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 Six: Greater Manhood Hath No Love Than This…
Every part of Ukyou's body hurt as she and Nodoka trudged back to the Nerima district and the Tendo dojo from the downtown police precinct office. Her feet burned from miles of running, as she had tried to keep up with Nodoka as she chased her husband from rooftop to rooftop. Her eyes and ears had been seared with the sight and sound of Genma as he had fallen from the roof of a skyscraper. Her lungs ached from tearing up thirty-plus flights of stairs to pull Nodoka from the scene. And her stomach was in knots after an hour or so of giving statements to the police, compounded by the fact that even now, once they returned to the dojo, any efforts she had expended to save Ranma had been wasted, and he might still be required to perform seppuku. And she had tried so hard, too! It was all she could do not to break down then and there.
For her part, Nodoka continued walking rapidly toward the dojo, eyes fixed straight ahead, face expressionless. What is she, thought Ukyou, made of stone? Or steel? She glanced momentarily at her fiancé's mother, her own eyes brimming as she started to feel the full weight of her own failure coming down upon her. There was no expression on the woman's face.
But just as she turned her gaze away from Nodoka, Ukyou caught a glimpse of a small sparkle at the corner of the older woman's eye. Could it be..?
Yes. A tear trickled out of the corner of Nodoka's eye.
"Mrs. Saotome…?" Ranma's mother stopped short. Slowly, she turned to look into Ukyou's eyes. The despair the girl could see in them was terrifying.
Nodoka dropped to her knees, and took Ukyou's hand in hers.
"Please, Ukyou… could you call me 'mother'?
Her request was so unexpected, and made in such a plaintive voice, that Ukyou forgot to be exultant at what could otherwise be interpreted as acknowledgment of her supremacy in the ranking of Ranma's fiancées. "C-call you… muh-muh-mother?" Once again, Nodoka winced at the title, or at least appeared to. Her eyes squeezed tightly, and her lips pinched together in a half-frown, half-grimace.
Then the dam broke.
"Oh, Ukyou… No one will ever call me that again!" Now it was Ukyou's turn to feel awkward embracing someone. Mrs. Saotome was crying inconsolably on her shoulder — what to do? To say? Then she realized what she had been asked to call Mrs. Saotome. She smiled, faintly at first, then broadly, before standing up. She offered her hand to Mrs. Saotome.
"Don't cry so… M-Mother." As much of a triumph as it was, it was still sinking into Ukyou's mind that she had been asked to call her that. She couldn't get over that! But, she couldn't quite believe it yet, either. "You still have Ran-chan. He still wants to love you, and for you to be proud of him. I'm sure I can prove him to be a man among men yet. I'll bet he's still back at the dojo, waiting for us."
Nodoka lifted her head, and reached for Ukyou's hand, "I hope you're right, Ukyou. I've lost one man already today. I really don't want to have to go through this again…" They continued on to the dojo, Ukyou's arm around Nodoka's waist as if to support her. Nodoka put up no fight. As they walked, Ukyou offered up a thousand silent prayers for Ranma.
In the courtyard of the Tendo dojo, the situation outside was reversed. Another one of Ranma's fiancées was crying on the shoulder of an older woman. Cologne's eyes darted about in bewildered embarrassment as she continued to hold onto her sobbing granddaughter.
"Please, Shampoo! It is not a sign of strength to cry. Particularly when there is no reason for you to do so." The younger Amazon pushed her away to look at her at arm's length. Her eyes were red and swollen.
"No reason? What you talking, Great-grandmother? Ranma not here. He run away. He mother right; he no strong man."
"Shampoo." Cologne's voice was firm and steady. "He is certainly strong enough. And as for his mother, well, she doesn't need to know what happened to him. Let her think he's run away. We'll find him first, and take him away from here.
"But as he isn't here, we must begin our search for him right away!" Shampoo nodded, and followed the old Amazon as she hopped toward the gate.
Which opened just as they arrived at it — to reveal a rather surprised Ukyou and Nodoka.
"Shampoo! Cologne! What're you two doing here?!"
"We come rescue hus—" Shampoo received a rap on the head from her great-grandmother's staff. Gently, not hard enough to knock her out, but hard enough to remind her that some things were better left unsaid.
Ukyou winced. Not at the blow Shampoo had sustained, but at her words. Children and fools…
"Okay, Cologne. You're not paying a social call, that's for sure. 'Fess up. What's the deal?"
The old crone merely smiled mysteriously. "You can't do anything to make me talk. You know you couldn't beat it out of me. Even with your spatula, girl."
The calmer Cologne's answer, the angrier it made Ukyou. "It's something to do with Ran-chan, isn't it? Tell me!" She reached out to grab the old hag by her robe, but Cologne nimbly dodged her rather clumsy effort, and gave her a gentle knock on the head with her cane that sent Ukyou sprawling to the ground.
"We have done nothing to Mr. Husband. Yet."
Ukyou propped herself up, and gingerly touched the small lump on the back of her head. "Yeah, right. Whadja do, hide him somewhere so that you could grab him later when the heat is off and run back to your Amazon village?"
"We no hide airen! He gone! He not waiting in tent like spatula-girl say…" Both Cologne and Nodoka turned in shock to look at Shampoo.
"What?! Ranma ran off?" Mrs. Saotome clutched the handle of her as yet still sheathed katana. She charged past the two Amazons, and into the tent.
Cologne gave Shampoo a swipe on the head. "Why did you tell them?" she hissed into her ear. "You should have let them find out for themselves — AFTER we left."
"They not let us go, great-grandmother," Shampoo whispered back. "This way, crazy woman not watch us — we go." Cologne shrugged, and they once again headed for the exit.
Which was Ukyou's cue to stand up.
"I don't think so, kids. You're not going until we get some answers. I'm gonna keep you here if it kills me."
Cologne's voice started to ooze menace. "And it may just do that, little girl…" She assumed a fighting stance, confident that, without her main weapon, her opponent was virtually helpless. She decided to toy with her first, and then, since she was unarmed, knock her out with a simple pressure point. It wouldn't be necessary or sporting to just destroy her like this. Just give her the impression you might. She'll see reason and back down.
But Ukyou had come so close to destroying herself already today, that any threat Cologne might have thought she posed to the girl was negligible. Even now, Ukyou feared that Ranma may indeed have run out after all. Which meant the Nodoka would end up still having to kill him, and, if so, she would die too. She had nothing to lose from fighting Cologne to the death.
Cologne just sat there, perched on her pole. As Ukyou approached her, she decided to continue her bluff. She raised a gnarled finger and pointed toward the girl's forehead.
Ukyou was undeterred. Ryoga had pulled that stunt on her in jest before. She knew it only worked on rocks and other inanimate objects. "Nice try, grannie!" She grinned as she sent a right hook to the old woman's jaw, sending her sailing into the Tendo residence. Ukyou stormed after her.
As she entered the house, she heard a noise overhead like a stampede of buffalo. Familiar voices echoed throughout the dojo.
"Perfidious swine! What have you done to her?"
"Look, man, I haven't done nothin' to her, got that? Leave me alone! And getcher hands OFF her, you pervert!"
Ukyou and Cologne stopped their fight. Their mutual goal had been achieved: they had found Ranma. Ukyou yelled up at the ceiling, "Ran-chan, is that you?"
"Ucchan! Yeah! Can you gimme a hand up here? C'mon, Kuno, give it a rest! Let her be, okay?" A hand? Well, hey. He needs my help. Cool. She waved her hands at Nodoka, who had just stepped rather dejectedly out of the tent. "He's here!" she mouthed, indicating the ceiling, and Nodoka's face brightened considerably. Meanwhile, the tussle between Ranma and Kuno continued.
"How dare you order your sempai around? Hand her over!"
"Not a chance!"
"It is you who stand no chance against the Blue Thunder of Furinkan High!" Lightning crackled outside, as it on cue again, but indoors, Ranma was safe.
"Yeah, sure, whatever. Now get the hell outta my way!" The sound of rampaging elephants could be heard once again, and the noise began to make its way to the stairs.
Kuno and Ranma were charging downstairs from Akane's room, jockeying for position. Ranma was carrying the still-comatose Akane, thus preventing Kuno from passing him on the stairs. Once on the ground floor, Kuno elbowed Ranma aside, almost causing him to drop her. "Watch it, y'dumb ox!"
With that, Kuno halted, drew himself up, and proceeded to denounce Ranma, to everybody in general and nobody in particular.
"This foul fiend has been cowering in, of all places, the bedchamber of my dear Tendo Akane herself! Defiling the very temple of Artemis with his unholy presence!"
"I just wanted to check on her, that's all! I was worried about her, okay?"
Kuno paid him absolutely no heed. "…To continue his vile sorcery that even now holds her in Morpheus' grip! What's more, he—"
"Uh, Kuno-baby…" Now Nabiki decided to enter the fray.
"Ah, Tendo Nabiki. Surely you can see reason." He turned his back to her, so that he was facing Ranma. He pointed accusingly at Ranma. "This despicable car has caused my darling Akane — your sister! — such distress as to render her unconscious to the point of death. I speak the truth; you know it to be so." As he gesticulated at Ranma with his right hand, his left hand, which was behind his back, was displaying several 10,000-yen notes which he had concealed up his sleeve. As he spoke, he waved the banknotes to attract Nabiki's attention. "I demand that he release her from this enchantment immediately, and hand her over to me. I will give her the care she deserves. Can anyone persuade him to do so?" Nabiki walked up behind him and slapped him, hard enough to spin him around. He was now facing her, and the left hand, still holding the cash, was exposed to plain view.
"That hurt, Nabiki Tendo," he said in his usual aloof manner. He was so absorbed in reproving Nabiki that he had forgotten about his bribe.
"LOOK AT ME if you're gonna talk to me!" she yelled, gesticulating frantically in an effort to get the others' attention. Her father was the first to catch sight of the wad of bills. He walked over to Kuno and clamped a hand on his shoulder. At the same time, his other hand pulled the bills from Kuno's hand, and waved them in front of his face.
"Young man… I believe these are yours."
As soft as Mr. Tendo generally was, there were times he could be hard as granite. This was one of those times. Kuno actually hesitated before taking his money back. "I… uh… thank you, sir…"
"Now then, young man… WHAT were you trying to accomplish with this?" Soun's demon head started to fire up.
Even the Blue Thunder can be grounded now and again. Kuno decided upon the better part of valor and beat a hasty retreat.
Ranma set Akane down as gently as he could onto the porch. "I see you two are back, ne?" he said, smiling grimly at his mother and Ukyou. "So… is the ceremony still on? And where's Pop?"
Nodoka and Ukyou looked at each other. Nodoka nodded at Ukyou, and turned toward her son, steeling herself for the news Ukyou was about to deliver, the news she already knew.
"I… I'm sorry, Ran-chan. Your mother was chasing after him, and he fell from a skyscraper… He didn't make it."
There was a great silence. One could actually hear Ranma's eyes grow large.
The boy sank to his knees under the weight of the news.
Nabiki reflected that he had never used that word when addressing or referring to his father before. It was always "Oyaji" — "old man". Anyone could tell Ranma never had much respect for his old man… except possibly his old man. Or maybe Genma always just let it pass.
Or maybe Genma actually knew he wasn't worthy of more respect than that, after all.
Nodoka smiled sadly at her son. "I imagine it is right to show some grief over him; after all, he was the only parent you knew for so many years, ne? I am sorry it had to come to this.
"But I am proud of you, my son. Dearest was a poor teacher; I see that now. You have learned far more than he could ever have taught you, and I'm not talking merely about techniques. You have learned the courage to face up to your shortcomings and weaknesses, and to develop strengths to counter them where you can, and accept the consequences where you cannot. You have indeed become a man's man after all. There is no need for any such ceremony."
Her face brightened. "You know, as much as I mourn my dearest, it somehow seems as if I haven't lost a husband as much as I've regained a son. You are my son after all — and you have returned to me after thirteen long and lonely years. I can see that you no longer fear me…
"Of course, now that you've been returned…" she smiled wistfully, "it seems a pity that I have to give you away again so soon."
Ranma had started to relax during his mother's speech, but that last sentence got his attention: "Uh… Give me away?"
"But of course. The school of Anything-Goes Martial Arts needs an heir (and, to be honest, I can't wait to have grandchildren). This means, then, that you, Ranma, will have to choose your fiancée. We can't have you stringing all these girls along, and…" her eyes twinkled ever so slightly — he is quite the man, isn't he, to have so many girls chasing after him all the time, but — "polygamy is still against the law." A big sweatdrop appeared on Ranma's forehead.
"You mean… right now?"
"Why not? They're all here." Well… except Kodachi. I don't think he'd consider her, though…
"I'm sorry, mom. I can't do that."
"I said no, Mom. You can't make me choose. Not yet.
"I dunno if you've noticed, mom, but Akane almost died because she thought she was going to lose me. And you've seen the lengths to which Ukyou and Shampoo are willing to go to for my sake. No matter what you do, if you're gonna insist I choose someone right now, you're gonna be killing at least one of these girls. That's not fair! I really do care about all of them, and I don't wish any of them to come to harm.
"Just don't make me do this, okay? Not until the ones I don't choose are ready to accept it."
A frown spread across Nodoka's face. "You disappoint me, son…"
"I see. So, by not choosing, I have once again failed to be a man's man in your eyes." He stood up and walked over to the tent, and went in. A moment later, he came out, holding the three daggers that had been left behind in the confusion. He set down two of them, and holding the other next to his abdomen, knelt before his mother, facing the house only a yard away. "…Are you ready with that katana, mother?"
No. He was not showing any fear. But Ukyou was right. That katana… it really was all he could see when he looked at her. His own mother, nothing but an angel of death.
What else could she do? She unsheathed it, and raised it onto her shoulder.
"NO!" From behind her, a cry of protest. Shampoo?
The purple-haired girl leaped over her and crumpled at her feet. "Ranma mother no kill airen! Even if he no choose Shampoo, better than he dead. Please!" From behind Nodoka Cologne scowled at her great-granddaughter's groveling. This girl is hardly fit for the Amazon throne. Should she actually inherit it from me, good heavens! There'll be no Laws left unbroken!
Ukyou knelt beside Ranma and picked up her own dagger. She reached over and grasped the hand of the still-comatose Akane, and squeezed tightly.
"You know my offer stands… Mother." Nodoka was back to wincing at the title — had she really given this girl permission to call her that? "Do as you think you must, but realize that if he goes, we go too."
All eyes were on Nodoka, or rather, on the sword that had become an extension of herself. Even she turned her head sideways, to gaze at it.
She set her jaw, and with a mighty cry of anguish and fury, she swung the katana with all her might. Time slowed to a crawl, as Shampoo and Ukyou closed their eyes and ducked, while Ranma's eyes practically started from their sockets as he stayed frozen in position like a deer caught in the headlights of an onrushing truck…
The impact shook the walls of the Tendo residence, and broke the katana in two. Nodoka had struck the doorjamb with the flat of the blade. The pointed end bounced away from the door, and flew, spinning, into the koi pond. With a final cry, Nodoka thrust the broken portion into the ground just outside the porch. The soft earth swallowed the blade to its hilt.
"That accursed thing has brought me enough misery and blood to last seven lifetimes! And I never once actually used it! My husband ran away from me and died rather than face me because of it. And he almost took you with him.
"I am not this evil beast who wants to destroy you for every mistake you make. I am your mother, Ranma. Let me be that for you. But if all you see in me is that katana, then…" She stepped on the hilt that stuck up from the ground, and slowly drove it in until it was completely buried. "…there. May you see it no more.
"I release you from your promise."
Pandemonium broke loose around mother and son. Shampoo and Ukyou squealed with delight and relief. They jumped up and down hugging each other. Nabiki collected the daggers from Ranma, and took them to the kitchen, where she placed them in the silverware drawer. Soun, for his part, was waving the customary white fans showing his approval. Cologne merely sat on her cane, nodding sagely. "Honor has been satisfied." Still, such a waste of such a fine sword…
Ranma handed his knife to Nabiki with great relief, but made an effort to maintain a calm expression. Inwardly, he was grinning broadly. Okay, Nabiki. Bring on those playing cards! If I can handle bluffing my mom with these kind of stakes, anything you could possibly do to me will be penny-ante from now on. This buys me some time…
"Akane-chan!" Ukyou bounded over to her rival's side. Sure enough, she was beginning to wake. There was a clatter of silverware as even Nabiki rushed over to the patio.
The first face that greeted her, though, was Ranma, who had leaned in so close as to block anyone else from her line of vision.
"R-Ranma? W-what happened?"
"Erm… Quite a lot, actually…"
"Ah… am I dead, then?" Ranma couldn't help but smile.
"No, Akane. You're fine, and so am I…"
"Omigosh… You're alive?!" She sat bolt upright. "You're alive! Oh, Ranma!" And she crushed him with a great bear hug.
So this is how she really feels about me? Wish she'd said so long ago…
As Ranma and Akane embraced, Soun turned to Nodoka. "All will be well. He and Akane will marry, after all."
The Amazon matriarch bounded over on her cane: "No! Ranma is Shampoo's husband!"
Nodoka could only look at the two of them and shrug. "Well, it's not really mine to say, is it?" She looked over at the young people, still celebrating both Ranma's release and Akane's recovery. At the sound of the older folks' conversation, Ukyou looked up, and stared at Nodoka with a look of deep sadness. Nodoka gazed at the girl for a moment, and then turned back to the other parents.
"I'm sorry. He'll make his own decision in time. He's my son, yes, but he's his own man."
His own man...
She liked the sound of that.
Author's notes: Oh, MAN. Finally.
This whole story started out as a literal nightmare late in June in which I had to rescue Ran-chan from his mother's vengeance. I woke up in a cold sweat, and was compelled to immediately start putting it on paper. It ended up being a nightmare in its own right — I'd never written a story this long in my LIFE. The blasted thing just wouldn't end. Now that it has, there are other tales buzzing around my head that need to be let loose, and I'm trying to flesh them out for public consumption as soon as possible. And no, I'm NOT continuing this story, as tempting as the possibility of a union between the widow Saotome and the widower Tendo might be at this point.
I'd like to thank my pre-readers, AkaneUsa and PXDN, who got previews of each chapter before they were posted to r.a.a.c. and sent comments.
Thanks, too, to Andy Combs, my moderator, for helping me through some nasty technical difficulties on my first couple of chapter posts (and I appreciate all the letters I got from people asking for copies of their own. Nothing like a glitch to help you discover if anyone's out there reading, ne?) For those of you who wrote to comment, I'd also like to extend appreciation; it's always nice for a first-timer to receive such plaudits. But I can't let it go to my head: there's been a few revisions so I could send this story out in its entirety for archival purposes, most of the corrections sent by you readers. Thanks for helping me keep everything straight and accurate.
Finally, my deepest thanks go to my darling 'Konatsu', Rei-sama, who has kept the Ucchan from falling apart while I've been sitting here in the upstairs apartment getting a tan from this computer screen. As Shampoo-baka might say: Wo ai ne (hey, I may quote her, but doesn't mean I gotta respect her or nothin'). And I mean it, too.
I can promise more to come, but not necessarily when. So, until then…
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