A Ranma1/2 fanfic by PansutoTarou5925
Disclaimer to follow at end of chapter
Among the Appalachian foothills there is a small valley untouched by time, and down in the valley there are many trees, and in the trees is a single, ancient clearing, kept clear of the wood by inhuman hands long before the rise of man. There is a firepit there, and it is always warm with the last embers of the last fire, as if it were half-put out by unattended campers. And every night when the moon is new, and all things shrouded in darkness, come the storytellers to trade tales of what they have seen in the cosmos.
As the sun set on the night of the new moon, the flames rose up in anticipation of its guests. Tonight there were four who came out of the deep shadows and sat around the fire. "It is your turn to share a tale, moondragon. What have you seen since last you spoke?"
"Amusing things," a silver-haired man replied, "one which makes for a good story. A story of justice, for a change, rather than tragedy or heroism."
"A story of balance?" another of the four said, warming her hands by the fire.
"Yes, balance," he replied, "for this universe is so constructed. Let me tell you this, for it is important. Everything in that universe is run by a great computer, which measures all things and sees that all actions are balanced, all wrongs redressed, and all good deeds go rewarded. It may not seem like that, and sometimes it seems to the mortals of that world that justice is denied, but it can only be delayed, not denied. That is the power of the Ultimate Force, which moves all events to its master plan. Let me tell you a story of what happened when justice is long denied..." He trailed off and paused, concentrating on the fire. Soon a scene appeared among the flickering flames, a rainy day in a city somewhere. "Perhaps you have seen this before, or something similar. A martial artist enters a city with a young girl, because of a promise to unite two families-"
"Ranma," the girl interrupted. "I was once engaged to one."
"Indeed? A story for another night, perhaps," the storyteller said, irked at the interruption. "It is Ranma, yes, but it is not Genma..."
The rain was really pouring in Nerima, Ranma thought, and she looked at the heavens and sighed. Perhaps this was a sign, an omen, that everything was doomed to turn out the same as the last time she was here, everything descending into chaos, destruction, and misfortune. On the other hand... there was no other hand. If it got too hot, she'd pull her daughter out in a red-hot minute. Ranma had no wish to become her father, a man uncaring of the harms of his children.
"Chiyeko!" Ranma said, looking at her daughter. Chiyeko Saotome was a teenage girl, a year older than Ranma had been when he - or rather she - had entered Nerima, so many years ago. She had inherited her face from Ranma, along with her graceful movement and physical gifts, but there was much there that disresembled her martial artist parent. Skin of bronze, tanned flesh, and hair of shining flaxen white gold; in these things she resembled Ranma not at all, indeed, everywhere they went in Japan she had the problem of prejudice against half-gaijin ancestry. It was almost enough to have reconciled her to the long loneliness of the road on their training journeys, but not quite. Still, she was sulking.
"This really sucks, obaba," she grumbled, soaked to the bone. She splashed noisily through puddles. "I never got to date anyone in my whole life, you drag me on the road for my whole life like some kind of psycho, and then you tell me I'm engaged to some guy I never met before." Really, she felt like hitting Ranma, if it weren't for the fact that hitting Ranma was like trying to catch steam with chopsticks. "Not only that, but I'm going to meet this guy soaked to the bone."
"What do you want me to do, stop the rain?" Rama said, snorting. She was soaked to the bone, too, but in much better spirits. Soon she would be speaking to old friends, what for her passed for old friends, at any rate, and maybe she could get some help. "We're here," Ranma announced, coming to a huge set of wooden doors. She pounded on them. "It'll be good to talk to Kasumi again," Ranma said idly.
"I do hope her son isn't a pervert," Chiyeko grumbled.
"Why would you worry about that? Kasumi's the nicest person I know, and her husband is almost as nice. I don't think you have anything to worry about, there." The door creaked open, revealing a woman in her mid-thirties.
"Ranma!" Kasumi said, a smile on her face as she looked at the redheaded woman. "You're taller than when you left, that's for sure. And this must be little Chiyeko," she said, hugging the small blond girl. Kasumi pushed her back out to arms' length and laughed. "You look so much like Ranma did at that age."
"Really?" Chiyeko said, surprised. "Most people tell me I look nothing like my mom." Kasumi blinked slightly at the word 'mom'. Chiyeko glanced at Ranma with a frown. "For which I'm glad, usually."
"Hey!" Ranma yelled. "Disrespectful brat!" She smacked her daughter in the back of her head.
Chiyeko rubbed her head. "It ain't like I don't like you, obaba, but well, you're about the least feminine woman on earth." She suddenly grinned sheepishly. "I'm kinda afraid it rubs off or something."
Ranma nodded. "Apology accepted." That she was the least feminine woman on earth in the eyes of her daughter was definitely something Ranma could live with. "Is Akane home?" Ranma said, half in dread and half hopefully.
Kasumi nodded. "She is. She just finished sparring with Atasuke a little while ago. Come inside and dry off." She glanced at Ranma for a second before looking back to Chiyeko. "You two would probably prefer a hot bath before meeting everyone else, right?"
Ranma shifted uneasily. "I don't really need one." Kasumi's pained expression was noticed by Chiyeko, who wondered what was going on. Her mother was passing up the opportunity to soak in hot water? Chiyeko wondered.
"I'll take you up on that bath," Chiyeko said enthusiastically. Kasumi led the duo inside and pointed out the bath to the young girl.
"You go ahead and take a bath. Ranma can bring your things to the guest room," Kasumi said, handing Chiyeko a towel.
Chiyeko, for her part, stepped into the bath, sprayed herself down with cold water, and dropped herself into the furo as fast as she could. "Ahhh," she said, luxuriating in the steaming water. Hot water. It was a rarity on the endless training journeys her obsessed mother insisted on bringing them on, so both she and her mother cherished it where they found it. Her mother always said that hot water brought back memories for her; that was why she was surprised that her mother turned down a hot bath.
"What kind of memories, obaba? Memories of my father?" she had asked once in a bathhouse.
Her mother seemed on the verge of tears and looked down through the steamy water at her reflection. She started crying. "Yes. Memories of your father."
Since that day she'd never brought the subject of her father up, though she was dying of curiousity inside. She'd never seen her mother cry before or since, and she never spoke of him. She would have figured that he was dead, except her mother was adamant that she'd meet him someday. Still, she wanted to know about him, and she thought that she might be able to get some information out of the Tendos, or maybe one of the other friends her father mentioned who lived around here. They knew her mother around the time she was born, so they would probably know about her father, too.
She resolved to ask Kasumi about it tonight.
"It's nice to meet you, Atasuke-san," Ranma said, smiling, as she observed the young man who would be her daughter's fiancee. His chi flows showed he had excellent control over his emotions and a decent amount of training, better than Akane had been when she had first entered Nerima, at any rate.
Atasuke Ono smiled and put down his cup of tea. "It is nice to meet you, too, Ranma-san. My aunt Akane has always spoken highly of your skill in the art." Atasuke put on his most winning smile and kept himself calm. Akane had always told him how uncannily skilled Ranma was in the art, and he didn't want her to get any hint of lust in his aura. That would be difficult, though, as she was soaked and the silk shirt was plastered to her skin, and she was probably one of the best looking women he'd ever seen, up there with Principal Ninomiya-san. Even the eyepatch she wore over her left eye merely gave her a look of adventure and mystery. If her daughter inherited any of her mother's looks, a lot of his private misgivings about this arranged marriage stuff would go away.
Then Chiyeko entered the room. She was dressed in a black silk blouse and a skirt loose enough not to interfere with her martial arts. She walked over to Ranma and sat down, looking cautiously at the three strangers across the table. That Akane woman looked very strong and experienced in the art, but Chiyeko figured she could take her down in a full-out fight with the special techiques and intense training Ranma had put her through. She looked at the boy then, and smiled. He wasn't too bad looking, she thought. Perhaps she should just pretend he was a friend of the family or something, not an arranged fiancé. She could get him to take her out on a date or something and for once she could act like a normal girl instead of some sort of young clone of martial arts obsessed Ranma. She scratched her head. How should she introduce herself? "Hello, I'm Chiyeko Saotome. Nice to meetcha."
"Ha!" Akane said, "You're almost as impolite as your father!" Ranma shot her a dangerous look.
"You mean my father's as rude as the obaba?" Chiyeko said, her tan skin turning white. "I'm doomed!"
Ranma waved it off. "Don't listen to her, you're very polite." She caught Akane's eye and shook her head. Later, she mouthed.
"Only compared to Ranma," Akane said. "Your father was amazingly blunt and rude, and the biggest pervert in Nerima. Except for Happousai, of course," she added as an afterthought. Ranma glowed with a low grade battle aura and made shushing motions to Akane.
Chiyeko, on the other hand, sprung to her feet in anger. Her own battle aura filled the room at the insult to her father. Even if she never met the man, she knew that couldn't possibly be true. "My mother would have never loved a pervert, you jerk!" she yelled, pointing to Akane. Kasumi's potted plants started to wilt and wither as Chiyeko's black and red aura darkened as Chiyeko's thoughts turned dark for a second. Maybe her father hadn't loved her mother, maybe she had been... and that was why her mother never married.
Akane automatically felt herself getting angry. While she knew that she shouldn't be yelling at the girl, who obviously knew nothing of Ranma's exploits, she needed to defend herself. "Your father was chasing four girls when he was your age!" Akane yelled, pointing to Ranma, who simply covered her face in her hands and shook her head. "He'd hang all over those bimbos!" Akane thought, her temper running hot as she thought of all the times Ranma was with Shampoo and Ukyo, and those times she caught him with Kodachi...
The sound of Chiyeko's slap echoed through the room. "I can take a lot of abuse, and people can insult me. Fine. But you won't insult my mother!" she said, tears forming in her eyes. "I'm challenging you, Akane. You'll eat those words about my mother!"
Akane moved her mouth several times with no response, her anger checked after that slap. She knew she had gone too far. "Fine. I'll fight you in the dojo. Atasuke, you officiate." She walked out of the room towards the dojo, followed closely by her nephew and a few seconds later by an outraged Chiyeko.
Ranma shook her head and stared into her tea. "I can't believe this crap," she mumbled, then got up to watch the fight.
In the dojo Chiyeko faced Akane, as Atasuke knelt down by the side. Ranma and Kasumi joined him a few seconds later. The two combatants faced each other and bowed curtly.
Akane had always been more of a power fighter centered on the ground, and she had not changed over the years in this regard. On the other hand, years of sparring with Ukyo and Ryoga and teaching her nephew had raised her skills well above what they had been. She fell back into a defensive stance, assuming that the pissed off teenager would attack at once.
She was disappointed in this. Chiyeko had learned patience from Ranma, control from Ranma. She would let her opponent commit to an attack first if at all possible. So she mastered her anger and waited, apparently unready, until Akane gave up waiting her out and kicked lightly at her.
The kick was just to gauge the speed of Ranma's heir, just testing her, and Chiyeko flowed easily around it just as Ranma had so many years before. She then increased her speed a little more, and lashed out with a quick punch. Chiyeko dodged it nimbly, her head leaving an afterimage as she dropped to the ground and swept her leg at Akane's calf.
Akane stepped over the blow, changing her stance. She would have to go all out on the girl, but she had her speed pegged, and while she was faster, she wasn't faster enough to win, Akane thought. So she flared out her ki and attacked.
Chiyeko started to sweat. She couldn't just dodge around the blows any more, and had to deflect and block a few. Still, she wasn't getting hit. The problem was that Akane barely seemed to register her counterblows and shrugged off attack after attack. If this continued Akane would slowly wear down her stamina until she could no longer dodge, and then those blows would smash her. She realized she was going to have to actually dig into the bag of tricks she had been taught on the road. With those, she felt confident in her ability to win, and with confidence... "Mouko Takabisha!" she yelled, suddenly thrusting her hands out and shooting Akane point blank with the ki-blast.
The breath was blasted out of Akane as the ki blast exploded on her gut, and she was thrown back for a second. Chiyeko grinned and leapt in, a solid kick landed before she grabbed her opponent and threw her into the wall.
"A ki-blast!" Atasuke said, surprised. No one had ever shown him a ki blast except Ryoga, an old friend of his aunt's. And Ryoga trained every day with giant sumo pigs, and his aunt said that Ryoga had always been far better than she was.
Akane got up and wiped her face. She then looked at her hand and the bloodstain on it. This girl had just raised the stakes. She lunged forward at high speed, using her ki to increase her speed. She wouldn't be able to outlast Chiyeko like this, but if Ranma had taught the girl special techniques like that she wouldn't be able to outlast her anyways. Her chances now lay upon her keeping Chiyeko too busy defending to let off any of her special attacks.
Chiyeko dodged Akane's ferocious attacks as best she could, and blocked the others, but her arms and legs were starting to hurt. Akane was as strong as a gorilla, an enraged gorilla now, and even after all the training she had gone through, she wasn't tough enough to just shrug off the blows. Finally she trapped one of Akane's arms and used her free hand to strike at pressure points along it. Akane took the opportunity to unload a full force kick into her ribs, but as she rolled to her feet she figure she came out the better of the two now that Akane's arm was disabled. She gasped for breath and dodged again as Akane came and attacked immediately, not giving her time to think or use any of the weird techniques she had learned on the road. Akane and Chiyeko traded blows, both unable to completely defend themselves anymore, when Akane made her mistake.
Akane widened her stance just as the girl ducked to balance against a sweep when Chiyeko rolled forward, between her legs, and her foot blurred out with unnatural speed as she bounced back up. Each strike was precisely aimed, and Akane dropped to the hard wooden floor unmoving. "I win," Chiyeko said simply, looking emotionlessly at Akane. She wiped her hands and went over to Kasumi. "Kasumi-san," she said, bowing, "May I use your bath?" Kasumi nodded as Chiyeko left the dojo.
"She is very skilled," Kasumi said as she got up to check on Akane, who was out cold.
"I didn't train her in the art for nothin', you know," Ranma said. "Someday she might even be as good as me."
Atasuke nodded mutely. "Am I going to be sparring with her?" he asked nervously.
"Yepm you'd better believe it, kid," Ranma said, slapping him on the back roughly, "and if you ever hurt her..." Ranma glared at him, her own battle aura glowing bright blue, "You'll be sparring with me."
Atasuke wisely decided to skip peeping on Chiyeko as he had previously planned to do and went to his room.
"He's a nice kid," Ranma said to Kasumi. She clammed up until she was certain Atasuke was out of earshot "Once you wake her up, tell Akane I want to speak with you 'n Akane about my curse and Chiyeko and stuff."
"She doesn't know?" Kasumi asked, raising an eyebrow.
Ranma shook her head. "I'll explain tonight. For now, I gotta take a bath and talk to the kid."
"Aw, hell, that's gonna bruise," Chiyeko grumbled, poking at her arm. "And this one too." She never really understood how her mother seemed to wear her injuries like a badge of pride. She traced along her arm, where an old thin scar marred her flesh. "And my teachers wondered why I wore bracers and a headband all the time in Nekomi," she murmured. She stoppe and looked up when Ranma entered the bath.
"Hey shorty," Ranma said as she sank down in the bath. "Ahh, that feels so good. I really shouldn't have turned Kasumi down the first time." She scooped down with a hand towel and folded up the hot, waterlogged towel on her forehead as she relaxed in the steaming water. "Whatcha thinking about?" Ranma asked, knowing that her daughter had at least one or two burning questions.
Chiyeko fidgeted. She really didn't want to bring it up, because it was a subject that always seemed to bring pain to her mother. But her argument with Akane made it something she couldn't restrain herself from. "I never asked you about it before, but-"
"You want to know about your father," Ranma said tonelessly.
Chiyeko stared at the water, unwilling to say anything. She peeked up at her mother, trying to catch a glimpse of her emotions at the moment. Strangely, her mother was smirking.
"That would be my fault, I guess," Ranma said. "I probably should have told you about your father a long time ago. He's a real man among men, I'll tell you that." Ranma started giggling. That disturbed Chiyeko. She'd never heard her mother giggle before, and now she was acting like a schoolgirl in an anime.
"What's so funny?" Chiyeko said, irritated.
"Nothing," Ranma said, her face going flat. She took the towel off her head. "Don't worry about your father. He's OK, you just can't meet him yet."
"I'd like to meet him someday," Chiyeko said, smiling.
"You will," Ranma said. "I promise it." She smiled.
"So everything Akane said about him having strung along four women was a lie? I don't like to think of my father as some kinda pervert, you know."
Ranma scratched the back of her head. "Now that I think of it, he did have a bunch of women after him at the time, didn't he? The girls were chasing him, though, not the other way around." She scooted over to her daughter, glanced at the door, and leaned over. "I'll tell you a secret. Akane was one of them." Then Ranma laughed a little.
Chiyeko started laughing along with her. "So it's sour grapes?"
"Exactly," Ranma said. "Now c'mon, Kasumi's probably finished cooking dinner." She jumped out of the furo and got dressed in a hurry.
"That's my mom," Chiyeko said, following. "Always thinking with her stomach."
The dinner was indeed good, and Kasumi was just as good a cook as Ranma had told her. She had excused herself and gone up to the guest room for an early night's sleep, but in reality she had an ulterior motive. She wanted to spy on Ranma and the other adults. they all knew her father, and maybe she'd learn a little more about him.
For her part Ranma was feeling exhausted. Not physically; physically exhausting Ranma took a lot more than merely travelling. Even running all day carrying a boulder couldn't wear down her reserves. But returning back to Nerima had worn her emotionally. There was a lot of unfinished business here, and that realization hit her like a thunderbolt. Two of those unfinished pieces of business were right across the table from her. "Where is Tofu, anyways?" Ranma asked, deciding to start things off safe.
"He's currently at a conference in Yokohama," Kasumi answered. "He should be back late tomorrow."
"Oh," Ranma said. "so-"
"Your daughter doesn't know the truth?" Akane asked, irritated. She had been bruised in the fight as badly as Chiyeko had, and was far more annoyed by it, given that she had trained longer than the girl had even been alive. To her it was like the first time the Saotomes had come to town all over again. The first time she had been beaten easily by someone her own age, and now barely beaten by someone a generation younger, but both times it was like a negation of years of hard work. "Why did you lie to her?"
Chiyeko's ears perked up, and she crept down the stairwell some to listen better.
Ranma looked down at her after-dinner tea, sighing. "It's not really anything I can tell her about without looking crazy, thanks to those damn Amazons."
"And just whose fault is that, you pervert?" Akane said angrily. Chiyeko nearly blew a fuse at that, but barely kept it down. The last thing she needed to do was get angry; her mother could easily detect someone by their aura alone. Only the training she had gotten in the forbidden art of Umisenken was keeping her hidden as it was.
"Don't call me a pervert, you idiot. There's no way you can possibly blame their crap on me!" Ranma said, slamming the half-empty cup on the table.
"Akane, Ranma, please calm down," Kasumi said gently, putting a hand on her sister and giving Ranma her most peaceful smile. "Akane, blaming Ranma for what the Amazons did isn't fair. And Ranma, I really feel you should tell your daughter about the curse."
"Curse?" Chiyeko said. "First I've heard about it."
Ranma shifted. "I will before I leave." She growled audibly. "Those damn Amazons..." She then stood up. "Listen, it's been a stressful day for all of us. Why don't we all get a little extra sleep and talk about it tomorrow, when the kids are at school?"
"That sounds reasonable enough. Could you escort Akane to the train station?" Kasumi asked.
"I don't need Ranma to follow me to the train station," Akane snapped. "I'm the master of the Tendo school of Anything-Goes, not some helpless-" She choked off the rest of her response. "I'll go by myself."
"Suit yourself," Ranma said. Scrambling back up the stairs, Chiyeko silently gave thanks that Ranma had left the door open after seeing her to bed, and slid into her futon seconds before Ranma came into the room. She pretended to be asleep while Ranma walked in the room and heavily crashed onto her futon. "Sleep tight, Kid," her mother mumbled as she fell asleep.
DISCLAIMER: Ranma ½ is the property of Rumiko Takahashi, Shonen Sunday, Viz, and other parties; I make no claims of ownership of any of the intellectual or other properties pertaining to it. Oh! My Goddess belongs to Kosuke Fujishima, Studio Proteus, Dark Horse, and other parties, and I make no claims of ownership of any of the intellectual or other properties pertaining to it, either.
Author's Note: Finally, a real fic from me. It's been quite some time, but I've returned to writing, albeit at a slightly slower pace than at my peak. On the other hand, I do write more steadily... though I seem to revise things and not be happy with them more, too.
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