The Heart Sutra
A Ranma 1/2 Fanfic
By Ashoka Roque
Disclaimer: These characters, with the exception of Ti Xiu, belong to Rumiko Takahashi, not me. While I have put them in situations that diverge somewhat from the original storyline, I have done so with intent to avoid compromising the integrity of her work. I make no profit from this story. The character of Ti Xiu is my own creation
Warning: PG. Slightly harsh language
Chapter one: Introductions
Tendo Akane stopped in her tracks, and turned around slowly. Realizing that Kiko-chan was no longer walking beside her, she began looking for the source of her friend's excitement. She soon spotted her schoolmate in front of a nearby shop window, pointing excitedly at the display within. Akane walked over behind her, got up on tiptoes and peered into the large glass window.
"What's all the excitement about, Kiko-chan?"
"Kawaii, kawaii! Have you EVER seen anything so cute, Akane-chan?"
The shelves of the store's display window were packed end-to-end with dozens of little stuffed pigs. Row after row of them. Looking at the small black toys, Akane was slightly stunned. These looked disturbingly familiar!
Turning to Kiko, Akane asked, "What exactly are...those, Kiko-chan?"
Kiko looked at Akane as if she had just asked what planet they were on. "Akane-chan, you don't mean to tell me you don't recognize Piggachu?"
"Pigg..a..chu?" repeated Akane, wrapping her mouth around the word unpleasantly. Before she could ask Kiko for any further information, her excited friend had rushed into the store, which was surprisingly crowded this early in the day.
Waiting outside, Akane listened to the chattering customers queuing up to enter the shop, which was becoming more crowded by the moment. From what she overheard, it seemed that Piggachu was the latest craze in TV Tokyo cartoon characters - apparently from a show called "Pokeepals."
"Stupid anime merchandising..." muttered Akane under her breath. Brandi Toy Company had become quite agressive in recent years when it came to marketing anime-themed products. "Though I have to admit, they are kinda cute."
After what seemed like way too long to Akane, Kiko emerged with her new acquisition. Akane was surprised to see that in her excitement, Kiko hadn't even allowed the clerk to wrap her purchase.
"Oh, Piggachu, Piggachu, I love you! You can join Cattachu, Duckkachu, Squiddachu and all your friends in my room tonight. I just gotta have 'em all!"
Akane winced. Kiko looked up from her new toy, "Oh Akane-chan, just hold him. Isn't he adorable?"
"He looks an awful lot like my pet pig, P-chan," said Akane, reluctantly taking the toy from her friend. "In fact, if you put a bandana on his neck, they would be hard to tell apart." Looking more closely at the toy, Akane nodded. It had the typical shoddy workmanship of all mass-produced toys. She gave it a not-so-gentle squeeze, just as an experiment.
Akane blanched, "You don't say - it makes a noise, too?"
Kiko reached back for her prize, "Oh, Akane-chan, you HAVE to agree that he is sooo cute!"
"Yes..." agreed Akane, thinking to herself I have a real pet, and he is much nicer being 100-percent real piglet.
"Come on, Kiko-chan," said Akane, gently grabbing her friend's arm, "We'll be late for school if we don't hurry."
As they rushed down the street, Akane could not shake the nagging feeling that too many Piggachus were somehow not a good thing.
Hibiki Ryouga walked alone on the dusty road, under the cloudy morning sky, not quite certain of where he was.
An all-too-familiar scene.
They called him "Lost Boy"...among other things. And Ryouga knew how well the name fit. He never hated himself more then when he was thoroughly, utterly lost. And he had spent almost half of his life thoroughly and utterly lost.
His only real home was his backpack. Like some demented turtle... thought Ryouga, bitterly. It and his extremely heavy umbrella - deceptively appearing to be fashioned from common bamboo - were his only worldly possessions. What family he had was as perpetually lost as he was; years might go by before he saw any of them. For so much of his life, he had himself as his only companion - a companion he hated so much of the time.
But it looked like he might be gaining another companion, at least temporarily. Ryouga was quickly catching up to an older man in saffron-colored monk's robes, walking the same road just a dozen meters ahead of him. When he was almost close enough to touch the monk, Ryouga coughed quietly to clear the dust from his throat.
"Excuse me, sensei. Would you happen to know the way to Nerima?"
Looking over his shoulder at Ryouga, the monk answered with a gentle smile. "I happen to be going that way myself." His Japanese was ever so slightly accented. "I am Ti Xiu, humble adherent to the way of the Tatagatha Buddha."
Ryouga blushed, realizing he had forgotten his manners after all those weeks alone on the road. "Forgive my rudeness, sensei - I am Hibiki Ryouga. I would be grateful if I could travel alongside you until we reach the city. How far is it?"
Ti Xiu looked carefully, consideringly, at Ryouga for a few moments. The youth appeared to be around seventeen years old. His somewhat long black hair was done up with a leopard-print bandana, keeping it out of his large, liquid brown eyes. Ah.. thought Ti, it is there for anyone to see, that it is, in this one...
"Hmmm... yes, my child, I also think it best if you let me lead you. Nerima is but a few kilometers away, over the hill just there."
Ryouga gratefully fell into step just next to the monk, slightly bowing a 'thank-you' to him. As they walked side-by-side, Ryouga took the opportunity to unobtrusively consider his new traveling companion. The man was small, the top of his head only reaching to the mid-point of the boy's chest. Balding. The Buddhist rosary around his neck had the look of cherry wood, and his round glasses were wired in gold. He seemed to give off a sensation of peace and calm, the same way a boulder might radiate the day's saved heat on a summer evening. Ryouga felt himself relaxing more than he had in quite some time. Well, the fact that he knew where he was going surely had something to do with that.
Lost in thought, Ryouga failed to feel the first cold raindrops hit his shoulder. It dawned on him a few moments later. Oh, shit!! he thought, the calm feeling quickly draining from his body, I can't let myself get wet...
Almost before he could even think of reaching for the umbrella on his backpack, he felt the weight of it easing from his shoulders. Looking up, he saw that it was already open, protecting him. The motion had been so quick, so fluid that it was almost imperceptible. Ryouga's feelings instantly flowed from panic, to relief, to puzzlement.
"A thousand pardons, Hibiki-kun..." the old monk said, turning to Ryouga with a small, apologetic smile, "But something gives me the feeling that you would like to avoid getting wet. I myself, as a follower of the path, live with the elements as they come. Sadly, this means I do not own an umbrella. I hope you do not mind that I borrowed yours?"
Ryouga was speechless. There was no way that this old man could even lift his umbrella, much less handle it so smoothly. It was almost hard to decide what was more shocking - the old man's strength and skill, or the fact that he somehow seemed to know about Ryouga's curse.
"Uhm...well...of course, of course. Thank you, Ti-sensei."
"No worries, Hibiki-kun. We will be to Nerima before you know it."
Ryouga's only response - the only response possible - was to nod slowly and continue walking down the road. The old monk walked alongside him, covering the boy with his own umbrella.
"Boy!!!" Saotome Genma howled, as he lunged across the terra-cotta roof of the Tendo family dojo, "You will learn to obey your father!"
"You have to catch me first, old man," taunted Saotome Ranma, as he lightly skipped across the peak of the roof, planted both feet, then leaped over to the roof of the adjacent building. Moving eastward into the rising sun, he was momentarily lost to his father's sight.
As he squinted into the sun, Genma felt a movement behind him.
"Oh-ho! Think you can use the Anything-Goes-School Ultimate Double-Back technique on me, do you?" said Genma, as he spun around, right hand barely missing its grab for Ranma's leg.
The sparing and the taunts went on for almost an hour, before a voice interrupted the morning workout.
"Genma-san! Ranma-kun! Get ready for breakfast!"
"Coming, Kasumi!!" both Saotomes chimed together, in chorus.
Soaking together in the hot tub, after washing off the sweat and grime of the morning's exercise, the elder Saotome lifted the moist cloth from the top of his head and turned to his son.
"Ranma, I am well known to all for my patience and compassion..."
Ranma looked at his father suspiciously, out of the corner of his eyes.
"And I know things have been difficult for you..."
"Um, Pop..." began Ranma.
"SILENCE!" shouted Genma, "I am giving you compassionate, understanding fatherly counsel as recommended by TV Tokyo Sensei Oh Praw Wen Free, and I demand 100% attention as I pour out my heart to you!" Tears streamed freely down both sides of Genma's face.
Ranma's mouth closed with an audible 'snap'.
"You see, son," continued Genma, lifting his left hand to scratch the back of his head, "Tendo-kun and I realize that your...condition...has made things difficult for you and Akane-chan. At first, well, Tendo-kun was afraid that the whole thing was just too hentai. But being a modern father, I persuaded him that it was best that we adapt to the situation, give you both some time and see how the two of you worked things out between yourselves."
Ranma starred at his father for a few moments of uncomfortable silence.
"Well, anyway..." continued Genma, "Now that you and Akane-chan have settled things between you, Tendo-kun and I agree that the wedding needs to happen now."
"WHAT!" yelled Ranma, standing up. (Any view of his private parts conveniently blocked by the bath bucket perched on the edge of the tub.) "What have we worked out? She still hates boys, and I still say she is the most un-cute girl I have ever seen!"
"Oh, I know, I know," replied Genma, "But you see, she seems to have adapted to your unmanly curse quite well."
"What does that have to do with anything?"
"Well, son, the remaining problems between the two of you are the same as between most any couple. You don't like her, she doesn't like you - perfectly normal!" Genma beamed at his son. "Sometimes you are male, sometimes you are female - that's not normal. But if the two of you can deal with that, a little mutual loathing is no excuse to delay your wedding any longer."
Ranma's face grew red, and he clenched his teeth together. When he spoke, only his lips moved - "Perhaps that type of marriage was fine for you and Mom - how often have you actually seen her in the past seventeen years? But that is NOT the type of marriage I will live with, no matter how much you or any of a hundred fiancees may try to bully me."
"RANMA!" yelled Genma, standing up in the tub. (Any view of -his- private parts conveniently blocked by the rubber ducky perched on the edge of the tub...thank goodness for small favors!) "Duty to family comes first, before any personal desires we might have. And for all that it matters, your family consists of ME at this moment. I will no longer be disobeyed. You will be a man, and you will marry Tendo Akane - one month from today!"
"You will DIE first!" screamed Ranma. Quickly wrapping a towel around his waist, he ran from the bathroom, howling incoherently.
Hmm, I think that went rather well! Good old Oh Praw... Genma smiled, as he sank back down into the tub, replaced the moist towel on his head, and began a well-deserved long soak.
Continued in Chapter Two: Itadakimasu!
C&C welcome - Ashoro@excite.com