For those of you familiar with this story you are sure to notice that the spelling of certain names has been updated. I hope that I'm not offending anyone, I am only attempted to keep names as accurate to their cultures as I can. If you notice a serious mistake please take the time to inform me and I will make the required change. Thank You
Old Author note
Can it be? Does this story yet live? Wow, long time. I hope this submission is in keeping with all that has come before. I hope that my writing has improved since I last wrote. I really wish I could have done this sooner, but it took a long time for inspiration to strike. Please forgive the extreme delay. I hope I can continue to add to this story, hopefully sooner rather than later. Fingers crossed people, fingers crossed.
"Good evening child," Ke Lun greeted, looking up from her books. Her accounts were in good shape, but that would soon change when they purchased everything else they would need. The kitchen equipment was far too old and dirty to be useful. The kitchen itself would just about drain the remaining funds, but it would be well worth it. She was sure that the displays of acrobatics and greet food would be enough to make back all they had spent in just a couple of months.
"Evening grandmother. What did you think of the girls?" Ranma was hoping they had impressed her, else she wasn't sure they'd be allowed to stay.
"They all have their talents child. Each one of them would be a great help around the restaurant. Once we get up and running I'm sure that Nabiki could take over the accounting. Kasumi has an incredible skill in the kitchen and has memorized many of the Chinese dishes I had planned on serving, and a few that would make a great addition to our menu. And Akane…I'm sure I can find something for her to do."
"I figured it would be something like that. I'm sure with enough training Akane would make an excellent… well, I'm sure she could… hmm… Yeah, I guess we'll have to figure something out. I'm glad you decided to let them stay." Ranma smiled.
"Oh, did I say they would be staying with us?" Ke Lun had only meant for some harmless teasing, but the look on Ranma's face had her relenting. "I'm teasing you child. They can stay. Now, it's been a while since we last sparred, I'd like to see how your skills have progressed."
"Just you wait grandmother. I think you'll be impressed."
Ranma hit the ground hard, she did not get up. She knew the fight was lost. Her effort, though valiant, was nearly futile. Her skill and knowledge were not enough to give her the slightest edge against her grandmother, at least when she held nothing back. That was the case today. Ranma smiled, she had been able to land a few blows that had sent the matriarch reeling, though it did little else.
Ke Lun stood over her, blocking the sunlight. "Very good child, I'm impressed. I think my clothes may have actually gotten dirty. Seriously though, you could give your mother a decent fight. It's nice to see that those two months on your own did not go to waste. You have a great knowledge of our techniques and the skill to use them, yet you are seriously lacking in power. It's time I take you to that next level. Every morning at dawn you will join me here. In the evenings you'll spar with your mother."
"Thank you Sensei. Though I could use some help getting inside."
"Very well child, though in my day we'd have to do it ourselves."
"But you had incentive great-grandmother."
"Oh? What do you mean by that?"
"It's just that if you didn't get up you'd have to worry about a dinosaur eating you. Ouch! What was that for?" Ranma asked rubbing the new lump on her head.
"I am not that old, child. It would do you good not to forget it. I'll see you inside." Ke Lun left, bouncing away on her staff."
"Grandmother wait! I didn't mean it, I'm sorry." Ranma pleaded for her grandmother to come back. She was in too much pain to get up on her own.
Her mother dropped from the roof to land beside her. "You'll never learn, will you child?" Shan Pu smirked down at her daughter's fallen form.
"It was just a joke." Ranma was pouting.
"Don't pout, it's unbecoming of an Amazon Warrior. Now let's get you up and inside." Shan Pu bent over and pulled her daughter to her feet. "Just hold on to mommy, she won't let you fall."
Ranma glared. "Ha ha ha." She intoned. "I'm glad to know you think this is funny."
"Oh it is child. You see, my mother used to say the same thing to me. And I bet I looked just like you when I glared at her. Now no more complaining, or I leave you out here." She threatened.
"So, think you're ready to return to school today?" Kasumi asked, expecting Ranma would decline.
"I probably should go back, running from my problems has been something I've tried to avoid. It will be tough, I'm sure, but I may be able to smooth things out." She smiled then, putting on a brave front.
"Just remember, if you can't get through to them today that you have all year to show them who you really are. Don't get discouraged."
"I'm Ranma Saotome, I don't get discouraged, and I don't lose. You watch, I'll have them eating out the palm of my hand by the end of the year." Ranma stated, his confidence boosted by the one who was quickly entrenching herself in his heart.
"I'm glad you're getting your confidence back. I want you to know that I'm always here to support you. I'm really surprised you rebounded so quickly."
"It just the tenants of our school. I'm adapting to a new situation, and I'm not backing down from a challenge."
"Okay, glad that we've settled that. Remember to hurry home after school, we've got to get you fitted for your uniform before monday."
"Ugh, don't remind me. Did I mention I'm not to happy about going to school in one of those?"
"Only every time it's come up. Anyway, don't worry about it. It's just clothing, it can't change who you are inside."
"I know that, it's just..."
"Besides, you started half way into the school year, you only have to finish this year and then you are welcome to choose how you want to come to school. And hey, if you prove to your grandmother that you understand the lesson then she may let you off the hook."
Nabiki looked up at the top of the fence as she and her sister were headed to school. "What are you doing up there?" She asked the redhead who was walking casually atop the fence-rail.
"My father said that anything can be turned into training. Mom and grandmother agree and require that I take it one step further. Grandmother asked that I take it easy this morning, I'm still a little sore from our full contact spar yesterday."
"And walking on the fence is taking it easy?" Nabiki asked, incredulous.
"Well yeah, normally I'd be practicing kata or fighting mom or grandmother."
Nabiki rolled her eyes as she stated. "And upside down in the rain. I get it."
"Well, we've only done that a couple of times, but yeah." Ranma bragged.
Nabiki shook her head. "Okay, remind me to teach you about sarcasm."
Ranma's face was blank for a moment, then she blushed. "Oh, I knew that."
"Is that why you seemed so perplexed, and are you blushing?" Nabiki shook her head and continued, "Anyways, I wanted to ask if you were certain about your return to school?"
Ranma shrugged. "I don't really know if I am or not, but I have to try."
"I'm sure coming to school with Akane will help, what do you think sis?"
Akane shook herself from her thoughts and responded. "I hope so."
The horde was ready to charge as Akane came into view. Their charge halted when they noticed who she was with. The deadly intent they had seen in the red haired girl two days before was something they had no desire to see turned upon themselves. Their eyes showed a deep amount of fear that Ranma couldn't help but notice as they cleared a path. It hurt her to see it, but she showed no outward signs. The three girls passed undisturbed, at least until Kuno barred the way.
"Red haired maiden, please stop a moment. I wish to extend my deepest apologies for my behavior..."
Ranma cut him off. "No, there is no need for your apology. I went way further than your actions called for. I should have been more diplomatic in my approach."
"Nonetheless, twas I who overstepped the bounds of impropriety first. Mine eyes have been opened and I find that you are the one to responsible. Akane Tendo, I wouldst also extend my deepest apologies for my dogged approach and wish to announce an end of the fight for your hand."
Ranma spoke first. "I can't speak for Akane, but I accept your apology Kuno-san. I also offer my apologies to you. I should not have attacked you the other day."
"Verily, I accept and you are forgiven." He turned to Akane, who hadn't yet answered. "And you, Akane Tendo?"
Akane shook her head. When it seemed he might speak she forestalled him by saying. "Give me some time Kuno-san. Your actions have left my with many scars that may take some time to heal."
"That is all that I ask. I have delayed the two of you long enough, it is time I take my leave."
Ranma looked around herself as he left. The fear was still present, but diminished. Their eyes also seemed to hold a certain level of respect. A smile blossomed on her face. She knew then that she could overcome their remaining fear.
Nabiki spoke then, amazed at what she had just witnessed. "Wow, Ranma, you certainly left an impression on Kuno. I can't remember a time that he seemed so lucid. I just hope it sticks."
"He seemed sincere, why wouldn't it last?"
"If you knew him as long as Akane and I have, you wouldn't need to ask. Now, we'd better get to class, before we are late."
Ranma was standing outside the principals office. She had no sooner entered the classroom than the teacher asked her to report to the principal. It was with no small amount of trepidation that she opened the door.
"You wished to see me?"
The principal took a moment to compose his face into a steely mask before locking eyes with his student. "Yes, I did. We need to discuss what happened here the other day."
Before the principal could continue Ranma quickly offered and apology. "I'm sorry, I over reacted and attacked Kuno-san without good reason."
His mask never faltered as he responded. "Yes you did, but I was referring to what you said. Your grandmother contacted me shortly after you left for school and she explained to my that you may have some deep emotional scars that haven't yet had a chance to heal. Unfortunately the students' safety is my first responsibility, until you've undergone a psychiatric evaluation it would not be prudent to allow you to attend this institution. Your mother will be here shortly to collect you. Please wait in the lobby until she arrives."
"Until I know for certain you are not a threat to my students' safety I cannot allow you to attend. I'm sorry."
Ranma swallowed the lump that had formed in her throat. Fighting back tears she responded. "I understand." She rose from her seat with head bowed and shoulders slumped. She shuffled out the door, failing to see the principals face fill with regret. As the door swung closed her first tears began to fall.
She sunk down to the lobby floor and drew her knees to her chest. She wrapped her arms around her legs and stared at nothing as tears fell from her eyes. She had no idea how long she sat there when someone knelt down before her and drew her into a comforting embrace. The deep herbal scent in the hair, indicated that it was her mother. She latched on and began to sob.
"Oh momma. Everything was going so well and now this. I must be such a disappointment."
Shan Pu's heart ached for her child. She forced Ranma to look her in the eyes. "Never. You could never be a disappointment to me. I admire your strength of heart and the compassion you show your enemies. Never lose that my child, promise me."
"I promise, momma. But what am I supposed to do now? The principal hates me and doesn't want me to go to school here."
"Oh child, the principal doesn't hate you. You must understand that he is only doing what is best for you and his students. He's never had to deal with a student like you and he worries that if he does the wrong thing that you or one of his students might end up hurt. He is very understanding and was able to contact a friend of his and secure your first appointment this afternoon. He has also scheduled appointments on Monday and Thursday of the following week. Now, what do you say we go get some ice cream?"
"Genma? What are you… Where's Ranma? Is he with you?" Nodoka Saotome was surprised to find her husband waiting for her when she returned home.
"No. I didn't want him here for this. I… I've done some rather foolish things with the boy. Many I realize I'm not proud of. I would prefer to speak of these things indoors if it is okay with you."
"Is my son well? What's happened?"
"Ranma is well. Look, can we please speak of this privately?"
"Of course, please come in."
She ushered him into their home. The silence between them put Nodoka on edge. If only she knew how awkward it was for Genma as memories of a time long ago circled through his mind. The made themselves comfortable.
"Please Genma, I must know of my son. What has happened?"
"Our story is long and difficult Nodoka. I wish to warn you that what I'm about to tell you will make you hate what I have become. I'm responsible for many terrible things, unfortunately I have laid a heavy burden at your and our son's feet. I can't help but remember the agreement I signed and presented to you before Ranma and I left. Please, do not hold Ranma to that agreement. I've lost the love and respect of my son and I know how much that hurts. I would not wish for you to feel that pain. Promise me that he shall be exempt from that pact, please." This was not his normally begging, this came from his very soul.
Nodoka wondered at his request. Why would he be here asking that… unless. Looking deep into Genma's eyes she found only pain. His eyes were dull, listless. That was it then, she was certain of it. Genma had failed to make Ranma a man among men as promised. Ranma was less… Her thoughts were interrupted by Genma's surprisingly gentle hand.
"Nodoka please. Believe me when I tell you that Ranma is a son that any mother would be proud of. I've inflicted terrible pain upon him and yet he has persevered. If I could be half the man that Ranma has become I would die happy. Circumstances beyond our control have placed a stumbling block before us. At first glance you would certainly assume that he failed, but when you look deeper, only then do you realize how much more of a man this makes him. Please, I know these words sound empty, that I'm only saying these things to save me own skin. It is not the case. I still expect to be held to that agreement. All the greatness that Ranma has achieved has been despite my influence, not because of it. If it meant sacrificing my life at this very moment for you to believe me, then strike me down. Seppuku is a death far more honorable than I deserve."
Nodoka had never seen her husband so willing to put his life on the line. The ten years she had apart from him had given her a lot of time to think. She realized early on that Genma could be quite the coward if it meant protecting his own skin. Standing before her now was the man that she had thought she'd married. A man willing to throw his life away to undo a wrong from so long ago. She knew accepting the contract back then was an incredible mistake, but for ten years it had been all she had to hold on to. She remembered what she had been thinking just a few moment ago. It made her sick, to think that she had actually considered. She was overcome with nausea. She dropped to the floor and vomited. It took a moment before she got herself under control.
"What kind of monster have I become, Genma? I actually considered doing 'that' to my own son."
"I firmly believe you would have stopped it if ever it came to that point. What you thought of doing… What I've done is a hundred times worse. The master may have been a pervert, but even he knew when to quit before he went too far. I do not have the same sensibilities. Will you free Ranma from the pact and allow me to begin our story?"
"Thank you, Nodoka. The story begins shortly after Ranma and I left this home. 10 years ago…"