, wanting to make sure she got everyone's attention. Clearing her throat, she said in a calm, though serious tone, "I called everyone here because I have an important announcement regarding Ukyou."
Kasumi smiled at the mention of the chef's name. Though the cross-dressing did seem rather odd, her work ethics and ability to skillfully handle a restaurant at a young age were respectable. Furthermore, she was good friends with both Ranma and her sister, and there was the time when she was kind enough to allow her family to sleep over. All in all, she thought of Ukyou as a nice, sweet girl.
Glancing over at Genma, she noticed that he looked pale. Concerned, Kasumi asked, "Is everything okay with her?"
"About Ukyou… well, it's that—"
"I asked Nabiki to help check out her family's background." Nodoka shook her head. "I had been unable to retrieve any information on the Kuonjis."
Kasumi had a sudden feeling of anxiety wash over her, body shivering on impulse. 'It had to be because of some mistake that they weren't able to find anything,' she reasoned. There couldn't be anything wrong with a girl like her, one who associated with a variety of people each day. Someone who their family knew, whose living quarters she had—
"Did something come up?" Kasumi got out, hiding the discomfort she was feeling.
Breathing deeply, as if she were trying to find an appropriate way to phrase her reply, Nabiki sighed, saying, "Ukyou Kuonji… is burakumin."
Gently placing her teacup on the table, not waiting for anyone else to respond, Kasumi excused herself, explaining that she needed to go to the kitchen and finish washing the dishes. With every step her head felt like it was being pounded with a skillet harder and harder.
"Are you sure, Nabiki?" she vaguely heard Nodoka ask her sister.
To Kasumi's dismay, everything in the kitchen had already been cleaned with not even the smallest of stains in sight. Undeterred, she turned on the faucet and began washing her hands, the rush of water dimming the sounds from outside, though not having any affect with her headache.
What Nabiki had said… this meant that Ukyou lied to her along with her family. That wasn't very nice at all.
A frown appeared on Kasumi's face as she began to scrub harder. She found out that doing so lessened the tension felt within her head.
"You're wrong, Ukyou-san. Being friendly with others, having them eat your food, even us sleeping over at your place. In the end it doesn't work; it can't work. Nothing changes, and you should have known that."
Looking down, Kasumi saw that both hands were pinkish-red. She began to wash them again.
Disposing of any leftovers that were lying around, Ukyou had begun to close up Ucchan's for the morning and get ready for school, when the door opened and a familiar figure hurried in.
"Ranchan!" she squealed, racing over to her fiancé and reaching him before the door had closed.
Pulling him to a seat by the front grill, she brought out some unused batter along with a pair of spatulas and started on a new batch of okonomiyaki. "I'm guessing you'll want something to eat while here," Ukyou said, adding the necessary ingredients onto the food while doing so.
In response to the delicious aroma it was emitting, Ranma's stomach rumbled. "Uh, yeah," he replied sheepishly. "I haven't ate anything today; had to leave earlier than usual today."
"Oh?" Ukyou deftly flipped the okonomiyaki over, leaving it perfectly intact. "And so you decided to visit your cute fiancée for breakfast?" she asked, flashing Ranma a smile. His words meant that she had one up on Shampoo.
"Well, yeah. I mean, what else would I do?" He chuckled. "Last thing I want to do is go to the Nekohanten and end up fighting with Mousse."
Ukyou frowned at that, flipping the okonomiyaki onto a plate and handing it to Ranma, who immediately dug in. "So," she said, changing the subject, "why'd you not have breakfast before?"
"Akane decided she wanted to cook this morning," he answered between chews. Swallowing, Ranma looked up and saw Ukyou staring back at him, confused. He shrugged, saying, "Yeah, it did seem strange. I have no idea why the tomboy would want to do this so early in the day." His face crinkled in an obvious grimace, causing the chef to involuntarily giggle. "That's the last thing I wanna wake up to."
Finishing his meal, Ranma grinned at Ukyou. "That tasted great! Thanks a lot, Ucchan!" Getting up, he added, "Hey, I'll wait up for you. Might as well go to school together."
Ukyou nodded before she hurried to finish cleaning up, sighing contentedly as she did so, a slight hint of red appearing on her face. So far, it was proving to be the start of a wonderful day.
Akane looked at her friends, both conversing on some topics which were, at that point, insignificant to her. Currently she had a far greater issue to worry about.
The moment Nabiki had made her announcement, numerous different thoughts went through her mind. There was the fear of how others would treat her; all because she had, unknowingly, considered one of the unclean to be her friend.
And then there was Ranma. Her fiancé, who could be so naive at times; would he even realize the implication of what his childhood friend was? If he went on being friends with Ukyou, as if nothing was different, what would others think of him?
Akane sighed. She cared a lot about Ranma, to the point of loving him. And even though she was unable to say it out loud, she knew it was great enough that she would make sure there was no way he could get affected by this.
'Plus I'm sure Mrs. Saotome will explain to Ranma about how serious this is.'
Remembering Nodoka's reaction, Akane shuddered. There wasn't any sort of immediate outburst; she just took one look at her equally-stunned husband. "The engagement between my son and Ukyou-san is hereby nullified," she had said in a tone that, though calm on the outside, conveyed the feeling of a time bomb ready to explode any second. With no one uttering any sort of objection, she then left the meeting.
Startled, Akane saw that both of her friends were staring at her with curious expressions on their faces. "Yeah?"
"Are you okay?" Sayuri asked. "We've been trying to get your attention for the past few minutes."
Looking around her, Yuka wondered aloud, "And why isn't Ranma with you?"
"He… left early," Akane answered grumpily, mentally recalling what Nabiki had asked her to do this morning in order to have time to discuss certain matters. "And all I was trying to do was fix breakfast for—"
"Oh?" Sayuri interjected, hints of a smile forming on her face. "You should have known better than to try that on the morning of a school day, Akane. He's probably out eating somewhere. Maybe the Nekohanten or Ucchan's." Smile growing wider at seeing her friend’s worried expression, she teased, "You don't suppose he might be going out with Ukyou or—"
"No!" Akane screamed, chiding herself in the process. She knew there was something troubling her after hearing her sister's plan. And now, after worrying so much about it, she might have sent her fiancé to the very person she didn't want him to be around.
"He… he wouldn't do that!" she stated, more to calm herself than anything. "Not with her… it wouldn't be right. It… it…."
The other two girls looked at each other in surprise. While they weren't surprised that what Sayuri said got a reaction out of Akane, they hadn't expected it to be so vehement.
"Akane? Did something happen between you and Ranma?" Sayuri asked, concerned for her friend and wondering if there was any way she could help out.
Akane was at a loss with what to do. During her conversation with Nabiki, who, strangely enough, was in a good mood, her sister had suggested that the best course of action would be to have the entire school notified.
It was something she had right away balked at, saying that it would be a better idea to just inform Ukyou about what they knew and then ask that she leave. Even if Ranma would not immediately understand why his friend was no longer around, there were others around him who would be more than glad to explain.
Nabiki had disagreed with Akane's idea, countering that the best way for him to truly comprehend the significance of it all was to see it first-hand. Through that he would realize what associating himself with Ukyou would do to his honor.
With Akane still being skeptical about the idea, Nabiki relented, saying that she would go with whatever choice her sister would make, adding that it wouldn't do any good to wait that long for a decision.
"No, nothing happened," she replied, still unsure as far what she should do next.
Guilt flowed through her as she imagined what would happen to Ukyou should everyone know the truth. Images flashed by her, showing a girl in tattered clothing, her face stricken with tears as she closed a run-down okonomiyaki shop. It almost made her wish that there was some way that their lives could continue without any changes.
But then the images morphed, showing a girl with a scowl on her face, anger exuding from her, ready and willing to throw her okonomiyaki bombs in order to disrupt a wedding. Those scenes showing Ukyou's recent actions not only erased any feelings of guilt in Akane's mind but also brought up another question:
Just how would Ukyou react if she was privately told about her ancestry and then asked to leave Nerima, and Ranma, behind, with the threat of it being disclosed to everyone else hanging over her?
Gulping in some air, Akane made her choice.
"It's… Ukyou. It's not right for her to be around Ranma because… because she's unclean."
Neither of her friends replied right away, both trying to fully comprehend what she had just said.
Sayuri, face having paled as she began to understand, was the first to speak up. Softly, she asked, "So, Ukyou is one of them, bura—"
"Ukyou's burakumin?!" Yuka blurted out in shock.
It was loud enough, and the surroundings were momentarily quiet enough, for those around the three girls to clearly hear it.
Instantly the rest of the field was abuzz with questions about the okonomiyaki chef as others began to find out during the commotion.
Focusing on where Nabiki was, Akane saw her sister answering the inquiries of other students. Making eye-to-eye contact, she gave a slight nod before turning back towards the two girls beside her, affirming Yuka's earlier statement.
Seeing Yuka's face cycle through different shades of color as she was trying her hardest not to throw up then and there, Akane knew that a number of others were going through similar motions. It didn't surprise her; a lot of them had eaten at Ucchan's.
"Akane!" Brought out of her thoughts, she saw Yuka nudging her shoulder. Her friend was pointing at the front gates, trying not to cause any sort of commotion.
Looking at the direction where Yuka's finger was pointed, Akane took notice of two figures passing through the entrance. 'Oh no!' she thought, alarmed. Wanting to prevent any sort of rumors about Ranma from starting, she got up and raced towards them.
Cheerfully walking alongside Ranma, both unaware of the proceedings taking place in the school courtyard, Ukyou smiled inwardly at the direction the day was heading.
It was after traversing through the front gates that she began to sense something was amiss. The entire area — it felt quieter than it usually was during the morning, the tone of conversations down to whisper-like levels as if each person had something they didn't want others to know about.
Even stranger was the feeling that some were staring at her and Ranma. Whenever one of them thought Ukyou was looking back, they would immediately avert their gaze, almost flinching while doing so. Every time she was able to catch a glimpse of their facial expression, she had the impression that they weren't at all friendly, bordering on being outright spiteful.
"Akane got here earlier than us, Ucchan!" Ranma commented humorously. "Bet she didn't have to eat her own food."
"What?" Distracted from her thoughts, Ukyou then noticed that there was a huge gap between her and Ranma; a result of him walking ahead while she had slowed her pace, brooding over possible reasons for what was occurring.
"Hurry up, Ucchan!" Ranma sounded mildly annoyed when he realized Ukyou wasn't trying to catch up. Not suspicious over anything being wrong, he went over to see if he could get her to walk faster. "Ucchan?" he asked, tugging on her sleeve.
"Ranma!" Akane called, running as fast as she could. Having closed in on the two, she grabbed Ranma by his other hand. "School's about to start. We don't want to be late, Ranma!"
"Wait up, Akane! Let me first make sure Ucchan catches up."
"Don't worry so much about her!" Akane gritted out, forcefully pulling him away from Ukyou.
"Huh?" Ukyou's eyes widened in surprise as she found herself being dragged along as Ranma still had a strong grip on her tunic. "Hey, wait!" While trying to regain her footing, Ukyou suddenly felt Ranma's hold loosen, causing her to stumble onto the ground as a result.
"She'll make it to class on time," Akane assured Ranma as they walked in, not looking back in the process. She knew her actions might have seemed strange to him but, considering how reluctant he was to go inside, it was the only way to get her fiancé as far away from Ukyou as possible, lest others start saying things about him.
Lying on the ground and feeling somewhat dazed, Ukyou looked up and saw the receding figures of Ranma and Akane, surrounded by various other students as they disappeared within the group. Confused over what transpired, she slowly got up, ignoring the few soft chuckles she heard. 'Just what was that all about?'
Sitting under a large tree, its vast shade encompassing him and his two friends, Hiroshi casually asked Ranma, who was wolfing down his lunch, "Sucks doesn't it?"
"Hmm?" Ranma said quizzically in between bites.
"Ah… well, about Ukyou, that is," Hiroshi explained. "I mean, for something like this to come out all of a sudden…."
Daisuke nodded somberly at his friend. "Yeah, I know what you mean." He sighed, looking downcast. "It's a shame, too. Waste of a nice-looking girl, in my opinion."
Unsure of what was going on, Ranma stared blankly at his friends. "What are you two talking about?" he asked, feeling a slight amount of unease and concern for his friend. From the sound of it, something had happened to Ukyou and, judging by the way she was acting this morning, it wasn't anything good.
"It's that… she's…." Hiroshi fumbled with his explanation, trying to find the right words, before finally saying, "It's impossible for her to be your fiancée anymore."
Ranma thought this over. 'Ucchan can't be my fiancée anymore? Why's that? Did her father engage her to someone else? But the way Hiroshi and Daisuke are reacting… the way she was behaving when we reached school….'
In an instant Ranma's eyes widened in realization as he gave the two boys a nod to inform them that he understood what they were trying to say. His body involuntarily shuddered while he tried to comprehend the entirety of the situation. It wasn't something he wanted to think about, except that he had to in order to confront Ukyou about this later on.
But, at the same time, something kept nagging him.
'Why didn't I find out from Ucchan? How did the others find out?'
Directing his attention back to his friends, Ranma saw both packing up and getting ready to go back in. Momentarily forgetting about his initial question, he asked, "Wait, guys! What's the rush? Lunch won't be over for a while."
"We just remembered that we have to meet with a teacher during lunch," Hiroshi answered hurriedly, soon after which he and Daisuke left.
'Strange,' Ranma thought as he saw both friends run off.
Seeing that there was nothing else to do, Ranma stretched out his legs and reclined against the tree. 'I'll talk to Ucchan later once I have an idea of what to ask her,' he reasoned.
Before Ranma could close his eyes, he caught sight of Ukyou, looking rather worn-out, cautiously approaching him.
Saying that Ukyou's day had not been good would be an understatement. Since Ranma had visited her in the morning, it had turned into a downward spiral — each circumstance she encountered making her more confused and worried.
The way the other students were treating her didn't make sense. Within class, she kept getting the feeling that her classmates didn't want to be anywhere near her; or, in other words, that they didn't want her to be anywhere near them. And whenever she walked in the hallway, conversations would dim and level off as they moved out of her way, giving Ukyou a wide berth along with the notion of her being a plague they wanted to avoid.
Lunchtime could not have arrived any sooner for her. Being the period during which she could show her Ranchan just how good of a cook his cute fiancée was, it was quite easily Ukyou's favorite time of the day.
Now all she had to do was find Ranma as he wasn't around his usual spot outdoors.
Scanning the premises without any luck, her stomach began to churn in dread and a nauseous feeling started to spread throughout her body. Was Ranma part of whatever was happening? She couldn't tell so far and only that knowledge (or lack of) prevented her from leaving school for the day.
Spotting her fiancé along with his friends, Ukyou began to wave as she ran towards them.
Ranma didn't catch sight of her. The other two did.
Her motion slowed to a sudden halt as she saw them get up and leave. Ranma still didn't notice that she was there.
The exuberance she showed a moment prior left in a hurry. Nearing Ranma at a very slow pace, her mind kept chanting the words, 'Please not Ranchan,' over and over again.
"Ucchan?" Ranma asked, snapping her from her stream of thought. Absent from him were any sort of hostility; only a slightly concerned look which probably resulted from the anxiety she showed while walking.
She exhaled, the tension within her melting away. At least lunch would be different and Ranma did seem to treat her different than the others.
Putting on a smile for her fiancé, she held out a plate of okonomiyaki and said, "I made you some lunch, Ranchan!"
Eyes brightening, making it obvious that his hunger had not yet been sated, he brought up his hands to take it from her.
But before the transaction could be completed, a pair of hands snatched the plate from Ukyou and tossed it to the ground, spilling its contents all over.
Anger coursed through Ukyou as she whipped out her battle spatula and prepared to unleash her frustrations on whomever tried to interfere. Turning towards them, she shouted, "What did you do that for?" Taking a good look at who it was, Ukyou gasped, shocked to the point that she couldn't start her attack. Standing over the strewn okonomiyaki was Akane.
Mouth agape as she took in deep gulps of air, the other girl didn't pay her any attention and was starting only at Ranma.
"A… Akane?" Ranma asked in equal surprise.
'Her too?' Ukyou thought, the urge to throw up having returned. This was the second time in the day that Akane acted strange around her.
But why? Why would Akane act like everyone else in school? Though they were rivals when it came to Ranma, she was one of the few people Ukyou could consider to be a friend. And if she would do this….
"Why did you throw it away, Akane?" Ranma said, repeating Ukyou's question.
Closing her eyes, Akane answered softly, "It was dirty."
"What?" Ranma asked, confused. "Why would that matter? So it was a little dirty. I could have just thrown away that part and ate the rest."
"How would you know if it was dirty, Akane?" Ukyou asked in a clearly hurt tone, the feeling of being betrayed growing larger by the second. How could Akane give such an awful excuse? At the very least she should have said that she didn't want Ranma to eat any of her food. Hardening her voice, she continued, "I would know, I cooked it myself. Heck, you didn't even see it!"
Slowly Akane began to turn her head, enough so that Ukyou was able to see a sorrowful expression on her face, conveying both guilt and regret over her actions. Body trembling, she opened her mouth, looking as if she wanted to say something. Instead she swung her attention back to her fiancé. "Let's go, Ranma."
"Why? Lunch isn't over."
Disregarding his question, Akane grabbed Ranma's hand and started to pull him away from Ukyou in similar fashion as in the morning. "We'll get something to eat if we have to. It'll be better if we go elsewhere to eat."
All the while Ukyou could not say anything or react in any way, only able to watch the proceeding with a sense of horrified fascination.
"What about Ucchan?"
"She can't come."
"But why?" Ranma protested. "You've been treating her like she's not okay."
Irritated at his stubborn refusal, Akane shouted, "She isn't okay, Ranma. She's sick!" With Ranma stunned at her outburst, she had an easier time dragging him off. Doing so, she added, "And none of us should be around her. Not now. It wouldn't be right."
As she saw Ranma being taken away from her, Ukyou felt a burning sensation surrounding her head, which felt more akin to a lead weight, while her heart began to pound in a fast tempo against her chest. Bending down in hopes of relieving the pain, she picked up her plate as well as the okonomiyaki.
'I'm… sick? How? I don't… feel sick. How would she know what my condition is or isn't?'
She felt a few hot droplets splash against her hand. It didn't go in any way like she had hoped it would. Lunch didn't feel any different from the rest of the day.
Ukyou looked at her clock. 'School should have been over a while ago.'
After lunch had ended, she left Furinkan, no longer in the right frame of mind to spend the rest of the day in school.
Having slept for a couple of hours, she felt more composed and thus ready to go and talk with Ranma and Akane, especially her. She had to know what was going on, why almost the entire school was treating her like a stranger.
First thing to do was to fix Ranma, and even the others, some okonomiyaki. It wouldn't feel right without bringing over something to eat.
Once done, she raced out towards the Tendou residence, her legs carrying her as fast as they could. Every second she waited would be like those ten years after Ranma and his father left her behind. Each day she would tell herself that she'll start her search for the Saotomes the next, only to have her fear of finally facing them, and her past, prevent her from doing so. Sometimes Ukyou wished that she had left earlier instead of having to go through—
Ranma's voice indicated that she had arrived. Halting any more thoughts of her past, she waved her hand and said cheerfully, "Hi, Ranchan! I brought some more okonomiyaki. I was hoping that this time you'd get to eat it."
"Yeah, umm… sorry about that," he said sheepishly. "I don't know what got into Akane." In a concerned tone, he asked, "Ucchan, is something wrong? I didn't see you after lunch."
Biting her lips, Ukyou tried hard not to cry as she replied, "The whole day… it's been awful. Everyone's been treating me like I've got some disease or something. Sometimes I began to think…." She wiped her cheeks with her hand. "I'm scared, Ranma… scared that you… you would treat…."
Giving her a friendly pat on the back, Ranma said, "Ucchan, why would I do that to one of my friends? I'm actually surprised the others were acting the way they did. Must be one of those days. I mean, Akane wouldn't really treat one of her friends like that. Anyway, you shouldn't let these types of days get to you. Just remember that it will always get better later on." Laughing, he added, "How do you think I survived those years I was training with Pops?"
"You… you're probably right, Ranchan," Ukyou replied, even smiling a bit.
"See, you're feeling better already. Why don't we go inside? I'm sure the others are also hungry."
Once inside, Ranma shouted out, "Hey, everyone, Ucchan brought us some okono… miyaki…."
Wondering why Ranma had trailed off, Ukyou then noticed it — the silence which permeated throughout the household. Everyone had stopped in order to stare at her and Ran— no, just her, she realized. Nodoka looked to be more angry than surprised.
The similarity between this and school were too striking. 'Why now?' she thought in anguish. 'Does it have to happen here as well?' Her hands began to shake uncontrollably, causing the box she was holding to rattle.
Glancing fearfully towards Ranma, she whispered in a frightened, pleading tone, "Ranchan," hoping that her fiancé would help her out.
It was enough to knock him out of his stupor. He brought out his hands in hopes that he could help stop Ukyou's from shivering.
"Stay away from my son!" Nodoka screamed as she jumped onto her feet, letting go of all the frustration which was building up for the past day.
Emitting a shrill cry, Ukyou dropped the box containing okonomiyaki and fell back, right into Ranma's arms. She was too shocked, though, to realize her fiancé was holding her.
"What's going on, Mom?"
"Ranma, please let go of that girl. If you do not, then I will take care of this nuisance myself." Nodoka pulled out her katana so as to emphasize this.
The grip around her shoulders having slackened, Ukyou, still afraid to move, found herself falling to the ground. She could only gaze at Nodoka, bewildered at the almost-surreal set of events.
Nothing made sense for her anymore. Now Nodoka Saotome, whom she was hoping to one day call 'mother', was suddenly treating her as some sort of threat.
The day, one which had started out like a dream, had turned into a nightmare with no end in sight.
A hand appeared in front of her. She gingerly clasped her own around it and was pulled off the floor. Ukyou was surprised when she saw it was Ranma who helped her out in complete defiance of his mother.
Giving her a reassuring look, though it didn't do anything of that sort, he turned towards the rest of the household, clearly annoyed. "Just why is Ucchan being treated like this?"
No one else spoke up, instead looking at each other, trying to
find out who would explain this to the two teenagers.
Finally, Soun said, "Son, I believe you should talk with your fiancée," indicating Akane, who had her head buried within her hands, seemingly distressed over the whole situation.
"Well, I was about to do that," Ranma said, pointing at Ukyou. "Ucchan is also my fiancée."
"She isn't any longer," Nodoka said, eliciting a gasp from Ukyou. "Your engagement to Ukyou Kuonji was annulled yesterday. There will be no further talk about restoring the honor of a family that doesn't have any." Before any response could be made, she added, "As far as I see, it was a mistake that has been rectified. As someone who looks after the well-being of her family, I do not want the Saotome name mixed with such trash."
Ukyou cringed from hearing what Nodoka thought of her family.
Horrified at how his mother was treating Ukyou, Ranma said, "Mom, why would you say something like that about Ucchan and her family? Especially over something that wasn't her fault!"
"Son, do you know—"
"Yes, I know what happened to Ucchan! It doesn't mean you guys have to belittle her every time you get!"
Nodoka's face paled, devoid of any anger. "Ranma…."
Sighing, Ranma said, "I… guess I could understand, especially if everyone got the wrong idea. But Ucchan was raped and—"
"Raped?" Ukyou interjected. "Ranchan, I wasn't raped."
"But… the way Hiroshi and Daisuke… I thought, well…." Ranma stammered, unsure of what to say.
Ukyou shook her head, almost wanting to laugh aloud. And to think it turned out this way all because of a complete misunderstanding! At least it could fixed while there was still time. Deciding to wait until everyone else realized this, she asked the other residents, "Where did you hear this?"
Rather than answer her question, Nodoka said, "If she was raped, it is something I do not know of." Sighing, she continued, "What I do know is that the Kuonjis are burakumin."
Ready to start laughing, Ukyou instead began to comprehend Nodoka's statement. What she said, it had to be a joke, though not a particularly funny one.
Only in a joke could Akane have been so malicious….
It was the only way the other students could have ignored her, hoping that she would leave….
All acting like she didn't exist, as if she was….
"No! That's not true!" Ukyou screamed, louder than she had ever in her life. Joke or not, it was false. To be labeled as an untouchable… everything she had lived for would be taken away from her in a heartbeat.
It could not be true! "You don't have anything to prove this," she said almost half-heartedly, hoping against hope that they only made it up so she would be separated from Ranma.
Nabiki handed her a thick pile of paper. Flipping through them, Ukyou tried to assure herself by thinking, 'It's all made up and just part of a huge joke being played on me.' When she looked up after having skimmed through it, no one had even the barest hint of a smile.
Enraged, she flung the paper onto the floor and grabbed Nabiki, who was too stunned to react quickly, slamming her against the wall. Unable to prevent tears from streaming down her face, Ukyou asked, "You made all that up, right? Why? Why would you do something like that?!"
She got no response from Nabiki, only a frightened expression at her actions.
"She did not make this up, Ukyou-san," Kasumi politely answered.
'If Kasumi says that it's real, then….' Letting go of Nabiki, who ran away from her as soon as she hit the ground and hid behind Kasumi, Ukyou took the time to see that the others were astonished and, furthermore, scared at what she just did.
The tears came down harder and faster than before, a few sobs escaping her mouth along the way. She had lost, and there was nothing she could do about it.
"Leave." The voice sounded like Kasumi's, though the polite tone was backed with a harshness that she didn't associate with her.
Backing up a few steps, Ukyou turned to Ranma. She didn't expect much from him, nor could she blame her fiancé for that. She was one of them. Could she have expected him to embrace her and tell her it's all right? To even treat her the same as before? To even worry about her with Akane around?
No, it would have been wishful thinking. But even if it was, it still hurt.
Looking at him through blurry eyes, she tried her best to smile, something which looked so out of place. "Don't worry… I can't expect you or anyone else care about someone like… me. All I would be doing is standing in the way with you and Akane. I'm not worth worrying over. I hope you have nice life, Ran… ma. Goodbye."
With that Ukyou ran off, trying to get away from the building as fast as she could.
Hearing the distant sound of footsteps as Ukyou ran further away from him, Ranma came back to his senses. "Ucchan, wait!" he screamed, hoping that she would hear him as he got ready to catch up to her.
Nodoka's katana, though, blocked his way.
"Son, she gave you a way out and should no longer be of your concern. She's officially part of your past and I do not want her to be seen around you anymore."
Seeing that his mother wouldn't take 'No' for an answer, Ranma bowed his head in defeat, silently apologizing to Ukyou.
Relieved, Nodoka said, "Now, Ukyou did leave her food here. Can someone take care if it?"
Picking it up, Kasumi walked out, saying, "I'll dump it in the trashcan outside."
Eyes blinded with tears, Ukyou ran, not knowing where she was going, only that she wanted to get away from it all.
As far as she was concerned, it was all over, from her dreams to her normal, everyday life. Ranma could never love her now. And her restaurant — it won't be able to do business for much longer. To establish any sort of business, she would need to be far away from here, praying each day that no one would find out what she was.
Again she began to wonder if this was all a joke being played on her, this time by the kami. And if it was, she wasn't laughing — it was never funny to begin with.
Finally reaching what appeared to be Ucchan's, Ukyou dashed in, slamming the door shut as she went. Alone, with no one to remind her of her family's shame, she ran into her room.
Falling onto her bed, she cried, the tears torrid pace unwilling to slow down for some time.
To be continued.
Author's notes: The idea for this story came after reading some of the recent Ranma fics (note: this was around November of 2000) that involved one of the characters ancestors being burakumin. Usually it was Ranma and a few times it was Akane. This gave me an idea of writing one involving Ukyou.
And, after almost two years, my muse finally returned to this. The first thing I had to do was completely revise chapter 1. If you want to read the original, here's a link to it (hopefully Rakhal will keep it up):
Though I'll warn you that reading it caused me to shudder after realizing how bad my earlier attempts at writing were.
Thanks to those in One Hour Group 1 (11/19/00) for their comments on one section of this fic as well as those in the animefanfics.com (a.k.a. the original Delphi crew) chat room who looked over some parts of this fic (a long time ago).
Thanks to the following for prereading this chapter:
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