Akane awoke to the familiar sounds of battle outside her bedroom window. She languidly stretched as she yawned, inwardly musing that her agent had spoiled her too much. She got up from her bed and stood in front of a full-sized mirror she had acquired some time ago. Her body had changed; her legs were definitely longer now, finely toned with the right amounts of muscle and fat to send anyone drooling. Her hips were narrower than when she was a teenager, the product of meticulous dieting brought about by the need to get that plum part in her previous movie. Her breasts were fuller, and still as firm as when she was in high school. "Ranma will never know what hit him," she said to herself as she prepared herself for the day ahead.
'It's not fair,' Ranma thought to himself as he lazily avoided his father's uppercut. Ever since getting zapped by whatever Yume-chan hit him with, his speed, strength and agility had improved by leaps and bounds. He noted with a sideways glance that the old panda was sweating and panting already. 'Any minute now and he'll start using special attacks,' he mused as he danced away from a very deadly punch/kick combo his dad unleashed. The old man overextended his kick and was promptly sent to the koi pond for this error. Ranma smiled as he sauntered to one of the stones that formed the rim of the pond and peered at the waterlogged panda. The pigtailed martial artist laughed over how silly his cursed father looked, and was in turn pushed into the pond by a giggling six-year-old. Ranma emerged, wet and indignant, and proceeded to drag the squealing tot into the pond with her. The former early morning sparring became an impromptu water fight, with Soun Tendo and the old panda looking on mournfully.
A Ranma ½ story
by Jiro Maeda
Disclaimer: Ranma ½ and its characters and settings belong to Rumiko Takahashi, Shogakukan, Kitty, and Viz Video
Chapter 2: Eye of the Storm
Akane descended to the Tendo living room and soon found a scene of the typically unmatched lunacy that had been absent for the last eight years. The Saotome father and son were battling it out with chopsticks that were flying to and from bowls; food disappeared at inhuman speeds, only to appear at one or the other's bowls. What was surprising, at least to Akane, was that a third person was involved in the food war. The little urchin she knew as Yumeko was giving as good as she got. Genma was not getting nearly as much as eight years ago, but there was a smile on his face that hadn't been present since Ranma left. Obviously, the old panda had missed his son too, Akane mused as she seated herself at her customary place by Ranma's side, sandwiching the child between them.
Soun coughed audibly to claim the attention of the people sitting around his table. He turned his attention to Ranma and the child sitting between him and his fiancée. "Son, you still haven't introduced your little companion," he pointed out.
The pigtailed martial artist temporarily ceased inhaling his fifth bowl of udon to answer his future father in law's question. "This is Yumeko Saotome, six years old, future heir to the combined Anything Goes School and my adopted daughter," he said, pride clearly showing in his face. His little ward smiled right back and fiercely hugged him.
"D-d-daughter?" The other occupants of the table except Akane exclaimed.
Nabiki noticed Akane's lack of reaction. "Aren't you going to say anything about this?" she asked her sister, who was at the moment busy doling out additional servings to her recently-returned fiancé and the girl he claimed as a daughter.
"Do I have any reason to? Ranma's still my fiancé, with or without a daughter. Besides, I think she's cute." Akane absently answered as she wiped the little girl's face.
The rest of the family goggled at Akane's declaration. The Saotomes — save the matriarch, who was obviously ecstatic about being a grandmother — were too busy eating to care.
"Akane, that's not like you," remarked Nabiki.
"Why? Everyone needs to grow up sometime, right?"
"How very true. Well done, Akane. Oh, I'm so proud of my baby girl!" bawled Soun, who started shedding fountain-like tears of joy.
"Mother would be so proud, Akane-chan," Kasumi gushed with pride, her face smiling benignly on her youngest sibling.
The rest of the meal went on in silence after that.
At the studio-type dwelling above Ucchan's Okonomiyaki emporium, the Hibikis were fighting. More specifically, Ukyo Hibiki was fighting, flinging things-that-go-smash at her husband Ryouga, who was busy dodging the many things-that-go-smash that his wife was throwing at him. Ryou was fast asleep, unmindful that his mother was trying to kill his father.
"At least tell me why you're so upset… Yipe!" Ryouga yelped as he ducked behind their living room sofa. It was all he did that whole morning. He remembered having a peaceful breakfast with his family after following the guide ropes that led him to the storefront and after that into the bathroom. 'Let's see, I took a shower with Uc-chan, had a shave. Had veggie Okonomiyaki for breakfast, said something… now what was it again?'
"Aho! Jerk! Pig! Insensitive prick! Thick-skulled, mule-headed moron!" his wife screamed as she hurled the 14th century vase he brought home after getting lost in the department store men's room. He had been lost for two whole months in Europe. 'Or was it Africa? That would explain those dark skinned pigmies in loincloths,' Ryouga mused as he tried to catch the delicate porcelain piece, only to have it smash into a million fragments in his hands. He looked up and saw the antique French silver tea set he got from China heading his way like a guided missile. He rolled away only to be pelted by the antique chess set he gave Ukyo for Christmas last July.
Ryouga closed his eyes when he heard the telltale sound of the ancient Chinese mirror he brought from Scandinavia crashing beside him. For a while he waited for the next barrage of whatnots being thrown his way. Hearing nothing but his wife's sobs he peered beyond the edge of the sofa.
He saw his wife hunched over in the center of the room surrounded by the shattered keepsakes he had brought home each time he 'went out'. His heart wrenched tight each time her elegant back shook with her sobs. Steadying his nerve, Ryouga slowly approached her and took her in his arms. She struggled against him but he wouldn't let go, couldn't dare to release his grip, fearing her rejection. She thumped his chest with her little fists and they hurt, not physically but emotionally. Finally she collapsed unto his chest and cried and all he could do was hold her and whisper ineffectual words of love, hoping against hope that it reached her. She murmured something, his shirt muffling it to incomprehension.
She looked up to him, her eyes red with tears and asked, "Does my love count for so little, Ryouga?" Her voice quivered, the hurt he caused manifesting itself in her tone.
"Why do you say that? Your love is what makes me live each day, Hon. You know that," Ryouga whispered as he stared at her tear-streaked face. 'God, what did I say? Ranma, damn you to hell! This is probably your fault!'
"Then why did you say those things? Why did you blindly assume that I'll leave you for Ranma?" she asked as she hugged her husband tightly. Her hot tears soaking his shirt as her husband ineffectively tried to calm her.
'That's what upset her? Oh, Kami above… me and my big mouth. How the hell do I deal with this?' Ryouga asked himself unable to say anything.
"You don't trust me Ryouga, you probably think I'm just some two-bit floozy who'll spread her legs for anybody. It's not as if I wasn't a virgin during our wedding night, it's not as if Ryou came from some other jackass I slept with. You still insist I'll go panting after Ranma after he abandoned me… twice. You still think I'd throw the happiest days of my life away just to be with his mistress." Ukyo accused him, her eyes glittering with unshed tears, pinned him where he was.
'Oh man, I really screwed up this time. I got to calm her down and explain… explain what? How much of an idiot I am? She already knows that… What do I say?' Ryouga racked his brain for an answer and came up empty-handed. Ukyo buried her face in his shoulder and sobbed quietly, steadily increasing the guilt inside her husband's heart.
"I'm sorry, it was callous of me. I meant it as a joke… a very bad one, now that I think about it." Ryouga murmured against his wife's long chestnut hair, his hands continued to stroke her back. He felt her tense and was startled to see fury harden her angelic face.
"Liar!" she spat, "You meant every word of it. You want to abandon me now that Ranma's here, giving you an excuse to sneak back into Akane's bed, right?" she struggled against his python-like embrace but Ryouga only tightened it further, unwilling to let her go.
Ryouga felt things to be slipping out of control; he knew that he would lose Ukyo forever if he fumbled now. 'I've got to show her how much she really means to me,' he thought as he brought their faces close to each other.
"Listen to me, Ukyo Hibiki and listen good. You and Ryou are the only ones that matter to me. You're my heart, my soul, and my life. You're all I think about each time I go out into the world and I could never be at peace without you beside me. I don't want you to have any regrets being with me. You are my reason for living; I love you too much to let you have any regrets between us. I'm willing to let you go so that you could be happy. I don't want you to settle for second best when you could have a shot of happiness with your first love." Ryouga declared, inside he pleaded with whoever was listening for his wife not to leave him. He closed his eyes fearing the worst and was startled when he felt a hand gently stroking his face.
"Stupid truffle-brained idiot, I already have the best. I'm not settling for a consolation prize here. I already have my man, and if you think I'm letting you go, I'll just brain you with my spatula till you decide otherwise." His wife whispered to him. He opened his eyes and saw her smiling. She smiled the way she did four years ago, the day she said yes; the same smoky smile that sent shivers up his smile and turned his insides to jelly. She took his hand and drew his face down towards hers and they kissed, gently at first, slowly growing with intensity and passion that burned within each other. Soon enough they found themselves on that Indian rug he bought for her on Valentines Day, three years ago, rolling on the floor… but this time they were not fighting.
Yumeko watched as Ranma and Akane sparred in the dojo. She had heard of this place ever since she began traveling with her guardian, and was quite surprised to find out that it was everything she imagined it would be, and more. "A home, finally," she whispered, hugging herself to make certain she wasn't dreaming. Her musings were cut when melodic laughter floated over to her. She saw the delicate dance her guardian and his fiancée were performing. His movements were like swift torrents, wild yet powerful. Hers was similar to that of a raging fire, constant, vibrant, and filled to the brim with life. The harmony was broken when they began to argue, their voices raised in counterpoint to each other "They're good for one another, so why do they fight?" the little girl asked herself, very much puzzled at this turn.
"Don't mind them, they're always like that. It's their nature to sizzle and spark at each other."
Yume jumped, startled upon hearing the voice. She turned and found Kasumi standing at the dojo entrance, a tray of snacks balanced on her left hand as she closed the shoji.
"But they love each other, oneechan. Aren't people in love more… peaceful-acting than that?" Yume asked, scurrying to help Kasumi carry the snacks to the obliviously arguing couple.
Kasumi giggled at the little tyke's serious expression. "It's just their way, Yume-chan. They express their love by arguing," she explained, carefully placing the snacks and tea implements by the side where they wouldn't be disturbed.
"It's just wrong, Kasumi-neechan. We don't have a lot of time. Oniichan should be cherishing this moment with Akane-neechan, not arguing with her!" Yumeko exclaimed, clearly frustrated by events. Her words were emphasized by the gestures she made with her hands and arms. Kasumi just smiled and nodded as they shared that somewhat peaceful moment.
Somewhere south of Tokyo, in an old condemned temple, shadows began to stir. The broken shoji and wooden walls began to move by themselves. A vortex of power grew and focused on the abandoned shrine as black lightning began to crackle around the lacquer box and the wards that held it sealed. Finally, the wards burst into flames and the altar exploded outward, filling the old temple with shadow.
Yumeko suddenly stiffened and dropped the glass she held. She screamed soundlessly as her guardian held her, the heat from her skin not unlike that of a burning furnace as her body stiffened. Suddenly she got up, and with a savage yell she screamed, "He comes!"
To be continued.
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