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A Ranma ½ Fan fiction story
by Pia-san

Disclaimer: Ranma ½ and its characters and settings belong to Rumiko Takahashi, Shogakukan, Kitty, and Viz Video.

This story takes place in an alternate Ranmaverse, where Akane is a year younger than Ranma, and they have never met. Neither have their families. There are no curses, no fiancées… All in all, you should just totally forget what you know about our regular Ranmaverse. This fic, however, does try to prove a point I'm particularly interested in, in any universe… So expect OOC portrayals. If you're looking for accurate characterizations, you won't find them here!

Chapter Three

Akane walked silently besides her older sister. She could feel Kasumi's eyes on her… Kasumi's smiling eyes. Akane was glad her sister had always been sensitive, which right now meant she would keep her mouth shut at least until they got to the dojo. And Akane was definitely grateful for it…

She did feel rather stupid about what had happened.

'What was I thinking, acting weird like that?' Akane thought as she lifted her hand to look at the single flower Ranko had given her.

'Maybe Ranma sent her?' Her heart lit up as the idea flashed through her mind, and her mood lightened. A good thing too, since the interrogation would very soon begin.

Akane spotted the dojo gates.

'Oh, what the heck… Haven't talked with oneesan in a long time anyway…'

After Akane changed into some comfortable house clothing, she grabbed an apple and sat on the porch, attempting to continue her abruptly interrupted nap at the park.

The sun felt just right on her skin and tired limbs. When did she start taking everything so seriously? It just wasn't right to be feeling so exhausted after school. Even so, she felt fine inside.

"Soooo, Akane-chan! How come you didn't tell us you had a boyfriend?" Kasumi exclaimed cheerfully as she as she set down a tray with juice glasses.

Akane nearly choked on the piece of apple she was chewing.

"Na-nani?!?!" she stuttered, her cheeks turning slightly red.

Kasumi smiled despite herself. She didn't feel like laughing at her sister, but it was just so good Akane was thinking of something other than school. She had been neglecting her heart so far.

"Aha!" Kasumi joked, "So I was right…"

"Oneesan…" Akane murmured sheepishly.

"What?" Kasumi asked, feigning ignorance. "So he's not your boyfriend?"

"Of course he isn't, and you know it…" Akane said, going back to her apple as she let her legs hang loosely from the porch.

Kasumi sat down next to her. "So… who is this guy?" Kasumi tried to sound casual.

"I have absolutely no idea…" Akane answered almost automatically, thinking how such a simple answer could be so truthful. It came as an even bigger surprise that this simple fact had had so much to do with her day so far.

Akane smiled at Kasumi's gasp. Her oneechan was probably having similar thoughts.

"You mean it's love at first sight?"

Surprising even herself, Akane threw her head back and choked back a giggle.

"Maybe… who knows?"

Kasumi marveled at this. 'Good for you, Akane-chan!'

Silence fell between them. Akane felt truly comfortable, coming to some sort of peace with herself for once. Kasumi was content to wait patiently for Akane to continue talking. It'd been a long time since she had last had a chance to gossip.


"So, what?"

"Did you meet him in the park, then?" Kasumi was really excited.

"Well… no. It's not like I met him," Akane sighed. "I haven't even talked to him…"

"Where do you know him from, then?"

Akane sighed again, trying to find the right way to phrase the impressions that had been occupying her mind all day.

"He's just a boy from school—"

"How nice!" Kasumi interrupted. "Then you get to see him every day!"

"Actually… that won't be for long," Akane added with the slightest tinge of disappointment. "He's a senior, and graduates in a few weeks… That's okay, I really don't mind… It's just that…"

When Akane didn't continue, Kasumi looked at her, ready to shoot another question, but quickly stopped her tongue to stare at her sister.

'Oh, my… this is even worse than I thought,' Kasumi acknowledged as she stopped to stare the dreamy expression on Akane's face. She decided to wait.

"It's just that," and Akane took a deep breath, "I don't think I've ever had someone… this is probably the first I've felt so attracted to anyone…" Akane admitted.

Kasumi only smiled.

"I mean," Akane continued, "we just stared at each other this morning for a couple of minutes, and now I can't think of anything else… And you know what's strange…? I'd never really noticed him before this morning. It's really odd too… since he's only THE most popular guy at school. It's like he just sort of… appeared in front of me…"

"So you don't know a thing about him…" Kasumi said to herself.

"Almost… his name is Ranma."

"Saotome Ranma…" Kasumi spoke slowly as she took a couple of fingers to her lips. Her eyes widened.

As did Akane's.

"You mean you know him?!" She was taken aback.

"I… don't know. The name just popped into my head…"

Akane felt suddenly restless. How on Earth could Kasumi know his name? Did she know him somehow? She felt a sudden pinch of something akin to jealousy creeping up the back of her mind. She would find out, whatever it was Kasumi knew, or else… Suddenly aware of her train of thought, Akane felt a pang of guilt. No need to start thinking so aggressively about her sister, no less…

And over something so silly, too…

"I mean," Kasumi mumbled, "I should know him… right?"

"Right…" Akane said absently, thinking too furiously to worry about her words.

They sat silently drinking from their glasses and letting the birds chirp.

Akane's mind still raced, trying to find some suitable answer… how could Kasumi possibly know his name, damn it…?

As if Kasumi had heard her thoughts, she spoke.

"I'll do a lot of thinking about it… It has to be in there, somewhere…"

"Just let me know."

Minutes later, Kasumi was back inside the house, and Akane was once again left alone with her thoughts.

'Would it make a difference if Kasumi knew who he was…? Not likely, considering she didn't remember him when she saw him… Considering Ranma himself didn't look like he might have known Kasumi from before.'

Akane felt light again, even despite her curiosity. Now that she thought about it a little better, she might be connected with Ranma somehow, and the mere thought just warmed her all over.

Feeling refreshed, she went to her room, picked up a note pad, and started scribbling some thoughts…

Food sales, banners, and fliers maybe… How about a gigantic competition? A whole bunch of contests, to make it more fun. That would be something. Perhaps building the stands could be one of the contests… then she shouldn't have to worry about the lack of helpers.

And after a little while, she had more ideas in her head than the whole committee together. This indoor war was all hers… She smiled.

The open window let the afternoon breeze blow the white curtains. The sun shone on them and on the desk and over Akane's papers, and she suddenly found herself staring thoughtlessly at the white waves.

The warmth of sunlight splashed on her face, and she started to doze off, her world diminishing to the blowing whiteness and light.

Minutes later she took notice of her actions, and shaking slightly to shrug off her half-hypnotized state, Akane looked at her room. She stared at her bed — a very comfortable western-style bed — at the furniture in her room, at the tidiness of everything.

Before she was aware enough to realize it, her legs moved to lift her from her chair, and her feet started moving.

She strolled silently to the center of the room and lowered herself to the floor into a kneeling position, her sight caught by the brightness produced by her window once again.

'What's wrong with me?' she thought lazily as she moved her body to lay on her back, legs and arms spread under the rays of orange light across the floor.

"Mmm…." She murmured closing her eyes. She was feeling sleepy.

It HAD been an eventful day so far.

Akane stared at the ceiling, and then back to the curtains. She turned her head to the side to look at her weighs, which were lying close to her bed.

'I should be training harder…'

So far she had let school take total control of her life. Not even her friends were that important.

'Okay… gonna start training everyday, starting tonight…'

Her father had introduced her to the Art even before she had been able to walk. She had loved it. It had been her life; getting stronger and breaking her own limitations, fighting against no one but herself. And at the pace she was going, she would have defeated her father in no time.

But then her mother had died, and daddy had lost it. So it had been all up to her. And as her family members became even more disconnected from one another, she found it harder and harder to keep up the interest. Everybody was withdrawing from everybody else, specially her father, from whom Akane had always expected high praise and approval. Now he was something like a tormented soul walking around the household.

The thing was, every time she thought back to those days, she could only come to one solid conclusion… Akane loved martial arts, and she truly expected to become master of her technique… and maybe even teach. She hoped she could be the best… but for now, she hoped she could be good enough to be on her own, skillful enough… just the way Ranma had seem that day at the park.

'Ran-ma…' she thought for the zillionth time that day.

And she started to daydream.

Akane closed her eyes, took a deep breath, and concentrated on replaying the day's events; her lunch and the encounter in the park.

She didn't need much effort to remember every single detail, like how the light was shining, or how the wind was at that moment. She wanted to relive the emotion so badly… How her heart had rushed, how tight it had felt, and how her blood had warmed her features. Remember the rush…

She smiled.

So long since anyone had made her feel like that.

Or so it seemed, now that she thought about it.

And her mind drifted to not-so-old memories, which had long been purposefully buried in the depths of her mind.

She remembered Kuno Tatewaki, the principal's son. He had been so nice to her, coaxing her to open up to him when she most needed the attention. That had been so good to her ego, considering she had been a freshman at the time, and Tatewaki was almost done with high school. So far, that had been her only serious relationship.

Not that it could be called a relationship.

It didn't last long, either. It didn't take long before Kuno began to show his real personality -– the one he was infamous for — with all the crap that came with it. And in the end, it had given her more trouble and suffering than not. As a result, she withdrew a little more from her family and friends, and it scared the hell out of her to become seriously involved in anything that meant a social relationship. School became her thing. That was when she had totally stopped training.

At least it had given her a sense of what she definitely didn't want.

Akane sighed.

And there had been that little boy she barely remembered from early childhood days.

She didn't exactly remembered him, but the one reason it counted as a relationship with someone from the opposite sex, was because the one distinctive memory she had was of them playing husband and wife, for 'practice' when they got married. Because, oh yes, they were engaged, and an 'engagement' was a serious matter to them, even if it was just a game.

The game had always started out all right, but that only lasted a few minutes before the fighting started. The arguments always revolved around a husband and wife's duties; he'd do what a man had to do, and she had to be nice and graceful, and stay 'home' and take care of the house and children. But she'd wanted to go with him to gather firewood, instead of 'cooking'.

Akane had been a very independent-minded little girl by that time, quite capable of defeating anyone her age, or even a little older. She had almost never been okay with her little friend's demands. There was no way that hard work was only for men, right? So the boy had always called her names, and had actually been very mean to her, now that she looked back at it.

That definitely wouldn't count as a good relationship, would it?

Akane also remembered what a charmer he had been with older girls. He'd batted his lashes and had every girl or wife-to-be fawning over him, telling him that he was 'such a cute thing'. And he knew exactly what he was doing. What a snotty little pest…

Then one day he was gone, and she had forgotten. Akane only remember about him every now and then.

And that had been it.

The sun started to feel uncomfortable on her skin.

Akane lifted herself up on her elbows and looked around again. The wind had stopped, and she was beginning to feel stifled by the heavy heat and humidity of the obnoxious Tokyo summer.

Shaking her head, she glanced at her watch and realized that it was almost dinnertime. She had probably been drifting in and out of her daydreams for most of the afternoon. The sky was already arrayed in streaks of blue, orange, and red…

Sighing again, she stood up and walked to her desk to look at her notes.

Akane grabbed the notepad and went to her bed. Lying on her belly, she grabbed the phone and started dialing.

Ranma had been lying on his bed for nearly an hour when his mother knocked the door.

He almost didn't hear it.

Somewhere deep inside, his subconscious was whispering that he wasn't acting normally. He was slacking off in his training — and realized that he really didn't feel like it.

'My fate is sealed,' Ranma thought depressingly as the knocking became insistent.

His afternoon hadn't been exactly nice. Ranko had proven to be the little brat she was at heart, getting under his skin until he couldn't stand it.

What a way to overreact.

'It WAS just a flower after all… and Ranko was just trying to cheer me up…'

'Oh, crap…' he remembered bitterly, 'and there's that exam situation also…'

There wasn't really a solution to it. Maybe his exam could still turn out to be good enough.

But he was sooooo moody…

Then again, his sister WAS bossy enough to make someone exasperated…

But he sure had a weak spot for bossy little girls. No wonder he loved his little sister so.

So that wasn't it either.

'Oh boy… that was one heck of a scene today, wasn't it…?'

So this Akane girl probably thought he was a real looser, trying to use little girls to impress her.

Well, now that he thought of it, he probably HAD made an impression, sitting in the dust, spread-legged and blushing like a ripe tomato… Plus, she had probably been sitting on that bench for some time before he saw her.

Had she been staring at him before?

A tiny smile started to creep onto his face, unnoticed…

And then he was flustered again.

'If that's the case, she must have seen me goofing around with Ranko… Oh, man… I must have looked pretty stupid today.'

The knocking came again. Ranma didn't even bother lifting his head off the pillow as he mumbled.

"Come in…"

Nodoka's head popped inside the room, the door hiding her body.

She rapidly scanned the room, and blinked a couple of times at the sight of her usually overactive son lying flat on his bed.

She'd sensed something wasn't quite right when Ranma had gotten home dragging his feet.

"Ranma, dear…"


"Is everything all right?"


"Hmm. You aren't fooling anyone," she said matter-of-factly as she strolled into the room. "It was so quiet I almost forgot you were already home…"

Ranma just sighed.

"Even Ranko is taking a nap. She said you were boring to be with today—"

"Blame it on her… the little brat…"

"Ranma!" Nodoka interrupted, her face suddenly serious, "That's no way to talk about your sister. You know she loves you very much."

Ranma was slowly starting to remember what a potentially dangerous person his mother was. And just as he rested his eyes on the hilt of that ever-present katana firmly attached to her back, thinking it wasn't there for nothing, Nodoka's eyes softened again.

"Gomen…" Ranma offered. "I didn't mean for it to sound like that."

Nodoka smiled, and went to sit on the edge of the bed, besides her son.

"She made me look stupid… I made myself look stupid…"

Ranma spoke as if his words we meant to be heard by none other than himself.

Nodoka frowned.

"Even so, dear… that's no reason to get grumpy like that. You're not even training, for crying out loud…"

"Mom…" And Ranma sighed again. "You just don't understand. I was sitting there on the ground looking stupid enough as it was, and Ranko had to go and embarrass me in front of her…"

And suddenly, Nodoka smiled, almost laughing at her son's troubled face, as understanding dawned in her mind.

"Her?" Nodoka asked.

Ranma tightened his jaw as he felt the heat slowly spread across his neck and face.

'Caught him red-handed,' Nodoka thought.

And so Ranma took a trip to the Land of Regrets, as he thought — not for the first time — 'Why on Earth can't I think before I blurt something like that out?' A dreadful feeling began to grow in his stomach.

"'Her' who?"

Ranma was slightly annoyed his mother had figured him out so easily. Of course, by then he'd admitted to himself that Akane had a lot to do with his mood… but he would still rather blame it on Ranko.

Ranma lifted his head to look at his mother's quizzical face for a second, before letting it fall back with a heavy thud.

Ranma sighed again.

Nodoka smiled happily.

"Oh, come on, dear! I don't even recall you ever acting like this before. You should talk to me, you know."

Ranma wasn't exactly thrilled.

"I am quite experienced in matters of the heart, after all. You might not think so now, but I was rather popular in my day, I'll have you know."

"Oh, mom, I really don't need to know that…"

"But it's true!" Nodoka argued. "This is a good thing, Ranma dear. Not many parents would be willing to share this kind of information with their children."


At that reminder of how it was possible for such a popular girl as his mother to end up with a man like his father, Ranma felt a shudder ripple up his spine.

Nodoka stared expectantly.

"Fine," Ranma said flatly.

A wide smile spread across the woman's face. She scooted closer to her son, as if the chat that would soon follow had an incredibly secretive essence to it,

A few moments passed. Nodoka lost her patience.

"Her, who?" she repeated.

"Akane…" Ranma said carefully.

"Akane who?" she asked again.

"Mom… you better cut out that questioning thing of yours. It's… creepy…"

"Gomen, Ranma… I'm just excited about this… My little boy is becoming a man!"

Ranma groaned.

"Mom, just 'case I like a girl, it doesn't mean—"

"Aha!" Nodoka said cheerfully, "So I WAS right!"

"Right what?" Ranma was becoming annoyed all over again.

"You do like her."

Ranma sighed at his mother's nosiness.

"And a lot, I would guess, if you're so embarrassed to talk about her."


"So? Tell me a bit more."

"Well, actually, there isn't much to say. All I know about her, I just told…"

"Her name?"


"Akane who?"

"I have no idea…"

"How romantic!" Nodoka clasped her hands together in excitement.

Ranma just rolled his eyes.


"Dear… you shouldn't be so upset over such a little thing. You really are complicating things more than necessary."

Ranma sighed yet again. He knew his mother was right.

'Okay, I guess I should talk to her. Maybe she really can help me clear up this nonsense.'

Nodoka saw something in Ranma's eyes. He was troubled indeed. But… over a girl? He must have it bad.

"What's on your mind?"

Ranma inhaled sharply.

"I know I shouldn't be feeling all upset like this… It's a vicious circle… It upsets me that I'm upset."

"Okay. so what's the first upset about?"

"Well, I haven't really met Akane yet. She's a girl from school, and I noticed her just today… during lunch break."

"I bet she's a beautiful girl, to have you so caught up."

"Yeah…" Ranma said absently, eyes fixed on the ceiling. Nodoka didn't think he knew he'd spoken his thoughts out loud. The grin on her face grew wider.

He felt suddenly aware of his automatic behavior and mentally slapped himself.

Nodoka smiled. "So why are you upset again? I'm sure you're not feeling down because she's beautiful, right?"

"Of course not, mother…" Ranma grinned as Nodoka shot him a stare that seemed to be trying to pierce straight through to his brain.

Ranma yawned, suddenly tired, "I was playing with Ranko—"

"Nyaaah! You were NOT!"

Both Ranma and Nodoka cracked their heads to look at a little red mane of hair appear through the doorway.

"Weren't you napping?" Nodoka offered.

"No." Ranko smiled widely as she made her way towards her mother.

"Hey! Nobody said you could come in…" Ranma snapped from his numb state, raising himself on his elbows.

"Oh, drop it, Ranma-CHAN…" mumbled Nodoka, as she shot a dirty look in Ranma's direction. "You shouldn't let a little girl get on your nerves so easily. And stop behaving like you were her age."

Ranko climbed to her mother's lap as she stuck out her tongue.

"Fine…" Ranma said a he made a red-eye for his sister.

"Why, my baby boy," Nodoka said addressing Ranma. "Weren't you playing with your sister?"

"I WAS goofing around with Ranko, when—"


"—when I noticed Akane—"


"Arghhh!" Ranma collapsed against his bed in defeat.

"You were just standing by the big tree looking silly…" Ranko explained.

"Exactly my point…" Ranma said dispassionately.

"How come?" Nodoka asked Ranko.

"Dunno," she mumbled distractedly while playing with her fingers. "I was trying to hide, but silly couldn't count right, couldn't look right…"


"I tried to cheer him up. And it was just a little flower…"


"The thing is, mother," Ranma continued, "I was TRYING to play with Ranko…" and he shot a stare in her direction "…when Akane showed up, and she—"

"Aniki just looked at her with a stoooopid look." Ranko contorted her features for effect.

"Cut it out, Ranko…"

"Nyaaaaahh!" and Ranko giggled.

"Akane showed up, and…?" Nodoka tried to keep things flowing.

"And Ranko gave her a flower," Ranma finished.

"And this upsets you, because…?"

"I really made a fool of myself today, playing with a little girl in front of Akane. She probably thinks I'm some kind of weirdo now."

Nodoka smiled fondly.

"I'm NOT a little girl, ni-chan!! You're a meanie!! Bleahhhhhhh!" And she stormed out of the room.

Nodoka stared at Ranma disapprovingly.

"How old are you? Ten?"


"I can't understand why you have to say those things in front of her…"

"Sorry, mom, can't help it," Ranma sighed. "I'm just moody, that's all. I'll apologize."

"Good. Now…"

"Eh? Oh… I'm upset because Akane might think I'm 'stooopid' like Ranko said. And what makes me angrier is that I shouldn't be so worked up over nothing like this. And since I can't figure anything out, well… I got depressed. Happy now?"

"What you're feeling is normal, Ranma."

"I suppose so…"

"You like her, and obviously want to make a good impression. There's one thing you don't know, though."

"What's that?"

"A big boy playing happily with his little sister makes a very good impression on girls."

"Really? I wouldn't think so."

"Girls always like sensitive boys, even if they're just putting on a show."


"You don't seem very sensitive about your little sister's feelings. She looks up to you."

"I know, mom. I do love her, you know that."

Nodoka nodded.

"It's just… I only wish she wouldn't have done that."

"Why not? Now, Akane has something to remember you by. The flower WILL make her think of you and Ranko… I'd say it was a great first step. All you have to do now is talk to her, and get to know each other."

Ranma frowned, "I don't think so…"

"Why not?"

"I'm leaving that school soon, and won't be seeing her anymore. And trying to have a long-distance romance? I don't think so."

"You are getting way ahead of yourself, Ranma!" Nodoka smiled, "You don't even know if she likes you back yet!"

"But it's true, though."

"First things first, dear."

"I'm listening."

"Just try to relax for a while. Go train or something. If you can clear your mind and think of something else, ideas should come more easily to you."


"Good. Now I'm going to take care of my other baby." Nodoka stood up, straightening out the wrinkles on her kimono. "Are you going to be okay?"

"Yeah. I guess I'll go over to Daisuke's for a while."

"Just make sure you're back before your fathers gets home."

"Sure thing, mom," he answered to her retreating back.

Once alone, Ranma sat on the bed and slapped his face a couple of times.

'Get a grip, man!'

As he stood up, he found himself thinking of big eyes and flushed cheeks.

"Argh!!" he groaned as he headed for the door.

'Gotta get out of here and do some guy stuff!'

With that, he left his room.

"Do you think it'll work?"

"Sure!" At the other end of the line, Sayuri sounded happy. "If you get the whole school teamed up in different groups, things are bound to be interesting!"

"That's what I'm hoping for." Akane sounded tired.

"Yeah, I think you got it. The committee will love it, and it'd be easier to pull off, I guess…. When's your next meeting?"

"Tomorrow," Akane said half growling.

"Heh-heh. You don't have to sound so excited about it."

"I can't help it… I just wish I didn't have anything to do with this."

"Stress finally catching up with you, ne? You should say so, and just quit. They'll manage without you."

"I guess…"

"Vacation's soon anyway… We should take a trip somewhere."

"Thank the gods for that!"

There was a little pause. Akane could almost see Sayuri's smile growing wider and wider.

"Okay! Spill it!"


"Don't try to play dumb with me, Akane. Just tell me what's going on! You sound really distracted, even though you just came up with that great idea for the festival."

Akane felt suddenly pleased by her friend's approval.

"I know—"

"Is it Ranma?" Sayuri interrupted.

"Oh, come on! I was just about to pour my heart out…"

Sayuri giggled.

"I'm sorry, Akane-chan! I just figured you'd be troubled thinking about him rather than the carnival."

"I have been, actually… I… sort of… met him on my way home today," Akane answered, half-smiling, half-sighing.

"Ah! I knew it!"

"No you don't. You don't know half of it."

"How come?"

"Well, it started out with me doing a lot of really deep thinking. I had a sudden feeling today that I've been wasting a lot of time worrying."


"You know how much I love martial arts, right?"

"Nope… I just thought you trained because your dad made you do it."

"That's the point. I love martial arts, but I hardly ever practice anymore. In fact, I haven't practiced at all recently. It's awful that my best friends don't know about it… You are one of my best friends, you know."


"I kind of blame it on school. I sort of substituted my studies for my martial arts, and it seems like studying is all I've had time for lately."

"But you quit cram school…"

"But that's 'cause I'm way smarter than you are." Akane had a tinge of maliciousness in her voice. She was smiling again.


Akane giggled.

"Plus… we couldn't afford it."

"Okay, I think I get the idea. But, you know something? If you've realized what your problems are, it means you're still in time to change things…. You haven't really lost that much time anyway. We're only seventeen, you know."

"I know," Akane smiled. "That's why I've made a resolution."

"Which is?"

"I'm going to start training again today. Seriously training. Gotta get my beautiful figure back, you know."

Sayuri only laughed.

Akane looked at the window. It was getting late and the sun was setting.

"In fact, I think I'll start training right now."

"Oh, fine. Hang up on me, why don'tcha…"

"I just KNEW you'd understand," Akane said, adding a touch of extra-sweetness.

"Just let me know if you're feeling down again, okay?"

"Okay. See you tomorrow…"


Akane changed into a jogging outfit and grabbed a hand towel, then ran downstairs and out to the street, beginning a light jog around the neighborhood.

The sky was a strange shade of red and the air was humid. It was a very warm summer evening, almost uncomfortably so. Ranma decided to go back home since the rush hour was finally over.

What his mother had told him was true, Ranma realized. If he got back into his normal routine, things would come naturally to him. Now everything seemed more balanced, and… well… normal.

It was a good idea to spend time with the guys. In fact, he felt a lot better now that he knew what Hiroshi and Daisuke thought of him.

At the very least, his morale was up again.

He felt carefree as he walked home, hands in his pockets and kicking a pebble the whole way.

He remembered Akane's eyes again, thinking how they would wrinkle on the edges if she smiled at him.

As he approached the neighborhood park for the third time that day, he felt his chest knot up. He stopped in mid-step a mere yard before the park came into view from behind the corner, his eyes fixed on the ground in concentration.

'That ki…'

Ranma wasn't one for false modesty. He was probably the best martial artist he knew, but he couldn't help feeling admiration for the intense energy he was feeling in the air.

It wasn't very powerful, it didn't feel dangerous… But it was incredibly strong in its own way. Pure and intense.

Putting his legs into motion, Ranma rounded the corner and scanned the area, his eyes narrowing…

Only to widen up when he realized who the source of the energy was.

"Akane…" Ranma mouthed silently.

So the gods had decided to torture him again today, it seemed.

Feeling suddenly vulnerable, Ranma slowly retraced his steps, backing up so that his eyes never left her until he turned the corner and the scene was cut off.

Ranma leaned against the wall, supported by his forearm, uncertain that his legs would continue to cooperate in holding him up. Unable to resist, he snuck a quick peek around the corner to check if Akane had noticed him.

Once assured that she hadn't, he let out the breath he hadn't realized he was holding.

'Oh, Kami…' he thought as he swallowed hard. His heart sped up a little.

There was Akane in the middle of the deserted park, attracting the attention of a few passersby with the strength she was showing.

'Training…' Ranma's mind registered as he saw her going through a series of kata.

'Experienced, too…' he thought as he noticed the precision in her movements.

His eyes straining, he checked out her appearance. He wasn't expecting what he saw, but somehow it didn't surprise him much even though in another way it completely amazed him. It wasn't doing his heart any good at all that she had chosen such a… revealing outfit.

A pair of short-shorts with slits up the sides. 'She has really nice legs,' Ranma noted as his eyes drifted upwards. And the sleeveless white T-shirt that was showing all sorts of interesting things as she sweated through it wasn't helping his composure one little bit.

Ranma couldn't help but wonder why every guy in the school wasn't chasing after the girl. Even if she'd had a lousy personality — which she didn't — that figure was worth talking about.

Ranma suddenly felt an all-too-familiar stirring down below.

He allowed his eyes to drift closed in an attempt to calm down.

'Well, I guess I'm normal,' he thought after a moment. 'Mom would certainly be proud of me right now. She always said that this is how a healthy boy should react to a beautiful girl…'

Then he looked for Akane again.

She'd moved closer to his hiding spot, and her face was clearly visible.

So determined.

Ranma could suddenly understand why the ki he'd sensed was so intense. He'd caught Akane right in the middle of a moment of pure concentration. Her features showed no sign that she was even aware of the world around her.

…And with her hair plastered to her face like that, Ranma was feeling even more attracted to her.

He sighed.

A perfect opportunity to talk to her without a soul around to screw it up. Yet here he was, chickening out, hiding behind the corner.

Worse yet, he had to pass directly in front of her to get home… Either that, or make a very long detour to get around her.

'She probably won't notice me if I do cross in front of her,' Ranma thought as he admired her again. 'She's so into it…'

Suddenly all of Akane's motions stopped, and she came to an abrupt halt with her back to him. Just as suddenly, she began to turn around.

Ranma felt like his heart had jumped into his throat. In a panic, he ducked back around the corner.

He plopped to the ground in a cross-legged position and emitted a soft sigh.

'Brilliant, Einstein. Let's get her thinking I'm stalking her. That oughta give her a really good impression of me!' he thought as his lips twisted in a wry grin.

He crossed his arms over his chest and waited.

He had to admit it was obvious that he wasn't going to work up the nerve to talk to her anytime soon, so waiting for her to leave first was the only other option.

He wasn't going to risk spying on her again — she might see him if he did.

As he waited, thoughts of her chased themselves around his skull like a dog chasing its tail. After what seemed like only a few minutes, her ki gradually diminished until it was barely noticeable.

Ranma got up and dusted himself off.

'Too bad I can't turn invisible. That would solve all my problems.'

Now that her ki was absent, it was time to head for home. Ranma rounded the corner one more time…

…And found himself staring right into Akane's eyes.

It was getting too dark for her to be out here all alone.

Especially since she was wearing such skimpy little outfit. It wasn't really her fault; she hadn't trained in a long time, and her old training clothes didn't fit right anymore.

She still couldn't believe that she'd let her training slide for so long. Had she really forgotten how much she loved it?

It made her feel free, like she was capable of doing anything. And it was just what she needed, considering her present mood. It might have had something to do with the fact that she could do some damage and no one would raise an eyebrow.

After going through a set of low-punch-high-kick combinations, her senses felt particularly alive, and every cell in her body seemed to be tingling.

On the other hand, she thought she could feel eyes on her, and that bothered her. It was stupid -– this was a public place, so of course her yells would attract attention.

But enough was enough; she was getting too self-conscious to continue.

She turned ever so slowly, as if a sudden movement would disturb the flow of the world around her. In the quiet of the evening, she could hear her heart thumping from exertion as she gasped big gulps of air to satisfy her heaving lungs.

Just people returning home from the day of work. Nothing out of the ordinary.

'May as well do the same,' she thought. Letting out a sigh, she stretched her arms over her head to work out some of the tension in her muscles. Finally noticing how hot and sticky she was, she walked over to the bench where she'd left the small towel she'd brought with her.

Drying herself off, she took a few gulps from the water bottle she was carrying, feeling utterly refreshed.

'I feel brand-new,' Akane thought as she rounded the corner…

…and almost bumped into Ranma.

Her heart immediately started pounding full-force. 'Just my luck to run into him when I look so awful!'

She was frozen by surprise, and her brain was too numbed to think coherently, so she just stood there and stared at him.

His beautiful eyes had an odd look in them…

As the silence was beginning to feel painfully awkward, he spoke to her:

"Hi, Akane…"


To be continued.


Love you all!!! Really, its what keeps me going, even if it takes me forever to actually update. Thanks a lot!

So what's with Akane being all weird like that? Well…. Besides from that waffy thing this story has, I needed her to go through a lot of changes. There are events in life, or series of events, that sometimes get you thinking and thinking for several months and even years to finally realize how wrong you've been, and how much you've been missing. The thing is, I didn't feel like developing any more into Akane's personality. Besides, I still felt like meeting Ranma should bring back fears and stuff, besides the fact that she has a crush on him… but… oh well. That would make her infatuation more important than just that.

Second… the "war" thing is done in every high school here in Chile. It seemed right to use it as an idea for Akane's Japanese school. The Japanese have a very particular way of promoting team work. That's what they are kind of taught to be: part of a team. In fact, there's a saying about it: "When the nail stands up, it must be hammered down". I really need the carnival to work, so I figured it would be just right.

Oh! And once again, thanks to my editor and friend, Larry. My English is getting worse by the minute, and it's only thanks to him that you can at least understand what I'm writing ^^

Chapter 4
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