Jeffrey "OneShot" Wong

Ranma 1/2: Ranma's girls

Chapter 1

The dawning sun was just beginning to peak out in the distant horizon,
its light shedding warmth on the world. The sounds of birds could be heard,
its beautiful music blending gracefully with the gentle whispers of the blowing winds. The trees rustled lightly as cool breezes blew by, some of its autumn leaves fluttering to the ground. Akane was leaning against the outer wall, watching silently as those leaves fell. Her breathing was slightly heavy, she having finished her usual morning jog.
"Ah, nothing better than a brisk morning jog to get the blood flowing" she said to herself, brushing aside her bangs, which were matted to her forehead from the perspiration.
She sighed aloud, wishing Kasumi was there to greet her like she used to many years ago. She remembered how she would always see her older sister out sweeping the sidewalk, there to greet her after she finished her morning jog.
"Good morning, Akane," Kasumi would say, followed by a sweet smile. She would be dressed in her usual apron-like outfit, consisting of yellow sweatshirt and white frilly dress, the entire outfit covered by a white apron.
"Good morning, Kasumi," Akane would respond, smiling in return. From there, Kasumi and Akane would engage in simple conversation, chit chat to everybody including them. But those days were gone. Kasumi had moved out of the house several years ago and married her first true love, Dr. Tofu, a local chiropractor. It had been a rocky beginning at first, what with Kasumi never realizing just how much he cared for her or how much she cared for him. They came to realize their feelings when he finally gotten over his nervousness around her. Now, Kasumi and Dr. Tofu are living together, their third child on the way.
Akane sighed inwardly as she stepped through the front gate, closing it behind her once she was in the front yard. The front yard had stayed the same over the many years, shrubbery outlining the interior of the outer wall with trees intermittently peaking up out through the foliage.
She crossed the yard and entered the house through the front door, which she kept opened whenever she went out on her daily jog. She didn't have to worry about theft or anything like that. Nerima was a very safe and peaceful neighborhood. The interior of the house had remained the same over the many years, every piece of furniture exactly where it was since that fateful night. Akane never really liked change, always preferring the old way over the new. That was just the way she was, old-fashioned.
"I better get changed," she said to herself as she gracefully glided up the stairs, taking two steps at a time. Not one creek emerged from the floorboards, Akane being very light on her feet.
It was about time she got changed anyway, her morning martial arts lessons were going to start in about fifteen minutes. Back then, her father, Soun,
would had taught class instead of her. But that wasn't the case anymore.
Soun had died many years ago, killed by a drunk driver. He and Akane had been out strolling late one night when, out of nowhere, a car swerved off the road and headed straight towards them. Soun had managed to react in time, pushing Akane out of the way before he was hit by the oncoming car.
Akane had watched in horror as her father's body was thrown through the air and struck up against a tree. She gazed through tearing eyes as she held her father's dying body in her arms, pleading to god that he live as she waited for help to arrive. But god never answered her prayers. Her father died that night from massive brain hemorrhaging, and there was nothing that could have been done. The funeral for him was set just two days after that tragic night. Everyone had attended, all saying their final farewells. Although many had wept at that funeral, Akane wept the most.
Nabiki, her older sister, was strong and could take the tragic loss.
Kasumi, the eldest of the three, was devastated, but had Dr. Tofu there to comfort her. Akane...she had no one to comfort her. She was all alone.
Following the funeral came the will reading, which left the family business resting on Akane's shoulders. Nabiki would have been better to take over the business, what with her being adept in business and all. But when asked if she take the business, she gracefully declined, telling Akane she was the only one in the family who knew martial arts. And so, she was given the responsibilities of taking care of not only the dojo, but of the home. It didn't help any when Kasumi moved out and into Dr. Tofu's home,
the two of them having married just a few months after the funeral. It seemed that when Dr. Tofu saw Kasumi crying at the funeral like she did, his nervousness had vanished, and he was able to comfort her. Not too long after she moved into his house, Kasumi decided to go to college to major in pre-med, graduating first in her class when she finally got out. Although Akane was happy for her, she knew she would no longer hear from Kasumi again, Kasumi no longer having the time since she's now one of the most prestigious doctors in the country.
Not much longer after Kasumi moved out, Nabiki moved out also, her business career taking off, she leaving for America to further her career.
Nabiki had always told Akane that America was where she was going to hit it big. It seems Nabiki was correct. She was now living extravagantly, her life-long goal attained. Akane was very happy for her. But soon, the letters that Nabiki always sent abruptly stopped. For several long years, Akane haven't heard anything from Nabiki. And so now, at the age of twenty-eight,
Akane was all alone. The only people in her life were her students. But she only saw her students for two hours a day per session and that was it.
Actually, teaching her students martial arts had proved to be a real task-worthy job. And it didn't help matters any because of the fact that she was the only sensei teaching martial arts. But she loved teaching. That was the only thing that kept her going. That and the fact that there might be someone out there that she could spend her life with. She was so lonely,
especially on the cold winter nights. Many nights she wished she was warm in someone's arms, only to realize that she would never meet a man, what with her spending her life inside a dojo teaching her students. Sure, she could go after one of her students, but that wasn't right. She would never mix business with pleasure. Besides, those students were the only thing that was keeping the business from going under and she definitely didn't want to jeopardize her reputation as a respectful sensei with her students.
Akane opened the door to her room and entered, taking her shirt off as she closed the door behind herself. She then took off her jogging shorts and threw them and the shirt and a hamper that was in the corner. Wearing nothing more than her panties, Akane went into her closet and fetched out her sensei dogi. The dogi was akin to any other dogi for any other martial art. She even wore the same black dress-like leggings that represented her being a sensei.
Akane took a quick glance at the full-length mirror that hung on the closet door, making sure her outfit was on correctly. As she looked at herself, she couldn't help but smile at just how beautiful a woman she had become. She still sported her short-haired look from when she was young, which made it a lot easier for her to teach. Although she was unaware of this, most of the males in her class found her very attractive, even if they were two of three times older than her. Although there were males in her class, most of her students were females, all of them liking the fact that they were being taught by a female rather than a male.
Akane looked at the clock that was on top of her draw. Her eyes widened when she realized what time it was.
"Oh no, class's gonna start in one minute!" she said, tugging at her dogi belt one more time before heading out of her room and down the stairs.

The moon could be seen in the distance horizon as it started its ascent, its light causing the building to cast shadows that seemed to stretch all the way to the ends of the universe. It was late in the evening,
the sun having left the world over an hour ago. The buildings that lined the streets were void of lights, all of its occupants having gone home to be with their loved ones. The houses were alive with laughter, laughter of kids seeing their father or mother after they spent a long day at work. That was what most of the working class came home to, a home filled with joy upon their arrival. The joys of being with loved ones. The sounds of welcome as they stepped through the door. But for one person, she came into a bleak-looking house, alone. The house was dark when she entered it, no one home to greet her. Fortunately, she had become used to being alone, away from outside contact.
Akane languidly flopped onto her bed, her energy spent. She had spent most of the day teaching martial arts and was dying for a nice, warm bath.
That is, if she could only get out of her bed first. Her back ached, all her muscles tense. She didn't want to move, but was longing for a bath, something that was soothing.
She groaned aloud as she tried to push herself up, only to fail when aching took over. She knew that she couldn't keep this up. Having to go through this pain everyday for several years was really starting to get on her nerves.
"I have to find someone who'll help me teach" she said to herself.
But how could she? Even if she did live pretty well off, she couldn't just go out and hire help...or could she?
"I guess I should put an ad in the newspaper stating that I need someone to help me teach" she said, yawning out loud, too tired to try and get up so she can go take that nice warm bath.
"I'll put that ad in first thing tomorrow," she said, right before falling to sleep

Chapter 2

Ranma leaned up against the park bench, watching his two beautiful daughters at play in the playground. The morning breeze blew through his black hair, his ponytail, which looked more like a pig-tail than anything else, gently swaying to and fro. He loved watching his two daughters have fun. Just watching brought him great joy, his daughters the most precious things in his entire life. He loved both of them with all his heart, just as much as they loved their father. His twin daughters giggled sweetly as they continued to swing higher and higher on the swings, their momentum making them look as if they could reach the heavens if they continued on like that.
"How am I goin' to tell them?" Ranma said to himself softly, looking down toward the ground as his elbows rested up against his thighs. Ranma was in a very bad predicament. The company he worked for was a subsidiary of a larger foreign company that was expanding and they wanted him overseas taking care of their international business affairs. Ranma was chief-executive of a prestigious computer engineering company, a position he wasn't all to fond of considering he wasn't enjoying what he was doing. The only reason why he had taken the job was to support his twin daughters, Meggie and Jessie. Seven years ago, when the twins were born, Ranma was forced to find a better job due to the arrival of an unexpected twin. He was forced to quit his job of being a sensei so he could look for a better job since being a sensei wasn't bringing in enough money. The thought of bringing up two children instead of one was too much for his wife, so she left him with the burden of nurturing the two very shortly after their birth. She had packed her bags one night, and just left, never heard from again, at least not until several years ago. Although he had very hard times at first, Ranma managed to handle both having a job and two kids to take care of, working in the mornings while a baby-sitter took care of them and spending his time with them at night when he came home from work. But now, it would change. Ranma was supposed to move east and overseas and become president of one of the companies. But he didn't want to. He knew that if his two daughters moved with him, they would have to switch schools and go to a new one, one where they have no friends. He couldn't do that to them, he loved them too much to make them to go through that again. The first time, when he moved to Nerima, his daughters had so much trouble adjusting to the new change that it kept him up late at nights from the guilt, guilt that it was his fault. But not anymore, he planned on staying right where he was. And so he was given an option, to move overseas, or quit. That was it, no other choice. So he chose to resign. That one move nearly brought the entire company down because when Ranma's fellow co-workers respected him so much that they said they would quit if he quit. So when he quit, everyone else quit along with him, much to his protest. He didn't want to bring anyone else in this, but they insisted. So now Ranma was without a job and two daughters to take care of. His mind was plagued with worry, far too much stress for a twenty-nine year old to have. He looked like he didn't have a worry in the world, his handsome face concealing his emotions well. How was he going to tell his daughters that he quit his job? How was he going to support them without a job? Sure, Ranma was smart enough to save several million yen over the years, but that money was meant for the girls college tuition. If he didn't get a job, and fast, he would soon have to start using his savings. And what would happen after all that money was gone? Then what?
"Daddy," came a sweet innocent voice from the playground.
Ranma lifted his head, his gaze resting on Meggie, the first-born of the twins, just one minute older than Jessie. As his gaze caught hers, him looking into her chocolate-brown eyes, all of his worries seemed to disappear. His visage turned from worrisome to content, happy that he had made the right choice, to stay in Nerima so his daughters would be with their friends.
"What is it, Meggie?" Ranma asked, calling Meggie by her nickname, a nickname that only she allowed him and her sister to call her. Her real name was Meghan but she preferred Meggie. He smiled warmly.
"Can ya give me a push, Daddy?" she said, trying to swing as high as she could, not even close to as high as Jessie was swinging.
"Sure. I'd be glad to,"
Ranma stood up from his bench and proceeded towards the playground. But before he stepped through the small gate of the fence that surrounded it, a jogger accidentally bumped into him. He and the jogger both fell to the ground, the jogger falling down on top of him.
"Sorry" Ranma apologized, quickly getting to his feet. He reached out a hand to help the jogger to her feet.
"It was all my fault," Akane said "I wasn't looking at where I was going"
She took hold of Ranma's hand and pulled herself to her feet, noticing how delicate Ranma's hand felt in hers. His hand was soft yet strong. She looked up at Ranma and her heart skipped a beat when she looked into those beautiful blue eyes of his. She turned her gaze away from him, slightly blushing, a warm feeling in her heart. "Are you all right?" he said, concern in his voice.
"Y-yes, I am," Akane said, not looking directly at him. Even his voice made her blush. She couldn't quite explain it.
"Daddy," came a voice, causing Akane to start. Akane turned around and looked down. There, standing before her, the little girl's head no higher than her waist was the most beautiful looking child Akane had ever seen. The child had silk-like brown hair that flowed down beyond her shoulder blades, her cute face showing nothing but pure innocence and carefree joy. She was dressed in a pretty blue dress that was fluffy around the shoulders.
"Who's this, Daddy?" the little girl said, looking up at Akane with those chocolate-brown eyes that could melt the heart of any mother-to-be "Is she goin' to be our new Mommy?"
"Meggie," Ranma said, blushing slightly, embarrassment in his voice. He looked at Akane, and then turned his gaze away, unable to look into those beautiful eyes of hers. He had many women come up to him over the years and he had never been drawn to them like he was to this woman right now. Without looking at Akane, he spoke.
"I'm sorry," he apologized again, "This is pretty embarrassing"
Akane smiled, noticing Ranma blushing, a slight red hue in his cheeks. She seemed to have regained her composure, now that the situation was up against Ranma.
"I'm Akane," she said, smiling a smile that seemed to make Ranma's heart flutter "Akane Tendo"
"I-I'm Ranma. Ranma Saotome" he said, trying to regain his composure, much to no avail. What Meggie said seemed to have really gotten to him. He never expected his little Meggie to say that, especially about a stranger "This is my daughter, Meghan...I mean Meggie. Over there," he added, pointing towards an identical looking girl walking towards them "is my other daughter, Jessie"
"Who's that, Daddy?" Jessie asked, stopping once she was standing between Akane and her father. She was looking up towards Akane, her hand now in one of Ranma's hands, while Meggie slipped her hand in his other.
"Um...that's...Akane," Ranma said, a nervousness still in his voice. He was indeed deeply embarrassed at the situation his two daughters had put him in.
"Is she your girlfriend?" Jessie asked, leaning her head up against Ranma's thigh, tugging at his shorts, which was already exposing too much of his muscularly defined legs as it was.
Akane smiled she patted Jessie on top of her head, noticing how smooth her hair felt to the touch, "No, Jessie. We just bumped into each other.
That's all"
"Oh...I was hoping you were Daddy's girlfriend so we can have a Mommy when he marries ya," she replied.
"Jessie," Ranma said, now really embarrassed "You're really embarrassing me. Can you please stop saying those things?"
"I'm sorry, Daddy," Jessie said, her feelings hurt. She didn't want to do anything to hurt her Daddy, especially embarrass him. She looked down towards the ground "I didn't mean it"
"Jessie," Ranma said, regaining his composure. No matter what kind of predicament he was in, it didn't bother him as much as seeing one of his daughter's feelings hurt "It's not your fault. I know you didn't mean it"
Akane watched as Ranma embraced the little girl in his arms, reluctant when it came to letting her go. She then saw him hug his other daughter so she wouldn't feel left out. Akane's heart melted when he saw how much he loved his children, something she found very attractive in a man, even if he was the first real contact she had with a man outside the dojo for a very long time. Having been so caught up in the moment, Akane was unaware how late she was in getting back home until she looked at her watch. It was already pretty late in the morning, and she was going to be late getting back home. "Oh no, I'm late!" Akane said, turning to Ranma "I have to get going now.
But it's been nice meeting you and your two lovely daughters"
"Okay. Maybe we'll see you around, Akane. Bye" he said, smiling sweetly.
Akane smiled back, her heart aflutter from having been so close to Ranma for that long. It seems like Akane's morning was definitely off to a good start.

Chapter 3

"I have five years experience in teaching martial arts, two for Tae Kwon Do and three for Shotokan Karate" the man said, leaning back on the couch.
Akane leaned back against her own couch, which was located across from the man. She regarded the man for a second, wondering if he was the right choice. Throughout the whole day, she had interviewed over two dozen people who had responded to the ad she had placed up in the paper a few days ago.
Only two out of all those people were qualified for the position of sensei.
Akane's gaze turned from the man, and onto the window. The stars glittered high in the sky that night, the moon shining every bit as bright. It was late that night, and he was the last person she had to interview for the day.
"What degree did you attain in both arts?" she asked, putting a check next to his name, which meant he was experienced in teaching. The question she just asked him didn't really matter, but she just wanted to know just how much of the martial arts he knew.
"For Tae Kwon Do, I'm a third dan and about to take a test for my fourth dan. For Shotokan Karate, I'm only a second dan" he replied.
Akane was impressed with the man's experience. Almost all of her potential hired help only had a first or maybe a second dan, let alone a fourth and second dan in two different arts. Most of the people she interviewed were either too young and had just gotten their first dan, or was not experienced in teaching.
"You are definitely qualified for the position. I'll let you know if you've got the job tomorrow" Akane said, extending her hand forward to shake his hand, noticing he had a firm grip "Thanks for coming"
"No, thank you for taking the time to interview me," he replied, smiling sweetly.
With that said, the man gracefully got up to his feet and left the house,
Akane escorting him to her front gate.
"Good night," he said, bowing to her right before he left, a gesture none of the other people had done, a gesture that seemed to make Akane want to hire him right there on the spot.
Akane watched as the man walked down the street, getting smaller and smaller as he got farther away. She sighed, grateful that he was the last person she needed to interview for the day. But dread came over her when she realized that she would most likely have more interviews tomorrow. She wasn't cut out for this. She was having enough difficulty teaching her daily classes, let alone interview more people.
Akane leaned up against the outer wall, closing her eyes, thankful for the day's end. Now that all the interviews were over, she could have some time to herself, time to take a soothing warm dip in the bathtub. Her muscles were tense, like always, and she was in definite need of relaxation.
"Good evening," came a voice, causing Akane to start.
She opened her eyes and gazed at the figure that stood before her.
It was Ranma.
"I know're the guy I bumped into several days ago. You're Ranma.
Ranma Saotome," Akane said, surprise in her voice. She would never forget his name. That was for sure. And now, for some reason, the thought of a nice warm bath seemed to have disappeared from her mind.
"That's me, Akane Tendo," he said with a smile, trying to hide his surprise of seeing the beautiful woman that he had dreamt about for the past few days. He was hiding it well, his visage showing no signs of surprise or attraction towards her.
"What brings you here?" she asked, slightly blushing from Ranma's husky voice. She felt relief when she realized it was dark out, and that Ranma couldn't see her doing so.
"Well...I'm here to schedule an appointment for an interview" Ranma replied, feeling a little bit embarrassed that he didn't call instead. He never really liked to talk over phone lines. He preferred talking to the person face to face. And since he realized he was talking to Akane, he was glad he liked his approach, even if he didn't know that Akane was the person who was going to be interviewing him. He would've known it was her if it weren't for her forgetting to put her name in the ad in the first place.
"An interview? You want to be a sensei?" Akane asked, a little surprised.
When she first met Ranma out in the park, she would've never guessed he knew martial arts. She expected him to be something like a model, what with his terrific build. She never would've thought that Ranma was the kind of person who knew martial arts, what with him spending all of his time loving his two daughters.
"Yes," Ranma replied, smiling slightly, still a bit embarrassed at having came at such a late time of day.
"Why don't you come on in? I'll interview you now," Akane said, smiling weakly "Besides, I wasn't planning on doin' anything in particular anyway"
"Are you sure?" Ranma asked "I don't want to impose"
"It's no problem at all" Akane said. Even though the though of a warm bath seemed nice, spending some time with Ranma seemed even nicer.

"I have about seven years experience in teaching, four of them for Kenpo,
and the other three for Aikido" Ranma said, taking a sip of his coffee,
which tasted great. It was very early, somewhere around two in the morning.
Ranma had first stepped into the house almost three hours ago, and they still weren't through with the interview yet. Maybe it was because they would always digress into other subjects like why he was there or how she inherited the dojo and so on. Even though they spent so much time together already, the time seemed to have slipped away in a blink of an eye.
Akane was impressed at Ranma's reply, very impressed. He was so far the most qualified person for the position.
"How long've you taken Kenpo and Aikido?" Akane asked, wondering just how much experience he had in martial arts.
"I've studied Kenpo since I was around three, meaning I've taken it for twenty-six years. I started taking Aikido when I was around thirteen, which means I've been taking it for close to sixteen years" Ranma replied.
That means he's only twenty-nine, just one year older than me, Akane thought, adding the numbers in her head up. Ranma definitely didn't look his age. He looked like he was in his early twenties. What was even more surprising was that he looked that young while still taking care of two daughters. But Ranma wasn't the only one who looked young in that room.
Akane looked like she, too, was in her early twenties, which was odd considering she had quite a lot of stress from taking care of the house and the dojo.
"What degree did you attain in both arts?" she asked, the same question she asked every other person she interviewed. Even though it was pretty much an irrelevant question, she wanted to know anyway. "I have a eighth dan in Kenpo and a seventh dan in Aikido" he said bluntly, not at all proud of his rank yet not at all ashamed of it either.
He said it as if one would say what their address was.
Oh my god, Akane thought. This guy's better than me. This guy's more than much better than the person before him.
"Wow, that's pretty much the highest rank you can attain in both arts,"
Akane said, a bit envious of Ranma's skill. But she wasn't at all bad herself. She was a seventh dan in Karate and considered a grandmaster in Anything-goes-martial arts, the highest rank a martial artist could ever attain. Unfortunately, when one teaches a totally new art to the world,
they are automatically considered a grandmaster.
Ranma shrugged his shoulders. He didn't really care what rank he held. It meant nothing to him. He was self-confident of his skills and that was what mattered. He wouldn't even care if he was a white belt. He had two sweet daughters that made him feel like he could take on the world.
"I'd like to spar against you," Akane said, smiling slightly, her gaze challenging Ranma's. Akane was way too good a martial artist to go up against even a fifth or even a sixth dan martial artist. She needed someone as good as her, if not better, to spar against her so she could learn more.
If she always beat her opponents, how could she learn from her mistakes.
Now that there was a worthy opponent for her, she could finally see if she was any good, any good against a formidable opponent.
"Why would you want to spar with me?" Ranma asked, a bit confused.
Whenever people found out what rank he was in martial arts, they tended to avoid confrontations with him. He was surprised that someone, who was actually aware of his skill, wanted to fight with him.
"I wanna see just how good you are?" Akane said, "That's all. How about it?"
"Um, I'd really like to, but I really have to get going," Ranma said, getting up out of his seat, finishing off his cup of coffee with one big gulp "It's getting late and I don't want the girls to wake up and ask the baby-sitter why I'm not home yet. But I would love to tomorrow" he added with a smile.
"Can you come here around eight?" Akane asked.
"Yeah, right after I drop the kids off at school," Ranma said "How come?"
"Because that's when class starts. And I want you to teach it,"

Chapter 4

Akane awoke feeling refreshed and invigorated, she having slept well even if she did go to sleep very late that night. She stretched out her slender arms, her muscles relaxed, rubbing the sleep out of her eyes. The morning sunlight was shining through the partially opened window, its warmth felt within the room.
Akane yawned, stretching her arms high into the air, as if she were trying to grab hold the sun itself. She felt a wave of relief wash over her when she realized she could sleep in, Ranma coming in to teach the morning class.
But she didn't want to sleep in, she wanted to be wide awake when she met him. Plus, she also wanted time to practice her techniques so they could spar.
She got out of bed, letting the bed sheet fall to the floor and on top of her feet. She arced her back backwards, feeling the tenseness of her back fade away as she yawned once again. Stepping out of clear view of the window, Akane lithely got out of her nightgown and proceeded towards the closet. She fetched out her jogging outfit, which consisted of shorts and a regular t-shirt and got into them, checking herself out in the full-length mirror.
"I think I should start wearing jogging pants," Akane said to herself. She realized that the shorts she was wearing exposed quite a lot of thigh.
Although she had beautiful shapely legs that women would die to have, she didn't like people staring at her, it made her feel weird. Besides, she was self-confident about herself and she didn't need to show her legs off just to prove it.
"I better go out and buy some new jogging clothes tomorrow," she added,
noticing just how tightly her t-shirt hugged her chest. She knew her outfit definitely attracted attention to her and didn't want that. Even though there were few, she didn't like the guys who came up to her and asked her out. Those guys would be leering at her chest as they said that. She knew that those guys wanted to go out with her because of her body, or maybe getting lucky with her. Well, those were to things they would never get.
Akane had no intention of sleeping with anyone unless he was her husband.
She was worth waiting for. She intended on staying pure until her honeymoon.
She quickly fixed her bed and threw her nightgown in the hamper before she left her room and headed down the stairs. She seemed quite happy, far more content than most mornings. Maybe it was because she knew Ranma was going to be there in a little more than one hour.

"Daddy, wake up," said the bundle of energy that just jumped into Ranma's bed. That bundle of energy was followed by another bundle of energy, every bit as energetic as the first one.
"C'mon, Daddy. Wake up," Meggie said, pulling one of Ranma's eyelids open and smiling sweetly while Jessie pulled the other one up. The twins both giggled as Ranma tried to make them stop.
Ranma smiled inwardly, pretending he was still asleep. He gently swatted both of twin's hands away, acting as if he found it bothersome. The twins giggled again as they pulled his eyelids open once Ranma's hands were back by his sides.
"Daddy," Jessie said, gently shaking Ranma "It's time to wake up"
"I have a better idea to wake Daddy up," Meggie said, with a grin, a grin that looked more cute than cynical.
"What kinda idea?" Jessie asked, letting go of Ranma's eyelid.
Meggie leaned forward and whispered into her ear.
Ranma tried to listen but couldn't hear what the two were saying. His head was too far away. And there was no way he could lift his head closer because it would give away his pretend act of still being sleeping. Although not many people could tell the difference between the twins, Ranma knew it was Meggie who came up with the idea. She was the one who always came up with the idea. Although she and Jessie were twins, they were very different. Meggie was the quiet one, the one who was always thinking things up, the one who could make a plan up, but couldn't act it out. Jessie was the opposite. She was always out-going, never really thinking things through, the one who always listened and acted out all of Meggie's plans. They were a perfect combination. They were both inseparable, neither of them leaving each other's side. And Ranma was so lucky he had them for daughters.
Ranma waited in anticipation for what the twins planned on doing. He wanted to look but couldn't, for it would spoil his pretend act. He felt a hand close over his nose and another over his mouth. The twins wanted to see how long their Daddy could hold his breath before he needed air.
"Gotcha!" Ranma said, reaching his arms outward and grabbing hold of his two precious daughters. He embraced them tightly practically squeezing the breath out of them. The twins yelped out in surprise, their giggles drowned out by Ranma's declaration of how much he loved the two of them.
"You think you could wake me up before you two wake up?" Ranma said,
getting out of bed, swing the two girls in his arms "You'll never get the best of me"
Ranma threw both girls in the air as they giggled in delight.
"C'mon. Since we're all up early, lets go out and get some breakfast,"
Ranma said, throwing them back up into the air again, this time even higher. Many times this had happened, his daughters waking him up early and him taking them out to breakfast. Although Ranma was a great cook when it came to making breakfast, they liked to eat out at times.
"Okay, Daddy," Meggie and Jessie said in unison, leaping out of Ranma's arms and scrambling out of his bedroom so they could get out of their pajamas and into their clothes. Ranma watched as the two disappeared around the corner of the hallway before he got out of his bed to get dressed himself. He looked at the clock that hung on his wall as he took off his shirt and threw it in the hamper.
"Six forty. That leaves me with a little more than an hour to get the girls dressed, eat some breakfast, take them to school, and get to my new job," Ranma said, fetching a shirt out of his dresser drawer and putting it on. If it was possible, the thought of working with Akane seemed to make his morning even brighter. Not only did he have breakfast with his two daughters to look forward to, but he also had work with Akane later. He didn't have too much sleep last night, his thoughts of Akane plaguing his mind for most of the night. He remembered how nervous he felt around her last night,
when he was being interviewed by her. He remembered how good he felt just being around her. Smiling, he placed his clothes on and left for his daughters room so he could help them get dressed.

Akane stopped abruptly when she noticed Ranma walking down the street.
She felt a twinge of nervousness fall upon her. Her heartbeat started to pace faster than it already was. She had been jogging for fifteen minutes yet her heart wasn't beating as fast as it was now. Whenever she was near him, she felt a warm feeling wash over her, a feeling she could get quite used to.
Ranma was unaware of Akane, his back turned towards her. He was holding Meggie's hand with his left hand while holding Jessie's hand in his right.
Ranma seemed to have trouble keeping them well behaved for they were playing tag against each other, pulling Ranma's arm back and forth when they were trying to keep from being tagged. Ranma seemed happy, for the most precious things in his life he held in his hands. The people who walked by seemed to notice him, all envious of how content he was being around his children, even if they did seem like quite a bit to handle.
"Daddy," Jessie said, looking up towards Ranma, her head tilted backwards so she could get eye contact "I want some cookies"
"Honey, you know you can't have cookies for breakfast," Ranma said patiently. This had happened before, his children asking for sweets and candy on their way to the breakfast shop. But he had taught them well that eating food like that would give them stomach aches "You'll get a tummy ache in school"
Jessie's visage saddened. She knew her dad was right. She had learned her lesson. Once, when Ranma wasn't paying attention, she snuck into the cookie jar and ate several cookies. She later on got a stomach ache in school which caused her father to come and pick her up so he could take her home. She would never forget how worried her father looked when he walked into the nurse's office and saw her sick.
"Daddy. I hafta go to the bathroom," Meggie said, giving Ranma's arm a gentle tug. Meggie didn't want to worry her father but she really had to go, and fast.
"Can you hold it for just a few minutes longer?" Ranma asked. He knew something like this was going to happen. Almost every time they went out for breakfast, either Meggie or Jessie wanted to go to the bathroom. This was one situation he could never really handle. His girls were too young to go to the bathroom in a store by themselves. It didn't help any considering he was a man and men couldn't go into the girls bathroom even if they were just watching over their daughters. He had learned the hard way. About a year ago, when Meggie needed to go to the bathroom, Ranma figured that no one was in the girls room so he went in along with her. When he took his first step in, he remembered reacting just in time to duck underneath a purse that would've taken his head off if it connected. It didn't help matters any when the lady started screaming 'Pervert!' and pointing towards him. But after a lot of explaining, especially to the security guard that happened to have been there, Ranma was apologized to. That incident taught Ranma quite a lot.
"Daddy, I really hafta go to the bathroom," Meggie said, crossing her legs as she stood there.
Ranma was starting to sweat. He needed someone else to escort Meggie to the bathroom. He looked around in the passing crowd for any females who seemed willing to help.
"Hi Ranma," Akane said, finally coming up with enough courage to walk up and talk to him. She had been standing behind him for several minutes before she could get that weird feeling out of the pit of her stomach. But when their eyes met, that feeling came rushing back. Her knees felt a bit shaky,
as if they were about to give out at any second.
"Akane, thank goodness you're here. Can you please do me a favor?" Ranma pleaded, noticing that intoxicating scent of slight perspiration from Akane.
But he managed to get a hold of himself in time for there were more important matters at hand than that feeling he had in the pit of his own stomach.
"What is it?" Akane asked curiously. As she gazed at Ranma's visage, she noticed that he seemed worried about something. She noticed some droplets of sweat forming above his brow.
"Can you please take Meggie to the bathroom?" Ranma said, extending his arm forward so she could take hold of Meggie's hand "I don't want her going into the girls room alone but I can't go into the bathroom along with her"
Akane nodded as she took hold of Meggie's hand "Where's the nearest bathroom?"
"There's one in this store," Meggie said, pointing towards the store that they were all standing in front of. She knew it was the breakfast shop they always went to. Akane smiled at Meggie, noticing how helpful and cooperative the little girl was. Meggie had done this before, been escorted the bathroom by women who were willing to help. She was taught to always cooperate in a situation like this, when a woman would take her to the bathroom. She never really cared who escorted her, but for some reason, she enjoyed holding Akane's hand. It felt natural, like holding her father's hand.
Ranma watched as Akane quickly entered the breakfast shop, her hand held fast over Meggie's hand. He quickly followed suit, Jessie's hand held fast in his own. Inside, he watched as Akane gracefully weaved between the people and head straight for the bathroom.
"Who's that, Daddy," Jessie asked, gently tugging at Ranma's arm to get his attention. Ranma seemed to have been caught up with watching Akane before he realized Jessie was talking to him till she had to repeat herself a couple of times.
"That's Akane. Don't you remember, she was the nice lady you met in the park a few days ago," Ranma answered, kneeling down in front of Jessie to give her his full attention. He always paid full attention to his daughters,
always listening whenever they said something. Besides, he loved hearing them talk.
"Can we eat?" Jessie asked, rubbing her growling stomach "I'm hungry"
"I'm hungry also. But can you wait for a few minutes?" Ranma asked "At least until your sister and Akane come out"
"Okay, Daddy,"
After several moments of waiting.
"There they are now," Ranma said, seeing Meggie and Akane coming back out of the bathroom. He gently picked Jessie up into his arms so she could see them from over the people that was already in the store. Slowly, with Jessie still in his arms, Ranma started making his way through the crowd and towards where Meggie and Akane was at.
"Meggie, Jessie, let's get seated so we can eat," Ranma said, putting Jessie back down on the ground so she and her sister could look for an empty table. He watched as his daughters quickly found a table and climbed into the empty seats. "Would you like to join us?" Ranma asked, pivoting a bit so he could see Akane and his two daughters clearly. He made sure his two daughters never left his sight. Who knew what kind of people were out there?
"Nah, I better not," Akane answered, noticing just how much attention Ranma paid to keeping his daughters safe. Although she herself didn't have kids,
she would've most likely done the same thing Ranma was doing right now,
keeping her children in constant sight.
"Come on. I insist," Ranma asked with a smile, a smile so warm that some of the females in the store were quite envious about. They wished they had a man whom seemed to light up a room with a single smile.
Akane smiled warmly and answered.
"Well, if you put it that way. How could I refuse?"

Akane watched as Ranma waved to his daughters as they waved back one more time before they both entered their school through the front door. She smiled inwardly when she noticed just how much he cared for his daughters.
She noticed how reluctant he felt to releasing his embrace of them before they headed towards the front door.
"I guess we better head for the dojo," Ranma said with a sweet smile "so I can start my new job"
Akane smiled inwardly, knowing that she would be spending the next several hours with him teaching class. Akane looked at her watch. It read seven-forty exactly. That meant they had fifteen minutes to get to the dojo and warm up before class started. Together, Ranma and Akane headed for the dojo.
Chapter 5

"Ranma," Akane said "Now how about that spar?"
Ranma was a bit surprised that Akane still remembered that. He was standing at the head of the class watching the students practice a simple technique when Akane walked up to him. The students weren't paying too much attention to them, all of them busy trying to hone their own skills. He looked into Akane's beautiful eyes and saw the seriousness of what she said.
She did indeed want to spar against him.
"Are you sure?" Ranma asked, "I, myself, don't wanna spar"
"Why not?" Akane asked curiously. She figured that if Ranma was as good as he said he was, he must have fought numerous battles. She figured that he attained his rank from being very competitive, always striving to be better.
"The last time I sparred was many many years ago, well before my two little girls were born," he replied "Ever since their arrival, I stopped training so I could raise them. Besides, I'm pretty sure you'll win"
But he had other reasons not to spar, some very serious reasons, reasons he didn't really like talking about.
"It seems like raising two girls made you soft," Akane said with joking a grin. She just wanted to get on Ranma's nerves so he would spar against her.
That was why his reply was unexpecting. Ranma looked down towards the floor,
crestfallen, his feelings hurt. He never expected another martial artist to offend him like Akane just did. But he immediately regained his composure for he knew that he'd made the right choice, to give up martial arts for the sake of his two little girls. But deep down inside, there was another reason why he preferred not to spar. No one really knew, but he was fragile.
Ranma felt self-conscious of himself as he stood before her. "Sorry. I shouldn't have said that," Akane apologized, "I wanted to provoke you into sparring against me and thought that was a good thing to say"
"Don't worry about it. If you really wanna spar, then I'll spar against you," Ranma said, a bit nervous. He knew he wasn't as skilled as he used to be, what with him being away from martial arts for seven years. He didn't know if he could be a worthy challenge against Akane. He was no longer skilled enough to be considered a eighth dan in Kenpo and seven dan in Aikido. He wasn't too sure he could consider himself a black belt in both of those arts.
"Well, I guess we're gonna spar then," Akane said, getting into her battle stance. Since Ranma was giving her the option to spar against him or not, she chose to spar.
"If you insist," Ranma said, getting into his own battle stance.
By now, all the students had formed a circle around the two combatants,
all watching in eager anticipation for a great battle. Although they only knew Ranma for one day, they knew he was a very skilled martial artist. They just wanted to see how skilled he was.
Slowly, Ranma and Akane inched towards one another.

"I better get going now," Ranma said, helping Akane off the floor.
Ranma and Akane were sweaty from the fight, both exhausted and tired. The two combatants had been sparring for many hours before one finally gained an advantage over the other. In this case, Ranma had gained the advantage over Akane. Little did Akane know that Ranma held back while she pressed on full force. But the victory had its price. Ranma was breathing heavily, his gasping far heavier than Akane's. He had this ache in his chest, but he ignored it.
Akane took hold of Ranma's extended hand, feeling a bit flushed at the thought that she, a grandmaster in Anything-goes-martial arts, had lost. But she was grateful that no one was there to see her loss, for her students had left a few hours ago, them needing to get on with their day. As she got up,
she noticed Ranma hadn't caught his breath yet, which was quite odd considering how great a shape he was in. But she disregarded it.
It was about three, just a few minutes before Ranma had to leave to go pick up his two daughters. It was also about a half hour away from Akane's midday class, the most hectic time in her day, most of her students also getting out of school and wanting to get their training in before the headed home.
"Are you coming back?" Akane asked, a bit daunted of having hired help that would leave her in the middle of the day.
"Oh, of course I am," Ranma said, smiling warmly "I just have to drop my two girls off at their grandma's before I come back. It'll only take a short while"
Akane breathed a sigh of relief, her tension ameliorated upon hearing his words. She expected him to ask for the rest of the day off so he could spend it with his two daughter, two lovely daughter she might add.
"Wait a minute," Akane said as Ranma was about to leave to dojo.
Ranma turned around, his attention on Akane.
"Why don't you bring your two little daughters here?" she added.
"Well, I don't know," he contemplated.
"Come on," she said "It'll be fun. I'd like to get to know them. They seem like very sweet children"
Ranma's face lit up upon what Akane just said about his two daughters. He always loved children, and the thought that she might also be pretty fond of children brought some light into his life. After his wife left him, he hadn't gone out much, always home to take care of the children after work.
And when he did, albeit it was few over those years, the girls he went out with would leave the moment they found out he had two daughters. Although Ranma was quite a catch, his children usually drove them away. Because of that, his children always blamed themselves because of it. They blamed themselves for women leaving him, feeling they were at fault for him not meeting that special someone. Even if they were partially related with women leaving Ranma, it destroyed him whenever he would see his children cry because they felt it was their fault. He couldn't have that happen again, no matter how much someone seemed to care about children. All the women he went out with knew he had, but disregarded it, thinking having him as a husband would make everything better. So many times women have taken an interest in his children as a way to get close to him, and so many times, they left him because they couldn't handle the burdens of child rearing. He was no longer as naive as he used to be a few years ago. He was no longer going to fall for a woman that would eventually leave him like all the others.
"Sorry. I can't," Ranma said, setting up his defenses, "T-their grandmother is...expecting them"
Ranma wasn't afraid of getting hurt. He just didn't want his children to get hurt again, them thinking she left because of them.
"Oh," Akane said "then I guess I could meet them some other day. Well you better get going now"
Ranma seemed a bit crestfallen as he left the dojo, knowing that that was how most girls came on to him, through his children. No more. He wasn't going to have that happen again. If he must live his life alone, without someone to be at his side, then so be it. He couldn't bare to have his children hurt again.
Sighing inwardly, Ranma left for his daughters' school.

Akane watched as Ranma left, wondering why his visage turned crestfallen when she mentioned his children. She couldn't come up with any immediate or plausible answers other than Ranma being overprotective of his children.
She sat down on the floor and began stretching, feeling a bit sad that Ranma didn't want her to get close to his two daughters. She wanted to get to know them, and Ranma for that matter. But if Ranma didn't want to get to know her, she wouldn't press it any further. Even if that was so, she figured she take one more try before giving up on him.
"G'afternoon, sensei" came a meek voice.
Akane snapped out of her little reverie, her attention going onto where the voice came from. Standing in the front of the dojo was one of her students, a frail kid who had a thing for her ever since she started training him.
Well, if Ranma isn't interested, there's a whole line of people who would be interested, Akane thought. But the thought exited her mind as quickly as it entered it, her mind still on Ranma.
Chapter 6

"Mr. Saotome," came a voice, a very female voice, which caused Ranma to start, "do you have a minute?"
Ranma was standing outside by the main entrance when he was tapped on the shoulder. He turned around to face an elderly yet very attractive lady.
It was the principal of his daughters' school.
"Oh, sure" he said, "Is there somethin' the matter?"
"Yes, it concerns your two daughters." she said matter-of-factly.
Ranma's visage turned solemn. Did something happen to his daughters? Are they all right? A plethora of thoughts raced through his mind.
"Your two daughters seem to be having trouble in class," the principal added before Ranma had a chance to say anything "They're becoming a bit unruly in the classrooms"
"Unruly? How're they unruly?" Ranma asked dubiously. He would have never have suspected his two daughters to be unruly. He always suspected his two daughters acted like little angels, always kind and well-behaved. But then again, they might act differently when they were around their Daddy. That might explain it.
"Mr. Saotome, I don't know how to put this gently, bit I best say this now before it gets worse," she said, "Your daughters should have a motherly figure in their lives. I know it's hard for you to find to find someone,
what with you having to take care of them both and all, but you have to take it into consideration that them not having a motherly figure in their lives for so many years will be bad for them. They need some female contact more often in their lives. And once that happens, they will turn out for the better"
"Uh, thanks for telling me that," Ranma said cordially "I'll definitely take that into consideration. I appreciate you having told me now before it was too late"
"Daddy!" came a bundle of energy as it lumped onto one of Ranma's legs as another bundle of energy lumped onto his other leg "We're so glad you're here"
Ranma gave the principal a weak smile as he and his two daughters headed for their grandmother's home, Nodoka's home, which was nearby.

"Oh drats!" Akane said, regarding the broken bokken "Now I have to go out and buy a new one"
Akane had accidentally broken her bokken. She was sparring with one of her higher-ranking students with bokkens when her bokken had broken. It was a sad sight, what with the force needed to actually break one of them.
"Is there a martial arts equipment store nearby?" Akane asked one of her students, the student she had been sparring against.
"Yes, sensei. There's one in the mall," the student said.
"Hmm, I might as well go out and buy a whole new set of bokken," Akane said as she checked out the integrity of her opponents bokken. It was about time also. Those bokkens were very old, bought by Soun when he was alive and in his prime many many years ago, before any of his daughters were born.
Albeit the dojo had plenty of spare bokken, Akane wasn't satisfied with having old ones. She didn't like the fact that the bokkens were older than her.
I'll go buy them tomorrow, she thought to herself. I'll buy them early in the morning. Maybe I can even ask Ranma to accompany me.
Akane smiled as she handed her student a bokken and grabbed hold of another spare bokken off of the shelf.
"Let's continue," she said, bringing her weapon in front of herself, a smile on her lips.

It was nice and cool out that night, the sun having set several hours ago.
The streets were quiet and serene, most of Nerima's residents having gone home already to spend time with their families. The moon was already gleaming brightly, its shedding light far brighter than the streetlights that lined the quiet streets.
The day was finally over. Albeit it was Ranma's first day, it was indeed a hard day. When he worked as a sensei many years ago, he never worked as hard teaching his students. It wasn't that the students needed to be taught,
but they wanted to be taught techniques levels beyond what they were supposed to be executing. Akane's students were so much more zealous of learning the art than in the school he worked for, which Ranma found very appealing about working there. He always loved teaching the arts and was glad to have students as zealous at learning them as Akane's students.
"Your students really enjoy learning," Ranma commented as he continued sweeping the mat with a broom. In traditional dojos, the students were expected to sweep the mats at the end of every teaching session. But this wasn't a traditional dojo. Akane made it clear that she didn't want any of the students to sweep the mats simply because she enjoyed doing so. She like the sense of responsibility of keeping the dojo in proper order. She had once let the students sweep for her, but they ended up making more of a mess than there was to begin with.
"They're your students also," Akane corrected, a smile on her lips "They really like having you teach them"
Ranma smiled, saying nothing. He liked being considered a sensei again.
That was where his heart was, had always been, teaching students the arts.
Akane was also sweeping the mat clean, but was on the other side of the dojo. As Ranma continued to clean, Akane couldn't help but take some quick glances towards his direction. Every here and there, when Akane wasn't looking, Ranma took glance at her also. But their gaze never met. Ranma was too protective of his daughters to let his defenses down. He knew that was what led to him going out with someone, only to have them leave when they realize he had two daughters. But Akane already knew he had two daughters.
Even if that was so, he still didn't let his defenses down. He didn't care about himself getting hurt, it was his daughters being hurt that always got to him. "Ranma," Akane said after a few moments of silence. The silence was unnerving to her. Also, the thought that she was in the same room with a guy she found extremely attractive and not doing anything about it helped unnerve her even more. Akane was used to men coming to her and asking for her attention, not the other way around. She wanted him to notice her. Although he acknowledged her being there, he never pressed anything further than that.
"Yes, Akane," he answer, continuing on with his sweeping, purposely not trying to pay attention to her. He couldn't fall for her because if he did,
and she left, his daughters would go through the same anguish of believing it was their fault.
"Um, I was wondering-" she said.
"Akane, why is there a bokken in the trash can?" Ranma interrupted. He was finished with sweeping and was about to empty out the garbage can when he noticed the broken bokken.
"Oh, that. It broke earlier today when you were out picking up your two children" she answered. She felt a bit more relaxed now, now that they were on the subject of the broken bokken. She wanted to ask Ranma if he wanted to go to the mall with her to go buy a new set of bokkens, what with the others being so old and all.
"Maybe I should go out and buy some," Ranma said, regarding the broken stick carefully, noticing the antiquity of it "I know this martial arts equipment store in the mall. I can pick some up for you if you'd like,"
"How about we both go?" Akane suggested quickly.
"Uh...sure, if you'd like," Ranma said, a bit nervous. He knew where this was headed, and he didn't want it. He didn't want to get close to anyone anymore for the sake of his children. But he then recalled what the principal told him 'Your daughters should have a motherly figure in their lives'.
At that thought, Ranma lowered his defenses.
"I'd like that," he added, a bit more calm now. He couldn't think of anyone better to spend the morning with other than Akane. She had been the first woman he'd actually spent time in a long, long time "When should we leave tomorrow morning?"
"We could leave right after you drop off your two daughters" she said "That'll be the best time because my first class don't start for about an hour"
"Fine, I'll be hear once I drop my kids off" Ranma said, smiling warmly,
which seemed to make Akane's heart beat faster.
"Okay, I'll see you tomorrow"

Chapter 7

As Ranma stood in front of Akane's front gate, about to knock, he looked up towards the sky, noticing how beautiful and clear that morning was. The sun shone brightly, its warm light felt and soothing. The vast blue ocean of the sky above was clear of clouds. But in the far off distant horizon, there were some dark clouds forming.
"Hm, it looks like it's gonna rain," Ranma said to himself, noticing that the dark clouds in the distant horizon wouldn't be there for at least several hours, plenty of time for him and Akane to go to the mall and buy some equipment. And while he was at it, he wanted to buy some things for his daughters.
He looked at his watch and realized that he was a bit late, but that was perfectly understandable, what with him being kept busy up this morning trying to get his daughters to school.
This wasn't like him, being late. He was always prompt and on-time.
Sighing, Ranma knocked on the gate. He didn't really want to be there. He wanted to be away from women, but he couldn't. He knew that he should have it where his daughters were in contact with a motherly figure.
Ranma's reluctance disappeared once he got a view of Akane as she emerged from the door. She was dressed in a yellow dress that hugged her body tightly, accentuating her curves. The dress extended down to her ankles, the hem gently fluttering in the mild autumn wind. She was wearing a yellow wide-brimmed hat, topped off with a red ribbon. Ranma had never seen her dressed in that kind of outfit outside her jogging clothes and her martial arts dogi.
She looked beautiful.

"Can we stop here first?" Ranma said, quickly heading off towards a clothing store. Akane watched as Ranma sidestepped and dodged the people walking to and fro in the mall, heading straight for the store. She noticed his moves were fluid and graceful, as if he were accustomed to do this. The mall was crowed that day, its walkways and pathways replete with people walking back and forth. Akane quickly followed suit, taking a little more time than it did Ranma to reach the store.
"Why're we here?" Akane asked, noticing that Ranma was inside a clothing store dedicated to the female gender where panties and stocking outlined the back of the store with dresses and skirts outlining the front. Lingerie that no man should see unless in private was hung on shelves at the side of the store, extending all the way to the back. Akane's cheeks flushed a crimson hue when she noticed exactly how transparent and skimpy some of the lingerie were.
Her gaze went from the outfits, and onto Ranma, who was walking past all the lingerie towards the back of the store. She noticed he didn't pay any attention to the clothing that surrounding him. She quickly rushed ahead, dodging the other women that was staring at the cute guy who entered the store.
"Ranma, why're we in here?" Akane asked against once she caught up to him.
"I hafta buy some panties," he said, his gaze on the shelves of underwear that outlined the rear wall of the store. He wasn't paying too much attention to Akane, his attention on finding the right set of panties to get.
"Panties, why do you have to buy panties?" Akane asked, a bit shocked at Ranma's answer. What shocked her even more was Ranma looked like he knew what he was looking for. When she noticed that, she automatically figured him for a pervert who enjoys collecting panties.
Ranma didn't reply, too caught up finding what he wanted. Instead, he began searching through the shelves, which seemed to embarrass Akane more than it did him.
"Is there something I could help you with...sir?" a saleslady came by and asked, a bit surprised she was addressing a male rather than a female that would usually come in. She was a young lady, about the same age as Ranma, if not a bit older. Akane noticed the saleslady giving Ranma a good look over, admiring his physique and build.
"Uh, yes. I'm lookin' for some panties," Ranma said, still shuffling through packages of panties, one right after another. He wasn't even aware that the saleslady was regarding him more that she was supposed to. Akane noticed it though. But she said nothing, biting her lip. She had no right to get angry at someone who was regarding someone that she wasn't seeing,
even though she wished she were seeing him.
"I'm looking for panties for my two daughters," he added, much to the relief of Akane. Why didn't she think of that in the first place? She actually starting to believe he was a hentai. His daughters were nowhere in mind at the time.
"Is there a certain kind you're looking for, sir?" the saleslady asked.
"Yes, I need them with the days of the week on them," he replied "They're for two seven-year-olds"
"Yes, we have what you're looking for," she said, pointing towards a shelf adjacent to the one Ranma was searching through "They're over here"
"Thank you," Ranma said, beginning to search through the shelf, producing several packages of underwear, each having a different day sewn into the material. He grabbed two packages of panties per day, one for Meggie, the other for Jessie.
"Ranma, each package has three pairs of underwear in them," Akane said,
calculating the amount he was actually buying "That's means you're buying forty-two pairs of underwear"
"You don't think that's enough?" he asked, about to grab another handful of underwear.
"Of course it's enough," she replied "Why do you need so many?"
"Wednesday panties," he said, carrying a whole armful of panties towards the front of the store, where the cash register was located.
"Huh?" Akane followed Ranma to the front.
"That's why I was late this morning," Ranma said "Jessie likes to wear panties that was in accordance with the day. But I couldn't find and of her panties with Wednesday sewn into them"
"So, what didja do then?" she asked, a bit curious.
"What else could I do? I told her to wear two pairs of panties," he replied, reaching into his back pocket to retrieve his wallet "I told her to wear underwear with a Tuesday and a Thursday sewn into it. That way, it evened out to Wednesday. I'm buying all of these so I'll never be short of underwear for any day of the week"
Akane couldn't help but giggle inwardly. How did he come up with something like that? It was pure genius. "That's a lot of underwear," the cashier commented, the same lady who helped out before. She looked at Akane a bit enviously "Are they for you and your husband's children?"
Akane realized that the cashier wasn't speaking to Ranma but to herself.
When she heard that, she actually imagined she did have daughters of her own. She imagined having Ranma as a husband. The thought brought a small smile to her lips, for she actually believed it for a second.
"Yes, they are," Ranma said, not paying too much attention. He didn't exactly hear what the cashier had said. He thought she was talking to him and his daughters, not him and Akane's daughters.
The cashier's face frowned, she realizing that he was taken. She was hoping Ranma wasn't married. Akane couldn't believe what she had heard. She just looked at Ranma, wondering if he realized what he had just said. He had indicated that the two of them were married and had daughters with three simple words 'Yes, they are'.
"You're one lucky woman," the cashier whispered in low tones to Akane,
which caused her to snap out of her little yet pleasant reverie. Almost immediately, Akane realized that Ranma was almost halfway out the store,
a bag full of panties in his hand. She was about to quickly follow suit until the lady continued on.
"He's quite a catch, right?" she added, once Ranma was out of the store, out of earshot.
Akane didn't say anything as she looked at the lady, noticing the envious look she was giving her. The lady's eyes looked starry, as if she had seen someone she knew she was going to fall in love with. But the lady snapped to when she realized she couldn't have him. Afterall, he was married.
Akane gave a small smile, deciding to let the charade go a little bit further "Yes, he is. He is quite a catch"
With that said, Akane turned around and left the store, leaving behind an envious lady to wonder about how passionate the nights were between the couple.

"Did you know that guy?" Ranma asked, readjusting the crate load of bokkens that he was carrying. He must have been carrying several dozen bokkens.
"Yeah, he and I went to the same high school," Akane answered, a bit crestfallen. She seemed a bit embarrassed. She was talking about owner of the martial arts equipment store, Tatewaki Kuno. She knew Kuno had become successful, what with him putting up several chains of stores all over Japan, but she wasn't expecting to see him working in that particular store on that particular day.
"He seems like a nice guy," Ranma commented.
Akane gave Ranma a weird look, not believing what she had heard. Wasn't he aware that Kuno was giving him dirty stares when his back was turned. Kuno's eyes never left Ranma when he and Akane both entered the store.
"We better head on back now," Ranma said, carrying the heavy crate full of bokkens as if it was light as a feather. Akane noticed this. She realized Ranma was a lot stronger than she gave him credit for. She expected him to lose the martial arts edge, what with him raising two children and all. She watched as Ranma jogged down the walkway toward the mall's exit, weaving in and out of the passing people. One thing she did notice was that all the females stopped to see who the cute guy was who passed them, their boyfriends getting angry at the distraction.
"Akane," Ranma called out, "Come on. What're you waiting for?"
Ranma was carrying the bokken, carrying his bag full of panties, and was holding the door for her.
Akane smiled as she followed suit.

Chapter 8

Rain gently fell from the sky. The droplets could be heard as it hit the rooftop of the dojo. The moon was high in sky, already beginning its descend. The distant horizon of the star-clad night looked splendid. The mountains could be seen in the far off distance, their peaks reaching up and beyond the clouds.
Akane was looking out the second story window of her home, staring off into the distance, admiring the beautiful scenery. It was early in the morning,
around two. She was looking out the window of her bedroom, her elbows propped up against the windowsill. She couldn't sleep, her mind filled with what she had heard earlier in the day.
"That's a lot of underwear," Akane recalled the cashier commenting "Are they for you and your husband's children?"
"Yes, they are," came Ranma's answer as it echoed in her mind.
Akane imagined how life would be if she was indeed married to Ranma. She pictured how life would having him for a husband. She smiled to herself,
knowing that she would be happy. And what about his daughters? She would like to get to know them, but Ranma seemed a bit overprotective of them.
When she had asked Ranma to bring them to the dojo the other day, he had declined. He seemed a bit nervous to her when he declined, as if he was intentionally lying to her.
Akane's visage turned sullen when she thought of the why Ranma lied to her.
She figured he didn't want himself or his daughter to have anything to do with her. That was the best reason she could come up with.
If he doesn't want anything to do with me, she thought, then I'll leave him and his two daughters alone.
Akane wiped a forming tear from her eyes. Ranma was the first guy she actually had some feeling towards, and it was for the wrong guy, a guy who wants nothing to do with her. Wiping her eyes one more time, Akane slipped under her bed sheets and silently went herself to sleep.

Ranma silently entered his daughters' bedroom to check up on them. The room was dimly lit by the moonlight that entered in through the window. It was a messy room, clothes strewn about everywhere. Ranma smiled, realizing that he can't even see the color of the carpet on the floor.
I have to teach them to be neater, he thought to himself.
His gaze turned from the clothes-scattered floor and onto his sleeping daughters. The two of them were sleeping peacefully in their own beds.
Jessie's bed was nearest to the window, the moonlight shining on her angelic face. Jessie, the more outgoing of the two daughters, was sleeping soundly,
dreaming wondrous dreams. Her bedcovers were only partially covering her,
she tending to twist and turn in her sleep.
Ranma gently readjusted the sheets to cover her all the way up to her neck. He didn't want his precious daughters to catch a cold. Once he was satisfied that Jessie tucked in comfortably, he gave her a gentle kiss on her forehead. Afterwards, Ranma's gaze turned onto Meggie, the older,
quieter of the twins, was neatly under her own covers. She always slept without twisting or turning. He smiled as he, too, gently kissed Meggie on her forehead.
Ranma then sat down in a chair that was in the corner of the room, his thoughts on his daughters. He leaned back in the chair, relaxing as he got comfortable. Although his bedroom was adjacent to his daughters' bedroom, he wanted to always be near his daughters. Now that he couldn't sleep, he might as well watch his daughters sleep.
Thoughts of Akane was what kept him awake that night. He was contemplating on whether or not he should get with Akane. He wanted to be with her, but was scared that she might leave him like all the other women in his life.
He wanted to get to know Akane better, but couldn't out of fear. He was scared that Akane wouldn't be able to handle his children, scared that she wasn't cut out to raise twins. But his twins should have a motherly figure in their lives. What could he do? He was plagued with doubt. He was unsure that Akane was good with children. He only knew one person who was, aside from his mother, Nodoka. It was Ukyo Kuonji.
Ukyo was a childhood friend of his, a very good friend. She was always there for him, just like he was for her. But that wasn't as far as it went.
They had become more than friends, and that, he felt, jeopardized it.
Sighing quietly, Ranma leaned back in his chair, waiting for sleep to bestow him.

The grass was moist with dew the next morning, the sun glistening against the moisture. The streets were slightly damp from last night's rain, the reflected light almost glaring. The air was cool that morning, even a mild gust of wind able to produce chilling effects.
Akane looked up towards the sky, finally finished with her morning jog.
Her breathing was heavy, she having jogged more than twice the normal distance to clear her mind, to clear her mind of Ranma. But no matter how hard she tried, she couldn't get him out of her mind.
"G'morning, Akane" came a soft voice, which caused her to start.
Akane thought she was alone. She turned around, knowing who that sensuous voice belonged to.
"Morning, Ranma" she replied, smiling weakly. Ranma looked so gorgeous. His hair was matted to his forehead, he having jogged also earlier when he was bringing his two daughters to school.
"You're a bit early," Akane added, looking at her watch, noticing that he was about a hour before class started "Would you like to come in?"
"Actually," he said, taking a deep breath, "I was wondering if you would like to go out for some breakfast with me" He topped off his little statement with a warm smile that Akane couldn't refuse. His smile made Akane feel special.
Akane looked at Ranma in bewilderment, wondering where that came from. She wasn't expecting him to ask her out to breakfast. Actually, she was expecting him to refuse her proposal. "Uh, sure" she said, noticing the eagerness in her voice. When she did, she took a second to take in a deep breath.
"Um, I guess I could," she added, a little bit more clam "Where would we go?"
"How about this nice restaurant down the block, Pour Deux?" he suggested.
Akane smiled inwardly, realizing the meaning of the words for that restaurant. It meant 'For two' in French. She looked up at Ranma, wondering if he really knew the meaning. She looked at him curiously "Ranma, do you know what 'pour deux' means?"
"No, I thought it was just a name," he replied "Nevermind," she replied, a little crestfallen. She was hoping he knew what those words meant. She was hoping he viewed them both as a couple.
"So how about it, Akane? Are you up to a little breakfast?" he asked sweetly, not noticing how glum Akane looked. But when his gaze went to her,
she looked happy. She was actually glad to eat out for a change, even if it wasn't as a couple. She was happy to be spending time with Ranma.
"Yeah, let's go"
"Ranma, is that really you?" came a voice from behind Akane.
Akane and Ranma were both eating at their table, Akane sitting across from Ranma. They were both sitting at one of the tables located near the center of the busy room. They had been eating for about ten minutes until they were both interrupted.
Akane looked at Ranma for a second, noticing his eyes widening, and then she turned around to face the person who interrupted their little conversation. Ranma and Akane were both in a conversation about how beautiful Nerima was.
Akane's gaze rested on a beautiful woman with long, flowing mane of chocolate brown hair. She was about the same height as Akane. Her bangs partially covered over her gorgeous brown eyes. Her mane of hair flowed down her back, all the way to her slim waist. She was a very beautiful woman.
"Ukyo?" Ranma asked, practically ignoring Akane. He hadn't seen her for several years. Ukyo had moved away many years ago. "Ranchan," Ukyo said, stealthily making her way to Ranma's side.
Ranma got out of his seat and embraced Ukyo tightly, lifting her slightly off the floor. Akane watched as all of this happen, a growing sensation in the pit of her stomach. She wasn't liking what she was seeing.
"Akane, this is Ukyo...Ukyo Kuonji," Ranma introduced her "She's my best friend since my childhood"
"We were more than just friends, Ranchan," Ukyo said with a mischievous grin, which made Ranma blush beet red.
"Ukyo, I want you to meet Akane Tendo," he said with the same warm smile he gave Akane earlier "I'm working for her as a sensei"
"Nice to meetcha," Ukyo said, bowing respectfully. Akane reluctantly did the same, not even bowing as low as Ukyo bowed.
"Um, so how do you two know each other?" Akane asked, getting back into her seat.
Before Ranma had a chance to speak out, Ukyo interrupted "We were lovers,"
Ranma cringed at Ukyo's reply, knowing that it was true, but not really wanting Akane to know "until Ranchan figured it was best that we both went our separate ways. This was before he was married of course"
Ukyo had a starry look in her eyes. She remembered the two of them going separate their ways. But she had always figured they were meant for each other and that they would eventually cross paths sometime in the future. And now that she and Ranma met once again, she figured it must have been fate.
She always thought that she and Ranma were right together.
"I can't believe we're together again. I always figured we would meet again," Ukyo said, embracing Ranma again, giving him a passionate kiss on his lips, much to Akane's displeasure and disappointment.
"Ukyo," Ranma said, gently breaking out of Ukyo's embrace, blushing horribly. Ukyo must have been the first girl to have kissed him in years.
The taste of Ukyo's lips on his made him a bit disoriented, made him think back to the times they were together, both passionately in love. But he quickly snapped back to reality when he realized Akane was watching "Ukyo,
you have to stop, this isn't right"
Ukyo looked at Ranma curiously. She didn't find anything wrong with kissing Ranma "What's wrong with what I'm doin'?"
"Um, because Akane's here," Ranma said, saying the first thing that came to mind, even if it meant absolutely nothing.
"Don't stop on my account," Akane said, a little bit angry. She wasn't even aware of what she was saying. She, too, said the first thing that came into mind, her pride doing the talking to save face "It's not like the two of us are seeing each other anyway. He's just working for me"
Those words struck Ranma horribly, practically shattering his heart. He was hoping Akane viewed him as something more than an employee. His morning had been ruined by those few words Akane said, her words having more of an effect on him than she had realized.
"Ranchan, you okay?" Ukyo asked, noticing Ranma's crestfallen visage "You don't look too well"
"Yeah, I'm okay," Ranma quickly recovered, taking in a deep breath and sighing out load. Akane never noticed how crestfallen he looked, for Ukyo was blocking her view of him. If she had seen his visage change when she said those few words, she would have realized that Ranma actually had some feelings for her, for if he didn't, those words wouldn't have had such a profound impact.
"Is it all right if I stay?" Ukyo asked, turning her attention to Akane.
Akane shrugged her shoulders, trying the best to hide her discontent, "Sure, if you'd like"

Ranma looked over towards Ukyo, who was tightly glomped onto his arm. Her head was resting against his shoulder and her arms were wrapped around his right arm. She looked like she was staring at something a million miles away, for she was happy to have met Ranma again after so many years. His gaze went from Ukyo, and onto Akane. Akane was a few steps ahead of them,
her hands clenched into fists. She was obviously angry, but Ranma was unaware of it. Although figuring Akane was trying to avoid him, he was thinking she was avoiding him for the wrong reason. He thought she avoided him because she wanted to leave him and Ukyo alone, not because she was angry at him.
"Ranchan, guess what?" Ukyo said, looking up into his eyes.
"What?" he asked, not too fond of guessing games, and Ukyo knew that.
"I'm moving here, to Nerima," she stated "I'm thinkin' of opening a restaurant here"
She had waited a moment before she told him the second part, so he had a chance to take everything in. It took him a few moments before he realized what she was saying.
"Why're you moving here?" he asked. Deep in his heart he wanted Ukyo to move to Nerima, but didn't want her to move there for the wrong reason, him.
"Because I want to be close to you," she replied, much to Ranma's discomfort. That was what he didn't want to hear.
"Ukyo, look, we can't do this," he said, sadly. He didn't want to hurt her feelings, but knew that hurting her now was a lot less painful than hurting her later on "We're no longer seeing each other"
"I know, but I want to be close to you anyway," she replied, squeezing her grip over his arm for more emphasis. She knew that she could never have Ranma, she knew because she wasn't the one who ended up marrying him a few years later, but she just wanted to be near him anyway.
Ranma sighed. He couldn't have this happen. He couldn't have Ukyo move to Nerima all because of him. It would be all on his conscience if she didn't like being there. But there was nothing he could do, she was a grown woman and he couldn't just tell her not to move there.
Sighing again, Ranma spoke, "Ukyo, if it really makes you happy, then I hope you'll like Nerima"
Ukyo's face lit up. She was so happy that Ranma was happy for her. She passionately embraced Ranma with all her might, practically squeezing all the air put of his lungs. As Ukyo held him, Akane happened to have turned around to ask Ranma a question, she getting quite an eyeful of what was transpiring.
She was about to yell at him for being the way he was but realized she had no control over him. It wasn't like she was his girlfriend or anything.
Akane sighed, her words dying before they left her lips. She was losing him,
and she never even had him.
"Ranchan, I have to get goin' now, but maybe you and I can get together sometime in the future" Ukyo said, smiling mischievously, "Well, how 'bout it? I have my own apartment"
"Ukyo, I can't" Ranma said, "I would've said yes several years back, but I won't anymore. I have two daughters to worry about"
"Oh, how are Meggie and Jessie doin'?" Ukyo asked "I haven't seen them in years"
"They're fine," Ranma said, glad the subject was now off of him, even if it was diverted to his two daughters. "Well, I best be goin' now. Tell Meggie and Jessie I said 'hi'" she said,
heading off in the opposite direction "Bye Akane. It's been nice meeting you"
Akane gave Ukyo a weak smile, but a smile nonetheless. She watched as Ukyo rounded the corner and disappeared. Her gaze then turned onto Ranma, who was innocently looking in another direction. After a short while, Ranma's gaze fell on hers, both of their eyes fixed on each other.
"Akane, I hope you're not mad," Ranma said, his voice soft, almost meek.
"Why would I be mad?" Akane responded, a bitter chill in her voice.
Obviously, she was unaware that she was more angry than she assumed. It wasn't Ranma that she was mad at, but herself. She was angry at herself, but didn't exactly know why. Maybe it was the fact that she didn't have Ranma.
Ranma could almost feel the coldness from her voice. He cringed as those words enveloped him. He knew that Akane was mad, and that she was trying to conceal it. He looked away, not wanting to look into Akane's beautiful eyes.
He wanted to tell her that Ukyo was only a friend, and that nothing would ever happen, but he couldn't. He still had feelings for Ukyo, stronger feelings that that of a friendship. But that was all in the past now.
Taking a deep breath, Ranma spoke, "She's only a friend, Akane"
"Heh, she seems much more than a friend," Akane spat, not even aware that she was speaking with the pain in her heart. She hid herself behind her cold words, for that was the only thing she knew how to do. By the time she realized what she had just said, she was regretful for having said it. She wanted to take those words back when she saw the hurt in Ranma's eyes.
As she stared into those lonesome eyes of his, Akane wanted to take those words back so bad that she was about to, but her words failed her. She wanted to tell him that she didn't mean what she said. She didn't want to hurt him. Ranma had only been in her life for a few days, and she could already picture spending the rest of her life with him.
I can't have him, Akane thought to herself. He has Ukyo. His life is probably frustrating enough, what with him having to take care of two little girls. Now Ukyo walks into his life. There's no way he could make room for me.
This'll never work, Ranma thought to himself. Akane doesn't want me. I betcha she thinks I'm some kinda womanizer, what with Ukyo showing up outta nowhere. Why would she ever want to be with a womanizer?
Ranma's gaze fell on Akane, just as she turned her gaze from him. He was unaware that Akane wanted to be with him, just as she was unaware that he her.
"We better head on back" Akane said after a few moments, still not bothering to look Ranma in his eyes. She felt ashamed of what she said about him and Ukyo being more than friends. She wished she was Ukyo, wished she was the one who kissed Ranma, wished she was to one who tasted his salty lips on hers. But she knew that would never happen. Why would he want her when he had a woman like Ukyo?
"Hai" he concurred, noticing that Akane's gaze was anywhere but on him.
His shoulders slumped when he assumed that she didn't want anything to do with him aside from work. He yearned to reach out and grab hold of her, to bring her close to him, to tell her that he wanted to be with her. But he couldn't. Akane wouldn't even look at him, let alone spend her life with him.

Chapter 9

Ranma watched Akane as she gracefully when through her kata forms, the flow of her attire moving as smoothly as that of a gentle river. Her movements were very feminine yet very powerful, and they were perfectly in synch with the traditionally forms that her late father had taught her,
every step perfect, exact and precise. As Ranma watched her, he felt a warm feeling in his heart. It was as if Akane was doing the movements for no one but him, which wasn't the case for the room was filled with students, all of them watching Akane attentively.
As he continued to watch her, he noticed Akane taking a glance towards him. He slightly blushed, grateful that he was too far away for her to notice. He watched her for several pleasure filled moments before he had to turn his eyes from her. He knew that if he continued to watch her, he would have gotten up from his seiza position and grabbed hold of her, kissing her like there was no tomorrow. Obviously, this wouldn't go well with most of the male students in the class.
Ranma's gaze went around the room. He noticed that several of the students watched her more attentively than some of the other students. Obviously,
these students must have a crush on her. That was perfectly reasonable. A student having a crush on a sensei in a dojo was the same as a student having a crush on a teacher in a school. It was the forbidden fruit that create such attractions. Knowing that you can't have that person only makes you want them more. That was how Ranma felt. He wanted Akane so bad. He wanted to hold her, to kiss her, to show her his feelings for her, to be her lover. He wanted to be all of that and more. But there was a little voice inside of him that said it wasn't right, saying that he should never get involved with his boss.
As she continued through her kata forms, Akane stole a glance towards Ranma. Upon seeing him, her heart nearly skipped a beat when she saw him looking directly at her. She could see a slight hue of red forming on his cheeks, as if he were blushing. Aside from his blushing, she noticed his eyes filled with this passionate fire that she had never seen before, as if he longed for her. That was how she felt. She too longed for him. She wanted to be close to him, to cuddle with him, to taste his lips on hers, and maybe even...
What was she thinking about? How could she even conceive such thoughts?
But her thoughts didn't seem so uncivilized when she remembered the fire in Ranma's eyes a second ago. Maybe she too wasn't the only one thinking of those thoughts. But when she looked towards Ranma again, he was no longer regarding her, but was rather looking around the room, his attention on the students rather than her. That felt like a knife through her heart, like she wasn't even worthy of his attention. She noticed that Ranma was regarding most of the male students, as if he cared more for the males rather than the females.
Sighing to herself, Akane continued on with her kata forms, her attention now on the picture of her father hanging on the wall. If Ranma felt she was worth his attention, then she wasn't going to give him her attention either.
Ranma lifted his gaze from the students, a small smile on his lips. He knew exactly why those male students were so attracted to the lovely Akane.
They saw her the same way he saw her, beautiful, strong-willed, graceful, caring, and most of all, the real reason why men were fond of her kind, unattainable. She was the kind of person wanted to have but couldn't, as if they were reaching for the stars.
Ranma's smile vanished when he looked towards Akane again. She was no longer paying attention to him. He noticed that she was now looking at a picture on the wall.
Perhaps this is her father, Ranma thought to himself. Maybe that's the kind man she wanted. Maybe she wanted a man just like her father. That's what most daughters looked for in a man, a person that was just like their father. Ranma felt crestfallen. He was probably nothing like Akane's father. Why would Akane want Ranma anyway? He had children at an early age, his wife left him, he couldn't hold down a job for longer than a few years; that meaning his job as both a sensei and a chief-executive of a computer engineering company. And that was even half of it. Maybe it was best that she stayed away from him anyway. Obviously, a woman who was like Akane shouldn't be around guys like him, a womanizer. At least that was how he viewed himself.
Ranma looked at the clock that hung on one of the walls of the dojo, the time was nearing when his daughters' school was letting out. Sighing to himself, Ranma got up from his seiza position and bowed as he stepped off the mat. Akane turned her attention towards Ranma, she still going through her kata forms, each movement as precise as the prior one.
Ranma mouthed the words that he had to go pick up his daughters, and Akane gave a brief nod, right before turning her attention back onto her forms.
He headed for the locker room to change, several females watching him intently. It seemed that while all the males were paying attention to Akane,
all the females were paying attention to Ranma, much to his unawareness.
Upon exiting the locker room, Ranma noticed that the students were all lined up near the front of the dojo, all of them, including Akane, paying their respects to one another by bowing. The class was coming to a close,
the training session over.
Ranma decided it was best that he waited, so he could tell Akane that he was leaving to pick up his daughters, instead of leaving so abruptly.
"Thank you very much, sensei" the students said in unison, all of them bowing towards Akane as she too bowed back in return, that signaling the end of the training session for the day. One by one, the students headed for the locker rooms, the females heading for the female locker room, and the males heading for the locker room Ranma just emerged from, some of the students bowing to Ranma along the way.
"Akane," Ranma said.
"Yes?" Akane asked as she walked up to Ranma, wiping some of the sweat from her forehead with a towel she grabbed from a nearby cubby. Ranma could smell the slight scent of perspiration on her, and it was intoxication,
making want to grab hold of her and hold her close to him. But he quickly banished those thoughts from his mind.
"I have to go pick my kids up, I'll be back in a short time," he said,
smiling weakly. He had to put up some sort of front against Akane, not wanting her to know just how much he wanted her.
Akane's knees felt a bit weak when he smiled towards her "S-sure. No problem. Take your time. The next class won't start for a while"
"Would you like to come with me?" Ranma asked, swallowing a large lump in his throat, as if he were asking a girl out on a date for the very first time. Actually, it kind of felt like he was asking Akane out on a date, and since he hadn't dated in a long, long time, it felt like he was doing this all over again.
Akane was a bit surprised upon hearing those words. She noticed him take a deep breath before asking her, as if he was trying to rid his nervousness.
She felt a bit flattered when she realized this, when Ranma was nervous talking to her at the moment. But then she thought about the offer. She just couldn't. She recalled the scene at the restaurant, when Ukyo kissed him.
She couldn't help but remember that those two seemed perfect for one another. Akane wasn't the kind of woman who would steal a man from another woman. But then again, Ranma wasn't Ukyo's in the first place. Yet, for some reason, Akane could get past that. The fact that Ukyo and Ranma were once lovers made everything different. "I-I'm sorry...but I can't," Akane declined, not looking in Ranma's eyes.
She knew that if she looked at those beautiful eyes of his, she wouldn't be able to lie like she just did. "Oh," Ranma said, a bit crestfallen, feeling a bit depressed. He was hoping she would say yes. He was hoping she would want to be with him, to spend some time with him. But it was obvious she didn't. She probably wanted nothing to do with him.
"Well...I guess I should get going now," Ranma said smiling weakly,
desperately trying to hide the hurt that was within him, much to no avail.
The only thing that kept Akane from realizing this was that he turned his back toward her.
Sighing inwardly, Ranma said as he left the dojo "Bye,"
Akane watched as he left the dojo, his words echoing in her mind as if he would never return. That thought disturbed her considerable. Sooner or later, he would fall in love with someone else, leaving her behind, wondering what could have been if she tried to get to know him. Akane thought of that for a long time, so long that when she finally decided she would take her chances and open up to Ranma, he was already gone. By now, the dojo was empty, and she felt incredibly lonely. It wasn't the fact that there were no students there, but the fact that there was no Ranma there was what made her lonely.
Not wanting it to turn out the way she was suspecting, losing Ranma to Ukyo, and being lonely forever, Akane sought to win his heart. Determined not to lose Ranma to Ukyo, Akane headed out of the dojo, headed straight for Nerima elementary school, Ranma's daughter's school.

Ranma was pacing back and forth in front of the school when Akane arrived.
She stopped a few yards from him, realizing that he hadn't noticed her. She waited for a few moments, regarding him as he continued to pace, his steps elegant and graceful with an air of masculinity. She watched him look impatiently at his watch, anxious to see his daughters. She stood there gazing at him, her heart aflutter from the dedication he had towards his two daughters. The thought of meeting someone so committed to their children and perhaps spending the rest of her life with him gave her this warm feeling.
"Ranma," Akane called out, stepping forward, smiling warmly as Ranma spotted her. She had to maneuver past several mothers, whom were also there waiting to pick up their children. She noticed that several young mothers were paying Ranma far more regard than she'd like. But there was nothing she could do. Afterall, it wasn't as if Ranma was her...boyfriend.
"Akane," Ranma called out, gracefully avoiding all the mothers, noticing that there were no fathers among the crowd besides himself. He noticed that several of the young mothers were regarding him desirably, as if undressing him with their eyes, much to his discomfort. But he had gotten used to it.
Anyone from the opposite sex would considered him an extremely attractive man, so that was perfectly understandable. He ignored the glared as he maneuvered through the crowd, and he could have sworn having felt a hand brush against his backside as he headed towards Akane but he disregarded it.
He wanted to turn around and tell the mothers that he wasn't some trophy.
He wanted to tell them that he was more than just a desirable man, a piece of meat, a sex object. But he didn't have the time, for he wanted to be with Akane, to be near her, to be by her side. And the fact that she was there further justified that she might want the same thing in return.
"What're you doin here?" he asked, noticing that Akane was still in her dogi, realizing that she must have left in a hurry to catch him, not even bothering to change. Even thought she looked very beautiful in the attire she was wearing, he liked the thought that she didn't really care about her appearance all that much, unlike some of the other females. He liked the fact that Akane was more than superficial, as if she knew she was beautiful and didn't need to put on make up to flaunt it.
Akane was a bit self-conscious of herself, aware that she must have looked like a mess, what with her still in her sensei apparel and still sweaty from teaching.
What the heck, Akane thought to herself, it's not like it matters. He knows I didn't have the time, and that I was the one teaching today. She only made feeble attempt at fixing her hair, combing it back with her fingers.
Ranma watched as Akane did that. He just loved the idea that Akane didn't bother to fetch a comb to use it to fix her hair. It meant that she wasn't distraught over her looks, which made her look all the more desirable to him.
Ranma gestured for Akane to head with him toward the playground, where there were less people there to eavesdrop in on their conversation. He sat down in one of the swings, Akane noticing that although he was in his late-twenties, he had this boyish look to him when he sat there. He looked even younger than he already did now that he sat in that swing.
"I thought you were busy," Ranma said.
"I was wrong," Akane lied "I thought I was busy"
She felt a bit guilty about lying to Ranma. But there was a good reason.
She wanted to be with him.
Akane sat down next to him, in an adjacent swing, memories of her childhood flooding into her mind as she continued to swing back and forth,
memories of her and her friends seeing who could swing higher.
"This sure bring backs memories," Akane said, looking up into the clear,
blue skies, not a cloud to be seen.
Ranma didn't say anything for a moment. He seemed to be distraught over what Akane had just said "I'd prefer to think it didn't"
"Huh?" Akane muttered. She couldn't understand why he didn't like think back to the days when he was young. Childhood were the days where one could be carefree, free of responsibilities, no longer in need of worry about anything except when to be home to eat and when to go to school and sleep. "Why not?" she added.
"That's something I'd rather not talk about," Ranma replied, not looking directly at Akane, as if very ashamed. He looked thoroughly depressed with the feelings that the thoughts of his childhood had evoked, and the most intense of those feelings, shame.
Akane regarded Ranma intently, noticing how quickly his emotions had changed. She felt he was ignoring her, but she remembered reading this book that stated that men tend to become quiet when they have problems, just like women tend to talk when they have problems.
"I had a pretty rough childhood" he said.
"oh?" "I was abused when I was very young" Ranma said suddenly. He had kept this inside for a long time now. He had to tell it to someone. Anyone.
Akane said nothing, unable to comprehend all the thoughts racing through her head. She felt sympathy at first, but then it turned to anger. How could a person as gentle and loving as Ranma been abused when he was a child? How could this happen? Why would it happen?
"I-I'm sorry to hear that," Akane said, genuinely sympathetic. She couldn't think of anyone that deserved what Ranma had went through. She wanted to reach out and hold him, comfort him, tell him everything would be okay, but she couldn't. She had no right to.
"It was my father," he said, looking at nothing in particular.
"Oh my!" Akane said. She couldn't believe what she was hearing. She wondered how much turmoil Ranma must have been in, how much he had bottled up. Obviously, there was a lot more to him than she knew, cared to know. But she wanted to know. She wanted to know everything about him.
She wondered how horrible it would feel if her own father, Soun, had abused her. She wondered if she could cope with it, the thought that her father didn't love her, the thought that she would dread being a child,
being too helpless to defend herself.
"My father used to drink a lot," Ranma continued on "Whenever he was drunk,
he would hit me. But after a while, he would hit me, even when sober"
"Oh god," Akane said. She hated hearing those words. She could bear it. She felt so much grief for Ranma. He must have had a terrible childhood, dreaded coming home from school.
"My father used to beat me so bad that I bled," Ranma heard himself say. He couldn't really understand why he was telling all this to Akane. He hadn't even told Shori, his wife. He lived his life with that bottled inside,
no one having known, except his mother, Nodoka. She had watched helplessly as his Ranma beat him, beating him so hard that he would bleed from his wounds, sometimes beaten so badly that his fragile bones would break.
Nodoka had wished, with all her heart, believed with all her heart, that Genma, Ranma's father, would come around, finally realizing what he was doing was wrong. This went on for a long long time, until Nodoka couldn't stand it anymore, finally believed he would never change. Not until Ranma had been hospitalized with a punctured heart, the blow so hard to his chest that several ribs had been broken, the bone puncturing his heart, did she call the police.
"My mom finally called the police when my heart was punctured," he said in one breath, taking a deep breath to continue on. It was as if he had to tell her all this "He broke one of my ribs and the bone dug into my heart,
puncturing it. Eventually, it healed, but it never healed fully"
Akane gasped in disbelief upon hearing those words. She recalled how hard he was breathing after the two of them sparred against one another, but she had disregarded it. She remembered he was breathing a lot heavier than her.
She felt so bad, for she was the one who insisted on sparring, even after he told her he preferred not to.
Ranma held his chest, indicating that his heart never healed properly.
Even though the wounds didn't show, they still bled. Akane wanted to cry,
for causing Ranma to spar. She never knew he had heart problems, yet he continued on to spar. What if he collapsed, his heart failing him? What if he died...
Akane made a fist, her knuckles whitening from the tension. She felt very angry, angry at herself for causing Ranma any pain. She never expected him to be...fragile. He looked rugged and strong. The thought that he had heart problems never crossed her mind, never crossed anyone's mind.
How could a father do this to his kid, Akane thought, anger enveloping her. She didn't know the man, and she already hated him, hated him for what he had done to Ranma, poor Ranma.
Ranma's father, Genma, had been arrested, and he was found guilty of attempted murder. He died in jail, serving his life-long sentence. For that, Ranma blamed himself for his death, blamed himself for having to go to the hospital from the injuries he could no longer sustain.
"My father died," Ranma continued, his voice almost not his "in jail"
Akane said nothing. She felt anger towards this Genma, this man she never knew. But when she looked Ranma, she noticed that he seem to hold some kind of contempt towards his father. She had no idea it was contempt toward himself.
Why on earth would someone ever hit Ranma? Why? She asked herself those questions over and over again, coming up with no plausible answer. She wanted to ask Ranma what he thought about it, on why he would be hit, but she knew it would make him think more of the past, bring him more grief.
"I'm glad he died," Ranma said "I hated him"
But he never hated him. He always blamed himself for his father's death.
It wasn't his father he hated, but himself. From time to time, Ranma would awaken in from his sleep, dripping in sweat, awoken from visions of his father suffering in jail.
His voice is as cold as ice, Akane thought, almost inhuman and uncaring.
But deep down inside she knew he had a very warm heart. She remembered the fire she saw in his eyes when he was watching her earlier, as she did her kata forms.
"But don't worry about it," Ranma added, putting up a wall around him, a wall of ice. He no longer looked depressed, but rather neutral. His visage gave way no indication that he was sad, or happy for that matter. He looked stoic, almost cold, shutting off his emotions, like a robot. It was his problem, not Akane's.
"Look," Ranma said, his voice unreadable "no one knows about this, not even my daughters. Please don't tell them. It'll destroy them to know that I had been abused when I was their age"
"I won't say a word," Akane said "I promise" Ranma opened his mouth, about to say another word, but nothing came out.
It was as if he were trying to find the right words to say but came up with nothing reasonable. It was as if he wanted to tell her more about himself,
but thought otherwise.
What else is there to Ranma, Akane thought solemnly. What other burdens is he carrying? He seemed to be doing okay by himself, but there was so much more underneath, below the surface. He looked like he lived the most perfect life. But he hadn't. He had married at an early age, his wife left him, leaving him to rear his twin daughters, and now, Akane found out that he had been abused, and he never had a father who cared about him.
At that instant, the school bell rang, its ringing echoing loudly,
bringing Ranma and Akane's conversation to a halt. Akane regarded Ranma as he got up off the swing, heading toward the front of the school.
"Are you coming?" Ranma said, his voice warm. It was as if this conversation had never taken place, as if he and Akane were just chit chatting.
"S-sure," Akane said, getting off the swing. She walked up to Ranma and regarded him when he wasn't looking. She could now see content in his eyes.
She realized it was his children that made him totally forget how tragic his past was, made him glad it was all behind him.
She watched as Ranma's girls came running out of the school, their silk-like hair fluttering in the wind, their legs carrying them as fast as they could into Ranma's extended arms.
Ranma picked both his little girls up in his arms, hugging them fiercely before letting go. He placed them down, asking them how their day at school was. He listened intently as they went into meticulous detail about how they had a fire drill today and what they learned in class. He nodded, paying full attention as they continued to barrage him with how their day went.
"G'afternoon, Akane" Meggie greeted, remembering the nice lady who helped her to the bathroom the other day, and who stayed with them for breakfast shortly after that. She bowed towards Akane, the bangs of her delicate hair falling forward, covering over her liquid eyes.
"Hello, Meggie," Akane said, bowing politely toward the well-mannered young girl. She never met such a sweet thing in her entire life. She wondered how nice it would have been to raise such a sweet little girl, two for that matter.
Ranma looked at Akane a bit curiously. How could she tell the two apart,
he thought to himself. She only met them a few days ago. Everyone, even Shori, for that matter, had trouble telling them apart. They were identical.
Yet for some reason, Akane knew the difference between them, like night and day.
"G'afternoon" Jessie said in a loud and joyful voice, running forward,
wrapping her tiny arms around one of Akane's legs, her little hands tugging tightly at her dogi "I remember you. You're that nice lady who helped my sister," she added in and equally cheery voice "And you ate breakfast with us"
Jessie smiled innocently towards Akane, as if they knew each other for a long long time. Akane felt as if she already knew her and Meggie, the two daughters making her feel comfortable. She felt this funny feeling, like she had missed out on something great. She loved the feeling of little Jessie's arms holding her so lovingly, as if she trusted her life in Akane's hands,
and that felt very reassuring to her. She never had a single person in her life that acted remotely dependent toward her. It felt like she was taking care of someone, and the thought made her feel warm inside. The thought of caring for someone and someone needing her care made her feel needed,
important. But why did this child evoke those kind of feelings? They barely knew each other. And yet, it seemed like they have known each other all their live. She felt an immediate attraction toward Meggie and Jessie, as if she wanted them in her life forever.
"I'm sorry," Ranma said when he noticed that Jessie was wrinkling Akane's dogi. He was trying to talk to Akane will simultaneously trying to listen to Meggie continue to talk about their day "She's a little bit affectionate"
She was more than affectionate. She was a handful, a bundle of energy,
because she now had her hand in Akane's, pulling her toward the playground.
"I wanna play in the playground," Jessie said, tugging on Akane's hand. She was a very smart girl, and she knew that she wasn't allowed out of Ranma's sight unless she was with supervision. And since Meggie was busy talking to Daddy, she would have to have Akane escort her to the playground.
Akane looked at Ranma, not too sure what to do. She wanted to make the little child happy, but it wasn't her call. Ranma was the one in charge over whether or not she was allowed.
A quick nod assured that it was all right. Akane opening obliged and escorted Jessie toward the playground, which was already filled with mothers and their children.
"I wanna go on da swings," Jessie squeaked, tugging on Akane's hand,
signaling her to hasten herself. She couldn't help but wonder where the little child got her energy from. Even though she was in great shape, Akane knew she could never compete with a child in terms of energy. She'd be asleep from exhaustion where the child would be busy asking her to play some more. Regardless, Akane vowed that she would try her best to keep up.
"Okay," Akane said, following after the child as she raced for the gate leading to the playground. It seemed Akane was too slow for the little angel,
and she decided she was better off going by herself. Besides, she wouldn't be leaving Akane's sight. The swings were directly in Akane's line of vision, and she would see her as she made a beeline for them.
As Akane headed for the playground, which Jessie was already in and swinging on the swings, when Meggie raced by her.
"They love the playground," Ranma said, placing a hand on Akane's shoulder.
Akane's heart skipped a beat. She could feel the heat from his fingertips,
radiating from him, through her dogi. But he released his hold within moments. The familiarity made him do it, made him put his hands on her shoulder.
"I'm sorry," Ranma said, a bit embarrassed "I didn't mean to do that. It's an old habit"
It was a habit. He used to come here with his mother. He would always put his hand on her shoulder as she watched her grandchildren at play. He had to. Nodoka was slowly losing her hearing more and more as she got older. She could still hear, but not all that great. She had trouble making out the words if she weren't looking at the person directly. Ranma would place a hand on her shoulder to let her know that he was talking, so she could turn toward him to see what he was saying. Because she was losing her hearing,
she learned how to lip-read.
It was a habit, Akane thought, anger starting to rise. She knew what kind of habit it was talking about. It was an old habit for him to put his hand on a girl. It was one of those moves that all those playboys use, to make lonely girls feel wanted. Sure, she live all alone, and she did feel lonely,
but she wasn't going to let him take advantage of that. "It's because of my mother," Ranma added, before Akane had a chance to snap at him "You see, my mom's going deaf, and I always placed my hand over her shoulder to let her know I was talkin'. She and I always came to pick up the kids. Up until recently. It's not like I'm some playboy or somethin'"
Indeed, he wasn't some playboy. Although hundreds of women asked him out,
he had stayed celibate since Shori left him. He may be very attractive to the opposite sex, but he couldn't care less. He didn't care about himself.
He only wanted one thing in his life...a mother for his kids.
Akane felt very embarrassed. She thought Ranma made a habit of putting his hand on a girl's shoulder, as if he were a playboy. He looked like a playboy to her. She wondered how many women he slept with before he finally met her.
"Oh," Akane muttered, not really know what to say.
"Daddy," Jessie called out from the playground "can ya gimme a push?"
"Me too," Meggie followed.
"I'll be right there," Ranma called out.
He looked at Akane for a moment, a most serious visage showing "Akane, my kids have no idea of the hardships I've been through. Please, don't let them know"
With that said, Ranma ran towards the playground.
"Good afternoon," Akane greeted the elderly mother, noticing how beautiful she looked, despite her age. Aside from some crow's feet around her eyes and a few wrinkles, Nodoka was very beautiful. She had this maternal air to her,
which made Akane think of her own mother. But those thoughts quickly passed for there weren't that many memories to remember, her mother having died when she was a very young girl.
Akane bowed, noticing this warm and familiar feeling Nodoka was generating. She looked elegant, like a queen, yet she was very down-to-earth and polite.
"Afternoon," Nodoka said, bowing respectfully, her auburn hair fluttering in the passing wind since it had gotten a bit windy that afternoon.
"I'm Akane," she said in her most well-mannered voice. She felt a bit intimidated by Nodoka for some reason she was unable to explain. It was as if she were dating Ranma, and he was taking her to meet his parent, and of course, she wanted to make a good impression. But why, she wasn't dating him, and there was no reason to be intimidated. But somehow, she still was,
no matter how many times she told herself to calm down. She could feel her heart racing.
Nodoka was probably the kind of woman Ranma loved and obeyed, and the thought of Nodoka telling Ranma not to see her, and him actually obeying scared her. So naturally, she wanted to get on Nodoka's good side.
"I'm Nodoka," she replied warmly, regarding the young girl. She noticed Akane was dressed in a dogi, which seemed odd. But aside from that, she seemed like a nice girl.
She seems a bit overly nervous for some reason, Nodoka thought. Is she always this nervous? She look like a sweet girl, like Ukyo. I think I like her as much as Ukyo. She's much nicer than that Shori.
"I see you've met my son," Nodoka said after a few moments, finished with her assessment of Akane. She liked her, a lot considering to only other person she liked was Ukyo, which she hadn't seen for over 8 years, since she and Ranma broke up.
"Y-yes," Akane said, taking a deep breath. She felt weird as Nodoka regarded her, assessing her. Even thought she had dated a few guys, far fewer than a girl of her beauty and age, over the years, and they took her to meet their parents, she never really cared more about them liking her than the mother standing before her.
"How do you know my boy, Ranma?" Nodoka asked. She wanted to know her role in Ranma's life. She wanted him to settle down. Maybe Akane was the one.
"Mom," Ranma said, butting in. He didn't want to be the topic of conversation among his mother and Akane. He knew he was the topic of discussion among all the girls his path cross, but this was one conversation that he preferred not to be involved in.
"Akane's my boss," he said, pronouncing each word clearly for Nodoka to read. Sure, she could hear what Ranma was saying, but she found lip reading a lot easier than trying to discern the mumbling noises that she heard.
He was not one bit ashamed that he had a female superior. Other males, the majority of them would have been ashamed of working under a female, where their masculinity would be questioned. But here was Ranma, proclaiming it,
unabashed. He was secure enough about his masculinity that working for a female would, in no way, affect it.
"I'll be back later tonight," Ranma told Nodoka, giving her a kiss on the cheek. "Bye, Daddy," Jessie and Meggie said in unison, both over them giving him a big kiss on the lips, causing Akane to wonder just how good his lips would feel on hers.
"Goodbye, my little angels," he said, giving them both a group hug, reluctant to let go.
"Bye, Akane," Jessie said, tugging at one the sleeve of her pants,
indicating for her to bring her head down to the little girl's head level.
As she did so, Akane was caught off guard when Jessie kissed her on her cheek. She was a bit shocked at the affection this little girl generated.
Ranma must have been a very caring father to raise his daughters up like this.
"Bye, Akane," Meggie said, also kissing Akane, but on the other cheek.
Akane almost wanted to cry. She felt so loved. She never felt like this before. no one have ever been this affectionate towards her, not even her father, and he had loved her with all his heart. She loved the feeling,
reveled in it. She felt as high as a kite.
"We better head back," Ranma said, ready to leave.
"Let's go," Akane replied, reluctantly heading off toward the dojo. She wanted to stay with those children, never leaving. She began to wonder why on Earth his wife would leave such darling angels behind, would never want to play a part in their lives. She couldn't help but giggle when thoughts of herself taking over his wife's part entering her mind, thoughts of becoming Meggie and Jessie's mother, thoughts of being Ranma's wife.
"What's so funny?" Ranma asked, a bit curious. He could never really recall ever having seen Akane laugh. This was indeed the first time she had laughed in a long long time. As she laughed, Ranma couldn't help but notice how much seeing Akane laugh made him happy. Even though she hadn't laughed since her father's death so many years ago, it seemed natural. He liked seeing her laugh, and he wanted to continue to make her laugh. Perhaps, if she allowed him, he could make her laugh for the rest of her life.
"It's nothing," Akane said, trying to suppress the giggle, much to no avail.
"Meggie and Jessie seem to really like you," Ranma said, changing the subject. He knew that if she wanted to tell him what was so funny, she would have. If she didn't, it was none of his business.
"They're really affectionate" she said.
"Yeah," Ranma commented, matter-of-factly "But they never ever opened up like this to anyone. You seem to have a knack for my children"
She liked hearing those words, words from Ranma saying that she was good with his children.
Even though Ukyo showed up, maybe Akane still had a chance.

Chapter 10

Ranma and Akane watched as the last of the students left the dojo, the training session finally over. The training would have been over sooner if one of the students didn't ask to remain can continue to train. He was one of the more advanced students, and him always asking for extra help was what got him to where he was when it came to training.
"G'night" the student said, bowing respectfully before leaving.
Akane watched as the student left, admiring him. He was one of her most prized students. He was also young and very well-manner. Aside from Akane and Ranma, he was the best martial artist around. There were times, before Ranma showed up, where he sparred against his sensei, and gave her a run for her money every here and there.
"He's very disciplined," Ranma commented, leaning up against the entrance door to the dojo. It was meant as a compliment, a compliment on how great a teacher Akane was.
"Yes, he's one of my..." Akane said, taking back her words. They were now their students, not just hers "our most prized students"
"He's more your student than mine," Ranma said in a soft voice, his gaze up on the stars. It was a most beautiful night. The winds were blowing yet very gently, the sounds of the rustling leaves soothing to one's nerves. Just listening to the leaves as they fluttered against the blowing winds was very relaxing.
"I better get going," Ranma said, a bit reluctant. He wanted to stay longer, but there was no reason. He didn't want to put Akane on the spot by asking her if he could stay, she might get the wrong idea. Sure, he wanted to be with her, but he didn't know what she thought of him. He remembered how mad she looked when she saw him with Ukyo.
"Don't stop on my account," Ranma recalled Akane saying in an angry tone.
He remembered how she looked disgusted at him "It's not like the two of us are seeing each other anyway. He's just working for me" her words echoed in his mind. Was that all she viewed of him, just an employee. But then again,
they had spent some quality time together, with his children. At least he thought it was quality time. But then again, how could it be quality time if Ranma was the only one babbling? And why did he tell her about his childhood? No one around, except Nodoka, knew that he had been abused. He never even told his wife, Shori. Ranma didn't want to believe that he told her that because he wanted someone to take some of his burdens. He had lived through so many hardships, hardships one he had to deal with alone.
Maybe that was one reason why he told her, he didn't want to be alone.
"It's not like the two of us are seeing each other. He's just working for me" Akane's words echoed through his head again, this time a lot louder and clearer. If she didn't care about him, then why did she come with him to pick up his children? Because she cared about her employees, not him. Maybe she thinks I still love Ukyo.
"Goodnight, Akane" Ranma said, bowing respectfully, unable to make eye contact "I'll see ya tomorrow"
"Goodnight," she said reluctantly. She didn't want him to leave, but there was no reason for him to stay, aside from she wanting to be in his arms. She wanted to reach out and take hold of him, never letting him go. He had so many hardships over his life, and she wanted to take some of his burdens off. But then an image of Ukyo entered her mind, images of her kissing him,
and him not pulling away. A bit of heat flooded into her body. He had Ukyo by his side to take the burden, she thought, her pride doing the thinking. She couldn't believe she was falling for another woman's man. She noticed he didn't even look her in the eye, as if ashamed of something, ashamed of himself. He had nothing to be ashamed of. She should be the one who was ashamed. She was falling for him, and she couldn't have him.
Ranma left without saying another word, leaving Akane behind, all to her lonesome, alone in to spend her nights in a quiet and lonely home. It was like a form of symbolism, him leaving her behind, she living alone. That was what it felt like. It wasn't him leaving her house, but him leaving her that bothered the most.
"Ranma," Akane called out, swallowing the lump in her throat "Why don't you stay a little longer?"
The her words would go unheard, Ranma already gone.

Ranma arrived at Nodoka's house late in the evening. The sun had been down for a couple of hours already. The sky was clear, the stars twinkling brightly. There was a full moon that night, its light shining brightly,
emanating a silver glow. It was certainly peaceful that night, the only noise heard were the blowing winds and rustling leaves.
Ranma stood in front of Nodoka's home, regarding it for a short time. The house was very old, at least a century old. The roof was weather worn and needed new shingles. There were several missing shutters from the windows,
several others broken and hanging limply on rusty hinges. The walls were dull, the paint chipping off. Indeed, the house was old, and it was in desperate need of renovations. But that wasn't what Ranma was thinking to himself about. The home brought back memories, memories he preferred not to remember, memories of his father beating him. This was the home were he had lived all his life, until he had finally gotten his first job, the job of his dreams, being a sensei. But that job hadn't lasted long. Due to the arrival of his daughters, Ranma was forced to find another job, to support them. And until recently, he stayed there, no matter how much he disliked it,
working harder than anyone else, working even harder when Shori left him and was forced to rear his twins on his own. Luckily for him, he managed to get the most perfect hours, working when his children where in school. Actually, it was luck. Ever since Ranma's arrival, the company seemed to do whatever it could to accommodate his needs. Ever since his arrival into the company, not only did company morale increase considerably, especially among the females, but Ranma's creative ideas helped the company take off.
He looked up toward a window on the second floor, the window leading to his old room. He sullenly remembered spending quite some time gazing out of if when he was young, looking up toward the sky, wondering when he could escape from all those beatings his father gave him. He remembered as if they were yesterday. He would be on the verge of crying as he looked out the window, wondering why his father beat him so terribly. Ranma sighed, grateful that he would never have to go through that for the rest of his life, that it would never happen again. His father was no longer alive to beat him.
Ranma rang the doorbell, waiting several moments before it was answered.
"They're asleep," Nodoka said, opening the screen door for Ranma.
Ranma nodded in acknowledgment as he entered the house, the floorboards creaking and groaning under the weight. Even though the house was old, it still had this cozy feeling to it. Ranma looked at the grandfather clock that was up back against the wall of the livingroom he had entered. It was located right next to the piano. It was pretty late, and his daughters always seemed to go to sleep at a particular time no matter where they were. It had been like this for a long, long time.
"I guess I should let them sleep," Ranma said, sitting down on the sofa after he had removed his shoes, stretching his legs forward to relax his tense muscles. He wanted to put his feet on the glass livingroom table, but he knew he would be scold by his mom for such unruly manners.
"You're going to spend the night" his mom said. It was a statement, not a question. She opened a closet door and brought out a pillow and blanket. She already knew what he was going to say. It wasn't like he was going to go home while his daughters slept her. And it was obviously he was going to wake them up so he could take them home.
"I guess I've no choice," Ranma said, getting up and taking hold of the pillow and blanket, carefully placing them on the sofa to his liking. He watched as his mother headed off into the kitchen.
"I'm going go up and check on Meggie and Jessie," Ranma said, heading for the stairs at the other end of the room. It wasn't as if his mother would hear him, but he said it anyway. He gracefully hopped up the stairs,
leaping up two steps at a time. He turned left at the first door he came up to, the door to Ranma's old bedroom.
He gently opened the door and entered, careful not to make a noise. He didn't want to wake his sleeping daughters. The room was almost pitch-black.
The only light was there was the moonlight shining in through the windows,
its silver light shining on Jessie and Meggie's face. They were both sleeping in the bed together, Ranma's old bed.
Ranma smiled to himself as he leaned over to kiss his daughters on their forehead. Jessie's bangs were covering over part of her face, and he gently moved them aside, to reveal her angelic face.
"Daddy?" Jessie said in a very sleepy voice. She was barely awake, her eyes more closed than opened.
"Shh," Ranma said in a soft voice, so soft he could barely hear it, But no matter how softly he said it, he knew Jessie would hear. She had excellent hearing "Go back to sleep. You and your sister have school tomorrow" "Daddy," she said "Do you like Akane?"
"Huh?" Ranma said, a bit surprised. Why would his daughter ask that all of a sudden? He was expecting her to say goodnight or something.
"What do you mean?" he asked.
"I want her to be my Mommy," she said, still sleepily. After having said that, she closed her eyes and went to sleep.
"I would like that also" Ranma said quietly, thoughtfully "I'd like that also"
Those words made him think. He had truly meant them. He not only wanted wanted Akane as their mother, but he wanted her as his wife. He had never met a woman like her in all his life. He wanted to be with her, to cherish her...for as long as he shall live. Yes, he even wanted to marry her. But what could he do? She probably wasn't even interested in him. Why would a girl like her, as sweet and beautiful as her, want to burden herself with him, burden herself with two daughters? Why would she want extra luggage?
She had to worry about taking care of the dojo. Why should she want to add him and his daughters to that list?
Ranma no longer wanting to think about the reasons why Akane would never want him, gently tucked the blanket up to his daughters' necks, kissing them again on their forehead before heading downstairs, shutting the door behind him.
Downstairs, Ranma turned the livingroom light off, taking his shirt and pants off, throwing them into a small pile at the front of the table. He then threw his legs up on the sofa. He was glad the sofa was very large, and that he didn't have to worry about his feet extending over the one of the ends.
But he was too tired to really care. He had a long day.
Yawning once, Ranma closed his eyes, sleep bestowing him within moments.
Chapter 11

The warm morning sunlight shone in through the open window. A gentle breeze blew in, the curtains gently fluttering to and fro. The streets were mild with traffic, most of the people still home with their families. The birds were chirping, a delightful song for Akane to hear after having been awaken by the monotone beep of her alarm.
It was six-thirty in the morning when Akane woke up, shutting her alarm clock immediately.
She stretched out her arms out. She then yawned aloud while simultaneously rubbing the sleep out of her eyes. She sat upright and she threw the blankets off to the side, her legs falling over the side of the bed, feet touching the ground.
She got up out of her bed, heading straight for the bathroom for her morning shower. She was lusting for the feeling of warm water all over her body. She didn't even care that she was still in her nightgown, which was quite revealing. She had gotten used to living alone so she never needed a sense of modesty when at home. It wasn't like someone was going to see her.
After the shower, she got dressed in her usual jogging her outfit,
consisting of jogging shorts, which showed a lot of leg, and a short-sleeved shirt.
Once dressed, she headed out of her house, beginning her usual morning jog.

Ranma was on his way to work when he accidentally bumped into Akane. They met in the same fashion as in the park a few days ago, literally bumping into each other.
"We've got to stop meeting like this," Ranma joked, helping Akane to her feet. His hands sending electricity through her body upon its touch, as hers did his.
"You're right," Akane agreed, although a bit reluctantly. Aside from the time Ranma accidentally placed his hands on her shoulder, bumping into him was the only physical contact she ever had with him, and she wanted it.
"Hey, isn't today beautiful?" Ranma commented, taking in a lungful of the crisp morning air. He always loved good weather, loved it more than the next person. It was because good weather allowed him the opportunity to spend time with his daughters at the park or some other outdoor place.
"Yes," Akane said, now in step next to him. They were walking side by side,
so close that she close wrap her arms around his arm. But she didn't.
"Man, I wish my kids don't have school," Ranma said, paying no particular attention to anything, just enjoying the weather.
"How come?" she asked, a bit curious. She wanted to know more about him,
and if this was the way, to let him open up, then she would gladly listen.
"So we can go to the park or something," came the reply.
"Why not go tomorrow?" Akane suggested, "It's going be very nice out, and it'll be the weekend"
"Yeah, but by the time I get off of work, it'll be a bit late in the day," he said, a bit crestfallen. He wanted to spend quality time with his kids so bad.
"No you won't," Akane said, a smile on her lips "You don't need to work over the weekends. The dojo'll be closed"
"Really?" he said, happiness in his voice.
"Yeah," she replied, liking Ranma's reaction to finding out he has the weekend of to spend it with his kids. She liked seeing him smile, which was a bit rare. Afterall, aside from raising his kids, he had lived a terrible life.
"Thanks," Ranma said, little more affectionate that she expected.
Before Akane knew what had happened, she was in his arms, her head pressed up against his broad chest. She could feel his strong arms around her, his hands on her back, pressing her tightly close to his body. Her face was so close to his that she could smell his aftershave, which made her a bit light-headed. But before she could enjoy the embrace entirely, Ranma released her.
"I'm so sorry," Ranma said, releasing his embrace. He didn't know what came over him, couldn't explain it. He had always been an affectionate person,
which was quite odd considering he grew up in a house where there was no affection for him, save for his mother.
Ranma was blushing terribly, his cheeks a rosy-red. He couldn't believe what he had just done. Why did he do that?
"D-don't worry about it," Akane said, every bit as embarrassed as him. She had enjoyed that short embrace far too much. Her heart was beating rapidly,
her hands sweaty, her breathing a bit heavier. She felt so nervous when she was with him, and that little incident made her even more nervous. She had to use everything in her power to keep from kissing him passionately. She wanted him so bad. She loved the way it felt to be held by him. It just felt right. But she couldn't do it. "I'm sorry," Ranma said. God, he wanted Akane so bad. He could almost taste her lips on his. He wanted to make love to her right there, and he had to use all his will power to keep himself from ripping her clothes off and taking her right there, in the streets. And he was barely succeeding with that. But he couldn't do that. She didn't want him. She viewed him as nothing more than her employee, and why should she be interested in him, he had a lot of baggage, baggage a twenty-eight year old woman should not be tied to. She, like him, was still too young to take care of children.
As Akane stood there, gazing into Ranma's eyes, she realized that he was Ukyo. She swore silently to herself, wishing he was available,
wishing he didn't have Ukyo.
"Hey, what's that?" Akane said, changing the subject. She knew it was best that they ignored the incident. It was purely accidentally. Yet, Akane knew that she would forever remember it.
"What?" Ranma asked. He had no idea what she was referring to. He followed her gaze, resting on a large crowd that had formed around something just in the near off distance "What's going on there? You wanna check it out?"
"Yeah, we still have a half hour before the first class starts," Akane said, looking at her watch. She remembered her teaching schedule by heart.
"Let's go then," Ranma said, already a few steps ahead of her. He seemed thoroughly curious about what the crowd was there for. He had the curiosity of a young kid, which made him seem a lot younger than he really was.
Ranma and Akane was mixed in with the crowd shortly, the two of them gently making their way toward the middle, where the crowd was centered around.
Ranma was the first one to make his way through the crowd. He was surprised to see exactly what the crowd was centered around. He should have known when he realized that the crowd was made up mostly of males. In the middle of the gathering, there was this beautiful woman posing for a cameraman, who was taking rapid pictures of her.
She was a beautiful woman, her mane of hair glistening in the morning sun.
She moved with such grace that she seemed like a ballerina as she went through her poses. She was wearing a short skirt, her long slender legs seeming to reach the heavens. She must have been the most beautiful woman anybody in Nerima had ever seen. She must have been a supermodel. Everybody was staring at her, their jaws practically on the ground. Some of the males could be seen drooling, hentai thoughts entering their perverted little minds. There was only one guy from the entire male crowd whom was unaffected by her beauty, Ranma.
"Oh," Ranma said to himself, "it's just a model shoot. I better head back"
Before Ranma had a chance to get away, he managed to trip on his own feet,
falling forward, right into the supermodel. The two were sent sprawling onto the ground, the supermodel falling on top of Ranma, her face buried into his chest.
"What the hell's your problem, bub," the supermodel snapped, her voice vicious, a look of shear anger in her eyes "Didn't I tell you guys to say at least five meters away..."
But the supermodel never finished her sentence, her eyes gazing into Ranma's. She had never seen someone so immaculate in her entire life, and she had been around many, many male models over her career. By now, Akane had made her way through the crowd, just in time to see this wickedly beautiful girl sprawled out on top of Ranma and was there just in time to hear...
"Hello there," she said, getting to her feet "Where have you've been all my life"
"Uh, hello Shampoo?" Ranma said in a meek little voice.
"Why're you here?" Ranma asked the beautiful purple-haired woman. He,
Akane, and Shampoo were all in a local coffee shop, drinking a cup of morning coffee while dozens of jealous guys peeked in through the window on Shampoo, envious of how close Ranma was to their beloved Shampoo.
"I'm here doing a model shoot," Shampoo answered in perfect Japanese. She always had a problem speaking Japanese, her native language being Chinese,
but over there years, since Ranma had last seen her, her Japanese had improved dramatically.
Akane watched as Ranma and Shampoo indulged themselves in conversation, a bit of anger welting up. She couldn't believe Ranma had the audacity to hit on another girl while she watched. She couldn't do anything though but watch and listen. She wanted to leave, but where would that get her.
"This is Akane," Ranma told Shampoo, his gaze on Akane, whom was sitting next to her, noticing that a slight hue of red coming across her cheeks.
"Hello, Akane, nice to meet you," Shampoo greeted warmly. "Same here," Akane said, forced politeness. She felt threatened by this beautiful lady sitting before her, and it bothered her considerably. She had nothing on Shampoo, except her beauty made her jealous. She knew that she could probably get any man she wanted just on her great looks, even Ranma.
"So, how's Mousse?" Ranma said casually, turning his attention away from Akane and onto Shampoo again. He wanted to get the conversation away from him and onto someone else. He had noticed that Akane seemed to be getting the wrong idea, that he and Ranma had once been lovers.
"He's doing great," Shampoo said, a smile on her lips "He and I married a short time ago"
"You did?" Ranma said a bit surprised. He wasn't expecting to hear about Shampoo having married Mousse. He remembered many years ago, when he was visiting China on a business trip and coming across Shampoo's village. He remembered meeting Shampoo, whom he met at a local food store, and then meeting this man with thick glasses whom was named Mousse. He remembered even being challenged in a duel by the man when he thought he was taking his Shampoo away from him. He never did challenge him though. When he found out Ranma told him he had no intention of stealing his Shampoo from him, Mousse seemed to lighten up and become friendly. They eventually became friends,
only spending a very little time with him, Ranma having to back home at the conclusion of his business trip.
"We got married last year," Shampoo said, taking a sip of her coffee before continuing on, "I always knew I was going to get married to Mousse, but I just loved playing hard-to-get. Because he never gave up, I knew just how much he loved me"
"What's Mousse up to nowadays?" he asked, taking a sip of his coffee.
"He's a police officer," Shampoo said, her voice filled with pride. She was proud of the what Mousse had become over the years.
"Who's Mousse?" Akane asked, curiosity getting the better of her. She no longer felt threatened by the Shampoo because she had just found out that she was married. She was wondering who this Mousse was to have stolen her heart.
"You should meet him, Akane," Ranma said brightly "He's a very nice guy. He used to have an extreme vision problem. He wears these somewhat thick glasses. Whenever he takes them off, he's as blind as a bat. He is so blind he once thought I was Shampoo"
"Hey, don't you go making fun of my husband," Shampoo said, a bit defensively. She didn't like anyone bad mouthing her husband's vision problem, even if it was Ranma, a guy she came close to falling in love with when they first met "Besides, he now wears contacts"
"That's good to hear," Ranma joked "Now I won't have to worry about him hitting on me" He actually had nothing to worry about. He and Mousse had become good friends just prior to his departure for Japan at the end of his business trip.
Akane watched as Shampoo and Ranma broke out in laughter. She felt this fluttering feeling in her heart upon hearing him laugh. She had never seen him laughing like that. He looked carefree, as if there were no worries. She liked that, liked the way he looked when he laughed, and she wanted to continue seeing him laugh, perhaps for the rest of her life.
"Oh, we better get going," Ranma said, noticing the time. He gently scooted out of the seat, reaching into his back pocket, producing his wallet. He took out a five hundred yen bill and left it on the table.
"It was nice seeing you again, Shampoo," Ranma said warmly "If we meet again, I'd like to introduce you to my kids. You haven't seen them yet"
"Same here," Shampoo said "Same here"
With all that had been said, Ranma and Akane left the coffee shop.

Work went relatively quickly, half ending before Akane and Ranma knew it. It was exactly two-thirty when the last student bowed and left the dojo.
Ranma began sweeping the mats as Akane went into her little office to work on the forms of some new students wanting to join. She smiled to herself,
knowing that ever since Ranma started working for her, the amount of new students had increased dramatically. Even though the majority of the new students that joined were female, she was still happy about having more students. Because so many females came to this dojo, eventually, the males would find out and they, too, would start flooding in.
"Hey Akane," Ranma called out, finished with his sweeping. He was now leaning up against the side of the door, his arms crossed over his chest.
"Yes, Ranma?" Akane asked, looking up from the paperwork. She liked the way Ranma looked as he stood up against the doorway, his chest heaving from teaching before. His lapel of his dogi was slightly open, exposing the cleavage of his muscular chest.
"What say I bring my kids over here after school?" Ranma suggested, his head leaning up against the doorway "So they could see where I work,"
Akane wasn't too sure what to say. She wasn't too sure what his children could do while they both worked. Sure, they could watch, but they would get bored in a matter of minutes. Then what? She didn't have any toys for them to play with.
"But there's nothing here for them to play with," Akane said, paying full attention to Ranma, a bit more attention to his chest than she would like.
She was wondering how it would feel to have her head resting up against it,
after a passionate night with him, hearing the steady beat of his heart.
"They could play with you," Ranma said, a smile on his lips "while I take over for you in the dojo"
"What?" she said, her eyes widening. She had no experience with children.
She had no idea how to keep his children busy. She never really been with children, except for yesterday when she and Ranma went to pick Meggie and Jessie up after school.
"They really like you, you know," Ranma said, entering the small office,
sitting down in front of her, which was so very close that she felt a bit uncomfortable. She was so close to him that she could smell the scent of his perspiration mixed in with the smell of wood from the bokkens he was teaching with.
"They do?" Akane said, a bit surprised. She was aware that she had only met his children a few days ago, and already, they liked her.
"Yeah, they told me last night," he said, not mentioning the exact words that they wanted her to be their Mommy "When I was tucking them in,"
"Well, then how can I refuse?" Akane said, feeling a bit confident, not as reluctant now that she was aware that they liked her. She, too, liked Ranma's girls, and she would very much like to get to know them at a much more personal level, as she Ranma at an intimate level.
"Great," said Ranma, getting back up out of his seat, noticing the lapel having been open and fixing it, much to Akane's disappointment "I'll be back with them in a short while"
Ranma left the office, heading toward the male locker room. After several moments, she could hear the sound of a shower hissing throughout the entire dojo.
Akane couldn't help but fantasize about Ranma in the shower, fantasizing about the warm water flowing down his naked body. She wondered how it would feel to be in the shower with him, helping him lather that beautiful body of his, soaping him from his head to toes, stopping to pay particular attention to his...
"What am I thinking of?" Akane said to herself, blushing an unbelievable shade of red. Her cheeks were so red it could make a rose jealous. She placed her hands on her cheeks, noticing how hot it felt to her touch. She could even feel her heart beating rapidly within her chest.
She tried to distract herself by turning her attention back onto the paperwork, but it was useless, the sounds of the shower running was far more a distraction to her than anything she could possible think of. She was unable to focus for a split second, Ranma's shower in her mind. The best thing she could come up with was to bury her hands in her face and wait,
wait for Ranma to be finished with his shower, trying desperately not to think of those erotic images of him.
Then, as if on cue, when Akane was about to rush into the male locker room to take Ranma, the shower was cut off.
"Thank god it's over," Akane said, breathing heavily. She could barely hold out all those urges that were flooding her senses. She felt like she was about to explode from the strange sensations, sensations she had never felt before in her entire life.
"I'll be back later," Ranma called out, finished with his shower.
"Bye," he heard from the office.
Ranma, now dressed in his street clothes, which consisted of jeans and a button-up short-sleeve shirt, left the dojo, heading straight towards his daughters' elementary school.
Ranma had to get out of that dojo and fast. His was still slightly damp from his shower, his cold shower. He needed that shower. When he was in that little office, with Akane, him being so very close to her, so close he smelled her own perspiration as she did his. He wanted her so bad as he stood at the doorway, looking in on her. When he entered the office, he had noticed that her lapel was slightly open, exposing far more cleavage than he preferred to see, which would have been obvious if her gaze had went south when he was standing there. Luckily for him, he managed to sit down before she noticed his aroused state.
"God, that was close," Ranma said to himself as he headed for his daughter's school.

Ranma waited patiently in front of the elementary school. He paced back and forth, paying no attention to anything in particular. Ranma was the only male there waiting to pick up his kids. The rest were mothers, ranging from young twenties to the middle-aged forties. Most of the young mothers stayed in one group while the elder ones stayed in another. Ranma busy was the pacing back and forth in between both groups. He wasn't paying any particular attention to either groups, while the group full of young mothers were paying a lot of attention to him, much to his unawareness. They were keenly aware that he was the only male there. They talked about how all the other males, their males, were too busy doing other things rather than to come pick up their own kids. Some of those young mothers were single, very single, and they took advantage of that.
"Hi," one of the mothers said, stepping away from the group.
"G'afternoon," Ranma said, bowing respectfully, like a gentleman. He regarded the young mother intently. She was around her mid twenties and was very beautiful.
"Are you here for your kids?" she asked. She felt like a school girl again, trying to make conversation with a boy she liked. But at her age,
and her marital status, it was considered making conversation with someone she desired. And besides, he wasn't wearing a wedding ring, meaning he was up for grabs.
"Uh huh," he replied, not really paying much attention to her. His gaze was on the front gate. He was patiently waiting for his two daughters to emerge through those double doors and come running up to him.
"How about you? Same thing?" he added.
He just wanted to have a conversation with her, to pass the time.
"Yeah," she said, "She's seven"
"She's seven? That's the same age as my daughters," Ranma said, now a bit more interested. It wasn't that he was interested in the girl, but was more interested if their kids could be friends.
"Maybe our daughters can be friends," the young mother said. She figured she might be able to get closer to Ranma if she had an excuse to be near him...because they're daughters are friends.
"Yeah," Ranma said "I'd like that"
"I'm Mai," the mother said, extending her hand forward to shake Ranma's hand. It was an old custom she had gotten used to. Although she was originally born in Japan, she lived in America just a few years back, and she had only been in Japan for a short time now.
Ranma, unaware that he was supposed to shake the hand, did the closest thing he thought was reasonable. He took her hand and kissed it "I'm Ranma"
Mai blushed, her cheeks turning a rosy hue. She had never met someone as friendly and mannered as this Ranma she was talking to. She gave him a warm smile and continued the conversation.
After a short time, the sound of a bell could be heard as it tolled through the school, signaling the end of the school day. Upon hearing the bell, Ranma stopped the conversation abruptly, his gaze intent on the double doors, his heart racing, dying to see his daughters.
"Well, I guess I better get going now," Mai said, giving Ranma a friendly wink. She actually thought she was getting somewhere with him.
"I'll see you tomorrow then," Ranma said politely, not even noticing that Mai was interest in him, and not their daughters becoming friends.
Mai headed back towards her group, disappearing as all the young mothers swarmed around her. Ranma didn't pay much attention, for he was regarding the front doors more than the group. If he had listened intently, he could have heard the young mothers talking about him.
"What's his name?"
"Is he married?"
"I don't think so, I didn't see a wedding ring"
"Give me the details. What did you two talk about?"
"Nothin' much. It turns out he has two daughters. They're both seven"
"You mean twins?"
"I think so"
"Anything else?"
"Yeah, he'll be here tomorrow"
After that, giggling could be heard. Ranma didn't pay attention to what was going on around him. He wasn't even aware that the group of young mothers were talking about him. He assumed they were talking about what all mothers talked about, recipe swapping or something similar.

"Ranma?" came a voice, startling Ranma for a second. Ranma was daydreaming at the time. Otherwise, no one would have gotten anywhere near him without him noticing.
Ranma turned his attention to where the voice came from, and much to his surprise, it was Ukyo Kuonji.
"Ukyo, what're you doin' here?" Ranma asked, a bit perplexed. Why should she be there? Not unless she was there to meet him. At first, Ranma felt a bit embarrassed that Ukyo would go through so much trouble to see him, but then he realized that there was no way Ukyo could have known that he was going to be here.
"I came here pick up Miki," Ukyo said.
"Miki?" Ranma asked. He never heard of this Miki before. "She's my daughter," came the reply.
"You have a daughter?" Ranma asked, a look of shock in his eyes. He never suspected Ukyo would have a child. She looked absolutely beautiful,
slim, fit, as if she never had one to begin with.
He gave her a good look up and down, admiring how Ukyo managed to keep in shape. His wife had gotten a bit overweight right after the twins were born,
and he knew that it was a very hard task to lose that excess weight. Eventually, his wife had lost the weight.
"When did this happen? How old is she?" he added, interested. He truly thought he knew Ukyo real well, but now that he just found out that she had a daughter, there was a whole different side to her that he was unaware of,
a side he wanted to get to know.
"I had her about half a year after you left. She's eight" Ukyo said, a bit reluctant to tell him. It was as if she was nervous about telling him for some unexplainable reason.
"Half a year? You don't mean..." Ranma said, his words dying before they left his mouth. He didn't want to believe what he was thinking. His heart started pounding quicker, his adrenaline pumping. He was not ready for this.
He didn't want to hear what she was about to say.
"Yes...she's your daughter"
Chapter 12

"You're joking," Ranma said, desperation in his eyes. He didn't want to believe what he had just heard. He couldn't fathom the thought that he and Ukyo had a child together.
"No," Ukyo said matter-of-factly. She wanted to say she was joking because Ranma looked like he was in such turmoil. He looked like he was full of conflicts. His visage showed that he was still in shock over finding out he had another daughter.
"Why didn't you tell me sooner?" Ranma said, placing his hands over Ukyo's shoulders. Ukyo realized that he was holding her to steady himself, to keep his buckling knees from giving out under him. Even though he looked pale,
she could still feel warmth from his fingertips. He seemed to always have that effect on her.
"I didn't know I was pregnant," Ukyo said, not looking directly into Ranma's liquid eyes "I found out shortly after you left me"
Ranma didn't know what to say. He just stood there, holding onto Ukyo's shoulders. Thoughts raced through his mind as a mile a minute, thoughts of how his life could have been if he had found out sooner, if he had stayed with Ukyo, if he never met Shori, his wife, after so long.
"Oh god," Ranma said "I never knew. I'm so sorry"
Ranma was ashamed he never took responsibility for Miki. He would have stayed with Ukyo if he had known sooner. If Shori, his first love, hadn't walked back into his life, he would have stayed with Ukyo, and would have found out she was pregnant.
"Don't worry about it," Ukyo said "It's water under the bridge. I knew I couldn't compete with Shori. Afterall, you had fallen in love with her way before you and I met. It was just bad timing I guess"
Yes, Ranma thought to himself, very bad timing. If Shori hadn't walked back into his life, he would have stayed with Ukyo, and his life could have been totally different. He was too naive to believe Shori had changed, had changed for the better, that she wouldn't leave him again. If he hadn't met Shori after all those years, he could have been married to Ukyo, happily married. But then again, Jessie and Meggie would never have been born.
"Ranma?" Ukyo said after a few moments. She noticed Ranma seemed to be deep in thought.
"Yes?" Ranma asked, turning his attention towards her.
"I was wondering," she said, a bit nervously "Now that you and Shori are no longer together, is there any chance we can continue where we left off?"
Ranma looked up into Ukyo's eyes, truly flattered that she would want him back in her life, even after he had left her for Shori. He wanted to say yes, but he'd be lying. There was no way they could pick up where they left off, for Ranma now had two daughters...more like three.
"Ukyo," Ranma said "I can't"
"Why not?" Ukyo asked, a bit crestfallen. She was expecting him to say this, but she wished in her heart that he wouldn't.
"Because I'm in love with someone else," he said clearly.
"Is it that Akane girl?" she asked, recalling the woman's name he was with when she and Ranma met in the restaurant.
"Yes," came the straight reply.
"Well, if you won't love me," Ukyo said, tears forming in her eyes. She wanted him so bad. She had loved him even after she had left him "Can you please play a role in my life?"
"I'd love to," Ranma said, sincerity in his husky voice "We'll have to get used to it. Our daughters will become great friends"
"Daddy," came two voices in unison, causing Ukyo and Ranma to turn their attention from each other and onto somewhere else.
Ranma's heart leapt as he spotted his two precious daughters emerging from the school, running towards him, their arms extended, ready to hug him.
Ranma knelt down and extended his own arms, embracing both his daughters tightly.
"Who's she?" Meggie asked curiously, gesturing towards Ukyo, noticing Ukyo watching them with an almost tearful expression.
"This is Ukyo" Ranma replied, releasing his two daughters. "You can call me Ucchan," Ukyo said, kneeling low, her head level with Ranma's daughters.
"Hello, Ucchan," the two daughters bowed politely.
"Hello, Meggie. Hello, Jessie" Ukyo said, bowing in return "I remember you from when you were very little. You probably don't remember me. You two were only one at the time"
"Mommy," came a voice in the far off distance, causing the four to turn their attention toward where it came from.
Their gaze rested on a little girl brown-haired girl who had just emerged from the double doors of the front entrance. The little girl looked every bit as beautiful as Ranma's twin daughters. She was dressed in a frilly pink, a pink bow holding her short hair in a small topknot.
Ranma and his two daughters watched as Ukyo hugged Miki fiercely, sweeping the little girl off her feet, swinging her in the air for a few moments.
When she placed Miki down, Ukyo turned her attention toward Ranma, her visage solemn.
"This is Miki," Ukyo said "your other daughter"
Ranma bowed toward Miki, smiling as sweetly as possible. He was caught off guard at the response Miki gave to him. He, a natural with children, wasn't prepared to see Miki cringe back, like a timid creature, hiding behind Ukyo's legs.
"She's a little shy" Ukyo commented, giving the little girl a pat on the head. She didn't say anything to Miki, knowing that it was perfectly understandable that someone as shy as Miki was would cringe back like that.
"Hi, I'm Meghan," Meggie said, bowing courteously "but you can call me Meggie. And this is Jessica," she added, jerking a thumb toward behind her back toward Jessie "but she prefers being called Jessie"
"Hiya," Jessie said, bowing also, her bangs falling down over her face.
Miki said nothing, just staring blankly at Jessie and Meggie, then turning her head to stare blankly at Ranma.
"C'mon," Ukyo said, a slight bit of exasperation in her voice "can't you at least say something to 'em"
"Don't worry about it," Ranma said, putting his hands up "No need to rush her. She'll open up when she feels like it. Just give her time"
"I'm Miki," Miki said hesitantly. She didn't want to upset her Mommy. But aside from that, this Ranma fellow looked like a nice guy. She even recognized his two daughters from the classroom adjacent to hers"
"Hello, Miki," Ranma said, kneeling down, studying her "I'm Ranma"
Ranma could help but admire how beautiful this child look. Her brown hair looked like silk, her eyes a warm chocolate brown, and her features serene and gentle. She looked like she was going to grow up to be a beautiful woman. But there was one thing on her that bothered Ranma a bit, these bruises on the child's arms, but he disregarded it. His little daughters had a couple of bruises on their arms from playing with each other too hard.
"Ranchan," Ukyo said, a bit surprised that her child had already opened up to him at such a short time. She usually had to introduce someone to her several times before she spoke up "I wish I can stay, but Miki and I have to get going now"
"All right" Ranma said, turning his attention to Ukyo, which made her heart skip a beat. She always liked the way Ranma would pay full attention to her, unlike some of the jerks she had met overt the years "But I'd like to see you two again. So we get our kids to know each other"
"What do you have in mind?" Ukyo said, interested. She was starting to like having told Ranma about Miki, considering there was a chance to spend some time with him, perhaps some quality time.
"Well, how about you come by my mom's house tomorrow afternoon?" he said,
recalling the plans he wanted to do tomorrow "I'm thinking about painting her house. After that," he added, looking at his two daughters "we can go to the new amusement park that just opened up" "Really?" the two asked in unison "Do you mean it?"
"Yep," he replied, loving how much his daughters' faces just lit up. He loved making them happy, no matter how inconvenient it was for him. He has gone to such extremes as walking several miles in pouring rain to fetch his daughters some food they craved for.
Meggie and Jessie jumped for joy. They hadn't been to an amusement park in a while. They were near the amusement park several days ago, when their dad bumped into Akane, but they had spent most of their day in the playground nearby that they didn't have time to check out the amusement park just a block away. They loved going to amusement parks.
"I'm not too sure we can make it," Ukyo said, going over her mental schedule "But we'll try,"
Ranma looked at Miki and noticed she was about to say something, but stopped when she saw Ukyo giving her a sharp look. He noticed the child look down toward the ground, kicking at some nearby stones, avoiding his gaze.
What was Miki gonna say, Ranma thought to himself. And why did Ukyo give her that strange look? "Well, don't make yourself a stranger," Ranma said "I'd like to see you and Miki again"
Ukyo gave him a warm smile, reaching over an giving him a tight embrace.
She wanted to kiss him again like she did in the restaurant, but she couldn't. He was in love with someone else. But she wasn't going to give up yet. She was going to try her hardest to get Ranma back. And this time, she had Miki to help her out.
"We better get going," Ukyo commented, taking hold of Miki's tiny hand.
"Bye," Ranma said, waving to Ukyo and Miki as they disappeared around a corner. He smiled warmly as Miki stole a glance back at him, noticing as if she didn't want to leave, at least not yet.
"Would you like to come with me to see where I work?" Ranma said, once Ukyo and Miki was out of sight. He had to keep himself distracted. He had just found out that he had another daughter. He was struggling to think straight.
"Yeah," the two said together.
"Then let's go" Ranma said. He smiled, the thoughts of his other daughter disappearing from his mind for a moment. But they came racing back as fast as they had disappeared. He started wondering about Miki.
"Daddy, I'm hungry," Meggie said, tugging on Ranma's jeans.
"Me too," Jessie agreed.
"Would you like me to cook for you when we get to Akane's?" Ranma suggested, holding both of his daughters' hands in each hands.
"Yeah!" they said, jumping in joy. They loved it when their Daddy cooked for them. They would rather eat Ranma's cooking over anything else. Several years ago, they would have said no, but Ranma's cooking had improved significantly as he continued to cook at home more and more often.
Akane was eating her lunch, which consisted of a simple salad and a sandwich, when the doorbell rang. Her heart leapt when she realized that it must be Ranma with his children. She was starting to get worried for a little bit when he hadn't returned in a short while. It usually took him about thirty minutes to fetch his children and take them to Nodoka's. But today, he wasn't taking his children to their grandma's, for he was heading straight to Akane's house, and that shouldn't had taken as long.
She was caught by surprise when she opened the door and saw Ranma holding a bag of groceries. She could see that him buying groceries must have been what took him so long. She held the door open as he entered, smiling sweetly to his daughters who were in tow.
"Hi, Akane," Meggie said, followed by Jessie's greeting.
"Hi, Meggie," she said, "Hi, Jessie"
"Hey, Akane," Ranma called out from somewhere in the house "where's the kitchen?"
"It's the first door to your right," she said.
Ranma entered the kitchen and placed the grocery bag on a nearby counter,
managing to catch the bag just before it tipped over. He then started to take all the groceries out of the bag. Akane and the two girls entered the kitchen as he did so.
Akane watched as Ranma took out a whole assortment of groceries, ranging from onions to peppers to eggs to sirloin steak. What ever he was making, it looked like a complicated recipe.
"I figured I'd make the kids something to eat" Ranma said, still taking out the groceries. By the time everything was out, the entire table was filled with food, all of them ready to be combined into a beautiful dish,
whatever it was.
"Daddy's a great cook," Jessie commented, tugging at Akane's pants. She had gotten into the habit of pulling on a person's pants to let them know she was talking since she and Meggie spent most of their days with Nodoka.
It was just like Ranma placing his hands on someone's shoulder.
"I bet he is," Akane said, giving the girl a gentle pat on her head.
"Hey Akane, when does the next class start?" Ranma asked, fetching a pan from a nearby cupboard. He didn't' have any trouble finding anything,
everything placed in the most practical and convenient of places. The sounds of oil sizzling could already be heard, followed by the sounds of the fan to keep the kitchen free of fumes.
"Um, in a little more than an hour?" Akane replied, looking at her watch. Class didn't start till five exactly "Why?"
"Good, that gives me plenty of time," Ranma said, chopping some onions on the cutting board. Akane couldn't help but wonder where he managed to find a cutting board. She didn't even know she had one. She never really cooked at home, she preferring to eat out. Besides, she wasn't that good of a cook.
Even though she couldn't cook too well, she could prepare a really mean sandwich.
"Hey Meggie, Jessie, you should stay outta the kitchen, I don't want any oil to splatter on you," Ranma said, gently gesturing for them to go out into the living room. He remembered once when a single drop of oil splattered on Meggie's arm, causing the little girl to wail out in pain. He did not want to go through that again. Afterall, the most painful burn was the one that could be prevented.
"What do you want me to do?" Akane asked once the little girls were out of the kitchen. She didn't know if she was suppose to follow them or stay behind, so she decided to stay. She watched for a few moments as he cut the onions with the speed of a master chef, his slices perfect and graceful.
"I'd like you to help," Ranma said, handing her the knife. He smiled as he tilted his head toward the half-chopped onions. Akane froze for a second, not really knowing what to say. She was flattered that he wanted her to help, but he had no idea just how bad a cook she was. She gazed at him intently, noticing the muscularity in his arms as he chopped away. She had to admit that she found something very appealing to seeing a man as masculine and virile as Ranma showing competence in the kitchen. By now, he had was blending some butter and sugar and eggs together in a large steel bowl he had found in one of the cabinets. He could have easily used the mixer on the counter he had forgone. Instead, he chose the more traditional approach, beating the ingredients together in a bowl that was in the crook of his elbow, the muscles in his arms and forearms flexing as his arms moved in a blur of motion, turning the mixture into a creamy mass in a short time.
"Um, I'm not that good of a cook," Akane said, looking at the knife in a very meek fashion. She even held it oddly, which definitely meant she hadn't held a knife in a long time.
Ranma smiled sweetly, placing the bowl he was mixing onto the counter "I'll help"
He stepped up behind Akane, reaching around her sides and seizing her hands with his own strong hands. He then started to chop the onions as Akane's hands held onto the knife. With Ranma's body pressed up against hers, she could feel the heat flow from him and into her, causing her knees to feel weak. She noticed his hands were as soft as her own, yet they were strong. Her heart raced as she felt his strong chest pressed against her back. She could smell the scent of his shampoo from the shower he had taken earlier. The smell of his shampoo caused images of his shower to come flooding into her mind, causing this heat to rise up within her. Her nipples were hard and were pressed up against the fabric of her shirt. She was grateful that she was wearing a heavy shirt, otherwise Ranma would have noticed. She had to do something. Her body was lusting for his, every single one of her nerves ending telling her that they wanted to feel the soft touch of Ranma's hands brush over them. "Can you please not stand so close?" Akane snapped, the first words coming into her head, causing Ranma to immediately release his grip and take a step back. She held her hands, the sensation of his hands on hers still very noticeable to her.
She couldn't have him so close to her. If he hadn't stepped back, she would have turned around and kissed him fiercely, savoring his lips on hers.
She wanted him so badly that it was killing her that she couldn't have him.
She wanted to tell him that she was madly in love with him, and that she wanted to marry him and be with him forever. But it would have destroyed her because she would have heard him decline her offer. She didn't want to hear those few, devastating words 'I'm sorry. I can't'. She had to distance herself from him, so she wouldn't be that hurt when he finally went back into Ukyo's arms. She knew she would be hurt, but she wanted it to hurt as little as possible, and keeping her distance was the best thing she could come up with.
Ranma's visage became crestfallen upon hearing those words. He could do nothing but take a step back. He was glad that Akane's back was to him,
otherwise she would have seen a very sullen and depressed visage. He wanted to crawl under a rock and die. He had taken the initiative to let her know that he wanted to be with her, to touch her, but she snapped at him, told him to back off. It had taken all his courage to reach out and take her hand. If she hadn't pulled away from him touch, he would have proclaimed his love for her, told her that he had fallen in love with her. It had been the most prefect time for that, the kids in the other room, him so close to her that she could hear his faintest whisper. But reacted to his touch in the same way he had dreaded, shrinking away. He had seen her hold her hands,
as if she didn't want his touch, as if his touch had hurt her.
"I-I'm sorry," Ranma said, his expression neutral, hiding all the hurt inside. He now knew that Akane didn't want him to be near her. At first he didn't believe, didn't want to believe, that she only viewed him as an employee 'It's not like the two of us are seeing each other anyway. He's just working for me' Those words echoed in his mind. He wished she never meant them, but because of how she shrank away from his touch, it must have been true.
Akane said nothing. She wanted to tell him she loved his touch, the way it felt on her skin, but she couldn't. This was the best way to distance herself from him. If she didn't she would be devastated when Ranma left her for Ukyo. She remembered how Ranma didn't back away at all from the kiss Ukyo had given him. It looked like he had thoroughly enjoyed it. How could she compete with Ukyo? Ranma had known Ukyo from a long time ago, and they had been more than just friends. She's beautiful, much more than I am, Akane thought. She couldn't help but get a bit angry because she knew it was true. Ukyo had a thick mane of hair, much more beautiful and elegant that her own little boyish-type haircut.
As she continued to slice away at the onions, Akane turned her head and stole herself a glance at Ranma, who was busy cutting some green peppers into little, fine strips. She regarded him for a second, noticing how he looked unbothered by her having told him not to be so close to her. And she hated it. She wished he looked remotely depressed.
Sighing inwardly to herself, Akane continued on chopping the onions.
Ranma kept his visage neutral. He didn't want Akane to think that he was madly in love with her. He didn't want her to see him looking depressed, even though his insides were in turmoil. If she knew he was in love with her, it would have put a serious strain on them working together. Akane would feel odd about working with someone who was in love with her when she didn't have the same mutual feeling in return. Even though she didn't want him, Ranma wanted to do all that was in his power to be with her, to be near her. If he couldn't have her, he was happy being with her.
As he continued to think to himself, an image of Miki entered his mind,
blocking out everything else, even Akane. He began to wonder about this new person who entered his life. He wondered if he was cut out to raise another child. He wondered if Meggie and Jessie and Miki would become good friends.
Although he thought about Miki, he wasn't thinking about her enough. He couldn't quite explain it. If someone were to find out they had had a daughter with an previous lover, they would be plagued with thoughts,
thoughts of this child. But for some reason, Ranma wasn't too bothered by this. Maybe it was his paternal instincts talking, but he was telling himself he not worried about having to raise a another child. He wasn't worried about getting to know the child, to get her to accept that he was her father. He would take everything nice and slowly, letting everything unravel naturally. There was nothing much else he could do until he met Miki again. All he had to do was be patient until the time was right.
How will Akane feel about this, Ranma thought. How will she feel about my having a child with Ukyo? I guess it'd be best to keep this secret until the time is right.
Sighing to himself, Ranma continued on with his own chopping.
Chapter 13

Akane stole a glance toward Ranma as he taught the class, gazing toward him out her small office window. She placed one arm on the desk, the elbow on the surface, her head resting in her hand, watching him as he paid careful attention toward each student, like helping them out with their kata forms, telling several young women that he was not interested in dating them right now, the latter unheard by Akane.
She leaned back in her chair, still tasting the delicious meal she had had earlier, it tasting better than anything she had ever had. She could recall the atmosphere as she and Ranma and his daughters ate, a comfortable one,
one she could get quite used to. The conversation was casual, ranging from what Meggie and Jessie did in school today to how Ranma had come across Akane's sensei ad to how he had learned to cook that great meal. She wondered how great it would be to eat like that all the time, to spend her breakfast, lunches, and dinners with Ranma and his two daughters. It would be great. She could prepare their meals together with him, learning to cook better with each passing day. She pictured everyone sitting around the dining room table, eating together, conversing about their day or the day to come, just like a family.
"Akane, where does this piece go?" came a voice, causing her to snap out of her reverie. She turned her attention toward Jessie, whom was showing her a small odd-shaped piece.
Akane and the twins were busy trying to piece together a jigsaw puzzle,
Akane having found the box hidden in a closet. The jigsaw puzzle was over twenty years old, one that her father had bought her for her for her eighth birthday. The box had brought back memories when she stumbled upon it, sweet memories of when her father was alive, before that tragic accident that ripped him out of her life.
Akane regarded the piece for a second, then turning her attention onto the box cover, which had a picture of several kittens in a basket peeking their heads out over the top. She then looked back at the jigsaw piece, and then back toward the box. After several more repetitions of this, she found the spot where it belonged, the piece fitting in quite lovely.
"Wow, you're good," Jessie commented,
Akane didn't say anything. She just smiled. She was too caught up in enjoying their company. She enjoyed being with Meggie and Jessie as much as she enjoyed being with Ranma. It was strange. She felt this sense of need that made her feel important. Sure, she had a students who needed her to teach them the ways of bushido, but this need was different. She liked caring for someone else. It gave this sense of meaning in her life. She only had to care for herself ever since she had been alone, and she always felt there was something missing. And now, with being near Meggie and Jessie,
that gap was filled.
"Having fun?" Ranma said, stepping into the office. He had several minutes of break time, him having told the class to go through several kata motions.
The sounds of everyone yelling as they performed their moves could be heard echoing throughout the entire dojo.
Akane's heart skipped a beat, for he was standing behind her, bent over,
his face right next to her as he looked down at the jigsaw puzzle box cover.
He was so close she could smell the slight scent of perspiration, his hot breath brushing across her face, the heat from his body radiating into hers.
His presence made her keenly self-conscious. She wondered how she looked,
still in her casual clothes, her short hair probably ruffled.
"We're almos' finished," Jessie said, placing a piece in the appropriate location. The puzzle was more than half finished, the three of them having worked on it for over an hour now. Most of work was due to Meggie and Jessie, Akane not paying too much attention to the puzzle, her attention intent on something else, or someone else. Although she didn't do much, she did do her fair share of contributions to the project.
"My, aren't those are cute looking kittens" Ranma said, sitting down, relaxed, carefree. He looked like he had all the time in the world. He was actually helping out, placing a few pieces in their place. Some of them didn't fit though. Akane could help but giggle when Ranma tried to smash a couple pieces in place, hammering it with his fist.
"That looks like it fits," he said, smiling meekly. He knew it didn't fit,
but maybe his girls wouldn't realize.
"That doesn't fit, Daddy" Jessie said, taking the piece out and placing it in its proper place "It goes here"
"Let's see you do better," Ranma joked, realizing that Akane was laughing at him. Although she was laughing at him, he still liked hearing her laugh.
Akane accepted his challenge, taking hold of a piece, studying the box cover. After several moments, she found the right place and placed the piece in it.
"You were lucky," he said, taking a piece, placing it on the puzzle,
smashing it in with his fist again. It didn't fit. The piece had three prongs, and he was trying to squeeze it into a place with two prongs.
"That don't fit there," Meggie said, silent until now.
"Looks like they're finished" Ranma said, noticing that everyone was now waiting patiently for him to come back out of the office. They were all in their seiza, proper sitting, position "Bye, honey"
Akane bit her lip upon hearing those words. She actually thought he was referring to her and not his daughters. She actually thought he had called her 'honey'. She just sat there, mesmerized by that one word, even if it wasn't meant for her.
Ranma walked back up to the front of the dojo, where everybody was waiting patiently for further instructions. A thought crossed his mind, causing him to wonder if Akane thought he was using the word 'honey' for her.
Nah, he thought. She wouldn't even think twice that it was for her, even though it was. He had accidentally let that slip. He was about to say 'Bye,
girls' but when he looked at Akane for a split second, the word 'honey' came out for no reason. He kind of wished he could call her that for real, and he wished she wanted to be called that.
Smiling inwardly, Ranma continued on teaching the class.

Akane was reading a magazine in the livingroom when Ranma entered her house, the teaching session having come to a close. She would have been in the dojo when class had ended if Meggie and Jessie hadn't asked her to show her around in her house, to give them a tour.
She looked at her watch. It read 10:30pm. It was over an hour after the scheduled time that class was supposed to end.
"Some students wanted some extra help," Ranma said, reading her mind. He knew that she wanted to know what took him so long.
She said nothing, just nodding in acknowledgment. She sometimes kept the dojo opened to help some fellow students out so she wasn't at all upset.
"Um, Meggie and Jessie both fell asleep," Akane said, changing the subject.
She had to. She had regarded him for several moments and realized that he was now in his own clothes, and his hair was slightly damp from his shower.
Upon realizing that he must have came straight from the shower caused her to wonder, to dream, about the warm water falling down his muscular body,
turning her on. She couldn't have those thoughts. Not now. It would just make the hurt so much deeper when he left.
"They tend to do that," Ranma said, sitting down in a nearby chair. His heart jumped when he noticed Akane's nipples pressed against the fabric of her shirt. He could tell that she wasn't wearing a bra, the only thing separating her naked top from his yearning hands was the thin fabric of her shirt.
It must be the cold, Ranma thought to himself, reluctantly turning his gaze away. He didn't want Akane to think of him as a hentai if she caught him staring at her well-developed chest.
"Where are they sleeping?" he asked, particularly paying attention to a nearby plant, which gave the room some color. He had to keep his gaze from her. Afterall, she wasn't interested in him.
"They fell asleep in my bedroom," she said, closing the magazine, placing it down on the coffee table "You wanna go up and see them?"
"Yeah. I better go wake them up so I can take them home tonight," he said,
already a few steps up the flight of stairs. Akane was in tow, secretly stealing several glances at his backside. He had such a cute butt that she couldn't help but look.
"They could spend the night," Akane suggested. She had slept alone in this house for several years that she was hoping that it wouldn't be empty tonight, even if it is for one single night.
"No, I better take them home," he continued. It wasn't his daughters he was looking after but himself. How would he ever get any sleep, knowing that he was under the same roof as Akane, that he would be nearby while she slept.
"But they don't have school tomorrow," she said. She really wanted Ranma and his two daughters to stay. She didn't want to be lonely. She had lead such a solace life that she wanted a change. But she had no idea what she was getting into. She would most likely have a sleepless night when she realized that Ranma would be nearby. To realize just how virile and masculine as he climbed those steps doomed her to wish she hadn't persisted in him staying. She should have realized that Ranma was a man, afterall.
But her mind was clouded with yearning. She wanted someone near here, to know that they were nearby. She was so lonely. Could one blame a girl for wanting a man nearby if she lived for years alone?
"Fine, I'll leave them with you," he said, stopping at the top of the stairway. He wanted to do all that was in his power to stay away from her.
He knew that there was no way for him to get a decent night's sleep if he was aware that Akane was close by. Heck, he was a man, and there was no telling what he would do under those circumstances.
Akane walked ahead, showing him to her room. She was wondering why he didn't want to stay. It was as if he was trying to avoid her. Ukyo popped into her mind. Maybe he wanted to leave so he could spend some time with Ukyo, now that he didn't have to worry about the kids for the night.
"Besides," Ranma said "I have a date"
Akane's heart practically shattered into a million pieces. How could he?
She felt angry toward herself, knowing that she could do nothing about it.
She wanted to tell him no to go, but then she's being a little overprotective. And of who? Ranma was a full grown man. He could take care of himself. She had no hold on him, let alone tell him what to do.
"You do?" she asked. She just had to know. Was it Ukyo he was dating? Or maybe it could have been of their students? She was aware that most of the young women have taken a keen liking to him. Heck, she too, took a liking to him, except it was secret. All the females in the dojo always watched as Ranma did anything. Sure, one should pay attention to their sensei, but this form of attention was different. Who knows what hentai thoughts must have been running through those females' minds?
"Yep," Ranma said with a smile "with the Laundromat"
Akane breathed a sigh of relief, catching it before Ranma had heard. That means he isn't going to see another woman tonight, Akane thought. She could feel this aching feeling in her heart starting to subside, going away.
She lead him to the door to her bedroom. She couldn't help but feel like she was leading him into her bedroom for a night of passion, as if sneaking him into the house when her father is asleep. But she had never done this in her entire life. She never even had a boy in her bedroom before. If it was that scenario, then Ranma would be the first, her first.
She blushed deep red upon that thought, grateful that her back was to him.
"I usually do it right before I pick up the kids," he added, entering the room. He could smell the faint smell of roses. He turned his attention onto this vase of roses sitting at a nearby desk.
That's probably from her secret admirers, Ranma thought sullenly. She probably had a lot of them. He wondered who it was from. It was most likely from one of her students. He recalled how they watched her do her kata movements with starry-like eyes the other day.
Akane noticed that Ranma was paying particular attention to her vase of roses, unaware that he was thinking they were from one of her admirers. It was nowhere near the fact. She had bought those roses to give the room some color. Aside from several pictures that hung on the wall, her room was pretty bland and colorless. She made it a habit to always buy a dozen roses every other week, and she had always done this for several years.
"They're nice, huh?" she asked. She wanted to turn on the lights to show just how much the roses lit up the room, but she didn't want to wake the kids up.
"They're beautiful," he commented, turning his attention away and onto his sleeping princesses. He wished he had thought of something like that, to bring her roses. Maybe she might like him if he did that.
Ranma looked at his two sleeping angels, they tiny legs falling over the side of the bed "When did they fall asleep?"
He gently gave them a kiss on their foreheads, Akane watching him intently. The image of Ranma as he gently kissed his daughters made Akane think back to the days when she was young, when her father used to do that,
tucking her in every night, doing that all the way up until the day he died.
Akane watched for a second, wondering how long Ranma would continue to do this. Then, he raised his head and looked at her, his countenance relaxed,
his features docile. He looked her right in her eyes, her heart melting as she looked into those beautiful eyes of his. His eyes had this unexplainable look to it. It always looked as if he were about to cry, stopping at the last minute, fighting them back. They hid so much about his life. She had only learned a fraction of his life. His eyes kept so many secrets, many secrets she wanted him to reveal to her. She noticed that every time she saw Ranma with his daughters, he looked very happy, yet his eyes contained nothing but sorrow. What was this sorrow for?
"Well?" he asked after few moments. He looked at Akane, wanting to tell her of his problems, but he didn't want her to carry his burden. All of this he had to deal with. He coped with all these problems alone, and he knew no other way.
"What?" she asked. She was momentarily distracted from his gaze. She felt light-headed, intoxicated by the shear closeness to Ranma. He was in her bedroom, right next to her, at the foot of her bed. They were looking over the sleeping twins. For a brief instant, Akane actually felt like this was her family, that she was married to Ranma, and they were now tucking their children in. It wasn't like she was just an observer, watching as he put his daughters to sleep.
"When did they fall asleep?" he repeated, his voice sounding patient.
"Oh, at around ten," she replied.
That was the usual time they fell asleep. They would be very active throughout the day, but come ten 'o clock, they fall right asleep. It was as if their internal clock tells them that it was bedtime.
"I figured so," Ranma said, nodding "That's the usual time they go to sleep. I don't know why, but they always fall asleep at around that time"
That was good. That meant he never really had to go through the trouble of getting them to fall asleep at the appropriate time. Of course, it gave him a whole bunch of other problems, like getting them out of their own clothes and into their pajamas, or perhaps getting them to take their baths.
Ranma pulled the covers back, realizing that they were in pajamas already.
"They said they were sleepy so I gave 'em my old pajamas" she said,
reading his mind. She could tell he was wondering why they were wearing pajamas, this confused look on his face. He couldn't recall having brought pajamas over, and pajamas that looked like that.
"They also took a bath," she added proudly. She wasn't aware that Ranma knew his daughters liked taking baths. She never helped anyone take a bath before, and she was quite proud that she managed to get two people to take a bath at the same time.
"Man, and I always have trouble getting them to take a bath" Ranma said glibly. He noticed how proud Akane sounded when she declared that she got his daughters to take a bath. He figured it was best to let her feel good about herself.
"Well, I guess I better get going now," he said, a bit reluctant "I have to go to the Laundromat" He didn't really want to leave, but it was for the best. Akane didn't want him, so he should get going now. There was no real reason for him to stay, aside from him wanting to make love to her. But since she wasn't interested in him, he should leave her be, even though it tore him apart in the inside.
"Um, about the Laundromat," Akane remembered. She figured he'd like to use her washing machine and dryer, which were in the basement "I have a washing machine and dryer downstairs in the basement. You're welcome to use those if you'd like"
Ranma thought about this for a second. It would be a lot more convenient.
When his daughters wake up the next morning, they would need a change of clothes, and since Akane's house was closer than the Laundromat, he could do his laundry at her house and leave some clothes behind.
"You know what?" Ranma said after a few moments of careful thinking "I think I'll take you up on that offer"
Akane smiled. She was grateful that it was dark in the room and at how it concealed just how much she had wanted to hear him say those words. She really wanted him to stay. Sure, it was for selfish reasons, she not wanting to be alone, but it was a good enough reason for her.
"Fine, I'll be back in a little while,"

Chapter 14

"Wow, you're back early," Akane commented, holding the door open for Ranma to enter. She noticed that Ranma's hands were full. He must have been holding three or four loads of laundry. He was holding a laundry basket full of clothes, the clothes extending high above the top of the basket.
"Where should I put them?" Ranma asked, his head hidden behind the tower of clothes. All Akane could see were his hands and arms as he held the basket,
the muscles in his arms flexing from holding all the weight. She noticed that most of the clothes were children's clothes, his daughters clothes, ranging from frilly dresses to panties with the days sewn into them to tiny socks to shirts with pictures of animals on them. Although most of the clothes belonged to his daughters, Akane noticed some of Ranma's clothes also, albeit few. There were only a few pair of jeans and a couple of short-sleeve shirts. That was all. She couldn't help but blush red and turn her head away when her gaze came upon his jockeys.
So that's what Ranma wears, Akane though, trying to steady her heartbeat.
She had never seen a man's unmentionables. A weird thought entered her mind,
a thought that all of Ranma's jockeys were on the pile of clothes, meaning he wasn't wearing any underwear at all, leaving only those pairs of jeans he was wearing the only thing separating her from his nakedness. But she quickly banished the thought, she shouldn't be thinking such hentai thoughts, even though she couldn't help it.
"U-um...just take it down to the basement" she said. She placed her hand on one of Ranma's hands to lead him toward the door leading to the basement.
The touch felt like electricity to her, making the hairs on the back of her neck stand on end. She could feel the heat from his hands. She never felt this kind of heat before, from anyone. The heat from his hands seemed to all flow into her body, warming her heart, and then the warm feeling moving south.
She opened the basement door for him as he gingerly walked down the stairs, feeling his way down to the next step with his feet. By the way he walked down the stairs, it seemed like he was learning to walk down a flight of stairs for the first time, scared of falling. But there was a good reason why he was taking such cautions, he couldn't see anything in front of him.
Once he was aware that he had reached the stable ground of the basement,
he placed the laundry basket down, sighing in relief, his back aching. He placed his hands on the small of his back, rubbing it. He noticed his hands felt hot, hot from Akane's touch.
He turned around to see Akane descending the stairs. He stepped aside as she walked by, smelling the faint smell of her shampoo, which seemed to turn him on incredibly. He bent back over, picking the laundry basket again,
following her as she went to the back of the basement, grateful that he had the laundry basket to hold in front of him. Otherwise, Akane would have seen just how aroused he was.
Akane sipped at her coffee as she tried to read the magazine she was reading earlier, the magazine she started reading after Meggie and Jessie fell asleep, before Ranma entered the house. As hard as she tried to read it, she just couldn't. She was keenly aware that Ranma was in her basement,
her basement, just a flight of stairs below her.
She placed the magazine down, her gaze resting on the coffee cup at the other end of the table. The cup was full, the coffee inside now cold. The coffee was meant for Ranma, Akane having expected him to come up from the basement over an hour ago. She had made that cup for him, using these special coffee beans that she used on special occasions. The last time she used those coffee beans was for her father's birthday many years ago. It was part of her present to him. Her birthday present was breakfast in bed the entire breakfast cooked by her. The birthday turned out a disaster when her father had actually tasted her cooking, nearly choking. It didn't help any when she accidentally spilled her specially brewed coffee in her father's lap. Although it came out in disaster, it was the thought that counted.
Akane wondered why Ranma never came up from the basement. It only took a few minutes to put the clothes into the washing machine, and another few minutes to put the clean clothes in the dryer. Why wasn't he coming up?
Her heart sank as she continued to gaze at the unattended coffee cup. She made that cup especially for him. She felt bad for having snapped at him like that when he got too close to her when they were cooking. She wanted to apologize for having said what she had said. She felt bad for indicating to her that she didn't want him to come too close to her, even though she actually liked, lusted it. She never felt these kind of feeling before,
never. In came Ranma into her life, evoking these strange feelings in her.
If he evoked these kind of feelings in me, Akane thought, then why don't I pursue him. Why do I hold back? Maybe it's because I'm a coward. That's what I am, a coward. Subconsciously, she was so scared of losing him that she wanted nothing to do with him so the hurt would be much less when he left.
It was evident that he was going to leave her, Ukyo having walked back into his life. That was a good reason why he never came up from the basement. Maybe it was because of her. Maybe he didn't want to be with her, didn't want to be near her.
Akane folded her arms, placing them onto the table in front of her, her head cradled in them. She was incredibly tired for some reason, quite odd considering she slept a decent night's sleep last night. It felt as if the energy had been drained from her, and she could do nothing to prevent it.
Maybe all her energy was being spent on keeping in control, keeping from running into Ranma's arms, proclaiming her love for him. Afterall, he had Ukyo, Akane kept telling herself.
She closed her eyes, hoping to rest her eyes for a few moments. It felt like her eyelids weighed a ton. She was in deep sleep within moments.

Ranma paced back and forth as he waited for the dryer, dreading the thought that it would be finished in a few more minutes. He knew that once the dryer turned off, all his laundry was done. And once it was done, that meant he'd have to go upstairs. He didn't want to go upstairs because he knew Akane was up there. He had been aware that she was upstairs, and he couldn't keep his thoughts on anything else but Akane. He had been thinking of Akane the whole time he was down there. He wanted to be with her, but the incident with the kitchen kept replaying over in his head. He remembered Akane having snapped at him, asking him not to stand so close. It was her way of telling him that she did want to be near him. And then there were those flowers he had seen in her bedroom not too long ago, flowers given to her by her admirers. And she even said those flowers were nice. He remembered noticing this proud look on her face as she looked at those flowers. Although he thought continuously of Akane, thoughts of Ukyo would enter his head from time to time. He had found out today that he and Ukyo now have a daughter together. How was he going to explain this to Akane,
that he had another daughter? Why should he explain this to Akane? She didn't want to be in his life.
He looked at his watch, realizing that he had been in the basement for close to three hours. And in those three hours down there, he was wishing he was up there, with Akane. It was now two in the morning. He'd better head on home. And there was no way out except through going upstairs.
He placed all the clothes into the laundry basket and headed upstairs.
Ranma's heart skipped a beat when he caught sight of Akane sleeping soundlessly. She was slumped forward, her head cradled in her arms, which were on the table. She looked like a schoolgirl, having fallen asleep after staying up all night studying.
He placed his laundry basket on the ground, walking up to her silently.
She looked so beautiful. Even when she slept he wanted her.
"Akane," Ranma said in a soft, low voice "you should go to your bed"
He then realized that his daughters were sleeping in her bed. He felt a bit guilty at realizing this. She was supposed to be sleeping in her bed,
not his daughters.
"Akane?" he said again, giving her a gentle nudge. He didn't want her to sleep here, in the kitchen. Actually, he wanted to her to sleep with him,
but he knew that would never happen. He had once fallen asleep in the same position Akane had just fallen asleep in, and he knew it would be a killer in the morning. Her back would hurt be killing her. He remembered having to call in sick for work once from the pain. That was when he was working for the computer engineering company.
Akane didn't budge. She just readjusted her sleeping position, switching arms she was resting her head on.
Ranma looked on over to the living room sofa. If she couldn't sleep on a bed, then the sofa would be the next best thing. He was pretty sure she kept blankets in a nearby closet, like his own mother. All he'd have to do is get her onto the sofa. Now that was the hard part.
He gave her one more nudge, hoping how wouldn't have to do what he was going to do. But she never budged. She was way beyond deep sleep. She looked like she could have slept through and earthquake if it had struck at that moment.
Sighing to himself, Ranma gently picked her up into his arms, her arms wrapped around his neck, her face nuzzled against his neck, her front pressing firmly against his. He could even feel her nipples pressed against his chest, and it turned him on incredibly. God, I'm gonna hate myself in the morning, Ranma thought to himself. He could even feel her lips pressed against his neck, as if kissing him.
He carried her on over to the sofa, gently placing her on it. As he held her, he noticed how light she felt in his arms. Her face was so close to his that he could help but gaze at it, admiring her olive like skin, the strong cheekbones, and the sultry lips.
Once she was on the sofa, Ranma immediately went to the nearest closet,
opening it. His guess was correct, for he found several blankets, all of them neatly folded.
He walked over to Akane and placed the blankets over her, his gaze not once looking away from her lips. He wanted to kiss her so bad it was driving him nuts. She looked unbelievably sexy. His hormones were raging inside of him, all of them telling him to seize the advantage. She looked like she was waiting for him to kiss her. Ranma instinctively leaned forward, his face coming closer to hers. He stopped when his lips were an inch away from hers. He was so close he could feel her warm breath as she exhaled. He placed his hand on one side of her face, his hand cupping her cheek. He could feel her head unconsciously press against up it, as if wanting to feel his touch.
Damn, Ranma though, I wish I can indulge in this moment. He wanted to kiss her so bad. Why not, just this once? She was asleep. She would never know.
Only he would know. Even though she didn't want him, at least he could remember having kissed her. But those thoughts ended as soon as they were conceived.
I'm not that kinda guy, Ranma thought. He pulled away, heading for the laundry basket. He had to get out of there and fast. He quickly searched the hamper, producing two pairs of outfits for his daughters tomorrow.
Sighing to himself, Ranma quickly left, locking the door behind him,
knowing all too well that he would never get any sleep tonight or any nights after that.
His mind had been so distracted that he didn't realize he forgot the hamper full of clothes until he made it home.
The chirping birds could be heard in nearby, quite odd considering winter was very close. The sun was just beginning its slow ascent in the far off horizon, the snow-capped mountains casting shadows that seemed to stretch to the ends of the Earth. The trees were bare, most of its autumn leaves shed.
Akane was sleeping peacefully on her sofa, all bundled up in her blankets,
as warm she can be, when Meggie and Jessie came downstairs. The two little angels were rubbing the sleep out of their eyes, their steps slow. They were aware that they weren't home, but wasn't too sure exactly where they were. Upon their sight of the sleeping Akane, they immediately realized that they had fallen asleep at her house last night. Their pajamas even confirmed it.
They walked down the stairs, the floorboards making not one creak under their weight as they headed toward Akane. The watched her for several moments contemplating on whether or not they should wake her. They should wake her up, for they had to go to the bathroom, and they didn't know where it was. But she looked so peaceful that they decided against it, and that they would look for the bathroom themselves. They eventually found the bathroom, and they both entered.
Akane stretched her arms out, yawning aloud.
God, what a dream, Akane thought. She just had an erotic dream in which Ranma was in there. She could recall the dream quite vividly, as if it had really happened. The dream was of him caressing her naked body, starting off at her neck as he kissed her lips passionately. Then his hands would roam south, onto her breasts, cupping them, kneading them, teasing them. She could feel her breathing increase as the dream came back to her. She recalled as she kissed him back, her tongue darting into his mouth exploring it, savoring the taste of his salty lips on hers. She got goose bumps from the excitement as she remembered as his hands started moving farther south on her naked body, down over her ribs, over her belly button,
and down to her...
I must be some kind of hentai, Akane thought, trying to steady herself. She felt like she was about to exploded as those hentai thoughts plagued her mind. She wondered how nice it would be to wake up with Ranma next to her,
smiling his charming smile. She wondered how great it would feel to fall asleep in his arms, this secure feeling enveloping her, knowing that she no longer slept alone.
She banished those thoughts, all too knowing that they will not stay away for too long. But she had to try. She wanted to distract herself from those thoughts so she studied her surroundings. Within moments, she realized that she was not sleeping in her bed, realizing that she had slept on her sofa.
How did I get here, Akane thought to herself, washing the sleep out of her eyes. Yesterday night seemed like a blur to her. It was as if she had been drunk and had forgotten everything that had happened, which was acceptable because she had felt intoxicated all night, when Ranma was there.
When her gaze rested on the laundry basket full of clothes, she remembered everything. She remembered feeling this funny feeling as she thought about Ranma in the basement last night, her heart beating rapidly. She remembered everything, when she made the coffee for him, when she tried to read her magazine, the thoughts she had of him. She remembered everything except how she got onto the sofa with blankets.
Her heart leapt upon the thought that Ranma might have placed her there.
That was the only reason she could come up with. That meant he held her,
cradled her in his arms as he carried her, his face so close to her that he could kiss her. And did he kiss her when she was asleep?
Nah, Akane thought, why would he kiss me? He's not some hentai or something. But then again, if Ranma slept, and I had the chance to kiss him...
Akane blushed horribly when she realized that she probably would have kissed him. It would have been her little secret. She wouldn't have minded indulging herself with something like that. She had been dreaming of how Ranma's lips would feel on hers, and if she did have the chance, there was a good chance she wasn't going to pass that up.
"Mornin', Akane," Meggie said, causing her to start. The little girl was standing next to her. Akane thought she was alone. When she gazed into Meggie's innocent eyes, and then into Jessie's as she stepped up, she felt a bit guilty at what she had been just thinking. Afterall, this man she thought about taking advantage of was their father.
"M-morning," Akane said meekly. There was a slight reddish hue on her cheeks. She felt embarrassed at having such thoughts of their father.
"I'm hungry," Jessie blurted out, rubbing her stomach, Meggie nodding in agreement. The two girls hadn't had a bite to eat since the meal Akane and Ranma prepared that meal for them right after school. She looked at a clock that hung on one of the livingroom walls. It read 8:15. It must have been over thirteen hours since the girls last ate.
"Um, what would you like to eat?" Akane asked, patting the cushions next to her on both sides of the sofa. She wanted them to sit with her.
"I like pancakes and scrambled eggs," Jessie said.
"Me too," her sibling agreed. She and Jessie both had the same likes and dislikes. It was obvious, considering they were identical twins.
"No prob," Akane said, getting up off the sofa. She picked up two pairs of clothes for them, which happened to have been laid out in front of her on the livingroom coffee table "right after you two take a bath" handing them their clothes. She walked up to one of the closets and produced two towels.
"Okay," they said simultaneously, scrambling for the bathroom.
"Great, now how do I make pancakes again?" Akane muttered to herself,
heading for the kitchen. The last time she remembered making pancakes was when her father was alive many years ago, when she tried to make them for his birthday. It turned out looking like black Frisbees, and as hard as one also.
Just as she was about to open the door to the fringe, there was a knock at the door.
She walked on over to the door and opened it. Her heart suddenly went fluttery when she realized it was Ranma.
"Good morning," Ranma said, smiling a bit. Akane noticed he was wearing the same clothes as last night, wishing he didn't because she could see his bulging chest pressed up against his tight fitting short-sleeve shirt.
"Morning," she said, trying to steady her voice. She felt incredibly nervous being around his presence. She noticed he had a bit of stubble on his face, him not having shaved this morning. He now looked ruggedly handsome, which was every bit as distracting to her as when he was clean-shaven. There was only one difference that made her like this look more than the other, he wasn't wearing any after-shave, which would have further distracted her if she could smell the fragrance.
"Did I wake you?" he asked, a bit guilty.
"No. I was already awake," she said.
"Are they awake?" he asked. He already knew the answer. His daughters never slept later then eight. He never needed to wake them up for school.
Even though they didn't have school today, they would still wake up early.
"Uh huh," she nodded "They're taking a bath right now"
"A bath," Ranma said, his attention going elsewhere. It looked like he was daydreaming. Actually, he was. He hadn't taken a bath or shower since yesterday, a water main near his place having broken down, leaving his place sans any water for the next few days.
"Is anything the matter?" she asked curiously. She noticed this yearning look on Ranma's face, as if he wanted something really bad. She blushed a bit when the thought that he wanted her entered her mind.
"Yeah," he replied, running a hand though his hair, which was a bit disheveled and uneven. Even if his hair looked like a mess, he still looked handsome and desirable. Maybe that's how he looks in the morning, Akane thought wistfully. She wouldn't mind waking up to the sight of him every morning "There's no water at my house"
House, Akane thought, he has his own house? She thought Ranma lived in an apartment. It was a bit odd that someone as young as him had his own house.
But then again, she, too, had her own house. But that was different. She pretty much inherited the house after her father had died, when the business was left resting on her shoulders.
"You can take a bath or shower at my place," she said, wishing she hadn't said it until it was too late. She remembered what had happened to her when he was taking a shower in the dojo. But this would be a lot worse because he would be taking a bath or shower in the same room where she took one. That meant he would have been naked in the same room she had been naked.
"Actually, I was hoping you would let me," he said, entering the house after having taken off his shoes. He walked by Akane and into he livingroom, his gaze falling upon the laundry basket full of clothes. He looked at it for a few moments before turning his regard onto the sofa.
"Did you have a good night's sleep?" Ranma added, turning around to face Akane. He gave her a smirk.
Akane said nothing. She just blushed. She was right, Ranma did put her there. That meant he held her in his arms, their bodies touched, his face must have been close to hers, so close he could have kissed her.
"You put me on the couch?" Akane asked. She was wondering what he exactly did when he held her, how he held her. Did he give her a piggy back-ride,
or perhaps held him like a newly-wed wife being carried over the threshold?
She knew she was a heavy sleeper, able to sleep through hurricanes if it ever came to it. Sometimes, she would even sleep through morning teaching lessons. There were a few cases when she found out she overslept by an hour,
and she would rush to the dojo, only to find it being taught by some of the more skilled students. It would have been nice letting those students teach,
but she couldn't, for they only went over forms and movements taught to them the other day. Besides, they said they rather be taught instead of having to teach. They stated that they wish to study more before even considering taking her proposal in becoming a sensei seriously.
"Yeah," he said, scratching the back of his head. He tried to hide his feelings, the enjoyment he had of holding her, even if she was unconscious.
It had only lasted a few moments, but for Ranma, he would remember it forever. He would never forget just how close his lips were to hers, that he could have kissed her. But he hadn't. If he were to ever kiss her, even if that was never possible considering she didn't want him, then he wanted her to be awake, to return that kiss to him, not just some one-sided form of enjoyment.
"Um, did the kids eat yet?" he asked, changing the subject. He knew that if he stayed on the subject, he would have confessed his love for her,
causing him great humiliation when she told him she couldn't return the feelings.
"Not yet. They said both wanted pancakes and scrambled eggs" Akane replied, remembering Meggie and Jessie's requests. She headed for the kitchen, realizing that the twins would be finished with their bath not too long from now. She wanted them to come out of the bathroom to a full breakfast.
"They always want that," he replied "May I help?"
Akane thought for a second, not saying anything. She could recall the meal they were preparing in the kitchen the other day, when Ranma had took hold of her hands, his chest pressed up against her back, helping her chop the onions. She could recall the smell of his shampoo, its fragrance intoxicating. She best not go through that again.
"No thank you. I can handle it," she finally said. She was lying through her teeth. She had no idea how to make pancakes. She wanted to be near him, but she couldn't.
"Can I at least make the pancakes?" Ranma insisted "They like the pancakes I make" he had to do something. What was he to do? He'd be doing nothing while he watched Akane cook. He couldn't take a bath, his daughters occupying it.
"What's wrong with the pancakes I make?" Akane snapped. She felt a bit angry, like Ranma didn't trust her to making the meal. Actually, it was her pride talking. She didn't want to seem helpless to Ranma.
"N-nothing," Ranma said, putting his hand up, as if trying to brace himself in case she tried to hit him. He noticed how she got mad all of a sudden, her hands clenching into fists.
"I got to get started" Akane said, turning around, storming into the kitchen. She felt angry that he had doubted her cooking abilities. She cooked perfectly well the other day. But then again, she had Ranma helping.
Ranma watched as she entered the kitchen, wondering why she had gotten so angry at him. She cooked real well when she was with him, but why did she not want his help now?
Sighing to himself, Ranma sat down in the sofa, picking up a nearby magazine. He began to patiently leaf through it, looking for some articles to read, to take up his time. As he continued to skim the magazine, her came across an interesting article on some best-seller book overseas.
Ranma smiled to himself as he quickly started reading the article. It was and article about how women and men differ.
Inside the kitchen, Akane checked through the cupboards, looking for the flour. She continued to check them all, coming up with nothing.
Just when she was about to give up and make the kids some cereal, Ranma entered the kitchen, leaning up against the doorway, his arms crossed.
"Are you sure I can't help?" he asked, remembering the article he read.
Akane sighed aloud, "Fine, I'll let you help"
Secretly, she was thanking her lucky stars.

Meggie and Jessie ate as Ranma took his shower. Akane was acutely aware that he was taking a shower in her bathroom. She tried to eat her pancakes,
pancakes which Ranma had made, but she couldn't eat, her mind too preoccupied.
"Aren't ya gonna eat?" Meggie asked before taking a big bite into the pancakes.
Akane noticed she had good manners when she made it a habit to not talk with her mouth full. Even her elbows weren't on the tables. Akane quickly adjusted her own manners, pulling her elbows off the table.
"Yeah," Akane said, taking a big bite of the pancake, some of the syrup running down her chin. When she bit into the pancake, her eyes widened at such a delicious taste. Even when she ate in restaurants it never tasted this good.
"Daddy makes the best pancakes," Meggie said, Jessie nodding in agreement because her mouth was full.
Already, her mind was wandering off. She could hear the hissing sound of the shower as it echoed through the first floor. She couldn't believe Ranma was now taking a shower in her bathroom. She'd probably never take a shower again in her house without thinking that Ranma had been in the same shower stall as her before, totally naked.
It went on like this for several minutes, Akane unable to concentrate on her food until the hissing of the shower stopped, when Ranma finished with his shower. As soon as it stopped, Akane went onto eating her pancakes,
wanting to see busy when he got out.
Ranma entered the kitchen, his hair still slightly damp. He was wearing different clothes, consisting of sweat shirt and a pair of jeans. When walked over to Meggie and gave her a kiss and then kissed Jessie. Akane stopped her eating, hoping that he would kiss her, hoping he was in the mood to kiss because of his daughters that he might accidentally kiss her. She was even preparing a reply for when he apologized.
"Sorry," Ranma would have most likely said when he realized he kissed Akane.
"Don't worry about it," Akane would say, most likely savoring the taste of his salty lips "I was actually hoping you would kiss me"
But he never kissed her. He came close though. After he kissed Jessie, he leaned over, bringing his face near Akane's. Akane even closer her eyes,
bracing for the memorable kiss, knowing that she would never forget it.
Before he could kiss her, he pulled away, realizing what a grave mistake he could have done. He realized that if he had accidentally kissed Akane, she would have gotten furious, thinking he was using his daughters as an excuse to kiss her.
"You're just using your daughters to kiss me!" Ranma thought Akane would say to his apology, her knuckles most likely white from her clenched fists "You're nothing but a pervert! You probably wanted to kiss me! Well, I never wanted you to kiss me, and here you are, using your children to kiss me! God, you're unthinkable"
Ranma was grateful he caught himself before he had kissed Akane. He would have never recovered from the humiliation. His daughters would actually question him, wondering if he had been using them. But he wasn't, he was just very affectionate, and he tended to get caught up in the moment. The incident where Ranma hugged Akane after she told him there was no work this weekend was a great example of his affection. The reason for his affectionate nature was all due to his father's abuse of him. Because he had never been loved by his father, he never wanted his children to think that of him. He never wanted to grow up to become the monster his father was. He would never let his father win. If he did, then Ranma lost.
"Hee hee...sorry." Ranma said meekly, blushing slightly. He wanted to make light of the incident that could have happened. He didn't want Akane to feel uncomfortable.
"D-don't worry," Akane replied, giving a faint smile. She wanted him to kiss her so bad that she could actually taste his lips. She licked her lips as if savoring his lips after they touched them, even though they didn't.
There was a bit of silence, dreadful silence, before it was broken.
"Aren't ya gonna eat?" Jessie asked, her voice welcomed after the silence. Jessie was pointing toward an unattended seat, a seat next to Akane, and in front of that seat there was a plateful of pancakes and scrambled eggs.
Ranma nodded, sitting down next to Akane, so close that she could smell his shampoo. She turned her gaze and noticed that he hadn't shaved yet, the subtle of hair still very noticeable.
"The bathroom's free," Ranma said before taking a big bite into the pancakes, practically putting all three pancakes into his mouth "You can take a bath or shower now"
Akane waited until everyone was finished with breakfast before she excused herself, she not wanting to set a bad example to the children. Even though he hadn't started eating until everyone was way into their meal, Ranma was the first to finish, eating the entire meal in under double-digit bites. She headed for the bathroom as Ranma took all the plates and began washing them and putting them away. He even declined her offer to help. He knew that he had to keep himself busy with washing the dishes so his thoughts won't wander onto Akane as she took her shower. But it didn't help. When the hissing of the shower went on, Ranma's thoughts immediately wandered from his task and onto Akane.
To distract himself from the thought of Akane, Ranma made his thoughts wander onto what he planned today. He had planned to take his two daughters to the park for a picnic. But since it was too chilly, it was best he took them to the movies. There was this movie they had been meaning to watch, and today was the best day. After that, he planned on taking them to the new amusement park that just opened up.
"Meggie, Jessie, what would ya like to do today?" Ranma asked as he handed them a wet dish. Jessie's task was to dry them, and Meggie's task was to put them away.
"I wanna spend the day with Akane too," Jessie said, handing a dry dish to her sister, who was standing on a stool.
"Me too," Meggie agreed, putting the dish away. She had to tiptoe on the stool to reach the cupboard above the sink.
Ranma thought about that for a second. He hadn't planned on including Akane in with their plans. He assumed she had other things to do. There was also a good reason he didn't want Akane to come along. He knew that he would be unable to enjoy the day, him too busy trying to keep himself from taking Akane into his arms. But then he thought of what the principal said a few days ago.
"Mr. Saotome, I don't know how to put this gently, bit I best say this now before it gets worse" the principal had said. She and Ranma were standing in front of the school entrance "Your daughters need a motherly figure in their lives. I know it's hard for you to find to find someone, what with you having to take care of them both and all, but you have to take it into consideration that them not having a motherly figure in their lives for so many years will be bad for them. They need some female contact more often in their lives. And once that happens, they will turn out for the better"
Ranma couldn't help but think of how much of an impact Akane might have on his daughters' lives. His daughters needed a mother figure in their lives,
and Akane seemed to fit it perfectly. The girls already had a fondness for her, just as she them. But this would create some awkward situations. How would Ranma be able to cope with having Akane so close to his family, yet he couldn't get close to her? But that was going to be his problem. His daughters came first, so he would have to manage, no matter how uncomfortable it would be for him.
"Okay, I'll ask her if she'd like to spend the day with us," Ranma said. He knew this would be a long day if she said yes. He'd have to keep his distance from Akane while his daughters got closer to her. He'd let her know that he only wanted her to be with his children, doing his best to fight back telling her that he, too, wanted her. "What're you talking about?" Akane said, entering the kitchen. She was wearing her white bathrobe and had a towel wrapped around her hair. She looked like she was more ready for bed than to have gotten out. The thought made Ranma wonder if that was how great she would look after a shower, before going to sleep with him in his bed.
"Um, well, we were wondering," Ranma said, thinking of the best way to come up with an excuse to have her come along without having to bring his daughters' need for a motherly figure in there lives "Um, would you like to go to the movies with us? T-the kids insisted"
Akane thought about it for a moment. She knew what she was getting into if she went with them. She'd be near Ranma, in the dark, where nobody could really see them. And that scared her. She didn't know what she might do when nobody was watching. Sure, his daughters would be there, but they'd be too engrossed in the movie to really notice what was happening around them.
"I don't think I should," she said. She knew it was a bad idea. She was already highly attracted to him, and spending more time with him would further confirm her attraction. She immediately started going through a list of excuses to tell him on her not being able to go along. But her mind was too garbled with how nice it would be to spend the day with him and his children that she came up with nothing worthwhile or plausible.
"C'mon, Akane," the twins insisted, giving her their most puppy-dog look. They looked unbelievably adorable that no one could resist their charm. She didn't know whether to smother them in kisses or beg that they forgive her for even having considered not going with them.
"Well...," Akane said, still thinking of a plausible excuse, coming up with nothing "I guess I can go. What're you going to see?"
"Maison Ikkoku," Ranma replied, remembering the title clearly. His daughters had been constantly pestering him to take them ever since it came out on the silver screen "It's about a college student who fell in love with the female manager of the apartment he lived in"
Oh great, Akane thought sarcastically, just what I wanted to see with Ranma...a love story. She knew she was getting in over her head, yet she still went on ahead and did it.
Sighing helplessly, knowing she was doomed to be with Ranma again, Akane headed for the front door to fetch the newspaper for the movie listings.

"Is it gonna start yet?" Jessie asked, tugging at Ranma's right arm. She was sitting in the seat to the right of Ranma.
"Yeah, is it gonna start yet?" Meggie asked, tugging at Akane's left arm.
She was sitting in the seat to Akane's left. Ranma and Akane were both sitting next to each other, his children sitting on the outside. This was something Akane had dreaded since they left her house on their way to the movie theater. She was hoping she didn't have to sit next to him, hoping she could sit as far away from him as possible. She wanted him so bad. And here she was, sitting next to him, and she couldn't show him her feelings. She was too scared of him telling her that he could not be with her, that he had Ukyo.
"It'll start soon," Ranma said, his patience unwavering. Actually, he had no idea when it started. He just figured his daughters wanted him to say what they wanted to hear.
"I'm hungry," Jessie said, tugging at her Daddy's arm. Her head was leaning up against his shoulder, bother her arms wrapped around his.
"Yeah, me too," Meggie said, reaching over to tug at Ranma's other arm, one of her hands in Akane's lap for support.
"Okay, I'll go get ya something," Ranma said, unhooking his arms from his two daughters and getting up. He gently started to scoot to his left, making his way for the center isle. As he passed her, Akane's gaze focused on his rear end, wishing he wasn't wearing jeans.
He always had a nice butt, Akane thought as she watched Ranma exit the dark movie theater.
"Hey, Akane," he called out, entering the theater again, his head peeking in through the doors "Do you want anything also'?"
"No thank you" she replied, feeling this warm feeling envelope her upon realizing that he bothered to even ask her. It was a nice gesture on his part, something she wasn't quite used to. She wasn't used to these little gesture, she never having been with someone ever since her dad died many years ago.
After several moments, Ranma entered the theater, his hands full of refreshments. He was carrying a tray full of soft drinks, candy, and popcorn.
he had four of everything.
"I figured you would want it anyway," Ranma said to Akane, handing her her refreshments, as he sat down next to her. He then proceeded to give his two daughter their share of refreshments.
Akane was blushing, grateful that it was dark so Ranma wouldn't have noticed. She actually was hungry and thirsty, but she had been too prideful to ask. She knew that she would have been thirsty as soon as the movie started.
"Thank you," Akane said, taking a sip of her drink, the cool soda quenching her thirst. She started to wonder if Ranma knew her better than she knew herself. It was as if Ranma knew she was thirsty, and he bothered to buy her a drink, despite her decline.
Akane looked at Ranma, studying his face, his strong features. He was busy handing Jessie her refreshments. He looked so content as he gave her the refreshments, glad he could spoil her. It was as if his entire existence was to take care of his children. But that wasn't what Akane thought. She, on the other hand, thought his entire existence was to drive her hormones absolutely crazy, and to drive her crazy.
"I haven't done this in so long," Ranma said to no one in particular. Akane assumed he was talking to her. Afterall, why would he be saying this to his daughters, they knew everything about him.
"Huh?" Akane asked. What did he mean by that, that he hadn't spent time with daughters like this. She always thought he spent all his time with them, taking them out whenever he had the time. It couldn't have meant that he hadn't spent time with a women in a while because he had women falling all over him, wanting to be with him, she being one of them.
"Nevermind," Ranma said. He was just thinking out loud. He actually did mean he hadn't spent time with a woman in a while. Even though he was with his daughters, he was with a woman regardless. He hadn't been with a woman a very very long time. It felt great.
The movie theater darkened completely, the few lights in back going off.
The entire movie theater went silent as the movie started. After about fifteen minutes into the movie, Ranma whispered something into Akane's ear.
"After the movie, we plan on going to the new amusement park," he said quietly, heard by no one but Akane "Would you like to come?"
Akane thought about this for a moment, contemplating on whether or not she should go. She wanted to be near him and his children, but she didn't want to get hurt when he left. But she realized that it was already too late.
Even if she distanced herself now, she would still be devastated upon his leaving, falling for Ukyo. He might already be in love with Ukyo. Hoping against the inevitable, Akane figured it was best to spend as much time with him and his children as possible. If he did leave...when he did leave, she would have to cope with it. It was a part of life.
"Yeah, I can come," she said, nodding her head also. She knew she was dooming herself to many many sleepless nights of grief at the imminent loss.
"Akane," Meggie asked, tugging at her arm. Her voice was soft, causing Akane to lean over so she could whisper into her ear.
"Can I have some of your popcorn?" she asked, showing Akane the empty popcorn bag.
Akane, without conscious thought, handed her her own popcorn bag. Upon doing this, Akane wondered how it seemed so natural to her to give some of her own popcorn to Meggie. She felt this warm feeling envelope her when she did that, a feeling only sharing something one cared for could evoke. Since she had lived a long for so long, she never really did share, never could share, all the ones she loved no longer nearby. This felt so right.
"Thanks a lot," Meggie said in a sweet voice, reaching into the bag and producing a handful of popcorn, putting it all into her mouth. Akane regarded Meggie for a second, noticing that there were some butter dripping down Meggie's chin. Immediately, she reached into on of her pockets and produced a cloth, wiping the little girls mouth and hands with it. Ranma had watched out of the corner of his eye as Akane did this, wishing she cared for more than his children, cared for him. But she only liked his children, which was pretty reasonable considering they could grow on you. Even though she had a keen fondness for his children, it didn't mean she had to have fondness of him. Besides, if she didn't like him, it didn't matter. His children needed a motherly figure in their lives, and Akane seemed perfect, and that was all that mattered. He wished that she, too, would like him, but her liking his children was good enough. He wasn't going to pursue her anymore. She already made it clear that she wasn't attracted to him, and he was going to keep his distance. It was too bad that he could only distance himself from her so far because he needed his children to have a motherly figure in their lives.
Ranma sighed as he tried to relax in his seat, trying to concentrate on the movie. He handed Jessie his share of popcorn when she gave him a tug on his arm. Thoughts crossed his mind as he watched the movie play out before him, thoughts of how he could cope with being near the woman he loved, yet not being able to get close to her physically, mentally, emotionally,
He shook his head, hoping to rid these thoughts, much to no avail. He was already going nuts on the inside from sitting next to her, trying all that was in his power to prevent himself from putting his arm around her. He could tell that she was a bit cold from temperature of the movie theater. He wanted to put his arm around her, to keep her warm, but he couldn't. If he did, she would view that as a form of getting close to her, which would obviously upset her because she already made it clear she wasn't attracted to him. She'd probably get angry at him for being so persistent. And of course, he didn't want that to happen.
Akane was shivering slightly as she tried to watch the movie, the temperature of the movie theater too cold for her. She regretted not having brought her jacket. She wanted Ranma to put his arm around her, to hold her close to him, to keep her warm. But he never did. He just continued on watching the movie, ignoring her, not paying any attention to her. This further confirmed her fear, fear that he was now Ukyo's. Maybe that was why he didn't want to put his arm around her because he wanted to be faithful.
Sighing to herself, Akane continued watching the movie.
Ranma stretched out his arms as he stepped out of the movie theater, Akane and his children following suit. His black hair glistened against the afternoon sun, his pig-tail fluttering in the wind, some of his bangs falling down over his forehead and eyes. He gently brushed them aside with a strong hand as he turned his attention toward his daughters and Akane.
"You guys ready to go to the new amusement park?" he asked, kneeling low,
brushing some popcorn that happened to have gotten stuck on Jessie's shirt.
"Yeah," the two twins yelped in joy, raising their arms high into the air,
which caused Akane to give a gentle smile as she watched. She loved how high-spirited his daughters were, how energetic they seemed.
Ranma extended his hands forward to take Jessie's hand, which she glad slipped her hand into. When he extended his other hand toward Meggie, she hesitated.
"What's wrong, honey?" he asked, looking at her funnily. She had never hesitated to hold his hand before. She was always the one whom initiated the hand holding.
"Can I hold Akane's hand?" she asked, gesturing toward Akane before looking Ranma straight into his caring eyes. She didn't want to hurt her Daddy, but she curious and wanted to hold Akane's hand. She had never held hands with a female before, Ranma's hand the only one she had ever held.
"If it's okay with her," he replied. He gave Akane a pleased look. He liked what she did with his daughters. She liked how Meggie had grown quite fond of her. He wanted that, wanted his daughters to grow fond of someone else besides him. Afterall, they needed a motherly figure in their lives, and Akane seemed right for the job. Even though she never had kids, she had this maternal instinct to her that was quite rare in women nowadays.
Akane nodded as she held out her other for Meggie to take hold of, which the little girl did happily. Together, as if a family, everyone headed for the new amusement park.

Chapter 15

"Wow, that was hard," Ranma said as he rubbed his shoulder. He had no idea how hard it was to beat that arm wrestling a machine Meggie asked him to play. He lost the first round because he wasn't expecting it but managed to win in the end.
"But Daddy, I never put the second coin in," Meggie said. Ranma had somehow managed to beat that arm wrestling machine while it was in the locked position. When Akane noticed Meggie didn't put the coin in to activate the machine, she couldn't help but watch in disbelief as he slowly bent the machine's locked arm back into the winning position.
"Can you win me that teddy bear?" Jessie said tugging at Ranma's arm while simultaneously pointing toward a nearby booth. Ranma looked down at his daughter, and then up toward the booth. There were already several people at the booth, all of them making attempts at winning the massive teddy bear. It was a hard task to do in order to win the prize. There was a plate on the ground in the middle of the booth, the railing about six feet away on both sides. Everyone was busy throwing 10 yen coins at the plate trying to have it land and stay on the plate. The object to winning the game was to throw a 10 yen coin toward the plate. It was very easy to have the coin land on the plate, but the hard part was to keep it from bouncing off. The plate was no bigger than a dinner plate, leaving virtually no room for the coin to land and stay on.
Ranma then looked over at the teddy bear that hung on the ceiling of the booth, his face faulting. The bear was huge, absolutely gigantic. It was bigger than him. It looked like it'd weigh a ton also.
But because one of his daughters wanted it, he couldn't refuse. He'd worry about carrying the bear home if he won...after he won.
Akane held Meggie's hand as the two of them watched as Ranma reached into his pocket and produced a handful of bills. He then handed the bills to the booth attendant and received a handful of 10 yen coins. He released his grip of Jessie.
"Can you please hold Akane's hand," Ranma said "I don't want you wandering off"
"Okay, Daddy," Jessie squeaked, hopping over to Akane, who stood nearby, slipping her hand into Akane's free hand.
Ranma smiled and then turned his attention toward the booth, ready to flick the coins. Jessie and Meggie cheered him on as he started to throw the coins toward the plate, all of them coming close to staying, only falling off the other side at the last second.
After about a minute, Ranma was out of coins.
"Man, that's harder than it looks," Ranma said, scratching his head. He was so sure he could get the coin to land and stay on the plate.
"Looks like it's my turn," Akane said, reaching into her pocket, producing a single 10 yen coin.
"You'll never get it," Ranma said, taking hold of his children's' hands as Akane stepped up to the booth.
"And what if I do?" she dared to ask. She knew Ranma was challenging her. She never backed down from a challenge. She was sure she could get the coin to land and stay on the plate.
"Ha, I''ll buy you dinner," Ranma said, the first thing popping into his head. He actually cringed when he realized what he had said. What was he doing? Why did he say that? Didn't he already know that it was useless to pursue her? She had indicated that was wasn't attracted to him, even though his children were a different story.
Akane thought about the offer for a second, wondering why he would say something like that. It came to her unexpectedly. She was expecting him to say something like, 'Then I'll admit that you're better at this than I am'. She blushed a bit when she thought of him saying something like, 'If you get it, I'll love you for the rest of my life'. She was grateful that her back was to Ranma, grateful that he didn't see her blush so terribly.
Does he really want to go out with me, Akane thought. Is this his way of telling me that he's interested in me? Does he want to take me out to dinner? Well, if he's really interested, I'll at least go half way.
"Deal," Akane said, turning to face him, a smile on her lips "And I get to choose the restaurant,"
Ranma nodded, starting to think what he had said wasn't that bad of an idea. Thoughts of him and Akane going out to dinner seemed divine. He would really like that, to spend some quality time with, the same kind of time he would spend with his children.
Akane turned her attention back to the plate in the middle of the booth,
a single 10 yen coin in her hands. She prayed in her mind that the coin would land and stay on the plate. She closed her eyes and took in a deep breath.
She then opened her eyes and threw the coin.

"I wanna go on the merry-go-round," Jessie said, tugging at Ranma's arm, dragging him forward with her. She was pulling on his arm to speed him up. Ranma followed obediently, taking one step to match Jessie's two. He gracefully dodged the plethora of people whom happen to have been at the amusement park at the time, lead by his daughter. As he maneuvered pass the crowd of people, he couldn't help but notice many females giving him far more attention than he preferred, some of their boyfriends giving him dirty stares as he passed them.
Sometimes, he wished he wasn't so damn handsome. His good looks got him into more trouble than out of it. He would be constantly pestered by jealous boyfriends, all of them scared that he would steal their girlfriends from them. Ranma handed the ride attendant two tickets, one per daughter.
"Hey, Akane, would you like to ride with them?" he asked her as she caught up, Meggie running forward past him as he gave the ticket to the person, jumping onto a horse which was adjacent to the horse Jessie was already on.
"How about you?" Akane asked, stepping up to him "Why don't you ride with them?"
"I'd prefer not to," Ranma replied. He went on a merry-go-round with his daughters once, and he got terribly sick and nauseated. Just the thought of going around and around was already making him a bit woozy "I got sick once"
Akane smiled. She never figured he would get sick from something like that. It looked like nothing bothered him. He didn't even get bothered when Ukyo kissed him, Akane thought sullenly. Her smiled disappeared as fast as it had came upon the thought.
"Fine, I'll go," she said, handing the ride attendant a ticket and stepping through the gate that led to the merry-go-round. She sat in the chariot that Jessie's horse carried. She had to stay away from him, remembering how he had responded to Ukyo's kisses. He hadn't pulled away, made no attempt to.
Maybe it was destined the I miss that coin toss, Akane thought to herself.
Because I missed it, I won't have to go to dinner with him. She tried to convince herself that it was all right that she had missed, but her heart shattered when the coin had deflected off the plate, landing to the floor.
She had secretly wished that she didn't miss, secretly wished to go to dinner with Ranma. But that would never happen, she having blown her chance.
It was all for the better, she tried to tell herself. It would cause her a lot less grief if she didn't get to know him that well. Maybe she shouldn't be here, be here with Ranma and his children.
"Can you help me buckle my belt, Akane," Jessie said, turning around in her saddle to speak to her. There was a buckle they were supposed to fasten so they wouldn't accidentally fall off.
Akane got up off her chariot and walked over toward Jessie, buckling her buckle in one swift movement. She walked over to Meggie to check if she was buckled up also, which she was. Satisfied that the children would be safe, Akane got back into her chariot.
Maybe I shouldn't be here with Ranma, Akane thought to herself, stealing a glance toward him. But I'm positive I want to be here with his children.
She was already attached to his daughters, and there was no reason she should not be near then, even if she shouldn't be near their father.
"Is this seat taken?" came a voice, a masculine and husky voice.
Akane didn't have to look. She knew it was Ranma, her fluttering heart telling her before her eyes did.
She scooted over as Ranma sat next to her.
"If you have no problem riding with my children, neither should I," he said, relaxing in the chariot seat, his legs stretching forward. He was up to the task. He didn't want to be far away from his daughters anyway. He stretched his hands up and out, placing them on the support of seat, his hands almost touching one of Akane's shoulders.
Akane blushed deeply, realizing that he practically had his hands over her shoulder, noticing the faint smell of shampoo. She sat perfectly still,
knowing that if she budged on bit, she would touch Ranma's hand, and she knew exactly what his touch could do to her.
God, she thought as she kept her hands firmly on her lap, this is gonna be one long ride.

Ranma placed his head in the nearest wastebasket, up heaving the breakfast he ate earlier.
"Maybe I was wrong," he said meekly, still tasting the bile in his mouth as he wiped it with a napkin "Maybe I do have a problem"
Akane couldn't help but laugh at this. She liked the extent he went through just to be near his children. He knew he would get terribly sick after the ride, but he went on ahead anyway.
"Are you all right, Daddy?" Jessie asked.
"Yeah, I'll be okay," he replied, trying to smile, which was very hard for him to do, considering there was an incredibly acrid taste in his mouth.
Akane smiled as she watched this go on. She giggled inwardly as Ranma's face faulted upon hearing that his daughters wanted to go on it again. She listened amusedly as Ranma tried to convince his daughters that there were a lot of other rides that were better than the merry-go-round at the amusement park, much to no avail.
"But I wanna go on it again," they kept insisting.
Ranma wanted to tell them no, but he knew that since his daughters enjoyed the ride, he was doomed to go on again just to be with them.
As he was about to get back onto the ride, he heard his name being called from somewhere among the crowd of people.
When he turned his attention onto the crowd, a single individual stepped out. He was clad in a yellow, sleeveless shirt and black jogging pants. He definitely stood out among the crowd because his head was clad in a black and yellow bandanna. He was a very good-looking man, almost as good-looking as Ranma.
Ranma's eyes lit up upon realizing who this rugged individual was. It was his childhood friend, Ryoga Hibiki. Memories of their rivalry in elementary school flooded into Ranma's mind, fond memories he might add. Ryoga seemed to have despised him for always besting him in almost everything they competed against, but he and Ranma became very good friends when they met up several years ago, Ryoga having realized that it was childish to hold a grudge after so many years.
"Ryoga, how's everything going?" he said, giving his old friend a friendly hug.
Akane watched as these two strikingly handsome men converse, noticing that he and Ranma stood the same height. They looked like blood brothers.
Certainly, people would actually mistaken them for that considering how comfortable and friendly they were with each other.
"Uncle Hibiki," Jessie and Meggie yelped out in unison, each of them glomping onto each of Ryoga's legs. They were very happy to see him after so may years.
"Call me, Ryoga," he said in a soft and caring voice, bending down and picking both girls up into his muscular arms. Akane noticed that Ryoga looked a little more muscular than Ranma, his muscles just a tad bit larger but nothing too noticeable. If she weren't so sensitive to very subtle differences, Akane would have sworn they had the exact same build.
"Ryoga, I'd like to introduce you to Akane, Akane Tendo," Ranma said, placing his arm around her, immediately pulling it away. He realized that he had gotten a little too used to Akane's presence.
"Sorry," Ranma mouthed to her. She noticed he was blushing a bit. Obviously he was a bit embarrassed at having done what he had done.
"Good afternoon, Tendo-san" Ryoga said pleasantly, taking her hand and kissing it. When his lips brushed across the back of her hand, she could feel the hairs on her neck stand on end "I'm Ryoga Hibiki. You may call my Ryoga"
"A-afternoon, Ryoga," Akane said, a bit flustered. She felt this funny feeling in her chest, the same kind of feeling she got when she was near Ranma. But there was a slight difference, she felt this way when being near Ranma, while feeling this way when kissed by Ryoga. Clearly, her feelings toward Ranma were much stronger.
"What're you doing nowadays?" Ranma asked casually. They hadn't seen each other in over three years, and it seemed like they were the best of friends, as if they had never parted.
"Same as always, just traveling from town to town," Ryoga replied. He never liked staying in one placed for too long. He always liked to travel. He had traveled the all over world. But now, at the age of twenty-nine, the same age as Ranma, it was time that he started settling down. He was thinking about settling down somewhere north from here, somewhere near Hokkaido. He had visited there a long time ago, and he found it to be a pleasant place to live. It was a peaceful place, the perfect place to raise a family. "Thinking about settling down?" Ranma asked.
"Uh huh," Ryoga nodded. It was about time he started a family. He wasn't getting any younger.
"Daddy, I wanna go on da merry-go-round again," Jessie said, tugging at Ranma's arm while Meggie tugged at his other, saying the exact same thing. From where the twins were positioned at his sides, it sounded like they were saying it in stereo.
"Okay okay," Ranma surrendered, picking bother twins up into his arms after handing three tickets to the ride attendant. He proceeded onto the ride, a twin under each arm.
"You want to ride with us?" he added, looking toward Akane and then Ryoga. He was hoping they would both come along.
"I'd guess so," Akane said, giving in to the pleading looks Jessie and Meggie were giving her. She knew they wanted her to ride along with them.
Even though they were upside down in Ranma's arms, she still couldn't resisted their puppy-dog face. She handed the ride attendant a ticket and stepped through the gate, taking her seat in the chariot she sat in before.
"I'd love to but I don't have a ticket," Ryoga said, reaching into his pockets and pulling out nothing but some lint.
"I've got an extra ticket," Ranma said, placing both his daughters on the horses they rode on before, and then reaching into his pocket and producing an extra ticket, handing it to the ride attendant for Ryoga.
Chapter 16

"Ranma!" came a voice, a voice the Ranma easily recognized. It was Ukyo's voice. Ukyo emerged from a the crowd that was before them. She was with her daughter, Miki, whom was holding onto her mother's hand. She had noticed Ranma among the crowd easily, simply because he was quite a sight to behold. He easily stood out among the crowd. "Ukyo," Ranma called out, waving his hand toward her.
She regarded him, her heart beating rapidly. He looked so beautiful, like a masterpiece created by a sculpture from the Renaissance. She noticed that there was this person standing next to him, about the same build, and every bit ad handsome. She wondered who this guy was. As she walked up to Ranma, she gave him a gentle hug when she noticed that Akane was with him. She really wanted to kiss him, but she remembered what he had told her in front of the elementary school the other day.
She gave Akane a smile, "Hello, Akane"
Akane smiled weakly. She felt a bit angry, angry that Ukyo had showed up.
She was having such a nice day, but it had been spoiled now that she showed up, Akane now remembering that Ranma was taken. She had started to forget that Ranma was attached, started to think he was no longer with Ukyo.
Damn, Akane thought, why how could I have forgotten about her?
"You're one lucky girl," Ukyo commented, giving Akane a wink.
"Huh?" she asked, a bit confused, Why would Akane consider her one lucky girl. Ukyo should be the one who was lucky. She was the one who had Ranma.
"Um, Ukyo, I'd like you to meet my friend, Ryoga Hibiki," Ranma quickly interrupted, hoping to change the subject. Akane didn't know that he was in love with her. Also, Ukyo didn't know that either.
Ryoga stepped forward, taking Ukyo's hand and kissed it. He gave her a genuine smile, eyeing her quite fondly.
Ukyo blushed a bit upon feeling Ryoga's lips brush against the back of her hand "H-hello, Ryoga. I'm Ukyo Kuonji"
That's a beautiful name, Ryoga thought, regarding her for a second,
studying her intently. She must have been the most beautiful woman he had ever met, her long mane of brown chestnut-colored hair making her look like a divine goddess.
"Hi, Miki," Ranma said, kneeling low so his head was level with hers. He gave her a sweet smile.
Akane gave Miki an intent look, wondering who this beautiful little girl was. She must be Ukyo's child, Akane thought to herself. Upon thinking that,
she wondered whose child she was. Who is the father? Could it be Ranma...
She gave the child a good look, studying Miki's features, trying to see if she could make out some of Ranma's features on her face. She did look like Ranma, her mane of hair to same color and texture as Meggie and Jessie's. She also had the same eyes as Ranma, a caring and loving look to it. Even though her eyes reminded Akane of Ranma's eyes, they looked a bit different as if distant. Ranma's eyes looked like it was sad, about to cry.
Miki's eyes looked distant, stoic, as if it held back secrets.
"H-hi," Miki said meekly, taking a step back. She looked scared.
Ranma looked thoroughly confused. He could quite grasp why she was like that toward him. He made no attempts to frighten the child. He made all his moves non-threateningly, made it ostentatious that he was a loving and caring person.
"Akane, Ryoga, this is Miki," Ranma said, gesturing to the shy little girl.
"Hiya Miki, I'm Ryoga Hibiki," he said, giving her a big smile.
"Hello, Miki. I'm Akane Tendo," Akane said, bowing politely.
"H-hello" Miki said quietly, speaking to both of them yet neither at the same time. She took another step back, hiding behind her mother's legs.
"She's shy," Ukyo commented, patting the little child on her head.
"Is she your child?" Akane asked. She knew she was. The little girl looked like the spitting image of her mother. They both had the same hair, and the same delicate yet beautiful facial features.
"Yeah," Ukyo replied.
Ranma opened his mouth to tell Akane that Miki was also his daughter also,
but the words died before they emerged from his lips, Ranma having realized something had gone terribly wrong.
"Where's Jessie?" he said, his voice faltering. He had released Jessie's hand only a second ago. And now, she was nowhere to be seen. Panic started to seep into his body, a deep fear enveloping him. His heart was racing,
beating rapidly, as if about to burst at any minute. Adrenaline now coursed throughout his body.
Everyone quickly split apart, surveying the surrounding area, returning to the same spot five minutes later, none of them having spotted Jessie.
"Oh god, where is she?" Ranma said. He couldn't believe this was happening to him. He had let go of her hand for a split second. She was smart enough to know not to wander off alone.
Akane gave Ranma a concerned look, regarding him intensely. Ranma was breaking out in a huge sweat, his shirt looking like it was soaked through.
The knuckles of his clenched hands were white, Akane glad that she, instead of Ranma, was holding Meggie's hand. Otherwise, all of the bones in the little girl's hand would have been crushed in his hand.
"Where do you think she went?" Ryoga asked, gazing intently into the crowds of passing people, hoping to discern a little girl from within in,
coming up with nothing.
"I wish I knew," Ranma said, trying desperately to calm himself down. He knew that he couldn't stay in the excited state he was in. If he did, it would mean trouble for him. He managed to calm himself down slightly, his heart rate slowing down.
"Let's split up again, but this time in groups," Ukyo said. She gave Ranma a sympathetic look, feeling exactly what he was feeling. She knew that if her own daughter was missing, she would be in a mad panic also. She couldn't help but admire how well Ranma was taking this, managing to stay calm in a situation like this. Little did she know, Ranma had to keep calm. If he didn't, he'd have a whole bunch of other problems that a missing child would seem like nothing.
Ranma nodded, "Ukyo, you and Meggie and Miki and Akane will go with Ryoga.
Go check the toy department store we passed earlier. I'll go to the food court alone. Jessie might have money, and she knows how to buy food. She's a pretty smart girl. We'll get back here in ten minutes"
Ranma had always been a good leader, his leadership skills finally coming in handy for a change. Afterall, if he weren't a good leader, he wouldn't have been asked to become the president of a prestigious computer engineering company overseas. But that was now in the past. He had more things to worry about, like where the heck is his daughter.
Ukyo, Miki's hand firmly in hers, and Ryoga and Akane, whom was holding Meggie's hand, headed toward the toy department store, which was located not too far way. They had been walking for ten minutes before Ranma found out Jessie was missing, and they passed the store only five minutes ago.
Akane stole a glance backward just as she rounded the corner, seeing Ranma quickly head of by himself toward the other direction.
"Are you lost, little girl?" a young girl asked. She was somewhere in her mid-twenties.
Jessie looked at the young girl, a bit caution about talking to strangers.
Her Daddy had always told her to never talk to strangers, no matter how nice a generous they looked. Afterall, one couldn't judge a book by its cover.
The young girl was a frail girl, her black hair, straggly and unkempt. She looked meek, shy, always picked on by the girls when she went to high school. She wore thick glasses, which made her look like an owl. Jessie nodded to the girl. She knew that she wasn't supposed to speak to strangers. Her Daddy always told her that. But nodding one's head didn't mean she was actually speaking to a stranger.
"What's your name?" the girl asked, bending over so her head was level with Jessie's. When she did that, her thick glasses fell off, landing in front of Jessie's feet. She as bent over to pick it up, she accidentally bumped her head against Jessie's.
"S-sorry," she apologized, quickly picking her glasses and putting them back on. She took a step back, accidentally tripping on her feet, falling backwards and onto the dirty ground, her wrinkled ankle-length skirt becoming dirty around her backside.
Jessie reached a hand forward to give the young girl a hand, helping her to her feet. Even though her Daddy always told her not to talk to strangers,
he would definitely make an exception with this girl. She looked harmless.
Even if she wanted to kidnap her, she could easily outrun her, what with the young girl being so clumsy and all.
"I'm Jessie," Jessie said, giving the girl a polite bow.
"I-I'm Chiako," the girl replied "Are you lost?"
"Yeah, I'm lookin' for my Daddy" she said.
"Hey look, it's Chiako" muttered a girl, pointing at the young girl. She was talking to several of her friends. She was had gone to the same high school as the young, straggly-haired girl. She and her friends always teased her, made fun of her, made wise-cracks at her. She always made fun of her because she wasn't as attractive as them, wasn't as popular as them, and very clumsy. At her high school, she was voted the ugliest girl in the entire school. She was also the most unpopular there, no one ever inviting her to parties or asking her out.
"Oh no, it's Masako," Chiako muttered to herself, just loud enough Jessie to hear.
"What are you doing here?" the girl said. She was a beautiful girl, most likely voted the homecoming queen at the high school she attended "Is there a freak show showing somewhere around here?"
Even though she was very beautiful on the outside, like the friends she were with, she was ugly on the inside. She had a personality the left much to be desired. If she weren't such a slut in school, no boy would have liked her. It was the fact that she was easy that made all the males flock to her.
"Why don't you leave me alone?" Chiako said. She was sick an tired of always being picked on by Masako and her friends. They always picked on her, all the way through high school. And now, after not having seen each other for many years, she continued her barrage of vicious remarks.
"And who's this little girl?" she asked, noticing Jessie as she held the homely girl's hand "She can't be your daughter"
"And why not?" Chiako asked. What was wrong with her having a daughter?
"Because she's too cute. She can't be yours" Masako said, her friends laughing along side her "And who the hell would ever want a child with you anyway? You can never be a mother!"
Jessie gave Masako a dirty look. She hated people like her, always demeaning other people so they would make themselves seem so much better.
There were always girls like her in her elementary school, all of them hated. "C'mon," Chiako told Jessie softly "Let's go find your father"
The best way to deal with this kind of situation was ignore them, not giving them the satisfaction of finding out that they were succeeding in getting her angry. That was why people kept picking on someone, because they would constantly get angry.
"She is, too, my Mommy" Jessie said the first words popping into her head. She didn't like the fact that anyone would make fun of someone else.
She figured that she claiming that Chiako was her mother would make them stop teasing her, them realizing that they shouldn't be teasing someone in front of their own child.
"Jessie!" came a voice from within the crowd, Ranma quickly emerging from it, running past the group of teasing girls. They immediately stopped their laughing as he ran by then, quickly trying to make themselves look noticeable to him, much to no avail.
"Daddy!" Jessie said, quickly releasing Chiako's hand, running forward and leaping into her Daddy's embracing arms. They hugged each other tightly glad to have finally found each other.
"God, Jessie, I was so worried" Ranma said softly, still holding his daughter in his arms "Where did you go?"
"I'll tell ya later. Can you please do me a favor, Daddy?" Jessie asked,
whispering into Ranma ear so the teasing girls wouldn't here.
Ranma gave Jessie a confused look, and then he nodded. He would do anything for her.
"Can you pretend the girl behind me is my Mommy?" she said softly "The girls behind you were making fun of her. They say she can never be a Mommy.
They're makin' fun of her because they think she's ugly"
"Sure," Ranma said.
Ranma took a deep breath, and then released Jessie, walking over toward Chiako, embracing her in a loving hug.
"Hi honey," Ranma said loudly, loud enough so the girls behind them could hear.
"H-hi," Chiako said, her heart beating rapidly. She didn't know what to do. She was being held by the most handsome man she had ever seen. Men half as handsome as him would have ignored her, thinking they were too good for her. But here was Ranma, holding her in his arms, her face pressed against his muscular chest.
Is this how nice it feels to be held, Chiako thought, loving the embrace.
She knew this would never last, but she wanted to enjoy it for as long as possible. She knew this must have been a misunderstanding. No one anywhere near to as good-looking as Ranma would have even looked in her direction,
let alone hold her in their arms.
The other girls stared in disbelief, no believing what they were seeing.
They couldn't believe what was transpiring before them. They actually thought Chiako would never get a man in her life, that she would live a life of solitude. But here they were, watching as she was being embraced by a man more handsome than anyone they had ever imagined, fantasized about.
"Yep, she's my Mommy, and he's my Daddy" Jessie said, a big smile on her face. She liked the way these girls looked with their mouths wide open.
"I-I think you have the wrong person," Chiako said, her voice soft. She could feel her knees go weak. If it weren't for Ranma holding her, she would have fallen from her buckling knees. She felt light-headed, like this was all a dream.
"Jessie told me those girls behind you were teasing you," Ranma said softly, whispering into her ear. The sight made it look like he was nibbling her ear, which the girls behind them surely thought "I'll get them to leave you alone once and for all"
Chiako just nodded, not really knowing what was going on. She was in a daze from being within such close proximity to this man.
"Honey, I've missed you so much," Ranma said loudly, lifting the girl in his arms, swinging in a circle "I couldn't get you outta my mind ever since you dumped me. Please forgive me"
The girls behind them watched intently. They couldn't believe what they had just heard. Did he just say SHE had dumped him?
"I love you," Ranma proclaimed "Please take me back"
"Um...s-sure," Chiako said.
"Hey, this isn't some soap opera or something," Ranma said, turning his head to face the small group of girls, the girls Jessie said that were teasing Chiako.
The girls quickly scattered.
"Oh my god, did you see that man?" Masako said, glancing back at the two couple, envying Chiako, wishing it was she who were in Ranma's arms "He's absolutely gorgeous"
Her friends nodded in acknowledgment. They all envied Chiako, wondering how she managed to find someone like him. They had always made fun of her.
But considering where she was, which was in Ranma's arms, she was not someone who should be made fun of.
"We better not bother her anymore?" she said "She's far off better than we are"
With that said, the girls disappeared into the crowd of people.
"Looks like they'll never bother you again," Ranma said, a soft smile on his lips. He was staring intently through Chiako's thick glasses, into her beautiful crystal-blue eyes. Her eyes generated this warm sense of caring, something that most people would have missed "I'm Ranma Saotome"
"C-Chiako. Chiako Masuka," she replied, stuttering a bit. She felt incredibly nervous and incredibly self-conscious as Ranma looked at her.
"You're very beautiful," Ranma said, giving her a kiss on her forehead as her released her from his embrace "I want to thank you for finding my little daughter"
"I-I'm happy I could be some help, R-Ranma" she said, steadying herself. She could feel her heart still beating rapidly. She had never been so close to a man before, especially a man as gorgeous as him. Men like him would have ignored her "D-do you really think I'm beautiful?"
She wanted to make sure she had heard him correctly. Actually, she wanted to make sure she didn't hear the sarcasm in his voice. When he repeated it as genuine and sincerely as before, she knew he wasn't lying.
Jessie pulled on his leg, causing him to turn his attention from her and onto him. She reached her hands up, signaling from him to pick her up in his arms. When he did, she quickly said something into his ear when Chiako wasn't paying attention.
"Chiako," Ranma said "I was wondering if you'd like to have dinner sometime soon"
"D-dinner?" she couldn't believe what she was hearing. She was actually being asked out on a date. She had never been asked on a date before. She quickly gazed at his left hand, looking for a wedding band but seeing nothing. She was expecting him to be married. Afterall, all the good ones were taken. But this didn't seem like the case.
"Yeah," he said, speaking softly "It's the least I can do"
"I-I better not," Chiako said, sullenly. She knew she didn't deserve a man like him. He was like a dream, and it seemed he should stay like that, a dream "I have to go to work in a little while"
"Where do you work?" he asked.
"Um, I work at Mizunkan Hospital" she said proudly, considering how miserable a life she had, her job was something to be proud of. She was a doctor at one of the most prestigious hospitals in Japan. The hospital was one of best hospitals anyone could go to for medical help. She had been made fun of for being such a brain, a geek, a nerd, but it all paid off at the end, she attaining the profession she always aspired for.
"I had a friend who was treated at Mizunkan Hospital," Ranma said, brushing as bang off of Jessie's forehead as she leaned her head against his broad shoulder "He was hit by a drunk driver. The woman he always loved came to visit him. She was the manager of the apartment he resided in. She told me she told him she loved him. Unfortunately, he died that night"
"I'm sorry to hear that," Chiako said. She knew how if felt to lose someone close to her, she having lost her mother to cancer not too long ago. It had devastated her. She had cried herself to sleep every night for many months.
Ranma looked at his watch. It read exactly seven minutes after he and the rest of the group had split up to search for Jessie.
"I guess I better get going also. Anyway, well, we're bound to meet each other sometime again" Ranma said, giving her a friendly smile as he turned to leave "I just hope it's under better circumstances"
"Same here,"
"I know I was supposed to stay still but I saw a person walking a puppy, and it was so cute that I had to go pet it" Jessie told Ranma as he stood at the appointed meeting place for the group "When I walked up to it and petted it, I realized that I had wandered off to far. When I tried to go back, I guess I ended up makin' a wrong turn. I'm really sorry. I didn't mean to worry you, Daddy"
"Don't worry about it," Ranma said, grateful that he could hold Jessie in his arms once again. He had begun to think of the worst when he ran through the maze of rides and amusement booths. It was something that he didn't want to happen again. He had lost sight his daughter once before, and because of that one mistake, his life had changed because of that.
"Ranma, you've found Jessie," came a voice.
Ranma turned his attention to where it came from, resting on Ukyo, who was holding tightly onto Miki's hand as she emerged from the crowd, Ryoga and Meggie and Akane in tow.
"Yeah, I found her with this young girl," Ranma said, giving Jessie a pat on her pretty little head, loving how soft her hair felt to his touch. He made sure he didn't mention what he did with this girl. He didn't want to give Akane the wrong idea about him.
Akane gave the little girl a loving embrace, glad that she was back. She knew could recall getting lost herself at a carnival once when she was very young, her father, Soun, nearly having a heart attack trying to find her.
She didn't want Ranma to go through the same ordeal her own father went through. Luckily, Ranma had found Jessie within a fifteen minutes after finding out she was missing, unlike Akane, who wasn't found for several hours.
Ranma watched as Akane did this, smiling inwardly as Jessie returned her embrace. She must have taken a keen liking to Akane already. It gave him a warm feeling that Akane would worry about his daughters that much. She seemed to have this maternal air to her that his daughters needed. She was also the kind of person Ranma needed. But she was only interested in his daughters, not him. If she were to ever marry him, it would be a marriage of convenience, not love. Afterall, Akane didn't love him. Even if she didn't love him, Ranma cared too much about his daughters to feel uncomfortable around her. He didn't want to deprive his twins of the motherly figure in their lives even if that motherly figure wasn't interested in him.
"Can I have a word with you, Akane?" Ranma said, coming up with a plan. He let Ryoga take hold of Jessie and hand as Akane let Ukyo hold Meggie's.
Akane nodded as she headed off with Ranma to someplace more private. She was curious to hear what he wanted to talk to her about. Secretly, she was hoping he would confess his love for her, but she was being too optimistic.
She knew that would never happen. She remembered how Ranma's eyes lit up when he saw Ukyo. Then again, his eyes lit up in the same fashion when he met Ryoga.
"What is it?" Akane asked, looking up into his eyes. She noticed that there was this sense of sadness in them she couldn't quite explain. It was as if his eyes wanted to tell her something really important.
"I was wondering if you'd like to spend some time with my daughters" he asked, his gaze intense. Even though his eyes looked like they could see her thoughts, Akane didn't feel uncomfortable. She was close to him, and that never made her uncomfortable "Jus' a couple of days"
"What?" she asked. She wanted to make sure she heard that correctly. She was wondering why he would ask her and not Ukyo. Ukyo had a daughter,
afterall, making her a much better person to look after his children. Ukyo had experience with children, not Akane.
"I-I need some t-time alone," he lied. He didn't need time alone. He wanted to spend every minute of his life with her. But because he couldn't, spending some time alone was the best thing. He wanted his children to spend some time with her, to get to know her, to be near her.
"I-it's okay with me," she said. There was no reason for her to decline his request. She actually looked forward to spending time with them. She had spent many years living alone in her large and vast house that she would very much like company. She could recall how nice she felt when she waited in the kitchen for Ranma to come up from the basement, glad that the house was no longer empty. Even if he hadn't come up, and she fell asleep, she felt this warm and secure feeling from knowing that she was not alone in that house.
"Thanks. I really appreciate it" Ranma said, smiling warmly. He was glad that his judgment of her was correct, that she did like spending time with his daughters. The fact that she liked his children seemed to overshadow the sadness in his heart from her not liking him. He'd rather have it where she liked his children instead of him. His wife, Shori, had liked him more than the children, and eventually, that was what made her leave.
"W-what are you gonna do?" Akane asked. She was wondering why he needed time to himself. Then, out of nowhere, she started thinking that he wanted his children out of the way so he could spend time with Ukyo.
"I want to paint my mother's house," he said. He always did want to do it but had always put it off. But he hadn't truly decided that he was going to paint it until a few days ago, when he returned there after work, when he noticed exactly how run-down it looked.
Akane blushed, embarrassed that she would have thoughts like that, thoughts of Ranma lying to see Ukyo. Maybe it was her jealousy that was sending her these thoughts. Afterall, she was jealous of the hold Ukyo had over him.
"When do you want to do that?" she asked. It was already late in the day, and she knew he would get little work done today.
"Tomorrow morning," he replied "I'd like to go out and buy some paint first. I want to do it tonight, after spending the rest of the afternoon here. Also, can spend the night at your house again?"
"Sure," she said, a bit zealously. She was excited at the thought of spending tonight and tomorrow with Meggie and Jessie. She had had such a great time with them the other day. Sure, they were doing a jigsaw puzzle,
but the thought of doing a jigsaw puzzle with someone made it a whole lot fun than doing it alone.
Ranma said nothing. He gave her a warm smile "Thanks"
"Daddy," Meggie called out from nearby "can we go on the merry-go-round again?"
Ranma's face faulted, his stomach lurching at the thought that he had to go back onto that god forsaken ride.
This was going to be a long afternoon.

Chapter 17

Ranma looked at the layout of the mall, which was located near the entrance he entered through. He was looking for the department store. Within moments, he found out where he was and how to get there. As he turned around, he accidentally bumped into a man dressed in full police uniform.
Ranma noticed he was a handsome man with long, jet-black hair that extended down his back, stopping just short of his slim waist, his bangs falling down over the thick glasses he wore. His uniform made him look like a formidable figure as he stood before him.
Ranma looked at the man for a second, knowing that he had seen this officer somewhere before.
"Don't I know you?" he said, not quite placing the face.
The officer gave Ranma an intense look for a minute before recognition dawned all over his face "Aren't you Ranma Saotome?"
"Yeah," he replied, still skeptical. Even though the officer knew him, he still didn't know exactly who the officer was "Who are you?"
"It's me, Mousse," the officer said, pulling his glasses up of his face.
"Mousse? What're you doing here?" Ranma said, thoroughly confused. The last time he had seen him was in China a few years ago, when he was there on a business trip for his computer engineering company. He remembered meeting Mousse as he came running up to him when he was talking to Shampoo, telling him to stay away form her.
"Didn't Shampoo tell you?" Mousse said, eyeing Ranma intently. He couldn't help but smile inwardly to himself upon realizing some of the crazy things he had told Ranma when he thought Ranma was trying to steal his precious Shampoo away from him. He remembered actually challenging Ranma to a duel, a common thing in the village he and Shampoo grew up in. He couldn't believe he had the audacity to challenge him. Ranma, dressed in his business suit, looked like a formidable opponent for him. He was very built, and he looked like a true martial artist. He was secretly glad he hadn't fought Ranma, glad the he didn't embarrass himself in front of his beloved when Ranma beat him fair and square.
"No. She didn't tell me a thing," Ranma said, scratching the back of his head. He recalled the conversation he and Akane had with Shampoo at the coffee shop the other day, Shampoo mentioning nothing about why Mousse was here.
"We moved here not too long ago," Mousse said, walking along side Ranma.
He didn't know where Ranma was going, but he just wanted the company. He had gotten off of work an hour ago, and his beloved Shampoo wasn't finished with her modeling shoot for another couple of hours. He didn't want to go home to an empty house.
"You did?" Ranma said, interested. He always liked Mousse. Sure, he did have some hostile intentions toward him when they first met, and they started out on the wrong foot, but when Mousse realized that Ranma had no intention of stealing Shampoo, be became really friendly and generous. They had become good friends just before Ranma had to head back to Japan after his business trip.
"Where do you live now?" Ranma added. He couldn't help but smile as he and Mousse walked down one of the mall's massive walkways. He was truly happy to see Ryoga after all these years, and now he met Mousse on the same day.
It couldn't really get much better than that.
"I live in Nerima now," Mousse replied. He gave a sinister look that said 'You stay outta trouble' that seemed to give several gang members the creeps as they walked by.
"That's strange. I never see you on the streets" Ranma commented. But there were good reasons why their paths never crossed. Nerima was a very large town. Friends could live in the same town and their paths might never cross for years. Afterall, Ranma hadn't met Akane till just recently, and he had lived in Nerima for quite a while now. He knew that if he ever saw Akane walking the streets, he would have definitely topped to talk to her, to perhaps get to know her.
"Well, Nerima is a large town, y'know" Mousse said, still walking along side Ranma, not quite sure where he was headed. He had been to this mall countless times to take a shoplifter down to the station from time to time,
but he wasn't quite sure where he was. He was never in this section of the mall before.
"If I recall correctly, didn't Shampoo tell me you wear contacts," Ranma asked. He could have sworn Shampoo told him that. He remembered joking about how he would have to worry about Mousse thinking he was Shampoo anymore.
"Yeah, but I accidentally lost one," Mousse replied "I hafta get a new pair. I'll probably get it next week. But right now, I like wearing my glasses. Actually, I prefer wearing glasses over contacts. I hate having to put contacts in the morning. Even though they don't bother after a short time, they're very irritating at first"
"Where are we headed?" Mousse added, changing the subject, taking his police cap off to scratch his head, brushing his bangs away. He took his glasses off to wipe them clean with a cloth he produced from his pocket,
nearly bumping into a trash can from the sudden lack of clear vision.
"I have to buy some paint," Ranma said, smirking inwardly. He remembered the incident where Mousse hugged him when his glasses weren't on, thinking he was Shampoo. He remembered how embarrassed Mousse looked when he realized his mistake, when Shampoo sarcastically questioned his preference.
"For what?" "I want to paint my mother's house" came the reply.
Ranma stopped as he reached his destination, stopping in front of the paint department store. It was large store, supplying everything from paint to lumber to sheetrock to tools. It was the kind of store women preferred to avoid, nothing in there to their liking. Actually, it was meant for men.
Nothing was on sale so the men wouldn't be confused looking for the better bargain. Everything came from tools to lawn equipment coming in colors in either chrome or black. This was the store was where most men went to when their wives and girlfriends were busy shopping for clothes somewhere else in the mall.
Ranma headed into the store, Mousse following suit. Inside, they only men occupied the floor, most of them either looking at the tools or the high powered lawn equipment. He noticed one man looking at a snow blower.
Jeez, winter won't be here for a while, Ranma thought as he walked by him.
Maybe he was looking at it because it looked powerful..
Ranma found and walked down the paint isle, "Now what color should I paint my mom's house?"
"What color is her house originally?" Mousse asked.
"I don't know," Ranma replied, thinking for a bit, trying to recall the exact color of his mother's house. He couldn't quite place the color. He knew it was somewhere close to maroon.
"I think it was red"

"Thanks, Mousse. I really appreciate it" Ranma said, placing the boxes of paint cans on a nearby shelf in the garage. He had to move a couple of other boxes aside for the space. The garage was used as a storage shed for everything Nodoka had and never used. She just couldn't bring herself to throw anything away. Everything had some sort of sentimental value to her.
Mousse placed the other boxes of paint cans in the space Ranma had made room for. He regarded the garage for a second, checking out everything that was in there. He noticed, near the back of the garage, there were several cardboard boxes label 'Ranma's stuff'
"What's in there?" Mousse asked, pointing toward he cardboard box.
"Let's find out," Ranma said, steeping over some crates to reach the back of the garage, pulling the box off the shelf and bringing it to the front, where there was light shining in through the opened garage door.
He blew the dust off the top of the box, the dust creating a small cloud within the garage, the moonlight shining in through the open garage door making it look like the clouds found in the sky. After the dust cleared off,
he then opened to box. His eyes widened as a flood of memories enveloped him.
"Look at that, my very first pair of shoes," he said, pulling out an old pair of beaten up sneakers. The shoestrings were missing, and there were holes in the front, large enough for several toes to be exposed.
He put that aside, and then looked back into the box.
He produced several items along the way, telling Mousse of the story and sentimental values it meant to him. There were some instances where Ranma laughed aloud, happy at some of the memories the items evoked. But his visage turned sullen when he produced a old photo album.
"What's wrong?" Mousse asked. He noticed how Ranma's countenance changed so dramatically. He had looked pretty happy as he went through the memorabilia, telling him of the story behind them. But now, once he came across this old photo album, his visage saddened. He looked like he was on the verge of breaking down and crying.
"N-nothing," Ranma said, looking intently at the old photo album. He could look at Mousse. He didn't want to see him like this. Mousse looked over Ranma's shoulder, his gaze resting on a single picture it held. It was a picture of Ranma when he was young. He was smiling happily in the picture. But it wasn't Ranma that seemed to light the picture up. It was the little girl he was holding. The girl looked like she was about two years old.
That must be one of Ranma's child, Mousse thought, remembering Ranma having told him that he had two daughters. But why did he get so sad all of a sudden? Shouldn't he be happy when he saw that picture?
Ranma closed the photo album and placed it carefully into the cardboard box. He then picked the box up and took it to the back of the garage,
putting it back onto the shelf he retrieved it from. As he came to the front of the garage, the moonlight shone in on his face. Mousse noticed that the sense of sadness to him was no longer there, as if he put a wall up.
"Well, I guess I better get going now," Ranma said, changing the subject. He didn't want to dwell on the subject he was just on "Thanks, what with you helping me with getting my paint and bringing them here. I appreciate it"
"Um, glad I could help," Mousse said "Would you like me to help you paint your mom's house? I have the weekend off"
"I'd really like that," Ranma replied. He could use the company. He had never really spent much time with friends ever since his daughters were born. Sure, he had Ryoga, but he was rarely in one place for a long time. He had stayed with him for about a week when Jessie and Meggie were very young.
"When're you gonna start? When should I be here?" Mousse asked. He was actually looking forward to spending the day with Ranma. He hadn't seen Ranma in a long long time, and he would like to catch up on the times they've missed out. He wanted to hear of how Ranma raised his children so perfectly, curious for he would be a father sometime in the near future.
"I don't know. How about ten?" he said.
"Sure. I'll be here" Mousse replied. He then looked around the garage for a couple of seconds before adding "Um, I just noticed, how are we going to paint the house? We don't have paint brushes or paint rollers"

Akane was reading a book when there was soft knock at her door. She looked at her watch, it reading 10:36 PM. It had been a little over three hours since Ranma left to head for the mall. She had started to get worried after he was gone for two hours. Even though she didn't know that much about buying paint, she knew it didn't take three hours to buy them.
"Sorry I'm late," Ranma apologized as she opened the door for him to enter, taking his shoes off. He gave her meek smile, knowing that she wouldn't believe his excuse if he told her. She'd just laugh at him for him being so forgetful. But to his surprise, she never asked "Um, are they awake?"
"No, Jessie and Meggie fell asleep a short while ago," Akane replied. She gave Ranma a curious look, noticing that he seemed a bit tired. It looked like he needed some sleep. She noticed that there were rings under his eyes.
"Where are they?" he asked. He wanted to kiss them good night before he headed home. He was dead tired and wanted to go to sleep. He even contemplated not taking his shower and just heading into his bedroom so he could go right to sleep.
"They're in the guest room. It's the one adjacent to mine" Akane replied,
following as Ranma headed up the stairs. His steps seems to be more sluggish, more languid that usual "When're you going to paint your mom's house"
"At ten. I met Mousse at the mall. He wants to help out," he said, opening the door for Akane to enter the room first. Akane noted this, that he would open the door for her. It made her feel special. Ranma didn't even realize he was opening the door for a female. He had gotten into such a habit of opening doors for his daughters that he never gave it any thought.
Ranma walked up to Meggie and Jessie, both of them sleeping on separate futons Akane had laid out for them. They were sleeping at opposite sides of the room. Meggie was sleeping nearest to the window, the window directly above her, the moonlight shining in on her sleeping form.
Akane watched as he walked over and knelt down next the Meggie, kissing her on her forehead "G'night, honey"
She then watched as he stood up and walked over to Jessie, kissing her on her forehead, gently brushing a loose bang aside, exposing her angelic face as the moonlight shone on it "G'night, honey"
Ranma yawned aloud as he headed for the door, stretching his arms out. He couldn't wait to go to bed. All he'd do once he stepped through the door into his house would be take his shirt and pants off, and then jumping right into bed "What happened to Ryoga, Miki, and Ukyo"
Ukyo, Miki, and Ryoga had stayed behind at Akane's house as Ranma headed left for the mall.
"Ukyo had to leave at around eight, taking Miki with her. Ryoga left to accompany her home" Akane said in one breath. She didn't bother to tell him that Ukyo immediately had to leave as soon as Akane noticed some bruises on Miki's arms when she entered the living they were talking in. Akane had enjoyed their company while it lasted. While Miki and Jessie and Meggie were busy trying to piece together another jigsaw puzzle they found in the attic,
Akane, Ukyo, and Ryoga were indulging themselves in some meaningful conversation as they had tea and coffee.
Ukyo had told Akane that Ranma was Miki's father. At first, she couldn't believe what she was hearing. Ryoga listened intently as the conversation continued. She told her that she hadn't told Ranma of this until the other day.
"You know, Akane, Ranma and I were once lovers" Ukyo had said as she sipped her tea. Akane could distinctly remember her looking out the window toward the backyard where Miki was doing the jigsaw puzzle with Meggie and Jessie "But we went our separate ways. Right after we broke up, I moved up to Hokkaido. I still have a house up there. Anyway, when I found out I was pregnant a couple of months later, I came back to Nerima to tell him. But by the time I came back, it was too late, he had met his future wife. I saw him eating in a diner with her. I saw him as I passed the window. I went in to tell him, but he looked happy. He had never had a happy life, but for the first time in his life, he seemed content. So I left it as that. I turned around and headed back to Hokkaido without saying a word to him. I kept track of him, and I found out that he found a great job at a computer engineering company a year after that. I wanted to let him know about Miki,
but I didn't want to bog him down with a child. Besides, by then, he already had children"
"Do you know where Ryoga's staying?" Ranma asked, causing Akane to snap out of her little reverie.
"Um, yeah, he mentioned he was staying at the hotel down the block. I forgot the name if it, but it's the only hotel around. Why?" she said.
"I wanted to ask him if he'd like to help me out," Ranma said. He hadn't seen Ryoga in a long long time, and he wanted to spend some time with him, to catch up on the times. Besides, he knew Ryoga and Mousse would become good friends. He ever since he had children, he never had a chance to get out much, to spend time with the guys. Most of the time it was spent with women, women trying to get to know him. But it was easy finding out their true intentions. All he had to do was tell them that he had two children, and they would leave him alone.
Akane felt a tinge of anger welting up. Why doesn't he ask me to help, she thought. She was free the next day. Sure, she was going to look after his children, but she could be some help. She could make sandwiches and bring out some refreshments from time to time.
"How about you? Would you like to help?" Ranma asked, raising an eyebrow.
He knew Akane wanted him to ask. He knew she didn't really want to help, but it was the fact that he asked was what counted.
"Well, what about the children?" Akane asked. She felt a bit better now that he asked her for some help. But she didn't really want to help. She would definitely have her hands full with Meggie and Jessie. Besides, she wanted to take them out shopping. She noticed that the twins tended to wear clothes that were out of fashion. She realized that it must have been Ranma who was doing the clothes shopping. Afterall, a man could care less about fashion as long as the clothes looked and felt comfortable.
"I guess you're right," Ranma said, allowing himself to play right into her hands. He wanted his children to spend the day with her, not have her spend the day with him. He preferred his children being with Akane over her being with him. Afterall, the children came first "What do ya plan on doing tomorrow?"
"I'm not too sure. I'll think of something," Akane lied. She knew she was going to take his daughters to the mall to buy them some clothes. She just wanted this to be a surprise. She wanted to see his face light up when he saw his daughters in some new clothes.
"Well, I better get going then" Ranma said, yawning again. He knew that if he didn't leave, he'd fall asleep right where he stood "I have a long day tomorrow"
Ranma gave Akane a smile as he walked to the front door, sitting down on the floor to put his shoes on. He was leaning his back up against the wall so he could relax, and it made him feel a little bit too relaxed. He quickly got back up and gazed at Akane in her eyes. Ah, what the heck, Ranma thought. If she slaps me, then she slaps me.
Ranma leaned forward and kiss Akane's cheek "G'night, Akane"
He then turned around and left. Akane just stood there, unable to comprehend what had just transpired. She could feel heat flushing to where Ranma's lips brushed across her cheeks. She stared out the window of the front door, watched him as he disappeared as he opened and walked through the front gate.
"G-good night, Ranma" she said softly with a warm smile, her cheeks flushed.
Chapter 18 Ranma was just finishing his breakfast when Nodoka called out for him,
telling him there was someone here to see him. He quickly took hold of the plate and the empty glass and put them in the sink, quickly rinsing and washing them off before putting them back into the shelf.
He was at Nodoka's house, all ready to begin work. He had spent the night there. Nodoka was surprised to see him show up at her door last night, but she had no problem letting his stay for the night.
"What are you doing here at this late?" Nodoka had said. It was around eleven when Ranma had rung the doorbell. Naturally, since she was hard of hearing she would have not heard the doorbell at all, but she and Ranma not longer had to worry about that ever since Ranma installed a small device that made a vibration reverberate through the house. That meant Nodoka didn't hear the doorbell, but rather felt it. It also meant his daughters wouldn't be woken up.
"I want to paint your house," Ranma had said, taking his shoes off. He didn't even need to be asked to come in. He was always welcomed in her home. Every time he did show up, it seemed to brighten her day. That was why Ranma made it an effort to show up every day or every other day.
"Hi Ranma," Mousse said, entering the kitchen, causing Ranma to snap out of his little reverie of last night's conversation. Mousse was in some old clothes, consisting of some worn-out jeans and an old sweat shirt. His long hair was tied up into a long ponytail so it won't get in the way while he was working.
Ranma looked at the clock that hung on the wall "Wow, you're right on time," He always liked that, punctuality. He never liked being late in meeting someone, and he liked it where no one was late meeting him.
"Thanks," Mousse said. He had never been late for anything in his life, and he wasn't about to start it his tardiness with Ranma. He smiled as he regarded Ranma, noticing that he was wearing the same attire as him,
worn-out jeans and an old sweat shirt.
"Mom, this is my friend Mousse," he told his mom, placing an arm around him like he was an old buddy he knew for many years. It felt a bit odd for Ranma, as if he was in elementary school, introducing a new friend he had made in school. But he calmly disregarded that.
"Hello, Mousse. It's nice to meet you," Nodoka said, bowing politely as he returned the gesture. She regarded him for a moment, noticing this authoritative air to him that seemed to make her feel at ease. Sure, she was with Ranma, but she would probably feel more safe around Mousse if it came down to it. And she couldn't quite tell why.
"Good morning, Saotome-sama" Mousse said, smiling sweetly. He already liked Nodoka. He liked her when he first set eyes on her. She seemed very wise, like his great-grandmother-in-law, Cologne. But there was something more to Nodoka that made him like her more. She seemed like a great mother and grandmother. She seemed kind and generous and, most of all, honorable.
"Please, call me Auntie Nodoka," she said. She always liked that title. It gave her a warm feeling. All of Ranma's acquaintances called her that. Ryoga always called her that, even when he was young. Ukyo called her that the first day she met her. All of Ranma's friends, albeit there were few, called her 'Auntie Saotome'.
"You want to start?" Ranma asked, interrupting. He knew that if given the chance, his mom would tell him of his upbringing, sans the abuse. She would have given him detailed stories on some of the stupid things he had done in his life, if not stupid, then at least all the embarrassing things.
"Sure," Mousse said. He was actually eager to do some painting. He had been working for so long that he never had the time to do any constructive work. His job required that he worked long hours, leaving him little time to do things he enjoyed. And it just so happened that he enjoyed painting houses. It was one of the few things he did real well, aside from his job and from being a good husband.
"Can you go get everything set up? I want to give an old friend of mine a call. I want to see if he can help," Ranma said, reaching for the phone that hung on the wall near the refrigerator.
He reached up and grabbed hold of the yellow pages that was always located onto of the fringe. He thumbed through the pages quickly, stopping once it reached 'hotels'. He quickly looked through a bunch of listing before stopping at the name he remembered of the hotel nearby Akane's house. He punched in the numbers, humming happily to himself as he did so. Today was looking up for him. He had woken up to a full cooked breakfast, something that rarely ever happened to him since he was the one who usually had to do the cooking, his friend showed up at the right time and was now outside setting everything up, and here he was, calling his friend.
"Hello?" came a voice on the other line. It was a the manager of the hotel, Ranma recognizing that it was a female voice. The voice sound sweet and elderly, like a woman in her fifties.
"Um yes, is this the Nerima Hotel Lodge?" he asked. He hoped he dialed the number in correctly.
"Yes," came the reply.
"Can you please patch me through to Ryoga Hibiki's room?" Ranma asked. He knew there would be an answer. He knew Ryoga always woke up early. He just hoped he was still in the hotel.
The lady put him on hold for a second, the background playing some old songs he could recall hearing from his childhood. After a while, he started humming with the melody. After about a minute or so, the line cut to a phone ringing.
"Hello?" came a voice, slightly energetic. Ranma knew it was Ryoga, knowing that he was a morning person. He sound very cheerful on the phone, as if he had just stepped out of a refreshing shower.
"Ryoga, it's me, Ranma," Ranma said.
"Hey, Ranma. How's everything going?" Ryoga asked casually. Even though they hadn't spoken on the phone with each other for quite a while, two years to be exact, Ryoga acted as if they've been calling each other everyday since they became friends.
"Everything's great. I wanted to ask you if would you like to help me paint my mom's house today?" Ranma said.
"Sure, I'd love to," Ryoga said zealously. He always liked working on homes, whether it be from plumbing to wiring to painting. It was quite ironic because he was rarely home. He usually traveled, preferred camping out under the stars, sleeping in a sleeping bag over sleeping in a bed in a big house like his. Even though he liked doing outdoors-type things like building a fire or pitching a tent, he also liked working on a house.
"Cool. When can you come over?" Ranma asked, already knowing the answer. He knew Ryoga was all dressed and ready to leave at a moment's notice.
"I'll be there in about ten minutes," came the reply.
"Great. I'll see you then,"
Ranma looked at his watched, wondering how long it had been since they started. The clock read 1:04. They had been working for a little over three hours now. He turned his gaze onto Ryoga, noticing that he had taken off his shirt to deal with the heat. It was very warm today. And it was the middle of autumn. It wasn't scorching, but the work they did did make them sweat a lot. They were not only painting the house, but they were actually doing so repair to it. Mousse had found some tools in the garage and was using them to fix some broken shutters, replacing them with the ones they had picked up when they realized the shutters should be fixed. He made a trip to his house where he fetched out some new shutters he had been meaning to add to his own house. He took the shutters from his storage shed, feeling that he'd go out and buy some new ones when the time came to it where he finally decided to put them onto his own house. And while Mousse did this, Ryoga was busy re-shingling the roof. He had went to a nearby home repair store and picked up a crate load of shingles. As the two did this, Ranma was busy ripping hole in one of the walls in the side of the house, hitting it with a sledgehammer that he had Ryoga buy while he was out buying shingles. Ranma wanted to put in a new window for the livingroom. His mother had always complained that there was never enough sunlight in the livingroom. Even with all the blinds open, the livingroom still lacked sunlight. From what they were doing, it was obvious they were doing much more work than they had originally planned on. But it didn't bother them one bit. They actually enjoyed doing things like this. That was why they were so sweaty, everyone doing harder work than just painting.
A cold breeze would blow by, but it wasn't enough to cool him and his friends down.
Ranma turned his gaze onto Mousse, who also abandoned his shirt due to the heat, his shirt neatly folded and placed on a table where their drinks were. He knew that Shampoo must be the cause of Mousse being like this,
being so neat and all. He knew that marriage tended to do that to a man.
Ranma had been like that. He used to be messy before he met Shori. But once he got married, his habits changed. Now, Ranma was always neat. But then again, his children was also a key element in that also. He wanted to set a good example for them.
Ranma wiped the sweat off his face, the sun shining brightly above. His shirt was soaked with sweat. He wanted to take it off, but he wasn't wearing a undershirt underneath. Sure, he could go topless, but he really didn't want to. He had his reasons, reasons he preferred people not know about.
He placed a hand over the interior right side of his chest, right near his armpit, feeling the healed scar as it pressed against his shirt. It was a large scar, stretching from his armpit to his sternum, riding under the underside of his right pectoral muscle. It was something that he wasn't too proud of. That was why he preferred not to go to beaches, people always staring at his scar, wondering where he got it. Obviously, he was too young to say he had gotten it in a war. He usually lied and said it was from a fight when he was little, his attacker slashing him with a knife. But if one looked carefully enough, they would know that it wasn't a cut made from a knife. Ranma knew exactly how that scar was made. It was made from a metal pole, heated up till it glowed red, as it was struck against him when he was very young. It was all his father's fault. Why did he have to abuse him like that? And that wasn't the only scar that his father had given him. His back had three large scars, crossing from his right shoulder blade down his entire back stopping just short of the indentation of his pelvis bone on his waist. The three scars were all parallel to each other, as if he were scratched by a bear. But that hadn't been the case. His father had struck him one of those hoes used for breaking soil loose. It had three sharp-pointed claws on it that was used to break the soil down.
He rubbed it, noticing the outward indentation of where the new skin healed over the damaged ones. It felt as there was a thick wire buried beneath the top layer of his skin. He a finger lightly against it, noticing how compressed and tight the scar was.
Ranma sighed as he continued to work, wishing he didn't have to worry about that unsightly scar. "Hey Ranma, when did your mom say she'll be back?" Ryoga called out, busy ripping the old shingles off the roof and throwing them to the ground below. He made sure Mousse and Ranma was nowhere nearby so he wouldn't hit them.
"She won't be back for a couple of days," Ranma replied. Nodoka had told him she was going to spend some time at one of her friend's house. She told him that she didn't like the smell of paint, and that it made her feel nauseous and sick. It had happened to her once when he decided to paint one of her rooms, and she had remained home as he did so "Why?"
"Cause this job won't be finished for at least a few of days," Ryoga commented. He knew this was at least a three day job. He had done shingling once on his own house, and it took him close to four days to do it. But since he had done this already, he figured he could skim a day off this time around.
"I know. But it'll all be worth it when she sees all these improvements"
Akane sat down on a bench to catch her breath, her feet tired from all the walking she had been doing. She had been at the mall for close to three hours now, two hours more than she expected. She had bought plenty of clothes for both Meggie and Jessie, enough to last them until they were in college. She was glad they were finally finished with her shopping, glad she could now head home. The twins had been quite a handful, and she couldn't wait to relax after a very tiring day.
I wonder how Ranma keeps up with this, Akane thought as she looked at her watch. It read only 12:05. She couldn't see how Ranma managed to keep up with his daughters. They were so full of energy it was unbelievable. Even though they didn't cause trouble or any form of embarrassment, they never seemed to stand still for more than a minute.
"What're we gonna do now?" Meggie asked Akane, swinging her legs back and forth on the bench as she sat next to her. She was eating an ice cream cone Akane had bought for her and her sister.
"We're going back to my place," Akane replied, adjusting some of the bags so she had a firmer grip. She must have had ten bags full of clothes from different clothing department stores, each of them feeling like they weighed a ton.
"Okay, let's go," Jessie said, hopping on the bench to stand in front of Akane, grabbing one bag from her hands to help her out. She couldn't hold more than a few bags. They were too heavy for her.
Akane sighed inwardly as she got up off the bench, handing a bag to Meggie so she wouldn't feel left out in helping her. She smiled happily as she took hold of one of the bags. Akane had it were Meggie and Jessie walked slightly in front of her so she would see them if they decided to run off. Luckily for her, they never did, at least up until now.
"Wow, a piano," Jessie said, running into a store. There was a beautiful grand piano located at the front of the store. It was a glossy black Steinway, the best name brand when it came to pianos. It was shining brightly from the interior lights, the white and black keys beckoning to be touched.
"Wait a minute," Akane said, quickly running forward as Meggie followed her sister into the store. Akane had to stop to pick up the bags Meggie and Jessie placed on the floor before they ran for the store. She had to take a moment to pick them up. When she had them firmly in her grasp, she noticed that the twins were now in front of the grand piano, both of them sitting on the bench.
As she ran forward heard to tell them not to touch, she realized she was too late as they both raised their little hands to strike the keys. But,
to her surprise, it didn't sound like a bunch of keys being struck at once,
but more like a bunch of keys flowing into one another. She stopped dead in her tracks as she started hearing the most beautiful music emanating from the instrument. To her surprise, the two twins were playing the piano. Crowds started to gather around the two little girls as they continued to play, Akane having to make her way pass them so she wouldn't lose sight of Meggie and Jessie. When she was close enough to the piano, Akane could see as the twins played, their small hands moving gracefully up and down the row of keys, striking the right note at the right time. The song sound like it was that of a masterpiece created by such composers as Bach and Beethoven and Brahms and Mozart put together. The song was very easy on the ears, the crowd seeming to absorb the beautiful music rather than listen it.
The twins played the entire song, which lasted about five minutes,
finishing with a grand conclusion. The crowd cheered for the two little girls, everyone clapping their hands, some of them whistling, as they bowed politely to the crowd.
"You're both very talented," a elderly lady said. She knew these girls had talent, for she was a piano teacher. She had never heard anybody play a song so beautifully in her entire life. These children must have been piano prodigies, for only prodigies could play as graceful and skillfully as them.
"Thank you," the twins said in unison, bowing politely.
"I never knew you two could play?" Akane said, a shocked look on her face.
She must have been to most shocked person in the crowd. She had never heard something as beautiful as the song they had just played "How'd you two learn to play like that?"
"Daddy used to teach us," the two said in unison.
Akane just looked at them, a shocked look on her face. She never knew Ranma played the piano. He just didn't look like the type. But then something registered in her head. The twins mentioned that Ranma had taught them in a past tense "Used to teach you? What do you mean by that?"
"Daddy gave up playing a long time ago," "Hey Ranma, you still play piano?" Ryoga asked, sitting down in front of the piano that was hidden in the corner of the livingroom. He remembered hearing Ranma play once, when he attended his wedding with Shori. He had played a love song for her, a song he came up with, when he and Shori were supposed to exchange vows. But instead of telling her his vows, he had sung it to her.
"No. Not anymore," Ranma said, taking a seat on the sofa, the same sofa where he had slept many nights when his daughters fell asleep at his mother's house.
"Why not?" Ryoga asked curiously. He couldn't understand why Ranma stopped playing. He was very talented. He could have become famous if he continued on playing.
"I prefer not to talk about it," Ranma said. He didn't really like to talk about his past too much.
"Why not?" Mousse asked, sitting down next to him, a coke bottle in his hands.
"Because it has to do something with my past, and I prefer not to talk about it," Ranma snapped, which caused both Ryoga and Mousse to cringe. Ranma had every reason not to tell them. It never concerned them, and he wanted to keep it that way. He had been playing piano for a long, long time.
And he was quite good at it, so good that he had played in many concerts.
But he had to stop because his hands started to hurt as he continued to play. It was all his father's fault. His father had broken his wrist once when he threw him down the stairs. It was a minor break, a hairline crack,
but it was a break nonetheless. He never told anyone that his wrist had been broken from that fall, not even his mother. He kept quiet, scared that his father would beat him some more if he complained. So he let it heal naturally. Unfortunately, it never healed properly. Gradually, as he continued to play, his wrist would start hurting. But over time, he got used to the pain. Afterall, his father used to beat him whenever he could. The pain in his wrist was the warning sign for him to stop and get it check out. But he never did. He continued to ignore it and continued to play. Eventually, the pain spread to his fingers. After his father was taken away,
he stopped playing, no longer worried about his father beating him for wasting his money on piano lessons. Over the time when he wasn't playing,
his wrist started to heal, and the pain went away. But from time to time,
he would start playing again, and he kept playing until the pain became too unbearable, and he had to stop. That was how it worked with his daughters.
When they expressed a keen interest in piano, he was glad to teach them. He taught them almost everything he knew. But over the years of playing again, the pain started to come back. That was why he had to stop. He'd have to wait a couple more years for the pain to subside before he could start teaching his daughters again. unfortunately, by the time the pain was gone, his daughters would most likely no longer be interested in piano anymore. "Akane, I'm hungry," Jessie said, rubbing her tummy. It was now a little past one, she not having eaten since eight in the morning, over five hours ago. By now, she and her sister and Akane would be home now, but they were still at the mall, the two twins spending a half hour playing some more songs on the grand piano. The girls had attracted the such a huge crowd to the store that the store manager asked Akane if she could have them come back to the store weekly so they could play. The store had never had such a crowd before. Although the most of crowd had dispersed after the twins stopped playing, some bothered to stay behind and browse, some of them buying a couple of merchandise on display.
"I don't think that's possible," Akane had told the manager shortly before leaving, the bags all bunched up around her elbows as she held Jessie and Meggie's hand in each of her own. She didn't know if Ranma would have approved of this.
"We'll pay you," the manager insisted. He really wanted those twins to play for the store.
"It's not my decision," Akane said. It wasn't. It was Ranma's decision. If he wanted his daughters to play, then she would be happy to take them here once a week to play the piano. But he didn't want them to, she couldn't do anything about it. Sure, she'd ask him to reconsider, but she could do much more than that.
"Why not?" the manager asked. He was a bit confused. Aren't the twins her daughters, he thought. Surely, her husband can't have that much control over her that she couldn't make a decision on her own.
"Cause I'm not their mother," Akane said, a bit reluctant. She was starting to think that she was their mother. She always wondered how nice it would be to be a parent, and she was busy vicariously living parenthood through Ranma's children. She liked taking care of the children, just like a real parent.
"Oh," the manager said. He thought Akane was their mother. She was a beautiful women, and the children were equally as beautiful, like a reflection of her "Well, do you know who I can contact for the decision?"
Akane had to give the store manager credit for his persistence. It seemed obvious that he really wanted them to play in the store "You can contact their father. His name is Ranma Saotome"
She liked how his name seemed to roll off the tip of her tongue. His name was easy to pronounce, easy to remember. But then again, who could forget a man like him.
"Whatcha talkin' about, Akane?" Meggie asked, tugging at her hand. She hadn't been paying attention to the conversation until now, she too busy chatting with her sister. But upon hearing her Daddy's name being mentioned,
she had to hear what it was about.
"Um, this man..." Akane began, looking at the store manager.
"Otano Yurai," the manager said.
"This man, Otano Yurai, wants you to play for the store," Akane told Jessie and Meggie, who was now paying attention since her sister nudged her.
She spoke of how the manager wanted them both to come here once a week to play for the store. She asked them if they were will to do it.
"I don't wanna," Meggie said.
"Me too," Jessie agreed with her sister. She usually did what Meggie did.
Meggie tended to do better with the decision making more than she did. Even though she was better at decision making, Meggie wasn't as uninhibited as Jessie. There were some slight differences between the twins' personality,
but those two traits were the most noticeable.
"Well, nevermind," Akane said with a slight shrug of her shoulders. If they didn't want to play for the store, there was nothing she could do to stop them "It looks like they're making the decision,"

Chapter 19

Akane gently placed Meggie on the futon in the guestroom, careful not to wake her up. The moonlight shone in through the open window, shining upon the little girl's angelic face. If there was a halo above her head, Meggie would have easily passed for an angel from the heavens. Meggie had fallen asleep on the livingroom sofa when she was watching television. She had fallen asleep at the same time Jessie did. Jessie was already tucked in,
sleeping soundly on the futon on the other side of the room.
Akane gave Meggie a kiss on the forehead, just like their Daddy did. She felt this warm feeling envelope her as she did this. Is this how good it feels to be a mother, she thought. She liked caring for them, putting them in their beds, tucking them in, and kissing them on their foreheads.
She heard a light knock at the front door as it echoed softly through the house. She looked at the clock that hung on the wall. It was 11:30, the exact time he said he'd be back. He had called her, telling her that it he was going to be an hour late. There was no need in him calling her, but it made her feel good that he would bother to call to let her know. Just the fact that he bothered to call to tell her of his tardiness made her feel good, just like every other woman out there. It meant that he didn't want to cause her any worry.
She quietly exited the guestroom, sliding the door softly closed, careful not to wake the girls upon her exit. She went downstairs and opened the door for Ranma to enter.
"How was your day?" she asked as he began to take his showed off. She noticed that his sweat shirt was dirty with red paint. And with every step he took, dust and dirt seemed to fall off of it.
"It went okay," Ranma said, following Akane into the livingroom "How about you, what did you do?"
"I took your daughters to the mall. We went shopping," Akane said, she pointed to a large bundle of bags at one corner of the room. There must have been close to ten bags Ranma had counted "I bought Jessie and Meggie some clothes"
"You didn't need to do that," Ranma said. He would have taken his daughters to the mall if they needed to go shopping for anything. He would have been happy to do it, provided he had to. Otherwise, he'd prefer to avoid going to any public place. He always felt uneasy by the stares every girl gave him "But thanks anyway," he added, smiling warmly. That meant she saved him the discomfort of going to the mall again. He remembered how uncomfortable he felt when he was in the mall where he met Mousse. There were so many females giving him looks that he preferred to forget about it. He wasn't some kind of piece of meat.
"So, what're you going to do now?" Akane asked. She was a bit curious what he was going to do. Was he going to stay, or was he going to go home. She preferred him staying if it came down to it. But he had said he needed some time alone.
"Well, I'd really like to take a shower again," Ranma said "They didn't finish fixing the water main that broke," He couldn't take a shower at his mother's house. He had accidentally broken a water pipe while trying to put a hole in the livingroom wall. He and Mousse were drenched in cold water before they finally had the thing under control. They had to drop everything to fix the pipe, which took most of the day.
"Sure, go right ahead," Akane said, gesturing to the bathroom "You're welcome to use my shower whenever you want," She didn't really mind having him borrow her shower. Sure, the thoughts of him in the shower would distract her incredibly, but it was the kind of distractions she didn't mind.
"Thanks," he replied, before changing the subject "Did you tuck them in?"
He knew his daughters were asleep now. They always fell asleep at around ten. He was just wondering if they were tucked in so they wouldn't be cold tonight.
"Yeah," Akane said "I tucked them in a while ago"
"I'll go kiss them goodnight," Ranma said, quickly hopping up the stairs,
taking two steps at the time. He had been kissing his daughters goodnight ever since they were born, and he had no intention of stopping. Akane went about her business, knowing that it was best that he had his little privacy with them whenever he could. It was his special time with them, and it was a time she shouldn't be intruding in upon.
She went into the kitchen and began preparing some coffee. She was hoping he was going to stay for a little while. She liked talking to him. She felt comfortable talking to him. Sure, she felt nervous being around him, but it would diminish quickly as they began to converse. She sat down in a chair, waiting patiently for Ranma to come back downstairs.
Ranma entered the kitchen just as the coffee was finished. She poured it into a cup "Would you like some coffee?"
"Please," he said, pulling a chair out and sitting down in a chair. The table had been moved into the kitchen not too long ago. She figured it was easier to eat in the kitchen rather than carry the food from there and into the dining room. Afterall, she lived alone and it didn't matter where she ate. But now that Ranma was here, she felt a bit regretful for having brought that table into the kitchen from the storage shed.
She placed a cup in front of him as she sat down in the seat front of him,
a cup of coffee in her own hands. She watched as he took a sip, his eyebrows raising upon tasting the coffee. It was very good, tasting much better than the coffee he was accustomed to making.
"Thanks," he said, placing the cup down, savoring the taste. The coffee tasted a lot better than the one he was used to. As he sat there, he seemed to enjoy the thought that she was near him, close to him. He could get used to this in no time.
There was a bit of silence, none of them having anything to say. It was kind of awkward. The silence was so palpable they could cut it with a knife.
But it was broken when Ranma spoke up.
"I was wondering," he started, taking a deep breath. He felt a bit nervous with what he was about to say "Um, what did you buy the kids?"
He wanted to ask her out at that moment, but couldn't bring himself to say the words. He quickly changed the subjects onto his children.
Akane was holding her breath when he was about to ask her something. She was hoping he would ask her out on a date. She hadn't dated in many years,
and she was really looking forward to getting back into the dating scene,
especially with Ranma. She wouldn't mind having his arms around her, have him close to her, feel his lips on hers. Actually she dreamed of things like that. She wondered how it be like being Ranma's girlfriend, having him for her boyfriend.
She sighed when he had asked about what she bought today. Maybe she was fooling herself. What would he see in her? Why would he want her when he had Ukyo? And now, he had a child with her, further strengthening their bond.
Ranma would never be unfaithful. So that meant he would never want to be with someone else besides Ukyo.
"Um, I bought them some clothes" Akane said, taking a sip of her coffee, concentrating on its taste. She needed it to get that bitter taste out of her mouth. She wished he wasn't taken. She was indeed jealous of Ukyo, jealous that she had Ranma. She wanted Ranma.
"How much did you spend?" he asked. He was preparing for her to say a high price. He knew that she bought plenty of clothes, what with the ten or so bags of clothes.
She did the math in her head, "A little under fifty thousand yen"
Ranma's face faulted. It was more than he expected. He sighed as he reached into his back pocket and took out his wallet. He opened it up and began thumbing through the bills count them up.
"What are you doing?" Akane asked. She wasn't expecting Ranma to pay for what she had bought for his daughters. Just spending time with them was thanks enough.
"I'm gonna pay you back" Ranma said, producing five large bills each worth ten thousand yen. He placed it on the table "There that should take care of it"
"I don't want your money," she said. The thought of having him pay her back had never crossed her mind. She liked spending money on his children. All her life, she had been saving, but for once, she was spending, and that made her feel good. Sure, she was saving some money toward renovating the dojo, but that could wait. She was still young, and there was still a lot of time. Besides, if she was ever in a financial jam, her older sister, Nabiki, could always help her out. She was a financial genius, having made millions before she was even out of college. She would help her out, so Akane was safe when it came to spending money. Also, the school brought in a lot of money that fifty thousand yen seemed like nothing.
"Please, I owe you," Ranma insisted, "I was about to take them out shopping anyway. You saved me the trouble" He could pay for their clothes. Even though he wasn't strapped for cash, this would definitely take a chunk out of his wallet.
"Well, I'm not going to take it," Akane said, a slight smirk on her lips. She was a bit amused at how Ranma really wanted to pay. He must have felt responsible for her spending the money that he had to pay her for the expenses and her troubles. But she wasn't going to give him the satisfaction of that. She had fun spending money on his daughters that she refused to accept his money. If it came down to it, she would have paid him for letting her spend time with his children.
Ranma sighed. He was a very honorable man. He always paid his debts, and he had no intention of stopping now. He was in debt to Akane, and he was going to pay it "Okay, fine," he said taking a deep breath. he was going to risk it all on this next line "I'll buy you dinner then"
Akane looked at him funnily. She was expecting him to shove the money down her throat before he gave up. She was not expecting him to say what he had just said. It caught her by surprise. She had always wanted him take her out to dinner, and now that he was offering it, she didn't know what to do. She never expected him to actually go through with it and ask her.
"What?" she asked. She wanted to make sure she heard him correctly.
"I said I'll buy you dinner then," he repeated. It was now or never "We'll have a dinner at the fanciest restaurant around"
Akane gave Ranma an inquisitive look. She was trying to see if he was joking or not. When she realized, through looking into his eyes, that his words were sincere, her heart melted. He actually meant it. He wanted to go out with her. Sure, he indirectly asked her out to dinner, but no matter how one would put it, it was a date.
"Um, I-I'd love to," she said, struggling to speak. Her throat felt dry.
She had to use all her power to keep herself for leaping up in joy. She had waited for this moment for so long. Sure, she had known him for about a week, it felt like an eternity to her "But what about the children?"
Ranma's heart felt like it was going to shatter. Did she want them to come along? He was hoping he could have dinner with her, alone. Just the two of them. But if she wanted them to come, then he wasn't going to make it awkward for her by not having them tag along.
"They could come along," he said, a bit reluctant. He could have had his mother take care of them for a short time while they went to dinner that night. But since he realized that she was implying that she wanted the children to come along, then they would come along.
"Oh. Okay," she said, a bit sullenly. She was hoping he would leave his children out of this for once. Sure, he did every thing with them, but it'd be nice to have him pay undivided attention to her for a change. But if he wanted his children to tag along, she wasn't going to stop them, even though she wanted to. She wanted to spend time alone with him, just her and Ranma.
"It'd be nice to have them come along," she added, lying through her teeth. Ranma wanted to tell her that he didn't want the children to come along,
but since she had just said it'd be nice for them to go along with them to dinner, there was now nothing he could do. He now had to bring them along.
"Um, when would you like to go out to me and the children?" Ranma asked. He wished she hadn't asked about the children.
That way, he didn't have to let them come along. But since she did, it was obvious she didn't want to spend dinner alone with him.
"How about next week?" she asked. She remembered that it would take Ranma a few days before he was finished with painting his mother's house. And by the time he was finished, it be the weekdays, making it impossible to go to dinner together because the children would have school the next day. It was best that they went on a Friday or Saturday, when Meggie and Jessie didn't have school the very next day.

Akane smiled at Ranma as she regarded his sleeping figure. She looked at the clock that hung on a nearby wall. It read 1:03am. He had fallen asleep on the sofa as soon as he sat down in it. They had been talking for a little over an hour about what he had planned to do and fix on Nodoka's home before they finally decided to take a break. Ranma had told Akane about how Ryoga was re-shingling the roof, how Mousse was replacing all the shutters, and how he was going to put a new window into the livingroom.
"I called Ryoga earlier, at around 10, and he said he'd help out," Ranma had said, taking a sip of his coffee. He was now on his second cup. "He's now re-shingling the roof. Mousse, I met him at the mall as I was buyin' the pain. Remember him?"
Akane nodded. She remembered hearing his name while they were talking to that beautiful supermodel, Shampoo "Mousse is Shampoo's husband, ne? He's a police officer if I remember correctly"
"Yeah. That's correct" Ranma had said, quite amused that she remembered that. He always had trouble remembering names. He could remember the face of the baby that sat next to him in the maternity ward after he was born, but he could remember a name if his life depended on it. He always associated the name with the face, not vice versa.
He took a deep breath before continuing on "Anyway, Mousse is now replacing all shutters"
"When did you buy shutters?" she asked. She recalled that Ranma said he was only going to buy paint. When did he buy shutters? And when did he buy shingles for that matter?
"Mousse always had the shutters," Ranma had replied "He planned on replacing all the shutters on his own house, but found it nicer to use it on my mom's house instead of his. He said he'll get shutters for his own home when it's time to replace them. Me, I plan on puttin' in a window for the livingroom"
He remembered how his mom used to complain about how the room always lacked light, even if all the shades were open. He figured she'd be really grateful when she found out that he had installed a extra window for the livingroom.
"You all know how to do that?" Akane had asked. She never knew Ranma had some knowledge on home improvement.
"Yeah," he had replied "I used to do home repair on my own house. When I bought my home, it was a mess. I didn't have much money to pay someone to renovate it, so I did the renovating myself. I learned a lot because of that"
The conversation had veered of from that and onto how he knew Ryoga. Ranma told her that he and Ryoga had gone to the same elementary school, that they used to have a rivalry toward one another "He and I almost hated each other.
We competed in everything. I seemed to do everything just a little bit better than him, and he seemed to really hate me for that. But he ended up moving shortly after we graduated"
"Why did he move?" Akane had asked. She had been listening intently as he spoke. She had lived alone for a long time, and it felt nice to speak to another adult for a change. Sure, she had he students to talk to, but that was different. She spoke to them with a sense of professionalism that could only be found when she was teaching a class. But she wasn't teaching now.
She had never spoken to someone at a personal level, an almost intimate level.
"I don't really know," Ranma had replied "Although we're pretty good friends, we don't know much about each other's lives. I asked him why, but he I never bothered to tell me and avoided it. The way I see it, it's none of my business. If he avoided talking about it, then we won't talk about it"
"Maybe he might want to talk about it," she had said, expressing the word 'want'. She wasn't too aware of how men and women differ. She never knew that men preferred to keep quiet over their problems while women like to talk about it. She never knew that men preferred not to talk, to spend time by themselves while they dealt with the problem themselves. She had always confided in her sisters whenever she had a problem. She always felt better after talking about her problem with them. She just assumed men were like that, that they would feel better after they talk about their own problems. But that wasn't the case.
"Why would he wanna talk about it?" Ranma had replied. He knew he,
himself, didn't really like talking about his own past. Sure, he had told her about how he used to be abused, but if given the chance to take it back,
he would have. He couldn't really explain why he had told her, but he couldn't do anything about it anymore.
"Nevermind," Akane had replied.
Ranma had looked at his watch. It read a little before one in the morning.
"I've been talking too long," he said, getting up off his seat. He took a gulp of his coffee, finishing it off before heading toward the sink to rinse it off, putting it in the cupboard afterwards.
Akane didn't mind him talking. She actually liked listening to him. Sure,
his husky could make her daydream from time to time, but she could handle it. She liked getting to know about him, getting to know more about him. She kind of felt comfortable around him, a nervous kind of comfortable, but a form of comfort regardless.
"Don't worry. I enjoy listening to you," she had said. She wanted him to stay. She knew that he would leave right after he had taken his bath. She didn't want him to leave.
Ranma gave her a smile. He liked talking to her. No one had ever listened intently to him like she did. It was as if she not only listened with her ears, but with her heart. She sympathized with him, felt what he was feeling "We can always talk tomorrow,"
Akane watched as he stepped out of the kitchen and into he livingroom. She got up out of her seat and walked over the sink, rinsing her cup, and putting it in the cupboard, right next to where Ranma had placed his. She noticed that he not only cleaned his cup better than she did, but dried it much better.
She walked out of the kitchen, heading toward the livingroom. As she entered, she noticed Ranma lying on the sofa, his leg over one of sides,
and arm on his face, his eyes covered by the bend of his elbow. His chest was rising and lowering slowly, his breaths deep and slow. Judging by how steady his breathing was, he was in deep sleep already.
"Ranma?" Akane asked, placing a hand on his shoulder, giving it a gentle nudge. She almost pulled back upon the touch as she could feel the heat from his body flowing into her fingertips. Even though he was wearing a sweater,
she could feel the warmth of his body.
Ranma didn't budge. He was way out of it. He was sleeping soundly. Even splashed with freezing cold water wouldn't have awoken him.
Akane leaned forward, her lips coming within an inch away from his lips.
She could feel his warm breath as he exhaled. She blushed horribly when she realized that this was what she had thought about the other day, when she found out that he carried her to the sofa. She remembered thinking to herself that she would have probably kissed him, that it would have been her little secret, that she wouldn't have minded indulging herself with something like that. Here she was with the chance, the chance to kiss him,
a chance she told herself she wasn't going to pass up. So why was she hesitating? Why didn't she kiss him like she said she was?
She sighed, pulling away. She couldn't do it, for she knew that reality was very different from fantasy. As much as she wanted to, she couldn't. She just couldn't.
Sullenly, defeated by her fear, she walked over to the closet and took out some blankets. She walked over to Ranma and gently placed it on top of him,
using one blanket to cover his top half and the other to cover his lower half.
"Goodnight, Ranma," Akane said, smiling a bit. Although she couldn't indulge herself with a secret desire she had, she was still happy, happy to know that he was going to be near her.
She turned off the lights and silently headed upstairs.

Ranma opened his eyes up slowly, not knowing exactly where he was. He looked around, noticing the moonlight as it shone in through the livingroom window. He realized that he had been sleeping on a sofa. Upon finding that out, he realized that he must have fallen asleep in Akane's livingroom. He immediately recalled having sat down on her sofa and closing his eyes. That must have meant he had fallen asleep at Akane's house.
He looked at his watch, barely making out the numbers with the faint,
silver light that filled the room. It read 2:20.
Did I sleep for that long, Ranma thought to himself. He thought he was only asleep for about ten minutes. He wasn't expecting to find out that he had slept for about an hour and a half. He'd better make myself scarce and leave as soon as possible. He got up off the sofa, heading toward the bathroom. He realized that there were blankets on him as they fell to his feet. He smiled inwardly, glad that Akane was thoughtful enough to put some blankets on him so he wouldn't get cold at night. This must have been the first time anyone had placed blankets on him in a long long time. Sure, he was a grown man, but the suggestion made him feel warmer than the blankets could ever make him.
He sighed, knowing that he'd best take his bath and get out of there as soon as possible. Otherwise, he'd never get any sleep, now that he was aware of exactly where he was.
He entered the bathroom, closing the door behind him, but not quite locking it. It was a habit. He always left the door open, in case it was an emergency for his daughters.

Akane continued to twist and turn in her bed, unable to sleep. She couldn't get the Ranma out of her mind. How could she sleep when she was very aware that he was sleeping just one floor below her? How could she sleep when the man of her dreams was so very close to her?
I can't believe something like this is keeping me awake, Akane thought as she sat upright. She threw the blankets off, letting them fall to the floor.
She was sleeping under very light blankets, and it was pretty cold in the room, yet she was sweating for some reason, and she knew very well what that reason was. It was Ranma that did that to her.
She got off her bed, heading for her door.
What she needed to soothe her nerves was a nice hot bath.

Chapter 20

Akane took her clothes off in the little changing room that was just outside the bathroom. The room was very dark, she not wanting to turn on the lights. She always enjoyed the darkness, it giving her a sense of peace.
She threw her clothes in the hamper, on top of Ranma's clothes. She would have seen Ranma's clothes if she had the lights on at the time. She picked up a towel from a nearby shelf, slinging it over her right shoulder.
She gently opened the door, not making a sound, and entered.
The bathroom was dimly lit by the moonlight as it shone in through the slightly open window. It glowed this gentle shade of silver.
Akane was shocked to see Ranma in the tub. She noticed that he was at the far end of the tub, his arms falling over the side of the tub, his chin resting on the siding. His eyes were closed, as if sleeping. The moonlight shining on his face made him look like a little child, carefree and innocent. It was as if the wall of defenses had fallen down revealing the true face of Ranma behind it.
Akane then realized that she was in the same room with Ranma, both of them naked. She immediately took hold of her towel and wrapped it over her torso,
tying it so it wouldn't fall.
"Ranma?" Akane called out, her voice softly echoing in the bathroom. It didn't even sound like her own voice, as if it were someone else's. She walked over to where Ranma was, just as he was opening his eyes.
He felt a slight disorientation from having stayed in the hot water for so long, a feeling of light-headedness. He was barely aware of where or who he was. He had been daydreaming, dreaming about what he was going to do, going over the plans on how he was going to finish his home improvement. When his eyes rested on Akane, he immediately snapped out of his little reverie.
"W-what are you doin' here?" he said, backing up to the other side of the tub. He felt incredibly self-conscious of himself as he sat naked in the tub. It wasn't the nakedness that made him self-conscious, but his body.
He placed a hand over his chest, covering his scar, as he scooted to the back of the tub, letting the wall cover the other scars on his back. But it was too late, Akane had seen the massive scar that crossed the underside of his right pectoral muscle. The scar couldn't easily be missed.
She pretended she didn't see it "I'm sorry. I should have knocked. I'll wait until you're finished" She turned around to head out of the bathroom.
She had to concentrate on her steps. She was in shock over what she had seen, over the thought of how he managed to sustain a wound so large.
"Wait a minute," Ranma called out, his voice soft. He didn't want Akane to leave. He seemed to always enjoy her company, and some lousy scars he was very aware of weren't going to make him enjoy it any less "Y-you could stay"
Akane stopped, thinking those words over her mind. She knew he really needed comfort "A-are you sure?"
"Yes," he nodded. He needed someone to talk to. He had bottled this up for so long, that it was tearing at his insides. The only people in his life were his immediate family, for only Meggie, Jessie, Shori, and Nodoka knew about his scar. Ukyo knew also, but she never knew how he had gotten them, just like his children. Only Nodoka and Genma knew. Nodoka knew how it really came about. The other person, the person whom did this to him was now dead.
Ranma hesitated before he turned around, so Akane wouldn't feel uncomfortable with the transition of taking her towel off and getting into the hot tub. Even though the bathroom was very dark, she could see three very large scars running down the entire length of his back.
She hesitated for a moment, not really sure if she should enter or not.
She would be very self-conscious of her nakedness the entire time she was in there with him. Sure, she had a very beautiful body, but being around someone like Ranma would make any woman self-conscious of herself.
She took a deep breath, her fears washing away when she remembered the hurt she saw in his eyes just a minute ago. He had looked liked a child scurrying from his deepest, darkest fears. She took her towel off, placing it on a small hook that was nearby, and gently slid into the hot tub. The warm water as it first touched her toes sent sensations racing through her body. She had never felt these sensations before whenever she entered the tub. Maybe it was because Ranma was in the tub also that caused these feelings and sensations.
"Okay, I'm in," she said, sliding low enough in the water that her entire body was submerged in the warm water all the way up to her collar bones. She was a bit grateful that the bathroom lacked light. Even though very little light shone in through the window, she wished it was even darker than it was now.
Akane's gaze rested on Ranma's back as the moonlight reflected the healed scars. The scars were very noticeable and real, but she couldn't believe what she was seeing. Ranma looked like he was flawless when he was wearing clothes, like he there were nothing that could make his body look anything less than perfect. But these scars made it look like his was a torn body,
like a body that went through horrible things. How could he have gotten scars like these?
"My father did this to me," Ranma said, turning around, reading her thoughts. He knew she was wondering how he got those scars. Anyone who had seen him without a shirt would have asked him about where and how he got those scars. But this time, it was different. He told the truth. He usually lied about them, saying he had been slashed with a knife by a would-be assailant when he was young. But there was no reason for him to lie to Akane. She already knew that he had grown up as an abused child, and she would have pieced it together that his father had done this to him even if he did lie about it.
Akane didn't say a word. She was looking at the scar that ran across the underside of his right peck. The scar looked a lot worse than the ones on his back. This scar looked very deep and was at least twice as bigger than the others. She felt this great sense of sympathy toward him, a sympathy so great that tears started to form around her eyes. She couldn't understand how someone could do this to another human being.
Ranma noticed that Akane looked like she was about to cry. Is she crying for me, he thought. He had never cried in his life, and it was nice that someone would cry for him. He had been through so much sadness, that he had almost become stoic when it came to his own emotions.
"There's no need to cry for me," Ranma said, making his way forward,
placing a hand on Akane's bare shoulder. He could feel the heat emanating from it, heat far hotter than the water they were in. He had been through so much that there was no use crying for him anymore.
"How can someone do that to you?" Akane said, fighting back tears. She didn't know who his father was, but she hated him deeply. She wished this man was alive so she herself could kill him.
"Akane, I was just an unfortunate soul born to an abusive father" he said,
looking Akane deeply in her eyes. He was more than unfortunate. He had problems that were a lot worse that he had to deal with.
A tear gently trickled down the side of her face, falling off her chin and into the water, sending ripples to the edge of the tub. Ranma placed a finger on her check, gently wiping a tear away before it could travel down her face.
She looked into his eyes and saw nothing but sadness. There was a lot more sadness to him than he had been letting up. He looked like he was about to cry, but for some reason, he didn't. It was as if he had shut off all his emotions. Actually, he had been through so much sadness that he had gotten used to it.
"Ranma, how come you look like you're always about to cry?" she asked. His liquid eyes looked like it was on the brink of shedding tears, but it didn't. It never did.
Ranma bit his lip. He wanted to tell her, but he couldn't bring himself to say it. He wanted to tell her that there was so much more to him than meets the eye. But he couldn't. this was something that didn't concern Akane,
something he wanted to leave her out of.
"I just feel sad sometimes," he sad. It was true to a point. He did feel a lot of sadness, but it was most of the time. The only things that would get rid of his sadness were his children. They were the only happiness in his pain-filled life. If it weren't for his children, he wouldn't know where he'd be by now. Most likely dead. His life was meaningless without his children, absolutely meaningless. Only his children gave him the will to go on. To be by their side was what kept him going for all these years. He should have died many years ago if it weren't for his children.
Akane wanted him to no longer be sad, to live happily. He had smiled from time to time, but it had always been forced. Only when he was with his children had he genuinely smiled.
"Ranma, please, don't be sad," Akane pleaded. She moved closer to him, her face within inches of him. She wanted to give him her body, to pleasure him, to let him feel some enjoyment in his life outside of being with his children. She wasn't even aware of what she was doing, but she knew one thing. She wanted him to be happy.
"Don't worry about me," he said, smiling weakly. There was no way for him to hide the sense of sadness that always filled him. His smile was strained, as if forced "I-I'll be all right"
He was lying. He wasn't going to be all right. He was no longer in control of his emotions, emotions he had controlled so very well. He lowered his head, ashamed that he can't control his emotions.
Akane reached forward and embraced him. She held him like the way a mother would hold her precious child, holding onto him for dear life. His head was pressed into her neck as he returned the embrace. He was grateful Akane was there because he needed someone to hold him. He had been alone for so long that it hurt to not be with someone, not to be held. His daughters always hugged him, but that was different. He had been independent for a long, long time, but in reality, he needed someone, always needed someone.
He closed his eyes, feeling her breasts as they pressed against his chest,
feeling the warmth of her body as it emanated into him. His life had been a cold one, and Akane seemed to be the only one who could warm it. He could feel himself as he slipped away, his body relaxing, his hurt going away for now.
Ranma sighed as Akane held him, enjoying the closeness. Even thought he was always close to his daughters, he had never been close to anyone his age, of his intellect, of his maturity. He had always been detached from the world when it came to closeness.
He pulled back, looking deeply into Akane's eyes. They stared at each other for several seconds, neither saying a word. Their faces gently closed in on one another, coming within inches from each other. And then, without a second thought, Ranma closed his eyes and brought his lips down upon hers.
Akane stared in wide-eyed astonishment as his lips brushed against hers,
sending electricity surging through her body. As his mouth lingered on hers,
she gently eased herself closer to him, closed her eyes, and kissed him back. His kiss was everything she had dreamed it would be, if not better.
She could feel her heart racing beneath her chest. As he pulled her closer to him, their bodies pressing against one another, she could feel he was aroused. Her whole world opening up on her, she not caring about anything except the savor his soft lips. His kiss was starting to arouse her, her nipples becoming hard as they pressed against his muscular chest. She eagerly followed his lead, letting him explore her body.
She felt his hands on the small of her back as he pulled her closer to him. She placed a hand on his chest, feeling the ripples of sensations as it coursed throughout his body. She felt this sense of power upon provoking such strong responses from his body. She felt his tight abs, traversing from it and onto his obliques.
One of Ranma's hands ran up her inner thigh and moved to the juncture of her thighs, causing her to gasp, which was muffled by his mouth on hers. She didn't know what this sensation was, but she knew she wanted more. She felt like she was on fire. Her hands moved away from his tight stomach,
roaming south. She was aching to touch him as he touched her. She wanted to return the pleasure he was giving her. Even though she obviously lacked experience, she knew it didn't matter to him when she heard him moan. As she heard this, she felt this floating feeling consume her.
She pressed her other hand on his chest, savoring the salty taste of his lips. She knew that, albeit the moment was brief, no longer than a minute,
she was going to remember this moment for the rest of her like.
Ranma, as he continued to kiss her, felt her hand brushed across the scar on the underside of his chest. That seemed to break his concentration.
He pulled away, now very aware of his battered body. He had forgotten of his embarrassing scars for a brief moment, when he was kissing Akane. But now, he was self-conscious of himself. He didn't want her touching him like that, running her hands over the most sensitive part on his body. He wasn't physically sensitive of the scar, but was rather emotionally sensitive of.
Her touch evoked horrible memories of his father beating him, of his father heating the metal pipe till it was glowing red and hitting him with it. Even though the wound had healed, the hurt never did. "W-what's wrong?" Akane said. Did she do something wrong? Did she hurt him? She watched as Ranma made his way toward the other end of the tub. He no longer looked like he a full grown man but now a little boy. She could see it in his eyes. He looked like he was scared, frightened for his life.
"C-can you please leave me alone?" he said, turning his back to her. He didn't want her to see the hurt in his eyes. He felt this sense of powerlessness overwhelm him. He felt his world collapsing in on him. Even though he was in warm water, he was shivering from this cold feeling that was enveloping him.
Akane could only see his three-scarred back. Even though she was behind him, she could see that he was trying to fight back tears. She could she him press his face in his hands. Although he said he wanted to be left alone,
she knew he needed her the most right now. She made her way toward him, placing a hand on his shoulder. She embraced him from behind, her breasts pressing against his back, her head resting on the nape of his neck. She couldn't help but notice his scars as they were pressed against her chest. She could almost see how he had gotten those scars just from feeling it. She could feel the pain it held back. It held back the same pain as his eyes did.
She felt as one of his hands touch her, their fingers entwining. He leaned his head back, pressing it against hers. He felt weak, powerless. It was as if his whole body had been drained of its energy. He noticed that his vision seemed to blur, his heart racing to send the blood throughout his body.
Something was wrong. He was about to say something, but it was already too late for him.
Akane felt Ranma's body go limp as she held him, his arms falling down to his side, the water rippling gently causing the moonlight to reflect off it and shine on the bathroom walls, giving it a serene yet eerie look.
"Ranma?" Akane asked, noticing that he had now become a dead weight, his head falling forward, his face almost becoming submerged under the water "Are you okay?"
He made no sound. He didn't move. He just stayed there in Akane's arms.
When she gave him a gentle nudge, and he didn't answer, she knew exactly what had happened. Ranma had collapsed from heat stroke.

Chapter 21

Ranma opened his eyes, disoriented, unable to discern his surroundings.
He had a wet cloth on his head, some of the water running down the side of his face. He took the wet cloth off of his face as he sat upright, squinting from the brilliance of the sunlight that shone in through the open window just above the futon he had been sleeping in.
He waited a moment for the pain in the back of his head to yield. He always hated waking up abruptly in the morning, the sun always causing him pain to his eyes. When the pain was tolerable, he carefully took in his surroundings. He realized that he was in Akane's room, him having noticed that vase of roses on the far side of the room.
I must have passed out, Ranma thought. He remembered being in the bathroom with Akane, but he didn't remember the transition from there to Akane's room. He must have been unconscious at the time. He remembered that he had kissed Akane in the tub, but he couldn't remember anything after that. He must have passed out because he had been in the bathtub for too long. He probably suffered from heat stroke. His thoughts lingered on last night, on how he kissed her passionately, on how she returned the kiss.
What happened last night, he thought. He remembered how her lips felt on his, her taste still lingering in his mouth. He couldn't get it out of his mind, how she kissed him. She kissed him like no other woman had ever kissed him. She evoked feelings in him that her never felt he could feel. He wished he could indulge in that again, but that would probably never happen again.
What had happened last night must have happened because it was in the heat of passion. He didn't know what had come over him, made him kiss her. All he knew that if given the chance to do it again, he would never be able to bring up the courage.
He sighed as he looked around the room. He noticed that Akane's bed was empty, she having gone out for her usual morning jog. Did she carry me to her room, Ranma thought to himself. Did she sleep in her bed while I slept on the futon on the floor right next to her? Did she sleep? Surely, he knew he would never get a wink of sleep if he was in her situation, if Akane was sleeping on the futon.
Figuring he shouldn't worry his head off, Ranma looked at the clock that hung on the wall. It read a little past eight-thirty. That meant he had about an hour and a half before he was supposed to be at his mother's house.
Ryoga and Mousse said they would both show up at ten.
He got up off the futon, stretching his arms out. He realized that he was completely naked when the blankets fell to his feet. Did Akane carry him while he was naked? He looked at the blankets and noticed a towel hidden under the rumpled mess. He wondered if Akane placed a towel around his waist before she carried him upstairs. It must have fallen off when I got up,
Ranma thought about the towel. He figured that he had been wearing the towel when he was asleep, but it had fallen off the second he got up. It didn't really matter anyway. He knew that Akane had seen him naked. Besides, he had seen her naked also when he stole a glance when she was about to slide into the tub. I guess what comes around goes around, he thought.
He looked at the full-length mirror, very self conscious of the scars on his body. He traced a finger over the scar, letting it glide from his right armpit, over the underside of his peck, stopping once the scar ended at the sternum. The scar was the width of his finger.
He looked at his nakedness, not too embarrassed about his build. Aside from the few scars, he was blessed with an excellent body. He had a body men aspired for when they worked out at a gym. His body was muscularly compact yet very strong. Aside from a couple of improperly healed bones, he had an almost perfect bone structure, made to carry his bodyweight perfectly. He had a nice slim waist, no bigger than 28 inches, which made his shoulders look very broad in comparison to his waist.
He noticed that his clothes were near the foot of Akane's bed, neatly folded. He picked it up and got dressed. Before he had a chance to put his shirt on, someone knocked on the door.
"Come in," he said. He quickly put his shirt on, not wanting his scars to be exposed. He was tucking his shirt into his pants as Akane entered the room.
"How're you feeling?" Akane asked. She was holding a tray. There was a large glass of orange juice and a plateful of pancakes and eggs on it. She placed it on her desk, which was in the corner of the room. She noticed the towel at the foot of her bed and blushed. She recalled having to see him naked as she wrapped the towel on the unconscious Ranma's waist. She was grateful that it was dark in the bathroom. Otherwise, she would have had a much harder time concentrating. Even though she had never slept with a man, she had seen men naked before. None of them remotely compared to him. "I'm okay," he said, eyeing the plateful of food ravenously. He hadn't eaten since he ate breakfast at his mom's house yesterday. He had a chance to go to lunch with Ryoga and Mousse, but he decided to stay at the house to continue ripping a hole in the wall. It was lucky for him that Ryoga and Mousse were on their way back from lunch when Ranma had accidentally broken the water pipe.
"What the hell happened?" Mousse had said, running up to Ranma, who was trying desperately to stop the spraying water. He was soaking wet. Mousse had ran up to him, getting drenched in the process, to help out. Ryoga just stood there and watched, a bemused look on his face. He seemed to enjoy watching them trying to stop the water from splashing.
"I accidentally broke the pipe," Ranma had said. He was already shivering from the cold water. He had been trying to stop the water for about three minutes before Mousse and Ryoga got back from lunch.
"Hey, Ryoga, aren't you going to help?" Mousse called out. His glasses had been blown off by the shear pressure of the water, causing his vision to become horribly impaired.
Ryoga gave a small chuckle before answering "No prob," He entered the house, taking his time. After several moments, the water stopped spraying.
Ryoga stepped out of the house a smile on his lips "It's easier to fix the pipe if you turn the water off"
Ranma could help but smile a bit upon remembering the scene yesterday.
"What's so funny?" Akane asked, noticing that Ranma had actually cracked a genuine smile. The last time she could remember seeing him smile genuinely was when he joked that he had a date...with the Laundromat.
"Oh. Nothing important," he said. He could smell the sweet scent from the food as it permeated the entire room, making his stomach rumble. Even though the room was filled with the smell of pancakes and eggs, he could smell the faint fragrance of Akane's shampoo. She had this strawberry scent that seemed to turn him on.
"I made you breakfast" Akane said, gesturing toward the tray. She knew he was hungry, what with the rumble of his stomach and the ravenous look he was giving it. She had made him the same kind of pancakes he had made his daughters a few days ago, when he stopped by early in the morning. She had watched him as he prepared the pancakes. She had learned how to make them simply through watching. As for the taste, that was a whole different story.
"Thanks," Ranma said, "I'm starvin'. I haven't eaten since breakfast yesterday"
He picked up the fork that was laid right next to the plate and stuck it right into the stack of pancakes. He brought all three pancakes to his mouth and took a big bite, nearly devouring a quarter of the pancakes in a single bit. He chewed it a couple times before he swallowed. Akane wondered how he didn't choke. He didn't look like he was breaking the food down enough for it to go down his mouth smoothly.
Before she even knew it, Ranma was finished, "That tasted great"
Akane started at Ranma in wide-eyed disbelief. It took him no more than a minute to devour the plateful of food. He had made him three pancakes and four scrambled eggs and a large cup of orange juice. It should have taken him over a half hour to finish it.
"Where's Meggie and Jessie?" Ranma said, wiping some pancake syrup from his chin with a napkin. He knew his daughters would be up now. They always woke up early, even if they didn't have school today. They seemed to always go to sleep and wake up at the same time.
"Um, they're downstairs...with Ukyo," Akane said. Ukyo had showed up at around eight. She came over when she called Ranma's house and there was no answer. He had told her that he was in love with Akane so it as natural that he might have spent the night with her.
"Really?" Ranma sounded a bit enthusiastic, much to Akane's displeasure "Is Miki with them?" He wanted to spend some time with the daughter he never knew he had. He was determined to get the girl to open up to him.
"Speaking of Miki," Akane said, taking a deep breath. She had to hear this for herself, from Ranma's lips, not from someone else's " Miki your daughter?"
Ranma was silent from a short time before answering "Um, how'd you know?"
"I figured it out," Akane lied. It was Ukyo who told her, "I noticed that Miki looked a lot like you. I noticed how you became a bit attached to her all of a sudden"
"Yeah. It's true. She's my daughter," Ranma said. He didn't really want to tell this to Akane because he figured she'd get the wrong idea about him and Ukyo, what with them now have something that should bring them closer together. But it was inevitable. How was he going to hide the fact that he had another daughter? Besides, why should he hide it? Having Miki for a daughter wasn't something he was ashamed of? He wasn't going to be like his father. Ranma's father had been ashamed of him. That was one of the reasons he abused him.
"Um, why is Ukyo here?" he added, changing the subject. He didn't want to dwell on that subject too long. It made him feel uncomfortable. He didn't like the fact that he was talking to Akane about a daughter that he never knew he had. He the fact that Ukyo was now in his life made it even more awkward.
"She said she wanted to talk to you," Akane said.
"Do you know what it's about?" he asked. He wanted to make it openly clear that he and Ukyo had no secrets with one another, that he wasn't keeping anything secret about Ukyo from Akane.
"I don't know, but she mentioned something about Ryoga" Akane said,
shrugging her shoulders. "Ryoga?" he said. He wasn't expecting to hear his friend's name mentioned.
"Yeah, she's downstairs," Akane said, heading toward the door "I'll go get her. You two can talk in my room"
"Um, about last night," Ranma started, changing the subject again. He had to know what happened last, had to know if it meant as much to her as it did him. He wanted to know if it was a mutual thing that they shared or was if it came about in the heat of passion.
Akane was already gone.

Ranma was sitting on Akane's bed when Ukyo entered. He was leaning back,
propped up against his extended arms, his legs crossed at the ankle. He was twisting and turning his neck in a wide arc, trying to get the kink out of it. He gave Ukyo a warm smile, his smile warmer than the sunlight that entered into the room through the window.
"Hi Ucchan," Ranma said. He was glad to see Ukyo, had wanted to talk to her ever since yesterday. When he and Ryoga and Mousse were working on Nodoka's house, Ryoga mentioned Ukyo's name.
"Um, Ranma?" Ryoga had started. It was around late evening last night when they were all in the livingroom, indulging in some male conversation. Ryoga was sitting on a chair while Ranma and Mousse were sitting on the sofa. "Yeah?" Ranma said, taking a swig of his soda. He would have been drinking beer, but he had sworn not to drink beer, scared that he would get violent like his father used to. Just the thought that he would get violent near his kids was enough to keep him nowhere near beer or sake.
"How do you know Ukyo?" Ryoga had asked, taking a sip of his soda. He was drinking soda because he never liked the taste of it. He didn't like the taste of sake either. When he used to travel alone, he always carried soda in his backpack. Over the years, he acquired a liking to soda.
"Ucchan?" Ranma said. He wasn't expecting the conversation to take a turn toward his childhood best friend. They had been talking about home improvement at the time, on how they were going to accomplish this large task they had started "Well, if you'd like to know, she and I are childhood friends. We knew each other since I was around six. I bumped into her when I sitting on a bench in a park" He didn't bother to tell the guys that he was on the verge of tears when he had bumped into her. He didn't let them know that he had been horribly beaten just before they bumped into each other. He had never let Ukyo know about that either. She never even knew he had been abused by his father. When he met her for the first time, she introduced herself to him, a big warm, smile on her lips. That seemed to make Ranma forget about his pain. Sure, his back was covered with painful bruises, but the pain seemed to disappear when he indulged in conversation with her. Over the years, after he'd been beaten, he'd go to Ukyo and talk to her. Talking to her always seemed to null the pain, make it go away. But when she had moved a couple of years after they met, Ranma's world collapsed. He no longer had anyone in his life. He was all alone. But thinking of her smile seemed to make the pain go away, even if she wasn't there to be with him. Over the harsh years of beatings, Ranma had become indifferent to physical pain.
" she seeing someone?" Ryoga had asked. He seemed nervous, like a school kid talking to this girl he like's friend. This was, in a way, the same case. Ranma was Ukyo's friend, and Ryoga was trying to find out about her through him. When he saw Ukyo at the amusement park the other day, his heart leapt. He felt this warm feeling envelope him when she smiled at him.
Her smile seemed to make his day. He had never met a woman like her. He wanted to settle down and raise a family, and Ukyo seemed to be the person that he wanted to settle down with. He always wanted to be a family man.
With Miki there, everything seemed to fit into place.
"No," Ranma said, snapping out of his little reverie. He had been thinking about Ukyo as a child at the time, recalling how she looked when they first met. Him meeting Ukyo was one of the highlights of his unfortunate life. He looked at Ryoga, knowing exactly where Ryoga was going with those questions. Every guy asked the question Ryoga asked for one reason "Are you interested in her?"
He remembered seeing Ryoga blush.
Mousse leaned over and saw him blushing "Hey look, he's blushing"
"Do you mind?" Ryoga had said defensively. He felt incredibly embarrassed,
like a schoolboy getting caught smoking in the bathroom. He knew Mousse was only teasing. He knew he'd do it if Mousse was in the same predicament. He turned to Ranma and continued "What were we talking about. Oh yeah, am I interested in her? I think so"
"You want me to talk to her?" Ranma had asked. He should have felt a bit threatened by Ryoga's interest in Ukyo, but he wasn't for some reason. He knew Ryoga was a good man, and that he would take good care of Ukyo if they ever got together. He would have probably been upset if it were anyone else.
Sure, Ukyo was a full-grown woman now, but Ranma still felt a little protective of her. He knew that if anybody hurt her, he would do all that was in his power to get back at the person whom made her cry. "Will you do that?" Ryoga had said. His visage shown that of relief, "I want to know what she thinks about me"
Ranma nodded. He'd have to talk to Ukyo about this conversation as soon as he saw her. He didn't know when he'd see her, but he was hoping it would be soon.
"Ranma?" Ukyo said, giving him a gentle nudge. She noticed that he seemed to zone out for a moment, staring at the wall. She assumed he was thinking about something.
Ranma snapped out of his little reverie of the conversation he and Ryoga had last night, his gaze resting on Ukyo, his eyes looking into hers "Sorry,
I was just thinking. What is it you wanted to see me about?"
"Um, I was wondering, is" Ukyo started.
"Attached?" Ranma finished for her. He could see it in her eyes. She looked love-struck, the same look he saw in her eyes that night they made love many, many years ago. Her eyes had sparkled that night as they gazed into each other's eyes. He remember seeing flames burning in her eyes. Her eyes sparkled like that right now.
Ukyo blushed as Ranma gave a faint smile. He knew he hit it right on the spot. He knew Ukyo had a thing for Ryoga "No. He isn't attached. He's said he's been looking to settle down for some time now, to raise a family"
Ukyo gave a small gasp, "Really?"
"And speaking of Ryoga, he mentioned you last night," Ranma said. He remembered him asking him to talk to her on his behalf. He remembered his friend telling him that he wanted to know what she thought of him, if she was interested in him. Obviously, from the look of her eyes, Ukyo was indeed interested.
"What did he say?" Ukyo asked, very interested. She felt like a little schoolgirl, her girlfriend running up to her and telling her that someone liked her. It made her feel young again. She had felt this attraction toward Ryoga the first time she laid eyes on him. When his lips brushed across to back of her hand when he kissed it, it sent electricity surging through her body.
Ranma gave her a bemused look "He asked me if you were seeing someone,"
"So what did you tell him?" she asked, the suspense killing her. She wanted to know how he felt about her. She was already aware that she had an attraction toward him, but she wanted to know if it was mutual or one-sided.
"I told him 'no' of course" he said ,"Isn't that what you would've wanted me to tell him?"
"Yes," Ukyo said, stepping forward and kissing Ranma on his forehead. She gave him a smile "Thanks"
"He's a good man, Ucchan," Ranma continued, "He'll make ya happy"
"I'm almost sure of it,"
Akane was reading a magazine, sipping her coffee when Ukyo came down the stairs, Ranma following suit. Akane noticed that they had only been alone for about two minutes before they came down. That must have meant they didn't do anything intimate. There was no way they could get anything accomplished in two minutes, at least she hoped.
"Where's Miki?" Ranma asked. He wanted to see his other daughter. He had noticed Meggie and Jessie playing in the backyard when he bothered to gaze out Akane's window. The twins were playing tag. He figured this was the best time to get to know her, him not having spent much time with her ever since they met.
"She's in the kitchen. She said she wanted to be alone," Akane said, not bothering to look up from the magazine she was reading. She knew Ranma and Ukyo looked like the perfect couple, even if she didn't look.
Ranma headed for the kitchen as Ukyo sat down right next to Akane. She gave Akane a bemused look, knowing that Akane was curious to know exactly what had transpired when she was alone with Ranma "You're probably wondering what Ranma and I were talking about"
Akane shrugged her shoulders uninterestedly, desperately trying to hide her curiosity. She wanted to pretend like it didn't matter to her, she wanting to hide the fact that she wanted to know exactly what had happened.
"Okay, if you're not interested, then I won't tell you" Ukyo said, smiling wryly. She wanted to have some fun. Akane had won Ranma from her fair and square, but she wanted some form of pay back. She knew Akane wanted to know what happened. She leaned back against the sofa, her arms stretched out,
crossing her legs as she gave Akane a smirk.
Akane bit her lip, wishing she had the courage to ask. She wanted to know so bad, but she didn't want to seem nosy. She wished there was a way to get Ukyo to tell her without having to directly or indirectly ask her the question she dreaded.
"I don't see Miki in there," Ranma said, entering the livingroom. He had even checked to lower shelves, in case she was hiding in there, much to no avail. His daughters sometimes hid around the house, but he usually found them in no time. They only had a few favorite hiding places.
"What?" Akane said. She was so sure Miki was in the kitchen when Ukyo headed upstairs. She had only left her alone for one minute. Miki was nine,
a year older than the twins. Surely, she didn't need to be watched over,
just like Meggie and Jessie, both whom were eight.
"We better find her," Ranma said, concern in his voice. He remembered losing sight of one of his daughters, and that had changed his life forever.
He had looked away for one second, and when he looked back, she was no longer there. He found her several yards away, but it had changed his life.
Akane go up, heading toward the stairs "I'll check upstairs"
"I'll check the basement," Ukyo said, heading for the back of the house,
where the stairway to the basement were located.
"What's goin' on here?" Meggie asked, entering the livingroom. She noticed that all the adults seemed to be in a mad panic over something. Naturally,
she always being curious, she had to know what this was all about.
"Honey," Ranma said, placing his hands on his daughter's shoulder,
kneeling low so his head was level with hers. His voice sounded pleading, as if he had just received the scare of his life "have you seen Miki anywhere?"
"Yeah," Meggie said innocently "She's out back with Jessie"
Ranma stood up and looked out the window toward the backyard. His tense visage relaxed when he noticed Jessie and Miki playing by the pond,
pretending they were fishing.
Akane was near Ranma, and she noticed that he seemed like he had seen a ghost. He had broken out in a massive sweat. It kind of looked as if he had been frightened to his very core. He looked every bit as distressed as when he found out when Jessie was missing. "Are you all right?" Akane asked. She seemed concerned.
Ranma was sweating heavily, and his heart was racing, beating much faster that it was supposed to. He took in a few deep breaths, relaxing himself "Y-yeah. I-I'm okay"
As if on cue, Miki entered the livingroom, Meggie following behind her.
Miki was holding a book. Miki gave Ranma a glance before turning away. She didn't believe what her Mommy had told her, that Ranma was her father. But then again, it might be true. She never heard much about her father. When she had asked who her father was, her Mommy had quickly switched the subject, avoiding it.
Ranma came over and embraced Miki, the little girl giving a yelp from the slight pain that ran through her body "Thank goodness you're okay. I got so worried"
Miki felt this nice feeling envelope her as Ranma held her, causing her to forget about the pain, to forget about what had happened to her a few days ago. It feeling was natural, as if she was meant to be in his arms. She said nothing, not really knowing what to say. When she tried, her words died before they left her lips. She was still skeptic that Ranma was her father.
He looked very different from he. But then again, she had gotten most of her looks from her mother's side of the family. As to what she acquired from her father's side, she did not know. But she did know one thing, that she had never acquired her Mommy's eyes.
Akane watched as Ranma fussed over the little girl, a bit confused. He was acting as if he hadn't seen her in years. Sure, people would probably get a bit stressed over finding out that Miki was gone, but they would surely start relaxing when they found her a couple of seconds later. Ranma hadn't.
He still seemed stressed over the incident.
"Um, what's that in your hands?" Ukyo asked, noticing the book that was getting pressed between Miki and Ranma's chest. She wasn't too surprised that her daughter would be carrying a book. She always liked to read, and it seemed like her daughter had acquired that fondness also. Whenever Miki had free time, she would be reading a book. She was a very bright girl, having learned to read at a very early age, and age far younger than most average kids.
"I found this book in the storage shed out back," Miki said, handing her Mommy the book.
Akane recognized the book immediately. It was one of the books she read several years ago. She used to read a lot, before her father had died. Ever since she had to take care of the dojo, she no longer had the time to do so.
"I remember that book. I read it a while ago. It's an excellent book. You're welcome to have it if you'd like," She wished she wasn't as busy as she was nowadays. If she could have a few hours to herself, she would definitely get back into reading again.
"Thanks," Miki said, smiling warmly. Not that many people had been nice to her over the years. It felt nice that someone was being nice to her for a change. She could get used to this.
Ukyo surveyed the book carefully in her hands. The book was a thick one,
probably more than 300 pages. It was more a novel. She read the cover.
"The Day of Immortality" she said aloud. She flipped to the back and read a quick synopsis of the story. It told of a young man having discovered immortality, and of the pains and sorrow he had to go through to achieve his goal, death. Ukyo batted an eye upon reading the synopsis. She knew Miki always liked psychological stories. Ukyo flipped the book back to the front and opened it, reading the inside of the front page. She noticed that the book she was holding was the second book of the immortality trilogy. The little girl always liked reading long stories.
"That looks like an interesting book," Miki said. She reached up and took hold of the book as Ukyo handed it to her. She started to leaf through it.
"Miki, that's the second book to a trilogy," Ukyo said. She turned to face Akane "You wouldn't happen to know where the first book is?"
"Sorry," Akane said "I think I lost it several years ago. I haven't seen it since. It's better if you just buy a new one than to look for it. Besides,
the first book is very old and some of the pages are missing"
Ukyo turned to Miki, "How about we go to the bookstore to get you a new book?" She knew her daughter would definitely say yes. Reading was one of Miki's favorite hobbies. She could devour a 400 page book in as little as two days.
"Okay," Miki said.
Ranma came up with an idea as Ukyo and her daughter spoke to each other.
He realized that taking Miki to the bookstore would be a good way to spend some time with her, to get to know her better "Um, Miki, would you like me to come with you to the bookstore?"
Ukyo looked at Ranma, smiling warmly. She knew Ranma was trying to get along with Miki. She knew this was a good chance to let them spend some time together "Well, Miki, what do ya say? Would you like to go to the bookstore with Ranma here?"
Miki wanted to say no, but she knew he was just trying to be nice. Knowing this, she could at least meet him halfway "I guess that would be okay"
"I wanna come too, Daddy," Jessie blurted out, jumping up an down. She didn't really care too much about going to a bookstore, but she always liked going places with her Daddy. Her Daddy could make going to the bookstore seem like an adventure. "Me too," Meggie yelped aloud. She loved going to the bookstore. She, too,
liked reading. Maybe she could find a good book to read while she was down there. Although she was having tons of fun spending time with Akane, she knew that eventually, the fun will start to abate, and she would start getting bored. She figured that if she had a book, she would never get bored. She never knew why she liked reading, but she always did. Little did she know that Ranma reading her and Jessie a bedtime story every night when they were young was what got them into reading. They would never get bored of reading. That was the same thing with Jessie, except it would take a lot longer before an activity became tedious for her and she went back to reading books.
Ranma smiled. He knew this would be a great chance to get Miki and his daughter more aquatinted. Sure, they all went to the same school, but Miki was a grade higher than the twins. He always loved children, so to him, the more children tagging along the better "That's a great idea. Besides, it's about time you start reading again" he said. He had realized that the twins hadn't been reading as often as they used to. He'd let them chose their own book. He knew exactly where the twins would go to buy a book once they entered the bookstore. They would both head for the fantasy section of the store. He didn't quite know why, but the twins had this fancy for fantasy-type novels. He figured that dragons and sorcery were what attracted them to the genre. Strange though, considering he never read them a fantasy novel before.
"When does the bookstore open?" Ukyo asked.
"It opened about an hour ago," Akane replied. She knew the bookstore's opening and closing hours by heart. She used to go there every day when she was little.
"Good, we'll go to the bookstore," Ranma said, right before his stomach grumbled "Um, right after we eat"

Chapter 22

Ranma entered the bookstore, the little girls holding his arms. Meggie was holding Ranma's left hand as her sister held Meggie's other hand, Miki holding onto his right one. The walk to the bookstore was a short one,
having taken no longer than ten minutes to reach their destination. He felt reluctant to releasing his hold of them, but he had to. Ukyo had let him take Miki to the bookstore while she stayed at Akane's house with Akane. She seemed to have wanted to talk to Akane about something. He was expected back in about an half an hour to drop Miki and the twins off.
Ranma stopped to check out the bookstore, never realizing just how large the store was. The last time he had been in this store had been many years ago, when he was looking for books on parenting. Eventually, he decided against it, figuring it was better that he learned the joys of parenting as it came along. He figured he didn't need help. It turned out his decision was a wise one. If he had bought the parenting books, the joys of learning to adjust to his daughters' needs would have been missed.
The bookstore was a very large one, the back of the store stretching back as far as the length of a football field. To his left, stretching all the way to the back of the store were isles and isles filled with book, both new and old. To his right were several isles dedicated to magazine and newspapers, followed by more isles of books. The cash registers were in the front of the store, right next to the entrance.
Ranma followed as Miki and the twins headed for the back of the store. He took his time, enjoying the peaceful atmosphere. The bookstore was virtually empty. He smiled to a couple of salesladies, all of them blushing as walked by them.
Ranma saw Miki in the fiction isle. He walked down the isle, meeting up with Miki as she scanned through all the books "What's the name of the first book of the trilogy?" he asked, scanning through the columns of books. He looked out of the corner of his eye as saw the twins in the isle just next to the one where he and Miki were.
"It's called 'Dawning of Immortality'" Miki said. She noticed several books that seemed interesting, but decided against it. She wanted to read about this immortality series more than the other ones.
"Here it is," Ranma said, pulling a book out of the shelf. He handed it to Miki. She smiled as she took hold of it, causing Ranma to smile inwardly.
Maybe she will open up to him. She had never smiled to him before now.
Sooner or later, he'd get her to laugh with joy.
"Would you like to get the entire series? It'd be more convenient. We wouldn't have to come here after you finished the book" he said. He knew that if he were in Miki's place, he'd buy the entire series to save the time and effort of coming back.
"I 'd like to," she said. She really wanted to get the entire series, but her Mommy had only given her just enough money for one book. The book she was getting was an expensive one, despite being an old one. "Don't worry, I'll pay," Ranma said, rubbing the top of Miki's head. He knew Ukyo had only given her enough for one book. He reached over and grabbed two more books 'Day of Immortality' and 'Night of Immortality',
handing it to Miki. He figured it was best to buy her a second book.
Afterall, the book she found at Akane's house was very old, and it looked like it was going to fall apart at any moment.
Miki looked up at him and smiled at him as he placed his arm on her shoulder, the two of them heading for the isle where the twins were.

Kodachi Kuno felt frustrated as she searched the isles for her two little girls, Yayoi and Kiori. They were such spoiled little girls. Kodachi was ready to pull out all her hair from the frustration of taking them anywhere.
Yayoi was four, and Kiori was five. She had heard of children in there terrible twos, but it seemed to have stuck with her own children even after they were two. They were uncooperative, disrespectful, and ill-mannered. It was all because their father was that way. He had spoiled them so much that there was no way back. He had given in to every one of their tantrums,
making them believe that every adult would give in to them if they kept throwing tantrums. And now, when her husband, their father, had run off with the secretary that worked for him, leaving her to raise the children. She needed a vacation, and she needed it bad. She could have always let her brother, Tatewaki, take care of them for a short time while she took some time off, but he had his own problems. Besides, he had his own children to worry about. Aside from her brother, she would never trust another man again. When her husband had left her, she had been terribly hurt, scarred for life. She now thought that all men were just like her husband or would eventually turn into him.
"Yayoi, Kiori," Kodachi said in exasperation "where are you?" Yayoi had run off as soon as she entered the bookstore, quickly followed by Kiori.
They always did this, always running off, leaving her in their wake. She felt so frustrated it was unbelievable. What was she going to do with these kids?
"May I help you?" a saleslady asked. She noticed that Kodachi looked incredibly tired, as if she hadn't slept a decent night's sleep in a long time. There were rings under her eyes. Her cheekbones seemed sunken. Even thought her appearance could be improved upon, Kodachi was still a very beautiful woman. She had long black hair, her bangs falling down over her dark eyes. Her hair was tied in a ponytail that fell down her back all the way down to her slim waist, tied in place by a red ribbon.
"Yeah, have you seen two little girls run by here?" Kodachi said wearily.
"Um, yes," the saleslady said, pointing toward the fantasy isle "I saw them go turn down the fantasy isle" She remembered seeing two twins running past her, both of them saying 'hi' as they passed her. They looked like very sweet little children. When she saw their father walk by, she blushed horribly when he looked right at her, giving her a smile. She looked at Kodachi, a bit envious of her.
She must be that man's wife, she thought. She wondered how she, herself,
could catch a man like Ranma. She wanted a man like him. She had dated many people over her young life, but she had never come across someone that remotely looked as handsome as Ranma. It wasn't Ranma's looks that attracted her to him, albeit it had something to do with it, but it was the way he carried himself. He seemed to have this paternal air to him that all women found attractive, even those whom don't have children.
"Thanks," Kodachi said as she headed for the fantasy book isle. She noticed that the saleslady were looking at her enviously, which seemed to confuse her. Why would she be envious of me when I have two spoiled little girls, Kodachi thought.
"Is there anything you want to read, honey?" Ranma said, putting his hand on Jessie's shoulder. She was still scanning over all the books to choose.
Meggie had already chosen her book. All that was left was for Jessie to chose one for herself.
"Excuse me," came a voice.
Ranma turned to face it "Have you seen two..." Kodachi started, but her voice failed her. Her heart had just leapt into her throat. Her heart raced as she gazed into Ranma's beautiful eyes. It had this loving sadness to it that she found quite odd. It looked like he was on the verge of tears. Her heart leapt at the thought that she had met someone so sensitive. She took in a deep breath, remembering she was here because of men like him.
"Have you seen two little girls run by here?" she said, her voice strained. She had to force those words out of her mouth. She had to fight back this strange urge to stare at him so intently.
Ranma regarded her for a second before answering. The woman before him was a very beautiful one, albeit she had some slight rings under her eyes. One night's rest would easily fix that. The lady before him seemed like she was on the verge of a nervous breakdown.
"Sorry. I haven't," he said. He hadn't seen any other children in the store except his own. The store was virtually empty at the time. He wouldn't be surprised if he and the little girls and the salesladies and this woman standing in front of him were the only people in the store.
Kodachi gave a small whimper. She was hoping he would have seen her children. She turned her gaze toward the three little girls in the isle with them. She noticed a pair of twins and a little girl slightly older than them. The twins were very beautiful looking girls, and the other girl was every bit as beautiful. They were both huddled near Ranma. They all looked at her curiously.
"Have any of you seen them?" Ranma said, turning his attention to his girls. Maybe they saw the two little girls when they ran up ahead of him when they entered.
All three of them shook there heads.
"Sorry," Ranma said "None of us have seen them. Um, would you like me to help you look?"
Ranma had noticed this defeated look in Kodachi's eyes. She looked like she was about fall to her knees and cry. He was always sympathetic toward others, even if very little people were ever sympathetic toward him.
"You'd do that for me?" Kodachi said. She was a bit shocked. All the men in her life had usually treated her badly, acting as if she was invisible.
She expected him to ignore her like all the other men she had dated.
"Sure, what do they look like?" he said. He knew that he'd greatly appreciate it if someone helped him out if he couldn't find his children.
That was why he was so grateful that Chiako had found Jessie and kept her out of trouble.
"They're both around this tall," Kodachi said, lowering her hand to around waist height "and they both have long black hair"
Ranma nodded. He then turned to Miki and the twins, "I'm goin' to help her find her children. Don't go anywhere. And you know what to do if someone suspicious bothers you, right?"
"Yeah. We'll scream," the twins said. Miki just looked at them with a bemused look. Kodachi couldn't help but smile. His children were so well-mannered, the exact opposite of her own children. She noticed that they were very nice and polite. When she looked at them, they gave her a warm smile and a polite bow.
"Fine," Ranma said, turning his attention toward Kodachi "Let's get going"
Ranma and Kodachi both left the isle to look for her children.
"What's your name?" Kodachi said "Mine's Kodachi Kuno"
"Ranma Saotome," he said. He began wondering because he could have sworn he heard her family name before, but he couldn't quite explain where for some reason. He looked back toward the fantasy isle. He could still see the three girls staying where they were, not going anywhere.
"I came here to buy some parenting books," Kodachi started. She wanted to have a conversation with him. She always liked to talk.
"Oh?" Ranma asked. He seemed interested. He couldn't help but wonder about how he had come here once to buy some parenting books. That was over ten years ago "I don't want to seem arrogant or anything, but I'm a pretty good parent. I could always help you out if you'd like. What's the problem?"
Kodachi didn't know where to begin. It should have been more along the lines of 'What isn't the problem?' Her children were enough to drive anyone insane.

"Thanks," Kodachi said as she held onto Yayoi and Kiori. She felt confident that she would be able to take control of her life again instead of having her children do it. Ranma had told her that she shouldn't give in to their tantrums all the time, to lay down her authority. Sure, they would throw their tantrums, but eventually, they would subside when the children realize that their fits of outrage would no longer work anymore. He had also told her about how she should give them incentives to do anything constructive at home.
"I'd be glad to help out whenever you like," he said, walking over to the cashier, placing the books Miki and the twins had chosen onto the counter.
He looked toward the cashier, giving her a warm smile, which made her blush.
"Do you have any paper and a pen I can borrow?" he said to the cashier.
When she gave him the items he asked for, he jotted down his phone number on the piece of paper, handing it to Kodachi "Here, you can call me if you ever have problems"
Kodachi looked at the piece of paper. She then looked at the cashier. The cashier was looking at her as if she was the one who was getting his phone number. It must have been unprecedented that a man would give a woman his phone number.
He handed the cashier a five thousand yen bill, "Sorry, I don't have anything smaller than that," before turning his attention back onto Kodachi and saying "You can reach me at mostly night"
"Thanks," Kodachi said, eyeing Ranma quite fondly, much to his unawareness. She felt this great feeling being around him. He was nothing like the men she had even known. He was kind, gentle, and very loving. She could see herself spending the rest of her life with a man like him. She quickly gazed down at ring finger of his left hand, noticing that he wasn't wearing a wedding ring. That meant he wasn't married. Ranma looked at his watch. It read 9:36 am "I better get going now. It's been nice talking to you," He took the change the cashier handed him, shoving them into his back pocket. He then took hold of the plastic bag that the lady had put all those book into.
"Bye," he said, giving her a smile, right before leaving, Miki and the twins holding his hands. Kodachi and the cashier watched as Ranma left the store, both of their heart beating rapidly.
"He's gorgeous," the cashier said, a slight blush on her cheeks. She could still feel the heat that traveled from his fingertips and into her hands when their hands touched when she was handing him his change.
"I know" Kodachi said, remembering to breath again, a smile on her lips. She looked at the phone number Ranma had given her, noticing that the cashier was trying to steal a glance at it. She just smiled at her before shoving it into her pocket.
"Is he married?" the cashier asked. She just had to know. She most likely knew the answer. She was shocked to hear what that he was not when Kodachi replied.
"No," she said, her day already looking brighter than it already was. Her morning had started out terribly, but now it seemed nothing would bring her down. Thoughts of talking and spending time with Ranma again made her feel happy. Unfortunately, at that moment, she realized that her children had just ran off toward the back of the store again.

Chapter 23

Akane's heart leapt when the doorbell rang. She looked a clock that hung on a nearby wall. It read 9:50. That meant it should be Ranma. He had left for the bookstore with the children after breakfast, at around 9:00. He was expected back before ten because he had to get on over to his mom's house for when Ryoga and Mousse arrived to help fix up the house.
She opened the door, only to be overwhelmed when the girls entered the house in a mad dash, Meggie leading the pack. Ranma had been holding Miki's hand as she ran into the house while Jessie had been holding his other hand. It just so happened that the two girls quickly took off their shoes and ran past Akane on either side while still holding his hand, causing Ranma to fall down on top of her as they held onto his hands. Ranma was lying on top of Akane, his lips so very close that if he inched one bit closer, their lips would have brushed across one another. His chest was pressed against her own chest. He was so close to her that he could smell the arousing fragrance of her shampoo. He quickly got to his feet, hoping Akane didn't feel just how aroused he had gotten.
"Sorry," he apologized, reaching his hand forward to take Akane's, helping her to her feet. He could feel the warmth of her hands as they touched his.
He felt grateful that he was wearing loose-fitting jeans, hiding his arousal. He scratched the back of his head as he gave her a weak smile.
Akane turned around, hoping Ranma didn't see her blushing. When he fell on top of her, he could feel him pressed against her, especially his...
What am I thinking, Akane thought. She couldn't believe herself. She could feel her heart beating rapidly in her chest, threatening to explode if it went any faster. When she felt him pressed against her, she started to recall the incident they had last night, when they kissed. She remembered how great his lips felt on hers. She especially remembered seeing him naked.
Ranma looked at Akane as her back was turned to him. He noticed that she was adorned in some loose sweatpants and a thick sweatshirt, concealing her curves. It didn't matter though. Ranma already knew how great she looked without those clothes on, for he had stolen a peek when she took her towel off, when she thought he wasn't looking.
"Um, I'll leave them with you," Ranma said "I have to get on over to my mom's house for when Ryoga and Mousse arrives"
He stepped forward, expecting her to turn around so he could kiss her,
but her back remained facing him. She never turned around. Instead, she just said "Okay, I'll see you later then"
Ranma's visage was crestfallen. He wanted to kiss her again. He thought that that incident last night wasn't something born out of the heat of passion. But it obviously seemed so because Akane never bothered to open up anymore to him. She also acted like the incident didn't happen, as if she were ashamed of it, which seemed to further daunt Ranma about pursuing her.
"Where's Ukyo?" he asked. He wanted to ask her if she wanted to go with him to his mom's house because Ryoga was due to show up in about ten minutes there. He figured she would have liked to have talked to him face to face instead of having him relay the message. Afterall, he might forget to mention something.
"She's in the backyard," Akane said. She remembered Ukyo having told her that she wanted to go to the backyard to be alone. She said she wanted time to organize her thoughts. Akane would have done the same thing is she was in the same situation as Ukyo. Akane now knew of Ukyo's fancy for Ranma's friend, Ryoga.
"If you'd really like to know what we were talking about upstairs, I'll tell you" Ukyo had said right after Ranma, and the kids had left "I wanted to ask him about his friend, Ryoga"
"Ryoga?" Akane had asked. She didn't know where Ukyo was going with this conversation "What about him?"
"I'll get to it in a second. I wanted to ask him if Ryoga was seeing anyone"
Akane's heart seemed to have leapt for joy. She knew exactly where Ukyo was getting at. She knew Ukyo was interested in Ryoga. Otherwise, she wouldn't have asked an irrelevant question like that "We'll is he?"
"No. He isn't seeing someone" Ukyo continued "I found out that Ryoga seems to like me also. Ranma told me Ryoga had asked about me yesterday. He told me Ryoga also asked if I was seeing someone"
Akane said, "Well, are you?" She was hanging on what she was going to say next. She prayed that she would say 'no'.
"Of course not," she said, "I wanted to see Ranma, but he isn't interested in rekindling our relationship again"...also, he's in love with you, not me. The last part she didn't say. She didn't need to say. Surely, Akane could have seen the signs. Surely, she would have noticed that he seemed to spend a lot of time with her, and that he wanted her to get along with his daughters.
"I'm sorry to hear that," she really did feel bad. But then she realized that she no longer needed to worry about Ranma leaving her for Ukyo anymore.
That meant she could tell him about her feelings toward him.
"I'm going out back to the backyard. I need some time alone," Ukyo said,
heading for the open porch door that led to the backyard. She stepped out the door, closing it behind her.
Akane was left there, standing where she was. She felt bad for Ukyo. She knew she would be emotionally hurt if the man she loved didn't love her like the way she loved him, if the feelings weren't mutual. But then again, Akane really didn't know if he loved her. He might love someone else.
Ranma voice caused Akane to snap out of her little reverie "Tell Ukyo I said goodbye"
Akane took in a deep breath. Being around Ranma now made her feel more nervous than ever, especially after last night's incident. She wondered what all of that was about. He had kissed her passionately, as if she was the only woman he ever wanted, which made her feel special. But as they continued to kiss, when she indicated that she wanted to take it to another level, he had backed off. He told her to leave him alone, as if he didn't want to be near her. What was it about him that made him back off? She couldn't quite understand why. She thought he wanted to go further than kissing, but his backing off seemed to indicate that he didn't want to. Was it some kind of one-sided love she had for him? Was that as intimate as he wanted to be with her? Did that kiss mean anything to him? She had to ask.
"Ranma, about last night," she started, turning back around to face Ranma.
But she was too late, Ranma had left.

Ukyo sat on one on the stones out in the backyard, her gaze at the pond and at the life it held. As she sat there, she wondered about Ranma,
wondered about how she and him were childhood friends and how they met.
She felt almost bad that she had taken a liking to his friend, Ryoga Hibiki.
She didn't want to forget about the memories they shared together.
"Hi," Ukyo had introduced herself with a big warm, smile. As she sat on those rocks, she could remember clearly that she was at the age of six when they met. Her hair was very short at the time, so short that she almost looked like a boy if it weren't for the dress that she wore. She had noticed this young boy living nearby ever since she moved there. She wanted to talk to the boy, but he seemed distant. Then one day, she took a deep breath and walked up to the young boy.
The little boy was sitting on a bench in the park. Ukyo happened to have been in the park with her father at the time. She had been playing in the playground when she saw Ranma out of the corner of her eye when he sat down on a bench nearby, his head low. She had looked around for his parents, but they were nowhere to be found. It was strange that his parents would let someone that was six years old out go out on his own. Little did she know that his father had just kicked him out of the house. There was no way for him to go back until his mom got back home from grocery shopping. Once she found out what his father had done, he would be allowed back into the house.
"Hi," Ranma had said, not even bothering to look at the girl standing before him. He was ashamed of himself. He gaze was on the ground. He didn't her to see that he was on the verge of crying. He had been beaten by his father just an hour prior to their meeting each other. If it weren't for the shirt he was wearing, everyone would have noticed that his back was all covered with bruises.
"I'm Ukyo Kuonji," she had said. She sat down next to Ranma, regarding him intently. Ranma, even though he was only six, looked like he was no longer a child. He looked like his childhood had passed him. It looked like a heap of responsibility had been dumped on him. When he stole a glance toward her,
she noticed that his eyes, although beautiful, seemed to be liquid, as if he were on the verge breaking down and crying. His eyes looked like they were hiding something, something sad and very disturbing.
"I-I'm Ranma Saotome," he had said. He looked up at Ukyo and regarded her.
She was a very sweet-looking girl. Her hair was short, almost as short as his own. If it weren't for the dress she was wearing, Ranma would have sworn Ukyo was a little boy.
"You wanna play together?" Ukyo had asked. She was gesturing toward the swings in the park, the same swings his daughters would be swinging on more than twenty years later.
That seemed to make Ranma forget about his pain. The thought of spending time with Ukyo seemed to make it go away. He didn't know what she did to make the pain go away, but it worked. It was too bad that, although the physical pain went away, the emotional pain never subsided.
"I guess so," Ranma had said.
Ukyo smiled before tapping Ranma on the shoulder, causing him to wince slightly in pain. Ukyo didn't notice this, "Tag" she said, right before running for the playground in a happy, gleeful giggle "You're it"
Ranma smiled as he hopped off the bench, the same bench he'd be sitting on as he watched his own daughters on the swings. He then started running after Ukyo, noticing that this was the only time he could remember ever having smiled. Anytime prior to that he couldn't recall. Maybe it was because there was nothing to smile about before he met Ukyo.
Ukyo leaned back, propping herself up with her arms as she fondly recalled how she and Ranma met for the first time. That incident always brought a smile on her lips. Meeting Ranma was one of the best thing that ever happened to her, which made leaving him the worst thing to happen to her.
She remembered having to tell Ranma that she was moving just a few years after meeting him.
"Ranchan," Ukyo had said as she tapped Ranma on his shoulder. That was the nickname she gave him. Ranma was sitting next to her on the bench. They were now both ten years old. Ranma had grown quite a lot over the years they had known each other. "What is it, Ucchan?" Ranma had said. That was the nickname he gave Ukyo.
She liked that nickname. He was gazing at her intently, which seemed to make telling him more awkward than it already was.
Ukyo took a deep breath before starting "Ranchan, my Daddy just told me the other day that we will be moving very soon"
Hearing those words seemed to shatter Ranma's heart. He knew what this meant, knew that he was going to be alone again. Sure, there were kids in elementary school to be friends with, but that would never be the same. He would never have a friendship with another person like the one he had been with Ukyo.
Ukyo had started crying, putting her head on his shoulder. Ranma didn't even wince in pain anymore, him already having grown accustomed to the beatings nowadays. He was almost indifferent to physical pain. It didn't bother him anymore. Even if that was true, he was still vulnerable to emotional pain. The thought that spending the rest of his life without Ukyo tore away at him.
"Where will you be moving to?" Ranma had asked. He was wondering if she didn't move too far away, he might be able to ride his bike to her place to visit.
"I don't know exactly where," Ukyo said between sobs "but he said it'll be somewhere in Hokkaido"
Ranma was a smart kid. He knew that Hokkaido was too far away, that it was on the other side of the country. But he had to put up a good front. He couldn't cry. Ukyo was crying for the both of them "Well, lets just hope we'll see each other again sometime in the future"
Ukyo laid back on the ground in Akane's backyard as she remembered his words. Those words did come true several years after she had moved back to Nerima after spending a couple of years in Hokkaido. She remembered that she was eighteen at the time. When she came back to him, Ranma had been so happy that the first thing he did was kiss her on the lips. It was unprecedented.
Ukyo was shocked that he would do that to her, but she didn't fight it.
Eventually, their friendship headed toward another direction, the two of them becoming lovers not much longer afterwards. They only remained lovers for a short time, when they turned twenty, that was until they decided it was best they went their separate ways. She ended up moving back to Hokkaido,
but this time, carrying Ranma's child.
She felt bad that she might forget all these fond memories of their friendship, forgetting them once she fell in love again, forgetting about him. She didn't want to forget about him. She wanted to remember him.
"Whatcha thinkin' about, Mommy?" Miki asked, stepping out into the backyard. She had begun reading her book, but had noticed that her Mommy was in the backyard so she wanted to find out what was going on.
"Oh, nothing much, honey," Ukyo said, still on her back, turning her head around to face Miki. Although no one could really see the difference between Miki and her father, Ukyo knew there were some striking similarities. Miki's eyes for one of them. Miki definitely had Ranma's beautiful eyes.
Miki sat down next to her as Ukyo sat upright to brush Miki's bangs out of her eyes. Ukyo smiled, knowing that no matter where she was, just looking at Miki would always make her remember Ranma.
Mousse and Ryoga were waiting on the front steps of his mom's house when Ranma arrived. He looked at his watch, and it read just a little past ten.
The two of them had been sitting on the steps, talking to one another when Ranma walked up to them. Mousse was conversing with Ryoga about how he wanted kids.
"So that's why we moved here," Mousse was saying to Ryoga "so we can start a family" He and Ryoga had been talking about him and Shampoo starting family. Shampoo had mentioned to him, indicated to him, that she wanted to start having children. Afterall, they weren't getting any younger.
Ranma listened intently as Ryoga and Mousse continued on conversing. He was interested in where the conversation was headed. He had always thought Mousse was a family man.
"And just last week, Shampoo was late," Mousse added proudly, a smile on his lips. One really had any idea how long he had to work to get her pregnant. There was only a brief moment in a woman's menstrual cycle where she was most likely to get pregnant, and Mousse could only make love to her when she was ovulating. That meant Mousse was climbing the walls with sexual frustrating because he could only make love to her about once a month.
"Late for what?" Ranma asked. He was now lost. What was she late with,
coming home last week? Mousse and Ryoga broke out in a fit of laughter before saying "What do you think?"
"Oh," Ranma said. When he noticed his two friends giving him a bemused look, he then realized exactly what he was late with.

Chapter 24

The moon was high in the sky, radiating its brilliance on Nerima. The streets glowed silvery from the moonlight. The leaves were fluttering gently from the cool breezes that blew through the streets. It was a peaceful night that night, not a soul to be seen anywhere, everyone now in their warm and cozy homes, spending their nights with their family.
Ranma was in the garage, sitting in a lawn chair he had set out, gazing through the open garage door and out toward the stars high above. It was around 8:15 now, meaning he had forty-five more minutes before he was expected back at Akane's house. He was expected back at her house at nine, so he could pick up his children. His children always fell asleep at around ten. That meant he'd have to be back at her house earlier so they would still be awake so he could take them back to his house. Mousse was sitting to Ranma's right, also in a lawn chair. Ryoga had left about an hour ago when Ukyo had showed up unexpectedly. Ukyo had showed up with Miki, on her way home from Akane's house at around three.
Mousse looked over at Ranma, "It's nice that Ryoga is walking Ukyo and Miki home"
"Yeah," Ranma agreed, remembering when Ukyo had showed up a few hours earlier.
"Hiya Ranchan," Ukyo had said, waving toward Ranma from the other side of the street. She was holding onto the Miki in one of her hands. Ranma was surprised to see her. He had been working at putting a hole in the livingroom wall that he almost missed seeing her. Actually, he was now finished with putting in a hole, but was rather cleaning up the mess around it. There was nothing much more he could do. He'd have to buy a window tomorrow so it could be placed in place of the hole.
"Hi Ucchan. Um, what're ya doing here?" Ranma had said, stopping what he was doing to talk to Ukyo as she walked up to him. He thought she was going to spend the day at Akane's. He wiped the sweat of his brow with a towel that was nearby.
"I was on my way home from Akane's," Ukyo had started, "and I wanted to stop by on my way home" It was true. But her real motive was she wanted to say hi to not only Ranma, but to Ryoga. She knew he was supposed to be working on Nodoka's house, Akane having told her. She wanted to stop by to talk to Ryoga, to get to know him better. She was hoping he would escort her home like he had the other day.
"Hi Miki," Ranma had said, turning his attention to the little girl Ukyo was holding. He noticed that there was a bookmark set in the middle of the book she was holding. He was a bit surprised that she had read so much in so little time. They had only bought that book several hours ago.
"Hi," Miki said softly.
"Um, is Ryoga here?" Ukyo said, looking a bit nervous. She knew he was,
but it was best that she let Ranma know what she was here for.
Ranma looked continued to look up at the stars as he remembered telling Ukyo that Ryoga was in the back, re-shingling the roof. He was more than finished when Ukyo decided to go to the backyard to say hi to him, leaving Miki in Ranma's care. She wanted to talk to Ryoga alone. Besides, Ranma had insisted that he talk to Miki alone.
"How do you like the book so far?" Ranma had said, kneeling low, his head level with Miki's.
"I like it a lot," Miki said, her eyes lighting up. She had already devoured half in a few short hours. She was most likely going to finish the book by tonight. The book was interesting and very suspenseful, leaving Miki always compelled to read more and more.
Ranma had smiled. He was glad she was happy. That was all that mattered to him. Even though he had found out she was his daughter only a few days ago,
it felt as if he had known her since she was born.
Mousse looked at his watch, "I better get goin' now. Shampoo'll be home from her modeling shoot in a half hour"
"Speaking of Shampoo," Ranma said "Now that there's a chance that a child might be on the way. What will Shampoo do? I mean, she's a model, right?"
Mousse knew what Ranma was getting at. He wanted to know what Shampoo would do once she started showing signs of her pregnancy. Surely, she'd have to take time off from her modeling career. Shampoo and Mousse had already planned it out. Mousse, although he was content with his career, was looking to quit so he and Shampoo could open a restaurant together. Shampoo was an excellent cook, and her talent shouldn't be wasted. Mousse was a great cook also. The village they grew up in were known produce excellent chefs and cooks. Shampoo's great-grandmother, Cologne, had taught her all that she knew about cooking, a family tradition to pass down recipes.
"I plan on retiring from my job as a police officer," Mousse started,
taking another sip of his soda "As soon as Shampoo's pregnancy starts showing, and she can't go on modeling, I'm going to quit, so I can take care of her. We're gonna take it easy. I've saved quite a lotta money over the years. We've been planning to open up our own restaurant"
"Why would you quit?" Ranma asked, a bit confused "I thought you liked your job"
"I do like it," he replied, getting up an throwing the empty soda can into a nearby garbage can "but once the child arrives, I don't want to put my life at risk anymore. God forbid if I get hurt or killed in the line of duty. Who'll take care of Shampoo and the child?"
Ranma knew what Mousse meant. He would have done the same thing himself.
He would never put himself in harm's way as long as his children needed him.
He knew that if, god forbid, something bad happened to him, his children would be alone. Sure, Nodoka could take care of them, but she had already did her share of child rearing. Now that Ranma was grown up, and no longer living at home, she could finally do the things she always wanted to do before she had a child. Besides, she was too old to be taking care of children anyway. Shori might take care of them, but that was a chance he wasn't going to take. Although she could bear children, Shori was not fit for motherhood. There was Ukyo, but she already had a child that she had to take care of. That only left...Akane.
Mousse looked at his watch again "Ranma, I better get goin' now.
Shampoo'll have a hissy-fit if I'm not home one time. Whenever I'm late, she starts thinking the worst, like my being shot. But then again, why would she think that when she knows I have the weekend off. Well, you know how women get. Anyway, we can always talk tomorrow morning"
Ranma got up off his lawn chair as Mousse did his. They gave each other a handshake, a custom that Ranma wasn't too used to. But it was Mousse whom initiated it. In the village he grew up, shaking hands with someone was tantamount to bowing.
"One more day, and we'll be finished with the house. I promise," Ranma said as he walked with Mousse out of the garage and toward the front of the house, stopping once they reached the sidewalk.
"Don't worry about it," Mousse said, "I like doing house repairs. It wouldn't bother me if we'd have to put in a new foundation. Sure, it'll take a lot of time, but it wouldn't bother me at all. I like doing this kinda stuff. Well, I best be goin' now. I'll see ya in the morning. Later"
"Later," Ranma said, waving to Mousse as he walked off, disappearing as he rounded a corner. Ranma stood there for several moments, enjoying the peace and quiet.
Ranma smiled to himself as he remembered seeing Ukyo and Ryoga together.
They looked really well as a couple. Also, Miki seemed to have taken a fondness toward Ryoga, liking him more than Ranma. Even though he'd prefer to raise Miki, Ranma knew that Ryoga would be perfect to raise her as a father. They seemed to share similar personalities. For instance, both of them were a bit quiet and shy. Ryoga also liked to read as much as Miki did.
He had explained that when he traveled, he'd read to keep himself from getting bored. It turned out that Ryoga and Miki both liked the same kind of books.
Ranma turned around and headed back toward the garage. Inside, he folded up the lawn chairs and placed them in the back of the garage, up on some shelves. As he did that, he accidentally knocked over a cardboard box marked 'Ranma's stuff'. A photo album fell out of the book, flipping open to the same picture Mousse had seen when he looked over Ranma's shoulder. He gave the picture a glance before closing the book and putting it back into the box and putting the box back on the shelf he had knocked it off of. He felt like crying when he saw that picture. It brought back so many memories,
memories he wanted to forget, memories that haunted him.
He turned around, taking a deep breath, calming himself. He exited the garage, closing the garage door by pulling it down. He then looked at his mom's house, noticing that it now looked totally different. All the shutters had been replaced, and the entire roof had been re-shingled. There were only a few remaining things left to be attended to. The livingroom still needed a window, which Ranma would buy tomorrow, and the house was only half painted. Ryoga and Mousse had begun painting the house as soon as they were finished with their task while Ranma had to clean up the mess he had caused from creating that hole in the wall.
Ranma was paying so much attention to how great a job that he hadn't noticed Akane and his daughter walking up the driveway until Akane called his name.
"Hello Ranma,"

Chapter 25

Ranma kissed Meggie on her forehead as he placed her in her bed, gently tucking her in, making sure she wouldn't catch a cold that night. Akane did the same thing with Jessie, also kissing her on her forehead. Ranma's daughters were so adorable that she couldn't resist. She also kissed Meggie on her forehead as Ranma did the same with Jessie. Once he was satisfied that they were safely tucked in, Ranma exited his daughters bedroom, holding the door open for Akane as she followed. He gently closed the door, making sure he wouldn't wake them from the noise.
He headed downstairs, Akane following suit. Once downstairs, Ranma headed for the kitchen as Akane sat down in one of the lush sofas in the well-furnished livingroom. As she sat there, she carefully took in her surroundings. She was at Ranma's house. When she had arrived at Nodoka's house with the twins, the two little girls were practically asleep. Ranma and Akane ended up carrying the twins back to Ranma's house when Akane found out there was no way for the twins to sleep at Nodoka's house due to the potent paint fumes.
Akane continued to take in her surroundings. The livingroom was very vast,
even having room for a fireplace. The fireplace looked like it had been used often. On the mantle above it, she noticed several picture frames. Even though she was sitting on the sofa, she knew that they were pictures of Ranma and his daughters. Akane couldn't help but smile when she noticed how content Ranma looked in the pictures with them.
She gazed around the room. The room looked very modern, unlike her own house. There were several plants in the corners, hanging from the ceiling,
that gave the room a comfortable feel to it. There was a entertainment system near the front of the room, right next to the large alcove of windows. It looked like a family man's livingroom, not a livingroom belonging to someone single. There was a grand piano in the far corner of the room. The piano looked magnificent. She could see the ivory keys glistening in the moonlight that shone through the window.
Ranma noticed that Akane was paying particular attention to the piano when he entered the livingroom. He gracefully walked over to it, sitting down on the bench in front of it, giving Akane a look before turning his gaze back onto the piano.
"Would you like to hear a song?" he said softly.
Akane nodded.
Ranma took a deep breath, and then struck several keys, sending a beautiful chord reverberating through the room. He then slowly started playing, his hands gracefully moving up and down the scale of keys, striking both the white and black ones. The song was soft, heartfelt, serene. Akane listened as he played the song slowly, playing with his heart when he struck the keys. The song had this saddening quality, as if it sounded like the grief in his heart. It was slow and melodious.
Ranma closed his eyes as he felt the keys through his fingertips, no longer concentrating on the song, but rather enjoying the beautiful music.
It looked as if he were playing the song through his heart, not through his fingers. He was playing whatever that came into mind, improvising as he went along. The air was filled with gentle notes, every note flowing perfectly into the next note. Ranma's left hand was playing the chords, moving up and down the scale of keys while his other hand played the beautiful melody, a melody Akane knew she would never forget. The song was so filled with sadness that it tugged at Akane's heartstrings. She knew he was playing with his heart. She knew he was playing as he went along. It seemed playing the piano was a way of him expressing his sadness, as if he were a poet expressing his feeling through a song.
Akane sat there, spellbound as she listened to the music, feeling this heavy feeling in her heart, like she was about to cry. She gently wiped a tear forming around her eye. She could listen to him play forever, listen to him expressing the pain in his heart.
The song continued for several pleasure-filled minutes before Ranma could no longer play, his wrist bothering him too much. He slowly ended the song,
hiding the pain in his wrist, by coming to a conclusion in the song.
"That was beautiful," Akane said, knowing that she would forever remember the song in her heart, never forgetting it even if Ranma would never be able to produce that song again.
"Thank you," Ranma said, turning his attention to Akane as he gently closed a panel over the ivory keys. He was grateful that Akane couldn't see his finger because they were now twitching from the pain. He ignored it, used to the pain.
"How long have you played?" she asked, the song still fresh in her memory.
She could almost feel the song in her heart. "I've played ever since I was little," he replied, rubbing one of his wrists "I had to stop because my wrist started hurting me" He never bothered to tell her about how his wrist became like that.
"Would you like some coffee?" Ranma added, changing the subject, getting up from his bench "It should be ready in a little while"
"Sure," Akane said. She knew he was hiding something by changing the subject so abruptly. She wanted to ask him why his wrist would bother him,
but she didn't want to seem nosy to him. How could she want to know everything about Ranma yet not seem nosy? There was no way she could get around that. The best way to deal with it was with patience. Eventually,
Ranma would tell her more about himself, let her in on his past. She shifted her gaze out the window. Ranma's house gave a prefect view of the night sky.
The sky wasn't blocked by towering buildings like Akane's place was. She could only see the stars from one side of her house, unlike Ranma's, where she could see them from all sides.
Ranma sat down next to her, the lush sofa sagging to the contour of his body. He sat right next to her, his gaze out toward the stars. It was strange that he chose to sit right next to her when the sofa was large enough for five or so people to sit on with room to spare. Akane could feel the side of her leg pressing against the side of his. She could feel his loving warmth. Her thighs felt like they were on fire.
"Don't you love looking at the stars?" he said, his voice soft. He always liked to look up at the stars. When he was young, he seemed to always find peace in gazing up at them. Those stars were what got him through those troublesome times after Ukyo had moved. He felt so alone when she had left,
but looking up at the star made him no longer feel like he was alone. He turned his gaze from the stars, resting them on Akane. He was so close to her that he could smell her perfume. He didn't know why she needed to put on perfume when all she was doing was taking the twins home, but he sure liked the smell of it. His nose tingled from her intoxicating fragrance.
Akane nodded to Ranma's question. She, too, loved looking at the stars. It reminded her of her late-mother. Her mother had taught her the constellations, made her fascinated in astronomy. She used to sit in her mother's lap outside in the backyard, her gaze up at the stars.
"You see that?" her mom had said, pointing up toward a brightly twinkling star that seemed to show up at the same spot every night. All the other stars and constellations seemed to show up in different locations. Sometimes,
they never showed up at all.
"You mean that very bright star?" Akane had said, pointing her chubby little finger.
"That's the north star," her mom had said, "That star stays fixed in the sky while all the other stars seem to revolve around it"
Akane smiled to herself as she remembered that night. She must have been no older than four at the time. She could clearly remember that night as if it were yesterday.
"What're you smiling about?" Ranma asked. He noticed Akane smile when she was looking up at the stars, as if she found something pleasant about looking up at them. He would like to know. "Looking up at the stars bring back memories," Akane commented, leaning back on the sofa. She didn't know why she did it, but she somehow leaned up against him. Her head wasn't necessarily resting up against his shoulder, but it looked like it was about to. She seemed a bit mellow that night. Maybe it was because she no longer felt threatened by Ukyo taking Ranma away from her anymore. Afterall, she had told her that she was interested in Ryoga. That left Ranma free for herself.
Ranma could feel his heart speeding up when Akane leaned up against him.
He could feel her warmth, and it made his body burn with desire. He wanted to take her into his arms and hold her forever, but he couldn't. He figured Akane was unaware of what she was doing, that she didn't really mean to lean up against him.
"Akane," Ranma said softly, the only noise in the quiet room. His voice sounded husky, very masculine.
"Yes, Ranma?" she said, not paying much attention to anything. She was enjoying the closeness. She cherished it. It felt like she was enveloped in a warm blanket, all snuggled up and comfortable. She could feel Ranma's hot breath on the side of her face with every breath he took.
"About last night," he started, thinking of the right words to say. He wanted to ask her what that kiss meant to her last night, if it meant anything. He knew he was never going to forget it, but he wanted to know if she would too. That kiss felt like nothing he had ever felt before.
Akane could feel her heart skip a beat when he mentioned about last night.
She wondered what he thought about that kiss, about how it meant to him. She wondered if that kiss was a casual kiss to him, because it sure didn't for her. She had never been kissed like that in her life. His lips felt very passionate on hers, as if he desired her, lusted for her.
Ranma looked into Akane's eyes as she looked into his, their gaze locking in on one another, shutting the rest of the world out. Akane's eyes showed this burning fire in them while Ranma's eyes had this almost liquid look to it, as if he were about to cry. But despite that, his eyes looked warm and comforting.
Ranma opened his mouth, but his words never came out. His mouth felt dry.
"Um...I better get the coffee," he ended up saying. He couldn't bring up the incident. He was too embarrassed about it. He felt like less of a man for having pulled away from her when she opened herself up to him. He had felt insecure about himself, self-conscious about himself, scared of himself. He didn't want Akane to see that part of him, that insecure part of him. He had always been insecure of his scarred body, and it proved just how insecure he was about it when he shattered that moment they had together last night when he pulled away like a frightened little boy. Even so, he was sure that that kiss they shared would be something he would remember forever, a kiss that was probably a casual kiss for Akane he figured.
Ranma quickly got up and headed for the kitchen.
"Is it all right if I start a fire in the fireplace?" Akane asked. She knew he was about to say something about last night, about what he thought about that kiss. She didn't want to rush him. If he didn't feel it was the right time to talk about it, then she wasn't going to rush him. She figured that if she started a fire, it would create a warmer and more comfortable atmosphere in the livingroom. Maybe then he would open up.
She walked over to the fireplace, picking up a box of matches that were on the mantle above it. She struck a match, applied it to the tinder and watched the flames spread to the kindling and then to the logs. The shadows caused from the flames danced up against the walls of the livingroom as the flames crackled gently. She picked up an iron rod that was at the edge of the fireplace, using it to stoke the fire for several moments.
Ranma came back into the livingroom, handing her a cup of coffee. He sat down the same spot he was before on the sofa, sipping his coffee. He noticed that Akane was now looking at the pictures that were on the mantle "Don't look at those pictures, I look horrible in them"
Akane smiled to herself, grateful that her back was to him. In every picture, Ranma looked extremely handsome, as if the camera loved him. There was one other thing she noticed about the picture, that, albeit smiling,
Ranma didn't look happy. It looked like something was missing from his life.
He looked almost sad. His smiled looked forced.
She took her time as she looked through every picture. In every picture,
the twins seemed to get older and older. In the first picture she looked at was of him holding the twins. The twins looked like they were right from the maternity ward. He looked like a teenager in that picture. A bit further down the row of pictures, the twins looked like they were around three,
Ranma in the background watching over them as they tried to kick a ball. The last picture was a about a year old. It looked like it had been taken at a graveyard. In that picture, Ranma was standing before a tombstone, looking as if he was on the verge of crying. Although she couldn't discern the name on the grave, Akane knew it must have been his father's grave. It seemed that he still had feeling for his late-father. She couldn't quite understand why he would even come close to shedding tears for him after all the terrible things his father had done to him. Ranma was finished with his cup of coffee by the time Akane was finished with looking over all the pictures on the mantle. He got up and walked up to her "I going to get another cup. You want another one?" It was useless of him to ask. She had barely took a sip of the cup she was holding.
"No thank you," she said.
Ranma walked off into the kitchen to get another cup of coffee, leaving Akane alone to organize her thoughts. She wanted to ask him about last night, but she didn't want to pressure him. She wanted to know now what he thought about that kiss, but she didn't want to bring up the incident.
Clearly, Ranma seemed a bit nervous about talking about it.
She looked down at the fire, noticing that she hadn't taken out the iron rod. She gripped the rubber handle and pulled it out of the fire. The bar was glowing red. It had been in the fire too long.
Just at the moment, Ranma entered the livingroom. As soon as he caught sight of the glowing rod, he panicked. He dropped his cup of coffee, the glass shattering on the floor, coffee splattering everywhere.
Akane looked at Ranma, noticing how pale he had just gotten. It looked like all the blood had been drained from his body. His face was pale, his lips colorless and ashen. He looked clearly disturbed.
"Are you okay?" Akane asked, taking a step toward him, the glowing rod in her hands.
"Get the away from me!" he said, retreating, slipping on the coffee,
falling backwards on his backside. From her he scooted backwards as she took another step. There was a look of terror in his eyes. She had never seen him so scared in his life. She had never seen someone so scared in her life. He looked like a little boy as he huddled backwards.
Akane noticed that Ranma's gaze was intent on the glowing rod. She looked at it for a second before realizing what she was holding. She quickly placed it back on the hold, careful not to touch anything with it. When she turned back to face him Ranma seemed a bit more relax. He just sat there, in the puddle of coffee, staring blankly at Akane. His eyes were fixed toward her,
but he didn't look like he was looking directly at her. It seemed as if he was looking through her and seeing someone else. But that only lasted for a split second. But that moment she saw of Ranma would forever be etched into her mind. All of Ranma's defenses had fallen down at that particular instant, leaving him more vulnerable than a newborn baby. No matter how painful it was for him, he had always managed to have some form of defense against the onslaught of emotions and pains that threatened to tear him apart. But that one moment, that split second, Ranma had lost all awareness of his surroundings and the pain seemed to have finally overwhelmed him.
When she had seen that, she just wanted to reach out and take hold of him,
embrace him. But it looked like he didn't want it.
Ranma got up off the floor, his pants stained with coffee, regaining what little composure he had left. He looked over at the rod, it no longer glowing, it having cooled down slightly cool air in the room. The glowing rod was what had scared him so much. When he saw that rod, memories of his father came flooding back into his mind, overwhelming him. Though Akane was holding the piece of iron, Ranma thought it was his father holding it. His father's image seemed superimposed over Akane's at that brief moment. He had felt like a little boy again, defenseless, vulnerable, too scared to run away.
"Sorry," he said, not really looking directly at Akane. He felt ashamed for what he had done. He felt ashamed for becoming so vulnerable. He wished Akane hadn't seen him like that.
"Are you okay?" she asked, concern in her voice. She wondered what had happened, what had caused him to become so vulnerable for that brief moment in time. She followed his gaze onto the rod, realizing that it had something to do with it. But what could it mean?
"I-I'll be okay," Ranma stuttered, still feeling the rapid heartbeat in his chest "I'm sorry about that. When I saw you holding that glowing rod, I thought you were my father"
"What do you mean?" Akane asked, a bit confused. She gave a some thought for a moment before realizing what he was implementing. Her fists clenched upon the thought that his father had done such a terrible act of inhumanity.
"That's how I got the scar on my chest," Ranma started, taking a deep breath. He wasn't used to talking about his past, but he knew he shouldn't keep it all bottled up on the inside "My father once heated a metal pipe up till it glowed bright red. I didn't know why he did it, but he hit me with it. The pipe burned me all the way to my ribs" He touched the scar through his shirt, noticing how painful it felt on the inside. The scar had healed,
but the pain in his heart never did. It pained him to wonder why his father could have done something like that to his only son.
Akane listened intently as he told her of everything, "The scars on my back was from one of those three-pronged hoes that's used to break the soil. I was out in the garden on day, playing. I must have been six or seven at the time. I guess I didn't hear my father calling me in, because the next thing I knew, he was outside standing next to me, holding a hoe. The next thing I remember was feeling my back catch on fire from the pain as he slashed it across my back"
Akane seemed to wince when made a sideways slashing mark with his arms,
acting out how his father had slashed him. She could almost feel the pain Ranma had gone through. And the thought that he had to carry that horrible memory all his life made her want to cry.
A tear started forming around her eye, "I-I'm so sorry to hear that"
Ranma wiped the tear from her eye with his finger before it fell down the side of her cheek "Please don't cry. There's no need to cry for me" He felt a bit flattered that someone would actually shed tears for him, for the pains he suffered through. He always thought that he didn't deserved to be cried over, that his life was useless. But it had all changed when he had children. His daughters seemed to have given meaning to his life. He knew that if he were to ever shed tears, it would be for his daughters, not himself.
Ranma looked down at his coffee-stained pants. There were also some stains on his shirt "I better go take a shower and get out of these clothes" He wanted to change the subject. He didn't really like to talk about his past,
no matter how good he felt afterwards. He didn't like bringing up old memories that he preferred to have forgotten.
Akane watched as Ranma headed upstairs, coming back down within a minute,
a pair of clean clothes thrown over his shoulder. As he walked by her, he spoke "I'll be out in about ten minutes. Just make yourself at home," He then headed off into the bathroom, closing the door behind him.
Akane didn't hear the lock on the door click, meaning he was going to leave his bathroom door unlocked. She could feel color flushing into her cheeks when she realized that the only thing that separated her from Ranma was a single door, which he happened to have left unlocked. Did he purposely leave it unlocked because he wanted Akane to join him? Did he want her to walk in on him?
She decided that it was best she distract herself until he was finished.
She walked over into the kitchen, deciding that she wanted to find something to snack on. When she walked into the kitchen, she felt tiny in comparison to the vast size of the room. The ceiling, which had a skylight, looked like it was over twenty feet up. Everything in the kitchen, including most its appliances, was the color white. The only other color that noticeable in the room was the color black, which was the color of the refrigerator. The whiteness of the kitchen seemed to match Ranma's heart, pure. White gave the impression of innocence and purity, which seemed perfect for Ranma.
She walked over to the fringe, smiling to herself upon noticing the pictures that the twins had made that were taped to the fringe door.
Although she wasn't adept in drawing, she knew, through those pictures, that the twins were very talented in drawing. For mere seven-year olds, they drew like artisans. The pictures seemed to portray how they viewed their Daddy.
Meggie's pictured showed of Ranma looking happy. But there was this slight difference in the way she drew him smiling. The outside of his eye brows were angled downward, making him look like she was giving Ranma this a sad smile. The other picture had a picture of Ranma looking out toward the person viewing the picture,
a single tear flowing from his eye. When Akane had saw that picture, she reached a hand out and touched the picture, touching the tear. It was as if she was wiping his tear away. That picture had been drawn by Meggie. She seemed to have noticed Ranma looked like he was always about to cry, and she was portraying the tears he wanted to shed through her picture of him.
Akane could feel the pictures tugging at her heart. She wished she had pictures like these to put on her own refrigerator door. She wanted to have pictures too. She shook her head, fighting back the tears that were threatening to overwhelm her. She open the fridge door, hoping to find something to eat.
She immediately found something that seemed appetizing. She took hold of a packet of bologna and ham, closing the door behind her as she carried the items to the counter. She then started checking the cupboards for some bread, finding it within moments. She made herself a ham and bologna sandwich, putting the contents back into its rightful place once she finished.
At that moment, the phone rang, causing Akane to start. She was about to go tell Ranma that the phone was ringing, but she realized that she'd have to go into the room if she wanted him to hear her. The hissing of his shower was too loud, most likely muffling the noise if she were to knock on his door.
She figured it was best that she took the message for him rather than intrude in on his shower, which she wouldn't have minded doing, except the embarrassment factor for the both of them preventing her.
Akane picked up the phone "Hello? Saotome residence"
"Is Ranma there?" came a voice on the other end, a very feminine voice.
The voice sounded sultry and very seductive. She noticed that there was someone in the background, a child. No. Two children. They were both crying.
Akane could feel despair descending upon her like a ton of bricks, causing her to feel this dread in her heart. Who's this woman on the other line,
Akane though. Why is she calling for Ranma? Why does she want Ranma?
She took in a deep breath before speaking "Um, he's in the shower now. Can I take a message?" She pulled out a couple of drawers, hoping to find a notepad and pen in one of them. She found on after opening the second drawer.
"Please do," the voice said, "Please tell him Kodachi called. And please tell him I need him"
She needs him, Akane though, her grip tightening on the phone received,
her knuckles turning white. What did she mean by that? What does she mean by 'Please tell him I need him'? She could feel anger welting up inside,
anger at herself for actually believing that she could possibly have Ranma.
Surely, there must have been hundreds of women in his life. He was definitely a great catch. There was no doubt about it. But why was she trying to snag him like everyone else? Did she consider him a trophy? No.
She considered him more than that. She considered him to be the most caring and loving person in her life. Surely, there was no way she could ever be with a man like him, and she was angry at herself for believing she could have.
She took a deep breath, calming herself. She had to convince herself that she would never have a man like him. In the end, she knew she would get hurt, which was what she felt now, hurt. She was hurt to realize that she wasn't the only woman in his life. She had naively believed that Ukyo had been the only other woman in his life. She was living in a dream.
"Can you please tell Ranma to call me when he gets out?" the Kodachi said.
Her voice sounded shaky. But despite that, it also sounded yearning and in wanting of him. Akane could hear the lust in her voice when she said Ranma's name.
"Does he have your number?" Akane said, trying to keep herself professional. She was trying to hide her feelings by keeping her voice in a soft yet monotone voice.
Akane ended up jotting down Kodachi's phone number on the notepad she had found. After she repeated it over the phone to confirm that she had jotted it down correctly, she hung up. Actually, Kodachi hung up, and she seemed preoccupied as she hung up. Akane just stood there, listening to the dial tone that followed a few seconds after. It seemed she, too, was preoccupied.
Akane looked at the phone number as she placed the receiver back in its place. She wanted to rip the paper up and throw it away, hoping he would never hear from that woman again. But she wasn't that kind of person. She knew she would give it to him, no matter how painful it would be for her when his face would light upon realizing that one of his many women had called to be with him, needing him.
She placed the notepad on the counter, heading for the front door. She didn't want to be in Ranma's house anymore. She had this real queasy feeling in her stomach, a feeling that emerged when she had picked up that phone receiver and heard that sultry voice on the other end.
"Hey, Akane, where're ya goin'?" Ranma called out, noticing Akane heading for the front door as he came out of the bathroom, all the while toweling his damp hair dry. He was wearing a tank-top and some sweat pants. Akane noticed that he looked incredibly virile, his muscles glistening in the moonlight. The sight took Akane's breath away.
"I-I have to get going now," she said, knowing that if she stayed any longer with him, she would go mad with desire. The voice echoing in her head was the only thing that kept her from running into his arms. She didn't want to get hurt. She made sure her back was turned to him, for there were tears forming around her eyelids.
"Are ya sure?" he said in a soft voice, unsuspecting of the phonecalls he had received, and that Akane had taken a message for "I was hoping you would stay a little longer" He liked having her for company.
"Y-you do?" she said, her back still toward Ranma. She quickly wiped the tear away with the back of her hand. She could hear the sincerity in his words. She, too, wanted to stay longer, but she couldn't. She knew it would be too awkward for her to be around him, she now knowing of Ranma's other supposed lovers. She didn't want to be one of his lover. If she were to be his lover, she wanted to be his only lover.
At that moment, the phone rang.
"Just wait here for a second," Ranma said, heading toward the livingroom to pick up the phone. Akane didn't know what to do. She wanted to leave, but she also wanted to stay. She just stood there for a second before deciding she wanted to stay. She walked into the livingroom as Ranma picked up the phone.
"Hello?" Ranma said, using one hand to hold the receiver while the other was still toweling his hair dry. Akane listened intently to Ranma's words, wondering if it was the Kodachi lady again.
Even though the livingroom was dark, except for the faint light the fireplace was producing, Akane noticed Ranma's face turn to shock. She could hear the shakiness in his voice as he said "Uh huh. I'll be right there"
He hung up the phone, turning his attention to Akane, fright in his eyes.
It looked like he had aged a couple of years over those few seconds he was on the phone "Akane, we have to go to Mizunkan Hospital"
"H-hospital? Why?" she asked. She didn't know what was going on. But she did know something was terribly wrong simply by the expression on his face.
Some thing was definitely wrong.
"Ryoga's hurt," Ranma said, heading upstairs to put some more suitable clothes on, Akane following suit. She stood in front of his bedroom door as he quickly went into his room, taking his tank-top off. There's was no time to worry about how he looked without his shirt. His friend was hurt, and that was the only thing that mattered.
Akane blushed when she saw him take off his shirt. Even though three scars crossed his entire back, his back was muscled and defined. His back was turned to her. She then saw him take off his sweat pants, revealing nothing but his boxers. She quickly turned around, a bit embarrassed at what she had seen. She was now aware that Ranma would be totally naked if he wasn't wearing that pair of boxers.
She heard his closet door open, and then him shuffling to put some clothes on. After a few moments, Ranma, now fully dressed, placed a hand on her shoulder "I'm ready, let's get going"
Akane then realized that Jessie and Meggie were asleep in the room next to Ranma's "Um, what about your kids?"
Ranma was halfway down the stairs when he replied "My neighbor will watch over them" Ranma's neighbor was an elderly lady of around fifty. Her two children were now all grown up, and they were living in their own homes now. Her husband had died several years ago of cancer, leaving her all alone.
When Ranma had moved into the house next door to her, bring with him two daughter, her life seemed to be no longer lonesome. She sometimes took care of Ranma's girls whenever he had to go somewhere. Most of the time, Nodoka would take care of them, but every so often, he figured she needed a break, and he would drop his kids off at his neighbor's house. His neighbor loved his daughters. They brought happiness back into her life. Her children, although living on their own now, were still young, around their early twenties. They were too young to have kids, meaning she would have to wait for sometime before she would be a grandmother. In a way, she vicariously lived being a grandmother through Ranma's daughters. She treated Jessie and Meggie as if they were her own grandchildren.
Akane was standing next to Ranma as he knocked on his neighbor's house.
Within moments, and elderly lady answered the door. Akane regarded her for a second. She had long gray hair, which was in a bun, and was as short as herself. There were a lot of lines around the edge of her mouth and her eyes,
giving her the appearance that she was older than she really was.
"Hello, Ranma," the elderly lady said, smiling warmly. She always liked it when Ranma would stop by her house. He used to do that often, but not that anymore.
"Hello, Miako-san" Ranma said, bowing to the elderly lady. He hadn't seen her in a while now. She looked like she had gotten older over the months they hadn't seen each other. Maybe it was because his children was what kept her feeling young.
"What brings you here today?" she said in a low, soft voice. She seemed to perk up at the thought of seeing Ranma again after all these months.
"I have to go somewhere important," he said "can you please watch over my kids for a little while? I'll be back in a short time"
"Sure," she said rather zealously "I'd love to. Take your time"
Miako-san reached an wrinkled hand out and took hold of the house keys Ranma handed to her. Ranma bowed to her, Akane doing the same out of politeness, and they left, heading for the hospital.
Miako-san smiled warmly to herself, nodding, having realized how lovely a couple Ranma and the girl next to him made "It must have been over five years since I saw him with a girl. It's about time that boy started dating again"

Chapter 26

Ranma felt this sense of fear enveloping him as he paced back and forth in the waiting room. He remembered having been in this hospital countless times, but he had never been in the waiting room before. He was usually a patient, his mother the one in the waiting room, his father most likely sleeping soundly at home in bed after beating him so badly.
Akane watched him as she sat in one of the lush sofas. He looked very worried. It was natural since he had no idea why Ryoga was hurt. But she was confident that Ryoga would be okay. Ryoga looked like he was a tough character.
A doctor walked into the room. He was dresses in a green scrub suit, as if he had just come out of surgery, a stethoscope hanging from his neck. He was an old man, roughly around his late fifties.
"Good evening. My name's Dr. Tanada," the doctor said as he entered the room.
"Hello," he said, bowing politely toward the doctor. "Good evening," Akane said, bowing also.
"How's Ryoga? What happened to him?" Ranma immediate asked.
"He's fine" the doctor said, gesturing for Ranma and Akane to follow "He had received a bullet wound to the shoulder. The bullet had been lodged-"
"A bullet wound?" Ranma interrupted "He was shot?"
"Yes" the doctor said, getting right back onto the subject "The bullet entered in through his front deltoid, running diagonally toward his shoulder blade where it got lodged. We managed to get the bullet out"
"Um, how did this happen?" asked Akane. She had only met Ryoga a few days ago, but she felt like she had known him for a long, long time now. She was fond of having him for a friend that, naturally, she would be concern for his well-being.
"I'm not too sure," Dr. Tanada said, shrugging his shoulders. He never liked knowing much about the patients he took care of. Over the decades of of seeing nothing but grief and suffering, he had became a bit stoic when it came to his own emotions. Over all those years, after so many needless deaths, he had only shed tears once. They were for a young boy that he treated a long, long time ago, when he secretly prayed that he would survive the night. He shed tears of happiness when the boy had survived. Little did he know that the boy had grown up and was now the man standing before him. "Can we see him now?" Ranma asked. The suspense was killing him. He wanted to know what had happened to Ryoga, wanted to know who would be so low as to shoot someone and friendly and kind as him.
"Yeah," the doctor replied, hitting the button for the elevator, the doors opening immediately "someone's already with him"
"Oh?" Ranma said, a bit curious. Who would be with Ryoga?
"A pretty lass," the doctor said, hitting the button for the second floor,
the elevator doors closing "'round your age. And she seems to be here with her daughter"
Ranma knew exactly who the doctor was talking about. He was talking about Ukyo and Miki. He and Akane looked at each other, nodding toward each other.
It turned out that Akane knew who the doctor was talking about also. The two of them followed the doctor, dodging the other doctors and nurses that were busily doing their job.
"Here we are," Dr. Tanada said, "He's inside"
The doctor walked away, right before saying "If you need any help, I'll be just down the hall"
Ranma and Akane were now standing outside of Ryoga's door, which was closed. They took a moment to gather their thoughts, thinking of what to ask and what to expect. They both had no idea what was behind that door.
The two of them opened the door and entered, Ranma holding the door for Akane. When they first walked in they noticed that there was a definite lack of light, only a small lamp on in the far corner of the room. There was this steady beeping noise emanating from an EGK. There were two beds, the one closer to the door empty. The other bed was hidden behind a curtain.
Ranma walked up to the curtain and gently scooted it aside and took a peek in. He was shocked to see what he had just saw.
Ryoga was sitting upright in his bed, his right shoulder bandaged and in a sling. His left arm was holding Ukyo, who was sitting on his bed,
sitting right on his legs, as his hand was on her back, pressing him toward her. The sight that surprised Ranma was the fact that Ukyo and Ryoga were kissing each other passionately. Both of their eyes were close, both of them giving each other passionate and loving kisses.
Ranma immediately regained his composure and quickly scooted the curtain back in place, careful not to make a noise. He turned around to face Akane.
When he knew she was about to open her mouth to ask what he had seen, he placed a finger over her lips, indicating for her to keep quiet. He then gently took hold of her arm as he exited the room, careful to make no noise when opening the door again, Akane following him out to the hallway.
"What's goin' on?" Akane asked. She noticed that Ranma looked surprised when he peeked through the opening in the curtain. She didn't get a chance to peek in also because when she was, Ranma closed the curtain and turned toward her, this smirk on his lips.
"I'm pretty sure Ryoga want to spend some time alone with Ukyo" Ranma said, smirk still on his lips, "some quality time" He knew Akane would know what he was talking about. He saw it all along that it would eventually lead to this. It was just that he wasn't expecting it to happen this quickly. He had to admit that Ryoga was quite a fast mover, unlike himself, where he liked to take everything nice and slow.
Akane understood what Ranma meant. She had secretly wished that it would happen after she heard that Ukyo had this attraction toward Ryoga. She wanted the tow of them to fall in love, meaning Ukyo would fall out of love with Ranma.
She then realized that the doctor mentioned that Miki was with them, but she hadn't seen her when she was in the room "Um, where's Miki?" She felt a little bit embarrassed when she was Ranma walking forward and embracing Miki in a tight hug, a hug she returned quite willingly. It seemed she was starting to accept him as her Daddy. The moment was broken when Miki gave a small yelp in pain.
"I'm sorry, honey," Ranma said apologetically, concern in his voice. He never wanted to hurt his children, even if it was accidentally "I didn't mean to squeeze too hard"
"It's not you," she said, taking a step back and extending both arms toward him and Akane, whom was now standing next to him. Her arm had several bruises, as if she had been hit "It's because of all these bruises. They haven't healed yet"
Thoughts raced through Ranma and Akane's mind. Ranma couldn't believe what he was thinking. Sure, his children had a couple of bruises every here and there, but they never had some many bruises at once. Obviously, those bruises didn't come about accidentally. She was hit, hit hard to get those bruises. Ranma remembered having noticed them, but disregarded them in the beginning. Akane had noticed them also, but didn't have enough time to find out what happened because Ukyo had left in a hurry, further giving her suspicions of her.
"W-where did you get these bruises?" Ranma had to ask. He had to know. He dreaded what the would answer. He never thought Ukyo could turn out to be an abusive mother. He knew that he would turn her to the authorities simply because he didn't want Miki growing up in a abusive home like he did. He didn't want her to go through all the suffering and grief and pain the did. She was too young. This could still be avoided.
Miki hesitated answering. She didn't want to tell Ranma. She lowered her head not looking at him. She remember having been told to lie about those bruises to lie that she had fallen. That was what she was going to do, even if she couldn't look him in his liquid eyes and lie to him "Um, I fell"
Ranma's jaw clenched. That was the same thing his father told him to tell the teachers at school if they ever noticed his bruises. Luckily for him,
and his father, most of the bruises were covered with some long sleeve shirts and pants. He was never allowed to wear shorts.
"Miki, please tell me the truth," Ranma said. He made his voice very soft and caring, hoping it would make Miki comfortable enough to come forth with the truth "I won't be angry. Someone's been hitting you"
His last sentence was a statement, not a question. He knew that she was being abused, being hit. He felt this anger welting up in him. Akane noticed this. She noticed that the muscles of his jawline was held taut, that the knuckles of his clenched fists were white. But aside from those discernible things, Ranma looked very calm and serene. His voice never betrayed the anger inside of him.
At that moment, two officers rounded the corner. They both tipped their hats toward Ranma and Akane and Miki. The three of them watched as the and officer knocked on Ryoga's door, and then the two of them entering.
"What was that about?" Akane asked. She immediately thought that they had something to do with Ryoga being shot. Maybe they wanted to question him for some information on who the alleged suspect was.
"We'll find out later" Ranma told Akane, right before turning his attention back onto the little girl standing before him. He wanted to find out what had happened to Miki. Sure, he was concerned over finding out what had happened to Ryoga, but children always came first in his life. He didn't even need to give it a second thought. He would gladly give his life for one of his children. He knew that this was a good chance to find out what had happened to Miki. He knew that since the officers were here, they could take Ukyo away for child abuse when he would tell them about what she was doing to Miki.
"Miki, please tell me who hit you," Ranma said, his voice still soft. He had to make sure.
"Mommy..." she said.
There was so much anger welted up so much in Ranma, that that one word was enough to make him blow up. He closed his eyes, fighting back the tears he had for Ukyo. He wished to God that it wasn't his beloved Ukyo. There had been this small hope that was inside of him when he realized that it could have been someone else. But now Miki confirmed what he was hoping wasn't true. He couldn't help it. He had lied about him not getting angry. He was now fuming.
Ranma turned toward Ryoga's door, determination in his heart. He could hear Miki trying to say something to him, but he wasn't paying attention.
All his senses were unavailable, except for his sight, and all he could see was red at the moment.
He didn't care how much Ukyo meant to him. He was not going to allow her to continue on abusing little Miki. He opened the door and entered the room.
He had never hit a female or even came close to, but right now, he wanted to. Upon his entrance, he happened to hear a conversation between Ukyo and a police officer.
"Yeah," he heard Ukyo's voice through the closed curtains "He was my boyfriend. He was also the one abusing my daughter"
Ranma just stood there as he absorbed the conversation.
"So let me get this straight, ma'am," he heard an officer say in a husky voice "Your friend here, Ryoga Hibiki, was shot by your ex-boyfriend, whom happens to be abusing your child. And the cause of this was that he always had a volatile temper. He shot Ryoga because he saw you with him. And he's been abusing your daughter also, right?"
"Yes," Ranma heard Ukyo say. He then heard the officer ask Ukyo a couple of questions.
"Why didn't you report to us about him abusing your child?" the other officer asked. His voice sounded a bit calm and mellow, as if he had been through this kind of stuff before. He already knew what she was going to say.
"I was scared," Ukyo said, saying the exact words both officers had heard countless times when they asked other parents why they never reported about their spouse or mate abusing their child.
Ranma sat down in a chair as he absorbed everything in. Akane and Miki entered the room, sitting down next to him.
"Ranma, you didn't let Miki explain," Akane said in a soft voice. Ranma had walked away before Miki had a chance to finish her sentence "Miki was trying to say 'Mommy had a boyfriend. He's the one who's been hitting me'"
He looked over at Miki and nodded, letting her know that he understood that it wasn't her Mommy whom was doing the abusing. He just sat there,
leaning forward, absorbed in his thoughts. His elbows were on his legs, his chin propped up by his hands. He was taking in deep breaths, trying to calm himself down, him having realized as what he could have done, what he was capable of doing. He could have made a fool of himself. He was luck that he had heard what he had heard.
Miki got up off the chair and walked over to Ryoga's bed, slipping behind the curtain before Ranma or Akane had a chance to stop her.
"Hi honey," they heard Ukyo said through the curtain "This is my daughter,
officer, she's the one being abused"
"Guess what, Mommy," Miki could be heard in a cheery voice "Daddy's here"
Ranma sat upright in his chair upon hearing those words. She had called him 'Daddy'. She finally did accept him as her Daddy. He knew he was going to get through to her, but he wasn't expecting it to happen so quickly.
Little did he know that Miki knew just how much he loved her when she noticed the pain in his eyes when he realized that those bruises she had weren't bruises she got by accident. The concern in his eye easily let Miki know that Ranma loved her unconditionally, and she could at least meet him halfway by returning his love.
The curtain flew open, the light from behind it flooding out into the rest of the room, causing Ranma and Akane's eyes to hurt from the quick change in light. They eyes adjusted within moments.
"R-Ranma," Ukyo said, a warm smile on his lips "I wasn't expecting to see you here" She was grateful that he hadn't walked in on them earlier, because if he did, he would have seen her and Ryoga kissing each other. When the officers walked in on them, she was so embarrassed that she wanted to crawl under a rock and cry, and the officers were strangers. If Ranma, a friend since she was young had seen her, she knew he would never let her live it down.
"Um, we just got here," Ranma said glibly. He didn't want to give Ukyo the idea that he had could have seen her kissing Ryoga. He respected Ukyo and Ryoga's privacy, and he knew they wanted to be alone. It's not like we saw you kissing or anything, Ranma thought, a small smile on his lips.
"I guess you overheard the conversation," Ryoga said, sitting upright,
propping himself up with his one good arm. He was wearing a sleeveless hospital gown, the muscles of his arm flexing from holding the weight. Akane and Ukyo couldn't help but notice that he had muscular triceps, striated and very defined. His arms were very much like Ranma's.
Ranma and Akane nodded, Ranma speaking before Akane could "Yeah. We heard everything"
"I guess I've got a lot of explaining to do," Ukyo started, taking a deep breath "Before I came here, I was living in Hokkaido, and I was seeing someone. We were living with him. I left immediately after I found out what he was doing to Miki here," she patted Miki on here head, "Well, when I found out, I packed up my bags and just left. We never looked back. I guess he must have found out I came back to my hometown because he came looking for us"
"Yeah," Ryoga added to the story "When he saw her, he saw her with me. He must have thought that Ukyo here had been cheating on him with me, and that was what caused him to pull a gun on me"
"He gets very jealous easily, and he has a short temper," Ukyo commented.
"It started out as a confrontation," Ryoga continued, "He just walked up to me and told me I was to stay away from his girl. I noticed that Ukyo seemed very scared for some reason when this happened so I assumed that she was scared of the guy. I asked her if it was true, and she explained it to me that she's no longer seeing him. That seemed to outrage him. He accused me of stealing her from him and hit me. There was a scuffle where I managed to have him incapacitated, at least I thought so. The next thing I knew, I had been shot and the guy was running away"
"He's still out there," Ukyo said, a bit of fear in her voice. Although she was looking directly at Ranma and Akane, she was talking more toward the two police officers. She was now scared for her life. If this man was capable of shooting someone, who knew what else he could be capable of doing.
Akane and Ranma just nodded as they absorbed all the information. This came as a shock to the both of them. Ranma had never known this had happened to her. He wished he had spent sometime to be with her, to catch up on the past. Maybe they could prevented this. Ranma knew that if he had known this,
he would have immediately went to the authorities, and the incident could have been prevented. Akane felt a bit of relief that she found out Ukyo wasn't a child abuser. She remembered she asking Ukyo about the bruises on Miki's arm, and Ukyo immediately becoming defensive about what had happened, making an immediate excuse to leave. But that was understandable. She knew that Ukyo was just trying to protect the child by not bringing up memories that she and Miki would like to forget.
"Where're you staying?" Ranma asked, concerned for her. He was concerned that her ex-boyfriend might still be looking for her. He didn't want her to get hurt. Ryoga was in the hospital, and there was no way he could take her under his wing since he was in need of help himself.
"I have my own apartment," Ukyo said, turning her attention away from Ryoga and onto Ranma. She was a bit confused why he would asked her something like that. Then she realized what he was getting at "D-do you think he might still be looking for me?"
"There's a possible chance, ma'am," a officer said. He knew that this happened often. There had been countless times where a jealous boyfriend would stalk a past girlfriend, hoping to kill her so no one else could have her "It's best that you not stay home tonight and stay with someone"
Akane's visage went somber. She realized what Ranma was implying. He wanted Ukyo to stay at his house tonight. She thought that Ukyo liked Ryoga.
But then again, Ranma was the one who wanted her to stay at his place. Maybe he still liked her. She never knew that Ranma was actually in love with her,
not Ukyo. She should have picked up on it, especially after that passionate incident they had in the bathtub.
"Why not have Ukyo and Miki stay with you?" Ryoga said. He wasn't one bit perturbed about the fact that Ranma and Ukyo would be spending the night. He knew that Ranma was a gentleman. It clear to Ranma that Ryoga was interested in Ukyo as she him, and that he would never do anything that could possible jeopardize it. Besides, Ranma had much more self-control than people took him credit for.
"Huh? Why me?" Ranma said, a bit shocked. He was hoping Ukyo was going to stay at Akane's house tonight. Not once had it crossed his mind that she would be staying with him. He knew how awkward it would be to have Ukyo and Miki around his own home. Sure, he could look after them, but Ukyo would be alone most of the time because he would be busy working. He figured that she and Miki could stay with Akane because Akane would always be around, the dojo just a few yards away from the house they would be staying in.
"Who did you have in mind," Ryoga said "Akane? She barely knows them both"
Akane thought about this for a second. If she did let Ukyo and Miki stay at her place, that meant Ukyo wouldn't be spending her nights with Ranma.
She had spent time with Ukyo and Miki, and it had been quite a nice time.
Ever since her sisters moved out, Akane had never really had another female to talk to. Sure, she had her students, but they only liked to talk about self-defense and how to execute moves correctly.
"I wanna stay with Daddy," Miki said. She had accepted Ranma as her Daddy, and she wanted to spend some time with him. Surely, he would like to spend time with her. She wanted to get to know him better.
"We better not," Ukyo said to Ranma, "I don't want to impose on you" She was also a bit wary about spending some time with Ranma. He was a very virile man, and she knew it. Sure, she was attracted to Ryoga a lot, but she still had feelings for him. She really didn't have to worry about Ranma that much, for she had to worry more about herself. Ranma was a gentleman. He wasn't in love with her anymore. He was in love with Akane. He also had so much self-control that he would never make love to her out of lust. She could never evoke those feelings in him again. She was kind of glad of it. That meant she didn't have to feel his queasy feeling when being around him, this feeling that he would make a move on her. He wasn't that kind of guy, and she knew it. She would feel safe around him, not the other way around. Maybe this was a good thing.
"C'mon Ukyo," Ryoga said "Why not?"
"Uh, don't I have a say in this?" Ranma tried to interrupt. Afterall, it was his house she was going to be staying in. Surely, he had some say in this decision. He didn't really want Ukyo staying with him. He knew that that was going to be trouble. But if she didn't stay, that meant Miki wouldn't be staying either, and that he didn't want. He wanted to spend time with Miki, even if it was only at night. He was actually kind of hoping that he could have Miki stay with him, and Ukyo with Akane, but that would never happen. Ukyo would never depart with her daughter, just like him with his own.
"Okay," Ryoga said, turning his attention to Ranma "You tell Ukyo to stay with you"
"That's not what I was implementing," Ranma said, losing the battle. There was no way around it. It was a dilemma for him. He looked over at Akane, who just gave a shrug. There was nothing she could do. She didn't want Ukyo staying with Ranma, but all she could do was observe. She didn't need to make choices for Ranma, for he was a full-grown man.
"How about I stay at your place?" Ukyo suggested to Ryoga. She wouldn't mind spending her nights with him, some passionate nights with him. But she was fooling herself because she knew the answer.
"Me, how?" Ryoga said "You heard the doctor, I'll be here for a couple of days. Besides, I'm living in a hotel at the moment"
Ukyo sighed before turning to back to Ranma. She was about to say something before realizing that there could be a chance that she could stay with Akane "Akane, how about we stay with you?" She felt a bit bad for even proposing that to her. They barely knew each other. They had only met a few days ago. It was a long shot, but there was still a chance that she might accept her offer because Ukyo would not be with Ranma at night.
"No, I wanna stay with Daddy," Miki said, putting her foot down. She was steadfast with her choice. She wanted to be with Ranma, and there was no changing her mind about it.
Ukyo gave Miki this weird look that screamed 'Please, don't do this to me'. Miki just shook her head and repeated her words "I wanna stay with Daddy"
"I give up," Ukyo said, throwing her hands up in defeat. Little Miki was stubborn, and it was almost impossible to change her mind about anything,
especially when she made her mind up. Ukyo turned to face Ranma "Is it all right with you, Ranma? Can we stay at your place for a little while?"
Ranma looked at Ukyo, this scared look in his eyes. He knew that Akane would get the wrong thoughts about him. He didn't want her to think of him as some hentai or anything. But when he looked over at Miki, his heart melted. She was giving him this puppy-dog look that made him feel weak in the knees. There was no way he could say no to a child like that. His own children were notorious for doing that, and it seemed that Miki could do the same thing also. Maybe that talent ran on his side of the family.
"I guess so," Ranma muttered, finally giving in. He knew he would never win against Miki's puppy-dog eyes. Although he never glanced toward Akane, he could feel her icy gaze on him. He wondered what kind of thoughts were racing through her mind. Did she think of him as some playboy hoping to take advantage of a vulnerable Ukyo? Did she think of him as a generous soul for helping someone out? The latter seemed very unlikely. When he finally mustered enough courage to actually look at Akane, he noticed that she was staring at him with unreadable eyes. It made him wonder if that bothered her, the fact that Ukyo would be staying under the same roof as him.
"I hope you don't mind," Ranma said to Akane, hoping she wouldn't be mad at him. He didn't want Akane to think of him in the wrong way. He knew that he would be angry if some man stayed under the same roof with Akane, even if Akane wasn't his.
"What do I care?" she said in an icy voice, which caused Ranma, and even Ukyo to cringe "It's not like we're seeing each other or anything. I hope you two have a swell time" She hid the hurt behind those words. She really did care. She had this sinking feeling in the put of her stomach, and she didn't really feel that good. She knew there was nothing she could do. All she could do was to hid behind the walls she put up.
Ranma's visage sullied. He was hoping he would never hear those words again. He was hoping that she considered more of him, thought about him enough to actually care. But she didn't care. Her words confirmed it. She didn't care about what he did, meaning she wasn't interested in him. He turned to face Ukyo, his back to Akane. He couldn't look at her. He felt this overwhelming sense of sadness envelope him. He looked down at the ground, wishing Ukyo hadn't seen him either.
Ukyo had indeed seen Ranma's face. It looked like all the color had been drained from his face, leaving him pale and colorless. He didn't look too good. She had this brief glimpse of his eyes, and she noticed that they seemed very sad and sullen. He had been terribly hurt by Akane's words. Ukyo clenched her hands into fists, wishing she could knock some sense into Akane. Didn't she know that Ranma had feeling for her? Did she pick up on the clues, like him staying around her more often, having her spend time with his children? Why did she have to go out and hurt his feelings? Why did she have to get all defensive just because Ukyo was going to be staying a few days with him? Ukyo knew that what Akane had said was said out of jealousy and inner anger. She knew Akane was angry that she couldn't do anything to prevent her from sleeping under the same roof as Ranma. There was nothing for her to worry about, yet why was Akane being defensive? Didn't she know that Ranma was a gentleman, and that he would never be, in anyway, unfaithful to the woman he loved. Ranma was now faithful to Akane, and she didn't even know it yet. She wanted to tell this to her, but she knew that Ranma would have been terribly embarrassed if she had blurted out his feelings toward her. She didn't want to do that to Ranma. She wanted Ranma to tell Akane his feelings himself.
"Um, ma'am," an officer said to Ukyo, breaking the silence that had descended on the room like a fog of despair "There's still this problem about your ex-boyfriend still being on the loose. Do you know where you're going to stay tonight?"
"Yeah," Ukyo said "We'll be staying with Ranma for the next few nights" She made it an effort to accentuate the 'we'. She wanted Akane to pick up the fact that Ranma wasn't going to be all alone with just her, that Miki was also going to be staying with him also. Akane seemed to have picked it up because her visage seemed to relax. She could have sworn she even heard Akane sigh. Perhaps it was just wishful thinking on Ukyo's part.
Ryoga yawned, a bit tired "Look, it's pretty late, and I'm dead tired. You should all get going now. And don't worry about your ex-boyfriend, Ukyo, that's what they're here for," he finished, jerking a thumb toward the two officers, both of whom gave her a tip of their hat.
"We'll get him," an officer said, heading toward the door, skimming over the notes he had taken down about the incident. He managed to have correctly jotted down how the incident and shooting had come about. He noticed that by what Ryoga and Ukyo had said, the suspect was in for some serious jail time if he ever got apprehended. No, when he got apprehended. The officer tipped his hat and left the room, the other officer doing the same. Before he left, he turned toward Ryoga and said "Dontcha worry, sit. We'll get 'im. You jus' rest now"
"Thanks," Ryoga said, lying back in his bed, his eyes now feeling like they weighed a ton.
"Well, I guess we better get going," Ranma said reluctantly, turning his attention back onto Ukyo. He was trying to avoid Akane's gaze. He knew what she was thinking about him now.
Ranma held the door open as everyone except Ryoga left the room. As Akane walked by him, he noticed that she never bothered to look at him directly,
as if staring at something a million miles away. Obviously, she was deep in thought, which seemed to further depress Ranma. He figured she was thinking about how much of a dog he was. Little did he know that Akane was actually thinking about herself. Even though she was still angry, she felt confident that Ranma wouldn't do something. When Ukyo had made it clear that she wasn't going to be the only one spending the night at Ranma's, Miki also going with them, it made Akane feel a bit more relaxed knowing that it wasn't only going to be Ranma and Ukyo.
"Can you hold on a sec?" Ranma said, quickly running off down the hallway toward the doctor, whom was talking to a nurse. He wanted to ask him a question. He had realized that the girl he had met at the amusement park that other day mentioned that she worked at this hospital. Maybe she might still be working at a time like this.
"What's up with him?" Ukyo asked Akane, which caused her to start. Akane wasn't expecting Ukyo to be so casual toward her. She was expecting Ukyo to be all conceited that she was going to be spending the night at Ranma's.
She was expecting Ukyo to gloat about how she had won. But Ukyo talked with this casualness that made it seem like she and Akane had known each other for years.
"I-I'm not too sure," Akane replied. She looked at Ukyo and noticed this sweet smile on her lips. It was a warm smile, not some smirk.
"How come you seem mad at Ranma?" she asked abruptly. She wanted to get something out of the way. She didn't want Akane think anything ill-mannered toward her Ranma.
Akane was caught by surprise at the question, "What?"
"Look, I noticed that you seem mad at Ranma," Ukyo said, knowing full well that Akane knew exactly what she was talking about.
"Well," Akane's voice trailed off. She was trying to come up with a good excuse. She knew that she did seem angry when she found out that Ukyo was going to be spending the next few days at Ranma's. She had ostentatiously let Ranma know that she was angry, simply by the tone of her icy voice when she lied that she didn't care what he did.
"Look, Ranma knows that I like Ryoga" Ukyo continued, "And he knows that Ryoga likes me also. Of course, he and Ryoga are best friends. Anyway, you know he'll never do anything that would jeopardize his friendship with Ryoga or his friendship with me. We made that mistake many years ago. Now that it is finally fixed, he would never do anything that could possibly sever it. You know Ranma. He'll never do something like that"
Akane just listened as she absorbed what Ukyo was saying as she continued on "I assume you think Ranma's some playboy because there's hundreds of girls always flocking to him"
"I didn't notice it," Akane lied.
"Yeah, sure you didn't" Ukyo said sarcastically, "If you really want to know, Ranma has never been with another woman since his wife left. You can easily tell because of the way he acts. Haven't you noticed that he doesn't seem at all interested in the woman whom are attracted to him. Anyway, that means he hasn't been intimate with a woman in almost 7 years. In a way, he's almost a born-again virgin"
"H-he is?" Akane said, shocked in her voice. She thought he had many lovers. If he wanted, he could have any woman in all of Japan. She had even noticed that married woman seemed attracted to him.
"You probably figured he's sleeping with someone new every week, right?" Ukyo said, "He's not the kind of guy you think he is. I've learned a lot about him over the years. He's very sweet and caring. He's not some cold-hearted person that would sleep with a woman and leave her the following morning. You may not believe this, but his children did this to him. There were times where I actually thought that he had fallen from heaven. He's that great of a guy. But there's one thing about him that disturbs me. He has a lotta secrets. Did you know that to this day, I have never seen him cry. It's strange because he's very sensitive. Haven't you ever noticed that his eyes always looked like they are about to shed tears?"
Akane nodded. She noticed that all the time.
"Do you know why he's like that?" Ukyo asked "It probably has somethin' to with his past" She didn't want Akane to know that Ranma had been abused as a child. She had known that he had been abused for a long, long time. Ranma thought he was keeping it as a secret from her, but a female had this extra sense that could find things he thought he was hiding from her. She wanted to tell Akane about his terrible past, but she assumed that he didn't want her to know. Little did Ukyo know that Akane had been told already "Anyway, I always notice that his eyes get really close to crying every time he's with his kids. I swear that if it weren't for the children, he wouldn't be here right now. He would have died a long time ago" She wanted to tell Akane that Ranma, although everyone desired and loved him, thought of himself as a failure for some reason. There was pretty much nothing for him to live for except for his children. Nothing. He just went through his life, living one day at a time. It was as if that day was going to be his last. "Died?" Akane said in shocked disbelief. What did she mean by that, she thought. Did she mean as in suicide? Did he want to die? Was it because his children were his only ties remaining in this world that he didn't perish?
Ukyo said nothing. There had been this one time where Ranma had gotten extremely depressed when he was in the early stages of his marriage. It wasn't the marriage or even his wife that made him depressed. There was no explainable reason why he was depressed. He had confided in her that he felt like he didn't have the right to live. He had even contemplated suicide. She didn't really know why he was depressed. He had a great wife, a great job,
and he was still young and in the peak of his life. But for some reason,
none of that mattered.
"Look, Ranma got real depressed several years ago," Ukyo said. She had received a phonecalls from him one night. It was a night she would never forget. It had been the longest night in her entire life "Ranma called me one night, and he told me he was depressed. He never really told me why.
Anyway, he gave this subtle hint that he wanted to die, that he had nothing to live for. I knew that he was serious about dying"
"So what happened?" Akane asked, her undivided attention on Ukyo. She wasn't even aware that Miki was listening to the conversation "I tried my best to talk him out of it," Ukyo said, a tear forming around her eyes as she recalled just how close she came to losing Ranma for the rest of her like "As I listened, I noticed that he mentioned that his wife was expecting. I used that as his anchor. I told him that he had to live.
Otherwise, the baby, which later turned out to be twins, would be left without a father. Ranma said 'You're right. Thanks', and then hung up on me" She didn't bother to tell Akane that that night, she cried all night,
praying that Ranma would not kill himself. It turned out that her prayers had been answered.
"What're you talking about?" Ranma asked as he came back toward the group. He had heard Akane and Ukyo talking. He assumed that it had something to do with Ukyo staying at his place for the next few nights.
"N-nothing," Ukyo said, a bit startled. She hadn't heard him walking up to them. Maybe it was because every one of his steps were always graceful, not making a single noise. She seemed a bit nervous, nervous that Ranma had heard what she was saying.
Ranma gave her a keen look. He knew they had been talking about him, but he didn't quite know what it was about. He could see it in their eyes, the embarrassment the were trying to conceal.
"We better get going now," Ranma said, changing the subject.

Chapter 27

"G'night," Ranma said to Akane in a soft, yet audible voice. He was gazing into her eyes, his sad eyes meeting hers. The two of them were right in front of Akane's front door, Ukyo and Miki waiting patiently by the front gate. Ukyo insisted that she wait by the gate, she knowing that Ranma would have liked to have been alone with Akane.
Akane gazed into Ranma's sad eyes, that almost bring a tear to her own.
When she was walking with Ranma and Ukyo and Miki, she had kept quietly to herself while the others chatted casually. She wished she hadn't heard what Ukyo had told her. She had never known just how troubled Ranma's past was,
the thought that he would even consider suicide bothering her incredibly.
She had been wondering what had caused him to become so depressed. His father had died when he was very young, meaning his father couldn't be the cause. Ukyo had mentioned that his wife wasn't the cause either. So what remained. His children hadn't been born yet, so it couldn't have been them.
The questions had kept Akane's mind occupied, she not even concerned about Ranma and Ukyo spending the night together under the same roof.
"I'll be here first thing tomorrow morning," Ranma added, giving Akane a small smile. He knew she wasn't paying too much attention to him, her thoughts elsewhere. He wondered what she was thinking about. He assumed that she was angry with him because Ukyo was going to be spending the next few nights at his house. He figured that was why she wasn't bothering to talk to him, she too angry to form words.
Akane looked up at Ranma's eyes, not saying a word. She was still wondering what had made Ranma so depressed. She had this yearning to reach out and just take hold of him. She wished she could have been with Ranma back then, to know what had happened. She wanted to hold him right now, to comfort him on something that happened many years ago. She wondered what could have happened if he hadn't called Ukyo, or if she wasn't home. Would he had actually went through with it? The thought sent a shiver down her spine. Ranma had walked into her life no more than a week ago, and he had filled this voice that she always had, this loneliness she abhorred. Here he was, standing before her, yet she was too scared to tell him. Although Ukyo's words did seem a bit reassuring, reassuring that Ranma wasn't the man she thought he was, she was still a bit skeptical. She wondered if Ukyo was lying. There was no need for it, but there was no telling if it was true. She didn't want to ask Ranma about his past, it being very rude of her. She was very patient, knowing that he would reveal his past when he felt it was appropriate.
The phonecalls entered her mind abruptly, out of nowhere. The thought brought forth all these questions. Who was that woman on the other end?
If Ukyo was lying, could she be Ranma's mistress? What role did she play in his life? An important one? Who was she in Ranma's eyes? A lover? A friend?
She felt this tiny bit of anger growing inside of her as she started to think the worst.
Could this Kodachi be his ex-wife, she thought. She had never been told Ranma's wife's name before. She only referred to her as 'Ranma's wife'.
Did she want Ranma in her life? She remembered haring this desperation in Kodachi's voice, this need for him. Could that be why she wanted him,
because she needed him. Akane also had this yearning for him also, except she wasn't aware of it. She would think of him, but she never wondered why she would think of him. Sure, she felt this attraction toward him, any female would, but she never really acknowledged just how attracted she was to him. Sure, she felt he was one of the best things to have happened to her, but she had never really thought of on why she felt like that. Now that this Kodachi could be his wife, and there could be this chance that he might take her back, Akane felt this heartache she had never really felt before. The thought that she might really lose him scared her. She had to know for sure.
"Um, when you were in the shower," Akane started, not looking at him. She was scared to see his face light up upon hearing his wife's name "someone called you"
"Who was it?" Ranma asked. He was a bit nervous. Women constantly called his house, always asking him out on dates, all of which he would decline when he would answer the phone. He was nervous that Akane had heard of the lewd comments some women would say as soon as someone picked up the phone,
all the women knowing that he was the only one whom answered it.
"Her name was Kodachi," Akane said. She could remember her desperate, yet very sultry voice. She could even remember the numbers she had written on the notepad that was sitting on Ranma's kitchen counter, right next to the phone. When she said that name, she could have sworn she had heard of it somewhere, but she couldn't quite put her finger on it. She remembering a person in school mentioning that he had a sister named Kodachi. As to whom the guy was, she didn't remember.
Ranma remembered the name almost immediately. He remembered it belonged to that woman he had met in at the bookstore earlier today. He had given her his number in case she had any problems with her children. He hadn't been expecting her to call so soon.
"Hm, I wasn't expecting her to call so soon," Ranma commented, a bit of relief in his voice. He was glad that Akane hadn't picked up the phone when one of his so called female suitors wanted to ask him out on a date.
"Y-you weren't?" Akane asked, a bit of hope in her voice. Ranma didn't sound all too thrilled about receiving this phone call from this so called Kodachi. Did that mean he didn't want to talk to her?
Ranma could detect something to Akane's voice, this slight contentment upon hearing his comment. He immediately knew what she was thinking about. She was happy that he didn't sound all to excited about the call. Actually,
there was no need for him to get excited by her calling "Yeah, I met her at the bookstore today. I gave her my number because..."
"Well, isn't that just great?" Akane snapped. She couldn't believe what she was hearing. He was supposed to go to the bookstore to buy his daughters some books, and there, he met a woman. He even had the audacity to give her his number. He was cocky enough to expect a woman to call him, instead him calling her "I hope you had a great time being with her"
"Wait a minute," Ranma said, reaching forward and seizing her shoulder "I can explain. She had problems with her children. I gave her my number so she could call me in case she needed help with her children"
Akane stood there for a minute, absorbing what he said in. She couldn't believe she got angry at him for giving his phone number to this Kodachi person. She remembered hearing two children crying in the background when Kodachi spoke, asking for Ranma. Was this the reason why she needed Ranma so much, Akane thought. Is it because she needed help with her children?
She remembered the desperation in Kodachi's voice. She then realized that she was supposed to give Ranma the message as soon as he'd gotten out of the shower. She blushed, embarrassed that she was too incompetent at doing that. It was a simple task, yet she forgot all about it.
Akane felt bad about doing that to Kodachi. All Kodachi needed was some help with her children, and she had got angry because she thought Kodachi was one of Ranma's lovers "Sorry," she said, looking down toward the ground,
disappointed with herself "I shouldn't've jumped to conclusions"
Ranma gave Akane an odd look "What were you thinking about?"
"N-nevermind," Akane quickly said, blushing this terrible shade of red.
She was embarrassed to explain why she had been angry. She was a terrible liar. She knew there was no way she could come up with a good excuse why she was angry. He would have known that she had feelings for him, that she was attracted to him. But there was nothing she could find wrong with him knowing she was attracted to him. Was there? Ranma was a gentleman, at least that was what Ukyo had told her. But was Ukyo telling the truth?
"I'm tired," Miki said, holding her arms out so her Mommy could pick her up. She was very tired and wanted to go to sleep. When her Mommy picked her up, Miki placed her head up against Ukyo's neck and shoulder, closing her eyes for sleep to bestow her. She yawned out loud, Ranma hearing.
Ranma looked over his shoulder and saw Ukyo holding Miki. He knew that they best be headed toward his home now. He turned his attention back onto Akane "I guess we better get going now. I hope you're not angry"
Akane shook her head, looking up, her gaze meeting Ranma's. Upon seeing his beautiful, yet sad eyes, there was no way she could ever stay angry at him. She knew that even if Kodachi was one of his lovers, her attraction toward him would never waver.
"Yeah, it's getting late," Akane commented looking at her watch. It was very close to midnight, and it was way past Miki's bedtime. Besides, she was a bit tired also. She had a big day tomorrow, it being the dojo's bimonthly progress examination. But the thought that she wasn't going to be doing this alone made her feel as if a huge burden had been lifted off her shoulders.
Ever since he had been hired, work had been so much easier for her. No, more like enjoyable. She enjoyed working a lot more now, just the fact that Ranma would be working along side her made look forward to working every morning.
Just the thought of him being near her made her happy that she had hired him.
Ranma said nothing, his gaze steadfast on hers. He broke the gaze from a moment as he turned his head to look at Ukyo. Ukyo turned around, reading Ranma's mind, allowing him some privacy. She knew Ranma wanted some time alone with Akane so he could kiss her goodnight. She smiled to herself as she ducked out behind the front gates, closing the gates behind her so she couldn't be seem, so her presence wouldn't disturb the moment.
Ranma turned his attention back onto Akane, his eyes gazing into hers. He could feel his heart rate speeding from the thought of kissing Akane. He remembered how great her lips felt on his when they had kissed in the bathtub, the delicious taste of her mouth, the intoxicating closeness they were sharing. The kiss had felt perfect, like it was meant to be. But it had been spoiled because of his insecurities, him having pulled away. And now,
here he was, with a second chance, a chance to get things right, a chance where he wouldn't pull away.
He placed a gentle hand on her shoulder, grateful that she didn't pull away to his touch. She just stood there, gazing into his eyes yearningly. She could her body getting hotter and hotter from his touch, his fingertips sending electricity surging through her entire body, almost overwhelming her. Her knees felt like they were pudding, she using all her power and concentration to keep them from buckling below her. She took a deep breath, embracing herself for his lips. They came so far, and there was no turning back for the both of them. She closed her eyes, tilting her head upward and bit toward one side, ready for his kiss.
Ranma smiled a genuine smile as he leaned forward, knowing that she was waiting for him to kiss her. He had been internally grateful that she hadn't pulled away from his delicate touch. And now, here he was, standing before,
knowing that she was expecting him to kiss her.
Ranma leaned forward, placing his other hand on the small of Akane's back,
pulling her toward him, their bodies converging into one. Her breasts were pressed against his chest, their hips touching one another. Even though her eyes were closed, she could feel Ranma's soft hands touch her cheek, cupping it. Ranma was staring at her intently, taking in her beauty, cherishing her, remembering how she looked. He then closed his eyes and leaned forward, tilting his head a bit toward one side, bringing his lips onto hers.
Ranma could feel the warmth of Akane's body as she saw pressed against him, feel her breasts pressed against his muscular chest, feel her tongue explore his mouth curiously. Her kiss was like nothing he had ever experienced before. It was passionate, loving, caring. He noticed she kissed back nervously, unaware of what she was supposed to do. But within moments, her nervousness subsided as Ranma's lips ignited a fire within her body.
Akane had never experienced something as intoxicating as this before. She could feel her knees buckling beneath her as she started feeling light-headed, his lips like a fine wine to her body. She could feel his strong arms holding her, keeping her close to him, close to his hot body. She could feel one of his hands, the hand that cupped her cheek, slowly gliding south, toward the contour of her neck, caressing the underside of her jawline.
His kisses were slow and very passionate, as if he had been waiting for this for his entire life, savoring the moment, knowing that he would remember this moment for the rest of his life. His hands slowly started to explore body, one of his hands roaming up over the length of her soft back.
His other hand traveled south, cupping one of her breasts, causing her to moan from the ecstasy of his sensitive touch, muffled by his lips on hers.
She was getting aroused, her body groaning with this longing to be continuously held by him as her tell-tale breasts pressed against his chest.
And her stomach. She gasped as she realized exactly what part of Ranma was pressed against her stomach, the shock sending her senses into a frenzy.
The kiss had lasted for moments, but it felt like it lasted an eternity.
Ranma could feel this fire burning within his body, this incredible yearning to wisp her off her feet, carry her to her bedroom, and then make long,
slow, passionate love to her. He wanted to explore her naked body thoroughly, savor her, to taste her as she did the same to him, her hands roaming over his own naked body. He wanted to tell her he loved her, that he wanted to be with her ever since the first day he had seen her in the park, when they had bumped into each other. He wanted to tell her that he wanted to make love to her all night, to tell her to cancel tomorrow's day of work so he could make love to her through the entire day. But he couldn't. He had his reasons.
The moment was broken when he heard the gate behind him open and hearing a small voice "I'm tired, Daddy. I wanna go to sleep"
Ranma broke the kiss, still savoring the taste of Akane's lips, as he turned his attention onto his daughter "Jus' one moment, honey" He wasn't at all embarrassed when he saw Ukyo come through the gate. He was too light-headed to really care. He felt as light as the clouds, like he was walking on air. Although it had never been proving, she knew that a kiss could make one's blood boil.
"Sorry, Ranma. I didn't think she was gonna go through the gate," Ukyo said, causing Ranma to come back into grips with reality, to come into grips that little Miki was standing before them, watching them. He gave Akane a reluctant look, wishing he could continue the little interlude longer, but he knew it would never happen.
Miki held her arms up for Ranma to pick her up, which he did happily. He swooped the little girl up in his arms, causing the girl to giggle a bit. He then cradled her gently, letting her rest her head up against one of his broad shoulder, stroking her beautiful brown hair "You go to sleep, Miki. I've gotcha. Jus' go to sleep" He looked into the little girl's eyes as he smiled sweetly before giving her a kiss on her forehead. Miki looked up into his eyes for a moment before resting her head back on his shoulder, her face buried in the contour of his delicate neck with her arms wrapped around his neck, fingers interlaced in the back.
Ukyo stood there for a moment, not knowing what to do, quite embarrassed that Miki had interrupted their little moment. When she looked at Ranma and noticed this content look in his eyes, she couldn't help but smile. She hadn't seen him smile in a while, and she was grateful that he seemed happy.
"G'night, Akane," Ranma said softly, smiling softly as he turned to her, raising an eyebrow "I'll see ya first thing tomorrow morning" "Good night," Akane said, licking her lips as he began to leave, still tasting the saltiness of his experienced lips. She felt this giddy feeling, like she was lighter than air. She had never felt like this before. Never. It was an experience she would never forget, and experience she would remember till her dying day.
She gave him a sweet smile as she entered her house, closing the door gently behind herself. Once inside, she leaned up against the door, a hand on her chest. She could feel the fluttering heartbeat within her chest, her body hot from the flames of passion that was threatening to consume her. She knew that if the kiss had lasted a split second long, she would have given in to her passion for him, told him she wanted him to make love to her that night. She slumped down to the ground, her back pressed against the door,
her chin resting on her knees, her arms wrapped around her legs.
"Ranma," she said to herself, a stars in her eyes.

"I'm sorry about what happened, Ranma" Ukyo said after a few silent moments. Ranma had been silent practically the entire way back to his house.
The only thing he had said was for Miki to continue on sleeping when she asked if it was all right for him to continue on carrying her.
Ranma looked at her, his handsome face accentuated by the moonlight that was being cast down from the star-clad sky. He looked every bit as angelic as the little girl he was holding in his arms. He was a bit grateful Miki had interrupted now that he thought of it.
"Don't worry about it" Ranma said in that soft voice of his, making the hairs on the back of Ukyo's neck stand on end. He didn't want to wake little Miki up, she now sleeping soundly in his arms "It's okay"
Ukyo was a bit surprised at this "But the moment had been spoiled"
"It doesn't matter" he looked into her eyes as the continued down the street "If she hadn't interrupted, I would have broken it. I shouldn't be kissing her in the first place," He knew that couldn't continue on kissing Akane, no matter how much he wanted it to continue. There was a big difference between his thoughts and him acting them out.
"Why not?" she didn't really know what he was getting at. She thought he wanted to spend some time alone with Akane, some time to tell her of his feeling and attractions toward her. "Because...I'm still married"

Chapter 28

As Akane stood in the shower stall, feeling the warm water running down the length of her luscious body, her thoughts were of Ranma. Her heart still raced from the thought of what had just transpired a couple of minutes ago, just outside her front door. She remembered the warmth of his body pressed against hers, the warmth much warmer than the water flowing down her body. The taste of his lips were still on her lips, the salty taste turning her on. She could feel herself getting hot from the thought of him, from the thoughts of what they could be doing right now if they hadn't been interrupted. She pictured that Ranma would be in the shower with her, Ukyo and Miki downstairs as he would lather her body, stealing kisses on her body as he worked her thoroughly from head to toe, being more thorough at the juncture of her legs. She wondered how great it would feel to make love to him as the shower beat up against their bodies. And then after that, they would make love all night in her bed. She couldn't help but smile at the thought.

"Y-you're still married?" Ukyo said, shock in her voice. She couldn't believe what she had just heard. The thought that he was still married had never crossed her mind. She though he had been divorced every since his wife left him.
"Yes," Ranma said, placing a hand on her shoulder to calm her down, while using his other hand to hold Miki. He knew it was a perfectly good reason for her becoming so shocked. He had never told her, nor anyone else that he was still married. He had never gotten a divorce from her because she had been gone for all those years that he never had the chance to go through the paperwork for a proper divorce. The last time he had seen her was the night before she had left, which was a long time ago.
"What about your wedding ring?" she asked "How come I don't see a wedding ring on your finger?" She didn't get it. She had never seen Ranma wearing a wedding ring ever since Shori had left. Actually, she can't remember ever having seen him wearing a ring at all.
"I sent it back to her," he said, "I asked my in-laws for her address. I found out she had moved back to her hometown, where she grew up. She traveled back to the States"
"I-I'm sorry to hear that," Ukyo was truly sorry "I never knew that. I just assumed you got a divorce and then she left. I never assumed she left before the divorce. Is she still livin' back in the States? Do you know how she's doing?"
"I haven't really kept in touch with her," Ranma seemed a bit reluctant in saying "I found out that she took over her family business. She's very successful now. But the last time I heard from her was a couple of years ago. I don't know. Ever since I've met Akane, I'm now determined to find her so we can have a divorce. I've made a vow to her, you remember, when I played that song for her at the wedding, that I would never be unfaithful no matter what. I plan on keepin' that vow. Once we're divorced, I'm not longer obligated to keep my vows to her. Look, my daughters' birthday are coming up, and I'm sure that's the best time for me to see her. She is their mother. Sure, she may send presents to them, but if I tell them they want to see her personally, that should be enough get her to come pay us a visit. She definitely has the money for it. It just depends on how much she really cares for her children"
"What're you going to do?" Ukyo asked. She was wondering how she was going to get Shori to come to Japan. She was living halfway across the planet. She didn't know much about his wife, but she assumed it would be easier said than done since she had no trouble leaving him and her daughters behind while she left. She wondered what kind of woman could leave such adorable children, especially if those children also belonged to someone as handsome and caring as Ranma Saotome.
Ranma kept silent upon Ukyo's question. He really didn't know how he was goin to pull it off. All he knew that if there was a chance to get together with someone like Akane, he would definitely find a way. He remembered he still had her phone number lying around somewhere in his house. He would have to search for it tonight so he could call her up. That was the best idea he could come up with. And while he was at it, he would tell her about Akane. Shori may have left him but she still cared for him. She wanted him to be happy.
"You really care for Akane, don't you?" she asked, needing to know the answer. She still had feelings for Ranma, even he didn't share the same feelings toward her. She wanted to know, just how much he cared for her. She had to know.
"Yeah. I care for her like I used to I cared for you," he said, not looking directly at her. He cared for Akane as much as he cared for Ukyo back then,
when he was in love with her. He must have been the luckiest man in the world to had fallen in love three times, first falling for Ukyo, then falling for Shori, and now falling for Akane. Perhaps that, or he never learned from his mistakes.
Ukyo wiped a tear that trickled down her eye as she heard his words. She now knew that he no longer loved her like she used to. She felt this sadness envelope her. But it only lasted for a split second when she realized that she had Ryoga. Ryoga was now in her life. She loved him now, loved him every bit as much as she loved Ranma back then. She had never realized this, but her feelings for Ranma weren't as strong as she thought they were. She now had Ryoga to fill in that void in her heart and he wasn't just a substitute to Ranma. He was more.
"Who's looking after your daughters?" Ukyo asked, changing the subject.
She realized that neither Ranma nor Akane had been with the children when they came to visit Ryoga at the hospital. She wasn't too worried. She knew Ranma wouldn't be responsible enough to have someone look after them while they slept. He would never be so irresponsible as to leave them home alone.
"My neighbor," he replied, a bit grateful that the subject was now off of him. He didn't really like talking too much about his past. He went into detail on how his neighbor would take care of his children from time to time, when he felt Nodoka wanted some time alone. He told her that he would have let his mother take care of his children tonight except she was visiting some friends for the past few days, the house being painted, the fumes being quite nauseating for her.
The two indulged in a bit of conversation as they headed for his house,
talking about how he planned to throw his daughters a birthday party just a few days from now. He was telling her that he wanted to buy them a pet for their birthday present.
"You do know that they're going to take care of it for a week, and then you're stuck taking care of it," she said. She was once got a pet for her birthday, and her father eventually ended up taking care of it after a couple of weeks, when she got bored of playing with it "What kinda pet are you going to get them?"
"I'm not too sure," he said, "I want to get them something that's unusual. Nothing like a dog or cat or even a goldfish. I know, I'll get them a pet pig. One of them midget pigs. Those pigs that always look like a baby piglet. They're also neat little things. That means I won't have to worry about it making a mess of everything"
"That sounds like a great idea," she said. She always wondered how it would be like to have an uncommon pet. She once had a friend whom had a pet ferret. The ferret was quite an exotic animal to have up in Hokkaido, and it was so fun being around it. She even remembered the name, 'Twinkie',
because the ferret looked like one.
Ukyo and Ranma, whom was holding Miki, had reached their destination. They were standing outside Ranma's house. They both noticed that one of the lights were on, causing Ukyo to ask "That light's on cause it's your neighbor, right?"
"Yeah," he said, looking up at the window the light was showing through.
The rest of the house was completely dark "That's the window to my music room. She usually in there when I get home"
"I have a music room in my house. It's practically soundproof. I have a piano in there. When my kids are asleep, she goes in there to play a few melodies. She's an excellent pianist, and she teaches piano. She used to play concert piano solos. She used to teach me a few things, that is,
until my wrists start bothering me again" Ranma said, walking to the front door and opening it, holding it for Ukyo to enter.
Ukyo was overwhelmed at just how beautiful his home was. It was vast, yet it had this cozy feel to it. They both entered the hallway, Ranma silently closing the door behind him, as they both took off their shoes.
Ranma gestured for Ukyo to follow him as he walked down the hallway,
turning around a corner, entering his livingroom. She gasped as she noticed how extravagantly furnished his livingroom was. There were plants that hung in the corner, giving it this comfortable feel to it. The one thing that stood out the most, aside from the entertainment system that was in front of the alcove of windows, was this most beautiful grand piano in one of the corners of the livingroom, its glossy surface glowing from the moonlight entering in through the windows.
Ukyo wished she had a talent to play the piano. The one in the livingroom seemed to beckon for her to touch its keys, play a soft melody. She walked up to it, her gaze transfixed on the sheer presence of the instrument.
"Listen," she heard Ranma say, his voice soft so he wouldn't wake Miki.
Ukyo stood still for a moment, listening intently. She gasped as she heard this soft, barely audible, melody permeate the entire house. It sounded like a classical piece, a complicated piece, a sad piece. It sounded like it was being played from the heart, not from some piece of paper. She felt this teary-eyed feeling overwhelming her as she listened. The piece was so sad that it tugged at her heart.
Ranma turned to face her, a slight smile on his lips as he spoke softly "I wrote that. That piece is over ten years old. I wrote when my daughter.."
His voice died at his lips, him unable to finish sentence. When he noticed that she was about to ask him what he was about to say, he continued on "N-nevermind. I don't wanna talk about it"
He gestured for Ukyo to make herself at home on one of his lush sofas as he walked off toward the stairs "I'll be right back" He walked up the stairs, coming back down after a couple of minutes. Ukyo watched as he walked into the kitchen, coming back with a piece of paper in his hands.
"What's that?"
"Kodachi, a woman I met while at the bookstore this morning, called me.
This is her number" he replied, sitting down next to her and picking up the phone that was on the little nightstand next to one of the sofas. He looked at his watch, noticing that it read a little past midnight. He sighed upon realizing it was too late to call now "I better call her tomorrow then"
Ukyo gave Ranma this odd look. Who was this Kodachi person? Why was he about to call her? She wondered if what she told Akane about him was true.
She told Akane that he was a gentleman, that he would never string along lovers on the side. She felt this tinge of anger welting up inside of her upon the thought, the thought that all her words were untrue.
"Wait a minute," Ranma said when noticed her hands clench "Why do everyone get the wrong idea of me? She's not who you think she is. She needed help with her children. I gave her my number so she could call me just in case she needed some help"
"Sure," Ukyo said, getting up, picking up one of she sofa pillows. She believed his words. She knew he would never be that kind of man. She was actually angry at herself for having thought that. She threw the pillow at him, smiling inwardly to herself. Ranma was one great guy. There was no doubt about that. But she wanted to have some fun, tease him a bit "You men are all the same. You think I buy that? You men would just about use about any excuse"
"Huh?" Ranma said, "I'm telling you the truth. I'm not lying"
Ukyo started giggling, "I know. I just wanted to have some fun"
"Oh" Ukyo could still hear the beautiful music in the background, its melody calling toward her. The song was incredible, so soothing, so peaceful, yet in a sad way. It was too bad the song sounded muffled "That's songs absolutely beautiful. I'd like to hear it more clearly. I'd also like to meet your neighbor. She sounds like a very nice lady"
Ranma smiled as he gestured for her to follow him toward the back of the his home.
Ukyo followed. She couldn't help but stare in awe at the sheer vastness of him home. There were paintings the hung on the hallway walls, most of them of nature in its purest form, very detailed and meticulous. The paintings were so real it looked like she could step into one of them and find a whole new world "I painted those" she heard him say. She was surprised that Ranma had this great talent when it came to painting. She had always thought he had hidden talents, but never expected to see it come so naturally to him. She was also surprised to hear that he had composed that beautiful music that wafted throughout the entire house. Ranma was indeed a man of hidden talents.
He knocked on the door to the music room, the beautiful music stopping almost immediately. After a few moments, the door opened to reveal and elderly woman "Hello Ranma, you're back sooner than I thought" she noticed Ukyo, giving her a warm smile "Well, hello there" She gave Ukyo an inquisitive look for a second, wondering what had happened to that other girl she last saw Ranma with, Akane. "This is Ukyo," Ranma said to his neighbor, "We know each other from when we were very young"
That seemed to be enough for the elderly lady to hear. She remembered Ranma talking about his childhood friend, Ukyo, before.
Ukyo smiled warmly as she bowed toward the elderly woman. "Good evening. I heard you playin' the piano. The song is beautiful" She looked at the piano that the elderly lady had been playing, a antique-looking upright. It looked like it was several decade old. The keys were worn well, the ivory having this slightly golden hue from the years and years of constant playing.
"Thank you," she replied in a soft voice, smiling warmly as she casually place a wrinkled hand on one of Ranma's broad shoulders "But you should give Ranma the credit. He was the one whom wrote the piece. I was just playing it" Ranma sat down on the piano bench the elderly lady once occupied after she had gotten up. She was now sitting in a nearby sofa that Ranma had put into the room a long time ago in case people wanted to listen to hear him play.
Ukyo, as she stood in the doorway, noticed that the music room was a large room, roughly the size of an average bedroom. There was one windows in there, the lighting from moonlight that shown through and the florescent lights that he had installed when he had put this room as an addition to his house.
"Please, have a seat, dear," the elderly neighbor said, patting the cushion next to her. Although she had played piano for all her life, she would much rather listen to Ranma play than play herself. His music sounded so beautiful that it was without equal. He played his songs with more heart than all the students she taught combined.
Ukyo gently closed the door to the music room, so the music wouldn't wake the children, as she sat down next to the elderly lady, excited to hear him play. She had known that he played the piano, but she had never heard him before.
Ranma faced her and gave a smile before turning back toward the piano. He took in a deep breath, hoping his wrists wouldn't fail him. He felt confident that he could play some more, his wrists not bothering him, even if he had played till they hurt when Akane was at his house earlier. His delicate hands caressed the piano, gliding over the keys, bring forth this almost hypnotic melody. Although his hands struck the keys heavily, the was very soft. Ukyo listened as he continued to play, the music causing her to envision what he was trying to convey through song. She closed her eyes as she let the song assail her senses. As she sat there, listening intently, she felt this sadness overwhelm her as if Ranma was trying to tell of his past through the piano. The song was so sad, causing a tear to form around her eye. She wiped as Ranma's neighbor noticed the effect the song had on her. She smiled warmly as she whispered "Ranma tends to play songs like. I cried the first time I heard this," the lady commented, she, too, feeling a bit sad.
The song lasted for a couple of emotional-filled minutes. The song he was playing was supposed to last longer, but his wrists were failing him, the pain becoming unbearable, causing him to improvise and bring the song to a conclusion.
"That was beautiful," Ukyo said, wiping a tear. She was almost expecting to see Ranma turn around see the tears forming around his eyes. The piece was so emotional. But when he did face her, there were no tears around his eyes.
His eyes still retained this sense of sadness though, and it looked like they were on the verge of shedding tears, but they didn't.
Ranma yawned as he felt the heaviness of sleep threatening to overwhelm him. The day had been pretty rough and long for him, and he was yearning to go to sleep "Thanks. Look, I'm very tired. I'm going to sleep now" He got up off the bench, heading for the door. He opened it and exited, leaving only Ukyo and the elderly lady to occupy the room.
"It's strange," the woman said, "I always expect to see tears around his eyes when he would face me after that song, but I never do"
"Ukyo, I want to show you to your room before I go to bed," Ranma said as his head peek back into the room "Miako-san. Thank you for looking after my children. You don't know how grateful I am"
"I'm glad I could be of help," the woman said, getting up off the sofa,
Ukyo giving her hand "Whenever you need me to look after them, just ask" she then turned to Ukyo, giving her a genuine smile "It was really nice meeting you sweetie. Perhaps we'll meet again"
"Likewise," Ukyo said, getting up off the sofa, noticing that her knees felt a bit weak. Perhaps the song had more of an effect on her than she thought "I enjoyed hearing you play"
Ranma and Miako-san bowed. Ranma and Miako-san then disappeared from view as they headed for the front of the house. Ukyo was left alone in the music room, staring at where Ranma had been. She turned to face the upright piano,
awe by the thought that someone could create such beautiful from a single instrument. She reached a supple finger out and touched on of the keys,
still feeling the warmth it generated from Ranma touch before. She looked at the music sheet that was laid out before her. Whatever the piece was, she assumed, it sure looked difficult. She wondered how one played music through reading.
After a few moments of wonder, Ranma entered the room, a pillow and blankets under his arms "Ukyo, I suggest you not sleep in the other guestroom tonight. The radiator is broken in there, and that room is very cold. I'd let you sleep in the other guestroom with Miki, but I don't have any spare futons. You can sleep in my bed for the next few nights. I'll be sleeping on the sofa in the livingroom. My room's the first one to the right at the top of the stairs"
Ukyo turned to face him so she could tell him that she will sleep on the sofa. She didn't want Ranma giving up his own bed just for her. It was bad enough that she was sleeping under the same roof as him, which would make things seem awkward between them, but there was no need for her to have his bed "I'll sleep on the sofa. It's bad enough I'm imposing on you by spending the next few night here"
"Are you kidding?" Ranma gave a small smile "How do you think it'll make me feel if I'm sleeping on a bed while you're sleeping on a sofa? You're sleeping in my bed. I'm tired, and I'm not going to argue with you about it "
Before she had a chance to tell him that she insisted on sleeping on the sofa he disappeared as he walked away from the doorway he had been standing in, his footsteps echoing in the now silent house. She just stood there,
hearing the echo of his foot steps getting softer and softer as he got farther away. When she quickly exited the music room to follow after him, she discovered Ranma sleeping on the sofa in the livingroom, his back facing her, cuddled up in a couple of blankets. He was already asleep.
She sighed, "Oh, Ranma. You're such a gentleman"

Chapter 29

Shori was in her office, looking out one of the open window, her gaze toward the buildings, as she enjoyed the cool breeze that blew in through the open window. Although a bit chilly, it wind was welcomed into the heated office of hers. She was the president of Aido Airlines, making a high seven digit salary in American currency, yet she couldn't get that blasted heater from heating her office to sauna-type temperatures. She would need to get that heater removed. Either that or fixed. The intercom on her desk rang, giving her a start.
She looked over at the grandfather clock that was in the corner of the room. It was now a little past one in the afternoon. And that was a bit odd. She wasn't expecting a call. All the meetings and schedule changes had been made in the morning.
She walked over to the phone, wondering who it could be, and clicked on the intercom.
"I'm sorry to bother you, Saotome-sama, but I have a long distance phonecalls from a Ranma Saotome. He says it's pretty important," her secretary's voice echoed through the speaker and into the vast, extravagantly furnished office. Shori's heart skipped a beat. She noticed that her heart rate started to race at the sound of his name. Her knees even felt a bit weak. Luckily, she had her hands on her desk to keep herself up. She must had been hearing things "D-did you say Ranma Saotome?"
"Yes," the voice echoed, "Would you like me to take a message or would you like to take it?"
"I'll take it," Shori said, noticing that her voice was a bit more eager than she wanted it to be. She couldn't believe it. Ranma Saotome. Even though she hadn't seen him after all these years, she knew exactly what he looked like. She remembered his every feature. He was somebody you would never forget.
Shori clicked a button on the intercom, and then picked up the phone. She took a short moment to steady herself, to get herself under control. There must be a reason for him to call. Sure, Ranma was the kind of person who would call someone just to see how they were doing, but there was no reason why he would call her for that, not after what she had done. She was still, very regretful for having left, but it was the best choice of action. She hoped he didn't hold that against her "H-hello?" Ranma's soft voice could be heard, coming through so clearly Shori could have sworn she could feel his hot breath as if he was whispering into her ears "Hey, Shori, is that you?"
Ranma was wide awake by the time Ukyo came downstairs, his dark hair slightly damp from his morning shower. He looked like he must have had the best night's sleep, radiating this cheery warmth as he gave her a small smile. "G'morning, Ukyo" Ranma said to her as she entered the kitchen, all the while cracking an egg into the large, stainless steel bowl on the counter.
There were several small bowls full of chopped onions and peppers and ham nearby, each ingredient in their own bowls. It looked like he was making an omelet. And judging by the amount of cracked eggshells in the garbage can,
he was going to make a mighty large one "How was last night's sleep?"
"Morning," she said, "It was great. I hadn't had a decent night's sleep in quite a while" Ranma's bed must have been the most comfortable bed she had ever slept on. It seemed to mold to the curvature of her body, keeping her comfortable, from twisting and turning all night. But it wasn't how the bed worked that surprised her but the fact that the bed was no larger than a regular single bed. It wasn't a king sized bed. That meant there was no way for other women to spend the night with him.
"I called Shori late last night," Ranma said, "I woke up to get take a drink and decided to call her. Guess what, it seems like she's going to be coming in for a visit afterall. I told her about everything, about the party, and even about Akane"
"You did?" Ukyo said, a bit surprised "What did she say?"
"She said she'll be here for the party," he said, "I'll tell you about it after breakfast and dropping off the kids. What would you like to have?" He began adding the peppers and ham and onions into the steel bowl, stirring it with a large wooden spoon to mix the ingredients together. Ukyo couldn't help but notice his arms flexing as he held the bowl in the crook of his elbow.
Ukyo looked at the clock that hung on the wall. It was only around five.
She was a bit surprised that she had woken up that early in the morning. She thought it was about eight or so. She looked at Ranma for a second before answering "I'll have what you're having" She paused for a second before changing the subject "Um, why're you up so early. It's just a bit past five"
"Me? I always wake up early. Meggie and Jessie will be waking up in about a half an hour, meaning I have to be up earlier than them so I can fix them some breakfast" he continued on stirring as he spoke, "I don't know why they wake up so early, but they just do. Most people say that should have drove me nuts because of lack of sleep, but it doesn't bother me. Me, I guess I grateful, simply because I don't have to go through all the hassles of waking them up for school and getting them dressed"
Ukyo sat down in a chair across the counter from Ranma, observing him "So what do your daughters do until they have to got school"
"Don't know. They usually play the piano," he said, not bothering to look up at her. He was more busy paying attention to the stirring than anything else. He stopped abruptly when he realized that Miki would be sleeping while the twins played their little hearts out "Um, what about Miki, when does she wake up?"
Ukyo giggled a bit, "Well, she usually sleeps till around nine, which makes it quite difficult for me to get her up since school starts at eight" That gave Ranma a small chuckle. Ukyo felt this warm feeling upon seeing him laugh a bit. Ranma's life had been very sad, and he was the only person in her life that she believed deserved to laugh from time to time. Although she rarely seen him laugh, she had to admit that Ranma looked like he was the happiest person in the world when he laughed.
"Don't worry about it," Ranma said, confidence acted "I betcha I can get her up"
"I'd like to see you try"

Akane was wide awake before her alarm clock went off. She casually shut off the ringer as she went about her business of getting ready. She had already taken a shower earlier, she having woken up about a half hour before the alarm went off. She was just finished with her shower when she heard the ringing from her room. She had casually walked from the bathroom and into her bedroom clad in nothing but her panties and a towel dangling down from neck, covering over her bare shoulders.
After having gotten dressed, she opened the blinds to the window,
squinting a bit from the brilliance of the dawning sun in the far off horizon. She took a quick minute to admire the beautiful sunrise as she opened a small gap in the window so she could let some fresh air into her stuffy room. Sure, the smell of roses wafted through her room, but a breath of fresh air was much needed at the moment.
She only shivered a bit when a cold blast of air blew in through the small opening, grateful that she was fully clothed. She was dressed in long jogging pants and a thick sweat shirt, she about getting ready for her morning jog.
She went downstairs and prepared a quick breakfast consisting of cereal and toast. As she sat there, chewing on her toast, she couldn't help but smile as she recalled spending some time in the kitchen with Ranma,
preparing breakfast for his daughters after they had fallen asleep at her house. She could feel her body getting hot from the thought, and it wasn't the heavy attire that was doing that to her. She could recall the smell of his aftershave as he shared the same room with her, the scent having almost driven her insane with desire. But she had managed to keep a leash on her desires, which made her wonder what they could have done if she didn't. She blushed at the thought of him taking her right then and there, on the kitchen counter.
What am I thinkin' of, Akane thought, hiding the reddish hue that had formed around her cheeks with her hands. She was grateful she was alone because is she wasn't, someone would have known she was thinking of some licentious thoughts, and they would have asked, which would have made it even more embarrassing for her because she was a lousy liar.
Once finished with her breakfast, Akane left the house for her daily morning jog. Outside, she decided she wanted to change her usual jogging route for the first time. She wanted to see how the house was coming, to see how it now looked. It had been very dark last night, and she didn't get a real good look at the house and all the repairs that had been done on it.
She smiled to herself as she headed for the house.

"The house looks beautiful," Mousse commented, taking a step back to admire the view. He had been at the house when Ranma had arrived to finish off the painting. It had been just a little past eight-thirty when Ranma had arrived there to meet him so they could finish off their task. Ranma would have shown up earlier if it weren't for him having to drop his daughters off at school and then escorting Ukyo to the hospital so she could spend her morning with Ryoga. When he had arrived, they immediately began painting the house, Ranma expected to be at work at ten sharp. When Mousse had asked him about where Ryoga was, Ranma told him of what had happened. It came to Mousse as a surprise when Ranma had told him about Ryoga having been shot,
but he took it in stride, always thinking on the up and up, believing in his fellow police officers in apprehending Ukyo's ex-boyfriend. As Ranma stood there, he thought back to the time when he had mentioned about Ryoga being shot.
"Don't worry, I'm sure we'll catch him," Mousse had said, confidently. He had been busy painting the top half of the house when Ranma had mentioned about Ukyo's ex-boyfriend.
"I hope you're right," Ranma had replied. He had been busy painting the bottom half, which was already half finished because they had started painting it yesterday.
"I can't believe this is the same house," Mousse said, causing Ranma to snap back to reality. He looked over at Mousse, a small smile on his lips.
Ranma couldn't really believe that this was the same house that his mother resided in. The house looked totally different. The new layer of paint made the house look brand new. The shutters gave the home a cozy look, the color matching the paint. It was a job well done. All that hard work definitely paid off.
"Mousse, I'm glad you and Ryoga helped" he said in a soft, sincere tone "It would've taken me weeks to do this by myself. I wish Ryoga was here so I can thank him for all he's done. I'll go visit him tonight with Ukyo"
"No prob," Mousse said, smiling happily, glad to have helped. He was glad to have a project like this to keep his mind occupied "Whenever you need anything, just ask. I'll be glad to help"
"Thanks," Ranma replied. He was glad to have Mousse for a friend. Although they started off on the wrong foot, Shampoo almost leaving Mousse for him, Ranma was grateful that they managed to amend feelings before the conclusion of his business trip. Even though Ranma had to go back to Japan,
he and Mousse and Shampoo remained friends.
"Aren't the twin's birthdays coming up?" Mousse asked, changing the subject. He remembered seeing Ranma buying a whole bunch of toys while up in China. When he inquired about why Ranma was doing that, he found out that Ranma had two daughters, and that their birthdays were coming up. It was now around the same time as when Mousse had asked several years ago. He wasn't too sure the exact date, but he knew it was around this time.
"It's funny that you mention that. I was about to bring that up," he said,
a smile on his lips, "Their birthday is in three days from now and I'm throwing them a party. It'll be at my house. I'm not too sure exactly when it'll start, but I'll tell you the time when I decide"
"We wouldn't miss it for the world," Mousse replied. He knew he had to work three days from now, but he was positive he could get some time off. Shampoo could do the same thing also. He was well aware that Shampoo had to work on that day also, but she could get time off also. Besides, there was no way she wanted to miss their birthday party, for she was very fond of the little girls "Shampoo'll be there also"
"That's good to hear," said Ranma, a small smirk on his lips "It's best that ya start spendin' more time with children, now that there's a chance there's one on the way"
Mousse chuckled, "I know. I know" but his visage turned somber "Um, I'm quite scared, y'know, of becoming a father and all. I'm not too sure I'll know what to do"
Ranma smiled, "Don't worry about it. You'll do fine. I started off knowing nothing, and I had to do it alone, yet I managed somehow. You, on the other hand, have Shampoo to help you out, which'll definitely lighten the burden"
"I hope you're right," Mousse sighed, "I hope you're right. So, about the birthday, what're you gonna get your daughters for a birthday present?"
"I want to get them a pet pig," Ranma said, "A piglet perhaps. Sure, I could buy them a dog or cat or something, but I want it to be a unique animal for a pet. Besides, pigs are clean, and I don't want worry about it making a mess since after a week or so, I'll be stuck taking care of it"
Mousse chuckled upon the thought, causing Ranma to give a chuckle also. He then looked over at Ranma and spoke "That's a good idea. We'll get them something cool"
"Sure, whatever ya like?" he said. "Well, I best be leaving now," Mousse said as he looked at his watch "I'll see you in a few days. Later," he smiled to Ranma as he headed off toward work, disappearing around the corner.
Once Mousse was gone, Ranma took the time to enjoy the morning sun,
walking up to and sat down in the swinging bench that furnished the front porch. He laid back and closed his eyes, glad that there was still some time left before he was expected at work. He wanted to spend some time alone, to enjoy the warmth of the morning sun, to breath in the fresh air.
Akane was jogging by the house when she noticed Ranma sitting on the porch. Her heart leapt to her throat upon realizing that he had spotted her.
She could feel her knees becoming weak upon seeing him getting up off the swinging bench and walking down the steps, heading straight toward her.
She wanted to say something but couldn't, she at a loss of words. He looked absolutely gorgeous. His clothes had some splatters of paint on it and his hair was slightly tussled, and that gave him a rugged looked.
"Morning, Akane," he said with a smile warmer than the dawning sun, in a voice more sultry than Akane wanted it to be. His voice made her feel weak. Her gaze were on his lips as he said those words, the same lips that swept her off her feet last night, the same lips that she wanted on her own.
"M-morning," she replied, quickly regaining composure. She quickly turned her gaze onto the house, hoping to distract herself from Ranma. "What're you doing here?" he asked. He knew Akane always jogged in the morning, but he never recalled having seen her jog by his mom's house when he would visit her after he dropped his daughters off at school and before he was expected at work.
"Oh, I wanted to see how the house looked," she said, "I didn't get a good look last night, what with it bein' dark and all. And I must say, the house looks splendid. This looks nothing like the old one. I can't believe how much just a little bit of renovations could change the entire look to a house. I wasn't expecting to see you here"
"I wanted to finish up," he said as he turned to face the house. He wanted to admire it from the same point of view Akane was "Mousse was here earlier.
He and I finished up with the painting about fifteen minutes ago"
"Mousse? Oh, isn't he Shampoo's husband?" Akane asked. She remembered hearing that name when they were in the coffee shop talking to Shampoo after they, more Ranma than anyone else, had bumped into her. She remembered this feeling this spark of jealousy upon realizing that Shampoo knew Ranma from back then. But when she realized that she was married, she felt this sense of relief.
"Yes," he said, "He just left though. You'll see him again. Perhaps at you'll meet him at the party" When he noticed that Akane was about to inquire about what party, he continued on "I was about to tell you when I got to work. Meggie and Jessie's birthday are three days from now, and I was thinking about throwing them a birthday party. You're invited of course. I'm pretty positive they'll really appreciate it if you come"
"I'd love to," she said. All she would have to do was cancel lessons on the day of the party. She was sure her students would understand. They would probably want her to attend the party because she never had any time off since she had the responsibilities of taking the dojo over "What do you plan on getting them?"
"I've been thinkin' of getting them a pet pig" Ranma said. When Akane gave him a confused look, he continued on "Well, I'm pretty sure they'll take care of it for a week or so, and then I'm stuck taking care of it. I figured it'd be nice to get them something that easy to manage since them little buggers are pretty much one of the neatest animals around"
Akane nodded. There was no denying logic. She once had a pet dog, and she took care of it for about a week before she lost interest in feeding it and all those other responsibilities in taking care of it, her father left to take care of it as soon as she got bored of it. Her dog ran away not much longer after he started taking care of it.
"I've even thought of a name for it," he said. He had thought come up with the name last night. He wanted to call it P-chan. 'P' as in 'pig', and 'chan' as in 'little'. He knew it would be perfect for a name. He was pretty sure Akane would like it also, that she would probably come up with a name like that.
"What will it be?" she asked curiously. She wondered what kind of silly name he would come up with for a piglet.

"I guess we better head on toward the dojo," Ranma said, noticing the time on his watch. They had about a half hour left before the first session was scheduled to begin. He was surprised at how much time had passed already.
"Don't worry," Akane said, "we still have plenty of time"
Ranma sighed, wishing he had never told her of the present he had planned on getting for a birthday present. He and Akane were now standing in front of a local pet store. Akane had noticed the pet store on her way jogging route, but had disregarded it until now. When her sight had caught hold of the store, she immediately headed toward it.
She casually took hold of his hands as she tried to pull the reluctant Ranma into the store with her. When her hands touched Ranma's, she could feel the heat emanating from it. His hands were soft yet strong, and his touch felt like a lover's caress.
When Akane had taken hold of his hand, Ranma just gazed at it, wondering if he should pull it away. He was a married man, afterall. Wasn't it taboo to be holding hands with another woman since he was still married? But the question immediately disappeared when he realized that having Akane's hand in his felt right. It just did. Her hand felt like it belong in his own.
He gently gave her hand a loving squeeze, enjoying the smoothness of her delicate fingers as they held his. Akane immediately released her grip of him when he gave it a squeeze, knowing that if she continued to hold his hand, she wouldn't be able to think straight. She already felt lightheaded from being so close to Ranma as it was. She had to have a clear mind now. Now was not the time to be thinking of Ranma, even if it took all her willpower to keep him out of her mind.
A saleslady walked up to Ranma and Akane, "Good morning, would you like any help?" She glanced over Akane's shoulder and caught sight of Ranma. She felt her heart skip a beat as she laid eyes on him. She had never seen a man like him before.
Ranma gave the lady a sheepish smile, which made her heart aflutter "Um,
yeah, I'm looking to buy a pet pig," He was looking around the store, not paying much attention to the saleslady. If he had he would have seen the envy in her eyes as she looked at Akane.
"We have some pigs in the back of the store," she said, heading toward the back of the store, gesturing for Akane and Ranma, more Ranma than anyone else, to head toward the back of the store with her.
Akane followed the lady, grateful that her back was to Ranma. She was blushing horribly. She had caught the fiery gaze in that lady's eyes as she saw Ranma standing behind her. When the lady had looked toward her, Akane saw jealousy in that lady's eyes, jealousy at seeing Akane with some as handsome as Ranma.
"Hey, Akane," Ranma said, stopping in his tracks "Check them out. Aren't they cute?" he was gesturing toward a cage full of little kittens. He stuck a finger through the grating to pet one of the cute felines.
Akane smiled inwardly as she chose her words carefully "C'mon, Ranma, we have to look for a pet for the girls" she almost laughed as she saw the girl realize that Akane must have been referring to their daughters.
Ranma sighed as he followed the two ladies toward the back of the store.
He had considered getting his daughters some kittens, but kittens became cats, and cats are hard to train.
When they reached the back of the store, Akane gasped as she caught sight of all those cute pigs in the cage. They all looked adorable. There was one pig that caught her attention the most. It was a little black piglet in the back of the cage. It looked like a midget pig, it being less than half the size of those other pigs.
"That one looks nice," Akane said pointing toward the black one "Can I hold it?"
The lady walked over to the cage and opened the gate, reaching in a taking hold of the pig, skillfully preventing the other pigs from breaking free from their confines. She handed it to Akane.
"Oh, he's so cute," Akane said "P-chan is the perfect name for it. You have to get it"
"Lettme see it" Ranma said, taking the pig out of Akane's arms. He gave the pig a quick inspection "Well, it's a male" The pig gave Ranma a evil look, right before sinking its teeth into one of Ranma's forearms.

Chapter 30

"I can't believe I actually bought that pig," Ranma said as he entered the office. It was now a little before noon. It was raining lightly outside, the rain pattering on the dojo's roof. Akane was standing by a window when Ranma entered the office, her gaze on the distant horizon.
Ranma was leaning against the doorjamb, his arms crossed. The class he was training had just ended, leaving him and Akane with over two hours of free time before the next session was expected to begin. He walked into the room and sat down in a chair that was near where Akane was standing, his gaze intent on the pig that was sleeping in the cage in the corner of the room. He had known that pig for several hours, and he already disliked it. "Are you sure you want take care of it for the next few days?" Ranma asked. He wondered what Akane liked so much about that pig. It was just a pig, afterall. "Yeah, I'm sure," she said. She was already in love with this pig. Akane turned to Ranma, "I'm going to go to the house to get something to eat. You want me to get you something?" She was a little bit hungry, but not by much, but just the thought of being able to go to lunch with Ranma gave her an appetite. She wanted to spend some time with him. Her morning started off perfectly ever since she met Ranma at his mom's house. Actually, everyday had been perfect ever since she met him.
Ranma was about to say yes, but he realized that he shouldn't since he was still married. He knew that if he went with her to the house, he was doomed because they would be in there all alone. Although he was a very patient man, he knew he would never be able to resist the temptation to make love to Akane as soon as they stepped through the door to the house. Afterall, they had two hours before the next class. "I'm fine. I'll stay here. Thanks anyway," he said, getting of the chair and leaving the room. He had to find something to occupy his time, to keep himself distracted, distracted from thinking of Akane. He had made a vow, and he planned on keeping it, no matter what. He was grateful to find one student still in the dojo.
"Sensei," the female student said, "I was wonderin' if it's okay if I stay for a little while so I can catch up on my practicing" She was one of the new students that had joined the school. Although young, she definitely had potential.
"Sure," Ranma said, "I'll help you out. What would you like help on?"
Akane stepped out of the office and saw Ranma and the student talking to each other. At first, she felt a tinge of jealousy grab her. Not wanting to dwell on that thought, Akane quickly left the dojo and headed for the house. She had to keep herself distracted. She immediately made herself a sandwich to eat. She sat in her kitchen, she knew that when she was finished with that, she would begin doing some chores that needed to be done. All she had to do was keep herself distracted for two hours. That wouldn't be so hard. If it wasn't so hard, then why was her thoughts of nothing but Ranma?
Once she was finished with her sandwich, Akane looked at the clock and sighed. She still had an hour and forty five minutes left before the next class started.
"Just practice that one technique for a few minutes," Ranma said to the young student "I have to make a phonecalls" He remembered about the phonecalls Akane took for him while he was in the shower last night. He remembered Akane having told him that Kodachi wanted him to call her. He felt a bit guilty for returning her call so late, but it was better late than never.
He quickly walked over to the locker room and fetched Kodachi's phone number put of his pants and then walked over to the phone and called her.
"Hi," Ranma said into the receiver "is Kodachi there?"
"Speaking," came a voice, a very beautiful voice, which made Ranma's blood tingle "This is she"
"Hi, this is Ranma Saotome," he said, "We both met at the bookstore"
"I remember you," Kodachi said. How could she not? There was no way she would forget Ranma, ever. "How's everything going?" She had forgotten that she had called him last night. It was probably because she wasn't thinking too straight at the moment.
Ranma looked over his shoulder to see his student still busy practicing the move he showed her "Everything's fine. I'm sorry I haven't gotten back to you earlier. Anyway, I received a phonecalls from you last night"
"Oh yeah," Kodachi said, "I remember. Don't worry about it. I was having some problems with my kids, and I needed your advice. But I managed to do okay by myself" She wanted to ask Ranma whose voice she had heard last night when she had called him, but she didn't. It was none of her business.
Ranma talked to Kodachi for a few minutes before he remembered that he shouldn't be inconsiderate as to let his student wait for him to finish his call "Look, I gotta go now. But before I do, I have one more thing I want to ask you. I'm throwing a birthday party for my daughters three days from now, and I was wondering, even though we just met, if you'd like to come. I'd like our kids to get to know each other"
"I'd love to," she said a bit zealously. She was eager to see Ranma again. Ranma gave Kodachi the address and the estimated time it was expected to begin "Well, I have to go now. I'll see you at the party. Goodbye"
"I'll see you then. Bye"

"Didn't we meet somewhere before?" Ranma asked as he gazed at the handsome man standing before him. The man was a bit taller than him,
sporting short dark hair that was akin to Ranma's except it was sans the pig-tail. He was dressed in casual attire consisting of pants and a sweater that seemed more expensive than Ranma's entire wardrobe. He seemed to have this air of sophistication to him.
"Is Akane here?" Kuno said in a low husky voice, his gaze suspiciously on Ranma. He wondered who this Ranma was to Akane, what he meant to her? He and Ranma were now both in the dojo's office. Ranma was finished with helping the young student when she saw Kuno standing inside the dojo's rear entrance. When Ranma introduced himself, he suggested that they go into the office where they could sit down.
"She went into the house," Ranma replied, eyeing Kuno "She'll be out in a little while. Is there a reason why you need to see her?" he still didn't know who this man was. He could have sworn he had seen him somewhere before,
but he could quite remember where.
"That is of no concern for you," Kuno snapped. He didn't like the way Ranma spoke of Akane so formally. He spoke her name casually, as it they had known each other for quite a while. He could feel his blood boiling from thinking that. Kuno had dated Akane for a short time while they were young, and although Akane never shared the mutual feeling toward him, Kuno was still in love with Akane. He was very overprotective, and he didn't want anyone to get close to Akane because he didn't want her to get hurt.
"Sorry," Ranma apologized "you're right. It is none of my business. I'll go get her," he got up off his seat and proceeded toward the door, only to realize who that man was "I remember you. You were working at that equipment store when Akane and I came in to buy some bokkens. Akane said you two went to the school together"
"We did more than just go to school together," Kuno said cynically.
Ranma's visage sullied upon hearing that. He realized what this man was implying "Oh," He wondered if this man and Akane were still seeing each other.
Kuno smiled to himself as he noticed Ranma's countenance turn sullen. He had only known Ranma for a short time, and he already disliked him, simply because he knew Akane. "I'll go get her," Ranma said, getting up off his seat and heading toward the door "I'll be back in a minute"
Kuno got off his seat and left the office, walking onto the practice mat.
His gaze was on the bokkens that were neatly on a rack. He had been into Kendo ever since he was young. He still practiced it since he didn't really have to worry about managing his chains of equipment store because they were self-sufficient.
He picked up one of the bokkens, giving it a skillful slash at an unseen opponent. He smiled as he walked to the center of the dojo, bokken in hand.
Since he had to wait, he might as well do a little practicing. He stood in front of picture of Akane's father and bowed to him out of respect. He got into his Kendo stance and proceeded to skillfully slash to his heart's content. His screams of attacks could be heard as they echoed through the dojo.
"Hello, Kuno," came a sweet voice, causing Kuno to start.
He already knew it was Akane by her sweet voice before he even faced her.
He turned to face her, glad that that man wasn't standing next to her. He blushed a bit, this sudden nervousness enveloping him. He was quite the ladies' man, but he never had as much trouble being around them as he did Akane.
"H-hello, Akane," he said. He hadn't really seen her in quite a while.
Sure, he saw her with that man, but she only spoke to her for a minute. He hadn't had the chance to spend some time with her since she left before he had the chance to talk to her.
Akane smiled sweetly, "What brings you here?" Kuno used to stop by at the dojo to check up on her from time to time, but had stopped several years ago ever since he his caught his wife taking drugs. He had divorced her and had taken full custody of his two sons since his ex-wife was considered an unfit wife in the judge's eyes.
"I came here to see you," Kuno said, "I haven't seen you in the longest time" When he had seen Akane for the first time since stopped coming to the dojo, it made him realize just how much he missed her.
"That's nice to hear," she said sweetly. She liked the attention Kuno gave her, even though she never reciprocated. She only considered him a friend wanted it to remain that way while he wanted to more than just a friend. She knew what he had implied when they were dating in high school.
"I would also like to have my sons enroll in your children classes" he said. He wanted his sons to learn martial arts to help raise their self-confidence. Ever since he and my wife divorced, his sons had been down on themselves, thinking that they were the cause of it. At first, it was very minute, but eventually, over the years, it got worse. Now was the time he did something about it.
"Sure," Akane said happily. She would love to teach his sons. She had met them once before, and they seemed very sweet. How old were they now? Seven?
Eight? They must have been around Ranma's daughters' age "And speaking of your sons, how are Yukaso and Keiike? How old are they now?"
"They seem to believe it was their fault that their mother and I got divorced. And they're not getting any better. Yukaso is nine, and Keiike is going to be nine in a month from now" Kuno said in one breath.
"I'm sorry to hear that they think that," Akane said "But enrolling them in martial arts is a good way to build up their self esteem. Follow me into my office"

Ranma tried to keep himself busy as he paced back and forth in Akane's livingroom. He felt threatened. Who was that man in the dojo? What did he mean to Akane? Why did she want to see him...alone? Was what Kuno had said true? Had they, no, were they more than high school acquaintances?
He didn't like this feeling of helplessness. There was nothing he could do. In a way, he felt jealous, jealous of Kuno that he meant something to Akane. Wanting to keep his thoughts from wandering onto what Akane and Kuno might be discussing, Ranma sat down in the couch in the livingroom, picking up magazine.
He only skimmed it for a few moments before his mind started wandering back onto Akane. He wondered if Kuno and Akane were seeing each other. It they were then he should have never have kissed her since she would belong to another man. Maybe this was all for the better, Ranma thought. Afterall, he was married. Maybe it was never meant to be. He was still married to Shori. This was a good reason why he shouldn't be around Akane because if he did, he wouldn't be able to control his urges, and he would inevitably break the vows that he had made. That wouldn't be honorable, and he was a very honorable man, something that his mom had always preached.
"What am I doing?" Ranma said to himself, wishing his mind would be on anything but Akane. But it was no use. Akane was everything he ever wanted in a woman, and a whole lot more. Even his daughters liked her. But the thought that she might be seeing Kuno was tearing him apart. He didn't know for sure if she was seeing someone. He had never asked. Sure, she seemed unattached simply because she seemed willing in returning their passionate kiss in front of the house, but anybody could give in to temptations, especially if he were the temptation. Ranma even had married women hitting on him, so women with boyfriends weren't off any better.
Ranma sighed. Akane was the one woman he wanted, yet he couldn't have.
He still had vows to uphold, and he honored those vows. And now that she might be seeing Kuno made her even harder to attain. That also made her harder to forget about, harder to leave alone. He should just leave well enough alone. He didn't want to be the cause if Akane and Kuno were seeing each other, and Akane breaking up with Kuno because of him. He didn't want Kuno dumping Akane, thinking she was sleeping with Ranma behind his back.
"I better keep my distance," Ranma told himself, not too sure if he could actually follow through with his comment. He was drawn toward Akane like a moth to a flame. But he had to try.
Ranma looked at his watch, noticing that he still had a little more than an hour before the next scheduled session was set to begin. He knew that he had plenty of time to go somewhere. He had to get out of this house since everything in it reminded him of Akane. He quickly walked over to the pile of bags of new clothes Akane had bought for his daughters the other day. It was best that he took these home instead of leaving them here in Akane's house.
He picked up the many bags, sliding them up to the crook of his elbow.
There were somewhere around ten bags, but it was no problem for him. He decided to leave a few bags behind. There was no use in him killing himself in bring all those clothes home. He'd carry the rest of them home tonight.
Sighing, he left the house, heading toward his own.

"Well, it's nice to finally be able to sit down and talk you again after such a long time," Akane said, getting up from her desk, Kuno, whom was sitting in front of her, getting up also "I'm looking forward to seeing your sons at our next session"
Kuno smiled, "Same here" He looked at his Rolex watch "Well, it's time that I get going now. I'll see you then"
"Okay," Akane bowed, "Bye now"
"Goodbye," Kuno said. He wanted to lean forward and give Akane a kiss goodbye, like he used to back then, but he didn't. He wasn't too sure that Akane wanted that to happen. He figured it was best to play it safe and not do what every fiber in his being was telling him to do.
Without saying another word, Kuno left the office.
"It's nice to hear that he's doing all right" Akane said to herself,
truly impressed by the goal he had achieved. Kuno had always been wealthy,
but now he was even wealthier, except this time around, he became wealthy through his own means, not through his parents.
Akane smiled to herself, wondering where she might be right now if she had returned the same feelings Kuno had for her. She wondered if she would be married to him, living in some fancy neighborhood in some extravagantly furnished mansion. But the thought didn't make her regret not having returned those feelings. She had grown up all her life in this home,
practiced in this dojo, and there was no way she was going to leave. It didn't matter how much money he had. She only considered him a friend.
Besides, she realized, if she stayed with Kuno, she probably wouldn't have needed help maintaining the dojo, and thus, she would have never have met Ranma.
Upon thinking of Ranma, she realized that she left him waiting in her house. She smiled to herself, glad to have someone like him in her life. Her stomach growled. Although she had eaten sandwich, she was still hungry. Perhaps she could ask Ranma is they could go out to lunch together. That was what she was going to do. She was going to ask Ranma out to lunch.
She waited a second for her heart rate to slow down before she headed toward the house, intent on asking Ranma out. It was too bad he wasn't there to greet her.

Ranma entered the dojo just as class was about to start. All the students were on the training mat, going through some exercises when he entered the dojo. Akane was at the front of the class, her face lighting up when she realized he had returned. As he stepped onto the dojo, he casually walked up to some of more skilled students and elicited an attack, all of them easily defending themselves from his onslaught.
"You're improving," Ranma said to one of the students "but next time don't hold back"
"Yes, sensei," the student said, bowing toward him, Ranma returning the gesture. "Would you like me to teach?" he asked her, his voice the same way as Akane remembered it, sensuous.
"Um, yeah. I'll teach the weaponless half of the session, you can teach the other half" she said. She wasn't really in the mood to teach with weapons for some reason "Um, where'd you go?" she asked after a short moment of silence, checking out the time on a nearby clock, noticing that she had about a minute left before the class actually started.
"I went home for a short time," Ranma said, "I wanted to bring all those clothes you bought for the twins home. I would have been back earlier, but I also grabbed a bite to eat" He would have been back almost a half hour ago if he hadn't ate. But he made himself stop to eat. He didn't want to come back, only to find Kuno still here, talking to Akane. That would have hurt him terribly.
"Oh," Akane hid the disappointment in her voice. She had wanted to ask him out to lunch a short while ago, but he was gone already when she had entered the house. She even bothered to go out and look for him, returning home empty-handed.
"It looks like it's going to rain again," Ranma commented. He had noticed the storm clouds forming. It had been raining just for a little bit earlier, but it had stopped. "I'm not too sure if my mom'll be back from her friend's house, so is it all right if I bring the twins here? They tend to get scared of thunder, and they like it when I'm nearby"
"Sure," she said, "I'd like that"
Jessie and Meggie aren't the only ones that like you nearby, Akane thought to herself. She wondered how he would react if she had the courage to say that to him. She giggled a bit, hoping he would reply with something like.
'Well, it looks like I better stay close to you'.
"What's so funny?" Ranma asked with a lazy smile. Akane looked like she was stealing herself a thought. He wondered what she was thinking about. His face turned sullen when he realized that she must have been thinking of Kuno. She must have enjoyed his company, and was remembering some joke they had shared with each other. Wait, maybe she was giggling because she and had shared much more than a joke...
"Nevermind," Ranma said, "I don't want to know" He really wanted to know, but if she had said what he was thinking, his heart of glass would have been shattered. Besides, it was none of his business. Actually, it was best that he stay out of her business since he was still a married man.
Akane was about to tell him that she was thinking about what she had thought. Her heart almost shattered when he turned around and headed off the mat, disappearing into the office.
Akane felt this sense of sadness envelope her when she started to think of what he meant by those words. Did he already know that she had an attraction toward him? Is this his way of subtly letting her know that he wasn't interested in her feelings? Was he trying to avoid the subject? No. It can't be like that. They had shared a passionate moment together, a moment that she would remember forever. Surely, he must have felt the same way.
Didn't he?
Akane was starting to have doubts. Her mind lingered back to that kiss in front of the house. What did that kiss mean to him? Did it mean as much as it did to her? She felt this surge of anger enter her as she guessed that it didn't mean that much to him since he had kissed Ukyo that way in the restaurant. Akane's mind was too much in a haze that she wasn't aware that Ranma had never returned the kiss to Ukyo, but rather stood there as Ukyo kissed him.
Sighing, Akane turned to face the class, "Okay everybody, it's time to begin"

"What should I do, P-chan?" Akane asked softly as she petted the little black piglet. She was sitting on a bench in the back of the dojo, her gaze on Ranma as he showed the class the proper way to wield a bokken.
The pig just gave a squeak, hoping Akane would never stop petting him in the way she was right now. He seemed to enjoy the attention. He didn't really understand what his owner was saying, but humored her by squeaking in understanding.
Akane sighed, not really knowing what to do. She was madly in love with Ranma but was scared that the feelings weren't mutual. It would devastated her if he told her that he wasn't in love with her. There were so many doubts. Now that Kuno walked back into her life, it would really complicate things between her and Ranma. When Ranma had entered the house to tell her that there was someone waiting for her in the dojo, he didn't look at all concerned at who that man was. Was it because it didn't matter to him on what Kuno meant to her?
The phone rang, causing Akane to start.
"Hello?" she said as she picked the receiver up.
"Is this Akane Tendo?" came a male voice. When Akane answered, he continued on, "Hi, my name is Mousse. You don't know me, but you met my wife, Shampoo"
"Yes, I remember her mentioning you," she said, holding the receiver against her ear and shoulder as she gently put P-chan into the cage, much to his disappointment "Would you like me to go get Ranma for you?"
"There's no need for that," he said, content in his voice "I just called to let you and Ranma know that we managed to apprehend the man who shot Ranma's friend, Ryoga"
"You did? That's great! How did you catch him?"
"Well, I assumed the jealousy ex-boyfriend would pay her a visit at her place sometime, so I staked the place out. Lo and behold, he showed up this afternoon, and I arrested him. I arrested him about a half hour ago" Mousse said, confidently, "He's been arrested on the charges of attempted murder, child abuse, and resisting arrest. He'll be put away for a long time"
"I'm so glad to hear that," Akane said happily, truly glad for Ukyo. Now Ukyo wouldn't have to worry about walking the streets and being on the lookout for her ex-boyfriend "Ukyo must be thrilled"
"I haven't told her yet," Mousse said, "I figured you and Ranma would like to give her the good news. She would probably rather hear it from you two rather than me since she doesn't know me"
"Okay, I'll go tell Ranma now. Thank you for calling," Akane said "Bye. I'll see you at the party" She remembered Ranma mentioning that he had invited him and his wife to the party.
"I'll see you then, Bye"

"Ranma," Akane said, stepping out of the office just as the last of the students were leaving the dojo, finished with today's session "I just got a call from your friend, Mousse. He said he caught the person who shot Ryoga.
He caught him about a half hour ago in front of Ukyo's house"
"Really?" Ranma said, his face showing that of joy, "That's great! Ukyo and Ryoga must really be happy about it"
"He didn't tell them yet," Akane said, "He wanted you to tell them"
"How come?" Ranma asked, a bit confused. If he knew Mousse correctly, he figured his friend would have told them. He didn't really dwell on that for a while for his mind immediately went to that of realizing that it would bring so much relief to Ryoga and Ukyo, Ukyo especially "Well, that doesn't really matter now. All that matters is letting Ukyo and Ryoga know that he was finally caught"
"You want to call the hospital now?" Akane asked. She was hoping he wouldn't. She wouldn't mind going with him there so they could tell them personally. She wanted to see how happy the two of them looked when they heard the good news.
"Nah," Ranma said as he looked at a nearby clock "I have to go there now anyway since the girls are getting out of school in about an half hour. I'm supposed to escort Ukyo to the school so she can pick up Miki. Since your next class won't start for an hour, and if you're not busy, perhaps we can both go there now and pick the girls up on the way back"
"Is that why you asked me earlier if you could bring them by?" Akane asked, a smile on her lips, catching onto Ranma's plan "Because you were expecting to pick them up on the way back, and you knew I would say yes"
"No, it's not like that," Ranma said, "The girls want to spend some time with you. They really like you"
"Yeah. They told me this morning when they woke up," he said, "They asked me to ask you if they could come by. They seem to be very fond of you" They're almost as fond of you as I am, he thought to himself, never daring to say those words. He remembered what Kuno had said earlier, that he and Akane had done more than attend high school together. He knew what Kuno had been getting at. He and Akane used to date each other back them. But were they dating now? His sense of honor told him it was best to play it safe and assume they were still seeing each other.
"Oh," she said, hiding the disappointment. She had hoped that Ranma was the one whom wanted her to spend time with them, not the girls wanting to spend time with her. She was, in a way, hoping that he would use his girls to get closer to her, because he wanted to be with her. But it turned out, the girls wanted to spend time with her, not Ranma wanting them to.
Ranma wanted to tell her that he wanted her to spend sometime with his children because he was hoping she would fall in love with them, and hopefully, fall in love with him. But now that he realized that she was probably dating Kuno, it was best for him to keep his distance.
"Well, would you come with me to the hospital?" Ranma asked. She had never told him yes or no. Their conversation have veered off.
"I better not," Akane declined. There was no real reason for her to go with him, aside from her attraction to him. Ukyo and Ryoga were his friends, not hers. She wanted to go with him more than anything, but she had to stay away from him. She didn't want to get hurt. Only his children liked her, not him. But what about the time they both kissed in the bathroom and in front of her house? It would have probably had happened to anyone in the heat of the moment. Since last night, he never made another pass at her. He had never attempted to kiss her again. What was holding him back? Did it mean anything to him? In a way, he had started to distance himself from her. She could tell. They never indulged in those lively conversations they used to have. "Oh," Ranma said. He figured it was for the better. She probably wanted to spend some more time with Kuno. He wanted to tell her to leave Kuno, so that he, himself, could be with her. But he wasn't that kind of man. Ranma clenched his jaw as he turned his back toward her, not wanting her to see the disappointment in his eyes "I better get going now"
He leaned forward instinctively to give her a kiss, only to realize what he was about to do, causing him to pull back. He had lost control twice already, and he wasn't about to lose it again. He couldn't kiss her. He was a married man, and he had made vows. He couldn't break those vows.
Akane's heart leaped when she noticed he had leaned forward to kiss her.
She wanted him to kiss her again, but wasn't too sure he would attempt to do so. She closed her eyes, holding her breath, waiting, yearning for his lips.
Except this time, she was never kissed. She opened her eyes to see Ranma staring at her, this sadness in his eyes. It looked like he was about to say something, but his words were dying before they left his lips. When he managed to say something, all he said was "I'll be back later,"
With that said, Ranma left. He wanted to stay, but he had to get away from her as soon as possible. He had almost lost control again and kissed her.
And he couldn't do that. He had wanted to tell her that he couldn't, that he was still married, that he had made vows, but he was too scared to tell her. Kuno had popped into his mind at the last second, just as he was about to tell her. And telling her that he would b3e back later was all he could muster at the moment.
Akane felt this burden on her heart as she watched him leave. Although she knew he would be back in a short time, it looked like he was leaving her forever. She wanted to tell him to stay, but she couldn't. She was scared of making a fool of herself. His children were the ones who wanted to be with her. She wondered what she had done wrong. Was the attraction only one-sided? Was she the only one attracted to him? She walked into her office, gazing out the window at Ranma as he disappeared around the corner.

Chapter 31

"Hello, Akane," Kuno said as he entered the dojo, his sons to either side of him. Both boys looked alike that they could probably be mistaken for twins "I brought my two boys just like you asked"
"I wasn't expecting to see you so soon. The children's class doesn't start for another half hour," Akane said, looking at her watch. It was just a little past three now, meaning Ranma should be on his way back after picking the girls up at school on his way back from the hospital. She didn't want Ranma to get the wrong idea if he walked in and saw her and Kuno. Although she could easily explain that he had come here a bit early for his sons'
first day of martial arts, it still wouldn't look good since he was aware that she and Kuno went to school together. Also, who knew what Kuno might say above that.
"I know, they seemed eager to get here," Kuno lied. Actually, he was the one who had been eager. He practically had to drag his sons here. He had told them that he was interested in Akane, and that seemed to have made them agree since the prospect of having a new mother made it worthwhile if it turned out all right.
"Just wait one second," Akane said as she entered her dojo. She came back within moments, two pairs of dogi in her hands. She happily handed then to the two boys "Here you go. The locker room's over there. If you need any help, just ask"
"Thanks," they said in unison as they bowed toward her. The two boys nodded and smiled at Akane before they headed toward the locker room "They're very well-mannered," she commented as she watched them disappear into the locker room. They reminded her of Ranma's girls. She turned to face Kuno "Don't worry about them, they'll be all right. You can come by to pick them up in an hour and a half"
"But I would like to stay," he said, "I'd like to stay here with you"
Akane blushed, "Um, I'm flattered to hear that, but there's no need" She wanted to get rid of him as soon as possible. She didn't want Ranma walking in on her. She didn't want Ranma to get the wrong idea.
"Are you trying to get rid of me?" Kuno said softly, this hurt in his husky voice. He still had feelings for her, and it hurt to realize that she wanted to get rid of me.
"Well, no. I didn't mean it that way," Akane said, trying to come up with a plausible excuse, coming up with nothing. She did want him to leave, but she didn't want to hurt his feeling in the process. She still cared for him,
but only as a friend "I-it's just that I know you're busy, what with all those chains of equipment store you have, and I don't want to keep you from doing your job" It was a pathetic excuse. She knew Kuno didn't really have to worry much about his stores since they were self-sufficient. Kuno took a deep breath. It was now or never "Akane, would you like to have dinner with me?"
"What?" Akane asked. She couldn't believe what she had just heard. It took Kuno several years to come up with enough nerve to ask her out when they went to school together, and now he asks her out only a few hours since they last saw each other. He had changed over the years.
"I was wondering, would you like to go to dinner with me?" he repeated.
He could feel his heart beating rapidly. His hands were sweaty. It felt like he was asking Akane out for the very first time again. He knew that Akane never shared the same feelings he had toward her, but he figured that things changed, that she might have changed and would give him another chance. When she just stood there, saying nothing, he spoke up "Well, Akane,
how about it? For old times sake"
"I-I can't," she said, truly feeling guilty. She felt guilty for declining Kuno's offer to a man she had no idea if he was attracted to her "S-sorry,"
She looked down toward the floor mat of the dojo, unable to look Kuno in the eyes.
"W-why not?" he said, "Are you seeing someone now?" He clenched his jaw.
Was she seeing that man he encountered earlier, had saw her with when she entered the store for some bokkens for the dojo?
"Well, no," Akane said, feeling like she was being backed into a corner.
There was no way she could say 'yes' because she and Ranma, indeed, weren't going out together. They spent time together, but they weren't going out together.
"So why don't you want to go out with me?" Kuno asked. He really wanted to spend some time with her. He wanted to not only be near her but wanted to catch up on the good old times. He wanted to know how she had been over the years.
Akane didn't say anything. There was no reason for her to decline. She couldn't tell him that she was waiting for someone to ask her out, even if she wasn't sure if he was attracted to her. She didn't want to hurt his feelings. She secretly wished she was seeing Ranma, so she could decline Kuno's offer without feeling guilty. But since she wasn't, there was no way around it.
"C'mon. I'd really like to spend some time with you," he continued. He really wanted spend some time with her, and he wasn't about to give up, at least not yet "We haven't seen each other in years. C'mon, for old times sake"
Akane had no way out, "All right. I'll go" She sighed. There had been no other way out except hurting Kuno's feelings, and she wasn't about to do that.
"Great. How about I pick you up at 8pm on Friday?" he asked.
Akane remembered the dinner Ranma had asked her out to as a way of thanks for buying Meggie and Jessie some new clothes. They were expected to go to dinner together with the girls on either a Friday or Saturday since the girls shouldn't be staying out late on the weekdays because they would have school the morning after "No, I-I'm very busy on Friday, and Saturday for that matter. How about Sunday?" The weekends were Ranma's day off. Surely he would spend it with his daughters, meaning she wouldn't have to worry about having him around.
"Okay, Sunday it is. I'll see you then," Kuno said. He turned around to leave. He didn't want to stay any longer than he already had. There was no real reason for him to stay. Besides, he didn't want her to have second thoughts on the date and tell him about it while he since he was there.
Before he left, he tuned back around and looked Akane in his eyes. Should he do it? Was she expecting it? Would she back away? Kuno swallowed the lump in his throat and leaned forward, kissing Akane fully on her lips. Akane's eyes widened as she stood there, Kuno's warm lips on hers. She had never expected him to do what he had done. He never had the nerve to kiss.
Not until they were going out for a while. After so many years, he was kissing her like they had never been apart.
"Goodbye, Akane," he said as he pulled his lips before she could react. He turned around and left, leaving Akane standing there in absolute shock and bewilderment.
Ranma entered the dojo a few minutes later, carrying his daughters in the crook of his arms. They were both squeaking in amusement as they went along on the ride. He swung them around in a circle before putting them back down.
"C'mon, Daddy, do it again," the twins squealed in delight.
"Daddy's tired," Ranma said, sitting down on a nearby bench that was near the back of the dojo. He looked over at Akane and smiled a bit. Akane could feel a wave of relief wash over her as she realized that Ranma hadn't seen Kuno kiss her a short moment ago. She wondered if he had seen Kuno when he left.
"You go on into the house and make yourself busy," their Daddy told them. The twins obediently obeyed and ran out of the dojo, heading into the house. When they were gone, Ranma sighed this defeated look in his eyes. "Is something wrong?" Akane asked. She didn't want to dwell on her fears that Ranma had seen her with Kuno. It looked like he never saw. That seemed to make her feel a bit guilty. Didn't he have a right to know? But then again, it wasn't like they were seeing each other.
"What am I going to do?" Ranma said. It looked like he was thinking out loud rather than telling her his problem. He was looking down at the floor, his face in his hands. His bangs fell over his eyes as he looked down. It gave him this almost child-like look.
"Do about what? What happened?" she asked. She was about to sit next to him, but it was better to stand since she didn't know if she wanted her sitting next to him.
"I completely forgot about it. The school's having an open house tomorrow.
I'm supposed to go there with Meggie and Jessie to talk to the teachers on how my daughters are doing" he said, "I'll be the only single parent there.
All the other children are gonna see that, and you know how they could be with the teasing"
Akane knew what he meant. She had to go through that at her own school when she was young. When Soun was the only parent to attend, and all the children saw that, they teased her for many years to come. Children could be so cruel.
"Well, if it'll make you feel any better, I can always go with you and your daughters" Akane suggested, "That way, the children won't tease them because they'll think, um, that...I'm their mother"
Ranma thought about it for a second. The thought had crossed his mind earlier. If Akane was going as Meggie and Jessie's mother, then that meant the other families would think that he and Akane were...married. Sure, the thought seemed nice, but what would happen if the families started talking,
and the news reached...Kuno. That could break Akane and Kuno's relationship up. Although it was tempting, he didn't want that to happen.
"No, you better not," Ranma said, "I don't want to get you involved"
"Then what are you going to do?" she asked. She was more than willing to participate in this. She wouldn't mind being spending some more time with Ranma and his daughters above the time she was going to spend with them today. The thought that people might consider her Ranma's wife had crossed her mind, and it gave her a warm feeling. She wouldn't mind being mother, even if Meggie and Jessie weren't her own.
"I don't know," he said.
Akane could feel this sad feeling hit her as she her his words but she had to ask "How about Ukyo? Maybe she could go with you" Although Ukyo had told her that Ranma only considered her a friend, Akane still felt threatened by the relationship those two shared. It seemed like their friendship could sprout into something more if they pursued it.
"No. I want her to go with Ryoga," Ranma said, "I found out the hospital was going to release him later tonight. They'll most likely go with one another, which is good"
"I'll go along," Akane said, "I don't mind" Actually she really wanted to go. It was like killing two birds with one stone. Not only would she be with Meggie and Jessie, but she would also be with Ranma "I've been through that.
My father took me to one of those open houses. Everyone started teasing me the very next day. It's not fun I must add"
Ranma said nothing. He didn't really know what to say. Akane seemed a bit eager to go. It was probably because of the children, not him. But is was all good. His children liked her as much as she liked them, and nothing much else mattered to him. At least that was what he told himself. Deep down inside, he wished she was attracted to him every bit as much as he was attracted her.
"Okay," he said, "I'll go tell the girls. They'll be thrilled"
Akane let out a breath once Ranma left. She was grateful that he hadn't seen what had transpired a few minutes before he entered the dojo. He would had gotten quite an eyeful.
She wondered if what she said was all right. She wondered if she could survive spending the evening with Ranma and his girls. They would be together, viewed as a family. It was very different from spending time with them now.
"What am I going to do?" she said to herself as she sat down on the bench. She felt guilty for not having told Ranma about what Kuno had done. But there was something that kept her back. She was scared that Ranma wouldn't mind her and Kuno going out to dinner. But then again, it wasn't like she had to tell Ranma about it. It wasn't like they were seeing each other. Sadly, she wished she hadn't thought of it that way. She wished there was another reason, like Ranma getting jealous. But why should he. He never once showed the slightest discomfort when Kuno had showed up and he had to go fetch her in the house.
"Do what?" a little boy sat next to her on the bench. He was dressed in a dogi. It was one of Kuno's sons. His other son, the elder on, was on the mat,
looking over at the trophies Akane had won in tournaments.
"Oh, you're all dressed, Yukaso," Akane said, quickly changing the subject "Are you and your brother ready for practice?" She had to keep herself busy. She didn't want to worry about it.
"Yes," Ranma gazed out the window as the rain gently fell. It was very late, the sun having set several hours ago. The living room was deathly silent, save for the snoozing piglet in Akane's arms. Akane was sitting on the couch, her gaze on nothing in particular. Actually, she was trying to keep her gaze away from Ranma.
"Man, I don't think it's ever going to slow down," Ranma said, his husky voice breaking the uncomfortable silence that had set in. I don't know how I'm going be able to get them home in this kinda weather" He had no idea how he would be able to get his girls home without getting them wet. He had no problem carrying the two of them while they slept, but there was no way he could avoid the rain.
"They could stay here," Akane said, getting up and putting the piglet in his cage. She then picked up the cage and went to the basement, returning within moments. She didn't want the twins to see the piglet until their birthday.
"Yeah, if it was on a weekend, I'd have no problem. But they have school tomorrow" Ranma said, his voice serious. He was concerned for his daughters.
"I wasn't expecting them to stay here overnight. I didn't bring along any clothes for them to wear tomorrow"
Akane looked over at the bags of new clothes that Ranma hadn't brought home with him earlier. He was expecting to bring those bags home tonight.
"You don't have to worry about the clothes because there's a still some new clothes I got them over there" she said.
"Oh yeah," Ranma said "I forgot all about that. I guess there's really nothing for me to worry about then. They've got their books since we came here straight from their school. I guess the problem's solved then, I guess I better get going then. I'll come back tomorrow morning to pick them up"
Akane didn't want him to leave. She wanted him to stay longer. She wanted to tell him not to go, but what reason did she have to say that? Because she was in love with him? It would break her heart if he wouldn't accept because that would mean the feelings weren't mutual. She was scared to find out that he didn't love her.
Ranma wanted to stay, but there was no reason for him to stay. His daughters were in good hands. He wanted to tell her that it was raining too hard, but he was sure Akane wouldn't buy it. She knew he would be up to something.
Ranma opened the door to leave, but before he had a chance to take a single step through the door, divine intervention seemed to have been working for him when a loud cackle of thunder roared through the skies, causing Akane to give a quick yelp from the surprise.
He turned to face her. The lightning had definitely scared her for the color had drained from her face. As he gaze at her, he could see a little bit of his daughters in her eyes for they were scared of lightning. It made him smile to find out that Akane and the twins had more things in common than he suspected.
Akane felt embarrassed when Ranma had seen how scared she looked. She was deathly afraid of lightning. It made her feel helpless. It made her realize how insignificant she was to this world. There was no way to battle nature,
and it had a free run to do whatever it wanted. The thunder used to wake her out of her slumber. She used to go running into her parents room to spend the night with them. But now that they were gone, there was no one to comfort her.
"Are you okay?" came a soft voice that made Akane feel safe. It was Ranma's voice. He was still there, his gaze warmly on hers. There was this real concern in his eyes.
"Y-yeah," she said. But she wasn't. Her heart was going a mile a minute. She would never get used to the sound of thunder. Just at that moment, the loud thunder ripped through the heavens, causing Akane to suddenly jump into Ranma's arms in fright.
Ranma stood there for a moment as Akane's face was buried in his chest.
She needed comfort. He embraced her, his arms gently wrapping around her.
There was nothing he could do. His mind was telling him not to take hold of her, but his body wouldn't listen. She was so close that he could smell the shampoo in her hair. He could feel her breasts against his chest.
Akane was about to pull away, but she couldn't, not for several pleasure-
filled moments. When she did come up with enough willpower to pull back, she felt Ranma's strong arms take hold of her. Her heart started beating faster as she realized that she was in Ranma's arms. She could hear Ranma's steady heartbeat through his chest.
"It's okay," Ranma said, continuing to hold her. He didn't really care now. Nothing was making sense. All his senses had gone haywire. The sight of her so close, the smell of her perfume, the feel of her body pressed again his were too much for him. The fact that she was seeing Kuno had disappeared from his mind. Everything had disappeared. All he was aware of were himself and Akane.
Akane closed her eyes. Having Ranma hold her like that felt like heaven.
She had never felt this safe in her life. She felt like she could overcome any obstacle. She heard the thunder again, but she didn't flick. She had barely heard it, even though it was loud enough to shake the windows. All she could hear was Ranma's heartbeat. She didn't want to pull away. She wanted to stay in his arms for the rest of eternity.
"Daddy, I'm scared," came a voice from behind them, by the stairs.
Ranma reluctantly let go of Akane as he turned toward his daughter. He didn't want his daughter to get the wrong idea. If she saw him hugging Akane, she would start assuming that Akane would become her Mommy. And that wasn't possible since she was taken, was Kuno's.
"C'mere," Ranma said, kneeling low as Jessie ran up into his arms. He hugged her fiercely "It's okay, honey. Daddy's here. I'll protect you" He held her like there was no tomorrow. As he held her, Meggie came down the stairs, jumping into Ranma's welcoming arms "It's okay. There's nothing to be scared of"
Akane watched as Ranma held his daughters. He held them in the same way as he had held her. Her heart ached as she realized that she couldn't enjoy it also. She could only watch. How she wished she could comfort her child with her fears.
"I was so scared," Meggie said as Ranma released her. Akane was taken aback when Meggie broke away Ranma and grabbed onto her leg. She just stood there, her face in Akane's stomach, her arms wrapped tautly around one of Akane's legs "I'm scared of thunder"
"It's okay, honey," Akane said, "Don't worry, it scares me also" She didn't bother to tell her that it had scared her into her Daddy's arms "You and Jessie aren't the only ones"
"Let's go to the livingroom," Ranma said, "We'll sit on the couch. You can sleep in my arms" Akane blushed because Ranma was looking toward her. It was as if he were talking to her, not the little girl she was holding.
"Okay," Meggie said as she released Akane's leg, quickly heading toward the livingroom, her sister following her.
"I hope you don't mind if I stay a little longer," Ranma said to Akane, "Once they fall asleep, I'll put them to bed, and I'll be one my way" He was actually grateful that he could stay here longer. He now had a reason.
Ranma and Akane headed toward the livingroom, Ranma sitting down on the sofa. Meggie happily jumped into his lap, resting her head against his shoulder.
"I'll go make some warm milk," Akane said, "It'll help you go back to sleep"
She was about to head into the kitchen, but Jessie stopped her by taking hold of her hand.
"I want to go to sleep on your lap," she said, dragging Akane into the livingroom. Akane was forced to sit next to Ranma as he smiled weakly toward her.
Ranma just laid back as Meggie rested her head against his shoulder,
already near slumber. She hand her little arms wrapped around the back of his neck. Jessie was sitting on Akane's lap in the same fashion. She was almost fast asleep.
"They'll be asleep soon," Ranma mouthed toward Akane. Akane flushed a bit when she realized she was paying far too much attention on Ranma's lips than she was supposed to. There was nothing much she could do but wait for them the girls to fall asleep before she could help Ranma take them upstairs to the guestroom.
Akane closed her eyes. She, too, felt tired. She'd just take a quick nap.
When she woke, she would take Jessie to the guestroom.
She woke up early into the morning, several hours later than she expected to wake up, Jessie sound asleep on her lap. To her surprise, Ranma was still sitting next to her, fast asleep, Meggie asleep on his lap also.
She looked over at Ranma. He looked so peaceful. She had never seen this side of him before. He seemed so innocent as Meggie slept in his arms. He looked like he was a young boy with no responsibilities, nothing to worry about. As she held Jessie, it felt so nice, as if she were this little girl's mother. Is this how great it felt when Ranma held them, she thought, smiling warmly. As she looked at Ranma, she couldn't help but feel that this was her family.
She sighed. How she wished this could be her family.

Chapter 32

Akane woke up to the sight of Ranma. The warm sun shone in through the windows in the livingroom. It was very late into the morning. She immediately noticed that she was no longer holding Jessie, and that Meggie was no longer with Ranma. She also had blankets covering her. That meant Ranma had placed blankets over her sometime over the course of the night.
"I took them to school already," Ranma said, reading her thoughts. He noticed she was wondering about his kids because she was looking to and fro.
He placed a plateful of food on the coffee table in front of her. Although it considered of a simple breakfast, it looked absolutely delicious.
"I made you some breakfast," he said. It was the least he could do. He wanted to thank her for that she didn't mind him having spend the night with her. She had been very helpful with his children by simply being there for them.
"T-thanks," she said. She wondered if this was what she would wake up to everyday if she had married Ranma. His warm smile had already made her morning. She had forgotten that she was supposed to do her morning jog. Actually, she had remembered it, but she would rather stay here with Ranma rather than go outside running even though she shouldn't be staying with him. It would torment her since she didn't know of his feelings toward her.
Ranma headed toward the kitchen "When does the first class start?"
She looked at her clock "It doesn't start for another two hours" Oh great,
she thought. That means I'll have to spend two hours in the same house with him. How will I ever be able to deal with it? It's going to drive me nuts.
Ranma came into livingroom holding a tray of food "Is it all right if I join you?" He didn't want to eat his breakfast alone in kitchen.
Akane didn't really know what to say. She said the first thing that came to her mouth, which happened to had come straight from her heart "S-sure"

The morning had gone uneventful. They both shared a lovely breakfast together, the two of them even doing the dishes after they ate.
It was now almost three in the afternoon. Classes had gone on as scheduled with a few students staying behind for some extra help. When Ranma was through helping them out, he was ready to leave to pick up his children.
"Well, I better get going now," he said as he was halfway out the front door" He stopped for a second to think. He and Akane were expected to go to the school tonight for open house "Um, would you like to come?" Akane was taken aback at the proposition. What compelled Ranma to ask her to go with him to pick up his children? She wondered for a second on what it could possibly be, finally assuming it was just a friendly gesture. She thought about how nice it would be to see his children, to see their happy faces. She knew that her the next class wouldn't be starting for a little more than an hour from now. That meant she probably had enough time to enjoy lunch. She was hooked on his daughters already "Okay"
When they both arrived, Meggie and Jessie were waiting out front. They had made it at just the right time.
"Akane," the twins squeaked in unison as they both ran up to her and gave her a tight hug around her lower half, one girl for each leg "We're so glad to see you"
Akane smiled. She was glad to see them also. She could feel this wave of content wash over her as she saw their smiling faces, a feeling she could get used to. Just seeing them seem to brighten her day.
"Daddy, I'm hungry," Jessie said, rubbing her little tummy. She hadn't eaten yet, and neither had her sister. They had both given their lunch to a friend whom happened to have forgotten her own.
"Let me guess," Ranma asked "you gave it to your friend again" This had happened more than once. His daughters' friend had this tendency to forget to bring her lunch to school often.
"Yep," they said together, nodding.
"Well, I'm not too sure I can today," he looked over at Akane, "Hey, Akane, we are we expected back at the dojo?"
"In about an hour," she replied. Already, the thought of spending time with Ranma was in her mind. She was glad that the next training session didn't begin for a while. That meant there was plenty of time to eat.
"We want Akane coming along," the twins said together.
"Well," Ranma smiled at Akane as he "What do ya say? Would you like to eat out with us?" He was secretly hoping she would say yes. Although it would be great eating out with his daughters, Ranma knew that if Akane went along, it would make it even better. She wouldn't be only keeping his children company.
"Please," the twins added.
"Well, with an offer like that, how can I refuse," she said with a smile, a warm, maternal smile.
"Great, now where would you two like to go?" Ranma said as he picked them both up in his arms, swinging them around a couple of times before putting them back down. As Akane watched, she knew she could never love a man more than the man she was watching. Even if he gave her half the love he gave his daughters, she would still be happy. But the question was if he loved her. She had no idea. A teacher in her mid-thirties emerged from the front entrance "Excuse me, Mr. Saotome. May I have a word with you?" Ranma knew it was Meggie and Jessie's teacher. Although older than Ranma, she looked like she was the same age as him, if not younger. "I'll be right back," Ranma told his daughters and Akane before heading toward the teacher. "Do you like Daddy?" Jessie asked as she tugged at Akane's pants to grab her attention. She looked up at her with innocent eyes. It looked as if Jessie had no idea that a question like that could bring some form of embarrassment.
"Um, well, er..." Akane's words failed her. She had no idea what to say.
She could feel her cheeks flushing with heat. She couldn't believe such simple words could make her feel so embarrassed.
Meggie spoke, "Yeah, do you like Daddy?" Now both girls were tugging at Akane's pants. Akane looked over toward Ranma, but she noticed his back was turned to her, deep in conversation with the teacher. She noticed that she couldn't hear what he and the teacher were saying meaning there was a good chance he wouldn't be able to hear Meggie and Jessie.
"Do you think your Daddy likes me?" Akane asked, figuring the girls would innocently give away some secrets Ranma might tell them about her. She figured the girls would have asked Ranma the same thing also, that if he liked her. And perhaps he might have told them something.
"I think he like you lots," Jessie said, "like they way we like you"
Akane smiled a bit. She wished they said something along the lines that he 'said' he liked her, not 'think'. But it was all right. Just the thought that he might like her gave her a warm feeling. But that feeling died as she wondered what his real reason for liking her might be. It was most likely because his daughters like her, like what Jessie had just said.
"I think he really likes you," Meggie agreed.
"And why's that?" Akane asked. Maybe she might have better luck with his other daughter. "Well, we never saw him with spend time alone with another girl until he met you, " she said. And she was telling the truth. Ukyo didn't count. Ukyo spent time with both them and Ranma, not Ranma alone.
Akane smiled as she absorbed the information. That statement confirmed what Ukyo had said back then in the hospital "You mean I'm the only girl?"
"Yeah," Meggie replied "I don't know why, but I think girls don't like Daddy that much"
Akane suppressed the giggled. She couldn't believe what she was hearing.
And from Ranma's own daughter's mouth. She doubted that any woman would dislike Ranma. And that seemed to bother her a bit. She knew that all women looked at Ranma rather fondly, and she was the type to get jealous, even if he never returned mutual feelings toward them.
"I doubt it," Akane said, "Your Daddy is a very nice person, and I'm sure lots of girls like him"
"Are you one of 'em?" both of them asked.
Akane couldn't believe how well these girls were at putting her on the spot. Although they seemed to become distracted easily, they didn't seem to forget what they were being distracted from.
"It's a secret," Akane said. She wanted to tell them that she was madly in love with their Daddy, but she had no idea how he felt about her. She didn't want this love to be one-sided, even though it seemed most likely from her viewpoint.
"We won't tell anyone," Jessie said, "We pinkie-swear" She raised one of her tiny hands and stuck out her pinkie, Meggie also doing the same as she added "Yeah, we pinkie-swear"
Akane knew how the pinkie-swear worked. It meant they would never tell, no matter what, no matter what their Daddy said. She remembered when she was little and that she would never give out secrets after she pinkie-swore to keeping them secret. She knew that it was safe to tell them.
She stuck out her own pinkie on both hand and hooked them with Meggie and Jessie's pinkie, "Yes, I like your Daddy. I like him a lot"
"Hey. What're you talking about?" Ranma called out as he headed toward the three girls. It seemed like he and the teacher were finished with whatever they were saying. The teacher was now gone, having gone back into the school.
"It's a secret," Jessie said, "and we're not telling you because we pinkie-swore"
"Whoa, a pinkie-swear," Ranma said as he picked up Jessie, easily putting her on his shoulders "then I guess that secret's safe" He gave her a good twirl before putting her back down "Okay, now back to business, where would you two like to eat?"
"How about we have Akane pick?" Meggie said, now her turn to be picked up by her Daddy. She squealed in delight at the attention he always gave her and her sister.
"Sure thing, kiddo," Ranma said. He then looked at Akane, "Where would you like to eat?"
"Okay, how about Mackie-chan's?" she said. She assumed the twins would like a restaurant like that. Ranma smiled at Akane before turning his attention onto the twins again, "Looks like you two are in luck today. It seems Akane likes to eat at your favorite restaurant also"
"Hey Akane, are you ready yet. We better get going," Ranma said as he patiently waited in the livingroom. He was ready to head toward his mother's house. He had drop his kids off at her house shortly after eating at Mackie-chan's. He had told Nodoka that he was expected to bring them to the school at eight meaning they should be all ready to go when they got there. He had also grabbed a good pair of clothes from her house so he would be dressed appropriately for the occasion. For instances like this, he was glad he stored some extra pairs of clothes at his mother's house.
Ranma looked at a nearby clock. It ready a little past six. He didn't want to show up for the open house late so he wanted to leave early. He wanted to be out of the house several minutes ago. Akane had been upstairs in her bedroom for well over a half an hour now. He had no idea what she was doing.
He walked over toward the door that lead to the basement and opened it.
He then proceeded to head down into the basement. He figured that since he was waiting, he might as well check up on the pig. Afterall, he'll be soon taking care of it, even though he was now starting to have doubts about it.
Akane came down the stairs that lead to the second floor. She looked absolutely stunning. She was dressed in a light blue skirt and blouse that seemed made for no one but her. Her short heels gave her a sophisticated look that made he seem like the president of some prestigious company "Okay, Ranma, I'm ready" She entered the livingroom expecting to see him, but he wasn't there "Ranma, where are you?"
"I'm in the basement" his husky voice emanated from beyond the basement door "I'm just feeding P-chan"
Ranma emerged from the door after a few moments. When he caught sight of Akane, he was taken aback by how beautiful she looked. She looked nowhere near like the woman she worked along side training martial arts. He felt a bit under dressed since he wearing jeans and a nice shirt "Y-you look beautiful" he said in a soft voice. As he walked up to her, he could smell a faint scent of perfume, "And you smell great also"
Akane blushed at Ranma's sincere compliments. She had never received comments like that. She never knew how nice it felt to receive compliments like that. It made her feel special "T-thank you. You look nice also"
"Well, compared to you, I feel seriously underdressed," he said. And he was right. He wished he had at least brought a vest or a nice jacket. But it too late so there was nothing he could do a bout it. He sighed "Well, are you ready to go?"
"Yes," came the reply. She was definitely ready to go. She had been looking forward to this all day. She had spent the entire morning and afternoon with Ranma already and she still looked forward to spending the evening with him.
"I guess we better get going," Ranma said as he opened the front door for her, getting a good smell of Akane as she glided by him. Once outside, he opened the front gate for her "Wow, look at that sky"
The sun was setting, giving the sky a serene and romantic look. Akane couldn't help but stare at it in amazement before she felt Ranma's soft hand touch her shoulder. For some reason, Ranma's touch felt better than any setting sun.
Together, the two headed off into the sunset.

"I see you're doing all right," Ranma said as he smiled toward his long time friend, Ryoga. Ranma wasn't too surprised at meeting him here. He knew that Ryoga would be the kind of person to come to the school with Ukyo and Miki. "Yeah, but I could always be better," Ryoga replied. His arm was in a sling, and partially bandaged. It looked more like he had sprained his arm rather than had gotten shot. He turned his attention toward Ukyo, whom was chatting with Akane. Miki and the twins were in the playground, the three of them now the best of friends. Ranma didn't have to worry about supervision because there was a teacher there watching over the girls.
"I'm kind of nervous," Ryoga said, looking over at Miki as she played to her heart's content.
"Nervous?" Ranma asked, a bit curious, "Nervous about what?"
"Well, I've never been to one of these things before," came the reply. "Don't worry about it," Ranma said, chuckling once, "It's easy. Just think of it as a party among adults, but with children running about" The open house was a means for families to get to know each other better, so they would know what kind of parents their children's friends were.
That seemed to calm him down a bit, albeit little "If you say so"
"Let's go get the kids," he said as he trotted off toward the playground,
Ryoga walking along side him. Ryoga had already gotten quite attached to Miki, and he was glad she liked him. He was also glad Miki's mother liked him also.
"Where are they going?" Akane asked as she watched Ranma and Ryoga walk off. She thought they had forgotten about them. But she felt a little bit embarrassed for asking such a question when she saw them enter the playground. It had made her seem paranoid.
Ukyo smiled, "They're jus' picking the girls up. That's all" She gazed at Ryoga fondly as she watched him pick up Miki in his arms like the way a real father would. Even though Ryoga had no experience with children, she knew he would definitely become a good father.
"You seem to really like him," Akane commented. She recalled seeing Ryoga and Ukyo kissing each other passionately when she and Ranma came to pay them a visit after they found out Ryoga had been shot. "Oh yeah," Ukyo replied, not even embarrassed. She knew she was in love with Ryoga and she wasn't scared to admit it...unlike other people.
Ranma was carrying Meggie and Jessie under each arm, Ryoga following behind him, Miki sitting securely on top of his shoulders, when they both walked up to Akane and Ukyo "Are you ready to go in?" Ranma asked, smiling a bit.
Without saying a word, everyone entered the building.
"The night went a lot easier than I expected," Akane said as Ranma opened the front door to his house. He was holding Meggie in a piggy-back as she slept silently. He made his movements to open the door very slow so he wouldn't wake the sleeping angel. Akane was holding Jessie in her arms. Jessie was sleeping soundly, her head buried between Akane's neck and shoulder.
"See, there was nothing to be worried about," Ranma said, holding the door open for Akane to enter. Once she entered the house, he silently closed the door behind him "We better get them into their beds" he added as he headed upstairs, Akane following.
It took about ten minutes before Ranma managed to get Meggie and Jessie out of their clothes and into their pajamas and into bed. Once done, both Ranma and Akane went back downstairs.
Akane sat down on the couch, very well aware of the silence that filled the entire house. The silence was anywhere near as thick as when they were together at work. At work, she had something else to think about rather than of each other, but they were no longer at work. Ranma went into the kitchen "Would you like something to drink? Coffee perhaps?"
"Um, sure," she said. She looked at the fireplace, her gaze on a particular picture that was on the mantle. It was a picture of Ranma standing in a graveyard. She got up off the couch and walked up to it, picking it up. She tried to study the picture, but she couldn't see it clearly enough to discern the name of the gravestone he was standing in front of.
"Here you go," Ranma said as he entered the livingroom, a cup of coffee in each hand. He sat down on the couch where Akane had been sitting. He placed her cup of coffee in the table as he regarded her intently "You should drink your coffee before it gets cold" He took a sip as Akane walked away from the fireplace and sat down on the couch next to him. For some reason, having her next to him made him a bit nervous. "How's the party arrangements coming along?" Akane asked. She remembered that the girls' birthday was only two days away. She wondered when Ranma had the time to set the party up. It seemed like he wasn't at all worried about the party "Who's expected to come?"
"Well, so far, I invited all of Meggie and Jessie's friends," he started off, thinking for a moment "Mousse and Shampoo, um, Ukyo and Miki and Ryoga, let me see, and Kodachi and her kids. I think that's all"
"Judging by who you're inviting, it seems as if it more of a party for adults," she smiled. But her smiled died as she wondered who this Kodachi person was. She remembered hearing from Ranma that he met Kodachi at the bookstore, and that he was helping her out with her children, but she wondered if there was more to it.
"You're right. But there's a good reason," he said, "Mousse and Shampoo are expecting to have a child soon and they wanted to experience how it would be like with children around. Ukyo would be there along with Miki. I think Ryoga would most likely be there also because he seems pretty fond of Miki as you can see. Meggie and Jessie seemed to have gotten along with Yayoi and Kiori, Kodachi's kids, when they first met at the bookstore so I assume they would like to see each other again"
"Along with the girls' friends, that's going to be quite a lotta people showing up" Akane said. She wondered how she would fit in with the crowd.
She would be the only one there that had no real connection with any of the children attending. As for Meggie and Jessie, she was only their father's employer. The only thing that made her feel all right was the fact that they liked her.
Ranma shrugged his shoulders "Don't worry, there's a pretty big backyard and the indoor pool should keep most of them busy" He stretched out his arms and put his feet on the table. He took another sip of his coffee as he sighed "Akane, I have a favor to ask from you"
"W-what is it?"
"Well, on the girls' birthday, at around noon, I need about an hour off" he said "It's pretty personal"
"Um, s-sure," she said. She couldn't help but wonder what was so personal that he would need time off. Actually, he wouldn't be needing time off. There wasn't any class at noontime. The latest morning class ended at eleven-thirty and the next class didn't start till one, giving Ranma plenty of time to do whatever he needed to do "You can take as much time as you'd like I can take over for you for the first afternoon class"
"I appreciate the offer, but it's okay. I only need a short time," he replied, "I want to keep the meeting short"

Chapter 33

Akane picked up the present she had bought for both Meggie and Jessie.
She had bought it yesterday. It was a stuffed teddy bear that was larger than both Meggie and Jessie clipped together. She had gone out and bought the stuffed animal when Ranma had left to pick up his kids the yesterday.
When he came back after dropping them off after his mother's house, all he did was smile.
"You didn't need to do that," he had said. Even though he said that, she knew that it would be a great present for his daughters.
Akane smiled as she remembered Ranma facial expression the other day. He looked shocked when he walked into the dojo and saw that huge bear sitting in the middle of the room. She was now in the livingroom of the house,
the bear sitting on the coffee table.
She gave it a keen look, wondering how she was going to get it all the way to Ranma house. She had had it brought to her house by the store from where she bought it, but there was no way she could have the store bring it to Ranma's house.
Akane looked at the clock in her room. It read a little past eleven. That meant the class Ranma was teaching would be ending in a half an hour. She wondered where Ranma was going after class ended. He had mentioned that he was meeting someone the other day. But who? She had asked him, but he refused to say. When Ranma had came to work earlier today, he looked like he had little sleep. She figured it was all in anticipation to making his daughters' party a success. But deep down inside, she knew it was something else. He looked detached and was very quiet, as if something was really troubling him.
She left the house and entered the dojo just as the last of the students were leaving. Akane noticed as Ranma entered the locker room, emerging within minutes, dressed in his casual.
"I'll be back in a little while," he said somberly. He didn't bother to even look at Akane as he was about to head out the door. He looked very sad, more sad than she had ever seen him. She wondered why. He should be happy since today was his daughters' birthday, the day they arrived into this world.
"Is everything okay?" she had to ask. She was very concerned over the way Ranma had been acting this morning. He seemed very different.
"Really?" he said, "No" He turned around and left. Akane paced back and forth in the dojo as she wondered why Ranma was acting the way he was. He had said nothing, and it bothered her. She had never seen him this bothered before. It was obvious that he was hiding something, but what. A student entered the dojo.
Akane felt a bit grateful that she could be distracted from her thoughts of Ranma. It was causing her pain to see Ranma being so troubled, and it was worse because she had no idea what it was about.
"Hello, Kenitsu," Akane said, "You're here pretty early"
"H-hello, s-sensei," the young boy said nervously. It was obvious that he was nervous being around Akane. Perhaps it was because he had a crush on her. At that moment, Ranma entered the dojo "I'm back" Akane turned toward Akane and her heart skipped a beat. She wasn't expecting to see Ranma back so early. He had only been gone for no more than a half an hour. It wasn't the fact that Ranma came back early that caught her by surprise, but the fact that Ranma was back to his old self. It was as if the thing that bothered him so much earlier had never happened, whatever it was.
Ranma nodded toward the young student before he went into the locker room.
After a few minutes, Ranma emerged fully dressed in the school's dogi. He looked over at Akane and smiled before he began stretching.
Akane just stood there, not knowing what to think. Ranma looked perfectly fine. But she soon assumed that Ranma was just hiding it, bottling it all in.
She walked up to Ranma and placed a hand on his shoulder "Um, h-how did it go?" She wanted to ask if he was all right, but she figured it was best not to.
"It went fine," he said as he turned to face her. He couldn't help but noticed how his body was responding to just a simple touch. It was just a casual touch. She was just putting her hand on his shoulder to get his attention. Well it did just that, and a whole lot more. His heart was beating faster than it was supposed to. As he looked into her eyes, he knew what she wanted to ask "Don't worry, I'm fine now. I get that way once a year" he smiled warmly.
"Oh, okay," Akane still thought he was trying to hide something. But there was nothing he could do. It was none of her business, and she had no right interfering in his personal affairs.

Ranma and Akane were both at the school to pick up Meggie and Jessie. Ukyo and Ryoga was already there when they had arrived. "Man, I'm going to have my hands full," Ranma commented as he realized how many things he had to get done before the party is expected to commence. Although he had sent out all the invitations, there was still more that had to be done. Since the party wouldn't start till later tonight, he wanted to put up some nice lighting in the backyard so there would be enough light. "Don't worry, we'll help," Ukyo said as she looked up at Ryoga before turning toward Ranma. She had every intention of helping out, even if Ranma refused their offer. It was the least she could do.
Ranma knew it was useless to argue, "Thanks. The first thing I hafta do is drop the kids off at my mom's. After that, I gotta go back to Akane's place to pick up their present. So I'll meet you at my house in about an hour" he sighed in relief "Man, I'm so glad that there aren't anymore classes. That way, we can get started and don't have to rush"
Meggie and Jessie and Miki emerged from the school at that moment, all of them jumping into their parents' arms. Akane was lucky enough to experience the same contentment Ranma felt when Meggie and Jessie hugged Akane in the same fashion as they did Ranma. "We'll see you in an hour," Ukyo said as she and Ryoga and Miki headed off toward town. They all wanted to grab a quick bite to eat before they get to work. Besides, they had an hour to waste.
Ukyo and Ryoga and Miki were already at Ranma's house when Ranma and Akane arrived. Ranma was carrying a large cage that held the little piglet he planned to give the twins as a present. He gently placed the cage on the ground as took out his keys and opened the door to let everyone into the house. Ukyo and Akane were helpful enough to carry the cage into the house when they both noticed that Ranma looked a bit tired from carrying it all the way from Akane's house.
"Where would you like me to put this?" Ukyo asked as she held the cage, adjusting herself a bit from the extreme weight. Although she and Akane were both in good physical condition, they couldn't help but notice how heavy the cage was.
Ranma cleared the coffee table in the livingroom "You two can place it right here" He was grateful that Akane and Ukyo and Ryoga were helping him out. They would make his job much easier and quicker.
"What should we get started on?" Ukyo said, pulling the sleeves of her shirt up. She was looking forward to spending the rest of the day helping out. Ryoga was eager to help out as best to his abilities, despite the fact that one of his arms was in a sling.
"Just wait here for a minute," Ranma said as he headed upstairs to pick up the decorations for the party. He came back downstairs after a few minutes carrying an armful of decorations and boxes of games.
Miki sat in front of the piano, striking a few keys, already bored out of her mind. Ranma noticed this as he handed everything to Akane and Ukyo "Hey,
Miki, can you do me a favor?"
"What favor?" "Can you keep piglet company for a while?" he said. He figured the little piglet would keep her occupied long enough for them to get everything done.
His guess was right when Miki's face lit up. Without saying a word, she opened the door to the cage and took the piglet into her arms. He smiled when P-chan remained in her arms, not bothering to scurry free. Ranma was grateful that that piglet seemed to be good with children "Just one thing, Miki, just keep him in the house"
"Okay," the little girl squeaked. She placed the piglet on the carpet and started to pet it, the piglet enjoying the attention.
Ranma turned to the rest of the group "Well, let's get started"
The twins loved their surprise party. They absolutely loved it. When their Daddy had brought them home to a house full of classmates and friends, they both gave him the biggest hug any eight year old could give. Receiving such affection from them had made going through the trouble of preparing the party more than worth it.
Ranma was out in the backyard with all the children while all the other adults remained in the house. Shampoo sighed as she gazed out the window. She couldn't wait till she and Mousse had their own children, couldn't wait to be the ones doing this in the near future. She actually felt jealous at how much enjoyment Ranma got from being with his daughters. She wanted that to happened to her also. Mousse walked up next to her, handing her a soft drink "Don't worry. In a few years from now, we'll be doing the same thing for our children" He stepped behind his wife and placed his arms around her as he kissed her gently kissed the nape of her neck.
"Ranma makes it look so easy," she said, "I wonder how he does it"
"I guess he's just good with children" her husband commented. He smiled as he looked out the window and caught sight of Ranma playing pin the tail on the donkey, missing the target completely. He stuck the tail on the fence that was about five feet away from its intended target. Shampoo giggled also at the site.
"Hey, check this out," Mousse said as he gestured for Akane and Kodachi to look out their window. Akane and Kodachi were both in the livingroom talking to each other. For some reason, the two of them had hit it off and soon became friends.
Akane didn't feel threatened by Kodachi because Ranma had mentioned earlier that he was only helping her out with her children, and that was it. Kodachi and Akane both got off the couch and stepped up to the window. Ryoga stayed in the livingroom, splaying with the piglet. It seemed he had taken a keen liking to the piglet all of a sudden.
"What is it?" Akane asked.
"Look," Shampoo said as she pointed toward Ranma, whom was still desperately trying to stick the tail in its proper place. Everyone laughed heartily. Ranma took his blindfold off, his face faulting as he realized how far off he was. He turned around and noticed everyone from within the house laughing.
"It's not as easy as it looks," Ranma said, "Why don't you try it? You'll see what I mean" He grinned as he challenged them "C'mon, give it a try"
"You're not going to sit there and take that are you?" Shampoo turned toward Mousse and nudged him. She smirked. knowing all to well that Ranma was referring to all of them.
Mousse looked confused "Me, he was talking to you. I'm sure of it"
"Look kiddies," Ranma said as he spoke to all the children "They're too chicken to play this game" He even went as far as to make some clucking noises, the children following his lead. Akane smiled inwardly at what Ranma had just done. It wasn't the fact that he got the children into the act, but the fact that he looked incredibly sexy doing such an immature thing.
"How about you Akane?" Ranma said with a smile, enjoying the moment "Maybe you'd like to give this a try. No. I dare you to try it" All the kids joined in "We dare ya. We dare ya"
Akane felt up to the challenge, "Oh yeah. I'll make you eat those words"
"Yeah, you go get him," Mousse said. For some reason, Akane must have misinterpreted the meaning of what he had said for she blushed for a moment. But when she realized what Mousse was implying, she managed to bring back her composure. Akane could feel her heart racing as she headed out to the backyard, all the kids surrounding her in the excitement. They were screaming in delight that someone was up to the challenge.
"C'mon Akane," both Meggie and Jessie said, "we know you can do it"
"Thanks guys," Akane said. Before she realized, she was being surrounded by all the little girls while the little boys surrounded Ranma. It looked like it would be a war between males and females.
"I guess you're representing all the girls here and I the boys," Ranma said with a smirk "You still up to it"
Akane laughed heartily as she gave him a mischievous grin "I'm not gonna back down now" She walked up to Ranma and turned around for him to put the blindfold on. By now, the rest of the adults had emerged from the house and into the backyard.
Ranma walked up to Akane gently placed the blindfold over her eyes. His heart was beating rapidly as he did so. He was so close to Akane. He could see the nape of her neck, and he felt compelled to kiss it. He was so close that he could smell the scent of her shampoo. It smelled divine, and it was giving him a sensory overload. He could feel the hairs of his neck stand on end as he realized just how much he wanted to turn her around to face him so he could kiss her.
Although Akane's eyes were blindfold, she knew Ranma's eyes were on her. She could feel his warm gaze regarding her. She could feel this warm feeling surrounding her as she stood still. She didn't want that feeling to end. When Ranma's hand brushed against the nape of her neck when tying the blindfold on, she could feel her heart jump. Although it was by accident, she kind of wished it wasn't. She wished he had intended to touch her. She pictured that it wasn't his hand touching the back of her neck, but his lips. She wouldn't mind him given her butterfly kisses on her naked neck. She sighed, wishing it wasn't accidental.
Ranma managed to catch himself before he went any further. He had reached out and touched her neck, wanting to feel her soft skin. He would had done more if it weren't for the fact that there were people watching. But when he had touched her, she didn't move. He assumed she figured it was an accident. He sighed, wishing she had responded to his touch.
"Okay" Ranma said "You ready?"
"Go ahead kids, give her a good spin," he said as he stepped back. The kids rushed her and started spinning her around. After a few moments, they stopped and Akane was left to pin the tail on the donkey.
Ranma turned around to face the other adults "Well, what about you guys? Are you going to give it a try?" All of them pretended they were preoccupied with watching the beautiful evening sky "Fine, be that way- Ow!"
A burst of laughter from both the adults and kids echoed throughout the entire backyard. Akane had just pinned the tail on Ranma. Akane pulled the blindfold off, only to get a great view of Ranma's backside and the tail she had pinned on it. She blushed a moment, but then she broke out in laughter, unable to control herself. She should had been embarrassed, but she couldn't do anything but laugh.
Ranma pulled the pin off his rear end as he grinned at Akane "So, you want to play that way, huh? Now's my turn" He pretended he was going to go after Akane and pin the tail on her this time. But before he could do anything, Meggie shouted out "Stop Daddy, everybody," she said, "Don't let him hurt our leader"
Ranma pretended to become really scared "Oh no" He fell to the ground as if he had tripped. Before he knew it, actually, he was expecting it, everyone had piled on top of him, pinning him to the ground.
"You can't stop me," he said with a laugh, "I must pin the tail on Akane"
Akane watched in amusement as Ranma pretended he couldn't get up from the pile of children. Ranma was easily capable of freeing himself, but he seemed to enjoy pretending he couldn't.
Mousse stepped up next to Akane, turning toward he as he smiled "Man, I wish I was a kid again. Don't you?"
Akane nodded. She loved how Ranma acted like a child, and it made her want to love him even more. It wasn't as if Ranma was trying to retain his childhood through acting like a child, but rather enjoying his adulthood but with a childish charm to it. This was like the Ranma she had gotten to know, nothing like the one that was acting differently this afternoon. This was the side of Ranma she could definitely get used to. She knew he was in love with him, but she didn't know if the feelings were mutual. "He seems to enjoy this party more than anyone else," Shampoo commented as she stepped up to the two. She wrapped and arm around her husband's waist as he placed his arm over one of her shoulders.
"Hey Akane, why aren't you helping us out?" Meggie said as she looked up at Akane. She and everyone else were still trying to keep Ranma pinned down. Akane pointed at herself "M-me?" She blushed. She realized what that would mean. It meant she would have to get on top of him, and that was way too intimate for her. She knew she could not get on top of him while the children were beneath her. Although she was light, her weight would be too much for a child to bear. Meggie got off the pile and tugged at Akane's arm "C'mon, help us. He's gettin' up" Before she realized, a bunch of children had quickly gotten off as she was pulled down on top of Ranma. "W-what the..." Ranma managed to blurt out before Akane was brought down on top of him, her chest pressed down on his. Before Akane had a chance to get back up, all the children piled on top of the both of them. Ranma had no idea what to do. Akane's body was pressed firmly against his, and it felt great. His lips were only mere inches away from Akane's. He could felt her breasts pressed against his chest, and he knew he wouldn't be able to keep himself from kissing her right then and there. He wanted to wrap his arms around her and kiss her passionately. But somehow, he managed to control himself. Because he knew there were children around, he had managed to contain his desires. As Akane was under everyone, she could feel Ranma heartbeat through his chest. She could feel his bodyheat enter into her body, and it was making her hot. She could feel his muscular chest against her breasts, and legs pressed against hers, and his...
"Okay kids, that's enough," Ranma said reluctantly "You can let us up now"
Even though he was enjoying the sensations that was assailing his body, he knew he wouldn't be able to hold out much longer.
The kids got up off the two adults. Akane got to her feet first, helping Ranma up. She felt a bit disappointed that she could remain that way for a little longer. But not only that, but because of how Ranma quickly told the kids to get off, as if he didn't enjoy the being so close to her.
Ranma dusted himself off as he turned to Akane and smiled meekly "Sorry about that. I didn't know something like that was going to happen" "I-it's okay," she said. But it wasn't.
"Can we play another game?" Miki said. Ranma turned toward Miki "Okay, what would you like to play?"
"How about hide and seek?" she suggested. Before she knew it, everyone else agreed. They all shouted that they play that game. Ranma smiled as he said "Okay, I'm it. All of you go and hide" All the children quickly ran into the house to hide. It was clear that everyone was enjoying the party. Even Mousse was starting to get into it.
"I'm going to join them," he said as he raced off into the house. But before he did, he turned to face everyone still outside in the backyard to say "Hey, adults should act like kids once in a while" He smiled again before turning around and entering the house.
"Oh my god," Shampoo said "Even my husband is getting into the act.
Oh well, I guess I might as well enjoy myself" She quickly ran into the house.

"We had a wonderful time" Shampoo said. She gave Ranma a hug and kissed him kiss on his cheek "This is a day we will never forget. I haven't had this much fun in years. I'm glad you invited us"
Ranma smiled warmly to the young couple, returning Shampoo's friendly embrace "I'm glad you came"
"Well, until next time, see you later," Mousse said. He placed his jacket over Shampoo and opened the umbrella Ranma had lent them. Together, he and Shampoo stepped out into the evening rain and headed toward home. Before they disappeared around a corner, they turned around and waved him one last time.
It was now getting pretty close to midnight. It had began to rain about an hour ago, just shortly after the party had ended. Kodachi was the first to head home, her kids about to fall asleep. It seemed like she didn't want to worry about getting them home after they had fallen asleep. Miki had fallen asleep pretty early, and Ukyo had decided it was best to take her home to put her to bed. Ryoga had followed her and Miki back to Ukyo's place. It seems like he would most likely spend the night there. Shampoo and Mousse had stayed behind to help fix some of the thing that were left behind after the party had ended. But now that they had finished, they felt it was best to leave.
Akane was the only one who remained. She was busy trying to get a stain out of the livingroom rug where one of the kids had spilled the juice. She was just about finished when Ranma entered the room.
"You don't have to do that, Akane" Ranma said softly, "Would you like anything to drink?"
Akane got up from her knees "Oh, don't worry about it. It was no problem.
No thank you. I'm not that thirsty" She looked up at Ranma and was caught a bit off guard when she noticed that Ranma looked sad again "Is there something wrong?"
Ranma walked up to the fireplace and picked a photo up off the mantle. He looked at the clock. It read now exactly midnight. As of right now, the day came to a close, and a new day began. He sat down on the couch and looked deeply into the picture. He put the picture on the coffee table as he placed his face in his hands "Just one minute ago, it was her birthday"
Akane looked at Ranma curiously "Whose birthday?"
"It's horrible" he said, his voice wavering "How could I have been so stupid? I shouldn't have reacted quick enough"
Akane had no idea what he was talking about, but all she knew she could do was listen carefully. She knew, at that moment, Ranma was revealing something about himself that she never knew. She sat down next to him, yearning to reach out and hold him. But she refrained herself. She didn't know what to do.
"Yesterday was her birthday," he continued, "Her birthday was on the same day as Meggie and Jessie's. It just so happens, that was the same day she died" His face remained covered in his hand as he spoke "Eight years ago, my first daughter had died"
Akane gasped in horror, not knowing what to say. She had never realized that Ranma had a daughter before Miki.
"It was her second birthday. She and I were out on the town celebrating," his voice was soft, barely audible "We were crossing the street when out of nowhere..." he stood up, his back toward Akane. He picked up the picture and looked at it. Akane noticed that it was the picture of Ranma standing before a tombstone.
Tears were beginning to form around her eyes. She had no idea Ranma had gone through something this terrible.
"We were crossing a street..." he said, "when out of nowhere, a car runs the red light...I should have reacted quick enough to get out of the way. We were both hit by the car, but I...I survived...she died on the way to the hospital"
Akane started to silently cry. Her tears started flowing freely. It must have been horrible. She couldn't believe how much pain Ranma had to endure.
Every time it was his daughters' birthday, it also signified his other's. Through some tragic twist of fate, Ranma's first daughter had died on the same day the twins were born. As she sat there, things started to make sense.
That was why he needed time off the other day. He wanted to pay his respects to his late-daughter. "It was all my fault. I should have seen the car coming," he said, "I wanted to kill myself because of what had happened..." Akane remembered what Ukyo had said, about what she said about Ranma once wanting to die. Now she realized he wanted to die because a part of his life had been destroyed. But since the birth of his other daughters, he found a reason to go on.
"It wasn't your fault," Akane said, trying to be the voice of reason, "Like you said, the car ran the red light"
"But I should have seen it coming," he said, his back still toward her "And why did I have to be the one to survive?"
Akane said nothing. She couldn't say anything. She wiped the tears from her eyes but for some reason, they wouldn't stop.
"There's not one day I go through without thinking about her, about how I have failed her" he said, "I was born to an abusive father. My daughter died on the same day the twins were born. My wife left me. And pretty soon..." he stopped, not wanting to continue on. He shook his head "And what hurts is that it was all my fault. I should have been a better kid when I was young.
I should have seen the car coming. I should have been a better husband"
"It's not your fault," she said, "None of that was your fault"
Ranma was breaking down. He couldn't stop himself from speaking. He turned toward Akane "My life means nothing to me. I don't care if anything happens to me"
Akane gasped.
"All I want is for my children to live a happy life," he said, "I don't want them to go through the same things I went through. That's why I spoil them, because I don't want to turn into my father. That's why I never want to be away from them, cause I don't want to lost them like I did my first daughter. I should have died with my daughter" "But what about Meggie and Jessie and Miki," Akane said, "If you had died,
then what would have happened to them?"
Ranma said nothing. He sat down on the couch again, placing his face back in his hands. "I-I'd like to be alone?" he didn't bother to look up at her. He was ashamed to let Akane see him this way.
Akane got off the couch and took a step toward him "A-are you sure?"
Ranma nodded.
"I'll go check on the kids," she said. She gave him one last glance before she headed upstairs toward Meggie and Jessie's room. Once upstairs, she stepped into their room. Both twins were both sound asleep. She walked up to Meggie and gently brushed a bang off her face. She then walked over to Jessie and tucked her in.
Akane sat down in a chair as she looked into the corner of the room. There was a small box where P-chan was sleeping soundly. The piglet didn't even crack an eye open when she had entered the room. She gazed out the window,
her mind on Ranma. She had no idea Ranma was living with a burden like this on his shoulders. She couldn't believe he had a daughter that died on this very day over eight years ago. How horrible it must had been for him to live with the thought that his first daughter had died on the same day Meggie and Jessie were born. Not only that, but he had to live with the though that he survived while his daughter died. It must be tearing him apart to wonder why it couldn't have been the other way around.
"Is that you, Akane?" came a soft voice from her right. Akane turned to face Jessie. The little girl was looking at Akane through half opened eyes.
She yawned once as she sat upright, her blanket falling down into her lap.
"Yes, honey, it's me," Akane said as gently laid the child back down "Just go back to sleep" she placed the blanket back over Jessie as the little child closed her eyes. As she looked down at Jessie, Akane knew that she had fallen in love with Ranma's children. Every time she was near them, she felt this instinct within her to love them, as if it were always meant to be. She wanted children just like them. No. She wanted them for her children. She would change nothing about them.
She wondered about how this could possibly happen. Miki was also Ranma's, and so was the girl that died when she and Ranma were hit by a car. But the thing was, was that the girl would now be older than Miki, meaning that she had been born before Miki. That didn't add up. That would mean Ranma's wife must had been pregnant before Ukyo got pregnant. The only logical reason she could come up with was if he and his wife had split, Ranma got together with Ukyo for a night, and then his wife walked back into his life. That made sense. But then again, Ranma never mentioned if the first daughter was Ranma and his wife's. It was either that or Ranma had committed adultery. Akane didn't dare to think of the possibility.
Akane watched Jessie for quite a while before she was sure she was asleep. When she looked at the clock on the dresser draw, she realized that close to a half an hour had passed. She wondered it enough time had elapsed for her to go back downstairs. She decided to wait for a little longer.
Ranma was in the livingroom, his back to Akane as he sat on the couch, still quietly staring at the photo when Akane came down over an hour later. He had been so intent on the picture in his hands that he wasn't away of Akane's presence, not even when she entered the room, leaning against the doorjamb.
She took a careful step forward, wanting to comfort him from all the pain, but she didn't know what to do. She couldn't believe how much pain Ranma burdened. She had never met someone that suffered so much through the years. And what was sad was the fact that she would had never known, not unless he had told her. She had always thought Ranma would be living the good life, not a care in the world except for his children. But the truth was nowhere near what she had expected.
"R-Ranma," she said softly. She had to do something. She gently placed a hand on his shoulder.
He didn't say a word, still looking down at the picture. When she looked down into his hands, she caught sight of teardrops on the glass frame. Ranma was crying. He didn't want to look up at her, ashamed of himself for letting his emotions get the better of him. He had kept control of his emotions all his life, but here he was, unable to do anything to stop them from flowing.
"They won't stop," Ranma finally after a long silence. He looked up at Akane, tears gently trickling down the side of his face. He tried to wipe them away, but they continued to flow, his tears glistening in the gently moonlight that was shining through one of the open livingroom windows.
Akane walked around the couch and sat down next to him "Don't worry, Ranma. It's okay"
Ranma tried to smile, but it couldn't hide away his pain "This has never happened to me. I've never cried before in my life, not even when my father...not even when my father beat me until I was unconscious" He stood up "I can deal with the physical pain...but I can't deal with the emotional. It's tearing me apart"
"I'm sorry, Ranma," she said softly, the tears already beginning to form around her own eyes. She had seen men cry before, but this was one man she didn't want to cry. It tore away at her. There was nothing she could do to stop those tears. She was totally helpless.
"I've always wondered," Ranma started, his back toward Akane, not wanting her to see him like that "I always wondered if that day should have been my time...but through some horrible twist of fate, my daughter was taken away instead of me"
"No," Akane said, "That's not true. You can't think like that. You were meant to survive"
"I want all the pain to go away" he said, his voice, almost inaudible. All his life, he had kept this bottled up, but tonight, he couldn't stop everything from coming out "As soon as Meggie and Jessie are grown up, I want everything to end. I don't want to go on anymore. When I was put in the hospital after my father beat me so bad, I should have died that night"
Akane gasped. Ranma was speaking like he was suicidal. She couldn't believe what she was hear. Ranma wants to die. He was slowly moving into the realms of depression. And just a few short hours ago, he was having the time of his life, laughing, enjoying being alive. Was it all an act?
Ranma sad back down on the couch, his tears finally starting to subside "There are times I wondered if it would have been better if I had died that night in the hospital"
Akane started to sob, "Please, don't say that" She leaned forward and embraced Ranma, needing to burden some of his pain. It was a natural instinct. If Ranma was suffering this much, she would gladly burden for him, just so he wouldn't have to.
As Akane held him in her arms, she felt Ranma's body tense of up a second, not really knowing how to react to her warm embrace. But after a short while, he began to relax, soon returning the much needed embrace.
"I bet you think I'm some piece of scum," he said out of nowhere, catching Akane by surprise.
"W-what? Why would you think I would think of something like that?" she said shocked. She was more shocked that it had crossed her mind a short while ago, on how he had a daughter and had gotten Ukyo pregnant.
"It's kinda weird," he started out, "Shori was pregnant with our first daughter, Allison, and I never knew about it, not until she comes walking back into my life after leaving me for the first time. She wanted to pursue her dreams over in the states rather than stay here. We broke up and she left for America. And then soon, over a year after we had split, Ukyo came back into my life. We started to see each other, and then soon, we became..." he paused, trying to think of some better words "And then, we soon became intimate with each other," He began after taking a deep breath "But during that time, Shori walks back into my life, a changed person. Ukyo actually thinks I met Shori for the first time when Ukyo and I were seeing each other, but Shori and I knew each other before then. Seeing how Shori had changed, I took her back, and Ukyo and I broke up. Ukyo left, carrying with her who is now Miki at the time. Shori, when she enters my life, she shows me the daughter I never knew I had. And I accept her with all my heart, just like I did with Miki. At first, I didn't believe it, but blood tests proved that she was, indeed, mine. Allison was one at the time. And soon, after getting back together, we get married, and Shori gets pregnant with Meggie and Jessie. After the twins are born, she leaves again..."
Akane said nothing. She had done nothing but listened carefully, absorbing in everything.
After a short moment of silence, Ranma got up off the couch. He didn't want to talk about his past anymore. Every time he had to mention it, it pained him. It was best that he did something to keep his mind occupied "I-I'm going to go check up on Meggie and Jessie. I'll be right back" His voice was soft, almost not his own.
Akane watched as Ranma slowly walked up the stairs, seemingly all right, but most likely not. It seemed he needed some more time alone, to sort out his feelings. But she knew she would not leave it like that. Ranma needed her, and tonight was when he needed her the most, except he didn't know it. She would continue to stay by his side, even into the wee hours of the morning if she'd have to.

Meggie was crying as Ranma held her when Akane finally decided to go upstairs to see what was taking so long. When Ranma hadn't come down after twenty or so minutes, she wanted to see if everything was all right.
"It's okay," she heard Ranma say as she peered in through the open door "Daddy's here"
Akane entered the bedroom, noticing how visibly shaken the little girl seemed. Tears were running down her little angelic face, tears that didn't suit her. A girl like that should never shed a tear in her life.
"I was so scared it was you, Daddy," Meggie said between sobs "I was so scared you were the one hitting me"
Akane gasped as she realized what the little girl was talking about. Meggie had had a nightmare where Ranma was abusing her. At that moment, she realized the extent of just how powerful something like that could be on a person's life. And here, Ranma actually lived through the experience, not just dreamt about it.
"Don't worry, honey," Ranma said softly as he gently rocked the little girl in his arms as he held her, walking around in little circles "Daddy's right here. I'll never do something like that. Never" Akane caught sight of Ranma when his back wasn't toward her. She noticed he, too, had tears. She realized that Ranma was crying over the thought that he would turn into the same kind of monster his own father was. He would never allow that to happen to his little girls. Never. He would rather die than cause them any harm.
The abuse Ranma received when he was young seemed to have made its way into his daughter's dreams. Even though nothing had really happened, it was still very disturbing to both him and Meggie.
"I didn't do anything bad," Meggie said.
"I know you didn't" her father said through clenched teeth. He wished he could do something to get rid of Meggie's nightmare. He remembered asking himself that same question after he found himself lying in his own bed, riddled with real bruises from real beating from his own father. Even in dreams, he didn't want Meggie the experience the horrible ordeal he had experienced.
Meggie cause sight of Akane through her teary eyes "Akane, I was so scared. It looked so real"
"It's all right," Akane said softly, careful not to wake Jessie up "Your Daddy would never do anything like that. Never" Ranma looked over toward Akane and gave her a smile, silently thanking her for her support "You see, honey, Akane even agrees. You have to believe me. Nothing bad will ever happen to you. I promise"
It took over twenty minutes of convincing before the little girl finally fell asleep again. Once asleep, Ranma gently placed Meggie back in her bed and tucked her in. He kissed her on her forehead, and then did the same for Jessie before he left the room with Akane.
"Thanks for you help back there," Ranma said to Akane as he gently closed the bedroom door behind him "Meggie was utterly convinced that the dream was real until you intervened"
"About that dream," Akane started out slowly "I-is that what you had to go through?" She had never been abused so she had never really known how much of an affect it could had caused. She never even had friends or known anyone that was abused. When she noticed Ranma hesitate for a second she spoke "I-I'm sorry. I didn't mean to ask something so personal" She looked down toward the floor, ashamed of asking such a ridiculous question.
"If you mean the dreams, I never went through that," Ranma said after a short while "I never had dreams like that. I actually had to experience them"
Without saying another word, Ranma went downstairs.
Akane went downstairs several minutes, a bit ashamed at asking a question like that. It was none of her business. But for some reason she had to ask. She had to know.
Ranma was in the kitchen when Akane realized that he was no where to be found. When she entered in, he had a cut of coffee ready for her. He handed it to her "Are you staying?"
Akane was caught off guard for a moment. She had no idea if she wanted to stay. Of course she did, but she didn't know if she should. Would she be overstaying her welcome if she did? But then again, Ranma looked like he really needed her the most. "What do you think?" she asked, trying to avoid having to answer. She didn't know what she wanted. "It doesn't really matter," he said softly, taking a sip of his own coffee "I wouldn't mind you staying, but there'll be nothing for you to do" Ranma kept silent on the thoughts that raced through his mind on how he would be able to keep her busy. Now was not the time to be thinking of something like that. Akane blushed a bit when she thought of something. She was grateful she had it under control before Ranma had a chance to notice. She couldn't believe she could be thinking of something like that, especially at a time like now.
Not wanting to stay her welcome, Akane figured it was best that she left "I guess it's best that I leave. There's no real reason for me to stay. Except for the fact that I want to be with you" She didn't' dare say the last sentence aloud. It was a selfish reason.
Ranma seemed a bit disappointed when she said no "Oh, okay" He walked over to a nearby closet and took out an umbrella, handing it to her "It's raining out pretty bad now. Here, take this umbrella. I don't want ya gettin' drenched. I'd walk you home, but the kids are asleep"
"No, don't worry about it," Akane said as she took hold of the umbrella, their hands touching each others for a split second. Akane noticed the heat that radiated through her causing her body temperature to rise a bit. She wondered if she should use the umbrella at all. She needed the rain to cool her off "I-I'm all right. I can't make it home by myself, but thanks for the offer anyway"
Ranma walked Akane to the front door and opened it for her. There was a long pause as both looked at each other, waiting for the other to do something. Before she knew it, Ranma leaned forward and kissed Akane good night. The kiss was soft and warm, but it lasted for a split second. Akane found herself silently gasping for air as she realized she was out of breath "G'night, Akane," he said warmly.
Akane returned the smile.
"G'night, Ranma,"

Chapter 34

Akane was jogging down the street, her mind on Ranma, that beautiful morning. There was nothing that would really keep her from her morning jog. She needed it to clear her mind. The sun was just beginning to peek out in the distant horizon as Akane stopped to watch its majestic ascent. Although her gaze was on the beauty before her, her mind wasn't. She had been thinking about ever since she got home very early in the morning. She had had very little sleep that night also.
She felt this sunken feeling in her heart as she thought about him, wondering how he had managed to cope with such tragedies throughout his life. When her father had died, she had been devastated. To this day, she never stopped thinking of her father, of how wonderful a person he was. And here Ranma was, living on as if nothing had happened, carrying burdens much worse than she did.
Akane caught sight of Ranma as he was walking his daughters to school. Her heart leapt at the sight of him, despite that he hadn't noticed her yet. She looked at her watch and noticed that it was about an hour before school started. That meant Ranma must be taking his daughters out for some breakfast.
Her gaze was held fast on Ranma as he walked down the sidewalk, each of his daughter's hands in his own. She smiled as she saw Meggie and Jessie trying to play tag against one another, using Ranma in the middle as a shield from the other. But what really made her smile was when she saw Ranma smile as he let the kids play around him. She couldn't' believe this was the same man she was with just a few hours ago, the same man that had broken down to tears. She wondered if Meggie and Jessie knew. It was most unlikely.
Akane found watching Ranma from across the street. Her smiled faded a bit when she noticed several females turn their attention toward him as he walked past them. Even though Ranma belonged to no one, she couldn't help but feel tinge of jealousy. It was just the way she was.
"Where are we going, Daddy?" Meggie said in her usual cheery self. It looked like she had forgotten completely about that nightmare last night.
"Breakfast, honey," he said in a soft voice. He swung Meggie and Jessie into the air as they held onto his arms like they were monkey bars.
"Hey, it's Chiako," Jessie beeped as she let go of Ranma's arm and ran forward, grabbing onto a young black haired girl's leg "Hiya, Chiako"
Ranma regarded the girl for a second. She was dressed in some simple clothes, nothin extravagant. It consisted of sweat pants and a sweat shirt. He knew it was the girl who helped Jessie out when she got lost in the amusement park. He also remembered hugging her because there were other girls around teasing her, and he did that just to get rid of them.
"Hello, Chiako," Ranma said with a smile, which seemed to make the young girl nervous. "H-hi," she said nervously, too scared to look up into Ranma's beautiful blue eyes through those thick glasses she wore. She felt extremely self-
conscious of herself as she stood before him. She could feel his gaze on her, but for some reason, his gaze seemed warm and soft, not critical like how most others looked at her.
"Daddy, ask her to breakfast with us," Jessie said, tugging at Ranma's leg. Although she would prefer having breakfast with Akane, she still enjoyed the company. Ranma gave Jessie a pat on the head "Fine," He then turned toward Chiako "So, what do you say? Would you like to have breakfast with us? Jessie here insists" Chiako was thinking of an excuse to say no, but she couldn't. As she stood before Ranma, her mind wasn't working anymore. She couldn't even think straight. The world was spinning. She remembered him offering her dinner at the amusement park, but she had declined. But she really regretted her decision when she would stay at home, wondering what might had had happened if she had actually gone with him. She even fantasized a bit, dreaming of a possibility where he would even go as far as to fall in love with her. But this wasn't some fantasy. It was reality. "C'mon, Chiako, come eat breakfast with us," Jessie urged, now tugging on the young girls pant leg.
Chiako gave Ranma a meaningful glance, noticing that he just continued to smile warmly. There was nothing Ranma could really do. He could tell Jessie to stop, but she would still insist. But he had to try.
"You should leave her alone" he said "She's probably very busy"
"Oh no," she said "I'm not," Even though it was true, she wished she hadn't said so. She felt just way too nervous around Ranma, and the thought of having breakfast with him and his kids were too much for her. She wasn't used to something like this. She usually ate alone.
"C'mon, have dinner with us," Jessie continued to insist.
Ranma chuckled as he shrugged his shoulder "Hey, they're persistent. You have to give them that" He took hold of Jessie's arm "Come on, just leave her alone. She just doesn't want to have breakfast with us. That's all she probably ate"
"Is it because you don't like me?" Jessie asked as she turned her attention toward Chiako, a hurt expression in her eyes.
"Of course not, honey," she said. She didn't really want to tell the truth. It would be too embarrassing for her to tell the little girl that she was too nervous being around her Daddy. She tried to come up with the best excuse, coming up with nothing. She finally succumbed.
Although she was nervous and all, being around Jessie seemed to relax her. And the thought of making the child happy seemed to ease her nerves a bit, allowing her to think a bit more clearly. She brought her eye level down to Jessie's and spoke "I'll go with you to breakfast, but only on one condition,"
"What is it? What is it?"
"I get to sit next to you," she said, touching the little girl on the nose. She couldn't help be smile at just how cute she looked. When she noticed Jessie's sister, she smiled again.
"Well, it's settled then. Let's go eat" Ranma said with a smile "I'm starved" He gestured toward Meggie when he saw Chiako regarding her "Chiako, this is Jessie's sister, Meggie"
"Hiya," Meggie said with a smile as bright as her sibling.
Jessie slipped her hand in Chiako's hands "C'mon, let's go. I wanna eat"
"You're the boss," Ranma said.
Together, Chiako and Ranma and his children walked off.
Akane had watched the entire thing from across the street. Her heart plummeted as she saw Jessie give that young girl a hug. She wondered if this woman was Ranma's ex-wife. Could she be Meggie and Jessie's parents? She felt threatened, wondering if this was indeed the woman Ranma had married. Sure, she wasn't gorgeous or nothing, very beautiful in another way, on the inside. And Ranma was beyond something as superficial as look.
Akane leaned against a building, noticing how horrible her day had just turned into. No longer feeling like jogging, Akane headed home.
Ranma entered the dojo shortly after eight-thirty. He looked like he was back to his usual self. Akane was in her office when he entered, which gave her a start. Her mind had been elsewhere. She had been wondering who that woman was the whole time since she had gotten home over an hour ago. She had been sitting in her chair the whole time. Akane made herself look busy as she started to look through some papers.
"Guess who I met today," Ranma said as he made himself comfortable sitting in the chair in front of Akane's desk "You remember when we all went to the amusement park the other day and Jessie got lost?"
Akane remembered that day clearly. That was a day she would most likely never forget. She had been deathly terrified for Jessie's safety, fearing the worst had happened to her. A great burden had been lifted off her chest when she found out that Ranma had found her not too long after they split up "Y-
yeah, I remember that day. Why?" She just didn't bother to tell him just how vividly she remembered it.
"And that I told you I found Jessie with this young girl?" he continued.
"Well, the girls and I just met her this morning on our way to breakfast," he said "And we went to breakfast with her. Jessie seems really fond of her. She kept insisting that I allow Chiako, that's her name, join us. Of course, Chiako didn't really want to, but I guess she finally gave in"
Akane listened carefully, almost holding her breath. She realized that Ranma must be talking about that woman she had seen. She was hoping he would tell her what they meant to each other.
"Jessie's quite fond of her" Ranma continued "Even though I only saw her for the second time, Chiako's a nice girl. She works at that Mizunkan Hospital. Remember when we were there visiting Ryoga there, and I went off to talk to someone? Well, I wanted to see if she was workin' that night, but it was her day off. Anyway, it was nice to bump into her again. Hey, you okay?" "Me?" Akane said as she pointed to herself "I'm fine. Couldn't be better. It's just hat there's still a lot of paperwork to do, that's all. I guess I waited a little too long before I decided to get to them" She was having trouble hiding the relief that washed over her. She was also a bit embarrassed at jumping to conclusions when she had first seen her.
Ranma reached forward and took hold of some of the paper. He glanced through it before turning to Akane.
"If it'll help you any, I can stay here a little later to help you finish before I have to go home an get ready. It's no problem. I don't know if I can help much, but I'll try" "Get ready?" Akane asked, "Get ready for what?"
He leaned back precariously in his chair, his hands behind his head. He peered out the open office door and saw a student entering, most likely here for some extra help with his techniques. He smiled before he got up off his chair and spoke right left the room "Hey, I hope you didn't forget about the little plan when had from a while back"
Akane looked at Ranma curiously. What was he talking about? What plans? Then, she realized what he was talking about. She couldn't believe it had slipped her mind. Ranma was referring it the dinner plans they made several nights ago, the plans they made as a way of thanks for her buying all those clothes for Meggie and Jessie. Her heart soared as she realized that tonight was the night. He would take her out to some fancy restaurant and they would have dinner together. But she felt a bit disappointed when she remembered that Ranma would be bringing along Meggie and Jessie, but it didn't really bothered her one bit at all. She liked being around them. They always brought a smile to her lips.
She look down at the paperwork. She realized that she now had an incentive to work faster to get them done. If she finished early, then that meant they could go out to dinner earlier. She quickly went about with the paperwork. She'd be done in no time. Two hours tops. But she wondered if she would be able to concentrate completely on the task on hand. Her mind kept on wandering off on to Ranma for some reason.
A short time passed, as Akane was left alone to work by herself. But soon, the quietness was broken when there was a knock at the door.
Akane was momentarily startled from the sudden noise. She looked at a nearby clock and noticed that only a half an hour had passed since Ranma left, and he wasn't supposed to be back for another half hour. The clock read three, and he was expected to be picking his daughters up right around now. Why was he back at the dojo? "Did you forget something?" Akane said as got up off her chair and proceeded toward the door.
Akane was caught by surprise when she opened the door and realized that it wasn't Ranma. It's was a young woman, a very beautiful young woman. "Oh, I'm sorry, I thought you were someone else," Akane said as she regarded the woman for a moment. Akane noticed that the woman looked to be around the same age as her. She was clad in a casual brown business suit that with seemed to match the color of the beautiful mane of silky brown hair, which hung down her back to her shoulder blades. She wasn't wearing any makeup, which seemed to make her look even more attractive. Her beauty made Akane feel a bit self-
conscious of herself. "Hello," Akane said, "I'm Akane Tendo"
The woman bowed courteously and smiled warmly to Akane "Hello, I'm Shori Saotome. I'm sorry to bother you, but is Ranma, here?"

"I hope you're going to be hungry later tonight," Ranma said as he and his daughters walked along toward their home. He was holding each other their hands.
"How come?" Jessie asked, staring up at her Daddy with those beautiful chocolate brown eyes of hers.
"Cause we're going to eat out tonight," he said, "Remember those clothes Akane got you? Well, we're going to take her out to dinner to show her our thanks. How does that sound?" He smiled to himself, looking forward to tonight. The thought of having a nice dinner with Akane seemed to make his entire day brighter, despite the fact that his wife never came to wish their kids a happy birthday last night "I'm going to come pick you up at around six, so can you two please be ready? We're just going to stop at home for a short while to pick up some of your clothes, and they'll we'll head on over the grandma's"
"But I like what you cook, Daddy," Jessie said, tugging at Ranma's pant leg. She wanted him to pick her up and carry her. Ranma did so without needing to be told twice. He had her sit on top of his shoulders, one arm held tautly over Jessie's legs so she wouldn't fall while his other hand was holding one of Meggie's.
"Well, Daddy needs a break every now and then," he said, "And maybe if you're lucky, you might get a new Mommy" He never said the last words, but thought of it. It was so evident on his face of what he was thinking that he might as well said it aloud. Luckily, none of his daughters saw the expression on his face.
Together, the three of them headed for home.

Shori followed Akane into the dojo office and she sat down in the chair in front of Akane's desk. She crossed her slender legs, adjusting her skirt so it would conceal her legs a bit more appropriately. "Are you his sister?" Akane asked. She noticed that Shori had the same family name as Ranma. But for some reason, there was this ache in the pit of her stomach.
Shori looked at Akane for a second "Um, yes, I am. Is my brother here?" She knew Ranma had feelings for Akane. That was why she hid the truth. Shori still loved Ranma, and she knew that if she told the truth, it might cause some definite complications between Ranma and Akane, and he didn't want to hurt him in the least bit. Not ever. Not again. Akane felt a wave of relief wash over her. For a moment, she thought this woman was Ranma's wife. Akane felt a bit embarrassed for even thinking that. It was absurd that something like that would cross her mind. He wasn't married. If he was, he would have told her. She never saw him wearing a wedding ring, and he never indicated that he was married. If he were, then he wouldn't had done the things he did, like that passionate kiss in the bathtub, the kiss in front of her house, and that kiss last night. Those were things a married man shouldn't be doing, and since Ranma was a very honorable person, he would never commit any form of adultery.
Shori smiled inwardly to herself. She could tell that Akane was in love with Ranma also. She knew that Ranma seemed to have this affect on women. She remembered the nights she spent home alone, wondering if Ranma was cheating on her with some woman, only to feel like a fool when she would realize that he probably stayed out late because he wanted to pick up some groceries one the way home.
"Hm, it seems you have a thing for Ranma, right?" Shori said was a warm smile. It was none of her business really to ask personal question like that. Actually, it was her business. She was married to the man. But she wasn't the kind of woman to ask something like that.
Akane blushed beet-red. She couldn't believe Ranma's sister read her like a book. Was it that obvious? Was she that obvious around Ranma? Probably not because he would have acknowledged it.
Shori laughed, "I guess that proves it. Don't worry, I won't tell him"
Akane tried to will her blushing away, but it was futile. Her cheeks were flared bright red, and there was nothing she could do about it.
"Anyway, is Ranma around?" Shori asked, changing the subject. She wondered how happy Akane's life would be if she and Ranma wed. Akane would probably live a happy life. That is, if she could handle the extra baggage Ranma came with, Meggie and Jessie. Shori would still be with Ranma to this day if it weren't for the kids. She just wasn't good with kids, and it knew it. She loved Meggie and Jessie with all her heart. She even missed them. But she made the choice to leave Ranma and the children behind to pursue her career. She knew she wasn't cut out to be a mother, and it showed. She didn't want Meggie and Jessie to be raised by someone like her. Her career took precedence over family, meaning she would rarely ever be home to care for them. She might as well be considered a stranger in their lives if she ever did try to stay with them.
"He went out to pick the kids up, he'll be back in a little while," Akane replied. She looked at the clock for a moment before turning her attention back to Shori "He should be back any minute now"
"I'll go wait in front for him," Shori said, quickly getting up off her seat. She bowed politely to Akane "It was nice talking to you" She wanted to go out front so there was no chance Akane could accidentally hear what she and Ranma had to say to each other. Although Ranma never mentioned that she keep quiet about their marriage, she knew it was the least she could do for someone she still loved. There was no reason for Akane to know that Shori and Ranma were actually married. And besides, Ranma had been through a lot through the years, and he deserved to be happy. Even though Shori and Ranma were legally still married, they considered themselves divorced. But now, it was about time they actually went through with it and actually got a divorce.
Akane looked out one of the windows in her office, catching a glance of Shori right before she disappeared through the front gate. She stayed there for a little longer, ecstatic that Shori wasn't the person she thought she would be. The thought of the dinner date they were going to have tonight entered her mind, bringing a smile to her face. She looked down at the papers still stacked on her desk, knowing that the sooner she would be finished the sooner she and Ranma can go eat. Sighing upon noticing that she still had a long way to go, Akane went about with the paperwork.
Shori felt her heart beating rapidly when she caught sight of Ranma. Although she was steeling herself for that natural reaction, she still couldn't keep that nervousness from enveloping her. He was clad casually in some regular street clothes consisting of jeans, a sweatshirt and a light winter jacket. She hadn't seen him in years, and he looked more handsome than the last time she saw him. She tried hiding her nervousness by leaning against the out wall and looking casual, one of the legs up and bent, the bottom her foot pressed to the wall.
"It's nice that you actually made it," Ranma started, leaning up against the wall next to Shori. He had noticed that she looked more beautiful than ever, which he had to admire since her job was very stressful, what with being the president of an airline corporation.
Shori swallowed the lump forming in her throat and spoke, only a slight bit of nervousness in her voice "Um, I'm sorry I couldn't make it to the party on time. Something really important came up," Even though it sounded more like a pathetic made-up excuse, she was still telling the truth.
Ranma looked at her for a moment, slightly disappointed "You mean something important pertaining to your job, right?" He sighed, knowing that Shori would never change. Her job took precedence over her family. She was just that way.
Shori didn't say anything. She could easily say something like the private jet couldn't take off that afternoon because of the terrible storm, but she didn't want to lie to Ranma. There was no reason to lie. And besides, she would feel guilty lying to someone she still loved.
A long silence ensued, both of them saying nothing to each other for a moment. Then, Ranma spoke, "I assume you met Akane, what with you being here"
Shori nodded "She's very nice, just like you mentioned on the telephone that day" She found her heart feeling heavy as she said those words. She had missed Ranma terribly over the years, and she yearned to reach out and grab hold of him, but she couldn't let those feelings take control. It was too late for her. He had given her a second chance so many years ago, but she blew it.
"So she knows we're married," he said.
"No, I told her I was your sister," she said. She knew that if she were in Akane's shoes and found out that Ranma had never told her that he was married, she would never forgive him "I didn't want to make things complicated. You said you would like to explain it to her anyway. Besides, if I were her, I would much rather hear it from you anyway"
"I'll be right back. I'm going ask Akane that I'd like to have some time to be alone with you" Ranma said, opening the gate and disappearing. He reappeared several moments later "How about we take a short walk, like we used to"
Shori walked along side Ranma as they headed off toward nowhere in particular. A cold wind blew, causing Shori to shiver. She rubbed her shoulders, trying to warm herself up, but it wasn't much help. The wind seemed to chill her to her bones, and Ranma had noticed. Shori felt tears threatening to burst from her eyes as she saw Ranma take off his light winter jacket and placed it over he shoulder. The warmth from Ranma's jacket made her forget completely about how cold it was before "T-
thank you"
She felt her emotions rising. She missed this attention. No one remotely compared to Ranma when it came to his generosity and kindness. He always treated her kindly, yet she was the one who left. She regretted that decision, but she knew it couldn't be changed. "You okay?" Ranma said, noticing the tears swelling up in his Shori's eyes "Did I do something wrong?"
"Why do you have to be like that?" Shori pleaded, her tears now starting to flow "Why do you have to be so nice to me, after what I did to you?"
Ranma was silent for a moment before speaking "'re my wife" he said softly. Even though he still felt pain for her leaving him and the girls behind to pursue her career, the pain had gone mostly away. All that remained was this dull ache, like something a person would feel after getting over someone they once loved.
Shori, although always in control with her life, couldn't keep her emotions for Ranma. As if instinctively, she faced Ranma, and took hold of him, her head pressed into the crook of his neck and shoulder "Oh Ranma, I missed you" She was willing to risk it all at that moment. She felt like her heart would shatter when Ranma didn't return the embrace. It proved that he had no longer cared for her. But to her surprise, she felt his warm arms embrace her.
"I missed you too, Shori" he said softly into her ears "I never stopped thinking about you"
Shori wanted to be in his arms forever. But she knew that would never last. Ranma had gone on with his life, and he had fallen in love with someone else. And since she loved him so much, she didn't want to cause him any pain. She gently pulled back "I'm sorry, it's not my place to do that anymore" She noticed that the tears just won't stop flowing. She tired to wipe them away, but they wouldn't stop.
Ranma regarded her with soft eyes. He didn't want to do this to her. He still cared for her and it pained him that she still hadn't gotten on with her life, like he did. Even though it pained him, he still had to go through with what he was going to do. He wanted to take her back, to give her another chance, but he knew he would never love her the way he used to. He now loved someone else.
"Shori, it really pains me to say this, but..."
Shori knew what he was going to say. That was why she wanted to be here in person. She wanted to be here when he said those words. She wished with all her heart that it would never come to this, but it was inevitable. She and Ranma should had gotten a divorce years ago. And it was all her fault. She should had never left him. But because of her decision, and the path she took, this was how it was going to end.
"I want a divorce," he said, "I'm sorry"
Although she was expecting it, she never realized how much hearing those words would hurt. It felt like her heart was going to stop. As much as she wanted the words to not be true, she knew she deserved this. Shori looked down toward the ground, too ashamed "How long are you staying here?" Ranma asked, changing the subject. It pained him and Shori too much to continue down that path of their conversation. They needed to talk about something else.
"I'll be leaving within the hour" Ranma felt a heavy feeling in his heart "That means you won't be able to see Meggie and Jessie"
"I'm sorry,"

Chapter 35

"Well, I'm gonna go home and pick up the kids now" Ranma said with a smiled "I'll be back real soon" He and Akane had finished their paperwork several minutes ago. It had taken them a few hours to get all of it done. It was now somewhere around seven. Ranma knew he would have to rush home to get his kids for dinner. Since Meggie and Jessie tended to fall asleep at around nine, that meant they had a good two hours before they're too tired to do anything else, which was plenty of time for a nice dinner.
"Sure," Akane said with a smile. She had been looking forward to this all day, so forward that it actually slowed her down with her share of the paperwork since she had trouble concentrating on anything but what was coming up.
She stopped Ranma for a moment to ask him what kind of restaurant they were going to.
"A five star restaurant. Dress formal," he said with a warm smile before leaving.
Akane found herself giggling like a school girl. It was as if she had just been asked out to her high school prom. Actually, this felt more important.
She quickly ran up to her bedroom to get changed. She knew exactly what dress she wanted to wear. It would know Ranma's socks off. She would go the distance. She would put on make-up and eye liner and blush, doing her hair, putting on lipstick, the works. Ranma was in for a surprise.
Tonight would be special.

"They're asleep?" Ranma said to his mom after he heard what she had just told him. He wasn't expecting them to be asleep now. Sure, they sometimes fell asleep early, but he had no idea today would be one of them.
Nodoka nodded, "They fell asleep about an hour ago. They were playing so hard with that pet piglet you bought them that it seems they wore themselves out. Heck, even the piglet seems worn out. It's sleeping in the little bed and made it in the kitchen"
"Man, what am I going to do then?" Ranma said to his mom, following behind her as he entered the house. He followed her to the kitchen and noticed P-chan sleeping soundly "Hm, you're right. It's strange P-chan would be asleep. Around this time, that's when he's at his least that's how he is when he's trying to bite me"
Nodoka chuckled softly, "That piglet down there? Are you sure? That's got to be the nicest and kindest pig I ever saw, especially when it's around Meggie and Jessie. They seem to adore each other"
Ranma pulled up one of his sleeves. There were several bite marks on his forearms. There weren't any breaks in the skin, but some indentation of the teeth marks "Well, I have the marks to prove it doesn't like me. What do you think I should do?"
"What are you talking about?"
"I'm talking about the dinner date with Akane tonight," Ranma said, "The three of us were expected to all go out to dinner tonight. I even told them I would come by around now to pick them up. I'm not too sure what I should do. Akane's expecting the children to be coming along with me. What do you think I should do?"
"What do you think?"
"Well," Ranma said, "I think I should go to dinner with her even though the children aren't comin' along. Afterall, she is expecting me to come back, and I'm pretty sure she's not goin' to appreciate it if I cancel the date on her. She'll probably be angry cause she's probably getting dressed right now"
"Don't you dare cancel that dinner date," Nodoka said, "If I were her, and someone canceled on me on the last minute, I'd be furious. And I'm pretty sure you don't want Akane to feel that way also"
"Okay, I get your point," Ranma said, "I'll go on with the dinner date. I just hope she isn't disappointed when she finds out they fell asleep"
"Hm, I don't know about you, but I'm pretty sure she won't be all that disappointed," she replied with a smirk. She almost wanted to bop her son on his head for thinking of something like that. Sure, having the children around was very nice, but she was sure that any girl would like spending time alone with just Ranma. Most girls would jump at the chance. But since Ranma preferred to always be with his children, he was rarely alone. Akane was the only person who actually spent a prolonged period of time alone with Ranma "And while you're at it, don't bother coming home so early. This is, what, the second time you ever went out with a woman since Shori. You should go out more. Even if you are married..."
"Fine, I get your drift. I'm going already," Ranma said, "I'm going. I'm just going to say goodnight to the kids"
Ranma went upstairs and entered the room Meggie and Jessie always slept in. He smiled as he gazed down on their innocent and angelic features. He wondered how tonight would turn out. Even though his children won't be coming alone, he was sure he'd have a nice time with just Akane.
Ranma kissed them goodnight and silently left the room and headed back downstairs.
"Well, mom," Ranma said, "I'm off to dinner"
"Don't worry about me," Nodoka said, "I won't be waiting up"
Ranma chuckled a bit, "I'll see you later"
Nodoka watched as Ranma disappeared around a corner as he headed toward Akane's house. After a few moments, she entered the house and walked upstairs and entered the twin's sleeping quarters. She leaned up against the doorjamb, a smile on her lips.
"Did Daddy leave yet?" Meggie said, snapping wide awake.
Nodoka nodded, "You're very devious things, aren't you? How'd you come up with a plan like that, acting like you fell asleep by accident? Also, how'd you manage to teach P-chan to pretend he was sleeping? You've only had him for a short while. I think that's what kept Ranma from getting suspicious"
Meggie and Jessie giggled before Jessie asked "Do you think Akane will become our new Mommy?"
"Who knows," Nodoka said, "She seems like a sweet person. She seems right for you and your Daddy"
"I hope she becomes our Mommy," Meggie said, "I like her lots. She's very nice"
"Well," the elderly, albeit youthful looking, grandmother said with a smile "all you can do is cross your fingers"
Without any hesitation, Meggie and Jessie crossed both of their fingers. Chapter 36

A cold breeze blew in through the opened window. She had opened it so she could hear him when he opened the front gate, but that never happened. She never heard the gate open.
What could have happened to him, Akane thought, concern enveloping her.
She felt this great weight on her chest, making her hard of breathing. Her heart raced, beating rapidly within her chest. She couldn't sit still,
continuously pacing back and forth, wearing the floor out. But she couldn't help it. Her only thoughts were of Ranma.
Ranma was supposed to be at her house a while ago, but he had never showed up. Several hours had passed since then. He had been expected to be at her house with the kids at around seven, but now, it was well pass midnight. She had already shed herself of her evening gown over and hour ago and was now clad in some sweat pants and a long sleeve sweater.
She heard a rustle from outside and quickly rushed to the front door, expecting it to be Ranma and his girls. Perhaps it was just Ranma. Afterall, it was pretty late, and the girls should be home asleep by now. But to her disappointment, it had just been the wind. At first, she would had been angry that he hadn't called. It would had taken him five minutes to pick up a phone, but when she hadn't received his call, she became concerned. But now, she just wanted to see that he was all right. She had called his house a few times, but every time, the answering machine picked up. When she had received the answering machine during her first call, she assumed that he must had left and was on his way, a bit late, but on his way. By the time she had too call him a second and third time, she was really concerned.
Like an shriek from the darkness, the phone rang, its ringing sounding ten times louder than it was supposed to be.
Akane immediately picked up the phone, praying that it was Ranma. Although she should be angry that he hadn't called, she didn't. She just wanted to hear his voice, to hear that he was okay.
"Ranma?" she said, desperately trying to calm herself down "Is that you?"
"Um, is this Akane Tendo?" came a voice. It was a male voice, but not Ranma's. Ranma had this husky, sensual voice that would probably sound turn any woman on over the phone, but this voice was raspy, monotone, professional.
"Yes," she said.
"My name's Dr. Tanada," the monotone voice went, "I'm from the Mizunkan Hospital and I some news concerning a Ranma Saotome"
Akane's heart practically stopped beating. A massive lump developed in her throat. It felt as if she couldn't breath. This horrible feeling of dread started to fill her, chilling her to her very core.
"Is something wrong?" Akane asked. There was this deep concern in her voice. Her throat was dry, her words forced.
"Yes," Dr. Tanada said "I'm very sorry to have to be the one to tell you this, but Ranma collapsed a couple of hours ago"
"W-what?" she asked in disbelief "What happened?"
"It turns out his heart finally started to fail," the doctor said, assuming Akane already knew what he was talking about.
"Finally started to fail?" she said "What do you mean by that?"
"Ranma had a weak heart for a long time now. He knew that sooner or later it was going to fail him. It was inevitable. Unfortunately, tonight was the night" the doctor continued.
Those words struck Akane like a freight-train. She listened as calmly as she could as the doctor went into a meticulous speech on how he used to treat Ranma when he was young, treating all the injuries he had sustained from his abusive father. He told of how Ranma's heart never healed after his broken ribs had punctured it. Akane listened in pain as she was told that there was a very slim chance Ranma would survive the next attack. She was told that he had always know this, that he would soon die.
No, it can't be true, Akane thought, tears forming in her eyes. Her tears fell down the side of her face, falling onto he telephone receiver. She had to do everything in her power to keep from going into a fit of sobbing. She had never thought that Ranma's problems were so bad. Was that why he looked like he was about to cry every time he was with his children, him knowing that he would be leaving them behind. Was that why he wanted her to spend more time with his children, so they would be taken care of when he finally died.
She fell to her knees, her legs failing her. The thought that Ranma was dying pained Akane so much that she couldn't talk audibly. Her emotions were overwhelming her. She could have been the one who killed Ranma, she having insisted that he sparred against her a few days ago.
She released the phone, unable to continue listening, not wanting to continue listening. She could bear to hear more. She had heard enough, that Ranma was going to die. She had never felt so close to him as she did now. Thoughts that she would spend the rest of her life without him caused her to cry even more. She couldn't bear to be without him. All of a sudden, everything started to fall into place. That was why there was always this sadness to Ranma's eyes. It was because he knew he was going to die. That was why it was so hard for him to open up to her, because he didn't want her to be devastated when he died. That was why his life revolved around his daughters, because he knew that they would be the only things that remained of him after his left. What Ukyo had told her, about how he wanted to kill himself, seemed to have made sense also. When Ranma's daughter had died, he realized that it was useless to go on, that he would die sooner or later. But when he realized that he could start all over with Meggie and Jessie, he had a goal again.
That was probably why he didn't care about what happened to him. He would soon be gone, and that meant that what happened to him didn't matter. It was his daughters that matter because they would remain, unlike him. That was why he tried to make as many memories as possible, because they would be the only thing people could remember him by, by the good times they had spent when being with him.
She quickly grabbed her house keys and rushed toward the hospital as fast as she could.

Ranma lay in his hospital bed, a bit disoriented. He didn't really know where he was. The last thing he could recall was this heavy feeling on his chest when he was on his way to Akane's house. The next thing he knew, he was somewhere else. He immediately realized that he was in a bed, his clothes slung neatly over the foot of it. The room he was in a very dark, the only light being the moonlight that shone in through the open windows.
Where am I, he thought. He looked down at his arms and noticed tubes attached to it, the tubes leading into a few intravenous stands. He must be in a hospital or something. It didn't take him too long before he knew his assumption was correct. He had been in hospitals enough times when he was young to recognize his surroundings.
He knew exactly what had finally happened to him. He knew his heart was bound to give out sooner or later. It had never healed correctly ever since one of his broken ribs had punctured it. And it was all his fault. His father would had never had hurt him like that if he had been a better son.
"Damn," he said, tears coming to his eyes. Why did this have to happen to him? What did he ever do to deserve this? Even many years after his father had died, the pain he had caused would still remain, constantly reminding him of how terrible a son Ranma must had been.
Ranma gently sat upright, regarding his surrounding more intently. It was the same machines he remembered seeing when he had been young, during one of his many stays at the hospital when he had his ribs broken As he sat in his bed, Akane sprung into Ranma's mind. He had been so intent on telling her his feelings, but how would she ever get over the thought that something this horrible hung over his head, that he could die at any moment. And what about his daughters.
His mother could take care of them, but she was already getting too old to be taking care of children. Akane? She would be perfect for them, if only...if only she would take them in. The door opened and in entered a young female. Without needing to look, Ranma immediately knew who it was. She could bring light into the darkest corners of the universe. It was Akane.
"A-Akane," Ranma said, his voice a bit weak. His mouth felt dry "I'm sorry"
Tears were streaming from her eyes as she quickly walked up to the side of his bed, immediately taking hold of one of Ranma's hands. His hands felt cold to her touch. She looked into Ranma's eyes, her heart on her sleeve. Her eyes showed just how much she cared about him. Never in her life had she ever been so scared.
"I-I was so scared," she said in between sobs as she gently buried her head up against Ranma's shoulder "I was so scared I was going to lose you. I don't ever want that to happen. I want you to always be by my side" Ranma was deathly silent. Did he hear her correctly? Did she just indicate that she wanted him as much as he had always wanted her? Or wish it just wishful thinking on his behalf? For a brief moment, he wanted to tell her everything, tell her all these feeling her had toward her, but he kept silent. He wondered how his heart would take it if she didn't share the same feelings toward him as he did her. But he realized he had to tell her. It was better to know than to continue on, not knowing what he might have missed if he had never told her.
"Akane," he said softly, gently placing and arm around her as she remained snuggled against him "can I tell you something?"
Akane gently broke free from Ranma's embrace to look at him, giving him her full attention "Of course you can. What is it?" She held her breath, wondering if he was thinking of the same thing she was. She knew she had to tell him how she felt about him, and she wasn't scared if his feeling weren't the same toward her. He wanted to let him know, needed to let him know "But is it all right if I tell you something first?"
Ranma nodded his head. He would tell her how much he loved her after she told him whatever she wanted to.
"Ranma, I-I love you," she said, the utmost sincerity in her voice.
"Y-you do?" he said, shock in his voice.
"Yes," she said, pressing a finger on his lips so she could continue "I've been in love with you ever since we first met. But I never realized just how much I loved you until tonight. I-I was so scared of l-losing you" She couldn't continue. Her emotions were overwhelming her. She wiped a tear from her eyes "I-I'm sorry. I-it's just that...I had to tell you. I didn't want to keep that bottled up anymore"
After having said that, if felt like a huge weight had been lifted from her chest. "Akane," Ranma said softly, "I have something to tell you also" He gestured for Akane to come closer. When she leaned forward, her face coming within inches from his, he reached upward and brought Akane back into his arms, pressing her tightly against his chest, her ears right by his lips "Akane, I love you. I fell in love with you that day, that day in the park. Nothing like this had ever happened to me. I've never met someone like you before"
Akane's eyes widened as she continued to remain in Ranma's embrace. There were no mistaking those words. All her life, she had been waiting for someone like Ranma. And now, here he was, holding her, telling her that he loved her as much as she loved him.
Ranma continued to enjoy the embrace for several moments. But the enjoyment was broken when Ranma realized there was still another hurtle he had to make it over. What he was going to tell her would definitely hurt her. He had to tell her he was a married man. And surely, she would be deeply hurt when she found out.
"Akane, I-I still have something to tell you" he said, steeling himself. He hoped for the best that Akane would not hate him for keeping something like this from Akane all this time. He had been scared to tell her. Akane kept silent. She knew what he was going to say. It was about time he told her.
"Akane, I-I'm married,"
Akane didn't say a word. She didn't really care if Ranma was married or not. She still loved him. She would always love him. But the fact that he had finally told her meant he loved her enough to tell her.
"I know," she said, resting her head against his chest, listening to his steady heartbeat "At first, I thought Shori was your sister, but it wasn't until she asked me if I liked you before I realized she wasn't. She was trying too hard to act like a sister"
Ranma was silent for a moment before answering "Y-you knew?"
Akane nodded, "Yes, but can we talk about this tomorrow? Right now, let's just stay like this" She wanted to be in his arms forever. She closed her eyes, grateful that Ranma was going to be all right. Luckily, he was in excellent physical condition and the heart failure hadn't really been that serious. The doctor said with some heart surgery, he would be as good as new. "Better get, get into the bed with me," Ranma said as he scooted toward one side of the bed. He knew Akane was tired, and he, too, was tired. He could think of nothing better at that moment than to spend his sleep with Akane by her side.
Akane was about to argue, but she knew Ranma wouldn't take no for an answer. She gave a smile as she gently got onto Ranma's hospital bed, her head cradled against chest, the top of her head against his chin. She closed her eyes, knowing that tonight would be the best night's rest in her life. She wasn't be going to sleep alone tonight. She would never be alone.

Chapter 37

"Isn't he beautiful?" Akane said to Ranma, a tear forming around her eyes as she gazed down toward the tiny baby boy. The baby boy was most gorgeous baby she had ever seen. He was sleeping soundly. They were all in the baby's room, a new addition Ranma had added to the house with the help of Ryoga and Mousse.
Ranma placed an arm around Akane's shoulder, "He gets his looks from his mother" He smiled softly as he gazed down at his two day old son, his and Akane's son. Their son had been conceived shortly after Ranma's marriage to Shori had been annulled. Ranma and Akane had gotten married on the same day. Although it felt like centuries, Ranma had managed to stay faithful to his vow and has stayed caste during those several months when he and Shori were signing their divorce papers.
It had been over a year and a half since that day Ranma had collapsed, and a lot had changed. In just one short year, Ranma and Akane had managed to open up two additional martial arts school, and the business was a success. Although Akane had been skeptical at first, Ranma had been so sure everything would work out that he had invested most of his life saving into opening another school. Even though he made sure enough money remained behind to pay for his daughters' college tuition after they grew up, the new school made more than enough to pay for the investment after several months.
And not much longer after that, Akane had decided to invest in a school also, that, too, turning out to be a success. Now, they had three schools that brought in more than enough money for their family to live comfortably. Sooner or later, they were expected to open up another school. Their names became well-known among the martial arts community, people from all over the world coming to Nerima to train under Ranma and Akane.
The school wasn't the only thing that went well. Ranma and his daughters had moved in with Akane shortly after he had been released from the hospital, and Meggie and Jessie had really grown fond of living in Akane's house from now on. Akane had also gotten used to the house bursting with life when the kids came home. Mousse and Shampoo now had a beautiful baby boy, and they brought him over whenever they could. Ryoga and Ukyo, now expecting their second child, also constantly brought over their newborn and Miki. They had decided to stay in Nerima, choosing not to moving to Hokkaido like they had originally planned. "I'm going to go pick up the kids," Ranma said, "I'll be back in a little while"
Akane gave Ranma a passionate kiss "Don't you take long" She would had gone along with him, but she couldn't leave the baby. Someone had to watch over him.
Ranma was back with the girls in no longer than a half hour. Even though he and Akane had more than enough money to buy a car, Ranma insisted on walking. He preferred to walk over any other form of transportation. Meggie and Jessie and Ranma entered the room silently. They didn't want to wake up the baby. Over the course of the year, Meggie and Jessie had grown taller and had grown more beautiful. They were going to be drop dead gorgeous when they got older. But still, at the age of nine, they still looked like angels.
Meggie walked over to the crib and peered down at the sleeping baby, Jessie also doing the same.
"He's asleep," she said, a bit disappointed. She wanted to play with the baby. "Of course he is, honey," Akane said, "Babies sleep a lot more than you or me. Don't worry, Little Ranma here'll wake up sooner or later"
Ranma smiled, "Akane, you do know it's goin' to get a bit confusing, what with the baby having the same name as me" Even though it was going to get confusing, he didn't' really care. He was honored that Akane agreed to name their son Ranma. "Well, that's why I'll call him 'Little Ranma'," Akane said, smiling mischievously "Because you're gonna be my 'Big Ranma'"
Meggie looked over toward Jessie and saw her nod. Now was the perfect time to bring up the subject "Um, Akane,"
"Um, Jessie and I have been wondering," she started slowly, "When Little Ranma grows up, he's going to be calling you Mommy. And with us around calling you Akane, we think that's going to confuse him..."
Ranma smiled to himself. He knew exactly what his daughters were going with this conversation.
"And, well, we don't want him to grow up confused," she continued, "So, we've been wondering, is it all right if we start calling you Mommy?"
Akane's heart leaped for joy. Those words sounded so right coming from Meggie and Jessie. She could definitely get used to them calling her Mommy. The joy of Ranma's kids accepting her as their Mommy brought a tear to her eyes. She managed to wipe it away before Meggie or Jessie noticed.
"Of course, honey," she said softly, kneeling down and hugging the twins tightly "Of course you can"
The twins smiled happily as they both returned their warm and loving embrace. They both said in unison...
"Thanks, Mommy"

End for now

Did you like the story? I hope you did. I've put quite a lot of effort into this, hoping you would enjoy reading it. First off, I'd like to thank Rumiko Takahashi for creating Ranma 1/2. Otherwise, I would never be able to write something like this. I would also like to thank Bill Seney for his help. He has helped me out tremendously by pointing out all those inconsistencies I've made throughout the story. The name of the daughters, title, came from a particular book I read a long time ago. Unfortunately, I can't remember the name of the book or author of said book. I would like to give him or her credit where credit is due^_^;;;
I have no real idea why I wrote this story. I guess I just wanted to write something that the readers would truly enjoy from the beginning to the end. I'm hoping all of you out there would enjoy a different kind of story for a change. I'm pretty sure you already knew how this story was going to end after the first few chapters, but I hoped you were interested enough to read this story all the way till the end. This is the kind of story I like to write. And I'm pretty sure I can write more stories like this. But first, I'd like to know if you would want me to write more stories like this. The idea of the story is pretty simple. It's basically a romance story. Unfortunately, as I continued to write, it turned more into a soap opera than a romance. Still, I hoped that didn't deter you from continuing on reading. I wanted this story to be unique, showing you different feeling and perspectives on the same scenes. This story could have ended much much earlier, but I felt this story had much more potential, so thus, I added a lot more to it. The story was originally supposed to end shortly after the part where Ranma goes out to pick up his laundry, but I chose against it. Yes, that long ago. I could easily add more to this, but I felt that if I added more, then the story would be getting a bit tedious. I wanted it to be long...but not boring. There were times when I asked myself when Ranma and Akane would finally realize they loved each other. I, too, wanted to throttle Ranma and say to him 'Jeez, why dontcha tell her already?' And what's sad is that I was the one doing the writing ^_^ I hope a few of the scenes caught you by surprise. I won't tell you what scenes they are, but I will tell you I wrote those scenes specifically to surprise you. If you mention those scene in your comments, then I must be doing something right :) I know. I know. This story barely has to do with the Ranma universe except for the names and the setting, but I hope there was some essence in it that made it a bit like Ranma. Anyway, considering how much time and effort I put into this story, comments are very welcomed. I hope a story like this won't go unnoticed. Even if you didn't like it, I'd still like to hear from you. Well, there's still a lot more I would like to say, but I guess I would stop here. I apologize for the spelling and grammar error. I hope you enjoyed the story :)

Jeffrey "OneShot" Wong

Here's another ending...the ending I had originally planned...

"Where's Ranma?" Akane asked, desperation in her voice. She remembered falling asleep in his arms in the hospital that early morning, right after she had told him she loved him with all her heart as he her. She had awoken in a bed near where Ranma's was. When she had peered over toward Ranma's bed, expecting to see him sleeping peacefully, she saw and empty bed. All she saw was a young nurse sating at the foot of her bed.
The nurse shook her head, tears almost forming in her eyes. This was the hardest part of the job. And she hated doing this. "I'm sorry...but he never survived"


"Daddy, what's 'sex' mean?" Meggie asked out of the blue. Ranma almost spit out his coffee when she had asked him that question. He quickly composed himself and looked down at his daughter, shocked that she would ask him something like that.
"Yeah, Daddy, what does it mean?" Jessie asked, also curious.
Ranma looked like a trapped animal as he gazed over at Akane. How was he to answer a question like that? It was akin to attempting to answer a question like 'Do I look fat?' that a female would ask. Either way, whether telling the truth or lying, would inevitably lead to disaster.
"Um, er..." Ranma was totally caught off-guard. He had no idea what to say. He figured it was best to change the subject, "Um, what did you learn in school today?"
"C'mon, Daddy, what does it mean?" Meggie asked, persistent. Sometimes, Ranma wished she wouldn't be so persistent and curious.
Akane listened, almost amused as Jessie told the story of how they came upon that word.
"When we were in the playground with Ryan, he told us his mommy likes you." she said innocently. "He told us when he was hanging out with Jacob and Jacob's mommy came to pick him up, she and Ryan's mommy began talking to each other and they were talking about you,"
Ranma's eyes creased. He was a bit curious as to what these two mothers had said. He remembered meeting them last year when he came over to pick Meggie and Jessie up from Ryan's house since his daughters and Jacob and Ryan were all friends, and the two mothers, whom happen to be both divorced, were there at the time.
"What did they say?" he asked.
Jessie took a moment to remember what Ryan had told her "Ryan told us when Jacob's mom came over to pick 'im up, his mommy and Jacob's mommy were chatting together because Ryan and Jacob were both busy playing video games. I forgot what game they were playing, but anyway, Ryan told me when he was going to the bathroom and walked by the kitchen, he heard his mommy and Jacob's mommy talking about how they would like to have sex with you,"
Akane blushed. Perhaps she shouldn't be hearing this. This was none of her business. But for some reason, she couldn't bring herself to excuse herself while the twin's father explained the meaning to their question. She was curious as to how he would go about explaining this. That and the fact that she found herself angry for some reason. Or perhaps it was jealousy. She found herself almost furious at the thought of people talking about Ranma behind his back and on how they wanted to have sex with him. Perhaps it was jealousy, but she found herself getting angrier as she dwelled on the thought of those women talked about even though Ranma is a full grown man and didn't need someone looking after. Or perhaps she was jealous at the thought that Ranma would take them up on their offer. Actually, she found herself getting almost angry and Ranma when she thought of that.
"What does sex mean?" Meggie asked again, patient.
Ranma, visibly nervous, tried to reply, "Um, er, well, this is kind of hard to explain," He scratched his head for a moment. He didn't really want to explain this to his children but would rather having them learn about this from him than on the streets. He almost cursed aloud at the thought of how thoughtless those two mothers were to mention sex while their children were in the other room.
Ranma took a deep breath and said in one quick breath, "It's when a man loves a woman, or the other way around, and the two of them decide to show each other how much they love each other, so they, um, engage in physical affection,"
"You mean like in huggin' someone?" Jessie asked.
To Ranma, this was totally uncharted waters. He had never gone through having to explain something like this, and he was dying out there, "Um, kind of, yeah, but it's much much more than hugging," "You mean they kiss each other?"
Ranma took a quick glance at Akane, "Um, c-can you please h-help me out here?" Akane shrugged her shoulders. She would be of little help. She had never undergone having to explain something like this to children before, even children as young as Meggie and Jessie. Ranma faced his daughters, "Kissing does have something to do with it, but it's even more than kissing."
"So, Daddy, because you and Akane love each other does that mean the two-" Meggie managed to say when she was quickly cut off by a blushing Akane.
"Um, er, y-yeah, w-we we loved each other," she said. She still had no idea how Ranma felt about her, but she didn't really want to be in such an awkward situation. With Ranma standing right next to her, so close that he could probably feel her blushing, she knew she wouldn't be able to think straight if the thought did enter her head.
Ranma almost sighed aloud, but quickly caught himself at the last moment. "Yeah, um, i-if we loved each other," He knew that he would most likely get little sleep tonight. "I don't get it, why do ya say 'if'. I thought you two love each other, like a Mommy and a Daddy would," Jessie said, almost scheming. It was as if she was pretending to be innocent.
Ranma almost fell over from the shock. This was probably the most awkward situation he had ever been in. The same went for Akane. The two of them found themselves speechless, unable to reply to a comment like that, almost wondering if they wanted to. How could two little girls, both whom have no idea what the word 'sex' meant, make two full grown adults feel incredibly embarrassed?