Well, folks, here's the last chapter to Studying. I really tried not to make you wait too long, but… I'm sorry I couldn't keep my promise. I hope you'll still enjoy it. More notes at the end. Now on with it.
Studying – Chapter 7
The day of the test was here. And Ranma was as tense as he would get before a hard battle. He was sitting at his school desk, waiting for the teacher to deliver the copies of the test. A quick glance at Akane reassured him, as she was looking back at him, smiling and making a victory sign.
He thought of all the exercises he had solved while studying. Some of them were easy, others tough. Some he barely managed to solve. Would he be able to…?
He scowled at him self and straightened his back. He was Ranma. He wasn't afraid of anything, much less of a stupid test. He would get all the answers right and then he'd make Akane tell him her secret. Wouldn't he?
The sheets were suddenly in front of him. He took a deep breath, grabbed his pen and started to read the instructions.
Later that same day, in the afternoon, after all the classes were over, the students were eagerly expecting the results of the Physics test at the notice board. Since it was the final test and the end of the year was in a few days, the teacher had promised to give the results as soon as he could and hang them on the notice board for all to see.
Akane was chatting with her friends, stealing occasional glances at her fiancé as he was lounging on a bench nearby.
Finally, a secretary came bringing the results. All Ranma and Akane's classmates gathered up behind her, trying to peek. Ranma was in the front row. Akane was too far to actually see anything.
He was so nervous that his vision was blurred and for moment, he was unable to make out anything. He shook his head to clear his head and looked again. Knowing the teacher would always put the names in the order of the points achieved, he started at the lowest numbers, as always. He was somewhat surprised that his name wasn't there, at the bottom, but as he got higher he reminded himself that this time he was actually prepared for the test.
Fifty percent, fifty-three, fifty-seven, sixty…
His eyes went up slowly, he didn't want to miss his own name and – though he would never admit it – he was a little scared of the result.
Sixty-four, seventy, seventy-two…
"Hey Ranma! Congratulations!" a male voice said behind his back.
He pealed his eyes off the notice board and turned around, surprised.
Daisuke grinned. "That's the best score I've ever seen with your name attached to it. How did you manage to cheat? The sensei is always so vigilant!"
Ranma glared. "I didn't cheat! I actually studied!"
"Really? How so?" Like everybody else Daisuke knew Ranma never studied so he hardly believed his friend. Yet he knew better than to argue with a nervous Ranma…
"It was a challenge," Ranma muttered almost unintelligibly, turning back at the notice board. He hadn't found out his score yet after all. And the congratulations meant nothing, considering his usual grades…
So his eyes went up again, ever so slowly, spelling out the name next to the number in his mind.
Seventy-five, seventy-nine, eighty-one…
'Hey, I might have actually done it!' he thought excitedly. 'It's over eighty already… Just a little bit more…'
Akane was watching him from the side. She wasn't worried about her results, she knew she had done well enough to keep up her average grade. But Ranma… She wanted to see his expression, to know how he did the moment he found out. She was almost as excited as himself.
She saw his eyes travel slowly upwards, she sensed his excitement, his growing joy as the points got higher and his name hadn't appeared yet. Then, finally, his eyes stopped, his expression froze.
"Oh, come on Akane, it's not fair!"
"It is too."
Ranma was walking back home beside a smiling Akane.
"But why wouldn't you tell me? I studied so hard and did everything you wanted!" he whined, walking in front of her and making her stop.
"I know you did. And I'm very proud of you," she smiled sweetly – too sweetly – looking at him. Then she moved to the right and walked past him.
"Then again, you didn't win our challenge, did you?" she said with her way-too-sweet-to-be-genuine voice. Ranma stared at her back, words failing him for a moment. He watched her walk away but snapped back to reality when she started humming some song.
He ran to catch up, yelling: "Of course I did! I mean, a 89.5! Point five! The sensei never gives a point five! Practically it's a ninety. You have to tell me!"
Akane just walked on, grinning.
"An almost win is not a win, and you know it," she replied after a while, glancing at his pleading face. "I don't have to tell you anything."
"Yes you do! I practically did it! It's just a half point. Come on, Akane, you have to!"
He was walking close to her, staring at her face, trying to use his presence as well as his voice to convince her.
"A half point is a half point and it makes you lose the fight." Saying so, Akane noticed his expression getting darker. She didn't really want to fight so she quickly added, "Still you did really great. I knew you would if you just studied a little…"
He interrupted her.
"A little? You call that a little?" His voice was angry and filled with frustration. "I spent days studying for that stupid test, and it was hard work, it was anything but 'a little'!"
"I know, I was there too." Akane said quietly, but Ranma didn't notice her strange tone.
"Yes, you were, so you know I did everything you wanted, did those stupid exercised, read that stupid theory book, skipped my training and everything and sat in that room day after day…"
She interrupted him this time.
"Was it that awful?"
Her voice was way too emotional for him not to notice this time. He looked at her – really looked this time – and noticed the signs of a coming fight, the typical results of his foot-in-mouth technique. He shut his mouth, surprised. What had he said to make her react this way? She had been smiling a moment before and now… What had he said?
"Was it so bad to spend some time with me?" she added, seeing his uncomprehending expression. She kept her gaze in his for another second, then she turned away and continued walking sullenly toward home.
Again, he was left behind, standing in the middle of the desert street. His eyes blank, his head low, he tried to figure out what had happened.
He thought again about Akane's last words. '… spend some time with me?' Bad, spending time with her? Spending time with her? Was that what they'd been doing? Studying and spending time together?
"I guess she's right," he mumbled. Understanding finally dawned and her ran after her. Reaching her, though, he noticed they were already close to the dojo entrance and too many ears were bound to hear their discussion if he started it, so he decided to give up for the time being.
Akane looked up when she heard him approach. Their eyes met and she searched him for an answer. He kept quiet but something in his eyes made Akane shake her head, sigh and go on, if a little less sullenly.
"So how is your preparation for the test going, Ranma?" Kasumi asked at lunch.
Akane opened her mouth to compliment him on his success, but Ranma bumped her with his knee under the table and answered himself.
"Ok, I guess, we should see soon enough."
Akane stared at him in disbelief but stayed quiet. 'Ranma isn't going to show off with his good mark? I can't believe it. Why would he…?'
"We'll need a few more days of studying though," Ranma added looking down at his food, his cheeks slightly red. Akane's chopsticks fell to the floor.
"Oh, I see," Kasumi smiled. "I'll make sure no-one disturbs you."
"This is not good, boy," Genma protested, trying to steal food from his son. "You're missing too much training. What good will school do to you anyway…"
"Now, now, Genma, I wouldn't want one of my daughters to marry an illiterate, would I?" Soun interrupted him. "And besides, it seems to me that Ranma is in great shape."
He gestured to his friend's plate which was completely empty, while Ranma was stuffing the last of its contents into his mouth.
"Hey! You ungrateful…" Genma started to get up to give his son a good beating when Kasumi's voice stopped him.
"Please Genma-san, there is plenty of food left for you, don't ruin our meal." The combination of her slightly less sweet than usual voice and her virtually unnoticeable frown made him change his mind and he sat back glaring at Ranma, who was calmly ignoring him.
Akane's chopstick were still on the floor, her expression numb.
A while later, Akane was sitting at her desk, nervously waiting for her door to open and Ranma to come in.
What did he have in mind? Why had he lied? Did he just want to …?
Her twirling thoughts were finally interrupted by a knock.
Ranma's black hair came into view, then his face and his shoulders, as he peeked inside.
"May I come in?" he asked, unable to meet her gaze.
"Sure," she smiled hesitantly.
He stepped in, closed the door carefully and walked to her desk where a chair was already waiting for him.
"So…" he said
"So…" Akane answered.
"Why did you let me come here again?" he asked.
"Why did you lie to them?" she countered.
He blushed and looked through the window. After a moment, he answered feeling extremely awkward and self-conscious.
"Because… it's not that bad…"
Akane was puzzled.
Ranma fidgeted nervously, his right hand on his pigtail.
"… being here… studying… with you…"
Akane looked up, her cheeks getting warmer.
"No. I was just… you know, angry for not winning the challenge… but… you know me, I never lose, and if I do, I practise till I get it right." His expression got more confident as he went on and at the end he was grinning, staring at her daring her to say otherwise.
Akane's expression softened, a smile spreading slowly on her lips.
"Yeah, you're right. You never give up."
"Right," he said, finally finding the courage to sit next to her. "And I'm even more stubborn when it comes to you."
Akane looked at him strangely, watching him realize what he had just said, expecting the usual excuses and insults that would follow any similar statement he made.
They never came. He just looked at her sheepishly from under his bangs, waiting for her reaction.
'Well, if he can say it, so can I', she thought.
"I guess the feeling is mutual then."
His cheeks were redder than his shirt, but for once he didn't care. Their eyes stayed glued to each others for a long, long time. Finally, Akane got up.
"I guess I should get some cookies."
Ranma smiled as he watched her leave the room.
"I still think you ought to tell me. Eighty-nine point five! Come on!" he tried one last time, a soft smile still plastered all over his face.
She reached for the door-knob, opened the door, almost got out of the room, then turned around with a mischievous grin.
"Eighty-nine point five is the exact percentage of my answer that you just got. You'll have to do better to get the rest." And she closed the door.
Ranma's smile grew wider.
"You bet I will!" he said to the empty room.
This time it really is over, no more waiting, no more chapters. I apologise again for not posting this chapter sooner but things got too complicated after I finished the last one and I physically couldn't do it. Same excuses, you'll say, I guess. Still I hope the story was nice enough to read to make you forget at least part of the frustration I caused.
To be honest, I had a little trouble with the ending, I wasn't too sure where to go, so I had to wait for the story to decide for itself. Now it did. What do you think? I'd appreciate feedback, even if it's just to say that I don't deserve readers because I make them hang on for so long…
Oh, and if you're interested, I'll get to continuing "Of Loose Gi's…" as soon as I can. Don't lose hope, I'm still alive and well… Ok, not that well… But still…
Thanks again and love you all,