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A Ranma 1/2 fan fiction story
by Ukyou Kuonji

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

Chapter 3: A Ram in the Thicket

"I've never done this before, but this is more or less what you're supposed to as you prepare yourself to commit seppuku, ne?" Ukyou knelt in front of Mrs. Saotome. Her white yukata was opened wide, and she was naked to the waist. She picked up her dagger. "Where are you supposed to cut?"

Ranma simply gaped at his childhood friend. His astonishment at her actions gave way to admiration. Unfortunately, he wasn't admiring her courage for standing up to his mother, or her nerve as she prepared herself, almost cheerfully, to join him in death.

No, actually, Ranma was staring at her naked chest. How's that for a man's man?

Of course, he had plenty of familiarity with the unclad female figure, and not just of his own cursed girl form. He'd seen at least two of his would-be fiancées naked before, as well: Akane (that was an accident… really!) and Shampoo (that was her idea, not his). But Ukyou… Well, this was something new. He'd never even seen her when she wasn't wearing binding. For that matter, did she ever not wear that binding? But now, here she was, in all her glory. Ryoga could get a nosebleed from just a hint of cleavage showing between the torn straps than normally held her chest in. As he continued to gaze as her, Ranma felt a slight tickle below his right nostril. Much to his surprise.

She's as well built as I am, he realized. He made a quick mental calculation regarding the fact that Ukyou was rather taller than his girl form, and yet proportionately nearly identical. Kuso! She's better built than me! For a moment, Ranma forgot where he was as a goofy grin spread slowly across his face. Then the tickle under his nose grew stronger, and he could taste blood on his lip.

Blood! Chikusho! If mom thinks I'm being disrespectful… Under the guise of prostrating himself before his mother, Ranma brought his face down to the ground, so that he could wipe the blood and the grin off his face at least somewhat surreptitiously. Looking up cautiously, he was relieved to note that she was as transfixed by Ukyou as he had been. Presumably for other reasons, though.

Nodoka could feel her gorge rise. It was enough she was honor-bound to slay her husband and only child, wasn't it? Why… why was this girl demanding to be killed, too? This was making it too difficult. She had to talk some sense into Ukyou.

"Ukyou, dear… I can't do this for you. There's no reason you have to do this."

"No reason? You're destroying my reason to live, and you say there's no reason?"

Her reason to live? Isn't that exaggerating a little? There must be something else. "Well… what about your art? Your okonomiyaki?"

"My 'art' — HAH!" Ukyou resisted the urge to spit at Nodoka's feet. "What is art without soul? Answer me that, mother." Once again, Nodoka winced at the title Ukyou was bestowing upon her. "You destroy Ran-chan, you destroy my soul. He is the one I love. There is no 'art' without love. Oh, yes, there's still okonomiyaki… but so what? Without love, it is only so much fuel for the stomach. I am dead already without hope of love. For you to slice my head off here and now would be a mere formality, understand that?"

"Uh… but seppuku… that's such an extreme measure for you to take…"

"And it's not for you?"

Nodoka sighed. Was Ukyou forcing her to explain this oath over and over until she made some mistake in its recitation, and inadvertently let them go?

"This is different. Dearest made an oath to me that he would die if Ranma was not a man's man. Ranma's fear of me is proof that Dearest has failed in his oath. Thus, he and Ranma must die. That was the agreement from the beginning. But you know all of this already.

"As for you, you have no oath to fulfill like Dearest and Ranma, here. You have no duty that would require you to…"

"That's not true, mother." Another twitch from Nodoka. "When your husband took my father's yattai, I was pledged to go with him, and to train with him and Ranma. Eventually, should the fates will it, I was then to marry Ranma when we came of age. When your husband left me behind, I vowed to hunt them down and seek vengeance upon both of them for the way I had been treated.

"Of course, I discovered that your Ranma was completely unaware of the deal that had transpired between our respective fathers, and thus ignorant of our engagement. He was blameless, and so I renewed my love for him, and my vow to marry him, that I had discarded the day your husband discarded me. But you know all this.

"With this act today, you will be fulfilling my first oath — that of vengeance on your husband — a thousand-fold. In fact, this is far beyond any punishment I ever could have imagined visiting upon him. But you take Ranma away from me before I can fulfill my second vow. This is punishment far beyond any I could have expected to fall upon him …and me.

"I am nothing, now that my vow of vengeance has been fulfilled. I am less than nothing, now that my vow to marry Ranma cannot be fulfilled. What point is there for me to go on? At least I can die next to my darling Ran-chan, having defended him to the best of my abilities. Faithful to the last. His faithful…" she saw Nodoka brace herself for the word 'wife' or 'bride', and decided not to be so cruel to her. "…his faithful love." There. That's true enough. Even if it isn't an exclusive love on his part, it is love. And no one's gonna take that away from me!

"Which reminds me… I didn't see Akane when I arrived. Shouldn't she be here to give her iinazuke support? Where is she?" As despairing as her earlier words had been, Ukyou was surprised at how smug her last question had sounded. Well, where was Akane, after all? At Ran-chan's greatest need, she's nowhere to be found. But I'm here for him, she smiled to herself.

Nodoka's response wiped the smile off her face, and chilled her to the bone: "She's in her room, resting. She became more and more hysterical as the morning wore on, as she realized I was utterly serious about this. Once the blades were sharpened and the two of them…" she gestured at Ranma and Genma "…entered the tent, her hysteria reached a sort of fever pitch, and she became rather violently ill. Dr. Tofu had her put under heavy sedation, and he and Kasumi carried her to her bed. She may not wake for several days."

Both Ranma and Ukyou jerked their heads up to gape at Nodoka.


Despite being under the same roof as she had been, Ranma had no idea about Akane's reaction to his impending suicide. Perhaps it was because he and his father had been kept sequestered in the dojo since early morning. Perhaps it was because he was too busy sweating about his own fate to be concerned with Akane's emotional state. Perhaps, having been pounded by her too many times to the tune of "Ranma, DIE!" it never occurred to him that she might even be moved to tears, let alone illness. She…she really does care? The shock of the news drained the blood from his face. As an added benefit, it cured his nosebleed.

Ukyou blanched at the news as well. While she had always known that Akane cared about Ranma, she was firmly convinced that she loved him more that Akane did. Perhaps even more than Akane was capable of doing. But now… now, she recognized what Akane was going through… and remembered…

Even well-trained runners will occasionally collapse at the end of a hard-run race, tired to the point of illness. Ukyou was no runner. She was athletic, to be sure, having been trained in the martial arts by her father, and having practiced hand-to-hand combat against her Ran-chan for some time now. But her prime art was that of cooking. 'Make okonomiyaki, not war', that was the Kuonji creed… at least in jest. It was true, though, that the immense combat spatula that was the family trademark was rarely used save in the direst of circumstances. And at her tender age, Ukyou wasn't even able to lift it. As for running… well, martial artists don't generally emphasize running; you're supposed to stand and fight, after all.

So it was no surprise when, after chasing after her father's yattai for several kilometers at top speed, her stomach muscles began to cramp up. Her legs buckled, and she fell to her knees and began to retch violently from the exertion. Tears mixed with saliva on the dirt beneath her as she tried to regain her breath, her composure… and her stomach. It was a losing battle, just as the chase had been. It was all she could do to stagger off the road and into a clump of bushes before throwing up and passing out. Some well-meaning fellow villager found her in the bushes, and carried her back to her parents.

Ordinarily, cramps caused by excessive running pass in a matter of minutes, or at most hours. Ukyou, however, not only did not recover quickly, but worsened over the course of the next few days. The sickness was not really with her stomach, after all, but with her heart. And as she lay in bed, humiliated at her rejection at the hands of the Saotomes, she resolved never to let it happen again. She willed herself to die. Not physically, but emotionally. Indeed, she recovered speedily shortly after her resolution. But she had ceased to feel anything… but rage.

That rage, of course, drove her on until the day she caught up with the Saotomes. And when Ranma called her 'cute'… her emotions were reborn, like the phoenix from the ashes. She had returned from the grave itself.

But now Akane was doing the same thing.

Ukyou couldn't know for sure whether it was a conscious act or not (probably not; she's no more able to admit she cares for him than he is for her, she thought), but she knew that Akane was willing herself dead. So, she loved Ranma that much, too.

But if she doesn't realize what she's doing…

She doesn't deserve to die….

"Mrs. Saotome! Then listen to me! You may not be able to bring yourself to kill me, but don't you realize that's exactly what you're doing to Akane? Ah…" She raised a hand, as Nodoka opened her mouth to protest. "You don't have to lay a finger on her. She's willing herself to die, for his sake! She may not know it, but she is! And you're the only one who can stop this! Please, don't let her die, Mrs. Saotome!" Ukyou then turned toward her darling Ranma, tears welling up in her eyes. There was no reason to remain stoic anymore. She had lost… or, at any rate, she was unable to win, even now, against Akane.

"Oh, Ranma! I thought I was the only one willing to die for your sake!" She threw herself at him, crushing him in an embrace that pressed skin to skin from cheek to navel. Nodoka watched, wide-eyed, at her son's uncertain reaction. Slowly, he freed his arms and set them gently on Ukyou's shoulder blades as she continued to bawl onto his already wet yukata sleeve.

There was a sound of rustling fabric, and Ranma could feel another tickle in his nose coming on. Ukyou's breasts were pressed tightly to his chest, and his body was responding to the pressure. Oh, jeez, no. I don't need this embarrassment on top of everything else! Where's some cold water when you need it?

Presently, though, Ukyou could feel it, too, and her sobs cut off abruptly.

"…Ran-chan? Is that…? Are you…?" His hands jumped to her shoulders, and he pushed her to arm's length. She looked down.

THAT was making that rustling noise? he thought as he stared at the bulge in his drawstring pants. It was so strong, it was starting to hurt. Ranma turned a deep shade of crimson, and then turned to face his mother. He spoke through gritted teeth.

"That's it. If I have EVER wanted to die of embarrassment, this is it. Let's get this OVER WITH." Ukyou looked crestfallen, and then despairing. She reached for her knife as Ranma picked up his. Nodoka blinked, then sadly stepped back a step, and raised her katana.

Something was wrong about this scene, she mused to herself. Something was missing… something like…

"GENMA!! He's gone!!"


To be continued.

Chapter 4
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