A/N: Wow has it really been that long since I started this story? Eek. Time goes so fast. But anyway! I had chapter 2 all ready to post then somehow managed to lose it… at which point writer's block took the opportunity to strike. A 2 year writer's block to boot! Well, I've decided to continue this story and I have it (mostly) planned out. And I know I promised it'd get happier but well… let's just say it's gonna get a lot darker before it gets happier. Sorry! Oh and I don't think there'll be anymore 2 year breaks between chapters ; Well, hope you enjoy it!
Time And Again
He loved being outside at this time of the morning just as the sun was rising and the air was crisp and cool. While the other inhabitants of Nerima were still snuggled into their warm beds, Tanaka Akeno, 5 years a postman, was at his liveliest and doing what he loved best. His job may not have seemed to be the most thrilling to others, but Akeno couldn't be happier. The pay was decent and he was able to finish by 9am and have the rest of the day to himself, what more could he ask for?
He hummed a soft melody as he delivered letter after letter, pausing only to regard the bright clear sky; full of promise of a beautiful day to come. He continued on his merry way until there were only a few letters in the bottom of his bag and the sun had fully risen, the hazy rays bathing Nerima in a warm orange glow. He delivered the last of his letters and was about to head back when he noticed the tattered postcard in the very bottom of the bag. After a chuckle at the cute panda picture on the front, he examined the addressee and felt a sudden chill run through his body. He glanced to his right where, at the end of the road, high stone walls surrounded what he knew to be the Tendo house and dojo. It was strange, he mused, even on this beautiful morning the Tendo house still seemed to be so dark and gloomy…
Akeno studied the scratchy writing again to make sure he hadn't been mistaken, but sure enough, this was a postcard addressed to Soun Tendo. He almost shuddered at the thought of the man. He'd very rarely had to deliver any post to the Tendos, since they simply did not get much; an odd letter every month or so, but that was about it. So it wasn't often that Akeno had to approach the Tendo household and he was very thankful for it too.
He'd heard the rumours about that family; everyone had. Apparently the father had gone crazy for who knows what reason and refused to ever leave the house. Not many people had even seen him, but those who had told of a terrifying man more akin to a demon than a human who always had a crazed, distant look in his eyes. Then there were his daughters. Rumour had it that the middle sister had run away, unable to put up with the eccentricities of her father and the eldest was an empty shell of a woman, deathly pale and only leaving the house to buy groceries or for her quite frequent visits to the doctor, never uttering so much as a word to anyone. Of course, the town gossips had tried to get the doctor to reveal the happenings of their meetings, but he had always plainly refused.
And of course, who hadn't heard about the strange youngest daughter? She attended Furinkan High but not much was known about her, as she rarely spoke and seemed to be in a world completely of her own. She hadn't a friend, and severely hurt anyone who dared to cross her as her skills in martial arts were more than just mediocre. Indeed they were a family of oddballs and the locals avoided them at all costs, it wasn't their business anyway right? However, that didn't mean they didn't like to talk about them.
Akeno approached the gates slowly, suppressing the urge to pretend the postcard had never existed and return back to the safety of his home. But he had a job to do, and it wasn't like he had to see any of the family… simply pop it in the letterbox and he was home free.
No such luck. As he was about to push the postcard in, the door opened and out stepped the unmistakable and intimidating form of a man. As Akeno stood before the tall man desperately trying to quell his shaking legs, he suddenly felt very small and vulnerable. Soun Tendo was just as the rumours had said; tall, muscled, long black hair and moustache a stark contrast against his pale skin and a strange unnerving look in those beady black eyes. Said eyes were now fixed on the postman intently, seemingly scrutinising every inch of him.
Akeno, unable to bear the excruciating silence any longer, thrust the postcard out to the Tendo patriarch and stuttered, "Y-Your post, sir!"
Soun took it from his fingers gently and scanned the messy writing and when he was done, a large, malicious looking grin spread over his features. He thanked the postman once then retreated back into his house and only when the door had shut and Akeno was left outside alone did his brain process what had just happened. Something that made Soun Tendo grin like that did not sit well with him at all. He thought back to the contents of the postcard's message and wished that he had read it…
Sitting cross-legged between the open Shoji, Soun looked out to the garden and Koi pond, the postcard clutched tightly between his calloused fingers. As he sat waiting for his two daughters to join him he read the message over and over again, hardly believing what he was seeing. After all these years Saotome would finally be returning and Soun could hardly wait. As he heard his two daughters enter the room behind him, he stood and turned to them, a small smile on his face.
Kasumi, awoken by her father's shout, stared curiously at his cheerful disposition. It wasn't often her father was happy and she wondered what could have made him so. Akane, face emotionless, watched as her father lifted a postcard with a panda on the front and read the message to them.
"Soun. Bringing Ranma from China. Be Prepared. Genma."
Silence remained in the large room as the two girls mulled over these words; wondering at their significance. Neither had heard of 'Genma' before, and so were hard pressed to figure out what their father was trying to tell them.
Then, he said softly, "Yes, Genma… Saotome Genma."
A surprised yelp escaped Kasumi's lips as she heard that name, bringing her delicate fingers up to cover them. Turning to her sister she noticed the younger girl's shock; Akane's eyes were wide and her lips parted slightly, her gaze locked with her father's. The three occupants of the room knew very well now what this meant and all fell into a thoughtful silence. Akane continued to stare at her father for a few moments more, before turning her eyes to look at the floor, her brow furrowed in thought.
"Akane, you will not be going to school today," Soun said sternly and at Akane's nod, he instructed. "Go to the Dojo, I will join you shortly."
Akane hurried off to do as her father said, but paused on her way as she saw the large frame that hung on the wall. The photograph inside had both comforted and saddened her to no end, the image a constant reminder of what she had lost. Her fingers traced the beautiful smiling face of a woman surrounded by her family, looking as if nothing in the world could go wrong; a portrait of a happier time that could have been had fate not dealt them a devastating hand. How dare someone think they had the right to destroy that happiness? Akane bit her lip, her fists clenching at her sides, the sudden anger swelling inside of her almost too much to take.
She turned, unable to look at the happy image any longer, and started towards the Dojo. 'Don't worry Mother, I won't fail you...'
As was said before, it was an incredibly beautiful morning and even the grumpiest of people couldn't help but feel their spirits lifted due to the pleasant weather. In their happiness no one seemed to notice the three travellers, slowly but surely making their way through the streets of Nerima. The sunny cheer had obviously not affected them as all three held serious, sullen expressions. One of these travellers, a certain pig-tailed boy, was struggling to keep himself from collapsing with exhaustion. Exhausted not because of the long journey, but from the conflicting thoughts filling his head. The night before, after his father had made that shocking revelation, he'd demanded answers from Ryouga.
"Yes, tomorrow we head to the Tendos to finally avenge your mother's murder..." Genma suddenly lifted his gaze to meet Ranma's, grinning madly. The light from the fire danced inside of eyes and created shadows under the creases of his skin; the man looked more terrifying than any demon Ranma had ever seen. Ranma could only stare stupidly at the expression on his father's face.
Murder? His mother? Tendos? Avenge? What? To say Ranma's thoughts were muddled after what his father had just said would be a great understatement. After a few moments of trying to follow the implications of those words, he gave up and through the noise in his head, managed to ask "What?" intelligently.
Genma stood; a painful and slow task for the older man, and turned away from his bewildered son. "Get to sleep, Ranma." He said softly, then laid down in his sleeping bag and was snoring within moments.
'What kind of answer is that?' Ranma thought furiously as he watched the mound of material slowly rise and fall. For a moment, he decided to go and give the old oaf a good kick but that thought was soon pushed aside when he remembered the crazed grin his father had shown him just moments before.
So instead he'd given the lost boy a rude awakening and the two were now sitting by the fire. Ryouga would've refused to get up had he not saw the deathly serious expression on his companion's face, but had none-the-less given the other boy a hard punch on the head for waking him up so roughly; he didn't particularly like being kicked in the ribs.
"Ryouga… is my mother dead?" Ranma, never one for beating around the bush, decided to get straight to the point.
Ryouga stared at his friend as if he was dancing the Macarena in a tutu and yelling "I'm a hippie! I'm a hippie!", but the desperation and pleading in the pigtailed boy's eyes brushed away any doubt that Ranma was being entirely honest. "Yes…" He nodded, "She's been dead for 14 years now Ranma, don't you remember?" He said it slowly as if talking to a very young child.
"Why the hell are you asking this Ranma? It better not be a trick!" He yelled, fangs exposed. Although Ryouga seriously doubted he would joke about something like this, he couldn't believe that this was Ranma sitting in front of him, looking so… desperate and pathetic.
Looking down and twiddling his thumbs in his lap, Ranma pondered whether or not to reveal everything to the other boy; would he even believe him? Oh well, what did he have to lose? So he began from the start; his engagement to Akane and their numerous antics in the 'other' future, her untimely death -at this point, much to Ryouga's astonishment, he had nearly shed tears- and the wish that had changed so much and put him here in this clearing; a couple of years in the past. At the end of his little tale, Ryouga was staring at him with that 'You're crazy!' expression again. So, he'd led him a little away from the clearing, not wanting to wake his father, and had demonstrated the Hiryu Shoten Ha and Kachu Tenshin Amaguriken. Ryouga was now not only amazed at the prospect of Ranma time travelling, but also at the amount of power he had attained.
They returned to the clearing in silence and sat down again at the fire, Ranma wincing slightly. He'd found out that, though he still knew how to perform all of his techniques, they were quite a struggle for his 16-year-old body that had lost out on two years of training.
"Do you believe me now?" He asked Ryouga, who could only nod dumbly in response. "So… what happened to my mother?"
"She was murdered, Ranma…" The other boy replied softly, his eyes downcast.
He knew that already, his father had said she'd been murdered but… "By who?"
How could be answer that? After Ranma had sat there, nearly in tears, describing how, after her death, he'd realised how much he was in love with the Tendo girl and how it had torn him apart when she'd died in his arms. And now he had to tell him that it was her father? He bit his lip, wondering how to approach this…and decided to say it straight. Ranma would find out eventually, anyway.
"Soun Tendo." He stated, his eyes now locked with Ranma's, filled with sorrow and sympathy.
It was Ranma's turn to look sceptical. He thought of the Soun Tendo of the old future; a kind and caring man who, although an idiot at times, was remarkably protective of his daughters. It was hard to even imagine the sensitive man being able to murder a fly, let alone his mother. But then, this wasn't the Soun Tendo of his old future, was it?
"Wh… Why did he?" He was not ashamed of the tremble in his voice. Although Ranma despised feeling and especially appearing to be weak, after the events and shocks of the night, it was all he could do to keep from breaking down right then and there.
"I don't know," Ryouga replied, ". Genma has never told me. He just calls him the psychotic, honourless bastard…" He paused for a moment. "And he crippled your father too! He can hardly use his right leg now."
After that Ranma had become lost in his thoughts and unreachable, so Ryouga had gone back to sleep. And after a couple of hours of pondering his current situation, tiredness overcame Ranma and he too succumbed to the enticing lure of sleep.
So now here they were in Nerima, and a lot faster than the first time Ranma had made this journey. Due to the condition of Genma's leg, they'd taken a flight from China instead of swimming, not that Ranma was complaining. He was exhausted and doubted that even he would make it across the sea.
And now, the only thing that kept him going, as unrealistic as it may be, was the hope that all he'd found out wasn't true.
Led by Genma, they continued their gloomy trek through the bustling streets of Nerima until they ended up at the old Saotome house, not at the Tendo Dojo as Ranma had expected. Genma had decided it'd be best if they stopped before heading to the Tendo's and Ranma was glad for the time to rest..
The house was not at all how he'd remembered it. From the wild and overgrown garden and boarded up windows it was not hard to tell that this house had not been lived in for quite some time. Inside was just as bad; much like a fresh layer of slow, a thick covering of dust hid every inch of floor and furniture. As soon as they entered an assortment of memories surfaced in Ranma's mind; memories of the short time he'd shared with his mother, and he suddenly felt very cheated. He'd wished for a second chance with Akane, but he'd never expected this cruel, warped reality. Why was it that fate always seemed to be laughing at him?
Having had too much to think about since the night before, Ranma realised that he had forgotten about his curse. Unable to quell the sense of dread that fell over him, he made his way up the stairs and to the bathroom. If his world had been this screwed up so far, then what horror would he be cursed to turn into now? Though he wouldn't admit it, there were a lot worse things to turn into than a girl. What if he was now like Ryouga? Or worse, Pantyhose Tarou? He shuddered at the thought. But, after splashing cold water onto his face, he was relieved to see the buxom redhead staring back at him. Relief at being cursed to turn into a girl? Ha! That was a first. He chuckled slightly Well, at least the curses were still normal; a small, but welcomed relief.
After changing back to a guy, he left the bathroom and headed downstairs but stopped suddenly when he noticed the looming figure of his father before him. The older man was standing in the doorway to what Ranma recalled to be his mother and father's room, and seemed to be oblivious to his presence. Curious as to what could have captured Genma's attention so completely, he looked over his shoulder. Albeit very dusty and dull, the room appeared perfectly normal. For a moment he stared, along with his father, trying to discern what was so interesting.
Genma barely heard his son's voice; the images rushing through his head far overpowering anything around him. He remembered the rain. The screams. Running faster than he ever had in all his life. But he was too late… And then the blood… So much blood. Why, after all these years, could he still hear those deafening screams and still see the dark crimson stains on the bedcovers? He remembered that night so vividly it could've been just a day ago. Forcing his thoughts to the present, he turned to his young son and couldn't help but feel proud. He knew that Nodoka would be too; he had certainly grown to be a man among men. And that was why he'd decided to return to Nerima now; Ranma was definitely ready.
But, he mused, since the night before, he'd noticed that Ranma had not been himself, the boy was unusually quiet and looked somewhat ill. But he attributed that down to the stress of their current circumstances and knew the boy would recover once they'd accomplished what they'd come for.
"Don't worry, Ranma," He said softly, eyes filled with emotion, "It will all be over soon and your mother's soul will finally be put to rest. We can't stop now, can we son?"
Ranma, totally taken aback by his new father's attitude, numbly shook his head no. And before he could blink the older man had taken him into a tight hug, holding his son as if he were incredibly precious to him. This was nothing like the 'Cradle From Hell' his previous father had used against him, it felt… pleasant.
"I'm sorry to have put this on you…" He whispered, "I would take this duty myself, but as you know, I am unable to do that now. You are my and Nodoka's last hope, Ranma. We can't give up now… I swear by the Saotome name, we will make that bastard pay."
The older man slowly made his way downstairs, leaving an astonished son in his wake. Ranma could only wonder; in this wacky world where everything was different, what surprise would be around the next corner?
Kinda Long A/N:
Oh, no way! Genma is not OOC/sarcasm
First I wanna apologize for any mistakes I've made, I haven't watched or read Ranma in a long time so I've forgotten some stuff… but I plan to watch/read it again very soon! Second…Well I feel like it's progressing quite slowly… sweat drop It must be bad when the author notices that. But! The next chapter will be full of action, I promise. I also think I need to add more dialogue…uhm, I'm reviewing myself . ? Anyway! Next time, the Tendos and Saotomes meet. cue loud, dramatic music Oh my!
All CC welcomed!