He panted a little as he dragged the large man behind him. Every muscle in his small body hurt from the exertion and he had staggered more than once, nearly falling face first in the dirt. He looked up at the gate to the village; it was the closest civilization on the map, so this must be the place. He looked at the man he pulled.
He had strapped him, his father, to a make shift stretcher made from roughly cut pieces of bamboo and any bits of wood and leaves he could twine together. It wasn't the most sturdy of structures and had broken apart several times during the trip, forcing the boy to stop and repair it. They had been travelling in this style for three days now, ever since the old man had taken ill. He wondered to himself why he should feel pity for his father, not after…
He shuddered and took another step forward, every ounce of him hurt and he wanted nothing more than to collapse right there and sleep, but he knew he couldn't. Even if he didn't have to get help, sleep was not an option. Sleep meant dreaming and he really didn't want to dream again.
"Stupid Pops," he muttered, choking back the tears that threatened to fall, "Stupid, stupid old man."
He sniffed and pulled, he could feel his father moan feverishly as he was dragged across the gravely dirt road. The stretcher caught at one stage, halting the boy in his tracks.
He grunted and pulled hard, but it wouldn't budge. It must have caught on something like a rock or an out growing root. He pulled harder and lost his footing, falling to the ground, skidding his knee and tearing the leg of his already tattered gi. He gritted his teeth and tried to get up, despite his tired arms. He couldn't give up! A martial artist never gave up, never quit! He wasn't about to do either. Not now when he was so close. Taking a deep breath, he struggled to his feet, only to find a spear pointed directly at his throat. He looked up and came face to face with a Chinese guard. He raised his head and squared his shoulders, mustering up more courage than he thought he had left in him.
"Please…" he chocked out in rough Chinese, he searched desperately for the words he needed, "I need help."
Khu Lon patted her great-granddaughter on the head affectionately, the eight year old girl beamed with pleasure at her great-grandmother's praise. Her long purple hair shone in the sun as she set her eyes on the next target.
Shan Pu was turning into perhaps one of the Joketsuzoku's brightest and best warriors. She had a natural talent for reading her opponents moves and knew how to strike at the most opportune moment. Her skills rivaled those some three years her senior and her flair for life made Khu Lon proud.
"Is this right, great-grandmother?" the child asked sweetly, her voice like a chiming bell.
"Yes, yes," the elder said with an affirmative nod, "You have achieved that quite well, my child."
Looking happy and contented, Shan Pu returned to her training, her sparing partner looked a little tired, but was as ready as any true born Joketsuzoku girl to take up the fight once more. Khu Lon relaxed back into her seat as she watched the training. It was so nice to see the younger generations learning the ancient arts of the village.
The village of the Joketsuzoku – or the Amazons - had prospered much in all its period of existence. Through out the years they had remained strong against all opposing tribes whilst keeping to their ideals. Theirs was the only tribe in all of China whose warriors were made up almost exclusively of women. Though the men had their own training regimes and work, the village was largely run and protected by the female gender.
When Khu Lon was a young girl she had trained and fought for her land and for her people. She had been taught well and had eventually made her way up to being on the Council of Elders. It was a privilege she hoped another in her line, perhaps her grand daughter or one of her great-granddaughters, would someday earn. She also knew that the road to such a position was a steep one to travel and she wanted only the most prepared of her descendants to take it.
"Elder Khu Lon! Elder Khu Lon!" she turned in surprise to see one of the border guards running towards her, a frantic look on his face.
"What is it?" she asked the man, her eyes blinking widely in curiosity.
"An outsider!" the man exclaimed, "He is at the gates, there is a child with him."
Khu Lon frowned.
Outsiders did not often dare come near the village of the Joketsuzoku, those that did were usually young men who wished to challenge one of the village women for a place In the tribe. She knew why the guard had been so frantic though, outsiders were only permitted with an elder's permission and the only reason this would be of any urgency is if the man or indeed the child were a threat or injured.
Deciding that she could probably deal with any danger one man and a child posed, she came to decision quickly.
"You may let him in," she said, rising to her feet in the age-old grace granted to her through years of practice, "Bring them both to me."
She smiled reassuringly at Shan Pu, gesturing for her to continue with her training. The young girl looked momentarily curious and concerned, before shrugging it off and returning her attention to her opponent.
Khu Lon cast one last look at her descendant before following the young man out of the training grounds. She felt oddly excited about the news of an outsider suddenly appearing at the gates. It was strange, but it was as though every martial artists instinct in her bones was vibrating with anticipation.
Why, she could not tell.
Khu Lon was presented with the most peculiar sight; a bald man was brought in on a stretcher, his skin pale and his body limp. He was blinking around the hall Khu Lon had decided to receive the outsiders in with absolute bewilderment. His breathing appeared shallow and he kept muttering to himself in incoherent babble.
Frowning, Khu Lon took her staff and walked over to the man, examining him with a scrutinizing eye.
"Take him to a healer immediately," she said to the stretcher-bearers, "This man is sick."
Her word was obeyed without question, but what surprised her was someone she hadn't noticed was there. As though he had appeared out of thin air, Khu Lon found herself face to face with a young boy of perhaps seven or eight years of age. He had a head of long, dark hair, which was tied back in a short braid. His face and arms were covered in scratches and his gi was torn and coated in spots of blood and dirt. He remained perfectly still though, looking determinedly at the ground, though Khu Lon recognized the faint quiver that ran through him despite his obvious efforts to not shake.
"Child-?" she began, but as soon as the words were out of her mouth the boy's head snapped up and she was met with the most startling pair of blue-grey eyes she had ever seen. Like a stormy sea, wild and untamed.
He took a cautious step back from her, his eyes filled with mistrust and a spark of fear.
"Get away! You-you old ghoul!" he said defensively, in a clearly foreign tongue.
Khu Lon sighed.
A Japanese boy, and an impolite one, that was all she needed.
"I will not harm you child," she said in Japanese, trying to soothe the boy. As soon as she switched languages he seemed to relax a little bit, "Your father, I'm assuming, is quite ill. He has been taken to the Healer's Hut. Can you tell me what happened?"
The boy seemed to hesitate.
"Pops got sick a few days ago," he said, "I dunno what happened, it was right after he-he-"
The boy sniffed a little bit, clearly unwilling to carry on for fear of crying. Khu Lon looked on the child with pity, a boy he may have been, but in need of her he was.
"What is your name?" she asked instead, "Why are you in China?"
The boy licked his lips nervously, his eyes starting to wander around the hall for escape despite the two guards that were at the entrance. Khu Lon watched him curiously, a guess as to the boy's purpose in China already forming in her mind.
"Ranma," he said finally, if a little hesitantly, "My name is Ranma Saotome of the Saotome School of Anything Goes Martial Arts. I'm on a training trip with my Pops."
He stopped then, the whole of the first line appeared to be well rehearsed, but Khu Lon wasn't really paying too much attention to that. Her only concern was when she heard the name of the boy's school.
The Anything Goes School of Martial Arts.
She couldn't prevent the feelings of bitterness and rage that came with the memory. At one stage in her life she had truly believed that the man, the so-called Grand Master of the Anything Goes School, had cared for her. But he had turned out to be no more than a pervert. The man who had been brought in had clearly been no Happosai, but that didn't mean he wasn't one of his disciples. She scrutinized the boy with something of a pitying gaze; the child had no idea who he was dealing with.
"Who are you?" the boy asked bluntly, his eyes still roving for an escape route.
"I am…" she paused, attempting to find the Japanese equivalent of her name, "Cologne. I am an elder of the Joketsuzoku."
"The who?" Ranma asked, his curiosity appearing to get the better of him.
"The Amazons," she said, cheering at the thought of the boy finally being able to open up a little, "We are a tribe of warriors, particularly female warriors."
Ranma frowned in confusion.
"But Pops said martial arts aint no place for girls!" he protested weakly.
Khu Lon – or Cologne - smirked in amusement.
"Is that so?" Cologne asked, feigning shock, "Well, perhaps you should fight one of us girls and see whose right."
The boy mumbled something under his breath.
"What's that?" she asked, resisting the urge to poke him in the stomach with her cane.
"Pops says," Ranma said with mortification, "That it aint right to fight girls!"
"Truly?" Cologne almost chuckled, she hadn't been so amused in years, "And why is that?"
"Cause-cause-" the boy trailed off, frowning as he thought, "Ya know, Pops never told me why, he just said it aint right. He said real men don't fight girls."
"Well Ranma," Cologne said carefully, "I don't think its right to just fight a girl, or anyone really without cause. So if it was a training session or if your fighting for something, then it should be okay, wouldn't you agree?"
Ranma seemed to think this over and nodded in enthusiastic agreement, his blue eyes starting to shine a little bit. Cologne smiled herself, but was slightly worried not only over the child's appearance, but also his unwillingness to discuss what had happened to put him in that state. There was another feeling she had around the boy; anticipation she thought. A kind of excitement she had never known before.
"What's gonna happen to me and Pops, Elder Lady," he asked her out of the blue, "He's gonna be alright, aint he?"
Cologne looked at the boy in surprise and realized just how vulnerable he was. She sighed deeply and gave the boy an encouraging smile.
"I'm sure he will be," she said, "But in the mean time, shouldn't we try to get a message to your mother?"
At this the boy looked extremely confused.
"I don't think I've got one," he said, "Pops aint never said nothing about a mother."
Cologne resisted the urge to roll her eyes at the boy's bad grammar and instead decided to feel pity for the motherless child. There were a number of reasons the boy was alone with his father, the mother might be dead, or his parents may have been estranged. Whatever the reason, until the father was well again it appeared that this boy was to be her responsibility.
"Grandmother," a soft voice called from the door to the hall, Cologne pursed her lips as Mei, Shan Pu's mother and her granddaughter, entered the hall. Dark blue hair fell down her back and she looked surprised at the presence of a child.
"Oh I am sorry," she apologized immediately, "I thought-"
"Can I help you Mei?" Cologne asked in a tired voice, wanting to get back to the situation at hand.
"Its nothing important," Mei's eyes were on the boy, "Is he alright, grandmother? He looks hurt."
Khu Lon sighed.
That was her granddaughter. Mei was perhaps not the strongest fighter in the Amazon tribe, but she was the most ideal caregiver. There were few women born into the world with a true spark for being a mother to everyone and Mei had inherited the gift. Cologne didn't mind too much though, the gift had been her own mother's and she welcomed the remembrance of the remarkable woman.
"He appears to have had a rough trip," Cologne said finally, "His father is currently in the Healer's Hut."
"Oh," Mei bit down on her lower lip, "Would you like me to get him cleaned up Grandmother? Get him some new clothes and a proper meal perhaps? The poor dear looks like he may need one."
Cologne contemplated the offer and nodded her consent; she doubted she would get much out of the boy in any case.
"Ranma," she said in Japanese, "This is my granddaughter Mei. She will take you to where you can get a hot bath and some food."
At the mention of food, almost unsurprisingly, the boy's face lit up and he looked at Mei expectantly. But as soon as his expression had perked up, it too fell.
"But-" he began.
"It's okay," Mei said, switching to Japanese without much effort, "We'll go see your father in a little while."
That magical expression crossed the kind woman's face and Ranma nodded in immediate agreement. Cologne smiled, her granddaughter certainly had the knack for calming down even the most traumatized of children and traumatized Ranma was. The young Japanese boy took a few hesitant steps towards the smiling woman, until he could be gently led away from the hall.
Cologne tapped her wrinkled chin. The excited feeling was still there in her gut, there was something about the child that was certainly interesting.
Shan Pu glared at the young boy from across the dinner table; he was quite happily nuzzling down the food her mother had prepared for their evening meal. There was an annoying grin of contentment on his face when he dared ask for more and her mother gave it to him, a smile of her own spreading. Shan Pu didn't bother to ponder the strange boy; she had returned home that evening to find him sitting in a corner by the kitchen whilst her mother prepared supper. His face was bruised and covered with scratches, but he didn't seem too fazed by it. He had stared at her for several long moments in surprise before Mei had introduced them.
"Hi," he said afterwards, waving a hand in greeting, but the worst thing was when he tried to pronounce her name, "Shampoo."
She was certainly not impressed.
The fact that her family was entertaining an outsider, and an outsider male at that, was enough to make her stomach squirm.
"Where is great-grandmother?" she asked her mother, pointedly ignoring the child.
"She has things to attend to," was all Mei answered.
Suddenly the boy spoke something in another language and Shampoo pouted as her mother answered in the same. She hated it when her elders spoke in other tongues around her and now this boy could too!
"Why is this outsider here?" Shampoo glared at the boy, "Why are you here?"
She cringed and backed up from her mother's scolding gaze, looking down in spite of herself.
"Sorry," Shampoo looked up in surprise to see the boy looking at her, his blue eyes were big, but he had just spoken in Chinese, "I don't understand good. Speak bad also."
Mei looked delighted.
"You speak Chinese Ranma?"
The boy frowned as he tried to understand her words, but then he slowly nodded and responded in the same language.
"My father want not learn," he carried on in a clumsy voice, "Been in China two months, got phrase book and tried learn."
Mei smiled widely and started speaking to the boy in Japanese again. Shampoo sighed, her surprise wearing off and crossed her arms in front of her chest. She didn't like this boy, not one bit. Boys were weak and simple minded. They lacked the skill and finesse to be truly skilled warriors and were only good for the very basics of the art. Boys like that stupid Mu Tzu, who thought they could impress a girl just by showing how strong they thought they were. It was enough to make her sick.
Strong outsiders, like Shampoo's father, were a different matter though. They had overcome their meager male weaknesses and become true and powerful warriors. Unlike most Joketsuzoku males, outsider males who had won their right into the village were of a different sect. They taught their daughters to be strong and powerful, passing on their own skills as well as those of the Joketsuzoku, thus adding strength and power to the tribe. Shampoo was proud of her father. He was a strong man who had made his family and village only stronger. Little boys, however, had not earned that right.
She watched with indifference as her mother stood up from her place and gestured for the boy to follow her, telling her family she was taking him to see his father. The boy, Ranma, took one last fleeting look at Shampoo before leaving the room as well.
Shampoo crossed her arms in irritation.
Cologne looked at the man with pity.
His baldhead was drenched in sweat and he shivered uncontrollably as he muttered incoherent things. Every now and then Cologne thought she caught phrases like; "Make him the best," "Man among men," "Tendo girl," and "Join the schools."
With a sigh, she turned to one of the healers examining the man and raised an enquiring eyebrow. The healer just looked at the elder and shook her head, her eyes saying clearly that it was unlikely the man would make it through the night. Cologne almost groaned, if this man did not somehow pull through she would have to make arrangements to get the boy back to Japan and probably to an orphanage.
For some reason she felt this was not a good idea, but what other choice did she have if the child's father died? She had no right to keep the boy, even if she wanted to, and who would take him in? She was well over a hundred! She couldn't possibly be expected to take care of a sniveling outsider, even if he was an Anything Goes trainee.
She wondered why she felt any responsibility towards anyone associated with that school, especially after what Happi had done to her.
"Ranma…" the man started mumbling, "Where…is Ranma?"
To her shock, the man was looking directly at her as he said this, his beady eyes looking at her imploringly. Cologne, against all her better judgment, inched closer to the man and was immediately grabbed by the arm. Surprised, but also a little impressed by the martial artist's reflexes, she looked at the man questioningly. He was shaking from fever, but still managed to get out the words, as though he knew his final fate was not long off.
"Ranma…" he said, "Has to…succeed. Has to become…the best, has to…inherit school. Make him the best…please…"
Cologne suddenly understood why the man had had his son drag them to this village. It wasn't to get help; it was to ensure Ranma would be trained. From the little she had gathered from the boy during their discussion, the man before her did not hold women in high regard. It must be out of pure desperation that he was here at all.
"Has to…be…the best…please…please…please..."
Cologne pursed her lips, considering the man before her. If she did train the boy it would go against many of her teachings. He wasn't of the Joketsuzoku for one and for another he was male. She couldn't possibly make an outsider male 'the best.'
Unless you adopt him as a Joketsuzoku, a small voice reasoned in her head, and besides, this might have some advantages.
Indeed, she reasoned, wouldn't it be fun to train one of Happosai's disciples to be better than him? What a surprise the old pervert would have should he ever choose to rear his ugly head. She almost smiled at the thought.
She then remembered the bruised, scratched up face of the young boy with the stormy grey-blue eyes and the look of well-masked vulnerability in them. Whatever this man had done to his son, surely it couldn't be worse than any training she could dish out?
"I will," she found herself saying before she could stop herself, "Ranma will be the best, I swear."
As soon as the words were out of her mouth though, she berated herself for it. Here she was, an elder of the Joketsuzoku, promising to train some slip of a boy whom she didn't even know had any potential or not. The other issue was getting him accepted into the tribe, if she adopted him it wouldn't be an issue, of course, but she would first have to prove that she had sound reason for doing so. Merely making a ridiculous promise was not going to cut it. She may have sworn to make Ranma the best, but most of it depended on the boy, she didn't even know if he had it in him.
She tried to calm herself, she shouldn't be thinking of this now. There was still a chance the boy's father would pull through. She felt his grip slacken on her arm as he drifted back into delirium, there wasn't much more she could do then allow the healers to do their work.
She turned in surprise as Mei and Ranma entered the Healer's Hut, the boy immediately rushed to his father's side. At Mei's enquiring glance Cologne shook her head and the women gave him a sad look.
"Hey old ghoul!" Ranma said suddenly, turning to Cologne, "What's gonna happen to my Pops?"
Cologne pursed her lips tighter at the child's rudeness whilst Mei suppressed an amused smile behind her hand.
"The healers are doing all they can," she said shortly, "We'll just have to wait until morning."
Ranma frowned at her.
"He'll be okay though, right?" he enquired, though he betrayed no worry in his stance and voice, there was clearly some anxiousness in his expression, "I mean, the old man's pretty tough, he should make it through."
He studied his father's face for a moment, a little anger sparking into his eyes.
"Man am I gonna get him for this," the small boy said with surprising ferocity, "Can't say he doesn't deserve it though."
"Why do you say that, sonny?" Ku Lon asked curiously.
"He-" Ranma trailed off with a small shudder, "Never mind. Lets just say I aint letting him near a food store ever again."
He spoke as though he were babysitting an errant child and looked upon his father with as much irritation as a frustrated parent. Cologne wondered if the boy was merely trying to take his mind off the fact that his father may well be dying and she had the sneaking suspicion that the boy knew. Mei seemed to sense the same thing. She bit down on her bottom lip, seeking silent permission from her grandmother. The elder nodded her consent, her eyes only leaving the boy for a moment.
"Ranma," Mei said softly, "Why don't you spend the night at my house and tomorrow we can come check up on your father? How does that sound?"
Ranma was still looking at his father, his blue eyes impossible to read, but he turned to Mei and nodded his head in consent. He looked at Cologne again too and then back to his father. Without another word he looked away and followed the Joketsuzoku woman out of the hut again. Cologne gave a long-suffering sigh and silently prayed that the man would make it through the night.
Ranma lay awake in the bed the woman Mei had shown him to nearly an hour earlier. His mind was whirling with the day's events and he was trying to fight off sleep. He had been lucky, he knew, if his father had been well enough to get up to his usual antics he probably would have been kicked out of the village by now. He found he liked the Amazons he had met so far, even Mei's daughter, Shampoo. They had given him clean clothing, allowed him to bathe (the first he'd had in over a week) and tended to the wounds on his body. He now had some kind of funny smelling healing salve smeared all over him that was making the aches and pains in his muscles feel better.
Staring up at the ceiling he frowned, he was so going to get the old man back for making him worry when he got better.
If he gets better…
Ranma turned onto his side as a sick feeling came into his stomach; what was he going to do if his Pops didn't make it? He didn't have any family, the only person he would willingly go live with was Ucchan and his father, but he didn't know where to find them. He smiled as he remembered his best friend and wondered if they would ever run into each other again. He didn't understand to this day why his father had taken Ucchan's cart, but he supposed there wasn't any harm in it. Ucchan had looked pretty sad when they had left, running after the cart like that.
There was the Tendos, of course, his father had always told him he was going to run the Tendo dojo one day. Ranma had liked the idea of teaching martial arts, but wondered if they would take him in without his being trained. He didn't even know where the Tendo dojo was, or even if his father had been telling the truth.
He rolled over again. There was, of course, the Amazons to consider; what would they do with him if his father didn't make it?
There was some underhanded reason his father had insisted on coming to this village before he became too out of it to even talk, Ranma knew there must be. Pops never did anything without a reason, even if most of them were for his own selfish gain. He wondered what the old man hoped to get out of it this time. Nothing good for him, he imagined.
Yawning, Ranma could feel his eyes starting to droop closed and try as he might, he couldn't rid himself of the tiredness. He tried shaking himself. Rubbing his eyes to keep them open, even sitting up in bed, though it made his body ache and yawned again. Eventually, though he dreaded it, Ranma fell asleep.
"No daddy! Please no!"
Mei's eyes snapped open at the fearful screams of the child. She sat up in bed immediately, her husband casting her a sleepy, but enquiring look. Mei gave him a reassuring smile before rushing out of their room and into the guestroom where she had placed Ranma. It was dark, but in the bright moonlight shining through the windows, she could see her young ward quite clearly. The small boy was tossing in his bed, moaning and crying in fear.
"I don't want to!" he cried, "Help! Help!"
Her mother's instincts took over in a thrice and Mei flung herself onto the bed, encircling her arms around the boy and hugging him as she whispered soothing words. He was surprisingly strong and almost knocked her away several times until he finally calmed down. She hugged him closer as he lay still, slipping into a quiet sleep once more. She wondered, not for the first time, just what this child had endured to make him this way.
"Is he alright?" she heard a rough whisper and looked up to see her husband, Lou Fe, standing at the door. She nodded, gently setting the boy back down to sleep. She got up and gestured for her husband to follow her, waiting until they reached the living room before she began to speak once more.
"Something has happened to this boy," she said slowly, "I feel like he needs someone, like he needs me."
Lou Fe looked at her thoughtfully. He wasn't a tall man, topping her by only a few inches. In the dim light his dark eyes were like two black pools, boring into her.
"His father?" he enquired.
"May not make the night," Mei looked at her spouse imploringly, "I know it is much to ask, but should the boy's father not survive-"
"You wish to take him in?" Lou Fe finished.
"We could give him a home," she smiled, "I have a good feeling about the boy. I think he is very brave and kind, he just needs a little help."
Lou Fe gave her an exasperated look and then smiled softly.
"When I was a boy," he said slowly, "My father always spoke of having strong sons."
Mei was surprised.
"And yet you end up in a village where girls are valued over boys?" she asked him with a coy smiled.
"The best decision of my life," Lou Fe said, returning the smile, "I have a beautiful wife and a smart, strong daughter. I am truly content. But should this boy be in need of a home, I would gladly offer ours, a son will be just as welcome."
Mei's smile widened.
"But do not assume, Mei," Lou Fe said sternly, "The child's father may yet survive the night and perhaps recover. Even then, we will have to have an elder's blessing, if not permission, to adopt the boy."
She nodded and hugged her husband. Having this man defeat her in combat had probably been the best thing that had ever happened to her. Like all Joketsuzoku women, she too had been cocky and sure of herself and her skills, but by being defeated and then cared for by this man, she had been humbled somewhat. She had never been more grateful for the fact.
"Let's sleep," she whispered, "Nothing more can be done tonight."
Neither, as they made their way back to bed, noticed their daughter listening in the shadows of the hallway, a sour look on her face. Shampoo watched as her parents disappeared into their room, dark thoughts roving around in her mind. She couldn't believe that after barely a day of knowing this-this outsider, they would want to adopt him. How embarrassing!
She crossed her arms over her chest and made her way determinedly to where the outsider slept. She looked down on him in contempt. Not only was he an outsider, but he was male too. A pathetic, weak minded male. She watched him as he slept, glaring daggers at the boy. She wished she had a weapon on her, she'd put the outsider in his place, she'd…
"Please…" she heard the boy moan softly, but didn't understand the word. She froze for a moment, wondering frantically if the outsider had woken up and noticed her there, but his breathing remained the same and his eyes didn't open. Curious, she took a step closer to his bed when he moaned again.
She jumped back in surprise and noticed that he seemed to be dreaming.
A bad dream at that.
She was just about to high tail it out of the room when he moaned again. He sounded so scared and vulnerable that she looked back at him. She sighed, cursing herself for a fool and gently reached over to stroke his head. The boy relaxed surprisingly well into her touch and she could almost feel a soft smile tug at her lips. She immediately withdrew her hand and hurried out of the room to her own bed, her head spinning as she berated herself angrily for doing such a thing.
Stupid, stupid, stupid boy!
Genma Saotome, father of Ranma Saotome, did not make it that night.
He died not long before dawn, having held on surprisingly well for someone with so high a fever. He passed on in his sleep and was buried two days later outside the village. The ceremony was short. No one knew anything about the man save for his son.
The boy in question kept silent. He had only spoken once since hearing the news of his father's demise and that was to tell the elders what his fathers name was to put on the tombstone. He stood apart from everyone as they buried him, as silent as the grave in which his father was being lowered into.
After the ceremony he was taken into one of the training halls where Cologne had a long discussion with him about what was to happen to him next. He learned that he was to stay with Mei and her family for now. Though he appeared surprised by this, he made no objections. The elder watched him; worry etched into her ancient face, but said no other words.
Ranma himself didn't know what to feel exactly. His father had not been the best father, not after all he had done to him, but he had still been Ranma's father. His father had been a liar and a cheat. He had sold Ranma more than once for food and had made a million promises he never intended to keep. If Ranma had once had a mother, then the memory of her was buried down far too deep to ever recall.
The special training Genma had put him through only a week before was still fresh in his mind and he was unconsciously rubbing the scratch marks from his encounter. He shuddered, the images were still so strong in his head he was sure they'd never leave him.
No, even at the age of eight, Ranma knew that Genma Saotome had not been a good father.
But that didn't make it hurt any less.
Thus, the life of Genma Saotome ended without much applaud, and the life of Ranma Saotome had all but begun.
He was now a Joketsuzoku.