(C&C welcome. Not to mention needed)
Last Revised: 07-16-15

THE PROTECTOR
By Angela Jewell

An Alternate Reality Fanfic: Same beloved characters, but whole new situations

Standard Disclaimer: Ranma 1/2 is the property and creation of Rumiko Takahashi—there are lots of other names that are supposed to go here as well, but sadly, they all escape me. And more importantly, none of them are mine.


Chapter 1
Here Comes… Ranma?!


It wasn't like the last time.

Last time had been easy, no challenge there. But now, as number twenty-nine fell at his feet, Ranma could actually feel himself tiring. His legs and muscles ached from the strain and his back burned from where a knife had slashed him. Yet despite all of this, he kept on fighting—ignoring the pain, he'd found, was the easy part. After all, thanks to pops, he'd survived worse.

Pushing such thoughts aside, Ranma concentrated on the problem at hand. In this case, the last man standing was a muscle-bound martial artist—who, despite supposed skill—felt the need to carry a knife to even the score.

Not that it would do any good. . .

Ranma Saotome never lost.

As a martial artist himself (and a damn good one, at that) one rule had been drilled into him for as long as he could remember: Never, under any circumstance, underestimate your opponent. Unfortunately for all involved, that particular rule was not one of Ranma's strong-points.

"Come on!" he laughed, dodging another thrust of the knife, goading his attacker on. "I've seen grannies that could fight better'n you! And they look better to boot!"

The assassin's face twisted into an angry scowl, the veins straining in his neck as the grip on his combat knife noticeably tightened. Ranma couldn't help but smile. The jerk probably expected an easy fight when he and his companions set up this ambush, not a loud-mouthed kid, with an obnoxiously overinflated ego and the fighting skills to match. Now that he was angry though, it was just a matter of time before he did something stupid.

Eager to help the process along, Ranma loudly complained, "You gonna take all day or what?" and was forced to duck quickly as the knife suddenly came flying at his throat. Dancing out of his reach, he shook his head, disappointed. "Your form's a bit sloppy," he informed him. "Might wanna work on that."

"Little shit," his attacker hissed, his first bit of discourse since their fight began. "Keep talking yourself right into your grave! I got a hunk of ground with your fucking name on it." With astonishing speed, he launched himself at Ranma again, his anger and indignation propelling him forward like a bottle rocket.

Anticipating this very move, Ranma waited until the last second, then sidestepped him easily. "Yeah? So do I," he said, and kicked out with his leg the moment he passed, aiming for the vulnerable spot right behind his knee. When it connected, his opponent stumbled and fell hard, and Ranma took the opportunity to grind the hand that was holding the knife right into the ground, adding mockingly, "How you liking this spot?"

Screaming in pain and outrage, the assassin finally released the knife, and Ranma noted he wouldn't be using that hand for awhile. "I'LL FUCKING KILL YOU!" his adversary roared as he lashed out with his leg, at this point, aiming for any part of Ranma he could reach. Stepping to the side, the pigtailed martial artist narrowly avoided a glancing blow to the thigh, and laughed.

"Isn't that what you've been trying to do?" he asked him. The jerk answered with an uppercut which Ranma blocked, followed by a jab to the abdomen with his bad arm, a move which allowed Ranma to grab and twist it behind his back, causing his assailant to cry out in pain, and writhe. Before he could retaliate, Ranma wrapped his other arm around his throat and began applying pressure—but not too much. He wanted the asshole unconscious, not dead.

The man twitched once, twice, and then stopped moving entirely. Satisfied, Ranma finally released him, allowing his body to slump to the floor alongside his bruised and beaten peers; his bloody knife lying abandoned beside him. Nudging it with his foot, Ranma moved to stand as he heard sirens approaching in the distance, their sound mingling curiously with the groaning and sniveling of the thirty men now littering the dark and abandoned parking lot.

Surveying the scene, Ranma's earlier worries seemed ridiculous now. On hindsight, this entire battle had seemed almost too easy.

Shaking his head sadly, he sighed.

He couldn't help but wonder if he was getting too good at this job. . .

. . .Or if his opponents were just getting lousy at theirs.


His boss wasn't a large man. At first glance he appeared meek, quiet, and unassuming—definitely not the type who'd choose a living dealing with bodyguards, killers, and hitmen on a daily basis. But Yamamoto Yuuto was living proof that you could never judge a book by its cover. Ranma had seen that same quiet be-speckled man take down a ruthless killer three times his size in ten-seconds flat—impressive, even by Ranma's standards.

Still, he couldn't say he exactly liked the guy. Ever since he hit it big in a high-profile kidnapping case, Yamamoto had become too arrogant; too cocky; too full of himself to tolerate for long. Not only had he won some dumb award for protecting some rich and snobby councillor's son, but he'd even been given a promotion to any department of his choosing. He quickly chose internal affairs and now had a cushy desk job where his only task was to assign and oversee cases for the talented rookies from the academy.

Ranma respected him for the agent he was, and for the agent he still had the potential to be—but that didn't mean he had to like him, and he sure as hell didn't trust him. As far as Ranma was concerned, trust was something you earned—you didn't gain it by sitting safely behind a desk somewhere while other agents risked their lives out in the field.

Of course, if Yamamoto realized any of this or felt guilty in the least, he didn't show it. When Ranma finally walked into his office he was leaning back in his chair, his feet on his desk, looking relaxed and content.

Skipping the formalities, Ranma dropped the large folder down on his boss's desk and then took a seat in one of the overstuffed chairs across from him. Putting his hands behind his head, he leaned back in the chair, taking pains to look just as relaxed and satisfied as his superior—hell, if anyone deserved a break, he figured it was him. He was the one still sporting a fucking knife wound.

Yamamoto raised an eyebrow as he regarded his subordinate with mild curiosity—curiosity that bordered on annoyance. "What's that?" he asked, gesturing vaguely towards the folder while not relaxing his position in the slightest.

Ranma grinned. "A closed case," he said simply, trying hard not to sound too proud of himself.

His supervisor's eyes widened slightly. "What? Already?" he asked, his voice doubtful.

"Yup," Ranma replied, stretching leisurely in his chair. "Megumi's safe and the assassin's already been put into custody."

"Has he been questioned yet?"

"Damn right. And he's already started talkin' about the whereabouts of Suzuki."

"Terrific!" Pushing his glasses more firmly onto the bridge of his nose, Yamamoto finally took his legs off the desk as he leaned forward to peruse Ranma's folder. He flipped through it quickly, nodding several times, and then threw it into a bottom drawer of the desk. "I'll finish going over it later," he said before proceeding to withdraw a different, larger folder from another drawer, the one he always kept locked, placing it carefully on the center of the desk before them.

Ranma eyed it dispassionately, waiting for his boss to tell him what it was. From experience, he knew any case coming out of that drawer, couldn't be good. Instead of explaining himself though, Yamamoto remained silent, and Ranma watched as a barely noticeable change came over his superior. His eyes were guarded, his lips pursed, and at some point he'd started tapping his desk lightly with his fingers. It was the closest Ranma had ever seen the man to looking unsettled and on edge, and with narrowed eyes, Ranma began to look at the case-folder in a whole new light.

There were a few options that would explain his supervisor's sudden change in behavior. Either this was a very important case—like, career changing important—or a dangerous one, so dangerous that all the others had already turned it down, leaving Ranma as his last hope. He guessed it was the latter. "Well?" he asked at last, gesturing towards the folder, tired of waiting for his boss to broach the subject.

Yamamoto leaned back in his chair, trying to look nonchalant and as far from desperate as he could get. Ranma wasn't fooled; his boss was no actor. Swallowing nervously, Yamamoto took pains to look anywhere but the desk, and then began gesturing at the mysterious folder with one of his hands, his voice light. "Just some new case," he explained, a little too quickly. "Yours if you want it."

Now Ranma knew he'd been right. Yamamoto had to be desperate—that, or losing his damn mind. Only an idiot would accept a case blindly without knowing the details and Ranma didn't fancy himself an idiot. "What's involved?" he asked, eying the file suspiciously.

"Oh, typical case. A father wants someone to protect his daughter."

Hearing that, Ranma scoffed, not believing it for a second. "A typical case, huh?" he asked, leaning back in his chair. "And just who does she need protection from?"

His boss looked away, nervous and fidgety. "Oh, you know. . ." he began slowly, delaying the inevitable for all he was worth.

Ranma found his patience quickly waning. "No," he deadpanned, "actually I don't."

Slowly, Yamamoto looked up, and with a long, suffering sigh, said softly, "An Amazon."

That's when Ranma started laughing, loudly and freely. "You've gotta be kidding!" he said at last, once his laughter had died down and he could properly breath again. "Why in the world would I be stupid enough to pit myself up against an Amazon? It's kill, be killed, hide forever, or get hitched . . . and none a' those options really appeal to me."

Yamamoto shrugged as he began to tap his fingers on the file, his resigned expression changing to one of disdain. "No problem, Saotome. If you don't think you're qualified enough for this case, I can always find someone who is."

Ranma froze instantly, a strange buzzing sound filling his head. It suddenly felt like a thousand needles were digging into his side.

Not qualified?!

What did that even mean?!

His brain, sensing his idiotic thoughts, began screaming in warning—but the other voice, the one that controlled his sense of honor and ego, it was screaming louder.

Frowning, Ranma sat up straighter. "Don't get me wrong," he replied, his humor fading. "I never said I wasn't qualified. I just—"

"No, no, it's all right," his supervisor continued, effectively cutting Ranma off. "I can find someone else, no problem."

Hearing that, the needles began digging in deeper. . .

"Now, wait just a minute!"

"I'm sorry I took up your time," Yamamoto apologized, standing up from his chair. "With your outstanding record and dedication I just thought you'd be up to the challenge, but I guess I had you pegged all wrong, Saotome. Since you don't seem interested. . ."

"Who says I ain't interested?!" he demanded, and slammed his fist down on his boss's desk. His internal warning senses were on high-alert, but he ignored everything, focused only on his boss's stern face. "Yamamoto, I want this case!"

Yamamoto looked at him with uncertainty. "I'm not so sure—"

"Who's better qualified for this assignment than me?" Ranma continued hastily, his determination and stubbornness driving him on. "I haven't lost a case yet—don't intend to—and my martial art skills surpass everyone else in the academy! Plus," he added, counting the numerous points he was making off with his fingers, "I'm one of the few people in this whole damn place who can transform with just a splash of cold water! Having me is like having two bodyguards in one. It's a package deal!"

"Well that's all well and good," Mr. Yamamoto replied sincerely, trying to hold back a grin, "but. . ."

"Dammit!" Ranma shouted, jumping up from his chair. "I'm the best goddamn person you've got here! Who else would be fearless enough to take on this assignment?!"

Yamamoto merely smiled. "I'm sure Ryoga wouldn't mind. I planned to ask him initially, but he's not here at the moment."

Ranma frowned as he threw himself back down in his chair. "Well yeah, okay," he admitted reluctantly. "Ryoga's definitely "fearless" enough, if that's what you wanna call it, but the idiot's got no sense of direction. Do you honestly think he can handle a case like this? Just the chances of him wandering away from his client are ten-to-one, and there's no way she'd survive his first day unless he strapped her to his back! Besides, even if he did try and go up against the Amazon, what if he ended up back at the chick's village and got himself engaged to the whole tribe?! Then you'd be down an agent, and still have an angry Amazon to deal with."

Yamamoto nodded, but didn't say a word.

Breathing hard, Ranma leaned back in his chair. "So, do I got the assignment or what?"

His boss looked thoughtful for a moment, his eyes locked on the now precious folder. "Well, you've argued your case relatively well," he said slowly, his words trailing off. After several moments of drawn, tense silence, Yamamoto sighed loudly. "Heck, Saotome, if you really want it that badly, it's yours."

Grinning triumphantly, Ranma leaned forward in his chair. "Yeah," he said with a shrug. "I'll take it, I guess."

Pushing the folder towards Ranma with both hands, Yamamoto watched in satisfaction as his subordinate readily took it. "Well, good luck," he told him sincerely, though silently, he was thinking, you're going to need it.

Ranma stood up quickly. "Heh, I depend on skill, not luck. But thanks anyway." His bounty won, Ranma left the room, the door slamming shut behind him.

Once Ranma was gone, Yamamoto leaned back in his chair, a satisfied smile lighting his face. "That was a lot easier than I thought it was gonna be," he said with a laugh. "I always knew that boy's ego would get him into trouble someday. Huh, going against an Amazon. Sure hope that kid knows what he's getting himself into."

Turning back to the huge filing cabinet behind him, Yamamoto pulled out a huge stack of folders and dropped them heavily on his desk. There were so many more cases to assign, and fewer and fewer rookies actually willing to do them. . .


Ranma sat cross-legged on his bunk, the huge folder spread open before him. "Now," he said, rubbing his hands together in anticipation. "To see what I've got."

Inside were pictures. Lots of pictures.

On top of the stack was one large photograph of a 16-year-old girl with long flowing blue-black hair. The girl was smiling brightly, her hand shading her eyes from the blazing sun above. Attached to the photo was a small note with the girl's name on it—Akane Tendo. Ranma observed the photo for several long moments, his gaze lingering on her happy, smiling face. "Geez," he breathed at last. "She's really cute." She looked so, well, nice. Not the type that went around challenging Amazons, that was for sure. And she was so young—the same age as him, and already she had some crazy person after her head! He couldn't help but wonder what she did to piss this Amazon-woman off. Not that it took much.

Placing the photo off to the side, he saw several smaller pictures of Akane directly beneath it. In one of the photographs she was in a school uniform walking down the street with a couple of her friends, laughing. In another she was in a martial arts dogi, breaking cider blocks with her bare fist, looking fierce.

Ranma raised an eyebrow.

Okay, on second thought, maybe she was the type that went around challenging Amazons.

Underneath those pictures were photographs of her family: Her father, Soun Tendo and her two older sisters, Kasumi and Nabiki. He couldn't help but wonder if they studies martial arts too. Beneath those were pictures of miscellaneous friends, classmates, neighbors, and casual acquaintances. There was also a picture of their family doctor, Ono Tofu.

Ranma pushed all of those aside, anxious to see exactly who he was protecting her from. There, in the very back of the pile, buried behind various notes, schedules, and data, was a small, off-center snapshot of a purple haired Amazon. The girl was wielding two banborrie weapons through the air, her expression grim and determined, eyes focused on an unseen target. Moving that picture aside, Ranma began to search for another—and finding none, frowned. It must have been the only picture the researchers could find.

"Just great," he muttered, thoroughly annoyed. "As if I don't got enough crap in this case piled against me already, all they give me is one crappy photo they probably took while pissing behind a bush. If that girl cuts her hair or starts wearing contacts, I'm screwed."

Turning the photo over, he gave a small sigh of relief as he spotted two Chinese characters in the right hand corner. "Well, at least they managed to give me her name," he thought, surprised that they'd at least managed that much. He wasn't exactly fluent in the language, but he knew enough to recognize certain characters when he saw them. It looked like her name was Xian Pu—though one of the guys had scrawled the English pronunciation, Shampoo, beneath it.

Ranma picked up the large photo of the smiling Akane and placed it next to the one of the Amazon warrior. He had a name, a picture, and not much else to go on.

Well. It was a damn good thing Ranma thrived on challenges.

It looked like this one was gonna be a doozy.


Soun Tendo continued to pace nervously back and forth, a small beat-up postcard held tightly in his hands. His three daughters were seated before him, warring expressions on their distinctly pretty faces as they watched him tear excitedly thru the room. One looked calm, patient and understanding; another, stoic and thoughtful; but the last looked impatient, angry, and very, very annoyed.

Tears streamed down Soun Tendo's face as he reread the short, concise message written neatly on the back of the card.

Congratulations, your request has been approved. Expect our best agent, Ranma Saotome, to arrive at your residence shortly.

It was signed, The Hanahora Protection Agency (Free of charge if victim harmed).

A koi fish leapt through the air from the large pond, oblivious to Soun's tears as it landed with a small splash back into the awaiting water below. "Finally," Soun cried happily, holding the card out before him like a beacon. "Finally, I can rest in peace. Soon, very soon, Ranma Saotome will come, and my little girl will be safe at last."

"Hey, let me see that," a voice interrupted, grabbing the postcard from his hands before he had time to protest.

"Nabiki," Soun whimpered, wiping the tears from his eyes with the back of his sleeve. "Why do you have to be that way to your own father, huh?"

Nabiki ignored him as she skimmed through the card, eyes narrowed in concentration. "Jeez, daddy," she said at last, handing it back to him with a shake of her head. "I can't believe you actually went through with it. Do you have any idea what this will do to business?"

Soun Tendo frowned, his arms crossed stubbornly against his chest. "Well, I—"

"Imagine," Nabiki went on, disregarding her father's feeble protests. "The owner of the Tendo dojo—master of the Tendo School of Anything Goes Martial Arts, forced to hire a professional bodyguard to protect his own family. I mean, correct me if I'm wrong, daddy, but isn't that the whole reason people take up martial arts in the first place?"

"Nabiki," Kasumi gently chided, "I'm sure father knows exactly what he's doing, don't you father?"

Soun Tendo coughed uncomfortably and then turned a grateful smile on his eldest daughter. "Of, of course I do," he replied, a little too loudly, his eyebrow twitching. "Thank you for your support, Kasumi. It's good to know that one of my daughters trust my judgment."

Nabiki waved her hand in dismissal. "It's not that I don't trust you, daddy," she corrected. "It's just that, in a business sense, this isn't practical. The majority of your clientele are learning the Anything-Goes style in order to protect their families—they aren't going to pay money to learn it from someone who can't even protect his own daughter. Besides, don't you think you're overreacting just a little? Akane's a big girl—she can take care of herself."

"That's right," Akane spoke up, voicing her opinion for the hundredth time. "I do not need a bodyguard, dad!"

Avoiding the critical eyes of his two daughters, Soun Tendo stared down at the postcard briefly, silently summoning his courage. The small action must have given him some sort of strength, because when he finally looked up, his expression was firm. "What's done is done, Akane," he told her, holding a hand up to silence her protests. "I realize you're strong and skilled in your own right, but I'm not taking any chances—that girl is relentless. All it takes is one lucky shot and you're done. As for you," he continued, addressing Nabiki. "As much as I appreciate you taking an interest in the family business, Akane's life is at stake here, not the dojo. I will not risk her safety in order to ensure more clients. Understood?"

Crossing her arms against her chest, Nabiki silently nodded.

"Good," Soun continued, nodding sagely. "Now then, this doesn't mean we need give up hope! Perhaps the guide was wrong after all and this Shampoo-woman has already given up. If that's the case, we won't be needing this Ranma Saotome's services after all."

"Yeah, after the damage has already been done," Nabiki muttered under her breath.

Soun pretended not to hear her. There was no way he could protect Akane 24-7, even if he wanted to, and he wasn't the type of man who would allow his arrogance or pride to stand in the way of his own daughters safety, not after losing their dear, sweet mother. When faced with the bitter truth of his own skills, he knew there was a possibility (slight though it were) that it might not be enough, and decided to take action. Luckily, he'd done his research, and the quality of this particular agency was legendary; he was confident they'd send only their best.

Feeling reassured, Soun glanced up at the bright blue sky, allowing the peace and tranquility of the view to flow through him, allowing him to breath properly once more. Eventually though, he found his eyes returning to the beat up postcard, his grip on the life-saving information, involuntarily tightening.

Soon, very soon, Ranma Saotome would be here. Soon, his little girl would be safe.

He'd make sure of it.


Ranma stood just outside the Tendo gate, his travel bag slung over his shoulder, surveying the house before him with a critical eye.

He was happy to see it was fairly large, with two stories and a broad walkable roof. The size would make it loads easier for someone to sneak in, but it also made it easier for someone to sneak out. And getting out, Ranma had learned, was the crucial part. Even in a one room shack with no doors and no windows the truly determined could find a way in. Getting out after they'd gotten in, then, could be the difference between life and death.

And Amazons, as he recalled, were definitely not short on determination.

They had a tendency to make their own doors.

As for the dojo, the martial artist in him couldn't wait to get a look inside. From the photographs he'd seen he knew it was connected off the main house by a covered walkway, though the building itself had looked a bit worn-down—though whether from lack of use, or too much use, Ranma wasn't sure. Only the sign outside the gate assured him that it was still in use. It read: To challenge owner in savage combat use rear door. Though it did make him wonder, and not for the first time, why a family of martial artists would need a bodyguard anyway.

"Well, this is it," he said, cracking his knuckles while pumping himself up, "it's show time." Adjusting his pack, Ranma smirked with confidence as he prepared to enter the place that would be his home for the duration of his assignment.

Before taking even a single step however, he froze.

Something soft and warm and purring was rubbing against the back of his legs. It was probably just the wind, he tried to convince himself. Or maybe a rat or a dog or something—a very small, furry dog, that thought it was a—

No, Ranma thought, shaking his head fiercely, refusing to even think the word. Rather than move and prove himself wrong, he stood stock-still, heart-racing, afraid to upset or startle the thing-that-was-definitely-not-what-he-feared-it-first-was. Maybe if he closed his eyes, it would just go away, or die or something.

Desperately, quickly, Ranma closed his eyes.

Even without looking at it, he could hear it perfectly fine though—a soft, rumbling purr as it wrapped its small body around his feet, rubbing against his pants—pants which suddenly felt way too thin for his liking.

Which is when, to his horror, the thing meowed.

All sense and reason fled Ranma's brain at that moment. His eyes shot open involuntarily as his entire body stiffened, his pigtail standing on end. With a need he couldn't quite fight, Ranma glanced down.

Nope, no dog. Definitely not a dog.

The kitten was glaring up at him, its golden eyes almost appearing to glow in the streetlamp's eerie gloom. Then, with a small jump, it placed its two front paws on Ranma's pant legs, its tiny, sharp claws breaking through, pinching him ever so lightly as it mewled like the little demon it was.

The initial terror he'd tried to stifle rose quickly, higher and higher, until all it could do was burst forth.

It wasn't very manly to scream.

But Ranma screamed.


"AAAHHH!"

Three heads shot up in unison as the Tendo sister's eyes widened in surprise. Soun Tendo immediately stopped pacing as he turned around to meet his daughters' shocked, concerned faces. "Did you hear that?" he asked them, all traces of his excitement and exuberance gone.

"Yeah," Akane replied, looking worried. "It sounded like it came from right outside."

Kasumi bit her lip as she frowned."Oh, I certainly hope no one's hurt."

Soun nodded in agreement before turning to regard his youngest daughter, his eyes narrowed and alert. "Nevertheless, it may be a trick by that Amazon, Akane," he warned her. "Best be on your guard."

Akane nodded, though she didn't need her father to tell her that. The crazy Amazon had tried all sorts of crazy tricks during her madcap chase through China. Screaming to lure her outside was nothing new.

"Here," said Kasumi helpfully as she handed Akane a baseball bat for protection.

"Just make sure you stop while she's still breathing," Nabiki reminded her.

Akane rolled her eyes but accepted the weapon gratefully, though she doubted she'd have any need to use it. Still, feeling nervous, the three girls followed their father outside, having no idea what awaited them on the other side of the door.

Though Akane suspected whatever it was, wasn't good.


As it turned out, Akane was right.

The Tendos emerged armed and ready for a fight, their defenses up the moment they realized the front gate was indeed open, though after a thorogh search of the yard, all they found was their neighbor's cat, Yeichi, whimpering in front of their front stoop, begging to be picked up and petted.

"There, there," Kasumi cooed, all too happy to oblige him. Satisfied at last, the small kitten meowed loudly in appreciation, which is right when Kasumi heard a frigthened gasp coming from somewhere above her. Gancing up, she noticed a person huddled up on the roof. "Oh my, who's that?" she asked in surprise.

"Who?" Nabiki asked as she followed her gaze, only to let out a shocked, "oh" at the sight of the strange man crouching on the overhang, obviously frightened by something. It was almost pathetic really, the way he was covering his ears with his hands, his head bowed and eyes closed, trembling like a leaf.

"How odd," Soun observed, not sure what to make of the scene.

Not sensing an immediate threat, Akane lowered her bat. "What's his problem?" she whispered to Nabiki.

Her sister shrugged but didn't take her eyes off the phenomenon. "Beats me."

Soun shaded his eyes from the darkness, trying to put the quivering figure on the roof before him into focus. "And who are you, stranger?" he demanded. "If you'd like to challenge me, you're supposed to use the rear door."

"I highly doubt he's here to fight you, daddy," Nabiki informed him.

"Honestly," agreed Akane. "It barely looks like he can stand up."

At that moment, tired of being held, the cat began to wiggle and writh as it struggled to get out of Kasumi's grasp. Giving a small cry of surprise, she released it reluctantly and watched as it scurried away, disappearing the same way it had come. Ranma, hearing that much at least, finally glanced over the side of the roof.

"Is—is it gone?!" he asked, his voice slightly shaking.

"Is what gone?" Akane asked him.

"You know! The dumb furball!"

Nabiki glanced in the direction the cat had run of in, and then turned her gaze back on Ranma. Her eyebrow was raised, and even she couldn't keep the skepticism out of her voice. "You mean to tell me that you're afraid of Yeichi?"

"Yeichi?" Akane asked, trying her best to stifle back a laugh. "You mean . . . he's afraid of the neighbor's cat?"

"Damn it," Ranma replied angrily. "Is the little fanged beast gone or not?!"

"Oh yes," Kasumi assured him. "Yeichi's probably on his way back to the Tomodachi's right now." Ranma sighed in relief as his trembling body slowly began to calm. "It's a pity too," she added sadly, oblivious to Ranma's relief. "It's such a cute kitten after all."

"Uh, yeah. Sure it is," he muttered under his breath.

Soun coughed uncomfortably, shattering the uneasy silence. "Now then, young man, would you kindly get down from there? If you're not here to challenge the dojo, I'd like to know exactly what you are doing here."

"Sure thing," he said, as he jumped nimbly off the room, landing neatly before Soun's startled form. "I'm, uh, Ranma Saotome," he explained, trying his best not to sound too nervous. "I believe you're expecting me?"

Soun's eyes widened in surprise—and disbelief, shock, denial, horror. "Ranma? R—Ranma Saotome?" His name, strangely, wasn't a comfort.

The boy who only moments ago had been cowering on his roof, nodded his head sullenly. "Um, yeah. Sorry 'bout this."

His apology fell on deft ears.

With a small, gasping sob, Soun hit the ground.


Author's Notes

That opening fight scene made me cringe so badly, I just had to go for revision #3. I also fixed the ending scene, because wow, was it awful. Hopefully it's more readable now.