"Oh," Soun bemoaned, while peeking his head from the shadows only but slightly, "The springs of Jusenkyo... their horror had been unknown."
"Hmph, 'horror'," Ranma mocked. The man didn't even comprehend the horror he was experiencing. The curse's impact shattered his self-identity, and continued to break down the fragments left bit by bit. If that were not even the worst of it, his father would easily remind him in acidic tones how much a disappointment his son was in his masculinity, and how worthless his 'daughter' was by 'her' existence. The ever-present flow of anguish throughout Ranma's soul was barely kept at bay, only to be relinquished in minute torrents when he knew no one would see. Even then, the valve on the growing pressure could not hope to keep up with the immense and overwhelming onslaught of emotion that threatened to leave Ranma's psyche as emotionally dead as a tundra, or as maddeningly burning as a fierce, sun scorched desert.
It was by an unfortunate chance that Ranma found a way to channel it; channel all his pain to an outlet that could benefit him. By chance of a challenge within a small backwater village of a feminine dominated society. At the moment of Ranma had met the challenge, and bested it soundly, she had felt untouchable, unbeatable, invincible. Alas, the sensation was fleeting, and only found in direct confrontation. Maybe it was the realization that there was no further he could fall, or the possibility that he now accepted death to be a better fate, maybe even the constant browbeating and insistence from his father that he must be the best, Ranma didn't even think to consider the reason. Whatever it was, Ranma understood that day, that he was bound to win in the end, regardless.
"Oh my," Kasumi whispered, with a hint of genuine concern amidst her hazy exclamation.
"Heh, bet your Pop couldn't read the warnings, probably all in Chinese," Nabiki commented, thoroughly amused by one man's potential for stupidity.
"Your curse... no your curse shall have no bearing," Soun spoke up, finding a mote of irrational to hang his desperate hopes upon, "Please, choose among my daughters. Kasumi, Nabiki, or Akane. One of them is to be your fiancée."
"Akane likes girls!" Kasumi exclaimed, clapping her hands together in celebration of her epiphany.
Nabiki barked a sharp laugh, as her youngest sister suddenly shrunk into herself. "Oh definitely, Akane would be your type, Ranma... heh."
Akane's head shot up, before she turned to glare at her sisters heatedly. Nabiki only grinned wider, knowing the delicious paradox her sister was now torturing herself over; here she was being handed what she would never admit to being a dream, yet she would not allow her to accept such 'charity'. Kasumi shirked back, but gave no other sign of fearing against the youngest sister's rage.
Nabiki knew her sister all too well, as the youngest Tendou felt herself snared in the binds of her own pride. It was that same feeling of helplessness, of no control of the situation that she had impotently battled against in every aspect of her life; the boys at school, the need to defend her reputation as the best martial artist in Nerima, her infatuation with a man who she knew would never return her infatuation, and now this... she could only handle it the way she knew how.
"Me? Marry that pervert? NEVER!"
Nabiki snorted with amusement, "Hypocrite."
"Pervert?" Ranma parroted, just barely above a whisper. Though his voice had been quiet, no one had noticed the volume the expression he wore spoke; the broken, hurtful expression that mirrored the betrayal a few scant words could do to his ego.
"You heard me!" Akane shouted, directing her growing fury towards the pigtailed boy, "You saw me in the bath! Only a pervert would do something so... so..."
"Disgusting?" Nabiki assisted, her humored tone letting Akane realize that more was implied.
Ranma felt the trembling building within, finding himself in a challenge he far from understood how to contend with, and reacted in the only way he had been taught. "Goodbye."
The man who taught him such a tactic glared at the back of his son, "Exactly where do you think you're going, boy?"
Ranma didn't even turn around, knowing he would most likely lose his resolve if he was faced with his father's angered expression, "Back to China, I need a cure more than I need a fiancée, especially a beast like this one."
Ranma's head turned at the sound of wood splintering, as Akane's grip upon the table dug her fingers into its surface. The pigtailed young man was caught flatfooted, as Akane's 'beastly' facade exerted all its power towards crippling the object of her over boiled rage. Upon impact, every abused and overworked muscle in Ranma's form screamed in agony, before sweet oblivion brought escape.
"Ooohhh, he's awake!"
Ranma moaned, crunching his eyes tight enough to stem the tears that threatened to escape. The pounding of his head coupled with the throbbing of his body made him dearly wish to be unconscious again. He winced, as he heard the person who had spoke giggle, then pat him on the head. "Akane's such a nice girl, but she's a violent maniac."
"Of course, Kasumi, of course," the other girl, Nabiki Ranma recalled, interjected.
"Wh-why did she...?" Ranma began to enquire, realizing from experience the affects of short term memory loss stemmed from blunt trauma. From what he could guess, the one named Akane had something to do with his present condition.
"Because she doesn't like you," Nabiki answered in a soothingly calm, yet jovial tone. Her grin grew, "May you have a happy and prosperous life with your new fiancée, Mr. Saotome." Chuckling, Nabiki stood up, and left the room to allow her new brother-in-law to be to ponder what she had said.
"Oh my," Kasumi spoke softly, watching her sister's departure with confusion.
Akane refused to let go of her anger, she held firmly onto it lest she realize that once again she had lost an opportunity. If she allowed herself to relinquish it, she would find what remained was her own despair. She sat on the stool in the washroom, her arms wrapped around herself as she fought to retain the fury that had come so easily to her only moments ago, but with an outlet realized, the rage she had steadily diminished, leaving in its place regret.
Regret, something she had felt all too often, yet could not atone for as she remained a slave to her own anger and insecurities. What's worse, her despair fed her anger, which drove her pride forward. As her pride grew, so did her insecurities. It was a never ending cycle, an unbreakable loop that would circle her into self destruction. No one was able to help her overcome it; her 'friends' that mocked her behind her back, and faced her with carefully veiled contempt and disgust, and her family proved just as useless. Only the good doctor that cared enough to understand her needs, and supply her with what was necessary, seemed came closest. But one lifeline in the tsunami that raged through Akane's life would not do. She had thought she may have found another one in the form of a beautiful redhead, only to have her expectations crushed.
The more she considered this, the tighter she wrapped her arms around herself, as she realized her loneliness. Eventually, the tears came, unimpeded.
Ranma stumbled down the stairway, fighting against the dizziness and nausea was experiencing. He knew he should have remained in the bed they had laid out for him, but his pride would not let him show weakness, nor would his parched throat cease without liquid nourishment. As he reached the bottom of the stairs, he stumbled, barely able to keep himself from collapsing completely. Nabiki heard him, poking her head around the doorframe of the tearoom curiously, before snorting. "I'm impressed, Saotome, I would have thought you were smart enough to remain in bed."
Ranma remained kneeling, ignoring the barb made towards him, "I wanted to get me something to drink."
Nabiki's eyebrows rose, "Oh, is that all? I guess I could help you with that," With that, she went back into the tearoom for a few moments, before returning with a glass of water, "I hope this helps a bit."
Ranma gave a weak smile in appreciation, and reached his hand up to accept the drink. Unfortunately, his hand only managed to brush the bottom of the glass, causing it to tip onto himself. "Whoops, butterfingers," Nabiki stated in a fashion that discredited the incident as an accident.
Ranma sighed, not looking up to see the amused expression on the other girl's face, "It's alright, I guess another bath would do me some good, anyhow."
Nabiki's expression began to drop, as she was about to ask him if he thought the water he used was free, before recalling something, "Oh, by all means, do you need help finding it?"
The pigtailed girl waved her off, bringing herself to standing, and headed for the bathing room. Tentatively, she grasped the handle on the outer door, opening it while simultaneously using it to support herself; her concussion was making it difficult to keep focus, but she valiantly fought against it. Managing to shed her clothing, she opened the inner door to the furo, and froze. The room had one other occupant in it, wearing an expression of loss and hopelessness that Ranma had only seen in reflections until now. An urge to embrace the girl was suddenly strong, as she felt her own eyes watering at the sight. This... this was someone who could possibly understand, someone who-
"WHAT ARE YOU DOING IN HERE? GET OUT! GET OUT!"
Ranma snapped to, as the volume of her shout overwhelmed her, and enhanced her headache. The pain found the apex of its crescendo, as before she even realized it, Akane was upon her, and the muscle-bound girl's palm found her cheek. Ranma's consciousness once again slipped from her, as her mind shut down to escape from the continuous agony.