Part 4: Lesson Plans
Akane knew it was Ranma knocking on her door. He was the only one who ever knocked. She glanced at the door. She considered telling him to leave her alone, but she had been sulking in her room for an hour. "Come in." She said, and heard the click of Ranma unlocking her door. She looked up from her bed at him entering. He walked over, pulled up a chair and sat down on it backwards. His arms draped over the back of the seat.
"I always had a feeling your dad was an idiot." Ranma said.
Akane couldn't help but let out a giggle. "He's… he's always wanted what's best for us."
Ranma snorted, "Yeah and I'm sure Pops wanted what's best for me, most of the time. He's still an idiot though."
Akane let out her breath, laying flat and staring at the ceiling. "Ranma?"
"What should I do?" Akane didn't want to look at him, letting him see her heating face. "I… I don't know. I don't want to just be a housewife, Ranma." She wanted to hide under the bed. They hadn't really talked about their married future much. "I'm not a good cook, housework bores me to tears, and I-"
"Hey come on Akane! Don't get down like that!" Ranma said, "Moping isn't like you. Come on? Where's the macho tomboy who punches her problems?" He suddenly stood up, running over to the door and locking it again. Next he pulled the curtains over her window. He opened her closet and peered inside, finally he checked under her bed. Having confirmed the room was secure, he took a few deep breaths. Once he was ready, he sat down on her bed. He then slowly reached out, and placed his hand over hers. He gave her a reassuring smile, "Ah come on, it'll be fine. If I… ah… just errrrr wanted a housewife. I'd go for Kasumi, she likes doing that stuff. Instead I want, ahh..."
Akane turned her hand over, giving his hand a squeeze. "Thank you."
Ranma, red faced, nodded. The two sat in silence for several minutes. Then Akane shifted, within a moment her head was resting on his lap, smiling up at her fiance. Ranma began to sweat, but he didn't want her to move. Slowly, one hand went up automatically and began stroking her hair.
Akane closed her eyes in satisfaction, "So, what should I do then? You… you like me being a Martial Artist, I like being one. But if Dad won't teach me…" She decided to snuggle a bit more into Ranma's lap. "Could you teach me, Ranma?"
Ranma sighed, "Pop's not going to let me teach anybody until after I graduate High School."
"So what? I wait a year?" Akane asked, "I… guess I could. Just keep up by myself."
"No." Ranma said, "I'm not going to let you waste your time any more. You need a teacher." He shook his head, "You getting as good as you are by yourself is a miracle Akane. But I can tell you're going to need one to progress."
Akane sighed, "Is it that bad?" She thought for a moment about one of her friends, "What about Ryoga? I can't imagine him finding lessons, so he has to be self taught… right? He's almost as good as you."
Ranma's expression instantly darkened. "No. No way in hell am I letting you learn like Ryoga." He cut off her question, "Look, Akane, I guess Ryoga technically doesn't have a teacher. But in reality? You spend your life wandering the wilderness, alone, with wild animals and all sorts of monsters. Yeah, you might get as tough as him… or you might end up dead." He gave her a smirk. "Really is says more about how awesome I am that I'm soooo much better then him with a teacher not nearly as harsh."
Akane rolled her eyes at her fiance's ego. "So what then?"
"Well, this isn't the only dojo in town, you know. I'm sure once you show your moves to the Senseis there they'll be begging you to be a student." Ranma began slowly running all of his fingers through her hair. Akane released a soft breath, relishing his touch. He continued to gently stroke the soft strands. He didn't know what it was about her hair, but it was always so much softer than his, even when he was a girl.
"Mmmm…" Akane voiced her appreciation. "Tomorrow then we'll start looking… what about money?"
"We'll think of something. Worst case we'll be some Sensei's janitor."
Akane reached up, softly stroking Ranma's cheek. "OK. You thought this through huh?"
Ranma gave a shrug and a grin. "Hey, it's not like I haven't cooked up back-up plans for learning in case something happens to Pop." After all, any day now Genma's debt's might catch up with him and it would be pretty hard if the Master of the Saotome School was in prison. He took a moment to savor the feeling of her hand. Slowly, almost unconsciously, he began to lean down.
The doorknob to Akane's room rattled, "Akane?" Kasumi said from behind the locked door.
Akane's head actually stayed suspended in air for a brief moment, not having time to fall as Ranma rushed out from under her. He was in her closet behind a closed door before anybody had time to blink. She sighed, finally getting off her bed and unlocking her door for the rest of the family. "Yes, Kasumi?" She said.
Kasumi gave Akane her usual supportive smile. "Would you like to come down for dinner?"
"Sure Kasumi." Akane looked down at herself, she was still in her gi. "Just give me a minute to change."
Kasumi nodded, "Sure thing Akane." She shut the door and headed back downstairs.
Akane opened the door to her closet. Ranma sheepishly handed her a dress. "If you know what's good for you, you'll keep the door shut." She said, shutting him back in the closet.
Akane couldn't help but feel nervous.
Another day of school had ended, and now she and Ranma were heading off to the other nearby dojos to hopefully convince one of the Masters to take her own as a student.
"Now, there's three within walking distance." Ranma said.
Akane nodded, "Yes. There's the Nakahara Dojo, they teach Kenjutsu, the Go Dojo for Judo, and the Yano Dojo for Karate."
Ranma gave her a grin. "Familiar with them?"
She smiled back, "Of course, Master Nakahara often sparred with Dad a lot back when he was still teaching." Akane couldn't help but feel a bit of pride at her family's legacy, even after she learned she had been denied it. "The Tendo Dojo has been a pillar of the community for decades."
This nearly stopped Ranma in his tracks, the sudden realization of just what he was marrying into. Akane and Nabiki were both incredibly popular at school and near everyone came to the youngest when there was a problem there. He didn't think there was a housewife in town who wasn't friends with Kasumi. Finally, Soun Tendo was on the Town Council, and he thought back to all the times some strange incident occurred… it was the Tendos who they approached for help.
His mind unwillingly drifted to the future, the image of him being in Soun's place when trouble came around forming. He shook his head and tried to force down the blush. Another reason to get Akane up to speed. No way was he going to deal with all that responsibility by himself. He'd deal with the really interesting problems, and leave the only mildly interesting ones to Akane. The boring ones? He'd figure it out later.
The closest one was the Nakahara Dojo, unlike the Tendo Dojo it was set apart from any living space. Fortunately it was a break in the dojo's class schedule, and Akane had made sure that Ranma called ahead of time. They were quickly let inside Nakamura's office. He was an older man around Soun's age, his hair greying.
"Ah, good afternoon Akane. It's been some time. How is Soun?" Nakamura said, giving her a smile. There was was a small kettle and some cup, tea ready to be poured
Akane bowed, "Afternoon Master Nakamura. Dad's fine." She subtly elbowed Ranma and he gave a slight bow as well.
"Ah, you must be Akane's fiance, Ranma Saotome, correct? You've been making quite a stir in town the past year." Nakamura said, giving Ranma a nod.
Ranma grinned at the appraisal. "Ah people just like messing with me."
Nakamura poured some tea for the two. "So what brings you here Akane? Is Soun finally calling in that favor? Thought he'd send you in to butter me up?"
Akane laughed politely and shook her head. "No, it's, well, I was wondering if you might take me on as a student. I'm interested in learning Kenjutsu."
"Trust me, she's whacked me over the head with a shinai or bokken enough to show some real talent." Ranma added. Akane elbowed him again.
"Hmmm…" Nakamura frowned, "Akane, I'm fairly sure that your family school has sword forms, no?"
Akane looked down into her tea, "Even so, I'm interested in learning from you." She said. Akane knew she would never admit that her father was flat out refusing to teach her.
Nakamura shook his head, "I know Soun, he's a skilled swordsman, shouldn't you learn from your father?"
"Akane's learned everything Mr. Tendo's taught her." Ranma interrupted, "She wants to learn more."
There was a brief silence, Akane nervously took a sip of her tea. Nakamura looked between the two. "I've known Soun a long time, I'd think that the daughter of a respected Dojo Master like himself would be better off learning from him. I doubt you've mastered the Tendo School at the age of seventeen Akane."
"Hey now, what's wrong with-" Ranma began to say, but Akane interrupted him with another discrete elbow to the ribs.
"Don't embarrass me." She hissed.
A few more minutes passed of small talk, Akane not bringing up the topic of lessons again. Finally, once she and Ranma had finished their tea, she stood up and bowed. "Thank you for your time Master Nakamura."
"Any time." He said, "Say hello to Soun to me."
"Will do." Akane nodded stiffly, walking out of the dojo with Ranma stuck trailing behind.
Ranma quickly realized from the next dojo they visited that maybe Soun being a "pillar of the community" wasn't all it was cracked up to be.
Soun was popular and well known, especially in the local Martial Arts community. Even with his "sabbatical" from teaching formal classes, he was still well respected and liked. The pattern held for the next two dojo masters they met. There'd be pleasant, familiar greetings. These were all men Akane knew through their interactions with her father. There'd be light conversation, some old in jokes and references to past events. Then Akane would broach the topic of lessons, and things would change. It would become a little awkward.
It was well known that the Soun practiced the Tendo School of Anything Goes Martial Arts. A family style of Kenpo that Soun had learned and adapted from previous schools in his youth mixed with the lessons taught by Happosai. The fact that the Anything Goes school was passed down the family line made it different than other martial arts styles. Akane, being the only one of Soun's children to practice Martial Arts, was seen as his student and heir to the Tendo legacy. As such the dojo masters, who all knew Soun and had worked with him, did not want to risk offending him.
After all, if Akane was to learn from another master, that meant that her father wasn't good enough. That he had failed in her training. The fact that Soun wasn't teaching Akane and she wasn't his heir was something that, Ranma knew, Akane did not want to admit. It would make both herself and her father look bad. Her father for completely ignoring her daughter, and her for the implications that something is wrong with her if a noted and respected Master like Soun Tendo did not think she was worth teaching.
It was the fourth dojo, the one they had to hop on the train to reach, that convinced Ranma that it was best to head home.
"A dojo is no place for a young lady." The old man, the oldest of the masters that they had visited, said out of hand.
Ranma had immediately grabbed Akane's arm and stood up, "Well then sorry for your time Sir!" He said quickly before dragging Akane away. Because he knew that, with the mounting frustration she had been building up, that she was a minute away from attacking him.
Outside, he stepped back as Akane screamed.
"Is there nobody in Tokyo who can teach me!?" She said, "This is getting ridiculous!"
"I think we should head home. It's almost dinner time." Ranma suggested, wincing as she glared at him.
"What? Giving up already?" She said.
"No! Just, you know, we can look more later. We'll have all summer to find somebody once school ends. And who knows, maybe something will pop up!"
Ranma watched as Akane's anger deflated. He was grateful that he had, again, calmed her down. He had to admit, he was getting pretty good at it!
"Worst comes to worst, I can ask Pops. He has connections I bet." Ranma said. "Probably make me pay for them in blood or something…"
Akane giggled at that thought, "Nah. He'll just ask for your servings of dinner."
"Or maybe try and get us married again."
"I call the tux this time."
"H-hey! I'm a guy!" Ranma pouted, but could see Akane's mood improving, slightly.
"Well you do call me a tomboy, after all." Akane said.
"Tomboys are still girls." Ranma protested.
"Well I'm glad you finally admit I'm a girl Ranma." Akane poked him on the chest, "You're right, let's go home." She took his hand, "We'll figure something out, right?"
Nodoka smiled as she finished the details on the evening's dinner. It was so nice to be able to cook for more people after years of living alone.
She had taken the reigns of cooking tonight, since Kasumi had been a bit distracted. It would seem that Akane and Soun had a fight about some issue or the other. Nodoka didn't quite know all the details, but it seemed to bother Kasumi as well. Still, it wasn't her business.
"We're home!" Nodoka heard Akane announce from the kitchen. Nodoka's smile widened as she knew that her son was home now. A minute later Akane and Ranma walked past the kitchen, Akane heading upstairs to her room. Ranma, meanwhile, noticed her cooking and walked over. "Hey Mom, you need any help?"
Nodoka did love how Ranma always seemed interested in helping her in whatever way he could. It was sweet. "Well, could you watch the rice? Dinner will be done shortly." It didn't, not really. But Nodoka figured that it would be enough for him to feel like he helped.
"Ah, sure." Ranma said, before heading over to the cooker and looking over it. It didn't take Nodoka long to see that something was bothering her son. His posture was distracted, and he kept glancing out towards the stairs. It dawned on Nodoka that it was probably something about his fiancee that was bothering him. Well, as his mother she felt like guiding him through girl problems was her duty.
"Is something bothering you Ranma?" Nodoka asked.
Instantly she saw the bluster, "N-No way Mom. I'm fine."
Nodoka chuckled, "Now Ranma, you can talk to your mother about these things you know?"
Ranma blushed and mumbled into the rice cooker. "Ah… well, it's about Akane Mom."
"Did you two have another fight?" Nodoka asked, a bit concerned. Ranma and Akane were very lively. Sometimes this lead to Akane brushing up against Ranma's ego. Still, she saw them caring more often than clashing, and Akane was such a sweet girl. If a little rough around the edges.
"Ah… no. We didn't fight Mom." Ranma said quickly. "It's, uh, it's about her martial arts training. You know?" Ranma asked.
Nodoka nodded in understanding, "Oh, don't worry about that dear."
"Huh-" Ranma said.
"Now, I have to admit, Akane's a bit tomboyish. That boyish hairstyle, her getting into fights and all that. Goodness me hearing she got into fights at school before she got engaged to you…" Nodoka shook her head, "Well, a girl without a mother in her life … she can't really help herself, you know."
"She actually had-"
"But don't worry dear." Nodoka patted her son on the shoulder, giving him a reassuring smile. "You've seen what a sweet girl under all that she is. And she's been growing out her hair now. I'm sure by the time you marry her she'll have grown out of those silly habits. Her cooking's improved greatly, you know? All she needed was a good instructor." She felt a bit of pride in that statement, having been Akane's tutor. "She'll make a great wife." She realized in giving her son comfort she had been ignoring the dinner. "Oh! Excuse me!" She turned back to the oven, thus completely ignoring the frown that sprouted on Ranma's face.
By the time she could turn back to her son, he had plastered a small smile on to his face. "Uh, sure Mom." Rama said. "I, uh, think I'll go do homework with Akane." He moved out of the kitchen, heading upstairs.
Nodoka just smiled at her son's retreat. She was so happy to have him back in her life. Still, maybe it was time for Akane to get some more bridal training.