Disclaimer: The playground is by Rumiko Takahashi, I'm only swinging on
the monkey bars. Remember to leave the grounds cleaner than you found
them and please don't feed the Trolls.

"Summer Lightning" and "Thanksgiving Eve" are copyrighted by Garnet
Rogers; if you haven't encountered him before go out and buy his CDs,
he sings lots better than I write.

"The Haughs of Cromdale" is a Traditional song from Scotland. My
version is off an album by the Corries.

Isileth and Aldric Talvalin, and everything to do with them belong to
Peter Morwood. They come from his series, the Books of Days (The Horse
Lord, The Dragon Lord, The Demon Lord, and The Warlord's Domain.); now,
sadly, no longer in print.

Gally, Hugo, Ido and Co. are characters from the manga/anime series
"Hyper Future Vision Gunmm", which belongs to Yukito Kishiro.

This story is archived at http://www.kawaiikunee.com/slp/

Release 1.1 (Dec. 07, 2000)


Ranma and Akane: A Love Story
Chapter 6: Immediate Consequences
Part A: The Night Before the Morning After


There are certain ways that things are supposed to go.

Take, for instance, the case of waking up in someone else's bed. This
is _supposed_ to involve long drowsy dalliances and breakfast in situ,
served by dedicated servants. Or, on the other hand, romantic melodrama
may easily be obtained by hasty dressing and tearful, secretive

Unless, of course, the other whose bed you are waking up in is an Other
whom no-one, including the other, may be allowed to suspect _is_ the
Other; in which case things are supposed to occur so as to maximize
embarrassment for all involved.

(Yes, that _was_ a complex sentence. Read it through a couple times, it
means what it says.)

Fortunately for Ranma, the sensation of Akane breathing into her ear
woke her alone and unobserved.

This precipitated what should have been the type of convulsive jerk
that knocks over the bed, wakes the bed-mate, calls the attention of
the house, and otherwise results in complete higgelty-piggelty.

Alas for the devotees of the Right and Proper Order of Things, however,
Ranma's well-honed reflexes and hard-wired skills were in full working
order; and she removed herself from complete (if, sadly, clothed)
entanglement in Akane's embrace to a position standing upright in the
middle of the room without much more than a mild heart attack.

This should not, however, be construed as meaning that the forces of
Dramatic Righteousness were entirely cheated of their due.

The human body is a complex collection of muscles, bone, nerves,
joints, ligaments, and other such items. Ranma's collection chose that
moment to send her a wide array of bitterly-complaining messages,
relaying their utter dissatisfaction with their current conditions and
accusing her of criminal incompetence at the top. She also noted the
pounding pain of a massive migraine headache, foretelling an impressive
hangover; caused, she knew, by metabolic by-products and ki imbalances
attendant upon the rather ... unique ... stresses to which she and
Akane had been subjected earlier that day.

Action was clearly called for, and she exerted her trained will and
knowledge of Magic and martial lore, pushing back the pain and
stiffness and adjusting a wide range of inner balances. Attempted to
move. And whimpered, very faintly.

Then she consulted a hard-won store of homeopathic medical lore and
immediately prescribed herself a long soak in a hot bath and some
serious reconstructive meditation.

Which would require walking all the way out the hall and down the
stairs, not to mention _another_ hall at the bottom of the stairs.
Truly it is said that the life of a Martial Artist is fraught with

It would be a good idea to wake Akane, however. Particularly since,
unless she was seriously mistaken, Akane's lingering effects of the
day's adventures would be even more extreme than her own.

Ranma felt a renewed pang of grief shoot through her as she took in
Akane's profile, following the new lines of scars that spread out in a
web around her left eye, easily visible as she lay on her right side.

She forced herself to lock the sensation deeply inside; even if
revealing the extent of her sorrow were not far too dangerous to the
careful masquerade she must now live, it was horribly disrespectful to
Akane. She had, after all, followed along of her own free will, and
must be regarded as a warrior capable of knowing her own honor and what
it demanded.

Honorable action required what it required, and cost what it cost. Had
she, herself, not born up under wounds as great? To rail against the
necessary costs of one's actions was to cheapen them; and to cheapen
Akane was a thing which she could never do.

In the end Akane's slumber proved more than a match for Ranma's
somewhat lessened resources, and Ranma finally decided simply to let
her sleep. Summoning her ferocious will and inexhaustible endurance,
she strode out the door and down the stairs towards the furo and a
long, hot soak with all the grace and power of an octogenarian


The furo, generally speaking, was an institution and object of which
Tendo Nabiki thoroughly approved. It was not merely sanitary and
relaxing, she felt, but good for the mind and will as well.

A long soak relaxed the body, which gave the mind time and space in
which to think unhindered. Most of all, it provided a protected space.
It was so often necessary to impose control on one's self, on one's
expressions and actions. Any opportunity to create a time or space in
which that control could be relaxed, however briefly, was to be

Moreover, it was an easily secured space as well, especially a private
furo, like the one in the Tendo bath. Even a public furo was far more
private than it would appear at first glance, since custom imposed a
veil of indifference over the lack of physical privacy that actually
provided far more actual privacy than most would believe. As long as
one was discreet, at least.

But a _private_ furo .... Not only did it share in the custom-imposed
privacy of the public furo, but it had _physical_ privacy, too.

Also, if one suspected that one's privacy had been imposed on, one
could take any actions necessary to regain it, _without_ alerting
anyone to the presence of something out of the ordinary to be protected
in the first place.

All in all, Nabiki was very fond of finding a good furo and settling in
for a long soak whenever she was feeling out of sorts. That afternoon
she soaked for as long as she could stand. She was thinking. Thinking
as hard and strategically as she had in a long time.

It could be managed, she felt. Mind, her sister was still an idiot. But
it _could_ be managed. There was no real hope that the news would not
get out, but if she managed the grapevine just so .... She supposed
that was 'spin', or whatever the set of idiots currently running the
Western Media were calling it at the moment.

But any Japanese (really, any truly _civilized_ person, she reflected)
knew instinctively that it was the consensus of community opinion that
mattered. All she had to do was swing that consensus a little, a task
in which she should have a considerable advantage; _this_ consensus,
after all, directly affected Ranma.

Not only had she, herself, _demonstrated_ an advanced grasp of public
consensus management; but even more, a denigratory consensus might well
cause her to become ... annoyed. Since she strongly suspected that no
sane person at Furinkan would actually wish to see that happen ....

So, all she _should_ have to do was drop a few subtle hints. And make
sure that no random _in_-sane person upset the boat. Not difficult, if
she was any judge, as long as she kept things vague enough that people
could agree without having to confront what they were agreeing with

The last thing she thought before relaxing fully into the lassitude
brought by the delicious warmth of the water was that she was glad that
she lived in a society where allusion made arranging things like that
no more difficult than necessary. She didn't really feel up to doing
anything difficult right now anyway.


After finishing her bath, she was inclined to talk over a few things
with Kasumi, just to make sure that they were both on the same page as
regards her dear little sister's idiocy and its probable cause. A small
disturbance alerted her to an approaching spectacle however, and she
silently took refuge in the Tendo Family room to await it.

The spectacle in question did not disappoint. Ranma, jacket-less, de-
scarfed and carrying her shirt in her hand, limped vaguely down the
hallway, around the corner and into the furo.

Nabiki forbade herself to make any noise. She had heard from her rumor
sources that Ranma was scarred beneath her usual enveloping clothes,
but she had not expected ... and _some_ of those scars were not old,
fine, white lines but rather angry, red welts.

Nabiki felt her eyes fill, briefly, with tears. She would have to
remember this sight, she thought, whenever she doubted her sister's
lover. Ranma might be overly heroic and possessed of something
resembling a death-wish, but there could be no doubt that she knew the
cost of the actions she took. Which was very much for the better,
actually; if someone _had_ to act like a Samurai, it was much easier to
respect them knowing that they always kept one eye on the cost.

Shaking her head she turned from the closing door and went to talk to


She woke up.

This, she decided, was her first mistake.

She was not immediately sure what had awakened her, but she _was_
immediately sure that she wished it hadn't bothered.

Her hair hurt.

That was not even considering the mad kamikaze air molecules that were
attempting to flay her skin off.

Now that she whimpered it, how _had_ those tribes of mad, jack-hammer
wielding dwarves gotten inside her skull, anyway? And what had she done
to piss them off so badly?

Couldn't they have written her a ... a letter or something?

She'd have apologized, really.

Also, she really had to talk to someone about putting dead rats in her
mouth. It just wasn't civilized, and whoever had done it ought to have
known better.

She tried to summon up a sense of righteous outrage, but all she could
manage was a dull throb, and it immediately got lost in all the other
aches and pains.

Attempting to discern where, exactly, she was, she opened her eyes.

Mistake number two, instantly taken advantage of by the roving hordes
of nomadic biker photons, which used the opening in her defenses to
invade down her optic nerves in a howling wave and set her brain on

Attempting to quench the flames, she curled into a foetal ball and
threw her arms around her head.

Mistake number three.

It was really fascinating, she thought distantly, that a sufficient
amount of suffering could not only _induce_ unconsciousness, but could
then immediately _negate_ it.

Well, she had obviously screwed up _somewhere_, big-time. Now the
question was: where was Ranchan when you really needed her?

Ranma. Didn't she have a vague memory of Ranma saying something?

Something ... about ... about ... getting up? ... and going ... to the
furo. Or she'd stiffen up....

Ah.... So that was it.

Well, she could see that the rest of the day promised to be unpleasant.


But she had a plan to outwit it.

Just as soon as she took her bath and got a little control back, she
was going to die.


That'd show it.

You bet.

Now all she had to do was get to the furo.

Which involved ... taking off her clothes ... and going ... all the way
... down the stairs. Oh dear.

Shortly, a shambling figure tackled the complex challenge of walking
down a flight of stairs without toppling over. Its progress was not
eased by an apparent difficulty with the dim hallway light, which was
causing it to move in a series of flinches.

Exerting supreme self-control, it avoided a lunging attempt to descend
the stairs in a single moment, outracing light itself. Which was a good
thing, really, because the photons hanging around were sufficiently
annoyed as it was, and the figure was in enough trouble.

Stumbling down the last stair risers and shuffling painfully around two
corners and down the hall, the figure had nearly attained its hoped-for
sanctuary when fate cruelly intervened.

A firm, decisive footstep was heard, and Tendo Soun entered the hallway
from the garden outside and came face-to-face with his daughter.

And, for a brief moment, nothing happened.

Then Akane feebly attempted to placate the looming disaster by waving
her hands at her father, and whimpering. Alas, in vain; slowly started
but rapidly rising came the ultimate horror (at least to anyone with a
killing hangover), a full, all-out, Tendo Soun Wail.

(#2516: My daughter went to Hell and lost her eye, now she'll
never get a husband and I'll be alone in my old age, aiiee!)

The noise went through Akane's already shot nerves like a buzzsaw and
she collapsed to the floor in a foetal ball. Naked and dripping from
the tub, Ranma was at her side two seconds later. Kneeling at Akane's
side, Ranma gently coaxed her out of her curled up misery; in the
process leveling a glare at Soun that sent him backwards in a dead

Nabiki, drawn by the *thud* of Akane impacting the floor, managed a
gasp before Ranma cut her off. "Nabiki-san, please ask Kasumi-san to
get Acchan a glass of whichever hangover cure she usually makes for
your father." Smoothly, Ranma picked Akane up and took her into the
furo. Nabiki gaped briefly at the closing door before running back to
fetch Kasumi.


Timidly, Kasumi knocked on the door to the bath. "Ranma-san, may I come

"Please do."

Kasumi carried the large glass into the furo, and, like her sister,
restrained a gasp. It was bad enough to see such extensive scars on
Ranma-san, reminding her of the cost demanded of those who walk
Bushido, but to see such scars in turn on the smooth flesh of her
younger sister; that was almost more than she could stand.

Akane was huddled against the edge of the tub, with her face turned
down and her eyes shut as Ranma gently probed her acupuncture and
shiatsu spots from behind. At Kasumi's approach, Ranma leaned back in
the tub, and Akane turned around, looking up at Kasumi in thankfulness
and reaching out for the glass she was carrying.

Seeing the new web of faint scars around her sister's eye and the
changed nature of the orb itself caused Kasumi to fall to her knees,
extending the glass with shaking hand. Akane almost snatched the glass
away from her, and drained it with a single, long pull before putting
it to the side and coming up partially out of the tub to gather Kasumi
into her arms and hug her fiercely.

"Kasumi! Kasumi-oneechan, it's all right. It _looks_ awful but the eye
still works just fine."

Ranma raised an eyebrow and dryly said, "I say again, it looks
_rakish_. Not awful, _rakish_."

Kasumi made a mighty effort and came back on balance. "I don't want to
contradict you, Ranma-san, but I'm afraid it does look awful. Just a

Akane released her hug and turned back toward Ranma, sticking out her
tongue, "See? I _told_ you so!"

Ranma settled back in the tub and spread her arms along the rim,
"Acchan, look this way. Now raise your left eyebrow. No, a little
higher. Yeah, like that. Now show Kasumi-san." A short pause. "See?

Akane sighed and stood up, saying, "Please excuse me, 'Neechan, I have
to kill -" as she reached her full height she paused, her eyes going
wide in shock as an alarming cracking sound made itself known. "... er,
that is. I have to get right back in the tub here and have Ranchan do
some more shiatsu on me. Yeah, that's it."

Ranma sighed, "Doesn't listen. Over-exerts. Rushes in where angels fear
to tread. Domineering. And now she wants shiatsu, too. Oh dear. What a
pity. Never mind." Winking at Kasumi's mildly alarmed look, Ranma slid
forward in the tub to kneel behind Akane.

Akane looked up, alarmed, "Ranchan! I need ... ooooh!" As Ranma's hand
reached the first shiatsu spot, Akane's eyes slitted in relief, the
left flashing a solid gold.

Kasumi smiled slightly and silently slipped out.


"Ranma-san! I will not permit you to run off without dinner. It is
getting late and you _must_ be tired, you should eat with us and sleep
in the guest room tonight."

Ranma blinked, backing away from Kasumi and frantically waving her
hands, "Ahhh ... of course, Kasumi-san, whatever you say. I'll just go
into the Dojo and, ahh, maintain my equipment, yes?" Grabbing a
confused and yukata-clad Akane by the shoulder, Ranma hastily retreated
from the main house to the Dojo.

"Geeze! Your sister is _scary_ when she's like that!" Ranma peeked
cautiously around the edge of the Dojo door. "Anyway, I'm serious,
Acchan, you need to go get your stuff and get it back in order right
now, before you forget and then don't have it next time."

Akane nodded muzzily and wandered out of the Dojo and back upstairs.
Ranma busied herself with seeing to the good condition of her weapons,
but was interrupted when Akane timidly reappeared, holding a sword in
an ill-fitting scabbard away from her body with obvious reluctance.


Ranma looked up and raised an eyebrow.

"This," Akane continued, "is _not_ my sword. And I don't have _any_ of
the other stuff and I've never seen this sword before ... I don't even
know what _kind_ of sword it is ...."

Ranma stood up and gingerly took the sword away, laying it flat on the
portable table she was using to hold her cleaning gear. "Taiken. It's a

She withdrew the sword from its scabbard and turned it over and around
in her hands. It was slightly longer than a katana, straight bladed and
double-edged, but still chisel-pointed. It was made of a dull, gray
steel, better polished in the middle of the blade, which sank into a
blood-groove accented by the yakiba-mon, the wavy pattern that
indicates the different steel composition used in the edge of a blade.

It was elaborately hilted in black, non-reflective steel, a two-handed,
wire-wrapped grip rising from a heavy thorn pommel to a wide crossbar
that flared out into hilt-loops to protect its wielder's fingers as
they might be looped over the hilt. The side-bars of the hilt flared
out into an almost-basket that provided a fair amount of protection to
the upper hand of a wielder, and even a casual inspection woke
amazement at the magnificent balance and liveliness of the cold, gray
steel. "It's a _good_ taiken."

Ranma withdrew a small tool from jacket-space and placed the blade on
the table, beginning to disassemble its hilt. "These are usually
tang-marked ... like ... so ...." her voice faded off into a long

Akane drew closer and leaned forward to see, but could not read the
strange, curling letters. Ranma held the blade up to the light and read
something off the tang in a language that Akane likewise did not know.

Indicating this with a slant of her eyebrow, Akane caused Ranma to
flush briefly and then translate aloud into Japanese, "'Forged was I,
of iron heaven born. Ulean made me. I am Isileth.'"

"How, ah... how did you manage to pick this up, anyway, Acchan? I saw
you waving it around when you, ah, came to get me, but ..." Ranma
slowly and coolly put the hilt back together.

Akane stammered something inane about how she had needed a sword and it
had just been lying there and she'd just put her hand on it, and....

Ranma shook her head sadly. "Outnumbered. Injured. Back to the wall.
And you 'just happen' to put your hand onto Isileth Widow-maker. Give
it up, girl. You are _so_ doomed." Then, suddenly, she grinned, "But at
least being around you won't be _boring_. I hate _boring_," she winked.

Akane grinned weakly and blushed. Then she indicated the sword still
lying on the table. "Ummm ... you seem to know it ... her? What's the

"Well ... about a dozen or so universes _that_ way there is a land
called Alba, which has a number of similarities to Tokugawa era Japan.
For samurai say 'kailin-eir', for katana say 'taiken'.

"I had heard a rumor that the kailin in Alba practiced an Art called
Taiken-ulleth, which involved a form of 'perfect swordsmanship', and
that there was one living master left.

"So about a year or so back I used the amulet to go look, but I never
found him, or her, whichever. But, while I was there, I did pick up a
fair bit of kailinin lore, one bit of which was the story of the 'most
perfect sword', Isileth.

"Supposedly made from 'star-metal' from a fallen meteorite. Said in
legend to have been refolded three hundred times, quenched in blood and
polished by fire and water. Rumored to be too tough to bend, too strong
to break and with an edge that was sharpened once and hasn't dulled
since. Claimed to have been used by heroes and villains for two
thousand years or more."

Ranma took a piece of rice-paper and traced out the outline of
Isileth's blade, and then took up the ill-fitting scabbard and began
preparations to modify it to properly receive its new resident. "What
she was doing on a slope just outside of Hell I've no idea. Here," she
handed the sword-hilt to Akane, "do a kata or two and get to know her.
Perhaps she'll tell you." Akane took the sword silently and stood,
momentarily at a loss.

After a minute or so she shook her head dazedly and turned back to the
center of the Dojo, moving with a slight wince for abused muscles and
joints and focusing inward, preparing a pain-blocking mantra to aid her
concentration. Then she pressed the sword's blade to her forehead in
salute and sank into the slight trance she used to invoke Other-sight.

Instead of focusing it on anything, she deliberately _de_-focused it
and began a basic sword kata, extending a welcome to any insights the
blade might offer.

From behind her as she danced her kata she heard Ranma begin to sing
lowly and distractedly as she worked on the scabbard. And as the song
continued, low and dark and couched in some dialect of English that she
could barely even determine _was_ English, her de-focused Sight began
to gather sounds and images. Images of blood.

As I came in by Auchindoun,
a little wee bit frae the toun,
When to the Highlan's I was bound,
to view the haughs of Cromdale.

Right hand highest on the hilt (a voice whispered, "One hand only girl,
until you apply force to the cut, keep your other hand free. And put a
finger over the hilt, it increases control, and the hilt-loops will
guard it."), arm rising for jodan-no-kame morote uchi kiri otashi
kudashi, the most basic of strikes, the two-handed vertical downward
blow to cleave head and chest together ("The pearsplitter ..." the
voice whispered).

I met a man in tartan trews,
I speir'd at him what was the news;
Quo' he the Highlan' army rues,
that e'er we came to Cromdale.

And her mind sank into a receptive blankness and she stopped the cut at
the level of the lower chest and transmuted its force into a bouncing
return to guard, left hand dropping away and right hand blurring in
withdrawal to hasso hidari gamae, left foot leading as she cocked the
sword by the side of her head in preparation for ...

We were in bed, sir, every man,
when the English host upon us came,
A bloody battle then began
upon the haughs of Cromdale.

... for jodan-no-yoho giri kudashi, the high horizontal cut, right to
left as the body uncoils and the left hand comes around to grip the
hilt and put the whole force of that uncoiling behind the decapitation
stroke ("... to the cross, inverted ..." the whisper said), and ...

The English horse they were so rude,
they bath'd their hooves in Highlan' blood,
But our brave clans, they boldly stood
upon the haughs of Cromdale.

... and the left hand let go again as the body whirled around into
right-advance guard and the right sank the blade into chudan-no-kame,
middle guard, and the blade sank into darkness until only a gleaming
trace of blue-silver fire marked its edge and her body faded away and

But, alas! We could no longer stay,
and o'er the hills we came away,
And sore we do lament the day,
that e'er we came to Cromdale.

... and the blade angled left and thrust up and forward and her left
hand flickered out to propel the body of the blade in a thrusting cut
to the back and side of the neck of the dark, faceless figure that
attacked from that side and, still faceless, faded as it fell and left
only the great spray of blood from its severed carotid and jugular,
bright red and wet as it fanned out from the massive slash and her left
hand fell away again and ...

Then the great Montrose did say,
Highlan' men show me the way,
For I will o'er the hills this day,
to view the haughs of Cromdale.

... and her right hand brought the blade down a foot and began the
mirror-image thrust-and-slash to the right and her left hand floated up
(so fast) and she thrust right and past the target and her body twisted
back as her left hand pushed forward and her right drew back and ...

They were at dinner, every man,
when great Montrose upon them came,
A second battle then began,
upon the haughs of Cromdale.

... and the back edge of the blade cut through the target's throat in
the strike Ranma had taught her earlier in the week ('This move was
designed for a two-edged blade,' she thought) and the fan of blood
arced out wide and scarlet as she completed soukongou (and the whisper
said, "... twin-thunderbolts ...") and the blood-sprays blew past and
behind her view and the fallen bodies faded like mist beneath the hot
sun and ...

The Grant, Mackenzie and MacKay,
soon as Montrose they did espy,
O then, they fought most valiantly!
upon the haughs of Cromdale.

... and she faced an opponent across ten feet of open ground and the
circle of watchers were tense as the Marshall dropped the wand to begin
the duel and she advanced chudan and feinted outside and knocked his
sword off-line *scrape* along the top of the opponent's blade, shock of
heavy resistance as she cut through the neck and ...

The MacDonalds they returned again,
the Camerons did their standard join,
MacIntosh play'd a bloody game,
upon the haughs of Cromdale.

... and her horse kicked into a gallop as she put up the great bow and
the sword was in her hand and she extended it forward, wrist cocked as
the point turned a little down, making a small lance as they galloped
toward the enemy in his array and a heavy, wet shock ran up her arm as
the blade went home and she galloped across the field cutting down her
foes and ...

The MacGregors fought like lions bold,
MacPhersons, none could them control,
MacLaughlins fought, like loyal souls,
upon the haughs of Cromdale.

... and they faded into mist, gray and fading except for the bright
scarlet of the spouting, running, dripping blood and the blood sprayed
back and forth but none of it clung to her or to the blade but it
seemed to bounce off a figure hanging in front of her in the heavy air
and she ran through the dark stone halls striking target (only targets,
gray, fading and gone) left and right and the flowing blood outlined
and then filled in another opponent ...

MacLeans, MacDougals, and MacNeils,
so boldly as they took the field,
And made their enemies to yield,
upon the haughs of Cromdale.

... another opponent; tall and massive, armored in an alien style in
full plate-and-chain, like and yet unlike a samurai in its blood-red
armor and taiken like her own and she fought with it back and forth
across a hearth a field a forest clearing and she brought the blade
around kasumi kiri age, arms crossed, right hand sliding out low to
join the left hand and come up hard and diagonally to the left across
the body, and her opponent opened out along the line of the cut and
there was nothing inside but blood and ...

The Gordons boldly did advance,
the Frasers fought with sword and lance,
The Grahams they made the heads to dance,
upon the haughs of Cromdale.

... and it sprayed out and covered her but there was no smell of blood,
no remembered salt-iron tang but only a stale, sweet, sad hint of roses
and the blood hanging in the air turned black and fell like rain, and
she met and destroyed another gray warrior and another and another but
their blood did not spout bright wet scarlet but black and heavy and it
fell back upon them and they twisted and where a man had stood a black
rose now hung in midair and the air was full, overpowered by the smell
and something small and bright and blue fell out of the sky and the gem
hung before her, glowing and ...

The loyal Stewarts with Montrose,
so boldly set upon their foes,
And brought them down with Highland blows,
upon the haughs of Cromdale.

... and she swung the sword kiri otashi kudashi again and it flared
with blue fire so intense that it blinded her and the rose was burned
away and where the jewel had been crouched a figure twisted and huddled
over, almost invisible except for the crippled, twisted claw that was
its right hand and her hands went back for the stroke but then she
brought the blade down and grasped it with both hands and _snapped_ it
and her hands hurt and bled and her stomache hurt and bled and her
chest hurt and bled and it was whole again and the twisted figure faded
and she stepped past it and the blade flared brighter and higher and
she attacked the alien, horrible form that rose above her, slobbering,
and she cut it across and it divided in half and fell away and she
dropped the blade, casting it aside and the dust covered it and her eye
flared with pain and she fell and twisted as she rolled in the dust and
she grasped the hilt and came upright and ...

Of twenty thousand Cromwell's men,
five hundred fled to Aberdeen
The rest of them lie on the plain,
upon the haughs of Cromdale.

... and settled into perfect chudan-no-kame as the kata ended and she
saluted the Dojo and flicked the sword around. And she turned back to
Ranma where she knelt near the Dojo wall and asked, "Does the name
Talvalin mean anything to you?"

"Not a thing," Ranma said cheerfully and handed her the remade scabbard
and she sheathed the sword.

And from the main house Kasumi called, "Ranma-san, Akane-chan, dinner!"

And they went in to see.


Akane's room was dark and still in night's embrace. Akane, however, was

Shadowy dreams of loss and pain lurked just beyond the border of the
waking world, and a pit of darkness vast enough to suck her down
forever awaited her least little lowering of defense. This she knew.

What she did not know was how to fight the encroaching dark. If she
could only find a target, something to hit with her fist or her sword.
If it were only an external threat that she could face head on. If it
were only an obvious weakness, something even in herself, but something
she could come to grips with.

But what could she do with dreams in the dark?

Lost in her silent, failing struggle, she did not hear the quiet
opening of the door, nor did she note the form that ghosted across her
room until it actually sat upon her bed; and by then, of course, it was
too late. Ranma had already heard her faint whimper, already seen her
toss and turn. Numbly she turned her head to look at Ranma, and was
again surprised by the serene concern in her friend's sapphire eyes.

Akane had always lived her life in a continual state of insecurity;
always convinced that the next day, the next challenge would prove her
painfully gathered skills inadequate, would leave her bereft and
lacking in worth. It was not that she did not appreciate her own skills
as a martial artist; indeed, in some ways those skills were themselves
the source of the problem.

She was good at martial arts, but, she felt, _only_ at martial arts.

For all of her girlhood, Kasumi had been the perfect female figure.
When their mother had died, she had stepped into the role of alpha
female with barely a hitch.

Nabiki had become skilled in manipulation, using her mind and her
skills at sneakiness to get things accomplished; for the benefit of the
Dojo itself, mostly, it was true. But to her, for whatever reason or
purpose, fell the skills of manipulation, of social control and social

Denied primacy in these areas, Akane had specialized in the Art, taking
up the family school that neither of her sisters had expressed an
interest in, and in that pursuit she had established a primacy of her

What she had not established, to herself, was that her primacy was
real. Always, in the back of her mind, came the thought that her
sisters had _allowed_ her that primacy, because it did not matter. That
no-one contested her in it, because no-one cared. That all that her
effort had bought her was ... nothing.

In the bright light of day she could look around herself and see her
strengths. In the light it looked like she had made of herself a
warrior who could overcome any challenge she attempted. In the light it
looked like the paths she had turned aside from offered little in the
way of real challenge.

In the light it looked as though _she_ had taken the harder path, the
path of greatest growth, and that the necessary parts (Oh, not _all_
the parts, no. But you don't need _all_ the parts to get by.) of the
others would be ... easy.


In the light.

But here in the night, lying still and quiet in the dark, ... well,
things do have a tendency to look differently in the dark.

And if you were lying on your back looking up at the ceiling, and if
you were somehow to relax the guards you normally hold that keep you
from thinking unpleasant thoughts like that, then, having thought one
unpleasantness, you might go on to think others.

You might begin to think that the path that you had chosen, far from
being the path of greatest growth, was instead the path of least
result. You might begin to think that you had traded the ability to
make cookies for the ability to nearly get the woman you have just
realized you love killed.

Or, you might begin to question just how much all this practice you
have been doing in your chosen field has actually bought you. You might
begin to compare the things you had learned on your own to the things
that, let's say, Someone had taught you, and conclude that you had
learned nothing of value yourself at all.

You might begin to think that you were ... lesser, ... second rate. And
you might begin to wonder what use you, yourself, actually were. A
second rater moreover, you might begin to think, who has had the great
idiocy to fall (say it) in love with a first rater in the same field.

And you might begin to wonder just what use there is in saying, for
example, "Ranma and Akane".

"Ranma and Kasumi", you might think, makes some sense; "Kasumi" can
cook ... and clean ... and ... and be Kasumi.

"Ranma and Nabiki" allows "Nabiki" to be sneaky and make money, and
terrorize people who need to be terrorized.

But if all "Akane" is good for is fighting, and if "Ranma" already has
the fighting part of "Ranma and Akane" covered, then what use in "Ranma
and Akane" is ... "Akane"? And if "Ranma and Akane" is a thing that you
are coming to believe is the thing that makes being "Akane" worthwhile,
but there is no use in "Ranma and Akane" for "Akane then what use _is_
"Akane"? Or ... _is_ there any use for "Akane" ... at all?

And these are the sorts of thoughts that have a tendency to cause
theoretical thinkers Deep Distress, and, on that count, to be relegated
to the far background and never allowed out into the conscious portion
of the brain.

This defense mechanism can, in itself, cause certain problems.

For instance, when confronted with the aforesaid "Someone first rate in
the same field", and the occasion to meditate on silken scarlet hair
and sea-deep sapphire eyes, and the opportunity to ask the question "Is
there room in 'Ranma and Akane' for 'Akane'? Or, indeed, is there any
reason to entertain the concept of 'Ranma and Akane' at all?" then
thoughts like these might cause you to wimp out.

For another instance, even if you _are_ the "Someone, etc." and even if
you _know_ that there is indeed very good reason to entertain the
concept of "Ranma and Akane", and what role "Akane" should play in it,
it does not necessarily follow that you _also_ know whether there is
any reason to consider the concept of _"Akane and Ranma"_.

And in this case similar thoughts can not only cause you to wimp out,
but also to pay less attention to subtleties of interpersonal conver-
sation than might otherwise be the case.

To summarize the summary of the summary: people are a problem.

All of which goes a long way towards explaining why, when Ranma said,
"Problems?" Akane did _not_ say, "Yes! I'm tired, I'm sick, I hurt and
I'm so confused and overwhelmed that I can't think. I need to bury my
face in your hair for several years to clear my head. Make love to me
'til I pass out!" but rather (in a much smaller voice), "Can't think.
Too much." And why Ranma did not, quite, hear what she meant, but only
what she said.

And also why, when Ranma knelt on the bed and drew Akane up into a
reverse embrace, so that Akane was sitting in front of Ranma with
Ranma's arms folded beneath her breasts and the top of her head beneath
Ranma's chin, and said, "Maybe I can teach you a technique to help. Do
you trust me?" Akane just said "Yes," instead of "With my honor, my
life and my soul. And, incidentally, if you wanted to move your hands
up a bit I'd be perfectly happy to trust you with my body, too." And
Ranma, of course, missed that, as well.

Even world class martial artists, gifted with the perception to track
another person's motives and intentions in the heat of mortal combat
have their occasional off days. Which is a shame, it's true. But it
just isn't time for this story to go lemon yet.


"Okay, Acchan," Ranma murmured, "this technique is called 'the
Rainbow', because the way you begin requires you to picture one in your
mind. What I am going to ask you to do is to close your eyes, and then
to impress upon yourself a vision of each of the colors of the rainbow,
one by one.

"As you visualize each color, you will attach to it all of your
tensions, unhappiness or pain and imbalance in a specific area. Then,
when you release the visualization of the color, you will also release
all the negative chi that you have just collected.

"The order and rhythm of the colors will allow you to completely rid
yourself of negative energy and to achieve a focused and receptive
mental state. Then, when you have passed through all the colors, you
will find yourself standing on a darkened landscape, where you will
encounter a stairway leading down.

"If you choose to descend the stairway, you will then encounter a
well-built, solid door, to which, you will find, you hold the only key.
Behind the door, if you choose to open it, you will find your Library,
or Study, the metaphorical center of your intellect.

"This technique employs a mixture of focused meditation and self-
hypnosis, and I repeat that you may _choose_ to descend the stairway,
and you may _choose_ to open the door to impress upon you that it is
_your_ door and _your_ stairway, and that _you_ may and must decide
when, and whether, to proceed in each and every case. I will be here to
guard you, this first time, and I will show you the way, but it is your
will that must impel events. If you decide to reverse the exercise, all
you need do, _at any time_, is open your eyes. Okay?"

Akane nodded, silently.

"Then begin with the first color of the rainbow," Ranma said, quietly,
"think about red - soft, warm red ..." Ranma kept her voice in a
soothing, lulling murmur, just loud enough to hear at close range, and
began to enter into the rhythms and pauses of a hieratic chant.

"All there is is red ... red is the color of physical relaxation ...
let the red fill every corner of your body, let it pick up all the pain
and fatigue and tension and then let it flow away ... red flows away
and is followed by orange ..."

Ranma's low contralto voice flowed over Akane's weary mind and soothed
her deeper and deeper into a trance state, taking her through the
colors of the rainbow, and also through all the stages of release of
care and tension, "... violet is the color of union with the Tao, the
Tao is everything and nothing, become part of the color and let the
color become part of you ... drift down with the color as it gets
darker and darker ... closer and closer to the dark ... less and less
color ... less and less of everything ... everything going away until
you are alone with yourself and the Tao ... don't be afraid ... I'll be
just out here ... nothing will get by me to harm you ... tell me when
you are ready to go on."

Akane seemed to drift down, through a slowly fading violet haze, down
to a gentle landing on her feet. All around her she sensed a darkened,
empty plain stretching far away. Though in looking around she could not
see any sign of Ranma, her presence still nestled close about her, warm
and comforting. "Okay," she said, "now what?"

"Turn around," Ranma replied, "Do you see the stairway?"

"Uh-huh. Should I go down?"

"Whenever you're ready."

Akane slowly walked down the stairway, feeling very secure, as though
she were following an old, familiar pathway to a well-beloved
destination. At the bottom of the stairs, she came to a small landing,
seemingly cut out of the living rock. It was filled with a source-less
illumination, and could be exited in only two ways: the stairway up,
and a large, forbidding door made of iron-banded oak. The door did not
open to a touch, and the keyhole exuded a definite impression of

"Ranchan? I'm at the bottom, but I can't get the door open."

"Look in your pocket. You're carrying the key."

"I don't remember any key that looked like that ... hey! You're right
Ranchan!" Akane unlocked the door, and opened it into a place of
wonder. "Ranchan! It's a library alright! Wow! There must be _millions_
of books and things, there's Mangas all over the place, all my
favorites ..." (Ranma assumed a pained look.) "... the paintings on the
walls, they're beautiful ... Kamis! Look at that desk! Thing's big
enough for planes to land on ... ooohh! Nice, comfy chair too! Ahhh!
This is really nice, Ranchan. Are you sure it's mine?"

"All yours, Acchan," Ranma chirped. "Let me give you a present?"

"Ummm, sure. What is it?"

"Look on the desk, it may be under something. It's a small book,
leather binding, thin pages ...."

"I see it! Ranchan! It's really expensive .... are you sure you can
afford to give it to _me_?"

"Trust me.

"Now, if you open the book, you will see that I've written a word on
the first several pages, right? The first page says 'Akane', the second
says 'study', the third says 'focus', the fourth says 'sleep', the
fifth says 'dream' and the sixth says 'return', right? And the rest are

"Yep. So?"

"So if you pick up the book and concentrate on 'Akane' you will then
concentrate on who you are and why. This will let you more fully
integrate new skills and experiences into your Tao.

"Likewise 'study' will focus your subconscious on making sense whatever
the last things you have just learned are, 'focus' will let you
concentrate on one specific thing that you are thinking of, 'sleep'
will let you do just that, 'dream' will give you the ability to direct
and explore your dreams, and 'return' will bring you back.

"You can do more than one thing at once, and if you open your eyes
without concentrating on 'return' part of you will keep, for instance,
studying everything you have been learning that day; even while you are
asleep, or eating dinner, or whatever."

"Gotcha. Pretty cool."

"Glad you like it. Now concentrate on 'return' ...."

Akane opened her eyes and looked around, blinking. She noticed that
Ranma had somehow moved from behind her, holding her up, to sitting on
the foot of the bed. 'Awwwww.' "Ohayo, Ranchan, what now?"

"Do me a favor."


"Go back under and hit 'Akane' and 'sleep'. I'll see you in the



Akane stretched and yawned, laying back into her covers before Ranma's
folded arms stance as colors whirled around her. Soon, the beautiful
walls of her Library opened around her. Walking over to her desk she
picked up the book Ranma had given her and thumbed through it.

For a few moments she stopped on the first blank page and stared at it
intensely, then she picked a fine quill pen off the desk and dipped it
in the ink sitting in the small ink-stone. Poising the pen over the
page she used the best calligraphy she could muster to write the word
'Ranma' on it.

Holding the book open in her hands, she sank down into the chair and
got comfortable. Then she focused her will on the pages 'Ranma',
'Akane', 'sleep' and 'dream'. On the last word she closed the book and
put it down on the desk, letting her arms out wide in an enormous
stretch and cracking all her vertebrae, before settling backwards to go
to sleep.

Outside the library, Ranma looked down fondly on Akane's sleeping form
and ghosted out the door and back to the guest room.

And had there been anyone around that night who was able to see the
rising ghosts of dreams on the night air, that someone might have spied
the columns of such rising strongly and fully from two separate rooms
of the big old house, remarked on how similar to each other they were,
and been astonished.

But there wasn't, and so, no-one did.



Ranma and Akane: A Love Story
Chapter 6: Immediate Consequences
Part B: The Morning After the Night Before


Akane woke up happy.

This was a moderately rare event for her, but she noticed that it had
been becoming more frequent since the imposition on her life of a
certain red-haired girl. Regardless of the source of her new-found
contentment, however, she would normally _not_ have expected this
morning to be a good one. Too much fear and pain the day before, too
much expected stress today.

Somehow, though, she had managed to navigate the dark rapids of the
night and emerge in the hush of early dawn rested, loose-limbed and,
somehow, entirely content.

Quickly dressing, she picked Isileth from the stand on her dresser and
slipped the sword into her jacket. Passing silently out her door and
down the hall to the top of the stairs she stood silently for a moment,
listening to the silence of the house. Just below the normal limits of
audibility she could discern Kasumi's ministrations in the kitchen and
someone singing quietly in the garden.

It's so easy to dream of days gone by,
So hard to think of times to come.
And the grace to accept every moment as a gift
Is a gift that is given to some.

Nabiki woke up discontented.

She had pinned some hopes on the night before, but her surveillance
activities had come up empty. She was _sure_ that Ranma and her sister
were lovers, but she had not achieved her lofty reputation as a
manipulator of events by acting ahead of _certain_ knowledge without

The remedy for the lack of which certainty had seemed simple, too;
lovers will tend to cling to one another in times of stress, and
yesterday's activities _should_ have provided _plenty_ of stress, which
_should_ have expressed themselves nicely last night.

But except for Ranma teaching Akane some sort of meditation thingy to
help her sleep, _nothing had happened_.

It was annoying, was what it was.

Worse yet, from her viewpoint, she had theorized that they might,
perhaps, simply have been too tired the night before; so she had woken
up at an entirely-too-early time in the morning to continue her
surveillance. But not only had Ranma already been up, but Akane had
woken early too, and _again_ they hadn't done anything. Not even a

Ah well, maybe one of them was more aware than she had thought. She
would simply have to get more subtle. It would be a good challenge.

Or, she might just strangle the gibbering pair of _early_ morning

Blearily and grumpily, Nabiki sat down in the dining room and snarled
at merrily cheeping birds and cheery sunrise alike.

What can you do with your days,
But work and hope?
Let your dreams bind your work to your play.
What can you do with each moment of your life,
But live til you've lived it away?
Live til you've lived it away.

Soun awoke unsettled.

This was hardly unusual, of course. Still, he thought, this was even
worse than normal. For all the griefs he normally felt, for all the
power of the terrors and regrets that he normally struggled with, they
were just that: _normal_, the common structure of his days.

The changes that young Ranma seemed to have brought into his family and
his life might or might not be terrible, but he felt their abnormality
keenly nonetheless. Yet alongside this additional weight lurked an
additional variable, neither necessarily negative nor positive.

With change comes the possibility of change for the better.

Yet if that possibility is not fulfilled is it not more terrible than
if no such possibility had existed?

At the bottom of every Pandora's Box lurks shining Hope.

Whether that was a good or a bad thing Tendo Soun could not for the
life of him decide.

There are sorrows enough for the whole world's end,
There are no guarantees but the grave.
But this life that we live,
and the times that we spend,
Are treasures too precious to save.

Kasumi had probably awoken with the same serenity which she always
showed the world.

It's always difficult to tell, with Kasumi.

What can you do with your days,
But work and hope?
Let your dreams bind your work to your play.
What can you do with each moment of your life,
But live til you've lived it away?
Live til you've lived it away.

Kodachi and Sayuri woke early, each separately deciding that they hated
hospitals. But we won't get back to them until a little later.

What can you do with your days,
But work and hope?
Let your dreams bind your work to your play.
What can you do with each moment of your life,
But live til you've lived it away?
Live til you've lived it away.

And a new day in Nerima began, as Kasumi called her (now slightly
enlarged) family to breakfast.


The thing that Akane was most aware of as breakfast continued was
hunger; a great, growing void in her stomach that the breakfast Kasumi
had brought to table, double-sized though it was, barely dented. Ranma,
however, had put a surreptitious hand on her shoulder when she would
have asked Kasumi for more food, holding her to silence.

Once outside the Dojo on the road to Furinkan, Ranma led Akane and
Nabiki to a small side-street off the Nerima Ginza, wherein they found
what Nabiki immediately dubbed "the perfect hole-in-the-wall dive." It
was a very small restaurant, without even a window onto the street. The
door itself hardly advertised its status as a place of business; much
more resembling a service entrance for some larger establishment,
except for the small sign which held the single word, "Gally's".

The inside of the restaurant was clean and neat, if small and dark. It
was dominated by the enormous grill that swept across the back wall and
left only a little space into which a counter with ten stools and half
a dozen small tables had been crammed. There were no customers, and the
only occupant, who was evidently the cook, looked up at them with an
expression of professional cheer that lasted only a few seconds.

"Hi! Welcome to Gally's. What I fix may for you today ... _Ranma_?"

"Hiya, Gally-kun, we need eight mega-burgers to go, please."

"Eight ...? Right, eight Megas, to go, coming up."

Gally, if it were she, was a short, elfin girl with straight black hair
that barely reached her shoulders. She possessed the grace of a martial
artist in full measure and was almost superhumanly fast and deft. Her
only unusual features were the black lines beneath her eyes, but both
Akane and Nabiki received a clear impression of hidden depths, as
though beneath her unmarked arms and perfect skin a whole collection of
scars lurked: unseen, yet not unfelt.

Akane, however, quickly found herself distracted from questions of
deeper reality by her stomach's reaction to the _enormous_ piles of
savory ground beef, bacon and onions being constructed at lightning
speed before her eyes. She _had_ been to a McDonald's before , of
course. She had even ordered a burger there, so she _was_ aware of the
concept involved. But the idea of 'burger' that she had previously been
aware of did not really seem to have much to do with the things that
were taking shape before her eyes.

"So, Ranma-kun," Gally said over her shoulder, "what doing were you
that touched off an eight-Mega hunger? I mean 'What were you doing?'"

"Aaaactually ... it's closer to a three-Mega hunger, Gally -kun. But
Acchan here will probably need a little more."

"She's in the same, errr, 'business', Ranma-kun?"

Ranma smiled quietly, "I've taken her as a student."

Gally whipped around and stared at Ranma for a moment, big-eyed. Ranma
flushed slightly and mumbled, "She shows great promise."

One of the burgers chose that moment to expel some of its grease onto
the grill, hissing and spitting. Gally gave a small shriek and whipped
into a cooking frenzy, getting the burgers back under control. "Well,
I'm glad that it's just normal ..." she trailed off.

Ranma raised an eyebrow at her back and asked, "Yes?"

"It's just that I ... well, yesterday I suddenly got um... it was like
I suddenly got the idea that you were a lot of trouble in. Silly, huh?
Hugo told me that he had a bad feeling about mid-morning, too. Said it
was like 'A goose had walked across his grave.' Honestly, know where he
comes up with these things I don't."

Ranma sweat-dropped briefly. "Ahh, yeah. Silly. How _is_ Hugo-kun,
anyway? And Ido-sensei?"

"Ohh, Hugo's _just_ fine. He and Ido are both doing things at Nekomi
Tech, you know. Techy stuff." She grinned briefly, and fairly lit up
the room. "It's entirely too geekly for me to be interested in, but it
makes them _so_ happy...."

"Yee-es," Ranma drawled, "I _do_ seem to recall you being more on the
side of, mmmm, _practical implementation_, shall we say?"

"Be nice, Ranma-kun. So I like moving fast and blowing things up good.
Is that any reason for you to be mean to me?" Ranma smirked. "Oh! That
reminds me," Gally continued, "Hugo and Ido have joined a motor club at
NIT. Would you come out to the races with us?"

"If nothing, mmm, _serious_ intervenes, sure. When and where?"

Gally finished the first burger and whipped it in front of a nearly
drooling Akane, who launched into it with vigor.

"I'll get word to you when I know when the next race will be held."

She put together a smaller burger that she had somehow hidden amongst
the others and wrapped rice paper around it, handing it to Nabiki.
"First hit's free," she winked.

A short time later on the way out the door, loaded down with a _huge_
fast-food sack, Ranma turned back briefly. "... soon, Gally-kun. For
some reason I think that we're about to suffer from an enormous
addiction to ground beef," and winked in turn.


Nabiki was somewhat amazed at herself, but exceedingly amazed at her

The burgers were as good as anything Kasumi could have made, and the
relatively smallish one she had eaten was still larger than anything
that she, an experienced consumer of munchies, would have believed she
could have found room for so soon after breakfast. Yet it was less than
a third the size of the _eight_ that the slight chef had made for Ranma
and her sister.

Nabiki was not sure whether to be more amazed that Ranma had finished
_two_ of them, that her _sister_ had finished two of them, that Akane
had eaten them with such voraciousness, that Ranma had put _three_ of
them back for later in the school day, or that she was still carrying
one of them in her hand, perhaps to eat on the walk _to_ school.

But what Nabiki was _really_ amazed by was that Akane could pack away a
major Kasumi-style breakfast, follow it with _two_ piles of meat,
cheese, vegetables and bread that must have tipped the scales at a kilo
each, and _still_ have the energy to jump about like a moderately
demented ping-pong ball while "attacking" Ranma.

At least Ranma was being sensible and remaining serene in her manner.
Though it was a sobering exhibition of just how good she truly was to
note that she was facing down a sword with a folding fan ... and
kicking Akane's butt without so much as breaking a sweat.

Nabiki stole a moment from admiring the martial arts exhibition to take
another searching look at the fan. Nabiki harbored suspicions about
that fan. Normal fans, after all, do not deflect sword-blades, nor can
they be used as leverage to flip an opponent fifty feet into the air.

The thing was, though, that it couldn't be a gunsen at all. It was
plainly visible to anyone's sight: a simple, folding bamboo frame,
covered with plain rice paper that had never even been died or
patterned. To Nabiki's eye it seemed to be a well-used three or four
years old, and the only thing on it was a small calligraphed phrase
that appeared to be an autograph, or similar, running along one edge.

"Umm, Ranma-san?" Akane slid forward along the fence, Isileth at
mid-guard. Ranma looked down towards Nabiki's upturned face and flicked
down beside her as Akane slide-stepped forward along the fence-top.

"Yes, Nabiki-kun?" Ranma lightly rapped Akane's ankles, sending her
forward another dozen paces as she struggled to control herself.

"I was just wondering where you'd gotten that fan from?" Nabiki
indicated the fan in question with a gesture as Akane regained control
by jumping up and high into the air.

"Well, I bought it for Sensei, once ..." Ranma gestured widely with the
folded implement.

"Haaaah!" Akane came down in a falling pear-splitter. *whsssh* Which
Ranma dodged, gently guiding the blade past with the fan before *whrt*
flicking her high into the air again. "Whooaaa!"

"... and when, later, I left his school, so to ..." Ranma flowed around
to Nabiki's outer side with respect to the street as Akane flipped in
mid-air and came back down.

"Not that ..." she began to snarl *hfff* as Ranma guided to sword-blade
past herself again. Akane evaded a fan twist and lunged, perfectly in
control. There was a *klng* as Ranma blocked the blow close and a
rapid-fire *klk-klak-klik* as they fenced for fractions of a second
before *whf* another blow went past and Akane's ".. eas.." trailed off
behind another *whrt* "... eeeeee!" *THUD*

"... speak, he gave it back. It's just a keepsake, really." Ranma hid
her face behind the fan in a moderately provocative manner as Akane
thumped into a telephone pole down the street.

"But you're blocking a _sword_ with it! _And_ flipping my little sister
umpty-dozen feet in the air. Why doesn't it break?" Nabiki asked
plaintively as Akane pushed herself away from the pole.

"You should try not to pay so much attention to the world's little
illusions, Nabiki-kun." Ranma winked.

Akane put Isileth away and threw her arms out in a great, wrenching
yawn as Ranma and Nabiki came level with her. "Ahhhh! Ranchan, I don't
think I'm going to get that one easily on my own. It ought to be
easier; just what are you doing, anyway?"

The explanation Ranma gave Akane lost Nabiki in martial arts
technicalities almost immediately, and she tuned it out to concentrate
Ranma's comment. 'Try not to pay so much attention to the little
illusions? Huh?'

She was not able to concentrate her attention on the question for long,
however, as she was distracted by a loud growl next to her. Looking
around, she saw that Akane was paper-white and holding her stomach with
both hands.

"Ranchan ...," Akane whispered, in a small, panicked voice, but Ranma
had already unwrapped the burger she had been holding and put into her
hand. Akane looked at it in shock for a moment before all but falling
on it slavering.

Nabiki looked on with concern as her sister ravened her way through her
(effectively) fifth full breakfast of the morning. She would have been
far more distressed, of course, had Ranma herself not so obviously
anticipated it, but still ....

Akane herself was no little worried. "Ranchan, what's happening to me?"

"You used up a _whole_ bunch of resources yesterday, Acchan. In fact, I
would estimate that you used up about twice what you had available. So
you , we, had to borrow some more, so to speak. This is just the
pay-back. Well, and the interest too, of course."

"Me and my big ideas," Akane muttered.

"So you'll stay behind, next time?" Ranma asked hopefully.

Akane's glare required no translation. "You _did_ say that you _did_
need me along, _right_?" she purred.

Ranma sweat-dropped and blushed, grinning weakly, "Errr. Yeah."

"So there."


The room was mostly dark, if you didn't count the TV. Normally, Sayuri
was as capable of vegging out as any teenager, but that was when she
had a choice whether to do so or not. Of course, she could have turned
the lights up, then she could have spent whole ... seconds ...
cataloging the flowers and plants.

As of the last time she had done so, fifteen minutes ago, there had
been 35.

Or, she could read. The signs on the wall, for instance. Why, there
must be ... twenty of them. That had been half an hour ago.

Of course, looked at objectively, it was sufficient of a miracle that
she was alive for the sheer lack of anything to do to drive her crazy
in the first place. She certainly shouldn't complain that her family
had been too distracted by her miraculous recovery to remember to leave
her any books. Or even homework.

Or, she could review her suspicions about the source of that 'miracle'
for the ... twenty-third ... time. Or, she could get right up and
wander about in the _lovely_ hospital, wearing the _lovely_ hospital
gown that was actually _more_ embarrassing than if they'd left her

At least there weren't any IVs left. Although there wouldn't be anyone
out there to talk to except patients she didn't know and who certainly
had worse problems than her and staff members who certainly wouldn't
have time to amuse one teenage girl.

It was certainly a better policy to wait quietly until someone came to
visit her. If she avoided straining anything, they might let her go
home, she supposed, sometime next week.

Sayuri leaned back in her bed and watched the television's flickering
glow for a few moments, then slung her feet over the edge of the bed
and found a spare gown. This she put on over her original gown, but
backwards. She topped off with a towel from the bathroom wrapped around
her waist. Then she opened the door and went out into the corridors.

It was either that, or another dubbed episode of Wheel of Fortune.


Kodachi lay back in her bed with the TV off, and gathered her strength.
Her leg was still very weak, in her estimation, and her face ached in a
pattern that suggested to her that she might well end up with a
permanent scar. Her eyes were closed in concentration, because she was
attempting something that she had only heard stories about.

She was trying to visualize all of the relevant acupuncture points for
legs and arms and to connect them in a chi circulation circuit. It
didn't help that she had never actually even felt her chi per se, of
course, but it was something to do to pass the time until her torturer/
therapist showed up.

And keeping her eyes closed to concentrate on her visualization meant
that she didn't have to look at her room.

Which didn't have anything in it to look at but the flowers that
Ranma-sensei and Akane-san had left.

And she knew what _they_ looked like.

Unfortunately, self-hypnosis had never been among the skills she had
mastered, nor was she particularly skilled in mediation. Despite her
best efforts the necessary distance from the red dust of earth would
not come to her. Thus, the unexpected opening of her door came as
something of a relief. It _was_ a little odd, since it was outside the
nurse's and therapist's schedules and no-one was likely to come by to
visit _her_ in the middle of a school-day, but _some-one_ appeared to
have done so. She sat up in bed and raised her lights.

The appearance of a small, long-haired girl in two hospital gowns and a
towel was thus somewhat unexpected.


The school-yard before first bell was a hotbed of rumor and specul-

The only sure information was that Sayuri had come out of her coma at
last and that Ranma had had something to do with it. Persistent rumor
whispered Akane's name as well; said that she had died curing Sayuri's
illness; said that _Ranma_ had died curing Sayuri's illness; said that
Ranma and Akane had died _together_, and in each other's arms; said
that the "in each other's arms" part was right but that they were still
quite alive, thank you (nudge, nudge, wink, wink, etc.); denied all of
the above for the thought that Sayuri's "illness" had been induced by
The Forces Of Darkness, who had finally been defeated by Magical Girl
Ranma and her apprentice; and threw around other thoughts, some of
which were very strange and inaccurate indeed. The absence of
Furinkan's normal source of rumors and hearsay, Tendo Nabiki, did
nothing but add fuel to the fire.

Yuka had originally been besieged, but since she had been otherwise
occupied worrying about Sayuri she had little data to give. This had
caused the crowd to fragment and so she had had to latch on to Daisuke
and Hiroshi in order to have someone to speculate with. Nonetheless,
she was the first to hear the distant voices, silver and gold.

I was riding west, through Ontake Mountains.
The hills were heavy with new-fallen snow,
And the sun-bright hills were dappled like a pony,
I was riding hard, I had miles to go.

And a magpie flew, 'cross the mountain highway,
It flashed and tumbled, through the golden trees,
And I thought of you, and my heart was lifted,
And floated with that magpie, on the morning breeze.

Hiroshi and Daisuke noticed her silence and then, moments later, the
reason for it. Caught up between going to hear the voices better and
gaining height so they could see better, the Average Pair settled for
trying to shush people instead.

We are brief Summer lightning,
We are swift as swallows' flight.
We are sparks that spiral upwards,
In the darkness of the night.
We are frost upon the window,
We won't pass this way again,
In the end only love remains.

Across the Furinkan schoolyard ripples of silence spread, as the spell
of leaping flame and swirling wind touched briefly here and there and
then passed on.

Tonight the Harvest Moon hangs over the valley,
I see the hills shine, in its silvery light.
It's the same old Moon, that shines down upon me,
And'll light my way, till I'm by your side.

For where I go, You go with me,
Though the miles keep us apart.
Your kisses on my lips, and your arms around me,
And your gentle hands, always on my heart.

Some heard in the song confirmations of theories. Some did not.

We are brief Summer lightning,
We are swift as swallows' flight.
We are sparks that spiral upwards,
In the darkness of the night.
We are frost upon the window,
We won't pass this way again,
In the end only love remains.

Nabiki, walking just behind Ranma and Akane, marveled. She had always
known that her little sister was good at martial arts, but who would
have thought that _this_ was hiding under there, too.

Well who scattered these diamonds,
through the vault of Heaven?
Who drew the curve of the magpie's wing?
Who shaped your face, and what made you love me?
Where is the heart of every living thing?

Well, I guess I don't know, and I don't care either.
I know you love me, how could it not be?
And I am yours, now and forever,
'Til my lips fall silent, and my eyes can't see.

Somewhere in the back of her mind words like 'Idol' and 'Agent' were
flashing, surrounded by scads of beautiful yen signs, but for the
moment even Nabiki was lost in the song.

We are brief Summer lightning,
We are swift as swallows' flight.
We are sparks that spiral upwards,
In the darkness of the night.
We are frost upon the window,
We won't pass this way again,
In the end Dear, only love remains.

Ranma and Akane entered the schoolyard to a wall of stunned silence.

Akane almost blushed, but Ranma smiled broadly and spread her arms wide
and the walls of Furinkan picked up her shouted "Good Morning,
Furinkan!" and blurred it back into a roaring cheer.

Yuka hurtled from her position by the doors with a cry of "Ranma-san,
Akane-chan!" Like a hyperactive heat-seeking missile she hurled herself
into Ranma's arms shouting "Thank you! Thank you for saving Sayuri-
chan!" Slipping free from a slightly staggered Ranma she turned on
Akane, and froze with a cry of shock.

Yuka's wailed "Akane-san! What happened?!" pretty well silenced the
cheering and when Yuka gently grasped Akane's blushing face by the chin
and turned her head everyone could see the scars - and see, also, the
night-black void of the eye beneath them, lit now by nebulas of flaming
red and swirling gold.

The stunned silence lasted for several seconds as Akane's blush
achieved near nuclear proportions but the blush faded instantly when
Yuka broke the silence ... by bursting into tears.

Akane swept Yuka into her arms and hugged her hard. "Shh, Yuka-chan.
It's all right. I'm not hurt, it's just a scar, like; the eye still

"But ... *snff* ... I mean, are you sure Akane-san? It looks like ..."

Akane blushed again, but rallied, "I'm _sure_, believe me. It looks
weird as hell, but everything works just fine."

"But _how_?" Yuka said.

"Oh, well," Ranma said, dryly, "she _is_ a hero, you know."

"But then why don't _you_ have one, Ranma-san?" someone called.

Ranma ran a possessive hand over her flaming hair and said, "Each to
their own."

A small wave of chuckles was broken by another cry from the rear ranks:
"Three cheers for Ranma and Akane!"


Ranma smirked and covered her mouth with her fan as Akane's blush went
beyond Mega-Nuclear to Don't Point That At My Planet.


Akane resolved to kill the person who had spoken, but afterwards.
Still, no-one had ever cheered _her_ before. When you came down to it,
it was kind of nice.


And the left eye in her thrown back face flamed, briefly, a solid gold.



Ranma and Akane: A Love Story
Chapter 6: Immediate Consequences
Part C: When I Was A Fighting Man, The Kettle-Drums They Beat


The trouble with being a hero, Akane decided, is that the effort
required to be one tends to distract you from whatever else you're
doing, but you still have to do it anyway. Or, at least, you still have
to do it if 'it' is schoolwork.

Also, teachers are remarkably resistant towards accepting 'I spent most
of yesterday in Hell. I didn't have _time_ to do homework.' as an
excuse. (What was _truly_ irritating was that Ranma _had_ done her

After your whole school has cheered you as a hero, being sent into the
hall for the buckets can be a terrible letdown.

But, somehow, it wasn't. She considered her feelings as she stood in
the hall, and tried to pin down just _why_ it wasn't.

Mostly, she decided, because it really didn't matter. The school knew.
She knew. Ranma knew. Probably even the teachers knew. It was more a
matter of the routine maintenance of order than anything really
serious. It wasn't like the 'shame' was going to blight her record.

Really, she suddenly realized, it wasn't as if her school record had
any _real_ meaning. Even if she didn't stay with Ranchan after her
high-school days were behind her (she knew she couldn't, and the
thought was more painful than any other she'd ever had), her life had
taken an irrevocable turn for the weird and the adventurous.

It would not be possible for her to live a normal life as a normal
Japanese girl. Had it ever _been_ possible? Well, she wasn't sure, any
more than she was sure just what it _was_ possible for her to be.

She supposed she'd find out.


It was weird.

This girl. Sayuri. She'd just ... wandered in and started talking.


Hadn't even wanted anything from her, hadn't wanted information. Just
kept her company. Sympathized with her.

Wasn't related to her, didn't owe her anything. Didn't even go to the
same school. She'd even had to ask her _name_. Hadn't connected her to
her brother until Kodachi herself had mentioned it. Sayuri had been

So, if she didn't want to be seen with Kodachi for social purposes (in
a hospital?), and didn't want access to her brother, what _did_ she

Kodachi was forced to conclude that she wanted to be friends.

Strange. Very, very strange.

Kodachi had never had .... Well, _of course_ she'd had friends. She'd
had lots of them. But she'd never had ....

She'd never had a friend who was just ... a friend.

She was even ... protective. _Actually_ protective. She'd gotten _very_
mad that no-one from St. Herebreke had stopped by, or even sent a card.

She had ... she had ... she'd shared her views on school with Kodachi.
Just talking. She'd _gossiped_. Just like they were two schoolgirls.
Just like Kodachi was a normal girl.

_No-one_ had _ever_ treated Kodachi like she was a normal girl. Ever.

Well, there was no reason for them to. She was _Kuno Kodachi_. She was
_rich_. She was special.

Wasn't she?


Sayuri felt that Kodachi must be very brave. She had stood up to a
dreadful monster (_she_ knew) and she wasn't even depressed about the
scar on her face or anything.

Mind, Sayuri also felt that the scar actually looked good. For a scar,
that is. Sort of piratical. But Kodachi was going to have an operation
to have it removed, soon. Which was good, because a girl really
shouldn't have scars for very long because people could react badly.

What Sayuri was actually concerned with, of course, was Kodachi's
potential ability to attract a boyfriend. She would have recommended
someone, but she didn't know any decent ones herself. It was, she felt,
already sufficiently difficult to find a good prospect without having
to worry about turning them off because of a scar.

Sayuri had awoken with memories. She wasn't entirely sure about the
veracity of _all_ of them. But she remembered enough. Ranma- and Akane-
sempai had come to get her. They had rescued her in some way or anoth-
er. She would have to ask Ranma-sempai about exactly what had gone on.

Central to the traditional moral character of Japanese society are
four interlinked concepts: On, Gimu, Giri and Ninjo. While
translations are, by nature, inexact, a Westerner would probably
translate them as Reciprocity, Piety, Duty and Compassion.

Reciprocity requires acknowledgment and repayment of debt,
including honor debt. Piety exhorts the debtor to allegiance to
the debt-holder's cause, in ongoing repayment of debts otherwise
too great to fully repay. Duty invokes the balancing of
obligations as the highest function of an honorable life.
Compassion requires empathy with others, and recognizes that all
people are one, beneath the surface differences that karma

Ranma-sempai and Akane-sempai had stormed Hell itself to rescue her,
for compassion's sake. Sayuri wasn't sure that the debt could be
repaid, but she was determined to try. Showing compassion herself
seemed to be a good way to start.

Besides, she truly did like the other girl. And there was no doubt in
her mind that Kodachi _needed_ a little compassion, needed it badly. It
was in the eyes, a certain mix of defensiveness and loneliness. She had
seen it before.

Once Yuka had had that look, when she was new to Junior High. She had
offended the dignity of one of the fashionable cliques, and had been
nearly shunned for her trouble. Akane had noticed it and had dragged
Sayuri into a friendship that had never since faltered. Then later
Akane herself had begun to grow that look, and Sayuri had not at all
known what to do about it.

Greater than all other terrors is helplessness. Three times in her life
Sayuri had felt that great terror, once in retrospect and twice dir-
ectly. Once she had been saved by Akane, once by Ranma, once by both.

But in the course of that last rescue, running up a long slope, she had
discovered that she need no longer be helpless. She had found a source
of power in the bone-handled hilts of a pair of long knives. (Or
perhaps she had discovered the power earlier, beneath the knife and the
iron. But she did not send her mind back to that place of lies to see.)

She had left the knives behind, imbedded in sulfurous dust and ichor-
stained flesh. And yet, in some way, she still seemed to feel them
within her hand, warm and sure-gripped, almost alive in their response
to her arm and will.

Knives can be used for many things.

Sayuri was a good cook, and experienced with knives.

It came to her, looking at the darkness in Kodachi's dark eyes, that
no-one who has a knife is truly helpless. It came to her that there are
many kinds of knives. The lurking darkness was a bitter enemy, but it
was an enemy that she had faced before, and it seemed to her that she
might just have a knife fit to cut it.

Sayuri chatted on, using gossip and patter, talk of the latest shows
and magazines, what idol singer was hot, what idol singer was cold, and
how long they each would stay that way. What Kodachi did at home, what
Sayuri did at home. Recipes and music and video-games and sweets and

Within fifteen minutes she had giggles. Within an hour they were
chatting away as if they had known each other all their lives. Just as
if they were at a sleep-over. Just as if they were talking after
school. Just as if they were passing notes in class. Just a normal
conversation, between two normal teen-age girls, who happen to be best

Normality and friendship, to cut the dark away. Strange knives to make
strange cuts, Sayuri thought. But you had to take your knives where you
found them sometimes. After all, strange or not, a knife was a knife.
And Sayuri was good with knives.


By lunchtime, she had a pile of notes that almost covered her desk.
Fortunately, the teacher was understanding. Unfortunately, there was no
way she could possibly reply to most of them. She didn't even dare read
them, in case one of them asked something she couldn't afford to react

Fame and triumph could be quite wearing.

As could other things as well, of course.

There was, in one corner of Furinkan yard, a tree. This had a low
lying, broad, flat limb perhaps four or five feet off the ground.
Underneath the limb there was a sheltered spot of shade. This area had
been annexed by Ranma soon after she arrived at Furinkan, and was
already locally known by the students thereof as Ranma's Branch and
Akane's Spot.

Ranma would stretch out on the limb and idle, while Akane sat under-
neath her in the shade and dozed or ate, frequently listening to Ranma
play the flute or lecture on some arcane bit of cultural trivia or
other. Under normal circumstances Ranma considered lunch a thing which
should not be trivially disturbed.

Today, however, was not a normal circumstance.

For some reason best known to herself, Ranma had decreed a period of
weapons drill. This involved several annoyances, from Akane's point of
view. First, it meant that she had to cram down a great deal of food in
a great hurry, which she considered distasteful. Second, it required
her to bounce around like a superball even to avoid embarrassing
herself against Ranma's skill.

Third, it meant that she had to exercise even greater control over her
movements than would normally be the case in a sparring match, lest she
injure another student. Fourth, even despite this control, it was
positively amazing how little protection a sword blade, a cupped hand-
guard and a blade-breaker hilt could be against a fan.

Lastly, Ranma regarded sparring time as an excellent forum for devel-
oping her cultural literacy, her store of trivia and her aptitude for
quotation. Generally, by quoting extensively and extempore from the
_Tale of Genji_ or _The Dream of the Red Chamber_. Translating the
latter in midstream, of course, because Akane was quite incapable of
speaking Chinese. Worse, Ranma meant to develop her ability to quote
passages back, and was unerring in her ability to remember what Akane
was already supposed to have heard (and, therefor (naturally), know by

Altogether, it was enough to drive a respectable Tendo to tears. Or
something. And she had discovered that she _despised_ the _Dream of the
Red Chamber_. (Partly because getting passages thrown at you between
the hand-strokes is _not_ the way to develop an appreciation for
literary complexities or for the subtleties of the prophetic heroic
form as Ranma interpreted it. And partly because, in her humble
opinion, _The Dream Of the Red Chamber_ _sucked rocks_.)

All in all, she would much have preferred if nothing _else_ had managed
to come up. Unfortunately, Ranma's attitude of sunny certainty that no
additional straw that might be piled atop her would _actually_ be the
one straw too many seemed to be rubbing off on some of the other people
around her.

Such, for instance, as Nabiki.


|Step forward. Feint. Three arc. Four-corner.|
Spin. Sidestep-leap. Block low-to-high-to-cross-guard. Leap.

"Umm. Ranma-san?" Uncertainty was uncharacteristic for Nabiki, but she
didn't normally try to talk business with someone who was busy using a
fan to chase someone who was using a sword around Furinkan yard. "Can I
talk to you two about something?" At least Ranma wasn't moving very

|Casual feint. Side-swipe. Jodan. Chudan.|
Land blocking. Slide back. Disengage. Block low-to-high.

"Sure, Nabiki-san. What's on your mind?" Ranma moved Akane sideways, so
that she wouldn't crowd Nabiki. "Acchan, if you don't attack you're
going to lose, you know."

|Slide-strike. Reverse kick. Three-strike. Jodan.|
Parry. Riposte-to-stop block. Disengage, under cover. Duck.

"What's up, Oneechan?" Akane chirped brightly, "And Ranchan, you know
I'm gonna lose anyway. If I keep on the defensive, you might make a

|V-step. Sweep-to-Gedan. Slap parry-and-bind. Flip.|
Sweep kick-to-tumble dodge. Jump. Jodan cross. 'ohshit' WHAM

"Waiting for your opponent to make a mistake is very passive, Acchan."
Ranma chided, gently, "You should be _causing_ mistakes, because a
skilled opponent won't make any otherwise." As Akane spun through the
air, Ranma raised an eyebrow, "See?"

Akane had managed to rotate upright as she flew, but had not managed to
get her legs in line with the wall. A puff of dust rose from the
impact, and she stayed flattened against the wall about five feet off
the ground for a moment before slowly sliding down. Nabiki winced, a
reaction shared by many of the watching students.

Her eyes wide and unfocussed, Akane shook her head as she reached the
ground. "Theoretically, anyway," she mumbled, "Where'd that wall come
from, anyway?"

Ranma's lip curved upward in a gentle smile. "It's been there for
twenty years or so, I think. They don't usually move."

"Funny." Akane pushed herself to her feet, sheathing her sword. "I'm
going to put the sword up and start using a stick. It'd be faster."

Ranma smiled slightly, before turning back to Nabiki.


And then there had been the weird thing that Nabiki had wanted to ask.
Akane would never in her wildest dreams have expected Nabiki to declare
that she and Ranma were as good as idol singers, nor have expected that
Nabiki would offer to have a demo made.

She probably _should_ have expected it, but she hadn't. She _had_
expected Ranma's reaction. She even agreed with it, although she was a
_little_ sorry that she wouldn't get to hear their songs on the radio.
But being an idol singer would cut _much_ too far into training time,
and other things.

And besides, if being famous just in Furinkan was this ... embarrass-
ing, what might being famous on the street be like?

When you thought about it, fame was something of an impediment to a
Martial Artist, really. She should do her best to avoid it.

In the future.

You bet.

Still. It _was_ a shame.


'Thirty spokes meet at a nave,' Kodachi thought, sadly, 'Because of the
hole we may use the wheel.' Sayuri was dancing around the edges of

It showed up in the pauses. Like many things, really. A matter of
things not said, of topics not raised.

She was good at it, and good at detecting it. All she had to do now was
steer the conversation a little and she would find out what it was.
Sayuri was _not_ good at it.

She didn't want to.

It would be ... she had ... Sayuri ...

It had been _so_ much fun, thinking that Sayuri wanted just to be her
friend. She really didn't want to find out what Sayuri's ulterior
motives were. She really didn't. But, she had to.

She set about doing so. Slowly, gently. Piece by piece. The spokes
define the wheel, but the part you use is at the center, and around the
edge. If you look at the shape of the wall, you can, if you're good,
tell what lies _behind_ the wall.

Piece by piece, the picture grew, but the picture made no sense. It was

It was almost as though _she_ didn't matter at all, but then in the
next instant it was as though she _did_ matter, but not because of who
she was, but just because ....

It made no sense. If Sayuri wanted Kodachi to do something _for_ her,
she should be interested in what Kodachi _was_; what her contacts were,
who she knew, which circles she moved in. And she wasn't, didn't care
at all. On that point, if on no other, Kodachi was willing to swear.

Oh, Sayuri would _talk_ about them, but she was more interested in how
Kodachi felt, in what _she_ thought of them. She didn't seem to have
any idea of how they could be used, or even that they _could_ be used.
She seemed, honestly, to feel as though they were part of a world in
which she would never move, or even wished to.

Now, if Sayuri wanted Kodachi to enhance her standing in her own social
circles, she should be interested in either getting Kodachi to visit
that circle or in getting to visit _Kodachi's_. And she wasn't,

Kodachi thought that it was _vaguely_ possible that she could be wrong,
... there was this 'mall hanging' thing that Sayuri had mentioned, and
she was positively _enthusiastic_ about a 'slumber party' ... she
_thought_ she knew what those were, but ... it seemed to _her_ that
someone ... well it was the same problem as before. Sayuri should be
looking for details, names to drop, commitments, something of that

But, she just wasn't.

The _other_ odd thing was the apprehension. It was fairly well buried,
but there was definitely a thread of ... well, not _fear_ exactly, but
something like it. But it wasn't directed at her.

It seemed almost as though Sayuri was _worried_. Worried about Kodachi
and worried about herself, at the same time. And Kodachi was willing to
say that the worries had the same _cause_, too.

Now. What could ....


Well, what had Ranma-sensei said that Sayuri was in the hospital for,
anyway? She was sure that she had heard ....

Oh, yes! Sayuri had been ... unconscious ... because ....

Sayuri, she suddenly remembered, had been unconscious, almost in a
coma, because of something that had happened to her during the attack
by that _creature_. She might have also been attacked. Ranma-sensei,
she remembered, had seemed almost worried.

Not good. No telling what ....

She didn't look _physically_ damaged, but ....

Oh, dear.

Well. She would simply have to find out. If ... something ... _had_
happened, then ....

Well, then _she_, Kuno Kodachi, still the Black Rose, would have _two_
grievances. Very severe ones.

_And_, she, Kodachi, would also have a friend, or, at least, a compan-
ion in suffering, who she would be responsible for.

Sayuri seemed to think that _she_ could, and should, protect _Kodachi_.
From the terrible threat of being lonely, if from nothing else. Who
knew? Perhaps she was right.

Slowly, again, and carefully, Kodachi began to move the conversation to
her will. But not, this time, to steer a wheel.

This task would require strength, as much as guile. It was obvious that
Sayuri would not willingly speak of her troubles; and yet, she was also
carrying some great weight. If she was given reason to place the
burden, or part of it, on another's shoulders, would she not do so?

Kodachi was quite sure that she could carry at least as large a load as
Sayuri did. Whatever she was carrying, Kodachi could bear it.

Slowly. Cautiously. Carefully. Making words into clay. Moulding clay
into a cup. Piece by piece, turn by turn, layer by layer. Not to build
a wall, not to weave a net, but merely to shape a space, that Sayuri
must eventually fill.

The Clay is merely the vessel; it is the hollow that makes the cup.


Music was being ... interesting.

Maeda-sensei (Music) had been approached by Hachisuka-sensei (English).
The result of which was ....

"Okaaay." Yuka held her head. "Ranma-sempai's going to help us learn
better English by _Karaoke_?!"

Ranma chuckled. "Not _quite_, Yuka-kun. I'm going to teach you to
_sing_ better English. It should help your accents and word choice."

"Do you even _know_ any popular English songs, Ranchan?" Akane queried.

"Oi!" Ranma snapped, frostily. "_Certainly_ I do! I'm just trying to
figure out which ones they are!"

"Ah." Akane met Ranma's glance with an expression of pure, wide eyed

Ranma red-eyed her. "Biiiiidah!"

"Now," Ranma turned back to her notes, "Ah-hah! Found it. This one was
on the radio when I was in Chicago. I think it was some movie tune or
other. Anyway. Page ... ah ... page 32. See it?"

Various rustlings ensued as people flipped papers and stared at them.

"Okay," Ranma bent forward, sitting on a chair with her guitar in her
lap, "the chords go like this, and the first verse is ...

Sometimes the snow comes down in June
Sometimes the sun goes round the moon
I see the passion in your eyes
Sometimes it's all a big surprise

The author will be kind, and spare his readers any attempt at
describing the cacophony which followed.

Ranma winced. Hard. "Ahhhh. Lets ... lets take it one line at a time,

Sometimes the snow comes down in June

"No, Yuka-kun; 'snow' not 'srow'....


It took ages. Long before it ended, Kodachi knew that she had been
wrong. She wasn't strong enough. No human was strong enough. Except,
just possibly, Sayuri.

She had crafted herself a cup, she thought numbly, and now it had
overflowed. She had no-one to blame but herself.

Towards the beginning, she had moved herself, and her injured leg, next
to Sayuri, seeking to offer comfort. That was towards the beginning.

But it was not long before she realized that she was desperately trying
to build a defense. A wall of dispassion and distance. Between herself
and the quiet voice, quietly reciting horrors. As though they were
distant and unimportant. As though she did not know (but she _did_
know) that the horror the voice was laying out was horror that the
voice itself had felt, had tasted, had been. As though the voice had
not been part of the horror.

But it had. She _knew_ it had. And _because_ it had, she was part of
the horror, too.

Long before the story ended, Kodachi was huddled next to Sayuri.
_Seeking_ comfort.

Sayuri seemed pleased to offer it.

Seeking a wall, against the terror of the world. Finding a rock, to
anchor the wall to. Building bricks from words, rapidly, hastily.

Where there are no walls to offer shelter, a wall may yet be built. One
wall may offer but little shelter, yet where you may build one wall,
you may build another.

And then another yet.


She hadn't meant to speak of it. She had told Kodachi too much. Much
too much. The girl was in the _hospital_, darn it, with her leg all
bunged up. What had she been thinking?

She pulled herself together with great force. Someone needed her help.
_Kodachi_ needed her help. You could cling to that. It was a rock and a
pillar, being needed, if you let it be one.

You could use it, too. You could hold on and let it bear your weight,
and then you could kick rocks out of the side, and make a staircase.
And you could walk up the staircase, all the way to the top.


She didn't remember what she said, or what Sayuri replied, but somehow
Kodachi pulled away. It was a gradual process.

But, bit by bit, she recalled herself to herself, and built on the
foundation that herself provided. When the flood is sweeping down, you
build a wall.

When you've built a wall, you build another, and another, and another.

When you're surrounded with walls you start building them higher.


Kodachi was withdrawing, and it was all her fault.

Not that she could blame her. If _she_ had had all that ... nastiness
dropped on her, _she'd_ have withdrawn, too. Not that that made it any

But withdrawing was the wrong thing to do, she knew it was. You had to
bide your time, and then you had to go _at_ whatever was wrong, because
otherwise it would run over you.

Kodachi had something wrong. Well, aside from the leg, and the scar,
which were obvious. There was something _else_ wrong, too. She didn't
know what it was, or how to find out, but she knew it was there.

And if Kodachi withdrew, if she put up walls around herself, whatever
it was would just _sit_ there and get worse and _worse_ ....

She was supposed to be Kodachi's _friend_. Some friend.

It was all her fault.

So she would have to fix it.

She didn't know _how_ she would, but she would have to find a way. She
was not going to stand helplessly by. Never stand by helplessly again.


Late at night, a big ole house gets lonely,
I guess every form of refuge has it's price

As the school day at Furinkan ended, some of the departing student body
behaved in unusual ways. Most of them, of course, promptly scattered
for home or their normal after-school activities, breaking up into
pairs and singletons and small groups. But two large clots of students
did _not_ break up, but remained coherent.

He looked at the chart but he looked in vain
Heavy cloud but no rain

One group, all boys, was joined by a small man with a ferocious white
mustache, who rounded them up and marched them off. The other, about
twenty students of mixed gender, wandered off down the road. A casual
observer would have noticed that they were traveling in the general
direction of Nerima General Hospital.

Cause there was a time when all I did was wish
You'd tell me this was love

A _careful_ observer would have noticed that some of them were singing.
A _very_ careful observer might also have noticed that, while the
voices that were singing tended to alternate, two were predominate,
with at least one of the two always involved. A furry, golden contral-
to, and a pure silver mezzo-soprano. But it would have to have been a
_careful_ observer.

Now I don't know where the moral is,
Or how this song should end

A _casual_ observer could have followed them, and seen that they _were_
heading for Nerima General, directly. And a casual observer might have
wondered at their good cheer. Even people who work at Hospitals are
seldom cheerful, and few people walk to one with laughter and song.

'Cause I don't wanna go on with you like that
Don't wanna be a feather in your cap

And that question, as the group spilled into the lobby of the Hospital
in a flurry of (much quieter) good cheer, would have taxed even a good
observer to the utmost. But no-one was particularly observing the group
at the moment, and so, no such question was asked.


Nabiki made the discovery, and was unsettled. This led to her finding a
nurse, and transferring the unsettlement on. In a less-well run estab-
lishment, the resulting chain reaction could conceivably have provided
amusement for some time, but fortunately Nerima General was well run.

Shaking her head and talking quietly with Dr. Tofu and the floor
physical therapist, Ranma walked towards Kodachi's room, followed by
Akane and the others, bearing gifts of flowers purchased in the
Hospital Gift Shop.

Shifting her flower arrangement to one hand, Ranma knocked on the
indicated door and opened it, to reveal a pale Sayuri, sitting in a
chair, and a very quiet and still Kodachi, lying on her bed. She
ushered Akane, Yuka and Tatewaki in the door, waving to the others to
wait for a minute and then closing it after herself.

"I've had complaints about you," Ranma said in a semi-humorous tone.

Sayuri brought her head around with a mutinous light in her eyes.
"Ranma-sempai! I couldn't just _lie_ there!"

"And why not?" Akane came forward past Ranma and put her flowers down
on Kodachi's table. "Hello, Kodachi-kun, we've brought you and Sayuri-
chan some flowers."

"Oh, no! Akane-chan, I already have more flowers than will ...." As
Akane came back around the table Sayuri's eyed widened and her voice
rose to a squeak, as she half rose from her seat. At the same time,
Kodachi sucked in her breath in a gasp, as Akane's left eye swirled
with flecks of red and gold in the flourescent light.

"Well then," Yuka grinned, "if you don't want the flowers, we'll give
them all to Kodachi-san."

"Akane-chan!" Sayuri wailed as Akane perched on the arm of her chair
and hugged her. "Your eye!"

"What about it?" Akane grinned.

"What _about_ it? It ... you ... but ... Yukaaaa!" Sayuri clutched at
her gown.

"It just changed color, Sayuri-chan. There's nothing wrong with it."
Akane's voice was pure sweet realism.

"_Just_ changed color?! Nothing _wrong_ with it?! Yuuukaaaa! Reason
with her!" Sayuri cringed as she gently reached out a hand to touch
Akane's left cheek. There were scars there, three scars across the
cheek, and she _knew_ in the marrow of her bones what kind of thing had
made them. She had seen them, often enough, on her own flesh.

Akane-chan! Akane-chan had been hurt! For her! By Them!

Kill! She wanted to kill. She wanted to rip and tear and smash and
destroy! Another of her friends was hurt! If she had possessed a tail,
it would have been bottled out in pure, furious rage.

Her vision was suddenly forced to timeshare. Yuka's face, chin
pugnaciously forward, thrust itself into her vision.

"We are not here to talk about Akane-chan's eye, Sayuri-chan." Yuka's
voice was low and grim. "We're here to look after someone who almost
got _killed_ on us!" Suddenly Yuka broke down in tears and glomped
Sayuri, trembling. "Don't go and try to die on us again, Sayuri-chan.
We've lost too may friends from Furinkan as it is."

Kodachi lay on her bed, and felt the walls grow higher. She watched the
little gathering by the bed-side and knew that she should do something.
The face of the Kuno family demanded that she show ninjo and control in
this time of stress for a friend, but all she could do ....

'Friend'? Yes, she admitted to herself, her friend. Almost her only
friend, and she could bear to do no single thing to aid ....

Ranma edged a hip onto her bed, drawing her pale and quiet attention.
As the small, red-headed girl reached out a gentle hand to cup over her
scarred face, Kodachi watched her gravely and traced her own faint
scars by eye.

Kodachi fancied that she felt a vague flutter of sensation along the
facial scan. Something almost too faint to discern and quickly fading.
As her brother leaned over, equally gravely, to kiss her on the fore-
head, Kodachi almost wept, but could not. Walls, walls of glass,
closing her in.

The walls were bad things, but how could she exist without them? Even
the friendship and concern between Sayuri, Yuka and Akane would be too
much for her to bear just now, if she must confront them head on.

Sayuri shook her head free of the tri-fold hug and looked concernedly
at Akane again. "But, Akane-chan, it _looks_ ...."

"Feh," Akane said. "Never you mind. Ranchan says it makes me look

"Well," said Ranma, calmly, "it _does_."

"Oh." Sayuri blinked at Ranma, blinked at Akane, blinked at Ranma
again. "If you say so, Sempai."

"I do," Ranma said dryly, sliding off the bed. She took the step
necessary to reach Sayuri and took the other girl gently by the chin,
holding her face level and looking deep into her eyes. Whatever she may
have seen there, it seemed to satisfy her, as when she let go she
nodded calmly. "Yes, you're a lot better. Looks like you're going to
get well."

Sayuri stood up, to gain a small advantage by being taller than the
other girl. "I _am_ well, Sempai," she declared firmly.

Ranma gazed at her through her eyelashes, crossing her hands behind her
back. "You're sure? No nightmares? No lingering shadows? Everything
just fine?"

"I'm _sure_," Sayuri crossed her arms in front of her and glared at
Ranma stubbornly, "no, no and _yes_, just _fine_."

Ranma smiled a somewhat crooked smile and brought out her right hand,
to hold palm upward and cupped in front of Sayuri. As she focused on
it, it filled with a pearlescent globe of light, which seemed to be
filled with colors, or perhaps they were shapes.

Whatever they may have been, Sayuri leapt backwards with a strangled
shriek, hands curling into claws (or, perhaps, to feel the hilt of an
invisible knife) and rising to strike. Kodachi, reacting to the threat
signal, tensed to defend, searching automatically for a weapon, buoyed
by a momentary surge of adrenaline.

Ranma simply held the light globe, bestowing upon Sayuri a somewhat
sardonic gaze. Sayuri looked up and down between Ranma's face and the
light a few times, before coming out of a defensive stance and dropping
her arms to fold her hands together in front of her, ducking her head.

As she did, the light-globe flickered and vanished, and Ranma stepped
forwards again, reaching out with one finger to tuck it gently under-
neath her chin and lift up her head. "You know, Sayuri-chan, even very
brave heroes have to take time out now and then to be healed."

Sayuri flushed scarlet. "Yes, Sempai."

"You're still very much under the _physical_ effects, you know," Ranma
continued gently. "So you _are_ going to listen to your physical
therapist, right?"

Meekly, Sayuri said, "Yes, Sempai."

"And you're going to listen to Dr. Tofu, too, right?"

Diminuendo, "Yes, Sempai."

"And you're going to listen to _me_, right?"

Mumbled, with cast-down eyes, "Yes, Sempai."

Ranma let go of Sayuri's chin. "Good. In that case, I think that
between us we can get you on your feet and back to school in no time.
No time, in this case, being defined as about a week." Turning to look
at Kodachi, as well, "For both of you. Also, I would like for you two
to stay together and do your exercises together while you're at the

"I was going to suggest that you visit Kodachi-kun when we came over
today, Sayuri-chan, but since you seem to have anticipated me ...."

Sayuri blushed again. "I didn't want to just _sit_ there ... there
wasn't anything to do ... Kodachi-chan doesn't have anything to do
either ...."

Ranma grinned at them, "We brought you some magazines, and some of the
makings of a small party. So if the emotional hullaballoo is over ...."

Akane grinned at her, Tatewaki and Kodachi nodded gravely and Yuka and
Sayuri blushed. And Ranma opened the door to the teeming (in a sense)
multitude (relatively speaking).


Bosabosa Daisuke, Furinkan High School Class 2-F, was glad to be able
to (finally) get in the room, pushing past his eternal partner Chapatsu
Hiroshi in his haste. It wasn't so much that he was eager to see the
other half of his normal double date and the closest thing he had to a
girl friend; although he was.

Nor was it the opportunity to be in the same small room with the newly
triumphant Tendo Akane, although he thought of her as an acquaintance
and hence, in some small way, shared her glory; although that would
certainly be a good thing. It wasn't even that the same small room
would also contain the exotic and utterly beyond cool new arbiter of
stylishness at Furinkan, Bushiko Ranma; although the closer you stayed
to her the better.

No, the primary reason for his eagerness was much simpler; he was
carrying a large plant, and it was getting darn heavy.

It's amazing, sometimes, the small points on which destiny can turn.

He spent the first several moments inside the room looking for some-
where to set it. Attempting to sort these first impressions gave him a
few odd data points.

First; the room had, in addition to Sayuri-chan, Yuka-chan, and Akane,
Ranma, and Tatewaki-sempai, another occupant.

Second; this occupant was a _very_ pretty girl, somewhat pale and grave

Third; Tatewaki-sempai was standing by her, and basic deduction told
him that she must be the room's primary tenant; Tatewaki's sister, who,
he believed, was named Kodachi.

Fourth; there were lots of places to put flowers, because there were
almost none already here.

These facts drew forth a chain of deductions, thusly;
a.) This was a hospital room.
1.) Belonging to Kuno Kodachi.
2.) Who is a very pretty girl.
3.) Who is, in addition, sick.
A.) In the hospital, in fact.
B.) Because of wounds sustained during Heroism.
i.) Which, he, himself, had witnessed.
b.) There were almost no flowers in this room.
1.) Being a hospital room, belonging to Kodachi, etc.
2.) What flowers there were bore tags.
A.) That said Akane, Ranma or Tatewaki.
c.) Kodachi,
1.) Who was in the hospital.
2.) And a Hero.
3.) And a very pretty girl, too.
d.) Had Almost No Flowers.
1.) Which was Bad.
2.) And would probably make her Unhappy.
A.) Which was Very Bad.
e.) He, Bosabosa Daisuke, had Flowers.
1.) Rather good ones.
2.) Which could be given to Kodachi.
A.) Who was a very pretty girl.
B.) Etcetera.
3.) Which would make her happy.
A.) Which would be Good.
f.) Kodachi had _not_, previously attended Furinkan.
1.) She had attended some other school.
A.) Which had not, apparently, sent Flowers.
i.) And was, therefor, Forever to be Damned.
2.) She might not be happy with the situation there.
g.) A good impression of Furinkan High School,
1.) As provided by, say, Bosabosa Daisuke.
2.) And possibly others (Grrr).
3.) As opposed to the Other School.
h.) Might induce her to transfer.
1.) To Furinkan.
2.) Which was co-ed.
3.) Where her brother already attended.
i.) Would increase the number of pretty girls at Furinkan.
1.) By at least one.
2.) Kodachi.
A.) Who was a very pretty girl.
B.) Etcetera.
j.) Which would be a Very Good Thing.


The young man with the unruly hair had given her flowers.

This might, in itself, have been considered normal. Many young men had
given her flowers.

The interesting thing was; he had not, thereafter, asked her for a

This was, in her experience, highly abnormal.

Moreover, many of the other people who had come to see Sayuri, presum-
ably her schoolmates, had _also_ given her flowers. And none of _them_
had asked her for a date, either.

Or for anything else. Not even obliquely.

It was almost enough to make her think that they liked her.

That was silly, of course, because they hadn't had any opportunity to
like her, or to know her at all. But still.

There was a small party going on. People had brought chips, and other
snacks. Someone had put a few packs of them on her bed. For her to eat.

It was a nice party, for a hospital room.

She wished she could take part.

But to do so she would have to lower her walls, and if she did ....

She opened a bag of chips, and ate a few.

But there were such a lot of people around. If even a few of them would
break the force of anything ... bad ... that happened, she could get
them back up again.

But why would they do that? They didn't know her at all, and they
didn't seem to want anything from her. Or even know that there was
anything to be had.

She ate a few more chips. They weren't too bad.

Not bad at all, really.


She watched Kodachi, furtively. It looked like she might be opening up
a bit. It was a _wonderful_ party. Well, for a hospital room, anyway.

She steered the conversation a little bit, so that it would include
Kodachi, and watched her participate a little. It was a hard thing to
do, which she hadn't really had to do before, and she didn't think she
was doing it very well, but nobody seemed to mind, or even notice much.

She stole a few more chips from Hiroshi, and tugged her gowns tighter;
defying their natural tendency to flop open.


She ate a few more chips, and then a piece of pocky. They were good.

Gravely, she considered her new flowers.

It occurred to her that _all_ of the flowers had been brought by (and
bought by) students of Furinkan. Akane-san, Ranma-sensei and oniichan
were students there too, after all.

None of her schoolmates at St. Herebreke had sent her any flowers. Not
one. None of them had even _visited_.

Looking around, it _was_ a nice party.

It occurred to her that there might well be more important things to
look for in a school than exclusivity. When you looked at things

It occurred to her that, as of tonight, all of the people whom she
might call her friends attended Furinkan.

It occurred to her that all of the people she knew at St. Herebreke
were either enemies, rivals or flunkies.

It occurred to her that flunkies weren't doing her much good at the


Ranma was closeted closely with Sayuri, Dr. Tofu and Tatewaki, propping
herself on the bed where Kodachi could hear. They were discussing
strategies for therapy and coordinating the therapies that would happen
in the hospital, with those that Sayuri and Kodachi would have to go
through after they got out.

"Okay, Kodachi-chan," Sayuri said, perkily, "that's the schedule for
the hospital sorted out. Do you think we could keep working together
after we get out. Some of these things are really boring."

Kodachi smiled, for what felt like the first time in weeks, "I think
so, Sayuri-chan. Tatewaki-oniisan?"

Tatewaki blinked, and looked down. "Yes, Imouto-chan?"

"Please have the family lawyers start the necessary administrative
tasks to have me transferred to Furinkan."

"Yeee-ha!" Sayuri leapt up into the air, clapping her hands.

Her hands, being thus occupied, could not tighten the ties on her
hospital gowns.

These, therefor, in conjunction with the prime directive of their
tribe, untied. Which left nothing at all to hold up the gowns. Which,
subsequently, fell down.

Yuka and Akane immediately whapped Hiroshi and Daisuke on the back of
the head.

"What?!" the Average Pair demanded, in unison.

"Hentai," Akane and Yuka explained, not unkindly, also in unison.

"We didn't even look!" Daisuke complained.

"Well, you should have," Akane replied.

"We didn't get a _chance_ to look!" Hiroshi said at the same time. Yuka
whapped him again. "Ow!"

Tatewaki and Dr. Tofu simultaneously put their heads into their hands,
in pain.

Ranma calmly stood up and handed Sayuri, who was eeping and trying to
cover herself, her gowns.

And Kodachi dissolved into giggles, helplessly.

Sayuri hugged her and the other students gathered around to congratu-
late her on transferring.

It was a beginning.

You may build your walls as high and strong as you may choose. You may
lay your roof and floor. But you have not built yourself a house, until
you've built yourself a door.


It was late, and the sky was dark and shot with stars.

As they left the hospital, Ranma and Akane walked closely together,
talking. But eventually they came to the street that led, down one way,
to the Tendo Dojo, and down another, to Ranma's apartment. Here they
paused for a while.

Finally, they parted, one to go one way, one the other. As they walked,
each alone, at nearly the same time, they each began to sing, quietly.

Sometimes the snow comes down in June
Sometimes the sun goes round the moon
I see the passion in your eyes
Sometimes it's all a big surprise

It was probably coincidence. Certainly they were each, by that point,
far out of the other's hearing. There really was no way that they could
be coordinating with each other. So, despite the fact that a hypothet-
ical careful observer would have noted that they were in tune and in
time, it _must_ have been coincidence. There really wasn't any other

Cause there was a time when all I did was wish
You'd tell me this was love
It's not the way I hoped or how I planned
But somehow it's enough

It could have been something of an omen, I suppose, but it wasn't.

But now we're standing face-to-face
Isn't this world a crazy place
Just when I thought our chance had passed
You go and save the best for last

The astute reader may have noticed, in this chapter, several instances
of occurrences that would, in a normal Ranmaverse, have called for
Omens of Doom. Thunder from a clear sky, family altars suddenly
breaking, visits from strange monks, that sort of thing. The astute
reader may be wondering why such Omens haven't shown up.

All of the nights you came to me
When some silly girl had set you free
I wondered how you'd make it through
I wondered what was wrong with you

It's a fair question.

Cause how could you give your love to someone else
And share your dreams with me
Sometimes the very thing you're looking for
Is the one thing you can't see

The answer is fairly simple. These things are taken care of by kami.
Not very big, or important kami, it is true, but kami nevertheless.
Lurking about celestially and waiting for omen-worthy events and
causing an omen when necessary is simply their job.

But now we're standing face-to-face
Isn't this world a crazy place
Just when I thought our chance had passed
You go and save the best for last

And, like all jobs, its holders occasionally take some time off.

Sometimes the very thing you're looking for
Is the one thing you can't see

The holder of the position for Nerima ward, at the present moment, is a
kami named Waruyoi Asabitan. He is presently living up to his name,
drunk out of his mind in a club in Chiba, karaokeing like there will be
no tomorrow.

Sometimes the snow comes down in June
Sometimes the sun goes round the moon
Just when I thought our chance had passed
You go and save the best for last

So, you see, I can state with absolute authority that any coincidental
timing that a hypothetical careful observer might have noted was, in
fact, just that. Coincidental, and not any sort of omen at all.

You went and saved the best for last, yeah.

What can I say? Some days are just Like That.

You went and saved the best for last, yeah.


Chapter Seven: If You Meet The Buddha On The Road
Part A: Without Troubling of a Star.


Author's Notes: Since this chapter is almost entirely devoted to
characterization exercises, it seems to me to be an appropriate time
for me to spend a few words talking about where I'm coming from on that

Briefly, I'm a manga fan(atic), and I'm using the canon characteriz-
ations (as I see them) for a starting point.

The only exception to this is Ranma him/herself, who I basically ran
through the mill before the story started. That is, I still started
from canon, but Ranma has already undergone some variance from that by
this point.

The other main differences arise from a difference in primary goals
between Takahashi-sensei's story and my own. Briefly, and IMHO, Ranma
Nibbunnoichi as written is the story of how Saotome Ranma and Tendo
Akane, despite many obstacles and difficulties, do _not_ get married.
Whereas, RAALS is the story of how Tendo Akane becomes a Hero, and
Saotome Ranma becomes a Hero _again_.

Since the demands of the story drive characterization this invokes some
differences from standard, but it's not that the characters themselves
are particularly different, as that being in different sort of story
requires them to act in different ways than they normally would.

With that said:

Saotome Ranma (nee Bushiko): Ranma is a Hero. It's one of the two main
cornerstones of his personality. The other cornerstone is his sense of
identity. Broadly put, Ranma _always_ knows _exactly_ who he is and how
he's supposed to act. This self knowledge is so strong that he is,
effectively, unbeatable; it's not that you can't beat him up, so much
as that you can't make him stay down. He _never_ quits, and he _always_
keeps his main goal clearly in mind.

On the other hand, that same sense of identity is also his biggest
weakness. He is quite capable of running right over good sense and
social duties alike when he gets the idea that something is important;
he has very little ability to turn back from a contest even if he would
prefer to; he has hot-buttons all over him, and they can lead him
around if they are pushed and he will occasionally get the idea that he
should do something or act like something simply because 'a guy would
...' or 'a martial artist would ...'.

My Ranma is several years of experience older than that, and has
mellowed a fair degree. Also, he/she has refined that sense of identity
down to the most important elements. In particular, for instance, the
Jhusenkyou curse, which hits the canon Ranma as hard as it does because
it strikes directly at the heart of his greatest strength, his sense of
identity ("I'm a _guy_!" and then, suddenly _he's not_.)

In trade, however, she has lost a lot of her moral edge and her Hero's
instincts for doing the _right_ thing at the _right_ time. That is, the
strong sense of identity that sometimes blinds the canon Ranma to the
likely result of his actions is turned around so that it is blinding
this Ranma to the truth of her _motivations_, instead.

Tendo Akane is also a Hero, although in canon not a very well developed
one. If anything her own sense of herself as a hero is even stronger
than Ranma's, as evidenced, among other instances, by the Martial Arts
Gymnastics storyline.

This strength is somewhat the backwards of Ranma, in that, while Ranma
always knows who he is, but sometimes loses track of where he's going,
Akane always knows where she's going, but sometimes loses track of who
she is. This frequently blinds her to her own abilities and _dis_
abilities and also causes her to be more impetuous than even _Ranma_

A lot of this problem in self-realization may stem from a lack of
feedback from outside sources. In another sense, while canon Ranma is
allowed to be who he is, but frequently encounters people who are
unwilling to allow him to do the things that are right for the person
he is to do, canon Akane has few people trying to prevent her from
doing what she wants, but has great difficulty getting people to take
her identity seriously. (Thus the frequent battle cry: "I'm a Martial
Artist, too!" (Thus, also, her great dismay at the names Ranma tends to
call her: Akane is a girl _and_ a Martial Artist, but most people don't
think of her as a 'proper' martial artist, and here Ranma is calling
into question her status as a 'proper' girl ....)

So a lot of her actions are a quest for respect, self respect as much
as any other, but since she tends to doubt her _own_ abilities some-
times, too, she's far too likely to try to proceed directly to the
desired results rather than actually trying to _earn_ them. Thus her
problems with cooking, for example, and also the Super-Soba and Battle
Dogi story arcs, among others.

In RAALS she is unencumbered by the handicap of being a girl in a
shonen (boy's) manga who doesn't wear a bikini or pack a BFG9000, and
will therefor get a much better chance to show what she can do.

Nabiki and Kasumi are both Girl Archetypes, in one sense or another.
Nabs is Modern Girl, with her pulse on the finger of the social scene
and no patience with the 'old ways'. She's effective, and she's cute,
but she's scary, too: you can't be sure that she'll stay in check, and
she's too scary to go up against directly. Kasumi is traditional girl,
serene and untroubled, i.e. she's Mom. She's nice, and a good
housewife, but she's scary, too: you never know, she might _be_ Mom.
Or, she might suddenly wash your mouth out with soap and send you to
bed without supper. You can't be sure.

Tatewaki and Kodachi are brats in the manga, plain and simple. Tate-
waki, also, may well not be terribly bright, but it's hard to tell,
because of how much of a brat he is. Likewise Kodachi manages to
counterfeit being crazy pretty well. The thing about being a brat,
however, is that it's an hole that you can easily pull out of, assuming
that you can grow up fast enough. And if a big enough shock makes you
grow up ...

Sayuri is Everygirl, like Yuka, and Hiroshi and Daisuke as well.
Admittedly, when I started RAALS, I had no idea I needed an Everygirl
to be heroic, and had no idea that Sayuri would turn into one, but ....

Further notes will be provided as characters show up.

'Til next,
Eric Hallstrom, 01/16/2001