A Ranma ½ / Batman Fan Fiction
Disclaimer – Ranma ½ is the creation of Rumiko Takahashi. Batman is the creation of Bill Finger and Bob Kane. Both are uses without permission.
"Alfred, I'm home," Ranma called out as he and Akane stepped through the front door.
Alfred almost immediately appeared at the entry to the genkan. He was dressed casually, by his standards, in a white collared button-down shirt with no tie and dark dress slacks. "Master Ranma, why are you back so-" he trailed off when saw Akane, his sharp eyes noticing the fading signs of her crying fit on her face and how she held his youngest charge's hand in a tight grip. "Ah," he murmured, before smiling softly and bowing. "Miss Akane, welcome to our home. Would you like some refreshment – some tea, perhaps?"
She smiled back and nodded. "Yes please. Thank you."
Five minutes later the two teens were seated at the kitchen table, Alfred setting two cups of mint tea and a small platter of cookies before them, then settling down himself.
"I take it that the first day of school was not a peaceful one?" the older man asked.
"No, I'm afraid not," answered Ranma. He glanced at his fiancée. "Do you want to talk about it?"
Akane sipped her tea, holding the cup in both her hands, then nodded. Taking a steadying breath, she proceeded to tell Alfred about the two encounters with Kuno and the abrupt announcement of the engagement. The older gentleman's face grew stern, almost stony, and an angry gleam began to kindle in his usually kind eyes. When she finished he sighed deeply and looked at her sympathetically.
"My dear Miss Akane, I am so sorry you went through this today."
"It's...it's alright, Alfred. I just wish...I was stronger. Leaving school so early because of him...I never did that my first term at Furinkan, no matter how bad the fighting got. I feel like a coward right now."
"Nonsense," declared Alfred, gently but firmly. "You have nothing to be ashamed of. This beastly boy had harassed you without surcease for an entire term, culminating his criminal behavior by kidnapping you. You thought you were finally free of him, so to have him approach you as soon as you got to school was a shock. After all this, no one would blame you for wanting to get away from him – even the bravest need time to recuperate, and never doubt that you are a very brave, very strong young woman, Miss Akane."
She stared at him blankly for a brief moment, almost in disbelief, then smiled. It was small and a little watery, but sincere. She had seldom been praised the way he was doing now.
"Thank you, Alfred. Thank you very much." She wiped at her eyes, which were still a little damp. "I must look like a fright. May I use your bathroom, please?"
He told her where it was and she left the kitchen. Alfred looked at Ranma – he had listened attentively during Akane's explanation, occasionally interjecting, and had looked quite pleased when his guardian supported and praised the youngest Tendo. Now he was pensively frowning, fist pressed against his lips.
"You're plotting," observed Alfred.
"That I am," Ranma agreed, dropping his hand. "Nothing too elaborate – just planning on paying Kuno a visit tonight."
"Do you think that will do much good?"
"Doesn't matter. It has to be done. He's transgressed twice since he promised to leave Akane alone. He can't be allowed to get away with that." His eyes narrowed thoughtfully. "I think it could achieve something – going by his expression after Akane slapped him, I think it's finally getting through his thick skull that she'll never want anything to do with him. Maybe tonight I can encourage him to fully embrace that idea."
"I must point out that there's a good chance Kuno may instead re-double his attentions on Miss Akane. It is a common response of the obsessed when they are thwarted."
Ranma made a face. "I know, but I still have to do this. He needs to know I wasn't bluffing, and that his actions are going to have consequences."
"Yes, I agree. But I also think we need to start taking steps to remove Kuno from Akane's presence all together." The butler smiled. "And I believe I can make a good start on that."
"In an indirect fashion. Kuno attacked you in your civilian guise – that of Bruce Wayne's ward and heir. As Master Bruce's personal confidant and your current guardian, I plan on going to the school administration and expressing my extreme displeasure over this incident."
Ranma stared at Alfred wide-eyed for a moment before chuckling. "I'm a dummy," he said, bopping his forehead with the heel of his palm. "I never would have thought of that."
Alfred smiled a bit ruefully. "I'm afraid, Master Ranma, you're a bit too inured to physical violence to respond to an attack in such a roundabout measure."
"No doubt." Ranma considered Alfred's idea. "I like it. I think it could work. Kuno's family has money and influence, but I'm pretty sure the reason he got away with these attacks for so long was because of Talia pulling strings in the background. With the League of Shadows out of the picture, I think there's a good chance the school administration and the town government won't be as willing to turn a blind eye to this mess anymore – especially with the kind of pressure and influence Bruce can apply. Maybe we can get Kuno out of school for awhile and get Akane some breathing room there."
"That is my intention." Alfred said as he stood. "I'm going to change before leaving."
"Okay. I'll probably go over to the Tendo's if Akane wants to go home. If I do I'll be back for dinner."
"Very well, Master Ranma."
Akane returned from the bathroom before Alfred left, looking a little happier. She had washed her face, removing the last signs of her crying. The butler stepped into the kitchen a couple minutes later, dressed in a flawlessly pressed suit of white drill, his Panama hat in hand. "I should be no longer than two hours, Master Ranma. Miss Akane, you are welcome to stay here for as long as you like."
"Thank you, Alfred. Where are you going, if you don't mind me asking?"
"To Furinkan High School, to express my displeasure at their lax disciplinary measures. I'll see you both soon."
"Good luck, Alfred," said Ranma. The butler nodded and departed. Ranma noticed Akane looked worried and explained what Alfred had planned.
"I wish I could be a fly on the wall for this. It's a rare treat, seeing Alfred in high dudgeon. I'm just glad I'm not going to be on the receiving end of it."
Akane frowned. "Do you think it'll make much of a difference? Daddy and Doctor Tofu brought complaints almost daily and no one was willing to do anything."
"Ah, but the situation has changed. The League of Shadows is no longer backing Kuno, plus the administrators at your school has never dealt with anyone quite like Alfred before – believe me, he's very formidable. And don't forget he has access to all of Bruce's resources, and he won't be shy in telling them so. So yeah, I think this has good odds of making a big difference."
"I hope so," said Akane, sighing. "I really don't want to deal with Kuno anymore. I'm beyond sick of him."
"I know. We're going to remove him from you life, Akane. Trust me." She smiled at him, and Ranma felt his heart trip slightly. "So, is there anything you'd like to do? Watch tv, or play some video games? I've got a pretty good gaming system set up, and I don't usually get a chance to mess with it much."
Akane thought a moment. "Could we train instead? Maybe do some sparring? I don't really want to sit around right now. I need to do something. Or maybe hit something. I could pretend a heavy bag is Kuno."
Ranma nodded. "Sure. We turned the basement into a workout room. It's pretty basic, nowhere near as fancy as the set-up in the penthouse. But there's enough space to exercise, and there are some mats on the floor so you won't get too bruised when I toss you around." He flashed her a teasing grin.
Akane laughed, a challenging gleam in her eye. "We'll see about that, jerk. Kairi shown me some new moves that she says always works on you."
"Feh! I'll believe it when I see it, Tomboy. I don't have a gi that will fit you, but I think I've got some sweats that will. I'll go dig 'em up for you."
They exercised for an hour and a half, doing nothing strenuous – stretches, katas, hitting a heavy bag and wooden multi-armed training dummy and ending the session with a light spar, the basement being too small for anything too serious. Akane actually managed to drop him once, and as he stared someone ruefully at his fiancée happily bouncing on her toes he made a mental note to take the intensity of their spars up a notch. Alfred returned just as Ranma and Akane finished, and while he did not tell them how his meeting with the Furinkan High School administration went, the older man had an air of satisfaction about him.
The two teens took turns bathing, Ranma providing Akane with a blue Chinese shirt and another pair of sweats, since she did not feel like getting back into her school uniform. She had to roll the sleeves up a few times so they did not flap on her. After they cleaned up Alfred cooked them a meal and sat with them as they ate, regaling Akane with stories of a younger Ranma's more dubious experiences in Wayne Manor, much to her delight and her fiancé's mortification. When Ranma asked him why he had to tell Akane those things, the butler smiled and said it was a grandfather's prerogative to embarrass his grandson, especially in front of such a pretty young guest. This comment made Akane blush, ducking her head and Ranma turned a little red. It was embarrassing, but it always extremely pleased him when Alfred referred to him as his grandson.
The young martial artists were saved from further embarrassment by a knock at the front door. Alfred went to answer it, coming back to the kitchen a minute later escorting Nabiki, who was carrying book bags and bentos.
"I should charge you for this," said the middle Tendo, setting her burdens down on the kitchen table. "I feel like a pack mule. I also got the assignments you two missed when you ditched." She looked closely at her sister. "How are you feeling?"
Akane shrugged slightly. "I'm still a little upset, but I'm coping."
"I heard you bitch-slapped Kuno so hard you knocked some of his teeth out."
Akane giggled softly. "Not quite that hard, but I did manage to get him stop attacking Ranma."
"It was awesome," said Ranma.
"Would you like some tea, Miss Nabiki?" Alfred asked.
"No thank you, but could I have a Coke, maybe?"
"Of course." He fetched her a can of soda, placing it before her as she sat down. She nodded her thanks, opened it and took a sip. She sighed and looked at the can glumly.
"You don't look happy," said Akane. "Did something happen to you at school?"
"No, but I feel like I made a mistake." She hesitated before plowing on. "I'm the reason Kuno threw a fit. I told him about your engagement."
She held up a hand. "Let me explain before you yell at me. Please?" Akane frowned unhappily but nodded. Ranma's lips creased slightly as he looked at Nabiki expectantly. "Thank you." She looked up at the ceiling for a moment, sighing again before beginning.
"Kuno approached me at the end of third period. He asked me about who you were, Ranma. At first I didn't want to tell him, but I realized that eventually he was going to find out from someone when the news got out. So I thought maybe I could control his reaction." She shook her head, grimacing. "I should have known better. I told him that you were Akane's fiancé, though I emphasized that it was only a formality and you two had no plans on getting married. Of course, being an idiot, his brain shut down the moment I said 'engagement' and he ran off to pick a fight. I should have charged the fool twenty-thousand yen for the information."
That caught Ranma's attention. "You made him pay to tell you about our engagement?"
Nabiki shrugged, unrepentant. "Yeah. I can always use money, but I did it mostly to try to get myself off the hook. I wasn't too hopeful about him behaving reasonably, and I really didn't want to be the one to get him riled up, so I demanded ten-thousand yen. He's rich, but I didn't think he'd hand over so much cash. I'm sorry guys."
"It's alright," Akane sighed. "It's really not your fault. Kuno was going to throw a fit no matter who he heard this from or when."
Ranma nodded in agreement. "You did your best. You didn't have much of a chance keeping him calm, but that doesn't mean it wasn't worth a try."
Nabiki smiled slightly. "Thanks. I do have some interesting news that should make you happy, sis. Sometime before last period Kuno got called up to the vice-principal's office. I'm not sure what happened, but a rumor is going around that he's been suspended, as hard as that is to believe. I'll try to find out more tomorrow."
Akane indeed looked happy about that. Ranma looked over at Alfred; a slight smile curved the butler's lips and a pleased gleam shone in his eyes. "Good work, Alfred," Ranma said.
"I do have my moments, Master Ranma." At Nabiki's inquiring look Ranma told her about Alfred's visit to Furinkan earlier.
The three teens talked for a little while longer before the Tendo girls decided it was time to go home. Ranma and Alfred saw them to the door.
"Thank you for letting me stay here, Alfred," said Akane.
"No trouble, Miss Akane. You will always be welcome in our home."
Once they were gone Ranma grabbed his book bag off the table. "I'm going to start on my homework, Alfred. I'll head out to the Kuno's after sunset." He hesitated a moment. "I may be gone for a few hours."
"Do you expect serious trouble, Master Ranma?"
"Not from him, but I want to do a sweep of the neighborhood." He frowned briefly. "I thought someone was spying on me this morning."
"You don't sound certain."
"I'm not. It was just a brief sensation, less than a moment, but it's been on my mind all day, when I wasn't worrying about Akane. It's possible it could have been my imagination playing tricks on me. I mean, even Bruce sometimes gets a wrong hunch about things like that. However-"
"Better safe than sorry. I agree with your reasoning – best to make certain everything is alright and the League of Shadows is not making a recrudescence into the area. I'll let Master Bruce know, as well."
"Yeah, that's a good idea." Ranma hefted his book bag over his shoulder. "I'll be in my room if you need me."
"Very good, Master Ranma."
Infiltrating the Kuno manor house was easier this time. Ranma was aware of its eccentricities now due to previous experience, and he had done some careful scouting the week before the school term started, to prepare for this eventuality. Forewarned is forearmed, as Bruce was fond of saying.
He swiftly and silently threaded his way through the winding hallways, evading the occasional servant as he headed for Kuno's bedroom, planning on waiting for him there, if the older student was not already in it. Ranma stopped suddenly, eyes narrowing behind his domino mask, when he heard a familiar voice echoing down a corridor. He headed toward it, quickly recognizing it as belonging to Sasuke, the rabitty-looking ninja manservant he had encountered the last time he was here.
"Master Kuno, please! You'll make yourself ill. You need to relax. Perhaps some tea and a good night's sleep will help you."
"Enough, Sasuke! I grow tired of your badgering. Leave me be."
Ranma grinned evilly. Found you. He heard Sasuke's resigned reply before ducking into an unoccupied parlor, listening to the ninja's soft footfalls receding. Once certain the way was clear Ranma re-entered the hall, ghosting to the room he had heard Sasuke and Kuno argue in, peering through an archway into a small dining room. Kuno sat at the end of a table, back to him, still dressed in his kendo uniform. He was leaning forward on the table, face buried in his arms and his bokken before him on the tabletop. Ranma entered with a deliberately heavy tread.
"I told you to leave me be, Sasuke!" Kuno snapped, not bothering to look up.
"And I told you to leave Akane Tendo alone, Kuno," Ranma replied.
The older teen stiffened, jerking up violently and twisting about. "Nightwing!" he shouted.
He seized his bokken and leaped to his feet, knocking his chair aside as he charged the young vigilante, swinging his weapon one-handed. Ranma ducked beneath the strike and punched Kuno in the pit of his stomach, just above his groin. The kendoist's eyes started from their sockets, his cheeks bulging. A groan escaped his lips as he fought against the urge to double over, his lean frame trembling from pain and effort. As he struggled Ranma disarmed him, grabbed him by the collar with both hands and dragged him to a wall, pinning him against it.
"I warned you," Ranma growled, lifting Kuno off his feet. "I told you to stay away from Akane Tendo. I promised you that I would pound you to scrap if you didn't leave her alone. Am I going to have to do that, Kuno? Because frankly I'm really liking the idea, especially since you're not giving me a whole lot of other alternatives."
Kuno struggled feebly in his grasp for a moment before going slack, as if all volition had been drained from his body. His eyes shut and he bowed his head so low his chin touched his collarbone.
"Go ahead," he muttered. "It matters not what you do to me. All light in my life has dimmed, leaving me in hateful darkness. Akane Tendo...she...she hates me..."
Ranma pursed his lips. Kuno's voice sounded lifeless, utterly defeated. Carefully he set the older boy on his feet and let him go, taking a few steps back. Kuno slid down the wall, slumping against it, legs drawn up. He buried his face in his knees and let out a low, piteous groan.
"She was the only girl I've ever met worthy of my attention, but she ignored me. I thought that by challenging her she would respond, realize I was the only one who truly knew her. A relationship born from competition and the understanding one can only achieve through fighting. Akane Tendo should have loved me, but now...now she despises me, and I can't figure out why."
"Really?" said Ranma sarcastically. "You harass her almost from the moment she started high school, encourage a whole bunch of other morons to aid and abet you, and wind the whole thing up by getting her drugged and kidnapped, and you can't understand why maybe, just maybe, she hates your guts?"
Kuno glared up angrily, "Be silent, you masked wretch! You have no comprehension of Akane Tendo's true nature. She is not some demure maiden to be wooed, but a warrior to be conquered. Only by proving my strength was greater than hers could I ever have her be mine."
"And how did that work out for you?" Ranma asked. Kuno opened his mouth to retort, but only a gasp emerged. His anger vanished, his face crumpled and again he covered it with his hands.
"She hates me," he mumbled. "But I was told-"
"You were lied to," Ranma snapped. "You were lied to and used by a woman who saw you as nothing more than a tool to further her own plans."
The young superhero grimaced sharply, running a gloved hand through his unruly hair. As much as it irked him, the fact remained that Kuno, in some ways, was just as much a victim as Akane. Not that it completely excused him from culpability in this mess. But right now, seeing him seemingly completely broken, the idea of beating him up was about as appealing as kicking a puppy. Ranma took a deep breath and heaved it out.
"Did your manservant tell you you're lucky to be alive?" he asked. Kuno looked up at him, startled. "I guess not. Alright, I'm going to explain this to you once and only once: when you finished serving her purpose, Talia – Theresa Raskill, as you know her – wouldn't have had any compunction against killing you, if the whim had struck her. She actually had planned on it, considering she gave you a virulent aphrodisiac. Akane was suppose to kill you in retaliation for your attempted rape."
Kuno choked. "You lie!" He gasped.
"I have no need to. What you've done is beyond the pale as it – why would I need to add something else to the list?" Ranma's brows furrowed slightly. "You don't remember. I guess whatever Talia gave you also ended up inhibiting your memory – you have a bastard's luck Kuno. You're extremely lucky that after Akane knocked you out, Talia found another use for you. I don't think you'll ever be so lucky again."
Kuno stared at him, face growing pale. "I... I..."
"You'll leave Akane Tendo alone. And not just for her sake, but your own as well. You keep obsessing over her, you'll end up destroying yourself."
Kuno tried to bristle and did not quite succeed. "You dare to threaten me-"
"Oh lay off it," Ranma snapped, his tolerance coming to an end. "I'm not threatening you, I'm just telling you a fact." He shook his head sharply. "I don't know why I'm even bothering, since guys like you never listen. Against my better judgment I'm giving you a pass tonight, but after this you even sneeze in Akane's direction I will tie you into a goddamn knot."
Kuno said nothing for a moment, simply trying to stare sternly at Ranma. Then he sighed, closed his eyes and nodded his head. "I will leave her alone. But not because of your boorish threats, but because...I can not bear her hate."
Ranma stared at him closely and nodded in turn. "I'll hold you to that, Tatewaki Kuno." He turned on his heel and departed, leaving Kuno to his misery and self-loathing.
Kodachi Kuno walked to her bedroom as if she were in a dream. She felt as if she was floating, her slippered feet treading clouds. A coquettish smile and demure blush graced her maidenly features and her eyes shone with wonder. She could distinctly feel the thrum of her pulse; her blood seemed to chant a name over and over, her heart beating in time with each syllable.
She swept into her room, sat gracefully on her bed, threw herself dramatically back onto her pillows and stared up at the ceiling, her smile growing wider by the moment. Her laughter poured forth, pealing against the walls. Members of Kodachi's family had told her she should not laugh like that, that it engendered grave doubts about her sanity. She considered them fools. Her laughter was beautiful beyond compare. Everything she did was beautiful, and now she finally found someone worthy of her beauty.
When she first heard the name she had given it little thought. Her darling older brother had stumbled back home, body sore and faced ink-stained, cursing the name. He cursed it again the next day, when this man interfered with his 'courtship' with whatever peasant girl he was so obsessed with. Kodachi found it amusing, as she always found Tatewaki's discomfort amusing, but otherwise did not care. The name Nightwing sounded familiar – he was evidently some sort of super-hero from America – but other than that she did not know anything about him and had no desire to learn.
But then tonight she saw him in the flesh.
She had been spying on Tatewaki as he wallowed in his misery. According to Sasuke he finally comprehended that the peasant girl wanted nothing to do with him and was taking the revelation poorly. Kodachi was waiting for the appropriate moment to goad him, push him over the edge, for his explosions of wrath were highly entertaining and were among the few times he actually paid attention to her. But before she could act, a stranger confronted her brother – a man in a black and blue bodysuit that showed off to perfection his lean, muscular body. His hair was a wild mane of black, tied in a pony-tail, his face handsome and strongly made, eyes concealed by a bat-shaped domino mask.
She had never seen someone so manly, so masterful. From the moment he stepped into the dining room Tatewaki had no chance against him, and Kodachi's blood thrilled at the sight. But then, unexpectedly, Nightwing proved he was no mere brute by showing mercy to her wretched brother.
Kodachi's stopped laughing, letting out a breathy sigh. Something inside her was opening like a flower blossoming, spreading its petals to the sun for the first time. She felt flushed overheated by these new sensations permeating her being. She rose from her bed and went to one of her windows, throwing it open to allow the night air to cool her. She sighed in contentment, the evening breeze feeling wonderful on her flushed face.
A noise arose from the yard, a faint rustling. She sucked in a breath, eyes widening in excitement. Maybe it was Nightwing. She quickly leaned out, hoping to catch a glimpse of the gorgeous masked man. Spying nothing, she leaned out further, looking for any sign of him. Suddenly her palms slipped against the sill and with a shriek she tumbled out the window. She tried to twist in mid-air, but the kimono she wore hindered her acrobatic abilities. She closed her eyes tight in fear of the coming impact.
It never came. Strong arms snatched her out of the air. She heard a soft grunt, felt a gentle jolt, and after a brief moment of disorientation she realized she was on the ground, safely cradled in someone's arms. She opened her eyes and looked up at a handsome, masked face framed by untamed black hair. Kodachi's heart fluttered and throbbed in her breast at the sight.
"Are you alright?" Nightwing asked, his masculine tenor rumble making her toes curl. For the first time in her life words failed her and she but nodded rapidly. Seemingly satisfied by her answer, the super-hero set her on her feet and gave her a jaunty two-fingered salute, paired with a smile that made her knees turn to water. He took a step back and vanished in plain sight, the evening shadows swallowing him.
Kodachi stood there for a long time, staring at where Nightwing had once been. She replayed their brief personal encounter over and over again, reveling in the memories of physical contact. She imagined herself falling anew from her window, and him saving her again, but instead of setting her down and leaving, Nightwing would take her in his strong arms, crush her to his muscular chest, kiss her with bruising but loving force...
She never felt this way before. She did not want this feeling to ever end.
"Nightwing," she whispered. "I love you..."
Author's Notes: Thanks once again to the ever-wondrous and talented PurseMonger for taking the time to pre-read my work.