Hiya guys! For those that read my other Ranma story as well, you'll probably already know but just to let the others know: Broken foot, week in hospital and now six weeks in plaster. Boohoo! And it's summer, simply unfair! Anyway, hope you'll enjoy this chapter. Updates might be slower in coming due to broken foot. Or faster. Not sure yet. Sorry guys!
Warning: Lots of fluffiness and some talk of alcohol and drug abuse and other depressing stuff
Mega thanks to my fabulous, incredibly quick and brilliant beta reader PurseMonger! Read her stories if you haven't already! And otherwise big thanks to her - she's the reason for the lack of grammar and spelling mistakes!
Reviewers: Thank you to everyone who has reviewed the last chapter, this one is dedicated to you guys.
For the first time in this story I've taken the time to respond to everyone's reviews since the first chapter (Whew. Took me over two hours!). Anyway, I was blushing with all the compliments though I'm kinda sad about how many people I seem to have lost after chapter one and chapter two. I hope they're all still reading! Anyway, I've addressed everyone at the bottom of this chapter!
THANK YOU EVERYONE!
Somehow it was Monday already and that meant, unfortunately, school. They were for once early and unhurried on their way to school - no fights, no challenges and even his pop hadn't wanted to do morning training.
Ranma sent would-be casual glances at his blue haired fiancée. After waking him up she'd been eerily quiet and he wondered if she was angry with him for whatever reason; he couldn't think of anything he could've done but then again it wasn't too often that he was aware of what wrong he'd committed. He'd been too distracted with Ryoga's cure yesterday to confront Akane about her injuries but now was as good a time as any.
Balancing himself on the fence he gave her another cursory glance. He was not concerned, really.
He watched her pink lips twist into a smile and felt the moment her warm, expressive brown eyes met his. His heart skipped a beat and it took him half a second to remember that his feet needed to move if he wanted to keep up that forward momentum thing.
Her voice was velvety and for whatever reason, Akane had been excessively nice to him lately. She'd stopped insulting him and didn't even react when he called her names. To be honest, he was starting to feel as if he was extraordinarily cruel, insulting her when she simply smiled and joked rather than taking offense.
Something had changed. He was tempted to say ever since the nightmare but knew it had started before then. That morning where she'd refused to go to school, citing a sudden illness. Ranma shrugged mentally. Whatever it was, he'd find out sooner or later. For the moment he'd enjoy this suspiciously pleasant girl beside him for as long as he could. She was still Akane in all the ways that mattered.
"So… what's with your lip?"
He watched as she giggled slightly. To be honest the bruise had faded almost into nonexistence already. It had looked much worse last night at dinner and he'd seen her wince more than once when the food had touched her obviously tender lips.
"Would you believe me if I said I ran into a door?"
In spite of himself, Ranma found himself chuckling at her response.
"Yeah, didn't think so." Her small shoulders lifted into a gentle shrug. "Nothing big. I'm sick and tired of you being better than me - so I'm training."
Ranma blinked slowly before his eyes narrowed. There was something that she wasn't telling him - again. It took a moment before he realised what it was. It was highly unlikely that even she'd be clumsy enough to punch herself in the mouth.
"You found a training partner?"
He watched her lips quirk into that appreciative half-smile again and his heart sped up slightly at the sight.
"Yep." She gave him a full smirk this time that set his teeth on edge. Akane only ever looked like that when she was challenging him or accusing him of being interested in her.
"Don't worry. It's not Ryoga."
"Phh.. I wasn't worried or nothing. Just checking it's not one of them, y'know…"
Predictably, he dismissed the notion that he was worried though admittedly the thought had crossed his mind. Especially after the love letter the lost boy had handed his fiancée. Damn it, why was it so hard for them to get it through their thick skulls? Akane was his fiancée! They were engaged for heaven's sake. You don't go after engaged women!
A small voice reminded him that he had been the one who'd loudly protested their engagement and emphasized how it had been arranged solely by their parents without either his or Akane's consent. He squashed the voice with the force of habit before he could think further about it.
"One of … them?" The blue haired girl looked puzzled momentarily before understanding seemed to dawn.
"Oh! You mean one of the incompetent boys at school? The ones that attacked me en masse for a date? Nah! I could beat any of them with my hands tied behind my back. Besides, don't you remember? They gave up once you defeated Kuno."
Ranma found himself flushing. He knew that. Of course he did, but that didn't mean he didn't occasionally still think about it. He wasn't going to tell Akane but once he'd seen that happening at school, he'd sort of understood why she called him a pervert. Worst of all, the teachers did nothing to prevent this sort of situation from occurring, though to him that was nothing new. He'd learned from a young age that adults were not there to help you but rather to give you progressively harder challenges to complete and watch you fail miserably.
It was perfectly normal for guys to think about pretty girls; but it was another thing altogether to band together to attack one and make her submit to a date with you. Trying to use your superior strength and skill and then, on top of all that, to attack together rather than separately challenging Akane to a duel… it was dishonorable. If there was one thing Ranma believed in, it was honor. Plus, having talked to some of the guys even casually, he kinda doubted that they had been fighting that hard for just a date with her.
And he wasn't quite sure how he felt about that except that it made him really, really mad. So it wasn't surprising that when he saw her injured he'd thought that maybe now they'd gone so far as to attack her from behind while she was unaware and then in high numbers…
Ranma banished the thought. It hadn't happened. She had simply found someone to train her; good for her. Akane had a lot of potential, maybe this mysterious training partner would help bring some of that out in her.
Yet he couldn't help but have a nagging feeling that whoever it was, he wouldn't like them; especially if it was a guy. The pigtailed martial artist refused to think about why that would matter, instead sending another glance the beautiful blue haired girl at this side before looking away, attempting to ask casually and not give away the importance her answer would hold to him.
"So… is your training partner male or female?"
He watched as his fiancée's doe brown eyes suddenly sparkled with amusement and her smile turned mischievous.
"Male. Why? Does it matter?"
Ranma found his hands clenching. He was… angry?
"Who is he?"
His teeth were gritted and his jaw was tight as he pressed the words out. Why was he mad? If Akane got better maybe he wouldn't have to save her as often and she'd be able to defend herself better. That was good, right? But then why did he hate the thought of it so much? And why did it bother him to know that the person helping her was male? Maybe… Yeah, he was just worried it was another pervert using the opportunity to feel up his fiancée. God knows there were too many of them out there as it was.
Her laugh jerked him out of his thoughts of how to best 'teach' this guy not to mess with Akane.
"Don't worry. He's as old as your dad, Ranma. Definitely not competition."
Ranma found himself blushing to the roots of his hair at those words.
"Pah, you can go out with whoever you like. I don't care!"
Instead of the usual anger that would've followed his words normally - he'd already cringed away in reflex - Akane's eyes glittered strangely and she smiled at him in an odd way he couldn't quite place.
"So you wouldn't mind if I went out with Ryoga?"
"That's different. He's my rival - you could be telling him about techniques and stuff."
To his surprise Akane's smile seemed to only widen at his words.
"Okay then. What about Kuno? Or Hiroshi - he's one of your friends, right?"
"Kuno's nuts. And his idea of honor is … questionable. And well, Hiroshi's a pervert. He's got a one-track mind."
His fiancée seemed to only be more amused.
"Right. What about Daisuke then? Or Gosunkugi? Or Sanzenin?"
Raising his eyebrows he looked back at Akane.
"Daisuke is just as perverted as Hiroshi. Gosunkugi is… insane. He tried to poison you as Juliet, remember? And he has no strength at all, he couldn't protect you if he tried. And Sanzenin is a jerk who goes after anything with legs."
He couldn't decipher the look Akane next shot him but her words made him pause mid-step.
"So who can I date?"
Ranma was frozen. Who indeed? He ran through all the guys at school in his mind but immediately dismissed all of them as useless, dishonorable, too weak, too much of a pervert or with some other explanation of why they weren't good enough for her. Huh... And for some reason the idea of Akane with any man bugged him. Dismissing the thought quickly, he shrugged vaguely.
"Guess the guy who can handle a tomboy like you doesn't exist yet."
His fiancée smirked at him, eyes sparkling with amusement and he had the faint feeling he'd once again said something she thought was funny.
"So what you are saying is that I need a guy who can protect me, is strong, honourable, not perverted and doesn't chase after women…" He watched as her tongue dipped out of her mouth, gently licking her pink lips before Akane gave him another sideways glance, eyes laughing. "Hmmm… wherever would I find such a guy?"
A small voice inside his head couldn't help but point out that he could protect her - and had, in fact, done so numerous times - that he was strong, had proven himself not to be the pervert she often accused him of being. That honour was a concept he strongly believed in and upheld to the best of his ability. As usual the voice was drowned out and quickly ignored.
"Dunno…" He shrugged slightly before remembering what he'd wanted to say earlier about her aiding him with Shampoo in the public bath. "Erm… about that thing you did on Saturday… err… thanks, y'know. I mean, it's not like I couldn't have handled it myself but… yeah, thanks."
The smile she gave him was brilliant. Akane's entire face lit up, eyes sparkling, lips spread, teeth glistening and just like that Ranma's heart stopped.
There it was again - he'd noticed it a couple of times before but she always became this magnificent, captivating creature when she smiled. It was like a spell but he couldn't move, couldn't speak, couldn't think.
All he was capable of was to stare at her with wide eyes, heart racing, blood pounding through his body at unprecedented speeds as the full force of her smile took effect. It took him another moment before he realised he'd even stopped breathing simply staring at the beauty in front of him.
Only then did he notice that her lips were moving and she was obviously trying to say something to him. His ears had a hard time focusing on anything beyond the blood rushing through them. Forcing himself to blink, he finally regained sufficient control over his mouth to express his confusion.
His fiancée smiled genially at him, a teasing lilt in her tone as she answered.
"I said, 'you're very welcome, Ranma'."
Welcome? For what? It took another few moments before he recalled what had happened before Akane had subjected him to her thousand-watt smile. He'd been thanking her for the warning about the flight of the Shampoo-cat over into the men's bath.
He was just about to ask what that had all been about when he heard the school bell.
Wide eyed Akane glanced at him before both started into a full out-and-out run, hoping to still make it to school on time. And to think they'd left early today, too.
Originally, he had intended to seek out Akane the moment the lunch bell rang and ask about the odd noises from the women's public baths and why Shampoo had been sent over to the men's section. Despite the Amazon's pride in her body and promiscuity with himself, she usually waited at least until they were somewhere more private than a room full of naked men before coming onto him. Something was off and he wasn't quite sure what it was. And how had Akane been able to warn him ahead of time? It was all very odd.
Instead however, his fiancée had made her way to the lavatories and he found himself cornered by her two best friends; Sayuri and Yuka. Both dragged him into a deserted classroom, looking rather suspiciously around themselves before they started a whispered conversation.
Ever since he'd been introduced to fiancée number three, he'd realised that women - any woman, claim on him or not - cornering him was not going to end well. He looked at them cautiously; Ranma thought it was rather unlikely that these two would betray Akane by propositioning him in any way but experience had taught him to be wary nonetheless.
"So… errr… what's this about?" He finally ventured guardedly.
"Right… Ranma… We normally wouldn't be doing this but… Have you noticed anything… off about Akane lately?"
He hesitated, biting his lip as he thought, before finally relaxing.
"Yeah. What about it?"
Sayuri and Yuka exchanged glances before their expressions firmed.
"On Saturday - she shoved Shampoo against the wall in the women's bath."
He couldn't believe what Akane's friends were telling him. They explained everything they'd seen and heard, including how violently his fiancée had reacted towards the Amazon. It was… hard to believe, almost. If she hadn't been so different over the last couple of days, he would've dismissed their words but as things stood… Damn it. What could've possessed her to challenge and assault a superior fighter in such a mindless way?
Eyes narrowing his head shot over to the exit of the classroom.
"Thanks for letting me know. Excuse me - I'm off to find Akane."
Both her friends winced but he ignored them and left the room at a brisk pace, searching out the stupid blue haired girl that was obviously out to start a war. She was damn lucky not to have been killed already for insulting Shampoo in such a way.
Akane realised almost immediately what was taking place when she heard from her other classmates that Sayuri and Yuka had taken Ranma aside. There was no doubt - she'd been acting odd but she hadn't thought about it too much. Obviously, her best friend's alarm bells were ringing and they had thought they needed to involve her fiancé.
She found herself wincing slightly. This morning had been going so well, she'd hate to see how angry he was now; and there was no doubt in her mind that he'd be mad with her for attacking the Amazon without provocation. Running, she knew, wouldn't help. Not with Ranma in this state; he'd search until he found her and that would only make him angrier.
Resigned to the confrontation she was due to have, she moved up to the roof with her bento box. This was not going the way she'd planned. Not at all.
Minutes after she'd seated herself, the door flew open and out came the pigtailed martial artist she was engaged to.
"Tell me you didn't!"
"I'd rather not lie to you, if it's all the same to you."
Ranma blinked slightly and Akane suppressed her smile. She was well aware that he'd probably misinterpret that but she did enjoy taking the wind out of his sails at least a bit.
"You actually had Shampoo by her neck up at the wall? You threatened her?" His voice was incredulous, as if he hadn't actually believed it until now.
Once again her fiancé looked stunned at her brazen confirmation of the facts before rage overtook him again.
"'Yes'? THAT'S IT? YES? Do you even realise what you've done? Shampoo will be after your head now! What were you thinking, Akane? You're no match for her!"
The blue haired girl nodded gently, still not matching his anger and simply remaining calm and serene in the face of his accusations. Internally, she winced - this definitely wasn't helping one iota towards making him more amenable - but she didn't know what else to do. There was no way to justify what she'd done. Shampoo was innocent at this point in time.
"I know. I know I can't match her and I know she'll be after me. I've started training with a partner, I'll get better but right now I'd lose in a fight against her. I… didn't think it through at the time. I know it's not ideal and it leaves you with the burden of somehow protecting me. . I'm so sorry, Ranma."
"SORRY? SORRY? DAMN RIGHT YOU HAD BETTER BE SORRY! THIS IS… Huh? You're sorry?" Ranma looked honestly baffled. Akane rarely, if ever, apologized; especially in such a forthright manner.
"Yes. I'm sorry I didn't think before I acted. I'm sorry I attacked her. I'm sorry you're getting caught in the middle. And I'm sorry for forcing you to play bodyguard, yet again."
Her fiancé blushed.
"Ah…'s okay. I mean, it's not great… but hey, I can take Shampoo any time."
Akane's smile became more amused as she looked at him.
"Huh, looks like you were right again this morning. I'll need someone as strong and as skilled as you to protect me."
Pah - only until her body caught up with her mind. And even until then she always had the Hiryuu Shoten Ha if worst came to worst. But… she had always liked Ranma in full protective mode. He was very cute and tended to not let her out of his eyesight.
Five years ago she would've been mad at the insult to her own skills. Experience and training had taught her just how good she could be. So to her, instead of it being an insult on her as a martial artist it was simply a statement that she'd not been opposed by anyone with sufficient skills to challenge her until Ranma had turned up; and that was not an insult on her but rather on the lack of opportunity she'd had so far to develop. And she was working towards rectifying that situation.
"Hah! There's no better martial artist than me out there! I can beat anyone!"
Akane smiled, amused. She knew that Ranma had no idea of the implications of the statement he was giving, especially in relation to their discussions this morning. He simply was arrogant and conceited about his talent with the arts and rightfully so. Deciding that it was far too early to make a move on him, the youngest Tendo satisfied herself with a short acknowledgement.
"Well, I'm glad you're protecting me then. Thank you, Ranma."
Her fiancé blushed again before nodding.
With a warm smile at Ranma, she moved to open her bento box. At his hungry eyes, Akane found herself giggling.
"Join me? I'm not quite so hungry today and I'd hate for Kasumi's hard work to go to waste."
Licking his lips she barely had time to blink before he was at her side, staring intently at the lunch box. Laughing softly she looked up at the sky as she set up their lunch.
"Hm… I like the roof. It's beautiful out here, especially when you can see the sunshine, blue sky and nary a cloud."
Ranma simply gave her an absent nod, eyes still focused on the delicacies Kasumi had prepared for her lunch. To be honest, Akane was incredibly hungry after yesterday's exercise but the chance to actually share and enjoy Ranma's company was definitely worth going a little hungry.
"Do you mind sharing chopsticks? I didn't bring a second pair."
That finally got her fiancé's attention, however momentarily. His cheeks tinged slightly pink he nodded mutely after another enquiring glance at her.
"Great. Here try this."
Before he could object she'd popped the sushi roll into his open mouth and then proceeded to take one of her own. The pigtailed youth flushed slightly but then redirected his eyes to the sky, chewing quickly.
"It's very good."
"Mm-hmm. I know. It's one of my favorites. Kasumi usually tries to put them in my lunch box at least once a week. She's very considerate that way. I'm sure if you let her know your favorites, you'd find them in your bento at least once a week as well."
Akane smiled to herself. She'd successfully distracted him from the romantic and intimate situation - Ranma was currently looking contemplative.
"Try this one next. I really love this with just a dip of wasabi - that sound good to you?"
Her fiancé gave her a short sideways glance but nodded.
"Yeah. What is it?"
"Taste first, then I'll tell you."
Shrugging the boy agreed to her terms. Instead of taking the chopsticks from her he simply opened his mouth in invitation. To her surprise, her heart beat increased rapidly, her stomach was filled with butterflies and her cheeks were flushed. Even years of having been far more intimate with this man hadn't dampened any of the effect he'd had on her.
Especially in moments like this one where he clearly showed his trust and faith in her. She knew that he'd never agree to Ukyo or Shampoo doing this for him. Her hands shook slightly as she watched the sushi roll disappear behind his lips, hormones flooding her system as she tried desperately to think of anything else but kissing him.
His blue eyes snapped back open, having closed momentarily to taste the food, electrifying her as they met her own. Akane swallowed involuntarily, trying in vain to calm her racing heart down to a more sedate pace.
Was it her imagination or did his voice sound rougher than normal? And why were his eyes so intent on her own? Blushing Akane forced herself to look back at the bento. This Ranma didn't know how to flirt yet, she reminded herself. Sheer coincidence.
"Ah… that's… that's good. That was fried squid and cherry tomato, by the way."
Suddenly her fiancé leaned much closer into her, looking into her bento box curiously. She could feel his hot breath on her hand, feel the warmth his body was exuding next to her own, smell the unique scent that was purely Ranma and that she'd always found attractive… He was too close! Far too close! His lips were moving, his dark blue eyes were so close - just a few inches and she could turn his head and kiss him until he'd forget everything but her name… She gulped drily, desperately trying to send more oxygen to her brain, trying to regain control over her thoughts and, more importantly, her actions.
"You got any more of those?"
"Huh? Uh… what? I mean, yes, I do. Here…"
Heart racing, Akane almost involuntarily held out the chopsticks to Ranma. To her surprise, he ignored them entirely, looking at her with a mix of curiousity and… anticipation?
It took another moment before it dawned on her - he was waiting on her to feed him. Blushing furiously, she licked her lips slightly as she picked up another one of the sushi rolls.
To her embarrassment her hand was shaking so badly the roll dropped out from her chopsticks. Her blush darkened as she fastened her chopsticks around the roll again, avoiding Ranma's eyes.
And then he took her by surprise again - his hand encompassed her own, calming down her shaking hands with ridiculous ease even as he leaned forwards and allowed his lips to fasten around the food.
Eyes wide she gasped not only at the sensation of his hand around hers but also at the sensuality of his actions. She gulped as Ranma, apparently oblivious to the effect his actions were having on her, chewed thoughtfully on the proffered food.
"This is really good. Might be one of my favourites."
Akane found herself mindlessly picking a random sushi roll to eat and dipped it into the sauce, trying desperately to distract herself and fill her mouth so she couldn't demand that Ranma take her right here and now. Damn hormones.
She noticed her fiancé's alarmed expression and outstretched hand a second too late. Quickly swallowing her food, Akane found herself looking questioningly at the pale boy.
"A-Are you alright?"
"Yes…Why wouldn't I be?"
Oh god, something was wrong…
"That- You just ate all the wasabi."
Ranma looked at her searchingly and Akane felt all the colour drain from her face. As per his words her taste buds abruptly told her just how spicy her food had been. That had definitely not been soy sauce on her sushi…
The blue haired girl dropped the lunch box as if it was on fire, hands in front of her mouth as she ran to the nearest bathroom. Why did she forget to bring water with her today of all days?
Despite his frequent obliviousness to anything but the most obvious overtures, Ranma was by no means unaware of the art of flirting. It was, after all, what he used whenever he wanted any free food as a woman. He'd never before associated it with his 'uncute' fiancée though, but the signs were all there - and not just in her actions. The stuttering, the long looks at his lips, the blushes, the hyperventilation… It was as clear as rain. But that couldn't be… right?
Still, he had done it as a way to test the waters with Akane - she'd been flirting with him but he'd dismissed it. They always fought, always insulted each other… but then he reminded himself how she had refused to do exactly that for a couple of days now and it had made him rethink.
He remembered clearly what Hiroshi had said that first gym class - how sharing the same water bottle was an indirect kiss. So when Akane had asked if he minded sharing chopsticks he'd been embarrassed but refused to back down or bring up the topic as long as she didn't.
And then she'd removed the chopsticks from her lips, picked up something - one of her favorites! - and put it in his mouth before he could object. His heart had started racing against his will. He'd heard the girls talk about romanticisms. Ranma knew about couples sharing food and he'd wanted to demand answers from Akane - but stopped himself. It took him a moment to realise how successful her distraction had been.
But when she'd given him another one to try he knew he'd needed to test his theory, test if she really was flirting, really was interested in him. In keeping with his thoughts, his voice had been huskier than normal and he had seen her reaction to it. In that moment he wasn't sure if he was saying that the sushi roll was tasty or if it was the fact that her lips and her mouth had touched these chopsticks before him - and she'd seemed to draw the same conclusion.
His fiancée had blushed in reply and his own heart had sped up. Never would he have associated these signs with Akane of all people but he couldn't help but flirt back, hoping desperately he'd not misread her.
Ranma wasn't quite sure what had happened but he'd heard her inhale sharply at his proximity when he'd leaned over into her personal space under the guise of looking into the bento box. When her hands shook badly enough that she dropped the sushi he'd had another answer. He had an effect on her, despite all their denials and all their fights. It was him she'd reacted to and only him.
Before he could stop himself he'd fastened his own hands around her small, feminine ones. He had heard her gasp, felt her shaking subside and her pulse point on her wrist had given away just how fast her heart was racing. It nearly matched his own.
It had provided his male ego with a lot of satisfaction to notice how her eyes were fixed on his lips when he'd bent down to eat off the chopsticks and how her heart had jumped yet again and picked up pace. Ranma honestly couldn't say how far he would've gone, what he would've done next. But he had to admit, it was in keeping with the typical chaos they ended up in to have her suddenly eat a huge amount of wasabi.
He winced in sympathy - his fiancée was probably still in the bathroom. Picking up the bento gently he couldn't help but smile.
Huh. How about that. Akane was attracted to him.
For the first period after lunch, Ranma could not keep his thoughts or eyes off Akane. The revelation he'd had on the roof had stunned him and he still found it hard to believe.
Akane, the one fiancée that continuously accused him of being a pervert, an idiot, a jerk and whatever else she could come up with that day, was attracted to him. He'd always known he looked good and girls seemingly flocked to him no matter what he did. The youngest Tendo had intrigued him simply by doing exactly the opposite of whatever he expected her to do. Her emotions appeared to change at a whim without any prior notice and always taking him aback. Sometimes she was extremely kind - like that time she'd carried him piggyback from Dr. Tofu's clinic home - other times furious without reason - though, if she really was attracted to him, then maybe she'd been… jealous?
He kept glancing at her, having long since given up even feigning paying attention to the teacher though they seemed to have given up on him for the most part, too.
Akane was a mystery, a puzzle. Shampoo and Ukyo threw themselves at him. He didn't know how to handle that but at least he knew what both girls wanted and expected of him. With the blue haired girl he had no such luck. He couldn't figure her out. She didn't want the engagement and yet she was attracted to him. Maybe she just found him physically attractive but didn't like him?
Ranma sighed. This was not like him at all. He didn't like spending that much time thinking about anything but martial arts. Besides, he could always try to understand her later; the cure to his curse and Ryoga had a much higher priority just now. Since Shampoo would be after the cure as well he could probably convince her to stay with him and thus keep Akane from harm at the same time.
He sincerely hoped his fiancée appreciated all the effort and unwanted attention he went through on her behalf, though he doubted it.
Now, where to find Ryoga?
Akane grimaced. The taste of the wasabi still hadn't left her mouth and her tongue still tingled. She doubted she'd be able to taste much of anything for the next few days. Yuck!
How did Ranma always manage to make her act like a fool? She was twenty-four for goodness sake! Wasn't she meant to have gained some sort of composure over the years? He hadn't even kissed her nor touched her! She'd acted like some sort of lovesick idiot and why? Because he leant closer to her and asked her to feed him? Oh dear god, what was wrong with her? Were teenage hormones really that bad the first time around? On more than one occasion she'd nearly jumped her future fiancé and she hadn't blushed this badly back then.
Biting back a groan, Akane tried to ignore the frequent glances from Ranma. Hopefully he hadn't caught onto what he was doing to her.
Yeah, fat chance! Of course he knew she'd acted differently; there was no way he could've missed that!
Gritting her teeth, Akane told herself firmly to fix her attention on what the teacher was talking about… what subject was this again? With a slight blush she exchanged her history book for her maths one and tried to listen to what was being taught.
She wasn't surprised when Ranma jumped out the window after class instead of taking the 'long way' out. He'd be desperate to get his hands on- Oh… Akane shook her head, looking out after the quickly disappearing martial artist but he was too far gone for her to still regain his attention. She'd forgotten entirely to tell him about the soap. Oh well, he'd found out somehow the first time around.
Sayuri and Yuka had predictably also fled the classroom rather quickly. They were probably expecting her to see their chat with Ranma as a betrayal rather than the show of friendship and affection it was. Akane smiled softly, making her way through the masses in the courtyard.
"Oh fairest Akane Tendo!"
God, Kuno! She hadn't missed him at all.
"Fair warning, Kuno, leave me alone or I'll send you flying."
She was itching for a fight, knowing that Ranma would be spending his next few days with the Amazon and it irked her to no end. Nothing would happen, she reminded herself, but it still didn't soothe any of the anger she felt towards Shampoo.
It didn't help to calm her down. And Kuno was never one to accept the obvious - anger, narrowed eyes, stiff posture, clenched fists; any martial artist would recognize those signs as someone who was unlikely to be lenient in any way if you challenged them or pressed them at that moment. But, as mentioned before, Kuno was never one to accept the obvious or indeed anything at all. He much preferred to live in the world he made for himself, which, unfortunately for him, differed rather drastically from reality.
"Oh, thou art-"
Akane merely tilted her body to the side, the rose Kuno sent her way impacting some poor soul behind her. But she didn't register that, her entire body already in motion, aches and pains forgotten for the time being. The next moment she was up close to the boy dressed in Samurai garb, shoulder pushing into his upper body with all the force she could muster. At the same time her leg neatly caught him at the knees sending him staggering forwards right into her right fist which landed in his stomach - on his kidneys, once, twice, thrice before she sent him flying again with another kick.
Dusting off her hands she picked up her schoolbag, whistling happily to herself. Life was good. That had been almost fun. And some of her anger was finally quenched.
She didn't notice the stunned expressions on the people around her at the level of violence she'd displayed - usually Kuno would only receive a kick - nor was she aware how they parted around her like the red sea, leaving her with a clear path to the front gate.
Skipping, whistling cheerfully, she made her way home. Hopefully, Genma would have found a more suitable location for their training by now.
Half-way home Akane suddenly noticed a figure flying into the air originating from just around the corner. Huh… that had almost looked like… Ranma?
Curious, she sped up and suddenly found herself standing behind Ryoga. Realisation set in - she'd forgotten entirely about that.
"Oh Akane! How I wish you were here!"
Barely refraining from rolling her eyes, aforementioned girl pasted a cheery smile on her lips before addressing the lost boy.
"Hiya! Did you want something?"
And, to her endless amusement, Ryoga floundered. He stared at her, speechlessly and motionlessly for a moment before obviously berating himself and attempting to be more courageous. It was kind of funny to watch, knowing how much he had changed - or would be changing?
Ukyo really had been the perfect partner for him. Both had followed Ranma for years on a misguided search for revenge and her and Ryoga had found and cured each other, finally understanding the harm they'd inflicted on others as well as themselves. Ryoga had even tried talking Akane out of going to China, knowing better than anyone where she intended to take her training journey to and had tried to reason with her that revenge would never make her happy.
And he'd been right. It hadn't. But this Ryoga in front of her was still hopelessly crushing on her, still intent on beating Ranma, still entirely oblivious to anything beyond himself.
Maybe she should encourage him? Maybe he'd realise sooner this time around? Smiling softly at him, tilting her head sideways she looked warmly at Ryoga, hoping to convey that he could tell her anything.
She really should've realised what effect that would have on him. He blushed to the roots of his hair and turned away, attention on the wall as he poked holes into it, probably in a poor attempt to divert his eyes from her and calm down.
"Um… Uh… I… Will you… Um… G… G… G… Go…"
It was hard to suppress the smile that threatened to break out. He'd somehow obtained a microphone and was looking anywhere but her face even as she tried to come closer. He was still a deep crimson colour and sweat seemed to pour down his face.
"…G-Go… Ou… ou… AAARGH! I just can't say it!"
This time he actually broke out into tears even as she jerked back in surprise at his shout. Before she could interfere or stop him, he ran off.
"I'm such an... such an… idiot!"
He was almost wailing as he ran off into the distance. Akane couldn't help but chuckle slightly, shaking her head gently. Well, she didn't think anything had really changed to the last time around. Better luck next time.
Still amused and grinning to herself, she turned back and walked home. She knew Ranma and Shampoo had watched the spectacle from a nearby roof - they hadn't even tried to be subtle - but she trusted her fiancé to keep the angered Amazon away from her. Whether it was six years into the future or not, she could always rely on Ranma to protect her.
Stripping off her shoes she walked into her home.
Predictably Kasumi replied first, coming out of the kitchen, wiping her hands on her apron.
"Welcome home, Akane. Father is in the dojo and Mr. Saotome has been gone all day already. We expect him back for dinner."
Smiling at her older sister she nodded, determined not to show her confusion. Her father was rarely ever in the dojo these days.
"Could I have something to eat? I ended up sharing my lunch and now I'm really hungry."
"Oh, Akane, that is so nice of you. Of course, I think I've got something in the fridge you can snack on. I'll prepare an extra large dinner tonight."
Following her older sister into the kitchen she suddenly found herself with a multitude of items being pressed into her hands.
"Onee-chan, I'm not Ranma. There's no way I can eat all that!"
Kasumi looked up from the fridge and at the sight of all the food precariously balanced in Akane's arms, she giggled.
"Oh my. Sorry, sis. Just pick out what you'd like."
Akane swiftly deposited most items back in the fridge, picking out some bland food items, knowing that she wouldn't be able to taste much anyway.
"So, how are you feeling today, Akane-chan?"
The youngest Tendo looked up quizzically before it dawned on her. Smiling wryly, she shook her head.
"No more nightmares, if that's what you're asking, Onee-chan."
Her older sister blushed slightly at having been caught, eyes lowered.
"I'm actually feeling rather good. Life just seems to… go more smoothly? Though I suppose I shouldn't say that too loudly. Chaos always seems to find us, after all."
Kasumi laughed softly.
"I am glad…One person with nightmares is enough."
Akane blinked in confusion. Had Ranma…? Or Kasumi?
"What do you mean?"
"Father… he's… do you know that today is his and Mother's wedding anniversary?"
With a gasp, whirling around, she checked the calendar and then paled. That day of hers and Ranma's almost wedding always did horrible things to her. Father, as far back as she could remember, always got terribly drunk on this day.
"I'll look to see how he's doing."
Determined, Akane finished her food and gave her thanks to her sister.
"Are you sure, Akane? He's not at his best around this time."
Smiling gently she nodded at her older sister. It was time to repay a favour.
There had been a time, after having dealt with both Cologne and Shampoo, where she had lost herself. All she had wanted was to forget herself - drugs, alcohol, the works. She'd thought she'd been in control, thought she hadn't changed, but then she'd returned home for her yearly one-week visit. Nabiki had taken one look at her and taken her aside.
Akane hadn't realised how far gone she was, how hard she was working to destroy herself, until her manipulative sister opened her eyes. It had been so easy to get lost, to forget, to just let go of all the hurts and disappear in a world where nothing mattered. Nabiki had understood in a way that no one else could've. She had watched the same thing happen to her father, had watched it consume him slowly and destroy him, had tried these things herself, hoping to understand, to forget, to change. But unlike Akane, she had realised on her own what she was doing and stopped. And then Nabiki had proceeded to challenge her and slap her until Akane realised that this was not what she wanted for herself - nor was it something Ranma had ever wanted to see her do.
They were martial artists; drugs and alcohol were poisons that slowed the body and its reaction and therefore should be abstained from. She had become weak- no, allowed herself to become weak. It was a miracle she'd survived those two months at all; she'd been half out of her mind most of the time.
It had taken enormous strength of will and determination but Akane had quit cold turkey. This was not the person she wanted Ranma to see when she came to his grave, this was not who she was. She was a tomboy; strong in character and mind. A survivor.
So she'd grabbed the tattered remains of her dignity after Nabiki was through with her and started to get her life back on track. And now it was time to repay the favour. She knew what her father was going through, knew the immense sadness and desperation he was feeling, knowing how the happiest day of his life had somehow turned into the worst. A memory of what-could've-beens, of happy dreams that had collapsed and turned into a nightmare. She knew.
Changing quickly into her yellow, summery and, most of all, happy dress, she walked towards the dojo. As expected, her father was staring emptily at a picture of her mother, tears running down his face unnoticed.
"Hey daddy, can we go see mommy? I think… I think she'd like us to come and celebrate your wedding day with her."
Her father looked up at her, stunned and surprised. They usually only went to her mother's grave once a year, on the anniversary of her death. Smiling gently, she knelt down at her father's side, compassionate even as her hands took the bottle of sake from his hands.
"I don't think you want mommy to see you this way. Why don't you wash up a bit and I'll get her some pretty flowers. Which ones did you have at your wedding?"
His eyes were still wide open and vulnerable before he visibly pulled himself together, voice rough and raw as he answered.
"Daisies. She had a chain of daisies in her hair - they were her favourites."
Smiling warmly she hugged her dad, ignoring the strong stench of the alcohol as well as the slight need she still felt towards it.
"Okay, I'll get some daisies and we'll go celebrate okay? The wedding day is the happiest day in a woman's life, you know. I'm sure she wouldn't want you to be so sad, daddy."
Soun's eyes had softened as his hand gently stroked her cheek.
"When did you get so smart, Akane-chan?"
The youngest Tendo smiled impishly, allowing some of the sadness over the loss of her mother to show in her eyes even as she responded.
"Well, you must have done something right in raising us, daddy."
He chuckled and shook his head in amusement but stood up nevertheless. Akane breathed in relief - the biggest hurdle was done, convincing her father. Now she needed to make it perfect. After making sure her father was in the furo she rushed back into the house, taking the chocolate chip cookies from Kasumi and the blue gloves she'd started knitting. They looked horrible and unrecognizable but it was the emotion behind it that counted, anyway.
After explaining the situation to Nabiki she'd obtained an ornate hair comb from her and then quickly gathered daisies from the garden. She'd barely finished the daisy chain when her father returned, dressed up in a flattering tuxedo, hair combed and eyes clear.
The walk to the cemetery was nice. They met a fair few neighbours and acquaintances en route and Soun smiled and waved at all of them.
"Your mum looked beautiful at the wedding. I don't think I've ever seen a more gorgeous woman in my life. Though as her daughters, you girls are certainly coming closer to her beauty every day. I was so nervous I dropped the ring twice because my palms were too sweaty."
Akane laughed softly. She had never heard this story before.
"We had decided on a traditional western wedding and your mother was in this beautiful white dress - she was glowing and more gorgeous than ever before. She had a veil on and a chain of daisies on her head. And the loveliest smile. I could swear my heart stopped beating whenever she smiled at me. I don't remember much of the ceremony - I was just staring at her. She even had to prompt me to say yes to the priest. All I could think about was that after this she would be with me forever. We thought that it would never end." He chuckled sadly, before recalling the rest of the ceremony.
"And she was the most graceful dancer. I stumbled over my own foot once or twice but she just twirled and laughed and I'd never been happier in my entire life than then and there, with her - well, until you all were born, of course. But that day nothing else mattered, just me and her. I miss her. Even now, after all those years."
Soun smiled gently at the memories in his head, eyes fixed in the distance. Akane's lips twitched into a warm smile. She couldn't help but sympathise. No matter how long it would have been since Ranma's death there was nothing and no one that could've ever made her forget about him. There was too much love, too many memories, too many feelings for her to ever truly forget about him. It wouldn't matter if decades had passed - there would only ever be Ranma for her. So yes, she understood beyond any doubt what her father was feeling, what he was going through.
"How did you propose to her, daddy?"
Soun chuckled at her question, smirking slightly at the remembrance.
"Her father scared me to death - properly scared me. He wasn't even a skilled martial artist and yet he had a battle aura that would've sent lesser men running. Your grandmother was a kind soul - much like Kasumi. She couldn't harm a fly, always pleasant and helpful, never angry. Your mother on the other hand was a spitfire! She was so much like you, Akane, passionate, fiery, loving, and tough. She wouldn't let anything or anyone dictate her life. She was headstrong and knew what she wanted in life." Her father smiled warmly at her, hand tussling her hair affectionately before he looked off into the distance again.
"To my surprise, she wanted me. It didn't matter what her father said. And so even though he rejected me when I asked for his daughter's hand in marriage, I proposed to her. I originally intended to propose in the restaurant but I lost my nerve. We were walking through the park close to her home when she told me that if I wanted to marry her I had bloody well get down onto my knee at some point and actually ask her. So I did. I fumbled and barely managed to say the words - but she said yes. And then she told her father that she was going to marry me and if he wanted to be the one to give her away he'd better get his act together." Soun laughed, shaking his head in memory of his late wife.
"That's when I knew it'd be a western wedding."
Akane giggled. They had arrived at the cemetery already and headed for the grave. A barely suppressed memory of pain shot through her - she was well used to sight by now, though she had come to expect to see Ranma's headstone next to her mom's. Closing her eyes, biting back the tears, it took her a moment to regain control. She hadn't expected the sight to take her aback so much.
"Happy wedding anniversary, my dear wife. I brought only Akane with me this time, our youngest. Though she has grown up far too quickly - she is now sixteen already!"
Smiling gently, Akane knelt down next to her father.
"Hi Mommy. I've missed you. We got you some daisies - daddy said they're your favourites. And we've also got some cookies here for you. Kasumi baked them - she's turned into a wonderful woman and a fantastic cook. Daddy says she reminds him of grandma. This is some knitting for you from me - I'm afraid I'm not good at anything related to typical housewife tasks. The glove-… well, you wouldn't really recognize it as a glove. But I wanted you to have it anyway. I put a lot of time, effort and love into making it. And… well this is from Nabiki. It's a hair comb. I always remember you had this beautiful, lush hair and you always looked so pretty. We all wanted to congratulate you on your wedding day, Mom."
She saw her father surreptitiously wipe at his eyes.
"See? Our children have all grown up into extraordinary women. I wish you were here with me to see them. I love you - we all love you and miss you very much. Not a day goes by where I don't think of you…"
Akane stepped out of hearing distance, waiting with her back to her father, giving him privacy to talk to his wife. The memories made her want to rush back home and reassure herself of Ranma's continued health, though she knew he was fine. But a part of her couldn't help but panic, emotions overwrought and thoughts in a jumble. Determined, she reigned herself back in, awaiting her father's return.
For the first time in over a decade, Soun celebrated his wedding day and remained sober. That evening he relaxed in the support of his daughters, his family. Even Ranma and Genma joined in when they went through the family photo album, sharing amusing anecdotes. No one noticed that Akane had frequently initiated innocent, seemingly accidental touches with her fiancé throughout the night, needing to reassure herself that he was here - healthy and whole.
Everyone smiled and laughed, celebrating the life rather than the death of the woman who had given birth to three so vastly different yet loving daughters. They were family, and the addition of the Saotomes had only strengthened their family unit. Genma even added his own memories of the woman he'd come to know before his boy was ever born.
Righto, what do you guys think?
To my reviewers:
caia-chan: Thank you for your review. As you can see, we've barely covered the beginning of the arc. I'm still trying to establish the changes in her life, sorry! And yes, Genma is a sadistic bastard :) I hope you enjoyed this chapter nonetheless. Let me know what you think!
Rascalize: Hey! A new reviewer! Thank you! You're expressing yourself very well for English no being your mother tongue (if it helps, it ain't mine either ;)) I'm glad you're enjoying it and my take on a bit more mature Akane. Hope you loved this chapter too, I do :) Please review again and let me know what you make of it.
The Keeper of Worlds: Thank you for your review! I'm afraid you'll probably be somewhat disappointed by this chapter then - no open changes, yet. Things will slowly evolve, though :) Keep reviewing please!
Compucles: Thank you for your review! It's rather annoying how won't allow you to post two reviews to the same chapter, isn't it? I came upon this problem myself a few days ago *grumble* Anyway, thank you! I know, training with Genma is not going to be easy - or pleasant. As for your question - no, Shampoo landed on the tiles rather than the hot water. However, as water is unnaturally attracted to cursed people she did turn back rather earlier than she intended to but that won't come up until in, I think, two chapter's time (hint: when Ryoga sees Shampoo again). Anyway, thanks for both reviews! Let me know what you think of this chapter!
Flameraven1: Thanks for your review - yep, you're right. She's not going to consent to crazy Neko ken training or anything like that. She's her own woman and well aware of what she wants - Genma is there to provide an opponent as well as an excuse of how she could've known the Saotome fighting style.
Shampoo, luckily, is currently very occupied with what she thinks is a cure to the curse and Akane, while a threat, is less important than making herself more desirable in Ranma's eyes. She hasn't noticed any of the changes yet beyond Akane's behaviour in the baths…
*lol* I reserve the right to remain quiet about when she lets the boys know about her knowledge of Ryogas curse for now. It would give too much away :)
Jeremy Harper: Yay! Thank you very much for both the compliments and the review *blush*.
You're right, he did notice. But as you read he's been too occupied with finding Ryoga to confront Akane. And well, Genma swore not to let anyone know who is training her, so they're safe from that end at least for the moment. Hope you liked the Sayuri/Yuka/Ranma conversation. I made it short and sweet, more intent on the Akane/Ranma confrontation. Not much divergence yet, though more fluff! Let me know what you think!
Riniko22: Thank you for your review - you're right on all counts. Those are exactly the reasons why she chose Genma. He's not bothered about hurting her, she can use him to explain her skills and knowledge and she'll toughen up. And her mind knows the Saotome style but her body is not used to the more aerial style of fighting yet - plus this way she can explain her knowledge of it. And as you read, Genma is looking for something more private. Anyway, I hope you enjoyed the fluff in this chapter! Please leave me another review!
Wingman0: Thank you for your review. You're right, he did notice and I did work on it as you probably read in this chapter! We're still in the beginning of the arc, unfortunately, but it's developing, if a bit slowly. Hope you enjoyed this chapter!
sam261: Oh you charmer, you! Thank you for your review and especially for your first ever review! Yay! Go me! If you are looking for awesome Ranma stories, look up MZephyr and pursemonger, both write fabulous stories!
I'm glad you're enjoying this story so much and I currently am not planning on abandoning it. Got lots of ideas - too many, probably… I do hope you enjoyed this chapter and I'd be very pleased to see another review from you!
mrhawkprime: Hi! Thank you for your review. I'm afraid it won't be quite that easy for your couple, though thank you, as always, for your suggestions. Hope you enjoyed this chapter!
linkgold64: Thank you for your review. Huh, maybe you should get in touch with pursemonger, she's always encouraging some more shampoo beatings as well… not that I'm adverse to it but unfortunately I'll need Akane's skill levels to improve a lot more before that happens *sigh* Shame! Hope you like this chapter!
Bluezapple: Yay! thank you for your review. I'm glad you're enjoying this story. Hope you loved this chapter as well!
BobV: Thank you for both your reviews! Not sure if you'll still think she's going slowly after this chapter, but I think it's still reasonably-ish. Akane will remember, at some as yet undetermined point in the future - most probably through reiteration - but not just now, no. Yay, I'm glad you enjoy my approach to a more mature Akane and her responses to their normal insults. I've got an idea for the moxibustion thing, but I can tell you that she won't be able to shape up quickly enough to be a match for Happosai just yet. It won't take years for her to get up to Shampoo's level - she is incredibly skilled. But it will take some time. Hope you enjoyed this chapter! As always, please review again! Thanks!
Ixde: Wow! Thank you very much for your review and the compliments *blush*! Keep it up! *lol* No, seriously, I'm glad you're enjoying this one so far. I hope I continue living up to your expectations. Do let me know what you think of this chapter!
Jilly: Thank you for your review! I did have most of this chapter written by 3rd June but unfortunately the hospital wouldn't release me so I had no time to finish or upload it (mean bastards!). Anyway, thanks for the compliment, I'm glad you're enjoying it, please keep reviewing!
rage98: Thank you very much for your review. Hope you're still enjoying the story with this latest chapter - let me know your thoughts!
mia: Thank you for your review! I'm glad you're enjoying it. Please keep reviewing.
Lavinia1: Yay, I'm glad you're enjoying it and so drawn into it, that's the best compliment an author could ask for. Thank you for your review. I am glad you love my more mature Akane and her behaviour. I hope you enjoyed the fluffyness of this chapter! Leave me another review please and let me know what you think!
KaikiH: Thanks for your review - I do hope you enjoyed chapter three too and now this latest one. Repetition is not a bad thing, it lets me know what all the different people like or dislike about my stories and that in turn makes them better. I do like your description of Akane 'having had her cake and wanting more'. Brilliant. Yes, she's not actually had intercourse with Ranma but certainly been a lot more intimate.
Thanks for your viewpoint on the gender-specific pronouns. My beta picks me up on that all the time - I agree with you and her. Changing from he to she gets rather confusing.
*lol* thank you very much! Now that I've got a plaster though and six weeks of nothingness, I should hopefully be able to whip up some more chapters (though the elevating it thing is getting rather difficult).
She's not always had a potty mouth, don't worry. But this Akane has lived on the road, by herself, travelling cross-country. It stands to reason that she'd lose her inhibitions. A pretty woman who talks articulately and properly is going to have a hard life. She picked up some swear words and no one to stop her from using them :)
AerynRallas: Thanks again for your review. I'm afraid it's too confusing, Ranma is still a 'he' after all in his mind. I'll try to clarify it a bit more, where possible, but just assume that once he's been splashed with cold water he's female until I decide to grant him a kettle of hot water (or boiling if he's been naughty). By the way, is Aeryn from the Farscape series?
Flameraven1: Yay! Glad you enjoyed my time jump! I'm rubbish at making up attacks so it's the same attacks as before in Ranma, except that Akane knows all the ones he knows. The only one she'd be capable of performing immediately would be Ryoga's/Ranma's ki attack based on despair or confidence and the Hiryuu Shoten Ha. I do hope this latest chapter clarified your other queries.
caia-chan: thanks for your review! I'm glad you're enjoying it and my Akane! I hope you enjoyed this chapter as well and thanks for your well wishes!
Linkgold64: Thank you for your review and encouragement. I'm glad you think it wasn't all upsetting but also had some humour! Glad you're loving it, hopefully you'll think the same of this chapter!
Janissa: Thank you for your review! I'm glad you're enjoying it. I hope the next chapters cleared up any confusion, but if not: this is not anger management problem so much. Shampoo is well on her way to doing what she'd done before - killing the man she loved. The future version she could sort of understand because she'd lost just as much that day, realised how badly she'd gone wrong and repented. This Shampoo is trying her best to make Akane angry, to rub herself all over Ranma and claim him as hers. All Akane sees is the woman who married the man she loved and then killed him; she can't forgive that. But she will try to redirect the other girl, obviously, from the path she's currently on. Shampoo may be childish but still a very real threat to the health and well being of the man she loves, so unfortunately I can't see Akane treating her as a mere annoyance rather than a rival. Sorry :) Hope you're still enjoying the story though!
Wingman0: Thank you! I'm glad you're enjoying it. As always, please review again!
BlooTaco: Yay, glad you remembered to log in and thanks for your review. I hope you enjoyed Chapter three as well?! This chapter had much more fluffiness, so hopefully that cheered you up!
Compucles: Impressive, go you! Yep, waterproof soap arc. Thanks for your review! I'm glad you loved the wake up with Ranma and Akane's confusion over the entire situation.
Pursemonger: Love your comments, as always! They tend to make me chuckle :) Anyway, thanks for reviewing!
The Keeper of Worlds: Thanks for your review, glad you're enjoying the story.
Linkgold64: Thank you, thank you, thank you *bow* I'm glad it moved you to tears and thanks for the compliments!
Jasonjkay: Thank you for your review. I do hope you enjoyed the subsequent chapters as well but simply haven't found time to review. Yay, you at least won't be disappointed by her waking up in the soap arc not at the very beginning! Changes will be slow in coming, unfortunately, for the moment.
BobV: Thank you for your review. I'm glad you liked it and I was going for cruelty, to be honest, with his death. More Drama, the better… Thanks for your approval and your comments on her death and her dealing with Shampoo and Cologne. It was hard to decide how I wanted her to act and react. Nearly moxibustion arc - more like soap arc, but you've already figured that one out.
Janissa: Thank you for your review. To me, Mousse and Shampoo make a good couple. I mean, for some reason she's remained friends with him since childhood, helped him and took care of him when he was injured in the fight against Ranma. There are definitely feelings there. And, let's be honest, what girl doesn't feel flattered when there's a guy heads over heels in love with you but even when given the chance to have you his willing slave prefers you with your own mind even if that means you're not with him. It's sweet. But hey-ho, like you said. Everyone's entitled to their own opinions! I do hope you're continuing to enjoy this story nevertheless…
Caia-chan: Thank you for your review! I'm glad you liked Akane. I think I've vaguely heard or read the summary of the story you're mentioning but I can't quite place it… hmmm… Anyway, thanks! It'll be a while before she'll deal with the mummy. Patience :)
Megatyrant: Thank you for your review. What a shame though, it looks as though I was unable to keep your interest in the story. If you're still reading, please do leave me another review!
Wingman0: Thank you for your review. And you can thank my beta reader, pursemonger, for the lack of grammar or spelling mistakes - she's fantastic. And quick! Thanks for the thumbs up!
ownson: Hi! Thanks for your review! Are you still reading the fanfic? You're normally reviewing lots. Hope I haven't offended you or stopped your interest in the story in one way or another! I do like my more mature Akane who had to deal with life the hard way. Thanks again. Hope to hear from you again!
Flameraven1: Thank you for your review. *lol* That is funny - I wasn't aware of that. Hey, like they say, great minds think alike.
Perfect analysis, she has the knowledge but not the skills and her behaviour doesn't match. Hopefully I've refrained from havin a too clingy Akane and well, you'll read the rest. Ukyo won't really turn up until the Moxibustion arc, I'm afraid. At least not for any length of time.
Armichi: Hey! Thanks for your review. I'm glad I interested you though it looks as though I lost you with my characterization in the future chapters. If you're still reading, let me know what it is you're upset by! Cheers!
Riniko22: Thank you! I'm glad you're enjoying the story and thanks for your review. My beta reader, PurseMonger, is solely responsible for the lack of grammatical errors and spelling mistakes!
PurseMonger: Yo! Compliments from my reviewers for the lack of grammar and spelling mistakes! You Rock! And thanks for your review!
The Keeper of Worlds: *blush* Thank you very much for your compliments and your review! I'm glad I exceeded your expectations, that's always a brilliant compliment!
rancheesan: YAY! Thank you very much for all the compliments! *blush* I'm not letting it die, I do hope you enjoyed the subsequent chapters just as much. Please leave me another review if you can!
Compucles: Thanks for your review. Aye, I do apologise. I've got a faible for prolongued blabbering on rather than cutting it short. Sorry! And thanks for pointing out the mistakes!