A Ranma ½ fan fiction story
by Ukyou Kuonji
Disclaimer: Ranma ½ and its characters and settings belong to Rumiko Takahashi, Shogakukan, Kitty, and Viz Video.
Chapter Five: Unforgiving Stone
Cologne hopped into the tent after her great-granddaughter. Sure enough, the place was completely empty. Well… there were only two possibilities. She hopped over to one of the two buckets sitting on the stones, and lifted the lid.
Cologne sighed in relief.
"Yes, Shampoo. He's gone — from here — but as I told you before, he's still alive. And the plan stays in force. All we need to do is to find him before she does. And we've got a head start; for one, *she* has no idea he's missing." She hopped out of the tent, almost musing to herself. "I have to admit, I don't understand why she's doing this. The terrible things one does in the name of 'honor'."
Shampoo followed her into the courtyard. "Great-grandmother turn Shampoo into cat in name of honor," she said. Not accusingly, just matter-of-factly.
Cologne regarded her great-granddaughter curiously. Shampoo never brought that subject up in her presence before. It was not proper to attempt to reprove one's elders, and it was no more proper now than ever. But Cologne was forced to admit she had been as wrongheaded as the man Nodoka was now chasing when she took Shampoo to Jusenkyo for training. The old crone stared thoughtfully at the ground. "Great-granddaughter…" Shampoo flinched. She had spoken out of turn. "It is not meet to correct one's elders. You know this. We know better than you, because we have seen more and learned more. But… we are not infallible. Taking you to Jusenkyo was not the punishment you deserved. I know that in so doing, I made it just that much harder for you to fulfill our Amazon law by capturing Ranma to be your husband — after all, who would marry a woman who is a cat half the time?" Out of the corner of her eye, the old woman saw tears landing at Shampoo's feet. She looked up to face her great-granddaughter, and reached up to touch her chin.
"Don't cry, child… if that was a real handicap, who would want to marry a man who's a woman half the time?" Her eyes twinkled, and Shampoo laughed through her tears for a moment.
And then the girl began bawling afresh.
"Everybody want airen. Shampoo only one of so many!"
Cologne's face wrinkled in disapproval. It is not right for an Amazon to cry. Then her countenance softened, and she moved to embrace Shampoo. Well, we've broken one taboo already. What's one more?
Dr. Tofu, having heard Kasumi's scream, stumbled through the kitchen door as fast as he could go with his glasses fogged up as they were. The sight that greeted him, however, cleared them up in a hurry.
His beloved Kasumi lay crumpled limply against the far wall, covered in bruises. He rushed over to her, and knelt at her side.
"K-K-Kasumi!" he heard himself stutter, and hated himself for it. He gritted his teeth. He could not afford to let the lovesickness that frequently hampered his work do so now. If he did, he knew that soon there might not be anyone to be lovesick over anymore.
He could see that she was still breathing, however raggedly, and thanked the gods for that much. He carried her over to an examination table, and laid her down. His hands shook as he undid her dress to inspect the extent of her injuries.
But even as Genma lumbered out of Dr. Tofu's clinic, he was running into more trouble. Tatewaki Kuno saw the beast as he made his escape.
The panda! If Kuonji-san speaks the truth, my darlings want that beast returned! They will be so grateful! He ran to block the bear's path.
"Stop right there, my ursine friend. You belong to my darlings, Tendo Akane and Osage-no-Onna. I must return you to them, and their praise, their gratitude, their love shall be mine!"
The panda's eyes widened. How did Kuno figure out his identity? It never occurred to him that Kuno might still have no clue that Genma and the panda were one and the same. The fact that he was attempting to apprehend him and take him to the Tendo dojo seemed to be proof enough of Kuno's newfound enlightenment. He growfed as menacingly as he could, despite his fear, and advanced on Kuno. Kuno, however, was not moving.
"You frighten me not, friend panda. En garde!" He swiped at the approaching beast, who ducked, and then took a swipe of his own, knocking the young nobleman down before quickly lumbering off.
Even down on his hands and knees, Kuno was undaunted. "Mark my words; you shall not escape the Blue Thunder of Furinkan High!" The sky rumbled, and as Kuno announced his grandiloquent title, lightning flashed and struck the panda, knocking him down. A sign was knocked from his hand, and flew, spinning, toward Kuno, who reached out and grabbed it by the handle.
[How does he DO that?] Kuno read.
"The vengeance of heaven is sometimes swift and sure," Tatewaki announced with a thin smile as he strode over to the fallen beast. "Regardless, it is on my side. You would do well not to challenge it next time." He looked over the panda rapidly. Some of his fur was singed, but he seemed to be breathing. It looked as if the creature would be all right. Thanks to the heavens for that. "I am sorry to put you in such discomfort, friend panda. Certainly, you have done me no harm that I should bring this down upon your head. But I am told you belong to my dearest loves, the fierce and lovely Tendo Akane and the mysterious free spirit, my Osage-no-Onna. I must return you to them." A noise diverted his attention to a nearby rooftop.
Her trademark maniacal laugh alternated with hysterical sobs, but it was indeed Kodachi, flying from rooftop to rooftop. At her brother's voice, she halted. "Brother dear?"
"I am in need of some assistance which you might be able to render unto me."
"How can I do anything," she cried out bitterly, "now that my love is no longer? I am doomed to be a wandering spirit, restlessly seeking the man she loves. And he is dead." She began to weep again.
"He is NOT!" Kuno roared at his sister. Her histrionics often tried his patience, and when she spoke of his mortal enemy, that foul sorcerer Saotome Ranma, in such tones, it would irritate him that much more. Was she baiting him all this time? "Your… Ranma…" he fairly spat out the name, "LIVES!"
The change in her face was dramatic. It lit up like a thousand suns, and the radiance itself served to dry the tears from her face. She bounded down to her brother, and embraced him.
"Tachi-kun, is it true? Ranma-sama lives?"
Kuno growled. "Yes, it is. And — I cannot believe I am saying this — I am helping to save him." Kodachi hugged him all the tighter.
"Oh, Onii-sama! You do care for your darling sister!"
"I must regret to say that I do so not for you, Ko-chan, but for my Osage-no-Onna." Kodachi let go, and pushed her brother away from her a pace. Her face darkened considerably.
"The pigtailed witch?! How dare you?"
"Hear me out. The day Saotome Ranma dies, my Osage-no-Onna has pledged to die as well. They will commit seppuku together. Thus spake Kuonji Ukyou but half an hour ago."
"Well, what of it? I mean no offense to you, brother dear, but I care not what happens to her. If she dies, so much the better."
Kuno contained himself, but he was starting to lose patience with his sister. "If she dies, it will be because your beloved Ranma has died. Do you understand? As untenable as it may seem, sister dear, each of us must save the one we hate to ransom the other we love. Who knows? Perhaps our efforts toward their salvation will cause our adversaries to renounce their sorceries against us."
Kodachi stood up and nodded. "Very well, then, brother. What would your have me do?"
"This panda needs to be returned to the Tendo dojo. I have been able to subdue him, but he resisted considerably. I fear he will neither be brought in quietly nor easily. Have you your ribbons?"
"The Black Rose would not be so without her tools!" And she produced several ribbons. A quick flip, and Genma-panda was wrapped up tight as a mummy.
"Excellent!" Kodachi dismissed her brother's enthusiasm with a slight wave. Kuno looked about the street. "Now, all we need is a way to carry him back… Ah-ha!" A naked flagpole, jutting out from a nearby building, had caught his attention. He motioned toward it. "Can you pull that out and bring it here, sister?"
"For you, Tachi-kun, anything." A flick of the wrist, and the flagpole was swathed in ribbon. A tug, and the pole was wrenched from the wall, taking several bricks out with it. A head peered out of a nearby window.
"Hey, what the heck's the big idea?"
"A thousand pardons, friend. We are in dire need of a means to transport this beast to its rightful owners." The two Kunos busied themselves with tying the panda's ankles and wrists to the pole as Tatewaki spoke. Having accomplished this task, he stood up and flung an envelope at the open window. "Would you be so kind as to deliver that to this building's landlord? With our utmost thanks and deepest apologies, of course."
The man caught and opened the envelope. Five ten-thousand yen notes spilled out! Whoa! He could give three of these to the landlord, and he'd probably be satisfied with that. That way, he'd still have twenty thousand yen left! He waved gratefully at the two strange youngsters on the street below, as they picked up the pole with the panda now hog-tied to it.
No one would look for me in here. Ranma smiled almost slyly to himself as he shut the door. He had slipped by Nabiki and her father as she was still trying vainly to calm him down. Then he turned to face what the room held.
The way she looked, lying on her bed in her drugged state… it was almost like the time she played Juliet (or was it Sleeping Beauty? The Furinkan High School drama club played rather fast and loose with their Shakespeare). Ukyou had said that she was willing herself to die on his account. Could it be possible?
"Akane… can you hear me?" His fiancée lay still, unmoving. He opened up her nightstand drawer and removed a compact mirror, and placed it under her nose.
Okay. It fogged up. She's in there, at any rate.
"Um… okay, I don't know if you can hear me, Akane… but Ukyou told me that you were trying to make yourself die because I was about to. I… I never knew. I thought you hated me.
"I don't know how you feel about me anymore. I wish you'd tell me.
"I wish I knew…"
As Ranma kept his vigil, Dr. Tofu continued his feverish work on the other fallen Tendo sister. Once he had undone her dress in order to examine her, his glasses had fogged up again. He removed them and began wiping them, cursing his own reactions.
"I'm a doctor. I'm supposed to be professional about this.
"And I'm a martial artist. I should have more control over myself.
"Why can't I cope with this?"
"I have got to see Dr. Onozuka about getting contacts." He put them on, and peered at Kasumi's body through the once-again gathering fog. What he could see seemed innocuous enough, actually — a number of bruises, to be sure, but nothing serious externally. He placed his hands gently on her ribcage to check for broken bones. His hands clenched up as his own body became aware of what he was doing, and to whom. He gritted his teeth.
"Come on. I've got to restrain myself. Kasumi's depending on me. I can't fail her now!" Slowly, his hands made their way down the ribcage, to the (gulp) pelvis…
The doctor pulled his hands away. Okay. Gotta catch my breath. Nothing so far, that's good. Now, the legs and arms should be easier.
They were, and once again, Dr. Tofu could not find any breaks. Well… I guess I'm going to have to take an X-ray of the skull.
Ukyou and Nodoka continued their search, leaving the okonomiyakiya. Konatsu had confirmed that there had been no sign of Genma or the panda. They were heading for the clinic to see if Kasumi had located him, and nearly barreled into the Kunos. The pole the siblings were carrying fell to the ground with a loud thump and a clang.
It was, of course, the panda. "Well done, Kunos!" Ukyou exulted. Kuno arched his back stiffly for a moment, then offered a bow to the girl.
"'Twas but a mere trifle for the Blue Thunder of Furinkan High." Genma-panda adapted a cowering stance (or, anyway, the best cowering he could do, wrapped up as he was. He had no intentions of being stuck by lightning again.
"Or the Black Rose of St. Hebereke's. Now, if you'll excuse me, brother dear has explained that you are in need of your husband too, if Ranma-sama is to be spared. I shall leave the panda in your capable hands, and seek your husband out for myself. Oho-ho-ho-ho-ho!" And with a spray of black rose petals, Kodachi vanished.
Ukyou looked at Nodoka and shrugged. Well, we couldn't have explained anything to her, anyway. Kuno, meanwhile, completely ignored his sister's departure, and picked up where he had left off.
"…Now, Miss Kuonji, you were telling me that both Tendo Akane and the pigtailed girl were in search of this great beast. In keeping with that, I shall bid you adieu, that I might bring it to them in person." A large sweatdrop appeared between the tangled ribbons that swathed the panda's head.
"Ah… We'd just as soon handle him ourselves, Kuno, if you don't mind."
Kuno would have none of it: "Nay! I shall return him, and spare you ladies the strain of bearing him on your shoulders. Besides, I would prefer to receive the praise and thanks that are my due from my two darlings." Now it was Ukyou's turn to sweat big.
"Erm… That may prove difficult, Kuno. Y'see, Akane's not at all well right now. In fact, she's under sedation…"
"WHAT! No doubt cause by that foul fiend's sorcery. I must go to her anon!" And he sprinted off toward the dojo, leaving the panda behind. Once again, Ukyou and Nodoka could merely look at each other and shrug.
"Uh… why don't I run over to Dr. Tofu's and get some hot water? Will you be all right watching him by yourself?" Nodoka nodded. "I'll be right back, then." She dashed off
Nodoka sat down next to the panda, eyes steeled, katana unsheathed. "I think we're going to need some explanations, dearest…"
Doctor Tofu was examining several skull X-rays when Ukyou dashed in.
"Sorry about this, Doctor, but could you spare us some hot water?"
"Hmm? Oh, good afternoon, Miss Kuonji. Hot water, you say? I'll be right with you." His smile seemed rather forced.
"Something wrong, Doctor? Doctor?" Dr. Tofu snapped out of his brief reverie.
"Oh! Well, not really… nothing broken, as it turns out. It looks like she may just have a mild concussion. Should wear off, given time and bed rest…"
Ukyou looked around. "Erm… Y'know, I sent Kasumi here to look for Mr. Saotome. Has she been here?" The doctor turned toward Ukyou, his face white as chalk. He handed her one of the X-rays.
Patient: Tendo, Kasumi.
"Well… Mr. Saotome was here, but he left. I was in the kitchen at the time, but he must have struck her in an effort to leave. She looked to be in pretty bad shape when I found her, and I was afraid I couldn't do much for her. I'm absolutely helpless around her, you know…" His face took on a rather sheepish look. Ukyou smiled faintly.
"I know, sir. Everyone knows."
This made the doctor practically blush. "It took some effort, but I've managed to examine her, and it looks like, as I said, she's just sustained a mild concussion. Most of the external injuries are pretty superficial, so I think she should be all right after all."
"So where is she, then?"
"She's in the next room. She's still unconscious. I needed to put her there, otherwise I couldn't trust myself not to tear up the X-rays or something like that. And we really should get her to the hospital and have an MRI done on her — if for no other reason than that the sooner she's out of my hands, the safer she'll be." He grinned sheepishly. "Anyway… you said you needed hot water, right?"
"Oh, yeah. Right. Thanks."
When Ukyou returned with a kettle full of hot water, she related Dr. Tofu's story to Nodoka. The older woman's eyes crackled with barely suppressed fury. The panda was sweating profusely by now.
"…anyway, Dr. Tofu says she'll pull through." She began to pour the water over the mass of ribbons that held Genma-panda fast.
"That's beside the point, Ukyou." Nodoka responded fiercely. "I have never heard of anything so unmanly." The ribbons fell away from the now-human Genma. "How can you possibly excuse what you've done?" He drew himself up to face his wife.
"I cannot." Ukyou's jaw dropped. "There is no excuse for what I have done, but that the punishment I face far exceeds my crimes. I am sorry about what I had to do, but I do not wish to die. I am not ready to die…
"And I'm not about to let you kill me!" And with that, he sprang free of the ribbons that had fallen to his feet. He landed on a nearby rooftop, from whence he bounded to another, and another, and another. Ukyou gaped for a moment, and then blinked herself back to reality.
"We've got to catch him! Come on, Nodoka!" The older woman held up her hand.
"No, Ukyou, I have to catch him. This isn't your affair anymore. You told me your vengeance could adequately be satisfied by Dr. Tofu's… 'ministrations'. That has been accomplished.
"But after what Dearest has done… I cannot stop now until he has joined his fathers. Perhaps he may even do so honorably. You return to the dojo." And she bounded off after her husband.
Ukyou could not help but marvel as Nodoka leapt from housetop to housetop after Genma. So that's where Ran-chan gets that skill. Amazing… and they're both well into their forties.
She had no intention of going back to the dojo — she had to see what would happen next. Maybe Nodoka would need her help bringing him back or something. She followed the pair from the ground, looking up to watch when she could, looking down to check pedestrians and traffic when she had to.
The chase wound through the Nerima district, and continued on, working its way inexorably toward the business districts. The rooftops were now the roofs of skyscrapers, not houses. Still the two Saotomes continued their chase. But it was only a matter of time before Genma tired and turned to face his wife.
"Why, Nodoka? Why was it necessary for you to come? I thought I had Ranma trained well. He was a magnificent martial artist. If you had seen him, you would have been so proud of the man he'd become.
"But you were wrapped up with that 'manly man' stuff. Couldn't we have let it go that he was a martial artist among martial artists? I knew you wouldn't consider him a man if he was cursed to go about as a girl. Acting like a girl's not manly, now, is it? So we ran and hid. It was my idea. But I knew. I knew how you'd be. I don't care what you told that girl, that Jusenkyo had nothing to do with this. It has everything to do with it! Because of it, Ranma had to act like a girl, especially around you — because he was a girl, and not a man anymore. And you'd never let us live if you found out." Nodoka slowly continued to advance, katana drawn.
"I said, I'm not ready to die! Can't you see your way clear to absolve me? Throw me out, banish me from your sight… just let me live! I did what I could under the circumstances!"
"I imagine you did indeed do what you could… what you could get away with. You stole for food, you bargained your own son away several times. And you broke my heart. All this time, you were deliberately hiding from me. You never once seemed to consider that this was your doing!
"And now, it will be your undoing. My dear… it is time. Before the heavens and all these witnesses," she gestured at the people on the ground many stories below them, "will you accept your responsibility and fulfill your vows to me?"
The question hung in the air, and it seemed as if time itself held its breath for the answer. It came in a great and agonized roar.
"NO!!" Genma backed away from his wife, and made as if to spring to the next rooftop, when his foot slipped off the corner of the roof they were standing upon. There was a brief and futile struggle for equilibrium, and then…
The word "NOOOOO!!" echoed through the urban canyon.
From some thirty stories below, Ukyou saw it all. She had no idea what was being said, but her eyes popped as Genma's foot slipped from the corner. Then, yelling at the crowd around her to "Get back!" she charged into the building and stormed up the stairs. She knew full well how this would end, and had no desire to see it. But Nodoka would need help.
She clambered out onto the roof, gasping for breath, to find Nodoka, on her hands and knees, facing the corner from whence her husband had fallen. She was weeping uncontrollably.
"He wouldn't even die honorably…" Only now did Ukyou dare to peer over the corner at the chaos below.
Ranma had survived falls like this before: he and Ryoga had once even plunged over a cliff during a fight. But as luck(?) would have it, Ranma inevitably managed to land in water, which tended to break both fall and ego. There was no great body of water to land in here; only cold, unforgiving concrete. There was no surviving this fall. Indeed, the impact had rendered Genma virtually unrecognizable as human. If Ukyou had felt ill from the exertion of climbing so many stairs, the sight below made her positively sick. She dropped onto all fours and put her head between her knees to keep from actually having to vomit.
Then, as she began to take a few deep breaths, she heard as the wail of sirens mingled with Nodoka's sobs. She took one last breath, stood up, and walked back to the older woman, putting her arm around her shoulder.
As gently as she could: "Mother?" No response.
"Auntie?" Nodoka continued crying, paying Ukyou no heed.
"Mrs. Saotome? We've got to go. There'll be police up here in no time. We really need to get out of here before that happens, or we're liable to get into big trouble!" Nodoka now drew herself up stiffly, like a statue.
"No. We stay, and explain it to them. They will understand about a debt of honor."
And much to Ukyou's astonishment, they did. Several other ground-level witnesses also confirmed that while Nodoka may have chased Genma, she did not touch him: his fall was entirely by accident. After giving their statements, the two women were allowed to leave. The route back to the dojo was fifty times longer than the same one taken earlier that day in pursuit of Genma Saotome.
To be continued.
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