A Ranma ½ story
By Wun Wong
Disclaimer: I certainly do not own Ranma ½ or its characters. They belong to Rumiko Takahashi and Shogakukan in Japan, Viz Video in the USA. I do not, and will not profit monetarily from this work. Thank you.
Thanks to my pre-reader, Cannibal Who Snacks, and the people who offered web space to archive my fic.
Prologue: Discovery of the Past and Plans for the Future
The Chamber had obviously seen better days, with at least a finger's width of dust over every surface, and of course damages done by the curious Amazons who were investigating it. They held their torches carefully, trying to avoid disturbing the chamber's contents with smoke or fire.
"Aiyah!! This place is really old!" Linfa cried out as the dank, ancient smell of the chamber reached her. She stood at the impromptu entrance made in the wall, ignoring the sound of her Amazon sisters' mutterings as they tied up a couple of young tiger cubs with thick hemp ropes.
Linfa, along with a small group of Amazons led by Amber, was originally tracking down a tiger that recently started hunting near their village. Upon the discovery of the tiger at the cave entrance, they attacked, and managed to kill it after a lengthy battle as it retreated into the cave. What they did not count on was the unusual strength of the tiger, which managed to knock Amber, their hunting leader, through one of the cave walls before its death. In retrospect, Linfa noted, the need to defend its cubs probably played a role in the tiger's ferocity. Amber and a couple other Amazons entered the chamber, while Linfa and the younger Amazons proceeded to capture (i.e. getting slightly mauled by) the cubs that were hiding in the back of the cave. Moving deeper into the chamber, Linfa noted several large carved reliefs on the wall depicting individuals in strange stances as well as lengthy writings in some archaic form of Chinese. A number of debris piles lined the floor, which Linfa identified as remnants of wooden furniture, human bones, weapons, and rags. A piece of the ancient furniture collapsed when one of the Amazons touched it, which attested to their age. Looking upward as she paced the chamber, Linfa missed a small chest in her path. It broke as she stumbled over it. Linfa's hands moved quickly in front of her, and halted her fall in a push-up position. She got back up on her feet and looked down at her feet. Beside the wooden remnants of the chest, Linfa saw a small piece of jade by her foot. Linfa picked up the jade and dusted it off. Unable to examine it effectively in the dim chamber, she pocketed the jade and return her gaze to what interested her the most. The ceiling contained a much longer set of writings than the walls as well as reliefs that depicted people in what was best described as martial art poses. Just the thought of a forgotten martial art caused Linda's head to spin. The opportunity to study this new/ancient style filled Linfa with excitement.
"We need to tell the council about this right away. The writing is so old that Elder Cologne will probably be the only one who can read it. Linfa, as the fastest runner, you must go back to the village with this news at once!" Amber announced before Linfa can explore any further. Linfa had to admit that Amber had a point. She was the fastest runner among their age group, and often played the role of messenger, thus it fell to her shoulders the duty of informing the village leaders. Linfa bemoaned the lost opportunity for exploration, and hurried out of the chamber, then the cave. As she overtook the Amazons transporting the tiger and her cubs back to the village, she felt an intense chill on the back of her neck. Though the moment past quickly, she was nevertheless unnerved.
‘Maybe its not so bad that I get to leave first.‘ She thought to herself, unaware that the jade in her pocket had grown slightly colder.
Nerima, 2 months later
Striding across the rooftops with his usual speed, Ranma was able to cross half of Nerima in mere minutes.
"I should have time to spare." He thought. Arriving at Furinkan high school just a little before seven, he was greeted by the sight of an empty school. The sun had started to set, but still gave off enough light for Ranma to see clearly. Through the dimming red glare he saw Cologne's diminutive form standing in the middle of the soccer field.
"Son-in-law! You are punctual for once!" Cologne said, with an expression that Ranma could almost believe to be a smirk. It couldn't quite reach Nabiki's level of smugness, but it was close.
"Hey, I am on time! Besides, it takes time to ditch everyone else. They are getting a bit suspicious of me. At least you are so old that even if they did discover us, they'd never think you are another fiancée…. urk!! " Rubbing his head where Cologne have landed her staff, Ranma decided that maybe it would be wise to practice the Anything Goes Shutting Your Mouth Technique (the newest version, which had fewer bugs, but slower response time).
Without further ado, Ranma took up his usual relaxed combat stance, and waited for Cologne to make the first move. After the battle with Saffron and the failed wedding a couple months back, Ranma had been receiving additional training from Cologne once a week, partly because he felt that he was no longer learning at an acceptable pace anymore. It was not because he was that much better than the other martial artists (Ryoga was still somewhat of a workout, and Mousse still occasionally had a good combo of stuff to toss at him), but, rather, he already learned all he could from fighting against them, and incorporated the techniques he felt comfortable with. Like all martial artists of achievement, Ranma had an impressive arsenal of moves, but that didn't mean he could combine them all into one effective style. Some techniques were just not suited for his use (for example, Mousse's hidden weapon technique required one to actually have hundreds of weapons to throw, and Ranma would never be able to bring himself to hide training potties on his person), others were hard to combine with his existing style (Ryoga's moves relied too much on power, and Hinako's chi-draining required extensive reworking of chi flows). Since the failed wedding, his 'friends' had gotten even more 'enthusiastic' about their activities. As a result, he spent a great deal of time battling against groups of crazed martial artists, which didn't provide the best environment to try out and explore a new technique.
In order to practice unfamiliar techniques for future incorporation into his style, Ranma asked the only one at his level that he could respect, Cologne, to spar with him. One might wonder why he did not simply practice with his father. The answer was Genma's propensity to use the Hell's Cradle technique, where Genma hugged Ranma as though he were still a child, to provoke such feelings of disgust and embarrassment that Ranma would quit. On top of that, training with Genma was usually a loud affair that drew his 'friends' like bees to honey. It didn't take very long before any meaningful training became impossible under the constant distractions. Cologne agreed to do it because she was a martial artist. She was also many other things, but her interest in the martial arts surpassed almost all other interests. Such an opportunity to observe the formation of a new style could not be passed up, nor could further analysis of Ranma be missed. Cologne usually had the advantage in these mock battles, since using unfamiliar techniques caused Ranma to leave many more openings than usual. The opportunity to bash Ranma around like a rag doll did wonders for relaxation in Cologne's case, so much that she thought of it as therapy for the indignity of operating a restaurant at her age.
'This will be one of the few chances I have left to beat son-in-law. Defeating Saffron proved that he has surpassed even me! Still, I get to school him for a bit longer. It must be Heaven's idea of a reward for me.' Thought Cologne as she treasured the thuds her staff made on Ranma whenever she landed a telling blow; one of the few things in life that could still give her an ego boost. The two enjoyed their fighting for close to an hour, with occasional breaks so that Cologne could give critiques and advice. Realizing that the Ranma's fiancées and rivals would find him eventually, they stopped the sparring session after discussing a few things Ranma could try, to duplicate Hinako's ki-drain technique.
"Till next time, son--in-law!! Hopefully you will consent to marry Shampoo by then!" Cackled Cologne as she bounded away toward the Nekohanten.
"No way, Old Ghoul!" Ranma watched her leave, then started off toward the Tendo Dojo.
When Cologne arrived at the Nekohanten, she noticed that only a few customers remained, a result of the dinner rush passing quickly on a Tuesday night. She was surprised however, by how clean the place was. Usually it took close to an hour before Mousse, being as blind as he is, cleaned up after the customers properly. She had the answer to her question when she heard Shampoo's voice from the kitchen.
"Stupid Mousse! Don't slack off just because Linfa is here to help!!" Shampoo was exasperated by the blind Chinese boy, and not just due to his slacking off. She wanted to chat with Linfa about her home, but Cologne would have a fit if she did that instead of taking care of the restaurant. Fortunately Linfa was helping, which sped the cleaning along nicely. Unfortunately Mousse knocked over one of the pots in the kitchen, and made a horrible mess. While they are more or less ahead of the usual schedule, she only had a little bit of time before Cologne returned and monopolized Linfa the rest of the night to take her report on the Amazon Village. Cologne was not completely unsympathetic, so she sat outside for moment, allowing the younger Amazons inside the kitchen some time to clean up and chat.
After an appropriate amount of time had passed by in Cologne's estimation, she entered the kitchen and called out, "Welcome, Linfa. What news from the village?" So silent was she, that Linfa was taken by surprise and knocked over another pot. Fighting her own chuckles amid apologies and excuses from the young ones, Cologne noted that her entrance surprised neither Shampoo nor Mousse. 'Perhaps this trip to Japan did some good for these two, even if Ranma refuses to come home with us…' Cologne almost winced as Shampoo kicked Mousse through the ceiling. 'Perhaps not.' Cologne's focus shifted from her thoughts to Linfa's words when the Amazon youth began describing the recently discovered chamber.
Nabiki was the first in the Tendo Dojo to get to the dinner table that day, partly because Genma and Soun were still deep in their game of shogi, and Ranma was still out. Akane was looking for him, and Kasumi was cooking, so Nabiki got the dubious honor of being the first at the Tendo dinner table by default. A low humming brought Nabiki’s hand down to her pocket, and she took out her new cell phone (courtesy of a much-inflated dojo repair bill, paid by Kuno after the failed wedding). A friend of Nabiki’s had spotted Ranma by the High School soccer field with Cologne, and apparently decided to gave Nabiki a call.
"Thanks, Ayane-chan. For that, I will get an extra bento from Kasumi just for you tomorrow." Nabiki smiled, and begin awaiting Ranma's return with anticipation. 'This is going to be fun! I can't wait to see his expression when I start on him this time!' A slight smile spread across Nabiki's face as she began calculations on how much she could charge Ranma for this one.
In the Tendo kitchen, Kasumi was working hard on the final preparations for dinner. At first it seemed like a normal day in the kitchen for Kasumi, who generally was cheerful and calm. If anyone were to check see her face, though, they would notice that she was not wearing her normal expression. In fact, she seemed to be on the verge of tears. 'Tofu, why couldn't you wait?' Kasumi had received a letter from Tofu a week ago, notifying Kasumi of his recent marriage. Kasumi and Tofu have been skirting around the issue of their relationship for a long time, but several problems prevented them from exploring it further. First, it took Kasumi a long time to recognize the doctor's feelings, and wondered about her own. Second, it took months to work out a way to communicate without Tofu losing his mind. Third, Kasumi couldn't leave her helpless father and little sisters alone, although privately she thought that Nabiki could take care of herself. It was Akane, who lacked the traditional homemaking skills, whom she worried about. Lastly, they needed time to build their relationship into something more, but Tofu couldn't resist his mother's demand for a grandchild forever. It might have been possible if Ranma and Akane had managed to get married. If that had happened, Kasumi could have left the care of her father to the Saotomes and Akane to Ranma. Unfortunately, the wedding failed. Though she did not say anything to the family, Kasumi was heartbroken that she couldn't leave to build something with Tofu. Now, it was too late. Tofu finally gave in to his mother's pressure and gotten himself married. Kasumi had been trying to deal with her loss for the last week, but had little success. She managed to keep it from her family, but that was all. Noting that the soup was ready, she poured it carefully into bowls she prepared previously, and placed them on a large tray.
"Father! Mr. Saotome! Dinner is ready!" She cried out as she carried the trays of food and soup to the table, a smile covering her previous expression.
Ranma dashed into the living room just as Kasumi announced dinner. He had managed to avoid pursuit on his way home, and was cheerful enough about the day's training that he actually hopped over the Koi pond without the usual amount of unease about getting wet. Congratulating himself on his good timing, he missed Nabiki's smug expression until she held out her hand in front of him, and demanded 5000 yen. He was on his way to sitting down, but even the preeminent martial artist of this generation could stumble and fall on his behind sometimes. This was one of those times.
"What! What for?" Ranma cried out in distress, knowing that whatever it was, it was bad.
"I know where you were, Saotome. I can tell everyone, or…" Nabiki's grin would be quite infectious, if not for its predatory qualities. She knew perfectly well how much Ranma valued his private time, considering how little there was of it. Ranma groaned, and went up stairs to get his stash of yen.
"There goes the month's allowance," he muttered. As Ranma headed upstairs and Nabiki basked in the warmth of another deal, Akane entered the living from the opposite direction that Ranma came in from (i.e. the front door). Muttering about 'that Baka', Akane plopped down next to Nabiki as the family greeted her return. Nabiki glanced at her little sister, and decided that she deserved more amusement.
"He's upstairs right now. He just got back from who-knows-where; he won't say." Nabiki said nonchalantly. When Ranma returned, Nabiki quickly snatched the yen out of his hand just as Akane exploded in her usual manner.
"I love this show. " Nabiki sat back to watch, as Ranma and Akane started their usual song and dance.
On the rooftops, Cologne, Shampoo, and Linfa hopped and skipped their way toward the Tendo Dojo. Upon closer inspection, one might find that Shampoo was not wearing her normal cheerful guise. Shampoo usually loved going to visit Ranma. Sure, she was not always welcome. Sure, Ranma never left with her for a date. But she really did love him, and seeing him always filled her with joy. Knowing that he probably won't marry her, Shampoo was determined to spend as much time in his presence as possible before she had to leave for one reason or another. Never far from her mind was also the thought that maybe, just maybe, he would return some of that affection. It also gave her a slight amount of satisfaction to see him suffer just a little from the trouble she could get him into with Akane, sort of a small revenge for her own longings. This time however, Shampoo was not so happy to go to see Ranma. Why? Because Cologne was planning to take Ranma away, perhaps for good. As they landed in the Tendo backyard, Cologne called out a greeting. Shampoo noted unhappily that Ranma is so busy arguing with Akane, that he barely noticed her arrival. Deciding to punish him, she dove into the Tendo Living room and execute a perfectly timed glomp onto the pig-tailed boy.
"Ranma miss Shampoo?" Shampoo used her “overly cute” voice as she squeezed him just a little too tightly.
"Jeez! Get off me! Please, Shampoo!! Arrgghh!!" Shampoo released Ranma a moment before Akane smashed the rice cooker on top of his head. Satisfied with a man well-punished, Shampoo began her second task, namely nursing him back to health while Akane fumed and made threats. Or would have, if she didn't feel a poke from Cologne's staff.
"That's enough Shampoo. You can have fun with son-in-law later. First, we have serious business to discuss, and it won't do if Ranma is unconscious." Cologne sat down next to Nabiki, and began exchanging pleasantries with Kasumi. Shampoo sat beside her, and Linfa sat down as well, after a moment of awkward self-introduction. After Ranma returned to consciousness in an effort to defend his food from Genma, Cologne began. "A while back, one of our hunting parties discovered something truly amazing. Linfa, here, was with that hunting party when it happened. Why don't you describe it to them, child? It will be good practice for your Japanese."
While Linfa got up and reported her experiences in the Chamber, Kasumi placed the rice cooker back in its stand and started cleaning up the mess of rice on the floor. As she scraped the fallen rice chunks from the mats, she noticed that a small jade piece lying just next to Linfa's spot, possibly fallen from her pocket when she got up. She picked it up, and almost dropped it due its unusual coldness. Before Kasumi can examine it further, it warmed up very quickly, and from her perspective it seemed like a line of heat is spreading from the jade up her arm and into her body. It was strangely soothing, so much so that Kasumi sat down next to Linfa's place as the Chinese girl finished her tale.
"How exactly does this concern us?" asked Akane. She was rather peeved, and not without good reason. She’d spent most of the afternoon trying to catch Ranma to smack him for something he’d done earlier that day (she couldn't really remember what; just that he deserved a beating), and then had Shampoo glomp him in front of her, in her own home, no less. Also, whatever it was Cologne wanted, Akane was sure that it would involve Ranma and Shampoo getting closer.
"It is an opportunity of a lifetime, child! The description proves beyond a doubt that those are records of an ancient, lost martial art!! Some of those styles were quite powerful, and the dedication of such a structure to record it shows that this might be one of them. The fact that the language used seems to be archaic Chinese makes it even more likely. I am definitely going back to translate it, and with luck, study it. Unfortunately, it takes decades to completely master any style from such an ancient period, as they are very complex, not to mention difficult to puzzle out, since they are always written in poetry form. I will certainly pass from this world before I can properly decipher it. What I want is someone to accompany me back to study it, and help teach it to Amazons when I pass away." Finished addressing the whole group, Cologne turned her gaze to rest on Ranma.
The explosion of noise was not unexpected, considering the nature of Cologne's request. Amid cries of outrage from Genma and Soun, protest from Akane, and a cool gaze from Nabiki, Ranma somehow managed to stay calm and gathered his thoughts. 'A completely new style? I will be the only one to know it besides Cologne, and I will be able to teach it? But I will have to leave here for many years. What about everyone? What about Akane…' Before he could proceed any further in his mind, Genma grabbed him by his shirt and yelled at him, "What an ungrateful son I have! Abandoning his school to study another! The shame!! Oh, the shame!!"
"Cut it out, Panda Breath!!!" shouted Ranma, as he tossed his father into the koi pond. " I don't know, old ghoul. I am not sure if I want to leave and go to Joketsuzoku… I mean, with things as they are and all…" Ranma stopped and looked at Shampoo.
"No worries, Airen. If you come, then Great-Grandmother dissolve Kiss of Marriage if you want… But Airen want to marry Shampoo anyway, yes?" Shampoo batted her eye leashes with more than the usual amount of energy, hoping that he wouldn't take the deal.
"Really?! That's great! I mean… er… that's an interesting proposal… but I still ain’t sure I want to spend decades in China…" Ranma tried not to feel guilty at Shampoo's expression, but couldn't help himself. He tried to think of a reply, but no good solution came to mind. On one hand, it was something he'd love to do, and he would lose Shampoo as a fiancée. On the other hand, he would have to spend years abroad. 'What about Akane and Ukyo…?' His thought was interrupted by a not-so-surprising proposal.
"NO problem!!! Akane will just go with him!! They can marry right now, and learn this new style together during their honeymoon!! Then they can come back in a month or so and teach at the dojo!" Soun exclaimed into the microphone that mysteriously appears whenever a Tendo makes an announcement, with tears of emotion threatening to leak from his eyes. Ranma and Akane both looked at him as though he had grown a new head, shouting “No way!” simultaneously.
"I can't allow that, since I will not teach Akane anyway," said Cologne, to Akane's chagrin. "She lacks adequate training, not to mention the patience needed to actually research a martial art. Moreover, her impulsive personality is prone to the misuse of power. No, the only person here I can research the new art with is Ranma, who alone has both the skills and the personality to master the art without abusing it."
Less than pleased with Cologne's assessment, and Ranma's preening, Akane countered, "How can we tell if you are telling the truth, not just scheming to take Ranma for Shampoo?"
"Unlike some other people who hide behind their so-called honor," Cologne glanced at the wet panda, "we abide by our agreements as stated. Without the Kiss of Marriage, Shampoo will have to attend to her other duties, and will not be able to woo Ranma anymore. Think about my offer, Ranma. Shampoo understands honor, and will abide by your decision here. Come with me, and explore the martial arts as you were born to! You won't be abandoning your school; after all, it requires that you absorb other styles to strengthen your own. Do you really want to spend the rest of your life here while your skills stagnate?" Ranma was still unsure, but then Cologne added, "Whoever learns this new style will likely become the greatest martial artist alive. Better than even you, son-in-law."
That last argument was enough to push Ranma into decision. While his fiancées would be disappointed, he simply couldn't stand by without improving his martial arts. To remain Ranma Saotome, the best of the best, he would have to go.
As Ranma voiced his decision, Kasumi could feel a strange sort of elation coming from her hand. Glancing at the jade, she realized that it was glowing softly. The feeling persisted, and swelled so that Kasumi wanted to shout out in triumph. Instead, she began to feel faint. Kasumi's last thought as she fade from consciousness was ‘Will it finally come to pass?'
To be continued.
Author's notes: (8/4/01) This prologue had been rewritten so many times I stopped counting. I simply was not completely satisfied with it, and helpful C&C from different people always made me want to improve it somewhat, a few sentences at a time. It will likely take months before a final, FINAL draft is completed.
Thus, I am taking the advice from Larry F, and postponing further rewrites until I get through the whole story. On another note, I am particularly concerned with the pace of the story, whether it was fast enough to stay interesting, while giving the reader enough to picture the scenes. Please C&C so that I could continue to improve in future chapters. You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
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