The Fire Sutra  - A Ranma 1/2 Fanfic
By Ashoka Roque
Book 3 of "Ashoro's Ranma Sutras"

Warnings: PG for adult humor and situations. Yaoi pairing (Ranma/Ryouga) : If anyone is offended by the stereotyped characterizations in the softball game, my apologies.  It's meant to be light-hearted, not social commentary. I have good friends who play softball, and it made them laugh, so it passed the test in my book.

Disclaimer: The "Ranma 1/2" characters belong to Takahashi Rumiko. I have put them in situations that diverge from the original storyline, but with no intent of compromising the integrity of her work. I make no profit from this story.  The character of Ti Xiu is my own creation.

C & C appreciated   ashoro@excite.com

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Chapter One:  Morning Dilemmas

 It was a fall morning at the Tendo family dojo.  The house was gradually filling up with the sounds of its sleepy inhabitants slowly beginning yet another day in the world.  Feet shuffled towards the washroom, pans clattered in the kitchen, and voices began muttering drowsy morning greetings.

Tendo Nabiki, middle of the three Tendo daughters, noticed an envelope sitting near the front door as she checked for her father's morning paper. It appeared to be a letter that had somehow escaped notice the afternoon before.  Picking it up, she examined it closely, noticing the Nepalese postmark and precise calligraphy address to "Young Mistress Tendo Akane." It was evidently written by Ti Xiu, the little Buddhist monk who had spent quite a bit of time at the dojo during a recent visit to Nerima.

"Akane-chan!" yelled Nabiki, adding her voice to the morning symphony, "There's a letter here for you!"

Akane carefully opened her letter over the breakfast table, before the other family members arrived.

My child -
     I recently received the beautiful wedding invitation from your father and Genma-san...

Akane growled under her breath.  It was almost like her father and Genma were the ones getting married, the way the two of them were gushing over the wedding plans!  She didn't recall being consulted about the wedding invitations, but realized after they had been sent that there was very little she could do about it.

Forgive me if I am not able to attend your blessed day. Perhaps, when we next meet,
 you and Ranma-kun will allow me  to say a few words over you.  I know, I know,
Christian weddings are the fashion in Japan these days, and they certainly have a
 romantic quality that a simple Buddhist blessing lacks.  But I hope you will indulge
 a foolish  old man.

Akane's eyes glistened and pulsed, threatening to tear. How could Ti-sensei doubt that she or Ranma would want his blessing, too? Not that she intended on going through with a wedding of any kind in the near future, of course.

Would that I could be there to speak with you in person. This, too, is the
prerogative of old people when  young people are married - the dispensation
 of unsolicited advice. I would share with you some words from the teaching
 sometimes called the "Fire Sutra".

The Buddha, when he was on this earth, had many devoted followers.  One
day he was approached by a man with a specific demand. "Teacher, you have
 taught us much - but there is so much more you have not taught us.  Why are
 we here? Who is the Creator of the Universe? How old is the world, and so on.
Until you answer these questions, I cannot follow you any longer, no matter
how truthful your teachings are."

To this the Buddha replied, "Foolish child.  You are like a man inside a burning
house, who refuses to leave until he knows why the house is burning, how long
 it has been burning, if the fire was set deliberately, and so on.  I have tried to
 teach you the way out of your house afire with suffering and misconception. If
you have followed me, you know the truth of my words.  You must look to yourself
 to determine why it is you refuse to accept them."

Akane-chan, at times knowing why things are is less important than dealing with
 them as they exist, in a spirit of compassion and mindfulness. If we let our
questions become a barrier  to growing and loving, we only do injury to
ourselves and others.

May the face of the Tagathata Buddha smile on you always, my child.

The letter was signed with Ti Xiu's chop, inked in gold.

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Akane would have been surprised to learn that as she was reading, the author of her letter was actually much closer than his monastery in Nepal.

The sound of clattering pans and running water filled the kitchen of the "Cat Café" as two young people began preparing the restaurant for another busy day.  One of the room's occupants was a tall young man. He wore glasses with lenses so thick they were almost prismatic, and was occupied chopping a large white daikon radish. Beside the stove stood a young girl bringing a large pot of water to boil. Her flowing blue hair was done up in two crowning pigtails.

The calm of their morning routine was broken when a flash of brown and black swooped underneath the short noren curtain that hung above the restaurant door.  "What is this?" asked the girl, speaking Chinese. A large, stately eagle hovered to a halt above the kitchen's butcher-block counter. 

With a flip of his wrist, the young man reversed his grip on the cutting knife, and turned in preparation to throw. "Stand back, Xian Pu!" he cried, also in Chinese.

"Wait a minute, Muu Su. He's not threatening us." Nevertheless, Xian Pu also assumed the alert stance of a martial artist preparing for the attack.

Far from threatening, the eagle seemed to be ignoring the pair in general.  Waddling slightly, he walked across the counter towards the stove, and with a small hop landed in the large pot of steaming water. As water poured down the side of the vessel the fire underneath hissed briefly, then sputtered and died.  Almost instantaneously, a small, elderly man flew out of the pot to land on his feet before the two astonished young people.  He was balding, and his sole items of clothing were a pair of gold-wired glasses and a Buddhist rosary made of cherry wood.

Gasping in astonishment, the pair immediately threw themselves to the ground, faces to the floor, with arms outstretched in a ritual posture of respect.

"Lord of Serenity!" both intoned, "How may we serve?"

"You can start by getting up from the floor," replied the older man, a slightly exasperated tone in his voice. "While your respect for tradition warms my heart, one needs to recognize the realities of the here-and-now. I abandoned all feudal titles many years ago."

The girl, then the boy, looked up from the floor and reluctantly stood.  Ti Xiu looked at them a moment. My, these two as well, he thought. Might as well start calling this town Jusenkyo west.

"Xian Pu, child. How you have grown since I saw you last.  Also you, Muu Su, my dear son.  I was just in Nerima, but had no idea you were living here. I have come to speak with your grandmother. Where might I find her?"

"She is not here, Lord," replied the girl, bowing her head slightly. "She went to the country to gather medicinal herbs.  We expect her back in a day or two."

"Well, one must wait if that is the case.  And please, address me as Father Ti - that is sufficiently respectful."

"Yes, Father Ti," repeated the boy and the girl, in unison.

"Now, my children, I would be most grateful if you could get me some clothes.  A saffron-colored robe would be particularly nice..."

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Ryouga awoke late that morning.  The autumn sun cast a deceptively warm glow through the orange nylon of his dome tent, which was pitched in a convenient spot behind the Tendo garden.  The young martial artist stretched his stiff body slowly as he prepared to get out of his sleeping bag.  Damn, I'm accustomed to being sore after a workout, but this is getting to be ridiculous. Ranma-kun and I need to have a serious discussion about these late nights. Ever since their return from that evening at Tofu-sensei's mountain cabin, Ryouga had entertained nightly visits from Ranma after the rest of the Tendo household was fast asleep.  A blush of pink unfolded across Ryouga's face at the memory of last night's activities. Ranma seemed to have developed an almost insatiable physical need for Ryouga. 

At first it was flattering, and reassuring.  Ryouga had feared that he would be alone and lost again if Ranma's feelings for him were a temporary situation. And after taking the drastic step of revealing his inner feelings - something almost totally out of character - Ryouga worried about his own reaction if the situation turned out for the worst.  Happily, none of his fears had come to pass.

Still, thought Ryouga, shaking his head silently as he rolled up his sleeping bag, Who would have guessed that Ranma-kun would be such a sex maniac? And I can't even tell him to take a cold shower...

As Ryouga marched stiffly to the Tendo kitchen, hoping that perhaps Kasumi would pity him with a bowl of leftover breakfast rice, Ranma and Akane were halfway to morning classes at Furinkan High. Akane was carrying her books under one arm while Ranma nonchalantly strolled beside her, balancing on the top of the fence that ran along the sidewalk.  

"Well, Ranma-kun," said Akane, with a smile, "you certainly seem to be in a good mood this morning!"

Ranma smiled in reply. "Yep, I guess I am. But you aren't acting your normal loud self.  What was in Ti-sensei's letter?  Not bad news, I hope."

"Oh, no - just the usual.  Some advice for the soon-to-be-married."

"Whoa," said Ranma, shaking his head, "Don't tell me he got one of those crazy invitations, too?"

"Yes, of course he did. You know our fathers wouldn't miss an opportunity to show off a foreign guest."  Irritation with their meddling parents seeped into Akane's voice, darkening it slightly.  "What are we going to do with those two, Ranma-kun, and this whole wedding mess?"

"You worry too much. Things will work out, one way or another.  They always seem to."  Ranma did a small cartwheel along the top of the fence, deftly catching his book bag when it threatened to fly off of his shoulder.

My, he is in a good mood,  thought Akane. Suddenly, a horrible idea rooted in her mind. Oh, no - he isn't actually looking forward to our wedding, is he? It seemed inconceivable that Ranma might have finally decided that he wanted to get married. Yet, his ridiculously happy behavior as the date of their forced wedding loomed closer had to signify something.

This thought made Akane even more irritated. It's not as if I don't want Ranma to be happy,  she protested to herself.  He certainly deserves to be, especially after the wretched childhood his father forced him to lead. But marriage between them had been their fathers' idea from the start. While Akane had gradually grown to care for Ranma, it wasn't a romantic feeling.  Perhaps one would best describe it as a desire to protect Ranma from his own massive stupidity. 

If Ranma isn't careful, he will end up married - but not to me. No, he'll end up with a manipulative minx like Xian Pu, or worse yet, Kuno Kodachi.  And after all the effort I've made to protect him, fighting those women and their miserable schemes! Hearing Kodachi's awful, cackling laugh echo in her head, Akane visibly shivered.

"Uhm, you alright, Akane?" asked Ranma, looking over his shoulder. "It's kinda chilly this morning. You wanna wear my jacket?"

"Oh, no, that's okay..." Akane said.  Oh, no, that's bad! she thought.  He's being way too considerate for Ranma.  He really is acting like someone in love. But I don't love him in that way. Oh, baka Ranma! Baka, baka Ranma!

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Afternoon activities at Furinkan that day centered on the upcoming girl's softball game with the visiting American team, "Sapho Sluggers."  Tendo Akane (shortstop), Kuonji Ukyo (star hitter) and Higurashi Yuri (pitcher) watched as the American team arrived at the field for a pre-game tour of Furinkan. 

"Principle Kuno is looking surprisingly normal," observed Akane. The headmaster of Furinkan High had donned a red, white and blue Hawai'ian shirt for the special occasion, and appeared to be behaving very professionally, for a change.

"I guess it's because he restricted himself to only three colors," cracked Ukyo, causing all three girls to giggle.

"Well," said Yuri, edging her teammates forward, "Let's get a closer look at tomorrow's competition."

The American team had brought most of their equipment along, presumably to store it overnight in the visiting team locker room.  All the girls wore souvenir baseball hats, a gift from the Nerima Chamber of Commerce.  Each hat sported American and Japanese flags, and had the girl's name stitched on the front.

"Hmm..." said Ukyo, assessing their rivals.  "I don't like the looks of that one - 'Rosie' I guess." Ukyo nodded her head in the direction of a stocky, dark-haired woman.

"Yeah, she's a bruiser," replied Yuri. "Probably a big hitter.  How about the skinny one - 'Ellen'."

"She looks like a pitcher to me," said Akane.

"Are you sure?" asked Ukyo, squinting her eyes slightly. "I thought she looked like a catcher."

"And how about that one hanging on her?" observed Yuri. "Her hat says 'Anne.'  Is she human?"  The girl in question was a waify platinum blond, with what looked to be two small antennae growing out of the top of her head, poking up through holes in her hat.

While the Japanese girls pondered this, several of the Americans began to unload equipment from the bus. While most of the girls had standard canvas duffels, three of the girls, 'Melissa', 'Tracey' and 'kd' carried objects that looked to be suspiciously similar to guitar cases.

"Does America have Yakuza?" asked Yuri, slightly anxiously.

"They're called Mafia," replied Ukyo, "but they could never have gotten guns in past customs."

While this was somewhat reassuring, the three girls couldn't help but wonder what *was* in those cases. 

"Well," concluded Akane, as the three began walking back to class, "Whatever happens tomorrow, it sure won't be boring."

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The Fire Sutra continues in Chapter Two: Indiscretions

C & C appreciated   Ashoro@excite.com